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Travel

Mykonos

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Why Mykonos is the best place to visit this summer!

I always search for destinations that have more to offer, beyond landscapes and beautiful restaurants or hotels. Immersing into the local culture and absorbing the people’s ways of living, perspectives on life and exciting life stories enables me to truly enjoy my stay and leave with a pocket full of new ideas, unforgettable memories and new friends all over the world.

Mykonos is all that and more. I was blown away by everyone’s way of always focusing on the half full part of the water glass, their ease to see the lighter side of things and constant smiles.

What’s more, their entrepreneurial sense of business sets Mykonos as one of the most inspiring and motivational places I have ever been to.

Here are my favourite venues in Mykonos, places that have been emphasised by the people and their insightful stories and nevertheless an impeccable service.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – May to June or August to September

Currency – Euro

How to get there – You can fly straight into Mykonos’s National Airport, look for flights here.

Highlights – Visit at the Big White Art Gallery and sunset by the Paraportiani Church.

Top Fact – The famous windmills were built by the Venetians in the 16th century and remained in use until the 20th century.

Dress code – Both relaxing, light-weighted clothes and slightly more elegant outfits for places such as Sea Satin and Nobu.

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BEACH

Scorpios Beach (Paraga, 84600 Mýkonos, Kikladhes, Greece)

One of the most beautiful beaches in Mykonos opened last year. A wonderful mix of lounge, deep house and instrumental music will enable you to fully relax and kick back into the cosy hammocks and oversized daybeds. Designed with the concept of simplicity in mind, everything is made from natural materials, conserving the perfectly imperfect shapes and surfaces of each object or piece of furniture.

Psarou Beach, Nammos (Mikonos 846 00, Greece)

A loungy laid back ambience in the first part of the day set in a naturally shaped cove. Kick back and relax, sipping a delicious cocktail and listening to beautifully mixed lounge chill out music. Bluntly speaking, there are 2 downsides to Nammos Beach. The sunset cannot be seen from there and the crowd after dawn converts to a slightly less elegant gathering.

Agios Stefanos Beach (Agios Stefanos, Greece)

If you are looking for an unspoilt sandy beach with clear blue waters, this is the place to go. Highly important in Mykonos, Stefanos Beach is protected from the winds and is one of the few beached where you can also just lie your towel in the sand instead of renting a sun bed.

Kalo Livadi Beach (between Kalafatis and Elia beach, located 10 km from Mykonos Town and 2 km from Ano Mera)

Featuring the finest sand in Mykonos, with bright blue and clear waters (perfect for snorkelling), yet extremely windy at all times.

Source: www.scorpioshotel.gr/

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LOCAL TRADITIONAL RESTAURANTS

The Fournos Veneti Bakery, situated at Thesi Argyraina Ep. Odos Mukonou – Αno Meras, 846 00 Mykonos Cyclades Greece – stay away if you happen to be on a diet!

Kalita Restaurant, located at Eparchiaki Odos Mikonou-Ano Merias, Mykonos Town 84600. Give in to delightful greek flavours in a glamorous rusting setting.

Chez Katrine, located at Nikiou, Mikonos, Greece featuring a fusion of french and greek dishes. A gastronomic paradise hidden on the narrow streets of the greek island. Not as easy to reach, but don’t even think of giving up, is beyond worth trying.

SEA FOOD RESTAURANT

Sea Satin, a magical spot situated at the tip of a waterfront peninsula floating right below the famous windmills and bordering with Little Venice. The freshly fished shellfish is a must accompanied by the local white wine and live music. Be sure to make a reservation prior to your visit at +30 2289 024676.

The famous Nobu at Belvedere Boutique Hotel presented in a magnificent poolside setting. With breathtaking views overlooking the white cubist houses of Chora and the Aegean Sea.

Alemagou Beach Bar Restaurant located 12 minutes away from the Mykonos Chora. Simplicity meets luxury in a natural light grey setting. To die for fresh ingredients from the local market – beautifully presented and accompanied by an impeccable service.

Source: http://www.alemagou.gr

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SUNSET

There are numerous restaurants and bars that offer stunning views of the sunset, but I particularly enjoy getting lost in a more natural setting and filled with good vibrations. Beautiful, tranquil and perfect for soothing the soul is the Paraportiani Church. Lay down on the stones next to it and get ready to see the most spectacular sunset.

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And last but not least, the Big White Gallery situated at Meletopoulou 7 Mýkonos, is home to some of the most impressive and intricate local artists. Be sure to pay a visit!

Travel

Madrid

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Madrid – highest capital city in Europe and 2nd largest city in the European Union after Berlin (now that London has decided to leave the EU).

To travel is to live – I couldn’t agree more. Travel induces a bottomless list of benefits, be it cultural, spiritual or enabling mind openness. Amongst this list, it triggers a reward that will last you forever. And that is friendship all around the globe. Everywhere I travel, intentionally or naturally I develop long lasting genuine relationships with locals that emphasises the overall experience and evokes that feeling of wanting to go back again and again.

Experiences are everything. Human beings are social creatures, therefore we base our reviews on interaction, connection and relationships. As many of us might have observed or felt before, we can dine in a 3 starred Michelin restaurant and still not feel quite as good if the experience is not powerful enough.

And this is why Madrid always feels like home for me and I try to go back every year. Beyond its beauty as a city, the close friendships I have developed there over the years make it priceless.

So why don’t you follow me on a short weekend get away in Madrid? A full travel package including a day trip to the mountains.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – Most beautiful seasons in Madrid are spring and summer.

Currency – Euros.

How to get there – If you are travelling from the UK British Airways and Iberia have an array of options, from anywhere else visit www.skyscanner.com

Highlights – Visit at the Museum of Romanticism and a day spent in the mountains next to Madrid.

Shopping – Calle Serrano and Calle Ortega y Gasset.

Top Fact – One of the Museum of Romanticism’s biggest draws is the portrait of Mariano José de Larra (19th century famous essayist), who was considered the ultimate romantic hero as he killed himself in 1837 over a failed relationship.

This time I don’t have to book a hotel as my lovely girlfriends, Susana and Sara have kindly invited me to stay at theirs. I haven’t seen them in a year, so the excitement is bursting out of my chest.

However, if you are looking for a hotel my recommendation would be either the iconic landmark Ritz Hotel, Plaza de la Lealtad 5 28014 Madrid, Spain for guaranteed classic luxury in centre, featuring gorgeous gardens and surrounded by iconic art museums or the Dear Hotel, located on the famous Gran Via Street, 80, 28013 Madrid, Spain if you are looking for an easy going, laid back atmosphere. Moreover, you can enjoy fantastic downtown views from the rooftop garden and pool terrace.

I arrive after midnight, so after a looong catch up with the girls we go to sleep to gain forces for a full interactive new day in the city.

DAY 1

Art

I commence my day with a visit to the Museum of Romanticism, a fairytale drawn from the18th-19th century’s love stories, located at Calle San Mateo, 13, 28004 Madrid, Spain. The museum was built by Don Benigno de la Vega-Inclán y Flaquer, the second Marquis of Vega Inclán. It now belongs to the state since 1921. An exhilarating collection featuring art masters such as Goya, Federico de Madrazo, and Leonardo Alenza. Make sure you stop for an organic tart at the museums secret garden.

I then stop to briefly admire Madrid’s History Museum’s breathtaking baroque architecture situated at Calle de Fuencarral, 78, 28004 Madrid, Spain and featuring iconic historical paintings.

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Beauty

The early morning art intake is followed by a must-have keratin treatment at my favourite treatment salon Rogelaine Imagen Lifestyle, located at Calle de Embajadores, 274, 28045 Madrid, Spain. Becoming a yearly routine, a group of joyful and friendly experts keep my hair healthy, easy to style and smooth at all times. Be sure to make a booking at +34 915 27 37 24.

Shopping

I return to the centre for a long walk on Calle Serrano and the perpendicular streets where I discover an architectural wonder and fine local fashion designers boutiques. Be sure to check out Calle Ortega y Gasset where you can shop from both local boutiques and high end stores.

Lunch

As my stomach is urging for a spanish feast, I land at a traditional yet modern restaurant called Tierra del Queiles, located at C/ Hermosilla, 7 Madrid. Although situated just off Calle Serrano this bar manages to overwhelm me with its cosiness and to die for dishes.

Best Ice Cream in Town – Mistura

I skip dessert to leave room for the best ice cream & coffee latte in town – Mistura located at Calle de Augusto Figueroa, 5. Embrace yourself, your taste buds are about to embark on a sensational and tasteful journey. I mentioned the importance of personalisation for the customer many times before, and as per the Gelateria GROM example, Mistura was created by two entrepreneurs as well, Carlos and Carmelo. As they say, they provide the ambience, the space, the smiles and the most delicious natural ingredients – and you create your own ice cream. You can combine an ice cream flavours mix with any topping you’d like, from exotic fruits to chocolate bites.

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Dinner

As if I haven’t spoiled myself enough, I go for dinner at this chic, newly opened restaurant – Habanera, situated at Genova Street 28. Featuring a vibrant urban setting and a caribbean & mediterranean cuisine, this restaurant & lounge is the to-go-to place in Madrid this summer. The whole ensemble, a palette of fresh grey and creams blends in beautifully with the vibrant green array of plants. Don’t mind the reviews, although the initial weeks weren’t as good, the restaurant has certainly revamped its menu, ingredients and presentation.

Another option for dinner would be Ana La Santa located in Plaza de Santa Ana, 14, 28012 Madrid, Spain, where you can enjoy delicious traditional tapas at the bar or a highly flavoured paella in the dining room.

Plaza de Santa Ana offers a wide array of options including the stunning rooftop bar at the ME by Melia Hotel, located no. 14, Madrid 28012, Spain.

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Lounge Bar

Dinner is followed by a welcome dose of edgy elegance at Fortuny Restaurant & Club, situated at Calle de Fortuny, 34, 28010 Madrid, Spain. A sophisticated modern large terrace, home of some of the best cocktails in Madrid and best DJs in the world.

Other options for cutting edge design and ambience terraces and rooftops in Madrid are the rooftop bar at Hotel Oscar (Plaza de Pedro Zerolo, 12, 28004 Madrid, Spain), the terrace at Casa de America (Paseo de Recoletos, 11) and Tartan Roof at the Hotel Circulo Bellas Artes (Calle del Marqués de Casa Riera, 2, 28014 Madrid, Spain).

DAY 2

Day 2 brings along an unforgettable day at my friend’s estate in the mountains, more specifically in the Alpedrete village. It feels like a corner hidden from the rest of the world, blessed with mesmerising landscapes of nature, colourful plants and lush green trees branches.

All the houses in this area and surrounding are made of raw materials and local wood, featuring large courtyards and wonderful pools that enable you to escape the hot weather in the city. The plan for the day is very straight forward – kick back and fully relax in this perfectly cosy ambience.

Nevertheless, the homemade potato tortilla, spanish jamon, huevos rellenos (filled boiled eggs), queso manchego (my favourite kind of cheese) and the sweet sangria are present all throughout the day. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that after copious amounts of food I feel the need to go for a walk in the village.

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I realise that this is a residential area only, however after a brief research I discover that not far away from here, there’s a small town called Guadarrama that caters for visitors seeking colder temperatures, especially during summer time. Several hotel options can be found on booking.com. Beyond the obvious alluring landscapes, what’s interesting is that Gudarrama was home to intensive fighting during the Spanish Civil War and as a result post war, the town had be rebuilt completely. 30km more from here and you arrive at Sierra de Guadarrama National Park – the 5th largest in Spain, covering approximately 34,000 hectares.

Experience a whole new side of Madrid and its surroundings, the perfect escape for a summery weekend.

Travel

Bali

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INDONESIA SERIES | Bali Part I

Bali, an oasis full of surprises.

We sometimes think we have seen it all & done it all. We sometimes forget to open up and let our five senses explore, learn and see new things every day. Keeping an open mind might lead you to both good and bad choices. But the upside of this is that both good and bad choices generate good stories that will last for a lifetime.

Travel comes in so many different shapes and manners, being different from one person to another, although we tend to always go for our habitual travel patterns. So this time, I wanted to travel far, far from my comfort zone and far in distance.

As per each weekend I commence my research for my next destinations. I use several different websites to purchase my hotel and at times the entire package including flights. They have a wonderful array, make sure you check them out.

Secret Escapes is an exclusive members only travel club offering up to 70% on luxury hotels and holidays. New offers land every week which will be also sent to your email to keep you inspired.
Similar to Secret Escapes, Voyage Privé specialises in online private sales for quality exploratory holidays and luxury trips.
Booking.com is a digital accommodation booking website offering a wide range of hotels in 85000 destinations worldwide.
Expedia offer top deals on package holidays, launching daily travel deals from luxury to low cost hotels, holidays, city breaks and flights.

 

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – there is a tropical, warm and humid season all year around, however the best time to visit Bali is during the dry season, from April until September.

Currency – Indonesian Rupiah. You can use your credit cards in most places, although it is always beneficial to carry some cash with you in the local currency. Easiest to exchange at the local airport.

How to get there – there are no direct flights if you are travelling from Europe. Best connecting flights are via Doha, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Dubai.

Highlights – Stay at the Hanging Gardens Resort, Visit at the Dewa Putu Toris Art Gallery and Dinner at Matis.

Top Fact – Bali is part of the Coral Triangle featuring over 500 reef building coral species which is 7 times more than in the entire Caribbean.

Dress code – Very relaxing, light-weighted clothes. A pair of heels is more than enough, make sure you also pack a pair of trainers for hiking.

Bali enchants all who visit, although this destination is no typical voyage. You have of course the option to remain within the resort’s premises throughout the whole period of time and step out for the occasional dinner and drinks. On the other hand, I saw an ample opportunity to learn about its complex culture all the way from wildlife experts and historians to the most vision changing people – the locals.

JOURNEY AND HOTEL

This time I book a package on Voyage Prive including flights via Doha with Qatar Airways and the Novotel Hotel in the region of Bali, Benoa. Being part of the Accor Hotel Group, Novotel provides a variety of advantages worth while. Make sure you sign up here.

After a long yet pleasant journey with Qatar Airways I arrive to a tropical splendour surrounding a beautiful 4 stars hotel built on the beach and featuring the most alluring traditional balinese design. I have thought of several different hotels prior to my trip such as the ultra modern Trans Hotel in Seminyak, which under the management of Alex Jovanovic offers an impeccable service and overall experience. However, I am magnetised by natural settings, must be the flow of the water that we usually seek to translate in our lives.

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As we (my sister and I) are restless explorers, renting a car wherever we travel comes natural. This time around we encountered slight issues, whereby everyone’s reaction to tourists potentially renting a car is rather inconclusive and somehow even disturbed. Characterised by incurable stubbornness, we decide to rent a car from the hotel (if you are looking for a higher end car brand, forget about it! A Fiat will do, you will find out later why).

The check in process runs smoothly and we are quickly accompanied to one of the villas across the road. We pass through a path covered by bright green exotic plants (some of which I have never seen before) with a relaxing pool on the side. As I step into the room, I realise this resort is all about soul satisfying-stillness, starting from the oriental music on the background, furniture fully built out of natural and local wood all the way to the bed covered by Plumeria petals (unmissable from Balinese culture).

DAY 1

I wake up early so I can enjoy the breakfast overlooking the Indian Ocean. I start devouring the fruit platters whilst I surprisingly also discover the most delicious porridge in the world alongside the Salak, or differently called the Snake Fruit.

Once finished I feel the urge to start exploring the unspoiled nature of the island and so I decide to spend the day on the hotel’s beach despite the cloudy and lower temperature climate. Upon a brief research I realise that my visit is at boarder line between the dry and rainy season. However, my hippie spirit filled with joy and excitement at the thought of exploring the Indonesian land suddenly breaks out.

The resort includes 3 swimming pools, 3 restaurants and bars, a fitness centre, a tennis court and a wonderful balance spa.

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Whilst I enjoy the magnificent views, a concentrated dose of boredom kicks in due to the extreme laid back atmosphere. The Hotel Novotel Benoa is absolutely perfect for families, but my nomad side drags me back to booking.com in the search of a new adventure in the neighbourhood. I soon land on The Hanging Gardens resort which rings a bell as being the most alluring sanctuary hidden within Ubud’s Jungle. I book a room for two nights and look forward to my first road trip in Bali unaware though that I am set to discover a piece of Paradise that goes beyond unexpected.

DINNER IN SEMINYAK

In the evening I reserve a celebratory dinner at METIS located at Jl. Petitenget No. 6, Kerobokan Kelod, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali, Indonesia before heading off to The Hanging Gardens the following morning. Although I am not expecting any level of luxury in Bali, this restaurant is beautifully inspired by Asian tropical architecture yet infiltrating a modern, chic & elegant twist on it. Wonderfully spacious, it features 5 areas – indoor lounge and restaurant extending into a blissful terrace, private garden and lounge bar converting into a club post dinner and a Gallery & Boutique selling top balinese fashion & art. The French Mediterranean cuisine is absolutely exquisite and further more, the deserts are highly eclipsing the mains. The relaxed atmosphere sets the stage accompanied by the sophisticated setting and impeccable service. The club however is annoyingly crowded missing the elegance spread on the rest of the areas. Make sure you book prior to your visit as it might be difficult to find a table, even more so during the weekends.

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DAY 2

Road Trip

The second morning brings with it a unique experience that enables me to genuinely understand and appreciate the local people and their endless kindness. Despite being set to drive straight to The Hanging Gardens resort in Ubud, the traffic is far away from being any sort of helpful or friendly. Hundreds of scooters appear out of nowhere and there are 3 different traffic lights for the same intersection. Patience is not a virtue for local drivers, therefore the honk noises almost turn into a large instrumental ensemble without a conductor. Unfortunately, taxis are a rarity here, therefore self-driving is still the best option.

Kopi Luwak Coffee Plantation

As we are trying to solve the puzzle, a local man approaches us by scooter and provides us with tips on how to drive in Bali, followed by an invitation to drive behind him to his work place as he is certain that we will love it. After making up our minds several times we decide to follow him and as we approach his so called office we realise that he is taking us to the Kopi Luwak Coffee Plantation located at tJL. Pura Dalem, Tegal Tamu, Batubulan, Gianyar – Bali. This place was brought up in our exploring planning conversations before but seemed impossible to find. Once arrived, I am sat down by lovely Adex at a table in the middle of the plantation to enjoy the best coffee & tea tasting. The taste is absolutely irresistible and so I end up with 3 bags full of different flavours of coffee and tea from the local shop. Kopi luwak includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. It might not sound as appealing, however the Luwak Coffee’s flavour is by far the best I have ever tried. What’s more, the civet coffee is also one of the two most expensive coffees in the world with retail prices reaching €550 per kilogram. #1 is occupied by the Black Ivory Coffee retailing at €850/kg.

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Dewa Putu Toris Art Gallery, Tegenungan Waterfall and the Tek Tok Dance

The coffee plantation is followed by a visit to the Dewa Putu Toris Gallery, Jl. Raya Batuan No.12, Batuan, Sukawati, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia – an impressive art collection curated by both established and new balinese painters. Not to be missed, expect an array of traditional activities such as the fire dance recreated through the point of the brush. The setting itself is unexpectedly inspiring, recalling the design and architectural details of a temple.

We then follow the route that leads us to the Tegenungan Waterfall, Kemenuh, Sukawati, Kec. Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia, known as one of the most alluring cascades in Bali thanks to its unforgettable lush green surroundings.

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Having lost any notion of time, I realise now how late it is and that we will end up with a nocturnal driving to the Hanging Gardens. Despite this thought I want to make one more stop at the Ahadewa Barong Dance to experience the balinese dancing called the Tek Tok Dance. This is often presented at the Bali Culture Centre, however if you are looking for the real experience in a traditional setting, than this is your go-to place. Accompanied by the musical sound of the Tek Tok repeated by dancers, the balinese dance represents a message of truth, devotion and genuine compassion.

Balinese Dancer

Ubud is the cultural representative area standing for the history of Bali itself. There is a wide range of historical & cultural attractions such as art museums, centres and temples. I would recommend spending two days in Ubud so you can enjoy the full experience. Besides the points mentioned above, make sure you also visit the Monkey Forest. Bring nothing else but your camera and hold tight to it, there are some expert monkeys that will still away any possessions.

Stay tuned for my experience at the mesmerising Hanging Gardens resort and Day 3 activities.

Bucket List

Bucket List #2

OHHCOUTURE

There’s an average of 16.8 days of annual paid leave. Some of you might wonder at times – why should we even bother and go through the hassle of organising a weekend get-away or an exotic holiday? Further more, there are so many other things that can be bought within that budget. My question to you is WHY NOT? Why not creating experiences that will last you for a life-time, journeys that change your vision, broaden your perspective on life, open your mind, enrich your cultural knowledge and what’s more – make you a better person? I can’t seem to find any contra argument to this. Can you?

Let yourself inspired by my second bucket list and stay tuned for a weekend in Monaco experimenting my first Grand Prix and the Indonesia series!

Miras Hotel Cappadocia, Turkey - captured by @mirashotel

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Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan - captured by @japvivas

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Chapada Diamantina, Bahia, Brazil - captured by @southamerica

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Hawaii’s Haiku Stairs - captured by @everchanginghorizon

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Côte d'Azur French Riviera - captured by @ohhcouture

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Travel

Maldives

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Gili Lankanfushi…The closest you can get to a Robinson Crusoe lifestyle.

A massive shoutout to all kind of globetrotters out there! You might be a sightseeing or a sun lounger but this is one trip not to miss. I myself am a thrill seeker, always in the search for new cultures and adventures. It comes as no surprise that I was slightly overwhelmed by the thought that a full week would only consist of sunbathing, eating, occasional swimming, repeat. But there is so much more to that, think of it as if you would step into a fortified splendour away from the day-to-day stress, noise and sharpened hearing for the unstoppable tick-tock, tick-tock sound…

Aside from my restless spirit, this time it all started with a strong desire to escape the 9 to 5 and adventure in the untethered living, a world of art and travel. When I finally pulled the trigger I needed something to seal the deal, and Gili Lankanfushi sounded like the perfect oasis of relaxation and freedom of mind.

All right, let’s go back in time…

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AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – tropical climate with two monsoon seasons. The dry monsoon is from December to March with a consistent temperature of 30 degrees celsius.

Currency – American Dollars

Language – expect an array of international languages alongside the local one, Dhivehi.

How to get there – if you are travelling from Europe, the most time and cost effective option is via Dubai or Istanbul. Have a look here.

Dress code – whatever you are most comfortable in and forget about packing shoes or toiletries. You will find toothbrush, insect repeller, aloe vera gel, normal and after sun organic shampoo and conditioner, organic shower gel and lotion provided in the bathroom.

Top dinner experience – this would be exactly the one you can’t see, the private dinner on a secret part of the island organised by Mr. Friday on your preferred day.

Unfriendly visitors – no worries about being invaded by mosquitos or other unfriendly insects, there are barely any. If you find the occasional bees hanging around in the shower just use the insect repeller available in the bathroom.

Must DOs – bamboo massage at the Meera Spa, Sunset Sailing, Manta Ray & turtle snorkelling, private dinner on a secret spot on the island.

Top Fact – the whole island is eco-friendly, featuring their own organic garden which you can visit at any time.

Special treat – don’t hesitate to contact Mr. Friday with anything you might need, he’s there to make your stay one of a kind.

JOURNEY & ARRIVAL

After a well worth it 15 h journey, I finally land into Malé’s airport – the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. This is located vis-à-vis from an aligned set of boats waiting to take me to Paradise. As my gaze meets the azure waters I already feel overly excited and hyper active.

A crew of 4 welcoming and joyful Mr. Fridays (the concept sounds rather familiar doesn’t it?!) are expecting me on board with a fresh fruit juice, cold wet towel and a shoe bag. I can’t help but wonder – what’s the shoe bag for? They inform me that their one and only philosophy is as follows ‘No news, no shoes’ – leave your worries at home. Not quite sure what to expect but the thought of trotting around barefoot and play with my toes in the perfectly white and soft sand fills me up with joy.

The journey only takes 20 minutes as opposed to other hotels located up to one hour away from the airport or those that can only be reached by floatplane. As I am approaching the private island I drop my bags and just stop and glare. Does this place really exist or am I daydreaming? I am surrounded by infinite shades of turquoise blue, immaculate beaches, so white as to burn my eyes and dozens of palms loaded with coconuts.
The general manager Steven Phillips accompanied by Atheef who introduces himself as my assigned Mr. Friday for the week welcome me at the dock and walk me through the key things I need to know before embarking on my new adventure: ’As you may know (friendly Steven highlights) ’Mr. Friday’ is Robinson Crusoe’s loyal friend – just like that, Atheef is here to make your stay as pleasant as possible so just kick back and relax’. Sounds good to me but little did I know that Mr. Friday can get even the impossible done if needed.

SURROUNDINGS

We hop on a golf buggy and off we go. To my surprise we pass by a water sports centre, a gym in the middle of the jungle with an open air Japanese restaurant built on top, a mesmerising overwater spa, the organic garden (as I am being informed that all the ingredients are 100% organic on the island), the island’s jungle cinema surrounded by palms and plants, a tranquil outdoor yoga area and the main restaurant with its overwater bar. I have been warned previously about Maldives’ lack of activities so I feel relieved to discover through my own eyes that there’s much more to Maldives than rest and relaxation. Days can be spent swimming, snorkelling, spotting turtles, paddle boarding (free of charge!), fishing or simply kicking back in the numerous hammocks around the island. Whatever your passions, Gili Lankanfushi offer their own distinctive pleasures.

VILLAS

We reach the overwater villas by boardwalks. Two bicycles made purely out of bamboo await at the entrance of a large wood villa. Atheef captures my smile and says: ‘It is best to pedal around, you will see the island in a new light on an exhilarating bike ride through the jungle’. The villas are taken to entirely new levels of interior design harmonising the guests with the surrounding environment.

As I step inside straight into the open air living room I get completely carried away and stop paying attention to Atheef who is showing me around. The views are far too beautiful, it makes it impossible to follow the protocol. Mr. Friday finally interrupts my moment of surprise and says: ‘There’s more, come upstairs’. The villas are built on two floors, the upper one featuring a terrace with its own king bed that allows the most alluring stargazing. The bedroom is stolen from a fairytale with its very own copy of Robinson Crusoe’s book sitting on the table and a fine sound system to play your own music (loving this).
The bathroom area is as large as the living room connecting the shower through a private overwater bridge. What’s more, the villa also offers a private sea area (perfect for all the night swimmers out there).

The main terrace incorporates several sunbathing & lounging areas and a wood staircase leading straight into the perfectly turquoise blue water. Especially at night you will encounter several stingrays wondering around and the occasional lost baby shark (Don’t worry, they are quite friendly!).

Overall, the villa is decked out in elegant, natural material and wood floors – they strive to keep on improving their environmental initiatives. I think it is fair to call it the most beautiful resort I have seen in my life (next to The Hanging Garden in Ubud, Bali – article on its way).

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ATTENTION TO DETAIL

Beyond their impeccable service, the unspoilt and authentic surroundings, the luxurious yet cultural representative villas, their attention to detail is outstanding, at times hard to believe. All the way from remembering each and every one of our names, the wine ordered 3 days ago, my personalised buffet dishes or the fact that I drink my coffee with honey instead of sugar (trust me, it’s much more tastier) to the wonderful bed sheets decor which they change every night.

ACTIVITIES & CULINARY HEAVEN

Waking up at when-I-want-to o’clock is blissful. I usually prefer to wake up early and head off to breakfast before 11am. But here you can lose any notion of time as ordering breakfast in your private cabana facing the most alluring landscape is beyond relaxing. NOTE: as much as I love everything so far, the local coffee is not the best, just use the coffee machine in the living room.

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DAY 1

Although day 1 usually stands for exploring the resort and the surrounding areas, this time I decide to get my Robinson Crusoe copy, sit in the sun for a few hours and read the book for the first time. After a couple of hours though my restless side is back in business and looking for activities available in the afternoon. I go through the weekly schedule (you will receive a brand new one at the end of the day each Sunday) and my eyes land straight on ‘Sunset Sailing’ – exactly what I feel like!

I ring Mr. Friday and he arranges the trip within 5 minutes. 20 minutes later we hop onto the sailing boat with a bottle of champagne and canapés from Atheef (again, details!). Words can’t describe the sunset this evening, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Make sure you embark on your sunset chasing journey at 5.30pm the latest when the colours of the sky commence their spectacle. The sunset can also be watched from your own villa, paddle board, jet ski or even better from the overwater lounge bar area next to the restaurant.

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BUFFET DINNER

This evening introduces me to the island’s dinner buffet, or better called a culinary feast of the senses. The buffet is grandiose, offering everything that you can imagine and beyond your imagination, including a wide range of worldwide and local cuisines. A pure celebration for your taste buds. I feel the urge to taste all kind of freshly fished seafood – grilled, raw, fried. Whilst on my way for a second replenishment, the chef advises me to try out the Chicken Wrap, he says it is the best! What, with all this fresh fish winking at me? I skip his suggestion and continue with my chosen dish. He however brings a small Chicken Wrap to the table just in case I change my mind. I finally taste it and give him credit as it is incredibly exquisite! I ended up having three of them!

I usually order white wine whilst travelling – as dry, spicy & Chardonnay as possible. The sommelier notices that I am taking a long time to go through all the options so he approaches me. I am blown away by his broad knowledge when it comes to wine and each kind’s history.

DAY 2

The list of activities is not only wide but also cutting edge. From the latest gear in water sports to your personal biologist when snorkelling or scuba diving, the possibilities are endless. On Day 2 I decide to go snorkelling and explore the underwater sanctuary with a certified biologist – always eager to learn. We have been searching for a manta ray for over an hour and when we finally see one we jump in without thinking it twice. Needless to say how breathtaking this is, I have never seen one before. As I swim alongside the manta ray, my attention shifts to a friendly water turtle swimming right next to me. We then decide to snorkel in a different area well known for its coral reef adorned by hundreds of species of fish and turtles. Seems impossible to capture such beauty on camera.

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DAY 3

Day 3 begins with a private yoga class on the beach followed by an incredible jet-leg reliever massage, no better way to start the day today. The masseuses are unexpectedly good and the entire spa experience jumps right at the top of my worldwide spa visits list. As I feel rather sleepy I ask Atheef to arrange a jet ski trip so I can visit the neighbourhood and watch the sunset from the middle of the ocean. All ready to go within 20 minutes, as per always short notice doesn’t represent an issue for Mr. Friday. I realise that the hotels in close proximity are actually completely different – featuring a common design with no cultural influence whatsoever. Moreover the high number of villas causes an overcrowded feeling, being rather annoyingly close to each other. Gili Lankanfushi has only 45 villas with a large distance in between them.

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BY THE SEA – Japanese Restaurant

This evening I finally manage to book a table at the island’s By The Sea Japanese restaurant (it is usually fully booked, be sure to secure a table prior to your outbound trip). With three quarters of an hour to spare I decide to grab a healthy smoothie (the Sport smoothie is the best) in the overwater bar with the aquatic wild life swimming underneath my feet.

Arrived at the By The Sea restaurant I am being told to get ready to embark on a splendid journey of taste. Fished locally, my taste buds are enjoying the freshest sashimi and long time favourite sushi pieces. Each dish is absolutely exquisite with a special twist on it. The panorama is gloriously unspoilt, with the terrace overlooking the jungle. Back to the villa, the terrace king bed is awaiting freshly changed so I fall asleep underneath the sky full of stars.

DAY 4

I can’t help but slip into the relaxing rhythm of the island, therefore Day 4 kicks off with one hour of paddle boarding and a fishing trip later in the day planned on the day of the arrival.

Despite the perfection that every day has encountered so far, unfortunately the fishing trip is highly disappointing. The attention to detail has been removed completely and the crew members on board are providing a very poor service. It feels as if they are taking advantage of this private fishing adventure to go out fishing for themselves. With no knowledge re the best fishing areas and no ‘how-to’ lessons provided, I end up losing 2 hours sleeping on the upper deck. Upon my return I share the experience I just had with Atheef and after consulting the issue with his supervisor they decide to fully withdraw the hiring cost of the boat from the final bill.

NOTE: don’t skip the fishing trip, just be sure to get Mr. Friday to make the arrangements via the hotel directly rather than an external provider organised by the water sports centre.

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LAST DAY

The last full day in paradise brings along a breakfast feast on the beach, a snorkelling journey right outside the villas, a cocktail party, a private dining organised by Atheef on a hidden corner of the island, followed by a movie in The Jungle Cinema. What movie? Well, nothing feels more appropriate than the long time favourite Cast Away with Tom Hanks!

As darkness falls, wild dancing to local drums kicks off to accompany the traditional theme of the Managers’ cocktail party.

PRIVATE DINNER

The private dinner is an absolute MUST! All the way from the highly talented and passionate private chef, relaxing music, candles to the delicious set menu that can be designed in the morning, you are on to an unforgettable romantic experience. You can curate this dinner as you see fit, just have a chat with Mr. Friday and decide how you’d like your perfect evening to look like.

Although the private screening is one of the best activities at Gili Lankanfushi, the chargeable fee is unjustifiable. To improve the overall experience, one free of charge private cinema booking would be optimal.

The final day is all about relaxation and taking it all in one last time. It still feels surreal, the seafront villas, the laid back vibe, the multitude of exciting activities, the pristine coral reefs and the list continues.

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People expect a hotel to have personality and as the manager highlights: ‘You can find two types of high-end hotels in the Maldives: the standard five-star hotels and the resorts like Gili Lankhanfushi’. Yes, Gili Lankanfushi is an expensive experience, but if you get one chance in your life to take it go for it, no pictures will do this place justice. Remember, all you need is a bathing suit and a couple of relaxed fit maxi dresses. Really, there’s no point for shoes other than the pair you are wearing at arrival and a pair of trainers should you wish to play tennis or train in the gym.

Explore an exclusive retreat, far away from the worries of the world.