Exploring New Zealand

New-Zealand is the place to be for wilderness adventures, without having to worry about snakes, bears, or other critters like most other outback destinations. Furthermore, the helpful staff at the numerous tourist information centers provides all essential information and even performs your bookings, thereby ensuring a smooth and relaxing journey. Check out the highlights of ALY’s adventurous hikers on their 7-week travel journey.

Where to go

New Zealand consists of two main islands, logically named the North and the South Island, and many smaller, offshore islands. Together, they comprise a variety of awesome sceneries, all within easy reach of each other. Since the distance between the most northern and the most southern point of New Zealand is roughly 2000 kilometers, many tourists tour the whole island in a couple of weeks, typically ticking-off the key attractions along the highway. However, based on our 7-week journey, we took our time to fully enjoy the richness of New Zealand’s nature by selecting particular regions of this beautiful country. The best place to really get off the beaten track and into the wild is definitely the rough west coast of the South Island.

Recommended itinerary

Head directly to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital situated in the south of the North Island. In fact, Wellington is arguably the only city in New Zealand that is really worth a visit due to its delicious restaurants, as well as its great (and free!) national museum. Together, these will give you the perfect introduction to New Zealand’s gastronomy, history and geology. From Wellington, a beautiful 3-hour ferry trip will take you to Picton, in the north of the South Island. There you can rent a car (Apex and Omega Car Rentals are good low budget options or try Sunny Cars for hassle-free all ins arrangements) and the freedom to go anywhere you want with a trunk full of stash. Alternatively, hitchhike and/or use a hop-on/hop-off  bus pass to get around. This way you don’t need to hike in loops to get back to your car. To head south from Picton, follow state highway six to Queenstown, but allow a detour to visit Abel Tasman National Park (near Marahau) and Oparara basin (near Karamea). From Queenstown, you can fly back home after a cruise or kayak trip in the stunning fjords of Milford or Doubtful Sounds.

What to do

New Zealand is a paradise for hiking (more frequently named ‘tramping’ by the local kiwi’s). The country is filled with numerous tramping tracks of all durations and levels imaginable. In addition, the department of conservation (DOC, http://www.doc.govt.nz/) maintains more than 900 wilderness huts across the country, which serve as the perfect (and cheap!) outback accommodations during a multiday hike. On the west coast of the South Island, tramping tracks lead you through a beautiful subtropical forest with spectacular views on rugged mountains, glaciers and the Tasmanian Sea. However, this unearthly combination of nature’s finest is sometimes difficult to enjoy due to the uneven terrain, which forces you to keep your eyes on the ground below. The ideal solution to this issue is to give your feet a rest, and take-in the surroundings from the back of a horse.

We experienced the pleasure of horse riding in Punakaiki, which is mainly known for its particular rock formations, called the ‘Pancake Rocks’. Although we had limited experience with horse riding, our friendly guide Marian quickly taught us the basics. Ten minutes later, we were confidently steering our horses across the private property of Karen and Neil, who have been organizing horse riding tours there since more than 20 years. We waded through beautiful rivers (without our feet getting wet!), felt the full strength of our ‘horse-buddies’ as we were marching through the wilderness, and rode along the craggy coastline of Punakaiki. Halfway through the trip, Marianne even conjured up a warm tea with cookies. Other routes are available, like riding into the Punakaiki valley and finishing along the beach.  The Youtube movie below gives a good idea of this must-do experience. Don’t you dare to pass Punakaiki just to snap a quick picture of the Pancake Rocks!

 

Check out Karin & Neil’s horse trek offerings: www.pancake-rocks.co.nz/content/horse-treks

Don’t forget to book beforehand! They are open from early October to June.

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Camping in Iceland (September)

As Iceland is becoming incredibly popular with camping tourists here are some tips to make the best out of your trip to this extraordinary destination.

Renting gear locally is easy and comfortable

Local rental companies like the allmighty Rent-A-Tent offer a myriad of equipment for camping. Exploited by two funny and good-looking brothers that can assist you in choosing the right gear and suggest tips for camping. They have an office near Reykjavik so after you have picked up your car, you can drop by them and stash your trunk. You can drop-off everything afterwards by self-service in a big box if they are not around (pitty for the ladies).

Local renting allows you to fill your backpack with other stuff than your tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat but also provides the best equipment for Iceland’s specific environment. We rented high performance sleeping bags that were made for these weather conditions. I wouldn’t have had a good night of sleep without them. We also couldn’t stop raving about the 6-person Stanford comfort tent that we rented, which created the perfect balance between comfort and adventure.

Other specialized companies like Iceland Camping Equipment offer even more gear but lack those bigger tents that might be perfect for larger groups.

Weather can be a b*tch, be prepared

Days and days of rain can be real party poopers and are unfortunately quite common in Iceland. Make sure you carry protective and waterproof clothes and shoes. Also, certain areas of Iceland are known to be very windy. If you’re camping you should definitely seek sheltered places with soft soil that allows tent peg anchoring. This often boils down to designated camping areas. Prices rise every year but calculate for €10-15/night. Check the Vedur app for accurate weather predictions. This is the best Icelandic Weather app currently on the market. It features the best radar maps, local forecasts, weather and northern light predictions available.

Plan your shopping and sleeping spots

Camping in the wild is not allowed in Iceland and most of the times just quite impossible to do so due to the rocky undergrounds. We also learned that Icelanders may be hospitable, but they seldomly allow you to pitch your tent in their backyard (especially in the more touristic areas, where they fear to ‘open the flood gates’ for daily requests).

Camping sites can be a 50km drive away, so plan ahead and check the maps if you don’t want to eat in the dark or take considerable detours. Campgrounds often have wellcoming facilities like hot-ish showers, indoor tables for cooking and eating and kitchen sinks. They seldomly have a mini-market so shop for groceries when you get the chance!

Open or closed

Most campsites close early to mid September. Yay! If you’re on a budget that means that these sites can be used for free camping (although most of the time their facilities are closed as well). If you’re craving for a hot shower, you should definetely check their status as well 🙂

You can use the following sources to check for campgrounds or guesthouses nearby:

  • CampingCard (List of 40 camp sites with CampingCard discounts; including opening dates and available facilities)
  • JA (informative map that listed campsites, shops, restaurants, gas stations etc)
  • Aning Guide 2017 (detailed catalogue mostly about guesthouses and hotels)

Allow yourself some comfort

Two or three week camping trips in a harsh environment can be tiresome. Especially when the weather has been bad, you can fully reload your batteries with a hot shower and a warm bed and dry some clothes if needed. We treated ourselves with a unique guesthouse or hotel every 4 days. Read all about them in the article Unique Accomodation in Iceland.

Not without a rental car

Travel around the island with a bus or hitchhiking is not easy, or even impossible. So a rental car is a must. Everything is available, from the smallest city cars to the biggest 4WD where you can blaze through rivers and across steep mountains. We chose a standard 4WD, a Ford Escape. When you’re only on the ring road a small car will do but if you want a little bit of comfort, rent a bigger one, specially if you will drive on gravel or you want to cross small rivers.

You think, a rental car in Iceland is expensive. Yes and no. It is expensive if you rent a new(er) car. But with CC Rental (City Car Rental) you can choose between new cars and older models. These old cars are cheap and they drive like they should. Everything was included in the standard price. Insurance, gravel protection …

A hint you should think about, if you travel with 4 space is limited. Especially when you include camping gear, personal luggage, food et cetera. So rent a rooftop box, we’ve did it and it was very welcoming! 😊 It’s a small company close to the airport. They picked us up at the airport and they droped us off as well.

http://www.carrentalsiniceland.com/

The all-present rental vans

Rental vans that offer sleeping space are omnipresent. Rent.is, Happy Campers and others offer fair-priced alternatives to camping by tent. These vans are incredibly compact (nice word for tiny) so if you don’t mind spending 80% of your holidays in a smelly 1.5×1.5x3m box you should definitely check them out.

 

Wanna hear more?

Read our article about adrenaline-pumping activities in the land of Fire & Ice or look at our selection of unique accomodations in Iceland.

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© 2017 Corre Photography for Adventures Like You – All rights reserved

Moose safari in Sweden

Who doesn’t like moose? The statue of the north. I saw them already in Norway and Sweden on 2 holidays. Why do this tour then? Well, because I love wildlife, I love this creature.

We’ve done this with wild Sweden, one of the biggest wildlife tour organizations in Sweden. I have to say, they are pro. In everything they do, say and know, they can tell you. The guidance is excellent.

It’s a wonderful evening, with interesting information about the moose, a forest walk looking for tracks, a campfire with a local made wrap, local beer, homemade cookie and a safari with a mini-bus, really fantastic! Everything about this tour is eco-minded, I think it is really important these days. Off course, the gasoline is not 😊 At the end of the tour we saw 6 moose and 1 fox. Not bad,.. 🙂

You can drive on your own in the morning or evening hoping to see a moose but if you don’t know how or where you might end up with an empty fuel tank, so book this trip and you are 100% sure you will meet the king of the forest. You have to be in Skinnskatteberg for this tour.

Wild Sweden offers more than just a moose safari, check their site and book! They won’t disappoint.

http://www.wildsweden.com/

 

Bear watching from a hide in Sweden

To be honest, I love bears 🙂

2 years ago, I’ve already stayed in a bear hide in Sweden, that was so cool I wanted to do it over again. This time in another hide, Sweden’s most southern bear hide, just a 2-hour drive from Stockholm.

This time it was different, it was more personal, better service, more explanation about bears,… Meeting point at “Sara’s” house, a famous Swedish photographer. She has a small gallery from some of here photos. First you start with a nice sandwich, some talking about the hide and bears before heading into the woods for the cabin..

I’m going to compare a bit about the previous bear hide. This time it was smaller, with a maximum of 4 people, beds and a toilet are in the cabin.

The cool thing this time was that the bait was under rocks, in trees,… so they have to work for the food, also cool to take a photo from a standing bear.. Much better and cooler. Food for birds and squirrels was spread right before we were locked into the cabin. First time, no birds, so this is cool when you’re waiting for the real deal! 🙂

Around 16u30 we were in the cabin, we saw many birds, but with many I mean MANY! Squirrels playing in the tree, fighting jays, woodpeckers,.. To name a few.

Okay, sun is setting, the birds are moving and tension is rising, time for the bears to come. 1 hour, 2, 3, … Are they still coming? They have to, because at the moment the hide has a 100% success rate…

Is that, noo, yes? I don’t know, I see something, jup, oh yes, it’s a bear. Oh no wait, it’s a bear with a cub, sweet! No wait, you’re kidding right? 2 cubs! My god, this is amazing! 🙂

They ate a bit, went back into the forest and returned 2 more times. This was thrilling, awesome to see my favorite creature in its own habitat. I love this.

Okay, it was very difficult to take a nice photo because it was as good as dark, but there are binoculars you can use and they are good! ISO 12800, but hey, I’ve got proof! 😉

Tired, around midnight we went to bed? Why? At 4u30 we were back on our seat but it was too late.. When Sara came to pick us up she took the movement camera from the tree and saw that there was a big male at 01u00, shit, we’ve missed this guy. But on the other hand, now we have a reason to go back!

Breakfast time at Sara’s house, damn that was good after 1 week of choco pops 🙂 I recommend this to everyone who loves wildlife, nature and an exciting night!

More information here: http://www.wildnordic.se/

Canoe adventure in Sweden with Byns camping

In July, we went on a 4-day canoe trip, something we wanted to do for many years, so finally, this was the time. And it didn’t disappoint us, not at all! I’ve seen and done so many thing around the world, but this was one of the greatest things I’ve done so far. Truly amazing.

We’ve booked our canoe with Byns camping, a small, cozy, clean and calm camping, near a river. It’s located in Ekshärad, Varmland. Approximately between Oslo and Stockholm, so also a perfect stopover. The service is nice and personal, very kind people, a father with his 2 sons.

You can reach this camping on every way you want. We’ landed by airplane on Stockholm and rented a car, because we’ve did a few other things after the trip. Oslo is even closer than Stockholm. By bus or train is possible too.

You can also rent a cabin if you don’t want to camp. There’s a kitchen, washing machine, showers and much more available for all guests.

They sell different canoe trips on different rivers, suitable for small children with parents to people that wants to be into the wild for a few days, off course, that’s the one we chose 🙂 The Svartälven river. What’s so cool about this trip? Well, you can do it in 4 to 7 days, we’ve booked 4. So, you are free to do how long you want. The variety is cool, from wide to small and winding rivers, big and small lakes with islands, swamps,…

You even get a transport wheel because there are a few land transports needed, fun guaranteed! You’ve got big chance of seeing wildlife along the route. We’ve seen few road deer, lots of birds, tracks of beaver,…

You can stop wherever you want to spend the night. There are shelters along the way but probably you won’t be alone there, so we stayed where it was quiet, and with an amazing view. Once we’ve had our private island for 1 night. Every evening a campfire, fresh fish and quietness… Oh I miss this 🙂

You can choose your own endpoint, there are 13 stops where you can be picked up, you just have to let them know 1 day in advance.

You’ll get waterproof backpacks to put all your stuff in (food, camping gear, clothes,…), very useful. All of this makes it so cool and interesting.

Here you can find more information: http://www.bynscamping.eu/

 

They also own a moose farm. You learn a lot about moose, interesting facts you’ll never heard of. They do it on a pleasant way, excellent for children, but to be honest, also for adults 🙂

You can see them from close. You even can feel (their antlers) and feed them. Standing near the king of the forest is a ‘big thing’. This is not a zoo to be clear… It’s a 10-minute drive from the camping. Check it out, the 2-hour tour is worth it.

http://moose-world.com/

Winter-driving experiences in New Zealand

Tripping in New-Zealand by public transport is a hard thing to do, so you’d better rent a car for optimal experiences. Lot of the beauty is situated across the roads. It’s fun to be able to stop here and there for a lookout, dipping in a (very cold) lake or go hiking somewhere you didn’t planned to. A lot of top activities are located on places which you can reach very easily by car, but the buss doesn’t stop there.

Here are some winter driving tips and experiences we had:

1) You can drive up to 80 km/hour on average. In the Northern island it goes easier. Don’t forget to count in some extra time for stops.

2) The government takes very good care to keep the roads ice-free. During our 3-week-trip, we had just 1 snowy condition during 5 minutes.

3) The weather can change very quick, it is always safe to rent some snow chains by the car rental company. You probably don’t need them, unless you want to drive to ski-areas. But better safe then sorry.

4) When you leave in the morning, check the website if there are any roads closed.
5) Bigger car rental companies are very expensive. In NZ you can choose for a smaller, local one : Omega Car Rentals.
Here you don’t have to pay a translocation fee and the car-cost is way cheaper.
We need to say : the car was not as clean as we used to with the bigger companies, but it still was clean enough and a bit of sand here and there … It has its charms. 😉
They also arrange the interisland ferry if you want to. You can choose to take the car with you for 180 NZD extra, or you can also do a car change in Picton or Wellington. The company is located very close to the ferry.

Overall : don’t let the wintery conditions scare you, but be always prepared. Rent a car and enjoy the freedom!

 

Written by Lien Smet & Cody De Meersman

 

Road trip: Chapter CANADA

Canada is obviously a country that appeals to many traveller’s imagination. After visiting, we can state that the fuzz is all justified! Road tripping Canada will bring you a series of highlights. It’s impossible to write about every single highlight, as they can all be exhibited in the jaw dropping collection… But here’s an attempt to give you an idea. Just for the record, we drove from Vancouver Island to Calgary (at the foot of the Rocky Mountains), with a stopover in Toronto before heading home.

Tofino

This little town at the south coast of Vancouver Island is located at the border of the amazing Pacific Rim National Park. The vibe in this town flower power minded! You’ll find cool backpackers hostels (check out Tofino travellers guesthouse – cool place with Harry Potter style hidden rooms), tons of organic food restaurants, yoga shops, … But the essence of this place is its location. The surroundings are pretty amazing, you’ll think you somehow wind up in a National Geographic documentary. The only thing that’s missing is David Attenborough’s voice.
There’s a lot of companies that organize boat trips in the area, searching for bears and whales.

We went on a bear watching trip with Browning Pass Charters. This is a small company that just provides bear watching tours. The trip was really amazing! We saw a whopping 11 black bears on the trip, not to mention all the bald eagles. The trip was pretty amazing!

Next to bears and eagles, there’s also a lot of whales (usually grey whales and humpbacks if you’re lucky) in the waters near Tofino. A company that will help you find those majestic creatures is Remote Passages. The manager, Kati, is a woman that is extremely passionate about what she does. She’ll provide you with all the information you need and she’s just a pleasure to listen to! We were lucky enough to see 3 grey whales (we even spot a mother and calf). Other than that you’ll also see other marine life like see lions (boy do they smell bad) and seals. Not only do Remote Passages provide whale watching trip, they will also take you bear watching, or you can rent a kayak and go on a guided kayak tour, or take you to hot springs on a day trip.

Another place on Vancouver Island that’s famous for whale watching is Campbell River. Whale watching there will give you an opportunity to spot killer whales. Other than that, there’s many humpacks in the water. Interested? Discovery Marine Safari’s is the way to go!
Very professional company that will make sure you have an unforgettable tour. We saw 5 humpbacks! Amazing creatures…
Campbell River is the self declared salmon capital of the world. We have to admit, it is delightful!

The city of Vancouver is a pretty cool to visit as well! Nice to wander around downtown and have a drink in one of the many trendy bars. Stanley park is great to get away from the crowds and just relax. The skyline is pretty incredible as well!

Most postcard images you’ll bump into are taken in Jasper or Banff national park. These national parks are nature’s eye candy. The sights are breathtaking and there’s an abundance of wildlife. You’ll find big horn sheep, elk, moose, black bears and grizzlies, eagles, … Just too much to mention! Just be careful and don’t approach or feed wildlife!

These national parks are also inhabited by wolves and cougars. It’s nearly impossible to spot them. A local girl told us that, the moment you see a cougar, it’s usually the last thing you see. So not sure if you’d want to see one on a hike.

In Jasper, a must see is spirit island in Maligne Lake. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever come across. The way to go there is with Brewster Travel Canada. You’ll get to go by boat and spend some time in the neighbourhood. It’s nearly impossible to hike there, so this is the next best thing. Don’t miss it!

The road from the town of Jasper to Maligne Lake is stunning. You’ll pass by Medicine lake, which is also extremely easy on the eyes!

Jasper is excellent for hiking enthousiasts. We mostly enjoyed the Old Fort Point hike and Maligne Canyon. Just remember to take bear spray if you want to go hiking. Better be safe than sorry.

Banff is perhaps the bigger brother of Jasper. There’s heaps to do and the amazing viewpoints come free of charge! That does translate in bigger crowds as well. If at some point you see a couple of care at the side of the road, you just know there’s some kind of animal to be seen.

The most famous lakes in Banff are Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. At Lake Louise there’s a gigantic hotel at the shore of the lake. Rooms don’t come cheap. They start around € 600 for a night. The water of both these lakes is clear blue. That’s because it’s glacier fed.

An amazing hike in Banff is the hike from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes. There’s a little tea house at this lake, ran by a couple of local girls. Fun fact, they live there, so one of them has to hike down every day to take out the trash 🙂 The hike will bring you passed some amazing falls and if you hike a little bit more up, you’ll have a great view on lake Louise.

If you have the opportunity to go there, it’s a good idea to also pay Toronto a visit. Not only because the skyline is pretty amazing, but Niagara falls is really close. These falls are bucket list material and shouldn’t be missed.

Not convinced yet? Just take a look at some pictures and proceed with the purchase of your tickets 🙂

Written by Jelle Correwijn

Check out:

http://www.adventurewhalewatching.com (whale watching)

http://www.remotepassages.com (whale whatching)

https://pursuitcollection.com/ (maligne lake tour)

http://www.browningpass.com/ (bear watching tour)

 

5 Top things to do in Tasmania

When you are in Tasmania, it is all about enjoying the nature. Here is a list with our favourite stops:

1. Cradle Mountain

This is something you need to do in 2 parts:
A. Book a Tour with ‘Cradle Country Adventures’ and experience the wide region with a quad or go horse riding. Really… It feels like you are in the scenery of ‘The Lion King’! (Aaaaaaah Sowhenyaaaaa) They provide a pick up and bring you to the remote areas where you can, under professional guidance, appreciate the nature to the fullest. Our guide was well known with the area and gave information. The quad tour was really adventurous and along the way we saw Cradle Mountain (jup!) but also some wildlife : wallabies and even a wombat (basically midget bears). This company provides rain gear from head to foot, so don’t be afraid for cold or rain, they take very good care of you.
B. Go hiking around Dove Lake and enjoy the stunning views.
https://cradleadventures.com.au/

2. Freycinet national park

There is only one way to do this : put on your hiking shoes. We did the one day trip from Wineglass bay and via isthmus track to Hazard beach.

3. Port Arthur

When you want to experience the history of British convicts who were send to this place, a big part of Australia’s history.

4. Bay of fire

Orange coloured rocks which you can climb by yourself. Enjoy the surreal contrasting rocks against the blue ocean and the green forest.

5. Bonorong wildlife sanctuary

Last but not least! Seriously: don’t leave Tasmania before visiting this great initiative. This is a non-profit organisation which gives permanent shelter to animals with disabillities or temporally shelter to animals who need help for just a certain time. This organisation does some remarkable actions. Here is just one of them: when a pregnant wombat is hit on the road, you can call them and they try to rescue the babies and raise them as there own. When they are old enough, they are released back in the nature. Or when an animal loses his leg in the wild & would otherwise die on its own, it gets a new home to thrive in at Bonorong. During our trip around Australia, Tasmania came out as our favourite part, so take the time to experience it to the fullest.
http://www.bonorong.com.au

Written by Lien Smet & Cody De Meersman

 

 

Shark cage diving in Australia

Everyone has a bucket list and diving with sharks was on mine. There only a few places in the world to experience this and I was heading to one of them in Port Lincoln, Australia! I chose to book with Calypso Star Charters because they seemed very professional & experienced. They offered swimming with sea lions was also an option. For me, it was an extremely amazing experience, and I’ll also give you the practical details in case you fear the unknown. Never hesitate to push your boundaries!

The actual tour day began early, i was to be picked up at 06.15 AM at my hotel. After picking up several other people, we got dropped off at the harbor. We were close to 40 people and after a quick briefing on board we left the harbor for our 3 hour ride to Nautilus Island. The crew immediately set us up some breakfast and were very friendly & open to any questions.

After we arrived at the diving spot, the crew got to work setting up the cage. Everyone was divided into groups.

Each group would suit up in their diving equipment, get some information about how everything works & exercise with the rebreather. Then each group got around 40 mins time in the cage, and everybody got to see at least one shark. It truly was breathtaking seeing that shark circling around your cage like a stealthy, deadly predator.

For the people who were waiting to dive or had already dived, there was still plenty to see! I could clearly see the sharks circling around the boat & even saw them jump up the grab the fish bait! How spectacular that was! After eating lunch & all groups had their dive we started heading back. On the way we even got to see some dolphins playing with the boat! At 19:00 PM we arrived back & got dropped at our hotel. All in all, this was an incredible day, I couldn’t be happier about this.

The crew cannot guarantee you that you will see a shark, sometimes they just don’t show up in big numbers but Calypso Star Charters have a high shark spotting rate. Check their website to see the most shark spottings over the course of a year and see what suits you best.
Text: Cody De Meersman
Pics: Cody De Meersman & Calypso Star

 

Team recreation at Landal Green Parks

Friday

The AdventuresLikeYou team was very ready for a fun weekend in Hoog Vaals, a beautiful Landal park close to the point where the three borders of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany meet. A friendly staff member gave us a warm welcome and handed us the keys to our temporary home. Everything was welcoming us: the beds had been made and the towels lay ready. A glass of wine, delicious fondue and a locally baked apricot pie: our weekend away was off to a great start!

(Tip: try out the ‘welcome pack’, filled to the gills with local specialties!)

Saturday

After a filling breakfast in our home, we got in the car and 15 minutes later, we were in the center of Aachen, a cosy town in Germany. A stroll around left us with a smitten with this beautiful town with a charming city hall, adorable shops, an authentic farmer’s market and passionate street musicians. Especially the farmer’s market is great: watch the handy merchants sell and wrap their goods, see an asparagus peeling machine in action and be swept away by the buzzing atmosphere. Lunch was served at Café Liège, with its colourful tables in the sun with a stunning view over the Fish Market and the Dom. The owners makes bagels that are to die for and has a great choice in organic drinks. Be sure to have a look inside the Dom and gaze at its splendor! After this little city trip, we were ready for some adventure. We drove to the Three Country Point and went for a walk in the woods and got lost in the Three Country Point labyrinth. Back home, we took some time to explore the Hoog Vaals Landal Park. The stunning landscapes around the lake blew us away. We spent the rest of the afternoon with drinks and food on our terrace and cooked another delicious meal. What a day!

Lazy Sunday

We kickstarted the day with 40 minutes of jogging which was a good way to visit the whole park, golf area and surroundings. A nice couple is passing by us during breakfast for the 3th time already. Two ducks, nice fellas 🙂

Hiking shoes on and let’s go for a hike! We did a splendid tour for 4 hours with woods, land borders, valleys, viewpoints, meadows and lots of variation. We had a picnic in the grass with a breathtaking view over the valleys and cozy towns below.

(Tip: ‘Het Hijgend Hert’ is great for a refreshing drink in the middle of the forest. The kids can enjoy a playing yard and play with the pigs and peacock while you savour your local beer)

Back in our house we deserved to relax and played a board game with a glass of wine in the sun. Life is good! We went to the swimming pool, but when we saw the indoor playground our 30 year old mind said, ‘I want THIS‘. Screwed up our brain from 10 to 0 and we played like we were 10 years old! 😀

While finishing the weekend with some pizza’s (with wine again) in the sun, we realized we had a blast of a weekend. Sooner or late (with kids?) they will see us again! Thanks for having us Landal!

People on the road: Meet Michael

We met dentist Michael and his lovely daughter Lara at the cutest coffee shop in Timisoara, Romania. A few years ago they moved from Germany to Romania to start a new life with his Timisoarian wife. As we were talking like regular folks about Jewish musical geniuses and the global differences in reimbursement systems for braces, the conversation inevitably shifted towards his daughter’s singing skills and ambition to become a professional mezzo.

His eyes started to twinkle with pride and he showed us his favorite live videos of her on a crappy smart phone. As she was sitting next to him, you could feel the love between these two. The next night she would perform for the first time in the Opera House. There was no way of telling who was more excited and nervous for this new milestone.

Not all might like Michael’s swagger but the support for his daughter to make her dream come true was heart-stopping and made me totally mellow. Go break a leg Lara!

Local food discoveries in Timișoara (Romania)

So, what’s the fuzz about Timișoara in western Romania? Recently, the city got selected as Europe’s Cultural Capital in 2021 and more and more low-cost airline companies are selecting this city as a destination. Staying under the radar for most city trippers so far, this will likely change in the coming years. A peaceful, car-free city center, 3 connected main squares with beautiful architecture, plenty of parcs and the most hospitable people in the abundance of trendy places are waiting for you. We selected 10 places to visit during your stay. Here we go!

  1. Casa Bunicii
    When you’re looking for traditional food this is your go-to place. With specialty dishes from grandma you are sure to be treated with local cuisine. The original ‘bunicii’ (grandmother) used to overlook the quality of dishes at the opening night herself. We had a delicious dish with chicken and cherries and papanasi, a beignet-type cheesy dessert that every local loves. – http://www.casa-bunicii.ro
  2. Musiu
    Musiu is a trendy place somewhat out of the city centre with a nice garden. This place breathes hipness with their jazzy tunes, homemade syrups and funky furniture. We enjoyed a healthy lunch with hyper-local eggplants and fresh veggies. – www.facebook.com/lamusiu/
  3. Jack’s Bistro
    This place could easily become your second home in Timișoara. If you’re lucky to have Roxi or Simona as a hostess, you’re sure to be treated as a family member coming home after a long travel. Hospitality is key in this buzzing bistro, named after the owner’s jack russell. They have a broad range of Starbucks-eat-your-heart-out specialty coffees and serve delicious breakfasts, lunch and snacks. – www.facebook.com/jacksbistrotm/
  4. Al Duomo
    Italian cuisine in a very fine dine setting, that’s Al Duomo for you. Surrounded by colorful paintings (for sale from a local artist Bianca), a walk-in wine cellar and a most skillful maître D, you can easily feel the ambition of this city to lead the way as a regional referende in gastronomic tourism. You’ll find fresh and high-quality ingredients prepared with great craftmanship.
    Tip: Nothing beats the fresh and creamy burrata as a starter.
  5. Yamy Bistro
    Yamy is a small bistro, especially popular with international students and seekers of healthy gourmet sandwiches. Ingredients are made freshly and just-in-time every morning to preserve all flavours. Each sandwich has a story (and funny names like ‘Alligator VS Chicken’ are no exception). Christian and Monica have been running this place for 3 years after leaving their corporate jobs and investing in their passion so be sure to drop by! – www.facebook.com/yamybistrotimisoara/
  6. Mokum Coffee
    De-stress and take a break in this snuggy coffee bar. Wrap your hands around a Bodum cup filled with their famous homemade coffee blend of 3 arabicas and gaze at some snapshots of the city past or the inspirational quotes at the wall (which they change every 2 weeks).
    Tip: If you’re feeling adventurous, try out the Kopi Luwak coffee. Civet cats have already digested (yip!) these beans for you to take out all the acidity and preserve a chocolatey flavour. Probably known as the world’s most exclusive beans. – http://www.mokum.ro/
  7. Misto
    Of course this city cannot afford to run without a specialty burger joint. Professional waitresses run this place since 2015 and serve only 100% Black Angus burgers and artisanal fries. We were lucky to try out the brand new menu and got to taste the Mother Truffler, with truffle paste and cherry tomatoes. – www.facebook.com/misto.restaurant.timisoara/
  8. Merlot
    Classical live music, carefully selected wines and balanced dishes. This restaurant offers a full tête-à-tête experience of quality that cannot be topped. Surely, this feels like a place where a girl could find a diamond ring in her champagne glass. Not really elitarian but probably not frequented by many youngsters. – http://www.restaurant-merlot.ro/
  9. Prospero
    Prospero is a chain of bakeries across town. In the city centre you’ll find a green wall composed of real lychens. Come here for a pastry breakfast accompanied with tasty coffee.
  10. Cărturești
    Tea, tea, tea. In the Iulius Mall, you’ll find a  book shop with a cosy corner for tea lovers. You’ll find an abundance of choice and a quiet setting if you want to lose yourself in a new novel. Don’t expect to order anything else but tea.

Surely, Timișoara is a florishing city (like their cherry blossom streets) and other places like the Tucano Coffee & Tea bar, the Roses and Copiilor (kids walhalla) and the Pljeskavica burger street kiosks are must-do’s during your stay. Enjoy!

Diving the Red Sea with TGI

Do you also want to explore the best diving sites in the world? The Red Sea in Egypt will show you the kind of beauty it has to offer.We found out that Egypt is totally safe, so don’t be scared to fly over! We’ve been here in March 2017.
We left from Amsterdam straight to Marsa Alam, just a 5hr flight. (Why paying lots of money and spending flight time to dive in the Maldives or Indonesia when you can find it all so close to Europe? We stayed at a fine, cosy looking hotel at Gorgonia beach, located at the dive center of TGI diving. (TGI is the official diving center of Gorgonia Beach Hotel).
Diving sites near Marsa Alam are famous for their dugongs, turtles and dolphins. We saw all 3!

We booked a 5-day diving excursion. We all are 1* (Cmas) and Padi open water divers, so a maximum of 20mtrs depth. We did 11 dives. All I can say is I wish we could do 11 more 😊 Below you will find a short summary of what we did and some pictures!

Shore dives:

  • Marsa Assalaya: Turtle, dugong (so awesome!), lion fish, stone fish, octopus, white tip reef shark, many tropical fish (like everywhere)…
  • Marsa Samadai: Turtles, crocodile fish, big lion fish, stone fish, clown fish, murene,
    blue spotted rays, trigger fish,…
  • Abu Ghusun: Big shipwreck from 1967 -> very nice! You can take a phone call 😊,
    very big murene and barracuda.
  • Gorgonia house reef: Very big corals, We saw 4 lion fish together. You need at least 4 dives to explore their house reef (4!), because it is so big. Maybe you see dolphins, turtles or dugong. Andif you are really lucky you might even see the mighty whale shark or manta ray.

Boat dives:

  • Shaab Malahi and Shaab Claudio: Cave dives -> thrilling and awesome. So beautiful! The sun shines through the open holes above your head. We saw a very big napoleon fish (+-1,5m), he is always there! He’s a curious fella, but no need to be scared, he won’t bite! 🙂
  • Dolphin house: It was wind still, so no dophins. When there’s no wind they go out on sea. But the dive was nice. Canyons and caves, lots of fish. We saw the dolphins along the shore.

About TGI diving, Marsa Alam:
The dive center is amazing and granted us some great memories. Let me give you 10 reasons for choosing TGI:

  1. They are VERY professional and have lots of experience.
  2. They care a lot about safety (for me it’s very important).
  3. The briefing is superb! Everything was clear and they show you on a map how the dive will be.
  4. The gear is qualitative and pretty new, tested well in advance.
  5. The price is fair. No hidden fees, no rip-offs.
  6. They have a nice house reef!
  7. The diving instructor is always alert, very friendly and professional, funny also 😊
    (Osama is his name, the best instructor I’ve had. Ever!)
  8. You can choose between house reef, boat dives or shore dives with a bus. So lots of variation.
  9. If your hotel isn’t located near the dive centre, (even more than 1hr drive), they can pick you up.
  10. They have dive locations that are pretty unknown, so no broken corals.

TGI is not only operating in Marsa Alam so check out their website! http://www.tgidiving.com/eng/
Next time I dive, I’ll dive with them again for sure! I hope that next time is tomorrow 😊
So if you’re looking for crystal clear water, breathtaking dive sites and a professional guidance, don’t hesitate and start planning!

Magical moments at Disneyland Paris

In terms of experience, nobody does it better than Disneyland. As a kid I went there once and I still have very profound memories of the theme park near Paris. So 20 years later I decided to take my girlfriend there to share some new memories with her. Seems like a lot of adult seekers of nostalgia still enjoy the magic. Even though some new franchise characters pop up (Marvel’s Spiderman, Imperial Stormtroopers …) they did not fully earn their spot among the heroes like Aladdin, Pumba, Buzz Lightyear and Mickey (yet). It will be a real challenge to integrate those new families in the theme park.

Anyhow, don’t hesitate to experience this park once in your lifetime. To make the best out of your journey, we’ve written down some tips for you guys!

Avoiding queues

Queueing sucks so Goofy and his friends took some action to smooth things over.

  • Apply for ‘fast lane tickets’: Popular attractions have a special booth where you can scan your entrance ticket and receive a time slot in the near future to come back and take the ‘fast lane’. It cuts waiting time at least in two, compared to the regular queue. You can only apply for 1 fast lane ticket every few hours, so don’t bother being a smart-ass and visit all popular attractions collecting tickets. And one other thing: some attractions are already out of time slots at 15:00 of 16:00 PM, so prioritize!
  • Try out ‘single riders’: If you don’t mind being split up with your group, this is your row. People are being picked out of this queue to fill the spots in the trolleys/carts/Parisian teacups/…
  • Also, parents with underage children can still both enjoy a rollercoaster without having to take their kids along the queue. One parent should queue, while the rest of the family can wait at the exit (or first enjoy the freedom some more). After the ride, parents can just switch positions without having to queue a second time.

Staying overnight

  • Next to the Disney park, there’s also the Disney Studios park. Don’t try to combine them in one day, as you will be missing out some must-do’s. Hence, we decided to stay overnight at one of the themed hotels. We picked Cheyenne hotel because of its price (best offer) and because of the Toy Story’s Woody themed rooms. Yee-haa!
  • We perfectly managed to spend one full day at each park, so buying a two-day 2-parks pass is probably a bit too much.
  • Another reason to stay overnight is because of the final trick up Mickey’s sleeve: at closure time (21:00 in February) the Disney castle turns to a mash-up movie stage with coloured fountains, a laser show and fireworks . Don’t miss it!

10 Backpacker hotspots in Australia

1. Airlie beach
This cosy little town located at Aussie’s tropical east coast, is a real backpackers Walhalla. The sun is always shining and the sky is always blue! This is the perfect base for a trip to the world famous Whitsunday Islands, where you’ll find the best beaches on the planet. Forget the Caribbeans, this is the place to be if you’re looking for those pristine virgin beaches. Don’t forget your sandals! Tip: visit the islands with ‘Ocean Rafting’ for a day you won’t easily forget!1

2. Cape Tribulation
This paradise is a must visit in northern Queensland. You’ll find yourself surrounded by the beautiful Daintree Nationpark. The most famous resident of this area is the funny looking – yet not to be messed with – cassowary. These birds call this beautiful rainforest home. Daintree is the only place in the world where the cassowary lives! They’re hard to spot, but we were lucky enough to spot a few while hiking 🙂 2

3. Kakadu NP
This national park in the Northern Territory is a beautiful park with lots of wildlife and a great place to go camping! Just don’t place your tent or campervan next to a billabong or a creek. You might wind up becoming breakfast for one of the many alligators that inhibit the area. During the wet season (roughly from november to march), almost the entire park drowns in water. During the dry season, all animals gather around the billabongs. The most spectacular one, with an abundance of wildlife, is Yellow Water Billabong. Not to be missed! Awesome anecdote: the national park is owned by a local hero. This guy has rejected offers over hundreds millions of dollars. Big companies want to buy the park, because it has a shitload of uranium in the ground. Main reason for not selling: his respect for the indigenous people (Aboriginals). Kakadu NP is holy ground in their culture. Big up!3

4. Sydney
Not to be missed, is the N° 1 visited city of the country. Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, it has a lot of tourists and Yes you pay a lot of money for stuff. But boy is this a cool city! Just embrace the fact that you’ll be doing tourist stuff. Go for a walk over the Harbour Bridge, visit a show in the Opera House, go for a boat ride in the harbour.. You’ll have a lot of fun! Tip: fine a place to stay in Manly, just across the water. It’s a cool place to stay, and you can take the ferry if you want to visit the city. We recommend the Boardrider Backpackers Motel. This place is excellent for surfing!4

5. Grampians NP
Looking for Kangaroos (locally referred to as ‘Roo’s’)? Just go camping in Grampians National Park. There’s a nice little town called Halls Gap and we just love it! There’s so many kangaroos you won’t even know where to look… This place is excellent to go hiking! There’s so many hikes you’ll find it difficult to choose. Our recommendation: The Pinnacle Trail! Breathtaking views all day long!5

6. Great Barrier Reef
Not really a ‘location’ to visit, but not to be overlooked when visiting Down Under! If you know how to scuba dive, get your ass out there and dive like you never dove before! You’ll find yourself surrounded by tropical fish, rays, dolphins, whales (although you’ll hardly ever find whales and dolphins in the same place, as they don’t get along well), and sharks… Experience of a lifetime! If you don’t dive, there’s plenty of snorkelling opportunities or if you have the extra cash you could book a scenic flight. Just be careful and do not touch to corals as they’re living organisms!6

7. Wilsons Promontory NP
Our personal favourite National Park is Wilsons Promontory, AKA The Prom! This place is heaven if you like to go hiking! Go camping in Tidal River, which is the perfect base for a day hike. Make sure to visit Squeaky Beach and listen to the sound of the sand as you walk on it (hence the park’s name). This park is the best place to spot a wombat.7

8. Melbourne
Melbourne is all about eating, drinking and basically just living the good life! Beautiful city with only little cosy streets, or so it seems… Personal favourites are the city’s impressive librairy and Hosier Lane. This small street is a heavenly place for street artists. All the buildings are painted with graffiti. If you’re in Melbourne and you have a few extra days, rent a car or campervan and go for a drive at the world famous Great Ocean Road. This is arguably the best road trip in the world! Enjoy the views of Great Otway NP on the one side, and the ocean on the other. Don’t forget to stop at the most famous Viewpoint: the twelve apostles. It’s just stunning… Tip: Stay for the night Kennett River a spot Koala’s. There’s plenty of them around here!8

9. Blue Mountains NP
This name is given because of the blue haze above the forest. It’s another excellent place to go hiking with viewpoint after viewpoint. The most famous viewpoint is the ‘three sisters’. Basically just three old rocks that tend to be relatives. This park is just a stone’s throw away from Sydney. Perfect for a 2 day trip? Don’t mind if I do!9

10. Byron Bay
Aussie’s N°1 hippie town. This place is all about flower power, love peace and understanding! The vibe is amazing and there’s heaps to do! Byron bay is one of the worlds most famous places for surfing! If you’re a free spirit, chances are you’ll meet people that have the same mindset. There’s lots of yoga shops, meditation on the beach, watch sunsets (they’re off the charts!) and gaze at soooo many dolphins in the water! You can easily rent a kayak and join those majestic creatures. Don’t forget to hike to the lighthouse and spot migrating humpback whales (between June and November) Just be careful! You might end up never leaving this place…10

Top activities in Tromso, Norway

A lot of companies offer adventurous trips like whale watching, reindeer and dog sledding, overnight stays in Sami huts or aurora chasing tours. Every concept has a big and small group alternative. We extremely appreciated the small group activities, but if you’re on a budget you’ll see the same killer whales with the large cruise boat, the RIB, kayak or catamaran (at least in December).

Day hikes, even with children are also easy to organize on your own. Tromso Outdoor is the reference for gear rental in the city, ranging from winter boots and clothes to high performance climbing gear and even rental bikes with spike tires. They advise you on choosing the right trip for your expectations.
(Website: http://www.tromsooutdoor.no)

Whale watching: we tried it for you with an RIB tour, organized by Arctic Adventure Tours. They provide you with winter suits, boots, goggles and all so you don’t get (too) cold on the 3-hour trip on the water. This experience brought us really close to the whales in the Kjalfjord nearby the city centre. As a photographer, this proved the best way to photograph these creatures, being low on the water and so incredibly close. Didn’t even need my tele-lens. As we wanted to try the alternatives, we also explored the fjords with a really luxurious catamaran from Arctic Cruise in Norway. For travelers who don’t mind spending a little bit more for a lot more comfort, this is your kind of trip. We caught some fish ourselves on the way there and made a fine fish soup. We sailed to another fjord, and caught an abundance of killer whales and humpbacks.
(Websites: http://www.arcticadventuretours.no and http://www.acinorway.com)

By the way: have you ever eaten any whale? It’s really good, but sooo much! (now you have to laugh ☺)

Dog sledding: Fast than reindeer sledding and the biggest plus: you get to direct the sled yourself! For parents with small children you might prefer the scenic trip. Everybody else: all aboard the dog sled! These mean running machines take you to a 10 mile trip (or in non-retard units: 15 km) through the white planes. Afterwards you got delighted with a hot cocoa and chocolate cake in a Sami tent. We were really astonished by the ease of driving and the way these huskies were beautifully treated.
(Website: http://www.arcticadventuretours.no)

Aurora Chase: A lot of small and big tour organizers offer these kinds of trips. Larger busses leave every night to chase the lights. Considerably cheaper, but also a lot less magical and zen experience. If you’re searching for a guide who gets the job done and goes the extra mile (literally) Andrei from Enjoy The Arctic is your man. With 8 people in a small van, you’re very agile to adjust as you go. Especially with clouded skies, this has proven an essential asset. These small operators are in constant communication to help each other out in finding gaps in the clouds or strong lights. Furthermore he provides tripods and expert-level guidance for taking the perfect shot from the sky. We lighted a campfire and baked some sausages while waiting on the aurora borealis to get comfy and got rewarded for our patience. (Coincidence or not, we were the only chasing group that night that actually saw the dancing lights). A mystical experience, surrounding by snow-packed trees!
(Website: http://www.enjoythearctic.no/)

We also got the chance to join a night boat tour with the guys from Arctic Cruise in Norway. This was by far a much more comfortable way of ‘chasing’ the lights, but hard to take a solid and sharp picture with a rocking boat. Walk around on the deck, take a nap in the 4 double beds, sit on an actual toilet, grab an espresso etc. while you wait in your Crocs slippers for the magic to kick in. Thermal suits are there if you need them.

If you have questions or need some more tips and tricks: please contact us!

Also view:
How to spot the Northern Lights?
How to photograph the Northern Lights?
Magical accomodation in Tromso

People on the road: Meet Jules

We’ve met Welshmen Jules on a whale watching boat trip. He had just sold his weekend house in the Camargue to travel more with his wife. Although they’re not born adventurers, they explore the world to seek their own boundaries. This year they snorkeled with turtles in Barbados, discovered Cyprus by car, enjoyed the sunset in Santorini (Greece) and done some night sledding with huskies in Norway this year. Watch him grin as he caught his first fish, ever.IMG_8534.jpg

Magical accomodation in Tromso

If you’re searching for a place to stay in Tromso and hotels just don’t cut the deal: try the Tromso Camping. Although rates are quite high, the authentic feeling of staying in a cabin near the fjord beats everything else. The comfort cabins are actually really comfortable, with your own bathroom, kitchen and even floor heating. And the beds, my god, I wished we could take them home. You’ll need a rental car (or taxi) to take you anywhere and parking is expensive in the city. Maybe these pictures can convince you about the magic here:

img_8517img_8520img_8525

Website: http://www.tromsocamping.no/en

 

10 (non) touristic places in Cuba

Cuba, think about salsa, white beaches, mojito’s, old-timers, cigars and colorful streets. You’ll find all of this in this amazing country. If you travel by bus or taxi it’s doable but it will go slow. A rental car is advised, but a bit expensive.

The food: delicious and lots of seafood, but always with rice and cold vegetables. Stay in casa particulars, which will be like an AirBnB-experience, avant la lettre.

  1. Alejandro de Humbold NP. Eastern Cuba, not so much visited as the typical western route. This is an UNESCO NP where they have the smallest frogs in the world and lots of hummingbirds. You will have to stay in Baracoa, a small city center. You can dance in a bar on live music with locals and drink a mojito (jeeej!)
  1. Santiago de Cuba. I didn’t like this city. Too crowdie, noisy, dirty and not much to visit. Why on this list then? There is a very nice castle at the sea with stunning views on the mountains. On the other side you have a shipwreck from the Spanish war you can still see in the sea. It’s possible to snorkle to the shipwreck!
  1. Commandancia de la plata. In the Turquino NP you can do a day hike to this spot, where Fidel Castro and Ché Guevara prepared their plans to take over the power during the revolt. You walk through a green typical Caribbean forest in the mountains. Wildlife, landscape and history all-in-one. Very worth it! You can still see their original hideout.
  1. Cayo Coco and Guillermo. When you come from nr. 3 or vice versa you can make a stop in Camagüey, a nice town with lots of small squares and colorful places. Cayo coco is a place where you can dive but also has the most white sandy beaches I’ve ever seen (cayo Guillermo), playa pilar.Flamingos are showing off here in high numbers.

4,5. Santa Clara. Between Cayo Coco and Trinidad. Ché Guevaras ashes are kept here, you can visit the main square and the train he derailed.

  1. Trinidad. We’re arrived in the most touristic town of Cuba, but what a nice place, so beautiful with small streets and all houses colored in every color you can imagine. So vibrant, a must visit! You can do a day hike in the Topes de Collantes NP to a waterfall, you walk through a jungle with lots of birds.

5,5. Cienfuegos. Between Trinidad and Zapata NP. An old city with a nice main square, there’s not much more to see. Very nice diving spots here.

  1. Zapata NP: A huge NP. 2 options, 1. the forest, with owls, birds, crabs, mountain rats, hummingbirds (also the bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world) and many other species. 2. the wetlands, with many birds and nice views. Like every NP, you need a mandatory guide to visit.
  1. Peninsula de Guanahacabibes NP. Not visited by many tourists, only by divers. It’s in the far west, a remote place. You can drive along with a guide and you will not be disappointed. You see huge land iguanas, hummingbirds (again), crocodiles (people pay BIG money to see them in Zapata NP, deep in the park, +-500€ pp), here you see them almost for free (10€ pp), rough cliffs and caves. Also a good diving place (Maria La Gorda).
  1. Viñales: My favorite. Mogotes, strange mountains, round and being cut in half. Tobacco plantations, caves and astounishing views in a very cool landscape. A must visit! From here you can book a boat tour to Cayo Levisa, a white sandy island.
  1. Las terrazas: Small waterfalls in a green region. You can swim here but the cool thing is that you can stay here in a pile house (a wooden cabin) and gaze at the amazing star shows at night.
  1. Havana: Big and crowdie, with lots of people selling stuff but it has something (don’t spend more that 3 days though). The pimped old-timers and old squares are beautiful heritage. The old town is the coziest.

10 must visits in North India

When you think about India, you might think of dirty and crowded streets, shitty places, spicy food, no alcohol, strange/funny people and the Taj Mahal. And ofcourse you’ll encounter all these things! But India has so much more to offer than only this, with its rich culture and diversity of nature.

Besides it’s quite easy to travel. You can take the plane, or a cheap taxi, a (sleeping)train, bus or a tuk tuk. You can eat cheap and good dishes, but after one month you might start to crave for something without rice or a little less spicy. You can sleep VERY cheap (starting from 3€/night) in a cosy guesthouse.

  1. Leh, Ladakh: Stunning mountscapes in the Himalayas. Friendy village on 3000m. Take 2 or 3 days to get used to the height. In the meantime you can visit some monastery’s nearby, try to book a tour for a trek and relax on a terrace with a view on the mountains. We’ve booked a 5day trek in the Hemis national park. The price of this was extremely cheap. (About 120€ for everything. Horses for the luggage, food, tent, mattress, sleeping bag, guide, cook, transport, entrance,…). The trek was stunning. We went above 5000m. Heavy but well worth it till the last step.
  1. Agra. The Taj Mahal is situated here. The town itself is ugly and non-interesting. But the Taj Mahal is breath taking. If you don’t want to spend too much money on the entrance fee: Go to the back of the impressive building, on the other side of the river, for a great view too. (Featured image was taken from there). In the same day you can visit the red fort, a cool fort in the middle of the city center. If you come from New Delhi, take a stop in Gwalior, here’s a quite nice old fort.
  1. Orchha. A small town with lots of history. Many temples, old and new, big and small. Also a big palace you can visit without seeing another tourist.

Hint: go to the big temple in the middle of the center, and ask a kid in the neighborhood to guide you to the top. They will unlock the doors and you have to climb small stairs until you reach the roof, where you can see vultures landing from close.

  1. Khajuraho. Kamasutra temples. Explore, can’t tell you more about these insane temples  😉
  1. Varanasi. The holy city, perhaps the oldest city in the world. You will be dropped in a chaotic and vivid maze. What can you expect here? Piss on your head? Yes! Shit from a holy cow being thrown in the Ganges? Yes! Dead bodies being ritually burned in the Ganges while 20m downstream people are washing themselves? Yes! Will you become sick here? Yes! Euuhmm, should I visit it then? YES, you have to!
  1. Any park with tigers. We visited Jim Corbett national park but not in the right season. (You really should visit between December and may). But this park was the only one in India that was open. Beautiful park, we haven’t spotted tigers, but we saw there footprints, peacock, lots of monkeys, deer… And a bit further you  can hike to some very nice waterfalls where you can swim (not one single tourist).
  1. Jaipur, the Pink City. Big and crowded but a few things are definitely worth visiting. The Hawa Mahall, a (ofcourse) pink building like a beehive, in the city center. The Royal Palace, fine artwork and some beautiful rooms, in the city center. The Amber Palace and Fort, situated outside the city, near to eachother. Very worth it!
  1. Jaisalmer, the Yellow City. Sand, dry bush and a burning sun, you are arrived in the desert of Rajasthan. You can walk around the city in just a few hours, it’s cosy, quiet and hot.The main thing to do here is a camel trip. 2 days is enough. Almost every tour goes on the same trip to the Sam Sand Dunes, but when you arrive with your camel and you want a nice photo of the dunes you will be disappointed, it’s full, but I mean FULL of tourists (so I’ve heard), you can’t take a photo of the dunes without 30 tourists. So you have to join a ‘non-touristic’ camel tour in the Thar Desert like we did. The dunes were not big but beautiful and not one single tourist was spotted in 2 days. Further you can hire a small motorbike and visit some things outside the city, for example Kuldhara, a city of ruins that has been abandoned.
  1. Jodhpur, the Blue City. Crowdy again, but the cosy kind. Visit the Mehrangarh fort, in the center on a hill. It’s called a fort but I actually it’s more of a palace, so huge you can see this was a wealthy city. You’ll have a great view on all the blue houses (against mosquitos). You can wander around in the streets or hire a bike and go outside the city, nice thing to explore.

There is another blue city, called Bundi, (more like a village), which you also have to explore. It’s a very non-touristic place with a big palace  on the green hills, not restored but dilapidated, which is very cool! Not far from Bundi you’ll find a nice waterfall (Bhimlat falls) where you can take a dive.

  1. Udaipur, the White City. The city of James Bond. A clean and nice city with (again) a beautiful palace. Rent a bike and make a tour around the lake north of the city, to find lots of birdlife.

After this trip (you’ll need 5 weeks to visit all of this) you will see India is a diamond in the rough! 🙂