Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa: Guide for a Perfect Visit [2024]

View from the leaning tower of pisa in italy in the summer with the shadow showing

The Leaning Tower of Pisa may just be the world’s most successful failure. 

Its unintended tilt results from a few careless mistakes and many painstaking fixes, and its unique history is a marvel that captivates visitors to this day.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was never supposed to be anything special. It was constructed in the 12th century by Bonanno Pisano, a relatively unknown architect.

View of the intense tilt of the leaning tower of pisa
Look at how much it leans! Taken March 2024

It was intended to be a simple belltower for the Cathedral of Pisa. Easy, no?

Well, many things went awry… why is why it took nearly 200 years to build a simple tower. By contrast, the Colosseum of Rome, still the largest standing amphitheater in the world, took merely ten years).

⌛ Planning your Pisa trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

🏝️ Best Pisa Tours & Experiences
1. Leaning Tower & Cathedral Complex Tickets (#1 attraction in Pisa!)
2. Chianti Half-Day Wine Tour (top-rated wine tour)
3. Pisa Food Tour (tastings from 5 eateries on a lunch tour)

🛏️ Best Pisa Hotels
1. Grand Hotel Duomo (best Leaning Tower views!)
2. The Rif (art hotel in a renovated 1900s villa)
3. Palazzo Feroci (luxury converted palazzo with designer interiors)

✈️ Flying into Pisa? Book your airport taxi in advance with Welcome Pickups for a stress-free arrival.

🚘 Planning to travel around Tuscany independently? Look into car rentals in Pisa.

Here, we’ll go into the history of why the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa, in Italian) leans and how you can visit this unique attraction in Pisa on your upcoming trip to Italy.

Why Does the Pisa Tower Lean?​

Allison Green pretending the hold up the leaning tower of pisa in the typical tourist photo
No, the Leaning Tower doesn’t lean on purpose — even though that’s now the big tourist draw!

Just three stories into building the tower, they noticed something was off when it had already begun leaning. In typical Italian fashion, they waited about a century to continue building, trying to counterbalance the shifted weight by building off-balance floors.

After a pause due to wars, they finally added the bell chamber, completing the tower… nearly two centuries later.

But herein is the problem: the tower is made of gray and white marble, a nod to the marble-rich region of Carrera not far away. However, marble is extremely heavy, and that’s a large part of why the issue with the tower leaning began.

The lean of the tower at a 4 degree angle with the pisa cathedral behind it
Leaning at a cool 4 degrees in 2024

But the marble’s not the only thing to blame — the foundation was poorly planned, only three meters deep atop an unstable mix of clay, sand, and shells. Look, I’m no engineer, but that doesn’t sound like a solid start for a huge marble tower weighing nearly 15,000 metric tons.

Interventions were attempted, giving the tower some of its characteristic columns and arches, but never entirely solving the problem. Finally, in 1990, the tower’s lean grew untenable — leaning by a whopping 5.5 degrees.

They started stabilizing the foundation using soil extraction, straightening the tower significantly, and reducing the lean to a more comfortable angle, just under 4 degrees.

As of now, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is considered stable for the next 200 years, when it will undoubtedly need to be worked on again—assuming we still have a planet in 200 years.

​Getting to the Leaning Tower of Pisa​

The area of the leaning tower of pisa with the duomo of pisa
The Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa

Most people visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa in one of two ways: on a day trip from Florence or spending a few days in Pisa, dedicating some proper time to this Tuscan city.

Personally, I recently visited Pisa on a day trip from Florence, and I didn’t think it was nearly enough time—I was left wanting a lot more! 

Whether you visit on a self-guided day trip or visit Pisa for a few days independently, you will arrive at the Pisa train station, Pisa Centrale. You can leave your luggage here if it’s convenient, or you may want to check into a hotel first if you are staying in Pisa overnight.

Either way, from Pisa Centrale train station in the city center, you can make an easy 20-minute walk straight to the Piazza dei Miracoli (formerly the Piazza del Duomo).

You’ll quickly be greeted by Pisa’s most endearing and iconic attraction…. and thousands of less endearing tourists taking cheesy photos with it. 

The leaning tower and the cathedral and lots of crowds
The crowds in Piazza dei Miracoli are intense – watch for pickpockets!

For a cool side trip before visiting the Leaning Tower, just around the corner from the Pisa, you can make a little detour to see the famous ‘Tuttomondo’ Keith Haring mural.

It’s one of the last murals created by Haring before he died from complications of AIDS. It’s located on the wall of the Sant’Antonio Abate church.

Some people may arrive at the Pisa airport, which is extremely close to the town center… You could even walk if you choose as it’s only 2 kilometers away from the town center!

That said, since most people have luggage, they take the Pisa Mover for five Euros to the train station and then walk to the Leaning Tower of Pisa from there.

Getting Tickets to Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Allison Green's hand holding a mobile ticket
My online ticket to enter the Leaning Tower of Pisa

To climb to the top of the tower, you need specific Leaning Tower of Pisa tickets with a dedicated time slot. You must carefully observe the time of your visit. It’s for a 30-minute window, and you must arrive on time within that window to be able to use your ticket.

The best way to ensure you have a reserved time slot to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa is by booking online in advance well ahead of time.

You can also try to go to the ticket office on the same day, but don’t count on it, because in peak season, it’s pretty common for all the tickets for the day to be sold out. 

Your timed ticket to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa will also get you fast-track access to the Pisa Cathedral anytime that same day.

The interior of the pisa cathedral
The Pisa Cathedral may just be more impressive than the Leaning Tower

While visiting the Pisa Cathedral is technically free, those who do not have a bundled ticket for other sites in the Piazza dei Miracoli will have to wait in a longer line. You, on the other hand, get to skip it!

If the individual tickets to climb the Leaning Tower are sold out, don’t fret — you can take a guided tour that includes the city of Pisa as one of the stops and choose an add-on that includes tickets to the Leaning Tower. 

These Pisa Tower tickets are often booked in advance from a separate supply of tickets, so you can usually get tickets this way, even when they are sold out on the official website and GetYourGuide.

What’s It Like Climbing the Leaning Tower?​

Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a pretty stress-free and easy experience, especially compared to other climbs I’ve done in Italy, like Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence and the Terraces of the Milan Duomo. In comparison, I found those really crowded and disorganized.

The line to climb the Leaning Tower is well-managed and runs quickly, so you don’t have to wait too long. However, they only allow people in the next time slot to be in line, so observe your timed-entry ticket carefully. 

Sign showing the rules for getting in line like no bags, next time slot, etc.
Three rules for waiting in line for a smooth process

The security is also speedy and efficient for easy access to the tower. Note that security does not allow any bags for security reasons — not even small backpacks! — but there is a free cloakroom that you can use. 

They carefully stagger the group times so that the narrow spiral staircases to ascend and descend the tower are manageable and not too crowded.

Before climbing the tower, they have everyone sit in a rounded bench area at the bottom while listening to a brief informational overview of its history. This also helps ensure the tower staircase is manageable, as people from the previous time slot need to descend.

People waiting and listening to a presentation while sitting inside the hollow part of the leaning tower of pisa
Eagerly awaiting our turn to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Once you’ve heard the presentation, you can start going up the (very narrow) spiral staircases.

Prepare for some serious cardio: you’ve got 5 staircases ahead of you with 269 steps (according to this article, which went and counted every single step themselves — now that’s the kind of petty level of pedantry I can truly respect).

Allison Green with her camera walking down some very steep narrow steps in the round tower of Pisa
So many narrow steps!

You’ll reach the seventh floor first, opening to beautiful views of the Duomo of Pisa.

If you go at the right time, around 10 AM, you’ll see a cool sight: the shadow of the Leaning Tower casting a cool shadow over the Duomo! 

The leaning tower of pisa casting a shadow over the duomo
I loved seeing the shadow of the Leaning Tower on the cathedral!

But the climb’s not over!

You can go up one more staircase to the eighth floor, where you can see the bell chamber and the tallest views over the Campo dei Miracoli, as well as 360-degree views around the rest of Pisa. Now that’s a view!

The belltower area of the tallest part of the leaning tower of pisa
At the bell chamber, the tallest part of the tower

View from the top overlooking Miracle Square and other parts of Pisa
Admiring the 360 views over Pisa’s city center

Leaning Tower of Pisa Admission Hours ​and Tickets

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has straightforward admission hours that don’t change much from day to day.

From April through September, the opening hours are from 9 AM to 8 PM. From October through March, they’re just one hour shorter, from 9 AM to 7 PM. 

Allison Green smiling at the top of the leaning tower of pisa having reached the top
Worth the climb!

Throughout the year, the last admission is 30 minutes before closing, as it takes a minimum of 30 minutes to climb to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and enjoy the views.

To ensure you snag a time slot, be sure to book your tickets ahead of time. Skip-the-line tickets can be booked in advance here.

Other Attractions in the Square of Miracles​

The baptistry building in the suqare of miracles in pisa italy
The Baptistry, one of the many interesting buildings in the complex

In addition to the must-see monument, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, don’t miss a few other highlights in the Piazza dei Miracoli if you have time. Together, they constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

In the interest of saving your time, I won’t go into too much detail, but the places you can visit in the Piazza dei Miracoli are:

  • Duomo di Pisa (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta): A gorgeous cathedral built in 1063, a hallmark of the Romanesque style that Pisa developed. The interior is particularly ornate and unique, with its gorgeous dramatic stripes of marble and several beautiful mosaics.
People standing in the middle of the Duomo of pisa interior
The beautiful interior of Pisa’s Cathedral
  • Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John): A small, rounded building with a large dome constructed in 1152, shaped so to encourage beautiful acoustics. Like the Duomo, it’s notable for its beautiful marblework that is emblematic of the Pisan style. 
  • Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery): This beautiful cemetery is set amidst a cloister filled with frescoes, surrounded by sarcophagi and tombs of prominent locals. It is a somber but beautiful place to visit away from the hordes of tourists elsewhere in the area.
  • Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Museum): Just as Florence has its own museum dedicated to its cathedral, so too does Pisa. This museum houses works that were once part of the cathedral and baptistry, providing more focus and curated context on these beautiful works.
  • Sinopie Museum: Here, you can find some drawings made for the frescoes inside the Camposanto, which show a beautiful insight into the artistic process for creating these larger-than-life works.

7 Marvelous Things to Do in Messina, Sicily

the beautiful seaside city of matera, italy in sicily with a church dome in front of a brilliant sea

Messina sits almost at the northeastern tip of Sicily, just across the strait from Reggio Calabria, the southernmost city in mainland Italy.

Despite its prime location, Messina is one of the less frequently visited places in Sicily, and it’s often overlooked in favor of other, more famous cities.

Planning your trip to Messina last minute? Here are my top tips.

> Best Messina Activities & Excursions
1. Two-Hour Walking Tour of Messina Center
2. Traditional Pasta Making and Tiramisu Class
3. Guided Taormina and Castelmola Tour

> Where to Stay
1. Vittoria House of Charm (elegant & palatial rooms with A/C)
2. Re Vittoria De Luxe (spacious and central A/C rooms) 
3. Maison al Duomo (two-bedroom apartment, good for groups)

Sadly, Messina has a long history of devastating events, especially in the 20th century.

After a massive earthquake in 1908 destroyed a great part of Reggio Calabria and Messina, bombardments during World War II damaged the city even further, adding insult to injury. 

Though it was mostly reconstructed after this series of disasters, Messina still has many abandoned buildings, which stand a sort of monument to this history of devastation and the slow process of rebuilding.

Panoramic viewpoint in Messina with a church with a dome and lots of trees around it and two benches to sit on
Viewpoint in Messina of one of its many churches, the Tempio di Christo Re

I stopped off in Messina during one of my trips to Sicily, since I was crossing the strait from Reggio Calabria.

While yes, it may lack some of the charm of small seaside towns like Taormina or Siracusa, I can tell you that it’s still a lovely city worth a visit. 

Without any further ado, here’s a short guide of things to do in Messina, one of Sicily’s most underrated cities.

Tips for Visiting Messina

The landscape of Messina, Sicily; view of the stunning Church of the Madonna di Montalto, set on the hill Caperino in the town, with a view of the sea in the background.
Church of the Madonna di Montalto in Messina

Just being one of the bigger cities in Sicily somehow isn’t enough to attract visitors.

With most travelers heading to Palermo, Agrigento, and Taormina, Messina is mostly just visited by travelers who have already seen the rest of the island and are looking to avoid the crowds.

On the bright side, the fact that Messina isn’t so famous among tourists means you can often enjoy the city without having to put up with crowds.

While summers are still popular, especially given the many cruises stopping by, you’ll still find fewer people overall in Messina than in most other Sicilian cities and beach towns.

Downtown of Messina in Sicily with the clocktower and structures of the city center
Downtown street in Messina, with a view of the clocktower

Given the island’s summer tourism boom, visiting in the shoulder season can be great; in particular, months like April and October offer the perfect compromise with good weather and moderate crowds. 

Also, if you don’t mind passing up your Sicily beach time in exchange for solitude and winter prices, winter can also be a good time to visit, since Messina is not really a beach-centered destination.

Most people will find one day is enough time to explore Messina, so plan your schedule accordingly. 

Especially if you’ll be taking a renting a car in Sicily before going on a road trip, I recommend spending the day in Messina before moving on to nearby places like the charming Taormina and beautiful Mount Etna and its wine-growing region.

Things to Do in Messina, Sicily

The building of  Temple Christ the King in Messina with the strait of messina in the background
Details of the Messina cityscape

I’ll be honest: unlike some of the more popular cities in Sicily, Messina isn’t exactly packed with attractions and landmarks. However, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do! 

You can take your sweet time walking around the city, all while admiring the beautiful churches, and checking out some stunning viewpoints. 

Read on for a few more of my favorite things to do in Messina.

Explore the center of Messina.

Architecture in Messina's city center with green shutters and pink and white striped paint on the building
Traditional old architecture in Messina

Start your visit to Messina off with a walk around its historical center, where you can admire beautiful buildings, check out impressive squares, and visit beautiful churches.

The city may be big, but the historical center is nice and compact, so you can explore it in a couple of hours.

Make your way down to stroll around Cairoli Square, one of the main city squares.

From the square, you can walk along Viale San Martino, Messina’s shopping street, lined with everything from clothing and jewelry stores to bars, bakeries, and gelateria

If you’re short on time but want to see the main sights and learn some cool facts about Messina, you can join this 2-hour Walking Tour.

Your knowledgeable guide will show you around the historical center and tell you legends and historical facts about the city’s landmarks for context.

Admire Messina’s fountains.

Ornate fountain with several figures displayed on it with a tree and a pastel pink historical building behind it
The ornate fountains of Messina

Scattered all over Messina’s historical center, you’ll see several artistic fountains which is one of the halmmarks of the city.

The most famous is Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune), but others worth checking out include Fontana di Orione, in front of the cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo, and Fontana Falconieri.

Close to Fontana Falconieri, you can also check out a variety of sculptures lining a lovely stairway leading to Santuario Parrocchia S. Maria Di Montalto.

Tip: From here, you can enjoy a lovely view of the Cristo Re Sanctuary.

Discover Messina’s churches.

The central cathedral of messina with a large belltower and clock
The Messina Cathedral and its belltower

Messina’s churches are among its most beautiful landmarks, especially when set against the backdrop of the waters of the gorgeous Strait of Messina.

Along with the Messina Cathedral, the Tempio di Cristo Re (pictured nelow) and the Chiesa Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani are the most famous and photogenic churches in town.

The Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is known for its astronomical clock (which we’ll talk about in a bit), but it’s also just a beautiful church worth visiting in its own right: its cupola is especially gorgeous!

Cupola detail in the church in the center of Messina
Interior of the cathedral basilica

Though mostly destroyed in the 1908 earthquake, some elements survived, like the Gothic portal and an apse.

You can get an audio guide for a small fee when visiting the cathedral interior.

Located on top of a hill, Tempio di Cristo Re offers spectacular views over the city and features unique architecture.

Panoramic view of Messina's town, with the Temple Christ the King on the water with views of the strait and the town on the other side (part of Mainland Italy)
View of Tempio di Cristo Re with Reggio di Calabria on the other side of the water

The church was built on the spot previously occupied by the medieval castle of Matagrifone and actually incorporates the ruins of the fortress, including the only tower still standing.

The last church we’ll talk about here, the lovely Chiesa Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani, dates to the Byzantine period and combines both Norman and Arab architectural elements in a blend that is typically Sicilian.

The 12th-century church occupies the place of an ancient temple dedicated to Neptune and is one of the few structures that survived the 1908 earthquake.

Watch the astronomical clock strike noon.

The detail of the astronomical clock in Messina with gold and midnight blue colors
The astronomical clock of Messina

The Cathedral of Messina (aka the Duomo di Messina) is perhaps best known for its astronomical clock, the largest and purportedly most complex (though how that’s measured, I’m not exactly sure) in the world.

The clock was added to the bell tower in 1933 following the cathedral’s reconstruction after the 1908 earthquake. 

Built by a Strasbourg-based company, the clock resembles the one in the French city from which it hails.

The clock has several symbolic decorations, the most significant one being the carousel of the days of the week, with a deity representing each day.

Zodiac symbols on the astronomic clock in Messina
Symbols of the zodiac on the clock in Messina

Other parts of the clock are a carousel depicting the stages of life, as well as a statue of Messina’s patron saint, a separate clock that marks the sun’s zodiac symbols, the Madonna of the Letter, and several biblical scenes.

Every day at noon, visitors gather around the clock to watch it come alive.

Watching the statues come to life one by one, complete with movement and sounds, is a must-see attraction in Messina.

Get there a few minutes earlier to catch a good spot for the show!

Check out the art at the Interdisciplinary Regional Museum of Messina.

Regional Museum of Messina when it's open with a palm tree and two cars in front of it
The Regional Museum of Messina outside the center | Photo Credit: I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Regional Museum of Messina is home to a vast collection of artworks and archeological artifacts, including important works by Caravaggio and Antonello da Messina.

The museum highlights art and culture in Messina dating back between the 12th and 18th centuries.

In addition to its core focus, the museum also houses paintings, sculptures, and artifacts retrieved in the aftermath of the 1908 earthquake.

The museum has a unique location that is itself quite historical: it’s set in a former spinning mill.

Although it’s a bit farther than the other the main landmarks in Messina, you can still easily reach it by bus or a pleasant 30-minute walk.

Stroll through the University Botanical Garden.

blooming bushes with pink and purple flowers in messina sicily
Bougainvillea in Messina

Admittedly, Messina is a bit lacking in green spaces for the most part, at least compared to other places in Sicily.

That said, the University Botanical Garden is a delightful exception!

This little green area was first established in the 17th century… but sadly, it was destroyed shortly after during Messina’s revolt against the Spanish.

The botanical garden as you’ll see it today dates to the late 19th century, a little oasis in the center of a busy city. Best of all, it’s free of charge! 

However, it’s important to note that it’s only open on weekdays; weekends, it’s closed!

Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the Camposanto.

The monumental cemetery in Messina with rows of hedges, plants, and monuments like tombstones etc.
The Camposanto of Messina

A graveyard walk might sound a bit unusual, but strolling through the Monumental Cemetery is one of the more popular things to do in Messina, and it’s also one of the city’s few green spaces.

Also known as Camposanto, the 18th-century cemetery features beautifully decorated chapels, sculptures, and monuments.

Going for a walk through Camposanto is a relaxing and peaceful way to spend an hour in Messina if you run out of things to do.

The cemetery is just a 20-minute walk from Piazza Cairoli, but you can also catch the tram.

How Not to Get to Capri from Naples: Hydrofoil Hell vs. Ferry Bliss

sunset on the sea with a hydrofoil boat in the distance

The funniest thing about my disastrous trip from Naples to Capri by fast boat is how easily it could be avoided. 

My friend Megan had specifically warned me about the rough boat journey between Naples and Capri, especially in the winter months when I visited Capri (specifically, early March). 

She’s emetophobic and, miraculously, still one of my closest friends even after I’ve puked or nearly puked in her presence… multiple times. Why she continues to travel with me is anyone’s guess, but I’m grateful anyway.

She had taken the hydrofoil between Naples and Capri the previous winter and was traumatized by how many people were throwing up on the boat ride over, which was only about an hour.

She warned me explicitly about the hydrofoil… and I nodded along, texting back, “Sweet, I will avoid hydrofoils!”

Allison holding a ticket to the 9:30 ferry to Capri
Me, innocently: What could go wrong? Narrator: A lot. A lot could go wrong.

… and then a few days later, unbeknownst to me, I had boarded a hydrofoil and had motion sickness so bad that it was like having an out-of-body experience, a fever, and food poisoning simultaneously. 

Let’s backtrack so I can try to explain precisely how I got here.

In a hurry? Here’s the need-to-know.

The best way to get to Capri from Naples is via the Caremar slow ferry, for about €14 each way, taking 1 hour to 1 hour and 25 minutes. Depart from Calata di Massa.

The fastest way to get to Capri from Naples is via the SNAV or NGL hydrofoils for about €24 each way, taking about 50 minutes, but putting you at high risk of seasickness. Depart from Molo Beverello.

How Not to Get to Capri from Naples (What I Did)

The lines and ticket booths in Molo Beverello
The ticket booths at Molo Beverello — aka, where you don’t want to be.

I often joke that travel bloggers aren’t experts at traveling; we get things wrong so that others can learn from us.

Because honestly, can an AI ever board the wrong boat, have motion sickness so bad they’re practically on the astral plane, and then live to tell you about it? I think not — that’s why I’m here.

So, let me try to redeem myself and explain how I got into this predicament. I looked up the boats on Ferryhopper, which I usually use for booking ferries, and saw that two companies were going to Capri, each taking 50 minutes and costing about the same. Rome2Rio also confirmed the same two companies, so I assumed that was all there was and made my plans accordingly.

A list of SNAV and NLG ferries with their timetable
Prices on Ferryhopper, screenshot taken April 26, 2024. Note the additional €3.50 fee compared to what I paid in person. Looking back, “JET” should have been a red flag, but we have already established that I am a moron.

Thinking that there were only two ferry companies, SNAV and NLG, I looked up the location for the SNAV ticket office, which had the time slot I wanted. I saw it listed as “ferry services” on Google Maps and thought I had it all figured out.

For some reason, I thought that the ferry took about an hour to get to Capri and that the fast boats (jetfoils or hydrofoils) would take about half that time. So when I saw 50 minutes, I thought it was the right boat.

Where did I get these numbers? The voices in my head. I genuinely have no other explanation.

The sign at Molo Beverello
The ports in Naples are extremely confusing to find: click the links below for the exact coordinates of each port

What I didn’t know at the time, nor could I find explained anywhere online, was that there are two ferry terminals in Naples… that are basically right next to each other but are poorly differentiated. One port only serves hydrofoils and fast boats, and the other serves larger car ferries.

Adding insult to injury, I walked right past the ferry terminal I actually wanted (Calata Porta di Massa, where the large ferries depart from) on the way to the ferry terminal that would make me see God (Molo Beverello, where the demon boats… I mean hydrofoils… leave from).

So, cluelessly, I walked all the way to Molo Beverello, where I bought my ticket at the SNAV ticket booth.

I grabbed a quick breakfast bite at the port café (ah, sweet summer child), and then boarded my death trap, I mean boat, on time.

Two small street food style pastries and a boat ticket
Of many bad choices, this was among the most foolish.

I did see the dreaded passing out of sick bags early in the journey, but I tried to push it out of my head. After all, I had taken a Dramamine and wasn’t on the dreaded hydrofoil (or so I thought). I’d be just fine!

The first 10 minutes were fine; the rest got progressively worse in the way that only people who get seasickness can relate to: that hot, sweaty, feverish feeling only relieved by going full Exorcist mode on a barf bag.

After emptying myself of the breakfast I optimistically purchased, the rest of the boat ride was a little less painful.

The enclosed hydrofoil boat
If this is your view, it’s already too late. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

I had to go into full tunnel vision mode so that I wouldn’t be triggered by the other passengers barfing around me, a true symphony of sickness.

After 50 minutes, we mercifully arrived in Capri.

Jelly-legged, I wobbled off the boat at Capri Harbor, feeling like a shell of a human and wondering what exactly had gone wrong. I had taken the ferry, hadn’t I?

The Caremar ferry in the harbor
The ferry that I should have taken instead

… and then I looked over to an enormous boat in the harbor.

It looked like the size of the Titanic compared to the dinghy I had just disembarked from, and I quickly realized just how wrong I had been.

What Exactly Is a Hydrofoil?

the snav hydrofoil in naples waiting to board
The SNAV ferry where I would, briefly, meet my maker. If you see this and you get motion sickness… run like hell, you’re in the wrong spot.

For some reason (again, the voices in my head, because apparently, I’m allergic to doing the research before a trip instead of after it), I thought a hydrofoil was a speedboat. 

And so when I saw what seemed like a large boat, I just presumed I was taking the ferry. Ridiculous? Maybe, but at least you can learn from my mistakes.

A hydrofoil (sometimes called jetfoil, a type of hydrofoil with jet engines) is basically a catamaran on steroids. The ‘foil’ part comes from its wing-like structure similar to what they use on planes, but it’s actually built underneath the hull. 

Think of it like a kitesurfing board, but on a boat. Powered by a jet engine. Yes, now that I know the science of it, I realize how terrifying it is.

sunset on the sea with a hydrofoil boat in the distance
View from the ferry, watching the hydrofoil pass by, thanking my lucky stars I’m not on it.

This foil lifts the hull above the water, reducing the drag of the water and thus increasing speed and efficiency— but also making it more prone to making people nauseous at the slightest hint of choppy seas.

I had been warned about hydrofoils when traveling around the Cycladic islands in Greece, notorious for their windy conditions and rough seas. Yet somehow, I boarded ferries just fine during that trip, not confusing them for hydrofoils.

In Greece, most islands generally only have one ferry port, so it’s easy to ensure you take the right boat… but with Naples’ confusing infrastructure (a gripe of many visitors to the city), this was more complicated. At least, that’s what I’m blaming it on here.

How to Get from Naples to Capri (The Right Way)

Boarding the car ferry Caremar in Naples
This should be your view when boarding the ferry!

Luckily, I didn’t book a return ticket through SNAV because I needed to figure out when I wanted to head back to Naples after my day trip to Capri. It’s maybe the one thing I got right about this whole debacle!

I was able to fix my mistake for the return journey and experience what a ferry ride from Capri back to Naples was like, since I instead chose to book my return ticket with Caremar, the large ferry that I had seen in the harbor.

In a word, it was amazing. I have no complaints. The sea wasn’t rough at all, I didn’t experience any motion sickness.

The harbor of Capri with beautiful sunset colors
At least you can always be outside on the ferry — you’re stuck inside the boat on the hydrofoil if the sea is rough, and it usually is.

Plus, we got to sit outside and take in one of the most gorgeous sunsets in recent memory (versus the hydrofoil, where we were shut inside). 

The standard ferry is also about €10 cheaper, but I’d have paid €10 more than I paid for the fast ferry to avoid how awfully sick I felt. It took about 20 more minutes, but I enjoyed every one of them!

Hydrofoil vs. Ferry: What’s Right for You?

The ticket booth for the Caremar ferry
The interior of the port in Naples, where you can buy Caremar ferry tickets

OK, look. If every minute counts on your fast-paced Naples and Amalfi itinerary and you’ve never gotten motion sickness before in your life, I can see a case for taking the hydrofoil.

It is slightly faster, getting you to Capri about 20 minutes quicker, for about €10 more.

But I can’t justify the €10 additional cost on top of how sick I felt… just to save some minutes on what is, otherwise, a very pleasant ferry ride. 

I know that I sound like a giant baby in a lot of this post, but I actually take a lot of boats. I travel most of the year (actually, full-time at this point), and about two-thirds of my travels are to islands.

I also dive constantly: I logged over a hundred dives in 2023, spending over four cumulative days underwater. Of those 100+ dives, I got seasick once but never to the point where I needed to throw up.

This aside isn’t to brag but to emphasize how intense the hydrofoil experience can be, even for someone like me, who has become much more accustomed to boats! 

Don’t underestimate it. Save the extra €20 roundtrip — spend it on a few spritzes or some fresh OJ– and enjoy the scenic route!

The 7 Best Ubud Cooking Classes (Hand-Picked for Travelers)

A delicious Balinese feast with veggies, chicken, rice, and other various treats on a tablecloth

Want the best souvenir from a trip to Bali? Why not take an Ubud cooking class, where you learn all your favorite dishes from your trip!

A Balinese cooking class is the ultimate way to bring memories of your vacation home, time and again, every time you pick up a knife.

When you take a cooking class in Ubud, it’s a chance to go beyond the Instagrammable cafes, pretty waterfalls, and picturesque rice fields, and get a taste (literally) of the real Bali!

a traditional delicious balinese dish

Also learning to cook your favorite Balinese dishes at home is a fun and hands-on way to bring you closer to Balinese culture.

Plus, it’s a nice flex to impress your favorite people (or perhaps a new date you’re wooing) back home — so be sure to add a cooking class to your Ubud itinerary!

On the other hand, if you’re traveling Bali with kids, it’s also a fun way to get them involved in something hands-on and fun!

No time to read the full post? My top pick is this Balinese cooking class with family compound visit — it mixes a traditional Ubud cooking class with an intimate cultural experience. Plus it’s private (and still affordable) so you’ll have personalized attention every step of the way.

⇢ ⇢ Book it here!

My Top 3 Picks: Ubud Cooking Classes

No time to read the full article about these cooking classes and just want my top 3 picks and the highlights of each?

I’ve got you.

#1 TOP PICK

Pepes Ikan, a traditional fish dish in Bali made with a turmeric chili paste and steamed in a banana leaf

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Private Balinese Cooking Class with Family and Compound Visit
✔️ See inside of local Balinese compound
✔️ Get a 1:1 cooking lesson on classic family-style dishes

↳ Book it

#2 PICK

Balinese styled fried chicken with a delicious fried topping on top and sauce in the back

Subak Cooking Class with Optional Market Visit
✔️ Learn 9 different dishes per class
✔️ Morning cooking class has option to visit a local market

↳ Book it

#3 PICK

Traditional Indonesian gado gado, made of a mix of vegetables, tofu, egg, and served with a peanut sauce

Farm-to-Table Ubud Cooking Class on Organic Farm
✔️ Visit a community-run organic farm & make 6 dishes
✔️ Split into vegetarian & omnivore groups, with vegan options available

↳ Book it

The Top 7 Ubud Cooking Classes

1. Private Balinese Cooking Class with Family and Compound Visit

Pepes Ikan, a traditional fish dish in Bali made with a turmeric chili paste and steamed in a banana leaf

🕰️ Tour Length: 4 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (125+ reviews) | 🥣 Book Now

Sample Dishes You’ll Learn:
– Pepes ikan (fish steamed in banana leaves)
– Bumbu kuning (turmeric and coconut milk braised chicken)
– Bregedel (hand-ground fried corn fritters)

Check class availability and rates here

This private Balinese cooking class is my top pick because you simply can’t beat the one-on-one attention a private class offers you.

If you are really serious about learning to cook Balinese food, this is the perfect tour for you!

The tour includes pick-up and drop-off from Ubud hotels, where you’ll be whisked away to Dewa and Jero’s charming traditional Balinese walled compound. 

Seeing inside a Balinese compound is a special privilege not every tourist gets to see, as you must be invited to do so. These are people’s homes, after all!

Luckily, on this tour you’ll be treated like one of the family, as Dewa, Jero, and their family help teach you some of their favorite Balinese dishes in a traditional wood-fired oven.

“What an incredible experience. This was so much more than a cooking class. We began with an extensive tour of Dewa’s village, lifestyle and culture… We cooked 5 dishes and have the entire recipes to take home. I would say this was one of the top highlights to our two week trip to Bali.” – Woodward M.

Read more reviews here!

You’ll also get to visit their garden and see what spices and herbs are grown in their compound, including galangal, cacao, cloves, and nutmeg.

The family stresses that this is not a professional cooking class, but rather an athentic learning experience where you can meet a local family — who happen to be excellent cooks — and learn about Balinese culture and food with them.

2. Subak Cooking School and Optional Market Visit

Balinese styled fried chicken with a delicious fried topping on top and sauce in the back

🕰️ Tour Length: 5 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (300+ reviews) | 🥣 Book Now

Sample Dishes You’ll Learn:
– Ayam bumbu (Balinese fried chicken)
– Tempe Manis (Fried tempeh with sweet sauce)
– Balinese vegetable soup

Check class prices and availability here!

If you want to learn to cook as many different types of Balinese food as possible, this is the cooking class for you!

This cooking class boasts the largest number of dishes they’ll teach you in a single class: an impressive nine dishes per class!

With so many dishes, you’re certain to find your new favorite Indonesian dish!

If you want to also learn a little more about Balinese culture, opt for the morning cooking class because it includes a market visit.

The afternoon class is still worthwhile, but the market is closed, so it’s impossible to combine a cooking class and a market visit in this way.

“Best experience ever. I really recommend doing the class in the morning youll never get to experience the local market like this without the tour” – Marina C.

Read more reviews here!

Note that since you learn to make so many dishes, this is a pretty jam-packed half-day cooking class.

It’s perfect for those really dedicated to learning Balinese cuisine and wanting to hone their cooking skills!

However, if you’re more of a casual cook and just want to learn a handful of traditional dishes, you may want to opt for a shorter cooking class in Bali.

3. Bali Paon Ubud Cooking Class

Minced chicken satay on bamboo skewers served on a leaf plate with cucumber and samba

🕰️ Tour Length: 5 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (70+ reviews) | 🥣 Book Now

Sample Dishes You’ll Learn:
– Opor ayam (chicken in coconut curry)
– Pepes ikan (steamed fish with spicy paste in banana leaves)
– Sate lilit Bali (minced chicken meat satay)


Check class availability and rates here!

For a more affordable Ubud cooking class, look for a group Balinese cooking class like this one.

You’ll learn to recreate all your Bali favorites while also visiting a local market to shop for the freshest ingredients (morning classes only).

While it’s not as intimate a setting as the private class on the family compound in the first tour listed, you’ll still get a chance to see a traditional Balinese home.

“I really enjoyed this experience, it was one of the favourite things I did on my visit to Bali. Visiting the market to understand the ingredients, and then going to a traditional Balinese house to cook in, which is set up in a class structure for cooking. The food we cooked was exceptional and I enjoy every part of this tour.” – Constance M.

Read more reviews here!

Mama Puspa, the host of this group Ubud cooking class, is jovial and welcoming, and she’ll quickly have you learning as much as you can in this half-day class.

That said, the downside of a larger group like this one is that you may not get to individually prepare each dish, since the dishes tend to be divvied up amongst the group.

However, for a fun group atmosphere perfect for solo travelers looking to meet other like-minded tourists, you’ll likely find that this is the ideal Ubud cooking class!

4. Farm-to-Table Ubud Cooking Class on Organic Farm

Traditional Indonesian gado gado, made of a mix of vegetables, tofu, egg, and served with a peanut sauce

🕰️ Tour Length: 6 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (30+ reviews) | 🥣 Book Now

Sample Dishes You’ll Make:
– Gado gado (freshly cooked veggies with peanut sauce)
– Satay lilit (chicken mince satay with bumbu bali spice paste)
– Black rice pudding (sticky rice with palm sugar and coconut milk)


Check availability for this Ubud cooking class here!

All of these Ubud cooking classes offer fresh, delicious Balinese dishes you’ll drool over long after your class ends.

But nothing is fresher then when the produce from its own organic farm is used for your cooking class in Ubud!

Plus, the farm is community-run, ensuring that the entirety of a local community gets to benefit from tourism.

Plus, this is one of the more vegetarian- and vegan-friendly Ubud cooking classes — you’ll be split into vegetarian and non-vegetarian groups, and even the veggie groups will have vegan adaptations.

“My husband and I are vegan and were a little apprehensive about doing this class, where some people might be cooking meat, over one that was fully vegan. However, the class was extremely vegan friendly – the group was split at the beginning into vegetarians and non-veg (about 2 thirds of the group of 12 were vegetarian), all meat prep was done in a different room before being cooked in a different part of the open air kitchen, and all vegetarian recipes had a vegan version!” – Louise B.

Read more reviews here!

This is the perfect cooking class if organic food and sustainable farming practices are just as interesting to you as learning to cook delicious meals.

You’ll get to pick your very own vegetables, plucked fresh from the garden, before learning to make six Indonesian dishes which vary by what’s fresh and in season.

You’ll even get to take home your very own recipe book so you can easily recreate the magic at home — a very thoughtful touch!

It’s a great way to spend an Ubud day trip!

5. Private Market Tour (with Photography) + Family Cooking Class

Fried vegetable fritters as part of a Ubud cooking class meal

🕰️ Tour Length: 5 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (80+ reviews) | 🥣 Book Now

Sample Dishes You’ll Make:
– Satay ayam (chicken skewers roasted over an open fire)
– Gado gado (freshly cooked veggies with peanut sauce)
– Bakwan sayur (fried mixed vegetable fritters)

Check class availability and prices here!

This tour is similar to other Ubud cooking classes that start with a market tour before bringing you into a family home to learn some Balinese classics.

However, this is a completely private class experience, making the cost a little higher than some other cooking classes, but not dramatically so.

The individualized attention and customization you can request is a great value-add for a minimalistic price increase.

Your host, Putu, will warmly welcome you and show you the ins and outs of a Balinese market, allowing you ample time to not only shop but stop and snap pictures of the market if you like.

“Putu was an wonderful, gracious host! Her family immediately made us feel welcome… The market tour was fascinating, trying new fruits, experiencing new scents, and watching daily Balinese life unfold. Both Putu and her cousin who helped with the cooking had good English and were able to easily communicate things about their culture and way of life.” – Kyle S.

Read more reviews here!

You and Putu will cook about 2-3 main dishes, so it’s more about in-detail quality education as opposed to churning out as many dishes as possible.

It’s a great choice to start small if longer, more intensive Ubud cooking classes are intimidating. 

It’s also shorter than other tours, with the cooking portion lasting a little under 2 hours.

If you’re looking for a starter, private cooking class in Ubud, this class should be your pick!

6. Private Multigenerational Compound Visit with Meal + Private Cooking Class

Balinese gado gado and rice at an Ubud cooking class

🕰️ Tour Length: 3 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (220+ reviews) | 🥣 Book Now

Sample Dishes You’ll Make:
– Gado gado (green veggies and peanut sauce)
– Tempe manis (sweet fried tempeh)
– Balinese vegetable soup

Check class availability and rates here!

Feel truly like part of a Balinese family when you join this Ubud cooking class in a multi-generational compound.

Compounds are a uniquely Balinese way of living, intertwined with culture and religion, and it’s not something every tourist gets to experience.

Mixing a private visit to a family compound with a private cooking class is an excellent way to see a different side to Bali that many people miss.

In between cooking, you can also tour the family temple and compound, seeing where they grow jackfruit, cacao, coffee, bananas, and more, as well as keeping their pigs, ducks, chickens, and cows.

“We had a wonderful night cooking with Putu in her home. Not only did we learn about traditional Balinese food, we learned about her family’s religion and Balinese culture… They were extremely welcoming and spoke great English. Our family of four had a private cooking lesson and we made five traditional Balinese dishes, followed by a huge dinner and local beers.” – Lori M.

Read more reviews here!

You’ll appreciate that everything is prepped and chopped for you before your arrival, so you can just focus on the fun cooking part and none of the prep work!

Once you make a meal — typically at least 5 dishes — your host, Putu and her husband Pasta, their children, and her grandparents, will all join you for a delicious lunch or dinner in the compound.

You’ll also get to learn about traditional Balinese medicine that Putu makes called jamu, local alcohol made in Bali, and about her grandparents’ local rice farm nearby.

7. 4-Hour Balinese Cooking Class in Ubud

Balinese lilit sate with mixed veggies served on a banana leaf

🕰️ Tour Length: 4 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.8/5 stars (120+ reviews) | 🥣 Book Now

Sample Dishes You’ll Make:
– Tahu kare (tofu curry with Balinese spices) 
– Lawar bali (mixed Balinese-style vegetables)
– Dadar galung (cake with coconut and palm sugar)

Check cooking class + tour availability and rates here!

Running short on time in Bali and you want don’t watn to spend all day in an Ubud cooking class?

This half-day 4-hour tour encompasses a morning market tour and a Balinese cooking class with veggie options available, all in a short amount of time.

You’ll cook Balinese classics ranging from sate lilit to ayam jamur soup to pepes tuna, depending on what’s fresh that day!

“We had the best morning, exploring the market and being introduced to ingredients… We got to eat everything at the end, our hosts were friendly and funny. One of the best experiences we’ve had so far!” – Claire

Read more reviews here!

This is the perfect tour for people with limited time in Bali who want to tackle as much as they can in a single, convenient outing.

And even with that short time, you’ll still be able to sample a surprising amount of dishes!

FAQs about Cooking Classes in Ubud

Is there a vegetarian or vegan option for the dishes?

Vegan prepared food in the Balinese tradition with typical Indonesian plating

Bali is an extremely vegetarian and vegan friendly destination, and many cooking classes will offer vegetarian versions on request.

Check each individual class to see if they specify whether vegan or vegetarian options are available.

This class most definitely caters to vegans and vegetarians, with a separate group always dedicated to plant-based travelers, and meat-eaters prepare their food in a separate area.

How much does a typical cooking class in Bali cost?

This depends where you visit in Bali — Ubud is generally cheaper than say, Seminyak or Canggu or Uluwatu.

The price of a cooking class in Ubud largely depends on how large the group is and if the tour offers something special, like a compound or farm visit.

Generally, the cheapest tours are around $25 per person and the priciest tours are about $75 per person.

Are private classes available?

chicken satay served in a wooden bowl with beautiful plating and detail of the appetizer

Definitely! There are private classes available if you prefer more individualized attention, usually for quite fair prices.

For example, this private cooking class is relatively inexpensive and also includes a compound visit and a chance to be welcomed into a traditional Balinese home.

This private cooking class is a little more pricy, but it also includes a market visit with chance for photography!

Are these cooking classes able to accommodate allergies or intolerances?

This will largely depend on class to class, and it’ll also depend on the severity of your allergy.

For example, peanuts are very popular in Balinese cuisine, so if you have a severe allergy to peanuts, it’s unlikely that these cooking classes will be a safe environment for you.

If you have celiac, you may be able to eat some of the dishes, but communicate well with your hosts regarding what gluten actually is and what ingredients (like soy sauce) have it.

Traditional Balinese Foods You Might Make

a blue tablecloth with a beautifully plated serving platter of different balinese dishes on it

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most famous Balinese dishes you might make on an Ubud cooking class.

  • Gado-Gado: Traditionally made with a mix of vegetables, tofu, tempeh, and sometimes boiled eggs, vegans can opt for a version without the eggs. The dish is drizzled with a tasty savory-sweet peanut sauce that is all-too-addicting.
  • Sate Lilit: This kebab-style dish is made of minced meat (typically fish or chicken). The meat is mixed with grated coconut, coconut milk, lime leaves, and spices. Then, it’s wrapped around bamboo sticks and grilled.
a smattering of different balinese dishes
  • Soto Ayam: This flavorful chicken soup is made with turmeric so that it’s a beautifully sunny yellow color. It’s served with rice, vermicelli, and a variety of garnishes.
  • Pepes Ikan: Fish, typically tuna or something else locally caught, is wrapped in banana leaves with a blend of herbs and spices, then it is either steamed or grilled.
  • Ayam Pelalah: Shredded chicken is seasoned with chili, lime leaves, and other spices for a tasty chicken salad-like dish.
mortar and pestle with balinese food being prepared in the center
  • Nasi Goreng: Indonesian fried rice, typically made with egg cut into ribbons, vegetables, and a protein of choice, often chicken or tofu.
  • Pisang Goreng: For something sweet, the quintessential Balinese desert is fried bananas. It’s naturally vegan, simply made by frying banana slices in a batter until crispy

8 Awesome Things to Do in Agrigento, Sicily [2024]

Town center of Agrigento with a tannish brown and white hued church with steps leading up to it and also a belltower in the church

The gateway to the spectacular Valley of the Temples, Agrigento is one of the most popular places to visit in Sicily.

Whether you only have a few days or you’re planning a longer road trip around Sicily, you should absolutely spend at least a day in Agrigento and appreciate its small town charms.

I visited Agrigento on one of my road trips through Sicily, and it was among my favorite places on the island.

Downtown cityscape of the old town of Agrigento Sicily
Planning a last-minute trip to Agrigento? Here are my quick tips!

> What to Do
1. Skip-the-Line Valley of Temples Ticket and Guided Tour (#1 reason to visit!)
2. 2-Hour Kayak Tour to Torre Salsa Nature Reserve (for active travelers!)
3. Guided Farm Tour & Sicilian Lunch (great for family fun!)

> Where to Stay
1. Villa Athena Resort (5*, some rooms overlook the Temple Concordia!)
2. Colleverde Park Hotel (4*, temple complex views from patio)
3. B&B Triskéles (eclectic B&B with sweeping sea views)

Wandering through the Valley of the Temples is an experience unlike any other, but the historical center of Agrigento is also worth exploring in its own right!

In this short guide, you’ll find the best landmarks and activities in Agrigento, along with a few tips to make the most of your trip (no matter how short!)

Tips for Visiting Agrigento

The Valley of the temples in Agrigento with stairs leading to the temple ruins

Before diving into the attractions, I want to give you a few quick tips to help you plan your trip. Firstly, you’ll have to plan your trip according to the season you visit Agrigento.

You won’t be surprised to hear that summer is the most popular time to travel to Sicily, but if that’s the only time you can visit, you can make life easier by preparing for crowds and increased prices. 

Booking your accommodation in advance, buying attraction tickets online, and choosing weekdays over weekends can all help you have a more pleasant experience. If you can, choose the shoulder seasons to make the most of your time in Sicily! 

Early spring and late fall are the perfect mix of good weather and smaller crowds. However, winter is also a good time, since the temperatures rarely go below 14°C (57°F).

downtown cityscape of agrigento with balconies and lanterns in the facades

While you can visit Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples in one day if you move quickly and plan carefully, I really recommend spending at least a night in the city.

This will give you the chance to get to know it better without rushing through your visit to the archaeological park. 

One last tip: Agrigento is the perfect stop on a Sicily road trip itinerary, so if you’re traveling with a rental car, you’ll be in luck!

Best Things to Do in Agrigento

One of the giant heads in the valley of the temples in agrigento sicily

Agrigento is among the most popular cities in Sicily, but to be honest, most people just visit for the Valley of the Temples. While this is a must-see, Agrigento has so much more to offer than just this! 

Here are the best things to do in this charming hilltop Sicilian city, one of the best places in Sicily for history and culture!

Explore the Valley of the Temples

a bronze figure sculpture in front of one of the temple ruins of an ancient greek city in the sicilian town of agrigento

Of course, we still have to mention the Valley of the Temples Archaeological Park (in Italian, Valle dei Templi), since is by far the most popular tourist attraction in Agrigento and among the most visited in Sicily.

Being so popular, be prepared for crowds at these ancient ruins. However, it’s absolutely worth the visit, so go ahead and schedule the time to explore this wonderful archaeological site.

Just south of Agrigento’s historic center, the Valley of the Temples is an archaeological area featuring incredibly well-preserved ancient Greek temples and other ruins.

In 1997, the site was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its status as one of the most outstanding examples of Greek architecture in what used to be the Magna Grecia region.  

Prepare to spend several hours exploring this area and wandering through the magnificent temples and other ancient remains. Fun fact: this is Europe’s largest archaeological park!

one of the old ruined buildings of agrigento's valley of the temples with several doric temples from the ancient times

Visiting the park takes at least 2 hours, and that’s assuming you move at a fast pace and don’t stop much. I recommend setting aside 3-4 hours for an independent visit to really take in all the sights.

The most impressive structure is the Temple of Concordia, a Doric temple dating to the 4th century BCE. Other notable buildings are the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Juno, the Temple of Castor, the Temple of Heracles, and the Temple of the Dioscuri.

You can explore the park by yourself, following the marked route to see all of its Greek ruins and Doric temples. The park is open daily from early in the morning until pretty late in the evening, so you can easily fit this into your schedule. 

An adult entry ticket is 13€, and can be purchased online directly from the archaeological site here. Note that if you happen to visit on the first Sunday of the month between 8:30 AM and 7:00 PM, entrance is free!

sunset over the ruined greek city landscape of valley of the temples in agrigento sicily

Another option is to join a guided tour of the Valley of the Temples, such as on this 2-hour guided tour: the perfect choice if you don’t have much time and want to make the most of your time in the park. 

Plus, this way, you can learn more about the magnificent ancient Greek architecture from your guide. The activity even includes the chance to save time by skipping the line — definitely worth special consideration in summer!

One last option worth exploring is the Valley of the Temples sunset tour. You’ll start exploring the park with your guide just as the sun goes down so you can enjoy a magical view of the temples in the soft sunset light.

Book your daytime 2-hour tourBook your sunset tour

Check out the Kolymbethra Garden

Agrigento's Kolymbethra Garden with hay bales, small wall, and desert-like arid landscape of sicily in summer

While you’re exploring the Valley of the Temples, you ought to also stop by the Kolymbethra Garden.

This peaceful garden within the archaeological park captures Sicily’s flavors, scents, and colors in a delightful green corner.

These gardens date back over two millennia when the Greek city of Akragas (now known as Agrigento) designed a series of irrigation channels leading to a nearby reservoir called Colimbetra (hence the name).

In the garden, you can walk through olive groves, almond trees, and citrus trees and enjoy their delightful fragrances. 

Just a heads up as you’re planning, access to the garden requires an extra fee on top of the access to the Valley of the Temples. However, the fee is just a reasonable 3€, so it’s a small price to pay.

Visit the Archaeological Museum Pietro Griffo

Photo Credit: Von Holger Uwe Schmitt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 If you want to learn more about the Valley of the Temples, supplement your itinerary with a visit to the archaeological museum of Agrigento, Pietro Griffo

The museum complements your visit to the archaeological park for a small extra fee if you buy the combined ticket. It costs more when bought separately, so if you’re interested, it’s better to get the combined ticket.

Pietro Griffo is home to a vast collection of archaeological artifacts that were unearthed from the Valley of the Temples, including vases, sculptures, coins, inscriptions, and decorative elements from ancient sanctuaries.

Explore the old town of Agrigento

Town center of Agrigento with a tannish brown and white hued church with steps leading up to it and also a belltower in the church

While you might want to dedicate most of your time to exploring the Valley of the Temples, save some time for the old town of Agrigento.

Agrigento’s medieval center dates to the 11th century and features charming alleys, squares, and stairways, all of which are not to be missed!

Stroll along the main street, explore hidden alleyways, and check out the beautiful Baroque churches. Cattedrale di San Gerlando, Chiesa di Santo Spirito, and Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Greci are three absolute must-see churches in Agrigento. 

Santa Maria dei Greci church in Agrigento, Sicily with bricks and belltower and blue sky

One spot you can’t miss is Scalinata degli Artisti or the Artists’ Stairway. Check out the painted steps on this picturesque stairway and admire the beautiful street art in the area! 

And of course, be sure to head to Belvedere Domenico Modugno for a stunning panoramic view of the valley surrounding Agrigento.

Enjoy tasty local food

sicily sardines with orange and stuffed with delicious filling

To complete your stay in Agrigento, try some delicious local food. The historical center offers countless options for every taste. 

If you’re craving tasty, heartwarming food, head to Naif and try local dishes like caponata, cavatelli alla norma, and linguine with almond pesto.

If you’re looking for a quick bite and you’re a fan of seafood, you have to try the sandwiches or fried fish at Cusà Fish

Lastly, for a special night out, enjoy the fine dining at Sal8. The specialties are fish-based, but they also serve meat and vegetarian options so you’re sure to find something to enjoy! 

Have a beach day in Porto Empedocle

yellow and blue striped umbrellas on a sicily beach

Agrigento isn’t itself a coastal town, but it’s just a short distance inland, making it easy to pop over to the beach town of Porto Empodocle (halfway to the Scala dei Turchi, the next spot on this list).

Grab a patch of beach in the free section of Spiaggia di Marinella, or for more amenities, you can also rent a chair and umbrellas at the Lido Marinella.

Take a day trip to Scala dei Turchi

white cliffs and yellow sand on the beach with beautiful blue waters on the coast of sicily's southern coast

If you’re going to spend a more than one day in Agrigento, you ought to take at least half a day to explore the impressive Scala dei Turchi (Turks’ Stairs)

These white cliffs sinking in the turquoise waters is one of the most scenic spots on the southern coast of Sicily.

You can reach the parking area in under 20 minutes by car from Agrigento or by bus during the summer months. 

Note that access to the cliffs themselves is forbidden, but you can admire the stunning landscape from a nearby beach or from above at Belvedere Scala dei Turchi.

Take a boat tour of the Scala dei Turchi

people sitting on the white cliff edges of the scala dei turchi in sicily

Another way to explore this scenic spot is by joining this Stair of the Turks Boat Tour and admire the white cliff from another vantage point — down below it!

During this 4-hour tour, you can admire the beautiful cliffs from the boat, swim in the clear waters just off the coast, and enjoy other spectacular views along the gorgeous Sicilian seascape.

Book your boat tour here!

The 13 Best Douro Valley Wine Tours From Porto [My Top Picks]

a selection of wines in douro valley portugal on a ledge wtih the river behind it

Portugal is known for many things: from its dramatic coastline to its decadent castles and its dreamy azulejos, it’s become a fan favorite in Europe for many reasons.

But there’s another big draw to Portugal for those in-the-know… its wines!

Just how good Portugal’s wine scene really is is a well-kept secret amongst wine geeks… mostly because Portuguese wine is still rather affordable, but it might not be once word gets out! 

However, there is one wine that Portugal produces that practically everyone knows: port, designated officially as Vinho do Porto. 

Table with wine and pastries in the view over the river in Porto, Portugal

Port is produced in the Douro Valley region, close to the lively tourist hub of Porto, Portugal’s second-most famous city… 

While Porto is a great city to spend one day or two days in, it’s also a great launching off pad for adventures to the Northern Portugal wine region.

So it should come as no surprise that there are so many Douro Valley wine tours from Porto (and tons of great day trips from Porto, generally).

While you could rent a car and tour the Douro Valley independently… that would mean you’d have to cut back on your tastings, and who wants to do that?

Especially when there’s so much tasty port to be had!

Port is a delicious and complex fortified dessert wine that will have even avowed “anything-but-sweet” wine lovers eating – rather, drinking – their words.

There are many sweet and fortified wines out there in the world, but there’s a reason port is practically synonymous with dessert wine: it’s iconic for a reason.

Generally, Port is made from red wine grapes, but if you explore the wine scene in Porto, you’ll also find some delicious white port that rarely makes it overseas!

Table with wine and pastries in the view over the river in Porto, Portugal

And if you’re not a fan of sweet wine, fret not – Porto is also close to the Minho region, where the ever-so-slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine is produced.

I’ve poured through (get it?) all the wine tours from Porto because trust me: there’s a lot out there and it’s quite overwhelming.

I’ve distilled it down (sorry, I can’t stop making port puns) to the ones that truly stand out amongst the crowd, either for being the most highly-rated favorites or for offering a unique experience that other Porto wine tours don’t. 

Here we go!

My Top 3 Picks: Douro Wine Tours from Porto

No time to read the full article about these wine tours and just want my top 3 picks and the highlights of each?

#1 TOP PICK

Image of two red wine glasses with vineyards in Douro Valley, Portugal on the background. Clinking glasses in celebration

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Douro Valley Tour with Wine Tasting, Cruise and Lunch
✔️ Visit two wineries
✔️ Scenic hour-long cruise on the Douro River

↳ Book it

#2 PICK

woman in a sunhat and sundress holding a glass of red wine looking to the vineyards and the peaceful river in Douro Valley, Portugal on a sunny day

Douro Valley Vineyards Tour with Lunch
✔️ Visit three different wineries
✔️ Local-style lunch in a vineyard setting

↳ Book it

#3 PICK

more glasses of wine to taste in the douro valley wine region, two reds and one white, next to grapes, in front of the douro river view

Douro Valley Private Full–Day Tour from Porto
✔️ Visit two incredible wineries
✔️ Sightseeing on the Douro River via a one-hour river cruise

↳ Book it

The 13 Top Wine Tours From Porto

1.  Douro Valley Tour with Wine Tasting, Cruise and Lunch

Image of two red wine glasses with vineyards in Douro Valley, Portugal on the background. Clinking glasses in celebration

⌛ Tour Length: 9.5 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.7/5 stars (1250+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Trusted & top rated with 1,200+ reviews
-Two wineries visits, lunch & coffee break in Peso da Régua
-Scenic hour-long cruise on the Douro River


Read more about this wine tasting tour here!

This full-day Douro Valley wine tour from Porto pampers you for a full day, driving and cruising through the most scenic parts of Northern Portugal (while plying you with delicious port tastings to boot).

With well over a thousand ratings, this wine tour is one of the most popular Douro Valley day trips from Porto, and when you look at all that’s included, it’s not hard to see why!

Your day wine tasting in the Douro Valley starts with a trip to Peso da Régua, a charming town right in the heart of the winemaking region. 

This is a trip to definitely take. We had a great day in a small group and our guide Pedro was excellent. The different vineyards we visited gave a good learning experience of how Port wine is produced. The cruise was also really nice and relaxing. Everything fit so well, the views, the wine tastings and were not too overwhelming.

Read more reviews here!

You’ll have a quick coffee pick-me-up in town to perk you up after the drive, and then it’s time to get to tasting!

On the tour, you’ll get the chance to sample a variety of delicious ports at two port houses (quintas) while enjoying spectacular views of the vineyards.

And you’ll need something to soak up all that port, so don’t worry – lunch is also included in the tour. Fish, meat, and vegetarian options are all available.

After that, it’s time to get back to Porto. But the fun doesn’t stop there, because this tour saved the best views for last!

You can enjoy a one-hour cruise along the Douro River, the perfect chance to sightsee and get to know some of the other people on your tour!

2. Douro Valley Full-Day Wine Trip with Lunch

autumn grapevine in Douro River Valley with reddish and green leaves and hills in the background with fall colors changing shades

⌛ Tour Length: 9 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.8/5 stars (645+ reviews) |🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
Olive oil tastings & cheese pairing with port
-A scenic tour of the charming Pinhão
-River cruise in the middle of the day


Read more about this Douro valley wine tour here!

This is another popular Douro wine tour from Porto that comes highly recommended with over 600 reviews and a near-perfect rating.

Your first stop is Croft Vineyards, where you’ll learn the intricacies of producing quality port wine.

But of course, you learn best by doing, right? So obviously, you’ll need to do a little port wine tasting.

Plus, it sure doesn’t hurt to have an array of Portuguese cheeses accompanying your port wine tasting!

After your first tasting has gotten you feeling all warm and fuzzy, Next up is Pinhão, a scenic village in the heart of the Douro wine region.

“The vinyards were well chosen, lots to taste (including cheese, honey and olive oil) and great lunch. We were a small group of 5 and were never rushed, it didn‘t feel like a typical organised tour! Pedro was a wonderful guide and driver: funny, knowledgeable and overall a great guy!”

Read more reviews here!

This Porto wine tour differs from the first in that you do a scenic boat cruise between the two winery visits rather than on the way home.

It’s a nice way to sober up between tastings, and the light in the valley is beautiful at this time of day too! 

After a classic Portuguese lunch (vegetarian options included), it’s time to hit another local winery for some more tastings – this time, you’ll visit a small local producer who specializes in everyday table wines.

After learning about these regional wines, you’ll end the tour with some olive oil tastings for good measure!

P.S.: The drive back home as your day trip from Porto to the Douro Valley comes to an end is as scenic as it gets!

3. Douro Valley Vineyards Tour with Lunch

woman in a sunhat and sundress holding a glass of red wine looking to the vineyards and the peaceful river in Douro Valley, Portugal on a sunny day

⌛ Tour Length: 9 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.9/5 stars (340+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
Visit three different wineries, more than other tours
-Opportunity to compare family-run wineries and larger producers
-Local-style lunch in a vineyard setting


➜ Read more about this wine tour here!

This Douro Valley tour from Porto is for the wine overachievers: here, you’ll visit not two wineries like most Porto wine tours, but actually three!

With three tastings scheduled, here’s a lot of ground to cover in 9 hours, and your guide will help you make the most of every moment of your port wine tasting day trip!

The tour covers three premier wineries in the Douro Valley region, ensuring that you’ll get to experience the best wine tasting Porto has to offer.

Besides the unforgettable DOC and port wine, the first winery offers a thorough tour of its cellars too.

“Fantastic experience!!! The landscape of the Douro Valley is breathtaking and we tasted a lot of wines!!! The lunch was delicious and they accomodated for food intolerances. Steve was a great guide and not only was he full of information but quite the entertainer, so we were constantly laughing. I really enjoyed this full day experience.”

Read more reviews here!

On your visit to the second winery, you’ll get to try even more wines – but not before you also fill your belly, since this winery is where you’ll enjoy a delicious Portuguese lunch!

Your last winery is a big-name port producer, and it offers another cellar tour along with some prime countryside views.

By seeing all three vineyards, you’ll get to compare the differences between smaller, family-run quintas and larger-scale wine producers.

Before heading back to Porto, there’s an unforgettable drive along Route 222. It’s the perfect ending for photographers and sightseers!

4. Porto: Douro Valley Hike and Winery Tour w/ Tasting & Picnic

Pinhao train station with its azulejos and old clock

⌛ Tour Length: 10 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.9/5 stars (10+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
Active tour with less time in transit and more time out in nature
-A scenic hike through Douro Valley to reach Pinhão
-Tasting of three wines alongside a picnic lunch


➜ Read more about this wine & tasting tour here!

You’ll need a pair of sturdy shoes for this wine tour from Porto, since it also includes a hike in the Douro Valley!

If you prefer to be out and active rather than sitting in a van all day being shuttled from location to location, this is the perfect day trip to the Douro Valley for you. 

You’ll be hiking through the countryside and its vineyard-covered rolling hills to reach your first winery in Pinhão – and your reward is definitely worth it.

“I expected something harder as it was mentioned in other reviews, however for a hiker is easy, for a beginner might be a bit harder but super doable. Even expecting something more challenging, I have to say I really loved the day and the picnic was the highlight.”

Read more reviews here!

What better way to take a break from your hike than with a picnic? You’ll taste three wines –  both red and white – alongside a selection of charcuterie, bread, and cakes

You have 10 hours to work with and nobody to rush you, so feel free to explore the surrounding nature after the picnic!

And that’s not even in Pinhão! Once you actually reach the scenic village, you get to walk around at your leisure.

If you pay a little extra, you can even do a boat tour and immerse yourself in the heart of the river that gives the Douro Valley its name.

5. Porto: Douro Valley Wine Tour and Boat Cruise with Lunch with Locals

a election of wines in douro valley portugal on a ledge wtih the river behind it

⌛ Tour Length: 9 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.9/5 stars (85+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Meet small, family-run wineries producing red & white wines
-Boat tour of the Douro Valley
-Local lunch in a tasca in Pinhão

Read more about this wine tour here!

Often, we forget about all the hard work it takes to make the delicious wines we drink – but this tour focuses on the people behind the small family-run wineries in the Douro Valley.

This tour focuses only on small wineries, so you’ll get a more intimate experience than you would at larger wine producers. 

Besides red and white wines, your first winery includes olive oil tastings, as well as local bread, cheese, and jam.

Andre was an excellent guide! Shared lots of fun facts with us and had great energy. He ensured everything flowed smoothly and was an enjoyable day for all. Couldn’t recommend this trip enough!

Read more reviews here!

That’s not all you’ll be eating, though –  the gorgeous village of Pinhão is home to a lovely local tasca, where you can enjoy a two-course lunch.

Next up is the centerpiece, the boat tour of Douro Valley. It’s hard to resist a wine tour from Porto that includes a one-hour boat cruise!

One more scenic drive and winery visit later, you can head back to Porto with your heart and belly full!

6. Private Douro Valley 4WD Tour with Wine Tasting and Picnic

View from a miradouro above the Douro River with vineyards and quintas below and the river bisecting the valley

⌛ Tour Length: 10 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.9/5 stars (10+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Going off-road for a unique exploration of the Douro Valley
-Sampling Portugal’s finest port wines
-Enjoying a picnic at a scenic vista point


Read more about this wine and tasting tour here!

This private wine tour of the Douro Valley takes you off the beaten path – literally! – to explore the Douro Valley via 4WD.

As you make your way through the mountains, marvel at the gorgeous landscape and pass a series of charming wineries.

“Our guides, Diogo and Rue, were funny, entertaining and well-informed about not only the history of Douro Valley and port wine, but about the history of Portugal. My friends and I had an incredible time off-roading with these two, learning about the area, and sampling Croft port.”

Read more reviews here!

You’re in for a smooth ride despite the bumpy terrain, and your guides will share all kinds of interesting knowledge about Portugal and the Douro Valley.

After a small picnic at a scenic spot, you get to the main course – the delicious port wines over at a classic quinta!

The ride there is absolutely unforgettable, but wait until you’ve seen the Valley at sunset on your return trip!

7. Douro Valley: Private Premium Wine Tasting and Boat Trip with Lunch

Cruise ship at Foz do Tua, Douro Valley, Portugal, with the Port wine vineyards in the background

⌛ Tour Length: 8 hours | 🌟 Rating: New! | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Two-hour yacht ride along the Douro River
-Lunch at a restaurant with a panoramic view
-Private experience with two winery tastings, including port & DOC wines


Read more about this Douro wine tasting tour here!

If any private wine tour from Porto deserves to be called premium, it’s this one! I mean, how many wine tours also include a yacht cruise?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – first you’ll get picked up at your hotel and brought to a prestigious Douro Valley winery, where you’ll get to try both regional DOC varietals as well as the star of the show, port wine.

That said, things really pick up when you hop onto the yacht and sail the Douro River!

Unlike other wine tours on this list, this is a two-hour cruise – meaning you have at least twice as much time on the water than any of the other tours!

The two-hour cruise includes food, wine, and countless fascinating stories about one of Portugal’s most distinguished regions.

“Terrific trip to Douro Valley. Antonio was an excellent guide and driver. He was accommodating, knowledgeable, and polite.”

Read more reviews here!

The Douro River played a big part in transporting wine from the Douro Valley to Porto back in the day, and having this knowledge in your pocket will definitely enrich your appreciation of the next tastings!

Before that, next up is a full-on lunch at a restaurant overlooking the river. Even more marvelous views for you to take in!

Topping things off is another winery visit for one last taste of DOC wines and delicious port before returning back to Porto.

Note that this is a private wine tour and there is a minimum of four participants in order to book the tour.

8. Private Douro Valley Premium Tour

a traditional rabelo boat that is used to transport wine on the douro river

⌛ Tour Length: 9 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.5/5 stars (10+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
-Boat tour in a rabelo, a traditional boat of Porto
-A private walking tour of a typical Douro Valley village
-Trying different varietals other tours don’t cover such as Moscatel


➜ Read more about this premium tour here!

If you want an intimate look into the Douro Valley, it doesn’t get any better than this private full-day Porto to Douro Valley day trip!

Once you’ve oohed and aahed your way through the scenic drive into the Douro Valley, you’ll arrive at the first vineyard, where a local producer will proudly have you sample some of his finest work!

After that, you’ll get some fresh air as you take a walk through a local Douro Valley village that’s begging to be explored. 

All that drinking and sightseeing will make you hungry, but this tour takes care of that with a feast at an 18th-century manor house!

“João is an exceptional tour guide. He has a deep knowledge of subject matter for his tours; food, history, culture, You ask a question and get ready for a very interesting and factual explanation. I highly recommend any of his excursionS and plan to use him again”

Read more reviews here!

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a one-hour boat ride you’ll remember for the rest of your life

Because this is such an intimate tour, you’ll get the chance to ride on a traditional rabelo boat that was historically used to transport wine.

Most tours have you go on a larger river cruising boat, but this is the real deal.

Rabelos are to the Douro River as much as gondolas are to Venice, so it’s a truly iconic experience.

And since there’s no such thing as a bad view in the Douro Valley, you’ll admire the sunlight changing the colors of the hills as your driver takes the panoramic Route 222 back to Porto.

9. Douro Valley Private Full–Day Tour from Porto

more glasses of wine to taste in the douro valley wine region, two reds and one white, next to grapes, in front of the douro river view

⌛ Tour Length: 9 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.8/5 stars (30+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
Private tour bookable for individuals or groups
-Two fantastic tastings including port & a generous lunch
-A 1-hour boat tour before going back to Porto


Read more about this full-day tour here!

Here’s a private wine tour from Porto you can enjoy totally by yourself or just with your own group!

During your lovely drive to the Douro Valley, you’ll kick things off with some information on the region’s winemaking history.

“We were picked up at our apartment. Traveled to Duro Valley where we toured 2 Vineyards, took a boat ride on the Duro river and had a great lunch before we were brought back to our apartment. A tour worth taking!”

Read more reviews here!

You get to try wine from two incredible wineries, including port wine samples. You’ll be hard pressed to decide which one is better!

Naturally, a Portuguese lunch goes great with wine, and you definitely won’t be leaving the tour hungry!

After a full day of wining and dining, the cherry on top is getting to do some sightseeing on the Douro River via a one-hour river cruise.

10. Private Tour of the Douro Valley: Full-Day Boat, Train, and Lunch Tour

historic train going through the douro valley region

⌛ Tour Length: 8 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.4/5 stars (15+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
Traveling through a historic wine region by boat and train
-Enjoying lunch with the locals of Foz do Tua
-A wine-tasting session in the afternoon set to amazing views


➜ Read more about this private tour in Douro here!

Yeah, yeah, a lot of these day trips to the Douro Valley from Porto also include a boat cruise

But this tour takes it up a notch: if boat rides aren’t enough, this wine tour from Porto throws a scenic train ride into the mix!

The routes you’ll be traveling (both by river and rail) were once used to transport wine barrels from the Douro to Porto. Talk about an immersive tour!

“This is the best way to experience the Douro Valley. It is a journey through one of the most beautiful valleys of the world by boat and train. The local food and wine is superb while enjoying a stunning view. Our guide Pedro was extremely professional and gave us a lot more than expected. He loves his job and was the key for a perfect vacation day at the Douro Valley in Portugal. We will return!”

Read more reviews here!

After reaching Foz do Tua from Pinhão, you’ll take a short walk to a restaurant and have a local lunch.

Nearly everyone you meet is in the winemaking business, so you’re guaranteed to meet some interesting people!

The wine tasting comes at the end of the tour, and you’ll really be in the spirit of things by then!

Not to mention, the unique landscape of the Valley is a sight you’ll never forget.

What could be better than admiring nature with friends on a private tour?

11. Private Off the Beaten Path Douro Valley Tour

view of wineries of the douro valley from an overlook point

⌛ Tour Length: 8.5 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (85+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
Enjoying wine samples from high-quality family wineries
-Eating a festive lunch for an added fee
-Seeing the hidden gems of the Douro Valle


Read more about this tour in Douro here!

This wine tour from Porto will show you a side of the Douro Valley you never knew existed!

Following the Douro River, you’ll make your way to a boutique winery in Sabrosa to start things off.

Peso Da Régua is next up with another great tasting, and you can even grab some lunch here at a local tasca, though it’s not included in the cost of the tour.

“So very enjoyable, relaxing, beautiful ride out to Douro Valley, great tastings, Joao was so very nice and very informative.”

Read more reviews here!

The alheira (a special kind of Portuguese sausage) is exquisite, but there’s also chocolate cake served with pistachio ice cream if you have a sweet tooth.

Lamego is your last stop, where you can check out a family-run winery and taste some of their best stuff.

Also, your guide is the person to take you through the region. Feel free to ask anything about these lesser-known parts of the Valley!

12. Vinho Verde Wineries and Guimarães Tour with Lunch

Vineyards prepared for the collection of grapes, agricultural field in Minho Region, the biggest wine producing region in Portugal

⌛ Tour Length: 8 hours | 🌟 Rating: New! | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
One of few tours that showcases Vinho Verde wines
-Getting to visit a historic manor
-Eating lunch in and exploring Guimarães


➜ Read more about this wine tour here!

OK, so we’ve focused a lot on red wines and port so far.

But let’s not forget that Northern Portugal is also where some of the country’s most popular white wines are produced!

This is a must-try wine tour from Porto if you want to taste some Vinho Verde, which is Portuguese for “green wine.”

This “green wine” is named so more for its youthfulness than its color, as it’s a young wine meant to be drank quickly after harvest rather than saved for posterity and aging.

On the tour, you start your tastings at a centuries-old manor, where you get to try Vinho Verde as well as Alvarinho, another delicious white wine varietal.

“Amazing day with our guide Hugo. Informative and entertaining with much food and great wine. We visited 2 excellent small vineyards with knowledgeable hosts and generous amounts of wine. We then had a lovely lunch in Guimaraes and Hugo guided us around this great town. Do not miss this.”

Read more reviews here!

You’ll also get a tour of the property, and there sure is a lot to see!

Next, another winemaker will welcome you to their lovely home and teach you about the production process.

Finally, there’s some culture to throw into the mix on this tour, as you’ll also pay a visit to the charming city of Guimarães.

Guimarães is the old capital of Portugal, and it’s a prime setting for a hearty lunch and even more wine before some sightseeing around this beautiful city  to let the food and drinks settle before returning to Portugal!

13. Private Vinho Verde Tour: Visit 2 Wineries with Wine Tastings & Lunch

Picking the grapes in a vineyard farm of Green Wine, Minho, Portugal

⌛ Tour Length: 10 hours | 🌟 Rating: 5/5 stars (10+ reviews) | 🍷 Book Now

Unique Features:
Tasting premier Vinho Verde from two high-end wineries
-A delicious lunch and crash course on the region
-Immersing yourself in the natural beauty of Minho


Read more about this wine and tasting tour here!

If you like the idea of trying lots of Vinho Verde, here’s another great choice for a wine tour from Porto for you

The tour covers the historic Minho region, of which Vinho Verde is a subregion.

This area is renowned for its quality wine, but in particular, its white wine shines the brightest.

This is an entirely private tour, so the whole experience feels very intimate and personalized.

“Our guide was amazing – picked us up at our hotel for a beautiful drive to Vinho Verde region. we visited two wineries, the first including lunch with a wonderful host.”

Read more reviews here!

The tour includes the chance to try Vinho Verde of the highest quality from two premier wineries and learn about its unique production method.

After some drinks, you’ll enjoy a mouthwatering Portuguese lunch as you listen to stories about what makes this region so special.

The tour is pretty long, but since it starts early in the morning, you’ll probably still have time for an evening out in Porto!

18 Lovely Things to Do in Lisbon in Winter

photo from lisbon's main square

Lisbon has been a hot destination in Europe for a few years now, and the hype continues to draw more visitors. 

However, while most people visit the city during the summer or shoulder months, visiting Lisbon in winter has several advantages. Most notably, you can avoid the crowds!

If you travel to Lisbon from November to February, you’ll find that the city still has plenty to offer, even if the weather isn’t great.

 Planning your trip to Lisbon at the last minute?

Here are my quick picks on what to do & where to stay!

🍷 Top Lisbon Experiences:
1. Fado Live Show with Port or Portuguese Tapas
2. Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Day Trip
3. Oceanário de Lisboa (Lisbon Aquarium) Ticket

🏨 Best Lisbon Hotels:
1. My Story Hotel Rossio (centrally located boutique hotel)
2. Pousada de Lisboa (Small Luxury Hotel of the World member)
3. Home Lisbon Hostel (mix of dorms and private rooms)

✈️ Flying in? Book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups — they’ll greet you at the airport, help with bags, & bring you into the city, all pre-booked!

A vibrant city square at night featuring a towering illuminated Christmas tree adorned with golden lights and swirling designs. Beside it stands an elegant fountain with water gracefully arching from its tiers, silhouetted against the ambient city lights. People gather and relax in the foreground, while festive decorations and cityscape details in the background.

With a bit of luck, you can still get sunny days even though temperatures are a bit lower. 

Winters in Lisbon tend to be mild, and it rarely stays cold or rainy for more than a couple of days in a row.

I spent two winters in Lisbon while living and working there, and I enjoyed the winter season just as much as the others! 

The city squares are made festive with Christmas markets, the main attractions are less crowded, and the museums offer opportunities to stay warm and enjoy a pleasant couple of hours admiring art or learning about history. 

Read on to discover the best things to do in Lisbon in winter, from visiting popular tourist attractions to discovering hidden gems. 

Also, if you plan to visit Porto in winter too, read this companion guide!

The Best Things to Do in Lisbon in Winter

Explore the remarkable Wonderland Lisboa.

A close-up view of a tray filled with caramelized almonds, labeled "Amêndoa Caramelizada" on a chalkboard sign. Beside it are other trays of assorted treats, a metal scoop, and a clear plastic bag for packaging. The glistening almonds appear crunchy and sweet at a Christmas market.

While Lisbon may not be your typical winter destination, it does offer several wonderful winter activities, including many Christmas markets!

Wonderland Lisboa is the largest market in the city, occupying the massive Parque Eduardo VII near Marques de Pombal Square.

From late November to early January, Wonderland Lisboa offers an array of Christmas activities and countless food and drink stalls.

A luminescent Ferris wheel in motion at nighttime, its radiant blue and white lights creating a dazzling circular blur against a dark sky, with a background of illuminated star-shaped decorations and glowing lampposts at a CHristmas market in Lisbon in December

There’s even an ice-skating rink for people to immerse themselves in the Christmas atmosphere… even when the weather isn’t exactly Christmas-like.

Exploring Wonderland Lisboa is free, so what better way to spend a late afternoon or evening in Lisbon?

Warm up with some mulled wine and a simple (but tasty!) pão com chouriço (bread with sausage), go ice-skating, and maybe hop on the Ferris wheel for a panoramic city view.

Wander through the city without the crowds.

A picturesque urban scene of a grand archway with ornate stone carvings and a clock. Adjacent to the archway are bright yellow-colored buildings with white trims and Christmas decorations visible but not illuminated as it is still the daytime.

Winter is the perfect season to enjoy Lisbon without the usual crowds that flood its streets from April to October, especially during the summer months. 

If you visit any time from November to February, you’ll find mostly locals and expats in Lisbon, so it’s a great time to be there if you’re not a fan of the crowds.

Of course, the weather in winter can vary a lot, so you’ll need a bit of luck. While it doesn’t get too cold (usually above 15°C or 59°F), it can be very windy.

With some luck, you’ll get some pleasant days with clear blue skies so you can enjoy exploring the city. 

Here’s just a few ideas of what to do in this less-than-crowded winter city!

You can stroll along Via Augusta, see Praça do Comércio virtually empty, visit Castelo do São Jorge, get lost through the charming alleys of Alfama, and watch the early sunset from one of the dozens of miradouros

Discover other Christmas markets in Lisbon.

A festive city square at night with a luminous Christmas tree, a prominent statue on a column, bustling market stalls, and people milling about on a patterned pavement. Surrounding buildings emit a warm glow, adding to the ambiance.

Wonderland Lisboa may be the biggest Christmas market in the city (and all of Portugal), but there are many others you can check out!

Smaller Christmas markets pop up all over the city, the most important ones being in Praça do Rossio (pictured above), Campo Pequeno, and Alvalade

However, if you spend some time wandering around, you’ll certainly stumble across other smaller markets.

If you want to go in with a little more advance preparation, you could plan to visit a different Christmas market each evening.

All markets offer food and drink options, so you can try different Portuguese tapas (petiscos) and other delicacies while staying warm with the ever-present mulled wine. 

It simply doesn’t get more Christmassy than this!

Visit the Fado Museum.

Facade of "Museu do Fado" with a green signboard, flanked by the Portuguese national flag and the European Union flag. The entrance features large glass windows and green ornate gates. The building has a pastel pink colored exterior and green sign.

If you’re looking for an indoor activity in Lisbon during the winter months, you absolutely have to visit the Fado Museum.

Fado is a unique music genre born in Lisbon in the early 19th century, right in the historical neighborhood of Alfama

The Fado Museum is one of the most unique museums in Lisbon, and the perfect place to learn more about the city’s cultural heritage.

Fado is just as representative of Lisbon as the historic yellow trams riding through the narrow alleys of Alfama!

This interactive museum allows you to discover the history of fado and listen to some of the most iconic songs. The entry ticket is only 5€. 

Attend a Fado show

After learning all about fado music at the Fado Museum, why not attend a fado show in Alfama, the birthplace of the music genre?

Many restaurants offer dinner with afado show, so you can just walk around Alfama and check out a place that inspires you. 

Alternatively, you can plan ahead by booking a Fado show experience online. You can choose between several combinations, like this fado live show with Port wine or this one with Portuguese tapas

Last but not least, you could simply enjoy a beautiful live show (no dinner or drinks) at Fado in Chiado

Check out impressive art at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

Modern concrete building with a large green-tinted window overlooking a serene pond. Lush reeds and grasses grow along the water's edge, and a bird is seen gracefully swimming on the water's surface. Exterior of the museum in Lisbon in winter.

If you’re passionate about art, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is home to some genuinely impressive masterpieces.

The collection belonged to the British-Armenian businessman and philanthropist Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian and is among the most important private art collections. 

The modern museum was built specifically to house the roughly six thousand pieces that Gulbenkian collected throughout his life.

The range of origins and styles is breathtaking, including Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Mesopotamian, Armenian, and Eastern Islamic art. 

In addition to that, you can also admire paintings by Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, and Renoir and sculptures by Rodin and Pigalle, to name just a few, all in one place!

The museum is open every day except for Tuesdays, and adult tickets are 10€. And even better — the museum offers free admission every Sunday after 2 PM!

In addition to the permanent collection, there’s always some temporary exhibition you can check out. 

Discover exotic plants at Estufa Fria.

Lush indoor botanical garden housed under a large metal-framed glass ceiling. The space is filled with an array of tropical plants, including tall palms, leafy ferns, and broad-leaved plants. A meandering path invites visitors to explore the verdant surroundings, while the transparent ceiling allows natural light to illuminate the vibrant greenery.

The lovely Estufa Fria is a big greenhouse in Parque Eduardo VII, where you can enjoy a walk among exotic plants!

The space is divided into three different environments housing plants from all over the world. 

Unlike most botanical gardens, the Estufa Fria is nearly all indoors, so you can visit it even on a rainy day. 

The cool thing about Estufa Fria, aside from being a gorgeous lush space, is that it’s among the lesser-known spots in Lisbon, with much smaller crowds. 

Even better, the entry fee is only around 3€, so it’s a bargain for a pleasant and informative visit. 

Admire the azulejos at the National Tile Museum.

The staircase at the Museo Dos Azulejos in Lisbon Portugal as seen from the tile-covered walls and view

Azulejos are the gorgeous painted tiles that cover the façade of many buildings and even important monuments in Lisbon and throughout Portugal (especially in Porto!).

Along with canned sardines and cork, tiles are probably the most iconic things about Portugal, so they also make for great gifts!

The National Tile Museum, officially known as the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, is housed inside the 16th-century Madre de Deus Convent and displays a vast collection of decorative azulejos.

Through examples of beautifully decorated tiles, you can learn about the history of azulejos in Portugal from the 16th century until the present day. 

The museum is a bit far from all the main attractions, but you can get there by bus or catch the metro to Santa Apolónia and walk for about 20 minutes. It’s one of the most photogenic places in Lisbon, so it’s worth it!

While you’re there, be sure to check out Monkey, one of the iconic sculptures by Bordalo II, on a building close to the museum. 

Go shopping at Centro Vasco da Gama.

Modern urban plaza under a clear blue sky, featuring a row of neatly planted trees and a paved open space. In the foreground stands a large, abstract metal sculpture with spiky extensions. Behind the plaza, there's a distinctive building with a rounded, dome-like roof

Another way to stay warm in Lisbon in winter is by heading to one of the massive shopping malls for shopping, dining, or even watching a movie.

Lisbon has several shopping malls with dozens of shops, restaurants, and movie theaters, but Centro Vasco da Gama is among the biggest, and certainly one of the most popular. 

Centro Vasco da Gama is in Parque das Nações, the most modern area of Lisbon, located close to the airport.

The district was originally developed for the 1998 Lisbon World Exhibition and later transformed into the modern residential and commercial area you can explore today.

You can combine your shopping mall visit with a stroll along the Tagus River or a cable car ride with a view over the imposing Vasco da Gama Bridge (book online here!).

Escape to the underwater world at the Lisbon Aquarium.

Underwater aquarium tunnel where visitors are silhouetted against the illuminated waters above them. A large shark gracefully swims overhead, casting a shadow amidst the shimmering ripples of light reflected on the water's surface.

If you head over to Parque das Nações, you can also visit the Oceanário de Lisboa, one of Europe’s largest aquariums. 

The aquarium’s main attraction is a massive tank housing roughly 100 marine species.

Four other tanks complete the exhibition, each dedicated to a specific marine habitat.

The aquarium is a popular destination during the peak tourist season, but it’s much less crowded in winter.

Plus, it’s all indoors, which makes it perfect to escape a cold, windy day in Lisbon. 

The only downside is that it’s slightly pricy for Lisbon standards. An adult ticket is 25€, and you can buy it online here.

Head to Sintra and Visit Palacio da Pena with fewer crowds.

Pena Palace in Sintra - Portugal - red and yellow castle with the rolling hills of sintra and the surrounding landscape in the background

The National Palace of Pena is among the most popular attractions in Portugal, so you can rarely expect to find it without crowds. 

However, if you visit in the offseason, between November and February, you’ll likely find it much more manageable with fewer people around.

You should, nonetheless, avoid the holiday season, when Lisbon sees an increase in tourism.

Pena Palace is a spectacular hilltop palace in Sintra, overlooking the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

With its colorful towers and terraces, the palace is among Portugal’s most iconic landmarks and a must for anyone visiting Lisbon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

You can reach Sintra by train in just one hour from Lisbon to do an independent day trip or join one of the many day trips from the Portuguese capital, like this Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Day trip.

Check out the Christmas market in Sintra.

A picturesque nighttime scene of a Sintra square during the holiday season. Illuminated buildings line the streets, A vibrant Christmas tree, adorned with radiant red and white lights, and lights up on the hills above the town.

If you take a day trip to Sintra to visit the gorgeous palaces, you should also stop by the Christmas market!

The Reino do Natal Market takes place between Parque da Liberdade and Sintra’s main square, Terreiro da Rainha Dona Amélia, right by the Sintra National Palace

Like all Christmas markets, it features small wooden huts selling all kinds of foods, drinks, Christmas decorations, and souvenirs.

The area in Parque da Liberdade is particularly charming, immersed in the lush vegetation of the small park.

Both locations are just a short walking distance apart so it’s easy to check out both!

Have brunch at one of the many hip cafés.

A close-up view of a dining table where two people are enjoying a gourmet brunch. In the foreground, there's a plate of French toast garnished with fresh berries and dusted with powdered sugar, accompanied by a side of syrup. Next to it, another plate showcases a vibrant assortment of foods: creamy scrambled eggs sprinkled with herbs, avocado slices garnished with radish and greens, and a slice of toast spread with a green dip

Lisbon has changed a lot in recent years, for better or worse. 

One of the most notable changes is the opening of dozens of specialty coffee and brunch places!

While once you would only find a handful of such places in the entire city, they are now everywhere. 

If you’re a brunch fan, there are many options all over Lisbon’s center.

Try delicious smoothies and pancakes at Fauna & Flora, have an Instagram-worthy brunch at Dear Breakfast, or, if you have the patience, line up for brunch at Nicolau, one of the most popular spots in Lisbon.

Visit the Jerónimos Monastery without the crowds.

A sunlit Gothic courtyard with intricately carved arches and stone columns, overlooking a historic building, at the famed Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, a UNESCO site.

The Jerónimos Monastery is among Lisbon’s must-see landmarks, along with the nearby Belém Tower.

Both attractions are in Belém, a district of Lisbon a bit further away from the city center. 

Not coincidentally, the two monuments are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Built in the early 16th century, the Jerónimos Monastery is among Portugal’s most significant examples of Manueline architecture, also known as Portuguese Gothic architecture.

During the busy season, you can stand in line for hours to enter. Visiting in winter means shorter and faster lines, so take advantage of this!

You can get to Belém by train from Cais do Sodré in under 10 minutes, but buses and trams are also available.

Note that while you can buy skip-the-line tickets online, those only allow you to skip the ticket queue.

There are entry limits, so you may still need to stand in line to enter until a spot clears up. 

The same thing goes for the Tower of Bélem entrance tickets; you can skip the on-site ticket booth but there is still often a wait to enter the tower.

Seeing these two sights together (as well as visiting the Museu Nacional dos Coches and getting fresh custard pastries at Pastéis de Belém) is the perfect way to spend a day in Lisbon!

Sample Portuguese and international cuisine at Time Out Market.

Time Out Market in Lisbon as seen from above

The well-known Time Out Market is a big food court close to Cais do Sodré station, with various stalls and small restaurants serving all kinds of Portuguese and international cuisines.

You can sample anything from burgers and pizza to Portuguese tapas and desserts. 

The great thing about Time Out Market is that the food stalls are all around the court while the seats are at the center.

If you’re traveling with a group and everyone wants different things, you can just split up to go pick up your various delicacies before coming back together to enjoy the food!

Plus, it’s indoors, so you can escape the cold. Be sure to stop by the Manteigaria for the best pastéis de nata in Lisbon (in my opinion!). 

Ride the historical yellow trams.

A historical yellow tram in the Chiado area of Lisbon

A fantastic activity to try on a cold winter day in Lisbon is riding one of the yellow historical trams.

Most trams pass through Alfama, the most characteristic neighborhood in Lisbon. 

Trams sometimes pass through streets so narrow that you could put out a hand and touch the buildings. These spots make for some iconic pictures.

The trams can be extremely crowded in the peak season, but you can find them nearly empty in winter, so you can sit and enjoy the ride.

Tram 28 is the most popular one, connecting Martim Moniz to Campo de Ourique and passing through the lovely neighborhoods of Alfama, Baixa, and Estrela. 

Avoid the 3€ fee by getting a 24-hour ticket or rechargeable Viva Viagem ticket (the same cost as the subway or bus) if you have a few days in Lisbon.

Check out the charming Christmas market in nearby Óbidos.

A picturesque townscape with orange-tiled rooftops, white buildings, and a prominent medieval castle in the background, with a white CHristmas tree like structure being built for the holidays, and some festive decorations.

If you’re up for a short day trip just north of Lisbon, Óbidos is the most charming place you could ever hope to visit in winter!

The walled medieval town is home to one of Portugal’s most delightful Christmas markets, Óbidos Vila Natal

The whole town turns festive, but the main activities are around the Óbidos Castle.

Fairy lights, small, wooden houses, and holiday decorations combined with medieval architecture turn the town into a true fairytale village. 

The best way to get to Obidos is by car, but you can also catch a bus from Campo Grande. 

Stay warm with a drink at a quirky bar.

Man's hand serving an orange drink with crushed ice and mint

Lastly, the perfect way to enjoy a winter evening in Lisbon is to enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine in one of the many bars around town.

Lisbon is known for its party scene, so it doesn’t lack bars, and some are truly original.

Two of my favorite spots to enjoy a drink on a cold evening are Pensão Amor and Foxtrot.

Pensão Amor is a former brothel in the Baixa district with quirky décor and several rooms in different styles. 

Foxtrot is a speakeasy close to Principe Real with a 1920s vibe and vintage décor.

Of course, if you look around, you’ll find many other cool places all over the city. 

The 4 Best Dubai Desert Safari Tours & What to Know Before You Go

Dubai is unlike any city on the planet and it’s easy to see why it’s been dubbed The Gem of the Middle East.

A unique fusion of Bedouin heritage and an ultra-modern culture, Dubai will not only live up to but completely exceed your expectations! 

At first thought, Dubai conjures up vivid angular images of high-rise skyscrapers offering beautiful views over Dubai, beautifully reflected in the blue canals – a scene filled with silver and blue hues.

Thinking of Dubai’s grandiose architecture, it’s almost difficult to remember that Dubai is situated in the middle of a desert!

So when you picture the typical Dubai skyline, allow your mind to jump to the vast desert landscape that surrounds this modern-day city oasis.

Picture a silky landscape of orange and beige mounds of soft sand that stretch as far as the eyes can see into the distant horizon… and this is exactly what you’ll experience at a Dubai desert camp.

If you’ve always wanted to experience a Dubai desert safari or have been thinking about doing so, this article is for you!

Come along with us as we walk you through all you need to know before going on a magical Dubai desert safari, with notes on what to know before you go as well as notes from my personal experience there as a traveler.

This contributor post was written by Karma Spies, a traveler from Cape Town, South Africa who frequently visits Dubai, and is based on her personal experience traveling there!

What to Know Before Booking a Dubai Desert Safari

several white all wheel drive cars going through the dunes of the dubai desert in the late afternoon with a dusty sky

Here are some general tips you should know about Dubai and the desert safari experience that will help you feel more prepared for your trip!

Language

Even though there were a couple of signs written in Arabic that I couldn’t decipher for the life of me, rest assured there’s no need to worry about learning any Arabic before visiting Dubai.

While Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is the language of business and is spoken by almost everyone here. Trust me, you will get by just fine on English alone.

That said, and as is the case when visiting any country and culture, it always goes a long way with the locals if you could learn to just say even the basics like hello and thank you in their native tongue.

Learning these basics has often opened doors for me while travelling that otherwise would probably stay closed.

Here are a few words to learn!

  • marhaba – hello
  • maasalaamah – goodbye
  • shukran – thanks
  • la, shukran – no thanks

Money

a banknote for the emirati dirham for 200 dirhams in the sand

The UAE’s currency is the Emirati dirham (abbreviated as AED or Dh).

If traveling from the US or Europe, currently the exchange rate is roughly 1:3.5 (if something is $10 USD or 10 euro, it’s roughly 35 AED — you can also just divide the price by 3 and it’ll be close enough, though obviously not exact).

This is based on the exchange rates of May 2022 and are subject to change, but I wanted to give you a simple ratio for calculating currency on the fly, which is helpful when you have to make quick decisions about spending money!

While most places will accept credit cards and have card facilities, it’s always a good idea to carry a bit of cash on hand in the local currency.

This also makes it easier to tip for service should you feel the desire to do so!

Want to understand the tipping culture of the UAE a little better? This guide by Visit Dubai gives some good guidelines for who and how much to tip.

Climate

Dubai is in the desert and the summers are extremely hot — to the point where it may not be enjoyable to visit.

With an average high of 106° F (41° C) during the day, and an average low of 86° F (30° C) at night, it’s easy to see why most people plan to visit the United Arab Emirates during their winter months (between November and March)!

Dubai is obviously well-prepared to handle such heat and you will find well air-conditioned places pretty much everywhere (and even indoor skiing slopes), but remember that there is no air-con out in the desert! 

Dress

a woman with long black hair and brown skin walking away from the camera in a white knee-length dress, walking towards the dunes, leaving footprints behind her.

While I’ve heard pretty much everyone say that you should keep your clothes more on the conservative side (even though temperatures can get exceptionally hot), I’ve never experienced any issues with wearing sleeveless tops or shorts.

There are typically different expectations for tourists vs. locals, and taking a desert tour is quite a typical touristic activity, so I wouldn’t fret too much.

Same goes for doing activities like water sports in Dubai – you are pretty much expected to dress as you would back at home, though it is more polite to wear slightly more covered-up swimsuits as opposed to very revealing ones.

This is my personal experience though, and one should always try to be mindful and respectful of the country’s culture you are a guest in.

When heading out on a desert safari in Dubai, remember the most common rule of the desert: hot during the day, cold at night.

I’m someone who gets cold relatively easily, so I made sure to pack sleeping clothes with long sleeves, which kept me nice and cozy during the night.

As always when venturing out into a sunny area, pack a good sunscreen and a hat!

It’s also recommended to wear sandals that are secure, rather than wearing closed shoes, as they will get really hot and sticky — not to mention how much sand they will trap!

Safety

As far as cities go, Dubai is probably one of the places I’ve felt the safest at while traveling! Dubai at night is very safe and peaceful, including for female travelers.

It has very low crime rates, including petty theft like pickpocketing, compared to any other city in the world.

It’s also ranked as one of the best places for personal safety. Well, the same safety goes for desert safaris in Dubai!

Unless you opt for a private desert safari, you will generally be surrounded by other guides and tourists, and at no point at all did I ever feel unsafe. 

Keep in mind there is also very limited (if any) cell phone reception in the desert, so your social media will have to wait until you get back into the city…. which is best practice for safety, anyway!

Health Risks

Please note that desert safari tours – due to the potentially hazardous nature of activities like dune bashing and sandboarding, as well as the heat risk and sand storm potential, etc. – are not suitable for children under three, pregnant women, people with back problems, or people with mobility impairments.

You can inquire further about this directly from your tour operator or agent should you have any concerns or questions about your ability to participate in the tour.

How to Pick a Desert Safari Tour

the sun setting over the Dubai desert, making the sky turn orange and yellow, and the red dunes turn darker
The sun setting over the Dubai desert

The general rule-of-thumb to finding a reputable tour guide for any day trip experience is to always do your research, and especially pay attention to those customer reviews!

On most tour booking websites, you’ll see a star rating next to each specific tour, and you are usually able to click through on those stars to read reviews written by people like you and me.

I find in the reviews section that people usually write very honestly, and sometimes include handy little tips and tricks to keep in mind when booking your trip!

Another important thing to check is whether or not they offer refunds, in case of the unfortunate event that you are not able to make the tour, due to whatever reason.

I typically book my experiences through Get Your Guide as they only allow reviews from verified guests (unlike Trip Advisor, which is easily gamed by people who have not actually experienced the tours).

As a bonus in these particularly uncertain times, Get Your Guide also has the extra perk of offering free cancelation (with full refund — not just a voucher!) as long as it’s within 24 hours.

Often, when you book directly with a tour company, you won’t receive the same flexibility if you need to cancel, but using a third party tour aggregator gives you more security.

Of course, best practice is if you personally know a family member or friend who’s experienced something similar who has a similar travel style to you — you can ask them for guidance and good references.

If not, we hope that this article detailing my experience on an overnight desert safari in Dubai will serve to help you in making a good choice! 

Logistics of Taking a Desert Safari

Most desert safari tour groups offer transportation to and from your hotel, so if that is something that you’re wanting, make sure that’s included in your package.

For an extra level of security and peace of mind, many people prefer to book via a third party provider such as Get Your Guide or Viator, which details exactly what you’ll get on your tour, whereas a tout selling you a tour in person may make some promises that aren’t kept (or at least, this was the editor’s experience when doing a desert safari in the Sahara).

That said, my desert safari was absolutely incredible, and of all my friends who have experienced it, I’ve never heard any complaints, either.

You should ensure that your tour includes pick up and drop off at your hotel. If you’re doing an overnight stay, make sure that your desert experience includes a BBQ dinner and everything you need for overnight camping, such as sleeping bags, tents, etc.

Day Safari vs. Evening Safari vs. Overnight Safari

tents in the desert in dubai

Usually there are a couple of different ways to experience a desert safari Dubai-style: a sunrise safari, a morning safari, a full day safari, an evening desert safari, or an overnight safari. 

The sunrise safari leaves quite early — think 4 AM — whereas the morning safaris will have you leaving more around 8 AM. Both of these options will take about 4 hours and will include some but not all of the activities.

The full day safari usually starts at sunrise and carries on into the late afternoon. Tours usually allow you to plan your activities in advance and you can select from camel riding, to quad biking, to dune bashing, to sand boarding, and more… perhaps even henna painting or a belly dance show, depending on the tour you choose.

The evening desert safari is also really cool, as you get to watch the setting sun turn the desert sands even redder.

But personally for me, it feels too short-lived — and you’ll feel a little twang of jealousy for the people staying overnight as you start to make your way back to Dubai.

That’s why I always recommend taking the full overnight safari. This way you can experience what it’s like sleeping underneath the stars in the vast open desert and not have to feel like you need to rush anywhere.

This really allows you to soak in the atmosphere and the stillness of being out in the desert. Plus, if you’re visiting with a significant other, it’s one of the most romantic things to do in Dubai, stargazing under the desert night sky!

After enjoying some Arabic coffee and a delicious breakfast the next morning, you will be brought back to Dubai refreshed and with a better understanding of how miraculous the existence of Dubai is given its desert context.

My Experience on a Dubai Desert Safari

woman walking in the dubai desert facing away from the camera

We’ve all heard plenty of stories about the mystical desert – think Aladdin, Sinbad, Alibaba, Arabian Nights – and when experiencing the desert for oneself, it’s easy to see where so many writers drew their inspiration from, and how the desert aided in feeding their imaginations.

Did you know that the Arabian Desert is the second largest desert in the world, surpassed only by the Sahara Desert in North Africa?

The desert is as vast as it is unforgiving, and it serves as a constant reminder about how powerful and omnipresent nature really is, which is part of the reason of what makes Dubai so exhilarating — the sheer determination of its existence despite the harshness of desert reality.

On the tour day, my group was collected from our hotel by Azul, our guide. He did run about a little bit late, but hey, we’re on holiday so who cares, right?

Azul helped us to pack our belongings into the 4WD Land Cruiser, and then we had one more stop to collect two more guests along the way.

It was about a 40 minute drive to get to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, and as you get closer to the desert, you’ll notice that the color of the sand becomes redder the further away from the city you get.

Often the drivers choose to play English-language radio stations, which for me personally I feel like I hear enough of back home, so don’t be shy to ask him to change it to something a little more local! 

Before reaching the safari area, we stopped at a service station for a few minutes so that Azul could deflate the tires of the 4WD — very necessary for the upcoming dune drive!

This was like a small rest stop, and we used this opportunity to go to the restroom or buy some water. 

Finally it was time to depart into the dunes and Azul started putting pedal to the metal! We started gliding quickly over the dunes which gave me butterflies in my tummy… in a good way!

white all wheel drive car going through the sand dunes causing sand to kick up wildly

I will say at this point, by far my favorite part of the entire desert safari experience was dune bashing for various reasons!

For one, you get to experience all the thrill of the desert but without the discomfort that usually comes with it. The 4x4s are all fully air-conditioned and usually very comfortable!

You can’t help but sport the goofiest smile on your face going over the dunes and feeling the car’s wheels drifting and sliding underneath you.

I wouldn’t say this is a scary experience at all, it’s absolutely exhilarating and thrilling, and we felt super safe with our trusted driver.

Now is a good time to mention that it’s probably not a great idea to eat a large meal before going dune bashing, though (and if you suffer from motion sickness, perhaps take some Dramamine beforehand)! For me, though, this experience was a solid 10/10.

Personally, I did not enjoy the camel riding nearly as much. The camels have a very sharp and pungent smell to them, they are also bloody uncomfortable to sit on (like, feel it the next day uncomfortable), and the desert weather is unrelenting!

Dubai is also not the only place to experience a camel safari, so in my opinion, if it’s not something you are seriously keen to do, you can give it a skip. But if you’ve never ridden a camel before and it’s on your bucket list… go for it. Just don’t complain to us that we didn’t warn you!

camels in the dubai desert wearing saddles and muzzles waiting before they do a camel ride

If you prefer having more power but also like to be in control, then perhaps try the ATV / dune buggy driving. The tour will provide compulsory helmets for safety.

Of course, stay close to the Bedouin camp, because if you venture too far you could struggle to navigate your way back. I’ve never heard any stories about anyone getting lost before, but better safe than sorry!

Lastly, of all of the activities on offer, there is also the option to try sandboarding. I gave this activity a skip, seeing as I didn’t think eating a bunch of sand would be that fun.

However, my partner did it and he had a blast! I guess it comes down to knowing what you enjoy and personal preference, and that’s why a Dubai desert safari is so fun — the level of customization which you can take full advantage of to create the perfect desert adventure!

As the sun sets and the sky turns from blue to orange, and after a day jam-packed with sandy activities, it’s time to head back to camp for dinner. 

The camps are probably not really what you’re picturing in your head. I wasn’t expecting the campsite to be as large as it was – it was more like a tented village! And by “tent” I mean more like built wooden structures, rather than actual tents.

The tent we had was very spacious and comfortable – so no complaints there. Obviously, don’t expect it to have the same sort of amenities you’d find in a regular hotel room — you’re in the desert, after all! There were no mirrors, and we also had to share a communal bathroom.

Organized in a big horseshoe shape, the tents are situated around the main arena where one can watch a fire show, tanoura dance, and belly dancing at night, while having dinner. 

people in traditional emirati dress around the fire

The BBQ buffet dinner was excellent — I didn’t try everything but of the food I did try, I really enjoyed it. Besides meat choices, there are also plenty of salad-type options, like potato salad, tabouli, baba ghanoush, and fruit salad, so veg people will be quite happy as well!

For meats we got a few options like Shish Tawook, which is essentially grilled chicken with spice. There were beef and fish options, too.

We also got unlimited soft drinks, tea, mineral water and Arabic coffee – and if you’ve been to the UAE before you’ll know that the coffee is quite strong! They also did have alcoholic beverages for sale if you wanted something stronger to go with your barbecue dinner. 

What’s an Arabic desert safari without smoking a bit of shisha pipe? It was the perfect way to end our evening while watching the belly dancer do her thing underneath the stars!

The next day, after a tasty gourmet breakfast we left out overnight desert safari to return to our Dubai hotels, memories of our wonderful overnight desert camping experience forever in our minds.

Is A Desert Safari Package in Dubai Worth It?

sun setting over the rippled sand dunes in the dubai desert

In a word… yes!

I feel like everyone should try this experience at least once, if not more, because it honestly is so fun and memorable!

You also get plenty of opportunities to take photos — our driver actually stopped a few times over some of the bigger red dunes for this.

Relatively speaking, desert safari tours are quite well priced, considering most of your food and beverages will be included, as well as an overnight stay.

You can customize the tour cost to your budget by choosing the length of your stay and what inclusions you want on your tour. You don’t have to do everything!

Prices range from around $35 USD for the most basic experience to $180 for an overnight desert stay, with additional add-ons possible.

But if you’re debating, and budget isn’t a huge concern, I really recommend going for the full camping experience with the night stay. It’s the most memorable option if you have the time!

The Best Desert Safari Tour Options

Half Day (Afternoon & Evening)

persons hands holding set and letting it drop through their fingers as the sun sets

If you don’t want to stay overnight but you still want the full experience, this is the desert safari for you! With an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars and over 20,000 reviews, it’s pretty safe to say that this tour enjoys a pretty stellar reputation.

This tour includes hotel pickup and drop off, sand boarding, dune bashing, a short camel trekking experience, henna tattoo painting, a falcon experience, and a BBQ dinner.

During the dinner, there will also be live shows and performances. You can also add a 35-minute quad bike ride for an additional cost, or request a private vehicle as opposed to a shared vehicle.

This tour departs at 3:15 PM daily from downtown Dubai and lasts 7 hours, bringing you back around 10:30 PM, just in time to hit the hay… or the Dubai nightlife scene!

Book your 7-hour desert safari experience with BBQ dinner here!

Overnight

dining tent at a dubai desert camp site taken after dark

This tour is very similar to the above tour, as it’s run by the same tour operator. However, this tour includes an overnight stay at the camp, where you get to stay in a tented camp overnight!

And of course, they’ll provide a delicious morning breakfast in the traditional Arabian style before you head back to Dubai.

It’s a little pricier than the half-day option as it includes overnight accommodations, but it’s well worth it for what it includes, in my opinion!

Book your overnight desert safari experience here!

Morning

morning light in the dubai desert beautiful sand dunes

If you want to do a morning tour that leaves at 8 AM and gets you back to Dubai around noon, this is a great option. They also have tours that leave at 9 AM (returning at 1 PM) and 10 AM (returning at 2 PM) if you prefer to sleep in a bit.

These tours last 4 hours and will give you a glimpse of the desert without it taking up your entire day, which can be really nice if you have only a short amount of time to visit Dubai, such as spending a weekend in Dubai.

This tour has the typical inclusions — camel riding, sandboarding, dune bashing, etc. — but without the shows or any meals.

Book your morning desert safari here!

Sunrise

If you’re willing to make a 4 AM wake-up call, this is a great option for some epic views of the Dubai desert if you can’t make a full-day or an overnight tour fit into your itinerary.

This tour has a wildlife focus so it won’t include many of the cultural activities like henna painting, dancing, etc. However, you’ll have the opportunity to go dune bashing in a 4WD car as well as try sandboarding if it appeals to you.

After the sunrise, you’ll be treated to a picnic breakfast, before making stops at two wildlife spotting places, looking for the beautiful desert animal called the oryx, as well as stopping at the beautiful Al Qudra Lake!

This is a marvelous way to see all the ingenious creatures who have adapted and found ways to live in the desert in some of the harshest imaginable conditions!

Book your sunrise desert safari experience here!

10 Marvelous Places to Visit in Monaco

Since moving to Nice, visiting Monaco has become one of my favorite weekend activities.

If you don’t know much about the mini microstate that is Monaco, don’t worry: this guide will tell you not only what you need to know, but the best things to see on a visit!

First, Monaco is not a city but rather a Mediterranean nation (yes, it’s its very own country).

A street and square in downtown Monaco, with bike rentals, covered terrace for outdoor dining, archways and building, with mountains in the background. The sky is overcast and gray, and there are only a few people out and about and they are wearing warm clothes.

It’s nestled right on the Southern French coastline, tucked between charming French coastal towns, with views of the Med on all sides.

Within only two square kilometers, Monaco packs a lot into its borders — you’d be surprised by how much there is to do there, and it’s definitely worth a visit.

From a jaw-dropping palace to modern and fine art museums and of course, the most famous casino in the world, there’s a lot of great places to visit in Monaco.

In this guide, we’ll run through a few of the must-visit places in Monaco, a beautiful Mediterranean gem!

10 Best Places to Visit in Monaco

The Monte Carlo Casino

Expensive cars parked in front of the famous Monte Carlo Casino, one of the most famous casinos in the world. Everything looks very luxurious and expensive.

When it comes to old-world luxury and glamor, no destination surpasses the legendary Monte Carlo Casino.

For over 150 years, this majestic Monaco landmark has drawn in guests from around the world with its extravagant décor and mesmerizing atmosphere.

Hollywood may have tried capturing the grandeur of Monte Carlo on film, but let’s be honest — nothing compares to being here in person!

The casino is definitely worth visiting for anyone wanting an unforgettable experience, only made better by the first-class service that will make you feel like royalty.

Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

The striking white building of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, which hosts an aquarium. The building has many pillars and arched windows and looks like a palace. There are some clouds in the sky but it is mostly sunny.

If you’re interesting in marine life and the incredible creatures of the deep, you can’t miss a visit to the stunning Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.

Perched on an impressive cliff edge with sweeping sea views, the majestic aquarium building is one of the most impressive you can find — it’s simply a must-visit place in Monaco.

In fact, I find it more beautiful that the prince’s palace!

Prince’s Palace of Monaco

Tourists gathering and holding out their cellphones to record the daily changing of the guards ceremony which takes place in front of the pastel yellow Prince's Palace of Monaco. There are about 12 guards in two rows of six facing each other. The weather is sunny.

The Prince’s Palace of Monaco is a must-see Monaco landmark for those wishing to get a better sense of the principality’s culture.

After all, the history of the Grimaldis goes way back — they’re one of the oldest royal families in all of Europe!

For something unique, the Changing of the Guard ceremony is also an event not to be missed!

Set your alarms because it takes place every day at 11:55 AM sharp.

The daily ceremony takes place front of the imposing gateway, offering visitors a unique insight into the Monegasque tradition.

Larvotto Beach

Red umbrellas and beach chairs on fine, soft sand on the only public beach in Monaco, with the cityscape behind it on a sunny summer day.

The lovely Larvotto Beach is Monaco’s only public beach, offering a slice of the Mediterranean getaway experience that many visitors crave.

With its white sand and stunningly clear waters, it’s the perfect spot to relax in the sun with family and friends.

The beach also features plenty of recreational activities and is surrounded by cute cafés and restaurants.

Exotic Garden of Monaco

Scenic view on Monaco, Fontvieille from beautiful exotic garden in the mountains of town, with a view over the harbor.

Looking for a tranquil oasis escape while visiting Monaco?

You may think a little garden oasis would be a hard ask in this tiny microstate, but not so!

Head to the Exotic Garden of Monaco, tucked away like a secret in the hills behind Monte Carlo.

This quiet and peaceful garden (open to the public) houses exotic plants, trees, and flowers from all over the world, not just this little patch of soil in the Southern Mediternannean!

You’ll find plants from all around the world — we’re talking everything from giant cacti from desert ecosystems to vibrantly colorful tropical bromeliads.

Wind your way through pathways flanked by palms and cypresses, or take a brief time out at one of the many peaceful lookout points.

Wherever you stop, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views across Monaco’s bay.

Princess Grace Rose Garden

Rose garden in Monaco with yellow, red, and purple roses. Palm trees and other trees in the background make up a lush garden tribute to Grace Kelly.

Nestled in the hills of Monaco, the Princess Grace Rose Garden is a spectacular outdoor space dedicated to the memory of the late Princess Grace.

It is said that she absolutely loved flowers and her husband, Prince Rainier III, created this beautiful garden in her honor.

It’s home to a whopping 8,000+ different varieties of roses — talk about an homage!

This fragrant paradise also features several sculptures and a beautiful fountain – adding an extra touch of magic to this remarkable tribute.

Hercules Port

The Monaco marina of Hercules Port. You can see the Monaco flag which is red and white showing, and a handful of beautiful speedboats docked at the marina. The sea is azure and calm and it is a beautiful day.

Hercules Port is the name of the bustling marina located in the heart of Monaco’s seafront.

This picturesque harbor is where you will find the most luxurious yachts and boats.

When night falls, this area plays host to some of the most sophisticated parties on the French Riviera, which tend to happen on the boats… so don’t hold your breath about scoring an invite!

Japanese Garden of Monaco

Japanese garden in Monaco and aquatic plants and amazing trees and a Japanese wooden pavilion
and residential high-rise buildings in the background, showing Monaco in the distance

The Japanese Garden of Monaco is a peaceful and beautiful place to visit.

It comprises over 4 acres of carefully manicured lawns, ponds, and streams that have been designed in the traditional Japanese style.

How’s that for a little slice of Zen right in the heart of the Mediterranean?

Saint Nicholas Cathedral

The white marble facade of Saint Nicholas Cathedral, flanked by palm trees, on a sunny day with some clouds. This church was built in the 19th century and reflects a more modern style.

The historic Saint Nicholas Cathedral is one of Monaco’s most iconic landmarks and is the burial place of many of the Grimaldi family members.

This imposing – and stunning!- the building was constructed in the 19th century and features a wildly ornate interior that includes stained glass windows, intricately carved marble columns, and impressive sculptures.

Fun fact: This is where Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III got married back in 1956!

Old Town

Old town street in Monaco dressed up with Christmas decorations in the winter time

Monaco’s Old Town is a charming part of town located near the church mentioned above.

This town center — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — is home to some of the country’s oldest buildings which have been carefully preserved and restored.

Here, visitors can explore winding cobblestone streets, try local food, and buy souvenirs to remember their time in this microstate!

Best Time to Visit Monaco

View of Monaco from above with lots of boats in the harbor on a sunny day

The best time to visit Monaco is during the months of April, May, September, and October when temperatures are pleasant and attractions remain open.

As with the French Riviera next door, the summer months of June, July, and August in Monaco can be busy and quite hot.

You can read more about the best times to visit Monaco here.

How to get to Monaco from Cannes or Nice

street details of monaco with the red and white flag and emblematic design of monaco

The best way of getting from Nice to Monaco – or even on a day trip from Cannes – is by taking the train.

The train system in this area is inexpensive, frequent, and fast!

A single-way ticket from Nice to Monaco will cost you only around 5 euros, and the journey usually takes about 30 minutes.

Alternately, there are also many tours and day trips that will take you to Monaco from Cannes or Nice.

These are great if you would like to explore further afield, as they often include stops at other nearby locations such as Eze Village and Saint Paul de Vence.

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I hope these 10 places to visit in Monaco have given you a little boost of inspiration to start planning your visit to this often-overlooked microstate!

From the stunning beaches and chic boutiques of Monte Carlo to the tranquil gardens, old-world architecture, and cultural attractions in Monaco’s Old Town – there’s so much to discover.

About the Author

Camila Neves is a travel blogger based on the French Riviera. She spent her free time exploring all the beautiful places in the region and shares her findings in her blog Explore the Riviera (exploretheriviera.com)