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The Scandinavia countries had always been a top priority on my bucket list. I had heard nothing but positive things about this part of Europe and decided that I just had to go and experience it for myself!
It was The Scandi Express tour offered by Top Deck which at the time really triggered my motivation to book a trip there. I began by flying into Germany, basing myself in Berlin and exploring all of the iconic attractions on offer before driving via bus to Copenhagen in Denmark. I’m not entirely sure what it was about this incredible city, but it had an instant charm that I had never felt in any other city. Copenhagen was without a doubt my favourite city to date! The people were incredibly hospitable, the food was to die for and the architecture… well it was all absolutely amazing!
Stockholm, Sweden was next and equally as amazing with all the delicious food and fascinating museums. Oslo, Norway was the next country to tick off the list and there were some seriously cool attractions to see here too. The national museum in Oslo portrayed a ship and iceberg, I reached speeds of 110km/hr bobsleighing down the Winter Olympic track in Lillehammer and I visited Nordkapp (the most Northern tip of Europe) where if you are lucky enough, can experience the Northern Lights.
Topping this trip off, I travelled into Helsinki, Finland before finishing up in Estonia. Travelling with Top deck was ultimately the best thing I have ever done. The tour leader was extremely helpful and knowledgeable, the whole group clicked from day dot and some of my best mates are now from that tour. I honestly could not fault this trip and would re-do it in a heartbeat if I could!!
I travelled to South Africa in 2014 and spent around three and a half weeks there, predominantly exploring Johannesburg. A city full of history and a rich culture, it is an eye-opening destination, nonetheless.
Cape-town was easily my favourite city, very touristy with many symbolic South African attractions. Table Mountain stands as an iconic backdrop to the coastal city which can be accessed by a 64-person revolving gondola. Situated just a short boat trip off the coast and visible from Table Mountain is Robben Island, home of the infamous prison that incarcerated Nelson Mandela for 18 years. There are tours once inside, led by some of Mandela’s ex inmates. An absolute privilege and a true highlight of my trip.
One of the most rewarding parts of this trip was the opportunity to travel to and stay inside Kruger National Park for 3 days. Brushing up against elephants as big as our car and being woken up by lions roaring as the sun rose was invaluable and something you need to experience first-hand. Beats a zoo any day!!
Lastly, I visited Durban, it has a very beachy vibe to it. If you love big waves, surfing and want to try swimming with sharks then this destination definitely needs to be put on your bucket list.
I would recommend that first time travellers going to South Africa join a guided tour. Alternatively, knowing somebody that is familiar with the local area and suburbs would be advantageous too.
Think of all the postcards and pictures you’ve seen of Spain and Portugal. Then think real life, that is reality. No photo enhancement, no filters. What you see is what you get.
I travelled into Madrid initially and spent a couple of days here. My first taste of the capital city was a delicious one, trying the local cuisine of Paella. Exploring is endless, there is just so much to see and do there.
My next destination was Seville down the South of Spain. The weather was constantly warm and sunny, so if you are looking to escape the winter blast this city is a must for you! Seville was an extremely walkable city so there was plenty of exploring to be done on foot. If you have the time, I highly recommend making your way further South into Gibraltar. A piece of advice would definitely be remembering your passport as there is a border crossing – I learnt the hard way. To enter this British Territory, you do walk right across an active airport runway, so remain vigilant. This place was incredible. The locals were British, the streets were British, and they do use the pound. A taste of London away from London so to speak. An absolute must is climbing the Rock of Gibraltar, famously known for being the 426m tall rock, visible from everywhere in the Gibraltar township and home of the wild Barbary macaques - the only wild monkey population on the European continent.
After travelling around Spain, we decided that it would only be appropriate visiting their neighbours, Portugal. Believe me, it did not disappoint. I visited all of the major cities including Porto, Lisbon, Sintra and the capital Lisbon. Each city was unique, exceeding my expectations.
Lisbon was amazing! They have an identical Golden Gate Bridge there, hence why this capital city is called the San Francisco of Europe.
Although Sintra was roughly an hour taxi ride, it was well worth it! Most famous for being home to the National Palace of Sintra. Situated high in the mountains and the bright colours means you can’t miss it!