AREQUIPA: THE WHITE CITY OF PERU

Peru has different beautiful city and one of the best is Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage sights, in the south of the country and a delightful place to explore.

The main characteristic is its stunning colonial architecture, that you will see is based on the famous use of sillar, a white volcanic stone, which let its buildings have a distinctive appearance.

The city is located in the center of 3 volcanoes and the climate is really wonderful all year-round. Let’s see what to visit in Arequipa!

The square and the Basilica Cathedral

One of the main place to visit, where you probably will pass when you arrive in Arequipa is Plaza des Armas, which houses the beautiful Basilica Cathedral.

The square is very nice and always full of locals or tourists. You can enjoy it, passing our time sit in a bench talking with locals or go on a terrace to drink something in one of the wonderfully preserved colonial buildings around, a mate de coca in the afternoon or a Pisco Sour for the evening. In any case, in front or behind you, standing in this stunning central square, you will see the cathedral. It is free to enter, so it is a must do thing in Arequipa.

San Camilo Market Shopping

San Camilo is one of the best markets in Peru, if not the whole of South America. It is also an important city life location that give to the visitors with an authentic experience. In the market you can enjoy samples of local products, including Rocoto Relleno and Soltero de Queso, 2 of the traditional food of Peru and Arequipa.

The Santa Catalina Monastery: a village inside the city

Close to the center, the monastery was built in 1579 and it is an amazing place, unique in his nature. When you go inside you think to be in a small village, separated from the city.  It is a piece of art, a fantastic collection of native artwork, religious objects and artifacts from numerous historical periods.

The cost is 40 Peruvian Sol but the price worth! You will explore the huge amount of tunnels, cloisters and walkways that make up the Santa Catalina monastery. The monastery was open to the public in the 1970. Before that time no external people could enter in it, unless few ones. If you will be there at the right time, you can climb onto the rooftop during the late afternoon to view the incredible sunset spectacle.

The Colca Canyon hiking

The world’s fourth deepest canyon, Colca is a good trek to do from Arequipa. It is about 2 or 3 days. I did 2 days, one going down, and the second going up! It was really nice and I met some guys with whom I pass also other days of my long travel along Per. I will talk about the trekking in another article to let you discover this impressive geographical feature.

Canyon View

Canyon View

Read my other article in Peru!

PARACAS AND THE BALLESTAS ISLANDS

If you start your Perù travel in Lima, Paracas & the Ballestas island is a nice stop in the road to Arequipa. It is a tiny place along the Peruvian coastline.

Islas Ballestas: an half day trip

The islas Ballestas are a natural sight and a great reason to visit Paracas. I never have seen so many sea lions together in my life and is very easy it is to arrange a trip to the Islas Ballestas.

The islands are also called: the poor men’s Galapagos Islands. A trip to the Islas Ballestas cost 5 euros and to arrange it just ask it in your hostel in Paracas. From there a guide will keep you to the port and within a couple of minutes you will be there. Remember to ask the price, you don’t have to pay more than that!

When you arrive to the port you have to buy the ticket and for the Islas and the reserve there is one ticket, so keep this in your mind because maybe they will not tell you. The cost is around 6 or 7 euro.

Tours leave at 8 am and at 10 am. But the waters around Paracas are known to become rockier and weather unpredictable later in the day. The 8 am tour will have calmer seas (resulting in more chances of seeing dolphins!).

I did both the same day, in the morning the Islas and in the afternoon the reserve, which is so beautiful too.

For the islands, you’ll go out in medium sized boats to explore the waters around Paracas for 2 hours. You will enjoy the greatest biodiversity marine fauna & the mysterious Candelabro, a geoglyph carved in the Paracas peninsula of unknown origin, and upon arrival the guide will explain the different theories that exist of this place.

The departure will be at 8 in the morning, and the trip will take approximately 30 minutes until the arrival to the first Island. From the boat you will appreciate the contrast of the sea and the rocky desert of it the Paracas peninsula until arrive to the Island.

And then you see the landscape full of marine fauna. In fact you will be able to observe hundreds and hundreds of sea lions and sea lions babies playing and swimming in the sea.

After having appreciated this impressive landscape the boat will leave for the Ballestas Islands, where you can appreciate rock formations thousands of guano birds, cormorants, pelicans and penguins of Humboldt.

The Paracas Reserve

After a stop in the hostel for an hour, a bus passes to take me for the next tour to the Reserve. The transport is 4 Euros, and the entrance ticket is included in the combo with the Islas. The Reserve was a nice surprise! The Paracas National Reserve is actually an amazing park that you can explore also on your own depending on the time you have.

The first stop is the reserve’s museum, displaying all the animals in the Pacific Ocean and the impact that we have on the waters around Paracas. After this, you will continue to Playa Roja, a red beach with crushing waves on the shore. Amazing views of the deserted land and the wide open ocean. We stopped in Lagunillas to eat fish.. and there I had the most amazing ceviche I eat in Peru, with a good Beer eating in front of the Ocean!

Some info on Paracas

When you go there remember that the local communities are struggling. After the 2007 earthquake (8.0 on the magnitude scale), Paracas was in ruins. It was not the first one, the town was hit hard by previous quakes and this one was the last drop.

Since then, the town was rebuilt from the ground up and flourishes because of tourists visiting the Islas Ballestas. So please, don’t book the tour in Lima, if you are a sustainable traveler, book your tours with locally. Visit Paracas independently, eat out in the town and speak with locals. It is really easy and you will support the people who need.

Read my other article in Peru!

LIMA: THE BEST TO VISIT

Lima, the capital of Peru, has so much to offer, depending on what you expect from a big city. It is one of the largest cities in South America and has a long history behind. You probably will start your journey in Peru in Lima as I did to recover my body from 18 hours of flight. So I stopped in the city just one day and half to go in other beautiful places that this amazing country offer to you.

Lima from the top

So, here are my recommendations.

MIRAFLORES

Miraflores, is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Lima and it is the places where you probably will stay in a hostel during your stay in Lima.

View from larcomar

If you want to have a view on the coast profile of Lima, you can go to Larcomar enjoying a good coffee. It is a shopping center right but the view is amazing. It is built into the side of the cliff and mostly underground, it has incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.

There you can also rent a bike and drive it all along the coast. In fact, with its green parks and the cliffs overlooking the ocean, Miraflores is also the perfect place to go for a bicycle tour. From here you can take a tour into the center of the city, along the cliffs, do an urban tour or combine your cycling trip with surfing!

Miraflores is also the place in case you want to see the coast from the top! Not as extreme as it sounds, paragliding by the coast is the perfect day activity to catch the green areas, ocean and the urban buildings of Lima’s coast with a 360° view.

If you like more History and culture, in Miraflores you can also visit the pre-inca ruins ofHuaca Pucllana. Easy to arrive, it is not expensive and there is the guide in English or Spanish that guide you to understand this piece of history!

BARRANCO

The uber driver when pick me up in the airport told me to not miss Barranco. This district is probably the coolest place in Lima and the perfect escape from Miraflores for a good drink during night. At night, Barranco transforms itself in onr of the Lima’s party district with great restaurants and themed alternative bars both for Peruvians and foreigners.

More than that Barranco has great historical architecture and a blooming art scene. One of the most famous places to see, is Puente de los Suspiros. This bridge connects two main streets. It is said that if you can cross the bridge while holding your breath, your wish will be granted. And below it you can walk till the sea and enjoy a peaceful walk.

Square of Barranco

Read my other Articles on South America!

CHICAGO: THE CITY WITH THE BLUES SOUL

In November I traveled for the first time in US, the destination was Chicago and the reason was not just travelling, this time was a Business trip!

I didn’t have expectation on the city as for me, US is something that we need to look with the right attention to really understand the real America… we are used to watch the American life in movies, series and I always had the fear to have been stereotyping America too much! At the end it is a land, with so many different shades and souls! not only a movie!

But more than what I think let’s just say some good places to visit or some activities to do in Chicago!

MUSIC: THE BLUES IN THEIR HEARTS

As I was in Chicago I had to go to some of the oldest bar where I could have listen some good music… I don’t like to go in too much famous bar. I prefer something smaller and authentic!

I chose Blue Chicago”. It is like a small room where you can listen live blues. The entrance costs 10 dollars per head (to pay in cash!) and then you pay the drink. There are benches and stools to sit, very simple, and my advice is to arrive before' the show starts to find place. The music is very addictive and be collected around who plays creates a nice atmosphere in the location. At the entrance you will meet an old black guy that in my mind is there from when it opened a long time ago!!!!!

THE CENTER: HIGH PALACE AND THE BIG BEAN

I didn’t had lot of time to walk and I have to say the temperature didn’t help me. I decided to start from the hotel where I stayed (DANA HOTEL), towards millennium park, as there I could have seen the famous bean.

The Cloud Gate

From the beginning part of Millennium Park had to include plans for public art works. A committee of all the artistic institutions was tasked to choose the artists to tackle these public art installations.

The committee pooled a list of 16–30 artists from all around the world with experience in large-scale outdoor works. At the end two artists remained:British artist Anish Kapoor and U.S. artist Jeff Koons.

The final decision was to let both the artists to build their works, in separate areas of the Park. The proposal of Koons became a challenge. The idea was to realize a 150-foot-long glass and steel slide raised 90 feet above the ground. The concept was to let visitors to observe the park from on high, then slide down to ground level. But this installation required other components, e.g. an elevator that could ensure access to the work for all the visitors.

At the end the solution was to move the other project, Kapoor one, to the space initially reserved for Koons. That space was also better suited to handle the 110-ton weight of the steel form. Koons’ project was scraped entirely. The name of the big bean is “Cloud Gate”.

But what is amazing about this bean? You can see the Chicago skyline reflected in the surface!

After have taken some pictures around it, inside it and more… you can continue just walking around the park and enjoy a cold coffee in your hands.

THE ART: AN IMPORTANT PART OF CHICAGO

In Chicago you can go in some of the world-class museums. One example is the Art Institute of Chicago, inside you can see more than 300,000 artworks from classic paintings like Georges Seurat’s "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" and Grant Wood's American Gothic or you can explore an huge collection of contemporary art in the museum’s Modern Wing.

THE FOOD: THE TRADITIONAL DEEP PIZZA AND THE STEAKS

And when you will feel tired, cap off your day of sightseeing with a meal at one of Chicago’s best restaurants, the food is amazing.

One thing you have to taste is the “Deep Pizza”. For an Italian it is strange but it was good…. As for me is not an “Italian style” pizza!

Chicago's deep-dish pizza is part of the culture here. For what I understood, you can get the best pizza out of River North. I tried “Giordano” Pizza!

The deep pizza (small size!)

If you are not in the mood for a Pizza, try some good steak! I eat in “Wollensky's Grill”…an amazing rib eye Steak.

Another good thing I did was to eat a brunch! it was a dream...

This is a Brunch!

Read my other articles on America Latina!

FLORENCE: NOT JUST A MUSEUM, IT IS MAGIC

All the time I pass from Florence, it happens: I walk in the center of Florence and my mind is projected into another dimension. You can image the life of centuries ago that made the city great: culture, history, art, poetry and food… this city is also ingenuity, wisdom, mystery and magic. The pillars of an unprecedented beauty that has no equal. But Florence is not just a museum. It is more….

One of the most famous square in Florence

Florence and its genetic traits attracted artists, poets and novelists from all around the world as the source of their inspiration and as their temporary home, their refuge. Florence is life. Florence is even the city of craftsmen that also today are the citizen of this beautiful city. Churning out large and small masterpieces, handing skills, values and character.

Enjoy the Flavors of Florence

Florence is the heart of Tuscany... maybe one of the best representation of Italy. If you pass from Tuscany you will stop here, walk around Florence, taking photos from Piazzale Michelangelo, Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River.  A trip to Florence means a visit to the Uffizi Museum, and the imposing Palazzo della Signoria. To truly taste Florence, you need to enjoy also the food of Florence and the wine. Stop in one of the small restaurant and take your glass of red wine sitting there in the middle of this amazing city!

You can also inhale the perfume of leather at the markets and eat a real Fiorentina. “Ristorantedel Fagioli” in Corso dei Tintori, 47 R - FIRENZE, one of the best! But you need a reservation!

Some good place to eat an amazing Italian sandwich (La schiacciata) are:

From Fratellini

Or you can go to the Sant’ Ambrogio Market and choose what you like.

For the night you can go to Piazza Santo Spirito and take an aperitivo. If you are Vegetarian search for “Il Vegetariano”. It is incredible, how it is delicious!

In Florence the best thing to do is walking, lose yourself in the middle of the town, and don’t pass your time to visit only museum and buildings …. Enjoy the peace and the beauty all around you!

KIEV or KYIV: THE CITY of THE RECENT REVOLUTION OF DIGNITY

Kiev has a
long history that started more than 1,500 years ago, when around 950 the first churches,
cathedrals and monuments were built. Below, you find a list of the must-see
historical and contemporary attractions in the city.

But what we may not remember is the recent history of the city: in 2014 there was a revolution here, “The Revolution of Dignity”.

In November
2013, the President Viktor Yanukovych announced that Ukraine was suspending
pursuit of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement for which the country
had been preparing for since 2008.  The
announcement led to the largest peaceful protests seen at the Maidan in Kyiv
since the Orange Revolution of 2004.  But
after some time, the Berkut Special Police forcefully dispersed the hundred
student-aged protesters who remained at the square, beating some with
truncheons. The reaction of the public in response to the attack was momentous.
10,000 people occupied the Maidan later that day. 

As the days
went on, more people from all corners of the country arrived in Kyiv. There was
no single leader organizing the protest. 
It was time for Ukraine to rid itself of corruption.  People organized themselves into subunits,
mainly based on areas of Ukraine from where they came. A perimeter was
established with barricades erected to keep the Berkut Police at bay. A self-defense
patrol called Samo-borona was established, its rules and discipline were based
upon the Kozak (“Cossack”) traditions of Ukraine.  Every day after work hours, people gathered
to hear the speeches of community activists as well as politicians who
supported the movement.  Musical &
cultural artists kept the crowd entertained and in good spirits day and night. The
government paid street hooligans, called “titushkas”, to attack protesters,
kidnap activists and journalists and create general chaos throughout Kyiv,
while the corrupt police turned a blind eye to these hooligans.

In February
2014, protesters began a peaceful march through the streets of Kyiv but were
met by Berkut officers throwing stun grenades and firing at them from rooftops.  The bloodiest day of the protests occurred on
February 20,  when government snipers
perched on rooftops shot and killed 67 protesters who were armed with wooden
clubs and shields made from sheet metal or wood. The massacre was filmed by
professional and amateur journalists and widely distributed on the Internet.  By February 22, the shock created by that
bloodshed had prompted a mass defection by the president’s allies in Parliament
and prodded Yanukovych to join negotiations.

ROAD TO THE INDEPENDENCE SQUARE

In mid
January, at Yanukovych’s demand, the corruption-laden parliament rammed through
a series of anti-protest laws that came with severe penalties, making the
country a de facto dictatorship. The peole exploded.

Day 1

Santa Sofia

It is the
oldest Kyiv standing church, built in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, who
incidentally was laid to rest inside. He commissioned the project to
commemorate the site of a victory of Kyivan Rus over the Pechenegs (Asian
nomadic tribes) and to glorify Christianity.

This
majestic 13-cupola sanctuary adjoined Yaroslav’s Palace and became a holy place
of
worship for Kyivites as well as a political and cultural centre. Meetings
with foreign diplomats and treaty negotiations were held here, and the church
housed the first library and school in Kyivan Rus.

The bell
ower, azure and white is 76m high and was finished in 1752. The cathedral’s
upper Ukrainian Baroque section and gilded cupola were added in 1852. Today it
is a museum and contains archaeological artefacts and architectural displays,
such as models depicting Kyiv as it looked before being razed by Mongol invaders
in 1240. To enter the cathedral itself, purchase tickets from the kiosk around
the corner from the bell tower entrance.

Cable railway

This type
of transport is very important for citizens of Kiev because it connects the
upper town with historical part of Kiev Podol. Underground station
"Poshtova ploshcha" and River port are situated near Lower station.
There are only two Сable railways for whole Ukraine that is why don`t miss your
chance to tick "Cable railway" in you ToDo, ToTry, ToVisit list for
Kiev!

Foods!

The
Ukrainian cuisine is amazing. Your food adventure has to include stops at the
popular national restaurants of the city center to taste the traditional
dishes!

Remember to
ask for traditional Ukrainian starter – salo with garlic and toast. It goes
accompanied with a complimentary homemade liquor.

Then, it’s the
right time you taste the most popular Ukrainian soup – borsch. It is made from
cabbage, potatoes and beetroot that gives the soup an intense red color.

After that,
your lunch can continue with  sample
delicious vareniki (dumpling). You may choose from different stuffing, like
meat, potatoes and mushrooms, cabbage, etc.

Combining food tasting and sightseeing is the best way to spend your time in Kiev! And of course drink Vodka!

VODKA SHOTS

Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) and
the recent story of Kyiv (Kiev)

After that
you can choose: You can either head underground for a guided "urban
exploration" tour, navigating through storm drains and tunnels beneath the
Ukrainian capital; or if you prefer, you can stay topside for a tour of Kyiv’s
eye-catching street art highlights.

After lunch, you can take a tour through Maidan Nezalezhnosti, where you can learn about the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution visiting the places where it happened.

Day 2: the other side of Kyiv (Kiev)

Andriivskyi Descent Road

It`s the
most historical and famous street of Kiev. It had been playing an important
role in ancient times because it connects the two central districts of Kiev -
Upper Town and Podol (Lower Town). Now it is the most creative street and locals
really like to visit it. Here you will find theaters, a lot of art cafes,
several museums.  Also here you can find
a Ukrainian souvenirs of all types.

There are
lots of things to see, visit and do on one street that is often called
Ukrainian Montmartre.

First you will see the
grand church, designed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli and
constructed during 1747–1754. St Andrew's church is considered to be one of the
most beautiful Baroque buildings not only in Kyiv but also in Europe. Curiosity:
it is the only church in Kyiv that has no bells.

Going  down to the down town, you will nderstand
that there is a reason why Andriyivsky Descent is called the Kyiv Montmartre:
it has long served as a place where artists and sculptors created and hosted
most popular exhibitions. Many renowned contemporary and classical art
galleries are located here: for instance, Tryptykh, 36, Fortuna, Karas and
Soviart.

The main
exhibition gallery is Andriivskyi Descent itself: the street is full of
paintings, sculptures, antiques, traditional Ukrainian embroideries and various
souvenirs from street artists and vendors.

See my other articles on Europe!

PIEDMONT DESSERT: PEARS COOKED IN RED WINE

INGREDIENTS:

For 4 people you need:

  1. 8 pears of medium dimension
  2. 160 gr of sugar (white)
  3. 500 ml of red wine (good one)
  4. cloves
  5. cinnamon

Steps:

First peel the pears. Second, Put the sugar in a pan and add the wine. After this you can add the cinnamon and the cloves. Simmer the syrup for 10-15 minutes and then add the pears. You have to cook them for 25 minutes with the lid on.

Almost done!

Place the pears on a plate and pour the wine on them, cool and now you can serve!

See my other recipes!

SANTA MARTA: THE DOOR OF THE SIERRA NEVADA

Santa Marta is located in Magdalena department, on the Caribbean coast in the north of Colombia, between Barranquilla and Riohacha.

The city is a good place to stop off if you are doing a tour of the country and you want to go in the Sierra Nevada or to the Guajira Department.

It is one of the most tourist-focused cities on the coast. Its location between the Sierra Nevada and the Caribbean coast makes this city very attractive, especially considering the variety of fauna and flora to be found there.

 It is important also for the historical and cultural heritage, Santa Marta, was a colonial city, where you can admire the colonial architecture and monuments such as the Basilica of Santa Marta, which is a one of the biggest tourist destinations on the Caribbean coast.

As a Caribbean city, Santa Marta has suffered from repetitive British, French and Dutch attacks. The city is steeped in history and legends. One of them, says that Santa Marta´s Cathedral contains the heart of the famous Simón Bolívar, hidden somewhere. In fact Bolivar spent his last part of the life here.

A walking tour is the perfect way to orient yourself within the city and learn about its history and culture with your guide: follow your guide along the beach, check out top landmarks such as the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, and end your tour with a prime spot for watching the sunset.

I was in Santa Marta as starting point for the “Ciudad perdida” I was by trekking! The Lost City, or Ciudad Perdida, is the archaeological site of an ancient indigenous city in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It has been a commercial center around 700 A.D., and its population probably ranged between 1,400 and 3,000 inhabitants. Hidden in the jungle for over a thousand years, the Lost City was found in 1972 when treasure hunters followed a series of stone steps leading up to an abandoned city.

From Santa Marta tour operators offer three- to five-day guided treks to the Lost City which include transportation, lodging, food.

Read more about the city!

 

ARENAL: THE COSTA RICA VOLCANO!

The Arenal Volcano is one of the main touristic destination in Costa Rica. It is in the North of the Country and around this area, you can do, lots of things! From the relaxing massage to the trekking to the top of the volcano…. there are several tours that take place in the area surrounding the volcano, and for good reason! You can have access to the rainforest, waterfalls, the country’s largest lake...

First, explore Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal, is without a doubt, the most popular and well-recognized of Costa Rica’s volcanoes. When you arrive there…. You will be impressed by the huge symmetrical cone that dominates the fertile landscape at his foot. From San Jose you can simply take a bus that will bring you to Arenal. For the accommodation, no worries! I arrived there and I searched for a place to stay. I found a nice woman that also had an activity to sell Tour, but she was very nice, as I was a girl alone, so she gave me some good discount. At first I didn’t know if I chose well, but the days after spoken with several other backpackers I understood I was right… good compromise between me and her to have both the best we could from the bargain! I slept for 7 euros, and I bought a tour for the afternoon to the Park and waterfalls plus the tour of the day after to the top of the volcano and last, the passage with the jeep to Monteverde to do the most amazing zip line all for 150 Euros….

Coming back to the national Park…until recently, Arenal was the country’s most active volcano with an average of 41 eruptions per day. The Arenal Volcano is currently in a resting phase, you cannot hike up the volcano itself, but I recommend hiking through Arenal Volcano National Park with a bilingual naturalist guide in search of old lava flow and wildlife.

Slight changes in altitude create unique micro-climates and ecosystems through this region, making it home to a variety of exotic species.

Rest yourself in Arenal Volcano All-Natural Hot Springs

Another amazing thing to do here is to soak your muscles in thermal pools of water! Arenal is also home to several hot springs. Formed when water is heated underground and bubbles to the surface, Costa Rica’s mineral waters have been used as therapeutic baths for more than two hundred years to treat rheumatism and other ailments. These natural wonders tempt even the most experienced traveler – for a good reason! What could be better than a relaxing warm bath, surrounded by jungle and shadowed by the beauty of the volcano after a day of adventure?

Neighborhood:

Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall

Close to Arenal, there is a little farming town of La Fortuna that is named for its beautiful neighbor, the La Fortuna Waterfall. As one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country and luckily enough, it can only be arrived at by foot (a 15-minute hike) or horseback, if you don’t like to walk. From the lush rainforest greenery, La Fortuna plummets 200 feet to fall into a pool of crystal clear water. Remember: the pool is delightfully cool on hot summer days!

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Tenorio has everything you could want in a tropical forest natural area.  Hiking to the sky blue Celeste waterfall is a highlight, but the hanging bridges in the rainforest and trail to Lago Danta through the cloud forest from the Heliconias entrance are equally amazing.

Celeste Waterfall: At a glance these are what puts the region around Bijagua on the list of the best places in Costa Rica.  From ranger station at the west entrance of Tenorio National Park (El Pilón) to the azure tinted cataract a couple of kilometers to the south.

Many hypotheses, conjectures and beliefs have been brought up about the rier color in a sunny day, intense blue, including that the color was due to the presence of a metal such as copper, the river’s proximity to the Tenorio Volcano or because of minerals such as calcium carbonate and sulfur. But all of those explanations are now known to be false,read more about this....

"To understand the enigma of this matter, one should know that two completely transparent rivers, Sour Creek (Quebrada Agria) and the Good View River (Río Buena Vista), converge to form the Río Celeste. It is precisely from the point of union of the two where the waters cease to be transparent and become light blue for the following 14 kilometers of river. For that reason, this point is known as The Dyer (El Teñidero)."

Hanging Bridges Hike

If you like to hike, another possibility is to hike through a private nature preserve along well-maintained trails and across a series of fixed and hanging bridges with views of Arenal Volcano. It is relaxing and it doesn’t take a long time if you don’t like long trails. A naturalist guide will point out the flora and fauna of the area like monkeys, sloths, tree frogs, and more. Don’t miss the waterfall extension trail at the end of the hike!

The Lake Arenal: the passage to Monteverde

The Arenal Volcano is also the base of Costa Rica’s largest lake, Lake Arenal. With the mighty volcano as its backdrop and the surrounding rolling hills and forests, Lake Arenal is truly a vision of peacefulness. Several activities are here possible: fishing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding are some of the most popular activities enjoyed from the lake. I pass from here with a cruise to reach my next stop… Monteverde. You can most certainly enjoy its added beauty to the scenery.

PRAGUE: MY FIRST DAY!

Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic is a perfect mix of architecture and culture. This beautiful city is called the “City of a Hundred Spires” and “Mother of All Cities” and has so much to offer its many visitors.

The name of the city means “Rapids” (as in a river). Old Bohemia meets the modern world, here beauty is never lacking. I hope you will get appetite after reading my article!

Let’s start: the castle and the upper city (Petrin Hill)

I love to walk when the city is quite and not full of tourists, so at 7 am I started my day from the Prague Castle, where from 10 am is almost impossible to take a picture without unknown people included….. It is the official residence and office of the President of the Czech Republic and it is located in the Hradčany district of Prague. The castle has been a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia.

A curiosity: it is also the largest ancient castle in the world still alive!

It's open to the public between 6am and 11pm, and you can see the changing of the guard every hour. The gardens are open to the public as well and are a sight to see! If you arrive from the center you will have to do some stairs to arrive to the top…stop there and look the panorama on the city, because it will be one of the best in Prague!

 

Closed to the castle there is also the upper part of the city Petrin Hill…. I stopped in a bench there for one hour just reading a book under the sun in front of the park you will find there… I have also to say that Petrin Hill has the best views of Prague as well as several more attractions: the 14th century Hunger Wall, the Strahov Monastery, Stefanik Observatory, and a memorial for the victims of the Communist regime. It rises some 130 meters above the left bank of the Valtava River and is almost entirely covered with parks.

Remember to drink an original monastery beer when you go down…. To chill a bit in the ancient city!

Charles Bridge

If you are walking a perfect place to go is the “Charles Bridge”: full of people but also of artists…. Really nice also the view from the most famous historical bridge in Prague. Below it you can see the “ Valtava” river and lots of small “pedalo” of all types…

Furthermore, the ancient bridge is not the only one in the city… Spanning both banks of the Valtava River, Prague is home to many bridges – some old, some new, most built in the beautiful Bohemian style that is so characteristic of the city.

Remember also that from there you can see, 2 small islands, where you can go by walking and pass a nice break or have a coffee or beer!

Going down to the city center you can stop also to the “Dancing House” (Nicknamed “Fred and Ginger”), houses a Dutch insurance company. This non-traditional design (to say the least) was controversial at the time because it contrasts with the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings of Prague. The shape is supported by 99 concrete panels, each a different shape and dimension and at the top of the building is a large twisted structure nicknamed “Medusa”

Explore the Old Town Square

Prague lived a history of invasions, but the Old Town Square has remained relatively untouched since the 10th Century. Take in your mind that swarms of tourists’ crowd the historical streets, packing out the restaurants every day. Of course, the square itself is the perfect place to admire the wonderful architecture Prague has to offer and if that isn’t your thing then the various street performers, musicians and merchants that line the streets here will certainly keep you entertained.