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Top 10 photo spots in Paris: best locations for the perfect pictures!

Local’s guide to top monuments and spots to get perfect pictures in Paris with details of metro stops which will get you to each of the mentioned locations.

Paris is a dream destination for many and undoubtedly it’s one of the most romantic and creative cities that exist in this world. Having lived and studied in France for half a year (still didn’t master the French language and yes, people like me do exist in this world :D), I have been to Paris many times now and have been strolling around both as a tourist and a local. This is my list of all the best locations in this romantic city to get those perfect “narcissistic” pictures of you including the metro stops which will get you to the locations! Photo credits: Being Lensible.

1. Eiffel Tower: Did you know that the Eiffel Tower was never meant to be a permanent landmark but instead, it was built for the 1889 Paris Exposition? Of course it still stands tall even after 120 years and is the most visited paid monument on the planet. Almost 70-75 % of all the tourists visiting Paris need a picture with the Eiffel and unmistakably, I am one of them too ;). Every time I visit the tower, it gets more fascinating than before and undoubtedly I want pictures of me with it in the best way possible. After many and many successful/unsuccessful attempts, I guess I can give you some valuable suggestions to get that perfect picture! There are several locations where you can get great pictures with Eiffel, but the best are:

Spot 1: Wall for Peace Yes, you got it right! The best pictures with the whole tower in its full glory  can be taken from right in front/back of it. However, there are two sides of the tower with lawns in front and I suggest you go to the lesser green part which is technically the back side of the tower. You will find it in the map by checking for the monument called Wall for Peace.
View: Only the tower in the backdrop
Exact location: Champ de Mars, 2 Allée Adrienne Lecouvreur, 75007 Paris, France
Metro stop: Line 8. Stop is called Ecole Militaire
Crowd: Much less crowded when compared with the ticketing office side of the Eiffel entrance.

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tour Eiffel, Paris
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Posing with the Eiffel tower
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Follow me @ Eiffel, Paris
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Eiffel tower, Paris

Spot 2: Place de Trocadero This is a great spot to get your portrait picture, but I prefer it more for a picture of the tower itself along with the beautiful Trocadero fountains in the front. I didn’t put it in the first place because it’s always and always crowded with tourists and getting a spot for a perfect iconic picture with the tower during the day might get really difficult. I suggest going here when the sun goes down and crowds start heading somewhere else. I usually choose this place to watch the sunset over Eiffel and drink a classy Chardonnay while watching the hourly glitters of the tower in the night! Please don’t miss out on this experience. Remember to buy a bottle of wine from a supermarket before you head to Trocadero for a romantic evening. It’s not uncommon in the evening that you bump into great salsa dancing acts or street music shows here which you can watch and even participate for free.
View: Eiffel with the gardens and fountains in the backdrop
Metro stop: Line 6 or 9. Stop is called Trocadero  
Exact location: 75016 Paris France Trocadéro/Iéna, 16ème
Crowd: Very crowded during the day time. Best time to visit is during the sunset/sunrise.

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Place de Trocadero view
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View of Eiffel from Place de Trocadero, Paris
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Salsa dancing in Place de Trocadero, Paris with the Eiffel in the background

2. Les Invalides: This is perhaps one of the most famous tombs in Paris because the great Napoleon is buried here. The tomb is golden in color and can be spotted from various parts of the city!

Spot 3: Pont Alexander III This bridge in itself is a great photo stop in Paris and shouldn’t be missed at all. The bridge is ornate with a beautiful architecture encrypted with golden cherubs, nymphs and big lamp posts! Views are different on different sides of the bridge! I love both and Les Invalides looks great from this point. Even though Eiffel view is not great from here, but it works for a great backdrop with both the tower and river Seine!
View: Les Invalides, Upper portion of Eiffel and river Seine
Metro stop: Metro 13 or RER A. Stop is called Champs-Elysées- Clemenceau
Exact location: 1 Pont Alexandre III, 75008 Paris, France
Crowd: One of the most crowded bridges of Paris.

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Posing in Pont Alexander bridge, Paris
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Posing with the Eiffel tower at Pont Alexandre III, Paris
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Posing infront of the Pont Alexandre III
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Posing at Pont Alexandre III, Paris
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Posing at Pont Alexandre III, Paris
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Posing at Pont Alexandre III, Paris

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Posing with the Eiffel, Paris

Spot 4: Hotel National Les Invalides This is a huge building complex with many historic museums and monuments together. The best pictures can be taken if you walk from the Pont Alexander III bridge towards the hotel. There are many grass lawns by the side of the road where you can just sit down for a while to relax and also take great pictures.
View: Grandeur view of Les Invalides
Metro stop: Line 8/RER C and the stop is called Invalides. Line 13 and stop is called Varennes
Exact Location: 129 rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, France
Crowd: There is a lot of traffic on this road which might be a problem when trying to make a portrait picture. So, watch out for the cars!

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Posing infront of Hotel National Les Invalides , Paris
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Posing infront of Hotel National Les Invalides , Paris
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Posing infront of Hotel National Les Invalides , Paris

3. Montmartre: Montmartre is a big hill in Paris and also forms one of the most happening districts of Paris and mainly famous for the Sacré-Coeur basilica and a magnificent view of Paris. After visiting the basilica, walk down to the Place du Tertre. It also gives a gorgeous view of the city as well.

Spot 5: Sacré-Coeur Basilica This is the best place to take a picture of the hill with the white cathedral. The white dome of the basilica stands tall in the Parisian sky and can be spotted from any part of the city if you have strong eyes. The cathedral is very famous and can be best reached by climbing several stairs. The best shot can be taken both from the bottom of the stairs leading up to it and the garden just in front of the monument.

View: Bridge itself is great with red bricks and cool lanterns across it
Metro stop: Line 12 and the stop is Abbesses and also Lamarck Caulaincourt. For line 2, the stop is Anvers
Exact Location: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
Crowd: It’s always crowded and you need to be careful in this district. A valuable tip is to walk from the back side of the cathedral which is from the metro stop of Lamarck Caulaincourt (line 12) rather than try to fight your way up the stairs teeming with people.

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Posing right infront of the stairs of Sacre Coeur, Paris
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Follow me @ Sacre Coeur, Paris
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Sacre Coeur, Paris
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Sacre Coeur, Paris
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Sacre Coeur, Paris

4. Notre Dame: I wouldn’t be entirely wrong to say that after Eiffel, Paris is famous for this cathedral. Notre-Dame is huge and dates back to the Gothic Architecture being one of the first Gothic churches in Paris.

Spot 6: Notre-Dame Cathedral from the banks of Seine river This is one of my best spots to get a picture with the Notre-Dame Cathedral. It gives a really beautiful view across the river banks of the Seine river.
View: Aerial view of Notre Dame Cathedral and Seine
Metro stop: For RER B or RER C, the stop is St Michel-Notre Dame. For line 4, stop is Cite
Exact Location: 1 rue des Fosses Saint Bernard, 75005 Paris, France
Crowd: Always crowded in front of the cathedral, but just walk across the Seine river banks and you should be fine.

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Notre-Dame Cathedral from the banks of Seine river

Spot 7: Arab World Institute This is truly an off-beat path museum of Paris and is best for the scenic views of Notre-Dame from its roof which his at the 15h floor. You don’t need to pay to visit the roof, you only need to pay if you are visiting the museum ;). Just go to the reception of the museum and take the elevator to the roof. The views are terrific from the roof of this museum and you will not regret visiting this place as the architecture in itself is unique and spectacular!
View: Aerial view of Notre Dame Cathedral and Seine
Metro stop: Line 7 and the stop is Jussieu. Line 10 and the stop is Cardinal Lemoine
Exact Location: 1 rue des Fosses Saint Bernard, 75005 Paris, France
Crowd: Never crowded.

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View of Notre Dame cathedral from Arab World Institute, Paris
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View of Notre Dame cathedral from Arab World Institute, Paris

5. Arc de Triomphe: Standing tall in the middle of Paris, Arc de Triomphe is a big monument built by Napoleon in honor of the victory of the battle of three emperors. It was one of the most famous battles won by Napoleon and the architecture of the monument is truly Napoleon. The Arc is now dedicated to the victory of all important wars in the French military history.

Spot 8: Champs-Elysses This wide road between that runs between Place Charles de Gaulle and Place de la Concorde is perhaps the best place to get portrait photographs of you with the Arc and also the big Paris ferry wheel in Concorde. This place is always crowded, but for the best picture with the Arc, go when the sun goes down and stand in between the road (you are allowed to do this, but risky) in Champs-Elysses.
View: Arc de Triomphe and Paris Ferry wheel
Metro stop: Line 1,2, 6 and RER A. Stop is Etiole – Charles de Gaulle
Exact Location: Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
Crowd: Always crowded. 

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Arc de Triomphe, Paris during the sunset
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Follow me @Champs-Elysses, Paris
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Posing with the Ferries Wheel of Paris during Christmas
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Posing with the Arc de Triomphe, Paris

6. Pont de Bir-Hakeim: Remember the scene from Inception when Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur) enters the dream facility while walking on a bridge? Liked it? Do you also want a dramatic picture with that bridge?

Spot 9: Inception Bridge The bridge connects the two metro stations across the Seine river. To get the best shots, just walk from Bir-Hakeim metro station which is on the left bank of the river to the Passy metro station on the right bank.
View: Bridge itself is great with red bricks and cool lanterns across it
Metro stop: Line 6. Stop is Bir Hakeim
Exact Location: Quai de Grenelle, 75015 Paris, France
Crowd: Mind the traffic which includes the cars on both sides and also the bikes which goes right in the middle of the bridge! Try to get your picture when the traffic lights are red.

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Pont de Bir-Hakeim, Paris
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Pont de Bir-Hakeim, Paris

7. Skyline of Paris: If you are interested in having pictures with a different aka the corporate side of Paris with tall high rise skyscrapers, then this is the place to be. High chances that you might catch me shopping here in the huge 4 TEMPS mall :P!

Spot 10: La Defense This is where the new Paris meets the old architecture. Not really a very touristy place to be in Paris, but I have some really nice portrait pictures here with the new skyline of Paris and also with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. Also a great spot for capturing the skyscrapers around.
View: Grande Arche and Arc de Triomphe
Metro stop: RER A or Metro 1. Stop is called La Defense
Exact Location: 15 Tunnel de Nanterre-La Défense, 92092 Paris La Défense, France
Crowd: Mostly office people on weekdays. Try to be here on a weekend to escape the crowd.

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La Defense skyscrapers, Paris
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La Defense, Paris

GENERAL GOOD SPOTS: Apart from the above mentioned places, I love getting photographed both inside the Parisian metro and also in the Parisian metro stations. The metro stations in Paris are really unique and trust me, you will like it too!

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Posing in the Chatelet metro station in Paris
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Posing inside the Paris metro

P.S. – Most of the pictures in this post are captured by my great friend and photographer Kapil Dubey. This is his personal photography page – Kapil Dubey Photography. Please don’t hesitate to contact him if you want a great portfolio shoot in Paris like this!

Did you find my post helpful? Do you have any other tips? Then, pen them down in the Comment section below!

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King’s Day (Koningsdag) in Holland

Its been exactly 2.5 years that I have been living in Holland. For the first 6 months, I lived in the northern tip of Holland in a place called Den Helder where I had finished my Master Thesis back in 2013. I moved to the US and India after that and got back to Holland again in 2014 where I have been working on my PhD (luckily this time in Amsterdam).

King’s day: April 27 is a national holiday in Holland marked by huge celebrations as its the birthday of the Dutch King Willem-Alexander. I was lucky to also experience the last Queen’s day back in 2013 when it would be on April 30 in honor of Queen Juliana’s birthday before her son King Willem-Alexander was crowned. Dutch people really look forward to this day. Usually the party starts from April 26th evening (often referred to as the King’s night) till the next late evening (King’s day). I have experienced King’s day in Amsterdam and in Utrecht in the past 3 years. If you want to see the entire city in orange (Dutch national color) and enjoy the best parties in Amsterdam along with experiencing the laid-back Dutch culture, then this is when you should be in Holland. The whole city of Amsterdam parties together, canals are crowded with party boats, music bands play everywhere for free in the streets, locals set up food stalls and also sell second hand goods for dirt cheap prices. There are flea markets marked with outdoor drinking everywhere! Most importantly, everybody is in a great mood which makes the atmosphere super cozy, relaxed and enjoyable!

Where to spend King’s day in order to have ample fun! The only problem with King’s day is Amsterdam gets way too crowded and fled with tourists and hence getting a local atmosphere becomes very difficult! I have been to both touristic and non-touristic parts of Amsterdam on King’s days. Vondelpark in the city is a nice place to go as there is a huge kid’s flea market and also kid’s acts and performances. I live in the Zuid district of the city and hence tried my luck in Apollolaan last year which is in the south of Amsterdam. That by far, was the best local experience I had in Amsterdam and the flea markets in this area is marked by excellent items on sale if you are lucky! I have also been to de Pijp (home to famous street market in Amsterdam – AlbertCuuyp market)  and Jordaan which are again two best neighborhoods in this city, and if you don’t mind the drunk tourists (locals too, just that Dutch people can handle so much of alcohol..its impressive! 😉 ), then you should be fine! But still, don’t forget to check out Apollolaan.

King’s night parties and clubs: Regarding night parties, I would suggest getting your tickets booked as soon as you know you will attend King’s day for sure because they get sold out very very fast! I am not a crazy party person and I like to avoid clubs (Escape and AIR in Rembrandtplein are your good bets if you like electronic dance music). I have spent King’s nights walking around the city a bit, listening to amazing local bands in the streets. I have also been in Utrecht for King’s night which was pretty impressive as its very similar to the Amsterdam celebrations, but much more local and student-friendly in reality. The other city I have heard a lot of Dutch people bragging about (being still very local and less crowded) is Den Haag. I have never been there on a King’s day or night event, but I trust the “Dutch honesty” of my fellow Dutch friends and I recommend checking it out 😛 !

Downsides of King’s day: After attending 3 King’s days, the worst part is the terrible hangover next day :P, trash that people leave on the streets (look at the picture I took 3 years back) and the constant sadness that it happens only once a year ;).

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Dam square, Amsterdam: too bad that this really happens.

Sadly King’s day is over this year and I am still recovering from my hangover, but I hope I motivated you enough to spend the King’s day in Holland in the coming years!  🙂

TIPS for King’s day:

  • Dress up in orange. You obviously don’t want to be that spoil alert in the orange crowd. T-shirts are available everywhere before the King’s day for around 10-15 €.
  •  Check the weather. That’s the thumb rule in Holland. It can start raining crazily and no fun if you are completely drenched and sick that evening and cannot go outdoors to enjoy the King’s day the next day.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Public transport doesn’t work well in the city center of any city in Holland starting from King’s night. So be prepared to walk around the city. It’s one of the best walks you will experience as the entire city (starting from kids to my grandpa aged people) are all outside!

Have you ever experienced King’s day or something similar? Did you like reading my post? Please leave a comment and keep sharing 🙂

NOTE: The featured image for this post is not mine, I took it from Google. 🙂

 

Top 5 things to do in Amsterdam: On and Off Beat!

Amsterdam is a city which gets on almost everyone’s bucket list and I am very lucky to call it “home”. It is not uncommon anymore that often a Facebook message pops up from a friend asking how to have a great time in Amsterdam. I have been living in Amsterdam for over 2 years now and if I am being brutally honest with you, I would say I am still discovering something new everyday. Yes, you heard it right! Amsterdam might look like a very cute little city, but there’s just so much to do having something in offer for everyone. My post takes you through a journey within Amsterdam listing its top attractions including tips getting offbeat if you want to. Following this list will help you get a vibe of the city even if you are around just for the weekend!

Don’t miss my  tips on Seasonal attractions in the end of this post! 😉

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How about a picture like this? My friend almost started crying  for mercy by the end of this shoot when I was (maybe) fully satisfied 😛

1.Walk in the city/Bike around –The best way to see Amsterdam is by foot. You can take the free walking tour starting from the Dam Square. These tours orients you well with the history of Amsterdam. There are many walking tours available and you can check them here. They are free and typically they last around 2.5 hours, but please be kind to tip your guide afterwards. If you have a good sense of balance and legs which function well, then just rent a bike for a day. Bike rentals are plenty in Amsterdam city centre and prices vary from 8-10 €/day. You can either do a bike tour which is organized by a company, or you can just bike around the city by your own. I suggest the later, because all biking lanes in Amsterdam are car free zones. It’s said there are more bikes in the city than humans. But please and please don’t be one of those tourists who are hated by locals as they don’t know the directions well, so be kind to us and ask for a map when you rent the bike! 😉

How to get Off Beat? Check out the neighborhoods of Jordaan and de Pijp. Both of them have different things in offer. Jordaan has the rich elite class locals of Amsterdam with canal side cafes, restaurants and bars; while Pijp is more of a nice shopping place offering great international cuisines to explore! Just stroll around, sit down in a place of your choice, appreciate the surroundings and I promise you will return back happy to your hotel! Apart from this, visit the NOORD Amsterdam. This area can be accessed only by ferries (free) from the central station and is absolutely stunning! Often overlooked, but this place has so much in offer and recently a lot of interesting things are going on this neighborhood. Check out the  biggest flea market of Europe IJ -Hallen on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in Amsterdam Noord.

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Most of the times you can find me riding a rental bike because my bike has been stolen 3 times already 😮 !!! In this picture, I am a rescuing a friend get back to her hotel. Hehehe
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Beautiful canals of Amsterdam
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Jordaan neighborhood, Amsterdam
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How pretty are these houseboats? This is in the Jordaan neighborhood
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Albert Cuyp market in de Pijp, Amsterdam

2.Do the Canal Cruise/Rent a boat – It’s a crime to visit Amsterdam and skip the canal ride! Yes, its really touristy, but it gives you a historic overview of all the beautiful canals in the city. The ride takes usually 1 hour and is really cheap (12-15 €). There are many boat companies just in front of the Amsterdam central station where you can hop on a boat from one of the companies (LOVERS is my favorite). Be careful, the queues can get very long and hence keep some spare time in your hand for the activities you have planned afterwards.

How to get Off Beat?  Not many people know this, but you can actually rent a small boat and cruise the canals of Amsterdam by yourself. Driving small boats don’t require a license and the rates vary from 55-70 €/hour. How cool is that? ;). Apart from this, you can head to Giethoorn which is absolutely a stunning place and often referred as the “Venice of the North”. Here you can hire a small boat for as less as 15€/hour and appreciate the beautiful village with stunning Dutch landscape while sipping your wine. The village has no roads and houses are accessible only by boats. Do this and you will thank me forever!

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Interiors of the canal boats in Amsterdam. This picture is from the boat company called LOVERS
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Canal cruise boats in Amsterdam close to the main central station
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Beautiful Amsterdam Central station
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Picture with the canal boats

3.Visit a couple of the museums in the city – You may not be a huge history buff and entering museums might seem boring and waste of time, but no visit to Amsterdam is really complete without visiting at least a couple of the museums out of hundreds it has in offer. My favourites are the Annie Frank’s house, Rijk’s Museum, VanGogh’s Musuem and NEMO (Science museum). Visit the Stedelijk museum to appreciate modern and contemporary art. If there is absolutely no time, then just do the Annie Frank’s house and/or the Rijk’s Museum and you won’t leave disappointed! Rijk’s museum is one of the places where you can also get your pictures clicked with the iconic IAMSTERDAM sign! Avoid the huge queues at museum entrances by either getting an e-ticket or just the Museumkaart if you plan on visiting more than 3 museums (much cheaper).

How to get Off Beat?  Visit the Jewish Historical museum because there is so much to explore here. It gives a great overview of the Dutch culture with respect to the World War 2 and the holocaust. I also like the National Maritime Museum because it has a real boat used by the Dutch East India Company in the early 1600s! It’s one of the places I have been several times and the canal views from the museum are just amazing.

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Posing in front of the Rijks Museum
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Rijks museum with the tulips in front
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Maritime Museum, Amsterdam
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Spectacular interiors of the Maritime musuem
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View from the Amsterdam Maritime Museum

4.Parks of Amsterdam – Go to Vondelpark for some relaxation when you are too tired walking in the crowded streets of Amsterdam. It’s very green and with a bright sunny day, it gets very lively! You can bring in your own food and drinks. Sit down, eat a sandwich and get a bottle of wine to enjoy your time with your friends and family. Barbequing is also very common here! Try to head to the huge fountain in the middle of the park, which can be great also for the kids!

How to get Off Beat?  I personally like the Oosterpark and the Westerpark far more than the Vondelpark because the tourists are much less here which gives it more of a local feeling. I would recommend walking to the Oosterpark from the city centre. Even though half an hour walk, you are rewarded with great views of Amsterdam, which you would never come across otherwise!

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Spring in Vondelpark, Amsterdam
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Typical sunny day in Vondelpark
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Posing in Vondelpark, Amsterdam
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Park entrance from Leidseplein
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Tulips in Oosterpark

 5.Nightlife in Amsterdam – Last, but not the least, Amsterdam has a great nightlife!! Apart from the famous Red Light District, there are hundreds of bars, coffee shops and clubs. You might be too overwhelmed at some point :P. Check out my post about top bars in Amsterdam here if you want to have a great time. Dutch people are known to be very easy-going and “relaxing” is a part of the culture. “De Wallen” is the best place to check out the Red Light District and its very safe too. There are several bars there where you can enjoy a coffee or a beer across the canal terraces. Eat at the BIRD Thai snack bar in Zeedijk for an authentic and cheap Thai food! I also have a brief post on the top nightclubs in Amsterdam, which might be of help.

How to get Off Beat?  You can do the usual Canal cruise (perhaps the “dinner cruise” if you want to go fancy) in the evening instead to check out the great night lights across the canals and bridges. It’s really gorgeous. Coming to Amsterdam “coffeeshops”, Bulldog is the oldest and the most popular one among tourists, but if you want to see how locals enjoy it, then head to Amnesia where you can sit outside across the canals and smoke it up ;).

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Red Light District, Amsterdam
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Amsterdam canals during the night
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Amsterdam night lights
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Great friends make my life easy and a lot better in this city 🙂

SEASONAL ATTRACTIONS IN AMSTERDAM:

  1. March – May: You need to visit Keukenhof which is the most beautiful tulip garden in the world if you are in Amsterdam at this time of the year. Its just a 20 minutes bus ride from the Amsterdam Schiphol airport and is totally worth your time.
  2. April: You need to be in Amsterdam to party during the King’s Day! Its every year on April 27. Check out my special post on King’s Day celebrations  here.
  3. July: End of July starts the famous Amsterdam Gay Pride which is absolutely stunning to watch with a lot of street parties going on!
  4. August: This is the time for the classy theatre festival Amsterdam Parade  which has a tent set-up and it can keep you entertained the whole day. Even though most of the acts are in Dutch, there are still options in English , and you need to visit it to see how Dutch families get together and dance along the live music. Absolutely spectacular!
  5. November – December: There are many many cute Christmas markets from the end of October till Christmas to explore in Amsterdam. The most famous one is in the Dam Square and it shouldn’t be missed!
  6. December – January: This is the most gloomy time of the year with the cold and rain kicking in together with full force. Amsterdam Light Festival arrives just on time to save us from the depression and darkness! It definitely cheers everyone up  in the city as the canals are beautifully decorated with lights and you will fall in love even with the darkness! Check it out here.
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Last advice, don’t forget your cameras when you are in Amsterdam! 😛 This picture is in Keukenhof

I hope you enjoyed reading my post, check out the best bars in Amsterdam here. Have a great trip and feel free to ask me more in the comment section! Safe travels everyone 🙂

P.S. – All pictures are mine, feel free to use them after giving credits :).

Top 5 bars in Amsterdam: something for everyone!

Today I am compiling a list of my favorite bars in Amsterdam that you can try over this weekend with each of them offering very different feels of the city! Amsterdam life can be hectic with so many cafe and bars to try from (ahem ;)) and I try going to a new place every week or so. However, we all have those couple of places which we keep going back to because they take a special place in our hearts. Bloggers might have already written about good bars in Amsterdam, but what’s special about my post is after living in Amsterdam for over 2 years and hopping around hundred bars, I am listing only the ones which I think can give every tourist a local feel of this city <3 <3 <3.ALCOHOL-MAY-NOT-SOLVE-YOUR-PROBLEMS-BUT-NEITHER-WI

1. For great cocktails, head to Door 74: Classy is the word to describe this place! When you have this weekend date coming up on your “agenda” (sorry, I am Dutchified enough to follow an agenda too :p) and it keeps you completely confused thinking where to take her to impress her without burning a hole in your pocket? Ah, then look no further and head to Door 74! Even though it’s in a touristic location in one of the most crowded districts of Amsterdam (Rembrandtplein), it’s very much hidden from everyone meaning you might get lost if you don’t know the exact address! This indeed adds fun to your date! Door 74 is very American in few ways and holds the “prohibition era” custom where people wanted to keep their social gatherings a secret! Yes, that is why it’s very hard to locate DOOR 74 because you will for sure miss it (like me) if it’s your first time there. It’s just a regular door which you need to knock and after they confirm your reservation, you are allowed to enter. I was spell-bound when I entered because the underground bar is nothing close to what you would expect from outside! How cool is that?? Your date is already impressed 😉 ! But please remember to MAKE A RESERVATION here. They are a cocktail paradise and even though their cocktails are a bit pricy (ranging from 14€-16€), it’s totally worth it. You get the fresh olives and cocktail nuts for free (unlimited servings :-D).

Must try: “The horny mountain troll” cocktail
Crowd: Mixed crowd(both tourists and locals)
Serves food: Snacks (vegetarian too)
Neighborhood: Rembrandtplein
Price: Expensive (14€ – 18€ for a classy cocktail)
Opening hours: 8pm-4am (Fri-Sat); 8pm-3am (Sun-Thurs)
Phone:  +31 (0)6 34 04 51 22
Website: door74

2. Want some hipster vibe, then head to Cafe Brecht: Yes, the name itself tells you that its German and indeed it has a very east Berlin feel to it. Rightly so because its named after the famous German writer Bertolt Brecht! The atmosphere here is very hipster with a living room (turned into a bar) filled with comfortable sofas, vintage furniture, vintage cutlery and decorated with wallpapers with flowers imprinted on them. There is always something going on in Brecht related to Germany and/or Europe like an act, movie screening, music concert, etc.  There is a piano if you wish to play and also many board games which  you can enjoy with your friends. Its more for the ambience that I keep going to Brecht. They serve all kinds of alcohol with POPCORN (yum), but their Moscow mule cocktail is my  personal favorite! 😉 I often find myself sipping a cup of hot coffee inside Brecht on a raining afternoon watching people pass by while working on my computer.

Must try: They have good cocktails. my favorite is Moscow Mule
Serves food: They serve lunch till 3pm and snacks after that (vegetarian too)
Crowd: Depend on what time you go ( mostly locals)
Neighborhood: Heinekenplein (de Pijp)
Price: Cheap (4€ for a Belgian beer from the tap; cocktails priced at 7€)
Opening hours: 12pm-2am (Fri-Sat); 12pm-1am (Sun-Thurs)
Website: cafebrecht

3. For great craft beers, head to Gollem: Do you like special craft beers, and like me, are you also very choosy about what you want in your beer? Then, look no further, because this is your place! The first Gollem opened back in 1970s in a small alley between Singel and Spuistraat (close to Dam square) which still makes it easy to miss. But now, it has three more sister pubs (in Overtoom, de Pijp and the other at Waterlooplein) and together with its three siblings, Gollem is known for Belgian beers. All four of them holds a very Dutch brown cafe ambience with the beer menus written on black boards in the wall. There are a many special beers (mostly brewed in Belgium and United States) which are hard-finds anywhere else, including great porters and stouts. They also have amazing IPAs, Trappist beers and special draught beers on the tap! Although food is served, food range isn’t great and I always make it a point to load up my belly before heading here! 😛 Gollem gets crowded on the weekends (mostly locals), but this shouldn’t stop you from going there. The bartenders are very helpful with good knowledge about the beers; but be patient with them as they are always under-staffed :-(. Gollem usually requires no reservations (unless you plan to dine) and has a very chilled casual vibe!

Must try: All the beers on the tap are amazing. My personal favorite is the “Viven Porter”
Serves food: Burgers and finger food (vegetarian too)
Crowd: Mixed Crowd (mostly locals)
Neighborhood: Singel, Overtoom, de Pijp and Waterlooplein
Price: Cheap to Expensive (5€ for a Belgian beer from the tap; craft beers are a bit expensive – 12€ mostly for a 700ml bottle)
Opening hours: 11am-2am (Fri-Sat); 11am-1am (Sun-Thurs)
Website: cafegollem

4. For a great view, head to Hannakes Boom: This is my absolute favorite place to go grab a drink when the sun is shining. It’s really huge and the whole set up of the place is just amazing! It’s always crowded (mostly locals) and the best part is on a beautiful day you can sit outside in one of their colorful picnic tables sipping your beer/wine overlooking the canals. It’s a 5 minutes walk from Amsterdam central station. They have amazing warm meals for dinner at good prices (also vegetarian). If you are lucky, there will be a live music show in the bar going on which you can enjoy for free!

Must try: Eggplant melanze (Veg) and Rabbit dish (Non-veg) with a La Chouffe beer
Serves food: Both lunch and dinner (vegetarian too)
Crowd: Local crowd
Neighborhood: Amsterdam central station
Price: Cheap (4€ for a Belgian beer from the tap)
Opening hours: 11am-3am (Fri-Sat); 11am-1am (Sun-Thurs)
Website: hannakesboom

5. Want to go to a rooftop bar in Amsterdam, then head to the W Lounge: This is the talk of the town as its very new one on the list of rooftop bars in Amsterdam. It’s located on top of the W hotel in the city centre just next to the Dam Square. It’s location makes it a perfect getaway from your hectic shopping day in Kalvarstraat which is Amsterdam’s famous shopping street. Usually you can find me here either sipping my coffee in the afternoon or enjoying a glass of pinot grigio in the evenings. I love the look of the place as the interiors are classy a very modern vibe. If the weather is good, sit outside in front of the swimming pool which is my absolute favorite thing to do here. You can even ride a duck on the pool outside!! how cool is that :P. The view from the rooftop isn’t as great as the famous “Skylounge” in the Hilton Doubletree hotel, but W lounge surely does wonders to your pockets as the drinks are very affordable. They don’t accept reservations, which is amazing, just enter the hotel and press the lounge button in the elevator! W hotels in itself boasts from their great interior designs and this place lives up to your expectations! If you are in a mood for a fancy dinner afterwards, head to Mr. Porter restaurant downstairs :).

Must try: cocktails
Serves food: Both lunch and dinner (vegetarian too)
Crowd: Local crowd (sometimes tourists too)
Neighborhood: Dam Sqaure
Price: Moderate (4-5€ for a glass of wine)
Opening hours: 9am-2am (Fri-Sat); 9am-1am (Sun-Thurs)
Website: W lounge

So what are you waiting for? Go grab a drink in a place of your choice and write me a comment afterwards if you like it or not! 🙂 

P.S. – Few pictures in this post are not mine and are taken from Google :).

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Solo female backpacker in Georgia

Brief description of the country, food, culture and my travel costs

Do you want to visit an off-the-beaten track country surrounded by beautiful mountains offering ample hiking options, tranquil landscapes, uncountable churches and cathedrals, good and cheap food and most importantly, lot of culture and the most hospitable people? Then look no further and put Georgia on your travel list!

caucasus-map
Georgia lies between Russia, Armienia, Turkey, Azerbaijan

Georgians believe they have the most beautiful country and culture in the world and I can vouch for it now. Georgia nests in the Caucasus mountains and lies in the crossroads of Europe and Asia. The capital of the country is Tbilisi and Christianity (orthodox) is the predominant religion here which dates back to as early as the 1st century. Georgia is the third country in the world to adopt Christianity. It got its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Being a solo female backpacker, I never felt unsafe there. The country is very safe and cheap making it a backpacking paradise for  nature and mountain lovers. If you have more time, I would advice you to visit the neighboring countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan too. I will definitely go back one day :).

Best time to visit Georgia

I would say from  June till the mid of July. Mid of July till mid of August is really very hot in the country, specially in the mountains. Moreover, its the vacation period for European travelers meaning a lot of crowd and expensive hotels! End of August till September can also be a nice time to visit to check out the beautiful fall colors in the country.

I was there around end of May and I still loved it. It was raining in few parts of the country, but the landscape was great with lush green grass in the mountains and absolutely no crowds around.

Visa requirements

Georgia offers an e-visa to most of the countries (including India), and if you hold an EU/USA/Canada/Australia permit, then you don’t need a visa to visit Georgia with an Indian passport! I didn’t need any visa as I had my Dutch Resident card with me. This is the link to check whether your passport needs a visa or not.

My travel itinerary

Even though a small country, Georgia has a lot in offer. It is primarily distributed over 12 districts. I was in the country for 9D/8N and I visited the districts in the following order:

TbilisiSvaneti (Mestia and Ushguli) Imereti (Kutaisi) Javakheti (Borjomi) Mtskheta (Mtshketa, Jvara monastery, Ananuri and Kazbegi).

Mestia, Ushuguli and taking the Georgian Military highway to visit Kazbegi are definitely “must-see” places when you are in the country! One more region you could add to this if you love nature is Khevshureti (Shatili). It is still remote and very stunning, but roads are open only from June – October.

Costs:

I had spent an avergae of 25-30 Euros/day including fooding, lodging and transportation. In total, I spent 220 Euros for my 8 nights stay in Georgia (excluding my airfare from Amsterdam) which made it the cheapest country I have ever traveled to! Also good to mention that I never stayed in the dorms, but always had single rooms and still so cheap!

Money exchange

Official currency is Georgian Lari (GEL) with an exchange rate of 1 EUR = 2.5 GEL approximately (check your country currency here). It is good to get your Euros and Dollars exchanged in the big cities (Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi) to get the best exchange rates. I found the best exchange rates in Tbilisi in the shops of Freedom square and Didube station. However, everywhere else, you can find money exchange shops with decent exchange rates (though not great as in Tbilisi). Surprisingly, even in the Tbilisi International airport, I found very good rates unlike other airports where they literally rip you off.

Georgian Cuisine (yes, vegetarian food do exist in Georgia)

Georgian food is really tasty (and very cheap) and even if you are a vegetarian, you will have many options. Georgians will usually tell you that their kitchen has mostly meat options (which is true), but I survived very good there and I have complied a list of all tasty vegetarian options for all of you that I tried there! I never spent more than 15 GEL for a meal :).

  1. The most famous is Khachapuri (typical one looks like a pizza bread with cheese) and you will have many different Khachapuris ranging from meat to no-meat options.
  2.  Next, you cannot miss Khinkalis (typical Georgian dumplings). The fillings typically are mushrooms and meat. I tried Potato, mushrooms and cheese khinkalis and mushrooms (with onions) are definitely my favorite! You HAVE TO try them :D. Ask them for the tomato salsa sauce or a tkemali sauce if you want to have your dumplings with a sauce (like me :P).
  3. Badrijani and Ajapsandali: If you like aubergines, you will never go hungry in Georgia!! These two are the most amazing dishes that I had in Georgia. Badrijani has a paste like texture and is made with aubergine and grounded walnuts! Ajapsandali is an aubergine dish mixed with many other vegetables and is best had with bread. I am having my mouth watering while typing this :D.

    4. Baked mushrooms with sulguni cheese: Again, another mushroom delicacy of the country! It consists of mushrooms in a hot pan which are grilled and baked with special Georgian cheese on top. Perfect dinner dish :).

    mushrooms-with-sulguni-cheese-and-butter
    Mushrooms with sulguni cheese

    5. Lobio: In Georgian language, Lobio means beans and this is a dish made with kidney beans. I had it only once and loved it :). You can try it and won’t be disappointed!

    lobio-with-nuts-ready-for-serving
    Lobio

    6. Churchkhela – This is Georgia’s sausage shaped candy made from fruits (like grapes, pineapples, kiwi, etc), nuts and flour! Very delicious and always vegetarian :D. I have heard its also very famous in its neighboring countries of  Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    _1060598
    Churchkhela in Tbilisi

    Apart from the dishes I mentioned above, there are always vegetarian soups available in the restaurants and Georgian breakfast is usually vegetarian. For instance, in all the home-stays I stayed, they had several options for vegetarian people. Georgian hospitality is very famous and remember that they will not let you sleep hungry. So even if you are vegetarian, you will do absolutely fine (just remember the dishes I mentioned because in small shops, they will speak only Russian/Georgian and hence its difficult to make them understand what are you actually looking for!).

Georgian wine and “chacha”

Georgian wine is an absolute treat to your wine appetite. With grape vines growing in every local’s front yard, wine is an integral part of Georgian culture and life. It makes a delightful part of any trip to this picturesque country. Georgian wine is made in a special way which is different from the French way of making wine and I was in love with both their red and white wines! If you are really into good wines with interests in wine-making, then you can visit the Kakheti region which is the wine district of the country. I also visited a wine tasting festival in Tbilisi where the wine makers (mostly locals) would give me different kinds of wines for free! 😉

Georgian “chacha” is the local Georgian brandy and is usually a very strong alcoholic drink! It is usually made from grapes (sometimes kiwi) and I was always offered chacha for free in the mountains of Svaneti and Kazbegi. It’s a must try drink when you are in the country! 😀

I paid around 4-6 GEL for a glass of good Georgian wine in a restaurant and because I always had chacha offered for free by the locals, I can’t tell you how much Chacha actually costs ;).

Transportation costs

Round trip flight tickets from Amsterdam-Tbilisi on Turkish Airlines were around 330 Euros (I booked 1 week ahead) and if you book early, you can get away with 250 Euros. In Georgia, I always used the public transport (buses, trains, marshrutkas, shared taxis and metro). Public transportation is very cheap in this country! For example, a metro or a bus ride in Tbilisi will cost 0.5 GEL, shared taxi (4 people) from Tbilisi to Kazbegi will cost 15 GEL each (distance is 155 kms), night train in a 1st class compartment will cost 28 GEL (8-9 hours journey). The marshrutka rides are also very cheap like a ride from Mestia to Kutaisi was 30 GEL, Kutaisi to Borjomi was 10 GEL and Borjomi to Tbilisi was 10 GEL. Marshrutkas can get very crowded and sometimes are very uncomfortable (depending on the type and condition of the vehicle).

Accommodation costs

I try to couch-surf when I am backpacking and even though I wanted to use couchsurfing in Georgia, I ended up using paid accommodation. I met a few local couch-surfing hosts in Tbilisi to show me around the city which was a great idea. I found out that couch-surfing is popular only in the big Georgian cities and not in the mountains of Svaneti or Kazbegi. I stayed only in hostels and home stays and they were all very well-maintained and had very decent prices. My city accommodations (Kutaisi and Tbilisi hostels) were around 25-30 GEL every night for a single room (breakfast included) and everywhere else, I used home stays which had all meals included (typically ranges from 40-50 GEL every night for single rooms).

Tbilisi Sky hostel in Tbilisi. Tbilisi has many cheap options in booking.com, but if you prefer to stay out of the tourist trap and see how locals live, then you can book an AirBnB. I didn’t want to stay in the touristy old Tbilisi city and my hostel was actually a real house (not hostel) and I was surrounded by only local Georgians. It’s run by a Georgian woman who is very nice and is very close to the Marjanishvili metro station. I paid 30 GEL for a big room every night (single occupancy). The old city is very noisy with some bars playing loud music till very late night and I was glad that I didn’t stay there!

MestiaNino’s guesthouse in Mestia. You can book this via booking.com, but I preferred to first look around a bit before heading here. There are many other family run guesthouses in Mestia to choose from, but this has the highest ratings because Nino speaks good English (unlike Russian and/or Georgian in other ones) and she has a lot of contacts. This is why I could go to Ushguli because she grouped up people and we could share the marshrutka with 7 people which is very very rare in an off season when there are almost no tourists! It was 50 GEL with 3 meals included

KazbegiMari’s guesthouse in Kazbegi. I booked this through booking.com and I was so so happy when I arrived here. Mari upgraded me to a honeymoon suite and I could enjoy the views of mount Kazbeg and Gergeti Trinity Church right from the private balcony and lying on my bed :). It was 50 GEL with 3 meals included :). The best home stay that I stayed in Georgia with amazing vegetarian food options!

Georgian people

Georgians can seem very cold in the beginning, but once you approach them and show interests in their country and culture, they will open up very fast. Give them some alcohol and the ice breaking takes only few seconds ;). They are very warm hearted, funny and immensely hospitable people. You cannot leave Georgia without experiencing the locals. So what are you waiting for? Go and experience this breathtaking country and get out of your way to make that local connection! 😉

Details of the entire trip itinerary will be done in the next post! Happy reading 🙂

Jordan Chronicles 10: Petra Day 2 and Amman

March 30, 2016: This was my last day in Jordan because next day early morning I would fly back from Amman to Amsterdam. I had a very good sleep in such a fancy hotel where I was couch-surfing in Petra. After a hot shower, I was all ready to explore Petra for the second time. Petra gates opens at 6 am in the morning and it was 8 am by then. I met Abdullah (my host) at the hotel reception and he offered the free buffet hotel breakfast to me. The breakfast was served at the top floor of the hotel overlooking Petra site. I was very happy and I had an amazing breakfast there. I  quickly headed to the main gate of Petra with my 2 day ticket and passport and started exploring Petra the “touristy” way! The picture of the tickets hows my name on it and I still have the tickets as I kept it as a souvenir.

The sun was shining and there were not so many tourists as the tour buses start coming from 9 – 10 am. I took the advantage of less crowds and headed straight to the Treasury following the Siq. It was so so beautiful and the rock colors were very different from yesterday evening as the sun was shining bright today.

I reached the treasury and it was so beautiful with the early sun rays falling on it. I suggest you go early in the morning around 6-7am which I didn’t. Nevertheless, Treasury was amazing and I just couldn’t get over it. I also explored some more parts of the city like the amphitheater and caves and it was already afternoon by then.

I started heading back as I had decided on taking the last bus at 5 pm from Petra (Wadi Musa) to Amman. The bus was operated by JETT bus company and they charged me 9 JDs. Time schedules are here. Tickets can be booked online and also if you just call the bus company in Wadi Musa. My couchsurfing host took care of my tickets and I didn’t have to bother much about it. The owner of the bus company was his family and hence, I was assured a ticket. Meanwhile, after reaching the hotel to pick my bags, Abdullah had arranged a grand lunch for me and I was treated no less than a queen. He even dropped me to the bus station and waited till I was seated comfortably in the bus. The JETT buses are very comfortable and I would definitely suggest taking them if you are not renting a car. The journey from Wadi Musa to Amman takes around 4.5 hours.

I reached Amman at around 8:30 pm and Hassan (my couchsurfing host in Amman) waited to pick me up from the bus station. He had promised to show a bit around the city for 4 hours I had before heading to the airport. Hassan was a a young and bright engineering student who also spoke fluent German. He drove me to many beautiful places. We had good coffee, dinner and a sisha too in such less time. Amman was so different from the rest of Jordan.  Hassan had warned me that Sishas are very strong in Jordan to which I didn’t listen! Soon after, it kicked in and I wish I had listened to him. Don’t do it before your flight if you are not used to such strong nicotine. 😛

The city traffic in Amman is crazy with so many cars around. After an eventful 4 hours in the city, Hassan was very kind to drive me at the airport around 1 am. I arrived at the airport much before my flight and headed back to Amsterdam with a stopover at Istanbul again meaning more kebabs :P. So this was how I had a wonderful time in Jordan and I would strongly encourage everyone to visit the country, experience the culture and enjoy the amazing food !

This is my guide to visit Jordan on a budget: blogpost

Jordan Chronicles 9: Petra Day 1

March 29, 2016: This section consists of three things – tickets to Petra, off the beaten path trails in Petra and how to be safe as a solo female traveler in the Petra site. By the way, if you are not couch-surfing in Petra, then Wadi Musa is the closest village where all the hotels and resorts are and is a good base point to explore Petra and little Petra!

Woke up early in the morning and my couch-surfing “bedouin” host offered to show me Petra in an off-the-beaten track way. For this, I had to first get the entrance fee tickets to Petra from the main entrance and this is something unusually expensive for tourists compared to the 1 JD that Jordanians pay! 50 JDs (around 71 USD) to enter Petra for one day. Its insanely expensive and I decided to buy the 2 days pass and it was 55 JDs (around 78 USD). There is also a 3 days entrance pass to Petra which comes for 60 JDs and it is advisable to buy it only if you want to see the site in very details. I covered most of it in my very first day (which again can be very tiring to some people) and the next day, I kept mostly to look at things I overlooked or didn’t give much time on my first day. Carry your passport when you go to buy the entrance tickets to Petra. Tickets are valid only for the days printed on them and there is actually no way of skipping it. Best part about a ticket to Petra is you get it with your name on it and says welcome to Petra and always icmluse cameras too. 🙂

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Entrance to Petra where you get the tickets too. Carry your passport because they check for your visa!

Ibrahim drove me from the bedouin village to the Petra main entrance and also drove me back to the village where I picked up some food from the local grocery store. Food inside Petra is very very expensive and I highly advice you to get it before you enter the site because it is allowed to carry food and water.

Off the beaten path experience in Petra: Ibrahim and I entered from a backdoor entrance which is strictly only for bedouins and rangers working in Petra. After a little talk, the guards finally let me in with Ibrahim. Wow, that first sight was mind blowing specially because there was literally nobody except both of us in this whole site. Tourists enter Petra from the front entrance and they always go for the “Al Khazneh” (aka Treasure) first and then make their way to the famous monastery We took the opposite path and hence, the whole walk towards the monastery was just excellent.

The hike was easy, was very long. I had enough food and water on me to keep my energy levels high. We kept walking on this beautiful rock formations, met hers of sheep and goats and also explored some natural rock arch formations. Then we arrived at the Byzantine Church and Ibrahim told me about the incredible history behind it. Read  more about it here. Ibrahim was also a trained and professional guide in Petra and hence he knew everything about the place. He also had many friends in the site who offered us free Jordanian tea and food and declining food offers are considered very impolite in Jordan and hence I would always end up having free meals :P.

Slowly, we made our way to the monastery which is a climb of around 300 steps. You have to understand that its not just about visiting Petra, but talking to the locals in between and having general conversations which makes this visit very authentic and enjoyable!

I met many Ibrahim’s friends on our way and they were all very curious about my origin and ask a lot of questions about India. I was so happy to see that people loved India so much and really knew about our history.

I think it took around 40 minutes to reach the monastery finally. You can do it in a donkey too (15-20 JDs for a round trip) , but I will advise doing it on foot. The first sight of the monastery was amazing and honestly, to me, it looked very much alike to the “Al Khazneh” pictures I had seen on the internet. But, they are totally different in reality. You can sit down here and sip a tea or coffee and eat something too if you would like to. I was always offered free food, so I am not sure of the exact prices, but they looked not so cheap!

I used an eco- toilet where they recycled the phosphorus (something to remind me that I still have a PhD to finish on this back in Amsterdam :P) and I happily used it and took a selfie with it too :P. I also changed my shirt here just to look different in my other pictures from here. Yes, I am a bit crazy and I love it :P. So, I went more up from the monastery with Ibrahim because his brother had a shop on the highest point of Petra. The views were stunning and not many people who make it to the monastery actually go here. I urge you to climb a bit more and you won’t regret it. After having tea at the highest point, I decided to head back to the monastery and climb down.

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Eco toilets in Petra which recover and recycle phosphorus!

NOTE: It is very important that as a solo-female traveler, you draw your lines straight. Ibrahim wanted to go to little Petra from here and wanted to camp along with his friends there. I didn’t feel comfortable and politely refused the offer. Infact, I texted him a bit later that I will leave his house and find myself another couch-surfing host (there are plenty in Petra). I did it because I was not sure what his motives were and from all my solo travels, I always go with my instincts. My instinct said NO, and without a second thought, I declined the offer and left. This situations can be avoided by just acting reasonable and just saying NO. I find the word “NO” very powerful while traveling and honestly, after living in Netherlands for 2.5 years, I have adapted to the straight forwardness very well and I love it :). So, now I had to choose another couch-surfing host and luckily, I had many options to choose from for a new couch-surfing host for the second night. I just made a phone call to a new host from Petra itself. His name was Abdullah and after listening to my situation, he was very helpful and just offered to pick me up at the main entrance gate when I am done seeing Petra. Very convenient :).

Soon after Ibrahim left, I found myself a victim of all those hawkers on the way wanting to sell me stuff and it can get very very annoying at some point. Anyways, it was around 4:30 pm already and most of the visitors were leaving and hence I had to be quick. Even though I was fully equipped for the dawn as I had heard that Petra gets really dark in the night, I decided to slowly head back to the main entrance and leave Petra by 7 pm. You are very safe in Petra as rangers do rounds, but if you are in one of the caves with a bedouin (not uncommon), nobody can actually trace you. So, be careful if you are traveling by yourself. Try to leave the site just after the sunset.

After climbing down, I met a kid who offered me a donkey ride for a very little price (2 JDs) from Monastery to the Siq. I usually am against these rides, but seeing he was a kid and needed money, I agreed and actually ended up giving him 5 JDs. The distance is around 3 kms and I think the price was worth it. This was my first donkey ride and it was a bit scary in the beginning. :P. It took time for the donkey and me to get comfortable in each other’s company after which, it turned out to be a blast!

Finally after a thrilling donkey ride (sounds weird enough :P), I arrived at the “Al Khazneh” (Treasury) and it was so so amazing. I completely forgot all bad things that had happened a bit before. I just couldn’t get enough of it and with the sun going down, the colors were amazing. Wow! It usually gets very crowded as this is the most important attraction of Petra and I actually waited to get that perfect shot and I do take a lot of pride on it. As far as my picture with the “Al Khazneh” was concerned, I had asked 9 people to take a picture and each of them took atleast 5-6 pictures and after many attempts, I was finally satisfied :P. I usually always target young people to ask for a picture because they are much more open-minded, know how to use a good camera and doesn’t get irritated easily with my demands :P. I always return the favor with good pictures of them too. So, look for me when you are traveling if you want a give-and-take good pictures in your solo or couple trip :P.

It was so hard to leave this place because it was just way too pretty and I understood why it made to the 7 wonders of the world! But because it was getting dark and I had made up my mind to leave before 7 pm, I decided to leave after half an hour with a promise that I will be back to see it early in the morning the next day (thanks to my 2 day pass toPetra).

Do you remember Indiana Jones and the last Crusade? Remember how the caravans traveled between the big rock formations? Well, that is called the “Siq” and here I was entering the Siq. The Siq leads to the treasury from the main entrance gate. Because I did the other way round, I walked in the Siq while exiting Petra. Nevertheless, it was just way too amazing feeling. The mammoth rocks and their intriguing colors definitely made me feel like it was all worth this whole hassle of coming to Jordan! I loved it.

NOTE: Slowly, I made my way back after such an incredible experience. There were few tourists and I had my next bad (“uncomfortable” must be a better word) experience. The bedouins on the donkeys and camel would come to me while I kept walking in order to charm me with their black kohl eyes and big hair. Apparently, this is very common and they do it a lot in Petra to solo female tourists in order to make them fall in love. I found many blogs on this after returning back to Amsterdam and I actually met 4-5 bedouins who are listed by other female travelers in their blogs with similar accusations. Please please be careful because this a set-up and all they want from Western tourists is money to buy camels and donkeys and an EU passport. Read more here. There is a separate FB page on this and I strongly advise you to have a look as I find some couples being targeted too! Again I would like to emphasize that  nobody will dare to do anything to you unless you let it happen. So, just say NO or call for a ranger/police. They will help you and I even spoke to fellow tourists and they asked me to join them and walk with them instead of walking alone!

Around 7:20 pm, I was out of Petra and it was a good time to be out in order to be safe. Here, Abdullah came to pick me up and to my surprise he turned out to be a big hotel owner in Wadi Musa (base point for tourists visiting Petra) and he offered me a “couch” which was actually a big double room in his big hotel just next to Petra entrance. He drove me to pick up my bags from Ibrahim’s place (my first couch-surfer in Petra) and suddenly, I found myself to be treated like a princess in a big hotel with free accommodation, amazing food, sisha, alcohol and transport (his BMW 😉 ).

After having a delicious meal, drinking best Jordanian white wine and puffing Sisha, I came back to my room and went straight to bed to have a sound sleep. Next day I had planned to visit Petra again early in the morning and head to Amman by the 4 pm bus.

Goodnight!

Missed my post on how I arrived in Petra from Wadi Rum was, read it here: Jordan Chronicles 8: Drive to Petra from Wadi Rum, Day 4

Want to know about my second day in Petra, read it here: Jordan Chronicles 10: Petra Day 2 and Amman

Jordan Chronicles 8: Drive to Petra from Wadi Rum, Day 4

March 28, 2016: After spending an amazing time in Wadi Rum, we started our drive towards Petra. It is important to know that there are two main highways in Jordan to travel called the King’s highway and Desert Highway. Desert highway is a two-way highway and is the main route which leads to Amman from Saudi Arabia and hence can be very busy at some points. But, it is the quickest way to travel (and not scenic at all with only deserts around and gets very boring after sometime to look at). King’s highway on the other hand is a real treat to the eyes and even though its very slow as its just an one-way traffic highway, you will definitely not regret taking it. It justifies its name very well.

From Wadi Rum to Petra, we first drove in the Desert highway for an hour and then took the King’s highway. It was very scenic and goes through the big mountains. We watched the sun go down on our drive towards Petra and it was spectacular!

The drive took us 3.5 hours in total from Wadi Rum to Petra and we didn’t have any layovers in between. The girls dropped me at the Wadi Musa village which is the closest village (base) for Petra and mostly all the hotels are here. I had to go further to the local Bedouin village of Petra to meet my couchsurfing host. Even though I was very tired, I decided to try my luck at hitch hiking! It wasn’t hard at all to get a ride! I just had to wait 5 minutes before a guy picked me up and agreed to drop me at the Bedouin village!

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My hitchhiking experience in Jordan

I met Ibrahim who was my couchsurfing host in the local Bedouin village at Petra. He was a bedouin himself! He also had 4 German couchsurfers already at his place and the evening turned out very good! I had initially planned to go to “Petra by the night” (it was a Monday), but the weather was too bad with strong and cold winds and hence I dropped the plan! “Petra by the night” is a show which is set up 3 days/week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) in which the main attractions of Petra (the Treasury and the Siq) are lit with candles accompanied by live Jordanian music and Jordanian tea. I have read mixed reviews about it and most of the people commented saying it was too touristic and expensive (17 JDs). On a second thought, I was getting enough local experiences already and hence didn’t much sense to do it on such a harsh weather (it might get canceled if the weather is too bad)! Ibrahim cooked us local Bedouin dish (Foul) with pita bread with some Bedouin tea. It was amazing!!

After dinner, Ibrahim played his local Bedouin instruement “lute” for us and also prepared sisha at his place for us! We smoked sisha at his place and I also learned how to play Lute (a bit ;)) from him. Sadly the German couchsurfers were leaving the next morning towards Wadi Rum, but on a good note, Ibrahim promised to take off from work the next day so that he can show me around Petra! I was very very excited about venturing Petra with a Bedouin! 😀

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Couchsurfing at a Bedouin’s place in Petra

It was almost midnight by the time we finished our musical evening and honestly I was really tired, so were the others! Hence, I went to sleep with the constant excitement of seeing Petra the next day with a local Bedouin and most importantly hiking it off-the-beaten-track!

Want to hike Petra like I did? Follow my next post here: Jordan Chronicles 9: Petra Day 1

Missed my last post about how I hiked the big canyons and gorges in Wadi Rum? It’s here: Jordan Chronicles 7: Wadi Rum (hiking in the desert), Day 4