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An Expat’s Guide to Restaurants in Prague

An Expat’s Guide to Restaurants in Prague

One of my biggest guilty pleasures, especially since moving to Prague, is eating out at local restaurants. One of the amazing things about Prague is that the cost of living here doesn’t preclude people from trying out different restaurants in the city, as the prices are typically so reasonable! Tourists are typically shocked at the prices in Prague compared to their own countries or cities, especially in comparison to other major European and US capitals. This just means you have that much more opportunity to try all of the interesting types of cuisine that Prague has to offer!

Looking for hotel recommendations in Prague? Check out my Guide to Hotels and Hostels in Prague for all budgets!

Because I love to eat out, and I love trying new restaurants and cuisines, I’ve compiled a nice little list for myself of my favorite restaurants in Prague for essentially every budget and taste. I had the amazing opportunity to be sponsored by four of my local “spots” to create a video featuring these four incredible restaurants:

These four restaurants are ones that I eat at all the time, but of course there are other restaurants in the city that regularly see me when I’m in town. Unfortunately, Prague is one of those cities where it is incredibly easy for the unsuspecting tourist to be ripped off by businesses looking only for a piece of the action. There are, however, a ton of really amazing restaurants that are great value and provide excellent meals. I think it’s so important for tourists coming to Prague to take advantage of all of the local flavors, as well as the international cuisine that has recently flooded the city. These are my top spots for each type of cuisine:

L: Lunch Menu Available (with lower prices than the regular menu)

$: 50-200 CZK, $$: 200-350 CZK, $$$: 350-500 CZK, $$$$: 500 CZK+


Bad Jeff’s Barbeque (L, $$$)

Bad Jeff’s beats some of the best barbeque I’ve had back at home! They serve up ribs, brisket, wings, and my favorite, mac and cheese (with truffle oil!). They’re located near Náměstí Miru in Prague 2, one of the prettiest neighborhoods in the city. Check out the YouTube video above to learn more!

Pavilon Grebovka ($)

Pavilon Grebovka is an absolute gem to visit in the summer. It’s tucked away in Havličkovy sady, a public park in Prague 2. The restaurant has a grill where you can get Czech barbeque dishes like grilled sausage, and it overlooks a vineyard that sits behind a gorgeous chateau. This place isn’t frequently visited by tourists like the vineyard at Prague Castle, but it’s an equally beautiful place to enjoy Prague’s sunshine and gardens in the warm summer months.

Bars (for drinks and food!)

Beer Geek ($)

Beer Geek went from a specialty beer store to a craft beer bar located right at the Jiřiho z Poděbrad metro station. It’s a really cool bar with great atmosphere and a ton of beers from all over the world on tap. They’ve recently started serving wings ranging from Ranch to Godzilla, served with fries, and those absolutely hit the spot when you’re out for a few pints with friends.

Prosekárna ($-$$$$)

This is an (aptly named) Prosecco bar that I was recently introduced to which is such a hidden treasure. It’s in a fairly busy part of the city, but you would never know how interesting it was without going in! It feels like having drinks in your friend’s really fancy living room, but their bottles of Prosecco are amazing. If you’re headed out for an evening with a group of friends, or you want a nice beverage to start off your evening, I definitely recommend this one!

T-Anker (L, $$)

T-Anker is a rooftop bar and restaurant located on top of the Kotva building at Náměstí Republiky. Because of its location about 10 minutes away from Old Town Square, the views from the outdoor terrace are some of the best to be found in Prague. The entrance is a little tricky to find (walk around the Kotva building to the left from the main entrance, and you’ll see an elevator on your left-hand side). Make a reservation for a table outside on the terrace if you want to enjoy the views- this place tends to fill up quickly!

V11 Wine Bar and Deli ($-$$$$)

Before I moved to Prague 2, I would be at this wine bar at least weekly. It’s a tiny wine cellar on a side street near theJiřiho z Poděbrad metro station, and their selection of wine is amazing. They have bottles and glasses for absolutely everyone’s price range, with helpful staff that are willing to answer questions for you if you know nothing about wine. They also have a great selection of meats, cheeses, olives, and bread that make a great appetizer or snack. In the summer, they set up a patio outside of the cellar so that you can enjoy under the stars (until the 10 pm quiet hour begins!).

Zanzibar ($-$$)

Zanzibar is located nearby Bad Jeff’s in Prague 2. I love this place for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and wine! They have great wine that you can order by the carafe (and they even give you free tap water to go with it!). In the summer, they set up quite a few tables outside so you can relax under the peaceful green trees and gorgeous buildings of Vinohrady.

Cafés (for both coffee and food!)

Café Lounge (L, $$)

Café Lounge is a little more up-scale than the traditional coffee house in Prague, but still boasts a nicely decorated interior, several rooms with cute tables and seating areas, and most importantly, excellent coffee. You’ll also find a daily lunch menu with beautifully presented food still for a decent price (usually under 200 CZK for lunch).

Café Louvre (L, $$)

Café Louvre is one of Prague’s famous historic cafés that has served patrons like Einstein and Kafka. The interior is lavishly decorated with high ceilings and waiters in bow ties. The atmosphere, however, is not as pretentious as you might expect. This is a great place to grab brunch on the weekend when you have time to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. The lunch menu is less expensive than the regular menu, but is in Czech only, so bring your Google translate app!

Café Savoy ($$)

Café Savoy is another of Prague’s most famous cafés. It’s arguably more up-scale than Café Louvre, but with a similar style. You can imagine the historic atmosphere after just a minute in this restaurant. The food, coffee, and pastries certainly do not disappoint!

Kavárna Pražírna ($)

Located near I.P. Pavlova, Kavárna Pražírna is a true local spot where you’ll often find young Czechs and expats alike basking in the glow of this cosy coffee house. They offer some food, including a great potato bake, but their coffee is really just incredible.

La Boheme Café ($)

Located just off Vinohradska in Prague 2, this is a popular café with somewhat of a hipster vibe. They have excellent coffee, good pastries, and some interesting cocktails. It’s a fairly close walk from Náměstí Miru or Riegrovy Sady.

Žižkavárna ($)

Žižkavárna is located close to the Žižkov TV Tower, and is a small café with local charm. You’ll find friends gathered here to chat, students and young adults typing away on laptops, or locals reading the local newspaper. This is a small café with only a few tables, but it’s an excellent place to rest for a while if you’re in the neighborhood.


A divadlo pokračuje ($)

This is a pub located between the Pohořelec tram stop and Prague Castle (Hradčanské náměstí). You’ll find all of the traditional Czech classics, plus a great terrace overlooking Petrin Hill and the Strahov Monastery. The history of this particular place is really interesting- check out the YouTube video above to hear more!

Kolonial (L, $)

Kolonial is a great restaurant for tourists at lunch because it’s located in the heart of Old Town (just across the street from the old Jewish cemetery in Josefov), and offers an inexpensive but delicious lunch menu. Be sure to ask for the lunch menu (they have it in English and Czech) instead of the regular one, the regular one is much more expensive!


La Gare (L, $$$)

La Gare is a French restaurant located near Nam. Republiky, next to the Old Town Hilton hotel. I was skeptical before first visiting because of its location and proximity to major hotel chains, but I was pleasantly surprised. The food is delicious, the wine selection is great, and the service was good. I plan to go back, and I would recommend a visit for a nice night out!


Hurry Curry (L, $$)

Hurry Curry is my local curry spot, and I’ve just fallen in love. Their food is generally less expensive than other options, and they don’t have a fancy restaurant to eat it in, but you cannot beat this take out. Their sauces have excellent flavors, their portions are very generous, and the staff is SUPER friendly.

Indian Jewel (L, $)

Indian Jewel is a great place for lunch in the city center. It’s located only about 5 minutes from Old Town Square, and it offers a daily lunch menu for a very discounted price! They always offer their Monday option (Butter Chicken), but have different options rotating Monday-Friday. If you’re looking for an inexpensive lunch in the city center, this is a go-to, as their regular menu is much more expensive (you may even catch me there on my lunch break!).

K the Two Brothers ($$$)

Looking for a fancier night out for Indian food? K the Two Brothers is the place to be! The atmosphere of this place is relaxed and upscale. The prices are a bit higher than the usual fare in Prague, but the quality of the food is top-notch and delicious!

The Pind (L, $$)

When I lived in Žižkov, this was my PLACE. I still go back to visit even though I’ve moved a few tram stops away, as the food is delicious and it’s a good place to grab a meal without too much fuss. In the summer, they have outdoor seating which is very casual and lovely.


Grosetto Náměstí Miru ($$)

There are a couple locations of Grosetto across the city, but the one at Náměstí Miru is my favorite by a long-shot. The food at this one is the best, in my opinion, and it’s a nice restaurant with a great menu. In the summer, their terrace is an absolutely lovely retreat in an otherwise busy part of the city.

La Finestra ($$$$)

This is arguably one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. The chef is Italian, and the menu reflects that. La Finestra also features an excellent selection of meats and fish which is sometimes otherwise difficult to find in Prague. They have an incredible selection of wine with a sommelier that can make recommendations. This is the perfect restaurant for a special night out. You’ll need a reservation for this one!

Wine Food Market ($$)

There are a couple of locations of the Wine Food Market around Prague, but I always visit the one in Smichov. It is a little out of the way in terms of Prague’s Old Town, but it really is only a quick tram ride away from Mala Strana. The Wine Food Market has a gourmet food court style restaurant that uses ingredients imported straight from Italy. They also have a café and shop where you can find excellent bottles of wine, and deli favorites like prosciutto, cheese, and olives.


Hanil ($$$)

Hanil is a fancier Japanese/sushi restaurant near the Žižkov TV Tower. They have main courses that are quite good and are nicely presented. Their sushi rolls are beautiful, and while I don’t eat fish, I do hear that it is some of the best sushi in Prague. I often visit to sit at the bar and order some appetizers, which is plenty to fill me up and enjoy and nice, quiet evening.


Burrito Loco ($)

If you want a down and dirty burrito at any time of the day (really, it’s a 24/7 place), head over to one of Burrito Loco’s locations. There’s a bigger one near Ujezd between Smichov and Mala Strana, but there are smaller take-away locations across the city. I wouldn’t call this fine dining, per say, but it does the job if you need a taco!

Las Adelitas (L, $$)

Las Adelitas is one of my most-frequented restaurants in Prague. It serves traditional Mexican cuisine, plus delicious drinks with help from their extensive tequila menu. There are three locations of Las Adelitas, and the food at each is a little different in preparation; my favorite location is the one on Lucemburska, just minutes away from the Jiřiho z Poděbrad metro station.


Gran Fierro (L, $$$$)

This restaurant is located just around the corner from Narodni Divadlo (the national theatre), and is an Argentinian steakhouse. You’ll find excellent steaks, plus tapas, empanadas, and superb wine! Check out the YouTube video above for more information.


Kofein (L, $$)

Kofein is a great restaurant in Prague when you know you want to spend time chatting with friends. They serve hot and cold tapas dishes with local ingredients and recipes, and have an excellent atmosphere to go with it! Check out the YouTube video above for more information!


Lemon Leaf (L, $$)

Lemon Leaf is a great place to go if you’re looking for thai food, with a mix of other south east Asian options. It’s not as fancy so you don’t feel the need to dress up if you don’t want to, but it also has a level of sophistication that makes it a nice evening out. The food is absolutely delicious, too!

Noi (L, $$)

If you want a fancier evening and some of the best pad thai in central Europe, you’ll definitely have to check out Noi. It’s located near the Ujezd tram station, and the ambiance is certainly more up-scale than the average Prague restaurant, but the experience is unparalleled for this type of cuisine.


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A Day Trip from Prague: Karlovy Vary

A Day Trip from Prague: Karlovy Vary

I have lived in Prague for over 2 years, and there are so many places that I always say I want to visit, and somehow never manage to actually visit. I travel a lot for work to cities around the Czech Republic, like Plzen or Cesky Krumlov, but the ones outside of my bubble have so far evaded me. The weather last weekend was meant to be beautiful, and I couldn’t let such a nice Saturday go waste. I decided that it was time to take a day trip I’ve been meaning to take- literally for years!

The town of Karlovy Vary is about 2 hours west of Prague on the Czech/German border. The town is a bit notorious for its Russian influence, and many of my Czech acquaintances mentioned that they didn’t understand why I wanted to go. I had heard, however, that the town was absolutely beautiful, and with it being only 300 CZK for a return ticket from Prague, I had no excuse! I headed out on a Student Agency bus in the morning, and 2 hours later I was standing in Prague’s most famous spa town. The architecture certainly did not disappoint, and I’m so glad I made the trip!

I can certainly understand the reticence that many Czechs have to go to this town given its history and current demographics, but I actually think that the blending of cultures here was really incredible. It was so interesting to see how Czech, German, and Russian cultures all blend in this one small city, offering a multitude of cuisines, languages, and customs. Karlovy Vary offers thermal springs and spas, which I have every intention of going back to visit. This city is also home to the world-famous Czech liquor, Becharovka, which tastes exactly like Christmas.

After this adventure in such a beautiful town so close to Prague, I’m definitely going to make more of an effort in the coming months to get out in the Czech Republic and see everything that this awesome country has to offer. Perhaps I see a vlog series in my future? We’ll see!

Check out the recap of my day trip to Karlovy Vary in my latest vlog:

Like this video? Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to stay updated with my latest content! Interested in learning more about what to see and do in Karlovy Vary? Check out The Travelling Chili’s post with 11 Unique Things to Do!

A New Yorker’s Favorite Spot in New York City!

A New Yorker’s Favorite Spot in New York City!

I grew up about an hour north of the city, and desperately miss having constant opportunities to pop in on NJ Transit for a visit. Last month, I was visiting home for a couple of weeks and made the rounds to all of my favorite places, including New York City. I was playing host to my boyfriend, so of course I wanted to show him my “spots” in New York. We had a chance to try some new places, including Gallow Green at the Mckittrick Hotel, which I highly recommend. No matter how many times I visit NYC, however, there’s one spot that I always try to make it back to.

Standing on the Brooklyn Bridge, and then in DUMBO after a walk over from Manhattan, is the absolute best day that I can imagine in New York City. It’s just far enough outside of the hustle and bustle of the city that you can relax a bit, but it’s also close enough to appreciate the incredible beauty of the Manhattan skyline. There are some great restaurants and cafés to check out on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, and it seems like more have popped up every time I go. A visit over here makes for a great day out if you’re spending a few days in NYC (especially in the summer when the heat will drive you to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory!).

While I was home visiting for a bit, I made another travel video to add to my YouTube channel, check it out!

Morocco Days 13-17: The Sahara

Morocco Days 13-17: The Sahara

After a day and a half spent in Aroumd and Imlil in the High Atlas Mountains, we began making our way downhill (so to speak) into easily the hottest place I’ve ever been in my life. I know it’s expected that the Sahara desert might be a little toasty, but this fact cannot be understated (especially in August, what was I thinking?). Fortunately, we started in a beautiful little village in a guesthouse/hotel that had a pool!

Our first stop into the brightly-colored orange architecture of the south was in Ait Benhaddou, an ancient fortified village in the Ounila Valley on the southern slopes of the High Atlas Mountains. We arrived at our hotel in time to take a walk over to the ancient village, where very few people now live as it is a protected UNESCO Heritage site, as well as a favorite spot for film producers!

This beautiful village was an incredible spot to visit- it’s amazing that these intricately woven streets are still there for us to wander through, and I really enjoyed the experience. We spent some time saying hello to the shopkeepers working in the village and the local wildlife (read: cats and donkeys, of course) before we made it to the highest point in the village with an absolutely incredible view over the valley.

This is a great village to stop at on your way south, as it’s an interesting waypoint between the mountains and desert. If you’re a film or TV fan, this is also one of the filming locations of Game of Thrones, The Mummy, Prince of Persia, among many others. Plus, the Atlas Film Studio is just down the road that’s available to tour, making this the ideal spot for movie buffs.

After our day spent in Ait Benhaddou, it was time to move a little closer to the beautiful orange sand that we were starting to see springing up around us.

On our way into the Sahara, we stopped in a small village where we learned more about traditional pottery in the south of Morocco. This experience was vastly different to the experience we had in Fez because it was clearly a much smaller operation, the style of the pottery was very different, and we were in a village rather than such a cosmopolitan city like Fez. I absolutely loved this style of pottery, and I actually regretted buying so many things in Fez after seeing what was available here. So of course, I purchased some more small items to take on the road with me!

Once we finished our brief culture (read: shopping) stop, we were finally making our way to the literal end of the road at the edge of the Sahara near Zagora.

I really thought that Mohamed was joking, but it’s true! There is an actual end-of-the-road at the entrance to the desert. Intrepid made the decision to accommodate us outside of the desert at a fixed camp rather than a proper Sahara camp due to safety concerns because the trip took place in August, arguably the hottest time of the year. In all honesty, hot is hot and the fixed camp was HOT, but I appreciate that they were protecting our wellbeing. I can imagine if there was a medical emergency out in the actual desert, it would have been a pretty severe situation in that heat! In any case, visiting at another time of year might be an even better experience since you’d be able to sleep surrounded by the orange sand dunes.

We were staying at a fixed camp in a very small village that was incredibly beautiful. The town felt like a very real community with children playing in the streets, men sitting outside at the cafe, and the call to prayer ringing through the vast spaces of the desert before us. I couldn’t imagine a better introduction to this place! We arrived at the camp, dropped off our bags, and headed out for a camel ride at sunset. I really enjoyed the ride, although some of my travel companions found the mode of transport less than comfortable- perhaps my horse riding experience helped me in this respect! We rode through the town on our camels and then out in to the dunes to catch the last rays of sunshine that made the sand absolutely glow.

They might seem cute and slow-moving, but it turns out that camels can be pretty feisty. While attempting to take an obligatory selfie with my trusty steed, I was yelled at by the camel handlers that mine in particular tends to bite. Figures.

Anyway, after our ride, we came back to camp where the attendants made us a delicious couscous meal to enjoy outside under the brightest stars I think I’ve ever seen. After dinner, we headed over to our bunks which had been moved outside of the cabins. The inside of the cabins were like saunas, the driest and hottest environment I’ve ever experienced, so I was thankful for the decision to sleep outside. Our bunks were all lined up next to each other and were out in the open amongst the Moroccan cats that had been following us around all evening. Sleeping under the stars in the desert like that was an unparalleled experience, definitely a must-do when in the Sahara!

The next day at around 3 am, our 4×4 vehicles showed up to take us across the Sahara by way of sand dunes at sunrise. I don’t know exactly what I expected from this part of the adventure, but it surely wasn’t what followed. The ride out to the dunes was nerve-wracking to a nervous passenger like myself, to say the least. We were split up in to cars with approximately 4 people each, and we pulled slowly out of the village towards the dunes that we had visited the evening prior. The difference this time, however, was that the drivers of this particular mode of transportation were much more interested in racing each other to our next location than the camels had been. The other interesting part of this experience that I honestly should have expected by now was that there were absolutely no roads in the desert, which left each 4×4 driver to decide his best path over the dunes and vast space we came across. At one point, one of the cars seemed to stop working, which left our driver amongst others to try to help his friend and our fellow travelers to get back on the “road”.

After our ride seemed to come to a conclusion, we were dropped at the camp that we would have slept at had it not been August, and were brought on a hike to the massive dunes spread before us. I definitely underestimated the hike that would be required, and was obviously constantly thinking about what snakes and other sand-dwelling creatures might appear at any moment. Nevertheless, once we made it to the top of the dunes, all concerns seemed to disappear entirely. While it was a bit overcast and we didn’t get the full effect of the sunrise over the desert, the colors and vastness of this space were breathtaking. We sat upon our dune for a while to soak in the beauty spread before us, and to reflect upon the journey that was now nearly at an end. It’s still hard for me to believe that I was actually there and witness to one of the most beautiful and remote sites in the world.

After the sun had joined the party, we made our way back to our cars (much to my dismay). Now, it was daylight, and maybe not surprisingly, driving off-road through the Sahara in the daylight is actually more terrifying than at night. In any case, this journey was significantly easier because we made it to a giant dried lake in the middle of our trip that was totally flat and seemed to go on forever. Of course this meant that the drivers were more prone to high speeds and racing behavior, but it was still an incredible experience.

On our way out of the lake and desert, we ran across some nomadic people that still inhabit the area. These particular people were herding camels, and they had several grouped together traveling through this brutal environment. We learned that there aren’t a ton of nomads left living in this part of the Sahara, but that the practice of camel herding is still quite common among them, as camels are fairly valuable.

Once we left the desert behind us, we began our journey back towards the coast of Morocco to end our trip with some stunning beach views in Essaouria. My journey into the Sahara Desert was absolutely magical, and certainly everything I was hoping for prior to embarking on this experience. While not the easiest place in the world to reach, I think it’s one of the most incredible, natural places that I’ve ever visited- I highly recommend including it in your Moroccan itinerary!

Next up I have a recap of my final days in Morocco including some of the most beautiful sunsets and sea-scenes I’ve ever seen. For more of my Moroccan adventures, check out Days 1-3 in Casablanca, Days 4 & 5 in Rabat, Moulay Idriss and Volubilis, Days 5 & 6 in FesDays 7 & 8 in Chefchaouen, and Day 12 in the High Atlas Mountains!

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What 1 week on the Ring Road looks like: My adventure through Iceland

What 1 week on the Ring Road looks like: My adventure through Iceland

Tourism to Iceland has increased rapidly in the last several years ironically following the eruption of one of the country’s largest volcanoes. Prior to this tourism boom, the country hosted less than a million visitors per year, but the number this year will be record breaking at an already estimated 1.6 million people. In fact, the number of American tourists alone is expected to exceed the entire population. I’m not usually one for “bandwagon” travel, but I’d been hearing so many great things about Iceland from other bloggers that I knew I had to give it a try!

For a week, I drove around Iceland’s famous Ring Road (Route 1), which lies on the circumference of the country and provides travelers with the opportunity to experience all that Iceland has to offer in each of its beautiful regions. I decided, with two friends, to rent a car and drive around the country- because what better way to experience Iceland than to actually explore all of it? We had an absolutely incredible experience, and learned some very real lessons along the way. This is a rough outline of our 8-day trip, plus some life lessons we learned that will help you plan your own!

Only have a long weekend? Check out this guide to learn how to spend it wisely!

Days 1-2 (Reykjavik)

On days 1 and 2, we were exploring Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik, located near the southern coast. Reykjavik is a city by Iceland’s standards, but when coming from cities like Prague or New York, it felt like a small town, and it was amazing. We got a great Airbnb rental that was perfect for a group of friends traveling, and spent our time walking around and getting rained upon.

The first thing that I’d recommend for you to do is take a free walking tour with CityWalk. Our guide, Sara, was an excellent guide and an even better insight into local Reykjavik culture, politics, and history. Iceland’s history is long and varies greatly from much of the rest of Europe’s, so it was great to hear Sara talk about some of the interesting points from the Vikings and Sagas through to modern politics and culture. After surviving our 2-hour walking tour in the rain, we found a café for some much-needed coffee, and then made our way to the Settlement Exhibition near the town center. The settlement exhibition has been built around an actual archaeological site where one of the first houses of Iceland was found, so it’s definitely worth a visit. The whole thing will take you about 30-45 minutes, and they have a student discount! Most importantly, it’s an excellent way to escape freezing temperatures, rain, and wind outside.

Reykjavik is a great city for just wandering around small side streets and getting lost near the harbor. The Harpa, the city’s big concert hall, is free to walk into and is a great example of Iceland’s somewhat obscure but beautiful architecture. You’ll also want to visit the Hallgrímskirkja church, where you can go up into the tower for a beautiful view of the city’s colorful rooftops.

Surprisingly, the most famous food in Reykjavik is the hot dog, so you can also stop by “the” hot dog stand by the bay to get one of these treats!

Reykjavik’s nightlife is internationally recognized for being both amazing and off-beat. There are a couple of famous bars and cafés (shout out to Lebowski’s, the bar that provided our unexpected Halloween celebration- complete with Jesus and Braveheart bartenders), but the hot spots actually change all the time! Since the city (and country!) are so small in terms of population, the locals never have a problem learning about what’s going on in town. For tourists, you can pick up a free copy of The Reykjavik Grapevine, a local paper that details all of the events in town, happy hour specials (this is key- everything is expensive in Iceland), and other things to watch out for.

Day 3 (Reykjavik to Vik)

After spending a day and half exploring Iceland’s capital, we were ready to 1. Escape Reykjavik’s notoriously awful weather and 2. See some of the amazing landscape we’d heard so much about! Our first driving day included stops at popular attractions in the Golden Circle, specifically Gullfoss and Geysir.

Both of these spots are the most touristy that we visited during our entire trip, but they were worth visiting as they’re close to Reykjavik and are roughly along the Ring Road. There is a restaurant and tourist center at Geysir that might make a good lunch stop, as there isn’t very much else in the area. Otherwise, they’re close to each other, but they do require a drive inland off of Route 1. We made the drive to both fairly easily, as the roads are paved and there are a fair amount of other cars driving in the area. We made the nearly fatal error, however, of listening to our GPS to get us to our next stop in Vik.

If you look at a map, you’ll see that it might be more convenient to drive southeast across the interior of the country towards Vik from these places, rather than retracing steps back to Route 1 and continuing around.

Well, we tried that. Don’t be like us. Take the seemingly longer route back to the Ring Road and continue on. We ended up driving for about 4 hours along a gravel road that had more pot holes than road without ever seeing another car. To top it off, we were also driving through a lava field, meaning that the landscape was dreary at best. My friend Ivana described it more like the scene of a horror movie. Anyway, it took us way longer than it should have, and we later learned that it may have been questionably legal for us to drive on this road without a 4×4 vehicle, so I’ll just gently encourage you not to do that.

Vik was the perfect stop for the first night on the Ring Road. It’s a larger village right on the southern coast, and has good facilities to prepare you for the rest of your trip. We stayed at the Puffin Hotel, and I can’t recommend them enough! They were very accommodating for our group, and provided a great breakfast plus clean and spacious rooms. There is also a pub right next door which is convenient when you’ve just driven for four hours through a lava field in the dark and rain/hail/snow and need something to eat (read: need a beer). We can recommend the Viking beer for such an occasion.

Day 4 (Vik to Skaftafell/Vatnajökull)

When we woke up in Vik, it was hard to believe how beautiful the scenery was in the daylight. When we arrived the night before, the entire world seemed to be pitch-black without even the stars thanks to the lovely Icelandic weather. Everything changed the next day!

Our first stop was to the black sand beaches just outside of Vik to see a beautiful sunrise. It didn’t occur to me to expect black sand around much of the country, but there are a few places to check out this interesting natural feature- none are as beautiful as in Vik! There are also well-known and beautiful rock formations located in the tide at the Vik beach, so it’s a doubly interesting place to visit. Our first “real” stop on our road trip did not disappoint!

After soaking up the sun rise for a while and admiring the beauty of the sun’s reflection on the black sand, we hopped in our little red CR-V to get started on the day’s adventure. We had a lot planned for the day, including the Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon and some glacier hiking on the Falljökull glacier at sunset. As it turned out, this plan was ambitious, especially considering our many photo stops, we’ll get to that in a bit. We began driving towards the Vatnajökull National Park, as that is where our “sites” for the day were located. The drive between Vik and Vatnajökull was, in my opinion, the most beautiful stretch of Route 1 (barring, of course, the stretch between Gullfoss and Vik, as we never actually saw that part of the Ring Road…). The scenery changed from minute to minute, providing amazing views like this:

As well as like this:

You can imagine how entertained we were, and how often we made photo stops. After a quick stop for lunch at one of the only places we could find between Vik and Jökulsárlón (pro tip: it’s near the Skaftafell Visitor’s Center), we finally made it to the ice lagoon. Well, after some precarious and potentially life-threatening bridges. Iceland is no driving joke, ya’ll. Seeing the Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon was worth it, though. The lagoon contains giant floating blocks of ice that have broken off the nearby glacier due to recent warming. Despite the fact that the reason this place exists isn’t the greatest, it’s still one of the most beautiful places in the country.

There is a tourist office at the lagoon that offers different varieties of boat tours (ranging from approximately $45-75 USD depending on what you choose). I didn’t have time to take a boat tour, but I imagine it would be a pretty cool experience to get onto water level with these massive blocks of ice, particularly on the boat which brings you right up to them (the Zodiac). Just visiting the lagoon is free, and it is definitely worth a stop.

After our visit to the Jökulsárlón ice lagoon, our wheels went off the wagon, so to speak. The story went like this… We had planned on booking an ice cave tour, and had actually booked two unsuccessfully before we left for Iceland, and were unsuccessful at finding a replacement after we arrived. We booked, instead, a glacier hike so that we’d still have the chance to get onto the glacier and learn about it first-hand. The glacier hike that we booked was through Glacier Guides, and was the 3.5 hour introductory hike scheduled for 3:30 pm that afternoon. After visiting the ice lagoon, we had to back track about 40-50 minutes to get to the visitor’s center at Skaftafell where the Glacier Guides office is located. It was already around 2:45 pm, and so we knew we definitely weren’t going to make the 30-minute early arrival time (oops), but thought we would be there in time for the tour. After calling ahead to announce our delay, we set off along the curvy and uneven stretch of Route 1 towards Skaftafell, but unfortunately not quickly enough. When we arrived at the Glacier Guides office, we were informed that we had missed our tour’s departure, but that we could be rescheduled on another tour at 9:30 am the next day without losing the money we’d pre-paid. Thankfully, this worked for us (as it was actually when we intended to do our ice cave tour), but we ended up driving that stretch of road between Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón 3.5 times round trip in about 16ish hours. So, if you have any questions about that stretch of road, I’m your girl!

Anyway, by the time we left the Glacier Guides office, it was getting close to sunset at around 4:30 pm, so we decided to drive to our guest house which was just past the Jökulsárlón ice lagoon. As we came upon the ice lagoon, I asked if the girls wanted to stop one more time (it was just that beautiful), so we began to pull into the parking lot. Then, I noticed a ton of cars on the other side of the road, so we made a quick decision and headed over there. What a decision! The sun was setting just behind the mountains, and was reflecting through the ice floating in the surf in the most incredible way. This sunset definitely bumped its way into one of my top sunsets ever- and I’m a sunset person, so that’s really saying something.

Remember how I said that the black sand beaches in Vik were really beautiful? This one was even MORE beautiful. The only downside to this one were all of those tourists that had drawn us there in the first place- everyone had their tripods set up to grab the perfect shot of the waves crashing against the ice blocks, so you could hardly get a free spot along the water’s edge. I managed, though, and also grabbed one of the wave-crashing-on-ice shots (tripod-free) 😉

So, in the end, missing out on our glacier hike this day was a good thing, we ended up seeing way more than we would have otherwise!

Our accommodation for the evening was a guest house called Guesthouse Gerði, which was located just a short drive from the ice lagoon on a farm surrounded by water and mountains. I wouldn’t call the location of the guesthouse a town, per say, but it did have two restaurants plus two guesthouses located on essentially the same property, so it was a good spot to connect with locals and other travelers alike. We arrived at the guesthouse and were greeted by the owner who was incredibly friendly. After getting settled in our room, we made our way to the other restaurant on the property (for some diversity, you know), and ended up meeting a Czech person who used to work with Eva in Prague that has been living at Gerði for nearly 2 years! Although not technically a local, Petr was able to provide us with great insight into the local culture and community, as well as living in Iceland, so that was perfect. It turns out that there are a lot of Czech immigrants living in the area, many of whom are working in the service industry now that tourism has spiked so dramatically. The guesthouse was cute- just what we needed for the night to relax with complementary coffee, tea, and hot cocoa. We weren’t lucky to see the Northern Lights outside, but it is the perfect place to see them if you get the timing just right!

Day 5 (Skaftafell/Vatnajökull to Egilsstaðir)

The next morning we got up bright and early in order to actually be on time for our 9:30 am glacier hike. I was a little disappointed that we’d missed our previous day’s hike, as I was looking forward to seeing the sunset from the glacier, but I didn’t anticipate that the sunrise would happen during our newly rescheduled hike! We met the Glacier Guides staff at their office next to the Skaftafell Visitor Center to be fitted for our hiking boots and crampons. We prepared for practically Arctic weather, but were pleasantly surprised at the heat reflecting off the ice once we actually arrived out there. The tour leader led us to our bus which took us to the foot of the glacier. We spent about a half hour hiking on non-ice glacier before enter the ice-y bit of the glacier. I hadn’t really considered how difficult it would be to walk on ice, but it was certainly different than a typical hike. Our guides were both incredible- focused on giving us great information as well as ensuring our safety.

Once we stopped for a photo op, we continued hiking around this giant sheet of ice and admiring even more of the natural beauty of Iceland. We coincidentally learned while hiking that the first week of November is still too early for visiting the ice caves (at least this year), so we would have had our tour cancelled if we’d managed to get on one anyway! If you’re looking to visit an ice cave with low chance of cancellation disappointment, I recommend booking an Iceland trip later in the season (mid-December to late-January, for example). Our guides thought that the ice caves wouldn’t be available for a few weeks yet, which means likely until early December, and I suppose that also means a lot of disappointed tourists. In any case, I loved doing our glacier hike, and I would definitely recommend it! Glacier Guides, in particular, was a great company to work with considering how accommodating they were with our scheduling issues. Their tour and guides were also incredible, I would 100% book another tour with them.

We spent the rest of the day driving towards our next stop: Egilsstaðir. No, I don’t know how to pronounce it. No, we never learned how to pronounce it during our trip- even our glacier guides didn’t know (they were English)! Anyway, of course the drive was absolutely beautiful, but it was definitely long. By the time we made it to Egilsstaðir, we were ready for a break and for some food. Egilsstaðir is actually a sizable town, and we’d booked an Airbnb to stay in for the evening. What we didn’t realize was that our Airbnb was easily 45 minutes outside of town on a farm located down several gravel and pot hole-y roads that we would have to drive down in the dark. We made it to the farmhouse to collect our key, had to convince a dog (with cuddles) to move out of the way of our car, and had to avoid the herd of sheep in the road as we drove towards our cottage (couldn’t have been more in the middle of no where, or more perfect). A true Icelandic adventure! Luckily, we had some food in the car that Eva and Ivana had brought with them (the real MVPs), so we were able to eat something for dinner- but be forewarned that after you leave Vik, you should have groceries with you!

We arrived at our adorable little cottage, and promptly opened a bottle of wine and began a riveting card game of BS. We had stayed up until about 1 am the night before to see the Northern Lights (we were all but promised that they would appear), but with no success, so our plan for this evening was relaxation. At around midnight, Eva went outside for a second and came back to the door claiming to have seen some Aurora activity. Ivana and I quickly threw our coats on and ran outside to see a silver streak painted across the entire sky, wiggling slightly. I have no better descriptor than “wiggling”. We knew that the Aurora was meant to only be a 3 out of 9 on the scale, if it appeared at all, so we figured that this was it even if it wasn’t the bright colors usually associated with the Northern Lights. After about 10 minutes standing outside, alone, in the vast Icelandic landscape, admiring our little silver strand, we went back inside for more wine and tea. Then, Ivana went outside for just a minute, ran back in SCREAMING, and immediately Eva and I were outside shivering our butts off (again). But this time it was DEFINITELY worth it- the Northern Lights had appeared in bright, beautiful green and purple colors, dancing across the entire sky. I’ve never seen anything like it! They were so bright and so beautiful, it was hard to believe they were real. And yes, they were still wiggling.

My experience seeing the Northern Lights, particularly while standing outside of this little cabin surrounded by essentially nothing but sheep, was amazing! The time to see the Northern Lights is in the winter, so book your trip then if you’d like to see them- but don’t expect that you will! The night before, when we were up waiting for the lights, there was an entire tour group standing outside for hours with their cameras all set up who never got the chance, so you never know when it will come.

Day 6 (Egilsstaðir to Akureyri)

The next day, we made our way to the so-called Capital of the North, Akureyri. This “city” is a beautiful little place full of cute shops, cafés, and great restaurants. But before we made it to the city, we were on the hunt for the natural hot spring we’d decided to visit in lieu of a visit to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon, while more famous than any other bath in Iceland, is the most expensive and the most crowded. None of those things appealed to me, so we opted for visiting the Myvatn Nature Baths in the north of the country instead. These baths, located in the town of Myvatn, are just as blue and beautiful as I’ve heard the Blue Lagoon is, but a visit is a bit cheaper, and it is a much more local experience. The day that we visited, there were only a small handful of other visitors, some of whom were Icelandic. For most of the afternoon, we had the entire bath to ourselves. The baths were at a temperature of around 35 degrees Celcius, and there was a hotter tub at around 41 degrees Celcius, so it felt amazing to soak in such freezing weather. You should bring your own bathing suit (they rent them there, but, you know), but you can rent a towel from them. They have locker rooms available for changing, as well as showers for you to utilize before and after your swim. The water contains a high level of sulfur, so you shouldn’t wear any jewerly inside the baths. There is also a small café on site that serves soup and pastries for a light lunch. If you’re looking to experience the famous Icelandic hot spring experience, I strongly encourage you to consider Myvatn!

After a relaxing afternoon, we made the drive to Akureyri where we spent the evening sampling the local beverages and trying one of the most highly-rated restaurants in the city, Rub 23. This Icelandic/Asian fusion restaurant is just as interesting and delicious as it sounds, and while it’s a bit on the pricey side (much like everything in Iceland), it’s worth it for a treat-yourself night. As we hadn’t seen people in any significant numbers (read, more than 5 at a time) since leaving Reykjavik, we didn’t expect anything in this city to be busy or booked, but Rub 23 was close! We got “that look” when we told them that we didn’t have a reservation, so if you want to be safe while visiting, it might be best to book ahead.

The city of Akureyri itself is really beautiful, and was a nice place to spend an evening and the next morning wandering. There is a cultural center there (the HOF) which I imagine is busier in the summer, and there are whale-watching excursions available in the summer months as well. We even saw some tours to Greenland, just to give you an indication at how truly far north we were here!

Day 7 (Akureyri to Vatnsdalur)

The next day, we woke up and spent a lazy morning in our apartment and then wandering around Akureyri to see it in the day time. The mountains surrounding the town were absolutely mesmerizing, I wish that I’d had a couple of days to spend here to soak up the local culture!

Once we had our fill of relaxation, we made our way on the road again, this time towards Hvitserkur Ehf, an interesting stone formation in the ocean off the coast of Iceland. For most of the way there the roads were perfectly fine, until we turned to drive the last 25 km towards the formation, at which point things went downhill fairly quickly. Our poor red card never regained its red color from the brown mud it adopted as we bumped down a mud/gravel road with more potholes than I’ve ever seen in my life. Hvitserkur Ehf was really beautiful, but I definitely wouldn’t attempt the trip there in bad weather- we were lucky because it wasn’t raining or snowing!

My favorite part of Hvitserkur Ehf was actually the area surrounding it. Perhaps it was because it was too muddy to walk down to the beach, but the mountains and fields rolling around the coastline were absolutely breathtaking. So much so, that of course we had to stop for more photos on our 25 km roll back towards Rt. 1.

After we finally made it back across the road of a million potholes, we sped off to our next Airbnb for a good night’s sleep before our second-to-last drive the next day.

Day 8 (Vatnsdalur to Grundarfjörður)

For our final night on the ring road, we chose a cottage on a horse farm just outside of Grundarfjörður, a small village on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. We drove straight there, stopping first to check out the nearby waterfall.

While admittedly much more touristy than almost any of the other places we visited, this natural beauty only spoke to the gorgeous landscape we were about to experience in Snæfellsnes on our horse farm. After a visit to the waterfall, we drove a few minutes up the road to our home for the evening, a cottage on a local horse farm. As we arrived in the day light (for once), we each took our own walk around the property to unwind and reflect a bit before heading back to Grundarfjörður for dinner. Walking around the main path of the farm was absolutely incredible! I later learned that the family living there owns basically all of the land that we could see, including one side of the gorgeous mountain above that is clearly the focal point of the entire town. Despite not seeing too many horses wandering around just yet, the scenery alone was making me melt into this little town that had already stolen my travel heart.

After a good wander, Eva, Ivana and I drove back to town to grab some food, which gave us just enough time to notice yet again how remote this place was. Basically the only industry we could see was a bunch of big fishing boats in the port, but not much besides the local residents’ houses were there. We spent the evening drinking wine and playing cards (we upgraded to poker), and unfortunately not seeing another Northern Lights show on our last night.

Day 9 (Grundarfjörður to Reykjavik)

On our last day, I decided that I needed to go on a horse ride, as it was a prime opportunity given that the stables were a 5 minute walk from my bed. I got up early for a 9 am ride so that we could catch the sun rise over the property. I haven’t mentioned horses before in this post, but you should know that Icelandic horses are world-famous, and are absolutely everywhere across the country! They’re much smaller than horses elsewhere in the world, but they’re a pure breed specific to only Iceland. I went out with the son of the owner of the farm on a private 1-hour ride where I had a chance to speak with him about Iceland in general, but also the horses. I used to ride in college and in grad school, so it was amazing to be back in the saddle again, even if the horses were a little shorter and more plump (and more fluffy!) than I was used to. We rode all around the farm and over to the coast where we had a chance to wander around the beach and through some of the streams near by. Icelandic horses have a special gate that’s something like a very fast and smooth walk that my guide was able to demonstrate, but that I didn’t manage to master. We ran into the rest of the herd of horses as the sun rose, who all wander and graze freely on the mountains all year round.

These horses aren’t trained like the ones that I’m used to riding, so it was amazing to see them living free and wild, but still willing to allow riders. If you have a chance to ride a horse in Iceland, I definitely recommend it- especially at the Berg Horse Farm, where the Airbnb cottages are located!

After I finished my ride, we headed off on the drive towards Reykjavik with a brief stop at one of the oldest wooden churches in Iceland. This church, called Budir, was built with some contention in the early 18th century, and still stands against a stark backdrop of seemingly endless farms and mountains.

I recommend a visit to the church if you’ll be in Grundarfjörður, as it isn’t too far away, and the drive there is just as incredible as the place itself. We wouldn’t have had a complete trip, though, if not for one more snag in the plan! After leaving the church, we got a bit turned around and ended up getting fairly lost. We hadn’t been using the GPS as we figured we knew where we were, but when we realized we were lost we switched it on in an effort to get back near Grundarfjörður to fill up our gas tank (a luxury when traveling around Iceland, trust me). Our GPS, in its infinite wisdom, decided the fastest route back would be THROUGH the mountains. Not around. Through. So it starts taking us down a gravel road, which was really nothing new at that point, but it soon turned into a gravel, rocky mountain path at more than a 45 degree angle up. We went up two sections of this road before committing our Garmen to the backseat semi-permanently and making our way back down the mountain. We survived, but I truly feared for our car. Sorry, CR-V!

Eventually, we made it back to Reykjavik where we checked in to an apartment near-ish to the airport, as we had a 6 am flight the next day. And so ends my Icelandic journey!

So, I hope that you’re now dying to conquer the Ring Road on your own- here are my top Iceland suggestions!

  1. Fly with WowAir. We flew with WowAir from Berlin to Reykjavik because the rates were so good that it was worth the journey from Prague to Berlin. This airline is a discount airline that actually gives a shit about its customers, which is seriously refreshing. Our seats on these flights rivaled major carriers like British Airways and United for comfort and space, but the prices can not be beaten. They also run flights from Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C. that allow you to just visit Iceland, or allow you to visit Iceland on an extended, several-day layover before continuing on to continental Europe. While the prices for these flights don’t include baggage or food, even after you’ve paid extra for these things, you’re still paying less for the flight than you would on almost any other carrier. The service is great, the flights are great, the country is great. What more do you need?
  2. Rent a car from CarioCario is the Icelandic version of Airbnb for car rentals, and will save you tons of money in rental fees. You book a car much like you would a place on Airbnb, and you can arrange for the car to be left at the airport, also saving you a ton of money to get from the airport to Reykjavik. We had a great experience with our little red CR-V! *Side note: rent a 4WD vehicle. This is especially key in the winter when roads get a bit slippery (in the best winter conditions), but would also be useful in the summer for all of those gravel roads. Diesel is slightly cheaper in Iceland, but petrol is roughly the same and usually cheaper to rent. We went with a petrol car. 
  3. Stay on the Ring Road. I write this to save you 4 hours of lonely agonizing driving across a lava field in what was shockingly one of the most populated areas of the country. Our glacier guide told us that it might not be legal to drive on the type of road we were driving on, and I don’t not believe him (if you know what I mean).
  4. Buy groceries when you see a store. Wine too. You don’t want to be like us and get to your Airbnb in the absolute middle of no where only to be told that the nearest place to get any food at all is nearly an hour away. One way. In Reykjavik you’re absolutely fine with finding food, as in Vik and Akureyri or any other big-ish town. In between, though, you’ll be lucky to find a grocery store, much less a restaurant, so stock up! This also works in your favor when you have a kitchen because (as I’ve mentioned) Iceland is pretty pricey. I’d say we cooked and ate out about 50/50, but cooking more and eating out less would save you more money, especially if you’re traveling for more than 1 week. If you’re traveling for about 1 week, I’d say that what we did worked pretty well.
  5. You always need gas at this station. You should never pass a gas station without filling your tank. Fortunately, I’d been warned about this before I left, so we always took care of it, but you can drive for literal hours without seeing a house. You might imagine how long you can drive before seeing a gas station in some parts of the country. It’s always best to have a full tank!
  6. A relaxed vibe is key. You will get lost. You will have to drive 10 mph on a bumpy gravel road for 20 miles. You will have to take these things all in stride. I think that Iceland, in particular, tested me and my need to always be doing something or getting to the next place. The amazing thing about Iceland is that the journey is the entire experience, so enjoy the entire ride!

I absolutely LOVED my experience on the Ring Road, and I’m so happy that I chose to do that rather than stay in Reykjavik and do day trips from there. There is so much to see in the rest of the country, including different cultures and lifestyles, that you would totally miss staying only in the capital or southern part of the country. The Icelandic people are some of the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming people that I’ve ever met, and they’re just as dumbfounded by the recent boom in tourism as you are! I think that for the next couple of years, there will be a period of figuring out how to deal with tourism from both perspectives: from people like me who decide to rent a car from a stranger online and drive around one of the most remote countries I’ve ever visited, and from local farmers who all of a sudden have a million tourists who want to sleep in their guest room. I hope that you take advantage of the opportunity to visit this amazing country, the land of fire and ice. At the same time, I hope that you respect this incredible place and its amazing people, and strive to keep it as natural and beautiful as possible.

Thank you, Iceland, for the adventure of a lifetime <3


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Morocco Day 12: High Atlas Mountains (& the time I hiked to base camp of Jebl Toubkal in sandals)

Morocco Day 12: High Atlas Mountains (& the time I hiked to base camp of Jebl Toubkal in sandals)

My visit to Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains began the second half of my 3-week Moroccan adventure with a new group of travelers that were beginning the Intrepid South Morocco Discovery tour.  The first half of the tour, which I’ve already written about, was mostly focused on Morocco’s biggest and most vibrant cities, while this second half was dedicated to much of Morocco’s natural landscape, smaller villages, and more …athletic… adventures.  I know that our trip notes mentioned a hike was one optional activity in Aroumd, a village in the High Atlas Mountains, and that our guesthouse would require a roughly 30-minute walk from Imlil.  Well, let me share with you the day and a half that followed…

We arrived by van to Imlil, a small village in the High Atlas Mountains, which was clearly a hiker’s retreat.  There were mules carrying packs, locals selling homemade products such as rugs and jewelry, and a guest house where we were meant to leave our bigger bags that featured only a squat toilet.  That’s when you know it’s going to be a good day!  So we left our bags, handed our night packs over to our local mule, and began our trek to our guest house.  I wasn’t exactly sure how strenuous this hike would be, but it was definitely more challenging than I had expected.  The paths through the forest in this area are not at all flat, so the entire walk to the house was a game of not falling and breaking your ankle while trying to avoid stepping in mule poop and making way for mules that were practically charging up and down the trail- and trust me, these mules stop for no one.  This is what it looks like, for instance, when a mule is pushing you out of the way:

Good thing they’re cute.  But, I made it after about 40 minutes of heavy breathing and frequent stops for “photos”.


And then I finally made it to the village of Aroumd!  It’s an even smaller village where it was immediately clear that we were the only tourists around, and we were staying in a beautiful mountain guest house that was propped up right in the middle of everything!


We were seated at a big table outside the house upon arriving for the obligatory serving of Moroccan tea, the sugar in which was actually incredibly welcome after the exertion spent on our hike there.  We sat for a while in the shade enjoying the company of the other travelers on the tour, our guide, and the local hosts before we were told it that it was almost time for our optional hike in the mountains surrounding the guest house.  The hike was meant to take us to a shrine at Sidi Chamharouch that caters to suffers of mental disease should they make a pilgrimage and offer an animal sacrifice. I asked our Intrepid guide, Mohamed, if the hike would be similar to the one we’d just undertaken to get to the guest house, and he laughed and said it was just going to be longer.  Now, after nearly 2 weeks spent already traveling with Mohamed, he certainly knew I wasn’t the most athletic individual in our group which definitely accounted for his laughing at me, but I figured, “how bad can it be?” and headed off with the group for the hike.

Maybe this is when you’re beginning to realize the end of the story based on the title of this post, but this was not when I realized the end of this story as it was happening.  I was still far from realizing the adventure that was about to be undertaken.  In fact, the hike started out well, barring of course, the experience of a young village child slapping my butt as I walked by, presumably as a funny joke between him and his friends.  The walk from the guest house to the valley was lovely!  Why?  It was downhill!  But then we joined the trail from Aroumd and things began to look up.  And by up, I mean very up.


I was committed.  And, I was wearing sandals!  These sandals, in fact.  Fantastic sandals for traveling, not such fantastic sandals for hiking up a mountain on gravel while avoid mules that were still barreling up and down the very small pathways.  The hike took about 2 hours up and then 2 hours back.  The up part was actually the easiest part, little did I know.  But getting to the end of the hike was absolutely worth it- the views along the way were some of the most spectacular that I’ve ever seen in my life.  It was incredible to see the natural landscape open up before us as we inched our way closer to the end.

And then, finally, we made it to the summit.  Except, it wasn’t actually the summit.  It was the base camp of the highest peak in North Africa, Jebl Toubkal!  So, now I’ve realized what you all realized several sentences ago- I just climbed to the base camp of the highest peak in North Africa and the second highest peak in the entire continent in sandals, and trust me, I felt it.  Despite the physical pain I felt, though, knowing that I’d made it all the way to Sidi Chamharouch was an absolutely amazing feeling, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat- just maybe in more sensible shoes.


Once we arrived to the camp and shrine, we realized the the famous white rock which housed the shrine was not-so-natural, and we all got a pretty good kick out of it.  It was, however, really interesting to learn about the superstition surrounding the shrine, and the contradiction that the pilgrimages and sacrifices have with Islam, the official religion of those that visit it.  As non-Muslims, we weren’t permitted to enter the shrine, but the area surrounding it was beautiful, as were the people that live there.


Even more amazing, however, were all of the animals that live there.  We found goats jumping around, mules grazing, and gorgeous birds flying through the skies.  It made me want to hike to the actual summit (again, with hiking boots), to see the views from above.  But instead, I will leave you with a photo of jumping goats, which demonstrates the excitement I had after getting back to our guest house in the evening, washing an entire mountain’s worth of dirt off of me and my feet, and falling asleep in a nice, cozy bed.


In case you’re interested in tackling this mountain yourself, head over to Becky the Traveller to learn more about Trekking Morocco’s Highest Mountain!

Next up I have a recap of my time spent in the Sahara including a close call with a camel and a fear-inducing 4-wheel drive in the middle of the night.  For more of my Moroccan adventures, check out Days 1-3 in Casablanca, Days 4 & 5 in Rabat, Moulay Idriss and Volubilis, Days 5 & 6 in Fes, and Days 7 & 8 in Chefchaouen!

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Morocco Days 7-8: Chefchaouen

Morocco Days 7-8: Chefchaouen

After exploring one of the biggest cities in Morocco, Fes, I was happy to head to a smaller town to get a feel of the small-city local culture for a few days.  Plus, our tour guide promised that the hotel in Chefchaouen was one of the nicest that we would stay in, so I couldn’t wait to fit some R&R into my 3-week backpacking adventure through (the very hot) Morocco.

Chefchaouen, also called “The Blue Pearl”, has become Instagram famous recently, and for good reason.  It just takes one search of the #chefchaouen hashtag to see why I desperately wanted to visit this town while I was in Morocco.  In fact, the biggest reason that I chose this particular Intrepid tour was because of the stop it provided in Chefchaouen.  After driving through some very windy mountain roads, we arrived at an outlook over the town which, I must admit, didn’t look particularly blue.


Not that it doesn’t look beautiful- I was just expecting a lot more blue.  But, we continued down the mountain road into the city to find our hotel for the next two days, and things started to become much bluer!  After checking into the hotel, Darechchaoeun, we began our short walk into the city center to see how blue the Blue Pearl really was.  Well, it was very blue.  And very beautiful:


Actually, even the streets that weren’t this blue were incredibly beautiful.  I loved walking around the medina to explore all of the beautiful colors, talk to the shop keepers, and enjoy the company of the true Chefchaouen inhabitants.


Spending two days in this little town was absolutely incredible.  While there aren’t any true “sights” to behold, really, the town itself is one of the most beautiful places I visited during my 3 weeks in Morocco.  Around every corner I found beautiful architecture, people, and colors like I’d never seen them before. It felt as if I was actually wandering through a painting.


While visiting Chefchaouen, I visited a rooftop restaurant with an incredible view overlooking both the city and the sunset behind the mountains: La Lampe Magique.  The restaurant is situated directly above the central square of the city, but the rooftop provides a hidden getaway to enjoy the ambiance of Chefchaouen without the commotion of the square below.  There are a lot of restaurants in the main square, but it was pretty clear that almost all of these are geared specifically to tourists.  While La Lampe Magique also hosts many tourists each evening, the prices are right, the location is great, and the views are amazing- I would recommend a stop for a dinner at sunset!  In particular, listening to the evening call to prayer resonate through the valley over the city’s rooftops and bouncing off the walls of the mountains was a surreal experience, and one that I will certainly never forget.


These two days in Chefchaouen essentially ended my visit to northern Morocco.  After departing from this beautiful, blue city, I headed north to Tangier where I took an overnight train to Marrakech after a few hours spent at the northern coast.  My overnight train experience, which was my first overnight train experience, was incredibly interesting!  The train left in the late evening, and we were assigned to “bedrooms” that were incredibly small cabins with two bunkbeds and plastic orange mattresses.  We were 4 girls to a room, and it was certainly an adventure climbing over one another to make our beds and sort out our bags for the next roughly 11 hour journey south to a more desert-y terrain.


Overall though, it was a great experience, and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to take a more local form of transportation through about half of the country.  I loved going to sleep in the most northern part of Morocco, surrounded by Spanish influences, and waking up surrounded by orange sand just outside of the cultural capital of the country.

Next up?  Look out for my posts about my journey through the High Atlas Mountains, Sahara desert, and the southwestern coastal city of Essaouria.  I’ll also be throwing up a story about my traditional Moroccan hammam experience in Chefchaouen, as this story deserves its very own post!

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1-Day Tour of Prague: Instagram Takeover @VisitCZ

1-Day Tour of Prague: Instagram Takeover @VisitCZ

I spent a day taking myself on a one-day tour of Prague while behind the wheel of the official Czech tourism Instagram account: Visit Czech Republic.  I like to go on these adventures in my “home city” every once in a while to remind myself how truly incredible Prague is- and this was a great excuse to do it!  I decided that I wanted to give the followers of the Visit Czech Republic account a 1-day tour of Prague.  Specifically, I wanted to show what I would suggest someone do if they had only one day in this beautiful city, and then show what that day would look like in real time!  So, as a summary of my day exploring Prague, here is my 1-day guide:

I started my day at Narodni divadlo (the National Theater) so that I could take my favorite walk across the Vltava River on my way to breakfast (more on that later!).  I love this area of Prague because the architecture there is incredible in every direction, if not a little obscure with the Nova Scena theatre sitting next to the regal National Theatre.  I also think this bridge gives you one of the most beautiful views of Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, and with a relatively tourist-free experience.  Walking from the theatre side to the castle side of the river will point you in the direction of Petrin Hill and a beautiful walk in one of Prague’s natural getaways.

After this nice little river walk, I stopped for breakfast at the famous Café Savoy.

Café Savoy is just one of Prague’s many lavish cafés that have historically been meeting places for Prague’s great artists and thinkers.  Today, this café is known for its incredible breakfast selection, and more importantly, for its pastry selection.  While it isn’t the cheapest option in Prague (of which there are quite a few), I certainly think that a breakfast stop here is worth it for anyone looking to experience a little of Prague’s high culture and beautiful architecture to start their day in the city.

Once finished with breakfast, I took a walk along the river through the neighborhood of Kampa.  Famously the home of the Kampa Museum and the David Černý crawling babies statues, I absolutely love strolling through the beautiful park and waterfront nooks in this part of the city.  I never fail to get lost here when I stray from the river’s edge, and that’s one of the things that I love most- no matter how many times you visit, you will always find something new and beautiful.  On that note, sorry to my cousin Ryan, who never actually got to see the John Lennon Wall when he visited Prague because of how miserably lost I get in these windy streets!  In any case, my journey took me to the foot of Charles Bridge, one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in Prague.

I love this view of Charles Bridge and Old Town behind it because along the edge of the water, the city is so peaceful despite the chaos blooming on top of the bridge.  I love sitting on the edge of the river in Kampa and watching the swans and boats float by with Prague’s beautiful skyline behind; it is a serene experience not to be missed!

But of course, a stroll atop Charles Bridge should also be on the agenda for any 1-day tour of Prague.

This bridge connects Old Town (Staromestka) with Mala Strana (Lesser Town), and is a beautiful place to walk- especially in the early morning before the tourists descend upon in such force that you can no longer see the bridge.  Walking from Old Town to Mala Strana will bring you to Malastranské namesti, now a pedestrian square that’s home to some of Prague’s most beautiful rooftops.  I took my walk from Kampa to the top of the bridge, and then through to Mala Strana where I took the 22 tram up to Prazky Hrad (Prague Castle).  For the more enthusiastic among you, you might also walk to Prague Castle- but just be aware that it is quite a hill.  I usually opt for the tram up, walk down route.

My next stop is one of my favorite places in Prague: the South Garden at Prague Castle.  This incredibly beautiful garden sits just below the St. Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane, and the castle rooms, but is far less crowded than those areas tend to be.  Plus, the views from these gardens are spectacular, and they’re free to enter!

I like to pop up here with a book, find a quiet spot, and admire the Bohemian orange rooftops while relaxing in the sun or shade.  Keep in mind that these gardens are open only in the summer, so you’ll have to save you visit for these beautiful, sunny months to enjoy these views.

*Pro tip: If you do visit Prague when these gardens are closed, there is a Starbucks just outside the gates of the castle that has similar views and an outdoor terrace.  While I typically do not encourage visits to Starbucks outside of the USA (especially when there are such great local coffee shops in Prague), I do recommend a visit here just to enjoy the view- and it will only cost you the price of a coffee!

After sunbathing in the castle gardens, I made my way down the hill towards the Vltava River for one of the most “local” things that you might do in Prague: have a beer at Naplavka!  Naplavka, roughly translated to “along the river” is an area below the Vyton tram stop on the Old Town side of the river where you’ll find a farmer’s market, floating bars, swans, bikes, and locals enjoying the local refreshment with their feet dangling above the water.  Naplavka actually runs a bit bigger than this- there’s a Naplavka area on the Prague Castle side of the river, too- but this area below Vyton is usually the most active day & night.  During the day, this is the place to go with some friends and a camera to capture some of the local beauty.  By night, this is a great place to start your night with a group of friends on one of the many boat bars.  The prices are local, the beer is delicious, and the scenery is incredible- who could ask for more?

After an afternoon spent enjoying Naplavka, I began making my way back to my own neighborhood- Zizkov.  Zizkov is known as one of the many up-and-coming neighborhoods in Prague, and as a New Yorker, I like to think of it as the Brooklyn of Prague.  In Zizkov, you’ll find amazing cafés, bars, restaurants, and very unique architecture.  Although many consider it an eyesore, one of my favorite examples of Zizkov architecture is the Zizkov Television Tower located near namesti Jiriho z Podebrad.

I’ve grown fond of this somewhat strange tower that dominates the Prague skyline, as its strange qualities really demonstrate exactly what Zizkov is about.  The great thing about the TV Tower is that it’s now the home of a mini-golf course in the summer and ice skating rink in the winter, both located just below the tower’s entrance.  You might also choose to ride the elevator to the top of the tower for some incredible views of the city beyond.

And finally, a visit to Prague would not be complete without watching the sun set behind the castle from Riegrovy sady.  This park, located between Zizkov and Vinohrady (about 10-minutes’ walk from the TV Tower), is home to two beer gardens and beautiful green space in the middle of the city.  From the hill in Riegrovy sady, you have views over Old Town, Mala Strana, and Prague Castle that not many tourists get the chance to see.  At sunset, these views are even more incredible as the sky changes color and the silhouette of the Prague Castle emerges.

In the summer, you’ll see young people drinking beers, playing guitar, and enjoying the ambiance of this young and vibrant neighborhood.  After the sun sets, you’ll see everyone move to the nearby beer gardens to watch the evening football match, or to simply enjoy some more of Prague’s famous brews.

So, I hope that you enjoyed my one-day visit of Prague, and thank you for following along!  If you’re planning to visit Prague, and would like a longer guide, check out my 3-day Guide to Prague, available for download here.  If you’d like me to plan your perfect Prague or Czech vacation, check out my travel consultation packages– I’d be happy to work with you!

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Best of the East Coast: Lower Hudson Valley, NY

Best of the East Coast: Lower Hudson Valley, NY

Just slightly north of New York City is the lower Hudson Valley, one of the most beautiful regions of the state of New York- and hardly ever visited by the millions of tourists flocking to NYC throughout the year.  This area features beautiful mountains, scenic river views, orchards, wineries, and all sorts of activities to keep you occupied throughout the year.

Hudson Valley map

I should probably come clean at the beginning and confess that I grew up in the Lower Hudson Valley (Monroe-Woodbury in Orange County to be exact), so I may be a bit biased in saying that this is the best of the East Coast (even though it is).  But, I’m happy to share with you the list of all of my favorite things that this incredible region has to offer!

West Point (aka United States Military Academy).

It may seem strange that my top spot in the Hudson Valley is a military base, but once you see it, you’ll understand why!

Credit: Eric Luding

Founded at the beginning of the 19th century, the USMA is one of the most historic institutions in the US.  Its history goes back to the Revolutionary War, where a great chain constructed in the picturesque bend of the river prevented British ships from sailing north into the rest of the colonies.  Now, West Point is one of the top universities in the country, training and educating future army officers in exchange for military service.  There is a visitor’s center outside the gates of West Point where you can learn about the academy, and a museum where you’ll find information about the base’s history.  Visitors can enter the base to visit the historic Thayer Hotel, which serves up an excellent Sunday brunch and has a great rooftop restaurant/bar, Zulu Time.  You may also take a bus tour of the base to learn about its incredibly interesting history, and to get an inside look of some of the incredible buildings. Alternatively, you can enter the base on your own to explore Trophy Point, the Cadet Chapel, and the West Point Cemetery where many famous Americans are interred.  In the summer, be sure to check out the outdoor concerts at Trophy Point, or the shows and events at Eisenhower Hall from September-April.

The view from Trophy Point. Credit: Eric Luding
The view from Trophy Point. Credit: Eric Luding

The best time of year to visit West Point is most certainly the autumn when the leaves take on glowing red, yellow, and orange colors, there are Army football games to attend, and the mountains seem like something out of another world.  Restrictions on entering the base are being tightened, so be sure to plan ahead if you do not have a DoD ID card; more information for visitors to West Point can be found here.

Perkins Peak.


This is a tough contender with West Point for my favorite spot in the Hudson Valley, but actually, the hiking trails at Perkins Peak butt up to West Point property, so we can almost consider it the same.  The Appalachian Trail runs right through Perkins Peak, but you don’t need to do any strenuous hiking to get there if you don’t want to.  This is a scenic overlook with incredible views of the Hudson River, and on a clear day, the Manhattan skyline.  A lot of people will drive up (via Perkins Memorial Drive) to Perkins Peak just to climb the lookout tower and have a picnic lunch on the beautiful, flat rocks overlooking the river.  If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can hike a short loop of the Appalachian Trail (definitely worth doing), or one of the other many trails that run through the area.  In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. *Keep in mind that Perkins Peak is open only April-November.*

App Trail
Hiking a piece of the Appalachian Trail

Bear Mountain State Park

Located nearby to West Point, Bear Mountain is a gorgeous natural park with lots of activities to keep you entertained year round. There is the Bear Mountain Inn with a restaurant to visit, but also a ton of outdoor activities. Nearby to the Bear Mountain Inn is the Bear Mountain Ice Rink which is a beautiful place to skate outside in the winter.  In the summer, there are a ton of hiking trails and outdoor events to explore.  Sometimes you’ll also find Redhawk Native American pow-wows held in the park which are amazing events to attend- a good way to explore some of the native culture of New York!  And as with West Point, the most beautiful time to visit is in the autumn months when the foliage lights up in beautiful colors.  Be forewarned, this is also one of the most touristy parts of the year in the Hudson Valley, but seeing the beautiful mountain colors are more than worth a little extra road traffic!

Warwick, NY.

Warwick is a small town about 45 minutes from Bear Mountain State Park that’s full of beautiful farms, quaint restaurants and shops, and a lot to see and do.  The main street in Warwick is full of cute shops and restaurants that make a great afternoon stroll, but there’s a lot happening outside the commercial center, too.  In fact, I have so many top spots in Warwick that it justifies its own list:

  1. Masker’s Orchard.Maskers Found just outside the main streets of Warwick, this spot is a step outside the mountains I’ve been raving about.  Masker’s Orchard is a massive orchard with hundreds of pick-your-own apple trees of all different varieties.  My all-time favorite fall activity is visiting Masker’s with a picnic lunch and finding a spot to eat under an apple tree.  You can spend as much time in the orchard as you’d like, and you pay for any apples you bag by weight on your way out (after taste-testing one or two in the orchard, of course!).  Even after leaving the orchard, you’ll find a country store with local products (definitely try the apple butter), and a food stand selling all home-made apple products like apple cider, apple pie with vanilla ice cream, and apple donuts.
  2. Bellvale Farms CreameryLocated on one of the highest hills in Warwick, the Bellvale Farms Creamery has arguably one of the most beautiful views in the area, served up with what is most certainly the best ice cream I’ve ever had.  Plus, you can go meet the dairy cows right at the bottom of the hill- it doesn’t get more fresh than that.  This spot is nothing more than a local ice cream shop with a view, but it is absolutely worth a stop for the view and dessert!Bellvale
  3. Warwick Valley WineryThere are many wineries in the Warwick area, but the Warwick Valley Winery tops my list because of its tasty wine, great scenery, and other amenities.  Not only does the WV Winery grow excellent, local wine, but they also have their own cider and distilleries that offer great alcohols from almost any fruit you can imagine.  In addition to their tasting room, they have a restaurant/cafe and outdoor patio where live music can be enjoyed in the summer months. This is a great place to spend an afternoon trying some local products and enjoying the adult beverages of the area.

Walkway Over the Hudson

This a relatively new Hudson Valley attraction that has gained local interest very quickly.  Spanning the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie and the New Paltz area, it brings you a bit further north into the Hudson Valley, but well within the natural beauty of the region.  While not directly in New Paltz, but rather in the town of Highlands, the New Paltz side of the bridge is close enough to the town to include on your Walkway itinerary.  New Paltz, home to one of the State Universities of New York, is notoriously a “hippie town” with a beautiful and walkable main street, plus excellent shops and restaurants.  There are also many important historic landmarks in New Paltz, most notably the Historic Huguenot Street.  The Poughkeepsie side offers great restaurants and activities along the waterfront, making it a great end-point to your walk over the Hudson.  The Walkway itself provides you with beautiful views of the river and surrounding scenery- it’s definitely worth a visit!

Even after traveling through so much of the world and visiting so many beautiful places, I can genuinely say that the Hudson Valley is still one of my favorite places to be.  In my mind, nothing beats visiting Perkins Peak in autumn when the leaves are changing colors and looking out at the Manhattan skyline in the distance.  Likewise, there are few better ways to spend a day than sitting in an apple tree at Masker’s munching on a fresh Delicious Red.  I encourage anyone with a free weekend in NYC to make the trip up north to explore some of the great things that New York State has to offer; these are the things that make New York the Best of the East Coast.

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This post is part of an East Coast link up with bloggers all up and down the coast- check out the other posts below!


Visby, Sweden

Visby, Sweden


Where to stay: Unfortunately, there aren’t any hostels in Visby, and being in Sweden, it’s a pretty expensive place to stay.  Given the budgets required for a hotel in the city, it’s likely that an Airbnb rental will be the only feasible option for budget travelers.  Visby is a really small city on a pretty small island, so staying within the general Visby area will likely be fine.  I found, though, that the money I spent on taxis getting to my apartment outside of the old town (about 30-40 minutes by walking) was just as pricey as it would have been to stay in the old part of the city, since that’s where I spent all of my time.

Because Visby is so small, the public transport is equally small, so keep that in mind when picking your spot!  That being said, if you’re visiting Visby more for its natural beauty, you might want to stay outside of the old city because it’s more likely you’ll be able to have a car out there, and some of the most beautiful places are within walking distance if you’re in the suburban area of the city.


Where to eat: My absolute favorite spot in Visby, particularly for lunch, is Eden.  This restaurant is located right on the main square near the St. Katarina Cathedral ruin, and is a tapas-style cafe.  They have lunch specials which work well if you’re on a budget, but also a ton of options for dinner.  If you’re looking for Swedish pub food (which you should), check out G:a Masters.  It’s located in an old building tucked away on a side street in the city (screen shot a map route to this one!), and you’ll find great traditional food, local beer (definitely try), and friendly service.  And lastly, I recommend Italienaren, a small and cosy Italian restaurant located near the tourist information office in the main part of the old city.  This spot has a mix of traditional Italian food, and some different, interesting menu items, making it a great spot to treat yourself to a nice dinner.  It is on the pricier end of the spectrum, but absolutely worth it!


What to do: For such a small town, Visby has an absolute wealth of interesting things to do.  For those of you who are largely unfamiliar with Gotland and Swedish history, I recommend visiting the Gotlands Museum.  It contains interesting artifacts from pre-history through more recent centuries, and gives you such a great insight into the city and island.  If you’re traveling with kids, it also has a ton of activities for them!

Beyond the Gotlands Museum, walking around the city is absolutely the best way to get to know it- no purchase required!  The old town in Visby is fairly small, and is easily walkable in a day (I spent at least 2 full days wandering, though!).  The architecture of the city, especially the cottages near the far city wall (opposite the water) is incredibly unique and beautiful.  There are several cathedral ruins spread throughout the city which are great places to explore.  The cathedrals are only open during the summer months, but you can still see them any time of year by simply walking around the exteriors.  St. Clemens is the exception, open all year long, this ruin also has a café attached- definitely a beautiful place for a picnic or a cup of coffee.  Along with the cathedral ruins, there is the Visby Botanical Garden, which is a beautiful park worth wandering around if you have sunny weather!


St. Clemens Ruin in Visby, with the attached café

If you’re in Visby for more than a couple of days, you have plenty of time for adventures outside of the town.  One of the most famous spots, Faro, is a small island on the northeast of Gotland famous for its rock formations.  Getting to Faro from Visby via public transportation is quite easy- there’s a bus that goes directly to the ferry port in Farosund.  I will warn, however, that getting around Faro itself is a bit challenging if you don’t have some form of transportation (bike, car, etc.).  The ferry from the main island to Faro is free and runs regularly, so renting a car for the day may be the best option if you don’t have a bike available to you.  The town of Farosund nearly shuts down outside the summer months, so don’t plan for food options or bathroom breaks unless you’re there in the summer!  All of that being said, the landscape on Faro is BEAUTIFUL, and I didn’t even make it to the rock formations:



The coast of Faro

Overall Opinion: I absolutely fell in love with Visby and Gotland in my few short days there.  This little city on this little island absolutely stole my heart with its beauty, history, inhabitants, and culture.  I visited in autumn when the island is largely hibernating, but I still found plenty to do and see for 4 days.  With that being said, Visby is quite cold and dark throughout the autumn and winter, so if you’re more interested in hiking and exploring the island at large, visiting in the summer might be your best bet.  I truly enjoyed the short days exploring the city and long evenings sitting in warm pubs and enjoying the cosy culture that Visby offers.  If you’re looking for a non-traditional destination in Sweden, I highly recommend Gotland and Visby!