Atlas Mountains You may have read my previous post on “Sahara Desert FAQs”, but I thought I would take the time to properly detail both the road trip through the Atlas Mountains and the actual night in the desert in separate posts. This first one being about the trip through the Atlas Mountains! We had taken a trip to Ouzoud Waterfall the day beforehand, so we had caught a glimpse of the incredible scenery that Morocco offers but it was nothing in comparison to our road-trip through the Atlas Mountains. The trip obviously starts within the city of Marrakech. How people have the courage to drive in the city is beyond me, bikes and cars zoom left, right and centre continuously and I’m really surprised that we never saw any accidents!

RELATED: Find out how to spend two days in the city of Marrakech here!

Rolling Green Hills

Atlas Mountains Valleys Atlas Mountains Green Hills Atlas Mountains Girl Scenery As we headed out of the city, things got VERY green, something that I wasn’t entirely expecting from Morocco which in my head is depicted by warm colours and desert terrain. I’m not sure if we saw Morocco in a particularly “green” season given the fact we visited in March and they will have had rainfall over the Winter period, but seriously, it was beautiful. If you’re thinking of taking this trip, don’t worry about catching photos through the minibus’ windows, our driver made sure to stop at all of the most picturesque spots – but sometimes I just couldn’t help myself and had to take a few shots through the window (despite the glare) – just look at that valley running through the mountains!

Rocky Terrain

Atlas Mountains Rock Roads Slowly, the bright green landscape transformed into rocky plant-less terrain. This is where the roads started to get really crazy (just look at those photos)! If you’re afraid of heights, there may be moments that you peak out of the window an recoil in horror at the tight road bend around the mountain and sheer drop – I can only remember this happening  a handful of times during the 8 hour journey – nothing in comparison to mountainous regions in Europe! We were greeted with nearly 30 degrees heat, yet at all times we could see the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains – very surreal and almost taunting when you are THAT hot.

Ait-Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou Ait Ben Haddou Gate Ait Ben Haddou Painter As the Atlas Mountains began to flatten and a more desert-style terrain was in sight, we were told our first lengthy stop was coming up – Ait-Ben Haddou. Ait-Ben Haddou is a small town which houses 8 families (a total of 40 people) who live without electricity and make a 3 km walk for water. While the town is pretty spectacular in itself, it has been famed more recently for being a top filming spot – you may have seen the location in Gladiator, Indiana Jones, Game of Thrones and many more! I was actually playing monopoly with Charlie and Amy recently and was very excited by the fact I could buy somewhere I’d been in real life ha! Of course, as with most towns/stops on organised tour routes, the experience was very geared towards tourists. We were handed over to a local guide who took us on an hour tour of the area and asked for a small fee (the tour is not included in the overall price of the trip). The cost was a few dirham per person and we were more than happy to support a local man. Ait-Ben Haddou is HOT. I felt uncomfortable for much of the tour as it felt like you couldn’t escape the heat at all.

Lunch

The tour of Ait-Ben Haddou finished with lunch at a local restaurant with a view of the main town. It was a really beautiful location and was thankfully a lot cooler! One thing to note about taking tours in Morocco is that the restaurants you stop at usually have a limited menu for tour groups and largely, they offer the same at each. After a day travelling to Ouzoud waterfall and two days travelling to and from the Sahara Desert, I was really starting to get bored of the offerings provided – that’s not to say they weren’t tasty however! Dishes were priced at 100 dirhams per person (around £9 at the time) which is pricey for Moroccan standards.

Sandy Canyons

Atlas Mountains Sand Canyons Atlas Mountains Scenery Next up was terrain unlike anything I've ever seen before - huge sandy canyons as far as the eye could see. There was a big part of me that just wanted to run down the sloping hills... then I remembered how un-graceful I am... it wouldn't end well. Slowly things are starting to look more and more like a desert... eeek!

The Desert

Sahara Desert And with that, we were off. The rest of the journey saw us creep closer and closer to terrain that represented the desert. Of course, a few more photo/toilet stops were made along the way (the total journey was around 8 hours after all). Panic struck as our minibus broke down at the last stop before the desert (where we all stocked up on water for the night) but luckily the driver fixed the problem and it didn’t set us back too far! Unfortunately, it did mean we were only just reaching the desert by sunset, rather than being in the middle of the desert relaxing to watch it properly – but more on that in my next post about the night in the desert! Have you ever been through the Atlas Mountains? What was your favourite part?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS ON THE WAY TO THE SAHARA DESERT

Why Burg Eltz? You may have noticed from my Instagram account that I recently took a trip to Cologne, Germany. I'd be lying if I said that the idea of this trip didn't come about because of a castle... we all know how much I love castles! Burg Eltz first came onto my radar through the amazing Jacob's Instagram account. A few of my favourite shots of the castle taken by him are here, here and here. After seeing those pictures, I made it my mission to convince my boyfriend that a trip to Cologne was necessary and I succeeded, mwahahaha! How to Get to Burg Eltz  After a very slow start to our second day in Cologne (apparently we walked a little bit too far the day beforehand and then struggled to get out of bed... after one day in stupid footwear, I already had blisters #rookie), we set off to the nearest train station in search of my beloved castle! You can get the train from Köln Central Station, but we opted to begin our journey at Köln Süd which was only an 8 minute walk from our hotel and is on route (perfect!). The journey from Köln Süd to Koblenz takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes, you'll then be faced with a 20 to 30 minute wait at Koblenz station (snack time, duh) before jumping on a train to Moselkern for around 30 minutes. I probably should have started this story by saying that this region of Germany was experiencing a freak heat-wave and it was 35 degrees for the majority of our journey. THIRTY-FIVE BLOODY DEGREES. So I'm praising the lord (and I'm not even religious) that German trains have fab air-conditioning because our train to Koblenz was delayed by an hour! After arriving in Moselkern an hour later than expected, and it being midday at this point (thus even hotter), the fun began! Luckily, the 90 minute hike is very well sign-posted as big wooden arrows engraved with the words "Burg Eltz" line the path (just don't worry as much as I did. I think I got a bit annoying constantly screeching "WE HAVEN'T SEEN A SIGN IN A WHILE" when the only option was to keep going forwards since the last sign... Soz Callum, castles and heat make me cray cray). The hike starts in the town of Moselkern which is really charming, even the train station is a cute building. The walk from the town centre to the edge of the woods was the hardest part in the intense heat as there was zero shade. Once you get to the woods, things get easier in the heat (although it does start getting steeper) and it gets pretty damn beautiful! My favourite spot was by the stream just before you start the uphill accent, we sat here for a while, escaping the direct sunlight and attempting (read: failing) to skim stones on the water. Then BAMN, you catch sight of the castle and suddenly the hiking, the blisters and the potential sun stroke all feel worth it! What To Do When You Get There Well... We first decided to get drinks, sit in the cafe and sweat profusely for a while. After acclimatising, we headed straight into the main gift shop area to get our tickets into the castle (with much excitement). You can't always guarantee when the next English-speaking tour will be taking place. It appears that they only take place if there is enough interest for them, we were lucky that even though we arrived late, there were enough people wanting an English Tour. The tour was informative and took us through some lovely parts of the inside of the castle (unfortunately, no photos are allowed). The castle remains in it's natural state, it hasn't ever been destroyed and the same family have always owned the castle - perfect! The only downside is that the tour is a bit short, I would have loved to see a bit more inside the castle! Afterwards, we took our time exploring the grounds and capturing some photos - the location and castle couldn't be more picture perfect. And then it was time for the journey home! The 90 minute hike in slightly cooler temperatures and going downhill was much easier and luckily there were no train delays. All in all, through the sweat and blisters, it was actually a really perfect day. I finally got to visit the castle of my Instagram dreams! Have you ever visited? Do you recommend any other "off-the-beaten track" castles?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Let's not beat around the bush, you've all heard about Hallstatt by now. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't see Hallstatt proudly displayed on my Instagram feed, and rightfully so. If you're a lover of pretty places, you need to head here. So, after convincing my two lovely travel pals that we needed to take a trip to Hallstatt during our recent ventures to Salzburg, I was then left wondering "what actually is there to do in Hallstatt?!"

RELATED: Before you can explore Hallstatt, you'll need to know how  to get there! Read my article on accessing Hallstatt from Salzburg to find it all out! 

 Hallstatt Viewing Platform As soon as we arrived in Hallstatt, we rushed over to the Hallstatt Viewing Platform. This probably wasn't our greatest idea given that it was a seriously overcast day and later on the skies brightened up considerably. But hey-ho, you can't stop a girl who's obsessed with mountain views. I was getting on that funicular no matter what the weather. I can only imagine what the view would have been like on a sunny day. If you've read my post about visiting Lake Bled on the foggiest day known to man, you probably think that I am cursed with bad luck when visiting the current Instagram-favourite locations - I think you're right! I need to learn my lesson and give myself more than one day to explore these locations! Hallstatt Salt Mines If you're in Hallstatt for more than a few hours, after visiting the viewing platform, you should also visit the salt mines! Unfortunately we were only in Hallstatt for a few hours (we ended up having to take a guided tour), so we didn't have time to make a visit, but I've heard great things about it! We didn't mind too much as 2 out of 3 of us had recently visited the salt mines in Krakow (which are great and I would highly recommend)! Explore The Old Town Once we came down from the view point, we headed to the main town centre to see where all the action lies. As with any "old town", you can bet your bottom dollar that it is going to be stupidly beautiful. Hallstatt Old Town is filled with cute colourful decorated buildings and I could have easily spent more time just strolling around (and taking lots of pictures). The Catholic Church, Cemetery & The Bone Church (Hallstatt Ossuary)  One of the most interesting things in Hallstatt is "The Bone Church". Hallstatt isn't a huge place and burial plots are sparse. The Bone Church dates back to the 12th Century and skulls would be removed from existing graves once the grave was needed for a new burial. Skulls were then painted according to the family name and also a number of personality traits. Over 600 artistically painted skulls now lie on display. The majority of the skulls are from the 18th Century but there are a few from the 20th Century. The Bone Church is a really unique and interesting experience. The Catholic Church next door and the adjoining cemetery are also worth a visit - both very beautiful.

RELATED: If you can't get to Hallstatt, Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic has an Ossuray too! Much larger and much more ornate, you can read all about it here!

Various Other Churches After exploring the Bone Church, we explored the surrounding area poking our heads into various other churches and cute little shops. Everything is just so god damn cute! Take in the pretty views After racing around all the different sights, we spent the last portion of our short time in Hallstatt just enjoying the views. This is a ridiculously beautiful town and you'd be silly not to just spend time enjoying it's natural beauty. Now, for the things we didn't get to do:
  • Waldbachstrub Waterfall - How on earth did I not know that a waterfall existed in Hallstatt?! I would have been straight over to visit if i knew about it!
  • Take a boat trip across the lake
  • Experience the views from the "Five Fingers"
  • Dachstein hiking world
  • Dachstein Ice Caves
Have you ever been to Hallstatt? Did you enjoy it? Is there anything else  you would add to my list?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Recently myself and a friend hopped over to Ohrid (Macedonia) for a relaxing long weekend break. If you want somewhere budget-friendly, relaxing, full of history and culture, good weather (potentially!) and friendly faces galore, Ohrid is the place for you. So, if you're thinking about heading to Ohrid for a few days, here's how you should spend them! St Jovan Kaneo  Macedonia Ohrid St. Jovan Kaneo IMG_0749 v2You've all seen the pictures. This is probably THE most photographed area of Ohrid. Whilst the interior of the monastery wasn't the most impressive, this is the perfect place to relax and get picture perfect shots. The view of the lake is second to none. Tsar Samuel's Fortress  IMG_0783 v2IMG_0707 v2 If you know me, you will know that I love any kind of castle/fortification. So I was VERY excited to learn that Ohrid had it's very own fortress and even more excited that we had a view of it from our bedroom window. This is the highest point of the city, so expect more incredible views! Enjoy The Lake Views  IMG_0629 v2 Macedonia Ohrid Lake Boat As if I haven't already spoken about "the view" enough already! Ohrid's main selling point is the fact that it is so god damn beautiful. I uttered the words "it's so pretty" probably once every 25 minutes for the entire trip. Everywhere you turn will be picturesque (even the drive from the airport to the city!). But of course, the most picturesque area is on the lake-front.

RELATED: Want to know a bit more about this beautiful lake? Take a read of my "Top Things You Should Know Before Visiting Ohrid

Church of Saint Sofia  IMG_0584 v2 Saint Sofia is one of the larges churches in Ohrid and it was the first that we visited. This was our first experience of the Macedonian church frescoes. We were so impressed by how well the frescoes were preserved in places, little did we know that there were even more impressive frescoes in smaller churches around the city. Boat Trip to Saint Naum  IMG_0891 v2 If you have a spare day, I would definitely recommend taking a boat trip over to Saint Naum. Make sure that you walk down to the pier the day before your trip to check what times the boats leave the next day. Everywhere on the internet told us that the boat left at 10am daily and when we turned up, the sign said the boat had departed at 9am and we had to wait until the 1.45pm departure - it's safe to say that we were annoyed! The boat ride across would be amazing in sunny weather - we forced ourselves to sit on the top deck and watch the view even in the blistering wind. Over at Saint Naum, you can visit the monastery, do a spot of shopping, grab a bite to eat and hire a rowing boat around the springs (pictured above). Oh... and try to avoid the peacocks, according to a sign, they "WILL HARM YOUR CHILDREN". Enjoy the Lake Walks  IMG_0606 v2 One of my favourite areas of Ohrid is the lake-front, particularly a little wooden walkway which follows the cliff edge. Such blue clear water! I kept saying to my friend that it would have been the perfect place for a wedding! Plaošnik  Macedonia Ohrid Wall Macedonia Ohrid Plaoshnik Plaošnik is an archelogical site and holy place in Ohrid which is currently undergoing some extensive restoration works. Our favourite part was an ancient ornate hole in the ground.... we thought it was a bath tub, turns out it was a baptistery... but anyway definite #BathTubGoals, maybe minus the swastikas though.... Ancient Theatre of Ohrid  IMG_0670 v2 Move over Rome, Ohrid's amphitheatre is the place to be! The stage is still used for events throughout the year although I can't imagine Justin Beiber playing there anytime soon... With a view of the stage and the lake, who can complain (apart from maybe about the stone hard seats...). National Workshop For Handmade Paper  IMG_0833 v2 I shouldn't be allowed into a cute little shop filled with handmade paper and prints. Especially when the lady working there is lovely and demonstrates how the paper is made and the prints are created. I was strong willed to not walk away with arms filled with prints. The Icon Gallery of Ohrid Time to get artsy! Head over to the Icon Gallery of Ohrid for a fascinating look into art throughout the centuries in Macedonia. I'd be lying if I said that art galleries normally hold my interest, I'd rather be exploring the real world, but this one was actually interesting, especially as I visited with an History of Art student (as you can imagine, I made much less intelligent comments about the paintings). Church of Our Lady Perivlepta  IMG_0831 v2 Without a doubt, the Church of Our Lady Perivlepta is home to the most impressive frescoes I've ever laid eyes on. There's a lot of construction work happening at the moment but around all of the scaffolding, you'll be able to see plenty of incredibly well preserved frescoes - I don't think there's one tiny segment of the wall that's not covered! Walk the City Walls  IMG_0834 v2 Around  the edge of the city there's some impressive city walls. And if you've read my blog post about my day trip to York , you'll know how much I bloody love a historical city wall! Shop in the City Centre The city centre is where you should head if you want to do some shopping. Whilst I didn't see many shops that took my interest, some of the restaurants are great!

RELATED: Want to know how much all of this will cost you? Go and read my article "Budgeting For Ohrid

  Things we didn't get to do but sound great! 
  • National Park Galicica - unfortunately the national park can only be accessed by car. Something we should have researched before we arrived in Ohrid! If you fancy exploring the national park for a day, think about hiring a car or a driver for the day - Macedonia is super cheap after all!
  • National Ohrid Museum - we heard great things but simply weren't in the "museum mood" and instead chose to explore by the lake and eat good food in our few spare moments!
  • Bay of the Bones Museum - We should have visited the museum on our way to the Monastery of Saint Naum but the weather was bad, the lake was too choppy and the boat couldn't stop at the museum :-(.
  • Vevchani Springs - This is actually something that I didn't see advertised at all while we were in Ohrid. When I got home and was browsing my internet favourites, I stumbled across this TripAdvisor link which I'd obviously saved months ago and completely forgotten about - it looks gorgeous and is about a 30 minute drive from Ohrid.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Macedonia Ohrid Plaoshnik Macedonia Ohrid Wall Macedonia Ohrid St. Jovan Kaneo Macedonia Ohrid Lake Boat I recently popped over to Macedonia (Ohrid to be specific) and I bloody loved it (warning: there is an over-use of the word "bloody" through the entirety of this post. Ohrid really is just bloody brilliant). So, here's a few things you should know about visiting Ohrid, Macedonia. 01. It's absolutely bloody beautiful. 02. The people are unbelievably friendly. We stayed at Villa Kale and the owners were a lovely husband and wife duo. When we handed our passports over on arrival, they immediately noticed that myself and my friend were born in 1994, the same year as their daughter. From that point on, we were treated like family, given tips and tricks about the area and always asked if we were okay. It was like having a second mum and dad. 03. Want to meet more friendly faces? Head over to The Gladiator Restaurant, another family run establishment. Food in Macedonia is cheap and The Gladiator is probably one of the most expensive places to eat in Ohrid, however it's definitely worth it if you're not sticking to an uber-strict budget. Arrive early evening to ensure you get one of the 3 balcony tables so that you can watch the sunset over the lake! My friend is a vegetarian and whilst there was nothing on the menu that would be suitable for her, the owner was excited and created a platter of yummy vegetarian goods for her. 04. One more friendly face - Marta Pejoska - we stumbled across Marta's gorgeous little jewellery studio on our walk back to the hotel one evening and we couldn't be happier with our discovery! Marta makes incredible filigree jewellery and is SO lovely - we could have chatted to her for hours. Make sure you check out her studio! 05.You can't exchange money to Macedonian Denar or vice versa outside of Macedonia. You should bring some Euros to the country to help you get by (larger items such as long taxi journeys and hotels can usually be paid in Euros) but then you should head to an ATM as soon as possible to get some Denar! 06. It's super cheap! I mean really really really cheap. Read my post "Budgeting for Ohrid, Macedonia" to find out how much money you might need for your trip! 07. Visiting in "off-season" won't mean you are visiting a ghost town. I read so many articles that tried to scare me from visiting outside of June to September. We visited in mid-May and it was great! Relaxed, sunny (most of the time!) and not overcrowded - perfect! If you're looking for a party however, you're probably better off visiting in summer! 08. Macedonia is rich in Greek, Roman and Ottoman history, so there is plenty to see and do in Ohrid! An ancient fortress, a Roman amphitheatre, a gorgeous national park, hundreds of churches - what's not to love! 09. Lake Ohrid is supposedly the oldest and deepest lake in Europe (estimated 4 million years old and 940ft deep)! It was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979, so you know it's going to be a beautiful place! 10.Something that I think makes Macedonia that little bit more beautiful is that it is the only country to get independence from Yugoslavia without shedding a single drop of blood. It remained entirely peaceful throughout the wars of the early 1990s and gained independence in 1991. 11. Macedonians are relaxed, don't expect that bus or boat to be at the scheduled time. Or maybe expect the scheduled time to move unexpectedly at the last minute. Maybe  I experienced this more because I wasn't visiting in peak-season, but oh well, it makes for the adventure! 12. Ask your hotel/hostel how much a taxi journey from A to B should be. Taxi drivers are more likely to try and rip-off a tourist. Make sure you know how much a journey should cost and barter your way down to that price! 13. You should go. You will absolutely love it.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

IMG_0614 v2IMG_0643 v2IMG_0726 v2IMG_0731 v2 If there's one question I had before visiting Macedonia, it was "how much money do I need?". The travel blogging world seems fairly void of any articles on Macedonia and the main consensus, from the few articles I found, was that "it's cheap" - but how cheap exactly?! So here I am, setting out exactly how much money I spent in Macedonia. Maybe I'll turn this into a "thing" with my future travels! Currency The currency is Macedonian Denar but Euros are commonly accepted for larger items such as long taxi drives and hotel costs. You are unable to exchange money to Denar outside of Macedonia. You will therefore need to use banks in the country to withdraw your cash. We used an ATM in the city centre of Ohrid and had absolutely no problems. Careful budgeting is therefore key to ensure you don't have tonnes of excess cash to spare at the end of your trip (unless you want an excuse to buy ALL the chocolate in the airport on the way home)! My Trip
  • Destination: Ohrid
  • Total number of days: 4
  • Total number of nights: 3
  • Date: May 2016 (off-season)
  • People travelling: 2 (some costs such as taxi journeys are therefore divided by 2).
  • Travelling style: Mid-range. We chose to stay in a nice hotel and have a really relaxing trip.
So, How Much Did I Spend?!  For my entire trip to Ohrid, I spent the equivalent of £108.80. This is including accommodation, food, drinks, sightseeing and transport. Pre-arrival costs such as flights are not included as these vary so much! To see a full breakdown of my costs in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format, click HERE! Accommodation - £43.86 - 40% Now accommodation is a tricky one, we could have picked somewhere cheaper to stay. We also could have picked somewhere more expensive to stay. We were also travelling in off-season. Most articles that I have read about Ohrid suggest visiting in June - September, as we were travelling in May, we could have experienced slightly lower prices than the average traveller. The prices for August 2016 on booking.com only seem marginally more expensive than what we paid for May - so you might be in luck if you're travelling in Summer! We chose to stay at Villa Kale and we couldn't be happier with our choice. The family that own the hotel were helpful beyond words and always made sure that we were happy and satisfied. There also appear to be some really great hostel choices on HostelWorld with some well-reviewed options having dorm rooms from as little as £4.24 per night in summer 2016 - perfect for backpackers! Food/Drink - £42.44 -39% We were in Ohrid for a relaxing time and to do a lot of exploring. As we visited in off-peak season, there wasn't too much night-life going on (although according to our hotel staff, this changes in summer), therefore not much of this total is for alcohol. We could have spent less on food but we decided to have a three course meal with wine and beer at one of Ohrid's more expensive restaurants (Gladiator) and it was definitely worth it! We ate on the balcony overlooking the lake at sunset - perfect! Sightseeing & Activities - £14.75 - 14% Considering we were in Ohrid with the primary focus of sightseeing, I am pleasantly surprised at how low this total is!  A lot of Ohrid's sights are monasteries, galleries and small things to see and do. The entry fee for each was usually around 100 denar (around £1.25). The most expensive activity was a 600 denar half-day boat trip to St Naum and back. Definitely worth doing if you're in the area! I was tempted to do a tandem paragliding flight over the lake which would have set me back 59 EUR. We ended up not doing the flight but I'm sure it would have been worth the cost! Transport - £7.75 - 7% The only item included in this section is the taxi ride from Ohrid airport to the hotel and the return journey at the end of our trip. Our hotel organised this taxi journey for us and it was 10 EUR each way (the above total is made up of 2 journeys divided by 2 people at the exchange rate for May 2016). Ohrid is well connected to other Macedonian cities and buses are available to various locations such as Skopje, Bitola, Prespa etc. The prices we saw for these journeys looked very reasonable - be sure to haggle any taxi prices, our hotel staff made us aware that taxi drivers might try to rip off tourists.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1