Machu Picchu on a budget all you need to know

If you’re planning to see this particular wonder of the modern world, but you’re afraid it’s going to be too expensive, it doesn’t have to be! Below, you’ll find tips on how to visit Machu Picchu cheap. This trip involves taking a bus, van and walking; you’ll find plenty of agencies selling it in Cusco centre, but not much can be found online – the tour is called Machu Picchu by Car. We didn’t pay for the full tour, but just for transportation as we wanted freedom of choosing our accommodation and length of stay. To make this guide easy to read, I included short breakdown menu:

Before you book your trip to Machu Picchu

Is it safe to go to Machu Picchu by car

When to go to Machu Picchu

How to buy tickets to Machu Picchu

Which ticket to Machu Picchu should I buy

How much will it cost to go to Machu Picchu by car

Before you book your trip to Machu Picchu

This is the cheapest way to visit Machu Picchu, but before you start planning and booking your trip there are few logistic considerations. Here is all you need to know to get to Machu Picchu on a budget.

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Cusco is the closest, major city to Machu Picchu and the one Tours By Car originate from. There’s an airport here, but you’re most likely arrive by coach from Lima or Arequipa. Aguas Calientes is the closest town to Machu Picchu and it’s not accessible by car, only on foot or by train. Hydroelectric Station is where the road to Aguas Calientes ends and the van from Cusco leaves you (around 3pm). From here you’ll walk on and around train tracks to reach the town of Aguas Calientes. It takes around 8 hours on the van and 2 hours walking (3 hours if you count photo stops). The trek is mainly flat, but I recommend you take hiking boots, as it can be muddy; plus stomping on little stones around train tracks will be painful. You should reach the town around 6pm.

As I said, Aguas Calientes is the closest town to Machu Picchu and the one you’ll need to book accommodation in, for at least one night (if you buy the entire tour, not just transport, accommodation will be included). From here, you’ll need to take a bus or walk up to the entrance of the site. Bus costs $12USD one way and takes around 10-15 minutes.

Drivers do not sell tickets; an office is located just around the corner from the bus stop and you can pay by cash or card. If you choose to walk instead, it is steep and will take around one and a half hours.

Is it safe to go to Machu Picchu by car

Accidents don’t happen often, but they do happen. Part of the road is unpaved and in some places very narrow (see video below). Paved part is a single carriage in both directions. Often, the carriage closer to the mountains has obstacles, like fallen rocks and mudslides. Most of the road is full of sharp curves and you’ll be told to take a motion sickness pill not to vomit on the way (buy and take the pill, trust me!).

Around 15 vans went on the day we did. We survived and I would do it again, but if you ask Sara, she probably wouldn’t. Undoubtedly, the train ride will be safer, more comfortable and much more expensive. The choice is yours.

When to go to Machu Picchu

During wet season (December – March), in very extreme circumstances when rain is persistent and heavy, the site may be completely closed. The risk of closure is really small, but nevertheless it can happen. We did it in January and our experience was a little scary – due to heavy rain, a bridge on part of the paved road collapsed a few days before and the van had to cross a river/waterfall. On top of that, we were asked to be at the meeting point to go back to Cusco an hour earlier than normally. The driver explained that the water on that river is “higher” later in the day and it may not be possible to cross, if we go as previously planned.

As you can see, there are some risks associated with wet season, but on the other hand, there are fewer visitors and that will add to the comfort of sightseeing and availability of tickets and transport. We don’t have the experience of dry season, but we read online that tickets are sold out months in advance and queues for Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu bus are so long, you need to wake up at 5am to be able to get there for 7am. The ride takes 10-15 minutes, so we’re talking about an hour and a half of waiting in line.

Again, the choice is yours.

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Machu Picchu, Peru

How to buy tickets to Machu Picchu

Tickets can be bought online, directly via Peruvian Ministry of Culture’s website – https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/inicio.

First you reserve your tickets and are given a number; after that you need to redirect your web browser to payment page, retrieve your reservation using the number you were given and finally pay. Tickets are date and name specific and you’ll need your passport to prove your identity at the entrance. You do not need to be part of a tour, nor do you need a tour guide to visit; everything can be done independently. The website is in Spanish only and we couldn’t pay with Mastercard (Visa only). I’m not sure if Mastercard isn’t accepted at all or this was just a problem we encountered.

Which ticket to Machu Picchu should I buy

There are three different types of tickets available:

Machu Picchu – single entrance to the site of ruins only. Once inside, sightseeing follows a circuit which leads outside the complex. You may take as much time as you wish, but going against the circuit’s direction will not be possible, so no coming back. Once outside you will not be allowed to re-enter.

Machu Picchu with Waynapicchu mountain – two entrances are allowed on this ticket, one to visit the mountain and the other to visit the ruins. When buying this ticket, you’ll need to choose entering Waynapicchu between 7-8 or 10-11 in the morning. Both slots are limited to 400 visitors. Earlier slot will not allow enough time to see the ruins before the mountain climb, so you’ll need to come back. Later slot will allow enough time to see the ruins before the climb, but it is said that the complex is more quite in the afternoon, so it may be a good idea to climb the mountain first and re-enter to see the ruins after. The climb and the view are truly amazing and well worth extra time and money.

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View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Pichu mountain

Note: If you choose to add the mountain to your visit, it will be difficult (may be impossible) to go back to Cusco by car the same day – you may not make it back to Hydroelectric Station in time for pick up. Additionally, you’ll need to organize baggage storage. In this case it’s better to spend another night in Aguas Calientes and not rush your visit.

Machu Picchu with Machupicchu mountain – we did not get this ticket, so I can only assume that same rules, as in case of Waynapicchu, apply and you’ll be able to enter twice; however, this is only speculation. Entrance to this mountain is also restricted to 7-8 or 10-11 in the morning and 400 visitors per slot.

How much will it cost to go to Machu Picchu by car

Machu Picchu + Waynapicchu mountain ticket = US $60

Van from Cusco to Hydroelectric Station = US $23

Lunch on the way to Hydroelectric Station = US $5

Motion sickness pill = US $1.20

2 nights accommodation for 2 people, with breakfast in Aguas Calientes = US $34.48

1 way bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu = $12

1 course meal for 2 people with drink = $16.97

This is the cheapest way we found to travel and see Machu Picchu, but there are certainly other options available. Please come back to see what else we did on our 3 months trip around South America and if you have any questions, send us an email.

Best things to do in Lima

Are you going to spend some time in Peru? Wondering what are the best things to do in Lima? What to see and where to go? Below you’ll find my recommendations of what not to miss in the City of Kings.

As a tourist, you should be based around historic centre of downtown, or upscale district of Miraflores. We’ve chosen the second option and we would do it again, if ever coming back. The neighborhood is safe to walk around, even after dark; there are also plenty of restaurants, bars, etc. You’ll be within walking distance of the Pacific Coast, so make sure you watch at least one of the spectacular sunsets here! As usual, we started with a walking tour, as we would in any city. Here’s a list of best things to do in Lima:

Free Walking Tour

A walking tour will provide some basic information about the city, country and culture, but it will also give you an idea on where to go and what to see. Moreover, guides often share tips, interesting facts, rumors and recommendations not available online. I can highly recommend this particular company – Inkan Milky Way. They have two meeting points (Miraflores and downtown Lima), but both groups will merge into one in the historic centre at the beginning of the tour.

Kennedy Park (Miraflores)

Here you’ll find shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and even young Peruvians battling in rap contests. It’s unofficial centre of the district and a lot of “life” revolves around this place. It used to be famous for the large population of cats living here, but nowadays you may spot only one or two, as authorities removed the animals.

Larcomar (Miraflores)

This huge shopping mall is located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There is a pleasant seating area/park on the roof, which (because of the location) is at street level. Bikers, skaters, pedestrians and even dogs can find a spot to enjoy this place and you can watch a beautiful sunset here. Apart from shops, there are many cafes, bars and pubs and your regular big brands are all here too: Burger King, KFC, GAP and Sunglasses Hut among many others. Sort of a “home away from home”.

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Larcomar shopping centre, Miraflores – Lima

Plaza De Armas (old-town Lima)

The most important square of the city, with the Presidential Palace, main Cathedral and few other impressive and important buildings around. There’s a lovely fountain in the middle of the square and if you’re lucky enough to be here on the 4th Sunday of July, water is replaced with Pisco (Peruvian national alcoholic drink) and you can get drunk for free. Sounds great, doesn’t it?!

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Plaza de Armas, Lima – Peru

Basilica and Concent of Santo Domingo (old-town Lima)

A beautiful church, with amazing history, just few steps from Plaza De Armas. As an added bonus, you may climb to the top of the Bell Tower for panoramic view of the city. Entrance is possible with a guide only and you’ll need to pay 15 Soles. You’ll also need to wait for the next available tour, but I assure you it’s worth it!

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Downtown, Lima – Peru

If you like great views from atop, you’ll love cable car in Bogota. Check out our post about this awesome city here.

Magic Water Circuit (Parque de la Reserva)

After dark, Parque de la Reserva comes alight. Synchronized water fountains, sound system and colorful lights are teamed up to perform a great show for you. Tourists and locals, kids and adults, couples, singles and families quiet down to enjoy 30-45 minutes of extraordinary “ballet”. Some cool pictures can be taken here too! Shows start at 7, 8 and 9pm, every day. Entrance is 4 Soles.

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Magic Water Circuit, Parque de la Reserva, Lima – Peru

For an even better light show, visit Medellin during Christmas. You can read all about it here.

Basilica Nuestra Senora Del Rosario

Some disagree, but nevertheless, this church is considered the smallest in the world by many. Mainly due to the fact it has all the features of a regular sized church. It’s not really a tourist attraction as such, but if you’re in the historic centre of Lima, you may as well have a look, as it’s certainly interesting.

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Basilica Nuestra Senora Del Rosario, Lima – Peru

That’s all for the City of Kings, but be sure to come back soon and read more about Peru. It’s coming soon!

Galapagos on a budget – the ultimate guide

Galapagos isn’t really a destination, which many people would consider cheap and in fact for most of us, including me and Sara, it’s pretty expensive. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most exciting destinations in the world, especially for wildlife; after all it’s claimed 50% of archipelago’s land species and 20% of marine species cannot be found anywhere else in the world. We spend 5, truly magical days here and below I share the most valuable travel tips on how to visit Galapagos on a budget.

To make thing easier to navigate, below is a small menu:

How to get to Galapagos

Getting around Galapagos

Where to stay in Galapagos

What to do in Galapagos

Cost

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Playa Loberia, San Cristobal – Galapagos

 

How to get to Galapagos

There are no international flights to the Galapagos and even if you buy a ticket originating abroad, your final flight to the islands will be from Quito or Guayaquil and you’ll go through immigration and customs in those cities. To get the best deal, we use a combination of 3 flight search engines: Momondo, Skyscanner and Google Flights.

Tip: If you’re traveling with a partner, searching for and buying two single tickets, as oppose to searching for and buying two tickets, may be cheaper – if only one ticket is available at a cheaper price you will not be able to buy it (or even see its price) if you perform a search for two tickets.

If you have some time to spare in Quito, check out Sara’s post: One Day in Quito

Before your flight

Checking in online will not be available at all and prior to doing it at one of the airports in Ecuador you’ll need to obtain the Transit Card ($20 per person). There are designated booths at the airport, where agents issue these cards. Official rules require you to have proof of return flight, accommodation and travel insurance. Although we were asked only for the proof of return flight, I do recommend you have insurance and accommodation booked, as you never know how strict these checks will get in the future. Our stay was via AirBnb with a local host and to make sure there are no problems entering the islands, we also booked a hotel, which we canceled once we got through entry point at the airport. Booking.com is pretty good at offering free, last minute cancellations and this is one of the options I recommend. Tip: hold on to the transit card, as you will be asked to present it when leaving.

Arriving in Galapagos

At the time of writing this post, there were only two airports you could arrive in Galapagos from mainland Ecuador – Baltra and San Cristobal. On arrival, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park: $100 for foreigners from outside of South America and $50 for foreigners from inside the continent (when arriving in Isabela Island you’ll need to pay additional $10).

Baltra is an island where only an airport is located and it’s connected to Santa Cruz via bus and ferry (you cannot avoid taking neither bus nor ferry). Once on Santa Cruz island, you’ll need to take another bus or taxi direct to your accommodation or to one of the towns – unless you have plenty of time and money, Puerto Ayora should be the only town you consider for accommodation, as this is where all tours and boat transportation originate from. Cost: bus from the airport to ferry terminal in Baltra- $5; ferry from Baltra to Santa Cruz – $1; bus from Santa Cruz ferry terminal to Puerto Ayora – $5

Although we did not arrive in San Cristobal, airport is just a short distance from the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and taxi will cost you only $2-$4 (if the driver asks for more, he’s likely taking advantage of you).

Tip: choose Santa Cruz (Baltra) as your arrival point to and San Cristobal as departure point from the Galapagos. That way, you will not need to come back to Santa Cruz, just to fly back to mainland Ecuador, saving yourself ferry ticket ride.

Getting around Galapagos

Walking

You can easily walk from one end of the town to the other in 30-45 minutes. This is true for all three major towns in all three islands on which you can stay: Santa Cruz – Puerto Ayora town, San Cristobal – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno town, Isabela – Puerto Villamil town.

Taxi

In towns and within close proximity, a taxi should not cost more than $2-$3 per ride. As example, I’ll give a ride we took from our accommodation in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal) to Playa Loberia – $3. Tip: always agree the fare before getting in, as taxis do not have meters.

Bus

As mentioned earlier, on Santa Cruz Island, a public bus runs from the airport ferry terminal to Puerto Ayora through towns of Bellavista and Santa Rosa – you may decide to take it, if visiting tortoise reserve – El Chato (details in “What to do in Galapagos” section). On San Cristobal, a bus runs from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, all the way to the highland town of Progreso – there’s nothing of interest there, so you’re unlikely to take it.

Ferry

Most inter-island travel takes place by boat, which takes around 25-35 passengers. A trip costs $30 one way from Santa Cruz to Isabela and from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. There are no direct ferries linking Isabela and San Cristobal islands. Both trips take two to two and a half hours and departure twice a day: Isabela to Santa Cruz 6am and 2pm; Santa Cruz to Isabela 7am and 2pm; Santa Cruz to San Cristobal 7am and 2pm; San Cristobal to Santa Cruz 7am and 3pm. There are plenty of tour agencies on each island, from which you can purchase the tickets.

Taxi boat

Small boats offer rides within the port area and cost from $0.50 to $1. You will need to take one of these to get to your ferry boat, when doing an inter-island travel or a tour.

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Port Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

Where to stay in Galapagos

My recommendation is to stay, AT LEAST, 2 full days in each of the three habitable islands: Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal. This is the minimum you’ll require to appreciate what each island has to offer and it will be difficult to experience it with tours originating from just one island. If you still choose to stay on one island only, Santa Cruz in the middle of the archipelago, will give you the most options in terms of tours.

Residents offer rooms with shared or private bathroom with kitchen facilities, so you can make your meals yourself and not overspend. For even cheaper alternative, there are plenty of hostels, which should have kitchen facilities too. Markets are available in each city you’ll be staying in: Puerto Villamil (Isabela island), Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz island) and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal island).

Tip: AirBnb, Booking.com and Hostelz are your best options for finding accommodation.

What to do in Galapagos

Isabela island

You could probably spend two weeks in this island and not be bored, but let’s stick to budget; here, you’ll find one of the best snorkeling/diving opportunities in the world and I suggest you take full advantage of it. As we did not stay here, we could only do a tour originating from Santa Cruz and little snorkeling we did, resulted in sighting of a sea turtle and few colorful fishes, so don’t make the same mistake we did! Stay in the island, go on a snorkeling/diving specific tour and give yourself a chance to see sharks, manta rays, sea horses and turtles, which are seen by tourists on regular basis.

If you can spare some extra time and money, a boat tour of the harbor area will give you an opportunity to see Blue-footed Boobys and, if you’re lucky enough, Galapagos penguins.

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Tintoreras, Isabela – Galapagos

Tip: there are many other activities available in the island, but similar stuff can be done on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal – these are slightly cheaper to stay and go around.

Tip: at the time of writing this post, there were no ATMs nor a bank in Isabela, so withdraw all the cash you’ll need in Santa Cruz or San Cristobal

Santa Cruz island

As this is the main hub of the Galapagos and most centrally located island, tours from here depart to all other destinations in the archipelago.

Charles Darwin Research Station and Visitor Centre

Located around 10-15 minutes’ walk from Puerto Ayora’s harbor, it’s a work place for many scientists, who are trying to preserve plant and animal spices found in the Galapagos. You’ll find giant tortoise in breading enclosures, here. Entrance is free.

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Charles Darwin Research Centre, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

Playa de la Estacion

On the way to Charles Darwin Research Centre, it’s a rocky beach with just a short stretch of sand, but if you go early enough you beat the crowd, it should be quite pleasant. Its also a good spot to watch the sunset.

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Playa De La Estacion, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

Tortuga Bay

A long (around 1200 meters), beautiful stretch of peaceful, sandy beach. There’s a small, very shallow, sea water enclave, where snorkeling is possible and we managed to see an octopus here. You may walk here from Puerto Ayora and it shouldn’t take longer than 40 min. We took a boat and it was $20 per person to go and come back, plus $0.50 per person, each way for the taxi boat.

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Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

El Chato

A tortoise reserve located near the town of Santa Rosa. It’s like a big park and these giant creatures are totally on the lose! While completing a walking circuit, you’ll also enter three, short lava tunnels. There are no paved paths, but if it’s wet and your shoes are not suitable for this, you can borrow rubber boots here. Please remember that you’ll be entering home of these animals and act respectfully. Authorities of Galapagos recommend to keep a distance of at least 2 meters to any wildlife. Entrance is $5 per person and you’ll get free organic tea or coffee with that.

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El Chato Reserve, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

Tip: if you have time and money, rent bikes in Puerto Ayora, take the bus to Santa Rosa (bikes can go with you) and come back by bike. It’s a really good way to visit this place.

Las Grietas

This is a series of three, pretty deep pools, within a narrow rock formation. Getting from one pool to another, requires crossing some sharp rocks, so I recommend you take your wet-shoes. When we got here, it was really crowded and felt more like a water-park with kids jumping in and screaming; we didn’t see many fishes. To get here, you’ll need to take a water taxi to the other side of Puerto Ayora’s port, which will cost $1 per person each way. After that you’ll need to walk for around 20 minutes, passing through a nice beach – Playa De Los Alemanes. It’s a short, but pleasant stretch of sand and you may spot some manta rays here.

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Playa Los Alemanes, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

San Cristobal

Playa Loberia

Located just 30-40 minutes walk from the port of Baquerizo Moreno, or a $3 taxi ride, it’s a rocky beach with good stretches of sand, as well. Big population of sea lions live here and the young can be very playful and curious. With your snorkeling gear, enjoy an underwater swimming show, but be extremely careful not to touch them, or let them touch you, as your scent can easily make their mother reject them. Some colorful fishes can also be seen in this area.

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Playa Loberias, San Cristobal – Galapagos

Playa Punta Carola

Some rocks here, but mainly sand and, if you’re lucky, you can be bumping heads with a sea turtle while snorkeling. When we were here, a group of 5 of them could be spotted, two at very shallow water, just few steps into the water! Located around 30 minutes walk from the centre of town.

Playa De Oro

This is another beach located very close to the centre of town (only around 10 minutes walk). You can spot some sea lions here and lay down on the sand, but if you short on time, the other two are far better.

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Playa de Oro, San Cristobal – Galapagos

Note: most open air, public beaches and swimming spots are open from 6am to 6pm and park rangers will excuse you after the opening times. Only beaches within town may be occupied after 6pm.

If you like exotic places, check out Sara’s post about San Andres in the Caribbeans 

Cost

Plane tickets – Quito-Baltra + San Cristobal – Guayaquil = $376.70 (per person)

Four nights, double room with private bathroom in Santa Cruz – $111.73

Two nights, double room with shared bathroom in San Cristobal – $43.57

Island entry fee – $100 (per person)

Transit card – $20 (per person)

Baltra airport bus – $5 (per person)

Baltra ferry – $1 (per person)

Santa Cruz bus to Puerto Ayora – $5 (per person)

El Chato tortoise reserve entry fee – $5 (per person)

One day bike rental – $15 (per person)

Bus from Puerto Ayora to Santa Rosa with bike – $1.50 (per person)

Breakfast in a restaurant (average price) – $15 (per person)

Lunch or dinner in a restaurant (average price including drink) – $30 (per person)

Taxi to the airport in San Cristobal – $3

Isabela island tour + ferry ticket – $120 (per person)

Ferry from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal – $30 (per person)

Water taxi from Puerto Ayora to Tortuga Bay (return) – $20 (per person)

Water taxis (per ride, within port area) – around $1 (per person)

Altogether, we spent around $1115 per person for 6 days and you may think that’s not really “on a budget” travel, but cruises of Galapagos start at $1700, excluding flights.

There are many more activities available on and around all 13 islands of the Galapagos, but I tried to stick to budget, so did not include most of them. I hope I gave you enough information, but if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch, as I’m sure you will want to do everything just right here.

That’s not all we experienced in South America. Check out our posts about major cities in Colombia: Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin and Cali.

One day in Cartagena

One of the oldest ports in the Caribbean sea, Cartagena De Indias is certainly worth a visit. Since we only had one day to explore the city, we opted for a free (tips expected!) walking tour and free food tour by Beyond Columbia, whose services we were familiar with, after tour in Bogota. If you do both tours in one day like us, you’ll have a break of 4 hours, from 12:00 to 16:00 and if you decide to have small lunch, we recommend Espirito Santo restaurant – tasty food with budget prices!

Historic part, which is arguably the only one of interest to tourists, can be easily explored in one day; however may not allow for detailed sightseeing, like San Felipe Fortress and certainly not excursions like to Praia Blanca! If you’d like to take full advantage of everything Cartagena has to offer, I recommend 3 days here.

FREE WALKING TOUR

Bolivar Plaza

Apparently every city in Colombia has a square, park or a plaza named after Simon Bolivar, so Cartagena couldn’t be different. It’s a plaesent place with street performers, handmade souvenirs and lemonade sellers and, of course statue of the man himself! Perhaps more interestingly, you’ll find pictures of every miss Colombia embedded into the sidewalk at Calle De la Inquisicion. As the name of the street suggests, “Palace of Inquisition” is on the same street – you’ll find out some horrific facts about, what took place behind its doors on Beyond Colombia walking tour.

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Plaza de Bolivar – Cartagena, Colombia

San Pedro Claver Plaza

At one corner a beautiful church of the man’s name, certainly deserving a photo and few minutes of your admiration. The story of San Pedro Claver and his work is even more admirable. His good deeds earned him the title of patron of slaves; he even became a Saint. His statue, museum of modern art and federal government office can also be found here; some pretty horrible things happen here, but I leave it to be revealed on your tour.

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Pedro Claver Church – Cartagena, Colombia

Peace Square

Monumental clock tower and the gate, make it feel like an official and only entrance into the old town – it may be official, but certainly not the only one. The place is a great photo opportunity, especially during Christmas period, when after dark, colourful lights make it even more picturesque.

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Plaza del Reloj – Cartagena, Colombia

“Camellon” of the Martyrs

Accros the street from modern, Cartagena convention centre, this is where you will meet your guide and group. Also, as the word martyrs indicates, nothing nice could have happened here in the past, but again, I’ll leave the details out not to spoil your future experience.

FREE FOOD TOUR

Ceviche Cartagenero

A sort of, well seasoned prawn cocktail from one of the oldest, street food vendors in Cartagena. It’s roof is decorated with a huge sombrero hat and it holds world Guinness record for Largest Seafood Ceviche. A minute’s walk from the old town, but it doesn’t look like many tourists get to eat here.

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El Sombreron Ostreria- Cartagena, Colombia

Exotic fruits

These were actually smoothies, with many fruits and mixes to choose from. You should definitely find something to satisfy you here!

Carimanolas

Deep fried savoury snacks with variety of sauces to choose from. Sara had a meaty one and I opted for cheese. They were delicious.

Plantain chips

Pretty common these days, even outside of South America; however they came with refreshing juice drink made of a kind of sour berry. Oh and by the way… you get to try the berry too.

That was our busy day in Cartagena. I hope you got some useful tips.

7 days holiday in Montenegro part 3 of 3 – Day trip to Biogradska Gora National park

This is our final post about Montenegro, you can check the other bits here and here

So, despite being relatively small country, Montenegrins enjoy huge landscape’s and climate’s diversities. From warm Mediterranean beaches on the south cost to snow covered mountain tops in the north, it’s a traveller’s “dream come true”. With so many amazing places to visit, we couldn’t simply stay in one spot and not seize the opportunity of exploring.

Soon after arrival at our accommodation, Jet2’s representative offered newly arrived guests to join him for a short presentation. He passed on some useful information regarding the hotel, region we were staying in and the country of Montenegro. In case we wanted to visit more places of interest, he recommended a tour company Kompas (they offer services in many countries, including United States, Great Britain and Germany amongst others). We planned our days around the ideas of seeing as much of the country as reasonably possible and being able to rest. A train/bus tour to Biogradska Gora National park fitted our schedule best and, together with what we wanted to do on our own, allowed us to see the most of Montenegro.

The name of the tour is Montenegro by Train and it was €55 per person, however, we’ve been advised by Jet2 representative that from 2018 the price was raised to €60 per person. A mini-van picks up participants from meeting points near their hotels. As this is likely to be earlier than your dining room opens, the evening before ask at the reception if you can be provided with a lunch or breakfast box – there will be no time for breaks until you reach the country’ capital, so you’ll likely get hungry. First part makes for a scenic drive with views of coastal areas covered in fog alike freshly fallen snow cap. You’ll drop off at the train station in Podgorica, where you may have few minutes to grab something to eat or drink, but don’t count on it, as it depends on traffic conditions. Time will not allow sightseeing here.

 

Old trains are still comfortable and their appearance adds a lot to the charm of the ride. The route leads through mountains, passing through countless tunnels and bridges, offering dramatic views of the surrounding landscape and making you feel like you’re a passenger on The Orient Express. It truly is an experience not to be missed. Make sure you take time to exchange a conversation with your guides, as they will have many interesting facts to share.

When you arrive, same mini-van will pick you up from the station and drive you to the National Park, where you’ll have time to explore an area around a Lake Biogradsko on your own. When we visited, autumn was in full swing blending shades of green, yellow and orange into a beautiful October picture. Together with turquoise colour of the lake, your photos will be a masterpiece! On your way back, you’ll stop for lunch in picturesque Kolasin. The restaurant serves fresh and tasty local food and drinks – make sure to try red, house wine, it’s really smooth.

 

 

On your way back you’ll stop at a Moraca monastery, where you’ll find out a little about this lovely place, as well as some history of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the people of Montenegro. You’ll be following Moraca River with more dramatic views; you’ll stop for pictures at one of them. You’ll also stop by restaurant Jezero at the shore of Lake Shkoder. You won’t have time for a full meal, but they have good variety of cold cakes and awesome coffee, make sure you try. A shop of Plantaze Company specializing in manufacturing wine and brandy is also nearby. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll by passing by Sveti Stefan just in time for sunset. The van driver will stop and let you take some pictures, so makes sure you take advantage.

 

Montenegro can still be considered an uncharted territory when it comes to tourism; this may be because it’s not yet a European Union state, so you’ll still need to go through the process of crossing a border. Budget airlines don’t serve any of the country’s airports and its infrastructure is far from the one of neighbouring Croatia. All the above adds to the charm of this amazing country and if you’d like to experience it while it’s still fairly unspoiled, I suggest you hurry …it’s not going to stay like this for far longer!

We’ll be talking about Budapest soon, so make sure you come back and get more tips for your trips.

Croatia in 9 days

From red roof tops of Dubrovnik, through orange sunset of Zadar, to the turquoise waters of Plitvice Lakes, Croatia is an unmissable destination. There we’ve spent 9 days, in middle of sunny and warm July of 2017. Here’s what we’ve seen and done.
Our journey starts in Dubrovnik – without a doubt, the most beautiful, major city we’ve seen in Croatia. We stayed within the old town, which I highly recommend! If you book in advance, the price won’t be devastating. Oh, and by the way – the food also, isn’t that expensive.
Sunset, seen from the top of Srd mountain is not to be missed and a dinner at the Panorama restaurant (also at the top) is desirable. We took the cable car, which is the most convenient way of getting to the top.
A walk around Dubrovnik walls is an amazing way of seeing the city and its surroundings. The price is acceptable and the views are well worth it.
Details about Dubrovnik are available on a separate post. Check it out here.
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Dubrovnik City Walls
An early morning ferry takes us to the port of Hvar on the island of the same name. Accommodation and food isn’t cheap here, but the island is amazing! We spent two days here, enjoying our time on few lovely beaches, while on a road trip around the island. We ate some really nice food, enjoyed drinks while watching sunset at the Hula Hula beach bar and visited a historic fortress (great sunset here too). You can read all about our visit to Hvar here.
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Dubovica bar
Croatia has many islands and I’m sure every single one has something interesting to offer to travellers. Brac is just a short distance away and has one of the most unique looking beach, not only in the country, but entire Europe – Zlatni Rat. It’s within walking distance from the port and city of Bol, where the ferry from Hvar took us and where we booked our accommodation.
We are suckers for sunsets and the island is home to the highest peak of all Adriatic Sea islands… you know where I’m going with this?! Yes, obviously, we had to go up to see the sun going down! We rented a quad, not only for the trip to the top, but to go around the island, there are many nice places to see. You can read all about our visit to Brac here.
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Vidova Gora
Split wasn’t really high on our “to do” list in Croatia, but the city turned out to be pretty interesting. There’s a nice waterfront area full of tables hidden from the sun under huge umbrellas. These seating areas belong to near by bars and restaurants and we ate in one of them. The prices are inflated and food is of mediocre quality.
Inside, what’s known as Diocletian palace, is Split’s old town full of restaurants, pubs and souvenir shops. Its narrow pathways  make it for a pleasant wander around. The cathedral complex is the main attraction, with top of the bell tower being the most sought after. The view, however, isn’t spectacular.
On leaving Split, we rented a car and made our way to chase one of the most desired sunsets in Europe – the one in Zadar! As you already know, we’re suckers for sunsets and so we watched quite a few. I now consider myself to be a sort of an expert in that area, so trust me when I say: this sunset is well worth a visit to Zadar. Read all about Split and Zadar here.
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Plitvice Lakes was our next stop and what a stop it was! We stayed only one night around the lakes and had only one day to explore, but that is enough to tick of the “must do” here. Views are spectacular and water is turquoise to a point of disbelief. Since the beauty of the park is so overwhelming, any attempt to capture it in words can only be pathetic. I’ll save you reading about it. It really is “you have to see it for yourself” kind of place. Details about our visit to the park are here.
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We came back to Split to return the car, catch our flight home and do one last tour in Croatia, a boat one. The main reason for doing this was to see a blue cave. Unfortunately the sea wasn’t calm enough and we couldn’t do that. Apart from that, the tour was great; we got to visit many beautiful places, which are quite tricky to access on your own. Overall it was well worth the price and I would highly recommend it! Check out details here.
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Budikovac
That was our trip to Croatia. Come back for more tips on trips.

Plitvice Lakes – true wonder and Croatia’s crown jewel!

From Iguazu Falls in Brazil to Vatnajökull Glacier in Iceland, I chose to see a natural wonder over a man-made attraction any time I go on holidays. And Plitvice Lakes certainly deserve a place in a front row of natural wonders! I know it sounds like a strong statement, but if I could only see one thing in Croatia, that would be it!IMG_7641

Split – Zadar – Plitvice Lakes

We rented a car in Split, drove to Zadar for the Sunset and then to Plitvice Lakes. Croatian drivers are skilled and roads are in good condition, so you don’t have to have any concerns about driving there. You will be on the right side of the road, but even if you normally drive on the left, it will not be difficult to switch, trust me! Depending on traffic, total journey time will be 3 and a half to 4 hours.IMG_7646

Accommodation

The whole area surrounding the lakes is full of all types of accommodation, so you should have no problem finding something suitable. For best rates do some research and book in advance. We compare prices using Tivago, KAYAK and Booking.com. Saving can be as much as £10 per night. You may get even better deals if you create an account (especially with Booking.com).

We stayed at House Dado, a lovely little guest house, just a short drive from the first entrance to lakes area of the park. As it was only 1 night, we didn’t have time to enjoy its garden, patio and barbeque area. We arrived really late and left early the next day, but from little interaction we had with one of the owners, they are very pleasant and speak good English. I can recommend staying there without hesitation. 1 night at House Dado was €60 (via Booking.com).IMG_7571

Overview

The entire area of the park (297 square kilometres) is huge in comparison with tiny fraction, which forms the “lakes part”. This small section is divided into two walking “lops” and each of them has its own parking lot. There is one entry ticket, which covers both of these paths, but you cannot access one from the other on foot. None of them is worth seeing more than the other and you should make sure you have enough time to cover both! Having said that, if you’re not planning to explore the park in depth, one day is enough to see everything that’s considered a “must do” – the lakes part! Make sure you follow the weather reports, dress appropriately and pack plenty of water, especially if you plan to hike in other sections of the national park.IMG_7654

Entry

We visited in July, but judging from pictures available online, the park is just as beautiful in spring and summer as it is in autumn and winter. Depending on time of the year, not only the beauty of the park will change, but entry prices will be significantly different too! In July and August tickets are the most expensive throughout the year (slightly cheaper for entry after 4pm). We had no choice, but to be there as early as possible, so we paid the higher price, but if you have time, it may be a great idea to visit the park in late afternoon and take advantage of cheaper entry fee. If you plan to visit the park on 2 consecutive days, you’ll save some money buying a 2 days ticket. Refer to the official website for up to date prices and types of entry: https://np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/. Expect crowds at all times! We paid 250 KUNA per person visiting in July and before 4pm.IMG_7619

 

Parking

No, unfortunately parking isn’t free neither. If you visit during the summer, try to arrive early and find a spot in a shade, otherwise your car may feel like a sauna after you back from exploring the park. 1 hour of parking was 7 KUNA.

 

Food and drink

There are few restaurants and cafes with good selection of snacks and drinks. Just as one may expect in any prime location, prices are inflated accordingly. Weather permits, my advice is to take a blanket and prepare a picnic basket for your visit; have your meal outside, taking advantage of beautiful surroundings.IMG_7659

Attractions

Whenever anyone brings up “The bluest water, I’ve ever seen…” conversation, Plitvice Lakes always pops up in the discussion and there is a very valid reason for that: it’s the bluest water I’ve ever seen – for real!!!

There are 16 lakes and you’ll get to see all of them just by having walked through the two “lops”. Be aware that one of them includes a short (5-10 minutes) boat ride. If you are not up for that, you’ll need to walk back, as the ride is part of that lop. Have in mind that the water on the lake is the calmest you could imagine, making it one of the safest rides you could ever have.

 

That’s it for now and I hope you enjoyed it! Come back soon to read about the boat trip we took from Split.

What to do in 2 days in Liverpool

Arguably the second most important tourist city to visit in England. Birth place of the Beatles and the idea and design of the most famous ship in world’s history, The Titanic (the ship was built in Belfast). Here’s a two days itinerary to the pop music capital of the world.

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Where to stay?

Liverpool is expensive and even staying outside of the city centre will be pricey. If at all possible, I recommend getting a bunk bed in a hostel, but if privacy is of importance, head to Airbnb or Trivago and chose a place with good public transportation links (http://www.merseytravel.gov.uk). We drove to Liverpool from Edinburgh and free parking was a must for us. For that reason we stayed at Gateway B&B, which I cannot recommend. We were there for only one night and paid £68.31.

What to see?

The most of Liverpool’s waterfront, from Canning to Queen’s dock, is worth a stroll around, but Albert Dock is absolute must see! Lined with cafes, pubs, restaurants and souvenir shops, with boats docked around, it makes a perfect spot for taking photographs.

The Beatles story museum is definitely worth visiting even if, like me, you’re not a fan. The story of the most famous band in the world is revealed, as you move around the rooms designed to bring you closer to the characters and events.

We took part in a Secret Liverpool walking tour, which was very much alternative to a standard walking tour. You get to hear about some (not so proud) history of Liverpool’s businessmen, as well as some graffiti’s hidden meaning. I had a really great time and can recommend that without hesitation. Although she still enjoyed it, Sara wasn’t as thrilled, as me.

Liverpool’s Cathedral is a spectacular building and the largest religious one in whole of Britain. The interior is as impressive as exterior and there’s a possibility of going all the way to the top to enjoy the views. Primarily, this was the reason we went there in the first place, but due to an event taking place inside, we couldn’t go to the top. Another “most see” for The Beatles fans is the Cavern, one of the pubs where the band played when they first started. The music wasn’t really to our liking, so we moved to a pub next door, where a young artist played and sang some popular covers.

Where to eat?

As we were on a budget, we did visit quite a few McDonald’s and Burger Kings; however we also ate quite amazing meal at Viva Brazil. It’s a classic rodizio, which has a buffet and serves grilled meat to your table.

So here is what I consider essential to be seen in Liverpool. Stay tuned for more travel tips.