Best Free (or Cheap) Things to Do in The Galapagos

Best Free (or Cheap) Things to Do in The Galapagos

Let’s face it, The Galapagos islands are not a cheap destination. This bucket list destination is one of those once-in-a-lifetime places that people save up lots of money for over an extended period of time and usually spend quite a bit on this trip.

However, it doesn’t have to be that expensive and is totally doable on a budget (ish). I recently went in February and spent $994 total for 7 nights, including flights…and I did it solo! You can read about my detailed tips on how I did it so cheap here: Solo Travel The Galapagos on the Cheap (ish): How I Did 7 Days/Nights for $994, Including Flights!

There are actually so many free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos and I have highlighted them below based on my experience. Couple them with a few last minute tours and your dream trip can easily become a reality.

Free (or Cheap) Things to Do in The Galapagos

Santa Cruz Island

  • Charles Darwin Research Station (free)-learn more about the amazing ecosystem of the Galapagos and Darwin’s impact left on it. There is also a turtle center and some colourful iguanas to see.
  • Tortuga Bay (free)-a beautiful bay to relax at or swim/snorkel in. It requires a 40 (ish) minute walk to get to. There are boats that can take you there too if you are too lazy to walk. When you get there, walk 15 minutes to the right for a place to swim and snorkel. Along the way, you will see a gorgeous blue/green wading pool that is very picturesque. They should really call this Iguana bay because you literally will see hundreds of iguanas on the beach and in the water.
Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos

The gorgeous little lagoon on the way to Tortuga Bay

  • Las Grietas(free-ish)-the taxi is $1.60 round trip to get there, hence the “ish”. It’s a great place to snorkel and cool off. It is also the clearest water I saw in the Galapagos. Las Grietas is regulated by an attendant and you must sign in upon arrival. You have a limit of 40 minutes and they allow only up to 48 people max at a time.
  • Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos

Isabela Island

  • Self-guided bike tour ($15/day)-rent a bike and go along the path to the Wall of Tears. It takes about an hour to get to, and there are many awesome spots on the way to stop off. Try to go early in the morning to beat the heat, because the last 1-2km is going uphill and it’s not fun in the heat (trust me). Make your stops on the way back.

Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos

  • Wall of Tears (free)-the wall of tears was constructed by prisoners in the penal colony, many of whom died during the construction due to harsh conditions of being in the heat all day. The wall was left there as a testament to these people and to highlight the abuse of power.

Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos

  • El Estero (free)– a little estaury leading to the ocean covered by trees, mangroves, and a little creek. I was the only one there and really enjoyed walking through the creek in the shade. It’s a beautiful setting.

Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos

  • Playa del Amor (free)-here you will see a little natural wading pool surrounded by lava rocks and the ocean in the backdrop. If you’re lucky, you will be joined for a bath with a marine iguana.

Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos

  • Las Salinas (free)-a lagoon that is frequented by pink Flamingos. They weren’t out when I went unfortunately, but it wouldn’t hurt to stop by on your way back to town to check!
  • Concha la Perla (free)-a place to snorkel near the port and has many sea lions and sometimes penguins/manta rays. I didn’t see penguins or manta rays, but I did see a bunch of sea lions.

Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos

San Cristobal Island (all free activities)

  • Cerro Tijeretas Hill-about 15-20 minutes past the Interpretation Center you will come up to Cerro Tijeretas Hill with a great lookout point over the island. This is also a major breeding ground for Frigate birds so keep an eye out! On the bottom of the hill there is a little cove where several sea lions are laying around on the rocks and swimming. The water is super blue/green and gorgeous and it’s worth a snorkel.

Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos

 

  • Punta Carola-if you follow the trail back to town you will come to Punta Carola beach, which has a little lighthouse on the lava rocks. This is where I saw a mini baby sea lion laying on the sand alone and I almost died! I want to take it home with me, it was so stinking cute.

  • Playa Mann beach-a small local beach that’s nothing special, but its super close to town so it’s a nice place to go to cool off real quick.
  • La Liberia-a more secluded beach about a 40 minute walk from town. The little bay is filled with black lava rocks and is a popular place for sea lions and iguanas. I saw many sea lions playing in the shallow waters and rolling around in the sand. Go here if you want an up close encounter with sea lions!
  • Interpretation Center (about a 20 minute walk from town)-sorta like the Charles Darwin center but different. I stopped in here on my way up to Cerro Tijeretas Hill and learned a lot about the Galapagos. I didn’t have time to go through the full center, but it’s definitely worth stopping by if you’re walking up to the hill anyway!

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Free things to do in the Galapagos

 

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Victoria Falls, Africa (visas, flights, border crossings)

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Victoria Falls, Africa (visas, flights, border crossings)

Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It’s also rated as the biggest waterfall in the world (based on combined width of 5,604 ft and height of 354 ft.

It goes by the nickname “the Smoke that Thunders” and that nickname will prove itself once you have been graced by its presence. Trust me on this one.

My first glimpse of the falls came on my flight into Livingstone. From my tiny airplane window I gasped at the spewing mist bursting into the air, making its power known. I could see and feel the power of the falls from what seemed like miles away.

Victoria Falls is an incredible place and should be added to your Africa itinerary. However, it’s one of those places that you have to plan for in advance since there is a lot to think about. But it’s 100% worth it and will surely be a memorable experience.

There isn’t much practical info on the interwebs regarding visiting Victoria Falls, so I put together this little guide with the best tips for visiting Victoria Falls, Africa that will help you plan a smooth trip.


Best Tips for Visiting Victoria Falls


Where is Victoria Falls?

Victoria Falls is located on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The tough choice is deciding which side you will want to stay. I stayed on both the Zimbabwe and Zambian sides and I personally preferred the Zimbabwe side much better.

Best Tips for visiting Victoria Falls

Livingstone, Zambia is known as the backpackers town as accommodations are much cheaper and abundant. But I really didn’t enjoy it honestly. It was extremely dirty and didn’t have that much to offer in my opinion. I would choose the Zimbabwe side in a heartbeat! 

How to Get Visas for Victoria Falls

(Note: this information is based on US Passport holders only and I cannot comment on different nationality’s visa processes since I personally do not know. Please check the specific visa requirements of your country!).

For US citizens, visas are required to enter both Zimbabwe AND Zambia. 

A single entry visa into Zambia costs $50 while a double entry visa costs $80 for US citizens. You can get a single and double entry visa on arrival, so no need for advanced planning. However, if you want a multiple entry visa, you must apply in advance at the appropriate embassy before your trip.

Best Tips for visiting Victoria Falls

My Zambia visa obtained at the border

A single entry visa to get into Zimbabwe costs $30 while a double visa entry costs $45 for US citizens. This can also be obtained upon arrival.

There is also a “day tripper” visa for $20 that you can purchase if you just want to cross the border for the day (valid for 24 hours). However, in my experience, that process takes SO long at the border so I would definitely plan out how many times you plan on crossing the border and getting the appropriate visa based on that.

Note: getting the visa at the border can be a very LONG process. It took us a total of 4 HOURS once we landed in Livingstone to get our Zambia visa, cross the border to Zimbabwe, get our Zimbabwe visa and make it to our lodge in Zimbabwe. People will also try to butt in line in front of you so make sure to stand your ground and practice your RBF.

*Due to the above mentioned stress to get the visa, I would highly recommend that you stay in the country you are departing from the night before so you don’t have to deal with this on the day of your flight and potentially miss it!

Payment: Although sources will say you must pay in cash, we were given an option to pay in cash OR credit card. FYI: They do accept USD.

What Airport to Fly Into

You will have 2 choices of airports to fly into to reach Victoria Falls:

Livingston Airport (LVI) in Zambia or Victoria Falls (VFA) in Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls airport is closer to the falls, however, flights tend to be more expensive coming into that airport. Therefore, most opt to fly to the further Livingstone Airport. However, I think you should make the decision based on what activities you want to do, where they are located (Zimbabwe or Zambia side), and where you want to stay. You also have to factor in crossing back and forth between the borders, which can get pricey in visa fees!

Transportation 

There is no public transport to the falls from Livingstone airport. Your 2 options are a private transfer or taxi.

Taxis cannot cross the border so you will need one taxi to take you to the border, another that takes you from one side of the border to the other, and then a 3rd taxi at the other border that will bring you to your destination. Complicated, huh?

From our resort in Zimbabwe, we paid $10 to get to the border, $5 to get to the other side of the border, and then $20 to get to Livingstone. A private transfer set up by our lodge cost $24 per person and they stayed with us the whole way through, which was way more convenient than having to switch cars and drivers 3 times to cross the border!

Make sure you agree on a price beforehand, because they WILL try to rip you off. They tried that on us but we called them out, to which they then agreed on a fair price.

What Activities To Do in Victoria Falls

I thought that going to Victoria Falls just meant going and viewing the waterfalls. But little did I know that there was going to be so many adventure activities at the falls to choose from. From the numerous high-wire activities on the Zimbabwe side such as gorge swinging, zip-lining, bungee jumping, the superman swing, to the microlight and Devil’s pool activities to pick from on the Zambia side, you will not most certainly not be bored.

Best Tips for visiting Victoria Falls

In 2.5 days there, we did so much, yet wish we had more time there to do more! The microlight flight was definitely the highlight of my time in Victoria Falls and I wasn’t expecting tears of joy. It left me speechless.

Read more about my top 4 MUST DO adventure activities in Victoria Falls here. Or just watch the video below:

Where to Stay in Victoria Falls

This should depend heavily on what activities you plan on doing. If you don’t plan on doing the microlight flight and/or Devil’s pool, there is no reason to stay in Zambia honestly. Stay in Zimbabwe and just get a double entry visa and you’re good to go!

Best Tips for visiting Victoria Falls

 

We had a once-in-a-lifetime stay at Victoria Falls River Lodge and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s literally inside the  Zambezi National Park, so there are wild animals all around you. It’s a bit scary but super thrilling and something you should experience once in your life. Read my detailed review here.

Viewing Victoria Falls

Most of Victoria Falls is located on the Zimbabwe side and this is where you can enter to view the falls.

Best Tips for visiting Victoria Falls

Entrance is $30 so give yourself ample time to go to all the viewing points and take lots of pictures. You will see monkeys running around from time to time, so save time also for some monkey selfies! You know you want one.

If you’re short on time, go to viewing points 11-14 for the best views. You’re welcome ♥.

The mist is very strong so you will get wet (remember that Smoke that Thunders part?). Embrace nature’s shower. 

Currency

Currency in Zimbabwe is the USD. Currency in Zambia is the Zambian Kwacha. Although, USD was accepted in Zambia as well. 

Make sure you bring cash because credit cards are not widely accepted everywhere. We did pay all our tours with credit cards; however, some restaurants did not accept credit cards so just be prepared.

You’ll probably spend more money than you thought.

I was a little surprised at how expensive the prices were in and around Victoria Falls. It was more like Western prices and not something I would expect in Africa.

Here are some sample prices to expect in Victoria Falls:

  • $30 USD to enter Victoria Falls (go to Viewing point 11-14 for best views)
  • $90 gorge swing
  • $50 flying fox
  • $80 double entry visa for Zimbabwe
  • $30 single entry visa for Zambia
  • $$-$$$$ lodging (much more on the Zimbabwe side, but well worth it)

Victoria Falls is probably not the best budget-friendly place to visit for solo travellers. With transportation and lodging costs, its much more doable when you have another person to split it with. Even then, it was a pricier trip than I was used to. I’m not saying solo travellers should avoid Victoria Falls, just know what to expect! 

If Victoria Falls is not already on your bucket list, hopefully you add it soon! It truly is worth it!

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Tips for traveling to Victoria Falls

 

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

In the famous words of Ned Stark: WINTER IS COMING! So I thought this would be the perfect time to highlight some winter destinations, specifically Lapland, Finland. During my time in Lapland I was able to partake in my 1st photo expedition, and it was a blast!

What is a Photography Expedition?

As someone who loves photography, I have always wanted to do a photo expedition. But honestly, I didn’t really even know what that meant. Is it like an on-site photography class? Well, yes and no.

This was my first (and hopefully first of many) photo expeditions, and from my experience it was more like a fun venture out to a photography lover’s dream landscape, and they help you with taking the photos when it comes to settings, technique, position, etc.

You have to have a basic knowledge of photography I think. I consider myself super amateur, and when people start talking about aperture and shutter speed I get a little anxiety. But this trip was perfect and because of the small group size, we got personalized attention, which was key!

Most the photos I featured in this article were shot with my Sony Alpha6000 with my 10-18mm wide angle lens that I’m obsessed with. I  also used my GoPro Hero 5 and iPhone 6 for a few shots.

Note: battery life is severely decreased in freezing weather so make sure to bring some extra batteries along!

Beyond Arctic Photography Expeditions

Beyond Arctic is a tiny Finnish company ran by 2 awesome guys, both named Juho! They personally lead all the expeditions themselves and work their butts off!

With Beyond Arctic, no 2 expeditions are the same! That’s because they have several different areas around which they can visit and tailor make the tour based on the groups wishes (& also based on weather).

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

Juho photographing me photographing him 🙂

Their expeditions have a max of 8 people, so the group always stays small and intimate. I had 2 others on my tour and we really got to know each other and it was really nice not having to be herded around in a large group.

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland; Beyond Arctic

Beyond Arctic also offer Northern Lights photography tours, ice fishing, skiing, and wilderness snowshoe adventures. They also offer summer and autumn expeditions, where you can experience and photograph the midnight sun!

What Kind of Clothes/Equipment Do You Need to Go on this Expedition?

Honestly, you can basically show up naked and they will dress you from head to toe. But please, if you do, wear underwear! But really, even if you don’t have the proper winter gear, it’s no problem at all, they will provide everything you need. They gave us hats, ski gloves, overall ski suit, waterproof boots, and a backpack to store all our stuff.

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland: Where We Visited

We drove for about 2 hours to Riisitunturi National Park. We began our trek through the park up hill for about 1 hour, through the snowy forest, stopping frequently to take pictures and take in the views. The trek is 4.5 km and requires a moderate level of physical fitness.

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland; crazy travelista

The views from the top of the fell were incredible. You get a stunning 360-degree view of the national park and the nearby lake which was frozen, adding to the dramatic arctic landscape.

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

GoPro shot of me fighting the arctic wind

If you’re dreaming of a winter wonderland (which I was) this will for sure satisfy your needs!

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

We stopped at this cute little cabin base camp where we started a small fire and began to grill some lunch. We were provided with some yummy sausages and a grilled cheese sandwich.


You May Also EnjoyChasing the Northern Lights in Tromsø (+Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips)


 

I alerted them ahead of time of my allergy and they even made mine with gluten free bread. Oh, and they even had a gluten free apple cake made for me for dessert! I’m so not used to getting such goodies (with my past luck, the tour “forgets” about my allergy and I end up starving half the time).

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

The trek back down was a lot easier and quicker and the lighting was a bit better. The sun was starting to fall so there wasn’t any more glare or brightness blinding you.

Sunset caught on my iPhone 6

It was very cold, but I felt bundled up enough. Overall, the trek wasn’t as bad as I thought, mainly because we kept stopping for photo ops.

After the tour, Beyond Arctic sent us some photos they took during the expedition, which was cool to see some candid shots. Here are a few Jugo took below:


There’s me trying to get some good iPhone pics.

The view from the top of the fell where you can see the frozen lake.

Me looking satisfied (and bundled up) at the end of the tour. Can we do that again?♥

Camera Gear I Used on this Expedition (and all my travels really):

 

Tips: The one thing I will recommend if you do this tour is to bring sunglasses (wait, what, on a winter tour?). It’s actually really sunny and the wind at the top is no joke. My eyes were watering for like 30 minutes straight and I could barely see. Also, staring at the bleach white snow for hours on end can put a little strain on the eyes. Oh, and bring tissues. Your nose will be running.

If you enjoyed this, click photo to PIN for later♥

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Beyond Arctic; however, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This small company was awesome and I would highly recommend them to my family, friends, and fellow travellers. ♥

*this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you.  I wouldn’t recommend anything I didn’t already use and love! ♥

 

Chasing the Northern Lights in Tromsø (+Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips)

Chasing the Northern Lights in Tromsø (+Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips)

Last year I flew to Iceland in the frigid January weather just to see the northern lights. In 3 days there, I didn’t have any luck. On top of that, my tripod blew over and I cracked my brand new camera. #EpicFail

Why I Chose Tromsø, Norway to Chase the Northern Lights

This time, I flew all the way to the north of Norway to a town called Tromsø. Tromsø is rated one of the top 10 places to see the northern lights in the entire world. Although you’re never guaranteed to see them, I thought I had a pretty good chance. Little did I know…

Welp, I guess I’m going back to Norway! Not a bad place to return to I must say.

Tromsø Friluftsenter

I thought I had my mind set on a specific company to see the northern lights. Until a few weeks before my trip, I found Tromsø Friluftsenter, a smaller family owned company who have been operating since 2004. I’m a sucker for smaller family owned tours/companies because I love supporting smaller business, because I absolutely loathe being herded around like cattle on a huge tour bus, and because a smaller company usually means more personalized attention.

So I pulled a little switcheroo and decided to go with Tromsø Friluftsenter. Best. Decision. Ever.

Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips

The First Sighting 

I knew it was going to be a great night when 10 minutes into our drive, we saw a glimpse of the northern lights zig-zagging across the sky. What was to come that night was extremely unexpected.

Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips

We arrived to their base camp about 45 minutes outside the city. As soon as we pulled up, we were greeted by a dashing  display of the Aurora Borealis lighting up the sky in shades of neon green, purple, and pink (which turned out to be the strongest we saw them the entire night). Stepping out of the van and looking up to see this natural phenomenon that you’ve heard about since you were little bombarding the sky above was even better than I have ever dreamed about.

Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips

It left me speechless and teary-eyed, something that has happened only a few times in my travels.

Ok, back to the base camp. The base camp consisted of a few traditional Sami tents, with the mountains and the ocean nearby. It was a gorgeous snowy setting and provided many different foreground options to photograph the northern lights. Actually, this was one big factor that helped me with my decision to choose this company (as well as the near perfect TripAdvisor reviews). I really wanted to have a nice setting with cute houses or something else to frame the shot. I didn’t just want a million pics of the sky (although the sky was phenomenal on its own I realized after I arrived).

Photographing the Northern Lights

Traditional sami tent(with a badass fire burning inside to keep you warm)

Our Sami tent had a bonfire burning and wooden seats made from tree trunks and topped with reindeer fur Surrounding the fire pit in a circle. It was so cozy and cute and I couldn’t have asked for a more arctic setting! It also meant we had somewhere to run to and warm up in between shooting the northern lights, something that all the other companies didn’t have! It was freezing and I couldn’t imagine standing outside for 4-5 hours straight so this was a huge plus!

We were served coffee or tea and cake, and later roasted marshmallows over the fire. It was absolutely perfect and reminded me of the fun times I had camping when I was young. It also provided time to get to know the others on tour. We had a blast listening to all Knut’s (the owner) reindeer stories as we warmed up our fingers and toes.

Don’t Stress About Shooting the Northern Lights

On the drive over, our awesome guide Pierre gave us some quick and easy photography tips for shooting the northern lights (which can also be applied to all night photography). This was also a big plus since I have never shot night photography before so I really needed help!

Pierre also helped us with the setting or any other questions we had while we were out shooting. He wanted to make sure we all got good shots of the lights, even if everyone didn’t have a fancy DSLR camera.

Never gets old 😍(p.s. look at alll the stars! ) #northernlights #auroraborealis #tromsø #visitnorway #tromsøfriluftsenter #sonya6000

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Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips

  • Put camera in Manual Mode (M)

  • Check sensitivity of sensor (aka ISO). Recommend ISO 1200-1600. More ISO means more noise (grainy)

  • Shutter Speed: at least 10 seconds. 15 seconds is recommended as a starting point.

  • Aperture (F number). The lower the aperture the better for night shots.

  • Put on Manual Focus (MF)-to prevent blur. Activate screen of camera and zoom in to set it.

  • You MUST use a tripod (night shots require the shutter to be open for longer periods of time and complete stillness is needed)

*Most of my shots were taken at 1600 ISO, F4 aperture, at 15-20 seconds. However, I was so excited when I went outside and saw the lights that I forgot to put my camera on manual focus so they aren’t as clear as they could have been. Rookie mistake!

Camera Gear for Shooting the Northern Lights

The right camera gear is KEY to shooting the northern lights. However, you don’t have to be a professional and you don’t need to spend thousands. But you’re going to need more than a camera phone or GoPro. Below is all the camera gear I used and all can be found on Amazon (my obsession).

Camera: you don’t need a fancy DSLR, a mirror-less camera will do. I used my Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens

Wide Angle Lens: a wide angle lens is a must as it allows more light in (due to a wider aperture), which is essential for night photography. I bought mine pre-used. It cost more than my camera base but it’s SO worth it as I use it to shoot ALL my landscape shots! My lens is the Sony SEL1018 10-18mm Wide-Angle Zoom Lens

Travel Tripod:  Fortunately they lent us tripods for the tour, so I left mine behind. But this is the super lightweight one I usually travel with: AmazonBasics 50-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag

iPhone 6: Sorry, but you can’t get good shots of the northern lights on an iPhone. I used this ONLY for a remote through the Play Memories Mobile App. This allowed me hands-free shooting without the risk of movement from manually pushing the shutter button. My trusted iPhone: Apple iPhone 6 64GB Space Gray – (Verizon Wireless)

Disclaimer: the above links are affiliate links with Amazon. Meaning, if you make a purchase with these links I may receive a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you. It’s what helps me keep this site up and running, so a special thanks!♥

All of the Lights

We didn’t just see the northern lights, we got hammered with them the entire night! They danced, they pranced, they moved, they boogied! Incredible is an understatement. I waited so long to see them, and boy did I get a show! The lights were active the entire night, and at some points they would really blew up in the sky.

Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips

Pierre would constantly check outside and come get us when they were exploding! We immediately grabbed our tripods and dashed outside. Pierre loved shooting at the nearby beach and would hurdle over there quickly in the snow. We couldn’t keep up at times he was so enthusiastic about it! It was funny to watch and it kept our energy high, especially when it was getting late.

Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips

The best part is that Pierre took several hundred photos of us and the lights, and we were given access to them via Flickr. So even if you don’t have a camera with you. You will get some awesome shots of the lights so your memories will last forever!

We were also given a tripod and a warm jumpsuit to wear if needed. They only had size large and X-large so I was tripping on mine at some points, but hey, it kept me pretty warm!

The Verdict

Overall, this might have been my favorite tour I have ever taken! The crew was awesome, the base camp was unique and fun, the setting was just perfect and had a lot around to use as props for our pictures, and the light show was just out of this world!

We got lucky as Pierre said this was the strongest show he had seen all year. You’re never guaranteed to see them, but boy did we get smacked in the face with a spectacular show from Mother Nature.

I would 110% recommend you to check out this company if you come to Tromsø. I had a special night with them I will never forget. They also do whale watching tours which I would have loved to do, however, that season ended in January unfortunately.

Note: I read on their site that visiting the base camp isn’t always guaranteed. On nights when the activity is low, you will drive around to different spots and “chase” the lights. But as the activity is pretty solid in this area, I would assume you have a good chance of visiting the base camp.

Disclaimer: I was a guest ofTromsø Friluftsenter; however, my opinions are my own and as you can tell, I freakin’ loved them! I would confidently recommend them to my family, friends, and anyone else visiting Tromsø. Hell, I would take this tour again if I ever return to Tromsø!

Click photo to PIN for later♥

Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips

 

10 Best Things to Do in Queenstown: Perfect Mix of Action + Relaxation

10 Best Things to Do in Queenstown: Perfect Mix of Action + Relaxation

In case you weren’t aware, Queenstown, New Zealand is known as the “adventure capital of the world“. Now you know, and now you gotta get your butt over there!

Queenstown sits on a stunning lake on the South Island of New Zealand. The snowcapped mountains enveloping the town makes for the perfect backdrop for numerous adrenaline activities. People come from all over the world to experience Queenstown’s many heart-stopping adventure activities and I personally think it should be somewhere near the top of your dream travel check list.

Aside from the exciting activities, Queenstown also has many low key activities if you want to have a perfect mix of adventure plus relaxation, which is what I will highlight below!

10 Best Things to Do in Queenstown

1. Hike up the Queenstown Park Hill

If you’re into hiking, Queenstown has a few great scenic hikes around the area to choose from. Queenstown Park Hill Time Walk trail is one of the easier hikes, which is why I picked it since I’m not a die-hard hiking fan (unless it affords epic views).

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

The whole hike will take you about 2-3 hours, depending on your fitness level. The views from the top are stunning and you can really see the magnitude of the landscape Queenstown is famous for.

Tip: Most of the hike is uncovered, so make sure to wear sunscreen! Also, make sure to go past the summit onto the steep dirt hill because the views up there are way better!

2. Bungee Jumping

I said I would never bungee jump, unless I went to Queenstown, New Zealand, the home of bungee jumping. You heard that right, Queenstown is where bungee jumping originated.

Well, I never thought I would end up in Queenstown, so I had to keep up with my promise. You can watch me freaking out in this video I made of the whole experience below. 

Bungee Jumping is one of the best things to do in Queenstown, so face your fears and go for it! You will not regret it! The staff at AJ Hackett Bungy were amazing and really knew how to lighten the mood during this nerve-wrecking time! They were cracking jokes right up to my jump, which helped tremendously. I almost backed out last minute, but they got me through it!

AJ Hackett Bungy are the pioneers of bungee jumping and I felt safe going with them. They have a 100% safety rating, in case you were wondering. Because, you know, that’s kinda an important thing. 

3. Onsen Hot Pools

After all the adventure activities in Queenstown, you’re going to need some R&R and Onsen Hot Pools provides the perfect setting for this. The onset spa is located a few minute drive outside the city on a quiet (and freaking gorgeous) mountainside location.

Imagine having your own private room with jacuzzi that opens up to the epic mountainside and Shotover Canyon. It is UNREAL and shouldn’t be missed on your trip to New Zealand! It really makes you feel like VIP, so sit back and basque in it.

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

Up to 4 people can book for one jacuzzi so if you’re with your friends this would be a fun activity!

Cost: $45 for one person (and decreases the more people you have in your group). I actually really enjoyed the whole place to myself and felt like a total baller.

Pickup and drop off from Queenstown is included.

Tip: make sure to book a few days in advance online because there are a limited number of jacuzzis. They also have a nighttime candlelight option that I wanted to do but it was all booked for the next 2 weeks!

4. Use Bookme.co.nz to Book Last Minute Activities

One of the locals told me about bookme.co.nz and it was awesome! It offers last minute activities at a fraction of the cost. I did notice that they offered random time slots so some flexibility might be needed and it might not be possible to squeeze one of these activities in if you’re schedule is already packed. If you have an activity you just HAVE to do, I wouldn’t rely on this site because you might be disappointed. But definitely give it a shot. I found an awesome bike ride through Gibbston Wine valley at half price the day before and it was so much fun!

5. Bike Ride Through the Gibbston Valley Wineries

I found this last minute deal on bookme.co.nz and jumped on it. It included pick-up from Queenstown, bike rental, and return transfer to the city (it’s about 20 minutes outside of Queenstown). You can rent a bike and ride along the vibrantly green Kawarau River and go winery hopping. You can also go to the bridge bungee jump and watch a few jumps, which is fun! Some of them even get dipped into the water.

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

I did the half day tour and so wish I would have booked the full day option. After going to the bridge bungee jump, I didn’t have much time to go to different wineries and only ended up doing a tasting at one of them. The ride along the river is gorgeous so you also need to factor in time for picture taking!

This was honestly one of my favorite activities I did while in Queenstown. Wine and scenery, two simple things that make me happy!

Cost: $55 NZD (about $38 USD).


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6. Eat at Fergburger

Fergburger is deemed the best burger in the world. I almost skipped this because I was sure it would be overrated. Just about every Queenstown guide will urge you to come here, so I was very skeptical. But in my opinion, it’s THAT good. They even had a nice soft gluten free bun so I could eat an actual hamburger so I was in heaven. The line is always out the door and around the corner, but it’s worth the wait.

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown; Fergburger

The burgers are huge and filled me up filled me up from a late lunch all the way through dinner. I also saved money this way by combining 2 meals and it ended up being pretty cheap in terms of my food budget in Queenstown.

7. Do Your Own Wine Tasting at The Winery

The Winery is the perfect night cap to an adventurous or relaxing day. This is the coolest place ever for wine lovers and I wish they had more of these in the states!

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown: The Winery

There are over 80+ wines to choose from which are separated into wine type. You can walk around and basically do your own wine tasting. You can choose from a tasting, 1/3 glass, or full glass of wine and just insert your electronic card into the machine.

The prices are listed in front of you so you know what you’re getting into. Once you’re finished you take your card up to the register and pay, easy as that! They also serve big cheese and meat boards which can be paired with the wine, which looked really nice!

8. Hike up the New Zealand Skyline and Take the Gondola down

If you’re into hiking and want to catch some more panoramic views, hike up to the Skyline. It takes about an hour and is not very difficult. I thought it was cool to see the extreme mountain bikers riding down the mountain and zipping through the woods right past me.

Once at the top, enjoy the best panoramic view over Queenstown. If you do the bungee jumping, you can kill 2 birds with one stone! Take the gondola down and enjoy the scenery.

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

View from the top of the Skyline where you can watch the bungee jumpers in action!

If you’re lazy, take the gondola roundtrip!

Tip: if you’re going to do the bungee or hang-gliding, you will need to buy your own gondola ticket (which are pricy), so I would wait until this to go up so you don’t have to buy the ticket twice!

9. Have Dessert at Cookie Bar

If you have a sweet tooth like me, you will love Cookie Bar. It’s a cute little place where you can get varieties of warm cookies, milkshakes, ice cream or a mixture of each.

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

My mouth was watering just looking at everyone else receiving their beautifully decorated desserts. I opted for the rocky road (gluten free, yay) cookie on top of vanilla ice cream and #omgyum. So soft and gooey, just the way I like it. Let’ just say I may have been a regular customer.Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

10. Take a Day Trip to Milford Sound

Milford sound is one of those “musts” when you’re in Queenstown. It can be done as a (very long) day trip. You can self-drive or take a tour and I opted for the latter since I was traveling solo and a car rental in the area was very expensive. I chose to go with BBQ Bus essentially due to the small (er) group size and great reviews on TripAdvisor.

Well hello Norway…I mean New Zealand! 😍😍 #milfordsound #lovenz #newzealand #gopro #goprogirls #naturelovers @bbqmilfordsound

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Note that you will be spending lots of time in the car because it is pretty far, however, there are some cool stops along the way to get out and stretch and enjoy the scenery. Stops included Te Anu (the 2nd largest lake in New Zealand), Mirror Lake, Cascade Creek for a scenic walk through the moss covered forest, and the Chasm, to see some cool waterfalls and streams.

My favourite part of the drive was the last 30 minutes before we arrived in Milford Sound, where we passed through gorgeous natural waterfalls smoothly cascading down the snow capped mountains. It was gorgeous and we stopped a few times to take photos (which do not do it any justice whatsoever).

BBQ Bus

At Milford Sound, we boarded the Milford Adventure boat, which was one of the smaller boats thankfully. Some of the other companies had large boats completely crowded with tourists. Thanks, but no thanks.

On the way home, we stopped by a quiet little lake where our tour guide set up a BBQ lunch. We ate with the peaceful sound of the stream and staring out into the spectacular New Zealand countryside.

Activity that should have made the list: Hang Gliding 

Hang gliding would have been the perfect ending to this adrenaline plus relaxation list. However, things don’t always go according to plan and it was cancelled TWICE due to weather.

Valuable Tip for Booking Queenstown Activities: book any air based activity (hand gliding, skydiving, bungee) for the first day of your trip as they often get cancelled due to weather. I had hand-gliding booked the second to last day and it got canceled and rescheduled to my last day. When the time came, it was cancelled AGAIN due to wind. It wasn’t even that windy, but I guess they are super strict and want to ensure the utmost in safety (which hey, I’m ok with!).

Disclaimer: I was a guest of BBQ Bus and AJ Hackett Bungy; however, my opinions remain my own and I would never promote something I didn’t enjoy. I would never sell out like that!

So…Have I convinced You to Add Queenstown to Your Bucket List? If you’ve Already Been, What was the Highlight for You? Comment below!♥

Click photo to PIN for later ♥

best things to do in Queenstown

 

 


MY TOP 5 RECOMMENDED TRAVEL GEAR FOR NEW ZEALAND:

1.Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera: I made the switch from my huge DSLR and I wouldn’t go back. It’s light, compact, and takes amazing photos!

2. Sony 10-18mm Wide Angle Zoom Lens: this wide angle lens is the key to landscape shots. I use this lens more than the original and am super happy with it. It’s not cheap, but super worth it if you want to get those special nature shots. Honestly, I would purchase the Sony alpha 6000 camera body only and save up for this lens to go with it.

3. E Bags Packing Cubes: the biggest life changer to keep me packing light! This is my biggest travel gear obsession and I have NO idea how I traveled without them before.

4. LifeProof NUUD Waterproof Case (iPhone 6): this helps protect my phone from water, sand, dirt, and the numerous drops that incur while I travel. I love it!

5. GoPro Hero 5 Black: I am a proud GoPro ambassador and obsessed with GoPro selfie pics if you didn’t notice! The Gopro cameras are the best for action and underwater shots, and of course for taking those selfies when you’re traveling solo.  It’s super small, compact, and easy to travel with. Plus it’s so much fun to use! 🙂

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used before on my own and that I truly love 🙂