March 2020

How the Coronavirus Will Change Travel

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A solitary airplane at an airport during sunset
Posted: 03/31/20 | March 21st, 2020

On a breezy fall morning, I was walking home from my university’s humanities department after trying to get out of my Spanish language requirement to no avail. On the way, I ran into one of my roommates. He mentioned he had heard that a small plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

By the time I got home and turned on the TV, both towers were on fire and it was clear this was much more than a small plane gone off course.

In the days and weeks following September 11th, the world changed. Even to my young self, I could feel in my bones that nothing would ever be the same again. There was a pre-9/11 world and we were now forever in a post-9/11 world.

While the later 2008 financial crisis changed the economy and our views on money, 9/11 seemed to change who we fundamentally were as people. It created a shift in thinking and our sense of self. It changed how we Americans viewed the world. There was a “lost innocence.”

As the Coronavirus has rapidly unfolded in the last month, I feel that way again, except this time on a global scale. There was a pre-Coronavirus world and now we will forever be in a post-Coronavirus world.

From how we work, travel, view government, money, and conduct our day-to-day lives, everything is going to be different. And the longer the crisis lasts, the more different it will be. I can’t say just how yet (I’m a bad futurist) but, in my gut, I know change is coming.

But let’s talk about something I do know a bit about: the travel industry.

How is this going to change travel?

The travel industry relies on human movement to function. And, with countrywide lockdowns and most major airlines ceasing operations, no one is moving right now.

Overnight, an industry that employs 10% of the world has come to a near-complete stop.

This is worse than a recession. Because, even in a recession, some people still traveling.

Now no one is moving. The industry is in stasis.

And no one knows how long this is going to last.

Hubei province, the site of the outbreak in China, was in lockdown for over two months. Singapore has increased restrictions on foreigners and Hong Kong, reeling from a recent spike in infections, has relocked down the city.

And I think that the slow pace of such measures in many countries means most of the world will be in lockdown until May if not early June. Too many people are behind the curve and it will take longer to keep the virus under control than most people think.

So what does this mean for the industry I’ve spent the last twelve years in?

As a whole, I think we’re looking at a drastically smaller travel industry for the foreseeable future. WTTC states that they expect 75 million job loses (at a rate of up to 1 million jobs lost per day).

And it will take years for the industry – and the jobs – to return to pre-Coronavirus levels.

For starters, I don’t think many magazines and online publications will make it through. The 2008 financial crisis shuttered the doors of a lot of publications and those around today live off advertising, brand deals, and events. Ad rates are plummeting as traffic plummets and most brand deals are on hold for now.

With publications furloughing employees, giving pay cuts, and seeing lost revenue that will never come back, if this goes on longer, I think you’ll see around 25% of publications go under. I know four that closed last week. More will come. And those that survive will be smaller and be able to hire few writers.

Additionally, a lot of creators, YouTubers, freelance writers, and bloggers rely on brand partnerships for revenue. The freelance writing market is not a land of riches and, with the majority of writers and online content creators living on thin margins and paycheck to paycheck, the prospect of months of zero income is going to drive people out of the industry. I know a few already looking for the exit. I think 30-40% of people might end up leaving if the industry remains frozen to June.

Moreover, I think many hostels, travel start-ups, and small tour operators will go under too. Most small businesses operate with the tiniest of margins and don’t have a lot of liquidity. They keep enough cash on hand to get by without income for just a few weeks. A sustained shock to their business like this, even with government assistance, is going to bankrupt them. They have too much overhead and costs to sustain them. Many will fold and, when you travel again, you will see fewer hostels, food and walking tour companies, and small tour operators.

I expect it to take years for the travel industry to recover. People will slowly start booking travel again but, like the 2008 crisis, it is going to leave many unemployed. When you don’t have a job, travel is not a priority. It is luxury people will put off.

I think as the world opens up around the end of May/early June (provided there’s no second spike in infections), people will begin to start booking travel again for later in the summer. Business travel will pick up first but I think most of the tourism you’ll see initially will be local. People will travel around their region before they start taking big international trips again.

First, because it’s cheaper. This pandemic is going to cause a huge recession and massive job losses. Since travel is a luxury, big international trips won’t be on the agenda. Second, people will be wary of the risk of another potential outbreak. They will be concerned about picking up the virus as well as being stuck if something happens. Until everyone is 100% sure they are fine, people will be cautious.

And the cruise industry? Well, ships are floating petri dishes and, no matter how good the deals, most people won’t want to get on a ship for the foreseeable future. I believe this will permanently shrink the cruise industry. Images of cruise ships unable to dock in countries will scar our psyche for years to come.

Additionally, I think countries are going to be wary about fully opening up until they know they won’t be importing the virus and there’s some treatment or vaccine. No one wants to open their borders and have a second wave of infections that overloads their healthcare system. I wouldn’t be surprised if you start to see more temperature checks in airports and if countries start asking for proof you are COVID-19 negative.

While you will probably see a lot of travel deals as companies try to cover their costs and stay afloat, I think the whole “hop on the plane and travel” thing is going to be a lot harder until we reach a point where we have a treatment regime and vaccine for this virus.

But, maybe, the silver lining (and I always try to look for one) is that this will lead to more sustainable tourism as countries try to reduce crowds in hopes of keeping the virus in check.

Maybe this is the end of overtourism.

Whatever happens, travel is going to be a very different and smaller industry in the post-Coronavirus world.

P.S. – To keep this website community-focused and community-supported, we’ve launched a Patreon! While you can still access this website for free, Patreon members get access to private content and articles, monthly Q&As, bonus Instagram videos, free books, postcards, entry to our events, and more! Click here to learn more and became part of the club!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

The post How the Coronavirus Will Change Travel appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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28 Things to See and Do in San Francisco

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The famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA at sunset
Updated: 03/24/20 | March 24th, 2020

I loved visiting San Francisco from the start. It’s a city home to hippies, techies, artists, immigrants, students, and everyone in between. There’s incredible music, wold-class food for all budgets, some of the BEST Asian food in the country, parks galore, and amazing bohemian vibe to it.

With so many diverse influences, it’s no surprise that San Francisco has evolved into a world-class city that has a ton of amazing things to see and do.

Personally, I love visiting San Francisco for the food. It’s home to some of the best Asian and Mexican food in the country (as well as some incredible cafes).

But there is also much more to see here too. And just because it’s an expensive place to live doesn’t mean a visit has to break the bank either.

To help you plan your trip, here are the best 28 things to see and do in San Francisco
 

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

The first thing I do whenever I arrive in a new destination is to take a walking tour. It’s the best way to get the lay of the land, see the highlights, and ask your questions to an expert local guide. Free Tours By Foot has a few different FREE options available covering different areas of the city. (Just make sure to tip your guide)

If you want something more in-depth, there are also plenty of paid tours you can take. Take Walks is my go-to walking tour company and they offer some interesting tours around the city. If you want to really learn a lot (while having fun), book a tour with them!
 

2. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge

The famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA in the summer
There is no question that the iconic Golden Gate Bridge is one of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks. Opened in 1937, it’s arguably the most-photographed bridge in the world. At its inception, it was both the longest and the tallest suspension bridge in the world, spanning 4,200 feet (1,280m) long and standing 746 feet (227m) tall.

You can walk across the bridge (which I recommended) or just stare at it from every angle and snap your own iconic photos. If you have time, make your way to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It has a waterfront promenade, sweeping views of the bridge, and a few easy hiking trails.
 

3. Visit Crissy Field

This park is located near the bridge and makes for a nice follow-up. It has a beach, some restaurants, piers where you can see locals fishing, and plenty of green space to relax. It offers some sweeping views of the harbor, making it a laid-back place to come in the summer to have a picnic, lounge in the sun, and watch life go by.
 

4. See The Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is a Roman-style remnant of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (a world’s fair held in San Francisco). The outdoor rotunda and its lagoon are another one of the city’s most photographed sights. It’s also a fun social destination where you can bring friends to play giant Jenga, cornhole, ping pong, and other games. The city often has events here.

601 Lyon Street, +1 415-608-2220, palaceoffinearts.com. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm. Admission is free (some events charge admission).
 

5. Wander Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

The wharf was originally dominated by Italian immigrants who helped popularize the city’s fish market. To this day, you can watch fishermen at work in Fish Alley (the main street where the fishermen work). If you want to try some of the mouthwatering seafood that San Francisco is famous for, I sugged Waterbar and the Anchor Oyster Bar.

Pier 39 is touristy but it’s also a fun way to spend an hour or so. There are buskers, tacky souvenir shops, arcades, an aquarium, and tons of overpriced restaurants (so avoid eating here).
 

6. Explore Alcatraz

The infamous Alcatraz prison on an island off of San Francisco, USA
Alcatraz is probably the most famous (or infamous) prison in America. From 1934-1963, it housed the country’s most notorious criminals (criminals like Al Capone). In its 29 year history, not a single prisoner successfully escaped (or so they say). After its closure, it became a national landmark. Visitors can explore the island, learn about the prison and what life was like as an inmate, and tour the interior. It gets very busy in the summer so be sure to book ahead.

+1 415-981-7625, alcatrazcruises.com. Tours run daily year-round and cost $39.90 USD which includes an audio tour.
 

7. Take a Day Trip to Berkeley

Located just 20 minutes across the bay by car, Berkeley is home to music, hippies, students, and the University of California – Berkeley (30% of the city’s population go to school here). You can take a tour of the campus (self-guided or guided), hike up the Berkeley Hills, or shop on Fourth Street (the main thoroughfare). You’ll also find lots of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, street performers, and eclectic shops to browse.
 

8. Hang out in the Mission

For an amazing view of the city, head to Dolores Park in the Mission District. If you’re a history buff, don’t miss the Misión San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores). Founded in 1776, it’s the oldest surviving structure in the city and home to the only cemetery within city limits. It’s the structure that gives this part of town its name.

The Mission District is also a fun place to spend a night out. The district has tons of great Mexican restaurants as well as lively bars and clubs. Grab a burrito at Taqueria Cancún or Papolete, or visit one of the cocktail bars on 16th (Dalva is good).
 

9. See Lombard Street

This is the world’s windiest street. Surrounded by gardens and flowers, it’s made up of eight hairpin turns because, during the 1920s, people in San Francisco were beginning to drive around in automobiles. However, many of the city’s famous hills were too steep to navigate. The idea of using a curved street to help vehicles move downhill was embraced and the hill’s slope went from 27% to 16%. Now you can watch the cars and bikers navigate the sharp turns as tourists gawk at them.
 

10. Visit Coit Tower

Perched atop Telegraph Hill, this art deco tower was built in 1933. Standing 180-feet tall (55m), it’s home to over 25 murals and offers a panoramic view of the city. The murals here were painted in 1934 by local artists and depict life in San Francisco during the Depression. The tower became a San Francisco Designated Landmark in 1984 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, +1 315-249-0995,sfrecpark.org/destination/telegraph-hill-pioneer-park/coit-tower. Open daily from 10am-5pm (6pm in the summer). Admission is $6 USD for city residents and $9 USD for visitors.
 

11. Eat in Chinatown

This is the biggest Chinatown in the United States (and it’s the second most famous, after New York City. Chinese immigrants first came to the West Coast in the 1850s and set up shop in San Francisco. Due to racial segregation, this neighborhood became predominantly Chinese and remained so even after segregation ended.

It’s one of the best places in the city to eat and you can find some incredible dim sum here. There are also lots of great teahouses, bars, souvenir stalls, and fortune cookie makers.

To really learn about the area, its history, and its people, take a walking tour with <a href="Take Walks. They’re my go-to walking tour company because they use expert local guides and their tours are always fun and educational.
 

12. Ride the Cable Cars

The famous streetcars of San Francisco, USA
No visit to San Francisco is complete without riding on a cable car. The cable car system in San Francisco is the last manually-operated system in the entire world. Of the 22 lines that were originally created in the 19th century, only three are still in operation. Since there is limited seating (and since they are one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city) waits can be long. Make sure you plan ahead (try to go during a weekday when there are fewer visitors). Tickets are $7 USD.
 

13. Go on a Harbor Tour

For a completely different look at the city, take an afternoon cruise of San Francisco Bay. You’ll get to see some wildlife, snap some great photos, and learn about the bay and its place in San Francisco’s history. Around 40% of California, drains into the bay and the area is home to all kinds of snakes, rays, otters, sharks, whales, sea lions, and more. A budget-friendly way to see the bay is to take the public ferries for $7.30 USD.

You can find prices and routes at sanfranciscobayferry.com.
 

14. Hang out in the Castro

San Fransico has been the de facto gay capital of the US since the 60s and 70s. The gay hub in the city is the Castro, San Francisco’s famous gay neighborhood (Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, had his office here). The neighborhood has a number of ethnic and modern restaurants as well as a bunch that serve locally-sourced organic food. On top of that, there are a plethora of wild and fun clubs that cater to both gay and straight crowds. If you’re looking for a fun nightlife, this is the neighborhood for you.
 

15. Explore Haight-Ashbury

The birthplace of America’s counterculture, the Haight was ground zero during the summer of 1967, a.k.a. The Summer of Love. Hippies used to live here but, eventually, all the colorful Victorian homes were bought up by more well-off residents as the area gentrified. It’s now home to high-end boutiques, hip cages, and chic restaurants. That said, you can still find some record stores, dive bars, and vintage clothing stores here.

If you really want to learn more about the area’s hippy past, take the Flower Power Walking Tour. It’s just $20 USD and will walk you through the neighborhood’s vibrant and eclectic past.
 

16. Rollerskate in Church

The Church of 8 Wheels is a former church that has been converted to an old school rollerskating arena. They have DJs and live music so it’s essentially a party on wheels. Admission is $10 USD and you can rent skates for $5 USD. It’s a cheap (and unique) way to have fun and meet people. There are times for both kids and adults too and they even organize lessons for people who have never roller-skated before.

554 Fillmore St., +1 415-752-1967, churchof8wheels.com. Open Friday-Sunday. Check the website for times as there are both all-ages and adult-only events.
 

17. See Muir Woods

The massive trees in the serene Muir Woods in San Francisco, USA
Named after famed naturalist John Muir, it’s located just 16 miles from downtown so its an easy place to visit. The place is home to over 240 acres of towering old-growth redwood trees. While the trees here are not as big as the sequoia trees in nearby Sequoia National Park, it’s nevertheless a relaxing place to visit. There are plenty of walking trails and it’s family/kid-friendly too.
 

18. Visit the Beat Museum

Dedicated to the Beat Generation (the 1950s counter-culture), here you’ll find original manuscripts, rare books, letters, and more from authors like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Founded in 2003, the museums has over 1,000 pieces of memorabilia including Ginsber’s typewriter and a first edition copy of Kerouac’s novel The Town and the City. They also hold regular events so check the website to see if anything is happening during your visit.

540 Broadway, +1 800-537-6822, kerouac.com. Open daily from 10am-7pm. Admission is $8 USD.
 

19. Learn at the Exploratorium

This interactive science museum has all kinds of exhibitions covering biology, gravity, light, animation, and much more. It’s very hands-on so it’s the perfect stop for anyone traveling with kids (though there are also adult-specific exhibitions too).

Pier 15, +1 415-528-4444, exploratorium.edu. Open Tuesday–Sunday from 10am-5pm. Admission is $29.95 USD.
 

20. Hang Out in Golden Gate Park

This massive park covers over 1,000 acres, making it 20% bigger than Central Park in NYC. Inside, you’ll find a Japanese garden, an arboretum, a museum, and lots of hiking and walking trails. Walking from end to end takes the better half a day. In the summer, it’s a popular spot to picnic, go for a stroll, and soak up the sun. Even though it sees over 24 million visitors each year, it’s never too hard to find a secluded spot for yourself.
 

21. Catch a Game

Oracle Arena in San Francisco at night full of fans
San Francisco locals love their sports teams, especially the Giants (their baseball team). If you’re in town during a game, be sure to head to Oracle Arena and take in the spectacle — it doesn’t get more American than this! The team is one of the longest-established and most successful in the league and you can get tickets for under $10 USD.
 

22. Visit the Cable Car Museum

When the cable cars launched in 1873, they were hugely popular and they changed the face of the city. To learn more and see all kinds of photos and relics from a bygone era, including some of the original cars, head to this museum. It’s not huge but it’s fun and insightful.

1201 Mason Street, +1 415-474-1887, cablecarmuseum.org. Open daily from 10am-5pm (6pm in the summer). Admission is free.
 

23. Tour Wine Country

A glass of wine being poured on a table outside in Napa Valley, USA
If you love wine and have time to leave the city, visit the world-famous Napa and Sonoma wine regions. Napa is one of the world’s leading wine-producing area and every year over 3 million people come to taste their way around the region. Located just over an hour from the city by car, there are plenty of companies that organize day trips to Napa Valley (usually for between $99-150 USD per person). However, day tours are usually a bit rushed. If you have the time, rent a car and stay overnight.
 

24. Enjoy the View from Twin Peaks

For another panoramic view of the city, drive or hike up to the top of Twin Peaks. Standing 925 feet high, you’ll get a sweeping 360-degree view of the city. Come for sunset and enjoy the view. There are also lots of trails weaving around the mountains so you can hike for a couple of hours here if you wanted.
 

25. Take a Food Tour

This city is known for its food. If you want to cast a wide culinary net and try a lot of different foods, consider taking a food tour. Here are a few companies worth checking out if you’re considering:

  • Wild SF Tours – A tasty food crawl of Chinatown and Little Italy where you can try dim sum, pizza, craft cocktail-inspired boba milk tea, and cannoli. Tickets from $69.
  • Secret Food Tours – Sample the best of the Mission District, including burritos, oysters, ice cream, and more! Tickets from $79 USD.
  • TasteBud Tours – A culinary exploration of Little Italy that stops off at 7 different local restaurants. Tickets from $68.50.

 

26. Day Trip to Oakland

Just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco is Oakland. It’s considered the “Brooklyn” to San Francisco’s “Manhattan.” In recent years, Oakland has developed a niche for and craft beer and specialty restaurants. There are tons of bars and breweries, and they even have their own “Ale Trail” if you want to wander the city and sample its best drinks.

You can also visit Oakland Redwood Regional Park, Lake Merritt, or catch a baseball game at Oakland Coliseum. There’s a lot you can do in Oakland and you can easily spend a day or more here!
 

27. Visit the Asian Art Museum

This is one of the most comprehensive collections of Asian art in the world. The museum houses almost 20,000 items in its collection and you can get a free guided tour to walk you through all the highlights and special exhibits that the museum has to offer. There are both modern art exhibitions as well as historical artifacts and artwork. Check the website to see what temporary exhibitions are available during your visit.

200 Larkin St., +1 415-581-3500, asianart.org. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm (9pm on Thursdays). Admission is $15 USD.
 

28. Take a Quirky Tour or Visit a Weird Museum

San Francisco is an eclectic city to say the least so it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of unique tours and museums here. Some of the more fun and interesting tours options are:

  • San Francisco Love Tours – Explore the city in a hand painted VW bus and learn about San Francisco’s counter-culture icons while listening to hippie music from the Summer of Love. Tours from $45 USD.
  • GoCar Tours – Whip around the city in a go kart and see the sights as you bomb down hills (including the winding Lombard Street). Tours from $120 USD.

And, for weird / offbeat museums, visit:

  • The Antique Vibrator Museum – See what sex toys from the 1800s looks like!
  • The Gregangelo Museum – This “museum” is bursting with all kinds of weird decorations, themed rooms, secret passageways, hidden rooms, and all sorts of weird art and interior design.
  • The Peephole Cinema – Watch short silent films through a tiny public peephole in the Mission District.
  • Musée Mécanique – A collection of over 300 old arcade games from the 20th century.

***

While San Francisco may be known for its high cost of living, there are tons of fun things to see and do in the city that won’t break the bank. With a little planning and creativity, you can enjoy your time in San Francisco without going over budget.

And whether you’re looking for museums, nature, food, or nightlife, this city will not disappoint.

Book Your Trip to San Francisco: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My suggested place is the The Green Tortoise. It’s the best hostel in the city. It has free breakfast, pub crawls, and dinners three times a week.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Need a Guide?
San Francisco has some really great tours on offer. For an in-depth walking tour, check out <a href="Take Walks. They use expert local guides and have a super insightful (and fun) tour through Chinatown.

For something more hands-on like a segway tour, use Fat Tire Tours. They have a few different tours around the city and are a great alternative to a standard walking tour.

Looking for More Information on Visiting San Francisco?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to San Francisco with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

The post 28 Things to See and Do in San Francisco appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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An Update on Life with Coronavirus

Posted By : webmaster/ 185 0


The COVID-19 coronavirus as a digital image
Posted: 03/26/20 | March 26th, 2020

As many of you know, I have the coronavirus. Well, had. I’ve recovered. Luckily, I had a mild case. It felt like a really bad cold. My fever lasted only a few days, and the cough lasted until about day twelve. (Today is day fourteen.)

Given how bad this virus can be — even for people my age (I’m almost forty) — I count myself very lucky. (If you want to read about my experience, I posted about it here and here.)

I hardly ever get sick so this was a scary experience for me. I was mostly worried by reports saying that between days eight and ten, patients could suddenly crash and end up in the ICU. I knew I was probably fine when the fever broke, but until day ten, I never really felt out of the woods.

Additionally, as someone who loves to wake up early, I found the lethargy that came with being sick demoralizing, which made the experience even worse. It weighed heavily on my mental state, which in turn made me feel physically worse.

Here I was, trapped inside, where I could theoretically at least work, read, and watch movies — and I spent the majority of the day sleeping! I just ended up scrolling social media, which is never a good thing even in the best of times, and that just made my anxiety and emotional state worse.

However, I’m on the mend but will be quarantined for the foreseeable future. No one is watching my door, but I plan to be a good human and stay inside. I hope to get retested but, with tests so limited, I doubt I will be able to. They say you can shed the virus for up to three weeks (no one really knows for sure) so I’ll just avoid people for the next three weeks to be on the safe side. I do not want to spread this.

While the days in quarantine have been slow, now that I’m feeling better, I’ve been able to resume work (writing and fixing up the website). When not working, I’ve started to finally catch up on my binge-worthy shows (Altered Carbon and The Man in High Castle are great!) and reading (so far just finishing some books I started already, but I’m looking into diving into a wide range of sci-fi, history, and travel books in the coming weeks).

I look forward to the day I can leave my house and go for a walk. I’d always taken for granted the ability to just go outside. Not anymore. Luckily, there are plenty of things to do at home, but I do yearn for the outdoors. I fully plan to take more advantage of the outside when this is all over. (I suspect we all will.)

I guess it is true what they say: you don’t really appreciate things until they are gone.

***

On another note, watching the travel industry grind to a halt while having employees has been really mentally tough. It keeps me up a lot at night. I’ve already started seeing friends of mine lose their jobs and I know a few companies about to head under. It’s been sad to see. Even in a recession, people still travel.

But now? No one is going anywhere. March has felt like the longest decade of my life and it’s only going to get worse. I have a whole post coming out on what I think will happen to the travel industry because of this but it’s going to be bad.

This site (usually) gets a lot of traffic and we do very well, most of that goes back into other business endeavors (our conference TravelCon, our charity FLYTE, new projects, and all the events we do) so we don’t have a huge cushion.

If this website were just me, it wouldn’t be a problem but, with four full-time employees, a lot of my day is spent worrying about how I can make payroll.

Hopefully, we’ll make it through and people will start traveling again in late May/early June. All our fallback plans assumed people would still travel. We never imagined there would be no travel in the world. As Monty Python said, no one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition.

But the team and I are on the same page and we’ll figure out a way through.

This year, we were turning toward events and community initiatives through our Nomadic Network program.

But, since we should all be inside now (let’s flatten the curve so we can end this as quickly as possible), we can’t do events. But there’s a lot we can do virtually:

First, I’m all over Instagram these days, posting lots of updates from home and doing some live Q&As. Follow me there for updates, posts, and streams!

Second, I started a service where you can text me about travel, life, and anything else and I’ll respond. For real! My number is +1 (617) 284-0863. See, here’s a pic of me with the number so you know it’s real:

Nomadic Matt holding a sign with his phone number on it

Finally, as I’m passing time by writing new blog posts, I’d love to know if there are any topics you’d like me to write about. If so, leave them in the comments!

Let’s chat and pass the time. Now is when we need community the most. Let’s be here for each other during these trying times.

I hope you are FaceTiming the people that are important to you more often!

– Matt

P.S. – Some of you have asked if there’s anything you can do to help and we have some easy ways to do so:

Additionally, we started a Patreon. While you can continue to use this site for free, if you want to get more out of your experience here, we’ve created a program where each month you can get exclusive content, live chats, Q&A sessions, free books, and a lot more!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

The post An Update on Life with Coronavirus appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Don’t Have (Travel) Regrets

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no travel regrets
Updated: 3/24/2020 | March 24th, 2020

When I went to college (university as non-Americans say), a few of my friends studied abroad. They came back glowing from life-changing experiences, telling stories of new friends, spontaneous trips to exotic locations, foreign beauties, “weird” food, and life lessons learned. Their tales made it sound like they lived through a coming of age movie.

I thought of doing it myself. How exciting it must be! To be in a foreign country, learning a new language, reinventing yourself, meeting foreign girls, and being able to legally drink. For a college student, it sounded like magic.

But, though I took the forms to fill out each semester, I never studied abroad.

Semester after semester passed and I let the opportunities slip by.

Why?

For a simple reason: FEAR.

I was always too afraid. I wasn’t afraid of what would happen or if I would succeed. No, I had a worse kind of fear: FOMO. The fear of missing out. I worried constantly that life back home would pass me by and I’d be forgotten.

What changes would happen with my friends? What parties would I miss? What gossip? What if there was some big event at school and I wasn’t there? What inside jokes would I not be a part of? What if the President came? What if this! What if that!

As a shy, unconfident college kid, I never wanted to leave because I was (incorrectly) afraid that if I left, I’d come back and life would have moved on without me and I’d be a stranger to those around me.

I didn’t want to hear stories from my friends about things they did while I was away — I wanted to be a part of those experiences. In my mind, I knew I would have created my own stories abroad but I was too afraid about what stories I would miss if I left.

So I stayed at home.

And, though I did eventually go traveling, I regret not studying abroad.

You can’t change the past. And maybe if I had studied abroad I never would have gone traveling later or made this website. You can’t be mired in what ifs. You can only make the best decisions you can at the time with the information you have.

But I regret the decision because I let fear win.

I let fear rule my life. I went with the devil I knew because it was easier. I allowed me to stay in my comfort zone and never really test myself. I could always have the dream of “what might have been” without actually having to do it.

I put off a great experience because I was afraid of what the future might have happened.

You can’t let the fear win. Fear is the enemy of your dreams.

no travel regrets

It was a hard lesson to learn but missing out on studying abroad showed me that you can’t let your fear hold you back. In previous posts, I’ve written about how now is a good time to travel because of the economy and about how the only secret to long term traveling is desire.

But even those with the greatest desire to travel can still be held back by fear.

The Dutch have a saying: “He who is outside his door already has the hardest part of his journey behind him.”

If you talk to any traveler, they will all tell you the same thing: nothing changes back home. People might get a new job or a new girlfriend. Maybe they will move. Someone might get married. A restaurant might close. A bar might no longer be cool.

But the day to day life will be the same and when you know that, you’ll thank yourself for not giving into fear.

Life never gives you the same chance twice. Doors don’t reopen. Once they shut, they shut for good.

It’s easier to travel than you think. Once you take that first step out the door, anything is possible. Whether it’s a two week trip to Bali, a year-long trip around the world, or finally taking the family to Disney, get going now because you are missing a big world out there.

I regret never leaving to study abroad.

I can’t take back my decision but I can make sure I am never afraid to step out the door again.

Because, in the end, what will you regret not going more than you’ll regret going.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

how to travel the world on $50 a dayMy New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel save money, get off the beaten path, and have a more local, richer travel experiences. Click here to learn more about the book, how it can help you, and you can start reading it today!
 
 
 
 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines. Start with Momondo.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates. (Here’s the proof.)

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never ever go on a trip without it. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. You should too.

Need Some Gear?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use!

The post Don’t Have (Travel) Regrets appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Our New Patreon!!!

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Nomadic Matt in Hawaii
Posted: 03/18/20 | March 18th, 2020

Since mid-February, Coronavirus has spread uncontrollably around the world. Many countries are on complete lockdown. People are quarantined in their homes. We have an unprecedented shutdown of human movement around the world.

This is a “Black Swan” event, an unpredictable turn of events that will undoubtedly change the world. It’s going to leave a mark on society and reshape how we interact, work, and conduct ourselves (maybe people will finally start washing their hands more).

One of the (many) direct consequences of this rapid spread to Pandemic levels is that it has shut down the entire travel industry, an industry that relies specifically on the movement of people to exist.

Right now, no one should travel. We need to flatten the curve, reduce the transmission of this disease, and ensure we do not overwhelm our healthcare systems.

No country can afford to repeat Italy’s experience. We must all do our part, no matter how hard it is.

The world will be waiting for us when this is all over.

But, like everyone else in travel, we have been hit really bad. The team and I become increasingly worried as the days go by and our traffic and revenue fall to zero.

These are dark times.

And we have you.

And want to turn to you, our beloved community, especially as a number of you have asked how you can support the site during this time of uncertainty.
Today, we have a way:

We are launching a Patreon!

A Patreon is a members-only subscription service where you’ll get exclusive perks like:

  • Monthly Q&As
  • Signed books
  • Access to all our events
  • Planning calls with me
  • Postcards
  • Calls with the team
  • Private Instagram postings and blog posts.

This isn’t going to be asking for a handout. You’ll get behind the scenes access and content exclusive to you every month.

Just go to our new Patreon page, pick your subscription level, and you’re in!

We’ll start sending messages and arranging everything this week. (And, yes, we’ll keep this going even after the crisis has subsided.)

Situations like this make you look at things differently. We were already moving towards a more community-centric model with our events. The Coronavirus is just expediting that process and this new membership program is the next phase of that.

These are really hard times in the travel industry. This is a really hard time for us.

But we have you – and that’s what matters. The team and I really appreciate anything you can do to help us ride out the storm. We’re going keep trucking on and creating content that you can use for when we can travel again.

Thank you so much for everything and for helping us get through this weird period of time!

– Nomadic Matt

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

The post Our New Patreon!!! appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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7 Ways to Scratch the Travel Itch Without Traveling

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A man reading a book while sitting on his couch
Updated: 3/17/2020 | March 17th, 2020

Once at a reader reader meetup, a fellow traveler approached me. He had just returned from an overland drive from New York City to Patagonia.

After I peppered him with questions about his trip (I mean really, how cool does that trip sound?), he asked me one:

“How do you deal with coming home, staying in the travel mindset, and keeping the lessons you learned alive?”

It’s a great question and it touches on something a lot of travelers get blindsided by: the post-travel blues.

Post-trip depression is something many long-term travelers struggle with.

Coming home is often harder than leaving (or adjusting to life abroad) because it’s so anti-climactic.

Before your trip, there is this massive buildup of emotions, preparation, and excitement. You’ve been planning a trip for months, imagining yourself in foreign lands, meeting interesting people, and going on an adventure.

You’re moving toward a goal. You’re excited. A bright future of possibility lies before you.

But then you come home after months (or years) abroad and it’s suddenly “now what?”

There’s no more buildup.

Just a complete stop.

You don’t come back with a bang; you come back with a whimper. Your friends are only kind of interested in your trip, but soon their eyes glaze over at your travel tales. Before you know it, you fall back into your old routine and it’s as this trip never happened.

So what can you do to recreate that sense of travel when you get back home?

And, given the times we live in, what do you do when you are quarantined because of Coronavirus, flights are grounded, and the travel industry has come to a halt?

How can you keep that sense of adventure alive while you are home (literally in your home and generally in your community)?

Well, here are 7 ways to bring the world to you when you can’t go to it:

 

1. Read Travel Books

Ten Years a Nomad by Matt Kepnes on a table with a coffee
The easiest thing you can to bring the world to you is to visit it through a book. Read about people’s adventures and stay inspired as you dream about all the places you’ll go in the future. Get new ideas, learn about other cultures, satiate your wanderlust, and grow your “to visit” list.

Let your mind travel when your body can’t.

Here’s a list of some travel books to get you started:

For more suggestions, here’s a larger list of my favorite travel books.

And here’s a list of 13 non-travel books that changed my life (because if this quarantine lasts for awhile, you might want to read some other genres too!).

Additionally, if you want regular book suggestions, we have a travel book club where, once a month, I send a list of some of my recent reads.
 

2. Watch Travel Movies

A scene from the film Midnight in Paris
From far-fetched classics like Indiana Jones to biopics like Wild to documentaries like A Map for Staurday, travel movies are another great way to satiate your wanderlust. Here are a few of my favorites:

For more, here’s a full list of the best travel movies out there.

And, if you want some TV or Netflix suggestions, here are a few shows worth binging:

  • Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain
  • An Idiot Abroad
  • Departures
  • The Long Way Round
  • The Amazing Race
  • Dark Tourist
  • Someone Feed Phil
  • Ugly Delicious

 

3. Start Planning Your Next Trip

a diverse group of travelers gathered together
Eventually, the current situation with the Coronavirus will pass and we’ll be able to travel again. So, while you are at home with lots of time on your hands, start planning your summer or fall trip. After all, we’re all gonna really need to get outside once this crisis is over! Trip planning will keep you busy and help make the days and weeks fly by.

First, buy a guidebook. I love getting lost in guidebooks and plotting itineraries and dreaming of the sights I’ll see. They’ll help you get the lay of the land, outline your budget, and give you an introduction to the destination. We have 7 in-depth budget travel guidebooks to some of my favorite destinations around the world, including:

They’re the product over over ten years of backpacking the world and are chock full of insider tips, budget suggestions, itineraries and much, much more!

For other destinations, I suggest using Lonely Planet guidebooks. They’re my go-to company whenever I’m planning a new trip. They have the widest selection of destinations out there. You can check out their selection here and pick one up for your next trip! (Amazon is delivering so you don’t need to leave your house to get one!)

Next, check out this comprehensive step-by-step guide to planning a trip. It will walk you through all my best tips on planning a trip so you can be ready to go the second we’re allowed to travel again.

Being at home can lead to a lot of boredom but I’ve always found trip planning – even for places I never end up going – a great mental escape that helps me pass the time and occupy my mind.
 

4. Start Travel Hacking

a man holding a credit card making an online purchase
While you’re waiting for your next trip, sign up for a new travel credit card so you can earn points and miles for free flights and hotel stays. This is how I travel so often without spending a ton of money. Accommodation and flights are two of the biggest expenses you’ll have so being able to reduce that to near zero ensure you’ll be able to travel a lot more!

Here are some posts to help you learn more and get started today (because the sooner you start the sooner you can earn a free trip!)

 

5. Join Online Communities

A laptop and a coffee resting on a table
A wonderful way to connect with other travelers and keep the spirit of travel alive is to join an online community. There are a lot out there these days (including the one we started a few months back). Being at home can be isolating and, as you dream and plan future trips, connect with other travelers. Share trips, advice, stories, and keep your spirits high!

Here are a few of the best online communities you can join today:

 

6. Read Travel Blogs

a laptop on a table beside a mobile phone
Whether you’re planning a trip or just looking for something to read, travel blogs have a wealth of on-the-ground information, insider tips, and stories that can give you a lot of helpful advice and suggestions for your next trip.

Not only that but, as the travel industry grinds to a halt during this pandemic, reading blogs helps you support those of us who rely on advertising as part of our income. So, not only will you be getting lots of information but you’ll help keep bloggers from going under. Win-win!

Here are some suggested blogs to read:

For even more awesome websites worth reading, here’s a list of my favorite travel blogs.

And since we’re also struggling traffic-wise, here are some of our most popular posts in case you feel like browsing (thanks in advance!):

 

7. Meet Travelers Near You

A Nomadic Network meetup with lots of local travelers
(Note: At the moment, this tip does not apply due to the quarantine but, once it is lifted, this can be a way to meet people in your local area.)

Having a support network is vital. You need people who won’t think you’re weird when you tell them you want to hike across the Amazon. You need people to say “Can I join?”

That why we started The Nomadic Network. It’s an online and in-person meet-up group for travelers all around the world. We host regular events every month in cities across the globe (at least when this crisis is over. Sign-up, use our forum to chat with people virtually, and, when this all over, come meet up in person!

Some other great websites for meeting people in real-life are:

  • Meetup.com – There’s a group out there for everything. I use this site frequently.
  • Couchsurfing – Couchsurfing is more than a website that offers accommodation. It has lot of local groups that hold events all the time. It is a wonderful way to meet other travelers and locals – at home or on the road.

***

Coming home can be hard. We all need a community that supports and understands us. And, while we can’t meet that community in real life right now, there are many ways you can bring the world to you while you are at home.

Use these tips. Keep your travel spirits alive. Plan a future trip. The world will be waiting – and ready – for you when this is all over.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

Photo Credit: 7 – OuiShare

The post 7 Ways to Scratch the Travel Itch Without Traveling appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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16 Things to See and Do in Tallinn, Estonia

Posted By : webmaster/ 203 0


A view of the Old Town in Tallin, Estonia on a bright summer day
Posted: 03/12/20 | March 12th, 2020

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a medieval city nestled against the Baltic Sea. With its picturesque historic Old Town that dates back to the 13th century, it has been drawing in tourists since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Cheap flights, cheap prices, and the beauty of Prague without the crowds have made Tallinn an appealing weekend getaway for Europeans.

I visited the city on a trip from Finland — there’s a frequent ferry service between the two cities — and was enamored by it. It was a blend of Nordic and Baltic culture with plenty of things to see and do.

Best of all, it was super affordable!

Though the city has become a bit more crowded and expensive in the last couple of years, it’s still one of my favorite places in the region. It’s peaceful and wonderful: the people are open and relaxed and the country is super tech-forward (they offer e-residency services specifically for digital nomads).

To help you make the most out of your trip, here are the best things to see and do in Tallinn — from the super touristy to off the beaten trail!
 

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

An empty street in the Old Town of Tallin, Estonia
One of the best things you can do when you arrive in a new city is to take a free walking tour. They’re a great way to learn about a destination and its history while taking in the main sights.

Not only will it give you a solid introduction to the city but you’ll get access to a local guide who can answer any and all questions you might have.

EstAdventures has a few different free tour options, including general walking tours, tours focused on the city’s communist past, and street art tours. Just make sure to tip your guide!
 

2. Estonian Maritime Museum

The Estonian Maritime Museum in Tallin, Estonia
Founded in 1935 and located inside a historic 500-year-old building, this museum highlights the history of Estonia’s maritime culture. The main attraction is the interactive Seaplane Harbour exhibition, which includes a Short 184 seaplane as well as the steam-powered icebreaker Suur Toll.

And don’t miss the 1936 submarine Lembit, the only surviving Baltic warship from before WWII (and one of only two submarines in Estonian naval history). There’s also an aquarium, ship miniatures, and a flight simulator. It’s a fun and educational place for adults and kids alike.

Vesilennuki tee 6, +372 6200 550, meremuuseum.ee. Open Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm; closed Monday. Admission: 15 EUR.
 

3. Glehn Park & Castle

Glehn Castle and Park in Tallin, Estonia in the winter
Glehn Park, located on the Nomme hillside, is home to medieval-style Glehn Castle. Built in 1886, both the park and castle were created by Nikolai von Glehn, a rich and eclectic man known for his unusual taste in decoration (such as tables and chairs carved like figurines, large statues, and an obelisk in front of his house marking the grave of his favorite horse).

Unfortunately, most of the castle was looted during World War I, so none of the unique pieces of furniture he created remain. However, you’ll still get to see the statues he built on the grounds of the park. There’s also an observatory tower and palm house, which has a gorgeous mosaic rooftop. It’s a good place to relax, go for a walk, or go skiing during wintertime.

Vana-Mustamäe 48, +372 652 5076, ttu.ee/organisatsioonid/glehni-loss. The building isn’t open to the public as it is now used for events (weddings, conferences, receptions, etc.).
 

4. Tallinn Town Hall & Square

The Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia in summer with lots of people
Tallinn’s Gothic town hall is the oldest in the Baltics. Completed in 1404, it boasts a 64m spire topped with a weather vane of an old warrior (named Old Thomas), a Tallinn city guard and hero from the 16th century who fought in the Livonian War.

You can climb the spire to 34 meters (111 feet) from May through September. The interior of the Town Hall is open to visitors as a museum only during July and August; inside, you’ll get to see colorful designs on the walls, intricate wood carvings, and stunning arched ceilings as you learn about the city and its history.

The surrounding plaza is a great place to people-watch and it hosts lots of activities and markets throughout the year.

Don’t miss the annual five-day Tallinn Old Town Days festival held in May. It’s dedicated to the cultural heritage of Tallinn and includes themed days such as Medieval Day and Children’s Day, as well as numerous workshops, music, and theatre performances.

Raekoja plats, Kesklinna linnaosa (City Center), +372 645 7906, raekoda.tallinn.ee/. Open weekdays from 10am-4pm. Advance reservations required. Admission is 5 EUR.
 

5. Tallinn Museum of Photography

An antique camera in the Tallinn Museum of Photography in Tallinn, Estonia
Hidden amidst the cobblestone streets of Tallinn, this small museum is tucked away inside a 14th-century prison. It focuses on Estonia’s history of photography with a permanent exhibition including antique photos and cameras from 1840 — when photography first made its way to Tallinn — to 1940.

You can also check out contemporary photography from modern-day artists in many of the museum’s rotating exhibits. It’s a very small museum, but super interesting even if you’re not a huge photography buff.

Raekoja 4/6, +372 644 8767, linnamuuseum.ee/fotomuuseum. Open Saturday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10am–5pm, Thursdays from 12–8pm, and Sunday from 11am–4pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
 

6. Estonian Open-Air Museum

An historic wooden building at the Estonian Open Air Museum in Tallinn, Estonia
Located 15 minutes from the city center by car, this open-air ethnographic museum recreates what life was like in Estonia’s rural countryside. It’s a life-sized rural village composed of farms, a wooden chapel, a school, fire station, shop, and an inn that highlights how families from different social classes lived during the 18th and 19th centuries.

There’s plenty to do, from eating a traditional Estonian meal to riding a horse to taking a workshop. It’s open all year round, but you might want to go during the summertime when it’s warm! It’s also one of the best things to do in Tallinn with kids. Download the mobile app Numu for a free audio guide while you’re at the museum.

Vabaõhumuuseumi tee 12, +372 654 9100, evm.ee/est/avaleht.Open daily from 10am–5pm. Admission is 8 EUR. Free entrance with a Tallinn Card.
 

7. Ichthus Art Gallery

The interior of the Ichthus Art Gallery in Tallinn, Estonia
This is one of Tallinn’s best-kept secrets. It’s tucked away in the depths of St. Catherine’s Dominican Monastery, which dates back to 1246. On arrival, turn right toward steep steps that take you into the cellar. The confined space used to contain three wings, called the Claustrum, that housed monks in the 13th century.

Today, the space is used by artist Aleksandr Savchenkov, who sells his original artwork from the cellar. As you wander about you’ll also see the ‘Energy Pillar’, which is located in the ancient monastic chambers and is said to be a source of spiritual well-being.

Müürivahe Tänav 33, +372 5559 5920. Admission is free; however, donations are accepted.
 

8. Epitaphs of the Cathedral of Saint Mary

Epitaphs of the Cathedral of Saint Mary Tallinn, Estonia
The grounds of this church date back to the 13th century, though the current building itself is from the 17th. What makes it unlike most other churches is that coats-of-arms epitaphs hang on the walls of the church instead of more traditional religious artwork or decorations.

Historically, these were used as headstones for people of importance, such as nobles and knights. They reflect the people of status who were buried on the grounds.

In fact, the first man who ever led a Russian voyage around the world, Admiral Adam Johan von Krusenstern, is buried here. Climb the 69-meter (226-foot) bell tower to get a beautiful view of the city.

Toom-Koolitänav 6, +372 644 4140. Open Tuesday–Sunday 10am–3:30pm, closed Mondays. Admission is 5 EUR for adults and 3 EUR for children. Dress respectfully as this is a place of worship.
 

9. Estonian Architecture Museum

The architecture museum in the historic Roterman Salt Storage building in Tallinn, Estonia
The Estonian Architecture Museum was established in 1991 during the fight for Estonian independence. The museum is located in the Rotermann Salt Storage building, which was built in 1908 (and then reconstructed in 1995 with multiple additional floors for the museum).

Its galleries now feature drawings from the 1920s, as well as over 11,500 archived items (such as drawings and sketches) and some 18,000 items in their photo collection. There are always some interesting rotating exhibits here too.

Ahtri tänav 2, +372 625 7000, arhitektuurimuuseum.ee. Open Tuesday–Sunday 11am–6pm, closed Mondays. Admission is 6 EUR.
 

10. TV Tower

The view from the TV tower in Tallinn, Estonia
Adrenaline junkies will get a kick out of visiting the TV Tower. Not only will you have an incredible bird’s-eye view of Tallinn from the top, which stands 314 meters (1,030 feet) tall, but you can also try the Walk on the Edge experience. Hop into a harness and step outside of the tower onto the exposed deck. It’s the highest open deck in Northern Europe and offers both an amazing view and a huge rush!

The TV Tower was constructed when Tallinn was chosen as a host city for sailing during the 1980 Moscow Olympics. It closed in 2007 for renovations and reopened in 2012. It has floor-to-ceiling windows (not ideal if you’re afraid of heights) so you can really soak in the view as well as touch-screen information panels so you can learn about the tower and the city.

The tower hosts many events, such as music concerts and the annual Stair Run to mark the anniversary of its reopening.

Kloostrimetsa tee 58 A, +372 686 3005, teletorn.ee. Admission is 13 EUR and the Walk on the Edge costs 30 EUR.
 

11. Telliskivi Creative City

Crowds of people at Telliskivi Creative City in Tallinn, Estonia
The Telliskivi Creative City is a workplace for over a thousand people, with artist’s studios, a radio station, rehearsal spaces, and NGO offices, all situated throughout ten repurposed factory buildings. Telleskivi hosts a flea market every Saturday, and there are over 600 cultural events throughout the year, including dance performances, music concerts, and improv theatre.

There are colorful murals on many of the buildings and you’ll also find restaurants and bars full of locals and tourists alike. Make sure you eat at Peatus (“Stop” in Estonian) for a really unique experience: it’s located inside two old Soviet railcars (and the food is great too!).

Telliskivi tänav 60a, Pohja, Tallinna linnaosa.
 

12. Bastion Tunnels

The old, dark Bastion Tunnels in Tallinn, Estonia
These tunnels were initially built in the 17th century as an addition to the Kiek in de Kök (Peek in the Kitchen) tower, and were intended for storage. They later held prisoners and then were used as shelters against air raids during World War II.

In more modern history, thieves and rebels used them for shelter since the police usually avoided the tunnels. They were cleaned out and opened up to the public in 2004. If you’re brave enough, you can explore the winding maze of the dark, damp tunnels on a guided tour when you visit the tower.

Komandandi tee 2, +372 644 6686, linnamuuseum.ee/kiek-de-kok. Open Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm (Thursday until 8pm), closed Monday. Admission is 14 EUR.
 

13. Toompea Castle & Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The famous Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia
Toompea Castle dates all the way back to the 9th century and is currently used by Riigikogu, Estonia’s Parliament. The east wing has a brightly colored pink and white exterior in baroque style, as ordered by Empress Catherine the Great in 1773. The opposing side still has its medieval stone exterior. The Estonian flag is raised above the tower at sunrise every day.

You can also visit the nearby Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It opened in 1900 during the Czarist Empire and is home to Tallinn’s largest bell (it weighs 15 tons). The impressive exterior showcases Russian Revival architecture with its onion-shaped dome. The interior is decorated with colorful mosaics and stained-glass windows and has three ornate altars.

Toompea Castle: Lossi plats 1a, +372 631 633, riigikogu.ee. On Thursdays at 11am, there’s a 45-minute English-language tour of the castle. Admissions is free though you need to reserve your spot in advance.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral: Lossi plats 10, +372 644 3484, cathedral.bg/en/home. Open daily from 7am-7pm. Admission is free. Dress respectfully as it is a place of worship.
 

14. Soviet Statue Graveyard

An old statue of Lenin at the Soviet Statue Graveyard in Tallinn, Estonia
The Soviet Statue Graveyard, located near Maarjamäe Castle, contains a collection of discarded statues, such as those of Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, and Mikhail Kalinin. After the Soviets left Tallinn, they were dumped here and ignored.

You’ll find large statues of heads (a classic Soviet statue trend) and others that tower over three meters (ten feet) tall. It’s a surreal place to visit — especially when you realize it hasn’t even been 30 years since Estonia achieved independence and these statues were left to fade into history.

Pirita tee 56, 10127, ajaloomuuseum.ee/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/noukogude-aegsete-monumentide-valinaitus. Open Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm, closed Monday.
 

15. KGB Museum

Files on an old desk at the KGB Museum in Tallinn, Estonia
Rooms previously used by spies during the Soviet era sit on the top floor of the stylish Hotel Viru, located on Viru Square. They house listening and recording equipment (some cleverly disguised), dial telephones, uniforms, and a typewriter.

Few people ever knew these rooms existed, and they were only exposed in the 1990s when the KGB fled the city. They shed light on just how controlling and subversive the Soviet government was during the occupation.

Viru väljak 4, +372 680 9300, viru.ee/en. Open daily from 10am–5pm. The guided tour begins in the hotel lobby.
 

16. Take in the View

The view over the city from the Kohtuotsa view point in Tallinn, Estonia
For the best view in the city, head to Kohtuotsa viewing platform. It’s on Toompea Hill and offers the best view of the city and harbor. You’ll also often find buskers here, making it a nice place to end your day and watch the sunset.

***

Tallinn remains one of my favorite destinations in Europe. It’s a fun and lively city home to quirky museums, hidden art exhibits, and beautiful architecture.

Go enjoy all the wonderful things to do here.

Book Your Trip to Estonia: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite hostel in the city is:

  • Tallinn Backpackers – This is a lively, social hostel that makes it easy to meet people since they have a pub crawl every night. The staff are great too!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Photo credit: 3 – Vladimir Varfolomeev, 4 – Holger Vaga, 5 – Pudelek, 6, 7 – Sander Säde, 8, 9 – Zairon, 10 – Nosser, 11 – Sheila Dee, 12 – Relkmsaiia, 13 – Narva69, 14 -Diego Delso, 15 – Ferran Cornella, 16, 17 – PIERRE ANDRE LECLERCQ

The post 16 Things to See and Do in Tallinn, Estonia appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 11 Best Things to See and Do in Israel

Posted By : webmaster/ 180 0


A aerial view of Tel Aviv in Israel during a colorful sunset
Posted: 03/05/20 | March 5th, 2020

Home to incredible historical and religious sites, the mineral-rich Dead Sea (which is also the lowest point on Earth), a lively nightlife, and a world-class food scene, Israel has a lot to offer visiting travelers.

Though a small country that doesn’t take too long to drive around, there’s just SO much on offer that you could still easily spend weeks here and not run out of amazing sights to see, activities to do, and delicious food to eat.

To help you get started planning your trip, here’s a list of what I consider to be some of the best things to see and do in Israel:
 

1. Tel Aviv

An aerial view of Tel Aviv and its coastline in Israel
With almost four million people in the greater Tel Aviv area, this beach city on the Mediterranean has a lively, cosmopolitan vibe. It’s the country’s most modern city and where the majority of international flights arrive (there are also international airports in Haifa and Eilat, but Tel Aviv is the main point of arrival).

While the city has a lot to offer (including 13 beaches), one of the major draws is the food. The culinary scene is full of inventive eateries using fresh, organic ingredients and mixing traditional Israeli cuisine with tastes from around the world, reflecting the many ethnicities that make up the country’s population. There’s even a huge number of vegan options too (Israel is an incredible destination for vegetarian and vegan travelers). You can also stroll the stalls at the Carmel Market and the Levinsky Market for tasty local street food.

Tel Aviv also has a nightlife that would rival New York or London. For a night out, you can find rooftop bars, wine bars, and craft beer breweries all over town. In particular, check out venues lining Rothschild Boulevard. Also, there’s a strong music scene with tons of live concerts happening around town (in all genres) as well as a world-class philharmonic orchestra. There’s lots of great theatre here too!

During the day, visit any of dozens of museums, including the popular Yitzhak Rabin Center, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, or the Museum of the Jewish People. Tel Aviv also has many informative and insightful walking tour companies to help you learn more about the city’s past, its people, its street art, and its architecture (Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus structures, “the White City,” is a UNESCO World Heritage site). New Europe is the best free walking tour in town (just be sure to tip).

And don’t miss the ancient port of Jaffa (home to a large flea market, an artists quarter, fine restaurants, a mixed population of Arabs and Jews, and great views of Tel Aviv).
 

2. The Dead Sea

The shore of the Dead Sea in Israel
Israel and Jordan share the Dead Sea. Covering over 600 square kilometers, its shores are the lowest point on earth and its water is so salty — over eight times more than the ocean — that virtually no sea life can survive in it (hence its name). That saltiness also means you float on the water (salt increases buoyancy), which is why you’ll see lots of people here snapping pictures as they float the day away.

Unfortunately, it also means that if you have any cuts on your body, you will feel them keenly! Additionally, industrial exploitation has shrunk the shoreline and caused sinkholes in some areas, so beware of that and pay attention to any signage.

The salt and other minerals (like magnesium and bromide) have historically been thought of as healing, which is why there are tons of health retreats lining the shore. While many beaches are only accessible through a resort, there are also several public ones along the coast, including Neve Midbar in the north and Ein Bokek in the south.
 

3. Jerusalem

The skyline of the historic city of Jerusalem in Israel
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, with its history stretching back about 5,000 years. Referred to as “the Holy City” (in Arabic, al-Quds), Jerusalem holds an important place in three of the world’s major religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Home to over a million people, it’s a destination for pilgrims and tourists alike, brimming with an incredible (and often controversial) history.

The walled Old City, not to mention nearby Mount Zion and the City of David (the original site of Jerusalem), include so many famous and significant sites that you could easily spend several days touring them.

For Jews, the Western Wall (formerly called the Wailing Wall) is considered the holiest place for prayer. It is divided into men’s and women’s sections, and there are tunnels on one side that can be explored.

The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount (just above the Western Wall) are among the holiest sites for Muslims, behind only Mecca and Medina.

For Christians, the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City mark the path of Jesus’s final walk to his execution and the site of his crucifixion.

In the western, newer section of Jerusalem, be sure to visit Yad Vashem, the deeply emotional official memorial for the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. There’s also the Israel Museum, which is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls and other treasures of Israel’s past.

For an insightful overview of the city, take a walking tour or food tour. There’s the Machane Yehuda market tour, and Abraham Tours (which also runs an amazing hostel) organizes daily walking tours highlighting Jerusalem’s past from different (and often competing) perspectives.
 

4. Biblical Sites

The ancient monastery near Jericho, Israel
As an epicenter for three major religions, Israel has a lot of important shrines and pilgrimage destinations. A large number of travelers join biblical tours (either guided tours or self-guided ones) to visit places like the Galilee, Bethlehem, and Jericho (the latter two in Palestine).

Galilee is home to a number of Christian sites, including Nazareth, where you’ll find the largest church in the Middle East; and the Jesus Trail or the Gospel Trail, hikes from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee — which is also home to numerous sites of Christian interest, such as Capernaum, Tabgha (where Jesus fed people loaves and fishes), Cana, and the Mount of Beatitudes (the supposed location of the Sermon on the Mount).

Known as the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem is a must-visit destination. Be sure to visit the Church of the Nativity, one of the most important Christian sites (ostensibly where Jesus was born) and also one of the world’s oldest operating churches (it opened in 333 CE).

Near Jericho, you’ll find Qasr el Yahud on the Jordan River, said to be the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and the Monastery of St George, a cliff-hanging complex carved into a sheer rock wall in the Judean Desert.
 

5. The Negev Desert

The sprawling and arid Negev Desert in Israel
The Negev Desert covers the southern half of Israel and spans over 13,000 square kilometers, taking up 55% of the entire country. It’s a starkly beautiful place. For the best views, visit the Florence and George Wise Observatory near Mitzpe Ramon. Also, don’t miss Timna Park in the far south (near Eilat), which has incredible geological formations: huge sandstone pillars and sand of many colors. There’s also an annual hot air balloon festival held there each autumn.

The Negev is full of all kinds of adventure activities, too, from sandboarding in the dunes in the north to rappelling off the cliffs of the Ramon Crater. If you don’t have a car, you’ll find no shortage of tour companies to take you around.
 

6. Masada National Park and Fortress

The Masada Fort and National Park in Israel
One of the most-visited parts of the Negev Desert is Masada National Park. Located just 100km (62 miles) south of Jerusalem on the edge of the Dead Sea, this was the ancient fortress built by King Herod the Great on a plateau. It’s famed for being a refuge for Jewish rebels against the Roman Empire, who lived up there for seven years before committing mass suicide after a siege by the Romans back in 73 CE. Today, it’s a symbol of Israeli determination and one of the country’s most popular attractions.

There’s a cable car up to the fortress, but an alternative is to hike up the Snake Path, a 60-90-minute hike offering views of the arid landscape, the Dead Sea, and Jordan. Just be aware that it can be really hot in summer (it’s a desert after all), and sometimes authorities close the path if the weather is too hot. (Bring lots of water.) It’s better (and cooler) to ascend before dawn and see the sunrise over Jordan from the trail or the summit.

Open daily from 8am until 3pm-5pm. Admission to the park is $9 USD. You can reach the park in about 90 minutes from Jerusalem by car.
 

7. Dive Israel’s Reefs and Wrecks

A scuba diver in the clear Mediterranean waters of Israel
Israel borders the Mediterranean Sea and has a short coastline on the Red Sea — both of which offer world-class snorkeling and scuba diving. Some of the best spots on the Red Sea, where you can see incredible coral and sea life, include Coral Reef Beach, Migdalor Beach, and Princess Beach.

For scuba divers, the water deepens very quickly off Eilat, so you can do deep-water diving without needing to use a boat to get further from the shore. (Those who don’t wish to go in the water can visit the Underwater Observatory Marine Park.)

On the Mediterranean coast, divers can explore shipwrecks and ancient Roman ruins at the Underwater Archaeological Park at Caesarea.
 

8. Israel’s Lesser-Known Archaeological Sites

The ancient city of Acre in Israel
There has been human activity in what is now Israel for over 100,000 years, making the region incredibly rich when it comes to archaeological finds. While most people are familiar with the main sites (such as Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Masada) there are actually tons more to see throughout the country.

In fact, there are more than 300 excavations active in Israel, which means that there are new discoveries being made all the time. Here are some of the best lesser-known sites:

  • Megiddo – Located southeast of Haifa, this was once a fortified city, with its origins going back to around 3000 BCE. The Hebrew name “Har Megiddo” (Mount Megiddo) became in Greek “Armageddon,” as this is the supposed site of the end-times battle. Today, the ruins host an excellent and informative museum that sheds light on the area and its sprawling history.
  • Templars’ Tunnel in Akko – This secret tunnel was built by the medieval Templars at their fortress in Akko (Acre) in the 13th century. It stretches 150m and was only discovered in 1994. The site is accessible to the public, which means you can actually explore the tunnel yourself.
  • Beit She’an – This Biblical site dates back to the 6th century BCE and is home to beautiful and well-preserved Roman ruins, including bathhouses, a theater, column-lined streets, and much more. It was the Roman capital of northern Israel and is one of the largest archaeological sites in the world.
  • Beit Guvrin-Maresha – Located in Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park (near Kiryat Gat), this Roman ruin was known as Eleutheropolis during the Roman and Byzantine eras. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to a Jewish cemetery, an amphitheater, and a Byzantine church. You can also find the ruins of public baths and burial caves here as well.
  • Herodium National Park – Located just outside of Jerusalem, this fortress built into a hill rivals the more popular Masada yet sees a fraction of the visitors. Here you’ll find palatial ruins, underground tunnels, secret caves, lookout points offering beautiful views, and the famous tomb of Herod the Great.

As for the more well-known Caesarea National Park, it’s located just 30 minutes by car south of Haifa. As one of the country’s biggest archaeological sites, it’s home to Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader cities. It’s famous for its Roman aqueduct, hippodrome, and amphitheater (a great place to see a concert), plus there is a public beach and shopping nearby.
 

9. Learn About Gaza (and the West Bank)

The struggling Gaza region in Palestine
Located on the southwest coast, Gaza has a long past. In recent history, the region has been controlled by the British, Egyptians, and Israelis, and is currently ruled (de facto) by Hamas. Palestine-Israel relations are a sensitive topic — and I have no desire to get into that in this post — but understanding the conflict is vital to understanding the region and its history.

While you can’t easily visit Gaza, it’s just 71 km (44 miles) from Tel Aviv, and there are several border tours you can take to learn more about the ongoing conflict. Abraham Tours runs “dual-narrative” tours of Gaza that offer insight into the complex history of the conflict (they also run tours about the West Bank).

Additionally, Green Olive Tours, a joint Israeli-Palestinian company, offers tons of insightful single and multiday tours around Gaza and the West Bank as well.

And these are some reputable NGOs that work in Gaza that you can reach out to:

 

10. Haifa

The stunning gardens near the coast in Haifa, Israel
Haifa, a relaxed port city on Mount Carmel in the north, is another must-see destination. Home to just under 300,000 people, the city’s history stretches back to the third century CE. An important industrial hub, Haifa boasts a mix of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian inhabitants, which has helped it maintain a diverse and cosmopolitan feel. Haifa is also home to Israel’s only subway: a single line with six stops

You could easily spend a few days just seeing the highlights. Don’t miss the UNESCO World Heritage Baha’i Gardens in the city center, a beautiful terraced garden that is home to the golden-domed Baha’i Shrine of the Báb. For an amazing view, take the cable car up Mount Carmel to the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery. The ride is just five minutes and costs 35 ILS ($10 USD) (round-trip). You’ll be rewarded with a picture-perfect view of Haifa and the Mediterranean.

You can also base yourself in Haifa while taking day trips to Nazareth, Megiddo, or other destinations in Galilee or along the coast.
 

11. Visit a Kibbutz

Kibbutz Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea in Israel
A kibbutz is a collective community typically centered around a particular job or workplace. They started back in 1910 and were originally centered around collective agriculture. The concept spread rapidly, and today there are still nearly 300 across the country. Many are open to visits from tourists who are looking for a more unique travel experience. Here are some of the most popular kibbutzim if you’re looking to learn more:

  • Kibbutz Ein Gev – Located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, this is one of the biggest kibbutzim in the country. It’s home to a beachside resort open to visitors, as well as several agricultural operations (including dairy farming and a banana plantation). Over 600 people live in the kibbutz, and you can take a short train tour through it to learn more or book a stay at its holiday resort. The tours last 30 minutes and cost 16 ILS (under $5 USD).
  • Kibbutz Degania Alef – Established in 1910, this was Israel’s first kibbutz. It is home to over 500 people, who all work in the community’s factories, farms, or service industries. There are also two small museums in the community that shed light on its history and development, as well as some historical buildings you can visit to learn more (you’ll need to book your museum visits in advance).
  • Kibbutz Ein Gedi – Located on the Dead Sea, this kibbutz is famous for its botanical garden, which spans almost 25 acres and is home to over 900 species of plants. Founded in 1953, the kibbutz is home to just over 600 people and is focused on agriculture and tourism. Free tours are available daily in English and Hebrew.

***

Whether you are interested in religious history, are curious about archaeology, or just want to spend time outdoors hiking, diving, and snorkeling, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Israel. It’s truly a world-class destination for laid-back vacationers, foodies, and intrepid backpackers looking to get off the beaten trail.

No matter what you’re looking for, Israel won’t disappoint.

Book Your Trip to Israel: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. Some suggested places to stay in Israel are:

  • Florentine Backpackers Hostel (Tel Aviv) – A fun, social party hostel in Tel Aviv surrounded by craft-beer bars and quirky cafés. It’s near the beach too!
  • Abraham Hostel (Jerusalem) – A social hostel that hosts tons of activities, from yoga to hummus-making classes to open-mic nights. It’s really easy to meet people here and has a laid back atmosphere.
  • Haifa Hostel (Haifa) – This is a new hostel, so everything is in good shape and kept clean. It’s in a good location and close to the gardens, and the staff are super friendly and helpful.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and I think they’ll help you too!

Photo credits: 5 – Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia, 7 – dorin BEN HAMO, 11 – Israel_photo_gallery

The post The 11 Best Things to See and Do in Israel appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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13 Cool Things to Do in South Africa

Posted By : webmaster/ 199 0


The coastal drive near Cape Town, South Africa
Posted: 03/2/20 | March 2nd, 2020

South Africa is famous for its stunning landscapes, incredible wildlife, award-winning wineries, beautiful beaches, and its lively and cosmopolitan cities. I’ve been to the country twice and always leave wanting more. There’s something deeply special about this place.

Stretching over 2,800 kilometers (1,700 miles) and home to over 56 million people, you could easily spend months here and still not see everything. Heck, just driving from one end of the country to the other would take several days.

Though there are hundreds of things to see and do in South Africa, here’s a list of what I think are the must-see and must-do activities while you’re here:
 

1. Go on a safari

a zebra on safari in South Africa
Most people come to South Africa to go on a safari — and for good reason. It’s home to some of the best game drives in the world and you’ll want to spend at least a couple of nights in one of the hundreds of national parks. There’s truly nothing like it.

The most well-known safari destination is Kruger National Park, which has incredible diversity and tons of amazing wildlife, including the “Big Five” (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses, and Cape buffalo).

I went to Kruger a few years back, and it was everything I’d expected and more. Although you can drive yourself around the park, I actually recommend using a guide because they’ll be much better at spotting animals and will also give you heaps info about them, their habitat, and the park itself. Since this is one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences it’s worth spending the money to get a knowledgeable guide.

While Kruger is the most famous safari destination, there are dozens of other options across South Africa. Here are a few I recommend:

  • Hluhluwe and iMfolozi National Park – Located in the east of the country and is known for its rhino populations.
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – On the border with Botswana in the north, it’s known for its black-maned lions.
  • Addo Elephant National Park – Near Port Elizabeth on the south coast, this is a great choice for self-drive safaris.
  • Pilanesburg National Park & Game Reserve – Home to the Big 5 and is doable in a day trip from Johannesburg if you’re short on time.

Safaris are so common in South Africa that pretty much every price point and budget is covered. Accommodation options range from budget-friendly campsites to upscale guesthouses and resorts.
 

2. Visit Cape Town

Cape Town in South Africa
Cape Town is the most popular destination in South Africa — and for good reason. It’s a vibrant, multicultural city with lively bars, delicious food, great weather, lots of nature and hiking nearby. In addition to the city’s amazing beaches, the waterfront is bursting with things to do as well.

There’s a lot to do in the city so check out this entire post I wrote on what to do while you are there!
 

3. Go Surfing

surfing in South Africa
Both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean coasts of South Africa offer world-class surfing. Jeffrey’s Bay on the south coast near Port Elizabeth is the most famous surfing destination in South Africa and offers big waves and multiple breaks.

There are also a number of good surfing locations near Cape Town, including Dungeons in Hout Bay and a number of others further south on the Western Cape, such as Long Beach.

If you’re a beginner, Durban is a great option for surfing lessons because of the reliable waves and warm water of the Indian Ocean. Expect to pay around 500 ZAR per person for a 2-3 hour lesson.
 

4. Learn About Apartheid

Nelson Mandela monument in South Africa
You can’t visit South Africa without learning about the horror of apartheid (a system of institutionalized racial segregation), which cast its shadow over the country from the 1940s all the way into the 1990s. Opened in 2001, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg does an excellent job of highlighting apartheid’s history and legacy.

While in Johannesburg, be visit the Constitutional Court. It stands on the site of a former political prison and you can tour some of the prison ruins and learn more about the many political prisoners who were unjustly detained here.

Also, be sure to visit the District Six Museum in Cape Town. It’s a memorial to the people who lived in the area in the 1970s who were forced to relocate so that white citizens could move in. It’s both sobering and illuminating.
 

7. Visit Robben Island

Robben Island, South Africa
When it comes to learning about apartheid, you’ll want to also plan a trip to Robben Island. Located just four miles off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island was a maximum-security prison until 1996. During the apartheid era, many political prisoners were sent to Robben Island. This includes Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years behind bars on Robben Island. The prison is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important cultural sites in the country.

Conditions at the prison were incredibly harsh, with many prisoners forced into hard labor in the limestone quarry. They were also made to sleep on the stone floors of their cells without a bed as well.

Today, former prisoners are tour guides and they shed light on what life was like here during apartheid. You’ll be able to see Mandela’s cell and take a bus ride around the island to see the prisoner’s graveyard as well as the quarry where Mandela and other prisoners were forced to work.

Ferries operate 3 times a day, starting at 9am (a 4th ferry operates during the summer season). Admission is 320 ZAR for adults and 200 ZAR for anyone under 18, which includes the ferry ride. Expect to spend at least four hours here (including the tour and getting to/from the island).
 

5. Hike the Drakensberg Mountains

Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
The Drakensberg region near the east coast is home to the highest mountain range in the country, with rugged, green peaks, sandstone cliffs, and deep valleys. There are lots of trails, ranging from casual walks to strenuous climbs and plenty of options for both day hikes and multi-day hikes. Some of the popular routes include the following:

  • Rainbow Gorge: Easy and beautiful two-hour trail in the Cathedral Peak area.
  • Ploughman’s Kop: A half-day trail with a steep climb, but beautiful rock pools along the way so you can cool off with a dip.
  • Chain Ladders Hike: A challenging one-day hike, including ladders attached to the rock face.
  • Cathedral Peak: Best climbed with a guide, this hike can be split across two days with a night spent camping in a cave to break up the hikes.
  • Giant’s Cup Trail: Typically done a five-day hike, but not overly strenuous.

 

6. See African Penguins

penguins in South Africa
Part of the Table Mountain National Park and a short drive from Cape Town, the Boulders Penguin Colony is home to several thousand African penguins. (Fun fact: they’re also known as jackass penguins, because the noises they make sound like a donkey braying.)

Unfortunately, they’re an endangered species as a result of human impacts like pollution, oil spills, and habitat destruction. For that reason, you aren’t allowed to walk on the beach where the penguins breed but you can watch them from the nearby viewing platforms. There is also a raised boardwalk that starts at the Boulders Visitor Centre which will let you get up close to the penguins. Just keep in mind that they are wild animals and the beach is their home, not yours. Be sure to keep your distance and don’t try to feed them or pet them. As cute as they are, they’re still wild animals.
 

8. Take a Road Trip

road trip on the Garden Route in South Africa
South Africa is an awesome road trip destination. The most famous route is the Garden Route, which takes you along coastal cliffs and through forests and mountain ranges. Stretching along the south-central coast from Mossel Bay in the west to Storms River in the east, the Garden Route is only around 200km (125 miles) long but is full of beaches, lakes, and lagoons.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can stop at Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bridge in Africa, and go bungee jumping there. Expect to pay around 1,400 ZAR ($95 USD) per person.

The beautiful beaches of Plettenberg Bay on the Indian Ocean are also a worthwhile Garden Route stop.

There are other popular road-trip routes in South Africa, such as the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga, which winds around the Blyde River Canyon, or the Wild Coast route for exploring dramatic coastal landscapes. You can also pick a road-trip route that takes in several national parks, as there are quite a few scattered around the country where you can self-drive through the park to see the wildlife.
 

9. Go Wine Tasting

wine tasting in South Africa
South Africa’s climate is perfect for grape growing and the country produces award-winning white, red, and sparkling wines. The wine industry here dates back to the seventeenth century and there are hundreds of wineries to be found (and sampled of course).

In the Cape Winelands region not far from Cape Town, Stellenbosch has over 150 wineries in a very small area while a bit further away, Franschhoek not only has over 50 vineyards but also some of South Africa’s best restaurants. You can do a wine tour that will take you to several different or you can stay in one for a night or two (many have guest accommodations).

If you don’t have a vehicle and want to take a tour, expect to pay at around 1,000 ZAR per person for a half-day tour of the region and its wineries. Many hostels run their own tours to the region or have partnerships with local tour guides who can take you as well. Be sure to shop around for the best deal!
 

10. Explore the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve in South Africa
A frequent stop on the way to or from Kruger, Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world. It’s particularly lush and green compared to the Grand Canyon and also has extremely deep, sheer cliffs. There are numerous natural rock formations and other natural features in this UNESCO-listed reserve, including Pinnacle Rock, God’s Window, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. You can also find ancient rock art in the Echo Caves.

There are several hiking trails as well as abseiling, mountain biking, and white-water rafting.
 

11. Go Whale Watching

whale watching in South Africa
South Africa is generally considered to be one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. If you’re visiting between June and November you’ll have an excellent chance of spotting Southern right whales, Bryde’s whales, and orcas.

The town of Hermanus, located 120km southeast of Cape Town, is the base for many of the best whale-watching companies in the country. Some reputable companies to check out are:

  • Southern Right Charters
  • Hermanus Whale Cruises
  • Xplora Tours

Expect to pay around 950 ZAR for a two-hour tour. Drinks and snacks are usually included and discounts are often available for students, seniors, and children. be sure to book in advance as tours sell out fast since there is a limited window.
 

13. Go Scuba Diving

tropical fish in South Africa
If you love to dive (or want to learn), head to Cape Town. The diving here is world-class thanks to the mixing of warm and cold ocean currents. Here you’ll find rocky shores, lots of reefs, and kelp forests. There are also lots of wrecks on both sides of the peninsula too.

Expect to pay around 1,450 ZAR for a one-tank dive (including equipment rental) and 6,600 ZAR for your PADI certification if you’re a new diver.

For more wrecks, head to Port Elizabeth (which is on the coast halfway between Cape Town and Durban). There are several interesting wrecks to explore here, including the Haerlem (a scuttled navy frigate) and the Doddington (which wrecked in the 18th century). It’s also a great area for diving with sharks.

For something more unique, visit Port St. Johns to witness the sardine migration. It occurs every June with four miles of water thick with sardines! You can book multi-day diving tours to see the sardines, with most lasting 5-6 days cand costing 30,000 ZAR per person.

Sodwana Bay (on the border with Mozambique) is another top location to see healthy coral reefs as well as lots of fish and marine life.

***

With its perfect weather, incredible wildlife, award-winning wine, and culinary delights, South Africa is an underrated destination that deserves your attention. It’s a country I never get tired of visiting and is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to. You just can’t help but fall in love with it — no matter your interests.

Book Your Trip to South Africa: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think they will help you too!

Looking for more information on visiting South Africa?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to South Africa with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

The post 13 Cool Things to Do in South Africa appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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