How to spend two days in Milan? There is much more to see and do in Milan than fashion shopping. Milan is an ancient city with beautiful churches, squares, museums and private houses. If you’re here for a weekend trip, we’ll have the best itinerary for you, filled with the finest art, ancient culture and impressive history. But you can always pick and choose if you have less time or add some other stuff you would like to visit such as the San Siro football stadium.

Day 1 in Milan

Castello Sforzo

Cortile delle Armi (Ducal Court)

On the northwestern edge of the city center lies the Castello Sforzo from the 15th century. It was built by the Duke of Milan Fransesco Sforza on the site of the destroyed castle of the city’s previous rulers, the Visconti family. The castle is decorated wih several frescos by Leonardo da Vinci. The castle houses 9 different civic museums ranging from prehistoric archeology to wooden sculptures and from paintings to tapestries.

San Maurizo al Monastero

Walk from the castle into the old part of Milan and after a couple of minute you’ll reach the Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore. This beautifully painted church used to be attached to the next door benedict monastery. The church is a 16th century baroque little gem.

Museo Archeologico

Maximian Roman wall

The cities archaeology museum is housed in the former monastery which was built on top of and reused many building materials of the nearby Roman ruins. So it’s an excellent place to explain the different time periods and how they interlink. The main focus is on the Etruscan and Roman period, the museum has some nice finds on display. You can also visit an old polygonal tower which belonged to the Maximian Roman walls.

Leonardo da Vinci

The highlight of many people’s visit to Milan is Leonardo’s huge fresco painting of the Last Supper. If you also want to see it make sure to reserve tickets in advance. Tickets are sold out weeks in advance so plan carefully. If you manage to get tickets, be sure to be on time for your timeslot of 15 minutes and enjoy. It’s a beautiful work of art and you can admire it in relative quietness with just 30 other people at the time.

Last Supper by da Vinci

Santa Maria delle Grazie

The last supper is located in the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie but you’ll need separate tickets for both. The church served as a burial site for the Sforza family. The church was heavily damaged by Allied bombing in World War II, but the wall with Da Vinci’s fresco was protected by sandbags and survived without any major damage.

Basilica Sant Ambrosio

To the southeast lies the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, one of the oldest churches in Milan. Built by St. Ambrose in 379, although almost everything you see today dates from the 12th century. The basilica is surrounded by a monastery which dates from the 8th century. The monastery housed two different orders, that division is still visible today by the two different towers, one from the 9th century and the other from the 12th century. This church was another victim of the allied bombing raid of 1943 and has been heavily restored. The crypt houses the tomb of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis II.

Duomo di Milano

The most famous church of Milan is its duomo or cathedral. It is the largest church in Italy and took six centuries to complete. Work started in 1386 and was not completed until 1965. This results in a very eclectic style of the building, originally a French-style gothic building, but now a mix of that with all the later styles and whims of the rulers and builders during the ages. The roof of the cathedral provides marvelous views over the city but it can be busy, so it’s not ideal for those with fear of heights.

Duomo

Pinacotea Ambrosiana

Housed in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, the pinacotea has a good collection of renaissance art with some masterpieces by Da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rafael. The library houses several manuscripts by Da Vinci.

Santa Maria presso San Satiro

Santa Maria presso San Satiro is a nice little church built at the end of the 15th century. The main draw is the false apse at the backend of the church. Due to a limited amount of space, the apse is painted by Bramante with a perspective illusion choir. One of the first examples of trompe l’oeil in the history of art.

Basillica di Lorenzo Maggio

The Basillica di Lorenzo Maggio is one of the oldest churches in Milan and its origin dates back to Roman times. The building of the basilica started somewhere at the end of the 4th century. In 1071 the basilica was ravaged by fire which destroyed most of the original interior decorations and made new restorations necessary. In 1573 the dome of the basilica collapsed, which was subsequentially rebuild. It’s a great example of a Roman basilica church although heavily reconstructed throughout the ages. It still houses an original 4th century mosaic of Christ the Lawgiver.

Basillica di Lorenzo Maggio by night

Day 2 in Milan

Pinacoteca di Brera

Start your day early with a visit to the Pinacoteca di Brera which is housed in the Palazzo Brera. The pinacoteca is the best gallery to view Italian paintings in Milan. In its collection are works by the likes of Raphael, Belinni, Tintoretto, Caravagio and Titian.

Pinacoteca di Brera

Villa Reale / Galleria d’Arte Moderna

The Villa Reale houses the Galleria d’Arte Moderna. This relatively small museum has a collection of 18th until 20th century works. Principal works in the collection include works by artists like Van Gogh, Picasso and Gauguin.

Also visit the opposite Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea if you like contemporary art.

Villa Necchi

Villa Necchi is a beautiful villa from the 1930’s. Some of the rooms are still decorated with furniture from this era. The villa and its surrounding garden form a quiet repose from the busy city. The villa is part of the 4 Case Museo di Milano network and you can buy one entrance ticket for all four houses. Depending on the amount you want to visit this can be a good deal, but beware that Case Boschi de Stefano is free to enter anyway.

Case Boschi de Stefano

Case Boschi de Stefano is a historical residence once inhabited by the couple Antonio Boschi and Marieda Di Stefano. They were huge art collectors and their collection includes more than 2,000 works of art. Over 300 of those works are on display in this house that is packed with paintings. No wall is free of art, maybe not the best way to display this many works of art but it’s a great collection of mainly 20th century Italian art which you wouldn’t see elsewhere. And since the museum is free, there is no reason to skip this gem.

Basilica San Nazaro in Brolo

Basilica San Nazaro in Brolo is another church founded by St. Ambrose. This church was built at the end of the 4th century but not much remains of the original building. The old façade is obstructed by the Trivulzio Mausoleum from 1512.

Navigile Grande

The Navigile Grande is the biggest of the canals dug in Milan. Its origin dates back to the time of Frederick Barbarossa and was one of the biggest engineering projects during the Middle Ages in Italy. Nowadays it’s a good place to go for a walk, have a drink and have dinner.

Day trips from Milan

There are a lot of beautiful places around Milan. We can recommend going to Turin to be closer to the mountains, get some royal history, a superb Egyptian museum and several other great museums.

Another good day trip is to Pavia, this city lies just a half hour south of Milan and is very compact and has kept much of its medieval atmosphere. Don’t forget to stop at Certosa de Pavia, this monastery is beautiful..

15 tips when traveling Iceland

Iceland is one of our favourite countries for traveling, its spectacular scenery will stay with you for the rest of your life. Are you planning to go to Iceland? Read our tips for getting the most out of your trip

1. Rent a car

Iceland is a perfect country for a road trip, as it gives you the freedom to explore the country at your own pace. Some people bring their own car, which is already possible from €435, but there are many rental companies next to Reykjavik airport. When you plan to leave the ring road – Iceland’s main road that brings you around the whole island – it might be wise to hire a four-wheel-drive, as the road might be unpaved. We managed to make it in an Open Corsa as well. However, take a look at the weather forecasts, as it can be too windy or cold for such a car.

Stay 6 days, or at least 4

Despite what many other travel blogs say, it is possible to do the Iceland round trip in four days. And yes, this includes time for sightseeing, hiking, whale watching and puffin spotting. You can find our itinerary in this article. However, it would be ideal to have a little extra time for some more exploring off the beaten track. We would say it is ideal to stay in Iceland for six days. Of course, the longer the better, as it is an amazing country, but in six days you can get a really good impression of this amazing country and its spectacular nature.   

Read the information signs

We always read the information signs along the roads, trails or sites we pass. But in Iceland we really recommend you to do so as well, as it gives a very nice insight in Iceland culture, which includes an incredibly amount of trolls, elves and other magical creatures. Icelanders take fairy tales very seriously. With these (hi)stories in mind, the rock formations can get a totally new dimension, and you inspect all small caves just a bit more extensive.

Don’t bring your umbrella

Don’t bring your umbrella, but wear a wind jacket instead, as it’s not comfortable to keep your umbrella up with the strong winds that pass the island regularly. Sometimes it just feels the wind is blowing from all directions.

Tank at every gas station

There can be a large distance between gas stations in Iceland, so top your tack frequently. We also ran out of gas, when the ring road was blocked due to an accident, and we had to do a detour of 70KM. It were the longest 70 KM of our lives. When you arrive at a gas station, take a closer look at them, as gas stations in Iceland are a strange breed. They can very well be a peculiar combination of retail, grocery, tourist information and community center.

Don’t step on the moss

Moss on a rock

Nature is fragile, especially in the harsh climate of Iceland. Don’t leave the path, stick on the trail, and don’t step on the moss. The moss is easily damaged, and potentially irreparably. Footprints – and tire marks – can take a very long time to heal.

Go in June (or in September)

June is a perfect month for traveling to Iceland, as the melting ice makes the waterfalls impressive. The flowers are blooming, the birds are breeding, and the weather is comfortable. Furthermore, the midnight sun will give you an energy boost, so you will enjoy the island even more! The only downside is that you will not experience the Northern Lights. If these are high on your list, we recommend you to go in September, when the weather is still nice, but the nights are dark enough to see the magical phenomenon.

Bring your bottle

Iceland’s tap water is not only completely safe to drink, it is probably the tastiest water you have ever had. So don’t burden the environment (and your wallet) by buying bottled water, just bring bottles from home and fill them with Iceland’s tap water.

Money-saving tips when going to Iceland

Iceland is worth every penny, as it is such a beautiful country. However, it is one of the most expensive countries in the world. But it does not need to be an expensive holiday if you follow our tips.

Nature is free

The number one reason why Iceland does not need to be extensive is because of its spectacular nature, which will keep you occupied during your whole stay. Hiking through the mountains, watching waterfalls, ice lakes, and glaciers, and looking for puffins is simply free.

Drink water from the tap

Drink water from the tap, it is completely safe and very clean. In fact, it is probably the tastiest water you can get. So don’t burden the environment (and your wallet) by buying bottled water, just bring bottles from home and fill them with Iceland’s tap water.

Buy food at the supermarket (just don’t count on ‘Bonus’

Buy your breakfast and lunch at the supermarket. This will easily save you some money. There are supermarkets in almost every town. ‘Bonus’ is said to be the cheapest supermarket, however it has quite restricted opening hours and it is mostly located close to Reykjavik, which is why we did not manage to shop at Bonus. However, also at other supermarkets, we could shop some bread, hummus, fruits, snacks and Skyr, more than enough to keep us filled for the day, under €10 per day per person. It might be wise to pack a knife and a plate, to conveniently prepare the food.

Book your stay wisely

Hotels in Iceland are not cheap, but you can find nice hotels for €80 per night (two persons). You just have to be a bit creative. Our cheapest stay was a capsule hotel in Akureyri. Our best was a tiny house in Egilsstadir. If you cannot find an affordable stay right away, it can also be worthwile to wait a little longer, as prices may drop closer to the date. Use different booking sites to find the best deal. We always go for Airbnb and booking.com, and also use google to find local

Persepolis and its nearby sites are well known, but Iran has much more to offer for those who love history, culture and antique architecture. There are a couple of excellent sites relatively close together in the South Western part of Iran. They are of the beaten track, so most ordinary tours don’t go there, and it takes a bit of an effort to see them. But it’s certainly worth it. So let us guide you to these ‘hidden gems’ of ancient Iran.

The easiest way to get there is to fly to Ahvaz. Ahvaz Airport has a lot of domestic connections and some international flights. From here, you can arrange a tour or just rent a taxi for a day. We did the latter and were very satisfied with our choice. The taxi driver was friendly, had an airconditioned car and had gave some insightful information.

Something we should mention; every Iranian we told that we were going to this corner of the country was shaking their head, because even in Spring, temperatures can reach a whopping 50 degrees Celsius. And because it’s a river delta area, the heat is humid. It took some getting used to after the relative coolness of the desert.

Susa

Susa – The other Capital of the Persian Empire

Our first destination of the day was the ancient Elam capital of Susa, nowadays Shush. Susa is a truly ancient city. The first settlement dates from 4,395 BCE, more than 6,400 years ago. In the 4th millennium BCE, the city came under the influence of the Sumerian city of Uruk. From 3,100 to 2,700 BCE Susa became the centre of the Elam civilization and the Iranian history starts at this time. For 2,000 years Susa developed, sometimes as the centre of Elam, other times under the larger Akkadian empire. The Elam empire came to an end in 647BCE when the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal levelled the city.

Tile decoration

Susa came Persian Achaemenid control during the rule of Cyrus the Great around 540BCE. Darius the Great made Susa the winter capital of the Persian empire. The oldest surviving theatre play is situated in the city during this time (The Persians).

Susa would be conquered by Alexander the Great who held his mass wedding between his commanders and Persian nobility. It became a capital of the Parthian empire when it became independent and it was the furthest eastern expansion of the Roman Empire as Trajan briefly captured the city.

The city would be destroyed another two times. Once by the Arabs as they conquered Persia and later by the Mongols. However, the ruins and some preserved reliefs of the city can still be seen today.

Museum         

At the entrance to the archaeological site of ancient Susa is a little museum with some beautiful finds and a lot of explanation about the history of the site. Much of the reliefs in the museum are copies, since the original were brought to France and can be seen in the Louvre museum.

Royal city

The old royal city was located on an artificial mount (tepe). So, climb the mount as you exit the museum. The major remains you can see here are the foundations of Darius his palace. Susa was his favourite capital. This palace was built at the same time as the palace in Persepolis. It would also have included a large hypostyle hall (apadana) as you can still partly see at Persepolis.

Castle

Towering over the archaeological site is the crusader-style castle built by the French archaeologists in 1885 to protect themselves. The castle is a strange anomaly in Iran, it reminds you of the castles in France and the crusader castles in the Middle East. But it is neither.

Tomb of David

Tomb of David

Another site is the tomb of the prophet David. He is said to be buried here, the church which used to house his remains was destroyed by the invading Arabs. But he is said to be reburied in the tomb.

Haft Tepe                   

On your way from Shush to the ziggurat of Choga Zanbil lies Haft Tepe (Seven Hills), which probably is the ancient town of Tikni. Here you’ll find several Royal Tombs, and other remains of what could be a palace and a ziggurat. The museum explains much about the site and its relation to both ancient Susa and Choga Zanbil.

Choga Zanbil

Choga Zanbil
Choga Zanbil

The ziggurat of Choga Zanbil is the best example of a ziggurat in Iran. Chogha Zanbil is an Elamite ziggurat built in the 13th century BCE. The Elamite king Untash-Napirisha founded it in honour of the god Inshushimah. Around the ziggurat are smaller temples dedicated to other Elamite gods. The ziggurat was made from mud bricks, stacks of unused baked bricks still stand next to the building. The original name of the site was Dur Untash, town of Untash. Choga Zanbil is the highlight of this trip and may even be one of the best things you’ll see in Iran period.

Shushtar

We end our trip in Shushtar and stay the night to continue northwards by bus to ancient Bisotun. You can also return to Ahvaz and continue your journey from there as it holds more options. However, you’ll not see something like Sushtar anywhere else in the world. Shushtar was one of the places where captured Roman legionnaires were set to work. The remains of their work can still be seen today.

Band-e Kaisar

Band-e Kaisar

The Romans built the bridge over the river Karun, it’s not in the best of states but many of its arches can still be seen on both sides of the riverbanks. You can go on a semi-refreshing little river cruise on one of the speedboats on offer by the locals.

Hydraulic system

The main site is the UNESCO world heritage site of the Hydraulic dam and water mills complex. The complex is Sassanid in origin and probably the Roman engineers also worked on this complex. Sadly, many of the original mills have been destroyed, but you can still see the overall structure and wander through it. We watched a carpet maker weave his carpet powered by water here.

The northern Italian city of Turin is beautifully located on the flanks of the Italian Alps. It’s just a short train ride away from Milan so it’s ideal for a day trip from that city. But there is plenty to do and Turin can also serve as a base to explore this region of Italy.

History of Turin

The history of Turin begins in Roman times, when the Romans founded the colony Augusta Taurinorum. Turin bears the name of the people who are said to have lived in the area. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Turin changed hands several times until it came into the hands of the counts of Savoy in the 11th Century. It became the capital of the duchy of Savoy in the 16th century and the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia in the early 19th century. After the unification of Italy in 1861, it became the first capital of Italy. During this time the area was also heavily industrialised. This made Turin a target of heavy Allied bombing during the Second World War.

Top sights in Turin

Egyptian Museum

Besides the character and all the beautiful buildings in this city, the biggest draw is the Egyptian Museum. It’s the second biggest Egyptian museum in the world, only beaten by the one in Cairo. So, if you have the slightest interest in ancient Egypt, history or art, go visit this museum. The collection is outstanding and covers all aspects of life and culture in Ancient Egypt.

Piazza Castello

Nearby is the Piazza Castello, the cultural heart of the city. Here you’ll find to palaces which now mainly serve as museums. The Palazzo Madama built on the site of the ancient Roman city gates. Two of the Roman towers still form part of the back of this palace. It houses the Museum of Ancient Art, which is a confusing name since the collection dates from the 15th-18th century.

Palazzo Reale

The main sight of the square is the Palazzo Reale. This former Royal Palace of the house of Savoy now houses a multitude of different museums. There is the main building of the Palazzo Reale itself, where you can marvel at the beautiful rooms and furniture of the palace. Then you have the southern wing with the Armoury which houses a large collection of medieval weapons. The northern wing houses the Galleria Sabauda with beautiful paintings and sculptures and the Museo di antichità with its collection of local Roman finds including a spectacular bronze mask. Attached to the palace is the chapel of the holy shroud, which houses the famous Shroud of Turin. The chapel has recently reopened after a 21-year restoration after a fire. But don’t expect to see the real shroud, it’s only on display once every few decades. But if you want to know more, you can visit the Museum of the shroud where you can also see a replica.

Teatro Romano

Behind the Palazzo, you can also visit some of the Roman remains in the city. Another piece of the city wall and the gate Porte Palatini and the Roman theatre are the most visible things.

Catadrale di San Giovani Battista

Attached to the chapel for the shroud is the Turin cathedral Catadrale di San Giovani Battista. On the site had stood 3 Lombard churches next to each other, all of them were destroyed to make a place for this cathedral at the end of the 15th century.

Castello di Rivoli

A bit outside of the town lies the Castello di Rivoli. Another former residence of the royal family of Savoy. Nowadays it’s the oldest contemporary art museum in Italy. From the castle grounds, you’ll have some great views of the surrounding village and Turin in the background.

Museo d’arte Orientale (MAO)

Another great museum with art from another part of the world is the Museo d’arte Orientale. This Asian art museum has a diverse collection of art from the whole continent, spanning several millennia.

Israel has unbelievable much to offer for its relatively small size. From the holy city of Jerusalem to the party city Tel Aviv. From dry deserts to Roman ruins, to coral reef and white beaches. Not to mention its cuisine: We cannot get enough of hummus and falafel. Because Israel is not exactly the cheapest country for travelling, we’ve packed the best stuff in just four days. Find out more below!

This itinerary for Israel starts in Eilat, but you can also choose Jerusalem or Tel Aviv as starting points.

Day 1 – Eastern Israel: Dead sea and Masada

Rent a car in Eilat and leave Eilat right away, driving towards Jerusalem. It is not difficult to come into a vacation vibe, crossing through the dry desert, passing tons of palm trees, date plantations, and beautiful mountain sceneries.

Dead Sea
Dead Sea

Dead Sea

You will pass the Dead Sea on the way, where you definitely should make a stopover. Being unable to dive, or even swim, in this lake, is an unforgettable and unique experience: You are only able to float on top of the water, and not in the water. There are free public beaches, but also somewhere you must pay a little like Kalia Beach, with natural (and healthy?) mud, Biankini Beach and Neve Midbar Beach. Good free swim spots are Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek. Just see what fits your schedule, as floating on the lowest point on earth is a very welcome change to the driving.

Masada

You will also pass by Masada, an ancient fortification on the top of a rock plateau. According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 people, the Sicarii rebels, and their families hiding there. If you have time, go here for sunrise or sunset.

You will arrive in Jerusalem in the evening. Go to bed on time – as the next day will be busy!

Day 2 – Jerusalem in one day

The Holy City of Jerusalem has a lot to offer. But it is possible to see its highlights in just one day. You will need to get up early to make it to the finish on time!

Temple Mount

Start at the Temple Mount, important for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Temple Mount has remarkable opening hours: 7:30-10: 30 AM and 12:30-1:30 PM. Line up at 7 AM to avoid long lines and to make it in at 7:30 sharp. Then you will experience an almost empty Temple Mount. Great for taking pictures! The highlight of the Temple Mount is the Dome of the Rock with its golden roof.

Dome of the Rock

Western Wall

Pay a visit to the Western Wall on your way to the Temple Mount. This is the holiest Jewish place as it’s a remain of the foundations of the second Jewish temple build by the Roman client king Herod the Great. The temple and the rest of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE after the first Jewish Revolt. You have a good overview of the two gender separated prayer areas from the walkway to the mount itself.

Church of Saint Anne

Close to the Temple Mount North-exit, lies the Church of Saint Anne, a Roman Catholic church that is not on every Jerusalem-itinerary, but we advise you to go. It is the best-preserved Crusader church in Jerusalem and it has been said that it is the birthplace of the Virgin Mary. Its courtyard creates a tranquillity that contrasts the bustling streets of the Muslim Quarter. There is also a large excavation area of the Pools of Bethesda.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Next, walk the Via Dolorosa towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: The site where Jesus was crucified and Jesus’ empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. This holiness makes this church a major Christian pilgrimage destination. Fun fact: Control over the church is shared between several Christian denominations (Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic and some others). The key is guarded by a Muslim family, as only they were trusted by all the Christian denominations.

Tower of David

We follow the Via Dolorosa back to the Tower of David, near the Jaffa Gate entrance in the West. You can visit the tower if you’re not too hungry yet. Just outside the old city are some cafés where you can have a lunch with falafel and hummus.

Israel Museum

Israel Museum

After lunch, take a bus to the Israel Museum. Don’t underestimate the time that you want to spend in Israel’s national museum, as it huge and it has a lot to offer. From a modern sculpture garden to an archaeology wing, fine arts, Jewish art, exhibitions, and, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Yad Vashem

Alternatively, you can visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, in the western part of the city. The museum offers an extensive exhibition of the different stages and aspects of the Holocaust.

Olive Mountain

After all this culture, it is nice to end the day by walking the Olive Mountain and watching the sunset behind the holy city. You can see the Golden Gate or Gate of Mercy: A closed gate, that, according to Jewish belief, only will be reopened when the Anointed One (Messiah) will come.

Day 3 – Ancient Northern Israel: Acre, Caesarea and Tel Aviv

It’s time to leave Jerusalem, and drive up North, to Acre.

Acre

Crusader Citadel

Crusader citadel

The main sights in Acre are all situated in its compact old Town behind the old city walls. These walls are the perfect point to start your tour of the city. They bring you back in time and give you an overview of the city. Make your way towards the Crusader citadel, here you can explore the remains of the heart of the Crusader Kingdom. Take the underground Templar tunnels, like the last crusaders did when they were chased out of the Holy land by the Mamaluks in 1291.

Old Port

Explore the old port and its remaining fortified towers. When you climb the southwestern bastion you can see the foundations of the old crusader castle now submerged under the Mediterranean sea. When we were there the Caravanserai Khan al-Umdan was closed due to being in disrepair. But its worth to try and get a peek at this old inn.

Caesarea

Get back on the road as we drive down south and go even further back in time to the Roman city of Caesarea. It was built by their client-king Herod the Great in the last decades BCE. Later it served as the Roman and Byzantine capital of Judea and Palestine.

Aqueduct

Roman aqueduct

First head to the aqueduct on the beach just north of the city. This aqueduct used to provide water for the city, now it crumbles away and is used as a picknick spot for the beachgoers.

Caesarea Maritima

Most of the Roman remains and excavations can be found in the Caesarea National Park. Here you can find the remains of the Roman harbour, the huge hippodrome, a Roman theatre and houses and temples.

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv seen from Jaffa

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Tel Aviv is a city that never sleeps. Which is great if you want to maximize your time like us. The one thing you must see in this city is its excellent museum of art. It has a superb collection of modern and contemporary art and of Israeli Art. Tuesday and Thursday the museum is open until 21h.

Tel Aviv is filled with great restaurants, bars and nightclubs. So unwind a bit, but try to get up early the next day to beat the morning rush-hour.

If you have more time to spend here, go to the beach, get on a bike and cycle along the coastline to the old historic town of Jaffa.

Day 4 – Hot southern Israel: Avdat, Mitzpe Ramon Negev desert, snorkelling

Today is already our last day, so we have a lot of driving to go back south to Eilat.

Ein Avdat National Park

Our first stop will be in the Negev desert, in Ein Avdat National Park. If you head to the northern entrance of the park, you can descend into the Canyon and go for a nice hike here. If you just want to take in the sights and go for a short walk, take the western entrance for great views of the canyon.

Ein Avdat

Avdat

Just a couple of minutes south of the western entrance lies the ancient hillside Nabataean city of Avdat. It was a major city on the Incense route, only passed in importance by Petra. The city was founded by the Nabataean in the 3rd century BCE and later inhabited by Romans and Byzantines. The city lies on top of a hill with marvellous views of the surrounding Negev desert. Just north of the city lies the archaeological remains of a Roman legionary camp.

Avdat

Mitzpe Ramon

 A little bit further south lies the small town of Mitzpe Ramon. From the visitor’s centre, you have an awesome view of the Ramon Crater.  Although the Ramon crater isn’t really a crater but the worlds largest Makhtesh, a desert valley surrounded by steep walls. This is also an ideal site to spot some Nubian ibex.

Eilat

Eilat is Israel’s southernmost city on the Red Sea and an ideal place to go snorkelling. Temperatures are pleasant throughout the winter and hot during the summer and the sun shines almost all days of the year. The main attraction are the coral reefs.

Snorkelling in the Red Sea

Israel – three airport options

We had return flights to the budget airport of Ovda, Eilat. You could also fly to Eilat directly or Ben Gurion International airport, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

When to go to Israel?

The best time to visit Israel is March-May and September – November: Not too hot, but nice weather to go out and about. Just watch out for the Jewish holidays Passover (April) and Rosh Hashana (September / October), as many families will go on trips; it will be busy, and hotels will be expensive.

We travelled at the beginning of February, to have a nice vitamin-D boost while it was dark and cold back home. We had great weather: ~25 degrees Celsius and sunny. However, we learned that we were quite lucky with the weather, as it also can be cold and wet in February. But it’s also quieter at the major sites.

Barcelona is a great Mediterranean city with its own identity, which is quite different from the rest of Spain. It’s a major tourist destination. The European youth goes to the nearby Costa Brava for their summer holidays and spring breaks. For everybody else, it’s a destination to enjoy great food, sunny weather, Gaudi and much more. So, join their ranks and visit this city. The best time to go is in the Spring and Autumn. Then the crowds are a bit thinner and the weather is nice but not too hot the walk around all day.

There is a lot to do in Barcelona, so stay for a minimum of 2 days to get a good impression of the city. In 3 days you should be able to see most of it. Stay a bit longer if you want to enjoy the beaches, have a day trip to nearby Tarragona or visit the Dali museum in Figueres.

Day 1 Montjuïc, museums and views

We like to walk to counterbalance the extra eating and drinking we usually do on a holiday. But alternatively, Barcelona has an excellent public transport system to get you to all the major sites.

Placa Espanya Former bull ring

Start the day on Place Espanya, here you’ll find the former bullfighting arena. This is a good example of the difference between Catalunya and Spain, as opposed to in the rest of Spain, bullfighting is banned in Catalunya. So, the former bull ring is turned into a shopping mall which offers some good vistas of the city from the upper deck for free.

Access to Montjuïc

National Art Museum of Catalonia
National Art Museum of Catalonia

Make your way towards the hill of Montjuïc. Here you’ll find great museums, nice parks, a castle and great viewpoints of the city and the harbour.

Caixa Forum Barcelona

Check out the website of the Caixa Forum Barcelona, this art centre hosts a variety of art exhibition, theatre and much more. It’s not so expensive and there are major exhibitions from time to time.

National Art Museum of Catalonia

As you climb the steps weaving through the traders and the tourists, you’ll get increasingly better views of the city. Once you’re at the top of the stairs you are in front of the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Although I can understand that this museum is not to everyone’s taste, I can’t recommend it enough. The museum houses an outstanding collection of Medieval Art. Inside the museum you’ll find rebuilt churches with original Romanesque frescos, a lot of crucifixes, iconography and reliquary art. The building itself is also beautiful, especially the large hall.

Fundacio Joan Miro

Fundacio Joan Miro
Fundacio Joan Miro

A little further up the hill lies the Fundacio Joan Miro. This modern art museum was started by the artist himself and has a big collection of his works. The museum is housed in a nice modern building with beautiful views of the city. The naïve style of Joan Miro may not be for everyone, but the broad range of paintings owned by the museum gives a good insight into the artistic development of Miro. This, in turn, gives the viewer a better understanding of the art and may even convert some of you.

Montjuïc Castle

Further up the hill lies the Montjuïc Castle. This castle was built in the 17th century to control the city as Catalunya had fallen under Spanish rule. The fortress was used to bombed the city on several occasion and was the place of executions during the Spanish civil war. Now it’s a good place to relax and walk around and it has great views of both the city and the nearby harbour.

Funicular de Montjuïc

You can walk down or use the Funicular de Montjuïc.

Eglasia de Sant Pau del Camp

Near the end of the Funicular, you’ll find the Sant Pau del Camp church. This is the oldest church of Barcelona, the current church replaced an earlier church which Muslim troops destroyed in 985.

Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona

If you have some energy left, go to the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. It’s open until 19.30 so it can entertain you while you have to wait for the Spanish dinner time to arrive.

Food

Vegan Tapas

Eat something at the Carrer dels Tallers or the nearby Rambla.

Day 2 Gaudi

The theme of this day is Gaudi. Although there is much more to Barcelona than Gaudi, he is an important reason for the popularity of the city. So today we will visit the best sites. The enormous popularity of Gaudi has led to a highly inflated entrance price to most of the buildings associated with him. Therefore it’s best to pick some sites and view the rest from outside unless you’re a mega fan.

Palau Güell

Palau Güell is one of the first works of Gaudi in Barcelona. It was commissioned by the same Güell family who would later ask Gaudi to design the famous Park Güell. The house was finished in 1890 at was the home of the Güell family until they moved to the Park Güell. Highlights are the huge central hall with its staircase and the rooftop with its eccentric chimneys. This is also the cheapest house designed by Gaudi in Barcelona to visit.

Illa de la Discòrdia

This city block on Passeig de Gràcia has a nice concentration of modernist buildings, the Casa Batlló and the Casa Amatller are both here.

Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

After his work on the Park Güell, Josep Batlló hired Gaudi to remodel his home. Gaudi did this in a spectacular way. The front of the house looks like it belongs in a fairytale. There are almost no straight lines in sight. Much of the interior has just recently been restored back to the original state. The best rooms in the house are on the noble floor with its beautiful windows onto the Passeig de Gràcia. There are several different tickets available, including ones where you can visit the house with fewer visitors at a premium price.

Casa Amatller

Although not designed by Gaudi, this modernist building designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch lies next to Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and is part of the so-called Illa de la Discòrdia (Block of discord) of several modernist buildings. This city block provides a good opportunity to compare the different modernist architects.

Fundació Antoni Tàpies

Around the corner lies the Fundació Antoni Tàpies. This museum is dedicated to the work of Antoni Tàpies, a modern Spanish painter. The museum usually has works by Antoni Tàpies on display, together with exhibitions of works by other contemporary artists.

La Pedrera / Casa Mila

A bit further to the north, along the Passeig de Gràcia lies the Casa Milà or La Pedrera as it is also known. This is the last private residence designed by Gaudi, who finished his work here in 1912. It was not received well when it was finished, hence its nickname la Pedrera, the stone quarry. Soon after it was built the Mila family, dissatisfied with much of Gaudi’s work sold the furniture and redid the walls. The building deteriorated after their death and only in the 1980s were efforts made to restore the building back to its original state. This is another Gaudi building with premium access tickets.

Casa Mila
Casa Mila

Sagrada Familia

The most famous of all Gaudi buildings is the Sagrada Familia. This neo-gothic church is still not finished and is already being restored. This is another of Gaudi’s buildings which divides opinions. I’m personally on the side of George Orwell who called it “one of the most hideous buildings in the world”. But I understand the attraction it holds to people.

That said, the entrance price is ridiculously high for a church and I would advise people to just walk around the building. This gives a perfect impression of what the building looks like and saves you money for dinner later.

Parc Güell

It’s only fitting to end the day back at another Güell assignment. This time Güell asked Gaudi to design a whole housing development. It was a complete failure and only two houses were built, one of which Gaudi bought himself as it was not getting sold.

Parc Güell
Parc Güell

The park has two parts, a part which you can enjoy for free. Here you can walk around in the shade, enjoy the little quirks designed by Gaudi and enjoy the views over the city from one of the many vistas the park offers. The other part comprises of Gaudi’s house and the pavilion, this area is only accessible with a ticket. Ticket prices are a bit more reasonable here, so if you haven’t had enough of Gaudi give it a try and enjoy some more of his creations up close.

Day 3 Ancient Barcelona

After all this modernist architecture you would think Barcelona is foremost a modern city, but it also has a very old historic heart. The Barri Gothic, or the gothic district, is the old city centre with medieval alleyways and buildings dating all the way back to Roman times.

Cathedral of Santa Eulalia
Cathedral of Santa Eulalia

Cathedral of Santa Eulalia

In the heart of this district lies the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia. This cathedral was consecrated in 1339, but the façade was not finished until the 19th century. In the next-door historical museum, you can see the foundations of the earlier Visigoth church.

MUHB Plaça del Rei

To see some of the Roman and Visigoth remains, visit the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona (MUHB) at Plaça del Rei. Here you’ll find the remains of the Roman town, it’s shops and industries and the finds associated with those activities. Additionally, there are also Visigoth remains of a church and a cloister. It’s a great museum to get an idea of the early origins of the city. The museum also includes the Chapel of Santa Àgata from 1302.

Musee Frederic Mares

If you like ancient and medieval sculptures, visit the Musee Frederic Mares. It has a good collection of sculptures up to the 14th century. Frederic Mares was a collector of many things, which becomes obvious if you see his collector’s cabinets. This is an enormous random collection of antiques and curiosities spread out over 17 halls.

Temple of Augustus

South of the cathedral stand four remaining Corinthian columns of the temple of Augustus. This shrine to the imperial cult has been incorporated into the surrounding buildings and can be visited for free.

Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar

A bit further towards the sea lies the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. This gothic church was built in the 14th century. Much of its interior decoration has been lost due to extensive fires during the Spanish Civil war.        

Picasso Museum

Pablo Picasso moved to Barcelona with his family when he was thirteen. Here he followed some classes at the art academy before he moved to Madrid and later Paris. This museum has an excellent collection of his earliest work and gives a great impression of his development as an artist. Sadly, the collection lacks good pieces from his later work, but the insight into his early development still makes it a must-see for Picasso fans.

Money can be a real barrier to travelling as much as you would like. As experienced trip bookers, we noticed that booking smart, can save a lot of money. We gathered all our booking tips for you, so continue reading if you also want to travel big on a small budget.

Plane Tickets

1. When to buy plane tickets?

Tickets usually go on sale 11 months in advance. For most flights its best to wait a lot longer before buying tickets. It’s only a good idea to get your tickets as early as possible when you will be flying at a very busy time like Christmas or Chinese New Year.

For other situations, the average best time is five or six weeks before you want to travel. But beware that this is an average, a safer bet is buying three months in advance. Around this time you won’t have any great deals but you also don’t pay any premium prices. To help you out use apps like Hopper or Kayak to advice you when to buy.

There are sales in January for March-May and in September for October-November. Airlines usually announce their sales via their newsletters, social media and website. So it’s a good thing to sign up and follow them.

Another thing to consider is when to fly. There is the obvious difference between high and low season. But flights on Friday afternoon and evening and Sunday are also usually more expensive than others. This is caused by all the people wanting to maximize their weekends and people travelling back home and vice versa. Therefore it’s often worth to take one extra day off and travel back on Monday instead of Sunday.

2. Be aware of additional luggage charges

Although airline tickets have become much cheaper in the last decade, pricing has become less transparent. This started with paying extra for check-in luggage, meals and drinks. It has reached new extreme levels with the introduction of low-cost intercontinental travel. Many low-cost carriers are now charging you for anything you bring aboard that is bigger than a purse or a laptop bag. The cost of these charges varies and will change over time. So think clearly about what you really need to take and what kind of luggage space you need. It’s usually cheaper to pay someone to wash your clothes than taking an extra suitcase.

Accommodation

3. Book accommodation as early as possible

Hotel rooms are usually cheaper the earlier you book them. So, book them as early as possible. Otherwise, wait until the last moment and try to get a discount on the day itself. If possible avoid the weekends or book a stay in business hotels which often have discounts during the weekends.

It pays to look around and use different booking platforms to check for the best prices. Also give Airbnb a look, although the price difference isn’t that huge when travelling as a couple or solo. It is usually much cheaper when travelling with a group. If you can avoid the commercial listings on the platform it provides an interesting way to get an insight into local culture and housing.

As a rule, accommodations get more expensive the shorter in advance you book them. But there are exceptions to this rule.

So if you can’t seem to find a great deal book something you can cancel without additional costs. This way you can keep looking and see how the prices develop and maybe do a last-minute switch and get a sweet deal.

4. Try to book package deals for flights and accommodation.

If you book your flights and accommodation together you can save a lot of money. Look for deals at travel websites or deal-aggregate sites. Websites like Expedia also give you the options to build your own package deals.

5. Use incognito browser window/wipe cookies

To avoid a sudden rise in prices for your flights or accommodation, make sure that you use an incognito browser window when searching. Or at least wipe your cookies after each browsing session. This way you avoid some of the tracking and targeted advertising.

Cars

6. Car rental

Rental car
Rental car in Iceland

If you thought that buying an airline ticket was untransparent, then you haven’t rented a car yet. There are quite a few bad apples in this business, and it pays to be extra aware of possible pitfalls. Use a website like Rentalcars.com to check the different prices.

Different fuel policies

There are different fuel policies on offer. Full-full is the best option since it doesn’t force you to give them free petrol. The half-half option, empty-empty and anything in between are the non-preferred options. They require you to do advance fuel consumption calculations to predict how much fuel you will need to end up at the required level. The empty-empty option is the worst one, as most people don’t like to drive around with an empty gas tank.

Crossing borders

Depending on your destination and itinerary it’s useful to check if you’re allowed to cross borders and drive in other countries. Take extra care when renting a car in Europe where national borders are invisible but also frequent. Many companies ask a big surcharge for this. This can make a cheap option twice as expensive as before.

Insurance

The last point is the upselling of insurances. Cheap companies often ask ridiculously high deposits which they will only waive if you buy their insurance. So be aware if you book via a booking agency and buy their insurance. Even though the insurance can be cheaper and have better coverage, you have to pay a higher deposit. So, sometimes it’s worth to pay a little bit extra so you can avoid the potential hassle of dealing with murky claims.

Mistakes

7. Know where you’re flying to

Charleroi Airport
Sunset at Charleroi Airport

Ok, this sounds too obvious to be a tip, but we booked flights to different places than planned. So we can confirm that this does happen. And it will cost you extra money and time depending on the mistake.

There are two things to look out for. First, if you’re flying to a city with multiple airports: Which one are you flying to, what is its location and what will you pay extra or save on transportation to your ultimate destination.

When we flew to Israel we landed on a military airport in the desert 2 hours away from Eilat. Meanwhile, the city has its own airport in the middle of the city from which you can just walk to the beach and your hotel. So, the cheaper flight ended up costing us more than six hours needlessly travelling on a bus.

The second thing to look out for is less obvious and an even bigger mistake on our part. So, please learn from us and double check to make sure that the city you’re flying to is the city you want to fly to. There are many cities in the world which share the same name, even within the same country. Therefore always try to look for the unique airport codes and check where you’re really flying to. We booked a flight to Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca instead of La Palma, the Spanish Canary Island.

Spending 2 days in Copenhagen

As the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen is the most popular tourist destination in the country. Many people come to see the little mermaid, but this Scandinavian capital has much more to offer. Denmark is one of the more expensive European countries to visit, so adjust your budget accordingly. Luckily there are some good deals to get. One thing we would advise all visitors who will be visiting at least a couple of sites, is to buy the Copenhagen Card. It offers free entry to almost all sites in Copenhagen, its surrounding area and free public transport including local trains.

Day one

We did most of our exploration on foot, but Copenhagen has an excellent public transport network to help you out if you’re getting tired. There is a lot to see, so get up as early as possible for you. The first six sites are always open, so ideally you would do this all before ten o’clock when the SMK opens.

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

Besides the little mermaid, Copenhagen’s Nyhavn is its most recognizable spot. Start your day here, just to get it over with, but also since the early morning light and the lack of huge crowds will enhance your experience.

Amalienborg

Just up the road towards the little mermaid is Amalienborg, the residence of the Danish Kings and Queens. Amalienborg isn’t just one palace but four built around a central square. The current buildings were built in the Roccoco style in the 18th century.

Marble Church

If you turn your back to the water, you have a nice vista towards Frederik’s Church or the Marble Church. This rococo building has the largest dome in Scandinavia and was inspired by St Peters Church in Rome.

Kastallet

Further north lies Kastallet, a 17th-century fortress built to protect the city and the harbour. The fortress is in excellent condition since it is still partly used as a military base. But a large part can be visited and, moreover, it forms a nice park for quiet walks.

Little Mermaid

Little Mermaid

So, as you make your way around the outer ramparts, you’ll see the most disappointing tourist attraction in the world, The Little Mermaid. Go here if you’re a completist and want to see it with your own eyes, or go here for the fun of it, the crowds swarming the little statue, doing strange poses and making their Instagram posts.

Nyboder

As you complete your walk around Kastallet, you enter the Nyboder district with its historic row houses. Originally built to house the families of the navy personnel.

Nyboder Houses

Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK)

The SMK, or National Gallery, has a good collection of European art from 1300 onwards. The best parts of the collection are the Danish and Nordic art from 1750 until 1900 not often seen outside of the Nordic countries.

Rosenborg Castle

Just across the road lies the Rosenborg Castle, surrounded by the lush Kongens Have, the royal gardens. These gardens are always busy with people escaping the bustling city and enjoying the green surroundings.

The castle itself is built in Dutch Renaissance style, by the same architects who also worked on the famous Kronborg Castle. The castle was mostly used as a summer house for the royal family but has been used as their residence also. The castle is in great condition and besides the contemporary interior, you can also see the Danish crown jewels here.

Rosenborg Castle and Kongens Have

David Collection

Just outside the park lies a wonderful relatively small private museum which has free admission. The David Collection houses three separate collections, the most beautiful and largest is its Islamic Art collection. The European art collection is nothing special, and the Danish modern art collection is small but interesting.

Round Tower

As you walk into the modern city centre you’ll find the Round Tower. This 17th-century tower can easily be climbed to the top for some nice views over the city. There are some expositions in the tower and the tower also has an observatory to watch the night sky.

Borse

Don’t forget to pass the beautiful 17th century Borse or commodity exchange. It’s a private building but it’s worth to look at the outside.

The National Museum

If you’re into history don’t forget to stop at the National history museum. They have some beautiful prehistoric treasures and bog bodies and a good section on the Vikings.   

Food

For dinner, try one of the street food places, the latest hip one is Reffen.

Day two

We opted to leave the city to see a bit of the countryside, the famous castle of Hamlet at Kronborg, and the outstanding Louisiana Modern Art Museum. We finished our day back in Copenhagen. There is enough to do to stay in the city but with limited time, this way you’ll optimize your time in Denmark. If you or your children are into Vikings, you can go to Roskilde instead. There, you’ll find a beautiful medieval church and an excellent Viking museum complete with original Viking Longboats.

Helsingør

Kronborg castle

Kronborg Castle

Since the Copenhagen card includes transport and sites outside the city, we choose to optimize our stay by visiting the castle at Kronborg. This UNESCO world heritage site lies at the entryway to the Oresund and controls its access. There have been earlier castles on this site, but the present-day one is in the same Dutch Renaissance style as Rosenborg castle. The castle in pretty good shape, sadly much of its interior has been lost to the Swedes who captured this castle in one of the many wars between the Kingdoms. Read our UNESCO World heritage site review of Kronborg Castle for more info.

Humlebæk

Louisiana Modern Art Museum

On your way back to Copenhagen you’ll pass the Louisiana Modern Art Museum. Get off at Humlebæk station and from there it’s a 10-minute walk to the museum. This museum is beautifully located in a sculpture park overlooking the sea. The sculpture garden has works by greats like Calder and Serra. The collection of the museum itself includes works of Giacometti, Asger Jorn and Yayoi Kusama.

Louisiana Modern Art Museum

Copenhagen

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

When you’re back in Copenhagen, make your way to the Glyptotek. This fabulous museum has one of the best collections of ancient sculptures in the world. But also, a big collection of 19th-century French sculptures and impressionist paintings.

Tivoli

End your stay in Copenhagen with a visit to the second oldest amusement park in the world. Tivoli is right in the centre of Copenhagen and next to the Glyptotek. Even if you don’t like attraction parks, it’s worth to just go for a walk through the grounds in the evening as everything is lighted and the atmosphere is magical.

Most people come to Shiraz to visit the ancient sites of Persepolis and Pasargadae. But Shiraz itself holds many beautiful gems too. So, make sure to have at least one full day to spend in this lovely city. As with most Iranian cities, traffic can be a nightmare and pollution can be a hinder. Don’t let that dissuade you, leave early if you are going on a day trip to Persepolis to avoid the traffic. And take your time when going from one place to another. If the weather allows it, walking can be a faster mode of transport than a taxi.

Masjed-e Nasir al Molk

Masjed-e Nasir al Molk
Morning sun in the Nasir al Molk mosque

Masjed-e Nasir al Molk is a beautiful mosque you’ve probably seen. Pictures of this magical mosque are everywhere on social media, travel guides and brochures for trips to Iran. Although the mosque itself is just over a hundred years old it’s hugely popular with tourists for its stained-glass windows. Go early in the morning when the light falls through the windows for the best sights and pictures.

Vakil Bazaar

Vakil Bazaar and the next-door Mosque were both build at the end of the 18th century by Karim Khan Zand, who was the regent (vakil) of this area. Hence the name. The bazaar is huge and it’s easy to veer off in the wrong direction, but help is always nearby, as are good shopping opportunities.

Vakil Mosque

Vakil mosque is as old as the bazaar. It probably replaced an earlier mosque which stood on the same spot. The mosque is decorated with lush coloured tiles with floral motives.

Citadel Karim Khan Zand

Citadel Karim Khan Zand
Citadel Karim Khan Zand

This citadel was again built by the productive Karim Khan, around 1763. The citadel is well preserved and gives a good insight into urban fortifications in 18th century Persia. It also has a nice courtyard and a bathing area you can visit.

Aramgah-e Ali Ibn Hamzeh

Most visitors of Shiraz flock to the mausoleum of Shah Cheragh with its two shrines to brothers of the eighth imam Reza. This shrine, however, is dedicated to Ali Ibn Hamzeh, a nephew of the Imam. The shrine is much quieter and just as beautiful. The reception is also much more relaxed, we got invited into the tourist office and handed some cookies, water and tea. While we could cool down we take a look at some picture books and got some information about Shia islam. Afterwards, we were guided around and encouraged to take pictures. This still was a bit awkward as people next to you are kneeling on the ground, engaged in prayer.

Aramgah-e Ali Ibn Hamzeh
Aramgah-e Ali Ibn Hamzeh

Hafez Tomb

Just 5 minutes from the shrine Aramgah-e Ali Ibn Hamzeh is the tomb of Hafez, one of the most popular poets of Iran. The mausoleum is always busy both with admirers of the poet, who will recite some poems there and ordinary people escaping the hot city and enjoying the surrounding garden. The present-day mausoleum is a 20th-century construction which replaced the earlier when build by Karim Khan.

Bagh-e Delgosha (Garden)

These extensive gardens are on the way to Saadi’s tomb. They date to the end of the 18th century and are a good example of a classical Persian garden.

Saadi Tomb

Also set in a nice garden is Saadi’s tomb. This is the quieter of the two poet’s tombs as its more on the outskirts of the town. It’s set in a nice relaxed area with beautiful cypress trees and hills.

Mausoleum of Shah Cheragh

Mausoleum of Shah Cheragh
Mausoleum of Shah Cheragh

The mausoleum of Shah Cheragh is one of the more important ones in Iran. It holds the shrines to two of the brothers of the eighth imam Reza. Therefor it is a very busy place. Tourists can only visit this place with a guide which will be provided at the entrance. Guards with green feather dusters will correct females if their clothing slips up.

Bagh-e Eram (garden)

Bagh-e Eram
Bagh-e Eram

The best garden in Shiraz, this classical Persian garden is one of the highlights of the city. It’s always busy with people searching for refreshment and shade. It has a beautiful little palace which now houses the law faculty but can still be admired from the outside. There are many different species of plants and trees here which all are named, also in English.

As Aristotle said, ‘well begun is half done’. It saves you a lot of time, many worries and a bigger chance for the best deals and nicest hot spots, when you prepare your travels well. In this blog, we share 24 travel preparation tips to make your journey smoother. Being prepared saves a lot of time

1. Don’t plan

Plane
Go on a spontaneous trip

Don’t plan your days from morning to midnight every day. Many great moments on your travels come from spontaneous decisions and the ability to be flexible and be able to jump on the opportunity or extended invitation. So, leave enough room in your travel plans for these moments to appear and for you to take full advantage of.

2. Plan

At the same time, it’s wise to plan ahead, to prevent tickets for popular attractions or events to be sold out. You’ll usually get the best deals on accommodations when you book early. This way you can save a lot of money or upgrade your stay without busting your budget. The same goes for transportation tickets, they can either be sold out or be much more expensive when you decide last minute. And while you make your plans, investigate the calendar for national holidays, festivals and religious events, these can have a huge impact on the availability of transport and accommodation. And while some religious festivals can add to the experience others can subtract from it when a lot of things are closed.

3. Travel insurance

Nobody plans to get sick or robbed, but these things sadly do happen when on holiday. So be prepared and make sure that you have the right type of coverage for the area you’re going to and the activities you want to engage in. Pay extra attention when you want to do adventure sports like kayaking, mountain climbing, etc. Some countries even demand that you have health insurance to be able to enter the country and or get a visa. For more tips about staying healthy while travelling, click here.

4. Extra passport photos

Whether it is for a visa, an emergency passport or some obscure form you have to fill out, it never hurts to have some extra passport photos on you. Or you can be old school and give them to your holiday crush.

5. Learn some words in the language of the country you’re travelling to.

Knowing a few words in the local language goes a long way. It’s a good way to initiate contact with the locals. It gives you more credit and people tend to try just a bit harder to help you.

6. Bring earplugs and sleep mask

Being well rested is of key importance whatever your travel plans. Whether you’re trying to sleep while travelling or staying in noisy hotels or hostels, earplugs and a sleep mask bring relief in most situations. Alternatively, you can use them on that crowded beach to help you imagine being alone. A neck cushion might also be helpful, to get some rest while travelling by train or bus.

Traffic outside Shanghai Hotel

7. Bring multiple debit and credit cards

It’s usually a good idea to have at least one debit and a credit card. But it’s even safer if you have multiple from different banks when your one bank has problems or is not accepted by the nearby ATM.

8. Expect the worse

This goes with the travel insurance advice. Plan for the worse, this way, things can only look up while you’re there.

9. Write down the address of your accommodation

Write down the address of your accommodation, your phone battery may die on you or get lost. It’s especially useful to have it in the local language so you can be sure taxi drivers know where they are taking you. And while on the topic, double check with taxi drivers that they know where they are taking you.

10. Have a check out routine

Develop a check out routine so you make sure that you check for all your important belongings and don’t forget anything when you check out. Before I leave the room, I at least always check if I have my passport, wallet and phone.

11. Inform your bank of your travels

Most banking apps nowadays let you set your card to world setting via their app. But still it doesn’t hurt if your bank knows where you are, so it won’t decide to block your account because of activity on the other side of the globe.

12. Pack light

Check-in luggage is expensive. Moreover, big luggage items are a drag to carry around and to leave in luggage lockers. So, make your life easier and cheaper by bringing less stuff. There are even schools of thought who believe that the abundance of choice is the main factor for present-day stress.

13. Test-walk your shoes and backpack

Test your gear before you go away. It’s common practice to do this with shoes, really don’t forget to do it with new shoes, because you will get blisters. But also do this with your backpack, is it comfortable to wear for long periods and make the right adjustments to lighten to load on your back.

14. Pack your bag the night before

If your bag is ready to go, you’ll sleep a lot sounder and minimize the risk in forgetting stuff when in a morning rush. It also gives you a little bit more time to sleep in and especially when sleeping in a bunk room, it keeps the noise down for the other guests. Nothing more annoying than people who start to pack at 5 a.m. and waking everybody with the sound of crackling plastic bags.

15. Have enough money, travelling is expensive

Travelling is expensive, make sure you have enough money. It’s a shame if you can’t enjoy yourself while away or if you have to skip going to special places because you have run out of money. Plan ahead and save some more. Travelling is almost always more expensive than you think.

16. Unlocked phone / Mobile WiFi

Phone booth
Who knows how to use this?

While roaming costs have been abolished within the EU, they still exist in the rest of the world and are stupidly expensive. So, avoid this by buying a local sim card. This way you’ll be able to use almost as much data as you would at home for the same price. Either put the sim in your phone, especially easy if you have a dual sim or use a mobile Wi-Fi device. We use a TP-link 4g mobile hotspot, so all our devices are connected all the time without the need to tether and thereby saving valuable battery power of our phones 😉 Additionally this way you can also use a VPN on all your devices, since tethering and VPN doesn’t seem to work together.

17. Bring your favourite clothes

Unless your wardrobe is totally unsuitable for the place you’re going to, wear your favourite clothes. You want to look good in your pictures, don’t stand out as a tourist in your fast-drying cargo pants and feel comfortable. The easiest way to achieve this is in your favourite clothes.

18. Bring some toilet paper

Russian Toilet


Especially handy to do when you’re travelling to an area with squat toilets.

19. Bring a power strip/extension block

Most hotel rooms are not built for multiple device owners. A camera, a phone, a battery pack and a laptop are just a few of the devices the modern travel needs power for. An extension block makes charging that much easier without the need to rotate your devices. It also saves the need to have multiple travel adapters when in a country with different power outlets. You use your one adapter for your power strip and the rest of the devices can use their normal adapters.

20. Know local customs

Don’t be an idiot and be respectful of local customs.

21. > 6 months validity on your passport

For most countries, your passport doesn’t just need to be valid but needs to be valid for at least another 6 months. Be sure to check this well in advance so you can get a new one if necessary.

22. Bring your student card

If you’re a student, don’t forget to bring your student card. This can save you massive amounts of money especially when you plan on visiting a lot of stuff. Almost all museums and other tourist sites have a discount for students.

23. Know how to pack

Practice packing beforehand, so you can keep your luggage organised. Also, practice the clothes roll technique. It saves a lot of space.

24. Coordinate colours

To get the most out of the clothes you bring make sure that all items fit with each other and can be worn in different combinations. This also decreases the need to bring multiple outfits.