5 Destinations on My “2017 Travel List”

If you’re like me, you’re constantly thinking where and when your next trip will be. In my free time, I research flight rates for different times if the year. “Oh you want to fly to Paris in October? That’ll be abut $750 round trip.” It’s odd, I know. So, I thought I’d create a list of the 7 destinations on my list for the remainder of 2017. Here it is…

1. Iceland. Is is just me, or has everyone been traveling to Iceland lately? For one thing, the flights are CHEAP. If you’re willing to sit on a 6 hour flight (from Boston) without food or television, then WOW Air is for you. Flights are around $350 round trip, that’s nuts! Once I get there, I want to swim between the tectonic plates, soak in the Blue Lagoon, whale watch and hunt for the Northern Lights. I’ve heard that people highly recommend renting a car because then you have full range to explore at night and track down the Northern lights- bucket list!

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(Photo cred: Liv Paganelli)

2. Peru. This country has been on my list for a while. Not only can you visit one of the 7 wonders of the world, but you also get the chance to immerse yourself in a beautiful/rich culture. Aside from the famous Machu Piccu Inca trail, I also plan to hike rainbow mountain (which I hear is underrated) and visit the Sacred Valley. If this destination sparks your interest, keep in mind that the best time to go is in May. May-October are Peru’s dry months and after May it gets pretty packed with tourists. I’ve heard that it’s best to book your tour of the Inca trail about 6 months in advance as they fill up quickly!

3. Arizona. This is one destination that I was able to check off my list. I cannot recommend this state enough. It absolutely amazes me that there are such breathe-taking spots here in the United States. While I was in Arizona, I visited Sedona and Devils Bridge, the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend. I would say that if you’re looking for an adventurous long weekend, this trip is for you! You can find more about my trip here!

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4. Portugal. I just recently added this country to my list after noticing it pop up in multiple travel magazines that I read on the reg. Specifically, I’d like to explore Benagil Sea Cave which is Algarve, Portugal. Algarve is the Southern coast of Portugal and is lined with beautiful beaches and caves. I’d also like to venture north to Lisbon to walk through the colorful cities and listen to the traditional fado music.

5. Patagonia, Chile. Patagonia, Chile is an unknown mysterious land to me. Im not too familiar traveling to South America but have grown interested in hiking the Torres del Paine National Park. The flight to Chile is about 16-18 hours so it’ll be important to find a good chunk of time for this trip. Exploring the high mountains, blue icebergs and massive lakes are absolutely on my bucket list.

 

*If you’ve been to any of these locations, and have recommendations you’d like to share, please send them my way!

 

5 Incredible Spots to Visit in Switzerland

Switzerland: the country that captured my heart. When traveling here, it’s important to note that the country is divided into three regions that speak different languages. There are actually four national languages in Switzerland: French, Swiss German, Italian, and Romansch (a form of mountain language). But fear not if don’t have faith in your high school Spanish or French classes… Switzerland is a pretty anglophile country and you can easily get around with only English.

One tip: the best way to travel is by far the Swiss train. They are fast, reliable, clean and provide an incredible view to your destination. As I was a student there, I was able to buy a special discounted train pass and highly recommend it if you have a student ID.  Switzerland is quite large with amazing things to do in each region but here is a list of 5 of my favorite experiences:

1. ZERMATT. If you are interested in seeing the picturesque and breathtaking Swiss Alps, then Zermatt should be your first stop! Above a small and tourist-friendly ski village, towers the famous Matterhorn (fun fact: it is the actual mountain peak featured on the chocolate Toblerone). This is some of the best skiing in Switzerland! With clearly marked trails, the hike, though strenuous, was well worth the view! There are many different hikes at various levels, so once you find one that is compatible with your ability, all you have to do is tie your laces, pack plenty of water and drink in the sights. After hiking or skiing, make sure to relax in one of the many pubs and bars that feature live bands and hearty food!IMG_2998 2 10.58.09 PM.jpg

2. GENEVA. From a public health standpoint, Geneva hosts the World Health Organization  (aka the mecca of health) as well as numerous other NGO’s such as Doctor’s without Borders, the Red Cross, and UNICEF. In regards to international relations, the United Nations and its associated Human Rights Council is also located in Geneva. I highly recommend going on a tour of the UN and its Palais des Nations to learn all about the work of the League of Nations. I also would recommend the Red Cross Museum as it provides you with an in depth background and history of the NGO and all of its humanitarian work.Geneva, with its signature Jet d’Eau, offers not only a view of the mountains but also the serenity of a lake that stretches for miles beyond the city.IMG_1596.jpgIMG_5178.jpg

3. INTERLAKEN. Interlaken is an incredible place to go if you are looking to do some intense outdoor sports, as it is very tourist-friendly and accommodating with one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Switzerland. One popular thing to do in Interlaken is to go paragliding, which is less intense than going skydiving but still consists of running off the side of the mountain. Sounds terrifying, right? Although it does get your adrenaline going, you are paired with an instructor who takes control and it actually is quite a pleasant and beautiful ride over the mountains. Another thing to do is to go sledding down one of the highest peaks in the Alps, which was honestly one of the scariest/best things I have ever done in my life. Similar to Europe, Switzerland does not seem to exude the same kind of caution as America and sledding off the mountain became a real fear. Thankfully we all made it out alive but I do not recommend it for the lighthearted!IMG_2457.jpg

4. GRUYERES. If the thoughts of hiking, skiing, paragliding and sledding don’t appeal to you, then Gruyeres will most likely be right up your alley. This adorable Swiss town looks like it was taken right out of a snow globe and is only a short trip from Geneva. The region of Gruyeres is famous for its cheese, which is also named Gruyeres. While in Switzerland, one thing you have to try is the fondue and there is no better place to try it than in Gruyeres as it boasts some of the best restaurants. Not only is the region of Gruyeres world-known for its cheese but it is also the origin of milk chocolate. You can do a tour of the Cailler chocolate factory nearby and sample some of the best chocolate you will ever taste. Growing up, my favorite treat was a Cailler milk chocolate bar so I was certainly in heaven!IMG_1163 10.58.09 PM.jpg

5. Lac Léman. Now that you have eaten your body weight in cheese and chocolate, it is time for some fresh air! While Lac Léman starts in Geneva, it actually extends for miles into the countryside. A highlight of my time in Switzerland was riding bikes around the lake, and passing through smaller lesser-known Swiss villages. Although less recognized than the nearby international Geneva, this part of the country is actually home to some world famous vineyards and castles. The Lavaux vineyards, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, span the length of the mountainside between the villages and the lake. Another incredible viewpoint along the lake is Chateau Chillon in Montreux, which sits idyllically on the lake with towering mountains in the background. The Lavaux vineyards and Chateau Chillon are very easy day trips from Geneva and definitely worth it!!!

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Written by, Heloise Dubois. 

 

Top 5 Places to Visit in Thailand

Planning a trip to Thailand? My dear friend Liv has been exploring this beautiful country for about a year. Check out her top 5 places to visit below! 

1. Railay Beach. When people imagine the quintessential Thailand views, it’s Railay Beach. Railay is a tiny peninsula on the southern west coast of the country. It’s so small that there are no cars, and you can get from any spot to the next in less than 10 minutes walking. It’s famous for its big limestone cliffs that surround the entire peninsula. This means the only way to get there is by boat because no cars can drive over the cliffs. One of the best things we did was a climb up to a viewpoint, and then down into the inside of the cliff where there was a gorgeous lagoon. Many people call it a hike but don’t be fooled. This is an intense but incredibly fun and challenging climb. You’re basically rock climbing the entire time up to the viewpoint and then down into the lagoon where you get to cool off with a swim after your hard work. Make sure to go during high tide otherwise the lagoon will just be mud and no water.

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2. Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai is the northern most province in the country of Thailand. It’s a bit off the beaten path compared to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and the beaches, but it’s a great spot to hit if you’re interested in the northern culture and a little bit of adventure. The most popular reason travelers head to Chiang Rai is to visit “The White Temple.” The White Temple is a jaw dropping structure that was built by a local artist, and is not something to miss if you’re heading to the north. But my favorite spot in Chiang Rai (and probably one of my favorite spots in all of Thailand) is called Phu Chi Fa. It is known as “the most beautiful place you’ve never heard of.” It is a mountain that overlooks the border between Thailand and its neighboring country Laos. People hike to the top to watch the sunrise. It is truly one of the most gorgeous sights I’ve ever seen. Do the easy, 25 minute hike/walk up to the top while it’s still dark. See the most insanely gorgeous stars you’ve ever seen in your life. Breathe in the crisp, cold air. And then watch the sun rise over the mountains. You’re so high up that there’s a blanket of clouds beneath you. It’s incredible to watch the sky transition from night time with glowing stars, to the intense rising sun, to full day light.

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3. Elephant Nature Park. This is a nonprofit elephant sanctuary outside of Chiang Mai that works to protect elephants from abuse by humans through circuses, elephant riding, logging, etc. The nature park gives half day, full day, and overnight tours of the sanctuary. You spend the day learning about each elephant’s unique story, feeding them, bathing them, taking photos, etc. The park does an incredible job of treating these animals with the respect they deserve. Although it is a bit of a pricey day compared to other things in and around Chiang Mai, it is completely worth it to give to such a good cause, and to experience these beautiful creatures so up close! There’s also dogs, cats, and water buffalo roaming around everywhere. And they serve a DELICIOUS vegetarian buffet lunch which is a plus.

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4. Bankok. Bangkok can be super overwhelming for first timers (or anyone really). The city truly seems never ending and a lot of times there’s no rhyme or reason to why one thing or another is happening. But nonetheless, it’s Bangkok. During the day, hit up the Chatuchak Weekend market for some incredible shopping deals on anything and everything you could imagine. Head up to a rooftop bar for sunset. There’s a bunch of them around the city, some fancier than others, so make sure you check out dress codes and prices before you just show up! Totally worth it for the incredible views of the gigantic city.

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5. Temples. Visiting at least one temple while in Thailand is a MUST. Chiang Mai holds some of the countries oldest and most beautiful temples. Each one has it’s own intricate, unique design, and is just so different looking from anything we have back in the US. Remember to dress appropriately. Girls have to have their shoulders and knees covered. Some of the more famous temples provide shawls/skirts at the entrance for anyone not dressed correctly. My favorite is Wat Chedi Luang in the center of the city because there are multiple temples in one complex. You pay a small fee to enter, but can walk around for as long as you want, and can even participate in a “monk chat” where you sit with some Thai monks and ask them questions about Buddhism, living as a monk, etc.

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Written by, Olivia Paganelli

Top 5 Places to Visit in Arizona

Arizona— dry heat, cactuses, In-n-out burger and Milky Chance. This is exactly what our 4 day trip in Arizona consisted of, aside from the most breathtaking views I have ever seen in my entire life. Check out my list of top 5 places to visit in Arizona— I hope you book the flight #packinglightly

Devils Bridge. This hike was 100% worth it. For only taking an hour to get up and an hour back down, this view is unbelievable. Right smack in the middle of Red Rock Sedona, this spot was one of a kind. If you have a car that’s low to the ground, be sure to park in the first parking lot as your car will for sure bottom out after that point. Grab some water and get going. The hike gets pretty steep towards the top so if you have older people or kids accompanying you, you may want to hold off on going all the way up. Once you make it to the top, be sure to walk the bridge for remarkable pic.

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Grand Canyon (Ooh Ahh Point). A must do. The parking for private vehicles is 30$ for the day and the park rangers accept debit/credit/cash. Follow the signs for the visitor center and grab a few maps. We decided to hike the trail, ‘Ooh Ahh Point’. There are shuttles that will take you from the visitor center to the start of each trail. The hike was about 1.8 miles down and up and led to a scenic point called “ooh ahh”. This hike was considered “medium” in how challenging it was and gave just the perfect amount of views. We even ran into a few mules hiking up the mountain which was pretty cool. Side note— it gets a bit chilly on the hike in the morning so be sure to pack a light zip up that you can take off on your way back up.

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Antelope Canyon. This canyon is any photographer’s dream. I don’t believe you can visit this canyon on your own as it requires a permit because it’s owned by the Navajo tribe. We visited the canyon using Chief Tsosie’s Antelope Slot Canyon tours and they were great. This tour is completely flat and not strenuous at all. We hopped in the back of a pick up vehicle and drove about 15 minutes out in the dessert to the canyon. This was a loud bumpy ride but a really cool experience. This canyon is a bit crowded with multiple tours coming in and out so be sure to snap pics when you can.

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Lake Powell. In order to see the full scope of the canyons around the lake, we decided to take a boat ride through Lake Powell. We booked through the company, “The Point” for about $25 a ticket. This  boat ride was about an hour long and brought you through the most beautiful canyons. There were about 20-25 people on the boat and everyone had a great view from their seats. As alternate options, you can also kayak or paddle board through the canyons.

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Horseshoe Bend. This was surprisingly one of, if not, our favorite spot of the entire trip. By this point we were tired and hungry and wanted to get back on the road to head back to Scottsdale but we pushed through for one last “hike”. This was a steep but short hike and once we parked (free), it took us about 20 minutes to get down and another 20 minutes to get back up. We made it to this canyon at about 4pm and it was the perfect time of day to enjoy the view.

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