As if anyone needs 5 reasons to visit Italy, right? Lago di Garda is one of the most magical regions in Northern Italy. A 45-minute scenic drive from Verona, we share why this area needs to be put at the top of your Italy bucket list this summer.
Its easier to get here than you think
Lago di Garda is a summer vacation fav for European sun seekers wanting to slow down the pace of life with a limoncello in hand. It almost feels like the rest of the world overlooks this lake for the more popular, and in my opinion less impressive, Lake Como. Anyone see John Legend's All of Me music video? Looks awesome, right? In my humble opinion, Como has nothing on Lake Garda.
It's a 5 hour drive from Munich, and has become a popular holiday spot for Germans and Austrians looking for the easier pace that comes with Italian lake life. We typically fly into Germany to visit family, so for us, it just makes sense to take the scenic road trip south. And since moving to Germany, we have made long weekends out of this area several times. You can also fly into Verona (45 minutes away) or even Venice (1.5 hours) and drive over. If you decide to make a road trip out of it, you'll experience the beauty of Southern Bavaria, and Austria, not to mention driving through the Dolomites to get here will blow your mind. Don't forget that you must have a toll pass to travel through Austria, and you can get this at any of the gas stations near the German/Austrian border.
You can explore dozens of Italian villages around the lake in one trip
Once you're at Lake Garda, there's a ferry that can take you to all the little villages on both sides of the lake, giving you lots of options while you're here. You can get ferry timetables and drop-off points here. We like to stay in and around Bardolino and take day trips from there. I would recommend you definitely get a car while you're here so you can also take a beautiful drive around the lake, and even head to Verona if you wish. You're also adjacent to some of the most famous wine regions in Northern Italy including on my favorites from Valpolicella. Even though Tuscany and Piedmont steal the headlines when it comes to Italian wines, you'll love the hilly countryside of Valpolicella, seated just above Verona.
Our best experiences in staying in Lake Garda have been finding a nice Airbnb or getting a hotel on the water with a pool. I also find that if you're going during peak summer months (July, August), and you're picky about where you want to stay, you must book early, because a lot of the European (German) travelers are obsessive schedulers and planners, and we all know they'll book their hotel a year in advanced-#truthbomb-Sorry! And I love you, hubby. :)
My favorite town to visit on Lake Garda includes Bardolino for its clean and massive boardwalk, and endless dining options right on the waterfront. They even have a private beach club called Lido Mirabello Beach that is a lot of fun.
My second favorite town to visit on Lago di Garda is Malcesine. Garda is pretty flat, and you can only see the mountains in the distance. As you approach Malcesine, the mountains grow, and get so large you feel like they're dwarfing you. Malcesine is on the end of lake garda and it takes about 45 minutes to drive there at a slow leisurely pace. But the drive alone is just breathtaking. You also have the option of taking the ferry here, too. Unlike Bardolino, Malcesine is built into the mountains, so you're not seeing the waterfront everywhere. It a circuit of small cobbled streets, windy roads, amazing wine bars, and some hilly areas, too. A piece of my heart remains in Malcesine because it was my first trip with my now husband, and we both fell in love with the town together.
Beaches, Beaches, Beaches
The beaches around Lago di Garda range from larger and busier to the smaller coves. You will find people who pull over to the side of the road, to find a small beach and set up there for the day. There's dozens of these all around the lake, so if you are driving, you'll have lots of options. Most of the beaches are made of stone, and the lake is so refreshing to swim in. I literally feel like I'm swimming in my own private bowl of Avian bottled water, especially in that summer Italian heat. The bottom is rocky, especially near Bardolino, so I recommend you bring water shoes here.
If you are craving a bit more adventure, you can even camp on the beach and rent kayaks, and paddle boats. The gentle summer breeze of the lake and the high mountains, make this a perfect area for wind surfing, and you'll see a ton of people here in the summertime taking it up. As always, you're in Italy so negotiation is expected and welcomed ;).
It's a Hiking and Cycling Paradise
One of my favorite developments on Lago di Garda is the new €7 million "Bike Path" that stretches about 2km around Lake Garda. This is a perfect path to explore the lake at a leisurely pace. For people looking for more serious cylcing, there's tons of road biking and mountain biking paths and even groups around the lake.
The northern Lake Garda area is one of the best mountain biking locations in the world. You can hit up the steep and challenging Val del Diaol, and Seicentouno (602) down Monte Altissimo, but you can also find easier options, too. I saw a group of people riding up the hills once near our hotel, and I'm telling you, I'll never complain about my 60 minute cycling class at Lifetime Fitness again.
Perched high above Malcesine, and sitting at 1780 meters is Monte Baldo, There's a cable car that takes you to the top which is open 10 months of the year. It's such a beautiful area to just take in for pictures but the hiking options here are endless. You'll even see sheep herders walking around, and the sounds of cow bells ringing like Christmas. We even found a small hut that sold local farm cheese and bread so we enjoyed that for lunch during one of our hikes. It's totally worth spending the day up here exploring Lake Garda from above.
It's a Foodie Paradise
Seriously, when you think it cannot get any better, you stop to eat, and even just grab a snack, and you're literally transported to a different time. We absolutely love the Italian hospitality. Anywhere you go, even for just a drink, they'll offer you a bowl of olives, chips and crackers. One of our favorite restaurants in Bardolino is Osteria due Nani. The food is designed from the local region, and doesn't feel so touristy as some other places.
And of course, our trip to Bardolino would not be complete without going to get gelato from Yacht Bar Pizzeria Gelateria. We grab a cone and go sit on the water to watch the sunset by the yachts and fishing boats.
Whatever you do while you're in Lago di Garda, you'll realize something amazing. Life is simple here. People are happy. They pause to enjoy life. It's what keeps us coming back year after year.
Are you visiting Lago di Garda for the first time? Tag Unbound_Travelers on Instagram to share your experience with us!
How do we explain Mykonos. Primal? Sensory Overload? A mix of Africa, Middle East, and Greece all in one place? Perhaps a combination of all these things, combined and focused on fulfilling your desires to let go and let loose, through epic sounds, beaches, food and fun. Mykonos has a lot to offer singles and families alike. Before you book your trip, read this blog to hear our take on if Mykonos is worth the hype or if you should opt to go somewhere else for your summer holiday.
What's the Highlights about Mykonos?
Mykonos is an island in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea. It's popularly known for its summer party atmosphere. Beaches such as Paradise and Super Paradise have bars that blare thumping music all night long. Massive dance clubs attract world-renowned DJs and typically stay open well past dawn. Iconic landmarks include a row of 16th-century windmills, which sit on a hill above Mykonos town.
It. Is. Expensive.
I'm not sure what we expected coming to Mykonos. We traveled with our 1.5 year old son, and stayed at an amazing 4.5 star cliff-side hotel with a delicious half-board package at their fine dining restaurant on the property. So, we knew we were paying a little more for the luxuries we wanted out of our holiday (great views, an epic pool, and finer accommodations that made it more comfortable to travel with a baby).
We knew vacation would be expensive, but didn't realize just how expensive it would be. It's nearly impossible to get fresh grilled fish for less than $100 EUR/kg. The mark-up here is crazy, and they're largely targeting an international crowd, so they know that people will spend the money. We could have easily spent $1K on food in just one week(maybe we did?!?), and that's literally just eating at some of the normal beach front restaurants on the boardwalks (nothing crazy fancy).
Prices ease up once you actually get into Mykonos Town, and we found some great gems we'll share below under "what we loved." Regardless, if you decide to come to Mykonos, be prepared to spend a lot more than you expected on food, cabs, and entertainment.
It's not as "Greek" as you Might Think
We were surprised to find the entire island centered around tourists. I'm really not sure why we had this idea that by coming to Mykonos, we would have a 'locals' experience. While, yes, there's definitely places to go that feels more local, and we found those gems. But, all in all, the island is 99% tourists, and most of the people we met were America honeymooners, and friends coming to party for a long weekend.
We did meet families too, and again, that is all about where you stay. Our hotel had a good mix of honeymooners and young families, doing a lot of the same as what we were doing (spending the better parts of our day on the beach or lounging by the pool, eating, and in the evenings, going out for dinner)
What we Loved
The Views and Beaches on the Island are Breathtaking
The beaches here are just magnificent. Unlike Crete, where most of the beaches are actually stones, Mykonos has many small sandy beaches, on a dry desert-like rugged island. You can catch water taxis for about 30 eur from one beach to the next. We stayed on Platis Gialos beach. Beautiful views and lots of dining options in this area. It's also really close to the famed Scorpios beach club.
It's a Foodie Paradise
After our trip to Mykonos, I fell in love with the greek salad all over again. We literally made it for dinner every night the entire summer last year. There's a hundred ways to enjoy it, and it always came with a light dressing, amazing fresh feta, and delicious olives. I probably ate this 90% of the time during our trip. Besides great fresh salads, they of course, have great fish, wild caught every day. Like I said before, Mykonos is expensive, so if you want to enjoy a whole fish, you're paying a ton of money (close to 100 Eur). As you venture into Mykonos Town, you'll find more affordable places to eat. There's lots of easy burger and gyro joints all over old town.
Our absolute favorite foodie find in Old Town is To Maereio Mykonos. It's run by two twin brothers, and it's 100% local. Our hotel gave us this tip, and we came back here three times during our stay. It's cheap, I mean locals cheap, and some of the best food on the island for quality and value. We didnt have reservations anytime we came, so it was a bit of a wait. So we ordered a carafe of wine, and sat outside, while Lucas ran around playing in the alley. Don't come to Mykonos and not stop here at least once. You'll thank us later.
Mykonos Town and Luxury Shopping
Mykonos Town is the historic center of the island, and is this intricate connections of small roads, alleys, and beautiful white washed buildings with pops of bright blue everywhere you go. What surprised me most is the amount of luxury shopping you have in Mykonos Town. There's a bus that brings you into the center from any main point on the Island and round trips per day are less than 2 EUR. Cabs are expense here so we definitely recommend taking the bus, which is more like a private coach. We spent hours walking around and checking out larger retailers like Louis Vuitton, to smaller independent designers with flagship stores in Mykonos. It's literally the center of all the fun and partying on the Island.
Everyone who comes to Mykonos town checks out the historic windmills. They're definitely pretty at sunset, but it was too windy for us to spend more than 30 seconds there to take pictures. Be sure to check out Skandinavian bar which leads the nightlife of Mykonos since 1978 and is located right in the center of Mykonos town.
Our Hotel was Amazing
We stayed at Myconian Ambassador Relais & Chateaux–a beautiful cliff-side hotel perched above Platis Gialos beach. It was just a 3 minute walk to the beach, and had the most expansive pool we saw on the whole island. It was a hotel that targeted honeymooners and families, so don't expect a crazy party with a DJ next to the pool. It was perfect for what we were looking for and I highly recommend it to any families or couples looking for a quiet, luxurious place to stay on Mykonos.
If you stay here and want to visit some beach parties, you have to go to Scorpios. Literally, it was the highlight of our trip. It's a beautiful restaurant, that also has a beach party, and it's 25 minute walk along the cliffs to get there from the hotel. We had to carry the stroller up a couple boulders, but otherwise accessibly by foot with kids. The staff all look like they're straight out of a Game of Thrones scene, dressed like Khal Drogo and the Dathrakis. Miraculously, my son fell asleep at 7pm, and stayed asleep, through all the music, while we enjoyed some drinks, and dinner until about 11pm. They have a day party, too, and their panoramic views of the beach are breathtaking. This is mostly an adult place, but kids are fine until about 11pm or midnight, when the restaurant starts to get quiet, and it switches to a pure beach party.
Not far from our hotel on the beach was Branco Hotel Mykonos. We ate here a few times, and I think if we came back without kids, we would stay here. There's a DJ that plays every day on the beach. It's a smaller place, but the views are amazing, and their restaurant is delicious.
Would we come back?
There's so many places to see in Europe, and so many Greek islands to think about. Would I come back? Yes, if I were coming with my husband (no kids!) to enjoy letting go at the most incredible beach parties I've seen in the world.
Is it worth coming for a week with kids? I guess maybe, if you've got cash to burn, can rent a yacht, and explore all the natural adventures and beauty of the island with your kids, then it's totally worth it.
In the end, we are so glad we came to Mykonos. It was beautiful experience and our family really enjoyed all it had to offer. But if you're just a family looking for a warm weather beach escape, beautiful views, amazing hotels and pools, and simple good food, you might get the same experience visiting a different island like Crete, that's more centered around families, and local European travelers, at a fraction of the cost!
Are you visiting Mykonos for the first time? Tag Unbound_Travelers on Instagram to share your experience with us!
Where to go? What to do? Places to eat? We share our experience and insider tips for the most epic road trip across the coast of Portugal from Algarve to Lisbon. Pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable experience.
Algarve, Portugal's southernmost region is a great place to start your road trip as you travel north along the western coast toward Lisbon. If you live in Europe, you'll find quick and affordable flights into Faro (FAO). We've seen direct flights from Frankfurt to Faro on RyanAir for less than 100EUR round, even in peak summer months. If you're flying into Lisbon, just follow this guide in reverse.
Along Algarve, you'll discover one small beach after the next. Views go on for days and the hikes are incredible. Along some of the smaller central and eastern Algarve region, you can find beaches with calm waters; perfect for an afternoon on a Kayak or SUP.
East of Faro you'll find one of the most beautiful beach towns in all of Algarve, Tavira. It straddles the Gilão River, and reaches the sea via lagoons of Ria Formosa Natural Park. Tavira Island is known for its long sandy beaches, and salt pans that attract wild birds. One of the more local spots is Ilha de Tavira, a small island with 11 kilometers of sandy beaches, small food stalls, bars and camping sites. It's a quiet place to enjoy your holiday for a day or two, with minimal international tourism. This area is also known for its nude beaches, so take caution if you're coming with children, or are uncomfortable with that sort of thing.
Algarve's amazing rugged coastline is full of sandy beaches, caves, cliffs and unique rock formations. The Benagil caves are one of the most beautiful caves in the world, and only accessible by boat, SUP, or Kayak. If you have an experienced guide, you can ask about cave diving. Be careful, because tides rise quickly in this area, and currents below the surface can be strong. But if the conditions are right, it will be an unforgettable experience. Always follow the safety recommendations of your guides when attempting any cave exploration. We were exploring the coast via SUP and while cave diving, got hit with an earthquake, that quickly changed the sea conditions. Super scary stuff!
Stay near Porches, Carvoeiro, or Albufeira. For luxury accommodations, considering getting a room at Vila Vita Parc. For budget friendly lodging, try out an Airbnb apartment near the beach.
After a day of hiking, kayaking, cave diving, and lounging around the beach, you have an endless list of restaurants to enjoy, with some of the freshest seafood you'll ever eat. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention Ocean, led by Austrian Executive Chef Hans Neuner and named Portugal's Chef of the Year 2009 & 2012. Two Michelin Stars, breathtaking views over the Atlantic, and an amazing tasting menu, makes this the perfect night if you're looking for a once in a lifetime find dining experience. Each course of I'd say 16-18 course/'snacks' has a story, and feels warmly familiar. It's an intimate venue, with maybe 12 tables at most. Reservations are hard to come by, so book early!
For normal, everyday meals, seafood, and great atmospheres, head to Armação de Pêra, a beautiful beach in central Algarve. Every Sunday, Praia Dourada has a beach party with a live DJ, and fresh made bottomless seafood Paella that is to die for! Their Tuna Poke bowls are also amazing. If you don't want to eat in the actual restaurant, they have daybeds on the beach where you can enjoy your food, drinks and chill.
Try the Xarém and Chocos com tinta at Chocos. It's absolutely amazing.
I was also surprised to learn about the delicious Portuguese wines and vineyards. Visit Rolha Wine Bar for a tasting and tapas.
The coast west of Lagos, leading up toward Sagres is one of the most unspoiled parts of Algarve thanks to the national park. Western Algarve is a surfer's paradise, where the coastline meets the fierce waters of the Atlantic. As you travel northwest up the coast, you can explore Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. If surfing isn't your thing, you'll find the most incredible views along hiking trails that will leave you breathless. Also known as the ‘Trail of Tides’, the Pontal da Carrapateira trail along the Vicentine Coast is a good one to do for a leisurely hike with costal views. If you are getting in the water, be forewarned that this coast is rough, and can be dangerous for less experienced swimmers/surfers. Nevertheless, it's probably one of our favorite spots along Algarve, with lots of camping options as well.
Estoril-Cascais, & Sintra
As you make your way north toward Lisbon, consider staying in one of these beautiful resort and historic towns about 30-45 minutes driving from Lisbon's center.
Cascais is a charming marina town, that has a more developed, yet blissfully sleepy feeling about it. The main sights to take in include Boca do Inferno, Cresmina Beach, and Santa Marta Lighthouse. You'll definitely want a car around here because you can enjoy a beautiful, wild costal/mountain road trip to Sintra. If you dont have a car, and don't mind a beautiful walk, step outside of the center of Cascais. Driving or walking past Boca do Inferno will amaze you. This area is a surfers paradise, with lots of well maintained and protected dunes, that have boardwalks for exploring and hiking. You may get lucky to also catch the brave local fishermen hanging on the cliff edges, doing what they do best. It's a sight to behold, truly.
We found that after leaving the resorts in Algarve, we had a hard time finding traditional western breakfasts, with all the fixings (eggs, bacon, fruit, etc.). In Cascais, you'll enjoy snacking at Pauls. Although its a chain, they have a good location, great coffee and tasty pastries. It's also great for an afternoon coffee, too, siting in a beautiful square in the center of town adjacent to the beach. If you have a car, and want to venture into the neighborhoods of Estoril, have breakfast at Zenith Cafe. This was my favorite place in the Cascais area to eat breakfast, and they have eggs! They serve the best pastel de nata, a regional specialty made of custard, and warm gooey goodness! It's amazing, and something to savor while in the area.
If you're looking for good shopping, you will not find it in Cascais. Instead, head to Lisbon.
If you're thinking of overlooking Lisbon for the seaside experience, reconsider! We almost totally overlooked the center, and I'm so glad made our way into town. At a first glance, you'll notice a ton of Graffiti art all over the city. It's historic for sure, but has a touch of trendiness, that I was surprised to find. In the smallest streets, you'll find lively restaurants. And the next amazing restaurant is just around the corner. It's a hilly city, reminiscent of San Francisco. Bring your walking shoes, and be prepared to spend a lot of time on your feet.
Our favorite finds?
If you're not up for walking, pick up a street car taxi. For 20 euro, we enjoyed a 45 minute tour of the city. It was spontaneous, and you can just ask your driver to show you around their favorite spots.
An Epic Adventure
Overall, Portugal is an incredible adventure, for the elite foodies, and backpackers alike. It's still much cheaper than similar costal areas in Europe (Amalfi, Greek Islands, etc.). Everyone speaks great English, and its easy to get around. Overall, its a country rich in culture, history and amazing food!
Are you visiting Portugal for the first time? Tag Unbound_Travelers on Instagram to share your experience with us!
Laguna Beach is a small coastal city in Orange County, California. It’s known for its many art galleries, coves and beaches. I could spend a week in Laguna, and I have! But if you only have 24 hours to visit, this guide will help you get the most of your trip!
Stay Near the Beach
I have been coming to Laguna Beach for years, and was so excited to bring my husband here for the first time. Of course, he fell in love with the landscape, intimate beach, and laid back vibes, of this sleepy yet energetic town. We baby mooned here in 2016 and came across Laguna Beach House. It's an old motel totally gutted and converted into this surfer inn. In fact, I was so in love with the feeling this hotel gave me, that I asked to purchase the owner's childhood surfboard for my son. It's now decorating his beach themed baby room, and reminds me of the fond memories we always make each time we visit Laguna. I digress...
The staff are all so nice, and the rooms bright, airy and clean. They serve a simple granola and yogurt breakfast, and the fire pit, hot tub and pool are the best ways to wind down after a day at the beach. Here's the best part: Free wine during a happy hour from 5-6. And wait for it... Fresh baked cookies and milk from 6-7. All complimentary. People, this is not a paid ad, and I vouch that Laguna Beach House is in my top 5 hotels I have ever stayed in anywhere. It's simplicity and warmth, lets you forget any worries, and slips you right into vacation mode.
Bottom line, regardless of where you stay, I think it's key to be close to the main boardwalk and beach. It is a small town and relatively easy to get around, but my enjoyment has always come from walking around the city and exploring by foot. There are high end hotels I looked at that are into the canyons, but it was just too far away from the energy of the town.
If you don't fancy the idea of walking everywhere, the city even has a free trolly that will take you up and down Ocean blvd.
#PROTIP: Guests of Laguna Beach House can also go to The Inn at Laguna Beach for the complimentary happy hour from 5-6, and cookies and milk from 6-7 pm. They have an amazing roof top terrace with panoramic beach and ocean views.
There are so many amazing places to grab a bit to eat in Laguna Beach, from ultra casual to exclusive fine dining. If I had 24 hours to kill, I'd start with breakfast at our hotel hotel at the Laguna Beach House, keeping it simple. I'd work up an appetite for an early lunch at Cliff Restaurant, which has great views and good cocktails and food. I personally loved their ahi tuna tacos.
Finally, hands down, the best dinner and views in town is at Mozambique, an upscale eatery & lounge serving South African-inspired cuisine plus wine in a colonial setting. I think its 3 or 4 floors, and their panoramic rooftop terrace seats maybe 100 people, with incredible views of the ocean. Mozambique is a bit further south. You can walk it; and will take you about 20-25 minutes. Or you can catch the trolly or an Uber. If you opt for driving, they do have valet for $5, which is actually required.
A Tiki Happy Hour
My friend Bridget and I were staycationing in Laguna this spring, and walked by an unassuming tiki bar/restaurant near our hotel, the Royal Hawaiian. Their happy hour sign drew us into a quiet restaurant, that quickly filled up after an hour. Reminiscent of 1990 North Shore Hawaii, their cocktails and tiki drinks are S.T.R.O.N.G. I mean, two will put me on my behind, but in a glorious, island, no worries kind of way. Stop here for happy hour which usually begins around 3:30, a bit early, but hey, it's island time! Their food also looks great and I'm told you need reservations for dinner during peak times. PSA - babies are not allowed directly at the bar, but you can snag a table behind the bar. ;)
I mentioned this earlier, but if you do stay at Laguna Beach House or The Inn at Laguna Beach, they have a complimentary happy hour from 5-6 for hotel guests.
If you want a break from the beach, surfing, food and galleries, the hiking options are abundant, with varying degrees of difficulty. My favorite is hiking through Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, a recreational area within the costal canyons. You definitely want to drive and park at the trailhead. I did this hike at 7 months pregnant, and it was very hot, unlike the beach which tends to get a nice cool breeze. It was beautiful, wild and dry. You saw warning signs for rattle snakes and mountain lions. We have never come across either!
If you're looking for something more leisurely, you can stick to a casual stroll on the boardwalk. You find lovely views of the ocean, and the best spots to catch the epic sunset. Depending on the waves, you can even enjoy watching the surfers all day. There's lots of opportunities to explore the tide pools in the morning and early afternoons, with staircases to the water up and down the boardwalk. You might even run into the Laughter Club. My first time coming across this group was odd, because they were all hysterically laughing, in uniformed motion. But laughter is truly contagious, so I joined in.
Mind your safety anytime you're directly on the water or walking across the tide pools. You are on the Pacific, and the waves can be strong and rise quickly. As always, pay attention to posted warning signs.
#ProTip: Bring lots of water and sunblock for the Canyon hikes. Expect it to be 10-20 degrees hotter in the canyons than on the beach.
Art & Galleries
Laguna is home to more than 100 art galleries and studios. This art colony will daze and amaze you with the abundance of talent and beautiful work you can find here. You can even discover the artist in you and take an art class taught by Laguna's most elite instructors. More info at Mystic Arts Gallery.
My favorite gallery is the Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery. The nostalgia alone will delight your inner child. My son even loved walking through, recognizing some of his favorite characters. Generally, I love Laguna art.com, which is great site that shares everything fine art in Laguna Beach, including key work for sale.
There you have it. My guide to Laguna Beach, one of my favorite beach in the world.
Explore, enjoy and live.
We are explorers.
Thrill Seekers. Foodies.