Off the Beaten Track // Immerse Yourself & Speak to the Locals // Take Photos!
Venetia is the definition of a travel lover! She has always preferred to make her own way over joining or following any organised tour or resort holiday. The APPollo team are all absolutely desperate to check out some of Venetia’s recommendations… She has shared some absolute gems and incredible insight into experiencing some once in a lifetime trips. However, she did confess, alongside the more adventurous travel, she does appreciate "lying on a beach doing absolutely nothing every once in a while with a good book and piña colada combo"! Don't we all Venetia… don't we all!! ☺️🙌🏻
Check out some of her incredible top tips below:
WHERE TO GO
Providencia Island, Colombia
This tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean sea is actually a Colombian territory even though it is closer geographically to Jamaica. As a result there is a crazy mix of Spanish and English speaking, salsa dancing, reggae music loving locals! Come for scuba diving or snorkelling on the 3rd largest coral reef in the world and the most perfect turquoise water you have ever seen, stay for the unmissable Caribbean food and cocktails, picture perfect sunsets and good vibrations! Hiking up the island’s central point is a gruelling 4 hour trek but so worth the uninterrupted 360 degree views once you reach it. Don’t forget to take a trip across the bridge to Santa Catalina or kayak over to Crab Cay too. Oh, and google “Providencia Crab Migration” for the most bizarre annual island event.
I went here on safari on holiday to Botswana last year and was blown away by the locals’ welcoming attitude towards tourists and their focus on sustainable tourism and conservation. In this country of just over 2 million people, huge swathes of land are given over to animal reserves, and with impressive results; the country boasts 1 elephant per 10 people! We went to two safari locations, Chobe National Park Safari and the Safari in Okavango Delta, seeing enough elephants, buffalo, hippos, lions, zebras and giraffes to last a lifetime. If you have time also make the trip across the border to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the Victoria Falls Devil's Pool…
Watching the sunset from the top of Matanga Hill in Hampi was so amazing, we climbed back up the 200 steep steps the next day to experience it all over again! This wondrous landscape dotted with palm trees and gravity-defying stacks of boulders is a world away from India’s bustling mega cities. We rented motorbikes and zoomed around the peanut fields (who knew peanuts grow in the ground like grass!), spent days exploring the magnificent ruins scattered over the region and swimming in the many lakes.
San Blas Islands, Panama
Real life representations of the desert island emoji, the San Blas Islands are a collection of around 360 islands off the coast of Panama. Only accessible by boat and unspoiled by tourism, I spent 4 incredible days sailing round these beautiful islands. Some are completely uninhabited, others have populations of the indigenous Kuna people living in small villages, one enterprising local has even built a tiki bar on one! We bought fresh fish from these locals as they paddled up to our boat in their canoes, and trailed lobster pots off the back of the boat, eating the contents for lunch the next day. It was an amazing experience to be able to jump off the boat directly next to a coral reef teeming with fish and marine life. Prepare for proper isolation; we only saw a handful of other boats on our entire trip. If you have longer, take a boat on directly to Cartagena in Colombia afterwards!
WHERE TO EAT / DRINK
Mr and Mrs Bund, Shanghai, China
Super trendy restaurant with wonderful view of the famous Bund in Shanghai. However you do not compromise on the food; delicious seafood, steaks and an extensive wine list. Save space for one of their puddings too. Even if you just come to enjoy a cocktail on the roof terrace overlooking the skyline, you will not be disappointed.
Helga’s Folly, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Helga's Folly is a completely unique hotel and restaurant set in a castle in the hills near Kandy. Every square inch of the place has been painted and decorated by the owner, the eccentric Madame Helga, ranging from signs of the zodiac to Alice in Wonderland. We drunk out of silver goblets and ate off platters shaped like the island of Sri Lanka. There is a daily set menu, try the traditional Sri Lankan curry if you spot it!
Jackie O’s, Mykonos, Greece
Bonkers, fabulous, unmissable! This restaurant & beach club is unique in that it converts to a gay club in the evening! Enjoy a decadent lunch in the terraced restaurant and stay for the dancing and pool parties till late. Pop down the steps to Super Paradise beach next door for a dip in the sea between courses!
On the banks of the river Paraná in the seldom explored country of Paraguay is the city of Encarnacion. It’s a perfect stopping off point for one of the least visited UNESCO sites in Latin America, the Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue (bit of a tongue twister!) When I went I had the site to myself for the entire visit and was even assigned a personal tour guide free of charge. Back in town, do not miss a visit to the beach on the banks of the river and the all you can eat Brazilian steak buffet at Novo Rodeio restaurant.
This state in Colombia, on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, has only recently opened up to tourism after years off limits due to the huge number of coca plantations under guerrilla control. Travellers who make the trip can expect a breathtaking selection of activities, from sweaty treks through the jungle past mind boggling rock bridges and formations such as Orion’s Gate, 12,000 year old cave paintings high up in rocky hills, swimming with pink river dolphins on old drug farms, swimming in natural rock pools and rivers turned multicoloured by light-sensitive algae. It’s definitely one of the most challenging yet rewarding trips I’ve ever done.
Easter Island / Rapa Nui National Park
Not really “undiscovered” but this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is just about as far away from home as you can get! It’s instantly recognisable due to the huge mysterious stone heads (called Moai). Not a huge amount is known about them except they were carved directly from a mountainside quarry and transported all over the island to stand guard over burial sites/ ceremonial platforms (called Ahu). It’s really the most insane experience standing underneath these massive figures, some of which can reach up to 20 metres high! If you get bored of that, the island has so much more to offer including some of the best visibility for scuba diving in the world, horse trekking, amazing swells for surfing, and top quality restaurants serving the freshest caught local tuna and Chilean wine to unwind in the evening.
The most beautiful blue city high in the northern mountains of Morocco. Once you have finished winding down the azure city streets, exploring the markets and restaurants, head out of the city to explore some of the clearest rivers and waterfalls you will ever swim in!
BEST TRAVEL / ‘TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN’ MOMENT
Mount Batur Sunrise
Climbing to the top of Mount Batur in Bali, arriving just in time to watch the sunrise over the most delicious hot chocolate (it is FREEZING up at the top!) We set off at 2am and arrived around 5am, a really tough but rewarding experience.
Bring a power pack / portable charger, and I upload my camera and phone photos to Google Photos throughout the trip, just in case disaster strikes. I lost an entire month’s worth of travelling photos once when my camera was stolen on a night out and it still haunts me to this day, don’t let it be you!
I would also recommend to buy a portable luggage scale, so there are never any nasty overweight bag charges at the airport!
Another tip as I have spent quite a bit of time over the last year in the Amazon, if you are going into the jungle or to any destination with mosquitos, is to treat your clothes beforehand with permethrin spray which is highly effective against them.
FIRST TRIP AFTER LOCKDOWN
Next on my list is a visit to the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean… plus heading back to Colombia to pick up the rest of my belongings that I had to leave there before returning home for lockdown!
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