Oh, Wales…

Let’s talk Wales then. If we’re all honest, most of use aren’t quite sure what Wales really is. Sure, it’s part of the United Kingdom but is it a country, a state or a province? It is a country and a quite underrated one. Before coming to Wales to study my Master’s degree in Cardiff, I didn’t know a lot about Wales. Pictures of green hills, sheep and rain came to my mind. Mostly empty, untouched land. I knew about Snowdonia, its famous national park and I knew that Cardiff was its capital city. But I didn’t really know what I was in for coming to this place.

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Yes, Wales is all about charming. A lush countryside, enchanting forests and tiny cottages hidden away between the trees. But Wales is so much more. During my time here I was lucky to getting the opportunity to discover its beauty and fall in love with it. Did you ever think of visiting Wales? Probably not. I guess Wales is just not the typical travel destination that makes the top of our bucket lists. If you’re from Europe, it’s not far away enough to ignite your wanderlust and it probably doesn’t even have a strong destination brand for you. There’s no strong image that comes to your mind when you think about Wales and its culture is not pulling you in with an infinite force.

Recently, someone told me that Wales is a bit like the European version of New Zealand – just as enchanting and jaw-drapping but a smaller, more accessible version. And let me tell you, this someone had been to both countries. So why not pack your bags and jump on a plane for two hours instead of travelling around the world? Yes, I am an explorer that goes far and wide and urges to discover every corner of the world but sometimes it’s worth just stopping yourself and exploring what’s close to you. Be it the country you grew up in or a place that’s around the corner from where you are now.

2014 Favorites!

With 2015 around the corner, I decided to sit back and reflect on this amazing year. At the beginning of 2014 I decided to take a few months off from studying and working to travel the world. My trips took me to Berlin, Bolivia, Greece, Hamburg, Ibiza and finally to Cardiff, Wales where I started my Master’s degree in September. All of these trips have left me in awe and fuelled my wanderlust. There are three main destinations that stuck with me the most:

1. SALAR DE UYUNI, BOLIVIA

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2. SANTORINI, GREECE

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3. BRECON BEACONS, WALES

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Brecon Beacons National Park is one of the main travel destinations in Wales. I haven’t written a blogpost about it yet, I still need to sort out hundreds of pictures until I can finally share them with you. Watch out for it, the blogpost will come when you least expect it!

These are my highlights of 2014. They might be your highlights of 2015 soon?! I can’t wait for the new year to come with even more travels, trips and journeys to satisfy my urge to see the world and breathe in the air of new places. Believe me, my head is already buried in a number of travel guides and I can’t wait to book my flights, pack my bags, prepare my paths and then finally board the plane!  Do you already know where your year is going to take you? Read about my bucket list for the new year here.

See you in 2015!!

Hiking from Fira to Oìa.

This is probably going to be my favourite blogpost about Santorini. If you ever visit Santorini, don’t only be a tourist, be a traveler. Take the chance to explore this jaw-dropping island as much as possible – there’s no better way doing this than hiking! One hot and sunny afternoon Marina and I decided to take a 5 hour and 12km long hike from Fira to Oìa. Oìa is the city in Santorini that is located at the far northern edge of the island and is famous for its sunset. Some say that it’s one of the most amazing sunsets they have ever seen. I can definitely say it is!

Taking the hike is not difficult at all. If you are in a medium good shape and feel good with the thought of walking a couple of hours in the sun, this hike should be no problem for you. Be aware of the fact that the paths are sometimes rocky and very small so be sure to wear some good shoes. Take a sunhat and put on some sunscreen and off you go!

We started off the hike at the orthodox cathedral in the heart of Fira. Since the island is so tiny, it is always easy to locate yourself and to stay on track. The only thing you have to make sure is to always walk at the edge of the caldera. This way you can almost always see where Oìa is located and walk in that direction.

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Right outside of the borders of Fira, you start walking a little uphill towards the town of Imerovigli. It is a very small town with some shops and restaurants. Not many tourists walk around the streets which is a welcome change from the bustling streets of Fira.

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Once you continue your journey away from the main street in Imerovigli, you encounter the most amazing spots on the whole island. Walking close to the caldera, you catch yourself staring at houses, hotels, spas and the fascinating nature with an open mouth. Everything is calm and quiet, the ocean reflects the sunbeams just perfectly and you won’t believe how lucky you are to be on this unique island.

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Although the houses around you are mainly hotels and spas, you will find yourself completely alone. Every half hour or so, you may encounter other hikers who are just as amazed as you are and you greet each other real quick with a quiet smile before continuing your journey.

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Soon after passing these beautiful sights of Greek architecure, you are faced with nature’s simple beauty. You walk past different kinds of ashes that remained from Santorini’s times as a volcano. But what will take away your breath and make you stop your walk every other minute is the picturesque view of the ocean.

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From time to time you will spot a cathedral or a church up on a small hill or a little off the beaten path. I strongly urge you to take the little detour to visit these churches. Although you mostly won’t be able to enter these churches, they are definitely worth visiting and they offer you a different and one-of-a-kind view of the island. Three churches that you will pass are the chapel Ágios Antonios, chapel Ágios Márkos and the chapel Profítis Ilías.

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Once you have passed these chapels and churches, a rather difficult part of the path will start. You find yourself on a 1,2m wide path that is rocky and winds downhill. Just make sure to take your time walking down – this way you will be totally fine. Soon the street will be paved again and you are around 40-60min away from Oìa.

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On this final part of the hike you will pass the church Tímios Stavrós that is located at 270m above sea level and then you will be able to spot the city of Oìa and soon reach its borders. Just continue following the path and you will find yourself on Oía’s main street with shops and restaurants. Take a little peek in there, it’s definitely worth it!

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When you arrive in Oìa in the early evening just like we did, you will recognize a huge amount of people rushing to one spot in the city. There is a viewpoint in Oìa from where you have the perfect view of the famous sunset. Of course it is crowded there. You will be surrounded by hundreds of tourists, trying to catch a glimpse of the sunset and taking pictures of it. Just don’t let them disturb you. Enjoy the sunset and block out all the people around you. This sunset is a one in a lifetime experience.

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So, this is it. Me introducing Santorini to you is accomplished! I hope I was able to deliver you an idea of how stunning this little island in the Aegean is. From what I can tell, Santorini is the most breathtaking place on earth that I have seen far. And let me tell you, I have seen a bunch of places!