What to see in Japan in March - my trip highlights

Japan is charming, exciting and overwhelming. You visit once and become a fan forever.

It's impossible not to fall in love with its traditions, temples and people. No matter if you prefer discovering cities or nature - Japan has it all. 

This trip was my second time in Japan and I'm really hoping not the last one as I still have a long list of places I'd love to see. There's a lot to cover so in this post I'm going to share the highlights of my recent trip to Kanto region. 

As my trip started in Tokyo here's a photo of the beautiful Imperial Palace - a separate post on Tokyo is coming soon. 

Tokyo Imperial Palace
Tokyo crossing

Sadly, the weather wasn't great on arrival but that view from Tokyo City View in Roppongi hills is still amazing - offering wonderful skyline perspective of this buzzing city.

Tokyo Roppongi hills view

Shousenkyo Ropeway

Having left Tokyo and moving further north we got lucky to be able to see Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan and one of its well-known symbols. This view is from Shousenkyo Ropeway, where you go up on a funicular to get to the top of the observation deck.

Mount Fuji


The following night we stayed in Matsumoto and couldn't miss an opportunity to take an early morning walk to Matsumoto Castle, the oldest castle donjon remaining in Japan. Because of the elegant black walls, Matsumoto Castle is sometimes called 'Crow Castle'.

Matsumoto Castle

Jigokudani monkey park

Our next stop was the famous Jigokudani monkey park. Jigokudani means "Hell's Valley". The name derived from the very steep cliffs surrounding the area with the steam and boiling water coming from the hot springs.

The park is famous for its wild Japanese macaques, more commonly referred to as snow monkeys, that come to bath in the hot springs. It wasn't snowing when we visited and not very cold so there were not too many monkeys bathing but they were still so fun to watch!

Jigokudani Snow monkey park

Zenkoji temple

It was sad to say goodbye to the monkeys but we had to move on with our packed programme. Zenkoji Buddist temple is located in Nagano, the city you might remember as 1998 winter Olympics host. With Olympics coming back to Japan in 2020 (summer Olympics in Tokyo this time) it was even more interesting to see this city. 

Zenkoji temple

I love visiting Japanese temples and shrines - it's so great to see how Shintoism and Buddism peacefully coexist together with many people following both religions at the same time. Next to the temples you can see omikuji - fortune-telling paper strips that can range from having a great blessing to a great curse. Many Japanese people carry the good ones with them but leave the bad ones hanging on the trees or next to the temples.

Plum blossom

Japan is famous for its sakura blossom but not many people know that plum trees bloom before the cherry trees and are popular in Japan too! 

We got lucky to visit Akima Bairin plum farm in Annaka that has 35000 plum trees. As you can see, the flowers were just starting to appear but it was still impressive to see. Plums are grown to produce plum wine, to be eaten pickled or in those sweets that we tried in the plum farm's shop (pictured below).

Akima Bairin plum farm
Akima Bairin plum farm

During this trip, I got to try a lot of traditional Japanese food I haven't tried before. It's very common to have lunch or dinner consisting of a few small plates. Pictured below is okkirikomi - hand-kneaded flat, wide udon noodles and seasonal vegetables, simmered in plenty of broth seasoned with soy sauce or miso that are popular in Gunma prefecture. I loved this lady working in the restaurant and asked to take her portrait. She didn't speak any English but our guides helped me to translate.

Another interesting experience was the stay at the traditional Japanese hotel - ryokan Nikko Hotel Seikoen. There are many ryokans across the country and they usually include a hot bath (onsen), sleeping on a tatami on a futon bed on the floor and set traditional Japanese breakfast and dinner menus. I loved the colourful kimonos we all got to wear too!

Ryokan Japan

Nikko Toshogu

It was raining and the trip was almost coming to an end, but one of the most wonderful places was still waiting for us to be seen. Nikko Toshogu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a beautifully decorated shrine complex consisting of more than a dozen buildings set among the old cedar trees. The atmosphere there is truly magical and I highly recommend adding this place to your travel list. 

Nikko Toshogu

Tips before you go

If you are planning a trip to Japan I recommend downloading Japan Official Travel App that is packed with tips on places to see, best ways to travel and loads of other useful information.

The best way to travel across the country is with the JR Rail Pass, available to tourists only, it has to be purchased before travelling to Japan. You can buy it for 7, 14 and 21 days and it's valid on most trains, Tokyo Monorail, some buses and ferries.

Not everyone speaks English but public transport signs and announcements are available in English - so I didn't find it a problem. Most restaurants have menus with pictures so you can always point out a dish you'd like to order. I'd recommend taking the medicines you know you might need as finding your regular medicine in Japan might be a little tricky. 

I was a guest of JNTO, all opinions are my own.

The most beautiful castles in Scotland you have to see

If you have visited Scotland but have not been to the Highlands - you are missing out. If you haven't visited Scotland at all - you are missing out even more!

I've met so many people living in the UK for years and never venturing out to Scotland. Yes, it can be very wet but if you are dressed for any weather you'll surely have a great trip.

Autumn is my favourite time to visit Scotland - the leaves and the grass turn the most amazing golden colour. This time we only stayed for 3 days but I'd like to show you how much you can see in this limited time.

Scotland in autumn

Stirling Castle

After arriving to Glasgow and picking up our car we first made our way to Stirling. The Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland but I wouldn't call it the most beautiful (=instagrammable). It was one of the two castles we managed to see from the inside so it was still interesting, plus the view from the castle's walls is just great.


Blair Castle

Without wasting too much time we headed to Perthshire to visit the Blair Castle. Sadly, the castle was closed to a private event but we had a lovely walk in the area and tried to make friends with the hairy Highland cows. To our disappointment, the cows decided that the grass was too irresistibly tasty to pay any attention to us.

Ballintaggart Farm

In the evening we stopped for the dinner at Ballintaggart Farm (booking required) where we were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the owners - Rachel and Chris. It was dark, so pictures don't do justice but this kind of food and attention to detail can't be found anywhere else in the Scottish Highlands. We did not stay overnight but the farm has two rooms for the guests, they also run cookery masterclasses that you can book in advance online.

Ballintaggart farm

Dunnotar Castle

Next day we drove to yet another castle, the Dunnotar - a ruined cliff top fortress. As you can see all the castles we visited are very different so it doesn't get boring. We got really lucky with the weather in terms of rain but unfortunately, it was too windy for the castle to stay open for visitors.

Dunnotar Castle

Craigievar Castle

You won't be surprised to hear that our most anticipated visit was to Craigievar Castle. Does it even look real? As you approach it from the distance you can't miss this pink fairytale building peeping between the trees. It is said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle and you can see why. The castle was already closed for the season (even when it's open you can only visit as part of a guided tour) but we were lucky to have it for ourselves to photograph from the outside for almost half an hour.

Craigievar castle
near Craigievar castle in Scotland

We had dinner and spent our last night in the Pierhouse Hotel in the quiet village of Port Appin which is located in Argyll, on the shores of Loch Linnhe. In the morning we admired the picturesque location of the hotel followed by a quick walk to the lighthouse where we were greeted by those furry locals.

Port Appin

Castle Stalker

The Castle Stalker is surrounded by water making it look very special. It is privately owned but a tour can be booked in advance (we didn't do it).

Castle Stalker


Back to civilisation for a quick lunch in Oban, it was almost time to head back to Glasgow airport for our flight back to London.

Oban Scotland

Inveraray Castle

On the way to the airport, we managed to squeeze in another stop at Inveraray Castle and even had a quick look inside (finally, a castle that wasn't closed or needed prebooking). The castle is surrounded by a beautiful garden that must look wonderful in spring and summer as well.

Scotland Inveraray Castle
Inveraray castle

That was the end of our trip but I hope to be back to Scotland again soon as there are more castles to explore and more places to visit.

Scotland highlands

More information on Scotland can be found here.

New Year's Eve in Dublin

I was postponing a trip to Ireland for a long time, and then a perfect opportunity came not just to visit Ireland but to spend New Year's Eve in Dublin! Pretty exciting, isn't it?

As usual, I started with a research on the most instagrammable spots. What can be better than combining New year celebrations with snapping a few nice shots?

Temple Bar is the area you can't miss in Dublin.  It gets very busy in the afternoon so if you are after taking photos it's better to go in the morning, and of course to return later in the day to visit one of the pubs. We didn't get a chance to check it out but were recommended a hidden spot called Vintage Cocktail Club or VCC.

Going for a traditional music and dance performance is a lot of fun - we loved the experience at the Merry Ploughboy Pub, it's not in the centre but seemed to be popular as all the tables were full. 

Trinity College Library is another must-visit place. The highlight is the Long Room which houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest book. The library gets very busy and the best is to book tickets online.

Trinity College Dublin

I loved seeing Dublin embracing festive spirit with all its Christmas decorations. Pictured below is the Powerscort shopping centre.

Powerscort Townhouse Centre Dublin

We couldn't miss popping into Guinness Storehouse too. I won't lie, I wanted to go mostly because of the view from the top but the whole experience was actually really nice. The storehouse covers 7 floors where you can learn about Guinness history and production process, give a go at pouring a perfect pint, dine, buy souvenirs and a lot more.

Guinness Storehouse
Dublin view from Guinness Storehouse

Stephen's Green is another beautiful shopping centre worth popping into.

Stephen's Green Centre Dublin

Check out Drury Street for independent shops and cafes.

For a day out of Dublin take a 30-minute fast train service DART from Dublin city centre to a fishing village of Howth. If the weather is nice, take a cliff walk which offers great views of the Bailey Lighthouse. Wear comfortable shoes, hiking shoes would be best as it was quite muddy when we visited.

Howth Ireland

Last but not least, the main reason for our visit - Dublin New Year's festival. It lasted for 2 days - Kodeline concert followed by a countdown and a special performance on the evening of the 31-st December and then the continuation of the performance on the 1st January.

New Year Festival Dublin

Special thanks to Failte Ireland and Visit Dublin for our wonderful stay.

Food discoveries in Puente Romano resort in Marbella, Spain

Even though I don't consider myself a foodie I do love and appreciate food so when back in October I was invited to spend a few days in Puente Romano resort in Marbella to try out their famous restaurants I couldn't say no. An idea of spending a few days in the autumn sun, which felt more like summer in the UK, seemed very appealing too.

I was even more excited as I knew my Instagram friends Giulia, Jacintha and Millie are coming as well.

Marbella beach
Puente Romano hotel Marbella

After checking in the hotel our first stop was El Chiringuito, located at the beginning of the beach area. I loved the sea views and the relaxed vibe of this restaurant.

The resort's most famous restaurant is probably Nobu. If you have ever been to any other Nobu locations, you know what I'm talking about. The restaurant is well-known for its classic Japanese dishes cooked with Peruvian flavours, and it didn't disappoint - wagyu beef and black cod with miso were excellent. Nobu is opening their own hotel within the resort too - expected to offer 81 rooms by 2019.

nobu restaurant marbella

Next day we finally had time to see a bit of Marbella that seemed like a lovely Spanish town, during the day there were no traces of it being a party place.

Marbella old town

In Marbella we popped into Doliva for olive oil tasting. We tried a few different olive oils and were surprised to find out that 55% of world's olive oil is produced in Spain. After learning this and trying out the best olive oil, we couldn't leave the shop without buying some oil to take home.

Back to Puente Romano just in time for paella making masterclass. Both rabbit and seafood options were absolutely delicious!

Monkey bar marbella

if you are looking for lighter and healthier options - the resort has them too. Try Rachel's Organic cafe by the pool (pictured below) or gluten-free cafe Celicioso.

I don't usually stay at huge resorts like this one but I was surprised by how many things you can do (it even has a tennis court) and how diverse all the dining options are. Thanks, Puente Romano for a wonderful stay!

marbella beach