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Three must-do day trips from Krakow

krakow

Poland’s second city has a lot to offer in itself, with a stunning medieval Old Town that was declared World Heritage by UNESCO, a remarkable mix of architecture (including Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, Romanesque and art nouveau), a Royal Castle and a Jewish Quarter turned bohemian neighborhood, plus a cultural calendar so packed that it could keep you busy for weeks.

But if you have a day or two to spare, there are actually a number of places outside of Krakow that are worth a visit. Read on for three places you should visit on a day trip from Krakow, how much time to spend there and how to do it:

1 Auschwitz

A visit to Auschwitz is not the most joyful of days, but educating yourself about the horrific experiences Jewish prisoners had to endure in this (and similar) concentration camps is something I believe everyone should do. Auschwitz has become the most important representation of the Holocaust, representing the brutal extermination of an entire religion, with over six million people unscrupulously murdered – over one million of which died in Auschwitz – and it is more critical than ever to be informed about genocide and the brutal regime of the Nazis. It is heartbreaking to read about the events of the Jewish prisoners and to see images as well as personal belongings, but a visit to Auschwitz should be on every Krakow visitor’s itinerary.Auschwitz

Trip Duration: Even though Auschwitz is not far from Krakow (65 km (40 mi) west of the city), it will take you hours to see both parts of the concentration camp, one of which now houses an extensive museum. This is a full day trip from Krakow.

How to do it: Buses run regularly between Krakow and Auschwitz from the Central Bus Station, they usually say ‘Oświęcim, Auschwitz Museum”. The main operator is Lajkonik. If they go directly to the concentration camp, bypassing the town, the ride takes around 90 minutes. The longer route can take up to 2.5 hours, so you’ll want to make sure you take a bus that goes directly to Auschwitz. Tickets are PLN13 (US$3.32) each way when purchased online or PLN14 (US$3.62) when purchased from the driver.

You can also take a guided tour from Krakow – they are advertised all over Krakow. Expect to pay between PLN130 and PLN150 (US$33 – US$39). It is also possible to organize your transportation from Krakow individually (i.e. take the cheap bus) and book a guided tour in Auschwitz. Tours run every 15 minutes and take between 2.5 and 3.5 hours. They start at around PLN60 (~US$15).

If you are planning to visit Auschwitz between April and October, it is advised to reserve a guided tour at least one month before your visit. Tours fill up quickly during high season.

Admission to Auschwitz is free.

Important: Note that during high season (between 1 April and 31 October) you can visit one large part of the camp (Auschwitz I) as part of a guided tour between 10am and 3pm due to the large number of visitors. If you prefer seeing the camp at your own pace, make sure to arrive before 10am. Arriving after 3pm would mean a rather rushed visit. Auschwitz Memorial and Museum are open daily from 7.30am – 7pm.Auschwitz

2 Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a former salt mine where for hundreds of years miners pulled out rock salt which was processed into table salt for pretty much all of Poland.

After the mine closed, talented sculptors gave it a second life by decorating the caves with salt statues so elaborate that you have to go see them with your own eyes to believe it. There is even an entire chapel made out of salt down there – hundreds of meters below ground! The chapel, named Chapel of St Kinga, is so magnificent that it has become a popular spot for weddings and rock concerts. Other highlights of the cavernous maze of underground tunnels include an underground salt lake (which has a higher salt density than the Dead Sea!), a salt sculpture of Pope John Paul II, and a salt-crystal chandelier. There’s even a salt version of Leonardo’s The Last Supper carved into rock-salt wall!Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine has over 200 miles (300 kilometers) of tunnels, spread out of nine levels, of which the deepest is 1,073 feet (327 meters) underground. UNESCO recognized the splendor of the mine by rewarding it World Heritage status in 2010. In addition to salt sculptures, the mine also has displays of historic salt-mining technology and a salt museum.

Trip duration: You can visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine in a few hours, which means this can be done in a half day trip from Krakow.

How to do it: The easiest way to see the Salt Mines is taking a Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour from Krakow. Tours start in Krakow’s Old Town and with a tour you get to skip the line at the entrance, you are shown around by a knowledgeable guide who provides you with background information on the mines and brings you to the most remarkable sculptures and chambers. Tours take around 4.5 hours (90 minutes of which are transportation from and to Krakow) and cost around PLN150 (around US$35). Be aware that the tour includes quite a bit of walking in the mine, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes, and since it’s quite chilly in the mine (the average temperature is  57°F / 14°C ) you’ll want to pack a jacket, even on a hot day.---

3 Tatra Mountains

If you are an avid hiker, you should definitely make the Tatra Mountains part of your Krakow itinerary, but anyone who appreciates nature, scenic landscapes and mountains will enjoy a trip to what is often called the ‘Polish Alps’. Take a bus to Zakopane, a town in a picturesque city in the foothills of the mountains. From there, you can take a cable car up to the mountain top for panoramic views or to start a mountain hike along one of the many trails. In the winter, Zakopane turns into a winter wonderland and becomes a dream destination for winter sports enthusiasts.Tatra Mountains

You shouldn’t miss the Morskie Oko Trail, which brings you to the most stunning lake in the Tatra Mountains: Morskie Oko. This lake was named as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world by the Wall Street Journal! If hiking isn’t your thing, soak up the atmosphere of Zakopane, wander Krupówki Street (the main street), which is lined with shops and restaurants, and enjoy a traditionally Polish meal at Dobra Kasza Nasza. Try the famous oscypek, a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk that you find only in the Tatra Mountains.

Trip duration: Getting to Zakopane / the Tatra Mountains takes about two hours, so this is definitely a full day trip from Krakow, especially if you are planning to go on a longer hike. The Tatra Mountains would also make for a great overnight trip. If you go overnight, book your accommodation in advance – Zakopane can get busy.

How to do it: You can take a bus from Krakow which brings you to Zakopane in two hours and costs only between €3 and €6 (book your buses and trains in advance to save money). There are trains as well, but they take longer (about three hours). If you want to be more flexible, you can rent a car in Krakow – car rentals start at around €35 per day.Calm

Photo Credit: Lead image of Krakow via Pixabay. All other images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Auschwitz by Michela Simoncini; (2) Auschwitz by the Anne Frank Trust UK; (3) Wieliczka Salt Mine by Charlotte Powell; (4) Salt Chapel by Tomasz Labuz; (5) Tatra Mountains by Remigiusz Agatowski; (6) Tatra Mountain Lake by Adam Baker
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Lakes, Castles and Beaches: A Northern Germany Road Trip

northern germany road trip lake

Over the past few years, my visits to Germany have been looking pretty much the same every time I go: I stop in my hometown to my family, I stop in Berlin because I can’t get enough of the city, and I visit friends in Cologne and Munich. But what about the rest of Germany? Even though I spent quite a bit of time traveling Germany when I was younger and still living in Europe, there are still plenty of places I have yet to visit. On top of my wish list: Spreewald (a biosphere reserve consisting of wetlands and forests southeast of Berlin), the nautical side of northern Germany (including the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven, and Lübeck, which is famous for its brick Gothic architecture, and the coastal region of East Frisia), and a road trip along the Romantic Road which covers a bunch of fairytale-like towns in Southern Germany.

When my friend suggested we could meet up in Germany for a few days during my last visit, and asked me to show her Germany beyond Berlin, I immediately started researching possible trips. A quick search for car rentals in Germany revealed that a rental car would cost us less than $25 per day, and that was for a pick-up right in the center of Berlin (note that rental pick-up at one of the airports would’ve cost around $24 per day), which is an amazing rate. Plus, it meant we could bring my favorite furry travel companion along.Germany Road TripI decide to introduce my friend to Northern Germany and mapped out a route that is perfect if you have a week to spend in Germany, but which can also be driven in five days. I wanted to include the famous Mecklenburg Lake Plateau, the Baltic Sea, at least one of Germany’s fairy tale castles, a grand Hanseatic city and a smaller town in the countryside.

This kind of trip definitely required a car, since several towns were small and not on the main bus routes (side note: the buses also take the major highways, instead of scenic byways), and taking the train would’ve meant connecting. I created a road trip that had a couple of stops en-route, meaning we would only spend a couple of hours or an afternoon there on the way to our final destination for the day – which is only possible if you have a car. Train and bus travel are solid options in Germany when you just travel from A to B, but to see more of the country and to get ‘off the beaten path’, you really need a vehicle. Luckily, car rentals in Germany are inexpensive and you can get a small rental starting at around $23 per day, or a medium-sized vehicle starting at around $25 per day. And did I mention renting a car meant I’d be able to bring a dog? 🙂

Here’s the map of our route (I excluded highways so that we would only drive scenic country roads):

Read on for the highlights of this road trip through northern Germany and what not to miss in each of the places you drive through:

Berlin

Germany’s capital has so much to offer, you can easily spend an entire week just there. If you haven’t been yet, get an overview and learn about the comprehensive and complicated history of Berlin during both World War II and the division between East and West Germany on a free walking tour. Go for a bike ride in Tiergarten Park and on Tempelhof airfield, an abandoned airport turned park. Take in the city from above from either Victory Column (only €3, but 270 steps) or the observation deck on top of the Park Inn at Alexanderplatz, right across from the TV Tower (€4).

Eat Middle Eastern food while you’re wandering the streets of Berlin’s trendy Neukölln neighborhood and go flea market hopping on a weekend in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood (don’t miss Mauerpark for the flea market, street food and the largest karaoke event in Germany – every Sunday during the summer months – and the Sunday flea market at Arkonaplatz). Head to the East Side Gallery for fantastic murals, and go barhopping in the vibrant Friedrichshain neighborhood.

Check out my detailed guide to Berlin for more ideas on what to see and do.Berlin

Neuruppin

Drive: Berlin to Neuruppin: 80 kilometers / 50 miles – about 90 minutes

Suggested stop along the way: Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg, a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg just north of Berlin. The visit is a somber but educational experience.

Leave Berlin and drive north towards the lake district. Once you’ve left the city limits behind you, you’ll find yourself driving through lush green parkland and forests, along small rivers and canals. Neuruppin sits right on the shore of Ruppin Lake, and there is a beautiful trail along the lake. The town is known as a garrison town and was mainly built in Neoclassical style – the many pastel colored houses provide gorgeous photo opps. The remarkable minster Sankt Trinitatis, a historic church with adjacent monastery, was built in 1264 (the oldest building in Neuruppin) is the centerpiece of the small town.

If you’re a fan of sauna culture, plan in enough time for a visit to the thermal bath in Neuruppin which is the largest lake sauna for swimming in all of Germany. The views of the Ruppin Lake from the many different saunas are fabulous.Neuruppin Germany

Plau Am See

Drive: Neuruppin to Plau Am See, 90 kilometers / 56 miles – about 90 minutes

The small town is the gateway to the Mecklenburg Lake Plateau, and its name translates to ‘Plau On The Lake’. The city was founded around 1235 and has a lovely historic Old Town with half-timbered houses that’s worth a stroll. The main sights include the historic church, the Neo-classical town hall, the ruins of Plau Castle, and a bridge that is vertically lifted every time a boat wants to pass through the channel below. There is also a historic water mill that dates to 1273.northern germany lake district

Schwerin

Drive: Plau Am See to Schwerin, 73 kilometers / 45 miles – about 1 hour

You’ll drive through the picturesque lake district for about an hour before you reach Schwerin, the state capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The city is famous for its majestic palace, Schwerin Castle, which sits on an island in Lake Schwerin, one of several scenic lakes. Until 1918, the picture-perfect fairytale palace was a main residence of the dukes and grand dukes of Mecklenburg, and since 1990, it has been the seat of the state parliament.

Schwerin is the oldest city in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (first mentioned in 1018) and has a well preserved Old Town, including the beautiful Schwerin Cathedral, built in Brick Gothic style (1260 – 1416).Schwerin Germany

Wismar / Kühlungsborn

Drive: Schwerin to Kühlungsborn, 70 kilometers / 44 miles – around 1 hour and 15 minutes

Recommended stop along the way: Wismar

If you have time, stop in Wismar, about halfway in between Schwerin and Kühlungsborn. It’ll add only 15 – 20 mins to the drive, but you’ll get to see the remarkable medieval buildings of Wismar’s well preserved Old Town, which is part of the shared UNESCO World Heritage site of Wismar and Stralsund (another city on the Baltic coast). Both Wismar and Schwerin were major trading centers of the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe, founded in the late 1100s.

As you drive towards Kühlungsborn you’ll enjoy lovely views of the countryside, little hamlets, forests, and eventually, the azure blue Baltic Sea.kuehlungsborn beach

Kühlungsborn is a famous German seaside resort on the Baltic Sea – the main attraction here is the 4 kilometer (2.5 miles) long beach promenade, one of the longest in Germany. There’s not much to do here beyond the beach, but that’s exactly why 3 million people flock to Kühlungsborn every year: to simply soak up some of the salty sea air, take a dip in the freezing cold Baltic Sea (the water temperature in the summer averages a cool 18°C / 64°F).

Spend a day lounging in a Strandkorb (a sheltered straw ‘beach basket’ seat typical for the seaside resorts along the Baltic Sea coast) on its long and wide sand beach. When you find yourself getting hungry, go for a stroll along the promenade and stop in one of the many seafood restaurants for the Catch of the Day.

If you want to be more active, rent bikes and ride along the ‘Kühlung’, the unique a forested ridge, part of a cycling route along the coast. Worth visiting are also nearby Heiligendamm, Germany’s very first seaside resort, and lighthouse Buk, built in 1878. The views over the surrounding area and the Baltic Sea from the top of the lighthouse are unrivaled.kuehlungsborn baltic sea

Rostock

Drive: Kühlungsborn to Rostock, 33 kilometers / 21 miles – about 40 minutes

Rostock is the largest city in the state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern and used to be the most significant member of the Hanseatic League (see above). The city celebrated its 800th (!) birthday in 2018 and is famous not only for its past as an important seaport in the Baltic Sea, but also its striking architecture (many buildings were built in Brick Gothic style, typical for the Hanseatic cities), several grand churches (dating to the 13th century), the impressive harbor and restored gable houses from the 15th and 16th centuries. You can even still see parts of the medieval city wall.Rostock Germany

Warnemünde

Drive: Rostock to Warnemünde, 10 kilometers / 6 miles – about 12 minutes

If you have time, don’t miss nearby Warnemünde, which is a district of Rostock that is located right on the Baltic Sea (Rostock is further inland, connected to the Baltic Sea via the Unterwarnow, the estuary of the Warnow River). Warnemünde has managed to maintain the character of a small fishing village (population 8,400), despite having become a popular cruise ship destination.

The promenade is lined with colorful houses, hotels, restaurants and little shops, and the main canal, Alter Strom, is lined with beautiful boats. The historic lighthouse, built in 1898, is worth the climb (135 steps) for the glorious coastal vistas.baltic sea boat

Tip: If you haven’t set the dates for your road trip yet, try to head to Rostock and Warnemünde during the second weekend in August, when Hanse Sail takes place. Hanse Sail is a huge maritime festival with up to 1..5 million visitors, celebrating maritime traditions and culture. Around 250 sailing ships of all types and sizes from different countries sail to Rostock for the festival – a truly unique spectacle. (If you’re planning to spend the night – book your accommodation well in advance!).kuehlungsborn strandkoerbe

Final Stretch: Circling Back to Berlin

Drive: Rostock to Berlin, 240 kilometers / 150 miles, about 4 hours

If you decide to head straight back to Berlin from Rostock, it’ll take you about four hours to get back to where you started. If you have time for an additional stop on the way back, I recommend to break up the drive in either of these two places:

Waren

(88 kilometers / 55 miles, about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Rostock; 152 kilometers / 95 miles – about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Berlin)

Waren sits right on Lake Müritz and is known for its historic town center, boasting a large number of historic buildings and monuments. It’s a pleasant city for a wander around town or along the lake. Lake Müritz is the second largest lake in all of Germany and the largest one in the Mecklenburg Lake Plateau, an Müritz National Park stretches the long eastern shoreline of the lake.Northern Germany Road Trip

Neustrelitz

(134 kilometers / 83 miles – about 2 hours and 10 minutes from Rostock; 111 kilometers / 69 miles – about 2 hours from Berlin)

Neustrelitz is also located right in the Mecklenburg Lake District, sitting on the shores of Lake Zierker See. The historic town center is known for its stunning Baroque architecture, with a wide open market square. While the palace of Neustrelitz was destroyed during World War II, the palace gardens are still intact, and they are delightful!northern germany country road

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Six Offbeat things to do in Porto, Portugal

Porto Portugal

When it comes down to discussing tourist destinations, Porto is one of the most popular places to visit in right now, and since it’s less hours from Lisbon on the train, why not add a stop in Porto to your trip to Portugal? And while Porto may not be as popular as Lisbon just yet, don’t think you’ll get away from tourists – Porto is still a touristy spot, however, if you want to do something ‘off the beaten path’, I recommend to find private tours in Porto with locals.PortoIn this article, I am sharing a few of the less talked about things to do while visiting Porto – once you’ve seen the main tourist attractions, check out these cool things:

Book a film show at an independent theater

Independent films and watching them around in Porto is quite the tradition. If you wish to experience something similar, the best way to go about with it is by visiting Cinema Trindale. It does offer some of the most amazing set of choices and that too at an amazing price as well. You don’t need to worry about the language barrier because there are subtitles for the movies you watch.

Visit Casa da Musica

Apart from the breathtaking beauty of the white and glass in the swerving walls of Casa, the Casa da Musica is one of those offbeat spots to visit around which offers an immaculate experience. The building itself is a must-see for architecture lovers, while the performances inside will wow not just lovers of classical music. The orchestral shows in there are nothing short of amazing and are one of the best things to do while in Porto. If you miss out on getting tickets to a concert, the cafe in the basement is worth a visit too. It is also an amazing spot to witness the skaters swerve through the slopes.Casa da Música, Porto - Portugal

Visit the Cat cafe

Cafes are everywhere to be found around Porto but the one that stands out is the cat cafe. It is not just one of a kind but quite a fun place to hang around in. It is called O Porto dos Gatos (The Port Of Cats) and is one of the only cat cafes in all of in Europe. The interior of the place is quite serene and has cats everywhere you turn. The cafe serves 100% vegan food which is fantastic for vegans – but also non-vegans will love the food here – the cakes and brownies are to die for!

Explore Ribeira

Something you shouldn’t miss while you are in Porto is exploring Ribeira, which is one of Porto’s liveliest neighborhoods and UNESCO World Heritage site. It is known for its architectural grandeur and the beauty it bestows. The name of this place translates to Riverside which is literally where it is located, hence the name. It is one of the most beautiful and charming areas of Porto, so take an afternoon and go for a wander around Ribeira. Use this excellent guide to Ribeira as your starting point to explore the neighborhood.Ribeira

Sign up for an art class

Irrespective of whether or not you are good at art, you can take an art class while you are in Porto. There are several local artists who offer amazing art classes that you can take. Not just the brush strokes, they often explain everything about the equipment too. You don’t need to have any kind of prior experience. All you need is to be enthusiastic about art.

Visit the Tram Museum

The Tram Museum in Porto is one of a kind and makes you travel back in time. Not only do you learn about the history of each train, but you can also find out why each one has a different surname. This museum is often named as a kids’ favorite.Tram 163, Porto Tram Museum

If you want to venture beyond Porto, I recommend taking a trip to Douro Valley. It takes only about an hour and a half to get there and the beauty of the Douro River is worth this road trip. If you have time for a day trip in Douro valley while you’re in Porto, don’t miss this breathtakingly beautiful part of Portugal.

Douro Valley
 

Photo Credit: Lead image of Porto by Nathsegato via Pixabay. All other images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Porto by Simplethrill; (2) Casa de Musica by Paolo Margari; (3) Ribeira by Miquel Bohigas Costabella; (4) Porto Tram Museum by Nigel Menzies; (5) Douro Valley by Porto Convention & Visitors Bureau
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Five Things You Have To Do When You Visit Budapest

budapest

Budapest has seen a steady rise in popularity over the last couple of decades and is now one of the most popular capitals in all of Europe. If you’re on a Euro trip, make sure to add Hungary’s capital to your itinerary and let the city charm you with its grand historic architecture, beautiful landmarks, and lively nightlife.

The city is made up of two distinctly different parts: Buda, which is western of the Danube River perched atop a hill, topped by an imposing castle, and Pest, on the eastern side of the river, dominated by the stunning Parliament Building on the riverfront.

To get a good overview of the city, visit the main sights and have time to try some delicious Hungarian food, I recommend spending at least two nights in Budapest, but no matter how much or how little time you have – here are five things you HAVE TO do on your visit:The magnificent Budapest Parliament

1 Take in the breathtaking views

Since much of the Buda part of the city sits atop a hill, the city offers several viewpoints that offer sweeping vistas over the entire city and the Danube River which divides Buda and Pest. A panoramic view requires a bit of an uphill march, but trust me, it is worth the pain.

Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya) is one of the best viewpoints in Budapest, including a spectacular view of the remarkable Parliament Building. While you’re there, go for a stroll in the surrounding streets – there are plenty of nice cafes and bars.

If you don’t like crowds, I recommend heading up there early in the morning – this place gets busy, but it’s popular for a reason.2013-09-25-10h19m10Another great viewpoint is Gellért Hill, named after Bishop Gellért, who was thrown to death from the hill by pagans in the fight against Christianity in 1046. You’ll find a monument erected in his honor atop the hill, as well as another famous statue: Budapest’s Statue of Liberty, visible from everywhere in the city. The big citadel on Gellért Hill is a popular tourist attraction now, also worth a visit, if you have time.

To get to Gellért Hill, take a tram across Liberty Bridge to the base of the hill. That’s where you also find the famous Gellert Baths, one of several thermal pools in Budapest (see below #2). The path to the top of the hill is well signposted.

A third magnificent view of Budapest can be enjoyed from Castle Hill. From here, you can see the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Gresham Palace, and St. Stephen’s Basilica in a perfect line.

2 Take a Bath

A visit to at least one of Budapest’s thermal baths is a MUST when you visit the city. The city is built above thermal hot springs, which is why several of these springs were turned into thermal pools. The Szechenyi Baths are the most famous one and the largest ones – in fact, one of the largest thermal pools in all of Europe! They’re particularly famous thanks to the beautiful neo-Baroque building they’re facing, making it an extraordinary spa experience.

Since the Szechenyi Baths are very popular, it’s recommended to book tickets in advance, especially if you are visiting during the busy summer season (May to October), and if you don’t have much time, go for the fast-track tickets. Fast-track tickets are €21 on weekdays and €22 (roughly US$25) on weekends and Holidays, and this price includes not only Skip the Line Entry but also a private cabin room, and you can spend the entire day in the baths if you want to.Szechenyi bath

3 Drink in a Ruin Bar

Ruin bars, which are basically watering holes inside abandoned buildings, are something Budapest is famous for, and you have to visit at least one of them while you’re visiting the city. Most of the ruin bars are in the Jewish Quarter, where in the early 2000s, many buildings sat empty – and a business savvy local decided to turn one of these ‘ruins’ into a bar: Szimpla Kert. That was the very first one, and soon others followed. Many of these bars have a unique design, several rooms, and some have unique touches like mismatched furniture that looks like it was found on a flea market or at a garage sale (which it probably was.) The best part about them? That you can still get a large beer for $2 or even less!

In addition to Szimpla Kert, Instant, Mazel Tov and Ellátó Kert are worth a visit, too. If you’re traveling by yourself, consider joining a Ruin Bar – there are several tours in Budapest, check Tripadvisor for the best rated tour.Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar Trabant

4 Eat in the Great Market Hall

Budapest’s Great Market Hall (Nagyvasarcsarnok in Hungarian – try to say that word!) looks more like a train station from the outside: a majestic building where you can watch the locals as they shop for fresh spices and produces, but also nosh on some Hungarian specialties. The three-storey market hall has enough to see to keep you entertained for a couple of hours. Budapest, HungaryIf you’re not sure, what food to try, here are some recommendations:

  • Langos, a deepfried dough topped with sweet (honey) or savory (garlic, cheese, sour cream) toppings
  • Sweet strudels for dessert
  • Pogácsa (the Hungarian version of a scone)
  • Hungarian salami
  • Kürtőskalács – the famous Hungarian chimney cake (which you can’t miss if you love cinnamon!)

5 See the Shoes

This might sound like a rather odd thing to do, but the Shoes on the Danube promenade are a memorial to the Jews who were murdered in Budapest during World War II. Many Jews were shot by the Nazis right on the promenade, their bodies consequently falling into the river and washed away. Before they were shot, they were asked to take their shoes off and strip naked, hence the shoe memorial. The memorial, found right in front of the Parliament Building, consists of 60 pairs of shoes in all different styles and sizes – showing that absolutely nobody was spared from this horrifying act, not even children. It is estimated that around 20,000 Jews were shot on the shore of the Danube River, and the shoes are a haunting memorial to what was a gloomy time in the history of the city.Shoes

Where to stay in Budapest

ibis Budapest Centrum Hotel

For a stylish hotel at less than $100, consider the ibis Budapest Centrum Hotel, which has functional rooms and is located right in the center of Budapest, as its name suggests. The Great Market Hall is only a couple of minutes away, and you’re close to Liberty Bridge which connects the Pest part of the city with Buda. The Gellert Baths and Gellert Hill are less than 15 mins walking distance, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby.

Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge

If you want to splurge, you’ll love the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge, a luxury hotel that sits right on the Danube River, offering amazing views over the Chain Bridge and the Royal Castle. This hotel has an indoor pool and a wonderful summer terrace and all major attractions are just a short walk from the hotel.

How to get to Budapest

By plane

Budapest Franz Liszt International Airport connects Budapest with all major European cities, and is served by many low-cost airlines (EasyJet, Flybe, Germanwings, Jet2, Ryanair, Wizzair, Vueling, Norwegian).

By train

Budapest is connected to many European cities via rail, and has three railway stations (Eastern, Southern and Western Railway Station), which are all connected to the underground (metro) system. International trains usually arrive at the Eastern Railway Station. There are direct trains from Vienna (2.5hrs), Bratislava (2.5hrs), Zagreb (7hrs(, Prague (7hrs), Munich (7.5 hrs), Belgrade (8hrs), Ljubljana (10hrs), Warsaw (10.5hrs), Berlin (12hrs), Bucharest (16hrs)

By bus

Budapest is served by several low-cost buses – check the following buses for connections to other European countries:

  • Eurolines
  • Flixbus
  • Eurobusways

Photo Credit: Lead image via Walkerssk on Pixabay. All other images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing: (1) Parliament Building by Hans Permana; (2) Fisherman’s Bastion by Byron Howes; (3) Szechenyi Baths by Thierry Kennes; (4) Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar by Nan Palermo; (5) Great Market Hall by Alejandro; (5) Shoes by Pedro Cambra
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The UK’s most romantic road trips

northern England

Exploring a new part of the world with your new partner is always exciting, but you don’t have to get on a plane to do so. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the country to get a taste of idyllic scenery. Make the most of your car and country by opting for a scenic road trip when planning your next romantic gesture. As a young couple, it’s a relatively cheap way of seeing a little more of the world before you have the funds later to head abroad together.

Before you set off on your road trip, it’s important you make sure you’re fully prepared for the journey. Grab some snacks for the trip and make sure you have a sat nav at the ready. An emergency breakdown cover policy is an important essential, as well as an emergency kit in your boot featuring items such as a hazard triangle, hi-vis clothing, torches and bottles of water. Most importantly, make sure your young driver insurance and the route you’re going to take is sorted well in advance – nobody wants to cancel a trip because they left the essentials to the last minute.

The Cotswolds

Known for its luscious green hills and charming cottages made of golden stone, the Cotswolds is one of the most picturesque places in the country. A trip to the Cotswolds is perfect for those who want to explore a quaint village before heading to a country pub for a spot of lunch.

Unspoiled and truly traditional, walking through one of these stunning villages will transport you back in time. Make sure you have a spare hour to pop into a tea room for some delicious scones before heading back home.

Spanning nearly 800 miles, it would be pretty much impossible to explore the Cotswolds in its entirety in just a weekend, as much as we’d all love to try. At just 45 miles, the best route for a couple would have to be the Romantic Road from Broadway. If you don’t want to use a pre-set route, it’s worth planning which of the many villages you want to explore rather than driving aimlessly.

The Lake District

The beautifully scenic Lake District is famed for its sprawling hillsides, breathtaking lakes and hike-worthy mountains. There are plenty of routes to take, as listed by the Lake District Drives website. One of those most popular is the Windermere Circuit drive. You’ll see all the popular sights in this drive around England’s largest lake as well as the more untouched parts of this stunning part of the country.

The Keswick, Borrowdale, Buttermere drive is considered one of the most romantic, passing through the most picturesque valleys and mountain passes you’ll ever see. At only 38 miles, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the natural beauty of the Lake District on this route. Stop for lunch in the popular town of Keswick before heading off on the rest of your journey.

The New Forest

When people think of the New Forest, the first things that come to mind are the enchanting forest trails and the wildlife that resides amongst the luscious greenery. Stop off on your trip and hike through these trails for a breath of fresh air with a view.

british pub food

If you want your road trip to be filled with nature, take the scenic route to avoid the busy main roads. This route takes you to the more quiet areas of the New Forest, avoiding the areas that are typically packed with tourists. You’ll start in Lymington and end in Frogham with plenty of lovely little villages to visit in between. Keep an eye out for the famous wild horses that roam the New Forest as well as the beautiful deer located in Bolderwood.

Plan one of these romantic road trips this year and enjoy time away from it all, spent together as a couple.

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The five best long-distances hikes in England

turquoise water

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know that I am a big fan of long-distance hikes. After the Salkantay Trek in Peru, the jungle trek to Colombia’s Lost City, and the month-long epic walk across Spain along the Camino De Santiago it is time to plan my next long distance hike, and this year, my Camino BFF Kate and I are planning to do one of England’s best long-distance hikes. All that’s left to do is fill our backpacks with our hiking gear, strap on our walking boots and – most importantly – decide which walk to set out on.

When I started planning this trip, I was not aware how many fantastic walking trails there are in England, and after some research, I’ve narrowed down the five best long-distance walks in England, to give you some inspiration for your very own walking holiday in the UK. There’s something for everyone on this list: from short five-day hikes to epic eight-week walking adventures, from coastal walks to hamlet hopping through some of England’s grandest landscapes.

1 Coast to Coast

Location: Northern England – Cumbria to North Yorkshire

Length: 309 km / 192 miles

Duration: 15 days (without any test days)

What to expect: You’ll start on the west coast, at the Irish Sea at St Bees and end the walk in the North Sea at Robin Hood’s Bay. Walking west to east is the more popular direction for this hike, because this way, wind and rain will be at your back, and you don’t walk against the bright evening sun.

Highlights: You cross three stunning national parks on this walk: the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and the North York Moors. During the walk, you’ll pass through small villages with cozy pubs, the heather-covered highlands of the North York Moors, medieval castles and abbeys, the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of the Lake District and plenty of unforgettable views.

Level of difficulty: This is a strenuous hikes with many hills and mountains – you have to be an experienced hiker and in great physical condition.

2 Cotswolds Way

Location: South-Central England, Gloucestershire to Somerset

Length: 164 kilometers / 102 miles

Duration: 5 – 7 days

What to expect: The Cotswolds Way is one of the country’s most beautiful walks: You’ll walk through charming villages filled with century-old honey-colored stone houses and cozy pubs, follow the trail through the typical ‘rolling hills’ limestone grasslands that the Cotswolds are known for, through farmlands where you’ll encounter cows and sheep.

Highlights: Every single hamlet you walk through will take your breath away – the Cotswolds were awarded the title of ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ for a reason! And then there are the stately 15th-century Sudeley Castle, charming tea rooms, countless viewpoints with sweeping vistas of green, rolling hills, and finally, the city of Bath with its wonderful 18th-century Georgian architecture, where the walk ends (or begins, either way is possible, but soaking in Bath’s famous Roman thermal spas is a rewarding way to end the hike).

Level of difficulty: Moderate – this trail is doable for less experienced hikers.

3 The Pennine Way

Location: Northern England (Derbyshire) into Scotland

Length: 431 kilometers / 268 miles

Duration: min. of 21 days

What to expect: This popular, yet challenging, hike runs along the ‘backbone of England’: the Pennine Hills through a rather remote part of England. It is often named the toughest hiking trail in Britain, and definitely not an easy undertaking. You’ll walk through the remarkable Yorkshire Dales, lots of hilly terrain, moorland, bogs, wildflower meadows, farmland and wild landscapes – every day is very different. Since you’re passing mainly through untouched terrain, it is important to plan ahead – the Guardian has a great list of where to stay, eat and drink along the Pennine Way.

Highlights: Finishing the challenging Pennine Way with 432 stiles, 287 gates and 204 bridges is a huge achievement in itself, but you will also enjoy the vast panoramic vistas from the high-up viewpoints, some of Britain’s most beautiful, untouched scenery, Hadrian’s Wall and the highest pub in England.

Level of difficulty: This is considered a tough hike – long-distance hiking experience is essential, and you must be in excellent physical condition.

4 The Dales Way

Location: Northern England – West Yorkshire to Cumbria

Length: 125 kilometers / 81 miles

Duration: 5 – 6 days

What to expect: The Dales Way is a well-signposted hiking trail that mainly follows river valleys, cuts through farms and lush green fields, and eventually ends in the foothills of the mountains of the Lake District. You’ll walk through two National Parks: The Yorkshire Dales as well as the Lake District National Park.

Highlights: The Yorkshire Dales National Park offers some of England’s most spectacular landscapes: Moors, river valleys, green hills, farmland dotted with cows and sheep, and historic stone villages.

Level of difficulty: Moderate – can be done by less experienced hikers

5 The South West Coast Path

Location: Southwestern England – Dorset, Cornwall, Somerset, Devon

Length: 1,014 kilometers / 630 miles

Duration: about 8 weeks

What to expect: If you feel like all of the above hikes aren’t much of a challenge, the South West Coast Path is the hike for you. This hike follows the entire length of Cornwall’s and Devon’s coastline, and sections of Devon’s and Somerset’s coastlines. With a length of over 1,000 kilometers, it puts the famed Camino de Santiago to shame. Not only is this the longest hiking trail in the UK, but it is often named as one of the best hikes in the world. However pretty this coastal path with its stunning views is, be aware that there are lots of ups and downs involved, i.e. many drops and climbs. If the length of the hike seems off-putting to you, know that many people walk it in stretches over a number of years.

Highlights: You will pass through two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Jurassic Coast, comprised of the Dorset and East Devon Coast, and parts of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape. You’ll also get to walk along the Heritage Coast in Exmoor National Park with its dramatic coastline, ravines and steep cliffs – including the highest cliff in mainland Britain – and you’ll pass dozens of pristine beaches, castles, small harbor towns and seaside resorts, and the iconic Land’s End: the westernmost point of the English mainland.

Level of difficulty: Pretty difficult – not just because of the length of it, but the total elevation climbed during this hike is 114,931 feet (35,031 m), which is almost four times the height of Mount Everest! You have to be an experienced long-distance walker to finish this hike, and you have to have adequate hiking gear.

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Your Guide to Travelling Europe on a Budget

Bavarian village, Germany

When it comes to experiencing Europe on a budget, there are a lot of wonderful ways to do it. Travellers across the globe have ‘backpacking through Europe’ on their bucket list, and it’s not without sound reason. It’s a huge milestone for any traveller, and there are countless things to do in Europe.

If you wish to go on a backpacking trip to Europe on a budget, follow these tips to help you save money while exploring exquisite travel spots throughout Europe:paris sacre coeur

1 Budget Accommodation in Europe

Hostels and Dorms in Europe

Staying in hostels and dorms is a major way to save money on your trip. While you may think hostels are only meant for young people, you would be surprised to know that people from all age groups prefer staying in hostels on their backpacking trips.

Some hostels may even provide single rooms for people who don’t like sharing their accommodation with other travellers.

Camping in Europe

The only cheaper option than living in hostels is camping. There are a lot of campsites in every major city in Europe, and they also offer facilities like bathrooms and cooking areas.

abraham hostel jerusalem roof terrace

2 Eating Cheap in Europe

Cook Your Own Meal

Staying at a hostel or a campsite would mean that you would probably have a cooking facility. And considering food is one of the major expenses while travelling, the best thing you could do is to buy fresh ingredients and cook for yourself. It may not be feasible all the time, but you would be saving a lot of cash to spend elsewhere.

Eat Like A Local

Avoiding restaurants and eateries at tourist spots and finding the ones located a few blocks away will get you the best deals on food (as the food is always expensive at tourist places). Eating like a local can prove to be an important life skill.milan pizza arugalaEat Street Food

While travelling across Europe, you will easily spot food stalls around you all the time. Europe has a rich street food culture, and you could easily grab something to eat, like a slice of pizza or a crepe without having to shell out a fortune. Indulging in seafood across different countries may also prove to be a delicious experience.potosi chocolate crepe

3 Finding Budget Transportation in Europe

European Rail Pass

When you begin your journey through Europe, one of the first things you should do is to get a rail pass as there’s hardly a better way to witness the beauty of Europe than riding a train.

You get a variety of options; from a single country pass to a complete pass that will let you ride trains anywhere in Europe. You may choose a pass according to your travel plans, and this will definitely help you save a lot of travel money.

Tourist Passes

Apart from a rail pass, many European cities offer tourist passes that let you avail public transport at a nominal cost. Some cities may also offer entry to tourist spots, sightseeing tours etc. along with unlimited travel and these are benefits you must take advantage of.italian high speed trainCycling or Walking

Exploring a city on your feet or on two wheels is an immersive experience, and a must try. It doesn’t only help you save money, but also keeps you fit while on the road.

Budget Airlines

A little research before booking your air tickets could get you cheap flight tickets. Hence, it is advisable to book your tickets in advance as they tend to be cheaper when booked months before.flying

Get International Travel Insurance

Travelling to unknown places involves risk, and you can never be too careful, hence, you should get yourself international travel insurance that will come to your aid in case of a mishap.

You may spend a lot of time planning the perfect European vacation, but don’t overlook the importance of getting good international travel insurance.

You are more vulnerable to accidents and illnesses while travelling in a strange land. Although international travel insurance cannot help you avoid misfortunes during your travel, it will offer relief in the form of monetary compensation.dani camino de santiago

5 European cities to travel on a budget

You may have heard about the expensive European cities, but there are a lot of places where you can go on a shoestring budget. Here are five recommended cities when it comes to travelling on a budget:

    • LEÓN, SPAIN: If you consider yourself a foodie, this should be on your list
    • KRAKOW, POLAND: Party animals will find themselves at home in Krakow as it’s undoubtedly the party capital of the world
    • BERLIN: If observing and learning about the culture of the place you visit fascinates you, you should be in Berlin
    • PORTUGAL: It is a small but lovely place for water enthusiasts who would like to unwind around water and watch sunsets
    • TRANSYLVANIA, ROMANIA: If adventure and adrenaline rush is what you are looking for, Romania would be a befitting candidate.

So, stop making excuses! Pack your bags and get planning. Europe is waiting for you!

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Eight Places You Shouldn’t Miss on a Trip To The French Pyrenees

pyrenees clouds

The French Pyrenees are among the most beautiful regions in France. High mountain peaks, green valleys, stunning waterfalls, dramatic gorges, and little towns dotting the valleys – the French Pyrenees offer a photo op around every corner. In the winter months, there are plenty of ski areas, and in the summer, there is a vast network of hiking trails to be explored. To give you an idea of what to see in this mountainous area of France, I put together eight stunning places you shouldn’t miss on your Pyrenees holidays, ranging from world-famous destinations to lesser known hidden gems:

Pay a visit to The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes

The small town of Lourdes is one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage destinations in the entire world, thanks to its famous healing shrine. The miraculous cures that have been said to occur after a visit to the Lady attract around six million visitors every year.Morning in Lourdes, France 3-20-2004 019

Marvel at the Fortress of Montségur

The ruins of the Château de Montségur, a Cathar castle perched at the top of a 3,900 feet high rock formation, are a magnificent sight, and should not be missed by anyone interested in the historic Cathar castles. Many people claim that this the most remarkable Cathar Castle.

Indulge In A Luxurious Spa Treatment In Ax-les-Thermes

Ax-les-Thermes is a small town nestled in the Ariege upper valley right in the heart of the Pyrenees, close to Andorra and the border with Spain. It is famous for its thermal baths and recreational spa, but the town itself has plenty of architectural gems to offer, such as the belle-époque Casino and several medieval fountains. The nearby Orlu Valley is worth visiting for its picturesque villages and the Réserve Nationale de Faune Sauvage, a national wildlife reserve.Traffic Management - The Ax-les-Thermes Bypass, Pyrenees, France

Explore historic Foix

Foix is a medieval town that dates back to 849, and its castle, the focal point of the town’s history, was even built before then. The stunning chateau sits on top of a hill looking over Foix, and is one of the most impressive historic castles in this part of France.

Wander The Lush Meadows Of Col du Puymorens

The Col de Puymorens is a famous Tour de France climb in the France – Spain – Andorra triangle. Even though the climb, which was first used for the famous bike race in 1913, hasn’t been used for the Tour de France since 1993, it is still a popular place with cycle tourists and road trippers. You can start the drive in Ax-les-Thermes, and if you take a right turn 2.8 kilometers before the summit, you reach the Port d’Envalira, a scenic high road in the Pyrenees.IMGP1722

Free Your Mind On A Walk Through The Green Aston Valley

The small town of Aston is famous for a number of reasons: Gudanes, a majestic château dating from the time of Louis XIV, nestled among the mountains of the Aston Valley, is the most striking sight in the Aston Valley, but the lush green valley itself, flanked by the Pyrenees and covered in wildflowers in the summer months, makes for a memorable hike. And then there is the Grotte de Lombrives, the largest cave in Europe in terms of volume, with a length of 39 kilometers, which was formed more than 20 million years ago. The caves have an immense geological and historical value, with an incredible karst network which was shaped by long glacial periods.

Marvel at the Rock Church Of Vals

Just a short 45-minute drive from Aston you find the historic village of Vals. When you approach Vals, a tiny hamlet with a population of only 86 people, you wouldn’t think that this village is home to one of the most treasured pieces of religious architecture of the Middle Ages. The church is partly carved into a giant rock and dates back to the 10th century. There are several noteworthy frescoes on the ceiling, and the third level of the church, a chapel dedicated to Saint Michel, lies in a defense tower built in the 14th century. Don’t miss the breathtaking vistas over the Pyrenees from the terrace here.

Climb the Roc of Scaramus For The Stunning Panoramic Views

This hike up to the top of the Scaramus Rock is challenging, but the panoramic mountain views over the Pyrenees make the climb worth it. When you reach the top, you’ll get to enjoy some of the most scenic views over the Pyrenees. The entire round-trip is just over six miles and can be done in about six hours, starting near the Col De Marmare cycling route. Note that this is a strenuous trek – not necessarily for beginners.
Refuge d'Espingo, French PyreneesIf you are planning a trip to the French Pyrenees, head to France-Voyage.com and create your own personalized itinerary. You can easily add all or some of the places listed above to your itinerary, or simply find more information and travel inspiration for the French Pyrenees and other regions of France, or find vacation rentals for your trip!

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Lourdes by Bren Buenaluz; (2) Ax-Les-Thermes by Richard Allaway; (3) Col Du Puymorens by Jean-Marie Pival; (4) French Pyrenees by Richard Allaway

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The Five Prettiest Places To Visit In Mallorca

In recent years the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca has moved away from the package holiday crowd with the island’s capital Palma de Mallorca leading the charge with its swanky designer boutiques and Michelin star aspiring restaurants. Elsewhere the rest of the island has followed suit with properties being snapped up by wealthy Europeans looking for a home in the sun.

Mallorca has of course for all intents and purposes remained a summer holiday destination, it’s just that now they want to distance themselves from the bad press of young Brits behaving badly in while out partying in Magaluf. In fact, if you were to stay in the north-eastern corner of the island you would think you were the only one to succumb to Mallorca’s many charms.Mallorca
For Spanish artist Joan Miró Mallorca was all about the pure Mediterranean sunlight and the colors reflected off the mountains and sea which is the inspiration for my top 5 prettiest places to see while holidaying in Mallorca.

The best way to get from Palma’s Son Sant Joan Airport to your holiday accommodation is by taxi transfer. It’s wise to read the tripadvisor reviews about Mallorca’s taxis first, as prices & standards on the island can vary greatly. A list of Mallorca airport taxi transfer prices can be found here on Palma airport website. A taxi provides the most direct, fastest & convenient way to get the around the island to any of the pretty destinations listed below. If you want the reassurance that your airport transfer is fully booked & arranged with a trusted transfer company, however like me, you are a little hesitant about paying for your trip in advance, then Solhop transfers may the better option. Here you can get the reassurance from a reliable source that your booking is fully in hand and yet you have the freedom to pay your driver on the day.in Palma, Ausblick vom Hotel

Almond Blossom

My number one choice may come as a bit of a surprise as it is an event that occurs annually between the months of January and February. I am of course referring to the almond blossom when Mallorca’s nearly 5 million almond trees spring to life with their brightly coloured pink, white and cerulean flowers. Almond trees grow all over Mallorca but the best place to see the trees in full bloom is in the central Raiguer District.Mallorca

Cap de Formentor

The lighthouse at Cap de Formentor offers incredible views out to sea any time of day but comes alive in the evening when people gather to watch the sun gently disappear into the sea. The 20-kilometre drive up from Port de Pollenca is not for the faint-hearted and will have your palms sweating as you grip the steering wheel while navigating the hairpin bends. In the end, though it is worth it when you will feel as though you are standing on the edge of the world.Cap de Formentor Panorama

Calo d’es Moro

As you descend into Palma’s Son Sant Joan Airport you will be blown away by how blue the sea looks from the aircraft’s window and of all the coves and beaches on Mallorca my favourite has to be Calo d’es Moro. Located in the south-east of the island six kilometres from the town of Santanyí, Calo d’es Moro is a small beach surrounded by steep cliffs with some of the clearest turquoise coloured water you will find anywhere on the planet. With limited space available for sunbathing it is best to get there early to claim your spot.Caló des Moro, Mallorca

Fornalutx

Often described as being the prettiest village in Spain, Fornalutx is nestled in the Tramuntana Mountain’s surrounded by orange and lemon groves. The stone village buildings and their red-tiled roofs appear to be locked in a time warp where nothing has changed for hundreds of years. Ideally suited for hikers and mountain bikers the town attracts hundreds of tourists each summer to come and wander around its narrow cobbled streets.Todo principio es duro.

Port de Soller

Of all the seaside towns in Mallorca Port de Soller has to be my favourite. Situated on a horseshoe-shaped bay on Mallorca’s west coast, Port de Soller managed to escape the overdevelopment that occurred during the 70s and 80s keeping its traditional old world charm. The town boasts a lovely waterfront promenade alive with restaurants and bars where you can spend a leisurely lunch watching the traditional Llaut fishing boats bob up and down in the harbour. Getting to Port de Soller couldn’t be more fun either with an award-winning 100-year-old wood panelled tram running between Port de Soller and the capital Palma.Port de Sóller

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Mallorca by Kyle Taylor; (2) Mallorca View by PercyGermany; (3) Mallorca Almond Blossom by Tobias Leeger; (4) Cap de Formentor by Vaidotas Mišeikis; (5) Calo Des Moro by Tommie Hansen; (6) Fornalutx by Emilio Vaquer; (7) Port de Soller by John Mason

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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!

Estoi

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.

RIA FORMOSA

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.

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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