Nohoval Cove (pronounced “No-val”) is one of Cork’s best kept secrets nestled in the Southern Irish coastline. It is located near the village of Nohoval and just a 15 minute drive from the seaside town of Kinsale, it has become a popular spot for divers and kayakers. While it is often missed as it is not on the Wild Atlantic Way route, this hidden gem is definitely worth a visit if you are travelling to the rebel county of Cork. The short cliff walk offers some of Ireland’s most eye catching views of the rugged coastline and spectacular views of sea stacks and rock formations.
How do you get to this amazing view?
A narrow country road will lead you down to the bay where you can park up and walk towards the pebbled beach. Be warned parking is limited and the road is so narrow that two cars will have a difficult time passing each other. I recommend getting here early to have the place to yourself or leave your car at the top of the road and walk down.
Once you are down by the bay you will see the ruins of an old slate mine on your right and on your left you will see the path which will lead you up the cliff face to the main overlook of the sea stacks and coastline. The walk is short and steep but not too strenuous however, be careful as there is no fencing between you and the cliff edge. Once at the top, you’ll feel like your on top of the world and you can take in the breathtaking views. These views are some of the best County Cork has to offer so it is hard to believe it’s not more talked about.
The West coast of Ireland offers some of the best scenery the country has to offer making it the ultimate Irish staycation destination! If you only have a couple of days to explore this part of Ireland then here are some of the highlights to make the most of your time here.
DAY 1- 2:
Doolin, County Clare
Doolin is quaint town in County Clare, known as the gateway to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. Here you can enjoy scenic cliff walks along the Wild Atlantic Way, join a cruise to the Islands or along the famous Cliffs or simply enjoy a pint and live music in the well known O’Connor’s pub. The famous pink thatched roof house is where you can pick up a genuine Aran Sweater and other Irish merchandise.
EAT: O’Connor’s pub for pub grub
Cliffs of Moher
If you have not been to the Cliffs of Moher yet, you should definitely make the trip whilst exploring Clare. The Cliffs are UNESCO world heritage site and for good reason, you can walk along the cliffs for stunning views of this unusual rock formation. Get here early to avoid the crowds! Check out the visitor centre for stunning photography exhibitions and gift shop.
Lahinch, County Clare
Lahinch town has a resort feel with many people holidaying here throughout the summer months so expect it to be busy. Lahinch Beach is one of the most well known surfing beaches in Ireland. Here you will find numerous surfing schools where you can either rent a surf board or book in for a lesson.
EAT: Dodi Cafe do a great coffee and loaded avocado toast.
STAY: There are a ton of airbnbs in the area with gorgeous coastal views.
On your journey towards Galway, you will pass through the unique landscape of the Burren region where you can visit the Ailwee Caves or stop off at the Hazel Mountain Chocolate factory where the air is filled with the smell of chocolate. Here you can have a look in their chocolate shop, see a chocolate making demonstration or grab a hot chocolate or coffee from their beautiful cafe.
If you have never explored Galway city, it is worth a stop off! Take a walk up the pedestrianized streets to find Irish pubs with a lot of character. Stop off in Galway for a swim in Salt hill or dive off from the Blackrock diving board.
Westport, County Mayo
The town of Westport has a lot of character and is located close to the popular Croagh Patrick Mountain hike. On a clear day, you can take in the views of the Islands from the top. The hike takes approximately 3 hours and is suitable for the intermediate hiker. The start point of the Croagh Patrick hike is from the Croagh Patrick car park. Get here early as the trail can get really busy!
EAT: The Corkscrew & Pantry have a delicious Mexican menu // This Must Be The Place do a great lunch // The Creel is a gorgeous spot for brunch.
STAY: Croagh Patrick Hostel and Cottages are located at the bottom of the mountain close to the start point.
Achill Island, County Mayo
If there is one place you should go to along the west coast, its Achill Island County Mayo, located just an hour from the town of Westport.
Things to do & see:
Rent Electric Bikes: If the weather permits, one of the best ways to explore the Island is to rent electric bikes. (Highly recommend opting for electric bikes as the Island is pretty hilly).
Keem Bay: One of the most beautiful, underrated beaches with crystal clear waters. On a sunny day you will find it hard to believe you are still in Ireland.
The Deserted Village: Walk through the deserted villages where you will find the remains of 100 stone cottages and megalithic tombs built during early Medieval times.
EAT: Amethyst Bar // Pizza at Pure Magic Lodge
STAY: Pure Magic Lodge – the lodge also offer water sports activities!
Are you a fan of hikes and walks? Wicklow, also known as ‘The Garden of Ireland’ is the place for your next adventure. ‘
Located just south of Dublin, County Wicklow is home to The Wicklow Mountain National Park where the scenery changes dramatically from the busyness of the capital city. Once you set foot amongst the wild Wicklow mountains, you will find some of Ireland’s most beautiful hikes, forest trails, lakes and waterfalls allowing you to experience the most of the Irish outdoors. Here are three beautiful hikes and walks that you can fit into a weekend trip to one of Ireland’s most scenic counties.
The Glendalough Spinc & Glenealo Valley walk
Glendalough, also known as ‘Valley of two lakes’ is located about a 35 minute drive from Enniskerry town and well worth a visit. Here you will find the beautiful lake of Glendalough nestled between the Wicklow mountains. From the lake you can take a number of different walks and hikes around the valley. To see the most breathtaking views, hike the Glendalough Spinc (white route), which will bring you right above the two lakes and around in a loop. Luckily, all routes are signposted in different colours and railway sleepers have been laid down to allow you to walk along with ease.
Hike time : 3 hours to complete loop
Distance: 9 km
The Great Sugar Loaf Mountain
The Great Sugar Loaf Mountain takes over the skyline as you drive from Dublin to Wicklow. Not only does this mountain provide views from afar but you can also hike this mountain for beautiful views extending across the Dublin coastline of Bray, Howth Head, Greystones.
Hike time: 1 hour to complete
Distance: 2 km
Difficulty: Slightly strenuous as it is particularly steep towards the top with a lot of loose rocks.
Powerscourt Waterfall is well known as Ireland’s highest waterfall located in Powerscourt estate at the foot of the Wicklow mountains. You could spend all day here exploring the walking trails around the waterfall area or bring a picnic to lounge in the estate grounds.
Looking to explore more of Ireland? Trying to find the perfect 2020 staycation location? The Beara Peninsula is calling.
The Beara Peninsula, otherwise known as ‘The Beara Way’ is located in South West Ireland nestled between Kenmare and Bantry Bay, County Cork where the number of local sheep quite often exceeds people.
The scenic drive along The Beara Way is on the Wild Atlantic Way route and will provide you with stunning views of the Cork, Kerry mountains and the Atlantic coast. The peninsula is a nature-lovers haven with a wide variety of signposted loop walks, cycle routes, hikes, beaches and lakes to explore. As you venture along the peninsula, you will pass through the picturesque, sleepy villages of Eyeries, Allihies and Ardgroom where the colourful houses are hard to miss and add wonderful character.
The Glenbeg lake of Ardgroom
The Glenbeg lake of Ardgroom is a hidden gem, located just a 5 minute drive from the village and well worth a visit. You can either walk along by the water or a hike up the mountain surrounding the lake for stunning views extending all the way to Kenmare Bay.
Hike time: 2 hours (up and down)
The picturesque village of Eyeries is the second village on the Peninsula where the houses are painted the colours of the rainbow with mountain views, walks and beaches dotted along the coastline.
Allihies is the final village on the peninsula, where you will find the old Berehaven copper mines which date back to the 1800s. Interestingly, the quartz sand left over after extracting the copper ore was carried away by the sea to form the local beach. From the beach you can take a 1 hour coastal loop walk around the rugged coastline for some spectacular views.
For more on exploring County Cork, check out my post ‘Top places to explore in County Cork, Ireland’ here.
Within the confines of the 2020 lockdown, I found myself exploring a lot more of my local area so I have compiled a list of top places to explore in the rebel county of Cork.
Ballycotton Cliff Walk
Located in East Cork, about a 40 minute drive from Cork city lies the small seaside village of Ballycotton, here you will find a cliff walk that extends approximately 7 km along the coastline where you will be able to take in the stunning views of the Ballycotton lighthouse and make your way down to the pebble beaches along the route.
Time to complete: 2 hours
Nearby towns: Ballycotton, Midleton, Youghal
Located just west of the Cork town of Macroom, on the Cork and Kerry border, Gougane Barra is a stunning national park and wooded area. With many loop walks and viewpoints, it is an ideal place for a picnic and a hike. You could really spend hours wandering around here!
Difficulty: Loop walks and hikes for all levels
Nearby towns: Macroom
The Old Head of Kinsale
Located just 15 minutes from the town of Kinsale, the old head is home to one of Ireland’s most famous golf courses. Walk around this area for gorgeous views of the Altantic coastline.
Nearby towns: Kinsale, Ballinspittle
Garrettstown Beach and Cliff Walk
Garrettstown beach is one of Ireland’s best surfing beaches in the country, located just 15 to 20 minutes from Kinsale town. Take a walk from Garrettstown beach to its sister beach ‘Garry Lucas’ or head for a walk along the Garrettstown cliff to find hidden beaches, arches and coastal views.
Nearby towns: Kinsale, Ballinspittle
Barleycove is one of Ireland’s most beautiful beaches. Located in West Cork approximately 1.5 hours from Cork city lies this peaceful haven. Its unique sand dunes and estuaries set it apart from other beaches in the country. It is a popular area for camping with the local caravan park and campsite less than 5 minutes drive from the beach.
Nearby towns: Schull, Crookhaven
Located 20 minutes from the seaside town of Schull lies Ireland’s most Southwesterly point, Mizen head. Here you can take a walk across the bridge connecting the mainland with the lighthouse, the perfect place for wildlife spotting.
Nearby towns: Schull, Crookhaven
The Beara Peninsula (Allihies, Eyeries & Ardgroom)
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Cork city – head for the Beara Peninsula, aka the Beara Way where you will likely find a larger population of sheep than people. Located approximately a two hour drive from Cork city, the coastal drive will take along the narrow roads with amazing views, you will pass through the colourful and sleepy villages of Eyeries, Ardgroom and Allihies. You will pass the copper mines which helped to form the beach of Allihies and from there you can take an hour long loop walk along the coast with views of the Beara Way. There are a lot of other sign posted loop walks that you can take along the Peninsula.
Difficulty: Loop walks for all levels
The Glenbeg Lough of Ardgroom is not to be missed. You can walk the narrow road along the lake or climb the surrounding mountain for beautiful views which extend from the Beara way to Kenmare bay and views overlooking the lake.
Time to hike: 1 hour
Located in West Cork about an hour and a half drive from the city, Baltimore is a small coastal village. From the village you can take a walk up to the beacon for gorgeous coastal views.
Nearby towns: Glandore, Skibbereeen, Clonakilty
Other activities: Baltimore is also home to West Cork Whale Watch during the summer season. Book your spot on one of their boats which will bring you about an hour out into sea to find humpback whales and dolphins.
A hidden gem nestled along the coast of the tiny village of Nohoval about 15 minutes drive from Kinsale town. At this cove you will find a pebble beach and coastal climb which exposes beautiful views of the sea stacks and the Irish coastline.
Thailand is known for its tropical islands located on both sides of the southern tip. Think of crystal clear waters, out of this world sunsets, sipping from a coconut that fell from the tree next to your sun bed and some of the best views, rock climbing, snorkeling and diving locations in the world. Needless to say updating this during the 2020 pandemic, it sounds like heaven! The islands need to be added to your itinerary when planning a trip to Thailand.
What makes Thailand so great is how easy it is to travel through as a solo traveller, you will find that most hostels will help you to arrange your transport or find you a suitable tour at a great price. This makes a 2 week island hopping adventure all the more enjoyable.
In this post I have included the Islands to visit as an itinerary for experiencing the best of southern Thailand in two weeks.
Day 1 -5 :Koh Tao
Koh Tao is one of the most talked about islands when it comes to diving and it is definitely one of my favourites. Koh Tao is known for its laid back atmosphere but also it’s diving schools which are found dotted in every corner of the island. Most dive schools offer accommodation to those completing dive courses but also to the general visitor.
Interested in diving? Do you open water course in Koh Tao.
Time to spend here: 3-5 days
Day 6 – 7: Tonsai Beach
Tonsai Beach is actually part of the mainland next to Ao Nang, however it can only be accessed via boat. Tonsai is very chilled out and attracts a lot of rock climbers. Monkeys love this area so be warned you will come across many on your stay here.
Time to spend here: 1 – 2 days
Day 8: Railay Beach
From Tonsai Beach you can walk or rock climb to the infamous Railay beach which features in many well known films. You can either spend the day on the beach or take a visit to one of the restaurants for breakfast.
Tip: visit the beach early to avoid the crowds.
Time to spend here: 1 day
Day 9 -10: Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is well know for it’s full moon parties so if you are looking to party, this is the Island for you. This island is definitely one of the most crowded and commercialised of all the Islands, with fast food chain McDonalds setting up shop here and most, if not all businesses catering for tourists that visit. This island was hit by the 2004 Stephen’s day tsunami but has since then redeveloped itself. From the island you can take snorkelling and diving trips as well as visit other Islands such as monkey island and take a boat ride passed Maya beach (the set of Leonardo’s di Caprio’s ‘The Beach’).
Note: You can no longer set foot on Maya beach as the Thai government recently closed it to visitors to maintain its natural beauty.
Day 10 -14: Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is the most relaxed of all of the Thai islands, so it makes a great last stop on your island hopping itinerary. From the Island you can take a full day trip by boat to snorkel and see 4 other islands located not too far from Koh Lanta.
If you are planning a trip to South East Asia, the temples of Siem Reap, Cambodia should be at the top of your “go-to” list. Siem Reap is located in Northwestern Cambodia and is the gateway to the ruins of Angkor. It is steeped in the history of the Kmer kingdom from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Siem Reap is known for its ancient temples, with the most popular being “big three”; Angkor Wat, the Bayon Temple (the “faces” temple) and Ta Prohm temple (otherwise known as Cambodia’s “Tomb Raider” temple) which, if planned well can be visited all in one day.
How to purchase tickets
To enter the temples you must first purchase a ticket or “Angkor pass”, this can be done online or at their official ticket center which opens daily between 4:30 am and 5:30 pm, located 4 km from Siem Reap town.
You can choose between 3 different passes: (you may purchase passes with US dollars, euro, Thai Baht or Cambodian Riel, Cambodia’s official currency). Cambodian citizens do not need to purchase a pass to enter the temples.
A one day pass is $37 which allows you to enter any of the temples within the Archeological park on the date of purchase.
A 3-day pass is $62 can be used within 10 days from the day of purchase.
A 7-day pass is $72 is valid for 1 month from the issue date.
Dress code for visiting
As with all Asian countries, visiting a temple in Cambodia means you must dress appropriately. Men and women must wear clothing that covers shoulders and women especially must wear clothing that is below the knee. You will be denied access to many temples around Asia if you are not wearing the correct clothing, the dress code is taken very seriously.
What to bring
Make sure you bring water, sun cream as you will out walking in the sun for most of the day, ensure you have a valid pass to the temples, and a camera for all the photo opportunities, trust me there are many!
The Angkor Wat Temple is the most famous and popular of all temples within the area and it is often the number one reason for many travelers to visit Cambodia. Along with being the largest religious monument in the world, it has also become a Unesco World Heritage site. You can walk for hours and hours and still not hit the surface of this stunning site so do not underestimate the amount of time it takes to get around.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat One of the busiest times to enter this temple is before sunrise. There is an area in front of the main temple within the Angkor Wat complex where many tourists gather to watch the sunrise behind the stunning architecture. If you are looking to get a glimpse, you should arrive around 5 am when the complex opens as it can get extremely busy.
Opening Hours: 5 am – 5:30 pm
Time to arrive: Before sun rise
Time to explore: Approximately 4 hours
Located at the very centre of the Archeological park, the Bayon temple, otherwise known as the “faces” temple is a favourite for many. It is renowned for the faces carved into stone offering photo opportunities at every corner, one of the most intriguing being the ‘touching noses’ of two faces.
Opening Hours: 7:30 am – 5:30 pm
Time to visit: Quietest in the afternoon
Time to explore: approximately 2 hours
Located a few minutes by tuk-tuk from the Angkor Wat temple is Ta Phrom (also known as the “tree” or “Tomb Raider” temple), the third and final temple of the ‘big three’. It has gained popularity due to the 2001 filming of Tomb Raider featuring Angelina Jolie on the site. It is an unusual temple as many trees have grown through the stonework making it one of the most photographed sites in the park.
Lisbon is most certainly a foodie city, it is packed with great restaurants offering local cuisine and pastry shops which makes it surprising that Portuguese food isn’t more talked about. Below are some of our finds on our weekend visit to the city in October.
Santo Antonio pastry shop
R. Milagre de Santo António, N.10, 1100-351, Lisboa, Portugal
The most popular sweet treat and delicacy in Lisbon are their famous Portuguese tarts known as ‘Pastel Del Nata’. These custard-filled pastry tarts can be found all over the city in most cafes and pastry shops and they are a must-try while visiting. A local guide recommended ‘Santo António’ pastry shop for some of the best tasting Pastel Del Nata. Of course, due to its great reputation, it was packed out the door with queues of tourists, like ourselves, waiting to order. These tarts are so in demand they bake batches upon batches, which means they are hot out of the oven and melt in the mouth once you get your hands on them. They were so delicious here that no other tart we tried elsewhere even compared! I highly recommend Santo Antonio for your Pastel Del Nata fix.
R. Does Remédios 98, 1100-345 Lisboa, Portugal.
Visit Taberna Salmoura if you want to properly experience Portuguese cuisine. This restaurant, located in the oldest neighbourhood of Alfama specialises in tapas-style dishes with meat, fish and vegetarian options. The menu which is curated by the owner (who was also our server) changes daily with some quirky offerings such as octopus rice, blood stew rabbit, wild boar and chicken gizzards, it is almost a guarantee that there will be something on the menu you have never tried before. Due to its popularity, I recommend booking your table in advance, you can do so through Facebook messenger. Click here for their Facebook page.
Time Out Market Lisbon
Time Out Market is Lisbon’s largest food hall where an impressive amount of local restaurants, bakeries and other food businesses have congregated to showcase their offerings in one place. There is so much choice here it’s hard to decide! You can choose from more casual take away offerings or sit down restaurants options. Click here for the full list of options.
O Surf n’ Turf
O Surf & Turf is a sit down restaurant located in the Timeout Market. It specialises in meat and fish dishes, what makes this restaurant so great is that the seated bar surrounds the kitchen so you can watch the chefs prepare your food, which was delicious and full of flavour.
If you are looking for a decent brunch spot in an Instagram worthy setting, Basilico is your place. We came across this place accidentally while wandering around and it looked too inviting to not sit down. The menu has a great selection of fruit smoothies, acai bowls, pancakes, fruit bowls as well as eggs Benny options.
Boqueira Savor a Brasil – LX Factory
Located in the LX factory which can be best described as the Camden market of Lisbon. Boqueira is a Mexican BBQ restaurant with BBQ kebab options and also had a live reggae band playing while we were there.
Budapest is the perfect destination for a long weekend city break. This city is full of youthful vibes, alternative nightlife, vibrant street art, delicious food and so much more. The city is divided by the Danube river into two cities, Buda and Pest with beautiful architecture and vistas all around, it is easy to see why it’s nicknamed the ‘pearl of the Danube’. In this weekend travel guide, I will try to highlight just that along with the main attractions. So let’s dive right in and show you what you can do to make the most of your visit to the city.
Where to eat?
Budapest is jammed full of Mediterranean and Israeli style restaurants as well as its traditional Hungarian cuisine, if you’re up for trying something more local. Here are some of my recommendations for dining around the city:
Fekete Cafe, Budapest, Múzeum krt. 5, 1053 Hungary Fekete is a great spot for breakfast or brunch with a pretty, open courtyard area.
A beautiful, instagram worthy venue with a open courtyard with a juice bar situated in the centre. The menu focuses on Israeli style brunch options.
Lunch & Dinner
Dobrumba, Budapest, Dob u. 5, 1074 Hungary A Mediterranean style restaurant with a wide selection of delicious hummus plates and tahini dishes. The food was so good and reasonably priced here, it was definitely my favourite place to eat in Budapest. It is worth noting as it is so popular, you will likely have to reserve a table in advance, we found out this when we were turned away the first night we tried to eat there. The only way we were able to book was through Facebook messenger, alternatively you may get lucky and walk in and get a table at an off peak hour.
Szimpla Zert is considered the ‘mecca’ of ruin bars in the city, with funky decor and artsy graffitied walls. These bars offer something truly unique to the city, situated in ran down, old buildings, it was the first ruin bar to open and definitely one of the coolest in Budapest.
Wander around the Great Market Hall
Check out what the locals have on offer at the great market hall, from traditional food to souvenirs.
Try some Hungarian food
While definitely not my first choice of food, it would be a shame not to try some local Hungarian cuisine on your visit. There are many Hungarian restaurants dotted around the city, unfortunately I cannot make a recommendation as we did not get lucky with our restaurant choice, so my top tip would be to check the reviews before you sit down. Typical dishes include Hungarian sausage and local goulash.
Book into one of the city tours
A fun way to see the city is to book into a tour, there are many to choose from, from free walking tours, to Segway and electric bike tours. We opted for the castle district electric bike tour which brought us up around Fisherman’s Bastion and the surrounding area. This district is particularly hilly so being on the bike was far easier than having to climb all those hills.
Check out the views from Fisherman’s Bastion
Once you are in the castle district, you can look out from fisherman’s bastion onto the Danube river which provides stunning views in all directions.
Shop in the trendy thrift stores
If you are up for some shopping, the city is full of second hand clothing and thrift stores which are worth a visit. You are likely to find some vintage gems at great prices!
Stroll across the chain bridge at night
Walking across the Danube river via the chain bridge is something that is particularly special at night with views of the Basilica and parliament building lit up.
Relax at the Gellert Baths
Budapest is known for its array of ancient bath houses, a perfect place to relax after a ton of walking and exploring around the city. There are a couple of baths to choose from in the city including the Szechenyi baths often described as the time square of baths in Budapest, as it is generally the most popular so we opted for the quieter option – the Gellert baths. The Gellert baths has various indoor and outdoor baths of varying temperatures from freezing cold to around 40 degrees, there is also a sauna and steam room area to relax in. It was around 12 euro to enter for the day including use of a locker. Just be sure to bring your own towel and swimwear and if you want to use the main swimming pool, you will need a swimming cap.
Hike up to the top of the Citadel
Opposite the Gellert Baths, you will be able to hike to the top of the citadel. It will take you approximately 20 minutes to hike to the top but the panoramic views are worth it.
Take an evening stroll around Margaret Island.
Margaret Island is accessible from the mainland of Budapest and a nice option for an evening stroll. There are also bike and golf buggy rental kiosks if you’re feeling more adventurous.
Where to stay?
We booked into an Airbnb for our stay in Budapest, there are many to choose from in the city at an affordable cost per night. Here is a link to the studio we booked, it is in a great location close to the ruin bars, restaurants and main nightlife area, we didn’t use much public transport as we found each attraction relatively walkable from our accommodation. I really cannot fault this apartment at all, it’s beautifully decorated and quiet as it’s facing a courtyard, perfect for couples or two to three people sharing.
How to get around?
While the city is relatively walkable, here are some transport options to get around:
Bolt.Download the Bolt app, it is the equivalent of Uber in Budapest and it is a pretty cheap and easy way to get around. You pay through the app via credit so no messing around with cash plus you find out the rate before getting in so you can avoid the hiked up prices cab drivers often set for tourists. You can also get bolt to and from the airport in Budapest.
Lime.Download the Lime app to avail of electric scooters scattered around the streets. Although a little pricey, this is a quick and fun way to travel from place to place around the city, plus you can avoid the traffic by zipping down the footpath. You simply top up your account via the app using your credit card, then use the app to activate the scooter.
Tram. The tram operates throughout the city, simply buy a ticket from a local newsagent and hop on.
Currency. Hungary does not use the euro, it still has its own currency called Hungarian Forints. Avoid changing currency at the airport and get money from an ATM once in the city.
Budget. Budapest is relatively cheaper than Ireland. On our 4 day visit we spent around 50 euro per day including food, drinks and sightseeing (excluding accommodation).
Paris is a city you can wander around for hours and hours, with a charming french cafe at every corner, the stunning, historic architecture and famous landmarks, you will not get bored. If you have a short, overnight layover in Paris you must go out and explore the city at night, it’s known as the ‘city of lights’ and for good reason.
The best way to ease yourself into the city is to do a walking tour. Some companies offer night time walking tours, especially during the summer season. If you are like me and visiting during the winter period, Sandeman Tours have a couple of free walking tours throughout the day and also run a “City of Lights Tour” throughout the week from 5pm to 7pm for around 16 euro per person. This tour will bring you to a lot of the main monuments and landmarks including, Place Du Concord, Champs Elysees, Pont Alexandre III, Petit Palais and up to Trocadero Gardens for a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel tower sparkles for about 5 minutes every hour so make sure you wait up there for this – also known as the ‘light show’, it’s magical! I highly recommend the tour as it is a great way to see a lot in a short space of time as well as learn a lot about the history of the city from a local guide. You can book the ‘City of Lights’ tour on the Sandeman’s website here.
My one complaint about my trip to Paris was that I had less than 24 hours there, which is definitely not enough time to see everything this city has to offer!
So you are trying to plan your trip to Morocco but have no idea where to start or what to include in your itinerary? This is the post for you! Morocco is a country that definitely needs a little bit of forward planning and research on where to visit, what to see, what to wear and what to avoid. Stepping into Morocco you will be immersed in the cultural ways, get lost a couple times within the medinas and experience all it has to offer from the bustling souks of Marrakech to the winding dunes of the Sahara Desert. Morocco is a large country so it is ambitious to say you will see it all in the space of one week but here is an itinerary to cover the highlights in 7 days.
Marrakech (2 days)
Sahara Desert (Merzouga) (3 days)
Ait Ben Haddou
Gorge De Dades
Chefchaouen (2 days)
Time to spend here: 1 to 2 days
Marrakech is one of the major cities in Morocco and with relatively cheap flights from Ireland thanks to Ryanair it has become the starting point for many tourists travelling through Morocco. From the bustling street markets of Marrakech to the snake charmers on Jema El Fnaa square, it is sure to awaken all of your senses.
What to do and see:
Explore the gardens.
There are a couple of beautiful gardens to explore in Marrakech:
More information can be found on the website here.
Shop around the souks of the medina.
Most of the souks (Moroccan market stalls) are located in and around the medina of Marrakech. Here you can purchase anything from Moroccan Spices, glassware, jewellery and nick nacks. Haggling is the name of the game when shopping at the souks, and it is not unusual for souk owners to follow you down the street shouting discounts at you if you don’t agree to their asking price and walk away.
Visit the Quzoud waterfall.
This can be done as a full day trip from Marrakech. It will take a 2 and half hour drive to reach the waterfall.
Where to eat:
Marrakech offers a wide range of restaurants from traditional Moroccan to American and more westernised restaurants. The medina in Marrakech is a good place to start when looking for a nice bite to eat. Here are my restaurant recommendations which are all located within the medina;
If you are a fan of some rooftop views during breakfast this little cafe which is located in the heart of the medina (old city) is the place for you. While there isn’t a huge selection on the menu, it is decently priced and a perfectly morning location to soak up the moroccan sunshine while taking in the views of Marrakech. See their facebook page here.
If you are looking for some Moroccan cuisine once you land into Marrakech, this restaurant will provide just this. Choose from a range of tagines to cous cous for the equivalent of around 16 euro and enjoy the views from the rooftop. See website here for full menu.
Le Jardin, 32 Souk Jeld Sidi Abdelaziz, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco.
Also located in the medina is Le Jardin, a cute outdoor courtyard restaurant. An Instagrammable location due to all of the green tiles. See their instagram page here for inspiration.
High up on my list is SOUL food restaurant which we discovered on our last night in Marrakech and I must say was some of the best tasting food we had in all of our trip around Morocco. A rooftop location complete with misting sprinklers over your table to keep you cool through the often outrageous heat in the city. Soul Food Restaurant is part of clothing brand, Max & Jan store which offers Morocco inspired fashion. Find out more about their menu here.
Sahara Desert (Merzouga)
Time to spend here: 3 days.
If time allows, an absolute must on your Morocco itinerary is a trip into the Sahara Desert. Camel ride through the dunes to the middle of the Sahara desert, then watch the sunset and views followed by star gazing at your campsite. The journey from Marrakech to the desert is a long bus journey so I recommend to allocate about 3 days out of your trip to reaching and experiencing the desert. It is approximately a 12 hour bus journey from Marrakech to the desert.
The best way to get to and from the desert is to book a tour that will include your transport and accommodation and a few stops along the way.
Tourradar.com offers a range of tours from Marrakech and some include either a return journey back to Marrakech or an onward journey to Fez. Prices vary depending on the tour type, you can choose from more basic camping tours to more luxury tents or hotels. See full list of Sahara and Morocco tour options on Tour Radar here.
Ait Ben Haddou
Time to spend here: 1 to 2 hours.
Included in many of the tour options to the desert is a stop off at the ancient pre Saharan village and Unesco World Heritage site, Ait Ben Haddou, located in Ouarzazate it is the filming location of many well known films and TV shows from the Gladiators to Game of Thrones and it is still occupied by four local families.
Gorge De Dades
On your journey to the desert, you can stop off at the Gorge De Dades. Here on the edge of the sahara region, you will find a series of wadi gorges carved out by the Dades river in Morocco.
Time to spend here: 2 to 3 days
Chefchaouen was one of my favourite stops on our trip through Morocco. Read more about what to do and see in this beautiful, blue washed town in my blog post, ‘Chefchaouen, Morocco guide’.
(A Homestay is an opportunity for local people to share their culture and way of life with you by offering you bed and board in their own home and you’ll find them all over South East Asia.)
Experiencing a traditional homestay in Cambodia was most one of the most memorable moments from my trip to South East Asia – being entirely pulled out of my comfort zone by staying under a local families roof for a night! While a lot of places within Thailand and Vietnam seem to be designed for tourists, Cambodia stands out as one of the least adapted countries in South East Asia for tourism so I recommend anyone who is really interested in understanding the culture and how people live in this country to participate in an overnight homestay. Not only will you get to know the locals and how simply these people live their daily lives but the money you give to the families for staying with them goes straight towards helping them make a living and to the local community who are so appreciative of tourists visiting.
Chambok Homestay, Cambodia
The stilted house we stayed in overnight.
We did one overnight stay at local Cambodian family Homestay in Chambok. There are around 37 Chambok homestays in the area and they form a big part of the the Chambok ecotourism project which has helped to support the local community. Chambok is a rural countryside area in Southwest Cambodia not far from Kampong Cham where cows roam freely along the orange dusty dirt tracks and the cutest Cambodian children playing on the road greet you with some of the warmest smiles and ‘hellos’. What struck me was how simply this Cambodian family live yet seem so content. The facilities in their home were extremely basic and a far cry from the materialistic, western world which was an adjustment for many of us. We stayed in their wooden stilted house which comprised of a single room with 3 thin mattresses lining the floor with mosquito nets overhead and just a single outlet allowing us to charge our phones. As our host family spoke absolutely no english, our guide did the translating and informed us that they did not have electricity available to them up until about 5 years ago and the family would rely on a car battery to provide power for just one hour every evening. We were shown the outhouse bathroom which we were invited to use located away from the house close to where the family cows were tied up for the night. Inside lay a hole in the ground as a toilet (bring personal toilet paper with you everywhere you go in Cambodia, it’s not always readily available) and a very basic bucket of water as the shower which, despite the heat outside, none of us braved. As I hope you can grasp from my descriptions, one gains a new appreciation for the western toilet while traveling Asia!
As an evening activity we were invited to the local community center, for a Cambodian meal for dinner cooked by a local volunteer followed by a traditional dance performed by the local children of Chambok village. Once back at the Homestay, it was a restless night from the majority of the group, with the first Cockerel sounding it’s alarm at 3:08 am, and continuing throughout the morning, until the sun had fully risen and the noises of all sorts of wildlife were now in full swing before we had even lifted our heads – something that needs to be embraced after spending the night in the Cambodian jungle.
How to book the Chambok Homestay
You can book the Chambok homestay for as little as $3 per night here. More information on the Chambok Ecotourism Project can be found here.
Morocco uses the Moroccan Dirham as its national currency. 1 US $ converts to 10 Dirhams. Euro is also accepted as a form of payment by much of the souk owners at the markets and accommodation such as Moroccan Riads and Dars.
Excluding accommodation, daily budget comes in at around the US $30-50 per day or 300 to 500 dirhams for the average backpacker. Prices were comparable to the Western world particularly in the larger cities of Marrakech and Fez and definitely more expensive overall than traveling in South East Asian countries.
Moroccan restaurants and cuisine are easy to find. Traditional dishes include Moroccan soups, Tajine or Tagine (a stew containing meat and veg) and couscous with vegetables or meat. You will get a bowl of bread with every meal that you order and fresh fruit such as watermelon is popular after meals. Alternatively, if Moroccan cuisine is not your thing, many restaurants will offer western dishes such as burgers, spaghetti bolognese, and pizza.
Note: please consult a doctor about your own needs for travel vaccinations for Morocco.
It is recommended that you get the standard vaccines such as Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid before traveling to Morocco. You can find more information on the necessary vaccinations per destination on the Tropical Medical Bureau website here.
As a tourist, you do not require to apply for a visa in advance of entering Morocco nor are you required to pay a fee upon entering for a stay of up to 90 days. You may enter Morocco for a stay of 90 days visa free on a valid passport with at least one blank page. Please consult the embassy website on Morocco visa requirements for more up to date details.
Many people may not think about their clothing options while planning a trip to Morocco however, it is important to remember that Morocco is a conservative country and your usual summer wear of shorts, skirts and string tops may not be the most acceptable in many areas of Morocco, no matter how hot it may be outside. It will be necessary to respect their culture by covering up. Most locals and women especially wear clothing which is high around the chest, covering the shoulders and below the knee. For your own safety and to not draw attention to yourself, dress conservatively like the locals. Pack plenty of light cotton pants, long skirts, and sleeved tops. In more relaxed areas like Chefchaouen in the North, you may get away with your usual summer dress.
Traveling by bus is one of the most inexpensive ways to travel through Morocco. The CTM bus service provides a large number of routes to and from many cities with reasonably priced fares and air conditioning. For example, a single ticket from Fez to Chefchaouen is $7.50 or 750 dirhams. It is possible to book tickets online for CTM services on the CTM website here or directly from the CTM bus station in each city. Often your hostel can help you book tickets also.
Public City bus:
There are also public city buses that operate around the cities. For example, Bus #19 runs from right outside Marrakech airport into the city centre for 30 Dirhams.
There are many taxis/cabs available around the cities. Generally, drivers will try to charge you a sky-high price as a tourist, so it is important to negotiate the price of your journey before hipping in. With a little haggling, you will be able to get them down to a more reasonable price. For example, a 15 to 20-minute journey should cost no more than 50 Dirham or $5.
Note: there is a taxi law across Morocco that only allows 3 passengers per journey.
The weather varies per region across the year in Morocco. The more coastal towns are milder while cities like Marrakech and Fez experience the most humidity and higher temperatures.
Hot Season: From early June to late August, temperatures soar and reach around 40 degrees Celsius. It can become unbearably hot and humid in the cities and the desert during this period, so please be aware before traveling. Despite the heat during the day, temperatures tend to plummet in the evening so it is necessary to pack a jacket.
Winter season: The winter months are from November to February, where temperatures are coldest and the Atlas Mountains experience snowfall.
Best time to visit: March to May are the spring months in Morocco when the weather is more pleasant and bearable and temperatures are in the 20s. The Autumn season of September to October is also a great time to visit.
This is an annual Muslim holiday that takes place in Morocco for the entire month of May. The opening hours of shops, restaurants, and cafes may vary during this period as locals must fast from sunrise to sunset, however, the access to food is still widely available for non-muslims. As Muslims are not permitted to drink during this period, the availability of alcohol is limited. Many restaurants offer alcohol to non-muslims but they must show their passport as proof before being served. Despite this holiday, it is still a peak season for tourists to visit so do not let this put you off visiting Morocco during this period as it will be a culturally enriching experience.
Please click here to read my post about safety advice for Morocco where I go into a lot of detail about do’s and don’t’s for traveling through the country.