Location: Italy Type: 3 day trip; historical landmarks; Italy Suitable for children: yes
What can one see on a 3-day vacation in Rome with a toddler? In our previuos post we paid attention to the planning of the trip. And in this, we will tell you about the beautiful sights that we managed to enjoy in the capital of Italy.
As already mentioned, all the interesting landmarks are situated in the center within walking distance from each other. So you have to choose a starting point (ours was Piazza Venezia) and keep walking. You surely are going to see much more than you`ve planned. In Rome everything is sehenswürdig, as the Germans would say.
Rome, day 1
Piazza Venezia – Largo di Torre Argentina – Piazza Navona – The Pantheon – Trevi Fountain – The Spanish Steps
We landed in Rome early in the morning – at 8 a.m., and thank god for having arranged shuttle service in advance. I’m not quite sure that after I had to got up at 4 o’clock in the morning, my brain would function properly to arrange anything else.
My first impression of Rome is how different the greenery is – the high and graceful Italian stone pine trees give extra aristocracy to the exquisite Eternal City and its surroundings.
After we got settled and refreshed, we embark on our first adventure around the city. For that day, given the few hours of sleep due to the flight, I had planned a casual walk through the historic center. We arrived at Piazza Venezia and enjoyed for the first time the splendor of Rome. And met our very first crowd of tourists.
Situated at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, next to the Forum of Trajan, Piazza Venezia is not a pedestrian area and the traffic around is massive. It`s worth it, however, to climb the stairs to the Venetian palace (formerly the Embassy of Venice in Rome) and to look closely at the statue of King Victor Emanuel II, situated in front of the palace. The view from above is quite splendid. Soon we realized that this is customary for Rome. Wherever you go, wherever you look, you are greeted with beautiful buildings, squares, statues.
We took a great deal of pictures of the surroundings and headed to Piazza Navona. Quite by chance, we came to Largo di Torre Argentina. This, according to the latest archaeological discoveries, is the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed.
Next was Piazza Navona. The most remarkable part there is the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Created in 1651 by Bernini on a commission by Pope Innocent X, the fountain is simply magnificent. It consists of four male figures that symbolize the four rivers: Nile, Ganges, the Danube and the Rio de la Plata.
Our next stop was the Pantheon, which could be entered without paying an entrance fee. It was built on a commission by Hadrian between 188 and 125 BC on the site of an earlier temple and in honor of the Roman gods. The building is in excellent condition, thanks to renovations from the time of the Byzantine Emperor Phocas, when in 609 it was converted into a Christian church. During the Renaissance era, prominent people were buried here, including King Victor Emmanuel II, Humberto I and the artist Rafael and his fiancée.
Today one can walk through the impressive building and admire the different eras that have left their mark. The most interesting part for me was the dome in which center lies an open circle called the oculus or the Eye of the Pantheon. Through it comes natural light and water when it rains. I`ve read that it is a very interesting sight. The water drains without any problems thanks to a drainage system built on the floor.
We walked around the Pantheon and then headed to the next emblematic sight of Rome – the Trevi Fountain. We passed through large boulevards and narrow streets typical for Italy, and accidentally came across Venchi – the best Gelato I’ve ever tasted. Our attention was first drawn by a long queue, and then we spotted the chocolate fountain wall. It was definitely worth the 20-minutes wait, and the prices were not high for Rome – two balls in a waffle cone, dipped in liquid chocolate and nuts, cost 4.70 euro.
Fueled with energy, we met the view of one of the world’s most famous fountains – Trevi (named after the three streets connecting on the square on which it`s placed).
Built in 1762 by Nicola Salvi, the first impression here is that you can barely get to the fountain, let alone throw a coin and wish to come back to Rome. The tourists are in huge crowds and it`s quite understandable – the sculptural scene, made by Pietro Bracci, is infinitely beautiful. In the center is the god Neptune, and on both sides are two female figures, symbolizing abundance and health. If you are lucky or you visit the fountain in the early or late hours, you may have the opportunity to capture it without having a random tourist in your pictures.
On our list, after the Trevi Fountain, we had one last landmark to visit this day – the Spanish Steps – another popular tourist destination in Rome. Build with funds donated by French diplomat Étienne Gueffier in 1723-1725, the nearly 140-steps staircase connects Piazza di Spagna with the Trinità dei Monti church on the top of the hill. At the foot of the stairs is the Barcaccia fountain, and around the square are the boutiques of famous fashion brands – Gucci, Prada, Versace. The Spanish Steps are a really attractive place for tourists, so if you want to take a nice picture, visit them in the early hours.
Rome, day 2
Vatican city – Castel Sant`Angelo – Villa Borghese
That day of our stay in Rome was quite rainy. It was a fortunate chance that I had booked the tickets for the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel namely for this day. As I`ve mentioned in the previous post, it`s best to buy online skip the line tickets from the official site so you could avoid waiting.
After we walked around the impressive St. Peter’s Square in front of the basilica of the same name, we headed for the entrance of the museums.
Vatican officials are located everywhere around the square and give directions how to get to the entrance. They warned us that if we then want to enter the basilica (whose entrance is free), we will have to go back to the square and stand on the queue. Or buy a skip the line ticket and go directly to the basilica from the museums. We didn`t take advantage of this offer. The crowds in the Vatican museums are huge, and we`ve decided not to bring our daughter in. So she stayed with her father at home, and we didn`t want to leave them waiting for us longer than planned. However, if you have more time available, it`s best to buy skip the line ticket for the basilica as well.
The first museum we visited in the Vatican was the Gregorian Egyptian Museum. It did not impress me much because I had already seen such artifacts in the British Museum years ago. The crown of the exhibition is an Egyptian mummy, which seemed to me rather creepy.
Then we went through the galleries painted by Raphael and to the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s famous frescoes on the ceiling. Various exhibits – sculptures, tapestries, geographic maps, are scattered across the many museums along the way. To see all, you have to walk 8 km. It`s best to get an audio guide at the entrance – so you will determine your own pace of movement and you will know where you are and what you see.
Keep in mind that the crowds in the Sistine Chapel are really formidable. It`s forbidden to take pictures and staff members closely observe everyone and urge you not to stand in one place so that the next tourists can enter the Chapel. We enjoyed the marvelous sights as long as we could, and then we made a mistake. Instead of going for the exit of the Chapel, we poured into a stream of tourists with tour guides on the way to the basilica. Nobody stopped us, but later I read that staff members generally doesn`t allow this if you haven`t paid for a tour guide. So we found ourselves directly at the entrance of the basilica. And we would have walked around it but we had to go back to rest of the group.
Our next stop this day was Castel Sant`Angelo. Originally the castle was build as a mausoleum for Hadrian, then became residence of the popes and storage for their values, as well as a prison. Today it`s a museum that keeps a variety of interesting exhibits.
We thought that our daughter won`t like the idea of touring around. So we took pictures of the building from the outside, as well as the beautiful statues on the bridges over Tiber.
If it wasn`t raining, we would include in our program for this day and a walk around Villa Borghese and eventually the zoo, located there. Unfortunately, the weather was very instable, and we didn`t want to risk soaking. In fact, in the vicinity of Villa Borghese you can see many more things – Villa Medici and Villa Borghese Gallery. The park itself is also worth touring, but as I have already emphasized – in good weather.
Rome, day 3
Capitoline Hill – Roman Forum – Palatine Hill – The Colosseum – Trastevere
On the third day of our vacation, it was time for us to walk around ancient Rome. Our tour started with the Capitoline Hill – one of the seven hills of Rome and the one where all started. According to the legend, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus were suckled by the Capitoline Wolf on this hill.
We climbed the stairs designed by Michelangelo towards the hill. In fact, the entire square of the hill is designed by the great artist commissioned by Pope Paul III. At its center is the statue of Emperor Mark Aurelius (a copy of the only horse statue remaining from the antiquity), and three palaces, now converted into Capitoline Museums. For 15 euro one can enter the oldest public museums in the world (dating back to 1471), and can see many interesting exhibits. Among them are the original of the statue of Mark Aurelius, the statue of the Capitoline Wolf and many other works of art from Ancient Rome and Greece, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
We could not fit the Capitoline Museums in our program because we had a lot of things planned for that day. But if you have more time in Rome, the museums are definitely worth visiting.
After exploring the Capitoline Hill, we walked down the hill and found ourselves near the entrance of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Despite the valuable tips we shared in the previous post, we haven`t bought online skip the line tickets for this sights and had to wait 1 hour to enter. This is a mistake we recommend you not to repeat – the price difference is ridiculous – instead of 12 euro* the skip the line ticket is 14 euro but it saves valuable time in Rome. No matter how you get it, the ticket gives you access not only to the Forum and Palatine Hill, but also to the Colosseum (but you have to specify the exact time you want to enter the Colosseum).
The tour of the oldest square of ancient Rome, set in a valley between the hills of Palatine, Capitoline and Esquiline, was worth the whole wait. Over the centuries, here have risen temples of Roman deities and triumphal arches of emperors, and more recently basilicas. Today, there are mainly columns and stone blocks left from its former majesty, but the place is so picturesque that it is worth walking around. Keep in mind that the flooring is a combination of gravel and stones and pushing a baby stroller would be a challenge. If you are with a baby or a toddler, it will be best to bring a baby carrier. And prepare yourself with comfortable shoes.
Signs will take you up the path to Palatine Hill, which reveals an incredible panorama. According to the legend, it was on this hill where Romulus founded the city that bears his name – Rome. Later emperors started building their palaces here, the first palace was that of Augustus. In some of the more preserved buildings on the hill, including his house, you can see frescoes dating back 2000 years.
After strolling around everything of interest here, one have to leave the Forum and queue to enter the Colosseum, which is located in close proximity. Since we have already purchased a ticket, the entry didn`t take long. We displayed the tickets, passed the security check and found ourselves under the remarkable columns of the ancient arena. Its construction began in the years 70 and 72 by emperor Vespasian and was completed in the 80’s by Titus. Used for spectacular gladiator games, it once accommodated up to 50,000 viewers. Today, one of Rome’s main symbols has been partially destroyed by earthquakes over the centuries, but it`s still extremely impressive.
If you are with a baby or toddler: the pavement in front of the Colosseum is in the form of huge stone blocks with space apart. Moving with a stroller will be difficult here, but once you enter the building, there are no problems. Lifts are available to help get to the second floor and take a tour around the amphitheater.
In our program, after the Colosseum, the agenda was lunch. We had decided that for this purpose we would visit the artistic heart of Rome, the Trastevere neighborhood. Tram 3, which stops near the Colosseum, took us there in 15 minutes. Picturesque narrow streets, cozy restaurants and small souvenir shops are scattered all around the area.
Tired of walking the whole day, we sat at the first restaurant we came across – Ombre Rossé, near the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, and this decision turned out to be extremely good. The pizza was superb, and the service was excellent. They gave us a chair for the baby, and brought color pages and pencils.
If you have the opportunity (or in other words, you are in Rome without a child), you could also check the nightlife in Trastevere. The neighborhood boasts many bars where one can have a drink or two..
Our vacation in Rome with a toddler turned out quite perfect. We certainly didn`t manage to visit all the landmarks and beautiful sights of the Italian capital. There is no way this could happen in just 3 days. But that’s just a reason to come back to Rome…
* The Italian media reported in early April 2019 that the entry fee for the Roman Forum, Palatine hill and the Colosseum will be raised on November 1, 2019 – instead of 12 euro, the regular ticket will be 16 euro. The price increase will be accompanied by a new “smart” entry system, which is expected to reduce waiting queues. Whether it will, only time will show.
Location: Italy Type: 3 day trip; travel tips; Italy Suitable for children: yes
A huge preparation took the first plane trip with our little daughter – our 3-day vacation in Rome with a toddler. But it was worth it. Not only because Rome is an amazing city and surpassed all our expectations, but also because we shared this experience with our child. Sure, in years, she will probably not remember she once visited the Eternal City. But I believe that traveling is able to feed the soul not only of adults. And the new beautiful sights we`ve enjoyed during the three days in Rome definitely impressed her. Not to mention that, quite like an Italian, she now says “chao” on every occasion.
3-day vacation in Rome with a toddler
I decided to organize our vacation in Rome myself. I looked at the various flight options on Google flights and searched for an Airbnb apartment. Our tours around Rome were fast and easily planned with the Visit A City application. It allows you to set the length of your stay in a city of your choosing by adding different landmarks each day. You can set your starting position (address of the hotel or apartment you are staying at) and departure time, and the app will show you how to get to the different sights (on foot or with transport) and how much time it will take you. It also provides brief information about each landmark, which is also very convenient. More on how to organize your trip yourself you can read here.
We used a stroller around Rome for the little one – in the historic center the ground is with paving stones and overcoming them isn`t a big problem. In the Roman Forum and in front of the Colosseum however is more difficult to move with a stroller – the flooring there is respectively gravel and huge stones with distances between them. If you have a baby carrier, you would be more comfortable with it visiting these places. In the stroller, however, the child can sleep when it gets tired, so we chose this option.
I strongly recommend to everyone, whether with a baby or a child or not, to buy online tickets for the landmarks in Rome, especially for the Vatican, the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. They are a bit more expensive* – for the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel the regular ticket (without a tour guide) is 21 euro instead of 17, and for the Roman Forum, Palatine hill and Colosseum (these three are entered with one ticket) is 14 euro instead of 12. But they are skip the line tickets – instead of queuing, you enter very quickly. And the queues are really impressive in Rome, even out of season. We thought it`s better to pay a few euro more, but to save valuable hours in tedious waiting of our short 3-day vacation Rome. However, you have to choose the time of your visit to the landmarks and to be right on time. Which is not bad from an organizational point of view.
The flight to Rome
I chose for us to fly to Rome from Sofia, Bulgaria with Ryanair, because at first glance it seemed cheaper. However, after paying for 20 kg checked luggage, for regular hand luggage (the company policy allows only one small free bag in the plane), reserved seats and a pre-check, the tickets turned out roughly the same price as those of Bulgaria Air. Everything went surprisingly smoothly (I had not flown before with Ryanair and I`d read many negative reviews). But honestly, next time I would choose Bulgaria Air – at least, because the seats are more comfortable. Also, the flights are set at a better time than those of Ryanair – our take-off flight was at 6:40 a.m., and on return – at 8 o’clock in the morning.
How did our daughter experience her first flight?, you would probably ask. She behaved extremely well. Since she is not 2 years old yet, she was sitting in my lap during the flight and was worried only slightly when the plane took off and then when landing. There is an option to buy a separate seat for the child with a discount, but for an hour and a half to Rome I decided that it makes no sense. Ryanair allows you to bring on board a baby bag of up to 5 kg free of charge (with baby items only – food, water, clothes, diapers) and you can get to the plane staircase with a stroller (then the staff takes it and it`s waiting for you when you leave the plane). You don`t have to pay anything for the stroller, and you can take another item free of charge on board – a folding baby cot or a baby car seat. In fact, most airline companies provide this comfort to their little passengers – just check out before booking.
The big dilemma where to stay in Rome was whether to choose the center (where prices are much higher) or a neighborhood nearby, and to use public transport. I found a pretty decent apartment while browsing AirBnb – less than 2 km from the Vatican and at a reasonable price, and the decision was made. It turned out to be extremely good. The apartment was spacious enough for all of us (we traveled not only with our little daughter, but aslo with both grandmothers plus an aunt): 3 bedrooms (two with one double bed and one with two beds) and 2 bathrooms, kitchen with everything needed, a dining room and 3 balconies . The only drawback was that one of the rooms – with the separate beds – was once probably a closet, and is with a very small window. But if you are visiting for a short period and don`t intend to stay all the time inside of the apartment, there is no big drama. The biggest plus of the apartment is that it`s located in a nice and quiet neighborhood, in a very convenient location – minutes from the public transport, the busses are quite regular and it will take you to reach any point of interest in Rome for 15-20 minutes.
Now is the time to mention our hosts. They were very kind and they arranged for us shuttle service with baby car seat from and to the airport for 60 euro in direction. The apartment had a baby chair and a baby cot, so the little one was equipped with all amenities needed for a comfortable stay.
Keep in mind that wherever you stay in Rome – a hotel, a rental apartment or a house, you have to pay a tourist tax of 3.50 euro per day at check-in.
The public transport
All historical sites in Rome are concentrated in the city center within walking distance from each other. Our starting point was Piazza Venezia – the last stop of bus 916 we were traveling with. On the first day, we headed north of the square and got to see the incredibly beautiful fountains of Rome, the Pantheon and the Spanish stairs. On the third day we headed south from the square to visit the Capitoline hill, the Roman Forum, the Palatine hill and the Colosseum. The second day was planned for the Vatican tour and the bus left us just outside St. Peter’s Square.
We traveled with standard tickets, valid for 100 minutes on all buses allowing transfer, or for one Metro ride. The price of this thicket is 1.50 euro. The 24-hours ticket for all public transport is 7 euro, the 48-hours ticket is 12.50 euro and the 72-hours ticket is 18 euro. We chose to use 2 standard tickets a day – one to the center and one back home, instead of buying whole day tickets. This turned out quite a reasonable decision because we didn`t have to use any more public transport.
There is also the option to buy a so-called Roma Pass which allows you to ride all public transport plus free access to one or two landmarks, as well as discounts for many other. Included in the Roma Pass are the Colosseum and the Borghese Gallery, for example, but not the Vatican. The price for 2 days with 1 free entrance is 28 euro and for 3 days with 2 free admissions – 38.50 euro. Since we were in Rome for the first time, with a toddler, we decided that we won`t be able to make the most of the Roma Pass discounts. Honestly, I don`t know if otherwise it would also make any sense to buy it. In just three days, one can not visit all possible sights.
I read that one should avoid restaurants in the center of Rome – firstly, because the prices are higher, and also because the food is not so tasty. The very first day in Rome, weary of our early flight, we were confronted with the rightness of this statement. We sat down to have lunch at a restaurant located on a main street near Largo di Torre Argentina, where neither the service nor the pizza were anything special. Did not repeat this error. We were most pleased with a small restaurant in Trastevere – Ombre Rossé, where the staff was extremely kind (and provided a baby chair, as well as coloring pages and pencils), and the pizza was divine. But wherever you choose to dine, the prices are all the same. The pizza and pasta are about 10 euro, the beer – 5 euro. You could enjoy a glass of Chianti at the same price. In the supermarkets you can find great fresh pasta for about 2-3 euro a packet, as well as a huge variety of cheese and salami at a decent price. Wines are ridiculously cheap – they start from 3 euro a bottle.
This post has become too long! So you`ll find the details of what we`ve seen on our 3-day vacation in Rome with a toddler in out next post.
* The Italian media reported in early April 2019 that the entry fee for the Roman Forum, Palatine hill and the Colosseum will be raised on November 1, 2019 – instead of 12 euro, the regular ticket, bought on site, will be 16 euro. The price increase will be accompanied by a new “smart” entry system, which is expected to reduce waiting queues. Whether it will, only time will show.
Location: Greece Type: 1 week trip; island vacation; Greece Suitable for children: yes
Days have passed since we`ve come back home from Samothraki and I still can`t shake the blissful calmness that caught me there. Everything on this island – the nature, the places, and the people makes you feel relaxed and enjoy the moment.
The small Greek island is located in the northern Aegean Sea. To reach it one has to take the ferry from Alexandroupoli. You`ll see no crowds on the beach or big hotels, there are no clubs or nightlife either. Just an endless coast line, the bluest water, pink and purple flowers, olive trees and many, many goats. I`ll get back to the goats later. Above all is mount Saos, the highest mountain on an island in the Aegean Sea. Legend says that Poseidon watched the Trojan War from its highest peak.
Nowadays Samothraki is popular not so much with the Greek goods, but with the young people who stay at the camp sites. They come here for the same reason that attracts all tourists to the island – Samothraki will offer you not only the option to relax on pristine beaches, but also hiking in the mountain, enjoying some beautiful waterfalls and the healing waters of the hot springs. Not to forget that the infamous winged statue of the goddess Nike, displayed in the Louvre, was found here. A replica of the sculpture is shown in the local History museum. And you can visit the Sanctuary of the great gods where the statue was originally placed. Now, let`s take a walk around Samothraki…
We stayed in the village famous with its hot springs, located on the north side of the island. Unfortunately, the thermal baths were closed during our stay. But that`s just another reason for us to come back. The village is small, but has various places to eat or enjoy some drinks. There are also two supermarkets where you can buy everything you may need. You can reach the beach within a 10-minutes walk, nearby is the beginning of the path to mount Saos and the waterfalls are also not far away.
Samothraki will offer you different kind of scenery to sunbath and enjoy the crystal clear waters. The most famous beaches are:
This is the only sandy beach on the island, located on the south side. You can have lunch in the restaurant next to the beach (the fish was very delicious) and relax on a sunbed on the sand – it`s free if you order a drink.
Grab something to eat and drink if you plan to visit this wild pebbly beach, located on the east side of the island. There are no restaurants or bars there but the view is really worth it and the water very calm and clean.
This was the nearest beach during our stay and most of the days we chose to sunbath there. The beach consists of small pebbles, there are two bars where you can grab a drink and lie down on a sunbed.
Fonias gorge and waterfalls are located on the north side of the island. The river flows down from the mountain and forms small and large waterfalls and pounds. Have in mind that the water is chillier that the one in the sea. But it`s also very refreshing.
You`ll have to park your car on a small parking lot and hike up the mountain. The path to the first waterfall is easy, we`ve reached it with our baby daughter. You have to be prepared with good shoes and stamina to reach the next two waterfalls. Keep in mind that it could be dangerous – during our hike some other tourists got in an incident (we didn`t found out what happened) and an ambulance was called.
The mountain covers the whole island and it`s the first thing you will see from it in the distance, approaching with the ferry. Its highest peak Fengari rises to 1,611 m. we didn’t have an opportunity to climb it as we were on a vacation with our baby daughter. Some other tourists told us that the path uphill is hard so be sure to be prepared.
The small and picturesque capital of Samothraki will enchant you with its traditional houses, tiny streets, cozy taverns and a majestic view to the sea. There are also many shops where you can buy interesting souvenirs – like soap made from goat milk.
Sanctuary of the great gods
The site dates back to 7th century B.C. and is the place where the winged statue of Nike was found in 1863. It`s also the place where the parents of Alexander the Great – Macedonian king Phillip II and the Epirote princess Olympias, first met. According to Plutarch this happened during an initiation into the mysteries of Samothraki. Today, there are a few columns and a lot of rocks left from the sanctuary where once the ancient people worshiped their gods and took part in mysterious rituals. More about the history of the site you can learn here.
There are approximately 100 000 goats on the island and 3000 people. So goats are a common sight. In fact, they are everywhere – near the beach, in the mountain, on the roads. That`s the reason that most of the restaurants offer various dishes with goat meat. And the local cheese and milk are very delicious.
Rania Studious and cafe
And now some words for our hosts from the Rania Studious – Panos and Maria, who are the nicest people. Their place is located in the center of Therma. They`ve welcomed us with some delicious sweet treats from their cafeteria (where they also make great espresso and the best pizza on the island) and offered us many helpful tips during our stay. We`d love to come back to Rania Studios not only for the perfect location, the spotless rooms or the hospitality of Panos and Maria, but also because they are genuinely good people.
We had some adventures on the island and they didn`t hesitate to help us. Long story short – our car got stuck on a dirt road because the GPS got us lost and then our friends lost one of their three dogs while we were hiking to the waterfalls. Panos helped us more than once – he pulled our car out with his jeep, and also printed some lost dog ads for our friends. Fortunately, we found the dog and had enough time to enjoy the rest of our vacation. So if you plan to visit Samothraki, be sure to at least stop by their cafeteria and treat yourself with some tasty donuts with honey or with traditional baklava.
Location: Balkans Type: 1 week trip; road trip; Montenegro Suitable for children: yes, but babies and toddlers may find the road trip a bit tiresome
Montenegro was on our to-do list for some time, so this summer we’ve decided to finally visit it. It was so worth it! The tiny country on the Adriatic cost is simply enchanting. The majestic mountains end in the sea and everywhere you look, you encounter picturesque views.
Heading for Montenegro, we got the idea to visit Croatia, Montenegro’s neighborhood country, too. The plan was set and we embarked on our south-east European adventure.*
This was our first stop, travelling from Bulgaria to Montenegro by car. We decided to stop for rest and lunch in Emir Kosturica`s little town in Serbia, close to the border with Bosna and Herzegovina.
According to the information from internet the director build the town for a movie he was filming back in the early 2000s – Life is a Miracle. He even won an award for the town in 2005 – the Philippe Rotthier European Architecture award.
Drven grad, also known as Küstendorf and Mećavnik, is indeed really beautiful. Set high in the mountains, all the buildings in the town are made from wood (“drven” means wooden translated from Serbian), the name of the streets bear the names of famous people (like Nikola Tesla, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Diego Maradona, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman) and the altogether feeling is of peace and relaxation.
High and majestic mountains welcomed us in Montenegro. It’s no wonder that the name of the country means black mountains – they are everywhere and they are really impressive. The most impressive part is the bay of Kotor, so when we were planning our trip we knew that we’d want to rent a house there.
We stayed at Zelenika village, next to Herzeg novi – in a beautiful old stone house in the mountains, with a lush garden and a setting straight form a fairy tale. We found this place through airbnb.com and we were very happy with our choice. This was our view…
We highly recommend that you also stay at a place by the Kotor bay for your time in Montenegro. There are many villages around the bay like Zelenika, as well as bigger towns like the infamous Kotor, the perfect Perast and the lively Herzeg novi, and many more tiny cottages with views of the sea or the mountains.
We had 4 days in Montenegro and we had a plan to visit all of them and more. Below you can take a look at our planned routs around Montenegro.
And now a little bit more about the places that we visited in Montenegro…
This is the most beautiful and atmospheric town that we toured in Montenegro. Kotor old town has a very Venetian vibe, with narrow streets and stone houses, tiny squares and lots of cats.
We asked a lady from a shop we visited why are there so many cats everywhere and she told us that once upon a time every family in Montenegro used to have at least one cat because it was considered that they bring good luck (and also chase the mice).
When in Kotor old town, you definitely have to visit the fortress above the city – the view from the top is marvelous. But be prepared – there are 1350 stairs to climb. Afterwards you can treat yourself with a lunch or dinner in some of the cozy restaurants around the town.
We didn’t had big expectation for Perast after the beauties of Kotor, but Perast surprised us pleasantly.
The city doesn’t have a distinct old part like Kotor, but the beautiful old stone houses are everywhere. There is also an old belfry that you can visit and make scenic photos from above.
The beach in the beginning of the town is pebbly, but nice and with a terrific view.
The old town of Herceg novi is also very nice, but we marked this destination because it was the starting point for a boat trip to the so called blue lagoon.
Unfortunately, most of the boats leave at 10 a.m. and we were a little bit late. So we took a walk around the city, had lunch at a nice restaurant by the sea and relaxed at the beach – not a bad way to spend your vacation time either.
If you are in your 20s and like to party, Budva is your place. The city has an old town just like Kotor and Herzeg novi.
But unlike the places around the Kotor bay in Budva there are a lot of ugly big hotels, loud music from every café and young people in beachwear everywhere.
The biggest lake on the Balkans deserves a visit. We arrived at the village of Virpazar and almost immediately they offered us a boat trip around the lake.
The trip was around 2 hours and the best way to get a good look at the beautiful nature. It featured some snacks, free beer and a stop at a small beach where we swam.
Need more reasons to visit Montenegro? Go and see for yourself!
And now, check this useful information that may help you better plan your trip…
Montenegro doesn’t have a lot of sandy beaches so be prepared to recreate scenes from the Walking Dead, getting in and out of the water – the seabed is entirely from pebbles. We have marked 2 sandy beaches when researching for our trip – Plavi horizonti near Kotor bay and Drobni Pijesak near Budva, but we manage to visit only Plavi horisonti. The beach is indeed sandy but overcrowded and you have to walk in order to reach the deeper part.
Montenegro was part of Serbia till 2006 so pleskavica should go on your menu at least once. Don’t know what pleskavica is? Simply put, it is a giant meat ball with filling which diverses from yellow cheese to vegetables. In most restaurants you will be brought bread without any prompting and the service will be included in the bill. Staying in Zelenika, we had only one option to dine in the vicinity – restaurant Moreto, which is in fact a really good place – with big portions and good prices.
*On the Road
Getting in and out Montenegro and Croatia was really an adventure for us. We travelled by car for 18 hours and more. On our way to Montenegro we travelled through Serbia and Bosna and Herzegovina.
And on our way back home to Bulgaria we went through Albania and Macedonia.
Bosna and Herzegovina and Albania impressed us with majestic mountains and blue rivers, but the roads, especially in Bosna and Herzegovina were a little bit scary – narrow and with lots of turns, and the locals are driving fast and very irresponsible.
Location: Indonesia Type: 1 week trip; island vacation Suitable for children: yes
I used to associate January with snow and ice, cold weather and hot drinks, grumpy mood and short days. Not anymore. For me January from now on is an endless sky, breathtaking sunsets, hot days and nights, blue waves and sandy beaches, tropical forests and happy smiling people. The reason is Bali – a living and breathing postcard. We’ve traveled to the beautiful and evergreen island of Indonesia in the begging of January, when the raining season was supposed to be in full motion but we’ve had the perfect weather. And the best time.
It`s one of the 17 500 islands of Indonesia, famous for its beaches, perfect for surfing or just soaking up in the sun. But Bali is so much more with its tropical forests and creatures, stunning Hindu temples and fascinating culture.
You’ll be presented with various options to tour around the island when you arrive, so better don’t book your trips in advance. Just check what is worth to see (almost everything) and book a driver when you settle down in your hotel or hostel. That’s what we’ve done and it was the best decision.
We found accommodation trough Airbnb and stayed at Maya village in Kuta – a dеcent place, not far from Kuta beach, with a very friendly staff and a nice bar. The staff organized a driver to pick us from the airport and we’ve booked the same driver for our tours. We’ve paid 500 000 idr for a whole day trip for 5 people (which is less than 50 usd), but everywhere in the streets people will be offering to drive you anywhere, may be for even less money.
If you are staying in Kuta like us, be prepared for lots of people, noises, smells and a very active nightlife. Also watch where you are going because scooters are everywhere – that is the main mean of transportation for the locals and most streets are very narrow.
Around the island
We’ve visited some very interesting places during our stay in Bali which we can recommend and we’ll mention some more, that we haven’t got the time to check.
Uluwatu temple is one of the six temples believed to be Bali’s spiritual pillars. Perched on top of a 70 meter high cliff, it offers a magnificent view of the Indian ocean.
Here you can witness a spectacular sunset and also you can watch the famous Kecak dance, performed daily. The unique Balinese dance is not accompanied by any orchestra but by a choir of seventy men.
Monkey forest, Ubud will offer you an unique glimpse in the life of its inhabitants. But be careful – the monkeys are notorious for stealing so keep your valuable items secure.
Tegalalang rice fields will definitely impress you with this beautiful view.
Kintamani volcano is really stunning and in fact an active volcano. We’ve had a lunch at a restaurant with direct view to the volcano and lake Batur for 130 000 idr per person for all-you-can-eat buffet. This was one of the best places to try the local food.
Holy Spring Water Temple is where Balinese Hindus go to for ritual purification. You can walk around the temple and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
We’ve stopped at a coffee plantation on our way back home during one of our trips and we’ve tried the famous Luwak coffee. We’ve also met a civet and some other interesting creatures.
Waterbom is the third best waterpark in the world and the first in all of Asia according to TripAdvisor. You can stay a whole day here, enjoying the different attractions. The entrance fee is 490 000 idr per person.
And the beaches…
Padang padang beach
Blue point beach
You can also check the Tenah Lot Temple and Tegenungan waterfall, climb mount Batur and walk around Ubud – Bali’s artistic hearth and home of many art galleries and craft shops. And last but not least – treat yourself with a day of spa and massage and enjoy your stay in Bali to the fullest.
Things to consider before visiting Bali
- In Bali the weather is hot year-round, so don’t pack anything besides your summer clothes, swimsuits and flip-flops.
- You may have to check many ATMs before you find the one suitable with you card.
- Don’t forget to take a repellent with you – the risk of catching malaria or dengue is low but nevertheless it’s better to be careful.
- Keep in mind that the local dishes are spicy and don’t purchase food from the streets. Choose a nice restaurant and try the local food there – like nasi goreng (fried rice) with chicken or seafood.
On the streets, in front of homes and warungs (restaurants), beaches and almost everywhere you will see small bowls, full with flowers and fruits. The locals prepare them every morning and they represent a blessing and a gift for the Hindu gods. So pay attention and don’t stamp down the bowls – nobody will make a remark but it wouldn’t be polite.
The locals are more than friendly and polite. They will offer to drive you wherever you wish by car or scooter, they will try to sell you almost everything (you can bargain all day for all kind of stuff on the markets) and the smile will never leave their faces.