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View of Jervis Bay, NSW, Austrlia

Discover Jervis Bay & Shoalhaven

Jervis Bay and the Shoalhaven region is a coastal area that lies in the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

It’s made up of a number of charming coastal towns and suburbs. Jervis Bay, on the other hand, is the stunning oceanic bay and village that lies to the east of the Shoalhaven area. It’s also known for having the world’s whitest sand. Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven are full of never-ending treasures, and are only a two-hour drive south of Sydney.

Here are the best ways to discover Jervis Bay & Shoalhaven:

Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay, NSW


Visit the Beaches

Hyams Beach is the most well-known of beaches in the Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven area. It’s easy to see why since it’s one of the most picturesque beaches in NSW. You’ll find that Jervis Bay really does live up to its reputation for having the whitest sand.

There are other similar beaches just as amazing as Hyams Beach, too. You’ll be just as please with beaches like Greenfields Beach and Murrays Beach. These hotspots in the Australian sun are great for relaxing or hitting up some water activities.

Porcupine fish in Green Patch, Jervis Bay, NSW

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Try the Water Activities

One of the more popular water activities for people visiting the area is snorkeling and scuba diving. Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven are home to sites like the southern reef at Mollymook, the Labyrinths, Gorgonian Wall, the submerged Fairey Firefly aeroplane and Point Perpendicular. Here in the South Coast, the Jervis Bay Marine Park has calm waters and white sand along with its marine life to keep you amazed.

Boating and fishing in Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven provides some of the best experiences and there are many ways to enjoy those tranquil waterways. You could hop on a whale watching tour, hire your own boat for a day’s worth of fishing or a private sailing charter, or even go kayaking along the beaches.

Surfing in Jervis Bay is also very popular, with surf hotspots including Bawley Point and Culburra Beach, Warrain Beach and Mollymook Beach.

Friends hugging on a bench in Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia


Find Accommodations

Jervis Bay accommodation is quite easily accessible as almost all of the attractions in the area are within short distances of each other and there are many small towns to explore.

When staying in the Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven region, it is best to choose a centralized location so that you can explore other places nearby. I’d recommend the Minnamurra River, Lake Illawarra, Minnamurra Forest, Bombo Quarry etc. From beachfront homes, bed and breakfasts, motels, inns to even coastal camping, there is plenty to choose from.

In the Shoalhaven region, coastal camping amidst the shoreline of the South Coast is a great way to enjoy the natural environment. Camping out close to places like Bristol Point’s beach, Cave Beach and Green Patch is ideal, as you can easily enjoy the sunrise or sunset without travelling far.

The Spirit of Jervis Bay tour boat in NSW, Australia


Take a Tour

There are plenty of tours available in the area catering to people of all ages with a large variety of things to do. Ecotourism is a growing industry in Jervis Bay, with tours available for sightseeing cruises that allow you to explore the sandstone cliffs, sea caves and coastal surroundings. You can go on bush tours, take surfing and wakeboarding lessons, visit local wineries and gourmet food producers, and even go whale & dolphin watching in the bay.

Have you been to Shoalhaven or Jervis Bay? What are some of your favorite things to do there? Tell us in the comments!



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Boats and a man on the beach in Playa del Carmen

A Week in Playa del Carmen: Part II

If you think spending a week in Playa del Carmen is too long, I think you’re wrong. We’ve written all about the Riviera Maya town before, and I’m sure we’ll write about it again. Because there is so much to see and do near this attractive beach town, just one hour south of Cancun.

Woman on the beach of Isla Contoy near Cancun, Mexico

I recently spent a week in Playa del Carmen for my friend’s birthday, and I could have easily stayed another week just to do all the activities we came across. And while I don’t want to bore you with the details, I do want to share some of the highlights that will hopefully prove helpful!

(Note: There had been a lot of violence reported in Cancun just before our trip to Playa del Carmen; however, I never felt unsafe walking through the town or on any of our tours. There was a relatively noticeable police presence, but it wasn’t overwhelming. And while I’d encourage you to take the sensationalized reporting with a grain of salt, always put your safety first.)

Annelise standing in front of the butterfly sculpture in Play del Carmen

Here is how I spent a week in Playa del Carmen:

DAY ONE: Get Settled In
Our group of seven all arrived in Cancun around 8AM. Since there were so many of us, we decided to hire a Super Shuttle for a round-trip fare of $120. Plus it was nice not to worry about arranging our ride back.

After about an hour, the driver let us out at the four-bedroom AirBnB we’d rented in Playacar. This is a nice gated community interwoven with the Hard Rock Hotel’s golf course. While it was a little ways from the bustling main strip, it was also a welcome reprieve. We had our own pool to lounge in privately and it was quiet at night. Of course there are a lot of options for accommodations in the area. We went with an AirBnB so we could have some privacy and still be all together. In this case the property manager was very accommodating, and provided drinking water as well as the number of a reliable, private taxi service. (Of course there are other ways to get around.)

After getting settled into our rooms, having a snack and getting groceries, we finally made our way out to dinner. We’d heard the restaurant at the Frida Kahlo Museum, but it was unfortunately closed for renovations. So we ate just across the street at Mi Pueblo. This is where my tour of shrimp tacos began. The food was good and the open air made for fun and easy people-watching.

Group of people in front of the Frida Kahlo mural in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

DAY TWO: Explore Your Surroundings
With everyone a little jet-lagged (except for me; I still woke up at 7:30), it was lunch time before we were all ready to go explore. So we walked into town and North of the pier to find a nice spot on the beach. And, although there was A LOT of seaweed on the shore this time of year, the beach was still beautiful and the water incredibly warm.

Ceviche at Patio 8 in Playa del Carmen

After a few hours, we walked a few blocks back toward Calle Quinta Avenida (5th street, a pedestrian path lined with shops, hotels, and restaurants), and went to Patio 8 for food and drinks. This place has great food and drink specials. Like most of the places we ate, its prices were comparable to American restaurants. But that didn’t keep us from sticking around for a couple of hours just eating and drinking and talking.

Marissa getting a birthday dessert at Patio 8 in Playa del Carmen

On our way home, we stopped to chat with the folks at Del Mundo Tours about snorkeling. They talked us into a multilingual excursion – our boat had French, English and Spanish-speaking groups – to Isla Contoy for about $120 USD per person. But we had to be up early, so it was straight to bed after that.

The port in Cancun where the boats leave for Isla Contoy

DAY THREE: Visit Isla Contoy & Isla Mujeres
We showed up in front of Del Mundo for pickup at 7AM (I told you it was early). They drove us to a port in Cancun, where they served breakfast and put us on a boat with about 30 other people.

Our guides, Lou Lou and Clal (who were seriously awesome), took those who wanted to go snorkeling just past the Mesoamerican Reef (the second-largest barrier reef in the world). In the span of about 45 minutes, we saw brain and fan coral, beautiful fish, and a nurse shark!

A boat on the water during a snorkeling trip near Isla Contoy

From there we stopped on the protected Island of Contoy for three hours. Here you can do more snorkeling or just float in the crystal waters until they serve a surprisingly delicious lunch. The only catch is that you’re only allowed to wear biodegradable sunscreen in order to protect the reef. And if you’re not a fan of mosquitoes, I’d suggest you skip the Island tour. The trip finished with quick, hour-long stop at Isla Mujeres before returning to Cancun and eventually Playa del Carmen.

A dock in the crystal waters off Isla Contoy, Mexico

For dinner, we had a reservation at Alux. This restaurant is a little away from town, but it’s so worth it. It’s set up in a cave that used to be part of the region’s underground river system (more on this later). They gave us a private room, let us choose our bottles of wine straight from the cellar, and even brought out a custom-made a birthday cake for us to share. As if the setting wasn’t reason enough to enjoy it!

A group in a private room at Alux restaurant in Playa del Carmen

DAY FOUR: Check Out a Beach Club
The best way to chase a birthday dinner? Birthday brunch.

We landed at Indigo Beach Club because they have a brunch buffet every day of the week from 7AM to 12PM for about $13 USD (not including drinks). Buuuuuut getting seven people to move is a bit like herding cats. So we got there for lunch instead. After food and drinks, we moved one-by-one from our table on the sand to their lounge chairs, where we continued to eat, drink, and enjoy the beach.

Group having drinks at Indigo Beach Club in Playa del Carmen

And this is where I sheepishly admit we spent ALL DAMN DAY at Indigo. There are two dangerous things right next to Indigo: a beach-front spa and a tourism kiosk. And we couldn’t resist either. The ladies in our group all got hour-long massages for about $30 USD (plus tip) at Spa Turquesa. And we went back and forth with the kiosk manager for a while before booking our adventure for the next day (ruins and more snorkeling!).

Man and woman in the pool at Indigo Beach Club in Playa del Carmen

By the late afternoon we had migrated to their pool area (for a fee). Hear me when I say their pool is AMAZING. It’s two stories and the upper level is a hot tub with an underwater glass wall that overlooks the pool AND THE OCEAN. It’s no wonder we couldn’t leave. We ordered another bucket of beers and they brought us towels and cups and we stayed long enough to have dinner, too. (Get the chicken fajitas.)

Despite spending literally eight hours there, we only spent around $100 per person on food, drinks, and pool access. Well worth it, IMHO.

Hammocks in front of Indigo Beach Club in Playa del Carmen

DAY FIVE: See the Ruins & the Turtles
Once again we woke early for an 8AM pickup. A private bus picked us up and whisked us away to the Mayan ruins in Tulum.

Mayan Ruins overlooking the ocean in Tulum, Mexico

The tour we paid for included transport, admission, and a guide. Though frankly I’m not sure it was necessary; there is signage along that way that could be equally informative. After the tour, you can relax on the beach, do some shopping, or grab a bite to eat. We ate Don Cafeto Tulum Ruinas and I had the best chilaquiles of my life for $125 pesos.

Having lunch at the Don Cafeto restaurant at the ruins in Tulum, Mexico

From there, our bus took us to the Bay of Akumal to snorkel. Akumal is so special because the sea water merges with the freshwater from the underground river, causing different varieties of sea grass to grow. If you’re thinking, “Who cares about sea grass?” I hear you. But sea turtles come in droves to eat the grasses unique to the region.

At Akumal, our snorkel guide, Alejandro, gave us gear and took us around a roped area for about an hour. In that time we saw stingray, squid, and a handful of sea turtles—some even had suckerfish clinging to their shells! And unlike our open water snorkel, the water here was calm. It was easy to float and follow the guide while still being able to see everything going on below the surface. It was relaxing and enjoyable and highly recommended.

By the time we got home, we were so tired we ordered Dominoes for dinner, watched the rain storm, and went to bed early.

A rain storm in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

DAY SIX: Take a Dip in a Cenote 
Whatever you do, do not skip the cenotes! I repeat: do not skip the cenotes!

If you don’t know what a cenote is, you’re in for a treat. Mexico’s Riviera Maya is littered with them—more than 6,000 in total—and they’re easily one of the things that make this region so special.

Jardin del Eden cenote peeking through the trees near Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Basically, there is an underground river with fresh water that flows throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. As it moves, it erodes the landscape beneath the ground and creates caves filled with freshwater. When the ceilings of these caves collapse, you’re left with beautiful open-air pools surrounded by jungle. Or ocean or ruins or what have you. Most have some kind of life, like varieties of fish, and are so worth the trip.

A view of the bathing deck from one side of Jardin del Eden cenote near Playa del Carmen

There are so many cenotes near Playa del Carmen it can be hard to choose which one is right for you, and we tossed around the idea of going to one of the more developed parks like Rio Secreto. Ultimately, we decided to hire a car to take us to Jardin del Eden. Mostly because it was close and full of the same fish that eat your skin in fancy spas. Plus, there are two other cenotes close by (Azul and Cristalino), so we could keep exploring if we wanted to.

The entrance to Jardin is $100 pesos per person, and the snorkel rental is about $25 pesos plus a deposit you get back. Although we initially weren’t going to snorkel, I’m so glad we did. It’s really amazing to see how deep the pools are from below the surface. Jardin is also nice because they have sunbathing decks, plenty of shade, and a small cafe for when hunger strikes. We only spent a couple hours swimming around before returning to meet up with the rest of the gang.

A man slacklines at Jardin del Eden cenote near Playa del Carmen, Mexico

On our way through town we passed a restaurant called Fah and eventually returned for dinner. The atmosphere was great, complete with an incredibly talented live band and a guest performer who beat-boxed like you wouldn’t believe. If you go, order the tuna tartare because it’s to-die-for. Easily my favorite meal of the trip.

A bench in the jungle overlooking the ocean near Playa del Carmen

DAY SEVEN: Kiss Paradise Goodbye 
Okay, so maybe it’s a little less than a week in Playa del Carmen. Day seven was our last day, so we didn’t have much time.

We got up early to pack and clean house before doing some last-minute souvenir shopping at the edge of town. Our shuttle came for us at noon and we went our separate ways once we got to the airport.

And just like that, my week in Playa del Carmen came to an abrupt end. If I’d had more time, I would have definitely explored more cenotes.

Need more convincing? Check out the Planet Earth coverage on the Riviera Maya’s cenotes. And tell us how you’d spend a week in Playa del Carmen!

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Must-have travel items packed in a suitcase

The 4 Must-Have Travel Items I Won’t Leave Without

Anyone who has traveled more than once has them. The first items they lay out on the bed or put into their suitcase. The things that make it on every trip. Their own must-have travel items.

Even for someone like me, who’s a bit of an over-planner, packing is a chore. The only upside to doing it often is that you eventually get pretty good at it. You come to learn which things you absolutely have to pack and which you can leave behind.

While they might be different for everyone, I’ve come up with a few I think are – or at least should be – universal.

Toiletries to pack for a trip

Here are the four must-have travel items I won’t leave home without:

1. Sunscreen

I feel like this is a good indication of getting older and wiser. I used to avoid sunscreen like the plague when I was younger. Now I want it in everything—lotion, foundation, chapstick. I’m currently on a personal mission for the perfect organic moisturizer with built-in SPF. But until I find it, I have managed to find two sunscreens I absolutely love.

For my face, I’m obsessed with the Coola tinted mineral sunscreen. It’s natural and applies so-freaking-smoothly it will change everything you think you know about sunscreen. The other, stickier option I use for my body is the Aloe Gator Gel. The gel is a little harder to apply than creams, but I’ve also found it to be much more resistant to sweat.

(Side note: I’m an advocate for using natural products whenever possible, and now more than ever. There were are least two places in the Riviera Maya that didn’t allow sunscreen (and Hawaii just banned chemical sunscreens!) because it’s harmful to the local habitat. If you opt for something biodegradable, you can feel good about wearing it anywhere you go.)

2. Bug repellent
This is one of the must-have travel items I’ve learned to love the hard way. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been a lighted target for mosquitoes.

These days I’m lucky enough to live in a place where they’re not a problem, but that only makes them more noticeable when I go anywhere else. Because these small, evil creatures have the ability to ruin a perfectly good time, I’ve learned to always be prepared. Don’t be fooled by the climate, either. I’ve seen mosquitoes at low humidity and 10,000 feet of elevation.

Since all-natural options have been unfortunately less effective for me personally, I shamefully opt for the full-strength varieties when it comes to spray. If you’re not sure you’ll need it, I recommend getting one of these small, travel-sized tubes that won’t take up much space.

Better safe than eaten alive, I say.

Woman wearing a buff head wrap while hiking a mountain in Switzerland

3. A Buff Wrap
The Buff wrap is certainly the newest addition to my list of must-have travel items. In recent years it has become a given for hiking trips. But after wishing I had something handy to wipe away the constant stream of sweat I battled in Mexico, I’d gladly take it anywhere.

It’s versatility is what makes it so great. You can wear it as a scarf to keep warm, or a headband to hold your hair back or keep sweat from your eyes. You can put it over your nose to block wind or bugs. In Cancun, our tour guides wore them on the boats and around the islands for sun protection, too.

And they’re so light and compact that you won’t even be mad if you wind up leaving it in your suitcase. Plus it comes in such a wide variety of colors and patterns—there’s definitely something for everyone.

A good Buff wrap is sure to let you flex your experienced-traveler muscles.

People holding up their colorful dock and back towels on the beach

4. Travel towel
We’ve mentioned the advantages of a good travel towel before, and I’m sure we’ll mention them again. Even if you’re going somewhere towels are provided, these things come in so handy.

For example, we stayed at an AirBnb in Playa del Carmen that provided bath towels and beach towels. But the beach towels were massive. They’d take up half your backpack if you brought just one with you. Not to mention how hard it is to free sand from the fluffy ones.

For this trip, I took my Dock & Bay towel with me (though I also love the Sea To Summit options for smaller sizes). And I was so glad to have it. I threw it in my backpack wherever we went and used it any time a chair was hot or uncomfortable. I used it as a wrap walking around the beach or pool, and even as a shawl when my shoulders got hot from the sun.

The best part? After a quick shake virtually all of the sand is gone and it dries so quickly you can use it again and again.

Of course there are several other items, like toothpaste, that I never travel without. But I’ve found that these four must-have travel items can be unexpected life savers on any given trip.

Would you agree? Tell us what you won’t leave home without!

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a Greek town on the Mediterranean

3 Mediterranean Summer Islands You Won’t Want to Miss

Dreaming of Mediterranean summer islands? So are we. And as we quickly approach summer again, it’s time for you to start planning your vacations. Some of you may have been lucky enough to take a winter break, but for many it’s the summer we look forward to most. It’s the time we can enjoy the best of the warm weather, explore the outdoors or simply lounge by the pool or beach with a drink in your hand.

Choosing the right place for you can take a little time and we thought it might be helpful for us to narrow down your search a bit. This time, we’ve decided to focus on the young-at-heart among you who also like to lounge by the beach and pool. Each of these Mediterranean summer islands will give you good weather and good summer vibes. We’ll focus on two Spanish islands and a Greek island to discuss—all of which you’ve most definitely heard of before. It goes without saying that these popular destinations as the ideal location for many travelers.

Here are our favorite Mediterranean summer islands:

Pool at a resort on the Mediterranean Island of Ibiza

We understand that many people associate this island with super clubs, big crowds and an energetic night life. If this is what you are going for then you already know what to expect. This infamous party island hosts some of the world’s biggest superstar DJs every night during the summer months. But what many fail to see is that the other side of the island offers white sandy beaches, water sport activities and a whole host of nooks and crannies that you can explore when you’re not partying. This island is a perfect mix for both the young and the young at heart, although it is obviously catered for the more energetic crowd.

Woman on the beach in Cap de Ses Salines, Mallorca

Sometimes seen as the cheaper twin to Ibiza, there is no shortage of things to do in Mallorca. With some companies offering up to 70% off on some of there travel deals, Mallorca is a good choice for those on a tighter budget. Magaluf is the most popular destination on the island because it has countless hotels, villas and apartments for every budget. The nightlife is slightly more subdued, but you can easily find a party or nice sports bar any night of the week. And although the island is rarely explored outside of its major destination hubs, there is plenty to see inland. You can even discover some of the nice trails worth exploring if you’ve had enough of the beach.

Crystal Clear water at Balos Beach in Crete, Greece

The last of our Mediterranean summer islands moves from Spain to Greece. Crete is the largest of the Greeks islands and the most popular with visitors. Probably because it offers a huge amount of tourism catering for every taste. Crete has practically everything to offer travelers: beautiful beaches, water sports, and eclectic nightlife and a very well-structured transport network. It’s easy to see why Crete is a perfect summer destination for everybody and every budget! A few weeks here will provide the perfect mix of what a summer holiday is supposed to offer.


Whichever island you choose, you can always take time to explore outside of the pool or beach. It’s an added bonus to discover the culture outside of the resort area!

What other destinations are on your summer travel list?

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Grapes on the vine in Georgia

Wine not? Take a Wine Tour in Armenia and Georgia

Why take a wine tour in Armenia and Georgia? For starters, the two hospitable countries of the South Caucasus are often called “the cradle of wine-making.”

Archaeological excavations have shown that ancient civilizations started producing wine in these territories all the way back in prehistoric times. So, for Armenians and Georgians, wine is more than just an alcoholic beverage. It’s an important part of the history and culture. And taking a wine tour through a local tour operator can provide a unique look at the life in the South Caucasus.

Not convinced? We’ve put together interesting facts about wine-making in the region.

Here’s why you should take an unforgettable wine tour in Armenia and Georgia:

Why Take a Wine Tour in Armenia

According to the scientists, the wine-making in Armenia has a history of over 6000 years. In ancient times, the grapevine that often adorned the temples of pagan Armenia was seen as a symbol of fertility. After the adoption of Christianity, people began to view the vines as a symbol of a new faith.

Ancient wine-making tools found in the Arenia caves of Armenia

In more recent history, archaeologists have found many unique artifacts in the caves of the Areni village. One of these finds is the winepress for grapes and jars where the wine was stored. Dating back to around 6000 B.C., this discovery proves that this winery was the first in the world. And because of the cave’s microclimate, scientists have also found several grape seeds that were preserved in perfect condition!

The site of these marvels, in Areni village, is usually where the wine tour in Armenia kicks off. During the Fall harvest season, the village comes to life through an annual wine festival. The festival begins in the morning and lasts until late at night. Giving you plenty of time to taste young, homemade wines as well as famous varieties from local producers! And you won’t want to miss the official grape-crushing ceremony. The display of huge barrels opens the festival, where guests can enjoy traditional Armenian music and dances.

Traditional grape-crushing at the opening of the annual wine festival in Areni, Armenia

Another center of wine-making, and an interesting destination for a wine tour in Armenia, is Ijevan. This region is special because it can grow rare grape varieties for local wines like Pinot Noir, Aligoté, Rkatsiteli and Cabernet. And on a wine tour around Ijevan, you can taste some of the best wines in the cellars of the factory.

Perhaps the best way to end the wine tour in Armenia is with an excursion to Noy, the Yerevan Wine Factory. Located in a 17th-century fortress, there are long underground tunnels and cellars with oak barrels of cognac and wine. Plus a tasting room where you can try the best Noy wine and cognac. But don’t leave without walking along Saryan St., Yerevan, where you’ll find the best wine bars the city has to offer.

Next up: Why Take  a Wine Tour in Georgia

Like in Armenia, wine-making began in Georgia more than 8,000 years ago.

And archaeologists in this region have also found evidence of ancient wine-making, particularly qvevri jugs. These vessels preserved the remains of grapes and seeds. Lucky for us, the ancient tradition of wine-making in qvevri jugs has survived to this day. During the process, the jugs are buried underground and stored at a stable temperature of 12-15 degrees. This unique way of storing and aging the wine helps to retain the entire bouquet of aroma.

Ancient qvevri jugs used to make wine in Georgia

The best way to start a wine tour in Georgia is at the capital of Tbilisi. At almost every step, you’ll see shops with Georgian wines, wine bars and homemade wine sold on the streets. If you ask us, a couple worth visiting include the Mukuzani shop and winery (Cote Abkhazi Str. 27/15), Wine Gallery (Vinamdzgrishvili Avenue 39), and Tbilvino winery (Sarajishvili Avenue 2).

Wine-making is everywhere in the Kakheti province. This amazing region is known for the picturesque Alazani Valley, ancient wine cellars, and the best Saperavi wine. Saperavi is considered one of the best local wines thanks to the fertile soil in the valley, the perfect climate, and unique growing technology. Needless to say, the Kakheti region should be on the must-visit list for your wine tour.

A wine-maker collecting grapes in the Kakheti province of Georgia

Another must-see is the Khareba wine factory. It’s the most popular factory in Kakheti and throughout Georgia. Located the town of Kvareli, the factory still uses ancient traditions of wine-making alongside new equipment and technology. The oak jars with wine are kept in deep tunnels of the factory, making the Khareba’s cellars and tunnels a popular attraction for tourists.

And if you’re looking to stay on a vineyard property, look no further than the Chateau Mere in Telavi. The Chateau is a small, cozy hotel built in an old castle, where they produce their own wine. Here, you can combine a pleasant holiday with a unique wine-making experience and a lovely view of the Alazani valley.

As if you need another reason to take a wine tour in Armenia or Georgia.

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