Laguna Rosada, the most picture perfect place imaginable

Surely you have stumbled upon a photo – whether in Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook- of an amazing pink lagoon that seems to have an effect or filter applied that makes you question if such is a place does actually exists or if it is only a work of a digital manipulation. Well, it turns out that the much photographed place does actually exist and you can find it in Mexico.

In the Yucatan peninsula, just a few kilometers from Merida, you can find one of the most amazing and surreal landscapes that man has ever seen. A soft white sand path separates from one side a pink water lagoon, in which the clouds reflection seems endless, and in the other the vast Pacific Gulf with its characteristic emerald blue tone.

The name of this amazing places is Laguna Rosada and it is part of the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, which is located near Las Coloradas, a small village of fishermen and salt workers on the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the municipality of Rio Lagartos.

The magic pink lagoon is quite real and has a scientific explanation. The lagoon is home to a microorganism known as Halobacterium Salinarum. This type of unicellular organism grows in saturated salt water, and its purple and red membranes, that contain beta carotene a reddish orange pigment, are responsible for giving the water its rose pink color.
In addition to the enchanting lagoon, the landscape of the region is also decorated by flamingos and salt ponds of the same pink intense color.

Whether you are or not fan of photography, this place is 100% recommended. Las Coloradas has miles of pristine, empty beaches, making it an ideal private getaway.

This place is just a couple kilometers away from Merida, the capital of Yucatan. To get there you can take a tour from Merida or Cancun or if you have a private car, you can drive and literally get off where you feel, it is besides the road.

5 GREAT TREKS IN SOUTH AMERICA

One activity my boyfriend was eagerly expecting was trekking in the Andes. He loves outdoors activities and at his first visit to Peru he did one of the famous treks of the region that left him wanting to return and explore more. In my case, my experience hiking was limited to a one day hike in Annecy (French Alpes) that went from easy and calm to hard and slippery thanks to a constant light rain. After that I was a little traumatized but the fact of knowing I was visiting one of the countries with some of the best hiking on the world empowered my inner explorer and filled me with a large adventure sentiment. So I told myself “ok, this is it, this is the time to embrace new challenges and fill my life with wonder, discoveries, and adventure,” and I went to Decathlon to get hiking boots and pants to replace my Reebok’s EasyTone (definitely not recommend for outdoors sports) and my yoga pants.

 My boyfriend was the one in charge of planning everything that had to do with trekking (leave beaches and cities to me.) Luckily he was in charge cause before the trip I had no idea camping tents where classified by seasons and the world of boiling or simmering stoves and canister vs. liquid fuel was new to me, I thought if you wanted to cook you could simply light a fire.

Turns out that you can do hikes and treks pretty much everywhere, so my idea of a couple of days trekking to Machu Picchu was erased with plenty of short hikes and long treks. Even though most of the treks where in Peru we also dedicated some days in other countries to explore local communities and awesome landscapes.

Though it was physically hard for me and sometimes I prayed for an enormous vacuum to extract me out of the mountain (Hunger Games style,) I pushed my limits and overcome all my fears, I proved to be a good and fast hiker! Reaching the top of the mountain or finally getting to the distant place at the end of the map and knowing all the effort that took you to get you there, that particular feeling is priceless and totally rewarding.

 Here are the 5 treks that I enjoyed the most and I definitely recommend. For info, we did all the treks solo, meaning no tour, companies, guide or muleteer hired. As I mention before my boyfriend is an enthusiastic walker so he had everything prepared. Besides that, most treks especially in Peru, are very frequented and well sign posted so it is easy to spot the typical wooden posts pointing the direction or cross a local or a tour.

What about the altitude? Though many tourists have a bad time adapting to the altitude we were lucky and didn´t feel that much; we only had the impression that we got tired more quickly and that we needed to slow down especially at the ascents but that didn´t last long. No need to chew coca leaves or drink tea.

 

• Santa Cruz | Huaraz, Peru

This is the most popular circuit in the Cordillera Blanca, Parque Nacional Huascaran. From Huaraz you must take a bus either to Cashapampa or to Vaqueria. At Huaraz we asked a couple of tour guides for some info and luckily one told us it was better to start at Vaqueria rather tan Cachapampa. All the tours start from Cashapampa but we felt really confident on what the guide told us and decided to star from Vaqueria.

The mountain pass is at 4750 meters high. In my opinion the guide was right and starting the trek from Vaqueria is better, you have better views of the mountains and the ascent is more gradual. If you book a tour you will need 3 days to complete the trek but is totally doable within 2. We saw tours in the camps already at 2 p.m. but we kept on walking till the sunset so we could skip a day and we weren´t dying because of the extra hours.

We heard that in Huaraz people were told it was not allowed to go on the trek without a guide, which is nonsense. It is allowed and doable. You have to pay an entrance fee of 65 soles each, which in our opinion isn´t used for the maintenance of the park.

The variety of landscapes the parks offers is really something and at the pass “Punta Union” there is a glaciar and a turquoise glaciar lake. You will find also many locals and cattle along the way.

› Trip Length: 2 to 3days

› Difficulty Level: Medium

• Salcantay Trail | Cusco, Peru

There’s nothing like the satisfaction of approaching Machu Picchu on one’s own two feet. Besides of what many people think the classic Inca Trail isn´t the only trek that can take you to Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu´s base town. And thank god! The Inca Trail has become a really touristic experience that now is limited only to 500 persons per day, porters and guides included. With a really high demand you need to book way on advance and the price is far way of being backpacker friendly. Though I´m sure it most be a great experience, personally I don´t understand why someone would pay minimum 700 USD for a 4 day trek of only 34 km. Fortunately, the Inca were master road builders who blazed trails all throughout the Andes (some paths lead even to Chile) and many of these are alternate routes to Machu Picchu, solo doable and way cheaper. We decided to take the route that leads to one of the sacred peaks, the Salcantay.

From Cusco you need to take a bus or minivan to Mollepata town, both leave from near downtown and it takes around 3 hours. Even if this is an alternative rout from the Inca Trail it is still very famous aso from the moment you get to Mollepata you will start meeting with lots of tourists.

The classic Inca Trail is famed for the diversity of its topography and ecosystems; the Salcantay Trail is even more impressive. Besides the 20,500-feet-high Mount Salcantay, a sacred peaks and religious pantheon still revered today, you will find a subtropical cloud forest, an ancient Inca highway,coffee plantations and the ruins of Llactapata from where you can gaze a few miles across the valley and get a view of the full Machu Picchu complex. This beautiful trail will take you to “La Hidroelétrica“ the famous train station which railways you will need to follo for a couple more hours intil finally getting to Aguas Calientes and buying your ticket for visiting Machu Picchu the next day.

› Trip Length: 3 to 4 days

› Difficulty Level: Medium to Difficult

• Cordillera de los Frailes | Sucre, Bolivia

This trek was an amazing surprise. La Cordillera de los Frailes is a mountainous region in the central parts of the Bolivian Andes that can be summarized in: an Inka trail, traces of dinosaurs, cave paintings, local indigenous people, a massive crater and mountains of a thousand colors, yes it is as great as it sounds. There are several agencies that make the trek, the most famous is Condor Treckers. An ONG located a block from Sucre´s main plaza that helps with development programs to indigenous communities. They offer tours from 1 to 4 days; the 4 day trek is around 100 usd all included. If you decide to do it solo you need to take a bus to Chataquila and from there continue to Maragua, the little village inside a huge crater. Also you must be really careful in following the right path towards Maragua. This is a trek where signs are not very frequent and the language of locals is Quechua, so not everyone you meet can speak Spanish. After crossing the junction that takes you right to Chaunaca and left to Maragua, you will descend approximately 300 mts and then the path divides into two, you must continue to the right through a car bridge. We continued left and we lost 4 to 5 hours trying to figure out the way. We still saw nice things in the way but it took us longer to get to Maragua. Maragua´s crater is not volcanic but was formed by erosion and covers an area of 8 km. There used to be a big sea there so fossils of marine shells are still found in the region and sold by local children. It is possible to spend a night in inside the crater and is also possible to buy crafts from locals, specially Jalqas textiles, and some groceries from the one shop in the village. If you are there the one day the bus to Sucre pass then you can go back from there, if not then you can continue the trek and go to see the dinosaur’s prints which are not so far from the crater.

› Trip Length: 2 to 3 days

› Difficulty Level: Easy to Medium – Trail can easily be lost so if you are not that prepared with directions hiring a guide is not a bad idea.

Cotahuasi Canyon | Arequipa, Peru

Welcome to one of the deepest canyon in the world! This 12000 feet deep canyon is located in the province of Arequipa which is home also of the Colca Canyon, one of the principal attractions of the country. Why did we choose to skip the famous attraction and visit the not so famous one? Because rather than choosing the touristic and expensive option, we decided to choose the calm, cheaper and far away from tourist one. We also met some travellers who wisely advice us to visit the Cotahuasi Canyon for a more authentic experience, plus in the deepest part, the canyon reaches 3,535 meters of depth! That was really something we wanted to see. To go there you need to take a night bus to Cotahuasi and start walking in the morning. The landscape is impressive as also the locals. We met some really friendly and kind people who offered us something to eat and showed us their community. The canyon´s region is huge, we trekked for 3 days but you could easily spent more time there. There are hot springs, alca villages with the typical fields, waterfalls, a cactus forest, the village of Quechualla (the deepest point) a rock forest stone and the list goes on. Though the ascents are mainly gradual there are some points in which some stones have collapsed making the path really narrow and kind of dangerous. There are different communities through the canyon so it is also possible to go to some places by bus but prepare to be patient; transport here seems to know no organization.

› Trip Length: 3 to 6 days

› Difficulty Level: Medium to Difficult

  El Solitario Trek | Puerto Montt, Chile

This is not a trek on itself but a one-day hike from Puerto Montt, but exploring the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park is really worthy. My first impression here was that everything seemed more colorful, it was as if I was looking across a beautiful landscape of the most vivid colors. To get to this beautiful black volcanic sand trail one most take a bus from Puerto Montt to Ensenada and walk through the dirt road till the beginning of the trail, everything is well sign posted. From there you start trekking in the foothills of the volcano, first within an ancient forest and then on volcanic rock through the forest. Fine views of volcanoes Osorno, Puntiagudo and Calbuco and the Llanquihue Lake accompany the walk. At the end of the trail you get to a highway where if you continue walking less than 1 km you will fine the Petrohué falls. There, we met a nice couple of Chileans on long weekend and they invited us to join them and visit the Todos los Santos lake and go up to the volcan Osorno to check out the view. A great way to discover some of the Chilean Patagonia.

› Trip Length: 1 day

› Difficulty Level: Easy

5 CHARMING AND UNUSUAL BOOKSTORES AROUND THE WORLD

With an endless collection of books online and bookstores closing left and right, bookstores are becoming something rare and lonely. The experience of going to a specific place to buy a book is being erased by the commodity of buying a book with just a click of a button. Fortunately there are bookstores that aren’t just stores or gathering spots but beautiful, fascinating destinations in their own right. What makes them stand out among ordinary bookstores is the fact that many carry not only beautiful architectures but also great atmospheres offering an amazing visiting and shopping experience.

Here are a few of my favorites bookstores around the world that are worth a trip out of your travel itinerary.

• El Ateneo Grand Splendid | Buenos Aires, Argentina

First a theatre, then a cinema and now one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen. Hidden on busy Av. Santa Fe, this building whole structure (including stage, balconies and parterre) has been maintained as it was once. So you may sit in the balconies to read a book or gaze around.
The beauty and magnificence of this space is unique. Millions of books fill the 4 levels of the building including a large selection of English language books. A café is set up on the former stage where you can take some books to read in case you doubt which one to pick.
This is one of the places you cannot miss when visiting Buenos Aires, no matter if you are looking to buy a book or just to appreciate the architectural beauty of the site.

Address: Av Santa Fe 1860 | Barrio Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina

• Más Puro Verso | Montevideo, Uruguay

In the walkway of Sarandi that wends its way from the Plaza Independencia to the Mercado del Puerto there is a magnificent building that houses this lovely library with a cafe/restaurant on the second floor. Built by Architect Leopoldo Tosi in 1917 this building housed the optical firm of Pablo Ferrando . It combines 19th Century English styled iron and glass structure with a French classicism on its upper levels.

The whole atmosphere is quite impressive. The restaurant on the top floor is the perfect place to rest and relax after an afternoon of sightseeing, the food is great and reasonably priced. There are couches by the window where you can sip a café and watch the people in the street below. The prevailing collection of the bookstore is Spanish, which may be an inconvenient for some and an opportunity for others who wish to learn the local language.

Address: Sarandi 675 & Bacacay Paetonal Sarandi | Montevideo, Uruguay

Website: http://www.libreriapuroverso.com

• Livraria Lello & Irmão | Porto, Portugal

Also known as Livraria Chardron or simply Livraria Lello this is a bookstore located in central Porto, Portugal. Along with Bertrand in Lisbon, it is one of the oldest bookstores in the country. The facade and much of the interior are decorated in Art Nouveau, with some features of the Gothic. This bookshop, frequently rated among the top bookstores in the world, provided inspiration for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series (the grand ornate staircase is replicated in Dumbledore’s office.) Aside from the design of the bookshop there are a heap of books (in different languages) to choose from.

I visited it in January 2015 and the entrance was free but now there is a 3 fee to get in which can be refundable if buying a book. I had the chance to visit it on a day where there where not many tourists, so I had the chance to relax and appreciate the craftsmanship and gorgeous atmosphere of this lovely bookshop.

Address: R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal

• Shakespeare and Co. | Paris, France

This is a tiny, crowded and magical place located just off the Seine across from Notre Dame Cathedral. The place itself has a great history that combines two independent bookstores. It all begins in 1919 with Sylvia Beach, an American expatriate from New Jersey, opening the first one at rue de l´Odéon. This bookstore was the gathering place of many then aspiring young writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. Unfortunately the bookshop had to be closed in 1940 during the German occupation. A few years later in 1951, the second bookshop was opened by George Whitman in its actual location in the 5th arrondissement. It was originally named “Le Mistral”, but was renamed to “Shakespeare and Company” in 1964 in tribute to Sylvia Beach’s store.

Today the shop has become a popular tourist attraction that offers both regular and second-hand books specializing in English-language literature. Though it is generally crowded this place is definitely word a visit. All the interior space is occupied by a book, you will definitely bump into strangers and knock over a few books form the stacks around every corner while making your way up the stairs where you will find an old piano that can be played by any enthusiastic visitor. There is also a café that runs in partnership with Bob’s Bake Shop where you will find American-style baked goods and vegan and gluten-free dishes. The atmosphere here is from a past time, no wonder why this place has been featured in different films such as in the Richard Linklater film Before Sunset, and in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

Address: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France                                                        

Website: http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com

• Cafebrería El Péndulo | Mexico City, Mexico

As its name implies, the Cafebrería El Péndulo began as a combination of coffee shop and bookstore, located in the Condesa neighborhood, in the year 1993. Since its original conception other cultural and artistic events were integrated, from an exquisite collection of records and art films, to cultural activities of all kinds, such as concerts, book presentations, live music, poetry readings, stand-up comedy and literary courses. Over time, El Péndulo evolved into a bookstore chain with 6 stores locations throughout Mexico City. All of them feature the same architectural elements implemented to achieve a unique atmosphere and an identity and brand style: open and bright spaces, eclectic décor, coffee bar, living rooms, tables and music. Good for lunch or dinner with friends, you can also have a cocktail or eat between shelves with books or near a piano listening to live music.

My favorites are El Péndulo Polanco and El Péndulo La Roma, but in the 6 you will find a great ambient and a wide book collection.

Address:                                                                                                                             POLANCO: Alejandro Dumas 81, Polanco / ROMA: Av. Álvaro Obregón 86, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Nte. /  ZONA ROSA: Calle Hamburgo #126, Cuauhtemoc, Zona Rosa, Mexico City

Website: http://pendulo.com/

ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME

Last year my boyfriend and I decided to quit our jobs in Paris, go to explore some of the corners of our beautiful world and after the travel, settling in Mexico City. A not so hard decision to make since we both love traveling and even all the beauty Paris has, we were both looking for new experiences to live. Our adventure lasted 10 months and took us to South America and Southeast Asia. Since we were backpacking, and trekking was an important part on our itinerary, we decided to bring only the essentials. Sadly that didn’t include my laptop. And so I was left with only my travel diary and a waterproof, shockproof compact camera. 10 great months have passed and now my memory card and diary are full with memories that little by little I will share with the hope of being able to help some travelers in their adventures.

Countries visited

countries trip 2105

Total budget 12,400 €
Details will be featured in each country post.

And the lovely song that inspired the post´s title (which landscape I´m sure is inspired by Bagan, Myanmar)

 

 

L’AS DU FALLAFEL – PARIS

• Restaurants and cafés

When looking for an easy and cheap lunch at the french capital, Paris has much more to offer than just crêpes and paninis. Falafel sandwiches have become a great alternative and a must-eat tourist destination.
Located in the Jewish mini-district in the hip Paris neighborhood known as the Marais, the pedestrian Rue de Rosiers offers 3 three famous options within a block of each other. You will easily spot L’As du Fallafel thanks to the long queue in front of its green façade and take-away window.

Cheap, messy and seemingly obligatory. This place has been written up so many times and many guides refer to it “at the spot not to be missed for an original lunch and simply the best falafel in the world”, but until you’ve tried their falafel (and the experience that comes with it) you won’t quite understand all the fuss.

While waiting in the queue, which actually runs fast, a guy will approach to take your order and your payment on the spot. You hand the “ticket” to the guy at the window and voilà, your deliciously tasting falafel is handed to you!

A falafel sandwich costs €5 to go, €7.50 in the dining room, pretty good prize for a really big and tasty sandwich! Piled high with crunchy cabbage, grilled eggplant, hummus, tahini, and hot sauce. Most importantly, the falafel themselves are light, crisp and green with fresh herbs. The shawarma (grilled, skewered meat) sandwich, made with chicken or lamb, is also one of the finest in town.

Overall, this is definitely a MUST try in Paris. At lunchtime the place gets really crowded, but the queue is definitely worth it!

Good to know: Friday evening is closed for Shabbat.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/LAs-du-Fallafel/219467498071637?rf=205220809523434

IL PIZZAIOLO DEL PRESIDENTE – NAPLES

• Restaurants and cafés

Located in the heart of Spaccanapoli, the historic center of Naples, this world famous pizzeria is featured in every Naples’s guide book. Opened by the prize winning master pizzaiolo Ernesto Cacialli, the pizzeria was renamed Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente in honor of the former President Bill Clinton who was invited by Ernesto to taste his creations in 1994.

Very popular among tourists, but this restaurant also enjoys a cult following amongst the locals. A lot of Italians will tell you that it’s the best pizza in Italy.

You can just buy a slice of pizza at the counter to take away as lots of Italians do, or you can ask to be seated inside. Downstairs you´ll find a trattoria with basic decoration: wood chairs, pictures, awards and stone walls as if a cellar or cave.

The pizzas are cooked in an oven on thin crust with fresh ingredients and they are as long as your arm, but if you are in a mood to try something different, the menu offers more than just pizzas, like salads, antipasto, pie, etc.

The staff is friendly but if you happen to go during a weekend you risk to find the place crowded and with a low service. Family ambiance with lots of tourists and local people. Low prices, high quality and excellent flavor!

Hard to say if this is the best pizzeria in Naples but without a doubt one of the best. A mandatory stop when visiting Naples!

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Il-Pizzaiolo-del-Presidente/187750597992699

LA BOTICA – MEXICO CITY

• Bars and Pubs

This mezcal bar (Mezcalería) in Colonial Condesa (one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city) proposes a wide selection of national artisanal mezcales and cremas de mezcal (soft mezcal liqueurs). With a playful name “La Botica” (Spanish for Chemist or Pharmacy) the bar features walls decorated with tiny medicine branded bottles as in an old classic drug store.

The house rules are that you have to order food with drinks, which turns out to be a good thing. You can accompany your mezcal with some regional dishes such as tamales, chapulines (fried grasshoppers) or queso Oaxaca (regional fresh cheese.)

This Mezcalería is a small place, only a couple of small tin tables with on folding chairs; but in their cardboard handwritten menu you´ll find what you need to have a really Mexican experience.

The staff (only 2 people) is really friendly and helpful, they explain you about the different mezcal varieties and advise you the best options to try. In week nights the ambience is calm but in weekends the place can get really crowded and loud.

Since opening a couple years ago, La Botica has been a success. So if you happen to be in Mexico City don´t hesitate to plan a visit to one of the 6 branches over the city.

Website: http://labotica.com.mx/

BLUE BIRD CAFE – BUDAPEST

• Restaurants and cafés

Blue Bird Cafe is a very interesting cafeteria and a temple for real coffee lovers.
Located at Budapest´s Gozsdu Court (Jewish Quarter) it has a really extensive coffee offer. You can choose from several hand made roasted beans from different regions such as Kenya, Brazil, Ethiopia, Mexico and Indonesia. A lot of colorful illustrations and storyboards on the wall show you the world of coffee-making.
Downstairs they have their own coffee lab and raw beans. Another highlight is that in addition to being a cafe, Blue Bird roasts their own coffee. This means they have the ability to offer a variety of espresso options at a time without sacrificing freshness and you can also buy some selected hand-roasted coffee beans to take home.

As for the interior décor it is fantastic, very creative and cozy. Different style furniture, blue colored origami birds, blankets in each seat and a parrot welcoming the guests. A simple menu printed on wooden boards offers hungry people a selection of delicious cakes and pastries (all home made), breakfast options, sandwiches and salads.

A little more expensive than some places but offers great coffee in an extraordinary atmosphere. Friendly staff and nice low volume music.

I you are a coffee lover with some free time this is a great option to discover new flavors. And if you are just visiting Budapest and looking for a cozy place to have tasty coffee, good breakfast or a delicious dessert then I´m sure you´ll enjoy this place.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/bluebirdcafehungary

SZIMPLA KERT – BUDAPEST

• Bars and Pubs


This old factory was converted into an open-air cinema and pub and one of best ruin bars of Budapest. From the moment you step in you get charmed by its unique, weird and wonderful style.

With different rooms and crannies to explore, this bar/restaurant is full of surprises. The projection system that plays silent old movies from Budapest history in the courtyard, the cocktail and shisha bars, the old Soviet cars and bathtubs that have been made into seats, the random pictures and graffiti everywhere and the multiple serving stations along with the gigantic hamburgers, pizzas and goulash they have for sale on the second floor, makes this a must-stop.
Excellent location, trendy but relaxed atmosphere, eclectic music, reasonable prices and a friendly staff.

If you’re in Budapest and want for something a little different, but still want to have a great time and sample some local brew, then definitely seek out Szimpla !

Website: http://www.szimpla.hu/en

BAZAR – AMSTERDAM

• Restaurants and cafés

BAZAR

This former church is now an Arabic-kitsch café in the popular street market of Albert Cuyps.
An impressive setting, nice staff and really good food. North African menu, mostly Turkish, with vegetarian options ☺

Portions are big. The price is worth the value. If you are planning on visiting Amsterdam you definitely should try it!

website: http://www.bazaramsterdam.nl