Monaco: Travel through Art, Oysters and the French Riviera

At 9 in the morning we left home. There are several ways to get to Monaco by car from Nice. And the one we take, is by the road that goes up to the Nice observatory. Although the Principality is currently divided into 10 neighborhoods, we can identify its different regions by attending the three historic districts: Monaco, La Condamine and Monte Carlo.

The first is the old city, and it is located on a mountain known as La Roca. In this area is the palace. The second is the port area. And the third district, is where the main hotels and the famous Monte Carlo Casino are located. We see the Stade Louis II. In it we can see both flags of Monaco and South Africa, and it was just three days before that Prince Albert of Monaco had married Charlene Wittstock, country where she is native.

We arrived at Monaco the second smallest country in the world after The Vatican around 1 pm. We already see that there is a lot of traffic. We go on a tour through the center and decided to leave it in a central parking lot, exactly inside the Le Metropole shopping center, all luxury and glamor. We entered a shoe store that cut the hiccups. I looked at the price in several and I had to take pictures.

We went to the street that was already hot and we go through some gardens that are just in front to go more cool. From here we get to a viewpoint with beautiful views of the entire city and the bay. With Adam and Eve, we see the sculpture of Reina Mariana.

We arrived at the famous casino, but before we take some pictures in the surroundings where we started to see luxury sports cars. I tried to enter the casino but it was closed, so we can only observe the Casino from the square, where the Hotel and Cafe de Paris is also located. At the door of the Casino we can see all kinds of luxury cars. And that's where everyone is photographing them.

Next to this fountain was an ice cream stand. From here we go straight down to the port (this time the main one) along the road, from where we can observe the luxurious yachts moored.

Just at the end of the hill through which we descend we see the first sign of the Formula 1 circuit, one of the white and red curbs located in the curves, in front of a statue in honor of the first winner in this circuit. The famous curve of the Grand Hotel impresses us and we imagine the cars go by at full speed. There we saw some more sports cars that left a hotel next door.

We continue crossing the port, but we enter through one of the streets on the left, where the Ferrari store is located. There are several cars of the brand that are permanently parked on the street, next to a piece of Dodge Challenger that I fell in love with. After pictures of wheels, mirrors, motors, interiors and everything that can be photographed, we started looking for a place to eat.

We opted for the restaurants on the harbor promenade, since they were not excessively expensive but we wanted pizza and they were frozen and preheated. So luckily we see a small stand next to a supermarket, right there, in the port, and we we opted for it. We eat the frozen pizza sitting in front of the yachts, to which many people look at us with a mixture of strange and envy. But it's what it touches.

We went through a small port, and passed by a shopping center, the philately museum and the private collection of classic cars of Prince Rainier to start the great climb to La Roca. We see good views of the main port of the city and the casino in the background while we climb the stairs, but they seem never to end.

We go to see the palace where the Grimaldi royal family lives. We enter another parking lot near the Jardin Animalier de Monaco. We go to a carrefour where there is the zone to buy food and drink. We take a walk by the environs and we take some photos.

We go to the staircase that goes up to the palace. It is quite wide and steep, but we climb and we see tremendous views. Before entering the fortress we find on the left a life size sculpture of the Rainier III, Prince of Monaco.

Inside, the first thing we see is a sculpture by Francois Grimaldi and a large square with cannons, bullets, cars (I imagine that of the workers) and few people. I was going to get close to the sentry box to take a picture with the guard and he quickly told me not to advance further. The other guard left the sentry box and began to show off before us.

We go to the Oceanographic Museum. I did not plan to enter because it is a bit expensive. I had read that it was one of the most important and beautiful in the world. We start with aquariums full of fish, corals, jellyfish, sharks. We went up to the other floor to see the skeletons of other species and stuffed animals.

I went up to the bathrooms that are on the roof with a divine viewpoint. In the square next to the museum we can see one of the submarines with which Jacques Cousteau (who was director of the museum for several years) made his dives, and although we cannot ride, we can see the devices that compose it. Next to the museum is the Saint Martin Garden.

We reached the end of the mountain, in the part farthest from the palace, and we found a sculpture in the form of a photo frame, leaving the port and the part of the Casino in the background. The only downside is that there is a piece of palm tree in the middle, and it bothers a bit the photo.

We go to the parking lot. We have seen practically the most emblematic places of Monaco. We left Monaco and headed towards Nice. A few kilometers we stop at the town of Eze. We had a drink on a terrace in the lower part of the town and went back to Nice. It was 8 in the evening and we received a call to go out for a drink that night, to a nearby town, Saint Laurent du Var, where there are several pubs open late.

And finally we got home. It had been a long day. Tomorrow we wanted to go see Nice. Everything will depend on when we wake up.

Monaco travel images wallpaper

Travel Through Mumbai, Maharashtra and Bollywood

We reach Nagpur in the morning at 7. As in Varanasi, a railway line is being built on stilts across the city in Nagpur. The traffic on the thoroughfare is therefore very handicapped. In the afternoon we want to take a taxi to the center. Traffic is better regulated here. Nevertheless, when the traffic light turns green, the rally starts. At the front are the mopeds, then the tuktuks and then the buses. Mopeds and tuk tuks always find a way to reach the top of the phalanx.

The visit in the center turns out to be not very interesting. There are some streets with clothes. Tourists do not exist here. In a mall, we see a pizzeria and have a pizza. It's so hot that the sweat is on my forehead, even though the air conditioning is throbbing.

There are many students there, for whom pizza seems to be something very special. The prices are high by Indian standards. The vegetable market is still deserted at noon.

We go by an auto rickshaw to the bus station to take a bus to Jalgaon. The buses leave every 20 minutes. The first one that arrives around 1:20 pm is literally stormed. The people who were inside have a hard time getting down as most want to rush to have a seat. It's the real rat race!

We decide to wait for the next one. It arrives at 1:40. To go up, it's still the same but we planned the shot. We went up with the luggage and reserved places but where are we going to put them? Fortunately, the spare wheel of the bus occupies the first seat. We can put our bags on it.

After having traveled by bus all day, we arrived in Jalgaon. It is a small modern town with no particular interest but which is a good starting point to visit the Ajanta caves. The hotel is located next to the station. The manager of the hotel thinks we should get a premium room instead of the standard room. We are happy to agree.


Day 2 - Ajanta caves

A good night's rest at the hotel got us in shape. The hotel manager talked about a cheap taxi that we could order at the front desk. I ask there, but the nice lady refers us to a gentleman at a desk. When I ask him, he gets up immediately, gets a car and we drive to the center.

A bus leaves from the Jalgaon bus station at 8am and leaves us at the crossroads of the road leading to the Ajanta caves. First we pay to access the parking of the shuttle, preceded by stands of souvenirs and gargotes. After a good chai, we go to the place from where the shuttle bus that takes to the entrance of the site itself.

It is truly an extraordinary site with 26 caves encased in a horseshoe-shaped hill. All caves were excavated, carved, painted with beautiful Buddhist frescoes that tell the episodes of the life of Buddha. Some caves were monasteries (vihara) having monks' cells. Others were sanctuaries containing stupas or temples (chaitya).

The Prince Padmapani painting is considered to be Ajanta's masterpiece. The pillars are all decorated with finesse. We are captivated by the beauty of the site and we spend the morning without getting tired. Fortunately, we came early. As the more the morning progresses and the site is full of visitors including, of course, the inevitable groups of schoolchildren.

Contrary to what one might think, we have seen very few foreign tourists. Most want to take a selfie! Around 1 pm, we take the shuttle that brings us back to the pits. We have lunch in a dhaba and we go to the side of the road where the bus had left us to try to catch one that goes to Aurangabad.

There are of course taxis that want to take us there but we prefer to return by bus. Oddly, all the buses that pass on this road tell us that they do not go. We are disappointed and a little further, we see two guys with a child waiting by the side of the road. They tell us that they want to go to Aurangabad. They stop a small truck whose front cabin is already occupied by a few passengers. The driver offers to take us. We sit next to the driver on the engine hood.

On the road, we meet a lot of oxcarts, groups of pedestrians, herds of buffaloes. It take 3 hours to arrive in town. We arrive in Aurangabad at 5:10 pm and we go to the hotel near the train station where we settle in a room overlooking a quiet street.

As we have time, we decide to go for a walk to the caves located 5kms from the center. We take a rickshaw. There are two sites 1 km apart from each other. Mostly Buddhist, these caves were carved in the rock as in Ajanta and Ellora where we will go tomorrow.

The site is much less grandiose than the other two but, from up there, there is a beautiful view of the surroundings of Aurangabad. We see the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara from here and the place is peaceful.

The trip to here has made us cross the city which is very extensive, pretty riddled and very dirty. For dinner we enjoy a good tandoori chicken at the little restaurant at the corner.

Day 3 - Ellora caves

The bus leaves Aurangabad bus station at 8am. We arrive at the site of Ellora caves at 8:45. The site includes Hindu, Buddhist and Jain caves. All these temples were dug from top to bottom, which is really remarkable.

We begin the visit by cave number 16 to the magnificent Kailasha temple. At this time, there are not too many people and the soft light of the morning is most enjoyable. This huge monolithic structure (the largest in the world) really impresses us. When we realize that the temple was dug directly into the rocky hill, we are blown away by the genius it took to achieve this marvel.

The Kailasha temple is decorated with hundreds of sculptures and in places we can see remains of painting. Originally, the temple was painted in bright colors. Once past the emotion of the discovery of the Kailasha temple, we continue the visit to the Buddhist caves, then the Hindu caves and finally the Jain caves.

The Buddhist caves are, for the most part, monasteries. Only Cave number 10 is a chaitya (temple). The Buddha seated at the back of the temple counts his fingers. In Cave number 12, on the third floor, two sets of seven Buddhas are lined up on either side of a small recess closed by a door in meditation position on the left and in the teaching position on the right. One of them represents Prince Siddhartha himself!

The sculptures of Hindu caves are full of energy. They often represent episodes of Shiva and Parvati. They play chess or dice, they dance, or they cajole. They get married, surrounded by their friends who bring them gifts. Their son, the little Ganesh is there, too.

The Jain Caves are on the other side of the road, as well as Hindu Cave number 29. To get there, we take a shuttle. There are five Jain Caves. The number 32 is the most beautiful. At one point, we are lucky to be there alone!

The Hindu Cave number 29, located on the other side of the road, is accessible by a small path. We ask the driver of the shuttle who returns from the Jain caves to stop at the junction of the path and then continue on foot to the cave. It is huge and contains beautiful sculpted scenes like the one where Shiva warrior kills Andhaka under the benevolent gaze of Parvati.

In the early afternoon, we have surveyed all this wonderful site. It's very hot, now and we are hungry. Near the entrance, we have lunch in a popular restaurant resembling a large shed. We return to the Kalaisha temple around 1 pm but the atmosphere is different from the morning. After a little tour in the Kalaisha temple, we take a tempo to return in Aurangabad. He is drunk. In front, we are four people with the driver and behind, they must be a dozen stuffed in there. Loaded as it is, it literally flies and we get home well!

Day 4 - Daulatabad

We negotiate a rickshaw for him to take us to Daulatabad Fort. We did a good job of getting there early because it's warmer to climb all the steps to the top. The visit of this fort is quite nice despite not being in very good condition. Some buildings that have been redone, while others are being restored. The workers are amused to pose for us.

The history of this fort is quite extravagant. This citadel was the capital of a small kingdom in the twelfth century. The Sultan of Delhi having conquered it in 1327 wanted to transfer the seat of his government from Delhi to Daulatabad with all its inhabitants! Most of them died on the way but the worst thing is that a few years later, the sultan decided to return to Delhi and Daulatabad was abandoned. It became regional capital again during the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

There remains an immense red minaret, the Chand Minar. There is a double wall, an impressive watchtower, the remains of a palace, tunnels inhabited by bats and many crooked and rickety stairs. They make it a site whose visit, without being extraordinary, is not uninteresting either.

After visiting the fort, the rickshaw takes us to the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara. It looks like the Taj Mahal, and it's called mini Taj! This pretty white mausoleum was built in the seventeenth century by the son of Aurangzeb to accommodate the tomb of his mother. In the middle of the mausoleum, the tomb is in a pit where people threw coins.

It is not located in a very nice area (besides, there is not really any nice neighborhood in Aurangabad) and we are getting hungry. Will we find something to eat in the area? We follow the street that goes in front of the Bibi Ka Maqbara and we discover, down the street, a restaurant quite nice and friendly.

After lunch, we walk to the Panchakki garden. The walk does not follow very pleasant streets! We finally reach the garden and we are a little surprised to have to pay to enter a garden lined with souvenir stands. There is a large central pond with a kind of waterfall at one end. No explanation is given to explain how it works.

On the other side of the garden is the tomb of Musafir and a small mosque. All this is really nothing extraordinary and the price of entry is not justified at all. Aurangabad is not a very nice city and we will leave it without regret. Fortunately there is in the vicinity the wonderful site of Ellora caves. We take the train leaving for Mumbai at 9pm!

24 Hours in Mumbai

After a long journey we arrive at Dadar station around 5:15 am. There we take a taxi that takes us to the hotel in the district of Colaba. Taxis are not expensive at all in Mumbai and there are plenty everywhere. We take an hour to get there because of the traffic jams that reign here (aggravated by the work of the metro).

The subway is under construction but it will be put into service in two years. The street where our hotel is located is very quiet and located near the main artery of Colaba Causeway where is our favorite restaurant. Mumbai surprises us with midsummer temperatures.

We walk to Victoria Station where we admire its incredible neo-gothic architecture. Parts of the movie Slumdog Millionaire were shot in this hall. The whole area around the station has beautiful Victorian monuments and there are even red double decker buses. Unfortunately, it is not very easy to walk through the traffic and congested sidewalks.

We take a taxi to Banganga Tank, a really different neighborhood in this big modern city. It is a holy place in the Malabar Hill area. Around the large pool lined with ghats, we find all the fervor of the holy places of India, with the usual rituals always fascinating to observe.

The neighborhood around the basin is really typical. There are small temples, alleys, stalls and more nibbled by the towers and new buildings. A little further, going towards the sea, we pass in front of the district of dhobis. it is not the big Dhobi Ghat which is located in another district, close from the racecourse.

And we arrive on the rocks where the clothes dry, near colorful houses. In a building not far from there, a high smoking chimney indicates the location of the crematorium.

But it's 11am. Quickly, we take a taxi to Churchgate Station to see the show of the dabbawala. These men leave the suburban trains loaded with several bags in which is the lunch of many employees of the district. The bags are lined up on the sidewalk, sorted according to their destination and delivered without delay.

After observing for a moment this amazing spectacle, we take a taxi to go to Malabar Hill where there is a Jain temple. Here the faithful engage in rituals always incomprehensible to us. On low tables, the devotees draw geometric shapes with grains of rice. On the floor of the temple, the jains worship a small marble statue. They always have a masked mouth during ceremonial.

But now it's getting late and lunch is well advanced. Where are we going to eat here? We ask a shopkeeper who tells us a restaurant down the street. Here we are where there is nothing to indicate it's a restaurant. The room is very small but full of people. It seems quite classy. ​​It is rich Indians who come there. Nevertheless, it is not too expensive and the food is special. We had never tasted this kind of dish before (vegetarian, of course, as we are near the Jain temple).

Then we pass Antilia, the high-rise building of Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India with a Helipad on the roof. He lives there only with his family and keeps a cow on the 10th floor, which he feeds daily.

We stop for a moment at the hanging gardens, which turn out to be a small park and nothing special. At one point we have a good view of the shore road. The sandy beaches are empty. Interestingly, in addition to the gardens, there is a parsi burial ground. According to the Parsi beliefs, they place the corpse on a platform from which vultures feed the bodies (Towers of Silence). Although there are no more vultures in Mumbai, eagles are now taking over the funeral. In Iran, the custom is already prohibited, our guide tells.

We then follow a path interspersed with stairs, shaded by tall trees (Ridge Road) leading us to Babulnath Temple on a small hillock near Chowpatty. It is the oldest temple in Mumbai. In the street, near the temple, it's siesta time as people play card games in the shade of tall trees.

We take a taxi that drops us on Colaba Causeway. In the evening, walk to the Taj Mahal hotel and Gateway of India where there is a crowd. It's very close to the hotel where we live. It's very touristy but it's not not what we prefer in this city.

48 Hours in Mumbai

This morning in a restaurant we have the giant masala dosas! We then take a taxi to see another unusual place in Mumbai. It is the Haji Ali Dargah, a mosque and mausoleum on an island connected by a dike built on the sea. We had observed the sea yesterday to see when was the tide because we had read that we could access it at low tide. In fact, I do not think that the sea covers much of the dike except perhaps at high tides.

This mosque, built in the eighteenth century on this island is home to the tomb of a Muslim saint, and a rich merchant. He would have retired here as a hermit after returning from the pilgrimage to Mecca. From the island, we have views of the Mumbai towers.

Once seen the dike, we reach on foot to the Mahalaxmi Temple, one of the most popular temples in the city. To get there, we cross a lively neighborhood and pass in front of a whole line of sellers of flower necklaces or trays-offerings. We see faithful who engage in some kind of unusual ritual. They touch the back wall of the Sanctuary and stick there coins by pressing them against the wet plaster!

Near the racecourse, we see the Dhobi Ghat, the big district of the launderers. We head to a crowded Zaveri bazaar where the streets are teeming with activity. It is difficult to move among all the parked vehicles, the street vendors, and the carriers with baskets or bales on the head.

In a neighborhood north of Jama Masjid is the Dawoodi Bohra Mosque. It is a small Ismaili Muslim community not recognized by Islam. Their leader lives in Mumbai. Women wear kinds of very recognizable collar caps. We had already seen several in Gujarat.

We finally reach Crawford market, a remnant of British imperial architecture. In the afternoon, we return to the Malabar Hill neighborhood, to Mani Bhavan, the house where Gandhi stayed from 1917 to 1934.

This beautiful house is transformed into a small museum. The series of small models in windows tell the main stages of the life of Gandhi, from childhood to his death. It depicts his meetings with various personalities and marches for independence. It is very well done and attractive.

We are not far from Chowpatty Beach, the sandy beach at the end of Marine Drive. It's a meeting place for lovers. There are many young people on the seaside. There are nevertheless children who paddle there.

Mumbai is a city of contrasts with a mix of modernity and tradition. We did not get bored at all. Despite its activity, there are quiet areas where we can rest. In the evening, we get to Victoria station and get on the train at 9:45 pm towards Goa.

Travel Story in San Juan and Puerto Rico

What I will narrate next is our journey through Puerto Rico that we had the opportunity to travel through the waters of the Lesser Antilles. Puerto Rico is a free state of the United States, which means that it is an American state. Although we think people are not particularly proud of it, because they feel more Caribbean than anything else.

Day 1

The flight we took from Miami had an estimated departure time from Miami at 13.05 hours but until two days before there had been flight cancellations due to Hurricane Emily. This is why we took off definitively at around 3 pm which meant that our plans for that first day on the island were a little upset.

Upon arrival at the San Juan international airport and after the mandatory checks we went to wait for the shuttle of the rental car that we had hired in advance. As it was only to see the island we opted on this occasion for a small car than the one we rented in Miami days ago when arriving in the United States.

The San Juan airport is relatively close and well connected to the city. We had however booked our hotel in the tourist town of Condado. After reading several reviews on TripAdvisor we opted for the hotel. I have to say that we did not repent at all, except for the poor breakfast that went into the price of the room, which according to the hotel manager, they have stopped offering it.

By the way, speaking of the reception of the hotel there is a blonde girl who is more than charming. She helped us in every way she could in the sense that she recommended restaurants, points of interest and even areas not to visit.

As we arrived at the hotel around 7:00 pm we had just enough time to leave the suitcases and settle into the room. When we realized it was 7 pm and it was already dark we went down to reception and the same girl advised us a Puerto Rican restaurant. It was just two minutes walk from our hotel.

Our first culinary experience on the island could not be better. We dined like kings and they gave us to try different dishes and drinks from the local cuisine. It was all very good and copious. The dinner consisted of typical local dishes. So we could taste Bunuelo, Salmorejo, escabeche, Masitas, Verde, Flans and local drinks.

Day 2

This first full day of stay in Puerto Rico dawned for a few moments. At 6 AM, from our room, we started to hear applause, shouts, and noises that woke us up. And just below the hotel was a triathlon event in which hundreds of people run, swim and ride a bike for miles. And that test accompanied us almost all day throughout the historic area of the city.

At 8 we were already sweating, with enough heat and despite the time. Days ago the tropical storm Emily had been in these lands, leaving unequivocal signs of her strength. After breakfast, we could see how the sun made room through the few clouds left in the sky. We decided to visit the El Yunque National Forest. We were advised to visit in the morning because in the afternoon it gets a lot more crowded.

For an excursion of a few hours, they recommended us to drive to the highest point of the forest. We stopped, however, in the La Mina Falls that they recommended us to go during the dinner the night before in the restaurant. This excursion covers an hour and a half. The return becomes tiring because when we return it is always uphill and the heat and humidity also make a dent.

Once again inside the car and on the way to the exit we stopped at the Yokahu Tower from where we could see beautiful views.

After lunch, we went to Old San Juan to get a little deeper into it but with the main intention of visiting La Fortaleza, which was built to protect the island from foreign attacks. The truth is that once inside La Fortaleza we cannot hide developing our imagination. We see ourselves as another soldier fighting against the enemy behind a cannon or running with a rifle in hand. The fort had the effect that they had more soldiers than they had in reality due to the easy movement from one area to another.

Once back at the hotel we went to dinner. The dinner was in another restaurant recommended in the hotel. In this case, it was a Peruvian restaurant that surpassed even the previous night in quality. How good were the fish we took? Like the other one, it was no more than 5 minutes from the hotel. This time we had Lomo Saltado and Suspiro Limeno with typical local drinks.

Day 3

We decided to go see the Camuy Caves. We got up a little later than expected mainly due to the accumulated fatigue. After having breakfast at the hotel, we got on the road. It was a little more than an hour's walk. We mostly go by the toll motorway although not excessively expensive. When we get there and buy the tickets we wait a while for a train to take us down to the entrance of the cave. You can reach in no more than 5 minutes, but you can only do on the train.

After waiting more than 45 minutes for the little train to come and pick us up we got on it and before we knew it we were already at the entrance to the cave. We had, by the way, a fairly little guide. In any case, what is really important in these cases more than the guide are the views themselves. It made good the topical phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words.

We left the caves at around 2pm. With complaints of abandonment from our stomachs, we asked the man who sold us the tickets where we could eat nearby, preferably Puerto Rican food. He guides us to the restaurant which was just two kilometers from the exit of the enclosure. How well we went back to eat this time just like the night before. We ask for local food and I can tell you that we were totally satisfied in such a way that I particularly barely tasted anything until the next day.

In the afternoon we went, first to the Arecibo Observatory. After a winding and very poorly preserved road, we arrived after half an hour of curves and counter-curves with changes of gradients without any visibility while we overtook cars at full speed. Upon arrival, we were struck by the fact that once in the parking lot we had to climb about 300 steps.

So as we parked the car we unpacked it and headed towards Old San Juan with the intention of seeing the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. I have to say that I was more impressed than La Fortaleza that we visited the day before.

After leaving, we were in the surroundings of Plaza de Colon where a gastronomic night was celebrated with tastings of typical foods of the island as well as rum as an accompaniment to the dishes. We were able to see some dance performances that left us with a very good taste in our last full day on the island of charm.

Day 4

It was the last day on the island before boarding to start our cruise. This day we go for a small excursion near the hotel and logically to wander around Old San Juan that we have not done yet. We went to see the famous Bacardi Rum distillery.

This tour lasts approximately 45 minutes and it explains first how Facundo Bacardi established himself on the island of Cuba and then moved to Puerto Rico once the company was founded. The tour continues with an amazing duplication of the first distillery, in which abound the huge wooden barrels filled with Bacardi rum.

There is a small room with historical objects that give visitors the idea of tradition that has been created in the almost one hundred and fifty years of the distillery's history. Half of the expedition is more technology since a set of plasma screens take us to the process of making rum.

The golden years of Bacardi cocktails are recreated in a bar of the thirties. The bartender gives a little more of the history of the Bacardi company, where they explain the origin of the Cuba Libre and the correct way to prepare the mojito and the pina colada.

We are directed to an illuminated space where one can send video postcards to acquaintances. The tour ends in an impressive pavilion shaped like a flying bat. We relax with a view of a beautiful colonial patio and sit down to savor Bacardi cocktails for free. While some are distracted doing this, others go to the Bacardi House store to buy all kinds of souvenirs. There are flannels, caps, glasses, towels, and, of course, bottles of any Bacardi drink.

After the visit, we left the facilities and since it was time to eat, we went to the Plaza Las Americas shopping mall. It is not an outlet, but a fairly large shopping center, by the way. We visited some stores and could verify that the prices were, effectively, of a shopping center. We eat in a self-service pasta shop and the truth is that we thought the quality was good.

After eating and visiting some shops we returned to the hotel to collect the suitcases. We moved to the boat where at about 4pm we were able to check in without any major setback. After leaving the luggage in the cabin we left the boat with the intention of returning the car at the airport. Once on the boat, we could see Old San Juan one last time in all its beauty.

Impressions from my Travel to Japan between Tokyo and Kyoto

If you are planning or dream to travel around Japan, you are in the right place. Here I tell you all about my trip of the ten magical days through this dreamland. It took me days to write this post. I wanted that it has all that can answer the questions and needs of a departing traveler (even in thought). I wrote it thinking of all the information that I wanted to find myself while I was organizing (and I have not found). Here is a nice practical Japan travel guide to plan your trip.

The cherry blossom is a magic. You cannot feel it without having lived it. I have seen for many years the pictures of bloom and has always been speechless. I was always thousands of kilometers away from these new flowers. It has an overwhelming and powerful spell.

We arrived in Japan in late March, when only a few flowers had popped up on the branches of Tokyo. Then, one day after the other, the magic happened. Like in the cartoons, the spell and a patina of glitter of the fairy's wand spread throughout. But with the flowers. And for real. A blanket of pink flowers was lying on Japan until they explode with color, energy, power, and joy.

The Japanese are crazy as they celebrate the hanami with picnics and parties under the trees. They fill their mobiles with photos and selfies with cherry trees in the background. The women wore their beautiful kimono with colors, grace, and elegance. These wonderful flowers sweep Japan every day in a whirlwind of celebrations and joy.

Each temple became pinker and brighter surrounded by thousands of flowers. Each park and every street became a watercolor. It's a magic! You cannot explain. Japan during the blooming of sakura is a special place. You don't believe. Go and see for yourselves.

I had never happened to travel to a place where I did not understand even the sense of a speech. I speak English. In South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, I have never had any problems. In Japan, if a sign is in Japanese you won't understand what it could mean. The worst part of not understanding anything is to confess to the friendly Japanese who try to help.

When I first arrived I went to the airport ATM to withdraw the yen and on the screen was in Japanese. I tried to push a few buttons, but nothing. I looked around to see if I was the only one with this weird bubble of incomprehension. Everyone was a bit lost. Not that it was any consolation, it was strange.

After a few days in Japan, you wonder how many souls can live together in one country. There is the Japan with the temples, the zen, meditation, and introspection. There are the Japanese manga, anime, action figures and the maid cafe. There is the one of the thousands of neon signs, the intersection of Shibuya. The karaoke play in tiny soundproof rooms with phosphorescent drinks.

There is the tradition of the kimono, the onsen, the elegant gestures, and compounds, of the rituals. There is the Japan of the metro at rush hour with hordes of businessmen. They flood the streets wearing the same outfits that look like an invasion of Agent Smith of Matrix. And in the end, all these pieces meet. They mingle and create a unique, complicated, multifaceted, fascinating and elusive Japan.

The businessman goes to party after 6 pm under the cherry blossoms. They find himself there till 2 am in a karaoke with colleagues. And in the next room, there are the stylish girls dressed in kimonos. Even the manga shops of Akihabara have their own sacredness. From the temples, the onsen to sushi, it is a mosaic that only makes sense with all its pieces.

The most absurd things in the world are all in Japan. There is soup of clams in cans, rice with chicken curry, rabbit shaped strawberry ice cream. There is a café where you can caress cats, a café where you can caress owls. You can find bananas glazed and coated with sugar. There is a bar full of people all playing the same online game. There are shops for cosplayers, where they sell clothes to dress up as manga or anime characters. There are toilets with more buttons than a spaceship.



Japan Travel Itinerary


As in all my post on the routes, below you will find the shortest route with schematic stages for each day. So you can take a general look at the lap we did.

Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo - Night in Tokyo
Day 2: Tokyo - Night in Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo - Kamakura + Tokyo - Night in Tokyo
Day 4: leave early from Tokyo - Nikko, arriving in Nikko in late morning - night in Nikko
Day 5: Starting early from Nikko - Kyoto, arriving in Kyoto in the early afternoon - night in Kyoto
Day 6: Kyoto - Night in Kyoto
Day 7: Kyoto - Nara - Kyoto - Night in Kyoto
Day 8: day in Kyoto, starting in the late afternoon towards Tokyo - Night in Tokyo
Day 9: Tokyo - Night in Tokyo
Day 10: Tokyo - back home (evening flight)


Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo

Flights to Tokyo usually arrive around late afternoon, I landed at Haneda. Try to take a subway from the airport to the hotel. Ask for info while sending an email to the hotel as some have the shuttle at very good prices. Taking the metro on arrival is tiring, but I assure you that energy will be well spent. The taxi (I took myself) costs a lot, especially if you are alone. If you are four, it is fine, but not worth it unless it is late at night.

If you arrive in the late afternoon, leave the backpacks at the hotel. Spend the evening in Shibuya for a first nice strong impact with Japan. Have you too wept hopeless tears for the story of the dog Hachiko? Know that his statue is right in front of Shibuya Station and is easy to find. It is the one with the line of tourists to take the photo!

Continue to the Shibuya Center Gai intersection, the central lane of Shibuya. Enjoy wandering around the neighborhood and get dazzled by the lights.

Day 2: Tsukiji, Akihabara, and Shinjuku

Wake up at 3:30 am to go to Tsukiji Market to see the tuna auction. Have a nice breakfast of sushi.

At 9 am move to the Akihabara district and spend the morning here. Wander the narrow streets of the otaku neighborhood that is par excellence. Explore the mega shopping malls. If you are fans of manga, anime or if you are a little nerd this is the place for you. When you're tired or you get hungry, take a break in a café. After lunch, take the metro and go to the Shinjuku district to spend the afternoon and evening.

First stop is the Shinjuku Gyoen Garden to see the cherry trees (remember that it closes at 4). From here move to the Government Building for a panoramic view of Tokyo. Be there on at dusk, so you do your calculations based on what season it is. In the evening stroll in the area of Kabukicho and Golden Gai, the center of Shinjuku.

Day 3: Tokyo - Kamakura

Wake up early to be able to make good use of the day as all the temples close between 4 and 5 pm. This means that in the late afternoon you will have nothing to do. When you're ready, take the first train to Kamakura (from Tokyo it is about an hour drive). Bring some snacks for mid morning because you will have lunch later on. Stop for lunch along the paths that lead to Kamakura station. First, visit the three main temples. Otherwise, pack the lunch.

Get off at Kita-Kamakura and walk. You will see after 10 minutes the Engaku-Ji temple stop and enjoy it, then also stop at Kencho-Ji. Continue south, to encounter the Hachiman-gū Tsurugaoka, the most beautiful of Kamakura. It will take an hour to can see it around. Leave the temple to the center of the city to reach the Kamakura station. You can go to Wakamiya Dori, a narrow street full of shops, or Komachi-Dori, a large tree-lined street. Have lunch here.

After lunch, leave for the Kamakura station. Take a bus to Hasedera. Almost all those taking a bus from the station are going to the Big Buddha. So it's easy to find the right bus, but at worst you should ask. You can say Daibutsu and they will understand. Take the bus at the foot of the Great Buddha Daibutsu and then reach Hasedera by foot for 15 minutes.

From here return to Kamakura Station by bus. You can walk on the foot that takes half an hour, but on the road, there is nothing to see. So you can take the bus, and then the train back to Tokyo.

If you are still loaded spent the night in Shibuya in a nice karaoke! Once back at the hotel take the backpacks, and point to wake up early the next day you go to Nikko.

Day 4: Tokyo - Nikko

Even at Nikko, the attractions are temples and they close at around 4/5 pm. Unless you want to stay out you have to be active from early in the morning. Then go to bed at 9 pm, because the train takes about two and a half hours from Tokyo to Nikko.

Once in Nikko leave the backpacks at the hotel and walk towards the temple area, which is all close. It takes half an hour walk from the station. We made it on foot because we were curious to see the village. Otherwise, you can also take a bus if you are a bit lazy.

First, visit the glistening red Shin-Kyo holy Bridge. Continue to the right and devote at least an hour and a half to the phenomenal Tosho-Gu Sanctuary. Here there is one of the temples with the three monkeys, so this shrine has become world famous. After Toshogu, based on the time you have left, go to Futarasan-Ji, Taiyuin, and Rinno-Ji.

For dinner, we ordered a typical kaiseki dinner with 13-course Japanese cuisine. After dinner, we got soaked in the steaming onsen throughout the evening. Then we go straight to sleep on the futon!

As I said, on the same day you can also return to Tokyo, in the evening instead of staying for the night in Nikko.

Day 5: Nikko - Kyoto

If you were staying in Nikko it will take half a day to reach Kyoto (about 5 hours). You'll have to go by train to Tokyo with the path opposite of that of the previous day and then take a Shinkansen to Kyoto. It will take two and a half hours to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto.

On the Tokyo-Kyoto route, after about 45 minutes, on your right side, you can see the silhouetted Mount Fuji. Choose seats along the window of the train on the right of the direction of travel.

Once in Kyoto eat something. We took some sandwiches as we reached the hotel. We ate them walking with backpacks on our shoulders. We leave the backpacks at the hotel and come out to explore the city.

You have all afternoon available, but remember the temples closes at 4/5 pm. We chose to explore the South Higashiyama area.

We reach by taxi (one of the few taken throughout the trip, but we did not want to miss a minute) to Shoren-In Temple. In the map, it is also found as Awata Palace. It is a unique beauty, especially its gardens with ponds, koi carp. The cherry blossoms in sacred silence.

From there, walk down to the Maruyama-Koen Garden. It is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season. Here girls in kimono pose for photographs in front of trees in bloom. Then stroll down the unmissable Sannen-Zaka to reach the magnificent Kiyomizu-Dera. It is one of the most beautiful temples that we saw throughout the trip.

We were lucky. As it was the time of the cherry blossom, the temple was also opened in the evening and lit in a very suggestive manner. We wandered around the Kiyomizu-Dera for a couple of hours (the view of Kyoto is spectacular). And then from there, we climbed the hill. We spent the evening in Gion, the typical and historical neighborhood of Kyoto.

Day 6: Kyoto, Kyoto Higashiyama North and Central zones - night in Kyoto

In the morning we wake up early. We spent this day visiting North Higashiyama in the morning till early afternoon. We visit Kyoto Central after lunch till the evening. We reached the Nanzen-Ji complex. To visit it takes at least an hour, but do not miss the gardens. From there begins a beautiful walk north along the Philosopher's Walk. It is one of the most picturesque places in the city, especially during the cherry blossom season.

We detour at the small hidden temple of Honen-in. This temple is unforgettable for the peace that reigns. Forget the crowds of tourists and the overlapping selfie sticks. In this temple, there is peace and serenity pervaded by an aura of sacredness.

Go ahead and reach the less sacred Ginkakuji with the official name that you find on maps is Jisho-Ji Temple. Our next stop is the Nijo-Jo Castle, but remember that the last entry is at 4:30. If you're in good time, get on the bus and get to this impressive castle in the heart of Kyoto.

Since it was the season of cherry blossom, many places were also open in the evening and lit in an impressive way. We were lucky and we returned to enjoy the castle with evening lights. While we waited for the opening night we went to visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park. Go at sunset (if you were able to enter the castle go after the visit).

In this park, the cherry trees are wonderful with so many different shades of pink. If you have reached the park at dusk, it's amazing.

Day 7: Kyoto - Nara - Kyoto - Night in Kyoto

Rise early! The first stop of the day is the Fushimi Inari-Taisha that gives its best in the early morning. Then go on a trip to Nara. This wonderful sanctuary is south of Kyoto, in the same direction of Nara. From Kyoto Station take the Nara line. After 10 minutes you will be at the Inari station, right in front of the sanctuary.

We had breakfast at the mini-market in front of the Fushimi Inari-Taisha! Spend at least an hour at this shrine and enjoy the mystical path along the hundreds of orange torii. There is a special atmosphere in this place in the morning that vibrates and shines.

Come back to the station and start at the Nara line towards Nara and in about an hour you'll be at your destination. Visiting Nara is very simple as the distances are small. All the temples and shrines are within the park and the walk is straightforward.

The center of Nara is very nice to visit and the walk from the station to the park is worth in itself. From Nara Station continue along Sanjo Dori, the main street of the city. It leads straight to the park to Kofuku-Ji. It's a pagoda with 5 floors and 50 meters high (the second highest in Japan).

From here move on inside the park. It's time to meet the famous deer of Nara. In Japan, deer is a messenger of the gods and treated with the respect. Until 1673 there was capital punishment for killing a deer. By the second half of 1900, the deer have gone from sacred to a national treasure. There are over 1200 in Nara.

Deer are curious but not at all shy. When they see the food they stop to think, and think only of eating. In particular, they are mad about the Shika Senbei that are in every corner of the park. If you want to experience the thrill of feeding the deer, buy a packet of these crackers.

After pampering the deer head towards the Isuien Garden. Finally, reach the monumental Todai-Ji. It is one of the most important temples of Japan. It houses a gigantic bronze Buddha, 15 meters high and weighing 250 tons. From here continue around inside the temples of the park. There is the Karakuni shrine, Todaiji Nigatsudo, Tamukeyama Hachiman-gu shrine, Kasuga sanctuary. Finally, visit the Wakamiya shrine.

End your walk in the park and get back to the center of Nara. If you still have time you can stop at the incredible owl cafe. Here you can caress each type of owl while sipping coffee! Get back then by train to Kyoto and go to bed early.

Day 8: Arashiyama

Guess what? Wake up super early! Start the day at Arashiyama bamboo forest. It is a show early in the morning when it is still not overrun by tourists behind every barrel. Spend at least an hour with a nice walk in this natural temple. We dedicate the day to 3 beautiful temples of the city, the Ryoan-Ji, Kinkaku-Ji, and Daitoku-Ji. From one to another move by bus, as they are well connected.

Reach the Ryoan-Ji first that will take a couple of buses from Arashiyama. The Heavenly Dragon Temple is famous for its Zen garden. The garden is very beautiful. From there, move to the Kinkaku-Ji or Golden Pavilion. This temple is sparkling and huge. Covered with gold leaf, it has a scenic lake and a landscaped garden. It is worth your while, despite being the most popular tourist spot of Kyoto.

Finally, the Daitoku-Ji. This is not only a temple but is a complex of temples that is vast. The best part is the gardens. Keep at least a couple of hours to visit everything. Head back to the hotel to retrieve the backpacks and go to the station to catch the first train to Tokyo. You will arrive in the evening. Leave the backpacks at the hotel and if you are true warriors go for an evening at Roppongi as we did!

Day 9: Tokyo (1), the Asakusa area, Ueno and Yanaka, Shibuya - Night in Tokyo

Spend the morning at the Asakusa district. Stroll along Nakamise Dori (a strategic road full of souvenir shops). Reach the most famous temple in Tokyo, Senso-Ji. Enter the temple through the Thunder Gate, the giant super-red Kaminari-mon. Once inside you will see on your left the famous five-story pagoda. It is particularly picturesque at night.

Do not forget to take a omikuji (note of fortune) before leaving. Go to the drawers to the wall and look for the one with the corresponding kanji (or ask a Japanese). Open and take your note. Before lunch, move to the Ueno district. I recommend you a walking tour starting from the park, concluding the walk in the Yanaka district.

Ueno Park during flowering is one of the most famous places for the hanami. At the park, there are several points of interest. There is the Tokyo National Museum, National Science Museum. Then there is the National Museum of Western Art, Ueno Zoo, Kiyomizu Kannon-do. There is also the Ueno Toshogu Shrine. A walk in here is worth it.

To me, graveyards are not too friendly and in fact, I shudder from head to heels when I step inside. But in Japan, they are different and experienced, almost as if they were a place of relaxation and peace. Some people stroll, some read the newspaper, some walk with the dog. And the sakura here is special. Yanaka Ginza is the center of food, family-run restaurants, small workshops of artisans. It's your last night in Tokyo, so go to bed only when your knees don't allow any more.

Day 10: Tokyo Harajuku and central Tokyo - return home (evening flight)

This day we dedicated to the Harajuku district. The area is particularly famous for a lot of young flashy clothes. our first stop was at Yoyogi Park and Meiji-Ju. We caught the fog and rain, but this made it even more impressive and a unique park. After a long walk, we leave the park. We dive into the heart of the most fashionable and colorful district of Tokyo.

Omotesando is an elegant, wide and European avenue. Takeshita Dori is a delirious street, full of people, shops, and colors. Cat Street is a small street of boutiques, with neat and tidy architecture. Stop to eat at a place that inspires you and enjoy the last bit of Japan. In the afternoon, I recommend you take a walk to Kitanomaru Park, in the center of Tokyo. It has a moat where they navigate the rowing boats. During the season of sakura, this is a magical place.

If you still have time do one last jump in the Tokyo neighborhood you liked best. We have been to Akihabara (where the geek in me would live forever and ever). And in the end, we went to take the plane back home.

Summer Solstice in Stonehenge

Last spring I began to analyze the possibility of a trip of a week, more or less, to visit Wales, that quite unknown land of the West of Great Britain. I tried the possibilities of flights to Bristol or Cardiff, but the offer was less, and it did not suit me. At the end I got, at a very good price, a flight to Liverpool, which is close to North Wales.

I rented a car so I could move freely along the route. I had always wanted to visit Stonehenge someday. I did not come by the way, but it was not a great detour of the route either. So I started to dive on the Internet to see what the visits were like, the schedules, the prices. I was able to see the various options, and I saw that the possibility was offered, for small groups, to make a special visit, outside the usual opening hours.

Depending on the time of year, there were one or several visits at dawn, before the opening, and others at dusk, after the closing time. The light of a bright morning is great to get excellent photographs of the stones.

My trip was going to be in the second half of June. I articulated the entire route of my trip according to the date they gave me on June 21 at 6.30 in the morning. I booked a hotel in Salisbury, which is the nearest city to Stonehenge (about 16 km away). Next to Stonehenge there is a town called Amesbury, but with fairly limited resources. I chose the hotel in the center of Salisbury, almost opposite the entrance to the Cathedral grounds.

I arrived in Salisbury the day before, on June 20, in the afternoon. We arrived super punctual at the small airport. We ate right there in one of the few bars there were, some very good sandwiches and we went to the office to pick up our car. The truth is that the first contact with the language was very pathetic.

We did not catch anything, but the girl at the counter was very nice and very helpful. I wandered a bit through the center, I had dinner, and I went to bed early, as the next day we had to get up early.

Summer Solstice in Stonehenge images

Day 2

I got up before 5 in the morning. I prepared coffee in the room. I took some warm clothes, that despite being June, the early mornings were cool, and the camera. I got into the car and went to Stonehenge. I arrived at the parking lot at 6.15 in the morning, with the sun beginning to appear over the horizon.

There were very few cars in the Stonehenge parking lot. Only those of the previous visit (yes, that day there was another visit at 5.30 in the morning) and the little pirates that we had booked for 6:30. At that time the previous group left the premises, and we entered. We were with a small group that had arrived there that morning from London.

Built in several phases from 3,000 BC, Stonehenge is the most famous prehistoric monument in Europe. It is only possible to speculate about the rituals performed here, but the alignment of the stones leaves little doubt about the relationship of the circle with the sun and the changes of seasons, as well as the knowledge of arithmetic and astronomy of its builders.

Despite popular belief, the circle is not the work of the Druids, a priestly cult of the iron age that flourished in Britain around 250 BC, more than a thousand years after Stonehenge was abandoned. Stonehenge is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO but there is still much underground waiting to surface.

And then the magic started as I see the sunrise and the moon that could still be seen in the sky. The morning light illuminate the stones of the Stonehenge cromlech. With the vigilant guide as we enter the Circle begins an orgy of photographs, of backlighting, and I see a completely blue sky on a cool morning. And I also see some mystic, who sat in the interior and would perform, I suppose, some kind of solar ritual.

Logically, for the summer solstice the atmosphere is even more special. The experience was wonderful so much so, that it has been hard for me to reduce the collection of photographs. Because they all transmit something very special. The only drawback to the special visit that includes the Interior of the Circle is that the store is closed at that time. I could not buy any of the many souvenirs offered during opening hours. But I did take a very special experience, which I share with all of you today.

After an hour of wandering inside and outside the Circle, the visit was finished (there was another small group prepared for 7.30 am). I went back to the hotel in Salisbury, had breakfast, and then visited the Cathedral. Like the rest of Wales, it's worth it. When we arrive we park in the first parking lot that we see. The Cathedral was built between 1220 and 1258 in English Gothic style and is the highest in all of Britain with 123 meters in height.

The truth is that it is beautiful and also has several things that make it special with its watch, the restaurant, and the Magna Carta. The interior is spectacular. There are many tombs and flags, but what most strikes us is the machinery of the cathedral clock. It is the oldest medieval clock in Europe still in operation. The baptismal font is also very interesting and modern.

Designed by William Pye in the year 2008 it offers a great contrast with the medieval style of the cathedral. It is so big that it allows to celebrate baptisms by total immersion. Once we have seen the interior we go to the Chapter House and see the best preserved original copy of the Magna Carta, but it is closed. So we have to settle for the beautiful cloister.

Once seen our main objective we went out again to walk through Salisbury. Around the cathedral there is an area with some houses with garden that make us want to stay and live there. It is a not very big and beautiful city, with pedestrian streets full of small shops. After a little walk around the town we eat on the lawn of Queen Elisabeth gardens, next to a stream.

Here the parks are something from another planet. They are all fairy tales, with lawns that look like well cut carpets, and so much variety of plants and flowers but all parks are like that. I do not know how much money the English spend on gardening, because it's not just that the weather helps them, it's that everything is perfect.

The city lies at the confluence of five rivers. The Nadder, the Ebble, the Wylye and the Bourne are tributaries of the fifth river Avon that flows into the English Channel to Christchurch, Dorset. It starts to rain. The truth is that we were lucky because the forecast was that it would rain all day and it has not been like that.

We take a well-deserved rest and we go to have tea, at an un-British time. When we finish we have to make a little time because the universal flood is falling. The next stop is Averbury, where there is another essential megalithic enclave of The Henge. With 335 meters radius, it is the largest of all the prehistoric monuments found in the UK.

Unfortunately, half of the stones were torn up in centuries past to be used by the locals to build their houses. It begins in an avenue a couple of kilometers and ends in it circle. So we take the backpack and give a little spin to everything. When we are finishing, it starts to spark a little, and we accelerate the march to finish and leave.

Near there are several giant horses drawn on the mountain, like tribute to the prehistoric structures of the area. This is the one of Alton Barnes, and it is from 1812. By the way, I was curious to see what the roofs of the rural houses like this were made of. The next stop is Oxford, so we take the car and get going. The road is pretty good, and it's largely a highway, so at late noon we're in Oxford.

The center is pedestrian, and we started to drive around, but we could not find a place, since the two parking lots are full. We ended up parking near the bus station, but you can only park two hours.

So we take a quick stop on the main street, and we go straight to the Christ Church, with the idea of ​​seeing everything we can. With the rush, we passed that in front was the Alice's Shop, the store dedicated to Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll.

We go on a tour of the High Street, St.Mary, from here to the Radcliffe and the Sheldonian, and finally see the imitation of the Venetian bridge of sighs. At this moment, as it was already 6 in the afternoon, and we saw that almost everything was closing.

We decided to take a walk around the gardens of Christ Church. Here the feet already said enough (we had been walking since 5 in the morning. At the end we go to the car. We wait 10 minutes for the rain to calm down and we go to the B&B, which is very close to Marlborough.

The GPS confuses us a little and leaves us in a place where there is nothing, but in a moment we are located and we find it. It is a family hotel, and the owners are very friendly. We go to the room to leave the suitcase and decided to go down to the pub to have something, since it is Saturday.

We ordered huge ciders and we became the center of interest of the place. We still seemed as exotic to them as they were to us.

Trip to Guatavita and the Legend of El Dorado in Colombia

We arrived at the El Dorado airport in Bogota at 10.30 in the morning from Buenos Aires. The airport is quite modern and we did not have major delays. We had hired in advance the transfer to the hotel in the neighborhood of La Candelaria.

We travel in a fairly large Van and we take the opportunity to talk with the driver about Bogota, safety, and things to do in Bogota. We arrived at the hotel and we were offered a red coloured drink, which is not wine but coffee without milk or any other addition. The room was old, well-kept and clean with no heating and the hot water came out at a good temperature but little quantity. Both things could be improved for a city like Bogota where it's cold at times.

We had lunch in a restaurant on the way back from the hotel and it was highly recommended on TripAdvisor to eat typical dishes. We ate one tamale and ajiaco, soda and chocolate bar. After that we walked around the Bolivar Square and the streets of La Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota.

We found the tourist tram and decided to go around in a guided tour of something more than an hour. It's fine to have a glimpse of the historic part of the city. From there in La Candelaria we take a taxi to the hill of Monserrate.

Monserrate is a hill that at the top has a temple, restaurants and a Cross to travel. To see the breathtaking views of the city it can be climbed by cable car or by a train that goes along some tracks on the hillside. Before going down, we took a few pictures and we had a coffee at the restaurant and sweet desserts.

When we went down we realized that almost no taxis pass through that place (unless they are free). The area is somewhat remote and in the hotel we were recommended not to walk, especially at night. The locals informed us that there is a shuttle to a station in Transmilenio (bus) very close to La Candelaria. The strange thing is that they almost do not advertise it anywhere. There was also the option to take a white taxi, special taxis are more expensive and they are ordered at a counter. We took the shuttle and then we walked to the hotel.

To close the day we ate at another La Candelaria restaurant recommended by TripAdvisor. We ate a pork sandwich and an omelette, with drinks and a spicy water of red fruits and Jamaica flower (something like a tea). There are several bars and rumbas to drink and dance around the area, but it will be another time. It is better to sleep as the day was very long.

El Dorado images

Day 2

We arrive at Laguna de Guatavita a bit too early. Unable to get parking, we fall back to the parking lot of the restaurant, a little below, where a charming lady offers us to taste the delicacies of the region. We visit with a guide to the lake which is according to the legend of the Spanish conquistadors the place of El Dorado. But after the 13 tons of gold found at the beginning, the other explorations did not give sufficiently convincing results in spite of the means employed.

The lagoon is the origin of the legend of El Dorado, which spread among the European conquerors and aroused greed in them. This happened because during the Conquest, in the sixteenth century, wonderful stories circulated that gave account of a ceremony that took place frequently in this place, before dawn broke.

It was an act attended by all the people and whose protagonist was the cacique. Our guide explains that this man covered his body with a dense layer of gold dust, honey and resin of espeletia before getting on his royal barge to throw emeralds and gold pieces in the water as a tribute to gods. After making the offerings, the sovereign immersed himself in the lagoon, which was rubbed with herbs in order to get rid of the gold that covered it.

Unlike the miniature that is exhibited in the Gold Museum, in Bogota, the raft that transported the cacique was not made of gold but of chusque, a kind of bamboo. In the midst of the calm that dominates the mountains, the green fields and the crops of potatoes and flowers, I imagine the avarice that led many to try to vacate the lagoon in order to seize the offerings that had been deposited there.

As proof of the excessive desire to accumulate wealth that many exhibited, there is still a scar on the eastern side of this species of Andean sea. It is a vertical cut, the product of several attempts to drain Guatavita. During the walk from the entrance of the park to the lagoon we can see how the native shrubs that grow on both sides of the path lean towards the center and in some sections form tunnels of leaves in which the light is hard to sneak.

The tour allows us to explore part of the ecosystem of high Andean forest, where they grow, among other plant species, orchids, bromeliads, ferns and mosses. The songs of the birds, the yellow trumpet-shaped flowers and other fuchsia-colored flowers join in a natural symphony to the nervous movements of the lizards, which seem to fly over the cobblestones that we walk through.

We reach the fourth and last viewpoint of the lagoon to the highest point that can be reached by the stone path that embraces it. We can see how the clouds filter the sun at will. The rays take turns to illuminate parts of this body of water, sacred to the Muisca Indians, and also the hillsides that adjoin it as if they were grandstands of a football stadium.

The first thing that remains engraved in the mind is an unmistakable aroma that opens the appetite of that of corn cobs, yellow as gold. That are roasted in charcoal on a grill around which people gather. After a break at Sesquile, we continue our journey by the northern highway! We pass by the site of the battle of Boyaca, historical site of the fighting that allowed the liberation of Great Colombia from Spanish oppression.

But as it is late, we decide not to stop there. We arrive at Villa de Leyva. A Swiss-Colombian met at the entrance of the city, who guides us to a campsite. We settle there. It is a little expensive but it is a luxury. We are the only guests, and the showers are clean and warm.

We are about 30 minutes from the city center and on foot we go down to town for some shopping. We walk down the cobblestone streets of the city with white houses and colonial style. We like the atmosphere a lot that remained typical of the ancient colonial villages. The main square is huge and is the largest in Colombia.

We then go to the site of Pozos azules (blue wells) which is a little outside the city. Here the color of the water laden with minerals contrasts with the red earth and the green surroundings of vegetation. I return downtown in a taxi! We leave Villa de Leyva by the chaotic road that goes through Santa Sofia and ends in Moniquira.

As we leave the small restaurant where we had lunch, a group of schoolchildren invades us and asks us about our trip. We arrive at San Gil. We park the car in a car park to visit the city and its El Gallineral park. In the latter, we see many trees with lichens like hair, squirrels and parrots. Leaving the park, we buy local specialties of ants with big bellies grilled.

We continue our journey to Paramo for a walk to the magnificent Juan Curi waterfall on this path. Too bad we did not make this road yesterday, we could have bivouacked in this green setting last night. We return a little on our wheels until SAN GIL before going to Barichara where we find a bivouac on the central square in front of the church.

This colonial village is very peaceful and its paved streets, lined with white houses, we like a lot. We then have a great evening and look at the pictures from the beginning of our trip.

Travel Itinerary for New Year's Eve in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I have always had a certain weakness for Asian countries. The economic prices, the ease of getting around on the road, the varied gastronomy and the touch of cultural and religious exoticism make this continent one of my favorites to grab the backpack and enjoy a good holiday exploring new areas. On this occasion, I go on my first trip to Malaysia. When we were planning our first trip to Southeast Asia, we knew we would spend Christmas and New Year in that area.

So we started to investigate where we could celebrate New Year, in which cities events were held if it was really celebrated in a big way! We ended by choosing to start the year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the foot of the hyper-known Petronas Towers. Among the options, we consider Shanghai, Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Finally, we ended up choosing the latter one.

In the case of Shanghai, it was ruled out by a theme of dates and climate. In Shanghai, it was going to be very cold! Then we went to consider Bangkok and Singapore. In the case of Singapore, we discarded it simply because of the issue of dates. In Bangkok, we know that many parties are celebrated, so it was a strong option. On the other hand, we were tempted a lot by the fireworks show that takes place in Kuala Lumpur at twelve o'clock, right at the foot of the Petronas Towers. So the decision was difficult.

As you know, Malaysia is one of my favorite countries. I have been there three times, in different places. In fact, it is one of the best prepared and ideal countries for family tourism, a perfect place to travel with children. In Malaysia, you have golden sand beaches and crystal clear water but without the party atmosphere of Thailand. There are cities where colonial architecture is mixed with street art as in any other country in the Southeast.

There are tea plantations, jungles and some of the best diving spots in the world. There is the influence of Chinese and Indians with their culture, food, and religion, but without leaving the same city. There are mosques, monasteries, and temples. You can enjoy Ramadan, Chinese New Year, Diwali and Holi in the same spirit. It is the country I always recommend when one asks me the best place to make the first incursion in Southeast Asia. So I have decided to present my adventure in this country.

We leave Thailand, our town because it's almost like going to the town every time we've been there and we headed to Malaysia. To get there, we took a very cheap flight directly from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur. We did not go with much anticipation since the airport is small, and we also do not want to waste time waiting.

It was December and we had decided to spend New Year's Eve in Kuala Lumpur, to enjoy that party in a big city. But we were wrong. Yes, seeing the fireworks announcing the New Year behind the Petronas Towers is cool, but when it comes to partying, it's not the best place to go. Not much less.

With this destiny, we had screwed it up a bit, really. January is not a good date to come to Malaysia because the best places in the country are in full monsoon. The best it has are the eastern islands (Perhentian, Redang, and Kapas), and at this time it was raining non-stop. In addition, another of our priorities was to dive in Sipadan (Borneo), and from January to April, they recommend not going for the strong currents. So, the island of Borneo was also ruled out.

We decided then that our itinerary in Malaysia would be, for 12 days. It would touch Kuala Lumpur-Penang-Cameron Highlands-Melaka. After that, we would spend a few days in Singapore until we got a flight to the Philippines, which we had scheduled for the middle of January. We would stay hanging a few days in one of the islands, go to Borneo to see the volcano, the orangutans and snorkel and the jungle of Taman Negara. We will do it later when we go to Indonesia.

But let's get back to what concerns us, and at this moment, it's the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. In Kuala Lumpur, there are a thousand accommodation options, at a good price, including backpacker hostels and slightly better hotels. Although it is not a proper backpacker destination. The tourism that there is of local people, families, and couples. It does not have that roll of long-term travelers as in the rest of Southeast Asia. At least the part we were in. In Kapas apparently, things change.

We had booked by booking a hotel very well located at the gates of Chinatown and close to the Central Market. They were not too nice, and the room, even though it was fine, had no window. But what we liked most about this place was, of course, the pool with views of the city skyline and cool water.

Kuala Lumpur is a very curious city, where a lot of different cultures coexist peacefully. On the one hand, there are a lot of Chinese, with their restaurants, street stalls, shops, and red and yellow temples. Very close to Chinatown is Little India, with all its restaurants, Hindu temples, and its saree shops. Then there is the Muslim part, the most important and most important in the country, with immense and very beautiful mosques. And finally, the modern Asians who want to be Japanese. Those you usually find more in the shopping centers.

To eat, the cheapest is to go to the first floor of the central market, where you have a lot of Asian food options. Jalan Hang Kasturi Street, which is next door, also has full of street food stalls. We ate at the market, although we did not like it too much. It was almost all fast food and junk, no matter how Asian it was. At the stalls, we tried the shakes and a traditional dessert. It is an impossible mix of ingredients of all kinds ranging from coconut milk to gelatin, to beans, liquid caramel, corn grains and ice.

In the afternoon we went for a walk to the skyscraper area, full of shopping centers, where is the KLCC park and the Petronas Towers. This city is not to be walked on. First because of the heat, and second because of the traffic. They may be very modern here, but do not have anything like the traffic lights and the zebra crossings. Crossing a street without being caught by a car is a real feat, and that vehicles respecting pedestrians in a step are a real chimera. That is why there is a great option that is tourist buses. There are three lines, blue, green and purple. The latter is free, and above has wifi.

The purple line goes straight from Pasar Seni, in Chinatown, to the Pavilion mall. We spent a couple of hours doing shopping, without going over because we took a suitcase of maximum 10 kilos to go unbilled. We visited the one that for me was the flagship store of the commercial precinct. A store dedicated exclusively to DC comics products, decorated with life-size figures of Batman, Superman, and Catwoman. A paradise for geeks, and a disaster for the personal economy, because prices are high!

After that, we walked for about 10 minutes through an air-conditioned tunnel that led directly to the KLCC park. A complex designed by a Brazilian architect, Roberto Burle, in 1998, which includes green areas, a jogging track, and a swimming pool.

In this same park is the famous Petronas Towers, the highest novenas in the world with 452 m. We looked around and decided to go up to the sky bar, to see the sunset from there and the Petronas lit up at night. The sky bar, with exorbitant prices, had reserved from where the towers looked good, and a part open to everyone with views to the other side. So we took the matter up, for a change. We went to a part that was closed to the public, sitting on the floor, next to a window from where the towers could be seen, and without consuming anything. Nobody threw us out or force us to ask.

The next day we dedicate it to see the most emblematic sites of the center, such as the Sri Mahamariamman temple, the Lake Gardens Park, where the most important mosque in the city, or the Merdeka square. Not without first going to an Indian restaurant that we had discovered the night before, in which we had chai. And it was not just any chai, it was masala chai! Very sweet and with its dose of perfect spicy touch. They put it to take in a plastic bag with a straw. What an illusion to take true Indian chai again!

As for the Merdeka square, it contains one of the highest flags in the world, with 100 meters. This is where the independence of Malaysia was celebrated in 1957. In the square is also the palace of Sultan Abdul Samad, the Cathedral of Santa Maria and the old town hall. What is most beautiful is the contrast of the skyscrapers with the Muslim architecture. The more contrast a city has, the more charm it has. And Kuala Lumpur is what it has cultural diversity in abundance. That day was almost all closed and full of stages to receive the year that night, but we preferred to go to the Petronas.

After this, we took a walk to eat something and went back to the hotel. It was time to change and prepare to receive the new year in Malaysia. So we did that. Already from the hotel, we could hear the noises of the street, cornets, horns. We could tell that the movement was beginning. We had been told that the Petronas area was getting crowded. So we went around 9 o'clock at night to take a place to see the fireworks.

The street was very crowded with people. We bought some lights with twinkling lights and little by little we were locating. The show did not look much but it was heard. We were right at the foot of the Petronas, from where the clock was at the top and we would have the fireworks in front. We thought about going to the other side to see the towers and behind the fires. But the truth is that we did not want to miss the excitement of counting among the crowd, to take pictures. So nothing, we were there among all the people.

We had stayed there with a couple of Englishmen we met in one of the Myanmar treks, and they were also here, but it was impossible to find them. We were giving a lot of laps, and nothing. It was overflowing with people who were going to say goodbye to the year there. But the worst of all was that all those people were there, prostrate in the street, without taking a beer.

Finding alcohol in a restaurant of Kuala Lumpur is quite complicated, and buying it at a street stall is almost impossible. So we spent almost two hours scouring the area looking for a drink. Come on man, it's New Year's Eve! We finally found a place where they sold cans of beer to which we went like flies to the wounds.

In New Year's Eve, the local people, instead of drinking, dedicate themselves to playing a kind of trumpets that sell in the stalls, and to walk from one place to another. Come on, rolling above the private parties in the bars were expensive. We did not get drunk or anything.

11:59 arrived! We go under the towers to see the fireworks at 00:00 hours. And the coveted count began...5...4...3...2...1...Happy New Year! In that very moment, while we kissed the New Year, the fireworks began with everything. The show was impressive, everything coordinated with music and lights, and lasted more than 20 minutes. It was really exciting to be there receiving the New Year in Malaysia, in front of the Petronas, on the other side of the world. Without a doubt, it was worth it.

And when we wanted to go back, we got surrounded by beer and a really funny sympathetic Indian, who just said, "You happy, I'm happy". As soon as he realized that we were starting to be too many people to be in the middle of the street, he offered to take us to a restaurant he owned. There the lights went down, the music went up and the spontaneous party continued under the cover of a disco ball.

And there we were dancing, in the style of each one, in the culture of each one, but all united by the desire that we had to have fun. The celebration ended with a surprising and delicious Indian dinner prepared by our host at 5 in the morning. And thinking about how fun life can be, we went to sleep.



On January 1 we got up at a decent hour and without a hangover, for the first time in our lives, we took a train to the BTS bus station. From here we take a 4-hour bus that would take us to Penang. We left to see the Batu Caves, on the outskirts of the city. But at this point, a giant Buddha no longer impresses us. We climb 272 stairs until we reach the main temple. Along this staircase, there are lots of monkeys waiting for bananas or peanuts that they sell in the shops at the bottom of the stairs.

As our cave visit ended early when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur and decided to go to the Kuala Lumpur Tower on the tourist bus. It took us a long time to get to the tower, and in fact, we missed the free guided tour that was at 12.30. This tower is 421 meters high.

When we went up, the girl who sold us the ticket told us that it was going to get foggy. But we ignored it and in a matter of minutes, we were not able to see anything from the tower. It started to rain heavily. It was the only one that day it rained, but come on, that was amazing. In fact, we could not leave in a couple of hours. When it stopped raining we went for a walk around the huge shopping centers that are in KL. After that, we went back to the hotel. The next day we will be in Malacca. We had arranged a taxi to take us and leave us again in Kuala Lumpur.

That day when taking the elevator to go down for breakfast, we were greeted with a "Hello, good morning" and we were surprised. In the room right next to ours, there was a boy who went alone, with whom we had breakfast and told him about our idea of going to Malacca. And at the end of breakfast, he joined us for our day in Malacca.

Our taxi driver spoke very good English and he really tried to make himself understood. In only 1 hour 40 minutes we are in Malacca. He left us at the Town Hall Square and told us that if we wanted to ride a trishaw, the prices were the same for everyone so that they did not compete. So we took one.

Melaka or Malacca is a famous historic harbor located in the Strait of Melaka. It was a spice trade center, the most important in Asia. It is a city that has historical buildings and is one of the most visited in Malaysia. There are people who say it is not worth it. We liked it a lot, the colors of its houses, a Chinatown so clean, and the fort. In fact, at first, we thought about staying overnight in Malacca before arriving in Kuala Lumpur. But due to problems of dates, we had to change it and we regret it.

After our walk, we meet again in the square and our taxi driver and we go to Chinatown. This is the palace of the Sultanate, which is a replica of wood. It is built without using a single nail. The entrance costs 2 RM. We have to remove our shoes when entering, as in most places in Malaysia.

On the ground floor there is an exhibition and a simulation of an audience scene and on the floor above they simulate the Sultan's bedroom and its costumes. Next to this building is the Monument of the Proclamation of Independence. The admission is free, but we did not realize the time and we could not enter. We ate at a cafe, which is on JL Tun Tan Cheng Lock street. In relation to coffee, it was great and very cheap.

Then we went back to the square to look for our taxi driver and after spending some time we walk around the square again. Ee went back to Kuala Lumpur, where we went to see the Petaling market and had dinner at a small club near the hotel.

Well, next day is our flight to Penang. We had breakfast and went to the airport. The flight this time was without turbulence and lasted approximately 45 minutes. When we arrived at the airport of Bayan Lepas, which is the name of the Penang Island airport, we took a taxi, again. There is a system of going to a booth located inside the airport, saying which hotel we go to and paying the money, and we went to the hotel. From the airport to Georgetown it takes about 50 minutes.

Penang was founded in 1786. Georgetown is the main city on the island of Penang. It is located northeast of the island. Speaking to a man, he explained that foreigners usually pass by this city, or use it as a means of passage to the island of Langkawi, an island that I did not go to. It has the best beaches in Asia and they are not exploited at all. It consists of 99 islands located in the Andaman Sea and is a very popular place to do scuba diving.

Well, we arrived about 4 in the afternoon, so we went to the hotel. We were given the top floor of the hotel and the views are stunning. The hotel, although was quite good is quite far from the center. We changed and we went on a short tour of Georgetown. We took the bus as we had indicated at the door and it left us very close to the main street Jalan Penang. We toured the city and caught a trishaw.

It was very funny because the man gave us a tape of the Beatles. They have some radio cassettes attached to the handlebars. He took us for an hour through the Colonial District and Little India, which incidentally we loved. It smelled great, and the stores were full of Bollywood movies, and people eating while watching the latest movie hits. Then we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant that is right in front of the hotel. We had a great dinner. We took a taxi and went to the hotel. Tomorrow will be another day.

Today we get up early, have breakfast at the hotel, take the bus at the door of the hotel and go to the main street of Georgetown. We start with the walking route recommended by the guide. We started at the Clock Tower. It was built in honor of Queen Victoria and paid by a Chinese millionaire. Then, we cross the avenue and continue towards Fort Cornwallis. Currently, there are only the outer walls of the fort, the inner part is a park. There are also some cannons and a monument to the World War.

Then we went to the Supreme Court, which was very clean. It even had Finnish crystals (it is the only place I saw them). Then we follow the Church of San Jorge, which of course, is the oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia, which was built by prisoners. The Penang Museum that had a lot of old cars and the convent of Lebuh Light.

Then we arrived at the Cathedral of the Assumption, during the mass, which was all sung, and there were DVDs and television screens. Finally, we visit the Eastern & Oriental hotel. This hotel is located on the edge of the sea. This hotel was founded by the same people who made the Raffles of Singapore. There were pictures of actresses and Hollywood actors in lockers in the Hall. The renovation of this hotel in 1931 led the owner family to bankruptcy.
In 1990 it closed and opened again in 2001 and it is currently a true pass.

A warning to those who make this route, take water. There is not a single water outlet, bars, or anything. We almost die dehydrated. When leaving the hotel we saw that there was an exhibition, with swords, and fans. All this took us almost all morning. So we stopped to eat and then we went to see the temple of Sri Mariamman, but before we discovered a Chinese temple.

Then we went to see the Indian Temple. They also say that it is the oldest Hindu temple. It represents Mount Meru and there were numerous people praying and making offerings. We also visited the Kapitan Keling mosque, built in 1801, but enlarged several times. It is the largest in the city and was founded by the Indian Muslims of Penang. And finally, we took a taxi to take us to the temple of Kek Lok Si.

The taxi to the temple cost us 20 RM. It is located on the hill of Penang. This hill is 821 meters from the city of Georgetown and has a funicular. The temple is located 3 km from this hill. This temple was founded by a Chinese Buddhist immigrant and began to be built in 1890. It took more than 20 years to complete and was financed by donations from the rich Chinese.

When we get there, the road forks and there are two lanes left and to the sides small houses and shops. The first breath of fresh air on the climb came with the pond of turtles and fish. It was very dirty, it smelled terrible and there were lots of people. That seemed like a pilgrimage, I do not exaggerate, it was amazing.

While we are going up, we see more temples. Then we arrive at the Pagoda, the Ban Pothar, (Pagoda of ten thousand Buddhas). It is 30 meters high. It has Burmese design on the top, Thai in the center and Chinese on the ground floor. To all this, we keep going up and we find people asking, restaurants, shops and finally the funicular (this is another one different from Penang Hill).

The funicular costs 2 RM round trip and you go up to an esplanade where there is a 36-meter bronze statue of the god of mercy Kuan Yin. There is a pond with lots of fish and a temple that precedes the statues of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. The truth is that the visit is worth it. There were numerous Malaysian and Saudi tourists.

Then to not go through again we decided to walk down. It's about 15 or 20 minutes. It goes through a river, fields and it's nice, but very lonely. From here we went back to Georgetown. We had dinner and get back to the hotel. The next day we went to Singapore, but that's another story.

Travel Diaries from Madagascar



The north of Madagascar presents wilderness areas that overlook a stunning coastline surrounded by coral islands. The trip explores the most beautiful parts as we start from Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar, for the Ankarafantsika National Park, where you can admire the unique spiny forest, along a tree, which is found only in this country with the beautiful baobabs.

Continuing north you can see the cocoa plantations, spices and essential oils and arrive at Ankarana Park, which impresses the peculiar rock blades, fossil remnant of an ancient coral reef, and then in the lush rainforest of the Mountains Park Amber. A set that leads us to learn about flora and fauna of amazing variety with several endemic species of plants ebony, rosewood, huge ferns, lemurs, turtles, chameleons, crocodiles and a wide variety of birds.

Once on the northern coast in the pretty colonial town of Antsiranana you can explore coral bays along the coast, a sea area with archetypal beauty with white beaches and emerald waters where swimming is fantastic. In the southwest to the island of Nosy Be you can relax or dedicate yourself to marine activities or even continue with the exploration of the archipelago. Then fly from here to Antananarivo for the return.

The large island of Madagascar has a very different nature, also protected thanks to the many National parks distributed throughout the territory, characterized by different climatic areas with a number of endemic plant and animal species, including the cute lemurs that have become the symbol of this land. The coasts in many areas are adorned with large white beaches lapped by coral seas, still exploited only partially from tourism.

Here live here as many as 18 different ethnic groups of both African and Asian origin, who lived in the regions have shaped the environment in very different ways with terraced fields for rice cultivation areas of pasture, and, especially in the north, cane plantations sugar and spices. The nature of the people is deeply relaxed and peaceful, far from the potential aggressiveness of many areas of Africa, and the traveler does not meet with tense situations. This set makes Madagascar absolutely magical, a destination with unique characteristics.

Madagascar Itinerary

Day 1

Upon arrival in Antananarivo, we move to the city and stay at a hotel.

Day 2 - Antananarivo - Ankarafantsika

We start heading north along the RN 4, a good road that connects the capital to Mahajanga, to the Ankarafantsika National Park, located in the territory of Sakalava, one of the most common malagasy ethnic groups.

Day 3 - Ankarafantsika

In the morning, we go into the dense thorny forest, which is typical of the west coast of the country. In the afternoon the excursion on the lake allows us to observe the rare species of birds and crocodiles of various families. The park is home to valuable plants such as rosewood, ebony and baobab. There are plenty of lemurs and you can see chameleons, iguanas and with a little luck, the boa of Madagascar. At the entrance of the park is a breeding center of the ploughshare tortoise, an endemic endangered species found only in the northwest of the country.

Day 4 - Ankarafantsika - Antsohihy

We leave for the park early morning and continue north. We take the road RN 6. On the way we see cotton and tobacco plantations.

Day 5 - Antsohihy - Ambanja - Ambilobe (Ankarana) (350 km)

The journey continues north through increasingly numerous sugarcane plantations, ylang ylang, a plant used to make perfume essences, cocoa, vanilla and other spices. Near the town of Ambanja, we stop to visit the Millot Plantation. Continuing we enter the territory of Antakarana, which means those among the rocks, and here lives one of the smallest malagasy ethnic groups that inhabit the northern part of the country. In the evening we get to Ankarana National Park and stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 6 - Ambilobe (Ankarana)

We dedicate the day to visit the National Park, made famous by the massive karst rock of Tsingy passing through it that originates from an ancient era Jurassic reef, which stretches for 35 km from the west. The area is rich in canyons dominated by lush forests, underground rivers and caves decorated with stalactites and stalagmites, including the sacred cave of bats. After a short hike we get up to Tsingy Rary, where we have a wonderful view over a vast expanse of sharp rocks. In the park there inhabit some of the species of lemurs that are among the most beautiful of Madagascar.

Day 7 - Ambilobe - Ambohitra (Joffreville)

In the morning we start to visit the reserve of the Red Tsingy, also called fairy chimneys. These are amazing sandstone, marl and red laterite rock formations, located in a canyon carved by the river Irodo. The balance of these formations is very fragile, and heavy rains or a major flood can modify the shape quickly. Before arriving at the hotel we visit the sacred lake of Antagnavo, home to many crocodiles.

Day 8 - Ambohitra - Antsiranana (Diego Suarez)

In the morning we visit the Amber Mountain National Park, located in the middle of a volcanic area. Created in 1958, it is considered a real biological treasure. The tropical forest is not yet affected by human activity and is one of the most beautiful of Madagascar and holds an extremely varied vegetation with over a thousand different species, with multiple orchids to ferns and large bird's nest.

We walk through small lakes and waterfalls, including the sacred Antomboka, where we you see many chameleons and some lemurs, including the small and particular aye-aye. Leaving the park we pass the village of Ambohitra and continue to Antisaranna (Diego Suarez).

Day 9 - Antsiranana

Antsisarana or Diego Suarez is situated on a large bay that is from a landscape point of view one of the most beautiful cities of Madagascar. The architecture of the buildings and streets testifies to the colonial past, and it was here that between 1500 and 1506 landed the first two European Portuguese origin, to which it owe the name of the city. Today we visit the three bays near the town, the bay of Sakalava, the bay of the pigeons and the Bay of the dunes.

Its a very undeveloped area and you can enjoy the beauty of these beautiful bays walking along the white sandy beaches. Next we come to the Cap Mine where there is a lighthouse with guns inherited from colonial times, a great spot to enjoy the view of Diego Suarez bay with the Pain de Sucre, an island landmark. We finally reach the nearby village of Ramena fishermen, overlooking a beautiful long beach where the sea is protected by the reef.

Day 10 - Antsiranana

Today we dedicate to swimming and the discovery of the Emerald Sea. In the early morning we reach the port where we embark to reach the nearby lagoon of the Emerald Sea, a natural aquarium whose calm and shallow crystal clear waters are home to a wide variety of fish. The lunch and equipment for swimming with flippers were included in the excursion.

Day 11 - Antsiranana - Ankify

We return following the road south until Ambanja from where we reach the village of Ankify, situated on the coast opposite the island of Nosy Be. The village is in a region crossed by the river Sambirano, characterized by lush vegetation and mangrove forests.

Day 12 - Ankify - Nosy Be

In the morning we moved to the port and ferries on the island of Nosy Be.

Day 13 - Nosy Be

Nosy Be is the largest of the islands of Madagascar, lapped by crystal clear seas and well equipped for visitors. You can organize different activities among which in particular indicate the excursion to the island of Nosy Iranja, a small jewel connected to the island adjacent to a long strip of white sand. Here you can also stay overnight in basic but romantic huts. The swimmers with flippers and scuba divirs can go to Skate, a National Marine Park, where the lucky ones will be able to admire the sea turtle.

Day 14 - Nosy Be - Antananarivo

In the afternoon we fly to Antananarivo.

Day 15

We leave for the Airport.

Madagascar includes many climatic zones. In the highlands, the austral winter begins from June to September. The daytime temperatures are mild with lowest night temperatures at 9/10 degrees and low rainfall. On the northwest coast, the climate is tropical with little rain and pleasant temperatures (between 18 and 29 degrees). On the northern tip, close to Antsiranana, the weather is dry and windy, with average temperatures around 27-30 degrees.

Madagascar's streets, although paved, are not in good condition and that in several areas in the highland areas slows down the transfer time. Hotels are of good quality, or at least the best available. There is French influence in the cuisine here, which is quite varied and adapted for the visitors. It is normal to find food items such as baguettes and also good wine.