Photo Diary: Agra

There are those places that we all dream of visiting. One's the you must visit and experience for yourself, and Agra is one of them. The main reason why visitors come to Agra is to visit the timeless monument to love and one for the bucket list, the Taj Mahal.

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Photo Diary

Agra

It's the city of the Taj Mahal, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, some 200 km from Delhi. Agra has three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri nearby. There are also many other buildings and tombs from Agra's days of glory as the capital of the Mughal Empire.

Truth be told, the city has little else to recommend it making it a place for an over night stay before moving on to your next destination. You can also opt for a one day excursion from Delhi to Agra. Keep in mind that due to the very high number of tourists, Agra is a breeding ground for touts and people looking to separate you from your money. 

Getting into Agra from Delhi is a quick train or bus ride, and an experience to be had.

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The Agra Fort

The Agra Fort, built by rulers of the Mughal empire, is a sight to behold. It's sandstone walls and white marble interior will hold you in awe. But before you go, be sure to find your way to the back of the Fort and catch the view of it's sister monument, the Taj Mahal off in the distance.

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Taj Mahal

One for the bucketlist. Despite the hype, it’s every bit as good as you’ve heard. I know everyone takes this picture but when you capture it with your own eyes, it because something magical and a memory that will last a lifetime!

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Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path

It's time to out the travel guides down, and skip the tourist trap attractions and experience a city like a local.

Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path travel tips

First thing firsts, if you want to experience local culture when traveling, stay away from tourist sites and tourist attractions. We all know that those experiences are far from truly experiencing local culture. Sure, you may want to explore the Colosseum in Rome  or visit Boca in Buenos Aires--but think about it this way...when you visit New York City, do you really get a New York experience by staying in Time Square? Do as the locals do. Travel with as few plans, commitments and reservations as possible. Be your most uninhibited self.

Easiest way to get the local knowledge is from the locals. This is true. Most people are proud of their home and love to tell you about it. One trick is to go to a restaurant early, like so you are the only customer - the staff will talk to you; sit at a bar and talk to the bartender, the always are in the know.

Ask your waiter.

Ask your cab drivers (use discretion here - cab drivers often get kickbacks for nightlife type activities).

Ask people you meet at the bar, or the cafe, or people you run into in the lobby of your hotel.  

Ask random people on the street.  

Rent places via AirBnB or Couchsurfing and ask your host.

As long as you are polite and use good judgment on when you are asking someone (i.e., don't interrupt people) usually people are happy to help and make recommendations.  Almost everyone wants visitors to enjoy their city/country and leave with a good impression.

Don't be intimidated by language barriers. Explore other forms of communications. Bring postcards from home to show and share. Draw pictures. Pantomime.

Be willing to try (nearly) anything. Food is a good example. Local "delicacies" may be intimidating, but you can pretty safely assume they aren't killing anyone.

Lastly, smile! People will respond best if you are approachable and polite. Well, at least this has worked for me!

Share your tips on Instagram!

Insider's Guide to Reykjavik

It’s no secret that Iceland’s diminutive capital, Reykjavík, punches way above its weight on pretty much every level. A whimsical wonderland and a place I had dreamed about visiting for many years. It's laid-back yet pulsing with energy.

The city offers up plenty of cultural treats to delight, ranging from first-class museums to small alternative art galleries, traditional attractions like the relaxed harbor and colorful wooden houses, striking landmarks such as the rocket-shaped Hallgrimskirkja, and a famously raucous nightlife. Of course, there is the main attraction that draws everyone here -- Iceland's jaw-dropping landscapes that are easily accessible.

When I was venturing to Reykjavik just a couple of months ago, my excitement was uncontainable; I had an itinerary that was already jam-packed with the Google-able must-sees but needed an infusion of local charm. 

One thing that I will add that many travel guides failed to mention is how expensive AF Iceland is. You've been warned, but don't let this deter you from booking an Iceland adventure. I'm sharing with you my Insider's Guide to Reykjavik... Enjoy!

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When To Go

Between May and September is generally considered the best time to visit Iceland, due to better temperatures and longer days. But, with that said, Summers can be crowded, especially in Reykjavik. Visiting in winter, between November and February, is the best time to catch the Aurora Borealis aka the Northern Lights.

When To Stay

There are plenty of hotels. I opted for Airbnb, which I highly recommend.

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Eat + Drink

Bergsson Mathus for healthy and delicious soul food, all day long. If it's seafood you're after, then you won't be disappointed with Sjávargrillið. The food at Snaps Bistro is brilliant and the atmosphere is great. It’s open during the day like a café, but in the evening becomes more like a bar/restaurant. Make sure you go to Seabaron. It’s right on the old harbor and is essentially a shabby fisherman’s shack (you sit on barrels). You choose your own freshly caught fish! They are famous for their lobster soup, and they also normally have whale kebabs if you’re into that. Upstairs at Sakebarinn is my favorite sushi. The restaurant is located on the corner of Laugevegur and Skolavordustigur. Reeeeally good. For brunchy-type things and more low key meals, there is Joe and The Juice,  Prikid on Laugevegur, Cuckoos Nest in Grandi or Laundromat Cafe on Ausurstraeti.

Coffee moments. SlippbarinnApótek Bar Grill, and Kaldi Bar are also worth checking out. Kaffibrennslan and  Reykjavik Roasters are the best coffee shops in town, hands down.

Mixed drinks, wine, and all booze are expensive in Iceland but if you must, Lebowski Bar is a must visit. Yes, it's a Big Lebowski-themed bar, and it's one the most fun places to drink in the city. The decor recalls vintage American diners and bowling alleys, with a rug hanging from the bar that really ties the room together. If you’re looking for a night out on the town, note that nothing really gets going properly until after midnight. The best places at the moment are plenty. With good DJs both upstairs and downstairs, this place gets going a bit later there is Dolly. If by some chance it’s not happening there, then you can just nip across the road to Harlem and check it out there. Harlem is a spot that has a more trendy, fun, and younger crowd. There is also Boston is located upstairs on Laugevegur, it can get really messy here! It boasts an artsy-type crowd that becomes more mixed on weekends. Kaffibarinn is a classic place in Reykjavik nightlife. It’s in a really small house just off Laugevegur and is always fun with lots of younger people there. It gets very crowded on weekends! Also, all these places are about 5 minutes away from each other, so you can normally go to all of them in one night.

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Frolic

The Golden Circle is do-able in a day and really beautiful. It includes Gulfoss a huge waterfall that plunges into a crack in the earth; Geysir a continual eruption of boiling water 30ft into the air; and Thingvellir, the old capital of Vikings and also where the North American and European tectonic plates meet, which means epic gorges, waterfalls, and sometimes earthquakes.

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Insider's Guide to Reykjavik

Geothermal Swimming Pools are a must. Every neighborhood has its own geothermal swimming pool, which is probably the most Icelandic thing you can do. People go every day and talk in the hot tub. They’re super basic but just amazingly clean with natural hot water and steam baths. The main big pool Laugardalslaug is also really nice and is open 6am-10pm every day. It has lots of hot pots, water slides, saunas, and steam rooms – and a new seawater hotpot.

Then, of course, there is everyone's bucket list items, the Blue LagoonYou should do Blue Lagoon on your way to or from the airport. It’s 15 minutes away from Keflavík International, so you save on a wasted bus ride if you do it then. It’s totally worth it. It’s a bright blue silica thermal pool in the middle of a lava field!

Kolaportid is a great indoor flea market in Reykjavik which is always open on weekends and is located right next to the harbor.

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Go for a hike. Hveragerdi is an amazing place to go not to far from Reykjavik. It’s a very volcanically active valley and you can walk up into the hills and swim in a hot river. It’s about a 30 minute bus/car ride from Reykjavik, but really beautiful and cool to swim in, as it’s a natural river. Grótta is a gorgeous lighthouse in Reykjavik is just 5 minutes from town. When the tide is down you can walk out onto the island and take in beautiful views across the Fjord to the glacier. This is the best place in town to go see the sunset – totally magical on a calm day. One totally magical place is a little island called Flatey. It has about 10 inhabitants and one bar. You can get a ferry there from Stikkysholmur just up from Snaefellsnes, about 2 hours from Reykjavik. Thorsmörk is probably one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to, as well. It’s tucked in between 3 glaciers and only accessible in summer via a big jeep (you have to drive through about 20 rivers) – insane landscape and hiking.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, driving further into the country is amazing. There’s Vik to the south, on the way there’s Dyrholaey that famous black sand beach with an arch in the ocean. Also past the volcano and the glacier and there’s Jökulsárlón, too, which is an amazing glacial lagoon. You can do that in a day from Reykjavik, but it’s quite far.


Have you been to Iceland? 

Let me know in the comments on Instagram!

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