your guide to Europe off the beaten path

Author: Zorica

Five Great Hikes in the Balkans

The Balkans are a fantastic place to go hiking or for an outdoors holiday. With plenty of mountains, lakes, and forests, the Balkans offer a true opportunity for adventure and…

The Balkans are a fantastic place to go hiking or for an outdoors holiday. With plenty of mountains, lakes, and forests, the Balkans offer a true opportunity for adventure and some of the most spectacular views. You can always choose between short and long distance hiking trails, depending on your level of fitness and available time.

And if the only thing you’re missing is inspiration here are the five great hikes in the Balkans;

Mount Olympus

The highest mountain in Greece and the home of Greek gods according to Greek mythology, Mount Olympus has always attracted the attention of people. The mountain is located 80 km southwest of Thessaloniki and is relatively easy to get to. It offers numerous hiking paths, among which the Litochoro – Prionia – Spilios Agapitos is the most popular.

The route consists of walking along the beautiful Enipea Canyon, Agios Dionysios monastery, spectacular Enipea waterfalls and more. Due to many ascents and descents, it is more suitable for experienced hikers.

If you decide to stay on the mountain you can sleep in one of the refuges. The one in Agapitos is the most popular.

The length of the route is 17 km and it takes around 8 hours to complete it.

Rtanj Mountain

Rtanj won’t top the lists of the biggest mountains in Serbia but it is definitely one of its most mysterious. With its pyramidal shape, there were many theories of the existence of this mountain. Some believe it is alien’s creation while others sought shelter prior the famous Mayan doomsday which obviously didn’t happen.

Theories aside, Rtanj mountain is a beautiful hiking spot with lovely villages in its vicinity. It is also famous for local tea called Rtanj which has many health benefits.

Rtanj’s highest peak Siljak offers beautiful views of the area and the mountain is home to many rare healing herbs. The mountain is best accessible from the town of Boljevac.

> Accommodation in and around Boljevac 

Vitosha Mountain

Vitosha mountain dominates Sofia’s cityscape and is the city’s most notable symbol. It is one of Bulgaria’s best mountains for hiking, skiing, and alpinism and is also the oldest natural park in the Balkans.

The best hiking paths on Vitosha are Aleko Hut – Cherni Vrah peak; Boyana Church – Boyana Waterfall and Vladaya – Golden Bridges.

Boyana is Sofia’s elite suburb and Boyana Church is listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

The easiest way to get to the mountain is with a bus or a taxi. Buses can have sometimes irregular schedules and taxis are inexpensive so I’d recommend saving time by going with the latter option. If you don’t have time to organize this daily trip by yourself you can choose to book a tour to the mountain. Also, don’t forget to check out my detailed guide to Sofia.

> Accommodation in Sofia

The Accursed Mountains

The Accursed Mountains have always topped the lists of great hikes in the Balkans, and Europe in general. There are three national parks situated in the mountains – one is in Montenegro and the other two in Albania.

One of Europe’s most remote areas, the Accursed Mountains offer beautiful scenery, picturesque villages and a real mental challenge! This walk is best for the more experienced hikers.

You can start your tour from the town of Shkoder and pay a visit to the nearby Rozefa fortress. Albania used to be isolated for years, however, that’s slowly changing and the country is drawing more attention thanks to its beautiful beaches and the Accursed Mountains. You can read more about my journey to Albania here.

Durmitor Mountain

Durmitor is a national park in northern Montenegro. This area is famous for the Tara Canyon which is the deepest in Europe. The town of Zabljak from where most hikes are starting is the highest populated town in the Balkans.

Durmitor is mostly known for its glacier lakes. There’s 18 of them and Crno Jezero (Black Lake) is the most famous. It is very close from the main town of Zabljak. Crno Jezero is a good starting point for half-day and daily hikes.

Walking through beautiful forests, admiring the lakes and tasting authentic local cuisine, are one of the top and must have experiences in Northern Montenegro. These features regularly place the mountain among the greatest hikes in the Balkans.

> Accommodation in Zabljak

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How To Have Fun While Traveling Without Blowing Your Budget

Saving money for travel is one of the most shared travel advice on the Internet. But what about having fun while traveling without blowing your budget? Most people avoid travel…

Saving money for travel is one of the most shared travel advice on the Internet. But what about having fun while traveling without blowing your budget?

Most people avoid travel for this sole reason- they worry that they’ll be bored to death if they travel alone and that having fun equals blowing their budget.

I’ve traveled to more than 20 countries and undertook many solo trips and I’ve never been bored or left with no things to do. Here’s how you can travel for cheap and have a lot of fun at the same time! 

Use Couchsurfing

Vagabund bar Berlin -traveling without blowing your budget

Most people relate Couchsurfing to staying at someone’s home for free, but it’s much more than that. Sure, you can find people who would be willing to host you but if you’re in a new place and want to hang out with the locals Couchsurfing is a perfect fit.

You can leave a public message and leave it to people to contact you, or you can check out the website to see all events that are happening in your area. These events are almost always free. You can join weekly meetups, free walking tours, live music, picnics etc. 

Couchsurfing also has diverse groups so you can find people with similar interests.

No wonder why the sharing economy websites became so popular!

Go on a Free Tour

You’ll find free tours in almost every major city of the world. Instead of paying for pricey private tours that cost from 100 to 200$, you can go on a free tour and have fun! The offer is rich- there are free walking tours, free cycling tours, free cultural tours, pub crawls and more.

If you’re going to Berlin for example just google ‘Berlin free tours’. You’ll be swamped with the possibilities. Free tours are not totally free as you are expected to tip your guide at the end of the tour. However, it’s still a good value for money and you’ll most likely meet other people.

Visit Museums on a Specific Time

Nikola Tesla Museum - Belgrade travel guide

Did you know that you can visit some of the world’s most famous museums for free if you’re there at the specific time?

You can visit Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel for free every last Sunday of the month. If you’re in Paris, you can go to Louvre for free every first Sunday of the month. Check the website of museum you want to visit for more detailed information.

Also, never buy tickets from unauthorized sellers or from people just outside the building. You’ll most likely be a subject of scam and pay 4-5 times higher of the original cost. If you book your ticket online in many cases you’ll also be able to skip the line and you’ll avoid possible scams.

Free Cultural Events

There’s always a wide array of entertainment choices or a cool art exhibit going on with no entrance fee! Finding cool local spots and events is hard when you’re a tourist. Do some online research, check out the tourism board website of your destination, and locals’ blogs for insider tips.

Check out Meetup

Meetup is another good social networking site. The site can help you find and join groups that share your similar interests whether that’s politics, books, health, IT, outdoors, LGBT culture etc.

Walk and Explore

Heroes Square Budapest

Your two feet can take you far! Instead of going on those sightseeing buses or expensive private tours why not grab a map and explore the city by walking? Not only you’ll be more physically active but you’ll be able to have a better glimpse of the way of life by local people and save more money for other fun activities.

Check out Facebook events

One of my favorite FB features is their events tool. When you’re in a new place you can check out the events page and see all the cool happenings in your area. Most of the time these events are totally free or require a small entrance fee. Parties, free film screenings, language exchanges, group hiking, exhibitions- you’ll find it all on FB events. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to find new things to do.

Attend Free Festivals

Admit it, some festivals can be a serious blow to your budget. Luckily, there are many free and affordable festivals without big price tag, where you can still have a lot of fun. Check out the official tourism board website of the destination you’re visiting for the list of festivals and events happening in the area.

Stay in Hostels

Tirana Backpacker Hostel

Garden of the hostel

Sometimes just being surrounded by people makes everything better. Hostels are social environments with people from all over the world. They’re a great way to save money on accommodation and in many instances hostels organize free tours for their guests, prepare BBQs and other types of social mixers. No wonder why many travelers opt for hostels when they embark on a solo trip to Europe. Here’s a good resource on how to find cheap accommodation in Europe.

If you have camera, create art

You don’t need expensive or professional camera to take great photos. Your cellphone is enough too. Your time abroad is bound to be filled with new experiences and interesting people. It is something we like to memorialize and treasure – because life is made of experiences. Taking photos can be great stress therapy too! You can find out more about mobile photography in one of my previous posts here.

Spend time in the nature

Mother Earth gave us fantastic nature so why not enjoy it? You can have a light picnic in the park or go hiking. I love visiting botanical gardens as they’re so beautiful and peaceful. Some of them are free but most require a fee. Nevertheless, it will be more than worthwhile!

Go to Free Film Screenings

If you’re traveling during the Summer you’re in luck! Almost every city has outdoor film screenings! Imagine lounging in a park and watching Dazed and Confused or some other great summer flick. It’s also a great place to meet people. The atmosphere is always resembling to watching a movie with your best friends rather than being in a cinema. There is chatter all around as people yell out funny commentary much to everyone’s pleasure, and did I mention the street vendors bring out their best snacks?

Use your student card

If you’re a student you’ll most likely own a student card which entitles you to many discounts and free perks even. These cards offer discounts on accommodation, transportation, museums and other attractions. ISIC is the most famous card of this kind.

Get city tourist cards

budapest card worth buying

Almost every major city and their tourism office offer tourist cards. They range from 1-day, 3-day to 7-day passes and offer free transportation, a guidebook and more than hundreds of discounts. Besides the ordinary tourist passes there are also museum passes which can be a great deal and money-saver if you’re interested in art.

Language exchanges

Another fun thing to do is to go to a language exchange meetings. The entrance is free, you can meet a lot of locals and learn a bit of the local language or perhaps, you can help someone with your own! Also expect a lot of laughter 🙂

Drink in the park or utilize Happy Hour

Drinking in some cities can be really expensive so you may as well utilize those happy hour offers. If its summer, even better, you can buy drinks and enjoy them in parks and outside areas. That’s what people do in Berlin. Just make sure to read local laws, not everywhere is allowed to drink outside.

Check out local newspapers and websites

You can also hunt for fun things to do in local newspapers or websites. For example many cities have free magazines that you can find in tourism offices, your hotel etc. They have news on latest happenings and most of them have a listing with events happening in the area.

Also there are many blogs dedicated to a specific destination. You can research those too before traveling.

Use FourSquare

FourSquare app has been a life saver in so many instances. It is probably the best app if you’re looking for recommendations on restaurants, bars, activities, shopping etc. You can filter the results by distance, ratings and find the best match.

Check out coupon websites

Coupon websites sometimes have great deals on activities, shopping and day trips. You can subscribe to these sites and get all the great deals delivered directly to your inbox.

Food Kiosks

the Central Market Hall Budapest

Food markets and street food stalls are budget-friendly eatery places with a great atmosphere. You can try many different foods and enjoy the unique setting.

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How to Get a German Freelance Visa as an American

This is a guest post by a Berlin-based freelance journalist Rachel Stern. You can check out her official website or follow her on Twitter.  Whether you’re seeking new career opportunities…

This is a guest post by a Berlin-based freelance journalist Rachel Stern. You can check out her official website or follow her on Twitter

Whether you’re seeking new career opportunities or political refuge from the U.S., Germany is a vibrant country for Americans to live and work in. It is expected to add up to 760,000 new jobs by the year’s end, many in marketing or research where native English speakers or people with an international background are in high demand.

Nationals of certain countries are allowed to apply for German freelance visa after they have arrived in Germany, however for most countries they require that you apply for one at their local embassy or consulate before coming to Germany.

But if you first come to the country as a freelancer, acquiring a visa can be more burdensome — though manageable if you cover all of your bases. Here are my tips of successfully acquiring a German freelance visa, taken from first-hand experience in Berlin at the Ausländerbehörde (or in less intimidating language: foreigner’s office).

Where to Start

First, you will need to head to the Foreigner’s Office Website to book an appointment. You can select “Residence Permit for the Purpose of Freelance or Self-Employment — initial Issuance”. This simply means it’s your first time applying for German freelance visa. The freelance status applies to independent contractors, whether a journalist like myself or engineer.

As an American, you can come to Germany on a three-month tourist visa, and book an appointment during this time. However, if an appointment does not free up until after this period, you have until the date of your appointment to remain in the country.

What You’ll Need

1. Two or three letters from potential freelance employees

These need to be in German, and demonstrate specifically how much you will earn per project/assignment or hour you work. But these letters have to demonstrate that you are contributing to the local economy and possess a skill that Germans don’t.

Nowadays usually just being a native English speaker won’t cut it, but showing a more specific requirement — such as specifically American English or doing market research for a North American audience — will. In the end, they will want to see that you will have at least 800 euros coming in a month, but this will vary based on the city you’re living.

Still, these letters don’t have to turn into paid work. They just have to say that the companies or contractors would be willing to work with you.

2. Documents showing your professional background

You’ll need to bring along a CV/resume. Since this is Germany, it can be very long (up to four pages) and also should include a photo, date of birth and place of birth. If possible, bring along your actual degrees, such as a bachelor’s, but if you don’t have these, a copy (as I used) is usually fine, especially if translated to German. They will also want documents they can easily scan: I brought along a few copies of articles I had written, but graphic artists can also scan their designs for example.

3. Health Insurance

It’s illegal to live in Germany without it so you’ll need to bring proof of it along. However, this presents a Catch-22 if you’re applying for a visa for the first time. Most health insurance requires a work permit to receive it, yet you need a work permit for health insurance. How do you get around this? You can first acquire short term health insurance through Care Coverage or Mar Vista. Women also need to have insurance that includes pregnancy coverage, whether or not that is part of their future plans.

4. Revenue Forecast

You will find Financing Plan and Capital Budget Plan forms on the website you apply for your appointment. Usually you can leave big chunks of the form blank, such as staff expenses. But you can include day-to-day expenses, include health insurance if you have private coverage.

5. Anmeldung

This registration document just shows that you have registered your address. You can make an appointment here or simply show up at the office of the district you are living along with your housing contract. Another Catch-22 is that you will usually need an Anmeldung before becoming a Hauptmieter, or the main person on a housing contract. But you can often sublet a place or join a shared flat (WG) without one.

6. Get a Bank Account

Usually you have to register for an account in person with your Anmeldung on hand. But you can also sign up for one from afar at Deutsche Kredit Bank. It helps to show you have a sizeable amount of savings in here (I’ve heard the ‘magic number’ is 4,000 euros but this varies) and/or that you have steady income. I personally printed out bank statements from the past year in order to demonstrate this.

7. Two Biometric Passport Photos

Note, though, that your facial expression in these has to be neutral. My first application was turned away because of my smile. I did not look so happy in the next ones I submitted.

Photo: German flag (CC BY 2.0) by fdecomite


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15 Natural Attractions in Europe You Must See

The travel industry caters to everyone’s needs. Some of us seek out cultural monuments. Some wish to try out different cuisines while others need a change of scenery. If you’re same…

The travel industry caters to everyone’s needs. Some of us seek out cultural monuments. Some wish to try out different cuisines while others need a change of scenery. If you’re same as me, then sometimes you need the opposite from the bustling city life. Almost nothing restores my well being as nature and quietness. These are some of the natural attractions in Europe you must see.

Preikestolen, Norway


Photo: Preikestolen (CC BY 2.0) by TimOve

Pulpit Rock is one of the most famous cliffs in the world. It’s located near the city of Stavanger- a rather popular day trip for locals and tourists. If you love hiking with rewarding views, it will be hard to top Preikestolen. It was formed 10,000 years ago by the expansion of ice. The main hiking season is from April to October. You can either admire the cliff from a boat cruise or maybe even combine it with a hike. If you want something more off the beaten path, then also try hiking at the neighboring Kjerag mountain.

Accommodation – Stavanger

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia


Photo: Plitvice (CC BY 2.0) by zolakoma

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most magical places in Europe. The complex consists of much as 16 cascade lakes that are all interconnected. Surrounding forests have hiking paths which offer fantastic views of these turquoise-colored lakes. In the winter, the lakes are no less amazing as they get frozen, hence creating a dream like scenery.

Accommodation – Plitvice Lakes

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher

Photo: Cliffs of Moher (CC BY 2.0) by lennox_mcdough

The cliffs of Moher are one of the most recognizable natural attractions in the world. Consequently, one of the best scenes in the legendary ‘The Princess Bride’ movie (admit it, we’ve all watched it!) took place here. Also look beyond the Cliffs of Moher. There is a 20 km coastal walking trail. Take in the quietness and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Irish landscape. In addition, you can also hit the beach and try kayaking or diving. If you’re not that adventurous take a relaxing boat cruise and admire the surrounding beauty.

Accommodation – Clare county

Matterhorn, Switzerland & Italy

Matterhorn 2

Photo: Matterhorn 2 (CC BY 2.0) by Jan-Christof Telford

Alps always awaken the imagination of adventurers and climbers. Most noteworthy mountain is the Matterhorn. The first ascent was a deadly one and even today this peak is considered as one of the deadliest in the world. Yet its rather unusual shape, of a steep pyramid, flocks people from all over the world. As a result, it’s the most photographed mountain ever. Zermatt, the famous winter sports center is located at the base of Matterhorn.

Accommodation – Zermatt

Dunes of Pilat, France


Photo: France-001797 (CC BY 2.0) by archer10 (Dennis) 97M Views

You don’t have to leave Europe to get a taste of Africa! Just head to France and visit the tallest sand dune in Europe. From here you’ll get a fantastic view of dense forests. If that won’t be enough, you can also opt for a scenic helicopter tour. A small seaside resort Pyla-ser-Mer seems as a good home base for exploring the area.

Accommodation > Pyla-ser-Mer

Blue Grotto, Italy

Inside the Blue Grotto

Photo: Inside the Blue Grotto (CC BY 2.0) by brad.coy

Blue Grotto is a natural sea cave located near the island of Capri in Italy. The light comes from another two sources to this sea cave. The water colored by the light, is incredibly blue. Tourists can enter the cave on a tiny rowboat as the cave’s mouth is roughly two meters wide and one meter high.

Accommodation > Capri

Devil’s Town, Serbia

Devil’s Town is located on the Radan mountain, Serbia. Home to 202 unusual rock formations also known as earth pyramids. This complex was a nominee for the New Seven Wonders of Nature campaign. The nearby springs, Wheat Spring and Devil’s water, are known for its healing properties. When here, visit the surrounding famous spas. Prolom, Lukovska and Kursumlijska spas are known for its water’s therapeutic properties.

Accommodation > Kursumlija

Glacier Ice Caves, Iceland

Ice caving under the Vatnajökull Glacier (Iceland)

Photo: Ice caving under the Vatnajökull Glacier (Iceland) (CC BY 2.0) by _davidphan

What better place to visit mesmerizing ice caves than Iceland? The country offers numerous tours where you get to experience an almost whole different world. When deep inside the famous glaciers you feel as you entered another realm. Another thing you can do is hiking on top of glaciers. But if you desire an adrenaline rush- snowmobiling tours are the right choice.

Skocjan Caves, Slovenia

Skocjan caves Slovenia

Listed on UNESCO’s world heritage list right alongside the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef. When you’re done ogling at its remarkableness, closely observe its unique ecosystem. It is definitely recommended to book a tour. There is so much more to this cave than it meets the eye. During your exploration, it’s very likely you’ll encounter several species of bats, endangered bird species and rare cave fauna.

Accommodation > Skocjan

Durmitor National Park, Montenegro


Photo: Durmitor (CC BY 2.0) by Aleksandr Zykov

Not many are familiar with Montenegro. As a result, only real nature lovers have heard of the Durmitor National Park. In addition that it was formed by glaciers, it’s also traversed by rivers and underground streams. So in conclusion, if you’re not already enamored with its dark pine forests and diverse flora, it’s good to know that Durmitor has yet more to offer. Durmitor is rather popular among adrenaline junkies. So choose your past time activity: hiking, climbing, mountaineering or canoeing?

Accommodation > Zabljak

Black Forest, Germany

beautiful creek in the Black Forest

Photo: beautiful creek in the Black Forest (CC BY 2.0) by Rafa Win

Schwarzwald (Black Forest) got its name from dense concentration of evergreens. Forest seems magical and out of this era. So it comes as no surprise that it inspired many fairy tales of Brothers Grimm. Most noteworthy being Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty.

To make the most out of it, I’d suggest staying in this region for seven to ten days. Due to very well developed cycling paths anyone will convert to a cyclist. Take refuge in one of many luxury spas and indulge yourself with the delicacies of the traditional German cuisine. At the end of the day, open up the wine bottle from one of many local vineyards and enjoy the panoramic views.

The Northern Lights

northern lights, norway

Photo: northern lights, norway (CC BY 2.0) by Claudia Regina CC

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, are especially relevant to me. It is something I personally am fascinated by. Basically, the Northern Lights are maybe the most beautiful thing you’ll ever encounter during your lifetime. Well unless you get to see Earth from outer space. The contrast between the night sky and the bright dancing lights is something you won’t forget. The most common colors being pale green and pink. The tricky thing is that it’s not a common phenomenon.  Therefore if you decide to visit a country because you’d like to see the lights, do some research beforehand. It depends on the season when you’re visiting, sky clarity etc.

Corsica, France

Corsica 2011

Photo: Corsica 2011 (CC BY 2.0) by Josef Grunig 

First of all, Corsica is blessed with amazing weather, therefore it has 300 days of sunshine a year. Due to the climate and the sole geography of the island (a mountainous region), as a result allows its inhabitants to enjoy a wide spectrum of activities. That includes not only sandy beaches but mountain climbing, mountain biking , deep sea diving and sailing. One of its benefits is that it’s the closest faraway island, easily accessible from major European capitals.

Bialowieza National Park, Poland

Białowieża National Park, Poland

Photo: Białowieża National Park, Poland (CC BY 2.0) by Frank.Vassen

The National Park is situated in Poland, covering the central part of Białowieża Forest. It’s the only Polish natural property designated by UNESCO. Bialowieza is one of the primeval forest which once covered most of Europe. It still fosters several species of fauna which were once native throughout Europe. The main characteristic of the park is its biological diversity.  The park is the only place in Europe where you can still encounter an European bison! While doing a tour might be on a pricier side – I think it’s def worth the money. You’ll not only wander through this mesmerizing forest but also learn about its long history and see fauna like no where else in the world.


Svalbard mountain tops in the clouds seen from the sky

Photo: Svalbard mountain tops in the clouds seen from the sky (CC BY 2.0) by Kitty Terwolbeck

The archipelago was first discovered by Norse explorers in the 12th century.  Svalbard, meaning “cold coasts”, is one of the few places that look in real life as they appear in photographs. It is truly an awe inspiring moment to stare out at snow covered peaks of glaciers and icebergs. To gaze at what seems as a never ending vastness of the Arctic ocean.

This is more of a polar bear’s turf than human’s due to polar bears being the majority. The main settlement is Longyearbyen with a population of merely 2,000 people. The possibilities to explore its rich wildlife are endless. Take a boat trip, embark on glacier hiking or maybe you’d rather be led by a team of huskies. Here are 10 ways to successfully plan a trip to Svalbard.

Accommodation > Longyearbyen

Where would your getaway place be?

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10 Ways To Successfully Plan a Trip to Svalbard

Do you want to plan a trip to Svalbard in Norway and don’t know where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Cez and Agness of eTramping are…

Do you want to plan a trip to Svalbard in Norway and don’t know where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Cez and Agness of eTramping are here with their invaluable travel experience and are ready to share it with everyone. Fix up a cup of cocoa for the right mood, and get ready for a good and informative read.

#1 Prepare Mentally, Physically, and Financially

Planning a Svalbard expedition is not as easy as packing for a trip to say, a local forest or resort. There’s more to it than knowing what to pack and what sights to see. As much as anyone would like this, you can’t make an impromptu visit to Svalbard.

Our best advice before the trip? Go camping and hiking as much as you can. It’s a great way to stay in shape for when you’re at the Arctic Circle. Here are some tips for hiking in the cold weather. Next – save up. Prices are as steep as one might expect from Norway (maybe even more). Finally – be mentally prepared for how many “wow” moments you’ll have!

#2 Get the Best Ship for the Job

plan a trip to svalbard

Ortelius at Torellneset © Christophe Gouraud-Oceanwide Expeditions

Not everyone has the funds to organize their own private boat trip. As such, you’ll most likely join many other polar adventurers on a Svalbard cruise. However, don’t just look at the ship amenities, as tempting as they may be.

What you’re looking for is a highly maneuverable vessel. You wouldn’t want to skip out on a whale sighting just because the ship can’t turn around in due time. Keep this in mind when you plan a trip to Svalbard and don’t want to miss a thing!

#3 Keep Your Feet Protected

plan a trip to svalbard

A so called ‘wet’ landing at Diskobukta © Arjen Drost-Oceanwide Expeditions

When you plan a trip to Svalbard, you have to remember the extreme weather conditions you’ll be facing. Wool socks are a must, with plenty of replacements in case of emergencies. By the way, don’t try to wear more than one pair thinking it’ll provide extra protection. More often than not it just stifles blood flow to your feet, negating any protection.

Also, bring a pair of rubber waterproof boots along with your warm pair. On your Svalbard trip, you may need to debark using an inflatable boat. Since there are not many docks, you might need to get your feet wet in shallow waters to get ashore.

#4 Waterproof, Cold-proof… Sun-proof?

There are people brave (or crazy?) enough to swim in the area. You, on the other hand, probably won’t set out on your Svalbard expeditions wearing nothing but socks. Besides the blistering cold winds and melted snow getting everywhere, you need to protect against the Arctic sun as well. Who would have thought you need to bring sunscreen to the Arctic, eh?

#5 Don’t Forget Your Medicine

Not every traveler going on a Spitsbergen trip will be in peak physical condition. After all, we don’t spend our time training for our holidays like it’s a military expedition. 🙂 In any case, if you know you have some kind of condition – don’t forget your medication.

You would be surprised how many travelers forget this in the heat of the moment, so to speak. Similarly, it might be a good idea to get some preventive medicine (such as for seasickness, or a sneaky cold) even if you’re in tip top shape.

#6 Bring Binoculars!

plan a trip to svalbard

Hiking on Spitzbergen © Sandra Petrowitz-Oceanwide Expeditions

Spitsbergen cruises are excellent occasions to spot some of the most amazing wildlife this world has to offer. Unfortunately, your cruise ship might not always get the best angles on whales, walruses, or other giants. Even if your eyesight is 20/20, nobody should plan a trip to Svalbard without packing a pair of binoculars along. Don’t rely solely on your camera’s zoom function.

#7 Plan Your Accommodation Accordingly

Remember what we said in the beginning – that when you plan a trip to Svalbard, you should be financially prepared. Mainland Norway is expensive in its own right, but the extreme conditions in the Arctic means there will be extra fees.

Sure, most of your time will be spent on a Spitsbergen cruise or some well-equipped museum in Longyearbyen. (You can really lose yourself in those museums!) But what then? Your options are expensive full-service hotels, budget guesthouses – or camping and self-catering if you’re feeling adventurous. Whatever your choice, budget properly or you’ll be left in the cold (quite literally).

#8 Establish an Itinerary

Don’t head blindly into your Spitsbergen expeditions without a clear-cut plan in mind. Not only will you miss out on tons of fun activities, but you might go over-budget. Especially when you realize there’s something you just HAVE to see.

Our primary recommendations include the Svalbard and North Pole Expedition museums in Longyearbyen. You might want to bring an English guidebook along as well. Most of the information will be in Norwegian, even though everyone on the island speaks English fluently. Otherwise, the jaw-dropping Magdalenfjord, the haunting Soviet city of Pyramiden, and the Nordvest-Spitsbergen National Park should be included in your visit.

Of course, you can also let someone do the planning for you if you’re not sure where to start. Oceanwide Expeditions, for example, have step-by-step guides to minimize downtime and maximize the fun. Must keep that blood flowing in the cold North!

#9 Know How to Get Around

When you’re not making the rounds on Svalbard cruises or boat rides, you’ll mostly spend time in Longyearbyen, the abandoned Soviet city of Pyramiden, and other such fantastic places. What you should know is that there aren’t that many paved roads in the area, so car travel will be minimal or non-existent.

Fortunately, a Spitsbergen expedition will give you the chance for some dog-sledding or snowmobile rides. Those will be your primary methods of transport; aside from your own two feet, that is.

#10 Have a Backup Plan

Never plan a trip to Svalbard without having a plan B (maybe even a plan C) in your itinerary. It’s not uncommon for touristy Spitsbergen trips to get canceled while you’re already there. The weather in the Arctic is unpredictable, so you shouldn’t be disappointed if something doesn’t go as planned. Fortunately, if you’ve followed our advice thus far you should have no problems braving the North like many polar explorers before you.

What other tips do you have to plan a trip to Svalbard?

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11 Fantastic Activities You Can Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most fascinating cities offering a plenty of activities to do on a regular basis. The Old and New Town of Edinburgh are listed on the…

Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most fascinating cities offering a plenty of activities to do on a regular basis. The Old and New Town of Edinburgh are listed on the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites and the city also has excellent entertainment options.

Here are 11 fantastic activities you can do in Edinburgh;

Visit the Queen’s official Scottish residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Palace of Holyrood House is famous for being the 16th-century home of Mary, Queen of Scots and also where the Queen spends her ‘Holyrood Week’ at the end of June/beginning of July each year. Regardless of your opinions of the Royal’s, it’s still a splendid piece of history to experience.

Holyroodhouse and the Abbey ruins, Edinburgh, Scotland

Go for some retail therapy at the one and only Princes Street

With huge flagship stores and a beautiful view of Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street is definitely one of the most fabulous shopping spots in the whole world. It also has a great choice of bars and restaurants.

Princes Street, Edinburgh

Take a climb up Arthur’s Seat

The highest point of Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park is Arthur’s Seat, an ancient, now extinct volcano which sits at precisely 251m above sea level. On a good day, you can get amazing views across Edinburgh and beyond. It’s also much recommended to watch the sunrise from here as it’s absolutely breathtaking.

Grab a beer at the infamous Hanging Bat

With an ever-changing range of beers brought to Edinburgh from the world’s finest and sought-after breweries worldwide, a trip to The Hanging Bat is not to be missed out. You could even have the chance to brew your own beer!

Take a spin around Knockhill Racecourse

More of a thrill-seeker? Then Knockhill Racecource is one of the best driving experience days Scotland has to offer! A must visit for all motor sports fans with events running from February until December.

Appreciate Edinburgh’s spectacular skyline for free

You can head up to the National Museum of Scotland‘s rooftop to take in the panoramic, scenic views of Edinburgh’s skyline. Bonus if it’s a clear day because you can see for miles.

National Museum of Scotland

Visit the fascinating Camera Obscura

Are optical illusions appealing or just plain annoying? Regardless of whether they’re your thing or not, there’s something for everyone at Camera Obscura. The attraction is one of the oldest experience days Scotland has to encounter and also has amazing rooftop views with free telescopes.

Take a stroll around Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens divides Edinburgh’s old town from its new town giving it historical significance as well as cultural significance. As well as being a relaxing spot, the gardens also host a big wheel, a carousel bar and a Christmas market seasons pending.

Explore art, comedy and culture at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The multi-cultural festival showcases 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows across 294 venues! The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world and runs from the 4th until the 28th of August showcasing the best of theatre, arts, comedy and more.

edinburgh festival

Visit the Archivists’ Garden

Visit this beautiful place and see 57 different types of plants, all connected to Scotland’s collective memory. Often missed by tourists this place is just a few minutes away from the busy Princes Street. The admission to the garden is free. If you want to spend a quiet day, away from the bustle of the city life you can also visit the Royal Botanic Garden.

Go to Summerhall

Summerhall is the cultural heart of Edinburgh. Here you’ll find a plenty of things to see and do – art exhibitions, gigs, films, workshops, concerts etc. The Summerhall shop has many interesting items created by the artists in residence.


You can find a cheap flight to Edinburgh on Momondo.



Photos: 2, 3, 4, 5
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