Top 6 Travel Surprises of 2018 (+2019 Travel Inspiration)

Top 6 Travel Surprises of 2018 (+2019 Travel Inspiration)

Wow, each travel year keeps getting better and better and as I reflect on the places that I’ve gone, I still cant believe it! In 2018 I traveled to 7 new countries including Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, UAE, and Vietnam. I also re-visited some of my favorite countries including Greece, Norway, Italy, Croatia, Spain, Denmark, England, Albania, Canada, Iceland, and Northern Ireland. 

In 2018, I visited a total of 18 countries on 3 continents. It was extremely hard to pick my favorites but I’ve narrowed it down to the following 6 places (plus a few more). Hopefully it provides some new travel inspiration for 2019!

Lofoten Islands

The Lofoten Islands were a dream destination for me and high up on my bucket list. Norway is one of my favorite countries in the world and the natural landscapes in Lofoten Islands were just unreal. Lofoten Islands exceeded my expectations and literally took my breathe away. It’s also a photographer’s dream!

This trip was also special because it was my first ever GROUP TRIP that I led and it was so much fun to meet new girls and share the experience with others for a change. We stayed in the coziest cabin right on the lake and were dazzled by the Northern Lights on our last night there. The icing on the cake! I plan on doing another group trip there in 2019 since I loved it so much. Lofoten Islands was probably my favorite place I visited in 2018!

Bagan, Myanmar

Not many people I know go to Bagan…one of the reasons that it really appealed to me! I loved it and it was such a unique place that was different to any other place I had ever been. Riding E-bikes around dirt roads searching for the sunrise or sunset was magical. I was also there during the water festival (“Thingyan”) which was…interesting haha.

It took some work getting all the way over to Bagan, but I’d say it was truly worth it! If you want somewhere different or off the beaten path, Bagan is the place to go in 2019! PS: try to make it during hot air balloon season (I just missed it by like a week or 2).

Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands (made up of 18 islands) are a self-governing region of Denmark located in the North Atlantic Ocean halfway between Iceland and Norway. It reminded me a lot of the landscape in Iceland, but with NO crowds. The Faroe Islands are the place to go if you love nature, hiking, photography, and isolation.

I spent a total of 5 days there and couldn’t recommend it more. Just beware of car rental prices because they are absurd! Book in advance. Also, if you’re interested in seeing puffins, the season runs from late May to early September! For all of the details and the 5 day itinerary I put together, check out my post about the Faroe Islands here.

Banff, Canada

I had been to Canada several times before but nothing prepared me for what I would see in Banff. The most beautiful blue and crystal clear lakes you will ever see in your life are in Banff. This was also a group trip destination and it was such a fun time. Banff had some of the most gorgeous hiking trails and the scenery is hard to beat! Banff should definitely be at the top of your 2019 travel wish list!

Banff is the perfect place to go if you love hiking in nature and breathing in the fresh mountain air. Make sure to carry bear spray and try not to hike alone because some trails actually require a minimum number of hikers (but you can always join other hikers as well).

PS: some of the trails and roads are closed throughout the year due to snow so to be safe, travel there from June to early September if you want to make it to Moraine Lake, etc.

Ninh Binh, Vietnam 

Vietnam was one of those destinations that really surprised me in 2018, particularly the countryside. I took a day trip to Ninh Binh and Tam Coc and it blew my mind! You can easily take a 2 hour train ride from the crazy bustling Hanoi center to a whole different world filled with epic mountainside views and tranquility.

Make sure to take a boat ride through the valley with the Vietnamese feet rowers for a very cool experience that will take you through some caves and let you feed some goats on the way. And you cannot leave the area without hiking up to the Hang Mua Caves, pictured below.

Not only did I LOVE Vietnam, but I can now honestly say Vietnam has the best coffee in the world! (along with Italy and Colombia). The egg coffee is life changing (and i’m not even being dramatic haha). Oh, and did I mention endless Pho soup for only a few bucks? I was in complete heaven.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

It took my second trip to Iceland (and my last group trip) to finally make it to the lesser visited Snaefellsnes peninsula, and boy was it worth the wait! I had longed to visit Arrowhead Mountain from Game of Thrones and it was absolutely gorgeous.

One of my favorite memories was actually on the way up there stopping at a cute little hot spring in the middle of nowhere. What made it so magical was that we were the only ones there and it felt like a little gnome house or something.

My other favorite destinations from 2018 included Sicily (Italy), Rhodes (Greece), Northern Ireland Game of Thrones trip, Sri Lanka, The Cotswolds (England,  and an epic Norway road trip. 

What’s On My 2019 Travel List

There are SO many places I can’t decide! But i do know I am going back to Asia for a few weeks and also going to try to visit the few countries left in Europe that I haven’t been. And my ultimate destination will be Patagonia (which I have been trying to go to for the last 3 years). I’m hoping 2019 will finally be that year!

I also have a few destination weddings I am going to in North Carolina and Mexico so it’s going to be a busy year!

More Group Trips

I had a BLAST doing group trips last year and I want to continue them in the new year! I will probably host 3-4 trips in 2019, the first being Lofoten islands, Jordan, and Beirut! Check the details here.

Other group trip options for the second half of the year are Azores islands, Peru, GOT Northern Ireland tour, Scotland road trip, Oman, Lapland, and Patagonia!

Crazy Travelista’s wish list for 2019:

7 re-visited countries: Italy, Croatia, Greece, Jordan, Spain, N. Ireland, Scotland 

9 new countries: Luxembourg, Moldova, Monaco, Lebanon, S. Korea, Malaysia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil

Here’s to another awesome year of travels and new adventures! 2019, I’m ready for ya!♥

Where would you like to visit in 2019?

 

The Mysterious Faroe Islands: The Perfect 5 Day Faroe Islands Itinerary

The Mysterious Faroe Islands: The Perfect 5 Day Faroe Islands Itinerary

The Faroe Islands are a self-governing region of Denmark located in the North Atlantic Ocean halfway between Iceland and Norway. They are not part of the European Union and aren’t technically their own independent country. It’s complicated. 

There are 18 islands that make up the Faroe Islands archipelago. Most islands can easily be reached by sea tunnels. The islands are pretty small and you can easily navigate a few islands a day in a short time period. The farthest drive took me 1.5 hours and that was basically from south to north. In 5 days (more like 4.5 days), I visited 6 islands in the Faroes with only a little more than one tank of gas. 

Fun Fact: the human population of the Faroe Islands is around 50,000 and the sheep population is around 70,000.

How to Get To the Faroe Islands

The main airport in the Faroe islands is called Vágar Airport (airport code FAE)

The easiest way to get to Vagar Airport is to fly from Copenhagen (CPH) or Reykjavik (KEF). From Copenhagen it’s a 2 hour fight and from Reykjavik it’s about a 1 hour flight.  

Atlantic Airways and SAS fly direct to the Faroe Islands but flights are limited and do not operate every day so make sure to check when booking. 

I flew there with SAS and flew back with Atlantic Airways and the round trip cost me about $280. This was close to peak season in June. 

I booked my tickets with Skyscanner, which is my all-time favorite airline booking site!

Summer Daylight Time (Midnight Sun)

When I was there in June it got dark at about midnight and the sun came up around 3:30am so you essentially have 20+ hours of daylight to explore. Although I was often exhausted from hiking that I didn’t stay out after 9. Go figure.

P.S: make sure your accommodations has black-out curtains/blinds if you want to sleep good!

How to Get Around the Faroe Islands 

Rent a Car

Apparently there is a well connected bus system around the islands, but they don’t go to all the famous places so you really need a car to see all the awesome off-the-beaten path places I visited. 

Renting a car is super expensive, but is the best way to explore the islands. I paid $485 for 5 days for a manual car plus $75 for liability insurance. 

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

Total car price I paid: $560 with insurance (this is for a manual car). If you need an automatic car, expect to pay a few hundred more.

The good news is gas is pretty cheap! I only spent a total of $57 USD in 5 days driving around the islands.

*NOTE: Rent a car ASAP if you plan on going to the Faroe Islands. The prices are only going to go up because car rentals are limited on the islands. I booked in January for early June and still had ridiculous prices. Also, automatic cars are hard to come by so if you need one, plan way ahead!

Helicopter 

Yes, you heard that right. You can ball out and fly to certain places in a helicopter for very cheap! The helicopters are subsidized by the government so they are very affordable. The catch is that you can only book a ticket for one-way, not round trip. For example, you can fly from Tórshavn to Mykines for 215 DKK (about $33). Not bad, huh?

*The only reason i didn’t try the helicopter option is because I heard the weather is very fickle (which turned out to be so true) so I was worried about it getting cancelled. 

To book helicopter tickets in the Faroe Islands, click here.

Driving in the Faroe Islands 

Driving in the Faroe Islands can be a challenge and extra caution should be taken to follow the speed limit and rules.

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

One of the safer one-way roads with guard rails (most of them don’t have any)

Many of the smaller towns required a drive on a one-lane mountain road with no guard rails. There are turn off points on these one lane roads that you should turn into when you see a car coming. Whoever is closest to these turn off points should pull into them and let the other car pass. It was scary on some windy mountain roads because you couldn’t see around the curves at some point. Just go slow and be ready to slow down on a whim and you will be fine.

Oh, and there are one-way tunnels as well (they have turn off points inside also) but they tend to be very dark so you might want to use your high beams!

How to Stay Connected in the Faroe Islands

Get a SIM card at the airport info center. The package is for 2 GB and costs 97 krone ($15). You can top up online for 50 Krone for an additional 2 gb, which I ended up doing since I burn through data. The network worked really good and I got great service in all parts of the Faroes, even on the hikes. You will definitely need to have data to use google maps to navigate. 

P.S: your Faroe Islands SIM card will NOT work in Denmark (and vice versa). Remember that self-governing part? For this reason, my Skyroam did not work in the Faroe Islands.

Currency in the Faroe Islands

Faroese króna is the official currency of the Faroe Islands, but the Danish krone is also accepted. However, credit cards were accepted everywhere in the Faroe Islands, even on the ferries. So you can get by without any cash at all if you really wanted to. 

Sea Tunnels 

There are 2 sea tunnels that require a 100 króna ($14) payment to use. The price is for a return trip so you’ll only have to pay once. One of these sea tunnels is between Vágar and Streymoy and the other is between Borðoy and Eysturoy.

You can make a payment after the tunnel at a pay station. Or check your rental car details because mine had that cost included. When I picked up my car they told me not to pay the sea tunnel fee since it was included. I rented with Avis. 


Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary


Day 1: Mùlafossur Waterfall, & Sørvágsvatn

Day 2: Day trip to Mykines  

Day 3: Tórshavn, Tjornuvik, Fossa Waterfall, & Saksun

Day 4: Day trip to Kalsoy island

Day 5: Gjógv, Slættaratindur hike, & Kvívík

TipStay on Vagar island for the first 2 days of your trip (I stayed in a city called Miðvágur which was a great location). The first day go to the famous waterfall and hike. And then the second day head to Mykines to see the puffins! Then make your way to Kvívík for 3 nights and use it as a base to explore. I have included my Airbnb info near the end of this article. 

Day 1 (Mùlafossur Waterfall, Sørvágsvatn)

Mùlafossur Waterfall

Mùlafossur Waterfalls the most iconic spot on the Faroe Islands. You can now drive right up to it and walk a few minutes to the viewing point. There is only a small place to park a few cars but I saw some cars parked along the street. I would recommend going here the day you arrive since it’s so close to the airport. 

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

There were only 3-4 people at this spot and I was really surprised since it is the most popular attraction in the Faroe Islands. Goes to show that the Faroe Islands haven’t been spoiled by mass tourism yet.

Hike to Sørvágsvatn

If you want to see one of the coolest optical illusions you will ever see, make sure not to miss this hike! The hike takes less than 2 hours round trip including taking photos. Bring food and have a little picnic on the top with amazing views if you can! 

It’s a super easy hike. To get there from the airport, you will pass the pizza place called Smiðjan and take your first right. Then take the first major right after that until you get to a tiny parking lot. You will see others starting the hike there as well. 

Day 2 (Mykines day trip)

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

The ferry costs 120 krone ($19) round trip and takes 45 minutes. Make sure to get tickets in advance as there are limited seats. Also, go early in the trip in case it gets cancelled. I heard it gets cancelled often due to the sporadic weather. The puffin season is in the summer months only so try to make it over there between late May and early September. 

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

Hike to the lighthouse to see the puffins on the way. The majority of them are right before the bridge connecting the islands. The hike takes about 3 (ish) hours round trip including plenty of time for pictures.

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

There is not much else to do in the little town. There is a church and 2 cafes…and that’s about it. Bring snacks for lunch. You must pay a fee of 100 krone ($15) to hike on the island. You can do it online and show them a receipt. Or they will stop you somewhere along the trail and let you connect to a hotspot to pay it online. 

On your way home, stop at Smidjan restaurant in Vagar for pizza (yes, they even have GF pizzas!)

Day 3 (Tórshavn , Tjornuvik, Fossa Waterfall, Saksun)

Saksun

Saksun is a beautiful little village between the mountains with cascading waterfalls running down the cliffs and surrounded by greenery everywhere. There is a picturesque church with a gorgeous lake backdrop that you shouldn’t miss.

You can also walk up to one of the waterfalls and take pictures close up. There is a one-lane road to get there so make sure you drive slow and look ahead so you can turn into one of the many turn offs and wait for the car to pass. Saksun is a quintessential Faroese village with green grass roofs and some horses & sheep.

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

Tjørnuvík

Tjørnuvík is a gorgeous seaside town set on a black sand beach hugged by the mountains.

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

You can do a little hike up the backside to get an incredible view of the town and surrounding islands. There is a winding one-lane road that’s a bit scary to get to it but it’s worth it! 

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

Stop at Fossa waterfall on the way to Tjornuvik. It’s right off the road so you can’t miss it. There is a tiny parking spot for a few cars. Fossa waterfall is the tallest waterfall in the Faroe Islands. 

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

Tórshavn

Tórshavn is Europe’s smallest capital city and is worth a stop. It has a colorful little harbor with cute cafes and shops. Go to Paname cafe for soy milk cappuccino and a quaint and cozy interior. It’s connected to a book shop with cute little unique souvenirs. 

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

Visit Tinganes-home to one of the oldest parliament meeting places in the world and is home to the Faroese government. It’s a gorgeous part of town so make sure to check it out. 

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

Day 4 (Kalsoy)

Hike to Kallur Lighthouse in Kalsoy 

Take the car ferry from Klaksvík to Kalsoy, which takes only 20 minutes. The cost is 160 krone ($25) round trip with a car. When you arrive, drive to Trøllanes and do the Kallur lighthouse hike. It’s an easy hike taking about 40 minutes one way. 

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

Look for this red door for the entrance to the hike.

There is only one road on the island so just get off the ferry and go straight. It takes about 20 minutes to get to Trøllanes from the ferry port. Park in the little parking lot and turn left to start the hike. You will see the red door pictured above. 

Arrive to the ferry 40 minutes or more early during summer as there is limited space for cars. On the way back I got there 35 minutes early and had to wait for the next ferry almost 2 hours later because it was already full. Fail. 

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

The best views of the lighthouse and the surrounding landscape are seen by walking across a little steep pathway with plunging cliffs to both sides. At fist I said hell no, but then I saw a few brave guys doing it and it didn’t seem as bad. It’s actually wider than it looks once you get to the path. If you’re afraid of heights, definitely don’t do this. 

Stop to see the seal lady statue in Mikladalur Town on the way back if you have time. There is a pretty waterfall leading to the ocean which is more interesting than the actual statue in my opinion. 

There is nothing else to do on Kalsoy and no restaurants (that I saw), so bring food and water. There is a tiny kiosk selling snacks in Trøllanes if you really need something. You just ring the bell and the lady comes out. 

Day 5 (Gjógv, Slættaratindur hike, Kvívík)

Gjógv 

A city with a huge gorge running through it, hence the name Gjógv. There are several hikes you can do around the area so give yourself some time. It started storming hard so I didn’t hike here unfortunately. The road leading to Gjógv is winding and steep and only one lane without guard rails so drive carefully. There was so much fog when I went back I had never been so scared driving before.  I couldn’t see 20 feet in front of me. The Faroese fog is NO joke .

Close to Gjógv is the starting point of the hike to Slættaratindur, the highest peak in the Faroe Islands. It is said that on a clear day you can see all the way to Iceland, but I’m kinda doubting that myth.

The “easy” route only takes 45 minutes and it’s considered an easy hike. When I got to the beginning of the hike it was storming so bad with winds at almost 40 mph. It was so foggy I couldn’t see anything so I quickly aborted that hike unfortunately. I was so bummed! But you can’t really compete with Mother Nature. 

Visit the Town of Kvívík 

Kvívík is where my Airbnb was located and an adorable little seaside town. They actually unearthed some former Viking remains so if you’re a fan of Viking history, it’s worth a stopover. I could actually see the site from my Airbnb window!

Faroe Islands 5 Day Itinerary

View from my Airbnb in Kvivik

My Airbnb in Kvívík had the most amazing views of the town and water. The host was amazing and served breakfast in the dining room with panoramic views of the town. It was breathtaking. She also rents 2 other rooms out on Airbnb so keep that in mind if you don’t want to be social or share a bathroom. You can check the listing here. And for new Airbnb users, you can use my $40 OFF coupon for your first trip!

Also, here is the Airbnb I stayed in the town of Miðvágur on Vagar Islands here. The room was tiny but its all I needed traveling solo. It was a super convenient location and the host family was so nice!

Getting Alcohol in the Faroe Islands 

Did you know that there was basically alcohol prohibition in the Faroe Islands until 1992?! To this day the government highly restricts alcohol and it can only be bought from government run shops called Rúsdrekkasøla. There are only 9 of them in the whole Faroe Islands and they have extremely limited hours. Most are open from 1-5:30pm and one I saw was only open from 4-6pm! So if you happen to see one, make sure to stock up because you may not get another chance. The wine was pretty reasonably priced at about $12-15 a bottle. 

What to Wear in the Faroe Islands 

The weather is extremely sporadic in the Faroe Islands and changes very quickly. It reminded me of Iceland in that sense, but not as drastic. I went in the beginning of June, their “summer” and the average temperature was 50 Fahrenheit! 

It also rains over 210 days a year there so you definitely want to be prepared for that! 

What to Pack for the Faroe Islands 

  • Rain jacket ( I recently got this one and love it) 
  • Waterproof hiking boots (My Ahnu boots are awesome and definitely waterproof!) 
  • Wool socks (Darn Tough are expensive but the best wool socks on the market)
  • Thermal fleece lined leggings 
  • Thin long sleeve shirt with cuffs 
  • Fleece hoodie ( I travel with this North Face hoodie on all trips. It’s so soft & comfy)
  • Hat 
  • Light gloves 
  • Waterproof camera bag 
  • GoPro Hero 6 Black– it was raining so hard at some points I couldn’t even take out my fancy camera so I resorted to only carrying my GoPro and iPhone 8 for pictures. 
  • Life proof waterproof case for iPhone 8

Where to Eat in the Faroe Islands

Finding restaurants outside of Tórshavn and other major cities like Klaksvík was tough! Most the villages I visited didn’t even have a restaurant or convenience store so make sure to bring snacks and pack lunches for hikes as you may go all day without a restaurant. 

Gas stations strangely serve all kinds of food such as chicken skewers, salads, sandwiches, hot dogs, and fresh fruit. So if you can’t find food, a gas station is always your backup choice! 

Bonus supermarket is an affordable supermarket with many options. I picked up a bunch of things there to pack for lunch and it only cost me $35 for the whole trip. 

Most, if not all, supermarkets and most restaurants outside of Tórshavn are closed on Sundays so be prepared for that.  

You can drink the tap water so reuse your water bottle and fill up so you don’t have to spend money on water.

Travel Insurance for the Faroe Islands 

I NEVER go on a trip without travel insurance. Never. Too many bad things can happen (and they have unfortunately). Shit happens when you least expect it. Travel insurance is especially important when traveling to secluded islands, as you may need to be air-lifted to the mainland in the worst case scenario. Do you know how much air-lifting costs? Think at least 5 digits (i.e. Expensive AF!).

My favorite travel insurance that I have been using for the past 4 years is World Nomads. I have made 3 claims so far and have been fully reimbursed for all 3 without any hassle. I HIGHLY recommend them.

Are you curious to visit the Faroe Islands? Let me know if you have any questions below!

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