Tenerife, Spain

Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, off West Africa. It’s dominated by Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano that is Spain’s tallest peak.  The island has many beaches (with sands from yellow to black) and resort areas, including Los Cristianos and Playa de las Américas.

  1. Hike Masca taking less than 3hours from the top of the mountain to the sea where you can then take a boat/water taxi back to Los Gigantes-  Beginning amongst giant agave spikes and prickly pear cactus, the terrain gives way to the valley floor where, fed by underground currents, mini forests of willowy cane and lush ferns frame gentle waterfalls and still ponds of emerald translucency. You can swim as you wait for your boat to arrive, so bring your swim stuff and towel.
  2. Go jet-skiing near where you get off the boat after your hike10900093_10153926628458849_2775179284665471745_o
  3. Tiede quad safari. The guide takes photos on the trip which you can then purchase after for memories and to support their business. Mount Teide is a volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain. Its 3,718-metre summit is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic11036498_10153926625273849_1789620945618698312_n17991_10153926625158849_7564016527436502834_n
  4. Siam Park – famous waterpark with the coolest almost 90 degree slide! Remember to keep your legs together, crossed at the ankle for safety. Pre-buy your tickets and online to avoid long queues, make sure you print it out and make sure you arrive well before opening hours.
  5. Los Cristianos Beach because it was closest to my hotel – The beaches are beautiful and it has a harbour that offers fishing trips, pleasure cruises, outings on glass bottom boats, diving excursions and ferries to the neighbouring island of La Gomera.

Extra note: Playa de las Américas is next to Los Christians beach where you can go to party the night away

 

Marbella and Malaga, Spain

Málaga is a port city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, known for its high-rise hotels and resorts jutting up from yellow-sand beaches. You can catch a bus or cab from Malaga to Marbella (50min journey) to enjoy its famous resort area of sandy Mediterranean beaches, villas, hotels and golf courses. West of Marbella town, the Golden Mile of prestigious nightclubs and coastal estates leads to Puerto Banús marina, filled with luxury yachts, and surrounded by upmarket boutiques and bars. Here are my top 5 recommendations:

 

  1. Puerto Banus marine Marbella
  2. 4×4 Ronda Tour by Monta Aventura eco tours where you will see Ronda, learn a lot about nature and also see the well-known Sony “Smurf Village” in Júzcar. I highly recommend this tour, it was really educational and covered a lot.

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  3. Visit Malaga bullring –  La Malagueta is a world-class bullring, seating as many as 9,032 spectators and holding the most important events of the bullfighting season, like the Easter bullfights, the Picassian Gala, the August Fair or the bullfight dedicated to Málaga’s Patroness.
  4. Walk along Malaga port or do a segway ride! You’ll pass by Centre Pompidou, a stand out colourful cube building.
  5. Visit the cathedral, Alcazaba and the Roman ampi theatre, all in close walking distance from one another in down town Malaga.

 

Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan is a small island nation 180km east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei is it’s capital up North. I was in Taipei for over 2 months to learn mandarin, ended up falling in love with the place so visited a year later making it extremely difficult for me to narrow down my top recommendations! But here goes nothing:

In Taipei:

  1. Climb Xiang Shan for a view of Taipei, in particular of the 101 tower. Of course, why not do this and watch sunset! Tip: Don’t pay to go up the tower, book your place in Starbucks for a free view since you just pay for your drink. 

  2. Visit Yang Ming Shan both in the day and at night and have a meal up top, but be sure to book in advance as it always gets busy. Ride a scooter if you dare to, everyone has a bike in Taiwan! 

  3. Visit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, National Palace Museum and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. These are significant places and beautiful grounds. You can even see dancers practicing around the buildings if you’re lucky. I love how their government is extremely open about arts, culture and hip-hop. 

  4. Taiwan is extremely famous for its night markets, my favourites in Taipei being Shilin night market and Roehe night market. Enjoy all the hawker foods, different types of noodles and make sure you try their mango ice dessert. 

  5. Continuing on about food, try their most famous bubble tea found near Gong Guan station and have Ma La hotpot13439089_10155274884843849_2604827805510471771_n11781597_10154305216023849_3762681800303357996_n13533200_10155267507648849_4735290308080891108_n
  6. The Chinese course I did was through the mandarin learning centre at National Taipei Normal University. However, my mandarin improved by joining HRC dance school where I got to interact with the locals on a day-to-day basis. If you’re into dancing, I highly recommend their studio which has two locations in Taipei. And of course, catch all the dance related camps/festivals/competitions that go on! 

  7. Visit the upside down house in Hua Shan creative park which also has other exhibitions you can visit e.g. where is wally. 

  8. Visit Yi Lan beach where I first tried surfing!13557666_10155269511323849_597601209174748538_n
  9. Visit Ying Ge famous for its pottery 

  10. If you are into hiking, you’re visiting the right place. There are so many trails with amazing views and waterfalls in a lot of the places. 13615417_10155278469828849_3243686137910364284_n
    13584882_10155278470608849_380501687499313859_o
    绢丝瀑布, 冷水坑 & 擎天岗

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    Shifen Waterfall

Please see my other post about things to do outside of Taipei which are all accessible from Taipei, especially with their high speed rail system.

Chamonix, France

Chamonix is a really special place to ski – Located at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix has pretty much endless amounts of off-piste and freeride skiing. For some of the best views of the highest peak in the Alps head up to the Aiguille du Midi viewing platform before taking on one of the longest and most challenging runs in the world, the Vallée Blanche. Unlike many other French resorts, it’s a large, vibrant town with lots of shops selling the latest ski tech as well as a huge selection of restaurants and bars.

Depending on how many days you have, you can get a pass that crosses to Italy too!

  1. Stay near La Flagere lifts which I felt was a better route up compared to the main town centre which was extremely crowded. Useful slope map here
  2. Tour the town centre and enjoy all its shops and restaurants everyday!
  3. Enjoy the wide space, the fresh air, views and company16387968_10156087996318849_4586955480622012357_n12439383_10154863374618849_2195353030105444772_n12729222_10154861590843849_1415024739483737050_n10392092_10154854686613849_8671394586096002960_n.jpg
  4. Wear a onesie because it’s pretty hilarious on the slopes

Bansko, Bulgaria

The town of Bansko is situated at the foot of the Pirin mountain in the south-western Bulgaria, 160 km from Sofia. It is the newest and most well-known winter resort in Bulgaria with the longest runs. It is extremely cheap to do a ski/snowboard season here compared to the Alps! No crazy queues but you might have to put up with a few smokers ruining the fresh air your meant to get on the slopes.

I was there in Feb and managed to catch the Snowboard world cup! Good sign that it’s a great place to be snowboarding.

  1. Stay at mountain dreams lodge. You can ski down to the gondola and ski home from the slopes with a short walk. You did need to walk up hill for about 10 mins from the town centre but it was a really nice accommodation with great views. It would have probably been too noisy right in the town centre anyways since there was a big drinking scene
  2. Enjoy the high street with shops, restaurants and plenty of clubs if you fancy it. Make sure you try their orange juice, extremely refreshing after a work out on the slopes.
  3. Enjoy the open space and powder snow. I finally learned to carve and attempt jumps! So grateful to have had this trip.

 

 

Lake District, United Kingdom

The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. Trains run from London Euston to Oxenholme in Cumbria where I picked up my rented car because all the cars were fully booked elsewhere! Next time, I would suggest renting a car from a major nearby city such as Leeds or Newcastle to then drive to the Lakes. Like most tourists, I stayed in Windermere where you can easily park on the roadside overnight.

Note: Never trust the weather forecast! The weather can change continuously throughout the day.

Here are my top 6 recommendations:

  1. See lake Windermere by catching a ferry ride from Bowness-on-Windermere. Here you can also visit Beatrix Potter’s World and its gardens which was displayed at the world’s famous Chelsea flower show in London. As well as have lunch at the beautiful Angel Inn!

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  2. Have fun at Brockhole on their tree-top adventure 20294216_10156777266218849_6794403258070892868_n
  3. Take a walk around Fell Foot Park with its unique boathouse cafe and shop
  4. Stop by Newby Bridge for the beautiful Swan hotel and spa. Enjoy a tea outside if the weather is nice or admire the typically British interior design. 20245354_10156777265893849_6847417200659773709_n20264804_10156777265988849_2186674450762020292_n
  5. Visit Coniston and Coniston Water (another lake) where you can do all sorts of water activities and pass by lovely houses with well kept gardens
  6. Sign up to the ‘best of the lakes’ mountain goat tour so you don’t have to stress when driving through supposedly two way roads! No joke, the roads were so narrow you spend a lot of time reversing because there isn’t any other way. Plus this tour allows you to cover a lot of the Lake District in one day starting from 9am to 530pm. 20264997_10156802405218849_387409074594078326_n 

    You will enjoy:

    • The Langdales & Blea Tarn – Dramatic scenery and views of the Langdale Pikes.
    • Castlerigg Stone Circle – Walk around the 4000 year old circle, surrounded by fells.
    • Wastwater – The deepest lake in England, voted ‘Britain’s Favourite view’.   20293168_10156802406503849_8016407739444512_n
    • Ennerdale, Loweswater, Crummock Water and Buttermere – Untouched and unspoilt lakes with more sheep than people.

Lille, France

Lille is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France, near the border with Belgium. I actually craved good quality macaroons so hopped on a Euro-star from London to get here! Things you can do:

  1. Rain or shine, tour the city centre which is very small and walkable. The architecture as you can see is just stunning.
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    Grand Place

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  2. Admire paintings inside the underground stations
  3. Lille Cathedral 71797_10151741626113849_1896013538_n
  4. Upside down house 423171_10151741625858849_855856151_n
  5. Try every macaroon flavour601268_10151741626398849_1513300139_n

Morocco

This was the absolute trip of a life time and definitely falls in my top three destinations! Starting in Marrakech and then doing a 3 day Sahara desert tour with RAK adventures, I have so much to recommend:

  1. When visiting Marrakech, make sure you stay in a riad, a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. I stayed at Riad Alwachma where they welcomed me with Moroccan mint tea and I even had a traditional hammam spa for the first time there too.
  2. See the Kotoubia mosque and medina both in the day and at night because of the different atmosphere you can experience. Don’t get ripped off by the people trying to get you to tour around on horse carriages like I did because you can easily walk around yourself and make sure you bargain at the Medina. At the Medina you’ll be able to have the cheapest and freshest orange juice in your life! Other things to do but not a must in my opinion: Bahia Palace (had no signs to indicate what I was looking at) and Majorelle garden (completely man made).

  3. A restaurant I would recommend in the Medina is Le Marrakchi. It’s a bit more fancy and pricy but a good start to getting a full sample of Moroccan food. They gave you so much to try for a set price and there was a little band playing which was a nice touch.

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  4. Learn how argan oil is produced, carpets are made and the use of fire to change the colour of natural plant dye to use in art. Consider buying these local products!
  5. Join the 3 day sahara desert tour to
    • Explore the High Atlas mountains, seen as snowcaps in the background as well. 10872747_10153756255303849_8613450311875366887_o
    • Pass Berber villages10985615_10153756255833849_2754009657113032688_o10959619_10153747088013849_512952712867989933_n
    • View the Tizi n Tichka pass10921670_10153756255528849_4998867960803262710_o
    • Visit Unesco kasbah of Ait Benhaddou1014942_10153747110698849_4520530785395530840_o10866060_10153756253563849_6448495490924231833_o (1)
    • Visit Ouarzazate movie studios
    • Visit Dades and Todra Gorges
    • Camel ride in Merzouga desert
    • Sleep in a desert camp which included a bonfire, and traditional berber music playing under the stars. Try sandboarding too!
    • Wake up early to catch sun rise behind the dunes10560565_10153756257673849_6856786587372321284_o

       

Others: Some people say it is worth visiting a tannery where they tan animal skin (leather) but was too afraid of the smell!

Note: The only time I felt a bit uncomfortable was in Marrakesh where it was very crowded, dusty and people kept trying to convince you to buy stuff. But once I went out into the country side, my trip was just incredible.

 

Amsterdam, Haarlem and Keukenhof, Netherlands

Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital, known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses. Haarlem is a city outside of Amsterdam in the northwest Netherlands and I chose to visit because I had previously been to Amsterdam when I was much younger. Keukenhof on the other hand is  known as the Garden of Europe, is one of the world’s largest flower gardens and I finally managed to go! Here are my recommendations:

  1. Tour Amsterdam! Take a canal cruise to take in all of the city, visit Anne Frank museum (crazy queues), the red light secrets museum and wonder around the famous red light district at night if your comfortable about it.10399890_10154980010523849_2285840751636650897_n993569_10154980010608849_6248475998969838835_n
  2. Take a day trip to Zaanse Schans Windmill Village, a boat trip from Marken where you get to see clog markers to then get to Volendam fishing village and taste cheese Volendam cheese factory. 

  3. Check out Haarlem city. It is tiny but just a beautiful as Amsterdam and is a lot cheaper for accomodation.
  4. Tick off Keukenhof from your bucket-list and take in all different flowers and arrangements
  5. Have plenty of chips and mayo. Amsterdam and Belgium is the best for chips and mayo in my opinion!

 

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap is a resort town in northwestern Cambodia and the main reason tourists visit is to see the ruins of Angkor. There are so many sites and recent historical events to Cambodia which is why hiring a tour guide would be the best way to really understand what you are looking at as well as to get to know the country better. This is the company I used (link) and my tour guide Mr Chet was absolutely incredible. You could ask him anything about world history and he also knew the best spots to take photos which is always helpful considering how packed the place can get.

Note: The temples can and will flood if it rains, so make sure you don’t go during their rainy season. Our guide told us there are major issues with the drainage system sadly.

  1. Visit Angkor Watt and all the other temples such as where Tomb Raider was filmed. Definitely worth catching sunrise and seeing the reflection in the waters at Angkor Watt.13516460_10155240966043849_5538501040491788683_n13521946_10154194303037159_5237467394466484476_n13501577_10155238291248849_361577087993809525_n13521888_10154187896477159_4493892656580829320_n13494934_10155240975358849_8697230333085399707_n13510938_10155238291823849_7385750362683323995_n
  2. See the monks wondering around or meditating. I love how their orange garment stands out.
  3. Dine at Crystal Angkor restaurant while watching a really relaxing traditional dance show. 13517537_10155237092853849_8141448254792395640_o
  4. Stay at Lotus Blanc Resort and try their Damnak fine dining restaurant. Did you know Cambodia is famous for its dining and has a wide range of cuisines? 13509150_10155237095118849_2361018783711579675_n13509044_10155237093558849_7663625544931416472_n
  5. Travel around by ‘tuk tuk‘, visit Angkor National Museum and shop at Angkor’s night market in Siem Reap. Buy comfortable clothes and art work for super cheap! 13450906_10155237094868849_6706515383436222658_n13434921_10154187905282159_7243914447856779269_n