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Amalfi Coast Summer. From Salerno to Sorrento

Are you an adventure seeker? Personally me, I’m not. Are you someone who prefers to stay home and cook something delicious to consume it in front of the TV? For sure, not me. But from time to time, I feel like either of these. And then imagine, I have to plan a week of vacations for three so different people! So, I’m going to reveal now how to plan a week of Amalfi coast vacations to please all the different tastes. A ready to use Amalfi itinerary below!

 

Day 0 and Day 1. Where to stay on Amalfi coast – Amalfi, Maiori, Vietri sul Mare or Salerno?

 

What I call ‘day 0’ is the arrival. And in our case, it was really a zero-pleasure day and night. Delayed for almost 3 hours flight to Naples, as a result – a missed shuttle bus. And therefore, a 150 EUR taxi drive instead of 45 for 3 people by airport shuttle. I was calming myself down saying that life will compensate this disappointment for sure. But what happened later is a carsick sister, completely destroyed by hillside driving ‘a la Italiana’. Well, the most important thing is that at the end we happily ended up in our cozy Amalfi Airbnb villa in the middle of nowhere. But, oh dear, how long it took the driver to find it.

 

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view from our Airbnb 🙂

 

Tired of life, finally at home, and all of a sudden, our feet caught that Italian nighty restlessness. So, at 10:30 pm on a dark night we headed to almost nowhere, just because our Airbnb host said: ‘there is a pizzeria in the end of the village, and it might be still open’. And voila here we are after 30 min walking up the hill along the roadway we were rewarded by huge pizzas in one of the few restaurants in our village 😊

 

Next day I promised to be soft and let everyone sleep, without planning anything special for the day. So, the first day of our Amalfi coast vacations was dedicated to walks in the town, gathering information about boats and buses, introduction to the nearby beaches.

 

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Day 2. Amalfi coast hiking routes. Sentiero dei Limoni or the Lemons’ Pathway

 

Now the adventure begins. There are many hiking routes on Amalfi coast, actually you can spend a whole week on Amalfi coast hikes discovering the region by foot. There can’t be anything more beautiful to do in Amalfi. Just have a swimming suit in your backpack to have a beach break – you’ll spot many stairs leading down to beautiful azure waters of Tyrrhenian Sea.

 

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Oh, perhaps if it was a solo trip to costiera Amalfitana I would really do only hiking in Maiori, Minori and Sorrento))

 

Because I didn’t know a lot about the difficulty of routes mentioned on the web, I decided to start from the easiest one. Sentiero dei Limoni is a Maiori to Minori lemon walk. The path lays along the lemon plantations throughout the hills! As you can understand, locals in the old times, before the coastal road was built, used this route to commute on donkeys or by foot, to deliver lemons to the sales spots. It’s one of the most beautiful Maiori walks with lots of ups and downs, and obviously, even more stairs! But we did it to the extremes, really putting ourselves on a place of a typical Italian lemon-grower.

 

I couldn’t find a map of this route, only many recommendations and, actually, happy reviews. It’s easier to begin the route in Maiori, the starting point is clearer.

 

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Sentiero dei Limoni or Lemons’ Pathway guide:

  • Start at the Limonetum in Mairori (or navigate to the tourist office).
  • Take the Scala Santa stairs on Via Pedamentina. Pass the Maria e Mare Collegiate Church and turn right. Here you can fill your bottles with water. Let the route start as you are on the Via Vena!
  • Keep straight and follow the Sentiero dei Limoni waymarks. They are either very noticeable and made of tile, or just tiny lemon stickers on trees or poles.

Writing you directions for the route itself doesn’t make much sense. Advices like ‘turn right at the carob tree’ or ‘pass the huge laurel bush’ didn’t help me. After all, neither the carob, nor the laurel are eternal. Just don’t be afraid to get lost! Then it’s a real adventure, worst case, you’ll just go back and down. And remember: there are many locals, and other travelers you’ll meet on your way. All of the locals will be able to advise you the correct direction. Well, in getting lost I have firsthand experience.

 

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I said before that we really lived a day of an Amalfi lemon-grower. That’s because instead of keeping straight on our lemon way, I was sure that climbing up the stairs is the correct choice. So, we climbed the hill with lemon farms precisely up to the top, until there was nowhere to climb anymore. Then I remembered the farmer we met a bit before on our way, he was with donkeys, carrying lemons. He was my only hope, since going lower and taking another turn didn’t help either and took us to even wilder forest. Luckily, we heard the donkeys’ bells ringing nearby and our farmer wasn’t long in coming. That’s when he impressed me by saying that the plain, flat route much below us is the right one!

 

Everyone who passed the route on their own or with a guide without making our mistake will tell you that it’s an easy hike. I can confirm that if you are going to repeat my mistake, see the most impressive farms which stay hidden away from tourists, you will have a moderate to difficult hike. But that’s your choice, or the destiny’s! Whatever you choose, a hike on your own, without any guides is the real Amalfi lemon experience!

 

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Returning on the right track we finally started seeing the route indicators again, water taps and more stairs where matching the picturesque views in the best way. You will finish the hike in Minori, reaching the centre after overcoming another thousand of stairs down from the hill. That’s why I say it’s better to start in Maiori – the start point is not only clearer to find, but also begins less exhausting keeping your energy for later. And after all, this is where you should stop for a while to taste the famous Minori Limoncello. I’m telling more details regarding Minori and Maiori separately.

 

More hiking routes in Minori, Maiori, Ravello articles.

 

 

 

Day 3 – Cooking workshops in Sorrento. Amalfi – Sorrento bus

 

In this area workshops and any other ‘amalfitano’ experiences are quite pricy comparing to the rest of Italy I’ve been to. For example, a culinary class in Calabria was 35 EUR, here – you won’t find anything for less than 60 EUR. Well, tickets were bought, accommodation paid, I was already hooked by Amalfi, so nothing to do, but going for the other bills as well. And I decided that you haven’t been to Italy, if there was no culinary experience during the trip.

 

After long research I faced a dilemma of either booking via an agency when I wouldn’t know who would do the cooking class, or contacting a restaurant/cook directly, but then there is no organized transfer to the place. Still out of these two I prefer to struggle with the route, rather than a possibility of having a non-Italian as a chef teaching me to make pizza. So, my search got filtered more and at this stage I realized that unless you go to an ‘agriturismo’ (a country house, usually not easily reachable), there are cooking classes only in Sorrento. That’s how we ended up there, in the city of art!

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We booked two classes at Old Taverna Sorrentina – a pastry and a pizza making class. And because you are supposed to eat what you cook I was precautious and placed them on different days. After all, it’s a better idea to pay, learn and eat, rather than just pay and eat as in a restaurant.

 

The organizers of the workshop are a typical Italian couple, where the man is the Chef, but the woman is the strict accountant of his generosity. It was very funny to observe them, felt like watching an old Italian comedy. Guigliermo, the Chef, always tried to cook some more things, use more ingredients, while his wife always had to put him back into effective business running mode. So usual Italian family negotiations 😊

 

 

They have a cafeteria & gelateria on one of the central and touristy streets of Sorrento. And then a kitchen used for their cafeteria is also used for the workshops. Which is also interesting, when else would I end up on a professional restaurant kitchen?

 

The pastry workshop was intense. We learned making the Italian pastry cream, lemon cake, crema Chantilly, sponge cake, a lot of information about how & when to add lemon to your pastries, and, of course, tiramisu. It was a simple one with lady fingers in a martini glass. But again, masterpiece is in details, which we now know! Afterwards, as expected, we had to consume all prepared and even managed to take a lemon cake with us home 😊

 

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What about Sorrento? If you decide to go on holidays here, you will end up shopping every single day. There are too many shops of all kinds, both touristic with souvenirs and also designer boutiques. Staying at a secluded location helped us avoid spending on stuff. And guess what, 80% of the souvenirs and presents I bought during this day trip to Sorrento.

 

 

Day 4 – Amalfi – Salerno ferry. Pizza in Salerno. Amalfi Coast Boat Tour on a budget

 

I’d call it a relax by the sea. Of course, it didn’t go that smooth and plans always get adjusted on the way. But not all is simple here. The only way of commuting had to be sea transport. So, I checked out Travelmar and the furthest destination to the East was Salerno. After a few hours there I planned to get a boat to Cetara (a traditional fishermen village on the coast). Then from Cetara either a stop in Maiori or Minori or getting a boat directly to Amalfi. The initial plan as following:

 

  • Amalfi to Salerno ferry arriving to Porto Turistico, next to Concordia train station. Obviously the boats are always full of people with suitcases going mostly to Naples by train from Salerno.
  • Salerno to Cetara boat
  • Cetara to Maiori or Cetara to Amalfi boat

 

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All schedules here and of course you can just simply take a Salerno Amalfi ferry to shorten the way back. I consider it as a budget version of a boat tour on Amalfi coast 🙂 All the real ‘tours’ would start at a 100 EUR price pp. With TravelMar, I guess, I didn’t spend more than 20 EUR per person.

 

Obviously, I planned to fry ourselves a bit on a beach in Salerno, but… Salerno appeared to be out of beach destinations. To clarify your doubts about this city I have to say it’s not worth staying here at all. Salerno is an industrial port, as a result, it’s more dangerous walking along the promenade at night, and even day time I felt some looks and intentions. The beach is industrial as well, you wouldn’t want to swim in that unclear water and non-romantic scenery. And besides that, going a bit more to the East, we found another public beach which wasn’t swimmable because of the stormy waves. That’s right, I have to mention that the sea in Salerno is always full of high waves. Which is the reason surfing being popular around, but not the beach life.

 

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At the same time, I discovered a beautiful beach just next to Salerno in Vietri sul Mare. But I already spoke about it in the beginning. So, if you are looking for beaches in Salerno, just take a boat or bus to Vietri!

 

Because of this we decided to use our time wisely and spend it on lunch. And another surprise was on its’ way. For the first time in our consumer lives we had a pizza with croquettes. Literally, 4 large croquettes on a pizza dough. The restaurant would be nice, but everything including my tuna salad was over salted. If you like salty, try it out – Pizzeria Saporito.

 

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A positive aspect of Salerno is its’ empty streets. I mean, you won’t have a problem taking a photo in front of its’ cathedral, trying to wake up early before other tourists do, so you have the stairs empty. Not this city. All the streets and cathedrals are yours. We even entered the Salerno cathedral with an ongoing wedding.

 

From Salerno we bought tickets for a boat to Cetara. It’s around 15 min. Getting closer to the little port of this village my cousin made a facial expression of the most unsatisfied person in the world, since she saw a small and crowded beach, which was additionally serving as a port. So, I did something very criminal. Knowing that the boat continues to Maiori and then to Amalfi, I told them to sit and act as we go to Maiori. At least I knew what beach to expect there! The difference in price is 2 EUR, so I don’t consider it as a big sin, bearing in mind how much I donated to the maritime business of the region during our Amalfi coast vacations in total.

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The evening finished on our much-loved beach in Maiori. With sunbeds and umbrellas being 3 EUR only. And a dinner in a hidden restaurant – for the first time here, my phone felt lost and couldn’t locate a place. The restaurant was La Tana del Luppolo and while the food was really good, I hated the service with all my heart. They had waiters which could only take an order, or the ones which were only supposed to take your empty plates away. This led me asking for something from a person who’s taking my plate and never getting what I asked for, so waiting for that one and only waiter who can take orders. Then we had to wait some 20 min to finally get the check, and basically the waiters were just rude.

 

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Again, the food made it worth visiting, all the meals were creative, and the plating was well done. The only remark I have is that shrimps fried in their shell were impossible to eat, I constantly had to clean them which made the dining experience less and less enjoyable.

 

Info:

 

More about restaurants in Maiori here.

 

Day 5 – The most beautiful town on Amalfi Coast. Ravello. Villa Rufolo. Frozen yoghurt and Ravello-Amalfi walk

 

I heard a lot about Ravello, and not from touristic sources. For people coming from the IT industry Ravello is related to a cloud-based software, which is named after the place where it was developed. In Ravello. After seeing a few photos of the town it’s easy to understand how people come up with industry changing ideas. Ravello is inspiring, perhaps in that blooming heaven your mind gets a better connection to the Universe to source creativity.

 

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So, we had a free day which I had to fill in with a nice town. It was either Ravello or Positano. Considering the vicinity of the first one, and the fact that’s it’s not a coastal location, we headed towards Ravello.

 

Once you find yourself in that bus going up and up to the hills through little, secluded countryside locations, green and shady, you literally want to press the stop button and say you go by foot, whatever it takes. Actually, at the end that’s what we did once we found out about the Ravello to Amalfi walk.

 

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I don’t like those Amalfi coast must sees, but despite the fact it being very touristy, Villa Rufolo in Ravello is a not to miss while on the coast. We didn’t take a tour, so I know little about the villa itself, besides the info on the brochure. Although its’ most charming part is far not the architecture, but the garden, maintained all through the long history by descendants of the original gardeners. Well, these famous Ravello gardens, such a colourful piece of land, inspired Wagner for the setting of the Klingsor in Parsifal. No surprise that everyone is in love with the garden ever since. By the way, for classical music lovers, the villa hosts a Wagnerian concert every year and generally impresses by the many artistic venues. More about Ravello events below 😉

 

Eating in Ravello & the secret Ravello – Amalfi walking path

Talking about Ravello as a town. I would live here, perhaps 😊 But, it would take a while to understand the decent places to eat – I’m not looking for expensive and posh places, just good food for reasonable price. I had some nice restaurants and cafeterias saved in my list for Ravello, but since it was Sunday, everything was closed, or didn’t exist anymore in this world. So, we ended up on the main square in Duomo Café Ravello. Their pastry looks very attractive, so maybe I ordered the wrong thing. But this was the worst tuna salad in my life so far. When you order a tuna salad you imagine it having some vegetables, corn, in Spain even boiled eggs and asparagus. Here it was plain salad leaves cut on small pieces and tuna, which was incredibly salty. And, of course, the price of this salad was something like 10 EUR. But I had a positive culinary experience in Ravello as well, about it below.

 

Ravello to Amalfi walk

 

From the top of the villa’s garden you’ll see an eye-catching cobblestone route. Find the starting point of this path when exiting the villa and turning on the left. There will be an amazing frozen yogurt shop (I recommend the plain one, without toppings) and following the path down the hill you’ll find those cobblestones. Where does it lead? Almost wherever you want! Amalfi, Atrani, Maiori, Minori, Scala, Castiglione. All these depending where you turn – left or right.

 

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We went to the right towards Amalfi, crossing Atrani. Just like the Lemons’ Path this is the old route connecting the towns, with stairs and lots of ups and downs. And again, as the previous staircase hike we took, this also opens unbelievable views in front of you. The sea always impresses more when you look from the top.

 

We walked along beautiful villas, cafeterias located in the middle of nowhere waiting for god knows whom to buy a coffee, abandoned houses and then we were disappointed by getting out on the roadway. Luckily if you cross the road you’ll find more route indicators taking you down the stairs, so we didn’t have to walk along the cars even for five minutes! At some point the path will take you to Atrani, where you can maybe have a longer break than we did. A beautiful little town, very similar to others on the coast of course, but choosing your favourite città is always a matter of taste. Our evening finished at the main square of Amalfi though with some aperol and prosecco. And then a late-night pizza in Pogerola at La Capannina, which I already mentioned above. This time we were impressed by a pizza covered with French fries on top of it.

 

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Useful info:

 

More about things to do in Ravello, restaurants and hotels here.

 

Day 6 – pizza cooking class in Sorrento. Recipes!

 

As promised we returned to Sorrento one more time before leaving the coast. This time a pizza cooking class waited for us in Sorrento and since we learned from our mistakes the last time, we had only a small breakfast before it. So first the chef explained us that there are only 2 types of pizza – good pizza and fast pizza.

 

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Pizza Toppings a la Napoletana

 

 

 

This mouthwatering feast was the last day of our trip. On our way back on the next day we had some troubles in the airport with Ryanair who charged us 100 EUR for exceeding 2 cabin bag sizes. I’ve never seen an airline checking your luggage in such a disgusting way. All of us had standard sized hardcase suitcases, so they couldn’t increase by us pushing in more things (actually we didn’t bough anything which would make our bags increase comparing to the flight to Napoli). However, as it happens with me second year in a raw, somehow, they let you fly in Italy without any checks, but once you are leaving, the importance of checking not only the height but also width of your bag somehow grows to extremes. You buy the priority ticket to have that small clutch hanging on you, you buy a seat, so you can stay together with your friends/relatives, and then they decide to charge another 100 EUR because such a ‘why not’.

Despite Ryanair flies to so many tempting destinations I promised never ever again get on board of their plane.

 

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macedonia travel itinerary

8 reasons to visit the Republic of Macedonia

The Macedonia travel itinerary below is kindly provided by Experience Balkan, an incoming tour operator for the Balkans and especially for the Republic of Macedonia. See their contacts at the bottom of the page, in case you are planning your Balkan holiday 🙂

***

 

Republic of Macedonia is a beautiful country settled on the central part of the Balkan Peninsula. It is still an unknown tourist destination, but it has lots of things to offer to its’ tourists. It is a small multi-colored piece of land, which attracts visitors with its natural beauty and tradition and these insignia, which leave a mark of recognition and singularity, are the reason why you should visit our country. The natural resources of Macedonia are interesting for adventurers and visitors who want to discover different countries. The beautiful lakes and the mineral baths are appealing for vacation and enjoyment. The mountains, decorated with different kinds of trees, but also with their mysterious caves, springs and picturesque waterfalls are a pleasure for everyone who wants to get away in the beauty of each season. Hundreds of churches and monasteries scattered around the country speak about the tradition forged in the stones and it is a real challenge to visit them all. The archeological excavations call all the passionate researchers of the past to tell their story covered with dust and soil. And about the gourmands, those who live to eat, the wealth of flavors is going to rapture them and fill them with longing for a new revival of that magic.

 

Macedonia travel itinerary tip #1

Rich history and land of archaeology

 

Through the centuries, Macedonia was a crossroad of many civilizations, and each one of them left traces of their existence. With more than 4000 archaeological localities, Macedonia is the land of archaeologists. Many invaluable artifacts and ancient cites are found all over the country. Found artifacts and their stories can be seen in the museums throughout Macedonia. The central museum, where you can see most of the artifacts is the Archaeological museum, in the capital Skopje. Built in 2014, the Archaeological museum has more than 6000 exhibits on three flоors.

 

archeology 1 - 8 reasons to visit the Republic of Macedonia

 

 

Macedonia travel itinerary tip #2

Ohrid and Ohrid Lake

 

The main tourist attraction in Macedonia is the city of Ohrid and Ohrid Lake. Ohrid Lake is one of the oldest and one of the deepest lakes in Europe, it is more than 4 million years old and 286 m deep. Also, Ohrid Lake is one of the lakes which has one of the clearest waters in the world. In these millions of years, more than 200 endemic species have developed inside the lake. The city of Ohrid is situated on the shores of Lake Ohrid. It has a rich cultural and historical heritage and is known as the Jerusalem on the Balkans because it once had 365 churches and was for a long time the center of Ohrid archbishopric. Ohrid is the city which was the center of Slavic literacy as well. When visiting Ohrid, you will see monuments, early Christian basilicas, medieval churches, fortresses and antique theaters, and they all provide magnificent views of the Ohrid Lake. Because of these historical and natural values, Ohrid and Ohrid Lake are part of the UNESCO cultural heritage.

 

ohrid - 8 reasons to visit the Republic of Macedonia

 

 

Macedonia travel itinerary tip #3

Macedonian food and wine

 

The Republic of Macedonia has a very rich wine tradition. Today,the Republic of Macedonia has 24.000 vineyards, all of which produce high-quality grapes. The Macedonian wine is of great quality and wine production is a large part of Macedonian export. Production of red wine dominates with around 80% of the total. Tourists can visit Macedonians wineries, where they may taste domestic wines and enjoy the beautiful landscapes. One of the biggest wineries are Tikvesh winery, Popovakula winery,Stobi winery, etc. The exclusive Macedonian wine contains a large number of ingredients that are found only in this country. The suitable climate of the country provides excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits. The most popular vegetables here are tomatoes and peppers, and the most famous delicacy in Macedonia is made from mixed peppers and is called “ajvar”. Macedonian cuisine is also known for the variety of dairy products and pork meat. If you visit Macedonia, you will no doubt enjoy its’ magnificent food and probably gain some weight!

 

food - 8 reasons to visit the Republic of Macedonia

 

Macedonia travel itinerary tip #4

Kokino Observatory

 

Kokino observatory is one of the oldest and biggest observatories in the world. It is located in the Staro Nagorichane municipality, around 30km from the city of Kumanovo. Situated between 1010 m and 1030 m altitude above the sea level, it is a remarkable archaeological site dating from the early Bronze Age. Recently, in 2009, an Iron Age settlement was also found in the area, pointing to the site being frequented even further back in antiquity. The observatory and the sacred site were first discovered in 2001 and ranked as the world’s fourth most important ancient observatory by NASA, listed together with Stonehenge in England, Angkor Watt in Cambodia and Abu Simbel in Egypt.

 

4 - 8 reasons to visit the Republic of Macedonia

 

Macedonia travel itinerary tip #5

Skopje – the capital of Macedonia

 

Skopje is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, and has a population of around one million. Before 2014, Skopje was not such an appealing tourist attraction. However, in 2014, with the implementation of the project “Skopje 2014”, the city got a completely new look; i.e. lots of monuments and baroque buildings were built at the time and now, Skopje is very attractive for tourists from around the world. Apart from these new buildings, you can visit the Old Turkish Bazaar in Skopje, one of the oldest and largest marketplaces in the Balkans built in the 12thcentury.

Skopje is also known as the birthplace of Mother Teresa. In the center of the city, you have the chance to visit the memorial house of Mother Teresa and learn more about her life.

 

Skopje - 8 reasons to visit the Republic of Macedonia

 

 

Macedonia travel itinerary tip #6

Natural beauties of Macedonia

 

Macedonia is a mountainous country, i.e. around 80% of its territory is covered with mountains with dense forests, high peaks and beautiful landscapes. It is a landlocked country, with 3 major natural lakes, plenty of rivers, canyons and caves. One of the most beautiful canyons in Europe – Canyon Matka, is located in Macedonia.

 

canyon matka - 8 reasons to visit the Republic of Macedonia

 

 

Macedonia travel itinerary tip #7

Churches and monasteries

 

Macedonia has more than 1000 churches and monasteries, rich with remarkable fresco paintings, woodcarvings and architecture, where you can see the work of one of the most famous icon painters and wood carvers on the Balkans and the whole Byzantine Empire. In Macedonia, you can see plenty of early Christian basilicas, or the first churches were built in the 4th century when Christianity became the official religion in the Roman Empire. Inside those early Christian basilicas, you may admire the beautiful mosaics which are still well-preserved.

 

churches - 8 reasons to visit the Republic of Macedonia

 

 

Macedonia travel itinerary tip #8

Rural tourism

 

In Macedonian villages you can see the traditional lifestyle of the Macedonian peasant. Here, you can taste local Macedonian food and drink home-made wine and the traditional Macedonian drink – “rakija”. Moreover, villagers offer tourists different kinds of tours and activities such as donkey safari, where you can ride donkeys and explore the nature surrounding the villages. Some of the most famous Macedonian villages are: Vevchani,Galichnik,Trpejca and Elshani.

 

villages - 8 reasons to visit the Republic of Macedonia

 

***

Thank you, Experience Balkan for this Macedonia travel itinerary!
Experience Balkan is an incoming tour operator for the Balkans and especially for the Republic of Macedonia. If you would like to visit Macedonia and you need arrangements, you may contact us at: contact@experiencebalkan.mk
For more information, you can visit our web-sites:

www.experiencebalkan.mk
www.experience-macedonia.com
www.experience-ohrid.com

 

***

Looking for a holiday tailored to your dreams and 100% organized from top to bottom? Let us plan your best holiday ever! Make a free request here 🙂

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banner main post final 1 1 - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

How to explore the best of Bordeaux in 4 days, from a local slow traveller

 

When one thinks about Bordeaux, he or she immediately thinks wine. We are so lucky to have these incredible vineyards around the city. However, did you know:

  • It is the location of the highest dune in Europe?
  • Rue Sainte Catherine is a 1.2 km long shopping street?
  • Bordeaux was under English ownership for 300 years
  • The city is classified UNESCO World Heritage
  • Bordeaux used to be nicknamed “the Sleeping Beauty”
  • Bordeaux has a submarine base

 

Yes, there are lots of fun facts to discover! It is what a slow traveller loves, would you agree?

So, come and accompany me in a visit of Bordeaux and the region…

 

The city of Bordeaux

La ville de Bordeaux 1 - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

I would recommend at least one day to visit the city.

 

Suggestion of itinerary:

Go out and explore the city freely, at your own rhythm. Go to the Place de la Comédie, le Monument des Girondins, Pey Berland square ; the old town: place Saint-Pierre, place du Parlement, place du Palais, la grosse cloche.

 

These are must see and touristy but should not be missed. On your way stop over to a “la Toque Cuivrée” shop and try a “canelé”, a typical sweet pastry from Bordeaux made from egg yolks. It is a must!

 

Make your way up to a borough named Saint-Michel, visit the local food market “les capucins” (closed on Monday). There will be plenty of spots for you to experience local food such as cheeses, meat platter, seafood, dunes blanches (cream pastry).

 

After lunch:

Make your way to the Basilique Saint-Michel and the river banks. Walk your way back to Place de la Bourse and the water mirror (miroir d’eau) where you may take pictures of the buildings reflecting on the water.

 

Thereafter, take a “batcub”, a public boat allowing you to cross town via the river, from the Ponton d’Honneur near Place de la Bourse to the wine musuem (Cité du Vin). Allow yourself at least 3 hours for the visit.

 

Then, either take the tram back to the centre, or if you still have some energy left, you may explore the borough named “Les Chartrons” or walk by the bank to enjoy the scenery of the city.

 

Don’t care much for the food market? Then make your way to visit and lunch in Darwin

 

Located on old military grounds, Darwin is an ecosystem that gathers professionals, entrepreneurs and artists who focus on developing a sustainable (green and economical) and socially responsible future. There is an urban farm, an organic supermarket, a skatepark, street art, a garage where you can repair your bike…

 

Darwin has a different vibe from the rest of Bordeaux and is definitely worth a visit. If you enjoy street art then you are in the right place. On that note, once in Bordeaux, you will notice a lot of street art in the city. For the last few years, street artists have realised many murals in places such as Darwin, les bassins à flots (near the submarine base), by the train station… places and sites off the beaten path.

 

In the evening, how about trying out some of the many wine bars in Bordeaux?

 

The bar à vin located 3 cours du XXX Juillet in front of the tourism office will  enable you, for a small budget, to taste various wines from Bordeaux.

 

Further information

 

Off the beaten paths

  • The submarine base, the borough of les bassins à flots, near the wine museum
  • For art lovers: les vivres de l’art
  • The borough of Sainte Croix
  • The borough of Saint-Seurin and its basilique
  • The Borough of les Chartrons
  • The Ermitage park in Lormont (other side of the river)
  • The park “Bordelais” and “jardin des remparts”

 

Transportation in Bordeaux

  • Bikes: traveling by bike is easy in Bordeaux. The city provides bikes names VCUB. There are comfortable and easy to handle. Throughout the city, you will encounter many bike parks where you may rent and leave your bikes. You will need a credit card to access a bike.

 

  • Second option: INDIGO, a mobile app, is slightly cheaper than the VCUB. Download the app, create an account and the app will locate the nearest bikes according to your location.

 

  • Tram and bus: easy to hop in and out, it covers most parts of the city. If you purchase a ticket, then you can use it for a whole hour but you do have to scan it every time you take transportation.

 

  • Batcub: the boat that takes you from one side of the river to the other. I strongly recommend it as you will discover the city in, yet another angle, and the best thing is that it will cost you a tram ticket!

 

 

Saint-Emilion, UNESCO World Heritage

Le vignoble de Saint Emilion et Fronsac - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

Simply, a must see in the region.

 

Suggestion of itinerary:

 

Take the train from Bordeaux to the village. It takes about 45 minutes. Then, go up to the picturesque village.

 

Make sure you visit the underground monuments and the monolith church. You may purchase your tickets in advance on the tourism office website.

 

Thereafter, how about going to the “Clos des Cordeliers” where you can enjoy a glass of bubbly known as “Crémant de Bordeaux” and made exactly how they would in Champagne. They have underground cellars that you can visit as well.

 

If you fancy a picnic, you may purchase a basket and have a picnic in their park.

 

There are lots of restaurants and wine bars in the village. There is also a wine school. Depending on how you wish to spend your time, you will find activities related to wine ?

For dessert, try the almond macaroons: they are a typical local produce since 1620 and they are yummy!

 

After lunch:

 

After your visit how about exploring the vineyards? The choice is yours: by bike or on foot. The tourism office proposes many itineraries and activities that you can download from their website. If you do pick a bike tour, make sure you reserve it ahead of time.

 

There are many wineries worth visiting in Saint-Emilion. Pomerol is another wine appellation where wines are known worldwide.

 

2 châteaux near the village that you could visit.

  • Château Beauséjour Bécot: first growth (premier grand cru classé) family led winery with underground cellars.
  • Château Coutet: 400 years old family led organic winery

 

*booking visits in advance is strongly recommended.

 

Further information

 

The Arcachon bay

Le bassin dArcachon - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

The amazing Arcachon bay: another must see when visiting the region. You may easily spend, at the very least, one day there. Please note that during the season, the area is very very busy.

 

Suggestion of itinerary:

Early morning arrival in Arcachon by bus or train from Bordeaux.

 

Visit of the city, walk by the seaside, visit a borough called the “Winter town” (la ville d’hiver) where you will see villas with beautiful architecture.

 

From there plenty of options are available for you:

  • Take the boat up to the Cap Ferret where you may have a seafood lunch. Again, explore, discover this untouched area, the natural heritage, go to the beach or up to the light house.

 

  • Or, participate in a boat tour of the bay and admire the bird island (Île aux oiseaux), huts on stilts (cabanes tchanquées) and the oyster parks (parcs à huîtres).

 

  • Or, you may wish to rent a bike. There are bike paths from Arcachon to the Cap Ferret which pass by small fishermen’s villages that are definitely very local and untouched.

 

 

Do not leave the bay without visiting the Dune du Pilat, the highest in Europe (which you can reach by bus from Arcachon). Prepare yourself to climb about 150 stairs to reach the top. Boy is it worth it. The view is outstanding especially at sunrise or sunset. Yes, how about planning to watch the sunset there with a bottle of Crémant de Bordeaux (a bubbly) and a picnic of local produce?

 

La Teste de Buch, a village nearby, is worth a stopover. Go to the harbour. Walk by local oyster shops. If you like them, settle down in one of the huts (cabane) for a tasting of oysters and a nice dry white from the Entre-Deux-Mers region. A lovely pairing. Feeling adventurous? Try out the whelks (bulots), winkles (bigorneaux).

 

Further information

*Some sites are just in French and not in English…

 

The Médoc, land of grands crus classés

Le Médoc - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

The land of grands crus classés, magnificent striking architectural châteaux… But also, family run wineries!

 

It is not as easy to discover the Médoc without a car. What is nice when discovering the Médoc is to go from villages to villages, from appellations to appellations. I do not recommend doing it by bike as the main road for instance, from the villages of Margaux to Saint-Julien is a busy one.

 

From a slowtourism perspective, I would suggest selecting a village and exploring its surroundings. You may reach the village by train or bus.

 

Suggestion of itinerary in and near the village of Margaux:                      

  • Hike : Margaux wineries, (Boucle des Châteaux de Margaux) : 4.9 kms.

 

Throughout the hike, you will discover classified top growths wineries (grands crus classés) such as Château Lascombes, Château Palmer… Fairytale looking castles.

 

You will pass by the tiny harbor of Issan where you can take a picnic. (you may be able to purchase in advance a picnic basket at Château Desmirail in the village of Margaux).

 

If you fancy a wine and tasting: Château Marquis de Terme proposes a bike visit of their vineyards.

 

Suggestion of itinerary in and near the village of Ludon Médoc:

  • Hike named “boucle des graves”: 5.25 kms

 

This path will take you to a small lake and the following wineries: Château Paloumey, Château Cantemerle, Château La Lagune.

 

You will also pass by a barrel maker. If you are in the Médoc on a morning weekday, then you can schedule (in advance) a visit of the shop. You will see a barrel being made. It is very interesting. They also have a winery and a restaurant if you fancy lunch. You can only do the visit on a morning weekday when they make the barrels.

 

The French itineraries of these hikes (not in English):

 

On the above website, you will also find hiking itineraries that focus more on the nature and the biodiversity or horseriding.

 

 

 

Conclusion

Bordeaux 2 - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

These are just sample ideas to give you an idea of what a trip may be like in Bordeaux. Of course, there are many more things you can do: for instance, you may want to rent a private boat and enjoy a seafood platter in front of the Dune. Or, you may want to go fishing with the local fishermen in the Arcachon bay. Participate in a cooking class, a winemaking workshop, a tasting…

  • If you are planning a trip to Bordeaux, I recommend planning ahead: wineries, restaurants, transportation. The region and the city do welcome many tourists and I would prefer reserving in advance then being disappointed.
  • In France, many restaurants are not open all day. They have opening hours for lunch and for dinner: usually from 12 pm till 1.30/2 pm and from 7 pm to 9.30, 10pm. Check the timings out beforehand. If you are after all day serving food, then “brasseries” will respond your needs.
  • It is worth checking out local events as well, as they could propose activities (hiking, exhibition…) that interest you. Bordeaux and the region always have events big or local going on.

This year, there will be the renowned Bordeaux Wine Festival that takes place every two years in the city. Wine professionals welcome you for 5 days for tastings and activities on the banks (2 kms) by the river. 80 appellations from the South West of France which gives you the opportunity to taste many different wines. It is very popular. There are evening shows, fireworks, beautiful sail ships… The whole city celebrates wines.

 

For further information:

Bordeaux Wine Festival

 


 

 

What I love to do

Diverses - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

Here is a list of some of the activities I love to do in the region:

 

In Bordeaux

  • Go up the bell tower next to the Basilica Saint-Michel, the view is unforgettable
  • Taking the river boat to cross the river and admire the XVIIIe century buildings by the bank
  • Go, dine and listen to music at “Chez Alriq” near Darwin, there is an outdoor restaurant located by the river. It is very casual and easy-going. Perfect for friends, families, couples

 

Around Bordeaux

  • Take my bike on the Roger Lapébie bike path and go to the country side, enjoy the historical heritage of small villages I cross.
  • Go the vineyards of Fronsac and take a hike
  • Go and visit Blaye and its citadel. Take the road between Blaye and Bourg which follow the esturary. The view is striking. There are houses on one side of the road and their respective garden on the other side by the water.
  • Go way up north to Jau Dignac et Loirac, visit the lighthouse and take a stroll admiring the typical fishermen’s house and their square fish net.
  • Go and take a swim at “le Porge” beach which is untouched and family friendly
  • Stand paddle in the lake of Hourtin, about 18 kms long
  • Enjoy a picnic in one of the small harbour of the Médoc such as “le port d’Issan”
  • Visit the natural park “le Teich”, birdwatch
  • Canoeing on the Leyre delta nicknamed the little Amazonia.

 

About the Author

fleur 1 - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

When I was 18 years old, I moved to London to work on my English. I thought I’d stay 2 years… I ended up living there over 10. I studied travel and tourism management and specialized in ecotourism.

After I obtained my BA, I came back to France, I was eager to live in the Gironde region because this is where my roots are.

 

In Bordeaux, I quickly found a job in the wine tourism sector. What a beautiful niche to work in! I am such an epicurean at heart. I fell in love with a job where you get to share and discover your region. I created and organised trips for amateurs or wine professionals.

 

I was lucky to participate in the Wine and Spirit Education trust course. Today, I am studying for level 3.

There is a lot to cover! Every single vineyards in the world and many tastings!

 

I now focus on slowtourism or slow travel: discovering places without rushing, seizing the environment, nature, the local life, wines…

 

I want to share ideas about walks and inspire you to practice slowtourism.

I want to create connections between people and a community of epicureans who love local life, wines, nature and taking it slow on travels…

 

***

Visit Fleur’s blog (English version here) to find out more about Bordeaux or just ask us to tailor a customised tour for you here

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banner main post final 5 - Tanzania Safari Tours. National Parks & Kilimanjaro

Tanzania Safari Tours. National Parks & Kilimanjaro

The Tanzania Safari Tours article is kindly provided by African Route Adventures & Safaris – our parnter for holidays in Africa 🙂

Haveneverbeenthere offers 5% discount on all tours of African Route Adventures & Safaris. You can request your African trip through our Customised tours page!

 

The Arusha National Park

The Arusha National Park in Tanzania is a small (137 sq km) but beautiful African park, is the closest Tanzanian National Wildlife Park to both the famous “safari town” of Arusha (29 km), as well as the Kilimanjaro International Airport, thus making it ideal for day safaris, even from Moshi (65 km). Not only is the wildlife in the Arusha National Park abundant, but it is also one of the most beautiful and topographically varied game reserves in Tanzania. The African Arusha National Park’s three most significant features include the rugged Mount. Meru (Tanzania’s second highest peak at 4566m), the notably different coloured Momela Lakes, and the 3km wide Ngurdoto Crater, which was formed about fifteen million years ago! The varied and beguiling animals and flora found in this game reserve are mainly determined by the different altitude and geography of these 3 “zones”.

 

johann s 52820 unsplash - Tanzania Safari Tours. National Parks & Kilimanjaro

 

Mount Meru

Mount Meru, the fifth highest African mountain forms part of the Arusha National Park, and is a recommended 4-day climb. One of Africa’s most rewarding climbs, offering spectacular scenery, and guaranteed wildlife animals encounters on its forested slopes. The summit cone features a stunning asymmetric caldera complete with an ash cone in the crater. The cone in itself makes a climb to the summit worthwhile. Climbs should be booked in advance, as an armed game reserve ranger of the Arusha National Park must accompany climbers. You are invited to contact us should you require more detailed information on climbing Mt. Meru.

 

ape 2905604 1920 - Tanzania Safari Tours. National Parks & Kilimanjaro

 

Ngurdoto Crater

This crater, located inside the Arusha National Park and stretching 3 km’s across, is a steep-sided bowl, surrounded by riverine forest, while the crater floor is a lush swamp. The crater with its many visible animal trials provides a natural sanctuary to many African animals, including elephant, African buffalo, a variety of monkeys and baboons, as well as birds like hamerkop, spur-winged geese and herons. It is however unfortunately prohibited to descend down to the bottom of the crater. To the west of the crater lies Serengeti Ndogo or “Little Serengeti”, consisting of extensive grassland plain and it is one of the few places in the game reserve, where Zebra can be encountered.

 

jeff lemond 401166 unsplash - Tanzania Safari Tours. National Parks & Kilimanjaro

 

Momela Lakes

The Momela lakes, also located inside the Arusha National Park, are shallow alkaline lakes and are made up of seven lakes, being big Momela, small Momela, El Kekhotoito, Kusare, Rishateni, Lekandiro and Tulusia. All seven lakes are mainly fed by separate underground water sources. Due to the varying mineral content of these underground sources, each lake supports a different type of algae growth, resulting in uniquely differently colored lakes. Because these lakes are alkaline, the water is not utilized by animals for drinking, but they do however attract a wide variety of African bird life, particularly flamingos.

 

jeff lemond 401169 unsplash - Tanzania Safari Tours. National Parks & Kilimanjaro

Did You Know ???

The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is often referred to as the “Garden of Eden” and with good reason as the Ngorongoro has over 25 000 larger animals making it highest density of animals in one area in Africa.

 

How the Ngorongoro Crater formed?
The Ngorongoro is an extinct volcano that collapsed in on itself approximately 25 million years ago forming a large superbowl. The Crater is the largest unbroken, unflooded volcanic Caldera in the world. The Ngorongoro Crater is 610 m deep and occupies an area of 260 sq km’s.

 

The view and game
The views from the top of the crater wall are absolutely breathtaking. As one descends by 4×4 vehicle into the crater one passes through Fever Tree forests that shelter monkeys, bushbuck, waterbuck and a few black rhino. You then head onto the Ngorongoro plain with an abundance of animal life like you will never have seen before. Amongst the animals you will encounter are wildebeest, buffalo, gazelle, zebra, black-maned lion, leopard, hyena, hippo and elephant to name a few. In the Ngorongoro crater centre you will also come across a soda lake that has an abundance or bird life including flamingos. It is one of the top areas for predators to take down there pray.
A trip to the Ngorongoro Crater is a sheer visual delight and a must for any Safari in Tanzania.

 

 

Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park is very easy to access: it’s about 180 minutes’ drive from Moshi, Kilimanjaro and barely an hour from the Ngorongoro Crater. Because of this, some of the northern sides of the park can get very busy, especially in the afternoon. To see the park at its best, we recommend that you either stay within the park or spend two nights somewhere close, entering the park early for a full-day safari.

Lake Manyara National Park is the smallest park in Tanzania extending over an area of 330sq km, located north of the Great Rift Valley western escarpment. The park is divided into three parts: the soda lake covering 220sq km, ground water forest and acacia woodland. Although small in size, the diverse habitats in the park provide the perfect environment for wildlife and birdlife, comprising up to 400 species. Famous for its “tree-climbing” lions which can sometimes be spotted in the boughs of acacia trees, it is also home to possibly the highest baboon density of any park in Africa.

Flora and Fauna of Lake Manyara cover about 330km², of which typically two-thirds is underwater, Lake Manyara National Park is a small park by African standards. However, it’s also very beautiful and contains tremendous diversity of habitats, animals and especially birds. You are likely to see buffalo feeding on sedge by the lakeshore, hippos in water pools in the northern fan delta, klipspringers on the escarpment wall, impala and plains game (zebra, giraffe, mongoose and warthog) scattered throughout. The Great Rift Valley escarpment looms on the horizon, forming an impressive backdrop to the lake. It is favoured by water birds, including storks, pelicans, herons, Egyptian geese and vast flocks of flamingos. The park is perfect for bird watchers and an ideal start to your safari.

 

destination lake manyara amp ngorongoro tanzania - Tanzania Safari Tours. National Parks & Kilimanjaro

 

Lake Manyara’s Fauna
Lake Manyara’s game includes good numbers of elephant, buffalo and wildebeest along with plenty of giraffe. Also prolific in number are zebra, waterbuck, warthog and impala. You may need to search a little harder for the small and relatively shy Kirk’s dik-dik, and klipspringer on the slopes of the escarpment. The broken forests and escarpment make it good country for leopard, whilst Manyara’s healthy lion population are famous for their tree-climbing antics. (Whilst unusual, this isn’t as unique to the park as is often claimed.) Immediately obvious to most visitors are the huge troops of baboons which often number several hundred and are widely regarded as Africa’s largest.

 

Birds
As with the habitats, the birdlife here is exceptionally varied. In the middle of the lake you’ll often see flocks of pelicans and the pink-shading of distant flamingos, whilst the margins and floodplains feed innumerable herons, egrets, stilts, stalks, spoonbills and other waders. With so much water around, the woodlands are equally productive, but it’s the evergreen forests where you’ll spot some more entertaining species such as the noisy silvery-cheeked hornbills, crowned eagles and crested guinea fowl.

 

Vegetation
Set beneath the spectacular backdrop of the Great Rift Valley’s steep western escarpment, this long, narrow park protects an area between the escarpment and Lake Manyara. The parks namesake is a shallow, alkaline lake which expands and contracts with the seasons within a long, silvery bowl of salt deposits. Adjacent to it are wide, grassy floodplains and, further away, bands of mixed acacia woodlands. Further still, next to the escarpment, are patches of enchanting evergreen forests, which are sustained by perennial groundwater springs issuing from the base of the escarpment.

 

 

Serengeti National Park

 

The Endless plains….. the Vastness…. the scent and the wild voices of nature whispering at you. It’s traveling back in time…Serengeti National Park probably the most famous wildlife refuge in the world. Its eco-system is one of the oldest on earth. The essential features of climate, vegetation and fauna have barely changed in the past million years. Early man himself made an appearance in Olduvai Gorge about two million years ago. Some patterns of life, death, adaptation and migration are as old as the hills themselves. The eco-system extends over a much larger area and includes the Maasai Mara in Kenya and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, linking over 25,000 km2 of land in which animals can move freely. Much of this is nutritious grassland which acts as a magnet for wildebeest, zebra, impala and Thomson’s gazelle.

 

joel herzog 105060 unsplash 1 - Tanzania Safari Tours. National Parks & Kilimanjaro

 

Serengeti is the oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a 7th worldwide wonder, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle. The Serengeti National Park has four separate sections, each with its own unique features and landscapes: the Southern Plains, Seronera (Central), Western Corridor, and Northern Serengeti.

 

The Southern Plains might be described as the “classic Serengeti” with its flat, open expanses of short grass plains. Just north of the short grass plains lies Seronera, or Central Serengeti, famous for its open plains, kopjes, and resident game, including large numbers of lions, cheetahs, and leopards. Stretching west to Lake Victoria is the Western Corridor, home to the Grumeti and Mbalageti Rivers, which support evergreen riparian forest and dense vegetation. From the Seronera area all the way to Kenya is the Northern Serengeti, an area of gently rolling country dotted with occasional hills and kopjes, broken by small rivers. This is where visitors might be at the right place at the right time to view the migration river crossings of the Mara River, made famous by National Geographic documentaries.

 

chen hu 523354 unsplash 1 - Tanzania Safari Tours. National Parks & Kilimanjaro

 

Where is Serengeti and how big is it?

Size: 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq miles). 14% of the country’s land area (size of Northern Ireland) Location: 335km (208 miles) from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west.

 

How to get to Serengeti

Scheduled and charter flights from Arusha, Lake Manyara, Karatu, Moshi and Mwanza. Access by driving from Arusha, Moshi, Lake Manyara, Tarangire or Ngorongoro Crater.

 

What to do in Serengeti

Game drive for wildlife viewing, Hot air balloon safaris, walking safaris, picnicking, camping, lodging, cultural tourism, visit neighbouring Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano and Lake Natron’s flamingos.

 

When to go to Serengeti

All year round but if your interest is to follow the wildebeest migration then the best time for this is December-July. And to see predators, June-October.

 

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What game will you see in Serengeti?

There are so many different species in the Serengeti that this list could go on forever. The Serengeti’s main attraction is the Great Migration, consisting of up to 2 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras and 350,000 Thompson, impala and grant’s gazelles. The predator viewing here is exceptional with approximately 3-4,000 lion and huge numbers of cheetah, leopard and hyena. Other game found in the park include Topi, Eland, Hartebeest, Buffalo, Elephant, Caracal, Serval, Bat-eared fox, Hyrax, Genet, Hares, Porcupine, Aardvark, Giraffe, Jackal, Mongoose, Crocodile, Monitor Lizard, Aardwolf, many kinds of primates including baboons, velvet and Colobus monkeys, and over more than 500 species of birds.

 

 

 

Mountain Kilimanjaro Information

 

Trekking Conditions . All 6 Routes to the Roof of Africa

There are six established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai and Umbwe. The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south of the mountain (Mweka is used only for descent). The Lemosho and Shira routes approach from the west. The Rongai route approaches from the north.

 

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When to climb Kilimanjaro

Weather conditions and temperature on Kilimanjaro varies depending on season and altitude, cold temperatures and precipitation are the main weather concerns while climbing the mountain. The warmer, drier months are the best times to climb Kilimanjaro, climbs during January, February and September are all very good, while climbs in June, July and August are equally as good because it is possible the temperature will be a little cooler. Months to try and avoid climbing the mountain are during the rainy season which fall in the months of March, April, May and November although climbers can still experience rain during the dry season, the weather on the mountain is unpredictable.

Please note that this is a challenging and tough trek, which reaches an altitude of 5895m. It is possible to find this climb very difficult even if you consider yourself to be relatively fit, it mostly depends on how well your body acclimatizes to high altitude.

 

Ecological Zones of Kilimanjaro

It all begins at the base of the mountain as we embark on our climb, allowing us to pass through lush rain-forests, proceeding through heath, moorland, alpine desert and finally entering the arctic zone.
Climbers need to be prepared for the wide range of temperatures has we pass through all the different zones, especially the extreme cold on entering the arctic zone. Climbers also need to be aware that the forest sections can often be quite slippery, moorland paths can at times be very wet due to poor weather conditions and the final ascent through the arctic zone is almost entirely of scree and loose rock, although it can be tricky there is no technical climbing skills needed.

 

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You’re in good hands!
Once were on the mountain all you need to worry about is enjoying your experience and ascending to the roof of Africa, everything else is taken care of by the experienced staff.
You will have a fully licensed head guide, fully licensed assistant guides, experienced cook and hardworking porters. Food will be fresh, healthy and in abundance making sure that you are getting the right nutrition and energy for your ascent of the mountain. All your needs will be catered for.
Emanuel and Edwin wish to give you the best experience upon the mountain and memories you will never forget. This is accomplished by no corners being cut and with our guaranteed quality of service.

 

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Climb Preparation

Climbing Kilimanjaro doesn’t need any technical mountaineering skills, although a reasonable degree of fitness would increase your odds of a successful summit, safe climb and most of all an enjoyable experience.
Please note that being physically fit doesn’t guarantee anyone to overcome problems with altitude although it can reduce the impact of your climb on the body. If anyone wishes to train for their climb we recommend that you take part in daily walks that should include uphill and downhill sections, it is also necessary to increase your endurance and confidence levels all of which will play a part in your success.

 

 

Traveling to Tanzania. Visa and Vaccination

 

When traveling to Tanzania most nationalities require a visa, this includes British, most EU, Americans, Canadians and Australians etc. All visas are available at the border, British and most EU are at a cost of €40 cash, whilst for US nationals it will be €81 cash.

Please note that airports and other points of entry to Tanzania may require you to show a certificate of vaccination for Yellow Fever. We recommend you seek medical advice regarding other vaccinations such as Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Tetanus. Malaria precaution is essential, we suggest you consult your GP on which Malaria tablets to take. It is the responsibility of all travelers to make sure they have passport, visa, vaccinations and suitable insurance in place for this journey.

 

Safety and Rescue

In our experience there are three primary steps to accomplishing successful acclimatization. Firstly, drink lots of water, we recommend a daily intake of 4-5 liters. Secondly it is sensible to walk slowly, the body needs as little strain as possible whilst adapting to the reduction in oxygen, it is not a race. Thirdly it is within our experience to know that climbing high during the day and sleeping low during the night can achieve greater success of acclimatization.

Our knowledge, training, equipment and personal attention are all designed with your safety in mind. It is probable that most climbers will experience mild altitude sickness despite adequate hydration and a slow ascent, most climbers will recover, for those who experience serious altitude sickness they will be required to descend to a lower altitude with a member of staff in the interest of safety. Please note all symptoms should be reported immediately to our guides, the senior guide will have the final decision on all matters of safety regarding serious altitude sickness.

Thousands of people attempt the summit of the majestic Kilimanjaro every year, on average two or three fatalities occur from acute mountain sickness, this is a result of not undertaking a rapid descent quickly enough. Although all our guides are fully trained in recognizing and dealing with acute altitude sickness there is no guarantees on the mountain with its unpredictable conditions and remoteness.

All head guides are equipped with oxygen and a complete medical kit. Anyone needing to be evacuated will be taken down by stretcher has quickly as possible to the nearest point that the rescue vehicle can access to remove you from the mountain for medical assistance. Your safety is paramount to us, therefore it is imperative that you advise us at the time of your booking of any conditions medical or otherwise that may affect you or others on the trip.

 

 

 

 

Lake Natron & Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano

 

Lake Natron is a soda lake with a large resident population of flamingos. Being on the border of Kenya, just north of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Natron and the active volcano Ol Doinyo L’Engai occupy a surreal landscape, overshadowed by the Rift Valley Escarpment. Lake Natron is a good area to visit authentic Maasai communities, experiencing first-hand the Masai culture. Foot safaris along natural river gorges are another possibility, as there are waterfalls, plunge pools and a natural jacuzzi fed by water coming from the Ngorongoro conservation area.

 

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At the head of the valley lies the active volcano Oldoinyo Lengai, Tanzania’s only active volcano and the world’s only natrocarbonatite volcano. This unique and amazing geological feature is the most remarkable geological sight Tanzania has to offer, towering over the desolate landscape produced by the ash falling from its constant eruptions; Lengai created – and still creates – the Serengeti Plains, and is the cause of the archaeological fossil layers of Olduvai Gorge!

Oldoinyo Lengai means “mountain of God” in KiMaasai (the language of the Masai tribe), and when you see an eruption under-way (last eruption in 2008/9) you can understand how Oldoinyo Lengai got its name. It is usually possible to climb Oldoinyo Lengai, if the volcano is not erupting too savagely, and although the climb is hard (some might say savage) the views from the top are truly breath-taking.

If you are interested in visiting Lake Natron or Oldoinyo Lengai book your own personal Tanzania safari itinerary with a 5% discount through our Customised tours page.

 

Lake Natron

Lying on the border of Kenya, Lake Natron is the only known breeding ground for East Africa’s millions of lesser flamingos. The best time to see the flamingos is during the breeding months from August to October. The surreal scenery of Lake Natron is great for landscape photography. The lake is not inside any national park, which means that as a visitor it is possible to go on a foot safari with your local guide.

 

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You can take a short hike along a gorge in the rift escarpment to Engaresero Water Falls. There is a natural jacuzzi at the base of the falls where you can bathe, overshadowed by the rocks and epiphytes hanging above. It is also possible to take a dawn stroll out to the edge of Lake Natron and watch the sun come up over the immense landscape.

 

Ol Doinyo Lengai

The base of Ol Doinyo L’Engai, on the Engaruka Plains, lies at about 800m. The Masai’s ‘Mountain of the Gods’ is the only active carbonate volcano in the world. The steep ascent to the top (currently just under 3000m) requires determination and good fitness levels, but the views alone are more than worth the effort. It is usually possible to stroll over solidified lava flows, and walk among the lava cones belching out sulphuric gases. Ideally the hike begins at 1-3am, and the summit reached as the sun rises – you cannot have too much film for your camera!

 

 

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The true bushmen of Tanzania

 

A morning hunt with the Hadzabe Bushmen of Tanzania
Most of baobab trees at Lake Eyasi have big holes inside them that the Hadza use to hide their children during the heavy rains. They are also used for keeping water when rain starts
Staying with the Hadza (the true Bushmen of Africa) is an experience of a lifetime. Just spend few days with them and learn about their way of life.

Lake Eyasi is a soda lake between Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks. It is a superb location for those interested in visiting the Hadzabe and seeing the traditional life of the ‘bushmen’. Their hunter-gathering lifestyle has not changed for 1000 years.

 

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Culture: Excellent
Birding: Excellent
Best time to visit Lake Eyasi: All year except April and May.
How to get to Eyasi: you have to drive.
Safari types available: Walking safaris, food gathering with the local women, hunting with bushmen and traditional weapons

Fit travellers can join the Hadzabe in their traditional hunting with bows and an arrows. Water is carried in Ostrich eggs. For the less athletic you can join the women gathering tubers and seeds.
You can camp at Lake Eyasi or stay in either of 2 Tented camps in the area: KasimaNgeda and Tindiga.

 

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At Lake Eyasi

Lake Eyasi is just over an hour drive south-west of Karatu and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Lake Eyasi is a mildly alkaline lake about 50km long. To the north-east you can see the Crater Highlands and to the north are the plains of the Serengeti. Around 100 years ago when the warlike Masai tribes invaded Ngorongoro and Serengeti, the Datoga and other indigenous bushmen living there were pushed south. Many of these groups made the Lake Eyasi area their home.

Along the shores of the lake are Acacia forests which are home to a high diversity of wildlife including leopard and lion. There are several good quality private campsites which are located in the forest clearings by the lake. Each provides a grassy pitch, shower and toilet facilities constructed mainly from local materials.

Lake Eyasi is a superb place for bird-watchers. Lake Eyasi is well known for the Hadzabe bushmen and you can accompany them on a traditional hunt. The Hadzabe are the last of the true hunter-gatherers. They use an ancient ‘click’ tongue language and live by collecting berries and roots and hunting the small game that is still present in the area. Accompanying a hunt is an exhilarating insight into our ancient ancestors struggle for survival.
Lake Eyasi’s principal source of water is the Sibiti River, which enters the southwestern end. The river may continue to flow all year round in wetter years and all the other inflows disappear in the dry season. Seasonal variations in the lake are large even though the northwestern shore is constrained by the Serengeti Plateau. During the dry season the lake can almost entirely disappear. The lake is also a seasonal stop for migrating flamingos.

 

The article is kindly provided by African Route Adventures & Safaris – our parnter for holidays in Africa 🙂

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The Weirdest Things About Armenia

The article is kindly provided by Armenia Discovery – our partner for vacations in Armenia 🙂

***

 

Like all foreign countries, Armenia has some unique quirks that visitors can have fun experiencing, there are definitely some odd occurrences one will be sure to write home about!

 

Public Transportation

First of all, minus the nicely laid out, single line metro in Yerevan, there is no map or time schedule of Armenia’s public transportation. With over 100 marshrutkas (Soviet-style minibuses) and buses, this can be a bit overwhelming, but it is easy to make friends with people waiting at the numerous bus stops around the city who will be happy to help you determine which bus will take you where you need to go.

 

bus - The Weirdest Things About Armenia
After boarding the bus, be prepared to be jammed into the tiniest standing space available as there are no capacity limits for the number of people that can board a bus. The standard rule is, if you can fit, you can ride! When it comes to payment, bus rides are 100 AMD = 0.20 € and the strangest thing about the whole public transit situation is customers pay when getting off the bus instead of getting on! Of course, we also have new modern buses with wifi but they don’t astonish seeing that than seeing minibuses or marshrutkas.

 

Food and Drink

Scattered generously around cities throughout Armenia are major sources of drink: drinking fountains․ These drinking fountains, called pulpulaks, provide a constant stream of fresh, cold, drinking water to passersby and the occasional dog.

 

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The water in Armenia is something of a miracle and is rumored to be the tastiest, sweetest drinking water in the world. Perhaps the best place to start your Armenian water tasting tour is in the capital city, Yerevan. On the anniversary of Yerevan’s 2750th birthday, the city was gifted 2750 drinking fountains which provide endless streams of cold, fresh, delicious water for free to all who pass by. How the city survived its hot, dry summers for 2,750 years without these fountains is impossible to imagine.

Unfortunately, there are no such food dispensers aside from the standard vending machine, but the “tonir” is a famous Armenian oven that cannot be overlooked. The traditional tonir is a cylindrical oven dug into the ground, where the opening of the oven is in line with the ground level.

 

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There is a second, above ground version, of this oven which looks like a mound of bricks with a circular opening at the top. These ovens are primarily used for baking bread and the raw dough is slapped onto the sides of the oven to be scooped out via a metal hook once baked. To get the dough into the oven, the baker must reach deep into the oven opening. What looks like a precarious dive into the tonir, unlikely for a hope of returning without major burns, is actually an age-old technique that has been passed down from generation to generation!

 

Driving

If the public transportation situation seems a bit overwhelming, taxis are an excellent choice for traveling around Armenia (rates at about 100 AMD = 0.20 € per kilometer), but even taxis are not exempt from oddities!

 

 

driving - The Weirdest Things About Armenia

Cars drive on the right side of the road in Armenia, but steering wheels can be found on the right or left side of cars, so check twice before you pop into the passenger’s seat, you might just find yourself opening the driver’s door!

Generally, Armenia is known for its wide open roads, with no traffic jams, but there is one sort of roadblock that is quite common: sheep or cows!

 

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© Hendo Grigoryan

 

Many roads pass through pastures and farms, so cows and sheep often find themselves hanging out in the middle of the road. Not to worry, though, honking a few times is certain to have them moving on their way. Last, but not least, bright red Coca-Cola tents at every gas station. Gas stations often are equipped with two things: the above-mentioned coffee machines and Coca-Cola tents filled with plastic furniture, available for travelers to rest in while their cars are being filled with gas!

 

Cleanliness

In many cities in Armenia, especially Yerevan, visitors are taken aback by the extreme cleanliness. In the early morning and late evening, it is common to come across ladies with brooms sweeping dust and leaves from sidewalks and park paths. In the Yerevan metro, one will find not even a single scrap of trash and the escalators leading from the street to the metro tracks are constantly polished and clean. Especially in the summers, to follow up with the work of the sweeping ladies, shop and restaurant owners “wash” the sidewalks in front of their stores. Either with hoses or buckets, the sidewalk is sprayed clean of any remaining particles.

Lexicon

Do you know which word Armenians like to use most?

The answer to this question is clear. “Djan”. A word that has no translation in any language.

djan e1521552721508 - The Weirdest Things About ArmeniaWe use that word after calling someone’s name showing our warm gratitude towards that person, even if we speak with a stranger. Thus if you are Michael and here Armenians will call you Michael Jan, don’t be surprised. Just enjoy, because they welcome you warmly.

 

Hospitality

The first rule, Don’t be surprised if your new stranger friend invites you his house either for having dinner or drinking black coffee. No other purpose, or something bad in that invitation.

 

armenians - The Weirdest Things About Armenia

 

Just Armenians are very hospitable and it is not a secret for the world. We love to treat our national foods to others. You will make sure in that when you would be out of the capital. In every village you will find guest houses, where you will be accepted as a member of a family, they will offer you a tasty dinner with an overnight stay.

 

We don’t smile to everyone

In a lot of European countries, you will meet strangers who will smile you while passing. Remember you will not see it in Armenia. Maybe, many of you will be astonished by that fact, but it is a normal phenomenon for us.

Not smiling to the strangers doesn’t mean that we don’t like them or accept you. But be sure if you approach someone and ask something, that, not smiling Armenian, will do his best to help you, even not knowing the language.

Maybe this is enough. Have you ever been in Armenia? If yes, tell us what kind of weird things you noticed here.

Now, all that is left is to come to Armenia and see these odd phenomenon first hand and discover even more curious spectacles!

 

The article is kindly provided by Armenia Discovery – our partner for vacations in Armenia 🙂

 

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Everest Base Camp Trekking

The Everest Base Camp Trekking itinerary is kindly provided by Home of Treks & Extreme Expedition – our partner for extreme vacations and peak climbing in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India 🙂

You can book any of their holiday packages via our Customised Tours page and get a 5% Haveneverbeenthere fan discount from us!

***

Everest Base Camp Trekking is one of the most popular trekking destinations among the trekkers who would opt for an incredible trekking experience while enjoying its natural splendor. Trek to Everest Base Camp is one the most renowned trekking trail in the world. Four of the world’s six tallest peaks namely Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Makalu and Mt. Cho Oyu are situated in this beautiful region. Everest Base Camp Trek is popular amongst the trekkers since the first trekking endeavor in the year 1953, that was when Sir. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first triumphed over the highest peak of Mount Everest. The Everest Base Camp Trekking trail is luring the increasing number of expeditors who are seeking to enjoy the unique blend of both adventure and cultural / natural sightseeing.

The trail also encounters you with courageous and hospitable locals. The amiable traditions and unique cultures of Sherpa people who are always eager to welcome you with their arms wide open. Sherpa’s are yet another interesting part of the Everest Base Camp Trek. Trekking through the Everest region takes you to the world of Himalayan beauty where you get to witness the beautiful Himalayas, wonderful Sherpa culture and exquisite traditions of the people living in the Himalayas. The trek further enhances your adventure while sightseeing in Sagarmatha National Park which is a habitat for different varieties of floras and faunas. The region is also embellished with ancient Buddhist monasteries, beautiful glaciers, rivers and most of all the breathtaking beauty of the Himalayan range.

 

Highlights of Everest Base Camp Trek

• Sightseeing tour to various historical/natural/cultural world heritage sites in Kathmandu
• Step inside and experience the lifestyle and traditions of people living in the Himalayas (esp. Sherpa)
• Trekking in Sagarmatha National Park (Listed in UNESCO world heritage natural site)
• Discover numerous Buddhist monasteries and other cultural monuments.
• Visit to Sir Edmund Hillary memorials (Sir Edmund Hillary School in Khumjung and Sir Edmund Hillary Hospital in Khunde Valley)
• Explore Everest Base Camp and a decent walk on the Khumbu Glacier.
• Ascend Kala Patthar, a rockey hill at the height of 5550m for the view of Mt. Everest (8848m), Mt. Lhotse (8516m), Mt. Cho Oyu (8201m), Mt. Thamserku (6623m), Mt. Nuptse (7816m) etc.

 

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Trip Facts:

Grade: Challenging

Trekking Duration: 4 to 6 hours daily.

Start point: Kathmandu.

End Point: Kathmandu.

Lowest altitude: 1300 meters.

Highest Altitude: 5550 meters.

Modes Of Transport: Private Car, Jeep, Van and Domestic Flight;

Accommodation: Hotels in city and Guest Houses during trekking.

 

 

Itinerary For The Standard Route:

 

Day 01:  Arrival

Day 02: Trek Preparation and rest day

Day 03: Fly to Lukla, Trek to Phakding

Day 04: Trek to Namche

Day 05: Acclimatization and rest in Namche

Day 06: Trek to Diuche

Day 07: Trek to Dingboche

Day 08: Trek to Lobuche

Day 09: Trek to Gorakshep, Explore Base camp

Day 10:  Explore Kala patthar, Trek back to pangbuche

Day 11: Trek to Namche

Day 12: Trek to Lukla

Day 13: Fly to KTM

Day 14: Departure or End of this Package.

 

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This article is kindly provided by Home of Treks & Extreme Expedition – our partner for extreme vacations and peak climbing in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India 🙂

You can book any of their tour packages via our Customised Tours page or just filling in the form below and get a 5% Haveneverbeenthere fan discount on the tour price!

 

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Nepal Adventure Tour Package

This article is kindly provided by Holidays to Nepal. Nepal Holiday Packages – our partner for vacations in Nepal 🙂

You can book any of their holiday packages via our Customised Tours page with our 5% partner discount!

***

Nepal is a paradise for adventure lovers. Nepal Adventure Tour Package offers a wide range of extreme activities for those who take their life as a challenge. The varied landscape has some of the best sites for it, raging rivers to run, mountains to scale, clear blue skies, challenging treks, fine lakes and rivers to boat, fish and raft down, and a wild terrain to ride.

 

Nepal, one of the smallest countries of world is the Green heaven of this planet you must visit at least once in your life time. Lying between the two biggest democratic and communist countries of the world: India and China, the nation is in the mission of being established as a Federal Republic Country. You cannot find any nation other than Nepal that has the largest variation in almost anything of world: natural beauty, geography, culture, religion, casts and climate.

 

Nepal Adventure Tour Package Highlights

  • Included most popular adventure activities in Nepal
  • Opportunity to visit Kathmandu and Pokhara City
  • Included hiking and sunrise views from Pokhara
  • Maximum flexibility in itinerary, with personalized service
  • Required minimum 2 persons

 

zip flyer in Nepal - Nepal Adventure Tour Package

 

 

List of adventure activities you can do in Nepal

 

  • Mountain flight
  • Paragliding
  • Rafting
  • Bungy Jump
  • Zip-Flyer
  • Mountain Biking
  • Day Hiking
  • Ultralight Flight
  • Canoeing
  • Jungle Safari

 

Day 1: Kathmandu Arrival and Transfer to Hotel

Your Arrival Time – Airport pickup and transfer to your Hotel.

6:00PM – Short briefing about your tour program. If you are arriving late (after 4PM) then we will have briefing next morning at 9:00AM. If any payment is due, then it will be collected during briefing time.

 

Bouddhanath Stupa5 - Nepal Adventure Tour Package

 

Day 2: Bungee Jumping Trip – Bhotekoshi Valley

6.00 AM – Morning after breakfast drive to The Last Resort for Bungee Jumping by shared vehicle / Full day Bungee Jumping. Lunch included

3.00 PM– Late Afternoon Drive back to Kathmandu. Overnight Stay at Kathmandu.

 

Day 3: Day Rafting on Trishuli River and drive to Pokhara.

8.00 AM- After breakfast drive to Trishuli River (put in point)  / Rafting (4 Hours) and drive to Pokhara. Overnight Stay at Pokhara.

 

Bungy jump in nepal - Nepal Adventure Tour Package

 

Day 4: Paragliding and Day Hiking to Peace Stupa

09.30 AM- Paragliding (30 Minutes)

1.00 PM– Guided Hiking to Peace Stupa (Approx. 4 hours)

5.00 PM- Boating at Fewa Lake. Overnight Stay at Pokhara.

 

Day 5:  Activities and Drive to Kathmandu

5.00 AM – Drive to Sarangkot for Sunrise and Mountain Views

8.00 AM- Zip flyer (optional)

12.00 PM- Drive back to Kathmandu

ultralight flight in Pokhara - Nepal Adventure Tour Package

 

Day: 6 Departures

6.00 AM- Optional Everest Mountain Flight

Free till flight check in time. Finally transfer to the airport for the onward journey.

 

FAQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article is kindly provided by Holidays to Nepal. Nepal Holiday Packages – our partner for vacations in Nepal 🙂

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Athens, Greece

This wasn’t the most active trip of mine … But it was the longest one I had lately! 7 days in Athens Greece – perhaps, having this much of time available, it’s okay to afford some laziness in between. Therefore, I invite you to review my life in Athens – all the things to do, all the places to go (or to avoid), and definitely all the restaurants to dine in 😀

The route from the airport was unbelievably green. We took the fastest route through the highway, but it also happened to be the most picturesque. As usually, using uber for getting to the city.

You can check here the detailed instructions on how to get from Athens Airport to the city.

During this vacation in Athens I switched 3 hotels 🙂 Not because they were that bad, but it was the original plan – to try out and review as much as possible hotels, but without a hassle of relocating every day. All hotels are part of SPG network, so we had some enhanced conditions while booking.

You can see my experiences in all 3 hotels in Where to stay in Athens. Best boutique hotels, B&B, stays on a budget

athens greece holidays 92 - Athens, Greece

 

Day #1 Must see in Athens, Greece. Or a light sightseeing which ended up in a tavern

 

After all the commuting and checking in hassle, which was actually quite hassle free 🙂 it was the right time to turn on activity mode.

Well, what can you do after checking in at 3 pm? A light sightseeing, with a nice dinner afterwards – that’s an active enough plan after all the passed kilometers behind.

As sightseeing route I would recommend to rely on your feet in the beginning, especially if you stay between Acropolis – Plaka.

We went towards Acropolis and had an obstacle on our way – a street artist making caricature paintings of you. I was in that holiday start mood when I couldn’t ignore such an obstacle.

So 5 min – and the best souvenir from Athens is ready. The cost is 15 EUR/person.

 

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We walked along Dionysiou Areopagitou street, where we met our artist, bought some caramelized almond and took the stairs on the right to the Acropolis – it was of course closed, 25th of December 🙂 But anyways we had no huge desire to enter any museums that day.

Just to confirm: if we take AthensWas for a starting point, by walking straight along the street, the subway station Acropolis will be on the left, as well as the New Acropolis Museum, whilst the Acropolis itself – with all the ancient sites, will be on the right. If you turn right a bit earlier from the Dionysiou Areopagitou street, you’ll end up in Plaka – the most touristic part of the city, but also quite a photogenic one. The majority of tavernas with live music are situated there. But we’ll talk about it later 🙂

 

In case you chose to take our route, you’ll notice a hill (not too high one) – it’s the Areopagus (Mars) Hill. Always crowded, people are literally standing on each other’s feet for taking photos of Acropolis… Don’t climb up there, isn’t it a shame capturing these beautiful monuments in a complete chaos. There is a better place for that.

 

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And it’s called The Filopappou Hill or the Hill of Muses – my very much loved piece of Athens :>

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The Filopappou Hill or the Hill of Muses is just nearby – deep green & rocky, definitely my favourite place in Athens. It’s a nice itinerary for a walk (there are several caves, one of them is known as ‘Sokrates Prison’), birds, olive trees, and great photo spots! So just take the time to walk around and after the ‘Sokrates Prison’, on the right side you’ll see a path leading up. Take it and go until the very top, just until there is nothing else to climb up. You’ll find a perfect Acropolis & selfie spot, as well as a view of the seaside nearby.

 

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Going back downstairs, and leaving the Hill of Muses, you’ll spot a traditional Greek Dances Theatre ‘Dora Stratou’. That’s actually a place where you could join a sirtaki dance workshop 🙂 We couldn’t (festive days…), but in case you’ll do, don’t forget to share your experience in a comment or even a short article maybe!

 

In the meantime while walking I made a reservation for a Greek tavern. Why not starting the trip with one of the most characteristic things you can spot in Greece! But before commencing with the dinner (starts at 9 pm), we decided to hang out a bit with locals, with a view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bar 360° – is a bit too fancy (or pricey) but a worth going place to celebrate the arrival to Athens. The bar occupies the top three floors of a large building on Monastiraki square. A glass of white wine sangria is 7,5 EUR, but you’ll get the Acropolis view and the vibrating ambience of a ‘locals go’ place. Tip: the elevator will take you to the 2nd or 3rd floor – which is marked as 360°, but don’t stop there, go one floor further – that’s Bacardi bar, and one more floor by stairs – and voila, you are in the maybe most beautiful and active rooftop bar in Athens.

 

Though later on I understood that it’s not a big deal getting the view of Acropolis in Athens – you can see it from almost  from everywhere 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for dinner – we headed towards Oinopoleion taverna (use their website to read the story and the menu, and their facebook for updates on events). We had a very Greek dinner with many different appetizers; amongst all of them above all I loved the zucchini balls and kept ordering them everywhere. And also a very Greek night with a band singing and playing local notes.

 

 

Surprisingly all the clients were Greek (well, it’s not a touristy place, their facebook page is in Greek only, and I just understood by the photo attached to the event, that there will be music & wine), and even more surprisingly, they didn’t react too much on the music. Almost no one was clapping, or singing, not even talking about standing up and spinning around in a dance. Actually I was the only one who clapped the rhythm until my palms started to burn (but they did already at ‘home’, at night).

 

Day #2. Trip to Sounio and the Poseidon’s Temple, followed by our active nightlife in Athens

 

Being extremely active after waking up, around noon, I decided that it’s time for a road trip, since there are some many beautiful sites around Athens. Indeed there are, but in case you didn’t rent a car, and rely on speed of buses, or other public transport means, you either wake up early at sunrise to afford some hours for commuting, or spend the largest part of the light day watching the views through the window.

And of course my ‘behind the window’ scenery below 🙂

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Our destination was the Poseidon Temple in Kato Sounio. A place which I’ll always remember for heartbreaking sunsets : >

To reach Sounio you’ll have to take a bus from the Terminal and here is the timetable

The bus terminal of Athens is located at Kotsika 2 – near Omonia and Victoria metro stations. It’s not easy with google maps in Greece – the street names are inserted in Greek in many cases, which makes it impossible for you to type in and find.

Here is the link to the correct bus station, and just in case, the name which is searchable in maps – K.T.E.L. Nomou Attikis S.A

The one way ticket is 6,9 EUR/p

The route is beautiful, but a bit too long – in fact, it takes 2 hours, when it’s just 70 km!

Generally, you can enter the Temple – working hours from 9 AM to 8 PM, but we couldn’t… Probably because of the public holidays, on the other hand, I completely forgot that an open air temple might have any working hours… So we took photos from distance 🙂

 

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And since we arrived at 3 pm, and didn’t have any breakfast before, it was quite a good time for the first meal of the day.

I found some restaurants during our long way there, and chosen Taverna Ilias which, surprisingly, was also closed, but, luckily, it’s smaller neighbor – Acrogiali – was fully functioning (and by fully, I mean that almost all the tables were occupied).

 

The food was great! I loved the shrimp saganaki, the fresh fried octopus, and especially the fried cheese. Talking about local attractions – the terrace is full of cats, huge, strong, ‘mafia’ cats. They have their own hierarchy, and a weak and small can eat only once the ‘boss’ is fed. So I destroyed this hierarchy a bit, by feeding exclusively a small favourite of mine 🙂

 

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From your table you can access directly the narrow beach (you’re just one step away), observe the pinkest sunset ever, drink rose and prepare for 30 min of climbing up the hill towards the bus stop.

 

That’s what I forgot to mention – the bus leaves you on the top of the hill (comfy if you are about to enter the Poseidon temple), but if you don’t want to stay at the only restaurant available on the hill top (obviously it’s overpriced, and not a ‘local go’ place), then you’ll be willing to walk those 30 min down & up, for a great atmosphere, mouthwatering meal, and, btw, the view over the coast and the temple is much more unique from the bottom, than from where everyone else is…

 

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But this wasn’t the end of the day for us. We had Napoleon plans for the nightlife in Athens. Not being a nightlife creature, I’ve spent a while on researching and finding (!) the best places, loved above all by locals.

 

Our first attempt was ‘Drunk Sinatra’ and I fell in love from the entrance. Actually, the entrance was the only thing I saw 😐  A magnetic vintage red curtain covering the entrance and then you hear that the bar is full, without even passing the curtain… I’m still disappointed that I couldn’t see the inside… It’s well known that Sinatra is always fully booked, so be smart and make a reservation!

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photo credit: elle.gr

 

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Well, I always have spare jokers in my sleeves 🙂 So we continued our night in Noel – definitely the most beautiful and amusing night spot in Athens. Also fully occupied, but there was no one meeting us at the entrance door, so we sneaked in and found two tiny chairs at the stand. Everything in Noel is sophisticated and created with an overwhelming love to design. Even the menu was something exceptional, so well-done,  that we even took photos of every single page 🙂

 

That’s where our night ended.

My heels flew me above the old city’s cobblestones and AthensWas disappointed by the absence of a kettle 🙂

 

 

Day #3 The best breakfast place in Athens, and the best dinner place and the best bar in Athens discovered on the same day. In between we had a trip to Mont Parnes Casino…

 

The third day in Athens was dedicated for late breakfasts and … casino! And again my super-planning nature faced the problem with finishings… Imagine me reading the reviews of the casino saying that you should take your passport with you to enter. Is there any possible answer I could give than ‘am I stupid not to take a passport to a casino’. And guess what happened 🙂

 

Let’s start from the beginning – the breakfast.

 

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Perhaps, that was the best breakfast in Athens. Well, they were all great (especially those consumed, when others are about to have dinner), but this time I would like to point out the exceptional spot for breakfasting.

 

Couleur Locale is a 100% my style place! You go to the Monastiraki flea market, walk around, then secretly turn right to an empty street with some vintage shops, take care for not being noticed, turn right again  now into the passeige and  see in front of you a bar. Don’t stay on the ground floor (unless great fun is happening there), but take the elevator to the highest level possible (although in case you walk, you’ll see some antique chairs and tables at every level for a perfect selfie). Enter the rooftop terrace, say hello to Acropolis, find a chair and a piece of table, and order the reward for the dangerous spy route.

 

No jokes, the atmosphere is so completely local, that there is nothing left to do but to say ‘kalimera’.

 

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As (an almost) local host who even had her own guest, I promised to show a casino with a view!

 

The Regency Casino is hanging on a level of 1055 meters on Mont Parnitha, in the centre of Athens National Forest. And I clap for the Casino to facilitate the access to this national park! They constructed their own private cable car station to give a special experience to those on their way to the heaven of table games. The funicular is free and no one requires you to use it only in case you come to gamble, in fact, many people use the cable car to get to the top and then enjoy a hike in the national park to get back down on their own, by foot. Besides that there is a free shuttle service for those having fear of heights.

 

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On the other hand, if you are not using the shuttle, getting to the Regency Casino cable car station access is a bit problematic.  It takes around 2h according to google maps and those who did the long route, and you’ll have to change 3 times, after which walk 22 min more… We chose uber, because we already missed half of the day by sleeping, so time was a concern.

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This is your destination name for accessing the station for navigation: Cable Car Station, Parnithos, Acharnes. Our uber ride wasn’t more than 20 EUR, it took us 30 min to get there. I don’t know how much are the bus/train tickets, but if it’s 2 people and 3 changes, at the end it won’t cost less than our actual ride.

 

 

 

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The problem is when you want to return from the casino. You won’t call uber, it just doesn’t find drivers in the area, but you’ll get only taxi drivers waiting for lost eyed first comers. Well, we had to take a cab, not too many options around. It went allright, and the total cost was 25 EUR, but the disgusting moment was at the end when the driver, who spoke okayish English all our way to Athens, stopped understanding a word after we asked for a receipt. Not a big deal, we could have called the police, but it wasn’t the amount to fight for and lose our precious time. However, after this episode I’m ready to cut a tongue of anyone who blames uber for whatever blamable against taxis.

 

Talking about the amazing casino 🙂 It was very good looking, a bit oldish, but let’s call it vintage. And here comes me with my ‘I always have my ID in the wallet’, who was proposing the receptionist to see the missing ID on a photo in my phone. Why not?  😉 There is always a chance, but this time it didn’t work out.

 

The restaurant was opening at 7 pm (we were a bit early birds), and all we could afford was getting out to the national park, taking panoramas and having fun of Greek children happily playing with the poor snow which they almost never see ‘downstairs’, in Athens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were a bit in a hurry though… Since a very special dining experience was waiting for us in the city!

Strofi restaurant is not something you will find in the buzzling centre of Athens. Strofi restaurant is not something which will advertise itself. Strofi restaurant is not for tourists. It’s for local gourmands (including expats who love it), who are coming there for a fine dining experience. And it will be traditional Greek cuisine, but completely different from the one you can find in the best Greek tavernas. Really, I was impressed!

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We booked a table on their rooftop terrace, of course, with Acropolis view. For the main course we ordered lamb wrapped in vine leaves and goat baked in parchment paper and both were unbelievably delicious, that we even couldn’t decide whose meal is better. My guest even had the idea of coming here every evening for a dinner 🙂

 

What happened afterwards? Another local night out did 🙂

 

Baba au Rum – you won’t notice it from outside, but once you’re in, you won’t go anywhere until the party ends. Ranked among world’s 50 best bars in 2016, and, right now, when I’m writing these lines, I’m really missing the possibility of going out to Baba.

What impressed me the most was the service we got from the very entrance. No one prohibited entering, even though the bar was full. We got in, looked around the crowd and felt like it’s hopeless to find a spot, so we were about to leave, when the waiter caught us and offered two places at the DJs stand, for the beginning, as he said. And that was good enough for us till the end.

This was something in between the discipline of Sinatra and freedom of Noel. In the first you couldn’t enter because it’s full, in the second – no one cares if you entered unless you find yourself a spot, that’s when they come and serve you. Here it was crowded, but we got a helper to find a place 🙂 And the cocktails are amazing, just as their website says!

 

Day #4 Relocation to Hotel Grande Bretagne. The Benaki Toy Museum and the best taverna in Athens

 

This day was the check in to Hotel Grande Bretagne – my favourite out of all the hotels during this trip. A very lively lobby full of people, arriving and leaving, or just chit chatting next to the Christmas tree. The wedding of Prince and Princess of Montenegro took place in the hotel on the day we arrived 🙂 In a nutshell, it’s one of those 5* hotels which are not only showing stars, but also align the level of service and the quantity of stars.

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We got the needed attention from the hotel’s employees, we enjoyed the spa downstairs with saunas and pool, and all the facilities were on the highest level. I can’t remember that I had some comments about possible improvements)) Only some modern buttons would be nice in the rooms – like ‘clean up’ or ‘do not disturb’ 🙂

 

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Next in the plan was the Toy Museum! To be more specific it’s The Benaki Toy Museum, and it was logical (at least for me) to expect that the Benaki Museum on the maps, is exactly where the Toy Museum is. Not at all!

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We came to the Benaki Museum, which made me suspicious from the very entrance, since they were announcing some religious expositions. At the reception we were told that the toy museum is at a different address and we can access it maybe by tram.

We took uber, which was around 5-7 EUR, but there are, of course other ways of getting there:

  • line B2 – here is the route – you should get off at ΟΥΛΕΝ, Palaio Faliro. It will take 20 min. The address of the Toy Museum is Leof. Posidonos 14, Palaio Faliro – use this address for google maps.
  • By foot – it’ll take 1:30 to 2 hours – but it’s a pleasant walk in Athens towards the sea, especially when the weather is nice.

 

The museum is very well done, and a great fun if you are with kids. The entrance ticket is 8 EUR/p, reduced for children. Some of the toys are actually functioning and you can spend some time on playing with your kids. I just enjoyed the atmosphere around, since most of the visitors are Greek families, so it was another roleplay for me, feeling that I’m also a local from Athens 🙂

 

You’ll find a Marina in front of the Toy Museum, across the road. That’s where you can stay longer and visit the Neraida Floating Museum – one of the free things to do in Athens, how about that? 🙂

Besides the museum visit, you can have lunch in the marina area – an option for those who came when the boat-museum was already closed 🙂 We’ve been to  Napolitivo, and just next to it you can find TGI Friday.

 

The evening continued at our newly beloved hotel’s spa and followed by a night out in another Greek tavern 🙂

 

This time it was Orea Penteli – full of locals, nice Greek food and welcoming staff. The restaurant has 3 floors – underground, ground and first floor, and imagine to move dishes and meals between these, they installed a small elevator for food commuting only 🙂 That food traffic entertained me a lot, but besides this fun, there was also a very good band playing Greek music (of course). I liked a lot the singer’s voice and we stayed till the very end, until they stopped playing.

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The location to Orea Penteli is here – again, because of their name been inserted in google maps in Cyrillic, you won’t find them, unless you have a Greek keyboard.

Since the taverna doesn’t have a website, the only source of information is your ears. We were on Thursday and they had the band in. Walk around (not earlier than 9:30) and either ask or stop where you’ll hear bouzouki 🙂 Actually there are many tavernas in that square, and the ones I know, are just the neighbours, almost next doors  – it’s Oinopoleion (where we celebrated our arrival with a Greek band), the other is Taverna Tour Psirri, which was on my check list, but we couldn’t manage to visit all the Greek tavernas due to lack of stomach capacity.

 

Day #5 A guide to best fish restaurants in Piraeus, or where to eat fish in Athens

 

Next day I woke up as early as possible to enjoy a walk in Athens, just aimless pedestrian experience 🙂 I walked up to Acropolis by a secret route which I knew last year (when my local host showed it), and discovered that this year many people started using that half-hidden path 🙂 I went down to Monastiraki, my favourite square in the city, and then hardly passed through Ermou street – perhaps, the busiest in Athens.

Ermou is full of trade – not only shops, known and unknown outside of Greece, but also salep & simit sellers (so common in Turkey). Then I discovered amazing coconut bars and bought a few home, and, of course, realized, that shopping on this street doesn’t make sense, only passing by does. Sunglasses I liked costed 300 EUR in a shop on Ermou, in Athens airport it was 180 EUR, and I’m not talking about tax free… So just pass and enjoy the atmosphere 🙂

 

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It was the first time we’ve visited Piraeus within this stay. And let’s talk about how to get to Piraeus from Athens in details:

 

  • There is a metro line M1 which takes you to Piraeus from Monastiraki station in less than 20 min
  • The ticket is 2,9/person and you can buy only a 2-trip ticket in the machine (at least that’s how I understood it)

 

And here you are in Piraeus – the ancient port of Athens, full of huge ferries, arriving and departing, and also some exclusive boats like the one we saw 😉 It was Al Mirqab – one of the largest motor yachts in the world, owned by former Qatar’s Prime Minister.

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Piraeus is popular for two things – it’s a departure point for local and international ferries, and for its seafood restaurants. Locals love the fish restaurants in Piraeus, in fact, you will hardly find a Greek ordering seafood in Athens centre. Why? If in 20 minutes you can get the best of it with a view of yachts.

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We chose Thea Thalassa (Sea View) restaurant, for its perfect view, rustic Greek interior and availability of tables on the terrace at the window. Although we were targeting another place – Varoulko Seaside, which happened to be a very famous Michelin star restaurant. But it wasn’t the place + mood + hunger for Michelin dining. We wanted ouzo and calamari! Luckily, the choice was made correctly and we weren’t disappointed at all!

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The funny part of it was that most probably the head waiter and the waiter were father and son. And poor guy, he dropped everything he could, he messed up whatever he was involved into, and his father just kept complaining and hurrying him up 🙂

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Day #6 Aegina island trip from Piraeus, which was actually a quadbike driving marathon

 

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We had a crazy idea of returning to Piraeus again, now for a sea trip! The destination was Aegina – the closest island to Piraeus. If you won’t be tight on time (I mean you’re able to wake up early to make it for the ferry, I would rather suggest Hydra island. It’s a bit further, but locals say it’s enchanting by the rustic style it kept in this modern world. The island is car-free – only donkeys, and maybe some motorbikes 🙂

 

The schedule for Aegina ferries is here – the fastest boat is the ‘Flying Dolphin’ from Hellenic Seaways –  it takes 40 min, but all this time you’ll be sitting inside the cabin (since it goes really fast, there is no, almost no, open deck), and there is no possibility to board with vehicle. The ‘Dolphin’ is more expensive than the other one.

 

 

The other option is a ‘classical’ ferry from Saronic Ferries – the route will take 1h15min. The tickets can be purchased either online, or in the port, and I didn’t notice a difference in price, however, for the ‘Dolphin’ the tickets might not be available anymore before the departure. It all depends on the day and time, since some locals might use it for getting at work.

The schedule for ferries to Hydra is available on the same website. It takes either 2h by the ‘Flyingcat’ or 1h35 min by the ‘Flying Dolphin’ – both operated by Hellenic Seaways.

 

 

 

As soon as we arrived to Aegina port we faced an obstacle which we couldn’t overcome. Quadbike hire office 🙂 The price is between 20 and 45 EUR a day + fuel. Fuel tip: don’t fill full tank at the petrol station, the usage is very small, you’ll bring it back almost full (when the rental office requires a quarter full). Here is the link to the rental agency we used, they also have cars, motorcycles, bicycles etc.

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What are the things to do in Aegina? Well, don’t expect too much, the situation looks the following way:

  • The bike/car rental will provide you a map with all the sites to see and explains how to g et there
  • But I was I and prepared the itinerary the day before myself
  • There are some historical sites on this small island, a monastery, and beautiful coastal area with the best fish restaurants in Aegina

 

Although the biggest fun part was riding it all around on a quadbike with a maximum speed of 35 km/h 🙂

 

But talking about the historical sites:

 

  • Monastery of Agios Nektarios – a pilgrimage spot for orthodox people, where they visit the cell of Saint Nektarios. A beautiful monastery, can’t say anything against, but I’m not too much interested in religious places, although respect those who come there, and try not to disturb them by being a tourist in a saint’s cell.

However we’ve spent a while here, because the area is large and you can take the stairs from the monastery up to the Saint’s cell, on your way you’ll have a great photo spot with a view 🙂

 

  • Paleahora – a medieval village on the hills. From 9th to 19th century it was the island’s capital, now only the castle’s ruins and numerous churches remained. The story says that there were 365 churches, one for each day of the year, today the confirmed number of churches is 70, out of them 33 are open to visitors. The majority of the churches are getting destroyed just in front of your eyes, and it’s a shame that there is no ongoing restoration. On the contrary, the quarry nearby causes a lot of damage. We met a local boy and his father who warned us about not entering into ‘small caves’ if we spot some. Indeed, you’ll spot some of those on your way walking up to the hill, they are ruins of the ancient town, almost buried in soil, so commonly called ‘caves’.

 

  • Temple of Aphaia – the cult activity on the site was continuous from the 14th century BC, the ruins of the temple you’ll find today belong to the 5th century BC, they were built on top of several previous temples. The entrance ticket is 3 EUR/p and it takes you 2 min to walk around the temple and take a few photos. In my opinion, it didn’t make much sense to enter, because for me Greece is much more than the ancient ruins. But I don’t deny that it thanks to the great past the ambience of the country became so much liked by me, and, probably, by those millions of visitors from all around the world.

 

  • Perdika coast – that’s the park which we couldn’t cover, but it’s said to be the most beautiful side of the island with beaches and seafood restaurants. From here you can also take a boat taxi (8 min) to Moni island. It has no inhabitants, only goats and peacocks, deep water for diving and fishing and sandy beaches for those fishermen’s families. The regular boats go from Easter to September, although if you are in Perdika, I’m sure you’ll find a ride 🙂

 

  • Pistachio – Aegina is called a ‘pistachio island’ so as soon as you arrive you’ll see many sales points 😀

 

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What we did is that before leaving the island we had dinner in a coastal restaurant. No, we didn’t have time to visit Perdika, but found a nice spot closer to the port – O Mantas sto Kima – they have live music quite often, just in case you’ll decide to stay overnight in Aegina 😉 The food was very good, we only regret for not being able to stay longer and enjoy it without being on the run.

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The only thing we could do after returning from this quad bike driving trip back to Athens is getting upstairs to our rooftop bar in Grande Bretagne and enjoying the view of … guess what? Of course, Acropolis! Didn’t I say you can see it from almost everywhere))

The GB rooftop bar doesn’t deserve to be called ‘everywhere’,  at least because it’s pricey, but what else can you expect on the roof of a 5* hotel!

 

 

Day #7 Celebrating New Year in Athens, Greece – with some inevitable adventures

 

It was the New Year’s Eve! Actually the reason we travelled to Athens. So after a late breakfast in Mani Mani we only had some little time to walk around, drink a tea in another rooftop bar with a view, and do our make-up 🙂

 

 

But let’s see the bullet points of this special day:

  • Breakfast (in lunch time) in Mani Mani – originally wanted to eat in Lotte bistro, but when we arrived they apologized saying that they have problems with electricity and the kitchen is not functioning. The next closest spot on my list of best restaurants in Athens was Mani Mani. New York Times recommended it amongst best restaurants, shops & sights in Athens, and maybe that’s the reason you’ll see lots of foreigners there. I didn’t like the food, it was too fusion 😀 Just look at the Greek salad in their understanding of it :)I don’t eat onions, so in Greek salads, since they are cut in large pieces, I happily remove them from the plate. In this interpretation of the famous salad the onions were almost in a puree state… I wish I knew :||The location is nice, it’s also a bit like hidden, doesn’t attract your attention from outside. The food is also good, but a bit too specific, and depends on your taste, of course. So check it out, maybe that’s exactly what you were looking for in Athens, or maybe not at all))

 

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  • The National Garden, used to be the Royal Garden – greenery and peace in the heart of Athens. Locals with their children and dogs 🙂 I would imagine myself here sitting on the Zappeion’s stairs with a laptop open on my knees.

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  • The Presidential Palace (or Maison) – just in front of the garden and something very much fun happens here daily, hourly. Perhaps you heard about the guard change at the Parliament, which happens hourly at Syntagma. And guess what!  We were passing by to reach the National Garden, when the guard was leaving the Parliament (after the change) and heading towards… god knows where…

 

I imagined that I’m a princess and they guard me, that’s why I walk directly behind those tall guys with a weird walking manner. In fact, they stopped at a luxurious ‘maison’ and started to perform the ‘guard change’. Which was much more interesting to observe, almost alone, one-to-one with the guard, rather than staying in a crowd at Syntagma.

 

It seems like they perform the same guard change at the Presidential Palace every hour – in my case it started at 16:15, so I guess you can keep in mind it as a starting point for the hourly calculations.

 

 

  • The Panathenaic Stadium – where the first Olympics were held. Well, I saw it, but didn’t enter. The tickets are 10 EUR/p, and let’s say we bought them and payed 20 EUR for spending 5 min on the marble benches, taking some photos. But I’m very happy that we haven’t, because this really doesn’t make sense, and it’s very rude and unfair for taking this entrance fee for a passive activity like visiting a large piece of marble. It is beautiful, but it doesn’t fulfill you, best case your Instagram.

 

  • City Zen – the evening tea spot in Athens with a view of the Acropolis. Since we didn’t try anything besides tea, I can’t speak too much about their menu. But the place seems to be less popular than 360° and less pricey. If your main goal is to visit a rooftop bar with a view – it might be a very suitable place 🙂

 

 

And then preparations for the most important dinner of the year 🙂 Guess what, even here I managed to make a story with adventures!

We made a reservation well in advance for a NYE dinner at Hotel St George Lycabettus

 

Here I have to quote my Instagram post from that evening (I can’t let the emotions go, unless I publish them somewhere))

  • Imagine you are booking a NYE dinner in a hotel calling themselves as: ‘AWARDED BEST LUXURY ROOFTOP VIEW HOTEL at World Luxury Hotel Awards 2017’

… and then you are placed at a table behind the DJs back next to the kitchen, in a hall which probably doesn’t function as a restaurant, even the ceiling is much lower than the first hall

  • Imagine you are in this very festive #newyearmood

… and then the Head Waiter says that he ensured everyone was informed about being placed in this ‘backyard’ and almost blames you actually lie, that you weren’t ?

  • Imagine that he is that arrogant that looks like ready to slap you for not being happy with the kitchen table 🙂

… did I mention that the welcome drink is whiskey (sorry, ladies) and nothing else, the price for the dinner in the restaurant hall and the ‘backyard ‘ is the same (150 EUR/p) and we didn’t even hear a single sorry from the Head ? Waiter ???

that what I call a 5* hotel

Happy New Year @stgeorge_lycabettus_hotel ???

Hope in 2018 you’ll learn what is #customerservice ?’

haveneverbeenthereig - Athens, Greece

 

I guess you got the point. We received the refund of our deposit and sat in the hall calling all the existing restaurants and hotels in Athens city, at 10 pm, on the 31st of December, if they have a table available (by chance)).

 

After numerous attempts we were able to get the desired ‘yes’  from Athenaeum InterContinental Athens – again a rooftop, but fair, no one is sat in the kitchen, lobby, or balcony, a very nice dinner in elegant surroundings and intelligent audience and service.

 

A bit boring though… It was that kind of audience which sits quietly at their table, consuming their food and talking about … maybe… weather 😉 There was a singer during the dinner, but she never stood up from her chair, or changed the notes of her voice once it got closer to the festive midnight.

athens greece holidays 81 - Athens, Greece

However, I’m very happy that we ended up here, in a good place, again with Acropolis view 😀 But next year I’ll make sure to find a place where people celebrate loud (but not wild), where they express their excitement about the clock ticking towards a new year (and do have this excitement!).

 

Let’s treat it as a promise for 2018!

 

P.S. some fun & positivity from Monastiraki

 

 

 

 

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banner main post final 1 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy


I felt that typical Italian countryside atmosphere already arriving to the airport – what a crazy emotional palette!  And so much more was waiting for me there! Nothing to compare with visiting major Italian cities like Rome or Milano. And I said to myself: ‘This is REAL Italy!’ 🙂 and it was!

Go and buy those tickets to Lamezia! And get ready for the perfect holidays by using my tips from the sections below (actually a very hard-earned information after weeks of research & emails!)

 

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Why Tropea? Why Lamezia? Why Calabria?

I was looking for flights to Italy from Bucharest to take my sister on holidays and combine her seaside break with my ‘authenticity research’. Spotted a destination which I’ve never met before – Lamezia. Checked out the region – all we needed was seaside and the rest (unique and local things to do) I can find with a detailed research everywhere!

Now checking the flights to Lamezia Terme I understand why the majority of tourists were from Germany 🙂 Surprisingly, it costs less to fly to Lamezia from Germany, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, Spain and UK than from Italy internally!

However my confidence in being able to find unique activities in every single point of the globe encountered high obstacles. After days of research I knew only about some cooking classes and sailing trips. Needless to say that at the end I found what I was looking for: utterly distinctive experiences meeting all your (and my!) expectations.

Have a look at my final itinerary and then check out all the other local activities in Tropea. I would need to stay here for a couple of months to try them all!

 

My trip to Tropea:

Getting from the airport– from 1h to 3h – public transport  (read more in Lamezia Terme airport. How to get to Tropea? section) – 5,7 EUR

Accommodation– double room, Hotel La Perla (read more in Where to stay in Tropea? Accommodation in Tropea & Calabria section) – 208 EUR + 21 EUR city tax /7 nights/2 people

 

 

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Restaurants, diners, 2 people (read more about it in Where to eat in Tropea section):

Il Vecchio Granaio  (Tropea) – 47 EUR; 28 EUR

La Cantina Del Giudice (Tropea) – 40 EUR

Il Normanno (Tropea) – 29,5 EUR

La Lamia (Tropea) – 42 EUR

Pizzeria Da Giovanni  (Stromboli) – 32 EUR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local activities, workshops, trips, my own schedule:

 

Day 1: Rubber boat trip – Coast to Coast Transfer – Costa degli Dei sightseeing – 25 EUR

Day 2: Horse riding walk in olive groves – 45 EUR

Day 3: Eolian Islands – Vulcano, Lipari and Stromboli – day trip – 45 EUR + 5 EUR tax

Day 4: Stromboli by Night –  35 EUR + 5 EUR tax

Day 5: Free day! Beach, sunshine and prosecco 🙂 – the best description and location of beaches can be found here. I would really recommend going to  Grotta del Palombaro

Day 6: Cooking class – Fileja preparation at Torre Galli – 50 EUR + 10 EUR transfer

 

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Day 1

The first trip we booked through CST Tropea was with Shark Bay company and the tour was called ‘Coast to Coast’. I couldn’t get the idea even though it had a long explanation on the website and also Kerstin explained in her email (see What to do in Tropea | Aeolian Islands). So in fact it was a sailing trip on a rubber boat without stops – you sail along Costa degli Dei, see the picturesque rocks, the wonderland azure blue sea, turn back after Cabo Vaticano and stop for half an hour for swimming on its most beautiful beach – Grotticelle.

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Btw, this is not even Grotticelle, this is normal Tropea :)))

We couldn’t swim – it was too cold for us, since the trip was on our first day and again, we didn’t take anything to cover us from the wind. More Nordic passengers happily swam. The crew offered white wine after getting back on the boat.

Price & book:

Coast to Coast transfer – 25 EUR/person

 

Day 2

Horse riding walking tour through forests, meadows, olive groves, some appetizers & wine with the host family on their terrace – this was the most exciting activity I joined in Tropea! I would do it daily 🙂 Imagine yourself on a horseback riding under blooming olive trees (even if you never did it like my sister, you can manage – Filipe and his son Nunzio will give you the most human-friendly horse). Have you ever smelled the olive flowers scent? From now on, I love it even more than jasmine!

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You’ll see landscapes which are the real Italy for me – green, spacious, under bright blue sky and among oranges peeking out from the leaves. If I was about to choose one activity, it would be this one! You can book it with CST Tropea or directly with Filipe (they are a very responsive family!) The name of the rancho is Cavallieri delle due Sicilie, located in Francica.

Price & book:

Horse riding walk in olive groves – 45 EUR/person

 

Day 3 & Day 4

 

Tropea italy calabria 39 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

I have to start from my favourite  company – Savadori Navigazione. We booked a boat trip called Isole Eolie – Vulcano, Lipari e Stromboli through CST Tropea. These are the volcanic islands in the Tyhrrenian sea between Calabria and Sicily, belonging already to Sicily. One of the islands – Stromboli – is active volcano, Lipari – is the biggest island with descent infrastructure and various trips to minor islands (Panarea and Salina, and also to Sicily – Etna etc.). Vulcano – is the smallest out of the three islands, but it has a lovely mud beach for your revitalization.

 

The price of the sailing trip was 45 EUR/person, exactly the same as if you buy it in the port directly (we booked ours at CST Tropea – see What to do in Tropea | Aeolian Islands at How to book activities in Tropea). It was a whole day trip with boarding at 7:30 AM. Additionally you pay the UNESCO tax for visiting the islands – 2,5 EUR/person or 5 EUR/person from June to September.

 

 

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Really lovely crew – all of them had very distinctive personalities, and the captain was incredibly charismatic. I saw him hugging the boarding bridge while staying at the lower deck area and after that, I officially state: wherever you are going on holidays, if there is a sea nearby you CAN make it a very special trip! And I don’t mean laying on the beach or swimming five meters far from the coast. Go further! See people in love with the deep blue waves, and try to fall in love as well.

We’ve visited Vulcano as our first stop. It’s a tiny island with a volcanic muddy beach where you should definitely take a mud bath, unless you have high scent sensitivity as I do (it smells so ….). The entrance to the muddy beach costs 3 EUR/person, +1 EUR for the shower afterwards (I guess you can’t avoid it!), and if you stay on Vulcano more than a day there are very attractively priced entrance passes.

If your stay is longer than mine, you can also find black sanded beaches which are adorable!

 

And of course, there are some special shops on this islet, read more about it in Shopping in Tropea. What to buy in Tropea

 

After having a glass of prosecco and an ice-cream, we got back on board.

Next stop was Lipari – the biggest island, and there is a lot to see! We decided to leave the group of our co-passengers and get lost. If you turn right from the port you’ll find an old cathedral with a quiet park nearby – pine trees, seagulls and an overlook on the sea, remembering my Spanish days I called it ‘mirador’.

 

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We continued through the centre, met a group of local parents and children coming from their first holy communion and decided to follow them. We went through dark arcades and ended up in front of the municipality building. They entered a restaurant which was booked for all the families; so losing the group of locals, we found two ways to get down to the sea. The one on the right was closed with a comment ‘private entrance’, but the route on the left was a free to go one. Italian cats greeting us (or escaping in panic), pleasant shadow of the old trees along the way and, of course, stairs! Lots of them! But what a place we found! No comments, just photos to describe only the view, but far not the whole atmosphere.

 

My sister was bored, she’s not a person to philosophically sit on an empty beach, so we left. On our way upstairs I noticed a guy who was sitting along the stairs on the fence, watching us taking photos of each other. Italian bastard, had fun for free! He gratefully waved us when we left 🙂 Molto gentile!

 

I kept trying to get lost (poor sis, she always asks to go where people do – sorry, not with me!). Most of the tiny streets are curved and it feels like they’ll bring you to a dead end, but no! They’ll bring you to another turnaround 🙂 And you can endlessly continue this way just like in a labyrinth game.

 

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L’Italiano vero

 

Being tired of sun and heavy begs (I did some shopping on the previous island), we went to have some siesta on the central street in Ciuri Ciuri (read about it in the Where to eat in Tropea | Aeolian Islands). The owner’s dog was entertaining us and then a shop in front of it attracted me by its local delicacies offerings.

 

We tried to get back to the port and being a smart blondie I did two things:

 

I forgot where is the meeting poin

 

I googled in Italian the port from where all the Eolian Islands ships depart

 

So we went to a wrong place 🙂 It’s Italy, dear, and if all the boats to Stromboli depart from the same port, why would your boat leave from it as well? Even though it goes to Stromboli 🙂

Tropea italy calabria 21 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

 

Despite my sister being positively ensured that this is the correct place, I felt it’s wrong. So we went back to the centre, hoping to meet ‘our’ people, from our boat. On the way to the wrong port we met the guy who was taking photos of me onboard (I was staying at the lower deck with the lifebuoy ring behind me, having my dress of exactly the same colour as the ring – unconsciously entertaining everyone, as always), so I was sure he has to help us out! We met him and the whole group 🙂 But after going where they advised us, I turned right and then left, and then it was completely not what it should be. Luckily an old Italian man brought us to the proper port – Corto Marina.

 

NB: in case you get lost like us, dial the number on your ticket, so the boat waits until you get there. I completely forgot about this option!

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Declaration of Love alla Siciliana

All aboard, we continued to the most magnificent island – Stromboli. Black volcanic beaches, only part of the island is inhabited, the other – is too hot! Indeed, it’s not even firm, but quite soft and your shoes will melt if you step on it. The volcano explosions can be seen almost daily, smaller or bigger, you’ll definitely see one at night. It’s magic alive to watch this island.

 

However, we had only 1,5 h for it, and my sister trying to go where people do 🙂 In fact, we got stuck in a shop and afterwards had time only for a very good ice-cream (a gelateria you’ll find if going through the main street up to the hills – can’t remember the name), and to lay a bit on black sand:

 

IMAG2705 1 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

 

We went back on board, and sailed an hour and a half to the port of Tropea. In fact, the happiest thing about it all was the sailing part. You can take me anywhere, just sail!

 

NB: You can order drinks & snacks on board, so no need to carry.

 

But it’s quite cold and windy on the sundeck area. So take some warm clothes in order to avoid this:

 

 

Tropea Italy Calabria 47 2 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy
even my natural frost resistance didn’t prevent me from getting cold

Stromboli by Night

I loved so much the trip, that I couldn’t stay calm the next day. I convinced my sister to go on a nice evening sailing and see the volcano explosions. ‘And the whole day before it we can spend on the beach!’ – I told her. So when it became too hot to stay on the sun, I advised to go to the port and buy the tickets for the evening. For some unclear surprisingly typical Italian reason hey costed us twenty euros less than it would by their official price-list (if you are a pretty girl, everything can happen in Italy). After buying the ticket we were told to go on board 🙂 Imagine two girls just coming from the beach in swimming suits under their summerly-light dresses! Since it was just an hour and half till Stromboli I didn’t expect them to leave earlier than 5 pm. In reality, it was 2:30. I calmed down my sister telling that we will stay on the beach in Stromboli 🙂

 

So we went! You can read my review of this tour in TripAdvisor

 

Price & book:

 

Isole Eolie – from 7:30 am till 7 pm – 45 EUR/person + 2,5 or 5 EUR UNESCO tax

 

Stromboli by night – from 2:30 pm till 11 pm – 45 EUR/person + 2,5 or 5 EUR UNESCO tax (somehow, we payed 35 EUR)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5

What were we doing on the 5th day? Sleep, swim & eat 🙂

 

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Day 6

As I told you earlier (see Where to stay in Tropea? Accommodation in Tropea & Calabria), we attended a cooking class in Torre Galli resort – a 300 years old country house – under Mariella’s guidance. First of all, she did a tour around the resort (before I mentioned I would write about it 🙂 – showed us the old olive oil & wine presses, the garden, terrace, olive & citrus groves. She has an ‘industrial’ (as she called it) kitchen – so you can have a workshop with a large group there, and a cozy home kitchen ‘for herself’ as she said. Of course, we used the small one and enjoyed all the aged stuff there – cupboards, marble sink, traditional Italian household equipment (numerous gas coffee makers, metal pots, wooden spatulas etc). Mariella offered to cook fileja – the typical pasta of Calabria. The good thing about it is that the base for each pasta is the same, only the shape differs from one region to another. And the recipe is:

1 cup of 000 flour

half cup of semolina

Water – as much as the dough asks for

 

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So we mix the flour and semolina, and slowly, teaspoon by teaspoon add the water, whilst working the dough out.

 

And working it out is the most important part of the process – see photos below 🙂 Mariella’s workman – Mozo (I hope I remembered correctly) helped us with his man power to make the dough perfectly soft. He is from Pakistan and lives in Italy for 3 years, but knows how to position himself in an Italian kitchen!

 

After the dough is done (you might leave it to rest for 10 min), we roll it in long and narrow strings, then cut half of a thumb large pieces. And now we need the special metal / plastic strings for rolling the dough – you put the string on top of the dough piece, press a bit and roll gently to a pipe shape.

 

Put the ready ‘pipes’ on a well-floured tray (we omitted it and had to sort it out afterwards – not a pleasure!), after all are done, cooked in boiling water until they all appear on the surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a sauce we heat up some olive oil with fresh tomato paste (made with garlic and basil), add fresh basil, salt, pepper and the prepared pasta.

Serve with ricotta and parmeggiano!

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Buon appetito!

 

Besides that we cooked some sotte vegetables, fried onions and had some home-made wine.

 

By the way, the wine was made by the father of the local bakery  owners we went to 🙂

 

I really enjoyed meeting the two brothers, born in USA, relocated back to Italy long years ago, running this bakery. A huge wood stove and lots of fresh, hot bread! Thanks Mariella for introducing us!

 

The price for the cooking class was 50 EUR/person + 10 EUR/person transfer from & to Tropea. If you book the activity with Mariella directly she won’t charge you for the transfer 😉

 

Price & book:

Cooking class: Fileja preparation at Torre Galli – 50 EUR + 10 EUR transfer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And let me finish with some foodie photos to tease you a bit more 😉

 

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