New York, New York

It’s been two weeks since we’ve been back from the Big Apple, but I still reminisce about the good food, the incredible weather (it was HOT) and the hugeness of it all. About time I’d let you all know what I loved and didn’t love about the big city life. Let’s start off by saying I won’t be moving to Manhattan anytime soon: not enough green, too many people and too many tall buildings. I need some space. What I did love was the shopping, the food, the city life and the older more historical buildings. Let’s round up, shall we?

Where we stayed – 

We purposefully didn’t stay in the hustle and bustle of crowded Manhattan, but took our lodgings to an AirBnB in New Jersey. Great location because 1. We got the beautiful skyline of NYC as our daily view, 2. Not as crowded, more of a residential neighbourhood feel and yet 3. Only 15 minutes by shuttle bus from the city centre! We were happy to just come home and relax, prepare our own meals and unwind from the busy city.

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What we ate – 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in New York it’s to not wait to get food until you’re starving, because you can expect lines at restaurants! If you get hangry, like me, it is in your boyfriend’s best interest to make sure you have your food stops locked in. Here’s some of our best food discoveries

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  • Shake Shack – fast, easy, but such tasty burgers. Also the best strawberry milkshake I’ve had in a while.
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar – it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed Charlie’s Chocolate Factory would look like. If you’re looking for candy that’s American or just really weird flavours, this is the place
  • Dough Donuts – We’ve tried a lot of donuts in our lifetime but these ones were just ‘wow’. The melt-in-your-mouth yet so flavourful kind. New York knows how to do donuts, that’s for sure. Another good one is the Doughnuttery, in Chelsea Market, which by the way is foodie heaven! These tiny donuts come in all kinds of funny flavours and let me tell you, the ‘Purple Pig’ flavour is finger-licking good!
  • Ample Hills Creamery – A decent place for regular ice-cream with a wide variety of flavours.
  • Taiyaki Ice Cream  – A really fun ice cream place that makes fresh cones that look like fish (they’re still a bit warm when you eat them so you can tell they are really freshly baked – very instagram worthy and with very quick and friendly service.
  • Grimaldi’s Pizza – We had our best slice of New York pizza at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, where you can share a large pizza and choose to have two sides with varying toppings, a nifty idea. Go on time to make sure you don’t have to wait in line.
  • Fika – If you’re craving a coffee break in an airconditioned, quiet space, this is your place.

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Where we shopped –

  • Sephora – As a beauty and skincare lover this was one of my personal highlights of the trip and I spoiled myself with some goodies for my birthday. You can find ANYTHING here. The one on 45th East Street is the biggest. Heaven is a place on earth.
  • Glossier Showroom – Another beauty favourite was the Glossier Showroom in Chinatown. I love the aesthetics of the place and brand and the fact that it’s so well hidden in a penthouse makes it all feel very luxurious. The products are high quality and remain very affordable!

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  • Barnes & Noble – If you like books, notebooks or other book-related stuff, this is the place to be.
  • Paper Source – This place is a stationery lover’s dream. It’s where I bough my new 2019 journal, but wanted to buy everything.
  • Brooklyn Flea Market – We went to the this flea market in Dumbo, Brooklyn, where the shade of the bridge lured us in. It’s a great place for original souvenirs, nice jewellery, furniture (which ached because we couldn’t take any home), clothes and nice smelling soaps.

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  • Chelsea Market – As said, it’s a foodie heaven, BUT it’s also a place where local designers show off their work and you can buy some of their stuff.

What we saw – 

  • High Line – An old railway between the meatpacking warehouses that is now a 3km long park, such innovative urban planning. Loooooved this bit of green!
  • 9/11 Memorial – A testimony to the tragedy of 9/11 and a beautiful place to hang and ponder life
  • Grand Central Station – Not amazing (and not as big as I’d always imagined) but still worth a visit because it is beautiful!
  • New York Public Library – One of my favourite places we visited. This library is everything. Marble staircases, elegantly lit reading rooms, grand hallways, ooh yes. Wonderful just wandering around here.

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  • Times Square – Overwhelming but worth a visit. We thought they had like an event going on or something, but nope, just the regular amount of people on a night in New York.
  • Top of the Rock – We were a bit unlucky with the weather because it was so overcast and misty, but still, views up here are amazing with Central Park on one side and the Empire State on the other. If you can, take some food and drinks and watch the sun set on the rooftop!

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  • MoMA – Bit of a whirlwind visit here, because we entered only an hour before closing time. We didn’t love the museum, but the museum garden was really nice.
  • Museum of Natural History – Very similar to the one in Brussels or Tervuren if you’re form Belgium. Good to know is that they let you pay the amount you want to get in (they have an indication price though).

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What we did – 

  • Central Park  – We rented bikes and helmets for the whole day and decided to tour Central Park so we could cover the whole area. On our way we visited the Natural History Museum, saw the Guggenheim Museum, spotted the different ponds and discovered there is only one-way lanes to bike the park. The park is HUGE, which also makes it less cozy, but we were glad to get out and about in the green.

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  • Coney Island – We took the time to take the metro down to Coney Island, which we loved. There’s a beach and and old 50s amusement park/ fair, which made for a nice day of relaxing, enjoying the sun and watching people go by. Take a picture in one of the photobooths as a souvenir.

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  • Washington – We took a really early train (still snoozing when I think about it) to Washington D.C. and saw all the sights! Best parts were the Library of Congress (gorgeous interior and tiling), the Smithsonian garden, and the US Botanic Garden. So different from NYC too, with lots of white buildings, open spaces and green.

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  • Staten Island ferry – This ferry service goes to and from Staten Island all day and in doing so, goes by the Statue of Liberty. And did I mention it is free? So basically, it’s a free tour past the statue (which is smaller than I imagined?)! You get on the boat in Manhattan, get off in Staten Island and get right back on. It takes about an hour there and back.
  • New York Mets – We decided to see a baseball game at Citifield Arena. If you can, try to get weekend tickets because the crowd was kind of sparse when we were there on a weekday.
  • Brooklyn Bridge – We spent some time in Dumbo, which we loved. We really took our time wandering around this area. Afterwards, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (super crowded) to get the full experience. Impressive though.

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That’s it folks! If you have any tips for us for next time, let me know!

Marrakech

Two weeks ago my mum and I took a little mother-daughter trip to Marrakech, Morocco. It reminded me a little bit of Lisbon (the colours), Peru (the landscapes) and Egypt (the lifestyle). I took lots of photos on our 6 day adventure, so I thought I’d share the best bits (as per usual) with you guys.

The Old Town (Medina)

We spent a full day exploring everything within the old city walls, the Medina. There is so many things to see! We booked a guide for a day so we could get our bearings of this city (that is totally a maze, by the way!) and we walked A LOT. Our first stop was the Djema-el Fna, which is the main square and basically where most of the action happens. There’s snake charmers, henna tattoo artists, little restaurants (at night), a plant market and lots of fruit stalls. Trying some freshly squeezed orange juice here is a must!

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We also went passed the Koutoubia Mosque, which is the highlight of the city. It can be seen from far away and heard too, when prayer begins. Even though we  couldn’t go in as a non-muslim, we very much enjoyed the looks of this architectural stunner from outside.

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We also paid the Saadian tombs and the Bahia Palace a visit, both of which are stunning. The tiling is just wow. I could walk around there all day just people-watching or reading underneath the trees.

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Other than that, the souqs were really interesting – we saw the leather processing, bargained (hard-core) prices and learned a lot about the different spices and medicinal remedies. We also got ourselves some of the famous argan oil.

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Jardin Majorelle + YSL Museum

We spent another half a day exploring the Majorelle garden and YSL Museum. One tip: if you plan on visiting the YSL museum anyways, get a ticket there! The line at the gardens is waaaaaay longer and by getting your ticket at the museum, you can skip the queue. Anyways, we made our way through the garden which was a-ma-zing, but a little but overcrowded to be enjoyed fully. I really enjoyed the bright colours of the yellow and blue that are so typical for this garden, as well as the cacti. The garden’s café is a nice relaxing place too if you want to stay a bit longer.

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The YSL museum is kind of disappointing, unless you are really really into fashion. It’s a nice museum though, with some cool features. The movie about YSL is interesting too.

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The Atlas Mountains

One main goal of the trip was to get out of the city too and explore a bit of the surrounding nature. So we booked a day trip with Marrakech Inspiring Tours (with our guide Abdul) and we would definitely recommend. Although the drive is pretty long, the tour never got boring and we made plenty of stops to enjoy and photograph the surroundings, which was nice.

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Aït Ben Haddou

One of the highlights of said day trip was the Aït Ben Haddou, a UNESCO heritage site that seems to be yet undiscovered by the masses, one of the things I loved about it so much. In the middle of the desert, these castle-like structures arise and behind it is an entire village (still inhabited). Interesting to see to say the least.

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Hammam

I absolutely wanted to try hammam while we were in Marrakech. It’s a bit of a strange experience to have someone wash and scrub down your entire body, but the massage afterwards was really nice and we came out rejuvenated. We booked our hamma experience through Les Bains de Marrakech.

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Le Jardin Secret

We spent our last day hanging around in the souqs and enjoying the serenity of this place called le Jardin Secret. This recently opened garden is a true oasis with lots of green and water. Different from the Jardin Majorelle though, because the plants are less exotic and more English-French garden-like, if that makes sense. The roof-top terrace is the perfect hangout spot to enjoy the garden.

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The Riad experience

It can be nice to get away from the hustle and bustle that is Marrakech city life, so when you are looking for a place, the riads are a perfect hideaway.  Really, there are tiny pieces of paradise in an overcrowded city. It’s like an oasis of piece and quiet. Best breakfast ever.

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That’s it, folks. Curious to see where I go next…? :-)

Until then,

Silke

Norway – the best of

A week ago, we came back from the cold north that is Norway and were blown away by the astonishing landscapes and dreamy, wintery views. We will definitely be going back in summertime someday to see the great contrast. Because I’m all about spreading the joy, I thought I’d share my favourite bits and pieces, including photos, of our trip. We stayed in Oslo for four days and took the Oslo-Bergen railway to, you guessed it, Bergen, where we spent another 3 days before heading home.

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Things you shouldn’t miss

  • Oslo Operahus. It’s undeniably one of the city’s architectural masterpieces. Impressive in winter, with the frozen harbour, I can only imagine the grandiosity it must radiate in summer, when the roof is the best place to catch some of that sparse soleil.
  • Korketrekkeren. This translates to the English equivalent of “The Corkscrew”. It used to be a winter sport practice course, but is now open to everyone for… sledding! And it’s one of the most fun things I’ve done in the snow for sure. You simply take Metro line 1 up till  Frognerseterveien, where you rent a sledge and helmet and off you go! And what’s even better is that you can take the metro back up at Midstuen and go again. Easy peasy.
  • Norsk Folkemuseum.  Although a bit chilly and slippery in winter, the peace and quiet of the outdoor museum and the colourful old houses make up for it. If you plan to go, try going on the weekends, when they have lots of activities going on, even in winter. We did some banana and chocolate grilling on the campfire.
  • Det Kongelige Slottet. The royal palace is located on a bit of a hill and offers a fantastic view over the main shopping streets and a beautiful park.

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Things you can skip

  • Vikingskipmuseet. Although the viking ships are impressive, you’ve pretty much seen everything the museum has to offer on their website. 100 NOK felt a little bit much for the size of the museum. A tourist trap, if you ask me.
  • Nasjonalmuseet. The museum itself is relatively big and provided me with an okay indoor visit, but you won’t be missing out much if you skip it.

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Places to eat

  • Gryn. A concept restaurant that specialises in porridge with typically Norwegian ingredients like brunost (brown cheese) as well as waffles (savoury and sweet). Great place for a quick lunch!
  • Munchies. With two places in Oslo, they are the best burger places. Quick, easy, delicious. Try the sweet potato fries.
  • Rent Mel. Although expensive, this pizza place next to a hotel, had a-ma-zing pizza’s. The best.
  • Taco Republica. This place has delicious taco options. You can mix and match to your liking. Make sure to book a table, though.
  • Retrolykke Kaffebar. The best place to try waffles with jelly and cream. The entire interior reminds of the 50s and 60s. I love the mismatched cutlery, cups and plates.
  • Liebling. A good place for lunch or coffee. Cozy and homey with plenty of space. Great pie. They also have a variety of colourful lattes.

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To shop

  • Norway Design. The best place for design. Also a stationary lover’s dream.
  • Ting. Cute little gadgets that you don’t need but desperately want anyways.
  • Glasmagasinet. Basically, you could’ve just left me here to live and I would’ve been perfectly happy. It’s like a dream for any design lover. They also have a fabulous Kicks department which is perfect for any make-up or skincare lover.

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Oslo – Bergen railway

A highlight of our trip was definitely the Oslo-Bergen railway. We had booked tickets 2 months in advance, which was the perfect time because that’s when you get the “minipris”, which is cheap tickets. You get to choose your seats and there is no hassle of checking in, just hop on. Bring plenty of snacks and reading or listening material because you are settling in for a 6 hour train ride. Things never get boring because after every tunnel, a new and magical scenery appears. Sit back, relax and enjoy (it’s easy).

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Things you shouldn’t miss

  • Bryggen. The row of old Hanse houses is one colourful sight to say the least. If you’re lucky the sun will come out and the harbour view will be one to never forget. (Or very lucky, because apparently there’s 320 days of rain in Bergen!)
  • Fjord tour. You can simply not leave Bergen without exploring the fjords a bit more. Even in winter, there’s tours running. Although I’m pretty sure the Norway in a Nutshell tour is better (but our budget didn’t allow for it), we did the Mostraumen fjord tour. Nonetheless spectacular! We booked ours through Fjord Tours.
  • Fløibanen. Take up the funicular (with a 26 degree slope!) to Fløyen and you will be rewarded with an amazing view over the city and the harbour as well as the surrounding mountains. It’s when you realise why Bergen is called Bergen! If possible, go for a hike or a ski. We got stuck knee-deep in the snow, but had an enjoyable walk nonetheless. And the hot chocolate afterwards with that view is just the best.
  • Audhild Viken. An all-year-round Christmas shop. I didn’t know it was a thing, but I am so glad that it is! You’ll come out cheery, singing “Jingle Bells” in no time.

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Places to eat

  • Pingvinen. The best restaurant we went to for the entirety of the trip! Also very popular with the locals, which says a lot. They have daily specials, of which we tried the Plukkfisk and the Raspeballer. Typical Norwegian flavours assured.
  • Blom. If you’re looking for a strong, specialty coffee, Blom is the place to be. Clean, crisp, cozy.
  • Alléhjørnet Thai. Also very popular with the locals, we had some delicious pad thai at this place. Can’t go wrong.

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Where to sleep

  • Citybox Oslo. A very easy and new concept hotel. You do everything yourself: from check-in, payment to luggage storage and check-out. If you really need help or more towels, you can go to the management office, but we loved this hassle-free and easy stay. Also very close to the train station and the city centre!

 

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Next up…? I’ll leave that to be a surprise! :)

 

2017 in hindsight

This year has been a year of change, both on personal and professional grounds. Not only did I move to a different city that was entirely new to me, Brussels, but I also moved into a new apartment with my boyfriend Gillian. Only a few days later, I started my first ever ‘real’ job. It’s been a year of finding balance between visiting family, catching up with friends and spending enough time with each other (because living together doesn’t automatically mean you get to talk or see each other a lot) as well as work obligations and finding time for myself (aka blogging).

It’s been a year of learning and growing from both positive and negative experiences, but I guess that’s what makes life so interesting. I’m pretty sure I’ll  learn even more in the year to come, and that makes me both excited and a little bit scared. But most things that are worth it, are a little bit scary. We already have an exciting trip planned and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Whenever I look back on a certain amount of time – a month, a year – I feel very blessed and full. When you’re so busy and very much in the moment, it’s nice to reflect and come to realise that you’ve experienced A LOT. It’s magnificent. Here’s some of my favourite moments from 2017. Let’s toast to many more…

In January I spent my last time solo travelling (for now) in Vienna (more photos over here) and realised that once you’ve found your partner in crime, travel buddy aka love of your life, it’ll never be the same. It’s also the month we moved into our first apartment together. I can’t describe it anything but chaotic bliss.

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In February, I spent the first full month working and really enjoying all the different office views. We also spent a wonderful weekend in Paris for Valentine’s day (more photos here).

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In March, I was reunited with my little sister, Pia, from Uruguay. We met when on exchange in Australia, where she became my host sister and have been friends ever since. Whenever we meet, no matter how long since the last time, it’s like we see each other every day. It was also the month Gillian and I bought our first car together.

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In April, I was surrounded by flowers and friends, a good combo. We took on swimming as a new hobby and it was also the month I donated over 20 centimetres of my hair to the Think Pink foundation, a change to say the least!

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May was all about taking it easy and exploring Brussels, which was exactly what I needed. We also took a little holiday to Lisbon in Portugal (more photos here) and life was simply perfect and perfectly simple.

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In June we took a weekent trip to the Belgian coast and we enjoyed everything from my birthday to the little things, and everything in between.

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In July I visited Pia during her exchange in Valencia and got a taste of real summer. More photos here.

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August was a busy month, but we managed to squeeze in a little weekend getaway to the Dutch regions, Zeeland and breathe in some of that salty sea air. More photos here.

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September was so busy that I focused most of my spare time on friends and family and didn’t have the proper time to record any of it.

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In October I spent a weekend with my girlfriends in the Ardennes and the weather was a-ma-zing.  Golden hour has never been so golden as that weekend. More photos here.

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In November my boyfriend and I took a long awaited vacation and spent our time travelling through two fantastic countries, Peru and Bolivia. You can read more about the trip by clicking on both countries.

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The final month of 2017 was spent in cozy corners with good company and great food, the way life should be. We enjoyed the warmth and comfort of our home and created our own bit of hygge.

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See you in the next year? :-)

Love,

Silke

Bolivia – the highlights

After the blogpost I wrote on the best bits of Peru, it’s only fair I should dedicate an equal amount on my blog to the other South American country we spent some time in, Bolivia. Here’s what we enjoyed most…

Copacabana

It sounds like an exotic beach place but really, the beach isn’t that “beachy” nor “exotic”, but nevertheless Copacabana’s water formed a nice change from all the desert landscapes we had driven through. And it made for a nice sunset too. I would also highly recommend hiking up the Calvari mountain. The hike takes approximately 40 minutes and offers stunning views over the coastline and the colourful rooftops of the town. Another one you shouldn’t skip is the cathedral. When we were there, there was a celebration going on where people could have their new car blessed and decorated with flowers – absolutely beautiful!

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La Paz

This city that is not the capital definitely has that cosmopolitan, big city-life vibe to it. It’s hard to breathe here, due to the altitude, but more so because of the exhaust fumes all over (that goes for the whole of Bolivia, by the way). Nevertheless, there’s something really fun about this city: whether it is from visiting the Witches Market, a must-see, or finding the most gringo hotspot in town to sitting at the steps of the cathedral and watching the street vendors come by with the weirdest looking foods, there’s something for everyone. Also, don’t skip the Valley of the Moon, a little outside the city centre; it’s like a different world entirely.

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Salar de Uyuni

This HUGE salt plain is incredible. I knew I would be amazed by the nothing-ness of the place, but it exceeded expectations. Definitely take sunglasses when you go, because the white of the plain hurts the eyes. We couldn’t help ourselves and took some classic salt plain photos, because if you don’t, have you really actually been there? My favourite part was the Inca Huasi, cactus island. The hike around the island takes about 30-40 minutes.

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On the road

If you’re into wildlife (lama’s, vicuñas, alpacas, etc), look out for them when you’re on the road. Also, the views were always amazing. Here’s some of the best ones.

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I hope this inspires you to also visit this wonderful country. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll go back, because there’s definitely plenty more to see.

Happy travels,

Silke

 

Peru – the highlights

Last month, we spent some time travelling, and it was the best thing ever. My boyfriend and I went on a group tour to Peru and Bolivia with Koning Aap for 24 days. We came back enthused and with recharged batteries from another trip of a lifetime. Because people are curious and keep asking me what the best part was, here’s a round-up of the best bits (- warning! there’s a lot!).

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Tip! Take the Lonely Planet guide: it was our go to book for recommendations on nice area’s, markets and places to eat and it’s never disappointed us.

Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

If you’re ever in Arequipa (2300m), this monastery is a must! This maze of little streets and houses is surprisingly cheerful. With the contrasting colours of blue and orange, this monastery almost made me want to move in. Almost.

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Ballestas Islands

These islands in the Pisco region just of Paracas are a must for wildlife lovers. The islands are overthrown with guano birds and it’s hard to miss them (or their poop too :) ) when visiting the islands by boat. We also spotted one Humboldt penguin, lots of fur seals and other sea birds. It’s a pretty spectacular sight to see.

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Colca Canyon

Besides the obvious highlights of the trip, this was my favourite part. This canyon is one of the deepest in the world (up to 4600 metres in depth) and is therefore mindbogglingly impressive. Highest point of the canyon is 4600 metres and breathtaking (although sometimes literally). Highlight of our days spent in the canyon was a 50 minute hike to the Cruz del Condor, a viewing platform to spot the condors. A good tip is to not necessarily hang around at the spot if you don’t see condors, because they might be a couple of metres the other way. We spotted no less than 14! Needless to say, we praised ourselves incredibly lucky!

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Huacachina

This oasis in the middle of the dessert is a peculiar sight to see. Because I’d heard the only way to properly view the oasis was from the top of the sand dunes, we didn’t hesitate to book a buggy and sand dune boarding tour. My throat was soar from screaming and I’m still not entirely sure whether it was from excitement or from terror, perhaps a bit of both. The drive was so worth it though, and I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves here.

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Nazca lines

Nazca is a very desert-y and rocky area and there wouldn’t be much to see if it weren’t for the huge Nazca lines. These ancient drawings compose the weirdest figures but to see them from a 6 person airplane made them all the more spectacular to me. A must.

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Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

Because we wanted to have the first view of Machu Picchu the right way, we decided to walk part of the Inca Trail. We enrolled ourselves for the 2 day trek. Really, it’s only one day of walking, but the 12km took no less than 7 hours and was, well, challenging. Pathways are narrow, uneven and 80% of the time, uphill. Nonetheless, there is a lot to enjoy on the way with amazing views on the way as well as the the Wiñay Wayna and the Inti Punku (Sun Gate). Even though it’s only a day worth of hiking, you can’t help but feel ecstatic when you catch that first glimpse of the impressive Inca site that is Machu Picchu. Let’s just say there’s something magical surrounding the whole site and experience.

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Cusco

Out of all the cities or towns we visited in Peru, I think this must’ve been our favourite. There’s a relaxed atmosphere and a decent amount of nice cafés and good restaurants. Don’t forget to go up the San Blas area in the city, it’s got some nice little streets in dreamy blue and white.

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I’ll be posting a blogpost on the best bits of Bolivia soon too! :) Keep an eye out for it.

Until then,

Love,

Silke