Backpacking with Children » 5 Reasons To Do It

Do you know what backpacking means? If you type the word into Google you will find about 235.00 results. To many, backpacking means freedom, adventure, fun, meeting new people, and having little or nothing to fall back on. In short, a journey of discovery!

So when you have children, does this all change? As a mother of two, people often me and my partner how we ‘do it’ and they wonder if backpacking with children is even possible. I wasn’t always this flexible about travelling with my children so I understand where this question is coming from. It sounds exciting and adventurous but maybe it’s a bit too much? Here are 5 reasons why backpacking with children is always a good idea.

1. Create Forever Lasting Memories!

The great advantage of backpacking is that you get to travel and therefore you experience more. For children, it is often an impressive experience. They experience new things they have never seen before. We make the lives of our children richer by showing them the world. And best of all, you and your  family will create memories that will never be forgotten.

create-memories
Cheryl’s family Backpacking through Asia

I loved traveling when I was single. I love traveling with my wife. But I love it more now that I have kids. – Santorini Dave 

2. Freedom and Adventure

Backpacking means travelling around from location to location. You don’t need a fixed plan. The whole idea of backpacking is to be flexible. Arrived some place and want to stay longer? Then do! Our advice for backpacking with children is to prepare your trip. For us this means we select a view accommodations at each location (so when we arrive we can make fast decisions). Flights we book in advance, any other transport we arrange at the destination. Choose train & bus above the plane (unless your kids are very young, then travel less locations or lower the distance). Any other preparation is not necessary, you’ll handle it!

3. It’s good for your budget

Feel like exploring the world with your children but you don’t have a large budget? Backpacking is low budget travel. Sometimes you’ll find a hidden gem, sometimes you end up in a little less more pleasant environment. Don’t focus to much on what the accommodation looks like, as long as it’s clean it will be fine (and the kids will be ok). Try to select your next stay with the children. Keep their wishes in mind!

Taking care of their own backpack makes them more independent

4. They learn to be a little bit independent

It starts even before you head off on your little adventure. Give older children in your family some responsibility during traveling. It makes them grow in their self esteem because they contribute to family interests. Taking care of their own backpack makes them more independent and last year our daughter Jessie (then 11 years old) purchased and carried her own backpack. Of course you need to decide as a parent if your child is physically able to handle this. Not every eleven-year-old is the same. Our daughter liked to have her own backpack. Because she’d have to carry her own stuff she packed less! responsible!

5. You realise anything is possible

If you decide to take your children on an adventure, you are taking a leap of faith and yes, it can be scary. But how cool is it when you’ve actually done it! Backpacking is all about surprises and backpacking with children is the 3.0 version of that. A lot of people regret things in life, just because they didn’t do something. Break the rules and be different. Be that person that has no regrets. And look back at it with pride, no matter how the experience was. A fact is, that you did it and that itself, is pretty damn awesome.

Backpacking with children
Traveling by boat, Cheryl has done it all

Tip! Lower your expectations

If you are a hardcore adventurer and backpacker, you might want to lower your expectations a little bit. The truth is, backpacking with children will be a bit different from doing it by yourself. You have more responsibilities and it starts with the items you pack. This time, bring the first aid kit that you would normally leave at home, research the area you’re traveling to and the list goes on. Once you are prepared, your backpacking adventure will be a lot more relaxing.

Tip! The less you bring, the better!

A suitcase with 30 kg of clothes, shoes (and more) sounds interesting until you have to travel from one location to another (and you have to carry that large heavy thing everywhere). From my own experience: this will make you cry. The suitcase is a NO-GO, buy or borrow a backpack.

Tip! Take care of yourself and invest in a backpack!

Find an outdoor shop and try a number of different backpacks. You will see (and experience) that there’s a real difference in types. Find a store on and try several (including weights!), but we love this backpack for kids.

Love,

Cheryl

Wander-Lust now has a TRAVELING WITH KIDS section, check it out!

7 tips to make traveling with your kids as relaxed as possible

THE BEST OF DOHA, QATAR

Doha is considered the pearl of the middle east that set itself on the map after being elected for the 2022 World Cup. Time to find out why it’s good to travel to Doha now, before it’s becoming the next Dubai.

The city of Doha has many amazing sky scrapers, entertainment, shopping, glitch and glamour, yet it still offers an authentic culture and history. We were invited by Qatar Airways to see the best of Doha.

HOW TO GET THERE

Given that Qatar Airways is officially the best airline in the world, I was happy to fly with them for the first time. Luckily, I was upgraded into their QSuite (O Em Gee), which has been voted as the best business class by the Yearly World Airlines Awards, the oscars of aviation. For someone with a fear of flying, this was the most relaxing flight I had ever experienced. A direct flight to Doha takes about 6 hours, so that’s pretty reasonable. Qatar Airways for that matter, is offering Doha as a stopover, which you can add to your booking. As a matter of fact, if you fly with QR, you can get a discount on hotel prices. 4-star hotels are available for as little as 23USD! Nice to know: Qatar Airways offers all passengers 1 hour free wifi!


Business Class Qatar Airways
Enjoying the QSuite

THE STORY ABOUT QATAR & DOHA

First thing to remember is that Qatar is a reasonably small country which makes it fairly easy to travel around if you want to. You can actually drive from North to South Qatar in approximately 3 hours. As you may have heard, Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world due to their gas & oil, but it wasn’t always like this. For centuries, pearl harvesting used to be the main source of income for Qatari people. But due to the great depression and competition, pearls lost their value and the country needed to find other ways to earn a living. The pearl however, remains an important symbol of Qatar until this day.

Baskets at Souq Waqif

Doha on the other hand, is only 40 years old, which explains the modern vibe and ongoing construction. People often compare it to Dubai, but the people who live here, find Doha to be very different. For one, Dubai is all about entertainment, luxury and shopping. While Doha is certainly up there when it comes to luxury hotels, restaurants and bars, but also offers culture, sports and traditions.

GOOD TO KNOW

The best time to visit Doha is from October until the end of April. It must be remembered that the weather is undoubtedly less hot during those months with temperatures between 25 and 35 degrees. While this still seems quite warm, during summer period it can get up to 50ºC! It also has to be considered that Qatar is a muslim country, so dress accordingly. This means long dresses or trousers and try to cover your upper arms. On the contrary, you can wear pretty much whatever you want in most hotels. Alcohol is not served in public spaces, but only inside some restaurants and bars. That being said, I never heard a police siren while I was there, something I haven’t experienced in a city before.

Skyline

WHERE TO STAY

In general, there is enough choice when it comes to accommodation in Doha. For the most part, there are many big hotels, but the city also offers boutique style hotels and homestays. The best place to stay in Doha is in the West Bay area. Here you are near the airport, museums, and Souq Waqif. During my three-day trip I stayed in the following hotels.

  • Mandarin Oriental

    Brand new in Doha so modern and stylish. The rooms are truly exquisite and spacious. The hotel has an outdoor pool, 3 restaurants and a spa. Their latest gastronomic addition is Mosaic, an international kitchen with an Arabic twist. The location of the hotel is recently build, so taxi drivers may not find it that easily. On the positive side, Mandarin Oriental is located at walking distance of Souq Waqif!

Hotel pool

  • Marsa Malaz Kempinski

    In contrast to the Mandarin Oriental, Kempinski is more classical and larger. The entrance is quite impressive and the hotel offers a large pool area and a beach. They have a very cool must visit rooftop bar named Secret Garden and club that is only accessible via the parking lot. Bare in mind that the dresscode is smart/casual and visitors must bring their passports. Ask the reception for all the details.

Hotel bed

Kempinski Hotel Doha

The above mentioned hotels are both amazing but understandably not for every budget, so you are best to compare the best rated hotels online.

WHERE TO EAT

Luckily, Doha offers a wide range of cuisines and flavours. Even vegetarians have plenty of options! Here is a list of some must try restaurants.

  • Al Mourjan Restaurant offers some of the best Lebanese food in Doha. From the outside terrace you have an amazing view. Try the lemon/mint juice, amazing!
  • Nobu Doha is famous for sushi, but the same goes for their good service. The Japanese chefs welcome every new customer with a traditional greeting while working their magic behind the counter. Upstairs you can enjoy a drink at the bar, which overlooks part of Doha’s skyline. Nobu is part of the Four Seasons Hotel, due to open in early 2020.

Mezza in Doha

  • Apparently, Spicemarket is the best rated Asian restaurant in Doha. The restaurant which is located in the W-hotel, takes you on a journey across South East Asia and brings the authentic flavours to the table.
  • If you are a brunch person, go to Arc Brunch Eatery! Apparently they serve a killer coconut latte.
  • As previously mentioned, Mosaic is the newest restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel. They offer a variety of Arabic food with a twist!
  • Spots like Soul Bowl and Evergreen Organics are made for those that crave something healthy and vegan. Plus both locations look cute!

Mosiac

Nice to know: Little did I know, but coffee is a thing in Doha! You’ll find many trendy coffee bars around the city and our favourites café’s are Flat White, Cue Café, Fleurs at Café, 20 Grams Coffee Bar, MIA Café and Tea Garden.

Coffee bar Doha
Cue café, in the Pearl (source)

CULTURE & TRADITIONS

You may not expect it, but Doha is full of culture and traditions. For example, the falcon, Qatars symbol and bird, is still as important as centuries ago. Some falcons even travel first class with their owners! At Souq Waqif you can find a falcon market where the birds are sold and traded. There is even a falcon hospital to keep them in good shape. The traditional Souq itself is also worth a visit. During the evening it gets more crowded but if you come between 7:30 – 12:00, you can take photo’s without hardly any people. They sell everything from handmade baskets, colourful carpets, spices, sweets and tools. The souq is also the best place for traditionally Arabic food, but you can also find Indian, Lebanese and Iranian food here.

Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif during the day

Doha Falcon

Museums

I never expected to find the best museum I have ever visited in Doha, but I did. The National Museum of Qatar is truly impressive. The design – inspired by a desert rose, is incredible. But once inside, NMOQ is curated beautifully. It takes you through the ancient times, including the amazing displays of  different species that live in Qatar. How pearls came and went, war and traditions. Not to mention that kids will love the interactive and playful set ups, while adults enjoy the beautiful indoor architecture and information.

NMOQ in Doha
The stunning National Museum of Qatar

But this is not the only museum Doha has on offer. MIA (Museum of Islamic Art) is also one of the city’s pride and joy. The building portraits a Qatari woman wearing a bourqa. From here you have a stunning view of Doha’s skyline. If you like modern art, check out Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art. With new exhibitions each month, Doha also has many galleries. Find out more here.

MIA Museum in Doha
MIA Museum

THINGS TO DO IN DOHA

Equally important are the activities Doha has on offer. A unique selling point has to be the desert with one of the world’s natural wonders; the inland sea. Next to Namibia, Qatar is the only place on earth where the sea reaches the desert. You can book several tours that will take you dune bashing. If you come in the beginning or end of the month, the sea will reach the sand dunes completely, otherwise the sight of it may be a bit disappointing.

Desert Qatar
Me, in the desert. Photo by Roel van der Krabben

Desert and sea
Camels standing at the inland sea

Visit Banana Island

Besides the thrilling desert of Qatar, you can also spend an afternoon at the luxurious Banana Island Resort. From Doha City you can take a ferry in just 35 minutes that will take you to the man-build island. There are a few restaurants, pools and beach area for visitors to enjoy the day. If you want to stay the night, you need to bring your credit card, because it ain’t cheap! Even so, it’s perfect for honeymooners or to escape the city.

Banana Island entrace
The entrance of Banana Island Resort

Katara Cultural Village

What’s more, a whole village was build to bring different cultures together through art and creativity. There are shops, restaurants, theatre, exhibition area’s and festive events. Doha is full of expats and they love to come here to listen to familiar sounds and meet friends. There is also a stunning mosque which was designed by a woman, which is quite special.

Mosque
The Mosque at Cultural Village

MY VERDICT

Having experienced Doha for a few days, and can say that it’s the perfect city for a stopover before heading home or continuing your trip. With this intention you can truly enjoy the best of Doha. In short, the capital of Qatar can be quite expensive indeed, but if you if you want, you can go all out here and treat yourself to great food, sunshine, glitch and glamour. Hop from hotel bar to beautiful restaurants or experience rich culture the sand dunes and meet some of the nicest people as a bonus, both expats and locals.

And remember that Dubai once started out as Doha. Quietly and full ambition. I think it’s time to visit this relatively unknown destination and enjoy it before it becomes a place where you’ll become just another tourist.

Love,

Elke

 

 

 

 

The adventurous South Island of New Zealand

As the ultimate New Zealand ambassador (seriously, if the immigration laws weren’t so impossible, I would already live there) I would highly recommend to visit every part of this beautiful country. But I also know that you need at least two months to fully explore every corner. 

Reality is that a lot of (short-term) travellers have to be selective on where to go and pick the South-Island of New Zealand as their go-to destination. With reason, it’s a dream to drive the long roads, stare at the ridiculously gorgeous and ever-changing scenery, wander through the cozy towns and have fun with the hilarious, straightforward locals. Next to all this beauty, there are also a ton of opportunities to have some adventure. I’ll let you in on some of the ones I experienced.

Oh and by the way, if you are going to travel the whole country (you lucky bastard), make sure to check out our insights on the Stunning North Island as well!

The North Island of New Zealand
The North Island of New Zealand

Pick Picton

Easily overlooked by many, little port town Picton (where the ferry from the North Island arrives) is worth to stay for a few days. Where the town is small, the nature is grand! the maze of the Marlborough Sounds with its valley’s, peaks, beaches, birds and crystal clear waters just scream for some exploring. Be prepared to feel really small when walking (pieces of) the Queen Charlotte trail. If you are not a hiker, there are also plenty of kayak and bike tours, as long or short as you like. Also, if you’re into sailing, make sure to ask around in town if the local sailing club still has training nights and if you are allowed to join. It’s what we did and it resulted in an epic afternoon of high speed sailing on an amazing sailboat, sarcastic jokes and home-brewed rum by the crew included. 

The seals of Abel Tasman

Of course you are going to visit Abel Tasman National Park. Golden beaches, lush nature, secret waterfalls, they have it all here. Whatever you have planned for this park, make sure to add some kayaking even if it is just for a few hours. It’s paddling on open sea and therefore pretty damn exhausting, but you’ll forget about that when you look around you. The occasional seal will lazily float by your canoe, enjoying the sun as much as you’ll do. I did a two day tour, with one day of kayaking to a campsite (the tour agencies will provide you with a fully stocked kayak, tent included) and walking back to following day. This really was a magical two days, bonfires included!

south-island of new-zealand abel-tasman-park_kayaking
Kayaking at Abel Tasman National Park

new-zealand_south-island_abel-tasman-park_anchorage_kayaking

Roadtrip

If you have been doubting whether to hire a car to get around or just take the easy way and buy a buss pass: hire a car!! This coming from me (the most scared car driver alive) says something. The South Island offers not so many roads, and they are also not that busy. As a matter of fact, they are breathtaking. And at some parts also quite adventurous, with mountain passes, hairpin bends, cliffs, no gas stations for miles and of course driving on the left side. Having your own car gives you the opportunity to really wander off the main roads, stop to gaze at your surroundings wherever and whenever you want, travel at your own pace. Trust me, take the car. Car rental Picton (you can rent the car her, and drop it off in several other cities, Christchurch for instance.

new-zealand_south-island_roadtrip_crystal-clear

Adventure capital of the world

The true thrill seekers will know this: Queenstown is the place to be if you are looking for adventure (and for a scandalous pub-crawl). This town does, In my honest opinion, no real justice to the rest of the country since it pulls in a lot of tourists who just want to get hammered. Also, it’s the best place to book a trip to Milford Sound, a mystical fjord which seems to come straight out of a movie (remember that movie with elves, a ring and some bad orcs 😉 ). From jet boating to luging to bungee jumping, make sure to save some of your money to engage in at least one of the adventures on offer. You have multiple bungee sites to choose from.

The Nevis bungee let’s you fall ‘ only’ 180 meters, The Ledge offers cool views on Queenstown (but not sure if you’ll be aware of that if you are about to make a free fall with nothing but a rope around your ankles). Eventually, I decided to do the the Kawarau Bridge jump, since this is the first commercial bungee site in the world and my inner nostalgia bubbled up because of this. Imagine jumping off an old bridge, in the middle of a gorge, dipping into turquoise water. Yes, I was scared, I screamed, I was terrified. And I would do it again any day.

new-zealand_south-island_queenstown
Queenstown

south-island of new-zealand queenstown_kawarau_bungee
It’s the perfect place for thrillseekers

Stewart Island

Most people know about the North and the South Island, but forget the third island of New Zealand: Stewart Island. I’ll admit, it will steal some days of your travels to get there, but if you have the time and you’re looking for nature in it’s purest form, go! While on the island, we had the privilege to actually spot a real life Kiwi bird. They only live in the wild on Stewart Island and are hardly seen. The same goes for the little penguins that show up at dawn in the harbour. Getting to Stewart Island is possible by ferry boat. But if it has always been your dream do go cage diving with great white sharks, you can also book a (really expensive) tour which offers you the cage as well as the transfer to the island. 

Meet a sea lion

Another place that a lot of people skip is student town Dunedin. Which is a shame, since they have a chocolate factory! Jokes aside, it’s a very laid-back city, home to the worlds steepest residential street of the world. More importantly, it’ s also home to the Otago peninsula, where you can drive around and spot marine wildlife. Think penguins, albatrosses, seals and sea lions. We encountered two sea lions of which one was surrounding a bird watching hut to ensure that the people in there, would stay in there. The other sea lion (which we named Claude) was actually chasing us. Quite the adventure, but I guess that’s what the South Island of New Zealand is all about.

new-zealand_south-island_dunedin_otago-peninsula_sea-lion
Claude chasing us!

Given these points, this is only a small list of everything you can do on this amazing island. There is whale-watching in Kaikoura, climbing Franz Josef glacier, Mount Cook. You can spot dolphins in Greymouth, hike around Lake Wanaka, and so so so much more. Go there, and make me jealous.

Love,

Jill

The Stunning North Island of New Zealand

They call it the land of the long white cloud, Aotearoa or simply: New Zealand! There is so much to see but for now, we’ll take you around The North Island of New Zealand.

New Zealand is known for their sheep, kiwi fruit, Hobbits and friendly people (called Kiwi’s). But those sweet people are also batshit crazy thrill seekers. It is with a reason that they opened up the first commercial bungee jumping location in the world (Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge near Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand ).

Start at the North Island

Since almost all European flights connect to Auckland, on the North Island of New Zealand, I’ll cover that part first. You’ll have to come back here later to find out about the South Island shenanigans. If you are heading for New Zealand, make sure to check out Grab One on a regular basis, its the NZ Groupon and they offer pretty sweet deals, also on a lot of adventures!

Getting around

First things first, the distances in New Zealand are quite far, so make sure to get yourself some solid transportation around the islands. Of course it’s most adventurous to rent a camper van. But a normal car is also pretty cool. On a budget or on your own? Take a look at Stray Travel, they offer up some nice itineraries to get around by bus (and find travel buddies). Armed with a Lonely Planet or booking.com you’ll be able to book some sweet hostels. Be aware though, it’s a pricey country.

Bay of islands

Okay, ready for your first adventure? Drive or bus up to Northland, about 3 hours from Auckland. It’s where you enter the Bay of Islands, which is full of breathtaking views and cute small villages. And it’s also the place where you can get yourself thrown out of an airplane with a sassy Kiwi on your back. Of course accompanied by a parachute, it’s perfectly safe (although you won’t feel that way when you are hanging out of the plane on a 5 KM height). Skydiving above the Bay of Islands is gorge!

The grassy hills and azure waters dotted with islands will cause some serious neck pain from wanting to look all around you. You almost forget that you just tumbled down the sky and you are floating with just a thin piece of fabric behind you (oh right, and of course that sassy Kiwi). If you ever had just one fiber in your body thinking about doing this, the Bay of Island is the place to go! While you are in the area, there are tons of other nice things to do and to explore. Visit the most northern part, Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman sea collide. Or book a day trip to 90 mile beach. This usually includes sand boarding on some steep dunes, another must for adventure seekers! 

Bay of Islands New Zealand

Coromandel

Just like most of the country, the Coromandel is beautiful and very different from other areas. From Auckland you can get there in 2,5 hours, enjoying the scenic road or take the ferry (but that leaves you out of transport once you arrive). This is where super famous cathedral cove is located and a ​ great spot to do some hiking or canoeing. Make sure to touch down at hot water beach.

Yep, this is the place to start digging some holes to create your own hot tub (or boil some eggs) as the underground hot springs warm up the water that comes up when you start removing the sand. After chilling in the warm water, it’s time to actually get some thrills (and chills). Leave the beach behind you and make way for the extremely freezing water. Yeah, the contrast is quite big, but the massive waves will make up for it. This is the time to jump and scream around in the water, as if you are ten years old again. It’s a pretty mean surf spot as well.

catherdral-cove-new-zealand
Cathedral Cove

Coromandel New Zealand
Endless walks on the beach

Tongariro Crossing

Lord of the Rings fans, pay attention! Here’s your chance to pretend to be Frodo or some other kind of Ork and walk around Mordor. Near Lake Taupo, in the middle of the North Islands lies the Tongariro National Park. Mt Ngauruhoe appears in the movies as Mt Doom and is a part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This (approximately) 7 hour hike will lead you through a volcanic wasteland and you will definitely recognise Middle Earth at it’s finest. Although the hike very is do-­able, make sure you have good walking shoes (leave your beloved Converse in your backpack) and watch the weather forecast as it can get a bit spooky (and dangerous) if the conditions are bad. But men oh men, this is one cool day trip. A beer at the end of the day is much deserved (and needed).


The Emerald lakes

tongariro-new-zealand

Wanganui River

Where most travellers continue their trip south after completing the Tongariro or Lake Taupo, I advise you to stick around for a couple of days. Why? Because canoeing the Wanganui river is almost a life changing experience. Imagine a river, surrounded by lush green forest and high stone walls. Next to that, imagine paddling for 3 days through it with just you and your canoe buddy. That’s what happened to me and it was astonishing. Stress does not exist and complete peace of mind is guaranteed. Find a nice little bar and reminisce about all the adventures you’ve experienced on the North Island of New Zealand, memories for ever. I still think about it all, every day. And then I haven’t even told you about all the geothermal parks, surf spots and that place where the hobbits live…although this may be true, I guess you’ll just have to go find out for yourself!

wanganui-river-new-zealand
Crossing the Wanganui River

Love,

Jill

Find out more about the South Island of New Zealand!

New Zealand travel movies

3 X TOP PLACES IN LAOS

Located cozily in between Thailand, Cambodia, China, Myanmar and Vietnam, Laos is often one of the South East Asian countries that’s left un-visited when traveling this to part of the world. And that’s a shame, because Laos is a true gem and one of the cheapest countries to travel in.

 If you are a first time visitor to Laos, these are definitely my top three places for visiting!

Been there, Don Det

Don Det is a small island located in the south of Laos, close to the Cambodian border. The island is well-known for its beautiful scenery and relaxed hippy vibe. Staying in one of the bungalows on the island means going back 2 basic with cold showers and toilets that can only be flushed with a bucket. Straightaway, you will feel the relaxed vibe on this island which is very contagious. Soon you’ll be unwinding in a hammock with a fruit shake in your hand. For those who find it hard to sit still cheap bikes can be rented all over the island to go for a ride and explore the breathtaking waterfalls.

Don Det Waterfalls

Don Det, Laos
Don Det

Soaring through the jungle in Laos with the Gibbon Experience

If you’re up for a little more action after being completely rejuvenated at Don Det travel all the way north to go on The Gibbon Experience. Sleeping in the worlds highest tree houses, flying through the jungle of Laos on a zipper-line. Furthermore, you can hike through beautiful woods while contributing to preserving everything that surrounds you. That’s the Gibbon Experience. Of all my travels this is by far one of the most amazing things I’ve done. Make sure you make a booking in advance as the Gibbon Experience is often fully booked.

Gibbon, Laos

Oui oui, Luang Prabang

From Luang Prabang you can get on the night bus to the Gibbon Experience. It goes without saying that Luang Prabang is a town where French influences decorate this charming town everywhere. You can walk through Luang Prabangs enchanting streets or visit one of the many temples. About 40 minutes from Luang Prabang you will stumble upon the Kuang Si Waterfalls which are so greenish blue that you have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Take a swim in these (cold!!) waterfalls or simply walk around and enjoy the surroundings. When you get back to Luang Prabang pay a visit to the market where delicious baguettes and fresh fruit shakes are sold for just under €1,50.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos

Next to these three highlights Laos has so much more to offer like visiting the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng or strolling around its capital Vientiane.

Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng, Laos

Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos

Ultimately, I hope you’ll have a wonderful time in this partly undiscovered little piece of Southeast Asian heaven 🙂

Love,

Evelien

How to avoid the crowds at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is undoubtedly Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction. And this is no surprise since the lost city is the biggest religious monument in the world which dates back to the early twelfth century.

These days almost 5 million tourists yearly make their way over to Cambodia to wander around the temples of Angkor Wat themselves, making it a very popular but very busy place to visit. You better think again if you ever dream of having these Asian temples all to yourself, but there are a few tricks to avoid the big crowds and wander around in peace…

1. Watch the sunrise and leave a little early

Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a definite must-do when you’re visiting these temples. Not only is it a truly magical experience when a new day presents itself by rising up against the temples, but it is also a great way to arrive at the temples early. If you want to have a good spot without hundreds of iPad and Selfiestick waving Chinese tourists in front of you, walk right instead of going straight ahead at the famous ‘sunrise temple spot’. You won’t be right in front of the temples, but you will share the view with just a dozen of other tourists. When the sun is up and you captured enough Instagram-worthy shots, head back to your Tuk Tuk driver before everybody else does. Doing this you’ll arrive at the other temples as one of the first, having the temples (almost) all to yourself 🙂

Beat the crowd at Ankor Wat
The most impressive temple of Cambodia, but very busy

2. The further away, the better!

Firstly, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to bring you to the popular temples that are further away first. Many Tuk Tuk’s and tour buses follow a certain route, creating the perfect opportunity for you to do the exact opposite thing 🙂 Also, if you see tons of big tour buses standing outside of a temple, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to take you to another temple which appears to be less crowded first. Clever thinking!

no crowds at ankor-wat

3. Go back at the end of the day

Wandering around the temples of Angkor is extremely beautiful, but also extremely tiring and HOT! If you decided to watch the sunrise you will probably feel very tired around 12pm, making you want to go home and take a nap during the hottest hours of the day. If you buy a one-day-pass this pass is valid for a whole day, so you can come back to the temples in the late afternoon, when most of the crowds already have disappeared. Make sure you don’t go too late as Angkor Wat closes at 6pm.

Ankor Wat Cambodia

I hope the three tips above will help you explore the ancient Ankor Wat in peace and quiet. Enjoy 🙂

Love,

Evelien

Did you know Cambodia is one of the world’s cheapest countries to live in? Check which countries made it to the top 5!

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Why you should Travel Solo at least once

It’s midnight and I’m walking through the rainy streets of Koh San Road, Thailand. I’m surrounded by fried scorpions and Thai neon signs which I can’t read. With a backpack full of courage I try to connect with the already drunken tourists, but unfortunately without any success. It’s my first time out of Europe, the first time backpacking. 

It was the best decision I could have ever made and I’ll give you 5 reasons why I think you should Travel Solo at least once in your lifetime.

I walk alone, but I feel more powerful than ever. A sense of freedom, I can do what I want, whenever I want.

Why you should travel alone

Nobody can discover the world for you

We can get lost in the most beautiful travel documentaries, dream away with breath taking photos and listen with unbelief to the stories of others. But nothing can compare to the experience in real life. If you want to discover the world we live in, go. Cause nobody can discover it for you. Being on your own means you can decide where you want to go, which places inspire you and choose the adventures that most appeal to you. You are in charge of broadening your horizons.

There is nobody here to stop me. It was time to discover the world on my own.

Finding your own rhythm

I’m definitely not a morning person and it has always been a challenge to agree with the overenthusiastic waking-up time of my friends. It’s a great feeling waking up and start doing whatever you want. There is no boss waiting for you at the office or a friend that desperately wants to go to that trendy, hipster breakfast place four blocks away while you’re starving. You have the time and space to create your own rhythm and discover your own needs. This is a valuable lesson to learn, also regarding your daily routines back home.

toa-heftiba-205018
You are more in the moment when you travel alone

While traveling, I realised that the differences between all of us are insignificant compared to what connects us.

Experiences will be more intense

The autopilot of the mind will be switched off when you’re confronted with new situations, which results in a higher level of focus. You’ll have to stay alert, take care of yourself and create your own path. Because of this you’ll feel more aware of your surroundings instead of looking at it passively or getting lost in a conversation with your partner. You will experience the world around you instead of only seeing it.

Ásbyrgi North iceland

New perspectives

Not being with friends or a partner means you have to go out of your comfort zone to meet new people or talk to locals. You’ll meet travelers from different cultures, backgrounds, social environments and also different characters. While traveling I realised that the differences between all of us are insignificant compared to what connects us. Traveling alone will teach you to be flexible, open minded and less judgmental.

Trust your intuition

Being on your own in an unknown country will give you a major confidence boost. Not only will your self-esteem grow because it’s really awesome to travel solo, the trust in your own intuition will increase as well. I can be quite the control freak so I tried to avoid making too many plans for my backpacking trip. It made me really nervous in the beginning as I was constantly questioning myself if it would workout.

And to be honest, not everything did work out like it was suppose to. There was one day I didn’t have any money, food or a place to sleep cause my credit card got blocked. But in the end, everything will be fine, one-way or another. There is no need to stress or worry cause if you trust on your intuition it will always work out. Are you worried about traveling alone as a female? Check these 5 safe destinations that are perfect to start from.

why-you-should-travel-alone-eva
Eva in Chiang May, 2015

So what are you waiting for?

In my opinion, Solo Travel is not just a “cool” thing to do but it also really helps you to extend your boarders and develop yourself. You will gain new insights of the places you’ll go, the people you will meet and the cultures you will learn about. Secondly, it will also deepen the perspective on your own social environment and needs.

Traveling solo is the greatest gift you can give yourself. 

Love,

Eva

 

North Iceland | Off the beaten track

Iceland has become one of the most popular adventure destinations over the last couple of years. The Southern part however, has been getting the most attention. As a result, the infamous Blue Lagoon has become crowded and large tour busses are driving around the golden circle like there is no tomorrow. Dutch tour operator Voigt Travel thought it was time to shed some light on the often forgotten Northern part of Iceland and now offers direct flights to Akureyri with Transavia. Wander-Lust was invited to travel around North Iceland for 6 days and we’re here to tell you why this part shouldn’t be overlooked.

Good to know

  • During spring/summer, it won’t get dark. Even though the most hotels offer good curtains, we advise you to bring an sleeping mask
  • The weather can change drastically. Therefore, pack your sweater, raincoat, sunscreen and bikini (for the natural pools).
  • The people of Iceland still believe in the existence of the Huldufolk translated to, hidden people. Apparently these are like elves and wander around the island. Don’t underestimate their believe, you may find yourself in a heated discussion if you tell them otherwise.
  • Respect the vulnerable moss! Although Iceland is rocky and full of lava remains, moss grows on the rocks and takes decades to grow. Be careful when walking around, because you can easily damage it.
  • The tap water in Iceland is one of the best and widely available. Bring a flask or bottle so you avoid using plastic.

Northern Iceland
Always bring your raincoat (raincoat by Rain Couture)


The Route

Because of the new flight to Akureyri, you can start your trip from there and move around the Northern part, but we did it a little different. Starting in Reykjavik, we drove past the West coast up to North Iceland. This way, you can really see the landscape changing. Check the highlights on the map below.

North Iceland mapSource: Visit North Iceland

Tip: Drive over the Artic Coast Way, which officially opened on the 8th of June 2019 and has been voted in in the top 3 “Best in Europe” by the Lonely Planet. It highlights a less traveled route in Iceland and runs 900km long. In this guide we will show you the route we took plus we will highlight the extra options available in the area.

Artic Coast way
The Artic Coast Way

Day 1 | Drive up North:

From Reykavik drive for about 2 hours to get to North East Iceland where we started our adventure. Stop over at Gauksmýri and meet the animal that you will see loads of, Icelandic Horses. Family owned horse farm Gauksmýri lodge offers traditional horse shows and a nice lunch or dinner. If you are not into horses you can drive to Hvammstangi where you can visit the oldest wool factory in Iceland where you can also buy hats, gloves, scarfs and warm jumpers.

Icelandic Horses North Iceland

Where to stay?
We advise you to take it easy on the first day because you may need to get used to the fact that it won’t turn dark during spring/summer. We stayed in Hotel Laugarbakki, basic but fine, especially because it’s a great starting point for the next day.


Day 2 |Hvammstangi:

If you like to you can go seal watching today. Gear up warmly because it can get cold on the boat. We saw many seals playing in the water or chilling on shore. The Seal Watching Company provides you with binoculars and hot chocolate on board. We enjoyed a nutritious lunch right next door at Sjavarborg Restaurant, with a sea view. They offer burgers, vegan curry and daily fish specials.

Seal Watching North Iceland
Seals used to be hunted in Iceland, but now people let them be and enjoy them differently.

Along the way you are going to see various types of landscapes. The Fjörds, rocky mountains and fields of grass with Icelandic sheep jumping around. Tip: stop at Ánastaðastapi, a rock formation less known, but just as impressive as the infamous Hvitserkur. Legend says, that Hvitserkur is in fact a troll that was turned into stone by the sunlight. Whatever the truth is, take a close look when it’s low-tide so you can walk on the black volcanic beach.

Ánastaðastapi North Iceland

Ánastaðastapi

Hvitserkur North Iceland
Troll or rock? Hvitserkur, North Iceland

Soon enough you’ll find yourself in Sauðárkrókur, which was once the battleground for vikings. The area has many historical sites, museums and exhibits. Tip: In town you should have dinner at KK Restaurant. Lobster pizza is one of their specialities! Be aware though, they also serve Greenland shark and foal meat (yes, this is a baby horse). If you are vegetarian, just mention it and you will be taken care of.

Dinner at KK restaurant
Dinner at KK Restaurant

Where to stay?
You have several options, but we stayed at www.siglohotel.is. This hotel is really amazing but not the most affordable! Big plus; they have great curtains that make your room really dark, so no eye mask is needed!


Day 3 | Húsavík:

You are now driving into the territory famous for Whale Watching, Húsavík! Book your tour in advance, especially during the high season and bring your camera! We booked our Whale watching tour with Whale Watching in Hauganes. Nice to know:  This company is carbon neutral and compensates their CO2 emissions by planting trees. Tip: Take a lunch break at the traditional Icelandic Baccalá Bar where you can eat the catch of the day!

Whale Watching North Iceland
We saw a Humpback Whale but even Blue Whales have been spotted here!

There are quite a few spa’s in Iceland but the one you must try is this rather unusual one: The Beer Spa – The first Beer Bath in the Nordics, linked to the first microbrewery in Iceland. The bath water contains 10 litres beer, hob and herbs. You will be surprised how extremely soft your skin and hair will feel afterwards! The best thing? You can tap your own beer while relaxing in the bath! 

Beer Spa Northern Iceland
Beer anyone?

If you are more into a natural bath, check out Geo Sea, a relatively new natural pool with a stunning view over the Fjörd of Húsavík. Thanks to the underground heat, the seawater in the baths is warm and comfortable and the mineral-rich water will caress your skin. 

Geo Sea Baths
Relaxing at the Geo Sea Baths

Not far from Goðafoss (20 min drive) you’ll find the cutest Icelandic turf houses, Grenjaðarstaður. It used to be home to several families since the 1800’s. Since 1958 they were made into a museum, so people can take a look inside and keep the traditional Icelandic housing alive.

Icelandic Turf Houses Northern Iceland
Traditional Icelandic Turf Houses

Other highlights in/near Húsavík:

  • When you continue your way, there is an option to stop over at the Kolugljúfur Waterfall, the first one we saw along this trip. (many will follow!)
  • Goðafoss waterfall is a stunning waterfall that turns into river Skjálfandafljót. It is 30 meters wide and falls 12 meters down.
  • If you like museums you have plenty of choice; the Whale Museum, the Exploration Museum, and the Culture House are all located in Húsavík.

Goðafoss waterfall North Iceland
Goðafoss waterfall

If you have time to drive up to Raufarhöfn, one of the most remote and northernmost villages in Iceland, you will find Heimskautsgerðið (The Arctic-Henge). Similar to ancient wonder Stonehenge, the Arctic Henge is like a huge sundial. For instance, the structure seems to play with shadow and light which gives it a stunning appearance. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it because of lack in time, but if you extent your visit to 7 days you should be able to make it.

Arctic Henge, North Iceland
Arctic Henge, located in one of the most the remote areas of North Iceland. Source: Visit North Iceland


Day 4 |Vatnajökull National Park:

Drive from Húsavík towards the green valley and canyon region. On your way you can stop over at Skúlagarður for lunch with a breathtaking view. Mind you, the place is pretty basic, but if the weather is nice, you must enjoy the outside seating area with a piece of pie.

After a while you will arrive at the foot of Ásbyrgi, a natural wonder and part of the Vatnajökull National Park. The park reaches from highway 85, by Asbyrgi south to Dettifoss, covering an area of 120 km2. However, a little warning for drone fanatics; keep your drone packed because you are not allowed to fly here (they are very strict on this!). There are many beautiful  hiking trails available and you can get all the information at the information kiosk where you can also park the car. We decided to walk on top of the Canyon so we had a nice view looking down. This took us about 1,5 hours.

Ásbyrgi North iceland

Ásbyrgi, North Iceland
Ásbyrgi Canyon

Other highlights near Ásbyrgi:

  • Visit Dettifoss – the most powerful waterfall in Europe and This results in a natural shower if you stand close enough! The sun was shining at the time of our visit, which created a beautiful rainbow. Tip: Make sure you wear your raincoat if you walk down to see it!
  • Hljóðaklettar rock formations  a cluster of columnar rock formations standing at the entrance to Vesturdalur, down by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River. The columns lie at all angles, and it could be an entertaining exercise for one’s imagination, to interpret their patterns in as many different ways as possible.
  • Dimmuborgir rock formations – also named Dark Fortress has several hiking trails. After a volcanic eruption, this area became as it now stands, lava that has turned to stone and many deep cracks into the ground.

Detifoss waterfall
The most powerful waterfall in Europe; Detifoss

Hljóðaklettar, North Iceland
The landscape in North Iceland keeps you guessing 

Hljóðaklettar
Dimmuborgir. Photo by Henk Boltof.

After a full day of hiking, it’s time to make your way up to Myvatn, a volcanic area with craters, boiling mud holes and natural pools. From Ásbyrgi, it will take you about 1,5 hours to drive there. Myvatn, famous for its large lake and volcanic activity, actually translates to Mosquito lake and is one of the few places where mosquito’s live in Iceland.

End the evening at the Mývatn Nature Baths. These natural water pools are like the Blue Lagoon, but like most of North Iceland, less crowded and it has a better view. There is a steam room and you can order beers while relaxing in the warm water which can rise up to 41°C. Visit their website for more info on pricing and opening times.

Myvatn Nature Baths, North Iceland

Where to stay?
If you can afford it, stay at the stunning and relatively new Foss hotel. It was build from wood features low-environmental impact materials. And boy, the view is priceless as you can see the craters from the dining room! We also enjoyed dinner at the Foss Hotel as there are not many restaurants around.

Foss Hotel Myvatn
Foss Hotel, Myvatn


Day 5 | Mývatn:

Use this day to explore Lake Mývatn and the surroundings. Everything is close by in North Iceland so you can pick and choose.

  • Namaskard Geothermal Area You probably haven’t seen a landscape like this one before. It feels like you have anded on Mars. Prepare for the smell of sulphur which you can compare to rotten eggs.
  • Hverfell Crater Mountain although we didn’t get a chance to see it up close, its said to be well worth going up here for a full circle hike.
  • Skutustadagigar Pseudocraters cool places attract tourists, and this is exactly what you will see here. Nevertheless, if you drive past, get out and try to take a picture of the row of bizarre and beautiful pseudo craters.
  • Grjotagja Hot Spring Cave  this hidden natural cave pool has become somewhat famous after a love scene in Game of Thrones. I was used as a natural pool by locals up until an earthquake made the water too hot and dangerous. Entering the cave is at your own risk.
  • Enjoy a healthy and organic lunch at the Cowshed Restaurant – which is set next to the stables of the cows. They produce their own milk, cheese and meat, and they serve an amazing vegetarian plate too!

Námaskarð Pass, North iceland
Namaskard Geothermal Area

And last but not least, take a little detour and go visit Aldeyjarfoss. This stunning waterfall is not easy to get to because you need to drive over dusty and unpaved roads. However, this is why touring busses and many other tourists skip this sight. We were there all by ourselves and it was truly amazing.

Aldeyjarfoss North Iceland
Off the beaten track: Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall


Day 6 |Akureyri:

After Reykjavik, Akureyri is the largest city of Iceland. If you decide to start your trip here and you can make a circle through North Iceland and fly back to the Netherlands. Here you will find coffee bars, lunchrooms and even sushi restaurants. A nice details; the traffic lights contain heart shaped lights, spreading love throughout the city. The airport is only 5 to 10 minutes away from the city centre which makes it easy to get in and out of town compared to other cities in Europe. For more info about Akureyri, check www.visitakureyri.is

Akureyri North Iceland
Akureyri street art

In short, if you are ready to go off the beaten track and see a different Iceland, visit the North. You won’t be disappointed. 

Voigt Travel offers flights, excursions and routes in 8 different countries and has recently included Iceland in their portfolio. Like us, they believe that every trip should be a new experience, enriching your life. Therefore, they try avoid the usual touristic routes and focus on those hidden gems in the world. 

Happy Travels,

Elke

Camptoo, the Airbnb for Campers!

As a traveler, you always have a few things on your bucketlist that NEED to be done. These could be destinations, but also experiences. Most people would agree if I said that taking a camping roadtrip with an old Volkswagen Van would be one of them. 2 years ago I was so lucky to cross it off my bucketlist! Camptoo, the Airbnb for campers and mobile homes, asked me to take an oldtimer Volkswagen T2 for a little roadtrip.

What is Camptoo?

It’s too easy to compare Camptoo with Airbnb but it’s really the best comparison to make. It Basically works like this; most mobile-home owners only use their ride half the time so it just sits there, in front of their garage. Camptoo makes it possible for those owners, to rent out their camper. Take a look on their website and select the camper you want, for how long and for which date. As a result you get several options and all you need to do is to pick your favorite and send the owner a message. Finally you will see which camper is available and if they’ll accept your request.

After a quick check up, we were handed over the keys and headed on our little adventure.

Once accepted you will receive a confirmation email plus a text message. I picked a beautiful Volkswagen T2. Not really knowing what to expect, me and my family drove down to her house where Nicole explained everything we needed to know about her precious ride. Camptoo makes sure that you are all-risk insured and you pay a deposit to cover yourself for any damages along the way. Just make sure to have your travel insurance sorted. After a quick check up on damages and details, we were handed over the keys and headed on our little adventure.

On an adventure with Camptoo

I was worried about the cold,  would the rain drip inside? What if the van breaks down?! 

Volkswagen dreams. Camptoo

The Route

The first thing I noticed is that driving a car like this get’s a lot of attention. A lot. People waving, throwing up peace signs or giving you a thumbs up out of respect. Pretty cool. We decided to drive to The Ardennes, an area with hills and greenery and lot’s of adventurous roads. From Limburg we had about 2 more hours to go and we found this amazing camping online called Les Cabanes De Rensiwez. Here you can camp but also rent the most amazing lodges such as treehouses, Norwegian style cabins and hobbit-like-houses. Our campervan included a little kitchen with a stove so we could prepare dinner and make some tea. No camping adventure is complete without a little thunder storm and boy did we have one on the first night! It rained and rumbled for about 3 hours but it just made the whole experience even more special and cozy. TIP: Bring your own pillows for comfort and a (extra) warm sleeping bag as it get’s very cold at night even during summer. Many camper owners have blankets available but they can be too thin for your liking.

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Bohemian dream
Yep, this is soo me!

Breakfast at the camping
A breakfast basket brought to our camper

The next we drove down to a special place called the Jan Foppen Forest. This is a small forest on top of a hill where you can do crazy survival stuff like abseiling, climbing, paragliding, horse riding and much more. Definitely check out this spot if you’re heading to the Ardennes. 

Camptoo at The Foppen Bos
Our VolkswagenT2 at the Foppen Forest

On our last and final day we really got to drive through small towns where we stopped if we saw something nice such as a little Sunday market or a beautiful viewing point. The Van had to be brought back to its owner in the early afternoon so we decided to sleep at a camping in Limburg, near the Belgian border. This camping was very modern and even had a swimming pool, restaurant and beautiful forest nearby to walk in.

La Roche
We stopped at La Roche, a town visited by many cyclist 

My Verdict

A dream come true. honestly. Ok, I didn’t have a lot of sleep like I would have in a 5 star hotel but that’s not what camping is about. Camping and especially, camping in an oldtimer, is about the magic of it. The adventure without knowing where you will sleep the next day and to follow your own path. I felt like a true nomad and besides that, the whole thing was so well organized from beginning to the end.

Me and the VolkswagenT2, Camptoo

Do you want to go on the same adventure? Visit Camptoo’s website, Facebook & Instagram for inspiration!

Check out my video to get a good impression!

Love,

Elke

The Oman Travel Guide 2019

 Oman was voted as one of the top destinations for 2018 and since then we knew we had to visit. Oman is extremely divers and has many route possibilities. We’ve created the ultimate Oman Travel Guide for 2019 so you can get off the beaten track.

There are a few things that you need know about the Sultanate of Oman.

  • Oman is a safe country
    Yes, there are still some misconceptions about this. Oman is in fact one of the safest countries is the middle east and the crime rate is low. We advise you to check your local travel advise agency, but there wasn’t a moment that I felt unsafe. The people of Oman are extremely generous and welcoming.
  • You need to apply for a visa
    A 10 day visa will cost you about 12 Euro, and is available online. Print it and bring it with you. Your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months. Other visa’s are also available.
  • Warm weather is guaranteed
    Oman is warm throughout the year with the hottest season between June and August. October up to April are the most pleasant.
  • Respect the Omani culture
    Oman is an islamic country, therefore it’s wise to bring a kaftan and head scarf when visiting the Grand Mosque and some public area’s. In most hotels and Wadi’s, you can wear summer clothes, but bikini’s are not always accepted everywhere. Bring a shirt and long trousers just in case.
  • Oman is a rich country
    For this reason is also not the most affordable one, and you can compare prices with western Europe.
  • Rent a car, or get someone to drive you around
    Because Oman is so widely spread open, that the distances between the highlights are far. Sometimes you need to drive for 2 hours to get somewhere. Public transport and taxi’s are used in the capital.

Where to start and stay
The capital of Oman is Muscat and the perfect place to start your trip from. You can choose between different hotels, both luxury and the more standard ones. We stayed in the Chedi Muscat, which is top range, but well worth it if you want to go all out for your first night. Hotel rooms vary between 300 and 1000 euro per night.

The Chedi Muscat in Oman
The longest pool in the middle east

Chedi Muscat Oman
My condo in the Chedi Muscat

From Muscat you’ll start your trip though Oman. Along the way we tip you the best accommodations with links and details. 


The Route
Oman is widely spread out so the best way to get around is by car. If you are with a group of friends you can hire a 4×4 car, but you can also book a tour guide that will show the the best of Oman. We were driven around by Desert Flower Tours which we highly recommend. It’s run by locals who know Oman like the back of their hand. They have previously worked with magazines, photographers and travel TV crews, so they know what they’re doing :-). Different routes and tours are available and they can be tailor-made. The route we took took 5 days and looks like this:

Get ready to go off the beaten track

Day 1: Muscat
Muscat is full of beautiful architecture and culture. Don’t miss the Grand Mosque which is very impressive. TIP: dress accordingly; Pants or an abaya that cover all body parts. They do have traditional clothing for rent before you enter, and we advise you to bring your own head scarf. The Grand Mosque is home to the second largest carpet in the world (until Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque stole that title). It took 600 women, 4 years to wave!

Grand Mosque Oman
The impressive Grand Mosque of Muscat

The Mosque can hold up to 20.000 people praying, and there are tours available. We prefer just to walk around and discover the many photogenic corners of the all white Mosque. Prayers are held 5 times a day, which makes the experience even more special. 

Grand Mosque Muscat

Visit the Royal Opera House for a quick look around and take a look at their impressive instrument collection. If you can, visit the Al Alam Palace of the Sultan. It’s a modern and colourful building, overlooking the waters of Oman. If you like to buy a souvenir you can make a stop at the Souq van Mutrah here you can buy spices, jewellery and clothes. This market is a bit touristic, but nevertheless nice to walk around.

Royal Opera House Muscat
In front of the Royal Opera House


Day 2: Hajar Mountains
From Muscat you can drive towards the mountains of Hajar. Stop for lunch at  the Muscat Hills Resort, which is a wonderful beach club/boutique hotel with an Ibiza kinda vibe. They offer a Mediterranean menu, overlooking the private bay of Al Jissah . If you can, stay the night in one of their beach houses with outdoor showers!

Muscat Hills resort
Relaxing at Muscat Hills Resort

You can decide to relax at the beach club a little bit longer (bikini’s allowed), or head into the mountains before evening falls. Anyhow, there is so much more waiting for you along the way..

Oman Mountains

Nature in Oman is not to be compared to anything else. 

Oman Mountains

Driving through the mountains is something special. You see the landscape changing as you go up. Stop at several viewing points and local eateries like Bimah Guesthouse where you can enjoy a local Omani style buffet. TIP: bring some travel sickness tablets, the hairpins in the mountains can make you feel a bit nauseous.

Driving though the mountains on Oman

One of the highlights is Jebel Shams, the grand canyon of Oman. The view is stunning! To get here, you drive past local villages like Balad Sayt and Al Hamra. If you like to hike, this is the place for you. There are short or longer hikes available (W4 and W6 pathways) that will take you past waterfalls and local villages such as the ancient village of Al Khateem.

Lunch break in Oman
Having a break at Bimah Guesthouse

Jebel Shams Oman
The amazing view over Jebel Shams

We slept at mountain eco camp Sama Heights, located in Jebel Shams.This fully-fledged eco resort is the first of its kind in the Sultanate. They offer mountain view private villas made from Omani stone and recycled materials and you can also sleep in Bedouin style tents. When you wake up, the sunrise behind the mountains make it worth your while. We also enjoyed the dinner buffet, with lot’s of vegetarian options!

Sama Heights Resort, Oman
Sama Heights


Day 3: Nizwa & Wahabi Sands
Nizwa one of Oman’s ancient cities and used to be Oman’s capital city. It remains a popular stop for shopping. You can visit the traditional goat market where they auction livestock. It may be a bit daunting at first, but to be fair, I prefer the traditional way compared to the livestock factories back home. Nizwa is also known for the ancient fort, that overlooks the old city.

Nizwa Fort
Nizwa Fort

Nizwa Oman
Nizwa Market

If you have time, grab lunch at Al Aqr Traditional Restaurant and order a mint/lime juice to cool off on their rooftop. They serve delicious homemade humus and baba ganoush, plus other traditional Omani dishes.

Mint juice Nizwa, Oman

Wahabi Sands
After a stroll around Nizwa, you drive towards the Omani desert named Wahabi Sands. As you drive towards the red sand, turn up the Arabian radio to get the real desert vibe! If your tour guide drives a good 4×4 car, he will drift across the sand, and slide sidewards off the sand dunes. Pretty awesome!

Sand driting 4x4 in Oman
Dune bashing

Oryx Arabian Camp Oman from above
Overlooking the camp

Wahabi Sands Oman
Photo by @inhetvliegtuig

In the desert are several camps where you can spend the night. We stayed at the Arabian Oryx Camp, with cute stone houses, and a perfect location. From here you can book several activities such as sand boarding, quad or camel riding, and safari’s though the desert. We advise you to stay for one night.

Oryx Arabian camp

Oryx desert camp Oman
How cute is my room!


Day 4: Wadi Bani Khalid
Take your time and enjoy the morning sun in the desert before heading towards the next adventure. Wadi Bani Khalid is not from the desert and the perfect spot to cool off when it’s hot. Mind you, during the weekend a lot of locals will also come here, so it can get quite busy. If you want to swim in this valley, you need to dress accordingly, No bikini’s allowed!

Wadi Bani Khalid Oman

Wadi bani Khalid

You can also have lunch here, but reserve a table as soon as you arrive during lunchtime. This way you’ll get the best view and saves you waiting for a table. From the restaurant you can walk all the way past the water stream and you can also find the ropes in the water if you feel like playing around.

Oman’s lush northern coast lies between the sea and inland mountains.


Day 4/5: Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
From Wadi Bani Khalid, you need to drive for about 2 to 3 hours until you reach this special place. If you have never seen sea turtles before, it’s a must do! This turtle reserve is located next to the … coast where many sea turtles lay their eggs during a certain period. Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve protects the turtles by organising controlled tourists visits that are done with professional guides.

It’s so magical to see these animals walk into the water, knowing they will return to the same beach in a few years

If you book the night here you have 2 options to see the turtles. One in the evening around 9pm, and one at 5am, when the sun comes up. I opted for the evening watch and it didn’t disappoint! We saw at least 8 turtles coming out of the water, returning, and we saw one female laying her eggs! Turtles are deaf, so they don’t hear you, but they can be sensitive to light. Therefore, the guide provides a special torch so you can watch the turtle without interfering them. It was stunning!

Luxury Tent Oman

Luxury view from tent Oman
Not a bad way to wake up!

We advise you to book one of the luxury tents to make your experience even better. Tents are equipped with a bathroom, airconditioning, TV and a comfortable bed. Book your visit here.


Day 5: Wadi Tiwi & Wadi Shab & Bimmah Sinkhole
On this last day you’ll slowly make your way back to Muscat. There is no time for sleeping in the car, because the landscape you are about to see is out of this world, really.

Lighthouse Sur, Oman
The Sur lighthouse

You can stop at various locations such as coastal town Sur, where they still make the traditional wooden ships that Oman used up until the early 70’s. Here you can also find the lighthouse overlooking Sur and the water which is also full of sea turtles!

The Bimmah Sinkhole will be the highlight of this day. I expected it to be extremely busy, but funny enough, I didn’t see that many tourists. I even got a great photo opportunity 😉

Sinkhole Oman

Oman Sinkhole
Bimmah Sinkhole

Oman
The roadtrip of a lifetime

Verdict: Oman is safe, welcoming and for those who like adventure. Oman even has beaches, but it’s not the Mediterranean of course. If you decide to visit Oman, it’s more likely to be an active holiday, with long (stunning) car rides, great food, interesting culture and nature you cannot compare to anything else. If you want to bring your kids I say, do it, but from the age of 5 years or older.

In one sentence; Oman should be on your bucketlist!

Love,

Elke