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Where to stay in Kandy, Sri Lanka: Theva Residency

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First of all, I have to admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kandy. The Temple of the Tooth Relic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sure is remarkable, and so is the Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue that towers over the city on the Bahirawakanda hilltop, but the city itself didn’t impress me much. However, I think these are reasons enough to visit Kandy and it is also conveniently located to break up the journey from Colombo to either the cultural triangle or the tea country – for both of which you’ll have to pass through Kandy anyway.Sri Lanka KandyThe views from the Big Buddha show what Kandy is really about though: lush green mountains dotted with little houses along the mountainsides, valley views and a cool mountain breeze, which feels wonderfully refreshing after the scorching heat of Colombo and the south coast.kandy theva residency infinity poolSince it was all about these hills for me, I knew it would make sense to stay high up over the city, escaping the hectic streets of Kandy and enjoy the vistas over the town far below in the valley instead.kandy theva residency doorSo when I found Theva Residency, I didn’t have to think twice – this is where I would want to spend the night. Perched to the side of a mountain high above Kandy, the small boutique hotel comes with an infinity pool that allows you to lose yourself on the gorgeous views over the Hantana mountain range, an exquisite restaurant that allures with said views (at night, when everything is lit up, there is a completely different feel to it) to have dinner on the terrace, and cozy rooms that are also, you’ve guessed it, all about the views.Theva Residency RestaurantThe minivan that had picked me and my two fellow travelers up at the train station took us higher and higher up on the mountain, one slope after the other, aching under the weight of our luggage. After about 15 minutes uphill driving, I could see the large glass windows that make this modern, airy hotel what it is: a place that takes advantage of its spectacular setting and knows how to show off its vistas.

A few minutes later, we walked into the tastefully designed restaurant which comes with a large outdoor terrace, but doesn’t require you to sit outside to take in the valley from up here: top to bottom glass windows cover the indoor areas of the restaurant. After the typical Sri Lankan welcome ceremony with cold wet towels and a refreshing fruit juice, we settled into our room, designed in minimal chic style, also outfitted with large windows. Situated right above the infinity pool, I was tempted to jump into the dark blue water straight from here.kandy theva residency pool sri lankaAll rooms come with their own individual stylish design, local artists’ paintings on the wall and a bathroom that boasts a powerful rain shower. The penthouse suite and the superior rooms have a Jacuzzi, and the superior room’s in-room Jacuzzi right by the window had me think that this would be the perfect place for a romantic getaway, on a honeymoon tour of Sri Lanka for example.Theva Residency rooms

Speaking of a romantic getaway – I was lucky enough to peek inside the penthouse suite during my stay and was truly impressed. The living room, surrounded by panoramic top-to-bottom glass windows on three sides, offers spectacular views over the valley, and I could see how the jacuzzi, lit up by candles, would provide the perfect setting for the start to a romantic evening…Theva Residency Kandy SuiteNo matter if a superior balcony room or a standard deluxe room – what they all have in common is the attention to detail when it comes to decor, art and design. You can truly feel how much thought has put into furnishing and outfitting each and every room of Theva Residency.Theva Residency KandyEach room comes with tea and coffee making facilities, which allowed us to have a cup of tea straight from the neighboring tea country with the sweet treat that had been left to welcome us in our room. Sitting by the open window and looking out over the lush green hills while sipping on a cuppa and devouring the delicious home-made cookies made for a wonderful break before an afternoon of sightseeing.Theva Residency Kandy Sri Lanka1The hotel is small with only 15 rooms (1 penthouse, 3 3uites, 7 superior balcony rooms and 4 standard deluxe rooms) and feels intimate, and so did the dimly lit restaurant when we arrived there for dinner later that night. I was told that the chefs here are all masters of their art, and took great pride in presentation of the Asian and international dishes. And our dishes did not disappoint.

We started with a pumpkin cream soup served in a loaf of bread, followed by a lemongrass sorbet as a palate cleanser. My main dish, a vegetable lasagna, could have been straight out of Italy and the breaded eggplant right out of New York City. My fellow diners also enjoyed the fresh fish and chicken dishes they ordered.Theva Residency DinnerPassion fruit cheesecake and a chocolate mousse for dessert rounded our dining experience – in fact, we were still stuffed from this divine meal when we went down for breakfast the next morning but we couldn’t resist the scrumptious and generous breakfast.

Breakfast is presented just as tasteful as dinner the night before, and so much more than we could possibly finish: fresh fruit juice and a fruit plate, eggs made to order, a basket with fresh breads and pastries, served with jams, all served with tea or a plunger of coffee.Theva Residency BreakfastMy only regret is that I couldn’t stay another night – I didn’t have near enough time to simply relax by the pool, enjoy a glass of wine on the terrace or take advantage of the Jacuzzi in my room.Theva Residency room

Standout features

The location

For me, the location was one of the best features of the hotel. I loved being high up in the mountains and how well Theva Residency integrated its prime real estate into all rooms, designing the hotel in a way that allowed for sweeping views from everywhere, no matter where in the hotel you are. The terrace by the pool, the restaurant and its large terrace, the rooms – the views are outstanding from everywhere.

I also loved being far above the hustle and bustle of Kandy, which felt miles away, but still in reality, I could be in the town center in 15 minutes.Theva Residency

The restaurant

I am not sure if there is a comparable dining experience to be had anywhere else in Kandy, but the Theva restaurant, which can also be visited by non-guests, makes for a gorgeous, classy and elegant night out. Everything here is done just right, from aperitifs to digestives, starters to desserts, palate cleansers and wine selection – plus its wonderful setting in the mountains, with lights sparkling everywhere at night.

Room for improvement

To be honest, I have had a very hard time trying to think of something that could be improved. There was nothing during my short stay that I thought could use improvement, so I just suggest that Theva Residency keeps up the high quality service and maintenance of the rooms which should always be in a perfect condition, considering the steep price tag of the rooms.Theva Residency Sri Lanka

Details

Free wifi, pickup service from the train station, tea and coffee making facilities in the room, breakfast included in the room rate, infinity pool, superior rooms come with jacuzzi, restaurant with terrace and full bar.

Location: 11/B5/10-1, 6th Lane, Off Circular Road 2, Hantana, Kandy
Price: Starting at $126 per deluxe room per night, $157 per superior room, $253 per suite per night (prices vary depending on season)
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Yes
Amenities: Free wifi, pickup service from the train station, tea and coffee making facilities in the room, breakfast included in the room rate, infinity pool, superior rooms come with jacuzzi, satellite TV, air con, restaurant with terrace and full bar.
Website: Theva.lk or you can follow Theva Residency on FacebookTheva Residency Kandy Sri Lanka

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Where to stay in Negombo, Sri Lanka: The Reefs Edge Hotel

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For my last couple of days in Sri Lanka, I had only one wish: relax and wind down, catch up on work, and be close to the airport.

The closest town to the airport is Negombo, a small fishing town known for its long sandy beaches and fish market.

While I was researching possible hotels to stay at I was told about the Reefs Edge Hotel, and while it was not exactly in Negombo (it’s about 20 minutes south of town), after a quick look at the website, I was sold. I wasn’t looking to be in the center of the party anyway, but I was looking to chill out after a hectic three-week tour traversing Sri Lanka from Yala in the southeast to Jaffna in the far northwest, and everywhere in between.Reefs Edge Hotel Sri Lanka beachMy pickup from the train station went smooth, and the typical Sri Lankan welcoming with cool towels and a refreshing drink in the hotel lobby was exactly what I needed after a long day of traveling. Checking in was quick and efficient (you might take this for granted but in some other hotels I stayed at it took over 20 minutes to get checked in!).Reefs Edge hotel sri lanka1The room was bigger than expected, and I loved the open air style bathtub in the open bathroom. No worries: there are blinds that can be lowered to induce a wall between bathroom and bedroom, but even when it is not lowered, toilet and shower are separately closed off from the main bathroom by glass doors.

All 23 rooms in the 2-storey hotel have an ocean view, a balcony, a desk (which got a lot of use in the evenings and during the late afternoon monsoon rain showers), tea and coffee making facilities and big bathroom with a glorious, spacious rain shower.Reefs Edge hotel roomWhile the rooms are perfectly fine, the Reefs Edge Hotel is designed in a way that makes you want to be outside all the time instead of inside the room.

Just off the golden sand beach, the hotel has a large grassy area on which sun chairs are spread out in front of the stunning infinity pool. Looking out onto the ocean from the pool was one of the most calming things I did during my entire time in Sri Lanka!Sri Lanka Reefs Edge HotelOn the opposite side of the grassy area, a two-level terrace leads into the restaurant and bar, both of which have top to bottom glass windows that boast the postcard-worthy views of palm trees, beach and the Indian Ocean.

The two-tiered terrace has a number of tables for outdoor dining on the upper level, and while there are some tables on the lower level as well, it is the comfy nests that catch your eye here. Filled with cushions, and a little roof to protect you from the sun, they are the perfect place to lounge in. I had my morning coffee here one day and it felt as if I was still in bed, only that I was enjoying the ocean breeze and the sound of the clashing waves.reefs edge hotel infinty pool1There are a couple more of these nests down on the beach, but while you can feel all beachy here, you can’t swim in the ocean itself. As the name implies, the hotel sits right on the edge of a reef, and the current here is crazy, due to the height of the reef that drops extremely steep into the water. While some people might be disappointed about not being able to dip into the ocean, I didn’t mind it at all, thanks to the wonderful infinity pool.

The beach does invite to take long walks, however: a long and wide deserted, palm-fringed golden sand beach that goes on for miles. If you walk south, you’ll have the Colombo skyline and harbor in your view the entire time, if you walk north, you’ll pass a few lone fishermen, but that’s about it. It feels like you have this beach all to yourself.

The walks are needed to make up for the generous servings of food that are included in the full board price, including a buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner which both come with appetizer, soup, main course and dessert.Reefs Edge Hotel And BeachBecause of all the food, I really appreciated the fact that the hotel has a gym, equipped with a stepper, treadmill, bicycles, weights and some other toning equipment. I found the gym to be quite spacious in relation to the hotel’s size, which is something you don’t often get – most hotels that claim to have a gym only have a treadmill and some weights. Not so the Reefs Edge Hotel where I was able to fit in a full daily workout.

If you feel less active, you can just work your way through the comprehensive drinks menu at the bar, which I thought was very reasonable priced, especially compared to some of the ridiculously overpriced drink menus I’d seen in other hotels of the same standard. If you feel like getting pampered, also no problem: the hotel has a large beautiful spa where you can get any treatment you desire, or let the certified massage therapists work their magic to make sure you leave the hotel 100% relaxed.Reefs Edge Hotel SpaBreakfast seemed to cater to British guests (bacon, eggs, baked beans, sausages and grilled tomatoes) but I was pleased to see that local breakfast (string hoppers, dhal curry, potato curry, coconut sambal and meat) was available as well. In addition, there are fresh fruit and yogurt, breads, croissants and sweet pastries.Sri Lanka Reefs Edge Hotel BreakfastLunch and dinner both have several items to choose from for each course and I left the restaurant stuffed each time.

The staff was always helpful and attentive, everyone was doing their best to please the guests, although I found the language barrier difficult and the service slow at times. The pool attendant was the sweetest of them all, always making sure that my towels were tucked into the sun chair really well, and offering to take some photos of me inside the pool.dani reefs edge hotel

Stand-out features

For me, the absolute standout feature at the Edge Reef Hotel is the beautifully landscaped outside area that makes you want to do nothing but lounge, sunbathe and relax. As drinks were served right to the sunbed by the pool, I had no desire to even leave the property! I just wanted to enjoy the pool, relax and indulge in fruit plates all day long.

The thoughtful equipment of the rooms is another aspect that stood out: there are monsoon rains in Sri Lanka (mainly May to September in this part of the island), which doesn’t mean that it rains all day, but it will rain for a couple of hours. For these hours, the Reefs Edge makes sure you won’t get bored in your room: you can rent DVDs (a massive movie selection!) or you can take a bath in the elegant stand-alone bathtub, or just sit at the desk and upload your vacation photos to Facebook or do it the old-fashioned way and write postcards to your loved ones.Sri Lanka Reefs Edge Hotel1

Room for improvement

As mentioned above, I found the service to be lacking that extra bit of knowledge that you would expect in a hotel of this class, but considering that the hotel had only been open for eight months at the time of my visit and was just about to go in its first high season, I am confident that service will get better over time.

The other aspect I found left to be desired was the food. While I always left the restaurant with a full belly, I never returned to my room thinking ‘this was an amazing dinner‘. In fact, the vegetarian rice and curry dish was probably the one I liked the least in all of my time in Sri Lanka. The hot breakfast dishes were lukewarm, the pastries often didn’t seem fresh (defrosted?), and vegetarian dishes were not clearly marked – I ended up with fish in my chickpeas, which is horrifying for any vegetarian. Vegetarian dishes should be marked as such, and the quality of the breakfast buffet could use an upgrade to become top-notch.Reefs Edge Hotel Sri Lanka Restaurant

Overall

In my opinion, the Reefs Edge hotel is the perfect place to end a tour of Sri Lanka. It has everything you need to relax – a spa, a terrific infinity pool, a bar and restaurant with fair prices, an exquisite spa and staff that make you feel welcome at all times. And should you feel the urge to leave the property (which you probably won’t!), the hotel can arrange excursions to nearby attractions for you, such as the famous Negombo fish market or the nearby Muthujawarela Wetlands, for which I left my comfy spot by the pool one day, and while I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it, the amount of wildlife I saw on this cruise through the backwaters, canals and the Negombo lagoon, including kingfisher birds, water monitors and herons. As a wildlife lover, this was a fantastic way to end my time in Sri Lanka. The proximity to both Colombo and Negombo is also unbeatable, as is the short distance to the airport (less than 30 mins away).Backwaters Tour

Details

Location: No. 300, Old Colombo Road, 11328 Uswetakeiyawa, Sri Lanka
Price: Starting at $101 per standard double room per night, $114 for superior rooms, $127 for deluxe rooms. Breakfast, half-board and full-board packages can be booked.
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Yes
Amenities: Breakfast included in room rate, free wi-fi, infinity pool, spa, gym, beach access, mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities in each room, flatscreen TV with DVD player, free wi-fi, transfer service, bar and restaurant, airport transfer possible, tour desk, sun terraces, all rooms have ocean views
Website: www.reefsedge.lk or follow Reefs Edge Hotel on FacebookReefs Edge Hotel Sri Lanka

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Where to stay in Galle, Sri Lanka: Villa Templeberg

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I was sitting on the comfortable bright orange sofa right underneath the three terrace windows that were looking out into the lush green tropical gardens. Two dogs were lazing on the front lawn, and the only noise I could hear came from some lizards that were sunbathing on the stones by the pool and some monkeys further away. No tuktuks, no people, only the sounds of nature. Villa Templeberg was exactly what I needed  – the perfect place to get away from it all.villa templebergThirty minutes earlier, I had still been on the overcrowded train from Colombo to Galle, and now I felt like I was miles away from civilization. One of the villa’s staff had picked me up at the train and as we left the bustling train station area in Galle and headed out of town, I started to relax. I knew that the villa was sitting on a 5-acre coconut plantation, perched on top of a hill in the middle of the jungle, not much around it. This was exactly what I was craving after a few busy days in Sri Lanka’s capital, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to catch up on writing some articles and reflect on the TBCasia conference I had just attended.Villa templebergVilla Templeberg is a small B&B, even though not right on the beach, just a quick 10-minute tuktuk ride from Unawatuna and from Galle, both located on the south eastern coast of Sri Lanka. The property has only six rooms, four of them in the main building and two set in a smaller building behind the villa. The small size gives Templeberg an exquisite feel, and it is possible to rent out the entire villa, which sleeps up to 11 people. Sri Lanka Villa Templeberg near GalleI was staying in the Saffron Room, which used to be the dining room of the Dutch-colonial villa when it was still the estate of a working coconut plantation, as it used to be when it was built more than 200 years ago. Now, the spacious master suite comes with a king-size four-poster bed with a canopied mosquito net, a sofa and a small table, and a walk-in closet. Walking through the closet brings you to an even more spacious bathroom (seriously, I have stayed in hotel rooms that were smaller than the bathroom of the Saffron!), complete with a double sink and a big rainwater shower, all held in a simple yet stylish design.villa templeberg bathroom sinkI had two nights at Templeberg, but I immediately wanted to extend my stay. Right outside the room there was a small porch with another sitting area, and the main entrance to the villa which led to the other rooms, the dining area, a lounge and a study, another veranda with chairs and a table, and the backyard around which the villa is set. All of this was surrounded by hundreds of coconut palm trees.Villa Templeberg Sri LankaThe villa, which used to be the private estate of a German family until the late 2000s, was bought by Australian couple Brent and Chris and his mother Karen, and turned into a B&B in 2012. I loved that most of the antique Sri Lankan furniture and art have been retained, which contributes to the feeling of time standing still here – even though the villa has all modern amenities you could ask for, Templeberg has managed to keep the rustic character of the colonial estate alive that it used to be for so long.Sri Lanka Villa TemplebergThe next morning, I was in for another treat: the home-made breakfast. Local chef Trixie prepared a wonderful Sri Lankan breakfast with Sri Lankan egg hoppers (one of the best breakfast dishes I’ve had anywhere in the world), fresh tropical fruits and Sri Lankan tea, all of which filled me up for the entire day.Villa Templeberg Breakfast

I spent my days at Templeberg mainly sitting on the terrace, writing up my conference notes, drafting articles, or chatting with Karen, the on-site host, and Lucy, the writer-in-residence who was spending a month in the ‘Writer’s Bungalow’ in the back. Speaking of which: the Villa is the ideal place for a Writer’s Retreat, something I will keep in mind for the future considering renting the entire villa starts at only $300 per night, depending on the season and the length of the stay. But even just by myself I’d be happy to return for a longer period of time, using the tranquil setting to write undisturbed. With beaches and Galle so close, I would still be able to get my occasional beach day and the amenities of a city.villa templeberg sri lanka galle

Stand out features

The swimming pool

Even though I haven’t seen it yet – construction had only started during my stay at the Villa – I have to mention the swimming pool which is due to open soon. A 25 meter (82 feet) long swimming pool right in these lush green gardens – could there be a more perfect place to lounge by the pool in the scorching heat of Sri Lanka? I don’t think so, and I’ll have to visit Templeberg again the next time I’m in Sri Lanka, just to see that pool, and maybe take a dip.Sri Lanka Villa Templeberg GalleThe atmosphere at the villa

I simply loved the serene atmosphere at the villa which evoked the charm and romance of a bygone era and made it easy to shake off the strains of the stressful conference and whirlwind tour of Sri Lanka that I had just finished. I loved the tranquility and solitude, and that there was nothing to distract me from relaxing entirely and forget the world around me.Villa templeberg

Room for improvement

The bathrooms

I checked out a couple of the other rooms during my stay and noticed that the bathrooms were not nearly as nice as the bathroom in the Saffron Room in which I was staying – I would love to see them upgraded as well; but considering that the villa is improving constantly, I am sure that it is only a question of time until these bathrooms reach the same standard as the one in the Saffron Room.

Villa Templeberg bathroom and furniture
The fabulous new bathroom of the Saffron room

More information on the area

I was only told about the nearby Kuduruduwa Temple and some other attractions the afternoon before I left, which meant I didn’t have time left to visit them. I wish I would’ve been told about them earlier, or that a folder with information on what there is to do and see in the area would have been placed in each room. I have always appreciated these folders in B&Bs I stayed at, which usually contain information on good nearby restaurants and bars, attractions and other useful tips.Villa templeberg

Overall

Villa Templeberg is the perfect base if you are looking for an intimate, quiet getaway but still want to close to fabulous restaurants, beaches and the UNESCO site of Galle Fort as well as the beach town of Unawatuna. No matter if you are a solo traveler in need of a peaceful oasis in Sri Lanka, a couple looking for some privacy or girlfriends who are ready for a few days of doing nothing other than lounging by the pool with a good book and a glass of wine, get massages and completely unwind, Templeberg will not disappoint.Villa Templeberg Saffron Room

Details

Location: Babaragoda Road off Akuressa Road, Loressakanda, Wanchaawala, Kaduruduwa Southern Province, Galle, Sri Lanka, 80120
Price: Starting at $95 per double room per night, $300 – $500 per night for the entire villa (can accommodate up to 11 people)
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly:
If wi-fi would be more reliable.
Amenities: Breakfast included in room rate, free wi-fi, swimming pool, tuktuk service, massage room, verandas and gardens with sun chairs, airport transfer possible, half-board possible, free laundry, tour guide bookable
Website: templeberg.com or you can follow Villa Templeberg on Facebookvilla templeberg sri lanka bungalow

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On the CINNAMON Trail in Sri Lanka: My suggested itinerary for Sri Lanka

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This is the tour I’d recommend to anyone visiting Sri Lanka – it includes the essence of Sri Lanka: the main UNESCO World Heritage Sites, cultural and historical highlights, wildlife, beaches and city life in the capital.Sri Lanka Cinnamon Hotels MapI was recently asked by two friends to help them plan their trip to Sri Lanka, which is why I decided to put this guide together. My first week in Sri Lanka was a rushed one, but it was also an absolutely amazing one. The itinerary for our whirlwind tour of the country’s main sights had been put together by the Cinnamon Hotel group, which means I got to stay at Cinnamon properties throughout the week, and I fell head over heels in love with the chain. You all know that I am a hotel geek, with countless hotel reviews here on the site, and getting to know several Cinnamon Hotels during my time in Sri Lanka definitely contributed to how much I enjoyed the trip. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I loved Cinnamon Hotels so much, considering that they were named the ‘best hotel chain in Sri Lanka’ by Lonely Planet!Sri LankaWhile I was doing this tour on a rushed schedule, I think these places should be on every traveler’s itinerary to Sri Lanka, followed by a week of beach relaxation. I have no hesitations in recommending the (almost) identical round trip that I took with Cinnamon, including stays at Cinnamon Hotels in each place. My friends who’re going to Sri Lanka shortly are both on a decent salary, and considering that the Cinnamon Hotels usually are between $100 and $180 for a double room (mostly around $130) – 85 to 150 Euros, most of the chain’s room rates are a steal for them, starting at just over 40 Euros per person. See below what you get for this money and you’ll know what I mean.Cinnamon Hotels

Kandy – The Sacred City

Arrange transportation straight to Kandy from the airport. Kandy is only 100 kilometers from the airport, but expect it to take several hours to get there – traffic can be heavy on this route.

Kandy was the last capital of the Sinhala kings and home to the stunning Temple of the Tooth Relic (a popular pilgrimage site because of Buddha’s sacred tooth) and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Allow a day to explore the city center and the Temple Of The Tooth Relic and make your way up to the Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue on top of Bahirawakanda hill from where you’ll have fantastic views over Kandy.kandy temple of the tooth sri lankaWhere to stay: The Cinnamon Citadel Kandy

The Cinnamon Citadel Kandy is located a short drive from the city center, perched upon one of the hills surrounding Kandy. The hotel is home to a large outdoor pool with gorgeous river views – the perfect place to relax after a day of sightseeing, and to recover from jet lag.

The beautiful hotel, designed all in white, was one of my favorite Cinnamon properties in Sri Lanka. The restaurant with its large terrace, also overlooking the river, offers terrific sunset views while dining, the excellent food options make for a divine dining experience in a sensational setting.

Price: Superior double rooms start at $120 for two people, including buffet breakfast.

Book this hotel

Number of recommended nights: 1 -2kandy citadel poolHow to get here quickly: If you’re severely time-strapped, you can fly to Kandy from Colombo’s International Airport – instead of a 4-hour drive, it’s a quick 25-minute flight. Cinnamon Air offers daily flights.

Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa & Minneriya National Park

Sigiriya is the next UNESCO site, and probably the UNESCO site in Sri Lanka in the most stunning location. It’s about 2.5 to 3 hours from Kandy and is part of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, being one of the ancient cities (the other two being Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura), but this one has one important feature that differentiates it from the other two: it sits on top of a giant monolith. The name Sigiriya means ‘Lion’s Rock’, given because of the gateway in the form of a giant lion built on a plateau halfway up the rock. Passersby would have no idea what treasure sits on top of the rock, and it takes a challenging climb up narrow stairs clung to the steep cliffs of the rock, to see the ruins on top of the plateau.

My recommendation would be to spend two nights in Habarana and visit the three nearby UNESCO sites (Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and the Dambulla Cave Temple) as well as Minneriya National Park. The best way to do this: leave Kandy in the morning, and head straight to Minnerya National Park when you get to Habarana. You won’t need more than half a day for your jeep safari. The amount of elephants I got to see on my safari was astounding – I was hoping for six or seven elephants, instead I got to see entire herds!Cultural TriangleThe next day, I’d get up early to climb Sigiriya (it gets really hot – so the earlier you climb, the better). It’s unlikely that you’ll spend more than half a day here, so you can either head straight to Dambulla to visit the Cave Temple, or relax back at the hotel and head to Dambulla later in the afternoon.

On your third day, pack up your bags and leave your luggage at reception, and have the hotel arrange transportation to Polonnaruwa for you. The ancient city is about 45 minutes away.

Where to stay: Chaaya Village Habarana

Habarana is a small town that is conveniently located to visit Sigiriya, the Dambulla Cave Temple and Kaudulla National Park. Cinnamon has two properties here: the upscale Cinnamon Lodge and the slightly cheaper Chaaya Village, where I was staying. I also visited the Cinnamon Lodge (the two hotels are basically next to each other), but I don’t think I’d pay more to stay there – I loved my time at Chaaya Village and it was my favorite Cinnamon Hotel for wildlife sightings.

The dining and bar area is wide open (with a roof though, to protect you from the frequent monsoon rains) and looks out to the large swimming pool, behind which there were monkey families hanging out on a regular basis. In addition to the monkeys, there were several curious squirrels and lots of bird life around the hotel, which made this animal lover very happy!sri lanka cinnamon habaranaAll rooms are located in little bungalows in a beautiful lush green setting.

Price: Superior double rooms start at $103, including breakfast. A superior double room at the Cinnamon Lodge Habanara starts at $169.

Book Chaaya Village                           Book Cinnamon Lodge Habanara

Number of recommended nights: 2

How to get here quickly: If you’re severely strapped for time, you can fly to Sigiriya from Colombo – instead of a 5-hour drive, it’s a quick 35 minute flight. Cinnamon Air offers daily flights.

The Northeast: Trincomalee

Note: I recommend including this stop if you have time and are looking for a good spot to snorkel and whale watch. If you don’t have a lot of time, head straight to the next stop instead, the tea country.

While I didn’t make it to the Northeastern part of Sri Lanka on this trip, I’ve heard fantastic things about Trincomalee and will definitely visit this coastal town on my next visit to Sri Lanka. The area is known for its exceptionally clear waters which make for great snorkeling (particularly Pigeon Island) and there are a couple of noteworthy beaches nearby. In March/April and September/October, Trincomalee is also a fantastic place to join a whale watching tour – blue whales and sperm whales can be seen here.sri lanka coastWhere to stay: Chaaya Blu Resort

Cinnamon has one property in Trincomalee, the luxury 4* Chaaya Blu Resort, located right on the beach, a beautiful resort with open dining areas, a large pool facing the ocean and several restaurants, including a crab restaurant. Rates start at only $60 per night per double room here, which is an absolute steal!

Book this hotel

Number of recommended nights: 2

How to get there quickly: Cinnamon Air offers flights to Trincomalee from Colombo and Sigiriya.

The Tea Country

I don’t think a visit to Sri Lanka is complete without a visit to the tea country! In fact, my train rides through the tea plantations and green tea-covered hills are some of the fondest memories of my trip. I will write more about the tea country in a separate post, but if you have enough time, go back to Kandy and take the train to Nuwara Eliya or even all the way to Ella from here. There are some great hikes in this area including the trails in one of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful areas, the uplands of World’s End and Horton Plains (close to Nuwara Eliya) but even if you’re not into hiking, just seeing the scenery from the train and visiting a tea plantation would make the trip worth it.

Where to stay: There are no Cinnamon Hotels in the tea country (yet!), but check out Booking.com for hotels in Ella or hotels in Nuwara Eliya.

Number of recommended nights: 2Tea country Sri Lanka

Yala National Park

Even though Yala National Park is quite far from the Cultural Triangle, if you’re a wildlife lover, you can’t miss a safari here! (Note: if you don’t care too much about leopards, monkeys, birds, elephants, crocodiles, deer and other wild animals, I’d skip Yala and head straight to the beaches).

My main recommendation for Yala: Fork out the money for two safaris – it’s worth it. My morning safari was very different from my evening safari, and you’re more likely to spot a leopard if you head out twice. Jeep safaris with Cinnamon Nature Trails guides can be arranged at the hotel.

Where to stay: Cinnamon Yala

The Cinnamon Hotel in Yala is probably the most beautiful Cinnamon Hotel, and I wish I could’ve stayed here. Just take a look at the pictures! My friend Steve who stayed here even saw an elephant right on the hotel grounds, and that’s not an uncommon occurrence. In fact: you’re not allowed to wander the grounds without a guard accompanying you at night, because there might be an elephant right outside your chalet. Chalets start at $170 per night in low season, breakfast included.

Book this hotel

Number of recommended nights: 2

How to get there quickly: If you don’t have much time, you can fly to Yala with Cinnamon Air from Colombo.yala

The South Coast

After exploring Sri Lanka’s wildlife and cultural heritage, it is time to hit the beach! I’d recommend staying on the south coast, preferably around Galle, so that you can also fit in a day trip to this charming Dutch-Portuguese colonial town (another UNESCO site), which can easily be explored in a few hours.

The most popular beaches here are Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna and Mirissa, and no matter which one you choose, you’ll find yourself at a pristine, palm-fringed tropical beach, perfect for relaxation and recharging your batteries.sri lanka south coastWhere to stay:

If you want to be right at the beach, check out Booking.com for hotels in Hikkaduwa, Mirissa and Unawatuna in all price categories. You can find everything from basic guesthouses to luxurious 5* hotels, albeit the majority of luxurious hotels sits outside of the towns along the coast.

If you’d like to stay away from it all and enjoy a tranquil part of the beach outside of town, I recommend the 5* Cinnamon Bey in Bentota (double rooms start at $119) or the Chaaya Tranz (double rooms from $109) in Hikkaduwa. Note that Bentota is still pretty far north though – perfect if you don’t want to travel too far to the airport, but Hikkaduwa would be better for you if you’re planning to visit Galle.

Book Cinnamon Bey                 Book Chaaya Tranz

Number of recommended nights: 5

Tip: If you have a full two weeks for your vacation, I’d recommend spending an entire week at the beach, or even split your time between two beaches.Cinnamon Hotels South Coast

Colombo

If you’d like to experience some city life in Colombo before you leave, a night in Colombo isn’t a bad idea – if you don’t care much about drinks on rooftop bars and some shopping, extend your stay at the beach instead and head straight to the airport from there.

I’d recommend checking out the historic fort area, dining in one of the new restaurants in or around the former Dutch hospital (beautiful restored), and heading the ‘Red, the rooftop bar of the Cinnamon Red Hotel, for sunset drinks. If you’d like to see some of Sri Lanka’s dodgier bars, check out the Dodgy Bar Tour which I went on and really enjoyed.colomboWhere to stay:

There are three Cinnamon Hotels in Colombo, all of which are fabulous. Cinnamon Grand is the most exquisite one, Cinnamon Lakeside is a popular congress hotel (however, I have to say I loved their swimming pool and lakeside location) and Cinnamon Red is the young and trendy one. I’d probably stay in the latter, which also happens to be the most inexpensive of the three, with rooms starting at $90 per night per double room!

To help you make a decision which one might be the right one for you: Cinnamon Grand feels like a glam Vegas-type hotel with several restaurants, shops and cafes inside the hotel, two swimming pools and a spa, with rates starting at $137 (add $10 for the scrumptious breakfast buffet); Cinnamon Lakeside has 9 different restaurants, a large swimming pool and a health club – rates start at ; Cinnamon Red has the best rooftop pool and bar in the city (at least in my humble opinion) and is decorated in a modern, chic design (can you guess which color is prevalent here?) and has rooms for less than $100 per night.

Book Cinnamon Grand     |     Book Cinnamon Lakeside    |    Book Cinnamon Red

cinnamon red rooftop pool
Watching a fiery sunset from the Cinnamon Red’s rooftop pool

Number of recommended nights: 1-2

So, these are my Sri Lanka highlights with a suggested itinerary. You can find a complete list of my favorite places in Sri Lanka here on Trover:

Sri Lanka Highlights – a photo list by GlobetrotterGirls

Have you been to Sri Lanka? Which places would you suggest visitors can’t miss?

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Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem: A home away from home

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When I arrived at the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem, it took me about ten minutes to know I’d be feeling completely at home here during my stay. ‘Would you like to participate in our Shabbat dinner tonight?’, I was asked during the quick and smooth check-in, to which I excitedly said ‘Of course, yes!’. I had been invited to my first ever family Shabbat dinner the Friday before, and eight days after my first introduction to this wonderful Jewish tradition of an extensive and festive family dinner, I still found myself daydreaming about all the good food I had gotten to try at my friend’s mom’s house, so taking part in the one at the hostel was a no-brainer for me. I put my stuff down in my room and headed straight to the communal lounge to do some writing before the Shabbat dinner. Happy Hour had just started and I ordered myself a glass of the excellent local Israeli wine and took in the atmosphere around me.abraham hostel jerusalem signPeople were sitting around lounge tables in small groups, laughing and talking, the bar was just starting to get busy, the hostel staff were mingling with the guests, and the volunteer staff were chopping away in the kitchen to get dinner ready in time. The music playing in the background was wonderfully relaxing, not the noisy dance music you get in some other hostels that have a bar. I knew that I’d be feeling right at home here for the next six nights.Jerusalem Abraham HostelAnother indication that this wasn’t your typical party hostel: the guests were of all ages, ranging from couples in their 50s, solo travelers in their 30s to girlfriends in their 20s. There was a TV room just off the lounge, so if you were not in the mood to mingle, you could retire to the TV room, but if you were looking to meet people, there were plenty of opportunities to do so. The rooftop terrace with its comfy lounge sofas was another great spot to meet other travelers, or just sitting at the bar was an easy way to get chatting fellow travelers.abraham hostel jerusalem roof terraceWhen I, prior to my arrival, had read that the hostel had 250 beds, I was a bit apprehensive, because I usually find those big hostel too impersonal, too loud, or too chaotic. My concerns were unfounded though – at Abraham’s, I never felt that there were that many people (and I later learned that there were even 260 beds), even though the hostel is near full capacity almost all the time.abraham hostel jerusalem private roomInstead I found a hostel where I could have my privacy in my spacious en-suite single room on the third floor whenever I wanted, but I could also go mingle in the lounge or, after 6pm, at the bar, preferably during the great-value happy hour of course, or take the social aspect one step further by joining one of the nightly activities where you can get to know other travelers – perfect for solo travelers like me. There is the weekly Pub Crawl, a Mexican Taco night, movie nights, a weekly open-mic night or the already mentioned Shabbat dinner on Fridays.abraham hostel jerusalem chillout areaThe dinner the volunteers at the hostel put together was almost as good as the home-cooked food I had had the Friday before. The options for vegetarians were plentiful and everything I tried was delicious – and seeing how many people went for second helpings, I was not the only one who felt that way. The price tag for the Shabbat dinner, ILS30 (US$7.70), is also extremely affordable, especially considering the amount of food you get and compared to the pricey restaurants of Jerusalem. While the lounge was fairly busy during the dinner with around 50 people in attendance it still had an intimate feel to it, thanks to the guests being grouped around smaller tables, which also had the advantage that you could get to know one another.Shabbat Dinner Abraham HostelEven though I preferred the seclusion and quietness in my private room which came with a desk (perfect for the writing I needed to catch up on) and a small kitchenette with a full-size fridge, I was impressed with the four-bed female dorms when I peeked inside one of them one day. Not only was the room spacious and each bed had its own reading lamp and socket, but a make-up table had been added just so that the girls could get ready in front of a full size mirror and spread out their make-up and toiletries. There was even a hair dryer! Abraham HostelThe dorm also has a kitchenette, which is basically just a cupboard with a fridge; the shared main kitchen is where you really find anything you need to make yourself a meal is downstairs right by the communal lounge, but it is nice to be able to store something in the room. With two stoves and ovens in the main hostel kitchen I never saw anybody having to wait to cook, and found the kitchen to be very clean. Plus: there is free tea and coffee in the kitchen all day long.abraham hostel jerusalem shabbat dinnerThe mornings were the best part though – that’s when a fancy espresso machine magically appeared and allowed guests to wake up with a proper espresso or cappuccino instead of a simple Turkish coffee. I might have gone over-the-top with my morning espresso intake a couple of times during my stay at Abraham’s..

In addition to the perfect coffee, breakfast consisting of bread, Nutella, cheese, hard boiled eggs and cereal – and of course the for Israeli breakfasts essential cucumber and tomatoes, both of which were served in a big bowls. (Side note: salad for breakfast might just be the best Israeli invention.) All of this is offered self-service style and is included in the room rates.abraham hostel jerusalem dining room1A great addition to the hostel itself is the tour company, Abraham Tours, in the reception area. Hostel guests get a discount on the tours offered, and if you can get several people to join a tour, there is an additional group discount. The list of tours is so long that I had difficulties deciding which ones I wanted to join. Abraham Tours basically offers tours to all of Israel’s main sights such as the Dead Sea, Haifa, Nazareth, and Masada, but you can even venture as far as Jordan, on a 3-day trip to Jerash, Petra and Wadi Rum, or Egypt on a 2-day tour from Eilat.

What impressed me the most though were the various tours to the West Bank that were thrown in the mix of classic Israel highlights. In my opinion, people who visit Israel should also visit the West Bank to get a better understanding of the ongoing Israel – Palestine conflict, but not everyone is comfortable to explore the Palestinian territories by themselves, so these tours are a great way to experience the West Bank with a qualified guide, also guaranteeing that you learn about the West Bank firsthand rather than just going there. I ended up going on three West Bank tours with Abraham (which I will write about separately) and these three days were among the most eye-opening in educating myself on the entire situation and to learn more about life in Palestine.West Bank Tour Abraham HostelI also took a cooking class with Abraham which I loved and can’t stop raving about. I didn’t have a single bad meal during my month in Israel, and the dinner we prepared during this class was among the most memorable ones.Cooking Class Abraham HostelOverall, I felt right at home at Abraham and am already looking forward to returning to Jerusalem were I know I have a home away from home.

Standout feature: Friendly staff

The staff can make or break a hostel, and Abraham is doing it just right when selecting their staff: every single person who was working at the hostel during my stay was always approachable, friendly and making sure that the guests were having everything they needed. There are even staff insider tips for Jerusalem on the Abraham website, but you can walk up to anyone at any time and get an answer to any question you might have.abraham hostel jerusalem lobby

Standout feature: The social activities and the tour desk

As I’ve already said: the tour desk offers a fantastic range of activities all over Israel, and what could be better than sightseeing with new friends from the hostel while having a knowledgeable guide with you? On every single one of the tours I took I felt well looked after and that the guides knew what they were talking about. Plus: If you stay at the hostel, you get a discount on any tour!

abraham hostel jerusalem message board
There is even a message board to connect travelers.

The social activities like the pub crawl or the Shabbat dinner were nights when I felt like I could really get to know my fellow travelers at the hostel without having to try hard. I recommend taking part in at least one social activity, but if you hang out at the hostel bar, you also won’t have any problems meeting new people.

Room for improvement

I have to admit that I found it really hard to find a flaw in this seemingly perfect hostel. I was trying hard to find something that was missing, but with the cozy lounge, the power outlets and reading lamps at every bed, free lockers, the bar with its great Happy Hour, the generous breakfast spread, the tours, a computer room with PCs to use for those who don’t travel with a laptop, a laundry room, the wonderful rooftop terrace, and the clean, spacious rooms, I didn’t miss anything during my stay.

Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem
I loved the signs and decoration throughout the hostel

The only thing I could pick on was that if you joined breakfast later in the morning, the tables were usually sticky and a bit dirty. While the staff was always on top of refilling the buffet, I thought that they could be more on top of cleaning the messy spots on the tables.

Details

Location: 67 Hanevi’im Street, Davidka Square, Jerusalem, 94702
Price: Dorms start at ILS85 (US$22), private singles start at ILS270 (US$69), private doubles start at ILS360 (US$92), triples start at ILS420 (US$107)
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Yes (high speed internet, desks in the rooms)
Amenities: Complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, free lockers, communal lounge, communal kitchen, laundry room, TV room, roof terrace, tour desk,
Website: http://abrahamhostels.com
Facebook: AbrahamHostelsabraham hostel jerusalem bedroom

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Where to stay in… Las Vegas, New Mexico: The Historic Plaza Hotel

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It was love at first sight with the Historic Plaza Hotel, even before we arrived there. As soon as I had decided to include Las Vegas in our New Mexico road trip itinerary, I looked up hotel options for the little town in northern New Mexico, and when the Historic Plaza Hotel popped up in list of hotels, it caught my attention immediately.

las vegas new mexico plaza parkI felt like the hotel was straight out of the 19th century – what a change to all the Comfort Inns and Econo Lodges that usually showed up in my searches. Staying anywhere else was not even an option; I had a feeling that the Plaza Hotel would be just the right place to rest our heads during our time in Las Vegas.

It turned out that the gorgeous Italianate-style red brick building looked beautiful in pictures, but was even more impressive in reality. It thrones majestically over the historic Park Plaza, now in addition made up by two buildings: the original Plaza Hotel, plus the adjoining Ilfeld Building, both lovingly renovated and well maintained.

las vegas new mexico plaza hotel and parkAs soon as you enter the building, the grand entrance hall evokes fantasies about the scenes that must have happened here over one hundred years ago, when the hall must have been filled with wealthy ladies on the way to their cattle farms or horse ranches. Instead of cars, horse carriages would have lined the green central square, and the entourage of the ranch owners would have rushed in and out of the hotel with all the suitcases, boxes and other luggage they were traveling with.

Stepping into the hotel almost felt like stepping onto a movie set – with the exception that this place really exists! The building was constructed in 1882, when Las Vegas was a booming transportation hub thanks to its strategic location on the newly built East West train line. One hundred years later, the entire building was renovated and modernized, without losing any of the original features or the character of the building.

historic plaza hotel las vegas lobbyAfter extending the hotel by adding the Ilfeld Building next door, it now houses 66 guest rooms plus 5 suites. Thick, soft carpets absorb the noise of the hurrying steps up and down the stairs, and antique furniture lines the hallways, maintaining the Old West feel of the hotel.

Las Vegas New Mexico Historic Plaza HotelWhile the room is clean and comfortable, it is nothing extraordinary, but the hotel is doing a good job by keeping up the southwestern atmosphere here, too, with wooden furniture and a wash basin in vintage look. The bedside tables are covered in True West cowboy magazine, the matching read for our stay here. The bedroom might feel a little bit antiquated, the bathroom, however, is modernized and shiny.

Las Vegas New Mexico Historic Plaza Hotel RoomThe building itself hasn’t lost anything of the grand aura it must have emitted when it opened its doors in the late 19th century, with the Victorian dining room still in use, and the adjoining Ilfeld Building offering a ballroom that is often used for weddings and other receptions.

historic plaza hotel las vegas picturesThe hotel bar, Byron T.’s is designed in Western style, and you wouldn’t be surprised if some of the notorious figures that were known to have spent time in Las Vegas would step through the wooden swinging saloon doors at any time – outlaws that included Jesse James, Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid. What I also loved was that the locals use Byron T.’s as their hangout, too – it is not just made for tourists!

historic plaza hotel las vegas chile rellenoThe Landmark Grill is the main restaurant though which had a decent selection of New Mexican dishes, all at an affordable price (ranging from $7 to $27). We even found two different vegetarian dishes on the menu (including a spinach salad with cranberries and walnuts) and the Stuffed Green Chile was the best I had had on our road trip thus far. The Landmark Grill is also where breakfast is served in the mornings, included in the room rates. Instead of a typical mediocre road trip motel breakfast buffet, you get to order a full hot breakfast a la carte – both the Berry Waffles and the Huevos Rancheros lived up to our expectations.

historic plaza hotel las vegas berry wafflesShould I ever return to Las Vegas, there’d be no other place for me to stay. The Historic Plaza Hotel adds to the entire Old West experience and with its perfect location right in the center of town, I wouldn’t even consider one of the typical chain hotels – which weren’t even cheaper than the Historic Plaza Hotel.

historic plaza hotel las vegasDetails

Website: http://www.plazahotel-nm.com
Location: 230 Plaza, NM 87701
Price: Double rooms start at $89 for a standard room
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
Amenities: Free breakfast; complimentary wi-fi; saloon bar and restaurant onsite, free parking on the plaza, coffee maker in the room.
Las Vegas New Mexico Historic Plaza Hotel1

Tip: We found an amazing bargain deal for the Historic Plaza Hotel on Booking.com!

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Where to stay in Sucre: Hostal CasArte Takubamba

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When we arrived at Hostal CasArte Takubamba in Sucre, we had no way of knowing how much time we’d end up spending here (spoiler: a total of two weeks!), and not just using it as a place to put our heads down at night, but actually spending time in the room… lots of it. I don’t think we’ve ever spent that much time in a hotel room before, to be honest. But being horribly sick forced us to stay in bed for days on end, and I couldn’t imagine a better place for situation like this than Hostal CasArte.

Sucre Hostal CasArte Takubamba BoliviaEntering the hostal, you find yourself surrounded by freshly-painted bright white walls, typical for Sucre’s historic center, and by art. Lots of art. The hostal is family-owned, and the owners have done a great job transforming the historic buildings into a hostel maintaining Sucre’s unique character and add a funky vibe at the same time.

With only 15 rooms (most of them double rooms, but there are are a couple of single and triple rooms, as well as an 8-bed dorm), the hostal has a cozy, quiet feel – it never feels crowded and you actually get the chance to chat to the other guests in the courtyard or the lobby thanks to the intimate atmosphere at CasArte.

Sucre Hostal CasArte Takubamba Bolivia ArtThe rooms, which all have an ensuite bathroom, are bright and spacious, and most of them are reached via individual staircases, making them almost seem like independent apartments set around the courtyard instead of ‘just’ rooms.

Hostal CasArte Takubamba housesThe high ceilings, original wooden framework and floors of the historic buildings have been maintained, and the rooms themselves are big enough to fit a king-size bed and still have enough space around the bed that Jess and I could have both done yoga at the same time (which is something that wouldn’t happen, since I just can’t get into yoga – the more space for Jess though!).

Hostal CasArte Takubamba roomEvery morning, breakfast is served outside in the little backyard (if the weather allows it). Rolls, dulce de leche and jam are served buffet-style, and eggs, fresh fruit juice and fruit with yogurt were served to order. In addition, you can choose between several teas and coffee (sadly, only instant coffee, but that’s the norm in Bolivia).

Hostal CasArte Takubamba breakfastIf you don’t want to go out and explore the town, you can just stay in the backyard and swing in a hammock while reading a book, or study Spanish at one of the tables – it seemed like there were quite a few Spanish students staying at the hostel while we were there. If you are looking to stay longer, CasArte offers special rates for weekly and monthly stays.

Hostal CasArte Takubamba backyardIf you do want to explore Sucre though, the hostal is perfectly located at the southern end of the historic center and in walking distance to the main square, many restaurants and cafes, and all the museums and churches, the market and other sights Sucre has to offer. The hostal is actually very close to the beautiful cemetery (five minutes away) and the cinema (four minutes away).

Hostal CasArte Takubamba vasesThe backyard des not only serve as the breakfast area, but also has a fully equipped outdoor kitchen including a traditional Andean stone oven in which you can prepare lunch or dinner.

Is the weather bad, a second kitchen can be found upstairs above the reception area, where we often used the large table to work.

Hostal CasArte Takubamba communal roomThe reception area has a big lobby with couches, where guests can enjoy the many books and art displayed here, or just hang out there to make use of the Wi-fi, which works best closest to the router (located near the reception). Like in most of Bolivia, wi-fi is provided but doesn’t work very well. Our room was close enough to the reception to get some of the signal in the room (or at least in parts of it), but most rooms don’t seem to have wi-fi reception. When I used the wi-fi in the lobby, I usually had a pretty good connection (even allowing me to upload some photos or large attachments to an email!).

Sucre Hostal CasArte Takubamba BoliviaMost guests seemed to be around our age (late twenties – early thirties). This is definitely not a hostel for party people, but for travelers who appreciate a tranquil place with comfortable rooms on a quiet street. You will still get to chat to other people over breakfast or in the lobby, and the travelers we met all had a similar travel style to ours and we met some really interesting folks… just not the typical backpacker crowd.

We found all of the staff to be very friendly and helpful, even though we had to remind them several times to clean our room.

Hostal CasArte Takubamba paintingStandout feature

The large, light and clean rooms with the wooden framework and wooden floors were something we were always looking forward to when we came back from our explorations. We’ve rarely stayed in equally comfortable rooms in South America. Another plus: the hot showers with good water pressure, which are also something you don’t take for granted in this region of the world, and when a hostel has them, you really appreciate it!

Hostal CasArte Takubamba roomRoom for improvement

The rooms should be cleaned every day without guests having to ask for it (considering that toilet paper is disposed of in a bin and not in the toilet) and the wi-fi could be better, but that’s a common problem in all of Bolivia, so we can’t really blame CasArte for that 🙂

Hostal CasArte Takubamba sucre painting

Details

Website: Takubamba.blogspot.com
Location: Calle J.M.Serrano #256, Sucre, Bolivia
Price: Double rooms start at BOBs240 (US$35), single rooms start at BOBs130 (US$18.80, dorm beds start at BOBs70 (US$10)
Digital Nomad Friendly: If you don’t mind working in the lobby where the best wi-fi connection is
Amenities: Free breakfast; wi-fi; towels, shampoo and soap provided; courtyard with hammock; kitchen use; lobby with books; laundry service.

Sucre Hostal CasArte Takubamba Bolivia

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Where to stay in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile: Atacamadventure Wellness & Ecolodge

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After our summer in Europe and the US, we flew back down to Chile in order to set off from San Pedro de Atacama to undertake the incredible Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats tour. All we wanted before being thrust into freezing cold temperatures, 4,800m altitude, mediocre food (and did I mention three days straight of off-roading?) was a pair of fuzzy slippers and a bit of pampering.

Relaxing in San Pedro de AtacamaSurprisingly, San Pedro de Atacama does luxury very, very well on the whole. At the top of the accommodation pyramid, there are three to five high-end luxury resorts that can charge upwards of $500 a night. That drops dramatically in the mid-range, which is why we opted to stay at Atacamadventure Wellness and Ecolodge. An eco-friendly boutique Bed And Breakfast, Atacamadventure offered exactly the kind of (guilt-free) pampering we are looking for – a hot tub, pool, sauna, massage studio plus homemade organic breakfast. In addition, the hotel uses primarily solar energy and has incorporated a centuries’ old local irrigation technique that offers you lovely green spaces once you step inside this off-the-beaten path resort from the burnt orange desert dirt outside.

San Pedro De Atacama Atacamadventure Ecolodge chileAt a 30 minute walk outside of town, and further than most other hotels we could have chosen, it certainly felt off-the-beaten path. (I admit: the walk could take as little as 15 minutes under other circumstances, but in either dry desert sun or pitch black darkness and the high altitude, we were huffing and puffing in a way that was like doing cardio at a leisurely stroll.)

San Pedro De Atacama AtacamadventureAlthough most resorts and even some hostels offer free pick-up and shuttle service into the downtown area, Atacamadventure does not. The taxi driver had never heard of it and it was an adventure finally landing upon this hidden hotel.

Atacamadventure San Pedro De Atacama ChileOnce inside, however, this is a beautiful little escape. The first owner started taking in a boarder or two until she built on a separate cottage. Then, as time went on she added on an additional five rooms. All six are very different, and we were incredibly impressed with ours. First impression – it was huge. King size bed? Check. White fluffy pillows? Four checks. Desk with a oddly professional office chair? Check (although this pressured me to actually get some writing done!) Walk-in closet with about twenty shelves? Check. And the bathroom! The bathroom alone was larger than most private hostel rooms available in San Pedro proper. We had hers and hers pedestal sinks, a jacuzzi tub and a stand-up jacuzzi shower, big white towels and fuzzy slippers.

San Pedro De Atacama Atacamadventure room and bathroomAfter our long journey we skipped dinner and flopped down into bed. Even though we almost never watch TV, the receptionist had mentioned it when she was showing us around the room (that’s how big the room was, she could show us around in it). But when my fingers crawled along the nightstand looking for the remote, they came up empty. There was, in fact, no TV in the room and we were so tired we had hardly noticed. We fell asleep five minutes later anyway. There is one large TV in the lounge upstairs to share, but the focus here, explained the manager, is on escape, powering down and soaking up the natural environment.

San Pedro De Atacama Atacamadventure EcolodgeRefreshed and seriously starving, the next morning we couldn’t have been happier with the breakfast. We ordered made-to-order omelets from the short, no-nonsense cook in charge, who also showed us the fresh brewed coffee, tea, hot milk, bowls which we filled with fresh fruit, homemade yogurt and plate which we piled high with homemade cakes, bread slices, cheese, butter and jam. With our bellies full we headed into town to get some work done (the wi-fi signal here was non-existent) and returned in the afternoon with plans to hit the outdoor jacuzzi and sauna. Two older couples had beaten us to the jacuzzi and at $70 an hour, the infrared sauna wasn’t worth it, so instead Dani grabbed a glass of wine (well-priced at $3 a glass), I filled up a cup of coffee and we sprawled out on the white couches outside on the back patio and planned our time in Bolivia the coming week.

San Pedro De Atacama Atacamadventure breakfastThe hotel restaurant does offer a dinner menu each evening, but it is heavily meat-based and one thing we love most about San Pedro is the food selection in town (everything from hearty pizzas to fine dining and three-course set menus from $10) so at sunset we hopped on two of the three bikes available and pushed the rusty pedals into town for dinner. The plan was to try out the giant telescope on the back patio when we got back that second night but it turns out we don’t really know how to work it. The idea was nice though, as star gazing is the number one evening past time here in the desert.

San Pedro De Atacama Atacamadventure bikesThe breakfast selection the second morning was much more modest, but the rest of the morning went off without a hitch. I got in a long yoga session in our room, getting all the kinks out and calming my nerves for the adventure to come. Dani sat sprawled out on big pillows in the comfortable lounge loft above the kitchen, editing photos and drinking bottomless cups of coffee from the breakfast bar – the combination of coffee and photo editing puts Dani most definitely in what you could call her element!

Leaving Atacamadventure was much easier than our arrival – they simply called us a cab and hopped in and off we went to our big adventure.

Hotel Highlight: Relax factor
Even though we loved our room, what we both loved even more was not having to stay in it to relax. There are many different areas to relax: inside upstairs in the lofted lounge and outside on several comfortable white couches or lounge chairs, plus the pool/jacuzzi area had deck chairs as well. It was so peaceful to sit outside, take in the fresh air and late afternoon sun, totally relaxed and saying hi to the other guests padding barefoot back and forth enjoying their spa time.

San Pedro De Atacama Atacamadventure sitting areasRoom for improvement: Shuttle service and signage 
There is apparently a law in San Pedro that prohibits hotels from putting a sign anywhere but on their property, which unfortunately for this hotel, means no one could ever possibly happen to see it. For that reason and the location itself, Atacamadventure needs to offer a shuttle service – from pick up service at bus station around town to shuttle service that brings guests back and forth from town.

Overall
Two relaxing and refreshing nights’ sleep later, we got what we came for, even without dipping our toe in the jacuzzi. Despite inconsistencies in quality (breakfast, bikes and Wi-Fi that works) Atacamadventure Wellness & Ecolodge is a great little oasis outside San Pedro to shut off and relax for a few days at a time, especially before – or better yet after – the Bolivian salt flats tour.

Atacamadventure Ecolodge San Pedro De Atacama Chile

Details

Website: www.atacamadventure.com
Location: Pasaje Alana No.2, San Pedro de Atacama 1410000, Chile
Price: Double rooms start at US$185
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Not until there’s WiFi (that works)
Amenities: Swimming pool, jacuzzi, complimentary breakfast, coffee & tea all day; lunch and dinner available; fully-stocked bar; tour desk; hammocks; library; garden & terraces; sauna; massages, free bicycles

You can book your stay at Atacamadventure via Booking.com.

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Posada de Taos | Where to stay in…Taos, New Mexico

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The minute we arrived to Taos, it was love at first sight. For me, at least. Dani thought it was ‘cute’ and I couldn’t understand how she wasn’t equally smitten. That’s when Dani told me about the legend of Taos Mountain. There is a powerful, sacred energy that attracts some while rejecting others entirely. The mountain decides whether or not you can stay.

Taos New MexicoI don’t usually believe in these sort of spiritual legends, but I can tell you that when we pulled in to our bed and breakfast for the night, there was no doubt we were equally enthralled with this absolutely gorgeous property just off the central plaza in Taos.

Everything about Posada de Taos is spot on, but that is no surprise with owners Brad and Michael running the show. In addition to owning the Posada, Brad is also the president of the Taos County Chamber of Commerce. During the few short minutes at check-in, Brad had already made enough recommendations and suggestions for Taos that we already wanted to extend our stay to one week. Brad’s partner Michael is super sweet and after chatting away, he and I discovered a shared background from Illinois and a love of Chicago. Both Dani and I felt great affection for him, and that was without knowing the magic of his breakfasts, which we would find out the next morning.

B&B La Posada De TaosAlong with its owners, Posada de Taos has a great charm throughout. It is a historic Inn, originally built by one of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists. Today, its location in the Historic District just west of the central plaza makes it within walking distance to almost anywhere in town. In the front, a flourishing vegetable garden is where Michael sources some of his culinary ingredients. The living room feels warm and welcoming, decorated with beautiful Southwestern knick-knacks and artwork, and guests made themselves comfortable both here and in the beautifully manicured backyard, taking in the sunset with glasses of wine the night we arrived.

B&B La Posada De Taos New MexicoThe rooms
During the winter months, the Kiva fireplaces are prepared for guests daily to keep guests toasty November through April. Our visit at the tail end of September was already chilly and I would have loved to have a fire glowing in the room at night. Otherwise, the accommodation was absolutely perfect, especially considering we spent the same amount to stay at a Courtyard by Marriot for the same price as this incredibly unique bed and breakfast. The first night we stayed in the Lino Room. The main feature is the picket fence Queen bed, which brought a casual yet chic design element to the en-suite room, as did the spacious private patio just through the room’s back entrance.

la posada de taos bedroomThe second night in El Solecito left no doubt of the level of elegance present at Posada de Taos. Out llama trekking all day, our bags had been brought to the room for us and after such a long day, walking in to the split-level suite with its King bed was heaven. As relieved as we were for this charming room, however, Dani and I both felt a twinge of sadness. It was already 8.30pm by the time we arrived and we were scheduled to leave just after breakfast the next morning to head into Rocky Mountains to Colorado.

B&B La Posada De Taos NMEnamored by El Solecito, now all we wanted was to spend a full day right here, sitting in the oversized chairs, hanging in the whirlpool in the Mexican-tiled bathroom, passing in and out of the grand old Mexican doors that lead out to the stone patio with views of the garden and the mountains beyond.

B&B La Posada De Taos New MexicoOccasionally, between napping and whirlpooling, I imagine we would make mugs of tea and nibble on cookies or cheese that is put out for guests each afternoon, and maybe thumb through a few of the hundreds of books lining the bookshelves throughout the house.

Come if just for the breakfast…
Just like everything else at the Posada, we wish we had stayed another night or two for another chance at the delicious breakfasts, which are the jewel in the posada’s crown. Breakfast is where both Brad and Michael are in their element and truly shine. Brad hosts both breakfast shifts (there is one sitting at 7.30 and one at 8.30am each day), keeping conversations going around the communal table with his charm, sharing stories and advice for what to see and do around town.

B&B La Posada De Taos BreakfastBeing a pair of mid 30s nomadic lesbian media types, I wasn’t sure we would fit in at the table with this somewhat older and well-to-do crowd, but the truth is, we had some great talks over breakfast and getting to know the other guests so well made us feel much more at home throughout our stay.

As Brad graciously hosts, Michael creates Michelin star quality breakfasts in the kitchen and brings them out after guests have nibbled their way through fresh fruit and yogurt, juice, tea, coffee and freshly baked pastries. As with any hot-blooded traveler, the way to our hearts is clearly through our stomach, so you can imagine that we fell head over heels for Michael when he brought out a polenta cake topped with an over medium egg and exploding with flavor one morning, and on the second when he served us gourmet chilaquiles better than any restaurant we dined at in the South West.

B&B La Posada de Taos breakfast and living roomWe left for Colorado after our short two-night stay in Taos knowing that we would have to return. Not only for all there is to do in and around Taos, but also for a couple of days just soaking up the vibe at this historic inn where Brad and Michael have created a perfect balance between feeling right at home and on a special vacation as well.

B&B La Posada de Taos in New Mexico

Details

Website: LaPosadaDeTaos.com
Location: 309 Juanita Ln, Taos, NM 87571
Price: Double rooms start at US$159
LGBT Friendly: Yes, definitely
Digital Nomad Friendly: Very good WiFi connection, lots of space to work
Amenities: Gourmet breakfast included in room rates, free WiFi, snack buffet in the afternoon, free parking

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Casa de Borgoña | Where to stay in Salta, Argentina

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When I look back on the days we spent at Casa De Borgoña, what I remember most was the constant feeling of relief – relief at how friendly the staff was, relief that after a 20 hour bus ride from Iguazu Falls, they checked us in early and didn’t even bat an eyelash about it or let us store our bags until late the night we checked out. I felt relief at the beautiful colonial style spaces where we could work and relax and relief that even though our room was right off the lobby, noise was never an issue.

salta posada casa borgonaBy the time we reached Salta, we had traveled from Buenos Aires down to Patagonia by way of Chile, through Uruguay and all the way up to the border of Brazil to the Falls. The two of us were so road weary and exhausted that this Salta hotel had to work out – we had no energy or resources in us to search for another.
salta posada casa borgona living roomLuckily for us, Casa de Borgoña is just our kind of hotel, a colonial house with a soothing garden just off a spacious living room decorated with antique furniture that still manages to be comfortable and usable. Guests here can relax, eat, unwind, watch television. We felt at home enough here to spend a day entirely in bed recovering from our crazy travel schedule, had breakfast, ordered extra coffees, and were the guests that seemed to never leave the first couple days of our stay. And still we were greeted with smiles, friendly conversation and great food and sightseeing recommendations.

salta posada casa borgona tvEach morning, a typical Argentine breakfast of bread, jam, butter and coffee was served either in the bustling front cafe (open until 3pm daily) or out in the peaceful garden, which is what we most often opted for, surrounded by plants, fruit trees and wooden benches.

salta posada casa borgona hammock and gardenOur booking was last minute, into the least expensive room, which was two twin beds and a shared bathroom. Again we were relieved upon discovering just how clean and spacious the room was, plus we loved the furniture and decor, high ceiling and overall character. Most importantly of all, the wi-fi actually worked well throughout our five night stay. No glitches, no down time and strong enough bandwidth to catch up on Skype calls.

salta posada casa borgona bedThe cleaning crew was constantly at work, the bathrooms and shower room were completely spotless as were the other bedrooms lining the hallway to the back of the house. These rooms are more private, some have private baths as well, and we would have upgraded in a heartbeat if one was available, as the two we peeked into were oozing with the kind of colonial charm we had so desperately missed so far in South America.

salta posada casa borgona receptionThe posada is located a few blocks from the central plaza and within walking distance of all the museums, cathedrals and pedestrian walking streets that make Salta such a fun city to visit. Although the city is much larger than we originally expected – over 1 million people live in this sprawling city – we were able to walk to the central market, the cinema and up to the top of the Bernardo hill, all right from our posada.

salta posada casa borgona paintingCasa de Borgoña is not a luxury Bed and Breakfast and there is nothing opulent or ostentatious about this posada. On paper, it is just a fine hotel for those on a modest budget. But after traveling the country almost in its entirety, what we appreciated most was that everything was done just right, with the right balance of value for money, simplicity and comfort.

salta posada casa borgona breakfastIf you find yourself in Salta, Argentina and need a place to stay, Casa de Borgoña made us feel right at home and brought us back to life! Make sure to check the most current TripAdvisor and Booking.com reviews for any changes and book early enough to get one of the beautiful double rooms in the back.

salta posada casa borgona flowers

Details

Website: PosadaCasaDeBorgona.com.ar
Location: España 916, 4400 Salta, Argentina
Price: Double rooms start at US$40, single room US$30, twin rooms with shared bathroom start at US$35, triple rooms start at US$55.
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Good wi-fi and spacious living room to work in. Additional tables in the backyard patio.
Amenities: Breakfast included in room rates, free wi-fi, garden with hammocks

 We booked this hotel through booking
salta posada casa borgona lounge

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