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Activities Adventure Chile Eco Tourism Patagonia

Day One of the W Trek – Rain, Wind Gusts, Sub-Zero Camping & Lots of Smiles!

September 14, 2017

Stretching across two countries, Patagonia is as massive as it is impressive; it’s almost overwhelmingly so, covering almost half of Chile and a third of Argentina.  For an area with such vast landmass though, the lack of people is incredibly obvious and to be frank, refreshing.

Though Patagonia envelops such a large area, there’s one in particular that nature-lovers make a bee-line to – Torres del Paine in Chile.  With its uniquely-Patagonian peaks towering over the park, expansive glaciers, cascading waterfalls, moody weather and interesting wildlife, it’s a dream destination for many.

They’d be right too – Torres del Paine is the stuff of dreams.

Having arrived into Punta Arenas and catching a bus to Puerto Natales, we hunkered down at the ChileTour Patagonia guest house, preparing for the coming days.  We were about to face what was to be one of our biggest physical challenges to date, the infamous W trek. (well officially almost the full W), but first it was time to meet our new friends, prep for the hike and enjoy a delicious homecooked meal.

Equally apprehensive as we were excited, we enjoyed a final night sleeping cosily inside before heading into the wilderness.

After months of planning, it was hard to believe that our first major South American bucket-list activity was just over the horizon.

Did it live up to our expectations?

Did it ever!

The next few posts will outline what you can expect from each of the hikes and will share with you all of the helpful hints we picked up along the way, so let’s jump right into it…

Hint #1:  If there’s a trip you book this year, make sure it’s to Patagonia!

Day One on the W Trek:  Refugio Las Torres to Camp Italiano

After our transfer into the Torres del Paine National Park, Javier, our guide, purchased our park tickets we headed for the main entrance where we loaded up ready for our first day of hiking and what an introduction to hiking in Torres del Paine it was to be!

Though most start with the hike to the most famous peaks in the park, we opted to save the most challenging hike to the end (a decision which proved to be a real savior).  Instead, we broke in our feet on what for most people is day two of the W trek – Refugio Las Torres to Refugio Los Cuernos, only we continued walking to Campamento Italiano (an additional 4.5km) because the refugio was closed for reservations.  Though it meant a night of camping and a longer day on our feet, it also meant we had an easier day following which was greatly appreciated.

The hike itself as the definition of ‘Patagonian flat’ – a term that we were to become very familiar with.  The terrain in Torres del Paine switches between undulating hills and rugged mountains, very seldom flattening out, hence this term was coined – it’s never really flat but it’s about as flat as you could hope for in this area.  Though the hills were at times challenging, they always resulted in the most gorgeous viewpoints out over Lago Nordenskiöld, many of which left us stuck in our tracks.

Though there were a number of unrelenting hills, the hike itself was absolutely manageable, even for myself (and I’m a bit of a couch potato).  It was long and by the 15th kilometre there was no doubt both Nathan and I were dragging our feet but without doubt, it was worth every step.

With water glowing turquoise, a surprisingly still morning treating us to the best Patagonian weather we could ever hope for and not a soul to be seen, it was clear that we’d made the right decision in visiting the area during shoulder season.  At the season’s peak, we’ve been told that hikers dot the landscape like ants, at times following one another practically shoulder to shoulder.  By comparision, at times it literally felt like we had the park to ourselves, literally crossing paths with only two other sets of people on the way to our next stop for the night.

When you’re visiting paradise, it’s an amazing feeling to have it to yourselves.

Distance covered:  From Refugio Las Torres to Refugio Los Cuernos (12km) and Refugio Los Cuernos to Camp Italiano (4.5km).  Total 16.5km (or 17km allowing for photo ops).

Accommodation:  Camp Italiano.  This site is available free of charge (but reservations are required in advance) and guests are only able to stay for one night.  Services are limited but there is a small shelter that can be used to cook meals and long-drop toilets (that were surprisingly tidy).  To stay at Camp Italiano, you’ll need to carry your own gear in (tent, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, food, cooker etc) but if you can handle carrying your gear (or, if you’re more organised than us, ChileTour  Patagonia can organise a porter to help carry to load), it’s an adventure worth having.

Running water isn’t available at the campsite but there’s a gorgeous river running right past so there’s no shortage of agua for guests, you’ll just need to clamber down to get it!

Camping in the shoulder season was much more comfortable than we had expected.  With sub-zero temperatures and no ability to take a hot shower, we half expected to freeze but with quality sleeping bags from ChileTour, we were pleasantly surprised.  I wouldn’t go as far as to describe our sleep as a comfortable one but our newfound hiking friend, Thomas, slept like a baby so it’s definitely possible.

Hint #2:  Minimise what you carry wherever possible – every extra ounce will feel like much more after 15km+ of hiking!  Use a fleece or your bag as a pillow and be prepared to wear clothes again and again – your back will thank you for it as the hike goes on.

Whilst in Torres del Paine, expect to encounter a wide range of weather – from glorious sunshine to massive wind and snow, we experienced it all.  It’s an incredible place though and well worth putting the time into exploring; just ensure you’re prepared.

With day one under our belts, we mentally prepared ourselves for the French Valley (and what is known as being the second most challenging hike on the circuit).

How’d we find it?  Stay tuned for our next post!


Off to Patagonia?  Pin this post!

Torres del Paine's W Trek is a popular hiking route around Chile's best national park. Don't start at the 'Base of the Towers' though - we've figured out a better way to plan your active holiday. Camping guide, route info and pro tips included too!Is camping in Torres del Paine, Patagonia a good idea in the off season? Find out what we thought of our experience camping on the tail-end of winter. Itinerary guide and our first thoughts are included too.

Thank you to ChileTour Patagonia for hosting us on the first leg of our W adventure; as always, all thoughts are our own.  

Map credit:  Fantasticosur

Accommodation Activities Adventure Budget Chile Eco Tourism Pucon South America

Pucón – The Home of Adventure in Chile (and our new favourite hostel!)

September 2, 2017

Sitting under the shadow of Volcan Villarrica (one of South America’s most active volcanoes) and on the shore of one of many lakes in the area, Pucón is a relatively small town in Chile that packs a massive punch.

This gorgeous spot is known as the adventure capital of Chile and offers the perfect combination of adrenaline and nature.  If you’re not careful, you might just blink and find an action-packed week has passed you by!

The Fun Stuff – Activities in Pucón

Huerquehue National Park

An easy bus ride from Pucon, Huerquehue National Park offers a variety of trails for nature-lovers and based on the photos we’ve seen, is equally gorgeous, whatever the season.

Entrance to the park is 2,500 pesos for tourists and the walk to the first lake inside the park is approximately 7km.  The day we visited, the tracks were overtaken with snow making it a fairly challenging hike but in the summer it would be a walk in the park (sorry, that pun was too good to pass up)!

Though some of our new friends gave us a ride in (thanks Lyle and Jackie!), buses are available from town – just chat with Chili Kiwi and they’ll send you on your way.

Horseback Riding

We’d already been told about the high quality of riding available in the region so when we arrived, this was one of the first things I checked out.

With beautifully cared for horses and an instructor that’s spent all of her life around these beauties, it was an easy decision to ride with Corina… and seriously, with views out over four volcanoes, you’d be hard pressed to find a better spot!

Hydrospeeding

Whatever you call it – riverboarding, white-water sledging, river surfing or hydrospeeding – it’s about as much fun as you’ll ever have in the water!

Though winter well and truly engulfed the day, we climbed into thick wetsuits and took to the river for a serious dose of adrenaline.  With a range of rapids, there were a number of occasions when we found ourselves gasping for air but the sense of accomplishment at the end of the run was amazing. Without doubt,

Without a doubt, it’s the best value extreme sport we’ve ever done.  The river is clear, the staff professional, the scenery gorgeous and the price is beyond good.  Adrenaline junkies, make sure it’s top of your Pucón must-do list!

Snowboarding/Skiing

It’s not every day you get to snowboard or ski on an active volcano but in Pucón, not only is it possible but it’s relatively affordable.

Lift passes will set you back 28,000 pesos each and by the time you arrange gear and transfers, you’ll be looking at around another 25,000 pesos.  The mountain itself has a few different runs and jumps but is really best suited to beginner to intermediate boarders.

Termas Geometricas

One of the surprise highlights of our visit to Pucón, was Termas Geometricas.  These stunning hot pools are dotted along a canyon and as natural stream rushes past, geothermal hot water keeps each of the 17 pools at their own constant temperature.

With the snow falling and steam rising all around you, you’d be hard pressed to find a more impressive place to relax and soak away your worries.

And yes, we have been to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.  Believe it or not, this was much more impressive!


Kayaking/Stand Up Paddle Boarding

When you’re perfectly situated on the shores of a crystal-clear lake, even the chilly winter water can’t deter you from getting out there!

Our accommodation, Chili Kiwi, offers guests the use of their stand up paddle board and kayaks and with the volcano in the background and sun on your back, it’s a pretty magical way to spend an afternoon.  Guests can take them out to the nearby beaches or do as we did and enjoy just zipping around the lake.


In addition to all of these activities, there’s also a volcano to climb (it’s actually one of the main reasons people come to Pucón – on a good day, visitors will even see lava bubbling away in the crater) waterfalls to explore (Chili Kiwi will provide you with a treasure map – it’s well worth the hike), rafting, biking and more.

With all of the activities on offer though, you’ll definitely want a comfortable place to rest your head and prepare for the next days activities.

As luck would have it, Pucón is also home to the winner of the coveted ‘best hostel in Latin America‘ award and speaking from experience, it’s the only place in town we’d want to stay.

Where to Stay: Chili Kiwi – The friendliest hostel around!

Arriving into town we’d heard of the Chili Kiwi and knew we wanted to check it out.  After all, it’s not often you have the chance to stay in a hostel partially run by a fellow Kiwi in Chile!

What we didn’t realise was that our planned three-night stay in Pucón would turn into almost two and a half weeks of fun at the most friendly, social hostel around, resulting in what I imagine will be life-long friends.

There’s something special about this place.

It’s the kind of place you walk into to find someone baking cookies (true story!) and where everyone happily chats away to one another   There you’ll find a view would rival any top hotel and staff happy to share their insider knowledge about the town they love so much.

When we arrived, James, one of the owners, sat us down and took us personally through all of the activities in the region and his suggestions for the best restaurants, groceries and shops – as they do with everyone.

When a package didn’t arrive for us, Peter,  the other owner, drove me into town and spoke with the courier company to help ensure my gear would make it safely to me.

When Nathan needed a hair cut, Jean wrote down word for word (in Spanish of course) a description of the style he wanted.

For all of the funky rooms, toasty fireplaces and activities on offer, this is a place where they care about people to their very core.  A backpackers run by backpackers, for backpackers.  And maybe just the place for someone who’s never stayed in a hostel to give it a shot – I warn you though, it might just ruin you for life.

Pro tip – if your budget will extend to it, we highly recommend booking the hobbit holes – they’re private, warm and have incredibly comfy beds.

The Practical Stuff

Getting to Pucon

Your transport into Pucon will of course depend on where you’re coming from, but Chile being Chile, chances are you’ll arrive on a bus, like we did.

We purchased our tickets online for Pullman Bus through Recorrido and after visiting a copy shop in Santiago (to print a copy of our booking), we exchanged our paperwork for our actual ticket just before boarding at the terminal.

Santiago has two main stations, Terminal Borja and Terminal Sur; we opted for the second to allow ourselves a little more time in Valparaíso but either is fine.

The ride itself is comfortable (especially in Salón Cama seats) and came in at USD31.30 each or 19,600 pesos.  We were given a few snacks and drinks on the journey and drove continually through the night (save a few terminal stops)

Getting Around

Pucon is an easy town to walk around in but should you need to get a lift, you have a few choices.

Collectivos run relatively loose routes and can be flagged down at any stage (or hailed at set points in town).  For a flat rate of only 500 pesos each, they’ll drop you where you want to go, picking up and dropping others off along the way.  It’s an incredibly affordable means of transport and as the town’s quite small, a fast way to get around too.

For activities outside of town, tourist shuttles can be arranged through accommodation providers and booking agents.  These shuttles are fairly comfortable and will collect you either from your accommodation or a pre-designated location in town.

If you’re wanting to go further afield, bus stations are spread throughout the town (each company has their own office) and tickets can be purchased both online and in person.  The buses are comfortable and reliable, making both onward travel and local exploration a straightforward process.

When all is said and done though,

Is Pucón Worth a Visit?

In case you hadn’t figured it out already, absolutely – yes!

The town itself is drop-dead gorgeous whilst avoiding any sense of pretension.  It offers a range of activities to suit everyone, often at prices far superior to other adventure-capitals and plenty of restaurants in town to keep foodies happy.

For us though, the highlight of Pucón really was the people we met and that was made possible through our stay at Chili Kiwi.  It’s the one place in town where you’re practically guaranteed to make great friends and that’s worth a whole lot in our books!


Love the sound of Pucón as much as we did?  Pin this post so someone else can discover this gem too!

The best hostel in Latin America can be found in Pucon, Chile's adventure activity capital. This award winning backpackers welcomes travelers from around the world, offering amazing views, great activities and a friendly, inclusive environment. Find out why you should be planning a visit to Pucon to stay here! Pucon, Chile is known for its adventure activities but it's a must see in winter! This vacation destination offers amazing hiking, hot pools, snowboarding, skiing and more. If there's one place you visit, make sure it's Termas Geometricas!Thank you to Chili Kiwi for so kindly welcoming us to stay with them.  As always, all thoughts are our own.  We miss you already!

Activities Adventure Bali Indonesia

Top Balinese Adventures for Want-To-Be Adventure Travellers

August 19, 2017

Bali is a beautiful island in the province of Indonesia. Known for its white sand beaches, bright green paddy fields and vast temples and underwater life, it ticks so many boxes for travellers.

The mere mention of Bali evokes thoughts of a paradise. It’s more than a place; it’s a mood, an aspiration, a tropical state of mind.

Lonely Planet

This stunning island, which stretches out for around 4000km, is not short on opportunities to maximise fun and adventure – and it doesn’t hurt that it’s all so affordable.  From underwater dreamscapes to over-land trekking and lush green jungles, Bali has it all for the tourist that likes to get out and about, really seeing what the country is made of.

Or maybe relaxation is more your speed?  Not to worry – there are plenty of spots where you can pamper yourself  (again at incredible prices – yes!) and enjoy a few days of full-on luxury.  Why not grab a group of girlfriends and book a beautiful villa in Bali to add to give yourselves the very best spot to unwind?

Whatever your reason for travelling to this Indonesian island paradise, we recommend you fill at least some of your days with adventure though!  Whether it’s the more sedate variety or something to really get your adrenaline pumping – there’s something for everyone here.

Check out our top Balinese adventures for those wanting an introduction to adrenaline and get planning…

1.  White-Water Rafting – Fun on the water with friends!

If you want to spend an adventurous day, filled with watery thrills, then you’ve got two main choices on the island – Ayung River (which is near Ubud) or the rugged, picturesque Telagawaja River (in the eastern region). Not only will you cool down in the water and get a good burst of exercise but you’ll enjoy amazing views and may even spot an exotic animal or two!

The rafting in Bali isn’t exactly world-class but it is perfect for beginners and those looking to test their skills (and nerve) on a smaller river.  If this sounds like you, you’ll find the best time to take to the river is after the wet season – from November to March.  During this time the grade 2 and 3 rapids are at their best.

What the region lacks in challenging rafting, it certainly makes up for in scenery.  Its unspoiled jungle and towering gorges will take your breath away as you paddle your way home.

2.  Surfing – Bali’s favourite pastime

Surfing is a perpetual visitor fave, with tourists from all over the world visiting to surf the southern coast soak up the sun’s rays.

Here, the beaches are packed with surfing schools and relaxed and friendly hostels, making it the perfect place to kick back and relax on the cheap.  It’s the Bali that every teenager dreams of!

If you’re wanting to hit their world-class surf breaks, we recommend the Bukit Peninsular Kuta or, in a pinch, Kuta Beach if you can’t get out of town. The prime surf season runs from April to November when the waves consistently reach up to 12ft so it’s best to plan your trip to fall between those months if you’re following the waves.  For your average surfer though, waves of some level can be found any time of year.

3. A Diver’s Paradise  

The colourful marine life, consistently warm water and beautiful seascapes see South-East Asia frequently rated amongst the world for world-class diving and Indonesia is no different.

If you’re visiting the island without prior experience, there are plenty of recognised dive centres that can support you through your training and point you in the direction of the best reefs.  Alternatively, if you’re already PADI certified, remember to bring your dive card so you can jump right on in!

In Nusa Penida, you may have the change to see sunfish and manta rays or if you’d prefer a wreck dive (the USS Liberty to be exact), head in the direction of Tulamben. 

4. Not Keen to Dive?  Snorkeling might be for you!

If diving’s not for you (and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea), there are some great spots for snorkeling on the north side!  Just don a mask, snorkel and fins and hit the water.

These tropical waters are included within the infamous Coral Triangle and as a result, boast some of the best water-life and sea-gardens around.

If you’re staying close to the southern part of the island then a trip to Nusa Dua is easily done, or you may like to consider Menjangan Island, Nusa Lembongan or Padangbai if you have a little more time up your sleeve.

5. Trekking Though Bali’s Unique Landscapes

Whilst visiting Bali, it’s worth planning some hiking time to ensure you get up-close-and-personal with the country’s magnificent landscapes.

Whether it’s an adventurous day hike through the jungle, mountain lakes and forest at the Kerinci Seblat National Park or a more relaxed wander to the ancient temples of the Tana Toraja region, it’s worth taking the time to see more rural areas by foot.

Or, if you’re short on time and aren’t able to get out of the main towns, we absolutely recommend a visit to Ubud’s Monkey Forest.  The monkeys are captivating and the sculptures which are slowly being taken over my moss are equally so.

6.  On Your Bike!

If you’re hoping to cover more ground than hiking will allow but still want to experience Indonesia at the grass-roots level, a bike may be the best way to do exactly that.

Experiences vary of course but if you’re looking for an easy start, we recommend picking up a bike locally in Ubud to find your ‘biking feet’ so to speak.

Ready to take it up a notch?  There are a wide variety of challenging rides available on the island – so many in fact, it may be hard to choose!

If you do have the time, be sure to fit a visit to the rice terraces in Ubud Jatiluwih into your cycling itinerary.  There you’ll find the stunning beauty that Bali is known for along with their traditional Balinese irrigation system – the designs of which have been passed down through generations from the eighth century.  The Jatiluwih rice terraces were once a UNESCO cultural heritage site and make the best photo-op even now.

Monuments, temples, mountains, beaches, vast rice fields – you’ll discover them all just as you would on foot, only with a bike at your disposal you’ll be able to fit much more into your day.  Or you’ll be able to finish up earlier and treat yourself to a massage or visit to a coffee plantation – doesn’t sound too shabby to me!


Bali offers so much to holiday-makers wanting to reconnect with nature whilst having an adventure of their own.  It’s a relatively easy country to travel within, offers excellent value, a great touch of luxury (if that’s what you’re looking for) and gorgeous scenery.

Could it be your next holiday destination?

Activities Adventure Destinations Dubai Middle East United Arab Emirates

Fun & Adventure in Dubai – 9 Activities to Try

July 27, 2017

With its towering skyscrapers, fast cars and glitz and glam, one could be forgiven for thinking Dubai’s limited in what it offers the more adventurous travellers amongst us.  In reality though, nothing could be further from the truth!

Join us as we explore the best places to head in Dubai if you’re looking for a break from the high-life and a taste of adventure…


Escape Rooms – Phobia

In the past we’ve shared with you our love of escape rooms and, unsurprisingly, in a city where everything is bigger and better, these guys have rooms to match!  With two different sites in Dubai and a range of cutting-edge rooms on offer, Phobia are leading the way when it comes to escape rooms in the UAE.

We attempted to find our way out of their ‘Vault‘ room and though it was challenging, it was a heck of a lot of fun!

Set in the middle of a nuclear zombie apocalypse, players are challenged with overriding the bunker systems in a bid to escape before the oxygen in the room runs out – sure, once you’re out safely you’ll potentially be confronted with a world full of zombies but what can you do?

The danger may be staged but the challenge and fun is 100% real!

Hot Air Ballooning with a Twist – Platinum Heritage

Perhaps one of the most surprising adrenaline rushes we’ve ever had was experienced whilst hot air ballooning in Luxor and though we didn’t find the time to head up with Platinum Heritage, the experience remains top of our Dubai wish-list.

They’ll whisk you away into the depths of Dubai’s desert and allow you to take to the skies alongside their majestic falcons, before finishing up your morning with an incredibly luxury breakfast and dune bashing in 1950s Landrovers.

Without doubt, a once in a lifetime experience in the desert.

High Ropes – Aventura

Rising from the sand, in between the ghaf trees, Aventura is a high ropes course that offers something for everyone.  From simple courses for young children (and those a feeling a little less adventurous) to those that will challenge even the bravest of adventurers, it’s worth kitting up and getting active outside in Dubai.

Safety is paramount at Aventura where they employ a fail-safe carabiner system – this means you can take to the course without any concerns for your safety.

Maximum fun, minimum fuss!

Aventura High Ropes Dubai reviewThe Largest Inflatable Park in the World – Aqua Fun

Dubai is hot.  The ocean is marginally less hot, but hey, sometimes that’s the best you can hope for in the UAE!

Within easy reach of JBR, our favourite Dubai beach, you’ll find Aqua Fun – the world’s largest inflatable park.  Backdrops for fun just don’t get better!

Water Parks – Waterslides for the Bravest of the Brave – Aquaventure

Dubai provides adventurous visitors with two main waterparks – Aquaventure and Wild Wadi and though both are potentially worth a visit, one of them stands head-and-shoulders above the other.

It’s a big call but Aquaventure would easily be the best waterpark we’ve ever visited and, we believe, up there as one of the best in the world.

Sky Diving – Skydive Dubai

There’s really no rush that compares to your first skydive and where better to do it than over the iconic Palm?

With incredible views of the Arabian Gulf and well-known sights including the Burj Al Arab and Atlantis, jump sites really don’t get more impressive than this!

Like the look of skydiving in Dubai?  Check out this amazing list of the top 100 adventures in the world – including this skydive!

Hyper Reality – The Void

If you’re looking for some uniquely-Dubai fun, head along to The Void at JBR for a futuristic virtual-reality experience.

With proton guns on high-alert and a computer-animated world all around you, this glimpse into the future of video games is a must-try activity in the city of the future.

Speedboat Sightseeing – Xclusive Tours

If you’re new to the city or are wanting to show guests around, a speedboat trip out around The Palm ticks all the soft-adventure boxes whilst showing off some of the best parts of Dubai.

The boats are zippy but stable and as you race around the key Palm landmarks, your skipper will fill you in on all of the facts and figures involved in constructing this man-made marvel.  It’s a wonder of engineering and definitely worth seeing up close.

Theme Park Fun – IMG Worlds of Adventure & Dubai Parks and Resorts

Though not quite up to the same standard of theme parks in the United States and Europe, Dubai’s had a good go at building exciting parks, aimed at keeping the whole family entertained.

IMG is the largest indoor theme park in the world, providing a welcome respite from the Arabian sun, whilst Dubai Parks and Resorts is the newest player in the city and largely based outdoors.


Dubai has a lot to offer visitors, entertaining tourists far beyond the shopping malls and tall buildings for which the city is known.  From a gentle introduction to adventure, through to excitement for the biggest adrenaline junkies, Dubai’s just the ticket.


Looking for adventure in Dubai?  Pin this post for future reference!

The best fun and adventurous things to do in Dubai, UAE. Sky diving, escape rooms, water parks, hot air ballooning and more - all of the activities you need to book in the city!

Supplemental photos from KlookPlatinum HeritageTrip AdvisorArabian Business, and YouTube.

Activities Adventure Chernobyl Destinations Eastern Europe Ukraine

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – 10 incredible photos to inspire your visit

July 17, 2017

On April 26th, 1986, the world came to know about a small town in Ukraine.

Chernobyl.

Chernobyl is no longer known as a town but as the location of the largest nuclear power plant accident in history.  Late night testing-gone-wrong decimated the area, causing significant long-term health effects for residents and costing billions to ‘remedy’.

Visiting the site that released 400 times the radiation of Hiroshima bomb may seem like an odd vacation choice but for the past five or so years, adventurous tourists have been able to do exactly that.

A visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone is to literally take a step back in time to 1986.  Toys are left strewn on the floor, as are handwritten notes and Soviet newspaper articles.  This is a glimpse into not only a bygone era but one behind a once-iron curtain.

We will be following up with information regarding our visit but before we do, we wanted to share a few photographs to give you an idea as to what awaits those who visit this incredible site.

Without doubt, a visit to this site is not for everyone.  The history there and the opportunity to explore an abandoned area whilst gaining such an insight into the past was too hard for us to resist though.

Does a visit to Chernobyl interest you?


If you are considering a trip to Ukraine be sure to pin this post!

The site of the world's worst nuclear power plant accident may seem like a strange choice for tourists but it provides an unprecedented glimpse into Soviet life in 1986.  These photos will inspire you to plan your own visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the Ukraine.The site of the world's worst nuclear power plant accident may seem like a strange choice for tourists but it provides an unprecedented glimpse into Soviet life in 1986.  These photos will inspire you to plan your own visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the Ukraine.The site of the world's worst nuclear power plant accident may seem like a strange choice for tourists but it provides an unprecedented glimpse into Soviet life in 1986. These photos will inspire you to plan your own visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the Ukraine.

We were taken into the Chernobyl exclusion zone by Go2Chernobyl – tours leave from Kiev daily.

Activities Adventure Dubai Middle East United Arab Emirates

Take a Break from Reality in Dubai – The Void

June 8, 2017

Dubai‘s known for pushing boundaries so where better to introduce a new form of hyper-reality.  Combining digital and physical worlds, guests are transported into Ghostbusters: Dimension – the question is though, is it worth your time?

Located on the shore of The Beach at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence), The Void is hard to miss – brightly lit, perched on the edge of the sand, it doesn’t give many clues away as to what’s hidden inside.

The Void – What’s it all about?

THE VOID uses Hyper-Reality — a combination of physical sets, real-time interactive effects and virtual reality — and its RAPTURETM hardware to create sensory and emotional immersion. The RAPTURE series includes a head mounted display, a vest with 22 points of haptic feedback, a BACKTOPTM gaming computer, and the multifunctional Mark IV gun. Each stage is modular and built for experiences that are mapped digitally over the physical space.

In layman’s terms, guests get geared up in digitally-connected vests and helmets (that incorporate both headphones and digital virtual-reality goggles and make their way into a world that merges the physical with the digital.

As soon as the headsets are dropped, your friend standing beside you takes on a new form.  Each player pops up on the display as their chosen avatar, moving in time to their real actions.

When you reach for a door handle, you’ll feel yourself really touching one – only you’ll see a digital version of it (and a digital version of your own arm).  It takes a few minutes to adjust to the sensation, but once you do, you’re in for a great time!

With a vibrating proton blaster in hand, players make their way through this bizarre new world completing challenges as they go.

We weren’t certain of what to expect going into The Void.  It was our first experience of fully-immersive virtual reality and due to the secretive nature of the experience, there’s not a great deal of information available online.  Cameras aren’t allowed in the game itself and even if they were, it would be impossible to photograph the imagery you’d see through your headset.

We were pleasantly surprised by just how easy it was to move around through the experience – the gear itself was light-weight and the VR experience was well matched to the physical elements around us.  We were warned that some people feel a little disoriented or dizzy at the start but nobody in our group of four experienced this so I think it’s fair to say that most people will be unaffected by this.

 The challenges themselves were entertaining and though I won’t give too much away, there’s a part of the experience where the (digital) wall of a skyscraper falls away, leaving players afraid of heights clinging onto the handrail for dear life.  The scene felt incredibly realistic and was a real highlight of the game for me.

Hyper-Reality – The way forward?

Our experience at The Void was unlike anything we’d tried before and for that reason alone, it was absolutely worth doing.  The technology they employ is beyond belief and to step into the future for fifteen minutes was a real treat.

As we left, Nathan commented that he’d have loved for the experience to have run a little longer, which I think says it all.

The Void is a great addition to The Beach and a must-see stop on your visit to Dubai, the city of the future.


Should you want to visit The Void in Dubai, tickets are available online for AED110 per person.  Advance booking is suggested.  Guests must be 12 years of age or older and 120cm tall to participate.

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Virtual reality steps it up with hyper-reality in Dubai. An exciting tourist activity, make sure to plan a stop at The Void as you sight-see in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.Virtual reality steps it up with hyper-reality in Dubai. An exciting tourist activity, make sure to plan a stop at The Void as you sight-see in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Void had us along to review their hyper-reality experience.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Adventure Dubai Middle East United Arab Emirates

Hanging on by a Thread: Reviewing Aventura – Dubai’s Nature Adventure Park

April 29, 2017

As summer’s oppressive heat descends upon the United Arab Emirates everyone starts heading inside, seeking refuge in air-conditioned havens… that generally means one of the Emirates’ mega-malls.

Not so fast though!

What if we told you that one of the best physical adventure activities in Dubai has adjusted their hours to allow adrenaline junkies to make the most of the cooler mornings and evenings?

Located not far from Dubai’s city centre, Aventura offers five rope courses amongst the natural Ghaff tree forest in Mushrif Park.

The variety of courses allow guests to push themselves regardless of their level of fitness or thirst for adventure.  From courses targeted at younger children and those not so keen on heights to ones that present a massive physical challenge high off the ground, there’s something for practically everyone.

Aventura High Ropes Dubai reviewSafety First

Having completed a number of high rope and climbing courses now (check out our review of Ras Al Khaimah’s via ferrata), we’re relatively handy with a carabiner but even if you’re not, you’ll have nothing to worry about at Aventura.  Thanks to the employment of CliC-iT smart carabiners it is impossible for any guest to be up on the course without being clipped in and though they take a little getting used to, the peace of mind is absolutely worth it.

The staff out on the course are well trained and with a comprehensive, hands-on training before you head out by yourself, chances are you’ll be feeling pretty confident.

It is also worth noting that the course is fairly exposed, being nested amongst the trees rather than sheltering beneath them – because of this we’d recommend taking plenty of sunscreen along with your glasses and a hat, especially if you’re visiting when the sun’s at its strongest (as we did – eeek!)

High Ropes for Everyone at Aventura!

Once your training starts you’ll have three hours to bounce around any of the routes that take your fancy.  Our group of four completed three courses in total (in addition to the initiation course), each with their own differences.

Explorador

With an average height of 3 metres, Explorador is the perfect starting point for your high ropes adventure.  The course isn’t particularly difficult but it’s a great way to find your feet and adjust to the carabiner system.  It also gives a good view out over the more difficult Aventura and Thriller routes, allowing you to plot your next course.

If you’re feeling a little nervous, this is definitely the place to start!

Aventura High Ropes Dubai reviewThriller

Running alongside Explorador, Thriller stands at an average height of 8 metres above the ground.  Described as having a low difficulty level but towering height, this is a course that will divide your group.  Physically it’s a walk in the park but if you’re afraid of heights it’s sure to challenge you.  Just remember, there’s no way you’ll ever come unhooked – this course is 100% mind over matter.

Once you’ve raced through Thriller you’ll be ready to test yourself in every sense of the word.  Aventura does a great job of that but if you’re short on time (or looking to escape the sun, as we were) then head straight over to the Extreme course.

Extreme

Aptly named, the most difficult course at Aventura is just as high as Thriller but also offers a massive physical challenge.

Seriously – this course is not messing around.

From wobbly rock-climbing walls to a 25 metre Tarzan jump.  Swinging cargo nets to pegs barely big enough to fit your feet on.  This is a course that will challenge every muscle in your body.  It’s hard work whilst still being tremendous fun – just make sure you skip arms at the gym the day before if you want any chance of making it through!

Though we came off the course with aching muscles and dripping from a number of hours under the hot sun, it was hard to wipe the smiles from our messy, wind-swept faces.

Next time you’re lining up a trip to the mall, why not opt for something different and head to Aventura to soak up a gorgeous Arabian sunset instead?

After all, the mall’s not going anywhere!

Aventura High Ropes Dubai review

Weekdays: Open from 2.30pm until 7.00pm

Weekends: From 8.30am until 10.00am (last briefing) + from 2.30pm until 7.00pm.

Summer timings are from April until end of June 2017.

Stay tuned to Aventura for their special evening sessions, running 7.00pm to 10.00pm.


Dubai's full of amazing tourist activities but here's one you won't have tried! Aventura Adventure park has something for everyone. Which course will you choose?

Thank you to Aventura and Tish Tash for inviting us along to review Aventura.  As always all thoughts are our own.

We suggest you take advantage of the new summer hours to keep out of Dubai’s crazy summer heat – we visited around midday and instantly wished we’d booked later in the day!

Adventure New Zealand

Anything But a Light Paddle: White Water Rafting Down the Kaituna River (and the Largest Commercially Rafted Waterfall in the World!)

April 22, 2017
Rafting the Kaituna River, Rotorua New Zealand

Kiwis sort of have a track record of being a little crazy, and white water rapids seem to bring out the worst of us as seen here and here, however could I really call myself a travel blogger if I didn’t jump on every opportunity to try out as many of the activities New Zealand has to offer?

Probably not.

So when my partner mistakenly tells me I would NOT be gate crashing a boys day out before his best friend got married (keyword here mistakenly), of course I jumped on board for white water rafting in Rotorua, before heading to Cambridge for the gorgeous wedding of our two friends.

I’m going to say it right away, I have not a single regret and thoroughly enjoyed the escapade, however it did leave me a little shaken.

I’m not the biggest adrenaline-junkie around but I do love giving things a shot.  I also have this strange habit of going gung-ho into these sorts of activities feeling no fear, but then once I actually experience them for what they are (e.g. a little bit dangerous) I’m left questioning my sanity.

I have to admit, this was definitely one of those times.

Rafting the Kaituna River, Rotorua New ZealandWe booked with Kaituna Cascades, a really fun group of guys, who look like they truly love their job. We signed up for their highest grade of rafting, a choice I thoroughly recommend.  It’s not overly exerting, it’s not particularly dangerous and the views are beautiful.

The trip takes you down (up?) the Kaituna river, through ‘historical’ rusty old power plants, beautiful inlets of water, cliff sides covered in classic Kiwi foliage and sends you careering through some stunning green water.

But let’s be real here – you’re not going white water rafting for a peaceful row through scenic vistas!

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re the kind of person looking for the next opportunity to be pushed around, thrown about, tipped upside down, and in one unfortunate instance, smashed pelvis-first into a rock.

Ok. Maybe you aren’t looking for that last experience – but don’t worry, I’ve got some tips at the end to hopefully keep you bruised-pelvis free…

For my first experience white water rafting, I would say this was definitely a good fit. While it has a pretty significant waterfall drop at one point (OK, it might just be the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world!), as white water goes this was pretty easy-going and a good starting point for anyone who, like me, might be afraid of getting the technique wrong.

When it comes down to it, there’s really nothing to it but to listen to your instructor and do as much shouting as you can – and you will shout!

But wait – what was that I said about a smashed pelvis??? Don’t worry, no bones were broken, just a serious bruise and that’s definitely avoidable.

Rafting the Kaituna River, Rotorua New ZealandWhile the guys at Kaituna were awesome and made sure they did the utmost to ensure we all had the best time that we could, I still ended up getting hurt. Which I suppose is what you risk – or even hope for – when doing something like white water rafting.

There were two spots on the trip where they said we could get out and swim; the first being a lovely gorge-like area of the river, and the second being um… right before a waterfall.

So that first one sounds great, right?! And it was. It was like being swirled around in a giant pool – a pool surrounded by nature and people laughing from exhilaration.

That last one, though? Um, not so great. We all jumped at the opportunity to dive back in the water after the fun we had in the gorge!  Just quietly, I think the instructor was keen to get us in too, as he didn’t manage to get us to flip the boat going down the big waterfall.

In retrospect, perhaps this wasn’t the most strategic place to get out of the raft though?

We all found ourselves careering towards the waterfall and despite the instructors’ best efforts to call us back to the boat, our swimming was no match for the current. In the end, one of us went down the waterfall by himself – a fairly scary experience I would say – while my partner and I were instructed to hold onto the side of the boat as it went down.

Now, I’m not an expert – as I said this was my first time rafting – but holding onto a boat as it goes wherever it pleases down a rocky waterfall? It was less than ideal.

Not only did we have the full force of the current, but also the full weight of the boat on top of us.  Both Michael and I were slammed against the rocks and then dragged across them.

Honestly, the experience shook me quite a bit and from there I was kind of keen to get out of the water.

Regardless of this, I thoroughly recommend the Kaituna Cascades guys and I absolutely recommend trying out white water rafting.  I’d just encourage everyone to be a little bit more wary of when you get out of the boat. Oh, and please, PLEASE don’t hold onto the side of a raft as it slams its way down a waterfall.

Just trust me on this one.


Off to New Zealand?  On the hunt for adventure?  Pin this post!

Find out what it's like to go over the biggest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. New Zealand, home of adventure sports should be next on your list! Rotorua, NZ

As this was a last minute plan, I didn’t have my GoPro on me but I would like to give a big shout out to Jacob Laukaitis who went down the river with us and got some awesome footage. He hasn’t put the clips into a Youtube video but when he does you can find them here, or see a bunch of his awesome travel shots on his Instagram account.

Activities Adventure Asia Sri Lanka

Taking to the Skies over Bentota – Paramotoring and Heli Flights in Sri Lanka

April 13, 2017

Whether you’re an absolute adrenaline-junkie or a little more on the cautious side, Bentota in Sri Lanka has you covered.  Paramotoring and helicopters will help you take to the skies – without breaking the bank but with all of the fun!

Though we’d unequivocally recommend giving both a shot, we’ll explain the differences between the two offerings so you can make the right choice for you.

Paramotoring with Sky Club

Paramotoring was what initially took us to Bentota – it was an experience that neither of us had tried before and looked like the perfect combination of excitement and absolute peace in the skies.  We’d both been sky diving before and I’ve paraglided in the past so between the two, we thought we had an idea of what to expect.

Suren and Natalie run Sky Club, the leaders (and only certified operators) in Sri Lanka and they are hands-down the only company to head up on a paramotor with.  They single-handedly brought this sport to the island nation and worked with local aviation authorities to ensure proper regulations were established.  Once they were given the go-ahead to begin flying, the couple trained ex-air force personnel and never looked back.

During the course of your flight, you’ll sit securely in a custom-designed cart.  The parachute above your head controlling your direction (flown by the expertly trained pilot of course) whilst the massive fan behind him decides the height at which you fly.

The whole experience was surprisingly calm – from the effortless takeoff to the smooth landing, there was never a point in time where either of us felt nervous (which says a fair bit as Nathan’s not a fan of heights).

These machines just feel like they were built to soar through the sky – probably because they were!

Even if you don’t think you’re brave enough, we’d urge you to give paramotoring a go – it’s surprisingly manageable, even for the most nervous of flyers and you’ll certainly be in safe hands with the Sky Club team.

Heli Flights with Skylark

Following our paramotoring session (and a quick dip in the ocean), we made our way over to the heli pad and before we knew it were racing over Bentota in what was to be a significantly different experience.

Can you tell from the next picture how we felt about it?

If paramotoring was surprisingly relaxed with stunning views out over the ocean, our heli flight was an adrenaline-inducing adventure that practically had beach-goers on the ground ducking for cover (in the very best of ways!)

In safe hands, we hopped into our ride for the afternoon, suited up with our headphones and took to the skies for the second time that day.

Our flight started with a relaxed tour of the surrounding area, taking in Sri Lanka’s famous architecture, buddha statues and lighthouses before whizzing over the beach in an exciting acrobatic performance.

I’m sure you could ask for the more mundane version of this flight but, really, why would you?

How to Get to Bentota Beach

Located on the stunning Bentota Beach, you’ll find both Sky Club and Skylark within easy reach of each other – you can walk between the two in less than five minutes or, if like us, you go from one activity straight to another, the helicopter will even drop you off right outside the paramotoring spot.  How’s that for a memorable transfer!

Many people choose to stay in Bentota (which is half way between Colombo and Galle) but more so opt for the beaches in and around Galle or the historic city itself.

Trains

If you too are based near Galle, there are many trains that connect the two regions – we found the train station staff to be friendly and helpful and the train system easy to navigate making it a great option.  Second class tickets were only 100 Sri Lankan Rupees each (less than NZD1 or USD0.65 each) and the ride took approximately an hour.  If you’re planning on making the trip, you’ll find train times departing here and returning here.

Helpful Hint:  The Aluthgama train station is less than a kilometre from Bentota so if you find more convenient connections there, don’t be afraid to walk down or catch a tuk tuk – it’s incredibly easy to find.

Tuk Tuk

Before making a move for the beach we checked in regarding the train departure time but managed to misunderstand the time we needed to be back – who knew 3.15pm and 3.50pm could sound so similar?

Left with the choice of either waiting around for two hours for the next train (and missing our snorkelling session at Jungle Beach) or hiring a tuk tuk straight away, we elected to head back to Galle ASAP.  The tuk tuk to get home set us back LKR2,000 in total – though it was a significant price hike over the train, it ended up worth it to be back ready for the afternoon activities we had planned.

Tuk tuks in the area are generally comfortable and safe and heading back by road, we managed to catch some sights we didn’t see on the train.

Though we didn’t intend to hail a tuk tuk for the ride home, the combination of train and tuk tuk ended up working well for us whilst still keeping the costs relatively low.

Two Very Different Experiences, Both Equally Worthwhile…

If you have the time and the funds (and let’s face it, adventure activities like these don’t come any cheaper whilst retaining stringent safety standards), we really recommend you give both of these activities a go.

Sitting in the open air as the paramotor glided above the heads of visitors below was a fantastic experience – serene with a touch of excitement, we couldn’t take the smiles off our faces.  This activity is relatively unique to the area too so it’s a great opportunity to try something new.

By comparison, the helicopter ride in Bentota is chock-full of excitement with tight turns and sudden drops.  It’s not for the faint of heart but is a great way to get your pulse going and to see a little more of the area as you fly further inland.

Why choose one though, when for the price of trying one of these activities elsewhere, you can do both over one of Sri Lanka’s most gorgeous beaches?

It was an easy decision for us!


Looking for adventure in Sri Lanka? Yes you are! Check out paramotoring and heli rides at Bentota Beach - the most affordable adventure activities around! Fly high over Sri Lanka. Bentota Beach offers the most amazing paramotoring and heli rides at affordable prices. Find out why we recommend you take to the skies...

Thank you to Sky Club and Skylark for so kindly hosting us both for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Accommodation Adventure Asia Eco Tourism Mid-Range Sri Lanka

Adventure & Glamping in Sri Lanka – Not Your Average All-Inclusive!

March 29, 2017
Borderlands - Adventure glamping in Sri Lanka

An easy drive from Colombo you’ll find Borderlands, an all-inclusive Sri Lankan adventure camp in Kitulgala, the adrenalin-sports capital of the country.  We normally recoil at the word ‘all-inclusive’ when it comes to our travels but not this time!   Read on to find out why Borderlands should be a must-see on your visit to Sri Lanka…

It’s an amazing thing to leave a place feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of practicing gratitude—how it can boost your mood, help you treat others better, improve physical health, and keep stress and fear at bay. Now, here’s a little trick for how to automatically infuse more gratitude into your life: Spend more money on experiences, and less on material objects.

Real Simple – Amanda MacMillan

Gazing through the shroud of netting out into the Sri Lankan jungle, you just can’t help but feel appreciative.  If experiences are where it’s at, then this one would be hard to top.

Layer after layer of a jungle, from the closest painted in hues of vibrant green, to the last few trees silhouetted against the sky, sitting high on the misty mountain – all laid out in front of us without having to leave our bed. The call of countless birds and lizards, the buzz of insects waking up, the river racing along below us.

How fortunate were we to have spent even a few nights in paradise like this?

Borderlands is about as far from a typical all-inclusive holiday destination as it gets.  Yes, for a set rate you’ll get a roof over your head (and a million dollar view to boot!) and all of your meals included.  Also included are two adventure activities a day with fully trained guides and free WiFi.  Unlike your average all-inclusive resort though, Borderlands has an overwhelming sense of character and a jungle outlook that just can’t be beaten.

Lounging in the chill-out area, we spotted a chameleon in the first five minutes of being there and throughout the day, magnificent eagles soared back and forth.  Even if you’re not on the hunt for adventure, Borderlands is a great choice in Kitulgala – it’s the ultimate in back-to-nature adventure in the true spirit of Sri Lanka.

Our room obviously wasn’t your standard hotel room but it was perfect for the location.  With plenty of ventilation and a fan, we didn’t get too hot and there was a partial sunshade to stop the morning daylight from streaming in – we went with it though, leaving it open so we could see the fireflies and birds out in the jungle.

Attached to our room was a partially outdoors ensuite (with a hot-water shower and toilet) and his and hers hand basins.  We also had a couple of tables, beanbags, fresh drinking water, electrical outlets and lights in our room – though it wasn’t fancy, it was more than adequate.

We’ve sometimes stayed in luxurious hotels and have come away less impressed than we did from Borderlands which says a lot about our experience there.  If you’ve got a good sense of adventure, this place is for you!

Food, Glorious Food!

We arrived at Borderlands a little unsure of what to expect when it came to meals but the food on offer was absolutely delicious!  Hearty and varied, every meal was one to look forward to and served up buffet style, there was plenty to go around.

Adventure is Calling

Though you can stay at Borderlands just to take advantage of the facilities and delicious food, we recommend you book in the full package including activities.  The team is known as being the most safety-conscious in the area (they were also one of the founding companies on the Kelani river) and their care and professionalism really shone through – if there’s one company you want to be pushing your personal boundaries with, it’s these guys.

White Water Kayaking

Our first activity started very quickly with a dunk in the water!  After jumping back in the kayak (and then falling out a few more times) we started to get the hang of keeping our balance in the whitewater.  The whole experience was a blast and with a river that’s currently a grade 2, it was the perfect introduction to kayaking in this environment – the right balance of challenge and security.

Borderlands - Adventure glamping in Sri Lanka kayaking

Advanced Canyoning

Having been on an amazing canyoning trip once in the past we had high expectations from this activity!  Did it stack up?

We started with a hike down to the canyon though gorgeous tea plantations and farmland, our guides stopping to show us a range of local produce (with a few tastings thrown in too).  Once we made it to the river, we received a full safety briefing and made our way to the first obstacle, as double rock slide into the cool water below.  After slipping and sliding down a few rocks we approached the first of our cliff jumps… at approximately 12m high, we decided to save it for the braver souls amongst us and scrambled down the rocks instead.  With another smaller jump (which was much more to our liking) and an abseil our canyoning adventure was almost over.

We had a great time up the canyon with our two guides (we weren’t kidding when we said Borderlands was safety conscious) but wished the experience was a little longer.  Considering they’re making use of the natural environment only 10 minutes from the campsite though, it’s a fantastic introduction to canyoning.

Mountain Biking

From a fitness point of view, mountain biking made the other two activities feel like a walk in the park.

I can’t even recall the number of times I mentally chanted this saying back to myself as we kept pedalling up that mountain…

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”

– Nietzsche, 1888

Fortunately, our lovely instructor foresaw what was to come and had the Borderlands truck follow not too far behind us up the hill.  We made it about half way before stopping and hitching a ride with him!

At the top, we stopped for a while in an ancient cave, tried to spot the local bats and admired one of the region’s waterfalls – a gorgeous spot and a great chance to catch our breath!

With the choice of going off-road or following the path we took up, we elected to stick to the ‘road’ – better safe than sorry we decided.  With spectacular views and a comfortable pace headed back downhill, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we made the right choice.

Was it physically hard?  Yes.

Were we pleased we did it?  For sure!

Borderlands - Adventure glamping in Sri Lanka mountain bikingBorderlands is about as close to the perfect jungle experience as it gets.  Tropical and wild whilst retaining a touch of comfort and calm, we really couldn’t recommend it enough to those adventurous spirits amongst us.

Leave your hair dryer at home, come with a can-do attitude and get stuck in – you won’t regret it!


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An easy drive from Colombo you'll find Borderlands, an all-inclusive Sri Lankan adventure camp in Kitulgala, the adrenalin-sports capital of the country.  We normally recoil at the word 'all-inclusive' when it comes to our travels but not this time!  Find out why we fell in love with this unique accommodation. An easy drive from Colombo you'll find Borderlands, an all-inclusive Sri Lankan adventure camp in Kitulgala, the adrenalin-sports capital of the country.  We normally recoil at the word 'all-inclusive' when it comes to our travels but not this time!  Find out why we fell in love with this unique accommodation.

Thank you to Red Dot Tours for recommending and organising our stay at Borderlands.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

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