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Oregon | The Hidden Trove of Nature

Honestly friends, when you think of travelling to US of A, Oregon is probably not on top of your mind. In my hometown many people may not have heard of it. How boring! Umm… guess what, there is even a town named Boring in Oregon. But then, boring stopped being boring even long before Elon Musk came up with the Boring Company! Just to make your click worthwhile, let me tell you how widely under-rated tourist spots sometimes end up in the niche of virgin trails for tourists. If you are amongst those who like to avoid the beaten path, if you are the one who likes finding diamonds under ashes, welcome to Oregon.

Some Quick Facts

  • Destination : Oregon state, USA.
  • Distance from starting point: About 300 Km (approx 3 Hours) drive from Seattle, USA.
  • Cost : 1 week car rent $400 + gas. Hotel per night $80 4 sharing. Numerous budget hotels and dorms available in Portland.
  • Caution: Make sure to pack food and water in the car as most of the places are in the middle of nowhere, so no stores available.
  • Highlights : Pacific Coast, drive via US Highway 101 (Most scenic drive, listed in National Geographic) Twisted cliff-hugging route, mountain on one side and the blue Pacific on the other side, Crater lake national park, Painted Hills, Mount Hood, Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls, Cannon Beach, Smith Rock State Park.
On the way to Oregon
The varying colors of Oregon Landscape

Mount Hood

Mt. Hood dons its snow-hat throughout the year, towering tall at 11k feet above the sea with one glacier for each thousand feet cascading down its contours. Housing total 6 ski havens, it is the base camp of countless skiers. Meet Lost, Trillium and Mirror, the cute alpine lakes that hug Mt. Hood’s flanks each setting the back-drop for terrific views of the majestic white peak. If you happen to visit in spring, do not miss the Fruit Loop, the name given to the trail of Lavender fields and the spreads of wild-berry spreads between the mountain and the town of Hood river. Even if Spring is nigh, don’t put away the skis and snow-boards just yet. Munch on spring corn fields in the morning and ski in the Spring snow of Oregon, you just have to know where to head. Oregon is varied and unpredictable, never failing to amaze you.

Mountain Hood

The coast

Oregon coast is not your regular Copacabana, with natural tanning and white sand warmth and most unapologetic-ally so. If you are shivering in your bathing suit, Oregoners are kind enough to lend you a jacket. In Oregon they don’t call it “The beach” even. Find the sun somewhere south— in Oregon, he most shyly peeks through the old growth of Oswald West, coy and crimson. But wait, what is that splashing noise against the cliffs ! What-ho, can you see the SURFs? As you double-take the view and forget the cold, your blood gushing with adrenaline, suddenly the panorama unfolds. As your eyes dart from the tidal pools to the dancing whales, from chasing the agates to spotting eerie light-houses, you come out of your usual self. You challenge yourself with the surf-boards. Don’t worry, fellow Oregoners will never leave you alone. Take your time to learn, but just don’t miss it. Above 350 miles of free public stretch of coast, far from the madding crowd, you will have the most immersive tranquility of your life.

The Coast
The Oregon Coast

Painted Hills

Multi-hued stratified rocks in yellows, golds, blacks and reds will seriously make you wonder who might have painted these vast undulating stretches in such intriguing patterns. Layers of history on the rocks, registered by variations of ever-changing thermal and moisture levels. Explore the John-Day Fossil beds. Take time to also visit the Clarno Unit, with Mars-like pillars formed by waterfalls and volcanic sludge, and the Sheep Rock Unit, where fossils of plants and animals like saber-toothed cats are on display at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center.

The varying colors of Oregon landscape
Painted Hills

Smith Rock

Smith Rock is the birthplace of American sport, climbing. It is also the meeting pot of bald and golden eagles, mountain lions and deer, at the Smith Rock National Park. Home to countless veteran breweries, Oregon will keep you hydrated. Miles of trails run through the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, connecting the obsidian lava flows around the 18-mile Newberry Crater. Don’t miss a journey through the mile-long lava tube at the Lava River Cave.Come over t this climbing, hiking and biking paradise !

Smith Rock

Crater Lake

Welcome to The Deepest Lake in America. The water is so blue, that it almost glows neon in unfiltered photographs. The lake is hemmed with 2000ft tall cliffs and is famous for a pristine small island with a ghastly volcanic past quietly buried amidst the serene mien. Explore the old growth forests along the cliff flanks. Crater is home to hikers and the park is open all round the year. Most visitors come to Crater Lake National Park during the months of July through mid-September, when the weather is generally mild with little precipitation. Due to the elevation of the park, weather conditions may change quickly and a warm jacket and wool sweater are always recommended items to carry.

The Crater Lake

Multnomah Falls

At 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is by far the biggest amongst all 77 falls on the Oregon side of The Columbia River Gorge. This place may be a little crowded on summer weekends, so plan well. Hiker’s dream trail twists and turns from famous Multnomah Falls Lodge to the Simon Benson Bridge and then snivels to the top. The fiery colors of the foliage provide spectacular background to the Falls. Once you reach the top of the Falls, there is the six-mile Wahkeena Loop Trail, or continue on to the top of Larch Mountain along your myriad-hued hike trail.

The Multnomah Falls

The Cannon Beach

Dappled with the Haystack Rocks and Needles, the Cannon beach shoreline is one of Oregon’s most pristine destinations. Nine miles of public beach make the appropriate setting for a romantic beach-walk or dinner. Beach weddings are also in vogue. The diverse flora and fauna has become the added attractions along with the annual sand castle building contest, just another excuse to visit the Cannon beach. Extremely good maintenance, strict regulations restrict the mushrooming growth of large retail chain stores or restaurants and help cannon Beach retain the small town charm.

The cannon Beach

They kept Portland weird

With huge bumper-stickers saying “Keep Portland weird” the city starts off on a goofy optimistic note with its liberal eco-friendly atmosphere, conscious recycling, hi-tech industries, mass transit and a gazillion modern brew-pubs. With double decker steel-truss cantilever bridges, across two rivers blithely dividing the city, watch gulls swoop around battered freighters loading cargo for the Pacific voyage. Witness the fall-colors of down-town Portland, blending in a mellow Van Gogh-ish haze. Fork through the seedy riverside dotted with taverns and strip joints, pawnshops, pool halls, tattoo parlors and palm readers.

Portland at dawn break

Portland is The city of bridges. Discover the double decker bridge, an amazing steel-truss cantilever bridge.

Portland, The City of Bridges

Want to witness Fall colors. Nothing like Portland !

Fall Colors at Portland

Perhaps to compensate for the damp Pacific Northwest winters, Portland is very alive with cultural happenings, musical entertainment, and theater. But those same rains also nourish the city’s impressive gardens, and Oregon green spaces range from roses and rhododendrons to a classical Chinese garden. Now that you are feeling ever so inspired by Safarzaade’s verbosity, please visit Oregon and find out for yourself.

Time to meet the traveler soul behind the lenses:

Madhumanti Mandal

Madhumanti Mandal, better known as The girl in Hiking Boots, is a PhD candidate in the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Born and brought up in Shantiniketan, West Bengal, her love for nature blossomed early and compelled her to push all boundaries to respond to its unfathomable beauty, across the world. Mountains, lakes, virgin hike trails are her exploits so far, all of which she has captured in her camera with unprecedented accuracy. Some travel essentials, sandwiches for lunch, snacks, nuts, drinking water and a rental car are all she needs to get going for her adventurous escapades. Often she connects with bunch of like-minded travelers of varying ages and back-grounds on her way. She recalls many all-women hiker groups from across the world with whom she has shared the ecstasy of discovering virgin trails, sombre mountains and riotous flowerbeds. More power and opportunities for the girl living her dream. Keep a tap on Safarzaade to hear more from her!

Find Madhmanti in : Instagram and Facebook

TIBIDABO : The best view of Barcelona !

 

Tibidabo, at a height of 512 meters, is amidst the highest mountains in the Sierra de Collserola range, Barcelona, Spain. This mountain range separates the narrow coastal stretch Barcelona is build upon from the hinterland.Being the tallest peak within the limits of Barcelona, Tibidabo offers splendid 360 degree views over the sea, the city,its suburbs and inland towards Montserrat and the peaks of Montseny. A visit to Tibidabo is the best family sight-seeing option consuming roughly half-a-day, totally worth it, because of the amazing view.

How to reach Tibidabo
One can take the subway line with the L7 to the terminus Avinguda del Tibidabo. Take a look at the beautiful La Rotonda building on your way past. Then it is fun to change into the Tramvia Blau, the blue tram. The Tramvia Blau has been the only tram in Barcelona for long time and is still absolutly unique (reminded me of New Orleans and San Francisco’s historic streetcars). From the terminus of the Tramvia Blau change for the last piece into the cable car up the Tibidabo (€3.60 return ticket). During the winter months, the Tramvia Blau only drives on Friday through Sunday, but only a few meters above the valley stop is a bus station (bus 196).
If you are anywhere near Plaza catalunya, then simply take the T2A bus from plaza catalunya for 3 euros, ride takes about 25 minutes.

Chief attractions at Tibidabo

The most recommended route to the Tibidabo mountain top is Funicular de Tibidabo. On the tram’s journey up the mountain you will pass through Barcelona’s most affluent residential area. Take in the leafy surroundings and sneak a peek at the houses of the city’s rich and famous. The journey lasts around seven minutes and as you alight you are half way up Mount Tibidabo and can take in some breathtaking panoramic views of the city. The Plaça Dr Andreu is a picturesque platform looking down over the city. There are pretty restaurants with terraces to while away the hours in tranquil surroundings.

The Tibidabo Church

The top of Tibidabo is crowned by the cathedral del Sagrat Cor. This church has been constructed between 1902 and 1960 in a mixture of modernista and neogothic styles. Admission is free and you are rewarded with picturesque stained windows and beautiful stone work.

The quaint old-world amusement park

For 2 Euros an elevators takes you to the first viewing platform. If you are not afraid of heights, keep on climbing the stairs up to the bronze statue of Jesus Christ on the very top for an unforgettable view of Barcelona and beyond.
On the way up to the mountain you cannot miss the view of the beautiful amusement park. Built in 1889, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, it still retains the quaint charm. Although there are some rides that can fuel your adrenaline, the main attraction is the setting of the park itself just above Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea. This fame was still increased by being used as a filming spot in international movies like Vicky Christina Barcelona.
The third notable landmark on the top of Tibidabo is probably the most disputed. 288 meter Torre Collserola Television Tower was built for the transmission of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

~XOXO Safarzaade~

Roman Colosseum : Where gore met glamour

Quick Facts:

Tick one of the seven Wonders of the World from your bucket list. Colosseum ticket is best bought at the entrance of Colosseum in a combo offer also including the Roman Forum and Palatine Hills. For summer heavy tourist traffic season try here at $18 pp. Also download audio tour by Rick Steves to guide yourself inside and make the most of informed travel.

The colosseum or “Flavian Amphitheatre”, as it was originally called after the Flavian dynasty of emperors, stands tall and proud in Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma, Italy, covering an area of almost 6 acres. The name ‘Colosseum’ is derived from the Latin word ‘colosseus’ meaning colossal. This was in reference to the gigantic statue of the Emperor Nero which had been previously erected near the site of the Colosseum. This was the place where valiant, death defying Russell Crowe-like handsome gladiators were pit against each other in a glamorous gorefest and the Roman audience cheered without any deliberation, reveling in their favorite pastime.
Inside the Flavian Amphitheatre

Entrance to the games was free. The massive amphitheater had a capacity estimated at between 50,000 and 80,000 Romans. The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum (meaning underground). The hypogeum consisted of two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery.The Emperor Domitian, the younger son of Vespasian added the hypogeum and also a gallery at the top of the Colosseum to increase its seating capacity.

Immersive experience

There were 36 trap doors in Arena allowing for elaborate special effects, like entry of wild and exotic animals which included lions, tigers, hyenas, hippos, rhino’s, crocodiles, ostriches, antelopes, bears and zebras. The animals displayed and killed at the theatre were transported from every corner of the Roman Empire reflecting the scale and scope of the Roman provinces. There were over 20 different types of Gladiators. The Roman Colosseum was used for staging various events including gladiator fights, wild animal displays, theatrical entertainment, executions, religious ceremonies, mock sea battles and re-playing famous Roman victories.

The Colosseum was built for several reasons:

  • As a gift to Roman Citizens, to keep them distracted from more pressing issues like unemployment and poverty (quite like politicians today)
  • Increasing the popularity of the Flavian dynasty.
  • To utilize and showcase the latest Roman engineering techniques demonstrating to the world the power of Rome.
Ornate Column heads

The emperor took up a prominent position in the imperial box was called the pulvinar which was located on the podium (meaning place of honor) which was like a terrace and about 15ft wide astride the centre of the minor axis of the arena on the north side.

The Flavian Amphitheatre was built of travertine on the outside and tufa and brick in the interior. The main pedestals were built of marble blocks. In the building of the Colosseum the slaves undertook the manual labor and teams of professional Roman builders, engineers and decorators undertook the skilled tasks.

The Colosseum consisted of four floors. The first three levels had high, arched entrances adorned with tiers of Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns. A Retractable Awning called the Velarium at the Roman Colosseum provided cover and shade. Brackets supported 240 wooden masts on which canvas awnings were hung.

a. The circular corridor to the south. b. The famous Equestrian statue.

There were 76 entrances which were numbered but there were an additional four grand entrances which were not numbered. Tickets were distributed for the shows, each one marked with a seat number, tier number and entrance number. The inaugural games at the Colosseum lasted more than 100 days. At the end of the day the gladiators who had been killed were dragged through the Porta Libitinensis (Gate of Death) to the Spoliarium where the body was stripped and the weapons and armor given to the dead gladiator’s lanista. The arena was 287 ft long and 180 ft wide. The arena was covered with 15cm of sand.

The eerie light and shade with roadside neons.

There were various entrances/ exits from the arena. The Porta Sanavivaria was the Gate of Life where those who had been defeated but spared would exit,  the Porta Libitina was the Gate of Death or Executions and the Porta Triumphalis where the victors would exit the arena. The bisellium was a richly ornamented seat of honor at the games. It was so called because there was room for two persons upon it, although only one sat there, usually the Emperor. 42 Roman Emperors witnessed the carnage at the amphitheater. An estimated 700,000 people died in the bloody arena. Executions of Christians or Criminals provided popular midday entertainment. As many as 5000 animals were slaughtered in one day. The place, with its shadowy hollowed corridors and eroded limestone surface, broken stairs and columns still reeks of the blood, sweat and roar of a mad Roman crowd.

For a moment get disconnected from the touristy vibe, close your eyes, stand with the lone gladiator waiting to charge into the arena and feel the adrenaline-mixed-fear in his beating heart…hear the deafening din of a ruthless crowd….because that is Colosseum, melting pot of all contradicting intense human emotion.

Complete Vietnam Travel Guide | GoGo Budget Travels

When it comes to Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam is easily my favourite pick. Once a lesser-known destination, it has become more and more popular among tourists in recent years. With its beautiful nature and cultural diversity, Vietnam attracted 10 million visitors in 2016, an increase of 26.0% from 2015. From the peaceful rice valleys of Sapa in Northern Vietnam stretching to the bustling city of the Ho Chi Minh in the south, Vietnam is home to a wealth of attractions and amazing cuisine that will attract both budget and luxury seeking travelers. Here’s your complete travel guide for your 1 weeks’ trip in Vietnam.

Quick Tips

  •  Currency:Vietnam Dong (click here for current conversion rates)
  • Visa:Many countries have Visa exemption between 15-30 days. You can check out whether you’re the lucky one here. If you need to apply for a Visa, the best method is to apply online.
  • Safety: It’s generally very safe to travel in the Northern and Central Vietnam. However, as it gets to the South, things become trickier and people are more cunning. Be careful of thieves in Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh.
  • Climate:Depends on region. Summer is extremely hot and humid, while winter is rather cooling.
  • Best SIM cards:There are four Telco companies in Vietnam and all of them offer similar services and pricings. A 5GB/30 day package cost 100,000 VND (around $5 USD). However, I still recommend Viettel as it has the largest network and most customers, closely followed by Vinaphone. Avoid Mobifone and Vietnamobile if you’re heading off the beaten track.
  • Cost Breakdown: As Vietnam is a really cheap country to travel around, I spent around $450 USD for my entire 1 week trip. Such a budget really allows you to sleep in a comfortable and beautiful hotel, eat hearty meal 3 times a day, and pack your days with awesome activities!Hanoi: $50 USD | Halong Bay Tour: $120 USD | Sapa Tour: $180 USD | Ninh Binh: $100 USD | Total: $450

Day 1 Hanoi

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences.

At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, there are so many local food and restaurants for you choose from. Very often, travellers find themselves lost in choices. Luckily, when we visited Hanoi this time, our local friend Ha Linh brought us around to eat the best local food in Hanoi.

 

Apart from trying out all the delicious food, do remember to visit iconic sites like St Joseph Cathedral, Ba Dinh Square, Ho Hoan Kiem and more!

Day 2-3 Halong Bay

Hạlong Bay, in northeast Vietnam, is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests.

Many travelers face the same question when they are considering a trip to Halong Bay: “Should I stay in Halong Bay cruise overnight?” The answer is a definite YES! Must-do activities in Halong Bay are-

  • Enjoy the sunset and sunrise, and kayaking at the same time – Halong Bay is the most beautiful during sunrise and sunset moments. And you only get to see them if you stay overnight cruise. During these moments, the beauty of Halong Bay truly reveals itself. What’s more, you get to go kayaking in the quiet and serene bay as the sun sets. Truly amazing indeed!
  • Visit Sung Sot or “Surprise Cave” – Situated in the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage area, Sung Sot or “Surprise Cave” is on Bo Hòn Island, and is one of the most spectacular and largest grottoes of Ha Long Bay. The cave is beautifully lit by different colour of lights. One of the best advantage of choosing Halong Bay cruise overnight is that you get to visit the cave during the earliest hour, as soon as it opens.

Make your own spring rolls on the cruise – The cruise caters all the meals you need and light refreshment such as fruits. To be frank, I didn’t have high expectation of the food but to my surprise, everything tasted fantastic and fresh! What’s more, there’s a Vietnamese Spring Rolls making session. It is very easy to do and pretty fun making your own spring rolls! Keen to find out more about Halong Bay and watch a video I made for the trip? Check out my blog post here!

Making spring rolls !
Making spring rolls !

Day 4-6 : Sapa

Located at 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level in Vietnam’s remote northwest mountains, Sapa is famous for both its fine, rugged scenery and also its rich cultural diversity. It is a quiet mountain town and home to a great diversity of ethnic minority peoples.  Must-do activities in Sapa:

  • Hiking – There’s no better way to explore Sapa than trekking. Sapa is orientated to make the most of the spectacular views emerging on clear days; overlooking a plunging valley, with mountains towering above on all sides. You’ll find yourself being surrounded by cascading rice terraces, endless greenery and amazing fresh air. Once you’ve stepped out into the lush fields, you’ll understand the Sapa area’s real charm.
Sapa Hiking
  • Animal Watching – While you are trekking in the field, you’re bound to encounter a lot of animals. On the hill, you’ll see a buffalo sitting in the paddy field. Along the road, you’ll see horses passing by. Out of the blue moon, you may see domesticated pigs looking for food. The animals are gentle and won’t attack unless you provoke them. So just watch them quietly and enjoy the peace together.
Mountain cows in Sapa
  • Visit Cat Cat Village – Nestled in a beautiful valley about three kilometers from Sapa Town, Cat Cat- the old village of ethnic groups- attracts tourists from all over the world for its distinctive customs and practices which have been lost in almost ethnic villages.For a more complete Sapa guide, where to stay and how to get there, check out my blog post here.
Cat Cat Village Scenery

Day 7-8  : Ninh Binh

Located on the Southern end of the Red River Delta, Ninh Binh is around 2 hours drive from Hanoi. It is blessed with diverse topography of both mountainous and coastal areas. It can be said that the province contains all the scenic quintessence of whole Vietnam within its relatively small size.

Ninh Binh

Not only that, Ninh Binh represents typical rural villages of Northern region with vast green paddy field, expanding mountains and poetic river that flows to the horizon. Ninh Binh’s history is also worth mentioning: the ancient capital of Vietnam in the 10th century, Ninh Binh is a venue of relics that reflect its 1000 years of history and development. For a more detailed Ninh Binh travel guide, here’s my blog post dedicated to it. Top 3 Attractions in Ninh Binh:

  • Hang Mua Pagoda (Mua Cave) – Down a sleepy road between rice paddies, this cave is truly impressive at the peak. It offers panoramic views of the rice paddies as you climb up the zigzags stairs. There are in total 450 steps but the height of the cave looks a lot more than that.

  • Trang An Boat Ride – If you’ve heard the beauty of Halong Bay, Trang An is the Halong Bay of the land. It has spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, many of them partly submerged and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. And – best of all – there are very few tourists, so you can really enjoy the serenity of nature.
  • Bai Dinh Pagoda – Bai Dinh Pagoda is a religious complex covering a total area of 539 hectare, a size of more than 800 football fields combined! Located in the mountainous area, the peak of the pagoda offers breathtaking views. When you finally reach the top, you’ll be able to see a beautiful temple with gorgeous scenery as a backdrop. If you want to find out more about Bai Dinh Pagoda, check out my blog post here.

If you have more time to spare, you can go further north to Dalat, Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh. Personally I really recommend Dalat. Check out my complete Vietnam Travel Guide for more! Happy travel!

~About GoGo Budget Travel~

Chloe

GoGo Budget Travel is an Investment & Travel blog geared towards the adventurous, off the beaten path-loving travelers. Most importantly, it’s for people who want to learn investing to fund their travel. The founder, Chloe, is a Singaporean Value Investor who has a passion to travel the world in the most genuine and budget-smart way. Whether you’re looking for investment knowledge, wealth management ideas, latest market news, to travel tips & tricks, Chloe will share with you her investment and travel experience so you can get on the road quicker, longer and better. Explore the world with GoGo Budget Travel.

Connect with Chole: Facebook 

Instagram: @gogobudgettravel

Twitter: @GoGoBudgetTrave 

5 ULTIMATE STEPS TO BOOK CHEAP FLIGHTS- TRY NOW!

Cheap flight

My first long term travel to Europe involved a lot of flights and booking them was the most stressful part I went through while preparing for the trip. Without flight tickets one cannot apply for visa and google is filled with visa rejection experiences in spite of travelers having tickets and booking done. Inevitably one gets jittery thinking what will happen to the flight costs if the visa gets cancelled, as often cheap flights are non-refundable or cancellation charges after 1 week is very high. In my case it was not about a single round-trip, but about back to back trips for a continuous trail of almost 8 European cities. Need-less-to-say, I was extremely apprehensive and I clearly remember, buying the first ticket was the most difficult. But that was before my travel. Post my actual travel experience, I cannot explain how much confidence I have gained regarding these commitments. My previous itch of “so many things can go wrong on the way!” has subsided absolutely as I have faced issues and now know how to handle them. So my first suggestion will be, to keep calm and do it.

Next dilemma comes in figuring out the best price and self-predicting flight-cost trends. We often hold off on buying assuming that the price will go down further if we wait- that hardly ever works. Here is nothing called the perfect moment. There is huge probability of you losing out. So if you have made up you mind to travel, there is no better day than Today. If the price is within your budget, go for it and unless you have a free cancellation full refund policy for the next few days, do not go and check price trend after you have bought the ticket. It is like discussing problem answers once your math test is over.

Rather, we can follow some structured steps in booking flight and feel good about trying our best.

Step 1:

Check for flight deals from Fly4Free  and similar websites, look for airline promotional and those rare seasonal deals. In 95 out of 100 cases, you re-route empty-handed. Now let the usual drill begin. Suppose you have planned to travel abroad in your year end vacation. Do not fix a specific destination for the time being. Open SkyScanner . Enter your entire country name, say India as “From” field. We are just relaxing parameters friends. Then put your destination as “Everywhere” and one way. Yeah that is when you should feel the high of a globetrotter. Keep your eyes open to go anywhere in this beautiful world. When you hit search you see a list of of minimum priced flight options in ascending order of price showing as below:

List of flights to different destination from India arrainged in increasing order of flight cost
List of flights to different destination from India arrainged in increasing order of flight cost

From the available list make a suitable choice. Really if you are not an avid traveler already, all these places will be new and exciting to you and the list doesn’t end with the screen shot, it goes on, so to view full list make a search on your own.

Step 2

Expand one , say France, your destination of choice, it will open to show you the list of all cities in ascending order of flight cost.

List of all cikties in your selected destination country arranged in increasing order of flight cost.
List of all cikties in your selected destination country arranged in increasing order of flight cost.

Paris being the capital city and a hub, will definitely be your choice to land in France and it will almost always be the cheapest. Click on the “green button”. Now you will see the list if Indian cities from where you can start, again in ascending order of flight cost:

List of your source indian city arranged in increase order of flight cost
List of your source indian city arranged in increase order of flight cost

Make your trade off to select the source city as per cost and your convenience and you are done.

Step 3:

There will be an option to select “Direct” only flights at every step, which will eliminate the 1 stop options, but in most cases you will find paying 1-3K INR extra will land you a direct flight. Try not to choose 2-stop flights as they can be really hectic at times.

Step 4:

Also you can hit the same searches in another website called Momondo (http://www.momondo.in/ ). Often Momondo prices some flights cheaper than Skyscanner and both of these are pretty reliable.

Step 5:

As a final and more advanced step, you can visit Google flights to search some handy regional fares. For example if I’m flying to Athens, I will see which other nearby airports I can land at a cheaper price. It may be cheaper to get down at Paris and take a very cheap connecting flight to Athens. You will here end up booking two different tickets on two different airlines, but it can save you as much as 3 to 4 thousand rupees. In these kind of detours if your flight gap is huge you can even hop around another country and enjoy a day there as for many European countries one Schengen visa is valid anyway!

After you have done all of these and rounded up everything, you should find yourself spending maximum 45 minutes in research. If you are spending hours and hours in booking flight, you are probably not doing it right and frustrating yourself unnecessarily. This entire process took me 45 minutes and after that I went back to watching “Game of Thrones” on Hotstar. Never punish yourself in making second-guesses about flight prices, you will go nuts. Spend this reasonable amount of time in booking a cheap flight, that you are okay paying for. Otherwise shift your destination and move on with life.

 

How we fell from the Hellenic sky to discover Athens

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Temple of Zeus

Like a Lilliput around the titanic Grecian columns of the Olympieion, in a brazen ochre haze of eroded limestone and very few people around, I suddenly felt the thrill to have made it, to Hellas. After a pocket-friendly ride with Etihad and Aegean airlines from Bombay (Price INR 17K only! Check out tips and tricks to bag cheap flights in a separate post following soon) we reached the city where you can hop from 2016AD tram to 550BC Hadrian’s gate in few minutes. Without a wormhole. It is amazing how modern urban life warmly embraces the historical remains.

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The touristy trains you see all across Athens

With history spanning over 3400 years, with established glory as the cradle of European culture and extremely tourist friendly infrastructure,  Athens was our first destination of choice in Europe. In blogs and other conversations Athens’ economic crisis often come up as a big question mark to the tourist safety and other travel issues. But once in the fairly cosmo atmosphere, helpful citizens and cultural grandeur will be the first things you notice. Metro rails, suburban railways, trams and ample buses make Athens transport scenario fairly easy. The Greek alphabets are only too known to anyone who have studied even a li’l bit of maths and working out the names on you own becomes a fun. Free maps are tugged in roadside posts for free tourist reference. The city is big but in a 3 day tour you can only rush to finish the central attractions.

First ever Olympic Stadium.
First ever Olympic Stadium.
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*Posing*

We stayed in Evaggelismos, a very nice neighborhood, only about a kilometer from Acropolis. With generous help from downloaded off-line google maps we took shortcuts like pro-Athenians and reached the first ever Olympic stadium of the world. In every tourist site you can see the hop-on hop-off buses, generally crammed with elderly touristy crowd. The buses are convenient but I would suggest walking as the roads are clean and there is so much to watch all around! Just like  this little florist shop on the roadside:

A pretty roadside florist counter in Athens
A pretty roadside florist counter in Athens

 “Ruins”, as they call it, are really a big pile of rubble saving some huge structures who still stand today defying all challenges of time and …my,..my…their immaculate precision, the geometry and sheer size awes you, the hike across Athens Acropolis slopes, on a bright sunny day to the very top to reach Parthenon, The temple of Roma & Augustus, The alter of Athena and the view of entire Athens  from the top make it all worthy. The theatre of Dionysos where ancient Greek drama took birth and flourished still stands with the rounded galleries and central stage, broken but proud, the idea of such an open air theatre was conceived at such an ancient era. Goose-bump-ey stuff.

Athens city scape
Athens city-scape from the top of Acropolis
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At the top of Acropolis

Exploring the urban web of ancient Athens encompassing whole of Acropolis hill and its slopes through main roads, such as the street of tripods, we moved without a guide, following tell-all history plaques without any problem. Audio guides from rick Steeves kept us informed. Downloaded offline google maps made navigation easy. We shopped groceries, gobbled peaches, hunted for vegetarian food, tasted suvlakies and falafels, sipped greek frappe,  bnb’ed in a local greek Naval architect’s home and I secretly eyed awfully handsome greek policemen who were everywhere ensuring tourist safety.

On the road, outside Acropolis grounds, a greek kid played a song in her flute. It was “Teri meri prem kahani” from Bodyguard movie. I later found out the song has plagiarism claims from “La Betleem Colo-njos” , a Romanian carol. Weird things like this sum up to our travel and that is what keeps us going.

Some quick helpful facts:

    1. Flight cost booked 4 months ahead of travel from Mumbai/Delhi to Athens can come down as low as INR 15K               per person.

    2. 3 day accommodation in comfortable BnBs  around Evaggelismos/Kritonos cost around INR 7K for a couple                 room.

     3. Greek VISA will cost around INR 6K per person and take a maximum of 2 weeks to get issued.

     4. A detour to beautiful Santorini/Mykonos islands for 2 days can be taken for an added budget for INR 30K for 2           people. Refer post  Santorini: Five absolute budget hacks

     5. Athens sight-seeing consists mainly of the 6 stop for 30Euro per person. This will include Acropolis and slopes,          Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, The library of Hadrian, Olympieion, Kerameikos, Lykeion of Aristotle.

Of the above mentioned 6 places Acropolis and slopes and Olympieion are the most beautifully preserved. The rest of the sites are more ruins than actual structures, frankly. If you are not a major history buff and cannot switch on your imagination then you may find these a little overkill. In that case consider taking separate tickets for Acropolis and Olympieion at the Acropolis gate. Students with valid student IDs will have free entries! Check out the Syntagma Square at the city center and watch the drill of guards at the Greek Parliament, feed the numerous pigeons and ride the red touristy tramcars. The Athens tram is a beautiful mode of transport, take a ride to the Pireaus, Faliron beaches, 30 mins from city center. The beaches are pristine with crystal blue water and rocky golden sand. The best part is that the beaches are very calm with very few people around (I don’t know if it was so for the particular day I visited). A serene afternoon in the beach with a drink watching the sunset can be very relaxing. The ride back to the city in tram is also scenic as a large part of the track is parallel to the coastline. With the opening of the coastal tram and the continuation of the Athens Metro all the way to Glyfada, the towns of the Athens Gold Coast, or the Athenian Riviera, specifically Glyfada, Voula and Faliron, have seen an influx of foreign travelers. And why not? All these towns are really extensions of Athens with shops, restaurants, cafes and the one thing that central Athens does not have: the Aegean Sea.

  Love,

~Safarzaade

Canaves Oia: Paradise Luxe

Pretty decor in keeping with Santorini whites
Pretty decor in keeping with Santorini whites

What do we exactly mean by “luxury in heaven”? Heaven is itself supposed to be luxurious. For a tourist straight falling from the early morning Aegean flights, Santorini’s blush-pink sun-rise canvas looks drop-dead gorgeous, the light breeze and morning dampness hits like manna dew. Heaven is right here. The “luxury” part, my friends, is Firdaws, the seventh level of heaven.

Canaves Oia Boutique hotels
Canaves Oia Boutique hotels

So there, you see a gorgeous cliff side with the promised white-washed, blue-domed backdrop, stunning lapis lazuli sea and pink bougainvillea bushes. There are the famous windmills and church-domes making up that picture perfect horizon, the caldera and the salt-frothed rocky coastline. Now, in that slope, hanging mid-air like Juliet’s balcony is your own little infinite pool (what oxymoron, I know!). Watch the famous Oia sunset from your porch in paradise, overlooking a steep slope almost reaching out to the mackerel sky. Plush spotless white outdoor spreads and furniture, blending with the whitewashed surroundings in immaculate continuum. The pristine “Canaves Oia”. The pocket pinch can be on the higher side, but spend atleast one day in this property and make a luxe memory.

Stunning balcony plunge pools
Stunning balcony plunge pools

Located on the highest points of Oia, the property boasts of Suites, Villas and a hotel with stunning uninterrupted views of the Caldera and the white bridal extravagance of Oia architecture. Natural beauty of the place here fuses seamlessly with the blinding white impeccable interiors and absolute boutique aesthetics. With the majestic Aegean sea and private yachts at disposal, great service, plunge pools at every balcony Canaves defines luxury in new terms altogether. There is airport pick-up and drop and additional sight-seeing packages.

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  Love,

~Safarzaade

Santorini: Five absolute budget hacks

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If you are a travel enthusiast and want to visit a lot of places with well-managed economy, this post is for you. If you are on a splurge spree for your honeymoon, please visit the post: here.

Getting down to business right away, Santorini is a 2-3 day detour from Athens if you are planning a Greek holiday. Once you are settled in the beautiful natural beauty your mind again will become restless for something more, especially if you are a city person like me. Santorini has one main town Fira and two small adjoining villages : Oia and Imerovigli all in a length of 18Km and breadth of 12 Km. It has a single airport located in Thira about 5Km from Fira, the main town.

Budget-hack 1: Fly from Athens by Aegean airlines or Ryan Air roundtrip will come as cheap as  €70.

Budget-hack 2: Stay in Fira. It is 7 minutes from airport. There is regular bus service at 1.8 Euro from the airport to Fira bus stop. There are many good BnBs available in AirBnB or equivalent sites. Santorini Rooms for example has Double rooms (Max 2 guests) with Safety Deposit Box • TV • Air Conditioning • Refrigerator • Toilet • Patio • Bathroom • Heating •Bath or Shower • Garden view at €40 per night.

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Budget-hack 4: Indulge in local food and groceries. There are Carrefour and other departmental chains from where one can get fresh fruits, juices, milk (Never miss the “Milko” chocolate milk cans, life savers), cereals for breakfast. MacD and other standard price stores are value for money everywhere. In Fira town centre there are some local deli (try, Lucky Souvlaki eatery) which sell great pizzas, souvlaki (Meat sticks),gyros (meat-wraps), Greek salad, falafel on average price of € 6-7, one square meal. Buy water in 6-packs for €2 at the grocery stores. Explore the local bakeries for sumptuous and cheap dessert options.

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Customary Greek Salad with Fetta Cheese
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The frothy yet relatively strong Greek Frappe

Budget-hack 5: Travel light. Take one back-pack per person, or one cabin-size trolley to avoid extra lugguage charges o the inter-city cheap flights all across Europe.

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The relatively cheap taverns of Ammouldi Bay
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The Black sand beach with relaxing spreads one can rent for 10 euros for unlimited period.
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The red sand beach

Apart from this, there should be no major expense. The natural beauty of the island, the caldera, colorful beaches, the light-house at the southern-most point of the island, the beautiful sunset at Skaros, whitewashed houses, men on donkeys are all a free-show and above all, these are the things you will remember as fondest memories of your Greek Holidays.

  Love,

~Safarzaade

Santorini: I’ll never forget you

How many times have you found out to your dismay that tourist promotional photos are a big fat lie? The sky and ocean are not as blue, the flora not as lush and the city-scapes not as jazzy as they seemed in photos, all done up with Photoshop experts. If you are already grumbling inside of your own worse experiences, let Santorini silence you. Let it stun you, once for real, by its pristine bridal white nestled amidst the endless azure expanse of the South-east Aegean sea.

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S-A-N-T-O-R-I-N-I. If it lilts your heart, you will find yourself absolutely, helplessly in love with the tiny island group (total 5) with the main island named Thira, which you can say, the land of many superlatives…the MOST photographed, the MOST romantic, the BEST sunset and so on.

Santorini: The golden red sunset light at Skaros.
The golden red sunset light at Skaros.
Santorini: The blue domes of the churches.
The blue domes of the churches.

“Bioclimatic” reasons have led the people of these Cycladic islands to paint their houses white. Alternative folklore says, it goes back to the time of the Ottoman occupation. Greeks were forbidden to fly their (blue and white) flag, so as an act of defiance they painted their houses blue and white.

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Pink Bougainvillea bushes make a sharp and striking contrast with the white and blue backdrop and makes the bridal bouquet complete. The sun turns red twice a day, and paints the white countryside a rose-gold, white Catamaran cruises dot the calm blue sea and leave endless frothy trails.

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The narrow winding alleyways in the village of Oia houses some of the best exotic restaurants where one can sip a Greek frappe and just moon away. The churches with blue domes against the breathtaking background makes you extremely interested in photography. Quaint little stores selling handicraft trinkets and memoirs, you can easily see, Santorini people are peace-loving and extremely warm. Explore the Caldera by a small boat, swim at the hot springs of Palea Kameni. Discover the black sand and Red Sand beaches true to their names. Watch the sunset at Skaros, hike a dirt path to top to find your heavenly romantic moment. Greece without a taste of the island life can never be complete. For a very budget-friendly detour to Santorini for your Greek itinerary click here.

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  Love,

~Safarzaade