Interestingly enough this is a late entry, I am sat here in the hostel common room writing this post in Ljubljana! Even after just a few days in this city it has to be one of our all time favourites! We didn’t really know what to expect, would it be typically harsh but beautiful like many other Eastern European capital cities, or would it reflect more its closeness to places like Italy and Croatia? The truth is that it has a culture all of its own, a relaxed, creative and bohemian spirit that just captures you straight away. This green capital city is also temptingly close to the fairy tale town of Bled and the Julian Alps! Head over here before everyone finds out about it!
The Sunshine Coast, Canada
The whole of Russia is way too underrated, perhaps as a result of all the negative news about Russian censorship or politics. Even I myself did not expect big things when I first landed in Russia. People shook their heads when they knew about my decision. Back then people in my small town still referred Russia as the Soviet Union, and the news that I am going to Russia spread like wild fire. People mostly advised me not to go. I am glad I did the right choice. It is astonishing even to myself that 5 years later I fell so in love with this country. Russia is blessed with pristine nature: snow-capped mountains, breath-taking beaches, mesmerizing greeneries, cascading waterfalls, Aurora Borealis taking over the night sky… they have it all. The architecture here are beyond impressive: candy-structured cathedrals, majestic canal city, the most beautiful metro network in the world, dazzling palaces… Russia blew me away!
Miss Happy Feet
On my recent first trip to Taiwan, I was expecting big city sights similar to what I experienced in China (though Taiwan is not part of China). I did find that, but I also found a quieter, less frenetic scene, especially in the countryside. Fast, efficient trains make escaping the big city of Taipei easy, and so I enjoyed a few days in the countryside at scenic Sun Moon Lake. My room at the Fleur de Chine hotel here had a bathtub that filled with hot springs water and a view of the large and beautiful Wenwu Temple, which I also visited. Who knew?
Travels with Carole
Patarei Sea Fortress Prison, Tallinn, Estonia
When I arrived in Tallinn, Estonia, I had heard of an abandoned Soviet era prison that one could visit. To my utter surprise, no one – locals or travellers – could advise me in the least as to how to find it. No one seemed to have heard of it, and I was the lucky one who stumbled upon it by accident while researching Tallinn. I used Google Maps to find my way – a mere 20 minute walk from the Old City, where most travellers stay, I found the prison. I imagined I’d be on a tour there, but it was quite the opposite; there were barely any others in the giant prison at all, and I found myself able to walk anywhere I chose to, with nothing barricaded off limits, and rarely saw another soul while there, making it all the more mesmerizing. As I walked around I couldn’t help but imagine what awful people had lived within those walls, while also thinking of the innocent people trapped in such a terrible place. It was beyond amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone! As an added bonus visiting this prison, the walls have been covered in many areas with art of different types – mostly political – making it all that more strange to walk through this abandoned building. Furthermore, the place was abandoned completely – meaning everything from typewriters to prisoner records were still scattered throughout the place. It was a crazy experience, and all for 2 euro.
Like Riding a bicycle
The Island Drum
Confession – I only went to Bulgaria because it made geographical sense to fly there and Interail my way back. I picked out the capital and left with zero expectations. What I was met with was a beautiful and clean city with plenty to do. While the city was fantastic for food, culture, museums and leafy parks it wasn’t long until we were persuaded by our couchsurfing host to head for the beach town of Varna. With a round of beers costing less than a Starbucks coffee, a beautiful beach and a buzzing nightlife with nice people, I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t on my list before.
Many travel enthusiasts avoid the Nordics because of high prices, poor currency exchange rates and horror stories about how hamburgers cost $30 north of the European continent. In a quest to see as much of Europe as possible from our home in London, we finally ventured to Oslo to see how one of the world’s happiest places on earth measured up, once value was taken into account. Holy cow. Norway is seriously gorgeous. Our favorite activity of all was completely free – a morning walk around Sognsvann Lake, where locals come to run, relax and picnic. This picturesque park is within city limits though you would hardly know it. And just like that – rumours of the world’s happiest people made total and complete sense!
When I said that I am going with some friends to Tallinn, Estonia at the beginning of February a lot of people advised me against it and suggested to go there in the summer, because in the winter it’s supposedly unbearable. If I have to be honest, on our first day it was so cold and snowing all the time that we had to cut our walking tour in the middle to go warm ourselves up. But the snow was sparkling and just adding up to the beautiful view of this medieval city. Fortunately, the weather was on our side and soon we had enough sunlight for a happy exploring of the city. Walking along the cobbled streets of the old town (which is an UNESCO Heritage site), you could easily feel like you are on the set of Game of Thrones. The center of the city is surrounded by medieval defensive walls and hills that give you an amazing view of the city from above.
Discovering Rwanda – From Gorillas to Lake Kivu
Pastoruri Glacier, Peru
I had read some less than glowing reports about Pastoruri Glacier before visiting. One article said that it was a depressing place to visit due to the speed that it was receding. I visited anyway, and I’m glad that I did. The high altitude glacier (it’s about 5000 metres above sea level) is surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of Huascaran National Park and is fronted by a small lake full of floating ice. It might not be as grand as some of the glaciers in Patagonia but it’s still a pretty amazing place, and the fact that it will soon be gone is reason enough to visit it while you can. Another great thing about Pastoruri Glacier is that it’s a cheap and easy day trip from Huaraz, the base for much tougher hikes and treks in Huascaran National Park.
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So, what is your favourite underrated place?
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