Have you ever heard someone say, “I need a vacation from my vacation”. I hear this more and more from people who ask me how I have so much energy after traveling so much. There really isn’t a secret to it, I just know how to pace myself while traveling, listen to what my body needs, and follow a certain set of rules for when I get back no matter how tired I feel – or how heavy the post-vacation blues feels.
Leave the House Clean
There is nothing worse than coming home to a pile of laundry that you know you are just going to make worse by all your travel clothes. While it seems stressful to try and add another thing to your ‘to-do’ list before you leave – at the bare minimum do your laundry before you leave. For those of us who love watching Marie Kondo, or Mrs Hinch; I suggest making the bed, chopping those pillows, doing the dishes, and vaccuming and mopping the floors.
You will find just how refreshing it is to come home to a clean house. Trying to readjust to normal life after a vacation is almost like trying to screw your head back on straight. It is easier for me to do get my life in order and back into a routine inside a clean house.
Arrange For A Ride Before Leaving
If you don’t need a car to take you, at least make sure you know if you will need to take a Taxi, train, or bus on the way home. Think about the luggage you will have, the time of night, if the transportation methods run that late; or if you should just take that Uber home and save yourself some headache.
There are always ways to get home, just be sure to keep in mind what time you arrive back home so you don’t have to stress about it when your jet lagged and shuffling your way out to your chosen transport method in a post vacation hangover.
Good Night’s Rest
The blessed bed! There is no bed, in the whole world, that is as comfortable as my own bed, my own incredibly soft Crown Goose Bedding, my 1000 count sheets, and Zoey snuggling up next to me. This is bliss to me!
Do not under-estimate investing in your bed, it is the thing that will help you the most with the inevitable Jet-Lag. It will help you recover your scrambled brain to help you function at work, so you can save for your next trip.
I am a very light sleeper, so I have made every effort to make sure that every part, portion and piece of my bed feels like heaven. I got my tufted headboard off of Amazon, and my favorite color being blue – for it’s soft and relaxing shade contributes to a relaxed environment.
The bedding, from Crown Goose, with some of the softest material I have felt in a long time. This bedding holds up in the wash really well, so no worries when you have your puppy snuggles. I also really like how elegant it looks, almost as if I have my own hotel room at home. The fabric holds up really well when I go and chop my pillows like Mrs Hinch in the morning, with crisp clean lines, and a white that reflects the sunlight from my window. They have several colors, all which are in the comforting and relaxing shades – so be sure to check them out – I promise you won’t regret it.
The 500 thread count sheets are a must for me. I know it sounds like a bit of a Princess and the Pea at this point, but I rub my feet on the sheets to help me sleep. I also toss and turn so much I needed some sheets that would hold up. I like that they come in all shades, and really can make or break my whole bed.
The last things I would add to this section is make sure you have a darkened room at appropriate times of the day. I personally use black-out curtains, and have to have the bedroom a little cooler. Fun fact, studies show that humans sleep better when the temperature is cooler at night because our body temperature drops slightly.
I must try and ride the wave coming off the plane on auto mode, and promptly unpack. I typically will unpack immediately and at least throw all the clothes either in the wash or the hamper. That way at least it is in its proper place ready for the madness of dealing with the laundry on your day off.
I also tend to pick out an outfit for work the next day. I typically go with some dark colors, to help my inevitable dark circles look a little brighter. I will either wear a flowy dress or skirt as well, so I don’t have to suck in the gut I tend to get from eating so much while on vacation.
Exercise vs Resting
Each body is different, and so I would say – listen to what your body needs. I typical traveler can walk anywhere from six to ten miles per day. When you add that up over the course of your trip, you pretty much walk two marathons over a week long trip!
For those coming from a desk job, to suddenly walking more than you do in a month combined – give your body the rest it needs. Give yourself plenty of water, and when your ready, keep walking at least three miles a day to keep up the stamina for your next trip. Even 20 minutes per day at least four days a week is great.
For those who run five or six miles a day, well… you just pat yourself on the back and get straight back to that gym! No pain, no gain – work off those carbs you indulged in while on vacation.
Nutrition vs easy Fast Food
I know how easy it is to drive home jet lagged and just stop by the nearest fast-food joint to do ‘one less thing’. RESIST THE URGE TO DO IT! This is part of the reason I try to meal prep something the week before I leave. Then freeze part of it so I have something healthy and nutritious to come home to.
If nothing else, grab your InstaPot throw in BBQ and some Frozen chicken and you can have a hot meal in 20 minutes. Get creative! There are plenty of recipes on Pinterest that are still good after being frozen.
Now this is the step that is an absolute must! It is hard for me to remember to take care of myself after going on a trip, feeling jet lagged, and needing my precious self care time. A time where I can soak the sore muscles from the flight in the tub, take a hot shower with a bath bomb thrown onto the floor for an infusion of wonderful smells. I also need cuddle time with my dog and to let the silence reset me while I rock in my recliner.
I feel like a part of me gets extremely fatigued by all the camera work, video work, and general mass amounts of ‘new input’ it receives while on vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I really love to travel the way I do, but after doing it every other week for two months – this step became increasingly important to me and the health of my friendships at home.
Take an Extra Day Off Work
The older I get the more I’m allowing myself to be ok with at least an extra day off of work. My paid time off of work is EXTREMELY precious to me, but I try and schedule my flights to give me at least one full day (or nearly full day) at home on my regularly scheduled day off, or I come home early on a Saturday instead of midnight on a Sunday. The extra cost is worth it to me, to come home earlier in the day.
Arrange for Grocery Pickup/Delivery
With Walmart, Amazon, Costco, Smiths and many other large grocery chains now offering ordering your groceries online – take advantage of this! For one thing, it helps you stay on budget which will help you save for your next trip. The second part, is that you can jump in the car, drive 5-10 minutes and just pick up the few things you will need to complete the work week and still get the rest you need.
I started doing this on my last trip, and was amazed at just how incredibly put together I felt the next morning – knowing all I had to do was go to work and come home to rest.
Purge All Your Thoughts
Writing down all the impact memories that either agitated you, or inspired you along your trip will do two things. One- It will help you release some of the emotions you may have collected along the way, and also ease the worry of not remembering your incredible journey. Two- Allows your mind to take a rest of trying to input so much information, learning, and experiences.
I also keep a small journal with me, or notepad where I take notes of buildings I visit, places to remember – costs of tickets etc…. See the things I do for my Culture Trekkers? 😉
Print Out The Photos
We live in a Digital world, and sometimes having the photos on the wall when you get that post-vacation blues can be a way to remind you of the amazing journeys you have been on.
You can make an arrangement of photos in frames, use string/cord to clip them to your wall with fairy lights. Take it a step further and make a travel book for your coffee table, or fireplace mantel that you can show friends when they come over. I think that creating something like this, along with inserting feelings/phrases like before would be
Diving has become a huge passion of mine, and I am slowly working my way to becoming a Master Diver (keyword slowly). After knowing it is an activity that I will be doing for the rest of my life, I decided to get a little input from fellow divers and travel experts around the world who have contributed to this article on what we all feel are the Top Diving Locations Around the World. Within each section, you will find information on the Dive site, visibility, certifications required, how to get there, where to stay and other helpful tidbits to craft your own Diving Bucketlist.
Don’t forget your travel insurance, I don’t travel without it now. I typically use World Nomads as you can specifically craft the insurance coverage for your extreme sports activities and your budget. If you have a dive site you would love to add, be sure to add it in the comments below.
Mexico: Cabo (Lands End)
Cabo San Lucas conjures up images of partying, sloppy drunk teens escaping from their parents….or at least it did for me in the beginning. When taking my cruise there this last December I couldn’t have been more wrong about what kind of adventures Cabo San Lucas Holds. There are plenty of areas to dive here, and with the mass amount of tourism, the companies cater to you and have really nice equipment.
The dive itself is some of the most unique along the Mexico/South American Coastline. There are underwater sand falls, shipwrecks, seals, eels, Mobula Rays, Hammer Head Sharks and a healthy array of colorful fish and puffer fish. If you decide to dive in December, the whales will be migrating and are truly worth every minute observing their breaching and feeding frenzy.
Visibility here depends on the season, during the summer you can have 30-90 feet of visibility and the winter can drop to 20-40 feet. While water temperatures can range from 64-86 degrees Fahrenheit. Depths near Cabo Arch can be anywhere from 10-90 feet, while diving sites at Lands End are 1000+.
This was my first real ocean dive, as diving in Utah (the middle of the desert) is a little difficult to get that ocean experience in. I would recommend that you have good control of your buoyancy, and take a guided tour so that you can see the best parts without getting hit by tour boats going to Cabo Arch. I recommend using Cabo Adventures as there are plenty of staff on hand to cater to the most advanced divers and the newest divers. We had a mix of open water, and master divers on our boat; so they took us all out and split us up into appropriate groups where each of us had a wonderful time. They also do snorkeling adventures, dolphin encounters and a whole lot more. Plus they are really good looking…sorry not sorry…lol.
To get here take a flight to the Los Cabos International Airport, from there it is a 34-minute drive to Cabo San Lucas. I would suggest taking the bus though it is $5.50 for two people and takes around 1 1/2 hours to get to the Center (Puerto Paraiso Mall) of Cabo. If you opt for a cab or shuttle, you are going to pay a lot more. I think you can get a group shuttle for around $15 pp or take a taxi for $50 -$100 so the bus is a big savings if you are watching your budget.
Contributed by Janiel from Culture Trekking
USA: Florida – Devils Den
While cave diving wasn’t really on my list of ‘best places to dive’, this particular dive was so unique I just had to include it. Devil’s Den is so appropriately named as you descend down into a cavern from the humid Florida air into a prehistoric cave of wonder.
While it appears warm in the video below, the water itself is 72 degrees F/22.2 degrees year round. I didn’t think I needed a full wet suit, as it was still winter in Utah and temps there were around 32 degrees so I just took my shorty wetsuit. While I was a little chilled when entering the waters, by the end of the dive, I really wish I had my full wetsuit (some people were in dry suits). Visibility is excellent, but there is silt on the bottom as the cave is fed by natural springs so try to not disturb the bottom. If you are there on a weekend, or holiday expect to have loads of divers training here.
The cave is an excellent place for practicing night dives, cave diving, and fantastic for beginners. There are areas that are more dangerous than others but the private owners have blocked those areas off, and the caves are easy to maneuver around in. They have also put different items around the caves, so it makes it really creepy and fun to explore. Be aware of the creepy fish and giant catfish lurking in the corners.
You can either stay in Williston, Gainsville or swing over to St Petersburg Florida where there are the perfect west coast white sand beaches, plenty of street art, the Dali museum and yummy places to eat.
Contributed by Janiel from Culture Trekking
Richelieu Rock – Similan Islands
Richelieu Rock is the most popular dive location in the
Similan Islands. The name of the dive site is based on the fact that the dive
site is a rock formation in the middle of the ocean. It is stated that the site
was discovered when during a low tide Jacques-Yves Cousteau and a local
fisherman boat bumped into the top of the rock formation.
The dive site itself is famous due to the traffic that
occurs at Richelieu Rock. The rock is covered in anemone and has over four
variety of anemone fish. There are numerous other reef fish at the location.
The large attraction however is the whale sharks and manta rays that frequently
cruise around the location. A dive tour at the site will typically encompass a
trip around the rock formation, and then if you are lucky, you will see a manta
ray or whale shark cruising by on the outside area.
An added bonus is that the whale sharks are juvenile, so
while smaller than normal, the whale sharks are far more curious and will check
out the divers and the bubbles from respirators thinking that the bubbles may
be plankton. Ultimately making Richelieu Rock a great location to dive with
The dive is easy to complete, with only an open water certification required. The depths can go upward of 30m, but companies typically stay at the top of the rock formation and no further than 15m. Visibility is clear at site, however there can sometimes be strong currents. There are two main ways to get to Richelieu Rock, and the Similan Islands, and that is through liveaboard out of Phuket, or through a dive company that does day trips out to the island. I recommend using Sunrise Divers, they are located in the Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand area and can help arrange a liveaboard or a day trip out.
While I haven’t personally been diving here, in planning my trip to China in the next year – I found this hidden gem! It is the 1,400 old ruined city submerged underwater for over 50 years! Talk about the Asia version of the Atlantic City. Qiandao Lake, also known as Thousand Island Lake, is a sprawling body of fresh water, covering 573 sq. km. It was flooded to create a reservoir where hydroelectricity could be used but displaced nearly 290,000 people in doing so.
After reading about all the specs on the dive I discovered, I personally need a little more experience before attempting it. The visibility is very poor in the lake and gets quite dark very quickly. Some of the diving accounts I read, said that you need to have excellent bouyancy control, excellent navigation epxerience (because it is that easy to lose your dive partner), night dive certification, and advanced open water certification.
There is a lot of silt in the area as it is in a lake, so that is why buoyancy is so important here. Diving itself is apparently a newer sport for those in China so there are limited companies willing or able to do this dive. The company I found that does do tours of this site is Big Blue Scuba that schedules tours here our of Shanghai. I personally plan on staying in Shanghai and then letting the tour drive the 6 hours of winding rural roads to get to the site so I don’t get lost.
I don’t know how long the ruins will last, but despite the visibility and needing excellent diving skills – just watch the video and you will understand why this one needs to be on your bucket list. For more information on this dive, be sure to visit Underwater Photography Guide.
Contributed by Janiel from Culture Trekking
Hanga Roa, Easter Island
One of the most unique dives anybody can do is located in Hanga Roa Harbor. Hanga Roa is the capital of Easter Island, and this amazing and easy dive is called the Moai Dive. And as the name implies, this is the only place on earth where you can meet an Easter Island stone head statue underwater!
This moai is submerged in roughly 28 feet of water, and it is only a few minutes ride from Hanga Roa harbor to reach the dive site. An open water certification is required to do this dive or to visit any of the Easter Island dive sites.
Easter Island is one of the most remote places on earth, and its far distance to the nearest island and the lack of natural stream on the island contributes to the extremely clear surrounding waters. The coral reefs here are relatively young, and some of the 150 species of relatively small fish and other creatures are endemic to Easter Island.
On a typical day, the visibility can range to over 200 feet, with no obstructions in sight. Even better – during the whale migration season, you can sometimes hear some of the whales singing in the distance!
I highly recommend Mike Rapu Diving Center. It is one of the few trusted PADI establishments on the island.
There are only two ways to get to Easter Island: a four hour-flight from Tahiti or a nearly six-hour flight from Santiago de Chile. Either way, it demonstrates how remote this island is.
Contributed by Halef from the RTW Guys
Negril in Jamaica, an iconic destination for scuba divers who want to explore the wonders of the Caribbean underwater universe. This spot features vivid marine world, thriving coral reefs, a range of unique undersea sights, colorful fish, sharks, sea turtles and much more. You will enjoy in a warm crystal clear water with an average depth of 30 ft and maximal depth of 70 ft.
For your diving experience, Sandals Luxury Resorts offers several dive courses. With a 3-hour PADI diving program, you will be able to dive in the same day as the program. There’s also PADI’s e-learning system (8-hour course) which helps you to complete it at your own pace. Furthermore, the program does not require any prior certification or dive experience. I recommend staying at Sandals Negril offers from two-story suites to the Millionaire Suites, some with private pool, balcony, patio or swim-up pool, etc. Which to choose depends on your preferences and budget.
To get here there is a daily flight from Miami to Montego Bay. Once in Montego Bay take an included transfer to Sandals Negril. It’s a 60 minutes ride.
contributed by Leo from Safari Nomad
Gordon Rocks the Galapagos Island
The Galapagos is world famous for its incredible wildlife and the underwater world is no exception. One of the best tours in the Galapagos is to visit Gordon Rocks, a dive site near the island of Santa Cruz.
Gordon Rocks is one of the best places in the world to find Hammerhead sharks and the Oceanic Sunfish. You can also see Galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, giant sea turtles, stingrays, moray eels, Galapagos eels, Barracudas and various colorful reef fish.
The average depth of the dive is between 60-80 feet. Gordon Rocks is considered an intermediate to advanced dive site as the current can be strong at times. In order to dive, you will need to have your open water certification and a minimum of 25 logged dives.
I recommend diving in Santa Cruz with Scuba Iguana. They are one of the oldest diving companies on the island and have an excellent reputation for being safe and environmentally responsible.
Scuba Iguana is located in Santa Cruz’ main town, Puerto Ayora. A good hotel to stay in is Hotel Ikala, located just a few minutes from the dive shop. This new hotel was built with a focus on sustainability and is surrounded by beautiful trees and gardens, giving it a natural and fresh ambiance.
Contributed by Lora from Explore with Lora
Green Island, Lvdao Township, Taiwan
They say Green Island is the best diving spot in all Taiwan due to its incredible visibility of 40 meters or even more. When we got into the water, I knew people were right. The visibility was fantastic, the more than 200 types of corals are colorful and flourishing. You have a wide range of beautiful fishes in all shapes and sizes. I have never seen that many clown fishes on that little space.
Max depth is around 20meters. Visibility is incredible, around 40 meters. You need at least an Open Water. However, the dive centers also offer explorer dives with 5 meters depth and taking photos. Absolutely interesting for beginners, since the corals and fishes are colorful, and you can even see turtles.
The company we went with was “BLUE SAFARI DIVING CENTER 藍莎潛水中心”. I asked specifically for a dive instructor that speaks English, to take away any language barrier. They organized one for me. It was a 1 on 1 dive, so only me and the instructor. The briefing was on the point, we went through all signs again, to make sure we can both understand each other under water. He then asked what i want to do. I could do a drift dive, see specific fishes. I told him I am interested i seeing Turtles. We succeeded and saw two precious, beautiful turtles.
We stayed at “Hostel Green520 綠島民宿‧綠野仙蹤鄉村童話-海島民宿” (< that is the full name apparently). The host is a young guy from the island, and it feels like you are staying wth a friend. He knows everything on the small island. He also picks you up on the harbor, and you exchange your WhatsApp with him. During our stay, he sent as a few messages, for instance when it was raining he’d send us a message to stay safe because it’s slippery. And then if we want to go for a drink tonight. Seriously, it was like staying with a friend!
You can only take a ferry from Taitung harbor. The ferry takes around 1 hour, and it can be bumpy. There are also airplanes, but they are always sold out, taking the ferry is much easier.
The Gili Islands is a great place to go diving. There’s a small shipwreck, some underwater statues, and turtles the size of dinner tables! It’s a trip you can take around all 3 Gili Islands. The water is beautiful and crystal clear so you can see tons all around you. You don’t have to be certified as they have introductory dives that will take you up to 12 meters on your first dive. You can check out Shark Point to see reef sharks, eels and rays, or head to Turtle Heaven where you can swim with several large turtles.
Gili Air Divers on the island of Gili Air is a PADI certified company that we recommend. They are very professional and emphasize safety. You can easily find them after your boat docks, on the strip of vendors.
We always recommend staying on the island of Gili Air, as it is more of a relaxing vibe as opposed to the more party islands. It has a great tropical island vibe with lots of live music and great food on the beach every night. We had a great experience staying at “Villa Karang Hotel and Spa”, with pools, a spa, great air-conditioned rooms, and right across from the beach.
Gili Air is a boat ride away from Bali, Indonesia, and it is very easy to find a boat to take you there. You can check online to purchase your tickets in advance as well.
Monad Shoal is the only dive site in the world where you are likely to spot Thresher Sharks daily. Normally the Thresher Sharks live and hunt at 50+ meters of depth. The sunken island works as a cleaning station as the sharks swim up there early in the morning to get their skin washed by tiny fish called Cleaning Wrasse. That´s when divers can observe them.
The dive goes down to the underwater sandbank of Monad Shoal. From there, you dive down along the wall to about 30 meters of depth. Once you spot the Thresher Sharks you will sit down by the wall and observe them calmly. Visibility is normally 10-15 meters.
As the dive is 30 meters deep you need minimum Advanced Open Water to do the dive, though some companies will take experienced Open Water divers. You need to stay at Malapascua island to do the dive. I did it with Jayky, a great instructor and divemaster at Dive Society. Unlikely most of the dive centers, this is not on the main beach, hence you get a better price and the experience was nevertheless unforgettable.
We traveled budget, so we stayed at a basic, budget bungalow with no name in the inland dirt tracks of the island. We found it by talking to some locals when we arrived.
To get to Malapascua you need to get a bangka (traditional Philippine pirogue) from Maya Port on Cebu island. You can take a bus from Cebu city to Maya. It is also possible to go from Leyte island by private bangka, but that will be much more expensive.
Contributed by Linn from Brainy Backpackers
SMS Cöln – Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands
The SMS Cöln is one of the wrecks within Scapa Flow. She is the most intact cruiser in the Flow and sits on her starboard side at 36 metres. The shallowest point is at 22metres. The stern and armoured control tower are still intact. The visibility averages about 10metres. This is a cold water dive in deeper water so PADI advanced open water with wreck and dry suit experience are needed to make it a pleasant experience.
There are a number of companies who operate out of the nearest town of Stromness. I would recommend Andy Cuthbertson who runs Jean Elaine through Scapa Flow Charters. If you want support or training then Scapa Scuba have courses, training and equipment available and can take you out the wrecks in the flow. This is especially useful if you are a single diver or buddy pair. All the charter boats usually take larger groups and book up months in advance.
All of the companies include accommodation in their packages. They use small self catering cottages or the Stromness Hotel.
Diving in Scapa Flow is from the small town of Stromness. This can be reached from mainland Scotland using Northlink Ferries which run from Thurso near John O’Groats (three hours drive north of Inverness). The ferry takes just under 2 hours. You can also fly to Kirkwall and then drive the 40minutes to Stromness in a hire car.
Out of all the places I’ve dived and snorkeled around the world, there’s honestly nothing that has come to close what I experienced at the Batu Balong dive site in Indonesia! I had just finished an incredible four-day sailing trip from Lombok to Labuan Bajo, and visited the Komodo National Park (which I’d highly recommend doing as well)!
I was traveling with a few friends, and we all decided to book a one-day diving trip with Uber Scuba in Labuan Bajo. We visited a few different dive sites, but this one spot called Batu Balong was easily the best! From the minute you jump in the water, you are quite literally surrounded by thousands of fish in every direction, and the colorful coral is the most vibrant I’ve ever seen! The max depth is around 25 meters, with visibility being good to excellent year round. Honestly a perfect place for any open water certified diver.
We saw turtles and sharks on the dive, and it was just such an amazing experience! Labuan Bajo is on the island of Flores in Indonesia, which you can find cheap fllights to on a few different airlines. I’d recommend staying at the Ayana Komodo Resort too, because it’s easily the best property on the island!!
Malaysia: Perhentian Kecil, part of the Perhentian Islands
One of the places that surprised me the most in Malaysia was Perhentian Kecil, part of the Perhentian Islands. I have visited out of season, when the island was almost deserted, with probably only around 10 tourists in total. There was not much to do except for diving, snorkelling, and enjoying coconut smoothies on the beach.
Diving in the Perhentian Islands is a magical experience because of the amazing underwater eco system that developed around old sunken ships and buoys. There are several spots where you can dive in Perhentian Islands, which you can pick in a day tour from one of the diving centres on the island.
One of the most popular dives is at the “Sugar Wreck”, a 90 meters long cargo ship which sank in 2000. There are over 20 different diving spots around, where you can observe the marine life, such as tuna, sword fish, pufferfish, black tip reef sharks, sting rays and turtles. The corals are so beautiful as well, but remember, don’t touch them.
To reach the Perhentian Islands you need to catch a speed boat from Kuala Besut, the closest town on the mainland. I chose to stay at Maya’s Chalet, in a hut right on the Coral Bay beach.
Contributed by Joanna from The World In My Pocket
Mary’s Place, Roatán, Honduras
Just off the coast of mainland Honduras lie the Bay Islands, Roatán being the largest of the group. These Caribbean islands are set atop a 1,000-kilometer Mesoamerican barrier reef, and most of the dive sites are just a few minutes boats ride from shore.
There are hundreds of spectacular sites to choose from and Mary’s Place is one of the best. Known for its sheer vertical cracks caused by ancient volcanic activity, this site is best suited for experienced divers. With a maximum depth of 36 meters (120 feet), divers must have an advanced certification and a good handle on buoyancy. Like many dive sites in the Bay Islands, Mary’s Place is known for excellent visibility and healthy corals.
Roatán Divers is one of the most reputable dive shops on the island. They’re very professional and well located. Plus, they have a focus on environmental responsibility, which is why we chose to dive with them. I recommend staying at Ibagari Boutique Hotel which has beautifully-designed rooms that you’ll love to relax in after a day of diving,
To get there from the city of La Ceiba, ferries depart for the Bay Islands twice daily – once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
Thailand: Koh Tao
If you enjoy diving, you will love diving in Koh Tao, Thailand. This is probably the number one destination in Thailand for divers. Koh Tao is a paradise island that is home to some of the most awesome dive sights. One of the best dive sites being Sail rock. Here you get the opportunity to dive with large schools of Barracuda, other amazing fish and stunning coral.
This amazing dive actually takes you down through a
rock, crazy. The dive can take you to a maximum of 18-metres deep, from the
bottom you can exit the rock and ascend back to the surface. However, these
depths are for advanced divers. A good depth for beginners is 5-metres.
You will be required to have your PADI certificate if
you want to dive to the deeper depths of Sail
Rock. If you are new to diving, you can enjoy a fun dive to a few metres
How to get to Sail Rock?Your Koh Tao dive school will take you on a 1 and half hour journey via boat to the dive site.
Which dive school to choose?I would highly recommend crystal dive school which are a team of dive experts that ensure you will have an amazing dive if you choose them. Also, if you choose to a PADI certification, you should choose CrystalDive. They are known for delivering high quality and safe courses. This amazing dive company also offers accommodation within their dive school. This is a very popular option for travellers.
The best place to stay when planning to dive here is at the P.D Beach resort, which I would highly recommend.
Agincourt Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is renowned for being one of the best dive locations in the world. At 2,300 km long, comprising thousands of reefs and hundreds of islands, it’s home to countless species of fish and coral, plus sharks, turtles and dolphins.
You can dive the Great Barrier Reef all along Australia’s east coast, but one of the most popular places to go is the small resort town of Port Douglas, just north of Cairns. Port Douglas is pretty much a dedicated beach and dive town, offering easy access to the Agincourt Reef System, part of the Ribbon Reef and one of the most popular and accessible dive areas. Agincourt Reef offers 45 different dive sites, mostly drift and wall diving, with coral gardens and shallow dive sites that are great for novice and intermediate divers. You can even do introductory dives, so everyone from complete beginners to experts is catered for.
As well as a fantastic range of coral fish, you’re likely to spot lionfish, barracudas, dogtooth tuna, reef sharks and blue spotted stingray. Depth at the various Agincourt sites ranges from 12-40 metres, and on a good day visibility can be up to 30 metres; the average is usually about 20 metres.
The dive company I recommed is ABC Scuba Diving or Blue Dive, I truly had a great time with them and felt cared for every step of the way.
There are loads of places to stay in Port Douglas, ranging from backpackers’ hostels to serviced apartments to expensive beach resorts with pools. We stayed in Coral Beach Lodge which was centrally located and quite affordable.
The Silfra fissure sits along the mid-Atlantic ridge, a location where the earth’s plates diverge, here Iceland is being slowly ripped in two but the resulting freshwater dive in the middle of the country is bound to blow your booties off. Silfra is unique in the world, the only place in the world where you can (feasibly) dive between the earth’s tectonic plates! Running from a shallow 1m down to 40+ meters Silfra is a somewhat technical dive that you’ll need your drysuit diver certification for but with 100+m visibility its well worth the trouble.
Staying in Reykjavik is the best option for people wanting to dive the fissure, we loved the FossHotel Reykjavik. The city is vibrant, interesting & worth exploring best of all when it comes time to go diving every tour operator out there offers hotel pickup! Arctic Adventures offers daily snorkels and dives at the fissure complete with a tour of Thingvellir national park & hot cocoa & cookies when you get out of the perpetually cool (2*c or 35F) water.
Palancar Gardens off the coast of Isla Cozumel in Mexico is one of the best wall dive sites in the world. As Palancar is part of the National Park it is well protected and has huge healthy coral formations, multiple (optional) swim-throughs, and a wall that drops down to 130 ft. This dive site really will blow your mind. Expect to see turtles, green moray eels, eagle rays (only during the season), and nurse sharks (all year round).
The depth of this dive is between 30- 80 feet and it is a great reef to dive for all experience levels. Beginners can stay to the side and above the reef and more experienced divers can go deeper and do the swim-throughs. The average visibility diving in Cozumel is 100ft all year round. You will need an open water certificate to dive here. Although it is possible to do this dive on a discover scuba dive as it is often used as a first dive site.
The dive company I recommend in Cozumel is Scuba Tony. I did my advanced certificate with them and I would never dive with anyone else over there. The dive masters are awesome and their equipment and boats are in top condition.
If you are going to Cozumel to dive you are better to stay further south so you are closer to the better dive sites. Most hotels have a dock where the boats can pick you up from. If you stay further north most dive companies will not pick you up. I recommend staying at the Fiesta as it is in an ideal location and has great facilities.
Getting to Cozumel is easy as the Island has its own airport with many international direct flights. Alternatively, you can fly into Cancun and then take a connecting flight to the Island, or take a taxi or ADO bus to Playa del Carmen. From Playa you will need to take the 40-minute ferry over to Cozumel.
Contributed by Claire from Claire’s Itchy Feet
Jeju Island – South Korea
The exotic Jeju Island is a stunning and extremely popular holiday destination among Korean and foreign tourists. The island is often referred to as the Hawaii of Korea. Not only is it stunning, but it also has so much to offer, from great hikes to amazing beaches, yummy food, and great water activities like kayaking, snorkeling, diving and many more.
All around the island, there are many different diving spots and schools. But the creme de la creme diving spot is around the Seongsan Ilchulbong (sunrise peak). This natural phenomenon is a volcanic crater created more than a hundred thousand years back as a result of volcanic eruptions. This site is now a protected UNESCO heritage site.
The warm water around the peak attracted a wide array of tropical marine life and soft corals, which are absolutely stunning. Diving in Jeju Island and the rest of South Korea is mostly a summer activity as the rest of the year the water will be too cold for divers and instructors. On top of that during autumn and winter, the currents around the island are rather strong and dangerous for inexperienced divers.
The recommended school to dive with is Seongsan Diving Resort as offers diving packages to both unlicensed and licensed divers, making this the best location for beginner and advanced divers. I recommend you rent a car and drive in Jeju, but the school is also accessible using public transportation. When visiting Jeju Island, stay in Jeju City and use this as a base to explore the island.
Contributed by Marie from Be Marie Korea
Philippines: Apo Reef
33 Km off the coast of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro Province, Philippines, you’ll find the Apo Reef. This is the largest coral reef in the Philippines, while in the world is only second to the Australian Great Barrier Reef.
The reef develops on two connecting sections divided by a channel with a white sandy bottom of 30 mt maximum depth. The variety of the flora and fauna in the protected area of the Apo Reef Natural Park is surprising and overwhelming. As you start going down inside the channel, you are instantly surrounded by clouds of snappers and will get to see jacks, barracudas trevallies, squirrel and parrotfishes, triggerfishes, gobies, groupies, reef sharks and the list of the 385 species found in the area goes on.
It is easy to spot turtles (even the rare green turtle) and dolphins, and overall you will meet large schools of fishes. Within one dive-trip from Sablayan, you will normally arrange three dives, and you need the Advanced Open Water Certificate to dive Apo Reef. The visibility in Apo Reef is just incredible and makes for a breath-taking experience. The most visited site of the reef is South Corner.
The Mariposa diving centre on the Tiny Pandan Island is run by a mix of Philipino and European experts and has been organizing day-trips and overnights at Apo Reef for more than 20 years. The centre provides training up to dive-master and is part of the Pandan Island Resort, which offers hut-like accommodation for every budget on a semi-private island and delicious, rich buffet meals. This is your best option to stay at while you visit Apo Reef, as they can take you to the reef with a 90 minutes boat trip.
To get to Pandan Island from Manila by plane to San Jose and by public bus/jeepney to Sablayan where a tricycle can take you exactly to ‘Punta in front of Ludi ‘s place’. From there a Bangka will cross the 300 mt of sea waters to Pandan Island.-from Manila by land and ferry: take a bus to Batangas and the Montenegro Lines ferry to Abra. From Abra, get on a bus to Sablayan, then follows the directions as per the previous point.
The Belize Barrier Reef makes up one-third of the MesoAmerican Reef (the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef), stretching 190 miles along the Central American country’s coastline. Protected since 1996 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the reef is the #1 tourist attraction in Belize, with Scuba diving attracting nearly 50% of the country’s annual visitors.
Thankfully removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2018, the reef’s diverse array of walls, pinnacles, holes, and reef flats are home to an exceptional array of aquatic life (including 70 hard coral species, 35 soft coral species, 500 species of fish, and hundreds of invertebrates). During our two dives (at depths ranging from 15 to 60+ feet), we had exceptional visibility and saw a Nurse Shark, Moray Eel, several Spotted Rays, a Sea Turtle, Pufferfish, Lobsters, and thousands of colorful fish.
Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort caters to Scuba divers and offers a variety of daily snorkeling and diving tours. Located less than a mile from the Garifuna culture of Hopkins Village, this excellent eco-resort also boasts beautiful lodge-style rooms with hot tubs on the private patio as well as a restaurant serving up fresh seafood daily.
Domestic flights from Belize International Airport to Dangriga are available on Maya Air or Tropic Air. The staff at Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort can arrange this flight for you, as well as an airport transfer to the resort.
Contributed by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel
Tiputa Pass, French Polynesian Islands
The Tiputa Pass is considered one of the worlds best dive sites, in particular to see pelagics. Diving in Rangiroa you’re likely to see manta rays, leopard rays, grey reef sharks, white tip reef sharks, black tip reef sharks, lemon sharks and even great hammerhead sharks. If you’re an advanced diver, you can head depths of 30m or more and see tiger sharks. There are many options, but it is common to do a drift dive through the pass, either on the incoming or outgoing tide.
The pass is popular with experienced divers due to the strong current, however open water level divers are allowed to dive it. I recommend diving with Top Dive, who are very safety conscious, which is particularly important considering the remote location. The visibility is generally very good.
Va’a i Te Moana is a lovely family run pension a short walk from the Tiputa Pass. Double rooms start from £141.50 (19000 CFP) including breakfast. I highly recommend staying here not only because of a convenient location but also it is also very beautiful.
Kia Oras, is another option, it is a luxury resort with over water bungalows and beach villas. Top Dive have a dive shop on the property, so it’s great if you’re planning on doing lots of dives. A beach bungalow with hot tub starts from £331 (44 460 CFP).
To get to Tiputa, I would suggest flying to Pape’ete, Tahiti, and then take a flight to Rangiroa. The airport is in the center of the small island, with most of the hotels and accommodations being on the southern end of the island; I would suggest staying on the Northern end of the island as this is where Tiputa Pass is.
How Do You Choose?
With all of these great dives, it is going to be hard to choose just ONE to commit to for your next trip. I would suggest taking a cruise and hitting several, or find friends to stay with and do them all throughout your lifetime. Go with the dive that speaks to your heart, that you have the certifications for and let fate take you on an underwater journey that not many are brave enough to take.
To all my fellow divers, I salute you – happy bubble blowing!
Tambo Colorado is not a well known Inca Ruin, yet it is one of the best preserved Inca ruin. To see it you must take a tour to the Paracas desert from Pisco. It is a perfect shore excursion full of ancient Incan history. Fascinating elements of the internal engineering in their homes, technology far advanced than I gave them credit for can still be seen. So come take a tour with me in some ruins that even the most seasoned traveler can enjoy.
Shore Excursion in Pisco Peru
Just before my Dune Buggy Adventure in the Paracas Desert, we elected to see some of the best preserved Inca Ruins in South America. We arranged our tour with Emotion Tours Peru, and emailed them our suggested tour. They were accommodating to altering their typical tours, and ensured that we would be back at the ship with enough time to browse a shop or two.
They met us on the dock, clipboard in hand and once everyone was assembled (8 of us), we loaded into the small bus and headed into Pisco.
Passing the surrounding desert was like we were inside a land rover machine on Mars. It was so strange to see the ocean right on the other side of a Sand Dune. It was a stark desert, begging to be challenged by the hardiest of travelers – and yet breathtakingly beautiful against the ocean as a contrasting backdrop.
The drive into town took about 30 minutes, and we unloaded at their tour office to be divided into our respective tours we had arranged. You can pay at the office, but we elected to pay via PayPal before we arrived. I just personally like to ensure that the tour operator will be there since the shore excursions tend to be on limited time. It gave us about twenty minutes more for our tour, as the others waited in line to pay waiting for the spotty wifi to run their cards.
We got into our car with a gentleman who spoke really good English, wearing a bright orange shirt with the Emotion Tours logo on it. My friend Bree and I got into the back of the car, and had a fascinating ride with him on the way out to Tambo Colorado.
Getting to Tambo Colorado
If you do not wish to arrange your travels with Emotion Tours, then I would suggest hiring a private car or hailing a taxi once you get into town. I guarantee this will cost you about the same amount of money as it would to hire the tour company as it can take about 40 minutes to get to Tambo Colorado.
The reason I would suggest going through a private tour company rather than through the ship shore excursion office, is because you beat the bus load from the ship to the ruins and have the place virtually to yourself.
The hallways within the complex are quite narrow and if you really want to take your time to appreciate it, you want to do it without 15 other people behind you pressuring you to keep walking.
Tambo Colorado Ruins
When you first begin traveling, ruined castles hold such an appeal – at least it did for me as an American. Likely because our country is still so new compared to the rest of the world. After traveling for 22 years though, ruins tend to lose their appeal. Yet I was intrigued by the story of the Incas in Pisco Peru.
Most of the information on Inca ruins in Peru revolves around Machu Picchu. With the gorgeous views of the ruins amongst the clouds, but that area has now become quite crowded and commercialized. Tambo Colorado provides a much more authentic look into what the Inca lives were like. The ruins here are so well preserved that you can still see the straw in the plaster, with the tiny rivlets where the 1/4 inch of yearly rain fall has carved out the patterns.
You would think that, by looking at the ruins the people in the village just built this place and called it ancient. Except the way that the complex is laid out, how it points to certain points in the land, the smell of aged wood – it is hard to believe it is from the 15th century.
Enginering within their homes
The Inca king Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, or Pachacutec is said to have built this place along an important trade route for the Incas. Looking at this large complex, you see several structures, with a large central trapezoid plaza measuring approximately 492 feet (150m) in length. If you look on either end of the plaza there is a Northern Palace (or grouping of structures), and a Southern Palace.
As you wander around the structure, into the rooms – you will see that the original wood is above the door threshold. The plaster still holds the straw, and much of the paint used to both insulate and protect those inside from the sun. In one room you can also see that they had a form of indoor plumbing, where stones were placed strategically to allow water from a well or the river to flow into the home itself. There is not tap, but just a channel that drops into a depression deep enough for a human to stand in.
The architecture of this building was so well done, that even the massive earthquake that hit Peru in 2007 caused only minimal damage to Tambo Colorado.
Our guide told us that the paint that was used on the plaster is the original paint, and despite scientists coming and taking samples to try and repair much of the graffiti on the ancient walls – were unable to replicate because of the natural elements used that are no longer available.
Before this was a protected site, many kids came to this area to carve their names into the walls so that a part of them would remain here forever. It made me so frustrated by the amount of defacement and damage done to this place, I had to talk myself out of letting it ruin my visit. If you ever visit a site like this, or any other in the world – please, for the love of all that is holy and good – do NOT be that ONE who ruins it for the many. Sometimes the damage it causes is irreparable.
Worship of the Land
Facing towards the river, you will see a raised platform; this is where the shaman lived. It is a ceremonial platform called the Ushnu.
This is where sacrifices to the Gods of the earth were made. Our guide told us that the Incas worshiped all things related to the land. They worshiped the mother in the mountain, they worshiped the sun god, they worshiped the river, and the great harvest every year, they worshiped fertility and many other things that are directly tied to survival in such harsh environments in Peru.
Looking at the Inca calendar this is primarily represented, a shifting circle around the harvest seasons and family. Although in modern times Pisco rotates around the tourists that visit this off the beaten path place; the people in Pisco center much of their lives around produce and the livelihood it creates for them and their families.
Why Visit Pisco Peru?
If you want a strikingly unique landscape to explore, with an authentic Peruvian feel – then go to Pisco. It isn’t just Tambo Colorado that you can explore, they are host to so many other activities that will make you feel you are on an adventure of a lifetime in a small corner of the world that not many of the tourists know about yet.
See Flamingos and their babies on the bay, go surfing near the shore, scuba diving right off the beach, dune buggy riding in the Paracas Desert and have a desert under a night sky without light pollution, take a flight over the Nazca lines – ancient symbols drawn into the sands surrounding Pisco – or just make it your backing packing stop on your way down the South American coastline. While many people overlook Pisco for Lima, I personally would skip Lima and head to Pisco for a real adventure and talk a walk in Inca History at Tambo Colorado.
Hep A and Typhoid are recommended. Typhoid is recommended especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.
All other recommendations for vaccines are based on your location you plan to visit in Peru.
Be sure to only eat fruit that you peel yourself. The water in Peru is not one you should drink as a traveler, organisms and local bacteria can be different than you are used to. If you drink the water you could be at risk for diarrhea.
Searching online for hours on end, I finally decided on the neighborhoods I wanted to visit; the museums and shopping I wanted to see while in Santiago. Preparation is always key when planning a vacation, yet I only had 24 hours in Santiago Chile. There are so many things to do in Santiago Chile, I truly didn’t have enough time to see or do them all.
For those of you here on a shore excursion from your cruise in Santiago, here are a few things to do in Santiago in less than 24 hours. I was able to tour Santiago for $15, and that included food and a few treats.
Gen Hotel in Santiago Chile
My friend Breanna and I had just arrived in Santiago after a 16-day cruise along the coast of Central and South America. We arranged for a taxi from the port of San Antonio to Santiago (about an hour and a half drive), you can also take the bus/metro but this takes 2 1/2 hours. The taxi drivers near the ship wanted to charge $375 to take us into the city.
Luckily, we were able to call for an Uber that would cost us about $87 total (approx $45 per person). While it is ok to take an Uber from the San Antonio Port into Santiago, I wouldn’t recommend utilizing Uber within the city. I was given this warning from the manager at Gen Hotel, who told us that there are a lot of Uber drivers who are not legal. They take their riders to different places than they are supposed to, and then rob them and leave them there. If the cops catch you using an Uber, the fine can be up to $1000 USD, they are really cracking down on illegal taxi’s within the city of Santiago.
The concierge offered to take my friend to the airport for about the same amount that an Uber driver would cost, which I thought was very kind of him. He also changed our money for us (per our calculation based on the current exchange rate). He then suggested a few changes to the itinerary on things to do in Santiago for the short amount of time we would be there.
While Gen Hotel may not be the BEST place to stay in Santiago, only because it is about 20 minute walk to the Plaza De Armas, I would still recommend staying here. The A/C was so nice to have, the room was relatively clean, there is a 24 hour desk, and luggage storage if you need it. I reserved my room via AirBnb and felt like the staff watched out for me like they were my Uncle’s and Aunt’s.
This is not a sponsored promotion of this hotel, or for the Airbnb. I didn’t receive any discount for promoting this, I genuinely appreciated their kindness and quick communication. Even though they didn’t speak English, they utilized Google translate speech to text and we were able to communicate very clearly.
Centro Artesnal Shopping Center
This is a highly suggested place to shop for your souvenirs. A couple we met on the ship, Carlos and Maria, who are both from Santiago recommended a few things. There is a stone, Lapiz La Luz, a blue stone with white marbled flecks in it that is unique to Chile. I was told on multiple occasions that a blue stone with gold flecks in it was the real Lapiz La Luz, I later found out that these stones are cheaper for the seller and are actually from Afghanistan. The Lapiz La Luz is what you see within these penguins, a sapphire type blue with white marble looks flecks in it.
Another tip on what to buy in Santiago is Alpaca fur EVERYTHING! The cost of souvenirs in this market is comparable to other parts, and very reasonable considering it is right across Santa Lucia Hill. There are several types of Alpaca that are sold, and you can only tell which is which by touching it. The soft yet coarse fur is the mama Alpaca Fur, the incredibly soft fur is baby Alpaca.
Santa Lucia Hill
This is one of the best things to do in Santiago, visiting Santa Lucia Hill. Although calling this a Hill is a gross understatement, yet this is what the country calls this fortress/ancient volcano/park with memorials, multiple exits, and fountains etc..
I could have easily spent an entire day exploring this place, and all of its beautiful nooks and crannies. With almost 16 acres of park, rising 230 feet over the city to give you a 360-degree view of Santiago.
You start out by signing into the park, so that the city can keep track of who goes in and who goes out. Likely necessary due to homeless in the area who like to camp in the park, or vandals who go up to these historic sites and scrape graffiti into the walls.
Once you sign in, you head up to Neptune’s Fountain – something that looks like it should be in Italy. It is very intricate, yellow, and beautifully complimented by weeping willows that hanging down like a Chilean secret garden for the glamours and fabulous!
Make your way around the hill until you see signs for Santa Lucia Hill. Follow the steps all the way to the top, you may even get a little lucky and be greeted by some traditional music and a smog free skyline to see the Andean mountains in the distance.
The climb is worth it, but if you have a fear of heights, have balance issues or bad knees please do not attempt these steps. They are very steep, have minimal rails along the sides, and for those with big feet….well….it’s hard to get your foot properly on the step and feel safe.
As you make your way down from the summit of this hill, please be careful, and pay attention to each step. Do not stop in the middle of the staircase on the way down as it causes a traffic jam; step aside, let the people behind you pass, and then take your desired photos.
Reaching the main walkway from the top of the hill, you will run into Castle Hidalgo. This is the old fort that was used to protect the citizens from invaders. If you can’t make it to the top of Santa Lucia Hill, then go to the castles Tower of Santiago, where you can rent binoculars for 100 pesos and avoid the crowds.
Wander around the entire hill and you will find places like the Japanese Garden the Caupolican Terrance, and the memorial to Charles Darwin. There are so many outdoor attractions that I challenge you to find all 31 statues on this hillside and 416 vases of flowers procured for the beutification of Santa Lucia.
Museums are something that, after years of traveling, have become less interesting to me- yet I was thoroughly impressed with The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. The amount of South American history of the indigenous Amazonian people who migrated to the south after the Spanish invasions was incredibly enlightening.
The Museum is laid out in layers, I would suggest starting in the basement where artifacts from before Chile was Chile. There are a few statues there that reminded me of those on Easter Island. They are called Chemamulles, or wooden men that are said to reflect the spirits of the men buried there. They were placed on the graves of those who died. There are also massive ceramic bases and bowls, each with different shapes, patterns, and meanings.
Many of the ceramics, knives, woven textiles are decorated with animals, those things that revere nature and its bounty. There are also a collection of strings, that appear as if they are intricate necklaces but are in fact the way that they kept track of debts, shipments, payments etc. Knots of different sizes, types, and position on the strings indicated certain things.
There are also hats that were worn by these ancient people and indicated their status in the respective communities they were in.
After browsing the belly of this museum, in the cool basement, away from the heat of the city we wandered up each set of stairs. Each floor is an ascension into a different part of Pre-columbian life, where you will see how society was run and how it has shaped the culture of Chile to what it is today.
Be sure to stop by their exhibits, they do change, but when we were there we were able to see the meaning behind the Incan Calendar that was often put into textile form. The Incan calendar was used to track the changing of the seasons when to harvest when to plant etc. It also shows you how they make the textiles dye the wool, and how much talent is involved in making something so delicately beautiful and functional.
Plaza De Armas
This place is an absolute MADHOUSE during the day! Granted I visited just a few days before the Christmas Holiday here so that likely didn’t help, but I couldn’t believe the sea of people! Even the street vendors were running out of food and drink to give the people on the streets.
Ceasar, a gentleman on our cruise who lived in Santiago, was raving about a particular drink/street food item called Mote con Huseillo. It is a drink sold mainly in the summer that has sweet nectar made from soaking dried peaches, then cooked, cooled and husked wheat called mote is added and makes for a very filling treat to help coold down while touring Santiago.
The Plaza De Armas has many of the important governmental buildings, including a beautiful Post Office. This is the congregating place for many individuals to come and shop, tourists, come to see the churches and museums.
As I am not the type to love crowded areas of a city, we quickly moved through this section of the city and went down a nearby alleyway towards the Santiago Municipal Cathedral.
Santiago Municipal Cathedral
You could easily spend over an hour in this Cathedral. As with most Cathedrals it is gilded in gold, with pink marble inlaid into the pillars and beautiful religious paintings adorning the ceilings.
This is the church for the Archdioceses of Chile, and is dedicated to the assumption of Mary. The history of this Cathedral dates back to the 15th century, which I was thoroughly impressed with how new it felt, and how large it was.
It is common to feel small and insignificant in churches like this. Maybe this is a way to help the masses that come to worship in the halls here to humble themselves.
The geometric patterns of the naves, crypts, frescoes, and several alters all combine to make this a beautiful church and place of worship.
Getting to and from the airport
Avoid taking any unofficial cabs (ie/ Uber or Lyft) from the airport and wave down a ‘Taxi Oficial’. Agree on a price before you get in the cab, if they do not agree, or try to change the rate on the meter – get out of the cab and find another one. A fair price is around 15,000 Chilean pesos or US $30. Alternatively, if you’re feeling bold and thrifty, the bus costs even less and stops a few blocks away from the Plaza De Armas.
Getting around Santiago
If you plan to stay for more than a few days in Santiago, a savvy way to save money is to buy a Bip card at any of the local metro stations. It is a reloadable card that you can use for both the metro station and buses. You can also buy tickets from Pullman, Tur Bus or Condor. Buses in Chile can take you anywhere, and there are many roads that provide fantastic views of both the countryside and mountains.
Don’t forget your Travel Insurance which will protect you during your more adventurous activities, electronics, repatriation and more that your personal insurance may not cover. I recommend World Nomad Insurance as I have researched their coverage extensively, and find it extremely customizable and affordable.
Getting off of my cruise from LA to Santiago put me so close to Argentina I couldn’t help but visit. However, 36-hours in Buenos Aires Argentina is not enough time for this colorful and vibrant city.
I arrived at the airport and was immediately impressed with the organization of it, the amenities available and how streamlined their border control was. There was a Starbucks and a McDonald’s as well as some BBQ in the lobby after you left the border control.
I wasn’t meeting my guide until the next day and had accidentally put the incorrect day in the pickup time from the airport to the city center so had to wait for about an hour and a half. This gave me just enough time to stand in a massive line to exchange money from Chilean pesos to Argentinian currency.
We drove into the city center, my Airbnb host met me within 5-10 minutes of notifying her I was on my way. I dropped my luggage off in my room, freshened up, grabbed some coffee at a store down the street right before they closed at 8pm! Then headed over to Virtua Tango Club.
Dance the Tango with Locals
La Viruta Tango Dance Club is in the Armenian Cultural Centre and one of the most authentic experiences I had while in Argentina. I stayed in a fabulous Airbnb, across from a quaint little church. This club is within a 6-minute walk of the Airbnb, the neighborhood is very safe with police regularly controlling the area.
It is a 550 Argentinian Pesos cover charge to get in, and I would recommend having exact change in Argentinian I would call beforehand and reserve a table, as many of the tables are reserved after midnight. Before midnight is when a lot of the dance instruction happens, and around 2am is when the party really gets started.
There are dancing teachers from the local universities that come and give dance instruction to those wanting to learn the tango. If you are a woman, be prepared to be pulled from the audience to learn as the men in Argentina LOVE to learn this passionate dance.
Having experienced many salsa dancing clubs in Texas, line dancing and two-step dancing in Utah and Nevada. This was different in the fact that no matter what size, shape, intelligence level or physical ability you are – there is a place for you on the dance floor. It isn’t that people pair off and then you are left the ‘last pick of the litter’ for a dancing partner. You stand in three different circles depending on your level of experience in tango. Then rotate around to different partners after the completion of each new step introduced and practiced.
Trying local flavors is a great way to really immerse yourself into a culture. Not only does it help you experience something authentic, it also will improve your own home cooking styles. Empanadas Argentinian style are so delicious with the beef, veggies, and type of dough they use.
La Virtua Tango Club has some great Empanadas, which is perfect to eat right before a night of dancing. If you can’t get to Argentina, try this Argentinian Empanada Recipe.
Memory Park or Parque de la Memoria
This was one of the most moving, startling, and horrifying things I have witnessed in my travels so far. The message of this park comes in second to the Holocaust Museum in Israel, with the impact it had on me.
The park was built for the 30,000 Argentinian nationals who were being massacred during the ‘Dirty War’. Bodies were burned under bridges in day-light with cars being able to drive by and see this happening. Small graves now line the area in memory of those who were killed. Those who asked questions about the Presidents brutal dictatorship were taken and tortured in various areas around Buenos Aires.
Torture rooms were found within a mile of the university, where students would suddenly disappear. The students were taken for no other reason than they would ask questions, or were intelligent and sought an education. The church at the time was just as corrupt as the government and would be paid for their silence. The CIA of the United States knew what was happening, and Argentinians feel they partially contributed to it. We don’t learn about this history in the United States, but maybe we should – so we can learn from our mistakes of the past. Learn how to hold a government accountable that contributes to terrorism instead of defends against it.
They are still finding individuals who were killed during this dirty war, where the president sponsored his terrorism with the State money. The only reason that it was discovered that this was happening was when the World Cup was held in Buenos Aires. There was a subdued tone to the city, people didn’t want to talk to the reporters for fear of being taken. Reporters started to hear things mentioned, rumors, and then the investigations into disappearances started.
If you are in Argentina on a Sunday, I would suggest joining locals on the side of the road to drink Mate, eat BBQ and Alfajours. As you drive down the freeway you will see hundreds of cars, families and people on the side of the roads eating, talking and drinking Mate. Mate is a drink that is traditionally consumed with just hot water. It is Yerba plant tea leaves, with some caffeine and hot water served with a metal straw and a traditional ceramic cup.
Where ever you go you might see ‘hot water’ or ‘aqua calor‘ at the pop up food stands, even in the heat of summer they sell hot water. This is for this very popular and traditional drink they believe originated from the indiginous people of the Amazon, when they were fleeing Spanish invadors and migrated sout. I had the opportunity to try some while in Argentina and the mix of herbs used for this drink was very refreshing and relaxing – even on the hot day.
We had just finished at Memory park, and saw a couple on the side of the road, under a tree with their shirts off. Howard walked up to them, asked them if they were drinking Mate, and asked if I could try some as I was a tourist. They looked at me, smiled, finished off the remaining water and poured me a full cup. I thanked them both and sipped gingerly on the drink. It was refreshing, warm, like drinking a mild mint tea but without the mint flavor – more of an earthy warm flavor. It was very good, and I couldn’t believe how warm and kind the people were – even just randomly walking up to them and asking them for a spot of tea.
BBQ is part of the food pyramid of most Argentinians. BBQ there is an art form. Anywhere you go in Argentina there is a soft delicious smell of BBQ being cooked. I don’t want to recommend any ONE particular place, because part of the joy of traveling is trying new things and making mistakes. So get on Yelp when your in Argentina, look at reviews, and see where the locals recommend you go based on where your staying.
Alfajours are another delectable delight to try while your in Argentina. It is a type of cookie that is frequently eaten for both breakfast and for dessert. It is like a sugar cookie chocolate filled Oreo, that is either dipped in chocolate, or rolled in coconut/sugar or something else. This is also a great gift idea to bring home to loved ones or friends.
Take a dip in Holy Waters at Tierra Santa
While I didn’t have time to personally go to this spot, it is such a unique place that I couldn’t help but put it on this list. This is the only Christian Water Park in the world. The entire place is geared towards teaching the children that come to play about all things to do with Christianity. Including having Christ rise up out of the waters from the mountain and pour water down to the children below.
The outside of the park is decorated in the manger, the three wise men and the shepherds of the field. An angel stands guard over the entrance, and the current Pope is displayed for all to enter to say a prayer of thanks and thanksgiving.
So if you want to be able to say you have stepped foot into Holy Waters, stop by Tierra Santa water park.
Stroll through Bosques de Palermo – the Central Park of Buenos Aires
Have your guide take you to Basques de Palermo, a 1,000-acre park in the center of Buenos Aires. This is where their New Years concerts and celebrations take place. This is also where they hold plays, create hybrid roses and where most Quinciera and wedding photos are taken.
This park had a little bit of everything, for all types of travelers. We started off just outside the poet/writer sculpture park (really a circle of statues of famous writers/poet’s. Grabbing some water from Howard (my guide’s friend) as a precaution, because of the hot day in December.
Walking towards the heart of the park, we saw the stages being set up for their New Year’s Celebration, and headed towards the rose garden, or Rosedal de Palermo. There are over 18,000 roses in the park from 93 different species of roses. I could have spent at least 3 hours here smelling the roses. I secretly wished they had a perfume parlor there where you could bring the name of the rose smell you liked the most to a booth and then had that perfume made for you. What was really interesting was that the hybrid roses don’t actually have any smell to them, only the natural roses had the most plesant smells.
Walking through the roses we came to a small lake with the cutest ducks that were so excited to see Howard. Whenever he brings clients to this park, he always brings them bread, and he lovingly calls them ‘his ducks’. It was so fun to see the ducks compete with the fish in the pond for the bread that he dropped in there.
Moving along we came to several statues, gazebos laced with flowers, and then saw the small outdoor theater on a pond where plays are performed year round. During the warm summer months they perform tango in the theatre on the small lake. Keep in mind that on Mondays the park is closed for pruning.
I found out later that anyone can rent a paddle boat, roller blades, bikes etc.. in the park. I would suggest that if you have more than 48 hours in Buenos Aires, that you bring a picnic and do all three activities.
Recoleta Cemetery or Cemetario de la Recoleta
This cemetery, established in 1822, with 4,691 vaults (with anywhere from 1 to 200 coffins inside). There is over 14 acres of this labyrinth cemetery, and definitely requires a guide if you want to know the stories behind the families here. It is also recommended to have a guide because of how confusing it can get wandering around this place, it is easy to get lost, it gets very hot because of all the stone work reflecting the heat, and if you needed to use the restroom facilities your out of luck.
There is also the trouble of being able to see the more popular graves that really put this Cemetery in the Recoleta neighborhood on the map. Two of these graves are Napolean’s Grand-daughter and Eva Peron’s Vault. Eva Peron’s Vault is still worshiped and revered by so many Argentinians that there’s often a line in order to get a photo, and the people behind you only allow time for a quick photo before badgering you to move on.
I highly recommend utilizing Buenos Aires Taxi’s, the gentlemen that run this company are locals, have been taking visitors on tours for years and are highly reliable and reasonably priced. While I did receive a very small discount when utilizing their services, I would not recommend them if I did not feel they would take (not just great) but EXCELLENT care of you.
Tigre is a town on the Prana Delta that was once used to hunt Jaguar’s, and thus was named Tiger (Tigre). Now it is a main tourist destination for water activities like rowing, fishing, naval museum, and plenty of waterways and boat tours.
There are plenty of antique shops, a fruit market, restaurants, picnic areas and luxury cabins you can rent out. Buenos Aires Taxis’ also do tours in this area, and can pick you up anywhere in the city.
Plaza de Mayo and La Casa Rosada
As with most cities in South America, this Plaza was formerly the Plaza de Armas, and Recova building was demolished creating the massive Plaza Mayor.
This is where most of the national banks, federal agencies are located and also where many demonstrations have taken place since the 15th century. The most notable of these buildings is the Casa Rosada, or the pink house of the Argentinian President. The arched balcony on the left is where Evita gave her famous speech to the citizens of Argentina.
It is still used for government functions to this day, but is open for tours on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays but it requires you to reserve a tour online prior to coming to the building. There is a Museum located at the back of this house, that resides on the site of the former fort for the Plaza.
Corrientes Avenue and Avenue 9 De Julio
Avenue 9 DeJulio is the widest in the world with 18 lanes it is one of the largest avenues in the world, and stop lights at every block. It looks like a massive freeway lined with ice cream shops, massive monuments with twisting bodies encircling it, buildings with advertisements and even one with the face of Evita Peron on it where they held her funeral. This is where millions of Argentinians, especially the poor who she gave a voice to, lined this street to pay their respects.
Corrientes Avenue is the Broadway street of Argentina, where you can go to see plays, theatres, shows and so much more. In the spring, you will get a special spectacle of purple when the trees lining this avenue bloom and create a stunning setting for a perfect Sunday drive. If you look closely on each of the 40 blocks of this thoroughfare, there are plaques that commemorate notable people that contributed to the history of Tango in Argentina.
You can come to this part of town at any time of night and it will look just as busy as it did during the day. If Buenos Aires is the City of the Night, then Corrientes Avenue is the Street that never sleeps.
Stroll through La Boca Neighborhood in El Caminito
This is by far the biggest tourist attraction in Buenos Aires, the colorful neighborhood of La Boca. It is the perfect area to buy trinkets, souviners, gifts, the famous Argentinian leather, and even your own Mate cup and metal straw.
This is another area that you can watch people tango on the streets, grab a drink or a meal. Just be careful when looking for a place to rest your feet, as the restaurants have a table charge for even sitting down at a table to drink some water. This is so they can pay for the performers, the rent here and the staff – but Howard took me around to a local BBQ hideout that is typically filled with people.
The BBQ is cooked over briquette fires and you can pick out the type of meat you would like before you even sit down. They provide salad, some bread sticks, dipping sauces, salad, and water. The water does cost money, but with how much you walk around here you won’t care. I think after the whirlwind of 36 hours in Buenos Aires I was so parched I drank four bottled waters.
Book a Tour with Buenos Aires Taxis
The things I listed here are not even all the things I was able to visit of my tour with Buenos Aires Taxis. Howard and John were and are such wonderful hosts, answered all my questions and helped me understand just how resilient the people of Buenos Aires are despite what their country has been through in recent years.
I received a minimal discount to take a tour with their company; but I can say with all the confidence in the world that I have never felt more safe, educated, and informed than I did when I took a tour with them.
Where to Stay in Buenos Aires
Useful Words for Buenos Aires
Please know that if you speak Spanish, it will be difficult for you to understand their slang pronunciations. A good rule of thumb is that if you hear a ‘jah’ sound this usually indicates they are using it in place of the traditional sound of ‘ya’ or ll in Spanish spelling.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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)
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: email@example.com
Work email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
This post may contain affiliate links, for more information read our full disclosure The travel industry is throwing around this term: Responsible Tourism or Sustainable Tourism. So what does Responsible Tourism mean? Each year we travel, consume, photograph and share on our social media channels, exposing friends and family to expand their knowledge of the cultures of the world.
Responsible Tourism is a multifaceted approach, which includes:
Minimizing negative social, economic and environmental impacts while traveling
Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities
Improving working conditions and access to the worldwide industry
Involving local people in decisions, markets, and trade that affect their life and chances at life.
Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing the diversity.
Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
Provides access for physically challenged people
Is being culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
There are many different ways that this can be addressed and focused on. The Culture Trekking Community is one that focuses on numbers one, five, six and eight. Creating a community where ideas, religions, cultural idiosyncrasies are both shared, respected and embraced. As the Community grows I want to improve awareness on environmental impacts as well as fight the uphill battle of having more meaningful human connections. Today I will focus on the latter.
Where the idea started for my own Responsible Tourism:
The video was quite graphic when I saw this 2 years ago, but it really impacted me in so many different ways. The moral of the story is…..you don’t know what you don’t know until you educate yourself on how small choices like using single-use straws can impact the environment. I now carry a reusable metal straw in my purse at all times. This video is where responsible tourism started for me….watching this turtle in so much pain made me feel like I needed to do more for the environment.
It isn’t just the plastic straws, it is garbage that is left strewn about in all the different places that I visit. I remember walking behind someone in Yellowstone National park…..they dropped a wrapper on the ground (a large one). I was so frustrated by this because they had a bag they could have easily slipped that wrapper into. I picked it up and gave it back to the tourist, who naturally acted like they dropped it by accident (even though I watched them look around before dropping it). It is not that hard to slip those wrappers into a pocket, a bag, in your shoe….anything but on the ground. Taking a few more steps to ensure your rubbish gets into the proper receptacle is not as hard as you think…..as Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’!
Another video that truly impacted me was one man in India, who returned to his home to find the beach he loved filled with garbage. He knew he had to do something so he started knocking on doors and aims to be that change he wishes to see in the world. Take a look at the video & then I want to think about how much of a difference we could make if each of us committed to picking up 3 pieces of trash wherever we travel to. What about taking an extra garbage bag on a local hike in your hometown? We could all use a few more squats in our day, right?
Why am I showing you all these videos? A picture is worth a thousand words (or so they say), but I feel that videos are the way to make an impact that can create change. What is better than a video? Visiting a place like the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon (several displays are located throughout the United States, see the Washed Ashore Exhibit Locations for more information) can both teach our generation and the generations below us how to protect our earth and save our oceans.
Traveling can be an exotic thing full to the brim with activities that will make your friends envy your life & maybe even despise you a little. The more I travel the more I realize that I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it is. Ecotourism and Volunteering for cleanups and service can help connect our communities, open minds and hearts, and help start the change we wish to see in the world.
Supporting Companies with good causes:
Save the Baby Turtles!
A Blogger friend of mine in Fort Lauderdale Florida was able to participate in the nighttime protection of hatching baby turtles. These baby turtles get confused by the city lights and instead of going into the ocean (following the moon), they follow the city lights. This leads them to be run over or crushed by bikes, cars or fall into holes they cannot get out of. What these volunteers do is once the baby turtles hit their 10-foot periphery line, they gather them up in a bucket and take all the confused little fellas to the ocean where they set them free. They also move beach chairs and sandcastles to allow for the mothers to come to the beach easier and lay their eggs. Check out her post on Saving Baby Sea Turtles and how you can help or participate!
Soul Flower Clothing Company
As soon as I found this clothing company, I know I had found my tribe. Just look at their tagline:
Soul Flower is a natural clothing brand for kind souls and free spirits. Mindfully made with natural fibers and heartfelt art, we design our threads with kind vibes from start to finish. We seek inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life – in nature and in music, in free-spirited adventures and in like-minded souls. We create clothing in a way that supports our planet, spreads a positive message, and most importantly — helps you express yourself.”
To all my big headed ladies out there (I’m talking literal, not egotistical) – this is the place you should get your headbands! Every time I wear these headbands I feel a little better about myself, I read the inspirational message printed on it and cannot help but feel inspired to finish out the day with a bang! Plus, let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a headband to decrease the stress of doin’ da hur….ya feel me? To get your headband:
The other items I have personally tried and fallen in love with so far are the yoga pants and shirts. If I’m being honest, I wear the pants EVERYWHERE! Not just because the pants are comfortable, but because they have the most adorable prints on them that inspire me to continue to be Eco-friendly in my day to day life & inspire me to live a simpler life to help have less of an impact on the environment. I wore the shirt for two days in a row people! I know that’s gross but it has been so hot over here, and it is so light, airy and cute with the little leaves on it… I couldn’t resist
Personal Note: It is sooooo hard to find cute and comfortable clothing as a curvy woman — so to find a company that caters to my desire to be eco-friendly and embraces those of all shapes and sizes really just gives me warm fuzzies and I want to shout out from the rooftops how much I appreciate and love them for this.
You don’t just have to participate in environmentally friendly activities at destinations you visit. You can start being environmentally friendly to companies just like Soul Flower. Check out Soul Flower Summer Specials today!
Other Ways to be a Responsible Tourist:
Be Respectful of Religions and Cultures:
Look at local customs and rules when entering churches across the world. Do not make derogatory jokes or compare those within the country to something you deem as ‘more sensible’ or ‘better practices’. Do not impose your beliefs on those within the country unless prompted to. Respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of what is considered ‘normal’ for that country.
The bottom line is, just because something, someone, or a country as a whole does something different than what you know to be normal — doesn’t mean that it is wrong. There are some exceptions where it endangers basic human rights, practices, or harms/mutilates any animal or human being (obviously). Even if you do see something wrong, intervening as a tourist could land you in jail – be careful, be cautious and if you have a concern about the country/destination use a guide that you can ask questions about what is appropriate or if you can do something/intervene without landing yourself in jail.
Be Respectful of Shop Owners Overseas:
Do not take photos of products, items, or anything in different countries that could affect their livelihood. Do not get offended if they ask you not to take photos, there is a reason! Unnamed countries citizens will visit these economically struggling countries and take photos of their products and produce them at a fraction of the cost, but they are not authentic products.
Moroccans, for example, rely on their skill and artistry of furniture, clothing, architecture, woodworking to profit from their craft and provide for their families. How many times have you visited a country and thought, ‘Oh I can get that back in my own country, I don’t need to buy it here’. This is why it is so important….so many countries rely on tourism and the money it brings in to put food on the table. So please….before you take a photo in a store, ASK the owner if it is ok.
Be Aware and Educate Yourself on Regional Issues:
Human trafficking, terrorism, and so many more unsavory things happen in this world. I have too much of a tender heart to focus in on the negative all the time, so rarely listen to the news – but I do search for those individuals who have the capacity to handle situations such as this. I support them, I share their stories and donate when I’m able to.
It is important to be sensitive to cultural and religious practices (as part of Responsible Tourism) that help to positively define a culture, but that never means we should tolerate those who continually violate the basic human rights of food, safety, and shelter.
With having experienced Rape and sexual assault myself, the topic of sex trafficking is a very passionate topic for me. Operation Underground Railroad is a team of individuals of highly specialized individuals who have years of experience in special forces, law enforcement working proactively since 2013 with local governments that I wholeheartedly support. This is a video that had me in tears for how grateful I was to the men & women who do this. Please support them in whatever way that you can…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_CgQcNkUlw&feature=youtu.be If you would like to Donate to O.U.R. please feel free to do so, if you are unable to donate, then try and Volunteer for O.U.R. to help aid in their efforts.
Small changes can make a big difference:
Wear environmentally friendly products:
Keep any soap while camping at any location away from runoff areas (at least 100 feet).
Bury or pack out your human waste. Look at the requirements for each camping spot you visit for their rules and regulations.
Wear environmentally and Ocean friendly sunscreen as this often washes off the ocean, causing damage to coral and marine life.
Bringing your own straws, skip the straw at Starbucks. If this doesn’t make sense, please keep watching the video of the Turtle above until it does.
Get a recycling bin or start a recycling group in your neighborhood. (More information below on recycling that could be available in your country).
Make a list of low-cost companies that produce Biodegradable Products and keep a list. Hand the list out to anyone who uses straws, show they alternatives. Don’t force it down their throat — educate with KINDNESS! Honey works better than vinegar when trying to entice people to change their daily habits or companies to change the status quo.
Utilize the Reusable Grocery Bags:
This is such a simple change that we can all do (especially those of us in the States). In most other countries they are charging for the plastic bags, yet when we implement it here to try and help support the environment….everyone loses their minds! They tried to do this when I lived in Texas and I would stand there and see with my own eyes, these grocery baggers get verbally assaulted for doing their job and charging for the plastic bags. Come on people…..be better than that……do better than that…….realize that this isn’t just about YOU and YOUR needs, but for the betterment of humanity and animals. If you still aren’t convinced that plastic bags are a big deal, watch this video of the whale found dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. If that doesn’t convince you, well…..I don’t know how to help you become a better human being.
I need some advice myself on this one….grrrhhh….. I have all the reusable bags I can handle. I start daydreaming on the way to the grocery store, then out of habit, forget to take the reusable grocery bags I brought off the garage wall where I put them so I wouldn’t forget them. If you have some advice on how to remember these things…..let a girl know in the comments below.
A Call to Action for Responsible Tourism:
Here is a great resource if you would like to participate in Ecotourism on your next trip: Ecotourism.org
Straws:The Last Plastic Straw is a great website for a list of all the different types of straws, where to get them and how they are better than the plastic straws. There is also a site completely dedicated to Living a life without plastic, this is where I get my reusable metal straws (bamboo and glass is also available).
Home, Pets, Cleaning supplies and more:Life Without Plastic gives you so many bamboo or steel options that can replace many of the household items that have or contain plastic. Gift certificates, gift registry, and points program are also available on this site to help you invite friends to the #noplastic movement.
Recycling throughout the world: Recycling in the States (contact your city councils to arrange this), Recycling in Australia, Recycling in Canada, Curbside Recycling available in New Zealand please check your local city councils, Recycling is also available in the United Kingdom for each household (mandatory supply of bins from government), Spain also has recycling available in some areas, and the Netherlands actually pays you to bring in your recyclable materials (typically at grocery stores).
IF YOU HAVE RECYCLING IN YOUR COUNTRY AND IT IS NOT LISTED HERE, PLEASE LIST THE RESOURCE OR WHO TO CONTACT BELOW 🙂
A Must Read Plastic Free Blogger: If you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by how many things in your home contain plastic, visit Beth Terry: My Plastic Free Life Blogger. She will teach you, take you step by step through the process and show you how to live a plastic-free life.
Worldwide Plastic Pollution Coalition – Now NO ONE has an excuse to not participate in reducing their plastic use. This is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution.
How To Tour Responsibly:
We have such a duty to protect creatures who outlived the dinosaurs, are essential to our planet’s ecosystem – the Sea Turtles. We don’t have to start being Eco-friendly or participate in Responsible Tourism practices only when we are traveling. Get involved in the activities now, one goal or plastic straw at a time.
Be respectful of religions, people, cultures, and races as long as they do not infringe on basic human rights to live life peacefully, safely without fear of bodily harm and can provide for basic human needs of shelter, food, and water.
Get involved in volunteer programs locally where you can help end human trafficking, gang violence, opioid epidemics, and so much more. There seems to be an Instagram hashtag or Facebook group for everything these days. If you have any suggestions for local groups you are passionate about, please let it in the comments below with a link to their site. Teach those around you, share the information on your social media platforms….it just takes one rock in a pond to start a ripple that turns into a wave. Be that change you wish to see in the world.
How do you like to contribute to Responsible Tourism?
What is the most important thing to you regarding Responsible Tourism?