LONDON DAY TRIP: DORSET & THE JURASSIC COAST

jurassic coast

Around over two hours from London by car, the Jurassic Coast makes a wonderful day or weekend trip from London if you are looking for stunning seaside views and cute towns.

Wait! Jurassic Coast? Am I going to see dinosaurs?

You wish! The 154km long Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site on the English Channel coast of southern England. It spans from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset.

Why is it called Jurassic Coast? Well, this site has around 185 million years of geological history. Erosion in the coast has exposed rock formations from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, and this is why it is a World Heritage Site. The fossils of the various creatures who lived here have been preserved in the rocks. You can actually see sea shells, and who knows what else, encrusted in them.

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MILAN: A BRIEF TRAVEL GUIDE

milan travel guide

milan travel guide

Milan is elegance mixed with a pinch of the chaos and messiness that characterize Italy. It’s the second richest city in the European Union, the banking capital of Italy and one of the world’s fashion capitals. Don’t be surprised if you run into a photoshoot on the street in Milan! I found it to be quite unique when compared to other cities in Europe, and even very different from it’s national neighbor, Rome.

Milan may not be in the typical Italian itinerary, but even if just for a day, it should be. There indeed are less attractions than in Rome, Venice or Florence, but some very interesting. It’s majestic Duomo attracts millions of visitors every year, as does Da Vinci’s Last Supper, also in Milan. Learn what to do, see and where to stay in my Milan travel guide!

Milan’s best experiences

Duomo di Milano

This marvelous Gothic cathedral is undoubtedly the main attraction in Milan. And I bet you’ll agree! Its intrinsic design is one of a kind. It’s also the third largest cathedral in the world. Get your ticket to the Duomo, museum and more plus an audio guide here.

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Victoria Falls: everything you need to know!

victoria falls
Victoria Falls Bridge
Victoria Falls Bridge plus Rainbow

Why should I go?

The majestic Victoria Falls, fed by the Zambezi River, are one of the Seven Natural Wonders. Although not the tallest or the highest, the combination of height and width makes them the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Trust me, you don’t wanna die without experiencing them, it’s a multisensory experience. Also, prepare yourself for the most beautiful rainbows you’ve ever seen!

Where do I fly to?

The falls are located in Zimbabwe and Zambia. You can chose to fly and stay in either! In Zambia, the city you would fly to is Livingstone and the airport is also called Livingstone. In Zimbabwe the town is called Victoria Falls and the airport well, Victoria Falls as well!

victoria falls
Rainbows! Rainbows everywhere!

Where should I stay?

I stayed at the city of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and loved it! It’s a cute little town which at least near the falls is very touristy but still quiet. Plus, you will most likely be able to walk to the falls as they are so close to the town. Both to the Zimbabwe and Zambia side of them. Staying in Vic Falls is a no brainer! If you are as lucky as I was, you’ll see elephants feeding on your walk to the falls. This is not typical – the locals seemed pretty impressed. They were just passing by a few blocks away from the town center, feeding on the vegetation.

Regarding hotels, if you are on a budget then stay in the N1 Hotel. It’s super nice, very cheap, super close to the falls, town and restaurants. If you can stretch a bit, then I’d recommend the Victoria Falls Hotel. This historic hotel with Edwardian style is truly beautiful and has a terrace with great views. If you are not staying there you can still stop by the Vic Falls Hotel for a Mojito! If none are available there are a couple more hotels (not a ton) which you can check out here.

vic falls bridge
Victoria Falls Bridge

How many days do I need to visit the falls?

If you are the active type and your only interest is the falls, one day is enough! You can easily do both sides of the falls – Zimbabwe and Zambia – in just a day and still not end up super tired. For the falls themselves you don’t really need more than two days to take them all in.

victoria falls
The falls at full force, it’s a multisensory experience!

Tell me about visiting the Victoria Falls?

The falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia are two separate entities. This means they are separate from each other (about a 30 min walk which includes an immigration post) and you need to pay fees for each of them. Fees are valid for the day only (about 20 to 30 USD per person per park). To go to both countries you will also require a multivisa which you’ll need to pay for in the border. Most, but not all, countries can apply for a multivisa. Always check your visa requirements in advance.

The time it takes to visit each of the falls’ parks is 2 to 3 hrs, so, as I said before you can fit them in a day. Please make sure you bring a raincoat or something waterproof for your valuables. YOU WILL GET WET. If you go in the wet season, very very wet.  At first, it seems like the heaviest rain you’ve ever seen but it’s just the falls water mass bouncing everywhere. At some point, you cross a hanging bridge and feel the full power of the falls: you are standing in the bridge, a few centimeters of water running past your feet and so much water falling down you can’t keep your eyes open. It’s a unique experience. Unfortunately the excessive water prevented my GoPro from capturing it decently.

In the drier months (Aug to Jan) you can do a trip to the Devil’s Pool and Livingstone Island. The Devil’s Pool is a natural rock pool formed right at the edge of the falls, which basically allows visitors to swim right at the edge of the falls without well, dying of a tragic death. Makes for pretty awesome pictures. I think I’d still prefer the wet season in order to see the full force of the huge mass of water falling down. Your choice!

victoria falls
Boyfriend almost at the edge of the falls

What else is there?

Other than the falls, Vic Falls town is nice to walk around and buy some souvenirs. There are various small markets with crafts. Elephant’s Walk was particularly charming. There are also loads of activities, which you can either book in advance or do so in the town or your hotel (everyone sells them!). Unless you are planning an overnight activity there is no need to book them in advance. There are many options: white water rafting, hi-wire gorge swing, zip line, canopy, canoe trails, crocodile diving, bungee jumping, helicopter over the falls etc. You can also chose to cruise through the Zambezi river with dinner & drinks included.

Last, Vic Falls is really close to Botswana and the Chobe Game Reserve, both famous for it’s unique game viewing. You can arrange a day or multi-day safari to Chobe from Vic Falls or simply arrange one from the city of Kasane and take a transfer from Vic Falls to Kasane (which takes little over an hour). In my case, I decided to do self-drive safari in Chobe (only for the brave) and picked up my self-drive 4×4 in Kasane. Transfers to Kasane are expensive for such a short trip, I managed to find this one which was relatively cheap (35 USD PP).

 Where do I eat?

Literally just go to The Three Monkeys every night. It’s awesome. If you are vegan like me then they’ll do a vegan pizza. If you are not, there is well plenty of options like a trio of Wildebeest, Zebra and beef which my boyfriend is still talking about . Take a pic with the “I <3 Vic Falls” sign when you are there!

Author’s note: Looking for other adventures in Africa? Botswana is just an hour from Victoria Falls. But beware! It’s only for those seeking thrill and adventurers. You can learn about it in this post. 

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Tenerife: It’s Not All About The Beach

tenerife
tenerife
View while driving towards the North of the island

I was expecting Tenerife to be just another beautiful beach destination, packed with British tourists longing for warmth and sun. Well, it’s sooo much more than that. Mixture of beach with mountains, and a forest-meets-jungle kind of vibe, it has something to offer for everyone. Or better, everything to offer for everyone! In case you still don’t know, because of various geographic factors, Tenerife’s weather is pleasant all year round. This makes it a popular destination for those trying to escape Europe’s winter. The island, together with the rest of the Canaries, is part of Spain but it is actually closer to Africa than to Spain itself (it’s right beside it).

Before I dive into what to see and do, some word of advice. Tenerife has, because of a mountain range which divides the island, two climates in a very very short distance. The north is very humid and more likely to be cloudy and rainy. Think tropical: banana trees, palm trees, lots of green, views and landscapes to die for. Contrarily, the south of Tenerife is hot and dry, think arid climate and desert landscape, almost no rain.

In my opinion, you should rent a car, stay in the North and use your car to visit the South. The North is a lot more visually beautiful, hence this would force you to drive between enchanted forests, mountain ridges and literally through the clouds to get to the south. It is also quieter, as package tourists go to the south of the island where the Canarian culture is replaced by the British & German ones. This area is tailored to make them feel at home, so English pubs and English breakfast are common currency. This, among other things that are definitely out of place, are for me a bit of a downer. However, some of the best beaches are in the south, plus, it’s the most developed area so it also has some great restaurants. For example, this organic vegan friendly cafe blew my mind.

Now without further ado, see below some ideas of what to see and do. These should keep you busy for quite some time.

What to see and do in Tenerife

Teide
Parque Nacional El Teide

1. Parque Nacional El Teide

This famous National Park is named after the Teide, a 3,718-metre volcano which is the highest peak in the island and of Spain. Teide can be viewed almost from all over the island when driving. Although it’s definitely the park’s protagonist, this National Park has a lot more to offer! You could spend your entire holiday in Tenerife just on the park. It has numerous trails and multiple different landscapes which, because of the volcanic geography, makes you feel like you’ve taken a trip to Mars.

Getting to the top of the Teide is one of the most popular pursuits, as the views from such altitude in a clear day can definitely be rewarding! There are multiple options to get to the top, the easiest and quickest being a cable car which takes you almost to the top (3555 metres). From there, you can hike the Telesforo Bravo path for 30 mins and get to the actual peak. Do bear in mind you need a permit for this, as the number of people that can hike this last stretch is limited which you can get here for free but you must get it in advance as it books up fairly quickly.

For the more adventurous, you can avoid the cable car and walk instead taking the Montaña Blanca path. The trail is around 8.3 km and would take you 4-6 hrs up and 9-10 hrs in total (up and down). You can do this hike either early in the morning or late in the afternoon and stay in a refuge (refugio de Altavista) to then wake up to hike the last stretch just in time for dawn. There are other possible combinations, such as walking up and take the cable car down or vice versa which would take you 4-5 hrs instead. Another nice and shorter hike (2hrs) is the Roques Garcia walk, you can find the details here.

Teide
Mars like views at Teide National Park

2. Barranco de Masca Hike & Los Gigantes

Although I greatly enjoyed the whole trip, I have to say this was my favorite experience in Tenerife. Masca is a tiny tiny city located in the Macizo de Teno mountains, at an altitude of 650m. The city and the drive to the city are charming but the interest is mostly in the hike which starts here.

The most popular version of the hike consists on hiking down to Masca Beach (around 3hrs hike) chilling there for a while and then taking a boat to Los Gigantes, a major Tenerife landmark consisting in huge cliffs which make a great view.

To achieve this, you can either drive to Masca, leave your car there and then after taking the boat, take a taxi (~23 EUR) from Los Gigantes to Masca. You could also take buses but buses are not at all frequent. There is no direct bus from Los Gigantes to Masca or vice versa, so you would have to take one from Los Gigantes to Santiago del Teide (city in the middle) and then one from there to Masca. Some people park their car in Santiago del Teide, then take a bus to Masca and then a bus from Los Gigantes to Santiago del Teide.

In my case I decided to hike the whole thing. It took us ~ 5/6 hrs in total with 2.5hrs down and 2.5/3hrs up with 0.5hrs in the beach. The hike is magical. This is due to a combination of amazing flora – palm trees, cactus with yellow flowers, bamboo and more – with the dramatic scenery of the massive gorge surrounding you at all times with different shapes and colors. Some extras include mini streams, ponds and geckos.

The hike is not physically straining specially if you only go down. What is not easy is that it’s quite rocky and sometimes requires going up or down large rocks which may be cumbersome for the unfit or elder hikers. The path is marked but it’s not super obvious. We derailed from it at some point and ended up walking up the edge of the gorge on what seemed to be a tunnel for a big pipe. This added a few minutes but was quite fun as it made us go through the mountain on a pitch black mini tunnel. We eventually got to the beach, which was lovely but nothing too crazy. Made of rock, it meant getting to the water was slightly uncomfortable. To me, the hike is really the thing, the beach is just the carrot to the horse!

Masca
Rock formations at the Masca hike
Masca
Views in the Masca hike
Masca Beach
Masca Beach

3. Kayaking With Dolphins

A great vegan friendly excursion my boyfriend found on TripAdvisor, the reviews tempted us so we went for it! The excursion lasts about 3hrs 45 min. Dominique, a lovely frenchman, runs it and he takes you together with other kayaks to find dolphins!

We met Dominique and he took us to the shore where we got geared up and hopped on a two person kayak. We kayaked on the open sea to an area where dolphins usually come, and waited, kayaking around to find them. In our case, we saw them multiple times just swimming and jumping around. I loved it because it is absolutely natural, we didn’t bother the dolphins in any way. Of course, as the dolphins are free wild animals, seeing them is not guaranteed. There is also a nice cliff with a cove to explore close by. Then we kayaked back, got dressed, and went to a small bar for complimentary beers and snacks. You can book here, no payment needed in advance.

 

los cristianos
Los Cristianos city (South)

4. Beaches

Ok now that you’ve heard about Teide & Masca, time to introduce the islands beaches! These spread out across the island. I’ll include some of the best here and a brief summary so you know which ones to chose.

Playa Las Teresitas: golden Saharan sand, lots of space, beach kiosks, turquoise waters, palm trees… This plus Anaga mountain and a charming village in the backdrop make this beach many’s favorite.

Playa El Bollullo: an all natural beach with black sand and primitive facilities surrounded by banana plantations. It takes effort to get to it which make it not as popular which is a plus point. Two other pretty beaches sandwich it, so you might want to check them out as well.

Playa El Jardin: this beach has been landscaped with beautiful gardens, hence its name, “Garden beach”. You’ll find black sand and a resort but as locals also frequent this beach, it offers a nice mixed vibe. Plus it has Mount Teide kind of above it which makes a helluva view.

Playa del Duque: located in ‘upmarket’ Costa Adeje an area surrounded by luxury hotels, the beach is separated from them by a rocky hedge with a mock castle which adds to the luxury look & feel. Facilities are good and water is of a beautiful turquoise.

Playa El Médano: the cool kids beach of the island, frequented by surfers, windsurfers and kite-boarders – you guessed it – it’s windy. You’ll find golden sand and a relaxed local vibe, same as in the surrounding bars.

Playa La Tejita: another natural beach with beautiful golden sand, lots of space and a red mountain make it great to relax and work on your tan. The cove underneath the mountain is nudism friendly in case it’s your thing.

Playa Abades: this beach has a remote feel to it and if you are lucky, can be incredibly quiet which makes it very attractive for some. It also has an abandoned town nearby which adds interest specially and can make great photo material.

Garachico
Garachico city

5. Garachico City 

Garachico is a tranquil little town, located in a deep valley between slopes covered in tropical green flora. It is considered the prettiest and unluckiest city in Tenerife. It was once the most important harbour of the island but in 1706 the Montaña Negra volcano erupted in full force. Rivers of lava waved the harbour goodbye forever. But that wasn’t the only bad thing. Garachico went through other disasters over the years: disease, plagues of locusts, fire and flooding.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say. The people of Garachico didn’t give up. They took care of the city and made it probably the best preserved city in the island today. What does this mean for you? Well, it means you can enjoy a nice stroll on the city’s squares, narrow cobblestone streets, admire the Canarian architecture, visit the San Miguel Castle and enjoy the sea view. While you are there, also have an ice cream in Fragola, it’s awesome! Also, Garachico is most famous because of the Garachico pools. These are natural pools of sea water formed by the lava of the 1706 eruption. These are just on the shore, you won’t miss them. They make a nice activity for a hot sunny day.

Garachico
Views at the coast in Garachico (close to the Garachico pools)
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