Words by Angie Jachniw
July 23rd, 2018
The Amalfi Coast’s little sister, Cinque Terre, is a unique cluster of Italian fishing villages offering authentic indulgences with a fraction of the crowd. Most commonly identified by its rugged coastline and colourful architecture, this spot is every travel blogger’s dream; just a quick day trip from Florence and Tuscany, this secluded treasure has plenty to offer all out-of-towners.
Accessibility wise, there are certainly easier places to travel—which is proof that not even Italian Paradise is impervious to flaws! Given the secluded charm that is Cinque Terre, it would almost be counterintuitive to have their own municipal airport. However, don’t be totally discouraged. While direct flights are unavailable, visitors are encouraged to fly into Pisa. From there, they can hitch a ride from La Pisa train station to La Spezia Centrale. The final leg will have them on a second train, The Cinque Terre Express, for an hour ride. Just remember, Cinque Terre refers to five independent villages—not one collective destination. Be sure to get off in the territory that suits your accommodation!
We advise… Because they’re so competitively picturesque, it’s common for people to book accommodations based primarily off a booking site’s photo. However, it’s important to keep in mind that each town has a distinct personality based on how it contributes to Cinque Terre’s overall functionality. Before booking, prioritise what you want from your hotel. If you want beach access, Monterosso is for you. If you’re travelling on your honeymoon, the suites in Manarola are recommended by both locals and visitors alike. Riomaggiore is infamous for its rainbow promenade of local buildings (yes, the real Insta-worthy stuff) whereas Vernazza is the culture heartbeat of their people. The latter two towns are likely to be the liveliest, but boutique hotels are most common and book up fast.
Only an hour’s travel away, you can take the Cinque Terre Express to SML (Santa Margherita Liguria) to then hop on a quick ferry. Hotels and restaurants are top-of-the-line luxe, which is a stark contrast to the humble persona of Cinque Terre. High-end accommodations serve as magnets along the bay, flaunting their antique charisma at any traveller with a bank account tall enough to fulfil their order. If there’s one thing money can’t buy, it’s bad service (and if it has, then you really don’t know how to shop). Expect to be treated like royalty the moment you step off the ferry and enter idyllic Portofino; half in part because your stay is averaging €750 a night (you’ve earned it), and half in part because that’s just the Portofino way!
Contrary to popular belief, Mykonos is not home to Mamma Mia! or Aphrodite; it is, however, the only Greek (or any) island to have its own mascot—Petros the Pelican, we’re talking to you! Mykonos is the premier destinations for young travellers looking for energetic nightlife that pulses on until early morning. Often referred to as the Ibiza of Greece, the animated atmosphere of Mykonos is perfect for a lustful weekend getaway or a reckless bachelor(ette) party. Just remember, what happens in Mykonos, stays in Mykonos.
Getting to Mykonos is pretty straightforward. Many of the islands have their own airport apart from Athens, so getting a direct flight shouldn’t pose a problem. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll notice that Mykonos Town is the hub; food, clubs, high-end shopping. Hours could be lost exploring the cavernous cobbled streets, stopping for local delicacies at every storefront. Oh, and Greek people are infamously hospitable, so expect to be chatting with your waiter about what he got for his 10th birthday for at least an hour after your meal.
We advise… The notoriety of Paradise Beach and Super Paradise Beach is what largely contributes to Mykonos’ playboy reputation. Both only a few kilometres from town, they are a central hub for water sports, beach clubs and live entertainment. Kalua Beach Club, Jackie O Beach Club, and Tropicana—to name a few favourites—all hug the shoreline of both beaches and create a cornucopia of sunshine, music and alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. It should be noted that many of the lively areas are popular amongst the gay population, and heavily reflect the Greek’s embracive nature. On Mykonos, all love is good love—especially the kind that starts with Tequila.
Now, I don’t want you to compartmentalise Mykonos as strictly being the destination for graduated frat boys wildin’ on their bachelor party. Platys Gialos Beach is a premier location for resort-style accommodations and white sand beaches. They have the widest variety of on-site restaurant options, allowing you to remain local for dinner and entertainment without having to bus into Mykonos town. This is a particularly popular destination for travellers with children, as the coast is relatively mild in terms of waves and there are plenty of beach chairs with umbrellas already on grounds.
Because any trip to Mykonos is a luxury in and of itself, it’s hard to imagine wanting to flex your dollar any farther. But how, you ask, is it possible to unload the massive wad of cash from your pocket, because those linen pants are much too heavy? Well, I am accepting donations.
But most locals would actually advise those with a supple wallet to visit Little Venice, a quaint sector along the water buzzing with high-end restaurants and cocktails bars. Sushi, Italian-Mediterranean fusion and Asian-fusion restaurants offer a wide variety to an international pallet, albeit at a price that may make you question dessert (if that’s even possible). The good news is, some of the most panoramic views come from the verandas and terraces of these restaurants; and even better news! Every meal comes with a side of scenery for free.
Fun fact! Did you know that Tulum is run entirely on solar energy? A red-headed stepsister to the provocative Cancun, this sector of Quintana Roo is vastly different than the conglomerate mega-resorts you’ll have to pass on your drive from the airport. Instead, they’ve chosen to approach tourism from a historian’s perspective: how do we do the most for others, with what we already have? Most of the hotels are boutique-style bungalows situated in the heart of the jungle, offering a tranquil crash-pad and an almost involuntary opportunity to experience nature from the inside-out. Tulum is home to the seventh Wonder of the World—The Mayan Ruins—as well as the world’s largest underground cave system, with the pride for their culture at the heart of everything they do. Explore ruins, swim in the Cenotes or travel into town to experience local food vendors and artists.
Conveniently located near Cancun International Airport, Tulum is easily accessible no matter where you’re departing from. And, depending on the size of your hotel, shuttle services may be offered in a package when booking your accommodations. However, due to the boutique nature of the hotels in Tulum, it’s most often up to the discretion of the traveller to iron out those details—hint hint. In any instance, it’s highly recommended to secure transportation to and from your hotel prior to departing for your vacation. Mostly because if not, your wallet doesn’t stand a chance against the sea of agency piranhas that swarm the arrivals gate; trust us, their day tours aren’t worth your money and you’re better off putting those pesos elsewhere. Like, face down, at the bar.
We advise… Tulum is advertised by bloggers and jet-setting elitists as the perfect place to “unplug from the 21st-century lifestyle”—did you say “paradise” or “paradox”? Because so much of Tulum’s reputation is based off its mission to remain environmentally conscious, it’s imperative to remind you that eco-friendly and luxury can be complimentary. Most hotels are positioned right along the same beach that stretches all across Riviera Maya and offer some of the cleanest water and softest sand (the beauty of effective recycling!) in Quintana Roo. Local cuisine includes 5-star, white-linen restaurants, as well affordable taco trucks that do not charge extra for the guacamole—yay! Unlike most vacation spots, Tulum is an extended invitation to do better. An opportunity to escape reality, reconnect with loved ones, and forget about whatever obligations are ruminating behind that cell phone screen. Even if only for a few hours, this destination truly encourages visitors to welcome the simplicity of nature—from the comfort of a cabana bed, of course!
Maybe living unplugged isn’t your style, and this trip to Tulum is your big opportunity to snap those revenge pics your ex-boyfriend has been dreading for weeks. Say no more! For those willing to spend a pretty penny, we recommend booking a private trip to Gran Cenote.
Not only will you get to experience some of the clearest scuba diving waters in the world, but it’s the perfect backdrop for a seaside photo shoot of you and your closest friends—or just you, work it, girl! But before you grab the yellow-polka-dot bikini and run for the dock, make sure you’ve made reservations for your party. Many of the excursion barges offer private bookings for large groups, however, they fill up fast and require months of advanced planning. Once you’ve secured your spot and you’ve lathered up in your favourite sunscreen (important!), enjoy breathtaking views of the Ruins and the world’s largest underground cave system all from the comfort of your privately captained catamaran. Oh, and did I mention it’s all you can drink?
Grab your dancing shoes and that spicy red dress because Seville is famous for its grassroots participation in sultry flamenco dancing. The capital of Southern Spain’s Andalusia region, this town is crawling with history and has the architecture to prove it; Gothic cathedrals line the streets and hold stories that only the locals can tell. From a visitor’s perspective, Seville welcomes the curious-minded and urges participation in celebrating the colourful culture that is the infrastructure of their people’s identity. If you’re looking for a beach vacation to unwind and decompress, you may be better suited at one of the other destinations recommended above; but, if walking into a living History Channel documentary tickles your fancy, we’ve found you the perfect match.
Getting to Seville from outside of Spain is a multistep process, as their local airport doesn’t support international flights. Most will fly into Barcelona or Madrid, and then take a short connecting flight into Seville. However, there is the alternative option to save money and take Spain’s high-speed train system (AVE) into Seville after landing at either international airport (Barcelona or Madrid). If you aren’t opposed to an extra few hours and a little motion sickness, the locals recommend travelling by rail instead of flying for this domestic leg of the journey. There are approximately 20 trains that run per-day, and they can be caught at any major station along the line. Tickets for the AVE generally run anywhere between €50 and €115, but booking in advance can alleviate the blow for budget-conscious travellers. Most websites offer promotional tickets, which can save you up to 50% on your round trip depending on travel season/where you’re departing from.
We advise… Do you know that feeling of walking into a circus tent for the first time and not knowing where to rest your eyes—dancing lions and tigers and bears, oh my? Seville is one of the same, in terms of being a masterpiece of visual indulgences. There are so many sites worth visiting that showing up without an outlined itinerary, even if it’s just loosely sketched, would almost be a disservice. Must-sees on the list would include Metropol Parasol, a landmark located in the old quarter; Hospital de lost Venerables Sacredotes, a 17th-century gothic structure dedicated to Diego Velázquez; and, Alcazar Palace, a royal palace in the heart of Spain still used by the reigning family today. Depending on when you book, you may even be in town to experience one of the various festivals integral to Seville’s prideful demeanour. However, it must be noted that March-April is festival season and subsequently the busiest months for travel. So, book ahead because accommodations fill fast and skyrocket in price!
It doesn’t take a history buff to swipe right on Seville. The nightlife and social scene is equally vivacious and just as (if not more) important to the Spanish as their rich history. There are plenty of rooftop bars, restaurants and nightclubs peppered intermittently throughout town, leaving endless options for nighttime entertainment.
It’s worth being mentioned that locals take major satisfaction in showing visitors around; in fact, they say that if you are going to splurge on one thing while in Seville, it’d be on a tour guide. There’s an element of inherent reverence for their home that can’t help but infiltrate your experience, and make you feel like it’s your home too. Not that it’s impossible to visit landmarks on your own, but the commentary and infectious enthusiasm from a local is priceless. I take that back, it’s not priceless. Just expensive. One of the best, albeit priciest, options includes a hot air balloon ride during sunrise (sadly, there’s no sunset option for those allergic to early mornings) featuring a complimentary tour and breakfast—champagne included. Expect to be picked up at your hotel by 4:40 a.m. sharp!
Ah, the island of love—not to be confused with Love Island—known as Santorini is one of the most infamous installations in the Greek Cyclades. Praised for her romantic sunsets and picturesque coastline, this island is the perfect complement to any new wedding ring (hint, hint). Unlike Mykonos, Santorini has a decadently lenient feel that lures in many honeymooners and anniversary-celebrators alike. The two main towns, Oia and Fira, are situated cliff-side overlooking the Aegean Sea and the many pebbled beaches that line Santorini’s perimeter.
Similar to the other popular Greek islands, Santorini has its own international airport which makes travelling a breeze. However, most flights, including those from Dublin, will not be direct and you should anticipate at least one connection before touching down on island ground. For people travelling with kids, it’s recommended to stay at Kamari, the island’s best-developed resort. It’s surrounded by black sand beaches and accessible to many restaurants and shops. One of the bigger pitfalls of Santorini is that few hotels are considered kid-friendly, as most standard rooms are both expensive and small. To stay in a more established resort, plans must be made anywhere between 9 and 18 months in advance to secure a room big enough for families.
We advise… Many will say that the best time to experience Santorini is between the months of June and September, for they are the hottest and most accommodating for beach life. However, vineyards are vastly prominent throughout the Santorini and wine tastings make up a hearty portion of the island’s tourism business. If you’re more into getting a buzz than getting a tan, save your trip for later in October. Though the weather is milder at the beach, it’s much more comfortable for drunken day trips.
Apart from the obvious differences in landscape from her sister islands—ahem, black sand—Santorini serves as one of the largest calderas in the world. Don’t know what a caldera is? No worries, I had to google it too. Basically, a caldera is a well-dressed word “for sink-hole caused by the collapsing of the mouth of a volcano post-eruption”. Now, if Santorini marketed themselves as a volcanic sinkhole, their honeymoon appeal would probably plummet—nothing says I love you quite like fossilised magma, am I right? But what’s remarkable is how quintessential their geographical distinction is to commercial tourism. People come from all over the world to tour the remains of the volcano and enjoy views of the lava islands from hand-carved hotels atop the cliffs. Many distinguishable characteristics of Santorini, like that black sand and the red pebbles at beaches, are owed to this unique history. If you’re interested in learning more about the island’s composition, book yourself a boat tour across the caldera!
Most accommodations in Santorini charge more for the bare minimum than other destinations charge for all-inclusive suites. That said, honeymoons are essentially just the precursor to a conventional life with your ball and chain, so why not be lustful in more ways than one?
Splurging on a cliff-side hotel is the most commonly suggested expenditure, whether it be a lavish suite with a private pool or just a something bigger than your hall closet at home. Many of the luxe hotels in Oia are essentially renovated caves carved directly into rock and span for miles high along the coast. They can come in a variety of options—boutique, and resort style, but ultimately provide the same views. The terraces boast ocean air, watercolour sunsets and a panoramic view thought only to be accessible by God himself. Even if you can only afford one of these rooms for part of your stay, it’s recommended to experience Santorini in this fullest, and priciest, extent.
Now that you’ve planned your next holiday, find out what to pack for each of these must-visit destinations.
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