As the leaves start to fall from the trees, it reminds us that Autumn is really here and it’s time to trade those skirts and short trousers for warm coats. During this time, a lot of travelers seek some sunshine. Here are 5 Autumn Destinations that you want to book now.
Lake Placid, New York As voted by Booking.com and it’s travelers, this region is stunning during the Autumn season. Apart from the beautiful lake, there is a forest with colorful leaves and wild animals. Enjoy the view whilst sipping on a cup of hot chocolate from one of the cabins that you can rent during this time. Check out the Mirror Lake Inn Resort to get the luxurious break from it all.
Stunning views over the lake at the mirror lake inn resort
Montreal, Canada A friend of mine recently sent me some photo’s of his trip to Montreal and I couldn’t believe the amount of colors in just one picture. Just wow. Besides the colors, this city gives you the feeling that you’re in Europe. The architecture, street art and food choices make it feel like New York, Berlin and Buenos Aires are added into a blender and poured in your glass. Drink up and enjoy! Flights from Amsterdam are available from around €600.
Budapest, Hungary This city is beautiful during the Fall but there’s also lot’s to do! There are several Autumn festivals going on like the Cafe Budapest Contemporary Art Festivalwhich runs between 7th and 23rd of October. The summer crowds have disappeared so Budapest is a lot comfortable to explore during this time as it can be very busy during high season. Outdoor temperatures remain mild but if you want to heat up, you should try one of the many bathhouses the city has to offer. When it comes to food, you can totally find your taste as they offer something for the carnivores but also have lot’s of veggie and vegan options available. Flights to Budapest go from as little as 200 euro if you book for this month.
Black Forest, Germany Now, I have been here many times because my sister lives here and I can’t get enough of it. During summer, all you see is green and during Autumn is like a field of colors with snowy mountains in the background. My favorite city near the black forest has to be Freiburg. This is a cute student city near the border of Switzerland and France is packed with lot’s of cute German restaurants, shops and market squares. It was actually voted one of the best cities to live in Germany because of the fresh air, lack of danger and good schools. My boyfriend took his motorbike this summer and crossed through part of the forest so you can only imagine how it looks when the colors are there. You can fly to Baden-Baden or Basel with Easyjet for around €100 euro from Europe.
The black forest during summer
Prague, Czech Republic This destination is great if you only have a little to spend but still want to get away. Sarah and I were there during spring time and we also noticed the nature that surrounded this city. Many visitors never set a foot out of old town and although that completely understandable, it’s a shame because just outside the city walls you will find something quiet beautiful. You can do a lot of hiking and enjoy stunning views. 60km outside Prague you will find the Kokořínsko Nature Reserve for example. If you still want to opt for the city itself, you won’t be disappointing. Food is super tasty and so cheap to other European standards! To read our Prague city guide, check here.
Prague from above
Are you going to book any of these last minute Autumn destinations?
Perhaps Basque Country has never come to mind when thinking of a Spanish holiday but this green part of Spain will pleasantly surprise you.
Basque Country is situated near the border of France and has a landscape that includes mountains, green valleys and coastlines. You can find different scenery all into one region and that’s what makes this place so amazing. It’s a region that is often overlooked in favor of more conventional destinations in Spain. If you decide to visit Basque Country after reading this article (chances are, you will), we have a few tips lined up so you can enjoy everything in just a couple of days.
There are 5 Guggenheim Museums located in Europe. Guess where you can find one of them?
The 3 Cities and their Culture Basque Country is full of culture. Every year, especially during summer, you can enjoy several exhibitions, activities and events. This year, the capital of Bilbao celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum, where you can find high quality exhibitions that are well worth the visit. The famous landmark is covering a wide variety of artists and themes in both contemporary and modern art. The Guggenheim Museum is housed in Bilbao, Surrounded by mountains and sea, from its origins as
an industrial hub, it has evolved into an international reference point for urban design and has set the standard as a model of urban regeneration. Internationally renowned architects showcase the model regeneration of Bilbao. A city that has managed to find a different way to express itself with design firmly at its heart.. Tip » buy the Bilbao Card to get free access to several museums and attractions. With this card you can travel with Bilbao’s public transport.
The Guggenheim Museum
Puppy& Torre Iberdrola in Bilbao
San Sebastián, also locally named Donostia, is a beautiful coastal city close to France. It has even won the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture back in 2016. Surrounded by mountains and located next to the sea, it’s a popular place for tourists. Did you know San Sebastián has one of the most beautiful bays in the world with 3 city beaches? Close to San Sebastian, you will find the Cristobal Balenciaga Museoa. This museum is a homage to one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century and you can see selected pieces of his collection. This year, the fashion brand exist a staggering 100 years!
A perfect viewing point over San Sebastians bay
Once voted the “European Green Capital”, Vitoria-Casteiz is surrounded by stunning nature
The third city we need to mention is Vitoria-Gasteiz, once voted the “Green Capital” of Europe. This city is surrounded by nature and is also the most important centre for logistics in Northern Spain. To do’s here are; taking a stroll through the “Green Belt” which is full of flora and fauna and includes wetlands and lakes. There are also some great Jazz festivals and events happening in Victoria, with the best ones in April and August. Another popular attraction is the old quarter they call the “Medieval Almond” where you can find the Cathedral of Santa Maria and a unique project called “open for work” inspired Ken Follet in his novel “World Without End”. To find out more about these 3 amazing cities, check here.
The streets of Vitoria
849.00 KM. 7 stages. 109 landscapes. Another popular thing to do, is to take a roadtrip through the beautiful landscape of Basque Country. On this route you will find beaches, quaint little villages, vineyards and forests. We can imagine that it’s hard to choose between the many options, but you can easily find the route that suits your needs. There are also 3 pilgrim trails that will take you to the more offbeat corners of the Basque Country; The St. James’ Way Coastal Route, which takes you around the countryside and ever changing landscapes. The St. James’ Way Inland Route where you will pass coastal landscapes, greenery, farms and even industrialized localities. You can also opt for the Ignatian Way, a trail that covers 675 km. To find more info about all these routes, check this link. Another highlight is San Juan Gaztelugatxe, a small island connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Wine & Dine If you’re a real foodie like us, you’re at the right place. The food and drinks are very affordable and locally produced, so you can really taste the different regions. Because the gastronomy, from the most traditional to the most innovative, is one of the hallmarks of the Basque Country and is deeply rooted in the daily lives of the people, linked to its history, customs and leisure activities. The secret? The excellence and diversity of the raw materials that the sea and land of the Basque Country provide and the expertise of the great Basque cooks.
There is an unmistakable joie de vivre in Basque Country
Whether you are looking for a lazy beach holiday, a culture trip or an adventurous trail through nature, Basque Country has it all. Maybe it’s time to opt for a different kind of Spain when you book your holiday next time?
As the ultimate New Zealand ambassador (seriously, if the immigration laws weren’t so impossible, I would already live there) I would highly recommend to visit every part of this beautiful country. But I also know that you need at least two months to fully explore every corner. Reality is that a lot of (short-term) travelers have to be selective on where to go and pick the South-Island of New Zealand as their go-to destination. With reason, it’s a dream to drive the long roads, stare at the ridiculously gorgeous and ever-changing scenery, wander through the cozy towns and have fun with the hilarious, straightforward locals. Next to all this beauty, there are also a ton of opportunities to have some adventure. I’ll let you in on some of the ones I experienced.
Oh and by the way, if you are going to travel the whole country (you lucky bastard), make sure to check out our insights on the Stunning North Island as well!
The North Island of New Zealand
Pick Picton Easily overlooked by many, little port town Picton (where the ferry from the North Island arrives) is worth to stay for a few days. Where the town is small, the nature is grand! the maze of the Marlborough Sounds with it’s valley’s, peaks, beaches, birds and crystal clear waters just scream for some exploring. Be prepared to feel really small when walking (pieces of) the Queen Charlotte trail. If you are not a hiker, there are also plenty of kayak and bike tours, as long or short as you like. Also, if you’re into sailing, make sure to ask around in town if the local sailing club still has training nights and if you are allowed to join. It’s what we did and it resulted in an epic afternoon of high speed sailing on an amazing sailboat, sarcastic jokes and home-brewed rum by the crew included. You can find more info about Picton here: www.newzealand.com/nieuw-zeeland/picton/
The seals of Abel Tasman Of course you are going to visit Abel Tasman National Park. Golden beaches, lush nature, secret waterfalls, they have it all here. Whatever you have planned for this park, make sure to add some kayaking even if it is just for a few hours. It’s paddling on open sea and therefore pretty damn exhausting, but you’ll forget about that when you look around you. The occasional seal will lazily float by your canoe, enjoying the sun as much as you’ll do. I did a two day tour, with one day of kayaking to a campsite (the tour agencies will provide you with a fully stocked kayak, tent included) and walking back to following day. This really was a magical two days, bonfires included!
Kayaking at Abel Tasman National Park
Roadtrip If you have been doubting whether to hire a car to get around or just take the easy way and buy a buss pass: hire a car!! This coming from me (the most scared car driver alive) says something. The South Island offers not so many roads, and they are also not that busy. But men, they are breathtaking. And at some parts also quite adventurous, with mountain passes, hairpin bends, cliffs, no gas stations for miles and of course driving on the left side. Having your own car gives you the opportunity to really wander off the main roads, stop to gaze at your surroundings wherever and whenever you want, travel at your own pace. Oh and perhaps getting chased by a herd of cows and losing some hubcaps in the process, like happend to us. But hey, that’s a story for another time. Trust me, take the car. Car rental Picton (you can rent the car her, and drop it off in several other cities, Christchurch for instance): https://www.omegarentalcars.com/car-rental-picton/
Adventure capital of the world The true thrill seekers will know this: Queenstown is the place to be if you are looking for adventure (and for a scandalous pub-crawl). This town does, In my honest opinion, no real justice to the rest of the country since it pulls in a lot of tourists who just want to get hammered. But hey, it’s good fun for a few days and it still looks magnificent. Also it’s the best place to book a trip to Milford Sound, a mystical fjord which seems to come straight out of a movie (remember that movie with elves, a ring and some bad orcs ). But back to the adrenaline, this town will get you pumped with it. From jet boating to luging to bungeejumping, make sure to save some of your money to engage in at least one of the adventures on offer. If you have some real guts, do the bungeejumping. You have multiple bungee sites to choose from. The Nevis bungee let’s you fall ‘ only’ 180 meters, The Ledge offers cool views on Queenstown (but not sure if you’ll be aware of that if you are about to make a free fall with nothing but a rope around your ankles). I did the Kawarau Bridge jump, since this is the first commercial bungee site in the world and my inner nostalgia bubbled up because of this. Imagine jumping of an old bridge, in the middle of a gorge, dipping into turquoise water. And of course being pulled back by that gigantic elastic. I was scared, I screamed, I was terrified. And I would do it again any day.
It’s the perfect place for thrillseekers
Stewart Island Most people know about the North and the South Island, but forget the third island of New Zealand: Stewart Island. I’ll admit, it will steal some days of your travels to get there, but if you have the time and you’re looking for nature in it’s purest form, go! While on the island, we had the privilege to actually spot a real life Kiwi (the bird which functions as New Zealand’s national symbol). They only live in the wild on Stewart Island and are hardly seen. We just happened to trip over one while we are arguing about the scary and dark forest path we were taking. Its all possible here. Same goes for the little penguins that show up at dawn in the harbor. Getting to Stewart Island is possible by ferry boat. But if it has always been your dream do go cage diving with great white sharks, you can also book a (really expensive) tour which offers you the cage as well as the transfer to the island. It’s what we did because my sister had this crazy desire to face the shark of death. Be careful when booking a trip like this, my sister actually ended up not seeing the shark in the water at all (while I had a pretty clear sight of the monster when I was just lounging on the deck). But hey, if it’s your dream..
Meet a sea lion Another place that a lot of people skip is student town Dunedin. Which is a shame, since they have a chocolate factory! Jokes aside, it’s a very laid-back city, home to the worlds steepest residential street of the world. More importantly, it’ s also home to the Otago peninsula, where you can drive around and spot marine wildlife. Think penguins, albatrosses, seals and sea lions. We encountered two sea lions of which one was surrounding a bird watching hut to ensure that the people in there, would stay in there. The other sea lion (which we named Claude) was actually chasing us. Quite the adventure, but I guess that’s what the South Island of New Zealand is all about.
Claude chasing us!
This is only a small list of everything you can do on this amazing island. there is whale-watching in Kaikoura, climbing Franz Josef glacier, Mount Cook. spotting dolphins in Greymouth, hiking around Lake Wanaka, the TranzAlpine train ride, Christchurch, Akaroa, and so so so much more. Go there, and make me jealous.
*Jill is one of our guest bloggers living in Amsterdam (@jillgwendolyn) where she works as a content manager for a digital agency. She’s Crazy about traveling and has spend her studies in New Zealand . You can read a new article from Jill in every 3rd week of the month!
Angkor Wat is undoubtedly Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction. And this is no surprise since Angkor Wat is the biggest religious monument in the world which dates back to the early twelfth century. These days almost 5 million tourists yearly make their way over to Cambodia to wander around the temples of Angkor themselves, making it a very popular but very busy place to visit. You better think again if you ever dream of having these temples all to yourself, but there are a few tricks to avoid the big crowds and wander around in peace…
1. Watch the sunrise and leave a little early Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a definite must-do when you’re visiting these temples. Not only is it a truly magical experience when a new day presents itself by rising up against the temples, but it is also a great way to arrive at the temples early. If you want to have a good spot without hundreds of iPad and Selfiestick waving Chinese tourists in front of you, walk right instead of going straight ahead at the famous ‘sunrise temple spot’. You won’t be right in front of the temples, but you will share the view with just a dozen of other tourists. When the sun is up and you captured enough Instagram-worthy shots, head back to your Tuk Tuk driver before everybody else does. Doing this you’ll arrive at the other temples as one of the first, having the temples (almost) all to yourself
2. The further away, the better! Ask your Tuk Tuk driver to bring you to the popular temples that are further away first. Many Tuk Tuk’s and tour buses follow a certain route, creating the perfect opportunity for you to do the exact opposite thing Also, if you see tons of big tour buses standing outside of a temple, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to take you to another temple which appears to be less crowded first.
3. Go back at the end of the day Wandering around the temples of Angkor is extremely beautiful, but also extremely tiring and HOT! If you decided to watch the sunrise you will probably feel very tired around 12pm, making you want to go home and take a nap during the hottest hours of the day. If you buy a one-day-pass this pass is valid for a whole day, so you can come back to the temples in the late afternoon, when most of the crowds already have disappeared. Make sure you don’t go too late as Angkor Wat closes at 6pm.
I hope the three tips above will help you explore this ancient Kingdom in peace and quiet. Enjoy
*Evelien is one of our guest bloggers who currently travels and lives in Australia. Follow her on Instagram (@eefexplores) or check out her website!
Did you know Cambodia is one of the world’s cheapest countries to live in? Check which countries made it to the top 5!
Laos, located cozily in between Thailand, Cambodia, China, Myanmar and Vietnam, is often one of the South East Asian countries that’s left un-visited when traveling this to part of the world. And that’s a shame, because Laos is a true gem and one of the cheapest countries to travel in. This is my Laos Top 3
Been there, Don Det Don Det is a small island located in the south of Laos, close to the Cambodian border. The island is well-known for its beautiful scenery and relaxed hippy vibe. Staying in one of the bungalows on the island means going back to basic with cold showers and toilets that can only be flushed with a bucket. The relaxed vibe on this island is very contagious and soon you’ll be unwinding in a hammock with a fruit shake (or something more sedating) in your hand. For those who find it hard to sit still cheap bikes can be rented all over the island to go for a ride and explore the breathtaking waterfalls.
Soaring through the jungle with the Gibbon Experience If you’re up for a little more action after being completely rejuvenated at Don Det travel all the way north to go on The Gibbon Experience (www.gibbonexperience.org). Sleeping in the worlds highest tree houses, flying through the Lation jungle on a zipper-line and hiking through beautiful woods while contributing to preserving everything that surrounds you. That’s the Gibbon Experience. Of all my travels this is by far one of the most amazing things I’ve done. Make sure you make a booking in advance as the Gibbon Experience is often fully booked.
Oui oui, Luang Prabang Luang Prabang (from where you can get on the night bus to the Gibbon Experience) is a town where French influences decorate this charming town everywhere. You can walk through Luang Prabangs enchanting streets or visit one of the many temples. About 40 minutes from Luang Prabang you will stumble upon the Kuang Si Waterfalls which are so greenish blue that you have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Take a swim in these (cold!!) waterfalls or simply walk around and enjoy the surroundings. When you get back to Luang Prabang pay a visit to the market where delicious baguettes and fresh fruit shakes are sold for just under €1,50.
Next to these three highlights Laos has so much more to offer like visiting the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng or strolling around its capital Vientiane. I hope you’ll have a wonderful time in this partly undiscovered little piece of Southeast Asian heaven
*Evelien is one of our guest bloggers who currently travels and lives in Australia. Follow her on Instagram (@eefexplores) or check out her website! All the pictures in this article were shot by Evelien.
Sometimes things are just meant to happen, just as our recent trip to Portugal. Back in March we talked to Sophia van Sorgen (check out her health blog!) And she connected us to Dave and Sonja, a couple from Amsterdam that decided the city was not for them. So they sold their house, quit their jobs and drove to Portugal in a campervan full of stuff and their 3 year old daughter. This was 3 years ago. They found 40 acres of land in the Algarve and they decided to start an Eco Glamping facility located in the hills of the ‘Costa Vicentina Natural Park’. Together with a Dutch/Israeli couple, they started Into The Wild Algarve. When we heard this story, we just had to go there. So Sarah and I booked our tickets to Faro and we decided to go in all blanco. This is our exclusive photo report and guide to the Algarve in Portugal.
Getting there Flying into Faro takes about 3 hours. The good thing is that it’s one hour earlier if you come from Amsterdam. One of the most important tips we will give you is that you need to rent yourself a car. It’s about a 1,5 hours drive, especially if you don’t know the roads. Ask for a car with navigation and type in the town Budens. This way you will go towards the right direction. After that we went off road which was a lot of fun. Our Peugot 2008 that looked very shiny when we first got it, now looked like it participated in a Dakar race! After 10 minutes and a few wrong turns we finally arrived at Into The Wild Algarve. Friendly faces welcomed us and the smell of eucalyptus passed our noses. This place was exactly what we needed. Away from the big city and into the wild. Literally. Dave, Sonya, Quirina and Dror came here when there was nothing but a bunch of trees and wild growth. They’ve been sleeping in a yurt and self made houses with their children and put all their efforts into ITWA.
The infamous Camper Van that Dave and Sonja came to Portugal with
Where did we sleep?
One of the best features here has to be the bohemian tent we slept in. Yes, sometimes dreams come true..the tent we slept in features 3 beds (with real mattresses) of which one a double, and a patio where you can enjoy your breakfast in the morning. On the other side behind the tent you have an outside shower which gives you warm water (heated by the sun) which comes from the fresh water lake. The toilet is also a bit special. It’s a Eco toilet without a flush, surrounded with eucalyptus branches for your privacy. Talk about into the great wide open! They are planning to create at least 8 of these tents over the summer. You can also bring your own tent or caravan if you like.
Our bohemian style tent
Our sun heated shower and the fresh lake across from our tent
The car that you really need in the Algarve; Peugeot 2008
Activities Into the Wild Algarve offers a lot of extra’s that you can book next to your accommodation. We enjoyed outside yoga and massages, subbing at sunrise and a vegan cooking workshop. One of the best things we enjoyed was the food that they have on offer here. A homemade breakfast, dinner and a picknick at the beach. Wow. Most ingredients come from their own garden and they mostly prepare vegetarian or vegan food. Super healthy and very very tasty. If you want you can prepare your own meals at the outdoor community kitchen but we highly advise you to order one of their amazing breakfast baskets at least twice during your stay. If you have the time you can also book the following activities: Holistic horse riding (without a saddle), Hiking tour, Surfing and Dolphin Watching.
Enjoying the best yoga session we’ve ever had, outside in the morning sun..
Enjoying a massage in nature which you can book separately at Into the Wild Algarve.
Fresh basil, amazing breakfast and lunch
Eating homemade everything from the ITWA garden!
Highly recommended: Organic breakfast and pick nick on the beach by Into the Wild Algarve
Things to do When you’re here you must visit the village: Pedralva. Super cute and great for pictures. It’s only a 15 minute drive from Into The Wild Algarve camping. Book a table and have dinner at the famous pizza joint Pizza Pazza. The pizza’s are around 8 euro’s and the salads are huge! Also try to visit the Saturday market in Lagos where you can find local goods like vegetables, honey, dates and herbs. The best thing you could do is to take your car and drive past the coast where you will find small beach towns like Salema where you will find a few bars and nice restaurants. Check out hippie town Barao de Sao Joao and the long established market on every 4th Sunday of the month. The market which is self-organized and self-regulating, it is free to stallholders and open to everyone.
Checking our photo’s in Pedralva
Colorful salad at Pizza Pizza
The streets of Lagos (shot by Wander-Lust)
Walking around in Salema
Nearby Beaches The Algarve is also famous for it’s amazing golden beaches. We managed to visit a couple of nice Praias (beaches) and these are our favorite ones: »Praia das Cabanas Velhas, here is our favorite beach bar for the Algarve; Cabana’s! Make sure you visit and book a massage on the beach around 5pm. Ask for Sonja, she is truly amazing! »Praia Figueira , the most beautiful beach we’ve come across on our trip. Clear blue water (cold though!). Be aware this is a nudist beach so be respectful and try not to stare (we couldn’t help it, sorry!) »Praia Dona Ana, this is where we had our first ever Sub lesson from Aussi David (who has a pretty cool storyof his own!). This beach is quite large and has one simple beach restaurant. Enjoy the beautiful rock formations and golden sand. » Praia da Ingrina, this is a small beach with shallow clear water and has a restaurant surrounded by palmtrees
You only pay 8 euro’s per couple for a half day sunbed at Cabana’s Beach Club
So what does it cost? Flights » From as little as €90,- euro’s per person if you book early Car rental» Check out this website and don’t forget to get insurance! Bohemian Bell Tent for 3-4 people » €80,- per night Breakfast brought to your tent » €6,- per person
Picknick lunch mandje » €8,- p.p
Chef’s delicious meal of the day » €12,- p.p
The great grill experience » €10,- p.p
Home made pizza’s » €8,- p.p
Yoga » €10,- p.p
Massage » From €40,-
Sunrise SUP lesson » €34,- p.p www.jahshakasurf.com(you can also book this at ITWA)
Vegan cook workshop » €40,- Plant your own tree or branch » Free! (we planted a Pomegranate tree which is now called the Wanderlust Tree)
So there you have it, Into The Wild Algarve is ready for it’s first visitors! If you love nature, fresh air, great food, amazing people and you don’t mind going a bit back to basic, you’re at the right address! They are still developing a few things so be prepared for the great outdoors and lot’s of frogs that will sing you to sleep at night! We were truly touched by the compassion of Dave, Sonja, Quirina and Dror and would go back in a heartbeat.
Last night it was the big night in Hollywood. The night that the best movies in the world are crowned with a little statue named Oscar. The big winner was of course the impressive movie The Revenant. With little dialogue, the film showed a very impressive scenery which made it a winning movie. Let’s look back a a few Oscar nominated blockbusters that make you want to travel.
1. Lord of the Rings This movie has to be in this list. It has inspired so many people to pack their bags and travel to the land of hobbits, elf’s and orcs. Lucky for us, you can book several “Lord of the Rings” tours that will take you through the most beautiful landscapes where the scenes were shot. IMDb
Oscar winning locations, The Lord of the Rings
2. The English Patient Shot within the beautiful Italian scenery with key parts of the story taking place against a stunning Tuscan backdrop. Director Anthony Minghella spent weeks in Tuscany searching for the perfect monastery to film in. IMDb
Beautiful Italy, where The English Patient was filmed
3. Slumdog millionaire This amazing Oscar winning movie makes you dislike India or make you extremely curious. It portraits the heavy slums of Mumbai in all it’s glory. You’ll be surprised that tourism picked up immensely after the success of this film. IMDb
Culture shock; India
4. Forrest Gump This movie isn’t just about the locations but about the feeling this movie is giving you. It inspires and tells you that you can do anything and go anywhere you want in life. No limits. And that is a beautiful thing. This is the northern route through Utah to Monument Valley and was used as the location in the movie “Forrest Gump” were Forrest (played by Best Actor Oscar winner Tom Hanks) ended his cross-country run. IMDb
Utah to Monument Valley
5. Vicky Christina Barcelona The titel gives it away but this film shows the romantic and vibrant city Barcelona. Filmed during spring/summer, this movie takes makes you fall in love with the characters and scenery. Drinking wine and eating all day and still look as good as Scarlet Johansen and Penelopé Cruz? Miss Cruz won a best supporting Oscar for her performance. IMDb
This city has been on my European bucketlist forever. Somehow I never got the chance to visit Rome but when I planned my Greek Island hopping tour a few months back, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to fly via Rome. With only 2 days to discover this Italian capital, I needed to plan a little ahead to make the most of it. After all, 2 days may seem too short for a city with so many things to see but it can be done! How?
Walk along the beautiful Venice Beach boardwalk, spot a movie star on Rodeo drive, go for luxury shopping in Beverly Hills, take a hike to see the famous Hollywood sign, have drinks & lunch in this cozy area Abbot Kinney or dance the night away in Hollywood Teddy’s; talking about Los Angeles!
I have visited a lot of cities in my life but there was always one on top of my city-bucket-list: Istanbul. The perfect mix between Asia and Europe. Yes, Istanbul is in fact separated by the Bosporus into European and Asian portions. One of my best friends even told me it’s his favorite city in Europe.
It got me curious so I booked a ticket and flew off to this mysterious city. I booked my ticket for the end of February, hoping the weather would be good so far out on the east side of Europe. But one day before I was about to fly, the news reported that Istanbul was coping with the worst snowstorms in 15 years! Bad luck, but ey, that’s traveling and I got to see snow in Istanbul! (That’s me trying to stay positive) Lucky enough it stopped snowing on the day of my departure so I could fly.
Arriving in Istanbul it was a little confusing because I wasn’t aware that you need a tourist visa so… that’s my first tip! A tourist visa will cost you 25 euro’s (yes, it’s not cheap) and you can buy this onlinehere.You can also buy the visa on arrival like I did, but then you need to wait in line and it can take a long time getting through customs so my advice is to buy it beforehand. Getting to my hotel was pretty easy. There are big comfy busses going into town and cost 14 Lira, which is about 5 euro’s. They leave every half hour and take you into the city centre in about 1 hour. For more info, check here. The nearest busstop from my hotel was Taksim Square. This is a famous square which collides with the endless Istiklal street where you can go shopping or visit a nice Starbucks. You can take the Tünel, this is a cute small tram which runs straight through the shopping street.
The Tünel in Istiklal Street
I booked my hotel via Booking.com and because of the low season, I got a very good rate: 120 euro’s for 3 nights! The rate included breakfast and the manager was very friendly and even gave his own Travel Card for me to use. (this is a card you can use for public transport) I stayed near the Galata tower and picked this area because it’s authentic and you can really taste the Turkish culture here. The tower itself is worth a visit if you want to check out the nice view and take some good pictures. It will cost you 20 lire to get in and there is a restaurant on the top. Tip: Go in the morning if you want to skip the queues. From the hotel I could walk right across the street to catch the tram which takes you over the bridge and into the westside of Istanbul. Taking the tram over the Bosporus is only a short ride which takes no longer than 10 min from the Galata area.
On this side there are a few big tourist attractions that are just too good to skip:
» The blue Mosque
(make sure you bring a scarf to cover your hair. Same thing applies for the Hagia Sofia) » Hagia Sofia » The Grand Bazaar (Great for Turkish shopping like handbags, Scarf, Lamps » The Spice Market (Get ready for some crazy scents and flavors!)
Walking around The Grand Bazaar
I loved the Spice Market the most because of all the colours and different tea’s.
After a day of walking around, you should definitely take a coffee break or try Salep. My new Turkish addiction. This is a hot milky drink topped off with cinnamon. You can pretty much get it in every Turkish Café.
Addicted to Turkish Salep, which they presented beautifully at the new NuBu Cafe
At night Istanbul really comes to live. Restaurants stay open late, and it’s rooftop galore with many restaurants and bars that you wouldn’t expect to be hidden away all the way up there. Here a few of my rooftop favorites:
» Zoeis a relaxed restaurant where you can eat outside on the roof terrace. It use to be really popular http://www.zoeteras.com/
» 360 is a great place. For food, drinks and even dancing. Killing view. Reservations are required and leave your sneakers at home. http://www.360istanbul.com/
» LTERA is a rooftoop restaurant which opens up in the summer. Looking over the river, it has a beautiful view and the food is tasty! http://www.literarestaurant.com/
A little further along side the Bosporus river you have amazing chique clubs like the Supperclub and Reina. I didn’t manage to go there because of the chilly nights but I will be back to try those out!
Fishermen trying to get their catch of the day
Most tourists only visit the European part of the city but you should definitely take the time for the Asian part! There is the lively Kadikoy where you have markets on different days of the week. Small shops and nice lunch spots make this a super fun day trip. To get there, you take the boat across the bosporus which takes about 30 min. When you are departing Istanbul from Sabiha Cökçen airport, you can also take the bus from there which makes it a shorter ride and you can combine this with a visit to this vibrant part of the city.
Fresh fish at Kadiköy, the Asian part of Istanbul
Be sure to visit Istanbul when it’s a little warmer but even so, it was magical and my friend was right. It’s great!