9 Beautiful and Must-visit Caribbean Islands

9 Beautiful and Must-visit Caribbean Islands

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

The Caribbean has a staggering number of islands with more than 7,000 islands to discover. These islands not only offer the most spectacular beaches but also a myriad of hidden gems, lagoons, caves, incredible mountains, and even some beautiful towns with European style architecture.

While in the Caribbean, you will get to enjoy its natural wonders, underwater sites, endless water sports and activities, and end up sleeping in the world’s most jaw-dropping and dreamy hotels. Because one can’t simply visit all 7,000 islands, instead here are nine of the most beautiful and must-visit Caribbean Islands perfect for a vacation!

1. Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands in the Caribbean incorporates 3 islands: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. The Grand Cayman is the largest of the islands and is famous for its dreamy beach resorts and diverse snorkelling and scuba diving sites counting Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto.

Cayman Brac is a beautiful island with gorgeous beaches and is well known for being a popular starting point for deep-sea fishing trips.

From its name, Little Cayman, is known to be the smallest island. This island is astonishing as it’s home to a huge variety of wildlife exclusive to the island. From endangered animals like rare iguanas (Rock Iguanas) to some unique seabirds, like the red-footed boobies.

Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman island
© Mikolaj64 | Dreamstime.com

2. Aruba

Aruba is a Dutch Caribbean Island known for its continuous sunshine; in fact, Aruba enjoys the most days of sun in comparison to other Caribbean islands. Aruba is also famous for its golden beaches, bustling nightlife, safety, luxurious resorts and hotels.

While in Aruba, enjoy a beach day at the Eagle Beach, Hadicurari Beach or Palm beach which are all free of charge. Also, you can visit the Casino at Hyatt Regency Aruba, the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary, the butterfly farm and also benefit from an amazing hike at Arikok National Park.

Flamingos in Aruba
© Yanta | Dreamstime.com

3. The Bahamas

The Bahamas is an island country situated within the Lucayan Archipelago. It covers around 97% of the Lucayan Archipelago’s area and houses about 88% of the archipelago’s population. Two of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies were actually shot in the Gold Rock Beach in Lucayan National Park of the Bahamas.

The Bahamas is a great place to unwind and have a relaxing vacation. While there, make sure to hit the free beaches of Pink Sands Beach and Cable beach and the famous pig beach where you can enjoy water activities like snorkelling, diving (coral reefs, underwater caves..), boat tours, and even horseback riding.

Also, make sure to visit the Lucayan National Park, Clifton Heritage National Park, Versailles Gardens, the Glass Window Bridge and Blue Lagoon Island.

Nassau in Bahamas
© Ruth Peterkin | Dreamstime.com

4. The Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean nation famous for its gorgeous vast beaches, golfing, and lavish resorts and hotels. The Dominican Republic has a diverse terrain as it has a rainforest, savannahs, and highlands, counting Pico Duarte, the Caribbean’s tallest mountain.

While there, make sure to visit the Dominican Republic resort destination: Punta Cana and Puerto Plata where you will find great beaches such as Bavaro Beach and Playa Dorada. Enjoy a stroll in the lively street of Calle El Conde, where you can enjoy shopping, food, dinner and even gazing at some old ruins.

If you want to try Kiteboarding, make sure to go to Cabarete’s Kite Beach which is the ultimate kiteboarding destination.

Your trip won’t be complete without checking the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua, Bahia de Las Aguilas, Isla Saona and Parque Nacional de Este.

Punta Cana in Dominican Republic
© Valio84sl | Dreamstime.com

5. Barbados

Barbados is an eastern Caribbean Island surrounded by surfing beaches, historic homes, botanical gardens, caves, and golf courses and is a great place for active travellers. The capital of Barbados (Bridgetown) is well-known to be a cruise-ship port with beautiful colonial buildings.

If you are looking for a full day of swimming, surfing, kayaking, and snorkelling for shipwrecks and marine wildlife then Carlisle Bay should be your first choice. You can also enjoy a day at these free beaches: Bathsheba Beach (surfer’s paradise), Dover Beach (windsurfing), and Miami beach.

More things that are worth seeing include Animal Flower Cave (the only accessible sea cave), Harrison’s Cave, Andromeda Botanic Gardens, Hunte’s Gardens and St. Nicholas Abbey.

Bottom Bay in Barbados
© SimonDannhauer | Dreamstime.com

6. Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is an Eastern Caribbean Island home to volcanic crescent-shaped beaches, coral reef diving sites, waterfalls, fishing villages, luxurious resorts, and hotels. Saint Lucia is famous for the Pitons, which are St. Lucia’s twin towering peaks and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The large Piton stands at 2,530 ft high, while the small Piton is 2,438 ft high high. Both of them were formed 200,000 to 300,000 years ago by volcanic activity. The best panoramic view of the Pitons can be found in the fishing village of Soufriere.

If you are a fan of snorkelling and diving, head to “Anse Chastanet Marine National Park” where you can find all kinds of marine wildlife from corals, coloured sponges, soft corals, brain corals, Frogfish, goatfish, wrasse, parrotfish, and barracudas.

To see the some great waterfalls, head to Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and Waterfall & Mineral Baths.

Other top things to do and see in Saint Lucia include Pigeon Island National Park, Edmund Rain Forest Reserve, Morne Coubaril Historical Adventure Park, Marigot Bay and Rodney Bay.

Saint Lucia beach and landscapes
© Alexander Shalamov | Dreamstime.com

7. Antigua

Antigua is one of the 2 major islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua is known for its endless sandy beaches, coral reefs, delicious food and iconic sceneries and views. In Antigua, you can visit a new beach literally every day of the year as it has 365 beaches!

While there, begin your journey with a hiking trip from Galleon Beach in English Harbour to the summit of Shirley Heights and witness the breathtaking views of the active volcano of Montserrat and the southern island of Guadeloupe. Later, head to the beaches of Half Moon Bay, Hawksbill beach, Dickenson Bay, or Galley Bay Beach.

Also, check the Devil’s Bridge (natural limestone arch), Betty’s hope museum, the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, Nelson’s Dockyard (English Harbour), and Antigua’s Rain Forest Canopy Tour.

Beautiful views of Antigua and its coast
© Sean Pavone | Dreamstime.com

8. Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean Island with a beautiful landscape of rainforest, mountains, waterfalls, and the sea. What is great about Puerto Rico is the existence of its two extremes: where the activities can range from exploring the jungles of El Yunque, and ziplining through trees to checking the El Morro Fort (the 500-year-old walls) and shopping in Old San Juan Street.

Start your tour by taking a nice stroll through Old San Juan Street, where you can find many of the popular attractions like the Casa Blanca Museum, El Morro fort, Calle del Cristo, Calle de la Fortaleza, and Castillo San Cristóbal. There you can do lots of shopping and also find some great food to try as there are many street vendors selling a variety of foods and drinks. You’ll also find tours to help you explore this area and enjoy the best food.

One of the things that you will find very inspiring is the Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay where the water glows blue at night due to the organisms that live there called dinoflagellates. Other top things to see include Flamenco Beach, Sun Bay (Vieques), El Yunque National Forest, Carabalí Rainforest Park, Cueva Ventana and Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.

Beaches in Puerto Rico
© Stevengaertner | Dreamstime.com

9. St. Martin – St. Maarten

Saint Martin includes 2 different countries, divided between its French side of Saint-Martin in the north, and Sint Maarten, the Dutch side in the south. The island is home to eventful resort beaches, private coves, fusion cuisine, vivacious nightlife, jewellery and liquor shops.

While there, enjoy the many beautiful free beaches like Mullet Bay Beach (St. Maarten), Cupecoy Beach (St. Maarten), Orient Bay (St. Martin), Maho Bay (St. Maarten) and Friar’s Bay (St. Martin). Go to the Front Street in Philipsburg (duty-free) where you can go shopping for all sorts of things, ranging from jewellery to electronics and more.

Make sure to also check St. Martin National Nature Reserve, the butterfly farm, Loterie Farm (St. Martin) and Pic du Paradis (St. Martin).

Saint Martin beaches
© Thierrydehove | Dreamstime.com

Summary:

If you are looking for a once in a lifetime trip, then be sure to visit the Caribbean islands. You will get to enjoy everything from great weather, sunshine, friendly people, golden beaches, natural wonders. As well as great food, drinks, water sports, breathtaking scenery beyond imagination and so many more adventures. Although there is a great number of islands in the Caribbean, make sure to keep the islands recommended in this article on your list!

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 Spain

10 Best and Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Spain

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

Spain is a gorgeous country located on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula and blessed with diverse landscapes and cultures, beautiful nature, and charming beaches. Not shockingly, the third most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country goes to Spain. The reason behind this goes to the fact that many civilizations throughout history left a mark in Spain, from Greeks, Celts, Romans, Iberians, Phoenicians, Moors and Visigoths.

When it comes to finding a holiday beach destination, Spain should be an obvious choice with the most “blue flag” beaches awards in the world (590 Spanish beaches) and 3,000 miles of coastline. With so many great spots to choose from we’ve narrowed down some of the best. Below are 10 of the best beach and summer holiday destinations to visit in Spain.

Menorca

Menorca (Minorca) is one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and is known for its endless beaches. A few top beaches to check out in Menorca include Playa de Cavalleria, Mesquida cove and Cala Trebalúger.

The best things to do here besides having a beach day is to visit the town of Binibeca, explore the Menorcan vineyards, explore the tomb of Naveta d’es Tudons, or hike up Monte Toro.

You must explore the old capital Ciutadella, as well as the gorgeous city of Mahón (which is now the capital). Also, make sure to take a sailing trip along the Menorcan shoreline and/or enjoy a kayaking day around Es Grau beach.

Pregonda beach in Menorca
Photo 74519331 © Ignasi Such | Dreamstime.com

Majorca (Mallorca)

Mallorca (Majorca) is the largest of the Balearic Islands. It is famous for its beautiful coast, beach resorts, bays, coves, as well as Roman and Moorish remains and several limestone mountains.

Some of the best things to do on this island include visiting the capital Palma de Mallorca, shopping in Puerto Portals, as well as exploring some of the towns and villages such as Alcudia, Pollença and Cala Figuera.

A few of the best beaches to enjoy include Platja es Carbó, Platja des Carregador and Playa de Canyamel. Also, make sure to go on a cruise around the huge Calvia coastline and discover the beautiful cliffs and bays.

Mallorca Beach in Palmanova
Photo 92069506 © Fotoandvideo | Dreamstime.com

Ibiza

Ibiza is an archipelago of Spain located in the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the best Balearic Islands to visit. It is famous for its clubs and nightlife and is a destination where some of the biggest clubs in the world are located.

Other than partying, other top things to do in Ibiza includes exploring Dalt Vila (Ibiza old town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site), seeing the Ibiza Cathedral, and watching the sun go down at Cafe Del Mar.

A few of the best places on the island for relaxing on a beach or by a pool include Playa d’en Bossa, San Antonio, Talamanca, and Cala Comte. Also, you can have a relaxation day at the many spas and yoga retreats located around the island.

Beach in Ibiza
Photo 34287412 © Lunamarina | Dreamstime.com

Tenerife

Tenerife is one of Spain’s Canary Islands. It is home to a dormant volcano and Spain’s tallest peak, Mt. Teide (at 7,315m). The island of Tenerife has many beautiful sandy beaches and resort areas where you can enjoy great days on the beach. Top beaches include Playa de Las Teresitas, La Tejita, El Duque and Playa Jardín.

A few of the other best places to visit in Tenerife include cities and towns such as Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz, La Laguna, Garachico, as well as nature spots including Mount Teide and Anaga Rural Park, an impressive 35,800 acre Biosphere Reserve.

Other cool places to relax (and swim) is Lago Martiánez which is a huge open-air swimming pool, and also Siam Park, a fantastic water park which will be sure to give families a great day out.

Teresitas beach in Tenerife
Photo 180488250 © Boarding1now | Dreamstime.com

Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura is another of the Canary Islands and the second-largest. It is popular for its sandy beaches and great all year warm weather, as well as scenic cliffs, and coves. Some of the top beaches include Morro Jable, Matorral, Cofete, Costa Calma and Cotillo. Also be sure to visit the pretty Lobos Island located just north of the main island and is a protected natural area.

A few of the other top things to do include exploring the sand dunes at Corralejo Natural Park, seeing the Calderón Hondo volcano, and visiting the old town of Betancuria.

While in Fuerteventura enjoy water sports such as surfing, waterskiing, and windsurfing. You can also enjoy a whale and dolphin-watching tour in Fuerteventura (preferably in June).

Fuerteventura - Morro Jable Beach
Photo 80921953 © Elena Krivorotova | Dreamstime.com

Lanzarote

Also part of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is known for its gorgeous weather, volcanic landscapes, resorts, villas, and beaches.

While there, make sure to visit the Timanfaya National Park for its scenic landscapes, explore the Jameos del Agua caves, and see the unique cactus garden, Jardín de Cactus. Some top beaches to enjoy include Playa del Papagayo, Playa Flamingo, Playa Francesa and Playa de Mujeres

Also, make sure to check out the natural outdoor swimming pools (formed by the sea) which are found around Lanzarote’s eastern and southern coasts. The pools can be found in Punta Mujeres, Cueva del Agua (Los Cocoteros), and Los Charcones.

Beaches in Lanzarote
Photo 203561979 © Miguel Tamayo Diaz | Dreamstime.com

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is located off northwestern Africa (and part of the Canary Islands). The island is characterized by its rural and mountainous landscapes. The true sand colour in Gran Canaria is black due to the volcanic origin of this island.

On the island can find large sandy beaches such as below as well as other highlights such as Roque Nublo rock and Pico de las Nieves (1,949 m). You should also explore the Maspalomas dunes (a protected natural research), wander around the botanical garden “Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo”, and visit the fishing village Puerto de Mogán.

Gran Canaria island is popular for its water sports such as yachting, windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving, and water-skiing.

Beach in Gran canaria
Photo 131272343 © Ingus Kruklitis | Dreamstime.com

La Palma

La Palma is yet another of the Canary Islands, known for its craggy, forested terrain and volcanic landscape with volcanoes like Teneguía and Cumbre Vieja located there.

Some of the coolest things to check out are the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, Roque de Los Muchachos (for stargazing), and the capital city of Santa Cruiz de La Palma. Also visit places such as  Los Llanos de Aridane, Fuencaliente and Villa de Mazo.

Some beaches in La Palma worth seeing include Bajamar Beach, Los Cancajos beach and Puerto Naos beach.

La Palma, Spain
Photo 214681032 © Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

Sitges

Sitges is a beautiful town on the coast of Spain’s Catalonia region close to Barcelona. It is famous for its gorgeous sandy beaches, bars, nightclubs, and promenades surrounded by beautiful houses and big mansions.

A few of the best things to experience in Sitges besides having a relaxing beach day, include wandering along the Passeig Maritim (a scenic walk), visiting the Museu Cau Ferrat, and exploring the beautiful Garraf Natural Park.

Stiges beach, Spain
Photo 215945701 © Nataliavo | Dreamstime.com

Málaga

Málaga is a city located on Spain’s Costa del Sol. It is known for its luxurious resorts, hotels, its beautiful yellow sandy beaches and its many museums. It is famous for being the birthplace of the great Pablo Picasso.

While in Malaga, a few historic highlights to see include the La Alcazaba fortifications, the Roman Theatre, Málaga Cathedral and Castillo de Gibralfaro. Also visit the Museo del Vidrio, Ataranzas Market, Parque de Málaga and of course Picasso’s museum.

A few beaches for relaxing in the sun includes Playa de la Malagueta, Playa Peñón del Cuervo and Playa de la Carvajal.

Nerja Beach in Malaga
Photo 90300370 © Valery Bareta | Dreamstime.com

Barcelona

Although not a typical beach destination, Barcelona has on its shores a wonderful stretch of beach which is perfect to relax upon after exploring the highlights and gems around the city. Also along the beachfront, you’ll find bars and restaurants where you could spend your day on the beach before moving into the clubs at the end of the day for a fun night out.

Barcelona of course isn’t just about its beach and serves as a great destination for a city break, where you’ll find incredible historic landmarks to explore as well.

Barcelona Beach

Summary

Spain is definitely a dream destination for a beach and summer holiday. It is blessed with fantastic sandy beaches, perfect weather, delicious food, vibrant nightlife, friendly people, and gorgeous wide coasts. Consider some of the places above which will guarantee you the time of your life and a wonderful time in Spain.

10 Best Day Trips to Take from Rome

10 Best Day Trips to Take from Rome

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

Rome is a great place to be for many reasons. Not only is Rome the eternal city with its stunning buildings and monuments, priceless art, and delicious cuisine, but it is also central and close to many of Italy’s other gems.

Below, are 10 of the best day trips to take from Rome, perfect for adding incredible experiences when you are in the eternal city. These places are breathtaking and will surely present you with the authentic “La Dolce Vita” vibe that you are seeking.

1. Amalfi Coast & Positano

The Amalfi Coast is a massive 50 km spread of coastline in the Campania region. If you are driving there, you will get to enjoy some gorgeous scenery of its villas, terraced cliffs, charming gardens, lemon fields, and great beaches. You can also go to the Amalfi coast by taking the train to Salerno which is a beautiful place worth stopping for a few hours to check out.

The Amalfi coast is famous for its massive grapefruit-sized lemons that are the main ingredient for the popular Limoncello drink which you, of course, must try. The best part about the Amalfi coast is that it is home to the photogenic Positano village.

Positano was a former fishing village and is now the go-to romantic holiday destination for its luxurious and scenic hotels, colourful buildings, and delicious restaurants. Discover Positano on foot and witness its beautiful and small art galleries, its cute little shops, restaurants, and the famous Santa Maria church. You can also enjoy The Path of the Gods “Sentiero Degli Dei” hiking/walking trail.

2. Turano

Lago di Turano is beautiful and almost looks unrealistic. It is so gorgeous that it has been used several times as a film location during the filming of “The Patron” movie starring Lucio Dalla. Turano is just 1 hour & 20 minutes away from Rome by car. You can also reach it using a special bus that goes to Rieti.

All you need to do when you arrive is spread a picnic blanket and just enjoy the view of the mountains surrounding the turquoise-coloured lake, all while eating some fresh pizza prepared by the artisanal bakeries nearby. Turano lake is a great location to tan and then cool off with a dip in the beautiful lake. You can also check the delicious restaurants located in Castel Di Tora nearby.

Location: See on Google Maps

3. Naples and Pompeii

Naples is located in southern Italy and is one of the most unique destinations close to Rome and is also the birthplace of pizza. While in Naples, check Galleria Umberto I, Saint Carlo theatre, Naples Cathedral, Capodimonte royal palace and museum, the National Archaeological Museum, the veiled Christ at Cappella Sansevero, and Castel dell’Ovo.

Later, have a walk along the beautiful Piazza del Plebiscito, and Spaccanapoli (street) which is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and enjoy the traditional pizzerias and pastry shops, the historic monuments, and churches in this gorgeous city.

One of the most famous attractions in Naples is Mount Vesuvius, which is a still-active volcano that destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii (the most famous archaeological excavation site in Italy). Take a train from Naples to see the incredible ruins of Pompeii. Pompeii is approx 17.3 miles (28 km) from Naples and would take you around 30 to 40 minutes to reach.

View of Naples in Italy

4. Sorrento

Sorrento is a city with beautiful sloping terraces decorated with cultivations of oranges, grapevines, lemons, and olives. It is a gorgeous city that overlooks Naples’s bay, the great Vesuvius volcano, and the islands of Ischia, Capri, and Procida can be seen in the far distance.

You can reach Sorrento by using a bus from Rome. Buses depart each day from Roma Tiburtina station. You can also reach Sorrento by taking a train from Naples. You could also explore Sorrento through a tour such as seen below.

While in Sorrento, take a walk along the old town centre and Piazza Tasso where you can find great shops, cute café’s, restaurants, and many bright yellow local limoncello shops. You can also enjoy a great beach day in the unique beach clubs. These are built on decks out into the water.

5. Capri

Capri is definitely a dream destination. The Island of Capri is located just a few miles from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. The only way to reach the island of 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. You can of course also take a tour (see below).

The island is divided into two municipalities: Anacapri and Capri. The centre of Capri town is about 150 meters above sea level while Anacapri is at a higher altitude. There are also two villages directly on the coast: Marina Grande and Marina Piccola.

While in Capri, have a boat tour around the island and discover the quaint Blue Grotto. You can also, go up Mount Solaro with a chairlift to see a breathtaking view from the top. Check out the Sphinx at Villa San Michele, which is a villa built by Axel Munthe, a Swedish physician and writer. This villa has one of the most scenic views of Capri. Later, have a stroll in the centre of Anacapri where you can go shopping for unique clothing and gifts. At night, cool off in the “Piazzetta” with a drink and dinner in the amazing restaurants around.

6. Florence

Florence is Tuscany’s capital and is a dazzling place and also within reach of Rome. You can easily reach Florence by a comfy train ride from Rome which are 162 miles apart. If you want to reach there in less than 2 hours, use the available high-speed trains. Florence is a picturesque place and home to several famous art pieces and architecture from the Renaissance era.

While in Florence, you must check the iconic Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo di Firenze), The Uffizi, Galleria dell’Accademia, Giardino Bardini and Piazzale Michelangelo. Have a stroll in Florence’s center and enjoy the central markets and Piazza Santo Spirito where you can find fresh pastas, pizzas, truffle bars, delicious wines, and leather shops.

7. Bracciano

Bracciano is a small quaint town in Lazio. It is located only 50 minutes away from Rome by car and 1 hour by train. The town is famous for its volcanic lake, Lago di Bracciano, with its black, sparkly and smooth sand. The lake is surrounded by beautiful medieval towns, lush green mountains, and great architecture.

Bracciano also has a famous palace, Castello Orsini-Odescalchi which is known for holding the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The lake is besieged by charming aperitif places where you can have drinks with some delicious local food. You can also have a nice lunch or dinner inside the town away from the lake.

Location: See on Google Maps

8. 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 located 1 hour and 25 minutes away by train and 40 mins away by car from Rome.

While in Tivoli, make sure to visit the 16th-century Villa d’Este famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden and especially for its plethora of fountains. The Villa is now an Italian state museum and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. This villa is one of the most beautiful villas you can visit.

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

9. Sperlonga

Sperlonga is the perfect getaway since in a way it resembles a little Greece. The vibe is amazing, and the water is crystal clear. Sperlonga was awarded a Blue flag status for high water quality and standards. You can immediately feel that you are far away from the stress of the city.

How to get there? Take the regional train headed to Naples from Roma Termini station and then get off at Fondi-Sperlonga. Once there, take the Piazzoli bus for 20 minutes to Sperlonga (€1.50 bus ticket – note the price may change). While there, enjoy a relaxing beach day with some cold prosecco and then have lunch at the many tasty and fresh seafood restaurants.

10. Anzio/Nettuno

Anzio and Nettuno are only 10 minutes apart and are easily reached from Rome’s termini station in 60 to 70 minutes.

How to get there? One train per hour leaves from Termini station, stopping first at Anzio and then at Nettuno. Anzio was also awarded a Blue Flag status for its high-quality waters.

While in Anzio/Nettuno, enjoy a great beach day and then have a stroll in the centre where you can find many local products made fresh daily. You can get a delicious panino (sandwich) with fresh mozzarella di bufala for just 5 euros.

Summary:

If you are planning to visit Rome over the summer, then these day trips will guarantee you the trip of a lifetime. Rome is not only a great place to be because of its beauty and perfect temperature, but it is also blessed to be close to many of Italy’s “bucket list” destinations and which are crazy beautiful. So, when planning your trip to Rome, you must try and include these day trips on your list!

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
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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
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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!

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