Varadero Photo Diary

Varadero is only a two hour drive from Havana, yet it is a world apart from the cacophonous capital of crumbing architecture, vibrant colours and bustling back streets. Home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba and one of the most easily accessible from Havana, especially in comparison to other beach resorts which often require an additional internal flight. Varadero is a long stretch of sandy beach and pale turquoise waters, redolent of images of the Caribbean sea you’ve seen in travel magazines. There is very little else other than beach meaning long days of relaxing under the Cuban sun ensue. The cool salty waters are a godsend under the beating rays and unforgiving heat. With the sea so close, aquatic activities abound, there’s kite surfing, paddle boarding, sailing and glass-bottom boat trips to nearby islands to name but a few.

The Best Cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula

If you want to escape Mexico’s beautiful yet overcrowded beaches, I’d recommend venturing to the county’s secret cenotes. You may have to climb through jungles to reach them but ahead awaits jade-hued pools covered in water lilies and framed by tropical trees. Swimming in natural pools as beautiful as these is an experience not to be missed. There are endless cenotes to be uncovered along the Yucatán Peninsula, but here is our guide to the best among them.

Cenote Yokdzonot a secret cenote located a short drive from Chichén Itzá. Visit this hidden cenote to swim in privacy among coloured fish, jungle vines and hummingbirds.

Nicte-Ha an open-air cenote close to Tulum with the clearest green waters and beautiful lily pads covering the surface.

Cenote Dos Ojos an underground cave made up of two pools of clear blue water. Visit this popular cenote for the best snorkelling and scuba diving.

Ik Kil Cenote an open-air natural pool with vines and greenery bordering the opening. Make sure you jump off the limestone carved platforms into the deep water below.

Cenote Samula a beautiful enclosed cenote where natural light pours in through the opening and stalactites hang overhead.

Tulum Ruins

Standing atop the ancient Tulum ruins with the crashing Caribbean sea beneath you is a spectacular feeling. No matter how ferocious the wind is, nor how rough the waves are, you’ll find yourself stuck in awe at the beautiful sight, unable to tear yourself away. The Tulum ruins are in a unique spot, located atop the rugged cliffs overlooking the mesmerising turquoise sea. If you find yourself in Tulum, you simply must visit. Come early to enjoy the contradictory sounds of the sea, both peaceful and roaring at once, all to yourself.

Tulum Guide

Tulum is an idyllic beach town located along the Maya Riviera in the Yucatán peninsula. The sea is a shade of blue you’ve never seen before, a vivid turquoise, cloudy as limestone yet bright as aquamarine. Fashionable hippies float around in maxi skirts and floppy hats and lounge on seaside beds with a detox juice in hand. It’s little wonder then, that Tulum has been dubbed Mexico’s chic hippie town. It’s a bohemian paradise of vegan eateries, green juices, massages on the beach and yoga with sand underfoot making it a dream destination for those inspired by a healthy way of living. Here is a guide to this beautiful corner of the earth featuring what to do, where to eat and which cenotes to swim in.

Tulum ruins

A visit to Tulum is incomplete without visiting the ancient Tulum ruins. Not to mention, the archeological grounds also offer dynamite views of the rugged coastline and crashing waves below.

Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá is located a 2 hour drive from Tulum, however you simply cannot come to the Yucatán peninsula and not visit this fascinating World Heritage site. These spectacular Mayan ruins are proof of an ancient city that was once at the heart of the Maya empire in Central America. Chichén Itzá now holds the title of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World due to the advanced astronomical skills and genius of the Mayan civilization.

Cenotes

Nicte-Ha is a beautiful open-air cenote with the clearest green waters covered with lily pads on the surface.

Cenote Dos Ojos is made up of two caves with the clearest blue waters and is said to be the best cenote for scuba diving. It’s an eerie but magical experience swimming deeper between the caverns with birds flying overhead and fish swimming around you.

Ik Kil Cenote is an open-air natural pool with vines and greenery bordering the opening. Make sure you jump off the limestone carved platforms into the deep water below.

Coqui Coqui

Coqui Coqui is located on the quiet end of the beach and is a wonderful spot for relaxing on one of the beach beds with a refreshing mojito. It’s also home to a wonderful spa where you can indulge in a heavenly cocoa scrub and body wrap. Don’t miss the perfume shop selling bottles of their handmade scents, candles and a selection of items of clothing.

Hire a bike

The best way to get around Tulum is by bike. The distance between the town and the beach is longer than most people anticipate and would take a while to walk, especially under the unforgiving heat. With the sea breeze in your hair cycling is a much cooler way of travelling and makes exploring a lot more fun.

Relax on the beach beds

The entire length of Tulum beach is dotted with comfy beach beds which provide the perfect base for dipping in and out of the water and sunbathing. Many of the beds are an extension of the restaurants and bars and are to be used by clients to enjoy their drink, however some form part of hotels and are reserved for hotel guests only.

Sunset drinks at Papaya

Papaya beach club is the best spot in town for a laidback festival vibe with pumping music and live DJ sets.

Ki’bok café

When in need of a caffeine fix to cure the hangover of a mescal infused late night in Tulum, head straight to Ki’bok café. Inside you’ll find a friendly face and a flawless flat white to help you through the morning.

Gitano

Gitano is a fabulous dinner spot. Dimly lit lanterns and chandeliers hang from trees and Aztec print cushions decorate the dark wooden furniture turning the space into a romantic den where guests dine under the starlit sky. Originally opened as a cocktail bar, they offer a lethal selection of mescal cocktails such as the fiery Jungle Fever made with mescal, chili and coriander or the classic Mescal Mule. For dinner order a selection of smaller plates such as the pil-pil shrimp tacos, ceviche and grilled cauliflower steak.

Simple

Simple has a rustic charm; it’s a restaurant of wooden beams, palm trees, relaxed vibes and eclectic music. Fish dishes are the specialty here with wahoo, seabass and lobster on the menu, but always order the catch of the day and a couple of salsas to accompany the dish such as mango and mescal or garlic and chili.

Posada Margherita

Now I know most people don’t come to Mexico for Italian cuisine but you’d be cheating yourself if you didn’t make an exception for Posada Margherita where the food served inside is better than most restaurants in Italy. The pasta is made fresh every day and the freshly pressed juice menu rivals some of the best juice bars. The décor is the epitome of shabby chic, with a soft palette of blues and whites mirroring the colours of the ocean in view. It’s located directly on the beachfront and has bed loungers on the sand for guests to relax with a drink after eating.

Hartwood

Hartwood has become a legendary local restaurant where getting a reservation is no easy feat. If you’re fortunate enough to eat at this open-air restaurant under the star-studded sky, you’re in for an incredible feast of traditional Mayan cuisine with flair. In its ethos to return to humble cooking, fruit and vegetables are sourced from local markets and fish is caught daily from the Caribbean sea and cooked on an open fire.

Zamas + Que Fresco!

For hearty no frills Mexican food with a view, Zamas + Que Fresco! is an excellent lunch choice. It’s laidback vibe, multi-coloured tables and views of the crashing waves are what make this place a favourite among locals. A great spot to come for a sunset drink.

Tulum Photo Diary

Do you know sometimes you go somewhere and feel an immediate affinity with a place? That’s exactly how I felt about Tulum. It’s a place full of soul and character; every evening live jazz music echoes through the streets, bars quickly overflow with people contentedly drinking mojitos made from raw cane sugar and the streets are bursting with colour. Tulum is a place which breathes life into you, a place of fun and freedom whether adventuring on activities or simply soaking up the atmosphere. We spent our days cycling with the sea breeze in our hair, diving into cenotes, eating ceviche and fish tacos, drinking Mexican beer, swimming through caves, exploring Mayan ruins and drinking margaritas at sunset. I hope these photos give you a little insight into my time spent there and inspire you to visit this beautiful corner of the earth.

Austria Guide

With a landscape defined by the staggering Alps and a capital as opulent as Vienna, Austria is rich in natural beauty, culture and history. It’s a country of picturesque lakes, staggering mountains and alpine meadows, which inspires delving into the great outdoors and breathing in fresh alpine air.

Where to stay: We stayed in Salzburg, which we found to be the ideal base for discovering Austria with the Alps only a short drive away and day trips abound such as the scenic Lake District, the salt mines and the labyrinth of ice caves known as Eisriesenwelt Werfen. Further afield, yet still easily drivable you’ll find Linz, Innsbruck and Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Europe.

What to do: Ski in the breathtaking Alps, visit Vienna’s imperial palaces, watch an opera performance at Vienna State Opera, meander the World Heritage city of Salzburg, visit the beautiful town Hallstatt which lies on a still lake surrounded by mountains, drink in a beer garden, swim in the alpine lakes and have a coffee at one of Austria’s old world coffee houses and catch a cable car for dizzying views.

When to go: Austria is cold in the winter but gets surprisingly hot in the summer. The winter months (December-February) are the best months to go skiing, but if hiking, cycling and city breaks are what you’re after then spring to autumn will be more ideal (April-September).

What to eat: the food in Austria is both hearty and satisfying with dishes being traditionally meat based, such as goulash, Wiener schnitzel and meat filled dumplings. For breakfast try an Einspänner coffee and a typical breakfast of hams, cheeses, walnuts and different breads. For a snack try a salt studded pretzel fresh out the oven or strudel.

Salzburg Guide

Nestled amongst the snowcapped Alps, Salzburg is a beautiful city and the epitome of Austrian charm. The city itself is easily walk-able in a day and charmingly quaint with its medieval old town and neoclassical architecture. If you’ve a got a couple of days to spend here, use this guide to help you uncover the best that Salzburg has to offer.

Funicular to Hohen Castle

Catching the funicular to the Hohen castle is an exciting experience in itself but the medieval fortress and breathtaking panorama which await at the top are what people really come for. With views over the snowcapped Alps to one side and over the city of Salzburg to the other, it really is one of the most impressive vistas in Salzburg.

Mirabell Gardens

Symbolising the Sound of Music, the Mirabell gardens and the neoclassical palace are a must-visit. The gardens transform from season to season, with the most prolific being in late spring. But no matter the time of year, a stroll through these gardens is a beautiful way to see the city.

Sky Bar

A little further out from the town center but worth the short walk is the Immauber sky bar. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy an Aperol Spriz al fresco on the sundrenched terrace.

Modern Art Museum

Jutting out from a steep cliff lies the Modern Art Museum which is constructed of marble and large panels of glass allowing natural light to flood into the exhibition halls. An invigorating walk to the museum also offers an impressive view facing the Hohen castle, one of Europe’s largest medieval castles.

River Salzach

A stroll down the river Salzach is a lovely way to see the city and all of its pastel-hued architecture en route.

Explore the Old Town

Salzburg has been listed a World Heritage city and it’s little wonder when you consider the Old Town. Cobbled back streets are bursting with typical cafes and shops with traditional Austrian signs hanging above them. Cotton-candy hued buildings line the streets and the squares making it a photogenic old town to visit.

Café Bazar

This pastel pink-hued café is the place to come for a traditional Austrian breakfast of ham, cheese, rye bread and Bircher muesli. With a terrace overlooking the river Salzach, it’s the ideal spot on a sunny day and very popular with locals.

Café Sacher

Located inside the iconic Hotel Sacher, cafes don’t come any more traditional than this one. Its interior is one of decadence with raspberry-red damask wallpaper, black and white photos of celebrities and white marble tables. It feels as though stepping back in time with elderly women donning fur hats, newspapers hanging from wooden racks and waiters in bow ties.

Carpe Diem

If you haven’t heard of Dietrich Mateschitz before visiting Austria, then you can count on knowing the name after your visit. The Austrian billionaire is the founder of Red Bull but also a big name in the restaurant scene in Salzburg. Carpe Diem is one of his creations: a slick and stylish restaurant serving gourmet finger food and killer cocktails earning it a chic cult following.

Fürst

Fürst is the creator of Austria’s most famous chocolate: the Mozartkugel. Located in the heart of the city lies this charming sweet shop selling traditional chocolates and sweets packaged in foil and pretty paper bags.

Steigl Keller

Come the summer months, this beer garden is buzzing with people enjoying the fresh mountain air and mighty pints of beer.

Salzburg Photo Diary

Dreams of seeing Salzburg covered in white with snow dusted rooftops and hazy blue skies convinced me to go in the winter months, however we weren’t so lucky to see the winter wonderland depicted in photos. Nonetheless, even without the snow, the city was more magical than I could have imagined. Salzburg is an enchanting city, it’s small enough to master in just a short weekend, yet compact enough to keep you busy for every hour you spend there. Wandering around the Old Town feels as though stepping into a picture perfect Austrian postcard with pretzels sold on every street corner, Germanic spires towering above and the faint ticking of clocks in the background.

Reflecting on the Maldives

Our holiday to the Maldives will be forever etched in my memory as one of the most relaxing holidays of my life. Each of my holidays are tackled with a ferocious determination and desire to do and see as much as possible. Always of the view that the more you put into a trip, the more you take away from it. Memories, sunrises and experiences are the things I collect and treasure the most and if a little bit of planning and a few sleepless nights can lead to more of the above then those are the sacrifices I always make. However the Maldives is a unique destination in that there is little to do, see or visit. You simply have to ride the wave of the islands and take on their tranquil nature and calm spirit. Long days are spent in the sparkling sea, and whether above or below the surface your mind and body reap the island’s benefits: Vitamin C uplifts the mind, salty water heals the skin and coconut water hydrates the body. It’s a dream destination for relaxation, and even the busiest among us learn to quickly adapt to its gentle groove.

Maldives Guide

Icing sugar sands and azure waters line the tiny islands and atolls which collectively make up the Maldives. The picture perfect islands are a dream destination for relaxation with little else to do other than bathe in the shallow waters and snorkel among the coral reefs and rainbow-coloured fish. Staying in a stilted water villa is the ultimate luxury as is waking up to the sound of the waves gently lapping the shore.

Where to stay: Picking the right hotel in the Maldives is crucial as once you arrive you are limited to the hotel for the whole duration of your stay. The islands boast some of the most luxurious hotels in the world so guests are spoilt for choice. I stayed on the Coco Palm resort, the most eco-friendly of all the resorts in the Maldives and loved every minute of my stay there.

What to do: Enjoy a romantic sunset dinner on a sandbank surrounded by shallow turquoise waters, watch the sunrise every morning, walk around the island at night and watch the shore light up with glowing phytoplankton which mirror the stars in the dark sky above, catch a seaplane to see the atolls from a birds eye view and deep sea diving.

When to go: The Maldives has a hot, tropical climate and boasts year round sunshine. The best time to visit is between November and April when the islands are at their driest and sunniest.

What to eat: Everything on the islands has to be imported, including the food. Breakfast is made of exotic fruits such as dragon fruit, mango, star fruit, pineapple, watermelon and papaya. Dinner is lobster, crab, fresh salads, seafood abound and Sri Lankan and Indian inspired curries.