If you’re in Benidorm and looking for a day trip then Calpe is the perfect choice! Calpe is a quaint town north of Benidorm sitting on the coast of Spain where you’ll find those beautiful Spanish steps and white-washed buildings to roam around before heading to the beach so you can experience crystal clear water and soft pale sand – a great place to catch that Spanish glow.
We caught an ALSA bus in the morning and arrived in Calpe within a couple of hours. The drive was beautiful. Passing coastal towns with houses painted white and tanned rooftops, catching views of the sea and country hills made the journey fly by!
We arrived at the main bus station about a 15 minute walk away from the beach. But first, we explored a quiet part of town where we found those rustic Spanish steps painted yellow and red surrounded by houses, plant pots and flowers.
After exploring the beautifully peaceful old town we decided to follow our hearts to the beach. From memory, we hired a sun lounger for around 5 euros each per day.
The best thing about this day trip (aside from gaining an amazing tan and ‘mermaiding’ in the ocean) was our sunset hike overlooking beautiful Calpe and the surrounding beaches. Don’t be put off when you see the barriers, they aren’t charging you but instead accounting for how many people are participating in the hike.
Our bus was leaving so we didn’t have time to walk all of the way to the top but I am determined to make my way back and complete it!
With over seven thousand islands the Philippines are layered with countless white beaches and hundreds of deliciously fresh coconuts – so what are you waiting for? Book your flights and discover Asia’s best-kept secrets…
UK residents have a free 28-day tourist visa
Best time to visit: the dry season is between October and May
The cheapest months to fly are in March/ April from Manchester Airport
1 British Pound = roughly 72 Philippine Pisos
Locals speak really good English
Good WiFi is very hard to come by
If you want to island-hop (I strongly recommend) then book your flights between islands as far in advance as you possibly can, it can get really expensive if not
Filipino cuisines are delicious
I spent 28 days island hopping and adventuring so here’s a list of 10 favourites to do in the Philippines:
1. Swim with whale sharks in Donsol
So, I have been obsessed with whale sharks for what seems like forever so I wanted to go to a place where I knew that whale sharks would swim naturally on their own terms. I did my research. Donsol is south of Manila where we first landed in the Philippines. Ready for a journey? Yes? Me too.
To get to Donsol you have to take a bus to Barlaran from the airport for 20 pesos (27p) which took around 20 minutes. Next, you have to catch a bus to Cubao (Araneta Centre) costing 35 pesos (48p) which took around 2 hours with bad traffic. The bus terminal was very efficient, a ticket to Legazpi City costs 1,100 pesos (£15.30) leaving at 9pm to then arrive 11 hours later. The last stretch of the journey would require you taking a minibus to the Donsoltourist information centre, this costs 98 pesos (£1.36) and takes around an hour.
Dancalan Beach next door to the tourist information centre – 500 pesos for a double room, 250 each (£3.47) with a shared bathroom. This place was a beautiful start to our trip because it was so quiet, the beach was right at our doorstep. Make sure you order their vegetable fried rice and mango pancakes!
Come 12 o’clock we hopped on a private boat with four men on a mission to find whale sharks. I cannot applaud these men enough as they were nothing less than professionals. The water wasn’t clear and the sun was hiding yet these guys spotted our first whale shark within 20 minutes! We had hired the boat for 3 hours so for us to be entering the water this soon was really exciting.
*Due to cloudy conditions please excuse these poor quality GoPro photographs!
2. Cebu – Kawasan Falls
Most famous for those icy blue waters and yes, the water really is this blue!
Tip: Visit in time for sunrise in order to beat the crowds!
3. Cebu – White Beach
We stayed in Moalboal which is about 30-minutes on a scooter from Kawasan Falls and a 5-minute scooter ride to White Beach.
Tip: We loved hiring a scooter and going for long rides to explore the surrounding area – it was beautiful!
4. Cebu – Badian – Inambakan Falls
There are so many destinations in the Philippines for waterfalls. If I were you I’d research the ones you like the look of the most, rent a scooter and go from there.
Tip: We arrived at around 11am and this place was still quite empty whereas I’ve heard Kawasan Falls can get very busy after a certain time!
A surfers paradise. It was hard to leave this island; we enjoyed the people, food, scooter rides and water so much that we ended up staying longer than expected.
Accommodation: Soul Tribe Beach Retreat is a beautiful getaway for anyone wanting to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of travelling.
6. Siargao – Island Boat Tour
The boat tours from this island are beautiful and easy to book through your accommodation: we were taken to a few sand islands, snorkel spots and ended with a Filipino BBQ (where you buy all of the ingredients at the market beforehand) on the beach. This may possibly have been one of the best meals in my entire life…
7. Bohol Island
Here, we completed our first night and deep dive with Bohol Divers Club. Diving is probably one of my favourite activities to do in Southeast Asia because it’s cheap and lets you discover what a fascinating underwater world we have!
Bohol is also home to the Chocolate Hills. Unfortunately, there is no chocolate to be found but there is, however, perfectly shaped hills dotted across the horizon… sorcery.
8. Siquijor Island – Cambugahay Falls
Known for its mystical witchcraft, scuba diving and adventure packed waterfalls. We stayed in a small town called San Juan at JJ packers, I recommend heading down to Monkey Business for their delicious food!
Tips: have 50 Pisos ready for entry and don’t forget to explore the surrounding waterfalls instead of staying by the main one.
Swing through the jungle like Tarzan and I’ll be your Jane. Too cheesy? Moving on…
9. Siquijor Island – Salagdoong Beach
Tip: From San Juan, it took around 1hr – 1hr30 to drive here on a scooter but there are lots of gorgeous views along the way to keep you occupied!
10. Palawan – El Nido > Coron
Finally, home to crystal clear water, palmy beaches and mermaid life is Palawan.
Island hopping tours were easy to set up through front desks or travel shops along the main strips. As a big fan of the Filipino BBQ, I highly recommend taking an El Nido > Coron boat tour for the day where you can bag yourself a gorgeous beach BBQ cooked while you’re working up an appetite free diving towards abandoned shipwrecks and getting that insta-worthy shot jumping into Kayangan Lake!
That concludes my 10 favourite things to do in the Philippines, thanks for reading!
Where the freshest sushi is created, where Mount Fuji stands tall, where snowboarders cut the finest powder and where you’ll find quirky fashion statements around every corner.
Japan has always been a dream of mine, an obsession with this intriguing country has developed quickly over the years. So when a friend got in touch and asked if I wanted to join her in Japan, how could I say no?
Good to know:
Japan is very expensive!
You will find it hard to come by good English or somebody that understands you but the Japanese are very generous and will try to help you in every way that they can
1 British pound = 147.38 Japanese Yen
Access to WiFi is really good
Eat the traditional food, that’s an order!
I stayed in ‘IRORI Hostel’ which was around an 8 minute walk from the metro station. As I breached the surface of the underground I felt a rush of ice cold air greet my face as I found myself surrounded by a wall of towering buildings. Even though Tokyo is a capital city, at 1:30am it was deadly silent that it was almost deafening. I used my maps.me app to guide myself. As I was walking a kind man saw me in my backpacking attire and immediately asked if I needed help finding my hostel. He kindly looked it up on his phone and escorted me to the door, told me to enjoy my experience in Tokyo and carried on walking home. This is just one example of how kind the Japanese people are.
With 2 hours sleep I woke up at 7am to explore the world’s biggest fish market, Tsukiji Fish Market. I bought a travel card (similar to London’s Oyster card) where I loaded around 2,000 Yen so I didn’t have to buy single tickets for every trip.
I meandered through the never ending rows of fresh fish being cut, beheaded, skinned and packed before my very eyes. Men work hard from the early hours of the morning to sell fish coming in many shapes and sizes.
Something smells a little bit fishy, doesn’t it? Or maybe that’s the smell of my clothes. After exploring, me and my friend Hannah sat down in a tiny sushi restaurant where we waited for around 40 minutes to taste the freshest sushi I’ve ever eaten. I’m more of a macci girl but I still enjoyed the experience of trying the different kinds of sushi – for breakfast!
We then ventured out into Shibuya but only for a few hours until we crashed; returning back to our hostel for a well deserved nap before heading out to explore Tokyo at night.
We spent the next afternoon browsing through racks of the coolest vintage clothes until that sharp feeling in the pit of our stomachs yelled out. We tried our first Japanese ramen in a cute restaurant to which we don’t even know the name of because everything in this area was written in Japanese!
More from the area of Shibuya and the famous Shibuya crossing…
Girl, just call me Beyoncé.
Do not miss the chance to sing your heart out whether you chose to go alone or with some friends. The Japanese love to sing karaoke as a social or solo activity; you can rent a room, order drinks and dress up in crazy outfits. Me and Hannah loved this experience, that’s after we figured out how to work the karaoke machine…
Puppy love! We were obsessed with the fact that you could go to a place where you paid to sit and pay with little dogs just for fun. We went to Dog Heart in Shibuya to play with beagles and a lovely golden retriever, you could also chose an option where you took a dog for a walk but we decided to stay in the warmth for a while.
Our next stop was to go and see the famous Mount Fuji. As we were exploring Japan at a time when it was unlikely that beginner hikers would attempt the climb, we only admired the mountain from a far. We stayed at K’s House Fuji View which I highly recommend as the interior design was a traditional Japanese style with a hot shower, fast WiFi, close to the train/bus station and the beds were that comfy that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning… much to Hannah’s dismay.
So we took a train to Shimoyoshida Station and followed the map to the Churreito Pagoda where we were able to see a view of Mount Fuji from a distance.
Kyoto. We stayed at Grateful Hostel in the area of Kamigyo-ku. From here we ventured into Arashiyama where we strolled through a bamboo forest and took a long walk admiring the beautiful surroundings that brought us to delicious street food and shrines embedded within autumn leaves and flowers.
Gion, a traditional corner home to the Kyoto Traditional Musical Art Foundation ‘Ookini Zaidan‘. Here you can watch a display of traditional Japanese performances such as the Kado (Flower Arrangement), Chado (Tea Ceremony), Kyogen (Ancient Comic Play) and the Kyomai (Kyoto Style Dance).
Feeding time at Chojiro. Eating here was sugoil (awesome)! I had never been to a train sushi restaurant before, even back in England, so experiencing it for the first time in Kyoto was a special treat. I am not the best raw fish eater so I opted for tuna rolls which were absolutely delicious. Dining with touchscreen service also added to the experience.
Oh deer lord! Welcome to Nara, home to hundreds of deer ruling over grass and streets. Myself and Hannah really enjoyed feeding the deer, that’s until a really crazy looking one with hungry eyes chased us around. He/she just ran at people who were holding crackers looking to head-butt them, finding this hilarious we were entertained for a good hour or so in the deer parks.
The Itsukushima Shrine is definitely worth a visit on the island of Itsukushima. I loved wandering around this charming island, it felt like I was walking through time.
Travelling around Japan would not be complete without a visit to Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a city which was impacted hugely by an atomic bomb during World War 2 and left many ruins including the famous Genbaku Dome which shows a spine curling shell still standing. I won’t go into the facts as it’s an unbelievable experience to discover for yourself the many artefacts, true accounts and information panels you’ll find within the museum.
Must try: Okonomiyaki – a delicious Japanese dish consisting of pork, egg, cabbage and soba cooked to perfection on a steaming hot surface in front of you. I love unique dining experiences and this was by far unique for me.
Osaka. Starting in Fukushima we ate in a Japanese restaurant serving handmade green onion and soy sauce Takoyaki which kind of looked like a Yorkshire pudding.
So we fancied a bit of fun, Hannah suggested Universal Studios and so the next thing we knew is that we were leaving our accommodation, Evergreen Hostel, to catch the train to Sakurajima where we waited in line to enter Universal Studios. One of the best days of my travels. Why? Harry Potter World of course!
Thank you for reading, I hope you found this post somewhat interesting and useful.
For the girls – if you’re a girl solo traveller then I recommend you wear a ring on your wedding finger to fend off the sometimes forward Sri Lankan men. I was approached and followed when I walked alone a few times so I told them I was going to meet my boyfriend.
It was a last minute decision to travel to Sri Lanka. I was researching where to go next while sitting on my hostel bed in Langkawi when I got talking to a girl about Sri Lanka. I’d heard good things from other travellers too so I spontaneously booked a flight for the next day.
I flew into Colombo and took a bus straight from the airport to the Colombo bus station taking around half an hour.
Hectic. That’s what my first impression of Colombo was – hectic. I stepped off the bus and straight into a tuk tuk’s way who refused to acknowledge my presence! They come out of no where, appearing from behind cars and buses sounding their high pitched horns with every turn. The tuk tuks’ are like snakes, slithering their way through traffic hunting for naive tourists to lure into their care.
I advise that you only spend the one night here as it can be just like any other city: busy and dirty. I stayed at the ‘Colombo City Hostel’ which I booked through HostelWorld costing £3.65 per night for a 6 bed female dorm. They do not have aircon but a small fan above your bed with a huge locker to store your luggage. If you walk up to the roof you can see a great view of the city and the nearby beach.
Take a train to Kandy for a cheap 190 Rupees (94p) and enjoy the scenic route taking approximately 3 hours. I stayed at a hostel within a 10 minute walk from the station called, ‘Bunk Planet’, a comfortable capsule hostel with a lot of privacy. If you are travelling alone I recommend that you stay at a hostel in the city centre as mine was a 20 minute walk away.
Take a walk around Kandy lake where you’ll find a stunning view of the houses built on the mountains and the famous Buddha Tooth Temple. I didn’t go inside the temple as it came with a price of 1,500 Rupee.
Eat at a local restaurant for some authentic Sri Lankan dishes. My favourite was the rotti as I can’t handle spice (yes I know, great idea going to a country oozing with spice). Rotti is a traditional bread-like meal, sort of like a naan bread but lighter and more stretchy so you can tear pieces off and dip them into curry sauces. You usually get two or three sauces to eat with it.
Juice me up! You must try the fresh fruit from the markets, the mangos and bananas are to die for. I was wandering through Kandy market when a man offered me some of his mango for free and it was possibly one of the juiciest pieces of mango I’ve ever tasted.
Take a tuk tuk to a waterfall within the mountains. If you tell the driver you want to do a waterfall hike then they will know which to take you to depending on the weather. Me and a girl I met hired a tuk tuk and was driven up the mountains where we got to witness the beauty of Sri Lanka’s countryside.
The weather was overcast but that did not take away the shine of blossoming tea plantations around every corner.
“How much you pay?”. Kandy market is a great playground for your bartering skills. Always half whatever price they make first and go from there because they will try to rip you off massively. So stay savvy. I tried on a gorgeous orange sari which is a part of their traditional women’s clothing in Sri Lanka. I immediately wanted to go to a Sri Lankan wedding so I had an excuse to buy one!
Don’t fall! Now for the famous train ride from Kandy to Ella…
Which class to go for? I advise to buy a second class ticket but bare in mind that you might not get seated straight away. Third class is full of locals making their way on their probably daily/weekly train ride to work/home. First class is an observation carriage and much more expensive than second.
Your best chances of getting seated straight away is if you stand in the middle of the platform, do not stand at the beginning, keep walking down towards the end. Once the train pulls up everyone will rush onto the train like ants disappearing back into their holes underground so be careful with your belongings.
The 7 hour train ride from Kandy to Ella is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the entire world and it did not disappoint. Feel the wind race beneath your feet as you hang off the side of the train. Be careful to watch where you’re going though, tourists have been seriously injured because they didn’t see a lamppost ahead.
Wave to field workers, admire the 50 shades of green and rolling hills as you pass by…
Ella reminds me of a small town in Thailand called Pai. It breathes out fresh air and sits high in the mountains housing a small population of people. Ella has one main road with mainly local restaurants. I recommend eating local food a lot as it is really cheap and very tasty!
Take a hike up to Ella’s Rock for a nice walk and a fantastic view. You can easily do this hike by yourself even though you will get locals trying to make you go the wrong way and then hire them to lead you there for a hefty price. So trust yourself and just say no!
The hike starts from Ella station where you can walk along the train tracks to the left until you reach the next train station, then there will be a grassy pathway to enter and you basically follow the tracks all the way. However, it does help if you have google maps handy just to make sure you’re still going in the correct direction. It took us around 2 hours from start to finish.
As you can see, we were robbed of a great view by the spooky fog so if I were to do it again I would start my hike earlier from 6:30-7am.
More tea darling? If you want to see a tea plantation while you’re here then I strongly recommend that you pay ‘Amba Tea Estate’ a visit. What’s so special about them? Tucked away in the mountains only a 40 minute tuk tuk ride from Ella, Amba Tea Estate is a fresh, organic company who treat their workers, community and environment with respect.
Picking by hand, they select only the best tea leaves for their tea. I hate drinking it (poor English person) but I was happy to accompany a friend and I’m glad I did. The grounds were beautiful, I loved learning about the different types of tea and how they are unique to other tea farms in Sri Lanka. The tour was absolutely free of charge and you can tell that the workers are so passionate about tea from the way they explained the process and history of tea in Sri Lanka.