Peru | Sacred Valley Quick 6-Day Itinerary

Peru | Sacred Valley Quick 6-Day Itinerary

I recently spent 6 wonderful days in Peru exploring Cusco, Machu Picchu, and the Sacred Valley. I was on limited time so I wanted to see as many places as I could in a short amount of time. I didn’t get much sleep, but boy did I experience some awesome sites! You can sleep when you’re dead, right?

Sacred Valley 6 Day Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive to Cusco, relax and acclimate

Day 2: Taxi Tour to the Sacred Valley with drop off in Ollantaytambo

Day 3: Morning train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, limited afternoon ticket to Machu Picchu

Day 4: Hike Machu Picchu Mountain, take late afternoon train back to Cusco

Day 5: Cusco all day

Day 6: Rainbow Mountain all day tour


Sacred Valley 6 Day Itinerary: Day 1


Cusco

What to Do in Cusco

Saqsayhauman (aka “Sexy Human”)– a 30-minute walk from town with cool ruins and the best view over Cusco.
Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary
Plaza de Armas-the beautiful main square lined with restaurants and shops. It’s a good place to people watch, shop, sip coffee, and eat.
Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary
San Pedro Market-a large local market with cheap goods and food. It’s about a 10 minute walk from Plaza de Armas.
Chocolate Museo-for chocolate lovers, there is a free tour and chocolate tasting. You will not only taste chocolates, but everything chocolate flavoured, including fruit jams and liqueurs.
San Blas Neighborhood– the hipster area of Cusco that has cute artisan shops and great views over the city.
Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

Where to Get Coffee with Soy Milk in Cusco (Because…lactose intolerance)

Finding coffee with soy milk in foreign lands can be quite tricky, but I found 2 great places in Cusco.
Punchay Cafe– in the San Blas area is a cute little cafe with soy milk options.
Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary
Cappuccino cafe-a cafe overlooking the main square with awesome views and soy milk options (pictured above).

Where to Eat Healthy Food in Cusco

As you may have heard me say before, I am allergic to gluten and extremely lactose intolerant. Therefore, most my food choices involve healthy/organic restaurants that aren’t the cheapest places to eat. But hey, being healthy ain’t cheap! The following are my favourite healthy restaurants in Cusco:
Organika-a tiny restaurant with awesome farm to table food and great juices. I tried the caesar salad and substituted the caesar dressing with passionfruit dressing and it was incredible! I am not a salad girl at all, but this one impressed me with the robust flavours.
Nuna Raymi-a large and cozy restaurant with organic food with fresh herbs and veggies/fruit. They have all the herbs and veggies displayed so you can see what you’re eating. I tried the gluten free version of Loma Soltado with Alpaca that was amazingly tender and juicy. Allergens are labelled on the menu.
Per.uk-a small restaurant near the main square that had the most amazing trout ceviche I have ever tasted. Allergens are labeled on the menu.
Greens Organic-an organic restaurant right off the main square that has awesome feta avo salad and juices. Allergens are listed on the menu.
Chia-gluten free/vegan/vegetarian new restaurant with yummy green curry.
Cafe de Museogreat breakfast and coffee with balcony seating outside. It’s also a nice cozy atmosphere inside.
Uchu-upscale steakhouse that I splurged on my last night and it didn’t disappoint. You can cook your own meat on a slab and they had the best side salad I’ve ever tasted. The wine was top quality as well.

Where to Stay in Cusco

I rented a room in an Airbnb for just $16/night. It had an amazing view over Cusco and an awesome host. Breakfast was also included. The room was basic and the hot water only lasted about a minute, but hey for the price, location, and awesome host it was super worth it. You can check the listing here.  And if you are new to Airbnb, you can use my $40 OFF coupon here. (it will also give me a coupon as well, yay).
 The first photo is the view from the Airbnb and the second is the cute little street the Airbnb is on. Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

Sacred Valley 6 Day Itinerary: Day 2


Sacred Valley

I decided to explore the Sacred Valley on the way to Machu Picchu. Through my excessive research I found the taxi company called Taxidatum, which had great reviews for professionalism and safety. I ended up using them 3 times in Peru and they were very professional, punctual, and drove slowly/safely.

The company offers Sacred Valley day tours as well as a final drop off in Ollantaytambo. I did the Sacred Valley tour which stopped in Chincheros, Maras, and Moray. The cost for the entire car was $65 so you can split between passengers. I did it solo and had my own private car, which ended up being cheaper than the train and so worth it. I could go at my own pace and stay as long or little in each place as I pleased. I highly recommend doing this to see some of the awesome sites along the way to Machu Picchu. My favourite stop was Maras, with the endless salt pans set in between the gorgeous Andes mountains.

Make sure to get the touristico bolistico ticket for 130 Soles. It allows entry into Ollantaytambo, Moray, Maras, Chincheros, Saqsayhuaman and a bunch more ruins and museums around Cusco. You can buy the ticket at any of the included sites (I bought mine when I entered Chincheros).

The salt mines of Maras used by the Incas in ancient times are still in use today.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

Similar in appearance of a Greek amphitheatre, the concentric circular depressions of Moray remains a mystery. However, because of the vast temperature difference from top to bottom, it is believed they were used to cultivate certain crops and the area at the bottom was used as an agricultural research station.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

Ollantaytambo is a common starting point to the Inca trail, this beautiful little city deserves at least a half day to explore. My taxi tour ended in Ollantaytambo and I had a half day to roam around, walk up the ruins, and relax before my morning train to Machu Picchu. From the top of the Ollantaytambo ruins, you can see the whole city and stunning landscape completely surrounded by the Andes mountains. I absolutely loved this city.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

Sacred Valley 6 Day Itinerary: Day 3


Machu Picchu Tickets: Things to Know

As you may have heard, new regulations went into place on July 1st this year which is restricting tourists to either a morning ticket or afternoon ticket.  Before you could just go any time of day and stay all day…not anymore.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

Despite what you will hear, there aren’t 2 time frames, but actually there are 3. The morning, afternoon, and the limited “Horario Vespertino 13:00 horas”.

Machu Picchu Tickets
Morning ticket + hike allows entrance from 6am-12pm. Cost: 200 Soles ($62)
Afternoon ticket + hike allows entrance from 12pm to 5:30pm. Cost: 200 Soles ($62)
Horario Vespertino allows entrance from 1pm to 5:30pm Cost: 120 Soles ($37)
Machu Picchu entrance without any hike costs 152 Soles ($47)

The limited half day ticket starts at 1pm instead of 12pm. It’s cheaper than the half day and I got this one for my first afternoon there. The next day I got the morning ticket with the hike to Machu Picchu Mountain.

I spent a total of $99 for my 2 tickets to Machu Picchu. It’s not cheap, but I’m so glad I went 2 days. The first day I went in the afternoon at a relaxed pace taking photos and walking around the ruins. The second day I did the hike and after that I was so exhausted I didn’t stay much longer. The afternoon trip plus the morning hike was perfect.

You need to purchase your tickets as far in advance as possible because the number of people per day has been limited, especially for the mountain hikes. They only allow 800 hikers per day for Machu Picchu Mountain. For Huayna Picchu Mountain, the daily limit is only 400 hikers per day. It was actually sold out when I checked 2 months before so make sure to plan way in advance.

There are 2 different time slots for the hikes, and you must pick one when buying your ticket.

Machu Picchu Mountain time slots
1st time slot: 7-8am
2nd time slot: 9-10am

Huayna Picchu Mountain time slots
1st time slot: 7-8am
2nd time slot: 10-11am

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary
To buy tickets, you will have to go The Ministry of Culture Website which is quite confusing. The site is annoying and takes forever to load and sometimes crashes, but just be persistent and try again. They only take Visa card for payment so don’t try to pay with MasterCard or Amex or you will wonder why it’s not working. I found a great step-by-step guide by Thrifty Nomads that will walk you through the confusing process, which is what I used. You can check their article here.

Visiting Machu Picchu

Take the Vista Dome or Expedition train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. I booked my tickets on Peru Rail. When you get to Peru, you must take your confirmation to a Peru Rail office and get the actual tickets. They are a little slow with everything so give yourself an extra 30 minutes to get the tickets from them.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

The view from the Vista Dome Train

You can only bring one small carry-on bag on the train as there is no overhead storage. If you want to bring anything else, you will need to email them 48 hours in advance and if they still have availability they will tell you yes. Still, no huge suitcases will be allowed due to space.

Once in Aguas Calientes, get a round-trip bus ticket for $24 to Machu Picchu and get up there by 1pm. By 3:30-4pm it was virtually empty. I almost had one of the top tourist sites in the world all to myself. I would definitely recommend going in the afternoon when there is less people. The only thing is you can only hike the 2 mountains during the morning time. This is exactly why going for 2 days is key!


Sacred Valley 6 Day Itinerary: Day 4


Machu Picchu Mountain 

Hike Machu Picchu Mountain in the morning. Allow yourself 4 full hours to complete the hike roundtrip. Take lots of water. Because of the altitude, the hike is intense and you will need to stop a lot to catch your breathe.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

I caught the Expedition train back at 3:20pm and arrived in Poroy station at 7:10pm. There is no train station in Cusco and the station used is called Poroy, a 20 minute taxi ride outside of Cusco.

 


Sacred Valley 6 Day Itinerary: Day 5


Cusco 

Whatever activities you didn’t get to on day 1, finish up today. Tomorrow will be a very strenuous day so make sure to take it easy.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary


Sacred Valley 6 Day Itinerary: Day 6


Day Trip to Rainbow Mountain

Pickup is at 3:30 or 4:30 in the AM so make sure you get enough rest. You will drive 3 hours total, with a stop for breakfast, before getting to the entrance. Once there, you will have an option to rent a horse, which I highly recommend unless you have amazing cardiovascular endurance. Rainbow Mountain sits at an altitude of over  17,000 feet, so for most of us that don’t live at high altitudes, this will be the most challenging hike you will ever do. Pace yourself, go as slow as you need, rest when your body tells you, and drink lots of water.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

Even with the horse, you will have to hike the last 200 meters which is at an extremely steep incline. I thought I was going to die and had to keep stopping every 10 steps to catch my breathe. My heart felt like it was going to explode in my chest. The altitude is no joke so make sure to listen to your body.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

Even through all that extreme exhaustion and fatigue, the views at the top are SO worth it. It’s such an incredible natural phenomenon to see. There will be many tour groups there so it’s a little tough to get photos without a million people in them. But I managed to find a perfect spot. At the top of the mountain, turn left and walk down a little bit and the perfect spot will be on the left. It’s a little farther away from view than you see in photos, but I much preferred it to get some photos without people in them.

Sacred Valley 6-Day Itinerary

I paid $30 and booked online with Haku company via findlocaltrips.com. They were selling the tours in the city for 70 pesos (about $21), but I wanted to read reviews on the company as I have heard many stories of companies in both Peru and Bolivia having a problem with the drivers being drunk. There has also been many accidents with tourists which have resulted in death so I was not going to take that chance. I am willing to pay more for my safety and piece of mind. Please do your research before booking with a company that involves any kind of transport in Peru and Bolivia.

Travel Insurance for Peru

I never go on a trip anymore without travel insurance. Never. Too many bad things can happen (and they have unfortunately). Shit happens when you least expect it.

After crossing into Bolivia, my cellphone was stolen. Traveling without your cell is the worst! I’m so glad I had insurance because when I got back I filed the claim with no hassles and got fully reimbursed for my phone + the expensive case that it was in. Thank God!

My favorite travel insurance that I have been using for the past 4 years is World Nomads. I have made 3 total claims so far and have been fully reimbursed for all 3. I highly recommend them.

*this post contains affiliate links.

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Palawan, Philippines | How to Spend 7 Days in Paradise (Coron + El Nido)

Palawan, Philippines | How to Spend 7 Days in Paradise (Coron + El Nido)

Palawan has been voted the most beautiful island in the world, and for good reason. With its plethora of crystal clear turquoise waters, stunning lagoons, and plunging cliff lines, its not hard to see why. Palawan is the epitome of the word paradise.

There’s a lot you can do and see on Palawan even with a limited timeframe. I spent a week in Palawan, split between El Nido and Coron and it was the perfect introduction to the Philippines.

 


Palawan 7 Day Itinerary


Day 1-4: El Nido, Palawan 

 

How to Get to El Nido

To make it simple, it’s going to take a long time! There are no direct international flights to El Nido so you will have to fly to Manila first, and then either fly to Puerto Princesa and take a 6-8 hour van ride up to El Nido.

Or there is the more direct (and more expensive) option of flying nonstop to El Nido. I flew with Air Swift on a short flight from Manila and it cost me $130. To me the direct flight was worth it to get there quicker.

You’ll be greeted at El Nido airport with a serenade from the local Filipino women, a unique welcome to the Philippines!  Air Swift passengers are also given free coffee, juice and snacks upon arrival.

To get to your accommodation, you’ll most likely have to take a tricycle, which reminds me of a mini tuk tuk. It costs 300 PHP to get to town (around $6) and takes around 15-20 minutes.

El Nido Tours

People flock to El Nido for the famous island hopping tours. There are 4 main tours leaving from El Nido: Tour A,B, C, and D. Creative, huh? They also offer combined tours if you’re super short on time (but some of the stops are cut out obviously).

Tour A & C are the most popular and most the pictures you’ve seen from El Nido are most likely from those tours. If you had to pick just one, hands down I would choose Tour A!

All the tours are a fixed price by the government so don’t bother trying to negotiate. There are dozens upon dozens of tour companies in town and they pretty much all offer the same tour with the same stops so no need to be extra picky on this one. I am one for good reviews so booking online beforehand wouldn’t be a bad option either.

Day 1: Nacpan Beach

Rent a motorbike for 300-500 PHP and drive 45 minutes North to Nacpan Beach. The last 20 minutes is super bumpy and rocky and it’s uncomfortable but not dangerous. There’s a little restaurant that serves fresh seafood and drinks on the beach.

Unfortunately, Twin Beach was closed due to a court case involving squatter activity until further notice so it’s impossible to get that infamous view of Twin Beach. This was the best I could do from the bottom of the hill. You can kinda see both beaches, but not so epically. Meh.

Palawan 7 day itinerary

Sunset at Las Cabanas Beach

Take a tricycle to Las Cabanas. It will cost 150 PHP from town and takes less than 10 minutes.

Las Cabanas is a great place to relax and unwind from the day, and have a drink if you’d like. There are a few cafes right on the beach and it’s a very popular place to catch the sunset. Meremgmeg Beach Bar was really cool and had swings at the bar instead of seats.

Day 2: Tour A 

Take Tour A, the post popular (and my favorite) of the tours. The tour will take you on 5 stops including: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Simizu Beach (lunch stop), Secret Lagoon, and 7 Commandos Beach.

Cost: 1400 PHP (~$27)

I will highlight my favorite spots below:

Small Lagoon

You can’t swim in this gorgeous lagoon. The boat takes you in and you just sit back and enjoy turquoise waters like you have never seen before.

Palawan 7 Day Itinerary
Big Lagoon

You can rent a kayak (Depending on availability) or snorkel and explore the big lagoon, which was so much fun!

Palawan 7 Day Itinerary

Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon was unreal in terms of beauty. We had to jump off the boat and swim here from a distance where we could explore the hidden lagoons and caves. This is exactly what I imagined the Philippines to be.

Palawan 7 day itinerary

7 Commandos Beach

The last stop of the day is on this long white sand beach. They have a bar and souvenir shop, as well as comfort rooms (what they call restrooms in the Philippines). There is also a fun rope swing that you can play with!

Palawan 7 Day Itinerary

Day 3: Tour C

I booked Tour C with Art Cafe. The buffet BBQ lunch they served was really good! The tour leaves at 9am and comes back around 5pm.

Cost: 1400 PHP plus 100 PHP to rent fins (snorkel masks are already included).

5 stops are included on this tour including: Hidden BeachSecret Beach, Starfish Beach, Miniloc Shrine, and Helicopter Beach.

I found absolute paradise in Hidden Beach. I kinda wanted them to leave me there “accidentally”. 
Palawan 7 Day Itinerary
The Miniloc Shrine had the best viewpoint over the islands (cost is 100 PHP to go here). There are very pointy rocks at the top so please be careful.

Day 4: Mt. Taraw and Kayaking

Climb Mt. Taraw

This is guaranteed to be one of the most risky hikes you will ever do. Do NOT attempt to do this hike without a guide, it’s quite dangerous (and I don’t say this often).

You’ll be stepping on jagged, pointy, super sharp rocks and at some points you will be climbing up a 90 degree angle! It’s honestly more like rock climbing than a hike. Except that you will have NO harness or protective ear. But the 180 degree panoramic view at the top is worth all the fright and agony getting up there, trust me!

Palawan 7 Day Itinerary

You can go in a group or hire a private guide. The whole trip takes about 2.5 to 3hrs. It costs 500 PHP for one person and can be as low as 300 PHP if you get a few people to go.

Tips for Hiking Mt. Taraw:

  • Take a sweat rag. I was dripping sweat and was all slippery. Not cool when my guide reached for my arm to pull me up in some places.
  • Start as early in the morning as possible to beat the heat.
  • I really wish I had brought gloves because the rocks I had to pull myself up on were super sharp.
  • Make sure to bring sturdy shoes (they won’t even let you hike without closed-toe shoes), water, and snacks.
  • Don’t bring many items with you. You do not want a big backpack on your back when you’re doing this climb. My guide actually didn’t let me carry a bag and put my stuff in his backpack.
  • Make sure to grab the rocks with your hands before moving with your feet.
  • On the way down go backwards, it’s easier and safer.

Rent a Kayak

Rent a kayak for 400 PHP and paddle over to Bikal Beach on Cadlao Island. There is a small and secluded crescent shaped beach which takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to get to. You’ll most likely have the beach to yourself. Unless you go in the morning because I believe tour D makes its first stop here.

Wouldn’t you love to have a whole stunning beach to yourself?

Palawan 7 Day Itinerary

Get a Massage

Get a massage to end your trip in El Nido. It costs about 500-600 PHP per hour for a full body massage and you can find these massage shops all over the city.  I got a head and food massage to end my day and it was just perfect after all that hiking and kayaking I had done.

Best Way to Get between El Nido and Coron

There’s a newer fast boat option by Montenegro Lines that leaves daily from El Nido at 6am and from Coron at 12pm. The journey supposedly takes 3.5 hours (it took about 4 hours and 45 minutes) and is pretty comfortable in a clean and air conditioned boat. They play a movie on the flat screen during the trip. I booked my ticket online through Naturalis.

Make sure to arrive to the port 30 minutes early to check-in and pay your port fee (20 PHP) before you can board. You can pick your seat when you check in so if you’re prone to sea sickness, make sure to pick a seat in the back of the boat.

Cost: 1848 PHP + 20 PHP port fee (about $36 USD).

If you want to save a few dollars there is a slower ferry option on a freight ship that takes 7+ hours. I heard it’s extremely uncomfortable and the boats are older and less clean. Just google it if you want to make your decision easier. It’s literally less than a $10 difference so why put yourself through that hell? Take the fast boat!

Day 5-7: Coron, Palawan

Day 5: Ferry to Coron

There isn’t much to do in Coron town honestly. It was a stark contrast to the lively El Nido, so just take the afternoon to relax before the evening activities.

Head to Coffee Kong, for some good coffee. It’s a cute little coffee hangout and the only place I found with soy milk! They also serve breakfast and have really good Air Con.

Hike Mt. Tapyas before Sunset

You have to walk 700 steps to get to the top of Mt. Tapyas, but it’s well worth it. It will take you about 25-30 minutes to walk to the top. How it works is you hire a tricycle to take you there, they wait for you, and then they take you to Maquinit Springs (which is 20 minutes away). The entire ride only costs 300 PHP (~$5) and I was with my driver for about 4 hours.

Palawan 7 day itinerary

iPhone pic from the top of Mt. Tapyas

End the Night at Maquinit Springs

Maquinit Springs is a huge natural saltwater hot spring surrounded by mangroves in the jungle. It’s a super unique setting and although it’s quite busy, it’s still very relaxing.

Palawan 7 day itinerary

I must say these were the hottest hot springs I have ever experienced. Have you ever noticed that most hot springs are warm, but not very hot? Not this one! It’s super hot and exactly what your body needs after that hike up Mt. Tapyas.

Cost: 200 PHP for adults

Day 6: Island Escapade Tour

I booked with with JY Tours as it was recommended by my Airbnb host.

Cost: 1200 PHP (~$23).

Stops included: Malcapula Beach, CYC Beach, and Waling Waling Island. 

Malcapula Beach

A heavenly white sand beach and crystal blue waters. It’s one of the prettiest beaches I saw in the Philippines.

Palawan 7 Day ItineraryHiked up the little hill for this secret view.Palawan 7 Day Itinerary

CYC Beach

CYC is the only remaining public beach in Coron. Compared to all the other beauty I saw in the Philippines, this beach was pretty run down, crowded, and dirty. Our group was wondering why they even had this stop on the tour. No pictures here because there wasn’t much to see.

Waling Waling Island (aka “Mini Maldives”)

Locals refer to this beach as the mini Maldives due to the crystal waters. It was my favorite stop of the day!

Palawan 7 Day Itinerary

During low tide, a sand bar appears and you can walk out onto it. It is breathtaking.

Palawan 7 day itinerary

Completely unedited iPhone shot of the gorgeous Waling Waling island.

There was another stop on our itinerary but our guide chose to go here instead…which none of us were complaining about!

Day 7: Ultimate Coron Highlights Tour 

Stops included: Twin Lagoon, Kayanga Lake, Skeleton Wreck, Bamboo Beach, and Siete Pecados.

Cost: 1500 PHP (~$29). I also went with JY tours for this one as well.

Twin lagoon

A stunning lagoon where you can swim under the rocks (or walk up steps) to get to the more hidden lagoon.

Palawan 7 day itinerary

Completely unedited shot of the Twin Lagoon on my GoPro

This is the view entering the area of the Twin Lagoon. This was shot on a moving boat with my iPhone and I did NOT edit it at all.

Palawan 7 Day Itinerary

Bamboo Beach

This white sand beach was lined with mangroves and had no one else in sight. This is also where we had our peaceful lunch stop.

Palawan 7 Day Itinerary

Kayanga Lake

Kayanga Lake crystal clear lake known as the cleanest lake in the Philippines and some also say the cleanest lake in Asia.

The “money shot” of Coron you will see if you google “Palawan”. This view is on the walk up to Kayanga Lake.

Palawan 7 Day Itinerary

Skeleton Shipwreck

You can dive (or snorkel) to see Skeleton Shipwreck where you can see the skeleton of a sunken Japanese ship.

This is what you will see above the shipwreck. How amazing is this water?

There are also many bright tropical fish around the area. Can you see the sunken ship? It would have been fun to scuba dive down inside of it!

Palawan 7 day itinerary

WIFI Connection in the Philippines

Wifi connection is very poor in the Philippines, so staying connected was not the easiest. I used a combination of a local SIM and my Skyroam portable hotspot device to stay connected.

You can get a local SIM for 600 PHP ($12) for 4GB plus 1 free GB (5gb) with Global SIM at the airport kiosk. The plan lasts 30 days.

You can also use a Skyroam portable wifi hotspot. You can read my detailed post all about it here and decide if it’s worth it for you: Is the Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device Worth It? The No BS Truth

Where to Stay in Palawan

Accommodations in Palawan were more expensive than I imagined they would be in the Philippines. I spent about $30 per night. When I travel I usually spend on average $25 per night to rent a room (more if I rent out a whole apartment). But the value for the price in Palawan was not that good and the standards were a lot lower than I expected for that price.

That being said, go in knowing what to expect! I stayed in Airbnbs in both Coron and El Nido. While I cannot recommend the place I stayed in El Nido, the room I rented in Coron was very large, clean, and had good Air Con. The host is from California and was really laid back and helpful. It was in a convenient location and was pretty comfortable. You can check out the listing here.

If you’re new to Airbnb, you can use my $40 OFF Coupon. Or even if you are not, you can sign up with a different email and use the coupon as well! ♥

Travel Insurance for the Philippines 

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.

*This post contains affiliate links. 

 


Have You Been to Palawan? Is there Anywhere Else you Would Recommend to Visit that I Missed?

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Palawan 7 day itinerary

 

 

How to Spend 3 Days in the Nusa Islands (Lembongan, Ceningan, & Penida)

How to Spend 3 Days in the Nusa Islands (Lembongan, Ceningan, & Penida)

The Nusas consist of 3 gorgeous islands off the coast of Bali, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Penida.

All 3 islands have something special to offer so if you have time, I highly recommend checking out all three!

I based myself in Lembongan for 3 days and was able to visit all 3 islands during my time there.

You can see Ceningan in a half day as it is the smallest of the three. It is accessed by a bright yellow bridge from Lembongan.

Penida is the largest and most rugged of the 3. It is completely devoid of mass tourism and has so many awesome things to see!

*I want to especially thank Jackie from @getlostwithjackie for introducing me to Lembongan and Christina from @jetsetchristina for introducing me to Penida. These girls’ amazing Instagram photos really enticed/inspired me to visit these places that I had never heard of before! ♥


If you’re short on time and want to see all 3 islands in 3 days it’s totally doable.

This was my 3 day itinerary in the Nusa Islands (see below for all the details on each place):

Day 1: Nusa Lembongan (Mushroom Bay, Dream Beach, Devil’s Tear, The Deck)

Day 2: Nusa Penida full day

Day 3: Nusa Lembongan private tour to Manta Point + half day in Nusa Ceningan

 


What to Do on the Nusa Islands


Nusa Lembongan

What to do on the Nusa Islands

What to Do and See in Nusa Lembongan

Dream beach– beautiful beach where Dream Beach Huts overlooks. The waves are huge and you can’t really swim in it as it’s dangerous. You can pay a small fee to use their pool and facilities if you want to spend the day there.

Devil’s Tear-a 5-10 minute walk from dream beach (to the right if you’re looking at the water) will bring you to Devil’s Tear. Watch as the waves crash into the crescent shaped rocks leaving a huge cloud of mist behind. It’s a petty cool site! Be careful as the waves come up on the rocks so don’t try to be that person to get the perfect selfie on the edge.

What to do on the Nusa Islands

Mushroom Bay-a gorgeous blue/green bay with cute little restaurants and some water activities nearby.

What to do on the Nusa Islands

The Deck-a cute little spot overlooking Nusa Lembongan Beach and probably the best place to view the sunset on the island. It’s a bit more expensive than other places and serves a bunch of Western food. I didn’t even care as the view was well worth it. They have sunset sessions with a live DJ in the evenings as well, so it’ a great place to mingle.

The Deck, Nusa Lembongan

Swim with Manta Rays-one of the main attractions of the Nusas is swimming with Manta Rays! You can take a group tour that will take you to Manta Point and a few other snorkelling spots. Or you can do what I did and get a private tour and make up your own schedule with the stops of your choice.

This obviously isn’t the cheapest option, but I liked the idea of a tailored tour! I negotiated a rate of 400k for 3 stops (about $30 USD), including swimming with manta rays, and snorkelling in Crystal Bay and Secret Beach. It was also great because I started early and was back by 11am, which gave me enough time to eat lunch and then head to Ceningan for the rest of the day to explore.

What to do on the Nusa Islands

Note: you aren’t guaranteed to see manta rays, but I got lucky and saw a huge one! My captain told me to jump in, and honestly I was scared sh*tless when I saw the huge shadow of the creature on the surface. The only bad part about being alone on a tour. Another boat showed up and I waited until they jumped in to go in (I’m such a chicken). It swam within a foot of me! I scrambled to turn on my GoPro but it had already passed so i don’t have the best pictures to show for it. Manta rays are massive! Yet so angelic and graceful. It was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be up close and personal with these amazing creatures! Don’t miss out on this!

Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida was my favorite of the 3 islands as it was the most rugged and untouched. I only saw a handful of tourists the entire day. To explore, you need to take a tour or rent a scooter and do it on your own (which is what I did).

What to Do and See in Nusa Penida

Atuh BeachThis beach took a steep hike to get down, but was totally worth it. It’s absolutely breathtaking! The plunging cliffs are freakishly tall and provides a beautiful setting. It takes about an hour drive from the port of Penida, then about a 10-15 minute hike down onto super steep steps/rocks.

What to do on the Nusa Islands

There are a few little shacks serving drinks and fried rice or noodles. It’s pretty secluded and a great place to relax.
There is no parking fee.

Kelingking T-Rex (aka the money shot)This is probably the most popular beach in Penida and it’s shaped like a T-Rex! You can walk down the vey steep steps/rocks down to the beach, bit it may take you awhile. You must go very slow as it is very steep! I made it 1/3 way down and didn’t have time to go all the way as it took way longer than I imagined!
Parking is 5k (~$0.30).

Angel’s Billabong (Gambar Untuk)a natural infinity pool of blue and green hues that plunges into the ocean. You can swim in it, but be careful when the tide is high as the huge waves will come crashing down and could take you out to sea.

What to do on the Nusa Islands

It’s about a 5-10 minute walk from Broken Beach (on the right). You’ll see the signs.

Broken beach (Pasih Uug)-the ride down to this place is the worst road conditions I’ve ever experienced on a motorbike. It’s extremely rocky and bumpy with many potholes so just go very slow! The epic view over the top of Broken Beach is spectacular. And the color of the water is stunning! Parking is 5k.

How to Get to Nusa Penida

  • By public ferry from Lembongan (near the yellow bridge).
  • The ferry goes at 7am. Be there at 6:30am to assure a spot. Costs for tourists is 50k (~$3.76).
  • To get back, you may need to hire a private transfer that costs 200k (~$15).
  • If you can find more people, you can split the cost. I had to wait about 10-15 minutes and 3 other people joined so it was only 50k each, the same as the public ferry!
  • It takes less than 15 minutes for the crossing.
  • There are also ferries from Bali(Sanur) that go to Penida.
  • The public boat will drop you in the port of Toyapakeh in Penida.

How to get around Nusa Penida

Rent a motorbike for around 50k (~$3.76). The vendors will start at 80k but make sure to negotiate. You can also rent a car, but I enjoyed the adventure on a motorbike.

Note: the roads are VERY bumpy and unfinished with many potholes, especially going to Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong. If you feel confident on a motorbike and have good balance, you should be fine! However, if you’ve never driven a motorbike before (or on the left side), this isn’t a good place to start! And remember, they drive on the LEFT side in Indonesia!

Nusa Ceningan

Nusa Ceningan is the smallest of the Nusas, but it thoroughly surprised me with its sheer beauty!

What to Do and See in Nusa Ceningan

Blue Lagoon-a natural cliffside lagoon with super vibrant turquoise waters that will leave you in awe.

Secret Beach– a secluded beach overlooked by Villa Travally Resort. There were only a few people there and it was a great place to relax. You must buy something to stay.

What to do on the Nusa Islands

Mahana point for cliff jumping- there is a place to go cliff jumping a few minutes from the Blue Lagoon (although they charge 25k per jump!)

Last Stop Bar and Cafe-cutest little spot on the water with bean bags and a super chill vibe. They also have a great selection of fruit drinks. You can go right in the water from the steps and cool off. I loved this place!

What to do on the Nusa Islands

Ceningan cliffs-a restaurant/viewpoint overlooking Penida island. There are swings overlooking the viewpoint. It’s a little bumpy to get there, so if you don’t have time, it wouldn’t kill you to skip it.

Where to Stay in Nusa Lembongan

D’mas Huts-this family run place was absolutely fantastic. It’s composed of only 5 private huts and has a spectacular view over Nusa Ceningan and the gorgeous blue water in between. Oh, and it was only $18 per night!

Where to Stay in Nusa Lembongan

The owner Nyoman was the best host and catered to just about anything I needed. He always had a smile on his face  and really made my stay more enjoyable.

They also have a nice restaurant which serves a big varieties of foods at a super reasonable price. Plus the views over the pool and landscape below are fantastic! The food was super delicious as well!

I got a special deal on hotels.com and paid only $18/night. It was half off, but even at full price it’s super affordable. The value for money is incomparable and I cannot recommend this place enough! And no, it was NOT sponsored in any way!

They also have onsite scooter renewals for 50k/day. D’mas Huts was such a great find!

Have you Been to the Nusa Islands? Which one was Your Favorite?

Click photo to PIN for later♥

What to do on the Nusa Islands

 


MY TOP 5 RECOMMENDED TRAVEL GEAR FOR BALI:

1.Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera: I made the switch from my huge DSLR and I wouldn’t go back. It’s light, compact, and takes amazing photos!

2. Sony 10-18mm Wide Angle Zoom Lens: this wide angle lens is the key to landscape shots. I use this lens more than the original and am super happy with it. It’s not cheap, but super worth it if you want to get those special nature shots. Honestly, I would purchase the Sony alpha 6000 camera body only and save up for this lens to go with it.

3. E Bags Packing Cubes: the biggest life changer to keep me packing light! This is my biggest travel gear obsession and I have NO idea how I traveled without them before.

4. LifeProof NUUD Waterproof Case (iPhone 6): this helps protect my phone from water, sand, dirt, and the numerous drops that incur while I travel. I love it!

5. GoPro Hero 5 Black: I am a proud GoPro ambassador and obsessed with GoPro selfie pics if you didn’t notice! The Gopro cameras are the best for action and underwater shots, and of course for taking those selfies when you’re traveling solo.  It’s super small, compact, and easy to travel with. Plus it’s so much fun to use! 🙂

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used before on my own and that I truly love 🙂

 

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

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

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

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

Istria road trip

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

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

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

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip


First Route: Rovinj to Hum

Journey time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Parking cost: 10 kuna


HUM

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

Hum Croatia, smallest town in the world

Does it get any more fairytale than this?

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

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

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

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


2nd Route: Hum to Motovun

Journey time: 40 minutes

Parking cost: 20 kuna


MOTOVUN

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

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip; Motovun

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

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

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

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip


3rd Route: Motovun to Grožnjan

Journey time: 25 minutes

Parking cost: free street parking


GROŽNJAN

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

I think I may have found my new home

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

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

How cute are these blue shutters?

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

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

UMAG

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


4th Route: Umag to Novigrad

Journey time: 15 minutes

Parking cost: free


NOVIGRAD

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

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

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

Pepe Bar, Novigrad, Croatia

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

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

CareBear and I enjoying the sunset in Novigrad


Last Route: Novigrad to Rovinj

Journey time: 1 hour

Parking cost: free


Where to Base Yourself in Istria

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

what to do in Rovinj

Where to Rent a Car in Istria

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

Istria road trip

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

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

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

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

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Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

Mini Guide to Skiathos, Greece: Where to Stay & What to Do

Mini Guide to Skiathos, Greece: Where to Stay & What to Do

I recently journeyed over to Skiathos Island  in Greece and absolutely loved it! Skiathos is one of the islands that makes up the archipelago of the Sporades, located in the Northeast of Greece. You know, the one’s you rarely hear about.  Skiathos is less touristed than other popular Greek islands, probably due to its location far away from the rest. Ding ding ding, that’s what got me over there!

I didn’t do much planning beforehand (shame on me), but it turned out to be fine since I basically had my whole 3 days planned out for me courtesy of my incredible host Ioanna over at at Villa Anna Skiathos. This whole entire itinerary is courtesy of her so I can’t even take credit for it! (a lot more on that later). ♥

What to Do in Skiathos

  • Koukounaries beach-this is the most popular beach on the island, and for good reason. The vibrant blues are certain to draw your attention. A sandy beach in Greece is also a plus (not something very common, if you know what I mean).  There are also a lot of water activities offered at this beach, another plus!crystal clear Koukounaries beach
  • Elia beach-from Koukounaries you can take a nice 40 minute walk to Elia beach. You have to walk through a forest basically to get to it, but its secluded position makes it more alluring. There wasn’t a single soul when I went, which was a treat! Definitely walk to the top of the sandy cliff for a better view over the whole beach. Once up there, you can even walk about 5 minutes to other side of the cliffs for some more great views. Secluded Elia Beach in Skiathos
  • Skiathos Town-this is one of the prettiest Greek island towns you will see. The “chora”  is just the perfect size and is lined with pretty little shops and restaurants. Be on the lookout for Rock and Roll Cafe which had the cutest colorful bean bags on the steps. So adorable!Colorful Skiathos Town
  • Boat tourI  found a company called Kalypso Matahari, which offers s boat tours from 10-5pm for only €15 (low season) and €20 in the high season. I was really surprised at the low prices for an all day tour. Completely worth it!

Stops include:

Lalaria beach-one of the most beautiful beaches and the postcard picture of Skiathos. This beach can only be reached by boat and is framed by the beautiful limestone cliffs behind and the bleach stones lining the turquoise waters. The pure white create a more bold aqua color to the sea. It’s absolutely breathtaking! (Note: do NOT take any of the pebbles or you will be charged for them at the airport. No joke!)

What to Do in Skiahtos

Kastro-the former capital of Skiathos. You can hike up to the fortress in about 15 minutes to see the remains. Make sure to wear appropriate shoes as there isn’t a smooth path. If  you decide not to hike up, there is a relaxing beach bar down by the water. The views from the top are awesome,  so try to make it up there! Quit being lazy! 🙂

Hike up to Kastro town on Skiathos islandw GoPro

Katiyorgi-the last stop is a very small fishing village where you eat lunch. The town has 2-3 restaurants and that’s about it. There’s not much to do there but it’s a cute little spot to wind down and have a nice meal after the long day.Katiyorgi fishing village

  • Also on offer are many day trips to Mama Mia beach on nearby Skopelos island. I went to Skopelos on my own afterwards and I highly recommend a trip there if time permits! Check out my post on Skopelos if interested!

Where to Eat in Skiathos

  • Marmita -Not only is this the BEST restaurant in Skiathos, it has a cute and cozy outside courtyard that’s so warm and inviting, you won’t want to leave.Where to Eat in Skiathos

What to try:

  • Rabbit in red wine and honey sauce. Tender, juicy, and massively flavorful. Oh my gawd. 
  • Beetroot apple salad with goat cheese. Delicious and creamy! 
  • They also made some special dessert with hot coffee poured on top. Yes, hot coffee! I don’t know the name, but ask them for it and I’m sure they will whip it up for you. Holy crap it was good! Coffee lovers prepare for amazingness. 
  • I was in complete heaven. This was one of the top 3 food experiences I’ve ever had. It was that good. A bonus was that they were able to adapt to my dietary (gluten) restrictions easily and with no problems. If you go to one restaurant in Skiathos, make this one it! Marmita is the BOMB! (do people still say this? )
  • Amfiliki-frequented mostly by the locals, this place is a secret find! With a marvelous view over the water, this is the perfect spot to try authentic Greek dishes. I ended the night here with a complementary dessert and shot of ouza. Opa!Where to Eat in Skiathos
  • Restaurant 1901-situated in a beautiful and colourful street of Skiathos, slightly tucked away from the noise of the city. I loved the ambiance and was surprised to find out that the food was excellent as well! Beef in tomatoes sauce over potatoes was tender and good. They also give you free dessert of Greek yogurt and berry compote. 1901 Restaurant, Skiathos
  • Bourtzi cafe-located on the beautiful, yet tiny Bourtzi peninsula near the old port. It has a great view and it is the perfect spot to grab a drink and watch the sunset. They also have sandwiches and light foods but it’s a little pricy. You pay for the view, fair trade.Bourtzi cafe, Skiathos

Where to Stay in Skiathos

♥Villa Anna Skiathos♥

When looking for a place to stay in Skiathos, I was hoping to stay close enough to town, but not smack in the middle of the crazy parties (and let me tell you, Greeks sure can party hard!♥) I came across Villa Anna Skiathos, a small family owned B&B with a spectacular view. #imasuckerforviews

Where to Stay in Skiathos

The view captured me, I was sold and I knew I found my spot. I contacted the owner (named Ioanna) and she responded right away with all the info I would need for my journey to the island. She was super sweet and I felt like I was talking to a friend right from the start.

Ioanna lives in Athens, but has been coming to Skiathos for the summers since she was a little girl. She decided to put all her efforts into building her family business and welcome guests from all over the world. I could tell she genuinely enjoys meeting new people and takes pleasure in seeing others have a good time.  And that made such a difference during my stay! 

What can Villa Anna Skiathos offer you?

→Your Very own Built-in Concierge

Although she doesn’t advertise this, Ioanna was there to help me with ALL my plans around the island, from where to eat, what tours to take, to giving me rates for rental cars if I desired to explore by car. Anything I needed, she was at my disposal with a joyful heart. 

When I arrived, she picked me up from the port and gave me a mini tour (the “long way home”) so that I could situate myself on the island and get a feel for my surroundings. 

Where to Stay in Skiathos

When we arrived, she sat dow with me, pulled out a map, and asked me what kind kind of stuff I would like to do in my 3 days there. She gave me an explanation of all the places  and things I could do, and wrote everything me my very own itinerary! This was SO helpful and saved me so much time…time I could be utilizing to explore the beautiful island!

→A Quiet Oasis Away from the Crowds

Villa Anna Skiathos is in an awesome location and the view was spectacular. My room had a spacious balcony to overlook the beautiful Megali Ammos beach. The (gorgeous) walk to town was only 10 minutes. Of course I stopped several times to take photos, so it often took me longer. 

Where to Stay in Skiathos

The room I stayed in had a mini fridge, private bathroom, flat screen TV, free wifi, AC, stove top, and daily cleaning. The room also had an upstairs for a third person if needed. The kitchen cabinetry was outdated with old wood, but it felt like a summer camp house and I actually didn’t mind it. The amazing view made up for it.

Where to Stay in Skiathos

There was a nice patio in the back with a big table for guests to gather around and mingle if they chose to.

The property is surrounded by lush greenery, fruit trees, and vibrant flowers, which is something you usually don’t see if staying right in the center of the city.

Where to Stay in Skiathos

The one thing that wasn’t offered was breakfast, although Ioanna assured me that they would be adding breakfast in the near future. It didn’t bother me as I bought some yummy Greek yogurt, honey, and berries and had that for breakfast every morning. That fridge came in handy!

→Mingling of Guests

One thing I really liked is that Ioanna tries to put together a weekly outing with all the guests (totally optional of course, I didn’t feel obligated at all). One night she invited us all out to Marmita, which became one of my favorite restaurants ever, as mentioned above. 

Where to Stay in Skiathos

It was really nice to meet people from all parts of the world and different walks of life. We had such a great time sipping on wine, trying new foods together, and sharing crazy travel stories. That’s what traveling is all about right? The people. 

→Home Away from Home

This is a concept Villa Anna Skiathos truly promotes, and I felt it every second I was there. It wasn’t just a place to sleep, but it was like having a little family there. Although I only stayed 3 days, it was enough to make an impression.

Where to Stay in Skiathos

I still keep in touch with Ioanna on Facebook and it’s so great to see her enjoying life over in Greece. If and when I go back to Skiathos, I will 100% stay there again. No question about that.

Iv’e said this before, and it still holds true: the Greek hospitality is the best I’ve ever experienced in all the countries I’ve ever visited! My love for Greece remains deep. ♥♥♥

So How Much does it Cost to stay at Villa Anna Skiathos?

Rates start at €55 in shoulder season for a standard room! Peak season rates start at €80. Not bad at all for Greece!

When to Go to Skiathos

Shoulder season all the way! That is, May, June, and September. I went in May and it was perfect. It was not too crowded that you couldn’t walk, but had just the right amount of people and energy. The tour companies were all starting to run, and the weather was perfect. Prices are also heavily slashed compared to July and August.

How to Get to Skiathos

By ferry from Volos or Agios Konstantinos. I used Hellenic Seaways from Volos and it took about 1.5 hours (by high speed catamaran). A ferry takes about 2.5-3 hours. 

By flying into Skiathos National Airport. The flights were pricy when I checked so I opted for the ferry instead.

♥A special thanks to Villa Anna Skiathos (and especially the sweet Ioanna) 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 Been to Skiathos? What Were the Highlights? Did I Miss Anything? Do Tell!

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Where to Stay & What to Do in Skiathos

What To Do in Lisbon: A Fun-Filled 3-Day Itinerary (+Day Trips)

What To Do in Lisbon: A Fun-Filled 3-Day Itinerary (+Day Trips)

So you finally decided to make it to Lisbon. Great choice! Lisbon is the spicy capital of Portugal oozing with contagious energy and loads of character. It really reminded me of San Francisco with the hills, the colourful housing, and especially the iconic red bridge! #twinning. It’s such a lively city and there is a lot to see, so be prepared for some awesome sites. If you’re wondering what to do in Lisbon, this mini guide will surely help!

I find itineraries to be super helpful when planing my trip. I usually have a list of things to do but feel overwhelmed because I don’t even know where to start. So when someone plans it out for me and tells me how far each site is apart and which order to do them in, it saves me SO much stress and time planning. I thought I would share the love and hopefully this serves as a helpful resource to explore Lisbon!

With my recent trip to Portugal’s capital, I have put together a 3-day itinerary highlighting what to do in Lisbon (including day trips). Without further ado, welcome to Lisbon!

But first…

A few Interesting facts about Portugal you probably didn’t know:

  • Did you know that Portugese is the 6th most spoken language in the world?! Who would have thought?
  • There are 7 former Portugese colonies including Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Macau, and Goa where Portugese culture, food, and language is still firmly rooted today.
  • A sea quake in 1755 knocked out lower parts of the city, but the ones on the hills survived. Hence, the buildings on the hills are older.
  • The old trams were given to Portugal by Germany as compensation for WWI.
  • The Revolution of 1974 was a bloodless coup that took place on April 25th and restored democracy in Portugal. As a result, the famous red bridge is referred to as the 25th of April bridge.

Lisbon 3-Day Itinerary

Lisbon Street Art

♥Day 1: What to do in Lisbon♥

Morning

Start your morning off right by grabbing a famous Portugese custard tart (“pastel de nata“) and a coffee. (Unfortunately the tarts are not gluten-free so I wasn’t able to try one…but if you do, let me know how they are because they looked very yummy). These are the staple sweets in Portugal and you will see them just about everywhere!

Lisbon Miradouro

After fueling up, head to the infamous Miradouro, meaning viewpoints. Any time you see a sign that says “Miradouro”, a good idea would be to follow it to see what wonderful views of the city it offers! There are so many great viewpoints in Lisbon, and the hard part is choosing which ones to see!

Lisbon is VERY HILLY and you will be walking uphill a LOT, so don’t try to be cute and wear heels, wedges, or uncomfortable sandals. I wore my sporty gym clothes the whole time in Lisbon and I would have died wearing anything else.

Top 3 most Instagram-worthy Miradouro in Lisbon:

1. Señhora do Monte

Señhora do Monte viewpoint

This was probably my favourite view over the city and castle. It’s one of the highest viewpoints and affords an awesome birds-eye view over the vibrant city of Lisbon. There was a live musician playing soothing music and a little cafe up there as well. I planned on going back here for the sunset, but unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate.

2. Miradouro Graça- (Graça means grace)

Miradouro Graça

Less than 10 minute walk downhill from Señhora do Monte you’ll find an almost equally stunning view over the city at Miradouro Graça. It’s a bit lower than the last viewpoint, but it offers a more close-up view of the castle. There are slightly more tourists at this viewpoint as well but it’s still a must see! There is also a little cafe where I had some tea as I admired the view.

3. Santa Luzia

This offers a great view over the rooftops of Alfama and the water. There are lots of restaurants and cafes around, as well as live music. It’s probably the most “touristy” view, but it’s still nice to see! Its also at the bottom so it will be on your way to see Alfama!

Santa Luzia in Alfama

Alfama

Alfama is an electric neighbourhood near the water and is a must see when visiting Lisbon. There are gorgeous cobblestone streets, very colourful housing, stunning street art, narrow alleys, and just so much life! This is also where you will see lots of restaurants advertising “Fado” shows, the traditional Portugese dance.

Unfortunately I skipped this activity because honestly, it was too expensive for my budget. Most restaurants charge a cover fee of 10 to 15€, and then overpriced dinner as well. Expect to spend 30€ minimum. I don’t mind paying extra for something very unique, but it seemed to be less traditional and too touristy for me. But hey, that’s just my opinion. If it interests you, go for it!

28 Tram

the infamous 28 Tram in Lisbon

The 28 tram seemed to be an icon in Lisbon and takes you through all the pretty neighbourhoods in the city. I saw the little yellow tram several times, but never got on. It’s a must do on most Lisbon guides, but it was SO crowded. It looked like a pick pocket haven so I passed and just admired it from afar. But if you find it empty, I would definitely hop on for the experience.

Villa Berta

Next, take a quick stroll through Villa Berta, a former working class neighborhood. These buildings were originally built for working class people to all live in a common area. It’s a very picturesque neighbourhood and worth a walk through, if only to snap a photo or two.

Afternoon

Where to Eat?

Pharmacia

Where to eat in Lisbon

Head over to Pharmacia, a popular restaurant decorated to look like, well, a pharmacy! I ended up eating there twice. It has a nice ambiance and serves more tapas-style dishes. It was nice to sample a few different dishes. The servers were super nice and the food was good. I wouldn’t say awesome, but really good. I paid about 18€ for 2 dishes and a glass of wine. It’s a popular place so a reservation is a must, especially during peek season. This restaurant is also right in front of a popular Miradouro called Santa Catarina. During sunset, this was the local spot to be with a beer in hand!

OR

TimeOut Market

TimeOut Market in Lisbon

This is a must go to place while in Lisbon, so if you don’t go here on day one, make sure to make it there on day 2. TimeOut Market is not your typical food market. It’s a gourmet food market with some of the best chefs in Lisbon. It is HUGE and offers so many choices.

The design really reminded me of Octoberfest. Except everyone was drinking wine, instead of beer. It’s a really big social spot and gets really busy, so you may have to wait for a spot at one of the tables. But it’s SO worth it. TimeOut Market is amazing! Don’t miss it! Expect to pay around 10-12€ for a meal and a bottled water.

Castel de Sao Jorge

what to do in Lisbon

After a late lunch head over to the Castel de Sao Jorge for spectacular panoramic views of the city. You can also walk the castle walls, which is always fun. The walk up to the castle is very nice with street art everywhere and cute tiny little cafes and wine bars on the way. It’s overpriced if you ask me, at 8.50€ a ticket (isn’t Portugal supposed to be cheap?!). But I enjoyed it, and if you’re not on a super strict budget, I would definitely check it out.

Evening

Dinner

If you went to TimeOut Market for lunch, then head to Pharmacia for dinner. Another option would be to head to Alfama, as there are endless restaurant choices in this area and just an overall lively atmosphere.

Bairro Alto

Colorful Bairo Alto Lisbon

This is the hipster neighborhood and the most popular place to go out at night. The streets come alive after hours so if you like to party, head over to this neighborhood. It’s also a very pretty part of town and I enjoyed strolling through with camera in hand.


♥Day 2: What to do in Lisbon♥

Morning

Rua Augusta Tower

This tower will give you a great view over the famous Rua Augusta street. It’s 2.50€ to enter and an easy walk to the top.

View from Rua Augusta Tower in Lisbon

Elevador de Santa Justa

Elevador de Santa Justa

A gothic type elevator that seems to be very popular. It costs 5€ to go to the top and might be a tourist trap as the lines were wrapping around the corner when I went. I didn’t go to the top, but took photos from the bottom instead. It looks like something out of Gotham City and it’s nice to see. I would skip going up however. 

Carmo Convent

Carmo Convent

Probably the coolest site in Lisbon. An earthquake demolished the roof of this church back in 1755 and it has never been restored. It has now been converted to a convent. Price is 2.50€ to enter. Don’t miss this attraction, it’s pretty unique!

Afternoon

Belem

What to do in Lisbon

After lunch, take the bus to Belem, outside of the city. It’s a cute  little town with a famous tower located on the shore. It’s a great spot for people watching or a picnic, and I witnessed so many people were laying in the surrounding green park. It takes about 30 minutes by bus and costs 2.85€. For some reason the bus ticket back was only 1.80€.

Evening

Enjoy one of the many quaint restaurants in Belem, or head back to Lisbon to the Alfama district.


♥Day 3: What to do in Lisbon♥

Day trip to Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, and Cascais. For more details on day trips from Lisbon, be on the lookout for a separate blog post highlighting these amazing spots!

(Early) Morning

Sintra

You can’t go to Lisbon and skip the easy day trip to Sintra. You cant. Just don’t do it. Home to the fairytale Peña Palace and the Moorish castle, it is an absolute MUST! The entrance fee is a bit steep at 14 euro, but it’s definitely worthwhile. Catch an early train to avoid crowds, and also because there is a LOT to see so you’ll need every last minute.

The colorful Pena Palace in Sintra

Direct Trains to Sintra leave every 30 minutes from Lisbon and take about 40 minutes. The cost is 3 euro one way. Apart from the iconic castles, the town of Sintra is worth a visit. It’s a beautiful and timeless little town set amongst the mountains and it’s sure to catch your eye. 

Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira

Having my Indiana Jones moment 🙂

A mere 10-12 minute walk from Sintra is a heavenly place called Quinta da Regaleira. This was by far my favorite part of the day. Don’t leave without seeing the famous well on the property. It’s straight out of a storybook. I felt like I was in Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom exploring all the endless surprises around every corner.

It costs 6€ to enter and was well worth it. Set aside ample time because this place is huge!

Afternoon

Cascais

The gorgeous seaside of Cascais

Another must see is Cascais, a quiet little seaside town that really reminded me of the south of France (sans the hefty prices). A highlight was Boca do Inferno, a 20 minute walk from the center. Boca do Inferno means “hell’s mouth” as there is a small opening (the mouth) in the rocks where forceful waves come crashing through. I sat up at the top and just admired the view for about 30 minutes. 

Boca do Inferno

A train back to Lisbon from Cascais costs 2.60€ and takes 40 minutes. The bus from Sintra to Cascais takes 40 minutes and costs 4.10€.


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 ♥(optional) Day 4♥

If you have a 4th day in Lisbon, I highly recommend breaking up your big day trip into 2 separate day trips. Spend day 3 in Sintra/Quinta da Regaleira and Day 4 in Cascais. I did this all in one day and it was almost too much. I was a little rushed and I wish I had more time in each place.

Side note for eating gluten-free (GF) in Lisbon: as a gluten-free traveler, it was extremely difficult to find actual gluten free restaurants in Portugal and I panicked a little bit. However, seafood was my best bet as this is a staple dish in Portugal being on the coast. I carried my Portugese Gluten Free restaurant card with me at all times, and most places were able to accommodate me in some way or another. So if you are a Celiac or gluten-intolerant, don’t bother finding GF restaurants, as they are virtually non-existent. You can eat safely in Portugal, it just takes a little more effort. Cheers!

 

RECOMMENDED TRAVEL GEAR FOR TRAVEL TO PORTUGAL:

1.Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera: I made the switch from my huge DSLR and I wouldn’t go back. It’s light, compact, and takes amazing photos!

2. Sony 10-18mm Wide Angle Zoom Lens: this wide angle lens is the key to landscape shots. I use this lens more than the original and am super happy with it. It’s not cheap, but super worth it if you want to get those special nature shots. Honestly, I would purchase the Sony alpha 6000 camera body only and save up for this lens to go with it.

3. E Bags Packing Cubes: the biggest life changer to keep me packing light! This is my biggest travel gear obsession and I have NO idea how I traveled without them before.

4. LifeProof NUUD Waterproof Case (iPhone 6): this helps protect my phone from water, sand, dirt, and the numerous drops that incur while I travel. I love it!

5. GoPro Hero 4 Session: I am a proud GoPro ambassador and obsessed with GoPro selfie pics if you didn’t notice! (I have recently upgrade to the 5, but this is the one I used in all my Portugal photos). It’s super small, compact, and easy to travel with. Plus it’s so much fun to use! 🙂

6. GoPro Hero 5 Black: My newest addition and the BEST GoPro on the market. This is an essential item when you’re traveling solo to get all your cool shots (and of course underwater pics).

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used before on my own and that I truly love 🙂

Have you been to Lisbon? What was your favorite part? Did I miss anything? Do tell!

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What to do in Lisbon