East or West From Faro

cascais promenade lisbon portugal

Portugal’s gorgeous Algarve region has a well-earned reputation as a popular destination for sun-seekers. But its capital, Faro, isn’t always at the top of a tourist’s list. Nevertheless, this is a stunning city with a great blend of history and nature that is the perfect place to choose as a home base while you explore the region. Here are the HolidayTaxis teams’ suggestions.

cascais beach estoril

A Trip Back in Time

Faro’s Old Town is well worth a visit if you like history. It’s the perfect chance to escape the hordes of tourists on the beaches. As you wander down the cobbled streets, explore the well-preserved city walls, and admire the glorious Palacio de Estoi, you’ll find yourself plunged into Portugal’s romantic past. You can easily spend half a day enjoying the historical centre of Faro.

Breakfast with a view.

Hidden Treasures in Estoi

This tiny village, nestled 10km to the north of Faro, is the perfect choice for a day trip. Here you can find fascinating ancient Roman ruins, as well as the stunning Palacio de Estoi. This pink palace, built just over one hundred years ago, has been converted into a hotel. Even if you can’t afford to stay the night in such luxury, you can still enjoy the gardens and the wonderful views!


A Spooky Surprise

If you really want to do something different on your holiday, then make your way to the Capela dos Ossos, aka the Chapel of Bones. The name will tell you what to expect: inside this little church, you’ll find the remains of monks exhumed from graves around Faro. The bones of over a thousand monks, all on display around the chamber, make this a truly unique experience, and certainly not for the faint of heart!

Capela dos Ossos

Immerse Yourself in Nature

The Ria Formosa natural park is a true highlight of the region, accessible by boat from Faro. Portugal is understandably proud of this beautiful stretch of nature, and works hard to protect it. Seabirds and all manner of sea creatures live here, and you can also see traditional fishermen, who are committed to using the old methods passed down from one generation to the next. Sustainability is the name of the game here, and if you want to get more out of this eco-friendly paradise, you can enjoy excursions by kayak or snorkel, as well as birdwatching.


A Day at the Beach

Of course, what would a Portuguese holiday be without a trip to the beach? Faro has no beaches within the city itself, but when you get to the Ria Formosa, you’ll find several seaside options. The most famous beach is the Praia de Faro, popular with tourists from all over Portugal and beyond. But if you hate crowds, then you’ll want to go a bit further, and make your way to the Ilha Deserta. Here you’ll find one of the Algarve’s true hidden gems. The name, which means Deserted Island, is definitely well-chosen! Get away from it all and enjoy the 9km of pure white sand, without any of the tourist amenities that can be found elsewhere in the Algarve.


Around the Algarve

As the capital of the region, Faro is unsurprisingly well-connected. Heading west, you can find the posh resort of Vilamoura and its more wallet-friendly neighbour, Quarteira. Further inland is Loule, worth visiting on a Saturday for a great market. And if you go east, you’ll find Olhão, a great spot to visit if you want some fresh fish straight from the sea to your plate!

A última do ano velho

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Faro by sushibarista; (2) Estoi by Bert Kaufmann; (3) Capela de Ossos by Nerea Villoria; (4) Ria Formosa by Rui Ornelas; (5) Algarve by Consuelo; (6) Olhão by Jose Moutinho

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An Irish Honeymoon For Couples Who Love Art and History

cornwall beach view

Ireland, the perfect combination of history, art, culture and urban vibes the country has everything to offer that will make the honeymoon blissful and memorable. Irish honeymoon is like a distant dream with castles, gorgeous sunsets, breathtaking scenic beauty and nightlife that will make one feel in a different era altogether. It is a country where modern age television series like Game of Thrones was shot and it is also a place where people have a welcoming smile and known for their hospitality. Plan your itinerary with the help of travel agencies and get a package that includes everything from romantic getaways to adventure in budget using vouchers from

Let’s check out the popular tourist attraction that one should not miss on the first visit to Ireland:


    • Cliffs of Moher: Topography of the country is breathtaking and it does not make one feel bored travelling from one place to another. Cliff of Moher is the natural attraction which is an important landmark of the country and its magnanimity is breathtaking. Likewise, there are other natural attractions in Ireland including The Blue Stack Mountains, The Slieve League Cliffs, etc. to enjoy some quiet time amidst nature with your partner.
    • Blarney Castle: Ireland is known for its classic castles and grandeur. If your interest lies in art and history, then Ireland is the perfect place for a honeymoon. Blarney Castle is known for its architectural relevance and of course for Blarney Stone that is believed to give the gift of eloquence if the person kisses the stone but for that he has to be upside down. There are also other castles in Ireland like Ashford castle, Cabra Castle, Dromoland Castle, Waterford Castle and many more were tourists can stay like a royalty.

Ireland, Mullaghmore Castle

    • Phoenix Park: If you are Dublin then Phoenix Park should not be missed. The park is enclosed in the city and is home to the fourth largest zoo in the world. Here, one can stay overnight and enjoy the natural setting of the park, explore zoo animals, especially fallow deer. One can also visit Ashtown Castle which has a beautiful tower house that was constructed in the 17th Apart from the park, Dublin is the modern city of Ireland where tourists can enjoy bar hopping, visiting museums and shopping.
    • Ross Castle: One of the most romantic and beautiful castles, it is haunted and has a painful history. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful castle to visit with your partner and spend some time admiring the artefacts of the castle.
    • Visit to Guinness Storehouse: Guinness Storehouse is the most visited tourist destination in Ireland. It is home to Black Stuff, the world famous beer and now it has become a seven-storey building with a bar on the top to enjoy a beer at Gravity Bar the most popular bar in the world.

"Guinness is Good for You"

The honeymoon is the time where time ceases to exist and one wants to make lifetime memories. But if budget is your constraint then check out Best Hotel deals around UK and Ireland and make prior arrangements, so that accommodation and travel do not kill the vibes of the vacation. Also, while planning a visit to Ireland for honeymoon take out time to explore the country and don’t plan a small vacation.


Photo Credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Rock Of Cashel by Elena; (2) Mullaghmore Castle by Vincent van der Pas; (3) Guiness by Griffin Stewart; (4) Ireland by Trent Strohm

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Five Reasons You Should Visit Innsbruck (And Not Just Vienna!)

Innsbruck Inn & Mountains

Whenever I tell people that many many years ago, I used to lived in Tyrol, I often get blank stares. It turns out that while this region of Austria is well known throughout Europe, particularly for its fabulous ski slopes in the winter months, beyond European borders Tyrol isn’t a household name. “Innsbruck?”, I then usually try, referring to the capital of the state, but again – barely anyone has even heard of it. And that’s just such a shame, since Innsbruck is a gorgeous city, sitting in a wide valley, fringed by Alpine mountains on both sides.Driving along the Alps

But the city is usually overlooked or foregone in favor of Vienna and Salzburg, which has made it on the international tourist map thanks to its Sound Of Music fame. Innsbuck doesn’t have to hide behind Salzburg though – and did you know that the drive from Salzburg to Innsbruck is a mere two hours? So if you are visiting Austria and Salzburg is already in your travel plans, do yourself a favor and add Innsbruck to your itinerary.

Here are five reasons why you Innsbruck is worth a visit:
Innsbruck houses & snow-covered mountains

1 Alpine Nature Meets City

Innsbruck offers you the best worlds: mountain AND city life! It’s rare to have this combination, because you usually find cute Alpine villages around the popular ski and snowboard areas – but proper cities? Not so much! Innsbruck, however, has both: within minutes, you are in the mountains, but first and foremost, you can enjoy all the amenities that city life offers: there is great shopping, culture and nightlife in Innsbruck, and in addition, you have plenty of good bars and restaurants, entertainment and art galleries. For city girls like me, Innsbruck is the perfect base for a hiking vacation – it has easy access to hiking trails around the city, and several charming Alpine villages are within an hour’s drive, but you can return to the hustle & bustle of a big city (although, to be honest, with a population of ‘only’ 125,000, most people wouldn’t describe Innsbruck as big.)

Innsbruck st jacob's dome & inn

2 Stunning Hikes and Mountain Views

The best way to see Innsbruck is to hike up one of the surrounding mountains and look down at the city from the top. If you’re not a keen hiker, don’t fret – you can also take the easier route, via cable car, which conveniently leaves from the center of town and brings you all the way up to Karwendel Nature Park. There are several stops along the way up the mountain, but Seegrube (at 6,250 feet) and Hafelekar (at 7,401 feet) are the most remarkable viewing points. If you do enjoy hiking, you’ll want to make time for an extensive hike, following one of the many hiking trails on top of the mountain.Mountain & valley

Another option is to take the Patscherkofel cable car to the top of the Patscherkof Olympic Mountain (7,369 feet) and hike along the Stone Pine path, or, if you don’t want to go all the way up into the mountains, the popular short hike from Arzler Alm to Hoettinger Alm. The Bergisel Ski Jump is yet another impressive lookout over Innsbruck. You can find a list of the most popular hikes around Innsbruck here.Innsbruck houses & mountains

3 Tyrolean Specialties

One of the best thing about visiting Innsbruck is that you’ll find yourself in the heart of traditional, hearty Tyrolian cuisine. Some of the dishes you have to try during your visit are Speckknoedel (dumplings with pieces of bacon), groestl (roasted potatoes, speck, and onions topped off with a fried egg), and kaesespaetzle (egg noodles sautéed with a variety of mountain cheeses and topped with fried onions). Don’t miss the Markthalle, Innsbruck’s beloved indoor food market. To try some of Tyrol’s famous cake, head to Café Munding, which has been run by the same family since 1803.Dumpling & mushroom sauce

If you happen to visit around Christmas time, you’ll love the Christmas market right in the center of town, where you can sample dozens of regional foods and mulled wines at the food stands.

After gorging on all the delicious Tyrolian foods, you’ll understand why hiking is such a popular pastime around here 🙂

4 Nightlife and Culture

Of course you can’t compare the art scene in Innsbruck not with Munich or Basel, which are both a few hours away, but considering that it is a moderately sized city, the art and culture scene is remarkable. The annual ART fair (held in January) is even the second biggest art fair in all of Austria! From fine art to contemporary artworks – Innsbruck has something for everyone!

Thanks to its considerable student population, Innsbruck also has a great bar and nightlife scene – obviously not comparable to Vienna, but there are several places that will make night owls happy: Bar 360, aptly named after the 360 degree views of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains, Moustache Bar, right in the Old Town and famous for their Deadly Moustache Cocktail, and Tante Emma Club, an EDM nightclub that is a favorite among the local dance crowd. If you feel like going on a bar crawl, check out Culture Club’s Top Ten Bars in Innsbruck.cocktails

5 Golden Roof

The Golden Roof, or Goldenes Dachl as it is called in German, is the most famous landmark in Innsbruck, made with 2,657 copper tiles gilded with six kilos of gold. The tiles are still the original ones, dating back to the year 1500! Where else in the world can you see a roof like this? The roof was gifted by the Emporer to his wife during Austria’s Imperial days and there’s always something going on around here. Street performers, other striking Gothic and Rococo buildings, covered in historical murals, and the Christmas market during the Holidays – make sure to stop in one of the many cafes (which all have outdoor seating during the warmer months) and take in this unusual roof and the hustle and bustle surrounding it.Golden roof innsbruck

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The Five Most Romantic Autumn Breaks To Take In the UK

new york fall foliage road trip leaves3

There’s no doubt about it – autumn is here! The leaves are changing, the days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping. We may long for these long, sunny summer days right now, but autumn is actually a wonderful season for romance and togetherness. A stroll through the park during peak leaf changing season? Snuggling by the fireplace? Having an excuse to stay in bed on a rainy day? No other season is as romantic as autumn.

If you are thinking about booking a weekend getaway for you and your loved one: now is the time! Here are five ideas for romantic autumn breaks in the UK:poughkeepsie autumn colors hudson river walkway

1 A spa weekend

A spa weekend is the perfect way to spend a rainy autumn weekend – a little pampering helps make you feel better and look better, and it helps enhancing your mood if you are prone to November Blues. During a spa weekend, you and your partner can enjoy a couples’ massage, you can heat things up with a visit to the sauna or steam room, and there is nothing wrong with breakfast in bed in your fluffy white hotel robe.

An indulgent spa break is great for self-care as well as spending quality time with your partner. And it doesn’t have to be expensive – many spa hotels offer special weekend spa getaway deals, especially during the winter.grand hyatt playa del carmen cenote spa towels

2 Leaf peeping in the Peak District

If you want to experience the changing leaves and mystic autumn atmosphere in their full glory, head to the Peak District for long walks through the moorlands which turn burnished brown at this time of year, and along trails lined by trees with colorful leaves. Mist lingers in the valleys until long after sunrise, providing an incredibly romantic backdrop for walks with your loved one. To enhance the romance factor even more, stay in a self-catering cottage. Check out these 10 cosy places to stay in the Peak District.bear mountain fall leaves

3 Feel like a King & a Queen for a Weekend

How about pretending you’re a king and a queen for a weekend? Spending a night in a castle is on many people’s bucket list, and the UK has plenty of castle hotels and rentable castles to choose from. Spending a weekend in a castle in the fall means you’ll actually have the perfect excuse to spend as much time as possible inside and you’ll make the most of it. If you’re overwhelmed by the vast selection of available castles, here are some of the most extraordinary ones: Amberley Castle (which is featured on lists of the most romantic hotels in the world all the time), Culcreuch Castle (a 700 year old castle and one of Scotland’s oldest hotels); Hever Castle (all rooms have four-poster beds, and there are monthly Tudor banquets); Star Castle Hotel in the Scilly Islands (star-shaped fortress with sweeping sea views built by Elizabeth in 1593 to defend the Isles of Scilly), Langley Castle (a 14th-century castle with exposed stone walls, suits of armor, wrought-iron candelabras, four-poster beds and a restaurant known for its exquisite cuisine). You can turn this into an even more romantic getaway by whisking your partner away without telling them where you are taking them.

eileen donan castle scotland

4 New Forest

Nature lovers will be in awe when visiting this famed forest with its 500-year old oaks and the wild ponies this area is famous for – there are 3,000 of them! If your lady is a fan of horses, make sure to plan a ride through the area. But there’s more to New Forest than just ancient trees and horses: heaths covered in purple heather, farmland, lush meadows and coastal marshes, and plenty of wildlife. Nothing is more romantic than dinner by the fireplace in a cozy country pub after a long walk through these magical lands. Get some inspiration for the best walks – including some pub walks – here.old oak tree at oak alley plantation

5 The Exmoor Coastline

There are plenty of coastal getaways that are delightful during the most colorful weeks of the year – in Cornwall, Dorset and Kent, there are plenty of beaches and coastal walks to be explored. The unspoiled coast of Exmoor is particularly charming, however, offering the highest coastline in England, including the highest sheer cliff on Great Hangman (244m (800ft). In addition, there are coastal woods and moors, coves and secluded beaches. Exmoor is also home to the South West Coast Path, at 630 miles the longest National Trail in the UK. Walking hand in hand along the beach never fails to evoke romantic feelings, especially on a chilly autumn afternoon.

Cliffs & cottages

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Top foodie destinations in Europe

british pub food

So, Europe. Cobbled streets, blistering sunshine or torrential rain and some stunning architecture probably jumped to mind when you read that word, right? Right. Well, unless you’re a foodie. If you’re a foodie, the chances are your mind jumped to the frankly delicious array of dishes that Europe has to offer. If you aren’t already in the know, what are you waiting for? Pack up your loosest trousers, grab your passport, renew your EHIC and take a look at our list of the top foodie destinations in Europe!milan burata mozzarella


When you think of European food, Macedonia might not be at the forefront of your mind, but believe us when we say that it definitely should be. This frankly gorgeous mix of Balkan, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods makes for quite the unique selection, including an abundance of cheeses, pastries and meats. But don’t fret, you can balance all of this goodness out with even more goodness. Macedonia has quite the selection of super fresh vegetables, and I guess it wouldn’t be a complete experience without a hearty sample of the local wines.mdina fruits


So, Greece is probably pretty high up there on your ‘first thought of’ list. Greek food is fresh, it’s healthy, and the best part is that it doesn’t necessarily taste healthy, if you know what we mean. Feta cheese can be found on every corner, fresh fish is available by the bucket load, and filo pastry has never tasted as good as it does in this stunning location. Tender lamb and an abundance of dill and mint as staple herbs are all a result of over 4,000 years of culinary history. The dishes are simple, but rustic, so trust us when we say it’s well worth the visit – the beaches and plentiful culture are just a bonus.israel olives


Ah, France. Home to frog’s legs and snails. But French cuisine is so much more than that. French chefs are known for creating some of the most amazing, exquisite food in the entire world, so it’s no wonder that the nation is so proud of what it can produce. Take Paris, for example. This city is lined from border to border with bistros, cafes and restaurants, a breathtaking amount of which are Michelin-starred. Haute cuisine is very popular, but side-street bistros can give you the authentic taste of France while the plentiful markets will give you access to fresh ingredients that are perfect for picnics or creating your own dishes. And let’s not forget the Macaroons. You have to try the Macaroons.hong kong passion by gerard dubois


We couldn’t have a list of the best foodie destinations in Europe and not include Italy. Okay, so Italian food has wandered a long way from Italian soil, but no pizza or pasta will be anything like the ones you can find in an Italian street. But Italian cuisine goes so much further than the two aforementioned favorites. The entire country is filled with vineyards, orchards, olive trees and so much more to give you the best fresh taste you could hope for on European land. Cheese, wine, risottos, Limoncello… the list really is endless when it comes to Italy. We could talk about it all day, but trust us when we say that it’ll be better if you sample it all yourself. Rick Steves has some great tips on how you can find inexpensive eateries in Italy – along with some other useful advice on eating in Europe. keste pizza


German cuisine is unlike anything in Italy or France. If you go to Germany, you go to eat, and you go to eat well. From Spätzle – a traditional swabian egg noodle dish – all the way through to Currywurst – a pork sausage with ketchup and curry powder – the Germans know how to do good, hearty food. Try the schnitzel, a thinly sliced piece of veal meat that is covered in flour, egg and bread crumbs before its deep fried in oil or butter. Trust us, you won’t regret tasting it, and it’s one of the most traditional, well-known German dishes around the world. In short, German food will leave you feeling warm, fuzzy, and very, very full, but it’s more than worth it!Pretzels, pretzels

Don’t get us wrong, there are plenty of European countries that have an incredible selection of cuisine you need to try, but these are just a few good places to start on your European trip. Happy eating!

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Five Weekend Breaks From London To Beat The Winter Blues

Sunset at Brighton Beach England

Let’s face it: the colder seasons can be dreadful in London. It is rainy and grey, sometimes the sun doesn’t show itself for days. It’s easy to get into a funk when it’s chilly out, and summer still seems far away.

Every time I felt the winter blues coming, I knew what I had to do to beat it: Get out of town for a couple of days. No matter if you only have Saturday and Sunday, or if you can add another day and take a long weekend, there are so many places close enough to London that make even a one-night getaway worthwhile.

Read on for my top five winter weekend breaks from London:brighton pavilion


Distance from London: One hour on the train

Why go? Brighton is perfect for a weekend of long walks on the beach combined with shopping in the eclectic little shops in Brighton’s Lanes, where you find quirky vintage shops and cute cafes that invite to linger with a book or the newspaper when it’s raining outside. The dining scene in Brighton is exceptional, and there are enough things to keep you busy for several weekends.brighton seagull

Don’t miss: If the weather allows for it, take the bus (12, 12A or 13 bus) to Seven Sisters Country Park and go for a hike along the stunning white cliffs. Stop in a cozy country pub for a Sunday Roast on the way back.

Where to stay? Brighton has plenty of unusual B&B’s and small boutique hotels to offer – among the best ones are the Artist Residence (Rooms start at £90 per night); Snooze B&B (rooms start at £75); and Pelirocco, Brighton’s famous Rock’n’Roll hotel (grab their lovebirds special deal for £99 which includes a bottle of champagne, chocolate truffles and breakfast in bed!snooze brighton bed and breakfast bed

A Spa Break In The Midlands

Distance from London: 2.5 hours by car

Why go? The Belfry in the Midlands, just outside of Birmingham, is the perfect place to recharge your batteries. The hotel spa has undergone a £1 million a few years ago, making it a perfect destination for a spa weekend without breaking the bank and to spoil you with a quality spa experience. Two-night spa breaks at the gorgeous ivy-covered country house hotel in Sutton Coldfield start at only £134 per person per night – including a spa treatment, breakfast, a 3-course dinner and access to the pool area. No better way to spend a chilly winter weekend than by pampering yourself! And if the hubby isn’t much of a spa enthusiast, he’ll appreciate the 18-hole golf course.

Don’t miss: Head to the nearby Kingsbury Water Park with 15 lakes, plenty of walking trails and birds and wildlife.grand hyatt playa del carmen spa waters

The Cotswolds

Distance from London: About 2 hours by car

Why go? The Cotswolds are the quintessential English countryside getaway, with dozens of picture-perfect little villages with rustic stone houses dotted among the green hills. The villages are as traditional as Britain gets – you’ll think you’ve traveled back to the last century!

Don’t miss: One of the many scenic trails – the Telegraph lists the 10 best pub walks in the Cotswolds, and The Culture Trip shares the best hikes in the Cotswolds. Also stop in some of the Cotswolds villages and go for a stroll  – Burford, Blockley, Chipping Norton and Bourton-on-the-Water are among the most delightful ones.

Where to stay? Rent a cottage – it doesn’t matter in which of the villages you’re staying, they’re all equally as charming. AirBnb has cottages for as little as £60 – a steal for a romantic countryside getaway!

Hastings & Rye

Distance from London: 90 mins on the train

Why go? Over the past few years, Hastings has made quite a name for itself as an art lover’s heaven and cultural hotspot. The city has become quite hip, with a thriving art scene, plenty of artisan shops and boutiques, as well as trendy restaurants. The pier has also undergone a major £14 million renovation, and helped turning the city into a busy seaside resort. Visiting off-season has the advantage that you don’t have to deal with crowds, but can still admire the natural beauty while shopping for art in the many galleries.

Rye England

Don’t miss: Only a short 20-min train ride to the East brings you to the small town of Rye, which is famous for its cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses which date back to Medieval times. The annual Rye Bay Scallop Week takes place in late February, so if you are a scallop fan, you should plan your getaway to coincide with this event. The town makes for a nice detour trip from Hastings to peek inside the many little shops and to explore the nearby dunes at Camber, Rye Bay and Romney Marsh on a nice winter walk.

Where to stay: Zanzibar Hotel, praised by Conde Nast Traveler, has rooms starting from £99; The Old Rectory is a gorgeous B&B in the historic center (from £110), and Hastings House is a stylish, contemporary seaside B&B (rooms from £80).


Distance from London: 2 hours and 17 mins on the fast train

Why go? York is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval cities in the entire UK, and with Virgin’s comfortable high speed trains less than 2.5 hours away. No matter what time of year you’re visiting, it is always delightful to meander through the historic alleyways, take a walk on the 13-century city walls and marvel at The Shambles, a narrow street with half-timbered houses that is lined with independent shops and lively cafes. The true showstopper is of course the York Minster, one of the most remarkable Gothic churches in the entire country.brighton cafe cakesDon’t miss: Betty’s Café Tea Rooms – sure, it’s touristy, but it is popular for a reason. This tea-and-cake shop is a York institution and afternoon tea or a quick stop for some tea and scones is a must!

Where to stay: The Churchill Hotel is a small upscale hotel housed in a luxurious Georgian mansion, and it is fabulous! Rooms start at around £85. Hotel Indigo is known for its uniquely styled bedrooms in a redbrick, industrial-chic building. Rooms from £75.England Sunset

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Three Reasons Why Road Tripping is the Best Way to See Iceland

southern iceland dani car

Visiting Iceland was a travel dream come true for me, and as soon as my friend and I had bought our plane tickets, we started looking into planning the logistics of the trip. Which places did we want to see? How would we get there? And where would we stay? It quickly became clear that the places we were most excited about were quite far from one another: The Golden Circle with its geysers and breathtaking waterfalls, the extraordinary Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in the south, the fjords on the east coast, the lava fields in the north, and Snæfellsnes peninsula with its active volcano in the west of the country.jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice beach - CopyOnce we started researching the practicalities, we quickly came to realize that the best way to see Iceland would be by car.

So why is road tripping the best way to see Iceland? Let me explain:iceland river1

1 The Ring Road

The Ring Road is a 828 mile (1332 km) long road that encircles the entire island, and driving it is the most convenient way to see as much of Iceland as possible. Not only does the Ring Road go around the entire country, but it also lets you see all of the things that you’d want to see on a trip to Iceland: geysers, glaciers, volcanoes, fjords, waterfalls, lava fields, Icelandic horses, hot springs, and of course, the dramatic landscapes Iceland is famous for.iceland skogafoss waterfallYou can drive the entire circle of the Ring Road in seven days, but ideally you should allow yourself ten days to be able to include detours to the Golden Circle (a 190 miles/300 km route off of the Ring Road that is famous for its massive waterfalls, geyser fields and Kerið volcanic crater) and Snæfellsnes peninsula in Western Iceland.southern iceland fjord & mountainsWe ran out of time for the latter because we only had eight days, and we also didn’t have time for a glacier hike or for a whale watching boat trip which I would’ve liked to do in Husavik, the main whale watching spot.icelandic scenery

2 The Journey is the Destination

It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey to get there.” There couldn’t be a more fitting quote for Iceland, where it is impossible to get bored on a road trip. The scenery is utterly fascinating, not matter where you are, and it changes so frequently that it often feels like you’re on a different island altogether.icelandic moonscape6We were so grateful that having the car allowed us to stop wherever we wanted – and we must have pulled over at least half a dozen times every single day, just to snap some pictures. This freedom alone was worth every single penny we spent on the car rental. In addition, it also enabled us to change our route on a whim whenever we felt like it. While we had a rough route mapped out, we ended up adding a few additional places to our journey, something we were only able to do because we had the car. Car rentals in Iceland are very reasonable, by the way – at EasyTerra Car Rental, a small car starts at €30 per day, and a medium-size car around €40 per day, including excess cover and unlimited mileage.icelandic horses

3 Traveling Iceland Without a Car is Not Easy

The most important reason why we opted to rent a car was that it turned out traveling around Iceland without a car is quite difficult. Yes, there is public transportation, but the buses that connect the towns around the island don’t run very often, so you always have to plan around the bus schedule, and sometimes there are only two buses a day. If you only have one week to explore Iceland, you don’t want to waste your time waiting for the bus.dimmuborgir iceland volcanic rocks daniAnother option would have been to join an organized tour, but that would have taken away from the flexibility of stopping wherever we wanted to, as mentioned in #2. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on the chance to stop whenever we felt like it, including scenic lunches and an impromptu beach stop in search of puffins (which sadly, we didn’t see).iceland dani photographingAn organized tour is great because you don’t have to plan anything and you know everything is taken care of, but it doesn’t give you the chance for these spontaneous stops. Even when we drove the Golden Circle, a route that most visitors do as an organized day trip from Reykjavik, we added a couple of extra stops, and not only that – we were also able to start at what is the last stop for the tour groups, which means we avoided big crowds completely.iceland sheep

Tips for Driving in Iceland

If you’re still unsure about driving in Iceland, take these things into consideration:

    • Write down all of the places you’d like to see while in Iceland and how much it will cost you to get to each one with an organized tour. You’ll quickly realize that the cost of a rental car is actually not more expensive than a tour.
    • Driving in Iceland is easy in the summer months, but it can be challenging in the winter months. The roads only have two lanes (one in each direction) but the traffic is not bad – especially if you go during shoulder season.

southern iceland mountain road

  • I shared my tips for driving in Iceland in this article, including thoughts on 4WD vs. a regular car, the best app to use, GPS and maps, and other things you should know.
  • There are plenty of car rental companies in Iceland, for example EasyTerra, but make sure to book your rental car in advance, because during high season, car rental companies have run out of cars in recent years, and you don’t want to be left stranded without a vehicle.

myvatn geothermal fields iceland

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The D-Day Beaches of Normandy: Combining History and Natural Beauty in Western France


The D-Day beaches are one of the most popular day trips from Paris, especially for Americans, Brits and Canadians whose parents or grandparents fought the Germans in World War II.

The historic significance of these beaches hasn’t lessened, even nearly 80 years after Operation Overload, which was the invasion of Western Europe by the Allied Nations on 6 June 1944. On that day, over 135,000 troops landed in Normandy, unifying against the Germans. The Allied Nations (Britain, Canada and the U.S.) were each allocated a number of beaches to invade, which were codenamed:

  • Utah Beach (U.S.)
  • Omaha Beach (U.S.)
  • Juno Beach (Canada)
  • Gold Beach (Britain)
  • Sword Beach (Britain)

When visiting the Normandy coast these days, it’s almost inconceivable that one of the most important and magnificent operations against the Germans happened here, an accomplishment that would later lead to the successful victory against Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Today, you’ll pass by rolling hills, quaint little seaside towns, surrounded by lush green farmland and cattle fields. The beaches themselves are beautiful and tranquil, and it is hard to imagine that thousands of soldiers lost their lives here.

However, you cannot escape the memories of D-Day when visiting this part of France – war memorials and monuments mark where the Allies landed, there are remains of bunkers and gun emplacements left by the Germans, and most importantly, there is the Normandy American Cemetery, where 9,387 American soldiers are buried.

If you are visiting to honor family members who fought or lost their lives there, you may want to try to visit on 6 June, when a number of D-Day anniversary memorials are held.

The easiest way to visit the area is with a tour, which usually includes all the beaches plus the Memorial Church in Caen (see below for details). Here is an overview of the main sights you shouldn’t miss when visiting the D-Day beaches, including all five beaches, which still carry the names given by the Allies in preparation of the operation.

The Caen Memorial

The Caen Memorial is the best place to start your tour of the D-Day beaches. The museum was recently renovated, and in addition to detailed information on D-Day and World War II, it has plenty of material on The Battle Of Normandy, The Cold War and the search for peace.

Utah Beach

The museum at this beach, the Utah Beach Landing Museum, is housed in the remains of a German bunker. Many say that this is the best D-Day museum in the area. In the nearby village of Sainte-Mère-Eglise is the Airborne Museum, which details the aerial operations.

Arromanches Mulberry

Pointe du Hoc

Pointe Du Hoc is the highest point between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, with a 100 feet (30 meter) cliff overlooking the English Channel. The German army had fortified this area with gun pits, bunkers, artillery and concrete casemates. Pointe du Hoc was captured by 225 U.S. rangers on D-Day after scaling the cliffs, and has become a symbol of courage of the American troops. It is one of the most significant memorials along the D-Day coast.

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach was the stretch of beach with the most intense battles. Memorials and statues line the beach.

This is probably where you will be spending the most time of all beaches. The American Cemetery is located right above the beach, and there are two museums: the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum, which showcases personal items of soldiers, weapons and uniforms, and the Omaha D-Day Museum which details the landing on Omaha Beach.

The Gun Battery in Longues-sur-Mer between Omaha Beach and Gold Beach has a number of bunkers which were Hitler’s most important points of defense.

Gold Beach

The Gold Beach invasion was led by the British, and the most important museum here is the America Gold Beach Museum and exhibits details of the landing here as well as the three-engine Fokker America’s first airmail flight from the United States to France.

Arromanches 14

Juno Beach

Juno Beach, where the invasion was under Canada’s lead, has the Juno Beach Centre, which outlines the significant role Canada played in the D-Day invasion. Nearby Bény-sur-Mer is home to the Canadian cemetery.

Sword Beach

Sword Beach is the easternmost of the five D-Day beaches. The operation here happened under British leadership, and there is a museum, the Merville Gun Battery, which details the British Airborne Operations.

The nearby Ranville War cemetery is home to 2,235 graves, most of which belong to the 6th Airborne Division.

The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery is one of the largest American war cemeteries and was the first one on European soil established during World War II. With 9,387 lives lost on D-Day and the consequent ensuing operations, it makes visitors realize the magnitude and true scale of this operation and the lives lost during it.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

How to visit the D Day beaches from Paris

Paris City Vision offers a guided tour of the D-Day beaches from Paris. The trip includes, in addition to the beaches, the Caen Memorial Church, the memorial service, and a delicious lunch. You’ll leave Paris at 7am and will return around 9pm. The advantage of taking a tour is not only that it’ll bring you to all places of interest, but it also includes a knowledgeable guide who will provide background information and historical details.

You can also visit the beaches via public transportation – take the train from Paris to Caen and then hop on the local bus that connects the beaches, but be aware that buses aren’t running very often and trying to fit in all beaches, the Memorial and the American cemetery in one day would be quite a challenge.

Photo credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Arromanches Mulberry by Archangel12; (2) Arromanches 14 by Barry Skeates; (3) Normandy American Cemtery by Larry Uren


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Five Epic European Road Trips

southern iceland dani car

Everybody loves a good road trip, and Europe has more scenic roads than you could cover in a lifetime. Majestic castles in Austria, half-timbered houses in Germany, rolling green hills in England, Alpine landscapes in Switzerland, majestic fjords in Norway, and vineyards lining the country roads as you are driving in France – these are just some of the things that lift my heart and keeps me driving.

If I had to pick just five, this would be the list of my favorite road tips in Europe:fiat 500 & san gimignano

1. The Amalfi Coast | Italy

The Amalfi coast in the south of Italy is the country’s most beautiful stretch of coastline, where quaint terraced villages are spread through the hillsides stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea are around every corner. The coast route follows the shoreline from Sorrento in the north to Salerno in the south. Your hearts will pound as you hug the road past steep cliffs, and soar when you pass the many vineyards where you may wish to stop and spend a few days. The four main towns on the Amalfi Coast are Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, and stops in all of them are essential!

Best time for a road trip: March to May, when Spring is in full bloom and the summer tourist season has not yet begun.
Recommended number of days: 2 to 4 days
Level of difficulty: It is a beautiful drive, but challenging. Drivers should be confident on winding, narrow roads.

Cinque Terre coast1

2. The Highlands | Scotland

Scotland’s Highlands are unlike anywhere in the world and a Highland road trip covers some of the most spectacular places in the UK. I recommend a loop, starting your trip in Glasgow and finishing in Edinburgh, heading north through the mountains and locks that make the Highlands so famous, and then heading back down to the Scottish capital. Start in Glasgow and head to Loch Lomond before continuing north to the small outpost of Fort William from there. Here you can hike the mighty Ben Nevis, the highest mountain of the British Isles, or head west towards Mallaig with a stop at the picturesque Loch Shiel. From Mallaig, take the car ferry over to the Isle of Skye, and head back to the mainland via the Skye Bridge. Fro here it is a short drive to fairytale-esque Eileen Donan Castle.eileen donan castle scotlandDepending on how much time you have left, I recommend driving further north to the fishing town of Ullapool and the little village of Lochinver, with its white-sand beaches. Otherwise drive straight east towards Fort Augustus, which is the perfect base to explore Loch Ness. Drive along the Loch to the quaint town of Inverness and take the scenic route via Pitlochry to Edinburgh, and you will see most of the iconic Scottish landmarks like the Lochs, Whiskey distilleries and Highland cows.

Best time for a road trip: April – September
Recommended number of days: 5 to 7 days
Level of difficulty: Roads are narrow and driving is on the left – drivers should be experienced and confident.

Scotland highlands sheep

3. The Romantic Road | Germany

The Romantic Road in the south of Germany offers some of the most stunning scenery of the country. Driving from Würzburg to the foothills of the Alps near Neuschwanstein Castle, you will pass sweeping views, ancient cathedrals and castles, castles, castles. You will drive through the pretty Tauber Valley before you arrive in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which dates back to the 13th century with medieval streets and thick city walls – doubtlessly the pearl of the Romantic Road! Other highlights include the gorgeous town of Nördlingen, Augsburg with its stunning cathedral, Hohenschwangau with its jaw-droppingly beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle and the nearby historic town of Füssen. If you have more time, you can drive up to Munich from here and end your road trip in one of Germany’s most traditional cities. Don’t forget to pack your lederhosen!

Best time for a road trip: Spring or summer, but fall is also a beautiful time to visit.
Recommended number of days: 5 to 7 days
Level of difficulty: The road is fairly easy to navigate, though it can get narrow at times.

road to the bavarian alps

4. France beyond Paris | France

This road trip is the ideal way to combine a trip to Paris with an additional few days to explore the idyllic French countryside. I would recommend starting in Paris and driving through Chartres, Le Mans, Rennes, Caen, Rouen and then circling back to Paris. Just outside of the city, stop in Versailles to see Napoleon’s remarkable palace, and then move on to Chartres, home to a UNESCO World Heritage cathedral, before exploring Renne, which still has plenty of well-maintained wood-edifice buildings typical for that area of France. North of Rennes is the spectacular Le Mont-St.-Michel, a rocky island set in the English Channel, just off the coast, that is almost entirely inhabited by the medieval Benedictine Abbey and church – not to be missed! Rouen is home to the extraordinary cathedral made famous by Monet’s painting, and makes for a fabulous last stop on this French road trip.

Best time for a road trip: Between April and October
Recommended number of days:4 to 5
Level of difficulty: All roads on this trip are easy to navigate.

paris chez marie cafe

5. Dublin – Kilkenny – Cork – Galway | Southern Ireland

Southern Ireland has some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, especially along the coast. Our Southern Ireland road trip starts in Dublin and brings you to Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick and Galway, and ends back in Dublin. This road trip is the perfect way to get to know the culture, landscape and history of Ireland, passing impressive castles as well as picturesque Irish villages. Some of the highlights of this road trip are County Kerry, which has a rugged coastline and tall mountains, and is especially famous for the Ring of Kerry, a circular road that follows a trace of coastline of mountainous fingers jutting out into the ocean. The infamous Cliffs of Moher, which tower 700 feet above the ocean, are another highlight of this trip.

Best time for a road trip: Between March and October
Recommended number of days: 5 to 7 days
Level of difficulty: Left side driving and narrow roads. Not for novices.

Cliffs & cottages


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Summer in the Algarve – Top Tips on Avoiding the Crowds

costa caparica beach portugal

Portugal has it all. Warm sunny weather, beautiful scenery, gorgeous coast and bags of culture. The only problem is – everyone else knows this too! Meaning that come summer, places like the Algarve can be extremely overpopulated with tourists. Something that can be extremely off-putting to other travellers.

However, you shouldn’t let a few tourists keep you from experiencing one of Europe’s most treasured holiday destinations. With just a few clever tricks, I promise that you’ll be able to get the most out of your Algarve holiday without getting trampled on by stampedes of holiday-goers.

The Algarve itself is popular due to two main reasons – every year it experiences over 300 days of sunshine and yet it’s still an incredibly affordable destination with numerous budget flights. Then there’s the fact the region is famed for its long, clean beaches that are considered some of the safest in the world. It’s little wonder that couples and families flock to the Algarve every year.

To avoid the crowds, I recommend avoiding the big hotels that occupy the central Algarve. Yes, the amazing hospitality, swimming pools and affordable hotel bills are very tempting. But that means everyone else will book too! For more privacy, I suggest booking your own villa or apartment. Many of these private holiday homes have their own swimming pools meaning you won’t have to share with other tourists, plus you can avoid the hectic morning buffets in favour of exploring the local food markets and attempting to make some Portuguese dishes yourself.

When it comes to beaches, both the south and central Algarve with beaches like Praia da Falesia are particularly busy due to all the facilities they provide. This beach resort has water sports, golf and even tennis for all ages, making it very popular with families.

For a quiet day on the beach opt for an area that has been less developed for tourists such as Praia Verde in the Eastern Algarve. Without a golf course or water park in sight, this lovely beach is surrounded by a dense pine forest and is home to an array of local birds and other wildlife to spot. There’s even a small boutique hotel hidden away in the forest called the Praia Verde Boutique Hotel. With just 40 suites, modern design and a delicious restaurant that offers seasonal dishes, there’s no doubt that this area will give you a taste of authentic Algarve life.

When it comes to eating out, the most popular restaurants are the western ones. Simply because they’ve been built to suit the tastes of the thousands of tourists who visit each year. Instead, beat the crowds and experience some of the delicious Portuguese cuisine. After-all, you can’t visit a country without trying its famous dishes.

For a taste of the best, the Michelin-starred São Gabriel is a must-visit. The chef, accomplished local-born Leonel Pereira, undoubtedly creates some of the Algarve’s greatest dishes. Of course, being Michelin-starred the restaurant can be on the pricey side, however, there’s likely to be a tasting menu that will give the most for your money and offers a great experience.

If you’ve got a sweeter tooth, Restaurant L14, which is tucked away in the Salgados Dunas Suites hotel in Albufeira, won the Best Dessert 2015 award for its almond and fig dish. The restaurant offers a fusion of local and international foods, so it’s a great choice if you’re new to the cuisine.

All-in-all, it’s very possible to avoid the tourists in the Algarve, you just need to venture further afield from the popular resorts. If you do, you’ll quite possibly regard the Algarve as one of your top holiday destinations.

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