Ireland is a place that demands exploration. Its beauty goes beyond description and to see it – to really see it – you need to come equipped.
For one thing, you need time. At least a week, so you can really take in the scenery and visit some of its best attractions. But you must also make time to meet the people, experience its culinary side, and hear stories about the country’s rich history.
Of course, if you’re there that long, you may well find yourself in need of rain gear and necessary warm clothing to brave the ever-changing Irish temperatures. However, I hope you’re blessed with good Irish weather – it will enable you to take better photos and experience the country’s greenery and sea views in its finest hour.
Now that you have time and some appropriate weather gear, you need a good tour guide. Native tour guides make the experience unique, offering stories and anecdotes about a country that only insiders know, all while directing you to the best hotels, restaurants, and attractions in a coach that features both leg space and free Wifi. Insight Vacations has some great options.
Here are five moments in time you must capture while traveling through southern Ireland – as memories to store away in your mental vault. Take notes while you are there and many, many photos.
Moment #1: The Book of Kells at Trinity College
If you only have a short time in Dublin and want to experience its 1,000 year history, be sure to head to Trinity College to see some grand architecture and the famed library which contains the 9th century book of Kells. It’s the largest library in the world and is quite a spectacle with its row and rows of books of all sizes, from classics to children’s literature. Sculptures line the walkway, giving the room an academic yet historical feel. When you’re done, walk the cobbled walkways of the beautiful campus and stop to see the world’s oldest harp, dated back to 1300.
Moment #2: Killarney National Park
On your way south, be sure to stop in the village of Killarney in County Kerry and spend time in Killarney National Park. This park, designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, demands exploration with its beautiful views and is best experienced by either walking or taking a horse and buggy ride, which are available from March until November. It was the first national park established in Ireland, created in 1932 when Muckross Estate was donated. Its has 25,000 glorious acres which include the Lakes of Killarney, hiking trails, woodlands, mountain peaks and many native animals. You can also visit Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle or pass by Torc Waterfall.
Moment #3: Rock of Cashel
St. Patrick’s Rock of Cashel is a stop that you’ll find between Kilkenny and Killarney. It’s one of the noblest groups of medieval monuments in Ireland and hosts medieval monasteries, tombstones, and a Georgian cathedral. The Rock of Cashel is a group of medieval buildings set on limestone that includes the 12th Century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th Century Gothic cathedral, 15th Century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral. The experience is eerie and it’s impossible to not feel the years of history that took place on this important landmark.
Moment #4: Dingle Peninsula
Dingle is one of those places that once you’ve been, you will never forget. You’ll find it located on Ireland’s southwestern Atlantic coast near the Ring of Kerry, where you’ll be exposed to the most dynamic scenery, from rolling landscapes to Christian monuments to Iron Age fortifications to the Bay which is as blue as blue comes. Be prepared for walks on sandy beaches and cliffs, authentic Irish meals in pubs run by natives, strolls around village shops with cascading rivers, and conversations with Dingle locals.
Moment #5: Ashford Castle
Ashford Castle, located in Cong, was recently voted the best hotel in the world by Virtuoso, and after a stay, it’s easy to see why. Overlooking Lough Corrib (lake), on 350 acres of parkland, this luxury hotel occupies a 13th Century castle that has been thoroughly renovated. Its décor is lush and reminiscent of another time. Whilst there, you can catch falcons at the Falconry School, watch The Quiet Man in the newly built cinema (the film was shot in the area and is still widely celebrated in Cong), enjoy high tea in the beautiful Victorian-era drawing room, or get a treatment in the gorgeous spa. The grounds are equally divine and deserve a boat ride, stroll, bike ride, or some kind of method of exploration. And don’t miss dinner in the George V Dining Room. If they don’t’ have a Michelin star now, they soon will.
Of course, a country as old and rich as Ireland has many more highlights to offer than these mere 5 that I enjoyed on my stay. Stop by Findery to discover more amazing sites and experiences you should be sure not to miss.
It’s difficult to imagine that a country as rich in cultural and natural experiences as Costa Rica could be limited to a short list of only 5 things to love. There are definitely more than just 5 things about the country that stand out, but when I think about my trip there, these are the 5 highlights of our experience.
1- The resorts
There are enough lodging options in Costa Rica to accommodate any budget and travel style. But for me, the luxury resort experience just can’t be beat. The spa treatments, the food, which is often typical Costa Rican food, and the rooms, which are often unique in the way they work with the environment. You could end up staying in a resort in the rain forest! Even in a resort setting, chances are that your room could be no more than a wall of nets separating you from nature.
One thing to note is that many Costa Rican resorts are environmentally conscious and only offer fans instead of air-conditioning. One my favorite resorts in Costa Rica is the Lapa Rios Ecolodge in the area of Puntarenas. The views from our private cabana were breathtaking and, the service, as well as the tours included with the stay, was top-notch.
2 – The beaches
Whether you like to snorkel, whale watch, surf, or just relax on the sand, there is a beach for you in Costa Rica. The list of options is endless: Puerto Viejo, Montezuma, Cahuita, Tortuguero…on and on it goes.
You can easily build an entire vacation around touring Costa Rican beaches, or just pick your favorite, settle in, and enjoy.
3 – The adventures
Adventure travel to Costa Rica isn’t anything new, but what few realize is that even travelers with small kids can find it easy to take on all the fun Costa Rica has to offer. My family of 5 and I went on night hikes, where we were surrounded by snakes and all things creepy-crawly just to get a feel for what nocturnal life in the jungle was like. We took on a two-hour hike through the rainforest in search of waterfalls and of course, there was no way we were going to miss ziplining through the Cloud Forest. It’s really a great place for anyone with a sense of adventure to visit, no matter how old they may be.
4 – The environmentalism
In 2010 Costa Rica was recognized for its efforts in biodiversity protection. To date it is known as a global leader in sustainability, even in the area of tourism, not always an easy task. You might find tour guides asking you to use environmentally-friendly insect repellent so as to not harm or affect the ecosystem. You might also find that even some of the most luxurious resorts don’t have air-conditioning and limit the number of times they replace the towels in your room. You will find that many tours incorporate lesson on sustainability, leaving you with more awareness than you came in with.
All of these small efforts are designed to protect everything we have grown to love about the country so that others can enjoy it just as much in years to come. This stance is something I not only respect, but really love about Costa Rica.
5 – The wildlife, but especially the howler monkeys
People always ask me what Costa Rica is like. I always tell them there is a lot of wildlife. I mean, a lot of wildlife. If you are sensitive to critters and things, it might take some getting used to. On one of our first nights in the country, my husband had a hard time falling asleep because the jungle was so loud, and, at the time, we lived in the heart of New York City!
But you quickly get used to it, and even find yourself searching for it and wanting to learn more about it. My favorite part of the wildlife in Costa Rica was the howler monkeys. To those not familiar with their call, they sound like dogs howling. When you finally see them face to face, it’s a pretty exciting moment. They don’t bother you if you don’t bother them, though they always keep a close eye on you.
The people, the food, the sights, all of it is amazing. There’s a larger expat community now than there was years before, so at times it might feel like you are visiting an extension of the United States or some other English speaking nation. But, there are plenty of smaller towns and villages that still provide that real Latin-culture feel, and I encourage you to seek those out. If you don’t know where to start, ask a Tico (Costa Rican native) where they hang out. The fact that they’re often more than happy to show you is just another reason to love Costa Rica.
If you follow our social media channels or stopped by the blog on Friday, you may have spotted a bit of the exotic magic happening around Findery these days. We’re in love with Costa Rica and we’re determined to share that passion with the world.
Our #FindingCostaRica campaign features articles from Findery Influencers, social posts, a Pinterest board, a Flipboard magazine, and more. Follow the links below to immerse yourself in the magic with us!
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Join us as we come together with some of our favorite travel bloggers and adventurers to discuss everything we love most about Costa Rica, one of our all-time favorite destinations, Tuesday, November 17th at 11am PST/2pm EST for our first ever Twitter Chat (#FindingCostaRica).
From sunny beaches with crystal blue water to lush green jungles, Costa Rica is a travel adventurers’ haven. Come debate with us the best places to stay – from resorts to yoga retreats, favorite tropical adventures, what foods not to miss, and more.
Whether you’re looking for your next relaxing holiday destination, aren’t sure if you’d rather relax at a spa or go on a thrilling eco-adventure hiking through the jungle, of just want to dream about discovering one of the most magical places on earth, this Twitter chat is for you!
Date: Tuesday, November 17
Time: 11am PST/2pm EST
To start: Follow Findery and the panelists on Twitter (see below).
To see the chat: Log into Twitter and, in the search box, type in #FindingCostaRica
To chat with us: Tag your tweets with #FindingCostaRica
TWITTER CHAT PANELISTS:
Andrea Fellman of SavvySassyMoms.com and Wanderlustliving.com
Follow Andrea on Twitter at https://twitter.com/savvysassymoms
Andrea is part of a family that loves to travel and is always on the move. Currently they live in Costa Rica, so they have some great information and insights to share!
Carol Cain of GirlGoneTravel.com
Follow Carol on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GirlGoneTravel
Carol’s goal is to inspire and share her discoveries wherever her travels may take her. She has a husband and three adventurous boys who all share her love of travel.
Tawanna Browne Smith of MomsGuideToTravel.com
Find Tawanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TawannaBSmith
Tawanna is a mom who loves traveling with and without kids. Her mission is to dispense great travel advice that will help motivate other moms to travel more often, either with or without their children!
Figuring out where to go in Costa Rica is no easy task. There are several regions to choose from, all offering vastly different experiences. Once I’d discovered that Costa Rica was a great destination for a wellness trip I still needed to decide where to go. That took time, research, and an openness for adventure.
Narrowing down the region where I wanted to visit for my five days in the country meant I had to prioritize what I wanted to do. Since my trip was a sisters-themed getaway, I knew that wherever I went, there had to be a spa. More than that, the area itself had to exude peace, wellness, and nature.
My sister’s requirements were to visit a waterfall, a spa, and a volcano. Usually, specific requests like this can be a headache for a travel planner, but, in this case, it gave us some direction and helped us narrow down our choices.
We lucked out. The Arenal area had everything we both desired out of the trip.
Here’s where we chose to stay, eat, spa, and play on our Costa Rica wellness getaway.
Spa and Hot Springs
During our first couple of nights in the area, we stayed at La Casa Luna hotel in La Fortuna, a mere seven-minute drive from downtown La Fortuna. This stunning hotel offers an incredible view of the Arenal volcano.
When I asked our driver, Jorge, how far we were from the rainforest he responded, “you’re in it.” No lie. The hotel is surrounded by lush plant life and a dozen or more species of birds and other rain forest dwellers.
Labeled foot paths lead to the various four-suite buildings, trails, hot tub, pool, and the spa.
Casa Luna’s spa is a unique outdoor experience. Neither my sister nor I had ever before experienced spa services in the elements. Theoretically, it’s a beautiful and relaxing idea, however, when you are cocooned in a Costa Rican chocolate wrap treatment you’re nothing more than a tasty appetizer for mosquitoes. Thankfully we were visiting in September which reduced the number of insects who came out to play.
Ten miles down the road you’ll find a completely different spa experience at the Arenal Kioro Resort, where we chose to spend our remaining nights in the area.
The Kioro resort is gated and perched on a hill overlooking La Fortuna area. On the opposite side of the resort, the volcano appears to sit just an arm’s reach away. The landscape and grounds at Kioro are perfectly manicured, also complete with labeled pathways and information markers about the trees and plant life that inhabit the property.
Our room was an immaculate family suite with two queen beds, a daybed, beautiful furniture, and most important of all, a Jacuzzi from which we could bask in the best view of the volcano a girl could ask for.
Walking through the grounds on my way to the indoor spa felt like a visit to the botanical gardens.
Twists and turns led to inclines, waterways, a pool, and the creme de la creme experience: the on-property hot Springs.
Unlike other resorts in the area, Hotel Kioro’s hot springs are only available to guests. This exclusivity limits the traffic in the area and almost always guarantees that you can enjoy your own personal geothermal outdoor spa. The resort boasts nine hot springs in total, and you can choose from brick cold to piping hot, small and intimate to large or party-style. Whatever your fancy, the experience is guaranteed to be phenomenal.
Apart from visits to hot springs, in the La Fortuna area you can also enjoy zip lining, caving, chocolate tours, rappelling, birdwatching, hiking, hanging bridges, waterfalls, volcano walks, and more. Basically, something for everyone! We opted to go on a day tour with EcoTerra to experience the area waterfalls, hanging bridges, and the volcano.
The La Fortuna waterfall is the most popular in the area. It is protected in a park which requires a small entry fee designed to preserve the area and give back to the local community.
The hike down to the waterfall is an adventure. Once we arrived at its base, we immediately realized the physical effort was well worth the trek.
The Arenal Hanging Bridges Park also has its own waterfall that isn’t nearly as impressive as La Fortuna’s or as the bridges that give the park its name. Our two-hour hike took us across a dozen bridges and made us meander through the most scenic views of the Arenal region.
You simply cannot come to the area without visiting the volcano. A mostly flat hike took us through both new and old forest. We walked along pathways still covered in volcanic sediment from the most recent eruption.
After a rocky climb we arrived at a peak with a birds-eye view of the Arenal lake and the volcano. Varying species of toucans and other birds populate the trees in the area, making the hike also fun for birdwatching.
Places to eat
There are several local restaurants to dine in downtown La Fortuna. Two of our drivers recommended Los Nenes, but I have to admit that we were so beat from all of our activities that we kept things simple and dined at our hotel every day except for the first night.
On our way to La Fortuna from San Jose airport, we stopped at a small local dive on the side of the road called Bar Chicharronera Mi Rancho. As they say, “when in Rome do as the Romans do,” so we ordered the traditional Costa Rican meal of Casado: beans, rice, plantains, and a meat. Delicioso!
I only scratched the surface of this beautiful country on my first trip. Because of my amazing experience and the inviting “Pura Vida” attitude of the Costa Ricans, I definitely look forward to discovering more.
I’ve been living in Costa Rica for over two years now, and while I have not been everywhere, I have be getting around this gorgeous country I get to call home quite a bit.
Most of my weekend travels are in and around the Guanacaste region, the northern pacific side of Costa Rica. Guanacaste is a diverse area where you can really get a taste of everything Costa Rica has to offer.
I’m often asked about my recommendations for where to stay in Costa Rica, and it really depends on the type of adventure or vacation you are looking for, but based on the places I have been to and taking into consideration that this might be someone’s first time visiting Costa Rica, this is what I would suggest.
10 Day Itinerary in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Fly into the Liberia International Airport. You can either rent a car or hire shuttles to transport you all around Costa Rica. Driving is safe and most of the roads you will be on for this itinerary are paved, with the exception of one small sections of road on your way to your destination. Hotels can help you hire shuttle services to take you to and from each destination, so just ask!
Arenal Volcano / La Fortuna – 3 nights
Stay: Tabacon Hot Springs or The Lost Iguana Resort
Travel Time: Liberia Airport to Tabacon Hot Springs – approximately 3 hours
Tabacon Hot Springs is the quintessential Costa Rican spot for soaking up the rainforest. Yes, this is a popular honeymoon spot, but it’s okay to bring kids, however I would not recommend this particular destination for babies or toddlers. The Spa at Tabacon Hot Springs is award winning and the massage tables are literally out in the middle of the rainforest; it’s a massage you’ll never forget. The Lost Iguana Resort is a bit like it sounds. A little off the beaten path, it offers rooms with clear views of the Arenal Volcano and is located close to the hanging bridges.
Must Do: Zip lining and Hanging bridges
Sky Trek Adventures I have gone on several zip lining courses here in Costa Rica and, if you want the real deal, Sky Trek is it. There are smaller courses all around Costa Rica, which can be better for smaller kids that might be afraid, but Sky Trek is very professional and the zips are long, with one zip giving you a breathtaking view of Lake Arenal.
Mistico Hanging Bridges (formally known as Arenal Hanging Bridges) This is an easy hike and great for kids. There is a extra trail you can take to see a waterfall if you are feeling adventurous. The total trek should take about 2 hours, so be sure to bring a backpack with water and a few snacks.
Optional: If you want to explore another Hot Springs you can buy a day pass to The Springs. They have a monkey slide that your kids (and you) will love. They also have a animal sanctuary, climbing wall, and white water rafting.
Tenerio National Park / Rio Celeste – 2 nights
Stay: La Carolina Lodge
Travel Time: Tabacon Hot Springs to La Carolina Lodge – approximately 2 hours
Hopefully by the time you get here you have embraced the pura vida way of life and are truly ready to unplug. La Carolina Lodge sits on near a rushing riverbed and, at night, the grounds are lit only by candlelight. Traditional Costa Rican food is prepared in a small open kitchen and everyone staying here dines at the same time. This place may be off the grid, but it’s a true hidden gem and one not to miss.
Tip: Stop at a store before you get here to stock your room with some snacks and any beverages (wine & beer) you may want. This is not a hotel with any sort of lobby or things for sale. The restaurant only serves water, fruit juices, and ice tea.
Must Do: Horseback Riding & Rio Celeste
La Carolina Lodge offers one hour horseback riding through the most enchanting forest. I’m usually not a fan of horseback riding, but this gorgeous sunset ride changed that for me. I felt like I was galloping through the pages of a children’s colorful storybook, it was so beautiful I almost cried (seriously). After your ride, sit in the rushing river then take a nice long soak in the naturally heated hot tub.
Tip: Bring a deck of cards or any small travel games to play with your children, read books, do yoga in the grass, and rest up for your hike the next day!
Get to the Tenerio National Park earlier than later to avoid crowds and the afternoon rain. The hike to the Rio Celeste waterfall is not too difficult and perfect for kids. Once you reach the waterfall you can continue on to the beginning where the sulphur and calcium carbonate mixes with the fresh water and the beautiful blue water begins or you can turn around and head back. I recommend continuing on, because there are some fun bridges to cross! The entire trek will take you about 2 ½ hours depending on how long you like to sit and gaze at the beautiful surroundings, take photos, and rest a bit.
Sand and Surf / Playa Conchal – 5 nights
Travel Time: La Carolina Lodge to Westin Playa Conchal – approximately 3 hours
Where to stay: Westin Playa Conchal
By now you may want to just lay on the sand for an entire day and have a cocktail at a swim up bar. The Westin Playa Conchal is the perfect place to do just that! An all-inclusive resort on one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, playa conchal (shell beach). The Westin Playa Conchal is in a really ideal location for some day trips off the resort.
Day Trip to Tamarindo
Must Do: Surf Lessons or Catamaran Sunset/Snorkel Tour
Tamarindo is the largest beach town in the area and is filled with local shops, restaurants and bars. If you want any nightlife in this part of Costa Rica you’ll find it in Tamarindo, but it’s still very kid and family friendly too. Getting out on a catamaran is a great way to spend the day, especially if you’d like to get in some snorkeling. The Marlin Del Rey boats cast off from Tamarindo daily.
Tip: If you are traveling with teenagers you may want to stay in Tamarindo, so they can be a bit more independent.
Day Trip to Las Catalinas at Playa Danta
Las Catalinas is a beachside development with luxury condos on playa danta and a favorite among the expat community and locals. Las Catalinas is home to some of the most stunning hiking and biking trails. Grab a map and hike to the point for epic views! You can rent stand up paddle boards, mountain bikes, and kayaks from Pura Vida Ride, and even grab a fabulous cappuccino. I really cannot recommend a day trip here enough.
Sunset at Mar Vista
Enjoy the sunset at The Club at Mar Vista, head there about 5:00pm to get a table, grab a drink, and sit in the infinity pool overlooking the view. It’s something not to miss!
Optional: Depending on whether you like to be on the move or not, you could also stay 3 nights at the Westin Playa Conchal and then stay 2 nights at Las Catalinas.
Travel Time: Westin Playa Conchal to Liberia Airport – approximately 1 hour
You can certainly turn this itinerary upside down and hit the beach first to ease into your trip, but this way you experience the adventures of Costa Rica first, earning you the rest and relaxation you’ll enjoy at the Westin Playa Conchal.
Another place that I have to mention is Monteverde, which was very hard to leave off this itinerary, but if you are here for two weeks or even longer than that, I highly recommend you make time to visit Monteverde, the cloud forest. It feels a bit more like you’re in a small mountainside town in Switzerland than Costa Rica – very unique!
Where to Stay: Monteverde Lodge and Gardens
Excited to discover more about Costa Rica? Follow along as the Findery team spends two weeks #FindingCostaRica. We’ll be sharing lots of amazing finds and places to explore both virtually and in person!
Undisputedly one of the world’s greatest cities, London is simultaneously the heart of the United Kingdom and a truly global city with influences gathered from around the world. It is both historic and modern, sprawling and diverse — full of cozy corners, neighborhood pubs, and British charm, while remaining an international center of commerce and culture.
Whether you’re a frequent visitor or it’s your first time in the English capital, you’ll find a mix of both UK character and global urban life that strike the perfect balance for a well-rounded London experience. On this last trip I was both exploring new neighborhoods on my own, as well as showing family around the main sights. I came to think of beloved London as both classic and contemporary — and I adore both sides of this vibrant city.
If a contemporary experience is what you’re after, look no further. Allow me to take you to…
Shoreditch: Unexpected East London
For my first couple of visits, I hardly knew a place like Shoreditch existed in London — with its edgy street art, specialty shops, and alternative, gritty, creative vibe. You won’t find East London in many guidebooks — and it’s true, there aren’t any “must-see” sights there. That is precisely what makes a visit to this neighborhood so fascinating. It’s the modern London and counterculture that many of us don’t associate with the city when we think only of royals and red phone booths.
For my father’s first visit to London, he asked me, outside of the obvious, what I love most about London.
My answer: the markets.
Best on the weekends but operating throughout the city daily, the markets of London are a treat for all the senses and, to me, an expression of London’s character. You’ve got well known markets such as Portobello and Camden, and then you’ve got some emerging trendy spots (which have become my recent favorites.)
The best? I found Broadway Market out in Hackney, along with the Columbia Road Flower Market, to be the most fun, especially for food. Speaking of food, if you don’t hit Borough Market (London Bridge tube stop,) please just lie to me and tell me you did.
Did you know London has canals? The waterways were yet another hidden spot that took me several visits and conversations with locals to find. A leisurely stroll along the canals of London on an Autumn afternoon quickly became a highlight of my entire time there. Lined with homes both brick and boat, the area is not only beautiful, but, for me, also completely unexpected. A bike ride from Broadway Market down to the river Thames was the perfect way to while away an afternoon in London.
Why, when there is so much to do and see in London, would I ever recommend leaving it for a day?
I would’ve asked the same, but I completed my first round trip journey to Paris on this last trip and it was so easy and comfortable I found myself wondering what took me so long.
Especially if you’ve yet to make to Paris, it couldn’t be simpler to get there — if only just for the day. Eurostar runs as frequently as every half hour, and if you’ve got a day to spare, you won’t regret taking yourself over the Channel to see Paris. The journey time is a mere 2 hours, 15 minutes and leaves from St. Pancras Station.
London has its share of beautiful, full-service hotels. What it doesn’t have are many affordable options. I opted for a stay at the Ibis Euston St. Pancras for the convenience of popping over to St. Pancras Station early in the morning, where I caught my train to Paris.
Ibis is known for its budget accommodation, and this property in particular was clean and well-located. For me it was a step up from a hostel without the price tag of an average hotel.
Though amenities are basic, it’s well-designed and well-run and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better spot to stay.
It’s quite simple really: you just can’t come to London and not have a curry.
You thought Indian food was good where you’re from? I’d venture to say London has the best Indian and Pakistani food outside of the countries themselves. To add to that, chicken tikka masala has become affectionately known as as much of a national dish as anything, even arguably more than fish and chips or Sunday roast.
There are a couple of ways to go about the ideal London curry experience: you can go with an acclaimed spot serving up inventive twists on classic dishes, or you can venture to Brick Lane, which is as straight to the source as possible.
(My favorites? For contemporary I like Dishoom (three locations throughout London) and a classic Brick Lane favorite for me is Meraz Cafe on Hanbury Street.)
Everyone knows about the London Eye and most recently, the Shard, but the Sky Garden (located in what is known to many Londoners as the “Walkie Talkie building”) is still relatively a local secret. You can dine at the cafe (Darwin’s Brasserie,) have a coffee and a pastry in the coffee shop, or simply take in the views and wander through the greenery.
There’s no better (free) way to see the sweeping urban sprawl that is modern London. You’ve got views on each side as far as the eye can see (pending fog or rain!) You’ve got the Shard directly in front as you, with a bird’s eye view of the historic Tower of London and Tower Bridge just below.
You can book free tickets on the website in advance, and you’ll need to bring your passport and go through security to enter.
And because I wouldn’t want you to leave without seeing the classics…
Strolling through one of London’s grand public parks is, to me, one of the greatest joys to be found in the whole city. These aren’t your average parks — sprawling green spaces with mature trees towering over pristine walkways, elegant benches, and often fountains and outstanding vistas. They’re a relaxing oasis in a busy city, but they’ve also been the pulse of London life for hundreds of years. It’s a particularly great place to sit and watch the world go by, and I love simply absorbing the natural environment as people walk past. Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James’s Park — take your pick (and perhaps a picnic!)
(Tip: Primrose Hill has one of the best views of London and is my personal favorite.)
I almost refrained from yet another visit to the Tower of London on this last trip. At £22/person, it’s not a cheap attraction — especially when nearly all of London’s spectacular museums can be entered free of charge.
What makes the Tower of London worth it, time and time again? For me it’s the true sense of history here. Everything from the structure itself to the stories of monarchs and even a viewing of the crown jewels — it’s iconically English and continues to stand the test of time. You’ll feel a true sense of London’s maturity standing on the ground here.
That, plus, the Yeomen’s (the Tower guards) tours are full of impeccably-timed British humor along with history, and the views of the iconic Tower Bridge can’t be beat (and those both are free!)
Westminster Abbey: A Portrait of Britain
Standing tall over centuries of rich history — from royal weddings, to coronations, to the resting place of some of Britain’s iconic historical figures, it’s tough to imagine a more moving national monument. Ornately decorated both inside and out, here you can pay your respects to some of the world’s most important moments and individuals and take in Britain’s contributions to world history.
There is an entrance fee (except during Evensong service at 3 pm), but is always worth seeing, if only the exterior. The sense of place here is overwhelming; I never miss a chance to walk by.
Big Ben: A Classic No Matter How Many Times You’ve Been to London
Still my favorite London memory (and it never gets old,) I can’t recommend taking the Tube to Westminster enough. Why? You emerge from the Underground and just as you look up Big Ben, the iconic clocktower of English Parliament, appears dramatically — standing tall and elegantly regal. It’s a must for first-timers to London of course, but I find myself still looking up in awe no matter how many times I return.
At 19 years old, on my very first trip to London, the main piece of research I completed in full was…where to find the best fish and chips. I love fish and chips — they’re iconically British, but they’re often done in a mediocre manner. Yet when the fish is fresh and the frying is light, it’s one of my favorite meals in the world.
Ten years later, the Covent Garden spot Rock and Sole Plaice (open since the 1800s) remains my favorite place to get my fill. Whether you sit inside, outside on their patio, or take it to go in a bit of paper, it’s a classic London experience and I have yet to find a more classic establishment. It is all they serve. (Personally, I love the haddock most and I get a side of pickled gherkin and mushy peas!)
If I had to choose just one experience for anyone to have in London, I’d tell you to head straight to a true English pub.
While there are many that appear authentic, there are chains of impostors with the same menu — so you’ll want to do a bit of research. A few tried and true: The Victoria (Paddington,) Churchill Arms (Kensington,) Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (Fleet St,) and the Prospect of Whitby (Wapping.)
Go for the decor, stay for the conversation, the ale, and the pub grub. A uniquely British social experience, I could happily sit for hours near a cozy fireplace with a pint. It’s a place to be social, certainly, but I have yet to find another public space that feels as comfortably like home.
And there you have it, London in all its glory. Enjoy, and be sure to stop by and let me know which of these recommendations was your favorite!
Halloween, Octoberfest, Dia de Muertos… October is basically one long celebration, or rather, one long lead up to an incredible explosive month-end. The colors, the magical transformation, the endless fun, we can’t quite get enough of it here at Findery.
Take a look at all the magic our users have doled out.
Mexico doesn’t mess around when it comes to one of their brightest and most out-there annual events. The Day of the Dead is a massive celebration that offers endless photo and story opportunities!
Even Disney gets in on the Halloween fun, with dedicated decorations, parades, and transformed rides. Haunted House ride anyone? Extra spooky in October!
What’s October without some great stories? Ghost stories to be specific. The season, with its cooler weather, darker nights, and eerie decorations, just calls for them!
Stories not enough to spook you and make your blood run cold? How about if you were to hear them in the real life Sleepy Hollow? Just keep an eye out for that headless guy; he’s not someone you want to bump into in the dark of night.
And if horror stories and creepy costumes just don’t do it for you, leave them behind and see where else the fall takes you. May your paths be colorful and inspiring wherever they may lead.
Come share your adventures and discoveries on Findery.
We can’t wait to see where November takes you.
Imagine driving down a tree-lined country road where the traffic is light, the weather is mild, and the leaves are five varying hues of orange. Your car windows are down, inviting the crisp air in as you fill your lungs with the breath of nature.
It’s fall. My favorite time of year to travel. Prices are lower, the summer crowds have gone home, and country landscapes are picture perfect.
And it’s the surprisingly ideal time to go camping.
Understanding your travel style
Now, I’m no camping aficionado, in fact, if you ask any of my closest friends if they can imagine me camping, you’d get a unanimous “no.” And they’re not lying. I’m just not a pitch-a-tent type of girl.
I can’t function in the cold. I have a phobia of bugs. My allergies are, at times, debilitating. I watched too many scary movies growing up. I’m the quintessential city girl. And most of all, I enjoy my creature comforts.
Luckily, there’s more than one way to camp. And an ideal season to go: fall.
The great camping debate
Last weekend I posted photos to my Facebook profile of my first-time foray into camping. Within minutes I was confronted with almost two dozen objections to what I considered camping to be.
The camping “experts” (about 20 of whom will remain anonymous) were out for blood, armed with their torches and pitchforks:
“That’s not camping. That’s ‘glamping’.”
“That is called renting a house in another town and state for the weekend.”
“That is hardly roughing it.”
“Where is the tent?”
“Enjoy your ‘clearly not camping’ trip.”
Are you kidding me, people? Open your minds. Thankfully for those of us who need a little outdoors hand-holding, camping is not just about a tent.
What is considered camping
The definition of camping has evolved over the years. Traditionally, camping in its most simplistic forms meant “recreationally living in the outdoors,” either in the open air or under a tent.
A more refined definition from Wikipedia states that “camping is an elective outdoor recreational activity. Generally held, participants leave developed areas to spend time outdoors in pursuit of activities providing them enjoyment. Camping may involve sheltering in the open air, attendance, caravan, motorhome, or primitive structure.”
Furthermore the definition states that “there is no universally held definition of what is and what is not camping. Fundamentally, it reflects a combination of intent and the nature of activities involved.”
Who knew my camping trip would become a philosophical debate?
Three styles of camping
Thank goodness for campgrounds like the Williamsburg KOA that make camping (or its intent) accessible to different types of travelers.
For those looking for a “comfy camping” experience, cabins are a convenient option. Cabins can range from basic one-room rudimentary shacks to more deluxe accommodations, complete with bathroom, a half-kitchen, linens, television, and a deck.
Caravan or motor-home camping
Then there’s motor-home camping. Our campground was filled with more motor homes than cabins and tents combined.
These homes on wheels, which come in all sorts of sizes, are the perfect complement to camping. Travelers on the campground set up tables and chairs for meals and relaxation while they grilled and socialized with their neighbors. Many decorate their spaces with house plants and seasonal paraphernalia.
Ironically, despite all the online trash-talking, I didn’t see all that many tents pitched on our camping trip. Walking along two of the campground’s beautiful nature trails, I counted no more than five families emerging from tent sites. It was a testimony to the changing face of camping.
Things to do away from the campsite
Camping is fun, but some days you need to get away from your home away from home. We chose a campground minutes away from a historical area so we’d have the opportunity to do more on our fall camping trip than just sit around a campfire.
There are campsites all around the country, many close to amazing things to visit. We opted to camp near Williamsburg’s historic triangle; rich with early colonial history, reenactment sites, restaurants, museums, shops, and hotels.
We spent a day in Historic Jamestown and learned all about America’s first permanent English settlement. As we walked through the original 1607 James Fort site, we had a chance to explore what life was like for the Africans, English, and Powhatan Indians who lived here.
The James River provided a scenic backdrop to this archaeological site where our imaginations ran wild just thinking of the trade and activity that took place on its banks over 400 years ago.
Nearby Jamestown Island Loop Drive is a five-mile, self-guided driving tour that explores the natural environment and history of the island. We drove at our leisure stopping and reading site markers for homes and trails that once occupied the loop.
After stopping at the Glasshouse of 1608 and observing traditional glass making from one of the period-dressed artisans, we grabbed a tasty bite at Anna’s Brick Oven pizza. The 16″ thin crust cheese pizza was a welcome treat after an afternoon of touring.
It was a great trip, and I might well be a camping convert. Especially since it doesn’t matter if you pitch a tent, hook up an RV, or relax in a cabin. Camping in the fall is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors and surrounding activities with the family.
This post was written by Tawanna Browne Smith, a consultant and Editor-in-Chief at Mom’s Guide To Travel where she shares travel planning tips while helping caregivers and moms plan and strategize how they can make travel an integral part of their lives for transformation, enjoyment, and respite. You can find more of her notemaps on Findery.
There are over 300 islands that make up the South Pacific Republic of Fiji. Not all of them are populated and not all of them have the infrastructure to accommodate tourists, but what I learned in my time traveling around is that every island offers a little bit of the Fiji magic and that you can get a great feel for the Fiji experience even with just one island tour.
Having an idea of what to expect from visiting some of the islands can really help to narrow down where you want to spend most, if not all, of your time. These highlights from the islands I explored should help you plan your trip.
Viti Levu / Suva / Nanuku
Viti Levu is the largest island in the Republic of Fiji and the base for the Nadi International Airport. It is where the capital city of Suva is located, and thus where most of the Fijian population can be found. If you are curious about city life in Fiji, this is a great place to start. Suva features the fun – nightclubs, museums, restaurants, bars, and shops, and not so fun – traffic and congestion, that can often found in larger cities. It’s also known for its rainy days.
If you want to spend some time exploring the city, a great place to stay is the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island, home of many of the larger chain hotels frequented by visitors around the world. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, the menu offers local and standard favorites, and the beach is a haven for relaxation after a long plane ride.
About 2 hours from Suva, along the Pacific Harbor, you’ll find Nanuku, a smaller town that serves as a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. I felt I could breathe here and absolutely loved both the local and expat community. I especially enjoyed my stay experience at the luxurious Nanuku Auberge Resort. This resort exceeded any expectations I had for an all-inclusive. The food was incredible – some of the best I had during my whole stay traveling through Fiji – and the villas were to die for. It’s a full service resort with everything from salon to fitness center and even offers a cultural center where events and activities are held to introduce visiting guests to local cultural knowledge.
While you’re here, don’t miss out on the a white water rafting tour. It’s more than just a water adventure tour, it’s an exploration through one of Fiji’s most beautiful natural landmarks, the Navua River, and it’s perfect for all ages.
You can take a ferry, boat or plane into this south coastal town of Vanua Levu island. The location is serene, lush, and beautiful. The town center is small and intimate, but you can still easily lose track of time while admiring the shops and connecting with the locals who are always more than happy to make your acquaintance.
The most famous Fijian pearl farm is located here and one of the things to do when in town is to take a tour to see how the pearls are harvested. A stay at one of Koro Sun’s water bures is a great experience.
I recommend you start your day with a hike through the adjacent rainforest to search out waterfalls, a dive to see fish, both big and small, or just a little relaxation on your private hammock. I indulged in a spa treatment, if only because the spa was located in a hut in the middle of the rainforest near a waterfall and I couldn’t ever imagine when so many things I love would ever come together like that again.
The nearby Savasi Island is another beautiful private island location, made up of lava rock, that was transformed into a luxury retreat for couples and families. The resort offers excursions to nearby activities, such as kayaking in the nearby Salt Lake or snorkeling in the reef right off the island. Or you could choose to lounge in your villa, pool, or in the main lobby area, where you’ll be surrounded by the sounds of waves crashing against the nearby coral reef.
Known as Fiji’s Garden Island, Taveuni is small, but offers many fun things to do and see. I’d say that Taveuni is an adventure traveler’s paradise, or at the very least a nature lover’s dream come true. Hiking the Bouma National Heritage Park and cooling off in its waterfalls, snorkeling the Rainbow Reef or diving the White Wall, exploring the beautiful villages and touring the historic sites are just a few of the things to enjoy here.
Paradise Taveuni is my resort of choice. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but the grounds are gorgeous and the staff that works there further complement the experience. Access to snorkeling right from the resort without the need to go out on a motorboat was a plus, though of course they offer excursions on land and out to sea, as well. Professional divers will especially love the cool storage room they have for large photography and filming gear, something which I didn’t see anyone else offer.
Yasawa was the smallest of all the islands I visited and also the most laid back. The island is home to 6 villages, which is surprising for its size. It is also where you can find some of Fiji’s most beautiful beaches. It is not a crowded or busy island, so finding a beach that you can enjoy all to yourself is very likely. I suggest staying at the Yasawa Island Resort, but don’t expect a lot of lively activities here. This is a place of relaxation and though some may find that all the serenity is not their cup of vacation tea, I personally found it to be a heavenly experience and a beautiful contrast from the noise and busyness from my daily life. The massages by the beach are swoon-inducing.
Explore the village, go hiking, or take a diving or snorkeling trip. Kids will especially enjoy exploring for seashells, of which there are often many.
Getting there and around
If you’re jetting in from New York City or the East Coast, the trip can be kind of daunting. Most of the travelers I met were from Australia and New Zealand, and many of the Americans were from California – only a 10 hour plane ride away. Fiji Airways will become your best friend as it is the only airline that flies from the U.S. to Fiji, with daily direct flights out of Los Angeles and twice a week directs from Honolulu. In addition to getting you there, Fiji Link is the main commuter link between larger islands. I was a bit worried that the only available flight wouldn’t meet my standards of comfort and service, but I am happy to report that this was not the case. It was a positive experience not only from LA to Fiji, but also during island transfers. It was also my first taste of the famous Fijian hospitality, something which greeted me at every single point during my visit.
Island hoppers might also experience taking even smaller planes, provided through aptly named companies such as Island Hoppers, to locations where the air strips might not be able to support larger planes. Some visitors even opt to fly in on helicopters, but that’s the more costly option.
I relied mostly on Pacific Destinations to transfer from hotels to airports, but some hotels offer transfer shuttle services and I saw a lot of tourists renting cars. Driving in Fiji seems easy enough as most islands aren’t very crowded, but it’s important to note that the driver is on the right hand side and you drive on the right hand side of the road, something that can be tricky if you are not used to it. There are also areas where there is no cell signal, so if you’re counting on relying on your phone’s GPS to get around, you might find moments of black out.
Though you may arrive to Fiji excited about the water sports, looking forward to the sunsets, and with plans to spend a lot of time on the beach, what you will walk away most impressed with are the people, their cultural pride, and the joy with which they share it all with those who visit. To me, that is what makes Fiji the paradise that it is.