Hear about fun things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland as the Amateur Traveler talks to Dan from the Zipping Around the World podcast about his recent trip to the capital of Scotland.
In answer to the question of why someone should go to Edinburgh, Dan says, “The history. If you like a little whiskey, if you like, just greenery, it’s just a wonderful place to go. The people are wonderful English-speaking, so it’s easy for a lot of people to cast their net first. So all those things encompass why you’d want to go to Scotland.”
Dan starts us on the rather touristy Royal Mile that runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. Yes, it has a lot of whiskey and tourist shops but it also has a lot of history. We stop at an old merchant’s house turned museum at Gladstone’s Land.
We hear about a deacon by day and robber by night who may have influenced the creation of the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and a faithful Scot terrier revered in the city.
We learn about Scottish history at the National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of Edinburgh. Visit St Giles Cathedral which will turn 900 years old in 2024. It was founded by King David the 1st.
We learn about some of Edinburgh’s famous residents who have monuments in the city like Adam Smith the father of economics, John Knox the founder of the Scottish Presbyterian church, and Robert Burns the poet.
At the end of the Royal Mile, you will find the modern Scottish Parliament Building and Holyrood Palace the home of Scottish royal history.
On the next day, Dan takes us up to Edinburgh Castle. If you come in August you might try and get tickets for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo an annual performance of international military bands. You could spend a good part of the day just at the castle if you went to all the different museums. There are museums for various regiments, a museum for prisoners of war who were held in the castle, as well as the National War Museum.
See the giant Mons Meg canon or plug your ears if you are there when they fire off the modern canon that is the 1 o’clock gun. The castle also has a palace in it and a chapel that dates back to King David 1st from 1130.
When you come down from the castle, take a stroll in the Princes Street Gardens. But when are ready for another hike with a view, Dan talks about hikes to Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat or the monuments on Calton Hill like the Nelson Monument and the National Monument. Speaking of monuments you can climb the 287 steps to the top of the Scott Monument dedicated to author Sir Walter Scott.
Dan recommends day trips to Glasgow or St Andrews from Edinburgh and also recommends a trip to see the Stirling Castle and the monument to William Wallace of Braveheart and the Battle of Stirling Bridge fame.
There is much more to see in Scotland, but the beautiful city of Edinburgh is a great introduction to Scotland.
Are you an adventurous traveler looking for some truly unique experiences and planning your next trip to India? Look no further. Jaipur – also known as the “Pink City” – houses a number of incredible sites and activities that provide something different from many other places in Asia. From its stunning palaces and majestic architecture to its vibrant culture, there is something for everyone in this incredible city. With its rich cultural heritage, thrilling history, and delectable cuisine, this Indian city is definitely worth checking out on any Asian itinerary. Keep reading this guide to exploring Jaipur. We will take a look at everything you need to know before traveling to Jaipur – from places to explore and where to stay to the best local food experiences. So grab your suitcase and let’s get started.
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Why Jaipur is called the Pink City?
Jaipur is widely known as the ‘Pink City’ thanks to its signature palette of terracotta and blush buildings. It’s no wonder that this place has become a popular tourist destination for people from all around the world. Why? The answer goes way back to 1876 when the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour and Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur chose to give a royal welcome by painting the town pink. In India at the time, pink was associated with hospitality, so painting Jaipur pink was seen as a sign of great respect that extended to all visitors – both those from far away and from within India itself. This iconic move was meant to portray a warm welcome that can still be witnessed in Jaipur and will always stay engraved in its culture. Nowadays, many cities around Rajasthan have adopted the same color scheme in homage to Jaipur, creating a magical panorama that welcomes everyone who visits.
If you visit the old part of Jaipur on your trip, you can still enjoy seeing the beautiful pink-colored buildings giving out that royal essence both inside and out – truly unforgettable.
Major Attractions To Visit In Jaipur
From historic forts and monuments like the Amber Fort and City Palace to the elegant Hawa Mahal, Jaipur offers plenty of interesting landmarks to explore. The Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory and Nahargarh Fort are also worth visiting for some spectacular views of the city. Let’s dive deep into the places in more detail:
Jaipur’s City Palace is a must-visit for anyone looking to explore the vibrant history of this bustling city. A complex made up of courtyards, arcades, and exquisite gardens, you’ll be taken aback by the sheer beauty and grandeur of the palace. Its architecture is an intricate mix of Rajput and Mughal styles, full of incredible details like rose-colored windows and marble inlays. You can see royal collections of artworks, weapons, costumes, and carpets within its walls as well as sections that house an armory and textile museum. If you visit later in the day, make sure to stay to watch the fascinating light show that provides visitors with an amazing overview of Jaipur’s rich evolution through its history.
Jaipur is one of India’s oldest and most iconic cities, and its Amber Palace is a must-see for any traveler. This breathtaking fort was once the capital of the Kachhwaha kingdom and stands proudly on top of a hill surrounded by lush greenery. The palace itself offers an impressive range of grand, ornate structures filled with intricate artwork, sculptures, and beautiful courtyards – all great to explore. Inside you’ll find amazing details like mirrored work in walls, gilded furniture, and marble floor tiles. Make sure to check out the Jai Mandir temple within the grounds which houses a seven-story high sparkling tower. If you’re lucky enough to visit the Amber Palace during Diwali, enjoy a candle-lit evening in celebration – it’s truly spellbinding.
Jantar Mantar is a historic astronomical observatory that offers a fascinating window into the past, boasting a collection of 19th-century “instruments” used by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II for measuring time, predicting eclipses, and more. The striking architectural design – made with interlocking masonry of brick, stone, and mortar – can’t be missed and it is also home to some of the world’s largest sundials. You can easily lose yourself in the beauty and charm of this incredible landmark as you explore its grounds and marvel at the impressive stonework. With plenty of places to take photographs, Jantar Mantar is definitely an unforgettable travel destination that must be on your to-do list while visiting Jaipur.
Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds)
Jaipur is home to many magnificent and beautiful places, none more so than the iconic Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds). Located just off of the city’s main street, this five-storied palace was built in 1799 as a summer retreat for royal families. Its most distinctive feature is its breathtakingly intricate facade which consists of about 953 small windows. The windows are designed to allow cooling winds to flow through and provide a respite from the heat of the day. Inside, the palace itself is just as stunning, with walls decorated with inlaid mirrors and precious stones in intricate geometric patterns. Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast or just looking for something to do on your next trip, visiting the Hawa Mahal should absolutely be at the top of your list.
Albert Hall Museum
The Albert Hall Museum is a site you won’t want to miss. Built in the late 1800s, the museum holds an impressive collection of art and artifacts from all over India. It is both beautiful and fascinating – every nook and cranny are filled with art from various eras that will captivate your imagination. Not only are there historical pieces to admire, but if you take a stroll outside to the gardens, you can even find an old Egyptian mummy. The Albert Hall Museum offers a unique experience and is bound to leave an unforgettable impression.
Standing atop a hill on the outskirts of the city, the Nahargarh Fort offers panoramic views of this fantastic city as well as views of Jaigarh Fort and Amer Palace. Built in 1737 by Sawai Raja Jai Singh II, it was originally intended to be a retreat for royal families, but today Nahargarh Fort is open to all visitors. Within its walls, you can explore its many monuments and buildings whose intricate architectural designs tell stories about centuries past. Add in some spectacular sunsets, and the stunning scenery of Jaipur spread out below, and you have an experience you’re unlikely to forget.
This massive structure, built in the late 1700s, towers 400 feet above the landscape and offers stunning views of the Aravalli Hills. Boasting immense beauty and splendor, it features intricate carvings on sandstone walls and also houses one of the world’s largest wheeled cannons. A visit to this fort is sure to create lasting memories for anyone looking for a fun day trip out of town; with numerous palaces, temples, and gardens scattered throughout its complex. Discover cultural wonders inside its walls as you explore the beautiful courtyards, lush green gardens, cannon towers, and cleverly designed secret passages. Jaigarh Fort is absolutely a place that should not be missed when visiting Jaipur.
Birla Mandir is a magnificent temple is located in the heart of Jaipur and it’s a must-see for anyone visiting this vibrant city. Birla Mandir was built in 1988 and it is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is said to embody preservation and protection, and it stands as an iconic symbol of faith amidst a landscape of powerful Rajput government buildings. Inside the temple, you can find several shrines to deities such as Lakshmi Narayan (Vishnu), Suryanarayan (Sun God), Shiva, Ganesha, Hanuman, Radha Krishna, and other gods. Be sure to take some time out of your day to take in this breathtaking location when exploring Jaipur’s incredible culture.
Jal Mahal is also known as Water Palace. This palace is situated in the middle of Man Sagar Lake and looks magnificent under the backdrop of the Aravalli Hills. This five-story structure has four floors underwater during monsoons, making it even more mesmerizing to look at. The beautiful arched windows create a captivating sight from any angle. Visitors can take a boat ride or enjoy an amazing view from the banks of the lake. It’s definitely worth spending some time here for its serenity and captivating views.
Known as the memorials of kings, Gaitore houses some of the tombs and cenotaphs of Jaipur’s former rulers which are truly an architectural marvel. These monuments are brilliant examples of intricate stone carving and you can find a number of sculptures depicting warriors protecting these structures. Every surface has been intricately carved with motifs from nature and mythology – it’s definitely worth taking some time to appreciate them all. The peace within Gaitore makes for a serene atmosphere, perfect for those wanting to experience a touch of Indian royalty.
Galtaji is one of the most popular places to visit in Jaipur and is one of the city’s religious sites. Located on an isolated hilltop, Galtaji has temples, kunds (natural water tanks), and a perfectly natural setting, which makes it a perfect spot for travelers looking for some peace and quiet. It houses seven temples within its complex and many adjacent outdoor springs and natural pools that are ideal for swimming or just lounging around under the sun. Besides this, there are huge walls surrounding the place with some spectacular floral paintings adorning them plus plenty of primates running around to keep you amused. In short, Galtaji is a stunning destination that offers several unique experiences – from sightseeing to spiritual enlightenment – that make it a must-visit during your stay in Jaipur.
Shopping – Main Bazaars of Jaipur
This vibrant shopping district is jam-packed with color and flavor; here you’ll find everything from jewelry to lamps, pottery to bags – it’s almost overwhelming just trawling through the market. What’s more, you can barter with the stallholders and haggle your way to some real bargains. A trip to Johari Bazaar is a must when visiting Jaipur – prepare yourself for an exciting and rewarding shopping extravaganza.
This sprawling marketplace is sure to captivate you as soon as you enter – rows and rows of vibrant storefronts filled with exquisite jewelry, artifacts, clothing pieces, traditional home décor items, and more stretch out in all directions. The centuries-old market can be a bit overwhelming (it was founded over 400 years ago.) but the abundance of interesting sights and sounds make it worth getting lost in. Whether you want to buy a gift for someone special or just explore and soak up the unique atmosphere, Tripolia Bazaar is an unforgettable shopping experience that should definitely find its way onto your itinerary.
Street vendor in Jaipur
Chandpole Bazaar in Jaipur has been an integral part of the city and functions as a hub for shoppers. It is famed for local products ranging from ethnic apparel to traditional home decor making it an ideal destination for all your shopping needs. Along with the latest designs, shoppers can also find a huge variety of rare items related to food, fabrics, and other traditional goods here. People who visit Chandpole Bazaar are often mesmerized by the amazing energy that gathers here with locals, tourists, and vendors hustling together amidst loud hawkers selling unique wares. Whether you plan to buy something at Chandpole Bazaar or just want to take a walk, this bustling shopping area should definitely not be missed if you’re looking to get a taste of Jaipur’s culture and values.
Kishanpole Bazaar in Jaipur is the place to be. This amazing traditional bazaar is renowned for its beautiful goldwork and artfully designed textiles. No visit to this shopper’s paradise is complete without trying out some of the delicious street food while picking up a few souvenirs. You can find everything from miniature paintings and intricate trinkets to handmade jewelry and colorful clothes – all at prices that won’t break the bank. If you’re looking for a truly memorable shopping spree, Kishanpole Bazaar should definitely be on your list of must-see places.
Nehru Bazaar is the perfect spot to pick up souvenirs and local handicrafts, so don’t miss out on the chance to get your hands on some authentic Rajasthani mementos. You’ll find an incredible selection of traditional fabrics, jewelry, and even a few peculiar items like walking sticks and ceremonial swords. The colorful alleys, bustling energy, and welcoming vendors make it hard to leave without buying something. Don’t forget to haggle though. It’s all part of the fun of shopping in Nehru Bazaar.
Best Luxury Places to stay in Jaipur
The luxurious hotel Lalit boasts top-notch amenities with personalized and attentive customer service. From the grandiose swimming pool to tantalizing cuisines from all over the world, this hotel has it all. As an added bonus, guests can take advantage of the onsite spa services to relax and rejuvenate after a long day at sightseeing. With so many indulgent features all under one roof, The Lalit is truly the best spot to pamper yourself while in Jaipur.
In the heart of a vibrant city, Marriott Jaipur Hotel is an oasis of luxury and comfort. Boasting world-class amenities and situated in close proximity to iconic attractions, Marriott offers more than just a place to lay your head at night. The hotel features spacious and luxuriously appointed rooms, taking full advantage of its delightful views of Jaipur. Dining options include several international restaurants with menus designed to tantalize your taste buds. Whether it’s for business or leisure, Marriott promises the highest standards of service with a helpful staff who will take care of all your needs. With its perfect location and welcoming atmosphere, Marriot Port Jaipur is sure to be an unforgettable stay.
Experience the city like royalty in the bustling city of Jaipur by staying at Trident Jaipur, a luxurious and modern hotel located close to several of the city’s grand fortresses. Overlooking extraordinary views of Nahargarh Fort and overlooking manicured gardens, a stay at Trident feels like a retreat from city life. Guests can experience inviting hospitality with international standards combined with local touches, such as classical Rajasthani music playing during breakfast or signature cocktails inspired by regional spices. Enjoy vistas, warm welcomes, and spectacular amenities all packaged together in one picture-perfect destination.
Devi Ratn – IHCL SeleQtions
Devi Ratn is a 5-star luxury resort that promises to provide you with the best of amenities and comforts amidst beautiful rolling hills in the historical city. From cozy multi-cuisine restaurants to well-equipped conference rooms, a swimming pool, and a spa center, it offers everything that there is to make your stay even more enjoyable. Whether you are here for business or pleasure, at Devi Ratn – IHCL SeleQtions, you will find all of the modern-day conveniences for first-class indulgence.
For those looking for an extraordinary travel experience, the Hilton Jaipur is the perfect destination. Not only does it offer world-class service and amenities, but it also surpasses expectations in spoiling its guests. The luxurious rooms designed with modern aesthetics feature all the latest technology to ensure a heady mix of luxury, privacy, and comfort. Furthermore, the rooftop pool offers sublime views of the rolling Rajasthan landscape from a breathtaking vantage point; while the spa indulges with innovative, exclusive treatments. With an array of dining options including fine-dining restaurants offering signature dishes crafted by award-winning chefs, deliciously authentic street food, and multi-cuisine buffets – there’s something to tantalize every palate. Simply put, at Hilton Jaipur you can expect unparalleled excellence that will make your trip truly magical.
Shiv Vilas Resort
Jaipur, India boasts one of the world’s most luxurious and premiere resorts – the Shiv Vilas Resort. Located in close proximity to some of India’s most iconic venues and cultural sites, this retreat offers plenty of opportunities for exploration during your stay. The resort is renowned for its unparalleled hospitality, offering attentive service to make all guests feel like royalty. From luxuriously designed rooms that draw inspiration from the country’s royal past in architecture and decor to multiple dining options that capture traditional Indian flavors on an international scale, this five-star hotel provides an escape unlike any other. Welcome to Shiv Vilas Resort – a once-in-a-lifetime hotel experience.
Cinnamon-Jai Mahal Palace
If you’re looking for an exquisite dining experience in Jaipur, look no further than the Jai Mahal Palace. The Cinnamon restaurant located inside the palace features dishes inspired by Mughal and Rajasthani cuisine. As you enter the majestic palace, you’ll be immersed in a grand dining atmosphere straight out of a fairy tale. From artfully cooked curries to luscious desserts, the menu at Cinnamon has something for everyone — including vegan options. Compliment your meal with one of their signature cocktails made of seasonal ingredients and enjoy views of the beautiful gardens as you dine. If you find yourself in Jaipur, be sure to check out Cinnamon-Jai Mahal Palace for an unforgettable culinary experience.
Jaipur is home to some of India’s most incredible cuisine, and Chokhi Dhani provides an unforgettable dining experience perfect for visitors and locals alike. This special restaurant offers traditional Rajasthan flavors in a stunningly beautiful indoor-outdoor setup that perfectly captures the essence of Jaipur. From their signature spicy dishes to exotic lassis, you can enjoy all the classic flavors of Indian cooking with a modern twist at Chokhi Dhani. Experience unparalleled hospitality that matches the exquisite flavor of their cuisine, as your friendly wait staff makes sure you have a fantastic time. If you’re looking for authentic Jaipuri culinary experiences, head over to Chokhi Dhani for an unforgettable feast.
Laxmi Misthan Bhandar
Looking for a fantastic eating experience in Jaipur? Look no further: Laxmi Misthan Bhandar is the spot for you. This long-standing restaurant has been tantalizing tastebuds with its unique flavors since 1952. Patrons come from near and far for their unforgettable dal bati churma and other Rajasthani delicacies. The veteran chefs use traditional recipes as well as traditional cooking methods to ensure that each plate is prepared with love and authenticity. Not only is the food mouthwatering, but every seat in the house provides insight into a stunning culture and delicious history of Jaipur. For an amazing evening out, be sure to book your table in advance at Laxmi Misthan Bhandar.
Suvarna Mahal At Rambagh Palace
If you’re looking for a fine-dining experience in Jaipur, Suvarna Mahal at Rambagh Palace should be at top of your list. This luxurious restaurant serves traditional Rajasthani and North Indian cuisine, which are sure to tantalize your tastebuds. With both inside and terrace seating available, this is the perfect place to savor delicious local dishes while admiring the stunning views of the palace gardens. The restaurant prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients from farms across Rajasthan, guaranteeing guests an authentically delectable dining experience. From their hearty kababs and biryani to their traditional thali and sweet delicacies, Suvarna Mahal won’t disappoint. So why not treat yourself to truly sumptuous dining experience in Jaipur at Suvarna Mahal?
If you’re looking for a great restaurant in Jaipur, The Verandah is an excellent choice. Featuring delicious Rajasthani cuisine with a modern twist, this delightful spot offers something unique and special to every dine-in guests. Not only are the menu items packed with flavourful spices, but they also use traditional cooking techniques to put the finishing touches on each plate. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic dish or are feeling adventurous and ready to try something new, The Verandah is sure to please your palate. As a bonus, their updated decor gives the place an inviting atmosphere that will make your experience even more enjoyable. When in Jaipur, don’t miss out of The Verandah – it will be a meal to remember.
Things to Know: Currency, Language, Weather
Whether you’re in Jaipur for a short holiday or here to stay – it’s important to have an idea about the local currency, language, and weather.
The official currency of Jaipur is the Indian Rupee. Most local markets accept credit cards but for small purchases, it’s best to carry cash. If you have an Indian bank account then you can also use payment apps such as GooglePay, PayTm, PhonePe etc. 9 out of 10 people accept wireless transfers through these apps in India.
Hindi is the primary language spoken by most locals in Jaipur, though English and Rajasthani are also widely understood.
The city enjoys an arid climate with hot summers and mild winters. During summers temperatures can rise up to 113°F (45°C) during peak hours so be sure to carry enough water whenever going out in the summertime.
Best Time to Go To Jaipur
Jaipur, the “Pink City” of India, is a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Although it can be visited year-round, what sets Jaipur apart from other destinations is its colorful festivals and celebrations occurring each season.
In the spring, when Jaipur’s cool dry air lends itself to happier days and cooler temperatures, Holi and Gudi Padwa are celebrated with great enthusiasm.
The hot summer fun in June brings the Urs Festival and Teej Festival filled with music, dance, lip-smacking delicacies, and lots more.
The winter season arrives in time for the Kite Flying Festival in January when people throughout the city let kites of different shapes and sizes fly through the sky with pride.
With so many enchanting attractions happening each season, there may be no bad time to take an unforgettable trip to Jaipur.
Traveling Around Jaipur: Metro, Busses, Taxis
Getting around outside of walking can be just as exhilarating and fun. With options like the metro, busses, and taxis, you can explore all that Jaipur has to offer quickly and conveniently. The metro and bus system makes it simple to get to any location and is often quite affordable. If you prefer something more private, taxis are always available through local companies or through apps on your phone. There really is no better way to see all the amazing sights of this majestic city than on public transport.
Exploring Jaipur by metro is an amazing experience. It’s a great way to quickly get around and see all the sights that the city has to offer, while also immersing yourself in vibrant colors and sounds. The stations themselves feature intricate artwork, adding to the beauty of this bustling Indian city. Plus, you’ll be able to ride from one side of town to the other easily once you can master the metro system–no need for taxis or long waits on public transportation. With every new station comes a unique perspective of Jaipur and its culture–something which you won’t forget. If you’re looking for a true exploration of Jaipur, then getting around via the metro is definitely worth taking advantage of. The metro starts from Mansarovar and ends at Chandpole – The heart of Pink City.
To make it easier for you, we are adding the stations that metro covers so that you can plan everything easily:
2. New Aatish Market
3. Vivek Vihar
4. Shyam Nagar
5. Ram Nagar
6. Civil Lines
7. Railway Station
8. Sindhi Camp
10. Chhoti Chaupar
11. Badi Chaupar
Exploring Jaipur by bus from the hustle-bustle of its highly frequented roads to the calmness behind its majestic gates and archways brings both exhilaration and tranquility. With a plethora of buses available right in the heart of the pink city, you can go wherever the road takes you. Delhi Transport Corporation or DTC offers city bus services with air-conditioned buses, several routes, and amusingly low fares that one simply cannot resist taking advantage of. No matter where in Jaipur you may find yourself, public transport is always within reach as they run every few minutes. Hop on and take it all in – every passing moment is filled with beauty and grandeur.
To make it easy for you, the entire bus route of Jaipur is just below:
With the abundance of taxis available in the city, traveling in Jaipur is easy. Whether you’re looking to take a short trip or get from one side of town to the other, you’ll find many taxis to choose from. It’s a good idea to check out pricing up front, as some drivers may try to overcharge unsuspecting tourists. The best way to keep track of costs is to make sure that your taxi has a working meter, so you don’t pay more than necessary. Drivers will usually be happy to show you around if you’d like a tour.
Hear about travel to the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece as the Amateur Traveler talks to travel writer Sally Jane Smith about a great alternative to visiting the Greek Islands.
Sally Jane says, “The thing is that most visitors go to Greece. They go to Athens, and then they tend to go straight to the islands. And Greece has hundreds of islands. The ones that most visitors go to are the resort-style islands of Santorini and Mykonos. Don’t get me wrong, these are incredible places, but they tend to be crowded and they tend to be expensive. Whereas if you go to the Peloponnese and the Saronic Islands, which are just off the coast of the Peloponnese, you get that perfect balance. There are enough travelers visiting the area that they have all the facilities that you might need, but it also feels like you’re exploring the real Greece rather than having a resort holiday. And it’s gorgeous. There are striking landscapes. There are incredibly strong connections to history and to legend. There are five world heritage sites just on the Peloponnese Peninsula itself.”
After starting in Athens which we covered in Athens Greece – Episode 832, we head down to the Peloponnese past the amazing Corinth Canal to the rocky island of Monemvasia. Monemvasia was founded in the sixth century and is a fortified city that has been nicknamed “the Gibraltar of the East”. It is a pedestrian-only town. You can hike the many many steps up the rock to the ruins of the old fortress with a great view of the old town. Bring your walking shoes for this and many of our other stops.
We make a stop at ancient Sparta and pay homage to King Leonidas and the 300 who fought the Persians at Thermopylae. Sally Jane also recommends nearby Mystras which is a fortified town that peaked in the Byzantine period in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Sally Jane recommends getting around by bus and uses a bus transfer as an opportunity to get some views of the Corinth Canal. If you have more time you can also visit modern or ancient Corinth.
We move on to the coastal city of Nafplio and use that as a base to visit some more historic sites at Mycenae, Tiryns, and Epidaurus. Mycenae dates back to the time of Agamemnon and the Trojan War. Scholars still debate how much of that myth is true, but Mycenae is a real place and one of the earliest European civilizations. You can hear the stories of heroes as you visit the famous Lion Gate and the beehive tombs. Tiryns was an ancient town where the mythical hero Heracles is supposed to have performed his Twelve Labors.
Sally Jane might skip Tiryns and visit Epidaurus instead which is an ancient place of healing dedicated to the Greek god Asclepius. It also has a wonderfully preserved theatre and stadium.
We then head to the islands of Poros and Hydra. Sally Jane recommends staying on Poros but doing a day trip to the island of Hydra. These are both beautiful islands in the Saronic island group. Hydra is car-free but with an abundance of donkeys. Hike up to the Monastery of the Prophet Elias or just enjoy the beach on Poros for a relaxing way to finish your trip.
Along the way, Sally Jane recommends restaurants and hotels as well as books that can accompany each part of the trip.
Come to Greece but explore this too often missed part of the country in the Peloponnese Peninsula.
Have you heard of The Ainu? They are the indigenous people who once lived on Hokkaido, the biggest island located in the north of Japan. Some also resided in areas of Eastern Russia. They have their own unique culture, language, and ways of living. Their population used to be in the hundreds of thousands. However, after world war two, their numbers declined dramatically.
There are certain places in Japan where you can still find native Ainu. One of them is Akanko Ainu Kotan where you can learn about their culture, try their unique cuisine, witness their traditional rituals, and see their heritage houses.
You can be a part of the a thousand torches parade if you visit Akanko Ainu Kotan during September or October.
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Akanko Ainu Kotan is one of the biggest settlements of Ainu in Hokkaido. It’s a hot spring town next to Lake Akan and home to hundreds of Ainu people.
There are many things you can do in Akanko Ainu Kotan.
Senbon Taimatsu Festival
The Senbon Taimatsu Festival, or “thousand torches” parade, is an Ainu ritual to express gratitude to the deity of fire. A thousand flaming torches, often made from bundles of bamboo, will be lifted up and carried in a parade led by an Ainu chief and women elders. Traditional music is played as the chief performs a traditional fire ritual in the Ainu language. Some giant torches weighing up to three tonnes each will be carried by dozens of men in the parade. An incredible sight to behold.
You can be a part of the a thousand torches parade if you visit Akanko Ainu Kotan during September or October. If you sign up for the festival in advance, you can take part in the 420-year-old parade. The parade is planned for September and October.
This is the most impressive thing to do in Akanko Ainu Kotan. If you plan to visit, we recommend organizing your trip around this festival. Check the date, time, and weather so you don’t miss out.
Watch a Traditional Dance
In the village of Akanko Ainu Kotan, you will also find the Akanko Ainu Ikor Theater where you can watch traditional dance, listen to Ainu music, and learn more about their fascinating culture through a show called The Lost Kamuy.
Kamuy means god in the Ainu language, Kamuy are similar to the Japanese Kami deities, of which there are millions of gods of flora, fauna, natural phenomena, elements, and everything else on earth.
A ticket for the 30-minute performance will set you back just about 1,500 yen ($12 USD) and is well worth it for the educational experience. While it is a bit of a tourist attraction, it is a crucial way the Ainu can preserve their culture and traditions while generating income for their people.
If you have ever been to Hokkaido, you might have noticed shops selling cute round fluffy balls of seaweed algae as souvenirs — either plush toy versions or the real thing suspended in water, sometimes even on a keychain. These balls are called Marimo and they are the latest trend in houseplants in Japan.
The majority of marimo in Japan comes from Lake Akan. Every year between the 8th to 10th of October, there is a three-day festival called Marimo Matsuti. It’s organized by none other than the indigenous Ainu of the region.
Ainu from all over Hokkaido will gather at the lake for the festival. On the second evening, marimo are handed over to the Ainu elders – the Ekashi – on the lake in canoes before a torch procession carries the Marimo to the Ainu Kotan square. The torch precession and traditional dancing is truly a sight to behold. On the third morning, after another ceremony and prayer, the marimo are returned to the elders who row their canoes into Lake Akan to return the algae to its home.
From October 8th to 10th, Ainu from throughout Hokkaido participate in the Marimo Festival in Lake Akan.
Unless you have friends who live nearby or you are an expat already living in Japan, it might be a challenge to join the festival unless you are savvy enough to book a hotel well in advance. It occurs in a small town, for three days only, and hotel rooms are very limited. So plan well if you wish to see this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Taste Ainu Food
In Akanko Ainu Kotan, there are several great restaurants where you can try authentic Ainu cuisine. Ainu dishes are made of mountain vegetables, fish, and some very unique game meat, including bear, horse, and deer. All things are obtained via hunting, fishing, farming, and foraging.
In Hokkaido, there are Ainu restaurants where you can try authentic Ainu food.
Aniu dishes are made in a traditional way to maximize preservation, so the food won’t spoil quickly. This is because Ainu normally live in the mountains where it’s hard to find ingredients during winter because of the heavy daily snow in Hokkaido.
You must dry dishes made with famous kombu kelp, saketoba – dried salmon jerky, unique mountain vegetable soups, fermented fish, and raw horse meat, and much more.
While it might not be the best food you will try in the culinary wonderland of Japan, these dishes display the special Aniu way of living and are a wonderful way to get closer to their culture. Just be brave and try something new! You might be surprised.
Learn Their Traditional Crafts, Music, and Embroidery
If you really want to get into Ainu culture, you can sign up for classes on woodcraft, including how to make their traditional musical instrument, mukkuri, a mouth harp made from a single piece of bamboo that can be amazingly played to produce many interesting sounds from raindrops to animal calls.
There are many places inside the village to learn more about Ainu history and culture.
If you want to learn how to play this traditional instrument, you can sign up for a mukkuri class within the Ainu Kotan settlement to help you understand how it works and how to make different sounds with it.
There’s also an embroidery class that teaches you how to make Ainu traditional embroidery patterns.
These classes are quite short at around 15 to 30 minutes each, so it is unlikely you will master the arts your first time trying, however, it can open you to the world of Ainu and give you special insight into a new culture.
Get Soaked in a Hot Spring
Here in Lake Akan, you can melt away all the stress and aches from your journey while soaking in a hot spring. Lake Akan is located inside Akan-Mashu National Park. It is a volcanic area known for hot springs and crystal clear lakes caused by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. Since Lake Akan is a volcanic area, there are many great hot springs here.
Since Lake Akan is a volcanic area, there are many great hot springs here.
There are plenty of hot springs available, most of them are in traditional Japanese onsens – spas where you can spend the day soaking and getting massages. You can enjoy an open-air hot spring, a rooftop hot spring, or an indoor hot spring with a panoramic Lake Akan view.
You will not be short of options, either choose a public bathhouse or onsen for the day or stay in a hotel that has hot springs, some even have them in your private room!
Enjoy the Beauty of Lake Akan
Lake Akan is one of the three large lakes inside Akan-Mashu National Park. It’s known for being the home of marimo. If you missed the marimo festival but still want to see some of the biggest marimo and learn about the cute algae, you can take a boat to the Marimo Exhibition Center. It’s on the small island of Churui in the middle of Lake Akan. The majority of marimos in Japan come from Lake Akan.
The majority of marimos in Japan come from Lake Akan
Lake Akan is a big lake with clear water. You can enjoy a panoramic view, especially in the morning when the sky is clear. You may see a flock of ducks paddling serenely across the lake.
Lake Akan is also a well-known fishing spot with a variety of fish and is especially famous for its native trout. Fishing is only allowed during the May 1st – October 31st season and in certain areas. Fishing fees also apply. Enthusiasts might want to go with expert guides who provide transportation to fishing spots, boats, and equipment to allow them to enjoy fishing to the fullest.
Near Akankohan Eco Museum Center, where you can learn more about Ainu culture and the Lake Akan ecosystem for free, there’s a small path that leads you to a pond of volcanic mud in the middle of the forest. These boiling mud pools are called bokke. The geothermal mud ponds do emit a sulfur smell, but they are a great way to experience the amazing ecosystem of Lake Akan with your own eyes.
This half-hour trek leads you to a pond of volcanic mud.
If you have a chance to visit Lake Akan, we recommend you make the hike and see this strange landscape for yourself. It’s an easy 30-minute trek that’s suitable for everyone and also very close to the town.
How to Get to Lake Akan
Akanko Ainu Kotan is located next to Lake Akan, in Kuchiro City. It’s in the Eastern part of Hokkaido, which is around 300 kilometers from Sapporo.
The best way to get there is to rent a car. It takes around 4 and a half hours to drive from Sapporo to Akanko Ainu Kotan. It will also allow you to explore nearby attractions that can’t be easily accessed by public transportation.
It takes four and a half hours to drive here from Sapporo.
If you want to go by train, the nearest train station to Akanko Ainu Kotan is Kushiro station (5 hours from Sapporo). After that, you need to take a bus for another two and a half hours.
It’s also possible to take a bus from Chuo Bus Sapporo Terminal to Kitami Bus Terminal, and then another bus to Akanko Bus Terminal. The entire trip will take almost 7 hours though, so this might be your last choice.
What’s the Best Time to Go to Lake Akan?
It’s best to come to Akanko Ainu Kotan from September to October to catch the thousand torches parade. If you want to see the marimo festival, you need to come from October 8th to 10th. But at that time, hotels can be expensive and fully booked quickly. So, prepare well.
It’s not recommended to visit between December and March since there will be very limited activities because of the heavy snow. Winter is intense in Hokkaido and many or even all routes might be closed because of snow, so visits could even be impossible.
How Many Days Do I Need at Lake Akan?
One day and a half minimum is generally recommended. It gives you enough time to relax and enjoy things at Akanko Ainu Kotan.
It’s a small place, and it’s possible to see the village on a day trip. But it’s not recommended since you will miss out on some great stuff like the evening Thousand Torches Festival, and laying around relaxing in a hot spring onsen for at least a whole day.
Recommended Route to Lake Akan
Since it’s almost a five-hour drive from Sapporo, it might not be worthwhile if you drive from Sapporo to just visit this Ainu village alone. Make the most of your trip and give it some time.
If your trip is in September or October, on your first day, you can make a stop at Chitose to visit a salmon aquarium and see hundreds of thousands of natural salmon swimming upstream to lay their eggs.
After that, you can go to Obihiro and enjoy a famous Buta Don (grilled pork with rice) before heading all the way to Akanko Ainu Kotan in Lake Akan.
As you are just about to reach Lake Akan, you can visit Onneto Lake, and take a short break to admire the scenery.
After your time at Akanko Ainu Kotan, you can head inside Akan Mashu National Park and visit Lake Mashu, which is one of the clearest lakes in the world.
Don’t forget to stop by Lake Mashu. It’s one of the clearest lakes in the world.
If you have time left, you can go to Lake Kussharo, which is the biggest lake inside this national park, before heading over to Abashiri.
Once there, you can go to the Abashiri Prison Museum, which used to be the toughest prison in Japan because of how harsh it is in winter.
Then, you have two choices between heading further to East Hokkaido by going to Sheiretoko National Park, which is considered the most pristine natural park in Japan or heading back to Sapporo by stopping by Asahikawa, Biei, and Furano along the way.
It’s going to be around a 5-day trip or longer if you decide to go to Sheiretoko National Park.
While it sounds like a long trip, it’s quite easy to do. Japan is one of the easiest countries to travel in the world. Road conditions are very good and well-maintained. Navigation systems are great with English signs available throughout the country.
Japanese are also polite drivers, making it pretty easy to drive here. You just need to be careful of the speed limit.
To prepare for your trip, you need to get an International Driver’s License before coming to Japan. Without it, you won’t be able to rent a car. In addition, your rental car comes with an ETC card. This can save you tons of money when taking tollways, which is highly recommended on this route.
If you don’t know Japanese, you should download Google Translate with the Japanese language pack on your phone. This allows you to translate Japanese even when offline. It’s a convenient way to help you communicate with locals and read menus. In this part of Hokkaido, you might only come across a handful of people who can speak English. If you are interested in learning the language, check out my article on how to learn Japanese for beginners.
Depending on the time of year you go, you might want to book a hotel in advance. All of the places mentioned in this article are in quite small towns with limited accommodation options.
If you don’t have enough time to visit Akanko Ainu Kotan in Lake Akan and still want to explore Ainu culture, there are other options available.
First, there’s a Sapporo Ainu Culture Promotion Center. It’s only an hour away from Sapporo city center. There, you can see Ainu traditional houses and learn about Ainu culture, music, and food.
If you plan to go to Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park, you should also stop by Noboribetsu, or “Hell Valley”.
If you plan to go to Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park, you should also stop by Noboribetsu, or “Hell Valley”.
The museum is only around two hours away from Sapporo. It’s also easy to come here since the museum is just next to Shiraoi Station. You can also visit it before flying home since it’s only an hour away from Chitose International Airport. Please note that this museum is quite big. It might take two full days to enjoy everything there. And you should avoid going there during summer (July and August) because of the heat.
If you really don’t have time, at the very least, take a photo with the Ainu statue right inside the Sapporo Station and enjoy Ainu cuisine in Susukino.
When you go to Akanko Ainu Kotan, there’s much more to see than watching performances and buying souvenirs. You can have hands-on experiences with Ainu crafts and music, you can taste real Ainu cuisine, and you can get to know more about the Ainu people and their ways of life.
At the same time, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery Hokkaido has to offer from crystal clear lakes to hot springs and forests.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Hokkaido is known as the kitchen of Japan! Almost 15% of the total agricultural products in Japan come from this province alone. The food here is very fresh and tasty. It’s not just about the famous milk and seafood. It’s about everything. It is guaranteed that the best meals you will have in Japan will be in beautiful Hokkaido. Enjoy!
Saran Lhawpongsawad is an amateur traveler from Bangkok, Thailand. He loves to travel the world and experience different cultures. Right now, he is running a blog that helps expats worldwide relocating abroad called ExpatDen
Windsor, Ontario, is a beautiful city full of industry, culture, history, and excitement. It sits across the Detroit River from Detroit and is full of landmarks and entertainment centers. Due to its manufacturing and horticultural heritage, Windsor is known as the Automotive Capital of Canada and the Rose City.
Whether you want to enjoy a day out in the gorgeous Canadian weather or explore different indoor activities like meals, breweries, or other recreation, there is plenty for you to do when you decide to take that special weekend trip to Windsor. Let’s discover what makes Windsor so special and what you can do during your weekend stay.
Where to Stay in Windsor
Windsor has many different types of accommodation. For a weekend trip, you can book a room at a stunning hotel or keep it simple with a rustic bed and breakfast to get to know the city more intimately. Regardless of where you choose to stay, there are plenty of options to explore based on your price range and where you want to stay while enjoying the city.
Caesars Windsor is a great place to stay for visitors who want to really indulge in the good life. This beautiful hotel attached to the Caesars Windsor Casino is the definition of indulgence, full of comforts and high-end accommodations. The hotel features a bar and lounge, pool, fitness center, free parking, and, of course, direct access to the beautiful Caesars Windsor Casino, where you can play games and watch live entertainment. Rooms tend to cost between $110–$140, depending on the time of year and the number of occupants in the room.
A Hidden Gem B&B
If you are looking for a more homey experience, then A Hidden Gem B&B might be the perfect option for you. Located in Walkerville, a neighborhood of Windsor with great restaurants and shops, this cozy B&B has several rooms with private bathrooms and warm beds. There is also a complimentary breakfast that you can choose from a menu and pick the time you’d like to eat in the morning. The coziness of a B&B helps to make you feel at home and can give you a different experience than a more sterile hotel room.
Inn15 Brewery Loft Suites
This inn comes with an on-site brewery, which is great for guests to love to check out locally brewed beers and craft creations. The Loft Suites are decorated with a modern interior to help create an industrial look, and the Banded Goose Brewing Co. is right downstairs. The location is also in the heart of the Kingsville neighborhood, surrounded by great shops and restaurants to further heighten your experience. The staff are also incredibly helpful in guiding you towards great things to do in the area during your weekend getaway.
Where to Eat in Windsor
Finding a great restaurant in Windsor isn’t hard. In fact, the hard task is trying to narrow down your options for just one weekend! Foodies and regular diners alike will enjoy the wide array of cuisines and different styles of restaurants found by driving around Windsor. From fabulous brunches and breakfasts to high-end dining experiences, there is no shortage of great eateries to explore. You might have to book another weekend getaway just to get to the places you missed the first time.
A Dog’s Breakfast & The Squirrel Cage
These restaurants, owned by the same person and located directly next to each other, are great places for breakfast. These restaurants feature delicious brunches and breakfast options, from eggs benedict to lavender pancakes. The Squirrel Cage is designed to look like a California kitchen with palm trees and west coast decor, while A Dog’s Breakfast takes a more classic approach to breakfast with all-day eats and specialty coffee drinks. You can also try a mimosa or other morning drink as you enjoy your morning meal.
If you didn’t know that Windsor residents love their pizza, then you’ll quickly learn about it at the Spago Italian restaurant. This famous eatery is one of the best pizza places in the city, featuring the unique Windsor take on pizza with shredded pepperoni and special Galati cheese. Spago also offers delicious Italian food and caters to those with special diets with vegan and gluten-free food options. This restaurant is known for its great service and welcoming atmosphere.
The Keg Steakhouse + Bar
If you want to explore a more upscale experience while in Windsor, then The Keg Steakhouse + Bar is a great option. This fine dining restaurant comes with a cost—around $31–$50 a person—but the food is renowned, and the service is spectacular. Located right near the Windsor Riverfront Park, this steakhouse offers a delicious menu full of fancy favorites like escargot, filet mignon, prime rib, and stunning sides. For weekend trippers who want to splurge a little to enjoy the finest food, then The Keg Steakhouse + Bar is a place you can’t miss.
Things to Do in Windsor
Windsor has a never-ending list of things to do, so much that there’s no way you can pack it all into a single weekend. However, a few top contenders will interest any visiting tourist and are well worth the stop. These different activities can help you understand more about what makes Windsor unique and how it stands out from other Canadian cities you might have visited.
Walk the Windsor Riverfront
The Windsor Riverfront along the Detroit river is a beautiful stretch of land, featuring stunning views of the river and the Detroit skyline. The riverfront is filled with beautiful waterfront homes, green spaces and parks, and events that take place all year long, like the Poutine Fest and Winter Light Shows. No matter what time of year you visit, you will be amazed at the natural beauty found along the riverfront. You can pick a single garden or park to stay in and picnic at, or walk and drive down the Riverfront to explore the area and take in the sights. It’s a truly one-of-a-kind experience you won’t find anywhere else in Canada.
Explore the Olde Walkerville Neighborhood
The Olde Walkerville Neighborhood is a charming part of Windsor. Once its own township, Walkerville was merged with Windsor in the 1930s and still retains its old charm. The area is filled with walkable streets that border luxury homes and stunning Victorian architecture to delight any tourist. The area is also filled with different restaurants, shops, and even the historic Willistead Manor, which highlights the beauty of the stunning homes of the time. It’s a great place to wander around and explore on your own during a weekend visit.
Get Entranced at the Coventry Gardens
The Coventry Gardens are a carefully cultivated green space located near but not on the Riverfront. Filled with hedges, statues, plants, flowered walkways, and water fountains, this beautiful oasis has some of the most stunning views and topiaries anywhere in Windsor. You can enjoy wandering around in the beautiful gardens, or grab an ice cream and some lunch and have a picnic while watching the Detroit Princess Riverboat float by. Check out the water shows in the fountain or just enjoy the day while out on your weekend trip.
Attractions to Enjoy in Windsor
Windsor has amazing attractions and entertainment that are sure to keep you, your traveling partner, or your family busy all weekend long. While the standard theaters and stores are there, you can also explore more unique attractions that make your weekend getaway all the more worthwhile. These attractions are some of the main reasons people choose to visit Windsor, so discover for yourself what makes them so special to visitors and tourists.
Caesars Windsor Casino
The Caesars Windsor Casino is the premier gaming and gambling complex in all of Ontario. This casino has over 80 table games, 2,200 slots, and different tournament series for betting on games and other events. The casino also features live entertainment from top-performing artists, shopping centers and stores, great dining opportunities, and an attached hotel. You could spend your entire vacation at the Caesars Windsor Casino and never get bored. Located right on the Riverfront, the casino also offers spectacular views of the Detroit River and the Detroit skyline.
Adventure Bay Family Water Park
If your weekend getaway includes the kids, then the Adventure Bay Family Water Park is a great place to enjoy time together as a family. The park has over 35,000 square feet of water entertainment, including five giant waterslides, a wave activity pool, a lazy river, a tot splash zone, and a water roller coaster. You can easily spend hours enjoying all of the different spots to play in the water park. It’s a great place to head to in winter and summer, with great climate control and fun activities, no matter what season it is.
Canadian Aviation Museum
For history buffs who want to explore the history of aviation and plane enthusiasts who want to discover more about their favorite mode of travel, the Canadian Aviation Museum is waiting. The museum is located in the main hangar of the old Elementary Flying Training School at Windsor International Airport. Sights to see include the Avro Lancaster and de Havilland Mosquito restoration projects, along with other displays like the Fleet Fawn, CT-133 Silver Star, Boeing Stearman, and North American Harvard. It’s one of the best air and space museums in Canada, and well worth the visit.
What to Know About Traveling to Windsor
Traveling to Windsor is a fantastic weekend trip, full of different activities and entertainment opportunities. However, there are a few factors to consider before booking your trip. The first is to consider the weather. It can get very cold and snowy in Windsor during the winter, with temperatures between 5 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This can limit some of your activities, such as walking around neighborhoods or exploring the waterfront. Keep this in mind as you plan which weekend is best for your trip.
If you are traveling to Windsor from the United States, there are other important factors to consider. Make sure you are measuring your driving speed in kilometers, not miles. Most U.S. cars will have a kilometer meter next to the miles, but know that 50 kilometers is roughly 31 miles and 100 kilometers is around 62 miles. It’s also recommended that you exchange your U.S. dollars for Canadian dollars. While many places will accept U.S. dollars, not every business will. Most banks will help you exchange your money during your trip.
Enjoy Your Weekend Retreat to Windsor, Ontario
Many visiting Ontario may focus on a trip to Toronto, but Windsor shouldn’t be missed either. When looking for a weekend retreat, you often want to explore a city with plenty to do to keep you occupied during your stay and a unique atmosphere and setting that helps you feel as though you have gone someplace new. Windsor provides those things in abundance for visitors looking to get away from it all.
You can explore unique neighborhoods, see stunning sights, and eat delicious food all within walking distance from your hotel. Whether your weekend trip is a one-off visit, or the first of many to come, you can rest assured that you will enjoy every minute of your weekend retreat to Windsor, Ontario.
Queenstown, New Zealand is a destination that offers something for every type of traveler. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking adventure or a culture seeker looking for a taste of local culture, Queenstown has something for you. But with so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start. So we’ve put together this guide to help you plan your visit and make the most of your time in this beautiful New Zealand town.
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Is Queenstown safe?
A common question that many travelers have is whether or not their intended destination is safe. The answer is yes, crime is considered very low in Queenstown, and walking alone during the night is considered safe. It’s a safe destination for travelers. However, as with any destination, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take the usual precautions to keep yourself and your belongings safe.
How long should you Stay in Queenstown?
This will depend on your interests and the type of trip you’re planning. For those who are primarily interested in adventure activities, a week or more would be ideal to fully experience all that the area has to offer. If you’re looking for a more relaxed, leisurely trip, a shorter stay of 3-4 days would still allow you to see the main attractions and take part in a couple of activities.
If you’re interested in skiing or snowboarding, it’s recommended to stay for at least a week to make the most of the ski season. If you’re interested in hiking, a week would give you enough time to complete one or two of the more challenging hikes, such as the Ben Lomond track, and if you’re looking to experience a variety of adventure activities, such as bungee jumping, skydiving, and jet boating, then at least a week is recommended.
In terms of cultural attractions and dining, a shorter stay of 3-4 days would be sufficient to see the main attractions and try some of the local specialties.
The amount of time you choose to stay in Queenstown will depend on your own interests and schedule. But with so much to see and do, it’s worth considering a longer stay to make the most of your time in this beautiful destination.
Best Activities to do in Queenstown
Queenstown, New Zealand is often referred to as the “adrenaline capital of the world” and it is not hard to see why. Here’s a list of the best outdoor activities to do during your stay.
Cardrona Alpine Resort
Skiing and Snowboarding
Queenstown’s ski season typically runs from June to October and offers a variety of ski/snowboarding areas to choose from. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll find something to suit your skill level. With a combination of groomed trails, backcountry, and terrain parks, there is something for everyone. You can rent equipment in the town center, everything from beginner snowboards to the best snowboard boots.
Mountains open for skiing & snowboarding include:
Coronet Peak: Coronet Peak is one of the most popular ski areas in Queenstown, known for its groomed trails and terrain parks. Offering a great service to beginners and intermediates. It also offers night skiing from 4-9 pm, making it a great option for those who want to make the most of their time on the mountain.
The Remarkables: The Remarkables is another popular ski area that offers a variety of terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. The mountain is known for its stunning views and its family-friendly atmosphere. It also has a jump park if you fancy your skills off a ramp.
Cardrona: 1 hour from Queenstown, Cardrona is a ski area that offers a wide range of terrain, and is considered the best ski resort in New Zealand for beginners.
Treble Cone: Treble Cone is a ski area that offers a more challenging terrain. It’s famous for its long un-crowded groomed runs.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, a bungee jump is a must-do. The historic Kawarau Bridge is home to the original bungee jump and it is still one of the most popular spots to take the leap. If you’re feeling particularly brave, the Nevis Bungy is New Zealand’s highest bungee jump and offers a heart-stopping 134m freefall that’s an 8.5-second free fall.
For an even more exhilarating experience, skydiving over Queenstown will give you a bird’s eye view of the town and the surrounding mountains as you freefall through the sky. With stunning views of the Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu, and the Southern Alps, it is an experience you will never forget. Most skydivers opt for the “one and done” approach and go for a 15,000 feet option. Although they also offer 9,000 and 12,000 feet options.
White Water Rafting
Queenstown offers some of the best whitewater rafting in the world. The Shotover and Kawarau Rivers offer a range of grades to suit all abilities, from a family-friendly grade 3 to a grade 5 for the more experienced rafters.
Queenstown is a mountain biker’s paradise with a wide variety of trails for riders. The locals say the Queenstown mountains tend to skip the beginner’s tracks. Even the green Hammy’s Track in Queenstown Bike Park (skyline mountain) is more intermediate level. From easy cross-country trails to technical downhill tracks, there is something for everyone. The local bike parks offer lift-accessed riding and bike rentals, making it easy to experience the best of what Queenstown has to offer.
Queenstown is surrounded by stunning mountains, and the area offers a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy to difficult. Some popular hikes include the Ben Lomond Track, which offers panoramic views of the town and the surrounding mountains, and the Routeburn Track, which is a multi-day hike that takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the region.
Tiki Trail is a popular hike that takes you through a beautiful forest and offers great views of the lake and the mountains. The hike is moderate and takes about 1 hour up and 45 minutes to come down. The top of the Tiki trail is where the Ben Lomaond track begins
Ben Lomond Track is a popular hike that offers panoramic views of the town and the surrounding mountains. It’s a moderate hike that takes about 4-5 hours to complete.
Ben Lomond Summit
Queenstown Hill is a popular hike that offers great views of the town and the surrounding mountains. The hike is moderate and takes about 2-3 hours to complete.
The Skyline Gondola/ Luge
The Skyline Gondola offers a stunning panoramic view of the town and the surrounding mountains. It is also home to the Luge, a fun, and exciting gravity ride.
Disc golfing in the Queenstown Gardens is a great way to experience the beauty of the park and get some exercise at the same time. The Queenstown Gardens Disc Golf Course offers a challenging and fun 18-basket course that winds its way through the park. The course is suitable for players of all skill levels, from beginners to experienced players. The course is set in a beautiful location, and players can enjoy the scenery while playing. The course is also family-friendly, making it a great activity for families visiting.
You can rent a frisbee in Small Planet (town center) for just 5 dollars a day!
One popular activity is jet boating, which provides a thrilling ride on the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers. You can easily rent great kayaking gear or a paddle board and stand-up paddleboarding are also popular options for exploring the calm waters of Lake Wakatipu. Visitors can also try their hand at fly fishing in the lake or in nearby rivers.
For those looking for a more leisurely experience, there are also options for scenic cruises on the lake. Whether you are looking for an adrenaline rush or a more relaxed experience, Queenstown has something for everyone to enjoy on the water.
Here are some of the best cultural things that you can experience in Queenstown.
Arrival to Walter’s peak via the TSS Earnslaw
Walter’s Peak via the TSS Earnslaw Cruise
Walter’s Peak is a historic farm and homestead that offers a glimpse into the area’s past. Take a tour of the farm and enjoy a traditional New Zealand lunch/dinner while taking in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Wakatipu. You can also catch a sheep shearing show, where the local Collies and Kelpies put on a show rounding up the sheep.
The Queenstown Arts Centre
The Queenstown Arts Centre is the town’s premier art gallery and exhibition space. With a rotating selection of exhibitions, it is a great place to see the work of local and national artists.
Note: I would also recommend visiting the Ivan Clarke Gallery in the town center, this features many of his famous lonely dog paintings.
The Queenstown Gardens
The Queenstown Gardens is a beautiful park that offers a peaceful and relaxing place to escape the hustle and bustle of the town. With a variety of walking tracks, gardens, and playgrounds, it is a perfect
Queenstown, New Zealand is a food lover’s paradise. The town offers a wide range of dining experiences that will satisfy any palate. From fine dining to casual eateries, there is something for everyone. Here are some of the best dining experiences that you can have in Queenstown.
Big Al Burger
Queenstown’s most famous establishment which often finds itself in the top 10 lists for best burgers in the world. It’s a must-do if you visit Queenstown. Expect a huge queue at all times, so much so that they’ll provide you with an umbrella while you wait to protect yourself from the sun or rain. Once you place your order you can go explore while your food is being cooked, just check your order progress online so you know when to collect.
Walter’s peak Buffet
For a more upscale experience, check out Walter’s Peak Restaurant, which serves up locally-sourced, seasonal cuisine in a beautiful setting. The restaurant has a great ambiance and the perfect place to enjoy a romantic dinner.
Stratosphere Skyline buffet
For those who want a variety of foods to choose from, the Skyline buffet is a great option. The buffet serves up a wide range of dishes, including local specialties and international favorites, and the views of the city and lake are beautiful.
When the sun goes down, Queenstown’s nightlife comes alive. The town is home to a number of late bars and clubs.
The World Bar
The World Bar is a popular spot for live music and a lively atmosphere. With a variety of local and international acts, it’s a great place to catch a gig and party the night away.
Minus 5 Ice Bar
Minus 5 Ice Bar is a unique nightlife experience that is perfect for a winter night out. The bar is made entirely of ice, and you’ll be provided with warm clothing to keep you warm as you enjoy your drinks.
Zephyr bar is a small locals’ favorite late bar with a nice vibe. If you fancy yourself at a game of pool it’s easy to jump into a game of doubles with others.
The best selection of IPAs in Queenstown, great food, and a nice chill atmosphere.
These are just a few of the many nightlife experiences that Queenstown has to offer. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that it is known as a party town. Whether you’re looking for a casual night out or a more upscale experience, Queenstown has something for you.
Recommendations for accommodation
When it comes to accommodation, Queenstown has options to suit every budget and preference. From budget-friendly hostels to luxury resorts, you’ll find something that meets your needs. Some recommendations include the Base Backpackers, which offers dormitory rooms and private rooms, and the Novotel Queenstown Lakeside, which offers a variety of rooms and suites with lake and mountain views.
How to plan a trip to Queenstown
Finally, let’s talk about how to plan your trip to Queenstown.
The best way to get around is by car, as it allows you to explore the area at your own pace. New Zealand has some of the most scenic roads in the world, if you venture out of Queenstown I’d recommend a self-drive tour of the country. However, if you prefer not to drive, there are also bus and shuttle options available.
When it comes to budgeting, Queenstown can be a bit pricey, but there are ways to save money, such as by staying in budget-friendly accommodation, cooking your own meals and opting for hikes over pricey skydives.
The best time of year to visit
The best times to visit Queenstown are in the summer, between December and February, and in the winter, between June and August. These are the peak seasons for adventure activities and the weather is generally the most favorable.
Queenstown is a place that offers something for every type of traveler. With its adventure activities, cultural attractions, dining, and nightlife options, it’s a place where you can create a vacation tailored to your interests and budget.
Looking for a short break that will serve up lots of winter magic? A luxury stay in Zermatt is full of alpine charm. Stay in this authentic Swiss resort for fairy-tale courtyards, fantastic skiing, and an elegant nightlife scene.
Zermatt, Switzerland has some of the highest pistes in Europe and is a short journey from major airports, offering you the best of both worlds. In a few hours, you’ll be transported from the stress of everyday life to your spectacular chalet perched in the Matterhorn valley.
Ready for a dreamy mountain experience? Discover the delights of Zermatt, including its charming town center, incredible snow sports, buzzing gastronomy scene, and opulent luxury chalets.
A trip to this Swiss oasis is sure to be one of your most memorable mountain adventures. Zermatt sits at 1620 meters (5314 feet). Its altitude and position near the Matterhorn glacier provide spectacular scenery and year-round snow-sure conditions. The quaint village on the sunny side of Switzerland is blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year.
Zermatt is at the foot of the towering Matterhorn. This iconic Swiss mountain ends at a jagged point at 4,478 meters (14691 feet). While it’s not the highest in Europe it’s certainly one of the most recognizable.
As well as once-in-a-lifetime snow sports opportunities, Zermatt is a haven for outdoor lovers. Hiking, mountain biking, and dirt biking on immense alpine trails make Zermatt a spectacular destination any time of year. And if you’d rather relax and savor the mountain atmosphere, the town is full of hidden gems.
The romantic mountain town of Zermatt is one of the most picturesque places in the alps. Cobbled streets and adorable Swiss architecture perch gracefully alongside unbelievable mountain scenery. Some of the buildings here date back 500 years. Pretty chapels, church spires, and traditional squares are woven throughout the historic town.
Cars are banned in Zermatt, so you can completely disconnect from the fumes and noise of everyday life. It’s a joy to explore on foot so that you can immerse yourself in the charming culture. If you’re short on time, milk bottle style etaxis and electric buses will get you from A to B. Or to get the full old-world experience, discover the town via a traditional horse-drawn cart.
Despite its old-fashioned appearance, Zermatt attracts a high-end cosmopolitan crowd. Sit among stylish people in the sun on an elegant patio terrace and shop in the designer boutiques on the Bahnhofstrasse.
If you don’t ski, there are plenty of other ways to spend time enjoying the Matterhorn Valley scenery. Glide on the outdoor ice rink or go husky sledding for an exhilarating adventure. Ride the gondola to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, home to a cave-style cinema room and an ice sculpture museum. Take in the 360 panoramas at the highest viewing platform in Europe or enjoy the views from the comfort of the modern restaurant.
Looking for the Swiss wellness experience? Zermatt has a wonderful selection of exclusive mountain spas. The sparkling spa at Omnia will submerge you into pure bliss. Melt into the aromas in the flower steam room or get Matterhorn views from the steaming outdoor hot tub. The Mountain Ashram Spa by Cervo gives you the very best of Japanese wellness. This holistic centre offers Bhutanese hot stone baths, a tea yurt, and expert mindfulness sessions.
There are plenty of opportunities to delve into Zermatt’s historic core. Learn the ancient secrets of Zermatt and Tasch on a walking tour or discover the tragedies of the Matterhorn at the Matterhorn Museum. Take some time to walk around Hinterdorf. This 16th-century agricultural village has kept its original architecture. Stone homes, barns, and stables are balanced precariously on old stilts.
How to get to Zermatt
Zermatt is an ideal location for a mini break. It has fantastic transport links that make getting there a breeze. Whether you choose to arrive by road, rail, or air, your transfer to the resort will be a seamless experience.
Since Zermatt is pedestrianized, it’s not recommended to bring your own car. But if you want the convenience then you can park 5km away in the garage at Tasch. You can hire a range of transfer services from the nearby airports, including taxis, minibusses, and limousines. The closest airport is Sion which is 1 hour and 30 minutes away. Geneva is a 3-hour drive and Zurich is a 4-hour drive but they usually have more convenient international flights.
Kickstart your mountain experience early by arriving in Zermatt via a train through the stunning Swiss Alps. Weaving through the deepest cleft valley in Switzerland is a beautiful and relaxing way to get to the resort. Regular and efficient services will get you from Geneva or Zurich in less than four hours.
What better way to get your first taste of the mountains than to arrive with an aerial view? If you want to travel in style, Zermatt has its own heliport. This is the fastest way to get there, with transfer times from most major nearby airports being an hour or less.
Chalets in Zermatt: the ultimate luxury
Hidden in Zermatt’s streets are some of the best luxury chalets in the world, available through luxury travel expertThe Luxury Chalet Company. Switzerland’s talent for creating thoughtful and high-quality products shines through in every detail. Expert designers combine traditional alpine features with the latest modern technology. Outstanding amenities and the best hospitality meet your every need.
Not sure where to start? Get inspired by three of the most popular luxury chalets in Zermatt.
Chalet Les Anges
A golden example of Zermatt’s luxury chalets, Chalet Les Anges is a cozy alpine hideaway. Seven bedrooms and seven ensuite bathrooms are spread across 700 square meters of living space. It’s in the magical Le Petit Village area, featuring some of the prettiest chalets in Zermatt.
Earth-tone décor invites you to curl up by the fireplace after a day in the cold. The open-plan living area is made special by high timber ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. Soft furnishings, impressive flower displays, and a grand piano tie the room together. If your group wants to spread out, there’s a large separate lounge with a TV adjoining the main room.
Build anticipation for the day by taking breakfast al fresco. The large sun trap balcony gives you uninterrupted Matterhorn views. Enjoy them on the terrace from the comfort of your private hot tub.
The chalet spa offers ultimate tranquillity. Healing birchwood is a key material throughout the wellness area. The hammam is crafted from white marble, known to have strong calming effects. A Japanese garden sits at the center to promote ultimate zen.
Uplift your senses with the simplicity of Chalet Grace. This five-bedroom chalet is in a secluded location in the Le Petit Village area. The 10-minute walk into the town centre offers you a secluded location when you need it with easy access to the lifts, shops, and après ski.
A mix of timber and cream is flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Enjoy views of the Matterhorn by the roaring marble fireplace and from the wrap-around balcony. Or sip champagne in the outdoor hot tub for Matterhorn views framed with frosted alpine trees. A contemporary beam ceiling divides the dining and living areas. Roses, floral upholstery, and spiral ironwork help the spaces flow together and give the property a soft and feminine feel.
Spend quality time together in the games room with a pool table or in the spacious cinema room. The sparkling spa area has a massage room, rainfall shower, and traditional sauna. If you want to prioritize wellness during your stay, you can book personal yoga and Pilates classes in the relaxation area.
Chalet Zermatt Peak
This is one of the most impressive chalets in the alps. Chalet Zermatt Peak has five bedrooms spread over six floors of luxury. A private tunnel at the heart of Zermatt transports you to a secluded location towering above the village.
This opulent architectural achievement offers glamour at every turn. Some of the most coveted Matterhorn views in Zermatt are maximized at every opportunity. The wrap-around balcony creates a seamless blend of indoor and outdoor living. While glass ceilings open up a sleek open-plan living area. Feast underneath a shimmering chandelier on creations from your personal gourmet chef. Then seek your new favorite tipple at your private bar or from the curated wine cellar.
The shimmering spa is the shining jewel of this property. The indoor/ outdoor jacuzzi has Matterhorn views and is surrounded by golden décor. Unleash tension in the Swedish and Finnish saunas or cure your ailments in the bio steam hammam.
Retreat to the master suite, complete with a walk-in wardrobe and private jacuzzi. Watch TV in any of the deluxe suites or come together in the cinema room. If you haven’t exhausted yourself on the mountains, the gym has ultra-modern equipment and a power shower to round off your workout.
Restaurants and bars in Zermatt: Cozy Chalets and Glitzy Bars
Whether you’re after a hearty mountain meal or parties on the slopes, you’ll find endless opportunities in Zermatt’s après ski scene. There are over 100 restaurants and a great selection of bars to choose from. Zermatt has one of the best gastronomy scenes in the alps and is racking up an impressive score of Michelin stars and Gault Millau points. Wonderful cocktail bars and glamorous parties are the perfect way to wrap up your day on the slopes.
For a romantic afternoon, head up to Zum Zee. The 350-year-old chalet offers authentic Swiss dishes that are wonderful in their simplicity. Chez Vrony will serve you their family recipes but with a fine dining twist. Sit back in the hot tub or explore the snow village at Iglu Dorf. It’s a unique opportunity to feast on fondue at 2,727 m.
Now your belly is warm, it’s time to get the drinks in. Stop at Cervo and Hennuu stall on your way home for sunny terraces, live music, and table dancing. Once you’ve unclipped your skis, make sure to visit the iconic Snowboat Bar and Yacht Club Restaurant. This boat-shaped bar is the place to be seen in town. Sip on chic cocktails or sample their elegant sushi menu.
For evening feasts, Zermatt has a balance of sleek fine dining and hearty Swiss fare. Head to the renowned After 7 for culinary excellence. The Michelin-star restaurant creates a four, five, or seven-course surprise menu with intuitive wine pairings. If you’re looking for an authentic evening, Chez Heini is not just a restaurant, it’s an experience. Twinkling lights adorn wooden wheels while Sizzling lamb hangs over the fire.
Grab a post-dinner drink at Elsie’s Bar. The 1920s wine and champagne bar also serves an elegant Sunday brunch and fantastic lobster spaghetti. If you want to continue the party, look no further than Broken Bar. Descend into the catacombs for one of the best parties in the alps.
Skiing in Zermatt: endless choices with mountain vistas
People from all over the world flock to Zermatt for its unparalleled skiing. 360km of piste offers exceptional terrain for intermediate and advanced skiers. But when you’re surrounded by so much beauty, you might find it difficult to concentrate on the slopes.
Beginners are well catered for with sheltered nursery runs separate from the main slopes. Intermediates seeking progression will find that this resort is made for them. Long, cruisy reds and blues will take you to heights you’ve never seen before. Glide along the gentle slopes on the Klein Matterhorn or challenge yourself on the top of Gornergrat. The wide pistes in Zermatt are also great for snowboarders and the Klein Matterhorn is home to one of the best snow parks in the alps.
Experts will find opportunities to challenge themselves in all of the ski areas. There aren’t many black runs in Zermatt, but you can maximize your time here by attempting the enviable off-piste itineraries. Yellow-marked areas are off-piste slopes that the resort has marked as safe. You can find these on Rothorn and Schwarzee. There are backcountry routes packed with trees, ridges, and gullies at the front of Rothorn if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush.
If you want to squeeze out every thrill Zermatt has to offer, book a heli-skiing tour. This is one of the best destinations for heli-skiing in the world, taking you to dizzying heights of 4000m. Nothing beats the feeling of carving through the untouched snow. With six official drop points in Zermatt, your guide will help you navigate glaciers, gorges, and ice waterfalls as you make your once-in-a-lifetime descent.
Are you getting ready to explore the breathtaking North Island of New Zealand?
Whether you’re looking for a fun road trip with family, time spent relaxing in nature, or an unforgettable adrenaline-fuelled adventure, these suggestions for your New Zealand North Island itinerary should help.
Starting with a few quick tips on traveling in this remarkable part of the world, we’ll go on to discuss 10 of North Island’s must-see attractions and reveal 5 unmissable experiences to do here. So settle in and join us as we explore all that New Zealand’s stunning North Island has to offer.
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5 Quick Tips for Traveling in New Zealand
Before we dive into the itinerary ideas, let’s begin with some key tips and insights that should help you make the most of your time in New Zealand.
1. Pack Appropriately
New Zealand’s landscapes and climate vary a lot depending on when and where you go, so it’s important to pack accordingly.
For example, make sure you bring a variety of clothes and gear that’ll be suitable for both warm and cold weather. If you plan on getting out into nature (you should.), then it’s a good idea to bring supportive walking shoes, a waterproof jacket, and multiple layers to accommodate changing temperatures. Know someone who’s going to New Zealand? Check out these travel gift ideas to send them on their way.
2. Respect Nature
New Zealand’s rightly proud of its abundant wildlife and natural beauty, so make sure you respect it while traveling there.
Be mindful when exploring the outdoors, taking all rubbish with you, and disposing of it properly in designated bins. As always, you should leave only footsteps.
3. Stay Safe
New Zealand’s a supremely safe country to travel around, but you still have to be sensible – especially when you’re exploring remote locations.
If you’re going on hikes, you should research potential hazards (such as extreme weather conditions) before heading out. Make sure someone knows your plans whenever possible – just in case.
4. Learn About Maori Culture
The indigenous people of New Zealand are known as the Maori and they have a rich culture full of tradition and history. Take the time to learn about it during your stay.
You can do this by visiting local museums, attending cultural sites and performances, or simply talking to local Maoris about their heritage.
5. Be Prepared For Adventure
Whether you want to bungee jump off Auckland Harbour Bridge or go kayaking at Milford Sound, adventure abounds throughout NZ North Island.
Try to embrace it. Challenge your fears and be prepared to jump (sometimes literally) into new activities you’ve never done before. Most of them are organized by official companies, but be sure to take the right equipment for any serious hikes (e.g. walking poles and GPS equipment) or rock climbing if you plan to do them alone.
Those quick tips for traveling in New Zealand should help you make the most of your time there. Now let’s take a look at 10 top attractions for your New Zealand North Island itinerary.
10 Top Attractions for Your New Zealand North Island Itinerary
From the big, bustling city of Auckland to a wealth of natural wonders spread across the land, there are plenty of unmissable attractions to pop on your New Zealand North Island itinerary. Now let’s explore 10 of the best.
1. Bay Of Islands
A stunning collection of 144 islands, the Bay’s known for its beautiful beaches, wonderful marine life (this is the perfect place to take a boat lover out onto the water or join a dolphin or whale watching tour), and historical sites such as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – where Maori chiefs signed a controversial agreement with British settlers on February 6, 1840. Don’t miss it.
2. Waitomo Glowworm Caves
One of the most impressive things to do in North Island is located in one of its smallest towns: Waitomo. Journey underground into the limestone caves here to see thousands of glowworms light up the darkness like stars in the night sky.
If that wasn’t cool enough, you can even see them as part of a black water rafting caving experience (above) where you float on truck innertubes down a subterranean river system.
3. Tongariro National Park
This dual World Heritage Site is home to some of NZ’s most spectacular scenery, including Mount Ngauruhoe (aka “Mount Doom”, if you’re a LOTR fan).
There’s also the immense Tongariro Crossing – one of the best day hikes in the country, if not the world. Suitable for most levels of fitness, you’ll see amazing otherworldly landscapes over 19.4 spectacular kilometers.
Located in Matamata, this is one of the most iconic attractions on the North Island. A must-see for any Lord of The Rings fan, you can take a guided tour around the Shire movie set and explore all that Middle Earth has to offer.
5. The Sky Tower
At 328 meters tall, this iconic observation tower is an unmissable landmark in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland. It offers panoramic views over the city – perfect for taking photos or just admiring how far you’ve come on your travels. Oh, and thanks to the Sky Jump, any daredevils among can strap on a harness and jump off the top.
6. Coromandel Peninsula
This magical peninsula on the east coast of North Island is 85km of Kiwi natural beauty. Think lush rainforest walks, golden sand beaches and hot springs galore.
This is where you’ll find the incredible Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach – 2 musts for any New Zealand North Island itinerary. There are plenty of other activities available too, such as kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing trips out on the Hauraki Gulf.
7. Te Puia Geothermal Valley
Head to sulphuric Rotorua to see the bubbling mud pools and explosive geysers at the Te Puia Geothermal Park. While you’re there, you can learn about traditional Maori culture too, seeing demonstrations by local carvers and weavers, and watching live cultural performances.
8. Waiheke Island
A short 45-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland lies the beautiful Waiheke Island – a paradise full of vineyards, olive groves, art galleries, and white sand beaches. It’s also a great spot for snorkeling and diving.
9. Mount Taranaki
Head to the Taranaki region on the west coast of North Island to see the towering 2,518m high figure of the dormant stratovolcano, Mount Taranaki (or Mount Egmont). The quintessential volcano – with its conical shape and snow-capped peak – it cuts a mightily impressive figure on clear days and provides a wealth of hiking and biking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
10. Mount Maunganui
On the North Island’s opposite coast you’ll find another impressive volcano, Mount Maunganui. At 232m high, it’s much smaller than Mount Taranaki but no less striking. Hike to the top for stunning views over the surrounding area, then treat yourself to lunch at any of the lively café-restaurants in town.
5 Must-Do Activities & Experiences for Your NZ North Island Itinerary
As you can tell, the North Island of New Zealand is full of incredible things to see and do. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, there’s something for everyone. Here are 5 specific activities to include on your itinerary:
1. Go Hiking
A veritable treasure trove for hiking enthusiasts, North Island offers endless opportunities to explore its stunning landscapes on foot. From Cape Reinga in the north to Wellington in the south, you’ll find everything from easy day hikes to tough multi-day treks. As we noted earlier, be sure to bring appropriate gear/footwear and always check weather conditions before setting out.
2. Do a Whale/Dolphin Watching Tour
For an unforgettable afternoon, we highly recommend you take advantage of one of the many dolphin/whale watching tours available around the island throughout the year. Depending on when you’re there, you might see humpback whales, southern right whales, sperm whales, and even orcas.
3. Try Bungee Jumping and/or Sky Diving
For those seeking an adrenaline rush, why not try bungee jumping off Auckland’s Harbour Bridge? This iconic bridge is home to one of New Zealand’s most popular bungee jumps. It’s worth checking out if you’re feeling brave.
Alternatively, head down to Lake Taupo in the centre of North Island. Not only is it another beautiful place to visit, but it’s also full of action-packed activities, including bungee jumping and skydiving.
4. Hit the Waves
With over 15000km (9000 miles) of coastline surrounding New Zealand, it should come as no surprise that surfing’s a popular activity here. For some of the best waves in the country, head to the cool town of Raglan. Other top surf locations on North Island include Piha Beach – a seaside village just 45 minutes west of Auckland – and Mount Maunganui, which we talked about before.
Hot Water Beach – Coromandel Peninsula
5. Soak in the Hot Pools
Want to relax after long days ticking items off your New Zealand North Island itinerary? Well, there’s no better way to do it than soaking in one of the many hot pools you’ll find here. Thermal springs, like Wai o Tapu (near Rotorua) or the all-popular Kerosene Creek near Taupo are known for their healing properties and are sure to be a highlight of your trip.
FAQs in Relation to New Zealand North Island Itinerary
How many days do you need in North Island New Zealand?
In general, 10 to 14 days is a good amount of time to see most of North Island’s proverbial “best bits”. However, the more time you can spend there, the better.
Depending on your interests and the amount of time you have available, you could easily spend a month here without getting bored.
If you’re looking for a quicker getaway, though, 3 to 4 days should be enough to see some highlights, such as Hobbiton and the geothermal wonders at Rotorua. For those with more time, a week would allow you to explore further – venturing north of Auckland into the Bay of Islands and then back down south to experience the Coromandel Peninsula, Taupo, and even Tongariro.
Is New Zealand’s North Island worth visiting?
Yes, New Zealand’s North Island is absolutely worth visiting.
Unfortunately, many people choose to rush their time on North Island in a bid to prioritize the South Island instead. This makes sense given the immense array of natural wonders available down south.
But make no mistake, the beauty and array of things to see/do on North Island are often underestimated. It offers a vast array of stunning landscapes and unique activities to suit travellers of all ages and interests.
Hole in the Rock
What is the best time to visit New Zealand’s North Island?
For most people, the best time to visit New Zealand’s North Island will be during the summer months, from around December to the end of February.
The temperatures are warm and the days are long, making it perfect for all the outdoor activities on offer. Unfortunately, summer’s also the busiest and most expensive time of year. To avoid the crowds and save some money, consider traveling here during the shoulder seasons – March to May or September to November. The weather will be rainier and cooler, but it’ll be quieter, cheaper, and still relatively mild.
Start Planning Your New Zealand North Island Itinerary
Boasting exquisite natural beauty and outstanding attractions, the North Island of New Zealand is a bucket-list destination that doesn’t disappoint. In fact, there’s so much to see and experience here that planning your time here can be a challenge.
We hope the insights in this article will help in that regard. Keep them in mind when planning your New Zealand North Island itinerary and you’re sure to have an unforgettable time. For more information on the topic, check out the other New Zealand travel tips and itinerary ideas on our website.
Hear about travel to Athens, Greece as the Amateur Traveler talks to travel writer Sally Jane Smith about Athens as a stop on the way to the Peloponnese Peninsula.
Sally Jane says, “Athens isn’t the focus of the itinerary, but it would be a terrible pity if you went to Greece and didn’t see Athens, especially if it was your own visit, your first visit. You could happily spend a week there without running out of things to do. But I’ve given us two days in Athens, and I’m not going to detail blow by blow everything that you would see there because you already have two episodes that talk about Athens in some depth.”
We talk about some of the obvious places like the Parthenon and the Parthenon Museum but focus more on the Roman Agora and the Ancient Agora and out-of-the-way places like the Pnyx which was the heart of the Athenian Republic. A visit to the small Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris church begs the question “did God save this church from a Turkish canon”?
Everyone loves the Tower of the Winds at the Roman Agora… but did you notice the very public restrooms? When you are at the Ancient Agora, don’t overlook the Church of the Holy Apostles which dates back to the late 10th century. The Bath House of the winds is a public bathhouse from the Turkish period that is now a museum.
Sally Jane doesn’t normally recommend a hop-on hop-off tour but finds it a good way to get around in Athens. Also, the one she recommends from City Sightseeing Athens comes with free walking tours.
We end this trip to Athens with a trip to the beach and to Lake Vouliagmeni where little tiny fish can give you a pedicure by eating the dead skin on your feet. On the way back to town Sally Jane recommends a stop at the Church of Agios Sostis which was moved to Athens from Paris after a World’s Fair and commemorates an unsuccessful attempt on the life of King George I the first king of modern Greece.
Many people leave Athens for the islands through the port of Piraeus. While you are near the port stop for a seafood meal at Mikrolimano Harbor.
Athens is an amazing city that is worth visiting on its own or as the start of a larger itinerary in Greece.
The Hudson Valley is a region in south-eastern New York, stretching from the west of the Hudson River to the east of the Catskill Mountains. This region is dotted with parks, forests, and other areas of natural beauty, making it a home to some of the best hiking trails in the country and a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Hikers of all levels can find trails to suit their skills and preferences, with options for day or overnight hikes. From challenging mountain climbs to leisurely strolls through forests, the Hudson Valley has something for everyone. This article explores some of the best hikes in the Hudson Valley and offers a comprehensive guide on what to expect along the trails and what to bring to make your hikes safe and convenient.
Breakneck Ridge is one of the most popular day hikes in the Hudson Valley that takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the region. It’s an approximately 4-mile loop that takes you up and over a ridge, offering picturesque views of the Hudson River, the Catskill Mountains, and the surrounding countryside.
The trail is also known for its terrain, which includes steep climbs, rocky outcroppings, and narrow ledges. Despite the difficulty of the terrain, the hike is still doable by most people with the right preparation.
The hike begins at the Breakneck Ridge trailhead, where there is a parking lot and a restroom. From there, the trail quickly climbs up the ridge, with views of the Hudson River and the surrounding countryside. The trail is marked with yellow blazes that conveniently guide you throughout the hike.
You’ll pass through several ecosystems, including deciduous forests, grassy fields, and rocky outcroppings. You’ll also see some of the area’s wildlife, including birds, deer, and even the occasional black bear.
The trail reaches its highest point at the summit, where you’ll get stunning views of the Hudson Valley and the surrounding mountains. From there, the trail descends down the ridge and ends at the parking lot. The hike takes approximately 3-6 hours, depending on your pace and how long you stop to take in the views.
What To Bring
Before embarking on the Breakneck Ridge hike, it’s important to ensure that you have the right gear. Hiking boots are essential, as the terrain can be rocky and slippery. You should also bring plenty of water, snacks, and a first aid kit in case of mishaps. An area map is also recommended, as the trail can be difficult to navigate.
Breakneck Ridge is a rewarding experience that offers amazing views of the Hudson River and the surrounding countryside. If you’re looking for a great day hike, look no further; Breakneck Ridge is sure to provide an unforgettable experience.
Another great day hike in the Hudson Valley is Overlook Mountain, which is located in the southern part of the Catskill Mountains, just outside Woodstock, New York. It is easily accessible by car, with several parking lots spread out along the mountain road. The nearest public transportation is the Woodstock bus, which runs from Kingston to Phoenicia.
The Overlook Mountain trail is a 4.5-mile loop with an elevation gain of 1,397 feet. It is a moderate hike with some steep sections. The trailhead is located at the mountain’s base, and the path follows the ridge line up to the summit, where you will find stunning views of the Hudson Valley. You will also find several cascading waterfalls with awesome views.
The trail is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, white-tailed deer, and even bald eagles. Keep an eye out for the many birds that call the area home, including hawks, owls, and vultures. You will also find amenities at the summit, including a picnic area, a restroom, and a small gift shop that sells snacks, drinks, and souvenirs.
At the summit of Overlook Mountain, hikers are greeted with a stunning view of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley. A stone lookout tower provides 360-degree views of the surrounding area, including the Catskill Mountains, the Hudson Valley, and the distant Adirondack Mountains. From the summit, hikers can also spot the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House, a historic hotel that once stood on the mountain.
The descent from the summit is much easier than the climb and takes hikers through a beautiful forest of tall trees and lush ferns. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, eventually re-joining the road leading back to the trailhead.
With its diverse wildlife and many points of interest, this is one of the best day hikes in the Hudson Valley.
What To Bring
For a day hike on Overlook Mountain in the Hudson Valley, it is crucial to bring the right supplies. Wear sturdy hiking boots and bring plenty of water. A snack or lunch and a map of the area are also good to bring. To avoid sunburn, wear sunscreen and a hat, and carry some bug spray to help keep insects away. Also, remember to bring a camera to take incredible pictures of your trip!
With its diverse wildlife and many points of interest, this is one of the best day hikes in the Hudson Valley. So, lace up your shoes and get ready to explore this beautiful region of upstate New York!
The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail
The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (WVRT) is one of the most popular overnight hikes in the Hudson Valley. For those looking for a longer overnight hike, the trail can combine with other trails around the area.
The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is a 22.5-mile-long trail that follows the old Wallkill Valley Railroad. The trail starts in Kingston, New York, and ends at the New York/New Jersey border. Along the way, hikers will pass through the towns of New Paltz, Gardiner, Modena, Plattekill, and Shawangunk. The trail is considered easy, with most terrain being flat or gently rolling hills. The trail is also wide and well-maintained, making it a great trail for beginners.
The trail is open year-round, but the best time of year to hike the trail is during the spring and fall months. During these months, the weather is mild, and the foliage is beautiful. The trail is also home to various wildlife, including deer, foxes, and rabbits, so keep your eyes peeled for some furry friends!
What To Bring
When planning a night hike, bring snacks, plenty of water, and all the necessary camping equipment and gear to make it successful. This includes a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and any additional items needed to make your camping experience comfortable.
Bring a flashlight or headlamp for navigating the trail in the dark and a first aid kit, and extra layers of clothing for cold nights. Also, remember to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself from bugs and other critters.
Kaaterskill Falls Trail
One of the best ways to explore the beauty of the Hudson Valley is to take an overnight hike in the Catskills. This destination is a mountain range in the eastern part of New York State, encompassing over 6,000 square miles of land. The range is composed of various peaks and valleys, with the highest peak, Slide Mountain, reaching an elevation of over 4,000 feet.
The Catskills stretch from the Mohawk River in the east to the Delaware River in the west, offering a range of hikes completed over a few days. The Catskills have long been a popular destination for outdoor recreation, and there are a variety of trails in the area that cater to different fitness levels. Its rugged terrain and stunning views make it a perfect spot for an overnight hike.
These trails require moderate to strenuous effort, but they reward you with amazing views of the Hudson Valley. If you’re a beginner, you might prefer a shorter and less strenuous hike, such as the trail to Balsam Lake or the Kaaterskill Falls Trail. The Catskills are also home to wildlife, including black bears, white-tailed deer, and bald eagles. The area is also known for its plentiful streams, providing excellent fishing and swimming opportunities.
The best time to visit the Catskills depends on what type of hike you’re looking for. The summer months can be hot, but they also offer the best views and plenty of wildlife, while the cold winter months are a great time for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
What To Bring
Remember that when hiking in the winter, always dress in layers, as temperatures can vary significantly. Additionally, wear waterproof clothing and sturdy boots that can handle snow and ice.
A hat and gloves are also essential, as well as a jacket with a hood. It is also important to bring a map, compass, and plenty of snacks and water. To be safe, bring a flashlight and a whistle for emergencies. Remember that some trails are more difficult in the winter due to snow and ice, so check the weather conditions before you set off.
The Gunks, formally known as the Shawangunk Mountains, is located in the foothills of the Hudson Valley in New York. The Shawangunk Mountains are a unique formation of quartz conglomerate rock that rises from the surrounding landscape.
This mountain range is known for its incredibly varied terrain, making it the perfect destination for hikers of all skill levels. With its beautiful hills, towering cliffs, and lush forest, the Gunks can be enjoyed by everyone. The abundance of trails available will suit your needs whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker.
Beginner Trail Overview
The Gunks have plenty of trails to choose from for those just getting started on their hiking journey. These trails are typically shorter and easier than the more advanced trails. The beginner trails are perfect for those just getting their feet wet or wanting an easy, leisurely hike.
One of the most popular beginner trails is the Undercliff Trail. This 5-mile trail takes hikers through various terrain, from rolling hills to rocky cliffs. As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be able to take in breathtaking views of the Hudson Valley.
Another great option for beginner hikers is the Millbrook Mountain Trail. This trail is 7.9 miles long and offers stunning views of the Shawangunk Mountains. The trail is relatively easy, with only a few steep sections, and can be hiked in under two hours.
Intermediate Trail Overview
The Gunks also offer a wide variety of trails for those with more hiking experience. The intermediate trails are perfect for those who want a challenge but still want to enjoy the scenery of the Hudson Valley. One of the most popular intermediate trails is the Mohonk Mountain Trail. Hikers on this trail will see various landscapes, from plains to cliffs, and participate in wildlife watching.
Another great option for intermediate hikers is the High Peters Kill Trail. This 6.5-mile trail follows an old carriage road and takes hikers through different terrain, including dense forests and rocky outcrops. This trail also provides some excellent vantage points from which to see local flora and fauna.
Advanced Trail Overview
The Gunks also offer trails for adept hikers. These trails are typically longer and more difficult than intermediate trails. One of the most popular advanced trails for expert hikers is Gertrude’s Nose Trail.
Hikers on this 7.5-mile path experience a wide range of landscapes. As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be able to take in stunning views of the Hudson Valley. The trail is relatively difficult, with some steep sections, and can be hiked in under five hours.
Another great option for advanced hikers is the Wallkill Valley Trail. This trail is a moderate 22.5-mile loop that takes hikers to the highest point in the Hudson Valley. The trail is mostly flat, with some moderate elevation changes. The views from the top of the mountain are a marvel and make for a great photo opportunity.
The Gunks is a great place for hikers of all skill levels. From beginner to advanced, there are plenty of trails to choose from. Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll or an intense hike, the Gunks has something to offer. Remember to follow Leave No Trace principles, respect the environment, and don’t forget to have fun!
What To Bring
Be sure to bring hiking essentials that are compatible with the trail and your skill level. Some of the basics are good hiking boots or shoes, plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent. A hat and sunglasses will also help protect you from the sun, and a rain jacket can help keep you dry if the weather turns. For those who want to venture further, trekking poles can help with stability and fatigue.
You may also bring a camera to make the most of your hike at The Gunks. The views from the top are amazing and make for some great photos.
The Hudson Valley is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a variety of trails for day hikes and overnight hikes. It is a great place to go hiking because it includes everything from steep mountains to peaceful woods, which can accommodate varying skill levels.
Day and overnight hikes are all possible in most of the trails in the Hudson Valley. Particularly, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced outdoorsman, the Gunks is a trail that will fit your needs. So, grab your hiking boots, pack your lunch, and get ready to hit some of the best hikes in the Hudson Valley.