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

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

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

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

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

10 Best Things to Do in Queenstown

1. Hike up the Queenstown Park Hill

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

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

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

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

2. Bungee Jumping

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

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

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

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

3. Onsen Hot Pools

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

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

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

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

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

Pickup and drop off from Queenstown is included.

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

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

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

5. Bike Ride Through the Gibbston Valley Wineries

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

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

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

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

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


You May Also Like6 Awesome & Unique Things to Do on New Zealand’s North Island


6. Eat at Fergburger

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

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown; Fergburger

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

7. Do Your Own Wine Tasting at The Winery

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

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown: The Winery

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

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

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

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

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

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

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

If you’re lazy, take the gondola roundtrip!

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

9. Have Dessert at Cookie Bar

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

Unique Things To Do in Queenstown

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

10. Take a Day Trip to Milford Sound

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

https://www.instagram.com/p/BN0QXP-Drs8/?taken-by=crazytravelista

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

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

BBQ Bus

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

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

Activity that should have made the list: Hang Gliding 

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

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

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

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

Click photo to PIN for later ♥

best things to do in Queenstown

 

 


MY TOP 5 RECOMMENDED TRAVEL GEAR FOR NEW ZEALAND:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

6 Awesome & Unique Things to Do on New Zealand’s North Island

6 Awesome & Unique Things to Do on New Zealand’s North Island

Traveling to New Zealand had been a long time dream for me. However, the price of the airline ticket and the distance kept me away for so long.

That is until I found an error fair on Qantas for $216 round trip!!!

I never in a million years thought that was even possible to get a ticket to somewhere that far away for so cheap! I had about 20 minutes to decide and book…and I never looked back!

Fast forward a few months later, where I spent 12 days in New Zealand over the past fall and it was one of my favourite trips to date!

I couldn’t decide between the North and South Islands, so I did a little of both! I rented a car and spent 8 days total on the North Island and I would highly recommend doing the self drive so you can get more off the beaten path (and save time).

I stayed in Airbnbs the whole time on New Zealand’s North Island and it averaged about $32 a night, so not bad at all!

I rented an automatic car for 5 of the 8 days on the island and it costed $232 (including the extra insurance and drop off at a different airport). It’s definitely cheaper if you know how to drive stick shift! 

I used RentalCars.comto book my car rental (which is what I use for ALL my car rentals. The prices seem to be the lowest and their customer service has been great. I have been using them for YEARS and I have no complaints!)

Disclaimer: Btw, the above link is an affiliate link, meaning I may get a very small commission if you book using my link, at no extra cost to you. It helps keeps this site up and running, so thank you!)♥

Unique Things to Do on New Zealand’s North Island 

1. Step Into the Magical Land of Hobbiton

Ok I have a confession, I have never seen Lord of the Rings OR The Hobbit. Yet, I still wanted to visit this place because it looked like something out of this world. 

Unique Things to Do on New Zealand's North Island

And boy was I right! Hobbiton was everything I imagined and more. Walking around all the miniature houses and taking selfies in front of the colorful round doors made me feel like a kid again.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNqPoFRDF6P/?taken-by=crazytravelista

This little village is the actual movie set of the famous movies and can only be visited with a tour, so make sure you book tickets in advance! I absolutely loved Hobbiton, and I can imagine fans of the movie would DIE over it!

Hobbiton is a must see in New Zealand, whether you’ve seen the movies or not!

2. Visit the Colorful Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

This area is one of the most volcanically active areas of the world. I had no idea until I visited!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNkbDfrDdAY/?taken-by=crazytravelista

You know how after you’ve been to more than one thermal area, they all kinda look the same after a while? Well, not this one! I was surprised that I enjoyed this so much and spent a few hours here exploring the area.

what to do in New Zealand North Island

There are a few different paths you can take to walk around the whole park, so give yourself a few hours to do so. The colors of the hot springs were like nothing I had ever seen and they were very picturesque (albeit extremely smelly).

It’s a bit pricey to enter, at $32.50 NZD (about $23) a ticket, but honestly well worth it!

3. Hike to the Gorgeous Cathedral Cove (Coromandel Peninsula)

Unique Things to Do on New Zealand's North Island

A few years back, on a Contiki trip to Thailand, I met an adorable little Kiwi (New Zealander) girl. I asked her the ONE place I can’t miss if I ever come to New Zealand and she mentioned Cathedral Cove. She was SPOT ON!!! (Thanks Rachel).

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNph80qjEwh/?taken-by=crazytravelista

To get to Cathedral Cove, it requires an easy 45 minute hike from the car park. There are 2 beaches on either side of the cove, both worthy of your time. Ironically, this beach reminded me a bit of Thailand!

Tip: There are a few detours you can make on the way back that are way worth it, namely Stringray Bay. The pastel green water framed against limestone cliffs and lush greenery is breathtaking. It’s also pretty secluded so it’s a great place to get away from the crowds.

what to do in New Zealand North Island

4. Go Wine Tasting on Waiheke Island

A 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland will bring you to a quiet little island called Waiheke. So what does Waiheke have to offer? A beautiful island with cliff-hanging epic views and several beautiful wineries. Need I say more? I was in absolute heaven. 

what to do in New Zealand North Island

There is a bus system that connects to most of the wineries, but you can also walk to some of them from the port. I decided to take the nice little path up to the first winery and I was afforded with great panoramic views of the cliffside and water.

Wine tastings cost around $10 for 3-5 tastings, not bad at all.

My favorite winery on Waiheke island was Mudbrick, so make sure to hit this one up while you’re there. It had such a cute ambiance and the views over the island were spectacular. You could ever see the Auckland skyline from there!

5. Explore the Mystical Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

I’m not going to lie, the glow worm caves was one of my top reasons for wanting to visit the North Island of New Zealand. Where else can you see something as cool as this?

I took a tour of the glow worm caves that lasted about 45 minutes. They took us to the caves and explained a little about the lifecycle of the glow worms and why they glow, which was very interesting.

The glowworms emit a bright bluish green color from their tails to attract insects, and to fend off other animals from eating them.

The glowworm has a lifecycle of only 11 months and only lives a few days as an adult fly. The term “life is short” takes on a whole new meaning for the glow worm.

We then boarded a small boat and our guide stood at the front and navigated us through the caves pulling on these seemingly invisible ropes attached to the walls. It was super dark in there and a little spooky, until you see the glowworms. It looked like a starry sky lit up in bright blue from underneath and it was a very peaceful experience. It kinda felt like we were in a virtual reality world, it was a really special experience.

Tip: you CANNOT take pictures inside the cave because it may startle the glowworms (also, they turn off their lights when they see light).

6. Escape to the Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is about 3-4 hours from Auckland by car and consists of 140 subtropical islands off the coast.

what to do in New Zealand North Island

As I was short on time, I only got to visit the cute little seaside town of Paihia, as well as took a boat to Russell. Russell was New Zealand’s first capital, it’s first sea port, as well as it’s first permanent European settlement. It serves an important part in New Zealand’s history and definitely worth a visit.

There are some cute seaside cafes, beautiful beaches, and a few lookout points you can walk up to for a panoramic view of the nearby islands.

A big attraction in the Bay of Islands is swimming with dolphins in the wild. You basically take a boat out and search for dolphins and jump in with them! Since I did this in Zanzibar, I skipped out on this but I would highly recommend doing something like this because it was a wild and unforgettable experience in Zanzibar!

♥New Zealand, You Have My Heart♥

Overall, I loved all the gorgeous beaches and unique attractions in the North Island of New Zealand. I think 9 out of 10 people would recommend the South Island over the North, but I had a fabulous time and saw so many fantastic things. Don’t skip over the North Island because it has so much to offer! Although, I would recommend not spending much time in Auckland, because honestly there was nothing special about it and there are so many other awesome places to see on the island.

New Zealand blew me away and has now become one of my top 3 favorite countries! New Zealand is quiet and peaceful and has so much to offer in terms of nature, adrenaline activities, beautiful beaches, and epic views. There are so many unique things to do on New Zealand’s North Island, and I only just scratched the surface!

Have you been to the North Island of New Zealand? What were the highlights for you?

PIN for later!♥

what to do in New Zealand North Island

Disclaimer: I was a guest of waitomo.com during my glow worms tour. 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! It was such a unique experience and I highly recommend it. 

Top 13 Travel Surprises of 2016 (that may inspire your 2017 travels) + VIDEO

Top 13 Travel Surprises of 2016 (that may inspire your 2017 travels) + VIDEO

Wow. I really have a problem. I am a full-blown travel addict. Acceptance is the first step to recovery, right?

I didn’t think I could top last year’s adventures but my travel addiction took control and I went to far more places than I ever imagined! 

In 2016, I visited 14 countries, 11 of them new countries, and 3 continents. The 3 repeat countries? My top 3 favourite countries in the world: Italy, Croatia, and Greece! I’ll never get sick of them.

I ended the year with a bang with an unexpected trip to Australia and New Zealand, my dream trip! I jumped on an error fare from LAX to Auckland, New Zealand for $216 round-trip. That is UNHEARD of. I got lucky on that one and I could not pass it up. I had been saving for this dream trip for awhile so it worked out perfectly!

Anyway, here are my top 13 destinations that really blew me away in 2016. Hopefully I can inspire some travel to these places in 2017!

Top 13 Travel Surprises of 2016:

 

Sao Miguel, Azores

Thanks to Anthony Bourdain, I was introduced to the Azores a few years ago and have been so intrigued to go ever since. It wasn’t until 2015 that they opened up budget airlines to fly into the islands so it was the perfect time to go.

Lagoa do Canario Miradouro

If you’re looking for a fairly unspoilt, non-touristy, nature-centered place to visit, the Azores are right for you! Sao Miguel is the biggest island in the Azores and it was honestly the most naturally beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on. I cannot recommend this place enough.

Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes

Do not miss:

  • Sete Cidades twin lakes– one blue and one green lake surrounded by spectacular greenery and hikes.
  • Ponta da Ferraria-a hot pool connected to the ocean.
  • Lagoa do Fogo-hike down to the bottom if you have time for crystal clear waters.
  • Caldeira Velha-natural hot springs in the middle of the jungle.
  • Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes– a free natural park with pretty waterfalls. 
  • Dona Beija Thermal Springs-a series of hot pool jacuzzis in a beautiful and relaxing setting.

⇒For a detailed 4-day itinerary, check out my article: Why Sao Miguel, Azores Will Blow Your Mind: The Ultimate 4-Day Itinerary

Victoria Falls, Africa

Victoria Falls really blew me away. Victoria falls lies between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa, and is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world. Did you know that Victoria Falls is also the biggest waterfall in the world (based on width)? I sure as hell didn’t until I was face to face with this amazing natural wonder.

What to do in Victoria Falls

Also a huge surprise was that Victoria Falls is a mini adventure capital. There were SO many adventure activities on offer, we didn’t have enough time to even scratch the surface. From bungee jumping, to high wire activities, to scenic flights over the falls, the amount of fun you can have in this place is endless.

Do not miss:

  • Microlight flight over the falls (one of the most incredible activities I have ever done in my life).
  • Devil’s pool (where you can sit on top of the edge of the waterfall..no joke).
  • The gorge swing and the flying fox.

*Stay tuned for 2 posts about this destination coming soon!

Cape Town, South Africa 

Cape Town was my favorite city I visited in 2016, hands-down. It literally has everything: awesome hikes, mind-blowing viewpoints, some of the greatest food in the world, nearby wineries, epic road trips, and so much more.

What to do in Cape Town

Cape Town is underrated in my opinion and I think you should add it to the top of your 2017 bucket list! It’s INCREDIBLE!

NAC helicopter tour Cape Town

Do not miss:

  • Haut Bay market-live music, artisan shops, and endless food vendors.
  • Camp’s Bay-the posh beach area reminded me of Malibu, California 
  • Lion’s Head and Table Mountain.
  • Bombay Bicycle-order the Choco-Chilli steak. Don’t, ask, just do it. 
  • Stellenbosch-take a day and go wine tasting about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town.
  • Helicopter tour over Cape Town for the best panoramic views over the city.
  • Road trip on the Cape Peninsula.
  • Penguin Beach.

Where to Stay in Cape Town:

Derwent House Boutique Hotel. Simply awesome…and super cozy!

⇒Check out my review: Where to Stay in Cape Town: Feeling at Home at Derwent House Boutique Hotel (+Video)

Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa

My friend Carey and I spent a week in Zanzibar participating in a volunteer project with the incredible RAKlife.org helping to rebuild some houses for those in need. Not only did we get to help make a difference, but we got to spend time in one of the most beautiful places in the world: ZANZIBAR!

Zanzibar Crazy Travelista

The high/low tides in Paje, Zanzibar were unlike anything I had ever seen. During low tide, you could literally walk a mile out onto the sea bed. Not to mention, the color of the water was unreal. Zanzibar will have some of the prettiest waters you will ever see in this world, and that’s no lie.

Do not miss:

  • The Rock Restaurant (basically in the middle of the ocean)-You take a boat to get to it and after the low tide, you walk back to shore. One of the coolest things I have ever seen. Oh, and the food was great too!
  • Swimming with wild dolphins (literally)-a 6am start will surely get your adrenaline pumping as you take a small boat out into the sea to search for dolphins. When your guide finds them, you literally jump into the water and swim with them. I can’t even describe the feeling.
  • Paje Beach-one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. There are also a bunch of chill out cafes near the water with hammocks to enjoy the scenery. It’s a very relaxing place. 

Meteora, Greece

I have been to Greece several times as it is one of my favorite countries. But nothing prepared me for what I would see and learn at Meteora. In short, it is a city with monasteries built upon rocky pillars. Meteora translates into “suspended in the sky”…and it definitely lives up to its name. It also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Meteora monasteries

The history behind this place is incredible so make sure to take a guided tour to put things into perspective. Another plus is that this region of Greece is pretty cheap so it won’t break the bank.

What to do in Meteora

Do not miss:

  • Meteora Sunset Tour-to get the best photo spots in Meteora, this was my fav tour!
  • Meteora Hiking Tour-to see the city from the bottom up, it gives a unique perspective.

⇒For more details on Meterora, check out my post: Why You Should Drop Everything & Visit Meteora

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Who knew the oldest lake in Europe would be one of my favorite destinations of 2016? It’s not really a place on most people’s radars, and as a result, it’s not overrun by mass tourism. BINGO. That’s probably why I enjoyed it so much. You can reach it easily with a 3-hour bus ride from Skopje.

Lake Ohrid Crazy Travelista

Go to Lake Ohrid for a more peaceful and relaxing trip with great scenery. Also a plus is how cheap everything is there, especially accommodations. I got an entire apartment to myself on Airbnb for $24/night. Ahhh, I love Eastern Europe.♥

Do not miss:

Saint John at Kaneo-a monastery perched upon the cliff overlooking the lake and picturesque AF.

Sardinia, Italy

If you know anything about me, you know my favorite country in the world is Italy. I always say I could spend my whole life discovering all of Italy. And that I plan on doing :). Sardinia did not disappoint and has the most consistently beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life. Period. 

Sardinia, Italy Crazy Travelista

I explored solo for 8 days by car and it was one of my favourite trips of the year. Sardinia is very rugged and naturally beautiful, and not to mention HUGE. In 8 days I was only able to see the Northeast of the Island so I definitely plan on going back to see more.

Do not miss:

  • Cala Goloritze-hands-down one of the prettiest beaches in the world. So much so that the beach itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It requires a 1.5 hour hike through the woods (each way), but 100% worth it. I had the whole entire beach to myself (although it was a cloudy day, it was still gorgeous).
  • La Maddalena Peninsula-I took my car on the ferry over to La Maddalena and drove around the small little island. The water there was the prettiest blue/green contrasted waters on the whole island of Sardinia.
  • Costa Smeralda-very posh and expensive but worth a stop.
  • Capriccioli Beach-made up of 4 small half-cresent beaches and turquoise waters.
  • Orosei Coast for the best natural beaches on the island.

Where to Stay in Sardinia:

Ecofriendly Luxury Huts at L’essenza, Sardinia-one of the most unique places I have ever stayed. Who wouldn’t want to stay in a luxury teepee surrounded by cats and greenery?

Su Gologone: the prettiest and most colourful boutique hotel I have ever stayed in. It’s an art lover’s dream and the perfect place for total seclusion from the outside world.

⇒Check out my reviews of these properties here:

Ecofriendly Luxury Huts at L’essenza, Sardinia

Su Gologone: A Secluded Oasis Igniting the Inner Creative in You

Mainland Portugal

Lisbon-the spicy capital of Portugal with so much to offer. The colourful city is a photographer’s absolute dream and I had so much fun exploring, despite all the steep hills!

Señhora do Monte viewpoint

Algarve- a region in the south of Portugal with some of the best beaches in Europe. And finally some sandy beaches in Europe, woohoo!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BEoSLeeuW8X/?taken-by=crazytravelista

Do not miss:

  • Hike up to the Miradouro or “viewpoints” for the best panoramic views over the city.
  • Alfama and Bairro Alto neighborhoods for photo ops and great restaurants.
  • TimeOut Market– a gourmet food market with some of the best chefs and many vendors to choose from.
  • Carmo Convent-a church without a roof. Where else can you see that?
  • Day Trips to Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, and Cascais are absolute musts!

⇒For more details on Lisbon, check out my post: What To Do in Lisbon: A Fun-Filled 3-Day Itinerary (+Day Trips)

Chefchaouen

Although I had quite the rocky time in Morocco, I couldn’t leave the amazing “blue city” off this list. I had been teased by unreal Instagram photos of this place for what seemed like forever. I couldn’t take it anymore and just had to see for myself.

Blue city, Morocco

Chefchaouen exceeded my expectations. It might just be the most picturesque city I’ve ever been to. The location nudged between the Rif Mountains only adds to it’s secluded beauty. It’s a little out of the way to get to, but it was by far my favorite place in Morocco and if you go to only one city, make it this one! 

⇒For more on my time in Morocco, check out: Solo Female Travel in Morocco: Yay or Nay? and Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Morocco: Highlights & Lowlights

Do not miss:

  • Getting lost in the maze like streets.
  • Taking endless photos of kitties.
  • Go to the Spanish Mosque at sunset for the best views.
  • Shop and bargain for leather goods and pashmina scarves.
  • Eat at Molin Arte near waterfalls or Cafe Morisco in the main square.

Safari in Kruger National Park

Going on a safari at Kruger National Park in South Africa was not only one of the top 5 travel moments ever, it was probably one of the top 5 highlights of my life. No joke. There is nothing comparable to the thrill of being in an open vehicle and being encountered by the animals in the wild. I’m not going to lie, at some moments, I was scared AF, but that just added to the thrill!

The bonus…we saw the BIG FIVE twice in 3 days!

Safari Kruger National Park

If you don’t have a safari on your bucket list, put it up by the top! It’s amazing! And not as expensive as you might think. More on my safari adventure with details coming up soon!

Queensland, Australia

Getting to finally see the Great Barrier Reef up close and swim in it was a complete dream come true. It was at the top of my bucket list and it didn’t disappoint. I must say it was a little scary to swim with all the possible deadly animals in the GBR, namely sharks and stingers. But hey, YOLO! 

Great Barrier Reef

Do not miss:

  • Day trip to the Outer Great Barrier Reef + Michaelman’s Cay.
  • Day trip to Fitzroy island-a relaxing a quiet island with lots of water activities and hikes.
  • Day trip to Cape Tribulation/Port Douglas-the costal views on the way up are worth it alone.

Whitsundays (Whitehaven Beach)

Whitehaven Beach may just be the prettiest beach in the world. At least it was the prettiest beach I had ever seen! The magnificent swirls of white sand contrasted with the turquoise waters was like nothing I had ever seen. Also interesting is that the pattern of swirls changes every 3-4 hours so you will never take the same picture twice.

Whitsundays, Australia

Do not miss:

  • Make sure to take a day tour and see the Hill Inlet. This is not included on every tour so make sure your company goes there! This is where you get to hike up and see that spectacular view mentioned above.  
  • Scenic flight over the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef for a different perspective.

New Zealand (all of it!)

I couldn’t pick just one city in New Zealand because everywhere I went was spectacular. The highlights of my trip were bungee jumping for the first time ever in Queenstown, biking through wine country, and visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set on the north island.

New Zealand Crazy Travelista

New Zealand is for nature lovers and I cherished my time there. It’s definitely a place I would go back to. And the exchange rate was very good so it was quite affordable. 

Do not miss:

  • Bungee jumping in Queenstown, the home of bungee!
  • Hobbiton movie set.
  • Wine tasting on Waiheke island.
  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
  • Waitomo Glow worm caves.

Tip: you can only visit Hobbiton on a tour so make sure to buy tickets in advance as they do sell out!

*Stay tuned for a huge post on my highlights of New Zealand soon. In the meantime, here is my bungee jump video:

Where is Crazy Travelista Going in 2017?

That’s a great question. I don’t even know yet myself. Last year I only completed about 50% of my wish list…yet I added 3 huge trips instead to Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Plans are always changing so it’s hard to say.

As of right now, I only have a trip to Lapland, Finland booked in March. Nothing else is planned yet!

But in case you’re wondering, here is my 2017 wish list:

Iran-the homeland! My dad is from Shiraz, Iran, and it would be a dream for me to finally get to see where he came from and to meet a bunch of family over there. In doing my research, I found out that it’s going to be more complicated for me to go than someone who is an American (ironic, huh?).

The Iranian government sees anyone born to an Iranian father as Iranian, regardless of where the mother is from (my mom is from Austria). So that means I must enter on an Iranian passport. Well, my dad came over almost 40 years ago and lost his passport (as he has never returned). So he must track down his birth certificate in Iran first and then reapply for his passport in the USA before I can even think about applying for mine. It’s going to be a long process, but I am determined to get to Iran in 2017! Stay tuned for updates.

I do know for sure that 2017 WILL be the year I set foot on the continent of South America for the first time. How have I not gone here yet? Plane tickets are pretty cheap from Washington, DC, so now is the time to go. It’s high up on the list and I will definitely be making a trip there some time next year. On my radar: Machu Picchu, Salar de Uyuni (salt flats in Bolivia), Brazil, Patagonia, Colombia, and possibly Galapagos.

Also on my radar for 2017: more of South East Asia (Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore) as well as Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and possibly India.

I would like to also visit more of the Middle East including Oman, Dubai, Jordan, etc. And no, it doesn’t scare me. I have Middle Eastern blood after all.

Banff National Park, Canada-since Canada is celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2017, they are offering free entrance to all their national parks. I ordered my pass already online so now I must go in 2017 🙂

And it’s also my goal to visit one random AF country in 2017. Like possibly one of the “stan” countries. Maybe I’ll get to see where Borat is from. Haha 🙂

Will I make it to all these places in 2017? Probably not, but I’m aiming for at least 50% like last year. I know for sure I will not be spending much time in Europe in 2017 (insert sad face), although it’s my favorite continent. I need to break away for a while and see what else the world has to offer. There is still SO much to see! So, that being said, cheers to mothaf**kin’ 2017!

Here is my 2016 Travel Recap Video from YouTube:

What were your 2016 highlights? And where are you headed in 2017? I want to know! 🙂

Click photo to PIN for later 🙂

Where to travel in 2017