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Home / Travel Photography / Beyond the lens / Travel Photo| Mutanyu Great Wall of China

Travel Photo| Mutanyu Great Wall of China

Updated: February 12, 2018
By: Ian Yacobucci
Mutanyu

Huairou Beijing – CN Overlooking Mutanyu the restored section from East Jiankou on Great Wall of China (Ian YacobucciBorderless Travels)

Hiking the Great Wall of China

Winter is the best time to visit the Great Wall of China, and hiking from the wild and untouched Jiankou section to the restored tourist hot spot of Mutanyu is by far the best way to see the of the Great Wall.  If you want to photograph a great image of the Great Wall of China, hiking Jiankou is the best way to get it

As you can see there aren’t many tourists in the winter, especially during Christmas, but the best part of visiting at this time is the visibilty and temperatures.  Winter weather keeps you cool on a long hike, if you catch a clear day with low pollution you can see kilometers into the distance, and even busy sections of the Great Wall are relatively free.

I snapped this shot as we were decending from Jiankou along Mutanyu.  Here the restored section spans a few kilometers.  It’s hard to spot the few tourists along the brick road from up here as the Great Wall that snakes through the mountains.

What I used: Nikon D300S, f\18, 1\250 sec., ISO – 200

Home / Asia / China / Travel China | Uncover a secret Great Wall of China near Beijing

Travel China | Uncover a secret Great Wall of China near Beijing

Updated: February 8, 2018
By: Ian Yacobucci
Arrow Nock Jiankou

Huairou Beijing, CN – View of “Arrow Nock” along the Great Wall of China Jiankou (Ian YacobucciBorderless Travels)

As an untouched section of the Great Wall of China, Jiankou offers an authentic and remote experience that is unparalleled.  Easily accessible from Beijing, it is by far the most authentic and exceptional testimony of ancient China’s civilization making it the best place to experience the Great Wall.

Jiankou is not easy to get to on your own, but finding a way to this exotic location offers a truly genuine journey to the most historically significant destinations in China, and winter is the best time to do it.

A telephone rang;  black and antique, with a bronze rotating dial from another era, it vibrated violently on the bedside table waking me from a deep late morning sleep after a 6 am arrival in Beijing.  “Aie an? This is Sonja,” spoke the female voice with a Chinese accent on the other end of the line.  It was our tour guide checking in before our Christmas day journey to one of the most rugged and beautiful sections of the Great Wall of China.

We chatted about how I was able to email her from my google account, nefariously circumventing what is known here as the “Great Firewall”.  A massive government operation that monitors and blocks the general public from access to an open and free Internet; there’s no Google or Facebook beyond China’s Great Firewall.  Holding the phone to my ear, semi conscious with my eyes closed, I confirmed our meeting time, “don’t forget to bring gloves” Sonja reminded before hanging up.

Jiankou Stairs

Huairou Beijing, CN – Hiking a stair like section of the Great Wall of China Jiankou (Ian YacobucciBorderless Travels)

Wild and unrestored, Jiankou is the most exotic sections of the Great Wall of China that is accessible from just outside Beijing.  There’s a good chance that if you’ve come across a remarkable photograph of the Great Wall snaking its way along forested mountain ridges and sharp cliffs, it’s probably been taken somewhere along the Jiankou’s three sections.

East, west, and middle sections of Jiankou often appear to defy logic when you try to fathom that this part of the Great Wall was constructed roughly 600 years ago and stands more than six meters high and five across, excluding the base that’s dug two meters into the mountainous rocky surface.  In that time there were no motorized vehicles, no highways and no modern technology, yet somehow the subjects of China’s ancient dynasties worked this seemingly inaccessible and rugged landscape to protect their empires from outside intruders.

My previous visit to Jiankou was back in the summer 2010 when my roommate at a Korean summer camp told me that Jiankou was by far the best section of the Great Wall to explore.  Back then there wasn’t much information about it on the Internet so, banking on a post from on an old forum thread, I ended up adventuring there on public transportation with a Canadian couple I had met on my solo travels.  Our visit then was abruptly shortened when I slipped on a cliff-like section of the wall we were climbing and took a large coin size chunk of skin out of my shin.

This time around was a little different. Instead of trying to figure out the public transportation system, use sign language for taxi negotiations, wonder if we were going to the right place for the right price, and realizing that the trip only offers the possibility of visiting a small section of the Great Wall before having to rush back to the taxi just to catch a glimpse of an ancient, untouched, and obscure section of the Great Wall; I organized a private tour to Jiankou.

My wife and I met our guide Sonja from China Travellers at Dongsishitiao station.  Quickly firing off some Mandarin she helped us order a couple of egg sandwiches from a street side vendor outside the station before heading to the car.   Waiting for us in the parking lot of the Swiss Hotel Beijing was a white Malibu with tinted black windows, our modern chariot to the Great Wall, and with a few quick introductions to our driver we were off.

The ride from downtown Beijing to Jiankou takes around two and a half hours and meanders into the mountains of Beijing’s Huairou District. From passenger windows, a country in transition is exposed as the city slowly becomes rural farmland contrasting old and new. Along the highway the lumbering overpasses of the future bullet train, being build for the 2022 winter Olympics, sit in the middle of fields that have been cultivated for generations.

As the traffic dissipates the highway gradually becomes country-roads, the flat fields turn to rolling hills and in no time you’re driving through the valleys between towering mountains.  In winter here, the forest sleeps in a deadened grey slumber.  Driving through the mountains elderly men and women, hired by the state to watch for fire, sit along the roadside wearing bright orange vest like pylons marking a drought ridden region.

Eventually, we turned off the paved road and parked next to a barren dirt field where we stepped out of the car to meet our hiking guide Lin.  Lin was a spryly 60-year-old local with weathered skin, a gentle demeanour and a long face.  To shield him from the winter weather he dawned a faded blue military style winter hat along with with a worn navy winter coat that almost reached his knees, and black Air Jordans with bright red accents on the sole.

As a local farmer Lin shared stories through our guide Sonya about life growing up in the area before revealing his energy with a smooth stride and spring in his step as we started our hike. Struggling to keep up on the first leg of our hike, we watched Lin effortlessly navigate the inclined hiking trails to “Arrow Nock,” one of the steepest and most picturesque sections of Jiankou and the Great Wall of China. Breathlessly we trailed from behind as we followed him through the forest where he was raised. After around 30 minutes of hiking, we broke out of the  and trees climbed onto the most scenic location of the Great Wall of China. The impressive view was intensified by wintery blue skies, whisping clouds, and a clear view to the horizon; this was only our introduction to China’s ancient Great Wall.

Jiankou from above

Huairou Beijing, CN -Looking out across
Jiankou’s Arrow Nock Great Wall of China from above (Ian YacobucciBorderless Travels)

After our warm up hike, a walk along the cliff like structures of the Arrow Nock section of the Great Wall and four dozen photos, we headed back to the car to start our official hiking tour.  As we drove to our next hiking spot we mentioned to Sonya our surprise by Lin’s athleticism and learned that he had been living near the Jiankou section of the Great Wall since the time before the regional roads existed, which meant that walking up and over the wall was the only way to visit the larger neighbouring town nearest his village.

Our hike with Lin spanned roughly ten kilometers of the Great Wall and took us from Jiankou’s abandoned and unrestored east section to Mutanyu (one of the most famous and recently restored sections of the Great Wall).  This meant that we could explore and feel the deep connection that comes with hiking along Jiankou’s rugged and untouched beauty, followed by a more touristy visit to Mutanyu before finishing the adventure off with a toboggan ride down the mountainside, lunch, and dozing drive back Beijing.

Our hike took us about three and a half hours and filled our day with clear blue skies, visibility that reached the horizon, new friends, and an epic trek along the Great Wall of China’s most spectacular locations.  We also got to experience the less visited and wild Jiankou with the opportunity to contrast it with the official tourist highlight of the Mutanyu section of the Great Wall.

Great Wall Tower Jiankou

Huairou Beijing, CN – A watch tower along the Jiankou hiking section of the Great Wall of China Jiankou (Ian YacobucciBorderless Travels)

Typically, especially in the more popular summer months, visibility can often be quite limited and the bloated tourist numbers can take away from an authentic experience.  We found that winter was the best time of the year to visit the Great Wall of China because tourist numbers are low and visibility is high (a contrast to the humid summer).  During our hike from Jiankou to Mutanyu we did not see a single tourist until we reached Mutanyu, and since it was winter even a popular section like Mutanyu had only a few dozen people.

Planning a guided tour was the best decisions we could have made for our visit to the Great Wall of China.  Although it can be more expensive than other alternatives, our experience with a local guide who helped us explore the less visited sections of the wall safely with a unique knowledge of the area coupled with the comfort of an organized ride that dropped us off in one section of the Great Wall and picked up at another, the addition of an English speaking guide like Sonja to organize it all, and the ease of booking online made our unique experience safe, effortless, and fulfilling.

We can’t wait to come back and explore another section of the Great Wall upon our next visit to Beijing and hope that you too will find the joys of exploring the Great Wall of China by adventuring off the beaten path and hiking along it the way it was meant to be explored.

For more information about how to book a trip like this visit www.chinatravellers.com

Been to the Great Wall!! Tell us about your recent visit to the Great Wall of China by  sharing your experience and advice with our readers in our comments below.

Home / Europe / Switzerland / Switzerland| Quick Guide to Hiking Lac de Salanfe & Gorge du Dailley

Switzerland| Quick Guide to Hiking Lac de Salanfe & Gorge du Dailley

Updated: October 9, 2017
By: Ian Yacobucci
Lac de Salanfe

Marigny, CH – Lac de Salanfe (Salanfe Lake) Switzerland (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

If you hear about a hike from a local, you have good reason to do everything in your power to find it.  This is what brought me to Salanfe Lake and Dailley Gorge, two spectacular hikes that can fill a day, and are only superseded by the drive to find them.

Switzerland is the land of lush green forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains.  It is a place where the melody of cowbells crosses the alpine winds and views that each mountain vista unveils is often more impressive than the last.  For good reason it is one of the most expensive countries in the world, and the only way to experience its natural beauty is by walking through it.

Marigny, CH - Salanfe & Gorge du Dailley Hiking Map area (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Marigny, CH – Salanfe & Gorge du Dailley Hiking Map area (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

The easiest way to get to the Dailley Gorge and Salanfe Lake is to drive. Located just outside the city of Martigny is the mountain town of Salvan where the adventure begins.  At 912m with a population barely scraping past 1000, Salvan is the last stop before you aventure along the pencil thin switchback roads with dark cavernous tunnels built right into the rock leading to Van d’en Bas.

You can hike from Salvan to Van d’en Bas, but in the interest of making this a day trip it’s easier to just drive up and enjoy the adventure of navigating the alpine roads (wondering how buses and winter drivers do it).   

Before entering Van d’en Bas you’ll see a small parking area off to the left.  This is the first stop, and the easiest way to enjoy Dailley Gorge and its breathtaking Pissevache waterfalls that crash down its narrow cliffs.  Lined with elevated wooden bridges and stairs that lead down the gorge, each section revealing impressive engineering and  new views of the snowcapped Rhone Valley mountains towering above the horizon in the distance.  

For us, a 30 minute vertigo-inducing walk down the gorge was invigorating, and more than enough to enjoy everything Dailley Gorge had to offer.  Back at the car, after exploring Dailley Gorge, you’ll need to continue driving up to Van d’en Haute, a tiny hamlet of summer cottages, before the Lac de Salanfe hike begins.  Beyond the cottages is a small parking area before you reach the camp ground.  Here is where you’ll leave the car and begin your hike to the lake.

Van den Bas, CH - Gorge du Dailey overlooking Rohne Valley in the distance  (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Van den Bas, CH – Gorge du Dailey overlooking Rohne Valley in the distance (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

The hike to Salanfe Lake takes about an 1hr 15min and has two routes, one of stairs and another road-like path. Plan to arrive in the afternoon for a Swiss lunch at the lakeside Salanfe Inn while you take in the towering peaks of the surrounding mountains.  If you want to stay the night along Lake Salanfe the Auberge de Salanfe offers dormitory bunks and private rooms as well as a delectable assortment of traditional Swiss options at its restaurant.

Salanfe, CH - Swiss Lunch Goatheard's Rosti with Bacon - grated potato cakes topped with cheese & bacon along Lac de Salanfe (Ian Yacobucci\Borderless Travels)

Salanfe, CH – Swiss Lunch Goatheard’s Rosti with Bacon – grated potato cakes topped with cheese & bacon along Lac de Salanfe (Ian Yacobucci\Borderless Travels)

Not planning to ascend any of the big hikes surrounding the lakes my wife and I enjoyed an afternoon hike and traditional Swiss lunch, then opted to head back down the mountain to the comforts of a Martigny hotel rather stay the night at the Auberge.  However, from the lake sitting at 1950m, you can attempt a variety of other hikes to enjoy exceptional views of the lake and les Dents-du-Midi on a multi day visit with a stay at the inn.  

From here, it’s up to you how you want to plan your adventure to Lake Salanfe and Dailley Gorge but we hope enjoy it as much as we did!

Option: if you’d like to hike up to Dailley Gorge you can do so from Salvan where a hiking trail begins from behind l’Hotel de la Balance.

More: For more information about staying at the Auberge de Salanfe and hikes in the area check out their website http://www.salanfe.ch/en/

Manage to find these hikes and explore the lake and gorge?  Have another great hike in the Martigny\Montreux region?  Share your comments below and let us know that you thought!

Home / North America / Canada / Canadian Nature| Hiking in Hamilton the Heart of the Niagara Escarpment

Canadian Nature| Hiking in Hamilton the Heart of the Niagara Escarpment

Updated: September 18, 2017
By: Ian Yacobucci
Hiking in Hamilton

Hamilton, CA – Sanding overlooking Spencer Gorge in the Websters Falls Conservation area (Ian Yaocbucci/Borderless Travles)

It’s Autumn, the perfect time to go hiking. The spectrum of orange and red coloured leaves are arriving, as the summer is coming to an end, turning the forest into a fiery painters pallet.  The   wonderfully cool hiking weather has arrived so that you can dress comfortably without overheating and Hamilton, Ontario, a short drive from Toronto has some of the best hiking in the area.

“Go right to the edge.  It’ll be perfect.  There’s nothing underneath you except forest!” I yelled across the windy gap, as I snapped a perfect Instagam photo of my wife balancing on the edge of Dundas Peak.

For some it’s easy to smile standing more than 135 ft above the forest on a tiny outcropping that looks out towards a massive valley in the the heart of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest.  For others observing the densely forested Spencer Gorge, outside Hamilton, from the safety of a well-groomed trailhead is adventure enough.

It might come as a surprise to hear that the city of Hamilton, once better known for heavy industry, is home to more than 100 waterfalls and dozens of hiking areas where wildlife and the greatest diversity of Ontario tree species can be found.

More stunning is Hamilton’s scenic section of the Bruce Trail, which runs along the 725 kilometer Niagara Escarpment (a UNESCO world biosphere reserve), where the distractions of everyday life can easily fade away as you look upon an epitaph of limestone cliffs that detail the regions natural history and glacial past.

Boundary Falls Hiking

Hamilton, CA – Autmn Hiking at Boundary Falls in Hamilton, Ontario Canada (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Located less than an hour from downtown Toronto and Niagara Falls, makes accessing Hamilton’s natural landscape easy and accessible.

There is no doubt that your first hiking stop in Hamilton will take you back in time with a visit to Webster’s falls in the Spencer Gorge Conservation area.  Showcasing a 78ft cascade of water, Webster’s falls is encased by ancient layers of limestone rock and dominated by hard wood forest along its more than 6 km of trails.

For adventurers, and a little extra exercise, you can venture below the forest canopy to the base of the falls, and along Spencer Creek, via the 123-step metal staircase.  As you descend the stairs towards the river, let the limestone walls of the Spencer Gorge envelop you with a sense of awe as you’re taken back to a time long forgotten.

Forget about all the things on your to do list and breathe in the perfumed air of pine and cedar as you try to spot a tiny yellow warbler fluttering from branch to branch, its neon feathers reflecting like light off a piece of river gold among the dark foliage.

Take a moment to listen to the pileated woodpecker hard at work searching for its afternoon meal, as the waterfall fills the air with the soothing sounds of its cascading water crashing on ancient boulders below.

For hikers, the Spencer Gorge/Webster’s Falls Conservation area offers 6km of groomed trails.  From Webster’s Falls, hikers can follow the main trail along the valley’s east rim towards the 135ft Tew’s falls (only a few meters shorter than Niagara Falls) and Dundas Peak.

“I didn’t really know that Hamilton had such good hiking trails” say’s Danielle Aniceto of Orangeville, who was visiting a friend in the area.  “It’s kind of like a hidden treasure,” she describes before posing for a picture on the edge of Dundas Peak.

Dundas Peak is a highlight for many visitors who hike Spencer Gorge because of its unobstructed views of Hamilton and Dundas Valley.  Here you can stand on the edge of a cliff that drops more than hundred feet back towards the city on your left, or down the valley along your right.  Make sure you stop to capture a new profile pic picture to show all your friends.

For a more local feel you can hike along the tucked away section of the Bruce Trail only a few kilometers from Highway 403.  Here lies a quiet hike that starts along side the 6m high Boundary falls (named for it’s location on the Hamilton and Burlington city border).

Fall Leave

Hamilton, CA – Hiking in Hamilton, Ontario Canada an Autumn leaf on a log at Boundry Falls (Ian Yacobucci, Borderless Travels)

Autumn is a great time to visit Boundary Falls along Great Smokey Hollow Walk, although this waterfall is best to visit during the wetter months of the year.  As a ribbon waterfall Boundary Falls cascades into snake falls and eventually meets with Grindstone Creek.

It’s along Grindstone Creek that you’ll find yourself in the heart of Hamilton’s section of the Bruce Trail.  Great Smokey Hollow walk offers visitors 5 km of trails to explore.  Here the trail snakes its way along the quiet creek where you’ll find yourself deep in a forested valley with the remnants of an old limestone structure, wooden bridges with benches to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest, and absolutely stunning nature located only minutes from the highway.

Plan to visit early morning or late afternoon so you can make a quick food stop along Main Street Waterdown, just down the road from the falls.  The quaint shops and restaurants here are a great place to enjoy a well deserved drink and a bite to eat before heading out feeling refreshed and stress free after your hike.

So take some time to explore nature by taking a day trip to Hamilton and revisit a city with some of the best hiking in the Toronto Niagara corridor.  Forget about the hustle and bustle of the city and reconnect with Ontario’s most spectacular geologic formation, the Niagara Escarpment.

 Getting to Hamilton’s Best Hikes

Finding Spencer Gorge (Tew’s Falls) Webster’s Falls Conservation Area

From Toronto: Take Highway 403 to Highway 6 North; turn left onto Hwy.5West. Turn left onto Brock Road. Turn left at the flashing light, onto Harvest Road. Turn right onto Short Road and left onto Fallsview Road and follow the signs for the parking lot. For Dundas Peak and Tew’s Falls lookout parking, follow Harvest Road further down until you see the signs.

Finding Great Smokey Hollow / Boundary Falls

From Toronto take Highway 403 and exit on Highway 6 North (Guelph).  Turn right onto Highway 5 (Dundas St. E).  Turn right onto Mill St.  and park in the Smokey Hollow Resource management Area parking just past the overhead railway bridge on your right.

More Information on these hikes an others visit http://www.waterfalls.hamilton.ca/

Enjoyed these hikes, have more hiking information for us, share your comments below to let know what you discovered hiking in Hamilton!

Home / Adventure Travels / Travel America | Along the Colorado River Discover Utah Off the Grid

Travel America | Along the Colorado River Discover Utah Off the Grid

Updated: June 26, 2017
By: Emily Long

Moab Utah Outdoors Arches Landscape Rocks

The western United States is famous for its rocky mountains, alien deserts, big skies, and endless opportunities for adventure. Before I moved to Utah from the hot, humid, and flat East Coast a few years ago, I’d never seen anything like the Wasatch range towering over Salt Lake City or the rolling red rocks and arches around Moab. There’s just so much…space. I immediately set out to explore every national park I could drive to, from Glacier National Park in northwest Montana all the way to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Utah alone claims five unique national parks, along with miles and miles of open federal and state land.

National parks offer a friendly gateway to adventure for families and outdoor newbies, but after several summers of busy campgrounds and highly-trafficked trails, I was ready for something new. After all, national parks attendance is hitting record highs, it’s becoming harder to get off the grid, and nature in general feels more crowded.

Moab, a bustling desert town in southern Utah that serves as the jumping-off point for Colorado River float trips, ATV excursions, and all manner of mountain biking, hiking, and camping adventures, is a great base for exploring the desert. It is just a few miles outside of Arches National Park and within an hour’s drive of Canyonlands National Park, so it can feel like a circus during peak season. Luckily, as with much of the western U.S., it’s possible to find complete isolation within spitting distance of busy cities—if you’re willing to.

Our plans took us west from Moab out Kane Creek Road, which quickly meets and follows the banks of the Colorado River. The pavement ends just under five miles, and that’s where the fun begins. There are plenty of camping spots, mountain biking and hiking trails, and rock climbing routes. The road turns to red dirt leading up to Hurrah Pass (~mile 10) and then into jeep track with big boulders and steep dropoffs and all manner of off-road fun. For those with a high-clearance vehicle, the road also leads to one of the three most extreme disc golf courses IN THE WORLD, as well as remote riverside camping and caving. We spent two days playing in the desert—doing yoga on the rocks, exploring dark caves, hiking sun-soaked trails, and watching sunsets over the Colorado—before heading back to the real world.

Mountain Biking Adventure Moab Utah Red Rocks Bike

 

As incredibly fun as this trip was, it wouldn’t have happened without some careful planning. Here’s a newcomer’s guide to preparing for off-road adventures:

Do Your Research

Experienced travelers of all shapes and sizes know that there’s a time and place for spontaneity—and a trip out to a remote location is not it. Know where you are going, what obstacles you might encounter, and what there is to do along the way. Preparedness is the key to a safe and fun off-road experience.

Prepare for the Remote

Your smartphone more than likely won’t be much help out in the wild. Download offline maps, write down any key information about your destination, or simply use an old-school paper map.

Take Maintenance and Emergency Prep Seriously

There’s no excuse for heading out on any road trip with overdue service issues. Get your oil changed, check your tire pressure, stock your emergency kit, and fill up with gas. Take high clearance and 4WD recommendations seriously, and never head out on a road for which your car isn’t suited!

Gear Up

There’s nothing more exciting than gear—and having the right gear matters when you’re out in the desert (or in the mountains, on the water, anywhere in nature). In addition to having the right tools for your vehicle, prepare yourself for all weather conditions and scenarios. Take warm layers, camping gear (if appropriate), plenty of food and water, and any equipment for hiking, biking, or other activities. Remember that you’ll likely be several hours from resupply resources.

 Slow Down

Much of the fun of off-roading is in the bumpy ride, the unplanned stops, and the views along the way. Focus on the journey rather than the destination, and enjoy!

Share you comments below to let me know what adventures you found off the grid and how these tips helped you discover something new!

Home / Europe / Greece / Life Abroad| Tour Greece like a local

Life Abroad| Tour Greece like a local

Updated: November 13, 2016
By: Danielle Aniceto
Paros Hotel View

Paros, GR – HOtel View overlooking Paros from my hotel (Danielle Aniceto/Borderless Travels)

In my life, fortune has come to me in the form of good friends. One of which was born and raised in Athens, Greece.  It is through her that I have had the much-appreciated privilege to fall in love with the birthplace of western philosophy over and over again.

Having a local tour you around a new country is probably the only way to really get a uniquely local experience and perspective; and I would suggest it in every city or country that you have friends willing to show you around.

However, for those who are not lucky enough to know a Greek with an excellent taste in food and culture, I have made you a list of my favorite spots in Greece.  I became familiar with these places over the years and I hope you’ll get a chance to experience them too.  I’ve also made sure to give you the best time to visit them because, everywhere in Greece can feel like a tourist hot spot if you’re there during peak times.

In other words, this is a tourist’s guide to Greece from a local perspective, complimentary of an honorary local who spent her life exploring Greece’s wonders.

Athens

Athens, GR – The city of Athens, Greece overlooking the Acropolis, the highest point in a city of millions (Danielle Aniceto/Borderless Travels)

A for Athens

A must see cocktail bar with a rooftop patio and a spectacular view of the Parthenon at night. If you can find somewhere to sit, you will be able to spend the night sipping cocktails while admiring an awe inspiring piece of ancient history. Despite how busy it can get, it still has great service. Someone dropped a glass while I was there and accidentally cut my foot and one of the waiters actually cleaned and bandaged my foot on the spot, talk about customer service.

Location: Miaouli 2 – 4, Athens 10554, Greece

Delphi

There are so many different ancient sites in Greece that for some it can seem a little repetitive. However, Delphi stands out among the ruins due to its rich history, mythological mystery, and location.  Located on Mount Parnassus in the south of mainland Greece, Delphi is a place of spectacular views.  The temple complex is truly impressive; just make sure you look up from walking up the ancient stairs built for Apollo to take a moment to breathe in the view. There are tons of sites on the way to Delphi as well, so think about renting a car for the day or look into a bus tour!

Paros

Full Moon Party

People enjoying the full moon beach party in Greece (Danielle Aniceto/Borderless Travels)

Many of us have a couple of islands in mind when we plan our trip to Greece such as Santorini or Mykonos, however a word of advice from a local is to avoid these islands if you can and find your own island paradise. Santorini is definitely home to the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen but it is also full of tourists, and trying to book a hotel last minute is almost impossible, especially on Mykonos. Paros is a great alternative, because the beaches are beautiful, the party scene is good and it won’t be as packed so you will be able to find a spot for your towel on the beach. Just remember to check the weather.

Full moon party on Mykonos

Although locals know when to avoid the islands, they also like to join in on some of the action. The Full Moon parties on Mykonos are where everyone wants to be.  Locals and tourists alike, however you need to plan and book your hotel room way in advance or else you won’t be able to join the locals party until sunrise.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as the old saying goes, which has no relevance in the sunny laid back atmosphere of Greece.  If you’re lucky enough to spend more than a couple of weeks there or are just stopping over for a few days you need to try to visit at least one of my recommendations because Greece is one of my favourite places on the planet and it can be yours too.

Home / Asia / Republic of Indonesia / Indonesia | Cultural Immersion at Yogyakarta’s Prambanan Temple   

Indonesia | Cultural Immersion at Yogyakarta’s Prambanan Temple   

Updated: November 9, 2016
By: Ian Yacobucci
Prambanan Java Indo

Yogyakarta, ID – Close up of Prambanan Temple a hindu temple complex in Java, Indonesia (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Traveling across West Java in search of waves I didn’t expect to experience more than just the small surf village of Batu Karas while visiting Indonesia.  My Indonesian adventure started in Jakarta where I spent a few days pursuing a Russian travel visa for a future trip across Russia on the Trans-Siberian, along with a visit to Jakarta’s M-Block mall complex.

After that I spent a couple days trying to find a whispered town from an old roommate I had, while teaching in Korea for a month.  He told me about this place called Batu Karas, a small fishing village with some tame surf that was quiet, and off the tourist track back in 2012.

After a seven hour train ride, where I met a couple of German tourists to share a room with for a night, followed a truly organic Indonesian bus experience of the same length, I finally made it to Batu Karas, where for the better part of two weeks I settled down spending my days exploring the West Java countryside with a surfboard strapped to the side of my Vespa.

Prambanan

Yogyakarta, ID – Posing in front of Prambanan Temple with a couple cool travelers from Finland (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

While surfing in Batu I heard about Yogyakarta from a couple Finnish travelers who were in the area at the same time as me; and after a blissful two weeks disconnected from the busy cities of Indo, and exploring the costal surf in the area, it was time to move on.  So, with our packs strapped the three of us tramped over to Yogyakarta, the bohemian and cultural centre of Indonesia’s Java region.

Since surfing was a priority at the time, I hadn’t thought much about the cultural treasures of Indonesia. Thankfully, upon our arrival in Yogyakarta we were able to discover one of its most famous cultural sites, the UNESCO world heritage site of Prambanan temple is a10th century compound dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, and Brama Hindu divinities.

The temple complex itself offers some great photo opportunities and, if you’re lucky, you might find some free student led cultural tours as your roam the grounds (in English of course).  Although, from an Indonesian price point, it can be a little expensive for foreigners to visit, so depending on your budget, paying three times the cost of a student price might not be worth it for you.

Prambana Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta, ID – Prambanan Temple complex from a leisurely rest under some trees on a hot summer in Java, Indonesia (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

That being said, if you take an early morning or a lazy afternoon, Prambanan offers a beautiful place to walk, relax, and photograph at your leisure.  There’s no need to rush around the temple; and make sure you take advantage of the free water and coffee in the foreigner ticket office!

Happy Travels,

Yak

This article is supported by traveloka.com

Home / North America / Canada / Niagara Falls Top 10 | Tour guide tips to exploring the best of Niagara

Niagara Falls Top 10 | Tour guide tips to exploring the best of Niagara

Updated: June 29, 2016
By: Ian Yacobucci
Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, CA – view of Horseshoe falls (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Niagara Falls Canada is home to one of Canada’s most iconic natural wonders. Visitors to Niagara Falls get to experience the power of one of the worlds greatest waterfalls as the equivalent of one million bathtubs flows at nearly 50 km per hour over the edge of Canada’s Horseshoe Falls.

More than just a waterfall, the city of Niagara Falls and its surroundings offer visitors to this region an opportunity to experience Canadian culture, the natural beauty of the Niagara region, and so much more.

As an educational tour guide working in Niagara Falls and other Canadian cities over the past decade I’ve had the privilege of building an intimate relationship with the Niagara Region. That’s why, as one of the more than 8 million visitors to Niagara Falls, Expedia.ca asked me to create this guide that will give you an itinerary based on my touring experience in the city!

Day 1 – Niagara Falls

 Visit Niagara Falls at Table Rock

You can literally stand beside Niagara Falls! Less than a meter from the water you’ll get to see how powerful and mighty Canada’s greatest waterfall is. Take a selfie then head into the Table Rock centre for a famous Tim Horton’s coffee before continuing your journey.

Walk the promenade along the Niagara Gorge

Walk from Niagara Falls (Table Rock) to Clifton Hill. It only takes about 30 minutes to walk from Niagara Falls to Clifton Hill. Along the way you’ll get to experience the magnificence of Niagara Falls by walking along the gorge it created over millennia. It’s one of the most impressive walks where you’ll get to see the American falls on the other side of the Niagara River as well as the natural beauty of the Niagara Gorge.

Fun and lunch on Clifton Hill 

Clifton Hill is the entertainment centre of Niagara Falls. About a 30 minute walk along the impressive Niagara Gorge you find yourself surrounded by the carnival like street filled with restaurants, mini golf, bowling, a Ferris wheel, Ripleys Belive it or Not, Guiness Book of World Records, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and so much more!!

It’s the perfect place to grab a quick lunch before your next adventure or a place to enjoy an evening of fun!

Take a Niagara Falls Boat tour

If you think Niagara Falls is impressive from the edge of the falls you’ll be blown away looking up at it from the Niagara River. Boat tours like the Hornblower Niagara take visitors along the Niagara River where they learn stories about Niagara Falls daredevils and experience the beauty of Niagara Falls from both the American and Canadian falls.

Skylon Tower buffet dinner

A classic dinner spot, I like the Skylon Tower for the buffet’s variety and the fact that it boasts a 365 degree view of Niagara Falls. Although it’s a little bit out of the way from the main drag of Clifton Hill, I’d recommend a visit for lunch or dinner if you want to see a unique view of the falls and enjoy a decent meal.

American Falls

Niagara Falls, CA – View of american falls from the Maid of the Mist now called Hornblower Niagara (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Day 2 – Niagara Region – Day Trip to Niagara on the Lake

Drive the Niagara Parkway

Described by Sir Winston Churchhill as “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world” the Niagara parkway that leads from Niagara Falls to Niagara on the Lake should be on everyone’s itinerary. Along the way is an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and culture of the Niagara region.

Botanical Gardens & Floral Clock

The botanical garden’s is a great place to spend an early morning walking through the nearly 100 acres of manicured gardens. If you’re pressed for time, or gardens aren’t something you’re interested in, you can stop off at Niagara Parks famous floral clock made up of 16, 000 plants to quickly to snap a picture.

Lunch and shopping in Niagara on the Lake

 Niagara on the Lake is a quaint lake side town that brings the uniqueness of colonial architecture along with with fine dining, quaint shops, and delicious café’s where you can sample local wines and experience small town Canada. It’s a great lunch stop where you will also find unique craft gifts and local Niagara wines to bring home for family and friends.

Embark on an afternoon Wine Tour in Niagara

The Niagara region, best known for its ice wine, hosts dozens of wineries that are a great way to spend an afternoon. You can book wine tours through local companies or plan your own visits. Ice wine is a favourite for visitors to try but the wineries host a wide range of local wines to sample.

Fallsview Casino for entertainment and/or buffet dinner

What would a visit to Niagara Falls be without a visit to one of its Casinos. If you’re not a gambler that’s okay, the Fallsview Casino is a great place to enjoy a dinner buffet as well as to enjoy some entertainment. You can check them out online to find out more about what shows are on and when.

Niagara Falls has so much to do and see that there’s simply not enough room to share it all. These are just a few suggestions of the best way to spend your time in Niagara Falls to make sure you get to experience all that Niagara has to offer. As a tour guide in the region these are my top recommendations and the best way to spend an enjoyable visit to Niagara Falls!

Useful links for planning your next Niagara Falls trip

https://www.niagarafallstourism.com/
http://www.niagaraparks.com/
http://winecountryontario.ca/

Home / Europe / France / Perfect Paris| Quintessentials for an artistic, cultural & culinary Parisian visit

Perfect Paris| Quintessentials for an artistic, cultural & culinary Parisian visit

Updated: June 1, 2016
By: Ian Yacobucci
Notre Dame de Paris

Paris, FR – Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral from across La Sienne on a dramatic March afternoon (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Don’t get bombarded with hundreds of ideas highlighting the best things to do in Paris, just ask yourself, “what is Paris known for?” If you answered art, food, architecture and French culture than this short list of ideas for your next Paris visit is all you need.

Typing “things to do in Paris” in any search engine will yield hundreds of ideas. You’ll find articles listing the best things to do in Paris, the top 10 things to do in Paris, the 20 ultimate things to do in Paris, 12 worst things to do in Paris, and of course the unrealistically long 101 things to do in Paris (not to mention the dozens of other “things to do in Paris” variations).

If you’re only in Paris for a few day’s than sifting through all that information just won’t do. Thankfully, this guide to Paris will sit you down for fantastic Parisian meal, help you find the best way to photograph and see the Eiffel tower, give you the must see Paris museum, while providing you with time to discover Paris on your own. 

Photograph the Eiffel tower & picnic at Champes de Mars at sunset

Eiffel Tower

Paris, FR – Eiffel Tower at sunset from Trocadero Gardens. Behind the tower is Champs de Mars where you can finish watching the sunset (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

A trip to Paris would not be whole without visiting the Eiffel tower, the iconic 300 meter wrought iron structure that might just be the most recognizable building in the world.   If you’re visiting Paris you’re bound to get there one way or another but some ways to visit the Eiffel tower are better than others.

Simply put, the best way to visit the Eiffel tower is from the Trocadero metro stop. As you exit the subway station at Trocadero you’ll be acquainted  with a full view of Les Jardins du Trocadero (Trocadero gardens) and it’s iconic fountain as the majestic and unmistakeable Eiffel Tower fills out the horizon.

The best time to visit the Eiffel tower is for sunset overlooking Les Jardins du Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower. At this time the Eiffel tower is front lit by the setting sun with a great view from the steps overlooking Trocadero Gardens and the tower itself. This is hands down the best place to get a photograph of the Eiffel Tower and the best time to do it!

If you plan ahead bring an evening snack, some wine, and a blanket because from Troccadero metro stop you can walk to the Eiffel tower then settle down in Champes de Mars (the large park the Eiffel Tower is located in) to enjoy the rest of the sunset while you sip some good French wine watching the day set over Paris.

Eat a Parisian meal at La Jacobine

In my quest to find the best French onion soup in Paris, a feat that would probably take a lifetime to discover, I found La Jacobine. Located down a narrow alleyway in the Odeon/Saint-Michel neighbourhood the quaint café atmosphere of La Jacobine lends itself to traditional Parisian flavours that are sure to excite your palate and bring you back more than once during your visit.   La Jacobine is a great place for a coffee and Parisian confection but even better for their salads, entrees, and of course their French onion soup.

The best time to visit La Jacobine is between 1pm-3pm to beat the lunch and dinner rushes. If you decide to come at a different time I suggest calling ahead or plan to wait a while, as there’s only select seating in this quintessential Parisian restaurant.

For a perfect day plan with a visit to La Jacobine, might I suggest an early morning visit to the Luvre before adventuring across La Sienne to Le Jacobin for a late afternoon lunch. It’s a great walk, just make sure you have something to hold you over while adventuring through the Louvre as you’ll want to get there early and spend at least a few hours.

La Jacobine Salad

Paris, FR – Salad at La Jacobine restaurant located down a quaint cobblestoned alley in Odeon/Saint-Michel neighbourhood (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Get cultured at Musée du Louvre

Like many Paris destinations the Louvre is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, and a must see if you’re visiting Paris. As you can probably expect, the line-ups to visit the Louvre are immense and often reach more than 100m in length. Yes, you read that correctly.

Louvre

Paris, FR – 11 am Louvre Line Up on a grey March day (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

So, how do you avoid long line-ups and ensure a great trip to the Louvre during your visit?  You do two things:

  1. Buy your tickets online ahead of time (9am is the best ticket time to purchase)
  2. Plan to arrive 30 minutes before it opens to use your 9am ticket

You should know that tickets are usable for the entire day so you can always go back. Getting there first thing in the morning is key because you can visit the more popular sections of the museum (the Mona Lisa and the more spectacular Wedding at Cana across from it) without huge throngs of tourists.

As I mentioned earlier, the best thing to do is to visit Musée du Louvre for the morning and early afternoon then head to La Jacobine for an incredible Parisian lunch!

Mona Lisa

Paris, FR – Mona Lisa at the Louvre (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Discover Impressionism at Musée d’Orsay

Le Musée D’Orsay is one of the greatest contemporary art museums I’ve ever been to. Forget the fact that it’s located in the impressive former Gare d’Orsey railway station, or that it hosts the worlds largest impressionist artwork collection. The Musée d’Orsay is a very well done museum in a cool building that’s impressive to just admire on it’s own.

The biggest mistake people make, and I’m one of them, is visiting the museum from the main floor and working your way up. Take my advice, start at the top on floor 5 (the impressionist gallery). Here you’ll get to explore the great impressionist works of Monet, Cézanne, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley and more. You’ll also get a great view overlooking the city of Paris from behind the buildings clock.

If you’re not arted out after exploring the greatest impressionist collection in the world there are lot’s of other exhibitions worth checking out as you work your way down. Just don’t burn yourself out by starting elsewhere before seeing the impressionist works.

The line up for this the museum d’Orsay is a lot faster and much less busy then the Louvre. You can still get tickets online to fast track, but the wait is usually a decent 30min regardless of what you do.

Walk along La Sienne & photo stop at Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris, FR – Notre Dame de Paris (Notre Dame Cathedral) from behind as we strolled along La Sienne (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Paris is an architectural marvel. Built along La Sienne, it’s wide boulevards and grandeur buildings are great for exploring by foot. Sure, you could splurge on a tourist filled boat ride down La Sienne, or even better you could meander at your own pace along the uncrowded riverside.

If you’re visiting Paris with a romantic partner walking is one of the most romantic things you can do in “the city of light”.  And while your exploring, be sure to pop into a café along your journey and watch the people of Paris mingle with daily life as you try to imagine what life living in one of the worlds greatest cities might be like.

Surely, you’ll need to stop of at the Notre Dame Cathedral, but my best advice is to take a quick picture and move along. If you’re really interested in going in, you can test your patience with the monstrous lines that rival that of the Louvre. To be honest, walking through the city is free, you’ll discover little shops and quaint eateries that you’ll never find online, and you can devote all your attention to the person you’re walking with.

Where to stay in Paris

Finding an affordable place to stay in Paris is hard. You’ll end up paying through the roof no matter what route you take. Thankfully, we found a great room (with breakfast) at the Median Porte de Versailles, right on the Paris metro line at Balard, giving us easy access to the entire city at an affordable rate (around 100€ per night for two). To be honest, we’ll definitely end up here again during our next stay in Paris because one visit to the “city of light” is impossible!

In the end, these are just the quintessential Paris attractions that made our most recent visit to the city a memorable one for my fiancée and I. These suggestions offer a reasonably priced way to experience Parisian food, art, and culture along with a little downtime too.

Whether you’re alone, with a friend, or a romantic partner Paris is a massive city with literally 101 things to do. Keeping that in mind, these ideas will ensure you don’t get overwhelmed looking for the best options of things to see and do in Paris, so you can concentrate on enjoying it.

Happy Travels,

Yak

 

Home / Europe / Belgium / Discover Belgium| How to get a fairytale experience ‘In Bruges’

Discover Belgium| How to get a fairytale experience ‘In Bruges’

Updated: May 11, 2016
By: Ian Yacobucci
Bruges

Bruges, BE – Spring Daffodils in March at the tranquil Begijnhof Beguinage of Bruges (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Welcome to Belgium the land of chocolate, waffles, and beer.  For most tourists, a visit to this small yet dynamic Western European country would not be complete without a stopover in it’s romance capital, Bruges.  Famously the location of the 2008 crime drama In Bruge, the city is nothing short of its description as “a fairytale”.  Yet for most tourists, visiting the city of Bruges is often a four hour mad dash of walking, eating, and drinking before returning back to Brussels.

Not surprisingly, this is exactly what I’d recommend you do, but with a little more time and some recommended sights.  If you’re like me, slowing down in Bruges will be relaxing and give you time to appreciate its architecture, quaint streets, Belgian beers, and serene parks. Bruges is a city where you should at least spend the night and unwind from busy travels.

Discover Bruges on foot

Start walking to nowhere in particular, because around every corner in Bruges is a photograph waiting to be taken.  Meandering through the narrow streets filled with artisan shops, bistros, and pubs is best way to discover the city of Bruges.  You don’t need a guide or trip advisor to tell you where to go.  Simply pick the local map (which you can get upon arrival at the train station) then visit Markt (Market Square) and Burg square before heading over to some of its famous churches and historic buildings.

As you amble through Bruges, put your map away for a while and get lost exploring the side streets and canals, you’ll always find your way back.  My recommendation would be to make time for the city parks of Astridpark and Minnewaterpark.  If you’ve been off visiting the metropolis cities of Europe the serenity you’ll find strolling along the riverside will fill you with appreciation.  Be sure to bring your camera and if you’re not a photographer simply tuck into a pub or two and try one of the 1600 beers Belgium has to offer.

Explore Belgian beer and eat at Cambrinus restaurant

Yes, Belgium boasts 1600 beers that are brewed within its borders.  That’s roughly four beers per day if you want to try them all in a year! One of the most popular places to sample Belgian beer in Bruges is Cambrinus.  This traditional Belgian restaurant boasts more than 400 Belgian beers and traditional food to acquaint your Belgian palate.

Cambrinus offers up a pub like atmosphere with wonderful traditional dishes such as Flemish onion soup with cheese and beer (I had this twice), and my personal favourite Flemish carbonades prepared with dark beer (a sumptuous stewed beef that goes nicely with a Trappist beer).

Cambrinus Restaurant

Belguim, BE – It was as delicious as it looks! Flemish Carbonades with a Trappist Beer at Cambrinus Restaurant (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Never heard of Trappist beer?  Picture this; only eleven Trappist beers exist in the world and six of them are from Belgium.  Brewed by monks in Trappist monasteries these beers are created following strict criteria.  In order for a beer to be labeled as a ‘Trappist’ beer the International Trappist Beer Association says it must be brewed within Trappist monastery walls by monks or supervised by them.  Secondly, the brewing of the beer must be secondary to the monastic practices and way of life.  And finally, the beer must not be brewed for profit.  Instead is should be brewed so as to cover the costs associated with monastic life and care of the monastery with left overs donated for charitable purposes.

Visit ‘De Halve Maan’ brewery

Of course, a trip to Belgium wouldn’t be complete without a brewery visit.  Luckily, within the city walls of Bruges you can find ‘De Halve Maan’ brewery.  Translated to half moon brewery in English, it’s the only beer brewed in within the city of Bruges.

Family brewed and run by the Maes family since the mid 1800’s a brewery tour here includes more than just a beer with your ticket entry.  Along with the usual brewery history, tour of the old techniques used in making the family recipes, and a freshly brewed beer pumped straight from the vat is a great view of Bruges from the roof of the brewery (so you don’t have to pay to go up the Markt tower).

Hopefully you’re lucky enough to get there during the seasonal brew of their Heritage beer, which is aged for a year in old oak casks from France.  Uniquely, every year the Half Moon breweries Heritage beer tastes different, since the barrels are used in the processing other liquors.

Bruges city view

Bruges, BE – City view of Bruges from the rooftop of Half Moon Brewery (Ian Yacobucci/Borderless Travels)

Capture a tranquil moment at Begijnhof (The Beguinage of Bruges)

After signing up for a brewery tour at ‘De Halve Maan’ brewery, with a half-hour to kill, my fiancee and I stumbled upon one of the most beautiful courtyard gardens we’d ever seen.  Surrounded by the quaint white facades of old-world buildings, with the sun streaming through the trees illuminating the daffodils and the shimmering off the brooke, it was as if we had left middle earth and entered Rivendell (shameless Lord of the Rings reference).

Later we discovered that this place was a convent dedicated to bequines who, according to UNESCO, are women who devote their lives to God and founded beguinages (convents) in order to fulfill both their spiritual and earthly needs.  To see the daffodilIs you’ll need to visit during the month of March and don’t forget to take some quiet time for reflection; it’s why places like this were created.

Sitting by the fire sipping a freshly brewed beer as you overlook a canal at Half Moon Brewery, wandering through the timeless fairytale streets and canals of Bruges, attempting to try every Belgian beer, or just sitting in the park watching the swans, it’s easy to lose yourself in the company of your partner, a few good friends, or even some new ones while, ‘In Bruges’.