Things To See In Lima Peru, A Love Hate Relationship

Things To See In Lima Peru, A Love Hate Relationship

Lima Peru is a city that you either love it or you hate it. It was hard for me to write about this city objectively because I had two terrible experiences while there and it gave me an unsavory opinion of the city. That being said, I only spent 36 hours in the city which isn’t truly enough time to properly explore. While I tend to not embellish the foodie side of destinations, this is a place that would be a foodie lovers dream. There is a mix of Oriental, Spanish, and Italian there that makes for some of the best restaurants in the world. If you really want to settle into the culture and have a tour of the foodie capital of South America; then you need more than 36 hours in this city to experience that. For those who may be limited time or are just passing through her are a few Things to See in Lima Peru.

Plaza Mayor and Presedential Palace

This Plaza is centrally located, like many other cities in South America, it was created as a place of gathering to protect citizens against threats or raids. The Central Plaza was a place where the armory was, allowing for maximum protection, and also why it is called Plaza de Armas. This is where you will find a 16th-century fountain that on special occasions is used as a Pisco Sour fountain that celebratory masses can come and take shots from.

There are colorful yellow and white buildings surrounding the Plaza, including the presedential palace, the archbishops palace of Lima, Cathedral de Lima, casa de oidor, municipal palace of Lima Peru, and several others that are basically governmental buildings now.

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You are allowed into the presidential palace as a foreign visitor, but you have to make a reservation in advance. Those who are Peruvian citizens are not allowed to enter the building, for security reasons. So if you hire a local guide, they will not be able to come inside this building.

Be sure to be outside around noon for the changing of the guard in front of the Presedential Palace. It is a bit of a tourist trap, so be prepared to be crowded out in an effort to see behind the gate.

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Cathedral de Lima Peru

This Cathedral has undergone many reconstructions, but dates back to the 15th-century when much of Lima was conquered. The man who conquered the Inca empire was Fransisco Pizarro and his tomb is located in this building.

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There are several different chapels, aisles, and nooks that I encourage you to explore while there. We didn’t get to go into this cathedral because it was closed for the Christmas holiday festivities. So if you go to Lima, try to avoid going in December as many sites are closed (this is a theme throughout South America due to their religious devotion).

Panchacama Ruins

The Panchacama Ruins are some of the best preserved Inca ruins because of minimal rainfall in Lima Peru. Lima itself only gets about three inches of rainfall per year. Many of the buildings being excavated here still have the plaster on them, some have needed to be reconstructed because of housing that was built on top of them illegally. As more tourists visit, more funding is allowed for these ruins to be excavated and restored for more touring. There are also many artifacts that were found in this area that are now in the Lima Archeological museum.

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The best preserved ruins are those of the Sun Temple and the Moon Temple. I enjoyed seeing the Moon temple the most as this is where you could really see the trapezoidal shapes of the windows which are classic Inca shapes. The temples of the Inca’s were always themed around nature, the sun and the moon being of the highest importance, and then the mountains, rivers, and ocean.

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To get here you need to hire a taxi driver, but make sure they are a legitimate taxi driver. Their car should be in fairly good condition (no ripped seats), there should be a sticker on the right hand side of the front window with a seal. The cost of the trip should be printed on a card for you to look at. You can typically negotiate with them to get a discounted price, but anywhere from $35-$45 for about 4 hours at Panchacama or city tour should be a fair deal for both you and them. Cost of living is just as expensive in Lima (believe it or not) as it is in the United States, they just get paid much much less.

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There were two contacts in the Lima Peru and Pisco Peru area that I would recommend as I felt they were honest, and accomodating and spoke enough broken English to get to where I needed to go. If they are unable to take care of you, then they will arrange something for you.

  • Juan Carlos Verde Vargas (CoCo)
    • Telephone: (01)3892687
    • email: coco_prince18@hotmail.com
    • on Facebook as Juan Carlos Verde Vargas
    • Tours available via Taxi (three people max): Lima City Center, Museums, Panachacama and Caral Ruins, Airport Transportation services, Water Park (famous night time water fountain), and Pisco/Paracas Preserve
  • Carlos Gallegos Guillen
    • Telephone: WhatsApp & Telephone (+51)975 011 830
    • Personal email: carlosturismo14@gmail.com
    • Work email: transporteejecutivo14@gmail.com
    • Tours available via car, van, mini bus: Caral and Panchacama Ruins, Nazaca Lines, City Tours, 24/7 service, Huacachina, Water Park, airport and ground transportation

Basilica y Convento de San Francisco or Saint Francis Monastary

This church and convent were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1991 and was my favorite part of Lima Peru. At first glance, it looks like a small unassuming church, but after spending nearly an hour in this church and convent I realized how large it was. If you want to see the crypts, be sure to reserve your ticket in advance and be aware that you have to have special permission to take photos within the crypts.

As you head down the isles of this church you will be surrounded by intricate gold arches and checkered flooring. It instantly made me immediately compare it to the Hall of Versailles. There were so many tidbits that are precious to the Peruvian people here. Being just before Christmas, the confessions lines were quite long, with red lights indicating when a priest was busy consoling or taking confessions. It helped me see how dedicated and devoted the people are to their religion here, and left a positive impression because of the devotees.

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Winding around the building admiring the large tombs, with relics at each juncture that were brought over by the Spanish. It was hard to imagine how a church like this was built and how much money went into making this.

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The Library here holds over 25,000 books printed overseas and brought here rest on the shelves that line a soccer field sized room full of shelves. The security here is minimal, but a sign near the exit deters anyone from trying anything in this room; the sign reads, ‘If a book is taken from this room, you will be immediately excommunicated from the church’. The literary antiques are well preserved and cared for by all of its citizens, and can only be seen if accompanied by a guide.

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Balcones de Lima

The balconies are a major symbolic heritage for the city from the Spanish colonial era. I didn’t really understand why they were so important until I saw them in person. The balconies are a lot more ornate than you can see in any photograph. They are still made from the original wood from the 15th and 17th centuries. I was stunned at this historical tidbit, and had to ask our guide twice on if there was any restoration at all that had been done. He smiled and denied any restoration having altered the original wood, ‘It is incredible how well preserved they are, isn’t it. You can’t even tell they are old’, I had to agree with him. On the whole I think this is true of Lima, it is hard to tell that it is an old and ancient city because you cannot see the wear and tear of time on the structures.

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Against the backdrop of blue, pink, and yellow buildings the dark balconies make for beautiful streets in the center of Lima (and perfect photo opportunities). These were another integral part into why the city center was named a UNESCO heritage site.

National Museum of Archaeology Anthropology and History

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There is so much in this building that helped me understand the rich cultural heritage that Peru has. The history goes beyond just the famous Inca Ruins in Macchu Picchu. This will show you how they kept records of shipments, what accounts were owed, how different hats represented different social statuses, what other tribes lived in the area and how they contributed to such a stable empire.

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I was thoroughly impressed with this museum, but felt sad that a whole wing was destroyed in 2008 from an earthquake that they are still rebuilding from. The museum itself is free, but I would recommend making a donation of some type to help them rebuild if you feel so inclined.

Monastery of Santo Domingo in Lima

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It is worth it to hire a guide as they will take you up into the Bell Tower with a fabulous overview of the city. In the Bell Tower, you are able to see the Red stadium where bullfighting once took place, a map of the old city on the way up to the Bell Tower, and about 500 steep steps to the top (to work up an appetite for ceviche for later).

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Finish off the tour at the central garden where there is plenty of opportunities for photos. In the center of it is a fountain and a rose garden with a perfect view of the Bell Tower from below.

Church and Sanctuary of Saint Rose of Lima

Iglesia y Santuario de Santa Rosa de Lima or the Sanctuary of Saint Rose of Lima is an important church for the people of Peru. She is the Patron Saint of both Peru and the Philippines. This incredibly dedicated sister set up, a hospital within her parents home to help care for the poor and needy.

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With so many souls migrating from Venezuela and other neighboring countries this church is frequently visited for supplication to God through this Saint. Santa Rosa de Lima was the first person in the South Americas that was cannonized as a saint.

As a young girl, she worshiped Saint Catherine of Siena, fasted three times per week and would administer severe penances upon herself in secret. It is said that a servant saw her playing in the garden one day and swore that she saw her transform into a rose. With these two stories in mind, this is why you often see this Saint with a crown of thorned roses on her head, with drops of blood dripping down her forehead.

Iglesia y Convento La Merced

This is the Church and Convent of Mercy, mainly due to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, the patroness for the Peruvian armed forces is venerated in the Basilica.

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This church is located along a busy shopping area between Plaza Mayor and Plaza Martin. It can be a quick stop to enjoy some time out of the heat; or it can be a nice spot to enjoy a bit of quiet time from the busy shopping streets.

Indian market for the Souvenirs

There are many markets in Lima, even a giant mall with all of the usual high end and brand name clothing and purse companies. The Indian market is where I would suggest going for a more culturally authentic experience.

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Here is where you will find all the alpaca fur you could want for those cold winter days. The better quality fur that is not as easily damaged, stained or matted is the baby alpaca; which is more expensive – but you can feel the difference in the fur. I like to pretend that they just shave the animal’s furs and don’t use their hides to make the hats – but I will leave it up to you if you would like to buy them or not. Sometimes buying these things is the only way that the locals can feed their families or keep a roof over their head. So before you give them (or me) a lecture, just try to think about that.

They only accept cash in these markets, and some cards if you are lucky. If you need an ATM, there is a hotel a short walk down the street (a two story black building) that has an ATM in the lobby where you can withdraw local currency from it.

Palacio de Torre Tagle

This is a Spanish Baroque Palace it is a couple of blocks east of the Plaza de Armas. The palace currently is home to the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and hosts more of the famous wooden balconies.

Don Jose Bernardo de Tagle y Bracho is the one who commissioned this palace in 1715 for his own personal use. I guess being the treasurer of the Royal Spanish Fleet would have allowed him to build himself a private palace.  

If you are with a guide in Lima Peru, the policemen will let you come inside for a quick look. It is a two story building with an open center plan, and Moorish stylized wood cut into the 2nd floor balconies. Although the outside is pink, the interior is a rich yellow. As you leave the interior there will be a small alcove on the side where the original carriage Don Jose Bernardo used in the 17th century behind glass.

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Peruvian Prancing Horses & Dancers

Right next to Panchacama ruins at Hacienda Mamacona which is a bar, restaurant, horse arena and dance exhibition. This is where the Peruvian Prancing Horses and traditional dancers will enthrall you with food, drink and a show. The dancers were my favorite part, showing us the marriage dances, the dance of the devil (diablo) and several other traditional dances of the Peruvian people.

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The Peruvian Horses put on a grand show for us. They have a unique gait where each foot is placed at different times on the ground; this allows the rider to barely feel any jolting and can ride evenly, even at a canter.

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You are able to ride one of the horses if you wish (at an extra cost), but due to time constraints, we were unable to do so. The Lunch Buffet was good, and very filling and can also be provided along with a Pisco Sour. Please be advised that the Pisco Sour drink is VERY strong, so if you drink more than two you will feel tipsy. There is a saying in Peru: One Pisco is relaxing, Two is a good time, Three you’re on the floor, Four you don’t remember anymore.

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Miraflores and the Costa Verde

This is the posh side of Peru, and where you will have the best views of the Green Coast. Walls are lined with vines placed there by the city to help with erosion that sprout purple flowers in the spring and summer. You can go to the Parque de Amore, to see some local PDA and get some fabulous photos of the art installments there.

Traveling Solo? Try your hand at paragliding along the coast, or suit up for some of the best surfing in South America. There are international surfing competitions that are held here every year.

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This area seems to be the Hollywood Blvd of Peru, and the cost of the apartments here are astronomical to the Peruvian budget at least. Apartments here can cost anywhere from $1800 to $2700 a month. Given that the prices of apartments are so high, this is generally a very safe area to relax and explore.

Final Verdict on Lima Peru

Lima is not the city for me personally, I didn’t like how terrible the traffic was (20 minutes per one mile – and I’m not exaggerating). In addition to the traffic, I had two different people try to scam me which made me feel unsafe, and it really ruined my trip. On the other hand, I only had 36 hours in Lima, I didn’t go to any of the top restaurants, and wasn’t able to see Reserva Paisajistica Nor Yauyos-Cochas like I wanted to.

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The part that really made me have a sour mentality towards Lima was while at Hacienda Mamacona for the Peruvian Prancing Horses. A woman blocked a blind man and woman (my friends) I was traveling with from going into the bathroom. There is nothing that makes me more upset in this world that people being downright rude to those who are disabled.

I asked her in Spanish why she would not let my friends enter the restroom and she told me that our tour group was disturbing her party. After this explanation from her, I helped my friends shove past her and ignored her protests. While I know this was just one individual, and I shouldn’t judge the city as a whole based on her actions. It is very hard for me not to when someone is so unkind and rude for no reason to me and my disabled friends. The mother bear in me seems to come out when my friends are mistreated. I have patient’s who are disabled and I KNOW how much courage it takes to not just get out of the house – but to travel on their own.

I don’t think I will ever return to Lima Peru because my first impression was downright frustrating, to be honest. For those of you who may be visiting or passing through Lima, I think 24-48 hours is the maximum amount of time I would recommend and would HIGHLY suggest hiring a legitimate tour company so that you won’t get scammed by tour guides or taxies.

I tried VERY hard to like this city, so I hope you will be able to have a wonderful time there given the suggestions I have outlined here. Be sure to find a Hibachi grill, ceviche and of course a Pisco Sour. After touring Lima I would suggest heading on to Cusco or Pisco for a more authentic and culturally rich place to tour.

Useful Words and Phrases in Lima

Donde esta es el bano? = Where is the bathroom?

Como te llamas? = What is your name?

Cuanta costa este? = How much is this?

Habla Ingles? = Do you speak English?

Donde es ___________? = Where is ______________?

Por Favor = Please

Gracias = Thank You

Queiro este para mi comida = I would like this for my meal

Where to Stay in Lima Peru

Booking.com

Tours in Lima

Tours of Lima and surrounding areas through Viator including archeological tours, rappelling tours, Paracas Desert tours and more.

Tours of Lima including surfing, cocktail classes, cooking class tour through Lonely Planet

How to Stay Safe While Solo Traveling

How to Stay Safe While Solo Traveling

Different people have different tolerance levels to risk, some are more comfortable than others with risk. Then there are those that can walk into a room full of tigers with a steak and not fear, while others see dragons waiting around every corner.

I feel that there are some companies that take advantage of fear, and utilize it to lure customers into using their over priced services. While there are other situations where that fear may be warranted and proper precautions should be taken. It was overly present on the cruise I was just on through South America, and it made my blood boil that people were not more aware that it was happening. The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to become educated.

Traveling solo can be a scary thing for females, but there are a few tried and true methods that I do on a regular basis. I also outline the steps I took when confronted with a scary situation that could have escalated to something more dire very quickly had I not taken these steps.

Please feel free to add your own tips and tricks or standard precautions for safety below. I would like this to become a good resource for our community.

Standard Precautions While Traveling Solo:

1- Don’t Drink Alcohol While Traveling Solo

We all know how Alcohol blunts the self-preservation side of ourselves, weather it be socially, emotionally or even physically. So why would you drink outside of your hotel/hostel while traveling solo? You could lose a lot more than just your memory of that night. I won’t get into the gritty details of all the things that could happen when doing this, but just don’t drink if you are traveling solo.

If you really like to have a glass to wind down, then do as many other solo travelers do. BRING IT BACK TO YOUR ACCOMMODATION! All you need to do is ask a local where they would suggest getting your preferred beverage, and bring it back to the hotel/hostel. Unless you have a trusted friend who is willing to trade off on the not so sober nights with you, just don’t drink….please…..trust me….it’s not worth the risk. Any frequent solo female traveler (and even some male solo travelers) that would say the same thing.

2- Minimize What You Carry With You

One of the first things that was suggested to me when visiting Santiago, was to minimize what I was carrying with me. The gentleman at Gen Hotel, said to not carry backpacks around in the major parts of the city as it is really easy for someone taller than me (I’m 5’4″ or 162.6 cm) to grab the bottom, pull it over my head, throw me off balance and run off with my valuables. I realized after years of travel how much I had been setting myself up for something like that.

He also suggested to not bring my phone or camera with me…..which is what I use to help bring this content to the Culture Trekking Community….that wasn’t an option.

The point is, look at what your carrying, think like the criminal – try to think of ways someone could rob you and prepare for it. If you want to bring something with you, then make a conscious decision to risk losing it. So if the worst scenario comes to pass, then at least you can console yourself in knowing it was a risk you were willing to take and won’t feel so violated knowing it was a possibility.

3- Keep a Copy of Your Passport and License

Keep a copy in the safe with your passport, keep a copy at home, give a copy to someone trusted, and keep a copy when your going around the city. If the hotel or accommodation doesn’t have a safe or doesn’t seem totally secure, then carry the passport with you in a bag or a place that it won’t easily be stolen from you.

That is your ticket home, don’t risk it, it isn’t worth the headache it would cause by not having it.

4- Give a copy of your hotels/itinerary/cards to a trusted loved one at home

It isn’t just a copy of your passport that you should give to a loved one or trusted friend at home, but also a copy of your major credit cards. I know some will consider this a risk in and of itself. Let me try and explain why I do this though; let’s say you are in an underdeveloped country and are having a hard time looking up the phone numbers to call the card companies. What if you are in the middle of no where, with just a satellite phone? You can call your friend at home, and ask them to call all credit card companies, and the social security numbers to help protect you; or at the very least give you the correct numbers so that you can call.

5- Take a Walk in Daylight to Get a Feel of the City

There is a certain vibe to every city that I visit. Some I feel more dangerous than others. I look at where locals congregate, how busy the area is, if there are a lot of homeless people, a lot of beggars, people talking on the phones or looking quiet. I also look to see if there are street patrols in the area. If you spot a cop, you are usually in a safe part of town. If there are no cops, and loads of people approaching you asking you to ‘come on the tour’, ‘I have special price’, or ‘do you need money exchanged’ – then I typically don’t consider that area safe.

Being able to ‘read the vibe of a city’ is something that comes with practice, but I gave you a few tips above that will help you see what I’m talking about on your next trip. If your gut tells you to be paranoid, or you feel nervous about the city AT ALL then make a rule you are back in your sleeping accommodation before dark. If not, just take a reputable taxi or uber to and from your desired destination or to the train station. Your concierge, or host should be able to direct you in how to look for reputable transport.

6- Don’t Set Your Bag Down

It doesn’t matter if you have a small purse, a large backpack, or a stroller. Don’t stop in the middle of a crowded street and set your bag down or take it off your shoulders. This opens it up for anyone that passes by to reach down and grab your items and run off to get lost in the crowd.

Make sure that if you are trying to get into your bag, even in a store that you take your bag to a corner, an alleyway that is still in view of the street but not directly in the line of the crowds and THEN pull out your money. Think of trying to light a match in the wind, that is how you should guard the visual on your money.

Not only does practicing this make it safe from people grabbing your bag and taking off; it also protects where you put the majority of your money back so people watching the tourists don’t know which pocket to target when attempting to pick-pocket you.

7- Learn Some of the Basic Words While Traveling

This has helped me more times than I can count in many different situations. I try and learn the following phrases:

  • What is your name?
  • Please
  • Thank you
  • How much does this cost? Can you put it in my phone?
  • Can you point me to where I’m going?
  • Do you take Credit Card or Cash?
  • Where is the Bathroom?
  • Can I have this?
  • Do you have water? (or other beverage of choice)
  • Where do I find? Can you Draw it on a map how to get there?

If I don’t have the phrase already in my phone notes, then I will pull out Google Translate and use a little data to get messages across. I also keep a pad of paper on me, and try to draw a picture of what I’m looking for (stick figures are fine if you can’t draw well).

8- Look Up What the Destinations You Want to Visit in the Local Language.

This is something I learned when visiting South America. While I do speak Spanish, it was difficult for me to know the EXACT spelling of the museum, destination, or eatery that was recommended in THEIR language. If you punch in the wrong name in the search bar in your navigator, it might lead you to the wrong place or cost an expensive trip to the wrong location.

9- Carry a Fake Wallet or a Belt Wallet

I use a fake wallet more than I use anything else. For the ladies, a good tip I use is by carrying the larger bills in my menstrual cycle pads. I think even just writing ‘menstrual’ I lost about half the male readers. There is just something about talking about that stuff that really turns guys into flibbity gibbities when you mention anything about it. Can you imagine if one saw a pad? Doesn’t matter the country your in, that is a taboo thing. There is also an unspoken rule with females that you just don’t mess with that stuff unless someone asks for it in the stall next to you. Bottom-line, it is a GREAT hiding place. You can also use cardboard tampons as hiding places.

The fake wallet is for bartering in the markets, I will put scope out the shops, and if I see something I like – I put the price I’m willing to pay for it in the fake wallet in an alley. Then I return to the shop and negotiate the appropriate price, unless it is far too expensive.

10- Stand Away From The Crowd

Street scams are on the rise, from the vendors claiming to give you a good rate on cash exchange. To people advertising good housing for a deposit. Or the unexpected street performance, with the accomplice in the back checking out your unguarded back pockets or purses. It is worth the effort to do a two minute search on ‘Scams in ______’.

One instance my parents had while traveling was when my Mom forgot to put her hidden purse inside the front of her shirt. While at a cross-walk in Europe, she was waiting to cross the street with my Father. There were several other people around and a girl with a newspaper kept bumping into her. She thought it was just the way that people did things in this particular area of the world. As they were crossing the street she heard yelling, and a man with his wife ripping the shirt up over the head of one of the girls. There was a lot of cash and passports that fell out. My Mom looked down to find her purse empty, her passport gone, along with the cash that she so recently had ‘safely hidden away’. She admitted that she had been tired, and felt safe enough in this particular destination that she didn’t think she needed to take such precautions anymore.

The man who caught the two female thieves, came up to my parents and gave them back their passports. If they would have lost those passports, they would have been stuck in that city with no backup and ruining their vacation at the US Embassy trying to find a way back home. (Getting a Passport re-instated, even if temporary can be costly, time consuming and puts people in dire conditions more often than you would think).

Moral of the story, avoid crowds, leave the passport in the safe in the hotel. Don’t get comfortable and make a mistake that could cost you more than you can afford.

11- Carry Your Back Pack in Front

This is a tip a Moroccan local taught me, to always carry your backpack in front of you with your arms tightly around it in the crowded markets or in front of street performers.

If you are seated at a restaurant, don’t hang your purse off the edge of a seat/table. Keep it at your feet or string your foot through one of the loops. Who cares if you look paranoid! It is better to be safe than sorry, as I always say.

12- Get Appropriate Vaccines and Carry Medication for Common Ailments

I took a course in college in Tropical Medicine and Parisitology. There are flies that can bite you and cause itching so bad you have to be sedated. Other larva that can burrow into the nether regions and cause infertility if you aren’t careful. Parasites that cause blindness, Malaria, burrow in your lungs etc.. Tropical diseases that will have diarrhea so bad you have to lie in a bed with a hole in it; will cause major heart disease when you are older, burrow into your brain or muscles and many other really fascinating but debilitating diseases.

Vaccines have a lot of controversy around them due to a study that was falsified and is no longer recognized as fact by the medical community. So be careful in refusing to get these vaccines for Typhoid, Yellow Fever, or the medication for Malaria. Be sure you visit the Center for Disease Control, or other government organization within your country to find out what is recommended for you. Each country has their own recommendations based off the diseases that their citizens have already been vaccinated for, or are known to be susceptible to based on their geographical location or ethnicity.

A good rule of thumb I make for myself when eating in other countries is that if I can’t peel it, cook it, or it isn’t fresh meat and the bathrooms aren’t clean. I choose to not eat there and keep a granola bar in my purse if my stomach starts to eat itself in hunger.

13- Carry a Back-up Charger for Your Phone, Don’t Keep it in Your Back Pocket

I NEVER keep my phone in my back pocket while traveling. I rely on the navigation in my phone so much when traveling I would be a sitting duck if I didn’t have it with me. This is why I keep it attached to my stabilizer, or I keep it in a deep pocket somewhere in a bag or in my bra (ladies will know what I mean).

Carrying a backup charger is essential for me when traveling, because of how much I use my phone for video, navigation, taking voice memos, and posting IG stories when I find a good Wifi to let people know I’m safe at home. It also helps me create a digital footprint, so should I go missing, or have something happen to me- someone will always know where the last place I was.

For those with high profile Instagram or Facebook accounts, you may want to create a private one that just updates family. The reason is, because I have had some of my friends say that they had people start to follow them on their vacation and make them nervous. So just keep that in mind.

14- Blend in With Your Outfits

Don’t wear an ‘I’m from Harvard’ in Europe, don’t wear a Rolex with a Gucci bag in South America. Didn’t everyone learn from when Kim Kardashian was robbed from flashing her bling around online? It is the same idea when you are traveling. If you go around in bright red or yellow flowy dresses, or leave your camera out on a tripod unattended…you are screaming to everyone there ‘ROB ME’! Be smart, or agree to the risks beforehand and take precautions.

Traveling Solo can be hard to take those enviable photos, and I am working on an article for the community on how to take those photos safely. Just ask another tourist to take the photo (if you can spot them, then the locals can spot them as well). If they are snapping selfies, rest assured they probably are tourists as well. You have to pick the oriental tourists though, they are MASTERS when it comes to taking the good photos (well the girls are anyway). I had one lady I asked take my photo and it turned into a full on photo shoot! Some people just really love helping others, and making your memory as good as you would have done it yourself. Asking other tourists is a good way to meet people you can collab with on touring the city with as well, and get discounts.

15- Be Vigilant and Defensive When It Comes To Crossing Streets in Developing Countries

Some 25,000 foreign tourists died in road accidents in 2009, don’t become a statistic. Stay at the back of the crowd crossing the street, always wait an extra 3 seconds to make sure no cars are running the red light. Follow the locals, observe how traffic patterns are functioning. Again, get travel insurance…it will save you should tragedy strike.

16- RESPECT Your Surroundings

Victoria Falls death, Bell tower death, agitating animals for photos, touching wildlife while diving.

How many times as a kid did you see the sign, “Don’t feed the bears” or any other animals. In Utah there is a constant reminder from the friendly Smoky the Bear encouraging kids from young age, ‘Only YOU can prevent forest fires’. Yet there are still those people that have not grown up, and try to push the boundaries with the thought that, ‘I’ll be fine, I’m not like them, I know what I’m doing’. Even I have fell prey to this during the wild flower festival in Alta Utah. While there were no ropes per se, there were clear paths. I decided to stray into a pretty wild flower patch to take some photos. I was then approached by the park ranger educating me on how I was ruining the experience for future generations. Apparently when you walk on the dirt where the wild flowers are, the ground gets packed down, preventing the wildflowers from growing. He said that it can take up to a decade for the natural (not artificial) growth of the wild flowers to come back because they need the certain type of soil to grow in.

So just because you think it is ok to cross that line, veer off the path, carve the name in the tree, hang off that rope or balcony, get closer to the edge for the best picture doesn’t always mean that it is the safest, nor the right thing to do.

What to Do in an Uncomfortable Situation or in an Emergency

1- Know the Telephone Numbers for an Emergency Personell

This is something I forget to do all the time before visiting a country. What if something did happen though? What if you were hit by a car and couldn’t get up? What if your friend falls down a ravine while hiking, or off a waterfall onto a rocky outcrop and you couldn’t get to them? Who would you call? How would you tell the services that you needed help?

This is where knowing the numbers for Police, Ambulance, and Rescue teams comes into play. Whatever activity you plan on doing, at least know the number to call for an Ambulance.

With terrorist attacks, accidents, and those Culture Trekkers who love adventure like I do….it is vital for not just you, but for those you leave at home that care about you that you know these numbers.

2- Know How to Ask for Help and How to Describe Your Location

This conicides with number one. If you are in a new country, are not completely fluent in the language – I suggest knowing at least the basics of how not just to call for help, but describe what is going on.

Know how to say, ‘I’m hurt and need help. I don’t speak the language. I’m located here. Do you speak English, German, Spanish, French or whatever your native language is. You might be bilingual, I don’t know, but the brain is hardwired to forget the language that you may not be fluent in during a crisis situation.

3- Learn How to Say ‘Stop’ Your Making Me Uncomfortable, and How to Say NO.

I had a man on a train get very close and personal with me in a very uncomfortable way. I tried to shove him off and look for help from fellow passengers, but because I didn’t speak the language – he was able to play it off that we were a couple just having an argument.

This is why learning how to say STOP, your making me uncomfortable in whatever language the country your visiting speaks is vital. Also being able to ask the fellow passengers, ‘Can you point me to the direction of help, to make this person stop harassing me would be’.

4- Go to a Museum

Sometimes even asking for help, or saying ‘STOP’ to the harasser will not dissuade them from following you. If this is the case, or you meet someone on the street, or someone is following you and your gut tells you it might be dangerous….LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS!! It is better to be safe than sorry.

The man mentioned in item three, changed his plans, tried to follow me through the city. Attempted to pull me into an alley, and I knew that twisting my hand towards his thumb forcefully would break his grasp. I continued to twist, turn, cross streets to distract him; it was very early in the morning and there was no one on the streets I could ask for help.

I decided to go into a museum, and that is when he became desperate. He grabbed my coat, asked me to not go, I twisted, and ran the rest of the way into the building. Talking to the Musuem guard/police, I asked them to keep an eye out for this person (who I snapped a photo of, just in case something happened). They made sure the coast was clear, and I took a different route on a main road to the next destination.

It put me on edge for the rest of the trip, but now know that entering a place where artifacts, art, or any other major tourist attraction is — will always have guards somewhere that you can ask to help you. They would probably welcome the distraction and help.

I know this mostly applies to females, as men would likely just punch him til he left them alone. Females who choose to travel solo, it is always good to have a plan, so if your instincts are screaming at you to run or be afraid – I can’t stress it enough….listen to them.

5- Get Travel Insurance

I have never considered getting travel insurance in the past, until this last year when I attended a travel conference. This is when I was able to sit down with Allianz Travel, and World Nomads Travel Insurance and ask them what they cover versus my Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Insurance I have.

So I called Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), and with my medical background, having worked in both the Intensive Care Unit and in the Operating Room – I know what worst case scenarios look like and how much that can cost.

For the most part, BCBS covers most of what they would cover for an ‘out-of-network’ provider, should I need to have a visit to the Emergency Room, or end up in the hospital for whatever reason.

What they don’t cover is repatriation, or bringing your body back, should you suffer a deadly accident (or get caught up in a disease outbreak like they had in Africa). The problem with them not covering this, is that your family or loved ones will not get closure. You don’t know what that country will do with your body, and the cost of repatriation (at least in the United States) can be upwards of $10,000 dollars due to the special requirements for transporting back into a country are.

If your saying, ‘well I will be dead, so who cares’; here is the other thing that Travel Insurance covers though: stolen cameras, computers, emergency evacuations, cancelled trips, delayed baggage, delayed flights, dental emergencies, search and rescue should you have an accident with diving (which I’m doing more of now) and over 200 other adventure activities that you don’t even think of when visiting a foreign country.

Now I don’t travel without it, it is better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Many of my fellow travel savvy friends use World Nomad Insurance, as it seems to have the best coverage for the price, but you can also look at Allianz Travel Insurance and compare the two. Pick the one that will fit both your budget and what you plan to do.

6- Call the Embassy

If you are feeling extremely threatened and fear for your safety due to riots or unstable local situations, get incarcerated by a ‘dirty cop’ or for doing something stupid, lose or have your passport stolen. These are all examples of situations that you would need to call the Embassy for your country for. Be sure you know where they are located, and the best way to get there should the local situation become unstable.

As Always…Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and I’ll See YOU on the Flip Side.

What To See On The NC500 Coastline In Scotland

What To See On The NC500 Coastline In Scotland

Visiting Scotland for the second time in less than two years allowed me to delve a little more into the adventures available. One of the more interesting road trips that locals are taking more often is along the NC500 Coastline. I wasn’t able to complete the entire road trip of the Upper Scottish Highlands, but definitely would love to return to complete this trip in its entirety. Here is what to see on the NC500 Coastline in Scotland should you venture to do as locals do, and take this road trip in the most beautiful country I have seen.

Inverness for Easy of Arrival and a Starting Point with History

While Inverness isn’t technically part of the NC500 coastline road trip, it is a good starting point. This characteristically charming town has an airport, rental cars, Airbnb’s and all the amenities that you may need to start your journey.

The Scottish Highlands are known for their over abundance of Bed & Breakfasts, as a supplemental income for the aging population. Should you find yourself staying in one, you are sure to have the classic Scottish breakfast of ham, eggs, black pudding, beans, and rice.

What to See on the NC500 Coastline
A Classic Scottish Breakfast

When starting in Inverness, be sure to stop by Culloden – an integral part of the Scottish History and basis of which the popular show Outlander has driven hoards of Kilt loving fans to this off the beaten path place. A short drive away you will find Clava Cairns, where you learn of the Standing stones and Scottish folklore traditions. The last stop of this day should be Inverness Castle before making the one hour thirty minute drive out to Dunrobin.

Dunrobin a Unique French Chateau

There is a small stretch of houses surrounding the French Chateau inspired Dunrobin Castle. Be transported to France in this Disney like Scottish Castle, where you will learn of its colorful history and warm hospitality.

It started as a single great tower in the 14th century then expanded in the late 18th century to how it looks today. Undergoing transformations with each Lord that occupied it, including becoming a boy’s school and a Naval hospital.

If you are more into animals, gardens and nature, then take a stroll out back where a falconry display will thrill you with delight. Here you will see some of the most magnificent birds of prey in the whole of Scotland including a Great Owl, Golden Eagle, and a variety of Falcons.

Whaligoe Steps the History of the Locals

When driving the NC500 north, there is a unique place called the Whaligoe steps. For those who love history of the locals, this is commonly where fishing boats would dock. Fish were cured here, and hauled up the steps.

The main sources of food for the locals in this part of Scotland in the 17th century was from barley, oats, beans, and peas. Some other foods such as kale and porridge were also eaten during this time period. When the Vikings came in the 8th century fishing became a major source of protein for locals. They needed their cows and sheep for milk, and wool – both essential to survival in the bitter winds of winter.

Ale, cheese, butter were considered to be niceties for gatherings and festivals. Meat, wines, and quality beers were saved for the occasional luxury or to impress clans, or visitors.

What to See on the NC500 Coastline

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle for the unique location of these ruins

Perched on the edge of a cliff. these castle ruins are far more unique than any other ruins I have visited. Sinclair Girnigoe Castle that was built with an internal dry moat for added protection, a private entrance from the sea if they were surrounded. This castle withstood several sieges until finally succumbing to British forces after the Battle for Culloden.

If you do visit, be sure to climb down to the secret shore that helps protect the castle even more. This area is filled with black rocks, a white sandy beach, and the bluest, cleanest waters I have seen.

John O’Groats (aka At World’s End)

Visiting John O’Groats stirred the Viking DNA within me, and made me want to jump in a boat and explore the vast ocean in the midst of the storm before me.

You can also visit several other islands from this location. There is a luxury hotel here called Natural Retreats, that is so Instagrammable I cannot believe it hasn’t been visited more often. There is a sign that you have to stand in front of, turn around twice and lay a kiss on it. It is good luck for your future travels, just like throwing a quarter over your left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain in Italy. This is to guarantee your return to Scotland, wishing for things at Land’s End. The Edge of the world.

The oncoming storm was absolutely stunning to witness here, with the roiling ocean beyond. I did not envy those who were boarding ships to visit the other Islands.

Be sure to read about the odd statue/art installment that represents how strong the ocean currents are in this area. Where the current is said to move boulders up to 500 lbs through this area.

Dunscasby Head Stacks for the hike

This hike can take up to 45 minutes to complete. It is not a difficult hike, and provides a quiet calming landscape next to beautiful ocean views. The Dunscansby Head Stacks are a few rock formations just off the coast of Northern Scottish Highlands that are a right of passage to hike to for all those that travel the NC500 coastline.

Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey for history

This was the property of Queen Mother Queen Elizabeth from 1952 to 1996 until she gifted it over to a Trust to take care of. Originally built by George, the 4th Earl of Caithness for his son William Sinclair. William was visiting his older brother John at Castle Girnigoe, where he had been imprisioned for quite some time and revealed to William he was planning an escape. William forbade it and planned to tell his father, so John ended up killing him.

The castle went to his third sone George Sinclair of Mey. The Castle became the seat of the Earls of Caithness for the next 100 years. The fifteenth earl died at age 30 without family or children of his own. Eventually the castle was sold to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1952.

RSPB Dunnet Head Coastline Views & Sea Birds

Here you will find a nature reserve, a lighthouse, puffins, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes (birds that live in this protected area).

It is a grassland on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. In the spring you might see the sea birds courting, summer the chicks are born and the parents are frantically gathering food, and the fall the birds have migrated leaving a cool yet peaceful calm to those wishing to take in the remote and beautiful beauty of the Scottish Coastline.

Thurso for the Rural Scottish Feeling

This is the Northern most town of the United Kingdom. It was one of the most important Norse fishing ports, and still retains its charming rural Scottish feeling. Including Old St Peters Church that dates back to 1125.

With the powerful ocean swells coming into Thurso, it is known for it’s excellent surfing and ocean kayaking adventures. There are international surfing championship events regularly. There is also an annual raft race hosted by the North Coast Branch of Coastguard Association.

Durness for Smoo Cave

After doing some surfing in Thurso, head to Durness for a round of golf that could be challenging for you given the ocean winds. The Beaches here could rival those in the carribean because of the pristine blue (although cold) waters.

If you don’t like to have cold feet, then head to Cnocbreac where there are the remains of two parallel turf dykes of Neolithic origin. It amazes me when modern technology fails constantly, yet the engineering feats of those thousands of years before still stand today.

If you want a truly unique experience, head to Smoo Cave. This is by far the main attraction of the area. It is an ocean cave, used by the Norse, Viking and clear back to the Mesolithic era as a place of hiding. The site is protected and can only be entered (due to safety reasons) if guided. The cave is quite large, with a fresh water waterfall dropping into the cave at nearly 66 feet high (20 metres).

Plan to stay a few days at the SYHA Hostel, or the campgrounds situated above the beach. The Hostel is converted army barracks that are perfect for protection from wind and help keep in the warmth.

If you plan your trip carefully, you could also visit the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival, a celebration of music, poetry, theatre and other cultural activities. John Lennon and Yoko Ono would take their summer vacations here with their children.

Stacked lobster pots

Scourie for the Fish

Fishing here is quite popular due to all the fresh water lochs in this area. While the official population is only 132 people, there are several Bed and Breakfasts open throughout the year here. There are camping spots available here, but only during the spring/summer and fall.

If you stay in Scourie, be sure to pop on over to the Handa nature reserve for all my fellow bird watching enthusiasts. You will see more puffins, skuas, guillemots and razorbills that you could count.

Beach side fishing village near Ullapool in the North QWest of the Highlands of Scotland.

Ullapool for the Unique Festivals

This is where the Northern Atlantic Drift passes, and creates warmer temperatures throughout the year. You also see palm trees, well techically they are New Zealand cabbage trees, but are often mistaken as palm trees.

It is oddly paired as a major herring port as well. So be sure to grab some pickled herring while you are there.

If you plan it right, you can also take part in the book festival. It is a unique cultural event, as there are writers throughout the world that come to this festival to share their writings in both English and Gaelic.

If reading isn’t your thing, then try October, when the Ullapool Guitar Festival takes place. There is also the Loopallu Festival that is a major regional annual event.

Dingwall for Dingwall Castle

This town holds a very old clan castle, dating back to the 12th century. It belonged to the Clan Mackay. It was once the largest castle north of Stirling Castle, but only the Dovecote remains.

While it is a quaint town, with little to see in the way of ancient history. It is your last stop before heading back to Inverness or down to the Isle of Skye. So be sure to grab something warm to drink, fill up the car with gas (or petrol) and go home with memories to last a lifetime.

As Always….Happy Travels….Happy Tales… See YOU on the Flip Side.

Tours along the NC500 Coastline

NC500 Coast Tours (2-4 day itineraries) through Viator

Tours of Scotland from Lonely Planet (1/2 day to 8 day Itineraries)

Hire a classic VW Camper Van and Tour the NC500 Coastline Yourself

Rental Cars in Scotland

Be sure to find a rental car that you are familiar with as the roads winding and long. If you are used to driving a manual transmission, there are very few manual transmissions in the U.K. to rent, so rent your car early. Automatic transmissions are plentiful to rent, so you can wait for a good deal or sale to rent one.

It is also a good idea to ask for a GPS for the car for back up should you not have cellphone service. For the truly remote areas, use the GPS to get close, then Google Maps with GPS coordinates to find the exact location.

Where to Stay

Booking.com

Neist Point Lighthouse on the Isle of Skye

Neist Point Lighthouse on the Isle of Skye

Taking a road trip in Scotland is still one of my favorite things I have done while traveling. One of the highlights on this road trip was racing from Portree on the Isle of Skye to Neist Point Lighthouse.

Driving to Neist Point from Portree takes around one hour to drive. The roads to Neist Point Lighthouse felt like I was on a rural race car track, or a Scottish Mario cart. Winding frantically through the Isle of Skye countryside, racing the sunset, honking for the tiny lambs frolicking to a fro across the road with green hills as far as you could see. There were no cautionary signs like the states, and you don’t dare try to blaze your own trail because large pockets of moss hide the pitfalls and potholes. I was so determined to see this place though, no one died, and I stayed within the respective speed limits (insert cough).

Fields near neist point lighthouse - Culture Trekking - #IsleofSkye #NeistPointLighthouse #scotland

Choose Your Path

We reached the small parking lot, and there was a dilapidated looking shack with a wooden beam blocking any drivers from attempting to drive to the Neist Point Outlook.

From here you can either veer left to take the steep concrete path towards the lighthouse. Proceed with caution in a rainstorm as the stairs can get quite slick. Also remember the rule of hiking, where you hike down to, you must be able to hike up from.

Neist Point Lighthouse - Culture Trekking - #IsleofSkye #NeistPointLighthouse #Scotland

Veering to the right after you pass the former toll booth is the path we decided to take, as it leads you to an outcropping with a perfect view of the sweeping cliffs near the lighthouse with all of the birds that nest on its stony pillars.

The Hike to the cliffs is easy, I completed it in flip flop sandals. I would, however, recommend that you wear something that covers your whole foot with a warm windbreaker. The cold ocean winds can penetrate into you, so it takes hours for you to warm up after waiting for the sun to set and the lighthouse to turn on.

Neist Point Lighthouse - Culture Trekking - #IsleofSkye #NeistPointLighthouse #Scotland

 More Than Just A Photo

Waiting for the sun to set, it was fascinating to watch the other people on the edge of these cliffs. There was a sense of community, kindness, professional photographers perfecting their evening shots. After running around all over the Scottish Highlands seeing the sights, it was nice to arrive here at nine o’clock at night. The sun slowly changes the landscape and cliffs from the Golden Hour to the brilliant reds, oranges, pinks. The birds on the cliff face, slow their flight and settle into their nests.

A hush falls over the crowd, and the lighthouse comes to life. The light beams out over the vast ocean, guiding the ships to harbor as it has traditionally done since the early 1900’s.

Unique Wildlife Near Neist Point

While I’m not a bird watching type, I am fascinated by birds in flight and there were plenty here to become entranced by. The cliffs near the lighthouse were teeming with sea-birds frolicking in the ocean winds blasting the coast. The most common sea birds in this area are gannets, black guillemots, razor bills and shags.

Neist Point Lighthouse - Culture Trekking - #IsleofSkye #NeistPointLighthouse #Scotland

It isn’t just birds who find the frigid waters near this coastline pleasant. Whales , dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks are commonly seen migrating around this area, and are frequented by brave scuba divers.

Fishing around the Isle of Skye is how most of the people in this area supplement their income during the off season. Just in this area, there are fourteen different species of fish that can be caught in Moonen Bay.

Neist Point Lighthouse - Culture Trekking - #IsleofSkye #NeistPointLighthouse #Scotland

Claim to Fame and Future Plans for Neist Point

Neist Point was used for a number of scenes in the movie Breaking The Waves in 1996, starring Emily Watson.

It was also featured in 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves, filmed on the headland at Neist in October 2012.

In 2013 there was talk of opening a small souvenir shop near Neist point, it was approved, but because of the relaxed nature of the Scottish Highlands – the building process has not happened yet.

Where to Stay

Booking.com
Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland

Situated on the cliffs of Caithness stood the main castles of the powerful Sinclair family for over 300 yrs. This 14th-century building was built upon by the Sinclair family for nearly 200 years. Then the wicked 5th Earl George Sinclair was constantly bickering with his neighbors the Clan Gun. This eventually led to an attack that lasted as a 12-day siege attempt until they finally withdrew. The Earl was forced to flee Sinclair Grinigoe Castle because of the mounting debts he had accumulated.

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland - Culture Trekking - #SinclairGirnigoeCastle #Scotland #NC500Coastline

British Invasion of Sinclair Girnigoe Castle

In 1651 Oliver Cromwell (an English Lord) moved in with his men resulting in massive damage to the castle from all the skirmishes and squabbles between the English regiment and the local clans.

The English troops were run out of the castle, and the 6th Earl sold the castle to Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy. George Sinclair claimed the castle should have been passed to him, so he went in with a band of loyalist and removed all furniture, flooring, doors and the roof.

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland - Culture Trekking - #SinclairGirnigoeCastle #Scotland #NC500Coastline

The Last Battle

The last battle over the castle right was at Altimarlach where the Campbells emerged triumphant. In 1681 the Sinclairs regained the Earldom after which the castle fell into disrepair. The battering of the waves and ocean wind took the castle down stone by stone. Parts of the castle have since fallen into the sea.

A Sinclair family charity has taken over on rebuilding the castle to it’s former glory which is ongoing and arduous. Located on the narrow peninsula of Sinclair Bay and the North Sea is the only castle in Scotland listed on the World Monuments Fund list as one of the 100 most endangered heritage sites in the world.

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland - Culture Trekking - #SinclairGirnigoeCastle #Scotland #NC500Coastline

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle Structure Navigation

There is a stony passage that you walk into the main courtyard of the buildings. There was was a drawbridge over a once internal dry moat of the tower house. This tower house rises three stories from the bottom, you can find the remains of the tower house on the east side of the courtyard.

If you follow the remnants of the buildings to the edge of the cliff face, you will find a windows with a view of the sea beyond. There is also a stony staircase that descends to a secure area that was used to enter the castle, but yet protected from direct enemy fire (also called a sally point).

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland - Culture Trekking - #SinclairGirnigoeCastle #Scotland #NC500Coastline

The stories of this castle say that the Sinclair portion of the castle, was built for the beautification, and the Girnigoe portion was built for the fortification and strength of the castle. The Girnigoe portion is considered the Tower House, the West gate and the chimney stack are considered the Sinclair portion. While some historians dispute that there was ever two different castles built, it has been called Castle Sinclair Girnigoe for the last 300 years despite a parliamentary declaration it should just be called Castle Sinclair.

The main buildings that you see today are under preservation and reconstruction, but the original tower was built around the 15th-century. Be sure to take a photo of the plaque that deems this so, and what historians base the dating of the castle off of.

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland - Culture Trekking - #SinclairGirnigoeCastle #Scotland #NC500Coastline

The rocks themselves are built from red sand stone rock and Cathiness slate, giving it a beautiful complimentary coloring to the green grasses surrounding it.

The most unique part of this castle is that it is the only castle in Scotland that is listed on the World Monuments Fund. This deems this castle as
one of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World.

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland - Culture Trekking - #SinclairGirnigoeCastle #Scotland #NC500Coastline

The Rocky Cove

The Sea inlet Goe, is a Norse word meaning a rocky inlet. When you approach the castle, it is not immediately visible, but creates a natural barricade to entering the castle.

Walking near the inlet is not safe, so please don’t attempt it as it is a far drop onto the rocky ground below. Looking down into the inlet, you see that it is covered in perfectly rounded black rocks with a beautifully contrasting white beach at the bottom. I imagined it was the perfect area for docking rowboats from the storms that frequent this area of Scotland.

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland - Culture Trekking - #SinclairGirnigoeCastle #Scotland #NC500Coastline

Where is Sinclair Girnigoe Castle Located?

The castle is separated from the mainland by an arm of the sea known as goe, a norse word meaning cave. There is a dry moat on one side which allows for a drawbridge, and added protection for the castle from mainland attacks.

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle GPS coordinates, 58°28’33.0″N 3°03’29.0″W, were extremely helpful when making our way there. If you have AT&T you won’t get great service in this corner of the world, but those with T-mobile do get better service so using google maps is an option. Another option is to download the google map onto your phone for this area, to be able to use it offline.

Sinclair Girnigoe Castle in Scotland - Culture Trekking - #SinclairGirnigoeCastle #Scotland #NC500Coastline

This is surely not a castle to be missed while traveling the NC500. I know that visiting every castle in the UK can be not only daunting, but by the end tiresome. This is one that is quite unique due to being on the edge of the northern most point of the UK and it is easy to imagine how life would have been in the castle. So when you visit Scotland be sure to slip this castle into your itinerary.

How to Get to Sinclair Girnigoe Castle

Take the road north of Wick headed towards Noss Head. Park at the large parking area before the Noss Head Lighthouse and follow the sign post to the castle along the path.

It is about a 15-20 minute walk along a gated road to the castle itself. The castle ruins seem safe and stable as long as you do not cross the safety ropes, lines, or gates.

There are some signs at the castle itself with historical information. There no signs that point to the castle. So utilizing the GPS coordinates above is a great way to navigate there.

Where to Stay near Sinclair Girnigoe Castle

Booking.com

Paracas Desert in Peru a Dune Buggying Adventure

Paracas Desert in Peru a Dune Buggying Adventure

South of Lima, approximately 155 miles (250km) is one of two protected areas where marine life meets desert – the Paracas Desert in Peru. It is a little-known area, growing in popularity for its plethora of activities, genuinely kind people, ancient history carved into the landscape, and a raw yet beautiful landscape.

Departing for Our Shore Excursion in Paracas

Disembarking off the Cruise ship was fairly seamless, and were greeted by dancers on the port. They wore white flowing dresses, gracefully grabbing the hems lifting it into the air like a peacock showing its feathers. Wide grins split their faces as their male counterparts rythmically clapped their hands and continued to attempt to dance close to them. It was a traditional folk dance that entranced us better than any television.

We were waiting for our group/guide from Emotion Tours Peru to take us on our respective tours. The guide had a clipboard with all of our names on it, one man’s name was not on his list, but luckily he had a confirmation email printed to show proof that he had previously paid.

Paracas Desert in Peru - Dune Buggying Adventure - #Peru #Paracasdesertperu #dunebuggy

Once all the people on the list were accounted for, we hopped on the bus towards the main city center. The A/C was a bit dodgy at first, but after some broken Spanish communication we all sighed in relief as it blasted back to us inside the van. (For those with big hips, the seats are built for the petite Peruvians – so just be prepared to snuggle.)

The entire ride felt as if we were driving on the surface of Mars. As far as the eye could see there was vast desert landscape. Full of reds, tans, browns in all the various shades with naturally occurring textured hills, odd shaped lone rocks dotting the land. I typically like the green, lush landscapes – but there was something clean, crisp and challenging about this landscape that made me itch to explore it.

Parting Ways

We arrived into town and immediately were whisked away to our respective tours. Our driver for the Dune Buggy Ride in the Desert did not speak very much English.

Fun Fact: Did you know that 65% of the world does not speak English? Feel like I need to learn more basic communication to each place I visit.

Luckily I do speak some Spanish and was able to have a basic, broken conversation with him. It was about a 20 minute ride to the Adrenarena Dune Buggy Adventure. When we arrived it appeared that our driver brought us to the desert to die….the place was deserted. My friend Bree and I got out of the car, and explored the shop, utilized the bathrooms and then a grizzled man painted in grease popped around the corner and told us they were ready for us.

We put our backpacks, wallets and fragile items in the lockers provided with keys and followed him out back.

Getting Geared Up

Bree (my friend) and I have never been Dune Buggying. Needless to say, we didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t have any standard to compare it to.

So when I saw the cart provided, made of what looked like Metal pipes, bolts, I assumed this was par for the course for Dune Buggy Riding. They had seats, and seat belts, even a mount for my GoPro – What else do you need?

The man handed us our goggles, that looked like something you would wear while skiing, and we both awkwardly climbed in. Then they attempted to seatbelt us in and……..well……it didn’t reach. So while I planned my Operation Anorexia for when I got home, and fanned myself from the embarrassment – he kindly told us that they had the seat belts for kids in the cart. Oh good, but still, extremely embarrassing and I still feel like I need to do a thirty day fast or something.

Paracas Desert in Peru - Dune Buggying Adventure - #Peru #Paracasdesertperu #dunebuggy

I tried to tell him we didn’t need the seat belts and that we would just hang on tightly. A bubbling gut laugh escaped him and he politely said that wasn’t an option. Feeling a bit confused as to why they were so persistent, they switched out the seat belts, strapped us in nice and tight and introduced our driver.

Introductions and Beginnings

Our driver, who I can’t for the life of me remember his name (sorry), was a kind looking young man. He shook both of our hands and deftly climbed into the front. He put on his goggles, got instruction from the owner on how to use the GoPro properly, and then put the bandana that was resting around his neck over his mouth, “He must be trying to not get sunburned” I naively thought.

The owner shook our hands like he was (disconcertingly) saying goodbye, and grinned at our unknowing excitement for what was to come. Our driver pumped the gas, pushed the break down showing a bit of the sand beneath us, and turned the key. The machine sputtered to life and he revved the engine.

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Exploring the Desert

He turned back to us and gave us a thumbs up, which we returned with giggles. Everyone waved goodbye to us, and he gently drove out from under the shade of the complex.

Even just writing this my heart is starting to race, because I look back at this and think, “You stupid, poor, naive little girl….you truly were oblivious to what was about to come”.

Lest I digress, our driver took us over some of the gently rolling hills and I marveled at the beauty of the vast expanse of nothingness. Then he started to increase his speed, a slight smell of gas reached my nose – and the speed increased even further. We approached a small shack, which I now call the point of no return…and that’s when things started to get crazy.

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The Initial Leap

Ascending that first sand peak prepared me for the ‘what goes up must come down’, but those blind peaks are what the real heart stoppers were. The first hill wasn’t too bad, a regular scream of delight came out of my mouth. The next hill soon after that was a blood curdling scream of death and all those trauma patients I had treated in the past went flashing through my mind.

Each hill he took us over, and then he turned sharply to the left just as we crested brought a fresh wave of panic. My throat started to hurt ten minutes into it. We were filming though, sooooo, I felt like I couldn’t chicken out at that point. Our driver kept turning around giving us a thumbs up and I quickly gave him a thumbs up so that he would keep watching the shifting sands under us.

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The longer the ride went on the more of those broken femurs sticking out of the thigh, crushed arms, amputating arms, hammering, cutting, slicing, blood, blood, blood went zipping through my brain just as fast as he went over the hills.

This was it, I somehow had the words from Gladiator going through my brain, ‘For those of us who are about to die, we salute you’. I have to preface this with a story about when I was 18 and invincible. I was dared in front a group of six burly cow farming men to go off of a dirt jump on a 250 Yamaha dirt bike. At the time I weighed around 125 pounds and thought I was tough as nails. I mean, just weeks before I was hanging out of a car door pretending to skate on the pavement while my guy friends went 45 miles an hour down the road. I always had a tendency to want to appear tough, and then ended up getting on said dirt bike, jumping the jump, going over the handle bars, landing on my head, having a seizure and waking up to the life flight helicopter.

Paracas Desert in Peru - Dune Buggying Adventure - #Peru #Paracasdesertperu #dunebuggy

What gave me some consolation during this harrowing, exhilarating, heart-stopping, A-fib inducing event was that my Grandma had just passed away two weeks before and so if I died, she would be there to greet me. Another thing that was consoling to me, was that my friend was screaming like I have never heard her scream before. Bless her heart, I play jokes on her all the time, and this was her Christmas present from me. To be hauled out into the desert and have a heart attack of a time.

There were a few moments where the bandanna around his face made a lot more sense as to the reason why he was wearing it. It wasn’t just to keep the sun off his face, it was to keep the sand out of his mouth. While I do like a good facial exfoliation, having the inside of your mouth exfoliated with warm sand isn’t the most pleasant thing to be chewing on the rest of the day.

Our driver stopped, took some very good obligatory photos, and then started unstrapping the Sand Boards from the top of the vehicle.

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Sand Boarding in the Desert

I didn’t know that we were going sand boarding before we started this trip. There were a few advertisements for it when we had walked into the shop, but I had only really paid for the Dune Buggy Riding.

Up for any adventure, I received instruction on how to know break my back or leg and sat on the board. I know there are some folks who like to stand up on these things, but as I didn’t have any Travel Insurance; I don’t really relish the thought of being in a country where I don’t know the health care system.

Our driver gave me a good push and in a quick rush, was down the sand dune. While it wasn’t like sand boarding down the slopes of the Sand Dunes in Utah, or Lake Powell – at least I could say I tried it.

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The reason I’m sharing this with you, despite it feeling a little less thrilling than the recent feelings of near death in a dune buggy; is because I think we would have had loads more fun doing this if we would have brought proper shoes. Both of us wore shoes that did not keep the scorching sand out of our shoes and had to drop to all four limbs a couple of times to give the burning of our feet a break. Plus, running up a sand hill after the Adrenalin rush of the dune buggy ride wears off is really a lot more difficult than it looks.

So my traveler tip to you, is that if you ever decide to go sand boarding in the desert in the middle of the day. Make sure you are wearing tennis shoes, had a bandanna to tie in front of your face, bring reflective goggles, wear sunscreen, and bring plenty of water.

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Final Verdict on this Experience

This was by far one of my favorite things I have done while abroad, also the most dangerous. I could have taken about four days to explore Pisco and the Paracas desert. The Dune Buggy Riding alone would have been worth it to spend a whole week in the desert. The adrenaline rush is something like I have never experienced, but like a true adrenaline junkie, I can’t wait to have the high associated with that near death experience again in the serene Paracas desert.

If you find yourself in Pisco or Paracas, I highly recommend Adrenarena (not sponsored). They are kind, accommodating, genuine, and so laid back that despite the fear inducing activities- it kind of feels like you are hanging out with family members.

Other Activities Offered at Paracas and Adrenarena

Fauna observation, bird watching, fishing, diving, kayaking, hiking, night-time camping/dinners, glamping.

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Where To Stay

Booking.com