After abandoning our plans to make a video for Morocco (thanks to the whole drone debacle), in a spur of the moment one night in Tangier, we instead pressed Record on our phone. That first clip turned into hundreds over the next two weeks, and we wound up with a new documentary style vlog—something we’ve never done before (click to watch):
I was still able to make a quick video from my DSLR footage, so make sure to watch until the end for that! We had a lot of fun with this new format, and are already working on similar vlogs for both Sri Lanka and India. We might even continue the vlogs once we move and start up our real estate company in January (either way, there will be a lot more video!)
Let us know if you’re a fan of the new documentation/vlog style—your feedback is very helpful! You can reach out directly on my instagram, facebook or snapchat @jennasuedesign.
At the time this goes live, we’ll have only two weeks left on our round the world trip! We’re focusing on getting the most we can out of our last days in India… and so far, it has been the most intense country yet. Lots of stories on the way (or keep up with my instagram stories to see it all live!)
Getting to Sri Lanka from Morocco was no simple task—from the moment we left our riad in Marrakech it would be another 43 hours until we stepped inside our hostel in Colombo.
The travel process began with an overnight train to Tangier, a half day at the airport followed by a flight to Spain, another layover followed by a redeye to Delhi, then a third layover with a third flight to Colombo, ending with a three hour taxi to our hostel. It was our longest travel day(s) on record, and left us borderline exhausted but equally as excited to be in a new country.
As soon as we stepped off the plane in Sri Lanka, that familiar wet and humid Asian air filled our lungs. Palm tree jungles as far as the eye can see, smoky skies from burning trash and the putter of tuk tuks racing through the streets. I’m immediately taken back to my Southeast Asian backpacking days, and a wave of nostalgia washes over me. This is my happy place.
Almost exactly two years ago, Lucas and I met in Vietnam, and the striking similarities here in Sri Lanka sparked fond old memories for us. It’s amazing how much your environment dictates your experiences and ultimately your entire life (and this is why travel is so important!)
Day 210-211: Kandy, Sri Lanka
With only one week before our flight up to India, time was limited so we only spent one night in Colombo before heading inland to the mountains.
We had the option of renting a private car/driver for the week at $45/day, but we wanted to experience Sri Lanka as the locals do—so instead we opted to take the train.
The trains here are famous for being quite the spectacle, and we wanted to experience it firsthand.
The first and second class reserved seats are always sold out months in advance, so we ended up in the free for all section. As our 12:00 train arrived, every seat had been claimed before we even had a chance to grab our backpacks.
Sri Lankans are ruthless—when the train pulls up, they’re throwing their bags and their babies through the window to get a seat as it’s still moving. We stood no chance.
Debating on whether to wait three hours for the next one, we push our way to the back and get cozy with the locals. The train cars are crammed with as many people as they can fit, including bodies hanging off the train—which turns out to be the most coveted spots for the breathing air and views.
Lucas was practically sitting in this woman’s lap while I had some guys’ arm pits on either side of my head and for two hours we can’t move an inch. Finally, someone in the seat beside us jumps off and we’re able to grab their seat and witness miles of jungle landscape rolling past us for the remaining two hours.
At $1 per train ticket, you really can’t complain.
Before nightfall we arrive in Kandy, a charming little town on a lake and the hub for the center of the country.
It was here that we got our first real taste of Sri Lankan food—as delicious as it was cheap! Full meals cost around $2 on average, and our favorite dish was kottu (a stir fried mix of cabbage, veggies, bread and spices). From street food to restaurants to home cooked dinners, there wasn’t a meal we didn’t completely devour (and nope, we didn’t get sick once!)
Day 212-213: Ella, Sri Lanka
After just one full day in Kandy, it was already time to move on. We’d heard great things about Ella, a mountain town seven hours south, so we booked a Homestay there for the following night.
Not wanting to be stuck standing in a train for hours, we went to the bus station to see our options. This proved to be impossible, as the bus “station” was merely a line of snack vendors and hundreds of locals fighting for elbow room on a podium as unmarked buses with blaring horns squeezed past the madness. There was no one on duty and no signs in English, so we gave up and found a tour agency in a hotel.
Reluctantly, we handed over $60 for first class train tickets (later finding out its illegal for them to buy/mark up/resell) but a guaranteed seat for such a long journey was worth the cost to us.
The train ride from Kandy to Ella is touted as one of the most scenic in the world. We settled into our seats, quickly realizing that they weren’t even necessary as we found ourselves hanging off the doorway most of the time.
Those seven hours flew by fast with plenty of breathtaking views to admire. It’s really a must-do if you find yourself in Sri Lanka!
That afternoon we arrived in Ella, and settled into this beautiful homestay we’d found for $25/night. At that price, it wasn’t the cheapest option available, but the view from our balcony made it worth every penny.
Just before sunset a double rainbow appeared, then the sky turned pink and the fog started to roll in. Birds and insects began chirping all around us, there were flashes of lightning and thunder and then monks begin chanting in the distance, filling the valley with their echoes.
It was one of those speechless and truly memorable moments that will stand out on this entire trip.
The next day we hired a tuk tuk to take us around. Our first stop was a Buddhist temple inside of a cave.
Afterwards we watched the train pass over the picturesque Nine Arch Bridge.
From there we drove out to Rawana Ella Falls, a popular spot for locals to bathe and wash their hair.
A group of monkey mamas and their babies were playing in the street, and we yelled for our driver to stop so we could snap a photo. Just look at those sweet faces!
Every afternoon, like clockwork, it downpours during monsoon season. Our day in the outdoors was cut short so we waited out the storm under a cafe, drinking local tea and devouring kottu. While this weather means we don’t get to spend as much time exploring and seeing the country, it’s also so nice to just be able to relax in bed and listen to the storm. It feels like we’re constantly on the move and filling our day with activities, so the downtime in Sri Lanka was savored.
The next morning we went on a quick hike to Little Adams Peak—a mountain ridge with sweeping views of Ella Rock, distant waterfalls and the surrounding forest.
Buddhist shrines and pups greeted us at the top.
Just before the afternoon storm hit, we caught a ride to our final destination of Haputale.
Day 214-215: Haputale, Sri Lanka
We’re greeted by our host, Ikka, and brought inside— it’s a small and modest home to a family of four, who share a bedroom and one small bathroom with no light and a hole in the wall for air. Ikka informed us that the power was out, and would be back on within a couple hours.
We carried our bags to a dark and damp bedroom, painted in bright colors with a ceiling that had seen better days. The air is cold and we layer on what little clothing we carry to keep warm. (Excuse the fuzzy screen shots, but this gives you an idea…)
Hours pass with no sign of electricity, and we have dinner by candlelight prepared by Ikka’s wife and served by his cute children. Later that night we huddle together on a rock hard mattress underneath a mosquito net for protection, covered in damp clothing and blankets. Coming from our previous homestay that felt like luxury, we had to laugh at our current situation and think of it as a fun glamping trip in the jungle. At $8/night, we were still getting a bargain, and getting to stay with a local family and experience real Sri Lankan village life was icing on the cake.
By the next day, the power hasn’t returned and all of our devices are nearly dead. We’re assured it would only be a matter of hours, and flag down a local bus to start our last day of adventure in Sri Lanka.
Haputale is known for its tea plantations, and perhaps the most scenic is at the Lipton Factory. Seven kilometers of winding pathways takes you to the top of a mountain ridge with 360° views. Unfortunately for us it was cloudy that morning, so we weren’t able to see much from the top, but the long walk through the plantation made up for it.
We leisurely strolled through rolling hills, waterfalls and small villages, stopping to admire and take photos of the scenery. We passed cows, tuk tuks and friendly workers gathering tea leaves who smiled and waved at us.
At the bottom of the valley is a large tea factory built by Lipton in the 1800’s. We took a tour and learned about the process of black and green tea production, and enjoyed a cup over conversation with a local while waiting for the bus.
Back at our homestay, the power still had not returned, so we continued to wait patiently as the monsoon passed and the sky grew dark. We hadn’t showered in days, all of our electronics were dead and we needed to check into our flight and book a hotel for the following day. Desperate, we grabbed our bags and ran down the hill in the rain, searching for somewhere to go. Fortunately, another homestay (with electricity) was able to take us in for the night, and we were finally able to reconnect with the world and calm my frantic mothers’ nerves.
A happy ending to a memorable week in this friendly little island nation. You’ll always find an adventure in Sri Lanka!
As I write this, we’re nearly a week into our last destination of India, trying to navigate our way through the chaos. There’s so much to take in, and I’m sharing moments of it over on my Instagram stories. Find me there and see how life is lived on the other side of the world!
Six days into our Moroccan adventure, we were ready to escape the bustle of the cityand venture out to the edge of the Sahara.
We arranged a three day, two night desert excursion with a final destination of Marrakech.
A van picked us up from our riad at dawn and we loaded our bags, not sure what to expect from this “tour”. No one had asked for our names, there was no company name or paperwork, and the only information we had was from a guy who drew a picture of camels and squiggly lines on a piece of paper. This is how most things are operated in many developing countries though—it’s all very informal and casual. You learn to go with the flow after a while.
Thirty minutes went by as we sat in front of a building, our driver becoming increasingly frustrated, yelling at people on the phone and in the street in Arabic. A young Moroccan man, who we assumed was working with the driver, sat silent in the front seat.
Eventually after circling around the city for an hour and picking up another couple, we were on our way!
On the outskirts of town, the driver pulled over once more on the side of the road. A petite, white haired lady climbed inside the van, rocking camo leggings with her hands and arms covered in tattoos. She appeared to be between 60-70 years of age, and told us she was from Germany as she squeezed in the back seat alongside Lucas and I.
We exchanged a few words about our recent visit to Munich, but the conversation was brief due to the language barrier. Then she stated she was here visiting her boyfriends family, and pointed to the Moroccan kid in the front. Not wanting to sound skeptical, I replied politely while wondering if “boyfriend” had multiple meanings in German.
Turns out she really did mean boyfriend, and that was confirmed when we slept next to them in the tent that night. Proof that love really does have no boundary!
The journey to the desert was a long one, punctuated by a break for lunch on the side of an empty highway. Morocco is known for its beautiful details, and you’ll find them no matter where you go. The building could have doubled as a palace, with intricate painted moldings and a crystal chandelier I couldn’t stop gawking at. Only in Morocco will you get design inspiration for your future child’s nursery at a highway rest stop.
Design inspiration aside, the drive was quite beautiful too. So much of Morocco is covered in canyons and rivers, with valleys of lush palm trees. Some towns felt almost like Las Vegas resorts.
With plenty of eye candy out of the window, eight hours of being sandwiched in the backseat of a van went by surprisingly fast.
We arrived at a town with instructions to transfer into another van with a new driver. At this point we had two hours left until sunset, and had been promised an hour long journey by camel to our tent site before sunset. We didn’t seem to be anywhere near our destination, and to make matters worse, the clouds and wind had began to pick up.
With no way to find out the plan, we shrugged it off and watched the weather shift outside the window. Sheets of rain and sand flew past our car, blanketing it and turning the sky orange. It was quite amazing to watch, actually.
For an hour we went full speed off-roading into the desert, nothing around us visible except the hazy silhouette of distant palms. Finally, we pulled up to a large clay complex with six camels resting outside.
Sunset was fast approaching, and we grew anxious as nearly another hour went by with no explanation.
At seven o’clock, just as the days last light fell below the horizon, we climbed aboard our camels and headed into the dunes.
Twilight quickly gave way to darkness, and soon we the only thing we could see was the bright Milky Way above us. I gripped the handle tight with each wobbly step as the sand sank beneath Coco the Camel, reassuring her that she was doing an excellent job given the working conditions.
Another sandstorm rolled through and pelted my skin as my scarf came unraveled, leaving my face and neck exposed. At one point our guide, who was aided by only the light from a phone, stopped us and turned around after nearly walking off the edge of a steep dune.
An hour after we’d left, we finally saw the lights of our camp and safely settled in for the night.
There we joined a larger group and gathered around the fire as our guides cooked dinner. We feasted on chicken tajine, shared travel stories and joined in on the drums as they played traditional Moroccan music. After dinner we climbed the sand dunes and watched shooting stars trail across the Milky Way. The day had gone by in the blink of an eye, but it was still the most memorable experience of our time in Morocco.
Day 202: Ouarzazate
The next morning we awoke while it was still dark, and wandered into the desert for the best sunrise vantage point. I chased down a group of camels for video shots while Lucas took a time lapse of the sun rising behind the dunes.
The rest of our group slowly emerged from the tent and just like that, we were back on our camels to begin our return voyage.
The sun becomes very strong, very quickly in this part of the world. My eyes were dry and tired from squinting, and I made sure to wrap my shoulders to avoid being burned. In October it’s bearable, but I can only imagine how intense it would have been a couple months ago. Can’t say I’d recommend visiting during the summer!
As we were disembarking from our camels, we heard a loud thud and looked back to find the German lady on the ground, moaning in pain. She had fallen off her camel and it didn’t look good. Her young boyfriend, still silent and stoic, kneeled at her side while the other camels were ushered away. We all stood around in concern as employees called for help and 911. She was later airlifted to the hospital—hopefully without any serious injury.
Now halfway through our tour, we began the long drive towards Marrakech. The scenery through the Atlas Mountains was even more beautiful.
We stopped at a river gorge, and at Aït Ben Haddou—a UNESCO world heritage site made famous by appearances in films and shows like Gladiator and Game of Thrones.
I was surprised by the similarities of every village we passed between Fez and Marrakech. Most consisted of simple orange clay buildings, unlike the elaborately carved and tiled riads found in the larger cities. But here you really can’t judge a book by its cover, as most buildings are plain on the outside but covered in unique and colorful decor inside.
A prime example is this low budget motel we stayed in the night before Marrakech. We were literally the only guests, and were served a generous buffet for dinner and breakfast. I’m not sure how these places stay in business!
Day 203-207: Marrakech
After three long days of travel, we had finally made it to Marrakech.
We were struck instantly by the heat—much warmer than even the desert—and the volume of people, sounds and action swirling around us. Fruit stands and miscellaneous car parts and garbage scattered about in the streets; donkeys and motorbikes and cars honking at each other while converging and swerving around pedestrians; locals yelling over each other and dragging carts of construction material and handfuls of dead chickens.
The scene here reminded us a bit of the chaos in Vietnam (although not quite that crazy). If you really want to see Moroccan life, come to the Medina of Marrakech.
After dropping our bags off at our riad, located in a nameless alleyway amongst local residents, we made our way down to the famous Jemaa El Fna square.
Our Moroccan shopping spree had been done in Fez, and we were still trying to get over the outrageous shipping cost to send it home. The plan in Marrakech was just to observe.
Until I saw the pom poms. Beautifully patterned blankets and pillowcases in every size and color. These are what I had been looking for, and they were nowhere to be found in Fez. “What if we just shipped one more small box home?” I asked Lucas with my best puppy dog face.
One small box turned into 3 blankets, 4 pillow covers, a tablecloth, soaps and spices. And another $90 to ship $200 worth of souvenirs. What can I say, I’m powerless over pom poms.
Apart from great shopping, Marrakech is prime for wandering the Medina and taking in your surroundings. In the square, there’s snake charmers and musical performers, monkeys on leashes and henna artists. There’s rows of fresh juice stands and pop up barbecue tents every evening. At night the heart of the city comes alive, beating with the energy of animated locals and tourists diverting their attention in every direction. No trip to Morocco would be complete without a visit to Marrakech.
Our last few days in Morocco were spent logging miles through the Medina, getting our fill of foods and last minute shopping, and taking refuge in the quiet courtyard of our riad.
It’s hard two believe it’s only been two weeks since we stepped foot in this country, now that we’ve settled into a familiar routine within a new community.
In one month our round-the-world journey will come to an end, and we’ve saved the biggest culture shock for last: Sri Lanka and India.
By the time this is published, we’ll have already been navigating our way through Sri Lanka for a few days—hopefully our bodies are surviving the transition… find out what we’re up to at the moment over on my Instagram stories!
Soon I’ll be able to share our video for Morocco, and this one will be quite different than past films. We’re looking forward to trying out this new format and hope you guys enjoy seeing a different style as well!
There are some places in this world that you fall in love with immediately—a paradise you never want to leave. Somewhere that slides right into your comfort zone and makes you feel safe and at peace.
Then there are others that humble you, reminding you of how fortunate and privileged you are to have the freedom to live any life you choose. Somewhere that challenges your version of reality and to face unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable situations.
Morocco is the latter. While it doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies or feeling as if I belong there, it does give me a great appreciation for another way of life for millions of people, and gratitude knowing that I get to see it from this lens.
That type of experience is how you grow through traveling, and it is a gift that’s even more lasting and valuable than the memory of, say, enjoying a piña colada on the beach while watching a beautiful sunset (although those are pretty great too!)
We arrived at the Tangier airport on a Thursday afternoon, doing happy dances off the plane as we stepped foot onto African soil for the first time in our lives. The celebration was cut short moments later when we were told they lost my backpack in Spain, and drones were not allowed in Morocco so they’d have to confiscate ours.
After an hour of trying to communicate through exchanges of broken English and Spanish with Arabic paperwork, my bag miraculously showed up, but they would have to hold our drone hostage at the Tangier airport—which meant we had to pay several hundred dollars to change our flight and travel plans. Our fault for not checking, and quite the expensive lesson to learn!
While it wasn’t the warmest welcome into Morocco, we chalked it up to another travel experience, and hailed the first cab into the Medina.
Medinas are the old, walled sections found in North African cities. It’s the heart of the town, and where all the history and action is.
We booked a room inside the Medina for $10/bed in a riad—a traditional home, usually several stories tall with a beautifully intricate, open courtyard in the center.
Our first impression of Morocco was a stark contrast to the quiet calm we’d experienced just hours before in Switzerland.
We wandered through the narrow, nameless pathways of the Medina, in full sensory overload. Trying to make sense of every scent, sound and sight.
The air here is stagnant and scented. Weighed down by a thick layer of dust and smoke, there’s an underlying musky meat market smell that permeates into your clothing, hair and skin. Every so often it would be masked by whiffs of spices, incense, fruit and urine.
Our eyes darted in every direction, trying to process every color, shape, pattern and texture of each door and rug and woven shoe we passed.
The sounds of Arabic syllables and motorcycles and sheep intertwine like a captivating symphony of a movie score, performing a unique song in every new city.
In the Medina especially, you can’t walk farwithout a local approaching you, going out of their way to be friendly and show you around. Or sometimes lying to you, telling you that a street is closed so they can divert you into someone’s shop or restaurant for a commission. Either way, in our experience, this always lead to them asking for money. This was to be expected, and it isn’t the first country it has happened in.
Street vendors also follow you around in the souks, pressuring you to enter their shops and some even sneak their items onto your table at restaurants, trying to force you to buy it. Parents enlist their small children to beg tourists for money. You learn to develop a thicker skin, knowing it all comes with the territory.
It’s a lot to take in at once, and easy to become overwhelmed at first if you’re not prepared for it (or if you’ve just spent a week in the most peaceful place on earth).
Our Spanish skills were put to the test again for the first time since leaving Spain back in June. Arabic and French are the most common languages spoken, but many people also speak Spanish in the north due to its close proximity to Spain.
The food here is flavorful with signature dishes like tajine and couscous, with meat grilled and seasoned to perfection. We were thrilled to trade in our $30 Swiss burgers for $3 meals. We were also pleased to find healthy options for lunch and dinner, but like most countries, they love their plates full of bread and sugary sweets for breakfast (and coffee cups that are way too small).
Every country seems to have their signature drink, and in Morocco it’s mint tea—all day, every day. It’s their replacement for every liquid—water, coffee, soda, beer and wine. As a Muslim country, alcohol is against their religion, so instead their vice is sweet mint tea and cigarettes.
Day 196-197: Chefchaouen
After two days in Tangier, we caught a local bus headed to a town by the name of Chefchaouen—known as the Blue Pearl of Morocco.
This place was one of the first recommendations given to us, and it’s not hard to see why. The Medina of this small desert town is an artists haven.
Every shade of blue you can imagine covers the walls, ceilings, even the ground. You could spend ten minutes in any one spot, just trying to take it all in. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped so frequently to take photos.
Oh, and tiny kittens at every corner.
It’s equally as adorable as it is heartbreaking, with so many starving cats crying out for food. I felt ill every day because it was so upsetting to watch (don’t even get me started on their treatment of donkeys and horses).
We spent two nights in Chefchaouen and the time flew by—I don’t think we did anything other than eat, sleep, and get lost in the Medina. At sunset we’d head to the roof and listen as the day’s last call for prayer broadcasted through loudspeakers from each mosque, echoing in the stagnant desert air. We’d become used to hearing the Islamic chants five times each day in Tangier, but when the sky darkens in Chefchaouen, the melodic voices have a particularly eerie and mysterious quality.
If you find yourself in Morocco, I’d put Chefchaouen on the must-see list (and skip Tangier altogether).
Day 198-200: Fez
The day we left Chefchaouen, I woke up feeling ill with my stomach in knots. I’d been quite lucky throughout this entire trip, feeling proud for having tolerated every level of cuisine for months in South America and Europe. Turns out my stomach has finally met its match in Morocco.
I survived the four hour bus ride to Fez with the contents of my stomach in place, but it took days to get back to normal. I can only hope this is conditioning my body for India.
Fez is Morocco’s second largest city, and we came here for one main reason: to shop!
No one leaves Morocco empty handed, and we’d been holding off on buying any substantial souvenirs/gifts for months, saving it all for the final weeks of our trip.
We read that Fez was one of the best places to shop—both for the selection of items and prices (spoiler alert: Marrakech is much better!) After waiting months for this moment, I was so ready to spend some dirhams.
Negotiating with vendors here is an art form, and often a very long process. Shop owners are well versed in this skill, naturally, and you have to come prepared. Fortunately, Lucas’ previous career was in sales, so I let him do most of the talking.
In the end, we walked away with two rugs, two pillow covers, a big market basket (my biggest score at just $8!), spices and beauty products, oils, nine scarves (I should’ve bought 900), table linen, pouches, jewelry and copper mugs. This was over the course of two days and around 15 hours of shopping.
This may sound like a shoppers paradise, but it’s not exactly the pleasant experience of Pottery Barn when you’re funneled into a pathway bumping into severed goat heads, cornered by men relentlessly trying to sell you rugs every few feet and nearly trampled by oncoming donkeys. Pausing only due to bouts of sharp stomach pain from the sketchy street meat you ate the night before.
But a rug is worth more if you had to overcome adversity to get it, right? We’ll go with that 🙂
While we did walk away with some great bargains, let’s not forget about postage. There’s no way we could haul our loot around for another five weeks, so we ended up shipping a box back home to the tune of $103. Yikes, that’s almost half the value of the items! Still worth it, but never forget to factor that into your bottom line if you decide to go on an overseas shopping spree.
After a whirlwind week, our surroundings have finally started to become a bit more familiar and less chaotic. To a first time visitor, Morocco can feel like a tornado that hits you all at once, taking your senses on a wild ride and leaving you in a daze of jumbled, hazy memories. It’s unlike any other place I’ve visited before, and we’re just passengers along for the ride—embracing everything that comes with it.
There’s beauty in every corner of the world, even if you have to look a little deeper to find it. In some ways, those places are often the most beautiful.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we venture by camel into the desert and find ourselves falling victim to yet another (unintended) shopping spree in Marrakech. Or watch as it all unfolds in realtime on my instagram stories. More on the way!
After a hectic week in Morocco, I finally had a chance to sit down and sort through our footage from Switzerland. You’ve seen the photos, and those were just a small preview of the magic captured from the sky.
This video is a shorter and simpler than previous formats, as we only had a week to spend and a handful of locations to shoot. It’s entirely 4k drone footage, with a mix of scenes from Lake Lucerne down to Geneva. Autumn is a beautiful time of year to visit, with the trees in shades of red, lovely weather and fewer crowds.
Come join us on our road trip through the windy roads of Switzerland in September (click to watch):
After a ten hour bus ride from Croatia, we arrived in Munich and experienced our first taste of the madness that is Oktoberfest.
I’m not much of a beer drinker, but this event is one of those bucket list items and something Lucas had been wanting to do for years. A few friends from back home flew out to join us, which made it that much better. It’s always so nice to see familiar faces after you’ve been away from home for so long.
I won’t go into too much detail since this post is about Switzerland (feel free to shoot me a message if you have any questions about the event), but it was a few days of good times and eating nothing but giant pretzels (they are SO good). Munich is a place I’d love to visit again around Christmastime when it’s decorated with lights and garlands and snow… it would be a life size replica of the mini Christmas village set we had growing up. One day 😉
Back to the road trip!
Day 187: Zurich, Switzerland
Two of our friends caught a flight out of Germany, but one stayed behind to join us for a few days in Switzerland. We had planned to spend a week driving around the country, with Zurich being our first stop.
Zurich is your typical big Swiss city—situated on a river, clean and quiet, and outrageously expensive. Starving after our long day of travel from Munich, we eyed each menu as we walked towards our hostel, skipping every $30 burger and $20 side salad. No surprise coming from the wealthiest city in Europe.
While we enjoyed the pleasant environment and crisp fall air, we didn’t come to Switzerland for its metropolitan areas. After a brief night in the city, we grabbed the keys to our freedom-mobile and headed for the mountains. For many countries, renting a car is the best way to explore, and Switzerland is no exception. The country is known for its having some of the most scenic train rides in the world, which we originally considered using instead, but those don’t go everywhere and they’re quite expensive. With an average cost of around $70 per day (including gas), renting a car (at least when there’s no snow on the roads) is a no brainer.
Day 188: Lake Lucerne > Lungern > Interlaken
Although Switzerland is small enough to drive from one side to the other in just a few hours, we had only a week to spend and too many places pinned on our map. We also had to drop our friend off at the Basel airport midway through, which meant we had to skip the southeastern portion of the country *cue the sad violins*
Not wanting to waste any time, we headed south towards Interlaken, passing through the lake regions of Lucerne and Lungern.
If we weren’t convinced before, these photos prove that the $1500 drone investment was worth every penny (and apparently they dropped the price!)
This gem of a village on Lake Lucerne (with no name on our map) had friendly goat photobombers:
And then there’s this one, just outside of Lungern:
The first thing you notice when in the countryside of Switzerland are the bells. All of the animals—the cows, sheep and goats—are outfitted with large bells around their necks. You can hear the distant ringing 24/7. It’s incredibly charming.
Day 1 of our road trip ended in Interlaken—a town nestled between two lakes.
The clouds cleared enough to reveal a cotton candy pink sky—a picture perfect backdrop for the countless paragliders floating about.
Paragliding is hugely popular in Switzerland—the sound of helicopters, and parachutes in the sky are about as common as birds in some places.
I can only imagine how incredible the view looks from above if this is how it looks from below.
^This was the view from our hostel. We paid $31 per bed in a dorm room with less than sanitary and comfortable conditions (think black mold in the shower, hard beds and multiple loud snorers)—but that’s the tradeoff for affordability in Switzerland.
Day 189: Lauterbrunnen > Thun > Bern > Basel
The next day, we found ourselves a short drive south of Interlaken—in the storybook land known as Lauterbrunnen.
I had pinned this location after seeing it all over Instagram… and it truly is the mecca of Switzerland. I can’t imagine it gets much better than this.
We climbed underneath a waterfall, watched the sunlight pierce the clouds to reveal a forest of orange and red trees, and I learned by accident that electric fences are no joke while trying to call a sheep over.
But man, it was worth it.
By the way—our drone takes some incredible photos, but you can also get pretty epic shots with an iphone as well. More than half the photos from this trip were from my iphone 6s plus, and I’ve taken a few comparison shots to illustrate the differences.
The iphone’s colors are less saturated and there’s less detail, which is a look that some people actually prefer. The biggest difference, of course, is the ability to shoot in raw and the flexibility that allows you in editing. For scenarios like portraits, interiors or up close subjects, you’d certainly need an SLR/4k equivalent for professional results, but I find that for landscape/outdoor shots (aside from an aerial perspective of course), I reach for my phone more often than not. I haven’t even taken my DSLR out of the bag since Greece.
Here’s a couple more examples… pretty dang close, no?
But back to Lauterbrunnen. My biggest regret is not being able to stay there longer—it was my favorite place we visited in Switzerland. If you’ve ever been to Yosemite National Park, the similarities are pretty striking, with steep cliffs and cascading waterfalls surrounding a narrow valley, and snow capped mountains in the distance. Except in Yosemite you don’t have pastures with cows and sheep in bells, with historic chalets and barns every few acres. Lauterbrunnen wins.
As much as I wanted to stay, daylight was wasting and we had to make it to Basel by nightfall, so we found another village by the name of Grindelwald, just ten miles to the east.
Another incredibly picturesque valley town, though much larger and less quaint than Lauterbrunnen.
We decided it wasn’t worth the $60 cable car ride to the top of the mountain (highway robbery) and set the drone out to get the views for us.
We ate a lunch of fruit, cheese and crackers in the parking lot (this was what we survived on all week to save money) before making our way back north.
After passing back through Interlaken, we stopped by the St. Beatus-Höhlen caves on the north side of Lake Thun.
The water level was on the low side so the waterfalls weren’t too impressive, and we spent an hour touring the caves inside the mountain after the mischievous gnome convinced us to go in.
By the time we emerged it was drizzling outside, so we made one more brief stop in the towns of Oberhofen and Thun to see the famous castles.
A successful Day 2 had come to an end, and we couldn’t wait to see what Day 3 had in store as we woke up before dawn for a full day of exploration.
Day 190: Gruyères > Zermatt
After dropping our friend off at the Basel airport on the border of France and Germany, it was back to just the two of us. We loved spending a week with our friends, but there’s a different dynamic traveling with only your partner, and we were ready for that again. After 190 days together with no breaks, we’ve only grown stronger… now that is true love 😉
Being in one of the most romantic places in the world doesn’t hurt either. Some might prefer exotic beaches or tropical islands… but there’s something about these towering mountains and chilly fall air that gives Switzerland the edge in the romance department. If you’re looking for a honeymoon destination that isn’t your typical beach locale, I’d put the Swiss alps on your radar.
Note that only the alps only run through the south of Switzerland, so if you’re thinking of coming here for the mountains (as you should), skip the north altogether.
After a couple hours on the road headed back towards the alps, the landscape began to become more mountainous, and the signs more… French. Just like the north of Italy may as well be Austria, the west part of Switzerland is indistinguishable from France.
Our first stop was in the town of Gruyères, famous for its gruyère cheese.
There’s an old walled village with a castle, which was dramatically revealed as we drove in through the valley, sitting atop a ridge surrounded by low lying clouds and pastures of cows.
For an hour we were transported back to our time in France, wandering through the old village of folks selling croissants and exchanging Bonjour’s and Merci’s.
But we couldn’t stay long, because the Matterhorn was waiting.
Out of all the pins I marked for this trip, I was most looking forward to seeing the Matterhorn. Perhaps partly due to fond memories of riding the attraction at Disney as a child, but also because I’m just a sucker for a good mountain. My friends—The Matterhorn delivered.
The town of Zermatt is the closest you can get to the mountain (without hiking to it, of course) so we booked an AirBnb with an unobstructed view. It’s a car-less town, so we parked in the nearest village of Täsch and took the train in.
Our AirBnb room (shared in a chalet with other rooms) is normally around $150/night but we had a $100 credit in our account. Best $50 ever spent.
We really lucked out on the weather—it had been cloudy all week, but the day we arrived the sun finally peaked out to reveal the mountain. The king sized bed and comforter were heavenly, and crawled out of bed only once to for a tasty Swiss dinner of raclette, cooked by our hosts.
Watching the sun set and rise over the mountain from our window was truly the most special experience during our time in Switzerland—and one of the most memorable from this entire trip. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, I urge you to not to miss this.
Another regret of mine is not being able to spend more time here. I would have loved to taken a cable car or hike closer to the mountain, but the day we left it was raining and we couldn’t afford to spend two more days in one location. Sadly, we had to say our goodbyes from the window of the train on the way back to Täsch.
Day 191: Zeneggen > Saint-Jean > La Gouille
Once reunited with our car, we decided to take a leisurely drive through the back roads to see what other small villages we could discover. Zeneggen was our first stop.
The winding, narrow switchbacks along the steep mountain were worth it. Behold, Switzerland in its full fall glory:
We parked the car and wandered through the villages one main road, without a single soul in sight… except this gang of llamas:
This one is my spirit animal:
And this posse of cows:
One of my favorite stops, for sure.
We made a quick detour through the next valley of Saint-Jean, then finally over to our final destination of La Gouille.
Apart from the beautiful fall colors, the great thing about visiting Switzerland in the fall is that it’s the off season, which means very few visitors. We only made contact with a few humans during the entire 24 hour period after leaving Zermatt.
I hope it stays this peaceful and untouched forever.
Day 192: Sion > Bagnes
Day 5 began with a dramatic view of the two castles of Sion, a larger city along the Rhone valley:
The sky dried up just long enough for us to snap a couple closeups from the air:
Our Airbnb for the night was located in Bagnes, in a valley at the base of the famous ski town of Verbier. It was easily one of our favorite places yet, and affordable too.
We spent the afternoon wandering around town, admiring the French chateaus and autumn landscape.
The clouds finally cleared out and we were able to get a birds eye view over the valley (just wait for the video!)
We cooked our own dinner and enjoyed it on the patio as the sun lit up the snow capped glaciers in the distance. It was our last night in the alps, and we soaked up every minute.
Day 193: Verbier > Aigle > Rivaz > Geneva
On our last day in Switzerland, we first made a quick stop in Verbier, which has an expansive view of the valley and mountains to the west.
Then it was all downhill from there—literally, not figuratively 😉
We passed the Pissevache waterfall, just north of Martigny (it was 60° and sunny at this point):
Then we took a detour in the town of Aigle, which fell on our radar after seeing a majestic castle surrounded by a vineyard. It was even more beautiful in person.
The whole village was almost too perfect for words. Red and golden leaves fell from the sky as we passed little French speaking children laughing and playing in the streets.
Each home had its own private vineyard and garden, and as we passed one with a For Sale sign I imagined us moving here. We’d immediately bear five children who each played a different instrument, spoke four different languages, wore ruffled dresses and leiderhosen and began and ended each sentence with “please” and “thank you”, respectively. Surely that’s what every Swiss family is like, right?
A girl can dream.
We continued north along Lake Geneva, which shares a border with France. A viewpoint sign caught our eye, so we pulled off the main road into the village of Rivaz.
Another picturesque little French-Swiss town, with vineyards and views for miles.
As late afternoon approached, it was time to end our Switzerland adventure and return the car to the Geneva airport. In a matter of hours we’d be on a completely different continent, exploring the wildly contrasting African country of Morocco. As always, a bittersweet ending to what was an unforgettable experience.
Switzerland, thank you for the fond memories. We can’t wait to come back for more!
Stay tuned for the upcoming video of our week long road trip, and check out my instagram stories for the current sensory overload we’re experiencing in Morocco. This place is the polar opposite of Switzerland, and there’s so much to share I can hardly keep up.
Only six more weeks left of this trip around the world…
Boarding a plane to leave Greece was probably our most difficult goodbye yet, but once in the air, we’re always excited and ready to embrace the new culture of the next country. Croatia was our next destination, with Dubrovnik as the first stop.
Known for being Kings Landing in the Game of Thrones TV show, the city is a quite a sight. Lucas is a huge fan of GoT and while I’ve never even seen one episode, I could still appreciate the architecture and scenery.
The old city is like an ancient fortress—situated along the gorgeous Croatian coast, topped with red tiled roofs and surrounded by high walls.
We stayed at a guest house in the old walled town and when it wasn’t raining, we walked the narrow alleyways and along the boundary walls for birds eye view of the city and surrounding islands.
One thing we were surprised to find was how expensive Dubrovnik was. Between lodging, food and drink, it was the most expensive city we’ve visited all year.
One recommendation that kept coming up for Dubrovnik was to go to Buža bar through the city wall for sunset. After a little wandering, we found the doorway through the wall that lead to the edge of the cliff. It was crowded with both tourists and locals, and we squeezed our way out onto the edge of a rock with the perfect view for the sunset.
With a beer and wine in hand, we sat and experienced the most amazing sunset we’ve seen on this trip. Words truly can’t describe the feeling in the air as the three masted ship cruised towards the sun.
Knowing that the previous sunset could never be topped, the next evening we hiked up to Mount Srd for an aerial view of the city and the coastline. While the sunset wasn’t quite as good, it was a great hike and the view was worth the effort.
Day 169: Montenegro
Dubrovnik is situated just hours from both Montenegro and Bosnia, so we had to at least take a day trip to one of those countries. Due to weather factors, we landed on Montenegro.
Montenegro was part of the six countries that made up the former Yugoslavia, and they only recently gained their independence from Serbia in 2006. It was a war torn area that is still trying to find its identity, but from the coastline to the beautiful towns it has a lot to offer.
We signed up for a day trip that left early in the morning from Dubrovnik, with the first stop being the small town of Perast. The views of this area instantly brought back memories of Lake Como and Lake Garda in northern Italy.
After a brief stop at a tiny church on an island, we were back on the bus heading towards Kotor.
Kotor was the main stop on the tour, and it did not disappoint. A quick hike up the wall overlooking the old town gave us an amazing view.
The biggest surprise of Kotor were the cats. Apparently they are known for their abundant and friendly stray cat population, which had us stopping every few minutes to swoon over a kitten.
Our final stop of the day was in Budva. After a quick lunch, we spent a few hours wandering around the old town and taking in the bay views. They even have their own island named Hawaii, which costs just $5 to get to (I wish the Hawaii in America was that cheap!)
It was a quick trip in Montenegro, but we are glad we didn’t miss the opportunity to see at least some of this beautiful country.
Day 170-173: Split & Hvar
The next day we boarded a bus to Split, and stayed just one night before catching a ferry the next day to Hvar.
One of the most popular stops out of the Croatian islands, Hvar is known for its nightlife and beautiful scenery. Unfortunately for us, the weather had started to cool off and the perfect beach/boating days were behind us. Still wanting to make the most of our time on the island, we rented a scooter to see what we could find.
Our first stop took us to the town of Stari Grad. Wandering the streets, we were pleasantly surprised by the old town, which had a different feel from what we had experienced so far.
The road traveling through the island gives breathtaking views as it winds through the hills. One of the more memorable scooter rides that we have had on this trip.
The day was completed with a few stops at the pebble beaches, which were beautiful, small, and not very crowded this time of year.
At some point during our stay in Croatia, we both felt that something was off. Months of being on the go with no break or sense of familiarity was finally starting to take a toll. No longer were we feeling excited or inspired to explore somewhere new—we needed to press pause and realign ourselves.
So that’s what we did. Instead of trying to cram as much sightseeing and traveling as possible into the next couple weeks, we picked a few places to stay for a while and rest. I finished both the Italy and Greece videos, and we didn’t research or plan activities for most days.
We stayed at hostels long enough to meet new friends and get to know them for longer than one night. We picked a wedding date, booked a venue and began to plan the details. With summer officially ending, we bought warm clothes and snuggled up to the sound of thunderstorms at night.
While we didn’t see a lot of Croatia during our time there, the long period of rest was just what the doctor ordered.
Day 174-177: Zadar
After leaving Hvar, we chose to split the rest of our time between Zadar and Zagreb.
Zadar is a quaint city with an old town that sticks out into the water. Famous for its sea organ (supposedly only one of three in the world) it boasts some old ruins and amazing sunsets.
One of the more unique features is an olympic sized swimming pool that is connected with the ocean. We spent one afternoon with some new travel friends just lounging while watching the waves crash into the pool and people jumping off the diving platforms.
And of course we had to check out the sea organ, which is a series of holes that when the waves crash into them it forces air through creating musical notes that come out of little openings in the sidewalk. It was mesmerizing to hear the random melody being played by the waves. Next to the organ was a series of solar panels underneath glass called ‘Greeting to the Sun’, which lights up at night with colorful patterns.
It’s amazing how quickly time goes by when you aren’t filling each day with new activities. A short five days after we had arrived, we were on the next bus up to the capital city of Zagreb.
Day 178-182: Zagreb & Plitvice Lakes
Zagreb tends to be a city travelers use as a hub for entering and exiting Croatia, rarely spending more than a day. We decided to spend our last five nights here before continuing on to Germany for Oktoberfest. And are we glad that we did!
The hostel we stayed at was was voted Croatia’s best, with a great social vibe and beautiful patio garden bar. We met several new friends, and even ran across people we had met in Zadar.
Zagreb itself is a newer city that has a distinct modern feel throughout the majority of it. Between the central train station and main square, it felt like any other major city with a grittier, Eastern European feel.
To be honest, I didn’t think much of the city until we went on the walking tour and explored the old city. The stories from our guide and the unique architecture from the buildings that still remain after war and earthquakes instantly changed my perspective.
We even watched the daily cannon fire and saw the ceremonial changing of the guards.
An ornate cathedral (the tallest building in Croatia) stands on one hill, while a unique church with a tiled roof sits on another. This was easily my favorite building from the walking tour (which I’d highly recommend!)
On our last day we took a trip to the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is the second most visited location in Croatia after Dubrovnik. It is a gorgeous preserve filled with lakes and thousands of waterfalls.
With the recent rains, the water was flowing strong and seemed to fall from the foliage at every turn.
We spent five hours and several miles wandering through the trails, seeking out the best views. My biggest regret is not staying in a hotel near the park so I could wake up early and spend a full day there. For both of us, it was the highlight of Croatia.
After spending over two weeks in the country, we have a great appreciation for Croatia and would love to return in the height of summer to experience more of its famous islands.
As I write this, we’re on a bus to Switzerland after a lively few days in Germany for Oktoberfest. We’re about to enter some of the most beautiful scenery on earth, and I’ll be sharing live updates on my Instagram stories and Snapchat! Follow along @jennasuedesign, and soon I’ll be back with another blog recap of Germany and Switzerland.
Out of all the places I’ve traveled, Greece spoke to me like no other. It comes as no surprise then that this was also my favorite video to put together (Click to watch):
I have to give most of the credit to the song, which I fell in love with the moment I heard it months ago and knew I wanted to do something with it (JT can do no wrong!)
Greece was the perfect location to shoot this, and I hope you enjoy watching as much as I enjoyed creating it.
In a few days we’re catching a bus from Zagreb to Munich, and meeting up with a few friends before we spend our last couple weeks in Europe. We’re finally feeling some cold fall weather here in Croatia… and as a warm weather girl, I’m actually enjoying the change!
Still posting more frequent updates on my instagram stories if you wanna stop by and say hello there, and let me know what you think of the latest video! Cheers to settling into this new season…
Eight weeks ago we rented a car in Milan and embarked on a 30 day adventure that would take us on a 2000km journey around Italy.
In 30 days we saw everything from Lake Como & Garda, to the Dolomites, Venice, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi Coast, Matera and Alberobello, Tropea, the beaches and countryside of Sicily and countless hidden gems in between.
It was an unforgettable trip, and I pushed myself further into the video editing process to reflect both the chaos and beauty of this country that holds so much history. This film certainly took the most effort yet, after shooting for a solid month and sorting through hours of footage. I really hope you enjoy this one! Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on youtube, instagram or facebook.
I’m just now starting on the Greece video, and will be taking a short break from shooting during the rest of our time in Europe to catch my breath. Morocco is coming up in October, and I have a feeling that is going to be a special one!
We’re currently in Croatia, working our way north to Munich over the next couple weeks. This part of the world has surprised me with its beauty, and I’ve been sharing live photos & videos on my instagram stories. Come see what we’re getting up to and say hello!
If there were a heaven on earth, it would surely have been created by the Greek Gods. Turns out this place does exist, and it can be found in the islands of Greece.
We landed in Athens after a short flight from Malta, where we planned to stay just a couple nights before catching a ferry to Milos.
With Greece’s capital city so deeply rooted in history, I expected it to be more along the lines of Rome—rich in culture with an abundance of ruins, museums and sightseers.
Instead, it felt more like a sprawling modern city with rows of trendy restaurants and shops. There was no shortage of charming streets lined with bars and cafes, and the dinner/nightlife scene was one of the best I’ve seen anywhere.
On the first night we hiked up to the viewpoint at Lykavitos hill for sunset. With an unobstructed view of the Acropolis surrounded by a glowing sprawling city, sea and the sun setting over distant islands, it was pure magic. This photo does it no justice, but it’s hands down the best vantage point in Athens.
Visiting the Acropolis up close? Not quite as spectacular. Most of the ruins had been rebuilt or were currently under construction, and while the scale of the monuments were impressive, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Forum in Rome which we both found far more interesting. To us, the Acropolis wasn’t worth the €20 entrance fee, especially when you can see it all from the top of the hill next to it for free.
Our best moments in Athens were spent at the restaurants. I’d been anxiously awaiting healthy Greek cuisine after months of pasta and carbs, and this country does not disappoint. Since Day 1 we haven’t had a mediocre meal, and we’ve eaten our weight in greek yogurt, honey and Greek salads on a daily basis—it never gets old!
With only two nights in Athens, we barely scratched the surface. My overall impression is that it’s a wonderful place to eat, shop, and get an introduction to Greek hospitality. If you’re coming all the way to Greece though, you’d be remiss not to visit the places that make this country one of the most loved in the world—the islands.
Day 155-159: Milos
Milos was brought to our attention by more than one traveler we’d met over the past several months. They praised the island for its natural beauty and simple way of life. Largely untouched by technology and tourism, this small destination is ideal for a peaceful and more local Greek experience. It’s so local that the streets have no names, which makes giving directions tricky as every house is “the white one with the blue door.” But every one of its 5,000 inhabitants knows everyone else, so somehow it works.
The beaches are Milos’ claim to fame, so we found the top rated boat tour on Trip Advisor and squeezed in at the last minute after a cancellation. How lucky we were, as it ended up being our favorite experience in Greece.
There was a small group of us, mostly couples, including awesome newlyweds from Washington DC who we bonded with right away.
Our captain Elias was welcoming, full of energy and took us to the best spots while teaching us of their history along the way. It was a very windy day with a chilly ocean, but the water was crystal clear and made for great cave exploring and snorkeling.
We cruised by a handful of other boats including an enormous fancy yacht, hoping John Stamos would come out and start feeding us Oikos yogurt. Sadly, no such luck, but our captain had prepared his own gourmet feast on board. Greek salads with fresh veggies from his family’s garden, homemade wine his Uncle made, fresh shrimp and octopus they’d caught and grilled on board, and bottomless bottles of Ouzo. We toasted and danced in circled around the boat as Elias shared jokes and stories of Greece.
Another full day was spent on an ATV—apart from a boat, it’s hands down the best way to explore the island. Many of the roads are dirt and some beaches only accessible by off roading.
We covered a lot of ground, driving past tiny churches and men walking their goats, stopping all along the coast and visiting each village. Sarakiniko is the top rated beach, and reminded us a lot of Sicily’s Scala dei Turchi with its white glacier-like cliff formations.
Every beach offered something unique, from private black sand coves to an abandoned sulphur mine with red cliffs and sand.
A small fishing village by the name of Klima stood out with its brightly painted homes lining the waterfront.
Plaka, the main town near our hotel, was full of charm with classic Greek streets covered in outlined stone and pink bougainvilleas overhead.
At sunset, everyone climbs to the top of the church to watch the fiery orange ball dip behind distant islands and the white buildings light up below. Greece has some of the best sunsets.
Milos was our first spotting of the famous blue domes. The mostly barren landscape is dotted with tiny blue and white domed churches, and I couldn’t get enough.
The abundance and location of these churches are a bit baffling to us—there must be one church built for every few people, and many are built into the mountain accessible only by a small overgrown path in the middle of nowhere. And they’re always empty. Who is going to these churches? Regardless, they’re fun to admire and a big part of Greece’s unique charm.
On this sleepy island, our nightly entertainment consisted of watching kittens play in the street and staring at the harvest moon from our balcony. But our last night in Milos, we found out the locals were having their official end of summer celebration known as the Fire Festival. Our new honeymooner friends from D.C. invited us to join them, and we followed the sound of music until arriving at the town square.
Packed with locals, we were among just a few tourists to show up. Before long, we were joining hands and dancing around in a circle as a live band played traditional music in the main square until the wee morning hours.
Greek tradition says that if you jump across the fire three times, you’ll bring the heat of summer with you and stay warm all winter. Everyone from toddlers to the elderly took their turn, so of course we had to participate! Lucas singed some hair off but hey, it’ll grow back.
The festival was one of our most memorable nights of our entire trip, and the perfect note to end our five days in Milos.
Day 160-162: Santorini
No trip to Greece is complete without a visit to Santorini. A caldera formed by an ancient volcano, Santorini is only around 10 miles wide so we planned for just three nights to explore.
Being one of the most desirable vacation destinations in the world comes at a cost that is not backpacker budget friendly, so we found a hotel on the southern tip of the island for a very reasonable $60/night. It was in the middle of nowhere (think fields of donkeys), but at least it had a heart shaped pool…
Like most places in Greece, ATV’s are the best way to see the island. We spent our first day cruising through the rocky landscape, pulling over at cliffs to admire the expansive view across the bay, and checking out some of the lesser known beaches.
Let’s be clear on one thing: Santorini is not known for its beaches. The volcanic land is comprised of black sand, red cliffs and rocky shores of ash and stone. Beautiful in their own way, but not the inviting turquoise waters of neighboring islands.
What Santorini does best is picturesque cliffside villages. The blue domes of Oìa have become the official symbol of Greece, and for good reason. We spent two evenings walking through the main cities of Thira and Oìa, and as breathtaking as they are in photos, they’re even more romantic in person.
Thira is the largest town on the island and known to be the liveliest, but isn’t quite as photogenic as Oìa. It’s also much less crowded, which makes it worth a sunset visit.
For our last night, we booked an Airbnb for $95 in Finikia, a quiet village just outside of Oìa—where you can’t get a room for triple that price. We loved that it was a cave house, which is a common thing to find here.
The discounted price was the trade off for a 20 minute hike uphill to get to Oìa, and once we spent some time walking around, we realized why people pay the steep price tag to stay there.
As soon as dusk approaches, the narrow streets are packed with people clamoring to get a photograph and shoving their way up the hill to catch the perfect view of sunset. Oìa is a small place, and most of the roads along the main cliff are accessible only to hotel guests. Those hotel rooms are prime real estate and the best place to view the town or snap that coveted photo. Many rooftop restaurants are fully reserved or won’t let you in unless you order dinner, so unless you are splurging on a hotel room, reserve a table ahead of time or claim a spot along the wall hours in advance, you won’t get to experience Santorini in its full sunset or sunrise glory (and take that iconic postcard photo). And it’s popular for a reason!
We opted out of fighting through the sunset crowds and instead snapped a few photos while it was still bright outside. Fortunately, it’s hard to take a bad photo of this place…
After sunset, we had dinner plans with our honeymooner friends whom we’d met in Milos, and they invited us back to their luxury suite for a drink first. Lucky us! It was fun to see how the other half lives and get a taste of what we were missing out on. If you have the means, staying in the heart of Oìa is certainly the best way to do it. We still had an absolutely wonderful and memorable time on a budget, and now have one more reason to work extra hard towards our goals so we can come back and splurge one day 🙂
Day 163-165: Paros
Our final stop in Greece was an island by the name of Paros—a last minute decision after seeing a photo of it on Instagram.
It was a short ferry trip from Santorini, promised beautiful beaches and had an airport to get us back to Athens, and that was all it took to make up our mind.
Plain and unassuming on the outside, Paros lacks the dramatic cliff coastline of Santorini, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. Just beyond the ferry port lies a hidden gem waiting to be discovered…
I was pleasantly surprised by the quaintness of the main town, Parikia, and it’s narrow streets lined with upscale boutiques and shops. You could get lost meandering through the passageways of white and blue buildings, covered with bougainvilleas in every color. Every new corner was another picture perfect scene.
One day in an ATV is all that’s needed to circle the perimeter of the island and discover the best spots. We even made two new mini horse friends along the way—Milky and Muffin:
The village of Lefkes, nestled in a valley in the center of the island, was perhaps the most picturesque of them all. We ended up walking there after our ATV died and left us stranded, stopping for a Greek salad at an empty cafe overlooking the countryside and sea.
We walked past a house with a rooftop balcony and sea view selling for €110k… it took everything I had to not call them up and make an offer.
Fortunately we got a replacement ATV and finished circling the perimeter of Paros before the days’ end, stopping at a handful of gorgeous beaches.
To reach the best swimming spots, we also booked a full day boat trip around the neighboring island of Antiparos.
Our boat crew brought out instruments, playing acoustic Greek music as they cooked up a mouthwatering buffet of local foods. Antiparos has some of the best water in the Aegean sea.
Our last night was bittersweet as I could have stayed for weeks more, island hopping and finding new treasures that are plentiful in every one of Greece’s 6,000 islands.
Between the incredible beaches, delicious food, charming blue and white palette, abundance of cats and the welcoming people—this country and culture speaks to me in a way that no other has. I’m pretty sure I was Greek in another life. If there’s anyone from Greece reading this, can you adopt us? Not even kidding. We’ll work for food.
Four islands down, only 5,996 more to go… Greece, we’re coming back for you!
As I type this now, we’ve just landed in Dubrovnik, Croatia where we plan to spend the next 17 days working our way up to Germany for Oktoberfest. We spent so much time out and about in Greece that I’m backed up with video editing, but I plan to take some time to pause and finally finish the Italy video within the next week (I’m really pushing my editing skills with this one, so hopefully it’s worth the wait!)
As always, you can connect with me as I share our adventures on my instagram stories and facebook, as well as the occasional snapchat @jennasuedesign. Less than three months to go on this round the world trip of ours… hope you’re still enjoying the recaps, photos and videos! Let me know if you have any questions/comments and I’m happy to answer anything about our experience! Signing off now, time to go catch my first Croatian sunset…
Eight weeks ago we rented a car in Milan and embarked on a 30 day adventure that would take us on a 2000km journey around Italy.
In 30 days we saw everything from Lake Como & Garda, to the Dolomites, Venice, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi Coast, Matera and Alberobello, Tropea, the beaches and countryside of Sicily and countless hidden gems Read More »
Day 149-150: Athens
If there were a heaven on earth, it would surely have been created by the Greek Gods. Turns out this place does exist, and it can be found in the islands of Greece.
We landed in Athens after a short flight from Malta, where we planned to stay just a couple nights before catching a ferry to Milos.
With Greece's capital city so deeply rooted inRead More »
Day 146-148: Malta
Truth be told—a few months ago I wouldn't have been able to point to Malta on a map. It wasn't until we met two Maltese girls while traveling in Peru back in May that the country was put on our radar. Thanks to random encounters like these while traveling, we've been able to experience a completely new land and culture that we would have otherwiseRead More »
Day 137: Naples > Capri
After finally getting our first taste of authentic Italy during those few days in Rome, we boarded a southbound train to Naples.
Northern Italy has beautiful sights—from the alps to the Tuscan countryside, the Mediterranean coastline to Venice—it's not to be missed.
But Southern Italy? That's where the soul is. I felt it from the day weRead More »
Day 129: San Gimignano > Siena
Our quick stop in Florence ended with an unexpected surprise as I was handed the keys to a free car rental upgrade:
We excitedly hopped inside our new turbocharged Fiat Spider, whom I named Frances (after the leading lady in Under the Tuscan Sun, naturally), and headed south.
Rome would be our final destination with Frances, and Read More »
Day 121-122: Venice
Five days after we'd picked up the keys to our Fiat in Milan, the first and memorable leg of our Italian road trip had come to an end in Venice.
We were warned about the comedown effect of leaving such a breathtaking and peaceful part of the world, only to jump in to the touristic chaos of one of Italy's top destinations, and we were prepared.Read More »
Day 116-117: Milan > Lake Como
After having the time of our lives road tripping through France, we decided to do the same for Italy. We plan to break it up to segments between the major city stops of Venice, Florence, Rome and Sicily.
The first leg of our adventure began in Milan with our next rental car, Franzi the Fiat. Loaded up and ready to go, we headed norRead More »
After days of filming and hours of editing, I think we've made our favorite video yet (I know I've said that before, but this one was definitely the most fun!) Click below to watch our journey through France:
If you missed the blog recaps, make sure to catch up on Part 1 and Part 2. France was much more than the countryside and castles we'd expected, and we hopRead More »
Day 108: Carcassone > Albi > Peyre > Millau
Still riding our high from an incredible two days in Carcassonne, it was time once again to hit the road. With no specific destination or accommodations booked, we quickly googled a few places on the map headed towards the ones that caught our eye.
Heading north, we passed through rolling hills blanketed in fielRead More »
Day 94-96: Seville
We last left off in our final day in Portugal as we crossed the border via bus to Spain. Our first stop was Seville, which was a last minute change of plans as I needed a few urgent legal documents notarized (tip: don’t ever sell a house while overseas!)
Most of our time in Seville was spent dealing with notary/embassy/shipping issues, unRead More »
Even with two blog posts filled with 2000 words and countless photos, Portugal needs much more to do it justice. You need to feel the energy of thousands dancing in the streets of Porto, hear the waves crashing against the cliffs of the Algarve, taste the fresh Sangria in Lisbon and watch fog swirl around the medieval castletops of Sintra.
While I wish I could reacRead More »
Day 89: Sintra, Portugal
After a wild weekend in Porto, we landed back in Lisbon to rest up for the night before stepping back in time to a magical land...
Whether you like pretending you are a princess or a knight, castles bring out the child in all of us. Europe is known for having some spectacular castles, and Sintra Portugal is home to a few exceptional onRead More »
Day 82-84: Lisbon, Portugal
After a short but sweet ten days back home to celebrate an engagement, birthday and wedding, we were on a plane once again—bound for Portugal.
Our first stop to begin five months of backpacking across Europe, Lisbon is Portugal's capital city and we had high expectations after hearing countless raving reviews.
Jet lagged from a full daRead More »
Hello from Portugal! We arrived last week and have already fallen in love with this country. I’ve been sharing parts of our experience on my Instagram stories, and I’ll be back soon with a more in depth blog post.
But first: I’ve had a ton of requests asking how I pack for these extended trips, what items/bags I use, how I decide what to bring, etc. Last week IRead More »
In my last two posts, I shared many stories and photos from our three weeks in Colombia—from the mountains of Medellin, to volcanic baths and unspoiled islands, to coffee plantations, national parks and bustling cities on the Caribbean. It's one of our favorite countries for so many reasons, and now it's captured forever in a 3 minute video.
Click below to watch ouRead More »
Day 58-60: Rincon Del Mar
On Sunday morning we bid our friends farewell and caught a cab to the local Montería bus station. Chelsie and Kon had taken the bus to Rincon Del Mar the weekend before and raved about it as one of Colombias best kept local secrets.
We'd been long overdue for a beach fix, so we booked a couple nights there on our way to Cartagena.
After Read More »
Day 49-52: Medellín, Colombia
Our day started early in the morning in Quito as we had to leave the hostel at 6am to take the hour long ride to the airport (having airports an hour plus ride away from the city center seems to be a recurring theme in South America). Today was a travel day to begin our adventure in Colombia, the final leg of South America.
It was a Read More »