Recommendations

This page presents some of our recommendations from our travels. From hostals to restaurants and other activities, here we’ll share some of our favorites. We hope they’re helpful!

Travel Agency: Airtreks – US based agency that knows how to plan long or around the world trips and is able to secure you great ticket prices. The agents are very good at responding to emails in a timely manner, which is important while you are on the road. It is nice having some support behind you.

GUATEMALA

Antigua

Spanish School: Antigueña Spanish Academy – Great teachers and the daily after class activities are included in the low price.

Hostal: The Yellow House (Casa Amarilla) – Ever so slightly pricier option for a hostal (still cheap) but the roof terrace and included breakfast buffet make it a winner.

Restaurant: Rainbow Cafe – Open air courtyard, great breakfasts and live music in the evenings make this a great gringo hangout.

Retreat: Earth Lodge – This gorgeous collection of cabins and tree houses lies 30 minutes outside of Antigua on a mountain top overlooking a beautiful valley. The central house serves fantastic family style meals and there is an avocado farm on the property as well.. An amazing weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of Antigua. Pack light though, the 20-30 minute hike in and out of the property is very steep and big packs can be tough.

Lake Atitlan

Hostal: La Iguana Perdida in Santa Cruz – Best hostel we’ve stayed at anywhere. Friendly fun atmosphere, beautiful spot right on the lake with great swimming, delicious family style dinners, live music and bonfires by the shore. Super affordable too. A little slice of heaven.

Activity: Zipline tour at the Nature Reserve in Panajachel – The “Extreme” tour with the extra long runs sends you soaring over the lake from hillside to hillside. Epic.

Lanquin/Coban

Activity: Semuc Champey – one of the most beautiful places on Earth

Activity: Kan Ba Cave tour – Swim from cavern to cavern by candlelight. What?!

Hostal: El Retiro is more relaxed and by the river, Zephyr lodge is the party spot on the hill. Depends on what you are in to.

Flores

Activity: Tikal obviously. Best Mayan site in Guatemala. We liked the afternoon tour, way fewer people and sunset from the top of a pyramid. Way cool.

Hostal: Tres Amigos – Is a good option and they can arrange tours and transport for you.

BELIZE

Caye Caulker

Hotel: Mara’s Place is nice for private cabanas and it is near the Split.

Restaurant: Enjoy – Best $10 Whole grilled lobster plate in town. Soooo good.

Activity: Swimming at The Split of course!

Activity: 3 day island hopping sailing trip from Caye Caulker to Placencia with Ragamuffin tours. Camping on deserted islands is amazing.

Placencia

Hostal: Lanas Guesthouse – Great clean and cheap place with a porch looking over the beach and a kitchen.

Restaurant: Cozy Corner: Best Stewed Chicken in town

Restaurant: Barefoot Beach Bar: A thousand things on the menu you’re bound to find something you like. Reasonably priced too.

Restaurant: Pickled Parrot: Great daily specials but they’re often all gone by 5pm so go early!

Cafe: Above Grounds Coffee: Great coffee, homemade breads and bagels.

HONDURAS

Utila

Dive School: UDC, Utilla Dive Center – Best teachers, best gear, best everything. Most instructors at other schools learned at UDC.

Hostal: The Mango Inn – A little off the main drag which is great, set amidst a nice garden with a huge swimming pool. Downside is no kitchen for public use.

Restaurant: Buccaneers Grill – Our sleeper pick. Consistently delicious more than anywhere else on the island.

Activity: Scuba Diving – 80 world class dive spots around one small island. Unbelievably good.

NICARAGUA

Leon

Hostal: La Tortuga Booluda (The Lazy Turtle) – Great laid back spot with nice common areas and kitchen.

Granada

Hostal: Hostal Backyard – Cheap place with a swimming pool. Great owners and bunny rabbits running around the garden areas.

Restaurant: Mona Lisas – Fantastic Italian food and Calzones

Activity: Tour of the Isletas – Boat around the 300 or so small islands on the lake.

Ometepe

Activity: Waterfall Hike – Tough-ish 2 hour hike in hot jungle with a great finish cooling off under a huge waterfall.

Activity: Rent Dirtbikes – Best way to see the islands back trails and a quarter the price of renting a quad.

Hostal: Little Morgans (I Guess?) Interesting party spot in a good location by the lake and its cheap and social but the volunteers that work there are too wasted all the time.

San Juan Del Sur

Hotel: Hotel Estrella – Cheap hotel in town and right on the beach. Most of the hostals in the area are big time party spots so if you don’t want that, Estrella is a great cheap alternative. Delicious breakfast included.

Activity: Walk up to the Christ on the mountain – Epic Views from up there.

Activity: Surf Maderas beach, etc. – So many great surf spots in the area.

Restaurant: El Bocadito, Cha Cha Cha, Nacho Libre, El Colibri, King Curry… so many good options.

Little Corn Island

Restaurant: Tranquilo Bar – Best happy hour too.

Cocktail: The Pina Colada at the Turned Turtle Restaurant – Yeah it’s that good.

Activity: Hanging out on the porch of the Casa Iguana.

Activity: Walking the beach on the Eastern shoreline

Activity: Swimming and snorkeling

Activity: Climbing the lighthouse – incredible 360 degree views of the island.

Great Corn Island

Hotel: Big Fish Cafe and Guesthouse – A great find and super affordable.

PANAMA

Bocas Del Toro

Hostal: If staying in Bocas on the cheap, stay in town. We stayed a little outside of town and it was an $8 five minute cab ride to town anytime you needed anything. Those fares add up real quick.

Activity: Visit the Bocas Brewery, the first and only microbrew in the area.

Boquete

Hostal: Mamallenas – Good social spot in a central location.

Activity: Valley Tour at Panama Pathfinders AKA Boquete Information & Learning Center. Great tour of many sites in and around Boquete including a coffee finca, a haunted mansion and some killer vista points.

Panama City

Hostal: Casa Areka – Our personal choice over in a safe neighborhood near the malls. Nice folks and cheaper than most places in old town.

Restaurant: Trapiche – Local place with the best Ropa Vieja in town.

Restaurant: Chuerreria Manolo: Another local place with the best Sancocho in town.

Activity: Panama Canal tour! – The museum at the Miraflores Locks is quite good and you can watch ships go through from the observation deck.

Activity: Ride the Panama Canal Railroad – Classic glass domed train takes you from the Pacific to the Caribbean in 2 hours along and through the Canal.

Activity: Walk around Old Town Panama City (Casco Viejo) – A world Heritage Site, Old Town Panama is historically preserved and just gorgeous.

Portobelo

Hotel: Coco Plum – Lovely little hotel on the water with spacious, well appointed rooms and a private dock. Restaurant closes around 6pm though (or whenever they feel like going home) and it’s a bit of a walk outside of town.

Evening hangout: Captain Jacks

Activity: Kayak with Portobelo Adventures – Great guides, awesome adventures. They also do snorkeling and hiking tours.

Activity: Scuba dive with 2 Oceans Divers

COLOMBIA

Cartagena

Activity: Walk around Old Town. Another beautiful World Heritage Site.

Restaurant: Malagana Cafe & Bar – If you’re in the Getsemani neighborhood, check this place out.

Medellin

Activity: Ride the Metro Cable up to ARVI park – It’s a $4 gondola ride over the city and nearby nature reserve. Can’t beat that!

Hotel: 61 Prado – Not in the “hip” neighborhood but private rooms were cheaper than the hostals and it’s 100% nicer. Very well done upscale rooms. Also the restaurant serves a $7 Filet Mignon dinner as good as any $50+ one I’ve had in the states. So good.

Guatape

Hostal: El Encuentro – One of the nicest, most relaxing and friendly hostals we’ve stayed at. Perched on a hillside over the lake its only a 5 minute walk to town. Very nice and affordable place.

Activity: Climb the Piedra del Peñol – This 600 foot granite boulder in the middle of the valley has a steep stairway all the way to the top and the best views we’ve seen on this journey. Epic.

Manizales

Hostal: Hostal Kaleidoscopio – New place in downtown with super friendly owners and a good included breakfast.

Activity: Visit the Recinto del Pensamiento nature reserve – Seriously the two-hour tour (including gondola ride) is wonderful and the reserve is a special place. A must do in the area.

Activity: Visit the Cathedral Basillica Nuestra in the Central Plaza – Gorgeous cathedral with spectacular stained glass.

Santa Rosa de Cabal

Hostal: Coffee Town Hostal – Great little hostal two blocks from the bus stop.

Activity: Santa Rosa de Cabal Balneario Termales – Incredible mineral pools nestled in a valley bellow a 90′ waterfall. A great way to relax the day away.

Salento

Hostal:  Plantation House – Cheap, clean (ish) and conveniently located a block out of town.

Restaurant: Brunch – Great breakfast and burgers all day. Also they have a free mini movie theater in the back with 2000 titles you can use whenever!

Restaurant: La Eliana – Great inexpensive place serving local food and delicious curries with an adorable back patio and garden. Really quite good food and incredible for the money.

Activity: Play “Tejo” at Los Amigos – Tejo is a Colombian game that involves blowing up packets of gunpowder by throwing steel weights at them. Nuff said.

Activity: Coffee Finca Tours – This is the heart of Colombian coffee country. Take advantage.

San Gil

Hostal: Santander Aleman TV – Great hotel/hostal with a roof terrace & kitchen. The employees are very nice and can arrange any tour or adventure you may be interested in.

Activity: Paragliding! – Holy moly that was fun.

ECUADOR

Quito

Hostal: Hostal Revolution – Between Old town and the “hip” neighborhoods. Revolution is walking distance to most things and the staff is very friendly.

Papallacta

Hotel: Hosteria Pampallacta Termales – This idyllic located hotel has multiple on-site mineral pools for you to enjoy and is much, much cheaper than the nearby resort. With views of green mountains in every direction you can’t miss. The restaurant is fantastic as well and is known for the best food in town. Highly recommended.

Activity: Behind the resort are several trailheads into the valley. Walk to your hearts content to see alpacas, waterfalls, wildflowers, etc.

Montanita

Restaurant: Shawarma Willy – more of a street stall than a restaurant. Shawarma Willy is often imitated in Montanita but never duplicated. So Good.

Cocktails: The bar at Montezuma Hostal – Great prices and great guys.

Restaurant: Kapadokia – Really quality mediterranean seafood. Actually probably the best seafood in town.

Olon

Hostal: Hostal Surf Olon – Great priced rooms. good peole and nice social areas. Only 4 blocks from the beach.

Restaurant: Random Grill Place – No name street grill. Walk out the fron door of Surf Olon, cross the street and take a right. Take your first left. Walk two blocks down and look down the street on the right. At night you’ll find a guy grilling out on the sidewalk with tables set up in the street that are typically full of people. $3 for a huge plate of grilled meat, rice and beans. Soooooo tasty.

Las Tunas

Hotel: La Baraquita – Like a beachside resort with infinity pool and gorgeous gardens that happens to have a few cheap basic rooms with shared bathroom for budget travellers. Also the restaurant is a giant wooden galleon! The food is mediocre but the resort as whole is a great get away from it all kinda place.

Guayaquil

Hotel: Tangara Guest House – Cute, clean, cheap and the staff are incredibly nice and helpful.

PERU

Lima

Hostal: Dragonfly Hostal – Good affordable option in an old colonial. A couple blocks from all the nightlife in Miraflores but not so close to interupt a good nights sleep if you need one. Very nice staff as well.

Restaurant: La Lucha Sanducheria – OMG. Best sandwiches ever. This Kennedy Park standout is always packed but is super efficient so it goes real quick. The beef brisket sandwich is unreal.

Restaurant: El Pez Amigo – SERVES LUNCH ONLY – Slightly more upscale seafood restaurant ($10 mains) that is incredibly good. Treat yourself. It’s worth it.

Restaurant: El Pez On – Lights out cevicheria.

Activity: Kennedy Park, Miraflores – Just wander around at night and check out the art and the scene.

Cusco

Restaurant: Mr. Soup – It’s chilly at high altitude up in Cusco and this is a restaurant that serves hot soups from around the world. How could you go wrong?

Restaurant: Uchu Steakhouse – Higher end (still very affordable) steakhouse that serves insanely good Alpaca kababs and other meats grilled (and served) on volcanic stones.

Restaurant: Paddys Irish Pub – Self proclaimed highest altitude Irish pub in the world has ridiculously good shepherds pie and other Irish classics.

Hostal: Hostal Koyllur – More of a hotel than a hostal, if you’re tired of all the overpriced, undercleaned hostals in Cusco (we were), check out this inexpensive nice spot.

Activity: Inca Trail Day Tour – If you’re not doing the full Inca trail trek to Machu Pichu (with the other 500 people a day that do it) this day tour is a gret way to see a beautiful section of the original Inca trail from Cusco to the Sacred Valley. And we were the only people on the trail!

Activity: Machu Pichu – If you’re in Peru, you’re already going probably. But might we suggest going at 5:30am, climbing to the top of Huayna Pichu at sunrise and watching the fog clear off the Machu Pichu ruins from above. Absolutely the best way to see the lost city.

Activity: Peru Rail train to Agua Calientes – What can I say. I love trains, especially with glass roofs. Sit by the window on the LEFT side for the best views.

Puno

Hostal: Huchuy Wasi – Clean place with very helpful friendly staff.

Activity: Visit the Reed Islands of Lake Titicaca of course. Definitely spend the night on an island with a family as well. It is an immersive experience not to be missed.

BOLIVIA

La Paz

Hotel: Hotel Milton – This old school hotel from the 70’s is in a good central location and is a good cheap change of pace from the party hostels of the area. Downside is no ins and outs after 11pm.

Restaurant: English Pub – As the name would indicate this is in fact an English Pub in Bolivia with all the greats, Shepherds Pie, Fish & Chips, you name it. Done well.

Uyuni

Hotel: Tonito Hotel – Easily the best hotel in town and only slightly more expensive than the infamously bad hostels of the area.

Restaurant: Minuteman Pizza – In the back of the Tonito hotel is the best pizza in all of Bolivia. The American owner is from Boston and knows how to make a great pie. They also have a salad bar and an amazing breakfast buffet.

Activity: The Southwest Circuit of course! If you’re in Uyuni you are here to do this amazing multi day tour of the salt flats and other geological oddities of southern Bolivia. We used Quechua Connections as our tour operator who were a good cheap option. If you want to spend more money there are a wide variety of operators and options available.

Sucre

Hostel: La Escondida – Beautiful hostel in a great central location across from the market. Good breakfast and helpful staff too.

Activity: Origenes Folklore Dance Dinner Show – A great show of traditional regional folk dances from all over Bolivia. Great time and good food as well.

Restaurant: Tentaciones – Best Chicken Parmigiana in Latin America. So good. The other food was quite good as well.

Chocolate: Para Ti Chocolatiers – The best in Bolivia. Stores throughout the country.

Samaipata

Hostel: La Posada Del Sol – A gorgeous property with gardens, a large lawn and hammocks throughout. Great service as well. The on site restaurant is one of the best in town.

Restaurant: Luna Verde – At the Posada Del Sol hotel, this restaurant serves international cuisine done right. Highly recommended.

Activity: Waterfalls – There are countless amazing hikes and adventures to be enjoyed around Samaipata but relaxing by the nearby waterfalls for the day is easy and so relaxing. Great to swim in as well. You can take a taxi there and a picnic lunch.

CHILE

Santiago

Hostel: Santiago Backpackers – this great chill but social backpackers haunt has just what you need. A friendly staff, clean rooms, a big kitchen and good community spaces for meeting other travellers.

Activity: Visit Cerro Santa Lucia – a beautiful park with fountains, views and historic buildings.

Valparaiso

Bed & Breakfast: The Yellow House – Great little place with a great staff and clean comfortable rooms.

Activity: Free Walking Tour – A great way to see much of the incredible street art of the city and learn about it’s interesting and rich cultural history. Plus it’s free!

Colchagua Valley/ Santa Cruz

Hostel: Hostel Del Centro – Right in the heart of Santa Cruz, this friendly little place is cheap and clean with a good breakfast. The downside is the guest kitchen has no stove. Besides that a very good choice.

Winery: Vina Santa Cruz – Beautiful winery with delicious Carmenere. As with all Chilean wineries it’s much cheaper just to buy glasses of wine than to do an official “tasting”. The grounds are beautiful to walk around as well.

ARGENTINA

Mendoza

Hostel: Hostel Lao – One of our favorites in all of Latin America. Great social areas, tours, kitchen, staff, etc. Very highly recommended. The private rooms in the pool house are an especially great deal.

Activity: Winery tours – Luhan de Cuyo and Maipu are each worth a day of exploration. Such a beautiful area.

Wineries: Carinae and Familia de Tomasso in Maipu. Clos de Chacras (take the tour!) in Luhan de Cuyo.

Activity: Sunset Horseback Riding – There are several companies that offer horseback riding in the region and include a full Asado (BBQ) dinner afterwards. Your hostel can arrange a guide.

Activity: Hot Springs and Spa Day – Termas Cacheuta hot springs and day spa was supposed to be epic. We unfortunately didn’t make it on account of weather but it was recommended to us by many people.

Bariloche

Hostel: Penthouse 1004 – Do you want to see the best views from a hostel anywhere in Latin America? Stay at Penthouse. Do you want to use the best hostel guest kitchen I’ve ever seen in the world? Stay at Penthouse.

Activity: Ride the Ski Lift to the top of Cerro Campanario – The views of the Lake District from the top are spectacular.

El Calafate

Hostel: America Del Sur Hostel – a little bit outside of town center (an easy 5 minute walk) but with incredible lake views and a great staff. This is an extremely nice full service hostel, highly recommended.

Activity: Perito Moreno Glacier – This is why you’re in El Calafate right? Definitely take the inexpensive boat tour to the face of the glacier as well. Very much worth it.

Activity: Glaciarium/ Ice Bar Branca – This museum about glaciers is so well laid out it is definitely worth a visit. Also there is an amazing bar made entirely out of ice in the basement. A truly must see unique experience.

El Chalten

Hostel: Patagonia Hostel – Almost like a hotel, the very nice HI Patagonia Hostel is a good deal in good location. The dorms are a bit cramped but the privates are quite nice. You’ll be out trekking all day anyway and so tired when you get home it doesn’t matter that much though.

Activity: Trekking – The big two are the beautiful Torre Trail to Laguna Torre and the Fitz Roy trail to Laguna Capri and Laguna De Los Tres. All trekking from El Chalten is spectacular though. Going in the fall when the leaves are changing is highly recommended.

Buenos Aires

Hostel: America Del Sur in San Telmo – Great neighborhood if you don’t want to be in the party zone of Palermo. This large clean hostel has very good rooms, staff, activities, common areas, wifi and a solid kitchen.

Activity: Tango Show – You must see a Tango Show in Buenos Aires. Most are dinner shows and include a dance lesson beforehand.

Activity: San Telmo Sunday Market – Walk the full length of Defensa for this amazing arts market every Sunday.

Activity: Recoleta Cemetary – A must see walk through ancient to modern tombs of Argentinas wealthy elite. Unbelievable.

Activity: Fuerza Bruta – Amazing performance art show with ariel acrobatics and stunning visuals. Highly, highly recommended.

Restaurant: Delhi Masala – Best Indian food in Buenos Aires, possibly all of Argentina.

Puerto Iguazu

Hostel: Garden Stone Hostel – Very chill place with beautiful gardens, outdoor common spaces and a pool. Conveniently close to the bus terminal as well.

Activity: Visit Iguazu Falls – A no brainer, we highly recommend getting to the Argentina side when they first open and catch the first train to the top. The viewing platform for the Devils Throat is small so if you can be the first people there it is soooo worth it. Also recommend taking the boat ride under the falls (incredible) and definitely visiting the Brazil side as well, it is completely different than the Argentina side and can be done in 3-4 hours.

BRAZIL

Foz do Iguacu

Activity: Visit Iguazu Falls- A no brainer, we highly recommend getting to the Argentina side when they first open and catch the first train to the top. The viewing platform for the Devils Throat is small so if you can be the first people there it is soooo worth it. Also recommend taking the boat ride under the falls (incredible) and definitely visiting the Brazil side as well, it is completely different than the Argentina side and can be done in 3-4 hours.

Rio De Jeneiro

Hostel: Books Hostel – A party spot in Lapa but the staff are great and the tours and location are top notch.

Activity: Visit the Lapa steps – These incredible mosaic stairs are the life work of artist Jorge Selaron and are also called the Selaron steps.

Activity: Visit the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian – Mind blowing stained glass. Some of the best in the world.

Activity: Favela Tour – Highly recommended as is the tour company Be A Local. They do incredible tours of the Favelas that are safe and incredibly educational.

Activity: Visit Ipanema Beach – This famous beach is beautiful.

Activity: Christ the Redeemer – Visiting the giant Art Deco Christ that looks down over the city of Rio is an experience. Try to be there real early to take the first tram up as the platform at the top fills up fast. The views over the city are stunning.

Activity: Friday Night Lapa Street Party – The plaza in front of the Lapa arches comes to life every Friday night with live music and revelry.

Ilha Grande/ Vila do Abraao

Transport: Easy Transfer – Great affordable transfer service between Rio, Isla Grande and Paratay in any direction.

Hostel: Holandes Hostel – This laid back HI hostel is off the beach but is therefore cheap for the island. Great gardens, dorms and little cabins. A very chill spot.

Activity: Boat day tour – The standard tours include stops at multiple snorkeling locations including Laguna Azul & Laguna Verde and stops at several beautiful beaches. A fun day for sure if the weather is nice.

Activity: Hiking – From the simple Abraao Loop Trail to grander adventures, Ilha Grande is an island jungle worth exploring.

Restaurant: Biegarten Restaurant – This pay per Kilo place has top notch food and is one of the better values on the island.

Restaurant: Bakery – This bakery has delicious baked goods (try the cheese rolls) and sandwiches. Another great value on the island.

Paratay

Hostel: Backpackers House – Cheaper than the beachfront places and a great relaxed vibe with hammocks and a swimming pool. You feel like your in a big friendly house and the staff are very friendly. The breakfast spread is immense as well.]

Activity: Boat trip – The classic boat trip involves several stops for snorkeling and beaching throughout the day. The larger boats like the Netuna II from Paratay Tours are a great deal at just $15 for the whole day. The smaller private boats are more expensive but could be worth it if you have a large group.

Activity: Waterfall/Distillery tour – This jeep tour takes you to multiple waterfalls, a rope swing into a lagoon, a large natural rock waterslide, a huge cliff to jump off of into a lagoon and multiple Cachaca distilleries. Big fun.

Activity: Trinidade/ Natural Pools – Visiting the small beach village of Trinidade can be combined with a great walk to the Natural Pools. A beautiful swimming area where large rocks trap the seawater in a calm swimming area. Stunningly beautiful.

Sao Paolo

Hostel: Hey Hostel – Very friendly staff and above average nice facilities in the Vila Madelena neighborhood. Also quite cheap. Highly recommended.

Salvador

Hostel: Laranjeiras Hostel – This nice HI Hostel is in a prime location near all the action in Pelourinho old town. It is also a block away from the hugely popular (but less nice imo and pricier) backpacker party hostel Galleria 13. The attached crepery is also quite good and an excellent value.

Hotel: Open House Barra – This eclectic Bed & Breakfast in the beach neighborhood of Barra is fun and friendly.

Activity: Drum Show – Drums are the heartbeat of Salvador and large drumline type shows are happening nightly. You can hear them from across town so find one and check it out. They are incredible.

Activity: Barra Lighthouse at sunset – At the intersection of the two main beaches of Barra, this peninsula is the only place on mainland Brazil where you can watch the sun set over the ocean.

Activity: Visit Old Town Pelourinho – A beautiful old town with cobblestone streets and old churches everywhere.  A must see in Salvador.

Chapada Diamantina/ Lencois

Hostel: Hostel Chapada – This great HI hostel in Lencois is a great jumping off point for adventure in the National Park Chapada Diamantina. The owners are extremely helpful and they will even pick you up and drop you off at the bus station. Highly recommended.

Activity: Poco Azul & Poco Encontado tour – Two amazing caves with glowing blue water in them. You can even swim in Poco Azul! Very highly recommended.

Activity: Grand Tour Chapada Diamantina – This great tour takes you to several caves, several nice swimming areas, a beautiful waterfall and an incredible sunset viewpoint. Highly recommended.

Praia Do Forte

Hostel: Albergue Praia Do Forte Hostel – The only hostel in town, this nice HI hostel is a bit pricey but very, very well appointed.

SWAZILAND

Hostel: Sundowner Hostel in Malkerns Valley- Possibly the BEST hostel we’ve stayed at on this trip. A converted mansion, this huge hostel has everything. A swimming pool, pool table, huge common areas, a kitchen, campfires in the yard, an outdoor bar, super friendly staff and it’s incredibly cheap. Highly recommended.

Activity: Hlane National Park – We took a jeep safari in this beautiful park and saw lions, giraffes. rhinos, buffalo, elephants, kudu and sooooo much more. In one day!

Activity: Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary – Self driving safaris are possible in this beautiful park. We saw elephants, hippo, rhinos, warthogs, zebras and much, much more.

Activity: Swazi Cultural Center – See a real Swazi village, watch a traditional dance show, check out a waterfall, etc. A nice spot.

Activity/Restaurant: Swazi Candles Craft Market – Great crafts, great food, great handmade candles. Very cool place.

SOUTH AFRICA

Everywhere

Rent a Car. South Africa is so much better explored with a car. Highly recommended.

St. Lucia

Activity: iSimangaliso Wetland Park drive through – Driving through iSimangaliso is an amazing experience. Incredible landscapes, flora and fauna including red dunes and zebras.

Activity: iSimangaliso Boat Tour – Taking a boat tour through the estuary is a must do. Crocodiles, Birds galore and dozens of Hippos everywhere. Very cool.

Restaurant/Shop: Cheese Farm (Chane’ Natural) – Outside of St. Lucia you’ll see many a sign for the Cheese Farm. Go. Delicious cheeses for sampling and purchase.

Durban

Hostel: The Hippo Hide – Great place with very nice rooms and comfortable common areas.

Activity: Victoria Market – Famous market in Durban, perfect for picking up art, souvenirs and Indian spices.

The Wild Coast

Guesthouse: Bulungula Lodge – An actual Xhosa village, way, way out there. Such an amazing experience. Worth the trek to get out there.

Hostel: Buccaneers Backpackers – This beach side hostel/hotel complex offers everything from tents to private cottages. Free wine and volleyball every night add to the charm of this friendly gathering place. A true backpackers destination retreat.

Storms River Village

Hostel: Tube & Axe – Just the best hostel in town. Easily.

Activity: Tsitsikama National Park – Fantastic coastal forest hiking including the Waterfall trail, the Otter Trail and the Storms River Mouth suspension bridges. Well worth the visit.

Activity: Monkeyland Monkey Sanctuary – Terrible name, awesome place. Take a guided walk through the forest with hundreds of rescued monkeys from around the world.

Activity: Birds of Eden – Next door to Monkeyland, this is the worlds largest aviary. Soooo many beautiful birds from around the world in a spectacular habitat. Lakes. waterfalls and more add to the experience. Highly recommended.

Wilderness

Hostel: Fairy Knowe Hostel – Possibly the only hostel in Wilderness, this place is nicely laid out between cottages and an old farmhouse.

Restaurant: Yummy Falafel & Shwarma – Surprisingly delicious Shwarma from this little food stand by the circle.

Activity: Map of Africa – Head up to this scenic outlook for an incredible valley view. The rivers bellow actually do seem to outline the shape of the African continent below you.

Route 62

Activity: Chandelier Ostrich Farm Ostrich Riding – OMG. Yes you actually get to ride the big goofy birds at this Ostrich farm!

Activity: Ronnies “Sex” Shop – Legend has it that this now famous bar, food stand and gift shop were seldom visited until Ronnies friends wrote the word “Sex” on his sign thus changing the course of Ronnies Shop forever. Nothing sex related actually sold here.

Robertson

Hostel: Robertson Backpackers – Top notch hostel with everything you need and multiple great lounging areas. Very clean and friendly helpful staff as well.

Activity: Wine tasting of course – Recommended wineries: Graham Beck, Springfield Estate, Majors Hill, Bon Courage, De Wetsof Estate, Esona Boutiqe Winery and Weltevrde.

Activity: Cellar Tour at Weltevrde – Very nice cellar tastings available in the catacombs.

Hermanus

Hostel: Hermanus Backpackers – Very nice place that includes a free night if you book your shark cage diving trip through them. Cheapest place to book a shark cage diving trip as well.

Activity: Great White Shark Cage Diving! – White Shark Ecoventures is a very good tour operator. Book your tour through Hermanus Backpackers for a big discount.

Stellenbosch

Guesthouse: Magnolia Place Guesthouse – Very, very nice guesthouse for the money.

Activity: Wine tasting – Recommended wineries: Hartenberg Winery, Beyerskaloof and Villiera Winery.

Cape Town

Activity: Boulder Beach Penguins –  Have you ever seen an African penguin? Here’s your chance! Beautiful beach just covered with the adorable little waddlers. Worth paying the admission price to use the viewing platforms.

Activity: Table Mountain – You HAVE to visit the top of the amazing craggy plateau that looms over the whole city. The rotating gondolas are pretty fun as well.

Activity: VA Waterfront – Super touristy but a joy to walk around. Many delicious eateries as well.

Activity: Green Point Park – A lovely park worth exploring. We were particularly fond of walking in the labyrinth.

Hotel: Signal Hill Lodge – Fantastic hotel for the money. Feels like a boutique hotel at hostel money.

Restaurant: Peter’s House – Delicious healthy 3 meal spot. Highly recommended are the Ostrich meatballs.

Restaurant: Rafikis – Rockin pizza spot with great pies.

Johannesburg

Activity: Apartheid Museum – Comprehensive, almost overwhelming museum about the rise and fall of Apartheid. Highly educational and very fascinating.

SRI LANKA

Colombo

Hotel: Drift B&B – Very nice place with beautiful modern rooms and dorms. Very helpful staff.

Restaurant: Green Cabin – Come for the Kothu, stay for the everything. Downright delicious affordable food.

Restaurant: Heladiv Tea Club in the Dutch Hospital – Very nice teas and sandwiches. Well priced.

Activity: Gangaramaya Temple – Beautiful ornate temple. Well worth a visit.

Kandy

Hostel: Kandy Down Town Hostel – Very clean spot with cheap dorms and a kitchen.

Activity: Kandyan Dance Show – Interesting show demonstrating traditional dances including plate spinning.

Activity: Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – A must see while in Kandy. Go when the relic is open for viewing.

Ella

Cottages: Ella Okreech Cottages – Wonderful cottages with views over the valley. Each with a porch and a mini-fridge. Perfect location just off the main drag.

Restaurant: Roti Hut – Don’t confuse this upstairs spot with the street level “Downtown Roti Hut” across the street. Roti Hut has far superior Rotis and other food.

Activity: Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory Tour – Fascinating tour shows you the entire process from plant to package.

Arugam Bay

Guesthouse: Moon Eyes – The cabanas in back are very affordable and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

Restaurant: Arugam Bay Surf Resort – There are a dozen places with similar sounding names so make sure you find the right spot. They have a huge menu including Mexican food and a breezy beachfront location. Everything EXCEPT the Mexican food is delicious.

Restaurant: Schnitzel Place – No idea what it’s called but the always have a huge Schnitzel sandwich sign out front. Cant miss it. The humus is delicious as well.

Activity: Swimming by Momos – Best place on the beach to swim and Momos lets you use their lounge chairs.

Galle

Activity: Walk around the Fort – Walking along the ramparts is especially nice in the early evening.

Restaurant: Lucky Fort Restaurant – Delicious family owned curry spot. The rice and curry for two is an incredible deal.

Restaurant: Pedlars Inn – Tasty sandwich and salad place.

Unawatuna

Hotel: Surf City Hotel – Good n’ cheap. Upstairs rooms have killer ocean views.

Restaurant: Kingfisher – Easily the best restaurant on the beach. The fresh grilled seafood is wonderfully prepared with a fusion twist. Definitely worth the ever so slightly higher prices.

Restaurant: Kokos – The best burger in Sri Lanka. Actually the best burger I’ve ever had honestly. In Sri Lanka of all places!

Restaurant: Pink Elephant – Very tasty off the beach spot.

Restaurant: Jinas Vegetarian – Delicious vegetarian food. Worth a visit.

INDIA

Varkala

Hostel: Vedanta Wake Up! – this small chain of Kerala hostels offer very nice rooms and decent food at good prices. Very friendly helpful English speaking staff as well. Another bonus is if you  are going to stay at other Vedanta hostels (They have hostels in Varkala, Alleppey and Fort Cochin) you can ask for a discounted rate at all of them. We got a sweet deal.

Restaurant: There was a great place right on the beach (not up on the cliffs) that had a red sign and the best Butter Chicken Masala we would have in all of India. I don’t know what it’s called though! Good hunting!

Alleppey

Hostel: Vedanta Wake Up! – this small chain of Kerala hostels offer very nice rooms and decent food at good prices. Very friendly helpful English speaking staff as well. Another bonus is if you  are going to stay at other Vedanta hostels (They have hostels in Varkala, Alleppey and Fort Cochin) you can ask for a discounted rate at all of them. We got a sweet deal.

Activity: Houseboat cruise in the Backwaters! – Such an amazing time. If you can get a few other people together splitting a 2 bedroom if much cheaper per person than getting a one bedroom. Definitely get a boat with a covered upper deck. We went out on a boat called “7 Star Lake Cruise” and it was great for the money. We paid around $100 total for 4 people in a 2 bedroom with all meals included. We also recommend letting them know you want to go canoeing one day and they’ll take you some place to go canoeing up the smaller canals for a few hours. That was really a much different and also hugely enjoyable experience.

Fort Cochin (Kochi)

Hostel: Vedanta Wake Up! – this small chain of Kerala hostels offer very nice rooms and decent food at good prices. Very friendly helpful English speaking staff as well. Another bonus is if you  are going to stay at other Vedanta hostels (They have hostels in Varkala, Alleppey and Fort Cochin) you can ask for a discounted rate at all of them. We got a sweet deal.

Restaurant: Pepper House Restaurant – This cute little soup. salad and sandwich spot in a sunny courtyard serves up the best lighter fare in Kochi. Indian food is typically heavy so this place is a great change of pace.

Restaurant: Fusion Bay Restaurant – This excellent Indian restaurant serves a wide range of cuisine at reasonable prices. The beef curry (beef is a rarity in India) is spectacular.

Restaurant: Fish Market Stalls by the Chinese Fishing Nets – There are fish market stalls all along the waterfront selling fresh caught fish and shellfish. If you buy something at one of them a variety of local restaurant will cook the food in a variety of ways for you for a small price. Representatives from restaurants hang out by the stalls and will come up to you as you’re shopping. Nothing beats fresh fish!

Activity: Kathacari Show – Kathacari is a unique local performance style where the elaborately costumed performers tell the whole story through dance and incredible facial expressions. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Highly recommended.

Mysore

Hotel: MB International – Possibly the nicest and most helpful staff ever. Highly recommended for a nice, clean and cheap stay in Mysore.

Activity: Mysore Palace – Obviously if you’re in Mysore you’re there to see the Palace. Just a spectacular place that words are hard to describe.

Activity: Chamundi Hill – The Hindu Temple on Chamundi Hill is a beautiful and fascinating place. Walking down around the area and then down the hill via the stairs is a lovely way to spend a few hours. Watch out for the monkeys though!

Activity: Visit an Incense Maker – There are several family owned incense makers in Mysore that make incense from scratch in their homes. Interesting process to see, your hotel and most tuk tuk drivers should be able to take you to one.

Hampi

Hostel: Gopi Guesthouse – Hands down the best place we stayed in India. Great staff, the rooms in the “New Block” are very nice for the money, the restaurant is the best food in town, etc., etc. Very highly recommended.

Activity: Walking tour – Get a map and go out for a walk. There is so much to explore near the town that you could spend several days walking and exploring all the amazing scenery and ruins.

Activity: Tuk Tuk Tour – For those special sights a little further out, hire a tuk tuk for a day to take all over the outskirts. Definitely worth it, especially if you negotiate a great price like we did.

Ajuna

Hostel: Red Door Hostel – Super friendly staff and a great location near the beach. Need I say more?

Restaurant: Eatopia Restaurant – Great food for great prices AND they deliver for free. Their Prawns Vindaloo (A local specialty) is delicious and spicy as all get up.

Activity: Visit the local market in Mhapsa –  It’s only a 20 minute bus ride from Ajuna and the prices are a tenth of what you’d pay at the Ajuna tourist market.

Panjim (Panaji)

Hotel: Bharat Lodge – Super friendly staff with spacious clean rooms and they are happy to negotiate a great price for you.

Restaurant: DTR Restaurant – Fun river side restaurant serving “World Cuisine” but we just recommend the Indian food. The Aloo Gobi was the best we had in India.

Old Goa

Activity: Walk around – There are so many beautiful historic buildings to see in Old Goa. You could easily spend an entire day visiting them.

Restaurant: Sanman Family Restaurant – Very good and very cheap spot. Their Thali is delicious and super cheap.

Mumbai

Hotel: Bentley’s Hotel Anex in Coleba – Best deal in Coleba are the inexpensive but very nice rooms in the Anex of the Bentley’s Hotel. The Anex is around the corner from the main hotel. Great location.

Restaurant: Theobroma – Ridiculously good bakery and restaurant.

Restaurant: Sufra – Fantastic inexpensive middle eastern place a few doors down from Theobroma. Wonderful hummus and shawarma.

Activity: Visit the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel – This incredible hotel is worth wandering around and checking out.

Activity: The National Gallery – Beautiful gallery with Indian work from around the country.

Aurangabad

Activity: Visit the Ajanta and Elora cave temples – Both sets of cave temples are spectacular for different reasons. The Ajanta caves are in a river valley with a huge waterfall and are in a much more spectacular location. We highly recommend getting dropped off at the “View Point” and walking down to the caves. The approach from that side is unbelievable. The Elora temples are much more spectacular as temples. Start at the small temples to the right and work your way back to the massive central complex. It will blow your mind. If you have to pick one, Ajanta or Elora we would suggest Elora. The temples are just so much more impressive.

Udaipur

Hotel: Nukkad Guest House – Beautiful place with a friendly staff and a wide range of room prices and choices. Great value for money. The rooftop restaurant serves decent food though the portions are rather small. There are loads of restaurants nearby though.

Restaurant: The Little Prince Restaurant – Great Hummus and Pita, Pizzas, etc. and all in a nice relaxing waterfront location. Great value for the money as well.

Activity: Visit Kumbhalgarh Fort – This massive impressive fort has the second largest perimeter wall in the world after the Great Wall of China. 35km long winding through the mountains. So Beautiful. Combine this with a trip to the Ranakpur Jain Temple for an epic day of sight seeing.

Activity: Visit the Ranakpur Jain Temple – This 500 year old temple is carved entirely out of white marble! It’s so impressive words can’t even describe it. A MUST SEE.

Jaipur

Hotel: Kriss Residency – This very nice place out in the suburbs is quiet and the rooms are very spacious and nicely appointed. They can make great deals on the rooms without air-con as well.

Restaurant: Kanha – This restaurant out in the burbs just a few doors down from Kriss Residency has very cheap and tasty food in a clean cafeteria like environment. The sweets store downstairs also has incredible chocolates!

Agra

Hotel: Hotel Sheela – Great budget spot on a quiet street just a few blocks from the Taj entrance gate.

Activity: Visit the Taj Mahal – This needs no explanation, it’s why your here anyway. Highly recommend going at sunrise.

Lucknow

Hotel: Lucknow Homestay – Nice, friendly and cheap hostel-like guesthouse. Nice common areas and good value for the money. The family that runs the place is also very helpful.

Restaurant: Tunday Kababi – You HAVE to go here while in Lucknow. It is quite the delicious (and cheap) experience. Their kababs literally melt in your mouth.

Restaurant: Dastarkhwan – This slightly more pricey restaurant has excellent food and all the traditional local kabab varieties.

Activity: Tuk Tuk tour – For a reasonable price you can hire a tuk tuk to take you on a great tour of the historic sights of the town. Highly recommended.

Activity: Bicycle rickshaw at night – Nothing beats taking a bicycle rickshaw through the markets of Lucknow in the night time.

6 thoughts on “Recommendations

  1. Pingback: Check out our new Recommendations page! | Our wander year

  2. Hey guys! Awesome blog. Just letting you know that I took the advice you gave me in Varkala and flew to Sri Lanka two days later. It was absolutely incredible – I ended up staying 3 weeks. I’m glad I met you and I hope the rest of your trip is amazing. Make sure you stop by Varanasi – it was hands down my favourite stop in India…although the water may be pretty high now…
    Mitch from Canada

    • Glad you went Mitch! We loved Sri Lanka and can’t wait to go back. We’ve been in India for 6 weeks since we met you and are crossing the border into Nepal tomorrow night for a month by the Himalayas! Wish us luck and hope you get to travel again soon. Thanks for reading!

  3. Hey guys! Awesome blog. I just wanted to let you know that I took the advice you gave me in Varkala and headed to Sri Lanka two days later. I had an absolutely amazing time and ended up staying 3 weeks – just what I needed. So thanks! I’m glad I met you guys. Enjoy the rest of your trip!!
    Cheers
    Mitch from Canada

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