The Magic Of Traveling https://www.themagicoftraveling.com Travel is the best way to live. Thu, 19 Apr 2018 09:19:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 Mediterranean Cruise with MSC Poesia – itinerary and video https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/cruise-with-msc-poesia-video-moments/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/cruise-with-msc-poesia-video-moments/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 06:43:58 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=15170 There is something so magical, mystique and lovely about cruising the seas and discovering new lands! Having only the experience of cruising the Aegean Sea and its islands before, we knew we wanted more of that feeling! So we hopped on … Read More

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There is something so magical, mystique and lovely about cruising the seas and discovering new lands! Having only the experience of cruising the Aegean Sea and its islands before, we knew we wanted more of that feeling! So we hopped on a cruise ship to discover some known and unknown places of  Mediterranian Europe and Northern Africa.
itinerary from our cruise trip on MSC Poesia

Ready to start the adventure!

Our trip through the Western part of Mediterranean sea and Atlantic ocean gave us a lot of memories and emotions for a short period of time. That’s one of the advantages of that type of transportation and experience.
MSC Poesia was both our home and vehicle, which led us to new destinations to explore and new emotions to experience.

The itinerary

Our journey started in Italy, the port city of Genoa. Just a day after that we anchored at the port of Malaga, Spain. We then went to Portugal, to enjoy Lisbon. A day later we arrived in Africa – in fabulous Morocco, to explore Rabat And Casablanca. After that, we had one more day, that we entirely spend in the sea. Then we headed back to Europe. This time we visited Barcelona. And then we went right back from where we started – Genoa. The cruise took place in the end of October.
itinerary from our cruise trip on MSC Poesia

Our cruise itinerary

 

Genoa

We got instantly charmed by the steep and narrow streets of the city, all the amazing architecture, the music everywhere. It is true it could be a bit scary after dark but if you don’t choose the darker streets, Genoa and its port will charm you too! Next time in the region, we want to visit Portofino.

 

Nerja and Malaga

Costa del Sol welcomed us with the amazing nature – a cave with plenty of secrets, coastline inviting you for a swim at all times, and friendly locals. Malaga welcomed us with its deliciously sweet wine experience, which may have or may not have resulted in a small injury later. But we’re strong soldiers, pardon, travelers.

 

Lisbon and Sintra

We must have been really lucky to experience Portugal for the first time with so much rain. It was raining on and off during our drive along the Atlantic coastline, and all the fascinating buildings in Sintra were in clouds. By the time we reached Lisbon, it was pouring so we ran, danced and hid from the rain at the same time!

Cruise MSC Poesie Mediterranean Sea with the caption

With the captain after the gala dinner. Does he look like a certain celebrity?

 

 

Rabat and Casablanca

Our first visit to Northern Africa started in the capital Rabat which we need to definitely spend more time in. We love the little streets where bright colors mingle with hectic everyday life. Casablanca had its a bit fancier vibe, but who can say no to an open-air market and some tea?

 

Barcelona

Our lovely Barcelona was sunny and warm, as usual. We didn’t have much to so we tried to do something we hadn’t done before in the city. It was tons of people, tons of suns and noise everywhere. So our wisest decision was to sit down and watch people passing by while normalizing our body temperature with a beer.

 

Onboard

The things you can do onboard a cruise ship are almost unlimited. From working out to lying at the pool, from reading a book to collecting suntan, from enjoying views with cocktails to enjoying live music with a glass of wine. We restrained ourselves from shopping, but did hit the casino and even won some money which we invested in a nice bottle of wine. One thing is for sure – you can’t get bored on the cruise ship.

And finally, here we share some video moments from our cruise trip. Aboard and on land. Enjoy!

 

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Vitosha – looking down on Sofia https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/vitosha-mountain-sofia/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/vitosha-mountain-sofia/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 10:59:21 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=22198 Often tourists traveling to Bulgaria ask me what they should visit in Sofia. The first thing that pops into my mind is Vitosha mountain. Although technically it is not part of the city, it presents a different point of view … Read More

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Often tourists traveling to Bulgaria ask me what they should visit in Sofia. The first thing that pops into my mind is Vitosha mountain. Although technically it is not part of the city, it presents a different point of view towards the capital and a chance to get away from the busy everyday life in it.

Vitosha in the winter is a place for skiers and snowboarderс living or staying in Sofia.

 

Vitosha in the winter - snowy Cherni vrah

Snowy Cherni vrah in the winter

 

However, I have always enjoyed more the activities in the warmer seasons. Vitosha is a great place for hiking, rock climbing, picnics, romantic dates, games with friends, or just relaxing in the wild.

 

rock climbing on Vitosha, near Sofia

Trying some rock climbing

How to choose exactly where on Vitosha to go?

Vitosha is beautiful everywhere and has lots of trails that vary from steep to very slanted. Pick your route based on your desires and strengths, and on the time you have. For the really adventurous people, there is a race called Vitosha 100 that can be done either by foot or by bike. It is organized once a year. It is very energizing to go around the mountain for under 20 hours, although it requires some serious training.

 

hiking on a trail on Vitosha mountain in Bulgaria

 

Bistritsa-Jeleznitsa is a very slanted trail. I highly recommend it. What’s more, if you went by the public transport you do not need to go back to where you started in order to get back to Sofia. You can catch the bus from the other village as well.

To be completely honest, this is possible for many other trails as well. Once we accidentally came down from the mountain in Dragalevtsi instead of Boyana…

Walking around Aleko hut can be very nice. Each season there brings new sights. Of course, it is most popular in the winter. Nearby you can ski on Laleto or learn how to do that on Mechata polyana (meaning “bear’s meadow” from Bulgarian). To get to the hut you can use the lift (working only in winter) or by car. Getting there with the public transport will be a real challenge.

Boyana Waterfall is very attractive. Just be careful with the mud on the way down… (Clothes can be washed, but the bruises on the skin can’t…)

Boyana Waterfall on Vitosha, Bulgaria

 

If you just want to get away from the busy everyday life in Sofia and breathe some fresh air, I recommend Yarema village zone. The wooden houses of Pinus Villas offer all kinds of treats such as private jacuzzi and activities like horse riding, orientation in the wild and much more. And they are just starting now. It is a great place for a romantic weekend or for partying with friends.

visiting and relaxing in Pinus Villas in Yarema on Vitosha

 

Vitosha Yarema Pinus Villas jacuzzi

 

How to get to Vitosha?

Vitosha is easily accessible for the citizens of Sofia, as well as for guests of the city, By car, you can get there for 15-40 minutes (depending which part of Vitosha is calling you). Just turn on your GPS and you are there! You can leave your car and walk around or you can get by your car straight to the place you want to visit – for example to Kopitoto (meaning “the hoof” from Bulgarian). It is a favorite place for young couples from Sofia.

Tip: Be careful if you plan to drive up there in the night since many, not professional drifters tend to practice on the way up to Kopitoto. In winter there could be long queues on the way up.  

 

If you do not have a car at your disposal, you can use the public transport. This way you can reach Bistritsa, Jeleznitsa, Simeonovo, Boyana, Dragalevtsi, and Knyajevo. From those, it is easiest to get to Knyajevo. You just need to take tram number 5 from The Palace of Justice in the center of Sofia. The tram is regular. The other villages/neighborhoods can be reached by different buses that are not that regular. Here are some of the possibilities:

  1. Getting to Boyana and Dragalevtsi – bus 64 – stops on Vitosha subway station and on Ruchei square
  2. Getting to Simeonovo – bus 67 – stops on the Seminary
  3. Getting to Bistritsa, Jeleznitsa and Simeonovo – bus 98 – stops on Vitosha subway station
  4. Getting to Bistritsa and Jeleznitsa – buses 69 and 70

Tip: Go to Vitosha subway station, be prepared to wait for some time, because the buses are not very regular and timetables often mean nothing to them. Get the bus you have chosen and ask the driver where to get off.

 

How not to get lost on Vitosha?

 

signs on Vitosha, near Sofia in Bulgaria

 

The trails are marked and there often are signs. If you plan your visit for a nice warm weekend in spring, summer or autumn it is almost sure that there will be a big amount of other people up on the mountain. Just ask someone. However, the best option is to take with you someone who has already walked the chosen trail.

 

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The guide to Central America for the independent traveler https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/guide-central-america/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/guide-central-america/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 04:41:03 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=20872 A new journey was coming. We wanted to spend at least two months exploring a different region of our beloved planet Earth. The idea of traveling to Central America started to crawl in our minds, uncertain and vague. We left … Read More

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A new journey was coming. We wanted to spend at least two months exploring a different region of our beloved planet Earth. The idea of traveling to Central America started to crawl in our minds, uncertain and vague. We left for CA with many questions unanswered, many things unclear, but with the idea that the journey will take us to the right places, right people and right experiences.

Now that we’re back from this incredible two-month journey in Central America, we want to help anyone who’s still wondering if or how they should visit the region. Below you’ll find information on anything we were asking ourselves and Internet before we took off.

The guide to Central America for the independent traveler

Central America Google map with our itinerary

 

Is CA easy to travel independently?

Central America is, in general, very easy to travel independently. Most of the places on our route welcomed from few to many travelers and tourists. Some more remote areas could be hard to reach and be explored on your own, so always search for more info on the current situation and if it’s suitable for travelers at all.

Most of the travelers we met in Central America were independent travelers which made our hearts smile. We like this trend of growing independent travel around the world!

Mexico Chichen Itza Kukulcan hands on top New7wonders

 

The importance of your Spanish

Speaking some Spanish is important but not an essential part. Most of the popular places to visit are quite international and all the staff around can manage some English. Some more off-the-beaten-path areas would require at least basic Spanish to get along. You should know that conversations with locals are always the best way to learn realistic viewpoints, about the lifestyle and the situation in a country. If you want to make a conversation, you’ll need some decent Spanish.

We find really helpful to learn the numbers, the food, and the names of dishes – this way you can bargain and will never be hungry – two very important things in Central America, and almost anywhere on the planet!

Another comforting thought is that the official language of Belize is English – so you can spend more time there and communicate with locals (most of them speak English) and ask them about the other countries around – they may share some interesting stories!

Travelers having lunch at the Mercado 28 in Mexico Cancun

 

Plan your day in advance

Even if your Spanish is not so good, know where you want to go, what you want to see, what you might want to eat – all this will be helpful. So at least knowing your direction and the approximate price could save your ass from getting ripped off or ending at the wrong place.

 

Ignorance is a bliss

We had cases meeting travelers who struggled too much to speak other languages than their native English. It was funny because they didn’t even get to understand the situation at all, be it complex and not looking good or positive. The funnier thing was that every time those people managed to get what they want, get the best rate, find the best option – just like that. A part of their success hides in probably being with the right people to translate (read us) at the right moment, or just because it’s a bliss not to know what’s going on.

We still want to warn everybody that being ignorant doesn’t always end with the happy end so doing this will test your luck.

San Blas Guna Yala village Island in Panama

 

Being brave

Some say you need to be super brave to go travel on your own outside the “modern western world”. We don’t agree with this statement. It takes just a tiny step to go from your independent travels in Europe to your independent exploration of Central America. It’s a tiny step but you need to be brave and open-minded to make it.

We generally believe that goodness and kindness are universally spread and if you are a good person and make good, you’ll receive the same wherever you go. The hope for the universal value of “good” is what drives us to travel everywhere!

 

Traveling solo

We received a lot of questions from people who want to travel solo through Central America. We can actually recommend traveling the region solo as much as we recommend doing it in a couple or a bigger company.

Solo travelers are rarely alone, it’s very easy for them to find friends, also travel companions for places they’ll feel better with someone else. We spent a lot of social time with solo travelers and all of them were so happy they did this journey solo. We almost got jealous – being able to be with people when you want and the be alone when you want is a cool mix!

Is solo female travel in Central America safe? Well, the only difference we noticed is that ladies were more careful about walking alone after dark or going to more distant places alone. But it’s a precaution we, as a couple, also took. Some towns are known for its doggy after-dark reputation, and sometimes traveling to distant places is always better done in a group. So a solo trip to Central America – yes, please!

We are dancing on the beach in San Pedro, Belize

 

When to go?

Having in mind we wanted to travel in October and November, there was this one question that bothered us the most: Is it going to be okay during the rainy/hurricane season?

In reality, it was absolutely fine. Yes, it was the end of the hurricane season in some places and the end of rainy season in others. We have some plans changed because of the weather. The biggest loss was not visiting Isla Mujeres in Mexico because of expecting tropical storm Nate to hit the ground neat Cancun. It didn’t hit but all the marinas were closed for a day or two.

Other change of plans occurred when a totally unexpected for the time of the year and region rain poured for a day in El Tunco, El Salvador. What we did was to chill and relax one day more, until the weather got better for moving on. Other tropical rains were just a nice shower for us in the heat or just urged us to take it slow and enjoy doing nothing for a while.

The heat was close to unbearable at places. Humidity didn’t help too. But we’ve experienced worse and we’ve felt worse so this was okay for us. Staying hydrated (with water, not beer), staying under the shadow, and not overeating is our advice if you have to survive tropical heat and humidity.

There were few places where we had to put on jackets though. And this is not related to the freezing temperatures in all the air-conditioned buses. It’s about being a little bit higher – higher altitudes, nights in the mountain, windy cloud forests, too rainy rain forests – those were pretty much all the occasions we had to pull out the jackets.

We’re very happy with the time of the year we spend in Central America. It was mostly low to mid-season, which meant no crowds and better opportunities to improvise and not book too much ahead of time anything.

Mexico Laguna Bacalar Paradise Isla de los Pajaros

 

Where to go?

No matter how much time you can spend in a place, it will never be enough. We gave up trying to see/experience/do/cover everything a while ago. Traveling is not about ticking checklists created by public opinion, trends or even yourself.

We decided to let the journey take us wherever it decides. We left a lot of room for improvisation, new plans, anything. We arrived in Central America with nothing but a return ticket to Europe and an Airbnb reservation for the first couple of days.

Thanks to being open and flexible, we managed to define our itinerary on the go, following advice from blogs, travel books, and people we met on the road. We were booking places to sleep 2-3 days in advance at most. That was the best decision and now that we fully experienced the benefits of it, we’ll strive to travel like that mostly. Whenever and wherever applicable, of course.

We had a proper guidebook in hand – Lonely Planet’s Central America on a shoestring guidebook. We used it as a source of help and inspiration whenever we needed to. All the rest was just the magic of traveling leading us.

Bistra is reading and the Monteverde national park scenery smiles next to her, Costa Rica

 

Currency

The embedded converter never stop working.

When you travel between countries with different currencies, it could be confusing. Our embedded currency converters didn’t stop converting all the time. In Mexico, the pesos we divided by 10 to BGN and by 20 to EUR. In Belize it was easy – 1 USD = 2 Belize dollars. So from Belize to BGN – multiply by 0.9 – easy. In Guatemala we struggled the first days to find the perfect formula to convert from Quetzals- but then we just divided by 4 to BGN (by 8to EUR). El Salvador it was no fuss at all – they use US dollars. Honduran Lempiras we divided by 15 to get the value in Bulgarian levs. Nicaraguan cordobas we divided by 20 to BGN (40 to EUR). In Costa Rica, the exchange was between 500 to 600 colones for a US dollar, but to leave the complex math out, they accepted dollars everywhere with change back in colones many times. In Panama we finished with an easy deal – their balboas are equal in value to US dollars, and we only saw balboas in coins.

 

Changing money

Never ever change money at the border if you have other options! That thing is true probably everywhere but in Central America is the first law. We got literally ripped off with some exchange rates and the only comforting thought was we didn’t change a lot of money.

We never used “official” change bureaus but we feel it was better this way. To start a trip in CA, we advise you to bring in some US dollars – they are accepted in many countries and easy to convert in others. Euros are not converted at a decent rate, especially in Guatemala where they even gave fewer quetzales per euro than per dollar.

Local woman is caring a fruit basket on top of her head in Leon, Nicaragua
ATMs

There are many ATMs that would offer you the option to withdraw dollars or the local currency. Speaking of ATMs, we were very happy with those of Credomatic and the red ones of BAC. We found them in a few countries in Central America and they always gave us money. Unlike many others that were so annoying!

General security precautions on drawing money from ATM – always go for guarded or at least closed ATMs. We’ve heard bad stories about lonely open ATMs somewhere on the street or in places with no police/security around. Some towns don’t have ATM so you need to plan ahead of time when you’ll need cash.

Card payments

Belize, Panama, Costa Rica – cards were widely accepted. In some cases they charged us extra for paying by card or paying online – annoying, but could happen and paying cash is the cheapest way always. In the other countries, cards were mostly not accepted. Speaking of small to medium businesses – if they accepted cards, that would be a reason for a serious celebration on our side.

Swimming with the nurse sharks at the Hol Chan maritime reserve in Belize

Budget

We met people avoiding countries like Belize just because they were more expensive. We stumbled many misconceptions and stereotypes of “expensive” countries and places. The truth is somewhere there – some of the Central American countries are more affordable, whereas others are quite polished for tourists and expensive. The most expensive country in Central America, IMHO, is Costa Rica. Followed by Panama and Belize, and then maybe Mexico. Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala we found conveniently affordable.

 

Some important pillars of our budget would be the airfare from Brussels to Cancun – we found a deal of 300 euro one-way. If we were more flexible with dates and booked earlier, prices could go down to 150-200 euro for a one-way ticket between Europe and Central America. All the expenses as accommodation, food, activities, transport inside Central America, are worth up to 1500-2000 euro per person per month. We slept in mostly private rooms (with shared bathroom), we eat street food, cooked at hostels or ate out very rarely. We mixed local transportation with tourist shuttles and we probably spend the biggest chunk of money on activities and experiences.

Nace crashed a fresh coconut with bare hands and teased the monkeys at Caño Island, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

 

Safety

And here we go, we reached our favorite topic. First, we advise you to follow any generic security measures and precautions. Like, always keep your room locked, or lockers locked, don’t stroll around with too many valuable shiny things (especially after dark). We tried to carry lesser amounts of cash and cards with us. This is general stuff and we usually do it everywhere we go, even at home.

Some Central American countries suffer the prejudice of some people and are being called extremely dangerous on very blurry grounds. We traveled to every country of Central America and suffered no street crime, theft or whatever. Some cities, though, has this bad reputation of being the playground for drug trafficking, street gangs, or other dangerous illegal activities. We avoided those places as much as possible and always talked to locals if we had a plan to do something outside the beaten protocol.

For example, we hiked the Indian Nose near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala with a guide with a machete, as we heard they rob independent hikers quite often. We skipped walking around Santa Ana city center at night as all the locals advised us (they don’t do this either). On the other hand, we had to hitchhike a bit in Mexico and left all of our belongings in the open tropical forest in Costa Rica or on the tiny island full of strangers in Panama, so we’d done some dangerous stuff too! But if we can’t give the benefit of the doubt to the people every once in a while, how are we going to enjoy life at all?

Waiting on a crossroad in Guatemala for the second bus to Tikal ruins

Advice on accommodation

We aimed to stay more with locals, in guest houses and hostels with cool vibes, instead of at big soulless hotels. We opted for double rooms rather than dorms wherever it made sense financially. Choosing places that attracted us to something special, be it the view, the nice host, or more experiential stays, was our strategy.

 

We enjoyed some accommodations a lot, some were so-so, very few turned out to be a poor choice and a waste of nerves.

Recommendations on how to choose the right place for you in each of the Central-American countries we visited will be put together in a separate post. Coming soon, of course!

A panoramic view of Antigua with the erupting Volcano El Fuego and Volcano Agua in Guatemala

 

Borders and immigration

Crossing borders, dealing with immigration – below you’ll find some tricks and remarks on our border experience through Central America. As Bulgarian citizens, we didn’t need visas and were allowed to stay up to 90 days in each of the countries. Here are some of the land borders specials, as we were crossing from Mexico all the way down to Panama by land.

Mexican exit fee can vary between different borders. If you fly in and out of Mexico, it’s probably included in your airfare, but you have to show a document that says the Mexico border fee is included, otherwise you will pay, just as we had to do when crossing to Belize. At the Chetumal sea border, there was a dog sniffing all the bags. That was actually the only luggage check.

When we arrived in Belize (and paid all the taxes which are fixed and mentioned in advance), the border stuff even wanted to help us find a place to stay as we weren’t getting picked by the boat terminal. We expected we’ll have to pay a small “tip” when crossing from Belize to Guatemala, but we didn’t have to. That happened on the way from Guatemala to El Salvador, where the currency conversion rate imposed a small “tip” of about 50 cents per person.

ES to Guatemala to Honduras – nobody noticed our car passing, but we returned to get stamps and prevent problems at following borders. Entering Nicaragua is the most time-consuming border crossing experience ever! We had announced our crossing with all data necessary in advance, and still, it took more than 2 hours of ridiculous “procedures” to let us in. They measured our temperature, asked super weird questions and didn’t write down answers, washed and sanitized the van, and probably conducted their famous “background checks”.

Leaving Nicaragua was a piece of cake. As soon as we paid the “municipality fee”, we put our bags in a scanning machine nobody paid attention to and we entered Costa Rica with our proofs of exit (could be a plane or bus ticket). When we were leaving Costa Rica, they really got on our nerves as we had to pay a ridiculous dealer fee for dealing with the exit fee because the automatic machine wasn’t working. I strongly believe it had never been working, anyway. The border of Panama was like a huge open-air casino. Not our cup of tea, so we hurried to get our stamps before we sank into shining glittering duty-free shops and indecent entertainment.

Selfie at the border between Guatemala and El Salvador on our drive to Copan Ruins in Honduras

 

Helpful stuff

Here is some helpful stuff. The WhatsApp messenger app is widely used in Central America so any independent traveler is advised to install it (it’s free) and use it to arrange things and chat.

Tap water was drinkable and quite delicious at places, especially in the mountains, and not good for drinking in most of the bigger cities. Always ask first if you want to drink tap water.

 

Itineraries by country

We did our best to draw our itinerary through Central America. You can go to the map and explore where we went.

 

Mexico

Cancun – Chichen Itza, Valladolid, Ik Kil cenote – Playa del Carmen – Cozumel – Akumal beach – Tulum – Coba ruins – Laguna Bacalar – Isla Mujeres (on the way back)

Belize

San Pedro – Caye Caulker – San Ignacio – ATM cave – Xunantunich ruins

Guatemala

Tikal ruins and park – Flores – Antigua – Lake Atitlan (many different villages) – Antigua

El Salvador

El Tunco – Ruta de las Flores – Santa Ana – Santa Ana volcano

Honduras

Copan ruins and town – Utila island – a day in the countryside

Nicaragua

Leon – Masaya volcano – Telica volcano – Granada with islands – Ometepe island – San Juan del Sur

Costa Rica

Monteverde – Manueal Antonio national park – Corcovado national park

Panama

Boquete – Bocas del Toro – Panama City – Panama Canal – San Blas islands

 

 

Unbelievable experiences

This sections will be an ever-growing part of this article. We’ll help you become part of our unbelievable breath-taking experiences in Central America.

Like the time we set foot in Chichen Itza, in one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Or when we first encountered sharks while snorkeling in Belize. Or when we greeted the sunrise in Guatemala like true rebels from Star Wars. And when we climbed a volcano in some of the “most dangerous countries in the world” – El Salvador.

When you hike the countries in the middle of nowhere and realize locals are so friendly and you’ve been missing when you listened to second-hand advice on Honduras. If you managed to conquer another volcano in Nicaragua. Or if you survive the heavy rain in the rainforest of Costa Rica. Or when you become friends with locals who live on their own paradise islands in Panama.

The guide to Central America for the independent traveler

 

The guide to Central America for the independent traveler

We hope you enjoyed this guide to Central America and found it useful. Do let us know what you think and give us your suggestions how to improve it. Especially if you’ve already discovered this amazing land, those friendly people and that mesmerizing atmosphere in the center of the American continent!

 

The guide to Central America for the independent traveler pinterest photo

 

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The magic of the Baltics – places to visit and fall in love with https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/magical-baltics/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/magical-baltics/#respond Thu, 29 Mar 2018 11:11:04 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=21338 Let yourself fall in love with a place, a region or a country. Let the Magic do its work and absorb you. The Baltic region hat its special magic – it will capture your senses, it will sparkle your ciruocity, … Read More

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Let yourself fall in love with a place, a region or a country. Let the Magic do its work and absorb you. The Baltic region hat its special magic – it will capture your senses, it will sparkle your ciruocity, it will welcome you!

We are happy to present you the magic of the Baltics, the way we experienced it during our amazing Baltic road trip in the end of May 2016. Yes, we totally got into the Baltics summer vibe back then. We are still going strong with memories…

So let’s dive into some magical moments from all the towns, cities, natural phenomena we visited. Here is the list in order of appearance. May the Magic be with you!

 

Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius we will remember for the music festivals running through the old town, architecture and history to be admired, and the long dusk to let you recap the day while waiting for the night.

 

Summer mussicians in Vilnius, Lithuania

Summer in May – streets are flooded with talented musicians and lively crowds.

 

discover the architecture in Vilnius, Lithuania

Religion and architecture work together to make sure your wide-angel lens pays off.

 

explore Vilnius, Lithuania

The moon have just won the brightness competition. Street lights defeated.

 

Trakai Castle, Lithuania

Trakai castle is a major tourist attraction – the only castle on an island in Lithuania. But you can enjoy it off the beaten path by finding the authentic local restaurants where they recommend you want to eat and drink (you can’t read the menu anyway) and walk all the way away from the crowds where the real royalties went once upon a time.

 

Park your boat and explore Trakai Castle in Lithuania

Park your boat and walk the bridge to the castle.

 

Mushroom soup in a bowl of bread near Trakai Castle in Lithuania

Eat mushroom soup in a bowl of bread at the only place recommended by a local.

 

Trakai castle - hidden on an island in Lithuania

Trakai Castle – restored and shining – and waiting for your visit!

 

Klaipeda, Lithuania

Klaipeda hides the charm of and old-time port town and modern jazz city. Industrial romance or skyscraper views to the never-sleeping reality? You can decide for yourselves and give a chance to the off-the-beaten-track culture.

 

The harbour in Klaipeda in Lithuania

Can you see it? A manually driven old-style bridge.

 

Jazzy Klaipeda in Lithuania

And they decided to call… it…jazz!

 

Sunset from the Old Port towards the Curonian Spit in Klaipeda in Lithuania

Sunset from the Old Port towards the Curonian Spit

 

Curonian spit, Lithuania

Curonian spit, geographically, is a 98 km long, thin, curved sand-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea.  In reality, it is a magic land full of surreal landscapes, human-sorcerers to keep you constantly smiling and sometimes evil fly-beasts to examine your stamina.

 

personal beaches on the Curonian spit in Lithuania

Hundreds of meters of sandy beaches … waiting for your footsteps.

 

Wooden boats and poppy flowers on the Curonian spit in Lithuania

Random view from the car – cheeky poppies and a shy boat.

 

une-climbing on the Curonian spit in Lithuania

The reward of climbing dunes in a hot day and surviving the nasty fly attack.

 

Šiauliai, Lithuania

Šiauliai is probably one of those towns you will visit only if you have friends there. And you will be greeted by the golden boy, the cute details everywhere around you and the chocolate aroma. Good we had a friend to reveal the town’s charm for us!

 

chocolate books in Šiauliai in Lithuania

We love books! We love chocolate! And most of all we love chocolate books!

 

golden boy in Šiauliai in Lithuania

They have not just a boy, but a golden one!

 

huge bike in Šiauliai in Lithuania

We love bikes! Especially when you can ride them on the main walking street!

 

Jurmala, Latvia

Jurmala is not the resort where only rich people build their mansions and enjoy the short summer. The place is for those who want the fresh breeze in the hair while enjoying the perfect glass of wine during the long sunset with some fine sand between the toes.

 

Every house in Jurmala in Latvia is that beautiful!

Every house in Jurmala is that beautiful!

 

The colorful main walking street in Jurmala in Latvia

A place where it is hard not to relax…

 

Jurmala beach in Latvia

The beach in Jurmala – freezing waters, naughty wind and shiny mood all over the place.

 

Riga, Latvia

Riga is that kind of city where you will meet smiling business people in the freshly looking restaurants, a city where you will sin with fine dishes, a place where hidden tiny streets lead to major landmarks.

 

The brotherhood of the Blackheads left their signature in the Old Town of Riga in Latvia

The brotherhood of the Blackheads left their signature in the Old Town of Riga

 

The hidden and very narrow Rozena street - a detour through a magical fairytale in Riga in Latvia

The hidden and very narrow Rozena street – a detour through a magical fairytale

 

Restaurant ambiance in Old Town Riga in Latvia

Restaurant ambiance in Old Town Riga

 

Pärnu, Estonia

Pärnu may not be a top tourist attraction and that’s why we loved it! The whole main walking street just for you! The whole bunch of tasty local dishes just for you! And a crazy souvenir shop featuring local artists! Hurry up and visit this lovely town before it gets crowded!

 

As soon as you leave the main street in Pärnu in Estonia an invisible time machine takes you there

As soon as you leave the main street an invisible time machine takes you there.

 

suprises in Pärnu in Estonia

They know how to serve salmon with lime.

 

a cloudy day in Pärnu in Estonia

The yellow house gives a warm welcome in a cloudy day.

 

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn will charm you with its two-level Old town, you have to climb your way up to those magnificent views and late sunsets. And there is a special blanket for everyone willing to dine in the open air and admire the traditional cuisine and architecture.

 

night at Tallinn in Estonia

Night or day? Photo created at 11 p.m.

 

view from our trip to Tallinn in Estonia

Imagine you can wake up to this view…or at least stay there and absorb for few hours…

 

Tallinn in Estonia welcomes you with treats like this one

Tallinn welcomes you with treats like this one.

 

Lahemaa National Park, Estonia

Lahemaa national park will not only enchant you with its stunning nature – endless forests, the eyes of the bogs, sparkling beaches, but it will also tell you some forgotten stories about its people and history.

 

the village Käsmu - National park Lahemaa, Estonia

Käsmu has seen lots of occupation and sad times but also used to be the most prospering trade location.

 

National park Lahemaa offer comfort and relax to travelers in Estonia

Lahemaa National Park offers comfort and relax to their fullest.

 

Bog walking is a national sport here in Estonia

Bog walking is a national sport here. Stay on the wooden track or sink into a bog – you choose!

 

 

Cēsis, Latvia

Cēsis is a detour we are glad we took. Small medieval town with summer festivals that bigger cities might only envy. A huge park is a home for traditional dance massive rehearsals and also lonely medieval walls and affordable traditional cuisine.

 

trip to Cēsis, Latvia

Sun.Stop. Shade.

 

traveling to Cēsis, Latvia

Latvians call themselves “a nation of singers”. As we noticed in this rehearsal, they might become “a nation of dancers” soon!

 

trip to Cēsis, Latvia

Imagine walking in the park and stumbling across medieval walls…

 

 

Malmö, Sweden

Malmö invites you to cycle its long wide streets or to jump in the cold sea waters. Parks and buildings will examine your walking abilities while you can always come with a boat and party at the wharf.

 

Park your boat in front of your home in Malmö, Sweden

Park your boat in front of your home?

 

In the very center one can rarely see peacefulness - Malmö, Sweden

In the very center one can rarely see peacefulness.

 

check out the view from the top of the Turning Torso - Malmö, Sweden

Does anyone have friends who live there? We’d love to check out the view from the top of the Turning Torso.

 

 

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen will treat you with a beer by the sea, or show you hot to gather sun energy in spring, or invite you for a colorful view with colorful ice cream, or refresh you with nasty winds and solid architecture in-land and on sea.

 

Nyhavn - an area, a street, the signature of Copenhage in Denmark!

Nyhavn – an area, a street, the signature of Copenhagen!

 

Keep calm and ride a bike in Copenhagen in Denmark

Keep calm and ride a bike in Copenhagen!

 

The famous Danish flag saying hi from a majestic water vessel in Copenhagen

The famous Danish flag saying hi from a majestic water vessel.

 

 

Vilnius, Lithuania | Trakai, Lithuania | Klaipėda, Lithuania | Nida, Lithuania | Šiauliai, Lithuania | Jūrmala, Latvia | Riga, Latvia | Pärnu, Estonia | Tallinn, Estonia | Viru raba, Estonia | Vainupea, Estonia | Cēsis, Latvia

 

So those were the magical stops of our charming road trip through the Baltic countries, plus some unexpected day trips on the way back home. Hope you got inspired to visit and feel the magic of all those places!

 

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Panama – highlights of the country of diversity https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/panama-highlights/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/panama-highlights/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 15:17:39 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=21242 There has always been an argument if the whole America continent is actually one or two continents. Some maps count North and South America as two separate continents, while others just called the whole thing from Alaska to Ushuaia America … Read More

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There has always been an argument if the whole America continent is actually one or two continents. Some maps count North and South America as two separate continents, while others just called the whole thing from Alaska to Ushuaia America or Americas.

For me, the whole continent (and country) concept is just a way to put labels on things so we can identify them easier. Then this thing was twisted to a differentiation between people and it all went horribly wrong. Anyway, is there something that separates North from South America?

 

Panoramic photo of the Panama Canal at the Miraflores locks in Panama, City, Panama

 

Well, not. But there is one thing that actually connects. In times where we need to connect rather than be separated, there’s one thing that does this work – connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans.

This thing is allocated in the southernmost country in Central America, Panama. Panama is also the last country part of the concept of North-American continent. This is the Panama Canal – and you don’t have to be a sailor to have heard of it.

Panama hides other specialties too. In this article, we will show you other Panama highlights that we visited in country number 8 of our Central America Grande journey.

 

Weather and nature

Tropical islands, green mountains, humidity and rain, thatched roofs versus skyscrapers. Panama tries to keep up with the preserved nature, and people entering from Costa Rica will definitely have an eye on that.

While forests and coastline may not be home to such a diverse wildlife anymore, the environment is pretty much inviting for explorers.

 

Having a beer with a view towards the skyscrapers of Panama City in Panama

 

We were followed by rain everywhere we went. In the mountains near Boquete, in the Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro, in the capital Panama City, in the community islands of San Blas too. End of the winter season, last tails of rain to make sure we are never completely dry.

Of course, we almost never took off the swimming suits as Panama is quite exposed to water so we had to take a full advantage of the ocean before we return to begin a much harsher winter – the one in Bulgaria.

 

Our itinerary

Coming from Costa Rica

We enter from Costa Rica and crossed the border which was the Las Vegas of all borders! Stores, duty-free shops, food, drinks, casinos, it was just too overwhelming. Borders are supposed to be just crossed, but this one was like inviting you to stay longer, as every entertaining-utopia would love to! We managed to keep it together and walk the border area without getting trapped in this world.

Crossing the border from Costa Rica to Panama by foot

 

Boquete

After some very comfy colectivo ride and a chilly bus ride, we reached the town of Boquete. It is situated in the mountains and some even call the town of eternal spring. We can vouch for that – it didn’t stop raining at all. But the amazing views and fresh air compensated for the chilly rain.

 

View over the mountains and clouds at Bouqete, Panama

 

No wonder so many American retired people chose to locate themselves in Boquete – the town is charming, has a couple of nice restaurants and pubs, even local eateries. Coffee production is the thing in the region. Craft beer production is becoming a thing too.

Rain or not, we had to do laundry. Our clothes were wet and damp from all the rainforest adventures in the past days. So before we boarded a shuttle through mountains and forests with destination Almirante, we collected our freshly washed and dried clothes.

 

Bocas del Toro

The thing about shuttles and us is that we always get the worst seats and the journeys are long enough to experience all the discomfort and pain possible. The beautiful mountain views didn’t compensate for the sick kidneys. Arriving in Almirante, we saw so much poverty that we couldn’t get it. The Bocas del Toro archipelago is just a boat drive away and is supposed to be one of the wealthiest spots in the country.

 

The small boats that ride from Almirante to Bocas del Toro in Panama

 

Part of the adventure was getting stuffed like sardines inside the boat. No such activity goes unaccompanied by a scandal, but this is Panama, who cares? We had to accept our fate and be stuck altogether with our baggage, wearing stinky life vests that were not even real life vests. Could it get any worse – it can. The skies were getting darker and darker, and our dreams of beach life and island hopping were disappearing.

 

Sunset over the palm trees in Bocas del Toro, Panama

 

When we arrived at Bocas Town, it was pouring. We checked in the “typical” “German-owned” hostel and waited for the rain to stop. It kind of stopped, then we tried to reach a nearby island and the Red Frog beach – supposed to be one of the best on the archipelago. The boat drivers were so insolent that we decided to take a stroll instead.

 

Sailing and partying

Bocas Town is a place we wouldn’t recommend. It’s a party town, super overpriced and has no good beach. For us the best of it was the huge supermarkets and the amazing dinners we cooked. And it’s probably a good base for browsing the other islands and venues around.

 

Trip around the small islands around Bocas del Toro in Panama

 

That’s how we boarded a nice catamaran the next day. We had a good captain, not so good wind, but engines were working instead of it. Chilling almost a day on a catamaran sailing around dream paradise islands – can’t be a bad thing.

We swam near mangroves to find plenty of sea stars, touched thousands of harmless jellyfish. The visibility was not very good, but we stumbled upon some amazing sea life. That, and lying on the front deck while sailing, and drinking a beer or two with tasty freshly cooked lunch – all that could fix the bad first impressions we had on Bocas del Toro.

 

The underwater life around Bocas del Toro in Panama

 

What really won us was the totally unexpected parade on the main street. It was a school orchestra practicing, but it had such an energy that still manages to make us smile when we think about it. All those students with instruments and flags blocking the street and everyone around applauding – feel the magic?

 

 

 

Panama City

We were ready to leave the archipelago early at sunrise as we had a long way to go – all the way to Panama City. The bus was quite modern and far from chicken, but it was freezing cold all the ten-ish hours we were in it. The driver said that it’s set to 21 degrees but it wasn’t. We put all our clothes on and were still cold all the time.

 

Casco Viejo in Panama City, Panama

 

The capital of Panama welcomed us with its heat and humidity and huge highways. After two months without big cities or capitals, we needed some time to adjust to the scale, the traffic, everything that makes a big city big (and city). We bargained with a cab and landed right at Casco Viejo, a unique neighborhood with colonial flavor.

If you’re fans of capitals, Panama City will be a nice encounter for you. Skyline of skyscrapers, touched by the ocean, caressed by the Panama Canal. We couldn’t say no to this romance. The historic quarter of Casco Viejo contributed to the picture with its old, new and charismatic buildings and plenty of choices to spoil with food and ice-cream.

 

 

Panama Canal

The huge roads and modern stuff like Uber got us to Panama Canal and more specifically to the Miraflores Locks. Panama Canal is a wonder that doesn’t need further explanation! This canal not just saves over 20 days of sailing to go around South America. It connects two oceans!

That day we saw a ship from Colombia passing on its way to Singapore! Passing the Miraflores Locks takes a decent amount of time and human power, too. The construction is just so amazing that you need to be there to see how every detail and every person on field fits the whole plan.

 

 

The canal is a strong proof that human can be smart enough and “break” the laws of physics. The use of locks for controlling the water level helps to lift thousands of tones of water and a huge ship and get it on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. On the opposite side, only by lowering the water level again, using the smart locks system, the ships coming from the Atlantic can easily continue their journey to the Pacific. The emotions and thrill are not limited to the engineering miracle only. When a ship passes the canal staff and all the visitor are greeting the ship’s captain and crew members wishing them a safe and pleasant journey to their destination. The captain and the crew on their side are waving and cheering with their sincere smiles.

 

San Blas islands

We don’t remember how we learned about those distant but still accessible islands in Caribbean sea. We knew we had to visit them as they featured indigenous locals and well-preserved culture. Ah, and out-of-the-postcard tropical islands. Mostly uninhabited. So 4 hours of driving and 1-2 hours of sailing as a start seemed like nothing.

 

Panama San Blas Guna Yala village

 

So we had to explore the indigenous Guna Yala (or Kuna Yala) people who were welcoming travelers on their lovely dreamy paradise islands! Community islands, party islands, snorkeling or diving, lying on the beach, enjoying artisan crafts, playing with the kids, living as we all used to live once – simple, close to nature, authentic and following the sun! Life on San Blas islands.

 

San Blas Guna Yala village Island in Panama

 

It was a two-day venture and we only hope to have supported the eco-friendly and community-based tourism. Snorkeling near shipwrecks but still surrounded by tons of yachts and boats – maybe this is going in the wrong direction. But there are local people who are partially autonomous to the country of Panama and they seem determined to preserve their islands. Hopefully, they won’t get more determined to own money.

Living with almost no running water, no electricity, and no commodities – that’s something that you should experience. Especially if you’re looking for happiness and simplicity. Don’t worry – there is enough beer and rum for everyone. Locals of some islands were chatty, locals on other islands – more introvert. But still becoming part of all of this was an experience of a lifetime!

 

 

After the simple happy experience in paradise, we returned (accompanied by huge rain) to Panama City to check in to a nice airport hotel, take a really long and hot shower, and get ready for a flight to Mexico for the second attempt of Isla Mujeres and also the final leg of our Central America Grande journey.

San Blas Guna Yala village Island in Panama

 

The people

Travelers in Panama are usually people who are at the finish line of the Central America adventure (as we were), or people who are just starting, or people on vacation in this country only.

For us, it was a nice ending of the journey, but also a bit of too westernized for our taste. I mean it’s lovely that everywhere they speak English but it’s always strange there are places don’t speak Spanish and this is the official language in the country.

All the encounters we had were quite positive, people were nice and collaborative. That excludes the hotel stuff from Boquete that lost our laundry and wanted us to pay for sending it back to us. In general, people are warm and welcoming.

Guna Yala people are a bit different as they have some more isolation and very strong conscious for preserving the community. Some of them got straight into business, taking opportunities to win money from tourists. Most of them, however, is very quiet, introvert and laid back.

 

Playing basketball with the Gun Yala people in San Blas, Panama

 

In a few words

  • Panama hosts some amazing achievements of both human engineering and nature. The Panama Canal is such an achievement that totally changed the world trade, also Panama as a country.
  • You have the perfect tropical island mix in Panama – you can explore islands still inhabited by indigenous people with their own traditions and partial autonomy. Or you can visit islands to enjoy all the modern world perks like party and luxury. Being able to see both will get you thinking if the direction the world is going could be a long-term right direction.
  • People in Panama are friendly, welcoming and open. Influence from the US is felt everywhere and it’s getting harder to spot indigenous lifestyle or local traditions. Some might say that Panama is a mix of Central America and the Western world. The question is if this mix is diverse and colorful enough to be our cup of tea.

 

Nace is carrying his backpack wrapped with a plastic bag to protect from the rain while leaving the Guna Yala people from Panama

 

Panama may look small on the map, but don’t be fooled. It just has too much to offer. We can’t wait to go back and take in more of its beauty and charm. Have you been to Panama?

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Costa Rica highlights – Pura Vida or Cara Vida? https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/costa-rica-highlights/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/costa-rica-highlights/#respond Thu, 15 Mar 2018 15:22:03 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=20934 If there would be one country that knows how to brand and market itself, that is Costa Rica! Everyone we know has heard of Costa Rica, of its unbelievable nature and green everywhere, the idyllic spots and the ecological everything. … Read More

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If there would be one country that knows how to brand and market itself, that is Costa Rica! Everyone we know has heard of Costa Rica, of its unbelievable nature and green everywhere, the idyllic spots and the ecological everything.

Costa Rica is a synonym of time well spent. We were looking forward to exploring the region and meet unique flora and fauna for the first time. We longed for amazing experiences in close connection with nature and environment.

 

Blue butterfly landed on Bistra's shoulder in Monteverde National Park Costa Rica

 

As you probably know, sometimes you have to pay for the good experiences. And I mean pay well. This is exactly the case with Costa Rica. You will enjoy your time there to the fullest, but you will have to pay.

Pura Vida (means pure life) is a slogan that turned into a regular greeting between both Ticos (Costa Ricans) and visitors. While we completely agree that one may witness the purest forms of life in the country, we also created another slogan, just for fun. Cara Vida. Expensive life.

 

Monkey brothers are eating the stolen cookie near the beach in the Manuel Antonio national park, Costa Rica

 

Region and weather

Costa Rica is kissed by both Pacific ocean and Caribbean sea, so you may imagine it has both the dramatic Pacific views and the chill Caribbean vibes. Cloud forests merge with rain forests, mountains with lowlands.

We visited the country at the end of the rainy season. The mountains of Monteverde turned out to be super cool – like eternal spring without the rain. We had to wear jackets because of the wind but we didn’t freeze. The perfect combination.

Following the Pacific coastline, we finally sensed the humidity and the heat, and some breath-taking sunsets. But having the option to take a dip in the ocean always makes things better. The huge trees of Manuel Antonio national park, providing shade, too.

Approaching Corcovado peninsula and the heart of the rainforest justified the rain season. One day it literally poured tons of water so there wasn’t a single person or animal that was not soaking wet for the next couple of days. But rainforest, yeah.

 

A leafcutter ant in Monteverde national park, Costa Rica

 

Our itinerary

Coming from Nicaragua and its ridiculously long border procedures, Costa Rica was already a relief. As soon as we entered our first stop was near relatively big town for food. And the whole food corner consisted of American “fast food” chains. We hoped that we’ll find a local eatery (“soda”) to try the local food.

 

Flag Costa Rica Pura Vida

 

Monteverde cloud forest

Monteverde and the region was a nice relief from all the heat and humidity we have collected on the journey so far. Cloud forests, nice wind, hilly landscape – no wonder why so many people visit this ecotourism destination.

We visited the Butterfly Garden and we were mesmerized not only by the butterflies but from the other insects and arachnids residing there too. We learned so many interesting facts and stories about the above, that we even started liking some of them.

Our encounter with the butterflies could last for ages. The first space was for blue butterflies, who was super big and while flying they created a fairy-tale blue dance. We observed having a bite, we stared at them and followed them for a while. Eventually, we became friends with them and they landed on our shoulders.

 

 

The other butterflies were small but many different types. It was hard to spot two butterflies with the same pattern or color – they were just so many and so playful. And the last space was for the transparent butterflies, which were hard to find (for obvious reasons) but very interesting in being so stealth. The kingdom of butterflies! 

 

Kinkajou night walk

We opted to have a night walk in Kinkajou park. We were looking forward to seeing the kinkajou mammal, which gave the name for the park, as well as many more nocturnal animals.

Our guide was so enthusiastic that he was like high when we stumbled a bird that was not supposed to be there and new to him. We continued walking and looking in the dark trees and we saw many birds, nocturnal sloth, red-eyed stream frog, a green viper snake and many more fascinating animals.

 

A small cute red eyed stream from in the Monteverde national park, Costa Rica

 

Of course, we didn’t see the kinkajou, but the forest revealed new wildlife in their nightlife at any corner. We didn’t disturb them, for example, we didn’t put the light on the sloth because it will fall asleep if it thinks it’s already daytime.

It was a thrilling walk and we were so happy to become part of the nocturnal nature. And unlike most of the cloud forest nights, that night the sky was clear and we enjoy so many stars.

 

Monteverde town

I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a formal town, but there is a spot with plenty of hotels, hostels, houses that are a fine distance from most of the nearby parks, reserves, gardens. Monteverde was the first crash between us and the prices in Costa Rica.

After paying about 50 USD for two salads, two beers (craft and nice, but still) and a dessert in an average cafe, we decided we’ll cook ourselves. Supermarkets were expensive but eating out was much more. And the currency of Costa Rica – the colón, was barely used. Most of the places spoke USD and actually gave us horrible rates for colons.

 

Bistra is reading and the Monteverde national park scenery smiles next to her, Costa Rica

 

Anyway, the town was nice, our hotel had amazing views towards green hills. The hotel had super many (and some weird) rules that were all over any wall, room or space. Can you imagine what kind of guests they receive? We still managed to chill in the hammock and taste the pura vida.

The hotel staff was super friendly and they offered all the tours for a good price. Maybe they did, but they also did take our money for what was supposed to be a 4-hour transfer. It turned out to be the same time as public transport, and 10 times more expensive. And not because of traffic or something, but because they “optimized” the route to carry more passengers. Cara vida.

Manuel Antonio National Park

As soon as we arrived at the hostel and saw THE VIEW we forgot all the trouble. It was like having the first and only row to the majestic Pacific and the sun setting right before your eyes. And all of that comes to you while you’re hanging on the hammock. We spent a lot of time on that terrace.

 

Beautiful and colorful sunset over the ocean. Photo take from the terrace of our hostel in Manuel Antonio national park, Costa Rica

 

Again we cooked and drank wine (8 times more expensive than in the other countries in Central America). At least the local bus taking you to the national park was a decent price so we’ve found one thing that doesn’t cost a fortune in Costa Rica – the public transportation.

The Manuel Antonio national park is said to be more polished and touristy. We went there without a tour or a guide but still managed to spot some wildlife. And this combined with handing on the nice beaches inside the park – may worth the entrance fee and the idiotic entrance procedures.

Sloths were a hype here too but unfortunately, the two we encountered were so high in the tree that we needed a lot of staring and stiff necks to watch them. And they don’t do much stuff, sloths are sloths after all. The role model for laziness.

 

The lazy sloth is high in the tree in Manuel Antonio national park, Costa Rica

 

The real action was happening on the beach. Cormorants were hunting for fish fiercely targeting the water with their beaks. Raccoons were stealing snacks from those who neglected the rule not to bring in any food. The trails were not only walked by human visitors, but also by resident iguanas and coatis. Monkeys were engaged in showing off with their daily activities.

 

 

 

Drake Bay

Having found out that public transportation is the (only) cheap thing in Costa Rica, we figured how to get to Corcovado peninsula without expensive transfers. Our destination was Drake Bay – a good base for exploring the reserve and the vibes of the region. We only had to take a taxi + bus + another bus + another taxi + a boat.

 

Nace is getting the backpacks from the boat in Drake Bay, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

 

The boat was the highlight of all the legs of this trip. We started navigating through mangrove sleeves of Sierpe river. And then we entered the ocean and navigated through the waves to reach a huge beach in Drake Bay. It was time to get wet – no piers are built there.

Our accommodation in Drake Bay was just in the middle of the rainforest, in a nice hut without walls. We woke up to the sound of the whole forest and even wondered how our friendly neighbors – the cappuccino monkeys – didn’t come to check out what’s going on. It must have been the lack of any food in our “room”.

 

The view from our room in Drake Bay, Corcovada National Park, Costa Rica

 

A night walk just behind our house revealed many other species to us. It was the frog day – we encountered so many red tree frogs, rain frogs, glass frogs, etc. It was like a frog party, and according to our guide, it was quite strange to see so many of them even though some of them might have been mating. We even saw something very cute – something between a rodent and a mouse.

Our free time in Drake Bay was split between cooking and eating whatever we found in the two local stores, and hanging out watching monkeys or reading a book. We almost got used to being wet or damp all the time. Life in the tropical rainforest. Experiential stay it was – living in the rainforest.

 

A rain frog during our night walk in Drake Bay, COrcovado National Park, Costa Rica

 

 

Corcovado National Park

Getting to Corcovado national park was one hell of an experience. It was a rainy and grey day and riding the speedboat for an hour and a half was like “Survival” – rain slapping your face, you’re soaking wet and the wind comes to finish the whole picture. Seriously, I believe the Navy SEALs are trained like that!

 

We are wet and with happy smiles on our faces at the entrance of the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica

 

We got to the shore and decided to stay with our already wet sandals instead of making the walking sneakers wet too. Some people made fun of us, that our socks will get wet and muddy. In less than an hour, we were so wet than it didn’t even matter. Actually, the only dry thing was our sneakers, carefully protected by a plastic bag.

While we could still bear the rain, we walked in the Corcovado park to meet tens of birds, three types of monkeys, woodpeckers, etc. The park was indeed super wild and it felt like the obligatory guide was a nice measure. We wanted to see tapirs, one of the symbols of Corcovado.

 

It is rainy in the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica

 

When we reached the Serene station for lunch, the big rain turned into huge rain. It was raining cats, dogs, and a whole zoo. We had to wait for it to decrease so we could walk to the shore where the boat awaited us. Needless to say, all the wildlife went into hiding. At least we danced in the rain and then walked knee-deep in the rivers of rain and mud.

Some complained about the bad weather. We believe it was a great experience and not only we tested our stamina, but also we managed to explore one of the most biologically intense places on Earth! And if rain bothers you, don’t go to the rainforest, please!

 

The pouring rain at the Serene Station in the Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

 

Caño island

Another nature wonder just 45 minutes away by speedboat awaited us. The Caño island. The island is now a protected national park and scientists research its marine life and wildlife.

 

The empty beach! Caño Island, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

 

We were happy for a few hours without rain so we can do our snorkeling trip to the island. While visibility was not good due to so much rain and underwater currents, we managed to spot the biodiversity underwater – tons of fish, eels, turtles and reef sharks.

 

Nace crashed a fresh coconut with bare hands and teased the monkeys at Jorjecito beach after the visit of Caño Island, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

 

The mainland and the Jorjecito beach awaited us with a tasty picnic lunch. We couldn’t just sit and eat because we were surrounded by such intense wildlife, we had to go and observe them. The dessert-coconut we had to share with some playful/hostile monkeys. But no victims after all.

 

 

It wasn’t a short or uncomplicated journey leaving Corcovado and getting to Panama. And the distance looks so small on the map…But this is how it works when you want to experience Mother Nature and its finest creations up close and personal.

 

Pura Vida vs Cara Vida

It’s still so hard to say what part of Costa Rica overwhelmed us the most. Pura vida we encountered everywhere. You don’t have to enter a reserve or park. Spotting wildlife in Costa Rica often requires going out of the house, on the terrace, or taking a short stroll to the supermarket.

If the country was gifted with mesmerizing nature, we definitely experience lack of something else. We didn’t feel any specific local culture or soul. Locals were friendly but we couldn’t say if we were in Costa Rica or in the US.

Most of the travel businesses were run by Europeans, the country has its huge expat communities, where do locals go? On vacation in the nearby countries, because their own is super expensive.

 

An old lady with sincere smile greeted us when leaving the Butterfly park in Monteverde National Park Costa Rica

 

Maybe we got used to more indigenous people and culture like in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador. Or we were looking for some specific vibes. Maybe we didn’t want to spend a fortune for 7-8 days in Costa Rica. We would still recommend the country for all adventure and nature lovers, but we don’t approve the pricing. Does “pura vida” have to be also “cara vida”?

 

In a few words

  • If you’re looking for local people, Central American vibes or some typical culture – you might not be satisfied in Costa Rica. Or maybe you need to look very hard and very long.
  • Prepare your wallet for visiting the country – Costa Rica will take care of all the money you put.
  • Nature is simply magnificent so be sure to visit and go adventurous before it becomes unbearably pricey.

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How to road trip magnificent Iceland affordably? https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/road-trip-iceland/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/road-trip-iceland/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2018 13:35:20 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=15907 OK, new realization! Road trips are our love! We love them short, as when we road-tripped the Balkans for few days, we love them mid-sized – as when we browsed through Cyprus for a week, we love them long – … Read More

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OK, new realization! Road trips are our love! We love them short, as when we road-tripped the Balkans for few days, we love them mid-sized – as when we browsed through Cyprus for a week, we love them long – New Zealand took us a month of road-tripping. We love them with nature and history as the one in Ireland or through the Baltic countries, or we love them with spontaneous and day-to-day as we did in Bali.

With all that love it’s kind of inevitable – we should have planned another road trip. Although we had much love for Iceland, we haven’t reached it until the time in March 2017 came! It was a matter of some research and planning to realize that we can combine our love for Iceland with our love for road trips, and sprinkle it with our dream of seeing the Northern Lights!

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, snowy roads, mountains

 

Planning a trip to an expensive country

We found two options for exploring Iceland – by car, i.e. road trip, or by bus/coach tours. Other options include helicopters, personal drivers, probably teleportation – but let’s face it, we’re not millionaires! So we projected our potential trip price if we rent a car for 6 days and do sightseeing on our own, including some paid tours, and if we book a combination of different one and more day tours covering different areas and highlights. The first one was a little bit cheaper and that combined with the freedom you have when you can explore on your own – this was our best option! So we just had to find a car rental, book some accommodation here and there, check where we can go alone and where we better go on a tour/excursion.

 

Itinerary

Our itinerary was not that hard to be settled. We are visiting Iceland in the middle of the March – which is still during the winter season. That leaves us with not too many roads to be passed (a lot of roads are closed in winter), and only half of the activities available and reasonable for this time of the year (the other half could be done in summer). So thanks to our friends’ recommendations and online research, we know we will browse the South part of Iceland, and we will be self-driving ourselves.

 

Transportation and car rental

The car rental and type of vehicle is another story. While most of the forums advised us that Nissan Jimny is the best winter 4×4 reasonably-priced option, the rental companies were so many and the fares so high. We were struggling to find a company that won’t rob us and blocks thousands of euros on our credit card for their own insurance. Eventually, after Nace spent a decent amount of his life on searching for an affordable car rental for 6 days in the winter, we found one option and went for it. Our white Jimny has reached 100K km some time ago but was unstoppable and didn’t let us down on any gravel road (and yes, there are many gravel roads in Iceland), or on the snowy/icy parts we had occasionally.

See and photograph the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis near Höfn, Iceland

Waiting for Aurora next to our lovely Jimny.

 

It even served us as a restaurant for our “on the go” lunches.

Eventually, we had to pay a fine for dropping it off a few hours later – because we overslept, missed flights, etc. More on that in a different story. So the fine was kind of OK because they have so many bookings that all the cars were fully booked which meant there are some people waiting for the same car for few hours. With the fine, we think we paid off our bad karma. What is worrying us is the exponential growth of tourist load in Iceland – can you imagine that all the car companies are fully booked for a month ahead? More on that is also on another story about Icelanders, the future of life on the island and why so many travelers chose Iceland in the last year.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Seljalandsfoss, waterfall, forest

 

Food and accommodation

So we have secured the car and the itinerary. We struggled to find pocket-friendly accommodation but did our best to beautiful places with lovely hosts with good locations serving well our itinerary. For booking accommodation, we mostly used Airbnb and Booking.com As everything is said to be very expensive in Iceland, we booked the top winter activities with tours – ice caving and glacier hiking. Our best decision was that we could chase the Northern Lights on our own, as well as we can drive ourselves to the beautiful waterfalls, canyons, geysers, views, etc. We stocked up with food at a big grocery store near Keflavik, including some local delights to try, like Skyr. Not eating out saved us a tremendous amount of money, we only ate once in Reykjavik at a place recommended by semi-local which meant half-price compared to the other restaurants. So we kind of tried some local specialties and the same local Viking and Boli beers and Icelandic chocolate.

By the way, we never touched a single Icelandic Krona. We managed to complete the whole trip without touching any cash money. Amazing!

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, lunch in the car

Budgeting for the road trip to Iceland

So we have an idea of transportation, food, accommodation, things to do for our Icelandic road trip. The total finance doesn’t look like a week in South America or Europe, but it’s still much better than the typical options where someone takes care of it all and than you pay for it double. So part 2 of our mission which is “not bankrupt in Iceland” seems to be going to end with success. Part 1 was to fit in the small hang luggage restrictions, but this happened as the heavy top layer clothes and hiking shoes were on us most of the time. So now that we arranged packing and budget, there’s number three left – the most important part – to enjoy Iceland and take in every piece of beauty and charm we can.

Car rental + insurance  614 euro + 192 euro fuel for about 1500 km; the fine for returning the car later than promised – 56 euro. Cheers!

Grocery stores bills 100 euro (including 5 beers and a quick bite in a diner); some light dinner in Reykjavik restaurant, visited by locals – 45 Euro. You can do the math – going to a restaurant equals to three days of eating at home.

Accommodation total for 6 nights: 532 euro.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reykjavik, beers, chocolate

 

Things to do and things to see

Here is a list of things you can do, things you can see, stuff to experience in Iceland. We start with the free ones/no entrance fees and end with those we paid for. This is the point where we shut up and let the photos speak for themselves. 📷  🙂

 

Just drive

Every corner in Iceland hides the next big surprise. Drive gently and enjoy the views behind every turn. Driving in Iceland is an experience itself. It will introduce you to some of the most beautiful (and photogenic) sights in the country!

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, snowy roads

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, on the road, horses

Waterfalls

The waterfalls have an invigorating and attractive force. In Iceland, there is no shortage on waterfalls. Below you will see part of the waterfalls we visited – n the Thingvellir Park, the famous Gullfoss Falls, the beautiful Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, tectonic plates, Тhingvellir

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, waterfall, Skógafoss

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, waterfall, Gullfoss Falls
Volcanoes

Iceland is a volcanic island, so there you are sure to be near some active or inactive volcano. I had to scramble at a specific volcano that erupted and failed many some years ago – Eyjafjallajökull.
Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, mountain

 

Canyons, valleys

Canyons dating back to the Ice Age and surprisingly green turf lava fields, rivers crossing the road… should we keep going?

Fjaðrárgljúfur, canyon, Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, green lava fields

 

Beaches

Romantic people in Iceland find themselves on the beach sooner or later. So we also found ourselves on the beaches of Jökulsárlón, Vik, Reynisfjara, and even one near the capital of Reykjavik. You will not be able to get tanned, but you can always admire the view and the splash of the waves.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Jökulsárlón, beach

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reynisfjara, sunset

 

Geysers

With so many underground mineral waters, it is clear that there will be geysers. And waiting for the next eruption with your breath tight, that’s the way to go.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, geyser, Strokkur Geysir

 

The capital

Enough of rural life? Well, Iceland has a city – the capital of Reykjavik – for those looking for city feeling and vibes (read: many people, cafes, restaurants, bars, cultural performances).

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reykjavik

Blending with locals

Whether you stop at a café to warm up, go to an exhibition or just talk to the hosts – who says the Icelanders do not like to chat with guests?

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reykjavik, beers

Thermal pools – the Blue Lagoon

We visited the Blue Lagoon. You have to book in advance – it’s one of the most popular attractions, including a detour for those with connecting flights in Reykjavik.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Blue lagoon, spa

Glacier hike and a look in the ice caves

We put the crampons and start walking on thin and thick ice, the goal is to feel small in the ice fields and to find some ice cave to explore.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, hiking, ice caving, Breiðamerkurjökull

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Vatnajökull, ice caving, hiking

 

Ice caving – a photography tour with locals

This was THE tour in Iceland – it combined an amazingly intimate experience in an ice cave, opportunity to take pictures (Nace’s back still hurts from the weird postures he obtains in the low-roof cave), and the chance to talk to the local, who started one of the first adventure companies in Iceland.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, hiking, ice caving, Breiðamerkurjökull

 

Practical tips:

On a weekday liqueur stores work until 18.00. No alcohol is sold in the supermarkets or grocery stores. Unless you consider 2.5% beer an alcoholic drink, but who is so stupid to do so?

Careful with hot water tap – it comes with 70-80 degrees Celsius temperature – it comes from the under Earth.

Driving – most of the drivers in Iceland are not so tolerant so pay attention. Elves are there to protect you though. 😃

Gas stations work with cards and first, you set the maximum limit to be charged by the gas station. If you don’t know how much fuel you want to put in, try setting smaller limits to avoid surprises and much money blocked on your cards. ⛽

  • All tips and information as of March 2017.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, hiking, ice caving, Breiðamerkurjökull

 

How to road trip Iceland affordably, Pinterest photo

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Our favorite romantic places to visit in Iceland https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/romantic-places-iceland/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/romantic-places-iceland/#respond Thu, 01 Mar 2018 14:39:46 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=21536 Romance doesn’t equal to white-sand beaches, breeze and palms, and cocktails with double straws. Iceland comes to prove that cold and ice can be as romantic as heat and sand. A road trip winter adventure can take you and your … Read More

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Romance doesn’t equal to white-sand beaches, breeze and palms, and cocktails with double straws. Iceland comes to prove that cold and ice can be as romantic as heat and sand. A road trip winter adventure can take you and your beloved one(s) to unbelievable places any beach getaway can’t beat.

Warning: this post contains lots of selfies and lots of cheesy moments. But what can you do, when it’s so cold and you feel so romantic? Don’t blame us for our authentic smiles (with chattering teeth) and our winter coats covering half of the picture. We’ll give you more of the landscape on our post about the road trip itinerary in Iceland.

 

Blue Lagoon

OK, geothermal spas do sound romantic. I mean, how can lava fields and warm waters rich in silica and sulfur not be romantic? A lot of people decide to skip the Blue Lagoon, mainly because it’s a bit pricey and could be quite crowded. We are so happy we didn’t skip it though – it was a nice relaxation for the body and mind after the long flight and the first introduction to winter in Iceland.

We had to do a bit of dancing and a bit of mudding inside the warm waters. Other people enjoyed drinks, long talks or walking exploration of the pool area. Blue Lagoon was the spot of our very first and very romantic selfie.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Blue lagoon, spa

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Blue lagoon, spa

Hafnir 

We stayed at a house of a local in Hafnir and our first morning was very special – we had survived the first night in Iceland, no natural disaster and nobody had frozen. Hafnir has a very small port and a lot of different birds to observe. We didn’t quite see the birds, but there was a group of ornithologists on a quest over there.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, town, Hafnir

Тhingvellir  

Thingvellir is a national park and it hosts the boundary between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian. If that’s not the perfect stage for romance and photos, and thinking of just standing somewhere between tectonic plates! We couldn’t stop taking photos of waterfalls and boardwalks cutting the stone fields.

Later we would learn that one of the world’s most exciting dive sites was just there – the Silfra rift. It is the only place you can dive and swim between two continental plates. Amazing, right! And the visibility is 70-80 meters!

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, tectonic plates, Тhingvellir, waterfall

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, tectonic plates, Тhingvellir

Strokkur Geysir

Geyser eruptions are hardly romantic. Having in mind how many people wander around waiting to see the next eruption, it could be even crowded. But observing a huge bubble forming and in a blink of the eye, exploding, is worth the hassle!

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, geyser, Strokkur Geysir

Gullfoss Falls

We struggled to find romance at the Gulfoss Falls as it was snowing and super windy during the short time of our visit! Something so massive and beautiful still attracts tons of people even when the weather is close to disastrous. It evoked the quick photographer in Nace, as it was unbearable to remain there, looking for the perfect shot.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, waterfall, Gullfoss Falls

Bergthorshvoll ice caving

Caves carry their romantic vibes, sometimes in a bit claustrophobic way. Ice caves are so cool because they can appear and disappear with every new winter and summer. So being able to do ice caving in the area of Bergthorshvoll was supposed to be an amazing experience.

It did live up to the expectations. Nace struggled to take photos in the narrow sections of the cave, I had to do high-level yoga to pose. Eventually, we took a couple of selfies with our helmets and headlamps and enjoyed the blue kingdom.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, hiking, ice caving, Breiðamerkurjökull

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, hiking, ice caving, Breiðamerkurjökull

Seljalandsfoss 

It took a walk to find the perfect spot for a dance with the Seljalandsfoss waterfall in the background. The huge open space and the approaching sun convinced us we should try to bring in some moves.

There was a nice small forest nearby. We took a walk to admire it. In Iceland trees and forests are a rare view, so when you visit, make sure you stop by and enjoy them if you see them.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Seljalandsfoss, waterfall, forest

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Seljalandsfoss, waterfall, forest, dance, kiss

Eyjafjallajökull

This volcano, the name of which nobody can pronounce, did a lot of trouble a few years back. It erupted and blocked the Europe airspace for quite some time. I couldn’t fly back from Germany to Bulgaria so I had to take a 36-hour horrible bus ride to reach Sofia just in time for an important exam.

So I had to see the volcano and make sure I let him know he’s not allowed another performance like that! It is hard to imagine the whole area, including a tiny village, covered in dust. Bad, bad volcano!

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, volcano, eruption, Eyjafjallajökull

Skógafoss

When we approached Skogafoss, the sun seemed determined to overcome the clouds and finally show its face to us. That resulted in a couple of rainbows and our happy smiling and almost non-freezing faces. How can you not take a selfie in one of the very few sunny moments for the whole week?

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, waterfall, Skógafoss

Fjaðrárgljúfur

Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon so old that it dates back to the Ice Age. We didn’t mind a long a muddy hike to an observation platform just to spot the fairytale canyon from above. The sun was still happy to be up in the sky and illuminated the green moss covering the wet soil.

Fjaðrárgljúfur, canyon, Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide

Jökulsárlón

We’re sure your perception of a great beach doesn’t include pieces of ice but after we spend some time exploring the black and white scenery – we just fell in love with Jökulsárlón. Huge ice sculptures, carved by the sea, solid sand and end oceans – romance makes its way to any beach!

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Jökulsárlón, beach

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Jökulsárlón, sunset, ice pieces

Northern Lights near Hofn

If you are lucky enough to see and photograph the Northern Lights, you should know that experience can go well beyond romantic. It’s the whole universe saying hello to you, so you should try to put yourself together and be grateful for all you’ve got, including the people you have the chance to travel with!

See and photograph the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis near Höfn, Iceland

 

See and photograph the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis near Höfn, Iceland

Vatnajökull ice hiking

Vatnajökull is one of the Game of Thrones filming locations, but we were filming another piece back there. It was our quest to exploring another ice cave and hiking with crampons. The latter was not an easy task in Patagonia and I had to pay twice the attention so I don’t fall and characterize our movie as a comedy.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Vatnajökull, ice caving, hiking

Vik

Out of all the amazing places to visit in Iceland, Vik had the chances of being the most romantic. There were zero people on the beach, we finally got to the liqueur store on time, and our accommodation was more than romance-inspiring. But the photographer decided to photograph some rock formations in the distance, so I had to take a selfie with his back.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reynisfjara, Vik

Reynisfjara

If you think of romance and Iceland at the same time, Reynisfjara should be the first thing to pop up. It is one of the most fascinating places to enjoy a breath-taking sunset, to try to climb the basalt columns or to beware of the powerful sneaker waves.

The beach is quite popular but even tens of people and hundreds of birds wouldn’t chase away the feeling of intimacy and the romantic taste of the whole experience!

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reynisfjara, sunset

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reynisfjara, sunset

Dyrhólaey Arch

We had to be quick observing the Dyrhólaey Arch as it was the most freezingly cold weather during our whole road trip in Iceland. The wind didn’t want to spare us, so clicking just few photos was painful. But that’s the point of being together in good and bad times, isn’t it?

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reynisfjara, Dyrhólaey arch

Reykjavik 

Iceland’s capital has its fair share of romantic spots to visit. Our favorite turned out to be a lake full of ducks and swans. They were not freezing (unlike us), so we stayed with them trying to figure out how they figured staying warm. This didn’t happen so we said goodbye and went to a warmer place to share a cup of tea and some hugs.

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reykjavik

 

So, is Iceland a romantic destination?

We say yes! Iceland has all it takes to foster romance so all you need is a person you love. Proper equipment, willingness to dance and being okay to stay in the car are things that would definitely help you enjoy all the romantic places to visit in Iceland! Or you can even spend your honeymoon there!

Iceland, road trip, places to visit, guide, Reynisfjara

 

Have you been to Iceland? What are the most romantic places you visited? Would you give the cold a chance or would you rather prefer stick to the hot weather?

 

Awesome romantic places to visit in Iceland, Pinterest photo

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The most off-beat and experiential places to stay in https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/experiential-stays/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/experiential-stays/#comments Mon, 26 Feb 2018 11:16:31 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=20421 We often consider accommodation just a place. A place where you throw your bags in, a place to take a shower and a place to sleep at while you’re doing the really interesting stuff outside, away from the place. Accommodation … Read More

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We often consider accommodation just a place. A place where you throw your bags in, a place to take a shower and a place to sleep at while you’re doing the really interesting stuff outside, away from the place. Accommodation often doesn’t particularly contribute to a travel experience.

But what if we told you accommodation itself could become the travel experience? What if it was the main highlight of your trip? What if it contributes to your memories?

That’s right. The places you stay in may actually be the experience! And when we think about cool off-beat places we stayed in, tons of memories start to emerge. Unusual accommodation moving the focus on itself, and you’ll find out why within the following lines. So here are some of the most experiential stays we’ve had around the world.

 

The salt hotel in Uyuni, Bolivia

After a crazy off-road drive from Chile to Bolivia, including driving around the unbelievable Salar de Uyuni, we crashed for the night at a very cool salt hostel. Basically, everything inside it is made of salt. One thing is for sure – you don’t need spices for the food you carry and cook over there!

The salt hostel, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The salty common room. At least 4000 meters above sea level.

The grounded ship in Sibiu, Romania

What happens when a captain who’s been all over the world decides to start a hotel? He grounds the ship, of course. So that’s how it happened with Villa Santa Maria in Sibiu, where you’ll feel like on a cruise ship (without the choppy seas). The captain is always ready to inspire you to visit some hidden around the world treasures!

The ship hotel in Sibiu, Romania

Inside the ship, a.k.a. Villa Santa Maria

The clay house in Leshten, Bulgaria

One of the most picturesque villages in Bulgaria is also home to a house, made of clay. It’s like being inside a fairytale – that’s the only way to describe being inside that little house, detached from the modern world, and attached to nature and everything that matters.

The clay house in Leshten, Bulgaria

Good night, all light comes from starry skies and candles inside the clay house!

 

The banda house near the Indian Ocean coast, Kenya

Living like locals in Kenya brought us to sleep in a banda. The material for this house is mainly adobe, and its circular shape is the perfect place for a young bat to fly around. True story. We slept very peacefully in the forest, hearing only true sounds of nature and sometimes and the only neighbors – the monkeys, and bats!

Banda in Kenya, experiential stay

If you want to stay with this amazing family, get in touch with us here.

 

The gasho house in Ainokura, Japan

We’ve loved the gasho house architecture ever since we saw it on a picture. We were lucky to find a Japanese family that hosted us for one night, and we enjoyed some home-made dinner and comfy futons. We can’t say enough about the hospitality of the Japanese! The roofs are really helpful for the mountain conditions in Japan.

Ainokura village in Japan, the traditional gasho houses

Why don’t you stay with our friends at Choyomon? They make the perfect dinner and have musical instruments for a quick jam session!

 

The open-air living room in Canggu, Bali

We stayed for about two weeks in a nice village villa in Bali. Canggu was not touristy at all, so we could admire tranquility and observe the rice fields every day from our open-air living room. The best part is that that kind of luxury is quite affordable and has nothing to do with fancy hotels and tons of concrete.

villa_cayu

To stay in one amazing villa like Villa Cayu, go search in Airbnb. Use this code for a 26 euro discount from your first booking.

 

The Tyrolean hotel in Sighisoara, Romania

We’ve never felt so Tyrolean during our travels! The hotel is kind of luxury and at the same time combines Tyrolean style with a decent winery! Who’s up for a glass of red?

The Tyrolean hotel in Sighisoara, Romania

The chic lobby of Binderbubi hotel in Sighisoara, Romania

 

The garden yurt in Dobrogled, Bulgaria

We still haven’t made it to the Mongolian yurts, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy sleeping in one in Bulgaria. There’s this amazing family that decided to entertain their friends, and later, guests, with some yurts in their backyard. For those in love with wine – you can sleep in a barrel, too!

Staying in yurt in Dobrogled, Bulgaria

The bigger yurt, great for families and even groups!

 

The desert tent in Lompoul, Senegal

Staying at desert camp is totally experiential and a bit romantic experience. If you’re not into sand going anywhere, that might not be for you. But desert life in Senegal could be quite enjoyable, especially for a night or two. Get ready for a lot of sand and a lot of wind!

Senegal, Lompoul, desert, sand, dunes, tents, camels

Tents nested under the dune

 

The jungle hut in the jungles of Bolivia

There’s no better way to explore the jungle than to stay in it. The off-beat accommodation here is an ecolodge, where you can sleep like a baby during the night and then hike the jungle trails by day. The most important part would be the mosquito net, and the long sleeves and trousers. Leave no spot of skin available to those nasty creatures!

Madidi jungle ecolodge, Bolivia

It’s easier to walk around without the rubber boots, but they are a must for hikes and rain! Madidi Ecolodge

 

The cozy lodge in Colca Valley, Peru

We’re so glad we chose to stay in an off-the-beaten-path lodge in Colca Valley, Peru. Peacefulness, unbelievable views, tasty (potato) dishes and fresh hikes in the area – you’re going to love this! And we know that you’re in good hands when you’re in Peru!

Kulawasi lodge, Colca valley, Peru

Just chilling at Kulawasi Lodge

The igloo in Pamporovo, Bulgaria

There’s something so polar about sleeping in an igloo. We love how hot it was, and how we could admire the snow outside while staying warm. We even worked in an igloo and slept in the other. Sometimes it’s just hard to believe what amazing experiential stays we have in our home country!

Igloo stay in Pamporovo. Bulgaria

Tiny little white igloo! With a huge heart!

 

The botel in Amsterdam, Holland

The boat hotel was something wow back in the years. For our first stay in Amsterdam, we chose to stay in a botel. It was not so clean and not so shaky as it was docked, but we had a lot of fun with the staff. They were high most of the time and were hilarious. It was Queen’s Day, so let’s forgive them!

botel in Amsterdam, Holland

Nights on the upper deck could be chilly on Amsterdam’s botels.

 

The wooden kingdom in Yoshino, Japan

Sometimes you just have to stop and admire the hard work and will of people! We couldn’t get enough of this ryokan in Yoshino. Everything was made of wood and designed perfectly. We had to take a Kimono photoshoot and just hang in the common areas to admire the piece of art!

Welcome to my new living room at Ryokan Kato!

 

The backwater houseboat in Kerala, India

If you’re a honeymooner, or just want to spend time sailing backwaters and watching sunsets behind palms, then Kerala backwaters and staying at a houseboat is just for you! There’s literally nothing to spoil the romance and the pampering staff, catering to all your needs. Well, except for some noisy nasty insects, but that’s nature after all!

 

 

Inside the rainforest, Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Have you ever stayed in a room without walls? We have! The room of our hut in the rainforest near Drake Bay was just having one wall and an improvised roof to protect mainly from rain and other people’ eyes. Our neighbors, the monkeys, had no problems sticking to their bananas and not disturbing us, so we remained friends until we left!

A hut in the rain forest in Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Don’t let the name mislead you –Mohagine hotel is nothing like a hotel – it’s an experience in the rain forest!

 

The Buddhist temple in Koyasan, Japan

There are things in your life you must do at least once! For example, to stay in a Buddhist temple. If you can follow the simple rules of the monks and respect their lifestyle, you’ll have an amazing time. A highlight of our off-beat stay in Koyasan was the morning prayer, where we sang and felt the vibrations of the whole place, not understanding a single word of them.

The Buddhist temple in Koyasan, Japan

Entering the temple, Yochi-in

On our (almost) own island, San Blas, Panama

You can stay on a private tropical island and not go bankrupt, thankfully. The San Blas islands in Panama are locally owned by the Guna Yala people. So you can rent a tiny wooden beach house and be almost on your own on the island. Everyone deserves a bit of paradise, don’t you think?

Staying in one of the San Blas islands, Panama with Guna yala people - private island

Mi casa es tu casa!

 

 

So those were some of the most experiential stays we’ve had, on some of the most off-beat places around the world. We highly recommend you to opt for that kind of accommodation, wherever possible, as it brings along amazing experiences!

 

Have you had an experiential stay? What off-beat accommodation would you recommend? Let us know what we’ve missed so we can correct that mistake!

 

 

*The article contains affiliate links. That means that if you book accommodation through them, we get a small commission at no extra cost for you. Thank you!

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Things to experience in Bulgaria – a travel guide by season and activity https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/experience-bulgaria/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/experience-bulgaria/#respond Thu, 15 Feb 2018 11:04:49 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=21443 To make it even harder for you to fit everything in your Bulgaria itinerary, we decided to share some amazing experiences you can have in the country. To balance and make it easier for you, we separated them by the … Read More

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To make it even harder for you to fit everything in your Bulgaria itinerary, we decided to share some amazing experiences you can have in the country. To balance and make it easier for you, we separated them by the time of the year you visit, and by type of activity. So we have four seasons in Bulgaria – winter, spring, summer, and fall, and you can do much of the stuff pretty much all year long. That’s why we also split by type of activity – wine tasting, nature and outdoors, and history and architecture. Enjoy!

Пътуване до нос Калиакра, България - каяци, лодки, разходки, пещери, гледки и традиции по северното Черноморие

 

 

What’s in the article?


Winter

We know winter can be a bit of a tough time for some of us. But in Bulgaria, it can be lovely – lots of snow, winter sports, hot drinks and stories to share with friends. Winter can be quite enjoyable in Bulgaria.

 

Stay tuned in Pamporovo

Are you tuned? Pamporovo is that kind of place where you enjoy winter sports along with warm mats, old-school radio receiver, and burning drinks!

Stay tuned in Pamporovo in Bulgaria

 

Work from igloo with a view

Combine your remote working schedule with a few runs on the amazing slopes of Pamporovo. There’s nothing more motivating to get things done than the view of Snejanka tower and the white powdery ski tracks.

работа, екип, тийм билдинг, почивка, ваканция, coworking space, споделено работно пространство, иглу, настаняване в Родопите, Пампорово, Чепеларе, България - зима в планината, пътешествия и работа на път

Ski or snowboard in Borovets

Although the prices are getting higher and higher with each year passing, Borovets is so close to Sofia that if you don’t want to waste time on transportation you end up on the slopes of the resort.

As seen in the picture, skiing and snowboarding are too ordinary activities so slope-walking is always a good alternative for the adventure seekers.

Ski or snowboard in winter in Borovets in Bulgaria

 

Kukeri Festival

You’ve probably heard that you can chase the evil spirits with the Kukeri? Join the January celebrations and get scared to your bones in Pernik. And did you know that the second biggest Kukeri festival in Bulgaria takes place in Yambol?

Знаете ли, че в Ямбол се провежда втория по големина кукерски събор в България?

 

Baba Marta time

As soon as March approaches, get ready with the artisan Martenitsas and make sure you tie at least one at all of your friends’ hands. This will bring all the wishes for good health into a reality!

Town market in Sliven in Bulgaria with traditional martenitsi and magnets

Spring

Spring comes with green appearing from under the white blanket, all the plants blossoming. It’s like the world awakens, and Bulgaria awakens after the winter sleep too. Nature and people revive.

 

Rose picking in the Rose Valley

Bulgaria is world-famous for its rose oil and other delights made of rose petals. Rose picking is a ceremony you can join. All you have to do is jump to a village with rose fields and get to work! Fun is promised!

Check out our album of rose picking in Rozovo village!

Rose picking Bulgaria

 

Rose delights

What happens when the Rose Festival enters an old house in Kazanlak? Can you imagine how vintage combines with pink? For extraordinary fusion experiences like this, or to enjoy the rose tiara aroma in your hair, or just to taste the best rose wines from the region – every spring, when the roses bloom, head to the Rose Valley.

discover Bulgarian wine and rose in Kazanalak in Bulgaria

 

Spot the peonies blossom at Northern Black Sea

The end of spring gives this amazing opportunity to see the wild peony blossom if you head to the Northern Black Sea region in Bulgaria. The wilderness of the views, together with the seas awakening and all the historical and cultural vibes of the reserve – you won’t be bored and you’ll probably want to return and witness that beauty again.

Пътуване до Яйлата, Каварна, България - каяци, лодки, разходки, пещери, гледки и традиции по северното Черноморие

 

Summer

Summer comes hot and brings all the chill vibes everyone dreamed of. Mountains wait for you to fresh you up, the sea is sparkling and charming. Everyone is relaxing on their vacation and enjoy the beautiful panoramas all over Bulgaria.

 

Chasing lavender fields

Bulgaria is a powerful lavender producer and it is just the end of June, the beginning of July – so why not go on an impromptu lavender photo quest?Фотосесия лавандулови полета, лавандули, ечемик, България, корица

 

July morning

Some say that July Morning is a hippie fest, others add that it started as a protest against the Communist authorities. For many people, the first day of July is not a holiday occasion, but hundreds of people welcome the sunrise on July 1st because they believe in the cleansing effect of its very first sun rays.

Emona, Bulgaria - greeting the sunrise July morning

 

Folklore dance and traditions in Kmetovtsi

A little unknown village. Folklore festival. Music, singing, dancing, traditions. Lavish wedding to finish. Андъка пее и танцува. Miracle!

Telegram end.

 

The trail to old-time calmness

Start from Bojentsi, end in Tryavna. A wild trail will give you calmness, touch with nature and eventually some ticks (so be prepared). At the end of the trail, the town of Tryavna is waiting for you with its out of the picture houses along the river. All you need is 2 hours and good walking shoes, anti-parasite repellent and a camera! And in the nearby village of Kmetovtsi, you will be surprised by the open festivals and weddings they make!

Jumpie on Bojentsi - Tryavna trail

 

Fall

Autumn comes with all its warm colors and reminds us it’s high time for harvesting. We enjoy the fruits of our efforts and start to prepare for colder weather. Still, you can experience some lovely warm days in the open air.

 

Climb the fairytale stairs

This is not a painting! Those stairs lead straight to the old fortress and are not far from the famous covered bridge in Lovech. Sometimes it is nice to detour from the main attractions.

Stairs to fairy tales, leading to a fortress in Lovech in Bulgaria

 

Cherven Fortress – Medieval charming

The Middle Ages have left a beautiful memory in Bulgaria – the Cherven fortress. Cherven means literally red and also beautiful (the same as the Russian translation). We don’t know if it was meant to mean beautiful or just red because of the reddened by the iron rocks. And it doesn’t matter as soon as you set foot on the stone trails leading to the medieval town and fortress of Cherven.

 

Wine tasting

If any of the words wine, tasting, wine tasting, winery, chateau, grapes, vines rocks your boat, you’re in the very right place in Bulgaria. There is no way to experience Bulgarian if you don’t taste its amazing wines, some traditional and typical sorts, as well as world classics.

 

Sunny reds on sandstone erosion

Leave your fancy ballerinas home because it is time for harvesting in Rozhen. Any time of the year is appropriate for tasting some of the unique for the region wines but be careful – the wine varieties of Melnik are naughty.

 

Young wine in an old town – Plovdiv

The cobblestone streets of the old town of Plovdiv will greet you with young wines and sunshine in the chilly November. Get ready to get younger for an afternoon or two! This is the Young Wine Festival!

travel to the old town of Plovdiv in Bulgaria and discover its wine

 

Wine and wisdom – Brestovitsa

The village of Brestovitsa welcomes you with its friendly people ready to say hello and treat you with something red (a rose or wine). How can you not respond? Folk wisdom states: “Wherever there is wine, there are only good people.”

explore some of Bulgaria's finest rose and wine in the village of Brestovitsa

 

Thracian coziness in Elenovo

Cozy rooms, couples in love, love is in the air, Italian aromas, wines from the Thracian valley – only 3-hour drive from the capital, the forgotten village of Elenovo is now revitalized.

Thracian valley wines in Elenovo in Bulgaria

 

Chateau on a plateau

Here you are, standing on the hill, surrounded by vineyards and mountains. The romance of a chateau, somewhere in the Middle-earth of Bulgaria. Getting erased by time, but never forgotten.

discover a chateau on a plateau in the middle of Bulgaria

 

Wine and dance estate

A meadow in front of a wonderful house in the middle of vineyards and mountains near Sopot challenged us. We accepted the challenge to waltz at sunset. Tasting the delicious cabernet sauvignon from the region was no challenge at all but more of a delight. Tragata winery will remain in our hearts for long!

Винарна Трагата до Сопот

 

From stainless steel to emotions in bottles

We have another splendid mix of good wines and art exhibitions, as soon as we set foot on the Villa Yustina premises. The winery has started as a showcase base for stainless steel solutions. We’re so happy it evolved into a nice winery, where you can just stop by for a tasting or organize your event.

The wine tasting room of Villa Yustina winery, Bulgaria

 

Natural phenomena and hiking

If there’s one thing to love about Bulgaria, it will be its nature. Some say God gave Bulgaria a bit of everything – from rivers and lakes to canyons and plains, from valleys and fields to mountains and hills. Get your hiking shoes and prepare to be amazed!

 

Go blue at Koprinka dam

Camping or staying at a hotel, sailing or watching the sunset – this is one of the most picturesque dams in Bulgaria!

 

Land on another planet

Several flying dishes landed over here to form the Devetashka cave – don’t miss the chance to unleash your imagination and explore this new planet!

Devetashka cave in Bulgaria - alienation

 

Wisdom for free – Osikovitsa

Wise men created a park near Osikovitsa village where everyone can enjoy nature and wisdom for free. An old-school TV set warns the hikers that TV will empty their souls.

 

Sopot from above

Flying is not just a dream for us. It is pure pleasure. Especially when we do it with professional paragliders, over impressive scenery, and with the wind. Sopot is an adventure center that attracts nature-lovers. The video shows our impressions and emotions during our first paragliding experience in Bulgaria. And here are more adventures you can experience in the country.

 

The seven eyes of Rila Mountain

Shooting all the seven Rila lakes without a wide-angle lens or other photography tricks is a challenge. Seeing all of them takes a day or two of hiking and 2000 meters of denivelation. If you have the strength to reach some of the distant huts you will be able to treat yourself with home-made wine(ouch!) and home-made food(much better). Anyway, your muscles will be much more thankful for a beer.

The seven Rila lakes in Bulgaria at a glance

 

Having fun at Rila Park

No matter which time of the year you visit, the park wouldn’t disappoint with views and active outdoor activities! Find out how you can have fun in Rila Park any time of the year.

пътят от Дупница към парк Рила

 

 

Mega-sunset at Megalith rocks

Buzovgrad Megalith rocks is a mystical place! They call it the Bulgarian “Stonehenge” – wake up early and hike up to understand why!

Buzovgrad Megalith rocks

 

History and architecture

It’s no wonder so many history buffs and architecture freaks visit the country. With a history dating from so long back in time, you can be sure to enjoy majestic and not so majestic remains from different ages and eras. You’d be charmed by the tons of architecture sample you can see (and inhabit, actually) here and there.

 

Kazanlak

Who said Kazanlak is all about the Rose Festival, pink and red? The town combines blue buildings with blue skies into a masterpiece.

rose, wine and blue in Kazanlak in Bulgaria

 

Rebel colors – Sliven

Sliven combines an authentic rebel house (House-Museum “Hadji Dimitar”) with a modern town market. There not only can you exchange money but also you can use it to buy fancy magnets in Martenitsa theme.

 

People’s Palace – Vrana

At the foot of Sofia, the Vrana palace welcomes everybody – from queens and kings on a walk to running messengers. Spend a few hours in the beautiful gardens and admire any of the four seasons!

 

Eco empathy – Dobrogled

Yurts can look rough from the outside but inside they are cozy and keep you warm at night. A Bulgarian family started their “yurt” accommodation business as an innovative way to entertain their friends. Nowadays everyone passing by Dobrogled, Varna can enjoy staying in a huge wine barrel or a yurt even far away from Central Asia.

Bulgarian yurtsin Dobrogled near Varna in Bulgaria

 

 

Let’s have a coffee in Tryavna

Even if you are not a coffee-lover you will want to have a coffee in a coffee place like this one. It is a coffeehouse from the Bulgarian Revival times or the Renaissance where you can revive memories from the old times or ideas for the future. We advise you to enjoy your coffee with a good company! Even more, to deserve some sweet delights with it, you can walk the trail from Bojentsi to Tryavna.

Кафене в Трявна

 

Bezistena in Yambol puts together past, present, and future

Exactly one year after the reconstruction and reopening of the building of Bezistena in Yambol, guides and historians welcome us in their 20s clothes with some French flavor. This is how you celebrate your first birthday!

The former covered market is nowadays a contemporary museum where memories from the past, information for the present, and vision for the future living together. Don’t miss to check it out if you are in the area!

Хора от Ямбол с дрехи от 20-те години

 

Rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo

The faces of many Bulgarian rulers from the Second Bulgarian Kingdom are looking at us from the rock-hewn temples, chapels, and chambers carved into the limestone rock itself in the canyon of Rusenski Lom river near Ivanovo, Ruse. The masterpiece murals of the Tarnovo art school appear to be immortal as centuries and people pass by to destroy them. They continue to resist those destructive powers and amaze us. The rock-hewn monastery complex used to be the perfect abode for monks and later rulers. Nowadays it attracts visitors with its solitude and inaccessibility and its well-preserved beauty.

🏷 You can reach the rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo by car, the archaeological reserve is located 23km away from Ruse. Check out the websites of the municipality of Ivanovo and the Ruse historical museum. Or ask the friendly locals on your way there. You will need their help anyway, especially when you get lost and you will.

Ивановски скални манастири

 

Go Thracian and feel Kabile

Some of us need to visit something really antique to feed their hunger for history. Kabile (or Kabyle) is one of those places with a special and very Thracian atmosphere.

 

 

And because this article will be ever-growing, so we encourage you to send us your ideas! Let’s complete the list and experience Bulgaria in any season and any activity!

 

Things to experience in Bulgaria by season and activity, Pinterest photo

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Our amazing wine experiences from 18 countries https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/wine-experiences-around-the-world/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/wine-experiences-around-the-world/#respond Thu, 08 Feb 2018 11:06:37 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=21660 As we welcomed 2018 and we welcome any wine experience, we decided to put together an article with some of our amazing wine experiences from 18 different countries. Remembering all those magical stuff was a delightful task… Searching for the … Read More

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As we welcomed 2018 and we welcome any wine experience, we decided to put together an article with some of our amazing wine experiences from 18 different countries. Remembering all those magical stuff was a delightful task…

Searching for the right photo footage now so easy and delightful. The thing is, when you have amazing wine experiences, photos and video tend to be not cool at all or even missing. Being a blogger and a sommelier at the same time could be a challenging lifestyle.

As we want to be ambassadors of wine with all the culture, community and experiences around it, we have to show you different ways you can taste and enjoy wine. The setting, the situation, the price, etc. are just factors in the equation.

Wine means knowledge and power, wine means good people, wine means memorable experiences around the world. Let’s find out! 🍷🍷🍷

Wine tasting at Benegas winery, Mendoza, Argentina

 

Wine chill at Lake Como

There’s no better way to enjoy “Dolce Vita” than to sit on a street table of a small restaurant and ask what’s the best wine they have today.

Italy has its fair share of world wine producing. It offers way too many ways to taste its wines. But sitting outside, chatting with friends, eating pizza and sipping Sangiovese – who wouldn’t love that?

The bonus: You can, of course, sit on the cobblestone stairs and pretend you don’t look like someone who tasted way too many wines. Lake Como has seen any types of low behaviors.

Como, Varena, Lake Como, on the stairs after wine tasting

 

Warm up for Slovenian spring

We were headed to Lake Bled in springtime. But it was too cold for us so we had to find a way to warm up. The views towards the lake, the castle, the mountains were thrilling, but we were losing our temperature…

We stumble a local restaurant and just ordered some of the homemade wine. That turned out to be the best decision ever. Slovenia has a really strong taste for making good wines.

The bonus: After the lovely just in time introduction to Slovenian wines, we were ready to take the green Alpine slopes. In quite an unusual, and frankly speaking unsafe way. Nace wanted to go down using the lines of a missing toboggan. Don’t ask me how he stopped at the end of the hill.

Lake Bled, Slovenia - the green hills and snowy mountains view

 

Clean your mind in Mavrovo

A very meaningful stop on our Balkan road trip was Mavrovo in Macedonia. While the fall was trying to prevail the landscape, the harvest had already started.

We stayed at Bistra hotel, in Bistra mountain, with Bistra (me). We had to celebrate that coincidence with a bottle of “T’ga za Jug”. Just the name of this wine translated to “sadness, or melancholy, for the south”, predicted it was going to be something special. The name comes from a very popular song.

The bonus: Before you dedicate yourself to melancholy or other wines, take a bike and explore the missing lake, the underwater village, the picturesque scenery.

 

Getting lost in Santiago de Chile while looking for the winery

We were almost feeling like locals in the capital of Chile, so we decided to take a bus and attend a wine tasting tour in the famous “Concha y Toro” winery. As you might expect, we got lost.

Eventually, the bus driver helped us and we were on time to start a tour around the vines, the mansion and the cellars. As soon as we went underground and smelled the aroma of the divine drink coming, we felt home.

The bonus: If you don’t mind the big tour group and wait until the reserves wines, you’ll have a good time. The story of how they used to punish those trying to steal wine is very… moral.

Concha y Toro winery cellars, Santiago, Chile

 

Sweet, sweet Málaga

The great thing about sightseeing the Mediterranean on a cruise is that you make little delightful stops to visit a city with its own dessert wine. Yes, I’m talking about Málaga in Spain.

A walk through the gardens, the fortress and the living area of the city wouldn’t be complete without sitting down at a local vino y tapas. You should order the tapas of the day and a glass of the sweet elixir called Málaga.

The bonus: Don’t get another glass of Málaga unless you want to ditch the cruise ship and stay in this port of call for a while and explore more wine regions of Spain.

Spain, Malaga, green garden with roses

 

Being a wine-hobbit in Waiheke Island, New Zealand

We chose to visit Waiheke Island, just off Auckland, to absorb amazing views and do a little wine tasting walking tour. It was our first encounter with New World wine on site.

The New World awaited us with lush green fields, dreamy views, and charming little wineries to get lost around. The vineyards were welcoming any hobbit who might want to do some yoga or dance, and every green field was the perfect wine picnic spot.

The bonus: We had a chat with a small cellar owner and were really shocked to learn that the majority of wines are not vegan. Hopefully, the majority of countries will follow the regulations in New Zealand (and Australia, for that matter) and clearly state on the bottle if the wine is vegan or not.

Picnic on Waiheke island, New Zealand

 

Malbec, rancho, gaucho

You can taste as many wines as you want in Argentina. But if you really want the real deal, you should follow the locals and let them take you to a rancho. A rancho with real gauchos, traditional dance, and party.

Wine will be a natural finish to all the above. You can bet it’s house-produced and reveals all the wisdom gathered for years in the prairies of Argentina. With every sip, you and your friends become wiser and wiser.

The bonus: As you’re the only foreigner that comes from that far, they will open the in-house museum just for you. And you will enjoy exhibits with special stories, along with the hospitality of El Rodeo‘s staff.

Argentina. Buenos Aires, Castelar, rancho with gauchos and dance and wine

 

DIY wine tasting – under the skies of Paris

We couldn’t get along with the price tags in Paris, especially on our first visit. But we observed what locals did. Many of them were eating their lunch out, on the stairs of the Magdalena for example.

We decided we could do that too. So we entered a supermarket, grabbed some French wine and cheese, and chose a bench to sit down. It was a bit chilly November evening, but we had wine and coats to keep us warm.

The bonus: The experience of wine tasting under the skies of Paris was something that unleashed our love to this city. We knew we’ll be back to continue our romance…

Wine and cheese tasting under the skies of Paris, France

 

Follow the Mosel river

It was probably the best day trip along the valley of Mosel river in Germany. The spring was just painting the scenery with the most vibrant colors, and the terraced fields above the river were blooming with green vines.

And there you go – just pull over to any house on the road. They mostly sure produce some wine. And they will open a bottle for you to try. The Riesling is waiting for its admirers to taste it.

The bonus: Well, you’ll need someone to drive the car. Or you can stop by at any little town and taste as much as you can handle. The walks and views won’t disappoint.

 

The wine bath, Japan

The Japanese know all about entertainment. That’s why we knew that Hakone spa will be an experience. We didn’t expect that we’ll swim in a pool full of wine though! Junessun wine, to be precise.

We can’t argue about the effects of wine when you consume it orally of course. After the wine bath, we completely agree that wine makes your skin shine! And totally puts a smile on your face!

The bonus: There are other theme pools in the open-air area of the spa. Our personal favorites were the green tea and sake pools. Inhale, exhale! Inhale, inhale, cheers!

Басейн от вино в Хаконе спа, Япония

 

Relax after flight over Nazca

It was a dream for us to see the Nazca lines. Mystical drawings, carved into Earth, with bizarre shapes and orientations. Some say it’s a job of the Incas, some say it’s the aliens…

We had to see for ourselves. The best way to do that is if you fly over. So we hopped on a small airplane to explore all the Nazca lines from above. The captain did his best for us not to feel noxious or seasick.

The bonus: It was the captain-in-training who had to practice and his moves were not that gentle. When we got off the plane, we didn’t feel like eating or drinking anything until the end of the day. Then we discovered a bottle of Pinot blanc and used it to calm our senses.

Colibri bird, Nazca Nasca lines, Peru

 

Budapest wine tales

It’s no secret that Hungarian wines have their fair share of the European wine heritage. We’ve only managed to taste plentiful wines and wine restaurants in the bustling capital Budapest so far.

Hungary has many different regions producing a variety of wines. If you’re unable to travel to all of them and experience their delights, we suggest you do that in the capital.

The bonus: The remains of caves just underneath the Hilton hotel nearby Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest hide one of the most exciting wine tasting sessions one might have…True story!

Wine tasting in caves of Hilton, Budapest, Hungary

 

Wait for the rain with wine refresh in Tbilisi

There is nothing like a glass of white Georgian wine to help you fight the summer heat in Tbilisi. When air conditioning doesn’t work, when the humidity is rising, all you can do is indulge in a huge glass of wine at the plaza.

Wines of Georgia deserve a whole article of their own, but we’ll get to that later. It’s the ambiance that we really enjoyed. Wine is a drink to hold history and it’s nice when you have it in a place with such a diverse history as well.

The bonus: Home-made wines in Georgia are worth the try, be ready to expect the unexpected in them!

 

Go classy in Dubrovnik

Thankfully, we had a night in Dubrovnik during our road trip through 8 countries to Skoda factory. We are so grateful we could all try the wine without having to worry who’s going to drive later.

Dubrovnik is an expensive place to live in, stay in, dine in. We wanted to combine a dinner in the old town with a glass of Croatian wine (or two), without going bankrupt. That was a hard job.

The bonus: We did have probably the most expensive glass of wine ever. But the smiles of all the locals at the Easter celebrations the other day, they were all free and worth the whole stay!Easter festival and market, Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

Indulge in affordable wine through Malta

One of the things we loved most about our 3-day visit to Malta was the abundance of wines to drink and the affordability to do that while eating out. Seriously, the island should be marketed as “the most wine-drinking-out-friendly place”.

The geographical location and climate of the country suggest that grape varieties will be interesting for amateur and professional sommeliers. Because dry climate should have at least one positive side in winemaking.

The bonus: You can meet the Maltese Knight – both figuratively (the wine with that brand) or literally, when you have too many glasses of Maltese wine and imagine knights on horses crossing the main square.

Dinner with wine and sunset in Buggiba, Malta island

 

Wine caving in Porto

The Port wine is a world-famous fortified wine. Historically, they had to preserve wines for longer periods (a ship sailed for weeks with them). So Port wine was (and still is) fortified with mostly Portuguese aguardiente.

The burning water makes the wine strong and sweet so don’t experiment with too much of it. First, you’ll have a lot of fun, but later you’ll have a lot of hangovers. And you need to be in top shape to explore Porto.

The bonus: You might taste the sweet drink in one of the wine caves in Porto. We went to visit Calem wine cellars and the highlight was drinking Port while enjoying a Fado musical performance.

Wine tasting in the caves and cellars of Calem, Porto, Portugal

 

Drinking from the wine fountain

One of the reasons we love Camino de Santiago so much is that it’s a pilgrim’s thing to finish (and start) every day with a glass of wine. You know, if everybody does it, you do it too!

When we heard of the wine fountain near Estella, on the way to Los Arcos, we thought it might be just another tourist trap. Except that it wasn’t. Yes, there is a fountain of running wine instead of water.

The bonus: You can fill in your mug (or bottle!) with wine to go. We don’t suggest that as you’ll have a lot of kilometers to walk. Or maybe, unlike us, you can go and taste in the afternoon. Tasting in the morning was a blast though.

Drinking from the wine fountain near Estella, Camino de Santiago, Spain

 

Rewarding for a decent hike in Troodos mountains

Sometimes we go on unplanned hikes here and there. It’s not something to brag about, as unplanned hikes can go really bad. In Troodos mountains in Cyprus, however, the hike went perfect, even with the unexpected fog.

After absorbing tons of views and speeding up to return to our base, we had to relax. So at least we had an excuse to order a whole bottle of rosé for dinner. For the other bottles of wine on the island, we didn’t really have an excuse…

The bonus: Cypriot wines can be absolutely fascinating because of the unusual terroirs of the island. We highly recommend trying different varieties of different regions. Cheers!

Dinner with wine after a hike in Troodos mountains, Cyprus

 

A wine spa day in Bulgaria

As we agreed, earlier in this article, about the benefits of wine, we can now talk about the grape seeds. They have excellent qualities – e.g. to exfoliate your skin.

The best part is that while you get exfoliated, you can also have some wonderful reds and then take a dip in the wine tube. A wine spa day is a great gift for every wine enthusiast.

The bonus: It was really hard to pick just one experience of the many wine experiences we’ve had in Bulgaria. Indulgence in all kinds of wine treats is a lovely phenomenon we’ve been observing for quite some time.

Wine spa, massage and tasting in Todoroff winery, Bulgaria

 

Bottling your own sparkling wine in Mendoza

You know you’ve taken it to another level when you mix wine and creativity. When you go on a wine tour around Mendoza, but end up bottling your own bottle of sparkling rosé.

This is what happened in Cruzat winery. We were guided by professionals and carefully bottled, sealed and labeled our bottle of sparkling. Nobody was harmed in the process.

The bonus: It was too risky to carry the bottle in our backpacks around South America. So we did treat ourselves and had it all with a tasty homemade dinner. Sparkling!

Bottling our own sparkling wine in Cruzat winery, Mendoza, Argentina

 

We don’t know about you, but even putting this post together got us a little drunk! Wine memories and experiences are something we value so much! In vino veritas, dear friends!

 

Amazing wine experiences from around the world, Pinterest photo

Pin us!

 

What is your favorite wine experience? Where in the world did you taste your favorite wine? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Dominican Republic – your palette of vibes and experiences https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/experience-dominicana/ https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/experience-dominicana/#comments Thu, 01 Feb 2018 10:59:29 +0000 https://www.themagicoftraveling.com/?p=21579 For many, the Dominican Republic means cloudless sky and sparkling sun, chocolate tan and lots of rum, cigars and endless fun on the beach. А delights for the eyes, for the stomach and for the soul, and times of complete … Read More

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For many, the Dominican Republic means cloudless sky and sparkling sun, chocolate tan and lots of rum, cigars and endless fun on the beach. А delights for the eyes, for the stomach and for the soul, and times of complete relaxation.

The fact is that the tropical paradise attracts both adventurous souls and connoisseurs of tranquility. Before you start wondering which type you are – stop, no need to do that. Even if you fall for the two types of people, the valid question remains: “Can I enjoy the Dominican in two such different ways?” it was also important to us because we needed both relaxation and rest, as well as interesting and challenging things to do.

That’s how we started our journey to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, more specifically the part that belongs to the Dominican Republic. We did not waste time in wonder. We did everything that appeared on our way, and we did not miss a day on the beach or at the reefs. Vitamin D should be collected, after all, no matter if you are an adventurer or on holiday…

Dominican Republic, views, beaches, waterfalls, sunsets, ocean, mood, experience

 

Relax and chill

If you think Dominican beaches are just a place for those who love tranquility, here’s a little bit of news from the Dominican Republic – you can get into many adventures on the beach. In Sosua, besides sunbathing, drinking sweet cocktails (base on rum, of course) and tapping your feet in hot bachata and merengue rhythms, you can also take the active role of looking for a soulmate (or a card player) on the beach. What happens if you’ve had too many cocktails and enter the jacuzzi without bathing the others? Or if you invite anyone to a dance under a palm tree? The Atlantic Ocean offers not only snorkeling and swimming but also adventurous water sports such as diving and all sorts of surfing.

As I mentioned the ocean, the shore and the beach, the shallows and the reefs with thousands of colorful fish are not everything. If you get on a small motorboat and travel 20-30 minutes from Punta Russia, you reach a divine creation. It stands like this – in the middle of the ocean. A pile of sand, brave enough to stand in the middle of the mighty water cosmos, in the center of nowhere. A small sandy island (unpretentiously called “Paradise Island”) that calls all seekers of solitude. The boat leaves us with a small group of people. We can not believe how everyone will have their own ten-square-meters of sparkling sand with a view of the distance and the harsh mountains of Hispaniola. After setting up fresh coconut, everyone marks and seizes their piece of tranquility. We are sitting on the first and only row towards Dominican’s best views. Good luck to the boatman, who will have to take us (the addicted) back from paradise into reality.

 

Adventure

Boring, says the adventurer in me. I send her to immediately immerse herself in the crystal waters around the island, to enjoy the excitement of spotting various fish, generously fed by other divers. And if she is a real adventurer, only 5 meters farther from the shallow, you can suddenly fall into the underwater abyss. The place where the reckless sand ends its attempt to rise above the water. Where the wild jungle of the real ocean depths and their fearsome and fearless inhabitants began. Good luck, adventurer, and take the big bottle of oxygen! You will not want to get out of this underwater kingdom!

Dominican Republic, views, beaches, waterfalls, sunsets, ocean, mood, experience

 

When I think about transportation, I can’t help but mention a few extreme modes of transport on the island. For the motorboat, I still have the mixed feelings. While we were winding through the sharp turns of mangrove forests in the water, the adventurers were fascinated by all the animals in the green corridors. The connoisseurs of tranquility were split between shouting and asking the captain to be careful, and the joy of adrenaline rising with each turn at a frenzied speed. The first were filming videos that everyone would envy. The second were baptized and thanked God when we left the water tunnels of trees and bushes.

Dominican Republic, views, beaches, waterfalls, sunsets, ocean, mood, experience

 

The people

Let’s move to the interior lands of Dominican Republic, let’s take a ride with direction Santiago. Dirt roads, a large and dusty off-road truck, endless fields with pineapples alternating with small villages. Each pebble under the tires shakes you, each turn opens a new view. The children in the village run after the truck and chat with its passengers in Spanish and English. The adrenaline junkies find it extremely enjoyable to shake, to throw and catch candies on the move. The calmness is thanks only to Cuba Libre (rum with coke) or Cuba Santos (rum with sprite). They soothe the pulse and make you look with a blurred, happy eye to landscapes and children smiles. Bienvenidos! Welcome to the Dominican Republic!

Where did the truck drop us? Where nature proves it can create masterpieces outside the water too. Deep inland, where the beautiful 27 waterfalls of Damajaguas are. A system of cascades that only experienced hands of several guides can help you climb. The adventurers climb a bit freezing by the cold water, with some scratches, but shining. Their artistic return is a spectacular jump from the last waterfall to a small natural pool. And do you know who expects them on a stone chair with a camera in their hand while enjoying the choir of birds, the forest, and the waterfalls?

Dominican Republic, views, beaches, waterfalls, sunsets, ocean, mood, experience

 

The night

The day is gone. The night brings culinary delights – gifts from the earth and the sea. Whether you will taste the rum in peace or you will go into crazy dances to complete exhaustion – that’s up to which of the two halves in you will prevail. The Dominican Republic is there to send you with presents for the senses – a beautiful sunset, some breeze, harmony of aromas, rhythms with a lot of history, taste from here and there, a sense of complete happiness.

Dominican Republic, views, beaches, waterfalls, sunsets, ocean, mood, experience

 

Many memories, many reflections, many dreams. It will probably turn out that the Dominican Republic provokes the third personality in people. It provokes not only the adventurer and the connoisseur of tranquility. The country also fuels the philosopher in you. Is the philosopher relaxing with a cup of coffee and a cigar after an adrenaline or a peaceful day? Will the philosopher conclude that the Dominican Republic offers everyone a rich palette of vibes and experiences?

 

The Dominican provokes happiness in us. We believe this is one of the best places in the world to be happy. We even followed a local lady who told us about her life and how the Dominicans appreciated the moment. And what more do we need to be happy?

 

Have you been to the Dominican Republic? What type of traveler did it invoke in you? Which places would you recommend?

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