Besides its major tourist cities, the U.S. has spectacular destinations of natural beauty. Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend are two of those places. Once I saw Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in photos, I knew I had to see it in person. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located on Navajo land in Page, AZ. A slot canyon is a narrow canyon that is formed from water filling the cracks of rocks. Slot canyons get deeper over time as water consistently fills its cracks on the surface or "slots". When light shines into the canyon through the slots, it reflects off the sandstone rock and the rock appears to turn different colors such as pink, purple or brown depending on the amount of sunlight, the time of day and the season you visit. Horseshoe Bend is a curve of the Colorado River shaped like a horseshoe that formed when water carved through the rock. Both destinations are examples of how creation has transformed over time. So when I found out I had enough reward miles to fly for a free round-trip, I immediately booked my ticket.
There is an airport in Page, AZ but don’t fly into it because it’s more expensive to fly into Page since it’s a small airport in a remote location. The cheapest option is to fly into Phoenix, AZ or Las Vegas, NV which are both 3-4 hours away from Page, AZ so you can rent a car and drive there. I flew into Phoenix and while I was in Phoenix, I decided to check out the Desert Botanical Garden which is a great place to see different types of cactus up close. They also give discounted tickets for students so you know I took advantage of that!
Antelope Canyon is divided into Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. I visited Lower Antelope Canyon and there are only 2 tour companies that tour in Lower Antelope Canyon – Ken’s Tours and Dixie Ellis’ Tours. They are both Navajo owned and all tour guides are Navajo. You can book ahead online or buy tickets in person. Since I came in the offseason, I bought my ticket in person from Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours. My tour guide was Armondo who told us some Navajo history and also took bomb photos of me inside the canyon!
During my stay, I ended up going to Horseshoe Bend twice because the view was that awesome. Even though I went on this trip solo, I never felt alone. At Antelope Canyon, you must be accompanied by a Navajo guide to enter the canyon so you will meet others in your tour group. At Horseshoe Bend there were many travelers there each time who helped me take my photos. Then when I went kayaking, a professional accompanied me and we kayaked on the river together.
Check out more photos from Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend below (click on the photos to view in full size):
Ever since I was little, I've dreamed of walking the streets of Paris all dressed up. When my sister asked me to visit the city with her, I was so excited. Paris is one of those whimsical places that looks beautiful wherever you go and has something for everyone. Especially for a gal like me who loves to shop!
We stayed in the Le Marais neighborhood which is affordable as well as ethnically and culturally diverse. Traditionally, Le Marais was known as a Jewish neighborhood but now includes many diverse backgrounds. During our stay, we ate authentic Tunisian sweets from a bakery and had Mexican food from an Indian owned restaurant. Le Marais is close to Musée du Louvre, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Palais-Royal, and Pont Neuf bridge. By staying in the Le Marais neighborhood, we were only 3 blocks from the République train station which allowed us to quickly connect to other parts of the city.
We purchased a 3-day Paris Metro train pass for 26 Euros (about 29 dollars). This was a deal considering we used the train multiple times a day to get around. Without the travel pass, we would have had to stop and buy a different train ticket at every single stop which would have delayed us making certain connections and cost us more money in the long run.
Shopping on Champs-Élysées, taking pictures at Arc de Triomphe, seeing the whole city from the top of the Eiffel Tower, attending a service at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, and browsing art at the Louvre, are all musts when in Paris. Also, many of the museums such as Musée d'Orsay offer reduced rate tickets for individuals who are 26 years old or under. Of course, no visit to Paris is complete without seeing Palace of Versailles. Versailles is about an hour away from Paris and is accessible by train or car. We took the train and only had to walk 5 blocks from the train station to the Palace.
Check out more photos from my Paris trip below (click on the photos to view in full size):
I considered the major cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges when I was deciding what city to visit in Belgium. The main reason I considered those cities was because they are easily accessible from the airport via public transportation such as train or bus. While I did stop in Brussels briefly, I selected Bruges to spend the majority of my time. Bruges provided a quaint, small-town feel while offering all the unique niceties of Belgian life and culture.
Accommodations & Transportation
Most Bruges' hotels and hostels are near the Markt, the market square in the center of the city that has shops, restaurants, and parks. Bruges is very walkable, especially if you get a hotel in the Markt. If you stay in the outskirts of the city, like I did, you can still walk easily to Markt and other city attractions. It took me about 40 minutes to walk the 2 miles to Markt. During my stay, I also used the bus system. There are bus stops all over the city and all of the buses end up at the train station which is highly convenient. The SNCB train system connects to other cities in Belgium as well as neighboring countries. If you are a student or under 26 years old, like I was, you will be able to purchase a discounted train ticket.
Bruges has the unique feature of having a canal that runs through the whole city and because of this, it is sometimes called the Little Venice of the North. As mentioned before, Bruges is a walkable city and most of the sights can be seen within a short distance of one another. If you want to see the city’s attractions in a more guided manner, Legends of Bruges hosts free walking tours every day.
Some of the city’s major attractions include:
Greece was always a place that I wanted to visit. I mean who wouldn’t want to vacation with the picture perfect view of the Aegean Sea? So when my sisters suggested a girls’ trip to Greece, I was definitely excited. We ended up exploring Athens on the mainland then went to the islands of Paros, Santorini, and Naxos for more adventures.
Athens was our first stop and we stayed in the city for 2 days, which is more than enough time to see all of the ancient ruins and other attractions such as museums, outdoor markets, and nightlife. Greece has over 6,000 islands but only 227 of those are inhabited. With over 200 islands to choose from, Greece is a destination that offers many options for every type of traveler and is a place that definitely deserves repeat trips.
From Athens airport, we used the Metro train to get to our first hotel in the city. The train and bus system was a great way to get around Athens. Since, we were students and under 26 years old, we were able to purchase discounted train tickets. Also, in order to get to other Greek Islands you will either need to fly or take a ferry. Ferries are more economical, especially if you plan to island hop. We used Blue Star Ferries and booked online before we arrived but most ferry companies will allow you to buy your ticket at the port. On Santorini, though, take note that the whole island is on a cliff so when you arrive at the port, you have to take a taxi to get to the cities.
The majority of accommodations on the islands were family-run villas which provided a homely vibe and allowed us to interact with the locals. We booked a lot of the villas through Booking.com however there are other alternatives such as Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and TripAdvisor that also present ratings or user reviews to help you decide on the perfect accommodation for your trip.
In Athens, visiting ancient ruins at Acropolis is a must. Also, if you’re a student or under 26 years old, you will be able to purchase a discounted ticket to enter the Acropolis ruins. Check out the official Acropolis site for more information.
Some other popular activities in Santorini, Paros, and Naxos are:
Also, check out more photos from my Greece trip below (click on the photos to view in full size):
Lola is a multimedia journalist. This blog is a space for her to share budget travel tips and her travel experiences.