Have You Ever Heard of the Azores?

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Surprisingly, most of my friends did not even know about the existence of the Azores, and could not guess the location. Those who know about this fantastic archipelago, who at least once saw the photos, unanimity claim that this is a fabulous place!

Tea plantation on San Miguel Island
Tea plantation on San Miguel Island

I first found out about the Azores a year ago. I saw a photo of hydrangeas growing along the road and fell in love with the view. In my town, only flower shops have hydrangeas; and here they grow like regular bushes along the road. Then I began to look for the location of the Azores and came across information about the island of Sao Miguel. I could not even dream that I would get here in a year!

Why you should choose the Azores

Located in the center of the Atlantic, between Europe and America, is the Azores archipelago of nine islands. For example, from the main island, the flight to Boston last only five hours!

Sao Miguel is called the Green Island. Not surprisingly, remembered for a lifetime are the views of the lush green plants. It is the largest of the Azores; its length is 75 kilometers, and the tire is 14 kilometers.

Road to the Furnas village on San Miguel
Road to the Furnas village on San Miguel

If you are interested in a beach holiday, this direction is hardly suitable for you. Of course, there are some beaches here, but the weather does not always dispose of it. In the winter the average temperature is 14 degrees and in the summer, 21! A very mild climate, but with character. Most of the time, clouds gather over the islands – they “cling” to the mountains. And you may not be surprised if the pouring rain will go on for five minutes, and then the sun will shine brightly for ten minutes; then everything will fog up, and it will rain again, and then the sun will return. Oh, to predict the weather on the Azores is not possible! Therefore, every day in a backpack, you need to have sunscreen, sunglasses, and a raincoat!

Fog over Lago do Fogo
Fog over Lago do Fogo

There are very few tourists on the island, so if you want to visit a non-banal direction, you will like it here! It is quiet and calm, and civilization has hardly touched wildlife.

How to get to the Azores

The easiest way to get to the Azores is by plane. Several airlines fly from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada, and it’s easy to find a flight. Just two hours and you’re on a fabulous Green Island! Also, in the warmer months, you can come here by ferry.

Transport

On the island, you can rent a car, use public transport, or touristic. And now more about each island:

In the capital city, Ponta Delgada, public transportation is well developed. There are four lines of minibus routes. For convenience, you can download the PDL application on your mobile phone to know the exact schedule. Please note – buses operate from 7.30 am to 7.30 pm and only on weekdays!

Also on the island of Sao Miguel, ten bus routes travel between cities.

Car rental

Traveling around the Azores by public transport is complicated; I was unprepared – rare shuttles, high cost, short hours of work, all this caused inconvenience. But when I decided to rent a car for at least a couple of days, I was amazed! For the smallest car with a manual transmission with full insurance, provided that I do not want to leave a deposit on the card of 1,500 euros, the cost was 120 euros per day! I was shocked – it’s more expensive than renting a car in Iceland! Of course, if you book in advance and for a more extended period, the price will be lower. But in one of the companies I contacted, all the cars were booked for two months. If you want to travel in comfort, you need to take care of this in advance.

Streets of Ponta Delgada city
Streets of Ponta Delgada city

Tourist transport

In Ponta Delgada, many travel companies organize tours and provide transport. Prices are very different, most often high. Also, you can take advantage of the Portuguese tourist company Yellow Bus, which does hop on – hop off tours. The cost of a ticket for one day is 18 euros, for two days – 22 euros.

Where to live

Of course, there are many hotels and apartments on the island, and they are quite expensive. But my trip is budget, and therefore I will tell you about cheap accommodation on the island of Sao Miguel.

Hostels

The first day after arriving on the island, I had to spend a night at the hostel. On the Internet, I found the one closest to the airport and went there. I must say, I was struck by the appearance, not to compare with hostels in Lisbon! The cost of one night in the standard room – 22 euros.

Hostel in Ponta Delgada
Hostel in Ponta Delgada

Couchsurfing

There are not many couchsurfers in the Azores, but I managed to find a few hosts with good reviews. One of them agreed to accept my friend and me for five days!
I think my Couchsurfing experience on this trip is very positive. Do you know how many scary stories I heard? However, every time I follow the rules and try to be attentive before writing a request. This time we had a separate room in the apartment of the local policeman. He was very kind to us, told us a lot about the Azores, and even drove us to several interesting places on weekends.

Want to learn more about the Green Island of the Azores archipelago? Stay tuned for blog updates!

– Romanna

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visit SkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.

Lisbon: Places Where Young People Go, What They Eat, and Where to See the Best Sunset of Your Life

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Most people consider their country to be the best at everything. But when the Portuguese say that their cuisine is the best in the world, you can only agree – it sounds too convincing. After spending a week in Lisbon, I made sure of this 100 percent!

Village Underground Lisboa - creative hub and multicultural venue
Village Underground Lisboa – creative hub and multicultural venue

I think everyone here will find something to their liking. Places to eat are a dime a dozen here – cafes, restaurants, markets, street food, and pastry. I can’t even imagine how the Portuguese manage to stay so slim when there is so much delicious food around!

Want to see and try everything at once? Go to the market on the Figueira square​​. It takes place once a month – last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the month. There is music, drinks, snacks, cheeses, sausages, and other different products from local producers.

Local cheese on the market
Local cheese on the market

I advise you to try the sangria, which is prepared with Porto wine and sandwiches with soft cheese and Jamon.

traditional grilled sandwich with soft cheese and Jamon
traditional grilled sandwich with soft cheese and Jamon

Another interesting, but more expensive place to eat – Time Out Market.

Time Out Market - Lisbon
Time Out Market – Lisbon

It appeared a few years ago at the location of the fish market. Now it is a popular place where hundreds of people, including locals, gather every day. There is a market zone with groceries and a separate area with restaurants. I came here a few times, and it was always crowded!

funny sardines lovers visitors in Time Out Market
funny sardines lovers visitors in Time Out Market

If you want to find a more private place for dinner, I advise you to go to Tasca, which is not a restaurant or a cafe – a traditional format of Lisbon establishments that keep families from generation to generation. Prices are relatively low, so for the traditional bitoque – steak with scrambled eggs, I paid 9 euros.

Portuguese bitoque - steak with scrambled eggs
Portuguese bitoque – steak with scrambled eggs

The most affordable food option is the A Padaria Portuguesa network. Here you can take coffee and pastries, or you can have a full meal. There are special offers for breakfast – freshly squeezed orange juice, sandwich, and coffee for only 2.5 euros. And if you came for lunch, then for a set menu of 2-3 dishes you will pay only 6-7 euros!

Want to try sardines? Go to one of the colorful shops O Mundo Fantástico da Sardinha Portuguesa. Racks with hundreds of cans of different shapes and colors, lanterns, carousels, photo zones – each store of the network look like a fairytale. Even if you are not going to buy sardines for yourself or as a souvenir, be sure to visit at least one store for the sake of the atmosphere.

O Mundo Fantástico da Sardinha Portuguesa - sardines shop
O Mundo Fantástico da Sardinha Portuguesa – sardines shop

Now let’s walk along the Tagus River to the bridge on April 25th.

LX Factory entrance
LX Factory entrance

Here is the art center LX Factory. Previously, it was a weaving factory, and now it is a space to assemble galleries, a handmade market, cafes, restaurants, and bookstores.

LX Factory handmade market
LX Factory handmade market

Tourists and locals, artists, musicians, chefs, and creators gather here in a relaxed atmosphere. Held every weekend evening are concerts – a place worth to come! Stroll through the open-air market and go to the Ler Devagar bookstore. I am sure you will be impressed by the number of books and the unique atmosphere of the place. Here you can drink coffee, read and take a few pictures to remember.

Ler Devagar bookstore
Ler Devagar bookstore

Be sure to go to the main factory building to the top floor – bar Rio Maravilha. Please note that it is closed on Mondays, and on other days it opens at lunch and runs until 2 am.

Rio Maravilha bar terrace
Rio Maravilha bar terrace

The size of the bar is impressive, but most importantly – the terrace overlooking the bridge and the statue of Jesus on the other side of the river.

On the last day, I decided to go outside the city and went to the Sintra.

Train to Sintra
Train to Sintra

Right in the center of Lisbon, there is a train station where you can buy a one-way ticket for 4 euros. The road takes only half an hour.

Pena Palace in Sintra city
Pena Palace in Sintra city

Situated on one of the high hills of Sintra is the fabulous Pena Palace. Entry is not free, and I immediately advise you not to take a full ticket. Some too many people want to get inside the palace – you have to stand in line for 40 minutes.

queue for the Pena Palace entrance
queue for the Pena Palace entrance

Garden + terraces ticket costs 7 euros, full – 14 euros. Moreover, in contrast to the bright appearance, inside it is not particularly interesting so that you won’t be missing much. There is a huge park around the palace, where in the shade of trees you can walk all day.

terraces of Pena Palace
terraces of Pena Palace

And now I will tell you about the most unlikely place that impressed me.
Despite all the concerns about the multitude of tourists, I went to Cabo da Roca – the most western point of Europe. I made the right call! So I chose the evening time and arrived there at sunset. There were only a few tourists in the area, and I was able to enjoy the beauty of this place alone.

Cabo da Roca - the most western point of Europe
Cabo da Roca – the most western point of Europe

Now I understand why this place previously considered to be the end of the world – the waves of the endless ocean, high cliffs, the salty wind that blows you off. It is a place where you can feel the power of our planet and see its beauty.
Do not forget to take warm clothes; it’s freezing in the evenings here.

The ocean floor is rocky, and many ships used to crash right off the coast earlier. That is why there is a lighthouse on the hill – a guide for seafarers. The lighthouse, built in the 18th century, is one of the oldest in Portugal!

This evening was the perfect end to my acquaintance with Lisbon. However, my journey through Portugal continues. Stay tuned for blog updates!

– Romanna

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visit SkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.

Lisbon Travel Tips – Part 2 of Romanna’s Trip to Lisbon, Portugal

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Want to know how Lisbon looked like before the earthquake? Go to Alfama! This area is entirely different from all else as if it was accidentally built right into the capital of Portugal. Here is another pace of life, customs, and even prices. Most local people also do not speak English.

Alfama area in Lisbon
Alfama area in Lisbon

However, neither of these features is negative. On the contrary, it feels like you find yourself in another city with an incredible atmosphere. There is no longer an understanding of who is a tourist, and who is local – the people of Lisbon themselves come to this area and seem out of the crowd. Initially, the Arabs inhabited this quarter and gave it the new name. Springs – this is what Alfama means in Arabic. Earlier, there were many baths in this quarter, which served not only as a hygienic role but also as curative. Despite this, the quarter is now considered one of the oldest and poorest. There is no sewage system in some houses still, and people are forced to go to public toilets. That seems crazy nowadays!

I don’t know if I was lucky or not, but I left Lisbon precisely one day before the main holiday, St. Anthony’s Day. Locals say that during such fun the city goes crazy. Anyway, I had some fun, because the Portuguese began celebrations in advance. While planning your visit to Lisbon, be sure to check the calendar of events, maybe something grand will happen!

Celebration time in Alfama
Celebration time in Alfama

On the advice of the locals, we went to Alfama again on Saturday evening. Fragrant food at every step, smoke from the grill, the smell of sardines, noisy people – all this to the rhythms of the Portuguese Fado and most importantly, with the smiles of passersby.

Grilled food preparing
Grilled food preparing

Be sure to try the local cherry liquor “ginja” from the chocolate cup and order the sardines – they are grilled just in front of you in only a few minutes!

want some sardines?
want some sardines?

Walking through the old town, you can see graffiti on walls. Do not think it is rowdyism. In this area, houses were built tightly to each other, and if the building becomes uninhabitable, it does not get demolished, but closed and allowed to turn it into a canvas for art. In Lisbon, there are special projects for street art – artists are invited to paint on these houses. Often, such drawings do not just decorate walls, but also tell a particular story.

Take a look at the photo below.

old graffiti of Maria Severa
old graffiti of Maria Severa

The graffiti shows Maria Severa – one of the first Fado performers. No one can say for sure how this musical genre appeared. Someone thinks that it came from the Arabs; someone says – from the troubadours, and my favored theory says that Fado appeared at the time of the navigators. These are sad songs about sailors who have not returned, about lost love, about sadness and fleeting time.

It is precisely known, however, that sad motives took their origin in taverns and brothels. In those days, Fado was a mix of song and dance, and the women who performed it were “easily accessible.” In one of these public places, Maria Severa worked. Thanks to her beauty and voice, she became very famous, and so the musical genre of poor neighborhoods began to appear in high society.

Fado is still a popular music genre. Even without knowing the Portuguese language, you will be imbued with these songs and understand exactly which feeling the singer is trying to convey. That feeling is Saudade. This word cannot be translated, interestingly, into any language. It was a Portuguese notion, initially, which means a mixture of nostalgia, love, and sadness, for what was earlier and for what will never become real.

Saudade – the main part of Fado.

Another impressive quarter, absolutely not similar to others – Belem.
Ships departed to new lands right from here! You can get here by bus, train, and scooter!

Lime scooters in Lisbon
Lime scooters in Lisbon

In Lisbon, at every corner, you can find this little green transport. It is enough to install the application on the phone, attach a bank card, and now you have your private transportation. At any time, you can scan the scooter by the QR code and ride with the wind.

Let’s return to Belem. There are many historical sites, such as museums, cultural centers, monuments, a palace, and a monastery. If you are interested in visiting these places, I advise you to buy a tourist card – it will help you save money. If you do not want to wander through the museums, there is another plan! Relax in the shade of the trees – here is a beautiful park where people come with families and companies for a picnic or to rest on the grass.

Monastery of Jeronimos in Belem
Monastery of Jeronimos in Belem

Be inspired by the beauty of the Monastery of Jeronimos and do not forget to visit the most famous confectionery in Lisbon!

World known Pasteis de Belem
World known Pasteis de Belem

Pasteis de Belem is a cafe that produces Portuguese Pasteis de Nata – the world-famous Portuguese cream cakes. The recipe was invented by monks right here. Of course, there are a lot of people who want to try them here – prepare to stand in a long line.

Waiters in Pasteis de Belem work amazingly quick - every minute two-three people receive their orders!
Waiters in Pasteis de Belem work amazingly quick – every minute two-three people receive their orders!

Do not worry; it moves quickly. 15-20 minutes, and now you already have the cherished Pasteis! Just do not eat them right away – go to the embankment overlooking the Tagus River and the 25th of April Bridge and enjoy all together.

Pasteis de Nata - traditional Portuguese pastry
Pasteis de Nata – traditional Portuguese pastry

I will tell you in secret; I liked Pasteis de Nata in other pastry shops more – too much cream here. But everyone’s tastes differ!

Of course, Lisbon is not only history but also modernity. In the next article, I will tell you about places where young people go, what they eat and where to meet the best sunset in your life.

See you! Romanna

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visit SkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.

Discovering New Countries – Part 1 of Romanna’s Trip to Lisbon, Portugal

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Many stories about Portugal I have heard from my friends, saw lots of photos on the internet and read dozens of articles. It was my first time in Portugal, and it exceeded all expectations! More and more tourists come here every year, and now I know why. Today, I will tell you about my third direction – Lisbon.

Commerce Square near the Tagus river in Lisbon
Commerce Square near the Tagus river in Lisbon

City of Contrasts
It is noisy and calm at the same time. It seems reticent, but at the same time, so friendly and cozy. The first visit decides everything – either you love it or you will hate it. You need to feel it – to observe, listen, and taste it. I hope I can convince you to come here!

The first thing that made me happy from the first minutes in Lisbon was the location of the airport. Surprisingly, there are only a few metro stations, and you are very close to the city center! Lisbon has a very convenient transportation system: the metro is the most popular way to travel. There are four lines in total with short distances between stations. There are maps and pointers everywhere, just impossible to get lost! The cost of a single trip is 1.45 euros.

Zapping system card for transport
Zapping system card for transport

* Budget tip – the first time you buy a card, you should keep it so you may replenish it for upcoming trips. Zapping system is the way to save time and money – the cost will equal to 1.30 euros.

The ground transportation is buses, trams, and funiculars. The cost is the same as in the subway. Please note that when you pay the fare directly at the driver, you overpay 1.05 euros! It is much more convenient to replenish the card in the machine with the same Zapping system.

The primary association with Lisbon are old trams. There are five routes, which among them are the world-famous 28 and 12 routes. The trams are always full of people, and I did not understand why everyone is so eager to ride them. At least from the outside, they look much prettier, and it is easier to breathe.

Lisbon tram
Lisbon tram

Lisbon is a city that will keep your muscles in shape! On top of seven hills, the city has you always walking down sharply; then climbing back up. I was surprised by the old part of the city with its sloping streets, narrow passages, many stairs, lifts, and elevators. Their main task is to carry people up and down. But some elevators have a tourist function. To ride the most famous elevator of Santa Justa you have to wait in a queue of 20 minutes.

Another essential feature of the streets is the mosaic underfoot – calcada. Local girls manage to walk on it in heels gracefully, but for visitors, I advise to wear comfortable shoes.

Monument to the Restorers on the Restauradores Square
Monument to the Restorers on the Restauradores Square

Lisbon has always been a small but significant city. All because of the port, which was opened in the 8th century and now it is the third cruise port in Europe. Throughout its history, the city has experienced difficult times. So in 1755, there has occurred an earthquake, which claimed many lives and destroyed the city. The philosopher Voltaire said that there is no God, and many great minds of that time supported him. The fact that the earthquake began on Saturday, right during Mass. It lasted for 7 minutes; most people died right in the churches as a result. Just imagine, after that, a tsunami covered the city, and soon a fire, even more, destroyed the city from a candle in one of the churches.

Lisbon city view from the top of Sao Vicente De Fora monastery
Lisbon city view from the top of Sao Vicente De Fora monastery

These incidents were decisive in Lisbon architecture that we see now. Walking around the city, you can see a vast difference between districts and in areas exceptionally well seen. The communities, built according to new rules with money from the government and those that were of no interest to the authorities, were built by locals. So the center of the city is Baixa area, which has always been a “place of business” – wide, parallel streets and spacious squares. At the same moment, poor local people rebuilt the narrow and tangled streets on their own as they were before.

Old city area Alfama
Old city area Alfama

Right in the city center, you can easily find affordable accommodation. Even though I was planning to find a place to stay on Couchsurfing, the circumstances made their adjustments. The host urgently changed plans, and on the third day of staying in the city, I had to look for another option. Maybe the reason was in Lisbon’s particular popularity among travelers, or it was the holiday time, or even all together – I could not find a host. The cost of one night in the hostel starts at 10 euros. For 15-20 euros you can find excellent options if you are not embarrassed to live in a standard room with other people. That’s what I did!

It was a great decision – in the hostel I met a lot of travelers and found out that there are free walk tours! Walks are carried out every day at a specific time. There are several route options, and they vary depending on the day of the week.

Look for the yellow t-shirts - free walking tour sign
Look for the yellow t-shirts – free walking tour sign

I was lucky to get to the group to the guide Nuno. Thanks to him, I discovered Lisbon in a completely different way, learned a lot of exciting facts, and understood the mood of the city.

Nuno - the guide in Free Walking Tours Lisbon
Nuno – the guide in Free Walking Tours Lisbon

Although I am not particularly delighted with the cities and a large number of tourists, Lisbon left great impressions. New and unusual for me, it inspired for long walks, gastronomic experiments and new musical discoveries. Can’t wait to tell you more in the next article, do not forget to follow the updates!

~ Romanna

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visit SkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.

Inspired by the Nature of Sicily

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Active volcano Etna while erupting
Active volcano Etna while erupting

If you climbed an active volcano and at that moment it began to erupt, what would you feel? I had a euphoria!

I am so glad that we live in a time of well-developed science, we understand nature and can calculate what to expect from it. Everyone already knows that the giant Enceladus is not chained under the volcano Etna, and an eruption is not his desperate attempt to get outside – it’s just that Sicily is located simultaneously above two tectonic plates of Eurasia and Africa.

Volcanic lanscape. Etna, 2500 meters
Volcanic landscape. Etna, 2500 meters

Etna’s danger is a myth. Convinced, the local people have lived and will live at the foot, which is very reassuring. They even call it a “friendly volcano.” Etna’s eruption is not explosive but rather calm. You can observe the release of gas, ash, and smoke as the lava flows down, without causing much harm. Sometimes the force of the eruption is so strong that the ashes impair visibility for the aircraft of the airport of Catania causing flights to redirect to Palermo.

Closely monitored are the lava streams, and often people carry out work to expand the channel, even during an eruption. As soon as the news about the eruption appeared, people did not run away, but, on the contrary, they came to watch it specifically, because this is a unique spectacle. Of course, there are special security measures, depending on the activity of the volcano. So the maximum altitude for an ascent on this day was 2,700 meters, although on a clear day you can go up to 3,000 m.

There are three ways to climb Etna. There are eastern and northern routes to the volcano, but they are less touristy. The most popular course is from Catania.

The road to Etna
The road to Etna

By bus, you can get to the station Rifugio Sapienza, and continue to climb on foot, or by the cable car. The last option takes you to an altitude of 2,550 meters.

Queue to the cable car to Etna volcano
Queue to the cable car to Etna volcano

I did not have much time and bought a full ticket, which included the funicular and travel by tourist SUV. Usually, after this, you are additionally accompanied by a guide to a height of 3,000m, but on that day there was no such possibility. The ticket price is 65 euros. Even in the summer, it is necessary to prepare thoroughly for the rise of Etna. The fact is that at the top it is always freezing – that day it was only 2 degrees, and a strong wind was blowing. Of course, you can rent boots and warm jackets, but it is better to prepare in advance – take warm clothes, trekking shoes, sunscreen, and water.

Etna volcano during eruption, 2,700 m
Etna volcano during eruption, 2,700 m

Another way to enjoy Etna with an unusual company without climbing is trekking with alpacas. Yes, you were not mistaken! Six years ago, Farmer Luciano received a call from an animal shelter. He was asked to host alpacas, which is how everything started.

Luciano - alpacas farmer
Luciano – alpacas farmer

Today, it is the only farm on the island where you can meet these animals so closely. In total, there are six alpacas on the farm, but during my visit, one of them was pregnant – it is quite possible that there are more of them now!

And so, I will tell you more about my experience. You cannot get there by public transport, only by a rented car or with a person who agrees to help you. Few people know about this place, and you can rely only on geolocation on the official Facebook page https://is.gd/aJjyAZ. There is also a phone number, which we contacted and clarified a convenient time. Please note that for a quick response you need to write in Italian – so there are more chances to reach an understanding. After meeting at the farm, Luciano loaded the alpacas in a special trailer, and then you go to the Piedmont of Etna.

Alpacas transportation
Alpacas transportation

There, you will be given your alpaca on a leash, and you can enjoy walking in the forest for about three hours. I want to assure everyone who cares about animals – this is a very peaceful experience. You go near the alpaca, while it eats grass and the leaves of trees.

Alpacas trekking
Alpacas trekking

The animals are not skittish, but you can hardly cuddle with them. This experience was my first meeting with alpacas; I was amazed by their calmness and incredibly soft fur. These are herd animals; therefore, you should not worry that they will run away. Moreover, they love their master and are very attached to him.

Look, how cute they are!
Look, how cute they are!

Frankly, the emotions from the walk were even stronger than from a volcanic eruption. If you are in Sicily – trekking with alpacas must be included in your plans! The cost of trekking is 20 euros.

Let’s go further to the Tirana Sea. Included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Aeolian Islands is an archipelago of volcanic origin. There are seven islands in total, the most popular being Lipari, which is also the most populated island; Stromboli – a small island with an active volcano that erupts every 15-20 minutes; and Vulcano, which is the southernmost island with several volcanic craters.

View from the highest point of Vulcano island
View from the highest point of Vulcano island

Many companies offer excursions to the Aeolian Islands and even combine several island visits in one day. But I decided to go on my own since I only had one day. From Catania, I took the train to Milazzo; the journey took 2 hours. The fare is 8.5 euros. Upon arrival, I walked to the port and bought a ferry ticket to Vulcano. The cost of tickets depends on time. My ticket cost was 18.90 euros.

Take a ferry to get to the Aeolian islands
Take a ferry to get to the Aeolian islands

From the first seconds on the island, you feel the smell of sulfur. Do not worry; you get used to it very quickly. For half an hour you walk to the Piedmont of the volcano. I advise you to stock up on water and snacks, as the road will be a challenge. The route is short, but very often the road leads sharply upwards, or obstacles appear on the way. Amazing flowers are covered everywhere. At first, I wanted to take photos of every bush. Rising above, there are fewer plants, but the view is more and more surprising. The best view is on the top – here you can see the nearest islands, where you can not believe your eyes. Is it real?

Flower piedmont on the Vulcano island
Flower piedmont on the Vulcano island

On the approach to the crater, the smell of sulfur is getting stronger. Here you can see how thick is the gas that goes out from the fumaroles. I sat and watched it for 15 minutes, what an incredible phenomenon!

Fumaroles
Fumaroles

If you are not in a hurry, I advise you to go around the crater in a circle and climb to its highest point. But don’t forget – the way to this place took more than five hours, and if you need to come back to Catania this day, you should keep an eye on the time.

Every new day is better than the previous one. New impressions, new people, new places – all this causes euphoria and makes me look forward to the next direction. Today we say goodbye to hot Sicily, and very soon I will tell you about my adventures in Portugal.
See you soon!

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visit SkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.

Sicily (Part 2) – Things to Do in Sicily – Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel Adventure

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Welcome back!

Unexpectedly I fell in love with a hot Sicilian island. From the first days of my stay, I immediately understood that I need to return here. At least because it is impossible to see even one-third of everything in one week.

Castelmola city street from a viewpoint
Castelmola city street from a viewpoint

The whole island is made up of nine provinces. Each has its characteristics, local traditions, and dishes. I decided not to waste time on long journeys and to explore the east coast of the island.

Teatro Massimo Bellini
Teatro Massimo Bellini

Can you imagine the city which rose from ashes? This city was twice destroyed – by an earthquake and by lava flows after the eruption of the volcano. Catania was rebuilt, which allowed creating a town with a unique Baroque style architecture, which was popular in the 1690s.

Courtyard of the University of Catania
Courtyard of the University of Catania

The easiest way to get to Catania is by train. From the train station, you can easily reach the center by foot and explore the city. Of course, you can use public transportation. There is one metro line that runs through the railway station — the cost of one ticket for 90 minutes is 0.90 euros. Moreover, there is a well-developed bus system. There are more than 50 routes in Catania! You can view the schedule at http://www.amt.ct.it/?page_id=48. A single fare costs 1 euro, and an unlimited daily pass costs 2.5 euros.

I advise you to come to the city center early in the morning and immediately move towards the Pescheria market. Just in a few hours, locals, cooks and, of course, tourists will dismantle the entire catch, so I advise you to hurry! Behind the square, Piazza Duomo is the market, which is not difficult to find – go to the smell of the fish and the cries of merchants.

Pescheria market
Pescheria market

The name itself is derived from the Italian word “pesce” (fish).
Dozens of stalls selling fish and seafood – octopus, lobster, shrimp and the most popular swordfish in Sicily.

Fish marketer in Sicily
Fish marketer in Sicily

Walk a little farther, and there you can find all sorts of fruits, meat, spices, and sweets. Eyes scatter from such diversity, the main thing – do not go there hungry.

Colorful market rows in Sicily
Colorful market rows in Sicily

After the market, you can return to the main square of Duomo where you can find the cathedral. Interestingly, Giovanni Battista Vaccarini Duomo was building a facade of the cathedral over 30 years so that we could see it as it is today – you may spend 20 minutes looking at this fantastic building.

Catania Cathedral facade on the Duomo Square
Catania Cathedral facade on the Duomo Square

Do not rush to look into a map and follow the tourist route. Just walk through the streets of Catania – you will see all the main places by yourself! Sicily has its unique cuisine that you can not try in other regions of Italy. It is also cheaper than on the mainland. Do not miss the opportunity to try the most famous local street food is arancini. It is a deep fried rice ball with different fillings – meat, tomatoes, spinach, and even all together! The cost is 2.5 euros, and it can be a great snack in a long walk.

If you want to try something more exquisite, visit some local restaurants. Choose one without a permanent menu. They prepare only a few dishes a day from fresh produce brought from local markets this morning. Tomatoes, eggplants, and mozzarella often are the main ingredients. Oh, if you knew how the Sicilian mozzarella buffalo is melting in your mouth – I have no words to describe this taste!

Lunch in a small restaurant of Catania
Lunch in a small restaurant of Catania

And do not forget to try the local wine from the vineyards of Etna. Interestingly, the Etna highland wine zone was the first in Sicily in the DOC category (Denominazione di Origine Controllata). Even if you are not a wine expert, you should try at least one glass of this unique drink.

Fera O’ Luni – another market, no as popular among tourists as Pescheria. A lot of things are sold here, but the main thing is the fruit and vegetable department.

Fera O' Luni market
Fera O’ Luni market

To my surprise, the prices in this market are the cheapest I have ever seen. For example, I bought a kilogram of apricots, kg of strawberries and a kg of cherries for only 5 euros – could you imagine! Unnecessary to tell you about how juicy and fragrant they were.

fruit counter in Fera O' Luni market
fruit counter in Fera O’ Luni market

In the evenings, people go to the center of the city, meet with friends over a glass of wine or beer, and share the events of the last days.

Al Vicolo restaurant - one of the most famous places on Catania by its pizza
Al Vicolo restaurant – one of the most famous places on Catania by its pizza

I will be honest; I did not feel comfortable in the evening in Catania. Several local people warned which streets I should not enter in the evening, and generally, it’s better not to walk alone during the dark time.

If you ask a Sicilian what the beauty is the answer will be: “it is when one can see greenery and the sea. But if there are mountains nearby – a real paradise!”.

Isola Bella, Taormina
Isola Bella, Taormina

That is why every year when the season begins, all the locals come to Taormina.
It seemed to me that there were too many people in the city, but in July and August, there are just thousands of tourists! If you arrive by train, you can get to the city by bus, or on foot. The walk will take about 40 minutes, but they will pass unnoticed – there are stunning views! Coming closer you can see the beach and the thin sand bar that leads to Isola Bella. The tiny island is open to visiting. The entrance fee is 5 euros. Just look at the coast and the number of people here!

Taormina coast in front of Isola Bella
Taormina coast in front of Isola Bella

Just a 5 minutes walk from the Isola Bella there is a cable car, which takes you to the center of Taormina. The cost of travel in one direction is 3 euros.

Cable Car in Sicily
Cable Car in Sicily

On the main street Corso Umberto, there are dozens of tourist places, pastry, and coffee shops. At every step, you can see tiny nooks that go down and up from the main street. You will be offered to try cannoli in every pastry. I advise you to go to the best one – La Pignolata Guinness Cannoli. Here they are the most delicious, believe me!

traditional Sicilian cannoli
traditional Sicilian cannoli

I was allowed to go into the kitchen and gaze the cooking process. Every morning they bake waffles and knead the creams. Traditionally, cannoli is filled with ricotta cream, but there are more variations. In this pastry shop, you can try a select pistachio paste. They call it green Nutella, and there is something similar between them! Pistachio paste smeared on a tuba, and then fill it with cream and sprinkled with chopped pistachio. Impossible to forget that taste!

I advise you to walk from Taormina to Castelmola, which is a small town on the top of a mountain. You can get there by bus, or you can go on foot. I hope you are not afraid of a small trekking walk, because the views of the sea, Taormina and the mountains from here are incredible!

Views from the trekking pass Taormina - Castelmola
Views from the trekking pass Taormina – Castelmola

Views from the trekking pass Taormina - Castelmola
Views from the trekking pass Taormina – Castelmola

Another city that I managed to visit – the birthplace of the great Greek mathematician Archimedes. Syracuse city is divided into two parts – the main part and the historical center, which is located on the island called Ortigia.

Ortigia street
Ortigia street

Walking the streets, you can almost always see the sea, where in the morning you can meet fishermen. As in Catania, in the center of the city, there is the old atmospheric market of Syracuse. Here you can buy fish and meat, and local delicacies. Sellers are calling loudly to the counters, someone is offering to drink oysters, someone is preparing a special sandwich “panino” in front of dozens of cameras, and someone is grilling seafood caught several hours ago in the Ionian Sea.

Cheese marketer in an old market of Syracuse
Cheese marketer in an old market of Syracuse

Of course, Sicily is not only the cities but also the unique nature. But that’s another story… See you soon!

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visit SkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.

Sicily (Part 1) – Sicily Travel Tips – Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel Adventure

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Aeolian islands
Aeolian islands

An active volcano, lemons, and mafia – what are your associations with Sicily?

Romanna’s second SkySurf.Travel destination, Sicily, is the largest island of Italy and the Mediterranean. A land with an incredible history, African winds, citrus orchards, absence of rules, and incredible natural phenomena.

Ancient Greek myths were born right here! Being on the island, it seems, you begin to believe in them. When one of the giants rebelled against the gods of Olympus, Athena threw him into the sea and crushed him down with a triangular stone. When observing lava erupting from the volcano, the giant Enceladus is trying to escape, as so it’s believed, and the smoke from the volcano mouth is his heavy breathing. This legend is how the ancient inhabitants of the island explained the eruption of Etna volcano.

Etna volcano landscape
Etna volcano landscape

The same triangular stone from the myth explains the advent of the ancient name of Sicily – Trinacria. That is how Homer mentioned Sicily in Odyssey, and the word itself means “triangular.” It was the ancient Greeks who created the myths about the gorgons that inhabited the island. Among them, the most terrible was Medusa Gorgon, a monster that took on a feminine appearance with snakes instead of hair. She lured men, and then those who gazed upon her face turned to stone. Medusa’s head is the main symbol of Sicily now, and legend has it she protects the island from enemies with her eyes. In addition to the Gorgon head, there are three more legs on the emblem, which symbolize the shape of the island and the three final points – Cape Lilibéo in the west, Cape Peloro in the east and Cape Passero in the south. In those days, unique stories were created, explaining any natural phenomena fascinatingly.

Let’s get back to real life. Sicily used to be a part of Great Greece, which was inhabited by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Catalans, and Spaniards – imagine the mix of cultures, traditions, and customs.

Temple of Apollo in Siracusa
Temple of Apollo in Siracusa

Today, it is a unique Italian region, which attracts with its culture, history, year-round sun and three seas – the Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian, and Ionian. There’s about 1,000 km of coastline where anyone can find a suited place – cliffs, sandy and stone beaches. Unlike continental Italy, Sicily has many more sunny days, which is quite logical, since it lies in the Mediterranean, subtropical climate. There is a long and hot summer and a fast, very mild winter.

You can get to Sicily by sea or by air. There are three airports on the island, and many tourists come here every day. Let me remind you that I flew from Malta; the cost of the flight was $41. Getting around the island is pretty simple. In cities, there are buses and taxis, and for longer distances, you can ride the train or buses. It is essential to say the train routes are along the coast, so if you need to move inland, you should choose a bus – this will reduce the travel time. I flew to Catania and decided to explore the east coast, so I always traveled by train. The fare depends on the distance. The minimum price I paid was 2.5 euro – to get from the small town of Acireale, where I lived, to Catania.

Aci Castello coast
Aci Castello coast

The most expensive trip cost 8.5 euro when I went to Milazzo. The road took about two hours, and I even needed to make a transfer in Messina. The actual travel cost can be viewed online on the railway company’s website – www.trenitalia.com, they also have a handy mobile application where you can get acquainted with the routes, train schedules, ticket prices, and even purchase them. You can also buy tickets at the train stations just before departure. Do not forget to activate the ticket in a particular machine before you board the train!

When life gives you lemons – make limoncello! It is the main Sicilian principle. Locals enjoy life, never hurry, finish their work much earlier than the set time, and live in the moment.

normal situation on the road - car stops for a chat with an old friend
Normal situation on the road – car stops for a chat with an old friend

For example, it’s quite reasonable to stop the car right in the middle of the road and talk to a friend. This stopping not only happens on empty roads but even during busy traffic! No wonder why they say – “if you can drive a car in Sicily, you can be a driver anywhere!” Pedestrian crossings are just a tourist trap. It’s rare when cars stop at them. People cross the road where they want to, and it does not surprise anyone. It is ok when cars drive despite the red light! Often the streets have no place for pedestrians. All you have to do is walk along the side of the road and hope for the attentiveness of the drivers.

Sicilian road without a place for pedestrians
Sicilian road without a place for pedestrians

Nevertheless, I have never seen more dangerous situations. Somehow they get along in this chaos and look quite happy. With all this, people are insanely friendly. When asking for the way, do not be surprised if they will escort you so that you do not get lost. And when you go uphill, the cars stop one by one to offer you a ride to let you down.

Speaking about hospitality, I want to tell you about the place where I lived. After a successful experience at Couchsurfing in Malta, I decided to continue using the platform and confirmed my arrivals. So, in Sicily, I planned to stay at three different hosts. I started the search a month ahead, and by the time of my arrival, I have confirmed the first five nights in two different places. Moreover, I posted an open request to find a place to sleep for the last two days. To my surprise, having only one review, I received more than 20 offers from people who were ready to host me at their places in different cities. I planned to travel around the island, so I considered not only Catania. I tried to be careful, so I checked the pages of hosts and paid attention to information about them, and what kind of reviews they have. Despite this, life situations can be different, and plans may change. So my second host wrote to me the day before coming that he could not accept me. The first host saved me from panic, saying that I could stay at his place as much as I needed. He is a German soldier who works in Sicily. He lives in a spacious house, and therefore quite often hosts travelers. Because of the specifics of his work, we did not spend very much time together. He was very kind to me and even organized a fantastic experience, but that is another story 🙂
I can say for sure – Couchsurfing changes the perception of travel; it gives new acquaintances invaluable experiences, which is merely impossible to get in a hotel, or renting apartments.

Siracusa street
Siracusa street

I’m looking forward to telling you more about my adventures along the east coast of Sicily.

Follow this SkySurf.Travel blog for upcoming new stories about my adventure!
Romanna

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visitSkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.

Malta (part 3) – Things to Do in Malta

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Hello! Do you remember me?
Yes, it’s me – Romanna who went on an Adventure of a Lifetime with SkySurf.Travel.

Romanna - SkySurf.Travel adventurer
Romanna – SkySurf.Travel adventurer

The first week has come to an end, and I have to admit that this is the last article about Malta. At the same time, it is essential to say that I left the most exciting parts for the end! So I am not a fan of big parties, not into unique gourmets, and I am not good at architecture styles. But there is one breathtaking thing that I love the most – nature. Cliffs, azure water, incredible sunsets, hard-to-reach canyons, exotic plants, and wild animals all inspire me. I love places where there aren’t many tourists around when you can be alone enjoying the sound of the wind, inhaling the sea breeze, and listening to the birds singing and enjoying life.

About these places, I have left for this final part:

The most beautiful points in Malta.

Blue Lagoon, Comino island - the most famous place in Malta
Blue Lagoon, Comino island – the most famous place in Malta

Comino Island, Blue Lagoon.
Oh, it seems to be the most famous place in Malta, which seduces all tourists to come and swim in the crystal clear water.

Budget tip:
Across the island, hundreds of companies offer day trips to the Blue Lagoon and even combine a visit with the island of Gozo. These day trips include yachts, speed boats, drinks, canoeing, and a lot of additional entertainment. The cost of such excursions range from € 30 to € 65 – and this is just what I have come across; I am sure there are more expensive ones. I advise you to go on your own to get to the port at the end of the island! The name of the stop is Cirkewwa. Then you need to go to the sign Comino Ferry and buy a ticket for € 14 round trip! I advise you to take a picture of the schedule. The boat arrives every hour and the last one leaves around 5 pm.

To visit the Blue Lagoon, choose a weekday to improve your impression because on weekends there is an enormous amount of people. Of course, it is better to come early in the morning, while everyone is sleeping. The first boat leaves at 9:30 am.

Even by the first boat, you will not be the first visitor to the island. The below photo is what it looked like when I arrived.

Blue Lagoon in the morning
Blue Lagoon in the morning

I advise you not to linger on the beach and explore the island while the sun is still not very hard. And so, we pass the beach area and move along a narrow path. The stony landscape complements the unusual plants of various colors. It looks peculiar; I wanted to take a shot of each bush. I hope you are not afraid of lizards – they run under your feet every 2 minutes.

Comino island landscape
Comino island landscape

Comino island landscape
Comino island landscape

Right above the cliff, you can watch the yachts, which anchor in the bay, and a group of young guys on the rocks, who, with applause, are jumping into the water with a scream. Want to join?

Coming back, you can already see hundreds of people sunbathing on the sand and stones. Oddly enough, most of them come to Comino and do not even go further, but stay here.

Blue Lagoon in the afternoon - crowded by thousands of tourists
Blue Lagoon in the afternoon – crowded by thousands of tourists

Budget tip:
Bring light snacks and water with you. There are several stalls on the island where you can buy some fruits, hot dogs, sandwiches and cocktails, but you need to understand that their prices are several times higher than from the store.

Gozo Island.

Gozo Island is a small island, almost half the size of Malta. You can come here for two or three days if you want to relax and escape from the crowd, but you can see the most exciting things, even in one day!

How to get there:
It is the same as with the Blue Lagoon; you need to come to the Cirkewwa station, go to the port building and wait for the ferry. There is no need to pay for the ride to Gozo – you only need to buy a ticket on the return trip for 5 €. Every half hour big ferries run between the islands, transporting people and even cars.

There are buses on the island, and they work the same way as in Malta. If you have a travel card, then you will not have to pay extra. The only drawback is that the transportation system is not so well developed, and not all points of interest are reachable. For convenience, I chose a moped. I arrived on the island with a new friend, and we decided that this would be the most comfortable and fastest option — the cost of the moped rent per day is 30 €. We also paid 5 € for gasoline and did not need to look for a gas station on the way back.

Dwerja, Gozo island. There used to be an Azure Window before the 2017 collapse
Dwerja, Gozo island. There used to be an Azure Window before the 2017 collapse

The first stop of our route is the Dwerja. Azure Window – the main attraction of the island used to be here. Nevertheless, a few years ago, the stone arch collapsed, and now we can only look at its photos. In just a few steps, you can see the Blue Hole – a place that attracts divers from around the world. Every day dozens of divers are immersed in here.

Ghasri Valle, Gozo island
Ghasri Valle, Gozo island

Another place divers are interested in as well as lovers of sunbathing – Ghasri Valley. Here is a water maze between the rocks, which attracts visitors to the island with its views.

Xwejni Salt Pans
Xwejni Salt Pans

Right on the seashore in Xwejni, you can see Salt Pans, which were used by people from ancient times to mine salt. More than 350 years ago, dimples were made in the rocks by people, poured into them was seawater, and it evaporated under the influence of the sun.

Xwejni Salt Pans
Xwejni Salt Pans

You will not believe it, but some people support this centuries-old tradition. Of course, now only a few people are engaged in this, who have preserved the knowledge of their generations.

Ramla beach view from the top
Ramla beach view from the top

Ramla Beach is the most popular beach on the island of Gozo. Of course, I do not encourage you to spend the whole day sunbathing. Climb the mountain nearby – there is a fantastic view from the top.

Calypso Cave
Calypso Cave

You can also find Tal-Mixta Cave – a cave that Homer described in the Odyssey. In his poem, Homer claimed that the beautiful nymph Calypso kept him with love charms.

I advise you to finish the day in the capital – Vittoria. This city was named after the English Queen in 1887 when they celebrated her anniversary. The city itself is tranquil and has many places of interest, such as the Citadel.

St.George's Bazilika
St.George’s Bazilika

St.George's Bazilika
St.George’s Bazilika

In the city center, behind Pjazza Indipenza, you can find a cozy square with St.George’s Bazilika, where you can find some cafes and restaurants. Here you may have dinner, take a look inside the Basilica and, of course, walk along the ancient streets.

Of course, these are fabulous places not only in Comino and Gozo but also on the island of Malta itself.

In the south-east of the island is located Blue Grotto – a breathtaking place. A massive arch of more than 30 m rises above the sea with water of a vibrant turquoise color; on a windy day, when the waves with great force break on the stones, it is merely impossible to keep your eyes off this site!

Malta has left incredible memories and emotions. I hope I manage to convey to you the feeling of this tranquility and delight – this place won me over!

I hope these articles inspired you on a new journey and opened another incredible direction worth visiting.
See you soon!

Romanna

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visitSkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.

Life on Malta – Romanna’s Trip to Malta (Part 2)

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Life on Malta

A tiny island in the Mediterranean annually attracts thousands of tourists. Some come to sunbathe on the beaches with the crystal-clear water, some study the English language, and some choose this direction for full and sleepless weekends.

Let’s figure out what makes Malta so attractive.

Valletta, Malta
Valletta, Malta

Valletta

The city from which it all begins. The capital of the island is noisy and touristic, but this does not make it less attractive. Valetta is the only city entirely planned before construction. You will understand everything as soon as you cross the bridge.

the main entrance to Valetta city, Malta
the main entrance to Valetta city, Malta

Despite the hot weather, in Valetta, it is always cool. The layout of the narrow streets allows you to be in the shadow of buildings, which can be very pleasant during the hot days.

The main Republic street is pedestrian, and it leads from the main entrance right to the city’s seafront. Do not be afraid to step aside. It’s just impossible to get lost here – most of the streets are entirely straight, and it seems as if you are immediately looking from one end of the city to the other.

straight streets of Valetta city, Malta
straight streets of Valetta city, Malta
straight streets of Valetta city, Malta
straight streets of Valetta city, Malta

At the first crossroads, turn right; you will get to the Upper Barrakka Gardens. There is a cool shade from the trees, fountains, and thousands of flowers. It seems as if you will fall into an oasis!

Upper Barrakka Gardens, Malta
Upper Barrakka Gardens, Malta

Here you can sit on the bench and relax, have a cup of coffee, and eat the most delicious ice cream. Come farther and take a look at a panoramic view of the Grand Harbour!  Immediately you can see 11 cannons, which in the past, defended Valetta from enemy attacks. At the time of Queen Victoria, the fortifications of the city were built by the Knights of St. John. Now, the weapon performs a decorative role, and only one cannon still works. Of course, for entertainment – you can hear a cannon shot every day at noon and 4 pm!

panoramic view of the Grand Harbour, Malta
panoramic view of the Grand Harbour, Malta

Are you hungry?
Do not rush to take a table on one of the main streets; these places are created specifically for tourists. If you move a bit away from the center, you can find more cozy streets that are less crowded with people. Here you can also find local street food – Pastitserii.

Pastitserii - local street food place, Malta
Pastitserii – local street food place, Malta

The most prominent national food is pastizzi — Puff pastry pies with various fillings. The most popular ones are with cheese and peas, but also cooked with spinach, meat and even chocolate! Of course, this is quite a fatty food, but very tasty and cheap – the average price is 0.4-0.8 € for one piece.

traditional Maltese pastry, Malta
traditional Maltese pastry, Malta

Other pies such as kassatats are sold here, and are several times larger in size and can easily replace your full meal!

Coming to the outskirts of the city you can see a lot of horses that ride tourists in carriages along the outer streets – they are forbidden to go inside the city.

Horse carriage in Valetta, Malta
Horse carriage in Valetta, Malta

Horse carriage in Valetta, Malta
Horse carriage in Valetta, Malta

Having walked enough, I advise you to go down to the embankment and find a small boat resembling a Venetian gondola.

Boat ride from Valetta to Birgu, Malta
Boat ride from Valetta to Birgu, Malta

Boat ride from Valetta to Birgu, Malta
Boat ride from Valetta to Birgu, Malta

In just 10 minutes, you will arrive in another city. During this time, you will see Valletta from a completely different angle, and enjoy the views of the harbor. The fare is 2 €.

You will land in a place called three cities – this is where you can see Birgu, Bormla, and Isla at the same time. I recommend going to Birgu immediately. Even on the weekends, this city is nearly deserted. What is surprising, because it is so beautiful and cozy, the natural yellow color of buildings is perceived uniquely. It adds some feeling of warmth to the old capital.

Birgu streets, Malta
Birgu streets, Malta

Tiny streets, colorful, well-groomed balconies, linen, that hang right above your head. Here, the tradition of morning purchases are preserved right from the terrace – local farmers bring fresh produce in the morning, and residents pull down the bag on a rope with money. Offline shopping without leaving home!

Speaking of deserted cities, I want to advise you to come to the ancient city of Mdina. It is also called the city of silence. It looks uninhabited but well maintained. Oddly enough, about 300 people still live here. In Mdina, it’s impossible to get lost, and you don’t need a map here – just a few streets and alleys that can be walked around in an hour or two.

Mdina street, Malta
Mdina street, Malta

It is enough to cross the road, and you will end up in Rabat — a residential city in which you can observe the standard measured life of the Maltese.
Do not miss the opportunity to try local sweets. On the main street, there is a small pastry shop just two blocks away. You can find traditional cannoli, honey rings, and fig rolls. Show a slight interest, and the seller already offers you to try something from freshly baked pastries.

Maltese baked sweets
Maltese baked sweets

If you want to eat something more substantial, pay attention to the people who sit in the place of interest. Do not go where it is full of tourists – choose a place where locals eat. Speaking of traditional Maltese food, they usually offer the rabbit. There are many farms on the island that grow rabbits specifically for cooking. Considering that Malta was a British colony, and not a French one, it is difficult to understand where the locals got a love for snails. Nevertheless, they cook them incredibly tasty!

Another dish that will surprise you is horse meat. Suddenly soft meat that does not have a specific taste, and if this is your first time, you can easily confuse it with beef. Pay attention to the portion!

Eat like a local - try rabbit ravioli, snails, and horse meat - Malta
Eat like a local – try rabbit ravioli, snails, and horse meat – Malta

Eat like a local - try rabbit ravioli, snails, and horse meat - Malta
Eat like a local – try rabbit ravioli, snails, and horse meat – Malta

Do you want seafood?
Go to the Marsaxlokk! For a visit, choose a Sunday — it is this day that the fishing village comes to life, and local fishermen sell their catch in the market. Here, in the bay, you can see hundreds of brightly painted boats – Luzzu. These fishing boats have one feature – the eyes of Osiris. The tradition to draw eyes on a boat came from the Phoenicians. They believed that this would save the boat from danger in the open sea. Interestingly, the boats in the bay have eyes covered with a piece of cloth.

Luzzu boats in a Marsaxlokk bay, Malta
Luzzu boats in a Marsaxlokk bay, Malta

Walk through the bustling market on the waterfront. Here, you can catch mussels, squids, octopuses, shrimps, lampuka, and tuna in the Mediterranean. On the market, there are often more tourists with cameras than buyers. In addition to fish and seafood, you can buy spices, national drinks, snacks, and sweets.

fish market - Malta
fish market – Malta

If you want ready meals – there are dozens of restaurants along the promenade, where chefs prepare fish from the market.

Fun time!
Go to Mellieha – the Maltese Disneyland. Forty years ago a musical about a legendary sailor and spinach lover – Popeye, was filmed on this spot. As for scenery, they built a whole village with bright houses. In the summer you can combine a visit to the village with a dip and water attractions. It will be especially attractive to children. Animators work in the park, every corner is a photo zone, and there are some performances every hour.
Entrance fee is 14 €.

Popeye Village, Malta
Popeye Village, Malta

But if you are not particularly interested in walking through the sham village, just come to see it and take a few shots against the background of the bay. So, just before the entrance, turn left and walk along the cliff. It offers an incredible view of the village and the bay itself.

If you are interested in more active nightlife, you should head to St. Julians. Here, life boils without stopping and a break to sleep. The central place of the city is Paceville. Streets of this district come alive in the evenings, and it becomes especially loud there every Friday and Saturday.

Party time in Paceville, Malta
Party time in Paceville, Malta

People come here not only from all over the island but also from other countries. Dozens of clubs for every taste – pop, techno, Latin; everyone will find here a lovely place to enjoy dancing until the morning.
Do not forget to take your ID with you – at the entrance to the bar or club, you may be asked to confirm your age.

Here it is – life in Malta!

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visit SkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.

Welcome to Malta! – Romanna’s first SkySurf.Travel blog entry

This is a series of blog entries from SkySurf.Travel’s first travel hiree, Romanna.

Malta
Malta

Welcome to Malta!

If you think Malta is just one island – you’re in for a surprise! It’s an archipelago. The main island is very small, about 30 km long and 15 km wide. In just a week, you can easily see the most interesting places without a personal car. There are two additional islands worth visiting – Comino island with its popular Blue Lagoon and Gozo island.

Traveling around Malta is very easy – the island has a well-developed transportation system of buses that ride according to a schedule to all cities and attractions. All routes of the island are closely intertwined in Valletta – the heart of Malta. Near the main entrance to the city is a huge Triton fountain – you can not miss it.

Malta - Triton fountain
Malta – Triton fountain

Nearby is the main bus station on the island. From this spot, you may go everywhere! All bus stops are equipped with special schedules and routed maps. Moreover, buses have free Wi-Fi, which makes it very convenient if you do not want to buy a local SIM card. Despite the fact that it’s hot in the streets, I always advise you to take warm clothes with you – often the air conditioner works at full capacity inside buses and there is a significant temperature drop.

There is no other transportation on the island – only taxis, rental cars or scooters. There are also small boats that run along the harbor and ferries for longer journey cruises.

Maltese boats
Maltese boats

* Budget tip – the cost of a bus ticket is 2 euros, night bus costs 3 euros. The ticket is valid for two hours, which allows you to make a transfer if necessary without having to pay extra. If you are not going to spend all your time at the apartment, or hotel – buy a travel card for a week. The cost of the card is 21 euros and it allows you to travel unlimited for 7 days on the day and night buses, and can be used for buses on the Gozo island! You can buy a travel card at the airport, or you can find one of the many points of sale on the site https://www.publictransport.com.mt/en/timetables
You can also see all the routes and schedules visiting the above link.

Malta
Malta

It’s especially good to come to Malta during the spring or autumn – when it’s not so hot, and not the high season, which means fewer tourists. The winter on the island is rather mild and rainy – on average 10-15 ° C, and the summer is dry and insanely hot. In August, the temperature rises to 35 °C, which is not very comfortable if you like active rest. In addition, it affects prices. The cost of hotels and apartments is much lower in the low season, and you have a better chance of finding a pleasant place for a reasonable amount of money.

* Budget tip – use Couchsurfing to find a place to live. This is a great way to get to know the country in which you are going to travel. It allows you to get deeper into the culture and find new friends! Plus, housing is usually the biggest expense while traveling, so it allows you to save some money.

I found a wonderful host. He is a professional handball player from Ukraine who moved to Malta 7 years ago to play for the national team. This was my first Couchsurfing experience. To be honest, I was worried. In advance, I created a profile, filled out information about myself and began to explore the possibilities of the community. It is important to familiarize yourself with the basic rules and carefully study the page and reviews of the person. Reviews are the key to trust.
You can see who else was hosted by the host, read the impressions of people, and see if you will be comfortable with this person. Couchsurfing is not free accommodation. It is a way to make friends with people from all over the world, learn their customs, and have fun. This is a special kind of relationship based on trust, because a person opens the door of his or her house for you, although that person sees you for the first time. The main goal of the platform is to unite people of all nationalities while traveling. From the first day, I realized that this was the best decision. While I was there, the host took another traveler from the US. We quickly found a common ground and the next day we went to study Maltese together. This made the trip unforgettable because it is much more interesting to discover a new country in the company of a new friend!

Malta
Malta

A special feature of Malta is bilingualism. This is one of the few countries where English has practically supplanted the local language. It is important to say that Malta used to be a British colony. And even after it became independent in 1964, British people still often choose this area for their holiday.

The English language, a comfortable climate, and relatively low prices in comparison with most European countries contributed to the creation of dozens of English language schools. This is a paradise for students – every year thousands of young people come to study language in Malta from all around the world.

Malta nightlife
Malta nightlife

At the same time, you can hear on the streets Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian and other languages ​​- some people come only for a few weeks, and some people spend more than a year here. This multiculturalism fills the island with life. Malta has its own mode – a time for study and work, a time for rest, and a time for loud parties.

Maltese sandstone building
Maltese sandstone building

While walking around Malta you quickly get used to the yellow color – all houses on the island are built of sandstone – the most affordable building material.
However, everyone wants to be different and makes his or her home special. Here are some fun facts about the Maltese houses:

  1. Multi-colored balconies. Red, blue, white, green – it seems you can collect all the colors of the rainbow here! Interestingly, even if the balcony is quite old, it still has a special charm. You will not see such balconies anywhere else!
  2. Each house has its own name, which hangs next to the entrance door. In Malta, numbering is rarely used; most often they just name their home! Columbus, Jupiter, Julian – what a fantasy!
  3. Original doors. On the whole island, you will not find two identical doors – do not even try it! There are different shapes, colors, and most importantly, door handles! There are so many kinds of them – some are ordinary and some are in the form of faces, hands, fish, angels, or national symbols. It is simply impossible to pass by and not be able to stare at every door.

Malta
Malta

Malta door handles
Malta door handles

Maltese house
Maltese house

Each house has a distinctive feature – its own balcony, its own name, and its own special doors. So every walk around the city stretches for a long time because you want to see everything!

In the next article, I will talk about the main cities of Malta – where to go, what to pay attention to, and what not to miss while traveling around the island.

See you soon!
Romanna

Romanna’s trip to eight cities (five islands) in Europe cost a total of $815 (flights only).  To build your own cheap multicity itinerary, visit SkySurf.Travel.

View more photos of Romanna’s European SkySurf.Travel adventure on Instagram

To read more of Romanna’s SkySurf.Travel adventure blogs, click here.