Ephesus

Here we are in week 7 of my suggestions for your travel bucket list.

In no particular order, my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list are:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

This week I’ll talk about Ephesus.

Ephesus is an ancient Greek city in Turkey that I visited while on a cruise last February stopping in Italy, Greece, and Turkey (the port is Izmir).

I’m not necessarily a ruins addict, though I have seen a number of ruins from various civilizations throughout Europe and Latin America, but Ephesus was pretty unforgettable. Firstly, the city is much more massive than almost any other ruins I have visited and its level of preservation is quite impressive. The streets, buildings, drainage, sewage system, and sign system is stunning when you consider how little we’ve progressed in so much time. Additionally, there are a number of fun facts the tour guide will give you that keep things amusing such as noting that there is a secret underground tunnel connecting the city’s main library with its most popular brothel to allow the men of this ancient city to have their fun without their wives suspecting anything.

The tour I took was pretty comprehensive and I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. I apologize, but since I visited while on a cruise and got ship to site service via the shore excursions team, I can’t really give you much information about how to get there.

Below are some photos from my visit.

My cousin and I in front the library in Ephesus
My cousin and I in front the library (that has a secret underground passage to the brothel across the street).
Ephesus
Ancient roadway leading to the library.
Amphitheater in Ephesus
View of the amphitheater.
Amphitheater in Ephesus
Part of a performance they do every hour or so on the edge of the ruins.
Toilets and sewage system in Ephesus
Our tour guide showing us the toilets and sewage/drainage system.
More from the performance.

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Machu Picchu (Again)

It’s week 6 of my bucket list…well, not my bucket list because I’ve already done all of these but rather, things you should add to your bucket list.

In no particular order, my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list are:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

This week I’ll talk about Machu Picchu.

This post was originally published here.

You absolutely cannot go to Peru without visiting Machu Picchu. In fact, most people that go to Peru for vacation make the trip specifically for Machu Picchu.

When I visited I did so on a tour that also took me to a number of other archaeological sites, provided city tours, and took me to Lake Titicaca and its floating islands. For the Machu Picchu portion of the trip I arrived in Cusco the day before, where I did some touring and exploring but then headed to bed early in order to make it to the train station early the morning of my visit to Machu Picchu. The train from Cusco – where you will most likely fly into – to Aguascalientes – the tiny city closest to Machu Picchu takes about 3.5 hours each way, so you’ll want to head out early. When you arrive on the train you’ll then hop on a shuttle bus to take you up a winding maintain roadway to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

The videos I took absolutely do not capture what you’ll see when you visit in person, but it’s worth checking out anyway – just try to imagine the thin air and amazing views.

Superman Zip-lining in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest

Continuing on with my list of some of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve had and would suggest you add to your bucket list.

In no particular order, my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list are:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

Today’s post will be about the Zip-lining in Costa Rica’s cloud forest.

Zip-lining in Costa Rica is a pretty well-known activity for visitors to the Central American country, deservedly so. There are tons of options for you to take a zip-lining tour and you can do it as a single activity or combine it with other tours. Basically, you head up into the rainforest, get strapped into a harness, and fly through the canopy of the rainforest. Not only is it fun to whiz across the zip-line itself, but also you’ll get some great views of the rainforest from up above.

I did a post on this earlier in the Where in the World? blog, which you can check out here for a bit more detail on exactly what I did. You can also watch the video of it here:

One thing that’s important to note, however, is that you want to be sure to choose a tour that offers the “superman,” because this isn’t offered on all of the tours and it’s one of the coolest experiences. This is when you are strapped into a special harness that allows you to be on your stomach in a superman position as you zip through the canopy and it’s the closest thing to feeling like flying that I have ever experienced (though I have never sky-dived or used one of those flying suits, but this works for the fainter of heart).

The Grand Canyon

Week number 4 of my list of some of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve had and would suggest you add to your bucket list.

In no particular order, my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list are:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

Today’s post will be about the Grand Canyon.

I really don’t feel like I need to give too much description for this post. Everyone knows what the Grand Canyon is and that it’s a bit of a must see.

When I visited the Grand Canyon I did so as a day trip while I was in Las Vegas. I don’t remember the name of the tour group but I just did a Google search and chose the least expensive company with great reviews and it worked out for me.

I was picked up from my hotel early in the morning and the tour lasted the entire day with a stop at the Hoover Dam and then also at the Grand Canyon. I was on a tour that allowed us to visit multiple sites at the Grand Canyon and provided lunch and a performance by a Native American Dance Troupe (though they did mention that the tribal dances they performed were not those of the Indian people who actually inhabit the land around the Grand Canyon, so that was a bit odd).

If you have the opportunity to go see the Grand Canyon, do it. That’s really all I can say. However, if you have children, be careful! The part of the Grand Canyon that I visited does not have any fences or other barriers to keep you from falling over the edge. If your children may be curious and wander over to the edge, it may be better to wait until they’re a bit older before visiting.

I also recommend that you bite the bullet and pay to go on the Sky Walk – the glass walkway that extends out over the Canyon so you can look straight down into it – even though you can’t bring your own cameras out onto it. It’s a bit of a tourist trap in terms of waiting and pricing, but it’s worth it to have the experience and be able to say you did it.

Check out some photos from my visit below:

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Desert Safari in Dubai, UAE

We’re still working through my list of some of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve had and would suggest you add to your bucket list.

In no particular order, my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list are:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

Today’s post will be about the desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show I experienced in Dubai.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to visit Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. While I really wasn’t particularly awed by the trip overall despite all of the “tallest,” “fastest,” and other “best of” honors that Dubai’s tourist attractions can claim (though the indoor skiing and tallest building in the world at the mall were cool), I did think that one activity in particular was pretty awesome: the desert safari.

One of the afternoons/evenings of the trip the group that I was with all got picked up from our hotel to head out to the desert safari. The desert “safari” is basically an off-roading adventure where your tour guides take you in a 4-wheel-drive SUV out into the middle of the desert, let the air out of the tires, and then take you for an insane joy ride through the desert where they basically just freak out and drive you around like an excited 15-year old boy. You fly over the sand dunes, swerve, twist, turn and basically experience a real-world roller coaster ride. It was fun, period.

After the heart-pumping ride, you’re dropped off at a little social area created in the desert where you can enjoy camel rides and 4-wheelers, get henna tattoos, smoke hookah, and explore some of the local handicrafts from vendors. Then you enjoy a 5 course meal while watching  belly dancers, skirt twirlers, and other performers before heading back to your hotel later that night.

Was it a bit touristy and cliche? Absolutely. Was it TONS OF FUN? Definitely.

Here are some pics from the desert:

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Las Mariposas de Michoacan

I’m continuing working my through my list of some of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve had that I would suggest you add to your bucket list.

In no particular order, here are my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

Today’s post will be about seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico. I’ve written about this before, but here’s the info again in case you missed it the first time.

All of the monarch butterflies in North American migrate south to Mexico to wait out the cold season in this one area, Michoacan. That means that if you visit at the right time of year you can walk into the woods where they congregate and witness literally millions of butterflies flying all around you. It’s an incredible experience. The butterflies are only in Michoacan from October to March, so be sure to visit during this time period if you want to see them.

Take a look at this video of the preserve and if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, the info on how to get there is below.

It’s super easy to get to the butterfly preserves from Mexico City, though it will probably be helpful if you speak some Spanish. I took a bus from Mexico City to a city called Zitacuaro and from there to a town called Ocampo. Altogether the buses cost about $15 USD one way. In Ocampo, which is a tiny little town, I was only able to find one hotel called Hotel San Carlos. It was basic but clean and the lady who helped was wonderful. The hotel for one night cost roughly $20 USD. It’s best to go up to Ocampo the day before, spend the night, and then head up to the preserve in the morning (around 8am or 9am). You don’t want to go too early because it’s cold in the morning so the butterflies are not that active, but you also don’t want to go too late or the preserve will start to get crowded. You can take a taxi or a group van up to the preserve from Ocampo. A taxi will run you just under $10 USD, the van will be less than 2 bucks (even with the surcharge you’ll get for not being Mexican).

Once at the preserve, I opted to ride horses up to the actual butterfly area. The price is about $6.25 USD but this is a one-way fee so be sure to double whatever price they tell you. I loved riding up to the butterfly area but if you’ve never ridden a horse before I wouldn’t suggest making this your first try. The horses have saddles, but the reins aren’t full reins, they’re strings, and if you’re too short for the stirrups (like me) they won’t adjust them for you so you end up bouncing around quite a bit. It’s also a pretty steep climb and the horses sometimes stumble a bit.

You ride the horses about 3/4 of the way up and then you have to get off and walk the rest of the way with a guide. You’re not allowed to enter the woods without a guide but they’re just there to make sure you don’t wander off where you’re not supposed to be, not to give any information about the preserve or the butterflies, so try to do some research before you get there. Once you get to the observation spot you’re allowed to stay as long as you wish but you have to remain quiet in the area so as not to disturb the butterflies. Trust me, you can get lost in the fluttering for more time than you think. Whenever you’re ready to go you just grab your guide and head back down where you can grab another cab or van back to Ocampo.

We had dinner in Ocampo before turning in the day we got there and then had breakfast and lunch there the next day before heading home. The total for the three meals was maybe $10 or $15 USD per person and they were big, tasty meals made by someone’s mom or grandmother. That means all told the entire adventure cost less than $100 and was absolutely well worth it.

Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico

Before the holidays I shared a list of some of the coolest experiences I’ve had in my travels that I thought some of you might like to add to your bucket lists for 2014. The first few Where in the World? posts of the new year will give you some details about the where/why/how of my suggestions.

In no particular order, here are my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

Today’s post will be about the Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is actually home to more than one bio bay, but the one I visited is in Vieques, a small island off the northeast coast of the main island of Puerto Rico. A bioluminescent bay is a bay that contains dinoflagellates or micro-organisms that glow if the water is disturbed. The more dinoflagellates in the water, the stronger the glow, and the bio bay in Vieques has a very high concentration of these little guys.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of myself in the bio bay because when I went I didn’t have a waterproof camera. However, you can see how cool it is by looking at these images I found with a basic Google search by clicking here.

This is hands down one of the coolest experiences I have had and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The bonus with the bio bay in Vieques is that there are also flying fish in the bay, so as you kayak out you’ll see an amazing light show as the flying fish jump out of the water all aglow. When I went, it rained at the beginning of the adventure so the bay was completely lit up as the raindrops disturbed the water and made it look like a bunch of glittering diamonds were dropping into the sea around us.

In order to get to Vieques, you’ll need to head out to the city of Fajardo on the eastern side of the main island of Puerto Rico. From there you’ll either catch a ferry (the option I used) or a tiny private prop plane to get out to the island of Vieques. There are only a few options for hotels and restaurants available and there is really nothing to do on the island besides the bio bay itself except enjoy the beautiful Caribbean beaches, so you definitely don’t need more than a weekend here. I spent two nights on the island and it was the perfect amount of time.

You’ll want to book your bio bay tour in advance because there is limited space. The night of the tour (all tours are after dark so that you can see the glow, of course) you’ll meet up at the tour operator to get a little “safety training” before heading out. The bio bay is actually surrounded with quite a bit of vegetation and it’s super muddy and mosquito-filled where you actually enter the water, so it’s a little unpleasant for about 5 minutes or so as everyone hauls their kayaks to the water’s edge and gets in. Once you paddle out into the bay a bit though, it’s clear and gorgeous.

As you paddle, you will see the flying fish jumping around you and also see the glow around the kayaks and paddles themselves. Plus, I guarantee you won’t be able to resist sticking your hands in to see the glowing around your own fingers. The kayak out is slow and leisurely, probably because everyone is distracted by the glowing fish and paddles, so don’t worry if you’re not in the best shape. Eventually, the guide will have everyone stop and gather in a circle and will allow time for you to hop out of your kayaks and swim around in the glowing water.

Again, this was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my life and I would absolutely go back and do it again. I hope you’ll consider adding it to your travel bucket list.

Suggestions for Your Bucket List

As you know, I’ve come back to the U.S. to spend the holidays with friends and family so I don’t have new adventures to share with you here at the Where in the World? section of my blog. I do, however, have a lot of traveling under my belt so I wanted to share some of my favorite places and experiences with you in case you’re looking for some things to add to your travel bucket list. Today I’ll give you the list and then each Wednesday for the next few weeks I’ll give you a description of each and why it’s on the list.

In no particular order, here are my top 10:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

What’s on your travel bucket list? Will you add any of my suggestions?

What amazing places have you been or incredible things have you done that you think I should add to my bucket list?

Please share below!

Christmas Tree Lighting in NYC

After a whirlwind year in Latin America I am back in the USA for a bit to celebrate Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday, by far) and the rest of the holiday season with family and friends here. One of the stops along my “omg, I haven’t seen you in a year because I was in Latin America, we need to catch up” tour was NYC and I did the most touristy thing I’ve ever done there: went to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting.

Thankfully, it wasn’t actually that cold that day so I was able to tolerate being outside for hours. I didn’t get close enough to see the stage and watch the performances, but I did have a pretty good view of the tree itself. Check it out:


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