Athens, Greece

Athens is the capital of Greece. It was also at the heart of Ancient Greece, a powerful civilization and empire. The city is still dominated by 5th-century BC landmarks, including the Acropolis, a hilltop citadel topped with ancient buildings like the colonnaded Parthenon temple.

You could do a free walking tour to learn more about what you will end up seeing (because it all just looks like a pile of ruins if you don’t have any background info) and the tour will help you catch the changing of the guards which takes place every hour.  The free walking tours do not enter any of the sites so just use it as a source of direct information making your Greek experience more interesting and educational! Definitely by the 30euro package deal which gives you access to 7 sites (Acropolis, archeological museum, temple of Zeus, museum of ancient agora, roman agora, lyceum and Hadrian’s library) . Of if you are an EU student, show you student card and gain access to all sites FREE. You can walk everywhere apart from the Archeological museum which is a bit further out (bargain with a taxi driver and it should cost around 5euros only). Of course if you visit when it isn’t so hot, I’m sure you can easily walk it too.

It’s really beautiful walking around the alleyways of Athens. It’s surrounded by well decorated restaurants and buildings. That was the part I loved most about Athens actually, the varied alleyways.

 

Note: Taxi’s don’t use their meters, make sure you negotiate a price beforehand. Bus X95 goes straight from the airport to Syntagma square and is only 6 Euros, taking around 45mins depending on traffic. We kept getting warned about pick pockets so be aware. Finally, Summer gets really hot so be prepped!

  1. Parliament for the changing of the guards162E116A-BBB4-4581-9C53-E84BB2CE3404
  2. Hadrian’s Arch and Temple of Zeus (they are next to each other) 

  3. Panathenaic stadium
  4. Parthenon The Acropolis and Theatre of Dionysos 

  5. Acropolis museum4A56C101-C959-419D-97DC-3B0CD7DA6847
  6. Museum of Ancient Agora – I think you get one of the best views from here on the way to the temple of Hephaestus, still in this same ticketed area. DCE21354-1755-4CCF-84E1-D0ED8749DD23
  7. Hadrian’s library 72F8C881-8A27-432D-8661-CFCFEA29F737
  8. Roman Agora 

  9. The best bubble tea I have ever had was from some random Chinese restaurant just outside the airport bus ticket office in the city. I wish I noted the name down but if you are ever in Athens, try it! I wish I took down the name but you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Here is the tourist map you can pick up which isn’t the most clear tbh

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Xiamen, China

Xiamen is a port city on China’s southeast coast, across a strait from Taiwan. It encompasses 2 main islands and a region on the mainland. Formerly known as Amoy, it was a British-run treaty port from 1842 to 1912. Many Europeans and Japanese lived on Gulangyu, today a vehicle-free island with beaches and meandering streets lined with old colonial villas. I went straight to the countryside as part of my volunteer trip!

  1. Great for mountain biking as they have so much open land
  2. Teach at a local school, they could do with volunteers teaching English
  3. Stay in a traditional ‘Tu Lou’ protected by UNESCO World Heritage. A Tu Lou is usually circular in configuration, between three and fie stories high and housing up to 800 people. Smaller interior buildings are often enclosed by these huge peripheral walls which can contain halls, storehouses, wells and living areas, the whole structure resembling a small fortified city. There are several you can visit including Chuxi tulou group, Tianluokeng tulou cluster, Hekeng tulou cluster, Gaobei tulou cluster, Dadi tulou cluster, Hongkeng tulou cluster, Yangxian lou, Huiyuan lou, Zhengfu lou and Hegui lou
  4. Get a view from the top of the traditional houses
  5. Visit a tea plantation and pick tea leaves!

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 I 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.

 

North Wales, United Kingdom

What brought me to North Wales for the first time was my graduate Midnight Snowdon hike challenge in support of Alzheimer’s Society. sixteen graduates from GVA set off to conquer Mt Snowdon over night and succeeded in under 4.5 hours! I then extended my trip to tour around myself, first time traveling solo, and I loved it.

Note: Expect North Wales to rain and have grey skies. I was only lucky in Caernarfon!

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Visit Llanberis and climb Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, at an elevation of 1,085 metres above sea level, and the highest point in the British Isles south of the Scottish Highlands. 

  2. Visit Anglesey, an island off the north-west coast of Wales. Specifically, visit Menai bridge on the way to Beaumaris famous for its castle, coast and pastel coloured houses. Also try Beau’s tea shop, it has such beautiful decor. 

     

  3. From Beaumaris, take a ferry to visit Puffin island and Trwyn Du light house, or Black Point which dates from 1838, and guided sailors through the passage between Penmon and Puffin Island.19397173_10156642004533849_8713041693481194888_n19247571_10156642002813849_3895077496144114257_n
  4. Visit Caernarfon Castle, a medieval fortress on the eastern shore of the Menai Strait, opposite the Isle of Anglesey19424495_10156642698848849_7503409698617401662_n19424194_10156642693573849_5561285517140394384_n
  5. Visit Llandudno a seaside resort, town and community. Make sure you catch the Great Orme tramway to visit the Great Orme, a prominent limestone headland on the north coast of Wales. You can even go further via a cable car but I didn’t have good enough weather to bother with this.19399300_10156646339803849_732351528926752664_n19430060_10156646339543849_8260118457623678123_n19400174_10156646339388849_4854750953815478246_nOther: I used Bangor as my base and stayed at a wonderful hotel called Bangor Garden hotel. This was above a cantonese restaurant,  family run so everyone was super friendly and helpful.

Lima, Machu Picchu and Cusco, Peru

Conquering Machu Picchu was such a lifetime experience and am so glad I took a bold step to do this trail having only ever hiked in Hong Kong.  It made seeing Machu Picchu on the last day so much better because you earned it after hiking for 4 days 3 nights. I joined Intrepid Adventures (link) in order to guarantee being able to do the hike as they are extremely strict with handing out passes and you must always be accompanied with qualified guides. I also extended my stay beyond the 8 day plan to explore Cusco further as there is a lot you can do!

Tip: People found it helpful to take coca leaves or coca tea to help the altitude sickness. Don’t bother with water tablets or altitude pills! Don’t forget to get a bunch of injections to be safe even though I felt Peru was extremely clean and bug free compared to Asia.

Check out what I visited:

  1. Lima is the capital of Peru and a key place to visit is the The Plaza de Armas and the 16th-century cathedral at the heart of old Lima Centro. I only managed to see the buildings at night but they were so grand and beautiful regardless. Lima can get a bit intense and busy so always stay alert.

  2. Cusco. In my opinion, it is the most incredible and beautiful city in the world. Their flag happens to be the rainbow btw. Photos can’t capture what I saw and experienced!13138834_10155087580978849_2992228658144963619_n13055368_10155070515388849_6107906054222961856_n
  3. Inca Trail. The hike could not have been possible without our amazing porters who carried so much to make our lives as comfortable as possible on the tough but doable hike. The views were absolutely breath-taking and changed each day depending on where we were on the path. It definitely got pretty cold when we reached the peak. The hike is 26 kilometres long in total and its highest pass is at 4,450 meters above sea level.
  4. Machu Picchu. The end result of our hike and a memory the group of us will keep forever.
  5. Saqsayhuaman Horse riding from Cusco. This is actually the town of our assistant tour guide Sebastian. They are famous for horse riding and I can see why! The amount space to ride is huge and the horses are so free with plenty of greens.
  6. Salinas salt flats and Maras Moray from Cusco. The photos look nice but the tour to get there through a local company we booked through when we were at Cusco was awful. Try grab a cab instead if you can to avoid them trying to fill up a huge bus and go in circles.
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    Supposedly natural! Maras Moray

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    Salinas salt flats
  7. Zip-lining was sick! Definitely a bit dodgy but YOLO. They let you hold your mobile phone to film whilst on the zip-line which I definitely did haha. The views were to die for.

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    Ready to zip-line!

Extra: Fried Quinoa Chicken strips @ Seledonia’s Mesa Cusco. Literally could have eaten here everyday including trying all their other dishes. And of course… why not take a selfie with the lammas and alpacas you’ll see roaming everywhere, they are really cute.

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Alpaca Selfie

Bergen, Norway

Bergen is surrounded by mountains and fjords, including Sognefjord, the country’s longest and deepest. It is therefore a great start or end point for you to visit Norway’s famous fjords. Here are my top 5 recommendations in Bergen:

  1. Bryggen features colorful wooden houses on the old wharf, once a centre of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and does look like it will fall apart soon!
  2. Visit museums. There is a three in one museum entry ticket option which will take you about 2 hours in total to complete. The Hanseatic museum (45mins), Schotstuene (15mins) and fisheries museum (1h). You cannot buy individual tickets unless it is 3:45pm or later. Your ticket includes a free shuttle transfer to get to the fisheries museum which is just slightly further out although still walkable in 25mins. My favourite museum was the Fisheries one where you learn about the history that has shaped modern Norway, learn about the ocean and be engaged with the interactive games.
  3. Eat at the fish market. All the seafood you want to eat and extremely fresh! You do end up paying quite a lot though so budget carefully. The fish market is right opposite the Hanseatic museum and 1 minute from Bryggen.
  4. Ride the Mount Floyen funicular. You could hike up in 25minutes or if you are short on time, ride the funicular which closes at 11pm. This photo was taken at 10:30pm believe it or not! 19105622_10156589363663849_3245967091743184229_n
  5. Make sure you try Skillingsbolle (cinnamon roll) @Godt Brod or any cafe really because they originated from Bergen.19059316_10156595557208849_5207553207433036603_n

Restaurant recommendation: Bryggeloftet & Stuene at Bryggen in one of the main wooden houses. The restaurant was super cozy, food was good and staff was very friendly.