We all have this feeling of longing for the beach once in a while, or if you are anything like me it’s all the time! I love tropical weather, the sand between my toes and turquoise warm clear waters I could just stay in all day long! That is me, dreaming, but for some it’s a daily routine. Ah those lucky people who don’t live in the UK or any cold-ish European country for that matter. I cannot complain though as we have been to some amazing places all over the world and we have seen some many so-called paradise islands and beaches. Would that make me an expert? Hardly say so. I just know what we like and Seychelles (and snorkeling spots in Seychelles) we DEFINITELY liked. Full stop.
Why go to Seychelles
If you have never heard of Seychelles ( I really doubt it but who knows!), it is an archipelago of 115 islands located in the Indian Ocean, off East African coast. They are pretty popular all year round as Seychelles weather is fantastic, they don’t suffer from long monsoons, hurricanes etc. and have warm temperature always stay around 30C and above. With its spectacular marine flora and fauna, the islands rank on the top of the lists for best beach holiday destinations around the world. They are also very well-known for its diving and snorkeling experiences.
We were super excited about the later as it had been ages since our last island hopping experience. Was it better than say snorkel we did in and around Malaysia (#shoutout to Perhentian Islands!!!), Great Barrier Reef or even Red Sea (Love Dahab!)? Sadly not, but I still think it was an amazing experience overall due to the laid back atmosphere of the islands and stunning scenery. I know what you are thinking now – EXPENSIVE! Well, it is definitely not a poor-backpacker friendly place but definitely the trip would be cheaper than Maledives, as in Seychelles you can find some decent budget accommodation.
This experience has always been on our bucket list! The Amazon is a 4,400-mile river with thousands of branches. It is a 2,600,000-square mile basin, draining rivers and streams in eight countries (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname). Its rainforest is the largest on the planet and it’s combined with the savannah, floodplains and rivers. It is a region of immense diversity, sheltering more than 30,000 plant species, 1,800 fish, 1,300 bird species, 311 mammals and 165 types of amphibian. There are many ways into the Amazon, Brazil being the most common starting point for most Amazon trips. Peru and Colombia are also offering great travel experience. Most people visit the Amazon as part of a tour or via organised itinerary. Independent travel is possible but it comes with some complications and requires more spare time. Hence reading through this ultimate do-it-yourself guide to amazon river and rainforest will come handy.
If you are in Brazil, you can fly into Belém and book onto a local boat. Then arrange flights or epic bus journeys on from Manaus. It is more crowded but you’ll have more companionship from fellow travelers and dance samba on deck at sunset. But you won’t see many toucans. In Peru you head directly for Iquitos and in Colombia your only point of entry is Leticia, where you can fly to from Bogota. Peru and, to a lesser extent, Colombia are notable for their wildlife. Where deforestation and industrialisation have devastated great expanses of the low-lying Brazilian Amazon, the headwaters are in better shape.
We have started our journey in Peru and finished in Columbia so can we can actually advise you on at least two parts of the Amazon. And this is how we did it!
Of course when you plan your trip to Peru, you have Machu Picchu pinned down already. It is an incredible place, definitely worth a visit whichever way you chose. In the end it is one of the 7 Wonders of The World! You can take the famous Inca Trail, take a bus and train combo or even bus and walk as some people do. The latter can nowadays more and more difficult as Peruvian government is clamping-down on such walks to sell more permits. There is however one place we urge you to add to your list when planning your visit, so put together a little Ollantaytambo Travel Guide.
Not all roads lead through this picture perfect village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, your train might be passing by but we can assure you a few hundred yards from the train station lies a peaceful, unspoiled and friendly village with plenty to offer. So there is a good reason why you should slow down and stay for a night or two.
We arrived in Ollantaytambo early in the morning and we instantly fell in love with this place. It is full of tourists yes, but still it is pretty authentic with Inca terraces, temples and original irrigation system. That irrigation system almost cost me a broken leg so mind your step peeps when visiting. I somehow did not see it in front of me, fell in with one leg and bruised it really hard. So, trekking around Ollantaytambo was out of the question for me. It had to get better to climb Machu Picchu. Tom went on and he loved the views of the valley. It is so easy to understand why Inca thought of it sacred. It’s very green with flows everywhere and a huge river floating along and massive mountain peaks surrounding it – just naturally stunning.
We were not incredibly excited about visiting Copacabana but we had to pass through this highly touristy place to get to the amazing Isla del Sol by Lake Titicaca. We have to admit, we underestimated this little town a lot, although we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time. We arrived in the afternoon and it was already too late for a boat to the island. We could not even be bothered with looking for accommodation and we took a room in a very reasonably priced Hotel Colonial just because it was next to the bus stop. We took a stroll around the main road filled with restaurants, bars and souvenir stalls and decided it was not our cup of tea and we could definitely not make it our exploration base when in the area.
We were lucky though, as the day we arrived there was a local event in town. It was not so much a festival but a celebration of the Saint who is the holly patron/protector of Bolivian Police. Every year on this occasion Police force from all over Bolivia gather their best musicians and dancers and make huge parade around Copacabana. Wow, it was quite something. Initially we did not know what their agenda was and thought we missed the main thing in the morning but they were just getting started.
Whenever we get asked about favourite experiences from our travels the fabulous Trans-Siberian comes up. Like always!
There is something about this iconic train journey that makes people dream about distant, exotic places, packing their bags and never looking back. Of course in reality it doesn’t happen exactly that way as when you finish the train journey you simply go home or move to another place of interest, in our case it was the rest of our round the world trip.
We knew it was going to be long and we knew it was going to be epic. And it did not fail to amaze us all the way. Of course, there are some practicalities you have to take care of such as research, bookings (if you are a control freak type of traveler) and making plans where to stop and go, but after that it is just a journey and you.
So here it is the TOP things, we think you should know about the Trans-Siberian to help you make up your mind: