Europe is a vacation that most people dream about, from the Swiss Alps to the ocean waves in Malta or the quaint cafes around each corner, there is a little something for everyone. However, with such a variety of activities it can be hard to know what to do, where to go, or even how to pack for your trip. That’s where I come in. I recently just did my first trip to Europe and I was definitely not as prepared as I could have been. I have taken note of things I would recommend to future newbies so that you all don’t have to struggle your way through like me.
The most important thing that I took away from my trip is to buy a big backpacking backpack and backpack your way through Europe. I decided to glam-pack. I brought my suitcase and purse, which I thought would be fine because that is what I have done on all my other trips. My oh my, did I underestimate the cobblestone. It is EVERYWHERE. You will never not have cobblestone streets in Europe and rolling a fifty-pound suitcase across the cobble stone to catch the train to your next city is not ideal. In fact, it is quite exhausting and that is not what we want to spend our energy on while on vacation.
The cobble stone isn’t the only obstacle with using a wheeled suitcase. Don’t forget about the stairs that often to lead to the metro lines. You will have to drag your bag down to the train platform and back up again. It doesn’t sound that horrible, but often times you’ll have to transfer train lines which means that you’ll have multiple stair cases to haul that bag up and down. Unless you’re craving a good workout, I would suggest ditching the suitcase.
Buy the backpack. It seems like a hassle, but you’ll thank me for it later.
As you’re searching for your backpack to bring on your adventure, search for comfortable shoes. I decided to be all cute because all over Instagram you see girls and guys dressing like they are hitting the New York Fashion Week runway. I learned really quickly that being cute was not the best idea. I had packed a new pair of flats because they were so precious and would make so many outfits look just adorable. What isn’t adorable is the scars that I will have on my ankles from the blisters I got walking around Paris all day in shoes that were not broken in.
Tip number two, wear comfortable shoes or at least break in all of your shoes before trying to get the best Insta pics.
While grabbing those comfy shoes make sure you pick out versatile outfits. Things that you will be able to wear again and mix and match with other clothing items. Solid colored tops that you can layer with sweaters, jackets, and scarfs make for the perfect items to pack. They can be worn again with different layers and look like a completely different outfit. No one will know that you wore that shirt three days ago in a different country.
Lastly, go in with an open mind and be flexible. With so many things to do and see it will be hard to see everything you want to on your first trip. Keep an open mind. It isn’t the end of the world if you miss one sight. Hopefully you’ll be back in your lifetime. Being flexible is key to a successful trip. If something is closed that day, come up with a backup plan and don’t think twice. You don’t have a lot of time, so why waste it being upset or wishing you were doing something else?
The island that most couples dream of walking hand in hand down the stairs next to the white houses, or in my case walking down with five of my closest friends and that was pretty great too.
There are taxis to take if you need transportation, but the more fun way of getting around the island is to rent ATVs. You can rent an ATV for 20 euro + 10 euro for gas for the entire day. Which isn’t a bad deal for 24 hours of use. You’ll get helmets and learn how to drive the ATVs. Once you’re on the road you are a normal vehicle. You will be required to drive the speed limit and cruise along like the other cars. At first, you might be a little overwhelmed, but after about ten minutes you’ll be on such an adrenaline rush that you won’t even realize that a big tour bus is zooming past you. You’ll begin to see it as the normal.
Take your ATVs to the red sand beach. The beach will take a roughly a 10 minute hike to get to from the parking lot. The hike is not strenuous or difficult, so don’t worry, you can show up in your beach attire and be just fine! If you go in October, the water will be a bit chilly, but if you love playing in the waves, then nothing can stop you right? After your day at the beach, if you’re in need of a little snack or drink there is a stand in the parking lot to fulfill your food and drink needs. No need to pack an entire cooler if you don’t want to.
After relaxing by the beach and soaking in some Vitamin D, get dressed and ready for some wine tasting. Make a reservation ahead of time, so that they know you are coming and can be prepared for you. Check out Gaia Wines in Kamari, Santorini. A small, local winery right on the ocean. The price is cheap, but the wine isn’t. If you’re a little hungry, they have appetizer plates ready to order.
After wine tasting, hop back on those ATVs (only if you are not feeling intoxicated from the wine) and drive carefully to a nice dinner. There are many places to go that will have wonderful food. Wherever you go, order tzatziki bread and stuffed peppers at least once. You will not be disappointed. A restaurant that serves delicious food quickly is Ladokolla, located in Fira Town. If you wander around the little outdoor shops first, you may even get yourself a coupon for a free drink, and who doesn’t love free things?
On day two register for a tour of the volcanic thermal pools and the volcano hike. The tour will be by boat and will leave out of the old town port. There are multiple tour companies, so find one that you would like best. Often times, your hotel or hostel will have connections with the tour companies.
The first stop is the volcanic thermal pools. You will jump out of the boat (or step into the water via the ladder, whichever you’re more comfortable with) and swim to the thermal pools. The water is quite chilly on the swim over, but once in the pools you will warm up just enough that you are even colder on the swim back. But, don’t let the water temperature stop you from jumping in and exploring the views. Life is all about adventure and going outside of comfort zones, right?
Once everyone is all dried off and, in the boat, you will head over to the Thera volcano. You will have roughly an hour and thirty minutes to walk to the top of caldera and look around. There is a lot to explore on the top and many fabulous photo opportunities for your Instagram. You will have wonderful views of the bay where the boat you rode on is stationed. The water is a beautiful mix of teal and sea foam green. It is one of the most beautiful sights of the day.
Once you are back on dry land, head back to your hotel to get changed into a cute, chic outfit for the sunset at Oía. This is what everyone thinks of when they think of Santorini. White buildings piled on top of the water’s edge, light blue roof tops, bright pink flowers, orange sunsets, little shops located throughout to purchase little trinkets of Greece. The beauty of Oía is truly breathtaking. The modern, yet cozy feel of the buildings is one like no other. It is a must see on your trip to Santorini.
The island that most couples dream of walking hand in hand down the stairs next to the white houses, or in my case walking down with five of my closest friends and that was pretty great too.
If you take a trip to Italy, then you should take the quick flight to Malta. Malta is an independent island not far from southern Italy. It is quite small, but also has two other islands that can be reached by roughly 3o minute ferry rides. If you only have one full day in Malta I suggest jumping on a ferry and heading over to Gozo. The ferry ticket is 5 euro for a round trip ticket—so cheap. You’d almost be foolish to not go.
Top three things to do in Gozo for the day:
1. Blue Hole
Hop in a taxi and head to the Blue Hole. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you may have already heard of this area. This is where the beloved Azure Window resided. Unfortunately, the window collapsed in 2017, but you can still see where the rock formation would have been. Next to the Azure Window is the Blue Hole. And it sounds exactly like what it is. A giant deep hole in the water that has the deepest shades of blue and the brightest turquoise you’ve ever seen. You will see people scuba diving in there because that is how deep it is. While standing on top, staring down, you will have the urge to jump. I definitely did, but all my friends were too worried for me. Looking at the hole, there does not appear to be too many rocks, so jump out far if you and you’ll be in the clear. Make sure there are no scuba divers before you jump because we don’t need any tragedies.
2. Inland Sea
After you have enjoyed your time staring out into the Blue Hole, take a walk to the Inland Sea. On your way there, you will pass by salt pans. They are massive and pretty to look at. There are only a handful of them, so keep your eye out so that you don’t miss them.
Once at the inland sea, be brave and head into the cold water. It will take your breath away in the beginning, but once you’re in you’ll warm up (hopefully). Start swimming towards the cave. You can swim all the way through the cave if you would like. However, you must be careful if you do. There are boat tours for 4 euro that go through the entire cave. Therefore, the waves in the cave are big and the walls are narrow. Which means if you’re swimming and a boat comes through, then you might not have a place to go and the waves might toss you against the sharp rock. Swim with caution in this area.
I know it sounds scary, but definitely swim to the middle of the cave. There is a big, semi-flat rock to stand on and you can admire the walls and the beauty of the cave. Parts of the walls have crystalized into a purple tint due to the minerals in the water. And how often do you get to say that you swam in a cave? Take the adventure and dive in!
3. Ramla Bay
After finishing your swim, hop into another taxi and head to Ramla Bay. This a nice beachy area where you can soak up some sun on the soft sand or take dip in the ocean waves. Once you have warmed up from laying in the sand, look to the right side of the beach and you will see a rock formation with a hole on top.
Start the trek upwards. The walk up to the hole will take roughly 3o minutes and is easy for an experienced hiker and only medium difficulty for a newbie. Either way, walk with caution as some of the rocks will slip and slide under your feet. At the top, you will find a massive hole in the rocks, with a bench to sit on. The views are spectacular. You get a view of the entire beach and ocean. While standing up there, you will be amazed at what this earth can produce. It truly is amazing.
At this time, it might be getting close to sunset and dinner time. So, hop on your ferry back to Malta and head to dinner. There are many restaurants on the coastal line with outdoor seating to watch the sunset while you eat dinner. After dinner, head on over to a gelato store and get a scoop or two. The blueberry flavor is refreshing and will be the perfect dessert for your post dinner snack.
Again, you’re on a time budget so you only get one day in each major city. Things to do, food to eat, adventures to be had:
You need to take a day to Venice because as a city on water, it may not be around for long. Once in Venice, start with a ferry ride over to Burano. Burano is a small fishing village off the coast of Venice made up of 7,000 people. The boat ride is roughly 40 minutes, but it is definitely worth the ride. First off, the views while on the boat are gorgeous. Seeing Venice from the water is magical. Harbors around every curve, buildings glistening in the sun, couples walking hand in hand with gelato in their other. Once you’re off the boat in Burano your eyes are hit with vibrant buildings. Every single one is colored. Not a classic tan or gray house in sight. Instead, you’re blessed with pink—hot and light, blue—baby and royal, purple, yellow, green, red. Every color of the rainbow is seen on the houses and buildings. You cannot walk around the village and be upset because the colors are so bright and cheery with sidewalk seated restaurants.
After you’ve explored Burano (it really only takes an hour or two, unless you decide to have a sit-down meal) head back to Venice and walk toward the Grand Canal for sunset. Climb up on the bridge and take in the views of the sun kissing the river while the sky heats up in hues of red and orange.
You definitely need a day to visit the ever fantasized about city of Rome. The history, the beauty, the wonder of the city calls anyone and everyone there to explore. First things first, head over Vatican City—the smallest country in the world because it is independent of the country of Italy. So, grab your marker and add to the number of countries you’re visiting on this trip!
It is best to buy tickets for the Vatican beforehand. You buy them online and can either pay for the three-hour guided tour or you can pay to simply skip the line to get in. If you don’t pay for either of these, you will stand in line for hours waiting your entrance into the Vatican. And you don’t want to waste your precious time standing in line. Once you are in the Vatican City, tickets in hand, you’ll head to your meeting point. You’ll either meet your guide for the tour or you’ll meet your guide that will bring you to the front of the line.
If you are a history buff and want to learn many details about the Vatican, then I suggest doing the guided tour. However, if you just want to wander around where you please and admire the work without someone talking your ear off, then I suggest the skip the line ticket. With the skip the line ticket you still have access to the Sistine Chapel.
Upon walking into the Sistine Chapel, I was overcome with awe at the beauty and detail of the paintings by Michelangelo. If you look up, you will see the painting that is considered the most famous in the Chapel. The Creation of Adam depicts two gentlemen reaching out and touching fingers. In this painting, God is giving life to the first man—Adam.
After you have exited the Chapel, begin your journey to the Colosseum. You have the option to pay to enter the Colosseum and see the stadium in its glory or you can simply walk around it and imagine the gladiators fighting on the inside. I chose to walk around 1 of 7 wonders of the world. The size, durability, and grace that the building holds made me stand still for several moments. Staring at the building thinking about the brutal and deathly events that went on inside, but you would never know from staring at the peaceful building from the outside. It really is a wonder of this world because it has lasted all these years and is still just as mesmerizing as it was in the beginning.
After admiring the Colosseum, walk towards the Trevi Fountain. There will be crowds, but wait your turn to get up there and toss your coin in. Notice: the fountain is farther away than it looks. You might miss your first time – I did, but that’s okay but I got it on my second time. Wishes still come true if the coin doesn’t hit water, right?
After a busy day of walking and admiring all the sights, walk the Spanish steps to sit down and reflect on your day. You’ll be among other tourists who are doing the same thing and it’ll feel like a nice little community of relaxation and appreciation.
Last but most importantly, it’s dinner time! Just a five-minute walk away from the Spanish steps is Ristorante 13. Head on over there and order the pumpkin gnocchi or the fine herb risotto. The flavors will explode as the food melts in your mouth and you can wash it down with a glass or two of wine. And for dessert, the beloved gelato at the many shops placed around Italy. You will not be disappointed in the smoothness and abundant flavor choices.
Another city to hit in Italy if you’re on a bit of a budget is Naples. You will have the coast line and cute little city streets like in Amalfi or Positano, but of course at a much cheaper price. I had one full day in Naples so I decided to hike. A couple friends and I took a taxi to Bomerano. In Bomerano, you will find the trailhead for a hike called Path of the Gods. This hike will take you from Bomerano to Positano. You will walk through rocks, see the coast line, make your way through some trees, and see some horses walking the trail as well. The views get better with each turn. As far as difficulty goes, the hike itself is not bad. A tiny bit of rock climbing and some small inclines here and there. The most difficult part of the hike is to 2,000-2,500 man-made steps down to the road of Positano. If you do not regularly work out, your calf muscles may begin to shake. But once you’re down to flat ground and can shake them out, they will go back to normal.
Upon reaching the main road, you have a couple of options. First, you can buy a bus ticket and head to Amalfi coast. Secondly, you can walk the 3 miles on the road to get to the heart of Positano and the beach. Or you can take a bus to the center of Positano. Thirdly, walk about a mile down the road towards Positano and find numerous cozy restaurants on the sidewalk that have stunning views of the colorful houses nestled up against the water. If you start the hike during the morning, you will have enough time to hike it back out. However, I started at 2 pm and after dinner at Bruno (a lovely restaurant overlooking the coast) it was dark outside. Therefore, we hopped a bus back to Naples to avoid the 2,500 stairs back up and hiking in the dark isn’t very safe. So, if you stay late, I suggest buying a bus ticket.
Italy is a country that you could spend an entire month in and not see all of the sites. There is so many beautiful things to do, so do your research and plan your time carefully because there are many things to see and do. But I am sure that you’ll be back one day to finish what you started on your first trip.
You are on a time budget, but desperately want to go to Africa to check another continent off the bucket list. What do you do in Morocco if you only have two days?
Take a day trip to Marrakech. You can rent a taxi driver for the day so that you don’t have to worry about how you’re getting back to your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb. In Marrakech you can do an hour-long camel ride with a pit stop a local woman’s house where she will serve you Moroccan tea and crepes. You won’t be in the Sahara Desert as that takes more than two days to fully experience. However, you will be in a desert like area. It will be more like orange sand with rocks in it. Forget what the ground looks like, you can walk up and hug your camel and it won’t matter what part of the desert you’re in. Camels will try to snip at you if you interfere while they are eating, my friend learned the hard way. If you don’t bother them when they are eating, they are very kind animals that love ear scratches.
After camel riding, you can rent ATVs for one hour and cruise the backroads and barren landscape of Marrakech. If you’re an adrenaline junkie and enjoy going fast and making sharp turns, then this is for you. You’ll get helmets and some warm up time to feel comfortable, but after that you better keep with the guide and enjoy the ride.
Once you’ve accomplished your riding and driving for the day, head over to a local Moroccan restaurant and order couscous and tajine. You better go with a big appetite because the portions are served family style and they could feed a small village.
On your second day in Morocco, head to Rabat-- a city on the costal line. On your way to the coast you can pass through the Kasbah of the Udayas. The Kasbah was used as a defensive tactic back during war times. It is a collection of buildings without windows, where the leader would reside. You can now walk through and admire the building, local botanical gardens, and grab locally made sugar cane juice. There will be little shops spread out to purchase small souvenirs, or if you would like a henna tattoo there will be women waiting to design your hand or arm. Something to be cautious about—sometimes the ladies doing henna will grab your arm as you walk through the Kasbah and they will start drawing henna on your arm without permission. They do this so that you must pay for it, even if you did not want it. If you do not this to happen, keep your arms by your sides and do not stand around in front of them.
Then, head over to the Marrakech markets and stroll through the tiny shops of local teas, spices, clothing, jewelry, and food. My favorite finds from the market are a silver ring that I purchased for $6 and a pashmina scarf. The scarves come in nearly every color and style and the intricate detail in each one is immaculate.
If you walk along the coast you can find two-hour surfing lessons for $15. So, grab your wetsuit and run into the water with your board (it’ll probably be more of a walk because running with a surf board is a lot harder than the movies make it seem). You can attempt to surf like me or maybe you are more experienced, and you can ride the waves with your instructor. If you just want the board and wetsuit, that is cool too because your price will be less expensive.
After surfing, grab some Moroccan tea to warm up and some food before heading to the airport. Your time will fly by in this country because there is so many things to do and two days truly isn’t enough. If you’re anything like me, the second you leave you will begin planning your next adventure to Morocco to spend more time and explore the ins and outs of the beautiful cities and deserts.
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Welcome to the European version of the city that never sleeps. With clubs that stay open until 6am, restaurants that serve food at all hours of the day and night, and taxi drivers always around, this city has endless opportunity for some nightlife fun.
Before we get to night life, we need to explore the city sights first. A must see in Madrid is the Glass Palace. A beautifully constructed building made of, yes you guessed it, glass! You can look into the building and see the amazing detail. Typically, you can walk inside the building and admire the inner workings. Unfortunately, when I was there it was under construction, so we could only admire the building from the outside. Which was still simply stunning.
In the same garden area as the glass palace is a beautiful water fountain with a statue inside. Stop and take a look as you slowly walk around and enjoy nature. If you would like, you can rent a little canoe and paddle your way through the pond. It is quite a romantic little date for you and a loved one if that is who you are traveling with. Or a fun experience with some friends.
After spending your day in the parks and walking around the city center, head to the Plaza Mayor at night time for dinner. Pick a restaurant with outdoor seating and heaters because believe me when I say you will get a little chilly at night. Your first night in Spain it is a must that you order a pitcher of Sangria and paella. Both are found nearly everywhere in Spain and incredibly delicious. So, you would be silly not to try it at least once on your trip.
Next up, let’s dive into the culture of Spain and head to a flamenco show. If you go online to Groupon or Google, you will find many shows in Madrid for Flamenco. You have the option to have dinner at the show, but with so many yummy restaurants to try it out you might want to do dinner before to get a full experience of the city. At most Flamenco shows you will receive a complimentary drink of choice. Sipping on a drink and watching traditional dancing, sounds like an amazing night! The dancing is accompanied by singing as well, and the beauty and passion of the dancers and singers is moving. It is easy to tell that they deeply love their culture and are doing this because they enjoy it, not simply for the money.
After Flamenco, you are ready for the night life of Madrid. If you want to experience the night life of Madrid, make sure that you are well rested because you will be up for most of the night. There are many smaller local bars that are getting the pregame ready around 10pm, but once the night gets going you will move to a club to dance all night. If you stay a hostel, chances are that they host pub crawls every night where they will take you two bars and one club with free entrance and drinks at each stop for an upfront fee of around 15 euro at the hostel. These pub crawls will begin at midnight. If your hostel isn’t going while you are there, make sure you make the trip to Teatro Barceló. This is a three-story club that closes at 6am. The entrance fee is 18 euro and includes a free drink with premium liquor. The club has upbeat dance music, and everyone is happy and having fun. You will meet people from all of the world that are out to dance their night away. Another club that is legendary in Madrid is Teatro Kapital. This club has seven floors. Essentially, it is a bigger better version of Teatro Barceló. If your hostel isn’t planning a trip there while you are in town, it would be worth finding your own transportation there.
The day after a night of clubbing, the most important thing is obviously food. Head over to my favorite restaurant in Madrid, Bresca. Their tigella’s are out of this world. The bread is warm and soft (who doesn’t love that?) and they have many options for toppings to put inside. There are also multiple vegetarian friendly options. Their lunch deal is one that you shouldn’t miss. For 11.50 euros you can get two tigellas, an entree of the day (they will tell you those on the day you go) a drink, and a dessert. The amount of food that you receive for your money is one of the best in Madrid and the quality of the food and service is immaculate.
You’re backpacking through Europe, or in my version glam-packing because I cannot fit all my clothes into a backpack, and you find yourself in Paris, but with only three days. You’re not sure what exactly to do because there is so much, and everyone has told you different things to do. So here I am to tell you more things to see, but ultimately the choice is up to you. Here is the list of my sights to see during your short time in a beautiful and busy city.
1. Eiffel Tower
I’m sure you didn’t see that one coming (kidding—it’s the center of the entire city). My first day I landed in Paris, I checked into my hostel and headed for the Eiffel Tower. In my mind, I didn’t think that I would be impressed. Too crowded, too touristy, too cliché. It may be all of those things, but it is also jaw-droppingly beautiful and peaceful. Stand underneath the Tower and look up. The intricacy of the architecture will have you awe struck. However, if you’re not one for architecture (if so, then Europe might be the wrong place for you) wait until just after sunset. The best time to visit the Eiffel Tower is roughly 40 minutes before the sun sets. You will be able to gaze at the Tower and its reflection on the Seine River. There will also be shops with souvenirs, crepes, wine or beer, and abundant people watching to pass time while the sun colors the sky pink and orange.
Once the sun has set the lights begin to appear on the Tower. At first slowly, then all at once. And suddenly, in the dead of darkness you’ll be staring at a tall building with years and years of history, twinkling in lights. If you think that is the best it will get, just you wait. At the top of every hour the Tower puts on a little show for you. For a minute every light begins to dance and dazzle in the night sky. The first time I saw it, I literally stopped in my shoes and stared in amazement at this unique building.
2. Church of Notre Dam
Religious or not, the Church of Notre Dam is a cannot miss experience while in Paris. The architecture of the building holds a story in itself. The edges of the building have gargoyle sculptures, at first, you’ll think that it is beautifully designed and that it adds history to the building. Which is true, however, once you learn more about it, you’ll realize that those sculptures are there to cover up the rain gutters. The designers thought that having rain gutters sticking out would make the building appear less sophisticated, therefore, placing gargoyle sculptures to hide the mundane look of gutters.
Once inside the church, you’re able to see the stain glass windows in their beauty. Streaks of colored sunlight dances through as a Priest gives his sermon in French. At first, I felt uncomfortable because I felt like I was disturbing the sermon by walking around and admiring the artwork. It appeared disrespectful to me at first because there was so much background noise, while people were trying to listen to a sermon that holds great importance in their lives. However, after standing there for a little while longer and observing my surroundings, it appeared that my presence, along with the other tourists, did not bother those listening. No one turned their heads, instead, they were focused on absorbing the scripture that they came for.
3. The Louvre
Museums are not for everyone, but even if they are not for you, you need to make the trip to the Louvre. As you might know already, this is where the beloved Mona Lisa resides, and she nearly has an entire room to herself. She’s a pretty big deal because she has security guards and there is a rope to make sure that people don’t get too close. Wouldn’t that be nice?
All jokes aside, give the Mona Lisa a visit. There will be crowds, but while you wait to get closer to her you can admire the painting of two dogs on the wall adjacent to the Mona Lisa. And who doesn’t love paintings of dogs? It’ll make the time go faster.
Make sure you stop by the Egyptian exhibit on your way out because there is a mummy that is waiting for your company. In this exhibit there are tombstones, mummies, and artifacts from hundreds of years ago from a part of our world that the average human doesn’t know a whole lot about. At least I didn’t, so I was in awe at the history in this exhibit.
4. Luxembourg Gardens
If you’ve been walking miles each day to see all the sights, then I am sure you’re a little exhausted by now. Head over to Luxembourg Gardens and pick yourself a bench or a piece of grass to sit on. Bring some snacks, soak in the sun, and talk with your travel buddies. The day might not seem like much, but you might end up making some of your favorite memories. If you’re not tired yet, add some more steps to your day and take a walk through the park. You can enjoy the views of water fountains, ponds, and people soaking in their Vitamin D.
5. Love Lock Bridge
Although it doesn’t exist anymore, the Love Lock bridge by the Seine River is a stop that needs to be made. Standing on the bridge you have beautiful views of the river, with reflections of the buildings kissing the water’s edge. On the lamp posts there are remnants of the locks that did not get taken off. You will see initials and hearts scribbled on the locks and be reminded of what used to be here. Standing on the bridge admiring the views, brings a feeling of warmth to your heart as you imagine couples from all walks of life attaching their locks and throwing their keys. Forever forging their love story in Paris. The locks might not be there, but there is still lots of love to have. The city of love still stands strong, even if the bridge doesn’t show it anymore.
6. River Boat Tour
If you’re not a fan of walking miles outside to each destination or you don’t want to go into the museums because you care more about looking at the views, then a river boat tour is for you. You can catch a river boat tour about every thirty minutes down by the Eiffel Tower. The tour is one hour long and costs fifteen euros. The tour will take you past the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, famous bridges, and many more important sights in Paris. The guide will explain the history of each one, so you’ll get a little history lesson while you’re relaxing and enjoying the views.
You’d think after millennia of people traveling, not to mention how quickly the world has shrunk with access to the Internet, that we would have seen it all.
But here are four beautiful and intriguing highlights from places that might not be as familiar. If you’d like a full list from National Geographic of the best trips for 2018 – some familiar, some not – check it out here
If you’re craving a break from busy-ness and noise, Haida Gwaii will give you the silence you’re longing for. A 180-mile-long archipelago off the coast of British Columbia is the ultimate getaway for nature lovers. May-September is the summer season, with more tourist services available, and a greater chance of seeing spectacular wildlife like the Orca migration. But if you’re into surfing, try October-May for the best waves.
To get a feel for what life was like for the Vikings, hop a ferry from Denmark or Iceland and check out the Faroe Islands. Located about 400 miles off the coast of Northern Europe and accessible by flights and ferries year-round, the Faroe Islands are ringed with dramatic green cliffs that plunge into the ocean, sparkling bays, and breathtaking Nordic scenery. In the city of Gjógv, stay in an authentic sod-roofed hotel and take hikes up into the mountains with a spectacular view of the gorge below. Go in July or August for mild temps and long days.
A hidden travel gem lies in the Western Baltics, which is already a somewhat-unknown region that is brimming with breathtaking scenery and a proud cultural heritage. The Via Dinarica is a year-round adventurer’s wonderland. Love gorgeous summer hikes and biking tours? May-September, this trail stretches through 1,200 miles of varied terrain and eight different countries. If you’re into skiing and snowshoeing, hit the Via Dinarica from January to mid-March for a pristine wonderland. Stay in remote mountain shelters, or immerse yourself in centuries-old tradition by staying with local host families.
We see a lot of Japan’s bustling cities, its towering skyscrapers, its industry, its bright lights. But if you’re interested in reclining into the contemplative heart of Japan, seek out Koyasan, a pristine monastic complex two hours south of Osaka by train and the seat of Japanese Shingon Buddhism. Many temples here offer guest rooms, and you can get a feel for what monastic life is like in the lush, misty mountain interior. Savor the simple flavors of clean Buddhist eating, take in morning rituals, or hike by lantern and moonlight along winding green mountain paths. After the intense and amazing sensory experiences that the large urban areas of Japan provide, Koyasan really is the perfect retreat into silence, simplicity, and mystery.
One of the many reasons I love what I do as a travel agent is that there is just so much to see, to take in, and to learn. We all have the amazing opportunity to launch out into new places, to find some new adventure that will change us forever — and I love getting to be a part of that process.
If you’re feeling that pull to places that are new to you, contact me today and let’s start planning your next adventure!
Vacations, even simple weekend getaways, can be full of adventure — that’s part of the great appeal, after all — but if you value a delicious, high-quality meal along with your adventure, then check out these four apps for different travel needs that can direct you to the best places to savor a great meal.
Make the most of your trip and the food you enjoy while on your next adventure! Give one (or more!) of these apps a try and let me know what you think. And don't forget, you can always contact your travel agent for any questions about food before and during your trip!
Every time we decide to walk out our front door, we’re taking a risk. Seasoned travelers know this. They also know that in most cases, the risks pale in comparison to all there is to gain from getting out and seeing the wide world.
Many travelers have been concerned about recent reports of the Zika virus. While we don’t know everything there is to know about Zika, your best defense is the best information. Here’s a brief rundown of what we know, where you can go to get the latest info, and how you can keep yourself healthy while traveling.
What we know
Zika is a virus that is contracted through Aedes mosquito bites, and it can be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. It has also been shown to be spread through unprotected sexual contact, through blood transfusions with infected blood, and (very rarely – only once reported in 2016) through a laboratory/healthcare environment. Epidemiologists are working to explain other possible modes of transmission.
During the first week of being infected, the virus can be found in that person’s blood; if a mosquito bites the infected person, the mosquito can then spread it to another person via another bite. (For details on transmission and prevention, read the CDC’s latest info here or the World Health Organization’s here).
There currently is concern about the affect of Zika on the fetuses of pregnant women. While much is still unknown about all the possible effects of Zika on unborn babies, here is what the CDC is currently recommending for pregnant women in any trimester who in or are considering traveling to areas affected by Zika. If you are pregnant and have travel plans, be sure to talk to your physician.
There currently is no vaccine for the Zika virus. Symptoms are usually flu-like — fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) — and may last a week or more. Most people who are infected never even have symptoms. The virus stays active in the bloodstream for about a week, sometimes longer, before a person is no longer contagious (via mosquito bite transmission). Hospitalizations and death are extremely rare.
Where to get the best information about Zika and travel
It’s common for certain media platforms to create elevated levels of panic around outbreaks like these. Your best bet is to have reliable, medically-based sources to go to in order to get the most clear, scientifically-backed, and up-to-date information possible.
For specific travel notices regarding areas of the world where Zika has been found, here are the latest CDC travel updates. In addition, you can check the U.S. State Department or the Public Health Agency of Canada for current information.
As your travel consultant, I am always here to advise you if you have any concerns about upcoming trips we are planning for you. I stay up to date on the most current information and can also reach out to your destination resort and ask what the plan is to avoid any incidents while on property.
How to stay healthy while traveling abroad
Before any trip you want to make sure you are up to date on any required vaccines. If you take medications, make sure you have enough for the duration of your trip. And if you need any special accommodations — wheelchair access, for example — be sure to tell your travel agent so he or she can alert the staff at your destination(s) to ensure you get the best care possible.
In addition, if you want to have a resource in place to cover any emergencies or unexpected medical expenses, it’s a great idea to purchase travel insurance. Depending on the plan, insurance can pay for doctor’s visits and any necessary medications while traveling.
As always, look to level-headed sources for your information. Check the numbers. Often, the total infections pale in comparison to the millions of people that travel every day. Assess the real risk, and make an informed decision from there.
As your travel agent, I make it a priority to stay current on all health and safety issues, and I invite you to ask as many questions as you need to!
Amazing Travel Teams
We are member of Absolutely Amazing Travel team. We love to travel and share our stories to help our clients to fulfill their vacation dreams come true.
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