Cuba: A guide to what to see and do

Original article written for momondo, please click here.

In a time of transition, travel to Cuba is on the rise. Here are our must-visit, authentic experiences to have when visiting the Caribbean’s biggest island.

After wallowing in a trade embargo imposed by the United States for over 50 years, there are promising times ahead for Cuba, as it looks to become a part of the global trading community. While the trade embargo is still active today, there are encouraging signs that it will soon be lifted, opening a whole new world of possibilities for Cuba. Trade with other countries will be easier, triggering an increase in tourism. This impending trend is already evident in our search data, which shows a 59% increase in flight searches for Havana from 2015 to 2016. If you are thinking about visiting Cuba, consider doing so in a manner that allows you to experience the full range of its rich cultural heritage. Start by planning a sustainable trip that supports the local culture and commerce – the only risk of doing so is that you may actually experience the real marvels of the island, not just the ones in guide books. In addition to the main highlights, you might want to travel deep into rural Cuba, where unknown charms await. Keep this in mind when starting your trip in the land of guajiros (countryside Cubans).

Cuba: a concoction of colours, sights and sounds – picture by Allan Kortbæk

Where to stay in Cuba

No hotel? Are you crazy? Where will we sleep then? Fret not, Cuba offers a different kind of accommodation, one that will give you a more authentic view of the country while contributing to the local economy at the same time. Cuban guest houses are legally- authorized accommodation options run by locals.

These guest houses provide genuine doses of Cuban life and culture, giving you the chance to live like a local. Keep a lookout for the iconic blue anchor painted on the front of the guest houses, as you saunter through Cuba.

Sip rum in Havana and saunter along the Malecón

The view of El Malecón from Havana’s Hotel Nacional in the former Mafia-run district of Vedado where Lucky Luciano & co reigned supreme. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

The Argentinian songwriter, Fito Páez, famously proclaimed that Havana lures one to fall in love with it and that the rum of the city is the best in the world. What better way to ascertain the validity of these valiant claims than a visit to the iconic capital? Havana’s old town is the sort of place you can lose yourself in for days at a time. As such, aimlessly wandering its streets is a must for any traveler.

On your saunter through Havana, you will be entertained by an array of intriguing buildings of all shades, many of which are in an advanced state of decay. You will also be treated to potent Afro-Cuban rhythms that echo in back alleys and crystallize into beautiful graffiti murals. Nowhere is this magical combination epitomized better than in Callejón de Hamel (the Hamel alley).

Get ready to embrace a city that exudes the sensation of going back in time, as classic cars from the 1950s decorate a backdrop of vintage architecture. While in old town Havana, The house of Conde Lombillo is a compulsory stop. Inside it, you will find Café Bohemia, an establishment that has borne witness to the last century of Cuban history.

The cafe originally opened its doors to celebrate the memory of Ricardo Sáenz, commonly known as El Gallego, the former chief editor and assistant director of Bohemia magazine. One of its idiosyncrasies consists in naming their dishes and cocktails after well known Cuban journalists, writers and filmmakers.

A wander through Havana’s old town leaves you thirsting for the ocean and its quietude. As such, a leisurely stroll along Havana’s well known boardwalk is essential. El Malecón is Cuba’s and one of the world’s most popular boardwalks, extending over five miles populated by street musicians, artists, poets, philosophers and fishermen cast against the backdrop of the city skyline and the serene sea.

Varadero: Cuba’s take on paradise

os coches de Cuba – a yellow classic in Varadero. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

A trip to Cuba is not legit without a stop in Varadero. Soak up the warm Caribbean sun on beaches brimming with soft, fine sand and visit some of the peculiar routes Varadero has to offer. If you want to know more about Cuban history, visit some of the old mansions previously owned by colonists, many of which have been transformed into museums. Varadero is also a thrill-seeker’s paradise, replete with caves, cayas and rare virgin forests that are unique to the region. If these spoils are not enough, you can follow the footsteps of the infamous Al Capone by traipsing through some of the tourist complexes that this prohibition era kingpin once roamed.

Explore the Cuban countryside around Viñales

Viñales – classic Cuban countryside at its best. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

The rural region known as Pinar del Río, 90 minutes by car from Havana, is home to the quaint town of Viñales and a national park that carries the same name. A lush, green zone primarily populated by farmers, Viñales is virtually car-free, thanks to the popularity of the horse-drawn wagon. Tobacco and coffee plantations are the key protagonists here, providing a different if not peculiar experience for curious travelers.

The countryside in this unique part of Cuba is intricately decorated by small, colorful houses,quaint farms and haciendas (estates), that are home to a mix of young and old Cubans who you will often see sat in rocking chairs, staring blissfully into space.

Viñales is also surrounded by an eponymous natural park. Together with the settlement, the Viñales valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, characterized by its lush vegetation and its endemic mountainous formations, referred to as mogotes locally. One of these mogotes is home to one of the park’s most visited attractions – a 393-foot long painting on a rock wall, known as Mural de la Prehistoria, which depicts the history of evolution with graphic edge.

The Cays: Jutías, Levisa, Largo, Coco and Guillermo

A day trip to one of Cuba´s many Cays (Cayos) will leave you feeling refreshed. Pictured: Cayo Levisa. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

Any proper trip to Cuba requires more than one stop, however brief, at some of its breathtaking cays. Cayo Jutías is the first stop after Viñales and is revered as one of Cuba’s most beautiful beaches, replete with white sand and crystal clear waters. In fact, It is rivaled only by the spectacular beauty of Cayo Guillermo and its beach, Playa Pilar.

Cuba’s numerous cays are perfect spots for unplugging and taking a break from the world. One step closer to paradise, they are serene, nirvanic locations where one can take a dip in transparent waters and relax in veritable natural splendor. In fact, the only hassle here are the mosquitos that have also found a ticket into these otherworldly heavens.

If relaxing all day by the sea gets tedious, get your adrenaline kicks at Cayo Levisa and Cayo Coco, both of which offer diving opportunities as well as other aquatic sports. Choose from a wide range of companies specializing in equipment rentals and organized tours and get acquainted with the area’s flourishing marine wildlife.

Delve into the past at Bahía Cochinos

History lovers will find plenty of gateways to the past in Cuba. The bay area known as Bahía Cochinos (The Bay of Pigs) is one-such gateway, rich in natural beauty as it is in history. The beaches of Girón and Larga are among the least visited in Cuba and as such, carry themselves with an aura of mystique, shaded in historical events such as the famous battle of Bahía Cochinos which took place on the Girón beach in the early 1960s, at the peak of Cold War tensions.

In fact, the road to Bahía Cochinos is still lined with old posters that reference the attempt to invade the area and the Cuban revolution.

Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey

While not often visited, these two cities definitely deserve to be on your list of things to see in Cuba. Both of their old town areas are noteworthy – replete with monuments that commemorate the revolution and low buildings painted in eye-catching colors that teleport this area back in time.

Ciego de Ávila is an old and rather small town that seems frozen in time. Spend your afternoons discovering traditional restaurants, charming taverns and revolution memorabilia while music reverberates off every wall.

Camagüey on the other hand, is more modern and developed. Here, the old town has been proclaimed a World Heritage Site and is home to a plethora of restaurants – subsidized by the government – that offer delicious homemade food (such as the rice and bean dish, Moros y Cristianos).

Find flights to Cuba with momondo

Find accomodation in Cuba with momondo

About Kortbæk_Travels

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Welcome to Kortbæk_Travels. My name is Allan and i´ve travelled to 31 countries.

My fiancee, Mette, and I feel that it’s only fair that we give back to the world by sharing our best tips and tricks for how to travel affordably – as individuals, as a couple and most recently, as parents to our baby boy, Tristan. We believe that everyone should be able to travel the world and indulge in it’s wonders but we also believe it is important to care for our planet – by travelling or living sustainably.

On this page you will find:

  • Travel Destinations (tips and inspirational videos & Images)
  • Photos (My portfolio of photos and artwork
  • Cultural Articles (A collection of the articles I´ve written over the years, mostly within Cultural Journalism)

Who am I? 

In my “work life” – I´m an Advertising Creative at KAYAK / momondo; working in fields such as Content Production, Brand Activation and Brand Partnerships.

I´ve been an integral part of our in-house agency on some of The Internet´s most successful campaigns – such as The DNA Journey, The World Piece, The Passport Initiative, Dear mom and dad and others – many of which have been nominated for and won numerous awards globally, including Cannes Lions.

“Off work” – in addition to travelling – I love surfing, learning new languages (I speak 5,) writing and photography.

I´ve done freelance Copywriting, Journalism, Video Production, Photography and more for over 10 years – working with clients such as Tourism Boards, National Newspapers, Large-Scale Publications, Hotels and more. My work has also been featured in several exhibitions across the globe. 

Sustainability

We live in a world that is being challenged by the way we live and conduct ourselves. You, me and generations to come have a unique opportunity to decide our future and the impacts we have on our world. 

As such, I am passionate about creating an impact within and outside of my work commitments. As an example, I co-founded Jengo in 2015 – a Danish NGO that has since raised over $100´000 for a portfolio of projects in Tanzania, centered on renewable energy solutions and the construction of schools. You can read more about Jengo and other sustainable projects i´m involved in under the “Sustainability” tab.  

Let´s Connect! 

Drop me a line at: allanm46@gmail.com

Instagram @Kortbaek_travels 

Linkedin

Twitter 

Check out my hotel / restaurant and cafe reviews on Tripadvisor 

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Why a Trip to The Belgian Grand Prix Should Be Your First Formula 1 Experience

Why a Trip to The Belgian Grand Prix Should Be Your First Formula 1 Experience

Original article written for Yakondi, available here.

When it comes to ticking things off one’s Bucket List, there is little that compares to the thrill of a Formula 1 Grand Prix. As a lifelong fan of Formula 1 fan, I had been looking forward to my first Grand Prix experience for a long time, having driven around the Monaco Grand Prix street circuit earlier this year. In the aftermath of this casual drive (the Monaco Grand Prix takes place on public roads,) the urge to see one of the 20 races on the calendar was stronger than ever.

I chose to experience the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa Francorchamps, as one of the races closest to Copenhagen, where I live, and faced by exorbitant accommodation prices in and around Liege, Belgium, I ended up spending 2 days in one of the best Airbnb stays I’ve been on in the border region of Eiffel, Germany.

Here are some of my tips and tricks for how to get to and experience the Belgian Grand Prix, for anyone who wants to experience a Formula 1 race – fans and newbies alike.I visited The Belgian Grand Prix with my family and we sat on The Kemmel Straight

I visited The Belgian Grand Prix with my family and we sat on The Kemmel Straight @Kortbaek_Travels

The Belgian Grand Prix in a Nutshell

The Belgian Grand Prix is one of the quintessential classics on the F1 calendar, snaking through lush forests in The Ardennes Forest for around 7 kilometres, thereby making it the longest circuit in the series.

Unlike some of the more modern circuits, Spa retains a rustic appeal that gives it an iconic, festival-esque feel. Spa is all about Pommes Frites, sausages and an overdose of Mayonnaise in changing weather conditions where the sun shines on one part of the circuit while there’s a downpour on the other. For this reason, pack your bag with essentials such as brollies, rain anoraks and wellies – it has rained at Spa at some point or other in each race for many years now.Fans galore: Spa Francorchamps is all about mingling with the fans of other racing teams

Fans galore: Spa Francorchamps is all about mingling with the fans of other racing teams @ Kortbaek_Travels

Beverages and refreshments at Spa are very pricey for what’s on offer (a small portion of Pommes Frites, for example, costs 7 Euros, while a micro-cup of coffee retails for 5.5 Euros). Packing light snacks and refreshments of your own is, therefore, a good idea, just make sure they are in plastic, not glass containers if you want to get let past security.

Spa’s proximity to The Netherlands also means that the event is visited by legions of Max Verstappen fans, clad in the orange colours of Holland or Red Bull Racing’s distinct dark blue shade. Personally, I’m a Mercedes fan and support Lewis Hamilton but there is an undeniably special feeling of sportsmanship between the fans of different teams at Spa Francorchamps.There are Dutch Formula 1 fans aplenty at The Belgian Grand Prix

There are Dutch Formula 1 fans aplenty at The Belgian Grand Prix @Kortbaek_Travels

Where to Stay & How to get there

Even if you are early, accommodation prices at Spa skyrocket around the time of the annual Formula 1 race. Everything tends to get fully booked very quickly so your best option, rather than struggling to find somewhere to stay in Liege or the surrounding area is to look in neighbouring Germany (if you’re travelling by car).

We found one of the best Airbnb stays (Charmantes Ferienhaus) I’ve had the pleasure of buying – located in Simmerath, in the middle of the lush Eifel National Park. Located a mere 43 km away in the mountains, our Airbnb stay was the perfect antidote to the roars and skids of motors at Spa. Do yourself a favour and explore the Eifel National Park area while you’re there – it is one of Germany’s undiscovered pearls!

As we drove from Denmark, a trip down the autobahn was the easiest way to get to Spa. A tip for travellers coming from Scandinavia and Northern Europe would be to avoid hitting Hamburg and the Elb Tunnel area on a Friday, which tends to be one of the peak traffic days, particularly during the summer, when roadworks slow things down even more.

For those flying – Brussels or Cologne are the closest airports to Spa and I can recommend finding tickets via the convenient and easy-to-use metasearch tool, Momondo, who are also a really cool company when it comes to pushing for a more open and tolerant world through travel. You can also use Momondo to find hotel stays and car hire.

Find a flight with Momondo

Find a hotel with Momondo

Rent a car via Momondo

Getting tickets for The Belgian Grand Prix

Starting with the basics – Formula 1 tickets can be bought directly from the official Formula 1 webpage and in the case of The Belgian Grand Prix, retail for 125 EUR for Bronze tickets valid for the whole weekend. Since I drove there by car, we also included parking tickets for all days of the Grand Prix – which, including postage of the tickets and payment charges, ended up at 174 EUR per person.  Some would argue otherwise, but I think that Bronze tickets (there are also silver and Gold available) are more than ideal when it comes to experiencing a race at Spa Francorchamps.

Where to sit at The Belgian Grand Prix

Blink and you'll miss it. A Mercedes racer streaks past The Kemmel Straight at over 300 Kph!

Blink and you’ll miss it. A Mercedes racer streaks past The Kemmel Straight at over 300 Kph! @Kortbaek_Travels

Spa Francorchamps has many different seating options for all ticket holders. As it’s a long circuit, it can take time to navigate from one area of the track to another, so have a good idea of where you would like to sit before race day.

Bronze tickets give you access to all race sessions from Friday through to Sunday so there is ample time to check out different areas of the circuit. Wherever you do sit though, I recommend that you have a  good view of one of the many giant broadcast screens so you can follow the race on the rest of the circuit.

I personally recommend sitting on the famous Kemmel Straight, just after the high-speed turns of Eau Rouge and Raidillon – two of the best corners in Formula 1, where downforce levels on the cars can be up to five times their weight (Eau Rouge.) The Kemmel Straight is one of the main overtaking opportunities at The Belgian Grand Prix, where speeds of up to 340 kph are clocked, with the drivers on full throttle for 20 seconds, so expect action on this part of the circuit.

Other good spots to sit at for Bronze ticket holders include the grassy hill at Pouhon and the Bus Stop chicane, which feeds into the pit lane entry.One of the Renaults' whizzes by on The Kemmel Straight

One of the Renaults’ whizzes by on The Kemmel Straight @Kortbaek_Travels

Parking at The Belgium Grand Prix

Parking tickets are a must if you are to get the most of your Spa experience and come included in your ticket price if you select them as add-ons. We parked close to the circuit entry by Combes Gate. There are four entry Gates to Spa in total -be prepared for waiting times and security checks as you go through them.

Dismal parking administration once the race is done means that you should be prepared to spend up to 3 hours waiting to get out of the parking lot itself, as Europe’s best “every man for himself get out of the parking spot” contest kicks in, with each car squirming for the same outlet. While Spa’s rustic charm has its merits, this is one the elements of this experience we could have done without and something that the organisers must look to address in future years.Parking chaos at the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix

Parking chaos at the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix @Kortbaek_Travels

What session to attend?

A Formula 1 weekend packs experiences of all sorts in for the entire family. In addition to race day, you will probably also want to see some of the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday and of course, qualifying on Saturday. There are also Formula 3000 and GP2 races (seeding series for Formula 1 where some of tomorrow’s stars are doing their best to carve a name for themselves in motorsport). It goes without saying that on race day, the best seats in the house belong to the early birds, so get up in good time and find your spot.

This being Spa, be prepared to walk some distance to take a leak every now and again as things fill up very quickly. I can also advise bringing or buying something to sit on – either camping chairs or simply foam plates, as it can be wet, muddy and uncomfortable to sit at some areas of Spa. The build-up to the race is also an event in itself. As such, get your lunch well before the Driver’s parade around the track (the closest most people will ever come to their racing idols) so you can also experience this element of the race.Mercede's Lewis Hamilton waves to the ground during the driver's parade

Mercede’s Lewis Hamilton waves to the ground during the driver’s parade @Kortbaek_Travels

We were unfortunate enough to have Disc Jockey, two Twerkers and a very bad MC across the track from us who, tasked with warming the crowd up, did a very poor job of churning out a mix of cheesy requests, loud, unbearable hard dance music and dance moves that should probably never have seen the light of day. This dynamic quartet also managed to disconnect the sound from the paddock and race commentary and were eventually booed off by most of the spectators.

A full map of the track can be found below or via the link in the caption.Map Courtesy of Spa Francorchamps.be

Map Courtesy of Spa Francorchamps.be

The Belgium Grand Prix 2018 – a Roundup

Renault had a bad race at Spa, with Nico Hulkenberg causing a turn 1 melee at the start of the race

Renault had a bad race at Spa, with Nico Hulkenberg causing a turn 1 melee at the start of the race @Kortbaek_Travels

After a tense Saturday qualifying session which saw the rain wreak havoc late on in the session, Mercedes were well-poised to put in a strong showing at The Belgian Grand Prix. Come race day on Sunday, however, and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had other plans. Powered by the best-performing engine of all the cars in the field, he took the lead on The Kemmel Straight early on, flying past Lewis Hamilton and going on to build an unassailable advantage lap by lap.

Further down the advancing pack, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg missed his braking point by some distance into the first corner, sending Fernando Alonso’s Orange McLaren hurtling over the Sauber of Charles Leclerc – an incident that brought out the yellow flags and spiced things up for the spectators. Vettel went on to win, followed by Hamilton and Max Verstappen in his Red Bull racer, some distance off the pace but on the podium in front of his legions nonetheless.

What to bring with you on your trip to Spa Francorchamps

Be prepared for a bit of everything at The Belgian Grand Prix!

Be prepared for a bit of everything at The Belgian Grand Prix! @Kortbaek_Travels

Last but not least, as with most of the content I will be producing, here is a list of what to bring with you on your trip:

  • An anorak / waterproof jacket
  • Wellington boots for the fainthearted
  • Camping seats or foam pads for your bum
  • Sunglasses
  • A good camera
  • Earplugs
  • Snacks and beverages
  • Merch to support your favourite team (obviously)

The Seychelles – What to see and do on the islands of The Seychelles

 

The Seychelles are a truly spectacular group of islands off the coast of Africa. Life here is placid and free of the stress and fusiness of Western civillasation yet it’s also a nation with one of the highest GDP per capita in Africa.

A country that defies the stereotypes and often lives in the shadow of other wrongfully hyped destinations such as The Maldives, The Seychelles were a natural travel choice after my trip to Hawaii. Here is a video from my journey to The Seychelles, plus a few pictures from paradise. I explored the islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, each of which brim with their own distinct personality and panache.

Scroll to the bottom for  flight links.

 

Anse Severe – La Digue Island

La Digue is my favourite of the islands in The Seychelles. This small island paradise contains very few cars and most people use bikes to get from A to B. With almost no theft here, it’s not even neccessary to lock one’s bike. Anse Severe, on the Northeastern shore  of La Digue, not so far from the endearing Takamaka Cafe, is probably the best of all the many snorkelling spots on La Digue.

Recommendations for where to eat on La Digue:

Fish Trap Restaurant & Bar – La Passe

This establishment is located by the beach (in fact some of its tables are in the sand, hence its charm). Meals are plentiful and well-cooked but prepare to pay handsomely for them. The service is highly commendable and the bar area is quite cosy.

Cafe Takamaka

This family- run shack serves some of the best octopus i’ve eaten anywhere in the world, at a decent price and with all the crudeness, love and quirky touches you’d expect.

There are also cheap sandwiches and several other hot meals on offer. Beachside seating and a passing Aldabra tortoise on the side of the road added even more charm to this quaint place.

Gala Takeaway

This quaint takeaway serves up a riveting selection of dishes at great prices. We had the tuna salad and an avocado salad, both of which tasted great! The ladies in the kitchen know their stuff.

Ice cream scoops for a cool 15 rupees.

Where to stay on La Digue:

La Diguoise

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Anse Severe La Digue Island 2

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Anse Severe La Digue Island 1

Anse Gaulettes – La Digue Island

Venture north from Anse Severe and experience the rocky, untamed wilderness of this part of the island. Look out for wild Giant Aldabra Tortoises that wander the narrow roads (please don’t sit on them).

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Anse Gaulettes La Digue Island 3

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Anse Gaulettes La Digue Island 2Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Anse Gaulettes La Digue Island 1

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Anse Gaulettes La Digue Island

Anse Source D’Argent – La Digue Island

Anse Source D’Argent is the sort of place you’d shoot a Bacardi commercial – and many have been made here. This slice of paradise offers one of the Seychelles’ best and most picturesque beaches.

Wade around the rocks at the southern fringe of the beach around midday and you’ll end up on  Anse Pierrot which you will probably have all for yourself. Be sure to wander back up through the shallows before the tide comes in the afternoon or you’ll end up having to swim.

Anse Source D’Argent is part of L’Union Estate so you’ll have to pay a small fee to enter the area. Stop by the Giant Aldabra Tortoise enclosure where you’ll see some of these magnificent reptiles in action, quite literally.

If you’re thirsty, there’s a small beach bar at the start of the beach that serves a refreshing selection of fruit drinks and cocktails.

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Anse Source D'Argent wave La Digue Island 1.jpg

Visit Seychelles Anse Source D'Argent La Digue Island rocks.jpg

Visit Seychelles La Digue Anse Source D'argent Allan Kortbaek 7

Visit Seychelles La Digue Anse Source D'argent Allan Kortbaek 6

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Visit Seychelles La Digue Anse Source D'argent Allan Kortbaek 1

Visit Seychelles La Digue Anse Source D'argent Aldabra tortoise Allan Kortbaek

Grand Anse, La Digue Island

At some times of the year, Grand Anse is a great surfing spot as the waves hit the beach with verve. When I was here, however, the waves broke right by the beach and faded into the steep bank almost immediately. This didn’t stop the local body boarders from riding their luck at dusk though.

If you’re feeling adventurous, clamber over the rocks and make your way to Petite Anse, a more exposed beach that you can also access by following the rocky trail between the two beaches.

Getting to Grand Anse is only possible by bike and the path winds up and down the hillside so pedal carefully lest your chain fall off (speaking from experience 😉 .) You’ll also find a decent restaurant at Grand Anse.

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Gran Anse La Digue Island 2

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Gran Anse La Digue Island 4

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Gran Anse La Digue Island 3

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Gran Anse La Digue Island 1

Beau Vallon, Mahe Island

Mahe is the biggest of the islands of The Seychelles and Beau Vallon is to its capital what Copacabana is to Rio – a lively, riveting stretch of sand that everyone seems to love. Beau Vallon was the first beach I set foot on as I did away with my jet lag with an all-day snooze. Head to the hills to watch the sun dip over Silhoutte island in the distance at the end of each day.

Where to stay in Beau Vallon:

Villa Roscia

My girlfriend and I arrived at Mahe airport in the morning, where Paulo was on hand to pick us up. He’s attentive, flexible, amicable and goes the extra mile to ensure his guests are informed and have what they need at all times.

The property itself is modern, clean and even a tad edgy, with a small swimming pool at the bottom of the garden. A lot of attention has been paid to the details – USB and European power sockets being but a couple of observations of note.

Paulo’s wife and kids live on the ground floor and are very friendly ,making it an unparralled homestay with all the modcons you’d usually have to fork out a small fortune for at large hotels and resorts.

Do yourself a favour and sample the breakfast platter – fruits, bread, fresh crossaints, tea / coffee, yoghurt and lots more. There’s also tea / coffee on the balcony from 5 pm on, where you can watch the sun drop serenely over the ocean horizon.

Villa Roscia is located a stone’s throw away from the less touristy end of the endearing Beau Vallon beach. Jetty transfers (ferry to Praslin) also available at a fair fee. Highly recommended.

Visit Seychelles Allan Kortbaek Beau Vallon Mahe Island.jpg

Visit Seychelles Mahe Island Beau Vallon.jpg

Anse Major Nature Trail, Mahe Island

There are hikes galore on many of the islands in The Seychelles and The Anse Major Nature Trail is one of Mahe Island’s most endearing.

Catch the bus from Beau Vallon police station to the small settlement of Danzilles and walk up to the end of the road from there. Watch out for Batman Studios on your left as you enter the trail (a tourist trap that lures bypassers in for a sight at their caged bats). The trail is easy to walk and is graced with lush vegetation on all sides as well as jaw-dropping vistas of Silhoutte island in the distance.

The tranquil Anse Major beach awaits you at the end of the trail. Grab a water taxi back to Beau Vallon for the full Anse Major Nature Trail experience.

Read more about the Anse Major Nature Trail here.

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Visit Seychelles Mahe Island Anse Major Nature trail 1

Visit Seychelles Mahe Island Anse Major nature trail 2

visit seychelles Allan Kortbaek Mahe Island Anse Major nature trail

Visit Seychelles Mahe Island Anse Major Nature trail

Anse Major, Mahe Island

Visit Seychelles Anse Major Mahe Island 3

Visit Seychelles Anse Major Mahe Island 2

Visit Seychelles Anse Major Mahe Island 1

Visit Seychelles Anse Major Mahe Island 4

Anse Lazio, Praslin Island

Praslin Island is the second-largest of the islands of The Seychelles. Life here is more quiet and sedate than it is in Mahe and its smaller size means that everything is much closer and easier to get to.

Anse Lazio is probably the most beautiful beach i’ve ever set foot on. This spectacular gem of a beach is best reached by car (or taxi) and is located on the north of Praslin. Crystalline waters, smooth (rounded) boulders and silky white sands give it a distinct look and feel.

Beneath these placid waters you will find all manner of colourful fish and marine life- tame  as they are in these parts. The left and right-hand sides Anse Lazio are best for snorkeling but watch out for sharks in the deeper waters.

I came within 12 feet of a Grey reef shark and though the odds of a shark attack are very low, being rounded by a 2-3 metre giant of the sea was a hair-raising if not unforgetable experience. Stay out of the water if you have even the slightest of cuts and treat the marine life with respect.

Where to eat on Praslin:

Pirogue Restaurant & Bar, Cote D’or

As the most centrally located restaurant in the small town, Pirogue pulls a crowd and serves up some decent dishes. It’s a great place – lunch offers are pretty decent, for dinner – prepare to wait for a table (or book in advance)

Where to stay on Praslin:

Villa Bedier, Cote D’or

Villa Beddier has all the amenties and mod cons you’ll need for a stay in C’ot D’or, Praslin. Book via their own webpage for the best prices but expect to pay in cash at the end of your stay. Look out for the complementary jetty drop-off at the end of your stay.

The rooms are well furnished and very spacious – spanning a long balcony, Master bedroom, toilet, kitchen and living room.

Located by the beach and in the heart of the little village, guests are endowed with several supermarkets, restaurants, ATMs and souvenir shops in close range.

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Vallée de Mai, Praslin Island

If you’re looking for the garden of Eden – this is it. A giant palm forest that takes you back to the days when Africa was known as the massive continent of Gondwana, the place feels like a cross between Jurassic Park (minus the dinasaurs) and The Amazon.

The giant Coco De Mer palms are endemic to The Seychelles and bear a striking resemblance to both male and female genitalia.

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Cote D’or Beach – Praslin Island

Cote   D’or Beach is an uderstated stretch of beach along the shore of the adjacent town, which is home to several cafes, restaurants and accomodation options.

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Hawaii – a visual guide to Big Island and Honolulu

Hawai – land of Earth, air, water and fire. Of all the places I have visited, it stands out as one of the most spectacular. In many ways, I find it hard to believe that Hawaii is part of The United States – it seems so genuine and humble by comparison to the mainland. Here’s a video of one of my best trips yet, and a bunch of photos to boot.

 

Kailua Kona

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Hilo

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Kalapana

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Kīlauea

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Waipio Valley / Hawi

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Hapuna Beach

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Mauna Kea

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North Shore (Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach)

Banzai Pipeline

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Waimea Bay

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Sunset Beach

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Honolulu

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Visit Los Angeles in 60 Seconds

LA is a monster. No seriously – Hollywood’s home is massive – even from the air, where its concrete streets and square forms assume an outlandish, almost dystopian form.

On street level, you’ll find many potential X Factor fails who’ve never quite made it into Hollywood’s hallmarks but get by busking at tourist traps such a The Santa Monica Pier at the end of Route 66.

You’ll also find a smattering of celebs here and there, cruising its boulevards in their fancy wheels, oblivious to the reality of life in The Sin City of the West Coast. And then there’s Inglewood…

LA is not for me I must contend (less so after being detained by the immigration authorities who asked me all sorts of irrelevant questions despite my pre-approved ESTA application and valid travel documents).

Every cloud has a silver lining though – thanks to my good pal Paul, who showed us the best of LA in his purring Mustang, I must also admit that I had a great time cruising through the throbbing metropolis.

Here’s how it all went down on our visit to Los Angeles: