On the Austrian border of Italy, high in the mountains, sit six distinct museums. Together, the museums comprise the Messner Mountain Museum (MMM) experience—an homage to mountains and mountain culture situated at six remarkable sites located throughout South Tyrol and Belluno. For those daring enough to make the trek, each museum can be accessed by (appropriately) climbing the mountain on which it resides. We think you’ll agree that seeing these museums in person is worth the effort it takes to get to them.

The Messner Mountain Museum Experience

The Messner Mountain Museum Experience

The MMM is the brainchild of world renowned mountain climber Reinhold Messner. Now in his 70s, the climber has spent more than a decade developing the six museums, each of which embraces a different theme pertaining to mountains and/or mountain climbing.

The first museum opened in 1995, while the most recent museum opened to tourists in July 2015. Each of the museums features interdisciplinary exhibits that blend art and natural science while celebrating the surrounding scenery. Oh, and in case you were worried? They’re all accessible by car as well as by foot.

Here’s what you can expect from each locale:

  • Corones. Located on the summit plateau of Kronplatz mountain between the Puster and Gader Valleys, MMM Corones is all about the discipline of mountaineering. Through presentations of relics, written musings, and visual art, the museum explores 250 years of mountaineering history, highlights the perspectives of philosophers and pioneers of the sport, and explores alpinism’s modern equipment and traditions. The building itself offers striking views of the Dolomites and the Alps. The most recently constructed of all six of the museums, Messner swears it will be the last.
  • . Dubbed “The Museum in the Clouds,” the MMM Dolomites is all about celebrating rock and the vertical worlds it creates. Located on a mountaintop plateau on Monte Rite, the museum boasts 360-degree panorama views of some of the Dolomites’ most stunning mountains, including Monte Schiara, Monte Civetta, and Monte Pelmo. The museum’s displays illustrate humans’ first attempts to ascend the Dolomites and feature historical and contemporary paintings of the mountains.
  • Firmian. The centerpiece of the MMM experience, MMM Firmian explores humanity’s relationship with the mountains through art, installations, and relics. Set between the peaks of the Schlern and Texel mountain ranges, the museum is located in the historic (and refurbished) Sigmundskron Castle, which overlooks the Etsch and Eisack rivers.
  • Juval. The first of the MMM museums, MMM Juval is devoted to the “magic of the mountain.” To that end, the museum features fine art collections devoted to showcasing mountains in all their splendor, including a gallery of paintings of the world’s holiest mountains and a collection of masks from five continents. The museum—which is located in the historic Juval Castle in Vinschgau—also includes a mountain zoo, home-grown produce, and a selection of fine wines.
  • Ortles. At MMM Ortles, it’s all about the ice. Located in an underground structure in Sulden am Ortler, the museum’s exhibits are devoted to exploring “the end of the world” through themes of skiing, ice climbing, and expedition to the poles. The museum explores the evolution of ice climbing gear over the last two centuries, educates visitors about the power of avalanches, and features artwork depicting ice in all its terror and beauty.
  • Ripa. The heritage of people who live in the mountains is on display at MMM Ripa, which is located in historic Bruneck Castle on a hillside in South Tyrol’s Puster Valley. The museum celebrates the cultures, religions, dwellings, and daily lives of mountain cultures from Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe. Ripa is surrounded by mountain farms and boasts views of the Ahrn Valley and the Zillertal Alps.

Ahrn Valley and Zillertal Alps

A visit to any or all of these museums will entertain mountain lovers and curious tourists alike. Visitors can purchase tickets to each museum individually or buy a tour ticket that includes entry to all six museums. If traveling by car, you’ll be able to visit all six of the museums over the course of three or four days. If you want to hike to each of the museums, you’ll need to plan a longer trip. None of the hikes are shorter than two hours, while climbing to MMM Corones will take upwards of 6.5 hours and hiking up to MMM Ortles will take around 12.5 hours over the course of two days. The energy and time you devote to the climbs will be rewarded in the form of some of the most beautiful scenery around.

If you’re already in Italy, it’s also worth driving the three hours to the cities of Milano or Bologna, both which offer a whole different kind of cultural experience (think fashion, food, and gorgeous architecture everywhere you look). As its combination of striking natural beauty and urban culture proves, Italy should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on December 5th.

Published in Travel Inspiration

On the surface Carlsbad appears as little more than a typical family resort town, perfect for an ideal summer vacation or as a pit-stop on the next family road trip. After all, it's the home of Legoland, California, one of the coolest amusement parks for kids in the world, and K1 Speed, a racetrack designed for the kid in all of us. However, beneath the surface sights are some amazing hidden gems and awesome activities that will make your next trip to Carlsbad more memorable.

Go Hiking

Carlsbad is home to around a dozen different hiking trails located around the city. The Aviara Trails, a collection of six diverse hiking paths on the southern side of town, offer the best scenery. Each trail is named after one of its primary features, making it easy for first-time visitors to pick a trail that is appealing to them.

Tip: The Lagoon Trail and the Eucalyptus Trail are the two most scenic walks, with the latter being my personal favorite.

Hiking in Carlsbad, California

Catch a Show

The New Village Arts Theatre is an intimate and artistic theater that has been a favorite among Carlsbad locals for over a decade. Plays vary throughout the year but the cast is always top-notch and never disappoints. Although there are only 99 seats, the theater positioned them perfectly so all guests have a great view of the stage. For a full schedule or to book tickets, please consult their website.

Tip: Wine and beer are served at the theatre, so come eager for a drink. Also, there is usually a surprisingly good food truck out front to satisfy any appetites.

Read More: Carlsbad California's Hidden Gems

Learn Something New

Take the family over to the Museum of Making Music for a unique and educational experience. As the name implies, this museum is a hands-on experience that is designed to be fun for the whole family. It covers over 100 years of musical instruments, history, displays, and stories in a way that is both entertaining and informative.

Tip: Check their upcoming events schedule to time your trip with an exciting live performance.

Take the Carlsbad Best Burger Challenge

While the winner of the coveted "best burger in Carlsbad" award may never be officially declared, that doesn't mean you can't take the challenge and proclaim your own winner. Three of the traditional top spots vying for the title are Pure Burger, Notorious Burgers and Craft Burger. All three are quite delicious but Craft Burger is my personal favorite.

American cheeseburger

Another noteworthy burger joint is Ty's Burger House, located on the northern side of Carlsbad. They have made a name for themselves recently thanks to their extensive menu of exotic meats such as kangaroo combined with craft beer, an outdoor patio and great music. Of course Ty's also serves all the traditional burgers as well -- perfect if not everyone in the group is an adventurous eater.

Tip: Visit on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds.

These are but a fraction of the exciting things Carlsbad offers, so get off the beach and go explore the city! Want some extra cash to throw around town? Make sure to book a cheap Carlsbad hotel.

  flickr   //   familyclan   mdid

Published in United States

Beautiful natural scenery and sights, fun water-based activities, top-notch shopping, addictive nightlife, amazing food, and so much more: Just because you only have a short time in New Zealand's most impressive city doesn't mean that you should miss out on some of the best things the city has to offer.

Hike a Nearby Volcano

Auckland is home to a whopping four dozen volcanoes! That means no matter where in town you are staying, there is a nearby volcano that you can hike up and enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree view. Don't expect lava flows though -- these volcanoes have erupted only once in history and are now dormant. In fact, most are lush green parks.

Read More Free Things To Do In Auckland

Splash Around With Some Water-Based Fun

Water plays an important part in the weekly life and fun of Auckland residents thanks to the Auckland Bay. Hop a ferry and explore some of the nearby islands. Get your adrenaline pumping with activities like surfing, kayaking, jet-boating, diving, and windsurfing. Or if relaxation is the name of your game, enjoy some peaceful morning fishing or soak up the sun on a beach.

Karekare Beach near Auckland, New Zealand

Insider tip: Nestled in the countryside west of Auckland is Karekare Beach, overlooked by most tourists and much more refreshing than the crowded beaches at the heart of town.

Tingle Your Senses

Unlike anything else I have ever experienced, the Odyssey Sensory Maze is exactly what the name suggests: an invigorating journey that will stimulate all of your senses and leave you wanting more. Each section features unique obstacles, lighting, music, and yes, even smells. There is a jungle zone, a cave zone, a space zone, and...well...you'll just have to discover the rest for yourself.

Read More Offbeat Sights and Activities in Auckland

Learn More About the Māori

Maori man issuing a challenge at a cultural show at Rotarua, New Zealand
Photo courtesy of Peter Mackey

The Polynesian settlers who originally settled in New Zealand became known as the Māori. Their rich cultural history shaped and still plays a part in New Zealand culture, despite making up only 15% of the country's population. Learn more about the Māori by visiting one of Auckland's many museums, art galleries, or cultural attractions.

Enjoy the Best Auckland Has to Offer

Certain things always tend to be better in big metropolises, primarily shopping, nightlife, and food. Thankfully, Auckland excels at all three. If it's shopping you crave, there are numerous hotspots around town, such as Queen Street, Ponsonby, Newmarket, the Britomart Precinct, and of course Takapuna up on the North Shore.

When it comes to nightlife, many of the same areas known for spectacular shopping are always home to the city's best bars and clubs. Britomart is a popular favorite with both locals and foreigners, but Ponsonby and Parnell are where the stars shine. However, there are also other offbeat after dark Auckland areas, such as K Road and High Street.

As far as great food, that can be found throughout the city. Just ask a local! Or check out this list of the Top 50 Restaurants in Auckland.

Ready to visit yet? Just make sure to find a cheap Auckland hotel, and put all that money you save to good use having fun around town!

Published in New Zealand

Of everything I've wanted to do in New Zealand, walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC) has been at the top. Considered one of the best day walks in the country - if not the world - the hike is a steady climb between the peaks of one of New Zealand's most spectacular, unique environments: the volcanic slopes and craters of Mount Tongariro, and it's young, infantile and more volatile vent, Ngaurahoe (pronounced nara-ho-ee).

Mount Tongariro's head lost in the clouds on the left, while Ngaurahoe stands proud to the right
Mount Tongariro's head lost in the clouds on the left, while Ngaurahoe stands proud to the right

The recent weeks have been blighted with heavy rain and overcast skies, atypical of the summers this country is used to, so when my day off correlated with Amy's, and the promise of clear and fine conditions, we had little hesitation in deciding what we were going to do with ourselves.

Everyone I'd spoken to about the TAC recommended starting as early as possible, so we booked our campsite and shuttle, and made the three hour drive down to Tongariro National Park the evening before, past rolling fairytale hills and the vast blue waters of Lake Taupo. We spent the night at the Discovery Lodge, a site with an uninterrupted view of the massif, and further south to the grand peaks and ski fields of Mount Ruapehu.

Ngaurahoe's ethereal silhouette looming from the mist as the sun rises
Ngaurahoe's ethereal silhouette looming from the mist as the sun rises

Discovery lodge offered the earliest shuttle service available at 5:45am, though we decided the 6:15am start sounded a little less painful. The staff at the lodge made sure everyone was heading up with the necessary kit, gave helpful advice on pacing ourselves, before dropping us off at the beginning of the track for 6:30am in the morning mist. Within a few kilometres, the landscape began to change from the familiar heath and bracken moorland of the lower slopes, to strange, flat expanses of dark rock - old lava flows that had oozed during Mount Ngaurahoe's creation. Approaching the Mangateopopo Hut at the base of the ascent of the Devil's Staircase, the sun began to illuminate and clear the mist around us, and the imposing grand silhouette of Ngaurahoe began to emerge from the haze.

Mount Taranaki's summit on the horizon, a undred miles away
Mount Taranaki's summit on the horizon, a undred miles away

Before long, the sun had burned through the mist, giving us a completely clear conditions to start the ascent to the crossing itself. The climb up the Devil's Staircase itself was relatively easy, with steps built into the face of the scree, and we made it to the Mangateopopo Saddle before 9am. The Saddle sits between the rugged ridges and craters of Mount Tongariro and the perfectly conical textbook volcano of Ngaurahoe. A small sign advised walkers that the most recent major eruption of Ngaurahoe was just forty years ago, and what to do in the hopeless case of an eruption - run, basically, in the opposite direction to flying rocks. Far off in the distance, the snow-capped peak of Taranaki (Mount Egmont) poked out from above the clouds almost a hundred miles away, crystal clear against the blue of the sky.

The magnificent landscape from the summit of Tongariro: Ngaurahoe in the foreground, with Ruapehu behind.
The magnificent landscape from the summit of Tongariro: Ngaurahoe in the foreground, with Ruapehu behind.

As we'd made such good time, we decided to make the traverse to the craggy summit of Mount Tongariro. The temptation to ascend Ngaurahoe was definitely there, but the scree climb to the summit is infamously loose and dangerous during summer, so it is something I decided I would leave for next time and a winter ascent! The poled route over to the summit of Mount Tongariro was quite easy going and we managed to make it well short of the advised time, despite a biting wind picking up along the ridge of South Crater. The additional climb proved well worth the effort though, as Ruapehu became visible in the south, providing an unforgettable, majestic vista across the North Island's volcanic heart.

As we made our way back to the TAC track, the encouragement for an early start became justified: the pathway along the South Crater looked like a column of ants marching across the moonscape. Moving fast to beat the throngs of tourists, we clambered back down to the edge of the Red Crater, an ominous, somehow fearsome feature of deep red rock and dust, with fumeroles steaming from its surface. The landscape looked martian as we made our way around its edge, and down the scree to the equally surreal Emerald Lakes.

Amy making her way around the Emerald Lakes
Amy making her way around the Emerald Lakes

If the Red Crater is the dark, formidable side of this volcano, then the Emerald lakes are at the other end of the spectrum. The three pools of mineral-rich water glow with incandescent colours creating a beautiful other-worldly effect. The rock around them steams with geothermal activity, a reminder that this volcano is very much alive, breathing sulphurous breath from lungs deep within the rock.

By 11:30, we had begun the descent; a long, winding path of countless steps through fragile alpine scrub with beautiful views across to lake Rotoaira and the mighty Lake Taupo. The sacred Maori site of Ketetahi hot springs blasted clouds of steam to our left as we worked our way down to the valley floor, and after a few long hours of trudging through scrub and bush, we made it back to the car park and our shuttle bus tired and happy, completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in a respectable 7 and a quarter hours!

Tongariro Alpine Crossing panoramic

The day was a truly incredible one, and Tongariro is a very special place. Be warned though, we saw it in the best conditions possible but they can soon turn. We saw far too many people up there in trainers, shorts and t-shirt, some without even food or water with them. At almost 2000m high, the crossing is definitely alpine and should not be taken lightly, as weather conditions can change at a moment's notice. Make sure you're prepared for anything!

We ended the day with a well-earned meal beside Lake Taupo: an amazing rack of lamb complemented by the stunning view of our day's conquests at the far shore.

Perfect.

Published in New Zealand

One of the reasons I love visiting Colorado is that I am always stumbling upon new things to do and sights to see. Known as the Garden Of The Gods, this tranquil park got it's namesake in 1859 from two surveyors from nearby Colorado City who happened to stumble upon the rock formations while exploring the area. As is too often the case, namesake goes to the first white guy to brag about something he discovered, instead of the locals who all too often have known of the existence of that place/species for 1,000+ years. Anyway, I digress...

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

The beauty of this place -- well, besides the obvious natural beauty -- is the this park is 100% free to the public. The park itself consists of a few main roads looping around the red rocks with numerous scenic overlooks and photo spots, as well as trails for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. There are even Segway tours run by the nearby visitor center located just a few hundred yards down the road from the entrance to the park. (Those, however, are not free.)

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Once you have had your fix of the free views and explored all you can around the park, I recommend following it up with a brief visit by the Garden Of The Gods Visitor & Nature Center. Just like any other national park souvenir shop, this place has it all. From historical items, local gems, books, artwork, clothes, postcards, native species of flowers, and anything and everything else you would expect to find, this place has it.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Not only that, but they offer also provide a wealth of information about Colorado, the Garden Of The Gods history, and of course the nearby Pike's Peak. Additional knowledge can be gained by watching (and that means paying) for the visitor center's information movies, which run on a loop every 15 minutes in the miniature movie theater.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Been here before? Have a favorite FREE park? Share your comments!

Published in United States

Located on the island of Oahu, Diamond Head is a young but extinct volcano that makes for a fantastic and inexpensive day trip.

Entering into the crater through a large tunnel in one side of the volcano wall, immediately the place just opens up and the sky is revealed around you. One small corner of the interior is a former military base / current government broadcasting station and is therefore off-limits to the public, but all the rest is free reign.

  Random Trivia Fact   Several scenes from Lost were filmed both on Diamond Head and inside the military base. In fact the entire series was filmed on location all around Oahu. Although I never watched the show somehow still remember being told those factoids while I was there.

From the interior plains you can hike up the winding trail all the way up to a couple viewing stations located up top, giving you an impressive view of the coastline and ocean.

The path is quite deceptive looking. Although it starts off fairly straight and at a very gradual slope, before long the pavement turns to a stone path and the path then eventually turns to all dirt. Meanwhile the slope increases and the winding back-and-forth begins. Definitely bring some water with you.

Once you get closer to the top you have several staircases to climb and even pass through a dark tunnel before climbing a metal circular staircase (a la lighthouse style) which is -- you guess it -- also dark.

The entire hike takes only about an hour each way and is well worth the visit. From up top you can see Waikiki and a nice portion of the rest of the island. Makes for an awesome spot to take panoramic photos of the island.

However as Diamond Head is quite close to Waikiki beach and thus countless resorts, there is always a flood of tourists there. But it's not too bad... where in Hawaii is there not a flood of tourists?

  Have you hiked Diamond Head or any of the other Hawaiian volcanoes? Would you do it?

Published in United States

Recently I had the pleasure of discovering a refreshing new side to Ohio, the hidden gem known as Hocking Hills. Nestled in the southeastern portion of the state, this area is known for its rolling hills and glacier-carved valleys. As a result of these iconic valleys the region is also home to a surprising amount of migratory fauna and even several types of flora that are usually only found in the cooler climates of Canada.

In addition to offering a wealth of outdoor activities, the nearby towns provide several interesting sightseeing opportunities and tours that cover a variety of interests and hobbies which visitors of all ages will find appealing. Together they make Hocking Hills a fantastic and inexpensive family getaway that proves there is much more to the Buckeye State than simply the "3 C's." Ohio also has the geographic distinction of being located within a single days drive of 50% of the United States population, further strengthening the region as an ideal destination for a refreshing family vacation.

 

Get Outdoors And Stretch Those Legs!

Surpassed only by their love of football, Ohio residents are extremely proud of the 200,000 acres of state and national parks scattered across this diverse state. Hocking Hills State Park is one of the most prominent in the region and receives as many as four million visitors each year.

An overwhelming one million of those visitors arrive just during October, when the autumn color change transforms the entire area into a vivid and impressive landscape that attract non-stop hordes of "leaf-peepers."

Unfortunately for me I arrived just a couple days after Hurricane Sandy had ravaged this colorful scenery. The storm was so powerful that its effects were felt even this far inland, where 60-70mph winds stripped the deciduous trees of every last leaf and covered the ground in countless shades of auburn. Luckily that in no way diminished the joy of exploring this area.

Hike Or Bike The Many Trails Of Hocking Hills State Park

There are a total of nine hiking trails in varying lengths and difficulties and two great biking trails located within Hocking Hills State Park that allow visitors to choose their route based upon whichever sights appeal to them. One of the most popular of these trails is the hike to Old Man's cave, which you can see pictured below.

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Although the largest crowds at Hocking Hills State Park occur during the autumn color change, this area happens to be blessed with spectacular wildlife and scenery regardless of the season. In fact each has its own appeal and distinct reasons for visiting. Whether witnessing the first new leaves of the spring awakening or trekking through this snow-covered winter wonderland, Hocking Hills State Park never disappoints!


Pat Quackenbush

But believe it or not all of thise natural beauty is trumped by resident naturalist Pat Quackenbush. Pat's all-encompassing knowledge of the local history and climate combined with his vivid storytelling and skills in mimicking the sound of local wildlife culminates in the perfect tour guide. I've traveled extensively through 46 US states, camping and exploring a wide range of both parks and climates, and without a doubt Pat is the all-around best naturalist I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His love and dedication to the region are undeniable and certainly add that special spark when experiencing the local outdoors.

A more extensive list of the outdoor adventures offered including upcoming events can be found on the Hocking Hills State Park official web page.

 


Listen and learn the circle of life as told by Shawnee story teller Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah

An Unforgettable Shawnee Storytelling

For those who crave a more unique outdoor experience there is no better option than a guided tour through Saltpetre Cave State Nature Preserve. The highlight of this two-hour expedition up into the hills is an enthralling session with Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah (pronounced Way-u-per-shenwa), which takes place in the fourth and final cave along the trek. Approaching hikers will be able to hear his traditional Native American flute melodies rising through the hills long before being able to spot the source.

Otherwise known by the much easier to pronounce nickname "Shawnee Storyteller," Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah consistently captivates audiences from his first word to the very last. His stories offer a different perspective on the Hocking Hills region as well as thoughtful insights on our responsibility as the dominant species of this planet. They are comprised of a mixture of local history and knowledge of regional nature and wildlife, engaging Shawnee practices and stories of the past, personal childhood experiences, and even include thought-provoking cultural wisdom that has been passed down through the generations by tribe elders. Visitors are unanimously impressed by Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah and frequently find that leaving is hard to do.

Here are a few of my photos from both the initial hike through the nature preserve and our subsequent session with the Shawnee Storyteller.

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To learn more about Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah and his stories please consult Hocking Hills Adventure Trek. They also offer several more challenging trails intended only for experienced hikers.

 

Get Your Adrenaline Pumping!

Ohio's First World-Class Zipline Adventure

Canopy tours are the perfect excursion for those nature-lovers whom are also avid thrill-seekers and typically feature multiple ziplines and sky bridges. Just a few weeks before my visit a group from Discovery.com had popped in for a visit, after which they named the Hocking Hills ziplines as one of the top ten ziplines in the world! (View the article)

The canopy tour includes a total of ten ziplines but the prime attraction of this three-hour excursion is the SuperZip, Ohio's answer to the public demand for a "higher, longer, and faster" zipline. It covers more than a quarter mile and includes a breathtaking stretch directly over the Hocking River that makes the most of the zippers' "Superman-style" flying position.

Individuals are launched in pairs from an 85-foot tower perched atop the hillside and reach speeds of up to 50mph, making the SuperZip a fun race for anyone with a competitive nature.


This is the SuperZip as seen from the launch platform. Notice the Hocking River in the distance.

Although the SuperZip can be experienced either by itself or as part of the full canopy tour package, I strongly recommend the latter -- especially if you have never been ziplining or on a canopy tour before. You may be surprised at just how much fun you have been missing out on.

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Canopy tour details and contact information available via Hocking Hills Canopy Tours.

Kayaking & Camping On The Hocking River

From April through October the Hocking River is popular among both kayakers and canoers, as visitors will notice when ziplining over the river. Two different lengths are offered, both filled with a variety of spots suitable for beaching your craft to rest along the shore or bask in the tranquil sounds of nature, allowing participates to extend this into a all-day event if the mood arises.

To get the best of both worlds, ziplining and kayaking, I suggest what is known as the "Float & Fly" special. This trip will take you down the longer of the two kayaking routes and passes directly underneath the SuperZip. Located there is a small landing area on the right side of the river for zippers to safely stow their kayak and make the short walk up to the SuperZip launch tower. After the group has completeled this exhilirating zip then its back into the kayaks for the remaining leg of the cruise.

Check out a few of my photos from our kayaking adventure below. You may even recognize a couple of my fellow travel bloggers, such as Kristen from Hopscotch The Globe and Will from Wake And Wander.  

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Overnight camping is also an option for anyone wishing to continue this experience past sunset. Visitors can either bring their own tents and set up camp in several designated campgrounds ($7/each) or rent one of the four-person cabins that are scattered along the river. Cabins include basic amenities such as heating/cooling, refrigerator, and microwave and cost $60/night during the week or $70/night on Fridays and Saturdays.

Further details including specials and upcoming events can be found on the Hocking Hills Canoe Livery website.

Of course these activities are but a fraction of all the outdoor adventures awaiting visitors of Hocking Hills and the surrounding area. Depending on the season other great choices include a variety of haunted hikes and ghost stories, wildlife observation and education treks, fishing, hunting, and even occasional nighttime activities/events. Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself passing through Ohio or searching for an affordable family vacation. And as always, if you have any questions that are not answered by the links included then feel free to give me a shout.

Have you experienced the region? What were your favorite outdoor adventures?

Share your comments below!

Published in United States

Stone close upQueenstown oh yeah baby! Every tourist that goes to New Zealand, also goes to Queenstown. You would think it's really big, but it isn't. It's just an little town where the most tourist come to party and the locals to enjoy the amazing ski area called "The Remarkables". The town was actually named after a queen Victoria because of it's beauty. A town fit for a Queen. I don't know if Queen Victoria was beautiful, but Queenstown was definitely amazing. Ok, it was overcrowded with tourists but that was exactly nice for a change. For the last couple of weeks I felt sometimes like the only tourist in New Zealand. Crazy right? The first day I went for a walk to the skyline. You could also take the Gondola, but I decided to walk. Much cheaper and more time to make beautiful pictures. It took me 2 hours to get the top. I was totally exhausted when I finally reached the top, but it was totally worth it. It was one of the most amazing views I've ever seen. The sky was blue so you could see as far as the eye could see. I took like a million pictures while I tried to catch my breath. Look at that amazing view.....Queenstown QueenstownOn the top you have some tacky tourist shops and overpriced coffee, so I didn't stay too long. I took another route down. It took me along a old waterpipe. One of the first of this area. It was a beautiful way down and in the afternoon I walked along Lake Wakatipu with the amazing mountains in the background. I now knew why everyone stayed here, it's such a magical place. One of a kind.....

Published in New Zealand

Australia is a continent of extremes with Queensland generally going through two types of weather per year; dry, clear and cool or wet, muggy and hot. The recent bout of arid conditions, coupled with crystal-clear sunshine days means that the National Parks in Queensland, Australia are in top condition for discovery through camping, hiking and four-wheel driving.

We took advantage of the 25+ days of no rain to head out and explore a spot we had not visited previously: Conondale National Park. Approximately 130km North West of Brisbane in South East Queensland, the reserve spans an enormous 35,000+ hectares. To gain access we had two creek crossings to make. The waters at this time of year were less than half a metre deep, but it was still a thrill to take the vehicle pummelling into the glassy, ice-cold streams.

We were at once surrounded by trees, hundreds of years’ old, rainforest with towering palms and other native plant life of every shade of green ever conceived. With our windows down, crisp country air rich with the scent of earth began filling our nostrils and immediately grabbing our attention, its’ coolness like a slap in the face.

We parked up at the first campsite which was a wide-spanning grassy area in amongst trees and flanked by thicker forest and bordered at one side by the pristine creek, glistening in the sunshine. Soon we discovered there are four separate campsites. These are some of the best maintained areas we’ve seen, including toilets, running water, creek views, rainforest surrounds and fire rings. Campsite 1 even includes shower facilities. Families, couples and individual adventurers have plenty of privacy and space between each site.

img src="/images/countries/australia/conondale-national-park.jpg" alt="Sunset at Conondale National Park in Queensland, Australia"
Photo by duality via flickr

Here are our top 10 tips for a safe & rewarding camping trip to this unique area:

  1. Log on to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service website to check current conditions, closures and any current warnings www.derm.qld.gov.au
  2. Choose your preferred spot and pre-book your campsite www.qld.gov.au/camping or ph 13 74 68 (within Australia)
  3. Hire a 4×4 vehicle. Shop around for the best deals with Sunshine Coast or Brisbane companies. They will generally be willing to beat the last quote you receive.
  4. If you’re not into camping, there are plenty of B&B options in nearby Maleny, Montville or Kenilworth.
  5. For hiking, pack plenty of water and food – take more than you think you’ll need. Make sure you take a map of the trails with you.
  6. Whatever you bring in, you must bring out with you. Don’t leave anything behind, including food that could be consumed by animals and encourage them to become reliant on humans. Instead pack all refuse and dispose of when you return to town.
  7. Plan ahead. For those using the mountain bike trails as well as hiking trails – only walk/ride within your ability.
  8. Be aware that there is no mobile phone signal, so ensure you are well-prepared and exercise caution at creek crossings, on slippery trails and so forth. Don’t take unnecessary risks.
  9. Allow yourself enough time to walk back to camp before dark.
  10. Look up, look down and look around. Be aware of your surroundings, keep your noise to a minimum and you’ll come upon wildlife in its’ natural habitat. Enjoy the scenery and the stillness of your surroundings.

Australia is ever-teetering on the knife-edge of extremes. Severe drought crippled much of the continent for many years before 2011 brought the heart-breaking flood disaster. Ever in the forefront of our minds are how much we depend on the fragile weather system and how important it is for us to get out and enjoy the national parks when that system is in balance, remembering to never take it for granted.

Published in Australia

Nearly everyone on this planet, traveler or not, has at least an idea of roughly what Machu Picchu is so I'll just summarize the basics. Built and occupied by the Incas from the early 1400s to the late 1500s, this lost city is arguably the crowning achievement of the Inca civilization. Totally unbeknownst to Spain during their conquests, Machu Picchu sat undisturbed until it was discovered in the early 1900s.


The iconic Machu Picchu shot ;)

Since that time many of the ruins have been reconstructed and the place has become a tourist sensation known worldwide, seeing an average of 75,000 visitors a year. The entire 125-sq-mile national park is known as the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, which includes South America's most famous hiking trail, the Inca Trail, within its borders.

If you have not yet hiked the Inca Trail, I'm going to take a wild guess and say it is on your bucket list. It is on the HoliDaze Ultimate Travel Blogger's Bucket List (TBBL for short) -- but then again with 366 items, you have to have some stereotypical things on there. Well have no worries my friend, there are a good 150 different tour companies and groups offering excursions to Machu Picchu, most of them located in Cusco.

But along with that many tour companies come tourists, most of which book during the dry season (June-September). If that's when you will be going plan on booking a couple months in advance, as the trail and Machu Picchu can see the majority of its yearly visitors during these peak months. Additionally, due to the extreme elevation differences of Peru and the lack of oxygen at such high altitudes, you should spend at least a day or two in Cusco upon initial arrival -- if not three or four -- before attempting to move on to the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary.

If you choose to go all in for the authentic Inca Trail hike then you will have two choices: the 2 day / 1 night package, or the 4 day / 3 night package. Which one you choose really depends on 1) how much you love the mountains; 2) whether or not you are a photographer (the landscape shots offered on the larger trek are phenomenal!); and 3) how tight your wallet / schedule is strapped.

Prices can vary significantly from place to place, but remember that you always get what you pay for -- especially in foreign countries. You can expect to spend around $100/day for an adult participating in the group tours (less for kids I'd assume but I don't have any info) after ticket, fees, tips, etc. Additionally, they also have private tours available for a more hefty fee.

  In closing, I will leave you with a video taken from Machu Picchu. It is a short clip from the first season of An Idiot Abroad and if you have never heard of that show, I suggest you look it up. Anyone who loves travel will get a kick out of it....And at the same time probably be a tiny li'l bit envious that it is not you on the all-expenses-paid journey but rather this strange funny little man named Karl Pilkington who is laughably out of place and wants nothing to do with foreign travel...or everything anything out of his British tea-time comfort zone for that matter.

  Have you ever hiked the Inca Trail or is it still on your bucket list? Share comments below!

Published in Peru
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