What to do in Switzerland

We absolutely LOVED Switzerland….it is probably as close to a real-life fairy tale as you img_7915.jpg can get. There is just something about snow-covered mountains, wide open fields, and charming villages that just speak to your soul. The stillness, quietness, power, wildness and beauty all come together to form this picture perfect scene that will leave you craving more. While Switzerland looks small on a map, there are so many different things to do and see that it can be pretty overwhelming in knowing where to start, so here is a list of all of our favorites!

1.) Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen is a hands-down “must-see” and is a Lord of the Rings wonderland. To be IMG_6692honest, I’m not a huge LOTR fan…yeah, the movies were entertaining but I don’t need to see them more than a few times, and I’ve never read the books, so this opinion is NOT from a LOTR fangirl 🙂 HOWEVER, that being said, DON’T miss this place! It has been said that J.R Tolkien got his inspiration for the elvish town of Rivendell from Lauterbrunnen, which is known as “The Land of 72 Waterfalls”. “Lauterbrunnen” LITERALLY translates to IMG_7887“many fountains”. Because Lauterbrunnen sits in a valley at the base of the Alps, they have TONS of fresh alpine-water waterfalls that are created by snow and ice that melt. It’s absolutely BREATHTAKING and is any waterfall chaser’s IMG_7807dream. The largest and most famous of these falls is Staubback Falls, which is one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in all of Europe, plunging from almost 984 feet (300 meters). The town itself is super cute and fun to walk through…. stop and grab a  cappuccino in the café near the falls, or plan to go down for the day and hike up behind Staubback Falls for an unforgettable view and top it off with a pot of Swiss fondue!

Good to know: Lauterbrunnen has a public parking garage that you can use for about 8 CHF per day (we left our car there for 3 days and 2 nights and paid 25 CHF). Our final destination was Mürren, which is a town that sits above Lauterbrunnen and is car-free. So we left our car in Lauterbrunnen, paid 11 CHF per person to hitch a ride up via the air gondola and then train. It was a 30 minute trip to take the gondola to Grutschalp, and then the train from Grutschalp to Mürren (note that the 11 CHF fare is for one person one way, tickets can be purchased at the train station or the gondola station right near the covered parking garage, and the gondola leaves every 30 minutes). Lauterbrunnen is about a 2.25 hour drive to Geneva and about 2 hours from Zurich.

2.) Mürren

Mürren is the most ADORABLE little town that I have ever visited. It is a car-free village, IMG_6815complete with fresh alpine air and water, which runs freely in adorable water fountains all through the town. It is the highest village on the mountain and is only accessible by a gondola and train. We stayed in Mürren at Hotel Eiger (read more about that stay here) and had an absolute blast. We love the beach, but there is just something about the stillness and majesty of the mountains that just can’t be beat, and Mürren offers you the perfect mountain escape. Honestly, I think we both had the best sleep of our life here…it’s amazing what mountain air and the quietness of ZERO vehicles will do for you! Mürren is brimming with hiking trails, open fields, and cows in their pastures, IMG_7533making for a wildly enchanting display of ringing bells all throughout the fields. That might sound a bit obnoxious (I was certainly expecting it to be), but it was actually quite soothing and I find myself missing it already! Even if you aren’t a hiker, there are lots of smaller trails to take, and even walking through town, or down to Gimmelwald is super fun! If you ARE a hiker then you’ll be in a hiker’s paradise, as there are hiking trails that run all up and down the mountain that begin (or at least pass through) Mürren. We did the North Face Trail, which took us about 2 hours to complete, although we did go up the harder way. There is an option to take a train/trolley up the hardest portion, which will drop you off at the path, but we didn’t take that so I don’t know the price. The North Face Trail is a complete circle, so you begin and end in Mürren, and the difficulty is ranked as “medium” (it’s known to be good for kids, and probably even more-so if you are taking the trolley). Pro Tip: pick up fresh bread, cheese, and chocolate at the store on your way up and have a picnic in the Alps when you reach the open field! You get a perfect view of the mountains, including Eiger. (Pro PRO Tip: make sure that the water that you pick up to bring on your hike isn’t sparkling…we MAY have made this mistake….sparkling water is much less refreshing on a hike 😀 ). You also get to see lots of cows and sheep and hear their mesmerizing bells chiming throughout your whole hike. The path is mostly dirt and gravel until the last ¼ mile that brings you back into town where it turns to pavement. Total mileage is about 4 miles and the trail is situated right above Mürren. More adventurous hikers can hike for several days to get to the top of Schilthorn, but there are many hikes with difficulty levels for everyone in between! Be sure to ask your hotel receptionist for a map that lists hiking trails…everyone that we met spoke very good English and was super friendly, helpful, and hospitable!

3.) Schilthorn-Piz Gloria

Schilthorn is one of the peaks in the Bernese Alps, right above Mürren, and offers a perfect panoramic view of the 3 tallest points: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. It is also home to the revolving restaurant Piz Gloria, which was featured in the 1969 James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Piz Gloria is a functioning restaurant that includes IMG_7605 a gift shop and a James Bond museum. To be honest, we didn’t spend much time inside, as we were there more for the spectacular view, not so much for the James Bond references 🙂 The only way to get to the top of Schilthorn (other than hiking) is by gondola. We started in Mürren and rode the 2 gondolas (Mürren to Birg, and then Birg to Schilthorn) for 82 CHF each, which also includes the return trip. I think you can get a discount if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, or other types of rail passes, but we didn’t have those so I’m not sure as to what the discount is exactly. The entire trip from Mürren up to Schilthorn took IMG_7648 about 20 minutes, but it would be a longer trip if you were starting lower than Mürren. I would advise you to look online at their live camera first before you go…sometimes it’s so cloudy/foggy up there that you can’t see anything, which makes the 82 CHF not worth it. The camera is live 24 hours a day and can be visited here. Make sure you dress warm, even if it’s not that cold when you start your trip…. it definitely gets colder the higher you go! Be sure to get out and explore when you stop at Birg on your way down from Schilthorn. You can go through a series of Thrill Walks….walking over the edge of the mountain on a glass walkway bridge, crawl through a caged fence tunnel hanging over the mountain edge, and tightrope walking over the edge! It’s a pretty neat (and free) experience that definitely gets your adrenaline pumping! We were debating between doing Schilthorn or doing The Jungfraujoch, also known as the “Top of Europe”, which is the highest railway station in Europe, but significantly more expensive…one second-class ticket was $238 if you didn’t have a rail pass with a discount. We read reviews of travelers who said not to waste money on Jungfraujoch and that the view was just as good, if not better, at Schilthorn. We decided to take their advice since we wanted a great view for less money and for a trip that wouldn’t take an entire day, so Schilthorn worked out perfect for us! I would definitely recommend this option!

4.) Gimmelwald

Only a short 25 minute walk away from Mürren is the town of Gimmelwald, which is situated right below Mürren. Gimmelwald is a super cute little farming village that is less travelers and more locals. In fact, a lot of Gimmelwald’s products are brought up to be used in the restaurants in Mürren, especially the cheese 🙂 Be sure to check out the Honesty Shop and the bar next door, both adorable spots! You can take the gondola back up to Mürren (we hopped on for free), or you can walk back…we read that the average time to walk back up is about 1.5 hours, even though it only took 25 minutes coming down. The 2 mile path is paved and offers gorgeous views from a different perspective since Gimmelwald doesn’t have as high of a vantage point as Mürren does.

5.) EAT

Switzerland is home to many culinary experiences that you absolutely MUST try…some of our favorites are listed below

  • Chocolate – this is obvious, but the Swiss are the chocolate connoisseurs of the IMG_7022 world, and as such, have some of the best chocolate in the world. My suggestion: try it all! You can get a variety of different bars at a grocery store for around $2 each…they make for great mid-hike snacks, paired with coffee while you sip and stare at the view, or even as a late night snack in the hotel! Be sure to stock up and bring some home for friends and family…. they’re great inexpensive options that everyone loves 🙂
  • Cheese – with having so many cows and local cheese, this one is another obvious one. Pair it with fresh bread from a grocery store and you have yourself a super cheap but tasty and filling breakfast or hiking lunch!
  • Cheese Fondue – again, another Swiss delicacy. Most restaurants offer some type of fondue pot, made with a blend of different cheeses that is always a secret recipe img_7908.jpgthat varies from restaurant to restaurant. The fondue usually comes with a variety of vegetables, bread pieces, and potatoes to dip…we split a pot of it for lunch in Lauterbrunnen and it was fabulous!
  • Local beer and wine – I always recommend trying the local beer and wine wherever you are…..a.) It’s cheaper than water, and the local varieties are usually less expensive than the other options, and b.) It allows you the opportunity to taste and experience more of the country that you’re in. We loved everything that we tried!
  • Latte Macchiato – try this at Hotel Eiger’s restaurant in  Mürren, where the views IMG_7422are spectacular! You can sit on the terrace outside that gives a perfect view of  Mount Eiger…perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or a post-hike treat!
  • Venison – we didn’t try this, but I can only imagine that it’s just as magnificent as everything else the Swiss create. We visited Switzerland in the fall, so venison and other game were on every menu we looked at.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Switzerland is known for being pretty expensive, HOWEVER, if you do it right it doesn’t have to be! Go in the off season, utilize the grocery store, drink local beer/wine instead of the $6 soda, split meals when possible, stay in a hotel where breakfast is included, and IMG_7375take advantage of the free hiking and you can make it affordable!
  • All tap water in Mürren is drinkable.
  • Mürren also has free flowing water fountains all over town where  you can fill your water bottle up for free with fresh alpine water…can’t beat that!
  • The Swiss currency is Swiss Francs, also known as CHF.
  • Make sure you have an international adapter for your hotel room so you can charge your electronics if your chargers aren’t already in European format.
  • The Swiss are super friendly and speak great English… don’t hesitate to ask locals for suggestions on what to do or where to go!
  • Switzerland is big on paragliding adventures. We didn’t try it because there were other things that we wanted to do, but if you’ve ever wanted to try it I certainly can’t think of a better place to do so!
  • Other popular Swiss activities include snow sports (skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing), hiking, and biking (lots of bike trails). We also saw lots of lakes as we drove through Switzerland, so I’m sure they have water sport options in the summer too!
  • Make sure that you leave plenty of time to catch your flight if you’re leaving out of the Zurich airport…it took us 2 hours to get from the door to the gate. There was a long line at check-in, a line at the passport check, and took 30 minutes to get to the gate (including the walk and the shuttle).
  • We did our trip a bit unconventionally and did not buy a rail pass. Since we were coming from France, we rented a car in Marseille, France and drove 5 hours to Geneva (we wanted to drive through France and see the countryside – we highly recommend it!). It was super expensive to drop the car off in another country, and France and Switzerland share the Geneva airport, so in order to save $200, we dropped off our French car on the French side of the airport, and then walked over to the Swiss side of the airport to pick up a Swiss rental car, which we would eventually drop off in Zurich. It was definitely a hassle, but worth it to save the money!
  • If you ARE driving through Switzerland, there is a 40€ toll that you have to pay to cross the border into Switzerland (even if you’re just trying to get to the French side of the Geneva airport). The sticker looks like it’s good for all year, and we didn’t see any other tolls throughout Switzerland, so we assumed it’s a one-time toll that’s good all year…..but not helpful if you’re only visiting for a few days. Our French rental car did not have this sticker, so we had to pay the toll when we crossed the border, but our Swiss rental car already had a sticker on it, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that is a standard for Swiss rental cars.
  • If you’re looking for a cheap hotel in Zurich that is near the airport check out Ibis Budget Hotel here. It isn’t anything special, but it is only 10 minutes to the airport and around $90/night. It’s small but clean and will do the job for one night if needed!

Where to Stay in Mallorca

When we visited Mallorca in September 2017 we honestly didn’t do a whole lot of IMG_5299planning. The was one of our “wing it” trips where none of our hotels were planned until the night or two before, and we bounced around the island in two different rental cars and stayed in 3 different towns over the course of 5 days. It was an amazing trip, but hands down, our best nights were spent hosted at Hotel Esplendido in Soller. Situated in the most perfect spot in the town, the hotel offers the best possible view of the port. Our hotel room balcony opened right up to face the water with this stunning view that almost made us want to stay in the room all weekend! We walked all over town and saw the port from all possible angles and nothing beat the view from Hotel Esplendido. Seriously AMAZING!

Before you arrive you should take a few minutes and do some research on where to park if you’re renting a car. We didn’t, and spent a good bit of time driving around trying to find parking on the one-way streets that lead to the car-free boardwalk. Turns out, the best place to park is in a paid parking lot that ends up being about 6 euros a day (fair warning, the machine ONLY takes cash), and is only a 5 minute walk to the hotel. Certainly not a long or hard walk, but you will bring your bags with you, so keep that in mind. You can probably ride the trolley too if you want to, we just didn’t ever look into it.

The hotel is easily the most magnificent hotel on the strip, so you can’t really miss it. It IMG_5799has it’s own restaurant, bar, shop (selling beach accessories, jewelry, a few clothing items, hats, blankets, etc.), library, sauna, and 2 pools, TWO! They also offer spa services, massages, and yoga and pilates classes if you’re wanting to purchase any of those services…they pretty much have anything you could want! We really wanted to get dinner at the hotel’s restaurant since it looked so amazing, but unfortunately we ran out of time and didn’t get a chance to. However, the hotel IMG_5397breakfast is AMAZING! Quite possibly the best hotel breakfast that we’ve had – and free too! They had an amazing do-it-yourself yogurt bar, with all types of fresh fruits, nuts, granola, jams, and honey. They had an assortment of freshly baked bread and all kinds of cheeses and meats that were absolutely fabulous. Not to mention all of the juice options, coffee, pastries, and hot breakfast items that you could order too! Absolutely fabulous breakfast, in all honesty, it was the meal we looked forward to the most during our entire stay in Soller.

 

The room itself was small but cozy, and had everything we needed. It was very nicely IMG_5159decorated, and had a mini fridge, radio, flatscreen TV, safe, hairdryer, and nespresso maker in it. The tub was AMAZINGIMG_5162 and made me seriously reconsider my stance on baths (I’m not normally a fan) 😉 However, the best part of the room was again, hands down, the balcony. The balcony was a great size and boasted lots of room, along with a set of balcony chairs and ottomans to relax on. The hotel is situated smack dab in the middle of the port, so your view is a straight shot of the harbor clear through to the ocean, and is absolutely INCREDIBLE. I honestly don’t think any other hotel in town could beat this view, which is probably a big factor in the hotel being one of the top ranked Soller hotels on TripAdvisor (see it here).

Also, did I mention that there are TWO pools on the premises??! The first pool is on a

IMG_5260
pool #1

terrace above the hotel, which has a little bar right next to it, but is family-friendly and pretty secluded from everyone except other hotel guests. ABOVE that pool is ANOTHER pool that is an infinity pool just for adults, which is also situated on a terrace that overlooks the harbor. How amazing is that?! The pool is like a rooftop pool but is higher than the hotel itself, so

IMG_5718
pool #2

as you sit on the edge of the pool you’re looking over the hotel roof and get another perfect view of the harbor. Absolutely incredible. Kids aren’t allowed up there, so it’s pretty quiet, with lots of reclining pool chairs scattered all around the pools and garden area near the pools. Also, the landscaping is GORGEOUS, even if you aren’t at the pool. The hotel also offers beach chairs and towels on the beach itself, but the pools are so nice that it’s hard to pull yourself away from them 😉 The other great thing about Hotel Esplendido’s location is not only the perfect view, but it’s also close to everything! It’s right on the main strip, but just in a quieter section, so noise isn’t an issue, but all the restaurants, bars, and shops are just a few steps away. It really puts you at the heart of the town, with the best amenities and a perfect view…what more could you need?!

 

Prices seem to range from $200-$400ish per night depending on the room and the season, and while the price is definitely worth it, below are some additional budget-friendly hotels that we stayed at while visiting other parts of the island. While they weren’t nearly as amazing as Hotel Esplendido, they’ll get the job done if you’re working with a budget!

1.) Hotel d’Or in Cala d’Or (south eastern side of Mallorca)

  • We paid around $86/night for this hotel right in Cala d’Or. It did not have an ocean view, but it was only a 10-15 minute walk to the water, and a 5 minute walk to the adorable town center. It was a small room but provided everything we needed, and had a beautiful little pool and courtyard, along with a bar and restaurant. Breakfast was provided every morning and had something for everyone. The hotel itself really wasn’t anything special, but you pretty much got what you paid for, and it was clean, which was sufficient for our needs since we were trying to budget! Honestly, I’d do this budget option again for a few days if it meant that we got to save money and splurge a bit on Hotel Esplendido 😉 Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the hotel, but TripAdvisor’s photos are accurate to the real thing, which you can check out here.

2.) New & Art Hostel (Palma, Mallorca…main city in Mallorca, located in the west side of the island)

  • This was our first experience in a hostel, which came about due to our inability to find anything around $100 in Palma at the last minute. We ended up staying at the hostel for about $100/night with the “private room” option, so we didn’t share our room strangers. We got a simple, small, but clean room that contained a shower and toilet, and had everything we needed. Again, you get what you pay for, but it was clean and affordable and was all we needed! We even saw workers cleaning the rooms thoroughly in the morning, which is always a good sign 🙂 We wanted to spend one night in the main city of Mallorca, so this ended up working out great for us – better than we thought! We were a bit wary of staying in a hostel, but you only live once, right?! In all honesty, it really was much better than we expected! It was definitely a local spot, the cab driver that dropped us off was the only person on the whole island that we met that didn’t speak any English, but probably because they picked us up in a local spot as opposed to a tourist spot. The location wasn’t anything special, it was pretty much where you would expect to find locals in any big city in the US, but it was near the places we wanted to go to in Palma – only a 15-20 minute walk to the Catedral de Mallorca, Palma’s main attraction. However, a few things to note…. being in a local neighborhood you did hear a variety of neighborhood noises (dogs barking, scooters, cars, construction work, etc.), which didn’t make for a very relaxing morning. Also, the shades didn’t block much light out in the morning, and the light on the AC was pretty bright, so I’d recommend bringing an eye mask. All in all it was a good experience and while it was certainly no Hotel Esplendido, it was sufficient for our needs and our budget for the one night! Check it out here!

 

**This post was a collaboration with Hotel Esplendido, but all opinions and photos are my own

Mallorca: Top 7 Things to Do

Mallorca (pronounced My-orca), also spelt Majorca, is the largest of the 4 main Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera) located off the eastern coast of Spain IMG_5662and absolutely BREATHTAKING! This 1,405 square-mile island is situated in the western Mediterranean Sea and is a popular tourist destination for Europeans, especially Germans in particular. We visited in September 2017 and the good news for us is that since tourism is the island’s greatest source of revenue, almost everyone on the island speaks multiple languages, with a universal language being English! While not many Americans visit Mallorca, many Europeans speak English as a second language, so it is a pretty universal language with which to communicate with….lucky us! Mallorca is a beautiful island that can provide just about any type of IMG_5674terrain that can thrive in a Mediterranean climate that you can think of…it has gorgeous sand beaches, pebble beaches, coves, caves, limestone cliffs, and rugged mountains. The island is a well-known travel destination for rock climbers due to its mountain peaks, limestone cliffs, and coves. Many famous climbers venture to Mallorca for its deep-water soloing locations, and the famous Es Pontas. Mallorca offers lots to do for adventurers and relaxers alike, and is one of the most beautiful islands we’ve ever visited! Keep reading to find out more about this amazing island, our favorite spots, and our best advice!

1.) Rent a car

  • We knew that we wanted to explore the island a bit during our 5 days, so we rented a car that would give us the freedom to explore as we wanted. Because we had a carIMG_5085 we were able to see so many different parts of this amazing island, and all on our own time and schedule! Pro Tip: if you’re planning on renting a car, DON’T rent from Gold Car. They are the cheapest option online, but have a bunch of hidden fees that you don’t know about until after it’s too late. The $15 insurance is not optional, and even if you purchased it online like we did they still make you purchase it in person from them. They also require a surprise $100 gas deposit, that, even if you return the car with a full tank of gas you only get $75 of that deposit back. Everyone in front of us in line was having the same issue with these surprise fees, which made the process long and tedious…it took forever to get our car, and they did not negotiate or compromise with us or anyone else in line at all. In the end, we ended up only renting this car for 2 days, and then we returned it and rented a car from Avis for the rest of our trip. We paid about $140 for 2 days at Gold Car, and $160 for 3 days with Avis and a lot less fuss. HIGHLY recommend getting a rental car for the freedom it offers, but don’t bother wasting your time with Gold Car 🙂

2.) Try all the Tapas

  • Tapas are a traditional Spanish cuisine that usually refers to appetizers or snacks, although to be honest, it seems like really anything can be considered “tapas” these IMG_5771days. While they were traditionally appetizers or snacks, every restaurant does them differently, so it is a little tricky to figure out. Sometimes they really are appetizers and snacks, other times they are sides that are ordered alongside an entree, and other times you order several tapas to share and create a customized IMG_5026full meal on your own. The only thing that really seems consistent from restaurant to restaurant is the fact that they are small(ish), shareable portions. Our favorite tapas came from the restaurants that did them as mini entrees, so we created a full meal by ordering 5-6 tapas plates and sharing them all. This way allowed us to really try a lot of different Spanish specialties at one sitting without a.) getting too full, and b.) spending a ton of money! We didn’t have to make decisions about what to try or not try, we could try it all!

3.) Cala d’Or

  • We spent our first 2 nights in Cala d’Or, which is on the southeastern coast of the island and about an hour from the airport in Palma. It probably would have been hard to get here without a rental car, so again, highly recommend going the rental car route! We opted to stay at a more budget-friendly hotel option (stay tuned for that post coming soon!). The main hub of the town is a super cute little downtown area full of shops and open-air restaurants…it actually reminded us a lot of Greece, except it was cuter and cleaner, just not on the water. That main hub there is the perfect place to stroll in the morning and grab a cappuccino or espresso on your way to the beach. If you see a “cafe delice” on any of the menus you HAVEIMG_5036to try it! Its half espresso and half condensed milk that you mix together and drink, but I’ve only ever seen it on the menu in Cala d’Or, so definitely give it a try if you can find it! I know it sounds gross, but don’t knock it ‘till you try it 🙂 We also did dinner in that main hub every night too, it’s a super fun little area where you just walk around and read menus that are displayed until you see something you like, or hop around and get drinks and tapas. Definitely don’t forget to stop for gelato….that became a nightly tradition for us 🙂 (Pro Tip: tipping isn’t a thing in Mallorca, in fact, when you pay by credit card there isn’t even a tipping option available, however, it does mean that concierge services like bellhops and valets aren’t a thing either).
  • Even more important than the adorable downtown area with great food are the coves and beaches! Most of the beaches are pretty crowded due to the fact that theIMG_4919 majority of the coastline is made up of limestone cliffs, so sand beaches are a hot commodity and fill up pretty quickly. The good news is that if you aren’t a fan of crowded beaches, you can almost always adventure along the limestone rock coves until you find a more secluded SGKA3405area. A lot of the coves have ladders that go right into the water so you don’t even have to jump if you don’t want to! Just make sure you have shoes with you, as the limestone can be pretty sharp. I was mostly fine in flip flops, it just requires some concentration. We checked out the coves at Cala d’Or Beach, and Cala Gran and were not disappointed! Absolutely STUNNING!
  • We also took a 30 minute drive south down to Cala Llombards and found an even more secluded spot along the rocks after a little bit of hiking, with a great view of Es Pontas off in the distance too! We brought bread and cheese out with us and had a perfect little lunch right on the rocks by the water. The coves in general were all very similar but absolutely GORGEOUS! At all of them the beaches were crowded but we just hiked around until we found secluded spots. The gorgeous views of turquoise water and white limestone cliffs are just absolutely breathtaking!
  • About 30 minutes north of Cala d’Or is Cala Varques. Again, very similar to theIMG_5873IMG_5872 other beaches and coves that we had visited where the beach is small and crowded, but if you do a little hiking you can find your own spot free of other beachgoers! This one in particular had a super small parking area, so most people (including us) parked on the road and walked the 1 mile down the gravel road until we got to a large chained gate at the end of the road with an opening just big enough to squeeze through. From there you have to walk another 1/3 of a mile down a rock path through the woods to get to the beach. Once there, we did an additional ¼ mile walk around the beach up to the rocks that led to a secret cove on the other side of the beach that was basically empty. IMG_5805I think this ended up being our favorite cove that we visited due to it’s exclusivity and it’s cliff jumping! Andrew used to be a rock climber, so he loved trying the climbing spots and jumping off the cliffs. There were a few other climbers there who were deep water soloing around the caves and such. Word of caution though, there are jellyfish in the water that we were unaware of until it was too late…we realized they were there the hard way when I got surprised by one that left a 3-inch long rash for several weeks. As long as you’re looking for them though you should be fine! Other than the jellyfish, this was probably our favorite cove that we visited on this trip, so we highly recommend it!

4.) Es Pontas

  • Es Pontas, or “the big bridge”, is Mallorca’s famous natural arch, which also IMG_4962happens to be the hardest deep water solo climb in the world, first ascended by Chris Sharma. The structure is absolutely breathtaking and pictures really don’t do it justice. It is pretty difficult to find if you don’t do your research ahead of time. We didn’t, and used a combination of road signs, a sometimes-working GPS, prayer, and lucky guesses until we miraculously found it. It FSUY1352probably isn’t that difficult to find if you know ahead of time to research it, and should only take about 30 minutes driving from Cala d’Or if you don’t get lost. Even getting lost thought it was still worth the trip; we stopped at a few other coves to explore along the way… sometimes getting lost isn’t a bad thing 🙂  (For those wondering, Es Pontas is located between Cala Santanyi and Cala Llombards. You’ll park outside what looks like a national park with a dirt path that you will walk along until you see the arch. You should see a sign or two along the way – it’s only a few minutes’ walk, not a hike). We ended up climbing straight down the cliff so that we could get in the water and swim to the arch, which was UNREAL! We didn’t fare too well on the climb, but there is a pretty sweet rope swing tied to the arch that is available to anyone who can get out there!

5.) Port de Soller

  • Soller is located on the western coast of the Mallorca, and is about 1.5 hours away from Cala d’Or and 45 minutes away from the airport at Palma. It’s a super cute

    little harbor town with lots to do. There are 2 lighthouses here…one, we found out IMG_5236the hard way, is a military base that is blocked off and closed to visitors (we didn’t find that out until we had walked over there to get in). The other one has a paved road that you can drive up or walk up to get to the top. The lighthouse itself is not accessible to the public, but there is a great view from the top and a restaurant up there if you’re interested. On the way down, I’d recommend stopping at the little café at the bottom of the path…the owner always has a great stash of Spanish wine 🙂 Soller’s main pedestrian road is car-free and runs right along the harbor with houses, shops, and restaurants, and is a great place to stroll and get drinks, tapas, and gelato. There is also a small rocky beach for the beach bums as well, although, to be honest, it was our least favorite beach and we didn’t spend any time on it. We DID spend a lot of time on our hotel balcony which had an absolutely MAGNIFICENT view…I mean, can you GET much better?! To see where we stayed in Soller with this view stay tuned for a post coming soon!

  •  I HIGHLY recommend driving to Soller and going the “long way” through the IMG_5126mountains. You can take a tunnel that goes through the mountains, but obviously, you miss out on the best part – the view! Winding through the mountain is absolutely incredible, and allows you to get the full Mallorcan experience…beach, coves, and cliffs!
  • Cala Deia is a gorgeous little cove about 30 minutes from Soller that I would highly recommend making a pit stop at. The drive from Soller is absolutely gorgeous and IMG_5501runs through the incredible little Spanish town of Deia. The town looks like a picture from a magazine of a traditional Spanish town with its stone walls, shingled roofs, overflowing flowers, and Spanish homes. IMG_5486Even better is the cove with its small pebble beach and rock cliffs. I would suggest going early as the parking lot supposedly fills up and it gets trickier to drive down there once it gets crowded. The road down to the cove is a long narrow road with lots of switchbacks and tight turns that make it a little difficult if there’s a car coming the other way. Parking is only 2 euros for the day, which isn’t bad at all! We chose to forgo the small pebble beach and opted to follow a path through the woods that led to a rock cliff that we were able to climb all over and explore. It was only a 5 minute hike through the cliffs and woods to get to our secluded spot on the rocks…totally worth it!

6.) Palma

  • We spent our last night in Palma, the main city of Mallorca that also houses the IMG_5922airport. The city is thriving with culture and life and you definitely need to check it out! We aren’t big on cities, but this was a fun one….especially since there happens to be gelato on every street corner 😉 There are tons of shops and restaurants and cafes all over the main plaza, where you can find anything you want, it’s kind of like a mini NYC, but older and prettier. Plus, there are tons of little bonus alleys that you can explore and adventure all through the city, and really cool doors around every corner!
  • The biggest attraction is Catedral de Mallorca, also known as “La Seu”. The huge gothic cathedral dates back to 1229 and is absolutely stunning. IMG_5948It was only a 15-20 minute walk from our hostel (again, post on where we stayed coming soonIMG_5964) and is totally worth it for the view of this magnificent building. You can tour the inside of the cathedral for about 7 euros per person, but we didn’t end up opting into the tour based on our limited amount of time. If you have time to I’d recommend trying it, but even without the inside tour the outside view is outstanding and definitely worth a trip!

7.) Eat

Obviously, eating and drinking is a huge part of Spanish culture, check out some of these famous Spanish specialties!

  • Paella – this is obvious, and honestly probably the best authentic Spanish cuisineIMG_4869we had on our trip. Paella is a traditional dish made up of rice, spices, veggies, and meat. Most restaurants will have several different versions to choose from, usually they offer a traditional paella with chicken or beef, seafood, or a vegetarian option. Even if you try nothing else authentic, DEFINITELY try this one!
  • Jamon – this is Spanish dry-cured ham that has been cured for up to 18 months and is served in thin slices, often on top of some type of bread. The two main types are jamon iberico, which is ham from a black Iberian pig, and jamon serrano, which is ham from a pig from the mountain range.
  • Croquetas – these are the Spanish version of croquettes, which is essentially an American mozzarella stick, but instead of cheese, the inside is filled with jamon, chicken, or cod. The chosen filling is then bound with béchamel sauce or mashed potatoes, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried. Croquetas are a common tapas option in most Spanish restaurants. (To be honest, these weren’t our favorites, we prefer the Greek version with cheese, but still worth trying!)IMG_4878
  • Café delice – not sure if this is a Spanish thing or not, and we only found it in Cala d’Or, but this drink is AMAZING! I mentioned it above, but’s made up of espresso and condensed milk that you mix together, and worth a try!
  • Espresso and cappuccino – these are a European staple, in fact, it’s hard to find regular coffee here sometimes, everyone just drinks cappuccinos or espressos! Not that we minded…. 😀
  • Gelato – gelato shops are all over Mallorca and I was in heaven!  We got gelato every night, with our favorites being hazelnut and coffee flavors. Since gelato actuallyIMG_5982originated from Italy I can’t classify it as an authentic Spanish specialty, but I definitely think it should be on your list to try! What’s not to love?!
  • Tapas – as stated before, try all the tapas you can! It’ll give you an opportunity to try as much of Spain as you can!
  • Beer/Wine/Sangria – like most of Europe, beer and wine are almost always cheaper (or at least the same price as water) at every meal, so we had beer and wine at every meal, not that we were complaining 😉 You can get both beer and wine for around 2-3 euros each, and I would highly recommend trying the local varieties!IMG_4866
  • Gazpacho – we didn’t get a chance to try this, but from what we understand it a traditional Spanish red soup made of vegetables and served cold.
  • Turron – we didn’t get a chance to try this either, but were told that it was a Spanish specialty. Apparently it is made up of honey, sugar, egg whites, and nuts and is shaped into a rectangle or round cake. It is typically served as a traditional Christmas dessert in Spain.
  • Churros – we were super excited to try this Spanish fried dough treat that actually originated from Spain and we looked all over the island for them. We asked tons of locals who either couldn’t figure out what we were asking for (probably because my husband can’t roll his “r”’s correctly), or had no clue where we could find them…NOT a good sign. We FINALLY found them in a food truck in a mostly-deserted corner of Plaza Espana in Palma, near a children’s carnival area that had about 3 rides. They were wildly disappointing and I would recommend leaving the churros for mainland Spain since Mallorca is apparently not up to the typical Spanish churro standard 😉

**all opinions and photos are my own, for which I received no compensations or discounts.

Tips and Tricks: Visiting Grand Cayman

There are definitely some helpful things to know when visiting Grand Cayman that don’t necessarily fall into a “Review” post, so I thought I’d do an extra bonus post with some additional Cayman tips and tricks! To be honest, most of these tips can be applied to almost any Caribbean island trip, or really, on most trips anywhere 🙂 Hope you find them helpful, and happy travelling!

Cayman Tips and Tricks:

1.) The islanders are very friendly and are super helpful in recommending places to visit and giving directions, so don’t be afraid to ask! We may or may not have stopped several times to ask for directions 😀

2.) Driving is a little tricky in Grand Cayman for several reasons:

  • First, there are hardly any street signs. For people who don’t have an international phone plan (us), it can get pretty tricky if you can’t use Google Maps internationally. Luckily, about halfway through our trip we discovered that you can download certain portions of Google Maps and use them to drive with even if you don’t have wifi. Once we learned that we were golden, so I HIGHLY recommend using this free option if you plan on driving.
  • Secondly, there are LOTS of roundabouts. Probably not an issue for Europeans, but for us Americans who don’t use them much it is something to be aware of. Most likely, your car rental dealer will want to explain them to you since locals don’t like accidents either.
  • Third, if you’re American, you’ll be driving on the opposite side of the road in Grand Cayman. Not particularly hard, it just requires a bit more concentration. You MAY even get a car with the steering wheel on the opposite side as well, our rental dealer asked what we preferred, so you may have an option, but if you don’t have reservations you may not have an option                                                       IMG_3068 IMG_3069

 

3.) Just a head’s up…the island itself if pretty expensive. We went to the grocery store and bought our own bread, cheese, and snacks so that we could make our own breakfast and lunches in an effort to avoid going out for every meal. We actually do this on almost every trip…European-styled breakfast/lunches are super cheap and filling, all you need is some decent cheese (we recommend Gouda or Havarti) and a french baguette!

4.) As you could have guessed based on the previous item, drinks can also be fairly expensive. At one location, one drink cost us $17! In order to avoid steep drink prices, we bought local rum ($20), coke ($2), and Pina Colada mix ($4) at the store, and made our own rum and cokes and Pina Coladas in our room. We were lucky enough to have a full kitchen at Caribbean Club that included a fridge with an icemaker and a blender, so we could easily make our own, but this may be a bit more difficult if your hotel doesn’t offer those appliances. Either way, there are definitely alternatives to spending a ton of money on food and drinks if you think creatively and plan ahead, but if you’re on a budget it is helpful to know what to expect! (Pro Tip – invest in some Yeti tumblers and pack them on every trip! These worked like a charm for us and kept our homemade drinks nice and frozen all day!)

5.) Pack your own snorkel gear – all you REALLY need is a mask, don’t pay outrageous prices for rentals when it’s small enough to pack! If you plan on using it on other trips it’s probably worth the (small) investment.

turtle snorkel

6.) This is obvious, but if you’re on a budget…do the FREE things! Starfish Point, Rum Point, Smith Cove, 7 Mile Beach…all free! Read more here, but honestly, you don’t NEED to drop a ton of money on tours, trips, and toys to have an amazing Cayman experience. Cayman may be a bit expensive, but you can definitely MAKE it more budget friendly if you want to.

7.) Pack your own sunscreen in your checked bag – we ALWAYS do this, sunscreen prices in tourist locations are astronomical, so we prefer to bring our own sunscreen that can be bought at home for a less inflated price. (Can anyone guess who wears which sunscreen options between the 2 of us?? :D)

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