Tag: adventure

4 spots for a hiking trip which might surprise you

Hiking vacations remain a popular option for those seeking adventure, which has led to ever-more exclusive locations opening up to international travelers. Such exclusivity means that even younger travelers are willing to pay more – with one in three millennials, for example, saying they’d be willing to spend about $5,500 on the right vacation!

Choosing a more unusual location for your hiking trip is not only cheaper, it’ll also help avoid the overcrowding that can spoil the most famous routes. Here’s a few ideas for those willing to go further in search of rare challenges and unspoiled landscapes.

1. The Wave, Arizona, USA

In 2009, Microsoft refreshed its line-up of desktop wallpapers with an image of The Wave in Arizona. This now-iconic photo shows a dreamlike landscape of sandstone, full of curves and stripes, which has inspired thousands to seek out its real-life location.

However, experiencing it for yourself is still a real challenge, with the daily number of hikers strictly capped by the Bureau of Land Management to protect the unique attraction for future generations. Only 20 hikers are permitted on-site at a time, meaning those who make it won’t have their experience diluted by having to navigate crowds – but also that many won’t get the chance at all (as it stands, there’s a less-than-15% application success rate).

Getting a permit online is – literally – a lottery. So, if you want to be one of the few to walk The Wave, it’ll mean planning ahead, paying for a ticket and crossing your fingers.

2. Gheralta Mountains, Tigray Province, Ethiopia

While high-altitude trekking is always guaranteed to deliver breathtaking views, the real draw of Ethiopia’s rarely-visited Gheralta Mountains is what’s not even visible from the ground below. This is because, if you accept the challenge of hiking high into the cliffs, you will join one of the world’s smallest congregations – those who’ve set foot inside the churches carved directly into the rock there.

It’s not a route recommended for the casual walker, as even reaching the destination will involve free-climbing in challenging conditions. But for those who do, monks will welcome you into Ethiopian Orthodox places of worship where you can see beautiful frescoes of biblical scenes which are hundreds of years old.

Legend has it the churches were hidden in such inaccessible locations to hide them from armies – and also bring them closer to God. Conquering the sheer drops of Gheralta may well make you feel the same.

3. Laugavegur, Iceland

One of the strangest hikes in Europe is also Iceland’s most popular trail. And, although only really accessible for a fraction of the year (between mid-June and early September), it provides a constantly surprising selection of the country’s famous geothermal attractions.

The weather is often unpredictable in Iceland, but those taking a summer trek are guaranteed to experience 24 hours of daylight. And, as the altitude varies between 100 and 1,100 meters, natural sights similarly alternate between walls of lava, natural hot springs and black volcanic sand. Even the rocks here come in a spectacular rainbow of colors.

As befitting such a popular destination, the route is easily accessible from the country’s capital, Reykjavík. And to keep it that way for the foreseeable future, it’s very much advised that travelers prepare to leave as little trace of their journey as possible – the ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to litter.

4. The Great Wall of China

When most tourists consider this wonder of the world, they likely imagine a day’s visit. However, to really experience the enormity of one of mankind’s most awe-inspiring creations, it’s become increasingly popular to walk the wall and marvel at a broad swathe of China’s rich landscapes as you do so.

Different lengths of hike are available – from a day’s sampling of a stretch, to a more comprehensive 12-day expedition. Most trip organizers will focus on the parts of the wall less frequented by day-trippers because, wherever possible, the aim is to leave the traveler alone with the ancient structure and the rolling landscape.

Encompassing dramatic ruins, authentically-restored watchtowers and even the spot where the wall meets the sea, it’s a journey that will bring you face to face with history. When it comes to really understanding one of the world’s great civilizations, it’s seriously hard to beat.
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This post is published as a guest post.

Camping on Oahu’s North Shore

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The author and her beau enjoyed luscious shoreline views during a recent camping trip.

A weekend getaway is much-needed when you live and work somewhere like “town.” Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and largest city bustles day in and day out with traffic and congestion, making a chance to get out to the country feel like a staycation.

Recently, my boyfriend and I had the chance to get away, for one night only, to go camping on Oahu’s north east shore in Kuhuku. We chose a private campground, Malaekahana, for its serenity, privacy, and safety. We had to book early, and spots are usually taken.

We chose a tent site near the end of the park so as to enjoy a little peace and quiet. We were lucky to make camp next to gentle, kind, and, considerate families looking for some similar rest and relaxation from their everyday grind.

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Our lovely home for the evening.

After setting up our tent, which we borrowed from a generous friend, we were able to sit back, relax, and listen to the sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the shore underneath the palms.

Before making dinner, we opted for a walk on the beach. On the far end, the beach was deserted and we enjoyed some private time with beautiful shoreline views.

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Loving our time away from the city.

Before long, the sun began hanging low in the sky. We fired up our camping grill, which had a hard time staying lit due to the high winds. After sheltering the grill from the direct wind, we were able to prepare a delicious dinner of homemade hamburgers, fire-roasted hot dogs, grilled veggies, and potato salad.

The best part of the evening was building a campfire from kiawe wood that we picked up at nearby Ace Hardware. Making bonfires on beaches in Hawaii is illegal, but Malaekahana allows for campfires in contained fire pits. We burned a fire for a few hours, talking story, watching the stars, and of course, roasting marshmallows for ‘Smores.

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The author enjoying her freshly roasted marshmallow.

An evening in the tent was a windy and noisy affair. I was happy to have brought along earplugs and a sleeping mask. My companion didn’t fare as well, but was finally able to catch some rest on our luxurious inflatable mattress. I guess you could say we went “glamping!”

Sunrise woke me around 7 a.m. I was treated to an epic sunrise and enjoyed a solo sunrise walk on the beach. It felt like heaven on earth, and it was surely a welcome moment of solitude.

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I enjoyed waking up to this view.

Happily, checkout wasn’t until noon, so we had plenty of time to build a yummy hot breakfast of potatoes, Portuguese sausage, scrambled eggs and fresh fruit before packing up and heading back to life in the big city.

Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii

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Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting the Island of Hawaii? Also known as the Big Island, Hawaii Island is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, falling south easternmost in the chain.

Not to be confused with Oahu (where the state capitol Honolulu is located), Big Island is far from metropolitan – in fact, you can’t even drive around the island in one day.

Big Island is my favorite Hawaiian Island due to its sheer enormity. Its varied landscapes are home to not only 2 active volcanoes, Kilauea and Moana Loa, but also a myriad of enchanting, unspoiled places. Word to the wise: Rent a 4×4 vehicle if you ever visit.

Just returning from a 3-day trip, my boyfriend and I had the pleasure of exploring the east side of Hawaii, or Hilo side. Hilo is a city on the bay and a jumping-off point for pleasures ranging from exploring the active volcano, hot springs, black sand beaches, a beautiful coastal drive and more.

Here are some highlights from our recent trip:

Exploring Volcanoes National Park:

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Kilauea Caldera. Do you see the lava in the crater’s rim?

This National Park is not to be missed. Have you ever seen a live, active volcano? Kilauea is actively erupting, and luckily enough for us, a trip to the visitor’s center was enough to see the active lava spurting from the Earth.

Usually, a trip to see the lava flow is an 8 mile round-trip hike through treacherous lava fields, but the day we visited was our lucky day: The lava was spewing from Kilauea Caldera, nearby the visitor’s Center!

After getting our fill of watching red hot lava, we exploring a cavernous lava tube and basked in the mists of volcanic steam vents around the park.

Tips: Stop in the visitor’s center to find out pro tips from the park rangers, and pack a raincoat…it always rains on the east side!

Traversing Lower Puna (including Volcanic Hot Springs):

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Ahalanui’s volcanic hot springs are tucked alongside Puna’s rugged coast. Photo courtesy: Ehren Meinecke

Puna district is southeast of Kilauea volcano, and its proximity to an active volcano can be felt in all senses of the word: Wild, untouched rain forest, volcanic hot springs, funky people, and plenty of room to play.

For a relaxing afternoon, we visited Ahalanui Beach Park, a volcanic hot spring which is about 88 degrees. It’s perfect for taking a relaxing swim and enjoying the rugged coastline it’s nestled up against.

Tips: Bring your snorkeling mask! There’s plenty of fish to observe in the warm pond. Also, stay out if you have any open cuts – a staph infection could easily ruin your trip.

Finding a hidden black sand beach and hunting for opihi:

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These opihi were plucked from a very dicey-looking coastline.

Some places are just meant to be kept for the locals, and Secret Beach is one of them. We were lucky enough to meet up with my friend Matt who showed us an incredible secluded black sand beach.

Around dusk, we all hunted for shells and opihi: a snail delicacy found exclusively on seaside rocks in hard-to-reach places. Wild quantities are a pipe dream on Oahu, and sell for an expensive buck ($18/pound). It was such a treat to harvest and enjoy our own fresh opihi!

Tips: Respect the land. Just because you find an open road doesn’t mean you have the right to travel down it. There is a LOT of private land, much of it ancient and spiritual. When in doubt, “Kapu,” or keep out!

Visiting Hilo’s Farmers Market:

Imagine a place where 200+ vendors gather to sell farm-fresh produce, baked goods, bento lunches, Kona coffee, artisan breads, jams, and handmade jewelry, clothing, and house goods. Enter Hilo’s farmers market!

The farmers market technically takes place daily in downtown Hilo, but for a really good display of goods, we went on a Saturday. We were able to sample all sorts of local treats: from Ka’u district coffee, to taro chips, to roast pork and more, your buck goes far at  Hilo’s farmers market!

Tips: Visit on a Saturday between 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. to really enjoy the full spread of vendors. Bring cash and an open mind for sampling local goodies!

Driving the Hamakua Coast:

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Just one of the many waterfalls on Big Island’s Hamakua Coast Drive- Akaka Falls State Park

Just north of Hilo begins a drive that’s full of lush greenery, waterfalls, valleys, and scenic ocean views. We drove it roughly 40 miles west to reach Waipio Valley, our destination. In the interim, we couldn’t believe how gorgeous the views were.

This relaxing stretch of driving fed our lust for a road trip with epic eye candy all along the way.

Tips: Fill up on gas before you go, pack snacks and turn up the radio. Also: Don’t expect to be able to drive around the entire island in a single day…it’s too big!

Exploring an ancient valley of the gods:

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An incredibly steep and dangerous 4×4 road will lead you to Waipio Valley’s floor.

Waipio Valley is a glimpse into Old Hawaii. Two-thousand foot cliff walls encompass a lush, green valley with taro fields and wild horses. A black sand beach spans the entirety of the valley, and giant waterfalls cascade from the mountains’ sides. Interested yet? Read on:

A trip down to the valley floor means:

  1. A treacherous 2 mile hike down a very steep road you must share with vehicles
  2. Paying around $60/person to jump in a tour van; or
  3. Driving down the 4-wheel drive road on your own and braving the elements.

We opted for choice number 3. It was not easy! The grade is EXTREMELY steep and the road is so narrow, only one car can pass in either direction at a time. We even had to BACK UP the road along the cliff edge to let people pass!

Once at the bottom, you have to ride through several giant mud puddles. Finally on the valley floor, we were rewarded with dipping our toes in the water and observed wild horses in awe. We felt immense respect for a place that used to be only for ali’i – or Hawaiian royalty.

Tips: All visitors can enjoy the lookout for a scenic vantage point and photo opp above the valley. Brave soldiers can take a 4×4 (That means 4-wheel drive ONLY!) down, observing the local “law” of yielding to traffic going up. Take nothing in and leave nothing behind!

Overall, a trip to the Big Island is for the adventurous-at-heart. Pack your best slippahs, hiking shoes, rain coat, and bathing suit, and get ready for whatever adventure heads your way!

5 Must-Visit Places for Foodies

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Parmjit Parmar wrote in her Huffington Post article that the trend in ‘culinary tourism’ has grown massively, where globetrotters are now planning vacations specifically to incorporate culinary delights. With so many destinations to choose from and food to sample, it can be overwhelming to pick somewhere you should consider for your next trip. Here’s how to select a travel destination for your next foodie adventure.

Spain

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Photo by Feda Wong via Flickr

When it comes to the best seafood rice in the world, we have to hand it to Spain’s classic Paella recipe. Its savory taste mixed with the freshest veggies, shrimp, clams and squid is exactly why people flock to Valencia to try this authentic dish. Although many countries tried copying the rice recipe, there’s nothing like the authentic taste of the original Paella in Spain. It must be the crunchy rice at the bottom of the pan that makes you want to have seconds, and even thirds, of the most flavorful arroz in the world.

China

When it comes to Asian food, China has become the most common destination for food travelers in search of the best of the best. When delving into dumplings, don’t miss the “Xiao Long Bao.” This juicy spiced pork dumpling explodes with just the right amount of spice, heat and flavor. Although you can find Xiao Long Bao everywhere in China, the best one can be found in Shanghai served with other gastronomic delicacies such as the Sichuan Hot Pot which is ideal for extreme spice lovers.

India

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Photo by Paul Joseph via Flickr

Indian food consistently ranks in the top slots for foodie destinations, and is well-known for its mouth-watering mutton recipes and delectable vegan food. With plenty of delicacies to choose from, wherein each region offers a particular dish, the best way to try all of these treats together is by ordering a “Thali,” or a huge plate full of rice, bread (chapatti or naan), curries, papadums, lime pickle, chutneys and a sweet dessert. No need to order them separately as the whole plate combines each tasty dish for one affordable price.

Iran

Looks can be deceiving: The Koobideh Kebab in Iran is a must-try for carnivorous foodie. Made from ground lamb or beef with parsley and chopped onions, the Iranian kebab is reason enough to collect another passport stamp. The classic dish features deliciously fire-toasted meat on a ‘Shish Kebab’ and is served with perfectly cooked basmati rice mixed with a special sauce. Other mouth-watering kebab dishes, as featured by Dream of Iran, will make you want to come back to the country again.

 

Italy

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Photo by Lummmy via Flickr

The land of pizza and pasta has to be on every foodie’s list when in search of the best comfort food in the world. Italy is not only visited for its grand architecture, but also for their irresistible cuisine. You can never find another well-made spaghetti carbonara in the world similar to the ones you’ll taste in Italy, especially those from Rome. There are many variations to this dish, but the most popular involves bacon, cheese and pepper.

There are many more destinations worth traveling to for their authentic delicacies, but to start with the list above will you give you a leg up in the world of gastronomical delights.


The above is a guest post.

 

 

Inside the Indie Travel Mindset

A friend on my upcoming backpacking trip to Australia: “What are you running away from?”

Me: “It’s not what I’m running away from, it’s a question of what I’m moving toward.”

The indie traveler marvels

An indie travel mindset is optimistic. It’s brimming with possibility, wanderlust, the excitement, rather than fear, of the unknown. Indie travel means stepping outside of the box and really thrusting yourself full-throttle into an adventurous, uncertain future. It’s living above and beyond the norm.  An indie traveler makes ordinary life extraordinary.

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This post was inspired by BootsnAll and their Indie Travel Challenge 2012.