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!
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!
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).
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.
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.
The Cotswolds, England
Mirissa, Sri Lanka
GOT tour, Northern Ireland
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!
Lofoten Islands: March 7-12, 2019 (Update: will be moved to Oct/Nov now)
Jordan: March 27-April 3rd
Beirut, Lebanonadd-on: April 3-7th
My 2019 Group Trips will all be run based on demand. Since these destinations got the most votes, these are my first set of group trips for 2019. I will do 2 more trips by the end of the year (in the fall) so stay tuned for those as well.
Lofoten Islands, Norway Group Trip (Oct/Nov 2019)
UPDATE: Due to some schedule conflicts, this trip will be moved to Oct/Nov now. Stay tuned for the exact dates in the next few months.
Last March, I took a small group of adventurous ladies to the remote Lofoten Islands in Norway and it was an absolute blast! I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen (& I’m pretty sure all the girls would agree).
Not only that, but we had the most breathtaking cozy cabin right on the lake with the most AMAZING VIEW of the mountains and water, the perfect setting to view the Northern Lights! (which we saw right from our living room!).
The Northern Lights from our living room in Lofoten
We had such a great trip that I wanted to open up a second trip in March 2019!
The Lofoten Islands are an archipelago off of Northeast Norway known for their cute little traditional fishing villages, epic mountain peaks, stunning fjords, and breathtaking panoramic views.
The Lofoten islands aren’t the easiest (or cheapest) to get to, which is why they aren’t on the main tourist track (another reason they are so intriguing to me). The good news is I took all the stress out of planning this trip for you!
The Lofoten Islands are a photographer’s dream, especially because they are a good place to see the Northern Lights. And there is nothing prettier than seeing these cute little seaside towns all covered in snow.
We will meet in the town of Bodo, Norway, which is like the gateway to the Lofotens. The next morning we will take a short 20 minute flight to the islands.
I have rented a car and plan to drive around to some of the best photo spots on the islands like cute little villages, arctic beaches, and viewpoints over the islands.
There are also some EPIC hikes to do in the Lofotens, although only some are accessible during the winter time. But I do plan on doing 1 of the smaller hikes if the weather gods permit. We will check the avalanche warnings the night before and decide from there. So ya, you kinda should be into hiking and be in moderate shape.
That being said, you will need waterproof boots/hiking shoes and microspikes. It is still very much snowy this time of year and we will be walking around all day so it would suck to have wet and soggy feet.
At night, it’s gonna be all about searching for the Northern Lights. There is never a guarantee that they will come out to play (so you have to set your expectations accordingly). However, the Lofoten Islands are 100 km above the Arctic Circle so that gives me lots of hope! We saw them on our last night of our trip and it was MAGICAL!
We will stay in a cute little cozy red cabin (just like you see in all the pictures…and the same one as last year) right on the water in Homnøy, the most photographed village in the Lofotens. There is a deck overlooking the water and mountains, which is the perfect setting if the Northern Lights appear. How cool would that be to just walk outside and see them without having to go anywhere? My dream! (Update: this actually happened!!!)
So What’s It Gonna Cost Me?
Non-Refundable Deposit: $400
Total Trip Cost: $1675
Another important note: As with all group trips, travel insurance WILL be required for this trip. Plus, it’s foolish not to travel without it anyway.
Norway is expensive AF! In fact, Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, so this is definitely NOT a budget trip. This is more like a bucket list trip!
Norway is also one of my top 10 favourite countries in the world (out of 83 that I’ve been). The natural beauty is unmatched and keeps bring me back for more (this will be my 4th trip). Trust me when I say the steep prices are 100% worth it!
I’ve also taken a look at photography tours of Lofoten Islands and they run anywhere from 2500 EUROS to 4500 EUROS! I am not a professional photographer, hence the lower prices. But I definitely have more skill than the average person, which I will use to help you get some awesome shots!
5 nights accommodation in double occupancy (you will have your own twin bed in a room shared with another female traveler..possibly your new BFF)
Return flights from Bodø to Lofoten islands and back
Private transport around the islands
Lifelong memories and friendships!
What’s NOT Included:
International flights to Norway
Food (however, there will be a kitchen where we stay and I will be making grocery store runs…restaurants are limited on the islands so this is a good option to eat cheap). I think we all spent less than $80 on food for the few days we were there.
Travel insurance (mandatory)
Where Can I Sign Up?
I am only taking 4 other adventure travellers with me so spots are VERY limited. You can sign up HERE (Oct/Nov dates will be announced at a later time, but feel free to fill out this form so i have your email and to assure you get first dibs on spots!). Please only fill this out if you are super serious about gong.♥
Jordan Group Trip
Dates: March 27-April 3rd, 2019
Trip starts in: Amman, Jordan on March 27th
Trip ends in: Amman Jordan on April 3rd
Visa Required: YES (for US citizens, this can easily be obtained during your passport check on arrival)
Activities: Petra, Petra by Night, luxury stay on Dead Sea, desert glamping (with actual beds)
I am SO excited to go back to Jordan as it is one of my favorite destination of 2017 and my favorite country in the Middle East! I went solo and felt totally safe, in case you are wondering!
On this trip, we will spend 2.5 days in Petra and I will show you all the epic viewpoints I found on my last trip. There is some hiking involved so you must be ok with this! But no hiking experience needed, don’t worry!
After Petra we will spend one night glamping in the desert (there will be beds inside your tent so it’s not roughing it by any means).
We will also visit the Dead Sea and stay in a luxury hotel with a sea view.
The trip starts and ends in Amman so we will have time to explore the city as well.
Jordan Trip Itinerary
March 27: Amman
March 28-31: Petra
March 31-April 1: Wadu Rum desert glamping
April 1-2: Dead Sea resort luxury hotel
April 2-3: Amman
Non-refundable deposit: $400 due by January 23rd
Total Price: $1600 (due by February 23rd)
*For any past guests on my previous group trips, you will get a special discount, just ask 🙂
7 nights accommodation in double occupancy (you will have your own twin bed in a room shared with another female traveler).
Private transport around Jordan
Petra by Night entrance fee
Lifelong memories and friendships!
What’s NOT Included:
International flights to Jordan
Jordan Visa Fee* (see below)
Entrance to Petra for 2 days* (See below)
Food (other than the breakfasts mentioned above)
Alcohol (It’s a dry country so there will not be much alcohol consumption)
Travel insurance (mandatory)
*I did not include the 2 day entrance fee to Petra since its cheaper to buy the Jordan Pass before you enter Jordan, which reduces your visa entry fee. I’ll give you more details about it once you book the trip, don’t worry! It’s pretty easy 🙂
Where Can I sign up?
You can fill out this form HERE for the Jordan trip. Please note that you should NOT buy your plane tickets to Jordan until you get the ok from me first.
Beirut, Lebanon Add-On (April 3-7)
Beirut, Lebanon is a quick and cheap flight from Amman, Jordan so it makes sense to add this onto a Jordan trip!
After zipping around Jordan I will be heading to Beirut, Lebanon for 4 days, hoping to explore but also relax after the jam-packed Jordan trip.
It will be my first time in Beirut myself. I plan on exploring the city and coastline, as well as going on a day-trip to Byblos (one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world).
Based on demand, I will put together an actual itinerary, so if you’re interested, let me know (there is a question about it in the Jordan sign-up form above). ♥
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 8people 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.
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. 🙂
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)
*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
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!
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.
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
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
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:
Any extra activities not mentioned
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.
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
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.
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).
Daily continental breakfast
Accommodation in double occupancy (shared room with same sex)
Transportation starting in Calgary
What’s NOT Included:
Any extra activities not mentioned
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)
As another whirlwind travel year comes to an end, it’s about that time to reflect and reminisce on my crazy year and highlight my top moments/surprises. In 2017, I traveled to 13 new countries including, Ecuador, Finland, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Cuba, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Cyprus, Oman, and Jordan. I also revisited some of my favourite countries including Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Norway.
In 2017, I visited a total of 17 countries on 4 continents. WOW. I didn’t even notice it was that many until I typed it out. I guess I’m really living up to the name Crazy Travelista. 🙂
Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Travel Highlights & Surprises of 2017:
1. Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos is on many bucket lists and a dream destination for animal and sea lovers. But it costs a fortune, right? WRONG. I did one week for under $1K. Yep, I got skills like that haha. You can read about how I did it here and also free or cheap things to do in the Galapagos here.
It was just so fascinating to me walking around and seeing Sea Lions sitting on park benches, marine iguanas (that look like mini dinosaurs) wading next to me in the water, and stopping for a traffic jam of life size turtles in the wild. Oh, and seeing a sea horse up close in the wild was freakin incredible!
But my ultimate favourite memory was swimming with hammerhead sharks and sea lions at Kicker Rock. I’m not going to lie, I was scared shitless of jumping into the water above a shark, let alone a whole swarm of them. But it was a once in a lifetime experience and I wasn’t going to pass it up. If you do ONE thing in the Galapagos, take the tour to Kicker Rock on San Cristobal Island.
2. Northern Lights in Tromsø, Norway
One of my top 5 bucket list items of all time was finally fulfilled in Tromsø, Norway this year. I miss the Northern Lights in Iceland the year before and was so bummed. But let me tell you, it was well worth the wait and just made it that much more special when I finally got my first glimpse.
Not only did I see the Northern Lights, but they really put on a dramatic dancing show of electric neon green in the sky that I cannot describe it with any other word besides MAGICAL.
God, I loved Lapland. I didn’t think i would enjoy it that much but it really surprised me. I’m not the biggest fan of freezing cold destinations, but Lapland has single handedly changed my mind!
What really captivated me was all the super unique winter activities that you can try that are specific to this region. My favourite activities were the Husky ride, snowmobiling on a lake to see the Northern Lights (unfortunately they didn’t come out that night), taking a photography tour of the arctic landscapes, and especially the sauna plus an arctic ice dip. I did end up seeing the Northern Lights in Levi the next day!
I also really enjoyed a reindeer ride and visiting an ice hotel. Oh, and you can also visited Santa Clause Village and cross the arctic circle! Where else in the world can you do these things?
The only thing I missed was sleeping in an glass igloo hotel, which I plan to return for one day!
My favourite destination of 2017 goes to Japan! Japan is like steeping into another world and I definitely experienced the most culture here than any other place in 2017. I’m not usually a big fan of huge capital cities, but Tokyo is certainly an exception.
My senses were constantly stimulated walking around the chaotic yet peaceful city, and I could have spent my entire time in Japan exploring Tokyo and been satisfied. My favourite part was experiencing an owl and cat cafe.
Other favourites included expiring Kyoto (dressing as a geisha is a must), climbing the Fushimi Inari shrine, taking a sushi making class, visiting the Bamboo forest, and walking part of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage route.
Japan is easily one of my top 5 favourite countries in the world and it’s somewhere I will 100% return to. Japan was the cleanest and most organized country I have ever been with the most respectful people I have ever encountered. If only the rest of the world would follow their lead.
Indonesia was near the top of my bucket list, especially Bali. And boy did it live up to my high expectations. I spent 2 weeks hopping around the islands, swimming with manta rays, snorkelling, surviving the craziest driving on a motorbike ever, chasing waterfalls, frolicking through rice fields, and slurping down smoothie bowls.
Bali is the perfect place to live it up in luxury, for next to nothing in cost. The people were amazing, the temples were grande, and the option for healthy food was endless. What’s not to love about Bali?
When I was younger, my family sponsored 2 Filippino girls who became like family (and lived with us for years). I always wanted to go see where they came from and I finally got the chance this year. With over 7000+ islands to choose from, it was hard to pick where to go. But since Palawan got rated the most beautiful island in the world, I knew I couldn’t miss it.
I spent a week between Coron and El Nido island hopping some of the most beautiful waters I have ever seen. I climbed the most dangerous hike I will ever do at Mt. Taraw and motorbiked around El Nido. I caught some epic sunsets at Las Cabanas and got daily massages.
I rented a kayak and paddled out to Bikal Beach on Cadlao Island through a gnarly storm that came out of nowhere (I’m glad I didn’t capsize and lived to tell about it hehe). Palawan was outstanding and gave me just the ideal amount of adventure and relaxation.
My second trip to South America this year brought me to the super dangerous country of Colombia (extreme sarcasm people). Colombia is such a colourful and vibrant country and I felt completely safe traveling there solo.
My favourite part of Colombia was visiting Tayrona National Park. It’s basically a national park filled with endless gorgeous beaches. You can even rent a hammock and stay the night there if you are into the camping (and spiders) thing. My only regret is that I only spent one day here.
Other highlights included climbing El Peñol for the EPIC views from above and visiting the most colourful city I’ve ever seen in Guatape. Oh, ad you can’t miss the beautiful and lively city of Cartagena. I basically spent all my days eating ceviche and photographing the dreamy colorful balkanise of the city. Colombia quickly became my favourite country in South America!
Another top 5 bucket list items was checked on my trip to Peru when I visited Machu Picchu. The long wait was more than worth it and it didn’t let me down one bit! What was even more special is that I miraculously almost had the whole place to myself. What a dream!
I spend 6 days in Cusco and the Sacred Valley constantly being awed of the next site. I attempted and completed the most exhausting hike of my life at Rainbow Mountain (above 17,000 feet altitude).
And to top it off, I enjoyed one of the most scenic train rides I’ve ever taken through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu.Oh, and I ate ceviche just about every day and didn’t feel guilty about it one bit. All in all, Peru was awesome!
Another “dangerous country” I visited myself this year (sarcasm again people). I want to start by saying that the hospitality I experienced in Jordan was some of the most heart felt i have ever experienced. I felt super welcome and super safe the entire time.
I spent 3 days in Petra and it blew my mind!!! Along with Japan, it was my favourite destination of 2017. I felt like Indiana Jones discovering the lost city of Petra and I had so much fun hiking around the city and doing some mini photo shoots.
The highlight for me was Petra by night which was pure MAGIC. If you go to Petra, definitely don’t miss it!
Most people I know have never heard of Oman and/or don’t know where it is on a map. And this is exactly why I wanted to visit! For the few people I knew who have visited, I have never heard a bad thing about the country.
The main attraction for me is all the Wadis in Oman. Think a desert oasis with a bright green body of water in the middle, lined with palm trees. It was like a mirage, but in real life. Oman was amazing and I had the best time renting a car and driving around to find new places. The Omani people were very kind and I felt right at home in this beautifully untouched Middle Eastern country. I highly recommend you visit soon before it becomes super touristy.
So What’s In Store for CrazyTravelista in 2018?
Well, let’s just say that 2018 is going to be the year of GROUP TRIPS and I’m super excited about it! I have 4 trips planned so far to Lofoten Islands (Norway), Croatia, Banff, and Iceland. The Norway trip is tentatively filled, but keep a look out very soon for details on Croatia, Banff, and Iceland. So excited to meet like-minded travellers!
In terms of solo travel, I have my eye on some places that I’m hoping to get to this year. But as always, who knows if I will actually make it to all these places.
CrzayTravelista’s 2018 Travel Wishlist
HaLong Bay, Vietnam
Rio de Janeiro
Back to Albania
Looks like I have lots of planning to do! Cheers to 2018!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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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 stop). The wider the aperture (i.e. the lower the F stop number) the better for night shots.
Put on Manual Focus (MF)-to prevent blur. Activate screen of camera and zoom in to set it. Use infinity “∞” symbol on camera if you have 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).
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
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.
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.
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!
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!
I had avoided Norway for so long because it is the most expensive country in Europe. Understandable. As you can imagine, I was thrilled to finally be going to Bergen after dreaming about it for what seemed like forever. I was almost equally excited about staying at Hotel Oleana Bergen after obsessing over this beautiful hotel online for weeks beforehand.
I won’t bore you by describing every little thing inside the hotel room. “The room had a desk, a chair, a bed, a window…”. How boring does that sounds? If you want the little details you can check on the hotel’s website. What I am going to tell you are the top 5 things I loved about Hotel Oleana Bergen!
1. Amazing Ambiance/Decore
Spent way more time than one should in a hotel lobby sitting on that comfy couch
The first thing I noticed when I opened the door and stepped into the hotel was the incredible ambiance. Dim lighting, colourful and funky furniture, and an elegantand romantic atmosphere. I definitely felt underdressed arriving in my typical flight outfit of gym attire. Hotel Oleana has a sophisticated flare about it, one that would normally make me feel uncomfortable. You know that super ritzy house of your rich friend that is so impeccably fancy that you feel like you don’t even want to sit down or touch anything because you might break it? This was the complete opposite. The seating area of the lobby was very warm and inviting with a big comfy couch centered right in front of the big screen TV. Throughout my stay, I spent way more time than anyone should spend in a hotel lobby because of that darn turquoise couch!
2. Ideal Location
The hotel could not have been in a better location! Right smack in the center of town situated along a cute cobblestone street. I took the Flybussen bus from the airport to the first stop after the central station called Festplassen. The journey took about 22 minutes and a roundtrip ticket cost 185 NOK (approximately $22). Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana was about a 3-4 minute walk from the bus stop. It was also about a 6-7 minute walk from the famous UNESCO Bryggen area, and a 7-8 minute walk from the I h, 2 of the city’s top attractions.
When I arrived, I was a little worried that it might be a little loud at night (as most city center hotels are). But that was not the case at all. The only cars on the cobblestone street were taxis to pick up guests in the nearby hotels. There was absolutely no street noise or commotion outside of the hotel. I’m a super light sleeper, so this was a definite plus for me!
3. Complimentary Food
This might be the absolute best part about Hotel Oleana. Why? Because in the few days that I was in Bergen, I DID NOT SPEND ONE CENT ON FOOD! Norway is the most expensive country in Europe, and I didn’t have to buy food once. Score! Hotel Oleana provides 3 meals a day on the house. Breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, cereal, a variety of meat and cheeses, fruit, juices, and coffee. I was happy that I got way more than the typical European breakfast tends to offer. The mid-day snack consisted of waffles, various fruits, and coffee. Dinner was different every night and usually consisted of pasta, chicken, potatoes, meats and cheeses, and bread.
What I particularly liked about the food choice is that all the food allergens were listed next to the items. This was particularly helpful for me due to my dreadful gluten allergy. I was very pleased with the food choices and quality overall.
4. Extremely Accommodating Staff
The beautiful and inviting entrance to the hotel. Can I stay forever?
People can really make or break your experience in a new place. But let me tell you from the very beginning that the staff went above and beyond what I expected. They were extremely friendly and responded quickly to any of my needs. What particularly surprised me is that one night they didn’t have any gluten-free options available for dinner except for salad. For those of you that know me, Im not a salad girl. I need my meat! As I was chomping away like a rabbit on my lettuce, the chef who had remembered my allergy came to the table and asked if I would like for her to make something special for me. About 10 minutes later, she came out with a lovely gluten-free pasta dish made just for me! I thought that was very thoughtful and I was basking in the wonderful hospitality.
They also printed out the bus schedule and helped me get to the bus station at 4am! All with a smile on their faces.
5. That Shower Though!
The sexiest shower I ever did see. Right inside the room!
Ok I lied, this was my favorite thing about the hotel! I might have gotten the room with the world’s coolest shower ever! That was the first thing I noticed when walking into the room. The shower was inside the room, literally! What an extremely cool design concept. The mix of the purple velvet room decor, the abstract wall paintings in the bathroom, the dimly lit bedroom, and the sexy semi-private (but not really private) shower, was a recipe for romance if I ever did see one! I was traveling alone, but it would have been very nice to share with my other half!
Other things I really enjoyed about the hotel?
the lovely view overlooking the colourful rooftops
the large flatscreen TV with English channels
the blackout drapes
the queen chair in my room
the most powerful hotel hairdryer I ever experienced
extremely comfortable mattress and down comforter
6 outlets in the room (most European hotels have only one or two)
incredible rain shower head
What I didn’t like about the hotel?
small sink area for toiletry items (not a huge deal)
not enough bright lights in the room (payoff for the sensual atmosphere)
Ok, this is the part you I know really want to know about. How much would a hotel like this cost in the centre of town in the most expensive country in Europe with all meals included? Around $150 USD! Eating out in Bergen 3 meal a day alone would easily set you back $75+ a day. Keep in mind that I traveled in January (complete off-season) so prices were on the low end during this time. Expect to pay more in the peak summer months.
Final Verdict of Hotel Oleana: A+
I had a wonderful time at Hotel Oleana and I was pleasantly surprised at the highly quality of accommodation for the price. If you’re looking for a cute hotel with a great location, quiet, modern and romantic atmosphere, with a friendly staff, as well as 3 daily meals included, this is the hotel for you! I would definitely recommend this hotel to my closest family and friends. I cannot say enough good things about it. I will be back, Bergen. I will be back!
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Note: a special thanks to Hotel Oleana for hosting me. My opinions, however, are entirely my own. If I don’t like something, I will definitely speak my mind!
Have you had a superb hotel experience that really left an impression on you? Conversely, have you had a nightmare experience? I want to hear from you!