Having visited Phuket, Thailand twice in a span of six months we can safely say that this island paradise is not just about beach lounging, turquoise waters, trips to Phi Phi islands, strolling past strip bars and shopping streets. Phuket is also home to some very interesting local cuisine—this mountainous island located in the Andaman Sea has its fair share of tourist traps as well as hidden spots for every kind of holidaymaker—so, forget about calories and think Pad Thai, delectable curries, stir fry everything, mango sticky rice and…drumroll….hand churned coconut ice-cream.
A 14th century, virginal white castle-like structure resting on a carpet of manicured grass—a vision both alluring and awe-inspiring. The majestic ruins of a 13th century castle on a hill—a living relic of the past. A cascade of angels in a clandestine alley, slowly descending to Earth—ethereal, and yet, a little un-earthly. The European nation of Croatia may be better known for its Game of Throne sets in Dubrovnik, and lure of natural wonders, like Krka and Plitvice Lakes National Park—but on my recent trip, I unearthed these hidden gems nestled in smaller, story tale towns.
For an escapist like me, there’s no better joy than getting lost in old towns with magical stories, that urge you to travel back in time and speak of both mythology and mystery. And as any good philosopher knows, myths are nothing but true accounts of a remote past. Read on for the hidden gems I stumbled upon in Croatia, to find and live out your own, very real fairy tale.
Ruins of a castle in Samobor
A 30-minute drive west from the city of Zagreb lies the small quiet town of Samobor—known for its historic architecture, natural wonders, laidback vibe and un-real kremšnita. Fairly quiet even in the tourist-heavy month of August, it’s small enough to comfortably walk around on foot—and perhaps this is the best way, to make the most of its well-maintained architecture. The town square is filled with open-air cafes and little bars—where you must try the traditional kremšnita, a decadent dessert made from puff pastry and custard cream, that Samobor is well-known for. (I recommend Slasticarnica U Prolazu).
But the crown jewel of the town, and the sight I lost my romantic heart to is the Samobor Castle, a ruined castle atop Tepec Hill. A ten-minute walk from the town center, through a pretty public park takes you to the start of a hiking point. A quick 20-minute uphill walk takes you to the ruins of the castle that was erected back in the 13th century and sit at an elevation of 220m. I had the serendipitous pleasure of reaching the top just as the sun settled into a glorious sunset sky and the old castle moat, the massive entrance and most of the still-standing walls came to life against the fiery colours of the sky. And all I could think about was clandestine meetings with a Prince Charming as we soaked in the sights, with the stone castle protecting us.
Things to see: Samobor Museum, St Anastasia Church, Grgos Cave
Stay: Plenty of quaint apartments, but also ideal for a day trip from Zagreb
The angel alley of Varazdin
An hour north from Zagreb, lies a town from a different time. The former capital of Croatia, its cobbled streets, well-preserved baroque buildings and old town charm hark back to a simpler time and as you walk through Varazdin, you can’t help but be taken in by its medieval feel. One of the major tourist attractions strangely enough is the Varazdin cemetery—and one breezy, quiet evening took me through the immense space, created in the 20th century, filled with glorious, intricate garden architecture. While it is unsettling, walking around through the eternal homes of the deceased—deceased you don’t even know, the beautifully designed graves and regal air of the space are enough to keep you captivated as you digest the oddness of it all.
But it is the prevailing presence of angels, littered through the city that reinforce the magical energy—and the Angel Museum, set up by local artist Zeljko Prsetc is worth a fly-by (geddit?). Or just wing it, and wander down to Varazdin Andelinjak, where a tiny gate opens up to a cluster of angels descending towards Earth. Creepy, or cute? Have a look and decide for yourself… and keep your eyes (and heart) open for your guardian angel. I spent three days in Varazdin, and would have been happy to be there longer, spending evenings on benches beside the old fountain in the town square, because in addition to its architecture, the food deserves a special mention—the pizza at restaurant Angelus, and Domenico was the best I’ve eaten this side of the border, best followed by desserts and ice cream at Fontana.
Things to see: Varazdin Castle/Stari Grad (home to the Museum); Baroque palaces
Stay: Park Boutique Hotel; B&B Garestin
A centuries-old cave in Istria
Dating back to 1770, is an ancient cave that still stands today—rich in myriad-coloured dripstones, and gigantic stalagmites, the moment you enter, the temperature drops by 5 degrees, and you find yourself in a space better suited to the adventures of Indiana Jones. From microscopic little creatures that inhabit the caves, to the bats that you almost always miss, and the graffiti that cave-intruders left as little souvenirs of their adventure, the Mramornica marble cave is a cool (pun intended) hidden-gem on the Istrian coast, near Brtonigla, ideal to live out your Lara Croft-esque fantasies. Just don’t get left behind!
Istria, in the far north west of Croatia is dotted with pretty seaside towns and offers a little bit of respite from the international tourist-heavy stops of Dubrovnik, Split and the like. My home base was Porec, a 3-hour drive from Zagreb and providing easy accessibility to towns like Rovinj, Motovun and Novigrad. (Stay tuned for our Istrian road trip itinerary)
Things to see: Church of Euphemia, Park Forest Zlatni, Rovinj
Stay: Apartment Viva Molindrio, Porec; Apartments Casa Garibaldi, Brtonigla
Location: Croatia, Europe
Getting there: Connecting flights to the capital city of Zagreb
Best time to visit: May-June, Sept-Oct
A medley of landscapes frequently lauded as some of the world’s most beautiful sights can be found in Western Canada. Using the below images we attempt to brainwash you in to planning your next holiday to this relatively unexplored destination found on earth promising nature in abundance, wild experiences and unparalleled beauty.
Your 20 photos to inspire you to visit Canada begins now:
Rafting in Clearwater River, Wells Grey Provincial Park
To road trip through the Canadian Rockies in 15 days:
WE DID IT! All it took was an expensive ticket to Vancouver city, a sleek SUV, backseat filled with snacks, camera in tow and most importantly our rush of adventure. Driving in Canada was an unbelievable experience with its open roads, motorways flanked with snow-capped mountains or pine trees and a few surreal moments like the time we got really lucky to have spotted a bear casually hunting for berries by the road.
This road trip is not scary (Read: Iceland) but requires a dedication to drive long hours only because you cannot road trip in Canada without stopping every few kilometres to take in the beautiful scenery that surrounds you. From sea to summit, we have mapped out the perfect itinerary for your next vacation and epic doesn’t begin to describe what you’re in for.
Day 1 – Fly in to Vancouver city
This is when we tell you how much in love with this city we really are. Have you ever wanted to live in a city that boasts mountain views from all corners, a stone’s throw distance from major national parks and teaming with cultures from all over the world? That city is Vancouver. If time permits, spend a few days exploring the city and all the activities it has to offer.
Stay: The Buchan Hotel (minutes from downtown Vancouver)
Day 2 – Day 4: Drive to Tofino (283 km – 5.5 hours)
Known for testing the unknown, we decided to make a quick weekend stop in Tofino located in Vancouver Island and what a payoff it was! Firstly, you get to drive your car in to a massive ferry that transports you across to Vancouver Island from where you continue driving a few hours until you reach the seaside town of Tofino. From here, you get to see Pacific Rim National Park and numerous bear and whale sightings via local tours and not to mention glowing sunsets from Tofino’s beach. FYI bears happen to chill on the beaches too so stay alert!
Tour Company used: Adventure Tofino Wildlife Tours
Tofino has a variety of accommodations ranging from expensive to thrifty but we chose to stay at the cutest BnB owed by a local who spoiled us each morning with freshly baked muffins and other homemade goodness.
Stay: Storm Bay BnB by Jeanette & John
Day 4 – Drive back to Vancouver city (283 km – 5.5 hours)
Drive back to Vancouver city but not before making a few noteworthy stops. These can also be done in parts enroute to Tofino.
Tofino must-do stops include:
- Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Parks (Upper & Lower)
- Cathedra Grove – MacMillan Provincial Park
- Giant Cedar Trail
- Ucuelet (before entering Tofino)
Back in Vancouver, spend the late evening walking the famous “downtown” of Vancouver or strolling Stanley Park before heading to dinner.
Stay: Windsor Guesthouse
Day 5 – Drive to Clearwater & Wells Gray Provincial Park (482 km – 5 hours)
Get a head start no later than 7 AM in order to have a leisurely drive to Clearwater and Wells Gray Provincial Park. Upon arriving in Clearwater, grab a few beers, snacks and head straight to Dutch Lake. Here you can spend hours on the boardwalk sipping on a beer and taking the occasional dip in the lake to cool off or rent a kayak and explore the lake on your own.
Day 6 – In Clearwater
Time for some real adventure! The mighty and majestic Clearwater River stretches far through Wells Gray Provincial Park’s protected and undisturbed wilderness. This pristine river offers some of the best whitewater in all of British Columbia and that is exactly what we spent our morning doing – battling rapids and extremely cold cold waters.
For rafting: Liquid Lifestyles
The second half of the day was not devoid of water views as we made our way to Helmcken Falls, Spahat Creek Falls, Maul Falls followed by a lazy evening by Clearwater Lake.
Stay: Stoneshire Guesthouse (minutes’ walk to Dutch Lake)
Day 7 – Day 9 – Drive to Valemount for Jasper National Park. Overnight in Valemount (200 km – 2 hours)
You’ve probably seen it on Instagram or read about Jasper but nothing compares to what you witness in person. Just when we thought landscapes could not get any better, we began the second half of our road trip through more pine trees, dramatic mountain vistas and lakes.
Now is when you decide where exactly you want to stay when visiting Jasper National Park. The park houses a town – Jasper that offers adorable but expensive accommodation and if not booked months in advance (we’re talking 5 months in advance in the summer) you may not find suitable and reasonably priced accommodation here. As a result, we were left with virtually no budget friendly accommodations and chose the next best option and that was to stay in Valemount (100 km – 1 hour from Jasper National Park). Why Valemount? Valemount has good reasonably priced accommodations, gas stations and a few restaurants and supermarkets for basic needs.
Begin early from Clearwater, so you can make pit stops along the way to take photos of the scenery or a longer halt at Mount Robson for a quick photo opportunity.
P.S – Valemount sits in British Columbia while Jasper in Alberta that share different time zones! Ensure you change your watch each time you drive back & forth – you gain an hour, you lose one 🙂
Enter Alberta and Jasper National Park! From here onward the next few days transported us to a whole new world that seemed too picture perfect to be true with its sharp jagged mountains, turquoise lakes and dense forest trails.
Things to do in Jasper:
- Hikes – With all those mountains comes innumerable hiking trails one leading to a view more beautiful than the last. While summer may be the busiest time of year for parks in Canada, it is almost impossible to run in to massive crowds for all you have to do is walk a few metres following a trail and you’ve lost all your fellow hikers. This is when you realize just how massive Canada and it’s parks really are and how lucky you are to be there in that moment.
- Skytram to Whistlers summit: It is easy to take a CAD 45 gondola ride up to Whistler’s summit from where you walk a short path to take in the view.
- Cruising along Maligne Lake is one of the most popular activities you can indulge in when in jasper. The cruise is a little over an hour and stops at Spirit Island to take photos.
- Sunwapta Falls & Canyon – short hike to the falls
- Medicine Lake – For a peaceful picnic by a massive lake
- Quick stops at the 3 lakes – Pyramid, Patricia & Edith Lakes.
The town of Jasper deserves a special mention for it sits in the midst of Canada’s extraordinary wilderness unpretentious and pretty. Restaurants are plenty; locals are forever smiling and looking to give you suggestions or weather updates. We highly recommend spending your nights in Jasper for a quintessential rocky mountain experience.
In case you’re wondering when you’ll reach the much coveted Icefields Parkway for that unbelievable drive; you’re already there! The Icefields Parkway is a 230 kilometre mountain road running through Banff and Jasper National Park. This scenic road, rated as one of the top drives in the world by Condé Nast Traveller traverses the rugged landscape of the Canadian Rockies. If you’ve made it this far, you’re really in for something very special. The entire drive takes no more than 3 hours NOT counting the incessant stopping to take photos of your surroundings.
There are numerous view-point pullouts, hiking and walking opportunities, waterfalls, lakes and attractions to see along the Icefields Parkway.
- Herbert & Hector Lakes
- Bow Lake
- Peyto Lake
- Waterfowl Lake & Chephren Lake
- Cirrus Mountain View Point
- Athabasca Glacier
- Sunwapta Falls
- Athabasca Falls
Stay: Valley Mountain Ranch – Valemount (Yes, it was a real ranch with animals!)
Day 9 – Day 12 – Continue driving to Banff National Park. Stay in Canmore (180 km – 2 hours)
You will spend the next 3 days exploring the scenic spots in and around Banff National Park. Take your time to soak in the various spots along the Icefields Parkway as you make your way to Banff. All the above attractions along the parkway can be split between your days exploring Jasper & Banff.
Alberta boats several turquoise lakes and one such underrated lake is Peyto Lake. At 2,068 meters, Bow Pass is the highest pass in Banff National Park and the watershed between the river systems of the North and South Saskatchewan River. A short branch road leads to the magnificent Peyto Lake glistening in turquoise and fed by many of the surrounding glaciers.
The moment you’ve been waiting for is finally here – The jewel of Banff National Park is Lake Louise with its shimmering turquoise blue green water and surrounding snow capped mountains rising up to 3000 meters high. It’s difficult to tear yourself away from the shores of the lake but you can also take one of the many trails (some running along the waters edge) up in to forest opening up to breathtaking views of the lake from above. The most popular of them is the trail leading up to Lake Agnes, which lies in a picturesque location between the two round hills known as the Beehives. The strenuous climb to the top of one of the Beehives is rewarded by a superb view over the entire area. In summer, the Lake Agnes Teahouse supplies food and drinks to weary hikers (such as ourselves).
While Lake Louise did not disappoint, it was Morraine Lake that stole the show and our hearts. An extremely cold and bleak morning was the chosen day to explore this lake. Hours of waiting in our car for the rain to stop and several playlists later the sun appeared and brightened the day. Pictured on the reverse of the old Canadian twenty dollar bill, Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks surrounded by peaks more than 3,000 meters high, and the Wenkchemna Glacier was one of the most beautiful sights I have personally ever witnessed. The most scenic walk involves a short climb up the Rockpile Trail to the best view of the lake which involved us monkeying around in the cold trying to not break any bones. WORTH IT!
At the end of each day we made our way back to our apartment in Canmore, a sleepy ski town in the rocky mountains.
Stay: Cozy Penthouse Suite – Mountain View (Air BnB)
Day 12 – Day 15 – Drive to Yoho National Park. Overnight in Golden ( 85 km 1 hour)
In case you feel that you can’t do justice to the above sights, you can always drive back to either of the aforementioned lakes as they’re no more than an hour’s drive from your next halt in Golden.
The next park on our agenda was Yoho National Park and one that is often skipped by most road trippers. Extremely underrated, we enjoyed this park a lot more than we expected. Located along the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies, in the province of British Columbia lies Yoho the smallest of the contiguous parks of Banff, Jasper and Kootenay. The most notable highlights of Yoho are Takkakaw Falls, one of Canada’s highest free falling waterfalls, the Natural Bridge over the Kicking Horse River, Emerald Lake and Lake O’Hara.
With Golden as our base we spent the last few days exploring the above mentioned sights and simply breathing the crisp, fresh Canadian air.
Stay: Kicking Horse Lodge, Golden (Air BnB)
Day 15 – Drive to Calgary Airport & say goodbye (225 km 2.5 hours).
Car rental: Avis Canada
When: Summer months – June, July, August & September
How: Fly to Vancouver or Calgary and end with the same
What: Natural beauty in its wildest form.
Advisory: While the summer months are undoubtedly the best time to visit weather wise, the 3 major disruptions include:
- Higher prices everywhere due to it being peak season
- Lack of economical accommodations due to it being high season
- Forest fires. Forest fires are no joke and can entirely disrupt your travel schedule. We were caught in the middle of forest fires towards the end of our trip and had to make last minute adjustments to our itinerary due to the smoky air.
Nee more inspiration? We have it covered.
Check out our – “20 photos to inspire you to visit Canada”.
The island of Koh Pha ngan is best known for its Full & Half Moon parties that take place. Travelers from all over the world flock the island to participate in what they believe to be an unforgettable party experience. We attended the half moon party during our time on this tiny island and here’s what you should know before you go.
Chantelle and I met in 2012 whilst working in the United States and we instantly bonded over our love for food, our crammed basement living space and our insatiable desire to travel the world. One too many travels later, our time together had concluded and we were ready to move back to our respective home countries. Fast forward to six years later, we’re now cross-continental best friends that still brood over dreamy boys, fancy foods and countries we wish to explore. Then came the time to meet mid-way and the chosen country was (*drumroll*) Thailand—because where else can you get down and dirty when you gotta turn 30? Read on for our adventures
Grab Your Globe presents Thailand island hopping in 12 days: Series 1 – Phuket
If there ever was a country that had terrain that seemed like it is from another planet, it is Iceland and where better to celebrate your marriage turning one than in a freezing country surrounded by absolutely nothing! My husband and I landed in the capital city of Reykjavik and began a 10-day journey traversing volcanoes, lava fields, icy, and snow laden roads with air so pure and views so magical; we may have lost our hearts to another world.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found in your suitcase yet? Well, half way in to our American holiday we realised it wasn’t wise to carry a photo album with photos of our dogs or jewellery pouches filled with bobbles nor was it necessary to carry biscuits from India! You’re faced with this life or death decision whether to carry the sun hat for the beach, the 3 swim suits you’ve just bought, the striped or plain dress and which shoes you have to be photographed in on this holiday. It’s unpleasant lugging around a 32 kg suitcase that’s half your size and holding up lines because you also have a backpack and sling purse to balance all for your 10 day holiday. Therefore, we’ve devised the perfect guide to assist you with packing that won’t require you to sit on your suitcase to have it closed.
With seventy per cent of the planet underwater, you mustn’t think twice before plunging in to the deep blue waters of any ocean. What awaits is a whole new world for you to immerse yourself in sans crowds, pollution and any form of mundane you’re used to. We’re talking abut scuba diving.
Blessed with some of the most marine-rich waters in the world, Borneo (Malaysia) promises to deliver those exhilarating experiences of swimming with hammerheads, cruising alongside turtles and gliding by the swirling tornadoes of barracudas. Not convinced yet? Read on