For as long as I can remember I’ve been wanting to visit South America. So when Acanela Expeditions invited me on a 7-day trip to Peru with an amazing group of girls, I couldn’t say no! Our trip to Peru was an adventure of a lifetime. The friendly locals, vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes we got to see are what made my trip to Peru feel so memorable. Now I can definitely see why so many people say Peru is one of their favorite countries in the world!

While the 7 day itinerary Acanela Expeditions organized for us was filled to the brim with adventures and cultural experiences, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. There’s so much to see in this beautiful country that makes it hard to fit everything into one trip. I really enjoyed traveling with Acanela because they took us to some of the best locations in Peru while still ensuring that we had an authentic experience that also benefited the local communities. In case you’re planning a trip to Peru yourself or interested in visiting, I’ve put together a complete “7 Day Itinerary for Peru” that goes into detail about some of my favorite Peruvian experiences.

Day 1: Arrival in Cusco

I arrived to the charming city of Cusco early in the morning after a short flight from Lima and made my way to our hotel for the night, Casa Andina. After a quick nap to recover from the long flight over from Zurich, I set out to explore the city and meet the rest of the group I would be traveling with for the next week. We decided to take the first day easy, grabbing a quick lunch at Jack’s Cafe, a popular restaurant among backpackers and tourists looking for a hearty, western style meal with plenty of veg options. In the evening we made our way to the Cristo Blanco statue, which offers panoramic views over Cusco’s main square – Plaza de Armas as well as the rest of the city. It’s a great place to take pictures in front of the 26ft tall statue of Jesus Christ as well as with llamas and women dressed in traditional Peruvian wear. Nearby is also the Church of San Cristobal, which offers equally stunning views of the city especially at night when everything is lit up. We finished off with dinner at Nuna Raymi, a restaurant within walking distance from our hotel that serves traditional Peruvian cuisine.

The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorThe Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. Taylor

Day 2: Salinas De Maras, Chinchero and Aguas Calientes

The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorThe Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorThe next morning we left the hotel early to catch sunrise at the ancient salt mines known as Salinas De Maras. I was blown away by the sight of thousands of pastel colored pools scattered across the hillside, where locals still work to harvest and carry heavy bags of salt up the hill to be processed and sold. Afterwards, our group visited the small town of Chinchero, where local women demonstrated the intricate process of weaving. Chinchero also features an incredible artisan market with plenty of beautiful, vibrant handicrafts for purchase – I opted to buy a traditional Peruvian sweater that cost about 30 soles.

The afternoon was spent enjoying a private lunch experience at Mama Mary’s home and restaurant in the middle of the Sacred Valley. Then, with full stomachs we departed on a 2-hour picturesque train ride to Aguas Calientes, passing by rushing rivers through the surrounding mountains and trees. Aguas Calientes is a magical little town that can only be accessed by train. While small, it gets incredibly busy since it’s the ideal point to stay if you’re visiting Machu Picchu, so plan ahead when booking your hotel. We stayed at Tierra Viva, which was a modern hotel and well located.

Day 3: Machu Picchu

The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorThe Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorSituated at 7,972 ft (2,430m), surprisingly lower than Cusco, is the 15th Century Incan citadel known as Machu Picchu. Visiting Machu Picchu has been on my bucket list forever and I was so excited to finally see it with my own eyes! We were determined to visit it at sunrise however, visiting at this time required a lot more logistics and planning than I thought. If you’re planning to visit at sunrise here’s some important tips you need to know:

  • You must wake up early (I set my alarm for 3:30am)
  • Get in line around 4:00-4:15am, this will ensure that you are one of the first 100 people that will be allowed to take the bus up for sunrise. We learned that in order to catch sunrise at the summit on time, you must take one of the first 4 busses that go up the mountain. It was also shocking to see how many others were already in line when we arrived at 4:15am, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to get there as early as you can!
  • Make sure to bring breakfast and warm clothes while you wait, but dress in layers as it gets warmer once the sun rises (although food is technically not allowed within the grounds of Machu Picchu)
  • There are no bathrooms within Machu Picchu, therefore make sure to go before you enter and limit how much water you drink beforehand
  • Take your time. The path through Machu Picchu is only one way, therefore make sure you spend enough time at the viewpoint above before heading down to the ruins since you can’t go back up. It’s an easily made mistake that could really ruin the experience.

Although we didn’t quite get the sunrise we anticipated due to clouds, this wonder of the world surely did not disappoint with its beauty. We also got to learn about Machu Picchu’s fascinating, yet mysterious history. It’s believed to have been constructed in the mid 1400’s and abandoned at the onset of the Spanish Conquest, where it remained unknown until 1911.

The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorOnce we left the ruins, the rest of the day was spent taking the train back to Ollantaytambo, a historic town with cobblestone streets, historical homes and bustling markets. We decided to explore around the town before settling into the beautiful Hotel Pakaritampu.

Day 4: Llama Blessing Ceremony

The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. Taylor

The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorThe next morning we all climbed into the van and drove for an hour to Latis Valley where we would partake in a traditional llama blessing ceremony. The village that we visited was located at an impressive 17,000ft, the highest point we had been so far on the entire trip. While I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, I can say that this experience was by far the highlight of the entire trip because of how culturally rich and special it was.

This ceremony only happens twice a year when new llamas are born, therefore it is something that most tourists don’t get to experience. The reason behind this ceremony is that it is believed to bring good luck and health to the herd, which the locals rely heavily on for wool and food. While there was plenty of ceremonial singing and dancing, one of the most memorable moments was when they actually married two young llamas together!

The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. Taylor

Day 5: Pisac market and ruins

ultimate-7-day-itinerary-for-peru-alliemtaylor-17untitled (1 of 1)-230.jpgThe next day on our way back to Cusco, we stopped at the charming town of Pisac. Pisac not only boasts a rich Incan history, but also a famous textile market. The market is a great place to pick up vibrant colored blankets and patterned sweaters all handmade by the locals. I couldn’t help but buy a few of the alpaca blankets to bring back home, as well as a turquoise ring, scarf, and another sweater. Some of the girls even bought rugs and pillow covers that reminded me a lot of Morocco. We also spent some time wandering the grounds of the local Incan ruins and enjoyed a traditional lunch in town before our journey back to Cusco.

Day 6: Exploring Cusco

The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorThe Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorThe Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. TaylorWe set off on our last full day in Peru with our tour guide Simon, who gave us an incredible walking tour of the city. We spent hours wandering the cobblestone streets and marveling at the city’s character and architecture. On the tour we stopped by Cusco’s main square, Plaza de Armas, the Church La Compañía de Jesús and the Cusco Cathedral, where we were able to learn more about the region’s Incan history and the Spanish Conquest. I would highly suggest doing the same if you have some extra time in Cusco.

ultimate-7-day-itinerary-for-peru-alliemtaylor-21

We ended our tour at the San Pedro market where you can find everything including local fruits, chocolate medicinal herbs, handmade blankets and bags all under one roof. We all enjoyed some fresh pressed orange juice from the fruit stands and also picked up some tasty dried fruit and other snacks for the plane ride home.

In the evening we headed to Rooftop Kitchen where we learned how to cook gourmet local cuisine including quinoa risotto and trout ceviche, whilst watching the sun go down over the rooftops of Cusco. It was an incredible experience that I would recommend to anyone since I believe it’s one of the best ways to experience the culture.

Day 7: Rainbow Mountain and Travel Home

The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary For Peru - Allie M. Taylorultimate-7-day-itinerary-for-peru-alliemtaylor-25In recent years Rainbow Mountain has become extremely popular because of images that have been popping up all over Instagram. Our tour guide opted to take us to a less popular part of the “Rainbow” for a more unique experience without the crowds. We woke up extremely early, around 1am, to begin our 4 hour drive to the mountains. With a fairly short hike we were greeted with incredible panoramic views of both Ausangate and the colorful hillsides that Rainbow Mountain is famous for. It was an unreal experience being able to see the “rainbow like” mountains in person once and for all without a single soul in sight. It made for the perfect last adventure before heading to the airport and flying back home!

I want to give a big thank you to Acanela Expeditions for making this trip happen! And also a thank you to ArvoJaneBrics MilanoFawn Design and Woven Pear for supporting our trip!

A xx

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The Five Best Photo Locations in Santorini, Greece

A Complete Guide To Cinque Terre, Italy

The 5 Best Photo Spots In Cappadocia, Turkey

With its golden sunsets and sweeping caldera views, there’s a good reason why Santorini is considered one of the most beautiful and iconic islands in Greece. Simply wander the white-washed streets of Santorini and you’ll find endless photo opportunities everywhere you turn. From the famous three blue domes to the crystal blue waters of Amoudi Bay, I’ve put together a guide of the 5 best photo locations in Santorini, Greece that should definitely be on your radar while visiting this stunning place.

Sunset At Oia Castle

The 5 Best Photo Locations In Santorini, Greece - Allie M. TaylorOne of the most popular spots to take photos in Santorini is from the Byzantine Castle Ruins in Oia, particularly at sunset. The ruins offer a beautiful view overlooking the white-washed buildings of the caldera and the ocean.

Pro Tip: If you want to catch sunset here, you must arrive at least 2 hours early to secure a spot since it gets packed. I usually buy some snacks beforehand like cheese and crackers and also some drinks to pass the time and enjoy while watching the sun go down. Trust me, this view is well worth the wait.


Location: Byzantine Castle Ruins, Oia 847 02, Greece


The Famous Three Blue Domes

The 5 Best Photo Locations In Santorini, Greece - Allie M. TaylorThe famous three blue domes should definitely be on your list if you’re wandering the streets of Oia. There’s a beautiful staircase that leads down to them, which makes for a perfect photo opportunity. One thing that took me by surprise when I visited recently, was that they had roped off the staircase to allow only guests staying in the area to pass by. My advice would be to either go early and risk getting yelled at or take photos and admire from a distance. If you do choose to take photos on the staircase, please be respectful to guests staying here.

The 5 Best Photo Locations in Santorini, Greece - Allie M. Taylor

To get a different angle of the blue domes like you see above, head to this spot here. There is a gate that blocks off the stairway to the dome you see me sitting on. However, if you go early when few people are out, you can open the gate and snag a few photos quickly.

Pro Tip: I know I’m repeating myself here, but go early when taking photos of these iconic places! The cruise ship groups tend to arrive around 9 a.m. and that means floods of people will fill the streets, making it that much harder to get the photos you want. 


Location: Three Blue Domes, Oia, Greece

From the main shopping street in Oia, turn left at the alley way next to the jewelry store called Apollon Gallery. Once you see the church bell towers on the left take the path on the right towards the blue domes and then you should be able to find the stairway.


The Church Bells in Oia

The 5 Best Photo Locations in Santorini, Greece - Allie M. TaylorRight next to the three blue domes in Oia are a pair of church bells that are set against the blue waters of the Aegean sea and the white facades of the caldera buildings. This makes for an incredible photo backdrop. If you want to take your photo to the next level, I’ve seen others climb up to the cross, although do so at your own risk since it’s not technically safe.


Location: Oia Church Bells, Oia, 847 02, Greece

If you’re already on the path to the three blue domes, it’s easy to stop here for some photos before going down the stairway on the right to the domes.


Amoudi Bay

The 5 Best Photo Locations in Santorini, Greece - Allie M. TaylorAmoudi Bay is one of my favorite places to hang out during the day and go swimming to beat the blazing summer heat. Just around the corner from the docks is an amazing swimming hole, where sun bathers spread out their towels on every inch of red rock possible to soak up the sun. There’s also some amazing cliffs here if cliff jumping is your thing.

If you’re a fan of seafood then don’t miss out on a meal at one of Amoudi Bay’s incredible restaurants serving the fresh catch of the day. I’ve heard nothing but good things about all the restaurants here, but my personal favorite is Dimitris Amoudi Tavern where you can find some of the freshest seafood in Santorini. Plus you can’t beat that waterfront dining view.


Location: Unnamed Rd,Ormos Ammoudiou 847 02, Greece

To get to Amoudi you can either hire a taxi to the bottom (about 10 euro) or walk 1000 steps from the end of Oia village. If the walk back up is too steep, you can also hire a donkey for 5 euros to take you back up to the top.


Kastra Oia Houses

The 5 Best Photo Locations in Santorini, Greece - Allie M. TaylorThe “pink house” that you see all over Instagram is actually the Kastra Oia Houses located at the end of Oia village. You can stay here in one of their spacious suites featuring terraces and even hot tubs overlooking the Aegean Sea. There’s also an incredible restaurant owned by the same owners as the hotel, where you can dine on traditional Greek food from from breakfast till dinner. However, you don’t have to stay or eat here to get a beautiful shot of the hotel’s beautiful pink facade. Plus, it’s right off the path if you’re headed down to Amoudi Bay via the stairway route.


Location: Kastra Oia Houses, Oia 847 02, Greece


Do you have any other favorite spots for taking photos in Santorini? Let me know below in the comments.

A xx

Instagram Stories are one of my favorite ways to connect with my audience and show them a more authentic, “behind the scenes” version of my life and the photos I share on Instagram. As Instagram stories continue to be a monumental tool for promoting your brand or business, it’s important to create stories that stand out. Creating beautiful Instagram stories goes a lot further than just sharing quality content. If you’re looking to up your Instagram story game, but aren’t sure how, I’ve put together a list of my top 7 favorite apps I use to create stunning Instagram stories.

1. Unfold

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “What app I use to get the white border around my stories?” The answer is Unfold.

This is one of my favorite apps I use to edit my Instagram Stories and the one I use by far the most. Unfold is a free app that allows you to place photos and/or videos of your choice in easy-to-use templates to create beautiful, minimalist layouts. You can also add text to set the mood and share more context of the story you’re sharing. While the free version alone offers plenty of great templates, I’ve purchased a few other template packs for $0.99 each and the film pack (my personal favorite) for $1.99.

Download for Iphone | Download for Android

2. Over

While Over has always been known for it’s ability to add text over a photo, it also has a powerful feature that allows you to overlay images on top of each other. This makes it great for making collages or creating a story from your photos. While there are millions of different creative templates you can choose from, you can also create your own templates from scratch when you want more flexibility. The app is packed with lots of other “Photoshop-like” tools that make it easy to create images that stand out for your stories. The app is free with the ability to upgrade to a pro version that is $15 a month or $100 a year.

Download for Iphone | Download for Android

3. Hype Type

Hype Type is a great app for adding animated text over photos and videos. It’s an easy way to give your stories that extra touch to make them more engaging. For me, I like using this app to announce new posts on my blog. I can easily give my story an animated title by selecting from a variety of fonts and animation styles. And if you’d like, you can even add music over a video or crop a clip to your desired dimensions. While this app is free initially, you must pay for the features in the premium version and to remove the watermark.

Download for Iphone | Download for Android

 

Best Instagram Story Editing Apps: Hype Type

4. Storeo

If you’ve ever tried to make an Instagram story while talking that’s longer than 15 seconds, then you know what a pain it is when you get cut off mid-sentence. Storeo solves that problem and makes it easy to create seamless videos. Just import a video of any length you’d like into Storeo and the app will slice the video into 15 second slices for you to upload to Instagram Stories. Now you can stop worrying about the 15 second countdown timer and, instead, focus on what you have to say. The app is free, but you have to pay a small fee if you want to remove the watermark when you export the videos you create.

Download for Iphone

5. VSCO

VSCO has been around since almost the birth of Instagram, but the ability to edit videos with their filters is quite a new feature. I love using this app to make my photos and videos more vibrant and polished for my stories. For example, if a video is too dark, I can simply increase the exposure or even fix the white balance if the colors look off. You can also create your own preset formulas, which I love to use to bulk edit my stories if I’m in a rush and want them to look consistent. The app is a $19.99 yearly subscription fee, which is worth it considering all the tools you get access to.

Download for Iphone | Download for Android

6. 8mm

Ever wondered how I get my Instagram stories to look like they were recorded on a vintage camcorder? 8mm is the app you’re looking for! While the app does cost $1.99, it’s highly worth it in my opinion to give your videos a unique, retro look. Simply point the viewfinder at what you want to capture and bring the beauty and magic of old school vintage movies into your very own videos. There are also several filter settings you can choose from depending on the vintage feel you’re going for.

Download for Iphone

Best Instagram Story Editing Apps: 8mm

7. InShot

InShot is a great app for editing photos and videos on your phone and creating cool layouts. I like using this app to add unique backgrounds to my photos or add another photo behind an image. You can also create collages by adding your desired photos to pre-made templates that are offered within the app. InShot is also really helpful for editing videos. You can add effects like filters, change the speed, and make other edits before uploading your videos to Instagram stories. One thing to note when using this app is to make sure to set the canvas ratio size to 9:16 (Instagram story ratio).

Download for Iphone | Download for Android

What other tools or apps do you like using to edit your Instagram Stories? Let me know below in the comments.

A xx

riomaggiore cinque terre italyNestled on the northern coast of Italy is a slice of heaven known as Cinque Terre. With its pastel colored villages, teal blue waters, and jagged cliffsides that extend into the Meditteranean, its picturesque beauty and sweeping landscapes will leave you without words. In English, Cinque Terre translates to “Five Lands.” This is because there are five fishing villages that make up the coastline here: Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia, and Riomaggiore. Each village is as unique as the next, with a variety of distinct characteristics and things to offer visitors that gather here in the summer months. From my recent visit, I’ve been able to put together a complete guide covering everything you need to know about visiting Cinque Terre, from the best places to eat to the best sights to see.

manarola cinque terre italyWhere to stay:

If you’re visiting Cinque Terre, it’s most likely that you’ll want to see all 5 towns while you’re here. However, I highly suggest choosing one town to stay in as your home base and then visiting the other towns during the day. I say this because the towns of Cinque Terre are quite hilly and it’s a pain to have to drag a suitcase up an endless flight of stairs or a cobblestone hill. Since the towns are so close, you can easily visit them via the train, boat, or even by hiking.

We chose to stay in the town of Monterosso al Mare since it is the largest town, had the nicest beaches, and the best parking options. We stayed at this AirBnb, which was freshly renovated (a rare find in some parts of Italy), quiet, and close to everything you need. I would highly recommend it!

How Long to Stay:

I recommend staying at least 2 nights here to get the most out of your visit and be able to fully enjoy every village. If you want to spend some extra time laying out in the sun, swimming, or taking a longer hike, then I would suggest 3 nights here.

How To Get To Cinque Terre:

There are two ways to get to Cinque Terre: car or train. Although we arrived by car since we were coming from Switzerland, I think the train is easier since it stops directly in each town and you don’t have to worry about the hassle of parking, which can be very difficult here.

Depending on which direction you’re arriving from within Italy, you’ll connect to the regional Cinque Terre train line in either Levanto (from the North) or La Spezia (from the South). If you’d like to book your tickets in advance you can buy them on Rail Europe, which will tell you the best route and trains to take depending on your starting and end points.

Rome to Cinque Terre: About a 4.5 hour train ride with one train running per hour. You will have to change at the La Spezia station.

Milan to Cinque Terre: About 3 hours direct, with some trains changing in Genoa.

Florence to Cinque Terre: Leaving from Firenze S. M. Novella station, the ride is about 2.5-3 hours and usually involves a few changes in either Pisa and/or La Spezia. Some people do this as a day trip, so leave as early as possible since it will be a long day.

La Spezia to Cinque Terre: A short 15-30 minutes by train, with 2-3 trains arriving per hour.

Getting around

Getting from town to town is fairly easy and there are three ways to do so: by train, by ferry, and by hiking. 

Train: This is the quickest and cheapest option for traveling between villages. The local trains run every 20-30 minutes during the summer months and every hour outside of the summer period. Each village is just 5 minutes from the next, with one way fares costing €4 each way.

Ferry: This is a slower, more costly option. However, you must do it at least once while you’re here since it’s a great way to see the towns from the ocean. A day pass for the ferry costs €25 and €5 for a short trip to the next village.

Hiking: This is a great way to experience the Italian coastline and see the towns from a new perspective. The most popular trails are the “blue trails” that connect each village. If you’re planning on hiking any of these trails you’ll need to buy a Cinque Terre Card. You can buy this card at any of the train stations located in the five villages for €7.50. You can also buy a day pass for just €16, which gives you unlimited train and “blue trail” access. (Note: Only 2 of the 4 trails are open, Monterosso to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia, because of storm damage)

Monterosso Al Mare

Monterosso, the largest town of the five villages, is renowned for its turquoise blue waters and rocky beaches dotted with colorful umbrellas. It offers a “modern-resort like vibe” and has the most accommodation options, which is why most visitors tend to stay here. In comparison to the other towns, Monterosso is not as quaint and is more spread out across flat land, making it easier to roll a suitcase around.

We spent most of our mornings and afternoons here, relaxing in the sun at a lido (a beach club), and strolling along the seaside boardwalk. It’s important to note that most of the beaches here (where you see the sun chairs and umbrellas) are private. So if you’re planning to spend some time in the sun you’ll have to pay for a sun bed, which you can reserve the night before (a must if you want a good spot). However, if you don’t want to pay, there are a few slivers of the beach that are public, but they fill up quickly with locals who arrive there by mid morning.

monterosso al mare beach in cinque terre italybeach in monterosso cinque terre italyumbrellas on a beach in monterosso cinque terre italyumbrellas on a beach in monterosso cinque terre italyVernazza

Out of the five towns, Vernazza was my personal favorite. Lined with pastel colored buildings that open up to a beautiful piazza and the sea, there’s something so quaint and charming about this village that makes it stand out. Some of the best views of Vernazza can be found in the first 15 minutes of the hiking trail that goes toward Monterosso. Here, the trail will lead you to a viewpoint that overlooks the entire village and the emerald blue ocean – a view so breathtaking that it simply can’t be missed. It’s a great spot to watch the sun go down and get that postcard worthy shot you see all over Instagram and countless European guidebooks. This is part of a paid hiking trail so make sure to have some Euros with you or cash on your Cinque Terre Card. However, we arrived at 6p.m. and did not have to pay since the checkpoint was already closed.

If you’re interested in seeing another perspective of Vernazza, head back to town and take the trail that leads to Corniglia. Since this spot is before the paid hiking trail starts, you don’t have to worry about having a Cinque Terre card.

vernazza in cinque terre italyview of vernazza in cinque terre italysunset overlooking vernazza italygirl in white dress overlooking vernazza italy at sunsetManarola

Arguably, one of the most romantic villages of Cinque Terre, Manarola is full of colorful streets and hillside vineyards. While there is no beach here, there is a small harbour where you’ll find flocks of people swimming and basking in the sun on every rock and inch of the boat ramp they can find.

If there’s one thing you must do in Manarola, it’s visit Nessun Dorma. Here you can dine while enjoying some of the best views in town, which is why it has become so popular on social media. Getting here is simple: Just follow the path from the marina and up the hill until you get to the bend, then take the stairs where you’ll most likely see a line of people waiting outside the restaurant. When it comes to ordering, go for the pesto bruschetta – it’s easily some of the pesto I’ve ever had in my life.

Beautiful ManarolaColorful buildings of ManarolaOverlooking the colorful buildings of ManarolaAfternoon in Manarola ItalyRiomaggiore

Filled with dramatic seaside views, Riomaggiore is the rustic gem of Cinque Terre. Out of all the towns, Riomaggiore has the most authentic feel to it. Here, you’ll get a glimpse into local Italian life where fisherman push their boats through the village streets and women hang laundry from their windows. The best thing to do here is grab a take away pizza or a cone of seafood and enjoy it on the rocks while watching the sun go down.

Colorful buildings of Riomaggiore Eating pizza at sunset in RiomaggioreBoats in the harbour at sunset in RiomaggioreCorniglia

Hidden high above the Mediterranean amongst the rolling hills and vineyards is the little village of Corniglia. Since there is no harbor here and requires a bit more effort to reach, it is significantly more quiet compared to the other villages. To get here, you’ll need to climb 365 steps from the train station below or take the shuttle bus that appears from time to time.

Colorful streets of CornigliaIf you found this guide helpful or if you’d like to see me write about something in particular please let me know in the comments!

allie xx

 

 

7 travel hacks for packing a carry onAs much as I love traveling, I’ve always loathed the packing process and making decisions on what to take with me and what to leave behind. I think we can all relate to a time when we overpacked or had to pay extra baggage fees, and then ended up not even wearing half of the things we brought with us.

For a long time when I traveled, I was mostly the girl who carried a giant “check-in” only suitcase with her. But then when I came to Europe and traveled solo for awhile I realized it was nearly impossible to continue traveling like this. Lugging a 25kg suitcase up and down stairs and into trains by myself was becoming a hassle, and my back was beginning to feel the pain from pushing my entire life around on wheels. I knew it was time to make some drastic changes, which is why I chose to say goodbye to my big, bulky suitcase and go carry-on only.

In the beginning, traveling with just a carry-on was a huge challenge, but helped me set reasonable limits on what I packed. I had to replace my usual last minute packing rush with a more thought-out strategy limited by my luggage size. I had to start really thinking about the items I was putting into my drastically smaller suitcase, which ended up making me feel much more content with what I brought.

Keep scrolling to read my tried and true tips on how to travel with just a carry on, while still looking stylish and having everything you need. 

Carry on packing tip #1: Make a pre-packing listThe first thing you should do before you start throwing clothes into your suitcase is to make a pre-packing list. Take some time to think about, or even better, write down what activities you’re going to be doing on your trip and what the weather will be like. Then think about what you plan to wear for each activity and whether it is weather appropriate. If you’re going out for a nice dinner in the evening or if it looks like it’s going to rain – then make sure you bring what you need to be prepared but nothing more than the essentials. If something doesn’t apply to the activities you’re doing, then don’t bring it with you!Carry on packing tip #2: Plan and layout your outfitsAt least a week before you leave, try to plan and lay out specific outfits so you can get an overview of everything you have. This will not only reduce what you bring with you on your trip, but will also make getting dressed a breeze since you’ll know exactly what you’re going to wear for each activity. If you’re going to be on a long trip then make sure you bring tops and bottoms that you can interchange with each other to create new outfits. This hack has been an absolute lifesaver for me!Carry on packing tip #3: Roll your clothes instead of foldingIn the roll vs. fold debate, there is one clear winner. Rolling your clothes not only saves you a ton of space, it also leaves your clothes with less wrinkles compared to folding. And if you have delicate items you’re bringing with you like jewellery, then wrap them in clothes to keep them safe and untangled.Carry on packing tip #4: Bring travel sized toiletriesDitch your normal-sized toiletries for TSA approved plastic bottles which are cheap, refillable, and meet-hand luggage requirements. Fill these bottles with liquids that you already have at home like shampoo and moisturizer to reduce the amount of weight and space you take up. You can usually find these bottles at your local drug-store or on Amazon. I recommend condensing these bottles down into one ziploc bag in case one of the bottles leaks or opens during transit. I usually use the plastic zip bags provided at airport security since Europe has a strict 1 litre liquid limit and it makes it easier to get through security.

Carry on packing tip #5: Stuff shoes with socks and extra items

If you’re running low on space, shoes are a great place to stuff things like socks, bandanas, t-shirts and cords. This is one of my favorite tricks to make sure there is no wasted space.

Carry on packing tip #6: Limit the shoes you bringLike most people, shoes are my packing downfall and take up so much space! It’s important to really think about what you’ll be doing on the trip and to limit yourself to no more than 3-4 pairs. I suggest bringing one pair of tennis shoes for walking in, a pair of flats or sandals, a pair of heels to go out to dinner in, and also lightweight hiking shoes if you’re doing a lot of serious hiking. And for an extra tip, I store my shoes in a laundry/plastic bag so that the rest of my clothes stay clean.

Carry on packing tip #7: Stick to the basicsThe key to having many outfits to wear when you’re limited on space is to pack basic colors that you know you’ll look good in. While tempting, stay away from bold patterns or experimenting with wild colors that you don’t usually wear. I like packing colors like white, black, ivory and grey since they generally go well with each other and lend themselves to many outfits.

Have any other “carry-on only” packing tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

untitled (1 of 1)-6.jpgCappadocia will leave you speechless with its otherworldly beauty. There’s no experience quite as magical as watching hundreds of hot air balloons fill up the the entire sky as the sun rises over the horizon – a scene that feels straight out of a fairytale. Let yourself be dazzled by the lunar-like landscapes that are the result of millions of years of natural erosion and full of rich and fascinating history.

It is, without a doubt, one of the most memorable trips you’ll ever have in your life and should be on everyone’s bucket list for an endless number of reasons. If you do plan to visit, I’ve put together a helpful list of the “top 5 photo spots in Cappadocia” so that you can get that perfect shot while you’re here.

1. Watch the hot air balloons take off at Sunrise

ElFenn (1 of 1)-78.jpgIf there is one thing you have to do while you’re in Cappadocia, it’s this! One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had so far while traveling was witnessing hundreds of hot air balloons rise with the sun in Cappadocia. Yes, you do have to be up and out the door by 5:30AM to see this beautiful sight, but I promise it’s worth every minute of lost sleep. On our last morning in Cappadocia we chose to watch the hot air balloons take off from Rose Valley. I would highly recommend making the effort to go here in the morning since the balloons get so close that you can almost touch them if you wanted to.

untitled (1 of 1)-6 48.jpguntitled (1 of 1)-10.jpgAnother alternative spot to watch the balloons at sunrise is from Sunset point. This spot was a quick 10 minute hike up the hill behind our hotel and can be easily found by asking either at your hotel’s front desk or using this location here. It is the highest point in Göreme and offers panoramic views of the town below and the surrounding valleys. I strongly suggest getting here early, as it was packed even when we arrived at 5:30 AM.


Location: Rose Valley, 50180 Göreme Belediyesi, Turkey


2. Visit the fairy chimneys of Pasabag

untitled (1 of 1)-6 24.jpgExplore the surreal moonscape of Paşabağ Valley, which is known for its unique rock formations called “Fairy Chimneys.” A number of these mushroom shaped fairy chimneys house chapels inside of them, the most prominent being a tri-level chapel dedicated to St. Simeon. This chapel is a great backdrop for photos due to its amazing scale and intricate details, and can easily be found by following the signs that read “church” with an arrow.

This place does get extremely busy since many tour busses stop here, so make sure you go before 11 AM or sometime later in the evening to get a photo free of people. And if you’re wondering where the camel came from? When you enter the valley you will see a man there with a few camels, he will let you walk it up to this spot to take some photos with it for around 100TL.


Location: Paşabağ Valley, 50180 Göreme Belediyesi, Turkey

Entrance Fee: Free


3. Go rug shopping in Göreme

untitled (1 of 1)-6 27.jpgIn Göreme, one of the biggest towns in Cappadocia, you can find a rug shop filled with over 50,000 Turkish handicrafts known as Galerie Ikman. Hundreds of carpets, some even historic, cover every inch of this place; from the ceiling all the way down to the floor. This place literally feels like a scene straight out of Aladdin and is a wonderful spot to take some photos in their courtyard.


Location: Galerie Ikman, Kaymakli Sk., Goreme 50180, Turkey

Tip: Don’t visit here when it rains since they put away all the carpets in the courtyard and close off most of the shop. It often rained heavily in the afternoon when we visited, so I suggest going earlier in the morning.


4. Stay in a traditional cave hotel

untitled (1 of 1)-6 28.jpgTake a trip back in time to the 11th Century and stay in a traditional cave hotel. While these caves were once used as chapels and houses for Byzantine Christians, many have now been converted into boutique hotels. From cave hammams to rock-cut archways and panoramic rooftop terraces – these cave hotels have just about everything you need for the perfect stay.

For our trip to Cappadocia, we decided to stay in the town of Göreme because of its accessibility to the places we wanted to see and the endless options of beautiful cave hotels. For the first two nights, we stayed at the Local Cave House Hotel, which is famous for its stunning pool and setting. If you’re on a budget, then this is a great option since it was only $50/night to stay here.

untitled (1 of 1)-6 14.jpgFor the third night we stayed at Cappadocia Cave Suites, and the owners were nice enough to give us a special room inside of an old chapel! This hotel has a similar rooftop and view to the extremely popular Sultan Cave Suites that most of you have probably seen on Instagram. So if it is booked out like it was for us, then this hotel is a great alternative to be able to get that perfect sunrise photo on the rooftop.

image 3.JPEGFor the last night we stayed at Koza Cave Hotel, a family owned hotel which is situated next to Sultan Cave Suites. This is another great place to watch the sunrise since you get a view of the entire town of Göreme from their rooftop.

5. Go horse riding in rose valley

untitled (1 of 1)-6 45There is no better way to explore the geologically and historically rich landscape of Cappadocia than on horseback. The Dalton Brothers Ranch kindly offered us a private tour with a few horses where we ventured into the lunar landscape of Rose Valley. Our ride led us through the valley’s stunning rock formations, meadows of colorful wildflowers, and historical caves and chapels. It was an unforgettable experience being able to explore the stunning scenery for 2 hours without seeing a single soul. If you’re interested in booking a horse riding tour, I would advise taking one at sunset since you get a beautiful view of the sun setting over both Rose and Red Valleys and even some wine!


Tour info: The Dalton Brothers Ranch

Length: 1 HR, 2 HR, or full day tours

Price: 130TL/person


How Do I Get To Cappadocia?

If you’re coming from Istanbul airport, there are two great ways to get to Cappadocia: by plane and by bus.

untitled (1 of 1)-6 50

Flights

Cappadocia has two main airports, Kayseri Airport and Nevşehir Airport, which offer flights everyday via Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines. We chose to fly with Pegasus Airlines into Kayseri Airport, which was a quick 1 hour and 30 minutes and only cost us $30 return (a much cheaper option for us than Nevşehir Airport). Once you arrive at the airport you can take a shuttle to your hotel in Cappadocia, which was a little over a 90 min. drive. We scheduled this before hand with Heritage Travel and was about 10 Euro a person, but you can also ask your hotel to pre-arrange it for you too.

Bus

Many buses run to Cappadocia overnight from Istanbul and take about 12 hours in total. If you have enough time to spare or you’re on a budget then a bus ticket is a good option and costs around 90TL. I know you might be thinking a bus sounds a bit dodgy or dirty, but fear not, Turkish buses are known for their excellent service and comfort. You can book an overnight bus ticket with two of the main companies: Metro Turzim or Nevşehir Seyahat.


If you’re looking for more info about how to buy a bus ticket, Turkey Travel Planner has a great guide that you can find here.


When Is the Best Time to Go?

The best time to go to Cappadocia is from the end of April to June and September to mid November. While Cappadocia can get extremely hot and rainy, the temperatures are pleasant and the weather is mild during these times.

How much time do I need?

A stay around 3 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Cappadocia. This gives you enough time to see the main sights I’ve listed above, do some hiking, explore a few underground caves and even go in a hot air balloon.

Other info you need to know?

If you’re flying into Turkey, an e-visa is required to enter depending on which country you are from. While I needed an e-visa since I have a U.S. passport, my New Zealand friends did not need them. The application process is really simple and can be done online, which costs around $20. You can apply for your e-visa online and find out more info here.
If you found this guide helpful or if you’re interested in seeing me write about a specific topic, please let me know in the comments!

Allie xx

Allie M. Taylor Photography Gear

Over the years, one of the most common questions I’ve been asked is “What camera or lens do you use?” That’s why I’ve decided to write a blog post breaking down all the gear that I carry with me in my camera bag. I’ve linked each item so that you can find out the exact prices, specs, etc. in case you are interested in learning further about it.

I want to point out that you don’t need all of this “fancy” gear to get started with photography. To be honest, I started out with my iPhone and then a Canon Rebel with a kit lens, which both allowed me to take photos that I thought were beautiful. I’ve worked extremely hard to get to the photography level I am at now and I’m incredibly grateful to be able to invest in such high quality gear.

Cameras

Canon 1DX Mark II - Allie M. Taylor Photography Gear

Canon 1DX Mark II: This is the camera I shoot with mostly unless I am going hiking and need something more lightweight. The video quality on it is incredible, however I would warn that is is quite heavy compared to other cameras. With this camera I mainly use the Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB CFast card. It’s fast and holds an incredible amount of photos. I also had a 128GB CFast Card by Lexar but it got stolen recently.

Canon 5D Mark III - Allie M. Taylor Photography Gear

Canon 5D Mark iii: This is my backup camera and I still prefer to use it when I’m in cities or hiking since it’s much lighter than the 1DX. It still produces great images and I would highly recommend it to an intermediate/advanced photographer.

Film Cameras - Allie M. Taylor Photography Gear

Canon AE-1 35mm: I haven’t shot film in awhile now, but loved using this camera during Uni when I was in a film class. My goal this year is to pick it back up again though.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Instant Film Camera: Great for capturing little moments and just plain fun to use because it’s so simple!

Lenses

Canon Camera Lenses - Allie M. Taylor Photography Gear

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II: A great lens for shooting extremely far away subjects or creating a nice bokeh effect while compressing the background. I especially love this lens for commercial car shoots and the occasional portrait.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II: A great wide angle lens option, especially if you are interested in shooting subjects such as stars or when you need to capture a lot into one image.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L: My go to lens! This is one of my favorites to use because of how flexible it is while still being sharp. If you want to invest in one lens, then I suggest going with this one.

Sigma Camera Lenses - Allie M. Taylor Photography Gear

Sigma 20mm f/1.4: I absolutely love this lens, especially considering how reasonable the price is. I’ve actually been using this lens more than the 24-70mm lately and it works great for video since it’s extra sharp while still being a wide angle.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4: This lens is great for portraits, however I’ve had a lot of issues lately with a black ring appearing in my images once I go past f/2.0 so I don’t use it as often. With further research I learned that this is an incompatibility issues with 1DX and the 5D MKIV. Other than that, this lens is incredibly sharp and also a cheaper alternative to the Canon version.

Essential electronics + accessories

Allie M. Taylor Photography Gear

Macbook Pro 15″ Retina (2017 Model): This is the laptop that I use for all my editing on Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

Herschel Supply Co Network Pouch: I use this to hold all my loose cords and other small items so they don’t get lost in my bag. Herschel doesn’t sell the dark brown color anymore but they have many other great options to choose from.

Lexar CFast Thunderbolt Card Reader (Not The One Pictured): This is the main card reader I use, although it is not pictured because I had it recently stolen along with lots of other items in my bag.

B&O Play H8i Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation: These are a lifesaver, especially if you’re trying to sleep or work on a plane and there’s a crying baby next to you. Definitely worth the investment in my opinion. 

LaCie 4TB USB-C Thunderbolt Hardrive: I’ve used a lot of hardrives (and destroyed a lot too), so far LaCie has been the only hardrive to withstand the amount of traveling and wear and tear that occurs when I put it in my bag. I use this one primarily to back up my content.

Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Adapter: I struggled with dongles way too long and finally got this port adapter and it’s changed my life. Now I don’t have to worry about losing them every trip. 

Ipad Mini: I bought this when I was using a bigger drone, but now I use it primarily on longer flights to watch movies when there aren’t TV’s.

Additional camera accessories

Additional Camera Accessories - Allie M. Taylor Photography Gear

Waterproof Memory Card Carrying Case: This is where I keep all of my SD cards organised. Once when I was in Hawaii, this case went all the way down a waterfall with all of my SD cards inside and somehow we were able to find it at the bottom. Thankfully it’s waterproof for accidents like this!

Spare Canon 1DX Battery: I have an extra 1DX battery in case I’m filming all day or forget to charge my camera at night.

ZoMei 82mm ND Filter: I use this filter for long exposures, especially on waterfalls. This fits my Canon 16-35mm lens.

Velo ShutterBoss II: I use this to take timelapses, especially for northern lights.

Underwater Photography Gear

Underwater Photography Gear

Aquatech Delphin 1D Sport Housing: When I go to tropical locations or anywhere there’s clear water I love shooting underwater photography. It’s incredibly challenging but so much fun. I use this Aquatech housing which has been great for capturing moments underwater, and yes it even floats with the 1DX in it!

AquaTech PD-85 Dome Lens Port: This is the dome I use with my underwater housing to get those beautiful over-under style photos.

Drone

What's In My Camera Bag: DJI Mavic Drone

DJI Mavic Pro: Not only is this drone incredibly fun to fly, it’s also super lightweight which is a huge plus for when you’re out hiking. I love using it to get different perspectives that a camera just can’t capture.

Spare DJI Mavic Pro Batteries: I own three of these in case I’m out all day and don’t have time to charge my drone.

Video Gear

DJI Ronin-M 3-Axis Gimbal (Not Pictured): This is in the states at my parents house right now, but the Ronin is a great way to make smooth and stable videos

SmallHD 502 On-Camera Monitor (Not Pictured): This monitor is also home with my Ronin. I like this monitor because it’s small and light and allows me to see what I’m filming since the 1DX doesn’t have a flip up screen.

Backpacks + Carrying Cases

Camera backpack and Pelican Case

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L: This is the camera backpack I use at the moment when I go on small hikes. It has great dividers and easy access to lenses. I still haven’t found a great camera backpack that looks good too, but for now this one works.

Manfrotto BeFree Tripod: This tripod is nice and lightweight, making it perfect for traveling. However, the compromise is that it can’t handle the weight of my 1DX Mark II.

Pelican 1510 Case: This case has been a lifesaver for transporting all my gear while still keeping it safe and undamaged during flights. This one is even small enough to take as a carry on.

If you have any other questions about what gear I use please leave me a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer it!

allie xx

 

 

Exploring La Bahia Palace, MarrakechMarrakech is one of those special places that marches to the beat of its own drum. It’s a place where you’ll find yourself lost (literally at times) in the rich and fascinating culture that calls these bustling streets home.

Within the mazelike medina, souvenir stall owners will yell and hassle you to capture your interest, motorcycles will whiz past you leaving the air thick with the smell of exhaust, frying oil, and tagine spices, young men with suspicious smiles will point their fingers down alley ways hoping to mislead you, and I can’t forget to mention that desert heat!

For a first time visitor, Marrakech can be a bit overwhelming, especially for the senses. That’s why I’ve put together an insider’s guide so that you can enjoy this gem of a city as much as I did. This is how I recommend you spend your time in Marrakech and a selection of the very best things to do while you’re here.

skip the hotel, stay in a stunning riad

Enjoying tea at Riad El Fenn in Marrakech

el fenn

Although Marrakech is filled with many luxury resorts and hotels, let yourself have a more authentic experience and stay in one of the many beautiful riads within the old city. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with a courtyard and are often centuries old and full of character.

Most riads are nestled within the heart of the medina, making them the ideal place to stay and experience the city, especially if you are only visiting for a day or two. When the medina or the heat becomes overwhelming, a riad provides the perfect tranquil oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

During our first three days here we stayed at Riad El Fenn, a secluded retreat hidden down a back alleyway in the medina. This riad is an interior designer’s dream and filled with an eclectic mix of contemporary art and traditional moroccan charm. My favourite part about this hotel though is the rooftop, which offers stunning views over the rooftops of Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains in the distance. Even if you don’t stay here, I totally recommend stopping by to have a drink and watch the sun set down behind the city.

Beautiful green tiled pool at El Fenn Riad, Marrakechriad jardin secret

For the last two nights we stayed at the Riad Jardin Secret, Which was located in a more quiet area of the medina. If the name didn’t already give it away, this riad is practically a living jungle oasis and has been entirely restored to preserve and celebrate the local artisanal tradition.

Throughout the riad you’ll find a free spirit, laid back attitude towards life that is both inspiring and welcoming at the same time. With just 11 rooms, Jardin Secret is as intimate and relaxing as it gets. There’s even intricately decorated niches throughout, where guests can let themselves escape life for awhile.

Detailed courtyard of Riad Jardin Secret in Marrakechget lost in the medina

If you’re looking to have a real, authentic Marrakech experience then the medina is where I suggest you spend most of your time.

Without a doubt, you will get lost.

The medina is essentially a labyrinth of narrow streets and souvenir shops that all begin to look-alike after making a few turns. It’s almost as if it was designed in a way to confuse, puzzle and mislead any visitor that chooses to enter it. Sometimes you might stumble upon a lamp store hidden away from the crowds or you might wander into a part of the city where you suddenly don’t feel welcome anymore; that’s the beauty of exploring the medina on your own, which can either come with risk or great reward.

So let yourself get lost for a while, sit down for a coffee in that back alleyway cafe, satisfy your sweet tooth with a freshly baked Moroccan pastry, and indulge in all that is simply and distinctly Marrakech.

If you are however traveling solo or worried about getting lost, a walking tour might be a better option for you.

marrakech-guide-12.jpg


Tip: Download an offline version of google maps in case you start to actually feel lost. Since the sim cards we got at the airport didn’t work this was a huge help to navigate the maze like streets of the medina.


test out your bartering skills in the souks

Carpet store in the souks of MarrakechColourful handmade rugs hang proudly like flags above the streets, young shop keepers will smile and try to bring you into their stores with a glass of mint tea and hundreds of iconic Moroccan lamps will dazzle and delight above you like stars in the sky. Welcome to the souks (markets) of Marrakech, a bargain lovers dream… that is if you’re willing to do a bit of bartering.

If you’re looking to bring home a gift, a hand-woven rug or a homeware then shopping here will definitely take some skill. The souk is like an open playing field, where you’ll have to play a game of give and take in order to get the best deal. Sometimes you’ll be rewarded for your efforts or sometimes you’ll just be properly ripped off.

Lamp store in the souks of MarrakechOne of the biggest mistakes you can make when shopping in the souks is accepting the initial price offered to you. Start by dropping the price by 2/3rds and work from there. If you can get it down to 1/2 the price then congrats, you’ve got yourself a good deal.

Even if you love a rug or just have to have that particular one, never act too interested in it. The moment the shop keeper catches on, your bargaining power is weakened. Often times I acted like I didn’t have enough money or was really indecisive and that led the owner to continue cutting the price. Also, don’t be afraid to walk away. Many times the salesman will come after you agreeing to reduce the price or the last one you offered.

You should also always pay attention to the quality of the item you are purchasing, especially when it comes to rugs. We took a guide with us to ensure that the rug we bought was made of real wool. This can be easily proven by holding a lighter to one of the loose edges and if it doesn’t light then it’s real wool.

enjoy the serenity of la bahia palace

Colourful tiled floors, ornately carved archways and perfectly manicured gardens can all be found at one of the most exquisite palaces I’ve ever seen: La Bahia Palace, which literally means brilliant palace.

Not only does Bahia offer a tranquil space to take a break from the noisy city streets, it is a time capsule of the past that gives a glimpse into how life in morocco was like in the 19th century.

Wander through the palace’s expansive rooms decorated with intricately painted mosaics and Italian white marble walls or simply take a moment to enjoy the sun in the massive courtyard.

To avoid the crowds of the other well-known gardens of Marrakech and their overpriced entry fees, Bahia Palace offers a great alternative without having to compromise on beauty.

Beautiful archways of La Bahia PalaceTiled floor details of La Bahia Palace in Marrakech


Where | Avenue Imam El Ghazali, Marrakech 40000, Morocco

When | 9am – 5pm

Price | 10dh


watch the sun go down at atay cafe

One of my favourite things to do after a long day of wandering the souks is to watch the sun go down over the city from a rooftop restaurant.

I highly suggest you visit Atay Cafe, which offers some of the best views of the both the city, Koutoubia Mosque and the Atlas Mountains in the distance. While the food is nothing to rave about and service can be pretty slow at times, it’s worth ordering a pot of mint tea or tajine to be able to see Marrakech from a different perspective.

Sit back, relax and take in the beautiful surroundings while the sun bathes the city in gold.Sunset at Atay Cafe overlooking the city of MarrakechPrayer tower in Marrakech at sunset


Where | 62, Rue Amsefah Sidi Abdelaziz, Marrakech 40030, Morocco

When | 10am – 10pm

More Info | Tripadvisor


escape the city & visit agafay desert

Past the luxury hotels and resorts, acres of olive trees and date palms, herds of goats wandering the roadsides and little villages full of life will greet you the moment you leave the city and head for Agafay Desert.

After being in Marrakech for 4 days, this was a great way to experience a much needed change of scenery and get a little glimpse into the daily life of most Moroccan people. Our hotel arranged for a driver to pick us up and take us to a desert camp called Terre Des Etoiles for dinner, which was just a short 45 minute drive from the city.

While Terre Des Etoiles was not nearly as nice or photogenic as the neighbouring Scarabeo Camp, it was still worth the visit. I would highly suggest spending a night “glamping” in one of these desert camps if you have more than a few days to spend in Marrakech. Just make sure to make a reservation at least a month in advance since they can get quite booked out.

Set against the stunning snow-capped Atlas Mountains, these desert camps offer everything you need to unwind and disconnect from everyday life. From camel riding to gazing at a sky full the brightest stars you’ll ever see, there’s something here for everyone to enjoy.

Moroccan lantern in Agafay desert at dusk


Where | Agafay Desert

Distance | 35km from Marrakech

Price | 900dh return to hire a driver


indulge in moroccan cuisine

There’s a reason why Morocco is famous for its cuisine and it doesn’t take long to realise why. Hearty tajines, mounds of golden couscous, and spicy shakshukas – Morocco is a paradise for food lovers in search of flavour.

ElFenn (1 of 1)-29.jpg

nomad is one of Marrakech’s most talked about restaurants and arguably most instagrammed as well. The food served here is a modern take on traditional Moroccan cuisine and is perfect for vegetarians and vegans alike. If you ever want a chance to see what the hype is all about, then make sure to book a reservation well in advanced since it gets extremely busy with trendy travellers.

naranj is where I had one of my best meals in Marrakech. the food here is a distinct mix of Lebanese and Moroccan and the service is surprisingly fast. A dish that you must order here is the eggplant couscous, which is packed with flavour and a great veg option as well. We also ordered the fromage briouates and mezzés plate that are worth trying.

la salama while the food here is overpriced in my opinion and not incredible, the garden like atmosphere is something worth visiting at least for a drink. Lounge in the sun room as dozens of plants hang from the ceiling to create the perfect backdrop for a photo.

Other restaurants worth noting: Cafe Des Espices, Terrasse Des Espices, Le Jardin, I Limoni, Restaurant La Familie, Cafe Clock, Latitude 31, Beats Burger, the food stands at night scattered around Jemmna El-Fna


see what jemmna el-fna is all about

Jemma El-Fna is the main square of Marrakech, and is also home to the quirkiest characters you will come across during your time in this city. Snake charmers, men with monkeys on chains and henna scammers will all approach you hoping to lure you into one of their scams that at first glance seem “free.”

This is a place that you will always want to have your guard up and is where you will most likely be scammed if you aren’t careful. We almost got caught up in one of these scams ourselves when we were walking through the square and a man tried to place a monkey on my head as he followed closely behind us. I’ve heard other stories of travellers ending up unwillingly with arms full of henna and then begged and hassled for money until they gave in.

While Jemma El-Fna was one of my least favourite areas of Marrakech since it felt extremely touristy, I would highly suggest visiting here during the day and also at night for an entirely different experience. At night the square seems to light up with life and the energy begins to grow as crowds flock to the rows of food stalls. Soak up the nighttime ambiance by grabbing a meal from one of these stalls and then sit and watch a performance unfold before you.


Tip: There are also many ATMs here to take cash out, which is important to have for the souks and some restaurants


other tips and recommendations:

Colorful carpets lining the walls of the Souks in MarrakechVisit A Traditional Hammam – A hammam is arguably the best way to relax in Marrakech and has been apart of Moroccan culture for centuries. a hammam is a bath/steam house where you take a sudsy bath, relax in a sauna, exfoliate with a full body scrub, and receive a massage. While it can be quite a long process, I’ve experienced one here in switzerland and it made me feel like an entirely new person. Completely worth it if you ask me.

Jardin Majorelle: Leave the medina for a few hours and enjoy this botanical garden preserved by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The colourful grounds full of cacti, agave and other desert plants has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Marrakech. However, this means that you must go early in order to avoid the crowds since it gets packed very quickly. We learned that the hard way when we walked 30 minutes there, only to be greeted by the awful sight of a line that wrapped around the building.

Saadian Tombs: A peaceful place, noted as the final resting place of Ahmad al-Mansur and his nearest and dearest, is a great alternative to avoid the crowds found in many of the gardens. Wander the ornately decorated rooms or marvel at the intricately tiled mosaics, one things for sure – there’s definitely not a lack of beauty here.

I hope this guide was helpful and that it inspires you to visit the vibrant city of Marrakech.

Allie xx

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August Playlist - Allie M. TaylorHello August! Yesterday was a holiday here in Switzerland, known as Swiss National Day aka Switzerland’s version of the 4th of July. To celebrate Switzerland’s 727th birthday, we enjoyed fireworks across Zurich and a picnic by the lake. We’ve been in a major heatwave here in Europe, with temps reaching well over 37C (~99F for my US followers), so our favorite thing to do to beat the heat is to float down the Limmat River that’s just steps from my flat. I’ll be off later this month to do a roadtrip through Austria and to the Dolomites, but in the meantime I have weekend plans to do some camping and hiking in the local mountains – one of my favorite things to do in Switzerland.

To bring in August, I’ve put together some of my favorite songs at the moment into one big August music playlist on Spotify. For this month, there’s a lot of chill electronic music and other great songs that I feel really compliment the mood of summer. On this playlist you can find music from Childish Gambino, Trinix, Crooked Colors, Alex Lustig and my recent favorite Feki. If you haven’t heard Feki‘s music, be sure to give it a listen!

And if you missed last month’s playlist, you can find it here.

Happy listening!

A xx