Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

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

What is a Photography Expedition?

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond Arctic Photography Expeditions

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

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

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

Juho photographing me photographing him 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

GoPro shot of me fighting the arctic wind

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

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

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


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

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

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

Sunset caught on my iPhone 6

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Is the Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device Worth It? The No BS Truth

Is the Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device Worth It? The No BS Truth

Article updated: 11/1/2017 with the addition of the new SOLIS 4G LTE device.

If you’ve never heard of the Skyroam portable hotspot device before, you’re about to hear everything there is to know about this powerful little device. After one use, I questioned how I ever travelled before without it. I love mine and am absolutely obsessed with it, it never leaves my side! So for me, it is 110% worth it. But is it worth it for YOU? That’s the question. I’ll get to that later after I tell you all about this incredibly handy little device!

Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

In a Nutshell

The Skyroam is a portable hotspot device that allows you to stay connected to wifi all around the world.

It works in 100+ countries (and counting) and gives you unlimited and secure wifi for 24-hour periods.

The NEW Skyroam SOLIS

Skyroam recently launched the new faster SOLIS which features 4G LTE wifi, as well as a 6000 mAh built-in power bank so you can simultaneously charge your device while you’re on the go.

Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device SOLIS

The new SOLIS along with me in Croatia

Yet the biggest upgrade I noticed was the 16+ hour battery life, a HUGE upgrade from the previous Skyroam model. I have recently used the new Solis in Greece, Cyprus, and Croatia. I was out and about all day and by the end of the day, I still had at least 50% battery. I never had to worry about charging it.

Note: I noticed that using the charging bank to charge  my phone really ate up the battery life of the Solis, so keep that in mind! It definitely will not last 16+ hours if you’re constantly charging your gear.

*Scroll to the bottom of this article for buying/rental options. And use “CRAZYTRAVELISTA” at checkout for 10% off!

What Countries Does the Skyroam Work in? I’m Glad You Asked!

The Americas

Argentina, Aruba,Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, El Salvador, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saipan, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Island, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela

Europe

Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican

South Pacific

Australia, Christmas Island, Fiji, Guam, New Zealand

Africa

Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco

Asia

Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan

Middle East

Israel, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait

So How the Heck Does the Skyroam Work?

Does it really matter, it’s awesome. Just kidding, I’ll explain. The Skyroam connects to the best local wifi signal. It basically allows you to access local date, internationally!

Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

Exploring the Bay of Islands in New Zealand with my Skyroam. I was able to provide live updates to Snapchat while on the go!

It’s SO simple. All you do is turn on the device and hit “start” and BAM, wifi works. Plus, it’s so compact and light you can just slip it in your pocket and take it with you wherever you go.

The bottom line: the Skyroam portable hotspot device is the most convenient way to access wifi when abroad. Period. There is no monthly contract. You pay for what you use, whenever you want to use it.

Some Other Awesome Features of the Skyroam:

  • Your phone doesn’t need to be unlocked to use it! For all those AT&T iPhone users, this is a Godsend.
  • You will no longer have to deal with SIM cards, contracts, or roaming/overage charges.
  • You can connect up to 5 devices: yep, you heard that right! You can hook up 5 devices to the Skyroam and enjoy unlimited international wifi. However, it’s important to note that once you hit the 1GB mark, the service slows down a little. So I wouldn’t connect more than 2-3 devices unless you want super slow service.
  • Use your Skyroam on road trips to access Google Maps! You have no idea how convenient it was to use this device during my New Zealand road trip. It was a life saver!
  • Always use a secure network! Skyroam uses an encrypted connection to keep your data safe and secure while using wifi. (In case you didn’t ever think about it…when you use local wifi in cafes, hotels, restaurants, these networks are not secure and you may be exposed to hackers).
  • The Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device is especially useful and cost effective when traveling through many different countries in a short amount of time.  When you cross borders, the pass does NOT reset and once it connects to the local service it’s good to go!
Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

Using Google Maps through my Skyroam service saved my life during my New Zealand road trip!

I tested this traveling through the Baltics by bus. I thought maybe the day pass would reset and I would have to use another one once I crossed the border, but this was not the case at all! There was a short transition period of less than 20 minutes and then it picked up the local service of the new country after crossing the border. So easy!

Purchase Options:

Rent vs buy

Rent: you can rent the hotspot and pay $9.99 per day for shorter trips (or if you do not travel often).

Buy: you could buy the hotspot for $99 and then pay $8 for each day pass (which I highly recommend). On the days you don’t use it, you don’t pay!

Oh, and recently they have introduced Skyroam vending machines in San Francisco airport! How cool. You can also purchase the Skyroam in various airports throughout. Two popular airport stores selling the Skyroam include InMotion and Brookstone. To search for a resale stores near you, you can click here

Daily passes: you pay for a daily pass and this gets you unlimited global data for a 24-hr period. So simple!

You can purchase the daily passes anytime at a.skyroam.com.

If you travel even occasionally I would highly recommend buying the device and taking it with you on all trips in case of emergencies. It will come in handy sooner or later and you will be happy to have a backup when necessary (more on that below).

Is the Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device worth it?

Ok, so let’s get down to it. Let me provide a few different scenarios, which will help you decide if it’s worth it for YOU. 

Scenario 1: you’re going to Europe for one week and hitting up 3 different countries.

Is the Skyroam worth it? Hell yes.

Here’s why: getting a local SIM card for 3 different countries will not be very cost effective. It will also be a pain in the a** to waste time in each county finding a reliable SIM.

Example: I was just traveling through the Baltics and spend 2 days in 3 countries. I used the Skyroam with ease and even as I was crossing over the borders(as I just mentioned above). 

Scenario 2-You’re going to Portugal for a month.

Is the Skyroam worth it? No

Here’s why: it would definitely be more cost effective to pick up a local SIM and use that for the duration of your trip. Unless your phone is not unlocked (see below). 

Scenario 3: you’re going to Colombia for 5 days and your phone is NOT unlocked.

Is the Skyroam worth it? Yep

Here’s why: most carriers charge a sh*t ton for international data. Since you will only be there 5 days, use your Skyroam!

Scenario 4: You are traveling to Europe for one month, hitting up 4 different countries, and decide you will purchase a SIM card in each country.

Ok, that still sounds more cost efficient, so you don’t need a Skyroam, right?

Yes and no. My advice is to bring your Skyroam anyway, for emergencies.

Let me explain: let’s say for instance you land in a small airport in Croatia in the evening, all the kiosks are closed (or there is no place at the airport that sells SIM cards), there is no airport wifi, and you need to make it to your Airbnb. The easiest solution? Activate a day pass on your Skyroam to help navigate your way. Then the next day, go ahead and purchase that SIM. This scenario happened to me in New Zealand recently and it was a life saver to be able to cut on my Skyroam and use it to order an Uber. (The airport wifi wasn’t working..something that happens from time to time even if they have wifi!)

Scenario 5: you and a friend are traveling to Iceland for 4 days.

Is the Skyroam worth it? Yuppp.

Here’s why: remember that part above where you can connect up to 5 devices?  Yep. So you and a friend could split the costs and both use the Skyroam! But, I honestly would not connect more than 2-3 devices on this because it tends to slow it down a lot. But using 2 phones is perfectly okay and would make it super convenient for your trip!

→A quick note on Battery life: I read somewhere that the battery on the Skyroam lasts up to 9 hours, but it lasts me about 6 hours. I guess it depends on how much you use it (I use mine a lot). I always carry my awesome dual power bank by Jackery so it’s not a problem. I recharge several devices on this each day while travelling, and the power never runs out.

Crazy Travelista’s Overall Impressions:

I have personally used it on 5 continents and 16 countries so far including: Greece, Cyprus, CroatiaAustralia, New Zealand, Finland, Italy, Colombia, USA, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.

Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

How did I live without you before?

I have been extremely impressed with the quality of service, speed, and convenience of always having the option to have wifi wherever I go. I have no idea how on earth I ever traveled without it before. It’s light, compact, reliable and the most convenient way to access wifi abroad!

So is it worth it? In some instances it is not, as I highlighted above. But overall, the Skyroam is definitely worth it and something every traveler should own! I have a feeling this is going to revolutionize the way we travel and always being able to share our travels is really awesome. Kudos, Skyroam. Kudos.

To rent/buy, you can check out the Skyroam website here.

*FOR 10% OFF YOUR PURCHASE, YOU CAN USE THE CODE “CRAZYTRAVELISTA” AT CHECKOUT! ♥

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I am a brand ambassador for Skyroam and absolutely love it! I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t truly love!

Liked it? PIN it.

Skyroam Portable Hotspot Device

 

Bucket List: Flying over the Great Barrier Reef & Whitehaven Beach

Bucket List: Flying over the Great Barrier Reef & Whitehaven Beach

Seeing the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) was at the top of my bucket list. It was probably in the top 3 honestly. I remember watching Steve Irwin’s shows when I was younger and dreaming of going there and seeing it for myself. RIP Mr. Irwin.

When trying to decide if I should snorkel in the GBR or do a scenic flight over it, I couldn’t choose. So I did both! It was expensive, but I knew I was probably only going to go to Australia once in my life. That and the fact that the Great Barrier Reef isn’t always going to be around unfortunately. It was worth the splurge for sure.

The next decision I had was whether to fly over the GBR or Whitehaven Beach. In my research, I stumbled upon GSL Aviation, who offered a Reef and Island Scenic Flight that highlights both! Done deal. Sold.

I also got some personal recommendations to go with this company after I had already booked with them, so I felt really good about my decision. Word of mouth is the best advertising right? Oh, and GSL aviation offers planes with guaranteed window seats, which is super important when doing a scenic flight, obviously. C’mon, no one wants the middle seat!

I chose the 60-minute Reef and Island Scenic Flight, far longer than most scenic flights. If I was going to do it, I was going to get the full experience!

The morning started bright and early with a free shuttle pickup from my hotel. After a short safety briefing, we soared above Airlie Beach and made our way to the Great Barrier Reef. Rewind a few days earlier when I snorkelled the outer Great Barrier Reef. I hate to say this, but I was a bit disappointed. I guess I was expecting it to be more colorful. Most the pics you see of it are super photoshopped I guess. It’s sad but the bleaching of coral is a real thing and you definitely can see it for yourself.

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

Trying to fight the glare to get a shot was quite difficult!

Aerial shots are my ultimate favorite and flying over the Great Barrier Reef and seeing it from above was a completely different experience. You can really visualize the bold blue/green colors and see how enormous it really is. Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is the largest organic structure on earth and is visible from OUTER SPACE? It’s so much easier to grasp that concept when you see it from above!

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

Well, I only saw a small section of it on this flight, but it was incredible! My dream of the Great Barrier Reef had been revived.

No need for a drone when you basically see through a drone’s eyes from above. We had many different viewpoints and plenty of time to really experience it.

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

We flew over the infamous heart Reef, but unfortunately I fumbled with switching cameras and didn’t get the best shot. It was also very sunny and the glare on the windows was quite bad that day. I tried. 

But in case you want to see a better shot, here is a great one from their Instagram!

On our way back, we flew over the idyllic Whitehaven Beach. I ended up going to Whitehaven Beach the next day but seeing it from above was so much better to tell you the truth! You can really appreciate the swirly patterns of pure white silica sand and turquoise waters from above and it will leave you in awe.

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

GSL Aviation also offers transfers to Hamilton Island and they can get you there in just 10 minutes! Or you can combine the transfer with a one hour scenic flight over the GBR and Whitehaven, which I would definitely consider if I was staying on Hamilton Island. The ferry tickets are SUPER expensive to get there, so this option is actually a great value.

For example, a one-way ferry ticket is about $52 USD and the transfer flight is around $75 USD. It’s even cheaper if you do the transfer plus scenic flight!

They also do helicopter tours if that’s what you fancy. Oh, and they operate in Cairns as well. So if you’re up that way and want to see the Reef from above, holla at them!

Tips:

  • I was trying to switch between snap chatting on my phone, taking GoPro shots and videos, and using my wide angle camera lens with my Sony. It was too much and I often missed shots because I was trying to do too much. Stick to one camera and be ready!
  • touch your camera up to glass to prevent glare from the window.

Flying over the Great Barrier Reef is a must do activity when visiting Australia. It was one of the highlights of my entire trip!

PIN for Later ♥

flying over the Great Barrier Reef

Disclaimer: I received a media discount on my scenic flight. However, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. I would never sell out like that! I had the best time and would highly recommend GSL Aviation.

The Perfect Place to Stay in NYC for Solo Travellers

The Perfect Place to Stay in NYC for Solo Travellers

Growing up on the East Coast, I had been to New York City many times. However, I had never traveled there solo. The main reason? It’s ridiculously expensive to stay in a hotel by yourself in Manhattan!

where to stay in new york city

And now that Airbnb has officially been banned in the city (boo), an affordable place is almost impossible to find. Let me rephrase that: an affordable place in a SAFE neighborhood is almost impossible to find.

Washington Jefferson Hotel New York

I’m happy to say I found a cute little place to stay in a great neighborhood called Washington Jefferson Hotel. This hotel specifically caters to solo travellers and offers single rooms that are actually affordable. I wouldn’t say cheap, because that seems to be an oxymoron when it comes to Manhattan. But I think you can catch my drift, ay?

Washington Jefferson Hotel New York

The Neighborhood: Hell’s Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood New York

The hotel is right in the middle of all the action in New York City, yet it is located down a quiet side street. Washington Jefferson Hotel is located in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City.

Out of the 8-10 times I have been to NYC, I can say that this was one of my favorite areas to stay. Why you may ask? It is the most central area I could ask for when exploring NYC. Almost all the major attractions are walkable from Washington Jefferson Hotel. It is located in Midtown after all.

To give you an idea, here are the walking distances I experienced while staying at WJH:

  • Times Square-6-7 minute walk
  • Central Park (south entrance>): 10 minute walk
  • Theatre District: 1-5 minute walk
  • Rockefeller Center: 7-8 minute walk
where to stay in new york city

Strolling through Central Park on a bike in January? Why not? 🙂

Where to Eat

Bibble and Sip for morning coffee and pastries. If you exit the hotel and take a right, this cute little cafe will be about a 20 second walk on the left side.

Washington Jefferson Hotel New York

Head to Aria for good Italian food and wine in a romantic setting. It was a little strange going here solo, but the ambiance was great as well as the food! It’s literally 10 seconds from the hotel.

There were SO many food options in the Hell’s Kitchen area, and at a fraction of the cost than what you would expect to pay in NYC. This area is also known for the variety of ethnic foods on offer, including some of my favorites Thai, Indian, and Italian.

Basically, if you exit the hotel and take a left, you will have a plethora of affordable food options, including a market and a few $1 pizza slice places.

Note: the hotel is attached to a Japanese restaurant called Shimizu; however, I did not have time to try this place out unfortunately. I got sidetracked by all the other awesome choices right outside my doorstep!

Petite Room Catered to The Solo Traveller

Washington Jefferson Hotel New York

The Petite room is a small room with everything you could need: comfy bed, goose down comforters, desk, WIFI, flatscreen HDTV, HBO, radio with iPod docking station, your own private bathroom, and more. Basic yet efficient! For a full list of amenities, check out the hotel’s page highlighting the Petite Room here.

Washington Jefferson Hotel New York

A Few Other Perks of Washington Jefferson Hotel

Concierge service-if you’re staying at a hotel that offers concierge service, by all means utilize it! I must say I’m guilty of taking this service for granted. However, when I needed to copy stuff late night, the staff called several copy stores for me while I was resting from my day in my room. They gave me a ring with all the information and options and it was super helpful! I was literally so exhausted I could barely function so this was a lifesaver!

Free Walking Tours of NYC-every Thursday at 9:30am there is a free walking tour of Hell’s Kitchen area. You also have access to all other free walking tours from other Triumph Hotels (NOT to be confused with Trump hotels…God no) in the city. Pretty cool!

Airline ticket printer booth-located in the lobby for all guests to print their airline tickets beforehand. I had never seen this before in any hotel and thought it was great….and necessary!

A small fitness center-call me crazy, but I always work out when I travel. Having a fitness center inside a hotel is key!

Although rates vary based on season, I saw rates as low as $95, an awesome price for a quality/centrally located hotel in NYC!

Verdict

Overall, I really enjoyed my time at Washington Jefferson Hotel and would recommend it for solo travellers. I initially thought it was strange that they didn’t have a restaurant or offer breakfast. However, after I saw how many cute cafes were within a minute walk I didn’t even care!

This hotel may not have been as visually stunning/colorful as most the boutique hotels I usually stay in, but for the price, location, awesome service, and safe neighborhood, it’s definitely a great choice if you’re visiting the city alone. It had everything I needed and I was quite comfortable, what more can you ask for?

To check rates on booking.com, check here. And if you’re new to booking.com, you can use my $20 off coupon here. Yay!

Hover over image to PIN for later! ♥

where to stay in New York City

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Washington Jefferson Hotel. However, my opinions remain my own and I’m in no way obligated to write a positive review. I enjoyed my stay and would recommend this hotel to solo travellers.♥

 

What to Do in Cape Town: 6 Can’t Miss Activities

What to Do in Cape Town: 6 Can’t Miss Activities

Cape Town is one of the greatest cities in the entire world. Bold statement, but absolutely true. I have never met someone who didn’t like it and the hype it gets it truly deserves.

My expectations were high, and surprisingly I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, Cape Town blew me out of the water and the bar has been set very high. My only disappointment was that we only stayed there 5 days. I could have stayed for weeks!

Cape Town has everything your imagined ideal city would have: natural beauty of the mountains and beaches, vibrant city life, some of the best wines in the world, reasonable prices, and endless high quality food.

Cape Town quickly became one of my top 3 favorite cities in the world, along with Rome and Istanbul.

So what to do in Cape Town? I could write a book about it, but here are my top pics:

What to do in Cape Town

1. Take a Hike

what to do in Cape Town

Cape Town is for fitness and nature lovers. Hike both Table Mountain or Lion’s Head in a matter of hours with a spectacular view along every step of the way

what to do in Cape Town

We hiked Lion’s Head during golden hour and it was spectacular. You could see the entire city, Table Mountain, and Camp’s Bay in the distance.

what to do in Cape Town

View of Table Mountain on the hike up to Lion’s Head

We didn’t have time to do the Table Mountain hike unfortunately, so we took the cable car instead. The panoramic views over the coastline and city are spectacular.

what to do in Cape Town

2. Grab a Bite to Eat

Hold crap! I wasn’t expecting Cape Town to have such great food! I can honestly say in terms of quality, Cape Town had the most consistently good food out of any country I had ever been!

There are 2 open air markets that you can’t miss on your trip to Cape Town: Hout Bay and Old Biscuit Mill.

Where to eat in Cape Town

The Hout Bay Market (officially called Bay Harbor Market) runs Friday through Sunday and is the place to be on the weekends for good food and live music. Food and specialty shops line the cozy inside market and one could spend hours there. Make sure to go on an empty stomach because there is so much to try!! (There were also many gluten free options for those with allergies like me).

Where to eat in Cape Town

Tip: try the Springbok meat, it’s just like beef but a little sweeter. The springbok is the national bird of South Africa so a nice way to taste the local flavors.

Where to eat in Cape Town

Another favorite is the Old Biscuit Mill that’s only on Saturday mornings. This is another open air market with endless vendors offering a variety of foods. This was probably my favorite food experience in Cape Town, most likely because I found a number of gluten free tables offering delicate treats to satiate my cravings. It’s also another cool hangout spot!

what to do in Cape Town

Gluten free pastry..aka heaven in my mouth 🙂

Bombay Bicycle-order the Choco chili steak (signature dish that’s not on the menu). This was seriously one of the best meals of my life, if not the best. It sounds like a weird combo, but the flavors perfectly complemented the melt-in-your-mouth juicy steak. It was the most tender steak I’d ever tasted and I could have died a happy girl after my last bite. It’s that good. The restaurant also had a great ambiance and intimate setting.

Tip: you must make a reservation in advance as it’s a very popular place!

Bacini’s for pizza-right across from Bombay bicycle is Bacini’s. It’s nothing fancy inside, this is more of a local spot. The pizza was outstanding and they even had gluten free crusts! Avocado on pizza is a thing in Cape Town and it was friggin’ amazing! I’m hooked and now I’m always going to expect avo on my pizza wherever I go.

→An added bonus: we ran into Davos from Game of Thrones here! For extreme fanatics of the show, this made our whole trip!

Tiger’s Milk-another great restaurant downtown with that had the best gluten free leg of lamb pizza with a dallop of hummus and feta. Omg was it good.

V&A Market on the Wharf –this was the 3rd market we went to in Cape Town and it didn’t disappoint! It was great for fruit juices, shakes, pastries, and also lactose free froyo!

3. Take a Road Trip Down the Coast

what to do in Cape Town

The plunging coastlines around Cape Town are nothing short of spectacular. You can’t leave without getting to explore the area on a road trip! Drive down the Cape Peninsula all the way down to Penguin Beach. If you have time, stop in Muizenberg Beach to photograph the row of colorful beach shacks.

what to do in Cape Town

Penguin heaven 😉

If you have even more time, make sure to head down to Hermanus, a quint little seaside town a 2-hr drive from Cape Town, known for whale watching and shark tank diving in its neighbor city Gansbaii.

what to do in Cape Town

How pretty is Hermanus??

On the way back to Cape Town, drive along False bay, which I thought was prettier than the actual Cape Peninsula honestly.

Tip: on your drive back from Hermanus, stop at Betty’s Bay, the less-touristy version of Penguin Beach. There was hardly anyone there when we went and we got up close and personal with the little guys!  The cost is 10 rand for a parking permit but no one was there to enforce it.

what to do in Cape Town

4. View Cape Town from Above

One of my favorite things to do in a new city is get an epic aerial view. No view can get more epic than from a helicopter! We had 360 degrees of unobstructed views of the beautiful city, coast lines, beaches, peaks, and mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking.

what to do in Cape Town

Unedited GoPro pic from the helicoptor

We decided to go with NAC Helicopters for our flight over Cape Town, mainly due their almost perfect reviews as well as their impeccable safety record (100% accident-fee). The perfect safety record alone is a deciding factor when it comes to putting my life into someone else’s hands in the air.

what to do in Cape Town

NAC Helicopters also offers tailored destination flights, so if you really want to ball out and show up somewhere in style, this would be a fun thing to splurge on!

The staff was super professional and kind, and I felt safe from the minute I walked into the door greeted by their warm smiles.

Tip: make sure to schedule the helicopter tour early in the trip in case of cancellations due to weather. We actually had our first flight cancelled so ended up re-scheduling it on our last day luckily.

What to do in Cape Town

5. Hop On Hop off Bus (seriously)

I never in a million years thought I would recommend a “touristy” Hop on Hop off Bus, but this is definitely an exception! The public transportation in Cape Town and vicinity is not that great so this is actually a great way to see all that Cape Town has to offer! You can buy a one-day pass for around $12 and a 2-day pass for around $20.

Kirstenbosch gardens

Spellbound in the enchanted forest inside Kirstenbosch gardens

The Hop on Hop Off bus has 3 different color-coded routes and I recommend all 3 if you have time! It’s no surprise my favorite was the purple route since this was the wine route!

what to do in Cape Town

Camp’s Bay-what I called the Malibu of Cape Town

If you’re short on time like we were, we only had a day to do the bus tour. Our favorite can’t miss stops included:

  • Kirstenbosch Gardens
  • Camp’s bay
  • Purple wine route (the entire thing)
  • Table Mountain
  • Hout Bay

6. Drink World Class Wine

South Africa is known for its Pinotage red blend, distinctive to this area of the globe. Make sure you try a glass (or 5) of this delicious red wine, as this blend is not grown anywhere else in the world!

what to do in Cape Town

There are SO many vineyards within an hour or so drive from Cape Town and I recommend spending an entire day in Stellenbosch, and if you have time Franchoek as well.

what to do in Cape Town

The wine tasting crew! Carebear Abroad and I, along with our friend Nick, who lives in Cape Town. We met Nick on our 12-day Turkey trip 2 years before. #travelfriends

Our favorite winery was Vergelegen Estate. The property grounds were impeccably gorgeous and the staff was extremely interactive and fun. Oh, and apparently you can have a picnic in the camphor forest, which sounds amazing! Unfortunately it was closed when we went, but if you end up going, please let me know how it is!

 

If you’re planning what to do in Cape Town, hopefully these 6 recommendations are at the top of your list! There is so much more to discover in this unique city and we only just cracked the tip of the iceberg.

I cannot wait to get back to Cape Town and stay longer next time to enjoy more of the local life. Until then, I’ll keep dreaming about it. ♥

 

PIN for later 🙂

what to do in Cape Town

Disclaimer: I was a guest of NAC Helicopters. However, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to leave positive feedback. I thought the helicopter tour was awesome and the best way to see the city!

Have you Been To Cape Town? What were Your Highlights? Did I miss Anything? Do tell! ♥

Visiting Whitehaven Beach in One Day

Visiting Whitehaven Beach in One Day

With 74 islands in the Whitsundays, it might seem hard to choose which one to visit. For me, the decision was a no-brainer. Voted as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach was the main reason I added The Whitsundays into my 13 day Australia adventure. Famous for its heaven-like white silica sand and turquoise swirl patterns, it’s no secret why Whitehaven Beach is the most photographed beach in all of Australia.

With only 2 full days to explore the Whitsundays, I knew I wanted to spend an entire day on this Whitehaven Beach. Overnight sailing is super popular in the Whitsundays, and had I had more time I would have considered this option. However, visiting Whitehaven Beach in a single day is possible and a great option if you’re short on time.

I took a full day cruise to Whitehaven Beach with Cruise Whitsundays, who offer a full-day day tour called Whitehaven Beach, Snorkelling, Hill Inlet & Lookout. I picked this tour mainly because it offers more time on Whitehaven Beach than any other tour, as well as the near perfect reviews it received on Trip Advisor.

Below is a map of the full-day itinerary courtesy of Cruise Whitsundays.

Cruise Whitsundays

Morning Pick up and Briefing

The cruise leaves bright and early from Airlie Beach at 7am and returns at 6:20pm. It’s a long day action packed with fun stuff to do, so make sure to get a good night’s sleep! There’s also an option to get picked up at Daydream Island or Hamilton Island if that’s where you’re staying.

The ride over to Whitsunday Island is pretty long at around 2 hours, but the seats were very plush and comfy. Complementary coffee and tea are available on the first floor.

During the long ride you will be introduced to the crew members, who are personally assigned to each group to give them a briefing of the day of what to expect. I really liked the personalized attention, something I’m not used to when going on a tour.

Our guide Jack was AWESOME from the start. He had so much charisma and was very interactive with everyone. He even remembered ALL our names in a matter of minutes. Jack was born to be a tour guide and his passion for it made the tour so much more memorable. Jack made the tour. Period.

Hill Inlet & Lookout 

We arrived to Whitehaven Beach to drop some of the passengers off who weren’t doing the full day cruise and we hopped onto a little speed boat to head to Hill Inlet. Not all the cruises go to the Hill Inlet and I’m sure many are disappointed to learn this, so no matter what tour you do make sure it includes the Hill Inlet!

Whitehaven Beach

Getting dropped off to walk up the Hill Inlet lookout. We saw a lemon shark right near those bushes in the water!

Whitehaven Beach Hill Inlet

We jumped off onto the soft silica sand and followed Jack up the path to the lookout. We stopped along the way a few times as he taught us a little about the surrounding plant life. He also pointed out a few huge spiders resting in their webs that I wish I never saw. My worst nightmare.

Whitehaven Beach Hill Inlet

Completely unedited iPhone pano of Whitehaven Beach

It was an easy 15 minute walk up to the lookout where we had about 20 minutes of free time to enjoy the scenery and take photos. The Hill Inlet gives you the best view of Whitehaven Beach. The view you see in all the photos of the turquoise and white swirly patterns. There’s nowhere else in the world like it and this was the highlight of the tour for me.

Whitehaven Beach

We were told that the pattern of swirls change about every 4 hours, so you’ll never take the same photo as someone else. I only wish we were there longer so we could see it in different lights.

Free Time on Whitehaven Beach and BBQ Lunch 

After the spectacular views on the Hill Inlet we were dropped off on the idyllic Whitehaven Beach. We were given about 2 hours to walk the beach, play in the water, and eat lunch. They offer free stinger suits as well as half dome tents to provide shade from the sun.

Note: the sun is very HOT in this part of Australia and because the silica sand is very reflective, you’re at increased risk for burns. Make sure to drink lots of water and keep reapplying sunscreen. I actually ended up getting heat exhaustion/dehydration from being outside all day and the recovery was painful. I was basically sick for the next 7 days of my trip with a pounding headache, night sweats, and fatigue.

Whitehaven Beach

For lunch they brought actual grills and set them up under a tarp to cook for us, which I thought was pretty cool. Lunch consisted of salad, beef, chicken, sausage, and pasta salad. The meat was a little dry and not as tasty as I expected seeing as they were cooking it fresh right in front of us. I also couldn’t eat half the stuff they served due to my gluten allergy so I can’t comment on the other food. The food I tried was just okay.

Snorkelling

There were only a few passengers who chose the full day option, so it was really nice to have only a small group to snorkel. We boarded a small speed boat once again for the 5 minute ride around the corner where we were dropped off to snorkel.

Whitehaven Beach snorkeling

I kid you not, out of all the snorkelling I did in Australia, including the Outer Great Barrier Reef, this was the BEST snorkelling! The combination of colorful coral and heaps of fish blew me away. I was NOT expecting this to be the best snorkelling in Australia. Another great reason to do the full day tour!

Whitehaven Beach snorkeling

WhiteHaven Beach Final Relaxation 

After the amazing snorkelling we were dropped back off at Whitehaven Beach. We were given almost 2 more hours of leisurely time to relax and do what we pleased. I really liked the fact we were given so much free time, something you usually don’t get when doing a tour.

Whitehaven Beach

I had plenty of time to play with my GoPro and take some cool shots without being rushed for once.

Whitehaven Beach GoPro

Unedited GoPro shot. How pretty is this place?

Unfortunately, I think this was the beginning of the heat exhaustion/dehydration for me. I spent way too much time in the sun and I paid the price. Spend some time in the shade if you can, learn from my mistakes!

Overall Impressions

Whitehaven Beach is undeniably one of the most beautiful beached in the entire world. Spending an entire day exploring the beach, the Hill Inlet, and snorkelling was the perfect way to experience one of the prettiest parts of Australia. I was extremely pleased with Cruise Whitsundays in terms of their professionalism, the activities on offer, the jovial and fun tour guides, the cleanliness of the boats, and the the overall itinerary. I would cruise with them again in a heartbeat!

PIN for later♥

Whitehaven Beach cruise

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Cruise Whitsundays on this tour. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. I highly enjoyed my cruise and would definitely recommend this tour! ♥

Have you ever been to Whitehaven Beach? Did you do an overnight cruise or a day trip? Which would you recommend?