Regarding international travel, there is not a whole lot on the horizon at the very moment. Ms B & I as well as our travel blogger friends encourage everyone to act responsibly. Depending on your situation, this can potentially involve international travel, but it will almost certainly mean a lot less international travel than usual for most of us. We all hope that travel will become safer again in the foreseeable future.
Planning an overseas trip
Over the years, whenever we are planning our next trip overseas, we try to make use of most readily available resources to some extent. We usually get ourselves a travel guide book in hardcopy or for our phones, check other bloggers’ posts, read online news articles and forum chats, tweet some questions, do some general internet research, check the tourism board announcements, consult government travel guidance, ask friends who have been travelling to the destination for recommendations, etc.
Why not ask the people who have lived there
However, often we find that the most useful and often unexpected tips come from people who live or have lived in the country in question. So we thought, why not ask around our favourite travel bloggers if they would be interested in contributing a brief write-up on the favourite holiday destination in their respective home country. We still can’t believe how many of them took time out of their busy schedules to take part in this project. Thank you so much, everyone!
Two for the price of one
In actual fact, there were so many fabulous contributions about so many beautiful destinations, that we had to split the blog post into two. Part I here starts with a marvellous piece about a city that I grew very fond of in my mid-twenties. Back then I was passing through it on many occasions on my way from my home town near Munich to Barcelona, where I was living at the time.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Lyon, France, by Anthony from Green Mochila
To find it on Google Maps, click here.
It might not seem so on a map, but France is a large country. In fact, the largest in Western Europe. It has a diverse landscape charged with history and interwoven with many cultures and traditions. Visitors often see only a small part of the country. It would be easier for them than it is for me to decide what their favourite holiday destination is in France.
I have to admit: having lived away from home as an expat for more than 15 years, there are still many regions of my home country I haven’t explored, or don’t remember from my childhood family trips. I suffer from the traveller’s syndrome that always pushes me beyond borders, when not overseas already.
And yet if there’s a city in Europe that’s always fascinated me, it’s Lyon. And not because its name evokes wild African safaris!
The third largest city of France is located at the feet of the majestic Alps and very close to the border with Switzerland. It’s on a peninsula where the Rhone and the Saône rivers meet, a historically perfect location for trade. Lyon is still today reasonably well-off.
A historic town full of charm
Lyon is definitely an old city. I remember being absolutely mesmerised, the first time I visited, by the magnificent buildings of its historic centre and by the charming timber-framed old houses.
Because Lyon has been an important place since the Middle-Ages and well into the Renaissance, you can still see many buildings dating from as far back as the eleventh century. In fact, the whole area is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When you wander through the narrow cobblestone streets of the city centre, don’t miss:
- the charming Place de la Trinité
- the gothic Saint-John Cathedral, its stained-glass roses and the astronomical clock
- the gorgeous Renaissance building of the Gadagne museums
- the pink tower and its patio
- and follow the famous “traboules”, alleyways that pierce through the buildings to connect the streets.
The very first foundation of a camp here by the Romans – in 43 BC, if my memory and Wikipedia serve me well – was actually on a hill nearby called Fourvière. The town was then called Lugdunum, and parts of that ancient settlement can still be seen in the ruins of the Roman theatre.
The Fourvière Hill is one of Lyon’s main attractions, thanks to the sumptuous Notre-Dame de Fourvière church, which overlooks the city since 1884. It’s really a stunning building, a must-see on any visit of Lyon.
Parc de la Tête d’Or
For a refreshing breath, head to the Parc de la Tête d’Or, locals’ favourite green getaway. It comes complete with a botanical garden, a rose garden and a zoo.
Place des Terreaux, with the city hall and a fountain made by Auguste Bartholdi, the dude who also made the Statue of Liberty.
A student town full of life
One thing I love about Lyon is that it’s full of life, and very culture-oriented. Outside of Paris, it’s the French city with the highest number of students. So you can imagine that many streets are lined with bars, cinemas, brothels; or whatever the youths do in their free time nowadays.
The invention of cinema
Talking about cinemas, here is where the Lumière brothers invented the cinematograph, back in 1895. That small camera box made quite a sensation at the time; although it was still unable to show light sabres and spaceships.
I highly recommend Lyon’s fine arts museum (located at Place des Terreaux), France’s largest after the Louvre. The building is as beautiful as the works it exhibits. The Museum of Cinema Miniature (60 Rue Saint-Jean) is also a pretty cool visit, showing miniature everyday scenes and famous locations.
Truth is, there’s still so much I need to discover in Lyon, I should really go back soon!
A foodie town full of bouchons
The main reason Lyon is such a popular holiday destination in France is its gastronomy. The city is dubbed since 1935 “the gastronomic capital of the world”. You know the French and their sense of proportions!
In the early days, the city’s reputation was due to the “Mothers”, those humble women who cooked popular dishes. We owe it to them that the names of many restaurants, in Lyon and elsewhere, is “Mère …” or “Chez la mère…”.
Nowadays, the traditional restaurants of the old Lyon are famous nationwide as “bouchons”. These eateries are meant to be small, popular and congenial but some of them attract quite a lot of tourists.
Not ideal if you are a vegetarian
So what’s the food, are you asking? Well, our vegetarian and Muslim friends can skip this part, because there’s not much for them here. There’s a lot of pork meat, like saucisson and rosette; there’s also an outrageous dish of fried beef stomach marinated in white wine. Now that I think of it, it’s not the proper place if you’re looking after your silhouette.
Some of the best wine
But the region is also famous for its wine, especially for Côtes-du-Rhône and the world-famous Beaujolais.
A mountain town full of …mountains
Well, Lyon’s direct surroundings are rather the verdant Rhone valley and its vineyards. But only 120 km to the southeast lies the wonderful Vercors Natural Park, a protected area of mountains, gorges and waterfalls. It’s a low mountain range with several peaks between 2,000m and 2,300m height – we’re far from the Aconcagua Provincial Park or the Himalayas.
The park is ideal for all types of outdoor activities; hiking all year round of course, but also rafting, horse riding and snow sports in winter.
Jura Mountains Natural Park
Going up 150km northeast is another stunning area, the Jura Mountains Natural Park. Hike up 1,720m to the top of its highest summit, Crêt de la Neige, to get the best view on Geneva and Lake Geneva, on the other side of the border.
The proximity to such stunning nature is definitely part of what makes Lyon my favourite holiday destination in France.
Time to return soon
I still have several friends in Lyon who are probably expecting me back someday. Lucky them, living in one of France’s liveliest and most charming cities. I promise to visit them soon!
–> More of this? Check out Green Mochila’s blog.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Tigre, Argentina, by Ignacio from Tango & Rakija
To find it on Google Maps, click here.
When you live abroad, holiday in your home country is always a special experience – home-made favourite food, well known places and family atmosphere.
With travelling hopefully safer towards the end of 2020, we are all thinking where and how to spend one of the most festive days of the year. There is always the same question coming up – should I travel to some new place or should I go home for Christmas? There is definitely a lot of magic in both choices.
A Christmas holiday in Argentina
In case you are considering spending your Christmas holidays in Argentina, here is why you should do it – even though it is difficult not to be subjective with the things one personally likes, I will try to share some objective and persuasive stories about my favourite holiday destination in my own country – Argentina.
Don’t forget your flip-flops
Who knows, maybe I convince you, there is still some time until Christmas. Holidays in Argentina are always a good idea, because why not? Christmas holidays in Argentina – even better, especially if you are coming from cold winter places.
Christmas holiday in Argentina normally means – hot, burning sun, the best barbeques until late at night, flip-flops and swim-suits and mandatory nearby water surface (beach, swimming pool, river…).
Escape the hassle of the capital
Normally, some days before Christmas the whole of Buenos Aires starts to look like a huge shopping centre, full of blinking lights, people running around, buying gifts, food and drinks, and loads of tourists appear roaming around all that mess. No, that is not my favourite place to be in that moment.
Go for tranquillity and nature
Instead, there is a place, not far from the capital, calm, natural, tropical and unique in all the senses, where you can spend the coolest Christmas holiday.
Tigre is a small town some 20km away from Buenos Aires, famous for its unique position lying on the Parana Delta which consists of several river islands interconnected by water channels and surrounded by tropical forest. Once you are in the delta, your only means of transportation are little taxi-boats. How cool is that!
After you arrive at the city of Tigre (possibly by car, bus or a train) you hop on the boat and enter the little tropical paradise.
The whole area is popular among domestic tourists, families or groups of friends who like spending a relaxing time by the river far away (but still close) from the city chaos.
Cottages and taxi-boats
There are no hotels around, all you can find are little cottages for rent, normally owned by local people who live nearby.
Almost all the houses have little swimming pools for cooling down the hot days. As all the houses are basically a few meters away from the river, you can enjoy swimming, kayaking or sunbathing at your doorstep.
In case you need any groceries, no worries, you can just call the taxi-boat and they will pick you up and take you wherever you want.
Tigre is personally my favourite choice for spending Christmas (and New Year, of course) in Argentina because of that feeling of relaxed atmosphere and laid-back approach to one of the most celebrated holidays of the year.
As you step onto one of the river islands in Tigre, it`s like everything suddenly slows down and you are there with only one choice – start eating or jumping into the river first.
What does a Christmas celebration in Tigre include?
- Typical Argentinian barbecue (asado) by the river until late at night and until you explode
- Cheering at midnight with some good Argentinian wine
- Night swim in the Parama river for the bravest ones
- Sound of the strangest little forest creatures from the dark.
The morning after is a great opportunity for sun bathing on the beach of the river bank, kayaking and exploring some of the amazing canals by boat or simply finishing that great asado from last night.
Even though Argentina has many interesting places where you can spend your summer, winter or any other holidays, Tigre for Christmas and New Year is my top choice and combination I always go back to.
Needless to say (but I will do so) that I just discovered you a real little hidden spot not many tourists know about.
–> More of this? Check out Tango & Rakija.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Lakshadweep Islands, India by Irfan from The Good Life with IQ
To find these islands on Google Maps, click here.
I’ve been travelling around my home country of India for more than a decade and I’ve still just scratched the surface. But my favourite holiday destination so far has to be the tiny Lakshadweep Islands, off the south-western coast. There’s only a single daily flight from the mainland, and a few passenger ships with package-tour visitors; great for someone who wants to be left alone as much as possible.
All good things come with a trade-off
Just to be clear, this isn’t the cheapest, cleanest, most luxurious or most accessible holiday destination in India. In fact, it’s quite expensive, there’s debris washed up on some beaches, the accommodation is quite basic, and getting there is difficult. But despite all of that, the fact that you can feel entirely alone in some places, surrounded only by swaying palms and the open ocean beyond, makes it all worth it.
Bangaram and Thinnakara
Even in Lakshadweep, not all islands are created equal (at least, not in my eyes). Only seven islands allow visitors, and of these, only two aren’t visited by day-trippers on passenger ships. At the risk of sounding elitist, I would much rather spend time on an island that’s quiet instead of on one that sees lots of noisy visitors for half the day. So, among the lovely islands of Lakshadweep, my favourites are the islands of Bangaram and Thinnakara.
Quiet comfort on Bangaram
Bangaram is a 45-minute boat ride from the transport-hub island of Agatti, and accommodation is the most expensive in Lakshadweep, though it’s still far from Western prices. But it’s got a real ‘island paradise’ sort of feel to it, with charming cottages, lounge chairs under umbrellas, and beautiful beaches that are regularly cleaned. The staff even set up a magical dinner buffet on the beach, with intimate candle-lit tables under the open sky. Lastly, it’s the only island in Lakshadweep where alcohol is permitted (though it might be a good idea to bring your own; they sometimes run out of stock).
Perfect for snorkelling
The beaches on Bangaram are beautiful at all times of day, and are cleaned of debris pretty regularly. The beach right in front of the resort is quite steep too, with a few small coral reefs just a few metres out into the water: perfect for snorkellers and scuba-diving beginners. There’s also a large sandbar off one end of the island, which you can wade to if you feel like some alone time.
The main inconvenience you’ll probably face here is the smell of the groundwater, which—because it has traces of sulphur—smells like rotten eggs. Though it’s completely safe for bathing, it takes some getting used to. You’re given bottled water to drink, but you can also ask for purified rainwater—which is what the locals drink and is perfectly fine.
The ultimate island experience on Thinnakara
Bangaram is lovely (if you ignore the cost), but my favourite of all is Thinnakara. This little island is 10 minutes by boat from Bangaram, and is the most untouched of all the tourist islands in Lakshadweep. It’s also the most basic, so if you’ve gotten used to Bangaram, this one might come as a slight shock. Accommodation is by no means uncomfortable, though, with large tents set up under thatched roofs. The only thing you’ll probably find inconvenient is the cramped little ‘green toilet’ attached to each tent: a portable toilet-and-shower that uses the same smelly groundwater as on Bangaram.
A stretch of beach all to yourself
Nonetheless, if you’re looking for complete privacy, this is where you’ll find it. There are no permanent residents on the island, and all the staff tend to stay close to the tents. There aren’t too many guests either, with rarely more than five of the 10 tents occupied. So if you wander away from the tents, chances are you’ll be absolutely alone, with only the waves and palms for company. And if you’re looking for a little adventure, you can wade out to the two tiny islands off the northern tip of the island; do some snorkelling around a small shipwreck off the southern tip; or get the staff to take you turtle-watching. A word of caution, though: continue north up the beach in front of the resort, and you’ll see lots of debris washed up on the beach.
Sunsets second to none
So if you’re looking for a cleaner stretch on which to chill, head around the island in the opposite direction. The beach there has lots of leaning palms that give it a mysterious feel. And the sunsets from there are incredible, especially when there’s no haze on the horizon.
It’s because of this that, of all the places I’ve been to in India, the Lakshadweep Islands are my favourite holiday destination. So far.
–> More of this? Check out this comprehensive post about the Lakshadweep Archipelago on The Good Life with IQ.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: Burghausen, Bavaria, Germany – by Stefan (Mr B)
To find it on Google Maps, click here.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country is my home town. I grew up in a small town called Burghausen (“Castle Village”) just over half an hour by train or car to the beautiful Bavarian Alps. My parents still live in the same house I grew up in.
As old as the pyramids
Inhabited since before the Celts got their hands on metal, Burghausen’s first known mention is in 1025, when it was listed as one of the emperor’s properties.
The world’s longest castle
The town boasts the longest castle in the world, which covers the whole top of a ridge more than 1km in length. On the one side of the castle you find a lake where I spent nearly every free minute in summer. On the other side you find the medieval old town squeezed in between the river Salzach and the ridge. The “Salt River” and the toll collected from the traders is what made Burghausen rich. On the other side of the river there is Austria, with Salzburg just a stone’s throw away.
Borders bordering to boring
I remember friends from the U.S. or Australia staring incredulously at me when I told them that until the age of 19, when I left my home town for good, I hardly ever spent more than a few days NOT crossing an international border. Whenever we visit, the parental home is usually occupied by my sister’s family and we stay at Hotel Burgblick on the Austrian side, which is aptly named “Castle View”.
Gotta try that pork roast
For a traditional Bavarian meal such as pork roast, Klosterhof Raitenhaslach, where I worked as a part-time dishwasher when I was 14, and where half my classmates from high school had their wedding celebrations, is our first choice. Alternatively Gasthof Tiefenau. Both are a pleasant one-hour stroll from Burghausen along the Salzach river.
Especially the younger locals are interested in a healthy lifestyle and you will also find plenty of vegetarian options in nearly all restaurants.
What’s there to do in town?
The absolute highlights have to be the annual Burgfest (“Castle Festival”), when the whole town turns into a medieval pageant with thousands of volunteers (including my mom!) and the International Jazz Festival (which is very widely defined to include blues, rock, and even some hip hop).
A Pope, a Black Madonna, and Evil Itself
Should there be no major event during your visit, then half a day is probably all you need to discover the castle, old town, and nearby sights such as Altoetting whose Chapel of Grace, dating from AD 660, is home to the famous Black Madonna. Hitler’s and former Pope Benedict XVI’s birthplace are also only 20mins drive away, even though we would not put that high up on the list.
Munich, Salzburg, and the Bavarian Alps
Nearly everyone visiting Burghausen combines this with at least one of the nearby major tourist attractions Munich or Salzburg and some hiking in the Alps. Not only because I spent a year there with the mountain troops I would recommend Berchtesgaden for hiking. The Koenigssee (“King’s Lake”) is famous for the fabulous echoes triggered by trumpeters on board the boats.
I hope you will visit my home town and I am sure you will fall in love with it too.
My favourite holiday destination in my home country: The Wicklow Mountains, Ireland, by John from Carpe Diem Eire
To find the Wicklow Mountains on Google Maps, click here.
While most roads in Ireland lead tourists to the West and the Wild Atlantic Ways delights, there’s one place that never fails to captivate me. And it’s only a stone’s throw from Dublin.
The Wicklow Mountains are the east coast of Ireland’s jewel in my opinion. Even though the peaks never exceed 1,000m, their rolling green beauty helps earn Wicklow the title of the Garden of Ireland.
This moniker in part too comes from the public gardens of the county, from the formal Powerscourt, the stunning Mount Usher gardens, the elaborate Kilruddery, to the downright weird and wonderful Victors Way Sculpture Gardens. If gardens are your thing then Wicklow is king.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
The Wicklow Mountains National Park is the largest of Ireland’s six. Cutting through the park is one of Ireland’s longest hikes, the Wicklow Way, at 131km it’s a worthwhile challenge to anyone with plenty of stamina. The Wicklow Way leads through many of the county’s finer attractions and is an ideal way to get them all in on foot. The mountains are hiker heaven, with countless excellent trails.
Time and again I find myself on a road trip through the mountains. Thirty minutes’ drive from Dublin centre finds you in the rugged scenery of the Sally Gap. It cuts through bog lands and vast mountain top moors. The views are only abruptly interrupted by spectacular sights.
These range from the waterfall at Glenmacnass and Lough Bray, to the best of all which is the stunning Lough Tay, known more commonly as Guinness Lake. Some cite its name as being due to its colour, others claim it’s due to the Guinness family owning the private lake. Either way it’s a remarkable view and one of Ireland’s finest.
Ireland’s tallest waterfall
Wicklow is also a county of waterfalls. Near the Powerscourt Gardens is the eponymous waterfall, which at 121m is Ireland’s tallest. Elsewhere excellent hiking also leads to some of the other waterfalls, such as Devil’s Glen, Carrawaystick and Glenmalure Falls.
Looking for a bite?
If all that nature makes you hungry then a stop into any of the Avocas around the county will satisfy you with its fusion dishes. Or head to the coast and Greystones; this gastro town will appease all tastes, and its sandy beach and Irish Sea air are perfect to walk it off.
But Wicklow’s finest location is in no doubt. Nestled near the village of Laragh is the glacial valley of Glendalough. Straddled between two mountains it’s one of Ireland’s most glorious sights. Glendalough literally means valley of the two lakes. The Upper Lake is where the best hiking is located and the best views, especially from the crest of the Spink walk. But Glendalough has so much more to it than walks. A miners village lies in ruins, and a herd of wild goats roam the area, left behind as the mines ran dry.
A lake and a kitchen that is not a kitchen
The Lower Lake is the site of one of our best monastic settlements. In the 6th century, Saint Kevin fled his noble surroundings to settle here in isolation and give his life to god. From here the settlement grew, and lasted until the 13th century. Most of the buildings date from the 10th to 12th century. Many lie in ruins, but the round tower and St Kevin’s Kitchen (a church not a kitchen) are spectacular examples of architecture from the period. For the full Glendalough experience, a visitor centre tells the story interactively.
The Wicklow Heather Pub
In my opinion no visit to Glendalough is complete, without a stop in the Wicklow Heather pub on the way home. Its very Irish fare is perfect in the surroundings, and the collection of first edition Irish novels is a pleasant surprise, and the ideal cultural way to end a day on the island of saints and scholars.
–> More of this? Check out Carpe Diem Eire.
Click here for Part II.