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Activities Chile Eco Tourism Patagonia South America

The Base of the Towers – The Jewel in Torres Del Paine’s Crown

October 1, 2017

Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia offers a number of world-class hikes to travellers keen to brave the elements. The most famous (and challenging) walk in the national park, the Base de las Torres (Base of the Towers) offers spectacular views amongst some of the most incredible natural scenery in the world. We took up the challenge and were rewarded a hundred times over for our efforts.

Setting off bright and early from EcoCamp, we were literally the first group on the trail, allowing us to set a comfortable pace and really soak up the morning air.  Thanks to its handy location at the start of the hike, visitors can maximise their time cuddled up in bed whilst still getting a big headstart on those coming from Puerto Natales for the day – a double bonus for our glamping crew.

“Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning” – Proverb

I must admit, in the days leading up to this hike I was incredibly nervous and the pink-tinged sunrise didn’t do much to set our minds at ease. Though I try my best, I’m not the fittest wahine around and even on a fair-weather day, the Towers were to present a massive challenge – both in body and mind.

Summoning a positive attitude, we began putting the kilometres behind us – something that was easily done on the flat but not so much so on the first major incline of the day.

The hike to the Towers can be divided into a few key sections, each unique from the other.

What Can You Expect on the Base of the Towers Hike?

The First Climb

After an easy warm-up on the flat, hikers are greeted with their first big climb and though there are small breaks where it evens out, for the most part it’s all uphill for a solid hour or so.  We took our time and made it up surprisingly easily but it was hard work, without doubt!

Solace

At the crest of the first incline, hikers are treated to a (gratefully received) rest. The track heads downhill towards the El Chileno campsite where, during the season, toilets are available (as is accommodation should you wish to break the hike into two days).

Not Your Average Walk in the Park

For the next two hours, the trails weaves through the forest. After the initial climb, this is an easy hike over undulating land. You’ll continue to gain elevation (so don’t get too excited about taking it easy), but in the big scheme of things, it’s a pretty cruisey part of the track; even if you’ve never hiked before, you’ll manage this section fine.

The Final Push

Just after the forest clears, you’ll be greeted with the final climb to the Base of the Towers.  This hike will certainly make you earn that amazing view you’ve come for – saving the best (or worst) ’till last.

Starting with a 30-minute climb through the last of the forest, hikers approach the moraine, where the scramble begins.  On the day of our hike, there was significant snowfall in the area which meant the path that would normally be made up of rocks and boulders was practically unrecognisable.  Instead, we tentatively made up way along the line of the moraine, skirting our way over to the Towers.  Though the snow resulted in a few minor slips, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually easier on our knees as we didn’t have to pick our way up and over rocks (but we’d love to hear from anyone who’s completed the hike without snow).

Though the snow resulted in a few minor slips, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually easier on our knees as we didn’t have to pick our way up and over rocks.

Have you completed the hike without snow?  If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts on tackling the last of the moraine!

With aching muscles but an unmistakable electricity in the air, we rounded the last bend and finally caught sight of the three towers right in front of us.  Peeking out through a veil of cloud, we couldn’t believe our luck – we’d been warned that on days like ours, hikers sometimes miss out altogether on seeing these granite monsters!

Honestly, we could not have asked for more.

Not only were we treated to the most amazing Winter-Wonderland scenery all the way up, but with a touch of blue sky, we stood marvelling at the infamous icons of Torres del Paine.

Though we were very fortunate to have the towers practically to ourselves (a privilege that would be absolutely unheard of during peak season), we had followed a set of little footprints all the way to the top.  Crossing our fingers, we’d hoped that it was a sign that we might get a glimpse of the resident fox and continuing on our lucky streak, that’s exactly what happened.

Standing under the towers, it was hard to believe that with all of our planning, dreaming and hoping, we were finally there in person.

We’d made it!

Do You Need a Guide to Climb the Towers?

Though it is physically possible to make it to the summit of the hike without the assistance of a guide, we would certainly recommend one.

Just days earlier, we’d been told about a pair of hikers who had made it almost to the end of the moraine just to have to turn back – with heavy snowfall they couldn’t find the track to continue safely through the maze of snow and under-cover boulders.  I couldn’t imagine the disappointment in getting that far only to turn away at the last hurdle.

Throughout the day our guides coaxed us along, sharing encouragement when it was needed and leading the celebrations when we’d pushed ourselves that little further than we thought possible.  They each shared a great deal of knowledge with us and knew exactly when we each needed that extra little boost.

Without our guides, I am absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have made it to the top.

They encouraged us to walk at our own pace and step by step, we slowly chipped away at the challenge ahead of us.  We certainly didn’t break any speed records for our ascent but their patience, persistence and belief in us was invaluable.

In the middle of summer, when the path is well-worn and the snow we experienced is nowhere to be found, it would be possible to complete the hike successfully without the assistance of a guide but even then, I’d suggest booking one in.

This hike is anything but easy so why trust it to anyone but a pro?

We decided to spend our evenings relaxing in luxury at EcoCamp so booked into their ‘Patagonia Wildlife Tour‘ – this allowed us to choose our own activities each day which included their own amazing guides.

If there’s one hike you do in Torres del Paine, make it this one!

Though the hike was difficult, with the mantra ‘slow and steady’ our whole group managed to make it up to the summit together.

Without doubt, the hike to the Towers was difficult but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives.

If you have the opportunity, absolutely go!


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The Base of the Towers in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile is one of the most iconic hikes in the world. Find out how challenging it really is, whether you need a guide and exactly what to expect on this incredible trek. The Base of the Towers in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile is one of the most iconic hikes in the world. Find out how challenging it really is, whether you need a guide and exactly what to expect on this incredible trek.

Thank you to EcoCamp for hosting us on this hike.  Without doubt, we’ll never forget our experience!  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Activities Chile Eco Tourism Patagonia South America

Day Two of the W Trek – Conquering the French Valley

September 23, 2017

With our first full day hike in Torres del Paine behind us we slowly rolled out of ‘bed’ (if you can call a sleeping bag, ground mat and a lumpy jumper-come-pillow a bed) and psyched ourselves up for day two out on the trails.

Being our first experience of multi-day hikes, the need to pour tired bodies back into dirty thermals and to squeeze aching feet back into muddy boots was a new one for us.  I know I’m not making the experience sound glamourous because I suppose with the lack of showers, running water and electricity, it was anything but – but without doubt, it was an adventure and one we were very excited to be on.  Even in our sleepless, dirty, aching state!

Because we’d walked further than most the day before (to Campt Italiano), we were able to leave our proper pack-up until after we returned from the French Valley – what was to be the second most challenging hike on the W-Trek.

For those hiking through from an earlier part of the W Trek, it’s safe to leave your bags at the rangers station for the climb itself and something we’d definitely recommend you do.

With our trusty hiking poles in hand, we began the 2.5km hike to the French Glacier Lookout.  The path up was often uneven, at times resembling a rock scramble more than a traditional hiking track, so our poles really proved their worth.  The climb up to the first mirador was relentless but absolutely worth it when we were rewarded with incredible views back over Lago Nordenskjöld and up to the French Glacier and Los Cuernos.

The night before, we’d heard parts of the hanging glacier above break off, the thunderous sound echoing throughout the valley but to stand so close to it was unreal.  Periodically we’d see chunks of ice and snow tumble down from the glacier, setting off little avalanches that devoured everything in their path.  Where else can you find yourself so wrapped up in the power of Mother Nature?

When we finished our descent, we were pleased to have our tents still out for a little lie down before heading off again.  With 7.5km of ‘Patagonian flat’ ground in front of us, the remainder of the day was manageable, if a little slow at times (sorry Thomas and Javier for slowing you both down!) with a fair few drinks breaks and photo stops dotted in for good measure.

This part of the park has an interesting history, having been badly affected by fires in the not too distant past.  What has resulted is a massive section of dead forest; ghostly fingers reaching towards the sky.  It’s a surreal feeling walking through the park, knowing just how long it took to grow in the first place and then considering how long it will take to establish itself after suffering at our hands.

Distance covered:  Camp Italiano to Mirador Francés (5km round-trip) andCamp Italiano to Paine Grande (7.6km)  Total 12.6km (but boy did it feel like more than that after the day before!)

Accommodation:  Paine Grande.  Our first stay in a refugio was a welcome respite from camping on the ground the night before.  We slept in a four-person dorm and were provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner, all of which far surpassed our expectations.  Our rooms were nice and warm, as were the hot-water showers (even if you did have to press the button a few times to keep the water flowing).  It’s worth noting that the dining area wasn’t heated up so we’d recommend you wear your winter woolies downstairs where you head down there.  All in all though, a great option if you’re staying in the park and what an incredible spot to wake up to!

How Difficult is the Hike up the French Valley?

I can’t lie, by the time we got to the first lookout (after an hour and 10 minutes), we were breathing pretty heavily!  Though some choose to climb even higher to Mirador Británico, it simply wasn’t possible when we visited – the snow-cover wouldn’t have allowed us time to make it to our accommodation with certainty.

With that said though, within 5 minutes at the mirador, our breathing was back to normal and any memory of the climb was a distant memory so although I wouldn’t describe the hike as ‘easy’, it’s definitely do-able!


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Find out what it's like to hike to French Valley in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile. What to expect and the truth about your required fitness. Find out what it's like to hike to French Valley in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile. What to expect and the truth about your required level of fitness. Is this a holiday to suit every traveller? Find out!

Thank you to ChileTour Patagonia for hosting us on this section of the W Trek.  All thoughts are our own.

Activities Chile Eco Tourism Patagonia South America

Patagonia by Horseback – The Perfect Alternative to Hiking

September 20, 2017

Patagonia is a popular destination for nature-lovers to explore by foot but not all are up to hiking over challenging terrain – there’s a reason the term ‘Patagonian flat’ was coined after all!

For travellers looking to enjoy the local scenery without having to clamber up and down mountains themselves, horseback riding is a great alternative.

You’ll enjoy stunning scenery, experience the infamous Patagonian weather first-hand, make friends with the most gorgeous horses and best of all, your feet will thank you for giving them a break when all is said and done!

Where Can I Ride in Patagonia?

We rode with Pingo Salvaje on the outskirts of the Torres del Paine national park, enjoying the views that the region is known for, without the additional cost of park entrance (which is always a bonus when you’re trying to stick to a budget).  The horses were amongst the calmest that I’ve ever ridden whilst still having the ‘up and go’ that so many commercial trekking horses seem to lack; these beauties were a pleasure.

There is also riding available within the boundaries of the national park, both for pleasure and to assist tired trekkers coming down from the Base of the Towers, but remember, you’ll need to account for the additional cost of entering the park (which is well worth doing at some stage).

Plan Your Visit Well

The winds in Patagonia can be brutal so I would suggest trying to book your horseback adventure for a day when the winds are at their lowest.  Because we had a tight window of opportunity, we rode in crazy winds regardless and though the horses handled it well (they’re incredibly used to it), at times it wasn’t the most comfortable of experiences.

We were pleased we chose to go ahead with the ride regardless but had we the option, it would have been even better on a slightly less windy day.

As always (at least in Patagonia), ensure you’ve got a wind-proof jacket to help keep you toasty warm and some comfortable gloves.  With those two things, we were warm even with the wind whipping up around us.

After hiking the majority of the W Trek, our legs were well and truly ready for a break and riding ended up being the perfect way to get out and make the most of the incredible scenery whilst giving our aching bodies a chance to recover.

If you’re travelling through Puerto Natales in Chile and either aren’t up for hiking or are just looking for a day off the trails, we’d certainly suggest saddling up and seeing this part of the word from a slightly higher vantage point.


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Torres del Paine by horseback in the way to go! The park is a favourite amongst hikers but nature-lovers can get outside and be more comfortable in the process. Explore Patagonia on horseback for an exciting ride through the most amazing scenery in Chile. Torres del Paine is a favourite amongst hikers but nature-lovers can get outside and be more comfortable in the process. Explore Patagonia on horseback for an exciting ride through the most amazing scenery in Chile.Thanks to Pingo Salvaje for so kindly hosting our ride.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

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!


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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!


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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!

Eco Tourism Falkland Islands South America

Rockhoppers to Reindeers – A Wildlife Guide to the Falklands

July 28, 2017

With more penguins than people and an island named after the sea lions that amass on its shores, the Falkland Islands are a wildlife destination like no other.

If there’s one thing that draws people from all over the world to visit the Falkland Islands, it’s the impressive array of wildlife that calls the southern archipelago home. Abundant in supply and diverse in nature, the fauna of the Falkland Islands is on par with that offered in the Galapagos, yet much more accessible and without the crowds to compete with!

Whether you’re a keen birder, a wildlife photographer, or a simply love seeing birds and marine mammals in their natural environment – the Falklands will not disappoint.

Falkland Island Penguins

There are five species of penguins that can be found in the Falkland Islands. The most common are Magellanic and Gentoo, followed by Rockhoppers and King, and less often the Macaroni. They’re all unique and all a pleasure to watch.

Their antics will kept you spellbound for hours!

Magellanic Penguins

Seemingly the most prolific, Magellanic penguins can be found burrowing into the soft peaty earth all over the Falkland Islands. These medium-sized black and white penguins are shy in nature, but if you keep your distance, some will happily pose for photographs. Their distinctive circular markings mean they are easily identified, even while hanging out with the Gentoos on the beach.

Gentoo Penguins

The mascot of the Falkland Islands – the Gentoo Penguin – is slightly bigger than the Magellanic, and much more outgoing. You’ll often find them surfing the waves, or walking the ‘penguin highway’ to their colonies inland. Gentoo penguins are also black and white but their orange bills and pinkish feet make them more closely resemble their larger cousins – the King penguin.

Rockhopper Penguins

Rockhopper penguins defy the clumsiness that penguins are renowned for, by deftly climbing the steepest and sharpest of cliff faces. Confidently hopping from one rock to another, their small frame and pink webbed feet scale the island’s walls to perch on rocky promontories overlooking the sea. Their bright red eyes are framed by a crest of spiky yellow feathers that make them look curiously coiffed (and a little bad-tempered!)

Macaroni Penguins

Macaroni penguins look very similar to Rockhopper penguins and the closely related birds like to hang out together in the Falklands. There is a subtle difference in appearance between the two penguins though.

Macaroni’s are slightly larger in size than the Rockhopper. And their crest feathers are more vibrant in colour and more flamboyant in shape! Macaroni penguins have also been known to breed with Rockhopper penguins, creating a hybrid chick.

King Penguins

The largest of the penguins found in the Falkland Islands (and the second largest penguin in the world), King penguins are also the most impressive to see and hear!

The world’s most accessible King penguin colony can be found just 2.5 hours from the country’s capital, Stanley. Their prime spot at Volunteer Point in East Falkland makes it a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Other Birdlife in the Falklands

With over 219 recorded species of birdlife in the Falkland Islands, I couldn’t possibly cover them all in one blog post, but let’s just say it’s a bird watchers paradise!

I loved seeing the monogamous upland geese fly around in pairs, the cheeky caracara who landed on my camera, the flightless steamer ducks waddling on the beach and the rock cormorants battling the wind as they tried to land on rocky ledges.

The outer islands are absolutely teeming with birdlife. I’m no birder, and yet I managed to spot 25 different species in just one afternoon on Weddell Island!

Here are a few highlights…

Black-Browed Albatrosses

Two-thirds of the world’s black-browed albatrosses live in the Falklands and while a large number of them hang out on the harder-to-get-to Steeple Jason Island, I saw a large number feeding just off Weddell Island also. Their elongated wingspan of 200-240 cm is an impressive sight as they swoop in to land.

Black browed albatross flying over the sea, with onother albatross in background, South Georgia Island, AntarcticaSouthern Giant Petrel

As Jane from Weddell Island put it, ‘the albatross get all the glory, but the petrels are just as impressive’.

With a wingspan of up to 205 cm, they certainly deserve their fair share of the limelight. Effortless gliders, you’ll see these birds all around the coasts of the Falklands.

Striated Caracara

More commonly referred to as Johnny Rooks by the locals, these bold-faced birds are usually seen on the outer islands of the Falklands. You’ll find them wherever you find penguins, as the Johnny Rook is a ruthless scavenger.

Cheeky in nature, they aren’t afraid of humans and will take an interest in anything shiny. I even heard reports of them stealing sunglasses from unsuspecting visitors and a gang almost got away with my camera!

Falkland Flightless Steamer Duck

They may be flightless (due to their short wings), but the Falkland Flightless steamer ducks sure know how move! They use a combination of feet and wing paddling that allows them to move at speed on water. Even if in doing so they look rather peculiar!

“These clumsy, loggerheaded ducks make such a noise and splashing, that the effect is exceedingly curious.” – Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle.

Rock Cormorant

Aside from the comedic value of clumsy penguins, watching the incredible antics of the rock cormorants as they battled huge winds to land on barren cliffs was one of my favourite bird experiences. The skill these small birds show as they expertly hover and swoop will take your breath away – as will the sheer number of them!

Marine Mammals

The Falklands unique location and sparsely inhabited islands make them a magnet for marine mammals of all varieties! Although some are harder to see without the help of a boat, even visitors who don’t venture out into the unruly seas will get a chance to appreciate these majestic creatures.

Sea Lions and Elephant Seals

Sprawled out in the sand, bellies turned towards the sun and flippers lazily scratching their sides – you’ll find sea lions and elephant seals clogging the coastlines of the Falkland Islands.

Sea Lion Island is an obvious choice, with 95% of the Falklands elephant seal population hanging out here, but sea lions can be found on many of the other islands shorelines also.

Watch out as you walk through the tussock – disturbing a sleeping seal or lion may land you in hot water. They can move quicker than you think! But chances are, you’ll hear them before you see them – elephant seals in particular let out a guttural sound warning you of their presence.

During breeding season, males of both species put on a show as they battle for the right to breed.

Dolphins and Whales

The most commonly sighted dolphins in the Falklands are the Peale’s and Commerson’s dolphins. There are a four other species native to the waters surrounding the islands, but they are rarely seen close to shore. I was lucky enough to spot both Peale’s and Commerson’s dolphins while on Weddell Island and they put on quite the show – surfing in the shallow waters just off the shore.

Many species of whale can also be seen migrating past the islands. If you look down as you fly around between the islands, you may just see a telltale dark shadow beneath the waves, or spot a blowhole shooting water high into the air.

Most whales pass by the islands on their migration route, but playful orcas are commonly found off the shores of Sea Lion Island for many months a year. They like to prey on the young sea lion pups, so are mainly present between September to February – when there are plenty in supply.

Introduced Species

Both the Patagonian grey fox and reindeer have been introduced to the Falkland Islands. The reindeer were gifted from South Georgia (who later culled their reindeer population) and the foxes were introduced from South America. They’re only present on two islands – Beaver Island & Weddell Island – and it was while visiting the latter that I laid my eyes on both species!


The wildlife of the Falkland Islands is as varied as it is astounding! I’ve never experienced something so unique, so magical, as seeing so many animals and mammals living in harmony with each other, the landscape, and with the human population of the islands.

If you only need one reason to visit the Falklands, the wildlife is it!


Thank you to Blogilicious and the Falkland Islands Tourist Board for sponsoring Nadine’s visit.  What an incredible experience!

Activities Asia Eco Tourism Sri Lanka

Hiking World’s End: Sri Lanka’s Overlooked Scenic Gem

May 5, 2017
World's End Sri Lanka hike

Though World’s End at Horton Plains, Sri Lanka is not as well known as the towering Adam’s Peak, it is frequently ranked as the top hike in the country.   We took to the trail ourselves to find out more about this somewhat-hidden highlight.

Located within one of Sri Lanka’s many national Parks, Horton Plains would feel at home within the pages of a New Zealand nature book.  With gold-flecked grass, ferns and flax as far as the eye can see, you really could be excused for thinking you’ve somehow arrived in Aotearoa – fortunately for us though, this was 100% Sri Lanka.

World's End Sri Lanka hikeOne of the Best Views in Sri Lanka

If there’s one thing you visit World’s End for, it’s the spectacular views out over the surrounding valley and mountains.  Though this beautiful country is anything but short of great hiking tracks, World’s End is accessable to most people making it a great choice for holiday-makers.

The track itself completes a loop and can be approached from either side.  From the entrance, Mini World’s end (which is practically as beautiful as the main attraction) and World’s End is a 4km walk, at which point you continue through to Baker’s Falls (2km) and meander back to the start (3.5km).  All in all, the circuit is 9km of absolute beauty.

World's End Sri Lanka hike viewIt is worth noting that the sheer cliffs of Horton Plains lack railing.  Though hikers benefit from incredible unobstructed views that would be roped off elsewhere, you’ll need to keep an eye on how close you get to the edge.  With drops of 300 and 1,200 metres respectively, few people who come unstuck live to tell the tale.

World's End Sri Lanka hikeHiking World’s End – How Challenging is it?

Though Adam’s Peak is considered the most recognised hike in Sri Lanka, World’s End, its lesser known companion, is frequently recognised as the best one around… plus it’s a whole lot more manageable thanks to its relatively flat profile.

The hike itself is absolutely gorgeous and not particularly challenging.

Don’t get me wrong, this hike isn’t a walk in the park but if you have a moderate level of fitness, you’ll complete it without any problems. Even if you’re totally lacking fitness, you’ll still be fine – just take your time and consider skipping the walk down to the falls.

World's End Sri Lanka hikeLet’s Get Practical – What You Need to Know…

Though hiking boots wouldn’t go astray, World’s End is certainly manageable in trainers and comfortable clothes.

Throw a small bag on your back and whatever you do, remember your camera! If, like us, you have a drone, leave it behind though – they don’t allow them anywhere in the national park.

There is a small shop that sells snacks and drinks at the end of the hike but the Sri Lankan sun can be strong and though the walk isn’t particularly challenging you’ll still want to be well prepared.  We took a couple of water bottles each and some fruit to snack on… and then stopped by the shop for some celebratory roti and fizzy when we were done!

This national park is keen to protect its gorgeous wildlife as best they can and for this reason you’ll be made to disguard any unnecessary plastic before you start the hike.  You can save time by leaving anything you don’t need in the car (including the plastic labels wrapped around your water bottle).

To get into World’s End you will need to pay the entrance fee which is approximately 3000 Sri Lankan rupees (or USD20).  It’s not the cheapest of days by the time you pay for your ticket and transport (which we’ll talk more about below) but it’s absolutely worth it – presuming you’re not travelling on a budget, that is.

You’ll want to plan your route and timing around what you want to see out at World’s End too.  Not far into the walk you’ll be faced with the choice of turning left or right – left takes you to Mini World’s End first whereas a right turn will direct you to Baker’s Falls.  Both routes come with their own adventages and disadvantages but we’d recommend starting with Mini World’s End to ensure you get there before the mist sets into the vally.

Clear, unobstructed views out from the cliff-faces normally show themselves between 6am and 10am but as with everything in nature, there are no guarantees.  As a general rule though, the earlier you can make it out there, the more likely you are to be rewarded with clear views (though if you ask me, mist engulfing the valley would be pretty amazing too!)

World's End Sri Lanka hike viewGetting to Horton Plains

World’s End is smack-bang in the middle of a national park and because of this, normal cars are not insured to drive the roads.  This means that you’ll probably need to hire a local van or tuk tuk to get you into the starting point of the track.

We organised the required return transport through Red Dot Tours for USD50 and together jumped in the van from Nuwara Eliya.

Our departure time was bright and early in a bid to beat some of the crowds and the harsh midday sun.  Though we had planned to leave town at 5am, our drive to Nuwara Eliya took longer than expected and we connected with our driver just before 6am.

If you’re able to be in Nuwara Eliya closer to our scheduled time of 5am, we’d definitely recommend it. Yes you’ll have a hard time getting out of bed but it will be worth it to have the amazing lookouts to yourself!

Though we were originally a little hesitant to scrap our planned hike up Adam’s Peak in favour of World’s End, we could not have been happier with our decision.

Horton Plains was drop-dead gorgeous, an enjoyable, manageable walk and lets visitors have a little taste of New Zealand (without the hassle and expense of flying half way around the world).

It’s certainly worth juggling your Sri Lankan itinerary to swing by Horton Plains!


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Sri Lanka's best hike, World's End, takes in gorgeous views, bush, rivers, waterfalls and more. A must-do on your Sri Lankan itinerary! Looking for an easier hike than Adam's Peak? World's End is absolute natural perfection and the best part?  It's a hike that anyone can manage in two hours!

Activities Asia Eco Tourism Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Turtle Hatcheries: Why we arrived excited and left early & disappointed

April 1, 2017

Both Nathan and I are suckers for sea creatures.  From getting excited about spotting the tiniest little nudibranch whilst out on a dive to watching gigantic blue whales breach the surface of the ocean – we love it all.

It makes sense then that when we decided to come to Sri Lanka, a visit to a turtle hatchery was top of my list – I’d seen photos from friends and it sounded magical.

In my head I had imagined dozens of little baby turtles, tottling off down the shoreline, destined for the great blue and a life of freedom.  Sounds amazing, right?

I’d almost certainly over-romanticised the experience but in I went, hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter for this animal lover.  What I left with was anything but.

The Writing Was on the Wall

From the moment I walked into the facility, I knew I’d probably made the wrong choice in visiting.

Dozens and dozens of babies were smooshed into a relatively little round tank and though I didn’t love it, it was easy enough to look past it when we heard that at most they would be there for three days before being released into the wild.

*Keep breathing Sarah, it’s not so bad*

Then we were invited to pick the babies up – again, I reconciled myself – with so many babies in the tank, chances are each one would only be held once before it finds its way to freedom (plus they’re so little, it’s easy to support them whilst holding them for a second or two).

And let’s not forget – they’re crazy cute!

*Okay, this is good*

… but that was where the positives stopped and the feeling of guilt started to set in.

We moved onto the next tank where a single adult turtle swam back and forth, back and forth, along the same far edge of the tank.

Would he ever be returned the the wild?  No, were were told – he was being held there to educate visitors.

Would we like to hold him?  You can take him out of the water and pose for photos, we were told.

It was at that point that the switch flicked for me.

This poor turtle must be picked up and passed around dozens of times throughout the day and when he’s not being shuttled from tourist to tourist for their next Instagram shot, he’s left pacing back and forth in his far-too-small tank, a sure sign of boredom.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram as much as the next person (check us out if you’re not already!) but no photo should be at the expense of an animal’s wellbeing.

I’m not sure if things actually got worse at that point or if I had just decided that I didn’t want to be there anymore but from then on we saw more fully-grown turtles in tanks that were obviously too small for them and our ‘guide’ who was meant to be giving us a tour of the hatchery disappeared only to return to look over our shoulder.  We had hoped that we might have learned more about the work they were doing there, especially considering the 1,000 Sri Lankan Rupees we’d each paid (USD7 per person) for a guided tour but it wasn’t to be.

The feeding tank housed turtles for three hours a day (where unsurprisingly they spent time eating) but with three fully-grown turtles in the tank, there was very little room for movement.  Another tank housed one of these gentle giants in a space that was barely twice as wide as him.

Though I know the work they do here generally helps the turtles, we couldn’t help but feel sorry for the adults left behind – what kind of a life is that?

The offer was made to release a baby turtle into the ocean at an additional charge.  This was what I’d really come to do but suddenly as we stood there, we just knew we weren’t comfortable handing over any more money (1,500 rupees per turtle) to support this centre.

Photos online had shown dozens of turtles heading out to sea at once, each of them presumedly having a fair shot at survival.  The reality of sending two lone babies out into the ocean just didn’t feel the same – it’s a big world out there for two littlies by themselves.

Conservation Work?

Opened in 1996 to help promote responsible tourism, the turtle hatchery aids conservation by buying the turtle eggs from fisherman. This goes a long way towards discouraging them from selling the eggs…

Koggala Experience

Each night, when the sun goes down and the turtles have laid their eggs safety, locals dig them back up again.  We were told that in the past, men would sell turtle eggs to villagers that would eat them but thanks to the hatcheries buying them at an inflated rate, this is no longer an issue.  These eggs are now hatched, allowed to grow for approximately three days before tourists pay to set them free.  Thankfully any turtles that are not ‘purchased’ are released after hours by the hatcheries so of course the vast majority do make it into the ocean.

Though hatcheries aim to support turtle conservation, the benefits of their work have not gone unquestioned.  By removing and relocated the eggs, the gender of the babies can be affected (as the temperature plays a significant role in the gender outcome of eggs).  Allowing the babies to grow in captivity can also be detrimental to their overall chance of survival.

When the turtles hatch in their natural habitat, they head for the sea and swim for 48 hours non-stop, passing areas where most of their predators are. “But when they are hatched in simulated environments, they are put into tanks in which they swim for 48 hours. As a result when they are released into the sea later, they do not have the strength to swim past their predators and hence become easy prey.”

Upali Padmasiri, Wildlife Department Assistant Director

Final Thoughts

To be honest, both Nathan and I left feeling guilty and disappointed and we’re not the only ones.  Our friend Abbi at Spin the Windrose had a heartbreakingly similar experience months after our visit.

I’d love to say things are on the up but that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

Though I don’t doubt that setups like this obviously work positively in their conservation efforts, this felt more like a way to make money off incoming tourists than as a genuine means of turtle protection.  For us, it wasn’t so much about the cost of entry as the conditions that the adult turtles were kept in – we would have happily have paid twice the price had it been clear that funds raised were being reinvested into the centre to provide better homes for the turtles.

We visited hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Sri Lanka’s turtles but unfortunately left with a reminder that generally animals are better off left in the wild.

I know some friends have had amazing visits so it’s possible that we were just unfortunate in our choice of hatchery?  Maybe our expectations are different?  I’m not sure what to make of it but there is one thing I do know…

At least for us, we’ll stick to spotting turtles in their natural habitats.

If you would like to see turtles in the wild, they love riding the waves at Dalawella Beach.  We found half a dozen of so directly out from the rope swing.

This post is of course in no way affiliated with anyone and our thoughts are entirely our own.  Should you wish to visit (or avoid) this hatchery, it was the Sea Turtle Conservation Project & Hatchery, Koggala that we visited.

Have you been to visit the turtles in Sri Lanka?  If so, we’d love to hear of your experience and thoughts!


Unfortunately our visit to a Sri Lankan turtle hatchery was anything but what we'd hoped for. Find out what you need to know before deciding whether or not you too want to visit. Unfortunately our visit to a Sri Lankan turtle hatchery was anything but what we'd hoped for. Find out what you need to know before deciding whether or not you too want to visit.

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!


Love a good adventure?  Save one of these pins!

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.

Activities Eco Tourism Europe Iceland Scandinavia/Nordic Countries Tours

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – Better Than Iceland’s Golden Circle!

March 9, 2017

Some things just feel like they were meant to be.

Places, rugged and wild, that are so gorgeous, they just have to be seen.  Iceland was that for us.

Likewise, some people seem like they were born into their jobs, a perfect fit for what they’re doing.  Bessi of Moonwalker tours is the epitome of someone who’s found their calling – it’s practically impossible to imagine him doing anything else.

So you can imagine our excitement at getting to spend two whole days with him exploring the Land of Fire and Ice, my dream destination, Iceland!

Upon Bessi’s recommendation, we booked in to spend our first day at Snæfellsnes Peninsula and decided to rejoin him for the Golden Circle, Iceland’s most iconic day trip.

We didn’t initially know much about the Snæfellsnes Peninsula but, putting our faith in an Icelandic expert, we set off on what was to be one of our very best days on the island.  The following is our review of the day…

Meeting Bessi and Hitting the Road with Moonwalker

Incase you hadn’t already figured it out, the second we met Bessi we clicked.  I’d been speaking with him over email for a number of months where it was clear that his passion for Iceland and personable nature was to be a real highlight of our tour but somehow he exceeded our already high expectations.

The writing was on the wall when a few days before our tour Bessi flicked us an email – the northern lights were out over Reykjavik and knowing that we were in town and desperate to spot them, he took the time to let us know.  At that stage we’d not even met him in person but when he went out of his way to help us live out our northern-light-spotting dreams, we knew that Bessi was far more than your average tour guide.

With Moonwalker, nothing is ever a problem.  Bessi’s got an amazing sense of humour, is kind, patient and incredibly knowledgable about practically everything (music, history, folklore – I challenge you to ask him something about Iceland that he doesn’t know!).  There’s a reason he consistently pulls perfect Trip Advisor ratings out of the hat and trust me, he deserves every one of those stars.  Every single one.

Our Snæfellsnes Itinerary

As promised, Bessi arrived on time ready to show us the best of the west coast of Iceland and with the sun still well below the horizon, we set off on the Ring Road.  We stopped briefly on what Bessi assured us was normally a road – mountains of snow covered the tarseal and we bounded around in it, enjoying the slowly forming sunrise.  Before long it was onto the first of our many gorgeous stops for the day!

Búðir Church

One of the few remaining black churches in Iceland, the Búðir church was built in 1703 and after a checkered past, was finally reconstructed for the last time in 1987.  Covered in tar to protect its wooden cladding, this black church provides striking photos against the snow and cotton candy skies that Iceland is so well known for in winter.

Arnarstapi:  Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss

Not far from the Búðir church, we found ourselves standing in front of an intentionally placed pile of rocks.  A little unsure at just what we were looking at, Bessi shared with us the first of many Icelandic tales.  Legend says that Bárðar Snæfellsáss (deity of Mt. Snæfell), the guardian spirit of the area, was born half-man, half-giant.  As he grew, so did his giant-nature until he disappeared into the Snæfell Glacier, his spirit forever guarding the local people and surrounding area.

The sculpture was commissioned and later created by Ragnar Kjartansson, representing Bárðar’s spirit, an important part of local folklore.

From Bárðar’s sculpture we headed over to the coast, at times knee deep in snow, to admire the rugged beach below.  Centuries of waves crashing on the lava fields have left a collection of swirling basalt columns, unique to Iceland – I could have stayed there all day, watching the waves crash against the cliffside.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula Moonwalker Tours Iceland Nathan, Sarah and Bessi

Snaefellsjoekull National Park

Svalpufa-Pufubjarg: Londrangar

Our favourite basalt columns made another appearance further around the peninsular, only this time they were even more impressive.  Rising up from the ocean, their resilience against the harsh ocean was a sight to behold.

Londrangar and the adjoining hill, Svalthufa, form the remains of a volcanic crater, much of which has been eroded away over the years.  With the addition of younger lava fields, the topography of the area is amazing and if you take a second look, you’ll be able to spot what looks like an old ship in the silhouette of the pillars.

Dritvik Djúpalónssandur

Continuing our journey, we stopped at Dritvik Djúpalónssandur, a beautiful, secluded black pebble beach.

After climbing down to the shoreline, weaving our way between basalt boulders and pillars in a setting that absolutely belongs to the Icelandic elves we came across a series of ‘lifting stones’.  These perfectly formed little boulders were used for testing the strength of local fishermen in years gone by – starting with the monster Fullsterkur (full strength) weighing 154kg, to Hálfsterkur (half strength) at 100kg, Hálfdrættingur (weakling) at 54kg and working down to Amlóði (useless) at 23kg, would pit their strength against mother nature.

To qualify for work aboard the ships, potential fishermen had to lift at least the ‘weakling’ stone to hip height – how on earth they did it is anyone’s guess though!  Bessi warned us that we wouldn’t be able to lift even the lightest of the stones and though we tried, unsurprisingly he was spot on!

Once we realised we couldn’t manage much more than rolling the stones around (trust me, they weren’t normal 23kg stones!) we ambled through knee deep snow, marvelling at the valley we found ourselves in.

Upon reaching the shoreline we spotted countless pieces of debris from the Grimsby fishing trawler, a local boat that wrecked on Dritvik Djúpalónssandur back in March of 1948.  It was hard to believe how far inland the wreck had travelled, making it clear just how strong the waves could be at times.

Enjoy Iceland’s beaches but be mindful of their incredible power at the same time.  A safe visit is a good one.

A Black-Sand Beach Detour

It was the small touches on our tour with Bessi that we loved most.  If there was ever an opportunity for an extra photo stop or touch of fun, you could be sure that Bessi was already onto it.

Not quite sure of what to expect, he pulled over to the side of the road, urged me to turn on the GoPro and raced off onto one of Iceland’s many black-sand beaches.  Without another soul in sight – that’s what Iceland’s all about!

Stopping to Visit our Furry Friends – The Icelandic Horses

Fluffy, hardy, iconic.  Iceland is synonymous with its gorgeous horses!  To the rest of the world, they generally only get to pony height but in Iceland they’re definitely considered horses and boy are they cute.

I knew I wanted to get up close and personal with some Icelandic horses at some point in our trip and luckily for us, Bessi knows just the place!  A few times a week he pops along to a farm owned by a lovely elderly couple and, with a loaf of fresh bread in hand, helps ensure they maintain their ‘winter coat’.  With a few honks of the horn, these three characters come charging over – there’s no doubt they know what’s coming and that it’s the absolute highlight of their day!

 

With the  sun starting to sneak closer to the horizon, it was time to move on from our furry friends.  Our next stop was one that we could see clearly from the paddocks – the most photographed mountain in all of Iceland – Kirkjufell.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula Moonwalker Tours Iceland 4wd vehicle Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss

Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss

With its distinctive peak and cascading waterfalls in the foreground, Kirkjufell (Church Mountain) is a firm favourite with photographers and for good reason.  It’s absolutely breath-taking.

Towering over the landscape at 463m high, there’s a perfect photography spot tucked in just behind Kirkjufellsfoss (Church Mountain Falls) where, with a wide angle lens, you can snap the picture-perfect image that has become infamous.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula Moonwalker Tours Iceland Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss

With the sun setting on a gorgeous, fun-filled day of Icelandic sight-seeing, we begrudgingly began the trek back to Reykjavik over a mountain pass.  Bessi’s truck made short work of the deep snow but without his truck and driving experience, we wouldn’t have stood a chance on the road (if you could even call it that without any real sign of it!)

We had the most amazing day exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and though we loved the Golden Circle, if we could only have done one of the trips with Moonwalker, I’m going to make a controversial call and say that it’s the Snæfellsnes Peninsula that we’d recommend.  The scenery was beyond beautiful, the landscape diverse (it is after all known locally as offering everything you could want to see in a day trip) and the drive comfortable.  With the added benefit of being comparatively off the tourist trail, we often had stops entirely to ourselves which is exactly what you dream of when you think of Iceland’s great outdoors.

What are you waiting for?  The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is waiting for you!


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Leave Iceland's Golden Circle behind and head out to Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  Everything you could want in an Icelandic itinerary all in the one place!  We recommend touring with Bessi of Moonwalker - he was absolute magic! Snaefellsnes Peninsula - One of our favourite day trips from Reykjavik (it beats the Golden Circle, hands down!) Leave Iceland's Golden Circle behind and head out to Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  Everything you could want in an Icelandic itinerary all in the one place!  We recommend touring with Bessi of Moonwalker - he was absolute magic!

Thank you to Bessi at Moonwalker for so generously showing us the sites of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  After two days on the road he felt more like a friend than a tour guide and we could not recommend him enough!  As always, all thoughts are our own.

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