I'm lucky enough to travel to some truly amazing places and I'll be honest that sometimes that can mean that you become a little more immune to the wow-factor, but every once in a while, you go somewhere that restores your sense of awe to factory settings. Somewhere that really just takes your breath away and leaves you chomping at the bit to explore more of this incredible world around us. When we planned a weekend away at Rügen Island for my birthday, it was the result of a kind travelling friend who offered us a holiday home to stay in rather than a whole lot of planning. The spontaneous break was everything we both needed and much more, especially when we discovered how utterly beautiful both the island, and the national park, really were. It's not often a place leaves me speechless, but when it does, it usually comes down to the spectacle of nature because it takes something vast and powerful to really remind you what a tiny place you occupy in the world.
It may be Germany's smallest national park but Jasmund boasts some seriously spectacular views such as the famous chalk cliffs which won the heart of Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich around 200 years ago. With lush forests and endless walking trails, plus the stunning coastline and beautiful beaches, Jasmund National Park has a lot to offer to anyone who ventures up to the north-east of the country in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. A UNESCO Natural Heritage site and perfect for walkers, visitors will wander through ancient beech forests dating back over 700 years – if you're wondering what all those classic fairy tales were inspired by, it had to be mystical forests like this one.Perfect for exploring by foot or bike, there are lots of different trails that will take you through the forest, or along the 8.5km routes along the cliffs which can reach up to 117m tall. At the very highest point of the national park, you will find the entrance to UNESCO Natural Heritage site Könuigsstuhl, which is German for "King's Chair" and has long played an important role in local mythology. Overlooking the Baltic Sea, on a very clear day visitors can see right across the bay to the coast of Sweden as the sun warms the famous white chalk cliffs. According to legend, the name Könuigsstuhl actually comes from ancient times when the custom was that the first to climb the cliffs from the sea and sit in the chair on the top would be elected king. You can see why – with a history like that and the natural beauty of the area – it would capture the imagination of Romantic painters.
Jasmund National Park was honestly one of the most magical and mystical places I have ever visited, I felt as though I had truly stepped into a fairytale. The ancient beech forest was filled with swirling mist and dark shadows on the day we went and as we walked through the trees, I half-expected Robin Hood and his Merry Men to come running out brandishing bows and arrows. At every turn we marvelled at the spookiness of the fog as it engulfed us and yet the vibrancy of the green of the leaves and the colours in the bark. The walk only takes around 30 minutes to the top of Könuigsstuhl, but for us it took over an hour each way because we had to keep stopping for photos and just to enjoy our surroundings. At one point we went a little off-course and started exploring part of the forest around a lake which we were drawn to by the sound of the frogs chirping in the mist, it was simply too magical to turn away from.Eventually we reached the top and had to pay the €9.50 entrance fee but of course, with the mist, we were faced with a pretty much non-existent view! We didn't let it deter us and had a good laugh about it, exclaiming loudly how wonderful the view was in front of a group of confused tourists. We decided to make the most of our visit and check out the visitor's centre which is actually great with a really interactive audio tour which is available in English and will keep the family entertained. Then we also watched the short film they offer which was really interesting and tells you more about the forest and how they protect it. But obviously we were disappointed not to see the view, so we decided the next morning we would run the same route we had just walked to see the view and not waste time repeating the day.Thankfully our last day on the island dawned sunny and bright, with clear blue skies and we couldn't wait to see the view properly. We ran the same route again and arrived out of breath but were soon rewarded by the view, which was definitely epic enough to make our running worthwhile. We had to chat our way past the gate so that we wouldn't have to pay again just for the view but a lovely woman let us through for five minutes. It was spectacular and my words won't do it justice but hopefully the pictures will. On a side note: walking through the forest on the second day was definitely not as exciting as the first time with all the mist, although still beautiful it was a lot less atmospheric. If you get the opportunity, I would really recommend checking it out on a misty or duller day, it is one of the few places I have been that is actually worth visiting more than once for a totally different experience.
Have you visited Jasmund National Park – what did you think? Have you been to any other national parks in Germany? What summer trips are you planning?
You all know by now how much I love epic festivals but sadly it's been a while since my last one. So I've teamed up with Holidays by Destination2 to talk about some of the amazing festivals around the world which could give you a travel experience to remember. Whether it's a food festival, a religious celebration or even a huge music festival. There's nothing like combining travel with epic festivals to really turn an average trip into a one you won't forget. I remember a few years back when I was invited to cover Hideout Festival in Croatia for the website I worked for, cue turning it into an epic 10 day holiday with a huge group of mates and it's definitely a trip I will always remember.
Throughout my travels I've stumbled upon all kinds of amazing local celebrations from Chinese New Year and comedy festivals, to Tamil parades and even street parties across Germany, the UK, Australia and Asia. There's something special about joining in the local celebrations, you don't just look at a new culture, you become a part of it and for me, that's what travel is all about. I've picked out six festivals from all corners of the globe that offer completely different and unique experiences. Whether you're traveling in Europe or as far as Asia, there is always a way to get involved and join the festival atmosphere. Next time you're planning a trip, why not check out what events are going on in the local area? It's a great way to meet people when you travel and to have an extra-special travel experience. Here are just some of the epic festivals that are waiting for you:
What could possibly make your trip even better than celebrating life itself? Filled with energy, vitality, the brightest costumes and colours and the intoxicating, hip-shaking sounds of Calypso and Soca music, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is the biggest of all epic festivals in the Caribbean. I've not been lucky enough to travel to this part of the world yet but it's definitely high on my bucket list, and when I go there, I know I want to party, so how better to plan a trip than to coincide with such an epic and well-known event? The festival was originally created in the 18th century to imitate and mock the pre-Lent celebrations of the plantation owners, but took on a life of it's own following the abolishment of slavery. Head to this festival to join the greatest street parade in the world, join the revelry by dancing all day and all night, drinking in the sights and sounds of Caribbean life. Read more about the history of this event here.
Hoi An was one of my absolute favourite parts of Vietnam, such a beautiful little town with such a rich history and heritage. You can read all about my trip there in this post. I'm so sad that during my week there I didn't manage to see the lantern festival when the colourful little town comes alight and you can really appreciate it in all it's splendour. Each day once the sun sets, the villagers light lanterns as part of a centuries-old tradition for the locals to give offerings and worship their ancestors by setting the lanterns into the river. At 8pm, all the town's lights are turned off so you can really see the town aglow. The best time to go is the first full moon of the lunar new year when the most people will gather, but the event does happen every month so its an easy one to fit in with your travels.
Some of you might not know but my dad's side of the family come from Mauritius, and although I have been to visit twice, I haven't been for around 10 years. I would love to go back and see how the country has changed since I last visited, and what better time to go than when the biggest Hindu festival outside of India is taking place? When we're talking epic festivals, Maha Shivaratri lasts a whopping five days and see nearly 500,000 people (almost half the population of the Indian Ocean island) dressing in white and joining a procession towards the lake of Grand Bassin. Celebrating the victory of Shiva and Vishnu on Brahma, the pilgrims consider the lake to be an extension of the Ganges, making offerings and bathing in the water. Visitors will be treated to quite a sight and will also have the opportunity to admire one of the tallest statues in the Indian Ocean
Another Hindu festival but this time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I was back in November. We had just one day in the city but made sure to visit the Batu Caves which were astounding. During Thaipusam the celebrations attract over a million people who gather in the city and join a procession which walks the 15km to the caves, taking around 8 hours. Quite a sight, and the festival normally attracts around 10,000 tourists. Looking for epic festivals in Asia? This one is all about putting your body through torture to appease the Lord, so we're talking incredible body piercings using hooks, sewers and small lances – when it comes to crazy festivals I think this one is definitely up there and I can't imagine what it must be like to actually be there and see all of these amazing sights. If you're traveling in Asia, Kuala Lumpur is such an easy stopover and a great place to spend 24 hours, we were there for just 10 hours and had loads of time to get out of the airport and to explore lots of different sights – read my post here.
The Middle East always looks like such a fascinating and beautiful place to travel, I know that it has had a bad rep for the political strife in some countries, but I know so many people who have traveled to this part of the world and have raved about their experiences. Israel, Jordan, Iran and Oman have been on my travel list for a while, and when you have great places to stopover such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, why not build a festival into the trip? One of the most anticipated cultural events in the city, visitors can learn more about the vibrant film culture in the Middle East by seeing the talents of Arab directors pitted against some of the world’s most respected filmmakers. If you love creative talent and want to experience more Arab cinema, this is the festival for you, it's about time Western travelers spent more time in this beautiful part of the world.
Who doesn't love a food fight? Here's the perfect combination of epic festivals and a crazy food fight experience! If you're planning any European travels this summer, why not time your trip with a stop in sunny Spain for the world's biggest food fight? La Tomatina is held in Bunol, near Valencia, and each year it attracts thousands from all over the world to join in the crazy, messy fun as more than 100 tonnes of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets. Since 2013 the event has been officially ticketed which has limited numbers to just 20,000 so be sure to grab tickets so you don't miss out. I'm allergic to tomatoes and extremely resentful of having to try and avoid eating them, so this just sounds like so much fun to get even by throwing tomatoes in the streets!
Have you been to any festival celebrations abroad – how was your experience? Would you plan a trip around a festival? Which of these festivals would you love to attend?
I'm starting to think I started a craze for Hamburg city breaks when I moved to Germany. In the last week alone, I've spoken to around 15 people who have trips planned over here in the next month and all of them were asking for my advice on what to see and do when they visit. So I thought, why not create the bumper city guide for everyone who is thinking of visiting, and those who already have their flights booked. If there's one thing I love, it's showing people around my new home city and I'm so excited to share it with you all in a blog post. Now I'm going to focus on all the things I've loved discovering but know that you guys won't have time to hunt them all down in the time you are here, by creating this guide, my aim is to make planning your trip stress-free so you can spend more time enjoying yourself and everything that Hamburg has to offer.
St Pauli and the Sternschanze areas have become some of my favourite parts of the city to wander around and they're great for exploring. Head there during Hamburg city breaks for great brunch places and coffee shops, then wander the streets looking at the graffiti and quirky characters, snapping those perfect insta-shots. We've been watching the World Cup around there and oh my there is such a fantastic atmosphere, if there happen to be any matches on, or any other events when you visit, head here for the party.
Of course, when you come to Hamburg, it's a rite of passage to go and see the Reeperbahn – red light district –in all it's glory. It's definitely worth a wander along to see all the bars, strip clubs and sex shops, and if you fancy a mad night out then go crazy, there's even a 99 cent shot bar down one of the side streets! If that's not quite your style, then why not check out some of the Beatles-related sights along there, there are even Beatles-specific tours available for super fans.
If you fancy something a bit more chilled out during your Hamburg city breaks, head to St Pauli and the Sternschanze area for streets lined with great bars and reasonable prices, or walk down to the harbour and head to StrandPauli or one of the many beach bars for a cocktail and beach chairs. In terms of clubs, I haven't had a chance to explore yet but I've heard there are lots of great places for live music and DJs - I can't wait to find them!
Food is always a big part of my travels and I love finding great new places to eat out, my favourites so far that I have discovered have been around the Sternschanze and St Pauli areas where there are some amazing places and even better, they're all local with barely any chains around. I love how multicultural Hamburg is and you won't struggle to find fantastic Italian, Greek and Portuguese food wherever you go. If you love meat, check out the Portuguese district which is just behind Landungsbrücken for some great restaurants – our favourite is A Varina.
If you fancy a bit of a treat, one of the best restaurants in Hamburg is Bullerei, which serves real German food apparently. I haven't eaten there yet, but I did have drinks there the other day and there is a huge pink unicorn in the middle of the restaurant – sold. Make sure to visit a good bakery during your Hamburg city breaks, Germans love their bread and pastries so you haven't lived without indulging, and if you get a chance, grab a fischbrötchen which has become one of my fave German foods.
If you get the S or U-bahn to Landungsbrücken you will walk out right on the harbour where you can spend ages walking either to the left round towards the Elbphilharmonie, or right towards the beach areas and along the river. There are countless boat tours available which take you around the harbour and give a great way to see the city from another perspective during your Hamburg city breaks. check out my review of the boat tour I did here. Along the harbour you will also find the legendary Hamburg Fischmarkt which, if you're here on a weekend is a must-see. It's open from 5-9am on Sunday mornings and sells everything from fresh fish and snacks to fruits, vegetables and more, plus there's live music and a lot of people go straight from a night out on the Reeperbahn!
One thing I always love to do in a new city is to visit anywhere where I can get great views over the city, it's a really good way to see it from a different perspective. There are two great places I've discovered so far for this – the well-known Elbphilharmonie which is the big shiny opera house that apparently cost something like €789million to complete! It's free to go up to the viewing platform which gives you great views over the river and harbour that Hamburg is known for. If you want to go even higher, I would really recommend visiting Mahnmal St. Nikolai which is one of the oldest buildings left in the city and stands tall at 148m. The highest building in the city and it now serves as a very interesting memorial to the war and Nazism. It costs €5 to go to the top, but the views are well worth it.
When it comes to sightseeing on your Hamburg city breaks,there's plenty to see but with the city being so small, it's easy to walk it all in a day. Once you've seen the Elphilharmonie and the harbour, then behind it is the Speicherstadt which is the old factory area of the city, then across the bridges you can walk to the older areas of the city where you'll find the Mahnmal St Nikolai which is great for those who love history, plus the most beautiful building in the city, the Hamburg Rathaus.
Explore the Fischmarkt and the Reeperbahn, plus the quirky St Pauli and Sternschanze areas that are worth checking out. Plenty to pack out a weekend! If you have some extra time, I also recommend checking out the old Elbtunnel which goes underneath the river from one side to the other and used to take traffic and pedestrians across before the current tunnel was built, now you can walk it for free and come out the other side of the river for an amazing view of the harbour.
If you love history or are on a tight schedule, I really recommend doing a walking tour to get to know the city – I've previously posted here about how much I love walking tours when exploring a new place. And here is my guide on all the ways to find great free activities when visiting a new place. I'm currently in the process of putting together a blog post on the best walking tours in the city, but for now, know that Sandemann's New Europe Tours offer a free walking tour of the city which is fab, lasts two hours and covers some of the best sights - you just tip what you think the tour is worth at the end. Read my review of their Amsterdam tour here.
Depending on your money and priorities when planning Hamburg city breaks, I would really recommend staying around the Alster or in the St Pauli or Sternschanze areas – these are all really central and have great access to everything I've mentioned in this post, plus they are surrounded by great food/drink places and shopping. Most things are walking distance or just a short ride on public transport. If you're doing a hostel, check out the Reeperbahn and St Pauli areas, if you fancy a hotel check out Jungfergstein, the Alster or Landungsbrücken for some lovely places. You can read my review of the Hotel Baseler Hof here. Or check out the Vinoble Day Spa here.
Public transport in Hamburg is really easy, don't let the German names intimidate you as the whole S and U-bahn is basically a grid system and there are very few lines. Use Google Maps if you are struggling, or Moovit is also a good app, plus it may help to save a map on to your phone. There often aren't people working in the stations other than the very main and busy ones, so you will rely on your phone often for directions, but it is very straightforward. A day ticket cost €6.40 and includes unlimited travel within most of the city you will want to visit, on weekends one group day ticket will cover five people until 9am the next day. If you can, avoid Hauptbahnhof which is the central station and is really crazy busy no matter what time you are there. And if your destination is walking distance, I would recommend getting out and walking it instead as it's a really great way to get to see more during your Hamburg city breaks.
Germany has fantastic weather during the summer, especially compared to the UK. Ever since I've moved here it's been 30 degrees most days and when it's like that, you'd much rather be chilling in the sunshine than doing walking tours of the city. So I've found some of the best outside spaces for sunshine chills. If you love the beach and being near the water, look no further than Elbstrand which is a lovely long beach area that has been created alongside the river. It stretches for miles and has everything from restaurants and bars such as Strandperle – all the way along to the quieter and even nudist beaches.
These beaches eventually back on to Jenisch Park which is a huge and gorgeous park with a museum in the middle and plenty of places to enjoy a sunny day. Elsewhere, there are the Alster Lakes which are right in the middle of the city but are huge and are surrounded by bike and footpaths, and even parkland. Planten und Blomen is a lovely park – with an amazing cactus house if you're as obsessed as I am – and it even has light shows during the summer evenings. Perfect for enjoying during your Hamburg city breaks!
I hope if you're planning Hamburg city breaks soon that this will help you make the most of your trip, and don't forget to let me know what you think of the city, or if there is anything you discovered that I should add to this guide! I'm always up for meeting travelers so if you're traveling alone, or even with a group, let me know if you're in the city and fancy catching up.
Have you been to Hamburg – what did you think of the city? Planning a trip – what are you looking forward to seeing?
It can be so difficult to get the right information about applying for French visas, so this guide is for my US readers who are planning their next escape. With all of this Brexit nonsense looming over us UK travelers, I can't help but feel intense gratitude for having been born with a UK passport and having been able to spend my life traveling visa-free within Europe. We really do take the ease of our travel between France and Amsterdam, or Italy and Greece for granted whether we're backpacking or enjoying a summer holiday.
Now I don't know whether Brexit will affect travel within Europe, but as someone who has just moved to Germany, it's definitely opened my eyes to the struggles my US friends go through in order to travel the world. How much time must been spent applying for visas and stressing over their arrival for each trip. So when I heard about Favisbook, I thought it was about time I wrote a post aimed at my US readers who want to expand their horizons and apply for French visas. This post is a collaboration with Favisbook but as usual, all views are my own.
Favisbook was set up by travelers after they were forced to wait months to pick up the necessary French visas and travel documents needed to travel to France. Facing the struggle together, the team decided to create a way for travelers to get the documents they needed faster, so that you guys won't face the same problems. Now you can skip the line and get into the embassy as early as possible to apply for your French visa.
Planning a trip to France, or always dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night? Then this is the post for you, because trust me, nothing compares to your first time in Paris. Now thanks to Favisbook, residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to book early French visa appointments with the Consulate General of France in New York, instead of waiting months for an appointment. Simply choose your day, fill in your information, and Favisbook will expedite your visa appointment to French Consulate with a simple click.
One of the most popular destinations in the world, many visitors to France have to obtain a Schengen Visa before entry. Booking an interview to get a Schengen visa is a time-consuming process for many applicants due to the complicated French consulate's website which often doesn't have available appointments and applicants are required to wait for months on end just for an appointment to become available. Now thanks to the system Favisbook have set up, you can book appointments for all kinds of visas, from the working visas, long and short-stay visas and even Schengen visas.
Favisbook simplifies the whole procedure by just showing available appointments and making it much easier to apply for the French visa slots. Using their system, appointments for multiple people can be booked and you don't even need to create an account with Favisbook, all information remains safe and confidential using their secure network. Within 24 hours of submitting the booking and payment, you will receive your appointment details by email, and your appointment could be as soon as the next day. After booking your French visa appointment with Favisbook, your next step is to prepare for your interview with the consulate.
If the appointments available don't suit your schedule, you can even contact Favisbook by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your availability and they will do their best to find you an appointment that will be suitable. Find out more about Favisbook online here.
We all know I'm an advocate for anything that makes life, and travel, a lot easier and this sounds like a great way to actually add in a middle man but to make your travel planning run a lot smoother. If it leaves me more time for trying on bikinis and planning all the amazing food I'm going to eat on a trip, then it's got my vote!
Have you struggled with applications for French visas? What's been the hardest visa application you've had to put in? Would you find a service like this helpful?
Everyone loves a freebie, and when you travel, finding free activities can be a great way of saving money. Whether you're backpacking or on a family holiday, there's no doubt the costs soon start mounting up. From booking flights and trains, paying for food and drink and a place to stay, and then you have to think about what you're going to do while you're there. It's easy for trips to get very expensive when you're booking on to every tour of activity going, but sometimes we just need to get away and see somewhere new on a budget.
It's easy to let a lack of money get in the way of having a good time but it doesn't have to be that way. Check out this blog post - "How I Afford to Travel So Much" - I'm sharing more ways to make travel as affordable as possible and to turn it into a reality for you. I get so many questions about how I manage to do so many fun activities when I visit a new place so I've decided to create one big bumper post all about the best way to find free activities to keep you entertained and to help stretch those pennies. Whether you love street food or private jets, we all love a bargain and stretching our money as far as possible, so here are my best tips:
The internet is a wealth of information when it comes to finding free activities - when I lived in Melbourne, I always checked the Time Out website to see what free activities were on in the city when planning my days off. From exercise classes, to festivals and even live music - the website covers everything and you find some real gems. I'll definitely be checking out Time Out Hamburg now I've moved over here. Check out this great post for Free Things to do in Boston if you're travelling over there.
Also look for newspaper websites for what's on listings, local blogs and community sites and their social media for any good suggestions - newspapers often have What's On listings or free gig guides. I love reading blogs just like this one to see what amazing free activities. Getting creative about visiting a place makes it much more memorable than just visiting the sights everyone knows.
Why spend money on walking/bus tours when you can get them for free? Sandeman's New Europe tours offer free walking tours across lots of European cities which are absolutely fantastic and best of all, free of charge! They are run on a tipping service instead, which means you can go free, or you can just tip whatever you can afford. These tours are genuinely some of the best I have done anywhere in the world thanks to the enthusiasm and excitement of the person running the tours - I tried them in Amsterdam and Berlin and loved the experience both times.
Talking to people is the best way to get the most up-to-date tips and ideas for free activities. Talk to the people running your hotel/hostel, talk to the waiter in the restaurant, the people in the tourist information center, random people you bump into on the street. You'd be amazed what you will find out, like the time I discovered you could hire bikes for free in Fremantle and I went for a full day of bike riding adventures with new friends or when I discovered you could do free wine tastings on a visit to Swan Valley.
Nature is free, so make the most of it. Whether you've got kids or you're with friends, why not head to the beach for a day of fun in the sun, or check out a hike, go wandering in the woods, or even head down the river. When I lived in Melbourne, I made it my business to head out to a different beach or on a hike in the woods on every day off I had. Read my Melbourne beaches guide here and My places to escape into nature around Melbourne.
I paid weekly for my travel card so it cost me no extra to hop on a train to a nearby town. It was a free way to get a lovely day out. When I was in Sydney, I loved doing the Bondi to Coogee walk on a sunny day and it didn't cost me a penny! Living up in Darwin, my boyfriend and I would pack the car up and head off camping in a national park every few weeks, it was free and a lot of fun to explore. Nature is the best resource you have when it comes to free activities, so next time you think you're bored, get outside!
Hostels are fantastic for free activities! Often they'll organise walking tours and free food nights in the bar/restaurant, and it can be a great way to meet new friends. At a backpackers, everyone is on a budget so there's no embarrassment about being the one to suggest going to the free "wine and cheese night" or joining the nightly volleyball match in the hope of winning some free beers. It's a lot of fun and you can even win some great prizes - I won a pass for the New Zealand Kiwi Experience backpacker bus and my friend won a Whitsundays cruise! Join in the competitions and take part in the activities, and there is nothing wrong with taking the free meals.
You'd be amazed at how many attractions are actually free entry, from art galleries to museums and libraries. I even went to Sydney Observatory when I was in Australia and had the best time, all for free. In London entry to the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the V&A is free, as are lots of others and these are all a day out. When I was living in Melbourne I had the best time exploring the National Gallery of Victoria, which puts on the most amazing exhibitions. Always look to see what kind of mini-events and free activities are being held at these for children which are often free of charge.
Always check out council websites and any tourism offices for good information regarding free transport - I found out by accident that there was a free shuttle bus running the length of Sydney CBD but it made a hell of a difference when it came to getting around. Plus on Sunday's all travel was capped at $2.10 in the city including ferries which saved you a heck of a lot of money on a day trip to another beach like Manly. Sometimes it's possible to get a free travel card to try out when you arrive in the city which is perfect if you're just there for a weekend, it's best to ask tourist information for the best deals of search online.
There are a surprising number of these about for those who are on a serious budget, Lentil As Anything in Sydney and Melbourne is a great example. You go along and order food, all lentil-based but fantastic cuisine, and at the end you pay what you can afford, so it is accessible for everyone. There was even live music when I went along and it was lovely to see everyone - rich and poor - supporting a good cause and all eating together.
Want some freebies and have a bit of time to kill? Entering competitions is a great way to get access to great deals and fun, free activities. A friend of mine spends time every morning entering any competition she can find and she always wins great prizes for her kids. Look in local newspapers/radio stations, check online and ransack social media for every place you visit. I've managed to win photo shoots, free drinks, free food, tickets to a Hello Magazine party and even a Kiwi Experience bus pass through a hostel competition. If you're on Twitter check out the #freebiefriday hashtag or #winitwednesday for some great deals and usually all you have to do is retweet.
Why not check out these posts for more specific ideas for free activities:
Planning a trip - what are your favourite free activities when you visit a new place? How do you cut costs on activities and save money for the things you really love?
One of my favourite countries I've visited, Sri Lanka has some incredibly unique luxury hotels. These are perfect for resting your weary head after a busy day's adventuring. From the cities to the beaches, to the jungle, there's a hotel to suit all tastes. Let this list give you that hint of luxury you've been dreaming of. Travelling Sri Lanka was one of my all-time favourite travel experiences. After the 2019 Easter bombings over there, it's become more important than ever to support the country's tourism and economy. So I've reworked this blog post to include all you need to know about where to find luxury around the country. But also, to include my thoughts on Sri Lanka and why you should visit as soon as possible.
After my visit to Sri Lanka, I received lots of messaged asking about the places I stayed. I thought that as well as posting individual reviews of each hotel, I would create a round-up post of the most unique luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. It's a fantastic way to make a special trip even more memorable by staying somewhere with that extra hint of luxury. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to stay in some amazing places and this trip was no exception. I worked with several of the brands mentioned in this post. Several of these were gifted press stays in exchange for a review – I want to make sure I'm as transparent as possible about this. But also to stress that my views remain the same and I will always be honest and open about my experiences, even the negative ones.
Whether you're someone who loves staying in hostels or travelling by private jet, there's always something to suit all budgets and all levels of luxury. Sri Lanka is a goldmine for unique luxury experiences. I can tell you that in a lifetime of travelling, I have genuinely never been anywhere quite like it. So if you're planning a trip soon, you should look up these amazing and unique opportunities. Make your trip go from just another holiday, to one you will always remember. I know that after staying in all of these, I will never forget the month I spent in this incredible country.
Read my other posts:
Now is it just me, or does everyone dream of one day staying in a treehouse in the jungle? There's something so magical about waking up to hear wild elephants in the rice paddies and the wind rustling through the trees. There are so many amazing places to stay in luxury tree houses in Sri Lanka, and trust me, it's one experience you don't want to miss out on. We stayed in one near Wilpattu National Park, in the north of the country.
I was invited to stay at a beautiful artist's retreat when we were near the centre of Sri Lanka, and we could not have been more bowled over by the peacefulness at the eco-friendly resort. We stayed in a water villa which was high up in the trees where we would wake to monkeys scampering over the balcony, and on the ground floor the building was set in it's own mini-lake. Embracing all the elements for a truly peaceful stay.
One of my favourite experiences of the whole trip was staying in a luxury safari camp on the very borderline of Yala National Park. My tent looked on to a watering hole where leopards and other wildlife would come to drink. Perfect for exploring the national park on safari. This one also gave you a truly unique luxury experience of eating dinner by the light of fireflies on the edge of the jungle. Of sleeping in a four poster bed to the jungle sounds and enjoying the luxury bath.
Many locals have opened out their properties to visitors for extra income as tourism develops across the country. These homestays really offer such a different experience of the country and give you the chance to get to know the locals and to see how they really live. Every homestay is different, sometimes you'll be in their house, or you could be in a separate apartment. You might eat with the family and even hang out with them. We stayed in a cute little apartment in Mirissa at the back of a local family's home and it was such a lovely place to stay.
Sometimes it's nice to treat yourself after a long flight at a luxury resort being waited on hand and foot. If you're just after a really luxurious experience and great service, Sri Lanka has some fantastic resorts to explore. After the 2019 attacks, many of them are far more budget-friendly than they might be in other Asian countries. We stayed at the Dickman Resort in Negombo. It's the first Sri Lankan resort to identify as gay-friendly, and it was a fantastic way to start the holiday,
After such a vicious terrorist attack on the country, it became more important than ever to support the economy and the Sri Lankan tourism industry. When incidents like this happen, it is always the poorest people who suffer the most. If less people are visiting the country on holiday, it means the people selling things on the beaches have no way of feeding their family. It means those working in the bars, restaurants and hotels risk losing their jobs if places are forced to close down. While I understand it can put people off travelling to a country that is the victim of a terrorist attack. The best way to show strength and to support the rebuild after, is to travel there.
What's the most unique place you've stayed? How important is accommodation for you when you book a trip? Have you been to Sri Lanka - what did you think?
If you're finding you're lacking in travel inspiration, check out these incredible female travellers. They're the women who inspire me daily with their travel blogs, Instagram feeds and adventures. I'm a big believer that if you're ever to achieve your own goals, you need to surround yourself with people who inspire you and lift you up. When we're living in an ever more virtual world, it's important to apply this thinking to every aspect of our lives including our social media. Some say social media harms your mental health – but I argue that actually you're just not using it properly. I love logging on to Instagram or Twitter and seeing a feed filled with inspirational women travelling the globe. Whether they're travelling in their home country, exploring a brand new country or even continent, I love following their every adventure.
Over the years, I've been lucky enough to be featured by various other bloggers, writers and even in magazines as a travel blogger/Instagrammer to watch. It's such a thrill every time to be recognised for my hard work and to know I'm inspiring others. So I thought it was about time I shared some of my biggest female travel inspirations with you guys. This post is all about some of the incredible talents in photography, writing and videography who have fuelled my obsession with travel, and creating. We all have days when we're struggling or feel stuck, when I feel like this I head online and let myself be inspired by the works of these amazing women. It always works and I feel instantly revived and motivated to get back to work either blogging or planning my next travels.
Alyssa has been travelling solo for almost the same amount of time as I have and she is utter goals to me. The ultimate in self-made businesswoman, she has built a career on blogging, instagramming and travel writing. What I love the most about her, other than her sassy attitude, is that she has done it all without a fancy camera or equipment. She has travelled the world with a GoPro and a tripod, and yet has some of the most spectacular solo traveller pics I have ever seen. Plus, I'm a big fan of her collection of fabulous dresses. She even managed to get the perfect shot at the Taj Mahal with not a single other soul in sight and no editing, now that’s impressive. An icon when it comes to female travellers.
Just. Look. At. Her. Instagram. Romy has the most beautiful eye for photography and her Instagram is seriously beautiful. Check out her images from Amsterdam and Morocco, most female travellers would do anything for photos like these. Another example of amazing talent that is lost in the algorithm, her pictures deserve so many more followers. Tied to her studies in Amsterdam at the moment, she still makes sure to explore what is on her doorstep. She finds beauty in all that surrounds her while she dreams of places like Africa. I can only imagine how incredible her Instagram will look when she finally gets there.
With an Instagram full of vibrant, colourful images that match her personality, Ciara is a refreshing lift for my feed. She’s such a down-to-earth, 25-year-old gal who loves to travel, wear fabulous clothes and have adventures. I love following her journey as she reminds me of when I first started travelling. I love reliving those first travel experiences vicariously through her. We also need more black female travel bloggers representing in the industry. Too often blogging is dominated by the same white/blonde faces and it’s time to bring other inspirational women to the forefront.
Hailing from the States, Liz is considered one of the leading solo female travel bloggers. She dominates the blogging industry in New Zealand, and across the world. She caught my eye around the time I started blogging for her incredible photography of her home in Wanaka, New Zealand. It was actually what inspired me to want to travel there. She’s a self-proclaimed “nature frother” and I can understand why when she lives in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I love her frank, cynical but funny storytelling, her honest takes on the world of travel blogging and her down-to-earth writing style. As far as female travellers go, she's my kind of traveller.
Do you ever find someone on Insta and just know they would be in your squad? Over the last year, Claudia and I have become such good friends on social media. Her Instagram first caught my eye, because well, it’s just stunning. Her pictures from trips to Iceland and Marrakesh, and her home in Cornwall, are amazing. She truly has mastered the Insta theme effortlessly. I find it shocking that she doesn’t have 10k+ followers, but it just shows how easily amazing female travellers can get missed in the algorithm, so go show her some support and give her a follow!
One of my fave bloggers, Jess has been an endless inspiration and support since I started blogging. I can't believe we've still to this day never met, but I love keeping up with her life. She is the loveliest lady and has been such an incredible blogger to watch grow over the last few years. Jess has really taken her work to a whole new level since starting blogging full time. It has been amazing to follow her luxury adventures across Canada, Thailand, Doha, Switzerland and Mauritius. I’ve especially loved following her and Vicky Flip Flop on the Princess Cruises trip across parts of Europe recently. She's one of the female travellers who inspired me from the very beginning of this blog.
One of the very first blogs I started following and one that I still love now. Vicky is my kind of traveller, she loves a holiday, she loves festivals and she loves exploring. She never says no to an adventure and embraces all forms of travel whether it’s a solo backpacking trip or a group holiday. What I really enjoy about her travels is that she presents it all in a very real way. It's refreshing and all about having a good time instead of creating that ‘Insta-worthy’ shot. As far as female travellers go, she's as real and honest as it gets.
Emily is more of a style blogger, with the most fabulous boho taste. But she does so in the most beautiful surroundings at her home in Byron Bay, travelling Australia, Bali and India. Not only is she absolutely beautiful, but she also seems to have the most wonderful attitude to life and sees the beauty in everything. She really has an eye for capturing the magic in the simplest moments. While being frank and laughing about the more awkward, silly moments. I love following her and her fiancee’s travels in the van through Australia.
This babe embodies festival goals! When I can’t cover myself in glitter and get lost in a festival, I like to live vicariously through her adventures. She makes the most incredible festival headdresses and outfits which she sells online and often holds stalls at some of my fave festivals. She now also works with Boomtown Fair - amazing! But along the way she also went on the most incredible trip to India. She has some of the most vibrant, colourful pics from Goa, Pushkar and even some festivals over there. If you love music festivals and parties, she's one of the female travellers to really watch out for.
Responsible travel blogger Sabina is probably one of the most approachable and friendly big bloggers ever. She set up a Facebook group for female travellers to form huge travel community from all sides of the world. She focuses on sustainable travel and fashion, vegan food and natural beauty. This is a lovely change from some of the more luxury bloggers. Most importantly, she is just the loveliest, most genuine personality. I really look forward to seeing her posts, especially from her most recent Africa trip which has been just amazing to follow.
The loveliest lady and mama to the gorgeous little Evie. Watching her journey from couples to family and to solo traveller has placed her on this list of inspirational female travellers. She has managed it with such grace and ease, and has embraced motherhood with a great eye for the most beautiful shots of herself and her little traveller. Total mama-daughter Insta goals! Ayla captures the most precious of moments in what will one day be treasured photographs for her daughter. I’ve loved watching her first solo trip to Munich with Evie. Despite making it look easy, she also shared the struggles of travelling solo with a child as well as the good times.
One half of the dream couple Instagram duo with El Jackson. This pair travel the world together collecting the most beautiful images. Recent trips including the likes of New Zealand, Tanzania, Dubai, Israel and their home in Oslo, Norway. They’re a beautiful couple and I love following their adventures. Although their life seems such an unattainable dream, it's actually within closer reach than you think. Check out their pics for spectacular scenery, lots of nature and outdoor adventures.
Another much smaller Instagrammer who is capturing some amazing travels. Michelle has been in Guatemala since January and her travels look incredible. She’s gone from working full time to booking a flight and becoming a digital nomad. I love her style and the gorgeous colours of her Insta. Most of all what I love, is she is unapologetically herself. She seems to have grown so much as a person on her travels and really just aims to live her best life. Definitely deserving of a place among these inspirational female travellers.
London-based blogger, Reena, is a lovely blogger I met at an event earlier this year. She is just the sweetest with the most amazing travel experiences. I loved hearing all about her travels in South America. When you see her Insta, you’ll understand why I'll be checking back for South America tips. Keep an eye on her as she’s headed to Goa later this year and I’m sure she’ll have more amazing content from that trip.
Another of our female travellers who has gone from solo blogger and couples travel to a life of family travel after the arrival of her two boys, Joseph and George. Monica doesn’t let family life slow down the travel lifestyle. Instead she finds ways to combine the two and travel to Lapland, Rotterdam, Dubai and across the UK. She also loves encouraging young bloggers and aspiring writers. She has previously taken on writers for her site and interns to share her valuable insight into the industry.
There are just some of the inspirational female travellers who are lighting up my social media and blog feeds. Fitting their adventures around their careers, their relationships and even their children. Plus a few of those who are living the solo traveller dream. I wanted to make sure I didn't just focus on the talented souls who already had huge numbers of followers because I think it's so important to champion talent at all levels. Whether people have millions, thousands or just a few hundred followers. The biggest thank you to all of these inspirational women for giving me the drive and motivation to follow my travel dreams.
Who inspires you to travel? Can you recommend any other great bloggers/Instagrammers?
It turns out Timmendorfer Strand is the perfect little day out if you're living in Hamburg and fancy a visit to the North Sea. But I will be the first to admit that I never really knew Germany had beaches. Forests yes. Mountains maybe. But beaches? Surely not. In all my imagining of my life in Germany, I never thought I would be sunbathing on a beach in a bikini in May. But that was just my reality when we decided to hop in the van for a little road trip. One thing I really love about having a van is the freedom that comes with it. We can head off exploring different parts of Germany spontaneously knowing our bed is waiting wherever we park up for the night. Our trip to Timmendorfer Strand, was just a 90 minute drive from Hamburg, it was the perfect day trip out of the city.
The weather has been just incredible since I arrived. It's been hitting 25-28 degrees most days and I’ve been loving getting out and exploring the city sunbathing in the parks. So when a particularly hot day hit, we couldn’t wait to grab our swimmers and head to the ocean. May has been the perfect month for this there are public holidays pretty much every weekend! Sadly I’ve been told now they’re all over until October, so at least we made the most of it by squeezing in a few good trips. Timmendorfer Strand is a great place to head to when you need a break from city life. It’s easy to get to, easy to park and a lovely place to enjoy the sunshine.
On the breach, there are cute little wooden seats that you can rent for the day. Totally adorable but very expensive. I was much more keen to lay out on the sand and soak up some vitamin D. The beach was busy, we definitely missed the empty beaches of Western Australia, but it was lovely for a day out. We weren’t brave enough for a dip in the ocean, it was a bit Baltic for our tropical tastes and sticking a toe in was as far as we got. But there were a few brave souls who went in for a swim or to throw a ball. One guy was swimming there all day. My favourite bit was all the really cute little old men who were walking laps up and down the beach. All of them looked so grumpy but spent the afternoon walking up and down in front of us.
It’s not overdeveloped but there are lots of great places to pick up drinks and snacks along the seafront. And of course there are the usual cafes and restaurants. They even have a cute little jetty and a pier which almost looks inspired by Brighton Pier. I know nearby Rugen Island has been called the Brighton of Germany due to its own cute little pier and striped wooden seats. As you can see from the pics, it looked almost tropical that day on the beach and we couldn’t have been luckier.
Have you been to the beaches in Germany? How do you think they compare to the rest of Europe?