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The ‘City of Lights’ tour Paris

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!

Explore Ireland: The Beara Peninsula

Looking to explore more of Ireland? Trying to find a 2020 staycation location? Enjoy walks and hikes? The Beara Peninsula is calling.

The Beara Peninsula (aka the Beara Way) is located in West Cork close to the Kerry border, nestled between the Cork & Kerry mountains where the number of local sheep exceeds people in this rural area.

The scenic drive along the Beara Way is on the Wild Atlantic Way route and will provide you with stunning views of the Irish 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. You will pass through the colourful and sleepy villages of Eyeries, Allihies and Ardgroom.

The Glenbeg lake of Ardgroom
Glenbeg lake of Ardgroom

The Glenbeg lake of Ardgroom is a hidden gem and should not be missed when visiting the Beara way and can be found just a 5 minute drive from Ardgroom village. Climb the mountain surrounding the lake for stunning views extending all the way to Kenmare bay and overlooking the lake.

Eyeries

The picturesque village of Eyeries is the second village on the Peninsula with mountain views, walks and beaches dotted along the coastline.

Allihies

Allihies is the last village on the peninsula, where you will find the old Berehaven copper mines from 1800s which aided the development of the local beach. From the beach you can take the coastal loop walk which takes approximately 1 hour around the coastline.

Views along the Allihies coastal loop walk

For more on exploring County Cork, check out my post ‘Top places to explore in county Cork, Ireland’ here.

Top places to explore in County Cork, Ireland

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 you will find the small seaside village of Ballycotton, here you will find a cliff walk that extends about 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.

Difficulty: Easy

Time to complete: 2 hours

Nearby towns: Ballycotton, Midleton, Youghal

Gougane Barra

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.

Difficulty: Easy

Nearby towns: Kinsale, Ballinspittle

Garrettstown Beach and Cliff Walk

Garrettstown beach is one of Ireland’s best surfing beaches which is 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.

Difficulty: Easy

Nearby towns: Kinsale, Ballinspittle

Barleycove Beach

One of Ireland’s most beautiful beaches. Located in West Cork approximately 1.5 hours from Cork city lies the peaceful area of Barleycove. Its unique sand dunes and estuaries set it apart from other beaches in the country.

Nearby towns: Schull, Crookhaven

Mizen Head

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)
Eyeries, Co. Cork

If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Cork city – head for the Beara Peninsula, aka the Beara Way where it is likely that you will 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 build the beach of Allihies and from the beach 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.

Sheep of Eyeries

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.

Glenbeg Lough, Ardgoom

Difficulty: Intermediate

Time to hike: 1 hour

Baltimore Beacon
Baltimore beacon

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.

Difficulty: easy

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.

Nohoval Cove
Novohal Cove sea stacks

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.

2 Week Island Hopping Itinerary For Thailand

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.

Experience Cambodian Temples; Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm

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.

Entrance fees

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!

Angkor Wat

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

Bayon Temple

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

Ta Prohm

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.

Opening hours: 7:30 am – 5:30 pm

Time to visit: Afternoon – evening

Time to explore: approximately 2 hours

Top Food Finds Lisbon

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.

Taberna Salmoura

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.


Basilico

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: Travel Guide

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:

Brunch

Fekete Cafe, Budapest, Múzeum krt. 5, 1053 Hungary
Fekete is a great spot for breakfast or brunch with a pretty, open courtyard area.

Kaptafa, Budapest, Akácfa u. 37-39, 1072 Hungary

Mazel Tov, Budapest, Akácfa u. 47, 1072 Hungary

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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.

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Israeli style breakfast at Mazel Tov

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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.

Where to find good coffee?

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Coffee at My Little Melbourne

My Little Melbourne Coffee and Brew bar, Budapest, Madách Imre út 3, 1075 Hungary// Kontakt Budapest, Budapest, Károly krt. 22, 1052 Hungary// Fekete Cafe, Budapest, Múzeum krt. 5, 1053 Hungary are some great spots for good quality coffee.

What to do in the city?

Grab a drink at a ruin bar

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

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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

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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

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Fisherman’s Bastion

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The view of the Parliament building from Castle District

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 BathsIMG-20190908-WA0027_2

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.

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The view of the Parliament Building from 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.

Note:

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).

Morocco Travel Itinerary – 1 Week

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)

Marrakech

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:

Le Jardin Secret,  121 Rue Mouassine, Marrakesh 40030, Morocco

Le Jardin Majorelle, Rue Yves St Laurent, Marrakech 40090, Morocco

Stroll around Bahia Palace.

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;

Atay Cafe, 62 Amsafah Sidi Abdelaziz Medina Marrakesh

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.

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Terrasse Des Epices, Sidi Abdel Aziz، 15 souk cherifia، Marrakesh 40000, Morocco.

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.

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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.

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SOUL Food Restaurant, 14 Rue Amsefah, Sidi Abdelaziz, Route Sidi Abdelaziz, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco. 

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.

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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.

Desert tours:

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.

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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.

Chefchaouen

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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’.

Safety tips: please find my detailed post on safety tips for Morocco here: Safety Advice for Fez Morocco‘.

For information on visas, transport, budget and climate, please see my post on: ‘Everything you need to know about Morocco’ 

Why You Should Do a Homestay In Cambodia

(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.

Everything You Need To Know About Travelling To Morocco

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Currency

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.

Budget

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.

Food

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.

Travel Vaccinations

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.

Visa requirements

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.

Appropriate dress

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.

Transport

CTM Bus:

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.

Taxi:

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.

Climate

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.

Ramadan

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.

Safety Advice

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.

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Safety Advice for Fez Morocco

If you get a chance to visit Fez, Morocco you will no doubt experience the utter chaos of walking through the Medina, the largest in the world which has over 9,500 sprawling streets and alleyways. So when people talk about getting lost while traveling, this medina will have you in a disorientated mess in seconds. The Fez medina is best described as a cross between a giant market and a maze where the souks or shops offer herbs, spices to carpets, rugs, anything. The city is dripping in culture, from the infamous tanneries to men transporting goods on donkeys backs to open funeral processions through the crowded medina. It will no doubt be an intense overload of the senses and you need to have your wits about you especially as a woman in this city. Here are a few nuggets of advice for traveling through the city of Fez:

Research the location before booking your accommodation.

This is hugely important for any city you travel to. I would strongly recommend to either find accommodation on the edge of the Fez medina or just outside the medina walls. For safety, I would also recommend staying in a busy part of the city. There is no comfort in staying down a dark quiet area where you do not know what may be lurking behind each corner. By doing this it will limit your chances of getting entirely lost deeper inside the medina or booking into accommodation located in a dodgy area.

Brace yourself for locals trying to hassle you.

Traveling throughout Morocco you will soon become very accustomed to locals trying to hassle you on the streets, everything from trying to lure you into their restaurant, to buying tickets for a day trip to buying souvenirs from a souk. It will run you down, draining the life out of you at points and you will have to develop a thick skin to bluntly say no and turn them in the other direction.

Beware of fake tour guides.

You will no doubt come across locals who seem oh so willing to offer you help with directions. Beware of people on the streets that seem eager to walk with you to show you the way, it is likely that they will try to lead you in circles then demand money once you say you are fine to find the way on your own. This is a well-known tourist scam happening all over Morocco. If you do come across a local who acts in this way, I would advise you to sternly tell them you do not need their help so you do not run into hassle later. These ‘tour guides’ tend to lead you towards their friend’s souks and businesses to encourage to you buy from them. This is something you need to be aware of also.

Do not venture too far into the medina at night.

This is my number one safety tip for Morocco in general as it gets very sketchy. I would not recommend wandering around the medina at night especially as a woman. It is not safe and you will get hassled by local men trying to show you the way and there will not a local woman in sight.

Keep your belongings close.

This is good advice for any city, but particularly in Fez where pickpocketing and thefts are fierce. Always carry your bag on your front and in your view so nobody can try to steal from you. If you have access to a security box at your accommodation, I would keep all of your valuables locked away there instead of walking around with them on you.

Do not rely on Google Maps or your phone’s GPS.

We found out the hard way when we got entirely lost that the GPS is not 100% reliable in the city of Fez, especially the further you wander into the medina. While it will appear to work in some parts of the city, venturing just a 5-minute walk in one direction the GPS might black out.

Beware of the carpet scam.

The story is told the same across the internet that carpet shop owners will invite you in, nice as pie, offer you all some mint tea as a hospitality gesture and before you know it you are in the middle of a sales pitch on ten different types of carpet. What we experienced is that while you are innocently drinking your mint tea they will ask everyone their nationality to pick out who is most likely to spend big money on a carpet, then whisk you away into a room on your own before you can ask for a second opinion and the haggling begins. The more interest you show the more outrageous the initial asking price will be. Do not feel pressured into anything and if you feel uncomfortable, its time to get out of the situation.

Negotiate the price of the taxi before hopping in.

This is a rule of thumb everywhere you travel and Morocco is no exception. Taxi drivers will try to take full advantage of the fact you are a tourist and try to charge you an over the top price for a 10-minute journey in the hopes that you will know no better. Always haggle down their initial asking price, if you are persistent you should be able to get it for at least a third of what they initially asked for.

Note: There is a weird taxi rule around Morocco that a standard taxi with four seats available can only transport three people at a time so bear this in mind when choosing your mode of transport.

Do not be afraid to haggle… for everything.

Like taxi drivers, most shops and tour agencies will try to upcharge tourists. Their initial asking price may be as high as 7 times the amount that they are willing to sell an item for. Do not be afraid to haggle and be persistent, it is a very large part of their culture so do not be afraid that you might insult anyone. They are willing to try a rip off a tourist, you are entitled to try and get the best deal possible.

Cover up!

Morocco is a conservative country so you won’t get away with wearing your usual summer skirts and shorts without some stares. As a sign of respect for their culture and to avoid drawing attention to yourself on the street, it is recommended that you dress as the locals do, wear clothing that covers below the knee and your shoulders.

You will get lost.

This is inevitable in Morocco, especially in the larger cities. Fez, for me, is one of the most disorientating places I have ever visited. When you do get confused as to which way to go, do not ask people hanging around the streets as they will continue to hassle you even after you no longer need their help instead stop into the next riad or restaurant you come across and ask the staff how to get to where you are going. It is advisable to carry with you at all times the address of the place you are staying at. Often hotels and riads will hand you their business card on check in which has the location and address on the back.

Chefchaouen, Morocco Guide

Chefchaouen also named the Blue Pearl is a breath of fresh air and the perfect town to chill out in after experiencing the hectic cities of Marrakech and Fez. We had heard along the way that many people make the journey Chefchaouen as a day trip but it deserves more time than that on your Morocco itinerary. Just a 3-hour drive north of the city of Fez, this pretty little city is situated high up in the mountains and it is unique in that the entire town is painted in shades of blue (an Instagram lovers dream). It is popularly believed that the city is painted blue to keep mosquitoes away while others believe it was done so for spiritual reasons. While we had suffered through in 40 degrees late May heat in more southern cities, the weather in Chefchaouen was a decent 10 degrees cooler which we were pretty pleased with. There is also a noticeable difference in the daily cost of things including eating and drinking out from the North and South of Morocco. The pace of life is a lot less maniac, fewer local people were out to hassle and bother you and your chances of getting lost here are slimmer as the medina and town itself is smaller. Below is a suggested itinerary for exploring the town of Chefchaouen.

Hang out in the main square.

In the main square you will find an array of restaurants, souks, ice cream stops.

Choose to do your souvenir and gift shopping here.

Chefchaouen is far more laid back than other parts of Morocco. Here you won’t feel under pressure or pushed into purchasing anything and your shopping experience will be far more enjoyable. The town also has better quality shops than other places in Morocco so I definitely recommend picking up gifts or souvenirs when you pass through. The souks sell everything from leather bags, soaps, argan oils to Moroccan carpets and spices.

Hike to the Archour waterfall.

Hire a car or hop in a shared taxi to the area of Archour. We joined a couple of people we had met along the way to do the hike so a taxi between 7 of us cost around 5 dollars in total for an hour-long journey there and back to Chefchaouen. Remember to haggle and agree on the price before hopping in or the driver will likely try to charge you a lot when you get there. The hike is about 2 hours up to the waterfall and the views of the Moroccan countryside and mountains on your drive there are beautiful.

Hike to the mosque to watch the sunset.

Just a 10 minute walk up the mountain from the center of town to the local mosque, you will be able to look down on the city of Chefchaouen as the sun sets behind the mountains. The walk is short and not overly challenging, you’ll likely pass goats being herded from one direction to the other and the view at the top overlooking the blue city is pretty.

Where to stay

Dar Chefchaouen

Located on the edge of the Medina and just a 5-minute walk from the main square, this guesthouse is perfectly located. A double room with private bathroom booked through booking.com cost around $30 per night.

Where to eat

Cafe Clock

A restaurant with locations also in Fez and Marrakech offers the usual Morrocan dishes as well as decent western plates such as burgers and fries for decent prices.

Mounir Restaurant

Located on the square, this little restaurant offers a great breakfast at a small price. Enjoy a great coffee, orange juice, and a Moroccan style crepe for just $2.50.

Marisco’s

One of the best places we experienced for food was this little restaurant, Marisco’s. Located right on the square of the town. The menu is well priced, food tastes great and there’s a great view from the terrace.

Hang out at the cafe on the waterfall

Enroute to the mosque, you’ll find a little cafe located at the base of the waterfall. Tables and chairs are right on the water while you’ll find watermelons and oranges in the waterfall to keep them cool. It’s a little pricey in comparison to other places in the area, we paid around $2 for an orange juice but worthwhile for the experience of sitting in the waterfall.

How to get to Chefchaouen.

The CTM facilitates many bus routes from city to city across Morocco and it is considered the most reliable of all bus services and also provides air conditioning, which is a huge bonus during hotter months. We booked our CTM bus from Fez to Chefchaouen which cost only $7.50. Often times, your hostel will help you book a bus ticket in advance otherwise, you can purchase the CTM bus station.