Japan had been on my list for a LONG time. For some reason though, I always struggled to make a trip happen. But finally, it happened! And since I was excited to make it here, I didn’t want it to be a quick trip.
In the end, we decided to spend 1 month total in Japan.
We spent the first two weeks in Kyoto and it was perfect. Every day was rewarding and we didn’t regret spending two weeks in this city at all. It’s calm, picturesque, friendly and full of activities and places to visit. The food is ever so tasty, it’s easy to get around and it’s also very affordable. It really was the ideal base.
We also were there during autumn and it was gorgeous as a result. The abundant nature and truly spectacular colors were far beyond anything we could have hoped for and it certainly helped make this an even more rewarding trip.
If you’re thinking of going to Kyoto, whether it’s for 2 days or 2 weeks, I hope the information below from my own experience proves helpful!
Since we were spending two weeks in Kyoto, we based our accommodation situation on three things – space, price and location. We work online every day so we wanted to have more space than a standard hotel room, which can be quite small in Japan. Of course, we also didn’t want to pay a fortune for accommodation either. And we preferred to be in a relatively central, but not overly touristy neighborhood.
After some searching, we found a place that matched all of the above.
Resi Stay Nishijin
For approximately $85 USD per night, we had a large studio (40 sq meters / 430 sq feet) with a small living room, two sofas, little kitchen, comfy beds and a balcony. It was quite modern, with the kind of bathroom and shower area that you want – Japanese style with all kinds of gadgets and settings. The wifi was strong, the heat and AC worked very well and it was spotless. Resi Stay has several locations in Kyoto but we chose the one on Nishijin. It was a local, quiet area, with small lanes full of quaint wooden houses, plenty of quality restaurants, a food market, good supermarkets and a bus stop in front of the building with buses that would take us anywhere we needed to go.
Also, since we love to walk all over the place, we were an approximate 30 – 60 minute walk from almost anywhere in the city. This suited us very well.
As Kyoto is a decent sized city, there are naturally a lot of different options for accommodation. I would recommend doing research first though on the type of neighborhood that you prefer to be based in. I know a lot of people immediately head for the Gion, Nishiki or Kyoto Tower areas but those can be very crowded. So it definitely depends on what you’re looking for.
Again, we managed to find a great deal on Booking.com for the Resi Stay Nishijin ($85 USD per night), so such deals are possible.
Food, Food, Food (You can eat it all with 2 weeks in Kyoto!)
Oh my. The food was incredible. Every single meal.
In the beginning, we would do a lot of research to find the best local restaurants to eat at. But by the end of our two weeks in Kyoto, we were confident that any place we went into would serve up a delicious meal, regardless of whether or not we could read the menu.
Some restaurants have English menus, some don’t. Some have photos of the dishes on the menus or on the walls, others don’t. Some also have beautifully artistic creations of their menu items in a display case in front of the restaurant or in the window, and of course, some don’t. So sometimes you know what you’re ordering and most of the time you have no idea.
Either way, eating in Kyoto and beyond was a major highlight of this trip.
Our food journey could be summed up by three categories:
1. Restaurants/Cafes – I could give a list of the places we ate at, but it’s not worth it. Trust me when I say that you just need to pop into any place you pass that looks interesting (especially if there’s a line of locals out front waiting to get in) and see how it goes. This was by far the best method of choosing restaurants and the success rate was 100%. From sushi to ramen, kaiseki to soba, Shojin ryori to okonomiyaki and everything in between, get ready for a food adventure like no other.
2. Nishiki Market – See below under activities. This place is food heaven and we visited this market several times in order to eat ALL the things.
3. Supermarkets – Kyoto’s fantastic supermarkets also played a role as there were several nights we just wanted to pick up some prepared food and eat back in our hotel room. Our favorite was Life Supermarket. The sushi at this supermarket was fresher and better than most sushi at proper restaurants in other countries. The set prepared meals (of which there are dozens) were always delicious too. This was such a cool way to eat here, and the shopping experience, which involved trying to figure out what most items were, was always super fun.
*Okay, I also need to mention the Japanese Fluffy Pancakes. If you don’t know about them, please make sure they are part of your Japan trip. We ate them more times than I’d like to admit. Insanely soft, fluffy, meringue based pancakes that can be made with all kinds of toppings such as fruit, chocolate, matcha, granola, caramel and more. Go to A Happy Pancake location (they can be found in many cities, including Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo), stand in line and wait for a table and then enjoy what will undoubtedly be the absolute best pancake you’ve ever tasted.
A lot of people talk about the Japan Rail Pass. It’s a pass that you can reserve before you enter Japan and it gives you unlimited rides on Japan Rail trains throughout the country. The price starts at about 30,000 JPY ($220) for 7 days, 47,000 JPY ($345) for 2 weeks and 61,000 JPY ($448) for 3 weeks. It’s a good deal if you’re going to use the trains often.
However, it’s worth doing research to see if this pass is indeed for you. We assumed we would need one, but after our research, we realized that it wouldn’t save us any money based on our particular itinerary. Since we were going to be in the Kyoto/Osaka region, then fly to Okinawa and then fly to Tokyo, the Japan Rail Pass was not suitable. In the end, our transportation costs were remarkably low, even without the Japan Rail Pass.
To start, we flew into Osaka Kansai Airport and this is what we did…
Arrival: Osaka Kansai Airport to Kyoto
Upon arrival at the Osaka Kansai Airport, we walked over to the airport train station went inside the JR Trains main office. The staff speak English and they can explain all of your transportation options.
We ended up purchasing the ICOCA Haruka Pass which was ideal for our stay.
It’s not exactly a pass though. It’s more like a card that you can top-up and use to pay for transportation on buses, subways and almost all trains (as well as vending machines and at some restaurants). The biggest benefit is a discount on the Kansai Express Haruka train from Osaka Kansai Airport to Kyoto. Since we needed to get from Kansai Airport to Kyoto and then back to Kansai Airport two weeks later for our flight to Okinawa, we got the round-trip discount.
We paid 5500 JPY ($40 USD) each for our ICOCA cards. This included 1500 JPY credit to be used on buses, trains and subways and a 4000 JPY roundtrip ticket for the Kansai Express Haruka train from/to the airport. In the end, we saved about 1000 JPY each on the airport train, making it very worthwhile.
Then, once we arrived in Kyoto, we simply used our ICOCA cards to tap on to buses, trains and the subway. It also worked for trains to Osaka and Nara, the subway in Osaka and for trains, subway and buses in Tokyo as well at the end of our Japan trip.
Trains – Again, we didn’t get the Japan Rail Pass because we realized that we wouldn’t be using trains often enough. We ended up taking the train from Kyoto to Osaka and back on one day and from Kyoto to Nara and back on another day. The total cost for those four train rides was 3360 JPY or $24 USD. That seemed like reasonable prices to us and the Japan Rail Pass would have cost a lot more than that. (We did use the Express train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku in Tokyo as well but the cost for that ride was 3050 JPY or $22 USD so it still didn’t justify purchasing the Japan Rail Pass since we only spent a total of $46 USD on trains.)
Buses – In Kyoto, the bus system is very easy to use. We used Google maps to figure out which buses we needed and then we simply used our ICOCA card to pay for each trip. The fare was 230 JPY per trip, which is only about $1.70 USD. We took the bus about 10 times during our stay for a total of $17.00.
Subway – We did not use the subway/metro system during our two weeks in Kyoto. Between the buses, taxis and walking, we covered everywhere we needed to go. However, we did take the subway/metro during our day trip to Osaka and it was also easy. We again used our ICOCA cards to pay for each ride, which cost either 180 JPY or 230 JPY depending on the distance. We took the subway 4 times during our day in Osaka and it cost us a total of 820 JPY ($5.85).
Taxis – Due to the favorable exchange during our stay, taxis were actually quite reasonable and far less expensive than we had imagined. We took 20 taxis during our 2 week stay in Kyoto and the total cost was 30,000 JPY or $214 USD. As we were in Kyoto in November, there were some cold and windy days where we simply wanted to get into a taxi and out of the cold. And since most rides cost $10 USD, it ended up being a good option. Also, the taxis are a cool experience with the automatically opening doors, extremely clean and roomy interiors and dedicated drivers who make sure they get you exactly where you need to go. There’s also no funny business so you can flag any taxi knowing you will simply pay the official metered fare.
Walking – We also walked a ton. Kyoto is a great walking city especially since it allows you to wander through random neighborhoods that you wouldn’t visit otherwise. This was certainly how we found many of our favorite restaurants, cafes, architectural curiosities, hidden temples and so on.
Activities for Two Weeks in Kyoto
With two weeks in Kyoto at our disposal, we took our time in terms of activities. We’re not the kind of travelers to make a list well in advance and to run around all day checking things off. We prefer to wake up, do some work (we both work online), look for a sight or area that seems interesting, head out for a late breakfast/early lunch and see where the day takes us.
During our stay, here’s where the days took us:
Fushimi Inari – Well worth visiting. This famous Shinto Shrine is dedicated to the god of rice and is home to thousands of orange torii gates that line the long pathway that loops around the hillside. We did the full 1.5 hour walk up the hill and back down again and it was beautiful. The higher up you go, the less tourists and the more time you have to soak up the peaceful setting.
Kinkaku-ji Temple – This temple is located in the west of Kyoto and it was our favorite. Kinkaku-ji is a Zen temple that is covered in gold leaf. It’s location, right on the edge of a small lake, makes for a mighty eye-catching sight. Naturally, the gardens around the temple were meditative too and there’s a nice path to roam around.
Nijo Castle – An impressive castle in the center of Kyoto that was once home to powerful shogun that ruled over Japan for 200 years. The site consists of a castle and palace but the palace was closed for renovations when we were there. But the wooden castle was quite a display of the shogun’s wealth and power with its endless rooms, intricate wood carvings, painted panels and sheer size. The grounds surrounding the castle, along with the very pleasant tea house/garden, made for a nice visit too.
Philosopher’s Path – This was a short and reflelction-inducing 2 km walk along a meditative tree-lined canal surrounded by nature and traditional homes. It’s located between the Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji temples on the east side of the city. If you walk slowly and visit several temples along the way, you can turn this activity into an all day event. This is especially the case if you stop for a coffee/pastry break at the cozy Botanic Coffee Kyoto halfway along the path.
Nishiki Market – This massive covered market stretches along one lane for what seems like an eternity. You enter one end and good luck trying to get to the other end without stopping dozens of times to try all kinds of street food being served at the food stalls along the way. Squid on a skewer, sea urchin, fried shrimp, omelette sandwiches, chicken katsu, roasted chestnuts, endless pastries, so many forms of mochi, dumplings, tofu and on and on and on…it never ends and it’s the perfect place to spend a couple of hours trying every food item you can. At the east end of the market, there is also a non-food market that stretches along two covered lanes going north to south. You can find some interesting shops here, including those that sell traditional Japanese artwork, so its worth exploring too.
Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street – A smaller version of Nishiki market, if this street is close to where you’re staying, it’s also worth visiting for some delicious food. It closes at 5:00pm so it’s more of a lunch area, but with its food stalls and tiny restaurants, there is an infinite amount of options and it’s much less crowded than Nishiki Market.
Gion – This is the well-known geisha district of Kyoto and it needs to be visited, at least once. It’s quite crowded with tourists during the day but if you duck away from the main streets, it quickly becomes more quiet. Traditional buildings and homes, picturesque wooden bridges, high-end restaurants on Hanamikoji Street, endless shops selling all kinds of Japanese food items and even more temples to enjoy can be found here. We visited this area twice, once during the day and once at night. During the day, we walked from Kennin-ji Temple (with its stunning paintings and Zen garden) to Hokan-ji Temple (famous for its 5-story pagoda), up to the Yasaka Shrine and then wandered through every lane we could find. At night the neighborhood is much quieter and more atmospheric with all the lanterns and lights, with some places to eat and several bars as well.
Miyagawasuji – This neighborhood is a quick 10 minutes walk south of Gion and the difference was notable. As one of the other last remaining geisha districts, it’s home to traditional homes and shops, tiny local eateries and some of the quaintest streets in Kyoto. However, there were very few visitors in this area. It’s a small neighborhood but definitely a unique place to visit to soak up a Gion-like vibe without the crowds.
Tea ceremony – We found a simple tea ceremony in the Gion neighborhood (Tea Ceremony Camellia) where we could learn about the tea tradition in a nice setting. The session was only 50 minutes but there were only 6 people participating, making it more intimate. The hostess was an elegant, refined woman who taught us about and demonstrated the traditional tea-preparation methods. We then prepared our own tea, drank it and that was that. It was a very pleasant activity.
Temples – We visited so many temples during our two weeks in Kyoto that I can’t name them all here. If we saw a temple, we would often poke our head into the entrance of the grounds. If something attracted us, we would go in (most temples charge between 300 – 1000 JPY entrance fee). We went into huge temples and tiny temples, and all kinds in between. While walking around random neighborhoods, we always kept our eyes open for some of the more hidden temples, sometimes located in residential areas. These were quite interesting as they would have no visitors and while small, they were often a peaceful oasis.
Arashiyama – Home to the famous bamboo forest, and also home to the biggest tourist crowds we saw during our entire trip. It threw us off as soon as we stepped off the local bus as there were just so many people. To get away from the crowds, we ducked into the Hogon-in Zen Buddhist temple since it seemed quiet. Luckily, it was and we were treated to some of the most wondrous and colorful autumn scenery we could have hoped for. The tranquil gardens immediately put us at ease. After this nice break, we walked straight to the Bamboo Forest which was, as expected, full of people walking shoulder to shoulder along the path. We walked quickly and at the end, we turned right along another path and kept walking. After 5 minutes, the crowds disappeared and we enjoyed a peaceful wander through local neighborhoods and nature. We soon reached Saga Toriimoto (by accident), a well-preserved street full of traditional style homes. That led us to the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple which had only 2 other people inside, its own (uncrowded) bamboo forest and thousands of interesting stone memorial statues.
This is what I love about travel – the randomness of days like this.
After the temple, we started walking towards Kyoto center (which was 2 hours away by foot). After 30 minutes, we came upon a simple cafe called Cafe Yamamoto and went inside. We were treated to a memorable experience with delicious home-made cakes, excellent coffee, a cozy interior and very friendly staff. It was a highlight being inside this welcoming, random place.
Imperial Palace – We never really planned to visit the massive Imperial Palace complex in the center of Kyoto. But on our last day, we had some free time so we walked over. And it was great. The massive grounds is basically a park, with plenty of paths to stroll along and as you guessed by now, no shortage of beautiful nature to enjoy. The Palace itself is open to everyone, for free, so you simply enter the main entrance. You can then take a guided tour or walk around on your own. It’s a large site so you need at least an hour.
Random neighborhoods – One of our favorite activities, which we spent some time almost every day doing, was to simply start walking. The goal was to walk through random neighborhoods and see what we found. Often, in these neighborhoods we would grab a local lunch or a coffee or a traditional pastry for an afternoon snack. One example was when we ended up in Nishimachi, an odd area away from the tourists where the local shops have monsters in front of their shops as a way to attract customers. So I definitely recommend giving yourself plenty of time to roam around Kyoto without a plan! I’ve written about my 5-minute rule to having local experiences and Kyoto is a solid destination to put it into action.
We do prefer slow travel, so we really enjoyed getting to know Kyoto more than if we had stayed for only a couple of days. We also really loved the quiet, traditional atmosphere of Kyoto. But of course, there’s so much to see in Japan so we needed to go beyond the city limits as well. On two occasions, we left Kyoto to visit other cities.
Day trip #1: Osaka
Here’s how our day trip to Osaka went:
- Took a 45 minute train from Karasuma Station in Kyoto to Osaka Umeda Station
- Went straight to lunch at Kaiten Sushi Sakae (had to try the sushi belt experience!)
- Took the metro over to Osaka Castle and visited the extensive gardens
- Hopped on the metro and went to wander around the Shinsekai neighborhood, known for its 100+ year old colorful shopping district
- Walked across the city to the Shinsaibashi area to check out the Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street, eat some Japanese fluffy pancakes and soak up the energetic atmosphere
- After sunset, strolled around to check out all the activity with the massive brightly lit neon signs, endless eateries, markets, shops and crazy crowds
- Did some food tasting throughout the lanes of the famous Dotonburi area and still kept room for a seafood dinner as well
- Found ourselves trying some Japanese whisky at a random bar on a random street corner
- Took a train back to Kyoto later at night
Day trip #2: NARA
This was another perfect day trip. We boarded a train at Kyoto Station and 45 minutes later we were in Nara. And we ended up staying in the town for the entire day, getting back to Kyoto at around 9:00pm. Here’s what we did:
- Walked from the Nara train station through the quaint center of town, along Sanjo dori Street
- Had an excellent ramen lunch at Genkishin
- Spent a lot of time roaming around Nara Park, home to temples, shrines, gardens, nature walks and thousands of wild deer that bow their heads in hopes of getting food from passersby
- Walked along many of the paths throughout the parks in order to enjoy the nature
- Visited the 1300 year old Todaiji Temple that is one of the largest wooden structures in the world and home to a huge 15 meter high bronze Buddha statue
- Went for a wonderful sake tasting at Harushika Sake Brewery (500 JPY / $3.75 USD for 6 types of local sake)
- Went to the historic Nara Hotel for an afternoon snack at their tea lounge (the hotel has hosted emperors, royalty, presidents, popes, actors and many more)
- Walked back through the parks to the Kasuga-taisha Shinto Shrine
- One last slow meander through the parks during the evening, then through the center of town (maybe stopping along the way to enjoy some street food!) and back to the Nara train station
- 45 minute train back to Kyoto
That sums up our two weeks in Kyoto and the surrounding region! If you have any questions at all about visiting this area, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I’d be happy to assist. Enjoy your trip to Japan!
Remote work is on the rise, and becoming a digital nomad is more enticing than ever. Thanks to the pandemic, more people have experienced the benefits of remote work than ever before. It’s now projected that in 2027, more than half of the total U.S. workforce population will turn to freelance and remote work.
However, before you decide to become a digital nomad in the next year, it’s worth understanding that switching from being a traditional employee to going full-nomad is daunting and challenging.
To help ease the transition and make the process less scary, we’ve created a checklist of sorts of things to consider before embarking on this journey.
1. Find appropriate work
Becoming a digital nomad isn’t something that happens overnight. Before you embark on this journey of becoming one, you’ll need to find appropriate jobs that fit this lifestyle. For example, specific jobs, like those in the finance and banking sector, may not allow for remote work as easily due to legal restrictions and requirements. Jobs in publishing, social media, and even software engineering sectors might be more appropriate for remote work and could allow you to become a digital nomad more easily.
If you’re looking for work as a digital nomad, consider applying for remote roles. Sites like LinkedIn, Upwork, and Remote.co, have specific remote job listings that could help narrow your choices. If you’re currently employed, you might want to consider asking if you could go remote in your existing company. Before you switch and go remote, consider all the differences that might come with a remote contract, too.
2. Research every location you might want to work out of
A stable internet connection is one of the most important things to consider when deciding on which country to work out of. While the Indonesian island of Bali might be beautiful, the country doesn’t necessarily have the strongest internet connection. Suppose you’re a graphic designer or video editor. In that case, a weak internet connection could lead to slower download and upload speeds, which can be really frustrating, especially if you’re chasing a deadline.
That said, it’s crucial to research aspects like Wi-Fi connectivity and current events and be informed of other issues that might affect your productivity levels. Sites like SpeedTest can help determine your internet connection speed in a particular country. Alternatively, Reddit forums like r/digitalnomad could provide insight into a country you’re interested in.
3. Consider your cybersecurity needs
Unlike traditional employees, freelancers and digital nomads don’t have the luxury of a cybersecurity team to protect themselves should malicious third parties choose to target and steal information from them. When leading a nomadic lifestyle, it’s important to think about your cybersecurity needs. This is particularly important when managing money, receiving payments for your work, and paying bills overseas. You might also need secure internet access when filing for taxes and working on confidential documents.
A dedicated VPN for expats is a great way to protect your privacy, secure your internet connection, and ultimately protect your devices. A VPN, or virtual private network, runs your internet connection through an encrypted tunnel, preventing anyone from seeing your online activity.
4. Get quality health insurance
Before you book flight tickets, be sure to research good health insurance plans. Accidents, missed flights, and lost baggage can happen, especially when you’re traveling, so purchasing a digital nomad insurance plan that covers these instances is vital.
For example, companies like SafetyWing and World Nomads create specific plans for digital nomads.
5. Have backup plans
Last but definitely not least, make sure to have backup plans should becoming a digital nomad not pan out for you. Regardless of whether you’re a traditional employee or a digital nomad, losing your job is a genuine risk and can happen to anyone. However, the pain of losing your job while on your digital nomad journey and away from your home base can be harder for some than others. That said, it’s worth thinking about what to do should this not work out for you. For example, always ensure that you have emergency funds in case you need to fly back home, if the country you’re in experiences some sort of unrest or if you lose your job.
Becoming a digital nomad might not always be easy. Still, the experience is rewarding, especially when you get to decide your schedule and simultaneously see different parts of the world. With these tips, we hope we’ve covered some of the vital things you’ll need to consider before you take on this exciting journey.
The United States is one of the most visited countries among tourists, with more than 80 million travelers from around the world visiting every year. The country is chock-full of interesting attractions, natural wonders and big city life and it would take years to see them all.
Most travelers typically tend to stick to tried and true tourist attractions like Times Square in New York City, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada.
However, there are so many other tourist spots that deserve a visit as well!
When planning your second visit to the United States, make sure to add these destinations to your itinerary and check here for helpful information regarding the EVUS program.
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the most picturesque places in the United States — and perhaps even the world!
Located in the state of Arizona, this national park is visited by nearly 6 million travelers a year, with about 40% of guests coming from outside the United States.
The Grand Canyon is famous for its natural beauty, panoramic viewpoints, and cultural significance, so it’s no wonder why it rightfully earned a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The flora and fauna in the canyon changes depending on the elevation, while at the bottom there is the mythical Colorado River. During the summer, be sure to enjoy kayaking, rafting, fishing, or even water skiing on the river. Travelers who love nature and the great outdoors should be sure to add the Grand Canyon to their itinerary.
Route 66 is rightfully considered the main road of the entire United States and the mother of all other roads. In fact, the route is even nicknamed the Mother Road thanks to a mention in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath.
The route spans a length of 3,665 km (2,450 mi) and connects Los Angeles (California) on the west coast to Chicago (Illinois) in the northeast. Along the way, travelers pass through major cities like Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Springfield, and St. Louis across eight US states, as well as tourist attractions like the Grand Canyon and Mississippi River.
To truly get into the spirit of Route 66, be sure to rent a retro car and stop by local mom-and-pop restaurants to order a classic peach cobbler, Americana style!
The Museum Mile
Located on Fifth Avenue in New York, the Museum Mile is, like the name states, a long area where many museums are located next to each other. Those who enjoy culture and museum hopping should definitely block off a day or two to explore the places along the Museum Mile!
The museums here are based on a variety of different topics and interests, including the Museum of the National Academy, El Museo del Barrio (on Latino culture), National Museum of Design, Museum of African Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (20th century art), and many others.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is considered one of the most beautiful and diverse nature reserves in the United States. It’s the third most-visited national park in the United States, just behind Great Smoky Mountains and Zion National Park.
Yellowstone is striking in its size (it covers more than 2.2 million acres!) and is located on the territory of the three states: Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Here, guests are treated to jaw-dropping landscapes, huge mountains, caves, waterfalls, and rivers.
As a bonus, there are nine museums located around the territory of the national park, like the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the Idaho Potato Museum, and the Museum of the National Park Ranger.
Mendenhall Glacier, in the state of Alaska, is an incredible natural attraction that gives travelers the unique opportunity to walk inside an ice cave! Walking through the labyrinths of the glacier, visitors can see a unique phenomenon where refracting light breaks through the ice and scatters around, creating an incredibly beautiful scene.
Every year the glacier melts and shrinks, which means visiting this place can be a truly rare opportunity to see the glacier before it disappears completely.
Lake Tahoe is the most famous freshwater lake in the United States, having formed between 2 and 3 million years ago. It is located about 320 kilometers northeast of San Francisco and is a very popular holiday getaway for many locals and second-time visitors.
The location has a very developed infrastructure, including intercity transportation, hotels, cabins, restaurants, gas stations, and much more.
Lake Tahoe receives tourists all year round. During the summer, travelers can swim in the lake, chill out on the beaches, or go hiking, and in the winter, the area is frequented by skiers and snowboarders looking to slide down the Olympic-worthy slopes.
Although most people have some familiarity of Mount Rushmore, only a few have visited on their first trip to the United States — making it a perfect destination for returning visitors!
The mountain is notable for the fact that it is carved with portraits of four of the most famous US presidents: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. The carved portraits are striking in their size, with the average height of each bas-relief coming in at around 18.6 meters (60 feet).
The post What to See in the United States if it’s Not Your First Trip appeared first on Wandering Earl.
After recently realizing that I need more nature in my life, we decided to spend some time outside of Lisbon. As a digital nomad, I felt lucky that I could just pick up and go, knowing that I can still get work done along the way.
So we looked at several destination options. But then a friend recommended the area around Serra da Estrela National Park and we immediately loved the idea. I honestly think we put this Portugal road trip together in about 10 minutes. We simply wanted to get out into nature and if a friend said this area was worth visiting, that was good enough. We booked a rental car and a hotel and four days later we were ready.
The trip proved to be PERFECT. And I’m convinced that anyone looking to enjoy some time in the countryside of Portugal visiting small villages, hiking through impressive nature, breathing in the fresh air and eating some really good food, should head to this region as well.
Here’s exactly what we did…
Day 1: Lisbon to Manteigas (the Portugal road trip begins)
We picked up our rental car in the center of Lisbon. I used Sixt car rental, which I’ve used before in Portugal. It’s always been reliable, easy and affordable in my experience. Given that we were headed into the mountains, I went with an SUV so that we’d feel a bit safer. It cost 40€ per day including insurance.
And then, off we went on this Portugal road trip!
- Left Lisbon at 2:00pm and began the drive north.
- Drove via the A1 and A23 highways, had a failed attempt to find a good place for a coffee break in the town of Entroncamento, and then continued.
- At the town of Malpique, we left the highway and took N232, a windy road that went through picturesque villages, with impressive mountain scenery as well.
- 40 minutes later we arrived in the small mountain village of Manteigas.
- Checked in at the Hotel Berne (simple, but great rooms with views out over the town and valley, excellent breakfast and very easy to park here, which is rare in these parts with all the narrow roads).
- Walked into town and ate at Restaurante Paragem Serradalto, one of the few restaurants open. We had some bread, cheese, olives, trout and local wine.
- Then we walked back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep.
Day 2: Manteigas to Serra da Estrela + 2 hikes
After breakfast at the hotel, we started our day out and about at 10:30am…
- Drove along Rua da Lapa, heading south and then on to the very narrow N338 that went along the Zezere River.
- Enjoyed the gorgeous scenery of the Glacial Valley of Zezere next to us.
- Arrived at Covao d’Ametade Park for a quick walk to some of the valley viewing areas.
- Continued driving another 15 minutes to the Serra da Estrela National Park.
- Stopped at the impressive lookouts along the way.
- Did the 1 hour hike down to Covao do Meio (picturesque artificial mountain lake).
- Drove to Torre, the highest mountain peak in the Serra da Estrela mountain peak (and highest point on mainland Portugal).
- Ate fresh sandwiches for lunch while sitting on a rock overlooking the stunning mountain range.
- Drove 20 minutes to Lagoa Comprida (Comprida Lake) which is the start of another great hiking trail.
- 3 hour return hike to Covao dos Conchos (an artificial lake with a bizarre tunnel in the middle – the hike was easy/moderate and passed through some really beautiful landscapes the entire way – highly recommended!).
- Drove back to Manteigas along N339 and N232, two incredible mountain roads that offered constant breathtaking views (including bright green pastures full of huge, scattered boulders).
Day 3: Manteigas to Covilha + forest hike
Looking to head in a different direction, we researched several other nearby towns to visit. In the end, we landed on Covilhas for no real reason other than it looked interesting. And so the Portugal road trip continued, and off we went at 10:30am…
- Drove 45 minutes to Covilha along the N338 and N339 mountain roads.
- Visited the Santa Maria Maior church which is covered in blue and white tiles.
- Walked all over the center of town and found a ton of interesting murals on the sides of buildings (check out the small lanes!).
- Had a coffee at the cafe in the Public Garden of Covilha, overlooking the rest of the town below.
- Lunch at Alkimya (great restaurant with delicious food, a unique atmosphere and an wonderful owner/waiter).
- Drove back towards Manteigas along a different route (N18 to N232) that led us to the very top of the mountains behind Manteigas.
- Using AllTrails app again, we did this 1 hour forest hike (Rotas das Faias) at the top of the mountain (nice scenery through a pine forest).
- Returned to the hotel via crazy windy road that led straight into town.
- Dinner at Hotel Berne.
Day 4: Manteigas to Piodao
With a full day to visit somewhere a little farther away, we decided to do some more hiking. So we looked at the AllTrails app (shows all the walking/hiking trails in an area) and settled on what seemed to be an ideal hike in the Serra do Açor protected region. The main focus of the hike was the halfway point – the tiny mountain village of Piodao.
We left Manteigas at 9:30am and began the day.
- Drove to Serra da Estrela National Park and straight across until we reached the N338, which took us to the town of Vide.
- From Vide, we drove to the village of Foz de Egua on CM1134 (another incredible road scenery-wise, but bumpy and narrow!).
- We parked in the village of Foz de Egua.
- Began our hike to Piodao village following the AllTrails map.
- The hike was easy/moderate and took 1.5 hours (surprise, surprise – the scenery was gorgeous, with lots of cows and sheep, trees, valleys and fresh air – it was one of the best hikes I’ve taken in a long, long time).
- Reached the really quaint village of Piodao and had lunch at the excellent O Solar dos Pachecos.
- Walked all over the village, through all the narrow lanes (really attractive village!).
- Continued our hike along the Eastern trail back to Foz de Egua.
- This part of the hike was easy, mostly downhill and super pleasant (it took about 45 minutes to reach the suspension bridge at the end).
- We climbed up the stairs to the top of Foz de Egua (where our car was parked alongside the road).
- Returned to Manteigas via the craziest route we drove on during this trip (SEE THE MAP BELOW!).
- Be careful with this route as there is a very narrow 3km stretch that is dirt only and brings you right up close to the edge, with a massive drop-off into the valley!
- We stopped for a view and celebrated being alive after the harrowing drive.
- Arrived back in Manteigas at 5:00pm.
- We tried to go to the hot springs at the Termas de Manteigas Hotel but they were fully booked (if you book advance, this would be a great way to finish the day!).
- Dinner back at Hotel Berne.
Day 5: Manteigas to Lisbon (the end of our Portugal road trip)
On this day, we returned to Lisbon. It was an easy day as we left Manteigas at 10:00am and arrived back at the Sixt car rental location in the heart of Lisbon at 1:30pm. As soon as we entered the city though, we instantly wanted to turn around and head back out towards the peaceful, therapeutic countryside. Luckily, in Portugal, such places, and their benefits, are never far away.
If you are planning to travel in Asia, India is one of the top destinations that you shouldn’t miss. Over the years, India has gained a lot of attention from international and local visitors that want to explore the diverse landscape and geography, enjoy an array of sumptuous Indian cuisine, and explore the mountains, beaches, backwaters and even the wildlife. Speaking of wildlife, India currently hosts the largest tiger population in the world and therefore you can always look for trips that would allow you to photograph tigers in the wild.
Encountering tigers in the wild is a thrilling experience and therefore you need to look for tours that can take you closer to action to help you photograph these majestic big cats. Reputed providers with talented guides like, Naturetrek can offer you wildlife tours in India and beyond with experts.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the best places to photograph tigers in the wild in India.
Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
Named after the legendary naturalist Jim Corbett, this national park is the best wildlife reserve in India where you can photograph tigers. This national park was the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative and currently is home to the most tigers in India. Nestled in the Nainital district, this park is set against the picturesque backdrop of Almora and Nainital. The park offers various jeep safari plans that take you close to the action to click some of the best wildlife shots you can get. With lush green forests all around, you can also enjoy various streams, rivers and waterfalls that cut through the vast area of the park. Apart from the tiger, the park also protects the Asian elephant and the great one-horned rhinoceros.
Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
Being part of the much popular Project Tiger initiative, the Bandipur National Park has also emerged as one of the best places in India to photograph tigers in the wild. It has the second-highest concentration of tigers in India. The park enjoys a typically tropical climate with wet and dry seasons and harbours plenty of wildlife animals like Indian elephant, sloth bear, golden jackal, four-horned antelope and mugger crocodile. With plenty of flora and fauna to discover, the park is a paradise for wildlife lovers and those who want to capture some excellent wildlife pictures. You can also enjoy a weekend getaway at the park with your family and friends.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Nestled in the heart of Assam, Kaziranga National Park is home to the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceros, but it also has one of the highest densities of tigers in India making it a perfect place for wildlife photographers to capture these big cats in action. However, apart from one-horned rhinoceros and tigers, the park is home to elephants, wild water buffalo and swamp deer (barasingha). The park is immensely vast and offers shelter to birds and animals of a wide variety. Also, various rivers like the Brahmaputra pass through it creating small bodies of water. The park is also a World Heritage Site and therefore experiencing Kaziranga is an adventure in itself.
Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka
Formerly known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Nagarhole National Park spreads over the Kodagu and Mysore district. Like Jim Corbett and Bandipur National Park, this park is also an important Tiger Reserve. With plenty of natural streams and rivulets, the park is home to tigers, Asiatic wild dogs, Asiatic elephants, gaurs, sambals, four-horned antelopes and southwestern langurs. Nagarhole National Park is also known for its high-density of tiger population which attracts plenty of wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and scientists to observe, take pictures and study them. This park is also home to a wide variety of birds which frequent this park.
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
Known as one of the oldest national parks in Maharashtra, the Tadoba National Park, also known as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is a part of the Project Tiger initiative. The park is a 3-hour drive from the city of Nagpur and offers a great way for many wildlife enthusiasts and photographers to see tigers in their natural habitat. The park looks great in the post-monsoon season from October when you can click pictures of tigers as well as birds and flowers that you can find all over the park.
Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
When you are traveling to India for photographing tigers you must visit the state of Madhya Pradesh. Also known as Kanha-Kisli National Park, the Kanha Tiger Reserve is among the top spots in India to photograph tigers in the wild. It is certainly the biggest national park right in central India. Nestled in the Maikal range of Satpuras, the Kanha National Park has remained the prime destination for tiger enthusiasts and photographers that flock from all corners of India and the world at large. While the park hosts a good population of Bengal tigers, it also is home to the Indian jackal, Bengal fox, Indian leopard, sloth bear, swamp deer, gaur and the very rare blackbuck. The park is also a nesting and migrating place for more than 300 species of birds that frequent here.
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
In terms of sheer size, the Ranthambore National Park is certainly one of the largest in the northern part of India. Named after the historic Ranthambore Fort which lies within the park, it became a part of the Project Tiger initiative in 1973. The park harbours dry deciduous forests and has plenty of open grassy meadows that become a perfect ground for tigers. If you are planning to take pictures of tigers in the wild you can take up the jeep safari plans that allow you to be close to the action. Apart from tigers, Ranthambore National Park is home to the Indian leopard, elephants, wild water buffalo, gaur, blackbuck, sambar, spotted deer and many more animals and birds.
Sundarban National Park, West Bengal
Straddling India and Bangladesh, the Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest. The area stretches from River Hooghly in India to River Baleswar in Bangladesh. The Sundarban National Park is a part of the area on the Indian side which is now a national park, a biosphere reserve and one of the largest tiger reserves for the Bengal tiger in eastern India. The park is also inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visiting the Sundarban National Park from November to March is the best time when the weather is pleasant and clear for sightings.
Apart from these national parks and tiger reserves, you can also find tigers in Pench Tiger Reserve also known as Pench National Park which is one of the premier tiger reserves in India. On the other hand, Bandhavgarh National Park is also a prominent tiger reserve in India that can offer you glimpses of tigers in their natural habitat.
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