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.

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, as such it also attracts hordes of tourists. Don’t let all these people dissuade you, it’s still worth to go to this city. But if you want to minimize your irritation, adjust your schedule and get to the sites early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Also try to explore some of the less visited places this city has to offer.

Day one

The itinerary of the first day can easily be done by foot, if you have difficulty climbing and or walking for longer periods, take the cable cart to the top of Petřín hill or the bus to the castle.

Charles Bridge

Together with the Golden Gate bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in the world, and with reason. This medieval bridge was built by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.  The bridge was decorated with 30 statues in the 18th century, all the statues you see today are replicas.

Petřín Strahov Monastery

Strahov monastery
Petřín Strahov Monastery

As you walk up the Petřín Orchards, you can either go to the Petřín View Tower, a 60-meter high copy of the Eifel Tower. It was built for the world fair in 1891. Otherwise, you can directly go to the Strahov Monastery. This 12th-century monastery was rebuilt many times and its current face is a baroque one. It houses a picture gallery with 14-19th century paintings, a library with old books and the monastery itself.

National Gallery

The National Gallery has many buildings throughout the city. Just outside the castle complex are two palaces which have been completely renovated to act as museums. The Schwarzenberg Palace and the Sternberg Palace, both are beautiful buildings. Visit the Schwarzenberg Palace if you’re into Baroque art as the museum is focused on art from this period. The museum is currently closed and will open again later in 2019. The Sternberg Palace has a more eclectic collection covering the whole spectrum of European art from antiquity to the 18th century. The collection has some outstanding works of art so if you only want to visit one of the palaces, go here.

Prague Castle

From the monastery it’s a short walk to the castle. This is another tourist magnet, expect it to be busy.

Outside you’ll find the president palace with the presidential guard. You can watch the changing of the guards here every hour from 7.00 in the morning. The big one is at noon, with fanfare and all.

Continue inside and decide whether you want to see the interior of any of the buildings and decide which ticket suits your wishes best. I would suggest the cheapest option, circuit B, as this gives you all the highlights without the unnecessary extra exhibitions. The highlights of the castle complex are the St Vitus Cathedral and the old royal palace. If included in your ticket don’t forget to visit the St. George’s Basilica. This old church dates back to the 10th century and has a beautiful Romanesque interior. The other thing every tourist seems to do, is visiting the Golden Lane. It’s a nice medieval looking street, where you can find the house where Franz Kafka used to live. But it’s usually overcrowded so you won’t have the opportunity to imagine what it would have looked like in the past.

St Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral
St. Vitus Cathedral

As with most Cathedrals, the St Vitus Cathedral was built on top of the earlier 10th-century church. Although construction of this Gothic Cathedral started in 1344 again by Charles IV, it was not consecrated until 1929. The biggest part of this cathedral is therefore not Gothic but Neo-Gothic which luckily complements each other well.

Old Royal Palace

There was a royal palace on this hill since the end of the 9th century. But the earliest remains are that of the 12th-century Romanesque palace, which can be seen in the underground. The present-day castle is a Gothic part started by emperor Charles IV and a late Gothic and Renaissance part from the end of the 15th century. The main attraction is the Vladislav Hall, this huge vaulted hall has been the scene of many important events in the country’s history. Don’t forget to go outside to the gallery for some great views of the Ramparts and Prague.

Best Viewpoints of the city

If you are looking for great viewpoints there are a couple with different perspectives.

St Vitus Cathedral great south tower

You need to buy a separate ticket for the tower of the cathedral. From there you’ll have marvellous views over the castle grounds towards Charles Bridge, the Moldau river and the old town.

Old Royal Palace balcony of Vladislav Hall

If you have bought a ticket for one of the castle circuits, then the Old Royal Palace and this viewpoint are included. From the balcony accessible from the Vladislav Hall in the palace you can view the ramparts of the castle, the Charles bridge and the old town. The view is nice but a bit inferior to the one from the cathedral tower.

Petřín orchard

View of Prague castle from Petřín hill
View of Prague castle from Petřín hill

For free views of the castle, the bridge and the old town, climb Petřín hill via the orchard. Besides this being a nice and relaxing walk away from the crowds it offers some of the best views of the city, and all for free. If you don’t feel like climbing, you can take the cable car to the top.

Petřín tower

Petřín Tower provides slightly wider views than available for free from the hill. The view of the castle and old city won’t improve that much, but it does offer grander vistas of the surroundings of Prague and its suburbs. You’ll have to pay to go to the top.

Letna

You can get another free view with a different perspective from Letna. Letna park lies opposite the old town and provides magnificent views of the old town and the river. Depending on where you go you can also view the castle and the Charles bridge.

Old Town Hall Tower

This paid viewpoint is a great one for close-up views of the old town, since it stands right in the middle of the old town square.

Day two

The sites of the second day are a spread out more than on the first day. It’s still doable to walk but if you’re tired or want to speed things along, take a ride in a tram or metro. Prague has some beautiful metro stations and the trams are a nice way to explore the city while sitting.

Jewish Cemetery

Jewish Cemetery
Jewish Cemetery

Start your day with the Jewish Cemetery, since it is one of the busier places and cemeteries are better experienced without too many people around. Take your time to wander around, read up on the history of the Jewish community in Prague and its downfall during the Second World War.

Old New Synagogue

As you exit the cemetery make your way to the nearby Old-New synagogue, this is one the oldest still active synagogue in Europe. It’s a beautiful little Gothic building dating from 1270. It’s also the site of the mythical Golem of Prague.

Spanish Synagogue

Just a block away lies the most beautiful synagogue of Prague, the Spanish Synagogue. It’s the newest synagogue in the area built to replace the oldest synagogue of Prague in 1868. It’s built in a Moorish revival style with domes, gold and geometric patterns.

Spanish Synagogue
Interior of Spanish Synagogue

Convent st Agnes

Just a couple of minutes from the Jewish quarter lies the medieval 13th-century Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia. The convent now is part of the National Gallery of Prague and houses its excellent medieval art collection. The collection focuses on art from Bohemia and Central Europe and has altarpieces and sculptures. The convent garden is freely accessible.

Old Town square

You can’t visit Prague without a visit to the Old town square. The square is lined with beautiful baroque buildings. Here you’ll also find the gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn and the Old Town hall with its famous Astronomical clock. So, join the crowds in anticipation of the clock striking the hour.

Astronomical clock

Let me start off by saying the Astronomical clock in Prague is a marvellous piece of engineering which is fun to watch. But don’t take all its claims to serious. It’s not the oldest in the world, just one earlier example is the Gros Horloge in Rouen, France which predates the Prague one by some 30 years. And be aware that much of what you see today is a restoration of the original. The statues are a 1948 reconstruction after the original statues were destroyed by fire in 1945, the same goes for much of the machinery. Don’t let this lessen your enjoyment of this great piece of art and engineering, but it doesn’t hurt to be informed.

Kinsky Palace

While you’re on the square you can enjoy some more art if you want in the Kinský Palace. This is also a dependence of the National Gallery of Prague and is used as an exhibition space. So, check their website to see what is on. The palace itself dates from the second part of the 18th century, built on top of an earlier Romanesque and gothic structure which can still be seen in the basement.

Powder Tower

The Powder Tower is one of the original 13 city gates of the city of Prague. You can visit it for some views of the surrounding area. It was built at the end of the 15th century but suffered great damage at the Battle of Prague in 1757 so much of what you see today is a later reconstruction.

Mucha Museum

One of the Czech Republic’s most famous artists is Alphonse Mucha. Mucha is best known for his Art Nouveau advertisement posters. If you want to see his works of art, you can either visit the Mucha museum dedicated to the artist and his work or go to the National Gallery which has some of his major works like the Slav Epic. If you want to see his best work, go to the National Gallery, if you want to get an overview of his work visit the Mucha museum, or visit both for a complete picture.

Trade fair palace

If you’re not tired yet and love modern art, go visit the Trade Fair Palace dependence of the National Gallery. Here you will find an excellent collection of Czech art from the 1920s onwards.

Food is a major part of life and therefore automatically of travelling. Eating delicious and new things helps to create unique and unforgettable memories. But can also just be a basic necessity to keep you going from A to B.

Chinese food
Steamed Chinese Food

1. Eat local food

Food is a great way to get to know a place and its people. Don’t be scared to eat things you have never heard of. Try them. You can use translate apps to get some idea of what you’re eating. But you can also be more adventurous and let the staff surprise you with their recommendations.

2. Smaller menu, better food

First heard this tip while watching Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmare, when Gordon was complaining about the ridiculous amount of choices in failing restaurants. Since then I’ve paid attention to this when eating out and can confirm that it’s a good rough indicator of the quality of the food. More than 15-20 options per course is a warning sign for bad food. Extra care should be taken when the many options are also from different cuisines, I’ve never eaten in a good restaurant that does pizza’s, hamburgers and sushi at the same time.

Menu
A small menu is not always better 😉

3. The longer the line, the better the food & the experience

This almost always holds true, since nobody likes to wait in line, so the reward must be good. Find your way to the town’s restaurant area and follow the people.

4. Try to eat healthy

When you’re eating out every day, it will be hard to eat healthy. An average restaurant meal is as unhealthy as a fast food meal. Cooks use a lot of salt, give small portions of vegetables and relative big portions of meat. So, change it up by ordering a vegetarian meal occasionally, get extra vegetables instead of fries or eat two lighter entrees instead of a main course. Read this article about eating healthy while travelling for more health tips.

5. Visit local markets

Local markets are a great place to visit to get to know the local produce. Go here to get fresh fruit, your breakfast and/or lunch. While you’re there use the opportunity to take some nice photos of all the colourful wares on display.

Market
Turkish vegetable market in Izmir

6. Self-catering for one meal a day

This tip helps to save money and at the same time provides you with the option to eat healthier.

7. Go for lunch instead of dinner

If you want to get the luxurious dining experience on a budget, go for lunch instead of dinner. Many high-end restaurants offer lunch menus at a fraction of the price of dinner. An added bonus is that the waiting lists for lunch are usually also a lot shorter or even none existing.

Don’t let the others dissuade you, it is possible to encircle the whole of Iceland in only four days. We present you four days filled with endless sightseeing, a wealth of nature and even some whales and puffins. You will see the whole ring road of Iceland, all its highlights, and we promise you’ll be back in Reykjavik within four days. We advise you to go in June though, as you can continue travelling under the midnight sun. Are you ready for a spectacular trip?

Golden Circle Tour Iceland: Self-Drive Tours

Day one

Rent a car in Reykjavik and leave the capital city straight away. Reykjavik is a nice city, filled with nice bars and shops, but the nature outside this city is what it’s all about. We’ll start by exploring the Golden Circle, Thingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir, three key attractions close to Reykjavik.

Thingvellir

Thingvellir
Thingvellir

Drive straight to the UNESCO world heritage listed Thingvellir National park, only 50 kilometres from Reykjavik. It’s a 6 km broad and 40 km long rift. The rift marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. If you walk the rift, starting from the visitor’s centre, you can see the world’s first parliament, the Althing, on your right. Sessions were established in 930 CE and held there until 1798. There are several hiking trails or you can go scuba diving, and see the rift from above.

Gullfoss
Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Continue the drive to Gullfoss: one of the most impressive compact waterfalls in the world. It is an enormous double cascade, with a total height of 32 meters. The haze of the falling water creates beautiful rainbows when it’s sunny. Therefore, it’s called Gullfoss: golden waterfall.

Geysir

Strokkur
Strokkur


Next stop is Geysir. The English word ‘geyser’ derives from this geyser. Geysir is not very active at the moment, due to human interferences. But Strokkur, about 50 metres next to Geysir, is. Strokkur erupts every 6-10 minutes, with a height of about 15-20 metres.

Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Dyrhólaey natural reserve

When you’ve finished the Golden Circle, you can drive back to the ring way, heading to Vík, the final destination of today. Along the way, you will see more spectacular waterfalls. The first one is Seljalandsfoss. A 65 Meter high waterfall. You can even walk behind the falling water. Seljalandsfoss is the only waterfall that is lighted during the night. 15 Km further away lies Skógafoss, another waterfall where the water falls over what once was the coastline of Iceland. You can walk a small lane, 1 KM to the east, to reach the smaller Kvernufoss waterfall. Finish the day in Vík. Just before you’ll enter the small fishing village lies the last sight of the day: Dyrhólaey natural reserve. It’s home to one of the largest seabird colonies of Iceland, during summer you should definitely see some puffins. And you can see a massive arch that the sea has eroded.
Stay the night in Vík

Day 2

Reynisfjara Beach

beach
Basalt cliffs at Reyniisfjara beach

Start your day at Reyniisfjara Beach. It is a famous black sand beach, with some impressive symmetrical basalt columns that look like a staircase, a cave, and some basalt cliffs that rise from the sea. A great place to see the sunrise. Just watch out for the unpredictable waves which can suddenly engulf the beach.

Eldhraum, Skaftafell and the Glacier Lagoon

glacier
Glacier Lagoon


Heading East, you will cross Eldhraum moss-covered lava fields and Skaftafell. At the border of Skaftafell lies the Glacier Lagoon. It is a lake filled with floating ice chunks, some say this is Iceland’s Crown Jewel. It’s difficult to stop watching all the different shapes of the icebergs, one even bigger than the other. In the end, they all have to pass the small river, to enter the sea. Don’t forget to visit the nearby Diamond Beach, where the ice lies on the black sand, glistening in the sun. Nearby the Glacier Lagoon lies a glacier tongue, which is also a recommended spot to visit. Both the Glacier Lagoon and the glacier tongue will look different each and every time you go.

Litlanesfoss and Hengifoss

Egilsstadir
Egilsstadir

Enjoy the drive along the cliffs of Iceland’s East coast when you’re heading north. When you pass Vatternes, you can make a stop-over to visit Petra’s stone collection, if you like stones. Otherwise, continue the drive inland, towards Litlanesfoss and Hengifoss. It’s a 2-hour walk from the parking lot to Hengifoss. You will pass Litlanesfoss halfway. They are magnificent waterfalls, surrounded by colourful and geometric rocks. Hengifoss is one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls, with 118 meter.
After this nice hike, drive back north, towards Egilsstadir to sleep. We can really recommend the cute, wooden tiny houses at Vinland Camping Pot.

Day 3

Drive towards Mývatn. The ring way does not follow the coastline, for a change, but takes you inland. You will pass abandoned farms and desolate land. But don’t forget to look out for waterfalls along the road, there are many.

Dettifoss

Another day another waterfall? Detifoss is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. So take your raincoat with you. The waterfall is over 100 metres wide, and have a drop of over 44 metres, causing heavy mist. Per second an average of 193 m³ water falls down.

Krafla Caldera

Krafla
Leirhnjúkur

Take your mosquito hat with you, when visiting the Krafla Caldera. Not only mosquitoes, but also the smell announces this piece of living earth from afar. It’s a collapsed, but still active volcanic area. The highlights are Leirbotn (the geothermal power station), Víti Maar (a volcanic crater with a green lake) and Leirhnjúkur (steaming sulphuric terrain and multi-coloured lava field).

Mývatn Nature Baths

Mývatn

After seeing the hot water from the outside, it’s time to take a bath. Just on the other side of the mountains lies Mývatn Nature Baths. This bath offers a completely natural experience while enjoying the rocky sceneries surrounding the baths. It has several baths, showers, saunas and a restaurant. What else do you need for your body and mind?

Hverfjall Crater

Near the eastern shore of Late Myvatn lies Hverfjall, a 396-meter high tephra explosion crater. You can walk up the slopes and around the crater’s rim and enjoy the view of the surrounding landscape. The crater has a diameter of 1 KM.

Dimmunorgir

Dimmunorgir
Dimmunorgir

Dimmunorgir lies just next to Hverffjall. It’s a park of unusually shaped lava fields because the lava pooled over a small lake. The water started to boil and formed lava pillars up to several meters in diameter.
Then it’s about time to head north to Iceland’s second largest city Akureyri. Here we’ll have some dinner and a good night of sleep.

Day 4

Whales on backboard!

Whale
Humpback whale

Akureyri is one of the world’s best places to watch whales. So rise and shine early, and make your way to the harbour or the towns a bit north to get on a boat and do some whale watching. Nature is always unpredictable, but during summer, and when it’s not too windy, it’s the best time to spot some giant whales, and also some dolphins.

Driving along the Westfhords

The Icelandic Wesfjords are spectacular. In the most remote location of Iceland, you’ll find gorgeous fjords. It’s also the perfect place to photograph some sheep or horses that live along the road. So enjoy the ride back West.

Hraunfossar and Barnafoss

Hraunfossar
Hraunfossar

Do stop over at the waterfalls. Although you might think you’ve seen most waterfalls, Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are stunning in their own way. Hraunfossar trickles down directly from underneath a lava field.

Reykjavík

church
Hallgrímskirkja

Enjoy a nice dinner in Iceland’s capital Reykjavík. It’s filled with hipster restaurants, cafés, galleries and shops. Make use of the happy hour (just before dinner time), to enjoy an affordable beer and say cheers to making it back to Reykjavík!

Preparation

To do this itinerary, the only thing you need to prepare, next to booking your flight, is to rent a car, book a visit to Myvatn Nature Baths on your third day, book whale watching in Akureyri on your third day, and book hotels in Vík, Egilsstadir, Akureyri and Reykjavik.

Of course, it is important to enjoy your travels and not to be on guard all the time. But you’re more vulnerable when you’re travelling: You’ve all your important stuff with you, you don’t know the local culture and your way, and you have a lot to watch out for. So to help you stay safe we’ve listed our tips and tricks. Most of the time everything will be fine and you’ll have a great time, learning these tips will improve these odds a bit more.

Valuables and Luggage

1. Keep important stuff on your body

The closer you keep your important stuff, the less likely you are to lose it. So, use a money belt, and/or the inside pocket or your front pockets. Try to avoid pockets in the back of your jeans and don’t use rucksacks for storing important stuff like passports, big amounts of money, your wallet and important cards.

2. Don’t hang your jacket over a chair

As said never use your back pockets to store anything of value, you’re begging people to steal it. Also, be aware when hanging a jacket over the chair you’re sitting on, this then becomes an easy target for people sitting behind you. The same goes for bags and purses of course. Also avoid leaving your phone and/or wallet on the table when you’re enjoying your dinner, lunch or a drink.

3. Money belt – multiple wallets

While not everyone likes to use a money belt, some people find it annoying to wear. I feel that it’s a good way to keep your most important items, passports, one bank card and some reserve cash safe. You shouldn’t use it as your main wallet because that is a hassle and makes everybody aware of its position. You should have two other wallets, one ‘decoy’ with only money for a day and some cards. This one you use most of the time and refill in the morning in the privacy of your room, the other you keep in a safe space.

4. Have some emergency cash with you

Always bring some emergency cash with you so you can pay for some food and a place to sleep in case your cards stop working or are stolen. Depending on where you are and where you are from, either bring your own currency or get the local currency. Currencies like US dollars and euros can be exchanged almost everywhere on the planet.

5. Mark your luggage

Suitcases have a generic look to them. To avoid (un)intentional switching, make your luggage stand out. This also makes it less attractive to thieves.

6. Bring a dry bag

Whether you will be actively searching for water adventures or are just travelling around. Having a dry bag secures your valuables against water damage. Many come with water sealed cases for your phone, so you can also take some pictures of your kayaking adventures.

7. Have both digital and paper copies of important documents

Have copies of important documents, at least your ID, so you can provide some proof when your ID gets stolen and you want to get an emergency passport at the consulate. A copy of your insurance can also come in handy in emergency situations. Other things you could copy are your bank card, credit card and driver’s license, to name a few. You can send a digital copy to a friend or relative, so they have some information about you back home.

Digital safety

8. Use a VPN

Although a VPN doesn’t provide 100% security, it adds a layer of security which stops you from being an easy target. So especially if you plan to use open Wi-Fi, use a VPN. It’s also a way to circumvent (social) media censorship in some countries but be aware that using a VPN in those circumstances could be illegal. Check local regulations to know if you can legally use a VPN and then decide whether to use it anyways.

Transport

Bus
Tour bus in London

9. Get the rear-facing seat and wear a seatbelt

Sitting backwards is always safer than sitting forward, e.g. in trains and buses. When the train or bus hits something, you will be pressed against the backrest, instead of flying forward. Also, always wear a seatbelt when they provide one. We don’t understand why so many people don’t use their seatbelt on a bus while they ordinarily would in a car. After we’ve been shown some graphic advisory movies on the bus in China, we always use ours. Also, don’t let taxi drivers dissuade you of using seatbelts acting like it’s an insult to their driving ability. These drivers usually see themselves as Formula One drivers.

10. Don’t relax when you’re using public transport

Always watch your friends, and their belongings, when you use public transport. Although it might seem like the perfect moment to sit back and relax, tourists in these places are the easy picks for thieves. This is especially the case when your mode of transports has a lot of short stops. This is ideal for thieves to hop and hop off with your stuff without you noticing it’s gone before it’s too late.

Precautions

11. Give family/friends your itinerary

Provide friends and family with at least a rough itinerary and keep them updated where you are going. Especially let people know if you plan to go on a solo hike into unpopulated areas. This way people have an idea of where to look for you if you disappear.

12. Learn a phrase to pretend that your local

Sentences like “I live in Moscow” (Я живу в Москве) or “I live in Bali” (Saya tinggal di Bali) or the local equivalent for where you are at the time can help you stay clear of scammers looking for easy prey. It can also help you negotiate a less touristy fare price for taxis.

Taxi in Tehran

13. Have a first aid kit with you

Always have a small first aid kit with you. The exact content depends on where you’re going, but bandages, gauze, tape, scissors, tweezers, pain relief, antibacterial stuff, Imodium tablets and antihistamine cream will come in handy wherever you are. Also, always have sunscreen and water with you. No excuses.

Behaviour

14. Follow your instinct

Sometimes you have the feeling things are not right. Listen to your instinct and stop doing what you’re doing. Even if you don’t have a rational explanation for it. Sometimes your body knows things better than your mind. It’s the trick to listen to those feelings and do something with it.

15. Keep Calm

If things go wrong, try to keep calm. Maybe things turn out better than you expect. It also helps you to react wisely and avoid bigger drama.

Safe travels!

Safety

Are you ready for Japan?

U-erukomu! Are you ready for a modern world in the eastern part of the globe spread out over 6,000 islands? Get ready for an unending journey of temples, pagodas, modern art and high tech. But also neighbourhoods of samurais and geishas, Japanese gardens and a highly organized society? A world of fresh fish, the finest sushi, steaming ramen, tea ceremonies and strong sake? Continue reading about our adventures while travelling the land of the rising sun: Japan!

Save up to 30% off on hotels in Northeast Japan

We spend our honeymoon in Japan, which made this journey extra special for us. This meant: reading many books and watching tons of movies before we dared to visit the country. We wanted to be sure that we were prepared our trip in the best way possible. We hope you can use our information to your advantage!

So, we share our itinerary, made a list of 11 tips for travelling Japan, a blog about food, Tokyo and Kyoto, what to pack, how to prepare and much more…

When to go?

Japan is beautiful in all seasons. Just know that Cherry blossom season is somewhere in March or April depending on the weather and the location. But there are dedicated websites to forecasting when the blossoming will start. But be aware that it will be busier around this time. The same goes for Golden Week, which is a national holiday from the 29th of April to early May. Summers are hot and humid and August is also the time of another public holiday. Autumn colors will start to appear at the end of September in the north, slowly making their way south.

Our Japan itinerary

We had a hard time puzzling the best itinerary for our four weeks in Japan. We wanted to visit as much of Japan as possible. As you know, we love culture, history, art and nature and wanted a perfect combination of this. Since Japan has a lot to offer in all these categories, tough choices had to be made. We like to hear if you have a more efficient itinerary than this one.

WEEK 1

Tokyo Asakusa
Tokyo Asakusa


We flew to Tokyo to start our trip and spend one long day in this big city, visiting museums of Japanese history and Western art, temples and pagodas. Also, we used Tokyo as our base for two-day trips: one to Kamakura, a coastal town packed with temples and Buddha’s and one to the shrines of Nikko.

Next, we explored and crossed the Japanese Alps. We had a pit-stop Nagano; spent a night in Matsumoto to visit its famous black castle and the birthplace of modern artist Yayoi Kusama. We hiked a day in Kamakochi, a popular resort with spectacular mountain scenery. Then, we crossed the Japanese Alps to the west coast. There, we stayed in Kanazawa, home to one of the best landscape gardens of Japan, an impressive modern art museum and a beautiful castle.

WEEK 2

Okunoin cementry
Okunoin cementry


From there our trip continued southwards by bullet train, to visit Osaka a vibrant and modern city; Kyoto, the former Imperial capital of Japan and Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital.
To learn more about the Japanese religion and the art of meditation, we did a tour in the mystical mountains in Koyasan, where we slept in a temple. From Kii-Tanabe we walked the Kumano Kodo, in the footsteps of the pilgrims.

WEEK 3

Naoshima
Naoshima


From the heart of those misty Mountains, it was a substantial train ride back to the inhabited world. We joined civilization again in Okayama to visit its garden and castle. Took the boat across the inland sea to Naoshima, an island bursting with modern art. On the way, we also visited the beautiful, white Himeji castle and Hiroshima with its Atomic bomb museum, and the Miyajima shrine. You know that famous shrine that you see on every Japan brochure.

WEEK 4

Blood Hell
Blood Hell


And from here, the always unpredictable nature of Japanese earth’s crust threw a spanner in the works of the last weeks of our trip. We planned to visit Kumamoto and its castle and from there Mount Aso with its active volcano before we would hit Beppu, the onsen heaven of Japan. However, because of an earthquake, Kumamoto’s castle was partially collapsed and the city was isolated from most train traffic. Also, the volcano of Aso was a bit too active, and therefore, tourists were not allowed nearby. That is why we choose to go to Beppu straight away and spent the two days that we saved on an extra Japanese garden in Takamatsu, a temple in Kyoto and a museum, all the way back in Kanazawa. Also, we visited Nagasaki, to another city hit by an atomic bomb, and also check out Dejima, the Dutch trading post from the 17th-19th century.

Okinawa beach
Okinawa


From Fukuoka, we planned to fly to Iriomote, one of Japan’s tropical islands to finish our trip on the soft and sandy bounty beaches, to snorkel and hike through the jungle of the remote island. However, because of a typhoon, flights and boats were cancelled, which got us stuck on the main island of Okinawa for three days. This gave us all the time to learn the secrets of healthy living from the oldest people in the world, living in Okinawa.

Just before we had to leave Japan, we spent two more days in Tokyo, to make sure we could check all the remaining highlights there and don’t feel too sad to head back to the other side of the world.

To really get to know Russia, you need to interact with the people there. In the end, there is no real substitute for human interaction. But there are a lot of things you can do to make those meetings go smoother, like learning Russian, develop a common frame of reference and study Russian culture and history. Besides enhancing your stay there, it’s also a lot of fun. As Gustave Flaubert said; “Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory.”

How to prepare for travelling to Russia? We gathered a unique list of books, movies, and music that grant you an insight into Russian culture and that will enrich your travels.

The links used are Amazon affiliate links. By buying through the links we may receive a commission for the sale. This has no effect on the price for you.

Movies

Alexander Nevsky (Aleksandr Nevskiy 1938)

The movie Alexander Nevsky portraits the failed Teutonic invasion in the 1241 and the successful resistance organised by Alexander Nevsky. This movie by legendary Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein portrays the early medieval times of Kievan Rus.

Brother (Brat 1997)

This gangster movie portrays the wild west 90’s after the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s a low budget movie which quickly gained cult status in Russia. It was followed by the sequel Brother 2. If you like 90s action movies, this is for you.

Leviathan (Leviafan 2014)

Leviathan is a tragic movie dealing with corruption and love in present-day Russia. The film is set in the Murmansk region in the Artic circle. It’s a great film which will leave you utterly depressed.

Our Own (Svoi 2004)

Svoi is a movie set during the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. It deals with the moral dilemmas of war and the different allegiances of people. This was even harder in the occupied parts of the Soviet Union where brutal life under Stalinist rule was replaced by brutal fascism.

Russian Ark (Russkiy kovcheg 2002)

Are you going to the Hermitage museum or are you not able too? Anyway, watch this movie to marvel at all the wonders of the Winter Palace. The movie is filmed in one take and goes through the cities 300-year history.

Books

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace is the Magnus Opus of Tolstoy and a colossal book. It tells the story of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) from the perspective of the Russian nobility. This novel is grand in its writing and scope. It is especially interesting for those planning to visit St. Petersburg and its many palaces as a big part of the book takes place here.

Apricot Jam and Other Stories – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Apricot Jam and Other Stories is a bundle of stories by Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The stories cover the tumultuous 20th century in Russia. From the Revolution to the Civil War and from the Great Patriotic War (Second World War) to the fall of the Soviet Union. It focuses on the people who are crushed and swept aside by the tides of history. The stories are tragic but also full of dark humour. This book is great to get an overview of the misfortune many people in Russia had to deal with during the previous century and gives some insight into the national psyche it developed.

The Road: Short Fiction and Essays – Vasily Grossman

The Road is another bundle of stories mainly covering the first half of the 20th century, this time written by Vasily Grossman. Vasily Grossman was a war correspondent and wrote first hand reports of many pivotal battles fought by the Soviet Union in the Great Patriotic War. The stories in this book cover the war, it includes the famous ‘The Hell of Treblinka’ a first-hand report of the liberation of the Nazi Death camp. But it also includes fictional stories about live under Communist rule and the hard choices and decisions forced upon its people. A great companion piece to Solzhenitsyn book to help you understand the harsh reality of life in the Soviet Union.

Day of the Oprichnik – Vladimir Sorokin

Day of the Oprichnik is a book that tells a fictional story about Russia in the near future. This dark parody seems to be a satire of present day Russia and the rule by Putin. Read this book because it’s a great work of fiction and also because it will give you an insight into present day Russian politics and its dark machinations.

Memoirs of Catherine the Great – Catherine the Great

Although the Memoirs of Catherine the Great only deal with the time before she became empress, it’s still a very interesting primary source to read. It gives a rare first-hand insight into live at the 18th century imperial Russian court. Read this if you want to know more about the woman who built the beautiful palace outside St. Petersburg and who started the gigantic art collection which formed the basis for the Hermitage Museum.

Music

Leningrad (Rock)

Leningrad makes popular rock music with strong language which celebrates but at the same time parodies contemporary Russian life. Especially their video clips are nice to watch as they play with Russian stereotypes.

Pharaoh (Rap)

Pharaoh is a young an upcoming Moscow rapper. As many rappers, he is mainly concerned with rapping about money and success but with a more nihilistic twists to his songs and videos.

Igor Stravinsky (Classical)

This Russian composer gained fame with his ballets for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Our favourite is The Rite of Spring. Good music to get into Russian Ballet.

Monetochka (Pop)

Monetochka or Liza Gyrdymova, is Russia’s new pop star. The music sounds like what you would expect from 21st century pop music.

Dmitri Shostakovich (Classical)

Shostakovich was one of the most favoured composers of the Soviet regime. Although his relationship with the regime had its highs and lows. He composed ‘Suite on Finnish Themes’ to be played by the victorious Red Army marching through Helsinki. The Winter War was not successful, and it wouldn’t be played until 2001. He dedicated his seventh symphony to Leningrad, the city which would endure the longest siege during the Second World War.

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a still working Orthodox monastery and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. The monastery is the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is situated in the town of Sergiev Posad, about 75 km north from Moscow and part of Russia’s Golden Ring. The monastery is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site under the name ‘Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad’. We reviewed this site to let you know if it’s also an interesting site to visit as a tourist.

History

Sergiev Posad Trinity Lavra
Main square

Russia’s patron saint Sergius of Radonezh founded the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in 1337. Sergius developed the monastery according to his own charter, that specified which supporting buildings were necessary for the development of a monastery. This charter would be used by his followers to found hundreds of monasteries across Russia.

Serbian monks build the first stone cathedral, the Trinity Cathedral in 1422. In 1476 the church of the Holy Spirit was added to the complex. Several other buildings would be added in the 16th century which also saw the wooden palisade replaced by a stone towered wall. This was finished just in time to help the monastery survive the 16-month long Polish-Lithuanian siege in 1608.

In 1559 the building of the Assumption Cathedral started which would take 26 years to finish. It’s the only place where a Russian Tsar is buried, besides the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg and the Moscow Kremlin. The monastery would become one of the wealthiest landowners in Russia and would continue to be that until the end of the 19th century.

In the 17th century churches and buildings continued to be added. This expansion included several palaces and the giant refectory of St. Sergius, the largest hall in Russia at that time. The last major shrine was added in the 18th century by Empress Elizabeth who also commissioned the 88-meter-high bell tower.

Many patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox church are buried in the monastery. It functioned as their headquarter until 1983 when it was moved to the Danilov Monastery in Moscow.

Review

Beauty 4/5

Sergiev Posad Assumption Cathedral
Assumption Cathedral

Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is the embodiment of stereotypical Russian Orthodox architecture. It is colourful with soft salmon pink contrasted by hard dark blues and a range of other colours. The insides are filled with fresco’s leaving no spot untouched. Golden icons stare at you from all directions. The site is extravagant and in good condition. Although the site is over the top, we rate this site a 4 mainly for being so photogenic and pleasing to the eye.

Uniqueness 3.5/5

Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius has an important place in the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s almost on the same level as the Vatican is for the Roman Catholic Church. Apart from this important place in history, the site feels a bit generic. This generic feeling is caused by the fact that most buildings are 18th-20th century restorations aimed to conform to the stereotypes of Orthodox architecture. If you travel the Golden Ring you will see more stunning examples of Orthodox architecture. This results in a score of 3.5 on uniqueness.

Experience 3/5

Sergiev Posad Bell tower


The site is an active monastery and a pilgrimage site. So, catering to tourists, especially international ones, is not the most important function. There are just some signs with the names of the different buildings in Russian and English. The rest of the information you will have to find in a guidebook or on the internet.

Disability:

The complex is accessible by wheelchair. There are smooth brick walkways to make getting around easier for everyone. Sadly, most churches have high stone stairs without ramps. There is a lack of overall signages and there are none for the visually impaired.

Value for money:

Access to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius monastery is free, so the value for money is great.
This all results in a 3 for the experience.

Location 4/5

Sergiev Posad by Night
Sergiev Posad by Night

Sergiev Posad lies 75km north of Moscow, an hour and a half drive if the traffic isn’t too busy. There are several train connections which also take around 1.5 hours. Sergiev Posad is part of the Golden Ring and as such is on many tourist itineraries. So, chances are high that you’ll visit it when you’re on an organised tour of Russia. This results in a score of 4 for location.

Overall rating 3.5/5

The site is photogenic and beautiful, but so are a lot of the other sites of the Golden Ring. The tourist experience isn’t that great because of the lack of information, as is the accessibility of this site. But it’s not that far from Moscow and fairly easy to include in your itinerary especially if you’re doing Russia’s Golden Ring. This all results in an overall score of 3.5