PEDERNALES: Welcome to Caribbean Paradise!

PEDERNALES: Welcome to Caribbean Paradise!

This post is part of a series on Emina’s adventure in the Dominican Republic. She visited the country independently with our sis Nerma and her best friend Ajla (girls trip, wohoo!). Start here  for our general impressions, entire trip overview and costs. Then check out this post on our first stop in the DR: Bayahibe,  read here about the small hidden paradise in Las Galeras, and our biggest adventure in Barahona. Stay tuned for the next episode!

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

I can’t wait to share with you:

  • My pictures that will make you go look up flight tickets this second
  • The most beautiful beach in the world (under UNESCO protection)
  • The most awesome accommodation in tents at the beach
  • Why it pays of get off the beaten path
  • Why I’m using so many superlatives

 

 Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

The ultimate Caribbean road trip

 

After all the hustle of leaving La Cianega, we started our journey to Pedernales with our small economy rented car. Not the best idea!

 

It started off alright.  After leaving La Cienaga the street was still OK and we had some beautiful views of the sea.

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

But soon after the palm trees were replaced by huuuuge cactus. This is the hottest part of the country and they even have a desert (we didn’t get to see it).

 

The street first turned into huge pot holes

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

and then – into a dirt road!

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

We did read that a 4×4 vehicle is recommended for this part of the country but renting one was just too expensive for us. If you have a bigger budget, go for the 4×4!

 

What about the military zone?

 

At one point we were driving 20 km/h on a dirt road with an outside temperature of almost 50 C/122 F (or that is how it felt). No one behind us and no one in front of us. Every turn was painful and we didn’t know if we could trust our GPS because we found ourselves in a desert without any road signs.

 

Well, there were some signs that we found suspicious. Like this one:

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Or this one (“Dangerous Explosives”:))

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

 

This is where you want to stay!

 

After over an hour on the dirt road, we found paradise (I know, I’m overusing the word but as soon as you make your way to this part of the world, you’ll also reduce your vocabulary to superlatives and clichés:)).

 

We came here because we read that the most beautiful beach in the world, Bahia de las Aguilas, under UNESCO protection, is hiding here in a national park. I also found out online about Eco Del Mar, a very unique accommodation option just next to this beach: tents with beds. They call it glamping (glamorous camping). Oh, yeah!

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

 

 

We arrived late and after all the drama with leaving La Cienaga, all we needed was beach time. We spent the evening at the open air bar with our feet in the sand, dancing merenge and bachata. Since it was a working day, there was only one more French couple here. They told us that the weekend gets busy with Dominicans.

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

The night spent in the tent was magical. We fell asleep to the sound of waives. The sky was full of stars (no light pollution). The beds were super comfy.

 

We paid for a VIP tent 4100 pesos (around EUR / USD 73)  in total. This includes breakfast in the open air restaurant. The tent fits 4 people and the “VIP” factor is the fact that it is right in front of the beach. You can get cheaper tents behind the VIP tents.

 

We booked a cheaper tent on booking.com but when we arrived they showed us this tent and we immediately agreed to take this one instead.

 

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Yes, it is technically a camping place. But, just look at this cute open air shower, the beautifully decorated toilet, the open air bar and restaurant area. They thought of every little detail. We LOVED it (Yes, I’m shouting, there is no other way to express my excitement!:))

 

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

 

The best beach in the world: Bahia de Las Aguilas

 

The next morning we first had coffee and breakfast (included in the price).

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Then we took a 20 minute boat ride to Bahia de las Aguilas. The boat ride is organized by Eco Del Mar and costs 2500 pesos per boat (around 50 USD / EUR) for up to max 6 people. There were no other people in our boat. They dropped us off at the beach and later picked us up at a time we told them.

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

This beach is another world! 8 km of white sand and the most special turquoise water you will ever see. There are no palm trees but rather cactus.

 

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Now get this, we were the ONLY people here! This is the benefit of traveling off season.

 

Oh man, whenever I feel stressed, I just mentally transport myself to this heaven on earth.

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Road tripping the DR: Part 2

 

After the entire day in Bahia de Las Aguilas, we got into our (at this point- very dirty) car and made our way up to Barahona city, where we spent the night. On the way to Barahona, which is an around a 3h drive, we stopped wherever we felt like.

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

One of the places we liked was a local restaurant at the beach in Paraiso. We had lunch here, together with Dominican families. Here you see the point where the river connects with the ocean. So beautiful!

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

We paid around 330 pesos (5 USD / EUR) per person for a full plate of fresh fish and fried banana. Yum!

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

 

Honourable mention

 

A huge help for finding Bahia de las Aguilas and Eco del Mar was the travel guide from Nathalia, the girl behind the lifestyle blog The Key Item. I stumbled on it by chance and used it while we were on the road. You can download it here.

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

My final vote on Pedernales

 

This was by far one of the top highlights of our trip. The hustle of getting there makes it even more special (and makes for a fun story!). If you only have a week in the DR, just skip the rest and make your way to the Barahona province and Pedernales!

 

Bahia de las Aguilas Dominican Republic Pedernales

 

HAVE WE CONVINCED YOU TO PUT THIS MAGICAL PLACE ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?

Dominican Republic: Here’s how to see the Caribbean  differently! 

Dominican Republic: Here’s how to see the Caribbean  differently! 

This post is part of a series on Emina’s adventure in the Dominican Republic. She visited the country independently with our sis Nerma and her best friend Ajla (girls trip, wohoo!). Start here  for our general impressions, entire trip overview and costs. Then check out this post on our first stop in the DR: Bayahibe and read here about the small hidden paradise in Las Galeras. Stay tuned for the next episode!

 

All the beach days aside, it’s this adventure that will stick in my mind forever!

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Here’s what you’ll read today:

 

  • Is it dangerous outside the touristy parts of DR?
  • Here’s a place you’ve never heard of before in the DR – and how to get there
  • How you can directly help the community in the DR
  • What to do in case of a strike (and why the world (of the telenovelas) is so small:)
  • Should you go to Las Cienaga?

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Ever heard of Barahona?

This part of our trip was such a challenge! From Las Galeras we went all the way back to the capital, Santo Domingo, and rented a car there. After we managed to get out of the city, we went on to the most adventurous part of the entire trip! Here’s a part of the country that doesn’t get almost any tourist: the Barahona province in the South-West.

 

(Btw, the GPS said it was 15 minutes to get out of Santo Domingo and to the highway. Well, it turned out we needed almost two freaking hours! The traffic is CRAZY. Seriously, we thought that after the traffic in Bosnia we were equipped for any part of the world. Nope, Santo Domingo is a traffic hell! It was still fun though, even after getting lost zillions of times:))

 

We stayed three nights in this part of the DR; changing places every night. The first stop was the tiny village La Cienaga.

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

A hipster alternative to stay in the Dominican Republic

 

How did we end up here? Well, not by chance.

 

While I was researching the DR before going there, I was looking for options to stay in the home of a Dominican family. On a random forum post on tripadvisor I read something about Cooperativa Coopdeci situated in a remote village called La Cienaga. It is an initiative to empower the local women of the village. They offer several services. They run a small cafe where the local women cook. They also make homemade marmalade and they offer tours and accommodation.

 

I looked up their website and wrote them an e-mail*. I didn’t get any response for days and almost gave up on the idea. But they got back to me after a couple of days. I announced that we will be coming and that we’d like to stay with a local. The communication didn’t go quite well since they wrote in Spanish and I used google translate:D

 

BUT, long story short, after finding our way here from Santo Domingo (we stopped a few times and asked around where to find them), we parked before the small cafe. It seemed as if they didn’t really expect us (as I said, communication issues:D).

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Thankfully, we got invited by a volunteer from the US. We explained everything and he set us up with our host for the night – Paulina.

 

Here I am with our host Paulina and Frank, the US volunteer of the NGO Peace Corps:)

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Here’s Paulina making us coffee.

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

*UPDATE: I wanted to link the website of Cooperativa Coopdeci but it seems that the website is no longer online. Here’s their Facebook fanpage and their e-mail address: gerente@coop-cienaga.org.

 

Sleeping in the home of a local

 

We spent our night in the home of our host Paulina. We paid 500 pesos (10 USD/EUR) each for the sleepover and breakfast.

 

Paulina spoke no English so we communicated with our basic Spanish, our hands and face expressions.  Her home was not the cleanest and most pleasant accommodation, to say the least. But we were accepted unconditionally and wholeheartedly in this community. It will remain one of my dearest travel memories for sure.

 

This is Paulina’s home.

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

And here’s our room 🙂

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Now, this was so funny! Here in Bosnia people have been watching first Spanish and now Turkish soap operas. They are crazy about this stuff. Well, the night we were at Paulina’s we heard from our bed that she was watching what we thought – was a Spanish soap opera. So I went into the living room to keep her company.

 

What I saw was her watching Sulejman Magnificent (Sulejman Veličansveni), the most popular ever Turkish soap opera in Bosnia, dabbed in Spanish!!! We couldn’t believe it. This world is so small! :)))) She moved on explaining me who is doing what and I was like, I’m not going to reveal any spoilers – since they’re a few seasons behind 😀

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

My most precious Dominican memories

 

It will sound like a cliche and I hate cliches. But let me tell you this. These people have so little, this village has electricity for only 12h a day and even their water supply is interrupted. And still, they don’t stop smiling and sharing what every they have.

 

One of the most precious memories from the three weeks in the DR was my walk through the village at 6 am. People were just getting up and ready for work, kids on their way to school.

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

While I was walking around, an old man called me from his house and asked if I wanted to have a coffee with him and his mother. I accepted of course! They called in the grandchildren as well and asked where I was from (it is far away you will probably not know it:)). I left with a souvenir – their family portrait.

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Other kids were in front of the house and Maria and her friends showed me their homework and their favorite cartoons.

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

I even got a kiss that morning:)

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

The nicest grandma in the Dominican Republic

 

And then, when I was about to get back to Paulina’s (Nerma and Ajla were still sleeping), I had the most special encounter in La Cienaga.

 

I saw a grandma cleaning the street. I approached here and asked if I could help her (Yes, I have at least that much Spanish under my belt:)). She was surprised but still showed me where to put the trash.

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Then she invited me to her home. She said she lived here alone. She suddenly disappeared inside the house and came back with the only thing she could offer me – two fresh mangoes. I will never forget this moment. Pure human kindness.

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

What if all roads are blocked?

 

Let me round this story up with drama! That morning we were about to go to our next stop – Pedernales. But then the shock: the only road was blocked because the villagers were on a strike. They demanded from the government the building of an aqueduct to solve the water supply problem. They were throwing rocks on any car they saw on the street.

 

Here we are waiting with everyone else:)

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

You need to wait, they told us. How long? No one knew. Oh, maaaan, why today? So we waited, for an hour, and another hour, and another one. Then the military stepped in! Two trucks full of DR solders drove by on us. Then we heard sounds of gun shots. Tear gas, they explained us. After another few hours, finally, the road was clean. We drove by what looked like a fighting scene, rocks all over the street, fire burning on the street side. Our first thought was that this will make for a fun story back home:)

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

How to get there

 

We got here with a car that we rented in Santo Domino. Driving here is not a problem (apart from finding your way out of Santo Domingo:D). There are not that many streets anyway so it’s quite straight forward.

 

Before we decided to rent the car, I was researching options to get here with public transportation. Turns out that it is possible and it is a pain in the ass. The easiest is to take a Caribetour bus from Santo Domingo to Barahona (around 3 hours). Once in Barahona, you’ll take a guagua (a local minibus). Once in La Cienaga, you’ll have to ask around. The easiest would probably be to hop on a motoconcho (a motocycle taxi). But this place is very small and people know each other. So, again, if you take it easy – and take your time, you’ll end up before their doorstep eventually 🙂

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

My final vote on La Cianega:

 

Do this! It will not be comfortable and you might get upset. But trust me, you need this. You need to see this pure human kindness. I hope it will make you appreciate your own life more. And please support initiatives like Cooperativa Coopdeci because your money will directly help the people who need it the most.

 

Stay tuned for the next episode on getting lost on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, sleeping in a tent and the most beautiful beach on Earth, all in Pedernales!

 

Dominican Republic DR Barahona

 

LET US KNOW IF YOU’RE ONE OF THE RARE PEOPLE WHO WANDERED TO THIS PART OF THE DR! DID WE MISS SOMETHING?

 

Reality Check in the Dominican Republic: Dajabon

Reality Check in the Dominican Republic: Dajabon

This post is part of a series on Emina’s adventure in the Dominican Republic. She visited the country independently with our sis Nerma and her best friend Ajla (girls trip, wohoo!). Start here  for our general impressions, entire trip overview and costs. Then check out this post on our first stop in the DR: Bayahibe and read here about the small hidden paradise in Las Galeras. Then head over to our adventures in the faaaar south of the country (La Cienaga and Pedernales). Stay tuned for the next episode!

 

Here’s what you’ll read:

  • The harsh reality at the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti (goodbye, beaches and hello, chaos!)
  • Is it as dangerous as they say?
  • How to get to the border market in Dajabon
  • Final vote: Why should you come here at all?

 

Dajabon Haiti

 

The border market in Dajabon

 

Ever since it was clear that we were going to the DR, I was determined to make us leave our comfort zone as much as possible. This meant leaving the comfort of the picturesque beaches and face the other reality in the DR. This other side includes the centuries-old issues with their neighbor, Haiti. I’m not going to talk about history. You can google all about it. I want to write about how I experienced this very strong division between Dominicans and Haitians during our visit to one of the border cities to Haiti, Dajabon.

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

The special thing about Dajabon is the weekly border market. You see, Haiti and the DR share the same island but Haitians are not allowed to enter the DR without a visa and vice versa.There are a few exceptions to this rule, one being the border market. Twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays) Haitians are allowed to cross the border without a visa and passport and to participate in the market as vendors or buyers. However, they are restricted to stay within 100 yards of the border.

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

In essence, Haitians come to the market to buy food and to sell many of the things that they receive as humanitarian aid (e.g. there was second hand clothes all over the place). Dominicans come to the market to both sell and buy food, clothes, electronics, hygiene products. etc.

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

Basically, you will not come here to buy something for yourself. This is not meant to be a tourist spot and that’s why we were there.

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

 

 

Is it dangerous to come here?

 

The market is quite a mess, to say the least.

 

Now, first of all, let me tell you that we had been advised against going to Dajabon. There were different reasons for this: (1) It is dangerous, especially for girls (the usual argument), (2) too many pickpockets (“Don’t your even think about taking your DSLR camera with you”), (3) there is nothing to buy of your interest (Trust me, shopping was not the reason we came here), or (4) it is stressful and disturbing (Yes, bring it on!).

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

But as usual, we went anyway and we were so grateful for this experience. I left the DR knowing that I have seen the good, the bed, and the ugly.

 

We were the only foreigners that day. But we didn’t feel threatened at any point. In fact, people didn’t really care about our presence. They were too occupied with their own harsh reality. I did have my DSLR camera with me all the time and nothing got stolen. I even had people posing for me.

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

It was indeed hectic, loud, hot, and stressful. At times, especially close to the military check point, it almost felt as a war zone. It was sad and obscure at the same time. The Dominican army supervises the market and the border crossing. We found it disturbing to watch the discrimination that Haitians are faced with by the military. We crossed the border control on the Dominican side without any problem, by just showing our passports. Haitians, on the other side, had to bribe the military to be allowed to cross the border.

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

 

 

After passing by the military check point on the Dominican side, we wanted to cross the bridge over the so called Massacre River and get to the Haitian side.

 

(Yes, you read this correctly, the Massacre River. The origin of the name dates back to a battle in the 18th century. But in recent history it is better known for a different event.  In short, here’s what happened: During the regime of the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo – from the 1930’s until the 1960’s, the Dominican Army carried out the so called Parsley massacre against the Haitians living in the DR. Estimates of the total number of deaths vary, ranging from 547 to 12,166. The bodies were dumped in, you guessed it, the Massacre River.)

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

At one point it got too crowded on the bridge and people started pushing around. We got scared and decided it was the safest to abort the mission, for now (khmmm, there is something coming up very soon!).

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

How to get to the market

 

Before we though that we would rent a car to come here, I was researching other alternatives. There are no organized “tours” for the market (for obvious reasons). However, I did find a public transportation route.

 

If you are staying in Santiago, like we did, there is a direct guagua (minibus) that connects Santiago and Dajabon – no need to change buses! The guagua stop in Santiago is called “Rotunda.” Contrary to its name, it is not a roundabout but rather a spot with big traffic lights.

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

At this guagua stop, there are guaguas leaving for Dajabon, Mao, and Santiago Rodrigez. The buses are lined up at the back, so not on the road. They all have a sign in the front saying where they are going.

 

Beware that the distance between Santiago and Dajabon is around 150 km / 93 miles and it took us over 2 hours by car to get there. So, count in at least an additional hour or more with a guagua. The first guagua leaves at 6 am. You want to be as early as possible in Dajabon to see all the action in the morning.

 

Dajabon Border Market

 

We had the intention to start driving as early as 6 am but that didn’t happen. We danced the night before in Santiagio until early in the morning, had a three-hour sleep and started driving around 8 am. Getting there with a car was fairly straight forward. We used google maps and didn’t even get lost once (that doesn’t happen too often:). Once we made it to Dajabon, we were super exhausted from the ride and just wanted to rest and eat. That’s the first thing we did. There are many decent places to eat, so that was no problem.

 

 

My final vote on Dajabon

 

This is not for everyone. If you don’t want to leave the pretty beaches in the DR, that’s fine. If you want to see what’s really happening in this country beyond the Caribbean postcard hotspots, you’ll want to consider Dajabon. In our case, we wouldn’t change this experience for anything else in the world:)

 

 

DISCOVER BOSNIA: Why you have to climb our mountains!

DISCOVER BOSNIA: Why you have to climb our mountains!

In addition to the cool photos that I took last weekend, here’s what else you’ll get when you scroll down:

 

  • How to see Bosnian nature without tourist agencies
  • How to find the hidden local trips
  • How to trek our mountains for free
  • A list of local mountaineering clubs and how to get in touch
  • Why you should never do it on your own!

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

 

Bosnia is no longer a secret for tourists (although I still hear stories of foreigners questioning the safety here. Daaaah,trust me, you’ll be safer here than in New York!).

 

And while our beautiful capital Sarajevo is getting attraction for all the right reasons, here’s an idea for an upgraded off-the-beaten-path experience.

 

(Also check out our experience of Lukomir, the cutest ever mountain village close to Sarajevo)

 

Bosnia Mountains Treskavica

 

 

The nature will blow you away!

 

Last weekend was my first time on the mountain Treskavica. I was blown away!

 

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

 

Bosnia Mountain treskavica

 

 

Quick facts about this mountain: It has over 300 springs, 5 lakes, and its highest peek is 2,088 km. Aaaand guess what, here you can drink water directly from the spring!

 

 

Bosnia Mountain treskavica

 

 

Quick fact to all my fellow readers who are (like me) out of shape: It is super doable! We walked over 20 km that day (from around 8 am until 7 pm) and I still got up to work the next day:)

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

 

Bosnia Mountain treskavica

 

 

 

Skip the tourist agencies!

 

We love the fact that the tourism industry has been blooming in Bosnia in recent years. We see new travel agencies popping up all the time, catering to the needs of foreign tourists. That’s great and all.

 

BUT, we like to do things differently when we travel. If you’re following us here, on our Facebook page, and on Instagram, then you know that we enjoy putting in some extra effort for the sake of genuine local experiences.

 

Bosnia Mountains Treskavica

 

That being sad, here’s how to see the most beautiful nature without other tourists around.

 

 

Facebook is your friend!

 

In Bosnia we are experiencing one of the warmest and most beautiful and colorful autumns EVER. This also means that it is the perfect weather to immerse in nature.

 

So when I wanted to climb some mountains last weekend (“climb some mountains” sounds too ambitious having in mind that I’m still recovering from my ankle accident:), my starting point was, wait for it, Facebook!

 

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

Bosnia Mountains Treskavica

 

 

With all the mountains in Bosnia, you can bet that we have tons of mountaineering clubs. Many of them are on Facebook and whenever they organize trips to Bosnian mountains, they post it as events on Facebook. Usually, these trips are open to everyone. You don’t have to be a member or anything like that.

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

So, all I had to do was type “planinarsko društvo” (local for “mountaineering club”) in the Facebook search tab.

 

I got a bunch of pages and groups of mountaineering clubs. By clicking any of them, I saw which trips they were organizing.

 

Bosnia Mountains Treskavica

 

 

How to get in touch with a local mountaineering club

 

When they post events on their fan page or group, the clubs explain when and where they are meeting, how demanding the trip is, how to register, and what you have to take with you.

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

 

 

Bosnia Mountains Treskavica

 

 

Since they are not catering to tourists, it will all be in local language. But, daaah, that’s what Google Translate is for:)

 

They will also post a contact number.

 

People in Bosnia in general speak at least a bit English. You’ll either call them on your own and hope that the other person is one of those with some English under their belt – or just ask someone in your hostel (or the new local friend you met in the bar the other day) to talk to them.

 

I am sure that they will be happy to have you on board! Plus, on these trips you’ll meet amazing locals many of which speak English or even German. On these trips you’ll see families with kids, elderly people (we had a 70-year old grandpa on board:)) and lots of young people. They will have all sorts of different backgrounds. I met professors, students, a doctor, pharmacists, lawyers, etc. They will love to share with you their knowledge about Bosnia, our history, the different plants, etc. You might as well end up meeting for drinks the next day:)

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

Here are some of some of the better known clubs and clubs which we have liked – in and around Sarajevo:

 

Bosnia Mountains Treskavica

 

 

How to do all of this for FREE

 

Local mountaineering trips are usually super cheap compared to what the travel agencies offer. It will usually cost around EUR / USD 10 to 15. It costs more only if it is further away or if it includes a sleepover.

 

This price usually includes transportation and – always, a certified guide. You have to bring your own food.

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

BUT, it can even cost you EUR/US 0! Just like my trip last weekend. I saw the event for the trip to Treskavica and called the mountaineering klub “Bobovac” Kakanj to ask about the payment. They said that for folks from Sarajevo it is free – since the meeting point is close to the city.

 

The only cost we had was our own fuel. Obviously, if you don’t have a car rental, you can either negotiate with a taxi driver to take you there and pick you up or you can even ask the klub if they know of anyone who’ll be driving from your direction, to share the ride.

 

 

Why you should NEVER do this on your own

 

I said at the beginning that Bosnia is safe. Well, when it comes to the mountains, there’s the issue with landmines, a leftover from the 90s war.

 

Many mountains are completely free of landmines BUT there are still a number of mountains where you will still find signs stating “Beware, mines!” Treskavica is one of them.

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

 

These signs should be taken seriously and you should not wander outside the strict marked trails. This is why it is super important to never hike alone. All mountaineering klubs have certified and experienced guides who know exactly which parts need to be avoided.

 

Here’s a picture of our awesome guide 🙂

 

Bosnia Mountain treskavica

 

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

But don’t let this scare you off. As long as you use common sense, take the necessary precautions, and go with experienced guides, your memories of Bosnian mountains will be nothing but magical.

 

Bosnia mountains Treskavica

 

Have you already trekked any mountain in Bosnia? Tell us about your experience!

 

LAS GALERAS: Already on your bucket list for the Dominican Republic?

LAS GALERAS: Already on your bucket list for the Dominican Republic?

This post is part of a series on Emina’s adventure in the Dominican Republic. She visited the country independently with our sis Nerma and her best friend Ajla (girls trip, wohoo!). Start here  for our general impressions, entire trip overview and costs. Then check out this post on our first stop in the DR: Bayahibe and stay tuned for the next episode!

 

In this episode you will read:

  • What makes Las Galeras so special
  • How to get there if you don’t have a car
  • Where to stay in Las Galeras
  • How we almost had to cancel the entire trip because of me
  • My final vote on Las Galeras

 

Las Galeras is a remote village at the end of the Samana peninsula in the Dominican Republic. It was a must-do on our DR trip because we read that it is one of the rare places in the DR where mass tourism hasn’t kicked off yet. We spent 4 nights here.

 

 

HOT TO GET TO LAS GALERAS WITHOUT A CAR

 

We woke up early on our last morning in Bayahibe and we had a long journey in front of us:

(1) a local bus from Bayahibe to Romana – around an hour,

(2) a second bus from Romana to Santo Domingo – another hour,

(3) a taxi from where the bus left us in Santo Domingo to the Caribe Tour Bus station in Santo Domingo – a few minutes,

(4) the Caribe Tour bus to Samana – around 2,5 hours, aaand

(5) a guagua (local minibus) to Las Galeras – another hour (we skipped this and took a taxi instead (keep reading)

 

 

Now you understand why I say that this is a REMOTE village at the END OF THE ROAD. Yes, it is that far. But is it worth the hustle?

 

 

WHEN A BUS DRIVE AND A TAXI DRIVER TURN INTO TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS 

 

Already in our first bus ride we were confronted with a culture shock. First, a young gentlemen got in the bus with a pretty much alive hen – and a real party animal – she didn’t stop making sounds all until they got out in Santo Domingo:D

 

Second, I did tell you that the Dominicans are religious. But I did not expect that the bus driver gets up, says a long prayer on having a safe trip, God protecting us and us having long and prosperous lives. And then the entire bus goes “Amen!” 🙂

 

And to make the day even more special, once we finally reached Samana, a taxi driver convinced us to take us to Las Galeras, instead of taking the guagua for our final transportation (a total of 1,500 Dominican pesos / around 30 USD/27 EUR).

 

This man was so much FUN! As soon as we got in the car we asked him to turn on some bachata and merengue and turn up the volume. He loved this and started singing immediately. And this man DID NOT STOP SINGING until we reached Las Galeras – which is an entire hour:)

 

Samana

The taxi driver Miguel

 

On our way back from Samana, we met him again at the bus station. He gave me his number for just in case. Here’s the number: 809 827 5470. He’s called Miguel. If you need a driver while you’re here, he’s your man!

 

 

THE HIGHLIGHTS OF LAS GALERAS

 

Here’s what we’ll never forget:

 

1. Playa Fronton

 

This will sound cheesy but I’m very serious:  This is one the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic.

 

Playa Fronton

 

Playa Fronton

 

Playa Fronton

 

Playa Fronton

 

Playa Fronton is only accessible via boat. We paid 1000 Dominican pesos (21 USD/17 EUR) each for the boat ride and a total of 1000 Dominican pesos for the three of us for lunch (7 USD/6 EUR each): fresh Caribbean fish prepared for us right at the beach.

 

Las Galeras

 

Las Galeras

 

Playa Fronton

 

Playa Fronton

 

Playa Fronton

 

 

2. Sleeping in paradise for 20 EUR/night

 

Our accommodation in Las Galeras was one of the highlights of this trip. I will make sure to dedicate an entire post just to the Chalet Tropical and the friendly Italian owner, Sarah. For now, let me tell you that we didn’t want to leave this tropical paradise. And we paid only 22 USD / 20 EUR per night per person for it!

 

Las Galeras

 

Just look at our room!

 

Las Galeras

 

And the breakfast (8 USD per person per day)

 

Las Galeras

 

And the garden!

 

Las Galeras

 

Las Galeras

 

 

We shared the neighborhood with locals.

 

Las Galeras

 

Las Galeras

 

Las Galeras

 

Las Galeras

3. Riding motorbikes to Playa Rincon

 

Playa Rincon is another awesome beach here. But what we enjoyed even more is getting there. It takes you almost an hour on a motorbike.

You’re driving through small villages where locals are sitting in small kiosks on the road side with merengue blasting all day.

 

One of our bikes broke down and locals immediately gathered around to fix it.

 

Las Galeras

 

Las Galeras

 

Las Galeras

 

Las Galeras

 

We were pretty much stranded:)

 

Las Galeras

 

 

A very cool thing about Playa Rincon is that here you’ll see where a river enters the sea. The locals actually prefer coming here because of the river.

 

Las Galeras

 

4. Ever heard of dambow?

 

We spent our nights dancing in the local village disco where we were the only tourists. This was probably because it was off season.

 

This is also where we learned all the popular songs in DR and found out that there is something called dambow, a Dominican sort of reaggeton music. I wished you’ve seen the faces of Dominicans when they saw us singing and dancing to dambow:)

 

 

MY INJURY IN LAS GALERAS

 

Las Galeras was also where our trip was almost over. I had an accident that I still haven’t recovered from completely.

 

It all started with me asking Nerma to take a “spontaneous” picture of me jumping at the beach with my hair in the air and the turquoise water in the background (Yap, very original. There are only 4,558 similar pics out there on Instagram:D).

 

Ajla took this picture of me before Nerma took over.

 

Las Galeras

 

While I was about to jump for picture number 46, I didn’t see that a hole was formed in the sand (probably from the waves). I stumbled on my right ankle right in this hole and craaaaaaaaaaak, what a paaaain! I couldn’t say a word.

 

We immediately stopped someone on a motorbike to take me back to our house. I spent the next three days in a hammock with icing and Nerma’s home made remedy: a mix of apple vinegar and crushed red onion (how very sexy:D)

 

Las Galeras

 

 

After our time in Las Galeras was up, I somehow managed to get myself to our taxi, then the bus, then the next taxi in Santo Domingo, then our rented car, all the way to the other side of the country: La Cienaga. And yes, the entire time I had this smelly onion and vinegar mix on my foot (Love you, Nerma, you saved me from a serious injury – and any human interaction :D)

 

 

MY FINAL VOTE ON LAS GALERAS

 

Recommended! They say that here you will see one of the most beautiful beaches of the DR. We surely haven’t been to all the beaches but from the over 13, Playa Rancon is our number 2. We liked how laid back it was as well as the fact that most of the time we were the only tourists around.

 

FOLLOW UP ON THE INJURY

 

Back home I went to visit a doctor. My ligaments were damaged and I had to wear a walking support (You can see it here because, as irresponsible as I am, I went hiking with the damn thing:D). But it was still all worth it:)

 

COMING UP

Stay tuned for the next episode on sleeping in a local home, watching Turkish soap operas in the middle of nowhere and almost getting attacked in a strike (including a blocked road and military intervention), all in La Cienaga.

 

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