Beaches of Sri Lanka

You’re spoilt for choices with the number of beaches along Sri Lanka’s coastline. If like me you are planning a trip there and not sure where or how long to stay in which areas, read on…


Tangalle Beach
We stayed at the Mangrove Beach Cabana. This is the perfect place for relaxing, as it’s a super remote beach. It’s pure bliss. We were pretty much the only ones there. Think cute hammocks and palm trees. We shared beautiful dinners by the beach with fresh fish and tiger prawns.

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Dikwella and Hiriketiya Beach
Dikwella is a large bay bordering the town, great for a long walk. Hiriketiya is a stunning crescent bay. Surf all day and fill up on fresh fish and fresh coconut water.

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Mirissa 
A magnificent half-moon bay with a lovely sandy beach that is beginning to see unchecked development but is still deserving of a visit. Waves can be big and beach-dumpers.

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Weligama 
A sweeping turquoise bay with great surfers for all levels. The sunrise waves are less crowded.

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Ahangama
Famous for its stilt fishermen, a beach scene at this seasonally wide, soft and sandy beach is emerging.

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Unawatuna, Jungle (secret beach) and Dalawella
Unawatuna was once lauded as being amongst the most beautiful bays in the world. It became famous for its sweeping bay overlooking on Rumasala Hill. It’s well worth a visit if you enjoy a lively ambiance and bartering for souvenirs. Not the best beach but lots of little shops

The Jungle beach is pretty private, think jungle trek to beach vibes. Perfect for snorkeling! Dalawella is very remote and the sea is too strong to swim in but this beach is known for the famous swinging palm tree.

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Hikkaduwa
We didn’t get a chance to visit this beach but it’s close to Galle. It has everything to offer; snorkeling, swimming, surfing, kite-boarding. Coral sanctuary with turtles

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San Pedro Atacama, Chile

Star Gazing and Desert Wandering

 

Unfortunately, I only had enough time to stay in Chile for two nights but this was nowhere near as long as I would have liked. Chile was on the way to Argentina.

After the most incredible experience spent in the salt flats in Bolivia, we took the 4x4s and drove across the desert on our way to San Pedro Atacama. The Atacama Desert is known as the driest desert in the world, covering a 1,000km strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains.

Lolu restaurant/bar is popular for its cocktail selection and massive empanadas!

Must-Dos
The Valley of the Moon
This 4-hour afternoon tour is a must do when in San Pedro, especially for sunset hour. It’s a photographers dream…as you walk through the desert and observe unique rock formations and mesmerizing cliffs. I went with Andres Travel and the tour should cost no more than 15,000 Chilean pesos.

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One other thing San Pedro Atacama is popular for is Star Gazing. Now I’m not a huge astronomy expert but star gazing in Chile was one of my favourite highlights on the trip. Depending on what time of the year you go, the skies are much clearer than what you would ever see in the UK. We had the chance to look at the planets and stars through some of the best quality telescopes.

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Prague, Czech Republic

26th July, 2017

Prague reminds me of a miniature Vienna. With beautiful colourful houses, old stonewalls, fairy-tale landscapes, romantic cobbled streets, classic music…it’s the perfect getaway for a long weekend. The weather is really nice in the summer but I would recommend saving the trip for the winters as the city has a real cosy feel to it. As the 14th largest city in the EU and the capital of the Czech Republic it’s one to add on your travel list.

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Accommodation
I had stayed at the Hotel King’s court, which is well located in the city centre. They gave me a room on the highest level (7th floor), which had beautiful views.

Greeted on arrival with chocolates and sweets on my bed. There was also a pillow menu, where I could order from a selection of pillows to help me sleep free of charge (the lavender and water pillow is the best). The breakfast had a wide variety of choices (fruits, pastries, cooked food, homemade omelettes and pancakes).

Food
For the best authentic coffee there’s a cute little café called Made in Coffee really close to the square.

If you want a fancier restaurant with well-presented food try Portoflio. For pasta Frescha Pasta have the best Italian in town. The grilled calamari and spinach tagliatelle with mushrooms is delicious. I’d also recommend the chocolate mousse with salted caramel and chilli ice cream.

I stumbled across the cutest anime inspired Japanese restaurant called Momoichi. This started out as a café about a year ago selling good quality Japanese coffee and now have expanded out to food. I tried the coconut milk chicken curry, which was beautifully cooked. For dessert I had the homemade almond chocolate and rose cake. You can also buy fresh coffee filters from Japan.

When in Prague you have to try the famous trdelnik. I ordered mine with melted chocolate inside from a little store called TRDLO and Ice Cream in the town centre but you can seriously find them anywhere in Prague. Just a few doors down there’s a cute little pick and mix sweet shop too!

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Must Sees
Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe and the St Charles Bridge (originally called the Stone Bridge) is a must in Prague. The beautiful bridge was built in the 15th Century and crosses the Vltava River. The bridge is decorated with a continuous alley of 30 statues. Here you’ll find many caricatures artists and buskers.

The Church of Our Lady before Týn is a dominant feature of Prague and you’ll find this right in the town square. In addition, the Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock dates from the 15th century, and iconic must see when in Prague.

The National museum, which is a beautiful big building with a green and gold dome, located in the highest part of the square-check out which exhibitions are on. The National Gallery is also a must visit, only a 5 min walk from the main square.

For a beautiful view of Prague and that Instagram shot your best bet is Sunecni terasa T-Anker. This location is the top spot on the 5th floor to get one of the best up-close shots of the Old Town.

The Dancing House (the nickname for the Nationale-Nederlanden) is also one of the main iconic buildings to see when in Prague. It was designed by a Croatian-Czech architect in cooperation with Canadian-American architect on a vacant riverfront plot. The building was completed in 1996 so slightly newer than the other buildings in Prague and although slightly further from the town centre, it’s worth the walk.

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Reykjavik, Iceland

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Snowmobiling and Blue Lagooning in Iceland

Just to pre-warn you, this itinerary is only for 4 nights and is pretty jammed packed. The flight was around 4 hours long from London. We landed quite late at night (luckily there’s no time difference) so stayed at the hotel next to the airport Aurora star hotel so we could pick up the car early in the morning.

There’s so much to do in Iceland and with everything being quite far apart I highly recommend hiring a car, as this will allow flexibility in your daily agendas. Alternatively you can book tours but these are usually over priced and too structured. The other option is to hire a driver for the day, which will cost approximately 250/300 GBP per person per day trip.

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Day 1

We woke up at 6am, picked up the land rover and drove east to an area near the Gullfoss waterfall for our first activity, SNOWMOBILING! An hour and 40 minutes later, we arrived. It was so beautiful riding through the mountains whilst the sun was rising. The tour company I went with was called Mountaineers of Iceland. The temperature was around- 8 degrees (in December) so I would recommend packing really thick gloves and thermals.

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The Golden Circle

After snowmobiling we went to see the Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermals, which is all within close distance of each other.

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Next stop…the Blue Lagoon! This took approximately a 2-hour drive, which meant we didn’t arrived until the evening. I would recommend going in the day, to get that full spa experience.

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TIP: make sure you bring your own towel as they charge extra.

 

Northern Lights

That same evening we had also booked the northern lights tour (intense right)?!

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A bit of science for the curious minds out there:

The northern lights are caused by the interaction of particles from the sun and the upper atmosphere near the North Pole. They are usually visible from late August to April, although we still got to see them in December!

With all the tours it’s best to book on the first night because if you’re unlucky and don’t see the lights they’ll take you again for free. We went with Time Tours. They picked us up at 8:30pm and didn’t drop us off back to the hotel until 1am. So be prepared for a long night!

 

Day 2

Again an early start, we woke up at 7am to start our drive South from Reykjavík to the Seljalandfoss waterfall. This took 1 hour and 35 min. The second waterfall was called Skogafoss, which was only minutes drive away.

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After we were all water-falled out, we drove another 50 minutes to Reynisfjara black sand beach, which had the most incredible views. Because we were on the road so much we had just been eating snacks on the way but when we got to this beach we found the Black Beach Café and had our first meal of the day. FYI they do the most delicious beef burgers with waffles fries here.

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Post burgers, we were back on the road again this time en route to where we were staying for the night, the Foss Glacier Lagoon Hotel. This was a stunning hotel literally in the middle of nowhere (very pricey but so worth it).

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For dinner we had melted Brie with honey, rosemary and cashew nuts for starters, beef tenderloin steak served with mash for main and to finish a dark chocolate raspberry cake served with ice cream and biscuit.

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A lot of our dishes were cooked with the famous Icelandic flake salt, which is the world’ only artisan salt produced with 100% geothermal energy. Perfect souvenirs!

 

Day 3

So the reason we stayed in the Foss hotel (in the middle of nowhere) was so that we could see the famous Jökulsárlón (only 20 mins drive away).

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The Jökulsárlón is literally a glacier river lagoon; this is the perfect place to take your drone out to play. Opposite the lagoon is the famous diamond beach (another must see)!

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That night we drove back to the Reykjavik and stayed at the Centre hotel (and caught some amazing shots along the drive)…

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Food

I recommend Sushi Social for dinner; they have a good combo of Japanese and South American food. The quality was good but the service wasn’t amazing (although it was NYE so we’ll let them off).
You can’t go to Iceland and not eat fish so I recommend Icelandic fish and chips. They serve fresh battered fish with yummy sauces including honey and mustard, truffle and tarragon and lemon and dill-take your pick!

 

Nightlife

Paloma bar in the center of Rejkavik was good for a big night out, if not there are plenty of bars and pubs in the center.

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La Paz, Bolivia

March 9th, 2017

La Paz, Puno, Lake Titicaca & Copacabana 

So from Cusco, Peru I had taken a 24-hour bus ride to La Paz with Bolivia Hop Company via Puno, Lake Titicaca and Copacabana. I highly recommend taking this bus company as you get the option to jump on and off whenever you want for a set price and the seats were super comfy.

Lake Titicaca was probably the only thing worth seeing. Known as the highest lake in the world, you can see people living on these floating straw islands. It was pretty amazing!

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I wouldn’t recommend visiting Puno as it’s just a city off the shore of Lake Titicaca but there’s isn’t much to see there. Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca and worth a short visit for the cathedrals and shore front.

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La Paz

There really isn’t all that much here, it’s quite a dirty city with a lot of traffic and pollution, so I don’t recommend staying here for very long. For all you thrill-seekers out there, I recommend doing Death Road, which is one of the most dangerous cycling paths.

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However, if staying for a night I do recommend an amazing café called Mundo Café. Opened by a Scandinavian guy, the Café has a mixture of healthy options including acai bowls, veggie burritos, Mexican bowls and a range of smoothies.

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If you do have time I would also recommend going on the cable cars, as the view is beautiful. There are also other attractions including the Witches market and the Valley of the Moon tour.

If you’re planning to stop over in La Paz for longer and have a higher budget then it’s worth splashing out on the Michelin Star restaurant, Gusto.

With some of the richest Bolivian flavours such as pink llama and eucalyptus with swiss mint, it’s sure to challenge your taste buds. Note this is probably outside of the typical back packing budget with tasting menus costing £39 for five courses.

Sucre

From La Paz it was another 14-hour overnight bus ride to Sucre. This is a city in the Southern sights of Bolivia and a definitely worth a visit if travelling through Bolivia.

Think colonial architecture, couples enjoying ice cream in the sun with cute lattes in cosy cafes.

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I stayed in the most beautiful hotel named Hotel Independencia, which was also situated really close to the town centre. However, if travelling solo and prefer to stay in hostels, one of the most recommended hostels is the Beehive hostel.

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Top things to do:

  1. Square Pedro of Anzúrez and Mirador Café
  2. Condor Café
  3. Rock Climbing
  4. Olga Molina Navajas for Saltenas

To get to the Square Pedro of Anzurez you have to walk up a little hill but the view is 100% worth it and I would also recommend having a drink outside at the Mirador Café over looking Sucre.

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The Condor Café was my hidden secret, the equivalent to Mundo Café in La Paz. I think I ate here for both lunch and dinner one day. The Australian owner opened this not for profit café and donates all of the profit to local communities in Sucre.

They specialise in vegetarian food but it’s super delicious and real cheap too. The honey-coated pancakes with chia seeds and strawberries are a must order!

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In the Confor Café they have an indoor climbing wall where you can practise and also book rock climbing lessons with a company called ‘Climbing Sucre’.

The rock climbing sessions are on an outside wall as opposed to in the centre. I couldn’t recommend doing this enough. It was scary I’m not going to lie, but you feel so accomplished once making it to the top. The combination of strategic thinking and lower body strength was truly a challenge.

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Another thing to do is to try the salteñas (savoury pastries) in Olga Molina Navajas. It’s quite a hidden place but you can buy them for £1 each and they taste absolutely delicious!

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Oh and one more thing…Sucre is the chocolate capital of Bolivia! So calling all chocolate lovers, you have to try the melted chocolate espresso for 60p in Para Ti Chocolates.

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Potosi

There wasn’t too much to do around here aside from the explosive mines. I personally did not choose to join this tour as did not agree with the miner’s working conditions. So I wouldn’t recommend including Potosi in your travels.

But if you do happen to stay here I recommend the hotel Libertator, which had clean comfy rooms and is located close to the town centre.

Salar de Uyuni

I have written a separate post for the Salt Flats in Salar de Uyuni which you can find here.

Lagoons

After the salt flats our next stop was San Pedro Atacama, Chile. We drove across the desert in our Toyota 4x4s, stopping off at some of the most beautiful scenic lagoons I’d ever seen.

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The Salt Flats

March 16th, 2017

This was by far my favourite part of the entire trip in South America. The Salt flats were just incredible, I remember being amazed at the images before going but when you get there it’s a completely different experience. I honestly felt like I was in heaven.

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Q: So what exactly is the science behind the salt flats?

A: Approximately 30,000 years ago, most of southwestern Bolivia was covered by a series of prehistoric lakes in the lowest point of the Altiplano plateau. The water leached salt from the surrounding mountains and these massive deposits remained when the lakes dried up. The Salar contains many important elements, including sodium, magnesium and potassium. It’s contains almost half of the world’s reserves of lithium (used in most batteries, cell phones and other devices).

The bright white landscape stretches for more than 4,000 square miles and the flat surface creates an optical illusion void of objects that help the eye understand perspective or depth of field. If the surface is wet, it turns into a shimmering mirror that perfectly reflects the sky. The region does not get much rainfall, but overflow from nearby lakes floods the flats during the southern hemisphere’s summer.

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As I joined a tour for this part of my trip it was all arranged for us. But if you are travelling alone I would suggest finding three other people to share a car with and also take some amazing photos!

The best time to visit the salt flats is springtime (September-November), as it is not too cold and there is more sunshine. However, I went around rainy season (March and had the unique experience of seeing the salt flats reflecting like a mirror.

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Some key tips before going:

  • Check the weather, as you want to be able to get the reflection for the best photos.
  • Wrap up warm (pack layers) and wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet
  • Pack sunglasses, hats, gloves and strong sunscreen
  • Make sure your camera is fully charged
  • Pack snacks and water (tours don’t usually provide water and so it’s essential to stay hydrated because of altitude sickness as you go up to 6000 metres above sea level)
  • Bring props for your photos and get creative!
  • This is a one a lifetime experience and I really recommend going for the longer tour and staying for sunset as you’ll want to spend as much time there possible

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Just outside Uyuni is an antique train cemetery which you will definitely pass through on the tour. The railway was built towards the end of 19th century and mainly used by mining companies until its collapse in the 1940s.

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Santorini, Greece

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Little White Houses & Sunsets in Santorini

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With Santorini being one of the most insta-grammed holiday spots in the last few years, of course I had to see what all the fuss was about!

Famous for it’s little white and blue houses and streets filled with jewellery shops and fish pedicure shops it’s the perfect get away for couples and families.

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Accommodation

So you’re sold on Santorini, next problem where to stay? Here is why I think it’s better to stay in Kamari beach and not Oia (which is where everyone stays)…

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  1. If you stay in Kamari, you are walking distance to the beach (need I say more)???
  2. The streets are super narrow and crowded in Oia and it’s way too busy to even relax…I mean that’s why you come on holiday right?
  3. Busier=pricier (.)
  4. Yes, you get the best sunset view from Oia (and it is meant to be the most beautiful sunset in the world) but you can easily spend a day or two in Oia during your whole trip

Ok so if I’ve sold Kamari beach to you, I would also like to recommend the hotel stayed at too.

Epvalis Hotel is located right at the top of the street along the Kamari beach strip overlooking the beach.

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The staff there are so lovely, so lovely in fact I left a really sentimental necklace in the hotel room and the owner’s son drove it back to me at the airport. Now if that isn’t 5* service I don’t know what is!

The hotel has the dreamiest bedrooms, each with their own personal jacuzzi! The pool is a decent side and you won’t be fighting for space when going for a leisurely swim.

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Food

Kamari

To Pinakio is the best restaurant in Kamari hands down! It’s not on the main strip and doesn’t have the sea view but the food is really authentic! Good portions and decent prices. You even get free raki, bread, olives AND dessert!

I recommend the sfouggato omelette with fried potatoes and cheese, chicken souvlaki, sausage onirologio with feta rosemary vinegar and honey and the green peppers! The bill came to approx. 40 euros for three people.

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thumb_IMG_5813_1024Oh and if you haven’t tried to iced coffee in Greece yet, you’re missing out!

Elia Eatery is also a hotel and restaurant and is the ideal spot for brunch with a beautiful seaside view.

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Captain’s Corner Taverna, again not on the sea front but located 5 min walk from our hotel, they serve the best lamb kleftiko and stuffed vine leaves!

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For a more fancy restaurant Alismari serve really good quality food, specializing in fresh fish. However, service is quite slow. The pastry feta cheese with fig and honey and grilled sea bream is delicious!

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Oia

Thalami restaurant is located right in the center of Oia and has one of the most incredible views of the little blue and white houses. The fried courgettes are my fav! Lunch for three people came to approximately 30 euros.

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Fira

For the best falafel wraps and fast food prices Falafeland is a must!

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Sunsets in Oia

Obviously everyone comes to Oia for the sunset so if you do plan to stay outside of Oia then here are a few travel tips…

You can take the bus to Oia from Fira which will take 20 minutes. From Kamari to Fira this will take another 20 minutes and the bus journey return will cost you 7 euros in total.

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Alternatively you can rent a car but it’s more expensive to drive/park and the roads are quite hilly and narrow (make sure you’re an experienced driver)!

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For the sunset I would recommend going to dine at one of the restaurants with a sunset view about an hour before the sun sets. This way you’ll get a good spot and avoid the rush as it gets PACKED, and by packed I mean SARDINE PACKED!

I also recommend not going during peak season and avoid August as this is their busiest month (I soon learnt this).

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5 Reasons Why You Need To Travel Alone 

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetTaken in Lisbon, Portugal -blog post here

Ok so you’ve fallen in love with travelling, but have you tried doing it solo? Now has never been a better time and here are 5 reasons why…

 

1. You learn the need for others and therefore appreciate others. 

When I was travelling alone in South America (not the safest of continents) there were times where I needed someone to look after my bags or someone to borrow a jumper from. I didn’t have my best friend with me so I had to rely on complete strangers or people that I’d just met that night in the hostel.

To my surprise there was this kind of travelling culture where everyone is willing to help one another. Having worked in finance in London it can be quite a dog eat dog culture and I found it really refreshing travelling alone and in some parts it had restored my faith in humanity. We aren’t created and put on this earth to live for our own selfish lives. We’re programmed to want and need relationships and travelling really helps reinforce this.

 

2. You end up feeling comfortable in your own skin. 

Before my first solo backpacking trip I had never even been on holiday on my own – so this was a big step. I honestly can’t explain how comfortable I am within myself since coming back. You shed off a layer of self consciousness and insecurity. It’s that realisation of knowing not everyone is going to have the same opinion as you on things but who cares? Embrace your individuality!!

 

3. You improve your organisation and language skills. 

As I knew I had no one to rely on if I got lost or needed to ask for directions in a different language I had to organise everything myself. From budgeting to transport and accommodation there are so many things to think about and when you’re travelling alone it can be easy to forget. This is also a great point to add to your cv and mention in job interviews!

 


4. You meet way more different kinds of people you’d ever imagine to. 

So many more people approached me when I was travelling alone than if I was with another friend or even a boyfriend. Not saying that you shouldn’t travel with your boyfriend/best friend but generally speaking I found couples tended to keep themselves to themselves more and I don’t blame them but if you want to get to know more people from different backgrounds, cultures and paths of lives then make the first move. It will also increase your confidence by a mile too.

I remember one night meeting an American old lady at a yoga class in Peru and we ended up having dinner and chatting all evening and the next having drinks at rooftop bar with a group of Australians!

 

5. Your memories aren’t tainted and they’re yours to treasure forever. 

If you were to go travelling with a boyfriend and break up after, your memories would just be of him and not the good times you spend exploring new countries and living new experiences. You want the best stories you can past on to your children and grandchildren…

Lisbon, Portugal

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Pink streets and Pasteis de Belems in Lisbon

July 11th, 2017

Bom Dia Lisbon!

Lisbon has become one of the top European cities to visit in the last few years – and after spending a few days here I can see why. With culture, architecture, fresh seafood and close approximation to the beach all at cheap prices it ticks all the right boxes.

 
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Accommodation
I stayed at the BessaHotel Liberdade (£170 per night) this is at the higher end of the price scale but I’d say it was good value for money. The bedrooms are very modern with a high attention to detail in interior design and the bathrooms are extremely spacious and futuristic. The hotel is located right in the heart of Lisbon close to the Rossio Square. Oh and there’s also an indoor pool and outdoor lounge area.

Neighbourhoods
The city is split into different neighbourhoods and everything is walkable distance. I saw Alfama in one night and Baixa, Chiado and Bairro Alto all in another night. Belem is the only one where you’ll need to take a train to get to.

  • Alfamathis is the oldest district in Lisbon surviving the 1755 earthquake. It has a strong medieval atmosphere with tiny streets, winding high up into the hills (travel tip: wear comfortable shoes as Lisbon is pretty hilly). You’ll find the Cathedral, Pantheon and Castelo Sao Jorge here.

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  • Baixa –this is the shopping and banking district of the city, located right in the centre of the city it extends all the way down to the Tagus River. You’ll find Praca do Comercio* (Terreiro do Paco) and Rossio Square here. *Praca do Comercio is one of the biggest squares in Europe-it is the stylish area in downtown Lisbon showcasing beautiful art work and sculpture, perfect for a romantic stroll (or a lonely one with your camera if you’re single like me haha)! Check out TOPO rooftop bar which is in this area.

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  • Bairro Alto – if you’re looking for nightlife, drinking spots and Lisbon’s best clubs here’s the place!
  • Chiado – the slightly “posher” part of Lisbon which sits between Baixa and Bairro Alto. With numerous boutiques and little restaurants here perfect for a more sophisticated evening (or at least the beginning of the night).

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  • Belemabout 10 minutes by train from the centre of Lisbon, Belem has lots to see and do but is far more relaxed. Set along the river you’ll find Torre de Belem, the Jeronimos Monastery and the Monument to the Discoveries. The Pasteis de Belem is also here, which is the birthplace of the famous custard tart.

Food
For food I would say the Time out market is obviously a must visit and secondly Palacio Chiado. Only read on if you’re looking to spend slightly more on good quality food with beautiful atmosphere.

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The Palacio Chiado is located in the Baixa neighbourhood (10 min walk from Time out market). It is basically an 18th century restored palace with 8 restaurants and bars inside to choose from. The architecture is beautiful, almost something like what you see in those Roman musuems. Spread over two floors there are plenty of nooks in which to chat or have a drink.

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I really recommend eating at Sushi Chiado (Prices range from 25-30 euros per person).

For cheaper options Maria Catita is perfect for steak and seafood. The octopus is a must order (not chewy)! For a more healthy option check out Organi Chiado.

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For yummy ice cream and good coffee Augusto Lisboa is the perfect place located in the Alfama area.

And of course dessert, when in Lisbon you must try the famous custard pastries (now for anyone who knows what Chinese ‘Dan Tarts’ are – they basically taste like these but better! Alcoa sell the best pastel de natas.

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Must dos
The Pantheon of the House of Braganza (Panteão da Casa de Bragança) is located in the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon which is the final resting place for many of the members of the House of Braganza, including Portuguese monarchs and Infantes of Portugal.

For that mandatory sunset photo, which I believe every traveller should want to see I would 100% recommend going to the observatory decks in Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.

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Of course visiting the Rossio square (in Baixa neighbourhood) is a must. Here’s one for the keen photographers and Instagrammers. Lisbon’s famous pink street. If you type ‘Cais do Sodré’ google maps should take you there! Happy snapping!

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Located a 5 min walk from the pink street is the Time out market. With a range of fresh cuisines to choose from, you’re spoilt for choice. The market is beautifully located just off the Tagus river front (again perfect for those romantic walks and photography opportunities).  I think the fact that there isn’t one of these markets in London makes it all more special.

 

 

Athens, Greece

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The Acropolis in Athens

July 17th, 2017

Athens is known as the classical, marble-pillared cradle of Western civilization built upon ancient ruins and as a modern urban city of concrete and traffic. As the capital of Greece, it’s definitely worth visiting this city for at least a few days. Whether you want to be island hopping through Greece or spending a couple of days in the capital exploring.

Regardless of the financial crisis and as a result an increase in VAT prices tourism has actually picked up recently in Athens. Greece has always been among the first 15 travel destinations world and the second most visited country in Europe.

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Accommodation

We stayed at the Wyndham Grand Athens hotel (£140 per night) which is located by the ‘Metaxourghio’ metro station. The hotel is very grand as the name describes it and rooms are beautiful with a rooftop pool located on the same level as an exclusive restaurant and bar with a 360 view overlooking the whole of Athens.

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Districts

There are a number of beautiful Districts in Athens including the Monastiraki and Plaka which is always a top place for tourists due to it’s colourful buildings, green plants and classic architecuture. The main city centre is at the station Syntagma, which is where the Parliment is located. Most of the places are within walking distance but if you decide to stay where I stayed it’s advised to take the Metro to the centre. It should only take 10 minutes and a daily unlimited travel ticket costs 4.50 euros

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Must Dos

The number one thing to see in Athens is  the Acropolis aka the crown jewel of Greece (if not the whole of Europe). Crowned by the Parthenon it rises over Athens, visible from almost every where within the city. Also included in the Acropolis is the Erechtheion (the design unites separate temples to each of the two Gods) and the Templo de Atenea Niké. Alongside the actual building is the Acropolis museum which is also worth a visit.

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Entrance fee cost 12 euros for adults and it is best to go early to beat the crowds (first entry 8am). For the best view of Athens and the acropolis at sunset and sunrise go to the Philopappos Hill.

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The Panathenaic Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium and one of the main historic attractions of Athens. Fun fact is that it is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.

Temple of Olympian Zeus is the Ancient Greece’s most colosal temple which stands beside the monumental arch that divided Athens between Greek hero Theseus and formidable Roman Emperor Hadrian.  Also right next door to the temple is the Hadrian’s Arch. Entry for both costs 6 euro and is free admission for students-so don’t forget to pack your student card!

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Located around the Monastiraki área is the Athens Flea Market open between 7am -2pm. This market sells a mixture of fruits, raw honey, meats, fresh fish and old antiques.

The Church of Kapnikarea is a tiny church and you’ll find this right in the centre of Athens close to Syntagma metro station. This is also the best place for shopping.

Slightly further out (30 minute drive from city centre) is the O.A.K.A Mapouol which is the Athens Olympic park. Worth a visit for those keen photographers.

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Food

Popular greek dishes include grilled octopus, moussaka, pittes, stifado, horiatiki (aka greek salad), souvlaki, gemista and kokkinisto. The top five Greek drinks are Ouzo, Tsipouro, Retsina, Hima and Mavrodaphne.

The entire Plaka area is filled with Greek restaurants to choose from. With many restaurant owners chasing you down the streets it’s sometimes difficult to choose the best ones so I’ve written a little post on my top four restaurants in Athens.

Estrella Athens
This is the perfect brunch place located right in the centre of Athens (by Syntagma metro station). They sell a variety of pancakes from red velvet and oreo to dulce de leche and eggs cooked in any way you like!

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A little Taste of Home
This place is voted as number 1 on trip advisor so I thought I’d check it out as it was located super close to our hotel.  It’s a local restaurant with only a few tables and has a very cosy ambience. They served the most amazing meatballs, baba ganoush, fresh pappardelle pasta served with hummus and falafel. Our meal for two came to 40 euros which I think is amazing value for the most efficient customer service and hospitality. The owner even offered us desserts and shots on the house. You’re certain to find a personable service if you choose to eat here.

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Balcony Restaurant and Bar
As the name suggests this is the perfect place for an intimidate balcony dining setting. The food was a refined and original twist to traditional Greek food. On the menu they have the most amazing fresh pasta with oxtail meat. I would also recommend the souvlaki chicken thigh skewers which comes with grilled aubergine, zucchini and roasted potatoes.

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(Souvla means spit roasted and this is Greek’s favourite way to serve meat). Our meal for two came to 40 euros including dessert and two mains. Most places tend to give you a famous Greek alcohol on the house with your meal. The restaurant is located right by the Acropolis metro station, the perfect place for dinner after a tourist day viewing the Acropolis.

 

Ellevoro
We had stumbled across this cute little restaurant on our way back from the Acropolis as it is located about a two minute walk from the Acropolis metro station. The restaurant had a real vintage flair to it and with only a few tables it had a real intimate homey feel to it with nostalgic music in the background. The decoration included a fireplace, frames on the wall, vintage bottles and lace tablecloths…

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The food was unbelievable too, we ordered the fried aubergine with tomato and feta cheese and fried zucchini balls with fresh yoghurt for starters and then shared the moussaka. Everything tasted homemade but I highly recommend the zucchini balls as these just melted in your mouth. For dessert we shared the praline chocolate halva with candy floss. The only downside would be that they could have a wider variety of main courses, however with the numerous cold and hot mezzes to choose from this wasn’t really a problem. A three course meal for two costs approximately 50 euros.

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Tips

Do not use local taxis as they will rip you off. Uber is super cheap in Athens but just be aware of the exchange rate fee charged.

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