Ah, Instagram, how you have changed the way we holiday and city break. I’d be lying if I said when I take photos on holiday, I wasn’t at least sometimes thinking of how it will look on the social media app, but equally, I like to print my photos for albums. You know, in case some mega virus comes and eradicates 15+ years of photos on my laptop, and also, I just quite enjoy spending an afternoon leafing through photos, just like we can do with our childhood memories and those from generations before.
Much like the beautiful beaches post, there are many other spots I’ve visited that really are breathtaking; in fact, I don’t think a photograph does them as much justice as being in the moment and drinking it in with your eyes. Here are my faves (ironically, with pics).
South Coast, Iceland
I’ve waxed lyrical to anyone that will listen about Iceland in the winter. I stayed in Reykjavik, which was lovely, but the real showstopper for me was the day trip along the south coast. Between snowcapped mountains, rough arctic waters, black-sand beaches and vast open spaces in pure white, I literally felt like I was between a James Bond movie and an intrepid explorer.
Key stops for eye-photos (anyone remember that guy in Hall Pass who blinks to take a mental image? lolol) are the hilltop village of Vik - to one side you have a beautiful black-sand beach with dramatic waters, and then the other side a steep mountainscape - Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon with its magnificent icebergs and icicles, and basically anywhere in between the two. When we stepped off the coach for a leg stretch, I literally couldn’t believe I was on the same planet as London.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Another coach ride, another epic landscape stretching out toward the horizon; this time, the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, driving along the Amalfi Coast. We made our way from Sorrento to Piazza Flavio Gioia in Amalfi, around an hour and a half away. Throughout the drive, we passed beautiful hillside towns, more and more mountainsides that came into view at every turn, village churches and the like. The true gem is, though, the sea views! It literally stretched out towards the horizon and looked almost like a solid navy block - my phone and camera couldn’t capture its vastness. At some points, due to how the roads wound, it felt as if we were hovering above the ocean.
Straying away from the coast now, Vinales brought lush Cuban countryside into my life. Sitting on the rooftop of our casa, we took in the vineyards, the orange trees (which took some broken explanations between our hosts and ourselves, despite actually knowing the word ‘naranja’ lolol) and farms. Each time, it felt as if myself and my roomie had been housed in the furthest casa from our G Adventures pals, but this time, it definitely paid off as we had the most beautiful view. Even our host’s garden was gorgeous, bountiful with flowers and fruit. Of course, the actual village feel, salsa clubs and incredible rum are other things that just can’t be captured in a photo…
Up in the Rif Mountains is the blue city, Chefchaouen, which is fast drawing tourists from all over the world. Many make a beeline for the same spots that they’ve seen on Instagram, but I can’t stress enough how beautiful it is at every turn - in fact, the best spots are where there are no tourists at all. Weave in and out of the calming blue-hued medina and you’ll find an intriguing doorway or alley not a stone’s throw away (as well as a cute stray cat).
In contrast to my point about tourists, head up to the Spanish Mosque at sunset (go a little earlier to nab a good spot) and watch as the sun goes down - like most sunsets, it’s so hard to capture on a phone, but in real life, the oranges and pinks over the blue town is gorgeous.
From the monkey forest (take your camera out at your own peril) to the rice fields, Ubud is incredible, and somewhere you need to just open your eyes and immerse yourself in, rather than hide behind a camera or phone. Even dining at some restaurants, like Indus, the sprawling rainforest is before you and you can’t capture the sounds or scents with anything but your mind and eyes. We saw a thunderstorm in the distance (weird, when you’re sitting outside, dry) and it just looked so tiny and insignificant in comparison to the trees below. I took loads of photos when heading up into the rice paddies, but again, I really feel it doesn’t fully capture how we felt when we were there; we felt as though we were in authentic Bali - few tourists and locals at work.