5 best things to do in Madeira

View from Restaurant São Cristóvão, Boaventura

Although it is part of Portugal, the island of Madeira is closer to mainland Africa than it is to Europe. Only 500km away from the Canary Islands and a three-hours flight from Paris, this stunning island is often compared to Hawaii due to its volcanic landscapes. If you are looking for adventure, botanical wonders and dramatic coastlines this is the right place for you.

In this post I have highlighted five reasons to visit Madeira, a destination that offers a glorious climate, a stunning natural scenary and challenging mountain hikings.

Let’s discover together the best things to do in this subtropical island!

1. Ponta delgada and São Vicente

Located in the north coast of Madeira, Ponta Delgada and São Vicente are small villages which economy is based on agriculture, services and tourism. The main attractions in this area are the dramatic “São Vicente Caves” and the festival “Arraial do Bom Jesus”

São Vicente Caves

Formed 890.000 years ago from a volcanic eruption in Paul da Serra, they were first reported by the English naturalist James Yate Johnson in 1885. These are among the first caves of volcanic origin to be opened to the public in Portugal (1st October 1996) and may be visited by following an underground route over 1,000 meters long.

At the end of the tour, visitors are welcome to access the Volcano Center, a pavilion where to discover more about the birth of Madeira and the evolution of the caves among the years.

Arraial do Bom Jesus

If you go to Ponta Delgada in September make sure you see this festival. It takes place the first weekend of the month and it is one of the biggest on the island. Pilgrims come from all over Madeira in a desmonstration of faith to devote the Imaculado Coração de Maria.

The rest of the year, Ponta Delgada is a quite rural area which activity is based on agriculture and some tourism. There you can find a few hotels and high quality local restaurants. Surounded by stunning cliffs and located close to the mountain, this part of the island is ideal if you want to enjoy wild nature.

2. Porto Moniz

Still in the north of Madeira we can find Porto Moniz.

This area is known due to its three natural swimming pools filles with salt water and its black sand beach. This unique pools are formed by natural volcanic rock structures which allow cool, fresh sea water to enter, offering a refreshing experience to visitors. Enter in this pools will cost you only 1 or 2€ per day.

Personal tip: Use some water shoes and a mask to have a better experience

3. Ponta do sol

Situated on the south coast of the island, Ponta do Sol is more turistic than the above mentioned places.

Although the economic activity is based on the primary sector, mostly on the production of sugar cane, bananas and floriculture, Ponta do sol is considered the sunniest point of the island, which is an attraction for both locals and foreigners. Here you can enjoy a cute pebble beach and amazing sunsets.

In case you´d rather enjoy the mountain than the beach, there is another stunning attraction in this municipality: Paul da Serra, the only plateau on the island of Madeira with an altitude of 1,500 meters, from where you can enjoy the stunning views surrounded by indigenous vegetation.

4. Levadas 

Walking along the levadas is one of the main tourist attractions of Madeira. But do you know the origin of this paths?

Levadas are channels of water with a slope originally created to transport the water from the north to the south of the island, where the climate is drier and the population higher. The origin of these paths dates back to the 15th century, when the levadas were created as a way to irrigate sugar and vineyard plantations.

Nowadays, the levadas are an extraordinary way to discover the magnificient nature of the island.

In this post I want to share with you two of my favourite levadas:

Levada das 25 Fontes

This is one of the most popular levadas in Madeira. Its name comes from the number of little waterfalls that you can find once you arrive there. The path is stunning and it allows visitors to admire a wide variety of flora and fauna.

To walk along the 25 Fontes levada I recommend you to wear comfortable mountain shoes and clothes. The climate in this mountain is really damp and warm, therefore do not forget to bring some shorts and something to drink.

It took us around 4 hours to finish the whole path. Would you also like to enjoy this magic place?

Vereda de Ponta de São Lourenço

This mini levada is situated on the very east point of the island. Unlike the “Levada das 25 Fontes”, São Lourenço’s climate is windy and semi-arid, which explains the lack of trees and the low vegetation that you will find along the path.

Walking along this levada you will enjoy stunning rock formations, resulting of the volcanic origin of the island. Take your time to appreciate all details!

After a few kilometers you can find the Sardinha house. If you are wondering why someone would like to live in the middle of a levada, let me tell you that São Lourenço is part of Madeira’s natural park. Therefore, the Sardinha house is the base for a group of people, who work for the park and who are responsible for watching over the area and its species.

Since this part of the island can be very warm and sunny, I recommend you to walk this levada early in the morning. It took us around 3 hours to reach Ponta de São Lourenço and come back.

If you are interested in more Levadas take a look at this page, where you can find more than 50 walks, safety information, points of interest and more!

5. Funchal

The capital of Madeira is located in the south coast of the main island. The majority of the population of this volcanic island live in dramatic Funchal, with abundant plant life, colourful gardens and an eternal spring climate.

There are lots of things to do in Funchal, many of which are free. From cable cars to colonial architecture, this city is a fantastic holiday destination.

Lets explore some of the best things to do in Funchal:

Funchal city

Old town Funchal is relatively flat and easy to explore by foot.  Here are some of the highlights of Funchal that we discovered during our trip:

Santa Maria

In 2010 the project “Arte Portas Abertas” breathed new life into the historical center of the city by turning old, disused doors into works of art. Rua Santa Maria is the best place to enjoy the creativity of local artists.

Funchal Market

Fruit, fresh fish, vegetables, flowers and souvenirs are beautifully displayed in Funchal’s “Mercado dos Lavradores”.

 

 

 

Santa Clara convent

Built in the 16th century, by order of the second captain-major of Funchal, this convent is a valuable heritage for its furnishings. Nowadays, this unique place is still the house of Franciscan Sisters, who kindly open their doors for those ready to admire the stunning Amarante Chapel and the courtyard.

Opening hours:

Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm & 15:00 pm – 17:00 pm

Cable car

Ready to enjoy magnificent panoramic views from Funchal?

The cable car is one of the main tourist attractions in the city. It takes you from the old part of Funchal to Monte in around 15 minutes. As you go up the environment evolve and the urbane mesh is substituted by green slopes and flowery hills, with the city and the sea in the background. A stunning experience not suitable for those suffering from vertigo (although one of my companions suffers from vertigo and he took the cable car without hesitation. Yes, he couldn´t move a muscle during 15 minutes 😉 therefore, he took great photos 🙂 ).

Opening hours:

Monday to Sunday: 09:00 am – 17:45 pm

Wicker toboggan ride 

Once you reach Monte you will find a very special type of transport: the Wicker Toboggans, which is a unique experience not to be missed 😉

The “carros de cestos” are produced with wicker and wood. Traditionally, they have two seats and are driven by two men called “Carreiros”, who are dressed in white cotton clothes and a straw hat, using their rubber-soled boots as brakes. The downhill journey is made in about 10 minutes (around 2 kilometers at a speed of 48km/hour) of pure adrenaline. Ready to try it?

Madeira botanical garden

One of the most beautiful, colorful gardens in the island is Madeira botanical garden. Built in 1881 this part of the city was created by the Reid family as a private park. Luckily, this 80,000m² park is now open for everybody ready to enjoy its fascinating collection of a wide variety of plants.

Opening hours: 

Monday to Saturday: 09.00 am -18.00 pm (last admission at 17.30)

Madeira typical food

Espetada

Espetada is made with meat cubes – it can be chicken, beef or pork – in a laurel skewer and grilled on wood. To accompany the dish, locals suggest “Milho Frito” (fried maize).

If you want to try the best espetadas of the island, I highly recommend you the local restaurant São Cristóvão in Boaventura, north of Madeira. Try them while enjoying a stunning view of the blue ocean and the magnificent Madeira’s cliffs.

 

Scabbard Filet

Espada“, or black scabbard fish, is the most typical fish of Madeira. This kind of fish swims in deep waters and has a fearsome appearance, at least before cooked. However, it is really tasty, mostly when they prepare it with some fruit sauce.

Picadinho

Another traditional recipe of Madeira.

Prepared with beef cut into small cubes, fried and seasoned with garlic, “Picadinho” is always a good option if you want to try some local food.

Octopus

Tropical fruits

Bolo do caco

A typical bread made from wheat flour. Its name is due to the way it was traditionally cooked: on a basalt stone called “caco“.

It can be consumed hot as a meal entree, with garlic butter spread to melt, or as a main dish.

 

Your turn

The island of eternal spring, the “Hawaii of Europe”, the blossom island…

Madeira is a stunning place full of exotic plants, tropical fruits, steep cliff edges and beautiful waterfalls.

Have you ever been to Madeira? Is there any other hidden gem in this island you would like to recommend us?

In this case feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via any social network. I am alway thrilled to read your adventures and suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English level.

Mosel Valley: More than Wine

 

After reading all your questions and posting some nice pictures in my IG account, it is time to explore the German Mosel region also in the blog.

Are you ready for a weekend trip in the picturesque Mosel Valley in western Germany?

The Mosel river valley is one of the most stunning, beautiful landscapes in Germany, including steep slope vineyards, kilometers of hiking trails, fairy tale castles and cute wine villages. As you may know, the Mosel valley creates the ideal conditions for wine culture, therefore its wine is recognized due to its high quality. Did you know that these vineyards were first cultivated by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago?

In fact, the Mosel river begins in France and flows into Germany where it twist sharply for around 250 kilometers. It is along this winding river gorge (see photo above) that we can find Riesling vineyards. Riesling is a floral, aromatic grape – first recorded in Germany in 1435 – with a high level of frost resistance. From this grape variety comes one of the world’s finest white wines in a vast variety of styles.

But did you know that spending a weekend in the Mosel valley is not only a highlight for wine connoisseurs? It’s actually a great opportunity to discover stunning landscapes and fairy tale cities.

Let’s start our trip!

 

Cochem

Pressed against the Mosel by the valley walls you can find Cochem’s charming old town, dated from the 18th century. Under the gaze of the romantic Reichsburg castle you can find ancient, half-timbered houses and stunning medieval gates all around the old town. Do not forget to walk around the medieval Markplatz and to comtemplate the baroque town hall from 1739.

Another emblematic building is the Klosterberg, a capuchin monastery built on top of a mountain around 1630 and used as a monastery until 1802. Nowadays it serves as the city’s cultural center.

Last but not least, do not forget to visit the Enderttor, the largest of Cochem’s three Medieval city gates, which provides the old town with lots of Medieval charm.

Bremm

Strolling through a vineyard with a 60 degree slope can be a great adventure if you like hiking. At the end of the climb you can find Gipfelkreuz, a viewpoint from which you can enjoy a dramatic view from the Mosel valley and, at the same time, savor a glass of fresh Riesling wine.

To climb this path I highly recommend you to wear suitable shoes, since it is a quite dangerous and steep hiking trail.

Briedel

The small town of Briedel is the ideal place to enjoy some peaceful days with your friends and/or relatives. To be honest, this is not the most tourist town of the Mosel valley, however, it is a special one.

If you want to taste wine from the town’s viticulturists while you enjoy a ride in a carriage among the steep vineyards, Briedel is the right place for you.

This is a worthwhile idea to learn more about the production process, the type of grapes cultivated by each producer and to enjoy some stunning views of the valley from the Aussichtsturm Prinzenkopf observation deck.

By the way, if you are lucky enough you may have the chance to taste the grapes directly from the vineyards.

The wine

Today’s vineyards cover around 9,000 hectares of steep hillsides, most facing the south or southwest. Half of the vines grow on steep slopes turning this valley into Germany’s most spectacular wine region.

Some facts about Mosel’s wine:

  • 60% of the vines growing in this area are Riesling, followed by Elbling (produced only in this region) and Müller-Thurgau.
  • Around 90% of Mosel’s wines are white ones.
  • The Calmont vineyard at Bremm with it 68% gradient is the steepest vineyard in Europe.
  • Winemakers mainly produce high quality Riesling.
  • Most winemakers offer tastings at their wine cellars.

Cycling paths

Although Mosel is known for its steep slope vineyards, this region is really well prepared for people who love biking. If you want to enjoy fantastic panoramic views of the river, the small villages and the vineyards, I recommend you to travel the Mosel valley by bicycle.

Luckily, the Mosel area is surrounded by kilometers of cycling paths and, moreover, each village and city in the valley has different guest houses where you can stop, enjoy tasty german food and take a rest.

In our case we spent the night at Korkenzieher guest house, whose owners are a nice young couple who not only manage this “hotel” but also its restaurant and, at the same time, organize tractor-drawn-wagon tours through the vineyards.

 

Your turn

This valley is a beautiful area with a lot to offer. Cycling, discovering incredible hiking paths, enjoying stunning views and visiting dramatic Medieval cities is a unique opportunity you should not miss. This place is dramatic!

Have you ever been to Mosel valley? Is there any other hidden gem you would like to recommend us?

In this case feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social network. I am alway thrilled to read your adventures and suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English level.

Visit Bilbao & Eat Pintxos

Last year Bilbao celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Guggenheim museum, a building that supposed an urban relaunch in which the industrial past of this city was overlaid with green areas and modern architecture.

Most of art lovers around the world started to look at this city as “the next place to visit”, almost all Spaniards got rid of their prejudices and the most relevant travel experts placed Bilbao (finally) on the map. Thankfully, the old Basque traditions still remain intact. Despite the constant growth in visitors’ number, Basque people still maintain their ancient soul. Eating pintxos and supporting Athletic de Bilbao are still part of their lifestyle.

Bilbao is a great city for people interested in food, architecture, history and even music (Bilbao yearly hosts different music festivals, the most popular one is the BBK Live, maybe you have already heard about it).

Although the vast majority of visitors come to Bilbao attracted by the Guggenheim Museum, most of them go back home having discovered an unique place full of charm. And that is what I would like to show you with this post, a living city opened to embrace visitors and to share their culture with them.

What to visit in Bilbao

Casco Viejo

A good way to start discovering Bilbao is to visit the core of the city, the place where it all started: “Siete Calles” (Seven Streets), the old town of Bilbao.

Bilbao, as we all know it, started as a seven streets village located in the middle of two mountain ranges which gained importance in Spain due to its port activity. Nowadays, the old town looks much different as before. Its ancient narrow streets are closed to traffic allowing the visitor to get lost among renamed places such as the 14th century Santiago Cathedral, the Unamuno square (which honors the Spanish writer with the same name), Plaza Nueva (the most important square of the old town reconverted, nowadays, into a “place to be” for all pintxo lovers), Mercado de la Ribiera (the ancient Bilbao´s market, nowadays reconverted into a modern one. Check it here: http://www.lariberabilbao.com/en/ ) and Teatro Arriaga (the historical theater of Bilbao)

The neighboring area of Bilbao La Vieja has a similar history and vibe but it has started to attract artists and gallery owners, after years of controversy. This renovated part of the city is becoming popular among young and middle age people who like to try new, modern restaurants.

Museums

Leaving the old town and walking along the river side we start our way to the two main museums of the city: the Museo de Bellas Artes (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum) and the Guggenheim.

Although the Guggenheim take most of the credit, Bilbao´s ancient museum always organizes a great program of temporary exhibitions. Both museums complement themselves.  On the one hand, the Museo de Bellas Artes, which is part of the city landscape since 1914, has one of the best collections of paintings made by many great Spanish masters like El Greco, Velazquez, Zurbarán or Goya. The Guggenheim museum, on the other hand, has one of the most renowned modern art collections of the world. Its temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent collection are in line with the groundbreaking architecture of the building. Two of the most popular outdoor artworks are the Puppy, a terrier carpeted in bedding plants created by Jeff Koons, and Maman, a tribute to  Louise Bourgeois´ mother created in form of a spider.

Downtown

After this cultural visit I would recommend you to enjoy some refreshment before exploring. A good street to recharge your energy  is Pozas, a traditional meeting point for locals.

Following I will show you three different ways to walk from the Guggenheim until Pozas (do not forget the name of this place 😉 )

River path

Leaving the Guggenheim and walking along the river side we start our river path. As you may already know, Bilbao experienced an architectural transformation the last 20 years which meant a radical change not only on its image to the outside world but also on its economy.

Walking along the Nervión (Bilbao´s river) is a good way to understand and to discover this transformation. Next to the Guggenheim we can find two modern university libraries (one belonging to the private and the other one to the public university) located just in front of one of the most ancient buildings of Bilbao: the renowned University of Deusto.

If we continue our way, we will find the highest building of the city: La torre Iberdrola, a modern office  building. Straight forward we reach Doña Casilda park (better known as the ducks´ park) from where we can observe the modern Palacio Euskalduna, a theater and conference hall.

Just walk a couple of steps more to reach Plaza Circular (Circular Square) in Gran Vía, the commercial and financial centre of the city, and the new San Mames football stadium.

At this point we should remember that Bilbainos (people of Bilbao) are really pride of their football team. Why? Since more than 100 years ago, heritage and tradition are hugely important to Athletic de Bilbao Club. In a football world ruled by money and globalization, Athletic has a complete reliance on their cantera (youth basque players playing for Athletic Club in youth league). This non-written policy implies that every player who pulls on the famous red and white shirt is drawn from the Basque Country. This special non-written rule is the soul of Athletic Club that attracts fans not only from Bilbao but from all around the world. If you are one of those who think that this policy could create an inferiority between Athletic and other Spanish teams, let me surprise you by telling you that Athletic is one of the three clubs never relegated from “La Liga” (the others are Real Madrid and Barca).

Starting from this point, just a couple of meters away from San Mames,  perpendicular to Gran Vía, we arrive to Pozas.

City path

Leaving Puppy behind our backs we will start this path which will lead us to Pozas.

Streets such as Mazarredo, Elcano, Iparraguirre or Alameda Rekalde make up the modern “art district”. Among them it is easy to find art galleries, modern pintxos bars as well as gift and antique stores. At the end of this area we will reach Gran Vía, the financial centre of Bilbao, a 1.5 kilometers street long between Plaza Circular and Plaza del Sagrado Corazón. The halfway point is Plaza Moyua (Moyua square), home to the Carlton Hotel and to the shopping area of the city.

Although Moyua contains historical, dramatic buildings, one of the most interesting monuments of this square are the subway entrances.

Designed by Norman Foster, Bilbao´s subway stations are station-caverns made of stainless steel and glass. Inside, the stations are a large basilica-style gallery with two platforms. Outside, at the street level, the entrances are circular canyons made of glass. The renowned architect changed Bilbao´s landscape with this perfect example of engineering and architecture combination. You can find subway stations almost all around the city. It is well worth visiting them.

To reach our destination we just need to walk through Alameda Recalde until Pozas or to enjoy a ride in the subway 😉

Image found on Google Image from the blog Arquitectura en Red

 

Parque de los patos path

Although its real name is “Parque de Doña Casilda” this beautiful park located in the middle of Bilbao is popular known as ‘”Parque de los patos” (Ducks´ park) due to its lake usually crowded by lovely ducks and swans.

At the entrance of this city´s little green lung, appears the previously mentioned Museo de Bellas Artes, whose outdoor exhibition welcomes the visitors of the park. Walking through Doña Casilda Park we can discover a huge variety of trees and plants until we reach Indautxu, a centric area of Bilbao which offers a wide range of stores and businesses, although it is particularly noted for its many pintxos bars and ancient constructions.

Where to eat: The tradition of Pintxos

Pintxos are skewered and bite-sized foods, traditionally pierced with a cocktail stick to attach them to a piece of bread. They range from traditional pintxos to mini haute cuisine experiments such as grilled foie with a cream of blackberry and warm flavoured cheese. When going to have some pintxos, it is important to know that there is no need to order them, you can directly take them from the bar counter. Do not forget to don´t throw away the toothpick attached to it, you will need them to show the barman how many pintxos you ate, so that he can charge you accordingly.

Locals usually eat one or two pintxos with a glass Txakoli (traditional Basque white wine) or Zurito (a small glass of beer) before moving on to the next bar. Resist to sample every pintxo in a single bar, there is always another bar around the corner with more amazing pintxos waiting for you! 😉

But, where can I find Pintxos in Bilbao?

Let me show you the best streets to enjoy this tasty bite-sized foods.

Pozas

The famous Pozas Street is back on the post! Yes, if you remember we came walking from the Guggenheim until Pozas to have some refreshment after our cultural visit to the dramatic Frank Gehry´s building.

Here there are traditional bars such as Restaurante Sotera, Zaharra or Restaurante Serantes. From Pozas, you can follow your gastronomical route in Calle Maestro Garcia Rivero (best pintxo bar of the street: Gozatu) or in Plaza Campuzano (traditional Pintxo bar: Bar el Estoril, highly recommended).

Plaza Nueva

Years ago Plaza Nueva looked different, nowadays it is the new Bilbao´s pintxos area. Reconverted in “the place to be”, many new bars are opening their doors in this part of the old town. The best ones? I would like to recommend you: Bar Sorginzulo, Bar Zuga and Bar Gure Toki. All of them have a great pintxos variety.

Diputación

Classics never die.

Diputación is a small square located in the downtown, nearby the council office (ES: Diputación), full of traditional Bilbao bars. I recommend you to try at least one pintxo in each bar:

  • Bar el Globo: Most popular pintxo – Pintxo de Txangurro
  • Café la Vina: Do not forget to eat jamón there. They have the best one in the entire city
  • Bar Zurekin: Try one Pintxo de Bacalao
  • Bar la Olla: Really tasty Tortilla de Patata

What else to visit in Bilbao

Before leaving this beautiful basque city I would like to recommend you a couple of places more to visit:

Artxanda

You can take a cable car in Plaza del Funicular, a couple of meters away from the city hall, up to the hill to see a fantastic view of Bilbao from above. It is worthy!

Basílica de Begoña

Built on the site where the Virgin appeared in the early sixteenth century, this Gothic Basilica is the sanctuary to venerate the Virgin of Begoña, patron saint of Bizkaia. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims (the Way of Saint James pass through its main arcade) visit this one of the greatest symbols of the city.

Getxo

Ready to drive to the coast? Just take the modern city subway and go to Las Arenas. Have a walk around, visit Puente Colgante and walk along the river side until you reach the beach. Fantastic views!

If you travel in summer you can also go to Larrabasterra or Plentzia to enjoy the beautiful, wild basque beaches.

Did you like the post? Do you want to recommend us another spot? Do you have any question regarding this city? Just leave your comments below or via social networks: FB, IG, Twitter

Have a nice trip!

 

3 amazing places to visit in Montenegro

Visiting Montenegro had always been on my bucket list. In fact, exploring all its bordering countries is an experience that I would like to make come true one day. Therefore, the minute we planned our trip to Croatia we knew that we were going to visit the neighbour country of Montenegro.

The initial ideal was to travel until Budva with the car and to explore different spots on our way to that city, however, the weather did not co-operated with us so we had to change our plans.

Finally, we decided to travel until Kotor and to stop spontaneously on the way when we saw any dramatic spot.

Our journey started in Dubrovnik early in the morning (by the way, I still have to write a post about the amazing city of Dubrovnik, in the meanwhile you can find more spectacular croatian spots by clicking here) under a grey sky who reminded us that autumn was around the corner.

Although the weather was not as good as expected we did not care that much about it because our appetite for adventure was enormous, so we had the chance  to stop in many different amazing places located beside the Bay of Kotor.

Perast

Located beneath the hill of St.Ilija, Perast is an historical old town of the Bay of Kotor. Although its cobblestone streets are full of history (thousands of tourists stop by during the year to admire this small town, which was the center of many historical empires battles throughout the centuries) they were really quiet that day. I supposed that its less than 300 inhabitants would rather stay at home than walking under the rain.

One of the main attractions of this charming place is the artificial island known as “Our lady on the rocks”, where a Roman Catholic Church is located. According to the legend, the islet was made over the centuries by local seamen after finding an icon of the virgin Mary on the rock in the sea

To access to this unique place it is necessary to go by boat (you can buy tickets at Perast´s port for around 4€).

Since the weather conditions were not good enough to navigate to the islet we decided to stay in Perast and have a walk around the town.

As the weather was getting worse we decided to keep traveling to Kotor.

We thought it would be better to visit the city of Kotor where we could find some warm places to have a cup of coffee every time it rained intensely.

Kotor

An enormous port, full of immense ferries, welcomed us in our arrival to the city of Kotor. After the first impression (I think I had never seen such huge ferries before) we discovered an enormous wall with a stunning gate. Since Kotor was settled during the ancient Roman times, the almost 5km wall was the perfect construction to protect the city from possible attacks.

The ancient wall enclosed a beautiful city brimming with charm and history. One of the most renewed place is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, built in honor of the patron and protector of the city around 1166.

The famous main square, Piazza of the Arms, offers the tourist restaurants and cafes from where to enjoy the well preserved facades of the city and its old buildings made of stone. (We ended up having lunch in a non touristic street surrounded by locals. I would like to recommend you the place where we went but actually I do not know how we ended up there… So, if you go to Kotor just give a chance to its touristic restaurants and let us know if you like them 🙂 )

However, what really got our attention was something I had never seen in other countries. Kotor is full of stray cats, in fact, these animals are part of the city.

They are present in each corner, in every souvenir store, even it exists a cat museum in the city!.

As we found this “cat-love” really fascinating, we decided to ask some locals about it. They explained us that cats were considered as good luck symbols, however, no one was sure about the origin of this belief.

After spending the whole day visiting historical places we decided to come back home no without stopping in another beautiful montenegrin town.

Bar Stari Grad

A small town famous due to its ancient ruins (I had no pictures of the ruins… Sorry…!! It rained cats and dogs!).

This was a great experience & we are sure that we will be back, but next time in summer when the sun shines and the temperatures are higher 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the post, it was a short trip but intense 🙂

Have you ever been in Montenegro? Which spot do you recommend? Feel free to share your thoughts 🙂

 

 

 

 

Five things to do in Šibenik

 

five things to do in sibenik

If you plan to visit Croatia you should add the town of Šibenik to your bucket list.

Its increasing popularity among tourists is understandable since this small coastal city has endure the test of time remaining as special as ever. But what makes this city so different? For one, the fact that Šibenik is the only dalmatian city built by Croats (cities such as Split or Dubrovnik were founded by different cultures). Second, its ancient monuments, fortress and cathedrals, all of them made of stone.

Still curious about Šibenik? Let´s find out then what to visit in Šibenik:

1. Cathedral of St. James

This UNESCO Heritage cathedral is the number on attraction in Šibenik. This magnificent monument was built  in the 15th and 16th centuries and can be said to be the only cathedral in Europe constructed only with stone.

Although the original dome was damaged by Serbian forces when the city was shelled in 1991, it was quickly repaired providing the cathedral with its original magnificent aspect.

The Cathedral of St. James (listed on the UNESCO World Heritage since 2000) is considered the most important Renaissance building in Croatia.

The ticket to visit this splendid building costs around 15kn (2€)

things to do in Sibenik

2. Šibenik City Hall

A strikingly building situated on the medieval Square of the city.

The City Hall of Šibenik was built between 1533 and 1546. Although it was destroyed in December 1943 during the attack of the allied forces, it was rebuilt to look exactly like it did before the war.

On the ground floor is located a nice restaurant with a wonderful terrace where to taste some croatian food.

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3. Old Town

The Old Town of Šibenik is a medieval car-free city made up of narrow streets.

The beauty of this city lies in its ancient buildings and churches, some of which are still marked by the signs of the balkan war, and the hidden hideouts the visitor can find while walking around the old town.

The cobbled streets connect all these historical buildings. Sometimes the narrow streets pass underneath an arch, other times, the visitor have to pass through a tunnel which leads to a narrower street where stands, for example, a small sanctuary. But that is the magic of a place which was built on a rocky coastal area.

five things to do in Sibenik

4. Fortress of Šibenik

Šibenik  had such a strategic position in the Adriatic Sea that the city has been always desired by all the Mediterranean powers. However, croatians anticipated that and erected a couple of fortresses which have been an underused tourist attraction. An ambitious program of restoration is already beginning to return the four fortresses of Šibenik its ancient splendor.

The four for Šibenik are:

1. St. Michel´s Fortress: The first fortress of the city was built on the 11th century under the reign of King Petar Krešimir IV, considered the founding father of the city. 

2. Barone Fortress: Built in the 17th century to protect the city from the Candia Wars.

3. St. John Fortress: Also built in the 17th century but more popular than the previous fortress since it was used as set of Game of Thrones in 2014.

4. St.Nicholas´ Fortress: The most beautiful fortress due to its privilege location. This fortress stands at the entrance of the St. Anthony Channel.

things to do in sibenik

 

5. The port of Šibenik

To have a walk outside the old town allows the visitor to enjoy different parts of the city such as the medieval mediterranean garden or Šibenik harbour.

From the ancient port of Šibenik not only the view of the city is remarkable, but it is easy to travel to other dalmatian cities such as Primosten (read more about this city here) or to navigate to the impressive Krka National Park (more information about this spectacular place here).

five things to do in sibenik

Now it is your turn; have you ever been to Šibenik? Did you like it? Which monument did you like the most? What would you recommend to visit in Šibenik? Feel free to share your experience! 

Primosten

 

Primosten

Primosten is ranked as one of the most picturesque small town in the Adriatic due to its remarkable beaches and its old town, which is located on a small island connected to the mainland by a mound. This ancient place is located only 36 km from Krka National Park (if you want to find out more about this remarkable park click here) and 26 km from Sibenik (new post coming soon! ;)), and it is easily accessible by car.

Although the overcast sky threatened storm we remained firm in our half day excursion and we visited some historical sites such as St. Juraj church (located on the highest point of the island and built in 1485) and St. Roko chapel (a valuable cultural monument built in 1680). From my point of view the most amazing spot was the graveyard which encloses the St.Juraj church, from where the visitor can enjoy a striking view of the open sea.

Primosten

During the summer months many festivities take place in Primosten such as folk music evenings and fishing nights, although the most know is the traditional donkey race (the race of these charming animals is an annual tradition which attract thousand of visitors every year). Furthermore, the port of Primosten hosts many sport and recreation activities such as jet-ski, water sports and beach volley.

Primosten
St. Juraj church

Despite the cloudy sky and the shower that welcomed us at the beginning of our trip, the sun started to shine the moment we descended the narrow slopes of the old town. Therefore the moment we reached the sandy beach of Primosten we could contemplate the calm Adriatic sea, enjoy a nice walk around the town wall and choose a nice restaurant to try some local dishes.

Primosten

If you also want to enjoy a good meal and become acquainted with the local gastronomy I recommend you to visit the “Marina” restaurant (more information here). The place is located in front of a small beach and they serve home made regional food (Tip: The mussels were really tasty).

Before leaving Primosten we could not resist to stop at the top of a mountain nearby the national road to capture this beautiful moment

Primosten

Have you ever been to Primosten? What did you like the most? Share your comments! 

 

 

Krka National Park

Krka

During our trip in Croatia we had the opportunity to visit the National Park of Krka. Located 90 km far from Split.

The Krka National Park is one of the most beautiful natural spots in Croatia.

Our minds changed the moment we started our hike

Arriving to the park was not as astonishing as we thought because it looked as a common natural park that you can easily find in any other country.

After paying 110 Kn per person (around 14€ /16$) we were allowed to enter into the National Park and to take the free bus to go down hills. We were a bit disappointed since we were expecting something more “wild” (more natural) from the very beginning.

However, our minds changed the moment we started our hike. Instead of taking the bus we decided to descend the green hills of Krka walking down a natural narrow path from where we could enjoy an amazing landscape.

Krka

National Park Krka

 

Once we arrived to the end of the path we reached a tourist area. From there you can choose two different ways:

  1. Krka National Park by walk
  2. Scradinski Waterfall and Ferrys

Krka

 

Krka National Park by walk

Following the main trail of the park the visitor can enjoy a nice walk surrounded by nature.

By choosing that option we learnt more about the national flora and fauna while passing through natural caves and waterfalls. Once we reached a high vantage point we enjoyed the wonderful view of the famous Scradinski Waterfall.

Down there, it is located a footbridge that cross the lake allowing the visitor to appreciate the immensity of nature. Furthermore, it is allow to have a swim in the lake to enjoy its pure fresh water.

National Park Krka

Krka

Following the trail we reached the previously mentioned lake. After a nice bath in its transparent water we had a break laying down on the green grass.

As we wanted something more exotic we decided to walk around until we found a nature path which we decided to follow. Since it was not so touristic we could enjoy the essence of the nature and the incomparable views of the  Krka forest.

Krka

 

Scradinski Waterfall and Ferrys

If you prefer to enjoy the nature of the National Park without wasting corporal energy I recommend you to take the ferry that sails across the blue river of Krka.

Here you can find more information about the natural and cultural heritage of Krka, the National Park´s price list and more.

Do not miss the chance to buy some traditional products

At the end of the path we found some antique traditional houses, rebuilt into souvenir stores, where we stopped by to find some presents for our friends. However, the most special products we bought were some traditional delicatessen made by locals; honey, oil, compote… Tasty and healthy products that I highly recommend you to buy if you ever  want to try real croatian foodstuff.

To finish the tour we decided to take the bus which drove us back to the main entrance of the park, where our rented car was waiting for us to keep discovering Croatia.

Your turn: Have you ever been in Krka? Did you like it? Share your experience!