Top Things to See and Do in Egypt

Top Things to See and Do in Egypt
By: Neha Singh (Contributing Writer)
Editor: Katy Terroz

History and adventure lovers have long been drawn to Egypt as the place of ancient pharaohs, interesting historical heritage, tombs, and pyramids. However, Egypt has so much to offer other than the obvious places of interest and archeological wonders that suit travelers of all types; it offers wondrous cities and coastlines laced with stellar sandy beaches and a vibrant buzz that will leave you enthralled. This article will introduce you to the top things to see and do for all those planning a vacation to Egypt.

Pyramid of Giza and Sphinx
One of the popular things to do in Egypt is to visit the majestic Pyramid of Giza and the Sphinx. The attractions in Egypt are synonymous with the identity of the country, which is why most tour packages in Egypt include the chance for visitors to see these marvellous historic landmarks.

These centuries-old archeological wonders are located in the Giza Pyramid Complex which also features other temples, tombs, burial sites, and remnants of village settlements of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. These monumental structures have withstood the test of time and will definitely get you awestruck at their colossal splendor.


The Nile River
Cruises on the Nile River are a great way to see Egypt if you are not keen on camel/horse rides or desert settings. Nile River meanders through Egypt, offering a unique opportunity to experience the Egyptian landscape through a unique perspective.

Several cruise liners operate on the river, so you can find the experience that meets your budget and interests. Cruise liners operate mostly between Luxor and Aswan. With a luxury cruise experience on the Nile, you can spend a couple of days onboard a ship that provides spacious cabins, an amazing cuisine as well as spectacular leisure and recreation opportunities.

Cairo Town
While most people think Egypt is filled with ancient ruins and deserts, they are rather surprised to discover the world of modern culture mixed with a traditional Egyptian flair. Cairo is the ideal destination to explore some of these fascinating experiences. Begin with some wholesome Egyptian breakfast or grab some delicious lunch while exploring Cairo. Khushari is a filling traditional meal to try if you feel hungry during your Cairo city tour.

The food scene in Egypt is amazing and the palette is teemed with legumes and non-vegetarian choices.  Several traditional goods and cultural cuisine await you at Khan El Khali – an Egyptian bazaar. Cairo is also rich with some of the most charming ottoman-era architectures and centuries-old structures that are amazing to view.

Egypt plans new capital city covering 700 square kilometres
SOURCE: dezeen.com

Sharm El Sheikh
Sharm El Sheikh is a dynamic coastal township nestled between the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula, offering the best of Egyptian luxury and laid-back leisure. The sweeping sea views and stunning coastline make this place one of Egypt’s best beach destinations. Places like Naama Bay and Shark Bay are amazing havens for sun-soaked relaxation or a soothing dip in clear waters.

Sharm El Sheikh provides a totally different ambience from the usual idea Egypt conjures up. It is a clear indication that Egypt is much more than its archaeological attractions and ancient wonders. It is also an ideal place for scuba diving and snorkelling as the surrounding waters are teeming with spectacular marine life.

SOURCE: aec.afdb.org

Alexandria
Most globetrotters overlook the fact that Egypt is bordered by the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea which both along with the Nile River gives this destination a dramatic topography. Alexandria is one such destination that anyone travelling to Egypt should add to their travel itinerary. Perched on the north of Egypt, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Alexandria is a fascinating port city that fuses Egyptian cultural essence with a refreshing natural panorama.

The city is steeped in historical fables and its remnants can be seen throughout the city. The extensive sea views offer a haven for serene sunset views and is a spectacular place to simply unwind at any of the beach shore cafes and seafront restaurants. Don’t miss a trip to Alexandria Souk for an amazing shopping experience.

Hurghada
Located along the Red Sea, Hurghada is another charming seaside town popular among tourists and residents alike. Come and experience life on the beaches of Hurghada; Egypt’s best white-sandy beaches located next to the most relaxing hotels and resorts along the Red Sea coastline.  You can also enjoy a refreshing swim in the waters, or even explore the underwater world if you are an extreme adventurer.

A boat ride to The Giftun Island is one of the popular tours to enjoy on a trip to Hurghada. Aside from being a premier snorkelling destination, Hurghada is also an excellent spot to experience some exhilarating water sports.

White Desert National Park
Located in northwestern Egypt, the White Desert National Park is a stunning landscape of chalky white rock formations scattered on the golden desert landscape. This national park also goes by the name Sahara el Beyda and extends across over 116 square miles.

 The White Desert is a part of the Farafra depression which was formed by the reaction of calcium, quartz, and limestone with the forces of nature, resulting in this textured, unique landscape. This park is not just famous for the unique white sands and rock formations of the Sahara Desert, but it also protects a wide range of animal wildlife and makes a great wildlife viewing experience.

Fayoum Oasis
One of hidden gems of Egypt is this lush stretch of land situated south of Cairo. Within a vast desert expanse, Fayoum oasis boasts abundant vegetation and stunning waterfalls. The serene setting is often a refuge for Cairo dwellers escaping from the bustling city life.

The contrast of sand dunes and rock formations with the desert’s wilderness and water cascading down jagged cliffs and glistening on the still waters of a tranquil lake create an ambiance of relaxation for all who visit. The Fayoum Oasis is also home to an UNESCO World Heritage site – The Valley of Whales which comprises fossils of marine animals and wildlife.

Al Fayoum Oasis, Egypt | Lake Qarun | Qasr Qarun | Wadi El Rayan
SOURCE: khufuegypttours.com

Conclusion
If you do not know much about Egypt, you probably know it to be the land of mummies, pyramids, and pharaohs. However, if you dig deeper, you will find that Egypt has much more to offer than archeological relics and vast deserts. The Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the meandering Nile River all contribute to giving Egypt a relaxing and refreshing ambience. The beaches of Egypt are some of the best to visit on the African continent. The coastal ambience along with the desert landscape, archaeological ruins, delicious cuisine, bustling traditional and modern cities all complement each other to present a varied combination of experiences while visiting Egypt.  

7 Top Reasons to Visit Malta

7 Top Reasons to Visit Malta

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Malta is a beautiful archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea located between Sicily and the North African coast. The country is of the world’s smallest with an area of 316 km2 and a population of around 500,000 people. An interesting fact about Malta is that most of its people can actually speak fluently 3 languages: Maltese, English, and Italian. This is due to the fact that Malta was occupied by so many nations.

Despite Malta being slightly isolated, there is proof to suggest that civilizations have been residing in Malta since the early Neolithic period (5000 BC). Malta is a beautiful place to discover and here are seven top reasons why you should visit the country!

The Great Weather

With 300 days of sunshine, the sunny and warm weather of Malta is one of the good reasons that drive many tourists to visit. The daily average of sunshine is 12 hours in summer and around 5 to 6 hours in winter. Malta is an all-year-round holiday destination; the winter season is mildly cold, and the summer season is perfectly sunny.

Its Beaches

Malta is blessed with gorgeous cyan blue beaches with the best ones situated along the Northern and Western shorelines. Malta’s beaches are known to be extremely clean and of great water quality. The top beaches to visit are Mellieha Bay (the island’s biggest beach), Dwejra Bay (located in Gozo and with natural pools), Ġnejna Bay (a more peaceful beach), Golden Bay (seen below), Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, and the dreamy Blue Lagoon.

Its Islands

While in Malta, you can have the chance to do “Island Hopping”. This Maltese archipelago is made of three main islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. You can easily reach from Malta to Gozo and Comino by a ferry which takes 25-minutes for both and costs around 5 euros (subject to change).

Malta is the largest island and the commercial, cultural, and administrative centre. Gozo is the second-largest island and is usually more rural and is famous for its crafts, fishing, and agriculture. Comino is the smallest and largely less inhabited than the other islands with only one hotel available. Comino is also the location of the famous Blue Lagoon where you’ll find stunning azure water and perfect for a refreshing dip.

The Unique Cuisine

The Maltese cuisine reflects its history where many different influences like Spanish, French, Italian, British and other Mediterranean cuisines are present in the dishes. This makes Maltese food incredibly unique.

The food that you must try while in Malta are the traditional Rabbit stew (Stuffat Tal-Fenek), the local Gbejniet (Maltese Cheese), Aljotta (Fish Soup), Zalzett Tal-Malti (Maltese sausage), the traditional pastizzi (savoury pastry), Ftira Ghawdxija (Gozitan Pizza), and Timpana (baked macaroni). As for desserts try the Imqaret (Fried Date Pastry).

Its Affordability

Malta is a great place to visit on a budget. It is affordable because the prices in Malta are usually 20 percent less than they are in mainland Europe. This percentage includes food, hotels, transportation, cruises, water activities and even the flights to Malta itself.

The Rich History

Malta is blessed with 7,000 years of rich and amazing history which you will notice during your trip. There is a large number historic artefacts, monuments, architecture, and ruins to check out while exploring. This archipelago has been ruled by many nations including the Normans, the Arabs, the Aragonese, the Carthaginians, the Phoenicians, and the Romans. What is fascinating is that the oldest megalithic temples in the world are located in Malta, where they are actually older than Stonehenge (a historic landmark in England).

The best historic sites to check in Malta are Mdina, which is an architectural landmark dating back to 4,000 years ago and the Saluting Battery located in Valletta. Also, make sure to check St Paul’s Catacombs, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum (prehistoric underground burial chamber), Rotunda of Mosta, Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary, and St John’s Co-Cathedral. Some of the history-rich villages to check out are Ta’ Qali Crafts Village, Sliema, and Popeye Village.

Its Small Size

Malta’s small size makes it easier to explore and discover as there is less area to cover making it faster to reach any destination you want. Even going to the islands can take less than 30 mins. For those staying a while then you should be able to discover all the main attractions in less than 10 days.

Malta used to have a railway and a tramway in the past but not anymore. Despite the fact, Malta is still well connected; you can get around Malta by public transport which is usually by bus or taxi. There are about 80 routes on the Maltese islands, running daily from 5:30 a.m. to 23:00 p.m.

Summary:

Malta is a great place to visit when you are on a budget and dying to go for a vacation on an island. Not only is it cheap, but it is also a dream destination for beach and sun lovers. What makes it a unique destination is that despite its size, this place does not fail to shock with its many monuments, artefacts and rich history. When in Malta you will not only get the chance to discover its history but also enjoy its delicious food, friendly people, rich culture, beautiful beaches, and charming islands.

The Island of Capri

The Island of Capri

Capri is definitely a dream destination that I had the pleasure visiting and exploring during the warm month of August. In this post, I will share my Capri experience along with the top-recommended places and activities to do there.

The Island of Capri is located in the Gulf of Naples off the southern coast of Italy, just a few miles from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. The island is 10.4 square kilometers in land area.

1. Reaching Capri

The only way to reach Capri is by sea. If you are coming from Rome, you need to take a train to Naples and Sorrento (usually takes 1 hour on the fast train) where ferries depart from. During the summer months, there are also ferry routes from Positano, Ischia, and Salerno. For most of the year, vehicles are prohibited from embarking on the island, with the exception of residents and taxis.

The island is divided into two municipalities: Capri and Anacapri. The center of Capri town is about 150 meters above sea level while Anacapri is at a higher altitute. There are also two villages directly on the coast: Marina Grande (where the port is located) and Marina Piccola.

2. Getting around

During my trip, I decided to rent a moped (70 euros for 2 days) which made it easier to reach wherever I wanted. Moreover, there are frequent buses or taxis that you can use in case you decide not to rent a moped. Taxis can cost around 25- 30 euros from Marina Grande to Anacapri.

The bus routes are:

  • Capri – Anacapri
  • Capri – Marina Piccola
  • Capri – San Costanzo (Marina Grande)
  • Anacapri – Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto)
  • Anacapri – Faro (Lighthouse)

3. Activities

  • The Blue Grotto (Grotto Azzurra):

It is a sea cave on the coast of the island of Capri. You can swim inside the grotto and discover the magic; the light passing through the underwater cavity creates a charming baby-blue reflection that illuminates the cave.

Above the grotto, their is a cute bar (and the only bar) where you can leave your things and go swimming. Having drinks at this place is recommended as it is lays high on the cliff with a breathtaking view.

Blue Grotto Bar
  • Chair lift of Monte Solaro

Monte Solaro is the highest point on Capri. The lift is in Via Caposcuro in Anacapri, near Piazza Vittoria.

On the lift, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the splendid views of the Gulf of Naples with Vesuvius , the Gulf of Salerno, and Anacapri in the background.

  • Villa San Michele

This Villa is the life’s work of the Swedish physician and author Axel Munthe (1857–1949). It is surrounded by an impressive garden, which recently won the prize as Italy’s most beautiful private park. Behind it is the Barbarossa mountain that Axel Munthe turned into a sanctuary for migratory birds.

Villa San Michele houses an important art collection. The majority is of Roman, Etruscan or Egyptian origin, many are sculptures such as the fabled 3200-year-old sphinx.

  • Gardens of Augustus

If you are looking for a shortcut to enjoy Capri’s views but don’t have time to hike, then the Gardens of Augustus can solve this problem. From there you can spot the famous attractions like the Marina Piccola, Via Krupp and Faraglioni. The gardens are beautifully terraced, romantic and multileveled.

Entrance to the Gardens of Augustus will cost just 1 euro and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. from March till November.

  • Marina Grande
Marina Grande

Marina Grande is the first thing you see when you arrive to Capri by sea and is one of the most interconnected areas on the island. This town is a charming one with vast green surroundings and scenic landscapes all around. You can spend time discovering this town by walking around, having some lunch or dinner and enjoying the gorgeous beaches there.

  • Marina Piccola

If you are looking for a less busy town and relaxing location, then Marina Piccola is the place to be. You can have a relaxing beach day while sipping drinks at the beach or enjoying a nice cup of coffee from the many cafe’s and restaurants around. Marina Piccola also a offers a great view of Faraglioni and houses the popular Siren’s rock.

  • Piazza Umberto

The Piazza Umberto is also known as La Piazzetta and is one of the main centers of Capri. This place seems to always be busy in summer and is great for a nice stroll around, shopping, and having drinks.

4. Food!!

These are my restaurants suggestions:

  • Materita
  • L’ Angolo del Gusto
  • Ristorante e Pizzeria Verginiello
  • La Rosticceria Capri Pasta
  • Gelato at Buonocore

Summary:

Italy is blessed with great food, landscapes, history, architecture and beauty. It also houses a great deal of dreamy island getaways just like Capri. Capri is definitely the place to be if you are looking for a place to have a relaxing and dreamy vacation where you can enjoy a night at a beach-view hotel, delicious sea food, jaw-dropping sceneries, along with a relaxing beach day filled with sunshine and happiness.

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Beautiful Cities to Visit in Italy

Beautiful Cities to Visit in Italy

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Whenever you think about a dreamy and romantic destination, Italy always seems to pop up in the suggestions. This is because Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Not only is Italy beautiful but it is home to the most delicious cuisine, famous art, great culture, trendy fashion, and timeless historical monuments.

Italy is visited by millions of tourists every year and is one of the most visited countries in the world. The Bank of Italy estimated that tourism in Italy produces directly more than 5% of the GDP (Italian link). Moreover, Italy encompasses 55 World Heritage Sites making it higher than any other country in the world. If you are planning to visit Italy soon, make sure to visit these amazing cities below. Here are some of the beautiful cities to visit in Italy.

Rome

Rome is a city that everyone should visit once in their lifetime. This city is in itself a museum; walking around Rome is enough to take you back in time and give you this great overwhelming feeling. In Rome, you will casually see the huge Colosseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, and the Roman forum, just by taking a stroll. Most of the famous landmarks are close to each other where you can discover each one on foot or by taking a tram.

While in Rome, visit some of the famous squares such as Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, St.Peter’s Square, and Piazza di Spagna (Spanish steps). Also be sure to visit the pretty Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Piazza Navona fountain), Arch of Constantine (near the Colosseum), Altar of the Fatherland (Piazza Venezia), Castle Saint Angelo and the Palatine Hill.

Rome has over 900 churches, with a few of the most remarkable ones including Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in Laterano, Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica. Do not forget to finish your day with a delicious Italian dinner and gelato anywhere in the city.

@katy.terroz

Matera

In Matera, it is all about caves; you can eat, sleep, shower, and drink in a cave. This place is extremely beautiful and has incredibly unique landscapes that makes it a special destination in Italy or even in the world. The history of Matera is crazy because this place was thought of in the past as the place of poverty, diseases where its people resided in these caves without sources of water, or electricity. Matera is a source of pride for Italy as it is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts a great number of tourists each year.

The first thing to do in Matera is to discover it on foot and enjoy its unique and mesmerizing structures and hidden alleys where houses and churches are carved in stone and located in caves. Some of the historical things to see are the Palombaro Lungo, Duomo of Matera, Santa Maria de Idris Church, and Madonna delle Virtù. Make sure to check out the amazing Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario (cave house) and the Matera Museum of Contemporary Sculpture.

Matera is also known for its great hike to Parco della Murgia. The hike is very scenic and adventurous as you have to cross bridges and climb up some rocks. The view at the top is priceless; luscious greenery and mouth-dropping bird’s eye view of Matera.

Matera at sunrise
Photo 46630474 © minnystock | Dreamstime.com

Palermo

Palermo is the capital of the island of Sicily and was known as the “Kingdom of the Sun”. Sicily is actually the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Palermo is a warm and gorgeous island surrounded by a green mountain range. In Palermo, you can have a fantastic beach experience (Mondello Beach) where you can enjoy several water activities like Parasailing. Also, make sure to check the churches and chapels of Palermo, such as Palermo Cathedral, Capella Palatina, Martorana (Cathedral of St. Mary of the Admiral) and San Giovanni degli Eremiti.

The largest Opera House in Italy is actually located in Palermo and is known as Teatro Massimo. Sicily is also known for its delicious and cheap fresh food and markets; so, while there make sure to visit the markets of Ballaro, Cap and Vucciria which are located in the centre. Other things to look out for are the Palermo Archaeological Museum, Fontana Pretoria and the Capuchin Abbey and Catacombs. 

Palermo Cathedral exterior
Photo 24914602 © Ionut David | Dreamstime.com

Florence

Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region and is known to be home to several famous masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. When in Florence, have a walk and check out the following squares:  Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza Santo Spirito, Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria. Make sure to visit the gorgeous churches and cathedrals such as Florence Cathedral, Basilica of Santa Croce, Baptistery of St. John, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the church of Santa Maria Novella.

Florence is home to many famous pieces of art and museums. So, do not forget to visit the Da Vinci Museum, Galileo Museum, National Museum of Bargello, Archaeological National Museum, Casa di Dante Museum, and the dreamy Boboli Gardens.

It’s also worth noting a popular Florentine and Tuscan dish to try which is “Pappardelle Al Ragù Di Cinghiale”, a pasta dish with sauce and wild boar meat.

Florence skyline at sunset
Photo 44736988 © Rudi1976 | Dreamstime.com

Bergamo

Bergamo is a charming city located northeast of Milan, in the region of Lombardy known for its historic Venetian walls. While in Bergamo, hop on the old funicular to the old town (Citta Alta seen below) and stop to discover the beautiful squares of Piazza Matteotti, Via XX Settembre, and Piazza Vecchia.

Bergamo is known for its beautiful churches and cathedrals so make sure to visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Colleoni Chapel, San Michele al Pozzo Bianco, the Baptistery of St. Mary Major and the Cathedral of Sant’Alessandro. Other things to watch out for are the Museo di Scienze Naturali e Archeologico, Rocca Museum and Museo Donizettiano.

From Bergamo, you can enjoy a trip to the famous San Pellegrino Terme (Bergamo Alps), known for the production of the natural San Pellegrino sparkling water.

Citta Alta, Bergamo
Photo 137877493 © Krajinar | Dreamstime.com

Catania

Catania is also located in Sicily and is an archaic port city on the east coast. Catania is located at the base of Mount Etna which is an active volcano. There are actually guided tours to Etna where you go to the foot of the volcano and discover the area around and end the day with a sunset over the Volcano.

Catania has some amazing squares that you must check out on your walks, including Piazza del Duomo where you can find the city’s symbol: The Elephant’s Fountain, and Piazza dell’Universita where you can find Palazzo dell’Universita and the Palazzo San Giuliano. Behind the elephant fountain, you can find the great Catania Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Agatha.

There is a street (Via Crociferi) in Catania dubbed “the Church Street” since you can find several famous churches along it. Other things to visit include Villa Bellini, Catania Roman Theatre, Ursino Castle, Museum of Contemporary Art of Sicily, and the Catania Museum of Cinema.

St Agatha Cathedral of Catania, Sicily
Photo 77533511 © Evgeniy Fesenko | Dreamstime.com

Venice

When you hear the word Venice, you may immediately think about the gorgeous canals, colourful facades, beautiful architecture, and dreamy gondola rides. Venice is indeed a fairytale place to be as it is a small and compact city that has it all. When in Venice, visit the famous landmarks like San Marco Campanile (the tallest structure in Venice), St. Mark’s Square, Gallerie dell’Accademia, and Doges Palace. Make sure to take a boat or gondola ride along the beautiful Grand Canal and discover Venice from the waters.

Also, visit the town of Murano (island town) where many famous sights like the Basilica of Saint Mary and Saint Donatus, and the Palazzo Da Mula are located. Do not forget to check the churches of St. Mark, Santa Maria Assunta, and Santa Maria della Salute. Also nearby is the picturesque Burano which is just a little bit further than Murano and easily accessible through water taxi or a tour.

Venice Night

Parma

Parma is a university-city located in the Emilia-Romagna region, famous for the delicious and vastly used Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. So, if you are all about cheese and ham, Parma is the place to be. You can visit the “Parmigiano Reggiano Factories” and take a tour to uncover the elaborate art behind the Parmesan cheese making. During the tour, you will see how the cheese is made and stored, followed by a cheese and local wine tasting.

Other “un-cheesy” things to do in Parma are several. Visit the Piazza del Duomo where you can find the Parma cathedral, and the Baptistery (1196 by Benedetto Antelami). Other churches to visit are St. John the Evangelist Church, the Shrine of Santa Maria della Steccata, Santa Croce, and the Baroque church of Santissima Annunziata.

A few other highlights include Teatro Farnese, Teatro Regio (Royal Theater), Palazzo della Pilotta, the National Gallery, Parco Ducale (the Ducal Palace), and Castello dei Burattini.

Piazza Duomo in Parma
Photo 71635093 © Sergey Dzyuba | Dreamstime.com

Cagliari

Cagliari is the capital of the beautiful island region of Sardinia. Cagliari is actually called “Casteddu” in Sardinian language, translated to mean castle. Sardinia is a dream destination due to its cyan crystal-clear waters, amazing nature, and great warm weather. While in Cagliari, take a stroll in the historical medieval center including Villanova, Castello, Stampace, and Marina. In the center, you will get to indulge in the beautiful scenes of churches, domes, palaces, and towers.

Later, visit the great churches located in Cagliari; Nostra Signora di Bonaria Basilica, the Santa Maria Cathedral (Cagliari Cathedral) where you can find the crypt which stands as one of the most fascinating places to see in the center. Also, make sure to visit the Roman Amphitheater of Cagliari, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Palazzo Viceregio, the Monumental Cemetery of Bonaria, and Palazzo Civico. You can also enjoy a beach day at the Poetto beach followed by a wildlife hike in Parco di Molentargius, which is situated next to the Poetta beach.

Cagliari in Sardinia
Photo 961304 © Noel Marc | Dreamstime.com

Summary:

Italy is a great place to be in any season or time. It is blessed with everything from beauty, nature, landscapes, history, weather, culture, cuisine, and great architecture; it is a place for everyone. The cities mentioned are wonderful escapes; home to the most delicious food, most famous artists and architects, historic landmarks that stood time, endless beaches, great activities, and gorgeous natural landscapes. These will make any trip a “great vacation”.

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10 Top Things to See and Do in Monaco

10 Top Things to See and Do in Monaco

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican and the most densely populated; with an area of 2.02 sq. km and a population of just over 38,900 (2019). What is even more interesting is that more than 30% of Monaco’s population are millionaires! Monaco is a gorgeous place nestled on the French Riviera blessed with natural beauty, great weather, gorgeous beaches, lush mountains, palm trees and beautiful architecture.

Although really small, there are some great things to see and do in this tiny country! Here are 10 recommendations on the top things to see and do when visiting Monaco.

Palais du Prince

The prince’s palace in Monaco is the official house of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco which was constructed in 1191 as a fortress and is located high above Monaco. You can enter and tour the palace when the prince is not there. You can usually tell if he is there by the flag in the major tower which is raised to indicate that the prince is there.

Some of the things to check out while at the palace includes the Italianate style gallery, the Blue Room, the Throne Room, and the Palatine Chapel. At the palace, you can also see the daily changing of the guards taking place at 11.55 am.

Monaco Palace
Photo 79180537 © Ryhor Bruyeu | Dreamstime.com

Jardin Exotique

Jardin Exotique is a beautiful Mediterranean botanical garden that opened in 1933 and covers 3 acres. This garden is situated on a cliffside located in Fontvieille with great views overlooking the ocean.

This tropical garden is incredibly unique as it has over 7,000 species of plants. The garden is filled with luscious green exotic trees, cacti, succulents, flowers where you can even find an assortment of plants from Africa and Latin America.

Jardin Exotique in Monaco
Photo 206098389 / Jardin Exotique Monaco © Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

Opéra de Monte-Carlo (Salle Garnier)

Something you must check out are the shows at the Opéra of Monte-Carlo which is an opera house that is part of the Monte-Carlo Casino. It was constructed in 1878 and portrays a grand scene where the performance area is wrapped with vibrant red and gold decorations, beautiful frescoes, and sculptures.
So, if you feel like catching a great opera show, a musical concert, or a spectacular ballet, then make sure to visit this fantastic opera house.

Opera de Monte-Carlo
Photo 33601387 / Monaco © Lucian Milasan | Dreamstime.com

Fort Antoine

Fort Antoine is an outdoor theatre that used to be a military fortification (fortress). It was constructed in the 18th-century and got demolished in 1944 later to be rebuilt in 1953.

Now, Fort Antoine is a go-to “under the stars” theatre that offers plays, concerts, films, special performances, and shows during the summer months.

Fort Antoine in Monaco
Photo 216800495 / Fort Antoine © Michel Peres | Dreamstime.com

Moneghetti District

The Moneghetti District is one of the richest districts in Monaco and famous for its luxurious villas, perfectly shaped gardens, and gorgeous terraces. The walk leading to the district is a great venture by itself as the roads cut into the cliffside; so be careful if you have vertigo.

In the Moneghetti district, you will also find “Parc Princesse Antoinette” which is famous for its 100 years old olive trees and its miniature golf course.

Musée Oceanographique

Musée Oceanographique is an oceanographic museum and a public aquarium with neo-baroque style located in Monaco. It first opened in 1910 and is situated on the side of an 85 m tall cliff.

The museum is unique for its collections of more than 350 species of marine life and wildlife creatures from seahorses, jellyfish, starfish, turtles, sharks, rays etc. The museum also houses a great exhibition of marine-related pieces like animal skeletons, model ships, weapons, and items made from mollusks, pearls, and shells.

Display at Oceanographic Museum in Monaco
Photo 206096781 © Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

Larvotto Beach

Larvotto Beach is the only public beach in Monaco and is actually a man-made beach! It was built following World War II and is now a must-visit location with clear waters, a volleyball court & a scenic seafront.

After a long day discovering Monaco, head to Larvotta beach the next day and enjoy a relaxing beach day. You can find many nice bars and restaurants where you can have refreshing drinks and delicious dishes.

A view of the beach in Monaco
Photo 43320360 / Monaco © Aleksandar Todorovic | Dreamstime.com

Monaco-Ville (Le Rocher)

Monaco-Ville known as Le Rocher (the rock) is the oldest district in Monaco standing high on a 62-meter cliff, where the residence palace of the ruling Grimaldi family is located. You can reach Monaco-Ville in two ways; an elevator or by walking up several ramps and stairs.

The way up to Monaco-Ville is filled with beautiful scenes and dazzling views. Make sure to wander along the roads and alleys of Monaco-Ville where you can find vibrant and colourful buildings and architecture from orange, pink and yellow. You can also find several restaurants and amazing bars with great lively vibes.

View from Le Rocher
Photo 121364757 © Sphraner | Dreamstime.com

Monte Carlo Cathedral

The Monte Carlo cathedral, also known as “Saint Nicholas”, is the main church in Monaco located in the old town. Its construction started in 1875 and got finalized in 1911. The church is incredibly beautiful with Roman/Byzantine style; a splendid high altar and the Episcopal throne made from white marble.

The church has two organs where on feast days and during religious events, you can listen to the brilliant and peaceful music made by the organs. Some worth-checking paintings found inside in the church are paintings by Ludovico Brea (1500) and François Brea (1500-1505).

The outside of Monte Carlo Cathedral
Photo 82293593 / Monaco © Pigprox | Dreamstime.com

Monte-Carlo Casino

Monte-Carlo Casino goes back over 150 years when it was opened in 1863. It is one the most famous casinos in the world where movies like Iron Man 2 and Golden Eye had scenes shot. This casino is beautiful and very luxurious and certain clothing is required to visit; such as no sports shoes, shorts, or flip flops. One crazy fact is that Monaco’s own citizens are forbidden to gamble or enter the casino’s gaming rooms.

If you are looking to do some gambling for fun and want to have the Monaco gambling experience, just put 5 euros in one of the slot machines and enjoy. If you win, you can collect the money right away!

Note: always take care in casinos to ensure you know your limits and don’t spend beyond your means.

Monte Carlo Casino at night
Photo 27280823 / Monaco © Kasto80 | Dreamstime.com

Summary:

Monaco is a magnificent tiny country overflowing with beautiful gardens, colourful buildings and architecture, as well as historical monuments, gorgeous beaches, gardens, and interesting museums that are definitely worth seeing. If you are looking for a straight-out-of-the-movies luxurious holiday, then Monaco should definitely be a top choice!

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10 Best and Most Beautiful Places to Visit in France

10 Best and Most Beautiful Places to Visit in France

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Almost 90 million people visited France in 2018 and it is one of the world’s most visited travel destinations. The Louvre which is located in Paris is also the most visited museum in the world with 9.6 million people paying a visit in 2019. These huge numbers can be expected given the amazing country that France is.

France has a very distinct landscape; from beautiful beaches on the southeast coast, lavish agricultural lands, gorgeous forests, towering archaic mountains and extinct volcanoes. It also has Europe’s tallest peak, Mont Blanc, standing at a massive 4,810m tall! If you are planning to visit France, then keep reading as we suggest 10 beautiful places you must visit.

1-Etretat

Étretat is a town on the north coast of France in the region of Normandy. It is known for its outstanding rock formations carved out in its white cliffs, including the Porte d’Aval arch and L’Aiguille, which is a pillar rising from the sea like a needle. The massive white cliffs of Etretat have encouraged many artists like Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet and should inspire you too.

While in Etretat, walk up to the top of the cliffs to have a bird’s eye view of the coast, caves, and the arches in their shining glory. While on top, visit the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde which is hovering high above the surrounding area. Also, explore the village centre which is small and can easily be navigated by walking. You must try the refreshing cider since it is a local specialty and enjoy the charming galleries, boutique shops, and the delicious food at the French restaurants.

Etretat coastal town in France

2-Nice

Founded by the Greeks and later a retreat for 19th-century European elite, Nice was named after the Greek goddess Nike. Nice has attracted many writers, composers and artists who got inspired by the unique views it offers. Nice is one of the best places to go in Europe for its museums, galleries, perfect climate, great cuisine, and beautiful coast.

When in Nice, check the huge 7 kilometres long Promenade des Anglais which stretches from the airport on the west to the Quai des États-Unis on the east. Also, visit the Vieille Ville, Nice Cathedral, Parc de la Colline du Château, Cours Saleya Market, and Parc Phoenix.

Beach in Nice France

3-Colmar

Colmar looks like a charming place out of a storybook and is an old town with cobblestone streets along with medieval and early Renaissance buildings in the Grand Est region of northeastern France. The town borders Germany and is on the Alsace Wine Route which has local vineyards that specialize in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines.

While in Colmar, visit the picturesque old town square, Place de la Cathédrale, Unterlinden museum, museum Musée du Jouet (Toy Museum), and Koïfhus (Ancienne Douane). Also, visit the beautiful churches like the Eglise des Dominicains, Eglise Saint Martin, and Saint Matthieu Church. Finally enjoy a stroll along these beautiful quartiers; Krutenau, Quartier des Tanneurs, and Quai de la Poissonnerie.

Colmar, France at sunset

4-Paris

Paris is a must-visit destination since it is the lavish and rich capital of France. A fun fact is that Paris was actually a Roman city called “Lutetia” in historic times. Paris now receives millions of tourists each year because of the incredible attractions on offer.

While in Paris be sure to visit the historic Louvre museum, the Tuileries gardens, the Sainte-Chapelle chapel, the Paris catacombs, Notre Dame cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, and of course the Eiffel Tower. If you have time then also have a little picnic along the Seine River followed by a stroll along the Champs-Elysees.

Me 🙂

5-Strasbourg

Strasbourg is the beautiful capital of the Alsace region in eastern France and holds the formal seat of the European Parliament. It is situated on the border with Germany which gives it its unique characteristics and Franco-German culture and architecture.

Strasbourg is crossed by the Ill river and is made up of numerous islands, where the most known is the Grande Île (“Large Island” in French). This has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. So, make sure to visit this unique island first and check the famous Strasbourg cathedral (cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg), which is a symbol of the city and the oldest Gothic cathedral in the world. Also, check the 4 medieval churches, St. Paul’s church and several palaces (Palais Rohan) from the 18th century which are located here.

Later, take a stroll in the famous Gutenberg, Kleber, and the Broglie Squares. Also, check The Petite France area, and witness the beauty of the covered bridges (“Les Ponts Couverts de Strasbourg”) and the Vauban Barrage (Vauban Dam).

Museums in Strasbourg are numerous, including the Strasbourg historical museum, the Alsatian museum, and the Zoological museum. If you come in Christmas you can enjoy the Strasbourg Christmas Market. Finally, another way to enjoy Strasbourg is by taking a boat tour on the canals or a bike tour.

Strasbourg in France at sunset

6-French Alpes

The Alps is a huge mountain range in Europe and spreads over 1,200 km across France and seven other countries. These include Slovenia, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, and Austria. The French Alps are the parts of the Alps mountain within France, located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions. The French alps is perfect for skiers and nature lovers and is surrounded by the most charming natural scenery in Europe, huge mountains, magical lakes, waterfalls, and magnificent forests.

While there, check the Chamonix Valley at the foot of Mont Blanc, Annecy, Vercors Regional Natural Park, Grenoble, Aix-les-Bains (internationally renowned spa town), Val d’Isère, Evian-les-Bain, and Megève. Also visit Val Thorens and Portes du Soleil Ski Area which are great for ski holidays and a perfect place to revel in the gorgeous Alpine scenery.

Views of the mountains of Tignes ski resort

7-Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is a gorgeous tidal island in Normandy visited by more than 3 million tourists each year. Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and many of its buildings are protected in France as historic monuments. The island will take you on a trip back to the Middle Ages where the whole island is a pedestrian zone with stone buildings dating back to the 13th – 15th centuries.

While there, visit the popular Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre, and La Chapelle-Saint-Aubert. The island is tiny so make sure to walk around its fairy tale streets and also visit La Grande Rue which is a street filled with cute little shops, charming cafés, and restaurants, as well as “Chemin des Remparts” (Ramparts Pathway) to enjoy the magical views.

Views towards Mont Saint Michel

8-Corsica

Corsica is the 4th largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Cyprus, Sicily, and Sardinia. It is located between the west coast of Italy and the north coast of Sardinia. Corsica was sold to France in 1768. Corsica has more than 200 beaches and also very mountainous terrain with its tallest peak being Monte Cinto (2,706m).

While in Corsica, you must enjoy a lovely beach day since this island is known for its clear turquoise waters and gorgeous sandy beaches. Some of the top beaches are Calvi, Bodri, Loto, Palombaggia and Santa Giulia.

A beach day would also be perfectly paired with a snorkelling adventure. Some of the recommended beaches for snorkeling are Roccapina, Rondinara, Loto, Palombaggia and Marinella. You must also check the charming hilltop villages like Pigna and Sant’ Antonino, which is the oldest village in Corsica. Get lost in the cobbled streets and alleys and enjoy the beautiful vibes of the island.

You can also enjoy a boat tour around the island and discover more villages; the pretty village of Girolata is solely accessible by sea or a narrow path down the hills.

Corsica beach in France

9-Versailles

When in Paris be sure to take a train to Versailles which is remarkably close; approx 20 km from the centre of Paris. Versailles is a city known for the Château de Versailles and the gardens of Versailles which are among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and must be on the top of your list to check out. Make sure to see the hall of mirrors and the Royal Chapel in the Château de Versailles.

Other things to see include Grand Trianon, the Versailles Royal Opera, the Versailles Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Versailles, and Petit Trianon park. Finally, enjoy a stroll around Versailles and enjoy its cute markets.

10-Provence

Provence is a region of France bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. It is famous for its varied landscapes, from the Southern Alps to rolling vineyards, olive groves, charming lavender fields, and wonderful pine forests. Provence is perfect to visit any time of the year as it is one of the sunniest regions in France and has approximately 300 days of sun a year.

While in Provence, check out the famous lavender fields at the Abbaye de Senanque, the Palais des Papes in Avignon, the Roman City of Nîmes and the famed white horses and cowboys of the Camargue.

Make sure to visit the Village of Gordes, the archaic town of Vaison-la-Romaine, the Mercantour National Park and the Vallee des Merveilles. Provence has some delicious wines too, so while in the region enjoy the delicious wine at the vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is a medieval village where the Château des Papes overlooks beautiful lavender fields.

Nearby the old Port of Marseille, which was since the 6th century BC one of the most ancient trading hubs in Europe. Provence also has a set of wonderful national parks. Such as the Parc National des Calanques and the Verdon regional park where the renowned river canyon (Verdon Gorge) runs for 25 km through the park.

Provence in France - Lavender Fields

Summary

France has so much to see and is one of the best all-year destinations in Europe. If you are looking for a charming and fairytale vacation, then France is the place to be. When in France, you can come and enjoy the wonderful scenery, the gorgeous snowy mountains, the crystal-clear beaches, the quaint villages, the interesting museums and artwork, and delicious food and wine.

Lebanon Road Trip Guide 2021: A 1-Week Itinerary Through All the Highlights

Lebanon Road Trip Guide 2021: A 1-Week Itinerary Through All the Highlights

With just an area of 10,452 square kilometers (4,036 sq mi), Lebanon is a country that you must visit. Lebanon is actually the oldest country name in the world, remaining unchanged for over 4,000 years. Recently, National Geographic declared it as one of the world’s oldest countries.

When you think of the middle east, you usually tend to imagine a desert. However, Lebanon is the only Arabian/Asian country that does not have a desert but actually has a huge seacoast from North to south, 16 rivers, 13 nature reserves, 28 protected forests, 17 natural sites, and even some islands. Lebanon is charming and would only take 1 week or even less to discover its beautiful places and popular locations! 

I will present a guide to a 1-week road trip in Lebanon.

  • Day 1: Beirut
  • Day 2: Jounieh / Jeita / Byblos
  • Day 3: Batroun / Chekka
  • Day 4: Anfeh / Tripoli 
  • Day 5:  Bcharré and the Qadisha Valley
  • Day 6: Baalbek / Aanjar
  • Day 7: Marjaayoun / Saida / Tyre

*This article was originally written for A World To Travel (www.aworldtotravel.com)

You can find the rest of the article here: https://www.aworldtotravel.com/lebanon-road-trip-itinerary/

7 Top Reasons to Visit Rome

7 Top Reasons to Visit Rome

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

By the early fourth century ancient Romans developed a road network of 53,000 miles where each Roman mile was about 4,800 feet and marked by a milestone. This gave birth to the saying “All roads lead to Rome”, and all roads must lead you to Rome for your next vacation! Rome is an all-in-one destination; filled with art, history, architecture, beauty, food, and sunshine. This makes Rome an all-year-round destination; it is always a good idea to visit Rome.

I love living in Rome because whenever I walk in its streets, I feel like I am taking a trip back in time; it is called the eternal city for a reason. Rome is a destination you must visit in your lifetime and is a destination that is perfect for your bucket list.

Here are 7 top reasons to visit Rome.

1. The beautiful weather

Rome is blessed with milder winters compared to the rest of Europe. Temperatures dropping below zero is exceedingly rare; the last time it snowed in Rome was February 2018 (at time of writing). This makes Rome a year-round destination, where you can pick any season and just come for a vacation. In summer, Rome is generously warm with beautiful weather and clear skies. Even in winter, Rome is great to visit as it looks gorgeous under the rain but is still warm enough and enjoyable to walk around the city. Another advantage is that in the winter months of December, January, and February the queues at the popular attractions and museums are at their shortest.

If you are looking to avoid the summer crowd and extreme heat, then early Spring or Autumn are great times to visit Rome. For me, September is my favourite time because the weather is still warm, the air is crisp, the tall trees start to turn into a lovely orange and the atmosphere becomes cosy and romantic.

Altar of the Fatherland in Rome
Photo 106147997 © Alkan2011 | Dreamstime.com

2. The food and aperitivo

Roman (Italian) food is the perfect example of “simplicity is key”. Italian food is prepared with few ingredients but sure makes a cuisine that is full of taste, flavour, and character. Italian cuisine focuses on fresh ingredients from local products which you can taste with every bite. The food is not only delicious but is also affordable where the average cost of food in Rome is €40 per day and the average meal in Rome should cost around €15 per person. This depends of course on your spending and eating habits. Breakfast items are generally a little cheaper than that of lunch or dinner.

Some of the best foods to try include supplì, fiori di zucca, fried baccalà, tagliere di salumi e formaggi, carciofi alla romana/ alla giudia, pizza al taglio, carbonara, cacio e pepe pasta, and trapizzino.

My favourite part of the day is the pre-dinner or Aperitivo (aperitif). The aperitif is an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink that is usually served with potato chips, nuts, olives, breads, and cheeses, or sometimes it comes in the form of an unlimited buffet. All this can add up to only 5-10 euros depending on the area. In the centre, the aperitivo is generally more expensive than the rest of the areas. The aperitif usually starts around 6.30 pm and lasts till 8 pm (prior to covid restrictions).You may also like:Delicious Food and Drinks to Try in Italy

3. The fresh desserts and pastries

Breakfast in Italy is usually a cappuccino and a pastry, which tends to vary by region. In Rome, delicious croissants (Cornetto) filled with Nutella or jam or even served plain are enjoyed alongside a cappuccino or regular coffee. I love to dip my cornetto in a warm cup of coffee; the taste is irresistible.

Some of the desserts you can find in Rome are the Maritozzo which is a sweet bread roll filled with whipped cream typical of the Lazio region where Rome is.

Other desserts are of course a good homemade gelato served all year long and found in almost every corner! You can always enjoy a gelato walking around on your sightseeing day. Other compelling desserts you can find in roman pastry and dessert shops include ricotta cannoli, tiramisu (which literally means pick me up), pastiera Napoletana, biscottis, and crostata ricotta e visciole.

gelato in Rome
Photo 152218056 © Diana Vyshniakova | Dreamstime.com

4. The art,culture,architecture,and history (the trip back in time)

Modern Rome has hundreds of fountains and more than 900 churches which makes the roman culture one of the richest cultural heritages in the world. Rome is the birthplace of one of the most important ancient civilizations and boasts a huge collection of artwork, galleries, museums, old villas, and palaces. Rome’s role in history has been so vital that UNESCO included its city centre in the World Heritage List. In its centre, you can find the well-kept ruins that date back to the Roman Empire, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill.

Rome is a piece of art by itself; you can see famous pieces of art (for free) in churches, on the streets and in the buildings. For example, the church of Santa Maria del Popolo is a remarkable site in Rome where it harbours a treasure trove of Baroque and Renaissance art. Not only does it have sculptures by Bernini, but also paintings and frescos by Caravaggio and Raphael. Another good example is the Contarelli Chapel in the Church of St. Louis of the French (San Luigi dei Francesi) and the Basilica Papale di San Pietro.

San Luigi dei Francesi is a small church that inside has the astonishing Contarelli Chapel. This chapel has an in-situ triptych about the life of St. Matthew by the Baroque master, Caravaggio. Moreover, walking down the streets of the Vatican, you can of course notice the Basilica Papale di San Pietro which is the most famous work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world. It was designed by Michelangelo, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Donato Bramante, and Carlo Maderno.

One amazing fact about Rome is that it is home to huge parks that still have ancient ruins. A park that I cherish most is the Parco degli Acquedotti  which exhibits the extraordinary aqueducts that still stand there to this day.

5. Its size

Despite Rome being one of the most popular cities in the world, it is not overly big. It is small enough that you can see most of its tourist attractions on foot in a day or two. For example, the popular Colosseum is 2 minutes away by foot from the Roman Forum, 6 minutes away from the Palatine Hill, 12 mins away from the Capitoline Museums and Piazza Venezia, and 25 mins away from the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Rome is also blessed with its connectedness as there are many timely metros and trains that can take you anywhere you want to go for a small price.

Roman Forum - Ruins
Photo 50918835 © Scaliger | Dreamstime.com

6. It’s fairly close to the beach

Rome is very central and close to many of Italy’s beautiful seacoasts and beaches. If you are in Rome during beach weather and would like to take a break from the crowd of the city, you can easily do a day trip to a beach, 1 to 2 hours away by train or car.

Some of my favorite beaches are Anzio, Santa Marinella, Santa Severa, Sperlonga, Fregence and Ostia Lido (30 mins away by metro). You can enjoy a day sitting at the many public and free beaches and then have lunch/dinner at the various restaurants and enjoy a sea view. Fried calamari and Spaghetti alle Vongole are my favourite summer dishes to eat along with a cold artisanal beer or a delicious Aperol Spritz cocktail.

Sperlonga Beach
Photo 84038228 © Shopartgallerycom | Dreamstime.com

7. It’s close to beautiful lakes

Not only is Rome close to charming beaches but it is also close to some gorgeous lakes. I always appreciate the lakes around Rome due to the lavish-green mountains and the quaint medieval towns surrounding them.

If you feel like surviving a hot day in Rome and having a dip in refreshing waters, consider heading to these lakes that are between 1 to 2 hours away from Rome: Lago di Turano (seen below), Lago di Bracciano, Lago Albano, Lago di Nemi, and Lago di Bolsena.

Lago di Turano
Photo 54026975 © Freesurf69 | Dreamstime.com

(Summary): Are you convinced?

Rome has it all, and if you have a solid plan you will get to enjoy all of these: art, architecture, culture, history, food, wine, endless gelato supply, beaches, lakes, charming towns, huge parks, museums, and some sunshine. Also, the good thing about Rome is that you can eat pizza and pasta with no guilt as you will be burning it while walking around the beautiful city!

I hope I have convinced you to start making a plan to head to Rome soon. I can list 100 reasons on why you should visit Rome but instead here are just 7 that are pretty convincing! Go ahead and give it a shot, you will thank me later!

Unique Day Trips From Rome: Part 1

Unique Day Trips From Rome: Part 1

*This article was originally written for travelmagazine.co (www.travelmagazine.co)

Rome is obviously a terrific place to be! Not only is Rome the eternal city with its breathtaking buildings and monuments, marvelous art, and legendary cuisine, but it is also central and close to many of Italy’s traveler gems.

Below I will present 5 unique and charming places that are less than 2 hours away from Rome. These sites are less touristy than the rest of the recommended places and so you will get the chance to have the authentic and local Italian experience!

1. Spoleto

Spoleto

Spoleto is a “hidden-gem” in Umbria, Italy surrounded by vast green hills and rich vineyards. It is 1.40 hours away from Rome. Walking around Spoleto’s narrow streets and enjoying its landscapes is enough to make you feel you are back in the Medieval Era. When in Spoleto, make sure to check the town’s popular attractions: Duomo di Spoleto (Spoleto Cathedral), Ponte delle Torri, Rocca Albornoziana (Castle of Spoleto), Teatro Romano di Spoleto, and Basilica of Sant’Eufemia.

If you have time, catch a movie at Sala Pegasus; a movie theatre/exhibit that was formerly the church of San Lorenzo. After, head to Piazza del Mercato and enjoy a great stroll around the piazza with a warm cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

2. Calcata Vecchia

Calcata Vecchia

Calcata is just 50 minutes away from Rome and is known as the town of witches. It is best recognized for being the home to a community of about 100 artists, bohemians, and aging hippies who started living in its abandoned houses and caves to live far from civilization and technology. The New York Times described it as what “may be the grooviest village in Italy”.

Calcata’s medieval architecture is well visible on the churches and the civic buildings. So, make sure to walk around and discover the artistic and vibrant houses surrounding this town. Also, check the Treja Valley Regional Park which lies in the surroundings of Calcata. The park is a protected natural area in Lazio, established by the regional law in 1982 and makes a great place for hiking and horse-riding.

3. Sperlonga

Touring Sperlonga

Sperlonga is the perfect summer getaway since in a way it looks like a little Greece. It is around 1.50 hours away from Rome. The waters are crystal clear, and the vibe is amazing. You can instantly feel that you are far from Rome and away from the stress of the city.

When you arrive, start your day on a public beach and enjoy the amazing sunshine and sceneries. Later, head to the many local restaurants and enjoy a delicious and fresh “spaghetti alle vongole” with a sea view.

4. Tivoli

Visiting Tivoli

Who knew that a 3 euro train ticket from Rome can take you to this little haven called Tivoli. Tivoli is a small town in Lazio(1.25 hours by train and 40 mins away by car from Rome).

Make sure to visit Villa d’Este, a 16th-century villa in Tivoli famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden and especially for its profusion of fountains. It is now an Italian state museum and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. This villa is one of the most beautiful villas I have visited yet.

Later, head to Via delle Cascatelle, a walkway surrounded by the amazing views of waterfalls that cascade in the northern part of Tivoli. Do not forget to check The Temple of Vesta, Villa Gregoriana, and Rocca Pia.

5. Bracciano

Bracciano

Bracciano is a small town in Lazio, only 50 minutes away from Rome. The town is famed for its volcanic lake, Lago di Bracciano. The lake is surrounded by beautiful medieval towns, lush green mountains and architecture.

The medieval Castello Orsini-Odescalchi palace in Bracciano is famous for hosting the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The lake is surrounded by cute aperitif places where you can have a drink with some delicious local food. You can also enjoy a lovely lunch or dinner inside the town away from the lake.

10 Best Places To Visit In Ukraine

10 Best Places To Visit In Ukraine

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Under visited and less touristy than other parts of Europe, Ukraine stands as one of the largest countries in Europe. Ukraine is a vibrant and beautiful country perched on the Black Sea, full of beaches, ancient castles, wild forests, stunning countryside, and a welcoming attitude from its friendly people.

Ukraine offers several gorgeous attractions for tourists including its traditional villages and colourful modern cities, many of which feature UNESCO World Heritage Sites and well-kept historical artefacts. Its capital, Kiev, features the gold-domed St. Sophia’s Cathedral, with 11th-century mosaics and paintings is a highlight. Moreover, huge festivals celebrating its rich culture and history of folk traditions and diverse cultural influences take place yearly. Ukraine is also a very budget-friendly travel destination. All this together makes Ukraine a special destination, despite its political problems.

Below are 10 places that will make you fall in love with this eastern European gem. Here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in Ukraine.

Lviv

Established in 1240 and named after Leo, the oldest son of the King of Ruthenia, Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine. This city is packed with monuments, galleries, and buildings with archaeological findings dating back to the 5th century.

Dubbed one of Ukraine’s most popular cultural cores, Lviv is home to some amazing operas, ballet performances, and art galleries, such as the Lviv National Art Gallery, home to over 60,000 works of art. In this city, you will discover all kinds of beautifully eccentric bars and knaipas (local pubs) hidden down narrow side streets.

Skyline view of Old Town Lviv
Photo 124964658 © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Kharkiv

Kharkiv was the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (December 1919-January 1934). It is now known as the city of students and youth with an average age of 35 years old.

The city offers many theatres, cinemas, museums, a variety of music and theatre festivals demonstrating its traditions.

Kharkiv is home to “Freedom Square”, the 8th largest city-centre square in Europe. A noteworthy landmark of the square is the Derzhprom building, which is one of the most prominent examples of constructivist architecture.

Kharkiv
Photo 53562317 © Volodymyr Silichev | Dreamstime.com

Odessa

Located on the north-western shore of the Black Sea, Odessa is commonly called the “Pearl of the Black Sea”. This city was first taken by the Greeks, then again by the Ottomans, and finally the Russians. This formulates the interesting history this city holds which can be told through its many museums and artefacts.

Odessa is now a modern city that offers a great collection of Art Nouveau architecture, theatres, underground catacombs, gorgeous beaches, great wineries, pretty cafes, and a prosperous nightlife scene.

Odessa Opera House in Ukraine
Photo 113712211 © Multipedia2014 | Dreamstime.com

Kiev (Kyiv)

Located in north-central Ukraine, its capital is of course the place to be. Kiev (also called Kyiv) is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe (482 AD). It is loaded with historic Soviet architecture, golden-domed churches, huge monasteries, and beautiful streets.

Kiev is for sure a fascinating cultural trip. Make sure to check its history-filled museums, like the Museum of Folk Architecture and Ethnography, which stands as one of the largest open-air museums in Europe. Do not forget to visit the oldest and the most popular monasteries in Ukraine, Kiev Pechersk Lavra (aka the Kiev Monastery of the Caves).

Make sure to check the theatre, opera, and musical performances which are immensely popular in Kiev. Later, head to one of the many city bars, sidewalk cafés, and enjoy a walk down Andriyivskyy Descent, a gorgeous cobblestone street lined with Art Nouveau-style houses and magnificent gargoyles.

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, Kiev
Photo 120971672 © Flydragonfly | Dreamstime.com

Chernobyl

If you are interested in dark tourism, then this place is suitable for you. Chernobyl guarantees a dark exploration into the notorious 1986 nuclear disaster that led to the mass killing of thousands of people.

Chernobyl now appears frozen in time. While vising it, you will observe the demolished buildings, supermarkets taken over by nature, dolls resting on top of corroded playground equipment, a ferris wheel that never took another spin and the abandoned possessions of the people who had to run for their lives. For the fear of radioactive contamination, the citizens were not allowed to bring with them almost any of their belongings, including their own pets. On the bright side, guided tours are available to learn about the tragedy first-hand.

Abandoned school in Chernobyl
Photo 25350097 © Oliver Sved | Dreamstime.com

Chernihiv

Chernihiv is one of the oldest cities in Ukraine and was first mentioned in the Rus’-Byzantine Treaty of 907. The treaty ranked Chernihiv as the second most vital Ukrainian center after Kiev.

Chernihiv is situated on the banks of the Desna River in northern Ukraine and features magnificent medieval architecture, especially the five-domed Transfiguration Cathedral and Catherine’s Church with its golden domes.

If you love beer, then you will be extra pleased: the city has a beer (Chernihivske) named after it. Chernihivske is the preferred beer for millions of Ukrainians. Do not forget to visit the two ancient cave monasteries (caves of the Eletsky Monastery), located on the outskirts of Chernihiv which were once used as the bishops’ residences and the 18th-century Kachanivka Palace with its beautiful neoclassical architecture, vast gardens, and gorgeous lake.

Transfiguration Cathedral, Chernihiv
Photo 196534754 © Ksya | Dreamstime.com

Kamianets-Podilskyi

Kamianets-Podilskyi is most famous for the Kamianets-Podilskyi Fortress and constitutes one of the major reasons tourists visit this dreamy city in the first place. This fortress towers over the Smotrych River and is truly one of the most charming fortresses in Eastern Europe.

Make sure to wander in the cobbled streets of this well-kept medieval town that is known for its beautiful pastel-coloured houses and amazing street art. Also, do not miss the opportunity to witness the amazing festival of hot air balloons in the springtime or the chance to ride one of these balloons.

Kamianets-Podilskyi fortress
Photo 83751183 © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Uman

Situated in central Ukraine, this city is situated on the banks of the Umanka River located between the famous cities of Odesa and Kiev. This place is well equipped for tourists and you will not face trouble finding your way around it.

The city of Uman is rich with historical and cultural heritage. Make sure to check the Shopping Rows, and the National Dendrological Park “Sofiyivka”. Also, make sure to check the Basilian Monastery (1764) which stands as the oldest building in the city.

Sofiyivka park and fountain in Uman
Photo 205933349 © Olya Solodenko | Dreamstime.com

Rakhiv

Rakhiv, the highest city in Ukraine, is a mountainous town enveloped within the rich Carpathian woodlands of western Ukraine. Rakhiv is perfect for nature lovers, adventure seekers and hiking enthusiasts.

Rakhiv offers fantastic scenery with picturesque slopes and swinging bridges leading across the Tysa River. If you are looking for a peaceful escape in the mountains, head to the calm Dilove village.

Do not miss the Hutsul Bryndza Festival that takes place in September and is held to honour the shepherds who return from the Carpathians every winter bringing with them delicious types of cheese (wurda and bryndza), folk songs, and lots and lots of traditional dancing.

Rakhiv and mountains
Photo 109765280 © Yuriy Brykaylo | Dreamstime.com

Bukovel

Surrounded by three huge mountains and the highest peaks of the Carpathians, Bukovel is a perfect winter holiday destination. This place constitutes Ukraine’s biggest skiing destination and is in fact one of the largest ski resorts in Eastern Europe!

When you are not enjoying the ski slopes, head to the bicycle park, snow park, or the ski school to learn some new tricks. From December to April is the best time to plan a winter holiday to Bukovel.

Bukovel ski resort
Photo 126155972 © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Summary

Ukraine is a rare gem in Eastern Europe that ought to be on everyone’s bucket list. From its beautiful and unique architecture, dreamy and scenic cities, vast green landscapes, gorgeous beaches, charming lakes to its historical museums, Ukraine has much to offer.

Ukraine being an exceptionally budget-friendly travel destination, you need not worry when visiting this remarkable place. Just pack your bags and head there; there is never a bad time to visit Ukraine.

Rating: 5 out of 5.