These pictures of Indonesia will feed your wanderlust

These pictures of Indonesia will feed your wanderlust

For as much as I intended to, I never seemed to be able to make it to South East Asia. Something kept me from going – either I had no money for the flight, or I had some commitments that took me to the other side of the Atlantic. My trip to Indonesia happened in a real whirlwind. I got my plane tickets on a Monday, and left on a Thursday. I won’t lie here – Indonesia was a huge cultural shock to me. I am used to the big, empty spaces of countries like Nicaragua, or to the emptiness of the rural areas of Sardinia. My trip was very fast paced and I did not get to spend nearly as much time as I wanted in each location. Nevertheless, I had a blast and truly enjoyed the country, its culture, the sights and the people, and I am eager to visit again and spend more time exploring.

The following pictures show just a fraction of what Indonesia has to offer. Although I only spent 3 weeks there, I know it is a new favorite of mine and I will want to go back. Seeing these pictures will most likely make anybody want to go too!

My trip started on a hot day in Jakarta. Thankfully, I had no commitments then. I was so tired from the long flights and jet lag that I just relaxed at the lovely infinity pool of the hotel.

 

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The trip then took me to Tangkuban Perahu, the crater of a volcano not far from Bandung.

 

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That’s where I also had my first encounter with the locals. I was literally stopped and asked to be in their pictures. It was funny, and I felt very welcome.

 

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The light in Indonesia immediately captured my attention. It was always stunning!

 

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Kawah Putih is another volcano crater, but it has a fantastic bright green lake that shined against the grey sky.

 

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Seeing the sunrise at Borobudur, the world’s biggest Buddhist monument, was an out-of-this-world kind of experience. It was simply magic!

 

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I also enjoyed visiting Yogyakarta and getting to see a bit of local action.

 

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Rato Boko Keraton is a interesting place to visit, although under the blistering sun it can be a bit overwhelming. Nevertheless, it was lovely to take pictures there – mind you, those steps were blistering hot!

 

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And Prambanan temple is an absolute must see, both at sunset

 

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And at night.

 

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photo courtesy of Juan Jerez Del Valle

 

Yogyakarta has some interesting street art too.

 

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And the light is great for taking pictures, especially insite the Royal Palace.

 

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photo courtesy of Juan Jerez Del Valle

 

Mount Bromo was a demanding stop on my tour, as I had to wake up at 2 am to see the sunrise over it. It was challenging especially as the sun did not seem to want to come out! But when it finally did, I got to see this…

 

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Next stop was Labuan Bajo, on Eastern Indonesia, which welcomed me with an incredible sunset.

 

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I got the chance to volunteer with the children of Taman Bacaan Pelangi in Melo Village, and it was an enlightening (not to mention a lot of fun) experience.

 

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Komodo National Park, spread over the islands of Komodo and Rinca, was by far the highlight of my trip. There, I saw the Komodo dragons.

 

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And got some of the best views one can imagine.

 

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I also made it to the Pink Beach – I found paradise there!

 

Pink Beach Paradise

 

The final stop was Bali. And there are few words that can describe how marvelous the sunsets there are. The ones in Kuta Beach…

 

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The ones from Ulu Watu…

 

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Bali is inhabited by some funny and mean monkeys. They tried stealing my sunglasses, but did not manage.

 

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And the rice patties, so green, so beautiful…

 

 

 

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photo courtesy of Juan Jerez Del Valle

 

There is no doubt that I will want to visit Indonesia again.

Have you been to Indonesia? What was your favorite attraction there?

Legal Disclaimer: This article was written in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia as part of the #WonderfulIndonesia campaign. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. 

Top five things to do in Belize

Top five things to do in Belize

I am not one that really needs reasons to visit new places. Pretty much any country on earth catches my attention for one reason or another, and is on my bucket list – whether for an interest in its rich culture or history; in its nature – mountains, beaches, forests; in its food and in its people. Having said this, I have to admit that while other countries such as Nicaragua or Guatemala and even less popular Honduras caught my attention, I have never thought much of Belize and I never really considered visiting so much as that it required planning.

Needless to say, a few days in this country, which I visited on one of my tour leading missions, made me change my mind. Belize attractions are many! I am now not only eager to go back and spend more time exploring it, but I also highly recommend visiting! It may not take too long to explore – Belize is a small country, and roughly 350000 people live in it, the biggest city being Belize City and the capital set in tiny Belmopan, where it was established after that hurricaine Hattie flooded Belize City in 1961.

So, are you in search of what to do in Belize? I can’t speak for everyone, but here are my

Top 5 things to do in Belize

1) Exploring the fabulous nature

From mountains to tropical rainforest, fertile subtropical foothills where cattle is reared, rivers and jungle covered Mayan archeological sites , Belize is a fabulous Caribbean country, yet set in Central America. It has enough to inspire adventure seekers, animal lovers, birdwatchers, trekkers and sport addicts, as well as Mayan history enthusiasts. When researching about what to do in Belize, remember that a trip to Belize isn’t complete without a visit to the archeological sites.

Belize attractions: mayan archeological sites

Xunantunich archeological site is one of the many Belize attractions – courtesy of Chaa Creek

2) Visiting one of Belize beaches and barrier reef

Hundreds of cayes (such as Ambergris and St. George’s Cayes) contribute to the small land surface of Belize. The reefs and cayes spread to over 200 km of barrier reef with crystal clear water that rightly attracts those interested in diving, snorkeling and sport fishing. The reef and its islands became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Belize is also home to the blue Hole, one of the world’s best dives. Any search on what to do in Belize will come up with some great dives!

Belize attractions

Crystal clear water of Belizean coast, among Belize attractions – courtesy of Chaa Creek

3) Eating

Ok, it may not be Mexico, which was inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, but food in Belize is actually delicious. The local staple is rice and beans, just as in most of Central America, and it is usually accompanied with either beef, chicken or pork, in the form of stews. Fruit is so abundant, so fresh and so sweet that I don’t think I will be able to eat pineapple back home! Not to mention, here I could find some of the best burritos in the continent (I had to scout for them in the street!), as well as incredible seafood on the coast.

4) Interacting with the locals

Less than 350000 people live in Belize, and for as little as this may seem, there is a great mixture of ethnicities, languages and cultures. Here I could hear English (did you know that Belize was under British domination, and it used to be called British Honduras?), Spanish, Creole and Mayan. This reflects the population, which consists of Creoles, West Indians, Mayans, Chinese as well as Garifunas. Most importantly, people in Belize are extremely friendly and laid back, always willing to lend a hand to travellers, make jokes and ensuring everyone feels welcome. Belize’s Love FM advert says “be kind to tourists”. I guess people take this quite literally! Not to mention, the fact that everybody here speaks English makes it so easy for travelers…

5) Relaxing at Chaa Creek

Last, but definitely not least, Chaa Creek Ecolodge and the Macal River Camp are also great reasons to love Belize. If I have to pick a postcard for the country, it would have to be it. About 20 minutes drive from San Ignacio (not far from the Guatemala border and from Tikal, this is the second largest city in the country, with as many as 20000 people!), this is where to stay in Belize: a great lodge immersed in the rain forest (and rain you will get!), with lovely rooms (some so huge that they look more like mansions), a great infinity pool, a bar and a restaurant serving delicious drinks (including the good Belikin, best enjoyed on a hammock!)

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A cold Belikin, a hammock and the sun. What more could you need?

and meals, and about a million free of the best things to do in Belize to keep me busy just in case I am tired to relax on my hammock or by the pool. While the lodge is definitely not suitable for a backpacker’s budget, the Macal River Camp (a 10 minutes jungle walk from the lodge) can be factored in. At $ 65 USD per night, it may seem expensive.

However, for that price I can get breakfast and dinner, and use of all the facilities and excursions at the lodge, such as tubing, canoeing, birdwatching, touring the butterfly farm and the medicinal route. There is no electricity at the camp (well, just in the bathrooms and in the dining area), nor wifi (it’s the jungle, baby! And if I am desperate, I can walk to the lodge). Bungalows, which fit up to 4 persons, are lit by kerosene lamps and surrounded by mosquito nests.

Where to stay in Belize

Where to stay in Belize: Macal River Camp casitas

Where to stay in Belize: Macal River Camp

Where to stay in Belize: Interior of a casita at Macal River Camp

There are 4 spotless toilets and showers. Each night a fire is lit for guests to sit about, tell stories and share their wisdom. It simply is the perfect place to relax, to listen to the sound of nature and to be stranded in tropical rain.

All that is needed now is gathering appropriate hiking and diving gear and start planning a trip to Belize.

Planning to visit Belize? Let us know in the comments below!

Other resources: Backpacking Belize on a Budget by Road Affair.

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Learn about the things to do in Belize


 

Highlights of Sardinia

Highlights of Sardinia

 

My luck has it that I was born and raised in Sardinia, and this is what I call home. I have the chance to explore it one bit at a time, and I am not done exploring yet! I have a few favourite places of course. My hometown, Cagliari; Costa Rei, my favourite vacation spot, and all its surroundings; the area of Golfo di Orosei and Isola dell’Asinara – these are only a few of the amazing places Sardinia has to offer to those who visit.

Sardinia is a great place to travel to in all seasons. Most people enjoy it in the summer, as we have amazing beaches with crystal clear water. I think it is incredible even in spring, fall and winter, despite the rain may be abundant. During spring time, the countryside is blooming, the weather is good for going on amazing hikes (like those to Su Gorropu) and we enjoy long walks on the beach. Spring is when Sant’Efisio, in Cagliari, takes place. A great free event. Fall is mild, and if we are lucky enough we get to go to the beach well into October. This is when the various village festivals are held. I love Cortes Apertas, and Autunno in Barbagia – food sampling, wine tasting, lots of great traditions. My favourite? Su Prugadoriu in Seui – our own very traditional version of Halloween. Finally, did you know that we even have a ski resort in Sardinia? Ok, it is not really a ski destination… but it is nice nonetheless.

One more reason to love Sardinia? The music festivals – jazz lovers will have a huge choice of places and events. And even the book festivals.

We call Sardinia paradise, and for a good reason!

To read more of my posts about the most amazing island in the world, click here


 

Highlights of Peru

Highlights of Peru

My first stop in Peru was Trujillo, in the North. The city, which is surrounded by the desert, is very lively and interesting. I visited the nearby site of Chan Chan. A long bus journey across the desert took me to Lima, the incredible capital, where I visited the main attractions around Plaza de Armas and in Miraflores. Not far from Lima (although it is a long ride), I hiked Marcahuasi.

I then went south, to explored the Islas Ballestas, Paracas, sandboard in Huacachina and finally reach Nazca, where I took a bumpy place to fly over the lines and where I visited the many surrounding archeological sites. From Nazca, I made my way to Arequipa, the white city, from where I hiked the Canyon del Colca.

My next stop was Puno, which I used as the starting point to visit the islands of Lake Titicaca. A flight then took me to Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire, and an incredible city altogether: it offers so many attractions and even its surroundings are packed with archeological sites, such as Saksaywaman and Pucapucara. I further visited the Sacred Valley – the sites of Moray, Pisac and Ollantaytambo, which was my stop before embarking on the incredible experience of the Inca Trail. I got to see the sunrise over Machu Picchu from the Inti Punku, I explored all of the site and even hiked mountain Huayna Picchu.

Cusco was my last stop before having to fly back to Italy.

Read more about Peru!


 

Highlights of Guatemala

Highlights of Guatemala

The typical starting point for a tour of Guatemala is Antigua, its old capital. That was my first stop too. I loved visiting the numerous churches, plazas, walking along the cobbled streets, admiring the colonial buildings and beautiful gardens, and enjoying a lively nightlife. Antigua is also a great starting point to hike an active volcano, such as Pacaya – I opted for the sunset tour and loved the view.

My second stop in Guatemala was Lake Atitlan, which I fell in love with immediately. The view of the 3 volcanoes from Santa Cruz la Laguna was stunning, and I enjoyed hiking around the area. From the main port of entrance to the lake, Panajachel, I hopped on several chicken buses to head to Chichicastenango and shop at its great market. It was great and I got a lot of bargains, and I enjoyed the atmosphere at the market, especially around the food stalls. I even visited the not-so-visited site of Iximche!

I then felt it was time for a bit of jungle and made my way to Semuc Champey, where I hiked around the natural pools. My final stop in Guatemala was Flores, from where I visited the amazing archeological site of Tikal, immersed in the nature and where you can see and hear wildlife, including racoons and hauling monkeys. I even visited Yaxa! From Flores, I then continued South to Honduras.

To read more about my adventures in Guatemala, click here!