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?

 

Crazy Travelista’s 2018 Mini Solo Group Trips (Norway, Croatia, Banff, & Iceland)

Crazy Travelista’s 2018 Mini Solo Group Trips (Norway, Croatia, Banff, & Iceland)

A solo group trip? Wait, what?

My ultimate goal is to inspire others to travel more. I love solo travel and love empowering women to do so. I also LOVE the camaraderie and friendships made from going on group trips. Which is why I have decided to make 2018 the year I open up some fun group trips and have a small group of adventurous souls join me.

These group trips are perfect for those who usually venture solo but who want to connect with new people. But if you would like to bring a friend along, go right ahead!

What Sets Crazy Travelista’s Mini Group Trips Apart from Other Group Trips?

First off, the group size will be capped at 8 people max to focus on a more intimate feel so we can really get to know each other. 

These group trips are designed for the lone traveler who is scared to travel alone, who has no one to go with, or who just loves connecting with new people around the world.

The tours would be heavily photography based, so a love for taking awesome shots is a must! Although I’m not a professional photographer by any means, I do have a knack for finding the best viewpoints and framing the shots and I would like to help out in any way I can.

I will share all my tips on how I get all my shots when I travel alone and help everyone get their own awesome shots on the trip. Even if you suck at taking pics, I guarantee you will go home with some amazing shots (even if I have to take them all for you myself♥). 

The trips will be for adventure lovers who love hiking, discovering off the beaten path places, and the best photo spots.

The trips will be based on a “rough” itinerary I designed…but we will also leave plenty of room for unplanned adventures (because those are always the most memorable, right?). 

I have been on 5 group trips so far and the best part about these trips is the life long friendships that develop from them.

As soon as you sign up, I will start a private Facebook group to introduce everyone as soon as possible. They did this on one of my previous group trips and it was awesome because it was like we knew each other by the time we actually met in person.

Are These Trips for You?

If you are a fun loving adventurous spirit with a good sense of humor and love meeting new people and experiencing different cultures, this trip is for you! These trip will focus mainly on adventure activities, and photography, so a love for both is a must!

These Trip are NOT for you if:

If you love drama, drugs, or getting black-out wasted every night, this trip is NOT for you. This is for the more mature traveler who doesn’t mind long days of adventure and photo taking. There will definitely be some wine drinking as well, so it’s not going to be all serious, trust me. 

These trips are probably not for you if you are a budget traveler. These trips will mimic my traveler style, which I describe as “ballin on a budget” (I heard it on a rap song and thought it described my style perfectly). This style means not budget, but not super luxury. Basically, I like nice places, but I find awesome deals to make them cheaper. Most the accommodations we stay will be comfortable, cute, and unique. 

Age Limits:

22-38 years old

I’m not trying to be a dick, but I am going to put age limits on my trips, just because it gets very awkward when there is too much of an age gap. It’s such a better vibe and more cohesive when people are closer in age and in more in the same stage in life. 

However, if you are a little but outside these age limits and you think you would still be perfect for these trips, send me a message and let me know. I am willing to make an exception in some circumstances. 🙂

Girls Trips

Most of these trips will be female only (sorry guys). I am all about the female empowerment thing and encouraging girls to venture out on their own. Although if you want to come with your boyfriend, let me know and I may be able to make an exception on some trips.

*the co-hosted Banff trip is open to boys :)*


I have 4 group trips planned so far (& I may add 1-2 more later). Here are the timeframes for each just to give you an idea:

Lofoten Islands, Norway: March 1-5th, 2018

Croatia: May 26-June 6th (& maybe again in early September 2018)

Banff, Canada: June 23-29 2018 (co-hosted by CareBear Abroad)

Iceland: late September/early October 2018


*The spots are extremely limited as I am only taking up to 8 people max on each trip (Norway is only 4!) so please sign up as soon as possible to ensure you get a spot.


Lofoten Islands, Norway (Photographing Arctic Landscapes + Northern Lights Chase)

Dates: March 1-5, 2018

I have dedicated an entire post to this trip which you can check out here:

Come Travel to the Secluded & Breathtaking Lofoten Islands, Norway with Me!

*This trip is tentatively full, but there could possibly be one opening so make sure to sign up on the form on the blog post if you are interested in going! OR you can access the form here.

Best of Croatia:  Dalmatian Coast + Istria (+ Slovenia day trip)

Length: 11 days/10 nights

Dates: May 26-June 6th, 2018

Start: Split, Croatia 

End: Split, Croatia 

Crazy Travelista Group Trips

I am especially stoked to host this Croatia trip as Croatia is like my second home. In case you don’t know, my boyfriend of 4 years is Croatian and lives in Split. I live in the USA, but that means I am in Croatia MANY times a year. In fact, I have been to Croatia 20+ times! I know the country very well and know the best places to go. I also know where to avoid. You can say I’m basically a Croatia expert so I am going to take you to all of my favorite places! 🙂

Plus, I think Croatia is one of the most beautiful countries in the entire world!

Crazy Travelista Group Trips

This road trip across Croatia will combine the most popular seaside towns and islands on the Dalmatian coast, the most stunning national parks, and the lesser know Istrian region. If you haven’t heard of Istria, think gorgeous medieval hilltop towns surrounded by Tuscany-like rolling hills and vineyards. We will be basing ourselves in Rovinj, one of the most colourful and underrated picturesque towns in all of Europe.

Crazy Travelista Group Trips

This 11 day/10 night trip will pack in as much of Croatia as possible, and also a day trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia (one of the most underrated cities in Europe in my opinion). 

And if you are a Game of Thrones fan, we will try to squeeze in some optional tours in Split and/or Dubrovnik.

Where will we visit in Croatia?

  • Coastal port of Split (the gateway to the islands)
  • Ritzy/picturesque Hvar Island
  • Small town of Omiš, beautifully framed by the Cetina River
  • Makarska Riviera
  • Dubrovnik, aka King’s Landing
  • Plitvice National Park, the most stunning national park in Croatia
  • Rovinj, the colorful gem of Istria
  • Medieval hilltop towns of Istria
  • Ljubljana, Sloveina-one of the prettiest capital cities you will ever see
  • Mystery destination

What’s Included:

  • Daily continental breakfast
  • Accommodation in double occupancy (shared room)
  • Transport that starts and ends in Split (AC vehicle, all ferry tickets to islands)
  • Local SIM card with 10GB data (phone must be unlocked)
  • Entrance to Dubrovnik City Walls

What’s NOT Included:

  • Flights
  • lunch/dinner
  • Alcohol
  • Any extra activities not mentioned

Optional Activities:

  • GOT tours
  • Dubrovik cable car
  • Ziplining in Omiš

Price range: $1980

Non-refundable Deposit: $300 

Sign up here. You will get email confirmation by next week of the final price and dates.

*Please do NOT book any flights until you receive confirmation from me.


Banff, Canada: Epic Hikes, Lakes & Best Instagram Views (7 days/6 nights)

Dates: late June 2017 (will be finalized in the next 2 weeks)

Starts: Calgary, Canada 

Ends: in Calgary, Canada

Hosted by: Crazy Travelista & CareBear Abroad

banff photo

CareBear Abroad & Crazy Travelista are super excited to be opening up our first group trip together! We have traveled to over 20 counties together and would be delighted to have like-minded travel enthusiasts join us for an awesome trip exploring the bucket list destination of Banff, Canada.

Why you should join us on this tour?

Come travel with Crazy Travelista & CareBear Abroad and join our fun adventures hiking all around the Canadian Rockies seeking out the most epic Instagrammable views of the amazing blue lakes and stunning mountainous landscapes.

Should You Join us on This Trip?

If you are a fun loving adventurous spirit with a good sense of humor and love meeting new people and experiencing different cultures, this trip is for you! This trip will focus mainly on hiking and photography, so a love for both is a must!

Because this trip is specifically focused on hiking, a moderate fitness level is recommended. We will be doing 2-3+ hours of hiking per day (maybe a little more on some days). We will also be kayaking and/or stand up paddle boarding (SUP) on some of the lakes (optional activities).

We also plan on mixing in some relaxing activities such as soaking in hot springs and horseback riding.

*If you love drama, drugs, or getting black out wasted every night, this trip is NOT for you.

banff photo

Where will We Visit in Banff?

Each day will focus on hiking to the best viewpoints of the vibrant blue lakes of Moraine Lake, Banff, Peyto Lake, Lake Louise, and Yoho National Park (Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit).

What’s Included:

  • Daily continental breakfast
  • Accommodation in double occupancy (shared room with same sex)
  • Transportation starting in Calgary

What’s NOT Included:

  • Flights
  • lunch/dinners
  • Alcohol
  • Any extra activities not mentioned

Optional Activities:

  • Horseback riding in Banff or Lake Louise
  • SUP or kayaking on Lake Louise or Moraine Lake

Total Price: TBD in the next 2 weeks

*We will be going in June which is the beginning of peak season. We picked this time since we wanted to ensure the lakes are NOT frozen and the hiking trails are not closed due to snow. (i.e. it will be more expensive than off season but we will see more awesome stuff!)

Sign up for Banff trip here. You will receive an email as soon as final trip details are released.

*Please do NOT book any flights until you get confirmation from me.


Most Photogenic Landscapes of Iceland: Epic 8 Day Road Trip

Tentative Dates: September 20-27th, 2018 (will be finalized by next month)

Start: Reykjavik

End: Reykjavik

Crazy Travelista Group Trips

Where will We Visit in Iceland?

  • Reykjavik 
  • Golden Circle
  • South Coast with all badass waterfalls
  • Vik black sand beach
  • Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon & Ice cave
  • natural hot pools all over Iceland
  • Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
  • Thingvellir National Park
  • Dyrhólaey Peninsula 
  • Snæfellsnes Peninsula
  • Plus more!

What’s Included:

  • Daily continental breakfast
  • Accommodation in double occupancy (shared room with same sex)
  • Transport starting in Reykjavik
  • Entrance to national parks and natural hot pools (NOT the Blue Lagoon)

What’s NOT Included:

  • Flights to/from Iceland 
  • lunch/dinner
  • Alcohol
  • Any extra activities not mentioned

Price: TBD (will finalize by next month)

*We will have a kitchen most of the trip so we can slash costs of food by cooking. Eating in Iceland is expensive as shit!

Sign up for Iceland trip here.

Please do NOT book any flights until you get confirmation from me.


Yay, let’s do this!! ♥

PS: If you have any suggestions for more group trips, please let me know!

I am super excited to meet everyone!

 

Geysers, Waterfalls, and Glaciers, Oh My! The Golden Circle Tour (+Northern Lights)

Geysers, Waterfalls, and Glaciers, Oh My! The Golden Circle Tour (+Northern Lights)

Golden Aurora Circle Tour with Solstice Tours

With only 3 days to explore the entire country of Iceland, I had to pack as much into each day as humanly possible to try to see it all. When I decided a tour was the best option for me, I chose a small company called Solstice Tours, featuring a smaller group size. Because, who wants to be herded around in a grey hound bus with 100 other tourists? That sounds God awful. I chose the Golden Aurora Circle Tour, a combo of the Golden Circle Tour and Northern Lights Tour. 

The Golden Circle covers approximately 300km and is the most popular day tour in Iceland.  So what exactly do you see on the Golden Circle Tour? Here goes (it’s a lot!):

Golden Circle Tour

 

On Power Power Plant

The first stop was to the On Power power plant. Not too excited about it at first, but then I learned some very interesting facts about Iceland. Some extremely freaking cool things I learned:

  • the power plant is near an active volcano
  • magma under the ground is heating up the water (2km underground)
  • power plant adds sulfur to water to protect the pipes (hence the bad smell)
  • power plant extracts the geothermal liquid and it is separated into water and steam
  • steam is used for electricity (resulting in extremely low electricity bills in Iceland)
  • pipes run 27km to the city of Reykjavik
  • 16,000 tons per hour can be pumped to Rekjavik at highest capacity (woah)
  • Reykjavik uses underground hot water to heat the streets (I was wondering why there was no snow on the streets!)
  • 90% house in Iceland use geothermal hot water

Icelandic Horses

I had no idea this was part of the tour but Jon, the tour guide and owner of Soltice tours, pulled over on the side of the road near a green pasture. He hopped out and told us it was time to feed the horses. What? How exciting! He gave us some bread, and I was extremely hesitant to feed them, thinking I might lose a finger or two. But he calmly informed us that the Icelandic horses are some of the tamest horses in the world. Why? Because they have never had any known predators. I thought that was cool.

What else is really cool about Icelandic horses? They have 5 different gaits, as opposed to the average horse with 3 gaits, making them extremely unique. The more you know…

Kerið Crater

Kerid Crater, Iceland

How cool is Kerid Crater?

I had never heard of this place, but this turned out to be one of the most unexpectedly awesome stops of the whole tour. I felt like I was on Mars walking around the periphery of this huge volcanic crater. I cant deny that it took me 30 minutes to walk around as I kept stopping for selfies. No shame. 

Random Cherry Tomato Plant

cherry tomato farm

Random stop at cherry tomato farm (aka the best cherry tomatoes I’ve ever tasted)

On this random stop, we quickly visited a cherry tomato plant where Jon brought us endless cups of local cherry tomatoes. I’m so not a tomato person at all, but these were the best cherry tomatoes I had ever tasted! Hands-down. So sweet and juicy! Who would have thought, in Iceland?

Geyser Geothermal Area

Strokkur Geysir on Golden Circle Tour

Strokkur Geysir erupts every 5-10 minutes

Just like it sounds, it’s an area filled with geysers everywhere you turn. The most famous Strokkur Geysir is very active and erupts every 5-10 minutes, making it a popular spectacle. The famous geyser sprouts up to 30 meters! But don’t stand too close or you will most definitely get sprayed!

The Magnificent Gulfoss Waterfall

Gulfoss waterfall in winter

Gulfoss Waterfall

Gulfoss waterfall is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in all of Europe. Formed by 2 waterfalls smoothly cascading into the next, this is certainly the highlight of the Golden Circle. We were however, greeted by an intense hail storm upon arrival. The hail was so powerful I couldn’t even open my eyes, so I had to run like a bat out of hell back to the van for shelter. Very characteristic of Iceland’s weather, 5 minutes later the sky opened up magically with a bright blue tint, making you forget what had just happened. It was just enough time gawk at this beauty of nature, snap some pics, and be on our way!

Here I am 5 minutes earlier trying to snap a photo. Not exactly what I was expecting.

Gulfoss waterfall, Iceland

Not too thrilled about that Icelandic weather

Stop at a Glacial Spring

With a quick stop at the glacial springs, we were able to actually taste the glacier water straight from the source. It was some of the purest, freshest water I have ever tasted! I can now officially say I’ve literally tasted natural glacier spring water.

Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park fissure

Fissure outlining the separation of the tectonic plates

Þingvellir National Park was one of my personal favorite stops on the tour! It is home to the Silfra fissure, where you can snorkel and dive in between the Mid-Atlantic ridge separating the 2 continents, North America and Eurasia! Where else in the world can you do that? It was January, so I decided to pass on this. I know, lame. We still were able to spot many areas where you could visibly see the fissure between the 2 continents.

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

GOT Season 6 was filmed steps away from here 🙂

Another huge highlight for me was getting to see some of the filming sites for the upcoming Game of Thrones season! Yes, they were filmed in Þingvellir National Park!! I felt like a giddy school girl knowing that I could be walking on the same grounds as Jon Snow. I’m a dork, I am fully aware of this fact. 

Þingvellir National Park waterfall

Is Iceland really real? 🙂

Observatory between North America and Eurasia Tectonic Plates

This was really cool as we could visibly see the cracks in the ground separating the 2 continents. Jon took us to the North American side so we could feel “at home”.

North America and Eurasia tectonic plates

Overlooking the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between N. America and Eurasia

Interesting fact: The plates in this Mid-Atlantic Ridge shift apart 2cm each year!

Northern Lights Tour

 

Ok, this is why I really decided to come to Iceland in the dead of winter. The Northern Lights are high on my bucket list, as they should be. The great thing about this tour is that Jon allows you to go along on the Northern Lights chase up to 3 TIMES, on the day of the tour, and also on the day before and day after, increasing your chances of a sighting.

Jon had a plethora of knowledge about photography and shared some of his helpful tips as we sat in the van waiting for the perfect timing. It was a windy and frigid evening and it seemed like we would go home empty handed, but Jon pepped us up to go out..

He informed us that sometimes you cant see the lights with your naked eye, yet they are still visible through the camera lens. And he was right! We were able to see a slight glimpse of the lights through the viewfinder. If only faintly, we were able to see the Northern Lights. However, I can still say that I have not seen the lights with my naked eye. So it still remains on my bucket list! I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for me; although I did enjoy the chase!

Aurora Borealis

Photo courtesy of Jon, owner of Solstice Tours

What I really liked about Solstice Tours?

  • small group size (about 8 people) allowed for getting to know other travellers
  • wifi on bus (huge bonus!)
  • knowledgable and kind tour guide (I’m talking about you Jon!)
  • pick up outside of the city (at my Airbnb apt)
  • extra stops along the tour
  • good lunch options
  • so many sites visited (bang for your buck)

What I didn’t like?

  • My only complaint is that I wish we could have spent more time at certain sites such as Þingvellir National Park. But with the short daylight time in winter, this wasn’t possible.

Disclaimer: special thanks to Solstice Tours for hosting me. As always, my opinions are my own. If I don’t like something, I will definitely speak my mind! No bullsh*t.

Have you done the Golden Circle Tour or Northern Lights Tour? Would you rather go on a tour or go solo? I want to hear your thoughts!

Like it? PIN IT! 🙂

Golden Circle Tour highlights