Exploring Istria, Croatia by Car: the Perfect 1-Day Road Trip

Exploring Istria, Croatia by Car: the Perfect 1-Day Road Trip

Istria is one of the lesser known regions in Croatia, and very underrated in my opinion. Istria is a wine lover’s paradise as it is a prime wine harvesting region in Croatian. Also specific to the Istrian region is the coveted (and super expensive) truffle. Not to mention the food in Istria is known as some of the best in Europe. Go see for yourself!

Go truffle hunting, wine tasting, admire the medieval hilltop villages, or have a culinary field day with all the amazing food that comes from this region. Istria is incredible and it’s surprising that it hasn’t gotten too touristy…yet.

Istria road trip

If you’re planning on exploring the Istria region of Croatia, a car is actually the only way you can do it. Public transport does not go to most of these hilltop towns so your options are limited.

Istria is very small and you can easily explore the best spots in one day.

I have highlighted the perfect 1-day road trip in Istria below: 

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip


First Route: Rovinj to Hum

Journey time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Parking cost: 10 kuna


HUM

Hum has been coined the “smallest town in the world” and has recently been recognized officially by the Guinness Book of World Records. The town has a population of 17….SEVENTEEN!

Hum Croatia, smallest town in the world

Does it get any more fairytale than this?

Walking through this town will literally take you about 5-10 minutes, it’s that small. What we saw in this town included a few residences, a tractor trailor, a cute little shed, a little farmhouse, a field with some crops, a single restaurant with great views of the countryside, and a handful of visitors.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip; Hum, smallest town in world

As you can tell by the description, there is not much to see; however, I would recommend a stop here as it is very quaint and unique in its own sense. Also, if just for the mere fact that you can say you’ve been to the smallest town in the world…officially.

(Note:  when we were there it was not yet “official”)


2nd Route: Hum to Motovun

Journey time: 40 minutes

Parking cost: 20 kuna


MOTOVUN

Motovun is a medieval hilltop town that rivals the top towns in Tuscany in terms of sheer beauty. Situated on the top of a hill and overlooking the plush Istrian countryside, make sure to grab a glass of the local wine in a cute little restaurant overlooking the land.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip; Motovun

Istria is famous for truffle hunting and you will not have a problem findings specialty shops with free truffle tastings. I honestly do not like truffles (they make me gag) so I passed on this. But if it’s you’re forte, make sure to grab a few small bottles for the perfect souvenir to bring back.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

Make sure to set aside some time to get lost in the streets and have a mini photo shoot. The town is gorgeous and you’re going to want to take it all in. It wasn’t overcrowded in the least bit and that made it extra enjoyable!

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip


3rd Route: Motovun to Grožnjan

Journey time: 25 minutes

Parking cost: free street parking


GROŽNJAN

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

I think I may have found my new home

Grožnjan might be my favourite town on our Istrian road trip. Also located on a hilltop, it was a lot smaller and quaint than the other towns and had a more local feel.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

How cute are these blue shutters?

You could sense the artistic vibe as soon as you entered Grožnjan and it was nice strolling through all the quirky art shops. I wish we would have had more time here, as it was unexpectedly pleasant.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

UMAG

Our next and last stop (kinda) was the city of Umag. As we arrived into the city and attempted to find parking, we weren’t too impressed. The city was more run down and didn’t have much character from what we could see (but hey, we could have been totally wrong and it could have been awesome). We just didn’t get a good vibe from it and made a quick executive decision to head to Novigrad for our final sunset stop. It turned out to be a great choice!


4th Route: Umag to Novigrad

Journey time: 15 minutes

Parking cost: free


NOVIGRAD

In our brief venture in Novigrad, we strolled the main street covered in colourful umbrellas and had an impromptu photo shoot. It was such a lovely street we couldn’t resist.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

We then quickly rushed to the waterfront for the sunset and found the cutest little spot called Pepe Bar. There were cushions placed on the rocks and served as the perfect spot to view the sunset.

Pepe Bar, Novigrad, Croatia

It was more on the pricy side but the view and ambiance surely made up for it. Try the mojito if you go, it was really delicious!

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

CareBear and I enjoying the sunset in Novigrad


Last Route: Novigrad to Rovinj

Journey time: 1 hour

Parking cost: free


Where to Base Yourself in Istria

Rovinj without a doubt is the ideal location to base yourself for your Istrian road trip. You can reach all the above-mentioned locations in one hour and 15 minutes max. Also, ROVINJ IS INCREDIBLE and probably my favourite city in Croatia. For reasons why you should visit Rovinj, check out my post What to do in Rovinj: The Ultimate Guide to Croatia’s Most Underrated City

what to do in Rovinj

Where to Rent a Car in Istria

About a 10 minute stroll south along the water in Rovinj, you will find a little car rental agency called Vetura. We didn’t make advanced reservations and it wasn’t a problem at all. We reserved the car the afternoon before and it costed 450 kuna (about $69/day) for an automatic last minute rental. It was way more expensive than if you book in advance, so we learned our lesson.

Istria road trip

My first time renting a car outside of the USA. I look calm enough, huh?

We were pleased with the company and the owner was very relaxed about return times. I would definitely use them again.

To come along on our fun road trip, check out this video that my travel partner Carebear Abroad made of our awesome day! Hint: it may involve getting our car stuck in the middle of nowhere. 

Have you been to Istria? What was you favorite hilltop town?

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Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

What to do in Rovinj: The Ultimate Guide to Croatia’s Most Underrated City

What to do in Rovinj: The Ultimate Guide to Croatia’s Most Underrated City

As holiday seekers flock to Dalmatia for the popular sailing trips on the Adriatic Sea, the Istria region in Croatia is often overlooked. It only took my 8TH TRIP back to Croatia to finally venture to this lesser-known peninsula, due to my intense (and some might say unhealthy) attachment to the mesmerising Dalmatian coast.

Rovinj is located on the coast of the Istria peninsula, in the Western part of Croatia. Istria is known for its impeccable wine, world class gastronomy, coveted (and expensive) truffles, and storybook hilltop towns. What’s not to love about Istria? Please tell me. I’ll wait…

Last September, my friend CareBear and I decided on a more slow-paced holiday and to spend an entire week in Rovinj, using it as a base to explore the Istrian peninsula. Let me start by saying Rovinj is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring this region, given its central position along the coast. Not only that, it’s f***ing gorgeous! That fact is undeniable.

I will say that I wasn’t expecting to love Rovinj as much as I did. The Dalmatian coast has set the bar super high for me and I must admit I am quite biased to that area. You could go as far to say that I’m passionately obsessed with it. But Rovinj absolutely blew me away and it quickly moved to the top as one of my favourite Croatian cities, if not my favourite.

The best way I can describe Rovnj is quaint, charming, clean, colorful, and rustic…all in one perfect package. It sounds cliche, but there are no other words I can use to describe the awesomeness that is Rovinj.

what to do in Rovinj

There is not much to see in Rovinj in terms of historical landmarks, monuments, or museums. However, it is one of those places where you can just relax and take in all the surroundings in a peaceful atmosphere. The people are extremely friendly and the service was excellent overall.

First Impressions of Rovinj

Rovinj has such a huge Italian influence, understandably given its close proximity. The city of Rovinj felt like a blend between Italy and Croatia, my 2 favorite countries in the entire world. The food, the rustic architecture, and the colours are like a spitting image of the Ligurian region in Italy (my favourite region in Italy!). At times, I forgot that I was actually in Croatia and felt as if i was in Cinque Terre. That’s how strong the Italian influence was.

what to do in Rovinj

What really surprised me about Rovinj is that Croatian didn’t seem to be the dominant language, although technically it is. We heard just as much Italian and German as we did Croatian. And when the locals spoke Croatian, it sounded like it was with an Italian accent. The dialect is completely different from further south along the coast, and it was distinctly apparent. I was extremely surprised to hear how much German was spoke there, until we were informed that these were Austrians speaking and it made sense as this region used to be ruled by Austria in historical times! 

Why is Rovinj so Lovely? Let me Count the Ways…

The Picturesque Streets of Rovinj

Rovinj is the epitome of Picture Perfect. The streets of Rovinj are a photographer’s dream. In fact, Rovinj was one of the most picturesque towns I have ever seen. Period. My favourite part about Rovinj by far was the consistently stunning streets. Every day we found ourselves just getting lost in the maze-like alleys and having a blast. Around every corner, it was more and more beautiful.

what to do in Rovinj

There were numerous little cafes with funky/colourful furniture that were just so visually inviting it made you want to go in for a coffee every 5 minutes. One can only drink so much coffee in a day, but damnit they were just so stinkin’ cute!

what to do in Rovinj

The stores were so unique and the eclectic displays were very pleasing to the eye. The immaculate design of each little shop astounded me and silently lured me in. I could have shopped all day, even though I didn’t buy anything. We experienced boutique heaven in Rovinj.

what to do in Rovinj

 What To Do in Rovinj

The Farmer’s Market

I could never leave a city without visiting the local farmer’s market. In fact, it’s usually the first place I visit when arriving to a new city in order to stock up on some healthy snacks. The Farmer’s Market in Rovinj does not disappoint. The fruit is super fresh, juicy, and robust. The vendors are also very friendly and inviting, often giving you loads of tasting samples.

what to do in Rovinj

Honey, olive oil, truffles, and figs, you name it and they had it there. What’s best about this specific one is that it’s basically open all day until about 10pm, unlike most farmer’s markets that are only open in the mornings.

We went there so often that everyone started knowing us by name, and eventually free fruit was thrown in here and there.

Monte Beach

Let me start by saying Rovinj isn’t known for its beaches. The one I would recommend is called Monte Beach and is located just a hop skip and a jump from the center (did I really just say that?).

Because I'm happy 🎶😁 #nofilter #Rovinj #CroatiaFullOfLife #ShareIstria

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Monte Beach isn’t really technically a beach, it’s more like a rocky cove frequented by sunbathers brave enough to lay on the rigid rocks. It was super cute and not too crowded, and this became our little go-to spot every day. We even went here a few times to watch the sunset over the rocks and it was incredible. Check it out at least once if you’re in Rovinj. Oh, and bring some wine.

Church of St Ephemia Clock Tower

This is where you can find the best panoramic views over the city. You have to walk up some wobbly/narrow stairs to get to the top, but it’s worth it for the 360 degree views.

what to do in Rovinj

Entrance fee is 3 euros.

Rent A Bike

Exploring Rovinj by bike 🚲 | You won't catch me ridin dirty ✌🏻️😎 #Rovinj #lovelyrovinj #DiscoverCroatia #LjetoInCroatia #dametraveler

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This was a great way to see more of just the centre of Rovinj. You can’t really ride the bikes inside the narrow streets. Instead, we went along the coast where some of the other more populated beaches were located. There were rental places all throughout the city, so no need to book in advance. 

Go Boutique Shopping (or in our case, window shopping)

what to do in Rovinj

There was no shortage of specialty boutiques in the city, from eclectic jewellery shops selling one-of-a-kind pieces to musical shops selling cool vintage instruments. The displays in these stores were outstanding and you could really appreciate the attention to detail. All were so funky and different, it was nice to just browse through them one by one, entertaining our curiosities.

Find the Most Instagrammed Spot in Rovinj

As you’re walking through the city, you may stumble upon the cutest little street ever and your head will turn (as did mine). Can you see why it’s the most Instagrammable street in Rovinj?

The little streets of Rovinj are straight out of a fairytale 😍❤️#fairytale #LovelyRovinj #LoveCroatia #DiscoverCroatia #ShareIstria #dametraveler

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Secret Find: Mediterraneo Bar

This was by far our absolute favorite place in Rovinj and we came back every single day. The irresistible archway framing the steps leading into the sea is what initially drew us in. A cozy cafe by day and a coveted drinking spot during sunset, this is the place you will want to be.

Newly opened in May 2015 by a Rovinj native, Jasmin Huskic, Mediterraneo Bar serves coffee and speciality cocktails in a cozy seaside retreat. The staff is warm and inviting, always making sure you are enjoying your time.

what to do in Rovinj: Mediterraneo Bar

The cafe/bar is nicely decorated with an eclectic and bohemian inspired flare. Plush colourful cushions placed on the rocks and mismatched furniture give it a vibrant atmosphere. During the day, you have the option of jumping from the rocks and swimming right in front of the cafe. How cool?

The best part about this bar is the “secrete escape” spot that is, well…a secret. Tucked away in a private corner on the rocks, there is a magical spot that offers privacy in a romantic setting with a small table, cushions, and soft blankets offered for the cold night breeze.

what to do in Rovinj

The secret escape has become so popular that reservations are now warranted for this coveted spot. It was truly a unique experience watching the sunset in our own private little nest.

Mediterraneo Bar is seriously one of my favorite cafes I have ever been to! Hands-down. And no, this isn’t sponsored in any way, it’s really that awesome! If you make it over there, tell Jasmin that Crazy Travelista and CareBear Abroad say hi!

Where to Stay in Rovinj

As I usually do, I highly recommend using Airbnb for accommodation. During my search, I came across a big variety of choices in the center of the city and at very reasonable prices. We chose to stay in the center and it was the absolute perfect location, everything within a few minutes walk.  We picked a private apartment and we couldn’t have been happier. It happened to be on what became our favourite street in Rovinj, with a restaurant and coffee bar conveniently outside our door.

what to do in Rovinj

The one-bedroom apartment had a full kitchen, private bathroom and shower, wifi, a flat screen TV, and a pull out couch. The apartment could fit 3 people comfortably. We really enjoyed utilizing the kitchen to save money on eating out every meal. The total price for one week including all taxes and fees was $350 ($175 each split between us). It could have been even less if we had one more with us. We paid a little more this time for the prime location and it was well worth it.

You can check out our Airbnb rental here. (Update: the price has increased a bit since we stayed here, wahhh). And if you’re new to Airbnb, feel free to use my $40 off coupon! They really do have a great referral program!

Where to Eat in Rovinj

As a Gluten-free eater, my restaurant recommendations are often limited as I can only sample a small selection of foods, unfortunately. I also tend to cook most my meals if I can, even when I’m traveling. Nevertheless, I did manage to find a few Gluten-friendly options that I really enjoyed.

where to eat in Rovinj

Pano e Vino-I was so excited to find an Italian place that served Gluten-free pasta. I sampled the gluten-free bolognese and the seafood risotto which were both flavourful and rich. I loved the fact that they brought out gluten-free bruschetta as an appetizer on the house, as well as gluten-free bread with our meals. I highly recommend this place even if you are not gluten free. The staff was super friendly and even gave us a whole bottle of honey grappa on the house. If we hadn’t eaten here the last night, I would have definitely returned again.

Squid 2-this restaurant has a great view of the riva and offers a variety of fresh seafood. We opted for the fish platter for 2 and it was very good and filling. The bonus is that they take credit cards.

Scuba-this restaurant also offered a variety of gluten-free options at a reasonable price. I also sampled the seafood risotto here, which was delightful and a very big portion.

B52-this place had the best gelato we tried in Rovinj and with the biggest selection. This is also the ONLY place that would allow us to sample the flavors. The scoops were huge and well worth the price. I recommend the fig gelato, unusual, yet mouthwatering.

How to Get to Rovinj

Planes, trains, and automobiles…literally. The only airport located in the Istrian region is in Pula, about 40 minutes by bus to Rovinj (costs 43 kuna). There are many affordable flights to Pula within Croatia on Croatia Airlines. I flew from Zadar to Pula for around $75 and it took less than an hour.

There are also busses from Split and Dubrovnik by Bus Croatia, but they are less frequent, take 9-12 hours, and some cost almost as much as a flight. Busses from Zagreb take about 6 hours.

You could also rent a car and drive to Rovinj; however, parking in the city can be a pain in the butt. Also, you really would only need a car for a day or 2 at the most, so if you are staying for a week it’s kind of a waste of money in my opinion.

Your best bet is snagging a cheap flight from Dalmatia or Zagreb!

How to Get Around Rovinj

By foot! It’s a total walkable city given its small size. You can get anywhere in 15 minutes max. I do however, recommend renting a car for one day to explore the surrounding region.

Exploring Istria (day trip)

One thing you must do in this region is get out and explore the countryside by car. In fact, this is the only way to reach the nearby hilltop towns, as public transport doesn’t serve most of these areas.

Highly recommended on your Istrian road trip are the towns of Motovun, Hum, Groznjan, and Novigrad. You can do them all in one day as they are all less than an hour and fifteen minutes from Rovinj! Just make sure to get an early start. To get all the details, read my post Exploring Istria, Croatia by Car: the Perfect 1-Day Road Trip

Day Trip It to Pula

Pula lies on the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula and is a short 35-ish minute bus ride from Rovinj. The main attraction in Pula is the magnificent Pula Area, which was constructed back in the 1ST CENTURY! In fact, it’s older than the Colosseum in Rome! It’s also the 6th largest Roman arena in the world that still exists today!

Pula Arena, Croatia

There are also a few cute beaches to visit in Pula, as well as the nearby Kamenjak National Park, which I’m kicking myself for not getting to (I was short on time). If you make it over to Kamenjak, please let me know what I missed!

Pula, Croatia

Moral of the Story?

GO TO ROVINJ! It’s an overlooked Croatian splendour that doesn’t get the hype it very well deserves. Rovinj is very relaxing and romantic, the perfect base for exploring the Istria countryside, is filled with hospitable people, has great food, and is undeniably drop-dead gorgeous! All the elements of THE perfect city if you ask me!

what to do in Rovinj

Do you have any other tips for what to do in Rovinj? Any secret finds I failed to mention? Please let me know in the comments below! I would love to check them out when I finally return!

Click photo to Pin for later♥

What to do in Rovinj

6 Awesome & Unique Things to Do on New Zealand’s North Island

6 Awesome & Unique Things to Do on New Zealand’s North Island

Traveling to New Zealand had been a long time dream for me. However, the price of the airline ticket and the distance kept me away for so long.

That is until I found an error fair on Qantas for $216 round trip!!!

I never in a million years thought that was even possible to get a ticket to somewhere that far away for so cheap! I had about 20 minutes to decide and book…and I never looked back!

Fast forward a few months later, where I spent 12 days in New Zealand over the past fall and it was one of my favourite trips to date!

I couldn’t decide between the North and South Islands, so I did a little of both! I rented a car and spent 8 days total on the North Island and I would highly recommend doing the self drive so you can get more off the beaten path (and save time).

I stayed in Airbnbs the whole time on New Zealand’s North Island and it averaged about $32 a night, so not bad at all!

I rented an automatic car for 5 of the 8 days on the island and it costed $232 (including the extra insurance and drop off at a different airport). It’s definitely cheaper if you know how to drive stick shift! 

I used RentalCars.comto book my car rental (which is what I use for ALL my car rentals. The prices seem to be the lowest and their customer service has been great. I have been using them for YEARS and I have no complaints!)

Disclaimer: Btw, the above link is an affiliate link, meaning I may get a very small commission if you book using my link, at no extra cost to you. It helps keeps this site up and running, so thank you!)♥

Unique Things to Do on New Zealand’s North Island 

1. Step Into the Magical Land of Hobbiton

Ok I have a confession, I have never seen Lord of the Rings OR The Hobbit. Yet, I still wanted to visit this place because it looked like something out of this world. 

Unique Things to Do on New Zealand's North Island

And boy was I right! Hobbiton was everything I imagined and more. Walking around all the miniature houses and taking selfies in front of the colorful round doors made me feel like a kid again.

Lucy, I'm hommmmme! | Back to Hobbiton pics, sorry guys 😂#hobbiton #hobbitonmovieset #newzealand #middleearth

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This little village is the actual movie set of the famous movies and can only be visited with a tour, so make sure you book tickets in advance! I absolutely loved Hobbiton, and I can imagine fans of the movie would DIE over it!

Hobbiton is a must see in New Zealand, whether you’ve seen the movies or not!

2. Visit the Colorful Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

This area is one of the most volcanically active areas of the world. I had no idea until I visited!

The coolest geothermal area I have ever seen!! 😍😍 #waiotapu #newzealand #geothermal

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You know how after you’ve been to more than one thermal area, they all kinda look the same after a while? Well, not this one! I was surprised that I enjoyed this so much and spent a few hours here exploring the area.

what to do in New Zealand North Island

There are a few different paths you can take to walk around the whole park, so give yourself a few hours to do so. The colors of the hot springs were like nothing I had ever seen and they were very picturesque (albeit extremely smelly).

It’s a bit pricey to enter, at $32.50 NZD (about $23) a ticket, but honestly well worth it!

3. Hike to the Gorgeous Cathedral Cove (Coromandel Peninsula)

Unique Things to Do on New Zealand's North Island

A few years back, on a Contiki trip to Thailand, I met an adorable little Kiwi (New Zealander) girl. I asked her the ONE place I can’t miss if I ever come to New Zealand and she mentioned Cathedral Cove. She was SPOT ON!!! (Thanks Rachel).

To get to Cathedral Cove, it requires an easy 45 minute hike from the car park. There are 2 beaches on either side of the cove, both worthy of your time. Ironically, this beach reminded me a bit of Thailand!

Tip: There are a few detours you can make on the way back that are way worth it, namely Stringray Bay. The pastel green water framed against limestone cliffs and lush greenery is breathtaking. It’s also pretty secluded so it’s a great place to get away from the crowds.

what to do in New Zealand North Island

4. Go Wine Tasting on Waiheke Island

A 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland will bring you to a quiet little island called Waiheke. So what does Waiheke have to offer? A beautiful island with cliff-hanging epic views and several beautiful wineries. Need I say more? I was in absolute heaven. 

what to do in New Zealand North Island

There is a bus system that connects to most of the wineries, but you can also walk to some of them from the port. I decided to take the nice little path up to the first winery and I was afforded with great panoramic views of the cliffside and water.

Wine tastings cost around $10 for 3-5 tastings, not bad at all.

My favorite winery on Waiheke island was Mudbrick, so make sure to hit this one up while you’re there. It had such a cute ambiance and the views over the island were spectacular. You could ever see the Auckland skyline from there!

5. Explore the Mystical Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

I’m not going to lie, the glow worm caves was one of my top reasons for wanting to visit the North Island of New Zealand. Where else can you see something as cool as this?

I took a tour of the glow worm caves that lasted about 45 minutes. They took us to the caves and explained a little about the lifecycle of the glow worms and why they glow, which was very interesting.

The glowworms emit a bright bluish green color from their tails to attract insects, and to fend off other animals from eating them.

The glowworm has a lifecycle of only 11 months and only lives a few days as an adult fly. The term “life is short” takes on a whole new meaning for the glow worm.

We then boarded a small boat and our guide stood at the front and navigated us through the caves pulling on these seemingly invisible ropes attached to the walls. It was super dark in there and a little spooky, until you see the glowworms. It looked like a starry sky lit up in bright blue from underneath and it was a very peaceful experience. It kinda felt like we were in a virtual reality world, it was a really special experience.

Tip: you CANNOT take pictures inside the cave because it may startle the glowworms (also, they turn off their lights when they see light).

6. Escape to the Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is about 3-4 hours from Auckland by car and consists of 140 subtropical islands off the coast.

what to do in New Zealand North Island

As I was short on time, I only got to visit the cute little seaside town of Paihia, as well as took a boat to Russell. Russell was New Zealand’s first capital, it’s first sea port, as well as it’s first permanent European settlement. It serves an important part in New Zealand’s history and definitely worth a visit.

There are some cute seaside cafes, beautiful beaches, and a few lookout points you can walk up to for a panoramic view of the nearby islands.

A big attraction in the Bay of Islands is swimming with dolphins in the wild. You basically take a boat out and search for dolphins and jump in with them! Since I did this in Zanzibar, I skipped out on this but I would highly recommend doing something like this because it was a wild and unforgettable experience in Zanzibar!

♥New Zealand, You Have My Heart♥

Overall, I loved all the gorgeous beaches and unique attractions in the North Island of New Zealand. I think 9 out of 10 people would recommend the South Island over the North, but I had a fabulous time and saw so many fantastic things. Don’t skip over the North Island because it has so much to offer! Although, I would recommend not spending much time in Auckland, because honestly there was nothing special about it and there are so many other awesome places to see on the island.

New Zealand blew me away and has now become one of my top 3 favorite countries! New Zealand is quiet and peaceful and has so much to offer in terms of nature, adrenaline activities, beautiful beaches, and epic views. There are so many unique things to do on New Zealand’s North Island, and I only just scratched the surface!

Have you been to the North Island of New Zealand? What were the highlights for you?

PIN for later!♥

what to do in New Zealand North Island

Disclaimer: I was a guest of waitomo.com during my glow worms tour. However, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. I would never sell out like that! It was such a unique experience and I highly recommend it. 

Bucket List: Flying over the Great Barrier Reef & Whitehaven Beach

Bucket List: Flying over the Great Barrier Reef & Whitehaven Beach

Seeing the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) was at the top of my bucket list. It was probably in the top 3 honestly. I remember watching Steve Irwin’s shows when I was younger and dreaming of going there and seeing it for myself. RIP Mr. Irwin.

When trying to decide if I should snorkel in the GBR or do a scenic flight over it, I couldn’t choose. So I did both! It was expensive, but I knew I was probably only going to go to Australia once in my life. That and the fact that the Great Barrier Reef isn’t always going to be around unfortunately. It was worth the splurge for sure.

The next decision I had was whether to fly over the GBR or Whitehaven Beach. In my research, I stumbled upon GSL Aviation, who offered a Reef and Island Scenic Flight that highlights both! Done deal. Sold.

I also got some personal recommendations to go with this company after I had already booked with them, so I felt really good about my decision. Word of mouth is the best advertising right? Oh, and GSL aviation offers planes with guaranteed window seats, which is super important when doing a scenic flight, obviously. C’mon, no one wants the middle seat!

I chose the 60-minute Reef and Island Scenic Flight, far longer than most scenic flights. If I was going to do it, I was going to get the full experience!

The morning started bright and early with a free shuttle pickup from my hotel. After a short safety briefing, we soared above Airlie Beach and made our way to the Great Barrier Reef. Rewind a few days earlier when I snorkelled the outer Great Barrier Reef. I hate to say this, but I was a bit disappointed. I guess I was expecting it to be more colorful. Most the pics you see of it are super photoshopped I guess. It’s sad but the bleaching of coral is a real thing and you definitely can see it for yourself.

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

Trying to fight the glare to get a shot was quite difficult!

Aerial shots are my ultimate favorite and flying over the Great Barrier Reef and seeing it from above was a completely different experience. You can really visualize the bold blue/green colors and see how enormous it really is. Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is the largest organic structure on earth and is visible from OUTER SPACE? It’s so much easier to grasp that concept when you see it from above!

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

Well, I only saw a small section of it on this flight, but it was incredible! My dream of the Great Barrier Reef had been revived.

No need for a drone when you basically see through a drone’s eyes from above. We had many different viewpoints and plenty of time to really experience it.

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

We flew over the infamous heart Reef, but unfortunately I fumbled with switching cameras and didn’t get the best shot. It was also very sunny and the glare on the windows was quite bad that day. I tried. 

But in case you want to see a better shot, here is a great one from their Instagram!

On our way back, we flew over the idyllic Whitehaven Beach. I ended up going to Whitehaven Beach the next day but seeing it from above was so much better to tell you the truth! You can really appreciate the swirly patterns of pure white silica sand and turquoise waters from above and it will leave you in awe.

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

GSL Aviation also offers transfers to Hamilton Island and they can get you there in just 10 minutes! Or you can combine the transfer with a one hour scenic flight over the GBR and Whitehaven, which I would definitely consider if I was staying on Hamilton Island. The ferry tickets are SUPER expensive to get there, so this option is actually a great value.

For example, a one-way ferry ticket is about $52 USD and the transfer flight is around $75 USD. It’s even cheaper if you do the transfer plus scenic flight!

They also do helicopter tours if that’s what you fancy. Oh, and they operate in Cairns as well. So if you’re up that way and want to see the Reef from above, holla at them!

Tips:

  • I was trying to switch between snap chatting on my phone, taking GoPro shots and videos, and using my wide angle camera lens with my Sony. It was too much and I often missed shots because I was trying to do too much. Stick to one camera and be ready!
  • touch your camera up to glass to prevent glare from the window.

Flying over the Great Barrier Reef is a must do activity when visiting Australia. It was one of the highlights of my entire trip!

PIN for Later ♥

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

Disclaimer: I received a media discount on my scenic flight. However, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. I would never sell out like that! I had the best time and would highly recommend GSL Aviation.

20 Photos of Chefchaouen that Prove it Might be the Most Photogenic City in the World

20 Photos of Chefchaouen that Prove it Might be the Most Photogenic City in the World

Chefchaouen (“shef-sha-wen”) is one of the most photographic cities you will ever come across. Period. Located between the Rif mountains, it affords the perfect secluded environment to get away from the madness of fast-paced cities like Morocco and Fez.

There is not so much to “do” in the Blue City,  yet it’s more of a place to sit back and observe your surroundings and relax. There is something about the different shades of blue that is so calming.

Why are the Walls Painted Blue?

I’m glad you ask, and there are a few theories. The first being that the color blue deters mosquitos and keeps the city cooler during the hot summer months. Another theory is that the Jewish refugees painted it blue as a symbol of the sky and they saw this as a way to be closer to God. Which one is true? Who knows. The city is freshly repainted about once a year, making the bright blues really pop with color.

What to Do in Chefchaouen

  • Go to the Spanish mosque perched upon the mountain for the best sunset view
  • Eat at the cozy Molin Arte near the waterfalls
  • Get completely lost in the blue maze streets (literally and figuratively) 
  • Photograph the copious amounts of kitties
  • Speak Spanish with the locals (ya, that surprised me also)
  • Admire the #DoorPorn
  • Indulge in the Hashish culture (if you’re into that stuff…it’s everywhere, you just gotta ask)
  • Disconnect from the world♥

How to Get to Chefchaouen

  • Chefchaouen is a little out of the way from other popular Moroccan destinations, but it’s worth the trip 110%. It was my favourite city in Morocco by far!
  • CTM bus: Take a 5-hour by bus from Fez on CTM. It eaves at 7:30am or 8 from 2 different points in the city. It is also accessible via Tangier (and a bit closer).
  • Once you arrive, take a taxi from the bus station to the medina. You can’t walk, trust me. It’s up a steep hill. The taxi should cost 10-20 dirham max! It cost me 10 dirham for a shared cab and only took 5 minutes. 

For more on my trip to Morocco, check out my 2 other posts here: Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Morocco: Highlights & Lowlights and Solo Female Travel in Morocco: Yay or Nay?

Ok, I’ll shut up now and hopefully spark your wanderlust with these extremely blue photos:

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Smurf town

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

The door ornaments were just as impressive as the colors

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

The gorgeous contrast of paint colors

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Wandering around solo with my GoPro. I had most the streets to myself 🙂

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

View from hike to the Spanish Mosque

I wouldn’t mind living here, just sayin ♥

Being photographed by other tourists. They gave me a little photo shoot and I was going along with it!

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Colorful rugs and scarves seemed to be staple items in Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Fresh paint for sale just waiting to be photographed

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Tiny alleyways in the maze-like town

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Lost in blue paradise

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Kitty heaven on the streets of Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Every alley is a photo op waiting to happen

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

I’m blue, if I was green I would die…

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Picture perfect

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Can’t get enough of these blue hues!

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

The town is pretty quiet, meaning you practically will have the streets all to yourself

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

A little pop of color against the beautiful blue backdrop

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Door porn on point in Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen Morocco photos

Can I go back already?

Have you been to  Chefchaouen? Was it as magical for you as it was for me? 🙂

PIN for later

Chefchaouen photos

What to Do in Cape Town: 6 Can’t Miss Activities

What to Do in Cape Town: 6 Can’t Miss Activities

Cape Town is one of the greatest cities in the entire world. Bold statement, but absolutely true. I have never met someone who didn’t like it and the hype it gets it truly deserves.

My expectations were high, and surprisingly I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, Cape Town blew me out of the water and the bar has been set very high. My only disappointment was that we only stayed there 5 days. I could have stayed for weeks!

Cape Town has everything your imagined ideal city would have: natural beauty of the mountains and beaches, vibrant city life, some of the best wines in the world, reasonable prices, and endless high quality food.

Cape Town quickly became one of my top 3 favorite cities in the world, along with Rome and Istanbul.

So what to do in Cape Town? I could write a book about it, but here are my top pics:

What to do in Cape Town

1. Take a Hike

what to do in Cape Town

Cape Town is for fitness and nature lovers. Hike both Table Mountain or Lion’s Head in a matter of hours with a spectacular view along every step of the way

what to do in Cape Town

We hiked Lion’s Head during golden hour and it was spectacular. You could see the entire city, Table Mountain, and Camp’s Bay in the distance.

what to do in Cape Town

View of Table Mountain on the hike up to Lion’s Head

We didn’t have time to do the Table Mountain hike unfortunately, so we took the cable car instead. The panoramic views over the coastline and city are spectacular.

what to do in Cape Town

2. Grab a Bite to Eat

Hold crap! I wasn’t expecting Cape Town to have such great food! I can honestly say in terms of quality, Cape Town had the most consistently good food out of any country I had ever been!

There are 2 open air markets that you can’t miss on your trip to Cape Town: Hout Bay and Old Biscuit Mill.

Where to eat in Cape Town

The Hout Bay Market (officially called Bay Harbor Market) runs Friday through Sunday and is the place to be on the weekends for good food and live music. Food and specialty shops line the cozy inside market and one could spend hours there. Make sure to go on an empty stomach because there is so much to try!! (There were also many gluten free options for those with allergies like me).

Where to eat in Cape Town

Tip: try the Springbok meat, it’s just like beef but a little sweeter. The springbok is the national bird of South Africa so a nice way to taste the local flavors.

Where to eat in Cape Town

Another favorite is the Old Biscuit Mill that’s only on Saturday mornings. This is another open air market with endless vendors offering a variety of foods. This was probably my favorite food experience in Cape Town, most likely because I found a number of gluten free tables offering delicate treats to satiate my cravings. It’s also another cool hangout spot!

what to do in Cape Town

Gluten free pastry..aka heaven in my mouth 🙂

Bombay Bicycle-order the Choco chili steak (signature dish that’s not on the menu). This was seriously one of the best meals of my life, if not the best. It sounds like a weird combo, but the flavors perfectly complemented the melt-in-your-mouth juicy steak. It was the most tender steak I’d ever tasted and I could have died a happy girl after my last bite. It’s that good. The restaurant also had a great ambiance and intimate setting.

Tip: you must make a reservation in advance as it’s a very popular place!

Bacini’s for pizza-right across from Bombay bicycle is Bacini’s. It’s nothing fancy inside, this is more of a local spot. The pizza was outstanding and they even had gluten free crusts! Avocado on pizza is a thing in Cape Town and it was friggin’ amazing! I’m hooked and now I’m always going to expect avo on my pizza wherever I go.

→An added bonus: we ran into Davos from Game of Thrones here! For extreme fanatics of the show, this made our whole trip!

Tiger’s Milk-another great restaurant downtown with that had the best gluten free leg of lamb pizza with a dallop of hummus and feta. Omg was it good.

V&A Market on the Wharf –this was the 3rd market we went to in Cape Town and it didn’t disappoint! It was great for fruit juices, shakes, pastries, and also lactose free froyo!

3. Take a Road Trip Down the Coast

what to do in Cape Town

The plunging coastlines around Cape Town are nothing short of spectacular. You can’t leave without getting to explore the area on a road trip! Drive down the Cape Peninsula all the way down to Penguin Beach. If you have time, stop in Muizenberg Beach to photograph the row of colorful beach shacks.

what to do in Cape Town

Penguin heaven 😉

If you have even more time, make sure to head down to Hermanus, a quint little seaside town a 2-hr drive from Cape Town, known for whale watching and shark tank diving in its neighbor city Gansbaii.

what to do in Cape Town

How pretty is Hermanus??

On the way back to Cape Town, drive along False bay, which I thought was prettier than the actual Cape Peninsula honestly.

Tip: on your drive back from Hermanus, stop at Betty’s Bay, the less-touristy version of Penguin Beach. There was hardly anyone there when we went and we got up close and personal with the little guys!  The cost is 10 rand for a parking permit but no one was there to enforce it.

what to do in Cape Town

4. View Cape Town from Above

One of my favorite things to do in a new city is get an epic aerial view. No view can get more epic than from a helicopter! We had 360 degrees of unobstructed views of the beautiful city, coast lines, beaches, peaks, and mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking.

what to do in Cape Town

Unedited GoPro pic from the helicoptor

We decided to go with NAC Helicopters for our flight over Cape Town, mainly due their almost perfect reviews as well as their impeccable safety record (100% accident-fee). The perfect safety record alone is a deciding factor when it comes to putting my life into someone else’s hands in the air.

what to do in Cape Town

NAC Helicopters also offers tailored destination flights, so if you really want to ball out and show up somewhere in style, this would be a fun thing to splurge on!

The staff was super professional and kind, and I felt safe from the minute I walked into the door greeted by their warm smiles.

Tip: make sure to schedule the helicopter tour early in the trip in case of cancellations due to weather. We actually had our first flight cancelled so ended up re-scheduling it on our last day luckily.

What to do in Cape Town

5. Hop On Hop off Bus (seriously)

I never in a million years thought I would recommend a “touristy” Hop on Hop off Bus, but this is definitely an exception! The public transportation in Cape Town and vicinity is not that great so this is actually a great way to see all that Cape Town has to offer! You can buy a one-day pass for around $12 and a 2-day pass for around $20.

Kirstenbosch gardens

Spellbound in the enchanted forest inside Kirstenbosch gardens

The Hop on Hop Off bus has 3 different color-coded routes and I recommend all 3 if you have time! It’s no surprise my favorite was the purple route since this was the wine route!

what to do in Cape Town

Camp’s Bay-what I called the Malibu of Cape Town

If you’re short on time like we were, we only had a day to do the bus tour. Our favorite can’t miss stops included:

  • Kirstenbosch Gardens
  • Camp’s bay
  • Purple wine route (the entire thing)
  • Table Mountain
  • Hout Bay

6. Drink World Class Wine

South Africa is known for its Pinotage red blend, distinctive to this area of the globe. Make sure you try a glass (or 5) of this delicious red wine, as this blend is not grown anywhere else in the world!

what to do in Cape Town

There are SO many vineyards within an hour or so drive from Cape Town and I recommend spending an entire day in Stellenbosch, and if you have time Franchoek as well.

what to do in Cape Town

The wine tasting crew! Carebear Abroad and I, along with our friend Nick, who lives in Cape Town. We met Nick on our 12-day Turkey trip 2 years before. #travelfriends

Our favorite winery was Vergelegen Estate. The property grounds were impeccably gorgeous and the staff was extremely interactive and fun. Oh, and apparently you can have a picnic in the camphor forest, which sounds amazing! Unfortunately it was closed when we went, but if you end up going, please let me know how it is!

 

If you’re planning what to do in Cape Town, hopefully these 6 recommendations are at the top of your list! There is so much more to discover in this unique city and we only just cracked the tip of the iceberg.

I cannot wait to get back to Cape Town and stay longer next time to enjoy more of the local life. Until then, I’ll keep dreaming about it. ♥

 

PIN for later 🙂

what to do in Cape Town

Disclaimer: I was a guest of NAC Helicopters. However, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to leave positive feedback. I thought the helicopter tour was awesome and the best way to see the city!

Have you Been To Cape Town? What were Your Highlights? Did I miss Anything? Do tell! ♥