The Different Journeys to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the New7Wonders and home to the most famous Inca ruins in the world. Located in the Cusco region of Peru, this ancient citadel is known for its otherworldly beauty and unique scenery. It attracts more than 2500 tourists every day, but sitting 7,970ft (2,430 meters) above sea level, Machu Picchu is no casual tourist destination.

There are several way to reach Machu Picchu, and each one offers a difference experience of this sacred place. For those looking to expend less energy or save some money, you can easily reach Machu Picchu by bus or by train. But that is not our objective — We’re looking for an unforgettable experience. If you are keen on adventure and want to embark on a memorable journey, the best way to discover Machu Picchu is through one of these breathtaking treks. Though the price of these journeys are relatively high, they offer a unique perspective on this ancient world. You can pick your hike based on what type of experience you wants, whether it’s mythical, spiritual, sporty, or cultural.

The Inca Trail

This trail is the most famous in South America and is considered to be in the top 5 treks in the world. So if you opt for the Inca Trail, which is particularly crowded from May to September, plan to book it months in advance. This is the only trail that goes directly to the ruins of Machu Picchu. If you choose a personal guide for two people, you have to count around $1600 per person. The most accessible price is $560 if you choose to make your journey with a group of 13 people. It usually takes 4 days to do the Inca Trail, and each package includes lodging in tents or modest hotels. The Inca Trail passes through several types of Andean environments including cloud forests and alpine tundra. This trek is perfect for people who are looking for a unique adventure, beautiful sceneries and incredible memories.

The Salkantay Trek

This 5 or 7 day trek is ideal for people who want to challenge themselves. Indeed, the Salkantay is one of the most physically challenging on our list. Crossing the Salkantay pass at 4600m above sea level, during your journey you will see some incredible landscapes, like the cloud forests and the Llactapata Inca ruins. Not as popular as the Inca trail, the Salkantay is still just as beautiful. You should book this trek with an agency at least 2 months before the beginning of your trip to be sure to get a spot on this incredible experience. Unlike the Inca Trail, the other treks do not end their path directly at Machu Picchu. You will have to take a bus from the picturesque city of Aguas Calientes that run directly to the ruins. Salkantay trek is not as expensive as the Inca Trail, with prices ranging between $500 to $900, all inclusive.

The Lares Trek

The Lares Trek is the one you might choose if you are looking for a more cultural experience. Less sporty than the Salkantay but still challenging, Lares is a perfect alternative to the Inca Trail. Here’s what you’re in for if you choose this 4-day trek: Experience the local Peruvian life, pass through untouched Andean villages, and even swim in natural a thermal bath. The price of the trek is approximately the same as the Salkantay and may vary depending on your choice of agency. With most of them, you will spend two nights in tents and the last one in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, where Lares ends, before taking the bus directly to your destination: Machu Picchu.

The Choquequirao Trek

The Choquequirao Trek does not go to Machu Picchu. The 4-day trek ends its path in the Inca ruin of Choquequirao, known as Machu Picchu’s little sister. This Inca ruin welcomes only 5 people per day on average, leaving it beautifully preserved. With an agency, you will have to shell out between $500 for a group of eight people to $800 for a private guide for two. The Choquequirao Trek is perfect for people who want to travel off the beaten path and experience Peru without the crowds. For those who want both experiences, you can also combine the Choquequirao trek with a traditional Machu Picchu trip for an eight days trek.

The Vilcabamba Trek

This 5 to 13 day trek, depending on where you start your journey, is a highlt difficulty trail that requires some training and good physical condition. If you choose this physically demanding trek, you’ll be rewarded with rich, hidden treasures of the land. Cross the mile-deep Apurimac River, explore the ruins of Choquequirao, and meet the Cordillera Vilcabamba population. For an 8 days trek the price approximately varies between $900 to $1000. Still relatively unknown from the tourist crowd, the Vilcabamba is the perfect journey for people used to intense hiking and who are looking to immerse themselves in diverse natural sceneries as well as the Inca ruins.

The Chaski Trail

Also known as the Cachicata Trek, the Chaski is one of the newest trekking routes in the Cusco region. This 3 to 5 days trek is easier than most of the others. During your hike you will pass through the stunning waterfalls of Perolniyoc, the Huarocondo terraces, and of course some Inca ruins. The average price varies between $600 to $900 and the trail ends at Ollantaytambo where you will take the train to reach Machu Picchu. Like the Vilcabamba Trek, the Chaski is quite unknown from the travelers and thus few agencies offer this journey. So if you are looking for a more relaxed hike and want to avoid the crowd, the Chaski Trail is perfect for you.

The Top 10 Paradise Islands

As the sunny weather comes back slowly but surely, it’s time for you to think about where you’re going to explore, enjoy the heat, and soak your feet this summer. If you prefer to spend your year in the cold or in hectic cities, that’s totally fine. But you can at least get away for a weekend or two to visit one of these top 10 paradise islands.

10 // Cape Verde


Located in West Africa, Cape Verde is composed by 10 volcanic islands. If you are keen on scuba diving, this is the place to go! Cape Verde is appreciated as a prime location for outdoor and hiking amateurs as well as a perfect spot for beach idleness. The Island is still not a touristy place and is free of crowds and the big hotels complex. If you are looking for authenticity, Cape Verde will undoubtedly meet your expectations.

9 // Formentera


Formentera is one of Spain’s small Balearic islands. Floating in the western Mediterranean Sea, this place is ideal for those with simple island needs: the ocean, the sand, some palms and you. If you feel sick of the hectic nightlife of Ibiza, located right next door, Forementra will warmly welcome you. Here, peace and quiet are the watchwords. The island is perfect for relaxation and renewal.

8 // Barbados


Situated between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Barbados is a melting pot of culture. That is what gives Barbados it’s strength — its great diversity. Dreamy beaches in the south, perfect swimming conditions in the west, and massive waves in the east where surfers will find their paradise. But what is most special about Barbados is it’s splendid tropical gardens and music scene. Jazz, reggae, and calypso are some of the genres that you might hear pouring out of any club and over the island. In Barbados, you are sure to never get bored!

7 // Tasmania


An isolated island situated in the south of the Australian coast, Tasmania is the perfect spot for people who are looking for uncharted wilderness. With many parks and nature reserves, it’s natural landscape is well-preserved with large pockets totally free from human tampering. But the island is also known for hosting many festivals like wine or food as well as arts and music events. Here you have nature, culture, and much more in an idyllic scenery where sandy beaches and giants eucalyptus are the norm.

6 // Corfu


Despite the fact that Corfu attracts many tourists every summer, the island has kept its picturesque scenery. Beautiful beaches, luxurious vegetation, woody mountains, authentic greeks villages — it’s no doubt that Corfu is one of the most sumptuous islands in the world. The old and beautiful Corfu town has been designated a Unesco heritage site. Corfu is the perfect island to spend your summer surrounded by worldly entertainment, the authentic greek restaurants, and classic island fare.

5 // Ko Pha-Ngan


During the day, Koh Pha-Ngan literally looks like the definition of a tropical paradise. Coconut palms, a turquoise sea, and fine white sand as far as the eye can see. It’s the perfect place to unwind during the day and turn up when the sun goes down. Because this island of dreams wakes up at night. And make sure you time your trip wisely, because each month, during the full moon, thousands of people come to party in Ko Pha-Ngan where DJs spin music on the beach all night long. Ko Pha-Ngan is the perfect island to spend your summer holiday if you’re looking to sunbathe during the day and get crazy the night.

4 // Réunion


Réunion is a French department island located in the Indian Ocean. It’s hard not to fall in love with this little jewel. Less famous than it’s neighbor Mauritius, Reunion is equally interesting and probably more diverse. With an active volcano on its south coast, its natural treasures and black sand beaches, Reunion is ideal for someone looking for a quiet getaway and understated beauty.

3 // Zanzibar


Clear water, fishing villages, breathtaking vantage points, and a rich nightlife — That is what you’ll find if you choose Zanzibar, a Tanzanian archipelago in East Africa, as your next destination. Along the east coast you can explore with locals and visit rural villages. In the north, you will find touristy attractions, tiki bars and clubs to party, while in the south east corner, you will probably have the chance to see pods of dolphins swimming near the coast. In Zanzibar, there is something for every taste!

2 // Corsica


It’s with good reason that Corsica’s nickname is France’s Isle of Beauty. It’s the fourth largest in the Mediterranean Sea and covered in picturesque towns and mountainous terrain. Corsica is a stylish spot where French people like to spend their holiday. It has a rich history made up of diverse cultural influences, not only from France but also from Italy and North Africa. In the south, you will find the charming hillside village of Porto Vecchio and beautiful beaches, while in the north, it’s the medieval town of Calvi that will welcome you. So memorable will be your experience in Corsica that you will want to come back as soon as possible!

1 // Maui


It might seem predictable that Maui is number on this list. But remember, this is a list of the top paradise islands, not top secret ones. Maui is Hawaii’s second biggest islands and probably the most breathtaking one. This incredible spot in the Pacific Ocean boasts many waterfalls, gardens, untouched rainforest, innumerable historic structures, and yes, a massive tourist industry. Whether you’re looking for outdoors adventures, pampered luxuries, or the most authentic Hawaiian cuisine, Maui offers something for everyone. And be sure, you’ll find every sort of person vacationing here. During your trip, rent a car and drive the Hana Road, along the coast and through a breathtaking rainforest. This is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Throw on a lei and Hawaiian shirt and get into the island spirit. Aloha!

Lavaux and Its Surroundings: A little taste of paradise

My name is Loris and I’m originally from Switzerland. You know, this little country which is in central Europe and where we have more than one language, yes we do…
French, German, Italian and Romansh are the four languages that we speak. (Mostly German and French). I used to learn Italian and German at school as I am a French native speaker and now I have an insatiable desire to travel all around the world. That is exactly the reason why 6 months ago, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean, to San Francisco, to discover a new country, a new culture and a new way of life. After having taken English Class for half a year, I’m now working at Wcities as an intern for 3 months. A company where I can share my passion for travel.
Even if I really want to discover the whole world, I have to admit that I feel grateful to live in Switzerland which is a beautiful and peaceful country. And particularly the area of Lavaux where I grew up, and that is exactly where I am going to take you today.

First of all, Lavaux is well-known for it’s wine of great personality which is one of the best in the country. Indeed, with more than 850 hectares of terraced vineyards stretching for almost 19 miles this wine area is one of the largests in Switzerland. So if you are a wine lover this is definitely the place to visit!

Lavaux

A Taste of Wine

Pinot Noir from the little village of Villette, Sauvignon from Montreux or Chardonne, are some that you must try while you are visiting the vineyards. Swiss wine is not really famous outside the country but it should be! I don’t say that because I am a wine lover who is from this part of the country but rather because it is the truth and any oenologists would tell you so.

Lavaux can be compared to the Mosel, a German wine region because of its similar scenery. We can find every sort of wine in the different wineries along Lavaux. Red, white or rosé are appreciated by everyone. The most famous variety is probably the Chasselas grape which is used to produce white wine. I like it a lot because it’s fruity and dry. Can you imagine yourself drinking one or two glasses with some Swiss cheese (the perfect match) on a terrace, enjoying the view at the beginning of spring or the warm weather of summer? I am sure you can and I can as well because of having done that more than once.

A Taste of Serenity

Either enjoying a good wine with an amazing view over Lake Léman (otherwise known as Lake Geneva but as I am from Lutry I cannot use this name), or just having a walk on a sunny afternoon, Lavaux will satisfy every one of you. Nothing but the view clearly worth it. While you are walking across the little paths, why don’t you stop by one of the many little villages surrounding Lavaux? You will probably find some wine-growers who will be very happy to inform you about the vineyard or answer some of your questions. Lavaux starts from Lutry, my hometown, directly to Montreux a touristy city at around 15 miles away. If you are brave enough you can walk throughout (or just a bit is enough) and spend some time there because there is not only Lavaux to visit but also those villages full of surprise and history.
Montreux is a popular nearby city, made famous by the annual Montreux Jazz Festival, the second largest Jazz Festival in the world(!) at which, for example, Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams and Lady Gaga have performed. Not only that, but some celebrities used to live in Montreaux like Freddie Mercury and David Bowie. After you have tried a variety of wine, go down to the lake and visit the famous Chillon Castle from the XII century which is one of the most visited attractions in the country.

Chillon Castel

Montreux

This part of Switzerland is probably one of the most prestigious. Lavaux of course plays a main role, but not only. If you prefer to hang around the lake you are free to do so. You can easily walk from Montreux to Cully, another village, directly in the vineyard or by the lake. If you choose the second option you can also rent a pedal boat and try to go to France on the opposite side of the lake which is half Swiss and half French. Maybe it is to ambitious… If it’s your goal, you should better rent a motor boat and reach Evian and Ivoire which are especially beautiful.

A few miles from Montreux and still near Lavaux, you can go to Vevey. This little city is one of my favourites because less touristy than Montreux. There is also more to do than in my hometown. If you are a movie fan you probably know Charlie Chaplin who used to live there with his wife and his 4 children. From last year a museum about his life has been created. Called Chaplin’s World, this amazing foundation take you across the time and through the fantastic world of cinema. But as we are starting spring and the good weather is coming, let stay outside and continue our walk through Lavaux.

A Taste of history

Since 2007, Lavaux has the luck to be part to the UNESCO which is a specialized agency reunited the most beautiful places around the world for their preservation. As I said earlier, Lavaux is surrounded by a lot of small villages. Grandvaux, Epesses or Aran are few of them.

Grandvaux

Some of the winegrowers houses around the vineyard date back to the 16th century. It’s a constant battle for people who live there from decades to ask for their renovation in a way that doesn’t adulterate the landscape. However, all the villages around Lavaux are not so small. Indeed, Lausanne (3 miles from Lutry) is the 4th most populated city of Switzerland. Starting to feel sick of the calm and looking for more life? It is not a big deal, I suggest you to visit this city. If you are keen on history you will certainly be happy. Therefore, there are also a lot of shops or restaurants where you can buy clothes or eat one of the specialities such as a fondue.. Miam. Lausanne often reminds me San Francisco because it is also really steep. Always going upstairs and downstairs, it’s good for the calfs! Particularly if you want to visit the gorgeous cathedral which is the biggest in the country, you will have to walk a lot to deserve it!

Old Lausanne

A Taste of Luxury

To conclude, I want to share with you my favourite bar, in the center of Lavaux, which is considered to have one of the best views in the world and I am sure you will see why.

Le Deck overlooks all of Lavaux. I have to admit that the prices are maybe a little expensive but it’s worth a visit. When you arrive by car, you are not sure what to expect. You enter to the bar, have a seat one of the comfortable chairs and suddenly the landscape appears totally out of the blue. This view is so breathtaking, that you feel hypnotized and cannot take your eyes off this beautiful scenery.

The view from Le Deck located in Chexbres

The outside of the bar

Please, don’t be in a rush if you decide to have a drink there, because when you order your cocktail or glass of wine, which go well with some appetizers, the waiter is certainly going to take forever. But don’t panic, just enjoy the moment. You can expect to pay $14 for a cocktail and $10 for a glass of cabernet sauvignon. After enjoying your drink, if you like, you can continue the evening by having dinner just next door at Le Baron Tavernier, (same owner). Unfortunately, I’ve never been there–too expensive for a student.

I guess that when, in a relatively short time or not, I go back to Switzerland, walking around Lavaux will be one of the first things that I am going to do. These are my roots and even if I am curious about the world I don’t think I can deny it one day. As I said I grew up in this area and I was used to spend a lot of time there. Hanging around with friends or winding down after a tiring day. To live near Lavaux makes me feel joyful and it’s for me like a way out. So see you there!

Once upon a time, in a land called Marseille

I am going to tell you a story about a city in France. Everybody all over the world knows Paris, but my story is about a town in the South of the France. Maybe some of you had heard about it, maybe in a positive way or maybe in the negative way. This city, snuggled up at the heart of Provence and on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, is also commonly known as la Cité Phocéenne (The Phocaean City). Marseille, town of a thousand facets, fascinating and bewilderingly complex, is my city.

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Marseille, Land of Immigrants

I was born in Marseille in 1984, to Italian immigrants parents. Why Marseille? Because  for many people who make the choice to leave their country, the city has a big port open on the Mediterranean sea. Near Spain, Italy and North Africa, the town has welcomed many different culture over the years. When you are in Marseille, you just need to drive 3 hours to cross the Italian border. Easy! The new inhabitants arrive also by boat, trying to built a better life. Marseille has never closed its arms in front of any wave of immigrants. This made it strong, a multicultural city. Everything isn’t perfect, because some differences can create conflicts. Indeed, language, religious, or cultural differences can cause real integration problems. Despite that, Marseille stays the most welcoming city in France, a town where my siblings and I have grown up and where we proudly carry our Italian heritage and our dual citizenship.

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Marseille, Land of  Authenticity

If you like beautiful and authentic attractions, Marseille is made for you. When I think about my city, I can’t forget the smell of the sun on my skin, its daylight beauty, and its mysterious side at sunset. Rich in history, Marseille is where ancient architecture combines with the new face of the city. The first thing to do, even if you aren’t catholic, is to visit la Basilique Notre Dame de Garde, commonly refer by the Marseillais to “La Bonne-Mère.” Built on the hill overlooking the town at 490 ft, the view on the top is wonderful. The best moment is early in the morning when everything is still quiet. With a 360 degree view of the city, it was consecrated on June, 5th, 1864, and each year, the pilgrimage for the Assumption Day, on August 15th is really popular event. This Neo-Byzantine church supports a monumental statue of the Madonna and her child, which is 27 feet tall and made of copper gilded with gold leaf. La Bonne- Mère, is the guardian and the protector of Marseille. The other religious site is La Cathédrale de la Major, built from 1829-1874, in a Byzantine-Roman style. With a capacity of 3,000 seats, it’s one of the largest cathedrals in France. It’s 469 ft long, with a main cupola of 231 ft high.

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But in Marseille, there is another strong religion: football. Not in general, but the football team of the city, l’Olympique de Marseille (OM). Taking place in the famous Stade Vélodrome, the night of home matches are events not to be missed. The ambiance and the fans are considered  as the best all over the world.  Built in 1937, the stadium welcomes 67,394 spectators and is also used for shows. Indeed, le Vélodrome is a wonderful stage for several artists, such as The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Police and AC/DC. The other site associated to the team is La Commanderie, it’s the training center of l’OM. Many fans from all over the world come to see their idols and dedicate jerseys.

The town is also known for its different authentic districts, such as le Panier, which is located in the oldest part of the city and surrounded by famous places such as l’Hôtel de Ville, les Grands Carmes and La Joliette. With narrow streets, shops and its own old architecture, the district is considered the most picturesque place in Marseille. It’s defined as a popular area because it was the first place of the immigrants in the city.  It soon became a tourism venue and many artists opened studios because Le Panier served as a place of inspiration as for the famous local TV show, Plus Belle la vie, shot in Marseille. You can also visit La Vieille Charité, a a museum and a cultural center and former almshouse for the poor. This Baroque structure was constructed between 1671 and 1749 by the architect Pierre Puget. It is filled with beautiful architecture such as structure with pink and yellow tinted stones. In the center of the courtyard a round church was built. If you continue to walk, you will arrive on the MuCEM, (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations), inaugurated on June 7th, 2013, the year Marseille was designated as the European Capital of Culture. The museum is near the wonderful site of the 17th century le Fort Saint-Jean, built by Louis XIV at the entrance to the port. The two places are linked by a high footbridge.

There are so many places to see that the best way for you to take it all in will be to book a ticket and fly Marseille. But if you want more right now, I of course have to talk about le Vieux Port (the Old Port), which is located at the the end of the most historic street of Marseille, La Canebière. Since 2013, it’s mainly for pedestrians with few cars. Each morning it welcomes the fresh fish of fishermen. It is the historic and cultural center of the city since it dates back to sixth century BC. From the port you could take the ferry boat to visit the islands of the Phocaean City, such as, the archipelago of Frioul and le Château d’If, fortress and prison known for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas novel, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.

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If you continue towards the Southern districts, you will follow the ledge called la Corniche du Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy, named after US President Kennedy. It extends from Les Catalans beach to Le Prado and its famous for its naked statue of David. It offers one of the most beautiful landscapes of Marseille, with the Mediterranean Sea and its islands on the horizon. On the way you could see the famous fishermen sheds, “cabanons”,  houses of the 19th century (Villa Valmer, Villa de Gaby Deslys), hotels and famous restaurants (Le Petit Nice, Peron, Chez FonFon), where you could stop to eat the inimitable, bouillabaisse (fish soup). Under La Corniche, hides the little but picturesque port of Vallon des Auffes, where the time seems to have stopped.

I can’t finish this part without talking about the amazing Calanques de Marseille. The massif is the best place to hike and climb with is wild and rugged landscape between Marseille and Cassis. The site is the one of France’s great natural beauties. The geology and ecosystems are protected — In 2012, the Calanques were declared National Parks due to their uniqueness. Even though nowadays we can’t visit it, the Cosquer cave is located underwater, in the Calanque de Morgiou. It’s a cave of the Paleolithic area, covered with paintings and engravings of animals dating between 27,000 and 19,000 BC. The Calanques can be see by boat and if the weather allows you should swim in this warm, blue water. But please be a responsible tourists! Protect this land of dreams.

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Marseille, Land of Pleasure

Oh my taste buds quiver with pleasure evoking the food in my city. Okay, I’m vegetarian but even though Marseille has the best fish restaurants, we are also known for the best pizza. Remember, Marseille is a city of immigrants with close proximity to Italy. We are the city with the most pizza in France. In each area, you can smell tomato sauce and wood fire. I could damn myself for one of these piece! If you want make your own pizza, the best venue is Sapori di Napoli. It’s a little Trattoria in Château-Gombert’s district, which combines a shop full of Italian products with a restaurant. The owner, Raffaele Paparone, imports products such as the mozzarella di Bufala, Panettone, wine and deli meat from Napoli.

If you like different kinds of food, I recommend la Baie du Dragon. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant on Notre Dame du Mont district. The place is perfect for vegetarians and the chocolate nems are just divine. It’s my king of headquarter, the go-to for when I have to celebrate something, such as my departure for the USA.

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In Marseille you can easily find all kind of restaurants — Indian, Italian, French, Moroccan, Japanese etc, and for all your events. Even though Marseille has some good restaurants, for me, the best place remains my family home, with the real meals made by la Mamma. But take your ticket and wait your turn, because I can’t invite you all in the same day.

It’s time to say goodbye to Marseille, with a little twinge in my heart, thinking about these venues, the food and my mother’s arms. But do you smell the perfume of the Mediterranean? Do you smell the garlic, tomatoes, basil and olive oil? Do you smell the flavor of freedom?

If yes, you are made for Marseille, the city of the Epicurean

Sorry, I have to leave you, it’s now time for l’apéro, (a kind of happy hour, after work where you drink and eat snacks), the most important moment in a day in Marseille, to drink the legendary Pastis.

Allez santé! Salute! (Cheers!)

Along The King’s Highway: Mission San Diego de Alcalá

Those who were born and raised in California may remember learning about the state’s many historic missions in grade school, often starting with the one located closest to their hometown or city. Learning about the missions, as well as the novels of John Steinbeck and the great natural wonders the state has to offer, are only a few of the many educational pursuits that contribute to the formation of one’s identity as a Californian.

For those who may not have spent their formative years as a resident of California, the state’s historic Spanish missions may come as a pleasant surprise. Not only do these locations offer a living snapshot of California’s storied past, but they are beautiful places to visit and a perfect excuse to take a day trip with friends or family.

An old travelers map of California's El Camino Real.

An old travelers map of California’s El Camino Real.

This Cityseeker feature series titled “Along the King’s Highway” will focus on each of the California missions and provide background on their history and their relationship to the cities and towns in which they were established. Beginning with California’s first mission, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, this series will cover each of the 21 Spanish missions established along the state’s historic El Camino Real in the order in which they were founded. In addition to being educational, we hope that the information you learn about California’s historic missions will prompt you to get out this weekend and take a tour of the one closest to you.

For nearly 350 years the Mission San Diego de Alcalá has stood as the earliest reminder of California’s Spanish colonial history. Founded in the summer of 1769, the mission was the first to be built by Father Junipero Serra and his fellow Franciscan missionaries. The founding of the mission marked the successful beginning of an expedition led by Gaspar de Portolà, known as the Portolà Expedition, with the primary goal of securing Spain’s claim to the Pacific Coast territory by establishing a strong military and religious foothold in regions throughout.

Portrait of San Diego de Alcalá by Francisco de Zurbarán (1651-1653)

Portrait of San Diego de Alcalá by Francisco de Zurbarán (1651-1653)

The Mission San Diego was named after Saint Didacus of Alcalá (known in Spanish as San Diego de Alcalá) who was a 15th Century Franciscan Monk known for his work as a missionary in the Canary Islands, then a newly-conquered territory of Spain. He was later canonized in 1588 by Pope Sextus V. Due to being the city’s namesake, Saint Didacus was fittingly selected by the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego as its patron saint.

Photo of the mission façade by Allan Ferguson (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Photo of the mission façade by Allan Ferguson (Flickr/CC 2.0)

The mission is perhaps one of the simpler looking missions in California. The building’s main facade is comprised of whitewashed adobe (a type of organic brick and plaster made from mud) and is situated next to a four story bell tower (campanario in Spanish) that was used to announce meal times, special occasions, and daily mission services. The tower houses five bells and all five are rung only once a year on the Sunday closest to July 16, the date of the mission’s founding.

Photo of inside Mission San Diego by Rachel Titiriga (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Photo of inside Mission San Diego by Rachel Titiriga (Flickr/CC 2.0)

The mission church interior looks very much the same as it did several centuries ago despite being rebuilt five times over the course of its history. The interior is mostly sparse with the exception of an ornate altar situated at the front of the church. The length of the church is a hallmark of most Spanish mission churches, and so are the high windows, which were placed in such a way so as to protect those inside from attacks on the mission.

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi in the mission garden. Photo by
Rob Bertholf (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Outside the mission church is a lush courtyard garden that residents could use for peaceful contemplation. The garden features a variety of plants, memorials, as well as statues of important figures to the Franciscan Order, such as Saint Francis of Assisi, who founded the order in the 13th Century. The statue of St. Francis also acts as a wishing well for making the dreams of visitors to the mission come true.

Photo of the Junipero Serra Museum by Gary J. Wood (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Photo of the Junipero Serra Museum by Gary J. Wood (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Once you wrap up your visit to the mission, it’s highly recommended that you take a short 15 minute drive west on the Mission Valley Freeway to the Junipero Serra Museum at the top of San Diego’s Presidio Hill. Where the museum now stands used to be the original site of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá. In addition to being able to view artifacts unearthed from the original mission and presidio, visitors can enjoy gorgeous views of the City of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean.

Photo of Carmel-by-the-Sea by J Klinger (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Photo of Carmel-by-the-Sea by J Klinger (Flickr/CC 2.0)

In our next installment in this feature series we’ll take a long trip north on El Camino Real to visit the second mission established by Father Serra in Carmel-by-the-Sea. If you’re a fan of Carmel and its environs, this next part of the series shouldn’t be missed!