Luxe Adventure Traveler http://luxeadventuretraveler.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Fri, 27 Mar 2015 07:49:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month: Rachel Fang http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-of-the-month-rachel-fang/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-of-the-month-rachel-fang/#respond Fri, 27 Mar 2015 07:49:07 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64595 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com. This month we check in with [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com.

This month we check in with Rachel, who is a foodie. We met Rachel virtually when she got in touch with us to help her decide between a trip to Sweden or Iceland to celebrate her engagement. She and her fiance ended up choosing Iceland and they did see the Northern Lights, by the way!

Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month

Rachel and her fiance in Dublin, Ireland

Name: Rachel Fang

Occupation: Marketing Manager at an Australian dot com

Hometown: Singapore

Tell us a little about yourself: I am an insatiable lover of travel (nature and cities), food and technology (particularly gadgets). Discovery of any kind in my loved categories inspires me to leap off my daily routine and explore something new, or perhaps see familiar things through different eyes.

How many countries have you been to? I have been to about 11 countries.

Favorite US city and your favorite thing to do there? My favorite city in the US must be San Francisco… having said that, I’ve never been to New York nor do I think I’ve experienced enough of the States to truly be able to make a decision on this. Watch this space :)

Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month

The ice caves on Rachel’s latest adventure to Iceland

Favorite international city and your favorite thing to do there? Tokyo. The people, the culture, the dichotomy of both… it’s just amazing. The food and landscapes are just amazing and it feels truly like an exploration and discovery trip particularly when it is so foreign to what I am familiar with. Unless you’re Japanese, it’s really hard not to find pleasures in the discovery of this city.

Least favorite country? Why? Possibly Malaysia. While it’s beautiful and so romantically local, I find it hard to see past its political inequalities of the Chinese and Malay. Perhaps this is a biased opinion as I am Singaporean.

You post a lot of drool-worthy Instagram photos of your meals around the world. Tell us a little about that and which destination has been your favorite to eat in. I would have to say that Japan is hands down the place I have fallen in love with the most when it comes to food. As a cuisine, the Japanese approach their culinary as an art form, intricate details, balances and all. And in addition to that, they are so heavily influenced by the French and Dutch cultures that they do food as good as if you were in those cities! You can walk down laneways to discover new treats, get the freshest seafood in the world and indulge in the most amazing meats like Kobe beef. How can one not love the diversity the Japanese bring to food!

Five things you never travel without? (Passport is a given). In this day and age where we are all attached to a smartphone, I’ll leave that out because it has become just as vital as my passport. The remainding five are: camera, good walking shoes, multi-adapter, a pair of shades, and an open mind.

Favorite travel iPhone app? I have to say it would be Instagram. I know it’s not particularly a travel app, but being able to view pictures by location tags is simply amazing. I feel like it gives me the best insight into what a place looks like and what I can expect to find!

What is your most embarrassing or worst travel moment? When I got stuck at customs because the chip in my passport wasn’t updated with my permanent residency visa for Australia and I was detained and questioned on my way out of Abu Dhabi. I thought I would miss my connecting flight and be stuck in a country in the Middle East.

My dream travel destination: I’m not too sure at the moment, but I am thinking either Canada (yes, all of it) and perhaps Nepal at this point in time. I’ve found myself in a stage of my life where I just want to be outdoors and be witness to nature, but in a luxe sort of way.

You’re a Luxe Adventure Traveler reader. What’s your favorite tip or suggestion you’ve gotten from our site? My favorite tip has got to be the one about chasing the Northern Lights. It’s one thing to read about someone’s travels, but another to get such great tips on exactly how they did it. Things like waking up on the hour every hour to try and catch a glimpse of the auroras.

What’s your favorite travel website(s) (besides Luxe Adventure Traveler, of course!)? I have to say that Conde Nast. I’ve been a big fan from when it was first a magazine and when it was finally digitized, the content became so much more dynamic!

Best travel tip: Travel with an open mind and heart; be prepared to leave the person whom you know as yourself behind to discover the person you can become through the experience of travel.

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Arosa: The Perfect Ski Getaway http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/arosa-tschuggen-grand-hotel/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/arosa-tschuggen-grand-hotel/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 17:49:30 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64591 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Seemingly dropped in to a bowl, Arosa is a postcard-perfect Swiss village with dazzling 360-degree views of the Graubünden mountains. Arosa isn’t a mega-resort – you know, the ones with hundreds of kilometers of pistes – and that’s perfect for me as I’m here to attempt to learn to snowboard. There are still a great [...]

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Seemingly dropped in to a bowl, Arosa is a postcard-perfect Swiss village with dazzling 360-degree views of the Graubünden mountains. Arosa isn’t a mega-resort – you know, the ones with hundreds of kilometers of pistes – and that’s perfect for me as I’m here to attempt to learn to snowboard. There are still a great mix of challenging runs for more advanced skiers like Tim. And more importantly, as least for a beginner snowboarder like me who can only manage a few hours of lessons before shaky legs and sheer exhaustion sets in, there are plenty of non-ski activities to enjoy. That the exclusive Tschuggen Grand Hotel is my Arosa ski getaway home during our stay is just an added bonus of one of my new favorite Swiss villages.

Tschuggen Grand Hotel

Spectacular views from bed!

Tschuggen Grand Hotel

Not only do I have a new favorite Swiss village, I have a new favorite hotel. I would seriously move in permanently if they’d let me! And some guests do just that, for the season anyway. Many of the Tschuggen Grand Hotel’s guests are repeat visitors to Arosa, coming several times throughout the ski season. Instead of lugging all that stuff you need for skiing back and forth on planes and trains, the resort stores guests belongings, launders any clothing, and carefully places it all back in to the rows of closets in guests’ rooms just in time for their next arrival.

Tschuggen Grand Hotel

Each room is unique decorated and each floor has a different color theme. Our room on the red floor.

The Rooms

The rooms are so comfortable and homey, I hardly wanted to leave. Each is uniquely decorated and has a color theme that coincides with the different color themes of each floor. We stayed on the red floor and had a lovely sitting area with red leather chairs I’d comfortably curl up in with a book for a bit each afternoon. With the sun shining, it was even warm enough to enjoy the sun loungers on our balcony.

I’m seriously the Goldi Locks of hotel beds and the Tschuggen Grand’s were just right. Not to mention the absolutely stellar view of the mountains I didn’t even have to get out of bed to stare at. If the mountains weren’t calling our names, we could have stayed cocooned in that bed for days.

I have to mention how fabulous the bathroom is with its heated floors, a fabulous separate rain shower, double sinks and a bath big enough to take a swim in. Candles are around the bath, perfect for a relaxing evening or maybe some romance.

Tschuggen Berogase Spa

Indoor/outdoor pools and ladies sauna at the Berogase Spa

Bergoase Spa

It’s worth spending time each day in Tschuggen Grand Hotel’s award-winning Bergoase Spa, which is spread over four floors, each day. The pool can really only be described as a water world, with indoor and outdoor areas. You can swim right from indoor to outdoor, so you never even have to get out of the warm water if you don’t want to. Be sure to explore the pool, because are various massaging features that definitely soothed my sore body from all the inevitable falling down you do when learning to snowboard.

There are also saunas (even a separate ladies only sauna), various steam baths and massaging showers. I enjoyed relaxing on the comfy sun loungers in the solarium, though there are also fireplaces to curl up in front of and are exactly where I would have been had the sun not been shining. What I also loved it that I found both bottled water and a selection of fruit infused water in the relaxation areas, which was complimentary.

You can get a variety of spa treatments including various massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and various beauty treatments. For a bit of privacy, reserve one of the two spa suites located in the glass sails, complete with your own private jacuzzi, sauna, treatment and relaxation areas. And if you haven’t worked off all the delicious cheese while skiing, walking or swimming, there is a well-equipped gym.

Tschuggen Grand Hotel

Champagne truffle fondue at Bünderstube

Dining

Arosa has many adorable restaurants serving up Swiss specialties, but we didn’t even have to leave the hotel to find a variety of dining options. Tschuggen Grand Hotel is home to Arosa’s best restaurant, the Michelin-starred La Vetta. It’s closed Mondays in winter and we sadly didn’t get to try it on this visit. Next time.

The Grand Restaurant’s menu changes nightly and both a 4-course fixed menu or a la carte options are offered. The Grand Restaurant is a bit more upscale at dinner and jackets are required for men. We mixed and matched our 4-course menu from the vegetarian and non-vegetarian options and the portions were just the right size so that we didn’t feel like we were so stuffed that we couldn’t move.

But my favorite restaurant was the Bünderstube, which serves traditional Swiss dishes. I simply couldn’t pass up having fondue – and not just any fondue. The champagne truffle fondue is to die for! It’s rich, so the burlap sack of boiled raclette potatoes that is served with it is the perfect pairing. Try it with a local white wine from the Obrecht vineyard. I swear this meal alone is reason enough for a return trip to Arosa.

Tschuggen Grand HotelOther Amenities

We don’t have kids, but we have to admit that the kids club is pretty awesome. There’s a play area for smaller children and a pool table, foosball and game system hooked up to a massive screen for older kids to keep busy while mom and dad enjoy a kid-free meal together.

There’s even a bowling alley. Yes, a BOWLING ALLEY, right in the hotel. Is there anything you can’t do at the Tschuggen Grand? It opens after 9pm and is complimentary for guests.

It was all the little things that really made Tschuggen Grand Hotel an experience, not just a hotel stay. I honestly can’t remember staying at another hotel that had as many complimentary drinks and snacks as we found here. From stepping in to the lobby where there was always a refreshing pitcher of mint-infused water and fruit shots, to the organic apples for guests in the lobby of each floor, the hotel ensures guests never go hungry or thirsty. We were even given a snack bag upon departure with chocolates, apples, water and a little bag of lavender bath salts to take a little of Tschuggen home with us.

Tschuggen ExpressTschuggen Express

Perhaps the coolest hotel amenity is Tschuggen Grand Hotel’s very own private mountain railway. It’s completely automated and complimentary for guests. You simply take your card and swipe it to “call” the train. In just a few minutes, the 12-seater mountain railway is opening its doors for you to board, and with the push of a button, whisks you up to the ski area.

The hotel also has complimentary toboggans and you can ski or toboggan right back down for a ski-in, ski-out experience.

Arosa, SwitzerlandSkiing and Snowboarding in Arosa

Arosa is serviced by 13 lifts and has 70 kilometers of pistes. It’s also connected to the Lenzerheide ski area, where you’ll find an additional 155 kilometers of pistes. In Arosa, there’s a great mix of blues and reds so that works great if your group is of mixed abilities like Tim and I.

I had one previous snowboard lesson at Lake Annecy Ski Resorts in France just a few weeks before. In that lesson, I managed finding balance and turning. So when I met up with my instructor from the Skischule Arosa, we reviewed what I already knew. Not much, by my standards. But this time I wouldn’t be confined to the flat kids area.

We went right for a blue run and thankfully it wasn’t too busy during the week (otherwise known as not too many for me to take out on my tumbles). Learning to snowboard is hard! But for every fall (there were at least 20 of them), I got right back up and tried again. As I was sitting to recuperate for a minute and appreciate the views, another girl learning to snowboard came tumbling down the same run I’d just managed to not-so-gracefully fall down. We caught each other’s eye and had a good laugh. There’s camaraderie when massively bruising your dignity…and your bum.

The instructors seriously have the patience of saints. I know I was no easy student, but by the end of my lesson my instructor had me feeling more confident and I’d learned how to better control my board. Most importantly, I learned how to stop without just throwing myself down because I was feeling out of control.

Private snowboard lessons with Skischule Arosa start from 145 CHF and meet at the Innerarosa Office just five minutes from Tschuggen Grand Hotel.

Tschugeenhütte

Sausages and Swiss coffee at the Tschugeenhütte

Tschugeenhütte

The mountain hut Tschugeenhütte is easily accessible from the Tschuggen Grand Hotel via the Tschuggen Express or ski in if you’re already on the slopes. Believe me, the scents of the grilled sausages wafting up the mountain at lunchtime will be too much to resist. There is a sit down restaurant where you can try local specialties like Arosa sausages with a side of rösti. The staff will probably also recommend their coffee with caramel liqueur, and if you’re like me, it won’t take much for them to twist your arm to try it. Delicious!

If you want a quicker snack so you can get back on the slopes, there is also a snack bar on the other side of the Tschugeenhütte. The walk-up window has sausages served with a roll, burgers and fries.

Tschuggen Grand HotelFor the Non-Skiers

Since I’m just learning to snowboard myself, I know that one of the most important things for a ski holiday that everyone enjoys is that there are plenty of things to do for the non-skiers. Arosa definitely has both skiers and non-skiers covered. Not only does the Tschuggen Grand Hotel have a variety of daily activities offered that includes everything from Thai yoga to wine tastings, but you can find a plethora of activities in and around Lake Obersee.

Ice Skating on Lake Obersee

From mid-November to mid-April Lake Obersee becomes a frozen paradise where professional and hobby ice skaters take to the ice alike. There is also an artificial ice skating rink near the lake and some skating sessions are open to the public. Check with the concierge at Tschuggen Grand Hotel to find out when the evening ice skating is or to book an ice skating instructor.

Curling Lessons

Curling is a huge sport in Europe and you can try your hand at it in Arosa. Stop by the Arosa Tourismus office to arrange a private or small group lesson to learn all the ins and outs of the sport.

Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides

I think horse drawn sleigh rides are romantic and if you’re visiting with family, kids will delight in riding around in a sleigh. The sleighs congregate around the train station like taxis and you can hire them for on or off mountain rides.

Hot Air Ballooning

Since we were married in a hot air balloon, they always hold a special place in our hearts. And we think ballooning over the Swiss Alps is one of the most beautiful places in the world to take to the skies. You can balloon around Lake Obersee from December through March and Arosa even hosts a 5-day balloon festival each winter. Contact Walter Vollenweider at +41 044 391 37 14 to inquire about prices and to make a reservation.

Paragliding

I look at paragliding as ballooning for the more adventurous and Arosa would be a stunning place to try it out! You can book tandem flights with an instructor. Contact +41 (0) 79 449 88 13 for prices and to make a reservation.

Where To StayGetting There
The Tschuggen Grand Hotel is the best hotel in Arosa and one of the top hotels in Switzerland. Rooms start at 670 CHF per night for weekend only stays and from 615 CHF per night.
Arosa is easy to reach via international flight to Zurich and then is around 2.5 hours via train. Arosa can also be reached by car.

Our trip was provided by Tschuggen Grand Hotel with the support of Arosa Tourismus in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Luxe Adventure Home: DIY Wine Cork Catcher Lamp http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/wine-cork-catcher-lamp-tutorial/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/wine-cork-catcher-lamp-tutorial/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 16:35:32 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=62904 Luxe Adventure Traveler

A few months ago we spent a few days at a wine spa and I really liked the understated wine decor. The wine barrel table and wine cork catcher lamp were elegant, yet fun accents that would perfectly fit the home decor of oenophiles just like us. Every time I passed the lamps, I studied [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

A few months ago we spent a few days at a wine spa and I really liked the understated wine decor. The wine barrel table and wine cork catcher lamp were elegant, yet fun accents that would perfectly fit the home decor of oenophiles just like us. Every time I passed the lamps, I studied them and decided I could easily recreate them with a do-it-yourself home project. Not to toot our own horn, but we think our two lamps turned out great! Follow this easy step-by-step tutorial to make your own stylish wine cork catcher lamp for less than $20:

Cork catcher lamp tutorialWhat You’ll Need

Cork Catcher Lamp

One of our finished cork catcher lamps

 DIY Wine Cork Catcher Lamp

1. The demijohn may come in a plastic basket. Cut the basket off. Clean the demijohn, if necessary. You can use a bottle brush to scrub the inside. Let it completely dry.

2. The Ikea Hemma Table Lamp Base comes in three pieces all already attached by the cord. The lamp needs to have the base removed, so you need to cut the cord to remove the plug, making sure you leave yourself as much slack as possible.  Remove the base plate from the cord.

*If you are going to drill a hole in the demijohn to feed the cord through the bottom, you’ll need to complete this step before re-wiring the plug to the cord. You’ll need a special glass drill bit, like this Bosch Glass Set.

Re-wiring the cord is simple: just strip back some insulation with wire strippers (even scissors will work), connect the wires back together and seal them up tightly with electrical tape.  This may not be the preferred method for something that would see a lot of use and handling, but for a lamp cord that will rest inside of the demijohn, it works just fine and won’t be seen once filled with corks.

3. For a 5 liter demijohn, we needed about 150 corks. Fill the demijohn with corks, regularly shaking the demijohn to even the corks out. Once you’ve filled the demijohn, wiggle the lamp pole and cord in to nestle in the center of the corks. You may need to shake it to once again even the corks out. There should be enough corks in your demijohn that the lamp pole securely stands straight.

4. Screw in the light bulb and attach the lampshade.

And as easy as that you have a wine cork catcher lamp for less than $20 and about 15 minutes of prep work. Or, you can also purchase a ready-made one, like this one for $159.95.

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Kayak Under the 2000 Year Old Pont du Gard http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/pont-du-gard/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/pont-du-gard/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 18:27:52 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64554 Luxe Adventure Traveler

We don’t typically play favorites when it comes to UNESCO World Heritage Sites; they’re all import and culturally significant. But to be completely honest, sometimes they’re also a bit boring and museum-like. And if you’re a regular reader here, you know that standing behind a rope just to have a look-see typically isn’t our thing. [...]

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

We don’t typically play favorites when it comes to UNESCO World Heritage Sites; they’re all import and culturally significant. But to be completely honest, sometimes they’re also a bit boring and museum-like. And if you’re a regular reader here, you know that standing behind a rope just to have a look-see typically isn’t our thing. We feel connections when we can interact with a place, which is why we loved the Pont du Gard in Southern France.

Pont du GardIn 1AD ancient Nîmes was a pretty happening place. The bustling and prestigious city of 50,000 inhabitants needed a lot of water for its thermal baths, swimming pools and fountains and running water for its houses. But Nemausus (ancient Nîmes) wasn’t located in the most convenient area for channeling water to the city – low plains lay to the south and east making it impossible for water to flow to the city and engineers found the hills to the west too daunting to be a viable water supply route since they would have had to tunnel through them for some eight kilometers. So when in Rome, er, the Roman Empire, you do as the Romans do.

The 49 meter high Pont du Gard was built to channel water from the natural springs near Uzès to the Nîmes Castellum. The aqueduct, the highest Roman aqueduct in the world, supplied Nemausus with around 200,000 cubic meters (about 44,000,000 gallons) of water a day.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Kayaking beneath the arches of Pont du Gard

Sounds like an incredible engineering marvel, doesn’t it? So imagine paddling down the Gardon River, surrounded by the bluish cliffs on either side. Suddenly this imposing stone aqueduct comes in to view, the three levels of arches standing high above the river in all their glory. You stare up in awe as the kayak gently glides through the arches.

Pont du GardThis part of Southern France sees some 330 days of sunshine each year and you’ll definitely want to cool off by taking a dip in the Gardon River. Swim in the shadows of the Pont du Gard’s arches and even enjoy a picnic on the banks of the river. This spot is popular even for the locals to come and enjoy basking in the beauty of the 2000 year old Pont du Gard.

Pont du Gard

This olive tree is over 1100 years old

Plan to spend some time wandering the entire Pont du Gard site. You can walk across the entire bridge, taking in the magnificent views of both sides of the Gardon River. The right bank is home to beaches where you can swim and the left bank pays homage to the farmers that once used this land. There is an olive tree that was planted in 908, making it over 1100 years old.

We Recommend

France’s Ardeche is for Adventurers

There is also a museum that walks through the construction, how the Roman aqueduct worked and life in the Gallo-Roman town. Several food options are available too, including snack bars and an on-site restaurant situated with a beautiful view of the Pont du Gard and both a la carte and fixed menu options.

Know Before You Go

Opening Hours & TicketsKayakingGetting There
Pont du Gard is open year round from 9am. Check the website for closing hours as they vary by season. Admission is €18 per car (up to a family of 5) and includes parking. Visitors entering by foot, bicycle or kayak are €7 per person.
Kayaking is available with Canoe Callias from various points with routes varying from 8 to 31 kilometers in length. Rates vary by length of the trip and range from €22 – €35 per person.
Pont du Gard is located 27 kilometers from Nimes and 21 kilometers from Avignon and is accessible via car from the A9 motorway, via train with a bus connection from Nimes (Line B21) or Avignon (Line A15).

UNESCO_Logo-150x150This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites we’ve visited here.

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13 Reasons to Go to Friuli Venezia Giulia Right Now http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/things-to-do-in-friuli-venezia-giulia/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/things-to-do-in-friuli-venezia-giulia/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 16:25:14 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=43085 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Everyone knows any Italy itinerary should include visits Rome, Florence, and Venice. You might even know some of Italy’s “off-the-beaten-path” (that really aren’t so off-the-beaten-path anymore) destinations like San Gimignano, Bologna, and Cinque Terre. But I’d bet that unless you live in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia like us, you’ve probably not heard of or ever considered [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Everyone knows any Italy itinerary should include visits Rome, Florence, and Venice. You might even know some of Italy’s “off-the-beaten-path” (that really aren’t so off-the-beaten-path anymore) destinations like San Gimignano, Bologna, and Cinque Terre. But I’d bet that unless you live in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia like us, you’ve probably not heard of or ever considered a visit to Italy’s most north-eastern region. Why should you go, you ask? Well, here are the top things to do in Friuli Venezia Giulia:

Aquileia

Roman ruins at Aquileia

1. Walk in the steps of the Romans at Aquileia

The Roman Empire stretched far and wide in its time, so it’s not surprising that Roman ruins can be found even in the Friuli Venezia Giulia. Don’t expect a Colosseum a la Roma, but the ruins of palatial villas, temples and baths provides a reminder of the splendor of the Roman Empire. After all, it was here that Emperor Augustus received Herod the Great in 10 BC and again served as the site where the early Christian church held a council to settle doctrinal issues in 381 AD. Aquileia is merely more than a village these days, but the site of Aquileia is believed to be the largest Roman city yet to be excavated and is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Friuli Venezia Giulia Strada del Vino

On the Strada del Vino in Friuli

2. Sip your way along the Strada del Vino

Italy has literally thousands of wine varieties, though most people automatically think of Chianti when thinking of Italian wine. After all, Tuscany was one of the first wine regions in Europe and is Italy’s top wine producing region. The alpine foothills of the Friuli are some of the best white wine producing estates in Italy and though the wine producers’ names – Radikon, Zidarich and Schiopetto – hardly sound Italian, the vineyards and villages the producers are scattered amongst are undeniably, authentically Italian.

We Recommend

5 Must Visit Wineries for Cantine Aperte

A fantastic way to taste to is to come for Italy’s Cantine Aperte, when many Italian vineyards open up their tasting rooms to the public on the last Sunday in May. The weekend before Cantine Aperte, the 2015 Sauvignon World Championship is also being held in the Friuli Venezia Giulia.

3. Ham it up in San Daniele

The hilltop town of San Daniele, in the province of Udine, is world-famous for its prized ham and rivals Parma in the Emilia Romagna. Perhaps I’m a little biased as a resident of the Friuli, but I prefer the less salty and sweeter prosciutto di San Daniele. The salty Adriatic breeze blows in to mix with the cooler alpine air from the mountains and creates the perfect drying conditions, requiring less salting and air-drying time per kilogram of meat than Parma ham.

Up until the 60s, prosciutto di San Daniele was made from black Friulian pigs, but then the pigs nearly went extinct. Even though the Friulian black pigs are no longer used, the prosciutto is produced much the same as it was for centuries. The DOP regulations control production and only certain breeds of Italian pigs at least nine months old and weighing no less than 350 pounds are used.

Visit in June (June 26 – 29, 2015) during the Aria di Festa, at which the proscuitto di San Daniele is celebrated for four days and many factories open up their doors for visits and tastings.

Cima Manera

Cima Manera is the highest peak of Piancavallo at 2251 meters

4. Hit the hiking trails in the Dolomites

Perhaps why the Friuli Venezia Giulia isn’t on the tourist radar is because it is not home to cities like Rome, Venice or Florence that lure visitors to revel in the days gone by. The Friuli is still very much a region that communes with nature and every bit of it can be explored by hiking its trails. There are 13 nature reseves located within the Friuli Venezia Giulia region alone and a number of varying hiking trails throughout them.

One of the most challenging day hikes is the I Sentieri delle Acque (translated to The Water Paths). It was here that woodsmen transported wood over the water. The trail runs through a deep valley cut by the Chiarso Creek, has many spectacular panoramas and even passes by the famous 170 year old and 115 feet tall white spruce named Palma.

There are even trails that follow the footprints of Antonio, the dinosaur who’s skeleton was found near the village of San Giovanni in Tuba. Though you have to visit the Civic Museum of Natural History in Trieste to see Antonio’s skeleton, the trail pays homage to the fantastical character he has become in these mountains.

Download a Friuli Venezia Giulia trekking guide here.

Castello di Miramare5. Visit the castle of the Mexican king

Castello di Miramare (or the Castle of Miramare) is a commanding presence on the Gulf of Trieste and is a “new” castle in that it wasn’t built until 1860s. Built by Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg for his beautiful wife, Charlotte of Belgium, the castle is believed to be cursed because of the ill fate both Maximilian and Charlotte suffered. They became Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota of Mexico in April of 1864 after Napoleon pressured them to during the French intervention in Mexico.

We Recommend

The Curse of Castello di Miramare

Despite the curse, it’s safe to make a day trip to Castello di Miramare and visit the 20 or so rooms still furnished with the original furnishing of Maximilian and Charlotte.

Grotta Gigante

Inside the Grotta Gigante

6. Descend deep into the earth at Grotta Gigante

The Friuli Venezia Giulia is home to the Guinness Book of World Records holder for the largest tourist cave on Earth, the Grotta Gigante. It is a single cavern that is estimated to be around 10 million years old and stretches an astounding 280 meters long, 65 meters wide and 107 meters high.

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Grotta Gigante: The World’s Largest Tourist Cave

Though it is a tourist cave, you do have to navigate down 500 steps to the cave floor at about 80 meters deep. The steps are divided into comfortable ramps, but this particular cave is not best suited for people with difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Visits are only possible with Grotta Gigante’s specialized guides.

7. Bike the Alpe Adria

Crowned as the best bike path in Europe at the Fiets en Wandelbeurs travel fair in 2015, the Alpe Adria leads cyclists from the Salzburg to the Friuli Venezia Giulia in about one week. Beginning in the city of Mozart, the bike path takes cyclists through the valleys and mountains of Austria, passing towns like Bockstein, Villach and Arnoldstein before crossing the Austrian-Italian border and meandering through the mountains and quaint villages of Tarvisio, the vineyards of Gemona and Udine, and finally finishing at the Adriatic Sea in Grado.

8. Go cross-border skiing

The highest ski resort in Slovenia is also linked to the Friulian ski resort Sella Nevea, offering a cross-border ski (or snowboard) experience. The two resorts operate with a single ski pass and have access from both the Slovenian (Bovec) and Italian (Sella Nevea) sides of the mountain. Not only that, Bovec Kanin-Sella Nevea’s season runs until the beginning of May – long after the Friuli’s other ski resorts have closed up for the season.

Tarvisio Alpine Bob Coaster9. Speed up to 40 KPH on Tarvisio’s alpine bob coaster

Tarvisio’s new alpine bob coaster is fun for the whole family. Descending over 1000 meters through the forest, the alpine bob coaster zigs and zags as you race down the track. Seat belts keep you glued to the seat as the coaster bounces along at any speed you’re comfortable with, since you control the “gas” and brake. For the true daredevils, you can get up to 40 kph on the track.

Apline bob is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm – 4:30pm and is 4 per ride or 11 per 3 rides. Kids under 8 are free and the coaster does accommodate an adult and child. Reach the alpine bob from the Snow & Fun Park.

10. Learn to mush a dog sled

You don’t have to go all the way to the Arctic to learn to drive a dog sled; the International Mushing Sleddog School in Tarvisio offers tours and in-depth courses for your chance to drive your very own dog sled. And I can guarantee that it will be much, much warmer than a dog sledding tour in Lapland. There are even summer programs offered for those that really, really don’t like the cold.

11. Play a round of golf

The Friuli Venezia Giulia is home to seven 18-hole golf courses, many set beautifully amongst the vineyards with panoramas of the snow-capped mountains. In the heart of the Collio, the Golf & Country Club Castle Thick is popular for the modern fairways set amongst a castle that dates back to 1200. Or head to the seaside Grado Golf Club for a challenging game with hazards and bunkers. The club even has a spa and is located close to lovely beaches.

12. Watch the world’s largest sailing regatta

On the second Sunday of October (October 3-11, 2015), be sure not to miss the spectacle that is the world’s largest sailing regatta. Over 2000 boats of all sizes gather each year for Trieste’s Barcolana. The “festival of the sea” becomes a stage for friendly competition, music, food and entertainment – truly an Italian festival for the entire family to enjoy.

Gliding at Piancavallo

Gliding at Piancavallo

13. Soar above Aviano

For the truly adventurous, take a flying leap of faith off of Castaldia at 1108 meters. This area of Piancavallo is ideal for easy take-offs due to the topography of the mountain and is a great place for your first tandem paragliding or gliding experience. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see from the mountains all the way to the sea. Adventure Sports in Porcia offers tandem paragliding experiences.

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10 Bucket List Trips to Take in Your 30s http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/10-bucket-list-trips-to-take-in-your-30s/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/10-bucket-list-trips-to-take-in-your-30s/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 14:32:34 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64230 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I have celebrated my faux 29th birthday again and again…and again. I officially enter my mid-thirties in a few days and it’s time to embrace it. I mean, what’s really so terrible about being 35? If you’re like me with your 20s undeniably in the rear view mirror, you probably have more money in your [...]

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I have celebrated my faux 29th birthday again and again…and again. I officially enter my mid-thirties in a few days and it’s time to embrace it. I mean, what’s really so terrible about being 35? If you’re like me with your 20s undeniably in the rear view mirror, you probably have more money in your bank account, a better sense of who you are, and more importantly, you’ve discovered your travel style. I know I have, so I’ve put together a list of 10 bucket list trips to take in your 30s for adventures who love a little bit of luxury at the end of the day:

Lion cubs in Serengeti National Park

Lion cubs in the Serengeti

1. Go on an African Safari in Tanzania

A bucket list trip I’ve already taken in my 30s, going on an African safari in Tanzania tops the list of most amazing trips I’ve ever been on. Aside from spotting all of Africa’s Big Five, we watched a pack of hyenas hunt, zebras and wildebeest as they migrated on the Serengeti Plains and giraffes crane their necks just for a drink. We combined adventure with luxury by sleeping in tented camps and 1000 year old baobab trees all while traveling by private plane on a SkySafari.

2. Camp in Antarctica

The seventh continent has been on our bucket list for a while and we WILL make it there in our 30s. Not all Antarctica cruises are created equal though. When we go to Antarctica we not only want to step foot on the continent, we want to camp on it. It would be the highlight of my 30s to wake up to a curious penguin checking me out while cocooned in my sleeping bag. Quark Expeditions, the leader in Polar travel, offers the option to camp on the continent and when we go, we’ll be going with them. (Unless I get that job at the Penguin Post Office.)

3. Glamping in Moab

I like the fancy form of roughing it. Tim likes a bona fide camping experience. Glamping is a great compromise to make both of us happy – he’s out in nature and I still get to be squeaky clean every day. Moab Under Canvas sits right at the edge of Arches National Park, allowing you to commune with nature’s bizarrely beautiful formations and sleep under the stars. We’d love to spend a few days glamping and wetting our appetite for adventure while white water rafting the Colorado River, hiking in Arches and Canyonlands National Park and hot air ballooning over Moab.

Anantara Kihavah Villas Maldives

No filter needed when you’re in paradise!

4. Snorkel in the Maldives

It be cliched to say, but the Maldives truly are paradise on earth. The 1100 islands that make up the Maldives are home to some of the largest coral atolls on Earth. Swimming right off your over water villa is like diving right in to a life-sized aquarium. The over water villas with private plunge pools, underwater restaurant where you can dine on aphrodisiacs like lobster, couples massages and pristine white sand beaches at Anantara Kihavah Villas make for a sexy holiday best shared with your special someone.

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The Colorful Underwater World of the Maldives

Un-Cruise Adventures in Alaska

How incredible does kayaking in Alaska look? Photo courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventures.

5. Explore the Alaskan Wilderness

Alaska. The last frontier full of untamed, untouched wilderness. We think it’s the perfect adventure for a thirtysomething; after all it’s been an adventure destination since the times of Captain Cook. With only 20% of Alaska accessible by roads, we think Un-Cruise Adventures is the way to go. Massive floating resorts, er cruise ships, aren’t our thing. But a small expedition style ship that can navigate small inlets and passages and hosts an itinerary full of adventure activities from kayaking to hiking and even SUP is right up our alley. And we’d just be tickled pink to get up-close with Alaska’s brown bears!

6. Go Wine Tasting in Bordeaux

We retired from the club scene years ago and moved on to the art of eating well and enjoying the finer things in life, like wine. Meandering through the lush vineyards of Bordeaux, sipping some of the most highly coveted wine blend in the world, blend our own wine and taking a cooking lesson to prepare the perfect meal to pair with the wine are just some adult ways to have fun.

7. Swim with the Bahamas’ Swimming Pigs

Once upon a time we planned to honeymoon at the brand new Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. That was 13 years ago now and it never happened. And now if we were to plan a trip to the Bahamas, we’d opt for the lesser known islands to seek out pristine beaches and exotic nature. The Exumas, where you can call ultra-exclusive luxury resorts home at the end of an adventure filled day, make us go googly-eyed. And you can swim with the Bahamas’ famous swimming pigs!

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

A typical road in Iceland

8. Drive the Ring Road in Iceland

Iceland is a great destination to go to no matter your age and we’ve seen the twenty-somethings hitch hiking, surviving off of nothing more than the $2 gas station hot dogs and pitching a tent wherever the wind took them that day. But in your 30s you can splurge on amazing experiences like a helicopter flight over the Holuhraun eruption, luxury accommodations like the stunning Hotel Ranga and feast on Iceland’s fantastic cuisine. Honestly, after a day of hard core adventures like trekking to the summit of a glacier, wouldn’t you prefer to soothe your tired muscles in a hot tub under the stars before indulging in lobster bisque and filet of lamb?

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Iceland’s Ring Road in 1 Week

Northern Lights in Abisko, Sweden9. Chase the Northern Lights in Lapland

Northern Lights tourism is still a relatively new trend, though the Northern Lights themselves are not. The Aurora Borealis, and its southern counterpart the Aurora Austalis, have been dancing in the Polar Night for at least as long as the Earth is old. Over the last two or three years as the sun reaches the peak of its solar cycle, spectacular photos of green, red, purple and sometimes even blue curtains have intrigued people enough to travel to the far north in teeth-chattering temperatures for a chance to witness the phenomena in person. Taylor made holidays to Lapland combine Northern Lights tours with other adventure activities from dog sledding to sleeping in an ice hotel. It truly is a trip of a lifetime, albeit an expensive one, and worth the splurge.

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10. Explore Easter Island on Horseback

I’ve wanted to visit the remote speck of an island in the middle of the Pacific, known as Easter Island, since I saw Matt Lauer report from there in his Where In the World is Matt Lauer series on the Today Show. Though only a few flights each week carry adventurous tourists to Easter Island, it’s certainly not an undiscovered place. But some of Easter Island’s most spectacular Moais (the weird statues) are accessible only by trail and best explored on horseback. It’s even possible to arrange multi-day horseback excursions around Easter Island, which sounds like the perfect adventure to me.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/beginners-guide-to-wine-tasting/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/beginners-guide-to-wine-tasting/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 16:16:01 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64209 Luxe Adventure Traveler

You sit down at a nice restaurant and are presented the wine list. You might ask for a few recommendations and finally settle upon a bottle to order. Before you know it, your waiter is proudly presenting the bottle to you and pours just a tasting amount in the glass with a flourish. If you’re [...]

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Beginner's Guide to Wine TastingYou sit down at a nice restaurant and are presented the wine list. You might ask for a few recommendations and finally settle upon a bottle to order. Before you know it, your waiter is proudly presenting the bottle to you and pours just a tasting amount in the glass with a flourish. If you’re not a certified sommelier, you’re probably like the rest of us who swirl it, taste and nod your head that it’ll be just fine. But wine tasting doesn’t have to feel intimidating or pretentious, especially when you know what to look for. Follow this beginner’s guide to wine tasting and you’ll have your waiter convinced you’re a wine connoisseur!

Step 1: Sight

Wine tasting truly uses all of your senses and our eyes give us the first impression of the wine. Like many of us recently learned with “that dress,” our eyes can play tricks on us. To sip like a sommelier, you’ll want to get the full color range of the wine and look at it in four different ways. First, look straight down in to your glass to take in the deep color of the core of the wine.

Next, hold the glass to the light and look at it through the sides of the glass. Wine should always be clear with some sparkle to it, like a brilliant diamond. A murky wine is a sign of a problem with the fermentation process or a chemical imbalance.

Tilt the glass to let the wine thin out toward the edges to determine if the wine is young or old. If it looks watery or very pale at the edges, it could be a wine that is too young and lacking any flavor. You can also see if the wine is past its prime and oxidized if the color of the edge looks brown for a white wine or orange for a red wine.

Finish off your sight evaluation with the swirl. And you might laugh, but the mid-air swirl is a practiced technique. Beginners should place the glass back on the table and swirl while firmly planted on that table. There’s nothing more embarrassing that sloshing some wine out while “free-styling.”

Step 2: Smell

Did you know that 50% of taste comes from smell? So it’s pretty much a crime not to allow your nose to take in the bouquet of the wine. You’re robbing yourself of half of the taste!

To get the full bouquet, it’s best if the wine can oxygenate before smelling it. For a red, 30 minutes in a decanter is optimal. But even a few minutes in the glass while you’re examining the color will make a big difference. The swirl also helps release the bouquet.

Don’t stick your nose right in to the glass; that just looks ridiculous and you won’t get the full bouquet of the wine. Instead, hover over the glass and take several short sniffs, swirling in between. While it’s impressive that sommeliers can name a number of the fruits, spices and herbs in a wine, and it can even be fun to guess, it’s really not necessary to learning how to taste and enjoy wine. But if can you pick out a few, it admittedly does enhance your experience. Whenever I sniff blackberries, I know the wine is going to be a hit in my book.

Just like bad apples happen, flawed wines happen. Certain scents are a sure fire way of sniffing out a spoiled wine. Scents like vinegar, nail polish or rotten eggs are scents you definitely don’t want in your wine. It it smells funky, it will definitely taste funky. If you’re at home, pour it right down the drain. If you’re at a restaurant, send it back.

Step 3: Taste

Finally it’s time to put that glass you’ve been tinkering with to your lips and get a taste of that divine liquid! But as with sight and smell, you want to savor it; don’t just swallow it. Take a sip and swirl it around your entire mouth to get a true sense of taste and texture.

Yes, wines definitely do have different textures – one of my favorite textures is a jammy wine. Sommeliers, I know you cringe at jammy wines but don’t be a hater. A jammy wine has a syrupy, cooked berry quality about it. In my world of wine, jammy = yummy.

Back to tasting though, the taste happens in three parts: initial impression, evolution and the finish. The initial impression is when you pick up the flavors and is influenced by the sniffing phase. You smelled black pepper? I bet the wine tastes a bit spicy to you. Picked up on those blackberries? It feels jammy in your mouth.

The evolution is when you pick up on more subtle flavors that you didn’t notice initially. Take the time to enjoy it and think about the familiarity of the flavors. The finish is how long the wine keeps expressing itself in your mouth. A good, quality wine will linger.

Food also influences the taste of wine. There are a number of wines I just don’t like as a stand alone, enjoy a glass with a book wine. But paired properly with food and suddenly they are delicious! Reversely, improperly pairing wine with food can also make it not taste good.

Wine tasting in Crete

There’s obviously nothing pretentious about this group of wine tasters!

Take a Wine Tasting Class

If you really want to get a grasp of wine tasting and learn more about the various appellations of the wine region you’re visiting, there are often wine tasting classes you can attend. I attended a beginner’s guide to wine tasting in Crete and learned about the Cretan wines from a local expert who walked our group through a variety of six different wines. The wine cellar is in the heart of Chania, perfect for then taking a stroll to a nearby taverna for dinner after. You can even purchase wines at the cellar, which I did to take to the beach with me the next day.

viator-ambassador-400Our Crete wine tasting was provided by Viator in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Unforgettable Winter Adventures in Swedish Lapland http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/winter-adventures-in-swedish-lapland/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/winter-adventures-in-swedish-lapland/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 17:53:28 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=63272 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Swedish Lapland is magical in the winter. Snow that sparkles like a sea of diamonds, spotting herds of reindeer, trees so heavy with snow that they dip precariously toward the ground, and green curtains dancing across the night sky. There’s a thrill to stepping off the plane at the tiny airport and spotting the negative [...]

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Swedish Lapland is magical in the winter. Snow that sparkles like a sea of diamonds, spotting herds of reindeer, trees so heavy with snow that they dip precariously toward the ground, and green curtains dancing across the night sky. There’s a thrill to stepping off the plane at the tiny airport and spotting the negative temperatures displayed on the sign welcoming you to Kiruna. It might sound absolutely crazy to go to a place so cold that you’ll quite literally feel your eyelashes freeze, but the experiences are unforgettable.

Northern Lights in Abisko, SwedenChasing the Northern Lights

One of the greatest and most spectacular natural phenomena on earth, it seems every traveler has put witnessing the green curtain that seemingly billows across the Arctic night sky on their must-see list. We get it. We’ve had the good fortune to see the Northern Lights more than a dozen times now in four different countries and we’re still always planning our next trip to go chasing them.

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Even the teeny-tiny town of Abisko, shockingly, puts off a lot of light pollution. And when you’re chasing the Northern Lights, you want as little light pollution as possible for the best viewing. Lights Over Lapland, the premier Northern Lights tour company in Swedish Lapland, offers excursions to the Aurora Sky Station. Each night a small group of guests that opt for the Aurora Sky Station Exclusive Dinner are whisked up the mountain to 900 meters by chair lift.

Aurora Sky Station

Reindeer starter, soup with caviar, and reindeer filet entree

After the 20-minute ride, being welcomed with hot mulled wine with a shot of cloudberry liquor warms you right up. The chef prepares the dinner in the open-style kitchen impressively on a stove no bigger than the one you have at home and our small group enjoyed the 4-course while the chairlift operator keep a Northern Lights watch for us. The menu is a set menu as all ingredients have to be brought up via the chair lift and you can opt for wine or beer pairings (not included).

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Why Abisko is the Best Place in Europe to See Northern Lights

After dinner, more guests begin arriving and there are short guided tours that give you some interesting facts about the Northern Lights and show you around outside. Climb the observation tower and if you can hold still for five minutes, the Aurora Sky Cam snaps a photo that you can view on the Aurora Sky Station website.

Though our night up at the Aurora Sky Station was a rare completely cloud covered night and we eventually gave up on the Northern Lights, we still had a wonderful meal in a very special place. The Northern Lights are never a guarantee, and you’ll never spot them if you simply don’t go outside and look. The great thing about keeping watching from the Aurora Sky Station is that you have a warm place to hang out and with staff and other aurora hunters keeping an eye out, you’ll be sure not to miss them if they appear.

Dog Sledding in Swedish LaplandDog Sledding in the Swedish Forest

If you think the best way to enjoy Swedish Lapland’s wintery landscape is to sit by the fire and gaze out the window, think again. Bundle up, get outdoors and conquer the snowy terrain with a team of huskies. The moment that the barking stops as you ease your foot off the brake and the dogs can do what they were born to do is a moment that you’ll never forget.

The Pine Tree Lodge, which actually started out as a husky kennel offering dog sledding tours in Swedish Lapland, is located in the middle of the forest. The owner, Johan, started the company after spending a year in Alaska in quite literally the middle of no where (the nearest town was 700 kilometers away) and learning to mush with his own sled dog team. Now Johan and his guides take great joy in taking people like us out in to the wilderness with the dogs.

With 107 Alaskan huskies, it’s quite the orchestra of howls, whines and barks when you arrive in the morning. Everybody wants to go! There’s jumping and tugging punctuated with more barks and howls as us humans get ready to go. We’re clearly not moving fast enough if the whines are any indication.

Dog sledding in Swedish LaplandJust as a maestro’s baton silences a philharmonic orchestra, taking your foot off the brake silences the deafening cries in an instant. We sledded across frozen lakes and rivers, picked up speed in the open expanses, and ducked for cover through tunnels made by the snow-covered trees bending in arches over the narrow trail.

Even though the temperatures were hovering around -20°C, helping the dogs by pushing the sled up hills keeps the blood flowing. I rode in the sled with our group’s bag of firewood, which we’d be using to make a hot lunch, and just sitting in the sled gets cold after a while. But even with my toes going numb, there’s just nothing like bouncing along in the blue light as the snowflakes gently fall.

We covered about 40 kilometers on our full day dog sled adventure and stopped midday for a lunch we cooked in the forest. Back at the lodge, a hot sauna followed by sitting in front of a crackling fire never felt so good!

Snowmobiling in Swedish LaplandSnowmobiling Over Frozen Lakes and Rivers

Though the main activity at Pine Tree Lodge is dog sledding, there are numerous other winter activities offered. Dog sledding is a really peaceful experience that makes you feel at one with nature. Snowmobiling, on the other hand, is exhilarating as you zig-zag across the snowy landscapes. Innumerable tunnels created by the tree goblins (trees so snow covered that they no longer resemble trees) open up onto frozen lakes that offer heart-racing opportunities for speed.

There is absolutely nothing like watching the sun peek above the horizon for the first time in several weeks from the middle of a frozen lake. Even though sunrise and sunset all happened within 15 minutes, our snowmobile group forgot the cold and were all completely mesmerized by the golden glow. A beam shooting straight up in to the sky above seemed to emanate from the forest. Our guide, Victor, assured us that it wasn’t our eyes playing tricks on us. Seeing the beam is as rare and special as seeing the Northern Lights dance in the Polar Night.

Snowmobiling in Swedish Lapland

We all hovered around the campfire

Like our full day dog sledding tour, we cooked a hot lunch over a fire Victor expertly built. This time we stopped out in the marshes on a large frozen lake dotted with islands. You never know what soup the cooks from the Pine Tree Lodge send and we were all pleasantly surprised with the vegetarian chili. And I don’t just say that because it was -24°C; that chili was the perfect amount of spicy and I think I could have gobbled up the entire pot myself!

We covered twice the ground we did dog sledding, traveling about 80 kilometers on the full day snowmobile tour. It was fantastic seeing parts of the forest we didn’t reach on dog sled and really awesome to spot some dog sleds making their way.

IceHotel Sweden

King and Queen of the IceHotel

Chill in the IceHotel

Located 200 miles above the Arctic Circle and situated in the small village of Jukkasjarvi, each year the IceHotel is completely reconstructed from the ice from the River Torne. 2015, when we visited, was the 25th celebration of the world’s oldest ice hotel and they certainly went all out.

IceHotel Sweden

The entrance and lobby

We’ve actually stayed in igloos on several occasions previously at a ski resort in Slovenia and just under the Matterhorn, but we were blown away by the size and intricate details at Sweden’s IceHotel. From the moment you pull open the wooden doors by their reindeer antler handles, you’re presented with a feast for the eyes. Etchings of various animals like skateboarding bear and a rollerskating reindeer adorn the walls of the lobby and a chandelier completely made of ice cut into shapes to look like Swarovski crystals dangles in the main hall.

IceHotel Sweden

Polar Night suite

From here you really take in the sheer size with multiple hallways branching off from the main hall. Each is lined with room after room, each art suite 100% unique and created by renowned artists. During the daytime, these suites are all open for guests and visitors to wander through. It was truly hard to pick a favorite! From a suite dubbed Polar Night with a lynx and howling wolves to days gone by in the Polish countryside inspired Borderland Suite, I wanted to stay in them all.

“But isn’t it really cold?”, some of you asked on our Facebook Page when we posted live photos. Actually, it was around a teeth-chattering -20°C, snowing and windy the day we spent there, so the -5°C inside the hotel was a welcome respite from the blustery weather outside. The worst part about staying in an ice hotel or igloo is if you need to use the bathroom at night. Remember that these hotels are completely made from snow and ice, so there is not plumbing nor a bathroom. If you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, it is a cold dash from the comfort of your cozy expedition sleeping bag to a bathroom in another on-site building usually 100 yards away.

Aside from the main “building” of the Ice Hotel, there is also a chapel where you can have a wedding straight of Frozen. Or head to the ICEBAR for a drink of vodka right out of a glass made of ice. Try out the kick sleds or skis, which are also available for guests and visitors. You can also arrange a variety of activities from the IceHotel, including arriving or heading to Kiruna airport by dog sled.
The Ice Hotel also has a regular on-site hotel with sauna, lounge and restaurant. We got out of the cold for a bit and happily warmed up with Arctic inspired hot cocktails and smoked reindeer ciabattas.

If you’re not up for staying the night in a bed made of ice and topped with reindeer furs, you can still visit and tour the IceHotel. There are guided tours at 12pm and 4pm and cost SEK 325 (adult) and SEK 75 for kids 6-12 years old.

Pine Tree Lodge

Our base for our dog sledding and snowmobile adventures was three nights at the Pine Tree Lodge, about eight kilometers outside the village of Kangos. The three log cabin-style buildings that make up Pine Tree Lodge are located in the middle of the forest, so there is no light pollution and you have great possibilities of seeing the Northern Lights. We loved that all of our activities started right from the lodge and that there were also cross country skis, sleds and snowshoes available for guests to use complimentary.

Pine Tree Lodge Sweden

Smoked reindeer and moose sampler

We enjoyed hanging out by the fireplace in the main building for afternoon snacks upon returning from our day trips each day. Tea, coffee, cookies and a snack that varied each afternoon were complimentary, but you could also order other beverages from the bar. We couldn’t resist ording a sampler with reindeer, moose and cheese served with cloudberry jam every single one of our three afternoons at Pine Tree Lodge. We even bought some of the reindeer, which is nicely packaged and for sale in the small gift shop, to enjoy at home.

Like our stay at the Abisko Turiststation, we were asked each day if we had any allergies. The closest hospital is a long way away, so the wait staff want to ensure everything on the menu is okay. The meal changes daily and everything we had was delicious. We also loved that we could order a bottle of wine and if we didn’t finish it, the restaurant would re-cork it and store for us until the next night. Dog sledding is exhausting after all and we had Northern Lights to stay up and watch for; a full bottle of wine would have put us to sleep!

The saunas in the main building were also perfect for warming up after being chilled to the bone on our day excursions. In addition to the sauna in the main building, the more adventurous could use the sauna next to the lake and then take an icy dip in true Scandinavian style. A request just has to be made in advance so the sauna can heat up.

Being out in the middle of the forest comes with its charms, and its challenges. We had a couple of power outages, one that knocked out the hot water and heat. I wasn’t thrilled that I couldn’t take a hot shower when we got back from dog sledding or before dinner, but a complimentary bottle of wine that the management offered took the edge of.

Aurora Odyssey Package

Our Aurora Odyssey trip was a package trip, which we don’t recommend often, but we can honestly give this one our stamp of approval. The 7-night trip includes:

  • 3 nights in the Abisko Turiststation
  • 1 night in the IceHotel warm room (upgrade available for the snow rooms for €35, the ice rooms for €130, or the ice art suites for €220)
  • 3 nights in the Pine Tree Lodge
  • 6 days of breakfast, lunch and dinner (lunch and dinner in the IceHotel are not included)
  • 3 Aurora hunting excursions
  • Aurora Sky Station visit (upgrade to Exclusive Dinner available for €100)
  • full day dog sledding
  • full day snowmobile
  • all local transfers

There are additional optional activities in both Abisko and Kangos that include everything from ice climbing to ice driving.

Know Before You Go

BookingTips
The Aurora Odyssey trip is €2980 per person.
  • Warm Bergen’s clothing is provided for all excursions, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing or packing gear.
  • We recommend bringing hand and foot warmers to keep warm on full day excursions.
  • Both Abisko Turiststation and Pine Tree Lodge accept credit cards.
  • Get cash at the airport as both Kangos and Abisko are very small villages with limited services.

 

Our Aurora Odyssey trip to Swedish Lapland was provided by Abisko Aurora with the support of Lights Over Lapland in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month: Esther Chou http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-of-the-month-esther-chou/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-of-the-month-esther-chou/#respond Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:19:32 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64074 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com. This month we check in with [...]

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com.

This month we check in with Esther, who is an adventurer at heart. We met Esther virtually when she got in touch with us about planning a trip to Iceland. She’s been all around the world, including South Africa and Cuba (both on our own bucket list) and we’ll definitely be asking her for some tips once we start planning for those countries.

Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month

Esther in Cuba (when it was still banned!)

Name: Esther Chou

Occupation: International Education Professional

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Tell us a little about yourself: I’ve been a huge fan of international travel since I started on a gap year to South Africa when I was 18. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in a career that has enabled me to traipse around Cuba (even when there was a travel ban!) and to return to South Africa (more than 15 times) for which I am ever grateful. Today, I work in the gap year sector to make education abroad accessible for young people of all backgrounds. I love what I do, fantastic food, and luxe adventures.

How many countries have you been to? 30

Favorite US city and your favorite thing to do there? Boston! This little college town was my home for almost a decade and I miss the way autumn looks and smells like a cold, fresh fire. My perfect day would take place in late September involving a walk through the North End to get a truly Italian pistachio cannoli at Mike’s Pastry, eating oysters at Neptune Oyster, walking to the harbor along the water, and getting a custom cocktail at Drink.

Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month

Esther in Cape Town

Favorite international city and your favorite thing to do there? Cape Town, South Africa is my favorite place on earth. The country itself is diverse with so many different religions, cultures, languages, and a rich history too. Moreover, in Cape Town you get stunning landscapes like majestic mountains, rocky beaches, greenery in the bush, coupled with wine country. The city is also beautifully curated; everything you see is well designed and well made. I love to go to the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill on Saturdays and to walk along Beach Road in Mouille Point at sunset.

Least favorite country? Why? To be fair, I truly don’t have a least favorite country because I learn something new with every trip and gain appreciation through every challenge. However, my most challenging trip was a solo journey to Egypt during Ramadan in August. Here’s what I learned: it is really hot in August, single lady travelers need to exercise caution in Cairo, and very few things are open during Ramadan except hotel restaurants and McDonald’s. 

You’ve got a healthy appetite for adventure. Tell us a little about that and what your favorite adventure has been. My adventure seeking self loves to learn and traveling is at the root of this. I tend to be an information junkie, which makes me difficult to travel with because I research overload then I want to learn, do, taste, and see everything. My most recent (and favorite) adventure to Iceland was an exercise in truly learning to appreciate the journey, not the destination. Driving around for several days along Ring Road in the winter made it hard to stop at the traditional tourist spots to get the requisite photo, but I encountered endless, jaw dropping beauty that was so worth it!

Five things you never travel without? (Passport is a given). An excellent book. A beautiful scarf that doubles as a blanket. Melatonin. My iPhone. Small gifts that represent my home for people I’m grateful to meet along the way.

Favorite travel iPhone app? TripIt (before you get there): to organize all your itineraries and reservations. Tripr (when you get there): to meet like minded travelers… it’s like Tinder except the end result is… travel buddies.

What is your most embarrassing or worst travel moment? Tucking my skirt into my underpants when exiting the ladies room at a fancy restaurant in Lusaka, Zambia… then getting pulled aside by a very kind waitress who was mortified FOR ME.

My dream travel destination: Lebanon!

You’re a Luxe Adventure Traveler reader. What’s your favorite tip or suggestion you’ve gotten from our site? I debated going to Iceland during the winter but ultimately this website got me to change my mind. My travel buddy and I got awesome tips – everything from how to photograph the Northern Lights to plans for New Year’s Eve. The review of Silfra snorkeling excursion really prepared us for what to expect (down to how many pairs of socks to wear) and was the best thing we did in Iceland!

What’s your favorite travel website(s) (besides Luxe Adventure Traveler, of course!)? I like TripAdvisor generally for reviews, but I love Instagram for inspiration. My favorite travel photogs on IG: thephotosociety, ourwildabandon, everchanginghorizon, and of course, natgeotravel.

Best travel tip: I think the golden rule of travel is to exercise curiosity before judgment when you’re a stranger in a foreign land. Asking questions of kind, benevolent strangers has led to some of my most enriching conversations and unexpected adventures.

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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Get Adventurous In Málaga http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/get-adventurous-in-malaga/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/get-adventurous-in-malaga/#respond Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:52:22 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=64050 Luxe Adventure Traveler

This is a guest post written by Tim Rhodes. Tim is an avid traveler with several backpacking trips around Europe under his belt. While traveling, he enjoys freelance blogging about his adventures and advising fellow globetrotters. When contemplating a trip to Spain, there are a number of factors that come into play when deciding exactly [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

This is a guest post written by Tim Rhodes. Tim is an avid traveler with several backpacking trips around Europe under his belt. While traveling, he enjoys freelance blogging about his adventures and advising fellow globetrotters.

MalagaWhen contemplating a trip to Spain, there are a number of factors that come into play when deciding exactly where you’re heading. Which region’s cuisine may influence the city or town you end up visiting, and if that’s the case you should probably head to San Sebastian and use this guide to eat your way through the city and its wonderful pintxo bars. But if it’s rich history you’re after, you may want to spend a few days in Santiago de Compostela, where you can learn all about its background—though you can also do that virtually here via UNESCO.

Honestly, it’d be easy to keep going like this, simply because Spain has so much to offer and, yes, that includes adventurous travel. That’s particularly true in the overlooked city of Málaga, which resides on the Mediterranean Sea in the southern portion of the country. While the municipality offers plenty of chances to indulge in local cuisine and history—there are top-rated restaurants and art museums galore—it’s also home to some excellent opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and much more.

But before you can do any of that, you’ll want to make sure you’re properly prepared to take on the elements. And no, that’s not a reference to having the right pack prepared, because that’s a given. What you’ll need is the right mode of transportation, and that means you’ll definitely want to opt for a rental car. As they write here, British Airways advises would-be Málaga travelers to spring for a rental car during their trip to the city. While they note that you can get to and from the airport to most hotels via shuttle, “the best way to see the Costa del Sol is to pick up a rental car at the airport.”

a view of Alcazaba of Malaga, in Malaga, Spain

A view of Alcazaba of Malaga, in Malaga, Spain

Case in point: many of the more adventurous spots in the area are most easily reached by getting there on your own terms. As outlined on this page from Málaga Aventura, there are a number of places you can visit within reach of Málaga that will allow you to kayak, hike, bicycle, explore underground areas, and drive through 4×4 trails (with one of the JEEP vehicles provided) in the absolutely breathtaking region of La Axarquia.

You may be tempted by the Costa Del Sol’s beaches when you visit Málaga—and who could blame you considering the weather’s almost always beach-worthy—but don’t forget to fill your agenda with these thrill-seeking activities. Just make sure your trip is long enough to soak up those rays in between days spent riding horses through the countryside and navigating through the caves.

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