A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: TheNomadWay.com

Paro & Thimpu, Bhutan

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Located in the Himalayas between Tibet and India, Bhutan has always been a destination on the bucket list. It's home to pristine scenery, that is naturally preserved as part of a harmonious society. There's a true sense of culture and tradition that binds the whole kingdom and clearly distinguishes it from the hustle and bustle of many other countries. Bhutan is the only Vajrayana Buddhist nation in the world and has been called "The Last Shangrila".

It certainly hasn't always been a tourist mecca. It first opened its borders to tourists in 1974 with a "high value, low volume" tourism policy. Then when the pandemic hit, Bhutan closed its borders to travellers until 23 September 2022. We timed our trip well, visiting in October 2022. The high value, low volume policy remains with restrictions on the way you travel. You must have a visa, a booked trip with a guide and predefined itinerary, and pay the mandatory daily "sustainable development fee" of US$200 per day.

With that setup, it meant arriving to an airport that was calm, clean and quiet. There was no frantic tempo that's associated with many other international airports. The countries reputation a peaceful haven was apparent immediately!

We were greeted by our guide Dashi and driver Khandu - two of the friendliest people you'll meet and set off from Paro to Thimpu. The fee you pay covers transport, meals and accommodation, so withdrawing local currency isn't really needed.


We dropped our gear at the very nice Hotel Admohara and enjoyed a local buffet lunch, followed by - exploring:

  • National Memorial Chhorten
  • The impressive Buddha Dordenma, which coincidently had thousands of monks taking part in an annual pilgrimage.
  • A brand-new riverside market called Kaja Throm, with a huge range of organic fruit and vegetables.
  • Tashichho Dzong, a stunning Buddhist monastery and fortress.
  • The streets of Thimpu which is the only national capital city in the world to not have any traffic lights.

A highlight of the trip was the hike to Tigers Nest Monastery, also known as Paro Takstang. It's a sacred Vajrayana Himalayan Buddhist site located north of Paro, precariously perched on a cliff, 900 meters off of the ground. It is stunning in its beauty and location.

The only way to get there, is to hike, which adds to the experience, as you wind your way through the beautiful forest, over a waterfall and with endless views. The trail to monastery is a wide, dirt trail. It is uphill the entire way but not overly steep. It’s very doable for most people, just take your time and drink plenty of water to help you adjust to the altitude.

  • Distance: 6.4 km (4 miles) round trip
  • Altitude Gain: 520 meters (1,700 feet)
  • Highest Elevation Point: 3,120 meters (10,232 feet)
  • Time: 5 to 7 hours for the entire visit (including a couple of breaks for a hot drink and then lunch at the Taktsang Cafeteria, which is roughly halfway.

It was ideal for us, as a preparation hike before we go to the Himalayas in Nepal.


Following the hike, we checked out the Tshering Farmhouse, which gave us an insight into local living, as well as a soothing stone bath and a local meal! A short, but very sweet and memorable trip.

Posted by TheNomadWay.com 07:24 Archived in Bhutan Comments (0)

Paris, France

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The final stop on this trip was Paris. A city I haven't explored for many years however it left me gobsmacked again! It's jammed packed with tourists for good reason, it's one of Europe's gems.

You could spend weeks here and hardly scratch the surface. I was fortunate to also catch up with some Parisian friends that we'd met in Canada. We enjoyed some great food and drinks and it also just so happened to be Bastille Day, the national day of France.


Be sure to check out:

  • Eiffel Tower - Is this the most famous man-made structure in the world?
  • Les Catacombes - A 3,000km network of tunnels that run under the city, containing the bones of six million people.
  • Palais Garnier - A 2,000-seat auditorium and the pinnacle of French opulence.
  • Parc des Buttes-Chaumont - A park with winding paths, waterfalls, temples and cliffs.
  • Arc de Triomphe - One of the world's best-known commemorative monuments.
  • Le Marais - Home to arguably the trendiest part of the city.
  • Galeries Lafayette - a jaw-dropping department store.
  • Sacré-Coeur - One of the most iconic monuments in Paris situated at the top of the Butte Montmarte. It has one of the best views of Paris.
  • The Louvre - One of the world’s largest museums with 35,000 works on public display.
  • Champs-Élysées - A world-famous boulevard and the most iconic shopping destination in Paris.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Stuttgart, Germany

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The lure of the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums persuaded me to cross the border into Germany to Stuttgart, via Strasbourg.

Stuttgart's a nice city with a huge amount of development related to 'Stuttgart 21'. It's a rail and urban development that started in 2010 and is due to finish by 2025. I stayed with a great Airbnb host, north east of the city centre and explored the city by foot (despite the rain!). There are some great buildings and areas to explore including the Stuttgart Opera, the Old Castle, Schillerplatz and Mittlerer Schlossgarten and the stunning modern Public Library.

The Mercedes-Benz Museum and Porsche Museums didn't disappoint, with a huge array of information and cars to explore.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Colmar, France

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When looking at the flight options out of Reykjavík, I decided to go with a direct flight to Saint Louis/Basel on the French border with Switzerland and Germany. It's lined up really well with the Tour de France, which was going through Colmar - a town further north and just an easy train trip away.

Colmar also happens to be one France's most beautiful villages. It's fairy tale like with colourful half-timbered medieval buildings, winding cobblestone streets and a canal. The first day was spent exploring the town and eating classic French croissants, baguettes and crepes!


The Tour de France is another event I'd always wanted to experience and it didn't disappoint. It drew a huge crowd with loads of entertainment and as Colmar was at the end of the days stage, I was able to see the sprint to the finish. The next stage left Mulhouse the following day, so I decided to take the short train ride down from Colmar to see the start. Similarly, the town was buzzing!

I rented a bike after they left and rode to some of the surrounding idyllic villages whilst checking out the local vineyards! Wettolsheim and then Eguisheim, were just stunning.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Reykjavík - Ring Road, Iceland

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Iceland had been on the list of places to visit for years, so it was exciting the time had come!

It's worth spending some time preparing for a trip to Iceland. There are a few things you need to consider -

  • It's a relatively cheap place to get to, however expensive once you arrive.
  • If you plan to explore beyond the capital of Reykjavík, transport is limited and accommodation can be difficult to get (as the towns are small)
  • The weather can be extreme, so ensure you prepared to face the elements!

I planned to explore the country via the famous 'Ring Road' which circumnavigates right around the country. Camping wasn't really an option as I didn't have the gear so I pre-booked accommodation in hostels and rooms using Airbnb.

Just over 2 week was ideal, allowing enough time to enjoy Reykjavík as well as absorb the incredible variety of things the rest of the country has to offer. If you love nature, exploring Iceland is a must. It's primarily volcanic with active volcanoes, geysers and glaciers that have cut pathways through huge mountains. The air is clean, the landscape is surreal and it's not overcrowded like many other places are. There are literally thousands of waterfalls, warm rivers, black sand beaches and geothermal pools and more.


I took a day trip from Reykjavík on the Golden Circly. It's one of the most popular day trips, which heads north east of the city and allows you to visit three of Iceland’s most popular attractions: the Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall and Þingvellir National Park.

From there I rented a small car and loaded up the boot with food from one of their biggest no-frills supermarket chains called Bónus. I then headed ant-clockwise and followed the open road. Being summer meant the weather was generally pretty good and with all-night day light - I was in for an absolute treat.


Be sure to check out:

  • Reykjavík - The capital of Iceland and where most if its residents live, there are great museums, shopping and a great 'cafe' vibe.
  • Reykjadalur Hot Spring - A scenic walk that leads to a warm 'river'. Take a dip anywhere along the river that suits the temperature you want and relax.
  • Seljalandsfoss - One of Iceland's best-known waterfalls, it's 65 meters tall and you can even walk behind it.
  • Reynisfjara Beach - A black sand beach on the South Coast with powerful waves and fascinating Reynisdrangar sea stacks.
  • Skaftafellsjökull - A stunning glacier tongue spurting off from Iceland's largest ice cap.
  • Jökulsárlón - A glacial lagoon with blue water and and floating icebergs. Keep an eye out for the friendly seals.
  • Seydisfjordur - A scenic small town known as the heart of culture, heritage and hospitality of East Iceland.
  • Mývatn - A stunning volcanic lake in the north of the country with Nature Baths, mountains, hot-springs and much more.
  • Hvitserkur - A fascinating 15m high basalt stack that has the appearance of a dragon who is drinking.
  • Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss - A 463m mountain and waterfall that is one of the most photographed spots in Iceland.
  • Hellissandur - Once an important fishing post, it's now classified as Iceland's home of street art.

A surreal and stunning country, unlike anywhere else on earth.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Cornwall, England

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A direct flight from Malta to Exeter was good time saver after thinking we'd have to get from a London airport. We'd been to Cornwall before however planned to go to areas we hadn't been before landing at a friends wedding in St Austell.

We picked up a car from the airport and drove through some of England finest scenery and villages. We drove to Port Isaac which is a small fishing village on the Atlantic coast of north Cornwall before winding our way down to England's surfing mecca - Newquay for the night. A cool place - and we fittingly ate some tasty pizza with a cider at The Stable right by famous Fistral Beach.


We explored the town the next day and then toured through the picturesque St Ives which we loved right before getting swooped by aggressive sea gulls trying to eat our lunch!

Zennor was our next stop before we went on a walk from Kenidjack and down the Kenidjack Valley to the ocean. With family roots from this old mining area, it was great to experience. From St Just, we made our way to a nice Airbnb in Penzance before enjoying some local Chinese cuisine!


The following day stared with a visit to the iconic point 'Lands End', which is the most westerly point of mainland England. St Michael's Mount was next which is a tidal island and civil parish that is linked to the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway of granite setts. The island is only passable between mid-tide and low water. A beautiful area with fish and chips, followed by tea and scones adding even more to the experience!

The wedding at St Austell, right by the water was idyllic - great times into the night.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in England Comments (0)

Silema, Valetta & St Paul's Bay, Malta

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Malta got off to a rocky start at the airport - as my luggage didn't arrive! A first for me and according to the attendant in Malta, it's a regular occurrence on flights from Rome! It was great to catch up with Lucy with good times ahead.

Malta is a fascinating place to visit.It's small landmass however there's a huge variety of things to discover and it has immense historic significance. As it's located in the centre of the Mediterranean, the area has been fought over fiercely which has led to vast fortifications that need to be seen to be believed. That combined with rocky coastlines, limestone cliffs and golden beaches with crystal clear water, it's a wonderful place to explore.

We based ourselves in Gzira for the first few nights in an Airbnb - and used it as a base to explore Valletta, The Three Cities and we also did a day trip to Marsaxlokk, a fishing village in the islands south east. From there we walked to St Peter's Pool and Il-Kalanka Bay for a couple of swims and a picnic.

St Paul's bay was next allowing us to do easily do trips to other parts of the country. The island of Gozo has loads to explore, Pop Eye Village was quirky and fun, Mdina was beautiful and we relaxed on the beach at Golden Bay.


Be sure to check out:

  • Valletta - A UNESCO World Heritage site, referred to as 'one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world'.
  • St John's Co-Cathedral - Malta's most impressive church, encrusted with rich ornamentation.
  • The Three Cities - A wonderful mix of buildings and fortresses, with an authentic insight into Maltese life, and without the crowds.
  • Ġgantija Temples - Large megalithic temples with 6m high walls, spanning over 40m and dating from 3600 to 3000 BC.
  • Mdina - One of Europe's finest examples of an ancient walled city with a mix of medieval and baroque architecture.
  • Marsaxlokk & St.Peter's Pool - An idyllic fishing village just a few kilometres walk from a stunning natural swimming pool.
  • Popeye Village - A purpose-built film set village that's now a fun park. A great place to spend the afternoon.
  • Golden Bay - one of the island's best large beaches, with golden sand and warm water.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Malta Comments (0)

Alberobello - Bari, Italy

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We reluctantly left Matera and drove on to another gem in the Puglia region - Alberobello.

It’s known for its trulli, whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs and has around 1,500 of them! It's akin to a Smurf village and wowed us yet again.

We stayed in an Airbnb for two nights which allowed us to wander through the streets and enjoy some great Italian food - pizza, pasta, ice-cream, taralli and calzone di cipolla and more.


We also took a half day trip to Grotte di Castellana, a vast and complex area of underground caves that extend for a length of 3348 metres and reaches a depth of 122 metres. It's Italy's longest natural subterranean network with an incredible range of underground landscapes, and extraordinary stalactite and stalagmite formations.

From Alberobello, we drove to Bari via some other Italian coastal gems - the towns of Monopoli and Polignano a Mare.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Matera, Italy

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Matera is not the stereotypical destination to check out in Italy, however it was a highlight of our trip. Not only is it visually stunning, with a fascinating maze of streets and laneways, on a hillside right by a massive gorge, it's also said to be the world's third-longest continuously inhabited human settlement. The first inhabitants were here some 7,000 years ago living in natural caves in the tufa limestone

This year the UNESCO World Heritage Site was awarded the title of the 'European Capital of Culture 2019' and is quickly becoming one of the country's most singular tourist destinations. It's a city that makes you feel like you've been transported back in time and offers so much to travellers.

We explored the town on foot and ate some delicious food at Trattoria del Caveoso.

Be sure to check out:

  • Palombaro Lungo - A giant cistern lying under the city's main square with arches carved out of the existing rock, it is huge and was still supplying water to the city within living memory.
  • Casa Noha & Casa-Grotta di Vico Solitario - A glimpse into the how life used to be in Matera. The house within the cave has a bed in the middle, a loom, a room for manure and an area for a donkey and a pig.
  • Cathedral - A stunning 13th-century Pugliese-Romanesque cathedral set up high.
  • Museo della Scultura Contemporanea - Italian sculpture from the late 19th century to the present day with examples of graphic art, jewellery and ceramics.
  • Chiesa di Madonna delle Virtù - This monastic complex from the 10th century is one of the most important monuments in Matera with dozens of chambers carved into the limestone.
  • Chiesa San Pietro Barisano - From the 12th century, St Peter's is Matera's largest rupestrian churches.
  • Matera Gravina - Take the trip across the gorge and explore more caves as well as getting a great view back over Matera itself.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Pompeii, Italy

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Pompeii is home to one of Europe's most fascinating archaeological sites. The ancient Italian city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was buried under 4 to 6 m of volcanic ash and pumice in AD 79 following the giant volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius which towers beside it.

Now largely excavated, it has revealed a preserved city showing a unique snapshot of Roman life, frozen at the moment it was buried. Roads, buildings, paintings, as well as entombed wooden objects and human bodies are on display. It's one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy and fascinated us for hours as we explored the vast area.

The following day, we drove up to the volcano that caused the destruction - Mount Vesuvius. You drive part the way up, get a shuttle bus to a second point and then climb the rest of the way right to the crater. The views across Pompeii, Naples (which is Europe's most densely populated city), and the ocean is immense. As is the view into the crater itself which is steaming and a stark reminder of it's the destructive forces that lie deep inside.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Cinque Terre, Italy

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A change of pace was welcome as I caught back up with my travel buddies in Cinque Terre, one of Italy's most famous areas. It's based right on the Italian Riviera coastline with 5 centuries-old villages perched on rugged cliffs with rocky beaches. Each town has pastel coloured buildings, with vineyards, steep terraces and harbours filled with fishing boats. It's home to great seafood and the Liguria region’s famous sauce, pesto. It's a perfect place to hang out for 4 or 5 days as there are walking trails between each village with stunning sweeping views the entire way.

Prior to getting there, I met a doctor during the train trip who couldn't grasp why the region was so famous as 'there are dozens of other villages just like these, right across the Italian coastline'. Wow.

We based ourselves at Monterosso, the largest and northern most village as it was much easier to find accommodation. From there, we did day trips to each of the other villages - first to Venazza where we enjoyed pizza and pasta in the main square. It was a fair walk at 12km, and is the longest between each village however there are trains running between each village meaning you only have to walk one way.

Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore were also great as we indulged in the views, great food and stunning buildings. On the final day, we took a ferry to Porto Venere, which is further south allowing us to take in views of each village from a different perspective. Porto Venere was a great place to see in it's own right with eight-storey harbour front houses and sights such as:

  • Palmara - An island with towering cliffs, picturesque coves and rocky beaches.
  • Castello Doria - A 16th century castle perched up high.
  • Church of Saint Peter - A small church on a rocky point right by the ocean from 1198.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Nice & Monaco

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Time for a detour, towards one of the annual highlights on the global sporting calendar - the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix.

As an avid fan of Formula 1 and having never been to Monaco, this was a true highlight (plus the dates lined up conveniently!). Careful planning was necessary well in advance thanks to the exorbitant prices of not only tickets but accommodation. Anything under €1,200 per night for a bedroom in a flat via Airbnb was a good price!

The alternative? Nice, in France for less than €50 is possible if you book early. Again, Airbnb is the best bet as hostel prices skyrocket over the race weekend. Nice is actually ideal - it's only around 30 mins via train and has everything you need. Plus it's another beautiful city to explore.

I ended up booking grandstand qualifying tickets and a ticket to 'Stars'N'Bars Monaco' an American style sports bar that's based right next to the Paddock. They broadcast the race on loads of large screens and serve great meals that are relatively well priced.

This means you can get the full experience of the cars, crowd and lavish parties in the huge boats on the marina, for qualifying as well as loads of fun in a jam-packed bar on race day. Plus being right by the Paddock, I was able to see and meet some of the drivers. After dark on both days, the track lights up and has a festival atmosphere with live performances, dancing, drinking and more. The whole place just buzzes!

Monaco Is the second smallest country in the world (at just 200 hectares), however it's one of the most densely populated counties. It has a population of just over 38,000 and 32% of them are millionaires. It really is a haven for the wealthy thanks to a unique tax regime and draws in tourists from across the world.

Be sure to check out:

  • Casino de Monte Carlo - Monte Carlo’s legendary marble-and-gold casino is simply stunning.
  • Jardin Exotique - Home to the world’s largest succulent and cactus collection, there are a maze of paths and spectacular views of the principality.
  • Le Rocher - Walk around the original old town, with small, windy medieval lanes.
  • Palais Princier de Monaco - Built as a fortress, this palace is the private residence of the Grimaldi family.
  • Roseraie Princesse Grace - A collection of over 4000 rose bushes!
  • Cathédrale de Monaco - A stunning 1875 Romanesque-Byzantine cathedral.
  • Formula 1 Grand Prix - of course!

After a fun-filled long weekend, I caught the train back into Italy to Genoa and south to explore Cinque Terre.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Monaco Comments (0)

Dolomites, Italy

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We said our goodbyes to Venice and despite wanting to stay longer, we were excited about the drive ahead of us and the mighty Dolomite's that await.

With so much to explore, and limited time we picked a few places to visit and were blown away by the whole region as we drove north. We stopped for lunch at Longarone and various towns along the way until we arrived at Cortina d'Ampezzo where we'd booked for 2 nights in an Airbnb. The property was great - a chalet, set on a hillside and not far from town.

We planned on hiking the 'Three Peaks' circuit, however as it was still coming out of winter, there was too much snow to do the full hike. Instead we drove to Lake Antorno and hiked up to a Refugio called Refugio Auronzo. It was slow going in the snow, however still offered an incredible view. It would have been even better if there was an option to stay overnight!

After a couple of nights we set off, stopping at Giau Pass for a tasty coffee and a brief walk to admire the spectacular view. It seemed to only get better as we went on to reach Passo Pordoi, a mountain pass that stands at an altitude of 2,239m. This is situated between the Province of Trento and the Province of Belluno. To reach it there are as many as 28 hairpin bends! We jumped on a the cable car that took us up higher to 2,950m where we enjoyed 360 degree views, right across the region.

We stopped in to bunker down at San Pietro in another Airbnb. This town is home to one of the Dolomite's most famous views - the Church of Saint John in Ranui, with the stunning mountain backdrop.

A huge day, followed by a well deserved meal at Hotel Kabis. Wow.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Venice, Italy

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This trip wasn't meant to happen. But when my sister flagged the idea of celebrating her 40th birthday in Italy, my Mum keen to go for the first time, and then not 1 but 2 wedding invitations in the UK right around the same time - it had to happen!

We met in the truly unique city that is Venice for a birthday celebration that took us to bars across the city into the night.

It's a fascinating place that it's literally a maze of winding lanes and canals across 100 small islands. We stayed in an AirBnb right in the heart of it all, complete with a roof-top area that gave us a great view over one of the many plazas.

After a boozy night one, we explored the vast city and took in giant attractions like:

  • St Marks Square - The largest square in the city and a melting pot for tourists.
  • St. Mark's Basilica - Venice's best-known church, and one of the most easily recognised in the world,
  • Palazzo Ducale and Bridge of Sighs - A perfect example of Venetian Gothic architecture.
  • Grand Canal & Rialto Bridge - The largest canal that sweeps through the heart of Venice with a bridge that marks the island's first settlement.
  • The Arsenal and the Museum of Naval History - once was the largest and busiest in the world until the end of the 17th century.
  • Plus endless churches and museums.

One of the best reasons to stay right in the heart of it all? After dark, the crowds die down, it transforms into a much quieter place allowing you to soak it all in.

On our last day, we walked to the city's entrance via the bustling food market, enjoyed a Venetian coffee and then picked up a rental car to explore some more!


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Ljubljana, Slovenia

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After a flight cancellation, I ended up having diversion to Vienna in Austria for a few hours. Luckily they have a great train link to the city so I was able to spend some time wandering through the city which is stunning, and a place I haven't been to in many years. You could say it ended up being a bonus despite losing some time in Slovenia.

Slovenia is situated right in the heart of Central Europe bordered by Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia. It's relatively small country with just over 2 million inhabitants however it has a whole range of natural treasures just waiting to be explored. Snow capped mountains, emerald green rivers, and endless forests that cover more than half of the country. Plus picturesque towns, great food and a vibrant culture.

With only a few days in the country I spend most of the time in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and one of Europe's greenest capitals. The emerald-green Ljubljanica River flows right through the city, with great architecture, cafes and vibe.

I also took a bus to Lake Bled, a glacial lake fed by hot springs with an island in the middle. It's surrounded by mountain peaks and is an easy day trip with a stunning setting. I took some lunch, meandered around the lake and took a boat out to the famous Bled Island and the pilgrimage church. There are loads of trails to explore as well as the towering castle right by the lake on a cliff.

Be sure to check out:

  • Ljubljana Castle - On top of a 375m-high hill by the Old Town, this castle has some great architecture from the 16th century and is a great place to watch the sunset.
  • Škocjan Caves - An incredible cave system that's been attracting tourists for over 200 years. Be sure to check out Predjama Castle, one of the largest cave castles in the world.


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

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