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Discover the Top 10 Must-Visit Attractions in Bali


If you are looking for a new rhythm and an experience with many favourites, a visit to Bali should appeal to you.

Indonesia, with its more than 13,000 islands and hundreds of ethnic groups, has so much to offer! But for 15 days, we chose to focus on Bali, this island with its unique Hindu culture in the middle of an archipelago with an overwhelming Muslim majority.

The must-visit attractions in Bali

Kuta

In Kuta, for 3 days, our lifestyle was slower than usual. Our days were mainly spent swimming in the swimming pool, walking on the beach and in the commercial alleys and improving surfing skills for the boys.

Kuta Beach

Munduk

On the way to Munduk, we stopped at the beautiful Ulun Danu Beratan temple. Dedicated to Shiva, built on a lake and surrounded by mountains, this temple is renowned as one of the most beautiful in Bali.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

For 4 days, we took refuge in Munduk, in the remote areas of the island of Bali, amid mountains, rice fields, waterfalls and breathtaking vistas.

Melanting waterfall

Melanting waterfall

Red Coral Waterfall

Red Coral Waterfall

Munduk Waterfall

Munduk Waterfall

Rice Terrace Munduk

Rice Terrace Munduk

Twin Lake Wanagiri spot

Twin Lake Wanagiri spot

Waiting Line at Handara Golf

Waiting Line at Handara Golf

Lovina

We stopped by the famous Lovina Beach, where tourists take excursions to watch dolphins. But in order to do that, you have to get up early! And since we are late risers, we preferred to go on a snorkeling excursion during the afternoon. It’s too bad I didn’t bring my GoPro, because we rarely saw as many corals and fish as we did that day!

Snorkeling Trip at Lovina

Snorkeling Trip at Lovina

In the vicinity of Lovina, Brahmavihara-Arama is a Buddhist monastery with a strong Hindu influence. It was a beautiful discovery that was recommended by a local.

Brahmavihara Arama

Brahmavihara Arama

Brahmavihara Arama Gate

Brahmavihara Arama Gate

Ubud

While driving from Munduk to Ubud, I saw a huge snake on the side of the road! As I was the only one who saw it and no one in the car believed me, I turned around to find out about it. It was the right decision to make, because we met a man who was running a refuge and who presented some of the injured animals he rescued. And how unexpected when we saw these impressive snakes, iguanas, a giant bat, civets and an owl! Mateo, who loves animals, was delighted! Luka, on the other hand, was more suspicious but still very satisfied!

Flying fox encountered at a refuge

Flying fox encountered at a refuge

Owl encountered at a refuge

Owl encountered at a refuge

Ubud is a very special city that gives the feeling of being in the countryside. Its streets are very busy and traffic is chaotic. However, you can find yourself in the middle of a jungle or a rice field after a 10-minute walk. We spent a great deal of time watching a group of young people fly their kites in the middle of a rice field.

Kite Flying in Ubud

Kite Flying in Ubud

Ubud is the epicenter of Balinese culture and tradition. Spirituality, and Hindu temples by extension, are omnipresent. And the least we can say is that it is reflected in all the actions of its inhabitants! Their daily lives are dotted with a host of superstitious gestures and rituals featuring incantations and processions, in an attempt to invoke spiritual protection, blessings and luck.

Campuhan Ridge Walk

Campuhan Ridge Walk

Rice Fields in Ubud

Rice Fields in Ubud

Ubud Market

Ubud Market

A Temple in Ubud

A Temple in Ubud

Street Offerings in Bali

Street Offerings in Bali

Ubud Monkey Forest

Also in Ubud, we visited the Monkey Forest, in which more than 700 mischievous macaques live together almost peacefully. It is one of the most popular places in Ubud and with good reason! It was incredible to see so many monkeys everywhere.

Ubud Monkey Forest

Ubud Monkey Forest

Ubud Monkey Forest

Ubud Monkey Forest

Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah, or Elephant Cave, is another popular place in Ubud. The sanctuary that was built in the 9th century contains Hindu and Buddhist artifacts, but the main attraction is a cave-shaped temple with a beautifully carved facade.

Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah

Tirta Empul

On our way to Tirta Empul, we visited the beautiful rice terraces of Tegalalang, a very photogenic place like many others in Bali.

Tegalalang Rice Terrace

Tegalalang Rice Terrace

Tirta Empul is a temple that was founded in the 10th century, dedicated to Vishnu. It contains a purification bath filled by a sacred water source. It’s a highly spiritual site for Balinese people.

Holy Water at Tirta Empul Temple

Holy Water at Tirta Empul Temple

Gate at Tirta Empul

Gate at Tirta Empul

Pura Lempuyang Luhur

We took a day trip to visit the temple of Lempuyang Luhur. This temple is extremely popular because it is at the top of the bucket list of many Instagramers seeking recognition. It is due to a portal that points directly towards the majestic Agung volcano, which is still active and very often projects ashes. Well let me tell you that this place holds the highest prize for ridiculousness in the category of “Hypocrisy of Instagram”. First of all, it is a remote area where people have to drive 2 hours to get there (and another 2 hours to get back) from Ubud. Once at the temple, here is what you need to do in order to get the perfect picture and to generate thousands of new followers.

  1. Get to the end of the queue.
  2. Use the 2-hour wait to think about three photo poses.
  3. When your turn comes, hand your smartphone over to the guy who takes all the pictures.
  4. Run to the gate.
  5. Mimic your 3 photo poses. You have 10 seconds. Clic! Clic! Clic!
  6. Get out of the way! Next!

We didn’t have the courage to wait and we preferred to visit the temple. But if you want to know more about it, I invite you to type “lempuyang temple gate” on Google. The worst part of the story is that there is no water in front of the gate. It is the photo guy who holds a small mirror to simulate the reflection of the water, in order to make the photo even more fake.

View over Mount Agung from Pura Lempuyang Luhur

View over Mount Agung from Pura Lempuyang Luhur

Pura Lempuyang Luhur

Pura Lempuyang Luhur

Garuda Wisnu Kencana

We have moved to the small southern peninsula of the island for the last 2 nights. We went to Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, where we saw a monumental Hindu sculpture, the 4th largest in the world if you include the pedestal. There was a traditional dance performance and a fire dance ceremony to close the evening.

Garuda Wisnu Kencana

Garuda Wisnu Kencana

Garuda Wisnu Kencana

Garuda Wisnu Kencana

Garuda Wisnu Kencana Show

Garuda Wisnu Kencana Show

Garuda Wisnu Kencana Fire Dance

Garuda Wisnu Kencana Fire Dance

Uluwatu

The temple of Uluwatu sits at the tip of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Monkeys are known to be particularly malicious, and we have witnessed the stealing of a handbag and a cell phone by these little thieves.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu

Pura Luhur Uluwatu

For a better preparation

Itinerary

When we arrived in Bali, we chose to relax for 3 days in Kuta, a city near Denpasar airport, before setting off on an adventure tour of the island in a rented car. We then chose Munduk (4 nights), Ubud (6 nights) and Nusa Dua (2 nights) as departure spots for day trips.

Transportation

Our rental car was all messed up and dented. You’d think it was 30 years old and yet it only had 100,000 km on the odometer! In first gear at over 3000 rpm, the car made so much noise that we couldn’t hear ourselves at all. In second gear, things were going well on flat ground but as soon as the hill became steep, it was struggling a bit and it had to be downshifted to first gear. But miraculously, it has always taken us to our destination. Anyway, since people are everywhere and even in the countryside, we always drove slowly. In other words, it was a pleasure to drive in Bali 😊

Our rental car could fit four in the trunk

Our rental car could fit four in the trunk

Accomodation

We spent our first 3 nights in a beautiful suite at Best Western Kuta Beach, where the staff treated us like royalty. Our Diamond Select status at Best Western (achieved through a Status Match with our Platinum status at Marriott) has earned us fabulous breakfasts, welcome gifts, afternoon teas with appetizers, and a 50% discount on the excellent food at the hotel. Jessica shed a tear of joy as she ate their Mexican tacos because they were so good. The whole family enjoyed the beautiful swimming pool on the rooftop overlooking the sea. And it just cost us 8000 Best Western points per night, a bargain! A value of more than 300 USD for the 3 nights.

Our Suite at Best Western Kuta Beach

Our Suite at Best Western Kuta Beach

Swimming Pool at Best Western Kuta Beach

Swimming Pool at Best Western Kuta Beach

For 3 nights in Ubud, we moved to the Best Western Premier Agung Resort Ubud, for just 12,000 Best Western points at night. We were able to check in at 11 am in the morning and were offered a beautiful room with a view over the infinity pool. Our Diamond Select status provided us with fabulous breakfasts, afternoon teas, 50% off the restaurant’s excellent food, a free massage for Jessica and me, as well as a late check-out at 4 pm. A value of 380 USD for the 3 nights.

Best Western Premier Agung Resort Ubud

Best Western Premier Agung Resort Ubud

Our Room at Best Western Premier Agung Resort Ubud

Our Room at Best Western Premier Agung Resort Ubud

Swimming Pool at Best Western Premier Agung Resort Ubud

Swimming Pool at Best Western Premier Agung Resort Ubud

In Munduk, Ubud and Nusa Dua, we slept in very comfortable homestays and bungalows with breakfast included, which were booked with Agoda for 300.000 IDR (21 USD) per night on average. Moreover, hotel rates in Bali are generally so low that it would have made sense to only use our points for accommodation.

Our homestay in Ubud

Our homestay in Ubud

Bungalow in Bukit Peninsula

Bungalow in Bukit Peninsula

The accident

One of our worst fears happened in Bali after 12 months travelling. Mateo fell on a slippery surface and broke two bones in his right wrist. We received good care at the hospital in Ubud by a very professional team. Mateo got away with a half cast for a month. Fortunately, it was more fear than harm, we did not have to shorten our journey.

Food

Nasi Goreng, Gado-Gado, Sate Ayam and Sate Lilit are terms you will find in ALL restaurant menus if you visit Bali. The island’s cuisine is not very diversified, but it has the advantage of being good if it is well prepared.

Nasi Goreng (fried rice)

Nasi Goreng (fried rice)

Gado-gado

Gado-gado

Sate Ayam

Sate Ayam

Sate Lilit

Sate Lilit

Sauteed Dish

Sauteed Dish

In the surroundings of Munduk Waterfall, we came across a very special coffee producer. He regularly travels his coffee plantation in search of excrement from the twenty or so civets that live peacefully in his sanctuary. Feces contain undigested but naturally fermented coffee beans, which gives the coffee a more subtle bitter taste. Kopi Luwak, as it is called, is simply the most expensive coffee in the world. And we drank it!

Kopi Luwak Beans

Kopi Luwak Beans

Expenses

Bali was undoubtedly the destination where we spent the least during our entire trip. The cost of our stay for our family of 4 is:

  • 14.663.000 IDR (1,011 USD);
  • 978.000 IDR (67 USD) per day;
  • 244.000 IDR (17 USD) per person and per day.

In detail:

Expense CategoryAmount Spent
Flight1.991.000 IDR / 138 USD
Accomodation2.867.000 IDR / 199 USD
Transport (including gas)3.025.000 IDR / 210 USD
Eating out4.282.000 IDR / 298 USD
Groceries698.000 IDR / 49 USD
Activities1.800.000 IDR / 125 USD
Total14.663.000 IDR / 1,020 USD

In a nutshell

Dates2019-05-15 to 2019-05-30
Number of days15
Cities we visitedKuta, Munduk, Ubud, Nusa Dua
InboundFrom Malaysia by plane
OutboundTo Singapore by plane
Mode of transportCar rental
Distance travelled (excluding flights)606 km
Number of photos taken5500 (367 per day)
CurrencyThe Indonesian Rupiah (1 USD = 14.379 IDR)

Conclusion

We were delighted by our stay in Bali, which many consider a paradise on earth. Its remarkable beauty, its luxuriant vegetation, its surprising culture and its low cost of living are undoubtedly the major assets of this island. 

It’s time to switch scenery. But we are not going too far. Singapore, here we come!

==> Download all our photos of Indonesia for free!

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What to Do in Singapore? (With Photos & Itinerary)


What to do in Singapore is a legitimate question when seeking to maximize your travel experience. This city has everything to seduce! Four things struck us in this city of 5.9 million inhabitants: its utmost cleanliness, its lush greenery, its incredible wealth and the horrendous heat!

What to do in Singapore?

Marina Bay

Singapore’s main attractions are located around Marina Bay, which also represents the city’s historic heart. Among them:

  • The Merlion, this statue with a lion’s head and a fish body has become an icon of the city;
  • Marina Bay Sands, the world-famous hotel with its infinity pool;
  • Garden by the Bay and its imposing super-trees;
  • The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which contains what would be a large ( if not huge) Buddha tooth that was discovered in 1980 after a collapse of a stupa (unfortunately it was forbidden to take a picture of the tooth).

Merlion

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands

Spectra - A Light & Water Show

Spectra – A Light & Water Show

Rain Oculus at The Shoppes

Rain Oculus at The Shoppes

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay

Marina Bay

Marina Bay

Singapore City Gallery

Singapore City Gallery

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

In addition, we visited the Singapore Botanical Garden, which is also the only Singaporean site listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And what a magnificent park!

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Changi Airport

Singapore’s Changi Airport, which has been recognized for years as the best airport in the world, is an attraction in itself! In addition to being the 6th busiest airport in the world, it has been designed for the well-being of its passengers. Thus, it has a large number of artworks, a swimming pool with Jacuzzi, two complimentary movie theaters, entertainment/games rooms, playgrounds for children, relaxation rooms, fish ponds, a butterfly garden, cactus and water lily gardens, as well as orchid and sunflower gardens.

Changi Airport Butterfly Garden

Changi Airport Butterfly Garden

Changi Airport Game Center

Changi Airport Game Center

The Kinetic Rain is a moving sculpture featuring 1216 bronze droplets that rise and fall with perfect synchronicity.

Changi Airport Kinetic Sculpture

Changi Airport Kinetic Sculpture

Recently, a new section of the airport was inaugurated: the Jewel. And it bears its name very well, because it is a real jewel! Located in the very heart of the airport, it is an incredible tourist and commercial complex enclosed in a huge glass dome. In its center is the world’s largest indoor waterfall, with a height of 40 meters, as well as a forest of 3,000 trees and 60,000 shrubs.

Jewel at Changi Airport

Jewel at Changi Airport

For a better preparation

Itinerary

A brief history lesson: in 1965, Singapore was expelled from the Malaysian federation because of the economic and political differences between the Malaysian Muslim majority and the Chinese who were the majority Singapore. Within a single generation, the city-state has transitioned from an emerging to a developed country. Singapore is now a first-class country in several areas: the most technologically advanced nation, the city with the highest investment potential, the smartest city in the world, the safest city in the world, the most competitive economy in the world, etc.

Lifestyle

Singapore is known to be very expensive but it is possible to spend a few days there without having to sell a kidney. We rented a room with a shared bathroom to reduce the cost of accommodation.

The city-state has a rich and diverse cuisine, with influences from China, Malaysia, Indonesia and India. So not a single second did we ever think of cooking! We chose to eat in the famous “Hawker Centers”. Scattered throughout the city, these establishments offer an incredible variety of foods at ridiculously low prices. And since a host of stands at these “Hawker Centers” are among the Michelin recommendations year after year, we have been eating like we never did before!

Maxwell Food Centre

Maxwell Food Centre

Baozi

Baozi

Chicken Rice

Chicken Rice

Roast Duck and Pork

Roast Duck and Pork

Wonton Noodle and Char Siu

Wonton Noodle and Char Siu

As our visit to Singapore was in line with the durian season, all the Singaporeans we met were telling us to eat it. So we didn’t deprive ourselves of this opportunity! Our accommodation was located in the heart of a neighborhood full of durian shops, so every night we would do a tour of the dealers. We became regulars, so much so that our favorite seller would keep his most beautiful pieces for us. Like me, he spoke Teochew (from Southeast China), so we could talk in our common mother tongue. We tasted almost all the varieties: Mao Shan Wang, XO, Red Prawn, D101, D13, from the sweetest to the bitterest, firm and creamy, sticky and fibrous, in all shades from yellow to orange.

Luka ate it sassily. It must be in the genes! My parents taught me not to be difficult when it comes to food. And fortunately because nowadays I eat everything. Since eating is an important part of travelling, we in turn pass on these beautiful values to our boys!

A Durian Shop

A Durian Shop

Durian Tasting

Durian Tasting

Expenses

Although our crave for durian has significantly increased our cost on food, I consider our spending in Singapore to be very reasonable. The cost of our stay for our family of 4 is:

  • 1,464.00 SGD (1,049.70 USD);
  • 183.00 SGD (131.21 USD) per day;
  • 46.00 SGD (32.98 USD) per person and per day.

In detail:

Expense CategoryAmount Spent
Flight195.00 SGD / 139.94 USD
Accomodation761.00 SGD / 546.14 USD
Transport138.00 SGD / 99.04 USD
Eating out200.00 SGD / 143.53 USD
Groceries170.00 SGD / 122.00 USD
Activities0.00 SGD
Total1,464.00 SGD / 1,050.66 USD

In a nutshell

Dates2019-05-30 to 2019-06-03; 2019-06-05 to 2019-06-08
Number of days2 stays: 8 days in total
Cities we visitedSingapore
InboundFrom Indonesia by plane
OutboundTo Germany by plane
Mode of transportTrain, bus, taxi
Distance travelled (excluding flights)138 km
Number of photos taken1850 (231 per day)
CurrencyThe Singapore Dollar (1.00 USD = 1.39 SGD)

Conclusion

Breathtaking is the word that comes to mind when we think about our stay in Singapore! Just the thought about eating durian again in its best season makes us want to return there. But until then, it is with great sorrow that we must now close our Asian chapter. I now invite you to join us on our next adventure in Morocco! Yippee!

==> Download all our photos of Singapore for free!

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Tongariro Alpine Crossing: New Zealand’s Best 1 Day Hike


If you manage to only do one hike during your visit to New Zealand, make sure it is the Tongariro Crossing on the North Island.

It is considered New Zealand’s best 1-day hike.

In many circles, it is considered one of the best in the world.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Located in Tongariro National Park, this 19.4km day hike takes you through the Mangatepopo Valley with magnificent views of Mount Ngauruhoe.

If the mountain looks familiar it is because Peter Jackson chose this location to be the dreaded Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings.

Tongariro Crossing Facts:

How Long is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

The Tongariro Crossing is a 19.4km point to point hike.

How difficult is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

I would classify the hike as strenuous. The elevation gain is 760m and there are some very steep sections.

Where does the Tongariro Alpine Crossing Start?

The most common starting point is at the Mangatepopo car park which is located 16km from National Park Village on the North Island of New Zealand.

What kind of hike is the Tongariro Crossing?

The Tongariro Crossing is a point-to-point hike and not a loop so we recommend that you book a shuttle to make things easier.

There are quite a few shuttle services that will arrange this. We based ourselves in National Park Village and used Tongariro Crossing Shuttles.

They drop you off at one end and then pick you up when you finish. This is perfect since you will probably be pretty tired after six-plus hours of hiking.

It is important that you are prepared for any type of weather. Once you are out on the trail you do not want to be caught unprepared.

We suggest checking the weather and volcanic activity on the Tongariro Crossing official website so that you can get the most up to date information before you head out on the trek.

Start of the Hike

Start of Tongariro Alpine Crossing at Soda Springs

The day started early as we took a shuttle from National Park Village to the start of the hike at Mangatepopo car park.

It can get really cold in the morning and we were bundled up to start things off.

The beginning of the hike has you hiking through the beautiful alpine brush at a moderate incline, for about 50 minutes.

You can see how the landscape starts to change as you hike over volcanic soil and the first sight comes into focus.

It is fairly easy hiking and gets you warmed up for what is to come.

Mount Doom

Mount Doom on the Tongariro Crossing

As you make your way out of the alpine vegetation you get your first glimpse of Mount Doom.

It is impressive. But so is the incline that lies ahead.

This is where the hiking gets more difficult. The grade gets much steeper but the views also get better.

We stopped here for a quick break and naturally took some photos of this iconic scene.

Deb and I quickly understood why this is one of the most beautiful 1 day hikes in the world.

South Crater

Devil's Staircase on the South Crater

As we make our way past Soda Springs on our way to the South Crater the views of the valley below are simply breathtaking.

The track may be steep – You go from about 1200 metres above sea level to 1600 in a rather short time – but the views are worth it.

The track is very uneven here as you are walking over lava flows and volcanic rocks.

There is a reason they call it the “Devil’s Staircase”.

Make sure to take your time here, snap photos, and take in the view. It gives you a great sense of the beauty of the North Island.

But the best views still lie ahead.

Red Crater

The Red Crater on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Walking along the South Crater is flat and pretty easy, but as you approach the Red Crater it gets quite windy and you end up scrambling a little to keep your footing.

Take care here as it can get a little dangerous if you are not paying attention.

From the highest point on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, we had incredible views of the emerald lakes, The Oturere Valley, Mt. Ruapehu, and what seems to be all of the North Island of New Zealand.

View from the Red Crater on the Tongariro Crossing

It will literally take your breath away. This is what you have been hiking for and the reward is well worth the effort.

We took some time here to take it all in and appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature that seemed to surround us.

Descending to the Emerald Lakes

Emerald Lakes Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Now the fun begins.

With the air thick with the smell of sulfur, we headed downhill towards the thermal pools at a relatively quick pace. The soil is loose and you can almost slide down it.

It kind of reminded me of our scree descent from Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.

Just be careful as there are steep drop-offs on each side and if you did fall you wouldn’t be stopping very fast.

The Emerald Lakes were by far the most impressive thing we saw on the hike.

The shades of green, yellow, red and blue that give the lakes their impressive color are from the minerals derived from the surrounding rocks.

Even though the smell of sulfur here was pretty bad I felt like I couldn’t take my eyes off these beautiful creations.

Blue Lake

Blue lake on the Tongariro Crossing hike

I thought it was going to be all downhill from the Red Crater but I was wrong. The track pitched up again as we made our way to Blue Lake.

This lake is considered “Tapu” or sacred. Nobody may touch or drink from it.

After the Blue Lake most of the impressive scenes are behind you so don’t forget to turn around and take a look.

This trek is meant to be appreciated from all angles.

Ketetahi Car Park and Shelter

Ketetahi hut Car Park

As the hike starts to come to an end the scenery never lets up.

Making your way down to the car park we continued to steal looks back at the track we had just done.

We could see steam coming from the Te Maari Crater and were reminded that this is still an active volcano.

In fact, you will see many signs on this part of the track reminding you of that.

The vegetation changes as you get lower and gets even boggy so remember not to leave the trail.

The End of the Hike

The End of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing day hike

The final 30 minuted of the hike is pretty uneventful and you will be tired.

There is an optional short track that branches off the main one that takes you down to a waterfall if you still have the energy.

We actually made haste here as we were quite tired and wanted to get back to the parking lot for the shuttle.

Tongariro Crossing day hike length

There is no doubt in our minds that the Tongariro Crossing was one of the best day hikes we have ever done.

The weather was fantastic, the views unforgettable and the adventure-meter was high.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing was definitely the highlight of the North Island of New Zealand for us.


Read More About New Zealand

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.





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3 Weeks in Morocco – 14 Stunning Places to Visit


Discover the most beautiful attractions of Morocco in 3 weeks with this itinerary that will help you prepare your next trip. Morocco dazzled us with its nature, culture, architecture and food. Morocco is also the only country of the African continent on our world tour.

The stunning places to visit in Morocco

Casablanca

On our way from Marrakech to Rabat, we had a quick break in Casablanca to enjoy the very impressive Hassan-II Mosque, with its 210-metre high minaret! It is among the largest mosques in the world, and it is partly built on the sea.

Casablanca Hassan II Mosque

Casablanca Hassan II Mosque

Casablanca Hassan II Mosque

Rabat

The medina (i.e. the ancient city) of Rabat has conquered us with its beauty, its atmosphere and the smells of its souk, sometimes reminded us of Turkey and sometimes of the Greek islands. The atmosphere and decor change drastically from morning to evening. We were dazzled by what surrounded us on every step and every turn of a street.

The Kasbah of the Udayas is an ancient 12th century Berber fortress. The view over the sea and beaches from its heights is magnificent. We enjoyed its narrow streets that have an air of Mykonos and Santorini.

Kasbah of the Udayas

Kasbah of the Udayas

The Mohammed-V mausoleum is a royal tomb that houses the tombs of King Mohammed V (grandfather of the current King of Morocco) and his sons, Prince Moulay Abdallah and King Hassan II. On the esplanade of the mausoleum is the Hassan Tower, which is the minaret of an unfinished 12th century mosque.

Mohammed V Mausoleum

Mohammed V Mausoleum

Hassan Tower

Hassan Tower

Asilah

Heading towards of Tangier, we stopped in Assilah, also known as “the pearl of Morocco“. It is a small fortified town that borders the ocean and stands out for the immaculate whiteness of its houses. Yet it was not very touristy. We enjoyed getting lost in the medina while admiring the many works of art on the walls.

Asilah Street Art

Asilah Street Art

Asilah Street Art

Asilah Street Art

Tangier

Tangier is located at the tip of Morocco, a few kilometres from Spain. It is the second largest economic city in the country and indeed. Once again, we decided to settle in the heart of the medina. People there address us in Spanish. We enjoyed sipping a mint tea in the Petit Socco’s square, while we watched life unfold around us. Fresh figs and oranges are a real treat! And cheap too!

Tangier Kasbah

Tangier Kasbah

Tangier Medina

Tangier Medina

When we were on the Greek island of Naxos, we visited the cave of Zeus. In Tangier, we visited the one of his son, Hercules (or Heracles for the Greeks). According to the legend, Hercules rested in this cave after his 11th work, which consisted in killing the 100-headed dragon in order to grab the apples that guaranteed immortality. The cave of Hercules, which is next to the summer palace of the King of Morocco, is located under Cape Spartel, which separates the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Caves of Hercules

Caves of Hercules

Achakar Beach

Achakar Beach

Tetouan

In Tetouan, we explored the medina which, according to UNESCO experts, would be “one of the smallest of the Moroccan medinas, but unquestionably the most complete and it has been largely untouched by subsequent outside influences”. And without a doubt, I give them the benefit of a doubt!

Bab Al Okla Tetouan

Bab Al Okla Tetouan

Tetouan Medina

Tetouan Medina

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen made me drool with the pictures I saw on the Internet long before the beginning of our trip, so much so that it was one of my Top 3 Wanderlust destinations that I was most eager to visit with Cappadocia (Turkey) and Santorini (Greece). And I can say once again that the destination has exceeded all my expectations!

Chefchaouen is a small tourist town perched on the Rif Mountains. Its particularity is that the houses of its medina are painted in all shades of blue, which is why it is called the “blue pearl of Morocco“. It is a paradise for photography lovers.

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen View Over the City

Chefchaouen View Over the City

Volubilis and Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

Volubilis is an ancient city of Berber origin that was captured by the Romans. The architecture of its ruins is therefore characteristic of those found everywhere around the Mediterranean. Later in the 8th century, it was the seat of the idrisside dynasty, whose founder is Idriss I. The latter, who was the great-great-great-great-grandson of Prophet Mohammed and introduced Shiism to the region, is considered to be the founder of Morocco. His mausoleum is located in the beautiful town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, a few minutes away from Volubilis.

Volubilis

Volubilis

Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

Meknes

Meknes is one of the 4 imperial cities of Morocco, with Fez, Marrakech and Rabat. Its medina has survived the test of time and is immersed in traditions.

Bab Mansour

Bab Mansour

Royal Stables

Royal Stables

Fez

The history of Fez is closely linked to that of Morocco. Of the 4 imperial cities, it is the one that has carried the title for the longest time. Its nicknames can testify to this: Athens of Africa, the Queen of Maghreb and the Mecca of the West. There is the Al Quaraouiyine University, which is considered to be the world’s oldest university still in operation. The leather tanneries that can be found in the medina are particularly incredible.

Chaouwara Tanneries

Chaouwara Tanneries

Médersa Attarine

Médersa Attarine

Merzouga

The road to Merzouga from Fez is a real delight for the eyes and offers breathtaking landscapes with notably:

  • The village of Ifran and its alpine style architecture;
  • A cedar forest with Barbary monkeys;
  • A gigantic water reservoir in the middle of the Atlas Mountains;
  • Rissani and its fabulous souk which plunges us into a very remote era;
  • Many picture-perfect oases, canyons and villages.
Cattle in the Atlas Mountains

Cattle in the Atlas Mountains

Tafilalet Oasis

Tafilalet Oasis

Rissani Market

Rissani Market

While at the same time, Europe was experiencing unprecedented temperature records due to a heat wave from Morocco, we decided to throw ourselves into the fire to see if it was burning. We have taken up residence at the gateway of the Sahara, at the foot of the gigantic sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, and more precisely in Merzouga. In the early summer, we had been bathed in extreme temperatures as high as 46 degrees. Picture this! As a result of the dry weather, our sweat was not noticeable and although we drank 4 Liters of water a day, we hardly urinated at all. My lips actually chapped and the boys in turn saw their noses pissing blood. Yeah, but it was so much fun!

Since the beginning of our great adventure, we have already experienced some amazing things in the middle of the desert, such as when we met the Bedouins in Jordan’s Wadi Rum, when we witnessed torrential rains on the sand dunes of Oman, or when we were attacked by swarms of flies in the Australian outback. But that occasion was very special. First of all, because the dunes, which could exceed 150 meters in height, were absolutely monumental! Then, because we reached our camp across the dunes, on camel back and under a magnificent sunset. And finally because we saw the most fabulous starry sky of our lives. To be honest, my camera was overheating because I couldn’t stop pressing the shutter release button!

Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi

The Todgha and Dades Gorges

Our super Moroccan road-trip continued through the beautiful winding roads of the High Atlas, renowned for its breathtaking scenery. Oasis, village, kasbahs: for nature lovers and road trips, it’s a sure hit!

The Gorges du Todgha are a series of canyons with imposing limestone walls, which can be as high as 400m!

Todgha Gorge

Todgha Gorge

Tinghir

Tinghir

Tinghir

Tinghir

Not far from there, among the most beautiful scenic roads in the world, the Dades Gorges offer a breathtaking view. We stopped on an extremely winding stretch of road to admire the most spectacular viewpoint.

Dades Gorge

Dades Gorge

We will also remember the “Monkey Fingers”, or these rocky formations that oddly resemble…monkey fingers.

Monkey Fingers at Dades Valley

Monkey Fingers at Dades Valley

Aït-Ben-Haddou

In the outskirts of Ouarzazate, we would not have missed Ait Ben Haddou, a fortified Berber village built on a hillside that was compared to the Mont-Saint-Michel during the French protectorate. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is known for hosting the shooting stages of well-known films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Last Temptation of Christ, Gladiator, Babel and Game of Thrones’ Season 3.

Aït Ben Haddou

Aït Ben Haddou

Essaouira

In the Essaouira region there are argan trees as far as the eye can see. Goats enjoy the leaves and fruits of this tree, which the locals cultivate to produce argan oil. Morocco is the world’s main producer of argan oil.

Goats on an Argania Tree

Goats on an Argania Tree

On the Atlantic coast, a small quiet town called Essaouira already existed in the time of the Phoenicians. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, maybe Mogador speaks a little more! At the time of its great splendor during the Portuguese administration, Mogador was the diplomatic capital and the most important port of the country. Its imposing fortress and enormous port still bear witness to the glory of its past!

Essaouira Waterfront

Essaouira Waterfront

We enjoyed walking around its medina, which is now part of UNESCO’s heritage. In the morning, the boats return to the port to unload their catches. Its bustling port was then invaded by fish merchants and thousands of seagulls!

Essaouira Medina

Essaouira Medina

Essaouira Port

Essaouira Port

Sidi Kaouki Beach

Sidi Kaouki Beach

Marrakech

Marrakech is the most touristic place of Morocco, and we understand why! The ochre city has an exhilarating charm. Its medina (UNESCO heritage) and its souk are magnificent!

Marrakech Medina

Marrakech Medina

Marrakech Medina

Marrakech Medina

Koutoubia

Koutoubia

The world famous Jamma el-Fna square in Marrakech is very lively with its snake charmers, fire spitters, monkey shows, street vendors, storytellers, dancers and fortune tellers. Within it, all sensations are tenfold. The smells of spices, street food and horse droppings merge endlessly. The sounds of crowds, songs and cymbals rise in unity. As we walk through it, we feel the dozens of voracious looks on us. Each picture I take of a scene has become an opportunity for those who feel targeted by my lens to get a few dirhams from me. We are being approached from all sides to have a drink, a meal, a ride on a horse, to buy a trinket or to give a coin. With each step, I was thrown a “Ni Hao”, a “Japan”, a “Malaysia”, a “Thailand”, or a “Jackie Chan”. And in the evening, the excitement is at its height. In short, this Jamma el-Fna square is one of the most exotic places we have ever known!

Jemaa el-Fna

Jemaa el-Fna

Story Teller at Jemaa el-Fna

Story Teller at Jemaa el-Fna

For a better preparation

Itinerary

After landing at the airport of Marrakech, we immediately went on a road trip around the country, in our rental car. Our itinerary was defined as follows: Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, Tetouan, Chefchaouen, Volubilis, Meknes, Fez, Merzouga, the Todgha and the Dades gorges, Ouarzazate, Ait-Ben-Haddou, Essaouira, Marrakech. At the end of our stay in Morocco, we visited 8 of the 9 Moroccan sites listed as UNESCO heritage sites.

Accomodation

Most of the time, we chose to stay in the medinas, in the heart of the city’s attractions, which are generally popular districts with easy access to shops. Hotel prices are generally very affordable on Booking.com.

In the medina of Chefchaouen, by pure chance, the staircase of our apartment which was rented for 2 nights led to the most Instagram worthy alley in the whole city, and perhaps even in Morocco! Imagine when we were leaving the apartment and several cameras were aimed at us. We felt like the Queen of England when she left her Buckingham Palace. All the same!

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

In Meknes, we spent two nights in a riad – a traditional house – with a sublime architecture and whose owner is extraordinarily kind! We strongly recommend Riad Hiba in Meknes!

Riad Hiba, Meknes

Riad Hiba, Meknes

In Fez, we indulged in a touch of luxury. We stayed in the 5-star Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace, where we were upgraded to a superb junior suite. A value of 250 USD per night, at a cost of 17500 Bonvoy points.

Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace

Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace

In Merzouga, we slept one night in a camp that can only be reached on camels or by Jeep. With a candlelit dinner, a campfire to the rhythm of Berber music and a magnificent starry sky to top it all off, it was an extraordinary experience. Have I also mentioned the sunrise! (photo below)

Camping at Erg Chebbi

Camping at Erg Chebbi

In Marrakech, we were upgraded to an Ambassador Suite at Le Méridien N’Fis Hotel, a category 2 Marriott hotel. A value of 330 USD per night, at a cost of 12500 points.

Le Méridien N'Fis

Transportation

From Marrakech, we rented a small Fiat Panda to tour the country.

Our first rental car

Our first rental car

In the second part of our trip, for the travels in Marrakech and Essaouira, we opted for a Dacia Dokker.

Our second rental car

Our second rental car

Le Méridien N’Fis

Food

Harira, tajine, rfissa, couscous… Moroccan cuisine is abundant and delicious. We became addicted to mint tea at the end of each meal, and also at any other time of the day!

Harira

Harira

Lamb Tagine

Lamb Tagine

Kefta Tajin

Kefta Tajin

Rfissa

Rfissa

Couscous

Couscous

Having Moroccan Tea

Having Moroccan Tea

Cactus Fruits

Cactus Fruits

Expenses

In the souks throughout Morocco, the merchants frequently told us the words “It’s cheap!”. At the time, we didn’t believe them. It is only after leaving the country that I realize that they were right. Morocco is really cheap! The cost of our stay for our family of 4 is:

  • 21585 MAD (2248 USD);
  • 981 MAD (102 USD) per day;
  • 245 MAD (25.50 USD) per person and per day.

In detail:

Expense CategoryAmount Spent
Flight2338 MAD (244 USD)
Accomodation6547 MAD (682 USD)
Transport (including gas)6790 MAD (707 USD)
Eating out4010 MAD (418 USD)
Groceries1565 MAD (163 USD)
Activities335 MAD (35 USD)
Total21585 MAD (2248 USD)

In a nutshell

Dates2019-06-16 to 2019-07-08
Number of days22
Cities we visitedCasablanca, Rabat, Asilah, Tangier, Tetouan, Chefchaouen, Meknes, Fes, Merzouga, Ouarzazate, Essaouira, Marrakech
InboundFrom France by plane
OutboundTo Italy by plane
Mode of transportRental car
Distance travelled (car, foot)2936 km
Number of photos taken7600 (345 per day)
CurrencyThe Moroccan Dirham (1 USD = 9.6 MAD)

Conclusion

To be honest, we did not expect to experience so much greatness in the landscapes and diversity of climates in Morocco. This country has enchanted us far beyond our expectations. And it is with great pleasure that we recommend everyone to visit it!

And now it’s time for gelatos and espressos as we fly to… Italy!

==> Download all our photos of Morocco!

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17 Fun Independence Day Facts to Celebrate July 4


Happy 4th of July!!!

This is America’s Day! It was on July 4th, 1776 that The United States became an independent nation. From that day forward, July 4th has been known as Independence Day!

Who did the United States gain independence from? Britain of course. Before that, the US was a British colony, but they didn’t like that.

It was by winning the American Revolutionary War that took place from 1775–1783 that they finally won indepencence.

Another fun fact: The United States won it with the help of France!

Independence Day Celebrations

Independence Day is a time to break out the barbecue, stock up on fireworks, eat a lot of hot dogs, and drink a lot of Budweiser Beer.

Hot dogs and fireworks may sound like strange things to mention, but after doing some research on Independence Day, we found out that hot dogs and fireworks have a lot to do with America’s holiday.

There are a lot of other quirky facts about July 4th as well. So we thought we’d round them all up in one place for you.

Fun and Quirky July 4th Facts

July 4th is the United State National Day and most patriotic day of the year. But it wasn’t until 1941 that Independence Day was declared a nation paid holiday.

With red white and blue blowing in the wind, Americans celebrate in their backyards and get together at night for exciting fireworks displays all over the country.

It’s pretty similar to Canada’s July 1st celebration. Our patriotic celebration happens just three days earlier than our neighbours to the South.

The first weekend in July is a big one in North America.

There’s a fact for you – Canada and the US both celebrate long weekends together in July.

Independence Day Facts

1. Statue of Liberty

independence day facts | statue of liberty

The Statue of Liberty is America’s symbol of freedom. The torch represents enlightenment and it lights the path to liberty and freedom. The official name is “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

It was designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi just in time for the centennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence.

The tablet she is holding has the date July 4, 1776 engraved on it.

2. Three Presidents Died on July 4th.

  • Thomas Jefferson – Jul 4, 1826
  • John Adams – July 4 1826
  • James Monroe – July 4, 1831

3. Two Presidents Died on the Same Day – July

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence and both died on the same day. Weird.

4.  Born on the 4th of July

President Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4th, 1872, putting him forever into the history books.

Tom Cruise starred in the movie Born on the Fourth of July; that really has nothing to do with Independence Day, but the title works for this post. His birthday is July 3rd. Hmm.

5. Fireworks

Each year Americans light about 200 million pounds of fireworks! And most of them are imported from China – $247,100,000 worth. 

6. American Flag

65% of Americans own an American Flag. And you guessed, most are made in China.

7. Could have been a Turkey instead of an Eagle

turkey independence day

Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be a Turkey. He said the bald eagle is a bird of bad moral character, the turkey is a more respectable bird.

8. Road Trip

The First week of July is typically the busiest travel week of the year in the United States. (Something tells this year will be quite different)

Popular American Road Trips are The California Coast, Route 66, Black Hills of South Dakota, the Florida Keys, and many more! Americans love a road trip!

9. More Coincidences on the 4th of July

Future Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both signed the Declaration of Independence. And yes, they are the guys that both died on the same day.

10. Philippines celebrates July 4 after Independence from the United States

Ironically, on July 4th, 1946, the Treaty of Manila was signed in the Philippines giving them independence from…The United States.

11. Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushshmore Independence Day

There are 4 Presidents on Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Thomas Jefferson Signed the Declaration of Independence.

Controversy of Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore was built on sacred Lakota land. Donald Trump plans on holding July 4 celebrations there in 2020.

crazy horse memorial near mount rushmore
You feel really small when you stand next to the head of the Crazy Horse Memorial

The nearby Crazy Horse Memorial is just 16 miles from Mount Rushmore and is just as impressive. It pays tribute to Crazy Horse, one of the last hold outs to surrender to the American government.

Designer, Korczak Ziolkowski promised the Lakota People that no federal funding would be involved and the project has relied on public funding for more than half a century. Read more here.

12. Sign Your John Hancock

The Term “Sign Your John Hancock”  comes from an actual guy named John Hancock.

He was the president of the Continental Congress and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

13. Hot Diggidy Dog!

The favourite food for the 4th of July is the Hot Dog.

America consumes about 150 million hot dogs on this date. (poor little piggies)

14. Movies and July 4th

will smith independence day

The Biggest Blockbuster movies of the year open on Independence Day weekend.

But Will Smith, he is king of the Independence Day openers with five out of the top 20 hits opening on this date in history.

Some Notable July 4th Weekend Movie Openings. 

  • Independence Day starring – Will Smith
  • Men in Black I & II – Will Smith
  • Hancock – Will Smith
  • Wild Wild West – Will Smith
  • Spiderman – Far From Home
  • Transformers and Transformers Dark of the Moon
  • Spiderman 2
  • War of the Worlds
  • Terminator 2 & 3 (Plus Terminator Genysis)
  • Armageddon

Note: Will Smith stars in five of the top 20 Independence Day Movies

15. So what is Independence Day

  • Independence Day celebrates America’s Independence from Britain. 
  • The Declaration of Independence was signed on August 2nd, 1776.

16. July 2

Congress officially declared its independence from Britain on July 2nd, 1776. the vote on Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence was nearly unanimous.

John Adams assisted in the draft of the Declaration of Independence and felt that Independence Day should be celebrated on July 2nd.

17. August 2nd 1776

Although it is widely believed that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, Only John Hancock and Charles Thompson signed it on July 4.

The rest of the 56 delegates from 13 colonies actually signed the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776, to make it official.

It was exactly a month after its declaration (July 2, 1776) , on August 2, 1776, that it became official.

Why did they choose July 4th? July 4th was the day it was officially adopted and it had a couple of signatures, so why not?

Do you have any fun Independence Day Facts? What is the biggest patriotic celebration in your country? Is the beginning of July a long weekend for you too?

facts about Independence Day | July 4th

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.





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5 Highlights of a Visit to Northern Italy and Slovenia


Favorites in Northern Italy and Slovenia are relatively easy to find.  Italy is a country that we highly appreciate, mainly for its historical, cultural and gastronomic heritage. It is a country that is dear to us because we return there whenever we have the opportunity. And this time, our Canadian friends, the Malicki family, joined us for 14 days of pure joy, as part of a road-trip along the Adriatic coast, including a visit to Slovenia and Croatia.

The Highlights in Northern Italy and Slovenia

Verona

We made a compulsory visit to Verona, the romantic city that William Shakespeare used to stage the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet. There is Juliette’s house and her balcony. But Verona has much more history to offer than a fictional story. The city has the richest collection of Roman remains in Northern Italy! Its Roman amphitheatre, built 2000 years ago with a capacity of 30,000 spectators, is amongst the best preserved.

Casa di Giulietta

Piazza dei Signori

Piazza dei Signori

Verona Arena

Verona Arena

Venice

Since the beginning of our world tour, we visited the “Venice of the North” (Amsterdam and Bruges), the “Little Venice” (Colmar), the “Venice of the East” (Udaipur), the “Venice of Asia” (Bangkok). We also knew the “Venice of the Alps” (Annecy), Venice of Los Angeles and the “The Venetian” of Las Vegas and Macao. But the TRUE Venice, the “Serenissima” with its eternal reflections, the “City of the Doges”, the “Queen of the Adriatic”, the ” City of Waters “, the ” City of Masks “, the ” City of Bridges ” or the ” Floating City “, has no equal in the world. Do I need to introduce it to you? The Grand Canal, the Rialto, St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, the gondolas, the vaporettos and the carnival. A trip on the Grand Canal by vaporetto is a must! That’s all said and done.

Venice Grand Canal

Venice Grand Canal

Venice Grand Canal

Venice Grand Canal

Santa Maria della Salute Basilica

Santa Maria della Salute Basilica

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

Ponte dei Sospiri

Ponte dei Sospiri

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

Basilica di San Marco

Basilica di San Marco

Trieste

Back from Croatia, we discover the quiet port city of Trieste. In the shade of its neighbor Venice, Trieste is not particularly touristic but still deserves a short stop. It has an atmosphere that is both Italian and Central European.

Ponte Rosso

Ponte Rosso

Piazza Unità d'Italia

Piazza Unità d’Italia

San Giusto Castle

San Giusto Castle

Parrocchia di Santa Maria Maggiore

Parrocchia di Santa Maria Maggiore

Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas

Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas

Milan

We spent a day in Milan, a city we already knew well. Our visit was limited to a stroll around Milan Cathedral and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, while enjoying a gelato and an espresso. Milan Cathedral, which I consider to be the most beautiful Catholic church in the world, is still as magnificent and impressive as ever. It must be said that this massive mountain of marble is one of the world’s largest churches and it took 6 centuries to be completed!

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Novara, the city where we spent two nights, has a beautiful and large cathedral, whose dome reminds us of that of the Capitol of Washington.

Novare

Novare

Lake Como

Lago Maggiore

Ljubljana

To reach Croatia from Italy, we had to cross Slovenia. It was a perfect opportunity to explore Ljubljana, the capital of this small country. A tour of the city on a tourist train gave us a good taste of the city. According to the Greek legend, Jason and his Argonauts killed a dragon in a swamp near what would later become Ljubljana. The dragon is now the symbol of Ljubljana. The Dragon Bridge and Ljubljana Castle are the main attractions of the city.

Unfortunately, we did not plan to spend more time in the country. Too bad, because the landscapes we crossed were amazing!

Dragon Bridge

Dragon Bridge

Franciscan Church of the Annunciation

Franciscan Church of the Annunciation

Ljubljana Cathedral

Ljubljana Cathedral

The Ljubljana Castle

The Ljubljana Castle

For a better preparation

Itinerary

As Milan Malpensa is the 2nd largest hub of renowned low-cost airline Easyjet (after London Gatwick), our flight from Marrakech to Malpensa cost us only 21 EUR per person, and only 28 EUR per person to fly from Malpensa to Madrid.

Our final destination was Croatia, so we arranged our itinerary in order to enjoy 5 days in Italy and Slovenia. We therefore chose to spend 2 nights in Vicenza, so as to be able to easily reach Verona, Venice and Ljubljana (Slovenia), on our way to Croatia. On the way back from Croatia, we discovered Trieste, before settling for 2 nights in Novara, a few kilometers from Malpensa, where we were able to make excursions to Milan and Lake Maggiore.

In the past, we had already been to Venice, Verona, Vicenza (3 times each for me, 1 time for Jessica and the boys), as well as Milan (3 times for Jessica and me, 1 time for the boys). But we always have an absolute pleasure every time we return there!

Accomodation

We slept 2 nights at AC Hotel Vicenza, a Marriott category 1 hotel, for only 7500 points a night!

AC Hotel by Marriott Vicenza

AC Hotel by Marriott Vicenza

In Novara, we stayed in an Airbnb for 2 nights.

Transportation

In Milan, we rented a Renault Clio for the 14 days we spent in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.

Our Rental Car

Our Rental Car

Food

Italian gastronomy does not need to be introduced. But here is the recipe for happiness in Italy: two espressos and two gelatos a day.

Italy has the best pizza in the world, my favorite being the capricciosa: mozzarella cheese, Italian ham, mushrooms, artichokes and tomatoes. But don’t make a mistake when ordering a pepperoni pizza, as you may end up with a pepper pizza. Instead, ask for a salami pizza!

Pizza

Pizza

Espresso and Capuccino

Espresso and Capuccino

Gelato

Gelato

Cannoli

Cannoli

Expenses

In Italy, we had a great time and it took a hit on the wallet. This country comes first in the cost of food and second in transport expenditure, mainly due to the high costs of tolls and parking lots. But when one loves, one does not count! The cost of our stay for our family of 4 is:

  • 851,00 EUR (960.44 USD);
  • 213,00 EUR (240.39 USD) per day;
  • 53,00 EUR (59.82 USD) per person and per day.

In detail:

Expense CategoryAmount Spent
Flights86,00 EUR / 97.06 USD
Accomodation67,00 EUR / 75.62 USD
Transport (including gas, toll, parking)381,00 EUR / 430.00 USD
Eating out192,00 EUR / 216.69 USD
Groceries67,00 EUR / 75.62 USD
Activities58,00 EUR / 65.46 USD
Total851,00 EUR / 960.44 USD

In a nutshell

Dates2019-07-08 to 2019-07-10; 2019-07-20 to 2019-07-22
Number of days5
Cities we visitedVerona, Vicenza, Venice, Treviso, Milano, Ljubljana
InboundMorocco by plane
OutboundSpain by plane
Mode of transportRental car
Distance travelled (car & foot)1351 km
Number of photos taken2180 (436 per day)
CurrencyThe Euro (1,00 EUR = 1.13 USD)

Conclusion

Our stay in the Northern Italy is not a reflection of everything the country has to offer. Italy has never disappointed us and has always left us with unforgettable memories. As for Slovenia, the short introduction to the capital Ljubljana gave us a good taste of the country for a possible return.

Don’t miss our next adventures in Croatia!

==> Download all our photos of Italy and Slovenia for free!

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The Very Best Places to Visit in Michigan


Michigan is a favorite vacation destination for nature lovers, photographers, adventurers, extreme sports enthusiasts, and anyone looking for an unforgettable experience. 

Explore this exciting and diverse state with this insider’s guide to the best places to visit in Michigan. 

Places to Visit in Michigan

The Great Lake State attracts visitors from around America.

From the north shore of Lake Michigan to the Motown and Motor City heritage of Detroit, there are many reasons to visit Michigan.

Michigander Sherry Trautman shares the very best places to visit in Michigan as recommended by a born and raised local.

If you are looking for road trip ideas, add these places on to your Michigan trip.

Relax and Rejuvenate on Mackinac Island

mackinack island | visit michigan

There’s a reason why Mackinac Island is such an idyllic island destination for adventurers, dreamers, and lovers.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the soothing sounds of waves lapping against the rocks, the soft “clop, clop” sound of horse-drawn carriages slowly passing by and the warmth of the sun on your face. 

Since horse-drawn carriages, walking and bicycles are the only modes of transportation on the island, you’ll feel your body and mind slowly relax. 

Before taking the ferry over to Mackinac island, stop in at Bridge Biew Park to take a photo of the iconic Mackinac Bridge. It is the fifth longest suspension bridge in the world.

While visiting Mackinac Island, be sure to:

  • Rent a bicycle as the island is eight miles in circumference.
  • Climb the 207 stairs (yes, I counted!) to see the famous Arch Rock and stunning views of Lake Michigan.
  • Learn about the island’s history while touring Fort Mackinac (and if you are lucky, you might get to fire the cannon!)
  • Visit the beautiful Butterfly House 
  • Rent a kayak to enjoy exquisite, seldom-seen views of the island and the Straits of Mackinac. 
  • Indulge your sweet tooth on creamy Mackinac Island Fudge. 
  • Tour the iconic Grand Hotel and its majestic gardens. 

Discover Shipwrecks and Fossils in Alpena

maritime heritage michigan ocean

Alpena sits on the Thunder Bay Marine Sactuary.

Did you know there are over 200 shipwrecks in this sanctuary?

While visiting Alpena, be sure to take an exhilarating glass-bottom boat tour to view several sunken wrecks throughout Thunder Bay.

It’s an unforgettable experience!  

The Alpena region also offers outstanding hiking, biking, exploring, and kayaking opportunities at Island Park, Besser Natural Area, and Rockport State Park.

Rockport State Park

places to visit in michigan

If you are feeling adventurous, spend a couple of hours at Rockport State Park searching for the expansive rock quarry and fascinating bat hibernaculum.

You can also find and bring home rare Devonian fossils!   

Photograph Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s Breathtaking Views

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the most picturesque places to visit in Michigan.

Snowmobiling, hiking, and kayaking offer breathtaking views of the majestic sandstone cliffs and untouched beaches.

There are approximately 100 miles of trails to explore to enjoy a peaceful commune with nature. 

In the winter this is a popular spot for cross country skiing.

If you visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore during the winter season, several frozen waterfalls are worth hiking or snowshoeing several miles.

You can also explore the breathtaking Eben Ice Caves located in Eben Junction, just 20 miles southwest of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. 

Indulge in All Things Cherry in Traverse City

festival traverse city | michigan places to visit

Traverse City is ripe (pun intended) for excellent wine tasting, kayaking, biking, exploring, and indulging in all thing’s cherry.

The “Cherry Capital of the World” and its five surrounding counties produce forty percent of the annual tart cherry crop in the United States.  

While visiting Traverse City, snap a fun photo in front of the World’s Largest Cherry Pie Pan, enjoy an ice cream flight at Moomers, and embark on a tall ship adventure.

If you visit in July, the National Cherry Festival will be in full swing. 

This fun Michigan festival draws over 500,000 visitors annually! 

Traverse City’s cherry blossoms bloom in May, offering excellent photography opportunities while tasting wine on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas.

Cool Fact: In 2009 TripAdvisor named Traverse City the #2 small town travel destination in the US and it has been named one of the Top 10 Places to retire in the country.

Discover the spooky side of the city by touring the abandoned state mental facility and steam tunnels at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, one of the largest historic preservation and adaptive reuse redevelopments in the country.  

Scramble Down Incredible Sand Dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

visit michigan places | sleeping bear dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a must-see while visiting Michigan.

Perhaps one of the most scenic and diverse views of the dunes is Pierce Stocking Drive located near Empire, Michigan.

You will have the opportunity to photograph vast sweeping dunes, climb an incredibly steep dune and embark on scenic hikes during this seven-mile drive.

While you are visiting the area, consider driving south on M-22 to see Point Betsie, one of Michigan’s most beautiful lighthouses. 

Embark on an Exhilarating Rafting Adventure in East Jordan 

Rafting, tubing, and kayaking fans will love the clear, fast-moving rapids of the East Jordan river.

Views of the towering pine trees are breathtaking with each turn and bend in the river.

Rafting down the river with Jordan River Outfitters after a fresh snowfall is a chilly yet beautiful and exhilarating winter experience.  

Take an Exciting Dune Rides at Silver Lake

places to visit in michigan | dune rides silver lake

If heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping action is your idea of a fantastic vacation, consider adding a dune buggy adventure in Silver Lake to your Michigan vacation itinerary.

Upon arriving, you will notice the town feels alive, almost vibrating with energy and excitement.  

Adrenalin fans can rent jeeps or buggies to crest and rush down the towering dunes overlooking sparkling Silver Lake. 

For a shorter, family-friendly dune experience, embark on an exhilarating dune ride with a local tour company.  

Discover Frankenmuth’s Famous Fried Chicken and Christmas Wonderland 

As a word of warning, Frankenmuth, Michigan, can easily steal your heart.

This charming Bavarian-themed town is home to the famous Holz Bruke covered bridge, horse-drawn carriage tours, and tantalizing sausage, taffy and fudge shops.

For a unique experience, book a pretzel rolling class at the Bavarian Inn or embark on a riverboat excursion on the family-owned Bavarian Belle.  

Your trip to Frankenmuth isn’t complete until you’ve treated yourself to Zehnder’s famous fried chicken or shopped for handmade ornaments at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store.

You won’t leave the seven-acre store empty-handed as 50,000 trims and gifts will tempt you at every turn! 

See Midland’s Unbelievable Record-Breaking Canopy Walk

midland canopy walk | pure michigan

For a unique Michigan experience, visit the “Nation’s Longest Canopy Walk” located at Dow Gardens and Whiting Forest in Midland, Michigan.

Open year-round, discover what it’s like to wander among the treetops and walk suspended 40 feet above the ground.  

While visiting Midland, cheer on the Loons during a rousing baseball game or explore the Tridge, a three-way wooden footbridge offering a bird’s eye view of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee rivers.  

Relax and Explore East Tawas 

places to visit in michigan | tawas

Tawas Point State Park is a fantastic place to visit during all four of Michigan’s seasons.

The warmer weather months offer opportunities to kayak, paddleboard, bike, camp, relax on the beach or meander along the Saginaw Bay Birding Trail.

During winter, clamp some crampons onto the sole of your boots and explore the Sandy Hook Nature Trail paralleling Lake Huron.

Tawas Point Lighthouse’s bright red brick is also a striking contrast against sparkling white snow.  

Downtown East Tawas offers excellent boutique shopping and dining on Newman Street.

Wander the boardwalk around the nearby marina for views of luxurious boats bobbing in the water and waves cresting on Lake Huron.

As you stroll, grab a Pronto Pup, a surprisingly crispy corn dog on a stick for a fun afternoon snack. 

Fall in love with Michigan

So there you have it. These are my favorite places to visit in Michigan. If you are visiting Michigan, be sure to get out of Detroit and see all the cool attractions that the Great Lake State has to offer.

If you enjoyed all of these places to visit in Michigan, Save this post to Pinterest for future travel planning.

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About Sherry Trautman

As a born and raised Michigander and produces the Michigan adventure blog, Traveling Michigan, where she helps vacationers travel smartly, save money, and get the most out of their adventures across Michigan





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12 Incredible Places in Croatia to Visit!


Are you ready to discover 12 incredible places in Croatia? Did you know? This country has a rich historical heritage, with ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian influences. In particular, the country suffered a war of independence between 1990 and 1995, which took place in near indifference, just after the collapse of the former Yugoslav federation, and which still leaves its mark on the landscape. But it is only recently that Croatia has become a popular tourist destination, largely thanks to the Game of Thrones TV series!

Le incredibles places in Croatia to visit

Zadar

Zadar is a fortified city bordered by the Adriatic Sea and mountains. Its architecture is strongly influenced by the Romans, the Venetians and the Austro-Hungarians. We had a crush on a unique work of art: the sea organs, which generate random sounds from the winds and waves of the sea as they hit the stairs that are punctured with holes.

Land Gate

People's Square

People’s Square

Sea Organ

Sea Organ

Nin

A few kilometers from Zadar lies Nin, the first Croatian capital. With its 1256 inhabitants (2001 census), it is a very small town located on a very small island in the heart of a lagoon, but with a 3000-year history! In the cradle of Croatia and royal city, you can visit the ruins of the largest Roman temple of the Adriatic Sea, as well as the Church of the Holy Cross, which is also the smallest cathedral in the world. The kids enjoyed the sandy beach on the Nin lagoon with an exceptional view over the mountains.

Nin

Nin

Nin

Nin

Plitviče

Among the many national parks that we have had the opportunity to visit, Plitviče Lakes National Park is among the most beautiful. The park is composed of sixteen lakes, linked together by 92 natural waterfalls, and a water of outstanding clarity with a color ranging from emerald green to turquoise blue. It is a true natural masterpiece and a must-see in Croatia. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Plitvice Lower Lakes

Plitvice Lower Lakes

Veliki Slap

Veliki Slap

Plitvice Upper Lakes

Plitvice Upper Lakes

Plitvice Upper Lakes

Plitvice Upper Lakes

Plitvice Lower Lakes

Plitvice Lower Lakes

Split

Founded in the 8th century, the fortress of Klis is truly impressive. From its heights, we were able to admire a superb panoramic view of the city of Split.

Klis Fortress

Klis Fortress

Split, the second largest city in the country, has the singularity of having been built from inside and then around the enormous palace of Diocletian, the Roman emperor. This site is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Diocletian's Palace

Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian's Palace

Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian's Palace

Diocletian’s Palace

Trogir

The historic city of Trogir, another UNESCO site, was built on an island and boasts one of the highest densities of churches in the world and beautiful architectural buildings with Roman, Renaissance and Baroque styles.

Trogir Town Hall

Trogir Town Hall

Streets and stairs of Trogir

Streets and stairs of Trogir

Trogir Pier

Trogir Pier

Šibenik

In Šibenik, we were able to visit the Cathedral of Saint James (UNESCO site), a Renaissance (Italian) monument that has the particularity of being built entirely of stone, including the vault.

Šibenik Central Square

Šibenik Central Square

Šibenik Cathedral

Šibenik Cathedral

Novi Vinodolski

Novi Vinodolski is a quiet little town with a breathtaking view over the sea. That’s where we spent our last 4 nights in Croatia.

Novi Vinodolski

Novi Vinodolski

Novi Vinodolski Waterfront

Novi Vinodolski Waterfront

Pula

Pula is a seaside town located at the end of the Istrian peninsula. It is known for its protected harbor, its coastline with beaches and its Roman ruins, including its perfectly preserved and majestic Roman amphitheater.

Pula Arena

Pula Arena

Temple of Augustus

Temple of Augustus

Arch of the Sergii

Arch of the Sergii

Rovinj

One of our favorite cities of Croatia was Rovinj, nicknamed the “Little Venice of Croatia”. Originally built on an island, the city was then connected to the mainland. It offers a sublime panorama and gives the feeling of an Italian city when you walk in it.

Rovinj

Rovinj

Streets of Rovinj

Streets of Rovinj

Selce, Krk, Senj

Finally, in the vicinity of Novi Vinodolski, we enjoyed beautiful beaches with clear, turquoise waters in Selce and on the island of Krk. They were crowded with people like nowhere else in the world but Europe. The Nehaj fortress, which overlooks the sea in Senj, is also worth a visit.

Selce Beach

Selce Beach

Oprna Bay, Krk

Oprna Bay, Krk

Oprna Bay, Krk

Oprna Bay, Krk

Nehaj Fortress, Senj

Nehaj Fortress, Senj

For a better preparation

Itinerary

We used Zadar and Novi Vinodolski as base camps for trips through the coastal regions of Croatia. This is how we were able to visit Nin, Plitviče, Split, Trogir, Šibenik (pronounced chibenik), Pula, Rovinj and the island of Krk (pronounced “kelk”).

Accomodation

We rented Airbnb places in Zadar (6 nights) and Novi Vinodolski (4 nights). In Zadar, we stayed in a beautiful house with a very attentive owner who would treat us to fruits, vegetables and eggs every morning.

The house we rented in Zadar

The house we rented in Zadar

Transportation

In Croatia, we were driving the car we had rented in Italy.

Our Rental Car

Food

Croatian cuisine is very heterogeneous, each region has its own culinary traditions with influences from neighboring countries (Austria, Hungary, Turkey, Italy and the Balkans). The Croats eat a lot of meat. We enjoyed Čevapčići, a dish originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina but adopted by the Croats.

Cevapcici

Cevapcici

As truffle is widespread in the Istrian region, we have often seen it incorporated into pasta dishes.

Pasta with Truffle

Pasta with Truffle

We also saw a lot of Odojak, or roasted suckling pig, cooking along the roads.

Suckling Pig

Suckling Pig

Expenses

Croatia is not cheap but is usually not very expensive either. The cost of our stay for our family of 4 is:

  • 9411 HRK (1448 USD);
  • 1046 HRK (161 USD) per day;
  • 261 HRK (40 USD) per person and per day.

In detail:

Expense CategoryAmount Spent
Flights0 HRK (0 USD)
Accomodation3952 HRK (608 USD)
Transport (including gas, toll, parking)2749 HRK (423 USD)
Eating out1317 HRK (203 USD)
Groceries843 HRK (130 USD)
Activities550 HRK (84 USD)
Total9411 HRK (1448 USD)

In a nutshell

Dates2019-07-10 to 2019-07-20
Number of days9
Cities we visitedZadar, Split, Trogir, Sibenik, Pula, Rovinj
InboundItaly by car
OutboundItaly by car
Mode of transportRental car
Distance travelled (car & foot)1776 km
Number of photos taken3530 (392 per day)
CurrencyThe Croatian Kuna (1 USD = 6.5 HRK)

Conclusion

We left Croatia with unforgettable impressions! The quality of life along the coast is incredibly wonderful and the Croatians we met were extremely warm. We would go back there without hesitation, especially since we still have a lot of sites to discover – especially Zagreb, Dubrovnik, as well as the islands of Brač, Hvar, Vis, Korčula and Mljet – but which we hadn’t been able to do because of lack of time.

So much for Croatia! We are now looking forward to Spain!

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15 Free Things to do in Seville, Spain


With a population of just under 700,000, you may be surprised to find out just how many things amazing attractions there are Seville. And better yet, there are many free things to do in Seville too.

I would dare to say that Seville offers far more than many cities in Spain, including Barcelona and Madrid and I always look forward to returning. 

Part of that reason could be because of Seville’s history.

Located in the southern region of Spain in Andalusia, Seville was an important city during the rule of the Muslim Moors and then later, once the New World was discovered, it played a direct role in commerce.

This allowed the city to become even richer and has left us with some amazing monuments.

Free Things in Seville

In any case, over the past few years, more and more people have been finding out what all of the fuss is about.

The city is seeing a large increase in visitors and prices have been soaring. But like I said before, there is so much to see and thankfully, a lot things to do in Seville are free!

Here is my list of 15 free things to do in Seville to help you save money.

Plaza de España

No trip to Seville would be complete without a visit to the Plaza de España. This square has become a symbol of the city, and the best part is, it’s completely free.

The massive u-shaped building looks characteristically Andalusian. It combines a long history of local styles – Baroque, Renaissance and Mudejar – into one unique creation.

If you haven’t been to Seville but recognize the plaza, it might be because you have seen it on the big screen.

  • Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Lawrence of Arabia were both filmed here.

There’s a lot to explore and check out in the square. Simply exploring the square is one of the top free things to do in Seville.

You’ll need about 5 minutes just to cross from one side to the other!

If you have a few bucks to spend, you can try your hand at rowing a boat around the square’s moat or sit back and relax in a carriage driven by an Andalusian thoroughbred horse.

Triana Neighborhood

things to do seville free | triana
Triana

Triana is one of only a handful of neighborhoods found on the east side of the river. But it’s Seville’s most colorful and charismatic barrio.

The residents are proud of Triana’s heritage and usually will identify first as Trianeros and then as Sevillanos.

Triana has a long history of pottery, tile making and music. This is where flamenco has its strongest roots within the city.

As you explore this area, especially in the summer, it’s not uncommon to hear the stomping of feet or flamenco guitar pouring out of the windows.

Spanish Inquisition Museum

While in Triana, visit the Free Museo Del Castillo San Jose. It was the first seat of the Spanish Inquisition and traces the cruelty and torture of Spain’s dark past.

Maria Luisa Park

seville for free | maria luisa park

To say Maria Luisa is just a park would be an understatement. It is more like a botanical garden that has ponds with fountains surrounded by lush palm forests, orange trees, and all kinds of colorful flowers.

There are even parakeets living in the park as well as ducks and swans.

The park, along with several other buildings found within its borders, were all constructed for the Ibero-American World Fair in 1929.

Today, many of them have been turned into museums.

Even if you don’t want to see the museums themselves, you should at least go to admire the architecture from the outside.

For example, the Museum of Arts and Traditions of Seville, is one of the most impressive Mudejar style buildings in the city.

If you are visiting Seville in the summer then you will know that the middle of the day can be brutal. The temperature can easily climb to over 100 ºF (40 ºC). When it’s that hot, the park is a great place to go.

The temps under the tree canopy are much cooler than in the concrete jungle of the city. Just don’t forget a bottle of water!

Metropol Parasol

exciting free things to do in seville | the mushroom seville
Metrosol Parasol – The Mushroom Seville

The crazy geometric Metropol Parasol (popularly known as The Mushroom) is a bizarre construction that hovers over La Encarnación square.

Designed by a German architect and completed in 2011, it has since become one of Seville’s most interesting sights.

Surprisingly, most of the Metropol Parasol is made from wood and it’s actually considered to be the world’s largest wooden structure.

Viewing the Metropol Parasol from the square is of course one of the most popular free things to do in Seville.

But if you feel inclined, for 3€ you can take an elevator to the top and walk around a ramp that has some of the best views of Seville.

General Archive of the Indies (Archivo de Indias)

The General Archive of the Indies was built in 1572 and functioned as a merchant exchange for all the goods and riches from the New World.

It houses documents from the first conquistadors and continues all the way through the end of the 1800’s.

Needless to say, this building contains lots of important history and as such, it was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. 

Its grand rooms look like something from a Harry Potter film. The endless corridors are lined with archives that are stacked to the ceiling. 

The General Archive is conveniently located next to the Alcazar and the cathedral and doesn’t take too much time to go through.

Plus it’s completely free, so there is no reason not to check it out.

Antiquarium

free things to do in seville | antiquarium

Below ground at the Metrosol Parasol, is a Roman archeology site that has building foundations and several mosaics.

The ruins were discovered when workers were digging to build a car-park under the square. Needless to say, the car-park had to be moved!

While entrance to the Antiquarium normally costs 2.1€, you can get in for free if you have your ticket from the Alcazar.

Everyone should visit the Palacio de Alcazar in Seville because it is so incredible.

So just make sure to make it to the Antiquarium on the same day.

Basílica de la Macarena 

This basilica is located on the outskirts of Seville and from the outside it seems rather simple.

But step inside and you will be shocked by its flamboyant styling.

This church holds two of the most important religious floats that are used in the city’s legendary Easter processions.

Entrance to the church is free.

If you want to learn more about Seville’s Holy Week (Semana Santa), then check out the church’s museum. It costs 5€.

Walk Along the River

seville spain for free | river walk
Torre del Oro – Tower of Gold

It’s really enjoyable to walk along the riverfront between the Triana Bridge and the Tower of Gold.

This stretch is like a small park and is free of cars.

It is one of the best places to take in the views of the Triana neighborhood, with all its colorful buildings lined up in front of the calm water.

Make sure to check out the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), famous for having housed many of the treasures coming from the New World.

Climb to the top of it and enjoy some great views of the Guadalquivir river and the rest of the city.

Mondays are free, otherwise it’s 3€.

La Carbonería

Your average ticket for a flamenco show in Seville will normally cost between 20 and 40€.

Instead, why not check out a local flamenco bar that has a free show every night?

Ok, it’s technically not free since you have to pay a 5€ entrance free. However, with that entrance fee, you get a voucher for a free 5€ drink.

In my book, that qualifies as free!

The performers go on stage at 10:30PM and put on an amazing show. In my opinion, La Carbonería feels a little more authentic than many of the expensive flamenco shows.

Although there are a lot of tourists, there are also plenty of locals.

Santa Cruz Neighborhood

seville free things to do

The former Jewish quarter of Santa Cruz is one of Seville’s oldest neighborhoods.

Located right next to the cathedral and Alcazar, it’s one of the most picturesque and quaint areas of the city.

It’s full of bars, restaurants, and shops. Although it is a touristy area, it still retains its charm.

If it’s your first time visiting Seville, I usually recommend to stay here.

There are a ton of small boutique hotels and even some really nice apartments.

Many of the hotels have their own rooftop bars which offer some incredible views of the cathedral and the Giralda Tower.

Visit the Food Markets

top things to do in seville for free | markets
Lonja de Feria

There are two great food markets in Seville to check out: the Triana market and Lonja de Feria.

Triana’s market is much larger but doesn’t have much in terms of tapas bars.

Lonja de Feria is a smaller market but it has a few bars that specialize in fish and seafood that come from the adjacent fish mongers. 

In any case, both markets showcase the huge variety of fresh local produce, fish, meats and cheeses.

Museum of Fine Art (Museo de Bellas Artes) 

After Madrid’s Prado, the Museum of Fine Arts in Seville is considered to have the 2nd most important collection of fine art in the country.

For me, the highlights of the museum are the local Andalusian paintings from the 19th century.

Read: The Works of Gaudi in Barcelona

However, there are paintings from several famous artists such as Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Velázquez, Goya and El Greco.

In addition, the museum is housed in a 17th century convent that has some beautiful architecture. It is the perfect setting for such a collection of art.

Entrance is free for EU citizens and only 1.5€ for everyone else.

Divino Salvador Church

Free things to do in Seville spain Church
Divino Salvador Church

This is Seville’s biggest church after the cathedral.

Its history goes back to the 9th century when it was originally the city’s main mosque.

It was later rebuilt in an Andalusian Baroque style.

If you visit the cathedral and have your ticket from the same day, then the entrance is free. Otherwise, expect to shell out 4€.

Archeological Museum

The Archeological Museum is another one of the buildings left over from the world fair in 1929 and it’s located in the Maria Luisa Park.

The museum houses the Carambolo Treasure which was discovered in 1958.

It is comprised of gold jewellery and religious relics from the Phoenicians who inhabited parts of Andalusia starting more than 3,000 years ago.

The museum is free for EU citizens and only 1.5€ for everyone else.

More ideas in Seville for Free

what to do in seville for free
Cathedral of Seville Free Mondays

Royal Tobacco Factory

The Real Fabrica de Tabacos in the University of Seville dates back to the 18th century. Even though it is a working university, you can still visit and roam its famous halls.

It was made famous to the world through the opera Carmen.

Seville Cathedral

One Monday Afternoons you can enter the biggest Gothic Church in the world for free.

Seville’s number one tourist attractions usually have an entrance fee of €9, but on Mondays between 4:00 and 5:30 you can visit for free if you book in advance online here.

Tickets give you access to the Cathedral and Giralda.

Free Things to do in Seville Spain
What should you not miss doing in Seville?

You should not miss seeing Flamenco Dancing when in Seville.

What Free Museums can I see in Seville?

Some free museums that you can visit in Seville are Museum of Fine Arts, The Naval Museum and the Bullfighting Museums of Seville are free on Mondays,

Where is Seville Located?

Seville is located in Southern Spain in the autonomous community of Andalusia

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About Patricia Palacios

Patricia is a writer, programmer and of course, she loves to travel. She co-runs Andalucia Guide, a website dedicated to helping travelers easily plan their trip to southern Spain. If this article has left you hungry for more, make sure you check out her definitive Seville travel guide in the links below.





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11 Extraordinary Places to Visit in Southern Spain


Interested in discovering Southern Spain? Well, I’d be delighted to share the results of my research and experience, so you can save time in planning your special trip to this destination.

Spain is the second most popular tourist destination in the world after France. Now we understand better why! This country is full of beauty and offers something for everyone.

The extraordinary places to visit in Southern Spain

Madrid

Madrid is a capital that lives to the rhythm of football – with the two football giants, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid – but it does not only offer great sensations for the football enthusiasts. Its royal palace, cathedral, Retiro Park, Plaza Mayor, Gran Via and the famous Prado Museum are attractions worth visiting.

Madrid Royal Palace

Madrid Historical Center

Madrid Historical Center

Palacio de Cibeles

Palacio de Cibeles

Parque de El Retiro

Parque de El Retiro

Museo del Prado

Museo del Prado

Valencia

We were pleasantly surprised by Valencia, which is the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Spain. With a remarkable architectural heritage, the city is known in particular for its City of Arts and Sciences, with its futuristic architecture. In the historic district, the silk lodge, a UNESCO heritage site, was a trading post in the 15th century and represents the city’s economic power on the Mediterranean at that time. We did not miss admiring the church of St. Nicholas, nicknamed “Valencian Sistine Chapel” because of its frescoes on the ceiling. It’s a real beauty!

City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia

City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia

City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia

City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia

La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia

La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia

Iglesia de San Nicolás

Iglesia de San Nicolás

Torre de Sant Bartomeu

Torre de Sant Bartomeu

Playa de la Malvarrosa

Playa de la Malvarrosa

Alicante

In Alicante, we visited the Santa Barbara castle. Perched on a gigantic rock, it offers a sensational panoramic view of the whole city and the sea!

Castillo de Santa Bárbara, Alicante

Castillo de Santa Bárbara, Alicante

Castillo de Santa Bárbara, Alicante

Castillo de Santa Bárbara, Alicante

Elch

On the way to Murcia, when we saw the sign saying “Elch, World Heritage City“, our curiosity led us to stop. And what a beautiful UNESCO discovery, since we were able to walk in the middle of the largest palm grove in Europe. The city was actually built in an oasis, a real exotic garden made up of thousands of palm trees!

Palacio de Altamira, Elche

Palacio de Altamira, Elche

Murcia

In the center of Murcia lies the Cathedral of St. Mary, a gigantic 14th century structure that we enjoyed visiting. The Murcia region is nicknamed as the orchard of Europe because of its fruit and vegetable production. It is very interesting to drive through this fertile plain landscape.

Cathedral of Murcia

Cathedral of Murcia

Granada

Did you know that the Muslims conquered the Iberian Peninsula and ruled over it for nearly 8 centuries? The Nasrid dynasty, which had established its power over the emirate of Granada, was defeated in 1492, putting an end to the Reconquista. The majestic Acropolis of the Alhambra, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most prestigious example of the Muslim presence in Spain. The Alhambra of Granada consists of four parts: 1. the Alcazaba or citadel; 2. the Nasrid palaces; 3. the Generalife or the summer palace of the Nasrid princes; 4. The palace of Charles V, which was added by the Castilian victors following the Reconquista. The Alhambra is incredibly sublime!

Alhambra de Granada

Alhambra de Granada

Alhambra de Granada

Alhambra de Granada

Granada

Granada

Palacios Nazaríes de Granada

Palacios Nazaríes de Granada

Palacios Nazaríes de Granada

Palacios Nazaríes de Granada

Dowtown Granada

Dowtown Granada

Ronda

Ronda is one of those places that awakens the power of imagination. It is the birthplace of the corrida, a well-known Spanish tradition. But the real emblem of the city is the New Bridge (Puente Nuevo) spanning over the El Tajo canyon, dividing the city in two! Ronda has some of the most magnificent viewpoints we have ever seen.

Puente Nuevo, Ronda

Puente Nuevo, Ronda

Gibraltar

We stayed at La Linea de la Concepcion for two nights, which allowed us to reach Gibraltar on foot. From the border, it only took us 20 minutes to get to the Top of the Rock, after a bus ride and a cable car ride. Up there are some 300 free-roaming Barbary monkeys, the same ones we saw in Morocco. The morning clouds gave way to a beautiful sunshine and a splendid surrounding view in the afternoon. To end the day, we went down to visit the city, which reminded us a lot of England, with its buildings with its unique architecture, its Fish & Chips pubs and restaurants, its red phone booths, its bowler hat police officers and its British store signs. In addition, English is spoken and transactions are made in Sterling pounds, and the car is driven on the right. Oh and also, we walked across the airport runway back to the Spanish border! That was strange.

Barbary macaques in Gibraltar

Barbary macaques in Gibraltar

Rock of Gibraltar

Rock of Gibraltar

Rock of Gibraltar

Rock of Gibraltar

Cordova

Back to Andalusia with the city of Cordova. Like its neighbor Granada, Cordova has a rich architectural and cultural heritage linked to the Muslim presence for several centuries. At its peak in the 10th century, Cordova was among the most populous cities in the West and shone for its scientific development. Its mosque-cathedral is a very atypical masterpiece that well reflects the various cultures that have followed one another in Cordova. We enjoyed walking around the cathedral and in the historic center, which is registered on the World Heritage List. The Roman bridge is absolutely magnificent.

Roman Bridge of Cordoba

Roman Bridge of Cordoba

Cordoba Center

Cordoba Center

Mosque -Cathedral of Cordoba

Mosque -Cathedral of Cordoba

Mosque -Cathedral of Cordoba

Mosque -Cathedral of Cordoba

Plaza de la Corredera

Plaza de la Corredera

Sevilla

Sevilla is magical! We spent several hours wandering in the extraordinary Plaza de España at sunset. The place is semi oval in shape, and features a palace, towers, pillars, arches, porcelain benches, basins and a large central fountain. Flamenco dancers were performing while we were there and it was great!

One of the city’s major attractions is its Alcazar, a fortified palace built by the Umayyads during the period of Muslim domination. As in Granada and Cordova, we were captivated by the beauty of the architecture. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Siege of Seville is the 3rd largest church in the world. It is home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. As many Spaniards are very deeply rooted in the Catholic religion, we witnessed an unusual scene during our visit. On that day, the royal chapel welcomed Catholic faithful, some patiently waiting for several hours, for the opportunity to kiss the hand of the Virgin of Kings (Virgen de los Reyes), patron saint of Seville.

Plaza de España, Sevilla

Plaza de España, Sevilla

Plaza de España, Sevilla

Plaza de España, Sevilla

Flamenco in Plaza de España

Flamenco in Plaza de España

Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Catedral de Sevilla

Catedral de Sevilla

Metropol Parasol, Sevilla

Metropol Parasol, Sevilla

Salamanca

Back in Spain after Portugal, we stopped in Salamanca to visit its Plaza Mayor, the cathedral and the oldest university in Spain, dating back to 1134.

Catedral de Salamanca

Catedral de Salamanca

Convento de San Esteban, Salamanca

Convento de San Esteban, Salamanca

 

For a better preparation

Itinerary

From Spain, we only knew Barcelona and its surroundings (Montserrat and the Costa Brava). This year, our goal was to visit as many attractions as possible in the south of the country, with Madrid as our landing and exit point. This prompted us to design a two-part itinerary with a one-day trip to Gibraltar and a five-day trip to Portugal.

Our stay in Spain lasted a total of 16 days, spread out in this way:

  • Madrid, the capital: 4 days;
  • Valencia: 2 days;
  • Alicante: 1/2 day;
  • Elch: 1/2 day;
  • Murcia: 1/2 day;
  • Granada: 2 days;
  • Ronda: 1/2 day;
  • Gibraltar: 1 day;
  • Cordova: 2 days;
  • Sevilla: 2 days;
  • Portugal: 5 days;
  • Salamanca: 1/2 day;
  • Madrid: 1/2 day.

Accomodation

If you live in North America, you are among the lucky ones who, like us, can purchase credit cards and earn points that can save you a great deal during your travels. Well, I would like to inform you that Spain is one of those countries that can be visited by staying almost exclusively in Marriott Bonvoy category 1 and 2 hotels, i.e. those that require the least number of points. The proof is that for our 15 nights in Spain, we only spent 147,00 EUR (165.90 USD) in accommodation. The hotels where we have used our points are:

  • AC Hotel San Sebastian de los Reyes (Madrid), category 1 or 7500 points;
  • AC Hotel Valencia, category 1 or 7500 points;
  • AC Hotel Murcia, category 1 or 7500 points;
  • AC Hotel La Linea (Gibraltar), category 1 or 7500 points;
  • AC Hotel Sevilla Forum, category 2 or 12500 points.

The icing on the cake is that thanks to our Bonvoy Platinum status, facilitated in part by our American Express Platinum credit card, all these hotels have offered us room upgrades and breakfast credits, not to mention an exceptional service.

If you are curious, here are the other destinations where, as in Spain, we have been able to take advantage of a large number of category 1 and 2 hotels to stay for free: Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia.

A superior room in a AC Hotel

A superior room in a AC Hotel

AC Hotel Sevilla

AC Hotel Sevilla

The swimming pool of AC Hotel Sevilla

The swimming pool of AC Hotel Sevilla

Here is the breakdown of the 147,00 EUR (165.90 USD) that we spent on accommodation:

  • 2 nights in a beautiful apartment in Granada: only 32,00 EUR (36.12 USD) per night;
  • 2 nights in a beautiful apartment in Cordova: only 41,50 EUR (46.84 USD) per night

Both apartments have been booked on Booking.

AirBnb in Cordoba

AirBnb in Cordoba

Transportation

The Fiat 500 we rented for our 21 days in Spain and Portugal cost us 288,00 EUR (325.04 USD), or only 13,71 EUR (15.47 USD) per day. And surprisingly, Spain is home to one of the few free motorway networks in all of Europe!

We rented a Fiat 500

We rented a Fiat 500

Food

The Spanish culinary specialty known all over the world that we were most eager to eat was paella. We enjoyed it when we were in Valencia, where it originates from.

Paella Valenciana

Paella Valenciana

Another typical Valencian dish is arroz negro, in which the rice is coloured with cuttlefish ink.

Arroz Negro

Arroz Negro

Meat specialities are very popular in Spain, which has greatly contributed to the satisfaction of our taste buds.

Bocadillo de Jamon

Bocadillo de Jamon

Spanish Meat Products are the Best

Spanish Meat Products are the Best

Bull Tail

Bull Tail

All over Spain, tapas are enjoyed at the table, or more commonly while standing, in the famous friendly, social and festive atmosphere of the restaurants.

Tapas

Tapas

We tested the Spanish churros, with a thick hot chocolate! Yummy!

Churros and Chocolate

Churros and Chocolate

Expenses

As you may have already guessed, our stay in Spain did not lead us to sell a kidney! This country is the cheapest of the 24 European countries we visited this year. The cost of our stay for our family of 4 is:

  • 1.518,00 EUR (1,713.21 USD);
  • 95,00 EUR (107.22 USD) per day;
  • 24,00 EUR (27.09 USD) per person and per day.

In detail:

Expense CategoryAmount Spent
Flights115,00 EUR / 129.79 USD
Accomodation147,00 EUR / 165.90 USD
Transport (including gas, toll, parking)528,00 EUR / 595.90 USD
Eating out323,00 EUR / 364.54 USD
Groceries257,00 EUR / 290.05 USD
Activities149,00 EUR / 168.16 USD
Total1.518,00 EUR / 1,713.21 USD

In a nutshell

Dates2019-07-22 to 2019-08-05; 2019-08-11 to 2019-08-12
Number of days16
Cities we visitedMadrid, Valencia, Murcia, Granada, Ronda, Gibraltar, Cordoba, Sevilla, Salamanca
InboundItaly by plane
OutboundFrance by plane
Mode of transportRental car
Distance travelled (car & foot)2447 km
Number of photos taken7700 (481 per day)
CurrencyThe Euro (1,00 EUR = 1.13 USD)

Conclusion

Spain is a favorite among the European countries. We definitely haven’t had enough of 16 days in this wonderful country. There are so many places of interest to visit on a trip to Spain that we could have taken several months to visit them!

In the next post, we will conclude our tour in the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal!

==> Download all our photos of Spain for free!

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