Puerto Vallarta: the beach, the town & around

So May was crazy… I came back after 5 weeks in Spain, repacked my suitcase and was off to Mexico. This time we did not go alone, but took a bunch of Lithuanians and decided to show them the best that Mexico has to offer. We started in the crazy Mexico city, then continued to Chihuahua, later moved to Jalisco and visited Guadalajara and the actual town of Tequila and ended up in Puerto Vallarta.

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Oh Malaga…it was fun!

It was the beginning of 2017 and the middle of a very grey winter in Brussels. It was the right time to make some changes. I pulled out a map of Spain, closed my eyes and blindly pointed my finger to an unknown location… When I opened my eyes I saw that Malaga is going to be a place where I am going to start an early summer.

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Pueblos Blancos – following the white spots in the mountains

It was the Semana Santa week in the South of Spain and the unusual 30 degrees for mid-April. The conditions were perfect to explore the beautiful white villages that are hiding in the mountains of Andalusia.

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Semana Santa in Andalusia

Semana Santa in Andalusia is a very special celebration. For locals it is a life long tradition, inviting to come back home to their own or their parents villages, meet their childhood friends, enjoy free afternoons and extra days-off. For people of faith, this week is a spiritual journey, taking through various stages of excruciation and revival. And for the rest, it is a street spectacle and an opportunity to join the famous Spanish street fiesta.

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The fight of shadows at Plaza de toros de La Malagueta

It has now been 10 days that I am living in the south of Spain region of Andalusia. Many of the things that represent Spain around the world have originated from here. And bullfighting is one of them. I know, there is a wide debate about banning the bull-fighting, and some regions of Spain have done it already. But by the look of things here, Andalusia will be the last one, if ever, to let it go…

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Santorini – the most photogenic Greek island

As it does not feel like spring yet, I keep on coming back to the pictures from my last summer trips. The Greek island hopping trip, that we did last August, is something I was meaning to share for a while now. It was yet another grim and rainy Sunday afternoon in Brussels, I desperately needed to see some sun. So I went back to Santorini…pictures… A few days on this island last summer was spent simply enjoying the gorgeous views, hiding from the daytime heat, reading and trying out specialties of different tavernas.  

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Mission District murals – San Francisco 

This blog is from a year old trip in California, but  there is something about these murals and street art in the Mission district that I felt I have to write about. Don’t worry I will not write a lot, because here you have to look and listen to what these paintings are telling you. Most of them are from the 70s, but with the latest political realities around the world it repeats the same old truths.

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The Women’s Building

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Inspired by Diego Riviera and other Mexican muralists

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430 meters below Sea Level – Visiting the Dead Sea

Everybody knows that the mountain Everest is the highest point on the face of the Earth, and it is definitely on my to do list. But before I save $30K for the group climbing excursion, I decided first to pay a visit to the lowest point on Earth – the Dead Sea.

It is located right in middle of the Middle East and is officially is shared by Palestine, Israel and Jordan. However after taking the Highway 90 from Tel Aviv down to this area and passing by what (according to the map) should be the Palestinian part of this lake, it seemed like it is completely under Israel’s  control. Well, but we’ve already known that Israel is not particularly good in sticking with the border lines

So, we rented a car in Tel Aviv and after less than 2 hours we were crossing by the dessert mountains and palm trees forests. It was midday of Saturday, so the road was empty with only few cars passing by.

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One thing that impressed me about this wonder is the perfect, mirror-like reflection of the Dead Sea. Here is the closer look to it:

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If you look deep enough, you can see the Jordan mountains thought the clouds

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No, he is not lying on the bottom of the sea here. He is floating!

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A piece of salt from the beach

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We spent a night in Ein Bokek, not a town, rather a hotel strip. Do I recommend it? No, not really, hotels here are very expensive and quite old. Also, almost no eating out/going out options available. But again it was the beginning of January.

In the morning, we gave a lift to a couple of hitchhikers, who spent a night on the beach and woke with mosquito bites on their faces (not sure if they slept at all). So, don’t do it either!

Around the Dead Sea

So, the Dead Sea can be fun for some time, but as it is not recommended spending more than 15 minutes in its salty waters, you might get bored quite quickly. But there are a few other things you can do around here.

Masada

A very special site for many Israelis and Jews. Masada is remainings of an ancient town, situated  on the top of the rock. A heroic legend of Siege of Masada attacks locals to visit this place,  for others it is a chance to look over the Dead Sea and the Judean desert from 400 meters up:

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You can hike up or take a cable car

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Ein Gedi hikes:

Ein Gedi is described as an oasis in the dessert and offers a number of hiking routes situated across the shore of the Dead Sea. We stopped at Wadi David and did an hour long hike to the David’s waterfall and back.

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One of the smaller waterfalls on this hike
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David’s falls

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We made friends with these little guys…
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and stayed way from him

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Ein Gedi kibbutz & Botanical garden

The local kibbutz (commune) is situated on the hill overlooking the Dead Sea and mountains. The community here runs a hotel and a famous Botanical garden (in the middle of the dessert!) with plans from all over the world.

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Looks like a house on a tropical island…

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and then and here it was a time leave back to Tel Aviv.

At the end of this blog I would like to share a few tips, should you be interested in visiting Palestine. This trip was too short for us to do so, but here is what I learned from my research:

Jericho (the city of Palms) – if you are in the Dead Sea area do not miss out on this town in West Bank. Believed to be one of the oldest villages in the world offers plenty of archaeological and Biblical attractions.

The Dead Sea area is quite badly reachable by the public transport, so to travel around here you will need to rent a car (or hitchhike). But with a car rented in Israel you will not be able to visit West Bank. Here is one of the alternatives for you to rent in Jerusalem.

Note to myself: next time I am around the Dead Sea I want to stay here.