There’s a bit of a debate between Milos and I about what’s best, nature or architecture? Well, in all honesty, I believe there is no debate. I’m convinced I win. What human creation could possible top nature? Nature is different all around the world, so each new country I go to seems to me like a new different planet: It is like space travel! I hop on a plane and in a matter of hours I go to places that took thousands of years for humans to discover. Had I been born 1000 years ago, I would have thought that what I saw was all. Now I can see everything, and it blows my mind. So Milos doesn’t stand a chance.
Nature is humble
Additionally, the most impressive architecture (and the not so too) comes with an owner. And that owner is a human so he will boost his ego like crazy. Nature, on the other hand, has this unpretentious majesty. Nobody can claim the beauty of a forest or a desert. Both stand there, the result of millions of years of evolution. My planet is my ecosystem, created for my pleasure.
Developed vs. Developing?
What’s more, there isn’t a single place in the world that isn’t beautiful. It is we who have ruined nature. I simply don’t care about any of that first world vs third world nonsense. The weird thing is that people who believe in the lie of borders, races, and nationalities are the ones that harm the most. The environmental footprint of a country says a lot about what their people stand for. How could you possibly consider yourself developed if you are among the world’s biggest polluters?
Avoiding the masses
Since we are not into organized tours, we try to avoid them as much as possible. Therefore, our posts are destined to those of you independent travelers who enjoy planning trips. Special care is given to where to stay. We are pampered adventurers! That is, we try to stay close to nature, with a minimum of comfort and the most impressive views possible. Likewise, we usually use public transportation. To us, the latter furthers the adventure and connects us to the local culture. On the other hand, both of us would rather hire a taxi than drive.
Katun River-Altai Mountains
The Altai mountain range is located at the border of 4 giants: Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. We went to the Katun River, the lifeline of the Altai province in Russia. All we did was travel, walk and intake the fresh air and pristine nature! We stayed in two different places along the river, Ust Muny and Chemal. People in the area are quite special. You can tell they have nature in their hearts. They treated us like kings!
Stolby National Park
The Stolby National Park, Russia’s most popular national park, doesn’t disappoint. Two things stand out: the plethora of trees and plants that inhabit the park and the stolbys. These massive volcanic rocks dot the entire park. We walked for 7 hours through the dense forest admiring the views.
Kizhi Island combines architecture and nature perfectly. Colors here are unbelievable! We took off from the city of Petrozavodsk. The trip through the Onega Lake is quite impressive too. We are talking about the second largest lake in Europe, in the middle of Karelia, the famed land of water and taiga.
I had always dreamt of going to the White Sea. Solovetsky islands exceeded my expectations. I hope we can come back soon. In addition, the long trip to and from the islands completed my fantasy. We spent hours on a train watching the most amazing ocean of trees we had ever seen!
Baikal Lake – Olkhon Island
We couldn’t leave Russia without visiting the deepest lake in the world, Baikal in Siberia. Staying in the gorgeous Olkhon Island was a great decision. Scarcely populated, the island offers unforgettable views, beautiful beaches, fantastic cliffs, forests and tones of peace.
CHINA / TAIWAN
Zhangjiajie National Forrest Park
Zhangjiajie National Forrest Park, nature at its best, is one of those places that everyone should be lucky to travel to at least once. However, escaping the crowds is essential in order to enjoy it properly. We were very fortunate and stayed in the right place. Our hotel provided fantastic views, a cozy authentic atmosphere and the best tips to explore the park.
Li River runs from Guilin to Yangshuo in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. We stayed in Yangshuo and traveled all along for a couple of days. The area is a must for those of you who love South East Asia’s Karsts. Though these ones are similar, they are in a league of their own.
Taroko National Park
In all honesty, we were not expecting much from nature in Taiwan. How wrong we were! Easily accessible from Taipei, Taroko National Park seems isolated and pristine. Additionally, most visitors to the park are Taiwanese, so it was a great opportunity for us to interact with such pleasant and well-mannered people.
Talampaya and Ischigualasto
Thought they are two different parks, Talampaya and Ischigualasto cover the same geological formation. We are talking about huge cliffs, fantastic rocks eroded by wind and water, strange moon looking landscapes, and even wild foxes. To enjoy both parks without glitches we decided to stay in Valle Fertil. Fantastic choice!
Los Glaciares National Park
No matter how many times you’ve seen them on film, nothing can prepare you for the majesty of the glaciers and lakes. Los Glaciares National Park is part of the Patagonia Ice Field, the second largest ice mass in the world after Antarctica. We stayed in Calafate and visited the Perito Moreno, Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers. Additionally, we went to the lovely town of El Chalten.
Sierra de las Quijadas National Park
We couldn’t believe that we were practically alone in this 750 square km dessert in western Argentina. That’s why we love organizing our own private tours! The Sierra de las Quijadas National Park is a millenary desert made of massive mountains, sharp rocks, and long valleys. All we had to do was admire the deep blue sky, the white clouds and the different shades of reds and greens of the Sierras. What else could there be? Condors up in the horizon!
Chapada Diamantina National Park
Chapada Diamantina National Park is part of the Diamantina plateau, an area roughly the size of The Netherlands. We hired a taxi with an expert local driver and spent a couple of days marveling at the beauty of the Chapadas. In addition, we got to stay in two lovely towns: Lençois and Vale do Capao.
Alter do Chao
According to Brazilians themselves, the nicest beach in their country is here, in the middle of the Amazon in Alter do Chao! We stayed in this small town and toured both the Tapajos and Amazon Rivers. Since we wanted to travel deeper into nature, we spent a night at a posada on the river. All we had to do was swim in the river, chill, and admire our planet’s lungs.
El Nido is soon becoming the prime beach destination in the Philippines. It’s just too pretty to remain undiscovered! However, you can still find your own stretch of peaceful beauty. By staying in Corong Corong we were close enough to the small town to go out for dinner but somehow isolated. The views from our hotel room were splendid and all we did was walk about the beach and tour the adjacent formations.
My personal favorite beach in the whole of South East Asia is Santiago Bay in the Camotes Islands. We went there after spending time at the famous Sinulog Festival. Hard to believe that these pristine islands are so close to Cebu. We spent 4 days of total relaxation, making friends and adoring the islands.
Bohol and Balicasag Islands
These islands in the Philippines are like a natural real-life amusement park! They are packed with oddly shaped hills, beaches, rivers, forests, turtles, corals, the smallest mammal on earth and the nicest people on earth. Indeed, everywhere in the Philippines, we met polite elegant people, and Bohol and Balicasag Islands were not the exception. Though some parts of Bohol can get crowded, we were able to find peace. Furthermore, in Balicasag we were practically the only tourists.
Kawaguchiko and Izu Peninsula
Mount Fuji is Japan’s most famous sight. However, where to go to fully admire it? We chose Kawaguchiko in the Five Lakes area. All we did was walk through gorgeous forests and chill at our hotel’s onzen. Perfection! From there we went to a fantastic beach called Shimoda in the Izu Peninsula. We walked and dipped into the sea. The Chubu Region offers the full Japanese experience: mountains, beaches, and polite warm people!
We wanted to see the UNESCO listed defense towers of Svaneti and of course the Caucasus Mountain Range. Fortunately, we chose the small town of Mestia. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains and a step away from the Old Towers, it’s a great place for long nature treks and to travel in time.
I’ve been to Cappadocia three times over the years and have seen how massive tourism has slowly taken over. Nevertheless, the place is as impressive as ever. We stayed at a cave hotel in Goreme, still pretty authentic. The town’s location is unbeatable, within walking distance to a couple of fascinating sites and in the route of all major attractions.
Ha Long Bay
After seeing pictures of the bay and talking to fellow travelers, our expectations were high. Ha Long Bay exceeded our expectations and though crowds can be annoying, staying an extra night further into the sea proved a great idea. Yes, the crowds are unbearable but what are you expecting? Everyone wants to see this wonder!
Otres and Koh Rong Sanloem
Some time ago Sihanoukville was a stretch of sandy beaches yet to be discovered. Nowadays, some sections are extremely crowded and geared towards mass tourism and some are still as beautiful as before. What hasn’t changed that much is Koh Rong Sanloem Island, just off the coast of Otres beach.
Our time around the Kinabatangan River was both a dream and a nightmare. Since we wanted to avoid a packaged tour, we stayed in the small town of Sukau and toured the area on our own. The jungle is indeed a dream come alive: wildlife and unforgettable scenery. What’s embarrassing and sad is what we’ve done (especially we from the west) to our planet just to eat a cookie. Shame shame shame, that’s all we could think off!
Our favorite 10 Beaches in Southeast Asia
Some of our favorite beaches are crowded, some are not. However, all are spectacular places to relax and intake nature. In Vietnam, our favorites are Nha Trang and Hoi An. When it comes to magical Thailand, Krabi and Koh Samui are as super popular as pretty. On the other hand, in the Phillippines, the Camotes Islands, Belicasag Island, and El Nido are still off the beaten track. Cambodia has sandy Otres Beach and Koh Rong Sanloem. Finally, though tourists have invaded Bali, it’s still worth your while.