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.

Beaufort Castle: A Crusader Castle In Lebanon

Beaufort Castle: A Crusader Castle In Lebanon

I visited the Beaufort Castle this December when I was back home in Lebanon. Beaufort Castle is now one of Lebanon’s most famous landmarks.

Entrance Fee:

The entry fee is 7000 LBP.

Opening Hours:

Monday8AM–7:30PM
Tuesday8AM–7:30PM
Wednesday8AM–7:30PM
Thursday8AM–7:30PM
Friday8AM–7:30PM
Saturday8AM–7:30PM
Sunday8AM–7:30PM

Location:

Beaufort or Belfort Castle, known locally as Qal’at al-Shaqif or Shaqif Arnun, is a Crusader fortress in Nabatieh Governorate, Southern Lebanon, about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to the south-south-east of the village of Arnoun. It is a 1.30 hours drive from Beirut.

The Name:

Its Arabic name Qala’at al-Shaqif means “Castle of the High Rock”. The castle was named bel fort or beau fort (French for “beautiful fortress”) by the Crusaders who occupied the castle in the 12th century. Despite the external ruin, the inside of the castle is well preserved. 

Brief History:

There was a fortification on the site before it was captured by Fulk, King of Jerusalem, in 1139 and construction of the Crusader castle probably began soon after.

Saladin captured Beaufort in 1190, but 60 years later Crusaders re-took it. In 1268, Sultan Baibars finally captured the castle for the Islamic forces.

It passed once more into the hands of the Arabs and in 1610 prince Fakhredin II of Lebanon, strengthened its fortifications and made it a storehouse for his treasures. It was largely destroyed by Jarkass Pasha. In 1629, Emir Fakhredin II asked for its reconstruction and restoration from the Grand Duke of Florence.

Beaufort provides one of the few cases where a medieval castle proved of military value and utility also in modern warfare, as its late 20th-century history shows.


The Magical View

The Beaufort Castle overlooks the Litani River, which flows past it on the east. The castle offers amazing panoramic views of southern Lebanon and northern Palestine. 

View from the top


Free Museums In Rome: 8 Free Entry Museums

Free Museums In Rome: 8 Free Entry Museums
Visiting Rome on a budget but eager to have a cultural and artistic experience? Then this article is for you!
In Rome, there exists 8 city-run museums that are totally free and open all year round:

1. Villa di Massenzio (Maxentius)

The Villa of Maxentius is an imperial villa and now an open air museum in Rome. It was built by the Roman emperor Maxentius and is located between the second and third miles of the ancient Appian Way (Via Appia). It consists of three main buildings: the palace, the circus of Maxentius and the mausoleum, designed in an inseparable architectural unit to honor Maxentius.

Address: Via Appia Antica, 153, 00178 Roma RM

2. Museo Barracco

Museo Barracco is a museum in Rome, featuring a collection of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Phoenician art, as well as Greek sculptures of the classical period. This collection of art was acquired by Giovanni Barracco, who donated his collection to the City of Rome in 1902.

Address: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 168, 00186 Roma RM

Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco (Roma): AGGIORNATO 2021 - tutto  quello che c'è da sapere - Tripadvisor

3. Museo delle Mura

The Museo delle Mura is an archaeological museum in Rome which is housed in the first and second floors of the Porta San Sebastiano at the beginning of the Appian Way. It provides an exhibition on the walls of Rome along with their building techniques and the opportunity to walk along the inside of one of the best-preserved stretches of the Aurelian Wall.

Address: Via di Porta San Sebastiano, 18, 00179 Roma RM

4. Museo Pietro Canonica

The Pietro Canonica Museum is the house/museum of the sculptor Pietro Canonica and is part of the system of Museums in the Municipality of Rome. It is located in the gorgeous Villa Borghese. The house, where the artist lived until his death, was donated by him to the municipality of Rome which now manages the museum.

Address: Viale Pietro Canonica, 2, 00197 Roma RM

5. Museo Napoleonico

The Napoleonic Museum of Rome is a historical museum dedicated to Napoleonic relics, mainly deriving from the collection of Count Giuseppe Primoli, donated to the city of Rome in 1927. It features family portraits, marble busts, rare artwork & gold plated furniture.

Address: Piazza di Ponte Umberto I, 1, 00186 Roma RM

Museo Napoleonico
turismoroma.it

6. Museo Carlo Bilotti

The Carlo Bilotti Museum is a contemporary art museum located in the “Orangery” of Villa Borghese in Rome. It contains paintings, watercolors and sculptures from the collection donated by Carlo Bilotti, an Italian-American businessman and collector. The collection includes works by Andy Warhol, Giorgio De Chirico, paintings by Gino Severini, and Larry Rivers and a sculpture by Giacomo Manzù.

Address: Viale Fiorello La Guardia, 6, 00197 Roma RM

Museo Carlo Bilotti | Turismo Roma

7. Museo di Casal de’ Pazzi

The Casal de’ Pazzi Museum is important for its archaeological, geological and paleontological value and has been transformed over time into a real museum. It is located in Rome, in the IV Municipio, between via Tiburtina and via Nomentana, not far from the Aniene river. The museum structure is part of a Pleistocene deposit and has been continuously open to the public since March 2015.

Address: Via Egidio Galbani, 6, 00156 Roma RM

Riflessi di Jerico, murale al Museo di Casal de' Pazzi a Roma - Lazio -  ANSA.it
ansa.it

8. Museo della Repubblica Romana e della memoria garibaldina

The Museum of the Roman Republic and of Garibaldi’s memory is part of the Joint Museums and is located off Porta San Pancrazio in the Trastevere district of Rome.

The exhibition winds along the four floors of the building, narrating, room by room, the historical events of the Roman Republic and the Garibaldi tradition. Busts, paintings, engravings and Garibaldi relics, as well as models and a very rich multimedia apparatus, guide the visitor to discover the places, the days and the main protagonists of the events of those years of great political ferment.

Address: Largo di Porta S. Pancrazio, 00153 Roma RM

Porta San Pancrazio Rome.JPG

Let me know in the comments if you visited any of these museums!

Calcata Vecchia: The Town Of Witches

Calcata Vecchia: The Town Of Witches

According to an ancient legend, on days and nights when there is strong winds, in the narrow alleys of Calcata, it is possible to hear the singing of the old witches. Not only that: it is also said that this ancient village was in the past a place of ceremonial & ritual magic.

Calcata is best known for it being the home to a community of about 100 artists, bohemians, & 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”.

 Photo: Alamy

It is hard to believe that Calcata is only a few minutes drive from Rome:

Calcata (locally Cargata) is a village hanging onto a volcanic cliff in the province of Viterbo (region of Lazio), located 47 kilometres (29 mi) north of Rome, overlooking the valley of Treja river. Its history dates back to almost 3,000 years where the presence of human life in the area can go back to prehistoric times.

In the 1930s, the town was condemned by the government for the fear that the volcanic cliffs, the ancient town was built upon, would collapse. Then, in the 1960s, the artists and hippies saved the day and repopulated Calcata by purchasing the houses and restoring the ancient town. This lead the government to reverse its condemnation order.

There was a festival during our visit

How To Spend Your Day In Calcata?

1. Discover every nook and cranny 

Calcata’s medieval architecture is well visible on the churches and the civic buildings. Walk around to discover the artistic and colorful houses surrounding this town. Calcata is a place where time has definitely stood still!

2. Buy some homemade products

Calcata has a lot of little shops that sell homemade jams and chocolate spreads (they also do food tastings)! Make sure to check the bakeries and try their sugar/butter biscuits and desserts.

Also, this town is known for being a “Halloween attraction” and so you can find handmade masks stands that are to die for!

3. Lunch at my favorite: La Terrazza Sul Treja

This restaurant serves great traditional Italian cuisine with the most amazing view of the village! The portions were generous and the dishes extremely tasty.

Start your lunch by ordering the “tagliere di salumi e formaggi” with a local bottle of red wine! The Pappardelle al cinghiale seen in the picture below is recommended.

4. Check the Treja Valley Regional Park 

The Treja Valley Regional Park 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 & horse-riding.

Spoleto: A Day In A Medieval Paradise

Spoleto: A Day In A Medieval Paradise

Spoleto is a “hidden-gem” in Umbria, Italy surrounded by vast green hills & rich vineyards. Spoleto became a Roman colony in 241 BC and has successfully repulsed an attack by the Carthaginian general, Hannibal, in 217 BC . It later became important because of its strategic location on the Roman artery Via Flaminia and its great role in the Gothic wars. 

Walking around Spoleto’s narrow streets and enjoying its landscapes is enough to make you feel you are back in the Medieval Era.

Below are the top sights and activities to check when visiting Spoleto:

1. Duomo di Spoleto (Spoleto Cathedral )

The church is an example of Romanesque architecture and was built from the second half of the 12th century after the city had been devastated by Frederick Barbarossa‘s army.

The most striking feature is this Byzantine-hieratic mosaic portraying Christ giving a Benediction by Doctor Solsternus (1207). The latter kept calling himself an outstanding modern artist with nothing else known about him and this being his only known work. It would take half a century before the mosaics in Roman churches would surpass his style.

2. Ponte delle Torri

Ponte delle Torri

Ponte delle Torri (Bridge of Towers) stands on 10 pillars built on the foundations of a Roman aqueduct at a height of 262 feet (80 meters) and offers a splendid panoramic view of the city.

3. Rocca Albornoziana (Castle of Spoleto)

After checking the Ponte, head to Rocca Albornoziana which is a fortress that stands on Colle Sant’Elia, towering over the vast Spoleto valley. Its construction started in 1359 and it belongs to a series of fortresses whose construction was ordered by Pope Innocent VI to re-affirm the Pope’s authority in central Italy.

4. Lunch Essentials

After the long walk up to Ponte delle Torri & Rocca Albornoziana, a lunch is a must. Enjoy a home-cooked meal at “Trattoria Del Festival” located in the center (Via Brignone, 8, 06049 Spoleto PG, Italy).

5. Teatro/Museo Romano di Spoleto

Teatro Romano (Roman Theater) located inside the monumental complex of Sant’Agata, is a theatrical building dating back to the 1st century BC. The theatre was damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake and got restored in the ancient times.

The monastery of Sant’Agata now houses the National Archaeological Museum of Spoleto and the theater is used for concerts and shows.

6. Basilica of Sant’Eufemia

Sant’Eufemia is a Romanesque-style, Roman Catholic basilica church. The church is dedicated to Saint Euphemia of Chalcedon. It is a great place to take some artistic pictures.

7. Catch a movie at Sala Pegasus

This movie theatre/exhibit was the former church of San Lorenzo, currently called Sala Pegasus. In 1972, some restorations made it possible to transform it into how it looks today!

It was dedicated to Saint Lawrence, a Syrian monk, bishop and local martyr who died in 576. Saint Lawrence is said to be the “illuminator” for the miracles related to healings from blindness.

8. Have a walk & grab a coffee at Vincenzo Art Cafè 

Enjoy the end of the tour with a warm cup of coffee or tea. The art café looks great on the inside and has delicious sandwiches and snacks you can grab.

Then head to Piazza del Mercato and enjoy a great stroll around the piazza!

Summer Bucket list: Top 4 Lakes to Visit Near Rome

Summer Bucket list: Top 4 Lakes to Visit Near Rome

As much as I like going to the beach, I always appreciate the lakes around Rome due to the beautiful and lavish-green mountains surrounding it. If you feel like surviving a hot day and having a dip in refreshing waters, consider these lakes below which are all within reach from Rome.

1. Lago di Turano

Lago di Turano looks unrealistic. It is so gorgeous that it has been used several times as a film location during the filming of “The Patron” starring Lucio Dalla. All you need to do when you arrive is spread a picnic blanket and just enjoy the view while eating some fresh pizza prepared by the artisanal bakeries nearby.

2. Lago di Bracciano

Lago di Bracciano is a volcanic crater lake and is the eighth largest in Italy.The lake is surrounded with beautiful medieval towns where the medieval Castello Orsini-Odescalchi palace is actually famous for hosting the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Other villages that lie along the lake are Anguillara Sabazia and Trevignano Romano. The lake is surrounded with cute aperitif places where you can have a drink with delicious local food.

3. Lago Albano

Lago Albano is the lake located in the Castelli Romani (Castel Gandolfo). The pope’s summer residence is actually located at Castel Gandolfo, a charming town with amazing views of the lake below. Nearby towns include Ariccia, a town famous for its porchetta and Marino, best known for its wine festival that takes place each October. For dinner, go to one of the restaurants with the view of the lake. I recommend Ristorante Pagnanelli (1882) which is one of the oldest restaurants I have been to (P.S. order the sparkling wine).

4. Lago di Nemi

This lake is a small and eventful lake which derives its name from Nemi, a town located above the lake and known for its wild strawberries; the town hosts a strawberry festival at the end of spring each year. Nearby lies Genzano di Roma which hosts a magnificent flower festival (the annual infiorata), a three-day flower festival in June that coincides with the religious holiday of Corpus Christi, 60 days after Easter.