Top 13 Travel Surprises of 2016 (that may inspire your 2017 travels) + VIDEO

Top 13 Travel Surprises of 2016 (that may inspire your 2017 travels) + VIDEO

Wow. I really have a problem. I am a full-blown travel addict. Acceptance is the first step to recovery, right?

I didn’t think I could top last year’s adventures but my travel addiction took control and I went to far more places than I ever imagined! 

In 2016, I visited 14 countries, 11 of them new countries, and 3 continents. The 3 repeat countries? My top 3 favourite countries in the world: Italy, Croatia, and Greece! I’ll never get sick of them.

I ended the year with a bang with an unexpected trip to Australia and New Zealand, my dream trip! I jumped on an error fare from LAX to Auckland, New Zealand for $216 round-trip. That is UNHEARD of. I got lucky on that one and I could not pass it up. I had been saving for this dream trip for awhile so it worked out perfectly!

Anyway, here are my top 13 destinations that really blew me away in 2016. Hopefully I can inspire some travel to these places in 2017!

Top 13 Travel Surprises of 2016:

 

Sao Miguel, Azores

Thanks to Anthony Bourdain, I was introduced to the Azores a few years ago and have been so intrigued to go ever since. It wasn’t until 2015 that they opened up budget airlines to fly into the islands so it was the perfect time to go.

Lagoa do Canario Miradouro

If you’re looking for a fairly unspoilt, non-touristy, nature-centered place to visit, the Azores are right for you! Sao Miguel is the biggest island in the Azores and it was honestly the most naturally beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on. I cannot recommend this place enough.

Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes

Do not miss:

  • Sete Cidades twin lakes– one blue and one green lake surrounded by spectacular greenery and hikes.
  • Ponta da Ferraria-a hot pool connected to the ocean.
  • Lagoa do Fogo-hike down to the bottom if you have time for crystal clear waters.
  • Caldeira Velha-natural hot springs in the middle of the jungle.
  • Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes– a free natural park with pretty waterfalls. 
  • Dona Beija Thermal Springs-a series of hot pool jacuzzis in a beautiful and relaxing setting.

⇒For a detailed 4-day itinerary, check out my article: Why Sao Miguel, Azores Will Blow Your Mind: The Ultimate 4-Day Itinerary

Victoria Falls, Africa

Victoria Falls really blew me away. Victoria falls lies between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa, and is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world. Did you know that Victoria Falls is also the biggest waterfall in the world (based on width)? I sure as hell didn’t until I was face to face with this amazing natural wonder.

What to do in Victoria Falls

Also a huge surprise was that Victoria Falls is a mini adventure capital. There were SO many adventure activities on offer, we didn’t have enough time to even scratch the surface. From bungee jumping, to high wire activities, to scenic flights over the falls, the amount of fun you can have in this place is endless.

Do not miss:

  • Microlight flight over the falls (one of the most incredible activities I have ever done in my life).
  • Devil’s pool (where you can sit on top of the edge of the waterfall..no joke).
  • The gorge swing and the flying fox.

*Stay tuned for 2 posts about this destination coming soon!

Cape Town, South Africa 

Cape Town was my favorite city I visited in 2016, hands-down. It literally has everything: awesome hikes, mind-blowing viewpoints, some of the greatest food in the world, nearby wineries, epic road trips, and so much more.

What to do in Cape Town

Cape Town is underrated in my opinion and I think you should add it to the top of your 2017 bucket list! It’s INCREDIBLE!

NAC helicopter tour Cape Town

Do not miss:

  • Haut Bay market-live music, artisan shops, and endless food vendors.
  • Camp’s Bay-the posh beach area reminded me of Malibu, California 
  • Lion’s Head and Table Mountain.
  • Bombay Bicycle-order the Choco-Chilli steak. Don’t, ask, just do it. 
  • Stellenbosch-take a day and go wine tasting about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town.
  • Helicopter tour over Cape Town for the best panoramic views over the city.
  • Road trip on the Cape Peninsula.
  • Penguin Beach.

Where to Stay in Cape Town:

Derwent House Boutique Hotel. Simply awesome…and super cozy!

⇒Check out my review: Where to Stay in Cape Town: Feeling at Home at Derwent House Boutique Hotel (+Video)

Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa

My friend Carey and I spent a week in Zanzibar participating in a volunteer project with the incredible RAKlife.org helping to rebuild some houses for those in need. Not only did we get to help make a difference, but we got to spend time in one of the most beautiful places in the world: ZANZIBAR!

Zanzibar Crazy Travelista

The high/low tides in Paje, Zanzibar were unlike anything I had ever seen. During low tide, you could literally walk a mile out onto the sea bed. Not to mention, the color of the water was unreal. Zanzibar will have some of the prettiest waters you will ever see in this world, and that’s no lie.

Do not miss:

  • The Rock Restaurant (basically in the middle of the ocean)-You take a boat to get to it and after the low tide, you walk back to shore. One of the coolest things I have ever seen. Oh, and the food was great too!
  • Swimming with wild dolphins (literally)-a 6am start will surely get your adrenaline pumping as you take a small boat out into the sea to search for dolphins. When your guide finds them, you literally jump into the water and swim with them. I can’t even describe the feeling.
  • Paje Beach-one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. There are also a bunch of chill out cafes near the water with hammocks to enjoy the scenery. It’s a very relaxing place. 

Meteora, Greece

I have been to Greece several times as it is one of my favorite countries. But nothing prepared me for what I would see and learn at Meteora. In short, it is a city with monasteries built upon rocky pillars. Meteora translates into “suspended in the sky”…and it definitely lives up to its name. It also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Meteora monasteries

The history behind this place is incredible so make sure to take a guided tour to put things into perspective. Another plus is that this region of Greece is pretty cheap so it won’t break the bank.

What to do in Meteora

Do not miss:

  • Meteora Sunset Tour-to get the best photo spots in Meteora, this was my fav tour!
  • Meteora Hiking Tour-to see the city from the bottom up, it gives a unique perspective.

⇒For more details on Meterora, check out my post: Why You Should Drop Everything & Visit Meteora

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Who knew the oldest lake in Europe would be one of my favorite destinations of 2016? It’s not really a place on most people’s radars, and as a result, it’s not overrun by mass tourism. BINGO. That’s probably why I enjoyed it so much. You can reach it easily with a 3-hour bus ride from Skopje.

Lake Ohrid Crazy Travelista

Go to Lake Ohrid for a more peaceful and relaxing trip with great scenery. Also a plus is how cheap everything is there, especially accommodations. I got an entire apartment to myself on Airbnb for $24/night. Ahhh, I love Eastern Europe.♥

Do not miss:

Saint John at Kaneo-a monastery perched upon the cliff overlooking the lake and picturesque AF.

Sardinia, Italy

If you know anything about me, you know my favorite country in the world is Italy. I always say I could spend my whole life discovering all of Italy. And that I plan on doing :). Sardinia did not disappoint and has the most consistently beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life. Period. 

Sardinia, Italy Crazy Travelista

I explored solo for 8 days by car and it was one of my favourite trips of the year. Sardinia is very rugged and naturally beautiful, and not to mention HUGE. In 8 days I was only able to see the Northeast of the Island so I definitely plan on going back to see more.

Do not miss:

  • Cala Goloritze-hands-down one of the prettiest beaches in the world. So much so that the beach itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It requires a 1.5 hour hike through the woods (each way), but 100% worth it. I had the whole entire beach to myself (although it was a cloudy day, it was still gorgeous).
  • La Maddalena Peninsula-I took my car on the ferry over to La Maddalena and drove around the small little island. The water there was the prettiest blue/green contrasted waters on the whole island of Sardinia.
  • Costa Smeralda-very posh and expensive but worth a stop.
  • Capriccioli Beach-made up of 4 small half-cresent beaches and turquoise waters.
  • Orosei Coast for the best natural beaches on the island.

Where to Stay in Sardinia:

Ecofriendly Luxury Huts at L’essenza, Sardinia-one of the most unique places I have ever stayed. Who wouldn’t want to stay in a luxury teepee surrounded by cats and greenery?

Su Gologone: the prettiest and most colourful boutique hotel I have ever stayed in. It’s an art lover’s dream and the perfect place for total seclusion from the outside world.

⇒Check out my reviews of these properties here:

Ecofriendly Luxury Huts at L’essenza, Sardinia

Su Gologone: A Secluded Oasis Igniting the Inner Creative in You

Mainland Portugal

Lisbon-the spicy capital of Portugal with so much to offer. The colourful city is a photographer’s absolute dream and I had so much fun exploring, despite all the steep hills!

Señhora do Monte viewpoint

Algarve- a region in the south of Portugal with some of the best beaches in Europe. And finally some sandy beaches in Europe, woohoo!

Do not miss:

  • Hike up to the Miradouro or “viewpoints” for the best panoramic views over the city.
  • Alfama and Bairro Alto neighborhoods for photo ops and great restaurants.
  • TimeOut Market– a gourmet food market with some of the best chefs and many vendors to choose from.
  • Carmo Convent-a church without a roof. Where else can you see that?
  • Day Trips to Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, and Cascais are absolute musts!

⇒For more details on Lisbon, check out my post: What To Do in Lisbon: A Fun-Filled 3-Day Itinerary (+Day Trips)

Chefchaouen

Although I had quite the rocky time in Morocco, I couldn’t leave the amazing “blue city” off this list. I had been teased by unreal Instagram photos of this place for what seemed like forever. I couldn’t take it anymore and just had to see for myself.

Blue city, Morocco

Chefchaouen exceeded my expectations. It might just be the most picturesque city I’ve ever been to. The location nudged between the Rif Mountains only adds to it’s secluded beauty. It’s a little out of the way to get to, but it was by far my favorite place in Morocco and if you go to only one city, make it this one! 

⇒For more on my time in Morocco, check out: Solo Female Travel in Morocco: Yay or Nay? and Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Morocco: Highlights & Lowlights

Do not miss:

  • Getting lost in the maze like streets.
  • Taking endless photos of kitties.
  • Go to the Spanish Mosque at sunset for the best views.
  • Shop and bargain for leather goods and pashmina scarves.
  • Eat at Molin Arte near waterfalls or Cafe Morisco in the main square.

Safari in Kruger National Park

Going on a safari at Kruger National Park in South Africa was not only one of the top 5 travel moments ever, it was probably one of the top 5 highlights of my life. No joke. There is nothing comparable to the thrill of being in an open vehicle and being encountered by the animals in the wild. I’m not going to lie, at some moments, I was scared AF, but that just added to the thrill!

The bonus…we saw the BIG FIVE twice in 3 days!

Safari Kruger National Park

If you don’t have a safari on your bucket list, put it up by the top! It’s amazing! And not as expensive as you might think. More on my safari adventure with details coming up soon!

Queensland, Australia

Getting to finally see the Great Barrier Reef up close and swim in it was a complete dream come true. It was at the top of my bucket list and it didn’t disappoint. I must say it was a little scary to swim with all the possible deadly animals in the GBR, namely sharks and stingers. But hey, YOLO! 

Great Barrier Reef

Do not miss:

  • Day trip to the Outer Great Barrier Reef + Michaelman’s Cay.
  • Day trip to Fitzroy island-a relaxing a quiet island with lots of water activities and hikes.
  • Day trip to Cape Tribulation/Port Douglas-the costal views on the way up are worth it alone.

Whitsundays (Whitehaven Beach)

Whitehaven Beach may just be the prettiest beach in the world. At least it was the prettiest beach I had ever seen! The magnificent swirls of white sand contrasted with the turquoise waters was like nothing I had ever seen. Also interesting is that the pattern of swirls changes every 3-4 hours so you will never take the same picture twice.

Whitsundays, Australia

Do not miss:

  • Make sure to take a day tour and see the Hill Inlet. This is not included on every tour so make sure your company goes there! This is where you get to hike up and see that spectacular view mentioned above.  
  • Scenic flight over the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef for a different perspective.

New Zealand (all of it!)

I couldn’t pick just one city in New Zealand because everywhere I went was spectacular. The highlights of my trip were bungee jumping for the first time ever in Queenstown, biking through wine country, and visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set on the north island.

New Zealand Crazy Travelista

New Zealand is for nature lovers and I cherished my time there. It’s definitely a place I would go back to. And the exchange rate was very good so it was quite affordable. 

Do not miss:

  • Bungee jumping in Queenstown, the home of bungee!
  • Hobbiton movie set.
  • Wine tasting on Waiheke island.
  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
  • Waitomo Glow worm caves.

Tip: you can only visit Hobbiton on a tour so make sure to buy tickets in advance as they do sell out!

*Stay tuned for a huge post on my highlights of New Zealand soon. In the meantime, here is my bungee jump video:

Where is Crazy Travelista Going in 2017?

That’s a great question. I don’t even know yet myself. Last year I only completed about 50% of my wish list…yet I added 3 huge trips instead to Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Plans are always changing so it’s hard to say.

As of right now, I only have a trip to Lapland, Finland booked in March. Nothing else is planned yet!

But in case you’re wondering, here is my 2017 wish list:

Iran-the homeland! My dad is from Shiraz, Iran, and it would be a dream for me to finally get to see where he came from and to meet a bunch of family over there. In doing my research, I found out that it’s going to be more complicated for me to go than someone who is an American (ironic, huh?).

The Iranian government sees anyone born to an Iranian father as Iranian, regardless of where the mother is from (my mom is from Austria). So that means I must enter on an Iranian passport. Well, my dad came over almost 40 years ago and lost his passport (as he has never returned). So he must track down his birth certificate in Iran first and then reapply for his passport in the USA before I can even think about applying for mine. It’s going to be a long process, but I am determined to get to Iran in 2017! Stay tuned for updates.

I do know for sure that 2017 WILL be the year I set foot on the continent of South America for the first time. How have I not gone here yet? Plane tickets are pretty cheap from Washington, DC, so now is the time to go. It’s high up on the list and I will definitely be making a trip there some time next year. On my radar: Machu Picchu, Salar de Uyuni (salt flats in Bolivia), Brazil, Patagonia, Colombia, and possibly Galapagos.

Also on my radar for 2017: more of South East Asia (Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore) as well as Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and possibly India.

I would like to also visit more of the Middle East including Oman, Dubai, Jordan, etc. And no, it doesn’t scare me. I have Middle Eastern blood after all.

Banff National Park, Canada-since Canada is celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2017, they are offering free entrance to all their national parks. I ordered my pass already online so now I must go in 2017 🙂

And it’s also my goal to visit one random AF country in 2017. Like possibly one of the “stan” countries. Maybe I’ll get to see where Borat is from. Haha 🙂

Will I make it to all these places in 2017? Probably not, but I’m aiming for at least 50% like last year. I know for sure I will not be spending much time in Europe in 2017 (insert sad face), although it’s my favorite continent. I need to break away for a while and see what else the world has to offer. There is still SO much to see! So, that being said, cheers to mothaf**kin’ 2017!

Here is my 2016 Travel Recap Video from YouTube:

What were your 2016 highlights? And where are you headed in 2017? I want to know! 🙂

Click photo to PIN for later 🙂

Where to travel in 2017

Solo Female Travel in Morocco: Yay or Nay?

Solo Female Travel in Morocco: Yay or Nay?

When people ask me if a place is safe or not, it’s almost impossible to answer. The world isn’t a safe place these days. But that doesn’t mean you should sit home in your little bubble. There’s so much to explore and it would be a shame to succumb to the mainstream media scare tactics.

Let me start by saying Morocco is INTENSE. That’s the one word that comes to mind when describing Morocco.

I’ve done a lot of solo travel, and quite frankly I prefer it. But I’m not going to lie, traveling Morocco solo was a challenge. It took a lot more energy and thicker skin to travel alone as a female in Morocco, but it is doable if you’re up for the challenge.

So to sum it up, I went to Morocco solo and I didn’t die or get raped. Does that mean it’s safe? I can’t answer that and I don’t think anyone else can either.

But I never felt like my life was in danger, not once. I did, however, feel more uncomfortable traveling Morocco solo than any other place I had ever been. I will say that Morocco was the most difficult place that I’ve traveled to. But in the end I had an overall great time. It just took some getting used to.

Would I go back and do it again? Probably not. 

For more on my emotionally charged love/hate relationship with Morocco, check out my article: Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Morocco: Highlights & Lowlights

Morocco was a shock to the senses and such a different experience. A few times I felt a little uncomfortable with the guys harassing me, but I never felt like my life was in danger. It just took some extra vigilance and more awareness of my surroundings on my end.

My parents would have killed me if I told them I  was traveling to Morocco solo. And thats why I didn’t tell them beforehand. Luckily, I travel so much that they stopped asking where I’m going! Sorry mom and dad! They don’t read my blog, so I think I’ll be okay. Muhahaha (evil voice).

Here are my top tips for traveling Morocco solo as a female:

Dress conservative: this should be a given, but some people may not know. Morocco is a Muslim county and it’s always nice to respect the culture. Not only that, you WILL get unwanted attention if you don’t dress appropriately. Cover up from your elbows up and from your knees up. I actually covered more just to be safe.

Cover your hair: as a tourist you don’ have to, but I would recommend it, especially if you are blonde. But blondes have more fun, right? Not in this case. Blondes stick out and you become an easy target as a tourist. Moroccan girls don’t have blonde hair, so it’s a dead giveaway.

DO NOT  go out after dark: one of my favorite things to do is catch the sunset from a cool look-out spot. But I didn’t do this in Morocco. I didn’t want to have to walk home after dark. And this was the smartest decision I could have made.

I cut it close one night after talking to a restaurant owner for a bit. It got dark super quick and I got lost trying to find my Airbnb inside the maze-like medina. I had a young guy asking me if I need help and then was following me. I  thought I shook him off but then he found me right in the dark alley of my Airbnb. I was a little scared because I felt trapped and he was being a bit aggressive. But then my host opened the door and asked me if I was ok and the guy left. Not before he asked me to dinner of course. No you creep, I don’t want to be hunted down in a dark alley and asked to dinner. I’ll  pass!

Don’t flash all your expensive travel gear: the only place I took out my expensive camera when I was alone was Chefchaouen. Otherwise I felt uncomfortable and left it behind in my riad. My iPhone 6 and Gopro take pretty good pics so I settled for that. It’s not worth it. Don’t scream “tourist”, or you may be a target.

Wear a cross body purse/bag and keep it in front of you: petty crime is common in Morocco so make an extra effort to keep your stuff where you can see it. The medinas are very crowded and the perfect spot to get pick pocketed. Don’t let your guard down, not even for a second.

Guys will bother you (i.e. “harass the shit out of you”): you will get cat called and harassed. Get used to it. This became normal and I started to not even notice because it was so common.

Don’t smile at a man/don’t make eye contact: a smile can be viewed as an open invitation. Just don’t do it. Naturally I smile when I make eye contact with someone passing by. I can’t help it. I did it unconsciously in Morocco until I realized what I was doing. That quickly stopped and I noticed a big difference.

Practice resting bitch face (RBF) and walk on by…

View this post on Instagram

You can't really tell, but I'm laughing in this pic. Why? Well, I was waiting for a group of 5 people to finish taking millions of pics so I could get my turn. They asked if I wanted them to use my camera to take pics, to which I said sure, why not? But then the other 4 started taking millions of pics of me with their pro cameras with huge zoom lenses and I felt like I was in an impromptu photo shoot. They kept telling me to go back and were directing me where to look. I couldn't stop laughing because I so wasn't expecting that. I won't say where they were from….but let's just say they were from China 😂. Haha. They really come prepared with the fancy cameras and photog directing skills! It was a great time! Now I wish I would have exchanged info to get the "real" pro shots! 💙🎬📸✌🏼️ #chefchaouen #bluecity #fairytail #morocco #wearetravelgirls #sonya6000 #lonelyplanet

A post shared by 🌍World Traveler/Blogger✈️ (@crazytravelista) on

Guys will ask you if you’re alone-I was surprised that so many guys asked me that. Of course, never tell them the truth. Tell them your friends are around the corner, or better yet, your husband! I didn’t have a fake ring with me so that didn’t work so much.

Get a SIM card: they are super cheap and can be found easily. The worst thing is getting lost in a foreign country when you’re alone. The medinas are confusing and you will get lost. Google Maps was my saviour and the SIM was worth it alone for that. It also helped me easily get to my Airbnbs. Don’t be cheap on this one.

Maroc Telecom seemed to be the one I saw everywhere and thats the one I went with. It says 4G but I only got 3G coverage. The cost of the SIM was 25 dirham (about $2.50) and then you have to load the data onto it. I put 100 dirham on mine and it gave me 10G. Google Maps eats up your data so I would recommend 3-4 Gigs for every week you are there, and if you surf the web a lot, even more.

Tip for iPhone users: make sure you open the SIM card and see if it’s a nano SIM. Mine was not a nano SIM so they had to cut it down for me. I’m glad I checked before I left.

Take the tourist busses (CTM and SupraTours)-these are the “tourist” busses in Morocco and were the most comfy way to travel during my time in the country. The tickets are cheap and the busses are fairly clean. You will also have many English speaking travelers on there which is a nice change.

traveling Morocco solo

Them most comfortable way to travel in Morocco

Tip: Set up a taxi from/to the airport with your hosts in Morocco. Taxis are SUPER cheap in Morocco. Most the hosts I stayed with could prearrange a taxi from the airport easily so don’t hesitate to ask! It’s much better than trying to use local transportation from the airport to your accommodation.

Language barrier: there was more of a language barrier in Morocco than I expected. Not many people spoke any English. I had a hard time with communication so I used my Google Translate a bunch. Most people I met spoke French so learning a few common words will go along way! Wi Wi?

The Verdict

I have no problems traveling alone and have done mostly solo travel in the past year. But that was mostly in Europe. This was my first solo trip outside of the USA or Europe and it was a different experience. I cried, I was a little scared at times, I was frustrated, but it ended up being all good!

Morocco is like an acquired taste. It took some getting used to but after a few days, I enjoyed it!

Would I tell a female traveler who has never traveled solo to travel to Morocco first? Probably not. But for those that are used to traveling solo, I say go for it! Just be prepared.

It takes a bit thicker skin to travel to Morocco solo but don’t let that scare you off. It’s a completely different experience and it made me feel stronger afterwards!

After a few days, my best friend and her boyfriend showed up and I was no longer solo. I definitely felt safer with them there, that’s for sure. I’m glad I got to see the country both ways though. It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget!

Have You Traveled to Morocco Solo? How Was Your Experience? 

Liked it? Pin for later 🙂

traveling Morocco solo

Where to Stay in Cape Town: Feeling at Home at Derwent House Boutique Hotel (+Video)

Where to Stay in Cape Town: Feeling at Home at Derwent House Boutique Hotel (+Video)

(Blog post by Crazy Travslista (me!) and video by my travel partner in crime CareBear Abroad) ♥

I am a sucker for boutique hotels, what can I say? I cherish the small, unique, and more personalised feel of staying in a boutique hotel, as opposed to a big chain. When I tell you we found the perfect boutique hotel in Cape Town, we really mean it!

If you’re looking for where to stay in Cape Town, I highly recommend Derwent House Boutique Hotel. Here’s why…

Is it a house, is it a hotel? Who cares, it’s freakin’ awesome!

The Derwent House Boutique Hotel used to be a house. It has since been transformed into the cutest little hotel consisting of only 10 rooms in the main house, as well as 18 self-catering apartments located in the rear of the property next to the pool. It also has a pool plus jacuzzi and great outdoor seating area that would be great for parties. Although we didn’t have much time to try them out, it was nice to have the options. It also was nice to look at from the living room.

where to stay in Cape Town

It was the perfect little hideaway during our time in Cape Town. Having that “homey” feel in a new city/country is really important!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it has a perfect 5 star rating on Trip Advisor! I’m not surprised.

That View Though

Derwent House Boutique Hotel View

We were lucky to have a room with a fabulous view of the infamous mountains in Cape Town. We could see both Table Mountain and Lion’s Head from our window and we weren’t expecting that. Such a nice surprise to wake up and pull back the curtains to see these grandiose mountains staring right back at us. With the foggy haze in the backdrop, it was perfect!

The Most Cozy Little Living Room

Th entire guesthouse had a classy interior with pops of color, especially in the living room. The contrasting funky furniture was so pretty we couldn’t stop taking photos of it. The couch was comfy and as soon as we walked in from the frigid nights, it was so inviting, especially with the cute little furnace in the center.

where to stay in Cape Town: Derwent House Boutique Hotel Lounge

There was one day when it was rainy in the morning so our plans were cancelled. We just sat on the soft couches on our laptops making plans for the day. It was actually really nice to sit back and unwind for a bit. 

Derwent House

Friendliest Staff Ever

The staff was super friendly, like to a heightened degree. Luka, the manager, was never seen without a huge smile across his face. He constantly checked in on us to see if we needed anything (but not to an annoying extent). When we were leaving, we mentioned how coffee for the road would be nice. He quickly ran in and ran back out with our coffee to go! The entire staff had a great energy and were always making sure we were having a good time. That definitely didn’t go unnoticed!

Honesty Bar

What is this honesty bar concept? Well, just like it sounds! The hotel provided many cold drinks, bottled water, beer and wine in the fridge available at all time of the day. You take what you want and mark it down on the list and pay at check out. I’ve never seen something like this in the U.S. before so I thought it was pretty cool! They must be really trusting!

Breakfast

OMG the breakfast! Everything was so nicely displayed I wanted one of each! For coffee, they give you your very own mini French press machine. I thought that was very nice, especially for someone who drinks lots of coffee!

Derwent House breakfast

The  best part of breakfast were the daily specials. Each morning, we were surprised with a new set of choices. Some of the spicy options included eggs Benedict, chorizo, and Turkish hummus and spices (pictured below on the left). 

Derwent House Boutique Hotel Breakfast

The quality of food was fantastic and super fresh, it was definitely the highlight of our stay. (You know you’re a little piggy when the food was the best part of your stay haha #noshame).

Derwent House Boutique Hotel Breakfast

The one negative was that there were NO gluten free options. This might sound a bit nit-picky, but in a city so extremely gluten-free friendly, this was a bit of a disappointment. I was still able to eat well, however my choices were very limited. There was also no milk alternative for those who are lactose intolerant, so keep that in mind if you have food allergies!

Quiet & Ideal Location

Well, since the hotel used to be a house, it was located in the middle of a residential neighborhood in the trendy Tamboerskloof area. That means it was pretty quiet! It was also right off  Kloof Street, one of the BEST streets in all of Cape Town for food. They also had plenty of street parking and a few private spots if you rent a car. An extra plus since we had a car!

Derwent House Boutique Hotel

The city centre and popular Long Street was just a 15 minute walk. The first day when we didn’t have our car yet, it was raining so we took a freakishly cheap Uber ride to the center. I think it ended up being $2. So even if you don’t have a car, it’s super easy and cheap to get around.

Right down the street is a place called Bombay Bicycle. This place is a must! I had the best steak of my life here…and actually might be my  best meal I’ve ever had! The choco-chilli steak isn’t on the menu, but ask for it if you go. The combination of chocolate and spice covering a melt-in-you-mouth tender steak was heavenly! Reservations are required as this place is quite popular!

Other Awesome Features of this Hotel

where to stay in Cape Town

  • Super fast wifi-rare to find on the continent of Africa.
  • Free port and sherry available for guests. Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
  • Heating pads under your mattress, for those who like to stay crisp when they sleep.
  • Free coffee, tea, and snacks all day.
  • Turn down service nightly with animal shaped chocolates. Because #Africa
  • Local cellphone to use- we had local SIM cards so we didn’t need this, but I thought it was extremely convenient to offer for guests.
  • DVD collection and DVD player in rooms. We had a packed schedule and didn’t have time to unwind with a movie, but what a cool idea, huh?
  • Bathtub with nice bath salts. I don’t care too much for baths, but Carey was super excited for this feature!
  • Daily weather and events sheet left in room-this was a first for me! Every hotel should provide this if you asked me. We have been spoiled haha.
  • Secure gate that only they could buzz you in and out. If safety is an issue for you, rest assured the place is very secured! Someone is there 24/7 to buzz you in.

Ok, what we really want to know. How much will this place set you back?

This 4 star hotel will cost you $124 during low season and up to $160 during high season for a standard “Fabulous Room” or self-catering apartment.

Cons (Because not all stays are perfect…)

  • There was no hot water one night so we had to go to a different room to shower one night. They quickly fixed it the next morning…and also gave us a nice bottle of champagne for the inconvenience.
  • As I mentioned above, they weren’t  very accommodating for food allergies.
  • Random, but the bathroom doors were made of stained plexi-glass, so there wasn’t as much privacy as I would have liked. Not a huge deal, but thought I would mention it.

Final Impression

Overall, we had such a great stay here! It was so cozy and we really felt like we were staying in someone’s home! The staff were super friendly and always had the biggest smiles on their faces. Anything we needed, they accommodated very quickly and with a great attitude!

The location was perfect, along with the view, and the breakfast was outstanding! I would recommend this place 100% to anyone going to Cape Town. When I go back, I would never even think abut staying anywhere else.

Derwent HouseDerwent HouseDerwent House Boutique HotelDerwent House Boutique HotelDerwent HouseDerwent HouseNote: Carey and I were guests of Derwent House Boutique Hotel during our stay. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This place freakin’ rocked and it might just be my new fav boutique hotel! ♥

PIN it for later 🙂

Where to Stay in Cape Town

Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Morocco: Highlights & Lowlights

Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Morocco: Highlights & Lowlights

I hate you. No, I really love you. Ok, now I hate you again. I’m so torn. Ugh Morocco, you drive me crazy! I just can’t make up my mind about you.

Now that I’m gone I have a clear head to reflect on you.

Morocco was a tough pill to swallow, especially traveling solo as a female. I have never been harassed so hard and aggressively in my life. I thought I had thick skin, but damn! This trip really tested my boundaries and I often questioned if traveling solo in Morocco was actually a good idea or if it was just plain stupid.

My recent trip to Morocco included half solo travel and the other half with friends. I traveled to Fez, Rabat, Chefchaouen, and briefly in Marrakech solo and then my bff Rachel and her bf Ryan joined me in Marrakech, Essaouira, and the Sahara desert.

I never imagined visiting Morocco would cause so much stress on me. I cried 3 times during my trip (and I’m so not a cryer). It was probably the most emotionally challenging place I had ever visited. I enjoyed my experience, but let’s just say I had never been so happy to see my friends in my entire life when they finally arrived.

Visiting Morocco

Here are the highlights and lowlights of my experience in each Moroccan city:

Fez

My introduction to Morocco started with Fez, probably not the best first impression I must say. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Fez, you either love or hate it…with the majority not fans of it.

visiting Morocco Fez

Well, I hated Fez. I’ve never been harassed so much in my life. The store owners were the most persistent sales people I have ever met . If I went in and didn’t buy something, most of them got angry and made me very uncomfortable. A few times, they even grabbed me by the arms. Super aggressive and NOT cool.

Not only that, the city smelled really bad and was extremely dirty. I  may get some backlash for saying that, but thats’s my honest observation. The rest of Morocco wasn’t in that condition, just this city.

I think my negative experience started within my first 5 minutes in the medina when I saw some chickens being killed and it scarred me for life. I know that’s life and eat chicken myself, so I’m not trying to be hypocritical here.

But this was different….

I saw this man grab the chicken by the neck, from the backside so its face was visible for everyone to see, and then he took a knife and slowly slit its throat. He didn’t chop it off quickly…he slit it SLOWLY. Like in the scene from Game of Thrones during the red wedding where Caitlin Stark’s throat was slashed. Just like that with all the blood gushing out. 

I literally cried and had to leave. I couldn’t eat chicken after that for awhile. I mean, why did he have to kill it in such a brutal way? It was tragic. That picture will never leave my mind. Never. 

Honestly, you couldn’t pay me to go back to Fez. But I understand everyone’s experience is different and some may like the madness. It just wasn’t for me, and that’s ok. Never again Fez. Never again.

On the bright side: I did buy an awesome leather bag that I will use as my new camera bag, so something good did come out of visiting.

Rabat

Rabat was such a breath of fresh air after Fez. The capital of Morocco surprisingly had lots of character and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was more calm and less hectic than Fez, which I really appreciated.

However, my trip to Rabat started off on a bad note as well. For the first time ever, I got totally abandoned by my Airbnb host. Stuff happens and I had to book another place last minute. I only had one day in Rabat and this misfortune took almost half my day trying to figure everything out.

What started off on the wrong foot ended up being okay and I really enjoyed Rabat.

Rock the Kasbah

If you have time to do only one thing in Rabat, I recommend heading over to the The Kasbah of the Udayas. The walk up to it is a photo treat in itself as the tiny streets are painted bright blue and are so adorable. I felt like I was back in Chefchaouen!

From the Kasbah you can see the surfers riding the waves below and the backdrop is absolutely gorgeous!

Where to Eat in Rabat:

Le Dhow Boat RestaurantI usually don’t like tourist places, but this was an exception. Only 3 restaurants came up on google maps as being walkable and this was one of them. The funky decorations and the location on the water with a great view of the Kasbah was worth it alone.

Fun fact: the boat was constructed in India and took 2 years to build. It was then lugged all the way over to Morocco. Such a cool story and a great atmosphere.

Oh, and they had wine. All the wine. Wine solves all problems. I ended the day in a happy place!

Side note:  wine is super tricky to find in a “dry” country. 

Chefchaouen (Blue City)

Ahhhh Chefchaouen (insert bulging heart eyes emoji here). I could have stayed here forever.♥

The blue city is often called “The Blue Pearl of Morocco”, and that it definitely is!

There are 2 main theories on why the city is blue: to protect from mosquitos/heat and the latter as a spiritual symbol. It was believed that Jewish refugees started painting the city blue to symbolise the sky and heaven.

Whichever theory is true, it’s such a spectacularly beautiful place to see!

Blue city, Morocco

Chefchaouen was my favourite city in all of Morocco, without a doubt, hands-down. It was also where I got harassed the least and felt the safest. I even felt ok wandering the blue alleys alone after dark.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE20 Photos of Chefchaouen that Prove it Might be the Most Photogenic City in the World

There isn’t much to do in Chefchaouen, but the magic lies in just wandering around and experiencing the bright blue colors. I couldn’t stop taking photos and it’s one of the most photogenic cities I have ever seen, if not the most photogenic!

It’s a little (okay maybe a lot) out of the way but SO worth it! I took the CTM tourist bus from Fez and it took 5 hours. Don’t miss this unique city! I have never seen anything quite like it!

Where to Eat in Chefchaouen:

Restaurant MoriscoThis one is in the main square, but that doesn’t mean it’s overpriced or super touristy. What to Try:  Tahliya (Goat meat tajine with honey, raisins, and almonds). This was the BEST meal I had in all of Morocco. The meat was super tender and the mixture of sweet and nutty blended perfectly. YUM!

Molin’arte-I randomly went into this one as it was near my riad. The food was tasty and the place was so inviting and cozy. And the fruit juices were extremely good!

Essaouira

I really liked Essaouira . It was a very relaxed seaside town with great local fresh fish! Don’t go there without eating fish!

You can walk through the markets and watch them bringing in the fish straight from the nets. There are many restaurants near the fishing area where you can pick your own fish and have them cook it. It is priced based on weight.

Make sure they tell you the price of it before you agree to cook it. We paid around $36 for 3 people for 3 sea basses, and lots of calamari and squid. It was super fresh and not “fishy” at all, just how I like it!

Essaouira is also one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones! The big scene where Khaleesi obtained her unsullied army happened right there in the fortress walls near the fishing area! Surprisingly there were NO signs advertising GOT….which may be a good thing since there weren’t many tourists! #score

For a good sunset: head to Taros rooftop. It’s kinda touristy but they serve alcohol and the views can’t be beat! We highly enjoyed it. Did I mention they have wine? THEY HAVE WINE!

For brekkie/brunch: Yoo

Fresh juices and frozen yogurt parfaits. Healthy, yummy, and in a cute little secluded square.

For dinner: Tiskala

The ambiance of this place can’t be beat. It’s super cozy, dimly lit, with separate little seating areas and comfy couches. The food was pretty good, but I wouldn’t say awesome. But the ambiance won us over and we went back twice!

Marrakech

Ohhh Marrakech, where do I begin? Marrakech is hectic AF! That’s the best way to describe it. There is SO much going on at all times and it’s very fast paced.

You’ll see snake charmers, street food vendors, various performers, monkeys with chains tied to their necks (poor things), henna artists, and so much  more. You name it. Marrakech has got it.

The Souks of Marrakech

Marrakech has the best souks in all of Morocco, hands-down. It was the best shopping and I highly regretted buying a bunch of stuff beforehand in other cities.

visiting Morocco

I found the same items for a fraction of the price in Marrakech. Marrakech was my last stop on the trip so it was hard to hold out! Wait til Marrakech to do your shopping! Just do.

Specialty items: leather goods, pashmina scarfs, sandals, carpets, spices, dried fruits, argon oil, tea sets, hats, etc.

Ahhh Marrakech had such unique things! If I hadn’t taken a RyanAir flight with already overflowing luggage, I would have bought SO much more! I wanted it ALL!! I would go back to Marrakech solely for the shopping!

Don’t miss: Fruit juices. The fruit juice stands were abundant in the main squares. Starting at 4 dirham ($.40), we had about 2-3 juices a day! They were so refreshing and so good!

Where to eat in Marrakech if you get sick of Tajines:

Henna Art Cafe for fresh juices, a comfy rooftop, and affordable/unique dishes.

Earth Cafe for healthy veg/vegan options.

Nomad for hearty and flavorful food (also the great rooftop views!).

Note: most restaurants on this trip were picked by my bff Rachel, as she is the foodie in the group and does all the research, so I definitely can’t take credit for it. Thanks wifey!

If you’re not opposed to getting severely harassed/haggled and have a strong stomach, street food is a cheap option.

What to do in Marrakech:

    • shop til you drop in the souks.
    • don’t miss tasting the fruit juices.
    • drink mint tea. As much as you can. Everywhere.
    • entertainment galore in Jamaa el Fna square.
    • visit Ben Yousseff Madrasa for beautiful architecture and an inside look into a former traditional Moroccan school
    • visit Majorelle Jardin outside the medina . It was beautifully decorated and had some really cool plant life (especially the cacti)! A taxi from the medina should not cost more than 50 dirham!

What I didn’t like about Marrakech:

The monkeys on chains for entertainment and the pushy/rude vendors.

When we walked down the food vendor “aisle”, each vendor would aggressively step in front of us so we couldn’t move and shoved a menu in our faces. All we wanted to do was take a look at options, but that was impossible to do when they literally blocked us off from seeing anything else. 

I have an issue with personal space and I get really defensive when someone impinges on that, especially if they touch me. A few times, I just wanted them to back the fuck off. Is that too much to ask?

We were even called derogatory names when we didn’t want to eat at certain food cart vendors. They thought we were British and were bad mouthing British people. One yelled at me to go back to my country. Is that really necessary? Not a delightful experience at all.

Sahara desert

You can’t go to Morocco and skip the Sahara desert. I feel like this is THE quintessential thing to do in Morocco. But keep in mind that it is extremely far! As in, most your time will be spent driving. It’s 9-10 hours from Marrakech. It’s painful but the Sahara desert totally is worth it!

Despite our shitty tour company, riding camels in the Sahara desert during sunrise and sunset and laying on the sand viewing the Milky Way was one of my best travel moments yet! Nothing can beat that. We also got to stop in Ait Ben Haddou, another GOT filming location, which we were super excited about!

Learn from my mistake: there are several ways to book Sahara tours..online, through your riad or hostel, or on the streets of the medina from various vendors.

Booking in advance online is usually twice as much. It’s cheaper to book when you arrive through your riad/hostel or street vendors. We booked through our riad for €92 for 3days/2nights.

Our riad was great, however, this tour they offered was awful! The accommodation were extremely low budget, the food was complete shit, and our tour guide was terrible/kinda a dick. And worst of all, they didn’t accommodate my gluten allergy like they promised. All they had was bread and a cake for breakfast with no other options, so I went completely without breakfast, watching everyone else eat, leaving me in tears one day because I was starving/hangry.

If you book on arrival, make sure to get ALL the details and have them show you pictures of the accommodations. If I could do it again, I would have paid more to have a better quality tour for sure!

View this post on Instagram

We finally made it to the Sahara Desert. Traveling isn't always glamorous. It was a rough 2 days of driving with a crappy tour guide, unorganized tour group, and shitty food…I starved for breakfast since all they had on offer was bread (which I can't eat) and they weren't able to accommodate my allergy AT ALL. Seeing me hangry is not fun! The last straw was when we got to the desert camp and noticed that I left the wine opener in the van cuz the tour guide was being a dick and rushing us and all I needed was my damn wine to get rid of anxiety. 🍷Nothing was going right and I cried twice during the past 3 days. BUTTTTT it was allllll worth it getting to ride camels 🐫during sunset (& sunrise) in the biggest desert in the world AND laying on the sand looking up at the clearest sky I've ever seen and seeing the MILKY WAY!!! We couldn't capture it on camera but it will be forever etched vividly in our minds! Thanks to @escapewithrach and @ryanhegg for dealing with me during my meltdown (s)…and for Ryan's mad skills opening a wine bottle with just a fork!! 🙌🏼I'm so glad you 2 were here and that we got to share this memory together! Shall we have some more Tajine? 😂#Sahara #desert #sunsetlovers #visitmorocco #gopro #goprogirl

A post shared by 🌍World Traveler/Blogger✈️ (@crazytravelista) on

Would I Return to Morocco?

I have such mixed emotions when it comes to visiting Morocco. I don’t  like to say never, but I honestly don’t see myself returning to Morocco any time in the near future. I had a crazy time and I got to travel with my bff and her bf for most of the trip so that made it extra special.

It’s definitely not one of my favorite places I’ve visited, but I’m so glad I went because I liked to be shocked and surprised. And that was 100% accomplished! But by the end of it, I was definitely ready to leave and return to calmness, cleanliness, and lack of daily harassment.

I saw some wild and new things, I experienced gazing under the stars in the Sahara desert, seeing the Milky Way, riding camels dressed like Princess Jasmine, drank way too much green tea, walked the maze like streets of the heavenly blue city, was forced into a quick marriage with a local Berber man with a ceremony while visiting a Berber village (joking but it was funny…he even had a quick ceremony in the presence of all our tour members #awkward), bought some unique souvenirs, and experienced a culture so different than what I have ever seen.

Morocco was hard on me, but it’s such an interesting country with so much to experience. I was always on the edge of my seat, my senses were forced into overdrive, and my boundaries were constantly being tested. Morocco is hectic, it’s crazy, it’s dynamic, and at some times shocking, but it’s such a vibrant place you will surely never forget!

If you could only visit 2 places in Morocco, I would definitely say the Sahara desert and Chefchaoen. These 2 places were the highlights of my trip!

Morocco is a 3rd world country, so go in expecting lower standards than you’re used to and you wont be disappointed. If you like madness, you will love Morocco.

Although I’m in no rush to get back, I would definitely recommend anyone to go and visit, Morocco is a must! Weird to hear after reading this, huh? Can you feel the dichotomy here

Morocco surely gave me thicker skin and now I feel like I can take on anywhere! Bring it on world, bring it on!

Have you been to Morocco? Have you had similar experiences, or completely the opposite? Let’s discuss!

 

PIN for later: 🙂

moroccopinterest