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Lara Brunt
159 followers -
Travel + lifestyle journalist based in Dubai, UAE
Travel + lifestyle journalist based in Dubai, UAE

159 followers
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Looking back at last year's photos from #Iran & packing my headscarves for a return visit later this month. Can't wait. #travel #explore #wanderlust
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Hotel review: Lapita Hotel Dubai

"This family-oriented, Polynesian-themed resort is located within walking distance of Dubai's theme park complex and is ideal for families. The buildings are set around lagoon-style pools and a lazy river, and there are good dining options and two cheery children's clubs."

#dubai #familytravel #travel #themepark

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Hotel review: The Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah

"Oberoi’s first ultra-modern beach resort features Scandi-style interiors, glass-fronted villas and an 85-metre infinity pool. It’s ideal for those looking for a peaceful sun-and-sea break, yet Dubai airport is just a 30-minute drive away."

#luxury #travel #ajman #uae #dubai #oberoi #beach #thehotelegraph

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Ethiopia trip report and suggested 14-day itinerary for independent travellers

Last year, my husband and I spent three weeks travelling around Ethiopia. Associated by many people with drought and famine, it’s being touted as an emerging destination, with new luxury lodges opening in the spectacular Bale and Simien Mountains and an increasing number of tour operators such as Scott Dunn adding the country to their portfolios. Lonely Planet, meanwhile, named Ethiopia as one of the top 10 countries to visit in 2017.

We absolutely Ethiopia’s diverse landscapes and its people, but found trip planning more tricky than usual. So, we’ve made some notes and recommendations that will hopefully help you if you’re keen to explore this epic country.

Pre-planning
We did most of our research using the Bradt Ethiopia guide by Philip Briggs – a great resource and very detailed. We also used the update website that Philip runs (https://bradtethiopiaupdate.wordpress.com/), which was handy for updated info, traveller advice and trip reports.

We bought our return flights from Dubai to Addis with Fly Dubai for less than AED1,400 (US$380) per person and got a visa on arrival – a painless process that cost US$50 pp, however e-visas are apparently now available for some countries.

Getting around
We originally planned to hire a guide and 4WD to do a private three-week tour covering the Northern historic route and then going to the Bale Mountains in southeast Ethiopia. However, after receiving a few quotes from tour operators – the cheapest coming in at £1,600 pp travelling by mini-van and staying in mid-range hotels – we decided to travel independently using a mixture of internal flights and mini-buses. We skipped Bale Mountains but went to the stunning Simien Mountains and did a coffee tour of the south with Escape Tours.

We booked our internal flights with Ethio Travel and Tours (ETT), a well-established local operator in Addis. I’d read mixed reviews about ETT, but we didn’t have any issues and found them to be responsive and professional. We got quotes via email before we arrived in Addis and then went to their office at Nega City Mall to pay for the tickets. Three flights (Addis-Bahir Dar, Gondar-Lalibela, Lalibela-Addis) cost US$420 for the two of us.

Local mini-buses are super cheap and a bit of an adventure. Ask a hotel staff member to take you to the bus station and get you onto a bus (Gondar bus station is particularly wild – not threatening, but very chaotic with touts trying to steer you onto their bus); the bus will then wait until it’s full before leaving. Keep in mind that our version of full is different to the local view and the driver will pick-up and drop-off people along the way. Still, I really enjoyed the experience for short trips (2-3hrs) and the locals were intrigued to see faranjis travelling by mini-bus.

We booked our accommodation in advance direct with the hotels or via the booking website Jovago.

Our route
Day 1 – Addis
Day 2 – Addis
Day 3 – Bahir Dar (1hr flight from Addis)
Day 4 – Bahir Dar
Day 5 – Gondar (3hrs by mini-bus from Bahir Dar)
Day 6 – Gondar
Day 7 – Simien Mountains (2-3hrs by mini-bus to Debark, then 10-min bajaj ride to Limalimo Lodge)
Day 8 – Simien Mountains
Day 9 – Simien Mountains
Day 10 – Gondar (2-3hrs by mini-bus from Debark; stayed an extra day here as we had an early flight to Lalibela the following day)
Day 11 – Lalibela (30min flight from Gondar)
Day 12 – Lalibela
Day 13 – Lalibela
Day 14 – Addis (1hr flight from Lalibela)

We then did a four-day coffee tour of South Ethiopia with Girum from Escape Tours (http://www.escapeaddistours.com/):
Day 1 – Awassa
Day 2 – Yirgalem village staying at Aregash Lodge
Day 3 – Yirgacheffe
Day 4 – Ziway to visit the Castel Winery

Addis
• Stayed at Caravan Hotel – highly recommended, very clean and comfortable, decent wifi, good rate on currency exchange, free airport transfers (although they forgot to pick us up from the airport when we arrived- we called them and they eventually collected us). The location is also handy – we could walk to restaurants, etc
• There’s not a huge amount to do in Addis so you only need a day or two
• Go Addis food walking tour – really interesting tour and definitely recommended for an introduction to Ethiopian food
• Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum – small and interesting museum but poorly explained; still worth a visit if you have time
• Oasis Salon and Spa – we had time to kill so went here for a coffee scrub and massage

Eating and drinking in Addis
• We enjoyed Ethiopian food but were not big fans of injera so made the most of the cosmopolitan restaurants in Addis
• La Mandoline – French restaurant around the corner from Caravan, excellent food and pleasant terrace
• Effoi pizza – short walk from Caravan, tasty pizzas and cool atmosphere
• Bahir Zaf – our favourite restaurant of all. It’s a training restaurant for disadvantaged youths run by an Australian NGO with trendy, café-style food using local ingredients and amazing espresso martinis
• Tomoca – atmospheric Italian-style café with excellent coffee; we bought beans from here too
• Alem Bunna – delicious dark roast macchiatos; we bought ground coffee from here

Bahir Dar
• Stayed at the Jacaranda Hotel – clean hotel and good location, but we didn’t enjoy our stay there (mainly due to the aggressive tour tout and juice that we later realised had been watered down so Glen got sick)
• Misrak did great food – easily the best restaurant in town
• Desset Lodge – lovely location beside Lake Tana but terrible food; go here for a beer only
• Laka Tana monasteries tours – we found the touts to be quite aggressive and annoying in Bahir Dar; we ended up booking with Tankwa Tours (recommended in Bradt guide) and had no issues, although we were in a slow boat. The monasteries are definitely worth seeing but you can skip the source of the Blue Nile (pretty unimpressive)

Gondar
• Stayed at Lodge du Chateau – charming little hotel with a great terrace where you have breakfast; manager Simon is very helpful and friendly; short walk to the castles of Fasil Ghebbi (Royal Enclosure)
• Four Sisters – the best restaurant in town although very touristy; Gondar is lacking in restaurants so we ate here twice
• Fasil Ghebbi (Royal Enclosure) – loved visiting this site and the official guide we hired at the entrance was good
• Also enjoyed visiting Fasilides Bath, site of the annual Timkat Festival

Lalibela
• Stayed at Sora Lodge – slightly out of the way, but very clean and well managed. Good restaurant with lovely views from the terrace
• Ben Abeba – most popular restaurant in town. Amazing views but the food was only ok
• Rock-hewn churches are amazing, of course. Our official guide was really knowledgeable and you need two days to see them all to avoid overload

Simien Mountains
• Absolutely loved the scenery – a definite must-visit
• Stayed at Limalimo Lodge – fantastic new boutique lodge and easily the most luxurious hotel we stayed in; all-inclusive (great food and plentiful local wine) and the views from the terrace are amazing; run by an Ethiopian and his British wife who can organise hiking, 4WD trips, visits to Limalimo village (one of our favourite experiences of the whole trip); a stay here is highly recommended
• If you do a tour, hook up with others and get a 4WD (which are pricey in Ethiopia) – we went by mini-bus and it was very bumpy; great day out but didn’t enjoy the journey back
• As the Simiens are a national park, you need to pay park entrance fees and for guide and scout hire for every day or part day that you’re in the park (pay at the park office in Debark)
• Watch out for rip-off bajaj (tuk-tuk) drivers at the park office – the 10-min journey to Limalimo Lodge should cost around 30-40 birr (add a little extra for faranji prices)

Coffee tour
• Escape Tours were really professional and Girum was a great guy; we also had a driver and went by mini-bus (cheaper than 4WD but perfectly comfortable as it was all sealed roads); we really enjoyed the tour and would recommend it
• Coffee tourism is still in its infancy in Ethiopia – for instance, there’s not much to see in Yirgacheffe (ranked as the home of some of the world’s best coffee); but we saw plenty of coffee plants (cherries, etc) and coffee ceremonies in a village and in a private house (which Girum organised on the fly in Yirgacheffe- really memorable experience); learned about coffee production and processing, etc; enjoyed visiting some villages on the way, exploring farms and chatting to local kids
• Lake Hawassa – stayed at Lake View Hotel, which was clean and comfortable. Enjoyed Venezia Italian restaurant up the road
• Then we had two nights at Aregash Lodge – a wonderful spot with tukul huts and beautiful grounds (lots of coffee plants and fruit trees – avocado, mango, guava, etc); highly recommended
• Stopped at Castel vineyards in Ziway and toured the production facilities and did some wine tasting

Happy travels!

#travel #ethiopia #trip #report #planning #itinerary #independent #addis #addisababa #bahirdar #gondar #lalibela #simien #mountains #yirgacheffe #coffee #bradtguides #lonelyplanet

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10 of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods to visit right now - including my recommendation for #Dubai

#lonelyplanet #travel #florence #seoul #lisbon #copenhagen #kualalumpur #newyork #nyc #riodejaneiro #rio #seattle #london

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Top 10 things to know before visiting #Dubai

"Dubai is one of the most visited destinations in the world and home to a number of record-breakers, from the world’s tallest tower to the busiest international airport on the planet. Yet for all the city's accolades, there are still plenty of misconceptions about the glitzy Gulf emirate. Here are 10 things you'll want to know before you arrive."

#travel #lonelyplanet #explore #dubai #uae #luxury

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Lonely Planet's under-the-radar budget activities from around the world - including my suggestion for #Dubai

#travel #explore #lonelyplanet #budgettravel #wanderlust #porto #london #capetown #seoul #hongkong #newyork #singapore

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My review of Dukes Dubai hotel for The Telegraph

"The sister hotel of Dukes London has faithfully recreated its sophisticated British style on Palm Jumeirah. Polished service and elegant interiors set this hotel apart from its neighbours. Alongside the buzzy infinity pool, there's a cracking cocktail bar serving James Bond's favourite tipple."

#dubai #uae #travel #luxury #luxurytravel #hotels #dukes #cocktails #telegraphtravel #thehotelegraph

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Hotel review: JA Hatta Fort Hotel, United Arab Emirates

"This relaxing mountain retreat shows there's more to Dubai that mega malls and glitzy hotels. It offers large chalet-style rooms, multiple pools and a fantastic restaurant, while the surrounding Hajar Mountains are ideal for hiking and biking."

#travel #explore #hotels #dubai #uae #mountains #hiking

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Hotel review: The Address Boulevard, Dubai

"This five-star hotel in the swanky Downtown district exudes understated elegance, with Art Deco-inspired interiors and 250 specially commissioned artworks. It boasts large and luxurious rooms, a cracking casual restaurant and three pools with Burj Khalifa views."

#luxury #travel #dubai #hotel #telegraphtravel #thehotelegraph
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