THE BEST OF DOHA, QATAR

Doha is considered the pearl of the middle east that set itself on the map after being elected for the 2022 World Cup. Time to find out why it’s good to travel to Doha now, before it’s becoming the next Dubai.

The city of Doha has many amazing sky scrapers, entertainment, shopping, glitch and glamour, yet it still offers an authentic culture and history. We were invited by Qatar Airways to see the best of Doha.

HOW TO GET THERE

Given that Qatar Airways is officially the best airline in the world, I was happy to fly with them for the first time. Luckily, I was upgraded into their QSuite (O Em Gee), which has been voted as the best business class by the Yearly World Airlines Awards, the oscars of aviation. For someone with a fear of flying, this was the most relaxing flight I had ever experienced. A direct flight to Doha takes about 6 hours, so that’s pretty reasonable. Qatar Airways for that matter, is offering Doha as a stopover, which you can add to your booking. As a matter of fact, if you fly with QR, you can get a discount on hotel prices. 4-star hotels are available for as little as 23USD! Nice to know: Qatar Airways offers all passengers 1 hour free wifi!


Business Class Qatar Airways
Enjoying the QSuite

THE STORY ABOUT QATAR & DOHA

First thing to remember is that Qatar is a reasonably small country which makes it fairly easy to travel around if you want to. You can actually drive from North to South Qatar in approximately 3 hours. As you may have heard, Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world due to their gas & oil, but it wasn’t always like this. For centuries, pearl harvesting used to be the main source of income for Qatari people. But due to the great depression and competition, pearls lost their value and the country needed to find other ways to earn a living. The pearl however, remains an important symbol of Qatar until this day.

Baskets at Souq Waqif

Doha on the other hand, is only 40 years old, which explains the modern vibe and ongoing construction. People often compare it to Dubai, but the people who live here, find Doha to be very different. For one, Dubai is all about entertainment, luxury and shopping. While Doha is certainly up there when it comes to luxury hotels, restaurants and bars, but also offers culture, sports and traditions.

GOOD TO KNOW

The best time to visit Doha is from October until the end of April. It must be remembered that the weather is undoubtedly less hot during those months with temperatures between 25 and 35 degrees. While this still seems quite warm, during summer period it can get up to 50ºC! It also has to be considered that Qatar is a muslim country, so dress accordingly. This means long dresses or trousers and try to cover your upper arms. On the contrary, you can wear pretty much whatever you want in most hotels. Alcohol is not served in public spaces, but only inside some restaurants and bars. That being said, I never heard a police siren while I was there, something I haven’t experienced in a city before.

Skyline

WHERE TO STAY

In general, there is enough choice when it comes to accommodation in Doha. For the most part, there are many big hotels, but the city also offers boutique style hotels and homestays. The best place to stay in Doha is in the West Bay area. Here you are near the airport, museums, and Souq Waqif. During my three-day trip I stayed in the following hotels.

  • Mandarin Oriental

    Brand new in Doha so modern and stylish. The rooms are truly exquisite and spacious. The hotel has an outdoor pool, 3 restaurants and a spa. Their latest gastronomic addition is Mosaic, an international kitchen with an Arabic twist. The location of the hotel is recently build, so taxi drivers may not find it that easily. On the positive side, Mandarin Oriental is located at walking distance of Souq Waqif!

Hotel pool

  • Marsa Malaz Kempinski

    In contrast to the Mandarin Oriental, Kempinski is more classical and larger. The entrance is quite impressive and the hotel offers a large pool area and a beach. They have a very cool must visit rooftop bar named Secret Garden and club that is only accessible via the parking lot. Bare in mind that the dresscode is smart/casual and visitors must bring their passports. Ask the reception for all the details.

Hotel bed

Kempinski Hotel Doha

The above mentioned hotels are both amazing but understandably not for every budget, so you are best to compare the best rated hotels online.

WHERE TO EAT

Luckily, Doha offers a wide range of cuisines and flavours. Even vegetarians have plenty of options! Here is a list of some must try restaurants.

  • Al Mourjan Restaurant offers some of the best Lebanese food in Doha. From the outside terrace you have an amazing view. Try the lemon/mint juice, amazing!
  • Nobu Doha is famous for sushi, but the same goes for their good service. The Japanese chefs welcome every new customer with a traditional greeting while working their magic behind the counter. Upstairs you can enjoy a drink at the bar, which overlooks part of Doha’s skyline. Nobu is part of the Four Seasons Hotel, due to open in early 2020.

Mezza in Doha

  • Apparently, Spicemarket is the best rated Asian restaurant in Doha. The restaurant which is located in the W-hotel, takes you on a journey across South East Asia and brings the authentic flavours to the table.
  • If you are a brunch person, go to Arc Brunch Eatery! Apparently they serve a killer coconut latte.
  • As previously mentioned, Mosaic is the newest restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel. They offer a variety of Arabic food with a twist!
  • Spots like Soul Bowl and Evergreen Organics are made for those that crave something healthy and vegan. Plus both locations look cute!

Mosiac

Nice to know: Little did I know, but coffee is a thing in Doha! You’ll find many trendy coffee bars around the city and our favourites café’s are Flat White, Cue Café, Fleurs at Café, 20 Grams Coffee Bar, MIA Café and Tea Garden.

Coffee bar Doha
Cue café, in the Pearl (source)

CULTURE & TRADITIONS

You may not expect it, but Doha is full of culture and traditions. For example, the falcon, Qatars symbol and bird, is still as important as centuries ago. Some falcons even travel first class with their owners! At Souq Waqif you can find a falcon market where the birds are sold and traded. There is even a falcon hospital to keep them in good shape. The traditional Souq itself is also worth a visit. During the evening it gets more crowded but if you come between 7:30 – 12:00, you can take photo’s without hardly any people. They sell everything from handmade baskets, colourful carpets, spices, sweets and tools. The souq is also the best place for traditionally Arabic food, but you can also find Indian, Lebanese and Iranian food here.

Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif during the day

Doha Falcon

Museums

I never expected to find the best museum I have ever visited in Doha, but I did. The National Museum of Qatar is truly impressive. The design – inspired by a desert rose, is incredible. But once inside, NMOQ is curated beautifully. It takes you through the ancient times, including the amazing displays of  different species that live in Qatar. How pearls came and went, war and traditions. Not to mention that kids will love the interactive and playful set ups, while adults enjoy the beautiful indoor architecture and information.

NMOQ in Doha
The stunning National Museum of Qatar

But this is not the only museum Doha has on offer. MIA (Museum of Islamic Art) is also one of the city’s pride and joy. The building portraits a Qatari woman wearing a bourqa. From here you have a stunning view of Doha’s skyline. If you like modern art, check out Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art. With new exhibitions each month, Doha also has many galleries. Find out more here.

MIA Museum in Doha
MIA Museum

THINGS TO DO IN DOHA

Equally important are the activities Doha has on offer. A unique selling point has to be the desert with one of the world’s natural wonders; the inland sea. Next to Namibia, Qatar is the only place on earth where the sea reaches the desert. You can book several tours that will take you dune bashing. If you come in the beginning or end of the month, the sea will reach the sand dunes completely, otherwise the sight of it may be a bit disappointing.

Desert Qatar
Me, in the desert. Photo by Roel van der Krabben

Desert and sea
Camels standing at the inland sea

Visit Banana Island

Besides the thrilling desert of Qatar, you can also spend an afternoon at the luxurious Banana Island Resort. From Doha City you can take a ferry in just 35 minutes that will take you to the man-build island. There are a few restaurants, pools and beach area for visitors to enjoy the day. If you want to stay the night, you need to bring your credit card, because it ain’t cheap! Even so, it’s perfect for honeymooners or to escape the city.

Banana Island entrace
The entrance of Banana Island Resort

Katara Cultural Village

What’s more, a whole village was build to bring different cultures together through art and creativity. There are shops, restaurants, theatre, exhibition area’s and festive events. Doha is full of expats and they love to come here to listen to familiar sounds and meet friends. There is also a stunning mosque which was designed by a woman, which is quite special.

Mosque
The Mosque at Cultural Village

MY VERDICT

Having experienced Doha for a few days, and can say that it’s the perfect city for a stopover before heading home or continuing your trip. With this intention you can truly enjoy the best of Doha. In short, the capital of Qatar can be quite expensive indeed, but if you if you want, you can go all out here and treat yourself to great food, sunshine, glitch and glamour. Hop from hotel bar to beautiful restaurants or experience rich culture the sand dunes and meet some of the nicest people as a bonus, both expats and locals.

And remember that Dubai once started out as Doha. Quietly and full ambition. I think it’s time to visit this relatively unknown destination and enjoy it before it becomes a place where you’ll become just another tourist.

Love,

Elke

 

 

 

 

The adventurous South Island of New Zealand

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) travellers 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
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 its 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. 

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!

south-island of new-zealand abel-tasman-park_kayaking
Kayaking at Abel Tasman National Park

new-zealand_south-island_abel-tasman-park_anchorage_kayaking

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. As a matter of fact, 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. 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.

new-zealand_south-island_roadtrip_crystal-clear

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. 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 😉 ). From jet boating to luging to bungee jumping, make sure to save some of your money to engage in at least one of the adventures on offer. 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). Eventually, I decided to do the 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 off an old bridge, in the middle of a gorge, dipping into turquoise water. Yes, I was scared, I screamed, I was terrified. And I would do it again any day.

new-zealand_south-island_queenstown
Queenstown

south-island of new-zealand queenstown_kawarau_bungee
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 bird. They only live in the wild on Stewart Island and are hardly seen. The same goes for the little penguins that show up at dawn in the harbour. 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. 

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.

new-zealand_south-island_dunedin_otago-peninsula_sea-lion
Claude chasing us!

Given these points, 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. You can spot dolphins in Greymouth, hike around Lake Wanaka, and so so so much more. Go there, and make me jealous.

Love,

Jill

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 California ‘back yards’.

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

How to get there

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 Deep Creek California

Off the Beaten 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 Springs

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”

Slacklining

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 neighbourhood 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

3 X TOP PLACES IN LAOS

Located cozily in between Thailand, Cambodia, China, Myanmar and Vietnam, Laos 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.

 If you are a first time visitor to Laos, these are definitely my top three places for visiting!

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 2 basic with cold showers and toilets that can only be flushed with a bucket. Straightaway, you will feel the relaxed vibe on this island which is very contagious. Soon you’ll be unwinding in a hammock with a fruit shake 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.

Don Det Waterfalls

Don Det, Laos
Don Det

Soaring through the jungle in Laos 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. Sleeping in the worlds highest tree houses, flying through the jungle of Laos on a zipper-line. Furthermore, you can hike 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.

Gibbon, Laos

Oui oui, Luang Prabang

From Luang Prabang you can get on the night bus to the Gibbon Experience. It goes without saying that Luang Prabang 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.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos

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.

Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng, Laos

Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos

Ultimately, I hope you’ll have a wonderful time in this partly undiscovered little piece of Southeast Asian heaven 🙂

Love,

Evelien

Luxury Wintersport | Edmonton and Jasper National Park

Have you ever thought about going to Canada for skiing or snowboarding? It may not be around the corner from where you live, but spending the winter in Edmonton and Jasper is gaining popularity for those that want a little more luxury and adventure!

More and more people are looking a bit further than Austria, France or Switzerland to be sure of a thick pack of snow and adventure. One destination where you can definitely find this, is Canada of course! Besides skiing, there are tons of activities around the national park of Jasper. And not to mention the wonderful shopping opportunities in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital.

Elk, Canada

How to get there

Edmonton is easily accessible from the Netherlands with the direct flight of KLM. Good to know: when you book your wintersport holiday with Sneeuwzekerdeals.nl, ski passes, transport and accommodation are always included. In addition, you can check in your own ski or snowboard equipment for free! There are plenty of choices, but if you want to enjoy pure luxury, pick the 9-day trip with Oad where you stay in the beautiful Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. When you arrive at the airport of Edmonton, a shuttle bus will bring you straight to your hotel in Jasper. What’s not to like right?

With a bit of luck you’re able to see the northern lights

Edmonton

To begin with, Edmonton is the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta. It is perfect to start your luxury wintersport trip from. Secondly, the city is known as the “festival capital of Canada”, but also perfect for those who like to shop. In comparison to other winter destinations, you can find North America’s largest shopping mall (West Edmonton Mall) in Edmonton. If you are exploring the city, be sure to visit the Old Strathcona neighbourhood, where you will find many restaurants and hotspots! Furthermore, the surrounding River Valley is very suitable for winter hikes, fat biking (see photo), or a snow Segway tour. Nearby, you’ll find Elk Island National Park where you can spot wildlife and with a bit of luck you’re able to see the northern lights! Must do: watch an ice hockey game from The Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Palace.

Activities in Edmonton, Canada

Jasper National Park

Generally, people come to Jasper during the winter for one thing only, and that is to enjoy the snow! There is no place like it. Rent a car and drive 3,5 hours up to the Marmot Basin ski region where snowy mountains are a guarantee. The ski season runs from November up until early May, so pretty long! There are about 91 runs but it never feels too busy, so you you can really enjoy the piste without the mayhem.

Sking in Jasper national Park
Peaky snow mountains at the Marmot Basin ski region

Jasper National Park, Canada
Jasper National Park

Fun for young & old

If you decide to bring your children, you’re good here. There are plenty of options to entertain your little ones. Likewise, if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, this ski region is also perfect! Cozy ski chalets with plenty of restaurants and bars. Next to skiing, there are many cool activities you can do. What about dog sledging, ice climbing or visit one of the many spa’s to relax your muscles after a full day of activity.

Marmot-Basin, Canada
Marmot Basin ski region map

Ice Cave Jasper, Canada
Visit one of the ice caves

As you can see, there are plenty of options! This kind of wintersport is really suitable for those that are looking for some extra luxury, adventure and relaxation. Check here for more information about Edmonton & Jasper and its winter activities.

We haven’t looked forward to winter like this in a long time!

Wander-Lust

*This article was written in collaboration with Sneeuwzekerdeals.nl

Calabria | The last Undiscovered piece of Italy

Italy remains an ideal holiday destination. Places like Rome, Toscana, Milano and Positano are visited by millions of tourists every year. The southern province Calabria however, has been untouched by mass tourism but is just as beautiful as other Italian region.

If you want to avoid the usual tourist routes but you still want all the goods Italy has to offer, keep on reading! In this guide you will find the perfect stopovers for a wonderful off the beaten track trip through Calabria. I was invited by Enotria Travel, which is especially designed for those that want to discover the less traveled and authentic places in Italy. Its owner, Tina Altieri was born in Calabria and has been living in the Netherlands for over 25 years now. Needless to say that she knows the region inside out! I would therefore definitely recommend consulting this organization if you prefer not to arrange a trip to Calabria yourself.

Renting a car is the most convenient option because many of the finest spots are remote.

How to get there?

Calabria is located in the toe of the Italian boot, the far south of Italy. Lamezia Terme Airport is centrally located in Calabria, so from here you can reach various cities in the region easily and quickly. Tip: Always check how to compensate your CO2 emissions! At the same time, it is also possible to travel by car or train, although it will take you around 22-25 hours from Amsterdam.

Rotonda

To begin with, our first stopover is in Rotonda which is less than a 2-hour drive away from the airport in Calabria. It is an atmospheric town where you hardly meet any other tourists. The village is an excellent base to discover the Parco Nazionale dell Pollino. Consequently, this park is the largest protected nature reserve in Italy and covers around 200.000 hectares. You can go rafting, tubing, mountain biking, river walking, trekking, yoga and much more. If you are interested in such an activity, River Tribe organizes the best excursions and outdoor activities for this part of Calabria.

Rotonda, Calabria Italy
Rotonda, Calabria

Rafting on the Lao river is absolutely recommended, because the trail is exceptionally beautiful. When traversing the canyon, you witness the prowess of 300 meters high rock walls, with rays of sunlight shining through, leaves whirling around and drops of water falling down. Thereupon, you’ll truly feel like you are in some sort of fairy tale!

Rafting Calabria
Stunning nature in Calabria

From Rotonda it is also worthwhile to visit the village Altomonte, which lies on a mountain top (approx. 490 meters above sea level). Walk to the charming 14th-century church Santa Maria della Consolazione on top of the mountiain and enjoy the view over the surrounding landscape.

Altomonde, Calabria

Accomodation tip:

Il Borgo Ospitale is an albergo diffuso with 13 rooms and a restaurant, right in the historic center of Rotonda. Basically, an albergo diffuso is a “scattered hotel” meaning that the accommodation is located in different houses and apartments in the same village. The fun thing about this concept is that your neighbours are probably locals. Particularly, this is a perfect solution for anyone who wants something else than your typical hotel experience.

Scilla

Scilla is called “the little Venice of the Tyrrhenian Sea” for a reason. This little atmospheric village is astonishing beautiful. Small houses that are built on the water give a romantic feeling throughout the place. It is by walking through the narrow streets where you come across old fountains, little chapels and hidden pathways to the sea. The village is famous for their pesce spade (swordfish) plus the harbour is studded with blue and green coloured traditional fishing boats that don’t seem to have changed much through centuries. Scilla is a special place you won’t easily forget!

Scilla also has a cozy beach with a view of a big rock formation with a castle on top of it. You can go snorkelling and diving around this rock. Due to the sea currents, special anemones grow there and many different fish species can be seen.

Gerace

Gerace is an exceptionally picturesque village with a whole load of history. You can wander around for a couple of hours in the small alleys where you constantly come across special historical buildings. One of the oldest churches dates from the year 900 and one of the highlights is the majestic Cathedral of Gerace. For me, it really felt like I was back in the middle ages when I strolled through the streets of this village.

Calabria streets
Scilla, Calabria

Fun fact: Gerace has 250 inhabitants and 40 remaining churches. This means that every family could have their own church.

Calabria, Italy

From Gerace you can also do some nice trips. The Aspromonte National Park (which is also called “Valley of the Great stones”) is about half an hour away and offers the possibility to hike. The park has mountains up to 2000 meters, a large number of waterfalls, rivers, archaeological sites as well as many species of animals.

Accommodation tip:

If you wish for a truly authentic stay in this southern region of Calabria, I would recommend staying at an Agriturismo, which is a farm that is primarily used for agriculture but serves as a hosting place for tourists as well. People who live on the farm, produce everything themselves: oil, wine, meat, vegetables etc. In their restaurant they only serve their own products! As soon as you step on the farm grounds you’ll experience the tranquillity. The Azienda Macri is outside of the village, so if you would like to stay right in the old centre of Gerace we would recommend B&B Palazzo Candida.

Agriturismo Calabria
Agriturismo, Calabria

The food culture is even stronger in Calabria than in other regions of Italy because agriculture is the most important sector. Be prepared for abundant meals, something the Calabres are known for.

Tropea

Tropea lies on the coastline between Pizzo Calabro and Nicotera Marina. This coastline is called the Costa degli Dei (which means the “Coast of the Gods”) since the landscape is marvellous. The azure blue sea is reminiscent of the tropical beaches in South East Asia. The village of Tropea is also referred to as the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea and is located on a cliff at about 60 meters above sea level. Tropea itself is quite small but undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Calabria. In fact, Tropea was one of my favourite places because it has that great combination of beach, sea and Mediterranean town life.

Tropea Calabria

A must-see is the Isola di Tropea. This is a rock in the clear blue sea with the Santa Marina dell’Isola monastery on top of it. From here you have a good view on Tropea and the sunbathing people down on the beach. Another recommendation is to do a boat trip with the company Shark Bay. Start with some snorkelling and then enjoy the panorama of Tropea from the water (with a glass of wine).

Tropea beach, Calabria

Tropea is a popular place in July and August by many tourists, but also by Italians who are enjoying their holiday. In these two months the town will be fairly busy but the rest of the year it will be calm. It’s the perfect place to spend a couple of days and enjoy the beauty of the town and the beaches.

Calabria, Italy

Capo Vaticano

Located about 10km south of tropea lies Capo Vaticano. Here you can find the most beautiful shores of South Italy. Stunning little beaches are hidden behind the high cliffs and are accessible via large stairs or by boat.

Capo Vaticana Calabri

Accomodation tip:

Le Case di Berto. This a very peaceful site, build by a famous Italian writer. There are 7 houses built on the property, usually for 2 people with a view of the Stromboli volcano and sea. A staircase with 440 steps will bring you to Spiaggette; a private beach that belongs to the writer’s site. Book it here.

Capo Vaticana Calabri

My Verdict

Generally speaking, Calabria has something for everyone. Those who love nature and adventure can explore the Calabrian outback and discover unpolluted landscapes with lots of greenery. At the same time, if you prefer walking along the beach and enjoy the blue sea, you can choose between the many areas along the long Tyrrhenian and Ionian coasts. The options are endless. Picturesque villages, stunning national parks, ancient towns and white sandy beaches along crystal clear water, but without hordes of people.

The fact that there are rarely any tourists in this region really amazed me, so go before the rest of the world finds out about it! Find out more about this region on Enotria Travel!

Ciao,

Iris

Iris was invited to Calabria by Enotria Travel. However, we always pick our collaborations carefully, so we can give you the best tips.

7 X MUST VISIT PLACES FOR THIS FALL

Summer is almost over but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning your next trip. October is a great period to pack that suitcase and enjoy those last rays of sunlight or visit a beautiful city. These are our  must visit places for this fall.

1. Marrakesh, Morocco

With a reasonable short flight of 3,5 hours (from Amsterdam) it’s the perfect getaway to soak up the sunshine in October. Check our Marrakech Guide ffor the best tips and try to book your accommodation beforehand to get the best deals. Besides Marrakesh, Morocco has a lot more to offer. You can surf in Taghazout, ride camels in the Sahara or take a dip into the shallow waters of Paradise Valley.

Marrakech Guide 2019

2. Dubai, Emirates

If you want heat, you’re gonna get it here. (31-36 degrees!) It might be a little more expensive than a European break but this will be an experience you won’t forget. Shopping, fine dining and skydiving are some of the things Dubai brings to the table. KLM is offering flights from €397 in their world deal weeks at the moment so be quick!

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Camels with the skyline of Dubai

3. Dubrovnik, Croatia

This affordable getaway is still warm in the fall and prices are particularly low during this period. You have all the space to enjoy the magnificent beaches. Dubrovnik is also great for mountain hiking and enjoy the beautiful colors. Take the train and go interrailing!

4. Miami, Florida

It’s the best time to visit Miami the locals say. Why? Because most tourist will be gone (a lot better than spring break!) and temperatures are still very nice. If you’re visiting with kids, you can always visit Disney World (yes, it’s a must see with kids) or if you’re the adventurer you can watch crocodiles in the everglades. 

5. Folegandros, Greece

If you want total zen, no fuss, good food and stunning views, you must visit FolegandrosIt’s great the whole year round but summer is still happening in Folegandros in the fall. You can fly to Athens (about 180 euro’s) and take the speedy boat service to the island in just 4 hours. You can also fly to Santorini and take the boat in just 45 minutes. Flights to Santorini are more expensive though. One thing is for sure; you will feel completely recharged when you return.

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Stunning views in Folegandros

8. Jordan, Middle East

One of the worlds most spectacular sights are found right here but remain unseen by so many. In October there are still bright sunny days that light the rock of Petra up rose-red; but it is cool enough to journey into the Valley of the Moon on camel or horseback by day, and warm enough to sleep out under the starry sky by night. Flights from 300 euro’s with Turkish Airlines.

7. Munich, Germany

Why Munich? Because it’s the Oktoberfest of course! Starting from the 19th of Sept until the 4th of October. The festive fall event is not just about beer drinking anymore but also offers music, dance, food, markets and a fair. Grab your car and make a roadtrip!

Love,

Elke

WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL EUROPE BY TRAIN

Unfortunately, traveling the world by plane has a nasty impact on the environment. Guest editor Larissa traveled by train to show you how beautiful Europe is when you see it from the ground.

Why travel Europe by train?

According to several environmental organisations, the best means to travel is by public transportation. I decided to book an Interrail train trip to explore Europe! This means you buy a ticket that is valid for 30 days and you can hop on or off at any European train station you would like. First of all, the beauty of Europe will pleasantly surprise you. There’s no need to travel half through the world to discover some picture perfect places. It’s closer than you think. This train tour through Europe ended up being one of the best trips of my life.

travelling by train
Ready to travel Europe by train!

First stop: Czech Republic

Okay, to be honest, Prague was a bit too touristy for me. Aa a matter of fact, locals call Prague the Disneyland of Czech Republic and I totally understand why. However, the Alternative City tour showed us a lot of cool hidden gems! Additionally, I could really appreciate the cocktail scene. Go and discover bars like The Alchemist, this place has a mysterious look and feel. Tip: try the ‘choose your fate’ of the cocktail menu, I’ll say no more..

Prague
Seeing Prague from above

Moving on in Czech Republic, we visited a place I really loved: Brno. It’s a local city full of culinary highlights, local delicious wines, pubs and vegan ice creams. Hip and happening! From this little city it’s easy to discover some beautiful castles in Lednice and Valtice. At Valtice palace, you can even try out 100 amazing local wines under the ground. My favorite: number 43, Grand Reserve Chardonnay of 2016. Definitely a winner!

Lednice castle

Next stop: Hungary

The city that surprised me in a good way was definitely Budapest. The city has four sides, the tranquil vibes at the river side, the bustling city with beautiful buildings and culinary highlights (tip: a dinner at Zeller Bistro with live music!), local hangouts in the ruin bars and total relaxation at the bathhouses. This city has a lot to offer, and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Budapest

Zamárdi

After we discovered the whole city in a couple days, we jumped in the train to Zamárdi. This weekend was all about partying and having a good festival time! At the Balaton Lake there was one of the biggest festivals of Hungary: Balaton Sound. Fortunately, the train station was at walking distance of this festival. As soon as we could, we got in our bikini to enjoy the sun, some drinks and dances during the day. After a refreshing shower, we had the whole night to dance again in our festival outfits while enjoying the music of among other Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano and Armin van Buren!

Travel Europe by train

Last stop: Croatia

In Croatia the public transport is not as common, that’s why you can better stop the Interrail when you arrive at Zagreb and continue the trip with a rental car. Our first stop on our road trip through Croatia was the Plitvice Lakes. The best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. We arrived around 4 a clock, which was a perfect time to wander around without too much other people. They say the short route takes you about 2 to 3 hours, it took us one and a half hour, so don’t worry about a long hike! Personally, I preferred the Plitvice lakes over the Krka waterfalls. But both are worth seeing during a trip trough Croatia.

Plitvice
The stunning Plitvice lakes

Krka waterfalls

Sibenik

In the evening we arrived in Sibenik. What a lovely town! It’s pure and authentic, very cute and filled with a nice ambience. We stayed at the Heritage Hotel Life Palace and you’ll enjoy the freshest breakfast we’ve had so far. All the ingredients they use in this town is locally produced. Too bad we had to leave after the breakfast to catch our boat to Brac island. By the way, they filmed parts of Game of Thrones in Sibenik, remember the city of many faces?

Sibenik

Brac island

Last but not least, we ended the trip with some nice beach days at Brac island. This place is built to celebrate a nice tranquil holiday. We didn’t want to leave! At the famous beach ‘Zlatni Rat’ you can rent a beach bed for about 9,50 euro and enjoy the nice weather whole day long. This was exactly what we needed after the busy trip we’ve had travelling around in Europe.

Brac island

Time & Cost

In conclusion, the whole trip took us 17 days in total, but it felt like months as we saw and experienced so much in such short amount of time. One youth travel ticket costed me €515,- for 2 persons and includes all the above mentioned stops. For adults above 27 years old ticket prices start around 285 per person. Your train ticket will be valid for 30 days so you have no rush! Accommodations are not included. I enjoyed every minute of the trip and recommend this to everyone who has the same addiction as I have: Wanderlust.

Love,

Larissa

Ostrava | Czech charm meets industrial chique

The Czech Republic is certainly no stranger to foreign tourism. However, most tourists who take a visit to this country limit themselves to Prague. The vibrant city Ostrava often gets overlooked by travellers but has a lot to offer.

From skating down the Pustevny mountain to exploring underground coal mines and even partying at one of the best music festivals in Europe.. Bringing a visit to Ostrava will be a pleasant surprise for anyone looking to get off the beaten track..

Where is Ostrava?

The city isn’t too famous so there’s a big chance that most people don’t know about this place. That given, Ostrava is the third largest city in the Czech Republic and it’s located in the very Northeast of the country. The city was for a long time known (among Czechs) for being unattractively industrial because it was historically associated with the production of pig-iron and coal. Its reputation as an industrial workaday city has prevented it from seeing the tourism it deserves. Although it is not as classically beautiful as