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Nestled on the lush northern coast of Borneo, Brunei Darussalam is an interesting place often overshadowed by its larger Southeast Asian neighbours. This small nation offers a unique blend of opulent history, rich cultural heritage, and pristine natural beauty. Governed by one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies, Brunei stands out with its harmonious blend of traditional Malay customs and Islamic principles, seamlessly woven into the fabric of modern life. From the grandeur of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque to the serene waters of Kampong Ayer, and the untouched wilderness of Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei promises an adventurous journey!

A brief history

The area now known as Bandar Seri Begawan was historically a centre of power for the Bruneian Empire, which reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was a vital trading hub in Southeast Asia, engaging in commerce with China, the Malay Peninsula, and other regions. Brunei was well known for its rich sources of exotic jungle and sea products like camphor, spices, agarwood, lakawood, resins, sago, birds’ next, wax, honey, tortoise and turtle shell as well as its pearls.

Early settlements in the area were part of Kampong Ayer, a historic water village along the Brunei River. This area has been inhabited for over a thousand years.

The reign of Sultan Bolkiah (1485 – 1524) was known as the golden age of Brunei. During his reign, the sultanate not only covered the entire Borneo Island but even reached as far as Luzon in the Philippines. Its importance further grew when Malacca fell into the hands of the Portuguese in 1511.

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque at night

In the late 19th century, Brunei became a British protectorate. During this period, the capital, then known as Brunei Town, saw infrastructural developments, although it remained relatively small and traditional.

The town was occupied by Japanese forces from 1941 to 1945. During this time, much of the town was destroyed by Allied bombing, necessitating significant post-war reconstruction.

After World War II, Brunei Town underwent substantial rebuilding and modernization. In 1970, it was officially renamed Bandar Seri Begawan in honour of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III, who abdicated in 1967 but was instrumental in the country’s modernization efforts.

The discovery of oil and natural gas significantly boosted Brunei’s economy in the mid-20th century, leading to rapid urban development. The city developed modern infrastructure, including roads, buildings, and public amenities. Despite modernization, Bandar Seri Begawan has maintained its cultural heritage, particularly in Kampong Ayer, where traditional stilt houses are preserved.

How to get to Brunei?

To get to Brunei, you can consider the following options:

By Air

The fastest and most convenient way to reach Brunei is by flying. Needless to say, it’s also the most expensive option, even if you take a short flight from Kota Kinabalu.

By Land

Travelling by land is possible if you’re coming from neighbouring Malaysia. There are bus services from Miri or Limbang in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. This journey from Kota Kinabalu can be even 10 hours long and involves crossing the border 4 times so get your passport ready for plenty of new stamps.

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
One of a few city mosques

By Sea

Ferries operate between Labuan, a Malaysian island, and Muara, Brunei’s main port. The ferry ride takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. Check the schedule beforehand as the connections aren’t daily.

For ticket booking, visit Easybook or 12Go.Asia

When to go?

The best time to visit Brunei is during the dry season, typically from January to May. During these months, the weather is generally warm and less humid, with lower rain chances, making it ideal for outdoor activities and sightseeing. In other months you can expect higher humidity and more rain but still, you will have no problems with getting around.

Brunei Darussalam
Kampong Ayer

Where to stay?

I stayed 3 nights in a private single room at Co. Living Hostel Bandar. The bathroom was shared and clean but unfortunately only one for the whole hostel. The internet was really fast and there was a small desk in the room, making it perfect for online work. The location is within walking distance of the waterfront and Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

For the last 2 nights, I moved to EZ Lodgings. There were 2 shared bathrooms and the room was quite spacious. The location is near The Gadong Mall and the main tourist attractions are within 10 minutes taxi ride.

You will find much more options on Agoda than on Booking.com

How to get around?

To visit attractions located outside of Bandar Seri Begawan, you will need a rental car. I got my Toyota Vios from D.Feena for 55 BND per day + 100 BND refundable deposit. You can contact them at defeenamarketing@gmail.com or +673 877 8898 (also on Whatsapp).

What to see outside of Bandar Seri Begawan?

Ulu Temburong National Park

Established in 1991, the park spans approximately 50,000 hectares and is accessible primarily by boat, which adds to its remote and untouched allure. To get there, you need to sign up for an organized tour, something that I don’t like doing too often unless there is no other way.

Having checked different options, I selected the tour offered by Freme. They seem to have the most experience and from the price perspective, it’s the same for all operators. Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap as a day tour costs 155 BND.

I was picked up at 7:45 AM from the Gadong area and then we made a few more stops to pick up more tourists. Once everyone was on board, we left Bandar Seri Begawan and crossed Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge to Temburong District.

After arrival at Freme Rainforest Lodge, we got morning tea and some snacks and soon safety briefing followed. We got life jackets and jumped on the longboat to be transported upstream to the start of the hike up to Canopy Tower.

The boat ride was nice indeed, but nothing too spectacular. Not if you have visited some other national parks in Southeast Asia before, for example, Taman Negara.

The Canopy Walkway was a bit different than other similar constructions that I have experienced in Malaysia. That one was very stable as it was all made from metal. We had to climb up on a ladder, then walk on a short bridge towards the highest point and then descend. Nice experience but again nothing super thrilling.

Brunei, Asia
Ulu Temburong National Park

From there we went to the boat again and stopped at the waterfall. Disappointing place with little water and a small pool including a so-called “fish spa”. Once you put your feet in the water, small fish come over to nibble away your dead skin. Can be tickly! It must be an attraction if you do it for the first time, but I have already experienced it in Thailand, Sri Lanka and many other places in the region.

Then we came back to the boat again and soon were dropped out at the riverbank for the last activity. Backpacks and our shoes stayed in the boat as we jumped inside the rubber tubes and went with the river flow back to the lodge. It was probably the best part of that trip but again somewhat disappointing as it felt too short.

Some people did zip lining but for those who did tubing, it was not included in the package. Such a pity. The lunch was fine, a regular Asian buffet.

After lunch, the bus took us back to Bandar Seri Begawan and we arrived about 4 PM. Quite early for the whole day trip! Overall, everything was well organized but I had the feeling that there is a potential for more or it should be just around 50% cheaper for what it was. Not something that I would like to repeat.

Brunei, Asia
Ulu Temburong National Park

Bukit Patoi Recreational Park

The best hiking route in the Temburong area. You can make it a loop, which is about 4 kilometres long in total. Going up can be challenging especially in high humidity, to take lots of water! The track can be slippery, especially after rain. Frequent panels show the distance remaining to the peak.

Brunei, Asia
Bukit Patoi Recreational Park

Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge

This dual-carriageway bridge in Brunei links the country’s semi-exclave of Temburong with the mainland by spanning Brunei Bay. At thirty kilometres, it is the longest bridge in Southeast Asia.

The bridge’s construction began in 2014, and although it was initially scheduled to be finished and opened by the end of 2019, it opened in March 2020 instead.

The bridge was renamed the Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge on July 14, 2020, the day of Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah’s 74th birthday. The reason was to honour the late Sultan’s father, Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Saadul Khairi Waddien, who is largely recognized as the architect of modern Brunei.

Brunei, Asia
Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge

Muara Beach and Meragang Beach

The popular weekend getaway at Muara Beach Recreational Park is well-liked by locals. It is a nice beach, but like many beaches in Borneo, it is covered in driftwood and other floating debris from the sea. Picnic tables are available.

Meragang Beach is located further to the west. There is a parking and some street vendors near the place where the Meragang River flows into the South China Sea. The sandflies can be a problem, so spray yourself with lots of insect repellent before going to the beach.

Brunei, Asia
Muara Beach

Taman Warisan Tasek Merimbun

The largest lake in Brunei, which is home to a diverse range of birds. Nice place but seems to be quite run down. There is a short concrete walkway along its bank.

Brunei, Asia
Taman Warisan Tasek Merimbun

Lalak Lake National Park

The area around the lake is a relaxing place good for bird watching and walking on a boardwalk. It’s quiet in the morning but you can see local people fishing in the afternoon.

Wasai Wong Kadir Recreational Park

It takes around 20 minutes to get to the waterfalls. Nothing too impressive in terms of size but the pool is big enough for a swim. The place can get busy at weekends.

Teraja Longhouse

The long house is mainly visited by those heading to two nearby waterfalls: Wasai Teraja and Wasai Belulok. You will pay a few dollars for parking and a few more to look around the house. There are lots of historical photos and small locally-made crafts to purchase.

Wasai Teraja (waterfall)

The trail starts just behind the longhouse and it’s a nice short jungle trek. You will need to cross the river a few times before reaching the waterfall. The whole journey is about 45 minutes one way.

Wasai Belulok (waterfall)

Challenging trek and the path is sometimes hard to find. However, after reaching there, most probably you will have the waterfall all to yourself. The journey takes around 40 minutes one way. Be careful not to get lost!

Billionth Barrel Monument

The monument was built in 1991 and commemorates the billionth barrel of oil produced in the onshore oil field in Seria.

Brunei, Asia
Billionth Barrel Monument

Seria Energy Lab

An interactive exhibition about the oil & gas industry managed by Brunei Shell Petroleum. They have lots of activities for children. Unfortunately, as of May 2024, it is closed for renovation without any clear information on when it is going to reopen.

Masjid Kampong Pandan

The mosque was opened in 1996 and can hold up to 1,100 individuals in single assemblage.

Brunei, Asia
Masjid Kampong Pandan

Pantai Ku Ceria (KB Beach)

Another mediocre beach in Brunei, however, if you are looking for one, it’s still better than many others.

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Nestled on the northern coast of Borneo, this charming capital city of Brunei Darussalam is a fascinating blend of rich cultural heritage, stunning Islamic architecture, and modern urban development. Whether you’re wandering through the streets of the city centre, exploring the historical water village of Kampong Ayer, or marvelling at the grandeur of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, Bandar Seri Begawan promises a unique and memorable travel experience.

A brief history

The area now known as Bandar Seri Begawan was historically a centre of power for the Bruneian Empire, which reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was a vital trading hub in Southeast Asia, engaging in commerce with China, the Malay Peninsula, and other regions. Brunei was well known for its rich sources of exotic jungle and sea products like camphor, spices, agarwood, lakawood, resins, sago, birds’ next, wax, honey, tortoise and turtle shell as well as its pearls.

Early settlements in the area were part of Kampong Ayer, a historic water village along the Brunei River. This area has been inhabited for over a thousand years.

The reign of Sultan Bolkiah (1485 – 1524) was known as the golden age of Brunei. During his reign, the sultanate not only covered the entire Borneo Island but even reached as far as Luzon in the Philippines. Its importance further grew when Malacca fell into the hands of the Portuguese in 1511.

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque at night

In the late 19th century, Brunei became a British protectorate. During this period, the capital, then known as Brunei Town, saw infrastructural developments, although it remained relatively small and traditional.

The town was occupied by Japanese forces from 1941 to 1945. During this time, much of the town was destroyed by Allied bombing, necessitating significant post-war reconstruction.

After World War II, Brunei Town underwent substantial rebuilding and modernization. In 1970, it was officially renamed Bandar Seri Begawan in honour of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III, who abdicated in 1967 but was instrumental in the country’s modernization efforts.

The discovery of oil and natural gas significantly boosted Brunei’s economy in the mid-20th century, leading to rapid urban development. The city developed modern infrastructure, including roads, buildings, and public amenities. Despite modernization, Bandar Seri Begawan has maintained its cultural heritage, particularly in Kampong Ayer, where traditional stilt houses are preserved.

How to get to Bandar Seri Begawan?

To get to Brunei, you can consider the following options:

By Air

The fastest and most convenient way to reach Brunei is by flying. Needless to say, it’s also the most expensive option, even if you take a short flight from Kota Kinabalu.

By Land

Travelling by land is possible if you’re coming from neighbouring Malaysia. There are bus services from Miri or Limbang in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. This journey from Kota Kinabalu can be even 10 hours long and involves crossing the border 4 times so get your passport ready for plenty of new stamps.

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
One of a few city mosques

By Sea

Ferries operate between Labuan, a Malaysian island, and Muara, Brunei’s main port. The ferry ride takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. Check the schedule beforehand as the connections aren’t daily.

For ticket booking, visit Easybook or 12Go.Asia

When to go?

The best time to visit Brunei is during the dry season, typically from January to May. During these months, the weather is generally warm and less humid, with lower rain chances, making it ideal for outdoor activities and sightseeing. In other months you can expect higher humidity and more rain but still, you will have no problems with getting around.

Brunei Darussalam
Kampong Ayer

Where to stay?

I stayed 3 nights in a private single room at Co. Living Hostel Bandar. The bathroom was shared and clean but unfortunately only one for the whole hostel. The internet was really fast and there was a small desk in the room, making it perfect for online work. The location is within walking distance of the waterfront and Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

For the last 2 nights, I moved to EZ Lodgings. There were 2 shared bathrooms and the room was quite spacious. The location is near The Gadong Mall and the main tourist attractions are within 10 minutes taxi ride.

You will find much more options on Agoda than on Booking.com

How to get around the town?

Many places can be easily visited on foot but if it’s too hot then without a doubt, the best option is to book a taxi. Grab doesn’t work in Brunei but there is another app called Dart.

What to do in Bandar Seri Begawan?

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Finished in 1958 and named for the late father of the current sultan, the 28th Sultan of Brunei. The structure is encircled by an artificial lagoon that doubles as a reflecting pool. The interior design is quite opulent. The best Italian marble was used to create the floor and walls, the chandeliers were created in England, and the carpets were transported in from Saudi Arabia.

Visiting hours for non-muslim are as follows:

Saturday – Thursday: 8:30 AM – 12 NOON, 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM

Friday: Closed

Brunei Darussalam
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Brunei Waterfront

The busiest place in town in the evenings. Locals come for prayer at the nearby mosque and then stroll along the waterfront, around the illuminated fountain and trees. It’s also a popular place for joggers and there are surprisingly many of them in Bangar Seri Begawan.

The popular way to experience the waterfront, water village and nearby forest is to take a boat ride. It should cost about 25 – 30 BND for a 1-hour tour, including a stop at Kampong Ayer.

We went first to see proboscis monkeys and then came back to pass through the floating village. It was a perfect ride and one of the highlights of my trip to Brunei. The boat driver wasn’t rushing and he was trying hard to show me the monkeys from the best angle.

Brunei Darussalam
The view from Brunei Waterfront
Brunei Darussalam
On the boat
Brunei Darussalam
Proboscis monkey

Kampung Ayer (Water Village)

Kampong Ayer is a 30,000-person community made up of 42 connected stilt villages situated beside the Brunei River. It is considered to be the world’s largest stilt town. Half of Brunei’s Malay people lived here a century ago, and many still do now. The community has its fire department, police station, schools, and mosques. The Cultural and Tourism Gallery is free to visit and it presents the history, lifestyle and crafts of the Kampong Ayer people.

The best way to get to the village is by boat from the Brunei Waterfront. If you have a car, you can also cross the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Bridge and access the settlement from the backside.

Brunei Darussalam
Kampung Ayer
Brunei Darussalam
Kampung Ayer

Istana Nurul Iman

The Palace is the house of Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and stands on the banks of the Brunei River. It is open for visitors only for three days a year, after the month of Ramadan.

Muslims have access to the palace for ten more days in Ramadan mainly for religious purposes. During the rest of the year, you can only admire the palace from the outside.

Royal Regalia Museum

The gifts presented by various heads of state to the sultan of Brunei are presented here. You will see the replica of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and a copy of the Grand Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia crafted from precious metals and stones.

The sultan’s life is shown through family images and illustrative texts, from boyhood through military training at Sandhurst to his opulent wedding and active adult life.

Two chariots from the 1968 coronation and the 1992 Silver Jubilee parade of the sultan are also on exhibit. The chariot is escorted by a phalanx of traditionally dressed, headless mannequins that symbolize those in attendance that day.

Brunei History Center

The museum documents the whole history of Brunei from the settlement, and colonialism to modern history. It includes a collection of letters, a constitution gallery, and a section about spices. The entrance is free.

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Brunei Historic Center
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Brunei Historic Center

Teng Yun Temple

The oldest Chinese temple in BSB was constructed in the 1960s and is accessible to both worshipers and outsiders.

Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

Constructed in 1992 to commemorate the 25 years of the sultan’s rule, Brunei’s biggest mosque towers over its surroundings with its four minarets covered in terrazzo tiles.

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

Tasek Lama Recreational Park

There are designated trails that lead to picnic spots, waterfalls, and a tower atop a hill that provides views of the surrounding forest and the city. For a longer walk, head towards Bukit Laur and Bukit Markucing and then descend towards Jalan Subok and order a taxi via Dart to take you back to town. Such a trip should take between 2 – 3 hours. Wear appropriate footwear and take a lot of water.

Gadong Night Market

Some stalls sell relatively cheap meals, not necessarily very delicious but would offer a decent taste of the local food. It’s a nice place to hang out, especially given the city’s general lack of nightlife.

Maritime Museum

The main room houses an impressive ship skeleton lined with ceramic vessels. The ship was found in 1997 and is thought to have sailed in the late 15th or early 16th century from China, but when it got closer to Brunei, terrible weather struck.

The museum is located at Kota Batu, 5 km east of the city centre.

Malay Technology Museum

The museum is full of exhibits about the Malay way of life, living on stilts, different industries and lifestyles adapted to survive on the swamps. Interesting and worth visiting.

Mausoleum of Sultan Bolkiah

Quiet and peaceful place with a small but interesting interpretive centre to learn about the history of Kota Batu as the first capital of Brunei,

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Nha Trang is located in Khanh Hoa Province on the south-central coast of Vietnam. It’s a popular tourist destination, famous for its long stretch of sandy beach, turquoise waters, and a wide array of water activities like snorkelling, scuba diving, and boat trips to nearby islands.

A brief history

The area that is now Nha Trang was originally inhabited by the Champa Kingdom, an ancient civilization that controlled much of central and southern Vietnam from the 2nd century until the 15th century. The Po Nagar Cham Towers, which still stand today, are remnants of this period and were constructed between the 7th and 12th centuries.

In the 17th century, the Champa Kingdom declined, and the Vietnamese gradually took control of the region. Nha Trang became part of the Nguyen Dynasty’s territories.

During the late 19th century, Vietnam became part of French Indochina, and Nha Trang began to develop under French influence. The city’s development included urban planning and the introduction of new architectural styles. In the early 20th century, Nha Trang gained prominence as a coastal resort town. The French built several villas and vacation homes, enhancing its reputation as a seaside retreat.

During the Vietnam War (1955-1975), Nha Trang was an important strategic location due to its airbase and port. The city was a significant site for American military and logistical operations.

After the reunification of Vietnam in 1975, Nha Trang continued to develop, though it remained relatively quiet until the economic reforms of the late 1980s and early 1990s. These reforms led to an increase in tourism and investment.

How to get to Nha Trang?

To get to Nha Trang in Vietnam, you can either fly into Cam Ranh International Airport, which is the closest airport, or you can take a train or a bus from other cities in Vietnam like Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. The train journey offers scenic views, while buses are usually more affordable.

Trains are slightly faster than buses but you should expect about 8-10 hours of travelling from Ho Chi Minh City and over 24 hours from Hanoi.

Check your connections at 12Go.Asia

Nha Trang, Vietnam
Aerial view of Po Nagar Cham Towers

When to go?

The best time to visit Nha Trang in Vietnam is typically from April to August, during the dry season. This period offers sunny weather with lower chances of rain, making it ideal for enjoying the beaches and outdoor activities. However, keep in mind that Nha Trang can get crowded with tourists during peak season, so consider visiting during the shoulder months of January to April for fewer crowds and still pleasant weather.

Where to stay?

I stayed at Le Soleil Hotel where a standard double room cost me about 13 USD per night. It’s a budget place but very convenient. The beach promenade is within walking distance and they have underground parking for motorbikes.

How to get around the town?

Many places can be easily visited on foot but if it’s too hot then without a doubt, the best option is to rent a scooter. Ask for one at your accommodation. They will either have one or get in touch with someone who can deliver it to you within minutes.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to ride yourself, you can always order a taxi from a widely used and cheap Grab App.

Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nha Trang

What to do in Nha Trang?

Po Nagar Cham Towers

These magnificent towers were constructed between the 7th and the 12th centuries, and Buddhists from China, Vietnam, and the Cham people still regularly gather here to worship. The temple honours Yang Ino Po Nagar, the goddess of the Dua clan, which ruled over the southern region of the Cham empire.

This location may have been utilised for worship as early as the second century AD. After being destroyed by the invading Javanese in AD 774, the original timber structure was rebuilt in 784 with stones and bricks.

There were formerly more towers in the complex, but now there are just four. The most impressive is the 28-meter-tall North Tower, which has a vestibule, vaulted interior brickwork, and a terraced pyramidal roof. Parts of the vestibule walls and the sandstone doorposts are covered in inscriptions. Beneath the antechamber’s pyramidal roof are a gong and a drum. The goddess Uma, leaning back against a monstrous beast is depicted in a black stone statue in the 28-meter-tall main room.

If your timing is right, you may also witness a short performance with Champa dance and music.

Nha Trang, Vietnam
Po Nagar Cham Towers
Po Nagar Cham Towers

Beach

Every vacation magazine features the city’s best feature, a 6-kilometre golden-sand beach. Certain areas are cordoned off and intended for safe swimming away from boats or jet skis. The promenade is a great spot for an afternoon run or stroll, and the turquoise sea is really tempting.

Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nha Trang Beach

Long Son Pagoda

You will need to climb many stairs to get to a giant statue of Buddha at the top. The best is to visit in the morning or the afternoon. It’s free to visit but watch out for aggressive selling techniques and scams in that area.

Nha Trang, Vietnam
Big Buddha in Long Son Pagoda

Hon Chong Promontory

A very unique rocky landscape with some pretty views. You will need to pay a 30,000 VND entrance fee. A lot of organized tours stop here so don’t expect peace.

Nha Trang Cathedral

The church was built in Gothic style by the French and it was opened in 1933. You can get nice panoramic views of the city from there, but even though it should be free, you may experience forced donation by the security guard.

Alexandre Yersin Museum

You can see exhibits honouring Dr Alexandre Yersin, a scientist who was born in Switzerland and founded the Pasteur Institute in Nha Trang in 1895. They organize immunization and sanitation campaigns for the southern coastal region of the nation.

Yersin also made observations while travelling across the central highlands. He discovered the location of what is now Dalat during this time and suggested that a hill station be built there.

National Oceanographic Museum

A fine oceanographic museum by Vietnamese standards. There are lots of fish, a few small sharks, a few crocodiles and other aquatic animals. Apart from this, various ship models and methods of catching fish are presented.

Studio & Gallery Long Thanh Art

A wonderful collection of black and white photographs. Long Thanh landscapes are often moody, contrasting the natural beauty of Vietnam with the continuing struggle in people’s daily lives. There are also many portraits capturing the essence of the Vietnamese people, especially those who have witnessed more than their fair share of tragedy over the generations. If it’s closed, ring the bell. You may be lucky to get a tour by the artist himself.

VinWonders

There is a cable car from the mainland to Vinpearl Resort, where you can spend a few hours or even the whole day in an amusement park with rides for all ages. There is also a section with animals, gardens, and a huge ferry wheel.

Island hopping

There are plenty of offshore islands around Nha Trang which are known for the relatively clear water surrounding them and snorkeling opportunities. Trips to these islands can be arranged by every hotel and travel company in town. Just ask at the reception. Make sure that you choose the right tour though. You don’t want to end up on a booze cruise aimed solely at the backpacker market if you are looking for a calm and relaxing day.

Nha Trang, Vietnam
Island hopping near Nha Trang
Nha Trang, Vietnam
Island hopping near Nha Trang
Nha Trang, Vietnam
Island hopping near Nha Trang

Water sports

Besides island hopping and snorkelling, the Nha Trang area is a paradise for water enthusiasts and offers diving, surfing, wakeboarding, parasailing and white-water rafting adventures.

Diving sites are concentrated around Hon Mun Island and some of the best-known are Moray Beach, Coral Garden, Madonna Rock, Light House and Green Canyon.

What to avoid?

Tri Nguyen Aquarium

The building itself is unique – in the form of a pirate ship. Unfortunately, it is extremely poorly maintained and kitschy. I can honestly call it an animal prison and I strongly suggest not coming here.

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Laayoune, located in Western Sahara, has a complex history, deeply intertwined with the broader historical and political context of the region.

Before European colonization, the region of Western Sahara was inhabited by indigenous peoples, primarily nomadic tribes such as the Sahrawis. These tribes lived a traditional lifestyle based on herding and trade.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, European powers, particularly Spain and France, began colonizing parts of North Africa. Spain established control over what is now Western Sahara, including the area where Laayoune is located. They called the territory Spanish Sahara or Rio de Oro and Laayoune became the administrative capital.

As decolonization movements swept across Africa in the mid-20th century, calls for independence grew in the Spanish Sahara. The indigenous Sahrawi people, led by the Polisario Front, sought self-determination and independence from Spanish colonial rule.

Laayoune, Western Sahara

As Spain prepared to decolonize the region in the 1970s, both Morocco and Mauritania asserted historical claims to Western Sahara. This led to a complex conflict, with the Polisario Front fighting against both Moroccan and Mauritanian forces.

After Spain withdrew from Western Sahara in 1976, both Morocco and Mauritania moved to annexe parts of the territory. Morocco claimed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara, including Laayoune, leading to armed conflict with the Polisario Front.

The status of Western Sahara remains unresolved to this day. Morocco controls most of the territory, including Laayoune, while the Polisario Front operates in the eastern part of the region, advocating for independence. The United Nations has been involved in efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict, including a proposed referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawi people, however, I doubt it will take place in any foreseeable future.

Tourism infrastructure in Laayoune isn’t as developed as in other Moroccan cities, but for me it’s an advantage which makes the city worth visiting. Furthermore, you won’t find any other bigger settlements en route to Dakhla, so it’s a good base to refill your supplies and treat yourself in better restaurants.

Keep an eye on the political situation in Western Sahara and any travel advisories issued by your government. I visited Laayoune in November 2023 and it was perfectly safe, although I could notice a lot of military and United Nations vehicles all around the city.

How to get there?

To get to Laayoune in Western Sahara, you typically have a few options:

By Air: You can fly to Hassan I Airport (Laayoune Airport) with Royal Air Maroc from major cities, such as Casablanca, Marrakech, or Agadir.

By Road: The roads are generally well-maintained, but it’s a long journey, so be prepared for a drive of several hours or more depending on your starting point. If you are looking for a rental car in Agadir, I recommend using the service of Click’n’Go Car Rental. They are very friendly guys and easy to contact on WhatsApp. I ended up renting a Renault Clio for the whole month and got a nice price.

By Bus: Supratours and CTM are two popular bus companies operating in Morocco.

You may also check your connections at 12go.com.

Laayoune, Western Sahara

The best time to visit

The best time to visit Laayoune is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. Summer can be quite hot, while winter brings cooler but enjoyable temperatures. Choosing spring or fall ensures a comfortable climate for enjoying nearby beaches and exploring the city and its surroundings.

Where to stay?

I can honestly recommend the Sahariano Hotel. It is very well located in the city centre of Laayoune, close to shops and restaurants and has very good internet. The communication with hotel personnel was smooth and they gave me some advice for further travel.

How long to stay there?

Even though it’s the biggest city in Western Sahara, it’s still quite compact so you won’t need more than a day to walk around it and see major sights.

Laayoune, Western Sahara
Sand dunes near Laayoune

What to see in town?

I started the day by checking out the Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assis. It was closed so I could just take a picture from the outside. I walked further down towards the bridge, passing by a hospital and plenty of military bases.

The views from the bridge were nice. City buildings on the left, dunes on the right and some flamingos in shallow water in the centre.

Then, I walked back towards the bus station. On the left, there are some abandoned old-style traditional Saharan houses. I passed between them and saw a football pitch full of kids, clearly very excited to see me there.

Laayoune, Western Sahara
Traditional houses

If you are into some adventure, you can hike down to the dry riverbed and then climb the top of the dune, visible from the distance.

I wasn’t so adventurous on that day and I turned back and walked towards the main square. It’s a large space with Palais des Congrès and plenty of Moroccan flags. Just in case you wondered what is the current status of Western Sahara…

Laayoune, Western Sahara
The main square full of Moroccan flags

I had lunch in the excellent Restaurant Gardenia, located just a 5-minute walk from the main square. You must try their avocado smoothie!

Then I walked back towards Sahariano Hotel and past the roundabout with McDonald’s. I reached Youssef Ibn Tashfin Mosque and then decided to call it a day and get ready for departure to Dakhla.

Laayoune is a nice stopover en route to Dakhla or Mauretania, although the presence of military personnel on every corner gave me some creepy feeling that I was in some danger zone.

Tarfaya is a coastal town, located in the Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra region of Morocco, near the border with Western Sahara. It is known for its historical significance as a former Spanish and then French settlement. It’s also famous for being the place where Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of “The Little Prince,” worked as an aviator in the 1920s. Today, the fishing industry is the main deal in town and it’s a transit point for travellers heading south to Western Sahara and Mauritania.

How to get there?

You can fly into Al Massira Airport (AGA) in Agadir and take a bus or grand taxi from there. It’s about 545 km and 8 hours drive from Agadir. Check your connections at 12go.com.

For those who prefer to be independent, I recommend using the service of Click’n’Go Car Rental in Agadir. They are very friendly guys and easy to contact on WhatsApp. I ended up renting a Renault Clio for the whole month and got a nice price.

The best time to visit

The best time to visit Tarfaya is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. Summer can be quite hot, while winter brings cooler but enjoyable temperatures. Choosing spring or fall ensures a comfortable climate for enjoying nearby beaches and exploring the city and its surroundings.

Tarfaya, Morocco

Where to stay?

I recommend Hotel Residence Canalina. It’s a mini apartment which is very convenient and spacious. There was also a fast internet connection, making online work easy. The hotel was closed when I arrived but the owner arrived quickly after texting him on WhatsApp (+212641785521).

How long to stay there?

Tarfaya is a small town so you won’t need more than a few hours to walk around it. It’s a convenient stopover place between Akhfennir and Laayoune.

Tarfaya, Morocco

What to see in town?

Musée Saint-Exupéry

Tarfaya will always be connected to author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from France. He started operating an airmail route between France and Senegal in 1926, with a stop at Cap Juby. In the end, he spent a few years thereafter being named station manager for Cap Juby in 1927. His most well-known tale, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), about a pilot who gets lost in the desert, was inspired by this tale. All information is in French only.

Plage Tarfaya i Casa Mar

The initial colony was established in the late 19th century by Scottish trader Donald Mackenzie, who erected a modest trading post on a rock nearby and named it Port Victoria. Spanish colonizers seized control of the structure, which is now known as Casa Mar.

The nearby beach is a popular spot for locals to hang out. Unfortunately, there is lots of rubbish.

Tarfaya, Morocco
Tarfaya, Morocco

Wreck of the Armas Ferry Assalama

Tarfaya and Fuerteventura’s brief link came to an end in 2008 when the wrecked Armas ferry, Assalama, 2km south of town, went down. The ship struck a barrier in rough seas not long after leaving the harbour basin. However, it proved to be a mistake for the skipper to continue the journey, as the crippled ship soon found itself in an unmanageable heavy lateral position. The crew and passengers were evacuated.

Due to the exorbitant costs associated with salvaging, the insurance company was unable to decide on the ship’s intended transfer to the port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for repairs. The official salvage cost estimate at the time was between 15 and 20 million euros.

Tarfaya, Morocco

Let’s start with the fact that there is not much to do in Akhfennir and it’s well off the beaten track. You probably won’t come here unless you head south to Western Sahara.

If you do come over to this coastal town, try the seafood and check out natural spots in the area: Khnifiss National Park and Grotte d’Akhfennir Ajeb Lah.

When to go?

The best time to visit Khnifiss National Park is during the cooler months, typically from October to April. During this time, temperatures are milder, making outdoor activities more enjoyable. Additionally, this period coincides with the winter months when migratory bird populations are at their peak, offering excellent opportunities for birdwatching. 

Where to stay?

There are not too many options for accommodation and don’t expect luxury. I stayed in Hotel La Corniche and the room was basic and a bit humid but acceptable for a short stay. It is facing the beach so I could hear the waves of the ocean.

What to see?

You can walk around the town in a few minutes and the beach is something you would like to forget as soon as possible due to the amount of rubbish there.

However, walk along the coastline to the north and soon you will see dramatic cliffs and the edge of the Sahara Desert. The highlight of the cliff walk is Grotte d’Akhfennir Ajeb Lah, also called the Devil’s Hole. It’s a natural cave created by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. A bit similar to Benagil Cave in the Algarve region of Portugal with the difference that there are no other tourists here!

Akhfennir in Morocco
Akhfennir in Morocco
Akhfennir in Morocco
Akhfennir in Morocco
Akhfennir in Morocco

The second spot that I wanted to visit in that area was Khnifiss National Park. It’s known for its unique coastal and desert ecosystems, featuring diverse wildlife and landscapes. The park encompasses a variety of habitats, including sandy beaches, dunes, wetlands, and rocky cliffs. It’s located about 25 kilometers from Akhfennir. As I didn’t have a car, the only option was to hitchhike. It didn’t take me long to get a ride as two young guys stopped. They said they were only going a short distance but in fact, they did a special detour to drop me off at the park. How nice of them!

I went down to the small pier and soon a fisherman approached me offering a boat trip. I negotiated the price of 300 MAD to take me on a nearly 2 hours trip around the lagoon but then I came up with the idea to invite those two guys that gave me the ride to join me. They agreed! Therefore, in the end, I paid 400 MAD for the 3 of us. They seemed very happy and I was also satisfied that I could return the favour. Only one of them spoke English but we were able to communicate quite well. We saw plenty of birds, including flamingos but the best part was the stop on the dunes. Really impressive place!

Khnifiss National Park in Morocco
Khnifiss National Park in Morocco
Khnifiss National Park in Morocco
Khnifiss National Park in Morocco
Khnifiss National Park in Morocco

After we came back to the pier, the guys gave me a ride to the main road from where I caught an old Land Rover taxi to the next town – Tarfaya.

Taliouine is renowned as the saffron capital of the country, producing a significant portion of Morocco’s saffron, which is one of the world’s most expensive spices. The town is situated in the foothills of the Anti-Atlas Mountains and offers a picturesque landscape. 

Taliouine attracts visitors, especially during the saffron harvest season in October, when the fields are vibrant with purple crocus flowers. The saffron festival takes place during this time, celebrating the harvest with cultural events, music, and exhibitions.  

Aside from saffron, the region around Taliouine is known for its traditional Berber culture, making it an interesting destination for those seeking an authentic Moroccan experience. The town provides a glimpse into the local way of life, and its surroundings offer opportunities for trekking and exploring the beautiful landscapes of the Anti-Atlas region.

How to get there?

You can fly into Al Massira Airport (AGA) in Agadir or take a bus or grand taxi from there or any other city in Morocco.

It’s 185 kilometres from Agadir to Taliouine and it takes about 2,5 – 3 hours by car. Driving is the most convenient way to explore the area independently.

I recommend using the service of Click’n’Go Car Rental. Very friendly guys and easy to contact on WhatsApp. I ended up renting a Renault Clio for the whole month and got a nice price.

CTM has two bus connections daily and the ticket costs about 80 – 90 MAD. Alternatively, as always in Morocco, you can get a shared grand taxi.

Tislite Gorges is about 45 kilometres from Taliouine and you will need your own wheels to get there. Follow N10 and turn left at Dogadir.

Tislit Gorges, Taliouine, Morocco
Tislit Gorges
Tislit Gorges, Taliouine, Morocco
Tislit Gorges

The best time to visit

Taliouine can be visited at any time of the year but the best time is during the saffron harvest season, which typically occurs in October. This is when the vibrant purple flowers bloom, and you can experience the lively atmosphere of the saffron festival while enjoying pleasant weather.

Where to stay?

I spent a night in Auberge Restaurant le Safran Taliouine. It’s not too fancy but accommodation options in Taliouine are limited. It was clean and had a hot shower so it basically fulfilled all my needs.

If you wish to stay in the local guesthouse near Tislit Gorges, I recommend Maison d’hôte Tazziba Tislit. You can contact them at gifetisslit@gmail.com

How long to stay there?

Taliouine is a small town so you can easily have a walk around it and then visit Tislit Gorges in one day. If you are an avid hiker and would like to explore the Anti Atlas mountains there, more time will be required.

What to see in town?

Kasbah

Though the kasbah is largely a ruin, it provides a nice panorama with the hills in the background.

Atelier-galerie de Moulid Nid Oiussadan

Moulid Nidouissadan is an Amazigh poet and calligrapher who paints vibrant compositions and Berber proverbs. I received a free sample of his skills including my name in Berber, created with saffron ink. Even though he doesn’t speak much English, I felt very welcome and the visit there really made my day! Who knows, maybe my next tattoo will be a symbol of a free man? That would be cool!

Dar Azaafaran

This modern information centre has a small museum about saffron and you can buy products from local cooperatives. Most displays are in French but there is some information in English. Opening hours are not followed so you need to be lucky to find it open.

Coopérative Souktana du Safran

The biggest and oldest saffron cooperative in Taliouine was established in 1979. They can sell you saffron as well as related goods like chocolates, cosmetics, and calligraphy ink, and they can also explain how saffron is made and offer you a tasting.

Hiking trips

For those who want to trek nearby Anti Atlas, Taliouine is a well-liked destination. Trekking guides can be hired through local businesses or lodging providers.

Agadir Ifri Imadiden

An authentic agadir, so fortified communal granary, located about 20 minutes drive from Taliouine. Park in the village of Ifri, and continue on foot. Most probably kids will join you on the way. If they open the wooden door and you go inside, expect to pay 20 MAD and better to have the exact amount or you can forget about the change.

Agadir Ifri Imadiden

Tislite Gorges

You have two options to get there: either park in Assaisse, and then walk about 3 km, or drive directly to the Tislit village. The road is rough but doable, even in Renault Clio.

Park next to the Maison d’hôte Tazziba Tisslit. If you have time, it’s worth considering staying there for the night. Looks like a great and authentic experience. The family is nice and you can buy some saffron or at least get some tea or coffee before you start the hike.

I went down to the gorge, passing by a few women selling saffron. Luckily, they weren’t too pushy. Well, I guess it’s a nice spice but I don’t even know how to use it so I didn’t buy any.

Tislit Gorges, Taliouine, Morocco
Tislit Gorges
Tislit Gorges, Taliouine, Morocco
Tislit Gorges
Tislit Gorges, Taliouine, Morocco
Tislit Gorges
Tislit Gorges, Taliouine, Morocco
Tislit Gorges

The gorge is full of amazing rock formations which make you feel like you are on another planet. The feeling was even stronger as I was there totally alone. You can scramble up some of the rocks to get a better panoramic view and nice photo opportunity but be careful. When the landscape opened up, I decided to turn around and come back the same way.

I continued following the riverbed to the west of Tislit village and it was worth it as well. The gorge there was completely different but still amazing! Unfortunately, it was difficult to go all the way through without serious scrambling as it was blocked by huge stones and water.

Vientiane, the capital of Laos, has a rich history dating back to the 9th century. Initially, it was a Khmer settlement, but it became part of the Lan Xang Kingdom in the 14th century under King Fa Ngum. The city flourished as the kingdom’s capital, serving as a centre for Buddhism and trade. 

In the 16th century, Vientiane faced conflicts with neighbouring kingdoms and later fell under Siamese (Thai) control in the 18th century. The city experienced periods of instability and changed hands between Siamese and Burmese forces.  

During the French colonial era in the late 19th century, Vientiane became part of French Indochina. The French influence is evident in some colonial architecture still present today. Laos gained independence in 1954, and Vientiane became the capital of the newly formed Kingdom of Laos. 

Vientiane, Laos
Patuxay Monument

The Vietnam War had a significant impact on Vientiane as the city faced bombing raids due to its proximity to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. After the war, Laos became a socialist state, and Vientiane continued to develop as the capital. 

Today, Vientiane is a mix of traditional Lao culture, French colonial influences, and modern development mainly financed by China, making it a unique blend of history and contemporary life. Even though it is the capital city, there’s not a whole lot to do there, but it is still an enjoyable place that shouldn’t be missed.

When to go?

The most popular time to visit Laos is between November and April, at least if you don’t like rain as it’s the dry season. However, nothing is as easy as it seems. You won’t get wet, but it’s the time of intense agricultural burnouts with dense haze hanging over the mountains and the air quality is regularly rated as unhealthy.

I traveled to Laos in March but next time I would go at the very beginning or at the end of the rainy season, so in October or May. Getting a bit wet is certainly better than breathing in all that air pollution!

How to get there?

If you’re flying, major airlines often have routes to Wattay International Airport in Vientiane.

From Thailand, it’s possible to cross via the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge from Nong Khai. Alternatively, you can explore overland options, such as buses or trains, depending on your starting point. Check your connections at 12Go.Asia.

Ensure you have a valid visa if required, and consider checking the latest travel advisories and entry regulations for Laos. Once in Vientiane, taxis, tuk-tuks, and rental vehicles are available for local transportation.

Vientiane, Laos
The aerial view of Vientiane
Vientiane, Laos
The aerial view of Vientiane

Where to stay?

I spent two nights in Apartment Thidathip which was a great choice. There was a small living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Plenty of space! The owner was very friendly and he rented me a scooter. It was good to get around the city but I wouldn’t risk a long-distance trip as its condition was far from perfect.

How long should you stay?

The major sights of the city can be seen comfortably in one day. If you plan to check some spots further away, such as Phou Khao Khouay National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area or Buddha Park, I would suggest a minimum of two days.

Sights

Patuxay Monument

The replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Vientiane dominates the business area near Rue Lan Xang. Its official name is “Victory Gate” and it commemorates the Lao who lost their lives in pre-revolutionary warfare. It was constructed in the 1960s using cement provided by the United States for use in building a new airport. Reach the summit for sweeping views of Vientiane.

Vientiane, Laos
Patuxay Monument
Vientiane, Laos
Patuxay Monument

Pha That Luang

Pha Golden That Luang, a symbol of Lao sovereignty and Buddhism, is the most significant national monument. According to legend, as early as the third century BC, Indian Ashokan missionaries built a stupa here to house a fragment of the Buddha’s breastbone. The 45-meter-tall stupa is surrounded by a high-walled cloister with tiny windows. The cloister is 85 metres wide on each side and is home to several Buddha statues and a statue of Jayavarman VII, the famous Angkorian ruler who changed the Khmer Empire’s official religion to Buddhism.

Vientiane, Laos
Pha That Luang
Vientiane, Laos
Pha That Luang
Vientiane, Laos
Pha That Luang

COPE Visitor Center

Laos is considered to be the most bombed country on earth and unexploded ordnance from the Vietnam War keeps wounding and killing people. COPE is the abbreviation of Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise and it provides casualties with artificial limbs, walking aids and wheelchairs.

It’s a very educational and informative place. Don’t miss the screening room for showings of several documentaries. Entrance is free but a donation is highly encouraged to support their recovery programs.

Wat Si Saket

It’s the oldest surviving temple in the capital of Laos, built by the last monarch of the Kingdom of Vientiane and dates back to the 19th century. You can experience a tranquil atmosphere while exploring the temple grounds, adorned with numerous Buddha statues and well-preserved murals.

Wat Si Muang

The people in the area have a great deal of respect for one of the most significant and well-known religious locations in the city. It is thought that the temple was erected on the site where, during the city’s building, a young woman by the name of Si Muang gave herself as a sacrifice. The main pillar of the temple is said to have been penetrated by her spirit, endowing it with supernatural strength and elevating it to a sacred site.

The Sim, the ordination hall and centre of religious activity, is the primary attraction of the temple. It is embellished with vivid murals and detailed carvings that tell Buddhist mythology and stories. There are numerous religious objects and a sizable statue of Buddha within the Sim. The custom of residents visiting Wat Si Muang to create merit and ask for blessings for significant life events is one of the temple’s distinctive features.

Ho Phrakeo Museum

Haw Pha Kaeo, a once-royal temple constructed especially to accommodate the renowned Emerald Buddha, is now a small national museum of religious art. A small collection of Lao Buddhas, Khmer carvings, and artefacts from nearby temples may be found in the main hall.

Wat Ong Teu

Although the temple’s exterior is pretty typical of those in Vientiane, the building itself and its surroundings are in good shape. It is thought to have stood on a location that was originally used for religious purposes in the third century. King Setthathirat first constructed it in the middle of the 16th century. Nonetheless, it was destroyed in subsequent battles with the Siamese, just like practically every other temple in Vientiane, and reconstructed in the 20th century.

Vientiane, Laos
Presidential Palace in Vientiane

That Dam Stupa

This stupa is said to have originally had a layer of gold covering it. According to legend, the gold was taken by the Siamese during their 1828 raid, which is when the stupa earned the nickname “black.” This is somewhat contradicted by another tale, which claims that the stupa is the home of a seven-headed dragon that was dormant until the Siamese-Lao War of 1828 when it awoke to protect the people of the area.

Kaysone Phomvihane Museum

Kaysone Phomvihane was the first leader of an independent Laos. The museum was established in 1995 to commemorate his 75th birthday. The museum is an expansive homage to Kaysone’s cult, with an enormous bronze monument of him in front and other massive sculptures that feature important people in Laos. The structure is filled with a complete collection of memorabilia of both Kaysone and the Party.

Lao National Museum

There are some interesting exhibits here even though the selection of objects and pictures is not as extensive or well-organized as you might anticipate at a national museum. A collection of antiquated artefacts that document the early history of the area, including dinosaur bones, shards of pottery, and Khmer sculptures, are kept on the ground level.

The displays upstairs provide additional insight, tracing Laos’ turbulent contemporary history from the French colonial era and Siamese invasions to the American military’s involvement in the Vietnam War and up to the present. Since the establishment of communism in 1975 and the fight for independence are heavily emphasised, the museum was originally dubbed the Lao Revolutionary Museum.

Lao Textile Museum

This estate features multiple wooden houses designed in the native style, with a focus on textiles from many ethnic groups and the phases of weaving and dying.

Outside of town

Buddha Park

A quiet place full of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures, located about 25 km southeast of central Vientiane. The park was started in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat who was a priest-shaman who integrated Hinduism and Buddhism. The statues appear to be centuries old but in fact, they are quite new. They are made of reinforced concrete and are sometimes quite bizarre in design.

To get there, you can take bus #14 from Talat Sao Bus Station, hire a tuk tuk or ride a rented motorbike. An entrance ticket costs 40,000 LAK for tourists.

Vientiane, Laos
Buddha Park

Phou Khao Khouay National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area

The park covers more than 2000 km2 and is home to a wide array of endangered wildlife, including wild elephants, gibbons, Asiatic black bears, clouded leopards, Siamese fireback pheasants and green peafowls. It’s not a very popular place, therefore it’s not that easy to plan the visit there.

As I couldn’t find any organized tours, I went there on a rented motorbike. It’s about 100 km and 2.5 hours ride one way. The full-day trip makes sense only if you leave very early but still, it’s pretty far away, I must say.

Vientiane, Laos
Phou Khao Khouay National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area

First, I visited Tat Leuk Waterfall. The ride there was quite fun, as I followed the dirt road deeper and deeper into the forest. Unfortunately, in the dry season, there was hardly any water flowing. Another waterfall worth checking in is Tat Xai.

When it comes to trekking, the options vary from a couple of hours to a couple of days and the best is to consult your plans at Tourism Information Centre in Vientiane (if you are lucky enough to find it open).

The region between Mirleft and Sidi Ifni is characterized by a captivating coastal stretch along the southwestern part of Morocco. This area is known for its rugged cliffs, scenic beaches, and a blend of traditional Berber communities with a touch of colonial history. 

While not as heavily developed as some more touristy areas, the region maintains a certain authenticity, offering travellers a chance to experience the raw beauty of the Moroccan coastline. Exploring the towns, interacting with locals, and enjoying the tranquillity of the beaches contribute to the charm of this coastal stretch between Mirleft and Sidi Ifni.

How to get there?

You can fly into Al Massira Airport (AGA) in Agadir and take a bus or grand taxi from there or from any other city in Morocco. It’s about 140 km and over a 2-hour drive from Agadir to Mirleft and from there another 20 km to Legzira Beach. Sidi Ifni is 10 km further to the south. Check your connections at 12go.com.

For those who prefer to be independent, I recommend using the service of Click’n’Go Car Rental in Agadir— very friendly guys and easy to contact on WhatsApp. I rented a Renault Clio for the whole month and got a nice price.

The best time to visit

The best time to visit the southern Atlantic coast in Morocco is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. Summer can be quite hot, while winter brings cooler but enjoyable temperatures. Choosing spring or fall ensures a comfortable climate for enjoying nearby beaches and exploring the city and its surroundings.

How long to stay there?

You should have a full day to comfortably enjoy the beaches in this region of the Atlantic Coast and have nice walks around Mirleft and Sidi Ifni.

Mirleft

During the 20th century, like many coastal areas in Morocco, Mirleft attracted attention from European powers. The town was used as a trade and fishing port by the Spanish, similar to the nearby Sidi Ifni. However, it did not undergo such an extensive colonization.

in the post-colonial era, Mirleft experienced development and growth, becoming a popular destination for surfers and travellers seeking a laid-back coastal atmosphere. The city doesn’t offer much but it’s the nearby beaches and scenic roads along the coast that justify the visit.

For the panoramic views, head to Fort de Tidli – the ruins of a French military fort. When it comes to the beaches, take your time to visit them all or at least stop by for some great photo opportunities or to admire the surfers: Imin Turga, Aftass, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah, Tamhrouchte or Sidi El Wafi.

Mirleft, Morocco
Atlantic Coast around Mirleft
Mirleft, Morocco
Atlantic Coast around Mirleft
Mirleft, Morocco
Atlantic Coast around Mirleft
Mirleft, Morocco
Atlantic Coast around Mirleft
Mirleft, Morocco
Atlantic Coast around Mirleft

Legzira Beach

Legzira Beach is famous for its huge rock arch. The arch is accessible at low tide, and it is quite a stunning sight to see. It’s a short walk from the parking but optionally you can take a camel or quad ride. I don’t recommend it though as it’s much better to enjoy the place in silence, listening to the sound of Atlantic waves rather than a noisy engine.

There were originally two arches, but one collapsed in late 2016. Hopefully, the second arch won’t suffer the same fate as the ocean continues to erode the red sandstone from which it is formed. The beach is also a popular spot for surfing. It’s also worth checking out the other end, called Yasscobar Beach.

A bit further south there is a turn-off from the main road into the dirt one. Follow the directions to “Lkherba n’Brahim” on Google Maps. Take a path behind the building to the magnificent viewpoint on top of one of the cliffs.

Legzira Beach, Morocco
Arch at Legzira Beach
Legzira Beach, Morocco
Arch at Legzira Beach
Legzira Beach, Morocco
Yasscobar Beach
Legzira Beach, Morocco
Viewpoint near Lkherba n’Brahim

Sidi Ifni

Sidi Ifni’s history is intertwined with both Moroccan and Spanish influences. Originally a modest fishing village, it gained prominence when it fell under Spanish control in 1860. The Spanish established a settlement, transforming the area with colonial architecture that remains a distinctive feature of the town. 

Under Spanish rule, Sidi Ifni developed economically and culturally. However, tensions arose as Morocco sought to regain control of its territories. In 1969, after years of negotiations, Morocco reclaimed Sidi Ifni, marking the end of Spanish presence. The transition wasn’t without challenges, but the town gradually adapted to Moroccan governance. 

Sidi Ifni, Morocco
The town hall in Sidi Ifni

The small old Spanish part of town is the main attraction. Hassan II Square is surrounded by colonial architecture, including the town hall, law courts, Hôtel La Belle Vue and the former Spanish consulate. Close to the square, you will find the lighthouse with some nice panoramic views of the beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

Sidi Ifni, Morocco
Hassan II Square
Sidi Ifni, Morocco
Former Spanish consulate

The beach is wide and picturesque although it’s not the best for swimming due to the strong waves and stones on the shore. Surfing is a popular activity here so you may test your skills or take a lesson or two.

Near to the beach, it’s worth checking out a bit of odd construction – the clifftop shiphouse, which served as the Spanish Naval Secretariat.

Sidi Ifni, Morocco
Shiphouse

Tiznit, a town in southwestern Morocco, has a rich history dating back to the 17th century. In 1881, Sultan Moulay Al Hassan founded Tiznit as a base from which he could assert his authority over the rebel Berber tribes to the south. To do this, he built the city walls. The town’s strategic location facilitated trade routes and contributed to its growth. 

Tiznit witnessed the emergence of a resistance movement led by Moulay Ahmed Al Hiba Maa Al Ainine (Blue Sultan) in 1912 when the protectorate treaty was signed. With the support of the tribes of the Souss and the Sahara, he led an army towards Marrakech but ended up defeated by the French. He eventually took refuge in the Anti-Atlas, where he continued the resistance until his death from an illness in 1919.

Tiznit is renowned for its unique architecture, characterized by red-earth ramparts built to protect the town. The medina, a maze of narrow streets and alleys, showcases traditional Moroccan craftsmanship, particularly in silver jewellery production, for which the town is famous. The city’s name, Tiznit, is derived from the Berber language, meaning “the lock,” which alludes to its fortified nature. 

How to get there?

You can fly into Al Massira Airport (AGA) in Agadir or take a bus or grand taxi from there or any other city in Morocco. It’s about 100 km and 1.5 hours drive from Agadir. Check your connections at 12go.com.

For those who prefer to be independent, I recommend using the service of Click’n’Go Car Rental. Very friendly guys and easy to contact on WhatsApp. I ended up renting a Renault Clio for the whole month and got a nice price.

The best time to visit

The best time to visit Tiznit is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. Summer can be quite hot, while winter brings cooler but enjoyable temperatures. Choosing spring or fall ensures a comfortable climate for enjoying nearby beaches and exploring the city and its surroundings.

Tiznit, Morocco
Lots of streetsellers around the town

Where to stay?

My overnight stay in Tiznit was rather spontaneous and as soon as I arrived, I looked for a hotel with decent reviews. Hotel Restaurant Patisserie Amoudou offered nice, spacious, clean and well-furnished rooms for only 200 MAD. Very friendly staff and video-guarded parking space. They also have a restaurant and bakery which is very good.

How long to stay there?

Tiznit is a small town so you won’t need more than a few hours to walk around the town. It’s a convenient stopover place between Souss-Massa National Park and Lagzira Beach or Sidi Ifni.

What to see in town?

Source Bleue

The legend has it that a woman of ill repute named Lalla Zninia stopped to rest here in what was then a plain desert. She spent the next three days repenting her wicked ways, and God was so impressed that he showed forgiveness by having a spring gush beneath her feet. Today the spring is like a shallow pool with some birds and local people chilling around.

Tiznit, Morocco
Source Bleue

Almassjid Alkabir

The Great Mosque of Tiznit with its minaret bristling with wooden poles was built in line with the style of Sahelian mosques. The legend suggests this is where the souls of the dead congregate. This place of worship is closed to non-Muslims.

Tiznit, Morocco
Almassjid Alkabir

Kasbat Aghanaj

A massive 19th-century fortress. The door was open so I could go inside for free and see the restored internal courtyard, but there was nothing else to do.

Bab Lakhmis and Bab Tarwga

Historic city gates look particularly nice at sunset. Bab Tawga leads towards farm fields and the oasis.

Tiznit, Morocco
Bab Lakhmis

What to see out of town?

Souss-Massa National Park

The Souss Massa National Park has been a natural reserve since 1991 and it covers an area of 33,800 hectares. It is located between Agadir to the north and Sidi Ifni to the south, including the landscape of the coastline, dunes, marshes and the steppes.

Over 300 plant species and over 30 fauna species can be found there, including the Oryx antelope and the Dorcas gazelle, as well as foxes and wild cats. Moreover, the Souss Massa Natural Park is home to the world’s largest colony of Bald Ibis and the wetlands act as a stopover for many other migratory birds.

Read more in a separate post HERE.

Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park