The Antwerp City Guide by Wander-Lust

If you live in the Netherlands, Antwerp is the perfect place to escape to for a city break, especially during the wintertime! We’ve been there many times and checked out some of the best spots for you to enjoy food, drinks and more. Here’s our Antwerp City Guide!

How to get there
Well, you have 2 options and they are both as easy. You can take the train or you can go by car. Both options take around the same time (2 hours) but we prefer the train because you can chill, look out of the window and you will arrive at one of the most beautiful and impressive trains stations in Europe. A  return train ticket from Amsterdam to Antwerp will cost around 30 -40 euro. If you go by car, you might arrive earlier but if you are unlucky, you will get caught in slow traffic and your trip might take up to 3 hours plus you will have to pay for parking.

“This Antwerp City Guide is for wanderers who love food, shops and exploring”

Antwerp City Guide

Where To Eat?
The most important question of course! Well, in Antwerp you won’t be short of food choices. Especially lunch! There are so many hotspots around that we can’t mention them all, but these are our favorites!
» Tinsel, some say that you can get the best breakfast in town here. Tinsel is located near the water where you will find tons of other restaurants. www.tinsel.be
» Native Bio Bistro, This hidden pearl is by far our favorite lunch spot in Antwerp. This bistro serves fresh, original, and good quality food. It’s organic, locally produced with sustainable ingredients, this is Native! Vegan and organic food lovers will love this place! During the summer they open a very nice terrace. www.native.bio
» Bubble Waffle, located in the Mercado foodcourt, this tasty waffle stand awesome! Go here if you feel like something sweet. www.bubblewaffle.be
» Divers, a smoothie-bowl bar for your healthy cravings. Great for some Instagram worthy pics, if that’s what your after. They are located in the Volkstraat 9.
»De Broers van Julienne, when we need to grab a quick and healthy bite, we go here. In a side street of the Kammenstraat – with lots of boutiques – you will find this small cute little restaurant. You can take away the best quiches, soups,  salads and other warm healthy dishes. Besides that, they sell oil, wine, coffee, juices and other delicatessen. They  also offer catering and cook workshops.
» Raw Salad Company, unfortunately they’ve closed their doors in Antwerp but they promised to be back soon with a new location. The name gives it away. Raw salads galore. The salads are extremely tasty and fill you up enough to get on with your day. They also sell juices, wraps, cakes and other healthy snacks. We will keep you updated if they open a shop.
» Umami
, fine dining Japanese style. They restyled not long ago and you can eat amazing Dim Sum here. www.umami-antwerp.be

» Il Famosi, this is by far the best Italian restaurant in Antwerp. Go here for a romantic dinner and if you want more than just pizza.

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From left till right: Raw, Umamian and Il Famosi

Antwerp City Guide where-to-eat-in-antwerp
Bubble Waffle from Mecado (source) and Divers (photo’s by David Plas)

Where To Drink Coffee?
» Mirlo’s, the coffee is great and the location is cute. They also serve breakfast and lunch and it’s all homemade. www.mirlos.be
» Buchbar, surrounded by literature and stories, this coffee bar is different than others. Owned by actress Kim Hertogs, you can feel the passion for books, women empowerment and people. Find more info about this special spot on their website.
» Butchers Coffee, located in a former butcher, this trendy coffee bar takes the coffee business serious and are planning to create their own coffee blend. If the sun is out, you can sit outside on the benches. You can find it on the Kasteelstraat 57.
» Caffenation, self blended coffee and probably the oldest one in Belgium as they started more than 13 years ago. Besides the coffee it’s also a shop and a great place to hang out. www.caffenation.be
» Texas Coffee, for pink latte’s and coffee served in an ice-cream cone! 

Antwerp City Guide -mirlos
Coffee and brunch at Mirlo’s

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Pink latte at Texas Coffee

Antwerp City Guide. The Buchbar
The Buchbar

Where to Shop & Stroll?
You have many options in Antwerp when it comes to shopping. No matter what type of person you are, there will be a shopping district that will suit your needs. We have selected 3 area’s that we love.
» Kammenstraat & Kloosterstraat, these 2 streets in South Antwerp offer vintage, exclusive boutiques, living and alternative shops. While most shops are closed on Sunday, the kloosterstraat is one of the only streets open from around 12pm.
» Het Eilandje, this is especially great during summer because you can find a lot of outside patio’s here. Worth mentioning is the MAS Museum where they have many exhibitions on display. The museum is set next to the little harbor and owns a large rooftop which has free entrance.
» De Volkstraat, go here for boutiques, concept stores, perfume and coffee.

» The Meir, this is Antwerp’s highstreet. Although it’s not our favorite place to shop, we need to mention it because here you will find all the shops you need. From Zara, Mango, Levi’s, it’s all here. The street is beautiful but always busy. Watch your purse and don’t stay too long!

MAS Antwerp
The MAS Museum at “Het Eilandje”. Source

Where To Sleep?
Somehow we always end up in the same hotels. Never change a winning team! These are our 3 favorite places to stay.

» Hotel Franq, is a new kid on the block and super cool! Just recently opened in October, the building used to be a bank and you can still find the big safe intact which is now being converted into a gym. When you enter the impressive foyer, you almost forget you set foot in a hotel. The rooms are stylish and have a large bathroom with rain showers. When it’s nice weather, you can sit outside in the garden overlooking an old victorian house. www.hotelfranq.com

hotel-franq
Hotel Franq

» Hotel Les Nuits, we love boutique hotels and this hotel is one of the cutest ones out there! All 21 rooms are designed a bit different but have the same style and feature impressive en-suites. They have recently changed their reception area and removed their suites rooms which is a shame because I really loved those but this way the hotel is more compact and fits better together. Breakfast is great and the location is great! Book a room here!

Antwerp City Guide. Elke in Hotel Les Nuits
Breakfast in bed at Hotel Les Nuits

» Banks, another great hotel at a very central location. It’s modern and a great place to meet people downstairs. Oh, and they also have a rooftop terrace so this is a great option during the summer. Then again, you will be out exploring Antwerp..;-) Book your stay here.

So are you planning your next tip to Antwerp yet? ;-) 

Love,

Wander-Lust

More City Guides? ↓

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8 x tips for an Amazing Citytrip to Leeuwarden

Especially in autumn and winter time it’s a big YES for me to plan some extra citytrips. Sometimes to refuel my energy level, sometimes to discover new places. For sure I love to book a ticket to a sunny far far away gem, but what about our own lovely homeland? Together with a friend I jumped into the car and drove to Leeuwarden! Bye bye hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, hello hello fresh air, calmness and…Fries suikerbrood #dontcountcalories. 

In 2018 Leeuwarden-Fryslân has been chosen as the cultural capital of Europe

What to do in Leeuwarden
Okay, Leeuwarden isn’t that big, but it has such a variety of activities for you. A short selection of my highlights:

Explore the North
Let’s kick-off with the cultural festival Explore the North. In 2018 Leeuwarden-Fryslân will be the cultural capital of Europe, so cool! And that, that means this city has a lot in store – click here to take a look what to expect in 2018. As a sneak peek for this happening, they recently organised Explore the North, whereby the historic city centre is used as a stage for music, literature, visual art and other creative excesses. Liked the concept to plunge into a super creative world. I got my eye on the masterclass of Chassol (The inspiring French all-rounder who makes albums with sounds of self-produced film material), the Noord Nederlands Orkest and the fabulous Friday night show of comic Meindert Talma. Although I have an art academy background, sometimes the artistic experiences were a little too whiny for me. It’s purely a matter of taste. Despite this I’m really looking forward to the cultural capital year 2018, go for it Leeuwarden! www.explore-the-north.nl

Explore the North
Explore the North in November. Photo by xannevera

Street art tour Leeuwarden
Another noteworthy tip is the street art tour. Great way to start your day, especially after a heavy breakfast. In 1,5 hours, you learn more about the interesting city background. I loved the fact the talk was a perfect combi of historical and temporary facts. Guide Henk Leutscher and his team make so much fun of it! Check it out: a Guide to Leeuwarden.

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Street art Leeuwarden style, love it!

Hemrica House of Flowers Leeuwarden
This flower, fashion and interior shop in one surprised me completely. It wouldn’t be out of place in Amsterdam. Lots of trendy stuff to pamper yourself, be prepared shopaholics!

Leeuwarden: a natural beauty
And if you want to escape the city for a while, please, please, please explore the raw and wonderful natural surroundings of Leeuwarden! Next time, I definitely want to have a pitstop there.

leeuwarden-emmakade-winter

Where to eat in Leeuwarden

Roast Leeuwarden
Must-try hotspot Roast Leeuwarden. Located in the middle of the city centre, this recently opened cozy lunch, dinner and drink spot is one to remember. Really like the fact they’ve put together a very diverse and continually changing menu for every budget. Their signature dish: chicken. But no worries veggies and vegans, there’s also so much appetizing food for you. I ordered the tender bavette with lots of colours on the side and – for sure – the chocolate overloaded dessert, which were both so yummy. Oh, and they’ve got two really cool tables with table taps, a perfect way to trigger your inner bartender haha! roastleeuwarden.nl

Laura en de chef
Another spot which was highlighted to me was Laura en de chef. This breakfast and lunch hotspot just works with fresh ingredients and is figuratively allergic for E-numbers and other chemical stuff. I ordered a well-filled French toast and a fresh juice, you got me! www.lauraendechef.nl

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Sit back and enjoy @ Laura en de chef

De Neushoorn
My guide Henk told me about this must-visit…and he was right. It’s kind of a magical and vibrant place where music meets dance meets film. Visit one of the performances or feel free to pop by for a laid-back beer.

Where to stay in Leeuwarden
Last but not least, in case you’re thinking about a citytrip to Leeuwarden, definitely book a room at the charming Post Plaza****. They invited me to stay and for sure I said ‘yes’. To be honest, I’ve nothing but praise. Especially the hospitality and extravaganza wakey wakey breakfast with everything a sweet tooth with a bit of a sleepyhead wants …suikerbrood. Do I need to say more?

Post Plaza, Leeuwarden
Hotel Post Plaza

Explore the Friesland region and Leeuwarden if you get the chance!

Love,

Sharmaine

*Sharmaine is one of our guest bloggers from the Netherlands with a sweet tooth. The sweeter, the better! She no kitchen princess so she’s always in search for the best hotspots in Amsterdam! You can expect an article from her once a month! Check her out on @sharriefromsandmountains!

This couple’s moody selfie is the funniest you will see today

When Dutch couple Ivo and Karen starting posting “moody” selfies on Facebook, they probably didn’t realise their new selfie photos and video’s would be picked up by the media. But it did and we’re happy about it because we think it’s hilarious! 

moody-selfies
Having “fun” in Bankok

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Moody selfies in Korea

We discovered that we enjoyed making fun of the standard selfies we see on social media nowadays. – Ivo Aarts

The couple travels around the world posing with people from all nationalities and many will actually join in! Cooking classes in Thailand, making friends in Korea or spending time at airports.  All is posted on their Instagram called the Neutral Channel. (hence the name?) Oh, and they also bought a house recently.. you’ve guessed it. They absolutely loved it. 

Couple's moody selfies
Utterly exited about the new house.

You can follow their moody adventures on Instagram!

Love,

Elke

Christmas in London » Off the tourist track

Christmas in London without (a lot of) tourists? It is possible! Here are the top 5 tips to avoid the crowd and enjoy the most beautiful city of Europe during Christmas season.

Oxford Street Lights
When to go? After dinner 9-10 pm in soho, pop into Oxford street for a stroll
Oxford is not to missed during Christmas time. Switching on the lights is always a big event to kick off the festive season. From The Spice Girls back in the day to Rita Ora this year, turning on the lights is a big thing! Even if you’re not into shopping, it’s worth walking around for a bit. Take the Tube to Oxford Circus or Baker Street.

Carnaby street
When to go? After the shops close around 9-10 pm.
If you are at Oxford street, don’t miss the Carnaby street lights! There are some great pubs around to have a beer, grab a bite at Kingly Kourt and enjoy these colourful neon disco lights.

carnaby-st, Christmas in London
Christmas in London is not complete without seeing the lights! Source

Winter wonderland
When to go? Before 5pm on a weekday
Every year a part of Hyde Park is transformed into a magical winter wonderland. Perfect to drink mulled wine and have fun in one of the rides. My favourite is the Bavarian village, make sure you’re early to grab a spot or book a table. Every night there is a German singer for all your guilty pleasures, so grab a pint and sing along! www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com

Winterville
When to go? Any time!
Is Winter Wonderland still too much for you? Go to Winterville! It’s basically the hipster version of Winter Wonderland, this year hosted in hip and happening Clapham. Grab the London Underground with a couple of friends and enjoy! www.winterville.co.uk

Winterville, Christmas in London
Source

Colombia road
When to go? Wednesday night in December
It doesn’t get more British than this. Make sure you’re at Colombia road on 6, 13 or 20 December where you can enjoy late night shopping and best of all, a piano moves down the street and stops to sing Christmas carols with the locals, hosted by the local vicar. A magical Christmas in London! www.columbiaroad.info

Extra Tip: Not feeling it to go into the cold? Check out the Backyard Cinema or Pop-Up Screens around the city to see where they play a Christmas movie and snuggle up.

Happy Holidays!

Jantine

*Jantine is a hip hop & cheese enthusiast and a city girl with a love for everything local. After having explored everything there is in Amsterdam while living there, London became her new playground. Her best days are spent exploring the city off the grid, into neighborhoods where you can eat, drink, dance and chat with locals and become one yourself. She will write for Wander-Lust on a monthly basis where she will tip you about the places to be in London! Follow her on Instagram @jantinevanbloois.

Check all our City Trips here!

City trip Istandbul

Amsterdam Event Calendar December 2017

Finally! It’s cold enough to wear those comfy jackets and order yourself a big cup of hot chocolate (with whipped cream of course!) You may have seen our article where we highlight 16 Christmas events, markets and ice-rings so for the full list, check that out! For all the other events and the ones we love most, read on! Here’s the Amsterdam Event Calendar for December 2017:

Amsterdam Light Festival
When? 20th of November until 

What? The canals of Amsterdam light up
Stunning objects float, hang or stand in and around the canals of Amsterdam. Things really start to get interesting when it get’s dark and the art objects light up. Visitors from all over the world come to this special festival. You can walk the route or experience a boat tour. amsterdamlightfestival.com

amsterdam-light-festival
Amsterdam Light Festival

Sample Sale Crispy Sheets
When? 1st & 2nd of December, nieuwe herengracht 91a

What? One of the nicest bedsheets is having a huge sale!
Stunning and extremely comfy bedsheet brand is finally having a sample that goes up to 80% discounts! www.crispsheets.nl

Scandinavian Christmas Market
When? 1st & 2nd of December, Muiderkerk
Get into the Scandinavian spirit with this special market where you can knit and make decorations for “jul”: the wheel of time that spins the year into lighter days. The market is not complete without some real Scandinavian flavours (like cookies) of course! Facebook

Sunday Market Sinterklaas Edition
When? 3rd of December, Westergas
What? Every 1st Sunday of the month
Lot’s of stands and this edition will be full of sweets, sinterklaas and local goods. Bring your kids!

Sunday Market

Het Ware Noorden Licht Festival – Opening
When? 2nd of December, De Ceuvel from 4pm
What? Storytelling, campfire and cozyness
Creatives come together and enjoy each others company while telling stories, playing music and the opening of pretty light installations. Facebook

Festival Jan Eef
When? 9th of December, Jan Evertsestraat
What? Street festival in Amsterdam West
It’s the 6th edition already where the Jan Evertsestraat is a transformed into a theatre, cabaret and music street. You can see 3 different theater pieces of 30 minutes each at various locations in the street. Tickets cost between 15 and 17,50 and you can get them here

Let it Glow Christmas Brunch
When? 10th of December, Zwart Amsterdam
What? Beautiful vegan sisters are hosting the last vegan brunch of the year!
For €32,50 you will enjoy a 3-course vegan menu, a short seminar and a Glow With The Glow magazine with recipes and tips. There are still a few spots available so hurry up if you want to taste some amazing vegan food! Get your ticket here.

Go with the glow Christmas brunch

Sissy Boy Christmas Market
When? 10th of December, Amstelveld
What? One of the best and hip Christmas markets of the year
We need to mention this market again in our calendar. This is one of the winter markets we are looking forward to the most! Besides the usual Sissy-Boy fashion, interior and accessories, you can also enjoy glühwein, live music, nice food and of course many different stands with all your winter wannahaves!  To find out which brands you can find at this years market, check the Facebook event.

sissy Boy Kerstmarkt, Amsterdam Christmas Events 2017

Professional Networking Dinner hosted by Expat Republic
When? 14th of December, Market 33 at 6pm
What? Expand your professional as well as personal network whilst enjoying good food.
This event is about connecting you with folks who can be of assistance and vice versa. International urban food court located at the Zuidas. Entrance is free but everyone pays for their own consumption at the bar. Register here!

Neighbourhood Food Market 13
When? 16th & 17th of December, Westergasfabriek
What? The friendliest market of this month!
Food, stands, and walking into to your neighbour perhaps? We always like this market and it’s easy going, for young and old and affordable!

Vahalla Festival
When? 23rd of December, Rai
What? Electronic Music Festival (indoor)
The line-up is pretty impressive so perhaps this is a nice Christmas party to spend your money on. DJ’s like Fritz Kalkbrenner, Speedy J, Kölsch and Hot Since ’82 are there to make you dance throughout the night. www.valhallafestival.nl

Enjoy December!

Love,

Wander-Lust

More Amsterdam? Check our Amsterdam Guide!

The World’s Best Road Trips

The wind in your hair, the adventures with your friends and the stunning views. Road Trips are all about that. Whether it’s with a few friends or alone, it’s an experience you’ll never going to forget. Some are more adventurous than others, but ey, that doesn’t stop a real traveler right? These are by far the world’s best road trips. Ever.

1. Icefields Parkway, Canada
This has to be one of the most impressive road trips in the world. This amazing route runs through 2 national parks. Also known as highway 93, it’s a 230 km long road which takes you from North to South (or the other way around) Highlights include waterfalls, glacier skywalk, peyto lake and bow lake and more stunning views. You will need a Canadian national park permit to travel on the Icefields Parkway. For more info check: www.icefieldsparkway.com

Best roadtrips
The Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park

2. Route 66, USA
Also known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, route 66 was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and used in a lot of movies. Lucky Sarah. She actually experienced this roadtrip! She traveled all the way from Las Vegas down to San Francisco and part of her route was the famous route 66. She rented a large RV and crossed over the famous road with 3 of her best friends. Read her full story here.

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Best road trips route 66
Pictures by Stick to the Brand for Wander-Lust

3. Great ocean road, Australia
It’s one of the highlights for all the backpackers that travel from Adelaide to Melbourne.

The absolute picture perfect part has to be the 12 apostles (pictured). Because of severe weather over the years, there are only 8 left.
There are many tours that can take you along the Great Ocean Road but if you get the chance, it’s much cooler to rent or buy a van with your friends and explore yourself. You will pass beautiful beaches, rainforest, rivers and cute coastal towns.
For more info check www.visitgreatoceanroad.org.au

15-Great-Ocean-Road-135559246--660x420
Source: Roughguides.com

4. Pacific Coast Highway, USA
Yes, the USA is a beautiful country so it made it to our list twice! I was lucky enough to experience a piece of this highway as I stayed in Los Angeles quite often. I never driven all the way to San Francisco but if you get the chance, you definitely should! The coastal line is breathtaking and the sun always shines! The only downside is the LA traffic you will need to get though (it starts around 3-4pm and last until about 10-11pm).
It’s easy to rent a car and drop it in SanFran. From LA it takes about 6-7 hours.


Best road trips LA
On the way you can stop for amazing stops like these (ignore the somewhat awkward pose..)

“On these road trips you never know what you’re going to see next”

5. Cabot Trail, Canada
It almost looks like the pacific coast highway, but then a lot greener! This beautiful route, runs passed the coast of Canada at Nova Scotia.

The northern section of the Cabot Trail passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The western and eastern sections follow the rugged coastline, providing spectacular views of the ocean. The road trip will run for 300km. More info about this route: www.cabottrail.com

Canada's best roadtrips
Source: Hikebikecanada.com

6. Causeway Coastal Route, Ireland
You might recognize the picture below, as it was used in the popular series Games of Thrones. The road is 120 miles / 190km long and takes you through the Northern parts of Ireland. You can drive all the way from Derry to Belfast. On the way you will pass all sorts of scenery. From castles to coastlines, forest and waterfalls. You will find the most beautiful parts of Ireland right here on this amazing route. More info: www.causewaycoastalroute.com

world's best road trips, Ireland
Like a fairytale..

7. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Being the largest salt flat in the world, this place seems a bit creepy, yet beautiful. The whole area is 11,000-sq.-km long and accessible by car. Photographers love to shoot at this place because you get the most amazing mirror-like images. It used to be a lake but over millions of years it went dry and left a few meters of salt crust on top. If you decide to take this road, be aware that you are well prepared by taking enough water, cloths and camping equipment. For more about this about this trip, check our blogpost.

The Salt Flats of Bolivia

Salt Flats

8. Road Trip though Ethiopia
One of the most dangerous road trips and recently featured on Dutch television, this is a trip that will leave you with an experience richer.
Beautiful views of a landscape that not many people have seen or heard of. You will pass vilages, dirt and unpaved roads and narrow parts, so this is one for the brave ones! Expect animals on the road and light? No no one has heard of lights at night. Just drive through the day. The BBC made a documentary about this road once, calling it bone-shaking but amazingly beautiful.

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Source: Facebook Victoria Koblenko

9. Hana Highway, Hawaï
For a feel of the tropics, you should drive though this Hawaiian route. The road is 109 km long and connects Kahului with Hana on the island of Maui.
Take a sickness tablet with you because the road has a lot of hairpins that go deep into the tropical jungle, though valleys and rocky formations along the coast. This certainly deserves a spot in the world’s best road trips!

World's best road trips, Hawai
Photo by @hawaiisblue

What is one of the best road trips you’ve ever made?

Love,

Elke

A Quick Guide To Marrakech

The heat embraces me. I feel the sun burning on my skin and a small sweat drop sneaks away between my shoulder blades. The smell of fresh herbs, oils and food are seducing me to keep on walking towards the centre of the square. I stop, look around, and try to take it all in. Millions of colours, voices and people are surrounding me and stealing my attention. I’m standing in the heart of Marrakech, the structured chaos of Djemaa el Fna.

Marrakech

Marrakech can be overwhelming, breathtaking and confusing. It’s a city with many different faces and possibilities. I’m going to take you on a small (camel) ride to help you choose and plan your travels. These are my must-see tips for a short trip to Marrakech:

Shopping in the souks
I know, not the most original advice, but there’s no way you can miss out on this. The most famous souk of Marrakech is Djemaa el Fna and for a good reason, it’s huge! I got lost a million times even though I was only there for a few days. Not that it’s a bad thing. I found a really nice bag made of an old carpet and got some delicious Moroccan food while finding my way out.Djemaa el Fna is the biggest Souk but also the most touristic. For a more traditional experience I would recommend Marché el Mellah. But be warned if you’re an animal lover, you’re going to see a lot of animals (especially chickens)., and unfortunately, they’re not there for the cosiness.

The blues of Marrakech

Tip » Whilst Marrakech isn’t as conservative as many Arab countries, it is still a Muslim country and you should respect the culture. Leave your mini skirt and tank tops at home or just wear it in the Riad/hotel. Keep it cool on the streets in floaty clothing, it saves you a lot of sunscreen as well.

Jumping back in history at the ruins of El Badi Palace
There is not much left of El Badi Palace but the peace and space it gives you is unique in the centre of Marrakech. The palace took twenty-five year to build and was an excessive display of the best craftsmanship of the Saadian period. You can still see some of the expensive materials they used. Next to the beauty of the ruins, it’s a good place to catch your breath in the middle of the overly crowded city.

Tip » Don’t have enough time to travel to the Sahara? Dry your tears because I got a solution. Within a 20-minute car ride and with a spark of imagination it will feel like you’re in the Sahara while being just outside the city centre of Marrakech. Oke, you’re going to need a lot of imagination and a camel as well. But, when it’s all there you will feel like a true nomad. Note: a camel ride is a lot of fun and great holiday activity but please be aware that you book your trip at certified tour operations. We don’t want the camels to suffer for someone else’s enjoyment.

kameel

Looking for that perfect Instagram spot? Bahia Palace is it.

Feeling like a princess at the Bahia Palace
Looking for that perfect Instagram spot? Think of mosaic floors, enchanting lighting and fairy-tale gardens. Bahia Palace is probably one of the most charming places in Marrakech. I do hope you’re more of a morning person then I am. You’ll have to get up early if you don’t want hundred of tourists taking photos of your own selfie.

bahia-palace_1

Tip » Getting hungry? Le Jardin in the centre of Marrakech is your solution. They serve amazing food, it’s stunningly decorated and, the best part, there are tiny tortoises just walking around. Too cute to be true.

Hippie side of live in Essaouira
If you’re looking for some fresh (sea) air, Essaouira is one of the nearby beaches. It only takes 3 hours by bus, which will cost you about 8 euros. Don’t expect a luxurious, seaside resort. They call it the hippy city of Morocco and that reflects in the low-key way of living in this city. Surfing all day and listening to live reggae music all night is the normal routine.

small-street Marrakech

Tip » You can make some great horse riding trips in Essaouria if you rather wouldn’t jump in the sea. Enjoy the sea, dunes and weather while getting your adrenaline pumped up by the speed of the horse.  Book your trip at Equi Evasion, they treat the horses very well. Howdy ho, cowboy!

riding horses at Essaouira

Marrakech was everything I imagined and nothing like it at the same time. Start your trip open minded. Savour the smell of spices, follow the colours and dive into little alleys and see where it takes you. A lot of Marrakech’s true beauty is hidden behind walls and crowded streets.

And before you go… don’t forget to practice your bargain skills! Prices are more then doubled and shop owners are ready for a tough negotiation.

Love,

Eva

*Eva is one of our guest bloggers from Amsterdam. She’s a city girl who only leaves her heals at home when wearing a backpack. Living by the urge to be where she’s not, to explore, experience, fall and get up. You can follow her on Instagram.

 

12 signs telling you that you’re a backpacker

You might think you’re not a backpacker. You know, that person that shares a dorm with 10 other people they’ve never met before? That person who can never remember what their actual home address is and can live on pasta and rice for a week if they have to. But maybe you do have it in you and you just don’t know about it yet. Time to put it to the test. If you recognize at least 6 of the statements below, you may want to consider yourself as a true backpacker! 

1. You can say hello and goodbye in at least 8 different languages

backbackers

2. Love it or hate it, you know what Khao San road is

3. You have a flip flop tan-line on your feet

12 signs telling you, you're a backpacker

4. You don’t mind taking a cold shower as long as they have WIFI

Did you know that 40% of backpackers choose Europe for shorter trips?

5. You can sleep anywhere. At the airport, in the bus, on a plane and on a boat.

backpacker or not, a bed is always good
Backpackers sleep everywhere!

6. Your passport has never looked so colorful and you run out of pages.

passport

7. You boycott the Lonely Planet. You create your own route by trusting the locals!

8. You wear a lucky travel bracelet (yes, also if you’re a man)

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Fellow backpackers give each other lucky bracelets

9. Finding a half empty shampoo bottle is like finding gold.

10. You’ve surfed and caught a wave once, and now you’re addicted.

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Once caught in the virus..

11. You spent most of your Christmases on a beach.

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Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!

12. You start to wear those comfortable wide pants that you swore you would never wear. (guilty!)

So, are you true a backpacker at heart?

Love,

Elke

Want more travel tips? Check here!

 

Deep Creek Hot Springs » Southern California’s Best Kept Secret

While I am totally in love with the beach-living set-up in West LA, sometimes it just feels necessary to hit the road for a weekend away. Luckily, Southern California is one of those rare regions offering almost any landscape imaginable within a reasonable radius.

In the Northern Mojave Desert – and only a two-hour drive from Los Angeles – is the San Bernardino National Forest. Home to Lake Arrowhead, a year-round vacation spot for locals and tourists alike, the Mojave Desert can get up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley. But, if you’re traveling for the holidays, pack a heavy coat; areas of this same desert can plummet down to below freezing in the winter. I had the chance to visit this National Forest for the first time last fall (I know, I know, I’ve lived here almost seven years!) This turned out to be the perfect time of year to go – temperate, with just enough sunshine and breeze to keep us comfortable. We had a mission: Wander our way through the Mojave and find the Deep Creek Hot Springs, a secret swimming hole, right here and basically in our ‘back yards’.

The Northern Mojave Desert is the driest in all of North America!

After staying the night in a vacation rental near Lake Arrowhead, my friends and I woke up before the sun to hit the road…if you could call it that. We quickly noticed the winding mountain roads turn to craggy desert paths, and our monster-of-a-truck barely handled the roller-coaster-like terrain. In fact, we almost rolled it twice!

We knew we were looking for a trail head, but it turned out to be quite the feat to find it. After hopping in and out of the truck to attempt to get it over hill after bumpy hill, we decided we’d be better off – and safer! – to go the rest of the way on foot. Leaving our trusty stead behind, we embarked on a quest for any semblance of the start of a trail. After a number of false alarms, we began our two-and-a-half-mile hike through the desert.

group-shot-hiking
The coolest part was traversing both pointed ridges and deep, shaded valleys, all along the same path.

We were grateful to have worn sturdy hiking shoes, as we were getting a bit fatigued from the already adventure-filled day; but, after spotting an Arroyo desert toad and a variety of desert birds (plus, drinking lots of water and re-applying plenty of sunscreen), we could feel we were about to be rewarded for our efforts. Rounding our last corner on the edge of the dusty cliff, we began to hear water flowing. With sudden bursts of energy, we picked up our pace and were greeted by a sprawling, clear, still-water pool. Heading down into the ravine, we could hardly get into our bathing suits quickly enough.

Deep Creek Hot Springs, entering-ravine
We were so excited to dive in!

The first pool we saw – and plunged haphazardly into – gave us quite the surprise at a chilling 60 degrees Fahrenheit (so, when your long hike is through, if you’re feeling a bit tired, you can be sure that this swimming hole will perk you right up!) As we gazed up the other side of the ravine, however, we noticed a series of smaller pools cascading down into one another. Making our way up each pool, the water grew warmer and warmer, until we made it to the hottest of the bunch. Heated by geothermal springs from deep in the earth’s crust, the hottest pool maintains its 105-degree Fahrenheit water temperature, the perfect contrast to the refreshing dip from the start of your afternoon.

Deep Creek Hot Springs, in-the-ravine
We found out much later that, for a fee, you can park on local ranchers’ land, closer to the springs…

These hot springs are technically “clothing optional”

If you tire of simply lounging in the springs, you can try your hand at slacklining, a popular sport that entails balancing along the suspended length of a flat rope, tensioned between two anchors, much like tightrope walking. Or, for the more daring, cliff jumping is safe into the 10-feet-deep main pool. Fortunate enough to show up on a day with no other people around (or if you’re comfortable in your skin no matter the company)? These hot springs are technically “clothing optional”, so enjoy a dip in your birthday suit for an even more all-encompassing experience!

Deep Creek Hot Springs, slacklining
Slacklining over a beautiful natural pool may just become your next favorite hobby!

Deep Creek Hot Springs
Spending the whole afternoon with nothing to do but enjoy the increasingly hot springs.

Deep Creek Hot Springs, pool

Though I’m a huge fan of all-things LA, I think I’m expanding my mantra: Southern California truly has it all. So, if you’re in the neighborhood of San Bernardino, strap on your best hiking boots and a bathing suit, and venture out into the desert to find nature’s spa. The Deep Creek Hot Springs are surely this National Park’s hidden treasure. 

Love,

Shae

For more info about the Deep Creek Hot Springs, check the website.
*All photos were shot by Enoch Kim

*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage

Cheating on Bali with the Nusa’s

Dear Bali,

I love you, and I always will. But… you’ve changed. Just a bit. You grew up and saw more and more people liking you, wanting to see you. Who can blame them, you are amazing. But, it felt as if we had too little ‘just you and me time’. So, I cheated on you with the Nusa’s. Sorry, not sorry.

So what are the Nusa’s?
The Nusa’s are 3 islands just south of Bali. Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan have been on the tourist roadmap for quite some time, but still feel like tropical bounty islands with not too much western interference. Nusa Penida is the biggest island and was only opened up to tourists two years ago. All of them are pure heaven and have their own personalities. All worth exploring for some days, some weeks or forever (I can dream, right?).

Getting there
Most boats sail from Sanur, Bali to Jungut Batu on Nusa Lembongan. But it is also possible to grab a boat to Mushroom Bay (where all the fancier hotels are) or directly to Nusa Penida. Going to Nusa Penida is also possible from Padangbai. The cheapest option is going to the harbour in Sanur and negotiate about the price. If you like to book in advance, don’t worry, there are lots of little tour agencies on Bali that sell tickets as well. We paid 500.000 IDR for a return ticket with the fast boat, including pick up in Canggu and drop off in Ubud. A pretty comfortable deal! Going to Nusa Penida from Lembongan is easy to arrange. Head over to the iconic yellow bridge. Here are a ton of people wanting to bring you. Around 50.000 IDR is a normal price, be sure to haggle if they are aiming high.

Nusa's

surfers won’t be disappointed here

Lembongan and Ceningan chillings
Two small beauties, connected by a picture perfect yellow hanging bridge, dotted with bumpy roads, deep blue waters and sky-high waves. With surfbreaks named ‘playgrounds’ and ‘shipwreck’ surfers won’t be disappointed here. Happier under the surface? Gear up in your wetsuit to spend some time with the massive manta-rays that cruise the shores of nearby Nusa Penida. Sounds scary, swimming with creatures that are much bigger than you? It’s not! They are so gracious and elegant. Oh and they only eat plankton. Don’t underestimate the currents here though. Dive trips are easily arranged with one of the many dive shops on Lembongan. French Kiss Divers recently opened a shop here and is full of brand new gear and offers very reasonable prices. As they say ‘the more depth, the more pleasure’. ;-)

Diving in Nusa
Diving with rays is a highlight!

If all of the above sounds like too much work, don’t worry for a second. Lounging on a massive Fatboy while sipping a healthy smoothie, gazing at the ocean, is just as easy. The best place to do so is definitely Ginger & Jamu on Jungut Batu beach. Caring about the environment, they don’t do plastic. Paper straws, cotton napkins and glass water bottles. Oh right and amazing smoothies, sandwiches, smoothie-bowls and salads. Combined with the yoga school above the cafe this place oozes the ultimate zen and friendly vibe. I admit, I’ve spend days full of relaxing, drinking, eating and plunging in to the sea for some refreshment at Ginger & Jamu.

Another amazing spot is Sea breeze Ceningan. Their catchy latino tunes, hammocks and perfect vanilla ice coffees cannot do anything else but make you happy. Overlooking the azure seaweed-farms with your toes in the sand, beach life as it should be. Also, their wifi is really good, thus digital nomad proof!

For dinner the choices are endless.

Sea breeze Ceningan
Sea breeze Ceningan 

For dinner the choices are endless. There are a ton of nice warungs for local dishes. Not so local are the nanchos and burritos at Ginger Moon (whats in a name), but they cannot be missed! Getting around Lembongan and Ceningan is best done by motorbike. The roads are generally okay and even the bumpy ones are do-able. Nice places to scooter to include dream beach, devil’s tears, mahana point and the blue lagoon.

Island friendly prices
Now, are these two islands going to break your wallet? Hell no! There are tons of affordable homestays. Your own little bungalow -some even with a swimming pool and breakfast- usually comes with a price tag of between 13 and 20 euro a night. Although more luxurious places are also widely available. I highly recommend Jiva Bungalows: basic but clean bungalows, super sweet people and a nice breakfast included!

Adventurous Penida
Now if you are up for a little less relaxing and a bit more adventure, Nusa Penida is the perfect pick. It’s possible to do day trips from Lembongan, but staying on the island for a few days is definitely better. Penida is much more quiet, less developed and wilder then little sisters Lembongan and Ceningan. That’s great for adventure, but also a bit more dangerous. They are working on the roads, but a lot of them are still treacherous. Going for a daytrip? Then seriously consider hiring a car with a driver as the highlights are further apart and driving hastily really isn’t a good idea. Still rather have a scooter to drive around yourself? Then make sure to check it before renting. Good brakes are a must on the steep and rocky roads that are home to Penida! As this island isn’t open to tourists for that long, it’s not filled with restaurants and bars yet. But every village has a couple of gems. Whatever you do, don’t miss breakfast/brunch/lunch at Penida Espresso. The smells from their kitchen are heaven and the rock butter smoothie bowl is to die for.

Penida Espresso
Penida Espresso

Penida, Nusa. Broken Beach
Broken Beach, Penida

Penida beauties
The island has an amazing coastline, high cliffs, hidden beaches and views that go on forever. Take a day to drive the beautiful road to Atuh beach, take the steep stairs down and chill on one of the loungers to watch the change of the tide.

Nusa's, Indonesia

Another great place is broken beach. The name is a bit confusing as there is absolutely no beach but it’s a sight to behold. Next to broken beach is Angels Billabong. It seems as if the pictures you find online are massively photoshopped and don’t depict the real thing. I dare to say Angels Billabong was the disappointment of my trip through Asia so far. But hey, go see for yourself! The ultimate highlight of Nusa Penida has got to be Kelingking beach. A massive cliff looking down onto the purest of beaches with the bluest of waters. It’s impossible to describe this beauty in words. There is a way down to that perfect beach, but it is quite dangerous so be careful!

Crystal clear
Of course you can also relax at Nusa Penida. Crystal Bay is your bae! Although it has some real steep hills, the road to Crystal is perfect and very Instagram worthy, lined with picture perfect palm trees. You can rent two sun-beds and an umbrella to protect you from the sun for just 50.000 IDR a day. The little warung at the western end of the beach makes you a great mie goreng! Don’t forget your snorkeling gear, the underwater life really is crystal clear and includes many curious, colorful fishes and even the occasional turtle. Do check the current as it can be strong here! End your day with a cocktail or a beer at Penida Colada while looking at the Agung volcano, just across the sea on Bali. Life is pretty damn perfect here.

Crystel Bay Beach, nusa's
The tropical Cystel Bay Beach

Now, don’t skip Bali just yet. But consider spending some time with the Nusa’s to fill up one some peace, quiet and happiness. Maybe I see you there as I might never leave again.

Life is better at the beach,

Jill

*Our guest editor Jill is currently traveling through Asia and will monthly update us about her Asian adventures.