Sicily is the largest island in Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by the Ionian, Mediterranean, and Tyrrhenian seas. Sicily is more rugged and raw than the mainland, which is one thing really I loved about it!
Sicily is quite big so you can’t really see it all in one trip (unless you stay 3+ weeks minimum). During my Sicily road trip, I decided to stick to the south east of the island (with a few day trips elsewhere) and I saw so many incredible places.
Food in Sicily
One of my Favorite parts about Sicily is the food. I stopped in Sicily on a Mediterranean cruise back in 2007 and had the best pizza of my life (that still stands til this day). I personally think they have better pizza than Naples, but hey, that’s just my opinion!
Foods you must try in Sicily: pizza (obviously), cannoli (Sicily is where cannoli originated), granita (flavored slushy ice drinks), Arancini (fried rice balls), and anything with ricotta cheese and/or pistachios. I think I gained 5 lbs from that trip alone…and I’m not even sorry about it.
Gluten free food in Sicily
Sicily was gluten free heaven and probably the most gluten free friendly place in Italy that I have ever been. Almost every restaurant had gluten free options and most pizzerias had gluten free dough. I wasn’t used to all the choices!
Here are a few places I visited on my trip to Sicily:
Licchios bar (Taormina)-gluten free cannoli and fried rice balls. They also had soy milk for coffee.
Mastrociliegia-gluten free canolis in Ragusa.
Gran Caffe del Duomo (Ortigia island in Syracusa) had an entire gluten free menu and gluten free cannoli. The pasta with mussels was really good.
Duomo pizzeria ristorante (Cefalú)-gluten free pizza right in the main square.
Driving in Sicily
Italians drive fast, that’s a given. The more south you go, the wilder it gets. That being said, I didn’t think the driving in Sicily was half as bad as so many people say it is. If you stay in the right lane (slow lane) on the highway no one will bother you, they will just go around you.
However on the country roads where there is one lane, just about everyone will be passing you. They pass pretty close to your car so just know what to expect and maybe scooch over a little bit to make room and you will be fine. Oh, and Sicilians don’t stop at stop signs so keep that in mind and use caution.
I would also recommend a mini car as some of the cities have tiny streets and it would be tough getting through with a regular size car. It’s also much easier to park a mini car also!
I rented a car for $200 for 10 days with Rentalcars.com (through Sicily by car). The company has terrible reviews online but it was my second time using them and it was fine. The big complaint people make is that if you decline their insurance they will take a deposit of 800€ so just know what to expect.
The total I spent on gas for 10 days was 122€ ($145).
*Make sure you do a walk around to see if there are any additional scratches or dents on the car that haven’t been marked (every time I’ve rented a car in Italy, I ALWAYS find additional scratches and that’s how they get you). If you don’t do this, they may charge you for the scratches later so please don’t forget! (Especially if you are declining their insurance…which I did because I have awesome car insurance through my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card).
*Please note: my credit card insurance does NOT include 3rd party liability insurance (damage to the OTHER car or bodily harm to the other driver). Most credit card companies do not offer this so you either have to purchase this separately (usually at $15/day) or reserve a car that already has that included. My rental car already had 3rd party liability insurance included so I didn’t need to purchase anything extra. (I always choose the package on Priceline.com that includes the 3rd party liability insurance in the price if there’s an option).
Sicily Road Trip: 9-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Catania in the evening
Day 2: Taormina
Day 3: Caltagirone/Enna
Day 5: Scalia di Turchi/Valley of the Temples
Day 6: Ragusa/Modica
Day 7: Marzamemi/Noto
Day 8: Syracuse/Ortigia
Day 9: Necropolis of Pantalica/Fontane Bianche Beach
*I arrived to Catania in the evening on my first day and then went to Taormina all the next day so I really didn’t get to experience much of Catania. But from what I did see, I don’t think I was missing much as there were SO many other beautiful place to see in Sicily.
Taormina is one of the prettiest cities in Sicily and one place you don’t want to miss! There is a lot to see and so much history in Taormina.
I didn’t rent my car until the 3rd day because I wanted to take a train to Taormina. The train from Catania to Taormina costs 8.60€ return and takes about 45 minutes. You must then take a bus from the train station in Taormina up to the Taormina center (3€ return ticket).
What To Do in Taormina:
Teatro Antico di Taormina– the famous Greek theatre built in the 3rd century with epic views over Sicily and the surroundings. Entrance fee is 10€.
Piazza IX Aprile-the main square in Taormina with incredible views, cute cafes, and restaurants. It’s a popular gathering place with musicians playing throughout the day.
Isola Bella (“beautiful island”) -the prettiest beach in Taormina that was purchased by the Department of Cultural Heritage in 1990 and declared a Nature Reserve and remains protected.
Villa Communale-a public garden with spectacular views of the coastline. It’s a peaceful place to get away from the crowds.
Mt. Etna-you can climb to the top of one of the most active volcanos in the entire world! I didn’t have time for this and it remains on my bucket list! Mt. Etna is also a UNESCO site!
Caltagirone is a beautiful town with a famous 142-step staircase made from ceramic tiles, each with their own unique design. It’s an artistic masterpiece and has often been used as a backdrop for festivals and cultural events, decorated in flowers, candles, and colorful lights.
The Staircase of Santa María del Monte connects the upper old town to the newer lower town. There are some cute shops along the steps. It’s very picturesque and great to photograph. It was a nice stopover on my drive to Agriturismo Bannata, (see below for where I stayed).
From Catania to Agriturismo Bannata stop in Enna for amazing views of the countryside and hilltop towns. The best view is from the Rock of Ceres (free entrance) where you can see the castle and countryside with 360 degree views
Enna from afar
Cefalù is a cute seaside town located in northern Sicily. It took me about 2 hours to drive there from Piazza Armenia (which is where I stayed at Agriturismo Bannata).
One thing you must do in Cefalú is climb Rocca di Cefalu. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the top and the cost is 4€ cash only.
The top of Rocca di Cefalu gives you a panoramic view over the gorgeous Sicilian coastlines on both sides.
Cefalù has a wonderful promontory near the sea where you can sit and enjoy the view of the “rock” in the backdrop.
*Parking in Cefalù is a bitch, to be frank. But there is a paid lot near the beach for 7€ per 12 hours which is where I parked.
Scala dei Turchi
Scala dei Turchi (“Stairs of the Turks”) is a spectacular site to see in Sicily. You can walk on these ascending stair-like formations composed of soft white limestone marl (it feels like a hardened clay). The dramatic bright blue water contrasting the pure white rock is a natural phenomenon you should definitely add to your itinerary.
Valley of the Temples
The Valley of the Temples consists of 8 well-preserved Greek temples and other historical remains perched atop a hill overlooking the valley and sea.
The Valley of the temples is the most famous archeological site in all of Sicily and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just outside the city of Agrigento, it can easily be combined with a day trip to Scala Dei Turchi.
Tip: Take a taxi from the car park up to the temple then walk down (2.5km) when you’re finished. The taxi costs 3€ and it saves an uphill walk. The entrance fee is3€. They do take credit cards.
The massive earthquake of 1693-destroyed 8 towns in of southeastern Sicily and they all had to be rebuilt. Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli were all rebuilt in late baroque architecture of the times. The area is known as Val di Noto, and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ragusa is a GORGEOUS baroque town with upper and lower cities. This was my favorite city in all of Sicily and I just loved the old world feel.
Ragusa Ibla is the older lower city and more stunning part IMO.
Ragusa Superiore is the upper town and the more modern of the two. The 2 parts are separated by a deep ravine called Valle dei Ponti.
Some of the best views over the old city below are from the upper town at Chiesa Santa Maria (where I took the photo below).
Duomo San Giorgio is a beautiful cathedral in the center of a square with lots of restaurants and shops. It’s a good place to people watch and enjoy a cannoli.
Modica is another baroque town rebuilt after the earthquake that is known for its chocolate. There are many places where you can go in for a chocolate tasting. It had a weird texture and wasn’t my favorite honestly but the town is very beautiful and definitely worth a stop.
The center of Modica is at the bottom and Modica Alta is at the top, where you will get the best view.
Marzamemi is a cute little seaside town with a Greek vibe. It’s right on the sea and very quiet. There’s not much to do besides eat at one of the seaside cafes or go shopping in one of the little boutiques. It’s great for an afternoon of relaxation and eating seafood. Parking is 3€ in a designated lot.
Noto is a beautiful town with baroque architecture (and also one of the towns rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake). Go shopping in one of the cute artisan shops and pick up a painting or hand painted sculpture.
Go up Chiesa Santa Chiara for views over Noto (2€ entrance fee). There is easy parking at central Noto parking lot. Stroll down Vittorio Emanuel street and stop for a coffee with a view of the many baroque churches. It’s a great place to people watch.
Ortigia is the beautiful island connecting to Syracusa. You can walk around the outside along the sea. The water is crystal blue green and gorgeous. There are many cute shops with handmade stuff like leather bags and shoes. It’s a really nice place to just roam around and relax with a view.
Parking in Ortigia is an absolute nightmare, to be honest. I found an underground garage with the most confusing directions. I would definitely ask a local to see if you can actually park where you think you can (I got a ticket mailed to the USA 4 months later ugh).
Necropolis of Pantalica
Necropolis of Pantalica is home to more than 5,000 ancient tombs carved right into the rocks. This important archeological site is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The rocky tombs are surrounded by a deep gorge with gorgeous views all around.
You can also take a hike down to the beautiful grotto water below. It might take you 2-3 hours to complete the circuit, so make sure to make some time for it.
*Beware of snakes! I had one slither by me like 3 inches from my foot and it scared the living shit out of me. So watch where you’re stepping! I don’t think it was poisonous, but still.
It takes about 40 minutes to reachNecropolis of Pantalica from both Avila and Catania.
Fontane Bianche Beach
If it’s warm enough, I highly recommend stopping at Fontane Bianche Beach. It’s a gorgeous beach with soft white sand and swirly patterns of deep blue sea.
Where to Stay in Sicily
Staying in an Agriturismo
I’ve always wanted to stay in an agriturismo in Italy but for some reason it took me so long to do it. An agriturismo is a farmhouse that has been converted into accommodation. It’s kinda like a homestay where you rent a room out (usually you will have your own en suite bathroom). They serve the local wine and food from the farm animals and it is a really authentic experience.
My first agriturismo stay set the bar really high! Agriturismo Bannata was a secluded piece of paradise with a cozy and homely feel set in the Sicilian countryside. It’s a great place to sit by the pool (seasonal) or lounge on the balcony with a book in hand. There are also some trails you can walk nearby.
My room was spacious and had an amazing round tub in the middle of the room, as well as an ensuite bathroom.
I had dinner there one night cooked with the local ingredients and it was very delicious. I LOVED this place.
Price: $57/night (in April, shoulder season), including breakfast.
Where to Book: I used booking.com and you can check the listing HERE. If you’re new to booking.com, you can use my $20 OFF coupon here.
This place was a little more upscale than the other one, but it was nice to try the different styles! I had a single room in the attic with a spectacular view of the land from my window.
There was a pool and lounge chairs as well as huge comfy couches inside for when it was raining. It was a really relaxing environment and was a great spot to explore Ragusa.
Price: $116/night (in April, shoulder season).
Where to Book: I used booking.com and you can check the listing HERE.
Airbnb in Avola
For my last few days on the islands I stayed at a lovely Airbnb in Avola, a great location to explore the southern jewels of Sicily. I rented a room for $26/night but when I arrived the host upgraded me to the private little detached house with a private bathroom right next to the main house. It was such a great place to stay and the veranda at the main house was super cozy and pretty. The host was amazing and I felt instantly at home!
Where to book: You can check the listing HERE. And if you’re new to Airbnb you can use my $30 OFF coupon HERE.
Travel Insurance for Italy
I would never travel without travel insurance anymore. I learned my lesson. Too many bad things can happen (and they have unfortunately). Travel insurance is especially important when traveling to islands, as you may need to be air-lifted to the mainland in the worst case scenario. Do you know how much air-lifting costs? Think at least 5 digits (I.e. Expensive AF!).
My favorite travel insurance that I have been using for the past 4 years is World Nomads. I have made 3 claims so far and have been fully reimbursed for all 3 without any hassle. I highly recommend them.
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It took me my 3rd trip to Venice to finally visit the colorful towns of Murano and Burano. I would say they were worth the wait!
Murano and Burano can be visited as a day drip from Venice. Or as I did it, a day trip during a long layover at Venice airport (airport code VCE).
I arrived around 9am and my next flight was not until 7pm so it was plenty of time to get out and explore. The immigration process took a lot longer than I though for a smaller airport (about 40 minutes total) so keep that in mind!). It was a Saturday so maybe that’s why it was so busy.
How to Visit to Murano and Burano in One Day
How To Get To Murano and Burano from Venice Airport
Alilaguna Water Boat
The Alilaguna water boat from Venice Marco Polo airport to Murano takes 30 minutes. The Ticket costs 8€ one way and 15€ return. (The ticket to Venice costs 15€ one way).
The boat for Murano leaves every 30 minutes from the airport. It is Blue Line B.
You can buy the ticket online, at the airport, on the boat, or at the dock. They take credit cards in the airport. It costs 1€ more to buy it on the boat. The boat takes cash only.
The dock is a 5 minute walk in a covered walkway that’s connected to the airport.
How to Get to Burano from Murano
The Vaparetto 12 goes to Burano (or Venice).
The #12 leaves from Murano to Burano every 20 minutes and takes 33 minutes from Murano to Burano.
Note: you MUST validate your ticket at the machine for Vaparetto #12 or it’s a 70€ fine. There is a little box when you’re waiting in line to board that stamps your ticket with the time. DO NOT FORGET!
It’s about a 7-8 minute walk form the main terminal of Line B to Vaparetto 12
How to Get to Murano & Burano from Venice
Vaporetto 12 goes from Venice to Burano and the cost is 6.50€. You can get on the #12 from Fondament Nove (near St. Mark’s Sq).
Colors of Burano
The Vaporetto 12 leaves every 30 minutes. Get off on the first stop if you want to go to Murano (Burano is the 3rd stop). It takes a total of 40 minutes to get from Venice to Burano.
There isn’t a whole lot to “do” besides walk around and take in the amazing colorful towns.
Murano is famous for their colorful glass and its fun to walk into all the shops and see all the artsy creations. If you have time, you can take a tour of the glass workshops.
Burano is the prettier of the 2 in my opinion, and I enjoyed just walking around and enjoying the vibe and having a cappuccino with a waterside view.
Make sure to eat at Trattoria al Gatto Negro in Burano. It’s a Michelin Star restaurant and has fabulous seafood dishes. It’s very popular and there is always a wait. I had to wait one hour. The seafood pasta was amazing and they give you a lot of seafood. They had GF pasta and Gf bread too!
How To Get Back To Venice Airport from Burano
Unfortunately, there is no direct line back to the airport so you will have to go back to Murano first via Vaparetto 12 and then back to the airport via the water boat on Line B.
Make sure to allow enough time to get back to the airport because both boat rides will take 63 minutes total, plus the time in between to walk from one dock to the other (7-8 minutes), plus whatever time it is until the next boat. So give yourself AT LEAST 1 hour and 30 minutes to get back to Venice Airport from Burano.
Luggage Storage at Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE)
You can easily store your luggage at Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE). The cost is 7€ for the first hour and then 0,30€ (30 cents) for each additional hour. They charge per bag so definitely try to consolidate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Where to Stay in Cape Town:
Derwent House Boutique Hotel. Simply awesome…and super cozy!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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 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! 🙂
Nestled between the secluded Sardinian mountains, lined with ancient olive trees and vineyards lies the world-renowned Su Gologone Hotel, an artistic masterpiece. Even if you’re not into art, a walk through the property will surely fester an appreciation for it.
Not only does the hotel reflect the local Sardinian culture, but it is finely crafted with natural elements from the local area, including juniper wood and terracotta. And get this, every piece of art in the hotel was hand-crafted from the owner, Giovanna, herself! Simply incredible.
The property is a lot larger than it looks, yet the spread out design helps it to retain a distinct coziness. There were so many different wings and sections, that you could take a whole afternoon exploring the different areas.
I’m not going to list off the hotel amenities here because I think that’s boring quite frankly. What I will highlight are the aspects of the hotel that really stood out and made it truly a unique place. Ready. Set. Go!
Top 11 Reasons Su Gologone Stood Out from All Other Hotels
1. Art, Art, & More Art
It’s no secret that Su Gologone is an art hotel. The owner, Giovanna and her mother, brought their creative visions to life in this fabulous hotel. Like I mentioned above, staying at this hotel will make you appreciate art a little more, it’s impossible not to!
2. Su Gologone Brings out the Creative in You
They say art stimulates the mind and brings out self expression, and I completely agree! Su Gologone is the perfect place to get away and stimulate the inner creative in you. The hotel offers numerous workshops including painting, sewing, embroidery, origami, cooking, and so much more!
3. Bold Colors Are Easy on the Eyes
I don’t know why but something as simple as color can make me happy. My favorite part of the hotel were the bright hues of color popping out behind every corner. Every little section of the hotel displayed a beautiful color pattern. What’s even more cool is that every decorative item on the hotel property is available for purchase. Score!
4. On-Site Herb Garden
The hotel has its own herb garden with fresh herbs that can be hand picked by the guests and made into an infusion tea! LED lights line the garden at night and it’s really nice to just walk around and admire the scenery. There were also art displays surrounding the herb garden, an unusual yet complementing background for the colorful displays.
5. Secluded Wellness Retreat
The secluded nature of Su Gologone is the perfect setting for a wellness retreat. The hotel has so much to offer to promote fitness & wellness, from the above mentioned fresh herbal teas, to an on-site indoor gym, to yoga classes held on the outdoor terraces, this place has it all! It’s truly a unique place to really get in touch with yourself.
6. My Sweet Suite
“You’ve been upgraded to a suite”. Those magic words we hardly ever hear. I didn’t expect the suite and that just made it more sweet. Ok, I’ll stop. The suite was made up of 2 rooms, and an outdoor balcony with a private jacuzzi. Umm, yes please!
The room oozed with Sardinian character, from the little handmade keychain to the juniper wood beams holding up the ceiling. It was just so adorable. I really liked the little sitting cove overlooking the balcony and I spent most my time there when I was in my room.
7. Nearby Orosei Peninsula
Sardinia is a huge island and everything worth seeing is very spread out. When planning a trip there, you must pick a region on the island and try to stick to that. It would take a month to see all the outstanding beaches on the island, so don’t spread yourself too thin. Su Gologone is in a great spot to explore the Orosei peninsula, one of the most rugged and naturally stunning areas on the island.
I recommend visiting Cala Luna and also Cala Goloritze, one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. Cala Goloritze requires a 2-hour hike down to the beach, but it is well-worth it. I had the whole beach to myself and was in awe of the rich turquoise waters beating against the white cliffs. It was spectacular! But I would only recommend the hike if you’re in moderate to good shape. It’s not easy!
8. Su Gologone Restaurant
The Su Gologone restaurant is a popular dining spot not just for hotel guests, but is frequented from visitors all over the island. Its reputation precedes itself and its a dinner experience you shouldn’t miss.
Not only was the ambiance alone enough for a visit, the food was outstanding. On the first night, I was really tired from traveling so I went to the lobby, ordered from the menu, and had it delivered to my room. I had the homemade fennel ravioli and it ended up being my favourite meal on the island (they even had a homemade gluten free version for me). After that experience, I came back to the restaurant every night for dinner (and sometimes for lunch). The prices were very reasonable as well.
Reservations are required, even for hotel guests, especially during high season. A restaurant that is booked up every single night speaks for itself! #yumm
9. Terraces To Die For
There are terraces….and then there are Su Gologone terraces. Each decorated in a different theme with a splash of bold green, purple, and pure white, the 3 main terraces were to die for. Each had an amazing view of the property and/or landscape and were the perfect places to relax and get a suntan, or sip on a glass of wine…or both.
I found my fav spot for the sunset..
The Terrace of Dreams was decked out in purple and held once a week stargazing sessions (with telescopes) free to guests! How cool?
10. On-Site Winery (enough said…)
The only thing that could make this gorgeous property any better would be an on-site winery. Are you kidding me? The property has its own winery with tastings and two cellars. Complete heaven if you ask me! I didn’t partake in a tasting, but I had local Sardinian red wine at dinner every night and it was the perfect mixture of full bodied and a touch of sweetness. Just the way I like it!
11. Other Activities Offered
There are literally too many to list and I didn’t have time to try all of them. But what stood out for me was the cinema under the stars, the plethora of outdoor activities on offer nearby such as horseback riding, rafting, nature hikes, and the outdoor pool overlooking the country landscape. There was just so much to do on site of this hotel, that I almost forgot there was a whole beautiful island to explore!
The One Downfall (also a Catch 22)
The one downfall in this hotel was the wifi in the rooms, as it was very weak. I had trouble getting the wifi to work on my iPhone at all until the last day (it worked fine on my computer). It was also a little annoying that the code they give you only lasts 24 hours, so I found myself coming down to the lobby in my PJs late at night asking for a new code. The wifi in the lobby was excellent if you really needed it.
It’s also a catch 22 because this hotel is designed to be a wellness retreat, a secluded place to get in touch with yourself and disconnect with the world. Normally wifi is a huge issue for me because I need it to update the social media as part of my job, but hey, this is one time I let it slide and was actually at peace with it. It’s healthy to allow yourself a break every once in a while.
Overall, this hotel blew me away and I encourage those exploring Sardinia to visit here, even if it’s just to drop by and admire the beauty. The setting deep into the country, the focus on authentic Sardinian culture, the fabulously displayed art, the relaxing terraces, the creative workshops and wellness activities, I can see why this hotel is world renowned and has gotten so much media attention. I can honestly say it’s the most unique, artsy/funky hotel I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at. This hotel made it to my top 3 favorite hotels ever!
Have you been to Sardinia? What was your favorite part? Do tell, I need some tips for my return!
Liked it? Click photo to PIN IT for later 🙂
♥A special thanks to Su Gologone for hosting me during my stay. All opinions, however, are my own. I don’t bullsh*t and would never recommend somewhere I didn’t truly enjoy!♥
It seems a popular new trend in traveling is shifting toward sustainable tourism.Think traveling with the least amount of harm to the environment as possible. When I found these cozy little luxury huts at L’essenza Sardinia I couldn’t have been more excited to experience it for myself! I’m jumping right on the bandwagon and I hope to find more ecofriendly accommodations in the future.
L’essenza’s key focus is on sustainability and responsible tourism. The ecofriendly property consists of 4 luxury huts, or pinnetos (traditional hut of ancient Sardinian shepherds), each having their own unique color therapy and aromatherapy to stimulate the senses. I had the pleasure of staying in the yellow room which was characterized by the oils of the yellow plant Helichrysum, an anti-inflammatory and fungicidal. The aroma inside the hut was both soothing and calming.
L’essenza Sardinia is located on a hilltop in a secluded setting in the Northeast of Sardinia island. After spending a week on the island, I can confirm that this location was the most ideal and central to all the places I visited. If you really want to “get away from it all”, this is a perfect place to do just that! The property is completely surrounded by nature in a quiet setting, overlooking farmlands, lush olive trees, and the Mediterranean Sea. And I mean, have you ever seen an outdoor living room like this? So cool!
Note: you WILL need a car while staying at this property. In fact, you really need a car to explore the island, as public transportation is highly lacking, especially in the off season.
Luxury Hut Rooms
The unique pinnetos were anything but basic inside. Marina, the owner, designed each room herself each with a special attention to fine detail. The rooms were equipped with (reliable) wifi, an en suite bathroom/shower, queen size bed, desk, clothes rack, and candles to enhance the ambiance in the evenings. The ceilings are finely crafted out of bamboo and give you that sort of outdoor log cabin type feel. The rooms are quite large with lots of space, yet they still retain a nice warmth and cozy aspect to them.
Each morning started out with some fresh made local herbal tea which I drank overlooking the gorgeous panoramic landscape. Both the owner and her daughter are vegans themselves and always had plenty vegan as well as gluten free options for breakfast. I devoured daily vegan butter,vegan cream cheese, homemade jams with toast, home grown fruits and veggies, gluten free pastries, and cereal. Although there were no hot plates such as eggs/bacon offered, there was plenty of variety and I always left feeling stuffed. It was the prefect typical Italian breakfast.
Found this little guy sunbathing outside my window 🙂
If you know me at all, you will know that I am obsessed with cats. Ok, obsessed is an understatement, I am just crazy about them! When I found out that there were around 20 cats living around the property, I was so ecstatic! Luckily for me, one of the cats had kittens on the first morning I was there, and I almost died at the cuteness of newborn tiny kittens. This was the perfect place for a crazy cat lady like me. No shame.
Note: the cats are outdoors and they are NOT allowed inside. So if you are allergic to cats, have no fear, there is no cat hair or dander inside whatsoever. And if you don’t like cats (first off, we can’t be friends), they wont bother you and mostly keep to themselves unless they are summoned to play.
You Will Be Welcomed Into the Family
I may mention this in every review I’ve done so far, but you know what, the PEOPLE are what really makes the experience. PERIOD. I can say it a thousand times. Valeria, the daughter of the owner Marina, helped me plan my trip months in advance and went out of her way to help me with my plans, including renting a car on the island….a dreaded task in Italy.
The family was so nurturing and hospitable and loved to joke around. I was constantly smiling and laughing with them and I felt instantly at home. I felt like I was visiting as a friend, not as a guest. A++ for hospitality!
The Verdict: L’essenza Sardinia
My stay at L’essenza Sardinia was hands-down one of the most unique accommodations I have ever stayed at and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants something different than your average hotel or Airbnb stay! The setting, the focus on responsible tourism, the cozy/colorful rooms, the hospitality, and of course the kitties. It was all just perfect. And NO, I am NOT obligated to write a positive review by any means. I want future guests to have an honest opinion of my stay and know what to expect. The one negative I will mention is that the road up to the huts was not paved and extremely rocky (and steep in some areas), so just be careful if you’re renting a car that’s low to the ground. I was a little worried I would scratch my car, but it ended up being okay. Also, I had an issue with the hot water, until I was told of the “trick”. You must open the sink and let the hot water run before you turn on the shower water to “open” the hot water pipe. Overall, a unique place with a special attention to details that will leave a lasting impression!
♥A special thanks to L’essenza Sardinia for hosting me during my stay. All opinions, however, are my own. I don’t bullsh*t and would never recommend somewhere I didn’t truly enjoy!♥
Have you ever stayed in a luxury hut? Better yet, have you ever stayed in an ecofriendly property? Please let me know as I would love to add more to my list! 🙂
My favorite part of traveling is trying new foods, without a doubt. What better way to appreciate a culture than to indulge in the local foods, right? Italian culture is centered around food. It brings family and friends together and eating is a sacred social activity (as it should be!). Hey, Italy is my favorite country in the entire world for a reason!
As someone who is allergic to gluten, traveling on a strict gluten free (GF) diet isn’t the easiest thing and it takes much more research and planning to have a safe dining experience. So when I found a gluten free food tour in Rome, offered by Eating Italy, I JUMPED on it! Ahh, finally! I decided on the Taste of Testaccio Tour with Eating Italy because I have never been to that neighbourhood but have always heard good things about it. It’s a local, colorful, and hip neighbourhood in Rome and it deserves more attention than it receives. I also learned that Testaccio is considered the birthplace of Roman cuisine! Umm, sign me up please! ♥
If you’re like me and are skeptical about forking out cash for a food tour, you will be pleasantly surprised. The food tour hits up 8 STOPS (and 12 tastings total), so make sure you skip breakfast. You will be STUFFED by the end of the 4-hour tour, guaranteed! My tour was from 10:30am-2:30pm, and it filled me up for the entire day. I only needed a light snack around 9pm, but it’s basically breakfast lunch and dinner crammed into 4 hours of yummy goodness.
(note: this food tour isn’t only for those who are gluten free and is open to everyone. However, it can be specifically tailored to those with food allergies, which is what they did with me).
So What Does a Gluten Free Food Tour in Rome Look like? Here are the highlights below!
1st Stop→ Pastry Shopping
Rich & sweet GF chocolate fudge tart
Breakfast of champions…the non Gf version below.
I’ll take one of each, please 🙂
2nd Stop→Pizza, pizza, pizza (& rice)
There’s nothing like a local pizza spot in Rome. My eyes were bulging out of my head. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a GF option and I was offered a rice dish instead (boo!). The rice was tasty, but it’s not the same. So instead, I just lived vicariously through my pizza devouring tour members.
Next stop was a cute salumeria where we were offered salami, prosciutto, and cheeses. The prosciutto was delicate, tasty and tender. The highlight was the buttery truffle cheese, an absolutely amazing surprise! I usually hate truffles (I know, blasphemous right?), but this was one of the best cheeses I have ever tried.
Balsamic vinegar tasting. Tasted like honey to me, SO GOOD!
We had some free time inside to sample and purchase any delicacies we desired. If I wasn’t at the beginning of my trip, I would have stocked up for goodies to take home. Maybe next time!
4th Stop→The Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners in Rome
I know what you’re thinking.. a cemetery visit on a food tour, wtf? But after all that food, it was the perfect break. Not to mention, a very beautiful and peaceful place. If you’re in Rome, I would highly recommend a visit here to get away from the crowds!
5th Stop→Testaccio Covered Market ( with 3 food stops inside the market)
This was my favorite stop on the tour. It was a local market where the shops were passed down from generation to generation and everyone knew each other. It was such a great vibe inside, and not to mention some awesome food!
Nothing like fresh caprese salad. Melted in my mouth!
Bruschetta (pronounced “broo skeyta” NOT “brooshetta”) with a homemade gluten free baguette, soft on the inside and crispy on the edges. They let me take home the entire loaf for later, which was a big plus!
Caprese-garnished with the freshest basil and mozarella. The ingredients were so soft and fresh, I didn’t need to chew much.
Fried artichoke and wine-the artichoke was a substitute for the bombettos (neck of pork, pecorino, and bacon) the others got to try. Delicious!
Bonus stop: I found a little gluten free shop and got my own suppli (fried risotto and cheese ball) and it was divine! (note: this was not included in the tour and I purchased it on my own).
6th Stop→Sit-Down Restaurant with 3 Pastas & Unlimited Wine
GF pasta substitute with cracked pepper and cheese. Simple yet delicious.
Stretchy pants would have been very helpful at this point in the tour. Just about to tap out but there were 2 more stops! Oh, and did I mention endless wine carafes? ♥
3 non-GF pastas to choose from
7th Stop→Suppli (fried risotto and cheese balls) at Trapizzino.
Traditional Suppli (fried risotto % cheese). Not GF but they look oh so tasty!
Suppli is a traditional fast food in Rome and costs only about €1. This option was NOT GF so I was offered some pulled marinated chicken. I did get to taste the GF version of suppli in the covered market, so I was satisfied to say the least.
The last stop was for dessert, and what better dessert in Italy than gelato? I finished the whole thing and then I surrendered the flag. I could not physically fit any more food inside my body. I had never been so stuffed in my life.
My first food tour was a success! I had doubts about not getting enough food but boy was I wrong! It was totally worth it and food tours are going to be my new obsession. I will also say that the tour would not have been as fun without our awesome tour guide Domenico. He had a hippie style, and was whitty, knowledgable, and charismatic. The tour guide really does make or break the tour!
I was surprised at all the GF options and the variety of foods offered. The only disappointment was that they didn’t have GF pizza. Other than that, I give it an A! If you have never done a food tour in Italy, I would definitely give it a try! It was the perfect gluten free food tour in Rome.
*I was a guest of Eating Italy on the Taste of Testaccio Tour. My opinions, however are my own. I don’t bullshit and I LOVED this food tour!
Have you Ever done a Food Tour with Eating Italy? Have you done any other gluten free food tours in Rome? Do tell!