Turkey— the county, not the bird, is a place of rich histories and stunning architecture. Bordering 8 countries, it’s a melting pot of cultures and people. Turkey is one of the main stops of the silk road, making it an important trading destination. Till today, the mercantile character of the country remains, manifesting itself through the various markets and bazaars that are bustling with traders who insist that he is giving you a good deal. It is also a place of spectacular landscapes, from the alien landscapes of Cappadocia to the ruins of Ephesus, Turkey is certainly a very diverse and interesting country. Here’s my guide and itinerary on what to see and where to stay in Turkey.
11 nights of Moroccan magic and awe
Morocco, or officially known as the kingdom of Morocco is a wonderful place to visit. Apart from the romanticised imaginaries of its supposed Arabic wonders, it really is full of rich and diverse cultures and traditions. Previously colonised by the French, many Moroccans are fluent in French and it remains as one of their official language. English and Berber, their native tongue is also widely spoken.
A big shout out to the food of Morocco which I miss every day! I had the most succulent chicken EVER.
Here’s the itinerary I used for my amazing 11 nights in Morocco:
Nights 1-3: Marrakesh
We stayed in Riad Vanilla Sma, a boutique hotel that I cannot rave enough about. The rooms were immaculately designed and the hosts were simply amazing and personable! In Marrakesh, spend a day or two wandering around the medina, go shopping in the souks and hire a tuk-tuk to visit some of the attractions.
Another option would be to take a day trip to Ourika Valley. Situated at the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains and 60km away from Marrakesh, Ourika Valley serves as an escape from the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh.
Amidst the chaos of the medina, I would highly recommend you to arrange for transport options with your hotel prior to your arrival. The Marrakesh airport, for me, was not a very pleasant experience. Taxi drivers were charging exorbitant prices and worse still, we were lost in the median just within the virgin hours of our arrival. Not good. Trust me, just go for the hotel transport options.
Nights 4-7: Sahara
On the morning of our 4th day in amazing Morocco, we took an EPIC Roadtrip to the Sahara Desert. We took the snaking roads cutting through the high atlas, stopped by Ait Ben Haddou, AKA Yunkai in the popular Game of Thrones series and explored underground Kasbahs in Tamegroute.
Since the journey to the desert was simply too long, we overnight-ed at Zagora and explored a Berber market in M’hamid the next day. This was truly a treat as traditionally, females were not allowed and this market only occurs every Wednesday, take note if you’re keen!
Finally, after approximately 7 hours, we arrived at the Sahara Desert and it was nothing short of magical. I would recommend spending a minimum of two nights day to make the most out of your time. After all, you did travel 7 hours.
At this point, I must note that we went to the Erg Chigaga sand dunes which were to the South of Marrakesh. Some tours do visit the Erg Chebbi sand dunes which are up North of Marrakesh. Personally, I’ve never been there but many online sources do advise against it. It is more convenient if you are headed to Fes after, but for the experience alone, I would really recommend Erg Chigaga.
Night 8: Marrakesh
After your fantastic albeit rugged experience, in the desert, take some time to enjoy the civilisation which Marrakesh offers.
Night 9-11: Fes
Fes, the second largest city in Morocco and home to the oldest university, Fes promises an insight to the rich history and culture of Morocco. From Marrakesh, there are two options to get to Fes. The first was a 7-hour train ride and the second would be to hire a car and make a 5-hour journey via the highway. I chose the latter since the train rides seems more tedious and effectively meant that I would lose a day. I made a stop at Casablanca along the way, which really didn’t have much of interest to me. I was also promptly harassed by a group of teenage boys. Classy.
After an exhausting journey, we were finally there. We stayed in Riad Fes which was quite exorbitantly priced. Perhaps I might have enjoyed cheaper and more personable accommodation options. Home to two medinas, you might want to spend more time getting lost in the winding, unassuming streets. If not, you could visit roman ruins and holy cities with a day trip out to Volubilis and Meknes.
If I could have done this part any differently, I would have added an extra day to overnight in Chefchaoeun. Chefchaouen is an amazing blue town, just 3 hours away from Fes by car (which has legalised marijuana just btw). I was scared off by the long duration and decided against spending a total of 6 hours in the car, the long car rides to the Sahara were enough thank you very much.
So there you have it! Share this with someone you’d like to explore Morocco with and let me know how you might have done it differently!
15 nights of South African adventure
We were in South Africa for a total of 15 nights during their winter of '15. Since South Africa is so far away, for us at least, we decided to stay for longer. That’s also the reason why we decided to go for two safaris instead of one.
We did book with a travel agent, Joyce from Jacada Travel, because this was effectively my first trip to Africa (shock and horror! Will it be like in those UNICEF commercials?). After doing a lot of research and discussion with Joyce, we decided that our best plan of action was to split the safaris as well, just in case we missed civilization. Jacada was absolutely amazing though, we loved their attention to detail and restaurant recommendations. They made our trip absolutely seamless!
Nights 1-4: Phinda Private Game Reserve, Mountain Lodge
We started the day with a half day tour around Johannesburg before catching our flight to Richards Bay. It was then another 2 hour drive to Phinda. This was an excruciatingly exhausting day, especially since our luggage was lost initially in Johannesburg airport. Not fun.
It went uphill when we arrived in Phinda Mountain Lodge, an &beyond property. This was where we saw cheetahs, nosy giraffes, zebras, buffalos, the critically endangered black rhino, horny elephants and were almost eaten by lions! Phinda is home to the famous big five and offers excellent game viewing with spectacular backdrops.
Basically, I wanted to do one safari in Kruger and something different somewhere else. We also looked at Tsuwalu which is in the Kalahari (they have Meerkats!) but unfortunately, they did not have family rooms which really put us off.
Nights 5-8: Cape Town, Sea Five Boutique Hotel
We took a 3 hour car die to Durban airport. Did nothing at Durban and flew to Cape Town where we checked into Sea Five Boutique Hotel. Camps Bay was a wonderful area to stay in but Airbnb might be a better (and cheaper) option for accom. Here are some that I was eyeing for future visits: a Spanish villa, a 3-bedroom villa and this amazing villa with sweeping views
Cape Town was a diverse and interesting place. When in Cape Town, you could take a hike up Table Mountain, stroll alongV&A waterfront, do a walking food tour, visit the Cape of Good Hope and boulders beach, the list goes on!
Nights 9-11: Winelands, La Cles de Montagnes
The winelands were especially nice that time of the year, the leaves were a myriad of red, brown and yellow hues. It didn't help that La Cles de Montagnes was so beautiful. I also got drunk a fair bit with two full days of tastings. With more than 700 wineries, you can definitely find something that you like. The only problem is time.
Nights 12-15: Kruger National Park, Ngala tented camp
Kruger national park is one of South Africa’s largest game reserve, it is quite different from Phinda in terms of landscape and the sheer number of animals (Kruger has more). We stayed in Ngala tented camp, one of those Glamping shenanigans, also an &beyond property. It was quite enthralling to be able to sleep next to roaring lions but also quite daunting to shower in the open.
So, there you have it! South Africa in 15 nights! I hope you'd find this sample itinerary useful, tell me how you would do it differently!