It has almost been a year that San and I bought a campervan. In this time, we have driven around Europe in our van from east to west and covered many countries. We have driven in 11 different countries on our campervan, that includes three national parks, mountains, beaches as well as two music festivals.
With very little knowledge at the start of our first trip, we made a few rookie mistakes. Nothing serious but we laughed a lot at our stupidity and eventually learned how to explore Europe in our campervan like pros. A lot of information that we needed about traveling Europe in a campervan wasn’t really available online because most of the website focused on living in a van, versus traveling in one.
Anyway, before we share our essential tips for exploring Europe by camper van, we’d like to discuss a few things to help you decide if van-life is really for you, and if it is – then what kind of van you really need.
Why Should You Consider Traveling Europe by Campervan?
Us with our van in Bosnia and Herzegovina
I’m sure you know how a typical first timer’s Euro Trip looks like. A little bit of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, London, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Budapest and Prague – usually all on trains and buses. Guess what, these are really the most expensive European destinations. Moreover, the train transportation is expensive in Europe, especially in Western Europe.
If you’re on this page already, then I’m sure you’re looking for something different. Maybe you’re looking to explore the lesser visited and under the radar places in Europe that you can’t easily reach by trains or buses.
The best part about travelling around Europe by campervan is that you can go literally anywhere you want. You don’t have to worry about high internal transportation costs, schedules, and connections. It makes your itinerary super flexible and as a result, an entire layer of possibility opens up for you.
Scenic camping spot in Geirangerfjord, Norway – Traveling Europe by Campervan
Europe is one of the best continents for road trips because of super easy border crossing. For instance, if you start driving in Belgium, you can be in Germany or France or Luxembourg or even the Netherlands in just a matter of 2-3 hours, and you won’t even realize that you’ve crossed the border because there aren’t any check points.
Just to recap, the below points summarize why exploring Europe by campervan is awesome.
Public transport cost,
Super easy border crossing,
Access to smaller towns, natural sites and offbeat areas
Camper van vs Normal Van vs Caravan
Wild Poppy field on Rugen Island and a car with a caravan in the background
Many people interchange these terms but they aren’t the same. We all know what a van is, but let me define a camper van for you.
A campervan is a van that’s specifically made for camping with a sleeping space inside. Or, a normal van converted into a campervan. Apart from a place for sleeping, ideally a campervan also has a place for cooking. Some camper vans also have toilets inside.
A caravan also has all of this inside or even more, but it isn’t a camper van. Just for clarification – a caravan is a wagon what you attach onto your car and drive. You can’t drive a caravan without a car that tows it.
What Kind of Van do You Need?
If you’re a couple on a budget that loves adventure, then get yourself a small campervan. A smaller vehicle will give you an advantage of letting you enter smaller lanes. Moreover, the cost of camping, toll and parking is much lower for smaller vans.
On the other hand if you’re a family with more than one kid, then it makes more sense to get a bigger campervan so that you have the space and comfort you need. These are the typical RVs (Recreational Vehicles) that you see in American movies. These are further divided into Class A Motorhome (looks like a big bus), Class B Motorhome (looks like a cargo van, bigger than a truck) and Class C Motorhome (looks like a moving truck house). Normally the Class C Motorhomes are the most common campers that you see on European roads.
If you’re enjoying your retired life with your partner and driving around Europe, then get yourself all the comforts you need. Get a spacious campervan that has a nice bed, kitchen and sitting area.
Van vs camper van vs Motorhome vs Caravans – Tips for Van Life Europe – Infographic
Renting a Van in Europe vs Buying
Should you buy a camper van for the purpose of exploring Europe on it, or should you just rent one? The answer depends on many factors.
If you’re visiting Europe for a few weeks or a few months, then obviously you will rent a camper van and not buy one. However, if you’re going to travel on the van for a longer period of time (say a 6 months or a year), then renting can end up being expensive. In that case, buying makes more sense. You can find vans to rent on this car rental search engine.
Buying a campervan isn’t as easy as renting one. Below are the points you need to consider before deciding whether you should rent a camper van or buy one.
First, you need to have enough money. Campervans aren’t cheap and even if you look for a used one that’s very old, be prepared to spend at least ten to fifteen thousand euros.
Second, buying a van comes with the hassle of paperwork.
Third, buying makes sense as long as you’re sure you will actually end up using it enough and as long as you can sell it back when you’re done.
Four, buying comes with an expense of insurance and repair costs – keep all of that in your mind.
If you’re a total van newbie and would like to just get a glimpse of VanLife to determine if it is really your thing, then just rent one. This will also give you an idea about what kind of van you actually need.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 1: Sleeping in the Van
Our camping set up – campervan tips
The best part of “VanLife” is actually sleeping in your own little home on the road and waking up to an amazing view. In reality, you won’t have an amazing view everyday, but you can at least try.
Van Life Sleeping Essentials
There are many van life aspects where you can be cheap, but your mattress shouldn’t be one of them. Invest in a comfortable mattress otherwise you will hate your van. If you’re not able to find a compact mattress that is easy to travel with for the size of your van bed, then just look for a mattress topper.
Tips for Sleeping in the Van
Carry your pillow as per your sleeping habits. Make sure you’re carrying thin as well as thick blankets so that you are good to go for different weather conditions. European summers can be strangely hot and suddenly very cold in a matter of hours or days.
You will also need to get insulated covers to stop the condensation on the windows when it is cold, and also to keep the insides of the van cool during summer. A silver thermal insulated window screen will also act as a black out curtain so that you can peacefully sleep after the the sunrise. [Btw, the sunrise occurs around 4:30 am in most of Europe during summer.]
Don’t have an air conditioner in your van? Neither do we. We do however have a battery operated Makita fan that works for 10 hours after a full charge. I highly recommend this fan to you if you want to sleep comfortably during Europe’s summer heat. Summer means mosquitos, and Citronella mosquito repellant stickers will keep you safe. Plus they’re natural!
Apart from sleeping in it, another amazing aspect of traveling on a camper van is cooking your own meals on the road. No, you won’t cook while you’re driving but at parking places or camping spots. We have a lot of information to share about cooking on a road trip outside and inside the camper van, so we decided to create an entire section about it.
Do You Really Need a Kitchen Inside the Van?
Not Really. If you have a travel stove and a small cylinder, you can cook outside. We have both – a stove inside the van and a smaller portable stove but we cook most of our meals outside.
Why? Well, because baby K was usually sleeping inside when we cooked our dinner and it made more sense to cook outside. It was generally more convenient to cook outside after spending most of our day inside the van.
Van Life Kitchen Essentials
If you’re building your van and converting it yourself into a campervan, then here are a few things we have in ours that are essential for any motorhome kitchen.
Van Life Kitchen Essentials – Traveling Europe by Campervan
You will need a small countertop stove, a slot for the cylinder that’s preferably built into one of the kitchen cabinets, a sink, a small refrigerator, and multiple kitchen cabinets to store things. It will make your life simple if you have one drawer that’s just for the cutlery, a hanging bag for plates, cutting board, cooking oil, a kitchen tissue roll fitting and small hooks where you can hang things.
Don’t carry a lot of kitchen dishes but only the basic stuff. Carry at the most two pots – one small and one medium-ish. A small hand sized non stick pan is also a good to carry cookware. A cutting board, a big spatula (or two) for the non stick pan and pots, soup bowls, plates and cutlery and you’re good to go.
I haven’t seen a campervan that doesn’t have a refrigerator inside. In case yours is a van converted into a campervan, then it maybe doesn’t have a place for a fridge. You can buy a small cooling box to store your food and use it as a makeshift refrigerator.
Your van also needs to have a small exhaust window on the top if you’re planning on cooking inside. If you don’t have a sink, then you can carry a bucket where you can keep your dirty dishes and wash them outside when you’re done.
Campervan Cooking Equipment
The stove inside your van can be a propane cooktop or even an electric cooktop. If your van doesn’t have one, then get yourself a portable stove and gas. A camping stove with 2 burners doesn’t cost double but is is surely useful so that you can boil rice or pasta on one and make sauce or curry on the other one.
If you have electricity in your van then get an electric kettle, it will make your life much simpler. An outside camping grill won’t cost much and it is surely a good to have item.
Campervan Food Essentials + Camping Meals
Simple rule – keep it short, fast and efficient.
We ended up buying a lot of useless cooking stuff before our first trip but we realised much later that we don’t need it all. We just need enough of the basic stuff when we’re on the road. Some of the easiest meals to make on the road are pasta and rice with daal.
Our of our camping meals – Pasta
Buy premade pesto, sauces and a lot of pasta to shorten your cooking time. Visit local markets and grocery stores to buy fresh vegetables to put in your pasta. You can make a really good pasta sauce using avocados and you don’t need to cook it. Just mash avocado pulp with olive oil, garlic, lime juice, salt and chili. Add this to your hot pot of newly boiled pasta and your epic camping meal is ready.
Cook daal and rice together with salt and a few spices – it is called khichari in India. It is a “one-pot-meal” that’s perfect for camping and it always tastes good. Instead of daal, you can also add vegetables to make fried rice. In that case, you will just have to roast garlic, ginger and veggies for a few minutes in the pot and then add water and rice.
Just a recap, here are some awesome camping meals that you can cook in a jiffy. Most of them are vegetarian options but you can un-veganize them by adding smoked salmon or eggs or chicken.
Pasta (raw avocado pesto, pre made sauces, or just with veggies)
Daal and Rice cooked together (Khichari)
Stuffed wraps or Burritos (Get tortilla wraps and stuff them with kidney beans, garlic, peppers, corn, jalapeños, avocado, salmon – try everything)
Toast with bananas / eggs / avocados / cheese
Bratkartoffeln (as called in Germany) or Aloo ki sabzi (as called in India) – potatoes sautéed in oil, garlic, chili, onions and herbs. You can add spring onion greens on top for the extra oomph. Or, meat eaters can add bacon.
Sautéed veggies. Buy or pick fresh veggies and sauté them in a pan with oil and herbs.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 3:How to Make Your Life Simpler on the Road
Tips for Van Life Europe
Alright, so you have your van, your kitchen is all set and you’re ready to go. What’s next? Most likely you have your destination picked out already. But hey, road trips are more about the journey and not much about the destination. You will end up spending most of your time driving your van, so it makes total sense to consider the apps and tools to make your life simpler on the road.
Invest in a decent GPS Navigation system
Get one that covers all the countries in Europe – at least most of them. You will be surprised to know how some of them don’t. With a decent navigation system like TomTom, you won’t need to depend on your smart phone all the time.
Apps for Planning the Road Trip Itinerary and Route
You may have a rough idea of the route already, but you can modify it while you’re on the road using Google Maps, we discuss this in detail in the next point. We also use an app called CamperContact, it has a database of almost every camping spot in Europe and they’re geotagged so it is easy to open the app and find a spot near you. If you upgrade the app to buy a full version, you will be able to view more details about the camping spots.
The biggest headache of driving a van in Europe is parking it. There’s an app called ParkMe, it will sort your life out by helping you find parking spots near you and how much they cost.
View of the beach from our van in Spain
Getting the Most Out of Google Maps on your Road Trip
It is the most obvious app to use for road trips but not many people use all the awesome features to maximize their experience. If you know how to use Google Maps really well, you don’t need any other app. Really.
Find anything around you, not just restaurants or gas stations but also camping spots. Although there are many dedicated apps for finding campgrounds in Europe, we end up using Google Maps more than anything. Just type “camp” or “camping” in the search box and you will get a list of suggestions. You will also be able to usually see pictures, read reviews and see the prices of the camping spots.
Do you know you can search for waterfalls on your way to your destination so that you can make an epic stop? Try it. Just put “waterfall” in the search box and you will be amazed to see the result. Similarly, you can just find anything anywhere.
Want to save money and avoid toll? Set your Google Map’s navigation setting to avoid tolls and highways. It is as simple as that. As a result, your route may end up being a bit longer but will be cheaper and more scenic.
ADAC Membership will Save Your Life
ADAC is the largest automative club in Europe and it was founded in Germany. They have a massive fleet of mechanics on the move that help motorists. They also provide air ambulances in urgent needs.
I do not know of any single camper van or a caravan owner here in Europe that doesn’t have an ADAC membership. Not just for vans, but is for any kind of automobile as the organization helps the members in case of needs and emergencies on the road. If you sign up for a “plus membership” (ADAC Plus-Mitgliedschaft), you get services all over the world.
I am not affiliated with ADAC in anyway, but I’d just like to share their details with my readers because I truly see a value in this membership. You can check more details here on their website.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 4: Finding Camping Spots
Our camping spot in the Netherlands – A typical campground
While traveling in Europe on a campervan, there are three kinds of camping spots that you will find:
Paid Camping Spots
An awesome thing about traveling in Europe on a campervan is that there is no shortage of decent camping areas. Almost every town or village has a paid camping area that’s specifically designed for motorhomes and tents. and include shared toilets, kitchen, bar, restaurants, a small supermarket, toilet disposal unit for vans,
Free Camping Spots
Yes, it is possible to find free camping spots too. Keep in mind that these “free” camping spots aren’t exactly beautiful. These are usually in gas stations parking spots or in rare cases, even supermarkets.
As you drive along the highway in most of the countries in Europe, you will see many resting spots along the way. Usually there is a sign that says what all you can expect in that resting spot. Some of them have a fast food restaurant, a paid toilet, an overpriced gas station shop, or even a children’s play area.
Finding these resting spot that you can use for parking are very easy because they’re well marked on the road. In any case, you can use Google Maps and park4night app to find them.
On all our road trips in Europe, we did not do find much of free camping spots that were picturesque. We mostly spent a little money to park in a scenic spot and enjoy our evening in a proper camping area with all the amenities. Only the times when we had to drive till the night was when we slept in our van in the fuel station parking.
Wild Camping in Nature in Europe – Is it Possible?
Our Camper van parked near a yellow flower field in Germany
Out of all the European countries, there are just a few countries where wild camping is allowed on land that’s owned by the state. These are Spain, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Estonia and Latvia. Even so, it is not easy to find land that’s not privately owned. We don’t encourage this because you can get into trouble for this.
How to Find the Best Camping Spots
Our camping spot in Croatia
The best part about traveling on a campervan is being outdoors. It is about finding a scenic spot, setting up the camp and enjoy being outside instead of the comfort of a hotel room. This is why I make an effort to find the best spots in the area while traveling on our campervan.
I use a combination of Google Maps, CamperContact and Booking.com apps. Yes, booking.com also has camping spots.
I prefer Google Maps because I can zero down on an area, search for something that’s next to the river or lake (based on the satellite image), read reviews and see pictures.
Many Campgrounds in Europe are Closed During the Low Season
How to save money while travelling Europe? Travel off season. Ironically it doesn’t quite work out like this because most of the places are closed during the low season.
Many campgrounds close operations towards the end of September and at the beginning of October. We got a big shock while we were driving in Spain, Portugal and France in October. We knew things would be closed during the low season but we didn’t know it would so much. There were days where every campground that we drove to was closed for the season. That’s when we decided to just park our van in the parking area of a fast food place on the highway.
If you’re traveling in Europe with your campervan during the low season, then be sure to call your camping spot in advance to see if they’re open.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 5:Avoiding Costs – How to Make Your Van Life Affordable
How to Avoid Toll in Europe
I had no idea how expensive the toll fee can end up being while road tripping in Europe. There are some countries where the toll is super high (like France), and the others where it is non existent (like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands).
There was one particular day as we drove from Normandy (France) to Bordeaux (France), we paid total toll of close to 100 Euros.
It is easy to avoid the toll most of the times – just change the setting of your in your car’s navigation system. You can set up your navigation settings on Google Maps app to avoid tolls and highways.
When in Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia, make sure you buy vignettes as soon as you enter. Vignettes are road tax stickers that are prepaid. They are mandatory in these countries.
Just go to any gas station and ask for a vignette. You can find one based on the number of days you’re going to spend in that particular country. If you ever get caught without a vignette, it is going to be super expensive for you. I know a friend who paid EUR 200 in Austria for this.
Lower Fuel Costs
Somewhere in Portugal – Van Life Europe tips
A little effort and a few good driving habits can help you save a lot of money on a road trip. Not just with campervans but in general you should pay attention to how you drive and make an effort to lower your fuel costs.
Too much accelerating and pushing breaks is not good for the fuel efficiency. Drive at 60 as often as you can and on the right gear. Keep checking the air in your tyres frequently. A little drop in the air pressure can significantly increase your fuel costs.
Whenever possible, hunt for a cheaper gas station along your way and fill up the tank to 90% before it gets close to empty. GasBuddy app is great for finding current fuel costs as per your location and can help you find cheaper gas stations.
Avoid Gas Stations Along the Highways
Gas stations along the highways are way costlier than the others. A few cents make a difference and can add up to 8 – 10 Euros when you’re filling up your tank.
Most of the Western Europe is Expensive
Road tripping in France, Switzerland, and Austria is expensive because of the toll, fuel prices and camping costs. If you’re on a budget, then you may want to spend less time here or skip these countries entirely.
The Balkans are Beautiful and Affordable
Amazing camping spot in Bosnia’s Una National Park – Free of Cost
I have said this before and I will say this over and over again. The Balkan countries are beautiful and affordable. The difference in costs is significant and should be enough for you to pick where to go.
Big Cities = Parking Problem
Skip the likes of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Belgrade, and all the big cities. First, parking will be difficult to find and expensive. Second, most likely there will be traffic and it will kill your mood. Third, everything is usually expensive in the big cities.
Save Money on Camping when You Can
Save Money on Camping – Traveling Europe by Campervan
Camping costs can be very high if you’re traveling with a big van during the peak travel period – the summer. San and I paid normally 20 Euros per night at most of the places with a small van. The cost goes up if you have a bigger van and if you need an electricity recharging point.
Some of the most beautiful parking locations in Europe are on land that’s owned by farmers or the government. Not many of them will let you park there – unless you’re very lucky.
While I agree that camping at a scenic spot and waking up to an amazing view is the best part of van life, it can turn out to be expensive. If you want to be smart with your money, you shouldn’t aim to find a beautiful camping spot every night. Parking your van near such scenic spots is never cheap!
From time to time, try to find free camping spots such as gas station parking areas along the highway in countries that allow like Germany and Belgium, or supermarket parking in other countries. Of course, you can only do this if none of the travelers need to put up a tent to sleep.
Save Money on Eating
If you have read this article thoroughly, then you probably know what I’m about to say, but I reiterate here: Cook your own meals to save money. Buy fresh local produce and cook some epic camping meals to make your road trip memorable. Scroll up to the cooking sections to read about easy camping meal recipes.
Quick Country Specific Tips for Road Trips
Tips for exploring Europe with a Camper van
Germany’s highways are free but most of the toilets along the road are not. If you stop at Sanifair or Serways, the toilets will be extremely clean and will cost from 50 to 70 cents. The parking and resting stops along the highway are really big. You can normally park your van in these spots for the night to sleep.
While driving in Germany, be very careful about the traffic rules and road signs. You can stopped at many random spots for an alcohol or drug test.
Apart from Liefkenshoektunnel in Antwerp, Belgium’s roads are all toll-free. The signs are mostly in local language. Did you know 60% of Belgium is Dutch and 40% French? So expect to see the road signs in either French or Dutch but not both of them together often.
The roads are very good in the Netherlands but expect congestion in summer near beach destinations such as Zandvoort. When driving in towns and cities on smaller roads, always give priority to the cyclists. For affordable parking near cities, look for “P + R” (Park and Ride) signs. You can park your van here and use the public transport to enter the city. Of course, if you’re including a busy city like Amsterdam in your itinerary then this is where you can park and get inside Amsterdam using public transport.
Out of all the countries that we have road tripped in, France has the most expensive toll. There are really good resting stops along the highway with free toilets. France is one of the few countries where the toilets also featured a super tiny WC for the toddlers. It was adorable and thoughtful.
When entering the highway, you will get a entry ticket at the toll station which you will have to present later at the exit toll station and make a payment. If you lose your entrance ticket, then you will be charged for the longest length – so keep it safe.
The expressway class S roads, national roads and motorway class A roads are very well maintained in Poland. However, the same can’t be said about the smaller provincial level roads. Certain A level roads are tolled.
Poland is infamous for reckless and aggressive driving behavior, so watch out when you’re there.
Our van in Spain – Europe by Campervan Tips
Many travel guides mentioned that driving in Spain can be nerve wrecking and many roads are “one-way”, but we did not face any challenge. With the help of our GPS and Google Maps, we thoroughly enjoyed driving in Spain. Not just along the coast but the landscape was spectacular even in the middle of the country.
While in Spain, we loved stopping in small Spanish towns and visiting the coffeeshops / bars for a quick snack and drink. Eating and drinking in Spain was generally affordable for us as compared to France and Germany.
We were warned by many about watching out for erratic driving behavior in Portugal but we did not encounter any. The experience of driving through small Portuguese towns, from the mountains to the coast was beautiful. When in Portugal, make sure you stop at smaller road side bakeries and try the famous custard tarts / egg tarts (pastel de nata).
Driving in Slovenia was a good experience for us because of the road condition and landscape. Be sure to get a vignette as soon as you enter Slovenia. You can get is from a gas station and it comes out to around 15 euros per week (2019).
Croatia has highways that connect the major cities and they are not free. Upon entering the roll road, you will get a ticket. You will need to present this ticket at the time of exiting the toll road. The toll fee isn’t expensive in Croatia. The Croatian highways have frequent rest stops and some of them also have play areas for children.
When in Austria, you need to get a vignette – failing which, it can get very expensive. The vignettes can be bought in gas stations in Austria as “Vignetten” for 10 days €8.90. If you’re just driving through Austria and not staying, then get a Korridor-Vignette instead. It is valid for a single trip for €2 or a round trip for €4.
If you’re caught driving in Austria without a vignette, it will end up being very expensive for you. It starts with a little over €100 and can go up to €300 on the second day if the fine is unpaid. Post that, valuables can be seized from your car.
The vignette needs to be stuck on the windshield to be valid, preferably in the top centre or the driver side corner. Do not share the vignette with anyone otherwise you will have to pay a very high fine.
Switzerland has some of the most beautiful roads for driving in Europe. Just like Austria, you need to buy a vignette to drive on them, failing which can end up being very expensive for you.
Watch your speed while driving in Switzerland because there are many areas that have speed cameras after every 2 kilometers. Believe it or not, you can be literally thrown into the jail for speeding. Your driver’s permit can be revoked if you’re caught driving 20 KMs per hour more than the allowed speed limit.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
We have driven twice in Bosnia & Herzegovina (B&H) and it was a memorable experience. While driving in B&H, we have been warned not to leave the paved road for even a toilet break because of the threats of landmines. The country is beautiful and affordable but don’t expect the very good roads. Our best driving experience in B&H was along the river Drina.
Europe by Campervan itinerary ideas – Some of Our Favorite Routes
Germany has many themed routs that road trippers will love. There’s the famous “romantic road” that most of us have heard of but do you know there’s also the fairy tale route, a castle road and a wine route? We have a post about Germany’s themed road trips on our website, check it out.
Portugal and Spain
Our second visit to Portugal and Spain was in 2019 with our new camper van. We actually started from Germany and crossed Belgium and France but the best part of our road trip was in Spain and Portugal. We suggest you start in Zumaia (Spain), and from there drive along the coast the Galicia area. Make sure you include Valdovino and Playa del Silenco in your itinerary.
From A Guarda in Spain, you can drive to Portugal’s coast starting from Afife, Porto, Vagos and Figueira da Foz. From there, you have an option to continue along the Portuguese coast to Lisbon, or you can drive to the middle of the country to see the mountains in Serra da Estrela Natural Park. From here, you can enter Spain and spend some time in the Salamanca area.
Check my blog over the next few weeks because I aim to publish an epic Spain – Portugal road trip post.
The route from Normandy to Bordeaux in France is lovely and you will get to see some amazing natural and architectural attractions. You don’t necessarily need to stop at the starting and ending big cities. Instead, make a stop at Etretat, Honfleur, Mont Saint-Michel, and a few other small towns of your choice along the way.
Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Driving along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is surely the best route in the country for a road trip. The best part is that it can be modified in many different ways. We did a road trip that started in Kerry, then went on to Westport, Achill Island and Ballina in Mayo County.
East Bohemia in the Czech Republic
Prague isn’t the only destination in the Czech Republic but there are many other picturesque smaller towns, castles, and natural attractions that are worth a visit. Start at Pardubice, then head to Sec to relax in the nature and enjoy the viewpoints, next – head to Litomysl and explore the art scene and end your trip in the magical Svojanov where you can get a break from camping and sleep in a castle.
Tuscany to Selento (Italy)
Drive from Central Italy to South Italy’s beaches. Start in the Tuscany region, which is known for picturesque landscapes and historical art scene. It is where the Italian Renaissance art scene began and spread all over. From here, you have an option to drive to Rome or head to Monti Sibillini National Park and move towards the coast. We recommend the latter because the more you drive, the more you would want to avoid entering big cities.
From the Sibillini mountains, you can make your way to Selento by making stops at small fishing villages on the way such as Termoli, Trani – or find your own new destination.
The Dolomites in Northern Italy
Drive around Northern Italy’s little villages up in the Dolomites. You can start this trip in Verona and make your way up to Trento, Alpe Cimbra, Val di Non. This area looks really beautiful in spring because of apple flowers. You can also stop at the lovely Lago di Tovel – a stunning clear lake that’s surrounded by the mountains.
Many Italians say that North of Italy isn’t the “real Italy”, but this trip is about nature. To enjoy the best of Italy’s culture, make a trip to South of Italy.
Austria & Slovenia
Explore the Alps and spectacular alpine lakes. Start in Austria’s Salzburg from where you can go to Mondsee or Ebensee lakes. Next, visit Hallstatt, then Slovenia’s Lake Jasna, Lake Bled and finally Lake Bohinj. Lake Bohinj is spectacular and you can camp right next to it in Camp Zlatorog Bohinj.
Final Thoughts about Travelling Europe in a Van
Living in Europe, we have tried multiple ways of exploring this continent. We have used buses, trains, hopped on to budget flights and also backpacked across Europe, but nothing compares to road tripping. The experience of travelling around Europe by campervan opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of accessing destinations that are not served by public transport.
Greg Anderson said that one should focus on the journey and not the destination. This quote applies really well to the Van Life experience. It is truly about the journey.
Did follow our campervan travel tips or are you living the Van Life?
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A few months back I shared my top tips for traveling while pregnant. This post is a follow up for those who want to continue traveling after their pregnancy and with their baby.
It has been 9 months since my little Karma has entered this world. In this short time, we have traveled extensively in and outside Germany. We have made quite a lot of international trips, crossed continents, visited mountains, beaches, national parks, busy cities and even took her to two music festivals.
I was earlier going to write a post with just a few important points and later create separate posts dedicated to tips for flying with a baby, campervan tips and more. Instead, I have written everything in just one post and create separate sections with sub-points for flying, camping, etc.
The below tips for traveling with a baby are segregated in multiple sections. The first section covers tips for flying with an infant for which I get the MOST amount of questions. The sections after that cover things like packing, planning, baby food, baby sleeping arrangements while traveling, road trips, camping and more.
Change Your Mindset
Change your mindset about traveling with your baby
The first and the most important thing about traveling with a baby is changing your mindset. Sounds like some wise-ass bullshit? It is more than that.
Someone wrote to me on Instagram yesterday saying that I make traveling with the baby appear easy. Well, it is as simple as you make it.. Or as complicated as you unintentionally make it.
If you think that it will be a lot of work and stress to travel with your baby even before you even try it, then it probably will be. It is simple – everything you do with a baby inside your house, you can also do outside.
You will be surprised to know that babies adapt much better than you can imagine. Maybe they will cry on their first day but they will accept the new surrounding well on their second day.
Tips for Flying with a baby
Flying with a baby can be a total nightmare, but there are things you can do to make it better. This below ten points will give you tips for flying with an infant, how you can make things better and have fun.
Avoid Layovers, Book Direct Flights
Direct flights cost a little extra but if you’re flying alone with your baby, I highly recommend you try your best to look for a direct one. Your peace of mind is worth every penny. This is especially if you’re flying alone with your baby.
In case you’re traveling with your husband or another person, then go ahead and brave an indirect flight.
Call the Airline and Ask for a bassinet. (and thank me later)
Bassinet for my little one on our flight from Germany to India
Call the airline in advance and ask for a seat with a bassinet. It will make your life very easy. Imagine spending the entire flight with the baby on your lap, versus a flight where the baby has her own place for sleeping and sitting.
The reason why I recommend you call in advance is because many airlines have limited bassinets. Karma had her own bassinet when we flew to and back from India. She spent a lot of time playing and sleeping in it. She wasn’t the only baby on the flight but she was one of the few that had a bassinet.
Bring the Pram to the Airport
Flying with a baby is more than just the actual flying – it is also about moving from point A to B in the airport. For me, the flight was easier than the first hour after landing when I had to go through immigration. Go for an easy to handle pram that collapses easily and folds super small. I have one from Cybex, that I can fold and open with just one hand or foot.
To make your life simple at the airport, fly with a pram (or a buggy). I did that too! I had to call my airline in advance and find their policy about traveling with a pram. I was able to use the pram until the time I boarded my flight.
Baby Carrier or Sling
Baby carrier is a must have while traveling
Baby carrier or sling will save your life when the baby refuses to go in the pram. Sometimes they need to be physically close to you, so wearing them on you will work well. There will be times when the pram will not be available to you and the sling will make things easier.
Even though I had carried Karma’s pram and used it till the time I boarded my flight in Frankfurt, I did not get it when I landed. I had to pick it up from the other checked-in bags. Thank God I had carried the carrier in my cabin bag, else, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to walk 2 – 3 kilometers inside the airport and go through the security and immigration with her on my lap as well as my cabin backpack.
I have a baby carrier from Chicco that can be used for small and big babies. I also bought a sling, but Karma rejected it completely. I know many other babies that prefer slings to carriers. You should try them both at a store, or order both from the internet and return what your baby doesn’t like.
Check-In Early (and also Board your Plane Early)
There is a reason why the airlines always request those who’re flying with a baby to check-in early. It is not just better for them but also better for you when you check-in and board before everyone else does.
It is always good when your baby adjusts to the seat and the plane before other people arrive. When you check-in early, you can always ask for a seat with an empty seat next to you. Reconfirm at this point about the bassinet, baby food or any other requests that you may have.
Protecting Baby’s Ear While Flying
Flying with baby – tips
There is so much wrong information on the internet that things can be misleading. Being concerned about Karma’s ears before I was flying to India alone with her, I checked the internet to find out how I can help her avoid ear pain.
Most of the websites mentioned I should breastfeed my baby during the takeoff and landing so that the sucking helps her ears. I wish it was that easy, but it is NOT ALLOWED to feed the baby during those times as per the safety rules.
Babies are supposed to be held up close to the chest with their head over your shoulder and your hand behind their backs during take off and landing – it is mandatory. Please follow this rule for your baby’s safety.
In my case, the only things that helped were pacifiers and water sippers. No, I took the safety instructions very seriously and did not breastfeed my girl during take-off and landing. (And it isn’t anatomically possible to do so when you’re supposed to hold the baby’s head over your shoulders.)
Karma has Chicco dummies pacifiers and water sipper. She doesn’t ever take dummies but thankfully took it when our flight took off. I’m happy that I sterilized them and carried them in my hand bag before boarding. During landing, she was close to my chest and was sipping water from her sippy.
Please note, that it appears that the airlines no longer allow breastfeeding during take off and landing. There were two incidents where a 4 month old and later an 11 month old died on a flight. It is highly advised by certain medical practitioners not to feed during take off and landing and not to use the bottle. Moreover, always make sure you burp your baby and even more so on a flight. Here are some more safety instructions while flying with a baby by medical experts.
Change your Baby’s Diaper Before the Flight
Just a few minutes before you have to board the plane, change your baby’s diaper. You will not be able to change the diaper during the takeoff, which sometimes can take 15-20 minutes.
Changing Diapers on the Plane
Ask your flight steward to tell you which toilets have diaper-changing tables. Most planes have small (and pretty useless) diaper tables in their already cramped toilets. There won’t be space for you to carry a diaper bag. (I have a detailed point later in this post about ditching diaper bags).
Carry the basics – diaper, disposable sheet, wipes in a small waist pouch so that you can easily manage the stuff in a small airline toilet. Carry a small toy or something that can keep your baby’s hands occupied during the process so that you can be quick. I normally let Karma play with my long necklace, she loves holding the colorful beads in her hands.
If the airplane doesn’t have a diaper table, then be prepared to change the diaper anywhere. Ask the airline staff for their best recommendation. When you absolutely have no choice, then you will have to change it on your tray table.
Breastfeeding on the Plane
Don’t be ashamed to breastfeed on an airplane. It is natural and your baby needs his or her meals. Breastfeeding on an airplane is more discreet because the person in front of you won’t be able to see you unless they turn. The person behind will only be able to see your back. The only people that will be able to see you are the flight stewards. Moreover, you will probably get the seats that are right in front because you’re traveling with a baby.
If you’re regularly breastfeeding your baby, then I highly recommend you invest in at least a couple of comfortable nursing tops and scarves. Wear it on the plane for discreet breastfeeding so that you’re comfortable.
I have said this before and will say this again, make sure you burp your baby after breastfeeding especially on an airplane to avoid the risk of SIDS.
Let Your Baby Charm the People Around You
When your baby is in a good mood, try your best to let him or her charm the people around you. After all, they may have to listen to her cry (or maybe that has already happened). Your baby’s smile will let you earn some brownie points, it will help you move faster in queues and people around you will suddenly become nicer. Your baby won’t be a small baby for more than 12 months, so use their charm well.
Pick Your Destination Mindfully
Me and the Baby in Bosnia
Pick places where you will feel relaxed. Sometimes big cities can stress you and also your baby. While natural sites like lakes, rivers, mountains, beaches can relax your mind. When you’re relaxed, even your baby will.
When I say pick your destination “mindfully”, I mean pick a place where you can imagine yourself having fun with your baby. There should be enough interesting things for your baby to see around. I don’t mean children dedicated places, but a place that’s not dull for your baby.
Be realistic and don’t expect to reach places that you have to visit at a fixed particular time. If you’re visiting a highly touristy attraction, then most likely the best time to avoid the crowds will be in the early morning. If your baby doesn’t let you leave at that time, then consider skipping that attraction entirely.
Choose Your Method of Traveling Wisely
As per my experience, the easiest way of traveling with a baby is on a train. Babies sleep well on trains because of the swaying motion. Unlike car [or bus], they don’t need to be confined to a seat.
Traveling with a baby in a car is easier than by air. Road trips are easy and fun because you can stop when you want to. The only thing that can get a little difficult on a road trip is the time when your baby gets sick of the seat.
Us with Karma in India – she got vaccinated before the trip
Keep your baby up to date with vaccinations. If you’re leaving for an international trip, check with your baby’s doctor about the necessary vaccinations. Traveling to another country with your baby without vaccination can be life threatening. Please be smart and don’t risk your baby’s life because of some anti vaccination bullshit that exists on the internet.
Ditch Big Diaper Bags
Typical diaper bags are big, bulky and useless. You don’t need them. All you need is a disposable waxy sheet on which your baby can lie down, baby wipes and a few diapers. I was able to fit these things in my small waist pouch!
Ditching the diaper bag may appear to be a counter-productive tip, but it will save time and make it easy for you to move around quickly. Just put the necessities in your own small handbag. Of course, it will work better if you carry a small bag for yourself (hehe).
Many people told me to carry extra baby clothes, extra diapers, and extra everything. That turned out to be the most useless tip for traveling with an infant. I did carry extra everything but realized how it slowed me down, even though my suitcase had wheels.
Maybe I overdid it but I did carry 20 onesies but used just half of them. The only things I wished I had carried enough were her bibs because she’s a messy eater.
The thing about carrying extra diapers is that it is possible to buy diapers everywhere. Carry enough for a few days but you can always buy more at your next destination.
To be on the safe side, check about the stores and supermarkets, closing days and times. For instance, if you’re traveling in Germany, the supermarkets aren’t open on Sundays so you can’t buy diapers.
But hey, I have visited a lot of countries with Karma and also a few remote locations, I found diapers everywhere. The only place where I didn’t find was inside a music festival, but I was fully prepared for this. Anyway, festivals are a different ball game and I will write a separate post about taking your baby to a music festival.
About Packing Toys
Carry 4-5 baby’s favorite toys that are small, but don’t overdo it. Carry something that your baby can chew on, a toy with music, a soft book that can keep her occupied for long (Karma has one from Fisher Price and Lamaze) and just something small that he or she likes to hold and play with.
Be smart and carry the toys that can be attached on to the car seat, pram, or the bed. It helps if you carry toys that can be washed easily. Be aware that battery-operated toys and extra batteries can sometimes not be checked in.
Be Prepared to Breastfeed Everywhere
Me Breastfeeding my baby in Amsterdam‘s Waterloo Metro Station
Believe it or not, I have breastfed Karma while hiking in the Himalayas, on a train station in Amsterdam, many restaurants all over Europe, and I’m sure more places that I can think of.
Regular breastfeeding is not just good for the baby, but is good for you too. It is the most natural thing and you should not be ashamed of feeding your baby anywhere. It helps if there’s a private spot available so that the baby doesn’t get distracted. Wear a nursing top, poncho or a long scarf to be discreet.
Be Prepared to Change Diapers Everywhere
You may not always find a diaper changing station, so be prepared to change anywhere. As mentioned in my “ditch the diaper bag” point, carry a disposable mat, a few diapers, and wet wipes.
A disposable mat doesn’t need to be disposed of after every single use. We only dispose of the mat when the baby pees or poops in it. This mat will help you set up your diaper changing spot anywhere – even on the ground. You can buy them in bulk. I bought around 100 but I haven’t even used half of them.
A golden rule of traveling with a baby is realizing that they have their own needs and you can’t travel at a crazy fast pace as before.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to visit 10 attractions in a day (even if they’re next to each other), then you will have to relax and take it slow because you have no other option. Pick one or two things to do in a day and do them with a lot of love.
There will be times when you think you’re done and ready to leave on time, the baby will poop or puke right before to make sure you’re late. Accept it with a smile because there’s nothing you can do about it.
Consider Renting a Car
Look for options to rent a car on your travel destination, it will make things very convenient for you. Ask for a car with a baby seat. This way, you will open more possibilities for yourself and will be able to travel at your own pace in your own (rented) car.
Car Travel with Baby OR Tips for Traveling with a baby on a Camper van
Our camping spot in Croatia
Travel Car Seat
Invest in a good and comfortable car seat for your baby. You will have to change it depending on their age. A seat for a newborn baby is different as compared to a 6-month-old. Sounds expensive? Look for a second hand one.
There are many things where you can save money, but your baby’s car seat should not be one of them. Safety and comfort are extremely important and are worth the money.
Prams are awesome and will save your life. Babies love to be pushed around in their prams as they gaze around. The best part is that they can also sleep easily in their prams as you take them around.
Get a pram that is foldable and compact so that you can keep it in the boot of your car or travel with it on a bus or airplane. Attach a few of your baby’s favorite toys on the pram, preferably something with music or lights.
Driving Through the Night – Yay or Nay?
Before we started traveling with Karma on our camper van, many people mentioned that we should drive through the night during her normal sleeping hours.
It sounded very easy but it did not work. We tried it many times. Each time she slept but woke up after a while because she wanted to change her position. I do know that she moves around on her bed a lot even though she sleeps through the night.
So, the tip about driving at night during the baby’s sleep time did not work for us. Also, when you drive through the night and reach your destination in the morning – you would at some point need to sleep – right? Considering the best situation that your baby actually sleeps while you drive, how will you sleep after reaching your destination if your baby is awake after sleeping through the drive?
Try to Reach your Camping Spot or Destination before 5 PM.
Try your best to reach your camping spot or hotel at least 2 hours before your baby’s bedtime. This way, you can settle her sleep environment, bathe the baby, get food for yourself, etc – before putting him to sleep.
I have intentionally used the word “try” instead of “do”. I understand that the most desired situation may not end up being the actual scenario. Heck, even though we knew that our life’s easier when we find a spot for our van before 5 pm but we did not end up doing it often.
Sleep is the most important aspect and when it’s nailed, everything falls into place. When your baby is well-rested, he or she won’t be fussy but instead will smile and make you happy.
Try to build a fixed sleep schedule for your baby before you travel. The schedule should have at least two naps during the day and the exact same bedtime each night. If you work hard enough to fix a sleep schedule from day 1, then getting them to sleep while traveling will be much easier.
Build Sleep Association Before the Trip and Bring The Items Along
It helps if you try to build your baby’s sleep association with a few items. This can be a “sleep toy”, a sleeping bag, blanket or even white noise. Carry them all, it will help your baby sleep faster.
Sleeping Spot and Sleep Environment
Create a comfortable sleeping spot and environment before their sleeping time. If you do so, then they may fall asleep on their own when their sleep time approaches. Even not, help them a little by rocking them.
A comfortable sleeping spot doesn’t necessarily have to be a bed, but their pram or car seat or even a picnic mat on the ground can work well.
Ask Your Hotel for a Baby Bed
Even though we did not stay in luxury hotels, our request for a baby bed was always fulfilled. We booked an apartment in Croatia and a homestay in Bosnia through Booking dot com, and to our surprise, they put a baby bed in our room as per our request. It made things very easy for us.
…or carry a camping Baby Bed
Yes, I did tell you to travel light but this point can work if you’re traveling in a car or a van. Nowadays there are plenty of awesome camping beds on the market that can be folded up small. They are very good to use as travel baby beds.
No, we did not feel the need to carry one because our van has two beds. Karma sleeps on the top bed.
Do Everything You Can to Help them Sleep
I’m all in for teaching your baby to fall asleep on their own, but things are a little different when your traveling. You see, you’re taking the baby out of their usual sleeping spot and imitating it somewhere else. Your baby may need some time to adjust. During this time, don’t hesitate to help them by rocking, feeding or holding them.
Rocking my baby to sleep in a music festival in Croatia
Normally my little one sleeps on her own on her bed in Germany and doesn’t need a lot of help from me. While traveling, she slept on her own only when we were moving in a car or train or so. At other times, even if I was outside I made sure I held her and rocked her a little during her nap timings. The first day (or even more) weren’t easy but later she slept during her earlier timings.
When your baby’s stomach is full, he or she will sleep better and deeper. Check the next point for food tips on the go.
Baby Food, Snacks and Fluids
If Your Baby is Smaller than 6 Months
If your baby is less than 6 months and is only drinking from the breast, then your life is going to be super easy. If your baby drinks from the bottle, then there is going to be more work for you as you have to sterilize the bottles, prepare the milk and give it to the baby at the right temperature.
If Your Baby is on Solids
Feeding Karma her mixed veg puree in Slovenia
If your baby has started solids, then try to carry premade puree bottles or easy to prepare porridges. I carry both – normally I just have to add water and milk to her porridge mix. Always carry snacks that your baby loves, like bananas or baby cookies. You don’t have to carry a lot, just carry enough for the way and the next few days. Most likely you can usually buy these things at your travel destination.
I normally buy Hipp’s food for my little one. She loves the Good Night porridge, Multigrain cereal, and Mixed Veg soup. They’re organic and the quality is excellent.
Moving over to snacks, usually bananas will solve every problem. Carry a few and also buy them fresh at your destination. I also carry Bebivita Baby cookies that Karma loves.
Keep Your Baby Hydrated
When it comes to fluids, please remember it is very important to keep your baby hydrated while traveling, especially when they start eating solids. Before solids, the breast milk takes care of everything and babies normally don’t need water.
Carry a water sipper that your baby is comfortable using. Wash it regularly and keep changing the water. Give the sipper to your baby often.
Pack some Snacks for Yourself
Make sure you PACK A SNACK FOR YOURSELF too. Traveling with a little one requires you to be at your most energetic self, so don’t let yourself stay hungry for long.
The More, the Merrier
San’s friend with our baby
Those who know me well will be shocked to see I’m saying this. The thing is, I love traveling solo or just with San. I hate to travel in a group. However, when you travel with a baby, things are so much easier when there are more people.
Consider asking 1 – 2 or your close friends to accompany you if they’re free. When there are more people around to play with your baby or to carry him or her for a while, you will finally be able to relax and enjoy a few minutes of peace.
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Wondering what to do in Amsterdam in 2 days? Here is a detailed itinerary post which tell you EXACTLY how to spend the best 2 days in Amsterdam. After multiple visits to this city, we are finally sharing our Amsterdam itinerary and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Often called the City of Sins, Amsterdam is one of the loveliest cities of Europe. It is the place where many Euro trips begin and end. After all, the city’s unique narrow buildings, intricate canal systems and pretty bridges that are often adorned with colorful flowers leave a lasting impression.
Amsterdam is one of the top places to visit in the Netherlands and many people don’t end up going anywhere else in the country (but they should). Amsterdam is expensive, so prepare to shell out a lot of money if you’re not visiting any other place in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is an extremely tolerant country so a trip to Amsterdam will surely offer an opportunity for new experiences. Even if you spend a little time here, you will share stories about it over and over again long after you return home. Yes, a trip to Amsterdam will be one of those things you remember for a lifetime. I have visited the city plenty of times and I still remember my first time here like it was yesterday.
Amsterdam’s canals, bridges, boats and narrow houses
The city is known for its impressive artistic history, as well as its legacies from the century Golden Age. One of the best ways to enjoy all of this is by cycling in and around Amsterdam and becoming a part of the its culture.
You will be forever in awe of the magic Amsterdam has to offer as it is a place that suits every type of traveler. You can indulge in the beautiful scenery, romantic ambiance and friendly local atmosphere with this Amsterdam itinerary. If you want to know how many days in Amsterdam this thrilling guide will cover – the answer is two.
Amsterdam CoronaVirus UPDATE + Travel Information
Before you plan your visit to Amsterdam in 2020, read this latest travel update by Malajkica, who visited Amsterdam during the coronavirus time and cycled around in the Netherlands for a few days in July 2020.
We visited Amsterdam during the coronavirus time felt like nothing had ever happened in Amsterdam. The only visible change was unless you wanted to use public transport, they remind you to cover your mouth and nose when you are not eating or drinking. Unlike the nearby Germany, masks aren’t necessary in supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants in Amsterdam and most of the Netherlands. The Dutch government seems to trust the people more than the German government does. There are signs hanging on toilets or in restaurants that say: Gebruik het gezonde Mind – that means use your common sense!
You can eat normally in bars and restaurants, but only outside, which is nicer for me anyway, so no restriction for me. All in all, the Netherlands is simply much more aware of this situation, so that no fear is aroused and everyone can live peacefully with one another as usual. Amsterdam is and remains one of the most wonderful and cities in Europe, with an incredible feeling of freedom and equality, that’s why I keep coming back again and again.
2 Days in Amsterdam Itinerary
Bicycles on a bridge in Amsterdam
I’ll share the best way to spend a weekend in Amsterdam, or any other two days of the week. Get ready for an unforgettable journey that is overflowing with exciting new encounters as you enjoy your two days in Amsterdam to the fullest.
I’m going to share the top places to visit, things to do and why to do them during your travels in the capital of the Netherland. Enjoy the best 2 days in Amsterdam, and have a once in a lifetime experience of the city.
If you’re wondering how many days to spend in Amsterdam to take in all of its gorgeous features, then keep in mind that it is not about how long you stay, but how you spend your time there.
Of course, it is better if you spend more time here, but this itinerary has been written keeping in mind how some of us can’t spend longer but still wouldn’t like to compromise on our experience. This Amsterdam itinerary is 2 days long and will uncover every must-see thing to see and do during your visit.
How to approach this itinerary? Amsterdam offers many unique experiences, but not every experience will work well for every kind of traveler. Exactly for this reason, I have suggested alternatives for some activities to suit different tastes. For example, family travelers may want to avoid the Red Light District at night but may enjoy one of the smaller museums instead.
A bike ride may appeal to slightly more adventurous travelers but others may prefer to take the boat or simply a walking tour. Read all the options and pick the one that suits you the most. They have been designed in a way that you can walk from one place to another in a circle.
Personally, I’m not fond of visiting museums because I’d rather spend my time outside and drink in my new surroundings. However, Amsterdam has some of the world’s most amazing museums and if you’re into art, you may want to skip some of the activities and head to museums instead. Most of the major museums are together in the Museum Quarter, you can spend an entire day visiting one after another. The legendary public park in Amsterdam – Vondelpark, is right next to the Museum Quarter, so you can relax here before or after your museum visits.
Day 1: Typical Amsterdam + Itinerary Map
Flowers, canals, narrow buildings and bicycles – typical Amsterdam
So you’re ready to explore Amsterdam in 2 days? Let’s make the first day for the books. You will spend most of your day around Amsterdam’s most famous landmarks, canals and bridges. You will also visit a lovely market with a view, eat and drink at excellent restaurants. I have shared multiple restaurant options for different budgets.
To make things easy for you, I have marked today’s itinerary on Google Maps so that you get a broad idea of what your day will look like. Save an offline version of this map and Amsterdam city so that you don’t get lost.
1) Walk (or Cycle) from Dam Square to De Negen Straatjes
What’s the most touristy spot in Amsterdam? It is Dam Square! C’mon – you have to see it at least once. You won’t be staying here for long so don’t worry.
Amsterdam Centraal to Dam Square + Inside De Wallen Streets + Nieuwmarkt
Start at Amsterdam Centraal station (or wherever your hotel is situated) and from there walk to Dam Square. When you reach the Dam Square, you will see the Royal Palace of Amsterdam on one side and the National Monument on the other.
Royal Palace of Amsterdam in Dam Square – 2 days in Amsterdam itinerary
Take a around the Dam Square with your bicycle or walk to see the madness. You will see people busking and everyday is a new show. I have seen fire shows, comedy shows, an angry Darth Vader, an even angrier Catholic group shouting slogans and a laughing atheist group shouting even more slogans. It was like a match. To make things funnier, there was also a Hare Rama Hare Krishna group that joined the party.
An option here would be to go inside the De Wallen area and cycle or walk around a bit on the streets. The Red Light District is also here, so you can go through it and see how it looks during the day. As per this itinerary, you will cross the Red Light District at night too, so you can compare how different it looks from day to night.
You won’t be spending much time in Nieuwmarkt but will just cross it as you walk from Dam Square to De Negen Straatjes. See De Waag – the most famous building in Nieuwmarkt. You can also skip Nieuwmarkt completely and head directly to De Negen Straatjes.
De Negen Straatjes or the 9 streets is a chic neighbourhood of Amsterdam within the main canal belt with 9 super pretty streets. Walk here to admire the typical Amsterdam sights – narrow houses, canals, bridges and alleys. The famous streets here are a part of Herengracht, Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht and Singel. Don’t just cross the 9 Streets but take time to cycle or walk on different streets and admire the best of Amsterdam’s beauty.
Exploring Amsterdam on Bicycle or on Foot?
Amsterdam can be explored easily on foot along with using the amazingly intricate public transport system. I have explored Amsterdam on bicycle as well as on foot – they both have their own charm. Considering Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world, why not take this opportunity to hop on a bicycle and ride around. You can rent your own bike or go for one of the many bicycle tours.
Amsterdam – Respect the Locals and their city – 1681551 (CC0) via Pixabay
Discovering the city from your bicycle is an adventure, and you will find that the roads in Amsterdam even have lanes exclusively for bicycles. If you’re traveling to Amsterdam with small children, they will LOVE the bicycle rides. Most of the bicycles in Amsterdam (that you can rent) have a child seat in front and back both.
To make things easy, I have created a bicycle map for you. You can also customize it further based on your hotel location or your bicycle rental spot. You can start at Amsterdam Centraal, then cycle to Dam Square, Nieuwmarkt, Negen Straatjes (9 Streets), Jordaan and then back to the next spot for the day – Bloemenmarkt.
Here’s a tip for riding a bicycle for the first time in the Netherlands. Typical dutch bikes don’t really have brakes on the handles but they have pedal brakes instead. If you’re not used to riding on such a bicycle, make sure you ask for one that has breaks on the handles. I have seen many tourists fall because of not being able to brake quickly enough. On the other hand, you just need to get used to pedal breaks and once you do, you will be able to push these brakes faster than the handle breaks.
Here are some of bicycle tours in and around Amsterdam that we recommend:
Not in a mood to cycle around? No worries – you can walk from one place to another and experience Amsterdam’s best sights at your own pace. Start anywhere in this circle based on your hotel location and cover Negen Straatjes, Dam Square, Nieuwmarkt. Everything is just minutes away from each other and it is super fun to walk in Amsterdam.
For walking purposes, I have created a smaller map as compared to the cycling map. Try to end in Negen Straatjes (the 9 Streets) and walk along the Singel Canal. This way, you can easily reach your next destination (point 2) – the Bloemenmarkt as you walk along Singel.
1) Start with a Canal Cruise (Option 2)
Canal Cruise in Amsterdam on a private open boat by Pure Amsterdam
A bicycle tour or a walking tour in Amsterdam is not for something that everyone can do or enjoy. There is another really cool way of exploring Amsterdam – a boat ride on the canals. You will anyway be spending most of your time on the streets on Amsterdam as you move from one sight to another, why not explore it from a different perspective?
Private Boat Ride in Amsterdam – perhaps the best canal cruise experience
Starting your Amsterdam trip with a boat ride will give you a quick view of the city, along with some interesting sights. It will give you an overall perspective of where everything is. You will surely end up seeing more landmarks during the boat ride than you will in the entire day. It is a good way of checking some famous buildings off your list if you’re short of time.
Many residents will shrug uninterestedly at the idea of a boat ride, but trust me it is not overrated if you do it right. In my multiple visits to Amsterdam, I did two different canal cruises and had a completely opposite experience. I hated the first one but loved the second one. Opt for a smaller canal boat with fewer people for a better experience. If the weather permits, get on a fully open boat for a good view.
Here are a few canal tours in Amsterdam that I have personally handpicked for you. Smaller and open boats are better when it isn’t raining. Check the google map coordinates of the starting point of each boat tour before booking.
Small open canal boat cruise: An hour long boat tour that starts at Jordaan near the Anne Frank House. Smaller and open canal boats are much better than the bigger ones with glass windows.
75 minute open canal cruise: Departs from just 1 KM away from the Bloemenmarkt (your next destination) and is also on a small boat that’s open.
1 hour Canal Cruise: Starts at Rijksmuseum, which is only 1 KM away from your next destination – the Bloemenmarkt. This is also an open boat.
City Canal Cruise: This is on a boat with glass windows. Booking this tour only makes sense when it is raining and you can’t ride the open canal.
I did a private boat ride with a company called Pure Amsterdam and I loved every bit of it. Even the pictures came out much better from the smaller open private boat as compared to the bigger boats with glass windows. But hey, the glass windows make a lot of sense when it rains.
2) Walk (or Cycle) to the Floating Flower Market – Bloemenmarkt
A Bonsai inside Bloemenmarkt – Amsterdam’s flower market
Otherwise known as the Bloemenmarkt in Dutch, the Flower Market in Amsterdam is as pretty as it sounds. Picture the canals lit up with an array of bright colored flowers like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Now picture these in a floating market.
The flower market is the only floating flower market in the world, and as such – it deserves a visit during your 48 hours in Amsterdam. Walking to this famous attraction is of the best ways to enjoy the sensations of the city. Sit on a canal side bench and simply enjoy the beauty.
Bloemenmarkt is on the Singel Canal and is a good 15- 20 mins walk to your next destination – Jordaan. I was excited to photograph the streets during this walk so I enjoyed it thoroughly. Walking in Amsterdam is a lovely experience because you will get to see some of the prettiest narrow alleys, lovely bridges and canals.
You will also see some really interesting buildings like the Homomonument, Westerkerk Church, on your way to the next destination. To help you break the walk down, I have listed three restaurants where you can enjoy a break and a meal.
3) Eat Dutch Herringat Frens Haringhandel for Lunch in Amsterdam
Eating Dutch Herring in Amsterdam next to the Canals
Want to have a typical road side Dutch meal? Walk to Frens Haringhandel in the vicinity and eat Herring exactly the way Dutch do – raw. It is delicious.
Don’t be afraid to try the Dutch Herring because I mentioned it is raw. In fact, it is “soused herring”. It doesn’t taste raw because it is soaked in vinegar and eaten with pickles and onions on top. For €3.5, it for the most affordable and delicious meal that I have ever had in Amsterdam. Honestly, it is super light so you may just want to have more than one portion.
Frens Haringhandel – Eat Herring in Amsterdam
If eating fish is not your thing, then I recommend the below tried and tested restaurants for an amazing lunch in Amsterdam. They are all on your way to Jordaan from the Bloemenmarkt:
Kapitein Zeppos (Lovely Outdoor seating)
Kapitein Zeppos restaurant in Amsterdam
Kapitein Zeppos has the prettiest outdoor seating in a narrow alley of Amsterdam that I have seen so far. I stumbled upon this restaurant when I visited Amsterdam for the first time in 2014 and fell in love with the sitting area. I had forgotten the name of this place but I saw it again in 2017 while I was walking between Jordaan and the Bloemenmarkt.
If you’re stopping at Kapitein Zeppos, then be sure to get a table outside to enjoy this place to the fullest. The portions here aren’t massive here but you will get to eat some delicious food.
d’Vijff Vlieghen (Lavish)
I recommend you stop at d’Vijff Vlieghen for a lavish traditional Dutch meal. The name d’Vijff Vlieghen means “the five flies” in English. It is a must visit restaurant for those who’d like to experience an authentic Dutch meal. We recommend you order the herring appetizer, get the sea bass or the beef tenderloin for your main course and finish off with apricot mousse for dessert. Vegetarians should opt for potatoes and asparagus for a memorable experience.
Pancakes Amsterdam Negen Straatjes (Budget)
Another lunch option that’s between your walk between the flower market and Jordaan is Pancakes Amsterdam Negen Straatjes for an amazing and comparatively affordable meal. This isn’t just a place for sweet pancakes but you will also get savory ones too.
4) Explore Jordaan – Walk along the canals go over the Bridges
View from the Bridge in Amsterdam Flowers Canal Narrow Buildings in Jordaan
Many first timers get stuck in Amsterdam’s Dam Square – which is the most crowded area. I’d recommend you get out of it and head to the streets of Jordaan.
Not just the streets but the canals are super pretty in Jordaan and you can possibly find an empty bench next to one and enjoy the view. Unlike the main centre, you may just find a few empty bridges in Jordaan that are perfect for a picture without crowds.
The Streets of Jordaan, Amsterdam
Did you know the Amsterdam is commonly referred to as the ‘Venice of the North”? One trip to the captivating streets of Jordaan district and it’s easy to see why. Found at the heart of the city, Jordaan showcases breathtaking narrow houses that are dancing with color, and truly original coffeeshops that highlight the artistic talent to be found in Amsterdam.
Walk along Singelgracht, Lauriergracht, Rozenstraat, Rosengracht, Bloemstraat and Lijnbaansgracht and see some of Jordaan’s loveliest sights. Strolling through the streets and exploring the canals is a must-do adventure when visiting Amsterdam. Don’t do that in Dam Square, but head to Jordaan instead.
5) Visit the Anne Frank House (Option 1)
Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam
There are two options for spending your time after visiting Jordaan. One of them is visiting a coffeeshop and the other is visiting Anne Frank House. They’re both completely opposite and may appeal to very different kind of people.
Ann Frank House is pretty close to Jordaan so it makes total sense to visit it if you want to skip the next two items in the itinerary – the Red Light District and the Coffeeshops. You will find more information about this place in my post about Amsterdam’s best museums.
Visiting the Anne Frank Museum during the evening is a great way to avoid crowds. It is a biographical museum that preserves the history of the Jewish wartime diarist, Anne Frank – but of course you knew that already.
5) Visit a Coffeeshop (Option 2)
Grey Area CoffeeShop Amsterdam
You can’t go to Amsterdam without enjoying the uplifting and joyful vibrancy of an Amsterdam coffeeshop. There are so many to choose from, and it goes hand-in-hand with indulging in the culture of the city.
One thing to keep in mind is that you won’t be going to your run-of-the-mill kind of coffee shop. The term “Coffeeshop” in Amsterdam is used for a place that’s not really a cafe. One of the reasons for this is that it is legal to buy and consume cannabis in Amsterdam. Be sure to read my ultimate guide to the coffeeshops in Amsterdam, with tips, menus and more.
The Coffeeshops in Amsterdam are licensed to sell marijuana and derivative products to their customers. This is a fun way to really take in the freedom that the city offers you, and it will only add to an authentic travel experience of Amsterdam in two days.
Wondering which coffeeshop to visit? You will cross two really good coffeeshops on your way to the next destination – Paradox, Amnesia Coffeeshop, Grey Area Coffeeshop, 1e Hulp – they’re all good. Pick whichever fits your mood, buy a joint and try it if you want to. Be careful, because sometimes the stuff in Amsterdam can be pretty potent, even for the usual smokers.
A pack of Reefers from one of the coffeeshops in Amsterdam
Feeling apprehensive about visiting a coffeeshop alone but would still like to visit? Here are a few tours that I have handpicked for you. They will take you to a few coffeeshops and some of them also educate you how to roll your own joint.
Red Light District in Amsterdam – Travel Tips for Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a liberal city, with many varieties of unusual things available to people that are not legal in other places around the world. One of the most famous attractions of Amsterdam is the Red Light District, a place that supports sex workers and allows them to legally do sex trading. It is also a space that celebrates pleasure.
Walking through Amsterdam’s Red Light District is an experience because it is amazing how the entire area completely changes as the evening begins. Almost every window showcases a sex worker and just a few hours back those windows appeared to be usual houses. To live up to its name in the literal sense, the district gets illuminated with red lights too.
Amsterdam’s Red light district during the day with Red Light Secrets
One of the things that takes this area onto a whole new level is the amount of work put into providing a seductive show, with a lot of emphasis put on showcasing the girls of the night. You won’t find this kind of thing anywhere else in the world.
Walking around in the Red light district at night – Amsterdam Itinerary
Enjoy the experience of the Red Light District during your time in Amsterdam if you’re here without small children. To get some more out of your Red Light City exploration, we have shortlisted some walking tours for you.
Quick tip (as also mentioned in my Amsterdam travel tips post) – please be respectful to the sex workers and do not photograph them. Photography is prohibited in the Red Light District.
7) Dinner in Amsterdam Centrum (Few Options)
Before enjoying a most unforgettable (although, possibly foggy) night out in Amsterdam, have a bite to eat. Here are a few options in the nearby area where you can enjoy a quick meal before you head out for some drinks. If you’re in Amsterdam with your children and you’re not heading to any bar after dinner, they will enjoy these below mentioned places. In that case, of course this will be your last activity of the day.
Burger bar one of the top places in Amsterdam centrum for a quick bite that’s super delicious. You can get a vegan burger or even one with beef. Get some fries and make sure you try the famous Samurai sauce.
Wok to Wok
Wok to Wok is affordable, quick and delicious. You can get a noodle bowl as per your own taste and preference. I remember getting a meal from here in 2017 and eating is while walking as I enjoyed the view. I went back in 2019 to the same place and had an amazing noodle bowl. This is highly recommended for those who are too excited to be in Amsterdam that they’d prefer not to sit (like me haha).
Thaise Snackbar Bird
Get a quick meal at the Thaise Snackbar Bird. Enjoy authentic Thai food in the Netherlands and have a truly unique mealtime experience. Be sure to have plenty of the delicious lemongrass, chili and fish sauce!
8) Experience Nightlife in Amsterdam – Three Amazing Pubs
Me Exploring Amsterdam at Night – the Nightlife is more than just the Red Light District
The below three options are for those who’d like to relax and drink in a bar, considering the busy day. I also have a post about Amsterdam’s party places, you can go there instead if you have the energy to party. For everyone else, the below three options will suffice.
De Drei Fleschjes
De Drei Fleschjes (or Three Small Bottles) is pretty close to the Red Light District and is one of the best places to drink in Amsterdam and experience the nightlife. This place has also been features in an Anthony Bourdain travel documentary because of the amazing selection of Dutch drinks.
Try some Jenevers (Dutch gins) while you’re here. If you’re lucky, the bartender may also share his knowledge with you about the Jenevers with a little bit of history.
Wynand Fockink is famous, historical and a good place to experience Amsterdam bustling nightlife. It is a distillery where you can also enjoy a guided tour when the peak hours aren’t going on.
Experience the best beer from Dutch breweries at Proeflokaal Arendsnest. This is a nice place to start your knowledge about Dutch beer as you get a little drunk. They have a lovely canal side sitting area and one of the benches is right on the edge.
Day 2: Offbeat Amsterdam + Itinerary Map
So it’s your last day in Amsterdam, it’s time to start exploring some of the more off-the-beaten-track areas this magnificent city has to offer. Be prepared for a day full of wonder, color and beauty as you experience some unusual things to do in Amsterdam. You will spend some of this day in Noord, Amsterdam’s hipster neighborhood.
If riding a bicycle in main Amsterdam is too much for you, you should know that it is much easier in Noord because it isn’t so full. Most of the places in today’s itinerary are right next to each other, so you can do this on foot too.
Here’s a map for you so that you can get an idea:
1) Start Your Day in Waterlooplein Flea Market + Breakfast [Sunday Closed]
Me exploring the Waterloo Square Flea Market in Amsterdam in July 2019
Ever seen pictures of a road side flea market in Amsterdam? Most likely they were clicked on Waterloo Square. Waterlooplein is the oldest and the most famous flea market in Amsterdam (and also the entire Netherlands). No, it is not just a place to shop but an opportunity to experience different sights. It is the place to be to soak in the atmosphere of a morning in Amsterdam.
Waterlooplein Flea Market in Amsterdam in July 2019 – 2 days in Amsterdam
You will see colorful stalls of many different kinds of vintage and unique items in this 130+ year old market. You will find antiques, books, gems, old records, art, vintage cameras, spray cans and much more. Don’t buy souvenirs for your friends from a typical touristy shop, but get something unique from the Waterlooplein Markt.
Amsterdam’s Waterlooplein Market in July 2019 – Amsterdam itinerary
As per their website, there are chances that one can also find (and so it has happened) an unknown Rembrandt, perhaps a signed Hemingway.. or even a guitar that belonged to John Lennon. Go check out the pictures of the amazing Waterloo Market in the 60s and 70s – the hippie era.
Not just the shops but Waterlooplein Market also has multiple food trucks and you can catch a quick breakfast before heading to your next spot for the day.
Waterlooplein Market in Amsterdam (July 2019) – 2 days in Amsterdam
Waterlooplein is on the Groot Waterloo Square that’s in the middle of Amsterdam along the Amstel River. It is very close to Amsterdam Centraal station (1 Kilometer walk). It was named after the Battle of Waterloo.
Amsterdam has a lot of amazing flea markets, and you are bound to come across some interesting items. However, Waterlooplein surely stands out because it is the oldest and the most picturesque market in the city. For more information, read my post about the Waterlooplein Market.
1) Start Your Day in Vondelpark (Option 2)
Visit Vondelpark in Amsterdam to beat the crowds
Amsterdam has some of the most breathtaking natural gardens. Explore the magic of nature whilst in a blissful atmosphere at Vondelpark. This urban park is open to the public, and is 47 hectares of pure beauty.
Find lakes thriving with habitats of fish and frogs, and serene old trees swaying in the wind as you walk along a picturesque pathway through the garden.
It’s easy to feel time slip away as you become lost in the magnificent plant and animal life around you. Be sure to pack a few snacks so you can sit and relax whilst you admire the magnificence of the park.
Optional: If you’re an art fan, then you may want to stop at the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum – both are pretty close to Vondelpark. The entire Museum Quarter is next to this park. You can skip any of the next activities from 3) to 7) because they are right next to each other.
Another amazing alternative would be to visit the Waterlooplein flea market, it is one of the oldest markets in Amsterdam.
2) Take a Ferry from Amsterdam Centraal to Noord
Ferry from Amsterdam Centraal to Noord – Amsterdam Itinerary
If you’re starting your day in Waterlooplein flea market, then you can simply walk a kilometer till the Amsterdam Centraal Station to take the free ferry to Amsterdam-Noord.
However, if you’re starting your day in Vondelpark, you can reach Amsterdam Centraal by a tram. Simply walk till Leidseplein or Huygensstraat or Bilderijksstraatand hop on to a tram to Amsterdam Centraal. You can also cycle there.
From Amsterdam Centraal, it is super simple to reach Amsterdam-Noord. Just reach Amsterdam Centraal and hop on to a ferry to Noord. This ferry is free and you can bring your bicycles along with you and enjoy the ride with an amazing atmosphere.
Amsterdam-Noord is like a breath of fresh air when compared to the crowded city centre. I have even published a detailed guide to Amsterdam Noord with a lot of information. Take the opportunity to sightsee as you pass by hip cafes and alternate buildings.
Outside A’Dam Tower in Amsterdam – very close to the ferry point
Compared to the mainstream vibe found in central Amsterdam, Noord offers a stress-free and charming atmosphere, making it a gem to see during your trip. It’s also a nice way to break from the business of Amsterdam Centraal and travel in a quieter part of the city.
If you haven’t already figured it out, Noord stands for North in Dutch, so obviously Amsterdam-Noord is geographically on North of Amsterdam.
3) Visit the A’Dam Tower for the View [+ Extreme Swing]
Extreme Swing on A’Dam Tower – 2 Days in Amsterdam
Where to get the best view of Amsterdam City? Get on top of the A’Dam Lookout Tower. A’dam Tower is barely a minute away from where you get off the ferry. Ride on the tower’s gorgeous glass elevator and take your sightseeing 20-stories up.
Moon Bar on A’Dam Tower – Amsterdam itinerary
At the top of the tower, you will find Moon Bay and Madam restaurant with amazing views over the city. You will also be amazed when you see Noord’s nearby alternate buildings from this tower.
View of Amsterdam from A’Dam Tower – how to spend 2 days in Amsterdam
If you’re feeling brave and want to try something completely out-of-the-box, you can enjoy a few swings in a spellbinding over-the-edge swing. This is not for the faint-hearted, but it is well worth overcoming any fear you have of height to enjoy a one-of-a-kind view of Amsterdam.
Here’s a quick video of San and I enjoying this swing on top of A’dam Tower.
The entry to A’dam Tower is 13 Euros and the swing costs 5 Euros.
3) Explore and Eat Lunch in De Ceuvel – It’s LOVELY
An old houseboat transformed into a sitting area in De Ceuvel – Amsterdam
De Ceuvel is a must-see sustainable cafe in Amsterdam. It has been transformed from a site where old houseboats once stood, and now serve as a sustainable workspace. The result is absolutely stunning.
On my visit here, I ate some seriously delicious vegan meals. I still remember their lentil soup, which was so much like daal, sweet potato fries, bread with daal paste on top and salad with seeds and nuts. The portions are massive.
Bread in De Ceuvel Cafe in Amsterdam-Noord
Lentil Soup in De Ceuvel Cafe in Amsterdam-Noord
This eco-friendly cafe is not only a great place to get a bite to eat, but it is an awesome place to simply hang out. There are so many amazing places to sit and get stuck for hours. You can sit next to the water or inside if the weather doesn’t suit you.
De Cuvel prides itself on providing conscious food made from its own organic gardens. Check out the composting toilets, solar panels, stroll the wooden looped pathways and take a ride from the rope swing.
I have so much to write about De Ceuvel that I think I will eventually publish another post only dedicated to this place. Lunch in Ceuvel is an experience to be had in Amsterdam, and you can be sure that it will be memorable.
4) See the Street Art in NDSM Werf
A Massive Mural in NDSM Werf Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a hub for creative minds to flourish, and artwork of all kinds is showcased everywhere you go.
One of the best places to see the talent of the artists in Amsterdam is NDSM Werf. It is is home to cultural development, liberal artists and lively social movements that will inspire you.
NDSM Werf was once a shipyard but has been completely transformed into a “free alternative art exhibition”. You will not just see the paintings but also transformed old school apparatuses (possibly from the shipyard) that look like they belong to a science fiction movie. In a way, NDSM reminded me of Berlin’s East Side gallery – except the latter is a wall but the former is a hall and all the artwork inside it.
San with his bicycle admiring the artwork inside NDSM Werf in Amsterdam
You won’t be seeing the usual graffiti tags here, instead, you will find incredible murals, brightly colored characters, and art that tells a story with meaning. The NDSM Werf is a platform for artists to have a voice, and you will find massive buildings covered in passionate artwork.
Cycling inside NDSM Werf in Amsterdam
One thing I love about the Netherlands is that most of the places and even attractions are bicycle friendly. Same is the case with NDSM Werf – you can take your bicycles inside and explore every corner at your own pace.
Barbie Peepshow inside NDSM Werf in Amsterdam
I still remember a funny “Barbie Peep Show” window that we saw in NDSM Werf. It made us laugh so much! I have so much to write about NDSM Werf, perhaps I will publish a separate post that’s just about this place.
5) Relax by the beach in Pllek by the IJ [River]
Pllek by the IJ – Amsterdam Noord
Right along the IJ in the NDSM neighborhood, Pllek is a beautiful place to laze on a beach. (IJ by the way is the name of the river that runs through Amsterdam and is commonly just referred to as “the IJ”). Pllek’s urban beach surely has smooth golden sands, but no swimming water. You can sunbathe, drink as the sun goes down, and grab a mouthwatering meal at the Pllek restaurant.
Pllek by the IJ is undoubtedly one of the most happening places to be in Amsterdam. Of course, it is a great place to meet new people and have a blast.
6) Say Bye to Amsterdam with an Evening Canal Cruise
Amsterdam’s illuminated bridges at night – Night Canal Cruise in Amsterdam itinerary [CC0] by Skitterphoto via Pixabay
Unless you’re staying in Amsterdam-Noord, most likely you will have to take the free ferry back to Amsterdam Centraal to reach your hotel. Why not say bye to Amsterdam with one last hour of total relaxation as you sit on a boat and cruise through the canals.
Amsterdam looks so pretty at night – Amsterdam itinerary
A canal cruise in Amsterdam on a boat is very different when it is dark because the entire city glows. The narrow bridges and the window panes get illuminated, story book lamps light up and the entire Amsterdam looks spectacular. Let Amsterdam’s typical picture postcard looks charm you for one last time.
If it is your first time traveling in the Northern Hemisphere in Summer months, please note that it may not get dark until 10 at night, so check the sunset time before you book your tour.
Amsterdam Looks Stunning at Night – the BEST 2 day itinerary for Amsterdam
Evening boat tours get booked pretty fast or you may have to spend some time in the queue. Here are two options that I have handpicked for you, please pick one that depart from a place where you can easily reach after your day. (or which is close to your hotel)
Small Open Canal Boat Cruise – I prefer small and open canal boats. I had a horrible experience with a big boat with glass windows but a completely different experience with a smaller boat that was open from the top. Of course, you have to consider the weather too. This boat leaves from here, which is in Jordaan.
Getting Around in Amsterdam & Public Transport
Amsterdam can be explored on a bicycle, by boat, on trams, or by simply walking from one place to another. Each one of these ways of getting around has it’s own charm. Bicycle is fast, will take you literally everywhere in Amsterdam because the city is bicycle friendly. Walking is slower and you can click as many photos and videos without having to stop your bicycle. In reality, you can’t really stop your bicycle anywhere.
Inside a Train in Amsterdam – tips for traveling to Amsterdam
Traveling on a boat will give you a different perspective of Amsterdam. You can just sit back and relax and enjoy the view as you explore Amsterdam from a boat. Traveling on trams makes a lot of sense if you don’t have a bicycle. After all, you may get tired of walking and would like to rest a little.
I Amsterdam City Card – Amsterdam Travel tips
Here’s my one little tip to help you save money in Amsterdam. Get yourself an I Amsterdam card that you can use for public transport as well as one boat trip. Moreover, this card can also be used in most of the museums in Amsterdam.
Getting this card makes sense if you know you will be using the public transport and visiting at least 2-3 attractions that are included in this card.
Amsterdam Hotels and Hostels
Our website has a detailed post about where to stay in Amsterdam that contains not just top hotels but also hostels, campgrounds and houseboats, be sure to check it out for more information. Below are two places to stay in Amsterdam that we highly recommend:
Pulitzer Amsterdam: (Check deals on Booking.com) This luxury hotel is in Amsterdam city centre but not directly in Dam Square, so you’re in a quieter area but still in the middle of everything. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor)
You don’t need a lot of days in Amsterdam to utterly fall in love with its thriving energy, friendly atmosphere, and the liberal ways it promotes. Obviously, the more time you spend here is better (as with most destinations), but it may not always be possible.
There are really a lot of amazing things to do in Amsterdam and even in my multiple visits I haven’t done everything that I want to. Don’t stress yourself in trying to check everything off your Amsterdam list. Do a little, relax a little, eat a little more and smile a lot because you’re lucky to be traveling.
2 Days in Amsterdam – itinerary for visiting
Amsterdam 2 day itinerary
How to spend 2 days in Amsterdam – Itinerary
The best Amsterdam Itinerary for 2 days
There is no place quite like Amsterdam, and you will find yourself wanting to return time and time again to embrace the city’s many fascinating and awe-inspiring attractions.
Amsterdam is a place full of new experiences, and inspiring places. With this guide, you will be sure to make the best out of your 2 days in Amsterdam and have an extremely memorable time.
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Travel information for Durmitor National Park, Montenegro near Žabljak
What’s the first image that comes to your mind when someone mentions Montenegro? I bet you’re visualizing the sunny Bay of Kotor with amazing beaches. After all, it is the most visited part of Montenegro.
The lovely Kotor Bay is not even the most beautiful part of Montenegro. If you like nature and heavenly paradisiacal landscapes, then you’re going to love the North Montenegrin Mountains. Go spend a few days in Durmitor National Park near Žabljak and you wouldn’t want to go back to Kotor’s crowded beaches. This fairyland will make you feel you’re in the Lord of the Rings!
Black Lake – Durmitor National Park near Žabljak, Montenegro
Many people told me that the name Montenegro is a combination of two words – monte and negro and it means “Black Mountain”. Before the Kotor Bay achieved its fame, this little country was more known for its untouched natural beauty that was mostly in the mountain region within the Dinaric Alps.
Durmitor is a compact group of limestone mountains in North Montenegro. These mountains belong to the Dinaric Alps. There are total 48 Durmitor mountains and they are higher than 2000 meters above the sea level. The highest peak in Durmitor is Bobotov Kuk, is 2523 meters above the sea.
Žabljak, Montenegro – Durmitor National Park Travel
Durmitor National Park is massive and is spread out near and around Žabljak. Like many other national parks that I have written about, it is easier to explore this place if you have your own car.
The main town in the middle of Durmitor National Park is Žabljak, which is a popular ski destination in winter months. Žabljak surrounded by the middle of the mountains and is beautiful.
The lovely town Zabljak in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
During our Balkans road trip, Žabljak was the coldest destination and we loved every bit if it. We drove here directly after the warm Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia. Guess what, Zabljak is the highest town in the Balkans. Sadly, this adorable town Zabljak was burnt during the World War II and was rebuilt later and emerged again as a popular ski destination.
During your visit to Durmitor, you will most likely be staying in Zabljak. This little town has many wooden cabins and apartments that you can rent. The advantage of booking an entire apartment is that you can cook your own food. Zabljak is small and you can walk almost everywhere within just 20-30 minutes.
Durmitor National Park Entrance Fee
Our tickets for Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
The entrance fee for Durmitor National Park is just 3 Euros per day. You can also buy a 3 day ticket which is for 6 Euros. This fee is very low if you compare it to the other National Parks in Europe. In comparison, we paid around 30 euros per person to enter Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park. Ouch!
What to See in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Black Lake or Crno jezero
Crno jezero or Black Lake entry area, Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Durmitor National Park has 18 glacier lakes that are collectively called the “Mountain Eyes” or Gorske Oči. The largest, most beautiful and the most famous one is the Black Lake, or Crno jezero. Black Lake is actually a set of two lakes that are connected by a strait. In summer, the connection dries up and the lakes get separated, resulting in Big Black Lake and Small Black Lake. This is also the reason why the count of glacier lakes in Durmitor keeps changing from 17 to 18 and back.
Black lake is under the mountain Medjed and in the middle of conifer forest. The conifer forest gives this lake its emerald green colour with unbelievable clarity. I don’t know why it is called Black Lake, instead it should be called Green Lake.
Black Lake’s surface area and depth keeps changing throughout the year. During the highest water level, the maximum length is 1.55 meters and maximum width is 810 meters.
Walking along the Black Lake in Durmitor National Park
You can go for a little walk all around the big lake and the little lake, which will take around 1 – 1.5 hours. The main walking path that goes around the lake is 3.5 Kilometers. There are many trails around the lake and interesting viewpoints. The main walking path has benches so you can sit and admire the view at many different spots.
Pure natural beauty – Black Lake in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
There is a climbing park in Black Lake complex where you can spend sometime. There is a restaurant called Katun that’s near the lake. We didn’t eat here.
A climbing park next to the Black Lake in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Black Lake is 3 KMs away from Žabljak town. You can easily walk from the main town to reach it and enjoy the excursion.
As mentioned earlier in this post, Durmitor National Park has 18 glacier lakes that are called the “mountain eyes”. These lakes are in and around Zabljak. If you have more time on your hands, we highly recommend you visit the other “mountain eyes” too. The remote Jablan Lake is also said to be beautiful.
Tara River Canyon
Tara River Canyon near Zabljak and Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
We all know that the Grand Canyon is the biggest canyon in the world, but do you know about Tara River Canyon? It is supposed to be the second biggest canyon in the world and Europe’s deepest gorge.
The deepest point of Tara Canyon is 1300 meters and this lovely river makes the border for Montenegro , Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina – all three that we visited on a road trip through the Balkans. Tara canyon is 80 kilometers long.
Tara River Canyon in Durmitor National Park near Žabljak, Montenegro
If you’re wondering why the name Tara sounds familiar, it is because we visited the Tara National Park in Serbia where there is Tara Mountain and the river of course.
The easiest way to see the beauty of Tara River Canyon is by going on top of the Tara Bridge. This is where the above pictures were clicked.
Tara River Canyon, Durmitor National Park
If you’re a little adventurous, you can hike to other spots from where you can get a good view of the canyon. You can also do white water rafting on Tara river. The best – you can zip across the Tara River on a zip-line by Red Rock Zip Line. This is near the Tara bridge. You can scroll to the next section on this post to find information about all the adventure activities in Durmitor (including the Zipline) and how to book them.
Tara River canyon isn’t the only one in Durmitor. You can also see the canyons made by rivers Draga, Sušica, Komarnica in Durmitor National Park.
Tara River Bridge, Durmitor National Park
Tara Bridge is 150 meters high and is a beautiful sight with 5 massive arches. It was destroyed in 1942 by Italian and German troops right before the WW2 and rebuilt in 1946. It is likely that you will cross Tara River Bridge when you enter or exit Durmitor National Park by road.
Walking on Tara Bridge, Montenegro
Walking on Tara Bridge was an experience to remember because of the views. We saw the beauty of bluish green Tara River as it snaked along the mountains and formed the deepest canyon in Europe.
Stecci are well preserved medieval tombstones in the nearby Novakovici. These tombstones are intricately decorated and carved.
They are in the middle of nowhere, giving a touch of mystery to the the surrounding landscape. It sort of looks like it is out of the Lord of the Rings.
Many people visit the Stecci sites for the view as well, not only the tombstones. The Stecci sites are not easy to reach unless you have a car of your own. This is one of the reasons why they aren’t one of the highly visited spots in Durmitor National Park.
Adventure Activities in Durmitor National Park
Tara River Rafting
Rafting on Tara River, Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Tara River Canyon and the scenic beauty along the river is by rafting. There are day trips from Kotor and Dubrovnik (Croatia) that you can pick, based on your location.
We have handpicked a few Tara river rafting tours for you that you can check:
Please read the fine-print before booking your tour.
Tara River Canyoning or Nevidio Canyon
Inside Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Is hiking a bit too slow paced for you? You should consider canyoning in Durmitor National Park. After all, you have multiple options – Rivers Draga, Sušica, Komarnica and Tara – all make canyons in Durmitor. You can opt for an all inclusive tour that includes not just canyoning on Tara River but also rafting. Alternatively, you can go for canyoning in Nevideo Canyon.
Hiking in Durmitor National Park
One of the many little Bridges inside Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
You will find many hiking trails that start at the Black Lake complex. There is a big map next to the lake with several marked bicycle and hiking routes with information about viewpoints.
We did hike to one of the viewpoints for a kilometer but it was very cloudy that day. Just look at this picture to see what we saw. The view from here will remain a mystery to us.
One of the viewpoints in Durmitor – we hiked but the clouds obstructed the view
This was supposed to be a good viewpoint but zero visibility – Durmitor National Park
If you decide to go hiking in Durmitor National Park, be sure to wear proper hiking shoes. It can rain and get slippery, so be careful. Don’t be stupid like me and hike in canvas shoes like I did.
Wrong hiking shoes – canvas shoes get slippery when it rains
Tara Canyon Zip-lining
Tara Canyon Zip Line – Durmitor National Park, Montenegro – Picture by Taylor’s Tracks
The zip-line on Tara river is the craziest one that I have ever seen because Tara River canyon is very deep. You will find 3 different zip-line tours next to Tara bridge – Red Rock Zipline, Extreme Zipline Tara and Big Zipline. I visited Durmitor when I was pregnant and sadly I wasn’t allowed to do this.
The cost of a single ticket of zip line over Tara Canyon by Red Rock Zipline is only 10 EUR. They also offer group discounts. Be sure to check their website for more information.
Red Rock Zip line over Tara River Canyon, Durmitor, Montenegro
How to Reach Durmitor National Park
Driving in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
The easiest way to reach Durmitor National Park is by driving. If you’re not traveling solo, then renting a car can be an economical way to explore the Balkans, especially Montenegro and around.
We drove to Žabljak from the Kotor Bay via Nikšić in just 3.5 hours. The road is very good and broadens at many viewpoints so that you can park your car without disrupting the traffic. From Žabljak, we drove to Visegrad in Bosnia & Herzegovina in barely 3 – 4 hours.
If you want to reach Durmitor National park by bus, then you have to look for buses that go to Žabljak. You can reach here from some of the bigger towns – Podgorica, Nikšic, Pljevlja and Mojkovac.
Where to Eat in Zabljak and Durmitor National Park
Restaurant Zlatni Papagaj, Zabljak – Durmitor National Park,. Montenegro
We had our meals in a few different places in Zabljak but one place that really stood out was Zlatni Papagaj. It is an Italian restaurant and pizzeria with amazing food. The restaurant is completely wooden with a view of the mountains through the glass windows. It was completely full when we visited so they opened the outside area for us and put up a heater there.
Food in Zlatni Papagaj Zabljak, Durmitor National Park
Apart from Zlatni Papagaj in Zabljak, we also enjoyed our little snack and hot chocolate in Cafe Bar OR’O in the main town. There is also a very cute little restaurant Koliba that’s located a little outside Zabljak but is good.
Zabljak and Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Tara River in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Zabljak town in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Where to stay in Zabljak / Durmitor National Park
Zabljak is in the middle of Durmitor National Park and it makes total sense to find a place to stay here. This little town is surrounded by green mountains in the summer months and turns into a ski destination in winter. Hence, Zabljak has a lot of ski chalets kind of places where you can stay.
Wondering what are ski chalets? These are wooden houses with sloped tops and are mostly found in Europe’s Alpine region. Chalet apartments aren’t expensive in Zabljak. You can book an entire apartment for yourself, like we did. You can cook your own food and enjoy your own privacy.
Here are a few places to stay in Žabljak and Durmitor National Park that we suggest for you:
Apartment Presoje in Žabljak:
This apartment is located inside Žabljak town so is super convenient for those who don’t have their own car or motorbike. There’s kitchen, washing machine, fridge, a sitting area apart from a bedroom and bathroom in each apartment. Click here to book Apartment Presoje.
Apartments Baron Žabljak
Apartments Baron is in Žabljak but a little away from the centre but closer to the lakes. A walk to the centre will be around 10 minutes and 15 minutes to Javorovača Ski Lift. Black Lake or Crno Jezero Lake is 2.7 KMs away. Click here to book Apartment Baron in Zabljak.
Eco Camp Chalets Pod Gorom
These are eco friendly and sustainable chalets that are newly built. This place is in the middle of the nature and you will get to experience the beauty of Durmitor National Park right at your doorstep. Click here to book Eco Camp Chalets Pod Gorom.
Sunnyside Vacation Home (for a large group)
This place makes a lot of sense if you’re in a big group of 10 people or more. Sunnyside vacation home has 5 bedrooms and really amazing wooden interiors with all basic amenities that you’d need. Click here to book Sunnyside vacation home.
Have you visited Zabljak and Durmitor National Park already? We’d love to hear from you. Share your top tips for visiting in the comments below
Mountains, deep gorges, clear lakes, and spectacular viewpoints – this is Tara National Park
An unexpected natural paradise, Tara National Park was the highlight of our Balkans Road Trip. It was our second stop in Serbia after the nearby village, Mokra Gora. With scarce online information and just a handful of pictures on Instagram about Tara National Park, we didn’t know what to expect here. We were stunned by the remote natural beauty and variety of sights that we encountered here.
Tara National Park is in the west of Serbia and touches the border of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is the location of the Tara Mountain of the Dinarides, the internal Dinaric Alps. The River Drina that originates in Montenegro creates breathtaking gorges here.
River Drina viewpoint in Tara National Park near Mokra Gora, Serbia
The best part about Tara National park is that it is heavily forested. In fact, 83.5% of the area in Tara is forested and for this reason, it is also known as the lungs of Serbia. With many mountains, hiking trails, rivers, meadows, lakes, waterfalls and forest – there is a lot to see in Tara National Park.
If you enjoy hiking, then you’d be happy to know that Tara National park has many trails. The most popular hiking trail is a 2-day hike that starts at Mitrovac, then goes to Predov, Krst and again back to Mitrovac. If you get a chance, then spend a week up in the mountains and explore the nature trails. You can also rent a cabin and stay inside.
Tara National Park is heavily forested and is called the Lungs of Serbia
The best way to experience this natural paradise is by renting a car and driving around – but literally, every signboard is in Cyrillic. I’d recommend you pick up the park brochures from the tourist office and have them mark important landmarks for you on the map. That’s what we did after being lost for a few hours because even Google Maps showed us the directions in Cyrillic.
Most of the signboards are in Cyrillic in Tara National Park in Serbia
This park is massive in size. You will see a few villages with traditional houses inside the Tara National Park. Koziji rid on Crni vrh at 1591 meters about the sea level is the highest point here. This post will guide you so that you can figure out what to see there and how
What to see in Tara National Park
Lake Zaovine in Tara National Park, Mokra Gora, Serbia
Zaovine Lake is on the border of Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Zaovine village is next to it and one can even rent a place to stay here.
Zaovine Lake is massive and we drove around it for a while as we tried to figure out how to get close to it. It took us a while, but we eventually figured out a way to walk to the edge of this lake. We saw a few locals swimming inside and one even had a little boat. That’s all the encouragement we needed before jumping inside the blue water.
Swimming in Zaovine Lake, Tara National Park, Serbia
Swimming in Zaovine lake was the best thing that we did in Tara National Park. It was a hot summer day and the water helped us cool down. We also saw one boat here and some people fishing.
Swimming in Lake Zaovine in Tara National Park near Mokra Gora, Serbia
Banjska Stena Viewpoint
Banjska Stena is the most visited spot in Tara National Park and there’s a reason for it. It is breathtaking and is just 6 KMs away from Mitrovac so is easy to reach.
Banjska Stena, Tara National Park in Serbia, near Mokra Gora
At 1065 meters above the sea level, Banjska Stena is a panoramic viewpoint from where you can see the canyon of Drina River, Perucac Lake, and steep cliffs. You can also see the beginning of the nearby Bosnia.
In order to reach Banjsta Stena, you have to first arrive at Mitrovac. From here, you can drive straight for 2 KMs and you will see signboards for Banjska Stena. Thankfully here the signboards were in English. You can either take your car very close to the top or just hike to the top. The hike will take you around 1.5 hours to reach up.
Banjska Stena Viewpoint in Tara National Park, Serbia
When you reach the top, you will see an area to sit with a few wooden benches. We had heard that this spot is usually crowded but San and I were alone when we went. We were here just before the sunset and loved the tranquil spectacle of nature.
Banjska Stena, Tara National Park, Serbia
We could see the bend of the river Drina in the middle of the mountains and the steep canyon. It looked even better as the color changed when the sun began to set.
There are many other viewpoints in Tara National Park and the tourist board mentions 4 other panoramic viewpoints – Crnjeskovo, Osluša, Vidikovac Sjenič and Bilješka Stena. We didn’t go to the other 4 but if you go, please show us your photos!
San on the path to Carpet Meadow, Tara National Park, Serbia
Carpet Meadow is not just a place to see, but an experience that’s unique to Tara National park. It is a part of the park’s natural reserve Red Creek and is not far from Banjska Stena.
Carpet Meadow, Tara National Park, Serbia
This meadow is airy and it gives a feeling of walking on a soft carpet because the feet slightly sink in. It literally just breathes under the feet as you walk on it. It happens so because of water preserved under the first layer of soil and many peat layers.
Info about Carpet Meadow, Tara National Park, Serbia
Do not disturb the Carpet Meadow by digging the ground or poking a stick inside. It took years to reach its current state. It is easy to reach Carpet Meadow from Mitrovac. It is at the entry of Nature Reserve Red Creek and is an educational trail.
Perućac lake and Dam in Tara National Park, Serbia
There is a dam that’s created on Drina River where it bends and the result is Perućac lake. You can see this river from the famous Banjska Stena viewpoint. However, in this point, I’m talking about another viewpoint where you can see the Perućac lake on one side and Drina curving like a snake on the other.
Perućac lake in Tara National Park, Serbia
This spot on the picture is an unmarked viewpoint on the road that goes towards Mitrovac from the river Vrelo. The road here was broader than the normal, so it was easy to stop here to admire the view.
Rača monastery and Hiking Trail
Rača monastery is 7KMs away from Bajina Bašta town in Tara National Park. This medieval monastery was built in 1282. There is a 2KMs long hiking trail that starts from here, it is called Raca hiking trail.
Raca hiking trail goes up Raca river and ends at Ladevac thermal springs and Racanska Sljivovica preserve.
Suggested: Drvengrad – a Wooden Ethno Village in Serbia near Mokra Gora
Lonely House on River Drina
Tara National Park’s Lonely House on River Drina near Bajina Basta, Serbia
The Lonely House on river Drina is one of the most photographed spot in Tara National Park. It is near Bajina Basta and is also called the Drina house. It gained popularity after it was featured on the National Geographic in 2012 as the photo of the month. There is a restaurant that overlooks the Drina River House where you can enjoy a meal.
This house was once a spot where a few boys took a rest from their swim. They enjoyed the spot so much that they built a house here the year after.
You can book a tour of Western Serbia that starts from Belgrade and includes Mokra Gora and the Drina River house. Click here for more information about this tour.
River Vrelo – the Shortest River
River Vrelo – the Shortest river – Tara National Park, Serbia
The Vrelo is called “the shortest river”, I’m not sure if it is the shortest in Serbia or the world. It certainly did not look like a river to us, but more like a stream. Rover Vrelo’s length is only 365 meters because of which, it is also called Godina (the Year).
Information about Vrelo River, Serbia
There is a lovely waterfall at the end of this river that goes into the Drina river. Sadly the natural beauty of this 26 feet high waterfall has been spoiled by a restaurant that’s on top. It is called Restoran Vrelo and it is literally on top of the waterfall.
You can experience Tara National Park in many ways – driving, cycling, hiking, kayaking, rafting, and even canyoning. Tara National Park has 25 different hiking trails as per their website. These hiking trails cover 220 KMs in total. You need to visit one of the tourist information offices in Mitrovac or Bajina Bašta to pick up a hiking map. The E7, European long distance path for hiking also goes through the park.
Entrance Fee for Tara National Park
San on top of a cliff in Tara National Park, Serbia
We did not see even a single spot which could have been the official entrance. We never had to pay anything anywhere, except when we drove from Tara National Park to Mokra Gora and then to Bosnia border. At that moment we paid a small fee that was less than 1 euro per person.
How to Reach Tara National Park
Us in Tara National Park near Mokra Gora, Serbia
If you’re driving to Tara National Park by car from Belgrade, the journey will take you 3 – 4 hours, depending on the traffic. You will have to cross Uzice, Zlatibor and then you can stay in the nearby Mokra Gora for a night or two. You can also reach Tara National Park from Montenegro or Visegrad in Bosnia & Herzegovina very easily. This park is literally on the border.
If you’re not renting a car, then you can also get on the train that goes from Belgrade to Bar. The nearest station to Tara National Park is Braneško Polje. Unless you’re very adventurous, don’t mind getting lost and have a lot of days on your hand – I’d recommend a rental car. Renting a car in Serbia isn’t expensive. You can find the car rental costs here for your needs. If you’re thinking of doing this trip on your camper van, then be sure to read our guide to exploring Europe on a van.
Don’t make the same mistake that we made if you’re driving there. Instead of looking for Tara National Park on Google Maps, look for Bajina Bašta town or Mitrovac. These two places are inside the national park.
Important Info and Safety Tips
Tara National Park is one of those places where I highly recommend you visit the tourist information center as soon as you enter. It is so because most of the signboards are in Cyrillic and it is very important to pick up the updated information when you’re in the wild. They will help you book a place to stay inside if you need one. The tourist office closes at 5 pm, so arrive before that.
Brown Bear Warning in Tara National Park, Serbia
As a general rule of thumb, be careful of your surroundings when you’re hiking. Don’t hike when it is dark because of the brown bear sightings in Tara National Park.
Green pupavka, the most dangerous mushroom in Europe is found inside Tara National Park. The scientific name is Amanita phalloides and is also called the Death Cap. Just half of it is enough to kill an adult human. Be careful.
Travel Guide for visiting Tara National Park, Serbia
Drina River from Banjska Stena viewpoint, Tara National Park, Serbia
Green Hills in Tara National Park – the lungs of Serbia
Zaovine Lake, Tara National Park, Serbia
Where to Stay in Tara National Park
Here are some top rated places to stay in Tara National park:
Most of the listings above are full fledged apartments with kitchen, living room and toilets. One of our favorite things about traveling in Serbia was that it was very easy (and affordable) to find full apartments for a day or two, instead of just regular rooms. Because of this, we always had the flexibility of making our own meals instead of eating every meal outside.
Small mountains, old school train journey and a wooden village – this is Mokra Gora in Western Serbia.
In a mood for a digital detox, we searched for a scenic destination in the middle of nowhere when we found Mokra Gora. We knew we had found a special place when Google maps completely threw us off. Oh and we had to use the Translate app to communicate with the locals. It was exactly the kind of escape we wanted after Belgrade’s busy vibe.
Mokra Gora’s Narnia like landscape totally won our hearts.
There were little green hills, fairy tale-ish wooden cottages, simple village life and a vibe that was still unaffected by tourism. Using simple hand gestures to communicate with the locals somehow made our experience even more special.
Us in Tara National Park near Mokra Gora, Serbia
Mokra Gora is one of those places that we’d like to keep to just ourselves as a secret destination. But I changed my mind considering how it is not easy to reach here by public transport. So I think it will be years before it gets ruined by mass tourism.
How to Reach Mokra Gora from Belgrade
The nearest big towns near Mokra Gora are Zlatibor and Užice. We arrived here on a rented card from Belgrade. The journey on the road takes around 3 – 4 hours but we spent 9 hours to reach. It was because of a traffic jam that was caused due to the road repair work.
The Beauty of Driving Around in the Balkans – around Zlatibor in Serbia
Reaching Mokra Gora on a rented car is the easiest way to arrive here from Belgrade. It is an economical option if you’re traveling in a group of 2 or more. Moreover, Western Serbia’s countryside is spectacular and you’ll enjoy the flexibility of stopping where you want to while you’re driving.
There is no direct train or bus from Belgrade to Mokra Gora. If you want to do this journey by public transport, then you need to take a train from Belgrade to Užice and find a local bus for Mokra Gora. Alternatively, you can also get on a bus from Belgrade to Lajkovac. There is a train that runs from Lajkovac to Zlatibor, a town that’s close to Mokra Gora. From Zlatibor, a taxi will take you to Mokra Gora for around €15.
Things to do in Mokra Gora, Serbia
Mokra Gora Train – Šargan Eight steam train
Sargan Eight Train Journey in Mokra Gora, Serbia
Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory isn’t the only one who loves trains, I do too! Even more so when the journey is old-school style. Not only can you enjoy the view of the surroundings on a train, but you can also get a glimpse of the culture.
Sargan train tunnel, Mokra Gora, Serbia
One of the best things we did in Mokra Gora was Sargan train journey. This train route originally connected Belgrade to Sarajevo when these places were a part of Yugoslavia. Today a smaller part of this heritage train track runs as Nostalgia Express.
Šargan Eight steam train is supposed to be one of the most beautiful train routes in Europe. This train track is narrow gauge and because of that, it felt like we were on a toy train.
Inside Sargan Train, Mokra Gora, Serbia
The mountainous landscape around Mokra Gora is spectacular enough to make a train journey here epic. The train goes really slow and stops a few times. You can get out and walk around to enjoy the view. It goes in a circular track.
While you’re on this train, I recommend you walk from coach to coach from one end of the train to another – they’re all a little different.
Tickets for Šargan Eight Train Journey at Mokra Gora can be bought just on the spot at Mokra Gora train station before boarding the train. The cost per person is €5 or 600 Serbian Dinar.
Drvengrad Bamboo Village [Küstendorf]
San inside Drvengrad, Mokra Gora, Serbia
I did mention how Mokra Gora is off the radar but it does enjoy a little fame because of a wooden village. This little village is called Drvengrad (a.k.a. Küstendorf). Yes, almost everything here is wooden, even the lamp posts!
Inside Drvengrad, Mokra Gora, Serbia
Drvengrad was actually built for a film by Emir Kusturica called Life is a Miracle, but was left as it is after the movie ended. The Küstendorf Film and Music Festival is organized here annually, which does attract visitors to the otherwise offbeat Mokra Gora. Drvengrad is often the location for cinema workshops too. Love Johnny Depp, well he visited Drvengrad too! [and so did Monica Bellucci].
Drvengrad is right above to Mokra Gora train station and is worth a visit. Walk around here, see the wooden church, eat in the wooden restaurant to make your visit epic. Some parts of Drvengrad are covered with artwork. You can even rent a room in Drvengrad and stay for a few days.
Inside a Restaurant in Drvengrad, Mokra Gora, Serbia
Family travelers will especially love will love Drvengrad because there’s a wooden playground, Ivo Andrić Library, Stanley Kubrick Cinema, and even a sauna and a swimming pool.
Drvengrad isn’t the only “old town” village that was created by Emir Kusturica. There’s Andrićgrad too which is across the border in Višegrad (Bosnia). You can read more about this place in this article’s Višegrad section. For more information, check our post about Drvengrad – Serbia’s timber village.
Tara National Park
Inside Tara National Park near Mokra Gora, Serbia
San and I love nature and we make it a point to visit as many National Parks as possible. While in Mokra Gora, we visited the nearby Tara National Park. This hardly-known paradise completely exceeded our expectations.
Mount Tara is a part of the internal Dinaric Alps (the Dinarides) and is a part of Tara National Park. The Drina river makes spectacular gorges here. As a result, the park has many dramatic viewpoints, that look over the river gorges.
Banjska Stena, Tara National Park, Serbia
Banjska Stena is the most popular viewpoint in Tara National Park and is near Mitrovac. It is one of the first places that you will see when you search for images of this National Park. Reaching here was quite easy because this place also has English signboards.
Lake Zaovine in Tara National Park, Mokra Gora, Serbia
The best part of the park, in my opinion, is the Zaovine Lake, which is close to the Bosnia and Herzegovina border. As soon as we saw Zaovine Lake, we wanted to swim in it.
Tara National Park near Mokra Gora in Serbia
Drina River in Tara National Park near Mokra Gora in Serbia
Lake Zaovine – Tara National Park near Mokra Gora in Serbia
We drove around the lake for a long time but couldn’t see any place from where we could go closer to the shore. Just when we were about to give up, we saw a steep pathway and a few locals swimming in the water. San and I also went in. We swam in this lake for a long time, which was really amazing and we felt refreshed.
Swimming in Zaovine Lake, Tara National Park, Serbia
Zaovine lake is also connected with the river Drina. It is the same river that we later drove along in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I’d love to return to Serbia and stay for a few days in Zaovine village next to the lake.
Tara National Park’s Lonely House on River Drina near Bajina Basta, Serbia
Another famous place in Tara National Park is the lonely house on River Drina near Bajina Basta. You can also see Vrelo – the shortest river. I don’t know if it is the shortest river in Serbia or the world – the signs were everywhere but they didn’t specify. There is also a lovely waterfall next to River Vrelo. Sadly there is a restaurant here that spoils the natural beauty of the waterfall.
San on top of a hill in Tara National Park near Mokra Gora, Serbia
Many people spend days hiking inside Tara National Park but the easiest way to experience it is by car. Navigating inside can be challenging because most of the signboards were in Serbian. Even Google Maps showed us names in Serbian and again threw us off the road. We got lost here many times but it was worth it. It is such a beautiful place but hardly any people visit it, not even the locals!
Zlatibor is Mokra Gora’s more popular neighbor and it totally deserves the attention because it is lovely. It is one of the most popular destinations in Serbia for rural tourism.
Mokra Gora Travel Guide – Zlatibor , Serbia
Little green hills and flowery meadows surround Mount Zlatibor. As you move away from the village, you will see vast empty spaces and sometimes just a single cottage on some of the surrounding little hills.
Drive Between Mokra Gora and Zlatibor, Serbia
There is also a busy town centre in Zlatibor with many interesting places to eat but the real beauty is outside the town. If you get bored of the limited eating options in Mokra Gora, then you will enjoy the options in Zlatibor town. Take out some time and head to the Gostilje waterfall and Stopica Caves, which are nearby.
River Inside Stopica Cave near Zlatibor and Mokra Gora, Serbia
Stopica Cave is near Mountain Zlatibor and is really beautiful from inside. There is a metallic walkway inside the cave and several parts are lit by colorful lights. These lights create a dramatic reflection of stalagmites and stalactites against the cave walls.
San and I Inside Stopica Cave near Zlatibor and Mokra Gora, Serbia
There is a river inside this cave – how cool is that! Also, this river creates a waterfall inside the Stopica Cave which is 10 meters high.
We also saw layers of cascading limestone pools, which was one of the most spectacular sights inside. There was no water inside these pools at the time we visited. If you visit after it rains, then you will see a mesmerizing sight of water in these pools instead of lights. Here’s a picture that I found on the internet where these pools have water in them.
Cascading limestone pools in Stopica Cave near Zlatibor, Serbia
But here’s what we saw instead because there was no water.
Limestone Pools Inside Stopica Cave near Zlatibor and Mokra Gora, Serbia
The entry is 250 Serbian Dinars, which is a little more than 2 EUR per person. Parking is not free but the price was very low.
the Bridge over the Drina in Visegrad, Bosnia & Herzegovina – travel the Balkans
Višegrad is near Mokra Gora bus is not in Serbia, it is in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After Sarajevo and Mostar, Višegrad is the most famous destination in the country because of the Ottoman style bridge – Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge. This bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage site and looks absolutely stunning.
Višegrad was also made famous by the historical novel – the Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrić, a Nobel Prize winner. Višegrad also has a mini town Andrićgrad, which is dedicated to this novelist. Just like Drvengrad wooden village, even Andrićgrad village that was created by Emir Kusturica.
Even though Višegrad is close to Mokra Gora, there is a complete change of scene, vibe, and culture here. Many locals spoke good English here which helped us in navigating. I spent half of my birthday here and enjoyed Višegrad a lot.
One of the locals suggested a riverside restaurant called Anika where we had the best meal of our Balkans trip. The meal was so good that we came back here from Montenegro just so that we could eat here.
Unlike my other travel guides, this post doesn’t really have a super long list of places to visit. It is so because the beauty of Mokra Gora is not just the landscape but also the relaxed atmosphere. Make the most of this by doing as little as possible and just spending most of your time sitting in a scenic spot.
Where to Stay in Mokra Gora and Zlatibor
Apartment Mateja, Mokra Gora
Apartment Mateja, Mokra Gora, Serbia
This is the first place where we stayed in Mokra Gora and loved it. There was a little water stream that was near this apartment and a lot of greenery. The surrounding area was village-like and yet the apartment was modern from the inside.
The Küstendorf Film and Music Festival will begin on 11 January 2019 and will end on 16 January 2019. Serbian music band Kal is scheduled to perform at the festival on January 14, 2019. Check the festival website and Facebook page for more info.
Traveling to Serbia?
Tara National Park near Mokra Gora, Serbia
Mokra Gora is just one of the many lovely places to visit in Serbia. This country is still unexplored and there is so much more we’d love to see and we can’t wait to go back. We also want to see Zlatar and Uvac that are in the same region.
Mountain Paradise Mokra Gora and Zlatibor in Serbia
One of the Viewpoints in Tara National Park near Mokra Gora, Serbia
Stopica Cave near Mokra Gora and Zlatibor, Serbia
Is getting lost in a new country where the signboards are in another language and not many locals speak English not your cup of tea? If it is the first time that you’re traveling to Serbia, then a guided tour may make more sense for you. Or, you can start your time in Serbia with a tour and later on travel on your own. Check out the below options that we have handpicked for you.