Thinking Of Travelling? | San Pedro: Chile

SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA

On arriving in the small town of San Pedro, it’s difficult to imagine that this bizarre and empty looking place could be one of the most fun, liveliest and action packed towns that you’ll visit in your travels around Chile. Immediately you’ll be struck by the desert surroundings of… well absolutely nothing and the ground and the oddly shaped buildings all seem to blend into one. However if you give San Pedro a chance and step through one of the uniform looking doors, you’ll arrive in an exotic and crazy world. The first door I opened led me into an incredibly atmospheric and hugely crowded open roofed restaurant with a gigantic fire pit right in the middle and live Chilean musicians playing and dancing between tables. The next matching door opened up into the cutest, tiny market with every single kind of souvenir you could think of – from alpaca ponchos to hand made water bottle holders.

With backpacker crammed hostels, delicious food, buzzing bars, tourist information and hourly tours into the desert, San Pedro definitely makes true the saying “never judge a book by it’s cover” and once you arrive in this wonderfully bizarre town, you’ll never want to leave.

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Places to Stay:

Hostal Rural – There was absolutely no doubt that this hostel would be our top choice when visiting San Pedro. With a rustic and rural vibe, 4-6 bed dorms, reading pits, extremely friendly staff and tour discounts, it’s obvious as to why Hostal Rural is always fully booked. In a quiet location only 30 meters from the main and central street and with the words “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page” printed on their wall, this hostel is perfect for those who wish to explore the Atacama Desert to it’s fullest.

Hostel Mamatierra – If a quiet desert escape was what you were searching for in visiting the Atacama Desert, then this hostel is ideal. Located 6 blocks away from the central area of the town, the hostel has a peaceful and relaxed vibe, with an outdoor area full of hammocks and comfy seats to enjoy the desert sunshine.

Things To Do:

Visit the Salt Flats

This is the main reason that most people visit San Pedro, in order to see and experience the incredible Salt Flats. San Pedro town is the starting point for the world famous Salt Flats tour into Bolivia where, as well as passing hot springs, geysers, desert land, frozen lakes and a cactus island, you spend a day in the incredible Salt Flats and can have your chance to take the world famous salt flat photos. The smaller Atacama Salt Flats are also accessible on a one-day tour, as they are located just south of the town.

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Star Gazing

Voted the number one place in the world to star gaze, the Atacama Desert is filled with different astronomical lookout points with huge telescopes waiting to show you Jupiter and its rings, the southern cross, shooting stars and a ginormously close moon in all its glory.

(Photo below taken by my iPhone!)

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Geysers

‘El Tatio Geysers’ is a geothermal field located 4200 meters above sea level. The journey to visit them is quite long but SO worth it. Leaving at 4am you’ll arrive at the geysers just as the sun rises and the steaming craters, producing huge puffs of smoke, glow orange and red with the morning light. It’s absolutely freezing at that hour of the morning in the middle of the desert, but stand up close to one of the geysers and you’ll be warm in no time.

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Hot Springs

 The volcanic hot springs in the Atacama Desert are a gorgeous 30 degrees Celsius with different waterfalls and pools within them. The hot water comes from the Puritama river and the springs are hidden in a small but beautiful, natural canyon.

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Moon Valley

 The valley of the moon is one of the closer wonders within the Atacama Desert. Located in the Cordillera de la sal, it is famous because its whole surface is uncannily similar to that of the moon. Full of exciting hidden caves, moon like craters and a huge sand dune from which you can appreciate a stunning view of the valley.

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Sand Boarding

The best known place in the world for practicing this sport is ‘Valle de la Muerte’ or death valley, located in the Atacama Desert, but don’t let this name put you off. With the desert full of brilliant sand dunes of different colours and textures, the steep slopes allow those who want to, to strap on a board, reach extreme speeds and enjoy the buzz of sand boarding. You can also practice this sport by starlight as the brilliant night sky, lights up the sand dunes.

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Desert Party

 Every Saturday night in the town of San Pedro there is a huge desert party. With only the locals knowing the different destination each week, you really do need to ask around to secure a friend to take you there (hostel staff will be more than willing to take to you to experience the real San Pedro night life.) With a make shift bar, huge speakers and crowds of people dancing under the stars, this really is once in a lifetime party to remember.

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Explore the desert

If you don’t feel like taking an organized excursion, it is so easy to simply hire a bike in town and ride into the desert to explore it yourself! There are bike trails and paths and you could even strap a sand board to your bike and try out the sport on the local sand dunes, just be sure to take a map and be back before it gets dark!

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Places to Eat:

Restaurant Blanco – With the best food in town, ‘Blanco’ is definitely one to try out. Right on the corner of Caracoles street in the middle of town, it’s sophisticated all white décor and original delicious recipes attract both tourists and locals, filling up the restaurant every night. The staff are friendly and the meals are inspired by the owner’s travels around the globe.

Café Adobe – This is definitely one of the most popular places in San Pedro in the evenings. It offers delicious Chilean and international cuisine dishes on tables set around a huge bonfire, with the walls covered with pottery and paintings from L Mano Arte.

Tierra, Todo NaturalThis is the only all-natural food restaurant in San Pedro de Atacama, specializing in empanadas, pizzas and pastries all prepared using natural wheat flour. Its flavours have transformed Tierra, a long with it’s natural juices and nutritional breakfast, perfect to enjoy on the restaurant’s sunny terrace.

Getting There:

San Pedro is located 1.670 kms north from Santiago de Chile. To get there first you have to reach Calama, the nearest city, which is connected to San Pedro by a highway with breathtaking views.

The fastest way to reach Calama is by plane and then from there you can get a 20 hour bus or hire a car for journey. For those who chose the adventure of driving to San Pedro, you have to take Route 5, the Panamericana Norte. I would recommend splitting the journey in two as it is very long. The first stop at Caldera (870 km) or Bahía Inglesa and then continue the next day directly to Calama (800 km), where you can then stop again before setting off down Route 5.

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Enjoy!

Follow Steph and more of her travel adventures:

Instagram: steph_parrott

 Blog: www.parrottone.com


For more travel ideas click below:

Thinking of Travelling? | Bruges

Thinking of Travelling? | Australia

Thinking of Travelling? | Paris

Thinking of Travelling? | Ski Season

Thinking of Travelling? | Cape Town


Thinking of Travelling? | Bruges

If you set out to design a fairy-tale medieval town, it would be hard to improve on central Bruges. Picturesque cobbled lanes and dreamy canals link photogenic market squares lined with soaring towers, historic churches and old whitewashed almshouses. And there’s plenty of it.

Despite all the recent chaos that has been said on the news about Belgium this did not affect our trip to Bruges in any way. In fact it probably made it nicer as the overcrowded streets and queues of tourists were no where to be seen. We had a perfect weekend, beautiful weather and absolutely loved the magical town of Bruges.

So if you’re thinking of travelling here is my advice:

Go at Christmas

Bruges really is a magical city, especially in the heart winter when its cobbled streets are alive with festivities, glowing with Christmas lights on every building, draped over every tree and decorating every street. It reminded me of a skiing village. To add to the atmosphere, an ice rink is built on the Bruges Market Square close to the many food and festive gift stalls, which offer traditional seasonal delights.

Christmas market dates: 22nd November 2015 – 2nd January 2016

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Canal Tour

Taking a Canal Tour is a must. Yep, it’s touristy, but what isn’t in Bruges? Viewing the city from the water gives it a totally different feel than by foot. Cruise down Spiegelrei towards Jan Van Eyckplein and it’s possible to imagine Venetian merchants entering the city centuries ago and meeting under the slender turret of the Poortersloge building up ahead. The tour man knows everything there is to know about the town, providing every little detail and speaking in every language to make the trip memorable and entertaining for everyone.

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Beer Experience

For our beer experience in Bruges we chose to vist ‘De Halve Maan Brewery‘ to taste the local beer and warm up by the open fire.  For centuries the Maes family has been brewing beer on the Walplein in Bruges. The history of the brewery is contained in a unique museum which is said to be very insightful and entertaining… but we skipped this and went straight to the bar instead.

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Hot Chocolate Tea Room

I am not normally a fan of recommendations when it comes to Trip Advisor but I have to say they definitely were not wrong by titling Tea-Room De Proeverie as ‘The Best Hot Chocolate in Bruges!’ – it really was one of the highlights of my trip. You get a mug of steaming hot milk and a pot of melted dark chocolate along with a pot of cream as well as a couple of chocolates to have with it, and just in case that wasn’t enough we ordered salted caramel waffles on the side. YUM.

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Dinner: Night 1

Right in the heart of Bruges Cafedraal is the place for tasty French-Belgian cuisine, with an independent streak and a passion for regional products.

Here you can eat both seasonal and local with dishes that are prepared out of a love for the job. Some of their delicacies. North Sea cod. Small Dover sole. Asparagus. Endives. A home-made steak tartare. Or even a dish which incorporates the local Brugse Zot beer?

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Dinner: Night 2:

At the end of 2001, “petit” Line and “Grand” Tom opened their cosy grill-restaurant named Au Petit Grand in a side street of the Bruges market square. The restaurant has become a well known address in a short period of time. The interior is warm and cosy a perfect little romantic restaurant for two.

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Where to stay:

The weekend away we decided to stay at the Grand Hotel Casselbergh. Centrally located, at just 150 metres from the Burg and the Main Market Square. This unique hotel is a perfect blend of historic and modern luxury. The hotel was ideal: with a big welcoming lounge covered in Christmas decorations, open fires, buffet breakfast and underground parking for my little car what more could we need.

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For more travel ideas click below:

Thinking of Travelling? | Australia

Thinking of Travelling? | Paris

Thinking of Travelling? | Ski Season

Thinking of Travelling? | Cape Town


Thinking of Travelling? | Cape Town

Thinking of Travelling… Visit Cape Town

Cape Town is a city close to my heart and after spending time there year after year, there are certain things to do that we’ve either discovered and love, or are old favourites that you just can’t miss if you ever get the chance to travel to the beautiful cape.

1. Walking up Lions Head

Stunning panoramic views over Cape Town

Although taking the cable car up table mountain is an experience in itself, the short hour walk to the top of Lion’s head is filled with 360 degree views over the whole city, along with exciting step ladders and ropes to help with the climb and once at the top, an absolutely stunning view over the whole city, including the beautiful table mountain, standing strong. If you are visiting over a ‘full moon’ then climbing Lions Head on this night is an absolutely must. Hundreds if not thousands of people scramble their way to the top to catch a glimpse of Cape Town under the light of a the full moon. An adventure you have to experience.

Or better still walk up Lions head and paraglide down!

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2. The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Beautiful walks and picnics

This world-renowned botanical garden is nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain. It lives up to it’s reputation as the most beautiful garden in Africa and not many others around the world can match the sheer grandeur of the national reserve against the slopes of the mountain.

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3. Boulders Beach

Swim with penguins

This really is a place for all the family, with wooden board-walks built up across the penguins home, you can watch them living their lives, building nests, integrating with mates, you can even see the eggs hatch if you’re there in the right season. Then at Boulder’s Beach, where you can sunbath, rock climb and swim in the sea, the penguins are free to roam around so you might even get the luck chance to swim with the penguins.

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4. The Old Biscuit Mill

Food, shops, restaurants and market

Located in Woodstock in buzzy downtown Cape Town, The Old Biscuit Mill really is the place to be on any evening of the week as it is filled with both local and Michelin star restaurants, ready to tickle your fancy. Along with this, is the Saturday morning buzz of all the local produce and restaurants arriving to set up their stands and fill the area with mini cafes, hot and cold food stalls, along with biltong making, chocolate tasting, soap trying, vegetable markets, you name it, it’s there on a Saturday morning.

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5. Long Street

For the Nightlife – clubs and bars

Long Street is the backpacker central of Cape Town, it is buzzy and loud and full of exciting atmosphere. With famous hostels all along the street and crazy pubs and bars on every corner, it is the young soul of Cape Town and the place to be when travelling.

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6. Noordhoek Beach

Windy walks and kite flying

As you probably know, sometimes in Cape Town the weather can be hit and miss and when the winds come, they come in strong, and when this happens there is no where better to be that Noordhoek beach. The vast stretch of white sand is perfect for long walks but even better for kite

flying. We have huge 3 meter trick kites that lift you off the ground and fill up a whole day with fun-filled activity.

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7. Camps Bay

Evening drinks at sunset

Camps Bay, along with being an the ideal beach location, with the sun staying shining on the sand until late, is also a great evening destination. Camps Bay high street runs along side the beach with bars and restaurants looking over the vast ocean, absolutely perfect for watching the sunset in the evening with a glass of wine. All the restaurants are always full so the atmosphere is always on point and the seafood couldn’t be fresher.

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8. Moyo

Chance to be African

For a real African adventure, there is no where better to go than to Blouberg to experience ‘Moyo’, a night of live African music, where your tables are built high up in the trees and the buffet of delicious African cuisine is never ending. You’ll be taken to your treetop table, have your hands washed in hot water, your faces painted in tribal style and then, your African experience begins…

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9. Robben Island

To get a sense of the real culture

In order to get a true representation of the history of such a country, you have to explore back to its roots and for South Africa, this Island located in Table Bay, is hugely significant both to the nation and it’s people. Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison, and visiting this tiny cell and the rest of the prison island will allow you a true insight into South Africa’s struggles.

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10.  Table Mountain

Everyone has to be a tourist at some point

Its on everyone’s list of ‘things to do in Cape Town’ but it really is an opportunity that you can not miss out on. Take the 360 degree cable car up the side of the mountain to reach the table top. Leisurely walk around and explore the wildlife and take in the views of the surrounding Cape. The best time to go is just before sunset. Take a picnic and watch the sun go from the top of the mountain and Cape Town transform from day to night.

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Follow Steph and more of her travel adventures:

 Thinking of Travelling: Paris

 Thinking of Travelling: Australia

Thinking of Travelling: Ski Season

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 Blog: www.parrottone.com


Thinking Of Travelling? | Ski Season

Thinking of Doing a Ski Season?

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If you love the snow like me and can’t get enough of the thrill of arriving at the top of a mountain, overlooking the vast valleys and forests covered in snow, only to whizz down on two skis, the wind in your hair, shredding up the powder… then why wouldn’t you go to a ski resort for a whole season (over three months) and get to do something you love, everyday? All while earning money. Sounds like a no brainer to me…

Reasons you should…

* The snow and the mountains aren’t going anywhere over the winter season so you can ski literally everyday, the only way it’s not too expensive is on a season.

* You get the opportunity of meeting new and exciting people who are there for exactly the same reason as you… you’re bound to get along.

* Experience a different world. The lands of ski resorts are truly magical places and as well as experiencing a different country, you also get to experience a new lifestyle.

* Explore a different career path. Whether it’s in instructing, chalet hosting, bar work or mountain help, the career opportunities at ski resorts are vast and there’s something for everyone.

Reasons you shouldn’t…

* Although while on a season you will be working, this isn’t the place to go if you’re planning on saving up money. Inevitably you will be spending what you earn on accommodation, food and the ever so famous après-ski.

* The hours are long. If you’re looking to escape from busy work life and relax in the mountains, that could be possible with a few of the jobs, however most involve long hours and as soon as you’ve got a minute off you’ll be busy skiing or drinking.

* Staff accommodation isn’t any four star hotel. If you’re looking for a homely home of luxury during your season then think again, staff accommodation is cheap and crowded, but loads and loads of fun.

Whistler

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For my ski season, I went to Whistler, Canada – the home of the winter Olympics last year and renowned for big downfalls of snow, and huge amounts of powder. Being from the UK, and growing up learning to ski in Europe, I wanted to try something different and experience a whole new world of skiing – and in Canada everything is so much bigger! The slopes are hugely wide and long, which makes time spent on lifts during the day so much shorter. The terrain suits anyone’s style, with huge pisted tracks, tricky tree runs, mogule race fields, terrain parks with jumps and boxes, there’s literally everything and more in the whistler ski resort and that’s not including the thousands and thousands of acres of back country and off piste to be explored.  Although there’s a no drinking on the slopes law, it doesn’t stop the après being wild, with hundreds of famous hang out bars at the bottom of the slopes, waiting for you to finish your day with a giant plate of nachos and a bar-side ski shot race. Whistler really was a whole new fantasy world to me, with the resort village coming to life at night, full of not only restaurants, bars and shops, but ice rinks, bungee jumps and fire shows on the slopes at night.

My time in Whistler was one of the best times of my life and I really don’t think the experience that I had would have been the same in any other resort.

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Follow Steph and more of her travel adventures:

 Thinking of Travelling: Paris

 Thinking of Travelling: Australia

 Instagram: steph_parrott

 Blog: www.parrottone.com