I’m Going To Afghanistan

Hiking in Afghanistan

I’m Going Trekking in Afghanistan

Afghanistan

After a year of extensive planning, I’m heading into the mountains of Afghanistan. And you can follow along.

I’m back from Afghanistan! Will be writing about my experience shortly… please subscribe for updates.

No, this isn’t a joke. And no, I haven’t lost my mind.

Do you have a travel bucket list? Yeah, so do I. A big one. And for the past 2 years, there’s been one country peering down at me from the very top.

Afghanistan.

Well I’m finally off to explore some incredibly remote & mountainous tribal areas of Afghanistan for the next few weeks. Hiking and camping through one of the most isolated locations on Earth.

Completely off the grid. No cell phone. No wifi.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

That’s because all most of us ever hear about Afghanistan is doom & gloom from the evening news. But there’s another side to the country, one that doesn’t get shared enough. A beautiful, hospitable, and adventurous side.

This is the Afghanistan I’m off to find, and report back on.

The other Afghanistan…

Are You Crazy?!

I’ve never been more excited to visit a new country then I am right now… but honestly I’m a bit nervous too. Even though I think I’m immune to sensational news coverage, and know that the area I’ll be traveling in is relatively safe — Afghanistan is still considered a war zone.

What you may not realize is that Afghanistan does get some tourism. Not very much, but people do travel there. And they come back with amazing stories about both the people and the landscapes.

I’ve hired a trustworthy local guide to help me navigate through the wilderness and communicate with the people I meet on this journey. I want to learn about their lives, their customs, their hardships, their joys.

And then share what I’ve learned with you.

Where In Afghanistan?

I’ve decided to keep my exact location in Afghanistan semi-private from the online world for safety sake. Not that I think I’m in any real danger where I’ll be, but it’s good to play it safe anyways — just in case.

There are no Taliban or ISIS in the immediate region I’m traveling in. However the Taliban has been moving closer, which is one of the reasons I decided to embark on this trip sooner rather than later. It very well might not be possible next year. I didn’t want to take that chance.

When I return in September, I promise to share everything with you.

Follow Along!

I’m carrying a Delorme InReach Explorer Satellite Communicator as I trek through the mountains of Afghanistan for the next few weeks.

This amazing technology helps keep me safe in case of an emergency, while also giving me the ability to share my adventure with you from one of the most remote locations on Earth!

I will be attempting to send text-message style satellite updates/stories to my Expert Vagabond Facebook Page on a regular basis.

So go check it out if want to see what I’m up to in Afghanistan.

There is a small chance the military will take away my GPS device, so don’t freak out if you don’t see any messages. I’ll just have to report back once I return from the trip.

Watch Video: I’m Going To Afghanistan…

(Click to watch I’m Going To Afghanistan on YouTube)

Blog comments are closed — but feel free to join the discussion on my Facebook Page!

Isle Of Skye Road Trip: Scotland’s Land Of Fairies

Isle of Skye Scotland

Isle of Skye Road Trip

Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Isle of Skye’s dramatic landscapes are some of the most scenic in Scotland. The best way to experience its epic mountains, waterfalls, and sea cliffs is on a road trip.

When most people think of visiting Scotland, Edinburgh and Loch Ness are the first spots that come to mind. While both are nice, I think a road trip up through the Highlands to the Isle of Skye is far better.

The scenery on Skye is rugged, breathtaking, and raw.

Free to explore at your own pace, you’ll be stopping around each bend of Skye’s notoriously narrow and winding country roads for one incredible photo opportunity after another!

I recently road-tripped around the Isle of Skye in Scotland to experience one of the United Kingdom’s most adventurous and scenic travel destinations for myself. It didn’t disappoint.

In this travel guide I’ll help you get the most from an Isle of Skye adventure.

Exploring The Isle Of Skye

If photography and exploring mountain landscapes is your thing, then you’ll love road tripping around the Isle of Skye. The area is steeped in myth and legend — a place where giants and fairies roam. Bloody clan battles were fought here, and ancient castles still stand.

You’ll feel like you’ve been transported into an epic fantasy novel.

The island is split up into a series of peninsulas. For the purposes of this guide, I’ll cover the Trotternish Peninsula in the East, the Waternish Peninsula to the West, and the Black Cuillin Hills region of the South.

Shimmering lochs (lakes) dominate the Waternish Peninsula, while jagged volcanic formations left over from landslides form the Trotternish Ridge. Wind-swept Red & Black Cuillin mountains rise to meet the clouds in the South.

Landscapes on Skye are some of the most impressive in all of Britain.

Isle of Skye Scotland

Sligachan Bridge

Planning Your Road Trip

How Long Does It Take?

You can drive around the island in half a day without stopping. But because there’s so much to see, I recommend spending at least 2 full days on the Isle of Skye. Plus you should schedule an additional half day to drive up from Fort William, and another half day to get back.

Combine your Skye road trip with a few days in the Highlands near Fort William, plus a full day in Edinburgh or Glasgow, and you’ve got yourself a wonderful week-long vacation in Scotland.

This is if you don’t plan on any really big hikes or other longer excursions.

When Should You Go?

You’re bound to get some rain whenever you go, but the best season for traveling to the Isle of Skye is summer. There’s a slightly better chance for dry weather between April and mid-June.

However summer is also high-season. The roads will be more crowded, and accommodation is more difficult to find.

Gas/Petrol

The island is small. You should be able to fit a 2 day road trip in on a single tank of gas starting from Fort William. However there are 4 different gas stations on the Isle of Skye just in case you need to fill up.

Food/Groceries

In the main towns you’ll find plenty of cozy pubs and cafes, with a few dedicated restaurants too. However most of the towns are spread out from each other. So make sure to stock up on sandwiches and snacks at a local grocery store each morning. Sausage rolls are a big deal in Scotland, and while not exactly healthy, they are perfect for road trips.

There is a wonderful pub & traditional Scottish restaurant at the Sligachan Hotel called Seumas Bar if you’re craving some neeps & tatties. Or my personal favorite, haggis! Mmmmm. Sheep guts…

Internet/Mobile Phone

Mobile internet on the Isle of Skye is pretty bad. In Broadford and Portree you’ll have 3G, but outside the major towns there’s a good chance you won’t have a signal at all. Vodafone and O2 seem to have the best coverage.

Isle of Skye Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle

Getting To Skye

The most common way to get to the Isle of Skye is to fly into Glasgow, rent a car, and drive up through the highlands from there. It takes 5-6 hours. I flew into Edinburgh, took a train to Glasgow, and then started driving. Fort William is a great place to stop for a night in the highlands to help break up the drive.

Mallaig Ferry

From Fort William, drive 1 hour West on route A830 to the small fishing town of Mallaig and catch the 30 minute long Skye Ferry to Armadale.

Skye Bridge

From Fort William, head North on routes A82 and A87 to the Skye Bridge, a trip that takes about 1.75 hours non-stop. But you will certainly want to stop with so much to see on the route. Like the incredible Eilean Donan Castle.

To mix it up a bit, I recommend trying them both. I started my road trip riding the Mallaig ferry over and finished it driving back on the Skye Bridge.

Car Rental

Cars are super reasonable, starting around $26 USD per day for an economy rental out of Glasgow Airport. The car we used for our Isle of Skye road trip was from Arnold Clark Rental.

Renting a car on the Isle of Skye itself is a bit more expensive with fewer choices, but possible through Skye Car Hire or HM Hire.

The big benefit to waiting to rent your car on Skye is that it allows you to take the famous Jacobite Steam Train (aka the Harry Potter train) from Fort William to Mallaig, voted the most scenic train ride in the world.

Isle of Skye Scotland

The Fairy Pools

Isle of Skye Scotland

Black Cuillin Moutnains

Southern Skye Highlights

Sligachan Bridge

Sligachan is a small village located at the base of the Black Cuillin mountains. It’s been a hub for climbers and travelers to Skye since 1830, forming a major crossroads to other parts of the island.

The old stone bridge at Sligachan is probably the most photographed spot on Skye. Legend has it the cold waters beneath the bridge grant eternal beauty to whoever dips their face in for 7 seconds…

Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools are a long series of small waterfalls and beautiful crystal blue pools cascading down from the Black Cuillin range. Hiking from the car park takes 30-40 minutes depending on high up you decide to venture.

If you want to go for a swim, feel free to jump in! The icy cold water might just take your breath away — but so will the views.

Black Cuillins

A series of 36 imposing peaks huddled together at the southern end of Skye, the Black Cuillins have been a hiking and climbing mecca for 150 years. Dark rocky formations that seemingly rise straight out of the sea. A narrow 12km ridgeline scramble called the Black Cuillin Traverse can be tackled in 2 days with equipment.

We decided to take the Bella Jane Ferry from Elgol to the base of the mountains and spent a morning hiking around Loch Coruisk. When the weather is clear, you can hike to the summit of Sgurr na Stri for the best view in the United Kingdom.

Isle of Skye Scotland

The Quiraing

Isle of Skye Scotland

Old Man of Storr

Trotternish Highlights

Old Man Of Storr

You can’t visit the Isle of Skye without hiking up to the Old Man of Storr. Large pinnacles of rock that rise from the ground, this location has been used as a backdrop for many movies, including the sci-fi thriller Prometheus. Legends say the rocks are fingers of a dead giant.

A muddy trail leads up to the rocks and takes about 45 minutes (one way) from the parking area below. The Old Man is often covered in clouds, but it’s not too far from Portree, so you can always come back later in the day and try again when it’s clear.

The Quiraing

Definitely my favorite location on the Isle of Skye, the Quiraing is an other-worldly landscape where huge landslides have created a series of strange cliffs, jagged pinnacles, and plateaus. Trails criss-cross the area, and it’s a great spot for hiking.

A steep winding road leads up to the top of the plateau, with excellent views of the coast below. On a clear day, you’ll see the Islands of Raasay and Rona too. Take a stroll along the steep cliffs, but be careful, it’s a long way down!

Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls

Located off the A855 coastal road, there is a viewpoint on the edge of the cliffs here called Kilt Rock. The massive Kilt Rock Cliffs sort of resemble a Scottish kilt, hence the name. Mealt Falls is a long waterfall that cascades off the cliffs into the ocean below. You need to lean your head out to get a good photo (or bring a drone!).

Isle of Skye Scotland

Dunvegan Castle

Isle of Skye Scotland

Neist Point Lighthouse

Waternish Highlights

The Fairy Glen

A strange and magical place, the Fairy Glen is hidden away off the main road near the village of Uig. It’s a miniature green valley with odd, perfectly conical hills, gnarled dwarf forests and packs of grazing sheep. Whoever named this place couldn’t have picked a better one.

Hiking the maze of trails, you’ll find a new wonder around every bend. Like white stones arranged in concentric circles on the valley floor. A lone rock tower rises above it all, with excellent views of the enchanted landscape below. If fairies do exist, this is their kingdom for sure!

Neist Point Lighthouse

Located on the most Westerly point of Skye, Neist Point is a finger of land stretching out into the sea with a powerful 480,000 candlepower lighthouse on the tip. Massive cliffs ring the coast here, and it’s a wonderful photography spot, especially around sunset.

A walking path takes you all the way to the lighthouse if you want some exercise. It gets very windy on these cliffs, and there have been cases of tourists falling to their deaths. So be very careful near the edges.

Dunvegan Castle

A magnificent castle perched on the edge of a lock, Dunvegan has been the ancestral home to the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 800 years. Still owned by the MacLeods, it’s pretty cool that you can walk through their home, and it’s full of old heirlooms and paintings.

One of the treasures on display is the mystical Fairy Flag, a sacred banner with miraculous powers. Supposedly given to the clan by the queen of fairies, legend says when unfurled during battle, the MacLeods would always defeat their enemies.

Talisker Distillery

The Talisker Distillery has been on the island since 1831. Scotland is famous for its whisky around the world. The flavor of a whisky changes depending on where in Scotland it was distilled, and whiskies like Talisker brewed on the islands have a strong, peaty taste.

This is my personal favorite type of whisky, and it seems writer Robert Louis Stevenson agreed. In one of his poems, he says “The king o’ drinks, as I conceive it, Talisker, Islay, or Glenlivet.”

Isle of Skye Scotland

Camping on the Isle of Skye

Accommodation

The Isle of Skye is a small island, so it doesn’t have a ton of accommodation options. During the summer high season, hotels and B&B’s can all be sold out. Skye is one travel destination where it’s very important to book your accommodation months in advance!

Hotels

Portree is the capital of Skye, and a perfect place to base yourself in the middle of the island. I stayed at a wonderful place called the Royal Hotel.

Bed & Breakfasts

If you prefer staying in B&B’s, there’s plenty of those too. here’s a list of great Bed & Breakfasts located around the Isle of Skye.

Backpacker Hostels

Portree SYHA
Broadford SYHA

Camping

Here is a good list of official campsites on the Isle of Skye. Wild camping is allowed, as long as you follow Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code. There are a few “bothys” too — wilderness cabins free for hikers to use.

We spent one night camping on the coast at Camas Malag, and another night at the Rubha Hunish bothy on the edge of a massive coastal cliff.

Isle of Skye Scotland

The Fairy Glen

Hiking & Cycling

Accompanying me on my road trip around the Isle of Skye was Scott from Wilderness Scotland. Working as a guide in the Highlands for years, he showed some of his favorite spots. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure during your trip, check out their Isle of Skye tours.

Hiking

Whether you’re into short walks or long-distance hikes, Skye has it all. The Skye Trail is a 128km route that covers incredible mountain & coastal scenery. It takes about 7 days to complete.

Cycling

Road cycling tours are very popular on Skye due to the island’s paved winding roads and amazing scenery. A support vehicle can take your gear to the next town where it’s waiting when you arrive to spend the night.

Waterfall Scotland

Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls

Isle Of Skye Driving Tips

Google driving times are not what they seem, due to all the scenic stops, it can take 2-3 times as long as you think. Remember to park frequently and explore areas on foot, you never know what you’ll find!

The weather changes quickly on the Isle of Skye. So just because the famous “Old Man Of Storr” happens to be covered in clouds at 9am doesn’t mean that will be the case an hour or two later.

For the same reason, it’s wise to keep some waterproof gear (jacket, pants) in a backpack with you at all times when you’re outside of the car.

The roads here are narrow, often without shoulders, and most backroads are single lane. If you’re not used to driving these, it can be nerve-wracking. We saw at least 2 rental cars off the road in a ditch.

The single lane tracks have special passing areas every 400 meters or so. Proper etiquette is the car closest to the turnoff pulls over and lets the oncoming vehicle(s) pass. ★

Watch Video: Scotland’s Isle Of Skye

(Click to watch The Land Of Fairies – Isle Of Skye on YouTube)

READ NEXT: Hanging From A Helicopter Over NYC

Have any questions about traveling the Isle of Skye? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Hanging Out Of A Helicopter Over Manhattan

Helicopter Flights NYC

Open Door Helicopter Flights in New York

New York, New York

One of the best ways to see New York City is by air, and this scenic helicopter flight company lets you dangle your feet over famous Manhattan landmarks for amazing photos!

I’m a complete helicopter fanatic. Sometimes I think if I hadn’t become a travel blogger, I’d have become a professional helicopter pilot by now.

Soaring free above the clouds, hovering only hundreds of feet over mountains or buildings, able to take off and land almost anywhere.

Helicopters are incredible machines. While expensive, I try to hitch a ride in one whenever I can for a truly unique photography experience.

Plus, helicopters are just so much damn fun!

FlyNYON Helicopter

Eurocopter TwinStar AS355

Manhattan Helicopter Flight

Flying Over Manhattan Skyline

Scenic NYC Helicopter Flight

After all the times I’ve visited New York City over the years, I’ve never taken a scenic helicopter flight over Manhattan. It was Instagram that finally convinced me to take the plunge and splurge on an aerial photography helicopter adventure.

I started seeing these crazy “shoe selfies” showing up in my feed on popular accounts. Photographers were taking photos of their shoes floating over the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, and Central Park.

A company called FlyNYON are the ones who make these epic Instagram shots possible with their crazy open-door scenic helicopter flights over some of Manhattan’s most famous landmarks.

Open Door Helicopter Tour

What a Crazy Helicopter Ride!

Shoe Selfie Photo

New York City Shoe Selfie!

Open-Door Photography Flight

Here’s the thing about aerial photography. For the best possible shots, you don’t want a window in front of your lens. So flying in a helicopter without doors is the perfect way to capture incredibly clear, crisp images from the air.

Anna and I began our adventure from Blade Lounge Heliport in midtown Manhattan, where the FlyNYON team briefed us on safety and asked where we wanted to go.

There were 4 of us going up, and we discussed which landmarks we should visit during our 15 minute helicopter flight. They also fitted us with full-body harnesses.

Flying a helicopter over New York without doors means you need to be strapped into a harness for safety. Your camera gear is also attached so it doesn’t fall on people below or get sucked up into the rotor.

You literally have your feet dangling outside the door on the skids!

Inside the Helicopter

Pilot Christi Rocking the Controls

Empire State Building

Empire State Building from the Sky

FlyNYON Helicopter Experience

Our badass pilot Christi brought us out to her sleek black Eurocopter TwinStar AS355 “Angry Bird” to be strapped in. Engines were powered up and off we flew into the sky!

We then soared past some of New York’s most iconic landmarks like Governor’s Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park, One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and Central Park.

Earlier, Christi was yanking on my photography gear, making sure nothing would come apart once we were flying. I thought she’d been a bit rough…

Until I actually felt the force of those blades whipping around directly over my head 1000 feet in the air. It was like a mini-tornado!

Helicopter Photo Tour

Difficult Tail Rotor Shot

Central Park NYC

Flying Over Central Park

Incredible Aerial Adventure

At first it’s a bit unnerving to be sitting on the edge of a chopper thousands of feet in the air. But you slowly get more comfortable as the flight goes on.

Eventually I trusted the harness enough to lean out and feel the power of the wind as adrenaline coursed through my veins, shooting photos of the helicopter’s tail rotter.

When the helicopter banks sideways in a turn, you’re looking straight down at the tops of New York City’s massive skyscrapers, the only thing keeping you from plummeting to your death is those straps!

If you find yourself in New York, and want to have the experience of a lifetime, make sure to book an epic open-door ariel photography helicopter flight with FlyNYON. You won’t regret it. ★

Watch Video: Helicopter Over New York City

(Click to watch Helicopter Over New York City on YouTube)

READ NEXT: How To Visit Cuba For Americans

Would you fly in a helicopter without doors like this? Afraid of heights? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Horseback Riding & Tobacco Farms In Viñales

Vinales Cuba

Viñales, Cuba

Riding through endless fields of green tobacco and fertile red soil in Viñales, we passed local farmers harvesting the leaves that would become Cuba’s world famous cigars.

Viñales is a small town located on the Western tip of Cuba. Set in a beautiful lush valley with funky looking hills and limestone caves, people have been growing tobacco in the area for over 200 years.

In Havana we hired Jose and his sweet red 1957 Ford Victoria to drive the four of us 3 hours out to Viñales, passing only a handful of other classic cars and a bunch of horse-drawn carriages on Cuba’s poorly maintained highways.

Vinales National Park

Vinales Cars

Welcome To Viñales

Viñales feels stuck in time. The main street is lined with small single story wooden homes with faded paint. Locals pass by riding old bicycles, horses, or driving colorful vintage American cars.

While there are some hotels in town, most travelers stay with locals in casas particulares, which are like guest bedrooms in other people’s homes.

Our host was Lay, a welcoming lady who turned her home into a guesthouse with two double rooms. This is how many Cubans make extra income beyond their communist government regulated salary of about $30 USD per month.

The town has plenty of small restaurants and bars with live music, but it doesn’t feel overcrowded. In fact, Viñales is rumored to be Fidel Castro’s favorite part of Cuba!

Horseback Riding Vinales Cuba

Vinales Cigars

Viñales National Park

Viñales Valley was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 due to its dramatic landscape of karst limestone domes called mogotes, traditional agricultural methods of farming, and rich cultural history.

The valley was formed underwater, rising from the sea millions of years ago. Ancient ocean fossils can still be found in the caves that dot the landscape.

The New York Times called Viñales one of the top places to visit in 2016.

But aside from being a beautiful travel destination, Viñales is known for the quality of its tobacco. I’m not a “smoker” per se, but I do enjoy the occasional cigar at the end of a big trek or for special occasions.

So I was excited to learn how Cuba’s world-famous cigars are actually made.

Tobacco Farm Cuba

Vinales Livestock

Home Of Cuban Cigars

Why are Cuban cigars so special? Well, many people believe Cuba is the birthplace of cigars. Christopher Columbus encountered native Cubans smoking cylindrical bundles of twisted tobacco leaves in 1492.

The practice was eventually exported to Europe, and by the 19th century, smoking cigars became a popular pastime for wealthy men — who formed special cigar clubs called divans.

Cuba’s time-honored tobacco growing and production techniques were exported to places like the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Then came the United States trade embargo, making Cuban cigars illegal — and increasing their value even more.

The fertile land and favorable climate of Viñales make for perfect cigar tobacco growing conditions. Most residents here are in the tobacco farming business.

Farmhouse in Vinales

Vinales Tobacco Farm Tour

Tobacco Farm Experience

We hired a guide and some horses to take a tour of Viñales National Park, learning about the traditional techniques used here for hundreds of years. No machines are used, which means crops are picked by hand and fields are plowed with oxen.

Passing through farms with pigs, chickens, and turkeys, we rode along green tobacco fields where local workers were harvesting the last of the season’s prized leaves. Tobacco grows fast, ready for harvest after 2-3 months.

The leaves are then hung in special curing barns, where they dry for about a month, turning a toasty brown color. The Cuban government buys 90% of the tobacco, while locals are allowed to keep 10% for themselves.

To prepare Cuban cigars, the center vein of the leaf is removed, where 98% of the nicotine resides. Next, leaves are sprayed with a special mixture of ingredients like pineapple, lemon, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and rum for the fermentation process.

Three different types of leaves are used to roll the final cigar — filler (inside), binder (holding it together), and the wrapper (visually appealing outer layer).

Tobacco Barn Cuba

Vinales Cuba Cowboys

Adventures In Viñales

Visiting tobacco farms isn’t the only thing to do in Viñales though. As part of the farm tour, we also explored one of the many limestone caves in the area. Rock climbing these unique limestone formations is a popular activity too.

Aside from guided horseback riding, you can also rent a bicycle, ATV, or motorcycle and explore the valley on your own. There’s a popular cave called Cueva del Indio where you can ride a boat on the underground river that flows through the cave.

We heard stories about a nice little beach about an hour North of Viñales called Cayo Jutías, but didn’t have time to visit.

Vinales Ox Cart

Tips For Visiting

Viñales is located about 3-4 hours West of Havana. There are regular Viazul Busses that run twice a day for about $15 USD per person. But you often need to buy your ticket a day in advance.

Or you can do what we did, and rent a vintage taxi with room for 4 people for about $60-$70 depending on your bargaining skills.

While walking the outskirts of Viñales, you might be waved over to learn about the cigar making process at some random farm. It’s a fun experience, just understand that at the end your host will ask you to buy a bundle of 15-20 cigars for about $1 each.

Cuban cigars can cost $10-$20 each in the USA… so it’s a pretty good deal!

“If I cannot smoke in heaven, then I shall not go.” ~ Mark Twain

Watch Video: Viñales Farm Adventure

(Click to watch Viñales Farm Adventure – Cuba on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Viñales, Cuba
Accommodation: Casa Lay (email: layvinales@nauta.cu)
Horseback Farm Tour: 35 CUC ($35 USD)
Useful Notes: Our tobacco farm tour was done on horseback, but they also have ox carts or bikes available. It lasts about 4 hours, with an option for a short cave excursion for a few CUC more. In addition to cigars, you can also purchase cuban coffee at the end.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Cuba
Suggested Reading: The Other Side Of Paradise

READ NEXT: How To Visit Cuba For Americans

Are you planning to visit Cuba? Have you ever smoked a cigar?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Lofoten Islands Photography: Arctic Winter Wonderland

Lofoten Islands Photography

Lofoten, Norway

Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands provide the perfect setting for incredible photography opportunities, with soft winter light and majestic mountain landscapes rising from the sea.

The Lofoten Islands are located above the arctic circle in Northwest Norway. Made up of deep fjords, craggy peaks, sandy beaches, and cute red fishing cabins, the islands are a wonderful location for landscape photography.

Especially in February, with the pleasing effects of low winter light.

I rented a car and spent 10 days driving around the Lofoten Islands with my camera, hunting the Northern lights, tracking down hidden beaches, and hiking through deep snow to capture inspiring images of this amazing section of Norwegian wilderness.

With very little daylight and seemingly endless sunrises & sunsets, winter in Lofoten is the perfect time to visit for photography. Frequent aurora sightings and white snow-capped peaks are just icing on the cake.

Below you’ll find travel photography from my adventures in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, along with a short video I produced along the way.

I hope my Lofoten Island photography inspires you to visit for yourself!

Hamnoy Lofoten Islands

Hamnøy Island

This is probably the most iconic photography location in Lofoten. Hamnoy is a small island and village near the spectacular fjord of Reinefjord, just outside the town of Reine. Red wooden cabins hug a rocky coastline, with huge mountains rising from the background. I actually stayed in these cabins too! They are called Eliassen Rorbuer. This shot was taken from a nearby bridge after a fresh layer of morning snow covered the landscape.

Lofoten Islands Nusfjord

Lofoten Road Trip

The Lofoten Islands are connected by a series of bridges and tunnels along a main road called the E10. Splintering off it are many side roads for you to explore. Like this one, Route FV807, which winds through an impressive mountain pass on the way to the fishing village of Nusfjord. Winter driving in Lofoten can be tricky, with snowy roads and quickly changing weather conditions. All rental cars come equipped with studded snow tires.

Lofoten Northern Lights

Northern Lights

One of the biggest reasons to visit Lofoten in the winter for photography is the magical northern lights which occur between September – March. With its extreme northern latitude and long nights, conditions are good for nature’s amazing light show. However catching a glimpse of the lights is not certain. Clear skies and strong aurora activity are needed. I lucked out with two decent nights of northern lights while traveling around Lofoten.

Lofoten Islands Fishing

Norwegian Fishing Boats

Fishing has been a fixture in the Lofoten Islands for over 1000 years. The unusually warm waters lure millions of arctic cod to spawn here between February – April. Most of the population is involved in the cod fishing business in some capacity. Every morning I watched fishing boats heading out to work, or men hanging the “stockfish” on wooden racks to dry in the open air.

Lofoten Islands Sakrisoy

Sakrisoy Rorbuer

More renovated fishing cabins in Lofoten that you can stay in, these yellow wooden buildings are part of Sakrisoy Rorbuer. I was shocked at just how many of these landscapes look fake, like they were created specifically for perfect postcard photos. Here the snowy Lofotenveggen Mountains tower behind the small yellow cabins, a shallow crystal blue bay in front. It’s a colorful mosaic which continually changes with the passing of the seasons.

Lofoten Islands Rambergstranda

Rambergstranda Beach

The rusty red color is achieved with paint mixed with cod liver oil. Plenty of that around these parts! When it’s not so snowbound, this is a landscape of waving grass and sky-blue water, and temperatures hit 20 degrees C, but on days like this, everything’s locked down with the cold and if you’re taking photos, you’d better have your gloves handy.

Lofoten Islands Surfing

Arctic Surfing Unstad

Because it’s on the Gulf Stream, Lofoten’s climate is relatively mild despite its latitude above the Arctic Circle, plus the insulating properties of modern wetsuits are astonishing. (If you’re in the water and you’re feeling cold, you’re doing it wrong.) These waters attract surfers of all skill levels from around the globe – and I decided to jump in and give it a try with the guys at Unstad Arctic Surfing. What a crazy experience!

Lofoten Islands Mountains

Lofoten Mountains

Stand on the beach anywhere in the Lofoten Islands, and most of the landscape towers above you, up to a thousand meters above sea level. Inhabitable land is the exception, not the rule – and only possible on infrequent strips of terrain between the sea and the colossal mountains that form the bulk of the island chain. In places, the mountains rise near-vertically from the sea. It’s a stunning backdrop for everything you do there.

Lofoten Islands Photography

Hiking Kvalvika Beach

This beach, in a remote corner of Moskenesøya, is only accessible on foot – park your car, take the easy trail over a nearby pass between the mountains, and after an hour you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the whole archipelago. During warmer months, Kvalvika Beach a great place to camp, complete with driftwood and a mountain stream – but even when the snow lays thick, it’s well worth a visit. Just expect the hike to take a bit longer.

Lofoten Village

Å, Norway

No, it’s not a misprint – it’s a one-letter word pronounced “Aw” that in Old Norse means “small river.” This tiny but popular village is at the southern tip of the Lofoten peninsula, and people come from miles around to have their photo taken next to the town sign – and, occasionally, to steal the sign, a constant irritation for the town’s 150 residents.

Lofoten Islands Hiking

Ryten Mountain Lookout

It may look forbidding, but Ryten (543m) is a surprisingly easy mountain to climb, thanks to low, steadily rising slopes – just give yourself three or four hours to do it. And if you’re visiting Lofoten, you absolutely should do it. The view from Ryten is unparalleled, giving you a view of Kvalvika Beach and the surrounding mountains that will punch the breath right out of you. More care must be taken in the winter when crampons & ice axe are recommended.

Lofoten Islands Sunsets

Endless Sunsets

Lofoten is north of the Arctic Circle – and that means a lot of things. It means the Polar Night, where the sun spends a full day below the horizon. It means the Midnight Sun, where the sun stays up for more than 24 hours. It means spectacular variation in day length, contracting or lengthening an hour every week between these two extremes. And best of all, it means incredible sunrises and sunsets that last for hours (yes, hours), turning the land and sea every color imaginable. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Stockfish Lofoten

Lofoten Stockfish

The tradition of drying unsalted fish (mainly cod) on huge wooden racks goes back at least a thousand years, and it’s still a big part of the Lofoten economy – and a spectacular sight, when the racks are full. If you want to understand the history of this ancient practice, head to Å’s comprehensive stockfish museum. Depending on how fresh the fish are, you may be in for a smelly surprise if you get to close to them!

Lofoten Islands Bridge

Fredvang Bridges

Opened in 1988, these sinuous structures connect the fishing village of Fredvang with its craggy neighbor, Flakstadøya by road. They perfectly match the curves of the surrounding lowland islands – and the effect is a little eerie, as if you’re getting a peek at what’s underneath all the islands if you stripped all the rock and earth away. Driving across is fun, there are pull-overs every few hundred meters because the bridges aren’t wide enough for two lanes.

Winter Fishing Huts

Rorbuer Cabins

The signature architecture of the Lofoten islands, rorbuer (singular rorbu) are well-suited to their environment. These tough wooden huts were originally built to protect fishermen as they assembled the year’s stockfish catch. These days, many have been converted (or rebuilt from scratch) into beautiful, primary-colored tourist accommodation – they can be a bit pricey, so it pays to do your homework about what’s available.

Lofoten Islands Photography

If you are looking for spectacular nature, deep silence, northern lights, diverse adventures, wild weather, breathtaking sea and mountain views, you can’t do much better than visiting Norway’s Lofoten Islands in the winter to capture some amazing travel photography. ★

Watch Video: Lofoten Islands Road Trip

(Click to watch Lofoten Islands Road Trip – Norway on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Lofoten, Norway [Map] Useful Notes: Lofoten Islands photography is particularly good in the winter from January to March due to the low, soft colorful light. However the main tourist season is in the summer. Renting a car is the best way to get around the islands.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Norway
Suggested Reading: Lofoten Islands Photography Guides

READ NEXT: How To Travel To Cuba

Have you ever heard of the Lofoten Islands before?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

How To Travel To Cuba: A Guide For Americans

American Travel in Cuba

How to Travel to Cuba for Americans

Travel Tips

While relations between Cuba & the United States are improving, it’s still technically illegal to travel there. Here’s how you can travel to Cuba as an American anyway.

UPDATE: As of August 2016, there are now regular flights to Cuba from the United States from certain airlines/cities. Keep reading for more information.

Back in 1960 the United States imposed a severe trade embargo against Cuba. The Blockade was created after Cuba nationalized American owned oil refineries without compensation.

As part of this embargo, travel to Cuba by Americans has been restricted for over half a century. Or more specifically, it’s technically illegal for U.S. citizens to have transactions (spend money or receive gifts) in Cuba under most circumstances.

Basically this regulation has prevented most Americans from considering Cuba as a travel destination. Due to economic sanctions, air travel to Cuba from the United States was almost impossible. American credit & debit cards don’t work in Cuba either.

However things are beginning to change.

Traveling to Cuba for Americans

Exploring the Tobacco Farms of Viñales

Can Americans Travel To Cuba?

Even though travel to Cuba for Americans is restricted, that doesn’t make it impossible to visit. For many years some intrepid Americans were traveling to Cuba anyway. Initially there were three ways to accomplish this.

Special License

You could register for a special license with the US Government if the reason for your travel fit a certain category. These include family visits, professional reasons, journalism, religious or cultural programs, and humanitarian projects. You can see the full list here.

People To People Tours

Organized tours that involve some sort of educational experience with local Cuban people. It’s never been defined officially, but basically your trip can’t just involve sitting on the beach. Travelers would talk with a school, volunteer for a community project, or collaborate with artists. A kind of legal loophole that tour companies use to sell tours in Cuba.

Foreign Gateway Cities

The other option was to travel to Cuba “illegally” through a foreign gateway city. This means flying yourself to Canada or Mexico first, then traveling to Cuba on your own from one of those countries. Because for the rest of the world, Cuba has been a popular travel destination for many years.

It’s only us Americans who haven’t been able to visit Cuba!

New Rules

As of January 16th, 2015 Americans no longer need to apply for specific licenses if they fit one of the 12 special categories.

What does this mean? It simplifies the process for Americans that meet those special requirements to visit Cuba. But it also creates a grey-area.

If you no longer have to pre-apply for a license, can you say your trip is for journalism when it’s really not? Will anyone even check to make sure you actually match one of the 12 categories?

If you don’t fit one of the categories, will anyone enforce the rules when you return to the United States? From my experience & listening to other travelers, the answer is no.

While it’s still technically illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for tourism only, it seems in practice, no one really enforces these travel restrictions anymore.

American Travel in Cuba

Local Game of Dominoes in the Streets of Havana

How To Travel To Cuba

In April 2016 I traveled to Cuba as an American with my girlfriend Anna from Anna Everywhere and our friends Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped. We traveled through the popular foreign gateway city of Cancun, Mexico.

You can buy a 30 day Cuban tourist visa at the airport there for $20.

It can be purchased the at the check in counter (or while waiting in line) before your flight. The visa is a separate card you keep with your passport, but it’s not attached.

We flew into Havana from Cancun on the Mexican budget airline Interjet for $240 USD round trip, and the flight took about an hour.

As of August 2016, the US government is allowing some American companies to resume flights to Cuba.

Airlines that are flying to Cuba from the United States now include American, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, United, Spirit, Alaska and Delta.

For flights leaving from the Untied States, the visa process seems to be similar for some people. You get your visa at the airport checkin counter.

But some reports suggest that it’s not the same everywhere. Plus the price of your Cuban visa is more expensive when leaving from the United States. I’ve heard reports of $50 instead of $20.

For these reasons, I recommend calling your airline beforehand to verify.

Cuban Visa for Americans

My $20 Cuban Visa

Cuban Immigration Process

The Cuban immigration process was super simple. I told the officer in Havana that I was traveling to Cuba for tourism, and he offered to stamp my visa card instead of my passport. This has been standard operating procedure for years.

Cuba wants American tourism, and they offer to stamp your visa rather than your passport so you don’t get in trouble with the US government.

This way, when you return to the United States, it just looks like you traveled to Mexico. Or Canada. There’s no passport record of your travel to Cuba.

However I asked him to stamp my passport directly. I was curious what would happen when I returned to the United States. Would anyone ask me about it? Would I get fined or arrested?

Nothing happened. When I returned to the United States, immigration didn’t even ask me what countries I’d been to, and they didn’t look at my passport stamps either.

Travel Insurance

Cuba requires all tourists to have (non-American) travel medical insurance before visiting. Some people have been forced to provide proof of their insurance, and if they can’t, they must buy a special Cuban travel insurance package for about $10 a day.

When I visited Cuba though, no one asked about my travel insurance. So I’m not sure how much this requirement is enforced these days.

Cuban Currency

Two Different Kinds of Money

Exchanging Money In Cuba

Credit & debit cards issued by American banks still don’t work in Cuba. So a trip to the island involves bringing lots of cash. How much? I’m planning to write a budget travel guide for Cuba soon, but to give you an idea, you can travel there comfortably on $50 – $100 per day.

Bring more than you need to be safe. If you run out, you’re out of luck!

Cuba actually has two different currencies. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the “tourist” currency, pegged to the American dollar. The Cuban Peso (CUP) is what locals use, and worth a lot less. So when you exchange money as a tourist, you’ll receive CUC.

$1 USD = 1 CUC = 24 CUP

You can exchange US dollars for CUC, but there is a special 10% penalty fee for this service. So it’s cheaper to exchange Euros, Canadian Dollars, British Pounds, or Mexican Pesos for CUC instead.

There’s an official currency exchange outside the airport in Havana. You can exchange your leftover CUC back to US dollars (or whatever) before you leave the country too.

Casa Particular Cuba

Inside Our Casa Particular in Trinidad

Accommodation In Cuba

You’ll find some hotels & resorts in the most popular tourist cities like Havana, Trinidad, and Varadero. But they generally aren’t cheap. To travel on a budget in Cuba, you’ll want to stay with locals in casas particulares.

A “casa particular” is like a homestay or guesthouse in someone’s home. They sometimes include breakfast, and run between $20 – $30 per night for a double room. To operate a casa particular, local families need to register & pay special taxes to the Cuban government.

Most casa’s don’t have websites, so you just walk around and ask about availability when you get there. If one is booked, the owner will usually help you find another nearby.

AirBnB is now operating in Cuba too! We booked our first two nights in Havana through AirBnB.

Renting a Car in Cuba

Our Rental Car in Cuba

Transportation In Cuba

Cuban Bus System

Cuba has a government run bus company for tourists called Viazul that covers most of the country. Tickets aren’t very expensive, but you can’t book them online yet, and popular routes sell out fast. Which means you might need to buy your ticket in person at the station the day before.

Renting A Car

We rented a modern car in Cuba for 6 of the 10 days we were there. Renting a car in Cuba isn’t easy or cheap. There aren’t many vehicles available yet, so you generally have to book a car at least 2 weeks in advance by calling or emailing the company.

When we arrived in Havana, we tried to rent a car directly at the airport with no reservation, and were told repeatedly there were no cars left. Eventually Anna found a guy who said he had two, but from the same company who earlier said they had none, Via Rent A Car (they have no website, but you can book online through other sites like Cuba Junky).

So it seemed a bit shady/strange… but we ultimately got one.

Renting a car in Cuba with insurance is going to cost you between $70 – $90 USD per day. It’s not cheap! Luckily we split the cost between 4 of us. There’s also a $200 cash deposit required.

Vintage Taxi

The other option for traveling around Cuba is to rent a vintage American car with driver. This isn’t cheap unless you split the cost with a few people.

Hailing a vintage taxi for a short ride in town will cost you $8 – $10. Renting one for a longer 2-3 hour trip can cost around $60 -$70 USD depending on your bargaining skills.

Split between 4 people, our 3 hour vintage taxi ride from Havana to Viñales cost $60, about the same as 4 bus tickets, but we could stop anytime we wanted for photos or snacks. The cars are super cool too!

I’ve also heard it’s possible to rent one for a full day for $100 – $120.

Internet in Cuba

Using WiFi Internet Cards

Internet In Cuba

Despite popular opinion, there is some internet access in Cuba. That wasn’t always the case though. For many years Cuba was one of the least connected countries in the world. The government does censor some stuff though, like access to Snapchat or anti-government blogs.

These days you can get connected through Cuba’s state run ETECSA telecom company. Tourists can buy ETECSA prepaid wifi cards at special kiosks for $2 – $3 per hour of service.

These scratch-off type cards provide a username and password for ETECSA wifi networks, which can be found at major hotels or in public parks around the country.

You can often buy additional cards from locals in the park or at a hotel front desk for about $6. The internet isn’t blazing fast, but you can certainly upload web-sized photos to Facebook & Instagram.

Passport Stamp Cuba

My Pink Cuban Passport Stamps!

Cuban Exit Fee

As of May 1, 2015 Cuba no longer charges the $25 CUC exit fee to travelers leaving the country, this fee is now included in the price of your airline.

Can You Bring Back Cigars?

I thought you’d never ask! So officially, if you are traveling to Cuba under one of the 12 special categories, you are now allowed to bring back $400 worth of souvenirs, including up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars. Yay!

Does that mean $100 of official branded cigars with a receipt? What if you buy unbranded “loose” cigars from a tobacco farmer in Viñales for $1 each?

Well I don’t know for sure, but I did manage to bring 30 Cuban cigars back into the United States. I was never questioned about tobacco, and it’s not listed on the customs form as something I have to declare.

Buying Cuban cigars in another country, like Mexico, and bringing them back to the US is still illegal. If you decide to try, do so at your own risk!

Most Recent Changes

To learn more about the legality of traveling to Cuba as an American, check out the Treasury Department’s Cuba FAQ. ★

More Information

Useful Notes: While technically it’s still illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for tourism only, in practice people are going anyway and not getting in trouble. It seems there is no one enforcing these rules as the government attempts to jump-start tourism & business there.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Cuba
Suggested Reading: The Other Side Of Paradise

READ NEXT: Horseback Riding In Vinales Cuba

Have any questions about how to travel in Cuba? Are you planning a trip there? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

33 Best Travel Jobs To Make Money Traveling

Fun Traveling Jobs to Make Money

Travel Tips

The best travel jobs allow you to earn income while exploring the world. Here are real-life examples of people living the dream – making money traveling abroad.

If you love traveling as much as I do, but can’t afford to completely quit working, you’re in luck. There are actually many different travel job opportunities to make money traveling the world.

Whether it’s seeking opportunities to trade work for accommodation, or landing a location independent job that gives you the freedom to travel abroad — you have options.

The reason I’ve been able to travel the world for the past 5 years is because I’ve slowly turned my travel blog into a business.

However that’s certainly not the only path to long-term travel.

Make Money Traveling

First a little disclaimer. If all traveling jobs were easy, everyone would be doing this. Many of these professions require passion, specialized training, time commitment, and talent. For those that don’t, the pay just isn’t great.

There is no magic way to instantly make lots of money traveling.

The truth about becoming location independent is that it takes years of hard work and sacrifice behind the scenes — something too many people conveniently ignore.

That said, it’s not impossible to work and travel either. The people who have fun travel jobs invested their time and resources to learn how to make it work — which means you can do the same if you make it a priority.

We all have the same 24 hours, how will you spend yours?


Expat, Digital Nomad, or Vagabond?

Not all “travel” jobs are created equally. The wanderlust opportunities listed here fall under one of the following categories — expat jobs, digital nomad jobs, or what I’ll call vagabonding. What’s the difference you ask?

Expat Jobs

Expat stands for “expatriate”. Meaning while you are a citizen of one country, you choose to live/work in a foreign country. Expat jobs are only related to travel in that you’re working in a different country from your own. You may live in that country for months or years at a time, so you aren’t exactly nomadic.

Examples: English teacher, nanny, foreign service, etc.

Digital Nomad

Digital Nomads work from their computers. This makes them location independent. As long as they have access to the internet, they can earn a living. Blogging falls under this category, so it also describes my lifestyle. Digital nomads are free to travel at will, working from coffee shops or hotels.

Examples: Online business, freelance writing, social media, etc.

Vagabonds

Vagabonds do work that I’ll call “alternative” travel jobs. The type of work that may not require a computer, but a more hands-on approach. Think musicians, artists, or manual labor. Access to the internet or owning a computer aren’t mandatory requirements. Pay could be under the table.

Examples: Street vendor, musician, farm work, etc.

Best Travel Jobs (2016)

The following travel jobs encompass one or more of those categories. If you crave the safety of a permanent job, but you also want to live in a different country, then working abroad in a regular full-time type position might be best.

Keep in mind not all of these jobs are suitable for everyone. If you have a university degree, you might not be as willing to pick berries on a farm as someone else might be. Or maybe you are! I won’t judge.

We all have different backgrounds, skills, and comfort levels.


Traveling Bartender Job

Bartender / Server

Bars, nightclubs and restaurants are located worldwide and the job description is pretty much the same everywhere. It helps to speak the language, so you may need to invest in a few weeks of language classes. Touristy places will be easier to find work and there’s no minimum or maximum time requirement. Plus the more experience you gain as a bartender, the more job opportunities will open up, with a potential for higher income.

EXAMPLE

My buddy Jeremy traveled and worked as a bartender in Australia.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $4000 per month

USEFUL RESOURCES


Run Travel Tours

Travel Tour Guide

You could consider getting a job as a local tour guide or tour assistant for an international company, either at a single popular location or for larger multi-destination tours. Or you can think entrepreneurial and start your very own tours! Maybe it’s the best un-marked surf spots, an awesome local hiking trip, or showing people the coolest bars and restaurants in town.

EXAMPLE

My friend Lauren started a successful food tour business in Spain.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $10,000 per month

USEFUL RESOURCES


Traveling Translator

Freelance Translator

Obviously you need to know a second language to be a translator, but maybe not as much as you think. Sure you probably won’t be working at the United Nations, but the opportunities are as open as your imagination. You could charge a restaurant to translate their menu, work for a tour company selling tours to tourists who speak your language, or offer freelance translation services online. The more fluent you are, the more money you can make.

EXAMPLE

My friend Maria translates English websites into Spanish.

INCOME RANGE

$0.10 – $0.40 per word

USEFUL RESOURCES


Backpacker Hostel

Work At Backpacker Hostels

Backpacker hostels frequently hire travelers to fill positions on a short term basis in exchange for free room and board. There are many different types of jobs, from working the front desk to housekeeping or bartending. If you plan to stay longer term, some hostels offer paid positions too. Actually, I once got paid to work at a backpacker hostel in Hawaii many years ago.

EXAMPLE

My buddy Dave worked the front desk at a backpacker hostel in Singapore.

INCOME RANGE

$7 – $10 an hour, possibly with accommodation included

USEFUL RESOURCES


Traveling Jobs Yoga

Traveling Fitness Instructor

Another job that allows you to travel the world while making money is working as a freelance fitness instructor. You can teach classes on pilates, yoga, zumba, dance, or provide services as a personal trainer if you have enough experience in these fields. Some instructors make deals with local gyms or backpacker hostels in order to use their facilities with clients.

EXAMPLE

My friends Brandon & Anne make money teaching yoga while traveling.

INCOME RANGE

$30 – $100 per hour

RESOURCES


Make Money Teaching English

Teach English Abroad

Do you know how to speak English? Sweet! You may not realize it, but professional English teachers are highly sought after around the world — and the pay can be decent. However just understanding the language isn’t enough, you generally need a college degree and a TEFL certification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).

EXAMPLE

My buddy Drew made money teaching english in Korea.

INCOME RANGE

$2000 – $3000 per month plus accommodation.

RESOURCES


Traveling Massage Jobs

Massage Therapist

Massage therapy is in demand worldwide as an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. Trained therapists can offer their skills to weary travelers or expatriates near popular tourist destinations. Work for a larger company or strike out on your own as an entrepreneur. Find clients by teaming up with hotels and giving them a cut for referring customers. Print flyers to hang up around gyms, coffee shops, etc.

EXAMPLE

My friend Kach made money traveling working as a massage therapist.

INCOME RANGE

$50 – $200 per day

RESOURCES


Make Money Traveling Webdesign

Web / Graphic Design

One of the most common jobs for traveling digital nomads is graphic or website design. All you need is your computer, an eye for design, and knowledge of certain software programs and online platforms. Things like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, WordPress, Illustrator, etc. Talent for writing code helps too — specifically HTML, PHP, and CSS. School is great, but it’s also possible to learn on your own with tutorials.

EXAMPLE

My buddy Adam makes money traveling while designing websites.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $6,000 per month

RESOURCES


Cruise & Yacht Jobs

Work On A Yacht / Cruise Ship

Traveling the world while working on private yachts or large cruise ships is an awesome way to see some pretty exotic places. Food, accommodation, transportation, and insurance is covered too — so it’s a great way to save money. Many jobs also provide plenty of vacation time to travel on your own. There are different types of positions available: deck-hand, stewardess, chef, tour manager, entertainment, engineer, and more.

EXAMPLE

My friend Derek made money traveling & working on a cruise ship.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $5000 per month

RESOURCES


Make Money Traveling Chef

Professional Chef

Working in the kitchen as a traveling chef gives you the opportunity to work anywhere in the world. However the hours are long, irregular, and stressful. Traveling chefs can land jobs at traditional restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, private yachts, food trucks, or even work for private households. Being well-rounded with past experience helps your chances too. Jobs vacancies are often listed online, either in classifieds or company websites.

EXAMPLE

My buddy Daniel makes money traveling as a professional chef.

INCOME RANGE

$9 – $20 per hour

RESOURCES


Day Trading

Day Trading

Like many of the jobs in this list, you can’t just jump into day trading on the stock market without any prior experience and expect to become rich. However I’ve met quite a few people who make money traveling and day trading. It usually takes a few years, and losing some money, before it starts to pay off. A background in finance and spare cash to invest helps too.

EXAMPLE

My buddy Marcello makes money day trading stocks while traveling.

INCOME RANGE

$100 – $10,000 per day

RESOURCES


Make Money as a Street Vendor

Street Vendor

Jewelry is the most popular item to sell, but it could also be art, clothing, leather goods… anything where you can source materials locally in bulk to make a product yourself. Setting up as a vendor requires supplies, possibly meaning a longer time in one location, but if you’re going to spend a season in one place it can be worth it. Find a location with lots of tourist traffic like walking streets or public beaches.

EXAMPLE

My friend Sorina sells leather accessories while traveling around Europe.

INCOME RANGE

$20 – $200 per day

RESOURCES


Make Money at Festivals

Festival Circuit

You don’t have to be a big name performer to work at festivals around the world. There are side-stage acts, installations, event staff, and food vendors too. Festivals always bring on lots of staff before, during and after the events. You can time southern hemisphere Australian and New Zealand festivals between Canadian, American and European summer circuits.

EXAMPLE

My friend Kellie makes money traveling working at festivals.

INCOME RANGE

Free tickets – $12 an hour

RESOURCES


Make Money Scuba Instructor

Sports Instructor

Are you exceptionally good at a particular sport? Share your knowledge with others and get a job as a professional instructor. Surfing, kitesurfing, skiing, scuba diving, skydiving, rock climbing, fly fishing, kayaking, tennis, sailing, mountaineering, etc. Earn an income doing what you love while traveling.

EXAMPLE

My friends Antonio & Amanda make money as scuba diving instructors.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $4000 per month

RESOURCES


Traveling Au Pair Job

Au Pair

An au pair is a professional live-in babysitter or nanny hired by a family to help their kids learn a new language and do some household chores in exchange for room, board, and a weekly income. The job allows you to live in a foreign country, learn a new language, and experience the culture first-hand while making some money.

EXAMPLE

My friend Ashley made money working as an au pair in France.

INCOME RANGE

$400 – $1000 per month

RESOURCES


Flight Attendant Jobs

Flight Attendant

The life of a flight attendant may seem glamorous. Constantly jetting around the world, partying it up in different cities, experiencing different cultures, 90% off airline tickets, hotel discounts, cheap rent, and working above the clouds. But it’s hard work too. The training is tough, the hours are long, and all the moving around can get lonely. However for those with a case of wanderlust, it can help you travel the world.

EXAMPLE

My friend Mia makes money traveling as a flight attendant.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $4000 per month

RESOURCES


Foreign Service Jobs

Foreign Service

Working for the foreign service (aka diplomat) or an intergovernmental organization (IGO) is one travel job that allows you to experience life in a different part of the world. Most of these government jobs are only open to people with university degrees or knowledge of foreign languages. Applications and tests for these types of positions can be found online.

EXAMPLE

My girlfriend Anna worked for the Polish embassy in London.

INCOME RANGE

$500 – $10,000 per month

RESOURCES


Travel Photographer Jobs

Photographer

Becoming a professional travel or adventure photographer and selling your images from around the world takes years of hard work. You can upload photos in bulk to micro-stock sites or sell images to clients directly for use in magazines, books, brand campaigns, or websites. Running guided photography tours and selling online tutorials are additional ways to make money as a traveling photographer.

EXAMPLE

My friend Brendan wrote an eye-opening article about working as professional travel photographer these days.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $10,000 per month

RESOURCES


Traveling Writer Job

Travel Writer

Writing about travel seems to be a dream job for many, however it’s not something most people can just jump into. First, you have to be a great writer. Next, you need to learn about networking, pitching to editors, and all the other business stuff involved. Once you have those down, then it’s possible to write for magazines, newspapers, websites, or travel guidebooks. Copywriting and other types of writing are also options.

EXAMPLE

My friend Jodi earns income on the road as a travel & food writer.

INCOME RANGE

$0.10 – $1.00 per word

USEFUL RESOURCES


Make Money Amazon Store

Drop Shipping / Amazon FBA

It has a few names and variations, but buying products overseas then re-branding them and selling through Amazon is an increasingly common way to make money while traveling. Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) means you don’t need an actual storefront location because products are stocked at Amazon’s network of fulfillment centers around the world.

EXAMPLE

My friend Aileen makes money traveling & selling products on Amazon.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $30,000 per month

RESOURCES


Make Money Travel Blogging

Blogging

Making money as a blogger while traveling is a dream job for many. But like most things in life, it’s hardly simple. Earning a living with a blog is hard work — and can take years. A blog about travel isn’t the only option, other examples include food bloggers, mommy bloggers, fashion bloggers, and lifestyle bloggers. Income generally comes from advertising, affiliate sales, books, influencer projects, etc. But first you need to build an audience!

EXAMPLE

Me! Check out my resources below about how to become a travel blogger.

INCOME RANGE

$500 – $20,000+ per month

USEFUL RESOURCES


Make Money Traveling Musician

Musician / Street Performer

Also known as busking, use your best talents to make some money from tourists. Create an act, grab an instrument, pick a spot with lots of foot traffic, and drop a hat. Many cities require a permit for busking, so make sure to do your research first. Do you have any special talents? Acrobatics, painting, fortune telling, music, break dancing, henna art, it could be anything.

EXAMPLE

My friend Nadia makes money traveling and playing street music.

INCOME RANGE

$10 – $100 per hour

RESOURCES


Make Money Traveling AirBnB

AirBnB

I’m sure you’ve heard of AirBnB by now, the holiday apartment booking site that lets you stay in other people’s homes rather than hotels. Well some enterprising individuals are renting out their flats while they travel, making decent income. The key is automating the process as much as possible so you don’t have to be there in person.

EXAMPLE

My friend Alyssa makes money renting her apartment on AirBnB.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $7000+ per month

RESOURCES


Make Money Traveling Seasonal Jobs

Seasonal Jobs

I’ve met many travelers around the world who work seasonally, spending part of the year earning money and then traveling for months in the off-season. The number of jobs in this category are countless. Construction, school teachers, commercial fishing, oil workers, electricians, ski resort staff, etc. These jobs depend on what skills you currently possess or are willing to learn.

EXAMPLE

My buddy Brian has worked construction jobs while traveling.

INCOME RANGE

Varies widely

RESOURCES


Travel Jobs Poker

Internet Poker

It almost sounds too good to be true. Playing poker for a living, online or at real tables, from anywhere in the world. But like anything else, it requires lots of hard work to make that lifestyle sustainable. You need to be good with numbers, possess strong willpower to play for hours, keep your emotions in check, and be able to stay focused on repetitive tasks.

EXAMPLE

My buddy Konrad makes money playing online poker for a living.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $30,000 per month

RESOURCES


Peace Corp

Peace Corp / NGO

Want the experience of a lifetime helping others less fortunate than yourself? Try volunteering with the Peace Corp or a Non-Governmental Organization. Just keep in mind that volunteer work is a full-time job. While it makes your life rich with experiences, the money isn’t great. You’ll build confidence to handle any challenge — because the work itself is challenging.

EXAMPLE

My friend Danielle worked as Peace Corp volunteer in Nicaragua.

INCOME RANGE

$314 per month plus food & accommodation

RESOURCES


Marketing PR Jobs

Marketing / PR

Again, not something you can just learn in a week. There is a reason people go to school and get a degree in marketing. However if you have a business/marketing background, there is no reason why you can’t freelance this type of work from a hammock in Bali. In fact it’s becoming much more common — I’ve met plenty of people helping authors or brands get their name out to a wider audience while traveling.

EXAMPLE

My friends Pete & Dalene run a digital influencer marketing company.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $10,000+ per month

RESOURCES


YouTube Travel Job

Video Work / Vlogging

Traveling around the world making videos is another dream job, and some people make a very good living with it. There are a few different paths too — shooting and selling stock footage, becoming a popular YouTuber, or producing highly polished marketing films for tourism boards & travel brands. A strong knowledge of video, editing, networking, and marketing is highly recommended for this type of work.

EXAMPLE

My friend Nadine makes money traveling as a professional YouTuber.

INCOME RANGE

$1000 – $20,000+ per month

RESOURCES


Travel Nurse Job

Travel Nurse

To become a travel nurse, you must first get a degree as a registered nurse (RN) which takes 2-4 years. Once you have that, it’s possible to apply for temporary travel nursing jobs which can last up to 13 weeks. Depending on the assignment, sometimes these jobs include tax-free income, free housing, medical coverage, rental cars, and more. There are travel nurse staffing agencies that specialize in helping you locate a job overseas too.

EXAMPLE

My friend Rachel worked as a travel nurse for a while.

INCOME RANGE

$30 – $40 per hour

RESOURCES


Computer Programming Travel Job

Computer Programmer

If you already have the skills & training needed as a computer programmer, than transitioning your cubicle office job into a freelance position with location independence would give you the freedom to travel. There are special freelance programming websites where you can bid on jobs, or you can try to launch a company to build your own products like iPhone apps or custom web applications.

EXAMPLE

My friends Simon & Erin develop smartphone apps as they travel.

INCOME RANGE

$3000 – $10,000 per month

RESOURCES


Virtual Assistant Travel Job

Virtual Assistant

With advancements in office technology and a desire to reduce employee costs, business are increasingly looking to hire virtual assistants who can work from home (or anywhere for that matter). There is little that personal assistants can’t do remotely these days. Social media scheduling, responding to customer enquires, calendar management, and all sorts of other tasks can be taken care of by a competent virtual assistant.

EXAMPLE

My friend Katie travels & works as a virtual assistant.

INCOME RANGE

$500 – $3000 per month

RESOURCES


Consultant Work and Travel

Professional Consultant

Are you an expert in your field? Working as a professional consultant for companies may give you the ticket to location independence. Consultants work on short term projects, helping businesses grow by training staff how to do something better. For example, instructing a business how to use social media effectively, or how to become more environmentally friendly. Generally they are paid to share their specialized expertise.

EXAMPLE

My friend Dave travels and works as a consultant for oil companies.

INCOME RANGE

Varies widely.

RESOURCES


Working Holiday Visa Jobs

Working Holiday Visas

A working holiday visa is a special residence permit allowing travelers to legally work in foreign countries to supplement their travel funds. They are generally intended for people between the ages of 18 to 30, and requirements differ based on the country. Some popular destinations for working holidays include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Ireland, and Singapore.

EXAMPLE

My friend Marta has lived in 3 different countries on working holiday visas.

INCOME RANGE

Varies widely

RESOURCES


Work Abroad With Travel Jobs

The truth is there are no easy ways to make lots of money while traveling without prior skills, time commitment, or experience. It’s just not how the world works.

No one is going to pay you thousands of dollars to do something easy.

Dream jobs often take years to materialize, and include unimaginable effort & sacrifice that the average person just can’t understand until they experience that same journey for themselves.

While I make a good living with my travel blog — it didn’t happen overnight. It’s the same for most of these other jealousy-inducing travel jobs.

But I hope this article has demonstrated that there are plenty of people out there working hard and “living the dream” who manage to make money while traveling. It’s not impossible!

So get out there and start making your own dreams come true. ★

READ NEXT: Norway’s Stunning Winter Wonderland

Do you have a travel friendly job? Any others I missed?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Climbing The Ancient Mayan Ruins Of Coba

Coba Ruins Mexico

Coba, Mexico

From the top of Coba’s ancient pyramid, the jungle looks like a living green carpet. The Mayan Ruins of Coba are one of my favorite archaeological sites in Mexico’s Yucatan.

Archaeologists believe the Mayan ruins of Coba were an incredibly important city for the Maya people. However due to its remote location, the site is not as popular with tourists as other ruins in Mexico.

But there are many reasons to visit the city of white roads.

Because Coba doesn’t see as much tourism as places like Chichen Itza or Tulum, so you can actually still climb some of the structures for a totally different and unique perspective.

Coba Ruins Church

Coba Ruins Bike

Coba Ruins Trees

Exploring Mayan Ruins Of Coba

Coba’s claim to fame is the largest network of stone causeways in the ancient Mayan world, called sacbes (white roads). Over 50 of these roads have been discovered at the site, with 16 of them open to the public.

The raised stone pathways connect clusters of residential areas to the main pyramid area of Nohoch Mul and small lakes used as a water supply nearby. There are three ways to explore the ruins along these roads.

You can walk, hire a bici taxi, or my personal favorite, rent a bicycle.

Mysteriously no one really knows how the Maya transported goods along these roads. While scientists believe the Maya knew about the existence of the wheel, there’s no evidence they actually used them.

One of my favorite reasons to visit Coba is that it isn’t as excavated as other sites, so you feel like you’re wandering through a forest, with many structures still covered in trees.

Nohoch Mul Coba

Coba Ruins Pyramid

Coba Ruins Pyramid

Climbing The Pyramid

The largest pyramid at Coba is called Ixmoja, part of the Nohoch Mul group of buildings. The pyramid is 42 meters (138 feet) tall and was the heart of the city. Unlike other Maya sites, you can still climb this one, if you dare!

The 120 stone steps are much steeper than they look…

This is why there’s a thick rope in the middle for safety. But the view from the top is totally worth the climb. A light breeze cools you off from the summit while gazing at the lush jungle landscape stretching out in all directions.

Plus, there aren’t many places where you can climb a Mayan pyramid anymore. As a site gets more popular and tourism increases, authorities eventually restrict climbing to preserve structures and reduce accidents.

Be careful climbing down the pyramid, it’s more difficult than going up!

Coba Structures Mexico

Coba Trails

Painting Complex Coba

History Of Coba

Coba is estimated to have had a population of over 50,000 at its peak. There are many tall stone carved monuments at the complex, called stelae. Some stelae here depict women, suggesting the city had many female rulers.

There are two well-preserved ball courts on the site too, used for playing ōllamaliztli, a traditional Mayan ballgame.

Specific rules differ depending on the time period, but basically players attempted to bounce a heavy rubber ball through stone rings using their hips.

Sometimes the captain of the losing team was ritually sacrificed.

The Mayan City of Coba was first inhabited around 100 AD and was eventually abandoned when the Spanish conquered the peninsula around 1550 AD. However the city was once the most powerful in the region, controlling farmland, trading routes, and important water sources.

Coba Cenote Mexico

Coba Cenote Swimming

Swimming In Cenotes

Speaking of water sources, no visit to Coba would be complete without taking a dip in the refreshing limestone cenotes nearby. Cenotes are underground sinkholes filled with fresh water, found all over the Yucatan.

There are 3 cenotes just a 10 minute drive away from the ruins.

Cenote Choo-Ha is a shallow water cenote with crystal blue water and many stalagmites hanging from the ceiling. My personal favorite of the three.

Cenote Tamcach-Ha is a deep underground cavern with two fun jumping platforms at 5 & 10 meters (15 & 30 feet) high. Cenote Multun-Ha is a bit further away in the jungle and boasts a large wooden deck.

The entrance fee for each cenote is 55 pesos ($3 USD). They are a wonderful way to cool off after a hot day exploring the Mayan ruins of Coba!

Motorcycle Road Trip Coba

Motorcycle Road Trip Coba

Tips For Visiting Coba

The ruins of Coba are about 44 kilometers (28 miles) from Tulum, or 109 kilometers (68 miles) from Playa del Carmen. For the budget minded, you can get to the site via ADO Bus from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. Colectivos (public taxi vans) are also an option, however you’ll have to change vans in Tulum.

Renting a car is the most flexible and allows you to visit cenotes.

Or, if you’re a fan of motorcycles, you can rent a Harley Davidson in Playa del Carmen like I did with my friends Evelina from Earth Wanderess & Jeremy from The World Or Bust. The road is an easy and smooth ride.

At the ruins you can hire a guide to explain the history, or just wander on your own. Renting an old bicycle for 45 pesos and riding around enables you to see the most in the shortest period of time.

Whatever you decide, remember to bring sunscreen & water because it can get hot! Plus sturdy shoes if you plan to climb the main pyramid. ★

Traveling To Mexico Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

Watch Video: Mayan Ruins Of Coba

(Click to watch Mayan Ruins Of Coba – Mexico on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Coba, Mexico
Total Cost: 65 pesos ($4 USD) entry fee
Motorcycle Rental: Harley Adventures
Useful Notes: It gets hot during the day at Coba, so visiting early morning or late afternoon is best. Less people too. You can explore on foot but I highly recommend renting a bicycle. The complex is very large!
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Yucatan
Suggested Reading: The Maya: Ancient Peoples & Places

READ NEXT: Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen

Have any questions about the Mayan ruins of Coba? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

How To Use Your iPhone GPS For Hiking In The Wilderness

iPhone GPS Hiking

Using Your Smartphone GPS for Hiking

Travel Tips

Would you be surprised if I told you my favorite piece of backpacking gear is my smartphone? I love using my iPhone’s GPS for hiking in the wilderness.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook & Instagram, you’ll know that I recently returned from an epic trek in Greenland on the Arctic Circle Trail.

There’s no cell-service on this hike. It was a 10 day adventure through remote Greenlandic wilderness. However I was still able to use my iPhone’s built in GPS capabilities to help me navigate the long-distance route.

My battery lasted 7 days before it needed recharging too!

I’ve been using Gaia GPS for hiking trips in places like Turkey, Norway, Israel, Greenland, Canada, Iceland, and the United States. It’s a super useful app for adventure lovers.

GPS Hiking App

Gaia GPS in Greenland

Smartphone GPS For Hiking

Did you know that cell service is not necessary to use your smartphone’s Global Positioning System (GPS) chip? However to track your progress effectively without service, you must pre-download maps before the journey.

There are a few different GPS mapping apps out there for smartphones, but my favorite (and the most used) is called Gaia GPS Topo Maps.

This amazing app allows hikers to pre-download different types of maps from around the world for use with your iPhone’s GPS. You can also record altitude, speed, leave waypoints, create tracks, and produce all sorts of other detailed information about your backcountry trips.

Better Than Dedicated GPS Unit?

Why spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated GPS device for hiking when you can get the same functionality with a $20 app for your smartphone?

Using your phone as a GPS unit saves you money, reduces the amount of weight you pack, and serves multiple purposes (photos, journal, notes, etc.).

It’s a wonderful backup to have along with paper maps, and can save your butt if you happen to lose the trail or get caught in bad weather.

Both have happened to me a few times, and whipping out your phone is far easier than attempting to use regular maps during a raging storm!

GPS Hiking App

Pre-Downloading a Section of Map

Gaia GPS Settings

To get the most out of Gaia GPS, there are few settings you need to be aware of. First, there are many different map layers you can use within the app. The two I use most often are the Open Hiking Map and Google’s satellite view called Imagery + Roads.

These are probably the best maps for hiking. The Open Hiking Map includes basic topographical features along with known hiking trails, while Satellite Imagery gives you a better picture of the landscape.

If hiking somewhere without cell service, make sure to pre-download sections of the map that cover the area where you’ll be.

Pre-downloading maps is explained in the YouTube tutorial below.

Gaia GPS also allows you to record tracks as you hike, but don’t do this unless you have a specific need, because it drains battery life and requires the phone to be powered on the whole time.

I only use the app to confirm my GPS location or navigate in bad weather.

Close the Gaia app after each use (double tap the home button and swipe the app up to close). This prevents Gaia from continually updating your location. Turn the phone off to further reduce battery drain.

iPhone GPS Hiking

Hiking in Norway with the LifeProof FRĒ Power

Protecting Your Phone

As you might already know, I’m a huge fan of the water & shock-proof smartphone cases from LifeProof, and they’re one of my sponsors too.

Using the LifeProof FRĒ POWER gives me double the battery power for long-distance treks like the Arctic Circle Trail.

So when my phone’s battery eventually dies, I simply press a button on the back of the LifeProof case to recharge it completely.

Battery Conservation Settings

While hiking through Greenland for 10 days, my iPhone 6 battery lasted for 7 days using the settings below. I turned off the phone when not in use, and only powered it up to compare my GPS location with the paper maps I carried.

  • Enable Airplane Mode (turns off WiFi/Bluetooth)
  • Close all apps except Gaia
  • General > Usage > Battery Percentage = ON
  • Privacy > Location Services = OFF (except Gaia)
  • Privacy > Advertising > Limit Ad Tracking = ON
  • Privacy > Motion & Fitness = OFF
  • General > Siri = OFF
  • General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion = ON
  • General > Date & Time > Set Automatically = OFF
  • General > VPN = OFF

One more important tip is to keep your phone warm when it’s cold out, like in a pants pocket. This includes when sleeping too. Nothing drains the battery faster than cold weather! ★

Watch Video: Gaia GPS Tutorial

(Click to watch Gaia GPS Tutorial on YouTube)

More Information

Product: Gaia GPS App for iPhone | Android
Total Cost: $19.99 USD
Useful Notes: Gaia GPS is a pretty big application with many features. You’ll want to set aside at least an hour to learn how to use it.

READ NEXT: Complete Travel Gear Guide

Have any questions about using your phone’s GPS for hiking?

My Experience Learning Spanish In Guatemala

San Pedro La Laguna

Learning Spanish in Guatemala

San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

While traveling through Guatemala I spent 3 weeks taking Spanish classes and staying with a local family on Lake Atitlan. Here’s a rundown of my experience.

Guatemala is one of the best countries in the world to visit if you’d like to learn Spanish. It’s not too far from the United States, classes are inexpensive, and locals naturally speak slowly without using too much slang.

Plus, if you’d like to learn Spanish fast, there’s no better way then to be totally immersed in the culture & language for an extended period of time.

I decided to study in the town of San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlan, located in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountains.

This massive lake is surrounded by volcanoes, colorful wildflowers, and traditional Maya villages. A picture perfect setting to learn Spanish.

Lake Atitlan

Beautiful Lake Atitlan

San Pedro La Laguna

My Home for 3 Weeks

Spanish School In Guatemala

I went to Cooperative School San Pedro on Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlan). It’s a true cooperative started by a group of experienced Spanish teachers who believe they have a responsibility to their community.

In general it’s recommended to take at least 3 weeks of Spanish classes to get a basic grasp on the language. You can choose between 3-6 hours of instruction per day, either morning or afternoon classes.

Homestays are available or you can find your own accommodation.

I paid $205 USD per week for 4 hours of class per day, 5 days per week, which also included my homestay plus 3 meals a day. It was a great deal!

Lake Atitlan has a laid-back hippy vibe, and the landscape around the lake is breathtaking with many outdoor activities nearby. However Antigua & Quetzaltenango (Xela) are also popular towns for learning Spanish.

Xela is a larger city, while Antigua is a bit more touristy.

Friends of mine have recommended ICA Spanish School in Xela and Antigua Plaza School in Antigua if you’re looking to stay there instead.

San Pedro La Laguna

Spanish Class with Flori

A Typical Day At Class

There are a few different options for class schedules, however I choose 4 hours of one-on-one Spanish instruction per day, five days a week. My teacher was Flori, a local woman who’s been teaching for years.

She always seemed upbeat and excited to teach as we sat in the shade overlooking Lake Atitlan.

After a general evaluation of my Spanish skills (almost non-existent in my case), Flori gave me a refresher course on rules of Spanish and helped improve my vocabulary using fun games and written exercises.

There were homework assignments every night too…

My Spanish quickly improved with regular daily instruction, and I was finally able to communicate with my Guatemalan host family and other locals.

Three weeks of class wasn’t enough to become fluent, but traveling through Central America was MUCH easier because I could understand a lot more and make myself understood.

Even though I probably sounded like a 5 year old!

Homestay Guatemala

Guatemalan Homestay

Mayan Hosts

Local Maya Host Family

The Homestay Experience

While taking Spanish school in Guatemala I stayed with the Bixcul-Pichilla family in their small two-story cinderblock home nestled at the bottom of Volcano San Pedro.

It was super difficult to communicate at first, as they don’t speak any English. Only Tzujill (a local Mayan language) & some Spanish.

I had my own bedroom, and the family of 5 shared 3 others. We also had a basic kitchen and open-air courtyard. Living this way was an eye-opening experience for me, very different from the “comfortable” American lifestyle I’m used to.

There was a bathroom in the courtyard, and a sink area used for washing clothes, cleaning dishes, brushing teeth, shaving — pretty much everything.

Water was delivered via pipes once or twice a week, where it’s stored in drums for later use. Occasionally it would run out if we used too much.

San Pedro Volcano

Climbing San Pedro Volcano

Lake Atitlan Canoe

Traditional Wooden Canoe

Activities Nearby

Like I mentioned earlier, the Lake Atitlan area is full of cool things to do. So when I got sick of trying to memorize new Spanish words, I’d take a break and get outside for a Guatemalan adventure!

Volcano Hikes

Lake Atitlan is surrounded by volcanoes. Hiking these is a great way to get some exercise and capture epic photos of the landscape. Two of the most popular hikes are Volcano San Pedro and La Nariz de Indio.

Lake Kayaking

Rent a kayak and explore Lake Atitlan up-close and personal. Or if you’re feeling REALLY adventurous, find a local fisherman willing to rent out his traditional wooden canoe. They aren’t easy to navigate!

Scuba Diving

Yes, you can go scuba diving under the lake here, and apparently there’s interesting stuff to see. Like freshwater crabs, underwater volcanic hot-vents, and flooded hotels. ATI Divers is located in the town of Santa Cruz.

Coffee Tours

Coffee is a big deal in Guatemala, and the nutrient-rich volcanic slopes around Lake Atitlan are covered in coffee farms. A coffee tour allows you to experience the fascinating coffee production process from start to finish.

Maya Villages

There are 12 Maya villages spread out around the shores of Lake Atitlan, with many only accessible by boat or on foot. My favorites were Santiago, San Juan, and San Marcos. Walk the cobblestone streets, visit old churches, watch a local basketball game, and experience some Maya culture.

Community Outreach

Many of the Spanish schools in San Pedro give back to the community with social aid projects, and you can volunteer to help out by bringing food or building supplies to poor local families in need.

San Pedro Church

Church in San Pedro la Laguna

Santiago Lake Atitlan

Santiago Streets

Tips & Advice

Panajachel is the main transportation hub for the Lake Atitlan area. A bus from Guatemala City to Panajachel takes 3-4 hours. Once at the lake, the best way to travel from village to village is by lancha (boat taxi). Prices vary, but are generally around 15-25q ($2-3 USD).

The temperature around Lago Atitlan fluctuates between 50 – 80 degrees (F), so it can get chilly at night. Larger towns like Panajachel & San Pedro have ATMs, but not all of them do.

When picking a Spanish school in Guatemala, keep a lookout for schools that funnel money into social aid projects for the local community. I’d also recommend staying in a homestay for the same reason, that money goes a long way towards improving the lives of your host family.

For additional recommendations, talk to people who’ve actually attended the school you are interested in. Search travel blogs or online forums like Lonely Planet to read reviews of other schools. ★

More Information

Location: San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala [Map] Spanish School: Cooperative School San Pedro
Total Cost: $90 – $225 USD per week depending on hours/homestay
Useful Notes: Staying with a host family is the most cost-effective way to learn Spanish in Guatemala, and the best way to practice what you’re learning in school while learning about local culture.
Recommended Reading: Lonely Planet Guatemala

READ NEXT: Camping On An Active Volcano

Any other questions about learning Spanish in Guatemala?