Orlando, Florida is a great vacation destination for couples, families and more that want to enjoy theme parks, beaches, nature and a wide variety of entertainment. Located in the heart of Florida, Orlando is actually home to more than 50 theme parks and attractions spread across almost 4,000 square miles. With so many things to do, it’s hard to know where to start and planning a trip here can be overwhelming. The good news is that there is something for everyone and with such a diverse range of available activities, it’s difficult not to have a rewarding visit to this destination.
Here’s a list of some of the best ways to enjoy your vacation in Orlando…
Go to Disney World
Disney World is the most popular theme park in the world, and it’s easy to see why. There are four parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Each of these theme parks features rides and shows that will excite children and adults alike. You could easily fill up your vacation simply by visiting these four parks. Naturally, if you are coming to Orlando for a vacation, visiting at least one park is probably on your mind. And you should. Choose the one or two that match your interests the most and then spend the rest of your vacation at other places in the region, without the crowds and lines.
Take an Airboat tour through the swamps
For a different kind of excursion, why not join one of the airboat tours that take you through the wilderness of the Central Florida Everglades. You’ll encounter a combination of wildlife and beautiful nature, while enjoying time away from the city itself. Alligators are frequently seen as you zoom through the wetlands.
There are many options as well. You can take a short tour, longer tour, sunset tour, night tour or even a private tour just for your family or group of friends. Either way, if you love spending time in nature, this is an experience that should be on your list.
Visit the beach
You can visit the beach anywhere in Florida, and the beaches near Orlando are certainly not to be missed. Only 45 minutes away, you can easily reach places such as Cocoa Beach (a surfing haven!), Cape Canaveral (relaxed beach) and the expansive sands of New Smyrna Beach.
Each beach offers its own vibe, along with activities such as renting a boat, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, manatee sighting and more. You could even rent a bike and ride along the coast, passing through quiet neighborhoods and chilled-out town centers, finding no shortage of places to eat along the way. Rarely crowded the way that Miami Beach can get, these beaches offer a great day trip from Orlando in order to ensure you don’t leave Florida without having taken a swim!
Stay at a resort
If you’re traveling with kids, a resort stay can be an ideal option. With a lot of pre-planned activities at these resorts, it makes for an easier time since you won’t have to plan out every minute of the day on your own. Staying at such a resort also eliminates the need to find a place to eat for every meal.
All-inclusive resorts offer great value in many cases – especially when all food and drinks are included – so they are perfect for those on a budget. There are many resorts to choose from in Orlando, such as Westgate Resorts, and it’s worth looking through them all to see which one suits your family or group the best.
Visit the Kennedy Space Center
Only a 45 minute drive from central Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center is a great place to learn about the history of space travel. The center has an extensive museum and interactive exhibits that allow visitors to get a better understanding of how astronauts train for space flight, as well as how they live in space. You can see real rockets and other space vehicles there, too.
You can take tours of both launch pads (where rockets were launched) and flight decks (where they landed).
Even better, check the schedule in advance to see if you’ll be in Florida during an actual launch. If you are, head to the pier in the nearby town of Port Canaveral and watch the launch live. It’s a spectacular event to witness as you observe the rocket burst into the sky, with the sonic boom that soon passes over land.
Crystal River kayak tour
The crystal clear waters of Crystal River await anyone looking for a pristine slice of nature to marvel at. Hop in a kayak and enjoy a guided tour along this magical river, with two variations depending on the time of year you’re there. If you’re in Orlando during the winter months, you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing manatees as hundreds of them make this river their home in order to escape the cold. During the rest of the year, you’ll have an opportunity to visit several springs, including the famous Three Sisters Spring. You can swim in the beautiful water, look for dolphins, turtles and fish and paddle among some of the most impressive scenery in the entire state.
Spend time at Universal Studios
Universal Studios is another one of the more popular places to visit in Orlando of course. But it’s popular for a reason. It’s home to some of the most exciting rides and entertainment in the city and provides are more interactive experience, with activities that take you into the world of ET, Harry Potter, the Minions, Transformers, Fast and Furious and so much more.
With rollercoasters, rides, live shows and plenty of shopping and dining, it’s not surprising that you could easily fill up two days at Universal Studios alone.
Get wet at Aquatica
When you visit Orlando, getting wet at a water park is a very fun way to pass an afternoon. The water park Aquatica is particularly popular given its range of waterslides, rapids and more. There’s 13 different slides and water experiences to choose from!
Reef Plunge is a waterslide that actually takes you underwater to observe marine life and Riptide Race is the world’s tallest dueling waterslide. There’s also pools where you can simply relax, dining options and a lazy river to float down in order to enjoy some real calm vibes.
Experience the outdoors at Bok Tower Gardens
If you’re looking for another excursion out of the city, pay a visit to the Bok Tower Gardens approximately 1 hour away. This serene 250 acre garden is designed to offer a contemplative experience for visitors, right at the top of Iron Mountain. You can wander through the Olmsted Gardens, with over 126 different species of birds, and you can view the Singing Tower, with its impressive carillon (an instrument consisting of 23+ bells). You can also take a walk on over 2 miles of nature trails in order to learn about the unique upland savanna-like ecosystem that sits on one of the highest points in Florida.
If the hustle and bustle of Orlando gets to be too much, Bok Tower Gardens could be the answer to help you re-balance.
It goes without saying that there are endless ways to create a memorable Orlando vacation. As you can see, from theme parks and beaches, to hiking and boating, to nature and wildlife…and beyond, it’s hard to find a destination that offers such a variety of experiences. As a result, you simply need to look at the long list of options and figure out what suits you the most so that you can plan a fun-filled trip to this world-famous vacation destination!
Traveling can be a rewarding experience, but it often comes with its fair share of challenges. Rarely is travel one extended period of purely stress-free moments. That would be ideal, but it’s not reality and I can say this after having traveled non-stop for over 20 years. Some of the more common challenges that travelers face are anxiety, stress and motion sickness, all of which can put a damper on your journey. Like I said, travel is hard at times and it can take a toll on our bodies and minds.
Fortunately, I came upon a product that offers a very simple yet effective solution to alleviate these kind of travel-related woes. It’s called the Reliefband.
This product was introduced to me by two friends. They both used it to eliminate nausea associated with motion sickness whenever they are traveling by air or car during their adventures. I did some more research about Reliefband in order to find out how it works and if it could be a genuine solution. While looking for more info, I was also thinking about the small group tours that I lead as there are often travelers who experience some motion sickness on some of the journeys we take.
In the end, this product could very well be a must-have piece of travel gear for those travelers who do suffer from motion sickness, stress or anxiety.
Understanding Reliefband: The Reliefband is a groundbreaking wearable device designed to provide relief from motion sickness, nausea and anxiety. It harnesses the power of neuromodulation technology to stimulate the median nerve located on the underside of the wrist. This gentle stimulation targets the body’s natural neural pathways, effectively reducing the signals that trigger these discomforts, and offering travelers a pleasant and hassle-free journey as a result.
Combatting Motion Sickness: Motion sickness can turn an otherwise positive travel experience into a nightmare. Whether you’re on a bumpy road, turbulent flight or choppy seas, the Reliefband can come to your rescue. By emitting precise electrical pulses that modulate the median nerve, it helps normalize the erratic signals between the brain and the stomach, thereby mitigating the symptoms of motion sickness. The Reliefband offers a drug-free and non-invasive solution, making it safe and suitable for all travelers.
Relieving Nausea and Morning Sickness: Nausea can strike at any time, even when you’re on the go. Whether you’re affected by a strong odor, unfamiliar food or a sudden change in altitude, the Reliefband can swiftly provide relief. Again, the gentle pulsations from the device help to disrupt the transmission of nausea signals from the stomach to the brain, effectively easing discomfort and allowing you to enjoy your journey to the fullest. For pregnant travelers experiencing morning sickness, Reliefband can also be a game-changer, offering quick comfort and convenience whenever needed.
Managing Anxiety and Stress: Traveling can also be stressful, especially for those prone to anxiety or nervousness. The Reliefband’s neuromodulation technology extends its benefits beyond physical ailments, as it can also help soothe anxiety. By stimulating the nerve, it triggers the release of natural endorphins and serotonin in the brain, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation even when in stressful situations. With Reliefband, you can bid farewell to pre-travel jitters and normal travel stress and embrace significantly more serene travels.
Easy-to-Use and Travel-Friendly: The Reliefband’s user-friendly design makes it a perfect companion for travelers. With adjustable settings, you can personalize the intensity levels according to your needs. The device is discreet, lightweight and easily fits on your wrist, ensuring convenience and portability. It is also rechargeable, eliminating the need for constant battery replacements. With its long battery life, the Reliefband is ready to accompany you on all your adventures, providing relief whenever and wherever you need it.
Traveling should be exciting and fulfilling, and free from the discomforts that can often accompany it. With Reliefband, you can now bid farewell to motion sickness, nausea and anxiety, and fully embrace the wonders of exploration. This revolutionary wearable device offers a drug-free, non-invasive and highly effective solution for travelers.
(Note: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you have specific medical concerns, please consult with a healthcare professional.)
Let me start off by thanking every one of you who left a suggestion in the comments of my last post (and in emails) about where I should travel next. I really wasn’t expecting such enthusiastic recommendations and every single comment I read put a huge smile on my face.
And as soon as those comments starting piling up I began to spend some time pondering over the suggestions, as well as thinking about my own goals for my upcoming travels and what I wish to accomplish.
In fact, I had originally planned yesterday to be the day that I would sort it all out and make a decision. The idea was that I would use the one and a half hour flight from Cancun, Mexico to Florida to concentrate on choosing my next destination. Flying through the sky at 35,000 feet just seemed like a perfect time to think about travel.
And as the plane took off at 11:31am yesterday morning, I did begin to read through the list of possible travel destinations – which includes Africa, Azerbaijan, Philippines, Colombia, Antarctica, Latvia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, India, Tajikistan, South Korea, China, Japan and many more – I had written down from all of your comments.
However, the reality is that my flight came and went and I was not able to reach a conclusion, not because there were too many options but because my session of travel contemplation did not last very long after take-off.
I believe that it was about 20 minutes into the flight, as we soared high above the western tip of Cuba, that the airplane suddenly dropped straight out of the sky. One second the clouds outside seemed to be far below the airplane and the next second they seemed to be far above.
And I, my friends, was terrified.
Okay, maybe the above was a little bit of an exaggeration.
Perhaps the airplane didn’t exactly ‘drop’ out of the sky. I guess it was more like a quick shake, a little shimmy if you will. Actually, if I remember correctly, the pilot referred to it as a ‘small pocket of turbulence’.
However, it sure felt like more than a ‘small pocket of turbulence’ to me. I braced for the worse and remember thinking that I really should have been kinder to the woman at the airline check-in counter who had confusingly tried to charge me double the normal airport departure tax. Now I was certain that my life was about to end and that was going to be my last thought.
This never used to happen when I traveled on airplanes. But, and I really, really, really, hope that I’m not alone with this, as I get older, it seems that those little moments of normal turbulence have become significantly more frightening.
It’s as if the airplane hits one small ‘bump’ in the sky and the next thing I know the sweet elderly lady next to me is asking if I would be so kind as to release my insanely tight grip on her now black and blue arm.
All it takes is one little hiccup in the air and I immediately reach under my seat (while holding back tears of course) to ensure that my inflatable life vest is in place before lowering myself halfway into the crash position. Of course, I try to pretend that I’m searching for something in my backpack that I’ve placed under the seat in front of me but I’m really just getting ready for the inevitable impact.
FLYING USED TO BE FUN
I’ve literally flown hundreds of times during my life and for years I loved every single minute of every one of those flights, even those moments when the plane was stuck in turbulence, both small and large pockets. Never did I find such common turbulence to be any reason for worry at all.
But these days, not only do I immediately think my life is in its last precious moments but I’m often unable to concentrate on anything else during the rest of the flight.
I can’t even concentrate enough to watch Kung Fu Panda 2 on my personal entertainment screen. The airplane shakes once and I close my eyes so tightly and my heart beats so quickly that I enter into a twenty minute ‘life flashing before my eyes’ session. And when I finally snap out of it, the damn Panda has somehow discovered inner peace and is now able to redirect cannon fire coming from Lord Shen’s armada. How did that happen? I missed it all.
Well, I suppose this is just something that I need to come to terms with. There is no denying the fact that as I get older, I find myself more and more uncomfortable while flying. Perhaps ‘uncomfortable’ is not even the best description.
‘Scared out of my flipping mind‘ is probably somewhat more accurate.
Has anyone else experienced this? Anyone? Please??
Paris is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, attracting millions of visitors each year. Located in the heart of France, the city is known for its stunning architecture, rich history, world-class museums, and unparalleled cuisine. Whether you’re interested in art, fashion, or simply soaking up the ambiance of a beautiful city, Paris has something to offer everyone. The city’s romantic atmosphere, charming neighborhoods, and iconic landmarks make it an ideal destination for couples, families, and solo travelers alike.
However, with so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming to plan a trip to Paris. That’s why it’s important to make sure you experience the best of the city while you’re there. From exploring the city’s historic landmarks and museums to indulging in local cuisine and wandering through charming neighborhoods, there’s no shortage of things to do in Paris. Taking the time to plan your trip and prioritize the activities and sights that interest you the most can help ensure that you have an unforgettable experience in the City of Light.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, experiencing the best of Paris can be a truly rewarding experience. From strolling along the Seine River to enjoying a cup of coffee at a cozy cafe, the city offers a wealth of experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. By taking the time to plan your trip and make the most of your time in the city, you can create lasting memories and discover a newfound appreciation for this iconic destination. So if you’re looking for a travel destination that offers beauty, history, culture, and charm, look no further than Paris.
Planning Your Trip
One of the key factors that can make or break your travel experience in Paris is the type of accommodation you choose. The city is home to a wide range of hotels, from budget-friendly options to luxurious five-star properties. While there are certainly plenty of affordable hotels in Paris, we recommend splurging a bit to stay at the best hotels in Paris. These hotels offer a level of service, comfort, and amenities that can greatly enhance your travel experience. From stylish boutique hotels to grand palace hotels, Paris has no shortage of exceptional properties to choose from. Some of the best hotels in the city include the Four Seasons Hotel George V, the Ritz Paris, and the Mandarin Oriental, Paris.
When creating your itinerary for Paris, there are a few key things to consider to help ensure that you have the best possible experience. First, think about what type of traveler you are and what you hope to get out of your trip. Are you interested in art and culture? History? Food and wine? Nightlife? Once you have a sense of what you want to do and see in Paris, you can start planning your itinerary accordingly.
Another key consideration is the time of year you’re planning to visit. Paris is a popular destination year-round, but there are certain times of the year when the city is especially busy or when certain attractions may be closed. For example, the summer months can be crowded and hot, while many museums and restaurants close for vacation in August. On the other hand, the holiday season is a magical time to visit Paris, with festive lights and decorations throughout the city.
Finally, be sure to leave some time for spontaneity and exploration. While it’s important to have a general plan for your trip, some of the best experiences in Paris can come from simply wandering through the city’s neighborhoods, stumbling upon charming cafes and boutiques, and interacting with locals. Don’t be afraid to stray from your itinerary and embrace the spirit of adventure!
Must-visit Landmarks and Attractions
Paris is home to some of the world’s most iconic landmarks and attractions, and no trip to the city would be complete without visiting a few of them. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or simply soaking up the city’s beauty, there’s something for everyone in Paris. Some of the top landmarks and attractions that travelers should visit include:
The Eiffel Tower: This iconic landmark is a must-visit for any first-time traveler to Paris. You can take an elevator or stairs to the top for stunning views of the city.
The Louvre: This world-famous museum is home to thousands of works of art, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
Notre-Dame Cathedral: This stunning cathedral, which was badly damaged in a fire in 2019, is still worth a visit for its Gothic architecture and rich history.
The Palace of Versailles: This opulent palace, located just outside of Paris, was the home of the French monarchy and is now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While Paris is famous for its iconic landmarks and popular neighborhoods, there are many lesser-known things to see and do in the city that are just as impressive. Here are a few examples:
The Musée de l’Orangerie: While the Louvre gets all the attention, the Musée de l’Orangerie is a must-see for art lovers. Located in the Tuileries Garden, the museum is home to Monet’s stunning Water Lilies series, as well as works by other famous artists such as Cézanne, Renoir, and Picasso.
The Promenade Plantée: This elevated park in the 12th arrondissement is a hidden gem that offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. The park is built on an old railway viaduct and features beautiful gardens, art installations, and stunning views of the city.
The Canal Saint-Martin: This picturesque canal in the 10th and 11th arrondissements is a favorite among locals but is often overlooked by tourists. Take a stroll along the canal’s tree-lined banks, explore the quirky shops and cafes in the surrounding neighborhood, or take a boat tour to see the city from a new perspective.
The Musée des Arts Forains: This whimsical museum in the 12th arrondissement is devoted to carnival rides and games from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Visitors can ride antique carousels, play vintage games, and explore the museum’s collection of historic fairground artifacts.
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont: This beautiful park in the 19th arrondissement is one of the largest and most picturesque in the city. It features a man-made lake, a waterfall, a suspension bridge, and stunning views of the city from its hilltop location.
The Rodin Museum: This beautiful museum in the 7th arrondissement is dedicated to the works of the sculptor Auguste Rodin. The museum is housed in a stunning 18th-century mansion and features a large collection of Rodin’s sculptures, including his famous “The Thinker” and “The Kiss.”
The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature: This unique museum in the 3rd arrondissement is devoted to hunting and the natural world. Visitors can explore exhibits on hunting weapons, animal specimens, and taxidermy, as well as contemporary art installations that explore the relationship between humans and nature.
The Paris Catacombs: While the Catacombs are well-known, they are often overlooked by visitors to Paris. The Catacombs are a network of underground tunnels and chambers that were used to store the bones of millions of Parisians in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, visitors can explore a small section of the Catacombs on a guided tour.
The Musée de la Vie Romantique: This charming museum in the 9th arrondissement is devoted to the Romantic era of the 19th century. Housed in a beautiful townhouse, the museum features exhibits on the art, literature, and culture of the period, as well as a lovely garden and tea room.
The Albert Kahn Museum and Gardens: This beautiful museum in the western suburbs of Paris is dedicated to the work of the photographer and philanthropist Albert Kahn. The museum features a large collection of Kahn’s photographs and films, as well as stunning gardens that showcase different landscapes from around the world.
These are just a few examples of the many lesser-known things to see and do in Paris. Whether you’re interested in art, history, nature, or just exploring the city’s hidden corners, there’s something for everyone to discover in this vibrant and captivating city.
To make the most of your visit to each landmark, there are a few tips to keep in mind. First, consider purchasing skip-the-line tickets in advance to avoid long lines and save time. Many popular attractions offer these types of tickets, which allow you to bypass the regular queue and enter the attraction more quickly. Another option is to take a guided tour, which can provide you with additional context and insights into the history and significance of the landmark. Many guided tours also offer skip-the-line access and can help you make the most of your time at the attraction.
In addition to these tips, it’s also important to plan ahead and budget your time wisely. Some of the top landmarks in Paris can be quite crowded, especially during peak travel season, so be sure to factor in wait times and plan your visit accordingly. Finally, don’t forget to bring your camera and take plenty of photos to capture your memories of these iconic landmarks and attractions!
Exploring The City’s Neighborhoods
Paris is a city of many neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and charm. Exploring these neighborhoods is a great way to get a sense of the city’s rich history, diverse culture, and vibrant street life. Some of the most popular neighborhoods in Paris include:
The Marais: This historic neighborhood in the heart of Paris is known for its narrow streets, trendy boutiques, and historic landmarks like the Place des Vosges. The Marais also has a vibrant LGBTQ+ community and is home to many excellent restaurants and cafes.
Montmartre: This picturesque hilltop neighborhood is known for its bohemian atmosphere and sweeping views of the city. Montmartre is home to the iconic Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, as well as many charming cafes, galleries, and street performers.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Located on the Left Bank of the Seine, this upscale neighborhood has a long history as a center of intellectual and artistic life in Paris. Saint-Germain-des-Prés is home to many historic landmarks, including the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church and the Café de Flore, as well as many high-end shops and galleries.
Each of these neighborhoods has its own unique features and attractions that make it worth a visit. In the Marais, for example, visitors can explore the city’s Jewish history and culture at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme or sample delicious falafel at L’As du Fallafel. In Montmartre, visitors can climb the steep steps to the top of the hill for stunning views of the city and explore the winding streets and charming cafes of the neighborhood.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés, meanwhile, is known for its elegant architecture and rich cultural history. Visitors can explore the neighborhood’s many art galleries, bookstores, and cafes, or take a stroll through the picturesque Luxembourg Gardens. No matter which neighborhood you choose to explore, you’re sure to discover something unique and fascinating about this beautiful city!
While Paris is famous for its iconic landmarks and charming neighborhoods, there are also many unique experiences to be had that travelers might not have considered. Here are a few ideas for off-the-beaten-path activities to try:
Take a hot air balloon ride: For a truly unforgettable view of the city, consider taking a hot air balloon ride over Paris. You’ll soar above the city and get a bird’s-eye view of the Eiffel Tower, the Seine River, and other iconic landmarks.
Attend a cabaret show: Paris is known for its cabaret shows, which combine music, dance, and theater for a fun and entertaining evening. Some of the most famous cabarets in Paris include the Moulin Rouge and the Lido.
Visit the Catacombs: Located beneath the streets of Paris, the Catacombs are an underground network of tunnels and chambers filled with the bones of millions of Parisians. It’s a haunting and unforgettable experience that offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s history.
When planning these unique experiences, it’s important to do your research and book in advance, as many of them require reservations. For example, tickets for the Catacombs often sell out quickly, so it’s best to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Similarly, hot air balloon rides are weather-dependent and should be booked well in advance to ensure availability.
When you’re actually experiencing these activities, it’s important to be open-minded and embrace the adventure. Try to immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy every moment, whether you’re exploring the eerie tunnels of the Catacombs or soaring high above the city in a hot air balloon. And don’t forget to take plenty of photos to capture your memories of these unique and unforgettable experiences!
In summary, Paris is a city that offers endless possibilities for travelers, from iconic landmarks and charming neighborhoods to unique experiences that are off the beaten path. To make the most of your trip to Paris, we recommend staying at one of the city’s best hotels, carefully planning your itinerary to include must-see landmarks and attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Palace of Versailles, and exploring some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods, such as the Marais, Montmartre, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
In addition to these popular activities, there are many unique experiences to be had in Paris, such as visiting the Catacombs, taking a hot air balloon ride, or attending a cabaret show. To make the most of these experiences, it’s important to plan ahead and be open-minded to new adventures.
Finally, we encourage travelers to embrace the spirit of adventure and explore all that Paris has to offer. Whether you’re wandering the streets of the Marais, savoring a croissant at a sidewalk cafe, or taking in the stunning views from the top of the Eiffel Tower, Paris is a city that rewards those who are willing to step outside their comfort zone and embrace the unknown. So don’t be afraid to try something new and make the most of your time in this beautiful and captivating city!
Dreaming of a trip around Europe during the summer? I always like to say I have two moods: summer in Europe or cozy holiday mode. Well, if you’re in the mindset of summer in Europe — this is for you!
While it’s difficult to narrow down the “best” destinations to visit in Europe during the summer as it truly is up to your preferences and the things you’d like to do, I can definitely provide some suggestions.
First up: if you’re able to travel during the shoulder months, as in May/June and September, you’ll find far fewer crowds. July and August are high seasons, and, I would say avoid August at all costs. Trust me, I visited Greece in August and while it was beautiful…it was PACKED.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best summer destinations to visit in Europe!
Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
The Dalmatian Coast is home to some of the clearest waters in the Mediterranean, making it the perfect destination for swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. The colors of the water range from turquoise to deep blue, and you’ll be able to see all the way to the bottom!
The Dalmatian Coast is made up of thousands of islands, each one more beautiful than the last. From the historic city of Dubrovnik to the quiet, serene islands of Hvar and Brač, there’s an island for every type of traveler.
For the history buffs, dive into ancient Roman ruins and see the fortified city walls of Dubrovnik. You’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time as you explore this stunning coastal region.
Did you know that some of the best food and wine are found here? Yep, Croatia is a foodie’s paradise! From fresh seafood dishes to hearty meat stews, the cuisine of the Dalmatian Coast is both delicious and hearty.
And don’t even get me started on the wine – the region is famous for its crisp, refreshing whites and rich, full-bodied reds.
You’ll find some of the most stunning beaches in the Mediterranean in Mallorca!
From the bustling Cala Millor to the secluded Cala Deià, there’s a beach for every type of traveler. The crystal-clear waters and soft, white sand make Mallorca the perfect destination for a summer getaway.
Beyond the beaches, Mallorca is also home to some of the most breathtaking countryside in Europe. From the rolling hills to the rugged coastline, the scenery is simply stunning. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard as you explore the island’s beautiful landscapes.
Oh, and for those wanting to dive into culture and history — look no further than the ancient ruins of the Talayots to the Gothic architecture of the capital city of Palma.
Mallorca is the perfect destination for those who want a mix of adventure and relaxation.
Spend your days hiking in the mountains and your nights sipping cocktails on the beach. Whether you’re looking for an action-packed vacation or a peaceful retreat, Mallorca has something for everyone.
The Greek Islands are home to some of the most stunning beaches in Europe, from the bustling party beaches of Mykonos to the secluded coves of Santorini. With crystal-clear waters and soft, white sand, the beaches of the Greek Islands are the perfect place to soak up the sun and relax.
For those looking for a cultural experience, visit the ancient ruins of the Acropolis in Athens to the medieval castles of Rhodes.
Beyond the beaches, the Greek Islands are also home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in Europe. From the dramatic cliffs of Santorini to the rolling hills of Crete, the scenery is simply stunning. You’ll feel like you’re in a postcard as you explore the island’s beautiful landscapes.
The Greek Islands are the perfect destination for those who want a mix of adventure and relaxation. Spend your days exploring ancient ruins and your nights lounging on the beach.
Sardinia, Italy doesn’t always make lists…but it should! It has some of the most stunning beaches, from the famous Costa Smeralda to the secluded Cala Luna.
Whether you’re interested in history, art, or local traditions, Sardinia is brimming with unique things to explore, from the ancient ruins of Nuraghi to the traditional costumes of the island’s rural communities.
The island is famous for its fresh, local ingredients and dishes up hearty seafood plates.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Amalfi Coast is a chart-topper for good reason! The dramatic cliffs, the coastal towns, and the brilliant blue water. The Amalfi Coast is a photographer’s dream!
The Amalfi Coast is the perfect destination for those who want a mix of relaxation and adventure.
Spend your days lounging on the beach and your nights exploring the picturesque villages. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or an action-packed vacation, the Amalfi Coast has something for everyone.
Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or local traditions, the Amalfi Coast has something for you.
I’d highly recommend planning well in advance as this is the prime busy season and accommodations book up early. Here are some of the best hotels to stay at on the Amalfi Coast!
Pack your bags and head to the South of France! The gorgeous region of Provence, France is brimming with sun-kissed vineyards, lavender fields, and charming villages.
Spend your days wandering around the rolling hills of the Luberon to the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Whether you’re exploring the countryside by bike or by car, you’ll be constantly amazed by the beauty of Provence.
Provence is dotted with charming villages, from the hilltop town of Gordes to the seaside town of Cassis. Each village has its own unique personality and history and is the perfect place to immerse yourself in local culture and traditions.
Spend your days exploring ancient ruins and your nights lounging in charming villages.
Whether you’re looking for an action-packed vacation or a peaceful retreat, Provence has something for everyone.
French Riviera, France
Get ready to pack your bags and escape to a world of sun, sea, and glamour! Whether you’re exploring the coastline by boat or by car, you’ll be constantly amazed by the beauty of the French Riviera.
The French Riviera is famous for its chic destinations, from the glamorous resorts of Saint-Tropez to the picturesque villages of Èze.
Whether you’re looking to be pampered in a five-star hotel or to explore local culture and traditions, the French Riviera has something for you. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or local traditions, the French Riviera has something for you.
Imagine spending your days sipping rosé next to the beach, dining on niçoise salads, and then lounging at a chic resort. Sounds like paradise to me!
While Iceland may not be the typical place you imagine during a summer vacation, you should definitely consider it…especially because the weather is GORGEOUS!
Iceland is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, from its glaciers and fjords to its hot springs and geysers.
Whether you’re exploring the rugged wilderness or taking a dip in one of the country’s famous hot springs, Iceland’s natural beauty is truly awe-inspiring.
During the summer months, Iceland experiences the “midnight sun” – which means that the sun never sets, and you can enjoy 24 hours of daylight! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the beauty of the country in a completely different way.
Iceland offers a wealth of unique activities, from glacier hiking and whale watching to horseback riding and kayaking. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or a more relaxed experience, Iceland has something for everyone.
Iceland is home to a diverse range of wildlife, from puffins and seals to whales and reindeer. During the summer months, you may be able to see puffins, seals, whales, and even reindeer in their natural habitats.
Azores Islands, Portugal
The Azores Islands are renowned for their breathtaking natural beauty, from the lush green landscapes to the dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches. Whether you’re exploring the countryside on horseback or taking a dip in one of the many hot springs, the Azores will leave you in awe.
Offering a wealth of adventure activities, from hiking and surfing to whale watching and snorkeling, it’s the perfect place for someone who wants to be active and explore. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or a more relaxed experience, the Azores have something for everyone.
The Azores are one of the best places in Europe for whale watching. From June to October, visitors can observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats, making for a truly unforgettable experience.
Book your trip to the Azores today and escape to a world of natural beauty, relaxation, and adventure!
Do you have a favorite European summer destination? Let me know in the comments below!
Traveling alone is no longer terribly daunting. In fact, it is now seen as a common and wonderful way for people to avoid travel regret. Why not head out on your own? There’s no reason to wait when the world provides so many rich experiences for solo travelers to enjoy as well.
Some of those memorable experiences involve being active. Mountain sports, for example, involve activities that can be perfectly-suited to solo travelers given their focus on connecting with nature and relying on ourselves to move around. And there is perhaps no better place than the French Alps for such activities.
Fun-filled active holidays in French Alps can provide a fascinating experience, one that allows you to discover other cultures, partake in a variety of adventures, build confidence and create long-lasting memories on the way.
Why the French Alps?
Easy and affordable access: To keep costs down as a solo traveler, affordable transportation can be the key. With a bus connection to almost every village and railhead, the Alps has an excellent public transport network.
Safety: Solo travelers in this region need not fear about safety as it is considered to be a very safe and secure area.
Accommodation: There is a wide network of huts (over 800 of them) spread across the Alps which allow solo travelers to spend the night in affordable rooms instead of using tents.
Signage: Trail markings and signage are fool-proof throughout the Alps, good enough even for the less confident traveler.
You might be solo, but you aren’t alone: The Alps attract a large number of solo travelers every year. As a result, you just might run into some of the same people over and over again and you’ll always come across new people. If you want to meet other travelers, you’ll have no problem at all while here.
Activities to try
There are a wide variety of activities that you could choose during a solo trip to the French Alps. And they all offer ways to spend some quality alone time in the fresh mountain air, in serene settings that will provide the quiet and peace of mind that you might be craving. Here are some ideas…
Extraordinary terrain, an exceptional lift system, serious investment in mountain biking infrastructure and spectacular scenery all come together to make the French Alps one of the best biking destinations in the world.
The Downhill and Cross-country riding programs provide you an opportunity to explore the forested valley floors over a network of trails. You can also take advantage of the lifts in order to navigate the high mountain routes marked Green, Blue or Red depending on their difficulty.
From the famous multi-day trek that is the incredible Tour du Mont Blanc to hiking the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, the French Alps are a paradise for hikers. With accessible and well-marked trails in the shadows of soaring peaks, the Alps always provides options for all levels of walkers.
Solo hikers need not worry as plenty of accommodation is available through a combination of mountain huts, family owned chalets and hotels. To get the best out of this experience, you can have your luggage transferred from one accommodation to the next one in order to travel lightly and simplify the logistics while you enjoy the hiking.
A high altitude solo climb on a mountain route is simply one of the best ways to have an unforgettable adventure. When you climb solo, you are out there relying on your abilities to take you up to the summit and once you do reach the summit, the sense of achievement is something to behold.
The Alps have long been a hub of mountain climbing tourism given the sheer diversity of opportunities. Summer is naturally the most optimal time for such climbing, especially for first-time and solo climbers, as the snow cover will be gone. The weather is generally calm with plenty of sunny days. Even if you are not a seasoned mountaineer, you’ll find options and you can also find plenty of equipment to rent or purchase to help make your climbing easier.
A via ferrata, also referred to as an ‘Iron Path’, is a style of protected mountain route located mostly in Italy and Austria. However, they also exist in the French Alps. Though it’s not for the faint hearted as such a hike will involve metal cables and footholds, hence the name. You’ll cross over deep ravines and climb steps that leave you exposed right on the side of the mountain… it’s certainly enough to get the adrenaline flowing.
While via ferrata vary in design, required skill level and length, one thing they all have in common are surreal views. If you have the nerve, head to Le Rocher du Saint Julien in the Drome region. With a vertical drop of 288 meters and a length of 1.6 km, it’s sure to get your heart racing. And for some of the most magical views of the Mont Blanc range, the via ferrata of Les Evettes takes the crown.
If you love the tranquillity of being near water, the Alps provides something for you as well. Canyoning in the French Alps can be a beautiful experience, especially because most of the terrain in this region is well-suited for this activity. The combination of obstacles such as glacial gorges and deep rivers provides an inspiring canyoning experience for all those who attempt it.
Local experts will guide you through an itinerary based on your ability, so you don’t need to worry about going it alone. They’ll ensure you’re properly prepared for the course ahead and will help you with any of the difficult aspects so that you can really soak up the atmosphere of your impressive natural surroundings.
WHITE WATER RAFTING
Rather than stand atop a snow covered mountain or bike along windy roads, another option is to embark on a day of white water rafting. Some of the most popular locations for this activity include Arve, Dora Baltea and the Giffre. Rafting can easily be enjoyed by solo adrenaline seekers, especially if you are experienced. You can rent your own raft or join a group of others on an organized trip through the rushing waters.
During the summer months, the rivers around Chamonix are transformed into rafting playgrounds, as it’s considered one of the more ideal rafting spots. The cool waters of the Mont Blanc valley offer a respite from the harsh rays of the sun and are extremely popular with adventure lovers. Even if you are not an enthusiastic water person, a day of river rafting in Chamonix could change that.
Germany is already a world-famous destination among tourists and travelers. However, it has much more to offer than culture-packed big cities, wine-growing towns, and charming hamlets. Why not make a trip to explore some of the scenic villages in Germany this year?
Depending on your country of origin and the purpose of your visit, you may need a visa to enter Germany. Check here to see if you need a visa and how to apply for one well in advance of your trip.
Germany is home to many charming and scenic villages worth visiting. There’s so much more to this beautiful country, apart from the bustling and diverse Berlin.
Here are some of the most scenic villages in Germany:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a medieval town in the heart of the Franconian region of Bavaria that is famous for its half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, and extensive gardens. The town is surrounded by a well-preserved city wall and is home to several landmarks, such as the St. James Church, the Town Hall, and the Plönlein, a lovely square with a historic fountain. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is also a popular destination for tourists due to its Christmas markets, which are held in November and December.
Mittenwald – Located in the Bavarian Alps, Mittenwald is a village with a charming old town and an ideal mountain setting. The village is known for its colorful houses, painted in shades of yellow, green, and blue, and its many artisan workshops, where you can watch craftsmen at work. Mittenwald is also home to several landmarks, such as the St. Peter and Paul Church, the Maria Himmelfahrt Church, and the Linderhof Palace, a remarkable Baroque palace built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Quedlinburg – Quedlinburg is a very well-preserved medieval town in the Harz Mountains with a rich history and an atmospheric old town. The town is known for its unique houses, narrow streets, and beautiful gardens, and it is home to several landmarks, such as the Quedlinburg Castle, the St. Servatius Church, and the Romanesque Church of St. Mary’s.
Tübingen – Situated in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Tübingen is a charming university town with a rich cultural and intellectual tradition. The town is known for its quaint old town, with its narrow streets, diversely colorful houses, and picturesque squares, and it is home to several landmarks, such as the Hohentübingen Castle, the St. George’s Church, and the Tübingen Old Town Hall. Tübingen is also known for its lively student culture and its many festivals and events.
Bacharach – Located in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Bacharach is a town with a rich history and a pleasant historical area. The town is known for its narrow streets and beautiful gardens, and is home to several landmarks of its own, such as the Bacharach Castle, the St. Peter’s Church, and the Stahleck Castle, a well-preserved medieval castle that now serves as a youth hostel. With its wine festivals and idyllic setting on the banks of the Rhine River, Bacharach is certainly worth considering.
Lindau – Lindau is another attractive destination with a delightful old town and a picturesque waterfront. The town is situated on the shores of Lake Constance and is home to several landmarks, such as the Lindau Lighthouse, the St. Stephen’s Church, and the Lindau City Hall.
Japan had been on my list for a LONG time. For some reason though, I always struggled to make a trip happen. But finally, it happened! And since I was excited to make it here, I didn’t want it to be a quick trip.
In the end, we decided to spend 1 month total in Japan.
We spent the first two weeks in Kyoto and it was perfect. Every day was rewarding and we didn’t regret spending two weeks in this city at all. It’s calm, picturesque, friendly and full of activities and places to visit. The food is ever so tasty, it’s easy to get around and it’s also very affordable. It really was the ideal base.
We also were there during autumn and it was gorgeous as a result. The abundant nature and truly spectacular colors were far beyond anything we could have hoped for and it certainly helped make this an even more rewarding trip.
If you’re thinking of going to Kyoto, whether it’s for 2 days or 2 weeks, I hope the information below from my own experience proves helpful!
Since we were spending two weeks in Kyoto, we based our accommodation situation on three things – space, price and location. We work online every day so we wanted to have more space than a standard hotel room, which can be quite small in Japan. Of course, we also didn’t want to pay a fortune for accommodation either. And we preferred to be in a relatively central, but not overly touristy neighborhood.
After some searching, we found a place that matched all of the above.
Resi Stay Nishijin
For approximately $85 USD per night, we had a large studio (40 sq meters / 430 sq feet) with a small living room, two sofas, little kitchen, comfy beds and a balcony. It was quite modern, with the kind of bathroom and shower area that you want – Japanese style with all kinds of gadgets and settings. The wifi was strong, the heat and AC worked very well and it was spotless. Resi Stay has several locations in Kyoto but we chose the one on Nishijin. It was a local, quiet area, with small lanes full of quaint wooden houses, plenty of quality restaurants, a food market, good supermarkets and a bus stop in front of the building with buses that would take us anywhere we needed to go.
Also, since we love to walk all over the place, we were an approximate 30 – 60 minute walk from almost anywhere in the city. This suited us very well.
As Kyoto is a decent sized city, there are naturally a lot of different options for accommodation. I would recommend doing research first though on the type of neighborhood that you prefer to be based in. I know a lot of people immediately head for the Gion, Nishiki or Kyoto Tower areas but those can be very crowded. So it definitely depends on what you’re looking for.
Again, we managed to find a great deal on Booking.com for the Resi Stay Nishijin ($85 USD per night), so such deals are possible.
Food, Food, Food (You can eat it all with 2 weeks in Kyoto!)
Oh my. The food was incredible. Every single meal.
In the beginning, we would do a lot of research to find the best local restaurants to eat at. But by the end of our two weeks in Kyoto, we were confident that any place we went into would serve up a delicious meal, regardless of whether or not we could read the menu.
Some restaurants have English menus, some don’t. Some have photos of the dishes on the menus or on the walls, others don’t. Some also have beautifully artistic creations of their menu items in a display case in front of the restaurant or in the window, and of course, some don’t. So sometimes you know what you’re ordering and most of the time you have no idea.
Either way, eating in Kyoto and beyond was a major highlight of this trip.
Our food journey could be summed up by three categories:
1. Restaurants/Cafes – I could give a list of the places we ate at, but it’s not worth it. Trust me when I say that you just need to pop into any place you pass that looks interesting (especially if there’s a line of locals out front waiting to get in) and see how it goes. This was by far the best method of choosing restaurants and the success rate was 100%. From sushi to ramen, kaiseki to soba, Shojin ryori to okonomiyaki and everything in between, get ready for a food adventure like no other.
2. Nishiki Market – See below under activities. This place is food heaven and we visited this market several times in order to eat ALL the things.
3. Supermarkets – Kyoto’s fantastic supermarkets also played a role as there were several nights we just wanted to pick up some prepared food and eat back in our hotel room. Our favorite was Life Supermarket. The sushi at this supermarket was fresher and better than most sushi at proper restaurants in other countries. The set prepared meals (of which there are dozens) were always delicious too. This was such a cool way to eat here, and the shopping experience, which involved trying to figure out what most items were, was always super fun.
*Okay, I also need to mention the Japanese Fluffy Pancakes. If you don’t know about them, please make sure they are part of your Japan trip. We ate them more times than I’d like to admit. Insanely soft, fluffy, meringue based pancakes that can be made with all kinds of toppings such as fruit, chocolate, matcha, granola, caramel and more. Go to A Happy Pancake location (they can be found in many cities, including Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo), stand in line and wait for a table and then enjoy what will undoubtedly be the absolute best pancake you’ve ever tasted.
A lot of people talk about the Japan Rail Pass. It’s a pass that you can reserve before you enter Japan and it gives you unlimited rides on Japan Rail trains throughout the country. The price starts at about 30,000 JPY ($220) for 7 days, 47,000 JPY ($345) for 2 weeks and 61,000 JPY ($448) for 3 weeks. It’s a good deal if you’re going to use the trains often.
However, it’s worth doing research to see if this pass is indeed for you. We assumed we would need one, but after our research, we realized that it wouldn’t save us any money based on our particular itinerary. Since we were going to be in the Kyoto/Osaka region, then fly to Okinawa and then fly to Tokyo, the Japan Rail Pass was not suitable. In the end, our transportation costs were remarkably low, even without the Japan Rail Pass.
To start, we flew into Osaka Kansai Airport and this is what we did…
Arrival: Osaka Kansai Airport to Kyoto
Upon arrival at the Osaka Kansai Airport, we walked over to the airport train station went inside the JR Trains main office. The staff speak English and they can explain all of your transportation options.
It’s not exactly a pass though. It’s more like a card that you can top-up and use to pay for transportation on buses, subways and almost all trains (as well as vending machines and at some restaurants). The biggest benefit is a discount on the Kansai Express Haruka train from Osaka Kansai Airport to Kyoto. Since we needed to get from Kansai Airport to Kyoto and then back to Kansai Airport two weeks later for our flight to Okinawa, we got the round-trip discount.
We paid 5500 JPY ($40 USD) each for our ICOCA cards. This included 1500 JPY credit to be used on buses, trains and subways and a 4000 JPY roundtrip ticket for the Kansai Express Haruka train from/to the airport. In the end, we saved about 1000 JPY each on the airport train, making it very worthwhile.
Then, once we arrived in Kyoto, we simply used our ICOCA cards to tap on to buses, trains and the subway. It also worked for trains to Osaka and Nara, the subway in Osaka and for trains, subway and buses in Tokyo as well at the end of our Japan trip.
Trains – Again, we didn’t get the Japan Rail Pass because we realized that we wouldn’t be using trains often enough. We ended up taking the train from Kyoto to Osaka and back on one day and from Kyoto to Nara and back on another day. The total cost for those four train rides was 3360 JPY or $24 USD. That seemed like reasonable prices to us and the Japan Rail Pass would have cost a lot more than that. (We did use the Express train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku in Tokyo as well but the cost for that ride was 3050 JPY or $22 USD so it still didn’t justify purchasing the Japan Rail Pass since we only spent a total of $46 USD on trains.)
Buses – In Kyoto, the bus system is very easy to use. We used Google maps to figure out which buses we needed and then we simply used our ICOCA card to pay for each trip. The fare was 230 JPY per trip, which is only about $1.70 USD. We took the bus about 10 times during our stay for a total of $17.00.
Subway – We did not use the subway/metro system during our two weeks in Kyoto. Between the buses, taxis and walking, we covered everywhere we needed to go. However, we did take the subway/metro during our day trip to Osaka and it was also easy. We again used our ICOCA cards to pay for each ride, which cost either 180 JPY or 230 JPY depending on the distance. We took the subway 4 times during our day in Osaka and it cost us a total of 820 JPY ($5.85).
Taxis – Due to the favorable exchange during our stay, taxis were actually quite reasonable and far less expensive than we had imagined. We took 20 taxis during our 2 week stay in Kyoto and the total cost was 30,000 JPY or $214 USD. As we were in Kyoto in November, there were some cold and windy days where we simply wanted to get into a taxi and out of the cold. And since most rides cost $10 USD, it ended up being a good option. Also, the taxis are a cool experience with the automatically opening doors, extremely clean and roomy interiors and dedicated drivers who make sure they get you exactly where you need to go. There’s also no funny business so you can flag any taxi knowing you will simply pay the official metered fare.
Walking – We also walked a ton. Kyoto is a great walking city especially since it allows you to wander through random neighborhoods that you wouldn’t visit otherwise. This was certainly how we found many of our favorite restaurants, cafes, architectural curiosities, hidden temples and so on.
Activities for Two Weeks in Kyoto
With two weeks in Kyoto at our disposal, we took our time in terms of activities. We’re not the kind of travelers to make a list well in advance and to run around all day checking things off. We prefer to wake up, do some work (we both work online), look for a sight or area that seems interesting, head out for a late breakfast/early lunch and see where the day takes us.
During our stay, here’s where the days took us:
Fushimi Inari – Well worth visiting. This famous Shinto Shrine is dedicated to the god of rice and is home to thousands of orange torii gates that line the long pathway that loops around the hillside. We did the full 1.5 hour walk up the hill and back down again and it was beautiful. The higher up you go, the less tourists and the more time you have to soak up the peaceful setting.
Kinkaku-ji Temple – This temple is located in the west of Kyoto and it was our favorite. Kinkaku-ji is a Zen temple that is covered in gold leaf. It’s location, right on the edge of a small lake, makes for a mighty eye-catching sight. Naturally, the gardens around the temple were meditative too and there’s a nice path to roam around.
Nijo Castle – An impressive castle in the center of Kyoto that was once home to powerful shogun that ruled over Japan for 200 years. The site consists of a castle and palace but the palace was closed for renovations when we were there. But the wooden castle was quite a display of the shogun’s wealth and power with its endless rooms, intricate wood carvings, painted panels and sheer size. The grounds surrounding the castle, along with the very pleasant tea house/garden, made for a nice visit too.
Philosopher’s Path – This was a short and reflelction-inducing 2 km walk along a meditative tree-lined canal surrounded by nature and traditional homes. It’s located between the Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji temples on the east side of the city. If you walk slowly and visit several temples along the way, you can turn this activity into an all day event. This is especially the case if you stop for a coffee/pastry break at the cozy Botanic Coffee Kyoto halfway along the path.
Nishiki Market – This massive covered market stretches along one lane for what seems like an eternity. You enter one end and good luck trying to get to the other end without stopping dozens of times to try all kinds of street food being served at the food stalls along the way. Squid on a skewer, sea urchin, fried shrimp, omelette sandwiches, chicken katsu, roasted chestnuts, endless pastries, so many forms of mochi, dumplings, tofu and on and on and on…it never ends and it’s the perfect place to spend a couple of hours trying every food item you can. At the east end of the market, there is also a non-food market that stretches along two covered lanes going north to south. You can find some interesting shops here, including those that sell traditional Japanese artwork, so its worth exploring too.
Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street – A smaller version of Nishiki market, if this street is close to where you’re staying, it’s also worth visiting for some delicious food. It closes at 5:00pm so it’s more of a lunch area, but with its food stalls and tiny restaurants, there is an infinite amount of options and it’s much less crowded than Nishiki Market.
Gion – This is the well-known geisha district of Kyoto and it needs to be visited, at least once. It’s quite crowded with tourists during the day but if you duck away from the main streets, it quickly becomes more quiet. Traditional buildings and homes, picturesque wooden bridges, high-end restaurants on Hanamikoji Street, endless shops selling all kinds of Japanese food items and even more temples to enjoy can be found here. We visited this area twice, once during the day and once at night. During the day, we walked from Kennin-ji Temple (with its stunning paintings and Zen garden) to Hokan-ji Temple (famous for its 5-story pagoda), up to the Yasaka Shrine and then wandered through every lane we could find. At night the neighborhood is much quieter and more atmospheric with all the lanterns and lights, with some places to eat and several bars as well.
Miyagawasuji – This neighborhood is a quick 10 minutes walk south of Gion and the difference was notable. As one of the other last remaining geisha districts, it’s home to traditional homes and shops, tiny local eateries and some of the quaintest streets in Kyoto. However, there were very few visitors in this area. It’s a small neighborhood but definitely a unique place to visit to soak up a Gion-like vibe without the crowds.
Tea ceremony – We found a simple tea ceremony in the Gion neighborhood (Tea Ceremony Camellia) where we could learn about the tea tradition in a nice setting. The session was only 50 minutes but there were only 6 people participating, making it more intimate. The hostess was an elegant, refined woman who taught us about and demonstrated the traditional tea-preparation methods. We then prepared our own tea, drank it and that was that. It was a very pleasant activity.
Temples – We visited so many temples during our two weeks in Kyoto that I can’t name them all here. If we saw a temple, we would often poke our head into the entrance of the grounds. If something attracted us, we would go in (most temples charge between 300 – 1000 JPY entrance fee). We went into huge temples and tiny temples, and all kinds in between. While walking around random neighborhoods, we always kept our eyes open for some of the more hidden temples, sometimes located in residential areas. These were quite interesting as they would have no visitors and while small, they were often a peaceful oasis.
Arashiyama – Home to the famous bamboo forest, and also home to the biggest tourist crowds we saw during our entire trip. It threw us off as soon as we stepped off the local bus as there were just so many people. To get away from the crowds, we ducked into the Hogon-in Zen Buddhist temple since it seemed quiet. Luckily, it was and we were treated to some of the most wondrous and colorful autumn scenery we could have hoped for. The tranquil gardens immediately put us at ease. After this nice break, we walked straight to the Bamboo Forest which was, as expected, full of people walking shoulder to shoulder along the path. We walked quickly and at the end, we turned right along another path and kept walking. After 5 minutes, the crowds disappeared and we enjoyed a peaceful wander through local neighborhoods and nature. We soon reached Saga Toriimoto (by accident), a well-preserved street full of traditional style homes. That led us to the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple which had only 2 other people inside, its own (uncrowded) bamboo forest and thousands of interesting stone memorial statues.
This is what I love about travel – the randomness of days like this.
After the temple, we started walking towards Kyoto center (which was 2 hours away by foot). After 30 minutes, we came upon a simple cafe called Cafe Yamamoto and went inside. We were treated to a memorable experience with delicious home-made cakes, excellent coffee, a cozy interior and very friendly staff. It was a highlight being inside this welcoming, random place.
Imperial Palace – We never really planned to visit the massive Imperial Palace complex in the center of Kyoto. But on our last day, we had some free time so we walked over. And it was great. The massive grounds is basically a park, with plenty of paths to stroll along and as you guessed by now, no shortage of beautiful nature to enjoy. The Palace itself is open to everyone, for free, so you simply enter the main entrance. You can then take a guided tour or walk around on your own. It’s a large site so you need at least an hour.
Random neighborhoods – One of our favorite activities, which we spent some time almost every day doing, was to simply start walking. The goal was to walk through random neighborhoods and see what we found. Often, in these neighborhoods we would grab a local lunch or a coffee or a traditional pastry for an afternoon snack. One example was when we ended up in Nishimachi, an odd area away from the tourists where the local shops have monsters in front of their shops as a way to attract customers. So I definitely recommend giving yourself plenty of time to roam around Kyoto without a plan! I’ve written about my 5-minute rule to having local experiences and Kyoto is a solid destination to put it into action.
We do prefer slow travel, so we really enjoyed getting to know Kyoto more than if we had stayed for only a couple of days. We also really loved the quiet, traditional atmosphere of Kyoto. But of course, there’s so much to see in Japan so we needed to go beyond the city limits as well. On two occasions, we left Kyoto to visit other cities.
Day trip #1: Osaka
Here’s how our day trip to Osaka went:
Took a 45 minute train from Karasuma Station in Kyoto to Osaka Umeda Station
Went straight to lunch at Kaiten Sushi Sakae (had to try the sushi belt experience!)
Took the metro over to Osaka Castle and visited the extensive gardens
Hopped on the metro and went to wander around the Shinsekai neighborhood, known for its 100+ year old colorful shopping district
Walked across the city to the Shinsaibashi area to check out the Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street, eat some Japanese fluffy pancakes and soak up the energetic atmosphere
After sunset, strolled around to check out all the activity with the massive brightly lit neon signs, endless eateries, markets, shops and crazy crowds
Did some food tasting throughout the lanes of the famous Dotonburi area and still kept room for a seafood dinner as well
Found ourselves trying some Japanese whisky at a random bar on a random street corner
Took a train back to Kyoto later at night
Day trip #2: NARA
This was another perfect day trip. We boarded a train at Kyoto Station and 45 minutes later we were in Nara. And we ended up staying in the town for the entire day, getting back to Kyoto at around 9:00pm. Here’s what we did:
Walked from the Nara train station through the quaint center of town, along Sanjo dori Street
Went to the historic Nara Hotel for an afternoon snack at their tea lounge (the hotel has hosted emperors, royalty, presidents, popes, actors and many more)
Walked back through the parks to the Kasuga-taisha Shinto Shrine
One last slow meander through the parks during the evening, then through the center of town (maybe stopping along the way to enjoy some street food!) and back to the Nara train station
45 minute train back to Kyoto
That sums up our two weeks in Kyoto and the surrounding region! If you have any questions at all about visiting this area, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I’d be happy to assist. Enjoy your trip to Japan!