Virpazar on Lake Skadar: Montenegro’s Wine Destination.

Dan and I finally vacationed in Montenegro earlier this year! I had been dreaming of going to Montenegro for seriously like 10 years, and I was really excited to execute this trip! In planning, and in my last 10 years of Montenegro dreams, I mainly focused on the Adriatic coast: the Bay of Kotor, Budva, Petrovac, and Sveti Stefan. When actually planning our trip, however, I learned that Montenegro has much more to offer than its gorgeous coastline, including a really good wine industry. Yes, who knew?! The center of Montenegro’s wine industry is the tiny town of Virpazar, so we promptly booked a stay in Virpazar as part of our trip.

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Virpazar on Lake Skadar.

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Wareontheglobe’s Guide To Holidaying In Perast, Montenegro.

I have wanted to visit the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro for years, and I finally went for a week for Dan and my 2nd wedding anniversary this past August! We spent 11 days in Montenegro and Belgrade, Serbia, with most of those days in Perast, Montenegro. Perast, and the Kotor Bay in general, were even more beautiful than I imagined, and I highly recommend them as an “off the beaten path” destination for travelers.

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View from our room at Hotel Conte in Perast, Montenegro.

PERAST, MONTENEGRO

For those unfamiliar with Perast, which I am assuming is most people reading this blog (ha), Perast is a tiny, tiny town on the Kotor Bay in Montenegro. Perast is located about 30 minutes from Kotor, Montenegro and 1.5 hours from Dubrovnik, Croatia. Currently, Perast only has a population of around 400, but it has loads of history and a very Venetian feel, which makes sense, as Perast was part of the Venetian empire. Perast was also home to one of the best sailing schools in the world and historically educated some of the most well-regarded sailors. To date, Perast maintains the feel of a small fisherman’s village, but the look of a super swanky and expensive destination.

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Sailing waters.

While today Perast is mostly a tourist town, its well worth a visit. Perast has only one main road, running right along the Bay, with most businesses being located right on this road. The entirety of the town can be walked in 20 minutes, but you should spend at least few hours soaking in the city. Its charming and you will want to stay longer. If visiting from neighboring Kotor, plan to spend a half-day, including lunch at Restaurant Conte.

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Perast’s main street on a summer evening.

WHERE TO STAY IN PERAST, MONTENEGRO

Perast has many hotels, plenty for all the tourists in town, yet does not feel overly touristy or crowded. Since there are many options in choosing a Perast hotel, I would look for the following characteristics: 1. Is there air conditioning (since Perast’s buildings are old, some do not have this amenity) 2. Is there a pool? A pool is useful in the hot summer, especially since there is no proper beach in Perast. 3. Location of the hotel and your room. As buildings in Perast are old, many hotels have rooms in multiple buildings, and hardly any hotels have elevators. Confirm you are staying on the ground level if you have trouble with stairs. That being said, many hotels have golf carts to transport visitors around town (just call the front desk) and will have a strong local insist on carrying your luggage to your room (don’t forget to tip!).

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Stairs to our room in Hotel Conte.

We stayed at the lovely Hotel Conte, which we absolutely adored!! Hotel Conte’s main building is located next to Restaurant Conte in the center of town, but its guest rooms are spread out in several buildings . Our room was located high in the town over looking the Kotor Bay – what a treat!

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More views from our room.

Hotel Conte offered American-style air conditioning and a pool just outside of our room. Hotel Conte also had golf carts to drive guests around town and the staff insisted on carrying our luggage to and from our room, so the stairs were not a problem. If you do have mobility issues however, be sure to ask for a ground level room.

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The gorgeous pool out side our room.

In terms of other hotels, most seemed locally owned and quite charming. The only chain we saw was an Iberostar outpost, which also had a golf cart driving guests around. One downside of staying on the Kotor Bay, no loyalty chains here.

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Said golf carts for transporting hotel guests around town.

WHERE TO EAT IN PERAST, MONTENEGRO

If you talk to a Kotor Bay local, they will tell you that Perast has some of the best food on the Bay, and recommend a meal in one of Perast’s many waterfront restaurants. At least that’s what several locals told us! And they weren’t wrong; Perast has a string of waterfront restaurants right on the Bay, which make for particularly romantic sunset dinners. Our favorite was Restaurant Conte, where we ate twice! Reservations for more popular restaurants are recommended for sunset, especially on the weekends during high season. However, since there are so many restaurants, you should be able to find a table on most days even for dinner during high season. Most restaurants feature a similar menu of seafood, pasta, and pizza, showcasing Italy’s influence on Perast.

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Anniversary dinner at Restaurant Conte.

Restaurant Conte. We stayed at Hotel Conte, which is attached to Restaurant Conte, and dined here twice. Conte’s speciality is seafood, and more than one person told us that this is the best seafood restaurant in town. Both of our meals and service were excellent. Make a reservation if you want to sit on the water like us; Conte books up.

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Squid ink risotto. A speciality of the general area.

Konoba Skolji. Just off the water, Konoba Skolji specializes in Balkan meats, as well as seafood. Meat is cooked in an outdoor grill, which definitely catches the eye. We choose this restaurant based on several reviews I read online. Unfortunately, neither of us loved our meals at Konoba Skolji. We found them to be fine, but nothing to write home about. That being said, Konoba Skolji is good alternative if you don’t want seafood or pizza.

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Octopus salad at Konoba Skolji.

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Truffle Pasta at Konoba Skolji.

Bocalibre Pizza. A quick and casual pizza restaurant in a pretty courtyard. The dinner pizzas were just OK. The banana-Nutella dessert pizza, however, was out of this world. No reservations needed.

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A BBQ Sauce based pizza at Bocalibre.

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That banana and Nutella pie!

Pirate Bar. A simple beach bar serving hamburgers and a few fried things. We only had sunset drinks here, but the Pirate Bar would be useful for a quick lunch or for those traveling with children.

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View from Pirate’s Bar.

WHAT TO DO IN PERAST MONTENEGRO

Perast is best for relaxing, strolling the town’s sole road, sipping a cafe of an adult beverage, and popping into the few shops in town. One end of town to the other only takes about 15 minutes, but its a fun stroll and there are numerous shops and cafes for breaks. Be sure to try the Pomegranate wine from the little wine stand – a local sweet wine!

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Tiny Perast.

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The local pomegranate wine.

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Walking through town.

In terms of actual sight-seeing, Perast’s St. Nikola Church houses an interesting bell tower that tourists can climb, as well as a small maritime museum.

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Bell Tower of Perast’s St. Nikola Church.

 

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Perast’s Museum.

However, Perast’s main attraction is located on a small man-made island just off Perast’s coast in the Bay – St. George Island and Our Lady of the Rocks. Both are small man made islands in the Bay of Kotor that are best seen from Perast. Tourists cannot (well, are not supposed to) access St. George Island, as its a working monastery. However, tourists are welcome to visit Our Lady of the Rocks, which houses a gorgeous church with paintings by Tripo Kokolja, a Baroque artist from Perast, and a really interesting art museum. 

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Our Lady of the Rocks.

Legend has it that Our Lady of the Rocks Island started as a “pile of rocks” when some local fisherman saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. After that sighting, fisherman continued adding rocks to until the island formed. Entrance to the island is by small boat from Perast that leave almost constantly during the day in high season. The island is also home to decently clean public WCs. Entry is a few Euros, as is the boat shuttle. Plan to spend 30 minutes to an hour on the island.

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From the front – gorgeous chapel.

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The ceiling in Our Lady of the Rocks.

While Perast lacks a proper beach, the Pirate bar referenced above is a beach club and offers access to the Bay, as well as lounge chairs right on the water. If we had stayed longer, I would have spent a day here on the water. 

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Wholeheartedly agree with this sign.

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Pirate Bar.

HOW LONG TO STAY IN PERAST

How long one stays in Perast is really a matter of personal opinion. Perast is one of those places where you take it slow, enjoy the views, and simply relax. We stayed 5 days, but you could certainly linger. I felt that 5 days gave us enough time to see Perast and the highlights of the Kotor Bay, without feeling rushed. 

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Pretty Perast.

If you are visiting as a day trip from a neighboring town, you can stay anywhere from a couple hours to a full day. The town can be walked in less than an hour, but it takes a while to get to the islands and you will certainly want to enjoy a seaside meal.

EXCURSIONS FROM PERAST

While public transportation is limited to the Blue Line bus route, tourists wanting to take excursions and willing to pay for a taxi will find Perast a good base. On our trip, we took a day trip to Dubrovnik (via private car), spent a 1/2 day in Kotor (via the Blue Line bus), and spent an afternoon in Herceg Novi (via taxi). We also did a 6 hour Bay tour from Kotor (again, via the Blue Line bus).

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Day trip to Herceg Novi – at Savina Winery.

The one negative about taking excursions from Perast is that its expensive. Staying in Kotor will be easier (and less expensive) if you want to take many excursions around the area. There are lots of companies in Kotor offering day tours and excursions, as well as a more robust public transportation system.

HOW TO GET TO PERAST AND PRACTICALITIES

The closest airport to Perast is the Tivat International Airport in Montenegro, which is about 25 minutes from Perast. Coordinate with your hotel to arrange for a taxi.  Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital, has a larger international airport. Podgorica is about an hour drive from Perast. I prefer to fly into Tivat to save time, but I would fly into Podgorica if it was easier or much cheaper.

While not a member of the European Union, Montenegro uses the Euro and ATMs distribute Euros.

If you rent a car, which many people do and can be helpful in Montenegro (we did not), know that cars are not allowed in Perast during the summer season. Cars must park on either side of town. Some hotels claim to have private parking lots.

Once in Perast, the Blue Line local bus service runs between Perast and Kotor, where you can connect to other bus lines. The Blue Line picks up at Restaurant Conte and comes about once an hour. Check with your hotel for the current schedule (it picked up on the half-hour when we were there). We found the bus to be very punctual. Tickets were about 2 Euro per person, paid directly to the driver.

There are currently no ride-sharing apps (like Uber or Lyft) in the Kotor Bay. However, there are tons of taxi companies, which will drive you all over the Kotor Bay if you are willing to pay. Coordinate with your hotel to call a taxi and confirm the average cost. If a taxi picks you up since there are no cars in Perast, you meet the taxi driver just outside of town near the Pirate Bar.

Everyone in the tourist industry speaks English. English speakers will have no trouble getting around.

There is exactly 1 ATM (outside Hotel Conte) in Perast and no Pharmacies. Bring essentials or buy in neighboring Kotor (20 bus ride).

Perast is extremely safe.

In case you aren’t ready to jump on a plane just yet, here are some more of my favorite pics from Perast!

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Cute little bike.

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Perast is so pretty.

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Old streets.

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One more of Perast.

STEAL OUR TRIP

Hotel and Restaurant Conte: Obala Kapetana Marka Martinovića BB
85336 Perast, Crna Gora. Reservations recommended for restaurant, especially to sit right on the water. Hotel reservations via the linked website. Breakfast at the hotel is awesome – included with most rooms, 10 Euro per person otherwise and to the public.

Konoba Skolji: Open daily 11 – 23. Close to Bocalibre. Reservations not needed.

Bocalibre: Located near the Wisteria Cafe, to the left of Hotel Conte when facing the water. Open daily – 23h. Reservations not needed. Budget friendly.

Pirates Beach Bar: Located near the parking lot just outside town (5 – 10 minute walk from Hotel Conte). Open daily 8 – 21 during summer season only. Reservations not required. 

Taking The Scenic Route To The Top Of Kotor, Montenegro!

Kotor is an old triangle-shaped, walled town on the Kotor Bay in Montenegro. Its the most well-known and well-touristed town on the Kotor Bay, and probably in all of Montenegro, despite its small size. Why you may ask, especially if you’ve never heard of Kotor (or possibly even Montenegro)? 1. Kotor, and the Kotor Bay, are totally stunning and make for a gorgeous vacation destination. 2. Kotor is now on the Adriatic cruise ship circuit and smaller (but not that small) cruise ships dock in Kotor for the day. 3. Rick Steves has written a lot about Kotor, and its an easy day trip from neighboring Dubrovnik. In sum, people know Kotor and its a busy destination. If you want off the beaten path, stay down the road in Perast, like we did! That being said, nothing beats the views from Kotor and its a terribly lovely place to spend a day.

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Kotor, Montenegro in a photograph.

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Airport Lounge Review: Business Club, Belgrade Nikola Tesla, Serbia.

Dan and I flew through Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport this summer on our vacation to Montenegro. We connected in Belgrade after flying Air Serbia’s sole transatlantic flight from JFK, which is almost 10 hours long… Landing in the morning, we exhausted tired and ready for a rest and some food before flying the last 45 minutes to Tivat, Montenegro (50 minutes, also via Air Serbia).  

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Final destination: Perast, Montenegro.

Lucky for us, or so I thought, the Belgrade airport is home to a Priority Pass lounge, and not much else. After deplaning, we found the Business Club pretty easily; it was located quite close to where we entered the airport. Delirious, we did not do much looking around aside from locating the lounge.

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Welcome to the Belgrade Business Club!

Checkin to the Business Club was quick and easy. We simply presented our boarding pass and Priority Pass card. A quick swipe and we were in! 

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Getting settled in the Business Club.

The Business Club is on the smaller side, and you can view the entire lounge at checkin.   The lounge is separated into three main parts: a food service area, an eating and business area, and a lounging area.  The most comfortable of these 3 areas is what I dub the lounging area. This area is slightly removed from the food and is filled with couch-like chairs and sofas. There are numerous coffee/end tables in this area, too, and it makes for a comfortable place to relax before your flight.  There are TVs scattered throughout this area playing CNN. This area was pretty crowded when we landed on Saturday morning, so we set up shop in the business/food area (yes, odd pairing).

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The kitchen/business area.

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Crowded lounge area.

The business portion of the business/food area is comprised of several kitchen-style tables that are perfect for eating and drinking, they also make a good desk for getting some work done (there’s the combo!).  Just behind these tables is a row of computers that can apparently be used for working. However, I didn’t see anyone using the computers when we visited.

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Computers for use.

Next to the business area is the food, which I found to be lacking. We visited the Business Club twice during breakfast hours, which once spilled into lunch. At breakfast, the food options are slim, with a cold buffet and a few slices of cold cuts and cheese playing the starring role. There were also some pre-packaged tuna sandwiches in one of the fridges and some odd salad fixings. Hard pass.

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Serbian meats.

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Salad?

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The aforementioned tuna sandwiches.

When lunch rolled around, the lounge staff, who were very nice, set out soup, pasta, and rice. Nothing looked too appetizing or tasty, so I skipped it all around. I believe Dan tried some of the pasta. He didn’t get sick, so that’s a win.

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Lunch food.

The drink set-up was only slightly better, although since it was so early, I didn’t properly explore all the options. There was a decent espresso machine, as well as soft drinks and plenty of bottled flat and sparking water. There was also this really popular Serbian energy drink called Guarana. Dan tried one and seemed to like it. It was all the rage in Belgrade!

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Non-alcoholic beverages.

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More non-alcoholic beverages.

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Guarana Serbian energy drink.

In terms of alcohol, I was excited to try the wine after noticing a sweet set-up in walking in.  To my disappointment, this was simply a set-up and there were only single bottles of wine in the mini-fridges, as well as a few types of beer, including Leffe (not bad!). There was, however, a decent display of rakijaa, but it was all warm…. I would note that people were still drinking it, and I probably could have found some ice.

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Rakijaa spread.

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The faux wine spread.

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Well-known Serbian wine from Aleksic – we visited this winery later in the trip!

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Beer and water.

In addition to the above, the lounge has a small bookshelf with reading materials and basic clean WCs and the staff was pleasant and constantly replaced the limited food options. In a small, not-great airport, the Business Lounge was a welcome distraction and an easy place to waste a few hours. I probably would not pay to enter, unless I planned to drink a lot of warm rakija!

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Reading materials.

STEAL OUR LOUNGE

Business Club Nikola Tesla Belgrade Airport: Between Gates A4 & A5. Open 5h30 – 13h. Complimentary access to Priority Pass members.

One Day in Kings Landing – 10 Years After My First Visit to Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Dubrovnik is Croatian city on the very southern tip of Croatia, just north of Montenegro and across the Adriatic from Bari, Italy. Dubrovnik is split into two parts: New Town, the modern part of town with swanky hotels and restaurants, and Old Town, the beautiful walled part of the city that stars as Kings Landing in Game of Thrones starting in Season 2 (it was filmed in Mdina, Malta in Season 1). Both are worthy of your time.

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Welcome to Dubrovnik!

With crystal clear green water and warm temperatures from May – early October, Dubrovnik has been a popular European and Russian vacation destination for decades, until the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when Dubrovnik sustained significant war damage. Rebuilt and open for business since the early 2000s, Dubrovnik is back as a major vacation player and home to two busy cruise ports. Rick Steves famously named Dubrovnik “The Pearl of the Adriatic.” As a result of its newfound popularity, tourists are flocking to the city in droves and the Old Town can get crazy busy, especially during the height of summer. If you haven’t yet been to Dubrovnik, you’ve definitely “missed the boat” on this exotic destination, but its still a city worthy of a few days, especially as part of a larger Croatian or Balkan itinerary.

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Old Town Dubrovnik.

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Kotor Bay Wine Tasting: Savina Winery, Herceg Novi, Montenegro.

Surprising to many, myself included, Montenegro makes good, yet relatively unknown, red, white, and rose wine from both foreign grapes (although grown in Montenegro) and a handful of indigenous grapes found only in Montenegro. The most popular indigenous grape is the Vranac grape, which is used in red wine and is easily found in local restaurants and wine shops throughout Montenegro. Vranac, and generally all the wines that we tasted in Montenegro, was quite good. Outside of Montenegro, however, they are difficult, if not impossible, to find. Even Dan, my wine snob, liked Montenegrin wine!

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Montenegrin grape vines.

Since we love wine and wine tasting, I was on the hunt for Montenegrin wineries throughout our entire trip to Montenegro. I was pleased to find a number of wineries offering visits to tourists, but Savina was the only working professional winery that I found (via Trip Advisor) close to Perast, where we stayed for the majority of our trip. As soon as I read the reviews, I promptly booked a tasting via email. It sounded lovely!

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Savina corks.

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Al-Sahaby Lane: A Fun Dinner In Luxor, Egypt.

Al-Sahaby Lane is a good, while touristy, Egyptian restaurant right in the middle of Luxor, very close to the Luxor tourist souk and within walking distance of the river cruise port and the Temple of Luxor. Al-Sahaby Lane is located on the roof of the Nefertiti Hotel (there are many steps and I did not see an elevator). Reservations are not required and the restaurant is most certainly casual.

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Entrance to Al Sah-aby Lane from the street.

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Highlights of Aswan: A Pleasant Surprise In Southern Egypt

Aswan, Egypt. Its a small city in Southern Egypt, home to the High Aswan Dam, an unfinished obelisk, the Philae Temple, and the Old Cataract Hotel (of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile fame). Its also a really gorgeous city set along the Nile River and the gateway to Abu Simbel. The locals were friendly and, notably (and somewhat surprisingly), it felt more progressive than the other cities that we visited in Egypt. For all of these reasons, I loved Aswan, and I would love to go back and spend more time.

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Pretty flowers everywhere in Aswan.

We visited Aswan at the end of a 5-night Nile River cruise earlier this year. I knew nothing – at all – about Aswan prior to visiting and would have certainly skipped Aswan absent our cruise itinerary. However, I am so glad we stopped, as it was the prettiest city that we visited in Egypt! I kept saying that it reminded me of a Greek island. And it really did!

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Mdina, Malta: One Of The Most Gorgeous Cities I Have Ever Visited.

Mdina, Malta is a walled, hilltop town on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, which stood as the capital of Malta until the Medieval period. Mdina is commonly known as the “Silent City,” its a UNESCO site, and Mdina is a hugely popular tourist destination in Malta. More importantly, its also Kings Landing from the first season of Game of Thrones!!!!

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Mdina or Kings Landing?

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A Day Trip To The Abu Simbel Temples – Worth The Time And Effort.

Prior to planning our trip to Egypt, I hardly knew anything about Abu Simbel. Yes, I had heard of it and I *kind of* knew what it looked like, but nothing more. At all. But, as soon as I dug into Abu Simbel, a visit was absolutely non-negotiable. Planning this “must do” activity turned out to be more work than anticipated, as its a flight from Cairo or Luxor or 6-hour round trip drive from Aswan! In any case, we worked it out and it was one of both Dan and my favorite activities in Egypt, rivaling even the pyramids!

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Shara sunrise en route to Abu Simbel.

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