I was super blessed to visit Santorini twice in 2016! Once in April, & again in September. With the two trips being so close together during the same travel season, I felt like such a pro the second time around! It was great to see the difference in busy-ness from the beginning of the season to the end as well, my preference? Beginning! When we visited in April the tourist season was just starting, many properties weren’t even open yet, and it wasn’t crowded at all! During Labor Day weekend though? Oia was sooo crowded and congested, I can’t even imagine how it is in the middle of the summer. Just something to keep in mind while you’re planning your trips! The weather was definitely warmer in September but I’m not huge into swimming anyways so April didn’t bother me. I hate getting my hair wet lol!
We stayed at Santorini Secret Suites & Spa and got the true cavernous cycladic experience. Such a gorgeous and photogenic property *heart eyes* – I have a full hotel feature HERE.
Enjoy the photos! It was a quick visit so this is just a photo diary, all of my outfit details are at the bottom btw!
If you’re looking for a full travel guide of Santorini, be sure to check out my in-depth post from last spring! xo
Happy Fri-Yay!! Another long overdue 2016 travel diary today… Istanbul! Waseem & I traveled to Greece and Turkey last spring for our third wedding anniversary. All of my Greece posts went up in a somewhat timely fashion but I really dragged my feet with sorting through my photos from Istanbul. I feel like I’ve mentioned it so many times already but I got so sick in Greece that our few days in Turkey were such a delirious blur. I slept almost the entire time and barely got to sightsee so TBH looking at these photos makes me a little sad too! I’ve always wanted to visit Istanbul and while I’m so happy to have visited, I do really wish I was able to soak it up a little more! We did get to check off two of our top sights to see though – The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet was so generous in hosting us and we really couldn’t have picked a better location! Sultanahmet is the heart of old Istanbul and many of the major attractions are all here and in walking distance. The cobblestone roads were so charming and it must have been a little off season when we went (maybe?!) because nothing seemed to be crowded. It was very quiet & serene, we loved just strolling.
The Four Seasons is actually a century-old former jail! Who would think something like that would be converted into a luxury hotel?! The jailhouse was the first in Istanbul and was built in Turkish neoclassical style and underwent redevelopment in the 90s to preserve its history and architecture. The property now has 65 hotel rooms and suites with a gorgeous landscaped courtyard filled with flowers where we had breakfast every morning. The courtyard used to be the jail’s exercise yard, what a serious makeover! I love visiting places with tons of rich history, the property has so much character making our experience all the more unique.
We checked in at night and there was a yummy platter waiting for us (Waseem gobbled up all the Turkish delights!); we room service’d some tea for my throat and I went right to sleep. I woke up to such a lovely view of the Blue Mosque right from our balcony in the morning! You’ll see everything I’m describing in the photos below :)
Maui is one of my husband & my favorite destinations in the world. Our first trip in 2014 was our most enjoyable vacation we’ve ever taken & we’ve been dreaming of visiting again ever since! Since moving to LA almost two years ago, we’ve been looking for any excuse to go since it’s such a short flight from here and we finally pulled the trigger for a quick weekend getaway in October for my 30th birthday. This post is SO long overdue but I got pregnant soon after and life has been a whirlwind ever since! Before our lives get flipped completely upside down in 2017 (in the best way possible!), I’m making it a point to backtrack and get all of my remaining 2016 travels up on the blog! *ahem* Can’t fall behind while I’m brainstorming babymoon destinations! ;)
We stayed in the southwest side of the island during both visits – Kihei during our first trip and Wailea this past October. Kihei is a working/beach town so this time around I wanted a more luxurious experience in the gorgeous resort community of Wailea – just south of Kihei. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea was so generous to host us for my birthday and it was such a wonderful quick trip! I’ve stayed at Four Seasons Resorts around the world and this is the first hotel I’ve experienced with staff that will remember your name every time!
They were undergoing some renovations during our stay and they let us know beforehand that there might be some noise but we honestly didn’t see or hear a thing. I do believe that their renovations are now complete anyways! The friendly staff welcomed us with tropical drinks and fresh leis before we were quickly transferred to our ocean-view room – where we had even more treats waiting for us! We had a huge fruit and cheese platter that we seriously munched on all weekend lol at one point we were scooping cheese with more cheese it was so good haha!
Since our trip this time was for such a short weekend, we stayed at the resort most of our time (aside from one Road to Hana day of course!). The property is huge and restaurants are so good so if you’re not in the mood to explore the island, there is more than enough to do at the hotel! We had my birthday dinner at Ferraro’s and the food was amazing of course but what I loved most was the atmosphere. It’s located outside and oceanfront so the temperature, sounds, and fresh air are so relaxing! It was already past sunset by the time we made it down for dinner but even without the views, I was loving all the fresh Hawaiian air and the sounds of crashing waves.
The beach and reef are spectacular so even though the Four Seasons has amazing pools, you have to take the couple steps down to the beach. We spent our first afternoon strolling along the shore and playing in the water. The next day we loved our time at the adults-only pool and lounging in our cabana. The friendly service was so quick and the drinks were awesome!
Waseem and I have been in Dubai for a little over a week with still quite a few days left! Waseem is here on business and I was at Pop Con Dubai over the weekend speaking on a social media panel as well as being Chrisspy’s model for her masterclass (also at Pop Con!). I’ve been to Dubai several times, usually for long layovers so my mom could hit up the gold souq; but Waseem and I also visited for our first wedding anniversary almost three years ago! I was excited to come back for such an extended period of time with a little bit of experience under my belt. What I was most excited for was the chance to drive down to Abu Dhabi and visit the gorgeous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque again! This mosque is my favorite place I’ve ever visited in the world – how can it not be?! It is so gorgeous and peaceful – not pretentious like I expected prior to my first visit. It’s beyond decadent, adorned with marble, gold, precious stones, and crystal galore, don’t get me wrong – but I think there’s something really beautiful about feeling proud of your place of worship.
The Grand Mosque was established by the late president, who wanted to create something that truly unified the Muslim world – its peoples, history, & art. Materials and artisans from all over the world were brought to design and create this mosque and the design is best described as a fusion of Arab, Persian, Mughal & Moorish architecture. Yes, I got that from Wikipedia haha ;) The Grand Mosque accomodates over 40,000 worshippers and is made up of over 1000 columns and 82 domes, it will seriously take your breath away!
Tourist hours vary depending on the day. I was lucky enough to pray jummah (Friday prayer) twice here! In 2014 it seemed as though tourist hours began right after prayers ended (busloads of tourists came through as we were getting out) but the current schedule shows that tourist hours begin after 4:30pm on Fridays – be sure to check the schedule! I was a bit nervous about taking photos after prayers but no one said a thing & the mosque seems to be very photo friendly – they even host a photography competition every year! I have heard that you cannot bring tripods though, luckily I didn’t visit alone! :) To be honest, I don’t understand the Rihanna controversy from a few years back – she wasn’t doing anything that everyone else wasn’t doing! All tourists take a million photos. It’s the #1 tourist destination in Abu Dhabi and there are guided tours daily!
I drove down to Abu Dhabi with my friend Shyema (who took my bomb photos!) on Friday for Jummah prayer. Waseem & I spontaneously drove down last night and I have to say it is also soooo beautiful at night! To visit during Mahgrib (sunset prayer), is on my bucketlist! I don’t know if I can handle another drive this week, but God willing – next time!
This year has been quite the doozy! I think I’ve traveled internationally at least once a month since March, with the exception of May. Not only has it been an exciting year traveling the globe, I got to visit my dream destination twicein the same season! My husband and I visited Santorini during our anniversary trip in March and I was back again in August! Santorini Secret Suites & Spa was generous in hosting me and their property was such a quintessential Oia dream – everything was so white, clean & dreamy. Located right off the pedestrian walkway in Oia, shopping and restaurants were available all around the property. During our first visit at a different property, our room was on the street level so it wasn’t built into the cliffside like the rest of the hotel and like most of the residences in Oia. At Santorini Secret, we had such a Cycladic experience living and sleeping in our cavernous room!
Everything is carved into the cliff so be prepared for a ton of stairs! I get tired easily so I was happy to have a higher room; but the lower you get, the more private the rooms get as well. I had no issues with guests walking by when we were lounging on our terrace though (which was rare anyways!); & from inside the room you can’t hear a thing! So peacefully quiet & private.
Santorini is the most photogenic place I’ve been & any picture taken outside on the terraces or stairs at the hotel will be flawless by default. You can’t take a bad photo with all the light reflecting everywhere and the ever-so-perfect backdrop! You gotta check it out below to believe it!