A superior room at The Ampersand Hotel in London, which is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The collection of luxury independent hotels has appointed a new CEO.
Reasons to Visit Peru – Travel Dudes
If you have had Peru on your mind as your next travel destination, you probably already know why you want to travel there. But, if you’re still looking for reasons to visit Peru, you’ve stumbled upon the right blog post.
Perhaps you have already been captivated by the promise of seeing Machu Picchu in the flesh, feasting your eyes on Rainbow Mountain and exploring the Amazon jungle, but Peru has many more tempting experiences which cannot be missed.
For the chance to plan an eco-friendly, unforgettable, and truly adventurous journey to the third-largest country in South America, keep reading for some valuable tips and ideas.
Things to do and see in Peru
Peru is a country that well and truly spoils every traveler, with a variety of things to see and do in all parts of the country. Being the third-largest on the South American continent, there is every reason to spend as much time here as you can to ensure you get the most out of your trip because once you start exploring this unbeatable travel destination, it will be very hard to stop.
Some of the main reasons to visit Peru are because of the culture, landscape, and the warm-hearted people, as well as the many major highlights and activities on offer, and if you are planning to see and do as much as possible, here are a few things you cannot miss out on.
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the main activities in Peru, and because it is so popular, you will need to book this in advance. This hike requires a good level of fitness, preparation, and a real sense of adventure, with the ultimate end goal of reaching this famous 15th Century Inca citadel. No matter how tired you are at the end, you will forget all about it once you catch that first glimpse, especially at sunrise. Just Wow! No trip to Peru is complete with a visit to the Amazon Jungle, of which Peru has the second-largest portion, after Brazil.
See also: How to Visit Cusco & Machu Picchu on a Budget
Here you can discover the world’s largest rainforest, spot pink dolphins and caiman crocodiles and try your hand at piranha fishing, the traditional way. As well as visiting the bustling cities of Cusco, Lima, and Arequipa.
You will want to feast your eyes on Lake Titicaca, which is the highest navigable lake in the world, on the border of Bolivia and Peru. If you are an adrenaline junky there are plenty of opportunities to go rafting, biking, hiking, kayaking, climbing, and even surfing, there is no rest for the wicked in Peru.
Check out the below list of activities in Peru:
Landscape of Peru
One of the major highlights of this wonderful country is the landscape, which you cannot miss, and which deserves its very own section. The scenery in Peru is just outstanding and you can expect to witness the wild waves on the South Pacific Ocean coast, an array of colors on the Vinicunca Mountain (Rainbow Mountain), the course jungles of the Amazon, the serene beauty of Lake Titicaca, the mountainous terrain of Colca Canyon and the Andes range and even the unique dunes of Huacachina.
The diversity is unsurpassed in Peru, but let’s leave the rest for you to discover, in real-time.
See also: Where to go in Peru Besides Machu Picchu
Local cuisine in Peru
The fact that Baboo Travel hosts some awesome eco-friendly culinary tours throughout Peru, says it all. There is so much to discover in the world of Peruvian cuisine and some of the best ways to try this are by eating where the locals do, taking a cooking class, and doing street food tours.
Some of the foods you will get to try out include ceviche, Lomo Saltado, Pollo a la Brasa, Empanadas, and even their specialty which is Guinea Pig – if you are brave enough. This dish is known as cuy and is often roasted and cooked using the pachamanca, which is a traditional earthen oven used to roast foods. This may seem strange to those who have never heard of a guinea pig as a delicacy before, but in Peru, it is estimated that around 65 million of them are eaten each year, and Peru even hosts festivals that celebrate this small South American rodent.
Be sure to try pisco when in Peru, which you cannot overlook as it is found everywhere. This South American brandy is made from fermented grape juice and has been produced exclusively in Peru as well as neighboring Chile for many centuries. The common cocktail in Peru is the Pisco Sour which consists of pisco, lime juice, sugar syrup, egg white, and lots of ice.
Best time to travel to Peru
Like any destination, it’s important to know when to go, and most importantly, when not to go, so here are a few things you should consider when trying to figure out the best time to take this trip.
Firstly, Peru has two main seasons, the wet season from November to April and the dry season from May to October, but the best time to travel will depend on the regions you plan to go to, so be sure to plan accordingly.
The best time overall to travel is the dry season, which is also the busiest, but it is ideal for outdoor activities, while the wet season has intermittent rains but fewer crowds. The regions to be aware of are the coast, the mountains, and the jungle, all of which have their characteristics. The best time for the coast is in January or February, while the best time for the mountains is May or October and the best time to visit the Amazon is during the dry season.
Opting for a sustainable trip
Peru is not as well off as some of the other South American countries such as Argentina and Brazil, and with it being one of the poorer countries on the continent, it is important to know that you are helping to empower local communities as well as regenerating the earth. This is why Baboo Travels trips are so incredibly rewarding, because not only are you benefiting from local knowledge from a Destination Expert, from that country, you are contributing a huge portion of the money you’ve spent on your trip, right back into the hands of the locals – and that’s a guarantee. Many of us are worried about traveling, because of the impact it can have on the environment, but what if we told you that a Baboo Travel tour uses 2% of this money to combat climate change.
There are so many positive reasons to choose a sustainable, ethical, and environmentally conscious travel team, but furthermore, you will save yourself hours of unnecessary research, stress, and hassle, when you can tailor-make your ideal trip with a local point of view. There is no better time to think about a trip to Peru, with the environment and local communities in mind.
We enjoy exploring our planet and want to do our part to keep it healthy for future generations.
We love, and aim, to create the perfect match in every journey while making the world a little better:
– by empowering our Local In-destination Experts
– by driving real value to their local communities, and
– by helping our travelers to be carbon positive and their travels regenerative.
The Best Summer Destinations in Europe
Dreaming of a trip around Europe during the summer? I always like to say I have two moods: summer in Europe or cozy holiday mode. Well, if you’re in the mindset of summer in Europe — this is for you!
While it’s difficult to narrow down the “best” destinations to visit in Europe during the summer as it truly is up to your preferences and the things you’d like to do, I can definitely provide some suggestions.
First up: if you’re able to travel during the shoulder months, as in May/June and September, you’ll find far fewer crowds. July and August are high seasons, and, I would say avoid August at all costs. Trust me, I visited Greece in August and while it was beautiful…it was PACKED.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best summer destinations to visit in Europe!
Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
The Dalmatian Coast is home to some of the clearest waters in the Mediterranean, making it the perfect destination for swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. The colors of the water range from turquoise to deep blue, and you’ll be able to see all the way to the bottom!
The Dalmatian Coast is made up of thousands of islands, each one more beautiful than the last. From the historic city of Dubrovnik to the quiet, serene islands of Hvar and Brač, there’s an island for every type of traveler.
For the history buffs, dive into ancient Roman ruins and see the fortified city walls of Dubrovnik. You’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time as you explore this stunning coastal region.
Did you know that some of the best food and wine are found here? Yep, Croatia is a foodie’s paradise! From fresh seafood dishes to hearty meat stews, the cuisine of the Dalmatian Coast is both delicious and hearty.
And don’t even get me started on the wine – the region is famous for its crisp, refreshing whites and rich, full-bodied reds.
You’ll find some of the most stunning beaches in the Mediterranean in Mallorca!
From the bustling Cala Millor to the secluded Cala Deià, there’s a beach for every type of traveler. The crystal-clear waters and soft, white sand make Mallorca the perfect destination for a summer getaway.
Beyond the beaches, Mallorca is also home to some of the most breathtaking countryside in Europe. From the rolling hills to the rugged coastline, the scenery is simply stunning. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard as you explore the island’s beautiful landscapes.
Oh, and for those wanting to dive into culture and history — look no further than the ancient ruins of the Talayots to the Gothic architecture of the capital city of Palma.
Mallorca is the perfect destination for those who want a mix of adventure and relaxation.
Spend your days hiking in the mountains and your nights sipping cocktails on the beach. Whether you’re looking for an action-packed vacation or a peaceful retreat, Mallorca has something for everyone.
The Greek Islands are home to some of the most stunning beaches in Europe, from the bustling party beaches of Mykonos to the secluded coves of Santorini. With crystal-clear waters and soft, white sand, the beaches of the Greek Islands are the perfect place to soak up the sun and relax.
For those looking for a cultural experience, visit the ancient ruins of the Acropolis in Athens to the medieval castles of Rhodes.
Beyond the beaches, the Greek Islands are also home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in Europe. From the dramatic cliffs of Santorini to the rolling hills of Crete, the scenery is simply stunning. You’ll feel like you’re in a postcard as you explore the island’s beautiful landscapes.
The Greek Islands are the perfect destination for those who want a mix of adventure and relaxation. Spend your days exploring ancient ruins and your nights lounging on the beach.
Sardinia, Italy doesn’t always make lists…but it should! It has some of the most stunning beaches, from the famous Costa Smeralda to the secluded Cala Luna.
Whether you’re interested in history, art, or local traditions, Sardinia is brimming with unique things to explore, from the ancient ruins of Nuraghi to the traditional costumes of the island’s rural communities.
The island is famous for its fresh, local ingredients and dishes up hearty seafood plates.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Amalfi Coast is a chart-topper for good reason! The dramatic cliffs, the coastal towns, and the brilliant blue water. The Amalfi Coast is a photographer’s dream!
The Amalfi Coast is the perfect destination for those who want a mix of relaxation and adventure.
Spend your days lounging on the beach and your nights exploring the picturesque villages. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or an action-packed vacation, the Amalfi Coast has something for everyone.
Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or local traditions, the Amalfi Coast has something for you.
I’d highly recommend planning well in advance as this is the prime busy season and accommodations book up early. Here are some of the best hotels to stay at on the Amalfi Coast!
Pack your bags and head to the South of France! The gorgeous region of Provence, France is brimming with sun-kissed vineyards, lavender fields, and charming villages.
Spend your days wandering around the rolling hills of the Luberon to the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Whether you’re exploring the countryside by bike or by car, you’ll be constantly amazed by the beauty of Provence.
Provence is dotted with charming villages, from the hilltop town of Gordes to the seaside town of Cassis. Each village has its own unique personality and history and is the perfect place to immerse yourself in local culture and traditions.
Spend your days exploring ancient ruins and your nights lounging in charming villages.
Whether you’re looking for an action-packed vacation or a peaceful retreat, Provence has something for everyone.
French Riviera, France
Get ready to pack your bags and escape to a world of sun, sea, and glamour! Whether you’re exploring the coastline by boat or by car, you’ll be constantly amazed by the beauty of the French Riviera.
The French Riviera is famous for its chic destinations, from the glamorous resorts of Saint-Tropez to the picturesque villages of Èze.
Whether you’re looking to be pampered in a five-star hotel or to explore local culture and traditions, the French Riviera has something for you. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or local traditions, the French Riviera has something for you.
Imagine spending your days sipping rosé next to the beach, dining on niçoise salads, and then lounging at a chic resort. Sounds like paradise to me!
While Iceland may not be the typical place you imagine during a summer vacation, you should definitely consider it…especially because the weather is GORGEOUS!
Iceland is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, from its glaciers and fjords to its hot springs and geysers.
Whether you’re exploring the rugged wilderness or taking a dip in one of the country’s famous hot springs, Iceland’s natural beauty is truly awe-inspiring.
During the summer months, Iceland experiences the “midnight sun” – which means that the sun never sets, and you can enjoy 24 hours of daylight! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the beauty of the country in a completely different way.
Iceland offers a wealth of unique activities, from glacier hiking and whale watching to horseback riding and kayaking. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or a more relaxed experience, Iceland has something for everyone.
Iceland is home to a diverse range of wildlife, from puffins and seals to whales and reindeer. During the summer months, you may be able to see puffins, seals, whales, and even reindeer in their natural habitats.
Azores Islands, Portugal
The Azores Islands are renowned for their breathtaking natural beauty, from the lush green landscapes to the dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches. Whether you’re exploring the countryside on horseback or taking a dip in one of the many hot springs, the Azores will leave you in awe.
Offering a wealth of adventure activities, from hiking and surfing to whale watching and snorkeling, it’s the perfect place for someone who wants to be active and explore. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or a more relaxed experience, the Azores have something for everyone.
The Azores are one of the best places in Europe for whale watching. From June to October, visitors can observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats, making for a truly unforgettable experience.
Book your trip to the Azores today and escape to a world of natural beauty, relaxation, and adventure!
Do you have a favorite European summer destination? Let me know in the comments below!
The post The Best Summer Destinations in Europe appeared first on The Blonde Abroad.
10 Day Cyprus Itinerary – Travel Dudes
Looking for an epic Cyprus itinerary? Keep reading for details on how to spend 10 days in Cyprus.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, and it has been a popular destination for travelers, holidaymakers, and adventurers for many years now. The sheer fact that human activity goes back to the 10th Century, means that this island is a little piece of heaven for those who are interested in history and witnessing some of the best-preserved sites in Europe.
This is an island country that has glorious sunshine throughout the year, making it a year-round destination and a hot spot for winter getaways. You can expect to get 5-6 hours of sunshine in December and temperatures 22-23C (72-73F), while in July, the hottest month of the year you can expect 12-13 hours of sunshine during the day with fabulous temperatures of around 33C (91F).
Apart from the great weather and historic attractions you can look forward to fantastic beaches, an array of activities as well as a cuisine which is derived from Turkey and Greece and will surely whet your appetite. Of course, there are many things to be discovered in this beautiful island country, so here is a 10-day Cyprus itinerary, which takes in some major sites and attractions, to inspire you.
See also: An Epic Cyprus Road Trip Itinerary
Cyprus itinerary for 10 days
One of the best ways to explore this wonderful, sunny island is to tailor-make your trip with the help of Baboo Travel Destination Expert, which not only means you will get to see so much in a short time as well as leave the stress and hassle of planning behind, but you can be proud to know that you have contributed to local communities and offset your carbon footprint by traveling in this way.
The best thing is that your itinerary can be created to perfection, down to the last detail, so while this 10-day Cyprus itinerary takes in some awesome places, you can be excited to know that the changeable agenda is fully in your hands.
So here are some of the exciting things you can expect to see and do in Cyprus.
See also: What to Do in Cyprus
Check out these activities in Cyprus with Get Your Guide:
Day 1-3: Larnaca 2 nights
Your journey will begin in Larnaca, the third-largest city in the country, which is home to a host of attractions such as the Kameres Aquaduct (built in 1750), St Lazarus Church, the Salt Lake, The Ancient Kition – which hosts temples dating back to the 13th Century, as well as the bustling promenade and unbeatable beaches like Mackenzie Beach.
You will have two nights here, so there is plenty of time to check out the city’s museums, the small medieval castle, the main Europe Square as well as test out the infamous nightlife, which makes Larnaca famous.
Day 3-4: Ayia Napa 1 night
If there is one place you have heard of in Cyprus it will be Ayia Napa, known as the part center of Cyprus, which gives off a ‘Spring Break’ atmosphere. Of course, if you are a party goer, you will love the vibe of Ayia Napa, but if you are after a more low-key, adventurous trip, then make your way to the region’s best beach Konnos Bay, where you can hire a canoe, and go to Cape Greco for the day.
Day 4-6: Nicosia 2 nights
After a delicious local breakfast in Ayia Napa, you will make your way to Nicosia, which is the largest city on the island, so you will certainly make the most of your two days here. Nicosia is Europe’s last remaining divided city and the place to soak up the culture and history. You will find a host of museums here to discover, as well as a range of ambient restaurants along with Ledra and Onasagorou Street, historic sites, and incredible architecture (Buyuk Han).
Evenings here are incredible, when the city lights up and live music venues get going. Luckily you have two nights here to absorb the culture. Considering there are a host of attractions here, be sure to choose according to your interests, and that way your perfect Cyprus itinerary will tick all the boxes.
A few attractions include visiting the Cyprus Museum, shopping for crafts at Büyük Han, view the Byzantine Art inside Makarios Cultural Foundation, stroll Nicosia’s Old Town Neighborhood or see the Leventis Museum Collection.
See also: The Perfect Day in Nicosia, Cyprus
Day 6-7: Kyrenia 1 night
After two days and nights in Nicosia, and perhaps a last walk around the historic city, you will make your way to Kyrenia, a city on the north coast of the island, which is well known for its castle and historic harbor, both of which must not be missed. Grab a spot of lunch or a coffee in the cobblestone old town, before making it your mission to explore some of the town’s other attractions such as The Chain Tower and St Hilarion Castle.
It is worth noting that in Northern Cyprus, the Turkish side of the Island uses Turkish Lira and follows the same visa process for Turkey, while the Greek side uses Euro. Don’t worry though, your Destination Expert will be on hand with all relevant information and advice for the trip. If you are after some sun and relaxation, make your way to Acapulco Beach the most popular beach in the area, and later on for dinner make the most of being on the Turkish side of the island by indulging in some incredible local dishes such as a Meze Platter, which is just as elaborate as you might have heard, and truly satisfying.
Day 7-9: Paphos 2 nights
Following your exciting day and night in Kyrenia, you will then explore Paphos, which is of course a coastal city in the southwest of the country. Here you can look forward to two whole days and nights marveling at some of the cities (which are divided into two towns – Kouklia and New Paphos), most inspiring sites like The Paphos Archeological Site by the harbor, Agora & Odeon – Roman ruins, Tombs of the Kings (UNESCO Site) as well as The Sanctuary of Aphrodite and Hrysopolitissa Basilica & St. Paul’s Pillar. There is no such thing as being bored in Paphos, so be sure to enjoy and take it all in.
Day 9-10: Limassol 1 night
Your last day and night will be in the dynamic and modern city of Limassol, which is a perfect way to end the trip, with casual strolls through the old town, a walk along the peaceful promenade, and the last evening dinner with some live music at the newly built marina.
Planning your trip to Cyprus
As you might notice, Cyprus has an incredible array of things to see and do on such a small island, so as you can imagine, creating a tailor-made trip to suit your interests, hobbies, and expectations is the best way to take it all in. By creating this magical trip with your Baboo Travel Destination Expert, you are making sure that 85% of the money you spend, goes back into the local communities, contributes to regenerating the planet, as well as ensures you have as authentic and local an experience as possible.
There is no doubt that Cyprus will blow you away, but the hardest choice you will make is how long you want to spend exploring this wonderful island.
We enjoy exploring our planet and want to do our part to keep it healthy for future generations.
We love, and aim, to create the perfect match in every journey while making the world a little better:
– by empowering our Local In-destination Experts
– by driving real value to their local communities, and
– by helping our travelers to be carbon positive and their travels regenerative.
Travel Tips for Paris with Kids: Always Worth a Trip
How many times have you been to Paris? Never, five times, more? What about experiencing Paris with kids?
No matter how often you travel to Paris, this diverse city shows itself from a different side with every visit.
Whether you find the city of more than 2 million inhabitants on the Seine stressful or romantic is always up to you. I experienced my last Paris tour with my family – with 9, 12 and 15 year old kids.
Our idea was to schedule only one fixed sightseeing appointment per day. Because we wanted to enjoy Paris and not goose-step to explore.
Are you curious how it was? Here’s how we experienced Paris with kids.
If your kids are older, check out: The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Paris with Teenagers
Arrival in Paris
Ideally, you can get from London to Paris in 2.5 hours by Eurostar. The train runs 14 times a day without changing trains to the Gare du Nord in Paris. There are similar connections from Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Cologne via Brussels with the Thalys and TGV, which take around 4 hours.
Especially for families, this is an extremely relaxed way of getting to Paris.
See also: A Guide to Using the Metro in Paris
I can heartily recommend the Hotel Melia Villa Marquis in Rue Jean Goujon. Compared to many surrounding hotels, it is also recommendable from the price-performance ratio.
Since it is located in a small side street, it is pleasantly quiet. The staff is incredibly welcoming, so we felt at home from the first second.
The hotel is only a 2-minute walk from the banks of the Seine. So you are at the Place d’Alma and the Pont d’Alma in a flash, from where you have a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower.
Every evening on the hour, in addition to the wonderful illumination of the city’s landmark, there is also a light show with thousands of flickering points of light.
Paris with kids sightseeing highlights
When sightseeing in Paris, we highly recommend getting the Paris Pass.
Here are a few top sights to explore in Paris in kids.
See also: Top Things to Do in Paris
Of course, if your kids have never been to Paris before, you should definitely climb the Eiffel Tower.
Here’s an important tip: make sure you get tickets early. We booked a tour through “Get Your Guide” after my teenage kids pointed out to me that buying tickets on the spot is oldschool. ?
I didn’t believe it, but they were right. The line at the counters was huge and we were very thankful that we had booked a tour in advance.
A week before I only got the tour to the 2nd floor, the tour to the top floor was already fully booked. Also on site there was no chance despite all attempts to do so.
So: Be early with your booking!
And definitely walk up.
Here you can find the right ticket for it.
It’s a much greater experience to climb the stairs, experience the construction of this tower up close and personal and work your way through the visit this way than just getting in the elevator.
Our tour guide was really funny, kept the kids and adults well entertained, and it was an all-around chill Eiffel Tower visit with lots of humor and gorgeous views of the entire city.
Because even from the 2nd floor the view is breathtaking!
Here is the guided tour:
Seine boat tour
Just below the Eiffel Tower, at the Port de la Bourdonnais, the Bateaux-Parisiens depart, the excursion boats that let you experience the city from the river.
If you book the ticket in advance through “Get Your Guide“, you are free to choose which ride you want between 10am and 9pm.
The start for our boat was pontoon 3. If you’re there at lunchtime, there are also a couple of food and drink stalls down right on the banks of the Seine. It takes 1 hour to cruise down the Seine towards Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral.
A super relaxing moment to unwind, observe and recharge your batteries.
The Seine boat tour is also available in combination with the Louvre.
Notre-Dame de Paris
Paris without once standing in front of the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral is actually unthinkable.
We asked the cab driver to just let us out there on our way to the Sacre Coeur, waited and then continued on our way.
I love the pilgrimage church Sacré Coeur.
Because of its special shape in the confectioner’s style, because you can see from a distance how it towers elegantly over Paris, because right next to it begins the artists’ district of Montmartre.
Perhaps also because of everything.
On the railing in front of the church, as on many bridges in Paris, you can find countless locks. The signs of the everlasting love of couples in love.
I hope that they are all still happy with each other to this day. ?
Once up here at the Sacré Coeur, a stroll through the artists’ quarter around the famous Place du tertre naturally follows.
So many artists exhibit their diverse paintings here – everything from oil to watercolor or acrylic can be found here. We were particularly fascinated by the silhouettes.
Within a few minutes, very individual souvenirs were created here, which now have their place on my wall in the office.
See also: Paris for Beginners: Where and What to Eat, See or Do
I wasn’t a fan of online vouchers for sightseeing until now. But times are changing and it makes it super easy of course.
Tickets for the Louvre are available at Tiqets from €17.
An insider tip: Instead of ending up in line despite pre-booking tickets, don’t line up at the top of the glass pyramid or the main entrances, because that’s where it clogs up. With the pyramid behind you and walking toward the Jardin des Tuileries, you’ll see an underpass on the left that leads to the Carousel, the underground shopping area. There are also entrances to the Louvre from there and you don’t have to wait a second.
I have been to Paris so many times but have never seen the Mona Lisa. We didn’t wait in the never-ending line, we just kept walking left to the next room and this way you can also get a very close view of the artwork and even take a souvenir photo.
Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile
On the famous street Champs Elysées is the famous Arc de Triomphe. You can get a super photo if you use the pedestrian islands as a photo position.
I couldn’t resist playing the song: Aux Champs Elysées by Joe Dassin to my kids.
It’s not one of their favorite songs, but at least they know it exists now. ?
Stroll through Paris
Of course, the Galeries Lafayette are considered the mecca for shopping. We personally favor small stores and liked our stroll on Rue de Rennes. There are many hip stores here, for teenagers especially Subdued and Brandy Melville. Enchanting tea stores, new brands and really lots to discover.
There are some wonderful stores in the Carousel below the Louvre. Colorful art objects at Pylones and delicious macarons at Ladurée. Certainly the most expensive but also absolutely delicious macarons you can buy here.
We found the Iris Gallery particularly fascinating. You get wonderful artwork of your eyes here. Who would have known how beautifully colorful, individual and expressive each iris is. This is a truly magical souvenir from Paris.
See also: Exploring Paris by Foot: Walking Guide to Paris
A stroll in the Marais is also highly recommended. From the intersection of Le Marais, simply stroll along Rue Vieille-du-Temple until you reach the Halle des Blancs Manteaux and then turn left into Rue du Marché des Blancs Manteaux. The street makes a bend to the right here and you will see the Librairie du temple, a very old bookstore, on your right.
On the left, the road continues into the Rue des Roisiers. Here, after a few meters on the right, you will find the Patisserie Yann Couvreur with delicious pastry specialties and ice cream.
Just follow the street until it doesn’t go straight anymore and turn right into Rue Malher. At the end of the street you will see the Brasserie La Favorite Saint-Paul, decorated with countless pink flowers.
Café de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain was on our to-visit list. It looks wonderful but we discovered a restaurant for dinner right nearby that had us all even more excited.
La Socété, right by the Église de Saint-Germain des Prés, just a minute walk from Café de Flore. Super delicious food, you sit beautifully and are surrounded by very stylish and friendly people.
Who doesn’t dream of having dinner with a view of the shining Eiffel Tower. Very close to our hotel Melia Villa Marquis is Chez Francis. The service is not particularly affectionate but you sit in the front of the restaurant with a view of the illuminated Eiffel Tower.
On Avenue New York, a few steps away, are other and slightly more elegant restaurants with views of the Eiffel Tower, such as Monseur Bleu or 6 New York. If you want to eat there, you should book a table very early and consider if it is suitable for your kids or if you rather choose Chez Francis like we did.
See also: Food in Paris: A Culinary Centre in Europe
The end of our trip
At the end our trip went like this: We were sitting in the cab to the airport. It was 3 p.m. and the cab driver asked from which terminal we were departing.
To be honest: from none, because the flight was spontaneously cancelled. What to do now? Take a cab home! And so it happened that at 11 p.m. a black cab from Paris drove into our driveway. ?
If you’re thinking about visiting Paris in winter, check out our experience below:
Guide to ITB For Industry and Travel Influencers
Welcome to ITB Berlin!
ITB is the biggest and also one of the most important travel trade fairs in the world. And no, it’s not just for the German market, it’s international!
First-timers will find it simply massive and overwhelming! Others who have been before will find it huge and stressful, especially if you are not organized. Travel Dudes loves attending this event as it is great for networking.
For us, ITB travel is a Must-Go! 7 – 9 March 2023!
The world is represented in 26 halls and many halls provide 3 to 4 levels! There are even 3, 4 different bus lines, bringing people from hall to hall on different routes!
It’s easy to get lost. I’ve used the ITB travel app to find my way along successfully. But you should try to be more organized, especially if you want to meet people. Before making any appointments, take a look on the map and see in which hall which country is located. Keep in mind that it can take up to 30 minutes to reach your next appointment!
So leave time between appointments and do not make too many per day. Or be smart about how you set up the next appointment and try to have the next appointment close to the hall of your first one.
Tip: Take a shortcut through the park to get to your next meeting. The park lies in the center of the exhibition and by using it, you don’t have to push through crowds. It’s also easier to find your way along, as each hall got huge signs on their walls.
ITB travel is not just a must for the industry, but should is also necessary for professional travel bloggers!
It’s the eleventh year of ITB Berlin now, that it is open for this new and uprising industry. In the past ITB provided many very interesting presentations, workshops and discussions. If there are any this year, you will find most of them in the eTravel World (hall 6.1).
There will be two stages, the eTravel Stage (hall 6.1) and eTravel Lab (hall 7.1c). Workshops can be found in the eTravel Lab and the eTravel Stage will have innovative sessions and discussions.
Guide to ITB: Things to watch out for
The Travel Dudes & BudgetTraveller – ITB Travel Tweet-up 2023:
When: Wednesday 8th
Time: 19:00 – 23:55
Location: The Social Hub Berlin Mitte, Alexanderstraße 40, 10179 Berlin
Travel Massive – ITB Party
When: Tuesday 7th
Time: 20:00 – 02:00
Location: Selina Berlin Mitte, Alte Schönhauser Straße 2, 10119 Berlin
Here you will find the complete overview of exhibitors: itb.com/en/itb-berlin-for-visitors/exhibitor-list/
Tip: Arrive on Monday to meet up with friends and colleagues & on Wednesday our Travel Dudes Tweet-Up, but also to be at ITB from the first day! The first three days it’s not open to the public and you can move from hall to hall much faster. But that’s also when the right people are still at the exhibition.
Many leave already on Thursday before ITB Berlin opens its doors to the public. Then it gets mad and you don’t even try to have any successful meetings. At the stands, you will mainly find hostesses and if you should have organized a meeting upfront, your opponent will be exhausted and tired of the days before… just like you. And you do want to meet them to do business, right?
Then there are as well again the ITB convention program.
Come to ITB Berlin to stay ahead of the curve on the latest industry trends!
With keynotes, panel discussions, and expert interviews on cutting-edge topics like travel technology, marketing & distribution, future travel, MICE, sustainability and social responsibility, hospitality, business travel, future work and more – you won’t want to miss out.
Plus, awards will be given for excellence in various fields. Join us at the world’s leading travel industry convention to gain valuable insights and practical advice from some of the brightest minds in the business!
Where to stay: There are many great districts to discover a bit more of Berlin, while you visit the ITB. But expect heavy traffic when going or leaving ITB. There are a few hotels providing an ITB travel shuttle service! Find them here. But there are as well many apartments to rent, hostels, boutique hotels and B&B’s.
Travel blogging and social media is new to you and your business, but you are interested in working with top travel influencers? Or you already got experience, realize the potential and would like to heave your campaigns and strategies to the next level? Or you are a travel blogger, but are now at a point to take the next steps, looking for a strong partner?
Then contact us and let’s meet, Travel Dudes
Also read: Understanding Professional Travel Blogging: Explained with a Case Study
THE ITB SPEED NETWORKING GUIDE:
When: 8th March at 9.00 – 10:30 pm
Where: City Cube
Who: Exhibitors of ITB Berlin + buyers
How to Speed Date at ITB
- Before signing up to participate, know what exhibitors want to achieve from the ITB Speed Dating. Exhibitors want to meet people that might want to communicate content about a destination or their business as well as support for their social media activities.
- Once you receive the Log-In for the matching tool fill out your profile fully. Speed dating is a two-way decision. You need sponsors who are interested in working with what you want to do and provide. Exhibitors want to meet their marketing and promotion needs. The more information you provide about your blog and yourself, the better for both sides.
- Spend some time researching which exhibitors you want to meet with and what your aims and expectations are, before scheduling appointments. The exhibitor profiles in the matching tool will include information about the company, as well as aims of the company at the Speed Dating. You should also take a look at the exhibitor’s website in order to make a decision of whether they are the type of company you want to work with.
- Plan your appointments carefully and cancel meetings in time, in case you can not keep the appointment.
- Register yourself as a buyer at the Virtual Market Place to schedule additional meetings beforehand or to plan follow-up meetings with the industry more easily. itb.com/en/itb-berlin-for-visitors/exhibitor-directory/
- Formulate questions and your interests for the meetings beforehand to use your 8minutes-slots in the most effective way.
ITB Travel Guide: How to Speed Date for exhibitors
- Before signing up to participate, know what your opponent want to achieve from speed dating. Bloggers want to meet people that they might partner with on future projects. Project types may include: the exchange of travel for content on their blog about the location or company; finding companies that want to purchase photography, video or written content; being hired to assist the company’s social media efforts and types of projects of that nature.
- Once you receive the Log-In for the matching tool, fill out your profile fully. Speed dating is a two-way decision. You need bloggers that meet your marketing and promotion needs, but bloggers are also looking for potential industry sponsors connected to what they want to do and provide. The more information you provide about your business and expectations, the better for both sides.
- Spend some time researching which bloggers you want to meet with and target groups you want to reach, before scheduling appointments. Their profiles on the matching tool will include information about where their readers come from and what types of things they write about. You should also take a look at their websites and possibly also their Facebook Fan pages or Twitter feeds, in order to make a determination of whether they are the type of person you want to work with.
- Please include a second contact person of your company in your planning. This person could support you during the ITB Blogger Speed Dating or can act in your place if necessary.
- Plan your appointments carefully and cancel meetings in time, in case you can not keep the appointment.
- Register yourself at the Virtual Market Place to schedule additional meetings beforehand or to plan follow-up meetings with the bloggers more easily. Please see itb.com/en/itb-berlin-for-visitors/exhibitor-directory/
- Formulate questions and your interests for the meetings beforehand to use your 8minutes-slots in the most effective way.
- If you have any questions or want more information about any particular blogger, it is perfectly acceptable to contact them directly.
I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You’re in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.
Bali Travel Tips from an Insider
A trip to Bali promises not only sun, beach, sights and delicious food. You travel to Bali to find a unique attitude to life: Sunshine in your heart.
As soon as you meet the first Balinese, you feel directly what makes Bali the dream spot for emigrants from all over the world – the incredible friendliness, hearty laughter, great love and gratitude, coupled with the wonderful nature and power, which has also given this island the name: Island of the Gods.
Bali is pure magic. And if you’re looking to add it to your list of destinations to visit, keep reading for our top Bali travel tips.
See also: Packing List for Bali, Indonesia
Arrival in Bali
Lush green, the island already looks good from the air. Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport is Bali’s main airport and built so close to the sea that you almost have the feeling of landing on the water.
Who would like to start fast and without long queuing times to its discovery journey, can book a VIP transfer and gets so at the side of a native, lightning fast by the VISA control, instead of waiting in the queue for hours in high times. The service costs around $35. There is also a package for $45 with your own driver to take you to your booked location. Super convenient and therefore highly recommended.
Traffic in Bali
Bali is big. The north is much more untouched than the south in the region around Canggu, where there are countless stylish cafes, yoga studios, modern villas and hip stores.
Whoever imagines Bali to be only quiet and idyllic will quickly learn that it’s not true while on the streets. Motorcycles and cars perform a wild street dance and sometimes only move forward at walking speed.
One is definitely faster with a motorcycle than with cars, but this is especially during rush hour. Traveling in Bali is not for the faint of heart. Imagine five scooters parallel on the roadway, entering the intersections from all sides. Daredevil overtaking maneuvers or driving on sidewalks are standard here.
For tourists and expats, there is the Gojek app, which can be used to order a Gojek car or a Gojek motorcycle within 5 minutes, especially in the busier areas. So you just swing on the back of the Gojek driver and trust that you will arrive in one piece.
Some love it, some don’t ?
Faith, tradition and culture in Bali
In Bali, every house has a temple, the so-called “pura.”
It’s a temple of the family, which is why the houses in the small traditional villages are also passed within the family as far as possible. The size of the house temples depends on the size of the land one owns.
Most Balinese are Hindus and believe in Brahma who created the world, Vishnu who sustains the world and Shiva who dissolves the world at the end of time. Wonderful offerings made of coconut leaves and flowers are brought to the temple 1-2 times a day. It’s worthwhile to experience such a temple ritual.
I experienced it at the Anantara Hotel in Uluwatu, having made the gift baskets there myself. Incense sticks also have a fixed place in this ritual, as do water, flowers and the rice grains, as an expression of prosperity and fertility, which are then stuck to the forehead and throat chakra.
Language in Bali
To go from tourist to traveler, it works wonderfully through the language. I advise everyone who travels to Bali to learn the most important words in Indonesian, like:
“Selamat pagi/…siang/…malam” – “Good morning/…afternoon/…evening“.
“Apacabar” is Balinese and means “How`s it going”
with the answer “baik” – “good“.
“Suksuma” means “thank you”
And with “Sampai jumpa” you say goodbye.
It immediately opens the hearts of the locals if you are interested in the language of their country, and for me it is also a sign of respect. The Balinese are such a warm people, so friendly and loving. They alone are worth traveling so far.
Typical for the country
A typical Indonesian food and also very popular in Bali is “Nasi Goreng“, which is fried rice with peas and carrots.
Magibung is less known but fantastic. Different deliciousness of rice, coconut flakes, vegetables and sauce are served on a big banana leaf. You can eat it with your hand and I have rarely eaten anything so delicious.
Another specialty I tried at the Indonesian restaurant Casatua is vegetables cooked in a piece of bamboo on the grill. Also extremely delicious!
See also: Local Food in Bali: Top Dishes You Have to Try
The favorite drink in Bali are coconuts, they are available almost on every corner and they are more delicious than anywhere else in the world.
And because there are so many coconut palms on this green island, many decorations on streets, temples and houses in Bali are also made from coconut leaves. Paku Pipit is the name of these beautiful handicrafts. One cuts it for the sheet and weaves the strips into each other. This creates beautiful works of art that decorate the houses for various festivities.
Rice terraces and more treasures
Driving towards Tegalalang, one can see wonderful rice terraces. Some are more level, others built into the hills in infinitely virtuoso swings.
Tourists love the Bali Swing near Ubud, which are huge swings over the rice fields. But even more magical is walking through the rice fields with people who live there. I spent a week at an Ayurveda retreat near Tegalalang (check out these retreats) and had the wonderful chance to walk through all the rice fields in the area. It was magical.
And did you know that rice paddies not only look wonderful, they sound wonderful too? To keep the individual plains from overflowing, the rice farmers channel the water into a small stream and you can always hear the soothing sound of the rippling water as you enter the rice fields.
If you want to learn more about the Balinese way of life, you should visit Penglipuran Village. It is a village preserved in traditional style with no traffic at all.
Visitors are allowed to go into the backyards and houses to see how people really live there. One is even allowed to slip into typical Balinese clothes. Above the village there is a small bamboo forest with huge bamboo and a temple.
Related tour: Penglipuran Village, Temples and More Full Day Tour
My favorite waterfall in Bali is Takud Cepung, a waterfall in a cave. The sun illuminates it and conjures up great light shows.
But the most powerful thing is that when you approach the waterfall, you feel an incredible force of rising air. You want to directly raise your arms and fly off, that’s how strong it feels. However, you have to work for this waterfall, you walk down many steps and then up them again.
Although there are always small warungs (restaurants) with food and drink, but for parents with small kids and strollers or for people who are no longer good on foot, it is not so recommended. But everyone else will be rewarded, because it is not overcrowded and still feels very pristine.
A sunrise tour on Mount Batur is a dream for many Bali travelers. However, you should be aware that you share this with very many other tourists and by no means alone on the mountain looks into the distance. You can book a full day trip starting with an early more guided hike up Mount Batur.
See also: The Most Spectacular Bali Volcano Hikes
Bali is a magical place mainly because of the special people. Nowhere else can you find so many healers who have special abilities.
For people who have problems with their back, I can recommend Pak Sirkus in Berawa. You just go there and wait to be taken. It’s best to go after 2pm.
Sound healing is another powerful way to get the body going again. Fina, the healer at the spa at the Anantara Hotel in Uluwatu has me endlessly fascinated. She sees which chakras are blocked and unblocks it via the vibration of the singing bowl and her healing skills. In addition, after the treatment she gives wonderful recommendations on the way, which should help to stay healthy and happy.
Yoga, Kirtan & Ayurveda
If you want to combine your trip with yoga, I definitely recommend staying at Udara Bali Yoga Detox and Spa in Canggu near Seseh beach. The Aerial Yoga there is located on the top floor and is a magical sight just because of the colorful cloths blowing in the wind in front of the blue sky and foaming sea.
All the yoga locations there are built open, covered, and always face the water. Downstairs there is also a pool, a restaurant and accommodation on all levels. Besides aerial or hatha yoga, tea or cacao ceremonies with kirtan are offered here.
It is magical to chant mantras together there amid the decorated flowers and lights, accompanied by live music.
“The practice” also offers courses in different yoga styles and workshops on various topics. At Udara, you simply arrive, sign up for the respective course, pay, and experience powerful minutes in the huge yoga hall, which is open on the right side to an idyllic, green courtyard.
The yoga instructors are incredibly dedicated and lead through the class with a great deal of professionalism and love.
Ayurveda retreats in Bali are highly recommended. I have met people there who have done such retreats in India and Germany and various places around the world and favor Bali because of the loving nature of the Balinese women.
Beach time in Bali
If you are drawn to the beach, you will find various beach clubs in the area.
On Sundays, I recommend the La Brisa beach club. On the premises is a beautiful market where special handmade and typical Balinese clothes, bags, spices, cosmetics and jewelry are offered. Under tall trees you stroll along relaxed in the shade and be inspired by the many wonderful details.
And after the stroll, you deserve a coconut at the beach club or a delicious meal at La Brisa restaurant. The beach club has beyond the restaurant a pool and various seating areas, baskets, sofas, seat cushions and you look at the powerful sea and dark sand.
Yes, in Bali the sand is black on some beaches and on the beach, unlike in other destinations, there are not countless people lying on their towels.
The most crowded thing on the beach are the waves where surfers cavort. Young and old try their skills on the board in Bali, so there are various rental stations for surfboards on the beaches.
Another really relaxing beach club is Times Beach. Here you can watch the sunset wonderfully in nice weather. You sit on sandbags and drink relaxed the delicious cocktails that are on the menu.
See also: Water Activities in Bali and Surfing in Bali: The Best Surf Spots in Bali
Hip locations around Canggu
Balinese can be found in all the restaurants, unfortunately, hardly among the guests, rather among the staff, because the prices are almost at European level and do not fit the relatively low earnings of many Balinese. I think that is a pity.
Who loves international food, I can recommend around Canggu a few “places to be”, which are not typical Balinese but really very cool and cosmopolitan.
The Mostly is a real oasis with delicious Asian food and if you are lucky live music. Here are the beautiful and hip people. The Yuki very close to the beach also offers Asian delicacies and a relaxed atmosphere.
For a delicious vegan breakfast I recommend the “I am vegan babe“. Here you sit on 2 floors on a quiet street. Besides pastries and smoothie bowls, there are also delicious rice bowls and burgers.
The Santanera is a South American restaurant that also offers live music from time to time. Here you sit in a brick and glass building and especially in the evening it is a real chillout place. Those with food intolerances are in good hands here. The first thing they do here is ask about allergies and if needed, the chef will even come to the table.
Bali Buddha is an organic market with an adjacent restaurant, as is Bokashi in Berawa. Other really hip spots are Shelter, an Australian restaurant, and Roots, which has its second branch in Frankfurt (Germany) and whose owners are simply magical. It’s worth stopping by here all day. The menu offers a wide range of bowls that you can put together individually according to your wishes, other lunch specialties, and various breakfast options.
This city is definitely worth a visit. Especially the Monkey Forest is a real “must” – here you should be quite early, then you get to see how the monkeys slowly crawl out of their feathers before the crowds of tourists arrive.
Especially cute are the many baby monkeys in the arms of their parents, who go on an exploration tour. You can stand here for a long time, grin and just watch how they catch each other or use the tail of their parents to climb.
Book a trip to the Monkey Forest, Rice Terrace and Tanah Lot from Ubud.
In Ubud, I love the Clear Cafe. At the entrance you take off your shoes and put them in a bag, that mancht it mega cozy. A small water basin with fish decorates the cafe, water bubbles out of dragon heads, there are flat tables where you sit only on cushions and others at normal height to eat or work.
That’s another thing, by the way. There are so many people out with their laptops that some restaurants have set up work-free areas. Otherwise, cafés and restaurants would go from being places of communication to being places of busy silence, which is certainly not in anyone’s interest.
A stop at the palace of Ubud is also worthwhile, as well as a stroll at the Ubud market nearby. Ubud is an artistic town and therefore you can see various galleries along the streets, such as the Purpa Gallery.
See also: Places to Visit While on Honeymoon in Bali
If you want to discover white beaches in Bali, you should pack your surfboard and dash towards Uluwatu, because there are great beaches like Padang Padang or Thomas Beach.
For an overnight stay we recommend La Cabane. It is not directly on the beach, on foot 10 and by motorcycle 2 minutes away from Balangan Beach but really very snug.
As a real hot spot I would recommend the restaurant Ours. I have rarely seen so many cool people in one spot.
And of course the temple at the waterfront including the Kecak & Fire Dance, which belongs to the program in Uluwatu. For families with children, the performance with the different masks and intense breathing sounds of the Kecak dancers is recommended at the earliest from school age. If you can’t get enough of the sea, you should stop by the rock bar of the Ayana Hotel and enjoy a cool drink.
If you want to experience pure nature on Bali, you should take a look at the Green Village near Ubud. The houses here can be rented from 1 day to years via Airbnb.
Especially for expats who have their kids at the nearby international Green School, it’s a super combo package and a nature feeling high ten. Because all houses are built completely sustainable from bamboo and depending on the house completely open or with closed sleeping areas.
Also in Ubud is The Kayon Jungle Resort with beautiful suites and villas in the middle of the greenery.
A little less luxurious but colorful and special is the restaurant Bali Bohemia with adjacent accommodation huts at a super reasonable price – monkey visit included.
For young people and surfers traveling to Canggu I recommend the Hotel Kima Beach near the beach. There is a surf school here and various rental stations for surfboards on the beach nearby. The atmosphere around the hotel pool is extremely chill.
For more places to stay check out: Where to Stay in Bali: Our Bali Accommodation Guide
There are so many wonderful animals in Bali. The turtles receive special protection at the TCEC in Serangan. Here injured turtles are nursed back to health or special species rescued from the black market are nursed and released. Between March and September small babies hatch from the eggs found on the beach and whoever comes by in June or September can help to bring the little turtles into the sea or take over a sponsorship.
Now that was a lot of Bali travel tips. But the good thing – it’s still far from everything that there is to discover on Bali.
And therefore we should go there again as soon as possible, right? ?
Check out these Bali experiences available on Get Your Guide:
The Best Boutique & Luxury Hotels in Cape Town
The post The Best Boutique & Luxury Hotels in Cape Town appeared first on The Blonde Abroad.
How to Enjoy a Rewarding Vacation to Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida is a great vacation destination for couples, families and more that want to enjoy theme parks, beaches, nature and a wide variety of entertainment. Located in the heart of Florida, Orlando is actually home to more than 50 theme parks and attractions spread across almost 4,000 square miles. With so many things to do, it’s hard to know where to start and planning a trip here can be overwhelming. The good news is that there is something for everyone and with such a diverse range of available activities, it’s difficult not to have a rewarding visit to this destination.
Here’s a list of some of the best ways to enjoy your vacation in Orlando…
Go to Disney World
Disney World is the most popular theme park in the world, and it’s easy to see why. There are four parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Each of these theme parks features rides and shows that will excite children and adults alike. You could easily fill up your vacation simply by visiting these four parks. Naturally, if you are coming to Orlando for a vacation, visiting at least one park is probably on your mind. And you should. Choose the one or two that match your interests the most and then spend the rest of your vacation at other places in the region, without the crowds and lines.
Take an Airboat tour through the swamps
For a different kind of excursion, why not join one of the airboat tours that take you through the wilderness of the Central Florida Everglades. You’ll encounter a combination of wildlife and beautiful nature, while enjoying time away from the city itself. Alligators are frequently seen as you zoom through the wetlands.
There are many options as well. You can take a short tour, longer tour, sunset tour, night tour or even a private tour just for your family or group of friends. Either way, if you love spending time in nature, this is an experience that should be on your list.
Visit the beach
You can visit the beach anywhere in Florida, and the beaches near Orlando are certainly not to be missed. Only 45 minutes away, you can easily reach places such as Cocoa Beach (a surfing haven!), Cape Canaveral (relaxed beach) and the expansive sands of New Smyrna Beach.
Each beach offers its own vibe, along with activities such as renting a boat, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, manatee sighting and more. You could even rent a bike and ride along the coast, passing through quiet neighborhoods and chilled-out town centers, finding no shortage of places to eat along the way. Rarely crowded the way that Miami Beach can get, these beaches offer a great day trip from Orlando in order to ensure you don’t leave Florida without having taken a swim!
Stay at a resort
If you’re traveling with kids, a resort stay can be an ideal option. With a lot of pre-planned activities at these resorts, it makes for an easier time since you won’t have to plan out every minute of the day on your own. Staying at such a resort also eliminates the need to find a place to eat for every meal.
All-inclusive resorts offer great value in many cases – especially when all food and drinks are included – so they are perfect for those on a budget. There are many resorts to choose from in Orlando, such as Westgate Resorts, and it’s worth looking through them all to see which one suits your family or group the best.
Visit the Kennedy Space Center
Only a 45 minute drive from central Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center is a great place to learn about the history of space travel. The center has an extensive museum and interactive exhibits that allow visitors to get a better understanding of how astronauts train for space flight, as well as how they live in space. You can see real rockets and other space vehicles there, too.
You can take tours of both launch pads (where rockets were launched) and flight decks (where they landed).
Even better, check the schedule in advance to see if you’ll be in Florida during an actual launch. If you are, head to the pier in the nearby town of Port Canaveral and watch the launch live. It’s a spectacular event to witness as you observe the rocket burst into the sky, with the sonic boom that soon passes over land.
Crystal River kayak tour
The crystal clear waters of Crystal River await anyone looking for a pristine slice of nature to marvel at. Hop in a kayak and enjoy a guided tour along this magical river, with two variations depending on the time of year you’re there. If you’re in Orlando during the winter months, you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing manatees as hundreds of them make this river their home in order to escape the cold. During the rest of the year, you’ll have an opportunity to visit several springs, including the famous Three Sisters Spring. You can swim in the beautiful water, look for dolphins, turtles and fish and paddle among some of the most impressive scenery in the entire state.
Spend time at Universal Studios
Universal Studios is another one of the more popular places to visit in Orlando of course. But it’s popular for a reason. It’s home to some of the most exciting rides and entertainment in the city and provides are more interactive experience, with activities that take you into the world of ET, Harry Potter, the Minions, Transformers, Fast and Furious and so much more.
With rollercoasters, rides, live shows and plenty of shopping and dining, it’s not surprising that you could easily fill up two days at Universal Studios alone.
Get wet at Aquatica
When you visit Orlando, getting wet at a water park is a very fun way to pass an afternoon. The water park Aquatica is particularly popular given its range of waterslides, rapids and more. There’s 13 different slides and water experiences to choose from!
Reef Plunge is a waterslide that actually takes you underwater to observe marine life and Riptide Race is the world’s tallest dueling waterslide. There’s also pools where you can simply relax, dining options and a lazy river to float down in order to enjoy some real calm vibes.
Experience the outdoors at Bok Tower Gardens
If you’re looking for another excursion out of the city, pay a visit to the Bok Tower Gardens approximately 1 hour away. This serene 250 acre garden is designed to offer a contemplative experience for visitors, right at the top of Iron Mountain. You can wander through the Olmsted Gardens, with over 126 different species of birds, and you can view the Singing Tower, with its impressive carillon (an instrument consisting of 23+ bells). You can also take a walk on over 2 miles of nature trails in order to learn about the unique upland savanna-like ecosystem that sits on one of the highest points in Florida.
If the hustle and bustle of Orlando gets to be too much, Bok Tower Gardens could be the answer to help you re-balance.
It goes without saying that there are endless ways to create a memorable Orlando vacation. As you can see, from theme parks and beaches, to hiking and boating, to nature and wildlife…and beyond, it’s hard to find a destination that offers such a variety of experiences. As a result, you simply need to look at the long list of options and figure out what suits you the most so that you can plan a fun-filled trip to this world-famous vacation destination!
The post How to Enjoy a Rewarding Vacation to Orlando, Florida appeared first on Wandering Earl.
Active Holiday Ideas in the French Alps for Solo Travelers
Traveling alone is no longer terribly daunting. In fact, it is now seen as a common and wonderful way for people to avoid travel regret. Why not head out on your own? There’s no reason to wait when the world provides so many rich experiences for solo travelers to enjoy as well.
Some of those memorable experiences involve being active. Mountain sports, for example, involve activities that can be perfectly-suited to solo travelers given their focus on connecting with nature and relying on ourselves to move around. And there is perhaps no better place than the French Alps for such activities.
Fun-filled active holidays in French Alps can provide a fascinating experience, one that allows you to discover other cultures, partake in a variety of adventures, build confidence and create long-lasting memories on the way.
Why the French Alps?
- Easy and affordable access: To keep costs down as a solo traveler, affordable transportation can be the key. With a bus connection to almost every village and railhead, the Alps has an excellent public transport network.
- Safety: Solo travelers in this region need not fear about safety as it is considered to be a very safe and secure area.
- Accommodation: There is a wide network of huts (over 800 of them) spread across the Alps which allow solo travelers to spend the night in affordable rooms instead of using tents.
- Signage: Trail markings and signage are fool-proof throughout the Alps, good enough even for the less confident traveler.
- You might be solo, but you aren’t alone: The Alps attract a large number of solo travelers every year. As a result, you just might run into some of the same people over and over again and you’ll always come across new people. If you want to meet other travelers, you’ll have no problem at all while here.
Activities to try
There are a wide variety of activities that you could choose during a solo trip to the French Alps. And they all offer ways to spend some quality alone time in the fresh mountain air, in serene settings that will provide the quiet and peace of mind that you might be craving. Here are some ideas…
Extraordinary terrain, an exceptional lift system, serious investment in mountain biking infrastructure and spectacular scenery all come together to make the French Alps one of the best biking destinations in the world.
The Downhill and Cross-country riding programs provide you an opportunity to explore the forested valley floors over a network of trails. You can also take advantage of the lifts in order to navigate the high mountain routes marked Green, Blue or Red depending on their difficulty.
From the famous multi-day trek that is the incredible Tour du Mont Blanc to hiking the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, the French Alps are a paradise for hikers. With accessible and well-marked trails in the shadows of soaring peaks, the Alps always provides options for all levels of walkers.
Solo hikers need not worry as plenty of accommodation is available through a combination of mountain huts, family owned chalets and hotels. To get the best out of this experience, you can have your luggage transferred from one accommodation to the next one in order to travel lightly and simplify the logistics while you enjoy the hiking.
A high altitude solo climb on a mountain route is simply one of the best ways to have an unforgettable adventure. When you climb solo, you are out there relying on your abilities to take you up to the summit and once you do reach the summit, the sense of achievement is something to behold.
The Alps have long been a hub of mountain climbing tourism given the sheer diversity of opportunities. Summer is naturally the most optimal time for such climbing, especially for first-time and solo climbers, as the snow cover will be gone. The weather is generally calm with plenty of sunny days. Even if you are not a seasoned mountaineer, you’ll find options and you can also find plenty of equipment to rent or purchase to help make your climbing easier.
A via ferrata, also referred to as an ‘Iron Path’, is a style of protected mountain route located mostly in Italy and Austria. However, they also exist in the French Alps. Though it’s not for the faint hearted as such a hike will involve metal cables and footholds, hence the name. You’ll cross over deep ravines and climb steps that leave you exposed right on the side of the mountain… it’s certainly enough to get the adrenaline flowing.
While via ferrata vary in design, required skill level and length, one thing they all have in common are surreal views. If you have the nerve, head to Le Rocher du Saint Julien in the Drome region. With a vertical drop of 288 meters and a length of 1.6 km, it’s sure to get your heart racing. And for some of the most magical views of the Mont Blanc range, the via ferrata of Les Evettes takes the crown.
If you love the tranquillity of being near water, the Alps provides something for you as well. Canyoning in the French Alps can be a beautiful experience, especially because most of the terrain in this region is well-suited for this activity. The combination of obstacles such as glacial gorges and deep rivers provides an inspiring canyoning experience for all those who attempt it.
Local experts will guide you through an itinerary based on your ability, so you don’t need to worry about going it alone. They’ll ensure you’re properly prepared for the course ahead and will help you with any of the difficult aspects so that you can really soak up the atmosphere of your impressive natural surroundings.
WHITE WATER RAFTING
Rather than stand atop a snow covered mountain or bike along windy roads, another option is to embark on a day of white water rafting. Some of the most popular locations for this activity include Arve, Dora Baltea and the Giffre. Rafting can easily be enjoyed by solo adrenaline seekers, especially if you are experienced. You can rent your own raft or join a group of others on an organized trip through the rushing waters.
During the summer months, the rivers around Chamonix are transformed into rafting playgrounds, as it’s considered one of the more ideal rafting spots. The cool waters of the Mont Blanc valley offer a respite from the harsh rays of the sun and are extremely popular with adventure lovers. Even if you are not an enthusiastic water person, a day of river rafting in Chamonix could change that.
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Most Scenic Villages in Germany
Germany is already a world-famous destination among tourists and travelers. However, it has much more to offer than culture-packed big cities, wine-growing towns, and charming hamlets. Why not make a trip to explore some of the scenic villages in Germany this year?
Depending on your country of origin and the purpose of your visit, you may need a visa to enter Germany. Check here to see if you need a visa and how to apply for one well in advance of your trip.
Germany is home to many charming and scenic villages worth visiting. There’s so much more to this beautiful country, apart from the bustling and diverse Berlin.
Here are some of the most scenic villages in Germany:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a medieval town in the heart of the Franconian region of Bavaria that is famous for its half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, and extensive gardens. The town is surrounded by a well-preserved city wall and is home to several landmarks, such as the St. James Church, the Town Hall, and the Plönlein, a lovely square with a historic fountain. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is also a popular destination for tourists due to its Christmas markets, which are held in November and December.
Mittenwald – Located in the Bavarian Alps, Mittenwald is a village with a charming old town and an ideal mountain setting. The village is known for its colorful houses, painted in shades of yellow, green, and blue, and its many artisan workshops, where you can watch craftsmen at work. Mittenwald is also home to several landmarks, such as the St. Peter and Paul Church, the Maria Himmelfahrt Church, and the Linderhof Palace, a remarkable Baroque palace built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Quedlinburg – Quedlinburg is a very well-preserved medieval town in the Harz Mountains with a rich history and an atmospheric old town. The town is known for its unique houses, narrow streets, and beautiful gardens, and it is home to several landmarks, such as the Quedlinburg Castle, the St. Servatius Church, and the Romanesque Church of St. Mary’s.
Tübingen – Situated in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Tübingen is a charming university town with a rich cultural and intellectual tradition. The town is known for its quaint old town, with its narrow streets, diversely colorful houses, and picturesque squares, and it is home to several landmarks, such as the Hohentübingen Castle, the St. George’s Church, and the Tübingen Old Town Hall. Tübingen is also known for its lively student culture and its many festivals and events.
Bacharach – Located in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Bacharach is a town with a rich history and a pleasant historical area. The town is known for its narrow streets and beautiful gardens, and is home to several landmarks of its own, such as the Bacharach Castle, the St. Peter’s Church, and the Stahleck Castle, a well-preserved medieval castle that now serves as a youth hostel. With its wine festivals and idyllic setting on the banks of the Rhine River, Bacharach is certainly worth considering.
Lindau – Lindau is another attractive destination with a delightful old town and a picturesque waterfront. The town is situated on the shores of Lake Constance and is home to several landmarks, such as the Lindau Lighthouse, the St. Stephen’s Church, and the Lindau City Hall.
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The Best Hotels to Stay at in Boston
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Two Weeks in Kyoto: Everything You Need to Know
Japan had been on my list for a LONG time. For some reason though, I always struggled to make a trip happen. But finally, it happened! And since I was excited to make it here, I didn’t want it to be a quick trip.
In the end, we decided to spend 1 month total in Japan.
We spent the first two weeks in Kyoto and it was perfect. Every day was rewarding and we didn’t regret spending two weeks in this city at all. It’s calm, picturesque, friendly and full of activities and places to visit. The food is ever so tasty, it’s easy to get around and it’s also very affordable. It really was the ideal base.
We also were there during autumn and it was gorgeous as a result. The abundant nature and truly spectacular colors were far beyond anything we could have hoped for and it certainly helped make this an even more rewarding trip.
If you’re thinking of going to Kyoto, whether it’s for 2 days or 2 weeks, I hope the information below from my own experience proves helpful!
Since we were spending two weeks in Kyoto, we based our accommodation situation on three things – space, price and location. We work online every day so we wanted to have more space than a standard hotel room, which can be quite small in Japan. Of course, we also didn’t want to pay a fortune for accommodation either. And we preferred to be in a relatively central, but not overly touristy neighborhood.
After some searching, we found a place that matched all of the above.
Resi Stay Nishijin
For approximately $85 USD per night, we had a large studio (40 sq meters / 430 sq feet) with a small living room, two sofas, little kitchen, comfy beds and a balcony. It was quite modern, with the kind of bathroom and shower area that you want – Japanese style with all kinds of gadgets and settings. The wifi was strong, the heat and AC worked very well and it was spotless. Resi Stay has several locations in Kyoto but we chose the one on Nishijin. It was a local, quiet area, with small lanes full of quaint wooden houses, plenty of quality restaurants, a food market, good supermarkets and a bus stop in front of the building with buses that would take us anywhere we needed to go.
Also, since we love to walk all over the place, we were an approximate 30 – 60 minute walk from almost anywhere in the city. This suited us very well.
As Kyoto is a decent sized city, there are naturally a lot of different options for accommodation. I would recommend doing research first though on the type of neighborhood that you prefer to be based in. I know a lot of people immediately head for the Gion, Nishiki or Kyoto Tower areas but those can be very crowded. So it definitely depends on what you’re looking for.
Again, we managed to find a great deal on Booking.com for the Resi Stay Nishijin ($85 USD per night), so such deals are possible.
Food, Food, Food (You can eat it all with 2 weeks in Kyoto!)
Oh my. The food was incredible. Every single meal.
In the beginning, we would do a lot of research to find the best local restaurants to eat at. But by the end of our two weeks in Kyoto, we were confident that any place we went into would serve up a delicious meal, regardless of whether or not we could read the menu.
Some restaurants have English menus, some don’t. Some have photos of the dishes on the menus or on the walls, others don’t. Some also have beautifully artistic creations of their menu items in a display case in front of the restaurant or in the window, and of course, some don’t. So sometimes you know what you’re ordering and most of the time you have no idea.
Either way, eating in Kyoto and beyond was a major highlight of this trip.
Our food journey could be summed up by three categories:
1. Restaurants/Cafes – I could give a list of the places we ate at, but it’s not worth it. Trust me when I say that you just need to pop into any place you pass that looks interesting (especially if there’s a line of locals out front waiting to get in) and see how it goes. This was by far the best method of choosing restaurants and the success rate was 100%. From sushi to ramen, kaiseki to soba, Shojin ryori to okonomiyaki and everything in between, get ready for a food adventure like no other.
2. Nishiki Market – See below under activities. This place is food heaven and we visited this market several times in order to eat ALL the things.
3. Supermarkets – Kyoto’s fantastic supermarkets also played a role as there were several nights we just wanted to pick up some prepared food and eat back in our hotel room. Our favorite was Life Supermarket. The sushi at this supermarket was fresher and better than most sushi at proper restaurants in other countries. The set prepared meals (of which there are dozens) were always delicious too. This was such a cool way to eat here, and the shopping experience, which involved trying to figure out what most items were, was always super fun.
*Okay, I also need to mention the Japanese Fluffy Pancakes. If you don’t know about them, please make sure they are part of your Japan trip. We ate them more times than I’d like to admit. Insanely soft, fluffy, meringue based pancakes that can be made with all kinds of toppings such as fruit, chocolate, matcha, granola, caramel and more. Go to A Happy Pancake location (they can be found in many cities, including Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo), stand in line and wait for a table and then enjoy what will undoubtedly be the absolute best pancake you’ve ever tasted.
A lot of people talk about the Japan Rail Pass. It’s a pass that you can reserve before you enter Japan and it gives you unlimited rides on Japan Rail trains throughout the country. The price starts at about 30,000 JPY ($220) for 7 days, 47,000 JPY ($345) for 2 weeks and 61,000 JPY ($448) for 3 weeks. It’s a good deal if you’re going to use the trains often.
However, it’s worth doing research to see if this pass is indeed for you. We assumed we would need one, but after our research, we realized that it wouldn’t save us any money based on our particular itinerary. Since we were going to be in the Kyoto/Osaka region, then fly to Okinawa and then fly to Tokyo, the Japan Rail Pass was not suitable. In the end, our transportation costs were remarkably low, even without the Japan Rail Pass.
To start, we flew into Osaka Kansai Airport and this is what we did…
Arrival: Osaka Kansai Airport to Kyoto
Upon arrival at the Osaka Kansai Airport, we walked over to the airport train station went inside the JR Trains main office. The staff speak English and they can explain all of your transportation options.
We ended up purchasing the ICOCA Haruka Pass which was ideal for our stay.
It’s not exactly a pass though. It’s more like a card that you can top-up and use to pay for transportation on buses, subways and almost all trains (as well as vending machines and at some restaurants). The biggest benefit is a discount on the Kansai Express Haruka train from Osaka Kansai Airport to Kyoto. Since we needed to get from Kansai Airport to Kyoto and then back to Kansai Airport two weeks later for our flight to Okinawa, we got the round-trip discount.
We paid 5500 JPY ($40 USD) each for our ICOCA cards. This included 1500 JPY credit to be used on buses, trains and subways and a 4000 JPY roundtrip ticket for the Kansai Express Haruka train from/to the airport. In the end, we saved about 1000 JPY each on the airport train, making it very worthwhile.
Then, once we arrived in Kyoto, we simply used our ICOCA cards to tap on to buses, trains and the subway. It also worked for trains to Osaka and Nara, the subway in Osaka and for trains, subway and buses in Tokyo as well at the end of our Japan trip.
Trains – Again, we didn’t get the Japan Rail Pass because we realized that we wouldn’t be using trains often enough. We ended up taking the train from Kyoto to Osaka and back on one day and from Kyoto to Nara and back on another day. The total cost for those four train rides was 3360 JPY or $24 USD. That seemed like reasonable prices to us and the Japan Rail Pass would have cost a lot more than that. (We did use the Express train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku in Tokyo as well but the cost for that ride was 3050 JPY or $22 USD so it still didn’t justify purchasing the Japan Rail Pass since we only spent a total of $46 USD on trains.)
Buses – In Kyoto, the bus system is very easy to use. We used Google maps to figure out which buses we needed and then we simply used our ICOCA card to pay for each trip. The fare was 230 JPY per trip, which is only about $1.70 USD. We took the bus about 10 times during our stay for a total of $17.00.
Subway – We did not use the subway/metro system during our two weeks in Kyoto. Between the buses, taxis and walking, we covered everywhere we needed to go. However, we did take the subway/metro during our day trip to Osaka and it was also easy. We again used our ICOCA cards to pay for each ride, which cost either 180 JPY or 230 JPY depending on the distance. We took the subway 4 times during our day in Osaka and it cost us a total of 820 JPY ($5.85).
Taxis – Due to the favorable exchange during our stay, taxis were actually quite reasonable and far less expensive than we had imagined. We took 20 taxis during our 2 week stay in Kyoto and the total cost was 30,000 JPY or $214 USD. As we were in Kyoto in November, there were some cold and windy days where we simply wanted to get into a taxi and out of the cold. And since most rides cost $10 USD, it ended up being a good option. Also, the taxis are a cool experience with the automatically opening doors, extremely clean and roomy interiors and dedicated drivers who make sure they get you exactly where you need to go. There’s also no funny business so you can flag any taxi knowing you will simply pay the official metered fare.
Walking – We also walked a ton. Kyoto is a great walking city especially since it allows you to wander through random neighborhoods that you wouldn’t visit otherwise. This was certainly how we found many of our favorite restaurants, cafes, architectural curiosities, hidden temples and so on.
Activities for Two Weeks in Kyoto
With two weeks in Kyoto at our disposal, we took our time in terms of activities. We’re not the kind of travelers to make a list well in advance and to run around all day checking things off. We prefer to wake up, do some work (we both work online), look for a sight or area that seems interesting, head out for a late breakfast/early lunch and see where the day takes us.
During our stay, here’s where the days took us:
Fushimi Inari – Well worth visiting. This famous Shinto Shrine is dedicated to the god of rice and is home to thousands of orange torii gates that line the long pathway that loops around the hillside. We did the full 1.5 hour walk up the hill and back down again and it was beautiful. The higher up you go, the less tourists and the more time you have to soak up the peaceful setting.
Kinkaku-ji Temple – This temple is located in the west of Kyoto and it was our favorite. Kinkaku-ji is a Zen temple that is covered in gold leaf. It’s location, right on the edge of a small lake, makes for a mighty eye-catching sight. Naturally, the gardens around the temple were meditative too and there’s a nice path to roam around.
Nijo Castle – An impressive castle in the center of Kyoto that was once home to powerful shogun that ruled over Japan for 200 years. The site consists of a castle and palace but the palace was closed for renovations when we were there. But the wooden castle was quite a display of the shogun’s wealth and power with its endless rooms, intricate wood carvings, painted panels and sheer size. The grounds surrounding the castle, along with the very pleasant tea house/garden, made for a nice visit too.
Philosopher’s Path – This was a short and reflelction-inducing 2 km walk along a meditative tree-lined canal surrounded by nature and traditional homes. It’s located between the Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji temples on the east side of the city. If you walk slowly and visit several temples along the way, you can turn this activity into an all day event. This is especially the case if you stop for a coffee/pastry break at the cozy Botanic Coffee Kyoto halfway along the path.
Nishiki Market – This massive covered market stretches along one lane for what seems like an eternity. You enter one end and good luck trying to get to the other end without stopping dozens of times to try all kinds of street food being served at the food stalls along the way. Squid on a skewer, sea urchin, fried shrimp, omelette sandwiches, chicken katsu, roasted chestnuts, endless pastries, so many forms of mochi, dumplings, tofu and on and on and on…it never ends and it’s the perfect place to spend a couple of hours trying every food item you can. At the east end of the market, there is also a non-food market that stretches along two covered lanes going north to south. You can find some interesting shops here, including those that sell traditional Japanese artwork, so its worth exploring too.
Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street – A smaller version of Nishiki market, if this street is close to where you’re staying, it’s also worth visiting for some delicious food. It closes at 5:00pm so it’s more of a lunch area, but with its food stalls and tiny restaurants, there is an infinite amount of options and it’s much less crowded than Nishiki Market.
Gion – This is the well-known geisha district of Kyoto and it needs to be visited, at least once. It’s quite crowded with tourists during the day but if you duck away from the main streets, it quickly becomes more quiet. Traditional buildings and homes, picturesque wooden bridges, high-end restaurants on Hanamikoji Street, endless shops selling all kinds of Japanese food items and even more temples to enjoy can be found here. We visited this area twice, once during the day and once at night. During the day, we walked from Kennin-ji Temple (with its stunning paintings and Zen garden) to Hokan-ji Temple (famous for its 5-story pagoda), up to the Yasaka Shrine and then wandered through every lane we could find. At night the neighborhood is much quieter and more atmospheric with all the lanterns and lights, with some places to eat and several bars as well.
Miyagawasuji – This neighborhood is a quick 10 minutes walk south of Gion and the difference was notable. As one of the other last remaining geisha districts, it’s home to traditional homes and shops, tiny local eateries and some of the quaintest streets in Kyoto. However, there were very few visitors in this area. It’s a small neighborhood but definitely a unique place to visit to soak up a Gion-like vibe without the crowds.
Tea ceremony – We found a simple tea ceremony in the Gion neighborhood (Tea Ceremony Camellia) where we could learn about the tea tradition in a nice setting. The session was only 50 minutes but there were only 6 people participating, making it more intimate. The hostess was an elegant, refined woman who taught us about and demonstrated the traditional tea-preparation methods. We then prepared our own tea, drank it and that was that. It was a very pleasant activity.
Temples – We visited so many temples during our two weeks in Kyoto that I can’t name them all here. If we saw a temple, we would often poke our head into the entrance of the grounds. If something attracted us, we would go in (most temples charge between 300 – 1000 JPY entrance fee). We went into huge temples and tiny temples, and all kinds in between. While walking around random neighborhoods, we always kept our eyes open for some of the more hidden temples, sometimes located in residential areas. These were quite interesting as they would have no visitors and while small, they were often a peaceful oasis.
Arashiyama – Home to the famous bamboo forest, and also home to the biggest tourist crowds we saw during our entire trip. It threw us off as soon as we stepped off the local bus as there were just so many people. To get away from the crowds, we ducked into the Hogon-in Zen Buddhist temple since it seemed quiet. Luckily, it was and we were treated to some of the most wondrous and colorful autumn scenery we could have hoped for. The tranquil gardens immediately put us at ease. After this nice break, we walked straight to the Bamboo Forest which was, as expected, full of people walking shoulder to shoulder along the path. We walked quickly and at the end, we turned right along another path and kept walking. After 5 minutes, the crowds disappeared and we enjoyed a peaceful wander through local neighborhoods and nature. We soon reached Saga Toriimoto (by accident), a well-preserved street full of traditional style homes. That led us to the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple which had only 2 other people inside, its own (uncrowded) bamboo forest and thousands of interesting stone memorial statues.
This is what I love about travel – the randomness of days like this.
After the temple, we started walking towards Kyoto center (which was 2 hours away by foot). After 30 minutes, we came upon a simple cafe called Cafe Yamamoto and went inside. We were treated to a memorable experience with delicious home-made cakes, excellent coffee, a cozy interior and very friendly staff. It was a highlight being inside this welcoming, random place.
Imperial Palace – We never really planned to visit the massive Imperial Palace complex in the center of Kyoto. But on our last day, we had some free time so we walked over. And it was great. The massive grounds is basically a park, with plenty of paths to stroll along and as you guessed by now, no shortage of beautiful nature to enjoy. The Palace itself is open to everyone, for free, so you simply enter the main entrance. You can then take a guided tour or walk around on your own. It’s a large site so you need at least an hour.
Random neighborhoods – One of our favorite activities, which we spent some time almost every day doing, was to simply start walking. The goal was to walk through random neighborhoods and see what we found. Often, in these neighborhoods we would grab a local lunch or a coffee or a traditional pastry for an afternoon snack. One example was when we ended up in Nishimachi, an odd area away from the tourists where the local shops have monsters in front of their shops as a way to attract customers. So I definitely recommend giving yourself plenty of time to roam around Kyoto without a plan! I’ve written about my 5-minute rule to having local experiences and Kyoto is a solid destination to put it into action.
We do prefer slow travel, so we really enjoyed getting to know Kyoto more than if we had stayed for only a couple of days. We also really loved the quiet, traditional atmosphere of Kyoto. But of course, there’s so much to see in Japan so we needed to go beyond the city limits as well. On two occasions, we left Kyoto to visit other cities.
Day trip #1: Osaka
Here’s how our day trip to Osaka went:
- Took a 45 minute train from Karasuma Station in Kyoto to Osaka Umeda Station
- Went straight to lunch at Kaiten Sushi Sakae (had to try the sushi belt experience!)
- Took the metro over to Osaka Castle and visited the extensive gardens
- Hopped on the metro and went to wander around the Shinsekai neighborhood, known for its 100+ year old colorful shopping district
- Walked across the city to the Shinsaibashi area to check out the Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street, eat some Japanese fluffy pancakes and soak up the energetic atmosphere
- After sunset, strolled around to check out all the activity with the massive brightly lit neon signs, endless eateries, markets, shops and crazy crowds
- Did some food tasting throughout the lanes of the famous Dotonburi area and still kept room for a seafood dinner as well
- Found ourselves trying some Japanese whisky at a random bar on a random street corner
- Took a train back to Kyoto later at night
Day trip #2: NARA
This was another perfect day trip. We boarded a train at Kyoto Station and 45 minutes later we were in Nara. And we ended up staying in the town for the entire day, getting back to Kyoto at around 9:00pm. Here’s what we did:
- Walked from the Nara train station through the quaint center of town, along Sanjo dori Street
- Had an excellent ramen lunch at Genkishin
- Spent a lot of time roaming around Nara Park, home to temples, shrines, gardens, nature walks and thousands of wild deer that bow their heads in hopes of getting food from passersby
- Walked along many of the paths throughout the parks in order to enjoy the nature
- Visited the 1300 year old Todaiji Temple that is one of the largest wooden structures in the world and home to a huge 15 meter high bronze Buddha statue
- Went for a wonderful sake tasting at Harushika Sake Brewery (500 JPY / $3.75 USD for 6 types of local sake)
- Went to the historic Nara Hotel for an afternoon snack at their tea lounge (the hotel has hosted emperors, royalty, presidents, popes, actors and many more)
- Walked back through the parks to the Kasuga-taisha Shinto Shrine
- One last slow meander through the parks during the evening, then through the center of town (maybe stopping along the way to enjoy some street food!) and back to the Nara train station
- 45 minute train back to Kyoto
That sums up our two weeks in Kyoto and the surrounding region! If you have any questions at all about visiting this area, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I’d be happy to assist. Enjoy your trip to Japan!
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