When is the best time to visit Ireland?

Dreaming of standing on the cliffs, seeing vast, luscious shades of green expanding over many miles, feeling the wind from the Atlantic blow through your hair, and experiencing such beauty that you thought only existed in a fairy tale? According to World of Wanderlust, a reputable travel blog, Ireland ranked number two out of 15 destinations in the world to travel to in 2015–and for many good reasons!

cliffs of moher ireland aavtravelLike every other destination, Ireland also experiences a high season, low season and shoulder seasons. But one thing that doesn’t change is the weather. One of Ireland’s most famous sayings goes: “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.” It couldn’t be more true, due to the fact that the weather is so unpredictable and you can experience all four seasons in one day. Ireland is on the same latitude of Washington, USA and the weather is very comparable to Seattle, especially with the amount of rainfall. But don’t let the weather be a reason to not visit this beautiful, enchanting island, because it will be an experience like no other.

Celtic Monastery Ireland aavtravelHigh Season
Generally starting the last two weeks of June because the days are long (6 a.m. sunrises and 10 p.m. sunsets–doesn’t that sound great?!) and lasts until August. You can expect the costs of airfares, hotels and car rentals to be sky high because this is the major time for tourists to flock to Ireland. Crowds will be very intense at the major attractions, such as Giants Causeway (pictured below) or, for example, the Cliffs of Moher get up to one million visitors a year! If you’re planning a trip during peak tourist season, make sure to book way in advance, because every B & B, guest house or hotel will be reserved. Destinations like Dublin, Killarney, Galway and Cork are only some of the few major stops along the way for tourists!

giant's causeway antrim northern ireland aavexplorationsThe weather during the summer, like mentioned earlier can be unpredictable. July and August are the warmest months, but they’re not scorching hot. The Irish consider anything over 20 degree Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) to be ‘roasting.’ You can expect to have nice sunny days with rain showers sporadically. It can also be chilly any time of the year in Ireland, so when you pack, think layers! That way, if you get warm you can take a layer off, or vice versa.

Christ Church Ireland aavtravelLow Season
November to March is considered the low season, where tourist traffic is at its lowest, and airfares and hotels are at their cheapest. But, the wind will really blow, some of the rural sites will be closed (or have winter hours), and a good amount of B & B’s will also be closed. Keep in mind there are holidays that will affect attraction closures, such as: Christmas (Dec. 25), St. Stephen Day/Boxing Day (Dec. 26), New Years Day (Jan. 1)  and St. Patrick’s Day (March 17).

Belfast Christmas in Ireland aavtravelThe downside to visiting in the winter is the days are shorter and the weather ranges from cool to cold. Strong winds will blow from the Atlantic, and gales are common. The Irish consider anything below 1 degree Celsius (34 degrees Fahrenheit) to be freezing during the winter months. Wintertime to most means snow, but not in Ireland. Though they do get snow in the northern region it rarely sticks, and the island mostly gets frost.  But there is an upside to visiting during the winter! Not only will you get great deals to save on the overall cost of your trip, but major attractions won’t be crowded with tourists, so you can take your time. Just make sure to pack comfortable shoes, a warm jacket, layers of clothes and an umbrella!Dublin Ireland aavtravel

Shoulder Seasons
April-May and September-October are considered Ireland’s shoulder seasons mostly because they’re not in the high or low seasons. The weather isn’t winter-like, or summer-like, but rather mild. The springtime is a great time to go because students are still in school, and family travel isn’t as prominent, plus you get to see everything in bloom! During the fall you’ll see the colors change, and students are back in school.

Connemara Ireland aavtravel The shoulder seasons are a great time visit especially if you want to escape the crowds from the summer, but don’t want to experience the winter time in Ireland. This way, you’ll have a more relaxed atmosphere, without all the hustle and bustle to worry about.

doolough ireland aavexplorationsOverall, whether you plan to visit during the high, low or shoulder season, your experience will be one in a lifetime. Ireland is a unique destination, it’s a place where you can have tropical climates in the south west and see lots of exotic plants and flowers, but you can also expect to see rare flora and fauna in the north where you won’t see anywhere else in Ireland. There’s a reason why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle, why not experience the rolling hills, greenery, and natural beauty first hand?

stephanie jellett aavtravel

Written by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanieljellett@gmail.com

 

in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Ireland Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Ireland Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. Having personally traveled to Ireland she can help you create a wonderful experience. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Where to Stay in Fiji? Vomo Island Resort — A Romantic and Active Island Getaway

Just 15 minutes north via helicopter or seaplane from Nadi International Airport on the main island, Vomo is a luxurious island resort with endless possibilities. Vomo is the northernmost island of the Mamanucas, just before the Yasawa island chain begins.  Mount Vomo is located on the its eastern side, and those who dare to conquer it can get a breathtaking 30 degree view.

vomo island resort fiji

Your Stay
There are four different types of accommodations to choose from on Vomo. There are 28 luxurious beachfront villas with a personal deck and a place to lounge. Imagine waking up in paradise and only being steps away from the sandy beach. There are also private hillside and garden villas that are below the lower slopes of Mt. Vomo and offer breathtaking views of the gardens, island or ocean.  Both the beachfront and private villas sleeps either three adults, or two adults and two children.

Vomo Fiji aavtravel The Royal is your own private getaway of true Fijian style living. With a maximum of six guests, there are three ensuite rooms, separate dining, kitchen and living areas, entertainment space and a great outdoor oasis–with your own private pool. Does it get any better than that?

Vomo Fiji aavtravel If you need more room, The Residence offers up to eight guests their own private island lifestyle at their own compound. There’s a full kitchen so you can cook up something yourself or choose on-site catering. There’s also indoor and outdoor dining, entertainment area, and there’s a free 24 hour butler service. Another perk, you’ll get sunset canapés and a bottle of champagne on arrival.

Vomo Fiji aavtravel

Kid’s are welcome in paradise
At Vomo, they understand that family is important. Which is why the resort is family-friendly. There is a “kid-village” facility (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) specifically for the children. All ages are welcome, but children under four are to be accompanied by a parent or a ‘baby butler’ (an additional charge). If you are there with your children and want to enjoy the spa for a couple hours, the staff at the kid village will keep them entertained with group activities, treasure hunts and crafts. The kid village is a complimentary service available during the day and into the evening. You can relax and know that your kids are having just as much as you are!

vomo fiji pool aavtravelThe Fun Never Ends
At Vomo, you can have endless amounts of fun–on land and the water! From building sand castles on the beach, splashing around in the pool, windsurfing, Hobbie Cats, paddle boarding, single and double kayaks (also glass bottom kayaks!) and who can forget snorkeling?! You can snorkel off the beach or go on a guided excursion offered everyday at 11 a.m. Snorkeling around Vomo and the close by private island is absolutely spectacular! Hands down some of the best we’ve ever experienced. The new PADI Dive Centre is great for all levels of experience–beginner to advanced–and they offer an array of courses.

vomo stand-up paddle board, aavtravelThere’s plenty to do on land as well to keep you busy. As a guest you have access to the tennis courts, gym, hiking and jogging trails, badminton and volleyball nets. There’s also a 9 hole-par 3 golf course on the island. So for golf lovers, you won’t have to worry about letting your swing get away over your vacation. And what a better way to spend a beautiful morning out on the course, underneath coconut trees?

vomo fiji golf aavtravelFor additional costs, there are also other activities available at Vomo, such as: deep sea fishing, sunset cruises, island hopping tours, Fijian village tours and trip to Cloud Break for surfing.

Vomo Fiji aavtravel A Personal Touch
Vomo can even be booked for private hire, like a destination wedding, special occasion or corporate event. Imagine having a whole island for just you and your guests! The staff at Vomo will be at your service to make sure everything is perfect, just for you. 

Or to add a little romance into your stay, you can book a private picnic for two on the sister island, Vomo Lailai. The best part? You’ll be dropped off with a gourmet picnic, chilled drinks and a two-way radio, and it’s only a two minutes away by boat. You can stay as long as you like! When you’re ready to return back “home” you can just radio in and staff will come pick you up, or simply just swim back. It’s your own little deserted island.

Vomo Fiji aavtravel Vomo is one of the more “lifestyle” oriented resorts in the Fijian islands. Almost a bit hip if you like. US viewers might even recall the resort being featured in the “The Bachelorette” Season 7. Here is a short clip of the final Rose Ceremony where Ashley stands at the beach with Vomo Lailai (little Vomo) in the backdrop.

Aren’t those drift wood flower decorations just gorgeous? Fijian resorts are generally a wonderful option when it comes to destination weddings. Perfect to elope to!

Another famous guest of the island was Prince Albert of Monaco. Him and his new wife stopped there on their honeymoon.

stephanie jellett aavtravel

Written by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanieljellett@gmail.com


in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Fiji Expert


stefanie pichonnat aavtravel
STEFANIE
PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the South Pacific Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

When is the best time to travel to Italy?

Thinking of visiting the Amalfi Coast? Or going on a romantic getaway to Venice? And you want to visit the largest amphitheatre in the world? Italy has and always will be a popular tourist destination; with Rome being ranked 12 out of 100 top city destinations in the world. While in the midst of dreaming and planning out your vacation, you might wonder, when is the best time to go Italy? There are a few factors that likely influence your decision: The weather, the crowds, the time you have available, and your budget. Amalfi Coast Italy aavtravel The Seasons
Just like any destination, there are high and low seasons for travel–high season meaning cities crawling with tourists, and long wait lines for popular attractions. Low season on the other hand can mean you encounter closed shops or restaurants and the weather might not be as nice.

High and low season influence cost, particularly airfare and hotel pricing. Train tickets, transfer and sightseeing tours & tickets are usually not affected by the season.

High Season
Italy’s high season generally starts in May, it runs through to Mid-July, slacks for a month and picks back up in September through October. Easter is also a very popular time for tourist to flock to Italy, so depending on when Easter falls, high season could start as early as April. This applies to just about majority of the very popular destinations throughout Italy, such as Rome, Venice, Tuscany, The Amalfi Coast, The Lakes, Milan and Sicily.

One exception are parts of Northern Italy where skiing is one of the major tourist attractions. Prices in those places peak throughout the winter months.

Tuscan Hill Italy aavtravelMay 1 is Italy’s Labor Day. Many shops, restaurants and some tourist sites will be closed since it’s a national holiday.  This is the first big month for travel, so if you think you’ll be crowd-free, think again. However, crowds are nothing like June, July and August. May is about as good as it gets weather-wise, it’s not too hot, and not too cool. It’s a beautiful time to visit, clear skies, very little rain. It will be perfect for a walk on the beach, however it will likely be still a bit chilly for swimming in the Mediterranean. Generally you can expect the weather to be in the 70s, and it only gets warmer when June rolls around. July tends to be very packed and it’s not unusual to wait hours at ticket lines to attractions. The weather gets hot. You can expect temperatures to soar to the 80s and 90s. Restaurants and hotels do not necessarily have air-conditioning so if you have a hard time with heat, it is something you will want to pay particular attention to.

assisi italy aavtravelCome August most people can’t take the heat, and leave for the beach. Availability is much better at that time, however pricing might still be up. Most Italians are headed to the shores in August for the Italian holiday Ferragosto, so a lot of family owned shops, restaurants, cantinas and cafes will be closed, although the big attractions will remain open. August can make cities like Rome feel like a ghost town, so if you’re the type to enjoy big crowds and people watching, this is not the time to go.

Portofino Italy September is also one of the busiest month for travel, particularly for European tourists as they usually have a long fall break. Popular destinations will book up quickly, especially Tuscany. September doesn’t seem like it would be a contender for the most desired time to go, but why? The weather. It’s still summer in Italy, and September still has beautiful 70 and 80 degree days; it’s pretty much like June. September is a really great time to go in terms of weather but remember, make sure to book well ahead of time, AAV Travel recommends at least 6 months ahead of time.

Low Season
The rest of the year is pretty much considered low season in Italy, though there is a rise in tourists around holidays such as, Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day. November marks the start of the low season, which goes up till the end of March. For most Italian cities, you can expect to get a lot of rain, about 4.5-5 inches of it during the month. The weather will be quite mild, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s with grey skies. Keep in mind that there are other Italian holiday’s that may have closures for some of the sites, especially the Vatican; Nov. 1 (All Saints Day), Dec. 8 (Feast Day of the Immaculate) and Dec. 26 (Santo Stefano).

Although it will be busy in the major cities come New Years, it will quiet down by the second week of January. Hotels and airfares will be cheaper, so if you want time to wander around sites minus crowds and can handle the cold, January is the time to go. January is the coldest time of the year in Italy (30 degrees), so pack warm clothes, though the more south you go, the milder it will get. It is a great time to experience an authentic Italy with less tourists. However, you will also miss out on the people watching while sipping on a coffee in the piazza. Lago Trasimeno aavtravelOther things to consider is though January and February are in the low season and there tends to be a substantial drop in tourists, places like Venice and Viareggio will be busy with celebrating Carnevale, so they’ll have higher prices compared to other Italian cities such as Rome and Florence. If your prime reason to visit Italy during the winter is to ski the Alps–which is the best time–it is also the most expensive.

 Shoulder Seasons
In-between the low and high seasons are a few months of time called the “shoulder seasons.” Typically, the shoulder seasons have reasonable weather and prices. March and October are considered those sweet spots between the high and low seasons. Though weather can be unpredictable and it’s mostly mild, you can still get fairly beautiful weather that ranges from  40 to 60 degrees, with chances of little rain.

This is considered to be one of the best times to visit Italy  if you’re willing to take a chance on the weather, or you want less crowds so you can roam freely and take your time at tourist destinations.

tuscany italy aavtravelThe Vatican
If Rome and the Vatican are on the top of your list make sure to check the Papal city’s schedule of events. A canonization for example can mean an invasion of people for the time you are there. This will affect your sightseeing as well as availability in major ways.

rome vatican city aavtravel

stephanie jellett aavtravelWritten by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanieljellett@gmail.com

 


in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Italy Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Italy Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Review – The LikuLiku Resort Fiji

Rated number three in the Top 10 most romantic islands in the world by “Island Magazine” USA, Likuliku is not only beautiful but also unique to the Mamanucas. This adult-only island resort is located on its own island, located about 25 km/16 miles from Nadi International Airport. There are several options to reach Liku Liku including a daily catamaran ferry service departing from Denarau Port. Depending on what time your flight arrives in Nadi this is a great option, or if you come in too late you might want to choose a sea plane or private boat charter to avoid having to spend the first night in Denarau.

liku liku, fiji, malolo, aavexplorationsYour Getaway
As soon as you step foot on Liku Liku’s pier you will feel as if you have been welcomed home. You will be welcomed with a traditional Fijian song, drink, cooling towel and a beautiful shell necklace. Take a deep breath, it’s time to relax and let it sink in. You have just arrived at one of the world’s most beautiful resorts and you are here to stay – at least for a little while.

liku liku, fiji, aavexplorationsLiku Liku is the currently the only Fijian property with over-water bungalows. 10 private over-the-water bures are linked by a bridge pathway from the beach. Imagine sitting on your private deck directly over water. Your spacious Fijian style bure boasts a glass floor so you can watch the colorful fish swim by while sitting in your living room. Step out onto the deck and there’s a ladder for water entry. If you just want to relax, you can even enjoy the view of the lagoon from the bathtub.

liku liku, over-water, overwater, bungalow, bure, aavexplorationsLiku Liku also offers a fantastic selection of deluxe beachfront bures, set right on the pristine sand. These bures come with your own private pool and the ocean is just a few steps away. The Deluxe Bures and Overwater Bungalows are perfect for honeymoon couples wanting to romance and looking for that extra touch of luxury.

liku liku, bure, beachfront, fiji, aavexplorationsSoothe your Body and Soul
Feeling run down? Get rejuvenated by a Fijian style massage at the Tatadra spa (meaning House of Dreams–how does that NOT sound appealing?!). The experts will send you into a state of relaxation you didn’t know existed with their Pure Fijian products. While being pampered, you can bask in the warmth and be soothed by the breeze. All overlooking the beautiful lagoon. The best thing about it all, Fijian spa services are very affordable in comparison to any other location in the world.

liku liku, fiji, spa, aavtravelExperience LikuLiku
Get ready to indulge yourself with gourmet dishes that range from freshly-caught seafood to mouth watering breakfast pastries and mud-crab omelets with chilli and papaya relish. New Zealand born Ihaka Peri is the executive chef at the resort, and you can count on every meal being fresh and creative–all while eating beachside. There’s also a hotel bar. The Masima Island Bar is the go-to spot for sipping back fruity cocktails and it’s the place to be on a Friday night.

liku liku, fiji, pool, aavtravelThere’s plenty of aquatic activity to go around on the island. For adrenaline junkies there’s: water-skiing, wakeboarding, jet skiing and kneeboarding (all at additional costs). Or for a more relaxed time on the water, rent a kayak or try windsurfing.  Take a swim in either the hotel pool or lounge in the lagoon. High tide is the best for snorkeling off the beach, near the jetty or off your own over-the-water bures. The area is a protected marine reserve, so you’re guaranteed to see lots of rainbow-colored fish. If you are an avid scuba diver and want to dive on a daily basis, LikuLiku might not be your best choice. However, if you want to dive for a day, scuba diving is handled off the island, but it’s definitely worth looking into to. They have lessons for all levels of experience that range from going deep to Maolo’s barrier reef, or checking out calm inner reefs. You can expect to see lots of colorful, hard coral, turtles, reef sharks, manta rays, moray eels and of course, tropical fish!

There’s just as much excitement back on land! Discover the ancient archaeological sites that spread across the island, hike the nature trails or plan a guided bush walk. If you want to experience the Fijian culture you can also visit the island’s two villages. Or if you really want to slow things down, taking a nice long walk along the beach is highly recommended–take in the paradise that surrounds you, feel the warmth of the sun, breathe the Fijian air, and dig  your toes in the sand.

Convinced?
Liku Liku is a wonderful place to relax and unwind. The luxurious, adult-only atmosphere is very romantic and perfect for a peaceful getaway. Allow yourself to be seduced by LikuLiku’s luxurious charms. Great dining, upscale rooms, serene spa experience, and who can forget the all the great activities? Your paradise awaits!

liku liku, overwater, bungalow, aavtravelstephanie jellett aavtravel

Written by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanie.jellett@maine.edu

 

in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Fiji Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the South Pacific Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Cork, Ireland — A Place for Lovers

Situated in the south west of Ireland, Cork is rich with luscious farmlands and rivers. The River Lee flows through two main channels in the city, so you’ll find yourself crossing bridges to get around. Though Cork isn’t a popular honeymoon getaway like Dublin (the capital of Ireland) or Galway, which rests on the Atlantic Ocean and has golden sand beaches, Cork is a true treasure trove for couples in love.

cork ireland aavexplorations

Arriving in Cork you’ll have the option to stay at various modern hotels, cozy up at a charming bed and breakfast, or romance at a historic place, such as the Bantry House pictured below. Either way—you’ll be welcomed with smiling faces anywhere you go. The best way to experience the city is by foot—imagine walking hand-in-hand down the cobblestone walkway through the old city, over the channel, taking in everything it has to offer.

bantry house ireland aavexplorationsCork turns into a different city when the sun sets. The air is filled with laughter coming from comedy clubs, friends tell jokes over a couple of beers in an old Irish bar, and beat of the DJ music can be heard down the street. Experience a wide array of nightclubs with music that ranges from modern popular music to live local music.

If you want to get out of the bustling city for a day, Kinsale is located 15 miles outside of Cork. Originally a medieval fishing village, Kinsale is located on the coast and is one of the most historic towns on the south west coast of Ireland. The picturesque village is full of beautiful buildings, complete with intimate pubs and restaurants. Listen to Irish songs in a pub while enjoying a pint of Guinness. Go horseback riding through the country side. Kinsale is the ideal place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle.

sheep road ireland aavexplorations

Ireland is a very romantic destination full of history and laid back charm. It is a place where you can feel very close to nature. Cork is but one of the many places to be explored and makes for a great stop.

Ireland as well as Northern Ireland are easy to explore on your own. The most challenging part is how to create an itinerary that optimizes the time you have available. If you would like some expert help feel free to contact us at info@aav-travel.com.

 stephanie jellett aavtravel

Written by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanie.jellett@maine.edu

 

in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Ireland Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Ireland Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

How to Not Look Like a Tourist in Rome

trevi fountain rome aavtravelBeing a tourist is one of those things were it has its perks and downsides…let’s be real, some people just don’t like tourists and never will. But, everyone has had their own share of experiences, whether good or bad. When I was a teenager I went on a trip to Quebec City with my family. We went to the shopping mall and I wanted to try on some clothes and see if there were different sizes out back…well, I don’t speak French (which is their primary language), so that led to a lot of hand gestures, frustration and eventually I just gave up and left.

Carrying a DSLR around your neck in a new place does have its perks though, for instances: I was in Philadelphia on a university trip walking downtown with a friend of mine. I had my Canon out taking photos of the skyscrapers, the old architecture and the monuments when I was approached by a woman who asked if I was a tourist, pointing to the “big fancy camera around my neck.” Laughing, I told her yes, I was from out of town. She told me that if I wanted a panoramic view overlooking the entire city to go City Hall before 4 p.m. because they let people up the tower. Sadly, I didn’t make it before City Hall closed, but it was a really nice gesture that I appreciated.

Now, it doesn’t bother me to completely play tourist when I’m in a new place, but others prefer to blend in on vacation. When going to a new place it’s pretty instinctive to research about it first and get to know the basics, such as: language, culture, history and customs. Every place is different, so it’s important to learn about it beforehand.

Viva Italia!
Italy is very well respected for their culture, which differs from what we’re used to. Not only does Rome have a different language from us, they aren’t on a fast-track like we’re used to. Imagine sitting down to eat at a quaint little Italian restaurant and you devour your meal…now imagine the dirty looks you’ll get from the other locals around you who are taking small bites, eating slowly and appreciating their meal. To make your trip go smoothly, follow these tips and etiquette and you’ll be blending in in Rome in no time.

rome colosseum aavtravelCiao! Boungornio and Bounasera
Italian is the official language of Italy and 93 percent of the population are native Italian speakers. Though in bigger cities it won’t be a problem to find someone who speaks English at the hotel. Before you head out on your trip to Rome, start practicing some basic words and phrases in Italian. If you have your trip booked months in advance, start learning the language right away–not only does this get you excited about it, it helps you develop your new language.

  • Grazie — Thank you
  • Prego — You’re welcome
  • Per favore — Yes please
  • Mi scusi — Excuse me/Pardon me
  • Non parlo molto bene italiano — I don’t speak Italian very well
  • Parla inglese? — Do you speak English?
  • Quanto costa/costano? –How much does that cost? (sg.pl.)

Tip: First impressions mean everything to Italians. When meeting someone for the first time, don’t greet them with ‘ciao!’….that greeting isn’t used amongst strangers. Shaking hands with a smile is the most appropriate behavior between strangers. Once a relationship develops, air-kissing on both cheeks (starting with the left) is very common.

Do’s and Don’t’s of Table Etiquette
It’s fairly common for tourists to wind up going to the “touristy” places to eat on vacation. Get off the tourist path, be that person who people-watches, and learn where the locals go to eat. That way you’re staying away from tourist-packed restaurants and experiencing something most tourists don’t — all while blending in. Another option is buying local food (if you’re staying at a place that has a kitchenette).

Rome Italy It doesn’t matter whether you’re at an upscale restaurant or having a picnic, Italians take their dining etiquette seriously. If you want to avoid getting dirty looks, glares, and turning waiters into enemies, here are some basic do’s and don’ts that’ll help you fit in on your vacation.

  • Do: Pick up cheese with your knife rather than your fingers.
  • Don’t: Order coffee with or after a meal; it’s seen as a way to digest your food AFTER you eat.
  • Do: Put your napkin on your lap and your hands on the table.
  • Don’t: Eat bread before a meal, it’s used to soak up left-over sauces from your meal, not fill you up beforehand.
  • Do: Wait till everyone else has their food to begin eating.
  • Don’t: Request Parmesan for your pizza or any meal…you don’t want to know what happens…just don’t do it
  • Do: Be polite to your waiter, don’t holler across the room to get his/her attention
  • Don’t: Ask for tap water at a restaurant. Italians always drink bottled water or sparkling water.
  • Do: Ask for the bill. A waiter will not bring it unless it is requested or it’s passed closing hours.

romance wine italy aavtravelDress and Sightseeing
Italy is huge on chic, European fashion and they’ll spend a pretty penny on their wardrobe. Observe the locals and what they wear and try and go with that to not stick out like a sore thumb. Women usually tend to wear feminine attire, such as dresses while men wear also be formal with suits, with and without ties (depending on the occasion). The overall trend is elegant, but conservative;old, dirty and ratty clothes are not appreciated.

love romance italy aavtravelThat goes for being in church as well. There are many churches throughout that have beautiful works of art, but remember it’s a place of worship–you need to dress appropriately. Shorts, tank tops and sleeveless garments are taboo throughout the country, so make sure to bring a sweater to cover up. Also, you can’t bring any food or beverages inside churches, so leave that behind!

Do you dare to shed your tourist aura? Get out of your comfort zone–learn a new language, learn from the locals, it’ll enrich your vacation in a way you never thought possible.
stephanie jellett aavtravel

Written by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanie.jellett@maine.edu

 

in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Italy Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Italy Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

Chichen Itza, Dzibilchatun & Ek Balam — Mayan Ruins in the Yucatán Peninsula

The Yucatán Peninsula is home to some of the most beautiful, well preserved Mayan ruins. The Mesoamerican civilization built temples, pyramids and ceremonial sites that are still in great condition–even after thousands of years! The Mayans covered a lot of territory throughout their prime (250 – 900 AD) which spanned across Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. When visiting the Yucatán Peninsula it’s a must-do to learn interesting facts about the civilization and explore the amazing Mayan ruins.

yucatan, chichen itza, maya, mexcio, world heritate site, unescoChichén Itzá
The most important city during the Mayan culture also happens to be the most popular site for tourists to visit. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chichén Itzá is only a 45 minute drive from Valladolid. Tours from Cancun as well as cruise passengers docked in Progreso bring thousands of visitors daily. If you want to experience the full grandeur of this ancient city it is best to beat the masses by arriving early, around 8 a.m. Not only does that guarantee the picture perfect photo, but you also avoid the fairly aggressive souvenir vendors that are selling souvenirs throughout the site during the day. If you arrive early morning, when the gates to Chitchén Itza open, you arrive at the same time, the vendors are allowed in. At that point, they haven’t had the time to setup yet, meaning you can roam freely without being interrupted. Also, we found it really interesting to watch them setup and see how they were organized. In order to avoid having to get up at 4 a.m. you will want to stay in the area. There are good options in Valladolid as well as Izamal, and some touristy hotels, right by the site.

ChichenItzaMap aavtravelKukulkan’s Pyramid is the best-known construction on site. The square-based, stepped pyramid is about 75 ft tall and served for astronomical purposes. During the vernal equinox (March 20) and the autumnal equinox (September 21) around 3 p.m. the sun hits the western balustrade on the main stairway. Seven isosceles triangles form, which imitates a 37 ft long body of a serpent that creeps to join the serpent head carved at the bottom of the staircase.Chichen Itza aavtravel

Other buildings on site includes the Great Ball Court, where the Mayas played “Juego de Pelota,” The Temple of the Warriors, The Cenote Sagrado, which was used to perform sacrifices, and El Caracol, a rare round building which is believed to be used for astronomical purposes.

CenoteChichenItza aavtravelOpen daily and the entrance fee is about 10 USD. For more detailed information and opening hours refer to the official site. Because this site is so popular and large, it is best to stay nearby so you can really explore and see all the buildings rather than rush. Keep in mind: is it a very hot and sunny location, so make sure to bring lots of water, wear a hat and pack sunscreen!

Dzibilchaltun
Pronounced “Ts’iibil Cháaltun,” it is a smaller ruins site located about 10 miles north of Mérida. It is extremely north of the Maya Region and not too far from the Gulf of Mexico. Dzibilchaltun was the longest functioning city in the Mayan World and had a peak population of 20,000, though it declided with the rise of Chitchén Itzá.

Dzibilchatun aavtravelThe most famous attraction is the Templo de las Siete Muñecas (Temple of the Seven Dolls), aptly named for the seven dolls that are located inside. The temple was discovered in the 1950s under the ruins of another larger temple–building temples over top each other was common practice with the Maya. The dolls were found in the smaller temple, but now are located in the museum. During the spring and fall equinoxes, a spectacular feature happens at the temple: the doorways were created to capture light of the rising sun on those days and as the sun rises, it is visible directly through one door of the temple to the other. On these days the site opens at 5:30 a.m. so visitors can experience this phenomenon.

Dzibilchatun Cenote aavtravelThe park site is open regularly from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. while museum hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is a small entrance fee, but that allows you entrance to the ruins and grounds, museum, cenote (swimming) and the church. There is also a restaurant on site, gift shop, parking, handicapped facilities and restrooms.

Ek Balam and Temozon
About an hour from the Cancun airport, Ek Balam was abandoned by the Mayans and the jungle has now engulfed the ruins. After some restoration it is now a tourist attraction when visiting the Yucatán. Ek Balam is a more natural site to see the Mayan Ruins and not overrun with tourist like Chichén Itzá. Also, you are free to roam and can climb all the structures.

The Acropolis is the largest restored building standing at 104 feet tall. Make sure to bring a pair of sneakers if you want to climb up the steps! On the way up, you can see the entrance that resembles the mouth of a monster. There are lots of sculptures of humans and animals as well, so make sure to pay close attention to detail. Climbing Ek Balam

The view from the top is absolutely stunning, you can see all of the Yucatec horizon.

EkBalam Mexico aavtravel Other buildings on the site include the Palace, which has six different levels and it’s thought where the governors and upper class lived. There’s also the ball court and observatory. The site is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and there is a 122 pesos entrance fee for foreigners. There’s one washroom on site, but no place to buy refreshments, so make sure to pack a lunch!

When visiting Ek Balam make sure to also visit the close by Cenote. X’Canche. The sacred waterhole is located about a mile from the Ek Balam site and you can either walk or rent a bike to get there. Bike rental cost is negotiable. We found ourselves all on our own, swimming in the sacred waterhole surrounded by little black fish and a very mythical setting.

ek balam, cenote, mayaThe Ek Balam site is not very developed so you won’t find a restaurant there. However, this works out in your favor because you should absolutely take the time to stop in nearby Temozon and try some of their famous smoked meat.

Temozon is located on the Timizin highway, between Valladolid and Ek Balam.  They are famous for their traditional carne ahumada recipe–or to us, smoked meat–it’s a stop you can’t afford to miss!

EkBalam Mexico If you decide to venture off the beaten path and visit those less touristy sites make sure to carry some Mexican pesos as using foreign money or credit cards gets harder. If you plan on renting a car to explore the reason check out our El Mundo Maya post for additional information and tips.

If you are intrigued by the Yucatán and want to see more pictures, check out our Facebook page!
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STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Yucatan Peninsula Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

She co-wrote the article with

Stephanie Jellett travel writer AAV Travel

STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanie.jellett@maine.edu