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Five Fairytale-like Towns in Mainland Greece you must check out!

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Five Fairytale-like Towns in Mainland Greece you must check out!

Everyone in the world knows that the Greek Isles are one of the most breathtaking places on earth!! So much so that the mainland gets completely overshadowed. I mean, why go there when you can go to Crete, Corfu or Santorini?!

Here is a list of some impressive towns on the mainland of Greece to change your mind, as well as your itinerary on your next journey to this Mediterranean gem!

PLAKA NEIGHBORHOOD in ATHENS

Although Plaka is set in the largest city in Greece, this neighborhood gives you a feeling of a small tranquil, cozy town.

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The narrow streets, cafes, restaurants, street artists and shops will provide a nice day in very picturesque surroundings!

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THE METEORA

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Part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thessaly region, the Meteora is an impressive monastery complex on the Mount Athos which actually forms an entire small town!

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Meteora means “suspended in the air” and it is obvious why.  The monastery is built on top of sandstone pillars (almost carved in them) and look like a natural extension of the rocks. It was built by the monks, who inhabited area in the 9th century.

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NAFPLIO

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Nafplio is a popular seaport town in Peloponnese expanding to the hillside near the north end of the Argolic Gulf. It is a popular day trip destination from Athens. Nafplio features traditional Greek architecture, although features from the days of Venetian rule can be found. Sights to see include the clock tower, churches dedicated to saints Nicholas and George and the brightly lit waterfront at night.

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Extremely picturesque, Nafplio definitely give you that Mediterranean holiday vibe with all of the cute cafes and colorful flowers painting the cobblestone streets!

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Nafplio features traditional Greek architecture, although features from the days of Venetian rule can be found. Sights to see include the clock tower, churches dedicated to saints Nicholas and George and the brightly lit waterfront at night.

PARGA

Who says you can only get prestige beaches on the islands?! Parga, located in the northwestern part of the regional area of Preveza in Epirus, boasts several sensational beaches with warm, blue waters. Lichnos and Valtos beaches are considered among the best in Greece, famous for their vast pristine coastline.

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Nestled atop the slopes of Pezovolos hill, one can also find beautiful homes with a Mediterranean/Greek Isle feel attracting vacationers by the loads in the region of Epirus. Among historic architecture, Venetian castles and cozy cafes are abundance throughout the town.

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METSOVO

Half hidden wrapped in a snow blanket as winter sets in, Metsovo practically looks like a painting! Situated in northern Greece, this popular winter destination is great for skiing.

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Although it is a popular winter destination, really, any time is a good time to visit this picturesque village. Start from central square and have a delightful stroll around the cobblestone streets. You can head up to the 15th century church of Agia Paraskevi, famous for its carved wooden temple. Or, you can visit a 17th century castle, a folk art museum or a monastery with a watermill or one with 17th century wall paintings. End the day by sampling locally made cheese and wine.

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I’m not trying to steer you away from the Greek Isles, but these are 5 among 500 astonishing places you might not have thought about checking out on your next voyage to Greece!

~Karen Bahri

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Valletta – Malta’s Unique Capital City!

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Valletta is the Capital city of Malta, I’ve never experienced such an interesting city! You know a native Maltese person when you hear them talk. When they speak English (I actually can’t remember hearing many people speak Maltese, so I can’t speak for that, but I am sure it’s the same..obviously it has to be! lol), they talk in a sing-song style tone – which is the best way I can describe Valletta! It has steep sloping streets…so basically “sing-songy” streets! Baroque to Modern in it’s style and sooo beautiful!! The architecture here is like nothing I have ever seen either!

Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards. The city is essentially Baroque in character with modern elements in selected areas. The Second World War left major scars on the city, particularly the destruction of the Royal Opera House (which I don’t think I saw). The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.

To be honest, I only decided to go because I felt I had to. It’s the capital of the island. A lot of reviews online say it’s worth seeing, but I wasn’t dying to go, so we went one evening thinking a couple hours would be enough. I definitely did not plan that accordingly! A city is a city was my ignorant New York mindset!

Once you arrive in, you are greeted with this big roundabout type thing with some cool art. As fascinated as I was with this big sculpture of a hand holding a bird…..

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And this interesting sculpture with description:

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I stopped everything as I noticed the sun setting behind this wall over a beautiful landscape!

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Definitely spent about 20 minutes there taking pictures and just taking in the view that I lost my travel partner lol.

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From there, there is a main street with tons of designer shops and cafes – many the typical global brands you are familiar with, and some you aren’t. There were musicians blasting loud tunes from their trumpets and various street performers. Something definitely gave this town a very Christmasy type vibe. Christmasy yet caveman lol.

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As I was walking, I kept looking to my left where I noticed through the intersections that if you went down that side you would hit the view of the ocean.

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So we decided to take a detour and check it out (and then get back on the main route and continue down) OMG – even more beautiful streets.

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These streets, all different but with a pattern of steep sloping roads. The architecture was so unique! Valetta is a city with so much character! You picture yourself in some old Kris Kringle meets Flintstones type town back in time, haha! That’s the vibe you get!

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Anyways, was hoping to get a close up, grand view of the sea – but realizing how slopy Valletta is; from the main street we could see the sea, but when we got to the edge there was a barrier that blocked the view, that we didn’t notice from the Main Street, because of the slopes!

We headed back on to the Main Street and found ourselves at a square with a fountain, and we noticed a bunch of cafes and a lively, floral, nicely decorated area to our left.

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We continued straight though because we wanted to go all the way to the end of the city hoping for a view of the sea. Once we passed the square the streets were quieter and more residential. I keep saying this but the architecture was so unique!

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The vehicles were a combination of modern, nice sports cars, classic, old school cars and stuff I have never seen before lol.

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At the edge of the road, there was a turn that sort of led to a wider street. We found the sea there!! The streets went on but we knew we would have gotten lost if we continued, and it was getting late.

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We headed back to the cafe area which was a nice, lively area! Hoping to try something different, perhaps local Maltese cuisine, which we were still trying to figure out what that was, beside Rabbit – yes, their most famous local dish is Rabbit! Italian food is quite common, as is American/British junk food. Unfortunately that’s all we pretty much could find. Don’t go to Malta expecting amazing cuisine. Ohhh, also, for some reason, the chicken is different there. I definitely could not eat it lol. I couldn’t even stand the smell! I don’t know how to explain it, but it just wasn’t right. I think all I ate in Malta was pretty much junky pizza and fries, ugh! Europeans also have a thing for mayonnaise. Mayo, bread and cheese. LOL. Very common in Europe. Finding food was pretty frustrating and being Indian, I need spice. Lots of flaming spice. A lot of places, when I asked for hot sauce, they gave me black pepper…..#fail. They did have good ice cream though!

As we exited, I noticed some ads for Malta Fashion week! I guess I was so mesmerized by the sunset I didn’t notice them when I arrived! Hosted by Mercedes Benz, so it’s pretty legit!

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Valletta is definitely a place I want to go back to and explore more than just a couple hours! I don’t think I would look for a hotel there, as I doubt there are any beach resorts, and thats sort of my thing. I def would go back to Malta, stay at a beach resort in a neighboring area and do a full day trip to Valletta again and get lost in those sloping streets!

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-Karen Bahri

The Coolest Accomodations near the Northern Lights

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The Northern Lights are definitely something one must experience in life. What an incredible experience to witness with your own eyes! To get the best of it, you would want to stay at an equally incredible hotel, but of course! Nature’s most spectacular light show, the Aurora Borealis, can be viewed in a range of purpose-built spaces, from glass igloos to luxury suites. Some fun ways to experience the Northern Lights, if you can take on the cold, are snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling as well as a dog sled tour. If you are not so adventurous though, and hate the cold, here’s a list of places you really wouldn’t have to leave the comfort of to experience the Northern Lights. I broke it down to Finland, Iceland and a bonus track from Sweden, because otherwise we would be here forever!

 

FINNISH LAPLAND

Arctic TreeHouse Hotel

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Located on the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Lapland, this resort has individual Arctic TreeHouse suites. They are housed in exclusive Scandinavian wooden design, which combines local tradition and Lappish heritage. With one side comprised of a panoramic window you get spectacular views over the treetops! The units rest on short stilts and overlook a shallow valley, with a clear view of the Northern Lights.

https://santaparkarcticworld.com/arctic-treehouse-hotel

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

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This igloo village contains igloos made of glass, which have been designed so that windows don’t frost over or steam up. During the coldest part of the season, the accommodation range extends to traditional snow igloos, providing the option of a more authentic Lapland experience! Also, this hotel has ski-to-door access and ski equipment, bike rental and car rental are available as well as lots of other activities!

http://www.kakslauttanen.fi 

Levin Iglut

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This Lapland hotel also offers glass igloos from which to observe the Arctic skies in comfort. It also offers a part-subterranean Northern Lights House – complete with large windows enabling you to watch the lights play. Guests can also choose to enjoy the kaleidoscope above from the house’s private terrace, where a hot tub provides comfort from the cold winter evenings.

ICELAND

5 Million Star Hotel

When I give my five million dollar advice to people, I often say not to live life in a bubble – but this time, I’m telling you to please live life in a bubble!!

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About 1.5 to 2 hours east of Reykjavik by car, the 5 Million Star Hotel offers five individual bubble rooms to watch as the Northern Lights dance over the night sky! Each bubble—named Una, Asta, Thorunn, Valdis, and Maria—is kept inflated by a slight over-pressure from a noiseless ventilation system that also prevents humidity. They also include heating elements with a thermostat so the bubble stays warm all winter. That’s key, given the remote location of all the bubbles and the fact average daily temperatures dip to 28 degrees Fahrenheit in January. The bubbles are totally transparent, but privacy is maintained by ensuring that no other rooms ever overlook a guest’s space – also to maintain privacy, the company does not provide the exact address of the pods until after they have been booked and secured with a down payment. What an out of this world experience to be resting in your bubble as the Northern lights shine directly above you! INSANEEE!!!!

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https://www.buubble.com/

ION Luxury Adventure

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An abandoned inn turned boutique, eco-friendly hotel in Iceland, the ION Luxury Adventure Hotel’s concrete and glass facade rises from the Icelandic landscape like a set piece in a science fiction fantasy! This amazingness is where modern design meets Iceland’s incomparable natural landscape. The hotel provides a peaceful and remote escape with stunning architecture, access to spectacular natural sights like glaciers, volcanoes, and lakes as well as amazing views of the Northern Lights.

http://ioniceland.is/

Hotel Ranga

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This hotel is in a geographical region that has very favorable conditions for viewing the Northern Lights. Built log-cabin style, the traditional design of this countryside hotel (two hours from Reykjavik) offers cozy and intimate interiors. Guests are met in reception by the sight of a polar bear statue towering more than 10ft-high! Upstairs, a balcony wraps around the hotel’s bar, at night providing a backdrop of twinkling stars and, if you’re lucky, the green shimmer of the Northern Lights.

https://www.hotelranga.is/

Northern Lights Inn

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Visitors to the Northern Lights Inn are provided with detailed aurora forecasts and enjoy impressive views from the panoramic windows of the hotel’s restaurant. The inn is just a short walk from the hot-springs of the island’s famous Blue Lagoon. If you’re lucky, you can bathe in the waters of the spring and watch as solar winds trail ribbons of green light through the thermosphere!

http://www.nli.is/welcome

SWEDEN

Icehotel

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I am pretty sure I posted about this a while ago if you follow my Instagram (karenskaleidoscope – followwww). Icehotel is a world famous hotel and an art exhibition made entirely of ice and snow. Annually constructed, The Icehotel offers the ultimate cool accommodation! Guests can nap wrapped in thermal sleeping bags atop beds of reindeer skins, as the temperature inside hovers between -5C and -8C. There are more traditional rooms and chalets for the less adventurous. The hotel offers overnight excursions in search of the Northern Lights, and guests can choose between a snowmobile or their very own howling dog sled team! The Icehotel is famous for creating incredible sculptures of art out of the ice! Definitely something you HAVE to check out!!

https://www.icehotel.com/

This is just a small list of accommodations to consider so you can lie back, open your eyes and get lost in the intricacies of the zodiac and if possible, the kaleidoscope of the Northern Lights! The Northern Lights should be on anyone’s bucket-list who enjoy exploring the phenomenal mystery of mother nature!

-Karen Bahri