Relaxing In Peru’s Best Beach Town: Mancora

mancoraAfter hiking the Inca Trail outside Cuzco and exploring the museums in the bustling city of Lima, many travelers agree they crave nothing more than a relaxing setting and a beautiful beach. If you’re making your way north, a worthwhile stop is Mancora, thought by many locals and tourists to feature Peru‘s best beaches.

Getting There

If you’d like to make the journey in style and comfort, my recommendation is to take the Cruz del Sur bus company. Backpacking six countries in South America, I definitely had my fair share of questionable bus rides; however, Cruz del Sur was the best company I traveled with on the entire continent. Not only do they check bags and do body scans for safety reasons, they feed you a delicious hot meal, show movies in English or Spanish with subtitles, have comfortable reclining seats and provide you with a pillow and blanket. And, the bathrooms were clean and stocked with toilet paper and soap, something almost unheard of on bus transportation in South America.

If flying, the closest airports are in Piura, Tumbes or Talara. When flying internationally, you’ll need to travel to Lima first, and then take a national flight to one of the three cities.peruvian foodFood

Luckily, there are many typical Peruvian restaurants in town. This means you’ll be able to easily find and enjoy local, affordable eateries. The most I ever paid for a meal in Mancora was 5 nuevo soles (about $1.80) on a set menu, which includes a starter, entree and refreshing glass of juice. A usual lunch would be a large bowl of chicken noodle soup followed by either baked chicken with rice and potatoes or goat or beef with rice, salad and beans.

Mancora is also a great place to sample some fresh ceviche, or cebiche, as you’ll see it written on restaurant signs.

markets To Do

When in Mancora, the best thing you can do is absolutely nothing. The town is very different from many of the popular tourist spots in Peru, and has an amazingly laid-back vibe and stress-free atmosphere. Walking down the main street, you’ll see people browsing beach-inspired markets, locals relaxing with a newspaper, playing cards or enjoying a delicious meal, and travelers with dreadlocks and baggy pants twisting each others’ hair and weaving bracelets in the sun. At the hostel I stayed at, many of the staff were backpackers who had simply fallen in love with the lifestyle of the area and didn’t want to leave.

Still, there are things to do if you so please. Most importantly, spend time on the beach. Here you’ll not only be able to sunbathe and go swimming, you’ll also be able to partake in a range of water sports and adventure activities, like surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, kitesurfing and horseback riding. I’d also recommend watching the sunrise or sunset at least once while you’re there, as the beach is such a peaceful place to watch the colorful show of nature.

whale watching If you’re in town during August, September or October, it’s definitely worth it to book a whale watching tour. During that time, humpback whales swim from Antarctic waters to breed during reproduction season. Participants have an 80 percent chance of seeing the whales diving, breaching, swimming and playing.

In Mancora, there are also many places to partake in yoga. You’ll pay about S/.20 for 90 minutes, and will feel invigorated for the rest of the day. To find a center, just walk along the beach near the hotels and you’ll find signs advertising the service. I recommend checking out Samana Chakra and Mancora Yoga: A Center for Radiant Living.

To help you relax even further, getting a massage is an option in this chill beach village. The most reputable spa in the area is Origenes Spa, which offers holistic and specialized treatments – like cooling cucumber for sunburn if you’re like me and forget how strong the sun is in Mancora. Depending on what you get will depend on the price, but some examples include a 60-minute aromatherapy massage (about $58), a honey and cucumber facial (about $52) a 2-hour fertility ritual (about $112) and a 30-minute floral bath (about $52). To see the complete menu, click here.

There is also a woman named Sarah Lane who was recommended by my hostel, who gives massages on the beach from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can find her near the Quebrada entrance of the beach – email her at sarahlanetherapies@gmail.com or visit her website.

ernest hemingway Day Trips

Located about an hour out of town is Cabo Blanco. Here, you’ll find the charming fishing village where Ernest Hemingway used to hangout and drink Pisco Sours while writing brilliant text like “Old Man and the Sea.” The location is also where the author caught a 700-pound Marlin fish. If you’d like an informational tour, Pacific Adventures offers a “Hemingway Route” trip that visits all the spots that inspired this legendary writer. For surfers, Cabo Blanco is also known as one of the best places in Peru for the sport.

Another day trip option is to travel about 30 minutes northeast to Poza de Barro, where you’ll find a natural hot spring and mud bath. Not only is it relaxing, a soak in the bubbling, sulfurous water is said to be good for your health, curing skin ailments, mineral deficiencies, rheumatic conditions, stress and eliminating toxins. The trip costs about S/. 35 (about $13) round trip.

dj Nightlife

Most of the nightlife scene revolves around the hotels and hostels. Loki Mancora is the most notorious party spot in the city, and visitors should get there before 10:00 p.m. or risk being charged an admission fee. The Point Mancora Beach also puts on regular theme parties, including their monthly Full Moon Party, which features a live DJ spinning near the pool (shown right). After 2:00 a.m., head to Cocos Beach Club or Charlie Brown’s in town to finish the night.

[Images via Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, Pacifico Adventures, JFK Library, The Point Mancora Beach]

10 landmarks for lovers of Western literature

shakespeare and company bookstoreAre you an enthusiast of everything Voltaire? Can you not get enough of Shakespeare and James Joyce? If you are a lover of Western literature, add these 10 landmarks to your upcoming travel itineraries.

The Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
Paris, France

It is only right that the first landmark on the list be in Paris, France, as this is where many French writers, such as Voltaire, Proust, Balzac, and Baudelaire spent most of their time. The Shakespeare and Company Bookstore has had some of the most well-known writers of the 20th century as clientele, including James Joyce, who published his famous Ulysses under the stamp of this bookshop. In fact, the founder of Shakespeare and Co., Sylvia Beach, was close friends with many of these writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few. What’s also special about this shop is not only do they host literary walking tours around Paris, but you can also sleep there as long as you help out with the chores.erneest hemingway houseErnest Hemingway House
Key West, Florida

Not only is Key West home to beautiful beaches and energetic nightlife, but it’s also a place with a literary history. In fact, Ernest Hemingway himself lived at 907 Whitehead Street for more than ten years. It was at this house that he created some of his best work, including the final draft of A Farewell to Arms, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. While Hemingway passed away on July 2, 1961, his old home is now a museum that is open to the public.

The Globe Theatre
London, England

According to David Joshua Jennings and John McCarroll at BootsnAll, the Globe Theatre was built in 1599 and hosted some of the most influential verses to date. Even the notorious quote “All the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely players” was uttered by William Shakespeare himself at the Globe. While the original theatre burned down in 1844, it was rebuilt to be almost exactly like the original. Attendees of this theatre should expect to sit on simple wooden benches, just like in the days of Shakespeare.

Walden Pond
Concord, Massachusettes

It was at this site that Henry David Thoreau wrote his novel Walden, which he wrote during his two years living on the pond from 1845 to 1847. His home was a small hut on a piece of land owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. This area helped to inspire the novel itself and was also influential in the American Romantic movement in literature. Today, the pond has been made into a state park where visitors can hike through trails, explore Walden Woods, or see the replica of Thoreau’s cottage.

Vesuvio Cafe
San Francisco, California

Travelers should love this landmark as it is the stomping grounds of many Beat Generation writers including Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsburg. The cafe is also right across the street from the famous City Lights bookstore. According to Stephanie Yoder at BootsnAll, there is a famous story of Kerouac “holing up in the bar, getting incredibly wasted and missing an important meeting with Henry Miller”. If you visit, be sure to order The Jack Kerouac, a mixture of rum, tequila, and orange juice.

Chelsea Hotel
New York, NY

There are few hotels in existence that could rival the clientele of Chelsea Hotel, which includes Titanic survivors, Bob Dylan, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Wolfe, and many other famous actors, writers, musicians, celebrities, and directors. Madonna’s Sex book was even photographed in room 822. The hotel is a cultural hub of art and literature, and visitors interested in learning about the hotel’s literary past can book a public tour.

james joyce dublinJames Joyce’s Dublin
Dublin, Ireland

While this technically isn’t a landmark but a series of related landmarks in one area, it is definitely worth adding to the list. James Joyce, Ireland’s most famous author, used Dublin as an influence for much of his work. In fact, a fun activity for visitors of Dublin is to trace the different sites that are mentioned in his writing. For the full James Joyce experience, start at the James Joyce Center, where you can see a recreation of the writer’s bedroom, then head over to the James Joyce Tower and Museum. Another noteworthy landmark is the House of the Dead, a small museum created in the house where Joyce spent his Christmases and is the setting in his novel Dead.

Mark Twain Museum
Hannibal, Missouri

Mark Twain, according to Michelle Fabio at BootsnAll, was born Samuel Clemens in 1835 in Hannibal, Missouri, the town that inspired his famous Adventures of Tom Sawyer novels. To honor Twain’s memory, the town has created the Mark Twain Museum, which is comprised of eight buildings that all played an important part in Twain’s youth. If you want to see the house where Twain grew up, visit 208 Hill Street, where you will find recreations of what the home looked like when it was still being inhabited by the author himself.

The Brontë Parsonage Museum
Haworth, England

Come to England and you can visit the home of three of the most famous 19th century British authors, Charlotte, Emily, and Ann Brontë (although their pen names were Currier, Ellis, and Acton Bell). These three were responsible for works such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. At the museum, you will see the dining table where these authors brought their ideas to life, as well as old photographs, original furniture, letters, and manuscipts.

The Eagle and Child Pub
Oxford, England

According to Stephanie Yoder of BootsnAll, not only is this a nice place to relax with a cold beer, it’s also the home to creative thinking. One infamous writing group, who dubbed themselves the Inklings, would meet here once a week to have a drink and compare manuscripts. Some names you may have heard of include CS Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, and JRR Tolkien who created The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Have a seat at their old table and take in the moments, sketches, and photos of these famous writers.

Moleskine notebooks introduces new bags, reading, and writing accessories

Moleskine notebooks new collection

Few products (analog, at least) get travelers, writers, and artists as excited as Moleskine. The classic black Moleskine notebooks have been used by Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Oscar Wilde, as well as many a journaler and design-lover. A new collection unveiled this week at Milan’s Salon del Mobile is the stuff of many travelers’ dreams. The Reading, Writing, and Traveling series from Italian designer Giulio Iacchetti includes bags and computer cases, pencils and pens, reading glasses, a rechargeable reading light and an e-reader stand. Each piece is designed for maximum mobility, and to complement each other as well as the original notebook, complete with the signature black elastic band.


The new collection is on view in Milan now and at the ICFF design show in New York in mid-May. See more photos and details on the Moleskine Facebook page and on the design blog core77, along with an interview with the designer.

We can’t wait to get our hands on a Moleskine laptop bag, though we can’t help hoping they branch out to luggage as well. What Moleskine products would you like to see?

Photo courtesy of Moleskine on Flickr.

African safari: then and now

The African safari has evolved over timeAfrican safaris are one of the most enduring travel experiences ever. For decades the safari has remained at the top of the “must do” list for many travelers. Such a trip is often seen as the ultimate escape, giving them a chance to visit a wild and untamed place, encounter amazing wildlife, and add a bit of adventure to their lives. Over the years, the traditional African safari has evolved greatly, and today it is still a fantastic experience with options for nearly every type of traveler, under nearly any budget.

The word safari traces its origins back to the Arabic word of “safara,” which when translated means “to go on a journey.” It was originally used by merchants traveling long distances trade routes throughout the Middle-East and Africa. As late as the 18th centuries, the term continued to refer to those traveling caravans that roamed the continent selling all kinds of goods, which was a profitable, yet dangerous, venture during that era.

During the 19th century, the writings of a number of prominent naturalists and explorers, such as Henry Morton Stanley, kept the public enthralled. They told tales of Africa that included vast herds of wild animals, deadly predators, primitive cultures, and dark, unexplored jungles. Those stories sparked the imagination and painted the continent in an almost mythic light. Many readers wished to travel to Africa themselves, and see these wonders with their own eyes, but in that age, few could make such a journey for a variety of reasons.The modern safari as we know it had its origins early in the 20th century, when larger than life figures such as Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway made frequent visits to Africa on big game hunts. Tales of their daring exploits were popular with the public as well, and soon the safari became synonymous with bagging big game on the wildest continent.

For the hunter, the ultimate prize was to shoot one of the Big Five, which include elephants, rhinos, lions, buffalos, and leopards. Well heeled travelers came from around the world just to have the opportunity to stalk one of these creatures and take its pelt home to put on their wall. Roosevelt himself once spent weeks on the hunt with his son, and over the course of their expedition, the two men claimed more than 500 kills, including 17 lions, a dozen elephants, 20 rhinoceros, and much more.

The Afrian safari continues to evolve over time.In those days, travel was often done on foot or horseback, with dozens of porters carrying gear, food, and other supplies. Travelers stayed in tents, although they were often quite luxurious in nature, with plenty of comforts from home. Later, trucks would make travel easier, as they could carry the travelers and their gear over rough terrain much more quickly and efficiently. In those days, the vehicles were prone to frequent breakdowns however, and they were far from reliable in the field. Later, more durable and sophisticated trucks, jeeps, and SUV’s would hit the open savannas of Africa, allowing for even more travelers to experience the safari first hand. The Land Rover was just such a vehicle, and for decades it was seen as the only way to travel throughout the continent.

The advent of cheaper, more reliable, vehicles meant that people no longer needed to be rich to go on safari. That realization brought a more diverse, and discerning, traveler to the Serengeti. One that wasn’t all that interested in killing the creatures they saw, but would rather see them thriving in their natural habitat. Slowly, the safari evolved once again, this time away from shooting the animals with a gun, to shooting them with a camera instead.

Today, travelers can go on safari in a number of countries across Africa, each offering a unique and amazing experience. You can now have a safari experience that is expensive and luxurious or affordable and basic, with just about every option inbetween. For example, you can catch the Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania from a comfortable vehicle or go deep into the bush on foot in South Africa. You can glide across the Okavango Delta in dugout canoe in Botswana or sail above the African plains in a hot hair balloon in Zimbabwe. The options are nearly endless, and there is little to keep adventurous travelers from making the journey themselves.

The concept of the safari has come a long way in the past hundred years, and it is likley to continue to evolve in the future. No matter how it has changed however, the African safari remains a fantastic adventure that is unlike any other.



Favorite hiking spots near Madrid

While most people come Madrid to sample the cuisine and see the art museums, Spain has much more to offer. Just an hour from the capital Madrid is the Sierra de Guadarrama, a chain of rough mountains wreathed in pine forest. While the strange rock formations of La Pedriza are perhaps more impressive, the Sierra de Guadarrama is the favorite getaway spot for madrileños because it’s so easy to get to and provides a variety of hikes for all fitness levels. Even out-of-towners will be able to get there and navigate the trails with no trouble.

The hikes start at the little town of Cercedilla, which can be reached by bus from Madrid’s Moncloa station or by train from Atocha station. Both take about an hour. If you want to stay overnight, several hostels and pensions offer cheap accommodation and the little local restaurants serve up traditional food at small-town prices.

First stop should be the visitors’ center just 2km (1.2 miles) uphill from the station. Here you can get a free map (in Spanish, but easy to understand without any linguistic knowledge) and advice on current conditions. There are also the usual nature exhibits to tell you a bit about the land you’re about to see.

From here you can branch off onto one of many trails. Cercedilla is at the head of the dead-end valley of Fuenfría, surrounded on three sides by the Guadarramas. Unlike many trails in Spain, the ones here are actually well marked with color-coded spots on trees and rocks. Various hikes go up the sides of the valley to viewpoints on the surrounding mountains. There’s also a dirt road that loops around the valley high enough to give excellent views and easy access to the peaks. The sides of the valley are sheltered by pine forest, but once you get up towards the peaks you’ll be exposed to the elements. Be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, and if the weather is at all cool don’t forget some warm clothing. Wet weather gear is necessary sometimes too!

Beau Macksoud of the English-language hiking group Hiking in the Community of Madrid recommends Los Miradores, marked as the orange trail on the map.

“It’s not super difficult but has great views. It’s about 9 km (5.5 miles). Also, if you want to change your path for something more challenging, it crosses with other routes.”

%Gallery-106170%The trails range from short loop hikes you can do in an hour to all-day slogs that will test even the most fit. Most have a marked change in elevation that will get your heart pumping, and don’t forget to explore the bottom of the valley and its sparkling stream.

The Sierra de Guadarrama played a key role in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. The forces of the Second Republic, an uneasy coalition of liberal, socialist, communist, and anarchist parties, defended Madrid in a long siege against the fascist and Catholic forces of General Franco. The mountains were the city’s northern bulwark, and you can still see a string of concrete bunkers that protected the passes and valleys of the Guadarramas. Most aren’t fenced off and are safe to explore.

The Guadarramas are the scene for most of the action in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, considered by many to be the classic book on the war, although George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia gives a more realistic view of what the war was really like.

So if you’re headed to Madrid, set aside the wine and art museums for a day and head to the mountains!