Highlights of Honduras

Highlights of Honduras

My one and only stop in Honduras was Copan Ruinas, which I reached after a full day of travelling from Flores (Guatemala), where I boarded a Fuente del Norte bus heading to Chiquimula, to then hop on a chicken bus to El Florido where I crossed the border. Copan Ruinas is very close to the border.

Despite Honduras reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous countries, I found Copan Ruinas to be safe and quiet. Surely my experience is not representative of the real situation in the country, yet I would encourage other backpackers – especially if interested in Mayan archeological sites – to visit, as it is well worth it.

It is a lovely little town, and as Lonely Planet would say, it is the most traveler oriented in Honduras. Imagine its cobblestone streets, adobe buildings, lively bars and great restaurants, and surprisingly friendly people. The amazing archeological site of Copan Ruinas is 1 km away from town, at a pleasant walking distance. The site is immersed in the forest and populated by colourful macaws, which I also saw at the Macaw Mountain. This is a bird sanctuary dedicated to saving endangered species.

I had a great time zip lining too.

From Copan Ruinas, I took a direct shuttle bus to Leon (Nicaragua) – an 18 hour trip that went through Guatemala and El Salvador too.

Care to know more about Honduras? Click here!

Highlights of Cuba

Highlights of Cuba

My trip to Cuba started in Havana, where I spent two full days browsing around its many museums and places of interest, including the Capitolio, la Cabaña, the Museo de la Revolucion and its famous Malecon. I then flew to Santiago de Cuba, known for its Caribbean attitude. This is a good starting point to hike La Gran Piedra or to just soak in the sun in Playa Sibonay. From there, I took the bus to Baracoa, where I arrived after an eventful trip which included a flat tire. Known as the city of the 29 rivers, Baracoa is purely tropical. Must dos include a hike of El Yunque, a boat trip around Rio Yumuri and the beautiful Playa Maguana. Baracoa is also the gourmet capital of Cuba: I had some of the most interesting food here, including shrimps in salsa de coco.

On the way to Trinidad (the most touristic city in Cuba), I stopped in Camaguey, which I did not really enjoy due to the tremendous heat and the high presence of jineteros and scams. 5 hours away, Trinidad is a perfectly preserved colonial city, with cobblestone streets, music playing at every corner, dancing and good nightlife, museums, good restaurants and a huge variety of daily trips in its surroundings. I particularly enjoyed Valle de los Ingenios and the hike from Topes de Collantes to the Salto de Caburnì.

About 90 minutes north, Cienfuegos is also splendid, and is a great port of access to El Nicho, with its natural pools, and to explore the amazingly clear waters and coral reef of the Bahia de Cochinos and Caleta Buena.

I concluded my journey in Viñales, in the North-West side of Cuba, which felt like the cherry on the cake: a valley where coffee and tobacco are cultivated, where mogotes appear just about anywhere. And it is not far from Cayo Jutias, where I spent a perfect day at the beach.

To read more about my adventures in this amazing island, click here!

Highlights of Mexico

Highlights of Mexico

There are a number of places that are a must see on trip to Mexico. However, the country is so vast that I did not manage to explore all of it during my 3 weeks trip there: I had to skip Oaxaca for lack of time, but will go there again to visit it.

My route started in Mexico City, where my Air France flight landed. I spent two nights there, recovering from jet lag and visiting the Zocalo and Frida Kahlo Museum. I then embarked on a flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez, in Chiapas, from where I reached the lovely San Cristobal de las Casas. I explored its super tidy market, bargained for souvenirs, ate lovely food, and took the chance to experience the mystic of San Juan Chamula and Zinancatan.

After leaving San Cristobal, I took the bumpy road to Palenque, making some stops along the way to refresh myself in the crystal clear waters of Agua Azul and exploring the waterfalls of Misol Ha. Palenque archeological site is immersed in the jungle, and to me it is the most interesting one in Mexico. I then left “civilization” to enjoy a few days completely immersed in the nature of Kolem Jaa, in Tabasco: monkeys, macaws, parrots, iguanas – that was all I could hear at night. Feeling rejuvenated, I took a flight from Villahermosa to Merida, the perfect starting point to visit UNESCO World Heritage site Uxmal, the Ruta Puuc and the gorgeous cenotes, including Diznup and Los Tres Cenotes de Cuzama.

I enjoyed Chichen Itza, where a great guide explained its various secrets, and managed to stop for a night in Valladolid, which surely deserves a visit. Finally, I made my way to Tulum, to explore the archelogical site right by the sea, enjoy a few days soaking in the sun at Tulum Playa, visit Isla Mujeres and take a chance to party in lively Playa del Carmen.

Here you can read more about my adventures in Mexico.

Decadence made in Cuba

Decadence made in Cuba

In any other country, you may find that buildings falling apart should be demolished and something else built to replace them. In Cuba, you take pictures of them, thinking they are ever so charming, and you end up wondering whether Havana would be as interesting and fascinating had it been not so decadent.

You may walk right by the Capitolio in Havana, see a polished building which is just undergoing renovation, and just behind it you get to see rusty apartment buildings in desperate need for a good paint.

Decadence Cuba, Photo 02

Behind the Capitol, in Havana

Malecon - Havana

Malecon – Havana

You may think they are just abandoned buildings, and that nobody lives there. But right after that, you will see somebody appearing at a window, throwing the keys to a friend, hanging the laundry, listening to music.

Decadence Cuba, Photo 04

Havana

Sometimes you wonder how it is possibly that a building like that sits right in the centre of town. I guess then, when they say Habana Vieja (old Havana) they do really mean it!

Decadence Cuba, Photo 05

Havana Vieja

I tried to figure out how buildings can get so old, and no maintenance work is ever done. I eventually asked Felix, my landlord in Havana, and he unveiled the mistery for me. Things such as paint in Cuba is bought in CUC (pesos convertibles), as opposed to salaries which are paid in MN (moneda nacional). At 25 MN per CUC, and with an average salary of 15 CUC per month, Cubans can hardly afford to buy paint to restore their buildings.

Decadence can also be seen at the beach in Cuba. A wholly different scene from the beaches in Curacao.

All in all, you end up liking this view. It just adds a bit of mistery to the already rich history and culture of the country!

Find out more about Cuba here.

Sardinia dos and donts: what to do in Sardinia

Sardinia dos and donts: what to do in Sardinia

Best beaches in Sardinia: Crazy gorgeous fjords of Cala Domestica

Best beaches in Sardinia: Crazy gorgeous fjords of Cala Domestica

Things to do in Sardinia: watch the Sartiglia

Things to do in Sardinia: watch the Sartiglia in Oristano – photo courtesy of Marcello Treglia

Things to do in Sardinia

Things to do in Sardinia: watch the Sant’Efisio parade of traditional Sardinia costumes – photo courtesy of Marcello Treglia

Where to go in Sardinia: Roman ruins and lighthouse in Nora

Where to go in Sardinia: Roman ruins and lighthouse in Nora

Visit Sardinia: Barumini

Visit Sardinia: Su Nuraxi – Barumini

At the heart of the Mediterranean, Sardinia will make you feel like you are a world apart from the rest of the world. Here you can switch off from your daily routine, without having to cross an ocean; you can enjoy lush nature, incredible beaches, wild mountains, tasty food and a secular cultural traditions. The good news is that although it is almost mythologically described as a place for a few rich people, it can actually be visited on a budget and there are so many things to do in Sardinia that you could spend a year without ever getting bored.

Here are a few simple rules for your low budget holidays. For more ideas on things to do in Sardinia, check my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia”.

Dos

Do book your flight in advance, making sure you catch one during the week (avoid weekends) and playing around with the dates (be flexible). This way you can even catch a round trip ticket for less than €50. There are three airports: Alghero, Cagliari and Olbia, all a great starting point for a tour of the island. Most budget airlines have fights to Sardinia from a number of cities in Italy and Europe.

Do use public transport: it links the main cities, villages and tourist destinations. While a bit slow, it is cheap enough, and once you get to your destination you can walk, rent a bike, or participate in organised tours that offer pick up services. For information on bus and train schedules visit the pages of ARST and Trenitalia.

Do consider a car rental. A splurge if travelling alone or as a couple, but if there is a few of you it may actually turn out cheap and you will have the opportunity to roam around independently. Most well known agencies have stands at the airport and are quite convenient. But book in advance to catch special deals.

Do book your accommodation early. Most cities have budget places and all tourist destinations provide camping sites. Rooms are easy to find in the low season, but during the summer, when Sardinia is at its peak season, it may be harder to get cheap accommodation. Camping sites are good options if you can carry your tent, and they often have bungalows for rent.

If travelling in a group, do consider holiday home rentals: prices are surprisingly cheap and estate agencies and apartments can be easily found online. Considering you will have your own kitchen, your budget will benefit in the end.

Do enjoy your days at some of the best beaches in Sardinia, which all have free access: carry your umbrella, towel and plenty of sunblock and relax for free.

Do go on a boat tour: some of Sardinia best beaches, especially in the Golfo di Orosei or La Maddalena, can only reached this way. Although not too cheap it is completely worth it. Do book a day or two in advance!

Best beaches in Sardinia: Cala Luna

Best beaches in Sardinia: Cala Luna

Do go on a free trekking: hiking is one of the best ways to visit Sardinia. There is a gorgeous path to Cala Goloritzé leaving from the Altipiano del Golgo; a well signaled hike to Cala Domestica; a roughly 2 hours walk from Cala Fuili to Cala Luna; or try any of the trails in Isola dell’Asinara.

Do enjoy free festivals and cultural events. If you are searching for what to do in Sardinia and feeling in the mood for some cultural activity, you will be glad to know that on first of May Cagliari hosts the spectacular “parata di Sant’Efisio”: people from villages all over Sardinia, wearing their traditional dresses, go on a march in honour of the Saint patron of the island (Sant’Efisio). In February, the beautiful Sartiglia takes place in Oristano: men (and women) wearing traditional carnival costumes gallop down a street mounded with sand as fast as they can and attempt skewering a hanging star using their foil – pure adrenaline.

If you are a jazz and nature lover, don’t miss Time in Jazz in Berchidda, patroned by trumpet player and native Paolo Fresu. Picture a whole week of jazz, across a number of villages in the area, with open air concerts (free to attend) and the possibility to stay in camping sites. This is only one of the many jazz festivals here: listening to live quality music is one of the things to do in Sardinia.

Do enjoy nightlife in Cagliari: locals go out no earlier than 10 pm. You can either walk around Largo Carlo Felice, or, for some fresh air, Libarium, in Castello, which has a great terrace and view of the city; or Caffè degli Spiriti or De Candia in the Bastione – the lattest occasionally have some live concerts: look for local bands such as Sikitikis for real fun. Cocktails cost between € 7 and 9, wine and beer are cheaper (around 3 or 4 euros).

Do enjoy a romantic dinner at Quintilio, right outside Alghero, and admire the great view of the city, the bay and Capo Caccia. Sunset is the best time to go. Do book in advance to seat outside.

Do try traditional Sardinian food: piglet on the spit, malloreddus (small gnocchi), mussles soup, fregola (a sort of cous cous made with seafood), pecorino cheese, seadas (sweet fried pastries filled with cheese and topped with honey)… There is a lot of variety.

Donts

Don’t miss Isola dell’Asinara, originally a fishing community, later on a criminal colony, a peasant colony and leprosy centre, and a maximum security jail; it was finally turned into a National Park in 1997. Should you not have much time to sleep on the only hostel in the island (highly recommended!), book a guided tour on a jeep. This will allow you to visit the sites of historical and natural importance, such as the historic jail of Cala d’Oliva and of Fornelli, and some of the best beaches in Sardinia, such as Cala Sabina, Cala Trabuccato and Cala d’Arena. You can also go on one of the many hikes (free and well signaled) or opt for a bike tour.

Where to go in Sardinia? Asinara, for sure!

Where to go in Sardinia? Asinara, for sure!

Asinara - Sardinia

Donkeys are the only inhabitants of Asinara, together with boars, cats, goats…

Don’t miss a sunset walk on the beautiful bastion overlooking the sea in Alghero. The same goes for Cagliari and its lovely bastion or the Poetto beach: they are gorgeous at sunset. You can’t visit Sardinia and miss a sunset here!

Don’t think Sardinia is only beautiful in the summer. It is just as nice in the winter, although weather in Sardinia can be brutal in the winter months. But of course summer is the best season to enjoy the beaches.

Don’t litter: all beaches have bins for garbage and if they don’t, carry your garbage back with your and throw where appropriate.

Don’t forget to try “gelato artigianale”: ice-cream made from scratch. Tip to know it is the real thing: it melts really fast!

Don’t miss a sip of mirto or fil’e ferru: the first one is a strong liquor made of myrtle berries. The second is more like a grappa. They are very much Sardinian!

Don’t miss the archeological sites such as the beautiful roman ruins of Nora, are easy to access from Cagliari, or the many “nuraghe” which are unique to Sardinia such as that of Barumini. Take lots of pictures!

Don’t miss some off the beaten path places, such as Is Aruttas beach, with its incredible white tiny pebbles; S’Archittu, with a rock formation in the shape of an arch, Masua Pan di Zucchero, Buggerru and Cala Domestica, and Porto Pino, famous for its sand dunes.

Sardinia best beaches: Masua Pan di Zucchero

Sardinia best beaches: Masua Pan di Zucchero

Don’t be afraid to communicate with Sardinians, as they are very friendly. They may not all speak English, but they will always help out.

Don’t forget to read my other posts on Sardinia for more information and to ask me if you have any more questions!