Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka means “resplendent land”, which is the perfect way of describing this breathtaking and colorful country.

I flew from Dubai to Sri Lanka, it was only a 3 hours flight and you have so many different low budget options. Our first stop was Colombo, where we only spent one night before starting the journey. Everyone had different saying about Colombo, but the majority had told us not to spend so much time there because it’s basically just a crowded city, and Sri Lanka had so much more to offer.

One important thing to consider is to find a driver for your entire trip. You should agree the price in advance and the different stops. This will make your travel so much easier, and transportation is key if you want to explore as many places as possible. 

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 21.10.47.png

A.     Bentota

Our first stop was Bentota. A small coastal town located in the Galle district, where you’ll mainly see locals. We stayed at Shangri Lanka villa, a beautiful colorful villa surrounded by nature. We spent the days relaxing by the pool, taking tuk tuks to the beach, and strolling around the town to buy fruit and vegetables. Bentota was beautiful but definitely not my favorite in terms of scenery and vibe. If I had to do it again, I would have chosen Mirissa instead, known for its laid back atmosphere, beautiful beaches and surfer culture.

Bentota beach

Bentota beach

Shangri Lanka villa

Shangri Lanka villa

B.     Unawatuna

The next stop was Unawatuna, in the southern part and around 70km from Bentota. It’s famous for its beautiful beaches and corals. What I really liked the most was all the restaurants and cafes that were right on the beach, and the very chill island vibe to it. I felt like I was somewhere exotic and relaxed. We stayed at Nature villa, a cute place with the basic necessities nothing really fancy but a nice place and close to everything.

We would spend the days relaxing by the beach, eating vegetarian food, and shopping sri Lankan clothes (take a look at the blue skirt I bought further down :))

IMG_1009.JPG

C.     Ella

Third stop was Ella;  a small town approximately 200 kilometers of Colombo. I don’t even know how to start describing Ella. It was exactly the meaning of Sri Lanka resplendent. 

For a change we decided to live in a beautiful tree house surrounded by nature. The experience was fantastic, living in the middle of the forest, sleeping to the sound of the birds and waking up to the sound of the monkeys. Although, I was scared a few times and we also forgot to shut the light once which attracted a crazy amount of bugs, I still really enjoyed it and felt at peace. We spent our days exploring the Ravana falls, hiking Adam’s peak and wandering around the town. If you are looking for nature, spectacular view and beautiful scenery this is the place to be. I must admit I could have stayed a little longer

IMG_1788.JPG
IMG_1523.JPG
IMG_1597.JPG

D.    Kandy

Before heading back to Negombo, we made a short stop on the way. Kandy is very famous for the tea plantations and beautiful nature as well. Sri Lanka is very famous for their tea, so if you love tea you must visit a tea plantation and experience the life cycle of tea. They have so many tea options to buy, the perfect gift to bring back home. We stopped at one of the many tea plantations along the road and met these beautiful women who spend their days collecting tea leaves.

Another stop that we made, which I actually wouldn't recommend was the elephant orphanage. It was such a traumatic experience seeing these poor elephants being an entertainment for us. They were all terrified, while 100 of people were taking selfies with them. 

IMG_2564.JPG
IMG_2064.JPG

E.     Negombo

Our last stop before flying back to Dubai was Negombo, which is also closest to the airport. I must admit I really loved Negombo and it was a perfect way to end our holidays. Throughout our trip, it was sometimes difficult to find decent food, and even the places we choose to stay at were not the most luxurious ones. It was a different experience but most of the places we visited were small towns and sometimes we craved something that wasn’t necessarily available. Negombo is larger, and had plenty of different options in terms of food, shops and things to do and see. We stayed at Pledge 3, the perfect boutique hotel. The rooms were good size, the place was clean and the restaurant offered plenty of choices. Everything we craved and more was available. 

A few tips:

  • consider the weather if you want to hike the Ella peak. The weather changes a lot, so do it one day before. 
  • make sure to agree the price with your driver in advance
  • the beaches in Sri Lanka are not the most beautiful, so don’t just focus on the coastal area, explore the middle of the country.


Seychelles

"Paradise Island"

After visiting several islands such as Cuba, Sardinia, Crete, Zanzibar, Ibiza, Isla de baru I thought I have already seen the most beautiful water, but that changed as soon as I was in the sky preparing for landing to the Seychelles.

Even from above the island looked like a small piece of paradise. Crystal clear water, surrounded by rich forest, beautiful nature and mountains.

The culture of the Seychelles is a melting pot because of the different type of people who settled the islands. French settlers, Chinese merchants and british colonials each of them contributed to the remarkable cultural combination of the Seychelles. The dominant culture is creole a mix of French and African. Most people from the Seychelles speak creole, although English and French are also widely spoken. 

There are two type of ways to travel to the Seychelles, the low cost and high end. If you want to go low cost, you can choose one of the hotels or guesthouses around Beau Vallon. They are quite reasonable in price, and the area is very nice with a long stretch of white sand and turquoise water. You can get around by foot or public transport, because taxis are quite expensive. Nevertheless, the Seychelles is not a cheap place, and not really a place you go to for low cost or back packing type of holidays. It’s a tiny island, attracting mainly honeymooners, or people looking for the perfect escape. Almost everything is imported making the prices on the high end. 

We stayed at the four seasons on Mahe island by Petite Anse area in the south. We chose the four seasons because we were looking for the perfect getaway type of holidays, with nice food, excellent service, beautiful beach and easy accessibility to everywhere. The type of holidays where you forget the rest of the world. The four seasons was beyond our expectations! For more pictures and prices check out their link.  

Each villa has a private pool, an outdoor seating area and even an outdoor bed, and is very secluded so you have all the privacy in the world. The beach is absolutely breathtaking, the food is delicious and the service on top! I was so sad when I had to leave because the place is just so special, and it made me realise that there is so much beauty in this world. 

Mahe Island is 4 hours’ flight from Dubai, so you can get there pretty easily with Emirates. Although it’s the main island and where the airport is, it’s not the only island in the Seychelles, there are plenty more. The famous ones are La digue & Prasline. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to go to any of the other islands because the boat rides were fully booked. Therefore, remember to plan your itinerary well in advance. This will allow you better opportunities to do different activities.

Regarding the length of our trip, it was 5 days in total and it was just perfect! We managed to enjoyed the four seasons, as well as to visit the entire island. It was during the month of March and the weather was also perfect! 

All is all if you are looking to escape somewhere mesmerising, then the Seychelles is the place to go to! 

I hope to return one day :) 

Cuba

It is so difficult to try and describe Cuba in a few words or even an entire paragraph. I have never been so impressed by a country such as Cuba. Not only because of its beautiful nature, sweet people, busy atmospheric streets, colorful houses and love for dancing but also due to its rich culture and history.

If I have to try and describe Cuba I would use the words of lonely planet: “Cuba is like a prince in a poor man’s coat”.

Cuba has so much to offer; yet it remains a poor country scared by the communist revolution as well as the embargo imposed by the United States.

I have always dreamt about traveling to Cuba, imagining it to be a small paradise in the Caribbean Sea. A place like no other where you will be taken back in time.  

Many people urged me to go now since Cuba is slowly changing. The embargo is being eased, which means free market and a good chance for the Western world to take over. In addition, in October the US will open all direct flights to Cuba, increasing tourism and leading the country toward a major change.

I went on a 2 weeks journey and visited 3 different cities to try and get a feel of the country.  I wanted to combine Caribbean beach holidays, with the hustle and bustle of the city, and living at homestays with the locals. 

 

Varadero

Varadero is a long stretch of 20km of white sand beach located in the province of Matanzas. It is also home to Cuba’s largest resort area.

We decided to spend 3 days in an all-inclusive resort to regenerate our energy and prepare ourselves for the trip ahead of us. Looking back I would have done it the other way around. Taking the resort as the last stop.

There are so many different options making it not easy to pick a resort. We chose Meliá las Americas, which in our opinion was a great option. The rooms were spacious, the service was very good, the beach was beautiful and it offered everything we needed for our stay. Nevertheless I am happy that we didn’t stay longer than 3 days because we wouldn’t have appreciated it as much, and it would have been way too boring to be doing the same thing everyday and exploring the same area.  

If you are interested in eating outside of the resort, try Varadero 60. The food is absolutely delicious! The best I had in Cuba. Varadero has also several excellent activities such as diving, snorkeling, boat trips, fishing and much more. So if you are looking into Caribbean beach holidays then you are at the right place. 

Havana

Havana is too audacious, too contradictory and despite 50 years of withering neglect too damn beautiful!

Downtown Havana can be split into three main areas: Habana Vieja, Habana centro and Vedado.

We stayed in Havana Vieja at one of the best casa particulares ever. It was really my all time favorite: Casa Vitrales. Before telling you all about the casa, I will briefly explain the concept of a casa particulares. It means a homestay, where you usually stay with a family and they cook you breakfast and dinner and you interact and learn more about their culture.

Nevertheless this casa was a bit different, in terms of it being more a hotel style. The family lived there but they owned the entire building and had their own space, which was separated from the rest of the rooms.The casa was beautiful! It was located close to the main sights. The rooms were spacious, simplistic yet very artsy. There was a rooftop where breakfast was served. The staffs were all very sweet and helpful. I highly recommend this casa, but bare in mind that you must do the reservations quite early because the casa is very popular and is always booked well in advance.

Where to go?

Just wander around and you will find a hidden treasure in every street. Havana has so much to offer that I can spend days making a list of places but I’ll just mention a few.

Plaza vieja, also known as the old square is a perfect place to spend an afternoon drinking or eating at one of the many places.

Habana 1791: If you are into original oil perfumes, then this is the perfect place. There are so many different types of fragrances and blend of notes, and the price is very reasonable. A great souvenir to bring back from Cuba.

Callejon de Hamel: like the description from lonely planet: Aside from its funky street murals and psychedelic art shops, the main reason to come to Havana's high temple of Afro-Cuban culture in Centro Habana is the frenetic rumba music that kicks off every Sunday at around noon

What to see?

The malecon is a promenade that stretches over 8 km. Locals go there to relax, chill and watch the sunset. The view is stunning!

Taller Experimental de Grafica: If you’re into art, this is a very nice place to check out. It is both a gallery and a workshop.

Where to eat?

I really struggled finding something vegetarian or at least some nice varieties to choose from. As you may know not everything is accessible in Cuba, therefore sometimes the options are quite limited. Usually most of the restaurants have a very limited menu and run out of things very quickly. But for a safe and delicious option try:

1. Los Nardos

2. Lamparilla 361

3. Bohemia café  

4. La guardia (make a reservation in advance as it is quite popular)

5. café archangel (small coffee place, for dessert and coffee).

We also tried many other restaurants but I cannot seem to remember the name.

Lively streets

These streets are worth exploring and strolling around. there are different cafés, shops and lots of art. 

Calle mercaderes

Paseo de marti

Calle Obispo 

Trinidad

When traveling to Cuba and deciding on what cities to visit in Cuba, a few nights in Trinidad should be a must. Trinidad is Cuba’s best-preserved colonial town, with the old part of Trinidad being a UNESCO heritage site since 1988. Trinidad, like most colonial towns, is a gorgeous with brightly colored buildings and cobblestone streets.

Trinidad is around a 4 hours drive from Havana and can be reached by bus or taxi.

If I must give an advice on what to see in Trinidad, I would say get lost exploring the beautiful town, and you will see everything. Make sure to also spend a day at the beach near Trinidad, playa ancon. It can be reached by shared taxi for 2 CUC each.

Within an hour drive of Trinidad, there are hundreds of waterfalls ready to be explored. Salto del Caburni 75m waterfall is one of the most popular and is often highly recommended by locals and many tours run here. We went there with Cuba tour, which has an office in Trinidad. You must book your tickets few days in advance to get a spot.

There are many more things to do in Trinidad but unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to explore everything since we had a very limited time (3days).

In terms of accommodation, the most common is casa particulares. You’ll stay in a local Cuban’s house have your own room, private bath, air conditioning, hot water, and typically home cooked Cuban meals. We found ours when we arrived in Trinidad, and it was very close to Plaza Mayor but unfortunately I cannot recall the name. 

A few things to take into consideration

  • Some of the things that you need to know is that not everything is accessible in Cuba, especially in casa particulares. If you are staying in a hotel then you have nothing to worry about. Otherwise pack as much small things as you can (tampons, make up remover, klenex etc..)
  • Another thing is book your bus tickets few days in advance because especially during high season it gets easily sold out! The operating bus is viazul and takes you from city to city. That is the bus we used when traveling around Cuba.
  •  August month can be very hot and humid, sometimes it was too hot!
  •  Many of the major websites don’t have cuba as an option when looking for hotels. I found my casa particulares by making a general search on google. Write them an email if they do not respond within a few days, call them! Otherwise you can use the website called: www.habaguanexhotels.com to search for hotels in Cuba.
  •  Another important thing is Internet, it is very limited and you must purchase a card for 2 CUC that has 1 hour Internet. You can only use it in specific area with a connection (such as hotels, and some parks)
  • Currency : There are 2 currencies, one is used by the tourists (CUC) and one used by the locals (CUP). Make sure not to get cheated when you have to pay in small local shops, pay with CUP.
  • Take your time to speak with the locals about politics, Che Guevara and Cuba in general. You will learn so much! 

 

Crete

Crete, a pearl in the Mediterranean sea. 

Summer in Copenhagen was rainy as usual so a last minute getaway was absolutely needed.

When booking last minute trips I have my two favorite servers. If I’m looking to travel for one week and flexible regarding the dates then I use www.spies.dk. If I’m looking to customize my last minute trip and want to do it for shorter or longer than the usual 7 days deal I use www.expedia.dk

It seemed like everyone was spending their summer by the beach and the sun and sharing inspiring pictures of different islands around the Mediterranean Sea. I have never been to Greece before so together with a friend we decided to pick one of the islands, and our choice fell on Crete!

We got a perfect offer for 5 days through expedia for 3000kr for the hotel & Flight.

Crete simply has it all! It is Greece’s largest island and home to so many magical spots. Here you can explore glorious beaches, impressive mountainscapes, charming small towns and much more. Once I stumbled upon a list of best beaches in the world and Elafonisi in Crete was mentioned as one of them. I knew I had to live somewhere close to that piece paradise.

We had the choice to stay either in Chania, Kissamos or Heraklion. Although Kissamos was the smallest and the less touristy we decided on this one! Our choice was based on the fact that it was closer to Balos lagoon and Elafonisi, and within a quick bus ride we could be in Chania in no time.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 19.58.49.png

 

Kissamos

 

We flew with SAS and it was a direct flight to Chania airport. We were travelling on a vagabond style and not the usual vogue one, so we skipped the taxi, which would have cost 75 euros. Instead we took a bus to Chania for 2,5 euros and then another bus to Kissamos for 5 euros. So basically a total of 7,5 euros and only 1 hour of public transport. Kissamos is a small town by the beach. The streets are very charming and the center is tiny but so peaceful. There are great places to choose from: cute restaurants, juice bars, bakery, supermarkets and small shops.

We didn’t spend much time in Kissamos. We had a full day there to explore the beach and the town and to taste the delicious and traditional feta and spinach pastry.  The rest of the time we were taking trips to the beautiful beaches nearby.

 

Balos Lagoon.

One of our trips was to Balos lagoon. We reserved the trip from balos travel.

We took the bus from our hotel to kissamos harbor and then we sailed with a ferry all the way to Balos. It took almost an hour.

The ferry was over packed with so many tourists and there was almost no space to sit, which was quite uncomfortable. Although the trip seemed claustrophobic and long it was really worth it when we reached close to the shore of “paradise”. During the summer, Balos is visited by thousands of people, who arrive mostly by the ferries running from Kissamos port. If you do not like crowds, you’d better avoid visiting the beach in July and August. Or you can arrive very early morning to enjoy a few hours of remoteness that will remain in your memory forever.

Balos is famous for its turquoise waters, the wild natural beauty and the beautiful exotic scenery. It was truly a piece of paradise.

 

Elafonisi

Another day trip that we took, which I wish could have lasted forever is to Elafonisi.

Elafonisi is also known as the pink beach because of the color of the sand. Pink sand is a result of tiny red organisms that grow on the dead coral reefs and pieces of shells, which fall to the ocean floor and is washed onto shore.

Elafonisi is indescribably beautiful and if I had to choose one word I would describe it as dreamscape.

One tip is avoid staying where all the crowd is, which is basically when you first get out of the bus. Instead walk further and find a private spot, which will give you the feeling of having your own private beach.

To get to Elafonisi from Kissamos, we took a bus, which picked us up from our hotel and drove for almost 2 hours. We used the same company Balos travel to make all the reservations and payment online.   

On the way we made a stop for breakfast and on the way back another stop for early dinner.

The bus ride was very comfortable and smooth.

Chania

Our last day we spend it in Chania and I was simply astonished by the beauty of this town.

The atmosphere has a touch of Florence and Venice combined with the culture and character of Cretan people and traditions. The Town is a romantic place to stroll around, with Medieval architecture, elegant mansions and a wonderful Venetian port, the most famous spot of the town.

I couldn’t stop taking pictures of each and every corner and I was so impressed by the beauty and Charm of Chania.

We spent the entire day wandering around and admiring our surroundings.

 

 

Hope you enjoyed reading :) stay tuned for the full video of the trip on YouTube soon. 

 

 

Istanbul

 

Why do I love this city?

This is not my first time visiting this beautiful city and each time I find new things to explore. I love the fact that Istanbul is the only city in the world that encompasses both Asia and Europe. I love that it has so much to offer in terms of mosques, markets and museums. I love the Turkish delights especially the baklava. I love that in every corner you feel the rich history and culture.

Where to stay?

Room Mate is a chain that offers boutique hotels in 12 cities, including New York, Madrid and Miami. We stayed at the Room Mate Kerem in Istanbul, which is located in the Beyoglu district. Few meter from Istiklal Street, famous for the shopping, food and cafes, and 1 km from Taksim.

The rooms have a charming and stylish décor and offer either street or gardens views. The staff is very sweet and they are always here to assist you and accommodate your requests. There is a Spa that offers and indoor pool, Jacuzzi and Sauna.

If you book take the deluxe room and ask for a nice view!

I highly recommend this place because the price was good, the quality and service was excellent!

 

Where to eat?

·      Journey

Located on one of Cihangir’s liveliest streets, Journey is a cozy restaurant that reflects the character of the neighborhood: international, modern, and laid-back. The menu at Journey is well thought out and lovingly executed, offering something for everyone, from classic Turkish home-cooked meals with a contemporary twist to homemade pastas and pizzas, salads, and meat dishes

·      The house café

The cafe became well known with its seasonal and fresh ingredients providing food, wide range of beverages and cosy environment. The House Café became a chain in 2005 with its second branch opened in Tünel.  Today, The House Café operates in 10 separate branches. Tke a break from the shopping and go to the house café on Istiklal street. You must try their Quinoa salad.

·      Limonlu bahce

This place is truly a gem! If you are looking for a hidden oasis in the middle of the city then this is the place. The food, the service and the ambiance, everything was amazing!

·      Zencefil

This place is a vegetarian restaurant and many items on the menu are homemade with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The menu includes many wholesome dishes including salads, quiches, and pie

·      Karakoy gulluoglu

Güllüoğlu is the most well-known baklava names in town. This is the place where all the locals go for tea and baklava. Try the walnut baklava.

·      Coffee Brew Lab

Good coffee, wonderful location and great spot! Try the carrot cheese cake, it’s amazing!

 

What to do?

One thing that is an absolut must do is a Hamam! You can check my previous post to read more about the Hamam that I went to. In any case there are plenty of hamams to choose from. 

Another very nice activity to do is the Sufi dance also known as the dervishes ceremony. The best place to catch a dervishes performance is at the Galata Mevlevi Museum. It is located not far from Tunel at the end of istiklal Cadessi. You can only buy tickets on location and it costs around 70 TL. 

 

 

Zanzibar

Hakuna Matata

Zanzibar is indescribably beautiful and the ultimate destination that combines fascinating history and magnificent beaches.

Pre-departure

1) Flight: I was flying from Bahrain so the best option is Qatar airways, flying through Doha and directly to Zanzibar, whereas Emirates makes a stop at Dar Es Salam first.

2) Visa: For Bahraini and European nationalities, visa is upon arrival. The airport at Dar Es Salam is so basic and small with very limited technology that it took us almost 3 hours to get our visa. You need to be very patient! The visa cost is 50USD and you must have it in cash.

3) Vaccinations: Before going to Tanzania, you must do your vaccinations in order to enjoy the place to the fullest. The vaccinations that are required are: Hepatitis A, Yellow fever, Meningitis and you also have to take Malaria pills throughout your stay. The good thing about this is that most vaccinations last over 10 years. 

 

Accommodation choice

There are plenty of nice accommodations and areas to choose from, it all depends what you are looking for. It's important to remember that Zanzibar's diverse coastline means different experiences across the island. 

North

The north part of Zanzibar is more of a backpacker destination with a variety of accommodations choices. Nungwi offers a good nightlife and full moon parties. The heart of Northern Zanzibar’s tourist industry is Nungwi’s West-Coast Beach. This has become an increasingly vibrant tourist destination with numerous bars, restaurants and resorts of various ratings. The beach is a busy tourist hub. Some of Zanzibar’s wildest nightlife can be found here. However there are more reserved restaurants offering top quality seafood with views of the ocean.

Stone Town

“If Zanzibar Town is the archipelago's heart, Stone Town is its soul”.

Stone Town is an easy place to explore on foot; you never need to travel by vehicle. It’s a lively area with a lot to see and do, from palaces to mosques to old Arab houses. Take into consideration that Stone town is always lively and loud! Nevertheless no visit to Zanzibar would be complete without experiencing Stone Town.  

South East

There are plenty of beaches and resorts on the southeast of Zanzibar but it's here that the tidal range is more marked than other regions. So if you are looking to really enjoy the beach, then it is going to be difficult because of the tide you will not be able to swim all the time.  The southeast is also a very quite area with less tourist and more opportunity to engage with the locals.

Most resorts located in the southeast are very secluded.

We chose to stay at the south east of the island in a beautiful resort. We spent good amount of time enjoying the place and the facilities but we also hired a driver for our entire stay who took us everywhere to experience the island to the fullest. We were looking for a combination of relaxing, comfort but also adventure and being exploration. 

Baraza Resort & Spa

Baraza has been chosen by the prestigious Condé Nast Traveller Magazine as one of the top 60 best new hotels in the world. No wonder why! Every detail of this resort is magnificent, every corner, every fabric. This boutique resort is a fusion of Swahili and Arabic design with beautiful antique, hand made furniture.

The resort offers only 30 villas, therefore a very personalized service in a spectacular setting.

For more information about the prices and availability click on here. 

Where to go

The Rock: It’s very small, quite simple but absolutely beautiful! A 10 minutes car drive from Page, an hour from Stone Town and 1 hour and a half from the north tip of the island. As they describe it on their website “Eating at Rock Restaurant is an experience you can’t miss: colors, relish and sensations blend together in unique magic”

Jambo: A nice local place for music, dancing and is located right by the beach in the south east of the island.

Stone Town: It may not have a particularly romantic name, but Stone Town is the old city and cultural heart of Zanzibar, little changed in the last 200 years. It is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, and mosques and grand Arab houses. Stone Town is located on the western coast of Unguja the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago. We spent a day wandering around the streets, bargaining in the markets and just enjoying this buzzing place.

Watch the sunset at Sunset Bar on top of the Africa House.

Jozani National park: It is the only national park in Zanzibar. The forest is a great place to encounter many indigenous varieties of flora and fauna, including the Zanzibari Monkeys. The entrance fee of 8 dollars includes a guide who will show you around while explaining everything. I really enjoyed this experience, because it was different than just seeing the beautiful beaches and it also showed how much the island of Zanzibar has to offer.

Prison Island: the sea around prison island is truly stunning, turquoise water, white sand and coral reef. I was so annoyed that we didn’t bring our swim suites, and we didn’t come early morning. The name comes from the island being a former prison for slaves. Not only is it a very nice boat trip from stone town, but Prison Island is also home to giant land turtles that were imported from the Seychelles in the late 19th century. Fun fact: these turtles can live up to 200 years!

Dolphin Swimming: you need to drive to the small village of Kizimkazi, which is almost 2 hours from Stone town. Then you take a speedboat and sail almost 30 min from the shore in search of the dolphins. When you see them you jump in the water. I personally didn’t enjoy this tour, but others did. I didn’t like the fact that there were almost 20 speedboats rushing to chase the dolphins. If you are lucky you will get the chance to swim with them. My advice is go very early morning, around 6:00 am. Prices are around 30 USD per person.  

Spice Tour: This was my all time favorite tour. Zanzibar is known to be an important producer of spices such as nutmeg, cumin, and cinnamon. With a local guide you will have the opportunity to walk around a spice farm, smell and taste different spices. Your tour guide will describe everything and in the end you are able to buy the different spices, along with creams, oil perfumes and soaps. Some tours also offer tasty Swahili lunch. In my opinion this tour is a must do!

We only had 5 days in Zanzibar, which I think was a little short. I would say 1 week is perfect. This way you can take it more easy and explore every corner of the island.

Many people combine their Zanzibar trip with a safari tour in Tanzania.

 

dolphin swimming 

dolphin swimming 

Prison Island 

Prison Island 

Prison Island 

Prison Island 

Jozani National Park 

Jozani National Park 

Jozani National Park

Jozani National Park

Baraza Resort & Spa 

Baraza Resort & Spa 

Stone Town 

Stone Town 

The Rock

The Rock

Baraza Resort & Spa 

Baraza Resort & Spa 

Baraza Resort & Spa

Baraza Resort & Spa

Oman

After spending few days in beautiful Muscat our journey took us to Jebel Shams, Wadi Shab, Sur and Fins.

Jebel Shams was an organized day trip through Oman tours. Your guide picks you up from the hotel at 09:00 am and drops you off at around 3pm. Although the scenery was stunning, the cost of the trip was not worth it. We paid 144 USD each (we were 3 people) so a total of 432 USD to drive with a guide to Nizwa town, then to Jebel Shams where we had lunch and then drove back to the hotel.

Now don’t misunderstand me, the tour to Jebel Shams is a must. It’s the highest mountain in the country (3000m) and the view from the top is beautiful. I am so happy we had the chance to experience the stunning nature of such a place.It is really breathtaking! Nevertheless I would recommend finding another cheaper option either through a local driver or a cheaper tour.

We decided to rent a car from SIXT to continue the trip on our own. They gave us a very good price for a decent car (Nissan Altima), and the service was great. Note: they keep your deposit for 4 weeks before releasing it! Again something that I learnt, since there is a lot of off road ways a 4 x 4 would have been a better option.

Another thing to take into consideration, a GPS is a must because google map doesn’t work properly in Oman (neither does whatsapp, viber, or skype) they are all blocked!

Wadi Shab was our first stop. It’s almost 2 hours straight highway drive from Muscat. We stayed at wadi shab resort, the only accommodation close to wadi shab except for camping on the beach (which would have been a better option). Wadi shab resort is decent, but overprized for what it is. We spent one night there relaxing by the beach surrounded by the mountains. In the early morning we woke up and drove to Wadi Shab (it took about 10minutes). When you arrive you will find plenty of space to park your car. You pay 1 rial to cross from one side to another and then you walk for around 30 min until you reach the stunning Oasis. It is so beautiful, the colors and atmosphere is breathtaking. I would describe it as nature as its best. (check the pictures and you will understand!). Wadi Shab is a must visit!

We spent half the day there and then we drove off to Sur.

 

Sur is located 220km from Muscat and well known for its old fishing village and traditional manufacture of dhows. On top of being a very charming city Sur is a convenient base for day trips to Wadi Tiwi and Wadi Shab and the turtle reserve at Ras al-Jinz. We spent the night there and rested at the Resort Sur beach holiday hotel. It was an average hotel with the necessary amenities.

Next morning we packed our things and headed to Muscat, but we decided to make one stop next to Fins by a place called white beach.

White beach is located very close to Fins, reached by an off roadway and is a very popular area for camping. As its name let suppose it, the sand of the beach is white, and the sea is translucent and it is considered one of top beaches in Oman.

We spent a few hours swimming in the sea and tanning on the fine white sand, surrounded by few campers who were getting ready to spend the night under the stars.

Few tips to consider

  • You must buy halwa(an omani dessert). You can get the best one from Al diwaniya (the honey based one).
  • A GPS is a must if you want to drive around in Muscat
  • Rent a 4x4 if you are planning to explore the country and drive around to different wadis.
  • You can buy a Omani sim card at the airport for 20 USD with free internet for 1 week.
Jebel Shams 

Jebel Shams 

Jebel Shams 

Jebel Shams 

 

Wadi Shab 

Wadi Shab 

 

Wadi Shab 

Wadi Shab 

 

White Beach

White Beach

white beach 

white beach 

 

Muscat

Oman, the Gem of the Persian Gulf

Oman a country of breathtaking natural beauty, spectacular landscapes and cultural traditions that remain remarkably undiluted. I wanted to spend the winter holidays somewhere warm, close to Bahrain but very different and everyone seemed to recommend Oman. Now I know why!

We decided to go for a one-week holiday, and I think it was enough to cover a lot of places. Our journey took us from Muscat all they way to Sur, stopping by Wadi Shab and Tiwi. This Blog post will only cover Muscat, but there will be a next one following that will cover the rest of the trip. 

 

We stayed at the Tulip inn, an average hotel for a reasonable price. In general hotels in Muscat are quite expensive comparing to the quality that is offered.                                   

On our first day we visited Mohammed Al Ameen mosque, a magnificent mosque located on top of the hill. The mosque is entirely white and the architecture is stunning, a must visit I would say.

IMG_1092.JPG

Then we continued to the Sultan’s Palace, also known as the Alam Palace, located in the heart of the old Muscat. The palace is Oman’s most flamboyant example of contemporary Islamic design. The courtyard surrounding it mostly impressed me.  

Our last stop was Souq Mutrah, which is considered one of the oldest markets in Oman dating back about 200 years. There are some good antique shops, textile shops, gold shops and bargaining is expected!

On the second day, we went to the Grand Mosque, which is open for tourists only from 08:00 to 11:00 am except Fridays. Also known as Sultan Qaboos mosque, it is a stunning “edifice of Art”. This beautiful mosque was started in 1995 and finished 6 years later. A visit to Muscat would not be complete without seeing it.

Muscat is so close to the sea, so after our mosque visit we asked the taxi driver to take us to the beach. He suggested Qurum beach. It’s a wide beach, not very crowded, and clean. It has a good selection of cafés and restaurants close by. It’s a beautiful place to walk and distress, bathe, or simply grab a cup of coffee by the water. The good thing is that it’s located close to the city center.

We ended the night visiting the Opera house another gorgeous architectural masterpiece. It hosts some of the biggest cultural events in Oman, and all the information can be found on their website (http://www.rohmuscat.org.om). We ate at the Indus, located in the Opera house and serving fine indian cuisine. Highly recommended! 

Tips

1) One of the important things to take into consideration is that good restaurants and food is very hard to find. I would recommend making your research in advance.

Here are some very nice restaurants that we tried in Muscat and I can highly recommend.  

- Ubhar $$

- Raouche (Lebanese) $$$

- The Indus (fine dining indian cuisine) $$$

2) Instead of taxing a taxi to go everywhere (which will end up to be very expensive), either hire a car or hire a taxi driver for an entire day. We hired a taxi driver for a full day and it was around 15OMR. For recommendations please contact Ill and me send you the contact of the taxi driver that we used. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persian Gulf

This blog post is about several countries: The Gulf States, also know as the oil countries, although the oil is slowly vanishing.

I’m sure that when people think about this area they imagine all the country as being the same and they envision something á la Dubai.

Having travelled around most of them, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you how they all differ from each other. Through my journey in Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar I could feel that we shared the same culture but I could clearly see the differences as well.

Bahrain is my country of origin and my current home, so my opinion is probably very bias. Still I feel like the sweetest people are the ones from Bahrain, they are open minded and welcoming. The society is quite liberal and you can find many things to do here. There is a rich cultural heritage that you can see when visiting forts, mosques, and local places. You can even go pearl diving or pearl collecting because we are known for pearl trade before the discovery of oil.

Dubai is the magnet of tourists and no wonder why. This desert has been transformed into a cosmopolitan oasis. You can ski in a shopping mall, swim with sharks; experience the world’s tallest building just to mention a few. It’s a perfect holiday destination for couples, families, and friends.  Although Dubai has it all, it also lacks a local touch to it and local people as well. You never get to see the Emiratis, and everything is so plastic fantastic and expensive! Abu Dhabi to say it out loud is quite unexciting. Beside the sheikh zayed mosque (which is absolutely stunning!) there is nothing much to do or perhaps I didn’t find much to do. But it you are visiting Dubai, you should stop by Abu Dhabi to see the mosque, it is absolutely worth the ride!

Saudi Arabia is a world of itself. I have only been to a few places there but I don’t plan on returning. Everything is very segregated and although it is interesting to understand the culture I don’t think it’s my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing the country, I am only sharing what I have experienced and what my thoughts are. Still many Bahrainis go to Saudi to shop because they have an unlimited selection of everything. And the other way around, many saudis come to Bahrain to be "free". Beside if you are a foreigner and not from the GCC, you are not able to get a visa to explore Saudi.

Kuwait is my absolute favorite. It has a long and beautiful stretch of coast, the best weather comparing to the other gulf countries, and they are considered the fashion hub of the gulf region. Although many think that shopping centers and malls are the main attractions in Kuwait, if you are the sort of traveller who likes to see and experience something other than that then this could be the destination for you.

Qatar was my least favorite. Although I cannot say that I saw it all, I can tell you what I have seen and noticed. Qataris are very conservative and reserved and they don’t blend with others that much. Qatar is very nice when it comes to futuristic skyscrapers and other ultra modern architecture inspired by ancient Islamic design, but other than that I was not impressed.

 

Stay tuned for my next stop, in December I will be going to Oman

Here are a few pics to give you an idea of the different places..

 

Dubai 

Dubai 

Bahrain

Bahrain

Kuwait

Kuwait

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi

Qatar

Qatar

Copenhagen

"Top 10 things to do in Copenhagen during summer"

Summer is my favorite time in Copenhagen. If we get lucky then the weather is just perfect! The sun is shinning and people are happy and smiling. There are also plenty of activities and things to do during summer. I think tourists should think like travelers and go beyond nyhavn and the little mermaid. 

Here are my top favorite, most of them are in Copenhagen but a few are in the surroundings. Note they are not listed in favourite order, just randomly on what I could come up with first. If you click on each you will be automatically directed to their website. 

1. Papirøen

Take the boat from nyhavn to papirøen (5min), and choose among a wide selection of dishes from around the world. There are many food stands that offer the perfect blend of different flavours that you can enjoy while looking at the perfect view of the water.

2. Møller

Have brunch at møller. They offer delicious and healthy food! Try the “fried egg”you wont regret it! The place, concept and design is as Danish as it can get. 

3. Zulu Summerbio

Enjoy a movie under the stars. Zulu summerbio takes place during august in different parks around Copenhagen. Check their calendar online and pick the movie of your choice. Remember to take a blanket, it can sometimes get chilly

4. Goboat

Take your friends/family and rent the boat for 30min. You can bring your own food and beverage on board and sail around the charming canals of københavn. Experience Copenhagen at your own pace. 

5. Ice coffee from PARADIS

Paradis is a famous ice cream shop known for their delicious ice-cream, but what you don’t know is that their ice espresso is even better! Try the one with the vanilla ice cream! You will go crazy!

6. Louisiana

Museum of Modern Art, they always have some great exhibitions, and the surrounding is stunning!

7. Møns Klint

Also known as the chalk cliffs that stretches along the eastern coast of Denmark. The view of the beach and the cliffs is breathtaking. 

8. Kødbyens Foodmarket

A market that takes place every weekend, to gather people and food :)

9. Frederiksberg Garden

There are so many parks in Copenhagen, but my favorite remains Frederiksberg Garden. it's big and beautiful, and there is something royal about it. 

10. Stroll around the lakes 

If you want to go from Vesterbro (west copenhagen) to Nørrebro (North), then stroll around the 4 lakes until you arrive at Dronning louises bridge. The walk is peaceful and full of charm. 

for a picture of each place, follow me on instagram!

 

Barcelona

Barcelona is poderosa..

just like they sing in the movie by woody Allen Vicky Christina Barcelona. It means Barcelona is powerful, and that is exactly the word I would use to describe such a fantastic city. If you have never been there, then it is a must see and if you have then you will eventually return.  

Where to stay? 

There are plenty of great and charming areas in Barcelona, so no matter what you choose it will be good.  We stayed at La casa de Antonio, located in the very heart of Barcelona (close to Placa de Catalunya) and by walking distance to all the main areas, except for the beach where you would need to take the metro. It is a guesthouse, which is very modern, stylish and clean. It was the perfect choice for a 3 nights stay.

 What to do?

I am not able to list all the possible activities that one can do in Barcelona, because I am sure that there is an unlimited list, and different activities for each taste. I am therefore going to mention a few that I did in order to inspire future travelers.

1)     Mercat de la boqueria

This amazing food market is just off La Rambla, and is very popular for both locals and tourist. There is a vast selection of food and fresh products. The building itself is very interesting. If you are looking to grab something fresh and natural then go there and enjoy the atmosphere!

IMG_6943.JPG

2)     Barceloneta

If you want to swim in the Mediterrean Sea and lie in the sun, then walk around barceloneta and find a spot. Apart from sunbathing, swimming or strolling along the passeig maritim you’ll find many things to see and do on this area. Note this is a very crowded beach in Barcelona, so if you are looking for a more peaceful setting then walk all the way until you stumble upon one.

3)     La pedrera

Casa Milà also known as La pedrera was constructed by Antoni gaudí. Because of its uniqueness and heritage value it was added to the UNESCO heritage list. If you are into art, architecture and aesthetics then this place is a must visit. You pay 20 euros entrance fee and receive an audio in your language, which is a great tool for learning more about the history of this place. 

4)     Passeig de Gracia

If you are looking for serious and intense shopping then this is one of the major avenues in Barcelona. You’ll find everything from the biggest brand names to the most affordable, all of that while enjoying the most iconic buildings. Of course there is more vintage shopping in the small streets around the city, but I dont remember the name of the places, you must stumble upon them. 

 5)     Parc Guëll

Spend an afternoon strolling in this park, which contains amazing stone structures and fascinating buildings. At the top of the park is a terraced area where you will get to see the wonderful view of Barcelona city. In my opinion this is one of the most impressive public parks in the world.  

Where to eat?

Barcelona has an unlimited choice of tapas bars and restaurants. However if you don’t know where to go you will quickly realize that most of the places don’t offer the best food.

As you have might noticed in my previous blog posts, I am very much into healthy and preferably vegetarian food.

Brunch

1. MILK

If you are in Barcelona, MILK is a must for breakfast and Brunch. It is the perfect alternative to Spanish breakfast, which doesn’t consist of much. If you have a big day planned ahead and want to skip lunch or have a light lunch then this place is a great choice for a big brunch.

2. Brunch and Cake 

It is a very cute and cozy brunch restaurant in downtown Barcelona. They have healthy options and also more delicious indulgences. I highly recommend this place; you’ll have difficulties making a choice because everything on the menu looks great!

Lunch

3. Zaatar

Is a small vegan/vegetarian place. The name comes from the famous middle- eastern spice, and the menu is ecological friendly. It has great fresh juices, and a very nice vegan lasagna! 

4. Marmalade

Is the bigger sister of the famous MILK. The place has a new york edge to it. Under their brunch menu you’ll find plenty of choices for lunch, for example a delicious salad combined with a smoothie.

Diner

5. Teresa Carles

I know you might think I am exaggerating but this is my favorite vegetarian restaurant in the world. I went there with my non-vegetarian friend and she loved it! She said that it was so delicious and filling that she couldn’t even feel that meat was lacking.

The good news is that for the fish lovers, they have their sister restaurant called Flax & Kale. Where they serve vegetarian but fish as well. The food is healthy, tasty & sustainable! And it doesn’t stop there, they have Teresa’s juicery as well, which offers different type of organic juices.

6. Mariscco

This restaurant has the perfect location, right in the heart of the Gothic quarter in Plaza Real. The vibe and the atmosphere of this square is always lively! Mariscco offers indoor seating as well as an open air terrace. Their selection of seafood is very good and the quality/taste is amazing! A must try while in Barcelona, especially for fresh seafood right from the Mediterranean. 

A few extra tips

Explore el born neighborhood it’s quite charming. Sip a cocktail on one the rooftops, perhaps La Isabella at Hotel 1988.

Hope you enjoyed reading, and can use some of the tips :) 

Ibiza

When you hear Ibiza you immediately associate it with party. The truth is that Ibiza is so much more than just a party island; actually it only applies to a very small part of the island. Before choosing our destination, we wanted culture, landscapes, great ambiance and beautiful beaches and we felt that Ibiza covered it all. One week in Ibiza was enough to explore the island. You must rent a car in order to make the best out of your stay, and if your budget allows you then you should rent a jeep because some of the roads to the beach are bumpy and if the jeep is convertible than it’s a real plus because of the fantastic weather.

We went there first week of June, which was the beginning of the season so it wasn’t as busy or crazy, but if you go during the peak season (July/august) then you should expect it to be very busy. It’s always very difficult to cover an entire trip, so I will write about what I think is most relevant: Beaches, places to eat and things to do and where I would recommend that you stay.

Beaches

The beaches in Ibiza are amazingly beautiful. I felt like I was in the Caribbean and each beach kept impressing me more and more.

1.     Cala Salada

My absolute favorite beach on the island! This beach is a 10-15 min drive from San Antonio. It is not a long beach, that is why it is called cala (which means small beach in Spanish), but the water is crystal clear and the scenery is beautiful! A few locals around you sell fresh juices, cocktails, food and even clothing, but not in a crazy annoying way. Go there on a weekday it will be less crowded than a weekend.  I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves. 

1.     Cala Conta

This cala is a bit bigger than cala salada and it also offers a variety of watersports. Moreover it has a lovely restaurant with great seating and a wide option of tasty seafood. This beach is a bit more crowded and has a louder ambiance to it.

 

2.     Formentera

All the beaches in Formentera are impressive; you cannot go wrong whichever beach you decide to visit. Formentera is a island 40min from Ibiza by boat. To get there take the boat from Ibiza port (Ibiza town) early morning in order to make the most out of your day there. Take the aqua bus ferryboats it is much cheaper. You can rent a scooter for 20 euros/day and visit different beaches. We didn’t have that much time so we spent most of our time on Playa de ses Lletes. 

FOOD

1.     Passion Café

This is my favorite place on the entire island. Great for breakfast, lunch and diner and we were so obsessed that we ate there for each meal. The concept is healthy, fresh food with a great choice of juices. They also have options for vegan and vegeterians. It has 4 locations around the island, but the best one is Ibiza Marina, it’s the coziest!

 

2.     The skinny kitchen

Located in San Antonio is this cosy place. They serve healthy food as well as a great breakfast menu. For lunch they also give you the option to make your own burrito (with different healthy ingredients). Their concept is based on fitness and fit people, so the number of calories, fat, protein are mentioned next to each meal. The only thing I didn’t like is that most of their juices are not made with fresh ingredients, but mixed with concentrated juice.


3.     Restaurante Es Boldado

This restaurant is located close to Cala D’Hort and serves freshly caught seafood and amazing paellas! The view is directly on the magnificient Es Vedrá rock, and the setting is wonderful and peaceful. 

THINGS TO DO

1.     Watch the sunset by Café del mar

This popular place in San Antonio attracts a lot of people to watch the sunset, while music is playing in the background. Make sure to go there in good time to find a spot and enjoy the view!

2.     Go to the hippy Market

Ibiza is famous for their hippy history, and which better way to discover it and learn more then by going to the hippy market. The hippy market is open every Wednesday in Es Cana and every Saturday in San Carlos. You will find so many small treasures and nice souvenirs (clothes, accessories and much more).

IMG_6563.JPG

3.     Stroll around Ibiza old town

Take a walk all the way to Ibiza town’s romantic medieval castle Dalt Vila. Enjoy the Mediterranean vibe and atmosphere. Take a break to enjoy a fresh juice or ice cream. 

4.     Do water sports

Ibiza is an island! You must do watersports. Go to playa las Salinas and you'll be faced with unlimited options!

5.     the top of Ibiza’s highest hill Sa Talaia

The walk is strenuous and hot – take a hat and water – but the views from the top are out of this world, and on a clear day you can see both Mallorca and the mainland.

Where to stay 

San Antonio? Ibiza town? The North? It all depends on what you are looking for.

1.     San Antonio

It is the party part of the island, but not the classy/ big parties, but in my eyes the trashy ones.

2.     Ibiza Town

Located in the center of Ibiza, this is a great choice for everyone. It is close to San Antonio and to the North.

3.     The North of the island

Ibiza’s north is famous for its bohemian, laidback lifestyle and gorgeous scenery. It has a reputation for yoga retreats, wellness and healing. 

I hope you enjoyed reading and that it was helpful and inspiring. If you have any questions/comments/feedback don't hesitate to fill in the form under contact. It would be my pleasure to receive any. 

Rome

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do" and so we did... 

After spending 5 days in Rome, I don’t even know how to start in order to cover all the things that I have seen, places that I have been to and delicious restaurants that I have tried. If I only make one blog post about Rome, I think it will be too messy and too long. So the best way to start is to start with the best part, the food in Rome! 

Roman cuisine is know to be very simple yet very delicious, combining different ingredients for every taste. When you think Rome, you associate it with great restaurants and delicious food everywhere. Unfortunately this is not the case, because many restaurants are very touristy offering poor quality food that has nothing to do with the real Roman cuisine. Before heading there, I made a research about different type of places, that can only be found if you know their name because many of them are not located on the main streets or in an obvious location. 

1.    Margutta RistorArte

A vegetarian restaurant that offers both brunch and dinner. If you are looking for a healthy option with an Italian twist this is definitely the place to go to. We were there for dinner, and it was very fresh ingredients and light portions. You must try the papaya/avocado salad, it is a very nice mix. Note. This is a vegetarian/ healthy place, but also great for non-vegeterians. 

 

2.    Coromandel

If you are looking for a different type of brunch, something else then cornetto and espresso then coromandel is a great option. It offers pancakes, yogurt, and different type of eggs, a non italian breakfast/brunch. It is a very cosy place. Note. Check the opening hours and days, we went there a monday and it was closed. 

3.    Tree Bar

The perfect place for aperitivo! Hidden in the middle of green surroundings, this is the place where all Romans go to mingle and have aperitivo or dinner. You will not encounter any tourist. Beside the food, the best thing about this place is the vibe. If you want to try something local and great, then tree bar is a must visit. 

  4.    Caffe Settimiano

Combine your botanical garden visit with this very cute café. It’s very close to the botanical garden and is a small decent place.  The prices are good; the food is simple but very delicious. Don’t expect a big café with many options, but more a cute local place. 

5.    Fior di Luna

Italy is known for the gelato, but unfortunately many of the ice cream shops sell gelato that is not made of natural ingredients and is filled with color additives. Fior di Luna is one of the gelato places that offers natural ice cream and is an absolute must try! Once you try it you will never go back to “fake” ice cream. If you are 

IMG_6103.JPG

6.    Gusto

If you are shopping or wandering around Via del Corso, then drop by Gusto for some nice Italian lunch. Its the perfect Italian restaurant with a excellent menu! A great place to enjoy your meal at the terrace, while contemplating the Italian vibe and atmosphere around. Very central! 

Colombia

Bogotá

My first stop in Colombia was Bogotá. I will always remember this city as being grey and very strange. The division between the nice neighborhoods and the less fortunate was pretty obvious. Walking around the city I saw graffiti, abandoned areas and industrial zones. Although I heard so much about it, I didn't have the best impression of Bogotá nor the best feeling. I only spent 2 days there and I felt that it was enough.

If you visit Bogotá,  a great place that I would recommend while there is Andrés Carne de res; a restaurant like no other, the place has a crazy ambiance and good food. I am not going to spoil it, I think you should try it out and be the judge

Armenia 

After 2 days in Bogotá I had to fly to Armenia to spend 2 more days because we had a conference with work. I didn’t get the chance to explore much of Armenia, but the few things that I saw made me want to come again. The city is beautiful, surrounded by mountains, coffee plantations and plantains.

Cartagena

My favorite of all cities was Cartagena, located on the north coast of Colombia and facing the Caribbean Sea. When I first arrived I could immediately feel the Caribbean vibe, the relaxed atmosphere and I knew that this journey was going to be great. The city has basically two main parts where tourists go: the walled colonial city ("ciudad amurallada"), which is truly amazing and has many fancy restaurants, clubs and hotels; and a long strip of hotel towers and condos fronting onto the beach, known as Bocagrande.

SLEEP

We slept at the Hotel Dann Cartagena, rated as 8,9/10 on booking.com. The hotel is located with direct access to bocagrande beach. It has very nice with spacious rooms and a buffet breakfast. The hotel is 10 km from the airport and a 5min drive from the historical centre. I would highly recommend it both in terms of comfort and location.

DO & SEE

  • Visit the historic centre which is the old city. You will have the opportunity to enjoy the rich history, the diverse culture and the beautiful architecture all at once. The culture is one of the components of Cartagena's intangible heritage. It can be lived, felt, smelled and tasted.
  • The Rosario Islands is a small archipelago made up of 27 tiny islands located south of the Bay of Cartagena, about one hour away by boat. This is where you will find white sand and crystal clear water that you associate with Caribbean paradise. Isla de Barú and its most famous beach playa blanca is where you will find the picturesque scene that you usually see on a postcard. If you are staying at a hotel in Cartagena then most of them organise day trips to isla de Barú. If you are looking to get there by yourself then take a taxi to the big market of Cartagena “Mercado Bazurto” from there small boats are leaving to playa blanca. The boat ride is around 40 min and you have to pay around 11 dollars. If you are in Cartagena you MUST go to The rosario islands.


Istanbul

Few of the tourists explore further than the Sultanahmet area, which is a real shame because Istanbul is a magical city with so much to offer. It is rich in both the eastern and western culture. I cannot cover all the beautiful corners and inspiring places in Istanbul but I will list 5 different places that I mostly enjoyed.

1. Cemberlitas Hamami

When in Istanbul it is a must to pay a visit to a Turkish hamam, it is an indulging experience. Not only is it one of the major components of the ottoman and Turkish culture but it is also a great purification for your body and skin.

If you are looking for a spacious, clean and good price place then the cemberlitas hamami is a great choice.

2. Caferaga Medressesi

In the backyard of an old medresse (Muslim theological school) you will find this hidden jewel. This restaurant is close to the Topkapi palace but very isolated from the crowd, in beautiful and peaceful surroundings.

The ingredients are fresh and the food is delicious. But don’t expect anything fancy.

3. Istiklal cadessi

This street is one of the fast moving areas of the city, with many restaurants, rooftop bars and plenty of shopping options. I call it the street that never sleeps.

4. Karaköy Güllüoglu

This coffee and sweets place has had satisfied customers since 1947. Go to the cashier and order your favorite baklavas either with pistachio, nuts or without anything. For a real treat add a cup tea to it.

5. Pasazade

If you want to try an Ottoman kitchen, Pasazade is a highly recommended restaurant. Excellent service, delicious food and perfect location.

I promised to write a section about activities for the kids/young children.

A must visit place for children is Vialand, a theme park that also includes a shopping mall a different restaurant options. It's a little outside of Istanbul and can be accessed with its own shuttle bus, but I recommend to take a taxi.

Another very nice kid friendly adventure, is a day trip to Prince's island. The ferry itself is a fun journey for them. The islands are beautiful and ideal for kids to play around, swim or take a tour around with the horse carriage.

The bosphorus ferry tour is also a great experience for both adults and children. It is as if you are sailing infront of a showcase of beautiful mosques, palaces and mansions both on the Asian and European side.

Ghana

Akwaaba!

When planning a vacation it is not too often that you hear people choosing Ghana, but I’m glad I did! Ghana offers unique and worthwhile experiences, and I would like to share some of them with you.

Beaches & pools

White sands: a true paradise and a must visit. It is described as the most exclusive chic hotel and beach resort. An entrance fee is charged but gives you access to different pools and a beautiful beach. You have the choice to stay overnight but the chalets are quite expensive. We slept at one of the neighbor resorts and spend the entire day at white sands.

Ada: The Ghana version of the Hamptons. It’s a group of small islands with resorts and private villas almost 2 hours away from Accra. If you have the opportunity to go there, it’s breathtaking!

Entertainment

Apart from visiting the heavenly beaches, Accra offers a variety of entertainment. If you want to party like the locals then you should go to Afrikiko. A nice outdoor place where you get to test your dancing skills by following a leading dancer. Beside the dance stage, there are restaurants, bars and option to smoke shisha.

Get educated!

While most of us think that our electronics are recycled properly, at Agbogloshie is where they actually end; The world’s largest e-waste dump located in Accra. This place is an eye opener for the rest of the world. While visiting Ghana I encourage you to pay a visit, and walk around to experience the true feeling on how families and children live there. The toxic chemicals in the air are damaging for human health, and most of these people die because of this.

Top 5 activities Dubai

When in Dubai you have options for everyone in the family. They have so many activities to choose from. I gathered my top 5 activities and I hope you find one appealing to your needs :)

1. Skydiving

With the beautiful and breathtaking view of the island the Palm, Jumeirah and Dubai Marina, skydiving in Dubai is a great activity for adrenaline chasers. Make sure to book in advance, because there is usually a 1 month waiting list.

2. Swim with the Dolphins

The perfect activity for children and family. Enjoy this life time experience, and interact with the cutest animals ever. I recommend Dolphin Bay in Atlantis.

3. Desert Safari

A wonderful Arabian memory to share with your family and friends. The afternoon safaris usually include diner, belly dancing and henna stands. All safaris include Dune bashing, picture taking, and camel rides.

4. Indoor Skiing

Ski Dubai located in the Mall of Emirates has become the unavoidable activity for both kids and grown ups. The contrast between the warm temperature outside and the skiing vibe inside is quite fun.

5. Hot Air Balloon

You can discover Dubai by taking an alternative tour. The rides are over the vast desert providing views of sand dunes, oases, camels & mountains.

 

Dubai: The land of Glitz

When you hear Dubai, you immediately associate it with the tallest building in the world, the artificial palm island, the 7 starts hotel and the largest shopping malls. It is not my first time in Dubai but this city never ceases to impress me! The transformation from a pure desert to the land of extravagant & glitz is simply fascinating.

Only 4 days in Dubai was quite hectic, but we tried to see as much as we can and experience above skyscrapers.

Accommodation

Minaa A’ Salam: Our first stay was at Minaa A’ Salam meaning "Harbour of peace" in Arabic , a 5 stars resort located in Jumeirah. The resort has indoor and outdoor pool, a private beach, an award winning spa, more than 20 restaurants located around and many more facilities just to mention a few. The service is on top and it’s a perfect place for family, couples or friends traveling together for a relaxing type holiday.

MIna A' Salam 

MIna A' Salam 

Mina A' Salam 

Mina A' Salam 

Mina A' Salam 

Mina A' Salam 

Kempinski 

Kempinski 

Kempinski Pool 

Kempinski Pool 

Kempinski: Our second stay was at Kempinski hotel in the Emirates Mall. Although it is a 5 stars hotel as well, it actually was very disappointed especially for people going to Dubai for holidays. The hotel is purely targeted to business purposes and all facilities are shaped around business travellers, which doesn’t give it any charm when staying there for leisure. Although the hotel has an ideal location for shopping, I wouldnt choose it again if I'm going on "beach" holidays. 

Restaurants

There are unlimited options of restaurants in Dubai serving every national cuisine from around the world. There is an option for every taste, but it also makes it very difficult to choose.

Café rouge: Great French cuisine located in Souk Madinat Jumeirah. The ambiance is very nice and relaxed and the food is absolutely delicious!

Cafe Rouge 

Cafe Rouge 

Khaymat Al bahar: Discover Lebanon’s rich cuisine, while overlooking the beachfront and gorgeous surroundings. This place is lively but still casual, and during the evenings they offer live entertainment.

Tashas: It has a very nice vintage vibe and organic food, what better can you ask for? The menu is excellent and dessert is a must!

Tashas-Dubai
Tashas-Dubai
Barasti

Barasti

Barasti: is a beach club that has been recommended by many. In my opinion if you are looking to watch sports, or listen to music while bathing in the sea then it's the perfect place. If you are looking for quality food, then I wouldn't recommend it. take into consideration that the place is filled with expats, so there is no local vibe to it.

Shades: is located at the address hotel in Dubai Marina. It's the perfect chill out lounge for dinner, drinks or shisha, while overlooking the infinity pool and fascinating skyline. This place is definitely in my top favourites.

Shades

Shades

Eden Beach Club: If you are looking for an exclusive beach club then this is the place! A great place to spend the day or evening depending on the atmosphere that you are looking for. There are plenty of activities and entertainment, as well as space to relax and sip a nice cocktail by the pool. Let the picture speak for itself.

Eden-Beach-Club1
Eden-Beach-Club1

 Stay tuned for more tips about Dubai.. :)

Madrid, La ciudad que nunca duerme

Madrid is indeed the city that never sleeps; it is vibrant and always alive! This was my first time in Madrid and only two days to explore the city in and out, which was quite a challenge because Madrid has so much to offer. We made it but with a bit of organisation and research in advance.

Parque del retiro 

Parque del retiro 

Plaza Mayor 

Plaza Mayor 

I’ll share with you the must see places, my favorite spots and some fun facts to take with you into consideration when visiting this beautiful Spanish Capital.

What to see?

Madrid is charming, with so many corners to explore and beautiful architecture to appreciate combining the medieval and contemporary. Wander around plaza Mayor or plaza de la cibeles, enjoy the sunshine in Parque del retiro, and make sure to enjoy the many cathedrals, churches and monuments. Try to avoid the main avenues and street, and keep walking in the hidden ones, if you want to experience the real charm.

What to do?

tartan roof
tartan roof
  • Rooftops: There are so many rooftops in Madrid, offering food or just drinks while enjoying the beautiful view. The rooftops might not be as high as the ones in Manhattan but that doesn’t make them less interesting. A nice one to try out is at the top of the Room Mate Oscár hotel. Another option is the Tartán Roof
  • Flamenco Show: There are so many flamenco shows that it can become confusing to choose. Normally you pay a entrance fee for the show along with a drink or dinner. The prices vary from 25 to 100 euros. We chose La taberna de Mister Pinkleton, located close to plaza san Mayor. The price is 25 euros for the show and a drink. The place was very authentic and cute, but the show wasn’t that impressive. It was more the atmosphere and vibe of the place that gave it a madrinian spirit. If you want something really fantastic I think you should go higher in price. Just make sure to check a few options before and donate forget the reservation. 
Hammam Al Andalus 

Hammam Al Andalus 

  • Hammam Al Andalus: By far the best hammam and spa that I have ever experience. A real oasis in the middle of the city that allows you to immerse yourself in the past through the beautiful architecture and aromas. Choose the complete package, where you will have the bath and massage, and they also offer student discount. I would recommend going there during the day, as it can be very packed in the evening.

Where to eat?


    Tenconten restaurant and bar: this restaurant is located in the fashionable Salamanca district and is always very busy, so make sure to reserve beforehand. It is modern, pleasant and serving high quality food. Highly recommended for dinner!

Fun yet important Spanish facts

Most small shops and restaurants are closed during the afternoon (siesta time), so either you go in the morning or afternoon :) Monday is a resting day in Spain, so some of the places will also be closed!

Where to eat in Bahrain?

I’ve spent the last two weeks in Bahrain, wandering around and exploring new places. Many of the get together and activities that you organize with people over there revolve around eating. The options in Bahrain are unlimited, but when it comes to eating it’s rare to find a place where both the space and the food is good. I therefore decided to make a list of a few of my favourite places, all very different from one another. Each one of them is given a title that represents the place with a short description.

1. The traditional

Saffron

Saffron

Saffron

Saffron

Street Art

Street Art

It’s called Saffron and it is located in the traditional old soul in Muharraq, in a corner away from the crowd. The space is built like the old houses in Bahrain and has both seating inside and out. The waiters are dressed in traditional Bahraini clothes and the vibe is so relaxing and peaceful. I recommend trying their breakfast together with saffron milk. Delicious!

2. The Artsy

Situated in the heart of Adliyah, this small space reminded me of the cafés and galleries in Europe or New York. Al Riwaq café/Art Space is an original place and one of a kind in Bahrain. It is a non profit institution that promotes local contemporary art and design. Because of it's very nice decor and calm vibe, It is a great place to enjoy reading a book or working. You can also go their with friends over a nice meal, fresh juices or dessert. The cafe is situated in the same building as the Art Gallery.

Al Riwaq Cafe 

Al Riwaq Cafe 

Al Riwaq cafe 

Al Riwaq cafe 

Al Riwaq Cafe 

Al Riwaq Cafe 

3. The outdoor Garden

There are plenty of outdoor restaurants and cafés in Bahrain, but not all of them offer a nice setting and vibe. I’ve tried many different ones, and none of them really caught my attention until I found this one. The Orangery is a Tea Room/patisserie located in Adliyah, right next to the Palace Boutique Hotel. My first impression was very positive; I felt that I wasn’t really in Bahrain, but in a heavenly garden somewhere. The place is isolated from everything that has to do with traffic, noise, crowd and you feel that it is a small oasis in the middle of the city. If you go there, you must try their labneh with red fruits and honey, it is absolutely delicious! Been dreaming about it ever since.

L'Orangerie 

L'Orangerie 

L'Orangerie 

L'Orangerie 

L'Orangerie 

L'Orangerie 

4. Moulin Rouge inspired

Inspired by the French Moulin Rouge, Café Lilou has two locations in Bahrain; one in Adliyah and one next to Aali Mall. The interior is designed as a typical Parisian Brasserie taking us back to "la belle époque". The menu is very nice and offers a wide range of selection, a choice for every taste. Ever since it opened in Bahrain this place has been really crowded, with 45min to 1 hour waiting list. On weekends it is not possible to make table reservations, so I highly recommend to go there a weekday for breakfast if you want to avoid the waiting time.

5. The Fancy Pancy

tea-club-
tea-club-
tea club
tea club

Located in the heart of Amwaj, Tea Club is what I would call a mini palace with a royal yet tranquil ambiance to it. The food is a bit on the expensive side, so if you want to keep it on the budget then I would recommend to order a cup of their unlimited choice of tea and some nice dessert. The location is beautiful, right by the waterfront in Amwaj. 

Hope you enjoyed reading, and will be inspired whiny visit Bahrain :)