A list of favourites.

46503838_360556441182263_7995538837952528384_nWhenever I speak to family and friends back home or fellow travellers on the road one of the first questions asked is always “what has your favourite place been?”. To me this question is very difficult to answer. I’m indecisive on the best of days (particularly with food. And yes I understand my inability to decide between whether to have a plain or chocolate croissant is a serious first world problem) but that’s not the reason why I struggle to answer what my favourite place has been. To simply answer just one favourite place is far too broad!

We’ve now been on the road for nearly six months and i’ve lost count of how many times I have said “this is my favourite beach” or “this is my favourite free camp location” only to repeat myself several days later. At the time i’m sure it genuinely was my favourite but it turns out the world we live in is a truly beautiful place and there’s always plenty more to discover just around the corner, waiting to out shine the last.

We’ve spent time thinking long and hard (usually whilst laying half nude on the shores of a European beach or as we fill in time on a long, slow driving day) and together have finally come up with “a list of favourites”.  Maybe our list will help you decide on your next travel destination or act as a source of inspiration to do a similar trip, but at the very least, I hope you enjoy reading about our favourites (thus far).

 

 Favourite thing about van life:

K – Waking up every morning happy, looking forward to what the day ahead entails. Usually there’s no daily agenda but there are always countless possibilities. After that it’s definitely that van life enables endless adventuring! We really are going all over in Rover. I also love that it is a lifestyle which focuses on slowing down, being more present and valuing experiences and genuine connections rather than materialistic possessions and occupational status/success. We don’t have a lot “stuff” but we do have health, happiness and love. In my opinion they’re the most important life essentials.

B – Having freedom to go wherever and do whatever we want, everyday. Having no time restraints, no schedule to abide by, no one to wait for and no one to rely on but ourselves (and Rover of course)!

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Van life, the best life.

Top three favourite beaches:

K – 

  1. Calanque d’En-Vau, France. It’s a little secluded pebble beach in the Calanques National Park with the most beautiful turquoise water. To get there it’s about an hours hike on foot but completely worth every step!
  2. Ksamil, Albania. White sand, crystal clear blue water & no crowds. 
  3. Praia do Camilo, Portugal. The Algarve coast, need I say more? Plus with the right tide you’re able to swim through many of the grottos which open up and become your own secret little secluded beaches. 

B – 

  1. Calanque d’En-Vau, France. 
  2. Praia da Ponta Grande, Portugal. A tiny secluded beach with a sea cave. Once you swim through the sea cave the water opens up to join the North Atlantic Ocean. 
  3. Ksamil, Albania. As above. 
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Calanque d’En-Vau, France.
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Ksamil, Albania.

Top three favourite cities:

K – 

  1. Budapest, Hungary. This place has it all (well, apart from a beach. If it had a beach I’d probably be looking to relocate!). 
  2. Biarritz, France. Croissants, baguettes & the coast – what more could you want?
  3. San Sebastian, Spain. Where having an alcoholic beverage at 10 am is just as acceptable as an espresso, on any given morning. (And just as cheap!)

B – 

  1. Budapest, Hungary. 
  2. Barcelona, Spain. 
  3. Munich, Germany (however this is currently being contested by Berlin, where we are exploring now. Stay tuned!).
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Budapest, Hungary.
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Budapest, Hungary.
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Biarritz, France.
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San Sebastian, Spain.

Favourite camp site:

K – That’s an easy one, Picos de Europa, Spain.

B – As above.

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Campsite, Picos de Europa, Spain.

Favourite free camp location:

K – Arrifes Beach, Portugal or Coxos Beach, Portugal. Both locations we parked Rover on the edge of a cliff which directly over looked the ocean. It’s so nice going to bed and waking up to the sound of the ocean. We spent a least three nights at each location and even then it was difficult to leave! Or…

Foix, The Pyrenees. We drove up to the top of a mountain that overlooked the town of Foix. We had the most magnificent view from the van and there was no one else around except for us, the cows and the horses. We awoke at sunrise to the sound of cow bells jingling loudly as a herd of cows came right past the van to get their morning drink of water. It was such a magical place!

B – Arrifes Beach, Portugal. Located less than ten minutes away from one of my favourite beaches (Praia da Ponta Grande). 

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Arrifes Beach, Portugal. 
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Free camping, The Pyrenees.

Favourite natural phenomenon:

K – The Algarve coastline. It may be the most beautiful coastline I’ve ever laid eyes on. 

B – Maro Beach waterfall, Spain. And also the Algarve coastline. 

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The Algarve, Portugal.
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Maro Beach, Spain.

Favourite man made phenomenon:

K – Ronda, The Puente Nuevo bridge. It’s 2018 and I can’t even put an Ikea flat pack together so i’m completely amazed at how man kind built something so grand all these years ago. 

B – As above. (NB: Blake can put together an Ikea flat pack!)

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Ronda, Spain.

Favourite van meal:

K – I go through phases but my current favourite is Blake’s banana crepes for breakfast! It’s a Sunday speciality. 

B – Lentil spaghetti bolognese, hands down.

Favourite scenic drive:

K – The Pyrenees. For the majority of our trip we have followed the coastline so when we headed inland for a couple of days in the Pyrenees it was such a nice change of scenery. The landscape is magnificent – luscious greenery, rocky mountains, glacial rivers and plenty of friendly cows! The roads wind along with long tunnels through the mountains or dizzying zig zag turns to clamber up to the summits. There’s always plenty to see out the window making it the perfect location for long scenic drives. 

B – Llogara Pass – A high mountain pass from the Alps down into the Albanian Riviera. The views down the coastline overlooking miles of crystal clear water and such an epic landscape was insane to see.

Favourite lake: 

K – Lake Bohinj, Slovenia. We visited in Autumn and although it was far too cold to swim it was still a beautiful time to visit. The vibrant orange colours of Fall were all around and provided such a contrast to the turquoise colour of the glacial lake. 

B – Ruidera, Spain. We spent hot Summer days with the van parked right next to the lake. It was so good being able to hop out of the van and jump straight off the cliff into fresh cold water!

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Ruidera, Spain.
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Lake Bohinj, Slovenia.

Top three favourite hikes:

K – 

  1. Lac d’Oô, The Pyrenees.
  2. Sija Mountain, Lake Bohinj, Slovenia. 
  3. The Cares Route, Picos De Europa. 

B –

  1. The Cares Route, Picos De Europa. 
  2. Sija Mountain, Lake Bohinj, Slovenia. 
  3. Calanque d’En-Vau, France. 

 

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Lac d’Oô, The Pyrenees.
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The Cares Route, Picos De Europa.
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Sija Mountain, Slovenia.
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Sija Mountain, Slovenia.

Favourite van life moment:

K – For me there’s not  one particular stand out moment. Instead it’s celebrating & finding joy in the little everyday moments. Our lives have become slower and simplified yet more meaningful and deliberate. I get so excited by the simple things like finding the clearest water, a cosy beach corner, the yummiest croissant, an idyllic free camp spot, successfully conversing in another language or being able to step outside the van and gaze up at the stars on a clear night.

B – My favourite van life moment was being posted up, free camping on the point at Coxos in Portugal. We spent 4 days there waiting for this swell to arrive and waking up in the morning, opening the blinds and being able to see how good the waves were from bed was incredible. To surf amazing waves all day and have our home parked right up on the point was one of the best days ever.

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Coxos, Portugal.

Favourite food/cuisine:

K – Can I cheat and have two favourites? The patisseries in France & the tarts & fresh seafood in Portugal.

B – Italian pizza & pasta.

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Daily diet, Italy. 

 

Favourite playlist whilst on the road:

K – 70’s funk.

B – True blue Aussie classics.

Favourite alcoholic beverage:

K – Aperol spritz, Italy.

B – Super bock, Portugese beer.

Favourite time waster:

K – Editing photographs and documenting our travels through visual story boards. Oh and I absolutely love the question game! (Who could ever get sick of making up hypothetical scenarios?)

B – Playing cards and drinking cheap local beers. More often than not, this occurs simultaneously!

Favourite free activity:

K – Swimming in the ocean, exercising and exploring new places/adventuring. The ocean is where I feel most grounded and calm, exercise keeps me sane & feeling myself while exploring new places/adventuring keeps me constantly learning, curious & happy.

B – Submerging in water whether that be the ocean or a fresh water lake. Anything to do with water and I’m happy! Oh and I also love constantly being on the move (although this requires petrol which is far from free!) because I want to do as many things & see as many places as possible.

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Swimming spot, Montenegro.
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Blake, en route to Bratus Beach, Croatia.

Favourite language: 

K – French. Personally I think it sounds the most beautiful when spoken aloud compared to some of the other European languages which can sound quite aggressive. Contrary to the common stereotype of the French being rude and abrupt we have thankfully found the majority of people to be warm and welcoming towards us. As always a few learned phrases go a long way!

B – English. It’s not only my first language but also the most common second language in most countries we visited so that made it pretty easy!

Favourite piece of advice for people thinking of doing a similar trip:

K – No plan is the best plan. 

B – Make sure you are adaptable. 

 

** K – Kirsten & B – Blake (stating the bloody  obvious). 

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Welcome to Albania, it’ll cost you.

Processed with VSCO with c7 presetWe woke early, in Montenegro (we’d spent our first night free camping near Kotor with Rover parked right opposite the beautiful Adriatic Sea with jagged mountain ranges as the backdrop) and jumped straight into the ocean to make us feel alive before we guzzled our morning cuppa joe. Both the water temperature and outside temperature were cold but the crystal clear water and surrounds were too beautiful to let the opportunity pass by. We ate breakfast out on the concrete jetty watching as the world woke up and started on a new day – cruise ships and fisherman passed each other by with purpose. We too decided to get cracking on our day and hit the road early as we were unsure of how long it would take us to cross the border into Albania as we had heard the roads were some of the worst there are.

What we hadn’t heard was how intensely crazy it is driving on the roads in Albania! We crossed the border, and got through customs, collecting another stamp in our passports rather easily and efficiently. Having mentally prepared ourselves for horrendous roads we were actually rather impressed with their visibly new upgraded roads. What we didn’t prepare for was the chaos we were about to be hurled into, driving amongst the locals. Albania seemed to me like Europe’s India! Road rules didn’t seem to exist and instead it was a free for all – there were middle aged ladies on bicycles riding against traffic on an unmarked four lane roundabout, people putting their hazard lights on and parking their car in the middle of a busy functioning road, herds of sheep crossed freely with apparent right of way, people honking horns frequently and unnecessarily, pedestrians stepping out to cross the roads infant of hurtling cars and then there was us and Rover amongst it all, trying to make our way to the campgrounds without any functioning internet on our phone.

We exited a busy roundabout and appeared to be leaving some of the mayhem behind when we got overtaken on our left as a car sped up and ushered to the right by local policeman who were stopped on the side of the road and pulling over cars as they desired. We came to a halt and wound down the window without the faintest idea of what this was all about as the local policeman approached. In our four months on the road in Europe we had never once been pulled over by the police. In fact, it was quite the opposite. There had been many occasions (in several countries) where police had been pulling over cars and they’d simply ushered us through. We figured that they’d seen our Dutch number plates (hard to miss due to their bright yellow colour) and simply thought it would be too difficult to attempt to communicate in another language or too costly to post the fine (if necessitated) back to The Netherlands where the van is registered. Turns out that’s not the case in Albania. This policeman had picked us out as easy targets to make some fast cash!

The policeman came to the drivers window to speak to Blake, the offender. There was plenty of dialogue between us all but very little comprehension as we didn’t know a word of Albanian and he knew next to no English. The next ten minutes was another game of real life charades with finger pointing and animations. We handed over passports, licenses and the van registration and insurance. The policeman sternly pointed his finger at Blake, exclaimed “naughty” and then laughed! Finally we were issued with a speeding fine.

From what we could decipher the policeman stated that the speed limit was 50 km/hr and we were excessively speeding doing 80km/hr. How he arrived at 80km/hr no one knows as there was no speed camera in sight! But we certainly weren’t going to attempt to argue. We handed over 30 euros (presumably which went straight into his back pocket to be later spent for his personal use), knowing we’d been completely scammed but figuring it was a small price to pay and far better than ending up in Albanian jail! I smiled politely, repeatedly saying “thank you” and “sorry”  as we started Rover ready to get back on the road. The policeman smugly grinned and then to everyone’s amazement lent into the car to slap hands with me sitting in the passengers seat (alikened to a homie handshake) before he hugged Blake and sent us on our way!

It was a wild introduction to Albania and one I’m sure I’ll never forget! We reached the campgrounds situated about 3 km down the road and were happy to have checked in & parked up safely for the next couple of nights. We told the young Albanian receptionist at the campsite what had just happened and she merely smiled, speaking perfectly good English and told us “Ahh, this happens in a foreign country. It’s best to put it behind you.” And that we did. It was time for a long hot shower and then a tall cold beer! Now that we deserved.

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Blake, the offender. 

Lake Bled.

Processed with VSCO with e2 presetBefore we departed for our European van life adventure we were asking our friends & family back home for any hot tips or recommendations on places we must see. One of our best friends said Lake Bled was an absolute must. He hadn’t got the chance to go there himself but had heard only great things and urged us to go.

We were making our way to Croatia from Venice but decided to take a slight detour to Lake Bled to break up the drive & check it out for ourselves so we could report back first hand.

Turns out we’re in agreeance with everyone else! The place is like no other I’ve seen before. As we first drove around the lake I couldn’t help but wind down the window & yell “WOW!” like an excited kid.

The clear water & turqouise colour of the glacial lake is contrasted by the luscious greenery of the surrounding forests. There’s plenty to look at whether it be the infamous island church, cliffside castle or the jagged mountain ranges which act as a stunning backdrop. There’s also plenty of activity on and around the lake with row boats, the authentic pletna boats, swimming, fishing, hiking & more.

Although it’s the main tourist destination in Slovenia it’s natural charm hasn’t been lost and somehow (thankfully) the atmosphere around the lake remains peaceful and serene. At sunset it also feels incredibly romantic!

Back in the olden days there was a guy from Switzerland called Arnold Rikli who became ill after exposure to chemicals as a result of his occupation in leather dye works. He started researching places where he could go to recover, stumbled upon Lake Bled and then later moved there.

He considered himself as a pioneer and natural healer, curing himself of disease with the help of nature, sunbathing and swimming in the lake.

I highly doubt there’s any evidence to support his method curing serious illnesses however I’m sure it works wonders for improving physical, mental & emotional wellbeing!

We certainly felt great spending two days amongst nature, doing little but his “prescription”. The Rikli hiking path (named after him) which is still around today was apparently part of his and his cult’s daily routine – they walked up each morning on an empty stomach, bare foot and often nude!

Today there are a number of upmarket hotels that offer tourists health and wealth ness retreats and spa packages. Unlike Riklis I’m pretty sure they come at an exorbitant price and your clothing remains on, although I can’t be certain.

THINGS TO DO: 

  • Walk the 6 km track around the perimeter of the lake. The entire circuit is beautiful with plenty of places to stop & take in the picturesque scenery.
  • Seek out one of the many hiking trails which will lead to  spectacular view points overlooking Lake Bled & the surrounding mountains.
  • Go for a swim. I felt courageous enough to go for a dip despite the freezing outside temperatures. After getting out of the water Blake took a look at me and said I could take someone out with my nipples. Apparently I wasn’t tricking anyone into thinking it was warm! Freezing but very refreshing and recommended.
  • Try the famous cream cake, a speciality that originated in Bled. We shared one between two & after about one minute there was little left on the plate! It certainly lived up to expectations.

TIPS: 

  • For the best vantage point over Lake Bled take the Ojstrica trail. It’s only a short 20 minutes up hill through the forest to get to the top & the views are well worth it.
  • Head to the campsite mini market for the cheapest beer. A cold can of Slovenian Laško is only 0.99 euros!
  • Van life: we paid for parking next to the campsite and were able to stay the night for just 5 euros. There’s no services but the position is perfect being directly opposite Lake Bled!
  • Make sure you pack your joggers & plenty of warm clothes. We visited at the end of September and although sunny throughout the day, the wind was freezing & the temperatures ranged from a chilly 1 – 16 degrees.
  • We arrived on Sunday afternoon & left on Tuesday & as always the weekdays are noticeably less crowded than weekends.

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Mont Rebei.

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After spending some time (and too much money) exploring Spain’s cities we decided to get back to nature. We sat down and formulated a rough plan for the next couple of weeks to include more national parks, hikes and of course waterfalls. First stop we were headed to The Pyrenees. But like all van life “plans” this changed quickly after we stayed with our friend in La Fuliola (en route) and he said we absolutely must go to Mont Rebei.

Mont Rebei (Congost de Mont – Rebei) is situated approximately 3.5 hours drive west of Barcelona. I’ll save my words and let the photographs do the talking but in short the scenery is absolutely stunning! I lost track of how many times I excitedly said “wow” throughout the hike.

One of my favourite parts of the hike was walking along the scarily narrow path that was etched into the side of the mountain with no guard rail or safety barrier (sorry Mum). From here you had breath taking views of the canyon and turquoise water hundreds of meters below. You could even spot carp swimming below due to the great water clarity!

Thank goodness we got the recommendation for Mont Rebei otherwise we would have driven straight by and completely missed this gem. Make sure you don’t do the same!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION:

  • Parking is 5 euros for the day (it’s strictly regulated so there’s no opportunity to free camp over night). There’s an information office situated near the car park – the staff kindly helped us out with free maps and easy to follow directions for the route we wanted to take.
  • The main route winds around (and up and over) the mountains and follows the river below taking you past two main suspension brides. To walk to the second bridge takes roughly 1.5 hours each way. Although I’d recommend leaving yourself plenty more time to allow for photographs, picnic/water stops and swimming. We spent roughly 4 hours in total (1.5 hours walking each way and a 30 minute swim on the way there and back at the pontoon located at the first bridge). You can continue the hike further past the second suspension bridge however for us time didn’t permit and therefore we’re unsure of what lies beyond.
  • You can also hire kayaks and explore the area on water if that’s more your thing.
  • There’s no services so make sure you take sunscreen, food and plenty of water with you.

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DIY coffee scrub.

D48B18B3-0F47-412A-B7B2-AECD6D3F7741.jpgAfter several months on the road a hot shower has now become a luxury not an everyday event. Although we live in a van, Blake and I still live up to our “clean freak” personas for the most part and try to clean off everyday. When travelling on the coastline it’s incredibly easy  as we spend our days swimming in the ocean and have the ability to rinse off with a cold beach shower. Locations further inland are a little bit more tricky however we generally try to seek out fresh water lakes and if that fails, we’ve always got the faithful water bottle over the head trick or scented baby wipes on hand. Safe to say we look forward to hot showers and jump right in at any chance we get!

Nothing beats the feeling of a long hot steamy shower to leave you feeling fresh. Wanting to give our skin a little extra love I created this simple DIY coffee scrub using ingredients we already had in the van so when we do get the opportunity to have a hot shower we can make it extra special. It’s a great natural exfoliant which helps to remove impurities and get rid of any nasty pollutants or dead skin cells.

Good for the environment and good for you. It leaves your skin feeling vibrant and smelling delicious! I highly recommend giving it a go.

Ingredients: 

  • fresh coffee grinds (we use a small coffee percolator to brew our daily caffeine dose each morning. I collect the used coffee grinds over 3 days).
  • sugar, 3 tablespoons (when we have espressos out at cafes they generally serve with a side sachet of sugar. I don’t add sugar to my coffee and being a budget traveller I instead pocket it and save it for later use). 
  • olive oil, 2 table spoons.
  • coconut oil, 1 handful (this can be substituted with coconut body wash if you don’t have coconut oil on hand or don’t like the feel of coconut oil on your skin). 

Method: 

  1. Combine all ingredients together in an air tight jar or container.
  2. Lather scrub on to wet skin (face, neck and body) when in the shower, massage gently and then rinse well.
  3. Use weekly.

Enjoy x

Chasing waterfalls in Spain.

Processed with VSCO with c6 presetAnyone who knows me is well aware that when given the choice I’d pick a nature escape over city exploring any day. There’s something about being surrounded by nature – breathing in the fresh crisp air, smelling the perfumes of the native flora or a salty sea breeze and taking time out to slow down and be more present. It makes me incredibly calm and happy. Although fond of all kinds of natural environments I must say waterfalls are my absolute favourite!

And as it turns out Spain has no shortage of waterfalls or beautiful national parks. Here’s some of my favourites (in no particular order) that we were lucky enough to visit whilst travelling Europe.

Ruidera National Park. 

Description: The National Park consists of 16 fresh water lakes with the majority connecting via cascading waterfalls.

Best for: Relaxing or picnicking by the lake, swimming and jumping off the rocky cliff edges into the lake.

Tips: Laguna San Pedro is our favourite spot for swimming and relaxing.

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Picos de Europa National Park. 

Description: A nature lovers paradise! A place so grand it’s hard to describe in words without feeling like you’ve sold it short. The mountain range extends for 20 km and is filled with beautiful sights with impressive alpine karst, glistening glacial rivers and waterfalls that appear out of nowhere. You can swim in many parts of the glacial rivers but be warned, the water is freezing cold and even a quick dip will require plenty of sunshine to defrost afterwards.

Best for: Hiking, scenic drives and camping whilst being surrounded by nature.

Tips: See the blog post on Picos de Europa (https://foreignerfaz.com/2018/08/24/picos-de-europa/) for more details on where to camp and hike.

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Ronda 

Description: Architectural beauty mixed with Mother Nature. A place like no other and the best of both worlds. The Puente Nuevo stone bridge dates back to the 1700’s and is set 120 meters above a deep gorge and waterfall that divide the city.

Best for: Architecture and history lovers and swimming and exploring fresh water rock pools.

Tips: Make the effort to hike down to the bottom of the waterfall where there are many different rock pools for swimming in. We didn’t see another soul at the rock pools despite the hoards of tourists in the town above. In my opinion this was the best view of The Puente Nuevo bridge. I loved having the ability to gawk up and appreciate man kinds efforts of The Puente Nuevo Bridge which was a striking contrast to the natural environment I was surrounded in.

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 Maro Beach Waterfall, Nerja. 

Description: Several rivers join together at the cliff edges to produce a 20 meter waterfall into the ocean. A truly spectacular sight.

Best for: Beach lovers and adventure seekers.

Tips: Best experienced from seeing the waterfall below in the ocean. Don’t waste your time in line to rent a kayak! My sister has provided more details about our experience on her blog (https://www.adventuresfirst.com.au/overseas/previous/2).  If you’re a competent swimmer it’s an easy 250 meters (around the rocks on the right hand side) from the shore to the waterfall. Don’t forget to bring goggles or a snorkel as there are plenty of fish to see.

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(Image not my own as we unfortunately forgot to take our Go Pro)

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Picos de Europa.

Processed with VSCO with c6 presetDo yourself a favour and add it it your list of places you must visit. And make sure you put it near the top! You can thank me later.

THINGS TO DO: 

  • Hiking. There are plenty of different hiking trails to suit all types of abilities. Best to look online for more information on specific hiking trails and their difficulty level and distances. We decided to do the most popular hike called “The Cares Route” and I highly recommend doing the same. We drove to the town of Poncebos and started the track from there. The first half hour of the hike is all uphill. Afterwards the trail is mostly flat and winds along the cliff as you follow the path of the gorge below. I wouldn’t say it is particularly difficult however it is long! It’s recommended to leave yourself 5 – 6 hours for the return journey. The hike took us around 3 hours to the town of Cain, including stopping for 30 minutes for a picnic lunch and to take photographs along the way. There are no services throughout the track so be sure to pack plenty of food and water. In the town of Cain there are a couple of restaurants, bars and supermarkets if you want to stop to recuperate before the return journey but be warned they are all rather touristy and over priced as per usual. The return trip (taken on the same track) took a little over 2.5 hours. If you’re not the fittest person don’t worry as you can take it as slow as you like and there are plenty of lovely spots to stop and have a breather along the way. Rest assured it is well worth the effort! The place is incredible and there’s always plenty to look at whether it be mountain goats passing you by, herds of sheep, waterfalls or the hydroelectricity canal. Just make sure you don’t trip while you’re busy looking around as there are no guar rails throughout (if you’re scared of heights this trail ain’t for you!). No photographs or describing words really do the Picos de Europa justice but I’ll leave these below regardless. Processed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 preset
  • We wanted to make the most of being in the national park so we decided we’d do another hike before we left. We opted for the “Covadonga Lakes” trail which is a circular route around two lakes, Enol and Ercina. From the campground we were staying at it was about a 35 minute drive out to the town of Covadonga. Unfortunately as it was Summer and peak season, we were forced to park our car and pay for a bus ticket (Eur 9 per person, return. Buses run every 15 minutes) which takes you up to the top of the mountain. Retrospectively I’m glad we did take the bus as the roads are really narrow and super windy, herds of cows also use the roads (but appear not to have the same road rules as the Spanish) and on the day we visited the mountain was covered in fog making it impossible to see anything further than 3 meters away. We did this hike with our newest van life friends (“The Isaacs”, two adventurous and hilarious Aussies who we met at the campsite) and luckily despite the poor visibility and being caught at the top of the mountain in torrential rain we still had an absolute ball. On a sunny day I’d imagine it would be beautiful to take your time and have a picnic lunch. There’s lush greenery everywhere and more cows than tourists! However if you only have time for one hike than The Cares Route wins by far. Processed with VSCO with e4 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 preset

 

PLACES TO STAY: 

  • Camping Naranjo de Bulnes. We absolutely adored this camp ground and it made it into my “Top 8 van life destinations (so far) (https://foreignerfaz.com/2018/08/09/top-8-van-life-destinations/). It’s located a short 10 minute drive from Poncebos which makes it a great place to stay if you intend on doing The Cares Route hike (as described above). However even if you aren’t intending on doing the hike it’s still a wonderful place to camp and simply enjoy the beauty of the national park. We were lucky enough to turn up without a reservation and still managed to score an incredible site that backed on to a glacial river. Despite it being summer the river was still cold enough to chill our warm beers and act as our “ice bath” post hike! Swimming is only for the brave. Or are we mad? The campground is mostly grass, very spacious and filled with plenty of trees. There’s wifi, amenities, water, washing machines and an onsite restaurant/bar. (Eur 21 per night for 2 people and a van, without power). Processed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset

TRANSPORT: 

  • You absolutely need a car for this trip. The national park itself is rather large and if you intend on doing more than one hike you may need to drive a fair distance as many of the hikes have different starting points. Be sure to do your own research before going. You also need at least a base level of fitness and sturdy knees to complete even the easiest of hikes. If you’re unable to hike there are a number of driving routes which offer spectacular views from the roadside.