Iceland -10 day itinerary

Our itinerary below , we did this in June 2018 .Its good for 9-10 days (+2 days to get in and out from India)…

Day 1:Arrive Reyjkavik|Stay:Airbnb|Sights:In flight; half day at Berlin|Main Attraction:Blue Lagoon, Church, Old Harbour, Hotdog, Party

Day 2: Hella|Stay:Stracta|Sights:Golden circle (Þingvellir, Geyser, Gulfoss Waterfall, Kerið) |Activity : Snorkelling

Day 3:Hella|Stay:Stracta|Sights:Landmannalaugar|Main Attraction:Hekla ( active volcano), Lava fields, riodite mountains.

Day 4:Vik|Stay:Stracta|Sights:South coast|Main Attraction:Two waterfalls ( can be done on 2nd day), spend some time on glacier. Eyjafjallajökull, Dyrhólaey natural reserve where you can find one of the best seabird colonies in Iceland., Walk on black beach of VIK

Day 5:Hofn|Stay:Airbnb|Sights:glaciers|Main Attraction:Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park, Jokulsarlon Glacier |Activity : Snowmobile tour, boat tour to glacier lagoon. Glacier walking

Day 6:Egilsstaðir|Stay:Airbnb|Sights : East coast , Seydisfjordur,Take the oxy pass route.

Day 7:Mývatn|Stay:Ytri-Vík cottage|Sights:myntvan lake + husavik|Main Attraction:Start day early. Do Dettifoss, then Husavik, and, start seeing Myvtan by eve. Stay at Myvtan|Activity:Whale watching

Day 8:Skagafjordur|Stay:|Sights:North iceland, Akureyi|Main Attraction:Start day at Myvtan, spend some time there. Famous riding tours available in Skagafjordur|Activity:Lava Cave Exploration

Day 9:Snæfellsnes|Stay:Við Hafið Guesthouse|Sights: Snaefellsnes peninsula, Kikjufell|Main Attraction:Start day early. Long day ahead|Activity:Horse riding on black river. 100 km west of Akureyi. Can target 10 AM slot.

Day 10:take flight in night|Sights:Local sight seeing in Reykjavik city


some points 

1. you need to rent a car. Make sure u rent a 4×4. Many roads in my itinirary are open only to 4×4 cars, and not 2 wheel drive cars. make sure u get a good gps with the car. 

2. dont miss the golden circle. it takes a long time to see it, so should start early that day

3. dont miss Landmanalugar. simply stunning. can stay at Hella and do the day trip there. make sure you take the river-crossing road, and not the easy road

4. when you go to the east, make sure you take the oxy pass road, is stunning. look out for it on the map carefully before hand, else will miss it 

5. Whale watching in akureyi

6. Snow bike in flatey – we really enjoyed it + you get to play in the snow for some time.

Day 0 : Berlin walking tour 

Berlin currywurst 

Free Walking tour

Cut off from the group at concert hall and had a drink at Amici 

Day 1: Golden Circle

Arrived in Reykjavik wearing shorts and Chappal at midnight ! Wondering why we ventured out leaving our sweet angels behind.Our luggage did not arrive on time so started our day with some food and basic clothing / toiletries Shopping at Hagkaup

Þingvellir National Park : Pick up your car and take highway number 1 to the north and west from Reykjavik. After driving throughMosfellsbær town, turn off the main highway 1 and take road number 36 towards the Þingvellir National Park, a unique place from a geological point of view and a place of great beauty. Þingvellir is a natural wonder on an international scale. The faults and fissures of the area are clear evidence of the rifting of the earth’s crust. Þingvellir is also the most historical place in the country and a place of exceptional beauty.


Great Geysir and Strokkur :Next explore the numerous hot springs and see the famous Great Geysir and Strokkur, a very active geyser that spouts every few minutes. The Geysir Service Centre offers a hotel, restaurant, a swimming pool, snack bar, souvenir shop, gas station, a geo-centre multimedia show, horse rental, quad bike tours, and a camping area. From here, drive to the waterfall Gullfoss

Gulfoss waterfall : is one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfall. Turn around at Gullfoss and head back on the same road as before a little further than Geysir.

Faxi waterfall : Take road number 35 south and don´t miss the pretty waterfall Faxi, hidden a short distance from the road on your left hand side. Look for the small “Faxi” sign.

Kerid crater : Continue on road 35 to the volcanic crater Kerið, also on your left a bit further. Stay on 35 to the junction of the main circular highway, number 1 at Selfoss.

We had lunch at Fridheimar farm where they grow tomatoes all year round, despite Iceland’s long, dark winters, under artificial lighting in greenhouses. We loved the cucumber salsa . We ordered the tomato soup , tomato pasta and tortilla with some ice cream to top it off . Dream meal for Shobhit.

Fridheimar farm has a small restaurant is located in the greenhouse surrounded by tomato plants. Visitors enjoy the special experience of entering a greenhouse with its fragrance of tomato plants and sitting down to a feast of the famous Friðheimar tomato soup with fresh baked bread. Some would also like to raise a glass of tomato schnapps!

Stay : Stracta – Hella 

Day 2 — Landmannalaugar

Return to road 1.Take road 1 in the direction towards Hella.  Head inland on road 26 and later take F225 to visit the Landmannalaugar area, only passable by a 4 x 4 vehicle in summer. The track passes through a wide variety of canyons, valleys, over rock ridges and black lava, weird plain of lava rocks surrounded by captivating mountains. The mountain track over Landmannaleið offers some of the finest scenic views available throughout this fascinating region. Off the track there are various trails leading to the volcano Hekla, which is in view on and off to the south of the trail. Come to Landmannahellir, a cave that runs some distance into a hillside. This mountain track, known as Landmannaleið is rugged and rocky in sections. The scenic interest in the area is tremendous. The surrounding mountains are perhaps the most varied and colourful in Iceland. On a clear day you can see the snow covered peak of the great Mt. Hekla crowning the magnificent landscape. This area is highly recommended for nature lovers and those interested in geology. It offers numerous hiking trails for long and short hikes. Lake Frostastaðavatn surrounded by colourful mountains and craters. From a side road near the western end of the lake, a short drive up to the rim of Ljótipollur a lake-filled crater. The trail proceeds cutting across some relatively recent lava streams and through the Dómadalur valley. 


At Landmannalaugar is a warden station, mountain hut and a popular camping site. Near the hut is a warm water pool created by the confluence of natural hot water and cold water springs which issue within a short distance of one another from underneath the edge of the obsidian lava field. Here you can take a relaxing bath in the beautiful and almost surreal surroundings. Take road F208 and F26 to Hrauneyjar and then take road 26 to road 1.

To do in Hella:• Ægisíða Caves• Ægisíða Falls• Horse riding

Day 3 – Hella to Vik

Continue to the east on road 1 along the south shore. Stop at the waterfall Seljalandsfoss where it is possible to walk behind the waterfall in summer. Thanks The waterfall Skógafoss is a little further east and don’t miss the Folk Museum at Skógar, close to the waterfall. The glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull are towering above. 


On March 20th 2010, a volcanic eruption started on Fimmvörðuháls, a mountain ridge between the glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. The eruption on Fimmvörðuháls lasted a couple of weeks. After this eruption came to an end a new and bigger eruption started underneath the nearby icecap of Eyjafjallajökull Glacier. This eruption came to an end on 23. May 2010. Underneath the icecap of Mýrdalsjökull is Katla, one of Iceland’s most dangerous volcanoes. Make a short detour on a gravel road 221 from the main highway to the glacier Sólheimajökull (passable only during summer) before continuing to Dyrhólaey 218 natural reserve and a nesting colony of numerous seabirds. Drive to Reynisdrangar, 215 with spectacular coast and beautiful rock formations. The promontory at Dyrhólaey is a massive natural arch carved by the relentless pounding of the winds and surf with rich birdlife in summer. Continue on road 1 across the Mýrdalssandur floodplains and Eldhraun, the largest lava field ever to flow on Earth in historical time and to the small village Kirkjubæjarklaustur. At Kirkjubæjarklaustur, often abbreviated as “Klaustur”, see Kirkjugólfið (the Church Floor), a protected natural monument just east of Klaustur. Kirkjugólfið is columnar basalt, eroded and shaped by wind and water, only a few minutes walk from the road. In the afternoon of 21. May 2011, a sub-glacial eruption started in the Grímsvötn volcanic system underneath VatnajökullGlacier. Later the same day, the eruption broke the ice cover of the glacier and started spewing volcanic ash into the air. The amount of ash fall was the greatest close to the village Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The eruption went on for about a week. It ceased on 28. May 2011.

Drive along the south shore to Dyrhólaey natural reserve where you can find one of the best seabird colonies in Iceland. Dyrhólaey is a 120 meter highheadland into the sea and you definitely should hike on it. We recommend you an evening walk at the black beach of Vík

Note:

A short distance east of Skógar, Rtes. 221 and 222 provide the easiest Ring Road access to Mýrdalsjökull,the country’s fourth-largest glacier. Sólheimajökull, a projectile of Mýrdalsjökull, just 5km (3 miles) from the Ring Road via Route 221, is a worthwhile diversion if you are not bound for greater glories farther east at Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón. Sólheimajökull is retreating up to 100m (328 ft.) every year, a vivid demonstration of the effects of global warming. Some visitors walk atop the glacier, but taking a tour is much safer. Watch out for quicksand at the glacier’s edge.

day 4 – Vik to hofn

Kirkjubæjarklaustur

– small village in a beautiful landscape

– Christian settlement all from the beginning of Icelandic history

– all necessary service available, bank, post office, supermarket, tourist information, fuel station, restaurants, swimming pool 

– leaving Kirkjubæjarklaustur on road no. 1 you can turn left to see Kirkjugólf, follow the signs

Kirkjugólf

– “church floor”

– formation of basalt columns that looks like the floor of a mediaeval church

– nice little walk

Drive road 1 across Skeiðarársandur, vast tracts of black sandy desert washed down by torrential glacial rivers to Skaftafell. Its natural beauty is a result of favourable weather conditions and the interaction of fire and ice. Beneath the Vatnajökull ice cap, towering above Skaftafell is one of Iceland’s most active volcanic system. Stop at the Skaftafell National Park to see the interesting Visitors Centre and for a walk. In the area are many interesting hiking trails. An interesting hiking trail takes you to Svartifoss, one of Icelands most picturesque waterfall, famous for basalt columns which surround it.  A video of a volcanic eruption in the area in 1996 can also be viewed. 

Stop at Svínafellsjökull glacier fall, where the opening sequence of Batman Begins was filmed 

Continue to Jökulsárlón, the Glacial Lagoon where huge icebergs, broken off the Breiðamerkurjökullglacier float and grind together in the deep waters of the lagoon and seals are frequently seen. A cruise among the icebergs on the Lagoon is available in summer. 

Skeiðarársandur

– largest black sand desert, formed by glacial rivers and catastrophic glacial floods coming out from Skeiðarárjökull glacier
– longest bridge in Iceland, 904 m (but in summer 2009 the river disappeared)
– ever changing breathtaking landscape of glaciers, mountains, rivers, black sand and the ocean

Note

The skatefall glacier is best for doing glacier walking tours

Do boat tour at Jukolsarlon

Day 5 – East

Started with the snowmobile tour at Flatey 

Continue on road 1 through Almannaskarð tunnel to Lónsöræfi, a mountainous wilderness ringed by extinct volcanoes and traversed by glacial rivers. Drive past towering mountains with bare rock faces that plunge almost vertically into the sea. Proceed to the magnificent East Fjords, some are now deserted and each a world of its own. An interesting option is taking a boat tour to Papey Island near Djúpivogur where thousands of puffins and other seabirds nest in summer. A short cut is possible here (ONLY in summer), – instead of proceeding along the coast it is now possible to drive across Öxi pass (road 939), a steep and spectacular route. Please see the map. Take road 96 to Fáskrúðsfjörður and further through the tunnel to Reyðarfjörður. From Reyðarfjörður, take 92 across Fagridaur Pass to Egilsstaðir,  a small town on the banks of the river Lagarfljót. Take 1 and later 931 to the south along the lakeshore of Lake Lagarfljót to Hallormasstaður.  

It seems may be a good idea to go to Papey islands by ferry. Available from Djúpivogur. But it seems online that its only at 1 pm, and, lasts 4 hours

In the evening we visited Seydisfjordur a charming little town where time has stopped. Imagine a small fishing town at the end of the world, full of picturesque colourful houses, located in the mouth of a majestic fjord, surrounded by steep, dramatic mountains and waterfalls. We just visited the cozy bistros and walked around , but here are TOP 10 things to do in Seydisfjordur

1. Visit the lovely blue church Bláa Kirkjan

Bláa Kirkjan is the most famous building in Seydisfjordur, and it is well known all around Iceland.

2. Relax in one of the cosy local cafes

We especially recommend Skaftfell Bistro. Apart from delicious coffee, cakes and home-made ginger lemonade, they serve excellent pizza. We like this bistro because of its special atmosphere and the collection of art books. It’s great to seat there for a while chatting or waiting for the aurora to appear in the winter.

3. Check out what contemporary art is all about at Skaftfell Center for Visual Art

Skaftfell Art Centre, located right over the bistro, is the most active contemporary art gallery in East Iceland, and one of the best in the whole country.

4. Try local beer brewed in Kaffi Lara

Café Lara, which you can find very close to the Blue Church, is one of the few places in Iceland, where you can try beer brewed on-spot.

5. Go for a long walk around the town

Since the town is very small, you can discover all of its corners on foot. Every time we go for a walk, we can’t resist choosing our favourite dream house to live. Don’t forget about all the spectacular waterfalls and dramatic mountains. And fill your lungs with the incredibly fresh air.

6. Try your hand at sea kayaking

There’s something special about Seyðisfjörður seen from the water. Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience at sea kayaking. You can go for a kayak adventure with a guide, who knows all the secrets of the fjord. The kayaking season is June 1 – August 31.

7. Visit the local swimming pool

If the weather is bad, apart from relaxing in the cafes, you can also visit the pool. We prefer open-air pools in Iceland, but this one is really nice.

8. Listen to uncanny Tvisongur sound sculpture

In the mountains above Seyðisfjörður, you can find an interesting concrete sculpture called Tvisongur by a German artist Lukas Kühne. When it’s windy, it makes a peculiar sound. It takes around 45 min to get to this spot. Apart from the sculpture, you will have a chance to see a fantastic view over the town.

9. Checkout Seydisfjordur panorama from Mt. Bjólfur viewpoint

To get there you have to drive up Fjarðarheiði pass, where on the right-hand side you will find a gravel road. After around 5 km you will reach the viewpoint. It’s best to have a 4×4 here, but you can also get there in a regular car. The road is usually open from June until September. That’s one of the best fjord views in the whole country. Don’t miss it!

10. Go for a day hike in the mountains around Seydisfjordur

If you have more time, then we definitely recommend going for a hike in the mountains around Seydisfjordur. The fantastic thing is that in the area there are quite a few of rarely visited trails.

Day 6 – Husavik and Myvtan

From Egilsstaðir. Take road 1 from Egilsstaðir along Jökuldalur Valley and across the highland desert of Möðrudalsöræfi , – heading towards Akureyri. Close to the isolated farm Grímsstaðir, take road 864 to the north. The route loosely follows the course of the mighty river Jökulsá á Fjöllum to Öxarfjörður Bay. Continue to the north along a rather rough but scenic route to Dettifoss waterfall, the largest waterfall in Europe. From Dettifoss proceed further to the north and drive to Ásbyrgi canyon, a strange and spectacular horseshoe shaped canyon not to be missed. From Ásbyrgi drive a short distance to the west on 85. Make a detour on F862 to Vesturdalur and Hljóðaklettar, the Echo rocks, an extremely beautiful canyon carved by the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. This area offers many interesting hiking trails to explore the many wonders of the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. After exploring Hljóðaklettar and Vesturdalur, drive back to 85 and proceed to Húsavík, sometimes called “The Whale Watching Capital of The World”. Húsavík was the first place in the country to offer very successful Whale Watching cruises. The Whale Museum in Húsavík is an educational centre on marine wildlife. Visit the HúsavíkNatural and Maritime Museum, one of the best museums of its kind in the country. Whale watching cruises are available daily from early morning until late at night during summer season.

Note: In case short of time, can try whale watching next day from akureyi / dalvik also

Head on 87 to Lake Mývatn. The Lake Mývatn area is known world wide for the abundance of birdlife and its exceptionally many breeding duck species. The lake’s surroundings show great variety in stunning landscapes and amazing geological formations. Explore the natural beauty of the Lake Mývatn area, the wonderland of strange rock formations. Stop at Dimmuborgir, the “Dark Castles” and see the pseudo craters near Skútustaðir and many other scenic spots in the area surrounding the lake. See Krafla volcanic system where the most recent eruptions took place in 1975 – 1984. In summer visitors can have a guided tour through the Kröfluvirkjun Geothermal Power Station where steam pressure is harnessed for generating electricity. The explosion crater Víti is near Krafla and the MývatnNature Baths are an outstanding attraction too. Stop at the Námaskarð pass where boiling mud pools and flashing colours of the pass merge with lava and ash from the Krafla volcanic system. 

Dimmuborgir

– valley filled up with bizarre lava formations, caves, holes and pillars.

– protected area, very sensible birch growth

– several marked walking paths, do not leave the roped-off routes, you can easily get lost in this labyrinth of dark lava rocks

– newly built service and information centre at the entrance, cafeteria

Skútustaðir

– famous for a number of pseudo craters, formed by gas explosions when hot lava flew into the waters, looking like circular craters or small islands

– protected area, please do not leave the walking paths and close the gates behind you

– service, shop, cafe

Námafjall

– mountain south of the pass Námaskarð, former sulfurmine, the east side of the mountain is all covered by signs of geothermal heat

– impressive bubbling mud pools, steam vents, hot boiling springs and fumaroles, distinctive stench of sulfur everywhere

– there are roped-off paths, please stick to those paths as it is extremely dangerous to walk around in this area; the surface material is fragile and the ground is extremely hot  

Krafla and Víti

– cone-shaped volcano north of Námafjall, but also a system of fissures

– considerable geothermal heat on the west side of Krafla

– Geothermal Power Station, build in 1984, later extended

– The crater Víti is situated nearby Krafla, its name means “hell” in Icelandic

Day 7 – Akureyi

We have 2 options to choose from… or if we have time, then, do a little of both. 

Option 1

Head on road 1 towards Akureyri, the capital of the north.. Stop enroute at the beautiful waterfall Goðafoss, close to Fosshóll, a short distance east of the junction of 1 and 85.  One of the most extraordinary aspects of Akureyri town is its unusually warm climate. Although it is situated only 40 km south of the Arctic Circle, it has some of the best weather in the country. See the famous Botanical Gardens of Akureyri and some of the many museums and art galleries. Also recommended is the Akureyri Church, situated on a hilltop overlooking the centre of the town. After a full day of sightseeing it’s always popular to spend the afternoon in the town’s outdoor geothermal swimming pool & Water Park. Drive road 1 through the majestic mountains surrounding Öxnadalur valley and across the Öxnadalsheiði pass which leads to the Skagafjordurdistrict. Popular horse riding tours for beginners and experienced riders are available here. Here we recommend a visit to the old turf and stone farm / museum at Glaumbær on road 75 and the old tinichurch at Víðimýri is also worth a visit. Take 75 from Varmahlíð to Sauðárkrókur.

Option 2 from hostel.is:

Here, instead of going west, you go north and visit Dalvik and upwards (see map). 
Explore Tröllaskagi Peninsula. Drive north along the western shore of Eyjafjörður Fjord to Dalvík town. A ferry ride is available several times daily during summer from Árskógssandur to the Island Hrísey. Hrísey has earned a reputation as a birdwatching destination. There are no natural predators on the island, making it an ideal bird sanctuary. Drive further to the north to Ólafsfjörður town. Take the Lágheiði Pass, landscape sculpted by ice age glaciers, offering superb alpine views and drvie to Siglufjörður fishing town, a remotely located fishing town that during the herring boom in early 20th century used to be the most prosperous fishing town in Iceland. Visit the award-winning Siglufjörður Herring Era Museum. It charts the rise and decline of the former “Herring Capital of the World” and the great Herring Adventure that lasted until 1968. Continue to the south along the shores of Skagafjörður Fjord to Hofsós town and further to Sauðárkrókur. 

Dalvík:

– former fishing village on the western shores of the fjord Eyjaförður, 1400 inhabitants

– from you have nice views on Hrísey island

– magnificent mountain peaks surround the village

– whale watching, folk museum

– continue on road no. 82, pass Ólafsfjörður, drive the mountain road

– when you reach the coast again, turn right onto road no. 793 to get to Siglufjörður

Siglufjörður:

– fishing town, 1600 inhabitants

– protected against avalanches by two walls (18 and 14 m high)

– The Boat House recreates the town’s bustling harborof the 1950s, with many old fishing boats at the dock. During the years of the so called “herring adventure”, a gold rush-like atmosphere settled over the town, leading to Siglufjördur been dubbed the “Atlantic Klondike”

Hofsós:

– village, situated on the eastern shores of Skagafjörður, pop. 200

– very interesting Icelandic Emigration Centre (Vesturfarasetrið) with exhibitions on emigration to Canada and the USA in the late 19th century, worth a visit

– nice harbor, the exhibition is situated here, as well as Pakkhúsið, a wooden warehouse from the 18th century, now preserved by the National Museum

– continue on road no. 76, turn left onto road no. 767 to get to Hólar

Hólar:

– former bishopric (1106-1998), most important historical site in northern Iceland

– religious and educational centre from the 12th until the 18th century

– the last Catholic bishop, Jón Arason, who resisted the Reformation, was beheaded at Skálholt in fall 1550

– church, built 1763 of local red sand stone, oldest stone building in Iceland

– church tower built in the 1950s

– get a local guide to tell you about the history and all the interesting pieces inside the church as well as the replica of a wooden building, Auðunarstofa, from the Middle Ages

– today home to the Agricultural College and HólarUniversity, teaching aquaculture and fish biology, equine sciences and rural tourism

– nice hiking area

– drive back onto road no. 76, drive south

– when you reach ring road no. 1, turn right in direction to Varmahlíð

– from Varmahlíð drive road no. 75 to get to Glaumbær

Glaumbær:

– very interesting open air and folk museum, former parsonage and wealthy farm

– one of the few remaining Icelandic turf farms, oldest parts of it are from the 18th century

– Beside the turf farm, there are buildings from the 19th and early 20th century, including a church and a former school for housekeepers.

– There is a very nice café in a cozy old-fashioned tearoom where you can get traditional Icelandic cakes and other local snacks.

– drive back on road no. 1, not far from Varmahlíð you will find the church of Víðimýri, left side of road no. 1

day 8 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Visit Borgarvirki natural fortress before reaching Snæfellsnes. 

On Snæfellsnes, you can choose from a variety of activities such as horseback riding, hiking, a bird watching-cruise (in summer), or whale watching from Stykkishólmur Village or simply relax and take in the Snæfellsjökull glacier’s alleged supernatural energy. The Snæfellsjökull glacier in the SnæfellsjökullNational Park was the setting for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. 

Blönduós

– small town, pop, 1000, living on agriculture, transport, trading

– situated at the mouth of the river Blanda built on bothssides of the river

– very insteresting modern church, built in the years 1981-1985

– all necessary service available, bank, shops, gas station, restaurant

– nice recreation area on an island in the glacial river Blanda, worth a stop and walk (you can see it  from the gas station)

– continue on road no. 1, drive through the valley Víðidalur

– turn right onto road no. 716, continue on road no. 717

Borgarvirki

– “citadel”, 177 m high

– group of rocks on the ridges between Vesturhóp and the Víðidalur valley

– basalt columns 10-15 m high, depression on the top and an open to the east

– a big stonewall has been raised in the open, ruins of hut in the depression

– nobody knows for what purpose these walls were raised, but Icelandic Sagas suggest them being defence walls

– turn right onto road no. 711

Hvítserkur

– basalt crag rising from the sea, 15 m high

– erosion formed it looking like some figure of a fairy tale or a monster

– colonies of sea birds and seal breeding grounds

Hvammstangi

– village, pop. 590
– authorized trading place since the late 19th century
– service centre for the surrounding neighborhood
– home to the newly opened Icelandic Seal Center, where you can learn everything about seals and their closest environment
– drive road no. 72, when you reach ring road no. 1, turn right in direction to the fjord Hrútafjörður

Hrútafjörður

– long narrow fjord, the largest in this part of Iceland
– very good agricultural area, many farms
– when you reach the bottom of Hrútafjörður, turn right onto road no. 61
– after passing Borðeyri, turn left onto road no. 59
– drive the mountain road Laxárdalsheiði

Stykkishólmur

– town with 1230 inhabitants, fishing and trading center, school, hospital
– for centuries a focal point for settlement in the Breiðafjörður area
– modern space age looking church, concert hall, art museum on water “Vatnasafnið”
– folk museum close to the harbor in the “Norwegian House”
– super market, great swimming pool
– from here the ferry Baldur goes to Brjánslækur (West fjords)
– light house near the harbor
– several boat trips with bird and whale watching, sea angling etc.
– tourist information centre

Grundarfjörður

– fishing and trading center since the 18th century, named after the fjord Grundarfjörður
– today lovely small town in a great environment, dominated by the mountain Kirkjufell
– population about 850, living on fishing and fish processing
– French fishermen built a church and several houses in the town
– swimming pool, tourist information

Ólafsvík

– small town (900 inhabitans), good harbor facilities, rich offshore fishing grounds
– museum in a 19th century warehouse
– all necessary services

Rif and Hellissandur

– former important fisher villages
– western most settlements on Snæfellsnes peninsula
– maritime museum and fishermen’s cottages at Hellissandur
– large colony of the arctic tern between Rif and Hellissandur

Snæfellsjökull

– The area is dominated by the three peaked volcano and glacier Snæfellsjökull (1446 m high) which is believed to be a place of supernatural power.
– One of the most famous volcanoes in Iceland featured in novels by Jules Verne and Icelandic writer HalldórLaxness.
– today a National Park
– several hiking trails

Borgarnes

– small town, 2.500 inhabitants, living on industry and services
– restaurant, services, shopping center, bank, hospital etc.
– one of the sites of the famous Saga of EgillSkallagrímsson
– interesting botanical garden with a relief sculpture of Egill Skallagrímsson

– drive road no. 1 through the Hvalfjörður tunnel to get to Reykjavík

day 9 – Reyk

Before finishing your ”ring road”, take a look at the highlights of West Iceland. Sights along the way are the volcanic crater Grábrók, Hraunfossar waterfalls, Deildartunguhver (the largest hot spring in Europe) and the settlement center in Borgarnes. 4

Once heading back to Reykjavík, you can either take the scenic Hvalfjörður Fjord route where you can stop and hike up to the famous Glymur waterfall or if you want to return directly to Reyjkavik take the Route 1 underwater tunnel. 

Arrive in Reykjavik, and spend a few hours in the city. 

Iceland is world famous for its diverse and unique geothermal landscape, and one of the greatest things about visiting here is its uniqueness which captures you from all directions.

After arriving in Keflavik ,the nearest Airport to the capital city of Reykjavik, you don’t have to look far to see plumes of smoke rising from the ground, natural hot springs, waterfalls, bubbling mud pots and erupting geysers, in fact you can see all this on the Golden Circle tour. After hiring a car and driving to see and explore its attractions, I couldn’t recommend any visit to Reykjavik without a day or more spent along this driving route. The Golden Circle has many attractions, but the three most famous attractions are:

1. Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
2. The geysers including the Great Geysir and Strokkur Geysir.
3. Gullfoss waterfall

Together, these three areas make up an unrivalled team of intense nature. But as well as these giants, there are also several other places to stop off including Kerid crater, a 3,000 year old volcanic crater lake that was my last stop on the Golden Circle route before heading back to Reykjavik.H

The whole tour requires about 4-hours of driving time and after you add the time which will be needed to enjoy each attraction, you really do need to put aside a full day. To give you an idea of the driving route I’ve created a little map of Southwest Iceland showing the main attractions of the Golden Circle. Some tours only go to Thingvellir, Geyser  and Gullfoss, but for those hiring a car I would definitely suggest making time for Kerid crater, it also means it’s distinctively lacking in large groups of tourists. In fact, Shobhit and I were the only people there!

STOP NO.1: THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK

As you walk into Thingvellir National Park, you are walking through area that’s part of a fissure zone running through Iceland, being situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. You can see the rifting of the earth’s crust through many faults and fissures in the ground’s surface. But Thingvellir is not just a site of geological importance but a cultural and historical one, being the founding home to Althingi, the parliament of Iceland in the year 930AD – for this reason it was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994.

STOP NO.2: GEYSER AREA

“‘Geyser’ from the Icelandic verb geysa, ‘to gush’, the verb itself from Old Norse.

Strokkur Geysir (the Icelandic’s spelt ‘geyser’ with and ‘i’) and The Great Geysir are both located by the Hvítá River in Southwestern Iceland, and is the second location visited on the spectacular Golden Circle Route.

Upon arriving at the Geyser area, the smell of sulphur in the air is what hits you at first! Pong! And multiple bubbling hot pools are in every direction, and a low steam meanders around your feet. Suddenly in the distance, a huge jet of water appears, 20m high spraying upwards, and the sound of gasps and people clapping can be heard – welcome to Strokkur Geyser – the sheer power of nature exposed in all its glory.

Strokkur (Icelandic for ‘churn’) is a fountain geyser, erupting every 4 to 8 minutes, sometimes more frequently. Before Strokkur erupts, the pool of water begins to churn and bubble, turning in and out of itself.

People stand around in great anticipation in silence with their cameras prepared. The pool begins to turn and toil, like the witchescauldron in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and then it erupts, propelling a great jet of water into the air. Sometimes it catches you off guard and shoots out an even bigger jet immediately after shown on this short video clip I managed to capture:

The Great Geyser is located approximately 50m away from Strokkur. The Great Geyser is the first geyser to have been described in printed source and the first known to modern Europeans, and has been active for 10,000 years! Unfortunately, the Great Geyser now remains fairly dormant, and has done since 1916, however, earthquake activity in the area in the year 2000 briefly brought it back to life, but now only erupts every few days or so. Perhaps you’ll be one of the lucky few who see this happen!

 STOP NO.3: GULLLFOSS WATERFALL

Just as I thought seeing Skrokkur Geysir erupting couldn’t be surpassed, then came the almighty Gullfoss. Walking down towards the waterfall, you first hear it before you see it, and watch in wonder as the water vapour floats upwards along the canyons edge.

At first, all that can be made out is the ferocious waters that seemingly disappear into the abyss below, but as you carry on walking, the entirety of the falls comes into view. A huge cavern of water, 61ft wide, engulfs the water from above, as it crashes and churns down into it. To describe the waterfall as powerful would be an understatement!

For the thrill seekers among you, I highly recommend walking down to the viewing platform that runs alongside the waterfall to see the greatest views, but beware, bring waterproofs as you’re going to get wet!

Extreme sheets of ice can be found surrounding Gullfoss during the winter.

STOP NO.4: KERID (OR KERIÐ) CRATER


Kerid is a 55m deep caldera of a volcano that erupted approximately 3000 years ago and is now filled with water. Its appearance of steep circular slopes reminded me of an amphitheatre so when I heard that Iceland’s most well-known musical export, Björk, had once held a concert on a floating raft here my observation was obviously not the first time someone had thought of it!

 BONUS SIGHTING – BEAUTIFUL ICELANDIC HORSES!

 All in all, the Golden Circle tour is not to be missed, the vast tundra, explosive energy and the brute force of Gullfoss really left a lasting impression upon me.Further reading

MYVATN AND KRAFLA

Attractions

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Around Mývatn

The following sights form a clockwise route around the lake, starting in Reykjahlíð. The distance around the lake is 36km (22 miles) by car.

In 1729, at the height of the Krafla eruption, a lava stream gobbled up two farmhouses and was headed straight for Reykjahlíð Church. At the last moment, the stream split and flowed into the lake. The church site is slightly elevated, but prayer was credited for averting disaster. The current church dates from 1962, and the vivid pulpit carving depicts the old church with the eruption in the background and “27 August, 1729” written in psychedelic font. All that remains of the old church is a foundation wall in the graveyard, and menacing heaves of lava are still clearly visible just beyond the graveyard wall.

The road to the church (and campsite and airfield) leads uphill from Hótel Reynihlíð. Near the end of the road, a pleasant trail leads west over the Eldhraun lava field, before crossing Route 87 and heading back to town along the north shore of the lake; allow 2 1/2 to 3 hours round trip.

StoragjáGrjótagjáHverfell, and Dimmuborgir are connected by a recommended and well-marked trail, 7km (4.3 miles) or 2 1/2 to 3 hours in each direction. The trail begins from the Ring Road near Reykjahlíð, a few meters east of the Route 87 junction. Between Grjótagjá and Hverfell, the trail has two marked junctures — one coinciding with the Hverfell parking area — where you can detour to Mývatn Nature Baths.

The Storagjá fissure is not directly on the trail, but it’s only a short detour, right from the trailhead. Partway along Storagjá is a staircase into the narrow fissure, descending about 5m (16 ft.) to a grassy floor. From there, assisted by a chain and rope, you can peer through a crack at a limpid, turquoise geothermal pool. The pool has recently cooled, attracting too much bacteria for safe swimming.

The steamy Grjótagjá fissure is set amid a geothermal valley of red and black gravel. Grjótagjá is 2km (1 1/4 miles) from the Storagjá-Dimmuborgir trailhead, and also reachable by car on Route 860, which connects with the Ring Road at two points. (Approaching from the west requires opening a sheep gate.) Near the parking area, two portals in the heaving lava lead to an enticing hot spring and pool. You can climb down and sit by the water, but it’s too hot for swimming and fogs up camera lenses.

Hverfell — the monolithic, striated black mountain shaped like a dog-bowl — is unmistakable from anywhere in the vicinity. Hverfell — which is often incorrectly identified as “Hverfjall” — is a rare (and particularly enormous) example of a tephra explosion crater. It was formed 2,500 to 2,900 years ago, when rising magma met with groundwater, forcing a massive explosion of steam, ash, and rock. The rim is 1km (1/2 mile) in diameter, and the crater is 140m (459 ft.) deep, with a round nub at the center.

Hverfell’s solemn, elemental grandeur cannot be fully appreciated without walking up to the crater rim. It’s a 3km (1.9-mile) walk south from Grjótagjá, but you can also drive from the Ring Road to a parking area on Hverfell’s north side. From there it’s a 25-minute ascent. The trail loops completely around the rim, and the descent of the southern slope toward Dimmuborgir is steep and more challenging.

Meaning “Dark Castles,” Dimmuborgir is a surreal lava field 1km (1/2 mile) in diameter. Its most distinctive features are the contorted crags and pillars reaching 20m (66 ft.) in height; nothing quite like them exists elsewhere, except on the ocean floor. Dimmuborgir was formed around 2,200 years ago, when molten lava formed a temporary “lava lake” on the site. Eventually the lava found an outlet and drained into Mývatn, but hardened pillars had formed around steam vents (lava finds steam chilling) and were left behind. The surface of the lava lake had half-congealed, and left all kinds of crusty “watermarks” on its way out.

Dimmuborgir is a 2km (1-mile) walk from the southern face of Hverfell, and can also be reached by car off the Ring Road. Plan on walking for an hour or two among the well-marked loop trails. The recommended Kirkjuvegur trail leads to Kirkjan (Church), a lava chute forming an archway. The more hazardous Krókastígur trail cuts through the middle of the site, past some of the most bizarre formations. Take care not to step into a fissure, and keep a close eye on children.

Höfði, a lakeside park on a small promontory, makes for a nice hour-long stroll along its peaceful forested pathways. The fragrant spruce and other trees were planted by Höfði’s former owner. After entering the park, the trail branching off to the right leads to another juncture where you can detour uphill to a fantastic viewpoint. If instead you bear left after the park entrance and circle the promontory clockwise, you’ll pass a clearing that overlooks Kalfarströnd. (The walk at Kalfarströnd farm, below, gives you a far better view.) Near Höfði’s center is a rectangular lawn with benches — a good picnic spot, if the midges aren’t too bothersome.

The name Kalfarströnd refers to a farm on a grassy peninsula extending into Mývatn, and also to a series of lava columns (klasar) rising like strange mushrooms in a cove between the peninsula and Höfði Park. The turnoff from the Ring Road is 1km (1/2 mile) south of Höfði. After parking, pass through the farm gate, and the 30-minute, staked loop trail past the klasar is shortly ahead on the right. Kalfarströnd is sublime on a calm, soft-lit evening, with the klasar looming, the sky reflected in the aquamarine shallows, Höfði’s evergreens in the background, and Mývatn’s trim green islands etched in the distance. Bring your head net.

If Mývatn had a visual trademark, it would be Skútustaðagígar, the cluster of pseudocraters surrounding Stakhólstjörn pond, at the southwest shore of the lake. Pseudocraters, found primarily in Iceland and on Mars, are so named because they were never conduits for emerging lava. They’re formed when lava flowing above ground heats subsurface water, causing explosions from steam and gas buildup. The Skútustaðagígar pseudocraters, each around 20m (66 ft.) deep, are quite striking from the road (or from Vindbelgjarfjall, below); but when viewed from the rims, they’re simply grassy bowls. The walk around Stakhólstjörn takes an hour, or a 30-minute circuit begins opposite the Skútustaðir gas station or from Hótel Gígur.

The best all-around vista of Mývatn is from the top of Vindbelgjarfjall mountain, near the northwest shore. The 2-hour round-trip hike to the summit leaves from Vagnbrekka farm, off Route 848, 4km (2 1/2 miles) from the junction with the Ring Road. From the farm to the base of the mountain, the trail traverses a protected nesting area for waterfowl. The protected area is off limits from May 15 to July 20, but does not extend to the trail. The ascent is all scree and a bit slippery, but manageable.

Bjarnarflag & The Krafla Caldera

The Krafla caldera is the broad crater formed following eruptions of the volcano of the same name. The caldera ring is difficult to discern from the ground because its shape is broken and irregular, and its overall diameter is as large as that of Mývatn. “Krafla” can refer to the volcano cone, the geothermal area within the caldera, or the power plant exploiting that geothermal area. Leirhnjúkurand Stóra-Víti fall within the caldera, while Mývatn Nature Baths, Hverir, and Námafjall Ridge are parts of Bjarnarflag, the geothermal area south of the caldera.

Hverir, a large geothermal field, full of bubbling mud cauldrons and hissing steam vents, is 7km (4 1/4 miles) east of Reykjahlíðand easy to spot from the Ring Road. Walking through Hverirfeels unreal, as minerals and chemicals in the earth form an exotic color spectrum unlike anything normally associated with nature. Some patches of ground are hot enough to cause severe burns, so stick to the paths. From Hverir, an hour-long trail ascends Námafjall, then cuts north to a parking area off the Ring Road at Námaskarð Pass, and then loops back to Hverir. Views are fabulous; but, again, be cautious, stay on the trail, and look out for scalding-hot patches of light-colored earth. The walk can be seriously gloppy after a rain.

Just east of Hverir, Route 863 branches off the Ring Road and leads north into the Krafla caldera. After about 8km (5 miles), the road passes under a pipeline arch at Krafla Geothermal Power Station (Kröflustöð), built in the 1970s. The visitor center (tel. 515-9000; www.landsvirkjun.is; Mon-Fri 12:30-3:30pm; Sat-Sun 1-5pm) has an informative free exhibit for those interested in the process of converting geothermal heat to electricity.

Gritty as burnt toast, Leirhnjúkur lava field is the best place to witness remnants of the 1975 to 1984 eruptions, and may be the most surreal landscape you will ever see. The parking area is clearly marked from Route 863, and from there it’s a 15-minute walk to a geothermal field at the edge. Some visitors make the drastic mistake of looking at the boiling grey mud pots and color-streaked earth, and then heading back to their cars. Allow at least another hour for circling the trails, peering at the subtle range of color, texture, and moss inside each steamy rift. A good way to start is by proceeding from the geothermal field toward a bowl-shaped pseudocrater visible to the north. A recommended trail known as the Krafla Route leads straight from here to Reykjahlíð, and takes 3 to 4 hours one-way. Remember: Stick to the paths, watch your step, and beware of light-colored earth.

Route 863 dead-ends at a parking area by the rim of Stóra-Víti, a steep-sided explosion crater, formed in 1724, with a blue-green lake at the bottom. A trail circles the rim and descends on the far side to an interesting hot spring area. The route, which is worthwhile but not essential, takes about an hour round-trip and is not advised during muddy conditions.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

Croatia with Airbnb

TRIP OVERVIEW (15 nights)

  • Ljubljana (2 nights in Airbnb apartment ) | Town centre , Lake bled ,Lake Bohinj, Vintgar gorge
    • Ljubljana to Rovinj – Stopped at Predjama castle and Piran enroute
  • Rovinj (3 nights in Airbnb apartment) | Old town, St. Euphemia Church, Rent a boat to visit Lim fjord, red island and sail, Matosevic Vineyard. ,Motovun ,Kozlovic Winery , Umag  ATP tennis tournament
    • Rovinj to Plitvice – Stppped at Opatija
  • Plitvice (1 night in Airbnb apartment ) | Plitvice National park
  • Split (2 nights in Airbnb apartment ) | Old town , Diocletian palace, Bell tower of St. Duje’s cathedral, seaside promenade – Riva  ,Marjan hill , Day trip to Trogir
  • Hvar (2 nights in Airbnb apartment ) | Old town , Hvar fortress, Day boat trip covering Stiniva Bay on Island Vis , Green Cave ,Blue Cave  and Palmizana beach on Pakleni Island.
  • Korčula (2 nights in Airbnb apartment ) | Old town ,Sword dance – Moreska, Mossimo Fortress Bar
  • Dubrovnik (3 nights in Airbnb apartment in Cavtat ) | Stradun Street, Old town ,Game of throne tour,Lovrijenac Fortress , City walls , Mount Srd , Buza bar ,Cavtat beach
    • Day trip to Mostar – Bosnia

Transfers – We rented a car for 8 nights till Split, Catamaran from Split to Hvar , Ferry from Hvar to Korcula , Catamaran from Korcula to Dubrovnik.

How to reach – Mumbai – Zagreb, Lufthansa flight. Return via Dubrovnik – Mumbai, Lufthansa flight.

STAGE 1 – Mumbai to Ljubljana – 1 days

If you like unspoilt natural beauty, buzzing nightlife’, touring vineyards, dining in artsy cafes, swimming in clear sea water, trekking in national parks, exploring medieval towns, watching beautiful people, history behind city walls, climbing forts, sailing, then Croatia is the place for you. It was on our wishlist for long and we jumped on the chance, when our friends (usual partners in crime) told us about their Europe plan.

Croatia is an upcoming destination and no longer a low-key alternative to Spain, Greece or Italy. It caters to beach bums, outdoor suckers, history buffs, adrenaline junkies, foodies, and culture vultures alike. Quite literally, there’s something for everyone!

We excitedly boarded Lufthansa airlines from Mumbai to Zagreb, capital of Croatia as this was a trip of many firsts.. trying Airbnb, driving on the other side of the road and a tight budget (much to the dismay of my extravagant husband).

Day 1

We landed at Zagreb in the afternoon, collected our rental car from the airport and directly drove to Ljubljana. Highways were as good as they can get and signage was proper. As we approached our Bnb, we patted ourselves on the choice of “peaceful and tranquil locality”, as described on Airbnb. We found house to be very spacious, comfortable and equipped with all amenities. Soon our “peaceful and tranquil” locality seemed like a ghost town. It was far from the town centre  and quiet deserted. The haunted house, street graffiti all added to the ambiance.

Nevertheless as, we walked towards town centre, our admiration for the city grew exponentially.   No wonder, Ljubljana made to the second place on the list of best places in Europe, compiled by Lonely Planet editors. I quote ‘Ljubljana is one of Europe’s greenest and most livable cities, with a vibrant cultural, café and nightlife scene that gives it the feel of a perpetual street party’. The city is proud of its rich heritage, lively arts and cultural scene and has many festivals running throughout the year.

Ljubljana, is actually quite small, with a population consisting of a mere 265,000 people or so, and a city center that can be crossed by foot in less than 15 minutes. It is just the right size to be manageable within a day or two and serve as a base for exploring Lake Bled and other excursions in Slovenia. Though small, the city has its charm with snow-covered mountains, atmospheric streets, Baroque and classic style architecture and narrow lanes.  When in old town, you cannot miss the Ljubljanica river that runs through the old town and the medieval hilltop Castle, which offers a breathtaking panorama of the city.

After a delightful stroll around the town, we stopped at Fany and Mary to grab some food and drink. Food was Mexican pizza, chicken salad and pommes frites, which was tasty .I had my first Radler (50% beer 50% lemonade) here and immediately fell in love with it. It is so refreshing and light that it was my poison for the trip. I wonder why it is not available in my country (do I smell a business proposition here!). Not all places on the riverfront serve food and drink together, so we were happy to find this place with a good view of Butchers’ Bridge. Couples in love, attach love padlocks on the bridge and throw keys into the water to symbolize their commitment to each other. Too cheesy for us to do!

It’s an extremely friendly city, you’ll never be short of a decent view as you stroll the waterside streets and on every new corner. You’re sure to find something of that interests you. We loved the histrionics of a bunch of teenagers collecting money for their friend, marrying a classmate and another group of dancers showing off their moves.

As we walked back home, our last stop was the Dragon Bridge. It is adorned with famous dragon statues .Dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana and the most recognizable images of Ljubljana. If you haven’t been photographed here, your Ljubljana photo album is incomplete. According to a local legend, when a virgin crosses the bridge, the dragon wags its tail. I can tell you I never once saw the tail wag.

STAGE 2 – Ljubljana to Lake Bled – 1 days

Day 2

“Peaceful and tranquil” location in the morning was much appreciated. We had our own mini breakfast of eggs and coffee in the verandah, exclusively available for us. Our backyard had a park with apple trees and citrus plants. Nice setting to relax and make plans for the day ahead.

Our first stop today was Lake Bled and it takes less than an hour to reach there from the city. It’s recommended to start early from Ljubljana as Parking is a hassle in the crowded summer months so you might have to park a little away from the lake and walk.

Tip : Don’t forget that when driving on the motorways in Slovenia you need a vignette (sticker) for your car which can be purchased at petrol stations or at the border.

Lake Bled with the Church of the Assumption/St Mary with 99 steps, sitting pretty on an Island inside the lake, is an absolutely picture perfect sight. If that was not enough, it has a medieval Bled Castle perched atop a limestone cliff near the shore, a great contrasting feature of green forest covered mountain and sparkly deep blue lake. Add a sprinkling of swans on the glistening water and  you have a set straight out of Disney movie, except that it is for real.  It is one of the most photographed place in all of Europe and truly is amazing sight!

After walking around for some time round the lake , we wanted to go boating to the Bled island and visit the church. Pletna boats are popular her for a ride to The island (Pletna is a wooden boat resembling a Gondola) but we were feeling particularly more adventurous and took the row boat for four people.The guy at the boat rental told us that Europeans were at ease with the boat and any other water sports, he was not so sure if we would be able to row the boat. Initially we were also apprehensive, but were determined to show him that we could do it. It was a fun experience overall ! As we parked our boat at the island we saw few adventurous people jumping into the lake for a swim. As much as I wanted to jump, lack of swim suit didn’t allow me to indulge into the fantasy. We were happy with our feet dipping in the cold water of lake..May be next time 🙂

We finally walked up to the church . The church carries the legend of a widow who transported her wealth there, including a bell, only to have it sink in a storm. She was so devastated that she asked the Pope to donate another bell and now the legend is that the wishes of anyone who rings the bell will come true.amen to that ! The views from  the island are fantastic and the whole area is so peaceful and tranquil . We spent few minutes here, admiring the wide expanse of the beautiful lake only punctuated by the lone swimmer or few boat. All this while enjoying the sweet yoghurt flavoured gelato.

Lake Bled has many dining options from local food to more international cuisines. We spotted a big chilli sign, which got us salivating and we headed to this Mexican restaurant, which was also named Chilli’s.I wish we knew that this is the spiciest food, we are going to have over next two weeks. I would have horded more.

Next Stop was the Vintgar Gorge

It is a beautiful nature park with wooden walking paths and bridges, steep rock cliffs, and bright turquoise water. From Bled it’s a 3.5 km drive.  Route leads north towards the village of Podhom. All along the road there are clear signs for Vintgar. The trekking path leads along the wooden bridges over the rushing river Radovna, which measure 1600m and ends with 26-metre waterfall Šum. One can find its way back pass St. Catherine’s church and take a scenic walk across the meadows, which offer marvelous views on Karavanke mountain range, the Ljubljanska valley, Bled and its surroundings and Mt. Triglav.  Its an incredible trek but did take toll on my hubby’s shoes. The complete trek from the parking and back is about 3.5 km long.

The area close the the Sum waterfall is extremely cool and a wonderful place to cool off in the dry hot summer of Slovenia. It was like A/C fan is directly blowing on your face. What a respite ! There are marvelous views on the way and you feel very refreshed. This is part of the Triglav national park.

After some rest we proceeded to Lake Bohinj which is about 27 Km from Bled. Lake Bohinj has a wide vast of water body, going on infinitely in front of you as you stand at the edge of the shore. Lake Bohinj, sits pretty amidst Julian apls but, unlike Bled, does not have a town, or much activity, on its shores.  Lake Bohinj is less commercial and has natural untouched beauty. Its brooding and mystical feel are heightened by the steep mountain faces and the alpine beauty in its background.  At one end of the lake, across the stone bridge, sits the church of Saint John, the Baptist. It is quaint old medieval church. It is worth a visit inside to explore it’s basic, simplistic charms. The walls and ceilings are covered 15th-16th frescoes.

The water is so clear and inviting and the air is so clean and fresh that you don’t want to leave. I was really looking forward to swimming in the lake , but it was quite windy and cool in the evening. I am sure it must be heavenly to take a dip in the afternoon. I am so glad, we came here, you can truly ‘be in touch with nature’ here.

STAGE 3 – Lake Bled to Postojna – 0 days

Day 3

Today, we left for Rovinj , transiting through Postonja. It was a rainy day and the countryside was so beautiful and green. On our way to Postonja, we took a slight detour for Predjama castle, which is a must visit given its dramatic setting in the gaping mouth of a cavern halfway up a hillside. The sound of the river and small waterfalls in the valley added to the amazing ambiance of the place.

An observation post on the rocky cliff offers a wonderful view over the surrounding countryside. We could see the entrance to the legendary Erazem’s Tunnel. Predjama castle was a perfect hideout for the bold and rebellious ‘Slovenian Robin Hood’ Erazem . The castle is only accessible from one side, however the legend has it that the robber baron Erazem was getting his food and drinks supply through a secret passage leading from the old castle onto the surface. During this time, the emperor’s army was besieging his castle in vain and it took a trick played on Erazem by his opponents and a corrupt servant for Erazem to fall.

A view of the renovated castle rooms and their furnishings gives the visitor an idea of how people once lived and worked in the castle – and how well the castle has been preserved. Among the most interesting sights are the living quarters, the chapel and the dungeon. The fascinating objects on view include weapons, oil paintings and a Pietà dating from 1420.

After marvelling at this picturesque, mysterious and impregnable castle, we headed towards the town centre for early lunch.

What we enjoyed most in Postonja was the lunch at Protheus. We had some traditional Slovenian stuff like dumplings. The deserts were the best , so much so that we ended up fighting over the yummy Apple strudel. Also tried the Local Slovenian wine . Strong taste , but a must try.

We did not do the Postonja caves, as we has visited similar caves in South Africa . But Postojna Cave system is Slovenia’s most popular tourist attraction and the most visited cave in Europe. The Guided tour consists of a ride by electrical train and followed by a walk through beautiful passages and chambers with spectacular drop stones, pillars, limestone curtains, incredible geological formations, as well as a wealth of wildlife. You can tour the castle and the caves below it. €7/4.20 adult/child for either the castle or the caves, €12/7.20 to do both.

STAGE 4 – Postojna to Piran – 0 days

Day 3 ( contn…)

The drive to Piran from Postonja is along coastal road and amazingly scenic. Piran was built at the same time as much of Venice, which gives it an exotic richness that is breathtaking. Piran has been ruled by just about everyone at some point in time. The Romans, Slavs, Franks, Byzantine Empire, Venetians and the Austro-Hungarians all influenced the city in various ways. As little as 100 years ago Piran was 95% Italian and the city continues to have a strong Italian influence with Italian being one of the official languages of Slovenian Istria.

The car-free city makes it a wonderful place to explore the narrow lanes as well as to take time out at cafés and bars. Overall, a friendly and affordable area of the EU that has missed most of the tourist traffic. The city is most famous for church of St George, which has a dominant point in the north of the town. The church has a fabulous organ dating from the 1740s, and do climb the Bell Tower for some superb views of the Adriatic.

Tartini Square is the largest and main square in the town of Piran. It was considered by many people to be the most impressive squares in Slovenia and all debate was put to rest last year when it was transformed into a pedestrian only zone with outdoor cafés taking the place of parked cars.

Tip : you need to come early to get parking as the limited parking in the town fills up very fast. We were stranded in a parking lot as there was no place to park. You can enter the city but you have to pay at the gate and then pay for parking on top of that. The best option is to park at the huge car park just before you reach the city gate.

STAGE 5 – Piran to Rovinj – 3 days

Day 3 (Contn..)

After a long drive with several stops we finally made it to Rovinj, which is is the nicest town in Istria Peninsula, if not in the entire Croatia. The old town is situated by the sea, on a hilly peninsula, with the tower of St. Euphemia Church marking its highest point. We were staying again at an apartment rented via airbnb. It was very close to old town and the hosts were quite gracious and even served us some complimentary grappa (Local Istrian alcohol).

After some rest , we ventured into old town , the town is just too picturesque.  Postcard perfect shots from every corner of the town. We soon discovered a pattern here, old town, bell tower with a view, nice harbour, fancy yachts, rocky beaches and restaurants serving yummy seafood, pasta , pizza and risotto . Of course every city has its own nuances , but without these factors it’s not a Croatian city !  We are loving it.

Soaking in the atmosphere, we made ourselves comfortable at one of the sea facing joints for dinner. Place was buzzing with wine influenced loud  banters amongst patrons. We placed a light order, just to line our stomach for the drinking frenzy that was going to unfold that day. We had mussels and risotto, which were quite good here. I will talk about the role of truffle in Istria Peninsula later.

Dusk was beginning to take hold of the city and we got some of the best shots of our trip, where St. Euphemia clock tower, beautifully lit, was standing tall against the backdrop of pale blue and clear sky. Boats gliding over the glistening water accented the image. This is the last still image that we got for the day.

Quick Fact :-For around 500 years,  Rovinj was part of the Republic of Venice Italy, which is quite visible from its old world charm, small port, culture and history.

The town has lot of desert shops which also had menu full of exotic cocktails, a deadly combination of alcohol and sugar! We took a table, where bar was in full swing and floating round of cocktails permeated the waterfront seating area. And as we downed drinks with ice creams, night became more interesting. Our casual chatter turned into loud banter, lot of selfies/ groupies were taken, waiters were high-fived and casual innuendo with strangers were made and forgotten on the spot, as night progressed and repeat orders were placed. I will let the images speak for themselves, as we ourselves were not too aware of what was happening around us.

Day 4

We rented a boat today to visit Lim fjord, red island and sail in the beautiful Adriatic Sea. It is an absolute must do and the best way to enjoy ” blue istria”. The coast and islands of Croatia are a sailor’s paradise with beautiful scenery around every corner, boraque architecture in most cities on the island or the mainland. Known as the “Coast of a Thousand Islands’ the Dalmatian coast of Croatia is a pearl for the sailor.

We were in a group of five, so rented the full boat and boarded it at Rovinj marina, where we met the captain of ship, who didn’t speak English . He promised us with a thumbs up sign to stop at the most scenic coves and bays for swimming and snorkelling. We sailed by the Rovinj’s beautiful old town which gave us some nice shots from distance.

As the day was coming to an end we sailed back towards Rovinj and stopped for a glass of champagne as we watched the sunset. All in all it was an wonderful experience if you want to actively sail or just lay back and relax as we did. I definitively would recommend it to couples, families and a group of friends.

Rovinij is a pedestrian wonderland. You can cover all of the old town in couple of hours. All the cobblestone roads lead either straight to the main square and old harbor or steeply upward, taking you to the Church of St. Euphemia, an iconic symbol of Rovinj.We climbed up to St. Euphemia Church for the wonderful view.  The streets are full of character, you will find locals selling a variety of their handmade wares, fashionable clothing, quirky postcards, usual souvenirs and some expats displaying their exquisite work of art, which most likely is inspired by this lovely town.

As we approached the base of the church and walked towards the front entrance, a large open space gave way to picture perfect views of the Adriatic. It has a whimsical feel and I would recommend anyone to budget sufficient time wandering this famous path and soak in the views from the top of the town. Its a pretty interesting walk down hill as well.

Quick fact :- Venice is, just a three hour boat ride west. On a clear day, you can spot Venice, just at the end of the horizon. Of course, it needs to be seen from the highest point in town, which is St. Euphemia clock tower. After a few minutes of sailing we dropped anchor near one of the islands where we swam, snorkeled and had a lunch and a glass of Croatian wine on the boat. There is no dearth of isolated bays in this region, which is surprising as the town is exploding with tourists but with so many small islands in this archipelago, you can easily find your slice of heaven.

With all the walking we had built up an appetite and for good. We had a reservation for dinner at Aqua 2, one of the best restaurants in Rovinj.  Aqua 2 is a family run restaurant with family members running the entire place from th kitchen to the serving. They serve a complimentary appetiser and desert plate ( I think they are eyeing the no. 1 spot on tripadvisor). But who’s complaining , when you get such good food and service. We ordered the fish, mushroom soup , pasta and chicken breast . Al of it was great, would definitely go back there. My poor husband ordered Four Cheese pizza and they mixed all of them and made it as one. I guess, he didn’t fancy the bitter taste of blue cheese, which had an overpowering taste over all the other flavours. It was such a shame, that he didn’t go satisfied from this lovely place as he vowed never ever to order anything with blue cheese in it.

Day 5

Today, we ventured outside of Rovinj, plan was to sample the delicate and delicious wines of Istria. Today, it was all about exploring Green Istria ( the interiors). First stop was Matosevic Vineyard. Matošević is a newer Croatian winery. It focusses on white wine using the local grape variety, called Istarska Malvasia.

Matosevic is a small farmhouse setup –crushing to aging and bottling, everything is done here. We sampled 5 wines, from the light, fruity alba white, to the dark, chocolate-spice grimalda red. Poor Shobhit only got some tang as he was the designated driver.

Next stop was Motovun , which is the most popular of all the Istrian hilltop towns. Along the way we stopped various times , sometimes just to smell the Lavender flowers , which look as lovely as they smell. Located on a 280 m high hill above the Mirna River, this town and the surrounding area is famous for the black and white truffles you can find in the nearby forests. There are few bars, art galleries, souvenir shops, and restaurants in Motovun. We ate at the Hotel Kastel. Perched at the top of the picturesque Medieval hilltop town of Motovun, Hotel Kastel is ideally located for exploring the colourful cobbled back streets of Motovun. Drinking Radler on a hot summer day under the shade of age-old chestnut trees and watching locals pass by is a splendid way to spend an afternoon in the charming hilltop town.

Given that Motovun is best known for truffle, we had to try their truffle delicacies. We ordered the cream Truffle bruschetta and it felt so luxurious, almost sinful, how accessible truffles were.  They are on every menu at every restaurant, a staple of the Istrian kitchen and used in abundance. It was amazing and all of us loved it. For me the smell and taste of this revered mushroom is now forever associated with Istria and the Adriatic Sea.While going back we realised Restaurant Mondo has been featured in a New York Times, and it was on my restaurant wish list. But we were too full to eat again.

Kozlovic Winery was next . It is located close to Momjan, well off the beaten path, surrounded by olive groves, and beautiful landscapes. We tried the – Malvazija, Teran, Santa Lucia and Rose wines and it was difficult to pick ones to take back home. The cheese platter was also quite good. It was heavenly to just lay down (power nap) on the lush green grass after the wine sampling.

The lady at Matosevic had told us  about a food/wine festival and after party at Umag after their ATP tennis tournament. Croatia has produced many tennis greats and they take their tennis quite seriously. I was quiet awed by the grandeur and infrastructure of their tennis tournament. It was like a fair with music, street food, cafes, and what not. We sampled the gourmet stuff at their food fair. They had the best of Istria on display, truffles, cured ham and Istrian wines. Foodie paradise for sure.

STAGE 6 Rovinj to Plitvice – 1 days

Day 6

If you ever find yourself travelling to Plitvice from Rovinj or Slovenia, you owe it to yourself to take a lunch break at the coastal resort town of Opatija on the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. With only couple of hours and knowing the laid back service speed in Croatian restaurants, we did not not have much time to explore too many places. We managed to spot couple of asian dishes in a sea facing restaurant and voila`! We wiped out our lunch in no time.  Sadly, we don’t remember the name but it is in the heart of the main square, with white decor.

We reached Plitvice around 3 pm . The park is huge and we were sure that absorbing all of it in half a day would be a tall task. So we took the 2 day pass which is for 280 kuna ( per person) for the season that we were there. It made a lot of sense to us since the 1 day pass was for 180 kunas and Plitvice is one of the top things to do in Croatia. Also the visits were split over 2 days so we could cover upper lakes on one day and lower lakes on day 2 at a very relaxed pace. What is the point of going to a national park if there is no time to stand and stare !

It is arguably the most beautiful national park in the world. It’s comprised of 16 cascading lakes, separated by natural (travertine) dams and connected by a succession of waterfalls, giving it a beautiful terraced appearance. Surrounding it all to form a gentle pocket are mountains covered in dense woods. The lakes float crystal water, which changes colours from crystal clear to azure, to turquoise. This along with crisp clean air, truly is a feast for your senses. It  is crisscrossed by wooden boardwalks and can be covered only on foot, they do have boats and bus to ferry you from one point to another, when you want to jump the route. Clicking an awe inspiring shot is easy when the place brims with beauty.

On day 1 we took the electric boat ride and decided to cover the lower lakes. After being dropped off by the electric boat to beginning of your trek,  you feel like you are transported to another world. Pristine emerald green water , serene atmosphere and the chirping of birds accompanied us across a network of trails, mostly on wooden boardwalks, traversing the tumbling waters.

Words cannot do justice to the beauty of park, so do check our photo essay on Plitvice National Park.  We walked through the Lower Lakes canyon all the way to the “Great Waterfall”, along the top of the canyon’s east side.  Serpentine path criss-crossing the lakes, offer the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Park’s entire lake area. The path ended at the Great waterfall – Veliki Slap that perhaps attracts the most attention in the Lower Lakes. The thundering water tumbles some 230 feet and has mist surrounding the entire area. The Lower Lakes also sit within a limestone canyon hollowed by caves that can be explored. The temperature inside the caves is quite low.

We finished four hour trek on our Day 1 in Plitvice and were too excited to come back next day. Misty environment, pristine lakes, cascading waterfalls, green galore , unarguably it was the best trek ever for me. 

We stayed a nice wooden row house, surrounded by mountains, outside the park entrance. Dejan -owner of the place ran a restaurant nearby -Villa Benevita and treated us real special. He even allowed us to open our wine bottles in his restaurant without any corkage. The food and the service in his restaurant was top notch. Our only regret was that we had only one night in Plitvice. Owner had a huge snow dog called Rusty , probably the biggest dog I have ever seen. It was one of the best meals, we had on our trip and it was  special because of the setting and the warm service by lovely people.

Day 7

Day 2 in Plitvice started with breakfast at Villa Benevita. The owner was out for shopping in the morning, so his father attended to us. It was amazing how hardworking these people were.  

We covered the Upper Lakes today. We took the panoramic train again and started at the highest lake Jezero Kozjak which is beautifully nestled in woods dense with beech and fir, giving it a forest feel.

We were happy to have come to back Plitvice park ,doing it the second time is much more fun. Simple reason is, now you know the obvious and you are able to appreciate the nuances like water is icy cold, park is inhabited by interesting birds and animal, there is option for canoeing in the park !

STAGE 7 Plitvice to Split – 2 days

Day 7 ( Contn…)

We finally arrived in Split around 3 pm. We stayed in a fully serviced penthouse apartment with a large swimming pool and a great view. Unlike most of the Croatian cities we visited so far, Split  is not a small tourist town, but extends over a large area well beyond Old town. With over 300,000 people in the wider bay area, its the economic hub of the eastern Adriatic.

The city was originally built around the Diocletian palace (a palace/fort built for the retired Roman emperor Diocletian) where the locals sought refuge centuries ago. Diocletian palace remains to be the most visited and photographed place of Split so we had to go there. As we walked around the old town of Split  , we learned that Split is the unofficial “capital” of Dalmatia. Wandering the historic centre of Split I could still clearly see the Roman walls, squares, and temples from the time of retired Roman emperor Diocletian.

It is hard to imagine Croatia without Emperor’s palace as it would be Rome without Roman Coliseum or Cairo without Great Pyramids of Giza. There are not many cities in the world that can be proud such as Split of almost two millennium history. The difference is that this history is not just a written record but fully present in nowadays Split. Wandering aimlessly around the palace is one of  Split’s essential experiences. There is no ticket office or protocol – you just stroll in. 

We climbed up the Bell tower of St. Duje’s cathedral. The Cathedral is also a very beautiful mixture of Roman temple and Catholic church. Although the belltower provides a great panoramic view of Split, nearby islands and Marjan hill, the ascent is quite steep and certainly not for those with vertigo.

Some parts of the Game of thrones is shot in Split, especially in the basement. The cellars of Diocletian’s Palace (basement halls) was the entrance way into the palace by sea via the Brass Gate .The basement was largely used for storage of foodstuff and wine. Actually, the remnant of a large press, which was used to turn the grapes into wine, is still visible today. 

Cafe culture is quite prominent in the squares. Idyllic cafes, bars , juice bars and pizzerias throng every corner of this palace. And while roaming the stone pavements you’ll bump into Roman warriors for a quick picture or pretty waitresses seducing you to eat at their restaurant.

Split’s seaside promenade – Riva is as lively and scenic as it gets. It has many cafes, restaurants and bars and is a great place to enjoy a snack and indulge in some people watching. As night approaches the activity in Riva increases and bathed in yellow street lights , the promenade takes a different personality. It’s the place where people go to enjoy coffee and be seen. The cafés and shops here are built onto the south side of the old palace walls.

After a lovely dinner, we headed back to our apartment and still high on our wine, we jumped into a pool. Water was too cold for us to warrant a swim under normal circumstances but that didn’t bother us, as this is the only place on our trip, where we had in-house pool. Awesome way to relax the body and end the day.

Day 8

From Split we were going island hopping to Hvar – Korcula – Dubrovnik, so we had to drop the car near Split Airport at the Sixt car rental. Trogir is a short 30 minute drive north of Split and closer to airport as well, so it made perfect sense for us to go to Trogir and then drop the car and take taxi back home.

Trogir was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Trogir was once the cultural centre of Dalmatia and its golden age is still visible everywhere.  It is a small islet connected by a bridge to the mainland. Once you cross the bridge, the narrow cobbled streets are never ending and always have something interesting at the other end. Trogir is the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex not only in the Adriatic, but in all of Central Europe. Trogir’s medieval core, surrounded by walls, comprises a preserved castle and tower. Trogir’s grandest building is the church of St. Lawrence.

We walked to the town centre along the waterfront, stopping quite frequently under the shade for some respite from the heat and to take in the lovely views.Tired from walking around, we had a wonderful meal at Capo. It is a charming family runrestaurant in heart of the old core of the town. Something which makes “Capo” different from the other is the atmosphere of unique Dalmatia, framed with walls of the ancient ruined house. The furniture is old and simple and each chair is of different kind and style.

We dropped our car at the airport, family standard and smooth process. Rental guys agreed to drop us at our accomodation in Split in the same car, but this time we were paying 200 Kunas for it.

In the evening we head to Marjan hill for cycling . The hill is a no-car zone and great for jogging, swimming and cycling. We opted for the third one and rented a cycle for 2 hours. When we rented the cycle, we thought it would be less , but we were cycling downhill in the beginning. When it came to cycling uphill, my stamina did not last for more than 20 minutes. But the views from Marjan hill are to die for and the clean fresh air is just so refreshing.

Tip :-

If I had better stamina, I could do this for the entire day with few swimming breaks in between but we were short on time as well.  We recommend everyone to spend atleast half day in this hill and take your swimming costumes  and picnic hamper along.

Dinner at Pizzeria Fortune in the town centre was great. The place also had some great house wine which put us in a great mood to enjoy the Split nightlife. Honestly, there is nothing like great place to eat in Split. All the restaurants seem to be running full house and serving fresh sea food and menu largely influenced by Italy.

STAGE 8 Split to Hvar – 2 days

Day 9

We had a catamaran from Split to Hvar and we reached in less than 2 hours. Rains welcomes us into Hvar, an island known to be the sunniest in Europe. But it cleared out very quickly and we laid our eyes on one of the most beautiful island, we have every seen. It has everything you can ask for. Parties, multi cuisine restaurants, hill top fort, greenery and clear water to swim. Hvar is said to be most expensive, beautiful, sunniest island in Croatia.

Our host was gracious enough to pick up from the port and we were in for the best surprise of our trip. Our apartment had the loveliest views, you can possibly ever imagine. It had a huge terrace, bigger than combined size of our 2 bedrooms, overlooking the bay and sunset..Rooms, bathrooms and kitchen were spick and span.

We just loved every bit of our stay here and this was also the least we have paid for. Quickly plans were firmed, to spend most of our time sitting in the balcony but we had not seen what awaits us outside.

Hvar town

There is something special about Hvar and as they say beauty begets beauty, you will find the most fashionable people around, biggest of the yatchs parked at the port, best of the food and majestic fort at the highest point of the town. Hvar is also quite green with lush vegetation and is home to spectacularly beautiful landscapes, punctuated by pine forests, fields of lavender and scenic olive groves.

Scouting for a perfect place to have lunch, we stumbled upon an Asian restaurant, Spice. Couldn’t have asked for more, our first asian in ten days, quickly four curry based rice dishes were ordered by everyone. Post heavy and satisfying lunch, majority of us wanted to go back to the comfort of our apartment but Shobhit had his eyes set on the Fortress. He somehow managed to convince us to climb up the fort for a bird’s eye view of Hvar Island. I hate to admit but the climb was quite worth it, it was a clear day and we could see as far as Vis island.

Enjoying a radler after our mini accomplishment of scaling the fortress under a harsh sun, was like a manna dew from heaven ! Boys were having their own fun leching at the waitresses in the pretext of claiming how strong and independent they were as they arranged the furniture in a cafe at the fortress.

On our way back to apartment, we stopped at the beach for a swim. The clear blue cold water is just heavenly in the hot dry weather. Infact, July-August is the peak season for Croatia , because it is the best time to enjoy the clear blue waters and the rocky beaches. We were back to our apartment just in time for the sunset. How could we spend time elsewhere, when you have a terrace like this. We cooked at our home. Some ready to eat packs, soup, rice, salad, wine and we had a three course meal!

As the sun was turning the bay a rich amber, orange roof tops were looking even more beautiful. All of us felt blessed to have found this place on airbnb at fraction of cost and with so much freedom to cook our dinner, have our own wine and play music. This was the point, when my husband turned from sceptic into brand evangelist for airbnb. He proudly announced, from hereon for every holiday, he will consider options on airbnb first. I was delighted, it will let me travel more.

Day 10

On our 2nd Day in Hvar , we took the full day boat tour for 500 Kunas per Person. There was a 10% discount for the group ( more than 3 people) . It was a nice small boat with capacity of 12 people. We covered  1.) Stiniva Bay on Island Vis 2.) Green Cave 3.) Blue Cave 4.) Palmizana beach on Pakleni Island.

Swimsuit – check, towel ..check , snorkel equipment ..check , snacks and drinks from the supermarket…check.  With our ice boxes and safety briefing we were excited for packed day. Ritual is to grab your drinks and snacks for the day from supermarket, come in swimming costume, carry you own towel and you are all set for an exciting day on the sea. The boat ride was quite fun as the skippers raced against each other. Wind in my hair, company of friends and exciting new places to see, what more could I ask for. The first stop was inside a cave, the Green cave. The cave looks green and quite surreal because of the play of lighting from limited places in the cave. Most of the people took their first dip here and boy it was cold.

Next stop was on Stiniva Bay on Island Vis. This is supposed to be a small lesser known beach on Vis , but going by the number of boats here , I think it was quite popular . We didn’t stop here for long as our captain could not find a place to park and nobody wanted to swim till the beach. I was beginning to wonder if they put all the scared non-swimmers together !

Next up was Blue cave, the most awaited stop. Sometimes the tide is low and the boat can go into the cave. But the day we were there the tide was high and you had to swim in. Its not easy to go through that tiny hole into that cave as the tide goes up and down. You are always scared of hitting the rocks. I tried to push everyone to come with me to the cave , they said they would follow- me. But my doubts of all sissies was verified . It seems like I was the only one going inside the cave. It was quite a swim , but totally worth it. The entire cave is bathed in cobalt blue light and it looks out of this world. Ofcourse, I could only capture the beauty in my memory, no photos to showcase.

As I was alone I didn’t stay for long . As I swam back, some elderly aunty kept saying we are with you don’t worry. I think she sensed from my hurried swimming that I was alone and a little scared. Its reassuring to find someone has your back. Since I was the only one who made the plunge it was fun to narrate the experience back on the boat, as if I had scaled mount everest and lived to tell the tale.

The next stop was the old ship gates which are now sealed. There were some people cliff jumping here. But for most us it was just a loo break ! It was funny to see everyone looking for an isolated bush to attend the nature’s call. It was also a good spot to get some photos clicked.

They say this place is like a swiss cheese with so many internal tunnels built around it. We couldn’t appreciate it much though, except the view from the vantage point.

Our final stop was at Palmizana beach on Palikeni island. It has some stretches of sandy beaches and azure blue water. But first we had a leisurely lunch at Bachhus. The view and the food (veg risotto, chicken breast and hump steak) were just too good. It was around 3 pm now and perfect time to float in the water..sunbathe …drink a beer..float in the water..you get the drift !

All in all a fun day. We enjoyed the last sunset of Hvar from our apartment and then headed out to sample the much famed  nightlife of the island. Hvar gets very lively and crowded in the night. It is a long que before you can get a table at any of these restaurants but the theatrics of drunk tourists is nothing short of paid entertainment.

STAGE 9 Hvar to Korčula – 2 days

Day 11

We took a ferry from Hvar to Korcula and had a cabin to ourselves on the ferry. To be honest, we didn’t know the difference between ferry and catamaran and read it interchangeably, while we made the booking.  I learnt it the hard way, when it took us 4 hours to reach Korcula from Split in Croatia , when Catamaran takes less than an hour. Ferries are bigger and made to carry cars / more passengers and operates on long-haul routes with frequent stops. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the views from the top deck for three hours as the cabin was too claustrophobic after a while.

Korcula is a beautiful sleepy town. Most people do it as a day trip from Split or Dubrovnik. We decided to have a break here for two days. Absolutely nothing to do. It is ideal for carefree meandering, as you can cover old town in one hour on foot. Just relax, soak in the views, have meal by the sea side and stroll in the old town. You can feel the world has slowed down here, the pace at which people move around, quite an idyllic setting. I will take it any day. Our apartment booked on airbnb had fantastic views of old town. The pain of pulling our luggage to the apartment, which was supposed to be 50 metres from the port disappeared when we saw the view.

We napped for sometime before venturing out to eat in the evening. There were a lot of shops selling Marco Polo merchandise and a museum dedicated to Marco polo along the way as Korcula is the birthplace of Marco polo.

Sunset at Korcula can easily compete with the best in the world. Coupled with some housewine and piping hot food, it just makes the moment memorable.

We were luckily in Korcula on July 29, which is St Theodore’s Day (Korcula’s patron saint) also known as Korcula day, so there was a mass, procession and then sword dance, Moreska. Lucky us! The Moreska Sword Dance is Korcula’s proudest tradition and one of the Adriatic’s most unusual customs. At one time this “fighting dance” was prevalent in southern Europe. It probably began in Spain as a form of protest against the Moorish occupation and then migrated to Korcula in the 15th century. Essentially, it’s a danced version of a sword battle and tells the story of an abducted princess. The story begins with a speech by the princess who declares her love for the White King (dressed in red for the dance). Unfortunately for her, the Black King is in love with her and has stolen her away from the White King.

Traditionally Moreska was only performed on Korcula Day but now it is presented regularly. As the colourful spectacle progresses, the armies of the White King and the Black King draw swords and “fight” for the princess. The “fighting” dance is intricately staged to represent a real battle which terminates, of course, with the restoration of the princess to her one true love.

Day 12

We wanted to go to Miljet National park today, but the weather forecast as not favourable. The city looked surreal because of the fog. It was an overcast day. Most of the daytime was spent watching television, listening to music, chit chatting and cooking for lunch.

In the evening when the clouds cleared out we stepped out. First stop was for drinks at the Mossimo Fortress Bar. This bar is lodged in a turret and is literally built out of the crumbling city walls! I wonder, how they get permission to operate on heritage properties. But nevertheless one of the best rooftop bars I have EVER been to with magnificent views. To get to the rooftop, you have to climb a steep wooden ladder, wriggle through a trapdoor and voilá! You have the unhindered view of sunset. Your drinks are hauled up using a rope pulley. Drinks are not particularly exotic but the view of sunset and the sheer drop to the sea is thrilling nonetheless and enough to give you a high, literally.

But just as we were to leave, it began to pour again. We were still on the second level of the turret and started discussing philosophy until it stopped raining and we lost our appetite. So we just picked up some breads from a nearby  bakery and said goodbye to the old town. 

STAGE 10 Korčula to Dubrovnik – 2 days

Day 13

Dubrovnik, Pearl of the Adriatic was our last stop on this trip. We were staying in Cavtat , which we realised later is about an hour away from Dubrovnik . We arrived from Korcula in Dubrovnik city and decided to store our luggage at the bus station and enjoy the town before heading to Cavtat. From the luggage store to old town we met a very helpful taxi driver who offered to take us to Cavtat in the evening at a throwaway price with stops along the way! He called himself Taxi doctor and was a Taxi driver for 25+ years.  We immediately fell in love with the city.  Dubrovnik was different from all the Croatian towns we saw thus far. I can’t count how many times we just walked up and down the main drag, called the Stradun or the Placa, people watching and eating ice cream. The wide limestone walkway is smooth as ice and shimmers in the sunlight.

Dubrovnik is a lovely walled city oozing with history, culture, tourists and a laid-back way of life. It’s a photographers delight , every angle looks postcard perfect. As we entered the old town, we explored the cobblestone alleys and walked around the Main Street here, Placa Stradun. The street is full of souvenir shops, restaurants and gelato stores. We had built up an appetite for lunch by now and I was leading the way towards Nishta, the most popular vegetarian place here. We had the Indian thali , oriental noodles , Mexican enchiladas and some drinks.The food was average , and I think our expectations were quite high. Would not recommend this place .

All of us are Game of throne fans, some more than others, but fans nevertheless. So doing the Game of Thrones tour was a must. View of City walls and Old town from the Lovrijenac Fortress is now synonymous with Kings Landing in Game of Thrones. We did a full 2 hour game of thrones tour here, where tour guide took us to all places, where the series was shot. If you are a fan, read our separate blog on that.

The juxtaposition of the terracotta roofs and the blue Adriatic Sea is a sight not to be missed. The GOT tour was over 2 hours and is physically challenging with all the steps that you have to climb. But totally worth it.

After the tour ,our helpful driver met us at the scheduled point to drove us back to Cavtat. As promised, he stopped on the top of Mount Srd which has breathtaking views of the old city and the surrounding islands. The top of Mount Srđ is one of the places where you get that iconic postcard picture of the old town, as they say, the old town is laid in your hands. Driver saved us the money of taking cable car to the top.

Cavtat is a charming little suburb with a very laid back vibe. After some rest, we had dinner and called it a day.

Day 14

Next morning was at leisure . We had lunch at Cavtat. Highly recommended Asian restaurant. Much needed respite from Pizza and pasta. We were caught offguard, when we asked waiter to make it extra hot for us. We didn’t find Croaitan chillies, standing upto the might of India chillies but these guys had imported bird eye chilli from Asia and we had the hottest food, in a very very long time. But it was quite good and we made a point to come again on our last day in Cavtat.

I still don’t know the reason, why my husband booked an apartment in Cavtat but it was visibly cheaper and more laidback than dubrovnik. It was also closer to airport.

However, I would have preferred to stay closer to old town.

After spending couple of hours, exploring the harbour of Cavtat, we took ferry to Dubrovnik.

Ask anyone what you should do in Dubrovnik and ‘Go on the city walls’ be the first thing they say. It is touristy but for a reason. Admission is 90 kuna and it takes atleast an hour or two to make the most of this 1.2 mile loop. You get nice views of all the forts, beaches, harbour, cafes and what not. Viewing Dubrovnik from the walls gives you the chance to see the damage from the war up close. Dubrovnik was sieged from late 1991 through early 1992, and the city was in ruins. It was painstakingly rebuilt, but you wouldn’t know it unless you were looking for the two-toned roofs. You can either take a tour or do it yourself. In my opinion, you should start the Dubrovnik with City wall tour. It will give you fair bit of idea what you want to do next.. Go as soon as they open to avoid the crowds.

Another great way to explore the Adriatic coast is by sea kayak. You start from the foot of Lovrijenac Fortress (just outside the city walls, close to Pile Gate), skirting round Dubrovnik’s medieval walls then out to the tiny lush island of Lokrum, where you stop on Betina beach and have time for snorkeling and exploring the botanical garden. We didnt do it but it seemed like an interesting activity.

From the top of the wall, we spotted couple of small bars perched on the cliffs outside the city walls where you can have a drink and relax at the end of the day. They are literally hole-in-the-wall bars and you would easily miss the entrance if you weren’t looking for it. It literally says “cold dink” ( not very imaginative, I know !). Having drink at one of the Cliff bars at Buza was highlight of Shobht’s trip to Dubrovnik. Its a must stop, you dont get a sunset view but vibe is quite good and is an experience itself.  Service was top notch, but you have to fetch a place yourself. Need to have an eye like hawk and ability to spot, who are done with their drinks, before anyone could. I guess, this is what my hubby likes. He enjoy things more, when he can say, he has earned it.

STAGE 11 – Dubrovnik to Mostar – 1 days

Day 15

We had spent close to 12 days in Croatia and the sights and esp the food was getting a little repetitive . So we opted for a day trip to Mostar which is in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is about 130 km from Dubrovnik and a popular day trip. There are several agencies which operate day tours. Some quick research and calculation was enough to understand that renting a car was a much cheaper and a better option (you can do things at your own pace). To make it look like an excellent choice, boys took the cheapest car available, which was manual. Best of luck to them, as they will be driving it !!

The city has a very heavy Turkish influence, because of the Turkish invasion which happened sometime back .The aftermath of the war is evident in Mostar and the cemetery which contains the last remains of the victims is worth visiting to feel their pain.  The old town harks back to the Ottoman empire, with its Turkishesque bazaars, colourful narrow streets and impressive mosques. It’s postcard in reality.

The bridge is the main attraction in Mostar and it’s not surprising as Mostar is derived from Mostari ( keepers of the bridge ) The bridge was also destroyed and was reconstructed with funds from UN and other neighboring countries. It is now a UNESCO protected site . The bridge is now a place for professional divers to collect money from tourists. They dive off it, 21 meter below into freezing cold river, with lot of cheering and booing from the crowd. Today, the bridge is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most recognizable landmarks, and is considered one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans.

We had lunch at Sadravan, turkish restaurant and seemed very popular .We ordered the Sadravan national plate which had dolmas ( rice and meat wrapped in vine leaf ) kabab , sour cream , bread , vegetables , potato and gravy , falafel and some drinks. The food was great and quite a lot even for 2 people . Would definitely recommend a stop here . The local beer served in the restaurant is worth trying as well .

After a heavy and satisfying lunch , all of us we’re contemplating renting a room to sleep . While walking around in old town we chanced upon Alibaba lounge, which is housed in a cave. It was cool and had king sized beds, just great for the siesta we all wanted. As customory for sitting in any restaurant, we ordered lime sodas and pretend to sip it for next hour or so.

On our way back ,we stopped at Blagaj. Blagaj is on the banks of River Buna and has a small waterfall, caves and canoeing for the more adventurous. The cold river creates a natural AC , which is awesome for the sunny weather. It cooled our hot watrbottle in flat 10 minutes. It is a nice place for lunch but we were full, so we just ordered a cherry pie with cream and cold drink at one of the cafes there. It was delicious.

STAGE 12 – Mostar to Cavtat – 1 days

Day 16

It was the end of our marathon trip  (longest till date) and time to say goodbye to Croatia. Our flight was around 4 PM and airport was 5 minutes away from the port of Cavtat. So the plan for the day was simple, swim, lounge around, have lunch at the Asian restaurant, buy souvenirs and then proceed to the airport.

The water was cool, clear and extremely refreshing, perfect for swimming on a hot day. My trip ended on a sweet note, when I found a star fish in the water.

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A Photo-Essay through a timeless island…Mt. Athos (Greece)

“A Picture speaks a thousand words”…clichéd but true…Embark on a 19000 word dream-seller’s story to Mount Athos is an enormous World Heritage Site, which is lawfully Greek, though ecclesiastically it is under the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople (Istanbul). The boat journey starts with an ever-changing landscape that turns wilder and untouched.

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Simono

Petra Monastery:

(Greek: Σιμωνόπετρα, literally: “Simon’s Rock”), also Monastery of Simonos Petra (Greek: Μονή Σίμωνος Πέτρας), is an Eastern Orthodox monastery in the monastic state of Mount Athos in Greece.

Architecture:

The monastery consists of several multi-storeyed buildings, the main being in the place of the original structure, built by Simon. The main building has been described as the “boldest construction of the peninsula”. The monastery is built on top of the underlying massive rock, and the rock runs through the lower floors.

 

Osiou Grigoriou (Gregory’s) monastery:

(Greek: Μονή Οσίου Γρηγορίου) is an Orthodox Christian monastery in the monastic state of Mount Athos in Greece. The monastery ranks seventeenth in the hierarchy of the Athonite monasteries. The monastery is built by the sea, on the southeastern side of the peninsula.

Skete of Saint Andrew:

From the very beginning of Athonite Monasticism, Karyai was a focal point of ascetic endeavour. A little above the area where is now housed our Skete, Saint Athanasios the Athonite found his first monastic home on Athos, and here in the region of the Skete, we hear mention of a Monastery named variously “Xystre” or “Xestou” from the 10th until the 15th centuries.

 

 

 

Life on Mt. Athos:

These monasteries allow visitors to stay overnight, and during our four-day stay on Mount Athos we experience life in monks’ shoes. It is a fascinating schedule that starts with the 4:00 am service, when they venerate the treasured relics and portable icons in the dark candle lit church with shining gold-leaf interiors. This is followed by the first meal of the day at 8:00 am. The day ends with a service at 3:00 pm and the last meal of the day at 4:00 pm.

 

 

Out of sync : Mount Athos follows the Julian calendar, so all local dates, including those on diamonitiria, are 13 days behind the rest of the Gregorian world.

 

Food On Mount Athos:

The Mount Athos diet plan mimics their typical Greek peasant and Mediterranean diet. However it is the diet of Greek Orthodox monks who live on Mount Athos in Greece that is being heralded as the latest way to help you lose weight, feel great and even live longer. Furthermore, eating takes place in a beautifully painted eating hall with a monk reading aloud lives of the saints or extracts from the Bible, so even if you don’t understand the language, trust me it will be an enjoyable experience.

A Monk’s Meal…

Our journey then unfolds like a labyrinth of stories.

Each monastery is a breathing storyteller, unique architecturally as well as in its functions. These monasteries are an excellent example of how a product of mind can fuse in so well with a product of nature.

 

 

Siddhant Shah is an avid traveller, photographer and an Architect with Majors in Indian Aesthetics. He has worked with the State Archaeological Department (Mumbai) UNESCO and ICOMOS. He is currently based in Greece, completing an MA in Heritage Management, and focuses on Management, Marketing and Disabled-Friendliness of Archaeological/Heritage Sites.

 

Did you know ? ‪#‎Traveltrivia‬

– The shortest scheduled airline flight is from the ‪#‎Scottish‬ island of‪#‎Westray‬ to its neighbour island, ‪#‎Papa‬ Westray. The flight is 2 minutes!

– Every day about 3,000 Euro are thrown into the Trevi Fountain in ‪#‎Rome‬and collected at night to be given to a charity

– Population density in ‪#‎Australia‬ is usually calculated in km2 per person, not people per km2

– Ten percent of the ‪#‎Russian‬ government’s income comes from the sale of vodka

– ‪#‎Mexico‬ introduced Caesar’s salad and chocolate to the world.

– ‪#‎Norway‬ is often referred to as “The Land of the Midnight Sun” because during the summer months the sun never fully sets.

– Due to its isolation ‪#‎Iceland‬ is one of an elite club of countries who feel no need to have a defence force, with no navy, army or air force.

– Ironically ‪#‎Naples‬ one of the oldest cities in the world, its name literally translates into “New City”.

-You would not think a “table” this big could possibly have a decorative covering, but that is exactly what this immense ridge of sandstone has. Table Mountain in ‪#‎Capetown‬.

Our Top Homestays in India

Glenora Homestay, Wayanad
This luxurious tree house is set in 90 acres of coffee, pepper, betel nut, lime, ginger, guava and avocado plantations, in Wayanad district of Kerala. One can get beautiful and picturesque vies of the plantations and wild life nearby, from the balconies. Meenmutty Falls, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Chembra Peak are some of the nearby attractions and activities such as trekking, jeep safari and visiting tribal colonies will make your visit worthwhile.
Home to the hospitable Rajagopal family, and registered as a “farm tourism provider”, there are three light, well-furnished rooms in the house and two new cottages on stilts (each of the latter has two balconies overlooking the plantation – birds, monkeys, foliage and not another house in sight).

Bel Home Homestay, Coorg
Bel Home is situated amidst a coffee plantation at an altitude of 3,200 feet in a valley facing the gorgeous Kotebetta Peak. This cottage where you can feel the cool breeze and explore the unique birds and rivers in the nearby areas is one of the best places to enjoy a relaxing holiday. A walk through the Bellarimotte Estate, with its coffee, pepper, cardamom and orange plantations will be an everlasting experience and you can also take the pleasure of bird watching, river rafting and trekking.

Vembanad House Homestay, Alleppey
Vembanad House, on the banks of Vembanad Lake in Kerala is an old ancestral home which is surrounded by water on three sides. The stunning traditional wooden furniture and works of art makes the interior look dazzling and the exterior is luxuriant with tropical plants and paddy fields.
The location is what really sells the Vembanad House Homestay. Aside from the location, the Vembanad House is also popular because of its architecture. It is a prime example of Kerala’s traditional architecture with its house and interior design. If you want a resting place not only for your body but also for your soul then the Vembanad House Homestay is the place to be.

Capella, Goa
Capella is a homestay set on the top of a hill, in the middle of lush green surroundings in Arpora village. The house provides all modern facilities along with traditional Goan architecture. If you want to make your holiday more exciting, have fun at the famous beaches- Baga, Calangute and Candolim , at a distance of just around 20 minutes from Capella.

The Cottage Homestay, Jeolikot
Cottage homestay is located in the foothills of the Himalayas and is a perfect getaway during summer. The Cottage Homestay is frequented by people who want to enjoy the cold Himalayan winds. It is located on the foothills of the Himalayas. Other nearby attractions includes the Kumaon’s Lake District, and the Ranikhet and Corbett National Park. Other activities include short treks and bird watching.

Spiti Homestays, Himachal Pradesh
This isn’t one homestay, but a whole community of them – a choice of 14 in all, spread across six high-altitude villages all in the isolated Pin Valley, set against the frosted peaks of the Himalayas (Kibber, one of the world’s highest villages, stands 4,500m above sea level). As homestays go, these mud-and-brick dwellings are a bit rougher than most (instead of bathrooms you get buckets of hot water, and the toilets are composting squats) but the guest rooms – one a household – are clean, and colourful, furnished with rugs and folksy fabrics. Aside from home-cooked Spitian cuisine (momos perhaps, or noodle soup), you get rugged scenery, invigorating mountain air, smiling faces and the odd yak safari. Not only will you step into a way of life in this Bhuddist community that hasn’t really changed for centuries, but you will also help to keep it going.

Devra Homestay in Udaipur
Devra homestay is located close to Udaipur city. It is a colonial set up that resembles a farmhouse. The accommodation is surrounded by farmlands and hills. The guest rooms at Devra homestay overlook the beautiful Monsoon Palace.
You can indulge in organic living. Here meals are prepared with home grown organic vegetables.Activities include participating in sightseeing trips in and around Udaipur, gardening, painting, trekking, walking, visiting temples and other such interesting activities.

Wildlife Sanctuaries in India Beyond the Usual Suspects

Wildlife Tourism in India tends to be predictable. You go to sanctuaries in India searching for the big cat, the tiger, at Pench, Bandhavgarh, Kanha or Jim Corbett or theRhinos of Kaziranga, Assam. There are few other animals that make to the list like the elephants in the forests of the states of Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka. There are many more Wildlife Sanctuaries in India that offer a different experience, though you must be willing to forget about the tiger for a while. At times, the experience at these places is more peaceful as the crowd is yet to arrive.

 

These are some experiences collated from our contributors.

 

The Blackbuck National Park at Velavadar
The Blackbuck National park at Velavadar is a lesser known getaway from Mumbai. It is the only tropical grassland in India to be given the status of a national park. If you have ever wondered how the African savannah looks then this place will give you taste of it; the grassland lets you spot animals from quite a distance.
This park is small and covers a total area of ~35 sq. kms. It has more than 3500 black bucks. It is interesting to see the various activities of the blackbuck: grazing, graciously leaping, mating, locking horns with fellow males or simply staring back at you.
The adjoining Gulf of Khambhat supports a variety of aquatic flora and fauna, whereas the grassland attracts the blackbucks and also serve as world’s largest communal roosting site for the harrier bird.
Read more here.

 

The Leopards of Bera, Rajasthan
Bera is a small village in Rajasthan, best known for it’s growing population of leopards. Interestingly these leopards are found in natural caves. The granite rock formations creates a perfect haven for the leopards, and the abundant livestock in the nearby villages satiates their appetite. There are some good camps for accommodation in the area.
Jawai Dam is close to Bera and attracts many migratory birds in the winter months. The natural setting of mountains and wide expanse of water is extremely serene and beautiful, punctuated only by the sounds of birds. You might also catch some crocodile action and of course, the pesky langurs.
Read more here.

 

The Turtles of Velas
Olive Ridley turtles are endangered species and have a low surviving ratio. Velas, in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, has a program to help conserve the turtles. The season runs from March to April when the female turtles come to lay their eggs in nests dug into the sand. Over the past few years, this region has become popular and photographers, volunteers and travellers descend to this area. The eggs hatch after around 55 days and during this period they need to be kept safe from predators-animals and man.
Read more here.

 

The Tigers Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR)
If you cannot imagine a wildlife-holiday without that majestic creature making an entrance, then maybe you could choose Tadoba instead of the popular parks in M.P. Tadoba is arguably the best breeding ground for tigers as the survival rate of cubs is very high. There are more than 100 tigers in the core reserve, buffer area and surrounding regions. Tigers are the star attraction and with a good ranger, you are sure of at least one sighting in two safari trips.
The Forest is teeming with wildlife that includes sambar, deer, bison, wild dogs, jackals, panthers, chital, barking deer, sloth bears, leopards, blue bulls, langurs and several bird species.
Read more here.

 

This list is not exhaustive by any means, but it does have a few options beyond the usual suspects. Chart your own course and get with nature in 2015!

Spring Break Destinations

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By: Gauri Govil


  1. Cancun: For the party animal

Located on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, this tropical oasis offers white sand beaches, turquoise waters, a lively party scene and cheap accommodations. Plan on going around the months of April and early May to avoid the heat! Laced with resorts, it’s a popular attraction for college kids and offers good sightseeing as well as exciting activities. The best way to explore the Mexican Caribbean is through a daytime snorkeling excursion. These tours are relatively inexpensive and allow you to experience the waters on a first hand basis—why just stare at the waters when you can go for a dip? If you’ve got more time to spare, consider taking a boat tour to Isla Mujeres—a small island off the coast. A 40 minute ride away, this fishing village offers a charming atmosphere to shop and eat in a Spanish infused community. Chat with locals, bargain for souvenirs and experience Cancun from a different point of view! If you’re looking for the typical spring break adventure, there is no better place than Cancun.

  1. New Orleans: For the history buff

For a more culturally enhancing experience, consider taking a trip to the Bayou. Located at the coast of Louisiana, New Orleans is alive with jazz tunes, delicious sea food and gumbo and historic streets. The most famous of all streets in New Orleans is Bourbon Street which is an astonishing 13 blocks long and consists of many bars, restaurants and is home to the annual Mardi Gras celebration. If you are interested in exploring one of the largest US ports, take a ride on the Natchez, the two hour boat ride cruises along the Mississippi river and is offered twice daily. Be sure to enjoy beignets during your trip; savory French pastries similar to doughnuts and end the day with a stroll in the French Quarter, enjoying live music and dance.

  1. Kashmir: For the nature lover

There is nowhere better to escape the daily stresses of life than with a trip to the beautiful landscape of Kashmir. Northern India is home to a breathtaking mountain range, flowing rivers, and lush forests and Kashmir incorporates all of the best of these. To truly get a feel of everything this state has to offer, consider taking a trek through the Himalayan Mountains. Not only is it a great way to get exercise, but you will get the best views and the opportunity to experience the many beautiful pastures and flowers in the valleys. A popular attraction occurring mid-March through early April is the Tulip Garden blossom during which the garden is laden with color-rich fields of tulips. Definitely a sight worth seeing! Kashmir is a place that allows you to travel unconventionally, at your own pace and without Wi-Fi. So if you’re looking for a great way to bond, sightsee and be one with nature, Kashmir is a wonderful destination.

Property review – Barefoot at havelock

The mention of Andaman brings forth a pretty picture of turqoise blue waters and silky white sands of Radhanagar – beach 7 in Haveleck .Barefoot is synonymous with Havelock and their location of  and staff on the Island. It is situated right on Beach no. 7, Radhannagar beach, voted as the best beach in Asia. 

have never been to Hawai but I have always imagined it to have thick cover of forest in an island, surrounded by emerald green (or turqiouse blue water) water, white powder like sand and a chilled out vibe. We got all of this and more in the Havelock Island of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Its not easy to reach Havelock Island. First you have to reach Port Blair and there are no direct flights from Delhi or Mumbai. There will be a transit from Chennai or Kolkata. Port Blair is your entry point in A&N islands and given fixed ferry timings you have to spend a night here (both ways). From Port Blair, you take a 2.15 hour ferry to Havelock Island and then another 20 minute car ride to the Barefoot property in Havelock.

We took an early morning ferry (operated by Green Ocean) and reached Havelock by 10 AM. There was bus waiting to go to Beach no. 10 and we jut hopped on thinking, it will drop us somewhere close to beach no. 7. We were right, we had to walk for ten minutes to reach the property from bus stand and also got the falvour of travelling likc locals. Else, local auto would charge 250 and a private taxi will charge 600. Bus ride cost us 10 rupees per person.
You are welcomed to Barefoot by John, an affable and courteous manager to the property. First thing he tells you is there will be no internet connection, no intercom, no televesion, no wifi and no phone signal and you look back at him in denial, saying phone has signal when you last checked. He will then say in his “heard it before argument” voice, check it again sir, it would have died, when you came into the property. He was correct.
I rejoiced at the thought of no connection with outside world, no checking of emails, no opinion on ramdom tweets, no streaming of unsolicited videos on my timelines. it just felt like, we have signed up for social detoxification. Our rooms were not ready and we were suitably adivsed to check out the ocean. We gleefully obliged and were

Barefoot is one of the places or experiences which shake you up and remind you that you are part of this beautiful mother nature and it is way better than your conference calls, customer meetings, investors, products.. whatever you do.

The moment i stepped in, i was greated with every jolly and a great person Mr Jhon and he gave his ‘Jhatkas’ which he fondly calls the policies very nicely:

1. Remove your footwear for entering lobby, resturant and inside the rooms.
2. No wifi, No Airtel, No vodafone, no phones, no network.
3. In case of emergency there is a physical bell which will ring and you gather at lobby.

Okay what you get in return as the resort took away above mentioned things:

1. A beautiful property name anything : The lobby, The resturant, Rooms, the pathways. anything you name it is so well maintained and it is beautiful.

2. You stay litreally in a jungle, yes jungle the cottages are in thick tropical forest!

3. A Professional team, I emphasize a PROFESSIONAL team (Mr Jhon and Team you guys rock!) to serve you and take care of you in very personal manner.

4. You are at 2 minute walk distance from Radhanagar beach which needs no explanation.

5. Believe me you will love walking barefoot in resturant, lobby and the rooms. Great concept!! i never saw such thing anywhere in world.. what a way to remind us that we belong to nature!! absolutely amazing!

I stayed here with my wife for 3 days and absolutely loved it. I can never forget the feeling of lying on recliner oustside the room at 4.30 am in the morning and listening to chirping birds and watch they day light break through the leaves and the tropical greenry appears from nights darkness in front of your eyes!! Absolutely Amazing!

Barefoot can you give me a job at your resort, i will be more than happy to resign from my current job and stay there forever!

Hats off to the team Mr Jhon and Team, and Our active friend Prem at resturant.. you all Rock!!

You taught me that one does not need money or a hectic life to be happy!! he needs something else.. he needs nature, he needs barefoot!

 

It belongs to a new trend of “trek to reach property”, where you have to descend into the valley for good 20 minutes to reach the property. It is at this very moment, you realise how peaceful it is to not be surrounded by the constant rush of a city life. Time stands still here.

THE PROPERTY

Itmenaan Estate is rustic resort in a peaceful rural setting in the Kumaon Himalayas , close to the small Chalni cheena market.

The 100-year-old traditional Kumaoni style stone house in the resort has been restored to retain its original architecture. Material comforts such as a comfortable bed and a large state of art bathroom are added for guests. The property offers 3 tastefully designed en suite bedrooms. Near to this house is the Deodar cottage – a large two-story independent cottage built in traditional style.

The 10-acre property has deodar and rhododendron trees; terraced fields laden with seasonal fruits and vegetables; and a small natural waterfall. The resort offers panoramic views of the Himalayas including the majestic Nanda Devi.

 


THE SETTING

Property is 50 meters from Chalni Cheena Village market ( 5 shops and an ATM). You blink and miss the point. There are no sign-boards, you have to look for an old man with two walking sticks waiting for you. So clearly no walk-ins preferred. This will be your first interaction with the property.  He is fondly called “Chachu” and he serves as porter, naturalist & guide.  The estate is a 20-minute walk from the road head, which ensures complete tranquility and seclusion from the usual urban cacophony.

The closest village Naugaon is a charming little village where time has stood still. Most people are farmers and happy with their simple lives. On our trek to this village, every house invited us for a tea.


THE SERVICE

There is no formal reception desk , but the staff is always available to make your stay comfortable.We received a very warm welcome with hot rhodendrum juice followed by 2 days of comfort and lot of personal attention. Staff wear many hats. Navin assumes role of cook, bartender and manager as per the situation and Chachu is your man friday for everything else. It is hard to forget our dinners, which were served outside on cold night ( on our request)  under the starlit sky.  Bonfire under the table used to keep us cosy and food used to come pipping hot on the table.

 

The staff is mostly local , but well trained to maintain their impeccable hospitality standards. On our way back , due to road repair our driver got stuck , Chachu  (our walk guide ) quickly organised a car for us within minutes using his excellent relationship with the village sarpanch . Money was never discussed , they were truly interested in helping us , a pleasant surprise from the usual ” fleece the tourist ” attitude .


THE FOOD

Chef Navin cooked simple , delicious meals which were served on the open terrace.  The cuisine is local or continental , using fresh produce from adjoining farms. Meal experience was heightened by the setting , food was laid at a scenic stone table amidst the resort’s vegetable garden and orchard

 

Breakfast had eggs, fruits and bread, as per preference. Loved the hot breakfast of parathas with local pickle. Lunch and dinner were 3 course set meals with starter ( soup /salad), main course and desert. Packed lunch is organised on request. Loved the bhang chutney and Bhatt Ki dal ( both traditional kumaoni fare) .The Banofee pie was a delight given the remote setting.


THE FACILITIES AND ACTIVITIES ON OFFER

Itmenaan estate offers the following activities to make most of your stay there .

Indoor : A library and game room.

Outdoor: Although, the resort conducts village walks with a couple of halts at their other guest houses, Thikalna and Ganghet. Two days is too short a time for the same. We just wanted to enjoy the scenery at hand. So on day 2, we did a 3 hour trek to the waterfall and neighboring village of Naugaon with Chachu .

Other excursions: The resort is well connected to Almora, Mukteshwar, Jageshwar, Binsar, Bhimtal, Nainital and Corbett National Park.

 

 


WHAT STOLE THE SHOW?

Clean mountain air, mesmerising views of the mountains and fresh food. Now that you are convinced, lets bring you up to speed with the practicalities. Know more about Itmenaan estate

Getting there
The property is a 3 hour drive from Kathgodam and then 20 minute trek to reach the property.

Hole in your wallet
Expect to pay around Rs 6,500 – 11,000 per night for the room.

Internet / Television
There is no TV and Wi-Fi in the room. However, signal is strong on your phone and you can use hotspot.

What else
– This is a village guesthouse , do not expect 24/7 room service or an elaborate ala carte menu.
– Be prepared to relax and enjoy the simple life
-The property is located about 1 km down hill walk which takes about 15-30 mins- they have porters to carry luggage. So travel light.

The author of this article only profiles properties he has visited and where he would like to go again, without blinking an eye or changing anything about it. We were hosted by Itmenaan Estate. Any property is reviewed on five parameters, which are:

Setting:- The property needs to have its own personality.
Service: I like being looked after, without the staff being intrusive.
Food: Has to be sumptuous, even if there are limited options.
Facilities: No minimum requirement but should have basic comforts that should add to the character of the place.
USP: There has to be one unique quality, which makes it different than the other offerings out there.
Thanks to Barefoot for making our vacation a dream holiday.. This is a really nice place with really good staff.. Special thanks to John at front desk (our kids really loved him !) , Prem and Laxmi at restaurant. This hotel is at Radhanagar Beach which is the most beautiful beach in Asia .. This beach is breathtaking !! The hotel itself is the closest that you can get to nature.. There is no phone , TV or internet.. And that makes you spend more time with family.. I would love to visit this place again.. !!!
Words cannot express this place. Hats off to the person who thought of this resort. Surrounded by forest and tall trees with access to one of the of the best beaches on the continent. Rooms are unique and spread across the property. All the buildings are made of wood and we did not see any concrete at all. The tents are away from the restaurant but the difference in cost is worth it. The restaurant location and food is amazing. The staff are mostly local and well trained. NO TV, newspaper or the net and it is for the good. I would love to go back and stay here for a long holiday during my retired days. TRULY one of the best resorts in INDIA. Dont think twice it is worth the amount they charge. JUST GO and you will remember it for the rest of your life.
Stayed here for 2N-3D in Feb 2010 for our Honeymoon. Resorts is on bit expensive side. But every thing seems to be so perfect there. Resort is basically on the beautiful Radhanagar beach whose water is crystal clear. Cottages are beautifully appointed. Service is great. As per my husband’s request they even baked a cake for my birthday. Breakfast was great. No TV no telephone in the room. Can wake up to the sound of sea waves and chirping birds every morning. A perfect paradise. Hope to go back and stay for few more days.
Make a home in the lap of nature with beautifully done cottages in the midst of natural landscaping, birds and debatably one of India’s most beautiful beaches.

The positives:
The location is pure bliss with romantically designed cottages.
The landscaping has been mostly left to its natural form
You might get to sight some exotic birds right form inside your room
You have a private access to the Radhanagar beach, once rated one of the most beautiful beach in Asia.
The property extends way beyond the cottages, into a nice walk through trees, on to the beach or uphill for a trek. You can take your pick.
The cottages are luxuriously designed with wooden flooring, Nicobari style roofs and a private verandah. (We stayed in the Nicobari Cottage also called the Andaman Villa)
Innovative bar with home grown cocktails
Good food, good restaurant service

The negatives:
NO CELLPHONE CONNECTIVITY (though i considered this a positive!)
you might get some sketchy network at the reception, which also houses the bar.
No room service
No wifi
No room phone. If you need anything, you either walk up to the reception or wait for an attendant to pass by so you can call out to them. If you go during rains, this can be quite a challenge.
The cottages have no real views other than the general hotel landscape
It’s a good 1-1.5 hour drive from the jetty and the roads are very bumpy.

Easily the most premium property in Havelock and deservedly so! If you’re going all the way to the islands, might as well make it to Barefoot.
Visited here in October 2015 …I will only say that this resort is a jewel in havelock… .. . It’s actually a one solution for all plans like scuba, snorkelling,island tour,… Very able and helpful staff…Plus the services are second to none… Food is woooow… High quality rooms…Excellent bar and above all – Radhanagar beach… What more u want… I wish that I will come again and stay here… Tnku very much havelock .., u made my trip awesome… If it’s havelock.. Then it should be barefoot.

Room Tip: AC tented cottages are best
See more room tips
Stayed October 2015, travelled as a couple
5 of 5 stars Value
5 of 5 stars Location
5 of 5 stars Service
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Couldn’t have been better. The cottage was stunning, the staff couldn’t do enough to help you, the bar was absolutely perfect and the food was great. The beach really does deserve all the accolades but watch the waves – they are pretty aggressive. I would recommend not going in the sea on this side of the island if you are not a confident swimmer.
Stayed November 2015
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stayed in this resort with my wife for 3 days, this is one property which will be etched in my mind for lifetime .

cons n pros ( according to my opinion )

CONS –
– location which is in a forest n full of grenary.
– beach is just 30-40 metres.
– excellent filly stocked bar n restra.
– u have to carry torches to ur rooms which adds to the excitement of the eco themed surroundings.
– total 100 % peace , outside ppl are not allowed to enter the room premises for privacy of the guests.
– everything is available , dey also arrange scuba , snorkelling etc at reasonable rates .
– ac rooms with nice eco friendly themed furniture without compromising with the class .

CONS –
– no intercom so u have to be sure that ur plans are in place .
– booking has to be done well in advance as its having full occupancy most of the times.

Happy holidaying folks !!!

Stayed November 2015, travelled as a couple
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

kcyadav0812
Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Level Contributor
18 reviews
10 hotel reviews
25 helpful votes
“Enjoy to the max”
5 of 5 starsReviewed 3 weeks ago
Stayed 2 days/1 night on 20-21 Oct 2015.
I had to check-out from Barefoot Scuba and Check-in to Barefoot@Radhanagar beach as I had distributed my stay to enjoy both the scuba and beauty of Radhanagar beach. It was around 20 mins journey with serpent like narrow uphill road, not in so good condition in the middle of tropical rainforests, but the view were very good.
Check-out time is 10:00AM and Check-in is 12:00 PM, When we arrived at reception, we were greeted, by the resort staff, informed about the hotel. We were told there is no connectivity in the resort, no intercoms, no room service and the only way to communicate with the front desk is to come to the front desk. We were also given torches to use at night (were warned about snakes). The warm welcome with tender coconuts was refreshing our cottages “AC tented Cottages” were ready which is almost half a kilometer further from reception on the side from where you enter the resort. There’s a bar adjacent to reception and some local prep were extremely good. Worth trying some local flavors.

Open air bathroom in the tent cottage was magnificent and the beds were prepared with great taste. There was 3 sections in the tent entrance lobby, bedroom and utilities with mini-fridge, wardrobe etc. Bedroom and the extra bed both had net provisioned. Floor mounted AC along with Fan was perfect to cool the tent to desired temperature. By evening housekeeping guys prepare the bed fully covered with net. Tea/coffee/water/toiletries are amply replenished. Beach towels and umbrellas are available in reception.

Five minutes’ walk and you reach the Asia’s second best beach Radhanagar (beach# 7) clear water with green and blue shades, lovely white sand, with tall tropical trees surrounding the beach. It’s so serene and calm that anyone can fell in love with this place. Fun time with family friends in the clean and crystal clear water in the evening thoroughly enjoyed.

Only BSNL phone works, in the resort, however if you move towards beach Airtel comes live but in the resort it was no connectivity on my Airtel for 2 days.

Morning a long walk on the sea beach makes you refreshed, we were able to see Rajan the only elephant who swims in sea.

A free shuttle service is provided morning and afternoon between the Resort and Barefoot Scuba this is to facilitate travelers who opt for Scuba and other activities conducted at Barefoot Scuba, sister resort at Beach#3. Even packed breakfast is made available in the morning for people going for Scuba.

Accessibility to the other parts of the island becomes an issue and the in-house restaurant becomes the only option hence we had all our meals Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast at the resort itself. Food was good and the staff takes all the care to satisfy your taste buds.

Fun-filled lovely stay, worth mentioning John, Julie who were always there to help.

Only thing which will help is to have lights on the walkways.

Top-rated Attractions Nearby
Radhanagar Beach
Blue Corals Dive
Neil Island
Amenities
Restaurant Bar/Lounge Beach Free Parking Spa Free Breakfast
About the property
Beach
Things to do
Restaurant Bar/Lounge Spa

Discover India’s best kept secret – the Andaman Islands – at the Barefoot Group’s first eco-retreat called ‘Barefoot at Havelock.’ Located exclusively on what TIME Magazine in November 2004 rated as the best beach in Asia, our small resort is set in rain forest and tropical fruit trees behind a pristine 2 km white-sand stretch of the quirkly named Beach No. 7 at Havelock Island.
Additional Information about Barefoot at Havelock

Address: Radhanagar Village (Beach No 7), Havelock Island 744101, India
Region:India > Andaman and Nicobar Islands > Havelock Island
Price Range: ₹ 7,000 – ₹ 16,000 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Barefoot at Havelock 4*

 

 

Tripigator: The Incredible Indian Travel App.

“Be a traveler, not a tourist” claims the app, the official travel itinerary and planning app of Incredible India, the tourism board of our country. Launched by 3 graduates from IIT Kharagpur, this app, Tripigator is India’s premier instant trip planning companion. It is available as a web-app here, or you can download the mobile app for your Android smartphone, here

And finally, here is our take on the app, what makes it tick, and what doesn’t. The author spent lots of time on the app, and here is his take:ed

 

The Incredible Bits

  • The Interface: Tripigator has a brilliant interface, everything right where you need it. And the lack of options makes it simple to use too, you can either plan a trip or explore places through your phone. The smooth and filtered finish is also commendable.

 

  • The Ease of use: This app is really easy to use, we credit that to the interface, but also the simple “flow” that the app has, for instance, an image which shows you your trip route, inclusive of universal symbols of modes of transport, arrival time, etc. Put simply, it communicates everything in a very simple manner, on one screen. The activities, food, health and ATM options are helpful too, using the near me now feature eliminates the need for another app. All your travel related problems, tackled with this incredible app.

 

  • The first app that is India-focused: If you rely on travel apps, to act as guides, you’d be using apps like TripOso made by data curated by foreigners; tripigator is an Indian app, centric to Indian, domestic travel and most importantly, it has data curated by people who think and act like us. The world is becomingly increasingly interconnected and small, but there’s hardly anyone other than an Indian who can understand the chaotic beauty of the country.

 

tripigator


image: androids.in


The app is still getting polished, updated and but is in working mode, currently it’s only available for Android smartphones and while they work out the errors, we should point them out.

 

The Not-So-Incredible Bits

  • The “Near-me-now” search results: The search results are not accurate, and by that I mean, the results are nowhere near you. I was casually exploring the app at home, and I looked for ATMs near me, I am aware that there is one less than a 100 metres away from me, but the app directed me 3 kilometres away. Other results also went on to prove that their listings are few in number. It’s a good feature to have, but maybe when the app is in full throttle.

 

  • Photoshopped photos of the places: So in the explore tab, I happened to pick New Delhi, the place I belong to, and I was glancing through the photos only to realise the noisy, messy city looks nothing like reality in the app. The app shows perfect photographs of the place, clean, organised and I think it just sent me the wrong message, like it was a marketing takeover and I’d rather stick to TripAdvisor for genuine images.

 

  • It doesn’t do justice to it’s motto: The app is, in my opinion, for tourists, and not travelers. One may say it’s a harsh judgement, but I’d justify it by saying that travelers venture through undocumented lands, are more for the journey than the destination, and the thrill that comes with it. This app’s listings only has hot “tourist” spots and moreover, doesn’t a well planned itinerary kill the spirit of adventure, at least in part?

 


All said and done, you should put this on your phone and wait for it to get better, soon enough you’ll be using this app for all your domestic travel.

 

Property Review: Governor’s Camp – Masai Mara

The joy of a wildlife safari is to see the unseen, hear the unheard and feel the unfelt, it is to escape the urban sprawl, only to be captivated by the energy of the wild. Feeling the cool crisp air so pure that it hurts your lungs, listening to the sounds of nature from rumbling of elephants, to the skittish cry of a zebra to the roars of lion, the wilderness is home to all of this. It is truly an overwhelming experience for your senses and once you get used to it, it will be really difficult to enjoy anything else as much.
To make your safari experience enjoyable, it is important that you choose your game park and lodge carefully. It can really make or break the experience. I chose Masai Mara because of the open savannahs, ‘big skies’, the density of game, variety of bird life, the tall red-robed Masai people and over all, the spirit of the place. The Masai Mara lies in the Great Rift Valley, which is a fault line some 3,500 miles (5,600km) long, from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. It’s a great place to see the Big Five of African game in their natural surroundings. We also looked into many properties before finalising Governors Camp in Masai Mara.

The Setting

On a safari holiday it seems that the animals are roaming freely, but there are usually barriers within which they have to stay if they are in a game park. In Masai Mara there are no fences because it is a game reserve. This geographical fact means that you are seeing the animals in their most natural state, behaving as they have since time immemorial.

 

The Governors camp is situated within the reserve and is not fenced, which means animals prowl around freely, its like you are a part of a Discovery or NatGeo series. We were right in the middle of forest, literally surrounded by wildlife and amazing scenery with the river flowing past the camp, somewhat disconcertingly with a few crocs on the loose; we could not have asked for a better setting.

 

The Camp in itself is quite luxurious with total of 37 tents lining the riverbank, with uninterrupted views over the Mara River, its water teeming with bird-life, hippos and crocodiles. Some tents alo have views across the sweeping plains. The spacious and luxurious en-suite safari tents are entirely under canvas with large comfortable beds and hot shower in the bathroom. Each have their own private verandah, where you can watch and listen to birds and you may even see larger animals , which wander into camp. It is quite possible to wake up to the sound of hippo feeding on the grass outside your tent. For the first time, it felt like we were a part of someone else’s environment and that the one’s in control were not inside the tent, but outside.

 

The Service

The camp was set up to host and entertain the governor’s guests, and the service till date is par excellence. The rangers who know their work extremely well. Our ranger literally had the keen eyes of a hawk and was completely aware of the animal sounds and movements . He was with us on all safaris so he ensured that we saw the big 5 and explored a new terrain and had nee experiences on every safari, this maintained consistency and there wasn’t any lag in communication per se. The safari was an enriching experience with his in depth knowledge of the animals from their diet to their mating habits.
While swapping stories in the evening over drinks, the manager of the property speaks to each guest and makes sure they are comfortable. He had stories to last for days and you never miss the TV and internet. The manager also takes pain to introduce you to other guests, who are almost as keen as you to know about your safari sightings for the day.
Askaris (security guards) escort you back and forth from your tent to the reception area. They ensure that we or animals don’t interfere with each other and no problem is caused, but it is quite an experience to wake up in the night hearing a munching noise from hippo or feel elephants scratching themselves against the tent.
Governors camp works like a well oiled machine, working to give you the best possible Safari experience. It’s like clockwork, where you will always find someone to-
Wake you early in the morning with a hot beverage; Escort you to your jeep for a morning safari; chase a kill or spar elephants for you; arrange a bush breakfast overlooking the crocodile infested river; guide you to local tribe and village; serve you cocktails and appetising lunch; plan your sun downer by the river; lay down a lavish spread of dinner; escort you back to your camp.

 

The Food

The setting sure is captivating. Imagine enjoying a breakfast or lunch al fresco dining under a canopy of large old trees, when suddenly you notice giraffes grazing on shrubs literally a few meters from you or in the distance, imagine yourself catching a glimpse of lone elephants slowly making their way ahead. This is a daily reality for this camp.

 

In the evening, hippos walk through the camp, while diners savour their evening meals. The dining tent and the bar tent are the centre of the camp. A traditional campfire is lit at sunset and after dinner, you’d best enjoy sitting around the campfire, reminiscing the safari. Gas and paraffin lamps are used for lighting.

There’s an excellent variety available for breakfast from cooked English breakfast, french toast, fresh baked bread, condiments, pancakes, a good choice of fruit and a lovely blend of freshly squeezed juices. I would recommend the bush breakfast – which combines the 2 morning safaris and breakfast is served along a crocodile infested river or under a tree on top of a plateau. Lunch and dinner are feasts made up of tasty choices. Eating a 5 course meal on a white cotton table cloth whilst overlooking the Mara river, watching hippos and baboons is how we typically spent lunch hour here. It is hard to imagine such a elegant setting in the middle of a game park. on Sundays Indian curry is served for lunch.
 

Facilities

Governors Camp offers 3 game viewing safaris in custom built 4WD vehicles, departing early morning, mid morning as well as in the afternoon with experienced rangers in the Masai Mara Game Reserve. They also have excursions from all Governors’ Camp properties in the Masai Mara, some of them are-

  • Hot Air Balloon Safaris,
  • Masai Cultural Visits,
  • Lake Victoria day trips, Great Wildebeest Migration,
  • Specialist guiding: ornithology,
  • Champagne Bush Breakfasts, Bush Dinners and Sundowners.

Governor’s Camp has a great bar perched on a cliff, overlooking a watering hole, which attracts lot of animals. It is an excellent spot to watch animals, relax, play board games, and sway to african beats. They serve almost all cocktails and prices are reasonable too. You can also opt for a spa treatment in camp. In the tents, the beds are extremely comfortable and they place hot water bottles at night to keep you warm throughout. Showers have hot and cold water so you aren’t in the wild even though, you literally are, in the wild.
The Showstopper
The setting of the property within the main reserve with no fence ensures a wholesome safari experience. We saw many things on our three day visit to the masai mara reserve

 

–  Massive herds of wildebeest and zebra were grazing out on the grasslands, its an extra ordinary sight to see these ordinary animals in wild. All acting in sync to the slightest of roar from distance.

 

– We saw a zebra calf pulled down by crocodiless into the river, while crossing it. The parent zebra, kept looking for its brood for atleast an hour and crossed this river twice to find the missing baby. We could feel the emotions in its grunts. The sight evoked mixed emotions and the taught us a little about Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory.

 

– There was rare sighting of a leopard taking its kill to the top of tree. The leopard is known to be the only animal, which can feast on rotten carcass. It takes its kill to the top of tree and survives on it for weeks.

 

– We got close to a tigress and her cubs. It was endearing to see the tigress being protective for her little ones. They had just finished their meal and are too lazy to move.

 

-We went to the Masai village, met the local tribe, had a chat about their culture and rituals.
What remains unbeatable, however, was the Sundowner. It was made special by our ranger. He kept it as a surprise for the last day, parked the vehicle at a secluded spot with never-ending views of the plains and the river gushing by the side. He went ahead and set up a table cloth on a rock and placed champagne with flute glasses and cheese over it. Thats it! It was as simple as that. We still talk about the experience, when we silently sat there on the rock with glasses in our hand, watching animals in the river, crocs lying there with their mouths open and setting sun. It was as natural as it could have been. We got mildly inebriated, but I bet we can blame it on both, the wine and nature.

 

We headed back to a tiny airstrip with some unforgettable memories and new-found respect for nature and its inhabitants after a three day trip, which seemed to have passed rather quickly.
Getting there:

Governors Aviation operates flights twice daily flights from Nairobi Wilson Airport to Musiara Airstrip (duration approx. 45 minutes). Clients are met on arrival and transferred by vehicle to the camp (duration approx. 15 minutes). Return flights from Musiara Airstrip to Nairobi Wilson Airport twice daily.

 

Road transfer: Is possible from Nairobi. The Duration is approx. 6 hours (depending upon road conditions)

 

Hole in your Wallet: ZAR: 5376   ZAR: 25,807

 

Internet/ Television: There are no televisions and Wi-Fi signal is limited to the main reception area. They do have a laptop with internet connection, which can be useful for some urgent work. Contrary to the sweeping popular and incorrect beliefs about linguistics in Africa the staff speaks excellent English  and is extremely polite.

 

The author of this article only profiles properties he has visited and where he would like to go again, without blinking an eye or changing anything about it. The author paid for himself and is not reliant on junkets, during the visit. Any property is reviewed on five parameters, which are:
Setting: The property needs to have its own personality.
Service: I like being looked after, without the staff being intrusive.
Food: Has to be sumptuous, even if there are limited options.
Facilities: No minimum requirement but should have basic comforts that should add to the character of the place.
USP: There has to be one unique quality, which makes it different than the other offerings out there.

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