Goa Travel Tips: 12 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting

Goa Travel Tips: 12 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting

Travel Tips to get the most out of your Goa visit

I’m sure by know you know that I absolutely LOVE Goa. I love it so much that I spent many hours a few days back in my attempt to create the most detailed guide on the internet to North Goa! Here are some essential Goa travel tips to help you get the most out of your visit to this glorious destination.

In the past few years, I have seen many Goa travel tips on different websites that say things like “carry a sunscreen” or “carry comfortable flat sandals or flip flops”. Yes, these tips are correct but don’t you think they are pretty darn obvious?  Of course if you’re visiting a beach destination, you’re going to have to carry sunscreen and flip flips. Anyway, I want to help the first time Goa visitors and have decided to share a little more insight about things you need to keep in mind before visiting Goa.

Here are Goa travel tips to help you get the most out of your visit to my favorites destination:

01 | When Not to Visit Goa

Goa doesn’t just have high and low seasons, but it also has a peak and moderate seasons. Here are some more details:

Mid January to February High Season Good to visit but rooms are expensive because of high demand
March to May Moderate Season Good time to visit. Shacks and beach bars begin shutting down for the season. Look out for season closing parties.
May to August Low Season Most of the shacks, beach bars are shut but it’s a good time to enjoy Goa’s rainy season
September to October Moderate Season Good time to visit. Shacks and beach bars begin opening up for the season. Look out for season opening parties.
November to Mid December High Season Good to visit but rooms are expensive because of high demand
Mid December to Mid January Peak Season Do not visit around this time. Room rates skyrocket. Lots of traffic jams and Goa loses its amazing vibe.

 

Low season is from May to mid-September, High is from November to the middle of December and the peak is from the middle of December to middle of January. Avoid visiting Goa during the peak season because you will waste a lot of time in traffic jams. If you must visit during this time, try to find the most secluded beaches. Chances are, even those beaches will not be secluded during the peak season.

02 | Where Not to Stay in Goa

I have mentioned this before and I want to mention this again – Goa offers way more than Calangute – Baga – Candolim or Anjuna beaches. Trust me, these above mentioned beaches are definitely some of the most crowded ones and no longer have a “Goa vibe”. For more details about where to stay, check out THIS post.

03 | You DON’T need to book a place to stay in advance, unless…

Unless you’re visiting very late at night and don’t have time to hunt for a bed, or you’re visiting at peak season, which is December 20 to January 5, I’d recommend you not to pre book your place. Most of the travel websites will brainwash you into booking a room, because they sell rooms on their websites or on a commission basis. If you book in advance, you miss out on places that don’t advertise on the internet but only through word of mouth.

04 | Save money from Goa Airport to your hostel / hotel

If you’re visiting Goa, most likely you’re going to arrive here by a flight. Unlike most of the India, tuk tuks are not so easily available in Goa. The cost of traveling in Goa is usually low except the taxis are expensive and unfortunately that’s the only mode of communication you will find at the airports. However, there is a way you can save money on your taxi fare. At the prepaid taxi counter queue just at the exit gate of the airport, just ask around and try to find fellow travelers that are heading to your direction. Most likely, you will easily find people to share a taxi with for your destination. This has always worked with me!

05 | Reaching Airport by bus

It is possible to get to the airport by bus. From North Goa (let’s say Morjim), take a tuk tuk (or taxi) to Silom or Mapusa bus stand and from there catch an express bus to Panjim (Panaji). From Panjim, you need to catch a bus to Vasco and it will drop you 2 KMs away from the airport. Make sure you let the bus driver know that you have to reach the airport because there’s no proper bus stop where they will drop you. Do this only if you’re ready to walk with your luggage. Keep in mind that the last bus from Panjim to Vasco departs at 7 and queue behind the ticket counter is usually massive, so take out extra 30 minutes or more for this. Similarly, if you’re in South Goa (let’s say Agonda), you need to take a tuk tuk to the nearest bus stand and then take a bus to Margao Bus Terminal. From Margao, board a bus (or Kadamba shuttle) to Vasco. Try finding a bus that goes from Maragao to Vasco via Majorda. Again, make sure you inform your driver that you need to get to the airport so that he can drop you to the nearest point.

Do this only if you have a lot of time before your flight. It took us 4 hours to travel from Vagator to the airport by bus.

06| Best way to Explore Goa

Goan Roads by Drifter Planet

The best way to explore Goa is by renting a scooter

If you like walking, you will only be able to explore your beach area and around. If you want to explore further, I’d recommend you rent a scooter. Exploring Goa on a rented scooter is the best and the most affordable option. These scooters are usually available for INR 200 – 300 per day. Please make sure you carry your driver’s license because there are many check points. It is possible to rent cars too but many spots can only be accessed by scooters or on foot.

07 | Where Not to Swim in Goa

In Goa, certain areas are marked by red flags which means it’s dangerous to swim there. The sea will appear to be calm but the undercurrents are powerful and dangerous. If you go inside, you will be transported to the open sea much faster than you can swim. These are the situations when people drown because they try to fight to current in their panic. Most likely, you will see a lot of people in the water already but please follow the rules and don’t be an idiot. Oh and on a side note, don’t swim in the stretch of ocean in front of Curlees and Shiva Valley of Anjuna because I have personally seen people puking in that water after Anjuna’s crazy parties.

08 | A tip about Goan Food

Goan Food - Crab Curry

Delicious Goan Food

You love Indian food? You’re going to LOVE Goan food. However, keep in mind that the Goan curries are spicier than most of the Indian curries. If you can’t handle spice, make sure you inform your restaurant staff to go easy on the chilies. I love spicy Goan food but San can’t handle the chili overdose.

09 | How not to get ripped off

Shopping in Goa is fun because of the variety of things that you can buy. Lamps, incense sticks, swim suits, clothes, jewelry, tea, spices, fruits – almost everything that you will possibly need will be available on the streets. While grocery stores have fixed prices, street shop vendors will hike the price up when they see that you’re not a local. To avoid getting ripped off, you need to learn how to haggle like a pro. As a rule of thumb, cut the quoted price in half and then negotiate your way to a middle figure. Do not forget to smile when you do this. If you find something unique at a high price, most likely its handmade and maybe it’s worth the price, so just buy it.

10 | Find the best parties

A PsyTrance party in Goa, psychedelic trance Goa

A PsyTrance party in Goa

Ok, so you have heard that Goa is the birthplace of psychedelic trance and you want to experience a typical old school Goa trance party. But how to find the best PsyTrance parties? Well, stay in Anjuna / Vagator area and just follow the music. There is usually a party every night. Ask around and you will find out. When you reach the party and if you every get hungry, you will definitely find affordable snacks right outside the parties. Outside every party are rows of Ammas (older mother-like women) with stoves selling cheese omelet buns, burgers, cigarette, water and tea. These Ammas usually know where is the next party so just ask them.

11 | Be Safe

While Goa is safer than most of India and perhaps many parts of the world, it doesn’t hurt to take typical safety precautions. Trust your instincts and don’t accept drinks from strangers. When in doubt, head to the nearest shop and contact a local to seek help.

12 | Respect the culture, nature and Goa way of life

Yes, Goa is perhaps the most open minded destination of India and the locals are liberal. But please don’t treat their home as your “nonstop party on the road” destination. I don’t know why I’m even typing this but I feel it’s my responsibility to inform you that you should cover yourself a little more than what you do at the beach if you end up visiting any of the churches. Please don’t leave your trash on the beach. If you find any, just pick it up and put it in the nearest dustbin. Oh and don’t forget that most of the shacks (beach bar and restaurants) are run by families and you should not expect a five-star service. Appreciate what you get and don’t forget to smile.

Enjoyed these Goa travel tips? Why not share with a friend! If you live in Goa or have visited it a few times, why don’t you add your own tip in the comments?

 

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Goa Travel Tips - things you need to know before visiting

Goa Travel Tips – things you need to know before visiting

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

North Goa Beaches and Beyond – Everything You Need to Know

North Goa Beaches and Beyond – Everything You Need to Know

A detailed guide to the beaches of North Goa. You think North Goa is full? Yes, it is full but only if you visit the likes of Anjuna, Baga, Candolim and Calangute areas. Those who wander beyond these beaches will fall in love with this wonderland. Yes, I have visited South Goa also and just like North, there are some crowded as well as empty beaches.

Goa will always hold a special place in my heart. The vibes, the people, the energy, the beauty, the food, and even the roads – there is magic in everything here. Goa is not a city but it’s a state (province) and it’s massive! No matter how many times I visit, I always end up discovering a new spot here. Yes, I love Goa.

As Goa Gil once said “Goa is not a place, Goa is a state of mind.” I’m in Goa state of mind right now, hence I have decided to write this guide. To make things easy for you, this guide is ONLY about North Goa, i.e., the top half of Goa. You can find information about North Goa’s beaches, including some hidden spots that only a few people will want to tell you about. Keep an eye on my website for a detailed guide about South Goa too!

The beaches of Candolim, Calangute and Baga are the most popular beaches in North Goa but I discourage my readers to visit them. Why? Because they are crowded and dirty. Moreover, they have an un-Goa-like vibe. (Yup, I’m a Goa snob)

Oh and if you’re wondering how I know Goa so well, it’s because I have visited it close to 20 times and San & I am now living here. We love this place so much that we decided to move here for a few months.

For your benefit, I will divide North Goa in 5 zones –

Detailed Map of North Goa Beaches by Drifter Planet

Here is a list of North Goa beaches starting from extreme North to South:

Zone 1 – from Terekhol to Kalacha

This zone starts from Terekhol River, which is at Goa – Maharastra border. The end point of this zone is at Kalacha Beach. These beaches are secluded and are perfect for spending an entire day if not more.

01 | Keri Beach (or Querim beach)

On the way to Keri beach and Terekhol fort

On the way to Keri beach and Terekhol fort

Querim beach, also known as Keri beach is on the North most tip of Goa and is quieter than even the so called quiet beaches of Goa. This is on Maharashtra – Goa border which is separated by Terekhol River. The beach is of course beautiful but for me, it was the drive from Arambol to Keri which was special. There are many spots where one can stop to appreciate the beauty. In fact, there is two points on this way where you can see an amazing view from a higher level.

The best part: At the entry of this beach, there is Ajoba temple. This temple is round, colorful and looks very psychedelic. Many people claim that there is a small tunnel through the hilly cliffs which will take you to the other side, but I have never seen it. If you find such a tunnel, then please let me know.

What to do at Querim beach / Keri Beach: Explore the rock formations. If you’re lucky, you will find a little cave. Hop on a ferry boat to visit the nearby Fort Terekhol (or Fort Tiracol) and enjoy the excellent views.

Reccomended place to stay in Querim / Tiracol: Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel

02 | Kalacha Beach

Perhaps my favorite beach in this list, it cannot be reached by a road. It can only be reached by walking from Arambol beach and crossing the market area along the cliffs. It is possible to paraglide here.

Sweet Lake opposite Kalacha beach, Arambol

Sweet Lake opposite Kalacha beach, Arambol

The best part: It has a sweet water lake opposite the beach where it’s a pleasure to swim. This lake is commonly known as the “sweet lake”. Even though it is technically opposite Kalcha beach, the lake is commonly known as “Arambol Sweet lake“. I think it’s beautiful! Where else will you find a beach and a lake that’s walking distance from each other?

What to do around Kalacha beach: If you walk from the sweet lake to the direction of the jungle along the stream, you will find a few spots where it’s possible to take a mud bath. As you walk further, you will reach an old Banyan tree. Under this tree a baba sits who lives here during winter months.

Zone 2 – from Arambol to Chapora River

This zone has a few hippie villages, yoga communities and artists from all over the world who call this place their home. Find a place to stay on these beaches so that you’re away from the main crowd but not too far from night life.

03 | Arambol Beach

A Shack on Arambol Beach - A Guide to North Goa Beaches

A Shack on Arambol Beach – A Guide to North Goa Beaches

Arambol village is a little disconnected from most of the North Goa, because of it has maintained its low key charm. Many people say that the hippies who came to Goa back in the 1960s and 1970s all moved to Arambol village from their original place – Anjuna. This village has evolved into a self-sufficient are where you can find almost anything. Finding budget accommodation here is never a problem and I have never seen a resort here. This beach is much bigger than the nearby Kalcha beach and has plenty of shacks where you can chill over a pint of King’s beer. It is usual to see a musician or two on the beach making music around the as the sun sets. Arambol has a very active Yoga community with multiple workshops. So if you like keeping fit while traveling, Arambol is the place for you!

Arambol's Shopping Street - North Goa

Arambol’s Shopping Street – Guide to North Goa Beaches

The best part: Arambol has the most interesting street market where you can buy a variety of things for a bargain. The narrow lanes of Arambol will give you sensory overload because the shops have everything – spices, bed sheets, lamps, clothes, jewelry – sab kuch milega!

What to do in Arambol: Walk around on Arambol village’s inside lanes and visit some interesting cafes (or bars). Visit the beach during sunset and watch the famous Arambol Drum Circle and beach market. Walk from the northern end of Arambol beach to enter Kalacha beach and to the famous “sweet lake”.

Recommended Place to Stay: Lotus Sutra Beachside Abode, Bhoomi Holiday Home

04 | Mandrem Beach

Mandrem Beach - Guide to North Goa Beaches

Mandrem Beach – Guide to North Goa Beaches

This beach can be accessed crossing a small bridge to over a narrow canal. This beach is beautiful but strangely not many people visit it. Compared to the nearby beaches, this beach has very few shacks which is what makes it so special.

The best part: There is a cliff opposite this beach across the road which offers a good view. Climb on this cliff for a spectacular sunset experience.

What do do in Mandrem: Sit at the End of The World beach shack and enjoy the view.

Recommended places to stay on Mandrem beach:  Riva Beach Resort (High end), Mandrem Beach Resort (mid range), Beach Street Resort (mid range), The Sunset Hotel (budget).

05 | Ashwem Beach

Ashwem Beach, North Goa

Ashwem Beach, North Goa

Ashwem is perhaps the most scenic beach of Goa because of the river flows into the sea dividing this beach into two. It is not as crowded as Arambol or Anjuna, but has a lot more shacks as compared to the nearby Mandrem beach.

The best part: Depending upon the weather, the river forms a shallow fresh water lake and a small sand spit on the extreme right side. This sand spit and a little river island appears or reappears depending on the tide and the weather.

What to do on Ashwem beach: try to get inside the lake or the river if you can. It’s fun!

Recommended places to stay on Ashwem Beach: Palm Grove Beach Resort, La Cabana Beach and Spa Resort, Rococco@Ashvem Resort, Anahata Retreat, Leela Cottages, Tahira Beach Resort.

06 | Morjim

Sunset at Morjim Beach - Guide to North Goa Beaches

Sunset at Morjim Beach – Guide to North Goa Beaches

Morjim is the best and the cleanest beach of North Goa. This beach has a sandy triangular area with waves on two different directions. During low season, this beach is usually empty but I have seen a few kite surfers here when the season is high.

The best part: This beach has an area that is dedicated for nesting Olive Riddley turtles.

What to do on Morjim beach: Swim. This beach is perfect for a swim and is clean so enjoy your time in water here or just kitesurf! Drive around Morjim and explore the nearby village – Siolem. Siolem village is very green and it’s always easy to find a few family run restaurants here where you can eat a delicious fish curry thali.

Recommended places to stay on Morjim Beach:  Morjim Hermitage Resort, Marbela Beach Resort, Marbela Home, Rock Water Resort, Sur La Mer Resort, La Vaiencia Beach Resort,  Eco Woods VillageWhite Feather Resort (budget), Midgard Resort (budget).

Places to party in Morjim: Tesso Waterfront and Marbella Beach are two famous clubs in this area. Personally, I like neither because they have a very “non Goa” vibe.

Zone 3 – from Chapora Fort to Anjuna

A PsyTrance party in 9 Bar, Vagator - A Guide to North Goa Beaches

A PsyTrance party in 9 Bar, Vagator – A Guide to North Goa Beaches

This is the party area of Goa where it’s possible to find a good PsyTrance party every day. From underground psychedelic parties to commercial techno parties – this area has it all. Moreover, you will also find some of the best restaurants of North Goa here. Although it gets crowded during the peak season here but if you know your way around, you will surely find many empty areas.

07 | Big Vagator

A cow on Big Vagator Beach - North Goa beaches

A cow on Big Vagator Beach – North Goa beaches

Unlike most of Goa beaches, this beach can be accessed by climbing down a cliff. This beach is rocky beach and is frequently visited by cows.

The best part: This beach is divided in a few small parts because of the rocks. Some people call the first part “Chapora beach”. The bigger part is called Big Vagator, which will further lead you to the next beach in this list.

What to do on Vagator beach: Vagator beach is next to Chapora fort which offers stunning views of this beach on one side and Siolim river on the other side. Visit this fort around sunset to make the most of it. Moreover, it’s a 2-minute climb which can be painful if the sun is strong (mid day) or can be pleasant as the sun begins to set.

Recommended Places to stay in Vagator: Naked Space (High end), Casa Vagator (mid range) and Coco’s Resort (budget). For hostels, check out the next section.

08 | Small Vagator or Ozran Beach

Ozran beach or Small Vagator Beach - North Goa Beaches

Ozran beach or Small Vagator Beach – North Goa Beaches

Small Vagator is a tiny beach as the name suggests. This beach is perfect for watching sunsets as you sit on the rocks and sip Kings beer. This is my favorite place to stay in Goa during mid season. I highly recommend you stay at Cochichos Resort if you’re looking for a place to stay in this area.

The best part: As you walk along the end of Ozran beach, you will notice a carving of Lord Shiva’s face on one of the rocks. This carving was done in the 1990s by an Italian traveler.

Shiva Rock Faces in Vagator - Faces on the Rocks - North goa beaches

Shiva Rock Faces in Vagator – Faces on the Rocks – North Goa beaches

What to do in Vagator: Vagator has some of the best bars and party areas of Goa. Try to attend a typical old school Goa trance party in 9 bar or Hill top.

Recommended places to stay on Ozran Beach: The best is Cochichos Resort but it gets sold out very soon. Try Ozran Heights Beach Resort Resort (High end), Ocean Bliss Beach Resort Resort (High End), and Leony Resort Resort (Budget). If you’re looking for hostels, check out Jungle Hostel, Pappi Chulo Hostel and Bunker Hostel.

09 | Anjuna Beach

While Anjuna area is good for parties, the beach is bad for a swim because it’s very rocky and the water doesn’t feel clean. At the end of this beach, you will find Curlies shack which is perhaps the most famous shack in all of Goa.

The best part: The best part of Anjuna is not the beach, it’s the back lanes! While most of the beaches have straight back lanes where it’s easy to keep a track of the direction, Anjuna’s roads are more like a maze. There is one straight road which has a few ATMs and a hated Domino’s pizza point which goes to the beach and connects to a many other small streets.

Curlies Shack, Anjuna Beach, North Goa

Curlies Shack, Anjuna Beach, North Goa

What to do in Anjuna: Back in the 1960s and 70s, many hippies visited Goa and did not leave. Anjuna was their home and they often sold their belongings on the streets. Soon artists from all over India joined them and started selling their handicrafts. This is how Anjuna Flea Market started and has evolved over the years. It’s a must visit for any traveler. Also, Anjuna is famous for its parties so check out places like Curlies, Shiva Valley, UV Bar or Pirate bar (it was earlier known as “Hippie bar”) for a psytrance beach party that usually goes on till early morning. If you’re not into psytrance, you may want to check out Liliput cafe.

Places to stay in Anjuna: The best place to stay in Anjuna is Red Door Hostel. They don’t just have bunk beds dorms but also private rooms. Apart from this, you can also try Laguna Anjuna (High end), Casa Anjuna (high end), Sea Horse Cotteges (Budget) or Starco Goa (Budget). A few more hostels to consider here are Prison Hostel, Bollywood Backyard Hostel, Roadhouse Hostel.

Zone 4 – Baga river to Fort Aguada

This is perhaps the most crowded part of Goa. These beaches are frequently visited by Indian families. Sadly, this part of Goa gets more visitors than it can handle, which is evident from the amount of traffic jams that one has to bear. These beaches are connected and you can reach from one to another by just walking on the sand. Please don’t completely write off this part of Goa because of my post. If you visit Goa during low season, then I recommend you make a day visit to this part of Goa to visit some famous restaurants and Fort Aguada. These beaches also have many water-sport options available, such as jet ski, banana boat, para sailing, etc. Of course by now you know that this is my least favorite part of Goa and I don’t recommend you visit this are if you’re visiting Goa during peak season.

10 | Baga Beach

Baga River, North Goa Beaches

Baga River, North Goa Beaches

 

This beach is very popular among young Indians. This beach starts at Baga river and ends at Calangute beach. The beach is dotted with many beach bars and shacks. The most famous restaurant in this area is Bittos. If you visit, do try their seafood platter, which is surprisingly affordable for the amount and quality. One of the most famous street of Goa is here and is called “Tito’s lane” which has been named after the famous nightclubs of this area – Club Tito’s. Other party areas are Club Mambos and LoungeFly.

Things to do in Baga: Visit the nearby village – Arpora. The location of Goa’s famous “Saturday Night Market” in Arpora. This market is a lot of fun to visit because of live music, performances, good food and of course a fantastic market. Saturday night bazaar takes place on Saturday nights from November to February every year.

Places to Party in Baga: Club Cabana in Arpora where there is a ladies night every Wednesday and it’s an open bar with unlimited drinks for women. Men can pay INR 1000 to enter and also drink unlimited drinks. Other party places are Club Tito’s, Mambos and LoungeFly.

11 | Calangute Beach

Parasailing on Calangute Beach - North Goa Beaches

Parasailing on Calangute Beach – North Goa Beaches

Perhaps the most crowded beach of Goa, this beach will offer you sights of families fully clothed and in water. You will also spot many newly wedded couples wherein women are inside the water wearing expensive gold jewelry and high heels. This beach is what I had in my mind when I wrote this post about what not to wear on the beach.

Recommended restaurant: Souza Lobo

Recommended place to stay: None. Please do yourself a favor and don’t stay here.

12 | Candolim Beach

Candolim is one of the better beaches in this zone. It is definitely not as crowded as the above two beaches and if you’re lucky, you may find yourself a decent shack with good reggae music and King’s beer. This beach is frequently visited by retired English couples and you will find that most of the bars play “The Beatles”. In fact, the first time I ever saw a beach in my life was Candolim!

Sunset at Candolim Beach, North Goa

Sunset at Candolim Beach, North Goa

Recommended Restaurants: Bob’s Inn, Santana Beach Shack, Bob Marley Beach Shack.

Recommended Hostel: Backpacker Panda Hostel

13 | Sinquerim Beach

This beach is further south of Candolim and is home to a few high end resorts, including the famous Taj. This is the most peaceful beach of zone 4 and has only 2-3 beach bars (shacks). Do visit the nearby Fort Aguada while you are here. Right next to Fort Aguada is Central Jail of Aguada, Goa.

Zone 5 – Nerul river to Dona Paula beach and beyond

This zone is the remaining part of North Goa which is beyond Fort Aguada. It has some of the smaller beaches of North Goa. This part of Goa gets fewer visitors as compared to zones 3 and 4. It is mostly inhabited by locals with fewer accommodation options for visitors. I have limited knowledge of these beaches but here you go:

14 | Coco Beach

This is a small and rocky beach with almost nothing on it except a place that you can rent on AirBnB called Ahilya by the Sea. This little property is new but it’s already a favorite of travel writers from Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and India Today.

15 | Miramar Beach

I have visited this beach only once with a local. I like how things are affordable on this beach because it is frequently visited only by the local Goans. I ate a memorable meal of sorpotel (Goan pork delicacy) in a local restaurant near the beach called De Silva’s. On the way to Miramar beach from Panjim road, there are many river side casinos where you can try your luck. As you drive on this road, you will notice a row of casinos next to Mandovi river. One casino that stands out is Casino Royale.

Casino Royale next to Mandovi river near Miramar Beach

Casino Royale next to Mandovi river near Miramar Beach

16 | Dona Paula Beach

This beach is on a triangular part of Goa, so can be called a peninsula with a smaller Dias beach on the other side. A jetty connects to a spot in the middle which is called
“Dona Paula viewpoint”.

17 | Bambolim Beach

Perhaps it was Grand Hyatt North Goa which put this beach on the map for most of the non Goans. They say it’s easy to find oyster shells here. Let me know if you ever find any!

18 | Siridao Beach

This is a long strip of fishing beach that is divided in a few parts by rocks. At the extreme south corner is a Chapel of Jesus Nazareth.

Where to go after Goa:

South Goa

South Goa can be reached by a scooter, car or a bus. Travel time can be anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending on how far you want to go. Watch out for my guide to South Goa’s beaches which will be published soon.

Hampi

Hampi can be reached by an overnight bus from Goa or an early morning train. Hampi is a unique destination with ruins of an ancient civilization and weird geology which will make you feel like you’re a part of Star Wars movie. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. Read my guide to Hampi here.

Gokarna

A little beyond South Goa is a hippie destination called Gokarna, which can be reached by a 3 hour train ride or car ride from Goa. Gokarna is famous for its “OM” beach, which is in the shape of ॐ (Om). Watch out for my guide to Gokarna which will be published soon.

Have you been to North Goa already and have a few tips to add? Let me know in the comments section. If you enjoyed reading this guide to North Goa beaches and beyond, please share it with your friends on Facebook.

You may also like:

Goa Beyond the Beaches

11 Reasons Why I love Goa and Keep Going Back

9 Reasons Why Cochichos Resort is the Best Place to Stay in Goa

11 Hippie Destinations in the Himalayas

North Goa - The Only Guide You Will Ever Need
Ashwem Beach in North Goa -A detailed guide to North Goa Beaches
North Goa - The Only Guide You Will Ever Need
El Nido or Coron? A Comparison of Palawan’s top destinations

El Nido or Coron? A Comparison of Palawan’s top destinations

El Nido or Coron? Or both? If you’re thinking of heading to Palawan for a quick trip and are not sure where to go or what to miss, this post will help you make some decisions. Moreover, this post will also act as an excellent guide if you’re visiting both these destinations in Palawan and are looking for information about how to reach, places to stay, eating options, costs, beaches, attractions, party and more!

Where and what is Palawan all about?

Palawan in the Philippines has been declared as the Most Beautiful Island in the World by Condé Nast Traveler for many years in the row. It’s not a single island but is a group of many islands of different shapes and sizes.

If you follow us on Instagram, you must be knowing that San and I spent a few weeks in the Philippines and a majority of our time in Palawan. We visited both El Nido and Coron but spent only one day in Puerto Princesa. However, before we visited Palawan, we were trying to figure out if we should only visit one of these two destinations. Our dilemma was – El Nido or Coron? We didn’t find adequate comparison online on several factors, so here’s something I wrote to help you pick El Nido or Coron, depending on what you want out of your Palawan experience.

 

01 | Ease of Reaching

How to reach Coron

You can reach Coron by a direct flight to Busuanga airport which is only 30-45 minutes away from Coron town. Philippine Airlines runs daily flights from Manila and Cebu to Busuanga. Alternatively, you can also reach Coron from El Nido by a ferry that takes roughly 7 hours. This ferry that runs between Coron and El Nido is a little shaky and reminded me of Thailand’s Lomprayah. If you want to save money, you can also travel to Coron from Manila by 2Go Travel, a “mega ferry”. This boat is less like a ferry and more like a cruise vessel with sleeping berths in an air conditioned area, lobby, restaurant, bar and deck.

How to reach El Nido

There were no direct flights to El Nido until recently. As of 2016, AirSwift runs direct flights from Manila and Cebu to El Nido. However, these flights are expensive. Alternatively, you can also fly to Puerto Princesa, which is serviced by budget carriers such as Air Asia. From Puerto Princesa, El Nido is 5-6 hours away by a van and will cost you around 1000 – 700 pesos per person. We paid ₱ 700 because we were 7 people that met at the airport and decided to book a van together but we had heard of people that paid ₱ 1000 pesos per person too. You can also take a bus between Puerto Princesa and El Nido but these buses take more than 7 hours because they stop often.

Winner: Coron Both (Coron had this edge over El Nido till early 2016)

02 | Cost Comparison

02.1 | Places to stay

Places to stay in Coron

Upon reaching Coron, we found many places with affordable rooms starting from ‎₱ 500 pesos per night for a double room with fan and internet. We stayed at Coron Guapos which was just a three-month old property in Coron town at the time of our visit and was well managed. This place is right next to the more popular Marley’s guest house. We also booked our tour from our hotel and had the experience to remember.

Places to stay in El Nido

It was difficult finding budget rooms in El Nido, so we decided to book two hostel beds instead. The most affordable place was Our Melting Pot Hostel which cost us ‎₱ 450 pesos per bed and was full but we were lucky to get two bunk beds. We highly recommend this hostel and their tours. Even though this hostel is a typical party hostel, their dormitory area was always quiet and our sleep was never disturbed. Another hostel option in El Nido is Spin Designer Hostel, which is a boutique hostel(‎₱ 800 pesos per bed).

02.2 | Eating options

Eating in Coron vs El Nido

After spending a few days in Bohol’s Panglao island, we found the food in El Nido to be expensive, even the street food! We smiled with relief upon reaching Coron town because we found a variety of affordable eating options. The food in Coron was much cheaper as compared to that in El Nido, even the street food. We recommend Levine’s restaurant for their all day breakfast.

02.3 | Cost of Tours

Our Tour in El Nido, Palawan

Our Tour in El Nido, Palawan

The tours in Coron started from as low as ‎₱ 650 pesos per person but were for ‎₱ 1200 pesos per person in El Nido. While in El Nido, we did tour A and tour C where the cost to use a kayak during our tours was ‎₱ 100 pesos per person for 30 minutes. Coron also has a tour called “the ultimate Coron tour” with an unlimited use of Kayak. This is the most expensive tour in Coron and costs ‎₱ 1400 pesos per person. But we were able to negotiate a price of ₱ 1000 per person by making our own custom tour which was like “the ultimate Coron tour” but minus one attraction.

Overall costs

The cost of moving around on a tricycle was lower in Coron. Even scooter rental prices were lower in Coron than El Nido. This could be because the demand was higher in El Nido due to more visitors.

Winner: Coron

03 | Viewpoints

Viewpoints in Coron

Coron Viewpoint – One of the most photographed part of Palawan

Coron Viewpoint on the way to Kayangan lake – One of the most photographed part of Palawan

If you’re a sucker for viewpoints and don’t shy away from making an effort to climb for hours just for a bird’s eye view, you’re going to love Coron. Coron has three main viewpoints. The first is Mt. Tapyas in the main Coron town which you will see from a distance. The second is the spot as shown in the above picture on the way to Kayangan Lake as you climb on top of the rocks that surround the lake. The second one is the one that’s usually featured in every travel article and webpage about Coron. The third as shown in the below picture one can be seen on the road to Busuanga town from Coron town and there’s no need to climb anything to view it. I don’t have a picture of the first because we climbed Mt. Tapyas in the middle of the night after getting a kick of energy from Tanduay rum.

Viewpoint on Coron - Busuanga road

Viewpoint on Coron – Busuanga road

Viewpoints in El Nido

San at Matinloc Shrine Viewpoint on Matinloc Shrine Island, El Nido, Palawan

San at Matinloc Shrine Viewpoint on Matinloc Shrine Island, El Nido, Palawan

The only viewpoint we found in El Nido was on Matinloc Shrine island. The climb is of little effort but is on pointed rocks. The view is spectacular.

Winner: Coron

04 | Beaches

Beaches in Coron

Banana island, Coron, Palawan – Pic by Juvelle Pua

Banana island, Coron, Palawan – Pic by Juvelle Pua

When in Coron, the beaches can’t be accessed by just walking. The nearest beach is there is Cabo beach which is 30 minutes away from Coron town. Unlike other beaches of Coron, there’s no need to take a boat to reach Cabo beach. Other noteworthy beaches are Banol beach and the beaches on Banana island. We visited Banol beach just by chance while we were snorkeling around the skeleton wreck which is right next to it.

Beaches in El Nido

Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan

Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan

El Nido has more beaches than Coron. Just like Coron, the best beaches only be accessed by a boat or a long scooter ride. But El Nido wins points over Coron here because the main beach is just walking distance away from the main town area. This beach kind of reminded me of Railay’s beaches with limestone formations but was five times more crowded! Our recommendation – seven commandos beach, Talisay island beach, hidden beach and Matinloc Shrine beach. Oh and El Nido fans will hate me for saying this but I found Bohol‘s beaches to be much better than El Nido’s.

Winner: El Nido

05 | Underwater Life, Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Snorkeling and Diving in Coron

Colorful Corals and Clams in Siete Pecados marine park, Coron, Palawan
Shipwreck Diving and Snorkeling - Skeleton Wreck in Coron, Palawan
Nemo - a clownfish family in Siete Pecados marine park in Coron, Palawan

Snorkeling in Coron was perhaps the best snorkeling experience of my life. I saw the most colorful corals in Coral Garden – it was like an underwater rainbow! I had tears of happiness in my eyes while snorkeling in Siete Pecados marine park because I had never seen such beauty. We saw some of the most colorful fishes or many sizes here and also a Clownfish (Nemo) family. Our friend who was snorkeling with us saw a sea turtle here. Moreover, Coron has eleven Japanese shipwrecks that you can explore if you love diving. We weren’t able to dive because we ran out of money, but we snorkeled around the skeleton ship wreck. The water around was clear and the visibility was unbelievable.

Snorkeling and Diving in El Nido

The underwater life in El Nido pales in comparison as compared to Coron. No doubt we saw a lot of marine life but it was definitely not as colorful as Coron, especially the corals. Plus, El Nido doesn’t have any shipwrecks around unlike Coron.

Winner: Coron

06 | Lakes and Waterfalls

Waterfalls and Lakes of Coron

Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan - Asia's Cleanest Lake

They say it’s the cleanest Lake of Asia – Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan

Coron boasts of 11 lakes out of which Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake are the most famous ones. They say Kayangan Lake is the cleanest lake in Asia but I don’t know if that’s true. However, I do know that I have never seen water as clear as this where I could see the bottom of the lake. The water in this lake is 70% fresh and 30% salty. Swimming in this lake is an experience I will not forget in my lifetime.

Concepcion Falls, Busuanga, Palawan

Concepcion Falls, Busuanga, Palawan

On one of the days in Coron, we rented a scooter and drove to Busuanga town and visited Concepcion Falls. We spent a relaxed day swimming and chilling in a natural pool around this waterfall. This pool also had a school of doctor fish, which is the same fish they use in a foot spa. But don’t be afraid, they don’t bite you anywhere except a little peck on the toes. Moreover, Coron also has Maquinit Hot Spring with a natural hot water pool but we didn’t go there because it was too hot.

Waterfalls and Lakes of El Nido

El Nido doesn’t have lakes but we got to hear of Nagkalit-kalit Waterfall, the only one waterfall here. It is on the way to Nacpan beach. Again, with 11 lakes in Coron, El Nido can’t win on this point.

Winner: Coron

07 | Lagoons

Lagoons of Coron

Twin Lagoons of Coron, Palawan

Twin Lagoons of Coron, Palawan

The twin lagoons in Coron are perhaps the most famous ones. The water here is 70% salty and 30% fresh and these two lagoons are separated by a rock. The best part? Swimming through a hole in the rock to reach the inner lagoon here. The water clarity in the outer lagoon was much better than any of the lagoons in El Nido. There are more lagoons such as the green lagoon, sunset lagoon, and hidden lagoon.

Lagoons of El Nido

Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

El Nido boasts of many different lagoons out of which a few are open for public. We visited the small lagoon, the big lagoon, the hidden lagoon, the secret lagoon – all were beautiful. Some of the lagoons also had a little beach attached. Seriously, El Nido wins hands down if you compare the lagoons.

Winner: El Nido

08 | Town Area

Coron Town is technically on Busuanga island, not Coron island. Confusing, no? The town area is bigger and more spread out as compared to El Nido with more budget friendly eating and staying options in comparison. El Nido town is a smaller and cramped if you compare it to Coron town. There is now a new ATM as well here but it was not working while I was there.

Winner: Coron

09 | Which one is more crowded?

Crowded main beach of El Nido, Palawan

Crowded main beach of El Nido, Palawan

With an easier access due to a cheaper direct flight, you’d think that Coron would be more crowded? Wrong! El Nido was definitely more crowded as compared to Coron. It was sad to see El Nido’s main beach which must have been beautiful a few years back but was completely destroyed due to an unbelievable amount of people and boats. We met many people in El Nido who were not even considering heading to Coron but everyone we met in Coron had been to El Nido or was heading there next. Even all the main attractions were crowded due to too many tours.

Loser: El Nido

10 | Places to Drink and Party in Coron and El Nido

Obra Natural Rasta Cafe in Coron, Palawan

Obra Natural Rasta Cafe in Coron, Palawan

Although our main motive to visit Palawan was not to party but we couldn’t help ourselves from enjoying a few nice evenings. After all, we had made a few friends on the road! For a low-key party evening, I recommend Coron’s offbeat Rasta bar – Obra Natural Art & Coffee. This place is next to Coron School of Fisheries. It’s not your “typical” party place with loud music but is a small café with a seating space for barely 15 people. We loved it so much that we ended up visiting it every evening. We couldn’t get enough of listening to live didgeridoo (didjeridu) and djembe music. If you end up going there, say our hello to the owner – Rodney. Alternatively, you can also check out No Name Bar which is in the main Coron town for a louder party. While in El Nido, you can visit many beach bars on the main beach for a fun evening. Our Melting Pot hostel in El Nido was a party hostel where we ended up playing beer pong for a few hours.

Winner: Tie between Coron and El Nido

11 | The atmosphere and vibes

Call us hippies but vibes are important for us. We found the atmosphere in Coron to be more relaxed and laid back as compared to El Nido. Maybe it was because El Nido was a little too crowded for our liking. Arriving in Coron from El Nido was a refreshing change because it felt that everyone was there to scam us in El Nido and charge extra for every small thing. Moreover, I had read warnings on the internet to be careful about food in El Nido because a lot of people reported suffering from food poisoning. Keeping this in mind, we were careful about what we ate but shockingly San suffered from an upset stomach. Strangely, every friend that we made in El Nido had a bad case of diarrhea and food poisoning and one of them even spent an entire night in the hospital. Upon reaching Coron, everyone in our hotel told us that they suffered from an upset stomach while they were in El Nido. Luckily I was the only one who did not. Maybe it’s because of my Indian stomach or the fact I wore a hat in the sun but I’ll never know the truth.

El Nido or Coron – Our choice?

We spent more time in El Nido than Coron, but we rate Coron much higher than El Nido.

Where should you go in Palawan? El Nido or Coron?

If you have enough time then we highly recommend you visit both. However if you’re heading to Palawan for a quick trip and can visit only one destination, I will try to make things easy for you. If you like having an easy access to the beaches and don’t mind crowds, then El Nido is where you should go. However, if you want to scuba dive or just snorkel around to see underwater beauty, then Coron is your place.

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Entering Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan
Twin Lagoons, Coron, Palawan
A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Kasol and Around – 11 Hippie Destinations in the Himalayas, India

Kasol and Around – 11 Hippie Destinations in the Himalayas, India

“Wait, you’re heading to Kasol too??”

It’s summer time in India and it feels that the roads are on fire! Seriously, with the mercury rising close to 48 degrees in New Delhi and 35 degrees in Mumbai and around, we all need our dose of mountain magic. Almost everyone that I know is traveling to the mountains on some weekend or the other. While the family groups and honeymoon couples head to places like New Manali, Shimla, Nainital, Palampur, the new generation of backpackers head elsewhere. And where do most of them go? Kasol!

Pssstt.. Kasol and Kasoli are two different Himalayan destinations and are very different from each other.

Wait, Where is Kasol?

Kasol is in the state of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India, near Manali. It is in the Parvati valley which is a part of India’s hippie trail. If you’re heading to Kasol this summer, I urge you to try some nearby destinations as well. Some of them can be accessed by a quick walk, a few by 4-5 hours of bus ride but most of them can be accessed only if you trek.

Anyway, here’s a list of 11 hippie destinations in the Himalayas that you can visit starting from Kasol.

01 | Kasol

Parvati River, Kasol

Parvati River, Kasol

What was once a quaint little destination next to Parvati river, is now a party destination full of young backpackers. Why do they go there? Many reasons. The obvious ones are – it’s a good escape from the scorching heat, it’s easy to reach by an overnight bus from Delhi and it’s in the lap of the Himalayas. Moreover, it’s a fun destination for young travelers because Kasol is usually devoid of families and honeymoon couples. The biggest reasons – it has an underground psytrance culture and an easy access to some homegrown magical herbs that are purer, more affordable and way more potent than what you get in Amsterdam’s coffee shops. Yes, Kasol is India’s hashish capital and it’s not a secret anymore. 

Pro tip: Be careful as buying and consuming hash (or charas) is illegal in India and there are many checkpoints in this area.

Brightly Street Art in Kasol

Brightly Street Art in Kasol

How to reach Kasol

Catch any bus that’s heading to Manali and get off at Bhuntar, which is 2 hours before Manali. These buses typically run from Paharganj / ISBT / Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi from 4 pm to 7 pm and take around 12 hours to reach Bhuntar. I highly recommend you book an air-conditioned Volvo bus preferably from Himachal Tourism (HPTDC). As you board the bus, let the bus conductor know that you will get off at Bhuntar so that they can mark your luggage accordingly and wake you up at 5 – 6 am. Expect to get surrounded by 3-4 taxi drivers when you reach Bhuntar even though it’s very early in the morning. If you want to save money, politely say no to them and walk a little ahead and take a right turn to reach Bhuntar’s bus station which is less than 5 minutes walk away. From here, you will find many buses to Kasol, Barshaini, Kullu, Manikaran and around.

02 | Chalal

From Kasol to Chalal

From Kasol to Chalal

Chalal is a no-brainer and is the closest in the list to Kasol. Chalal can be reached by just crossing the bridge over the river in Kasol. Wooden houses, cafes and beautiful viewpoints – it’s so close to Kasol, yet it feels like a different world. Freedom cafe has the best viewpoint in Chalal.

How to reach Chalal from Kasol

Reach Kasol and cross the bridge over Parvati river to reach Chalal. This walk amidst alpine trees will not take you more than 20-30 minutes.

03 | Tosh

Tosh, Parvati Valley

Tosh, Parvati Valley (Easy to reach from Kasol)

Tosh is a magical village which has still managed to retain it’s quaint charm despite a new road that has been constructed to make this place more accessible.  There is no road inside the village, hence walking is the only mode of transport. If you walk at the end of Tosh and cross the village, there is a little trail that leads to a waterfall. You don’t need to book a place to stay from before. Just reach and ask for Siva Moon, Shiva Garden or Pink Floyd cafes for a room to stay.

How to reach Tosh from Kasol

You can catch a bus from Kasol to Barshani and from there trek for around 2.5 KMs to reach Tosh. This trek is very easy and fun because of the sights that one can witness. The trek is uphill and can take around one hour if you walk at a leisurely pace. Alternatively, it is also possible to catch a taxi up to Tosh.

04 | Kheerganga

Natural Pool of Kheerganga heated by Hot Springs.

Natural Pool of Kheerganga heated by Hot Springs. Do you see that little snow patch next to it?

Kheerganga is 5-6 KMs away from Tosh and the only way to reach is by trekking. The reward? A hot water pool at the highest point in this village surrounded by snow peaked mountains! Legend has it, Lord Shiva meditated in Kheerganga for 3000 years and the water from the hot springs is supposed to be holy. For more details, you can read about my experience here.

How to reach Kheerganga from Kasol

In order to visit Kheerganga, we highly recommend you stay at either Tosh or Manikaran for the night and start your journey at 5 – 6 am in the morning. You can start your trek from either Manikaran, Tosh or even Barshaini. Just ask the locals and they will guide you where to start the trek from.

05 | Kalga, Pulga Tulga

The way to Kalga

A signboard for Kalga on the way to Kheerganga. (Easy to reach from Kasol)

Kalga, Pulga, and Tulga are three different villages but are commonly referred to as a “trio”. Legend has it, that these were once the names of three sisters who lived in this valley centuries ago! Just like Tosh, these three villages can be accessed from Barshani (or Barshaini) too and they are on the other side of the Parvati river. The nearest to Barshani are Pulga and Tulga. The way to Kalga from Barshaini is really beautiful and is surrounded by alpine forests.  If you plan to stay in Kalga , try and look for “The Pink house” which is run by a friendly sadhu baba. If in Tulga , you can stay at “Peace Place hotel”.

How to reach Kalga from Kasol

Reach Barshaini by bus or taxi and start your trek from there. The trek from Barshaini to Kalga will take you about an hour.

06 | Rashol (or Rasol)

Wish an adorable local in Rasol (Near Kasol)

Wish an adorable local in Rasol (Near Kasol)

Rashol can only be accessed by trekking from Kasol through Chalal village. As you cross Chalal, you will see “Magic Rasol” written on the rocks with arrows that will guide you to your destination. The trek is easy and it takes around 3 hours and it gets steeper towards the end. This trek is surrounded by Rhododendron trees with vibrant red flowers. There is not much to do in Rasol, except enjoy the tranquility. There is an ancient Shiva temple in Rasol.

How to reach Rasol from Kasol

From Kasol, cross the bridge over parvati river to reach Chalal and from there you will see a trail that leads to Rashol. Travel time from Kasol to Rasol is 3 hours.

07 | Malana

On the way to Malana Village - 11 Hippie Destinations in the Himalayas

On the way to Malana Village – 11 Hippie Destinations in the Himalayas

Trek to Malana is not as easy as Tosh or Kalga but is shorter than Kheerganga. The solitary village if Malana was cut off from the rest of the world for many years and many say it’s the oldest democracy in the world. Legend has it that many years ago, Alexander the Great’s army took a shelter in this area and ended up staying here for many years. Thus, as per this theory, Malana was founded by remnants of his army and many people of Malana are the descendants of Alexander the Great’s Greek shoulders. The people of Malana consider all outsiders to be untouchable, so please don’t touch or photograph anyone.

How to reach Malana from Kasol

You will need to get out of Kasol to go towards Bhuntar by bus or taxi. The trail starts from the center of the village Jari, which is 15 KMs ahead of Bhuntar. From Jari, it’s about 4 hours. We recommend you stay at Jari overnight and start your trek from there. I have heard that there’s another way to Malana village from Rasol, but this is unverified information. If you know of this way, please let me know! 🙂

08 | Old Manali

A Psytrance Festival in Old Manali (Dance of Shiva)

A Psytrance Festival in Old Manali (Dance of Shiva)

Manali is the most well known destination in this list and over the years, it has become highly commercialized. However, please note, Manali is divided into two sections – New Manali and Old Manali where the former the the touristy area and latter is where I recommend you go. Old Manali was on the original hippie trail of the 1960s and 1970s and this is where it all started before all the nearby destinations were explored. We highly recommend you eat freshly caught river trout fish at Kathmandu cafe for a meal to remember. Do try Yak cheese sandwiches at German bakery, special mushroom omelette (magic) at Sunshine cafe or get your dreadlocks attended to at Rasta cafe.

How to reach Old Manali

Since Manali is the most famous destination in the list, it’s very easy to find direct buses from Delhi / Chandigarh that will drop you to New Manali. Take a tuk tuk from New Manali to Old Manali, or just walk for 30 minutes and cross the bridge. If you’re in Kasol and want to reach Manali, you will have to take a bus to go back to Bhuntar. If you’re lucky, you will find a direct bus from Bhuntar to Manali, otherwise you will need to take a bus to Kullu and another one from Kullu to Manali. The bus journey is time consuming because the buses stop very often but is affordable. It took us around 5 hours from Kasol to Manali by three different buses.

09 | Vashisht

Famous for its hot springs, Vashisht is more close to Manali than Kasol. They bathing area is inside the temple and is separate for men and women. Back in January 2010, I visited this place and had an unforgettable experience when I thought of taking a dip in the hot water pool but it unexpectedly started snowing. Maybe it was my imagination but the water from the hot springs mysteriously got hotter as soon as it started snowing. Due to this severe temperature variation, I was not able to dip more than my toe in this water! It was hilarious as the only ones inside the pool were some local women and they started laughing at my funny reaction. A dip in the hot water pool of Kheerganga was more enjoyable because the area around was open but the hot water pool in Vashisht is in an enclosed area. While you’re there, you can also trek to Jogini Falls which is only 2 KMs away from Vashisht.

How to reach Vashisht

Reach Manali take a taxi or a tuk tuk to Vashisht. You can also reach by walking because it’s only 2 KMs away.

10 | Dharamkot / Bhagsu

Dharamkot Village in Himachal

Dharamkot Village in Himachal

Unlike the above mentioned destinations that are close to Manali, Dharamkot and Bhagu are near Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj. Dharamkot is a hippie little village with only one road that ends where the village starts. Bhagsu can be reached by walking from Dharamkot or from MacLeodganj both. Bhagsu is famous for Bhagsu Nag waterfall and temple. Out of these two places, I prefer Dharamkot for its relaxed vibes and unbelievable food. Oh and do try the famous “Bhagsu cake” while you’re here. Read about my Dharamkot visit and our discovery of a secret waterfall in this area that’s perfect for a swim.

How to reach Dharamkot / Bhagsu

Take an overnight bus from Delhi / Chandigarh / Bhuntar / Manali to McLeod Ganj. Even though Bhuntar and Manali are not as far as Delhi, the journey still takes an entire night by bus. Get off at McLeod Ganj and ask for walking directions to Dharamkot. As soon as you reach a cafe called “Trek and Dine”, you will know that you have entered Dharamkot. The walk from McLeod Ganj to Dharamkot will not take you more than 20 – 30 minutes. You can reach Bhagsu village from McLeod Ganj and Dharamkot both.  It is possible to reach both these villages by a tuk tuk from McLeod Ganj.

11 | Triund

Triund in Himachal Pradesh

Triund in Himachal Pradesh

Triund is a flat patch in the middle of the mountains with a spectacular view of the majestic Dhauladhar range. The trek time is shorter if you compare it to Kheerganga (from Tosh) but this trek will make you tired because it’s kind of like climbing a massive stair case made out of rocks through the mountains. I recommend you stay at Dharamkot / Bhagsu area the night before you start your trek to Triund. Start very early in the morning to avoid trekking in the sun. It’s possible to rent a tent here to sleep overnight for as low as INR 300 per night.

How to reach Dharamkot / Bhagsu

Reach Dharamkot / Bhagsu / McLeod Ganj and start your trek from there. Trekking to Triund from Dharamkot will take you around 4 hours.

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Kasol and Around – 11 Hippie Destinations in the Himalayas, India
Kasol and Around – 11 Hippie Destinations in the Himalayas, India
Kasol and Around – 11 Hippie Destinations in the Himalayas, India
A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

16 Psytrance Music Festivals We Want to Attend in 2016

16 Psytrance Music Festivals We Want to Attend in 2016

It’s summer time soon! It’s that time of the year again when San and I start getting ready with our tents and hammocks to hit a few psytrance music festivals. Yes, this list is late because we started our year with the Experience psychedelic festival on Koh Tao and it took us a while to recover from the awesomeness (obviously). We may not be able to visit every festival on this list, but even if we do half, we’re happy! Yes, this list ONLY has psytrance music festivals because that’s the genre that we feel most connected to.

May

01 | Dance of Shiva

Location: Manali, India
Schedule: May 2 – 4, 2016
Website

Dance of Shiva Festival

Dance of Shiva Festival

What better place to enjoy a psychedelic experience than the Himalayas? The location of this festival is Manali, which is one of our favorite summer destinations in the Parvati Valley. This festival is definitely not mainstream and they sell ONLY 400 tickets. It gets better – the 2016 edition is Dance of Shiva’s 10-year anniversary! Oh yes, we already have our tickets for this one. Out of all the psytrance music festivals that are scheduled for 2016 in the Himalayas, this looks the most promising one.

June

02 | Trimurti Festival

Location: Golden Ring, Russia
Schedule: June 9 – 13, 2016
Website

Trimurti Festival Russia

Trimurti Festival Russia

Trimurti is an environment friendly festival in Russia that is a completely ecological event since 2011. The organizers make an effort to reduce the use of plastic and inorganic materials. They also have a UFO center in this festival which acts as an information point and well, it also looks like a UFO!

July

03 | Freqs of Nature

Location: Niedergörsdorf (Near Berlin), Germany
Schedule: July 7 – July 12, 2016
Website

Freqs of Nature Festival

Freqs of Nature Festival (Photography Transformation Festivals Eye)

Freqs of Nature is rated really high by festival goers. Our friend Sei Ru says “They manage to strike a really good balance of intensity with the forest floor and friendly vibes at the progressive stage. There’s also good vibes at the techno stage, which wasn’t just some neglected backwater stage. There’s an open ground chill stage and a really good art gallery in an old military hanger. It also never felt overcrowded and the toilets were always spotless”

04 | Solar United Natives Festival (SUN Festival)

Location: Csobánkapuszta, Hungary
Schedule: July 18 – July 25, 2016
Website

Sun festival Hungary

Sun festival Hungary (Photography by: Pierre Ekman & “Shoot Your Shot”- Photography)

The best thing about this festival is that it works like a community which people can enter by buying membership. Many crucial decisions about the festival are decided after the organizers conduct a poll with the members. San and I have a lifetime membership so we can enter this festival anytime without buying a ticket. However, they now have an annual membership option because the lifetime option is no longer available. Yes, we are very excited to attend this festival this year.

05 | MoDem Festival (or Momento Demento Festival)

Location: Near Primislje, Croatia
Schedule: July 25 – July 31, 2016
Website

MoDem Festival Croatia

MoDem Festival Croatia – Photo by Transformation Festivals Eye

Modem festival is famous for its dark psy and forest psy music. The camping area is on a pretty little river island where people can feel closer to the nature. With a name like “The Springs of Mreznica” for the camp site, I just can’t stop myself from obsessing over the pictures of this festival! The best part – no cell phone connectivity in the festival area. Oh yes, you guessed it, we already have our tickets for this festival. Out of all the dark psytrance music festivals, Modem is perhaps the most famous one.

06 | Wonderland Festival (Waldfrieden)

Location: Stemwed-Wehdem, Germany
Schedule: July 28 – July 31, 2016
Website

Wonderland Festival Germany

Wonderland Festival Germany

Waldfrieden means “forest peace” and true to its name, the location is a slightly slanted empty patch with forest around it. There is a little pond and it’s possible to put the tents around it if you get in early. There is an indoor area as well with mind blowing decor. We have already attended this festival a few years back and we had a memorable experience. This is one of those rare festivals where they don’t do any publicity on Facebook to keep it low key, but the old timers never miss it. After all, this festival has been happening since 1997 (even before the overly hyped EDM festival – Tomorrowland) and is one of the oldest psytrance music festivals.

August

07 | O.Z.O.R.A. Festival

Location: Dádpuszta, Hungary
Schedule: August 1 – August 7, 2016
Website

Ozora Festival Hungary

Ozora Festival Hungary – Photo: Amit Itach Photography and Shahar Ratzenberg, body paing: Bodypaintlily

With almost 60,000 attendees in the year of 2015, Ozora is one of the biggest psytrance festivals in the world in terms of the headcount. Its lineup boasts of some of the most famous names in the psytrance community. Starting from Lord of the Rings to UV garden this festival’s décor is something that you will remember for life.

08 | Boom Festival

Location: Near Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal
Schedule: August 11 – 18, 2016
Website

Boom Festival, Portugal

Boom Festival – lovely, no?

This is the festival that we’re MOST EXCITED about. This festival takes place next to a lake once in two years. Even though this festival is extremely famous, the organizers sell a limited number of tickets. In fact, the presale tickets for 2016 edition were sold out within a few hours! We were lucky that we got ours in time. Honestly, with its popularity, the organizers can easily sell at least double than what they sell now if they wanted to, but they don’t because their goal is to provide the best possible experience and not to make profits. In fact, Boom festival is entirely funded by ticket sales without any corporate sponsors. The best part – Boom has won the title of YOUROPE Green ‘N’ Clean Festival of the Year many times because it runs on the principle of self-sustainment by not using chemical products and raising public environmental awareness. If Ozora is one of the biggest psytrance music festivals in terms of numbers, Boom is definitely known to be the grandest one!

Boom Festival 2014

Boom Festival 2014 by www.jakobkolar.com

09 | Lost Theory Festival

Location: Sotoserrano, Salamanca, Spain
Schedule: Aug 23 – 29, 2016
Website

Lost Theory Festival, Spain

Lost Theory Festival, Spain

This festival is usually held in Croatia but the location for 2016 is Spain in the middle of the mountains and surrounded by fresh water natural pools. Our friends that have attended this festival tell us about Lost Theory’s excellent festival management, affordable bar and clean toilets. The location for the Croatia editions was next to a river and looks dreamy! We’re very excited about Lost Theory because of it’s lineup that promises a very psychedelic experience.

Lost Theory Festival River Side Chill Area (2015)

Lost Theory Festival River Side Chill Area (2015)

We also want to share a video of the 2014 edition of Lost Theory festival because in our opinion, it’s the most amazing festival video. It’s short, interesting, beautiful and is like a story!

10 | Psy-Fi Festival

Location: Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Schedule: Aug 24 – Aug 28, 2016
Website

Psy-Fi Festival Netherlands

Psy-Fi Festival Netherlands

Psy-Fi is one of the newest psytrance music festivals in this list but it has already become extremely popular because those who attended spoke volumes of their amazing experience. They have an interesting way of naming each edition of their festival and the 2016 edition is called “Holographic Universe”. The best part – the location that has a few private beaches, an island and forest area. WOW!

11 | Burning Man

Location: Nevada, USA
Schedule: Aug 28 – Sep 5, 2016
Website

Burning Man Festival

Burning Man Festival

Who hasn’t heard of Burning Man? It is definitely one of the most famous festivals. The team behind this festival work the entire year to create a temporary metropolis – Black Rock City in the middle of Nevada desert. This festival functions on its own ten principles for a more collaborative experience. This festival doesn’t run on profits and the organizers also publish their annual report and tax reports on their website.

September

12 | Ritual Open Air Experimental Festival

Location: Lastras de Cuellar, Segovia, Spain (Near Madrid)
Schedule: September 16 – 19, 2016
Website

Ritual Festival Flyer

Ritual Festival Flyer

Why Ritual? Because we love small festivals where we feel more connected with the people and it feels like a family. The location of this festival is just 45 minutes bus ride away from Madrid and the pre sale tickets are unbelievably affordable at 35 Euros. Also, this will be perhaps the last festival of the season for Europe before it starts getting cold. There’s not much information on the official website so this event link will come in handy.

October

13 | Indigo Festival

Location: Israel
Schedule: October 2 – 4, 2016
Website

Indigo Festival Israel

Indigo Festival Israel – Photos by Ofir Karlstadt

Following the principle of “moksha”, this festival aims to provide the attendees a spiritual experience with oneness of body, mind and soul. This festival is organized by Moksha Project which is Israel’s biggest party organization.We like how this festival has a swimming pool and a beach area. It is organized on the shores of the Sea of Galilee – which is mentioned in my post about 50 Stunning Natural Pools from around the world.

November

14 | Earthcore Festival, Australia

Location: Victoria, Australia
Schedule: November 25 – 28, 2016
Website

Earthcore Festival Australia

Earthcore Festival Australia – Pictures by Fotobiotic

One of the most famous psytrance music festivals of Australia, Earthcore has a bit of luxurious side to it with “glamping” options with a lot of facilities. Eathcore Festival location is just one hour away from Melbourne. This festival also has an annaul theme and for 2016 it is Parallel Universe! Yes, we want to visit and get our own dose of parallel universe.

December

15 | Universo Paralello

Location: Pratigi, Brasil
Schedule: December 28, 2016 – January 4, 2017

Website

Universo Paralello Festival

Universo Paralello Festival

If San and I end up being in South America around December, then we DEFINITELY want to head to Brasil for Universo Paralello festival because we’ve been eyeing it for years! This 8-day long festival happens on a beach with campground that’s available for 10 days and is one of the biggest psytrance music festivals of South America. This festival has a “Goa Stage” which is dedicated to playing old school psy tunes.

 

16 | The Experience Festival

Location: Koh Tao, Thailand
Schedule: December 30, 2016 – January 2, 2017
Website

The Experience Festival, Koh Tao - Photos by Digital Thangka

The Experience Festival, Koh Tao – Photos by Digital Thangka

This festival may be the last on the list but it is one of the HAPPIEST psytrance music festivals in the world! This is where San and I met a few years back and we’ve been going back every year. The location is stunning with excellent décor which can turn any dark trip into a happy one. The music here is not dark and the vibe is always upbeat and energetic. This festival has surprisingly clean toilets that are airy. Showers are awesome but we prefer the nearby Freedom beach of Koh Tao for an early morning swim to revitalize ourselves. Need more convincing? Click here to read why we love this festival so much! While you’re there, don’t miss the after party on a beautiful beach bar (Ban Sabai) in Koh Phangan, If you need help planning this, scroll down and check out this cool app that will make your life simple.

Are you visiting any of the above listed festivals this year? Let us know! We’d LOVE to meet you!

You may also like:

15 Reasons We Love the Experience Festival

Why Holi is The Most Amazing Festival

Wonderland Festival, Germany

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

50 Surreal Travel Destinations That Should Be on Your Bucket List

50 Surreal Travel Destinations That Should Be on Your Bucket List

Ever been to a place that was so beautiful that you had to pinch yourself to make your you were not dreaming? Well, this is exactly what we asked our travel blogger friends and look at the results! If this below list of 50 surreal travel destinations from around the world doesn’t motivate you to travel more, then there’s no hope.

01 | Antarctica

By Patti of The Savvy Globetrotter

Antartica - Surreal Travel Destinations

Surreal Beauty of Antartica

Best described as “hauntingly beautiful”, Antarctica was simply stunning.  There was never a moment when the scenery became mundane or merely a backdrop.  It was beautiful all day, every day.  I hardly slept then entire trip as when not on a landing, I was glued to the deck, the bridge or the cabin porthole watching it all go by.  Fortunately, with 20 hours of daylight there was plenty of opportunity to take it all in.

02 | Hallerbos, Belgium

By Sarah of My Gipsy Soul

Hallerbos, Belgium - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Hallerbos, Belgium – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The beautiful Hallerbos is about half an hour South of Brussels. In the middle of April, a few acres of woodlands on the edge of this forest are covered by an amazing carpet of wild bluebell hyacinths to make for a breathtaking purple blanket. With the early spring weather the forest canopy is covered with new leaves, sunlight pours through the branches and thousands of purple flowers spread as far as the eye can see. And the smell, oh you will just have to go for yourself!

03 | Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

By Ruth Johnston of Exploramum & Explorason

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Uyuni Salt Lake in Bolivia is the largest flat salt expanse in the world in Bolivia. We drove over this for over 100 km, stopping and playing in the salt piles, and even seeing a museum where things were carved out of salt blocks. Other times we chased after llamas and alpacas for photo moments. We spent the night with a traditional family in a Pousada – the bed, walls and furniture were all made of salt. It was incredible!

04 | Leh, Ladakh, India

By Suman Doogar of Nomadic Shoes

Leh, Ladakh, India - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Leh, Ladakh, India – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Leh is in Jammu and Kashmir state of India with mountains that are crowned with Buddhist Monasteries and landscape that is beautifully barren.  At 3505 meters above sea level, it’s important to take thing slow while visiting this enchanting destination to avoid altitude sickness. With the highest motorable pass (Khardung La), magnetic hill, Nubra valley, Pangong lake – this area has many otherworldly attractions that can keep a visitor gasping in surprise.

05 | Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

By Stefan and Sebastien of Nomadic Boys

Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Why? Well at over 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) altitude, you start to push yourself to the extreme. Not only is it freezing cold, the altitude sickness makes you feel like an old man, stopping every 5 steps to catch your breath, as well as the occasional headaches – your heart racing away as it rushes to pump more and more blood around the body to cope with the altitude. But the views of the Himalayas made up for everything. You just can’t beat that.

06 | El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

By Sabrina Iovino of Just One Way Ticket

El Nido, Philippines - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

El Nido, Philippines – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

El Nido in Palawan, Philippines left me speechless. This is how I imagine paradise. It was certainly the most beautiful place I have ever witnessed. An archipelago of tiny islands, sugar white beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters and an underwater world, so colorful and diverse – it’s incredible!

07 | White Dunes of Sahara (Dakhla, Western Sahara)

By Monika of Bewildered In Morocco

White Dunes of Sahara - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

White Dunes of Sahara – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The white dune of Sahara is one of the must-visit spots once in Dakhla. This place is amazingly extraordinary because the white sand of the desert meets the crystal-clear waters of the lagoon. When you stand on the coastline, in front of you, you see blue water and no horizon. When you turn, you see mysterious, peaceful dunes and nothing behind. Just the sky above. I found it magical and so relaxing, there’s no sound of civilization. Just the waves, wind, and grains of sand in the air. Surreal experience!

08 | Whitehaven Beach, Australia

By Luke Marlin of Backstreet Nomad

Whitehaven Beach, Australia - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Whitehaven Beach, Australia – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Whitehaven Beach is home to some of the whitest sand in Australia, and is situated on a protected part of Whitsunday Island that stretches for 7 kilometers. It is in the middle of the ocean and only accessible by boat a 5 minute walk will lead you to your own serene, (almost) secluded slice of paradise. However, Hill Inlet at the northern end of the beach is the real star. It’s an inlet of water covered in swirls of this perfectly white sand at varying depths to create gorgeous patterns through the clear, turquoise water. It is only truly visible at mid tide though to you have to time if well to see it in its full surreal glory.

09 | Cappadocia, Turkey

By Rhoni Speed of Living Our Life

Cappadocia, Turkey - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Cappadocia, Turkey – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Cappadocia is cave hotels, fairy chimneys and “ruins” of old churches, monasteries and underground cities. The common denominator is the landscape. Everything is built in the sandstone. The chimneys themselves, created by mother nature, with a white sandstone base and a black basalt top, give the illusion of giant mushrooms. Goreme is in the middle and provides easy access to all the sites. You can pretty much guarantee a cave hotel, in any budget. Weather has eroded and created a beautiful unique area.

10 | Sossusvlei Desert, Namibia

By Tracey Pictor of Journal of a City Girl

Sossusvlei Desert in Namibia - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Sossusvlei Desert in Namibia – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Most people have never even heard of Namibia and don’t have the faintest idea where it is. A simple search will return an overwhelming number of photos, of sun scorched camel thorn trees, surrounded by towering red sand dunes, with the clear blue backdrop of sky. But nothing prepares you for the surreal reality of actually walking through the oldest desert in the world, Sossusvlei. As you stand, insignificant, in the middle of the desert surrounded by the mountainous dunes, the arid land, the air silent and still, one can only be left humbled by the immense vastness.

11 | Jökulsárlón, Iceland

By Jennifer Melroy of Made All The Difference

Jökulsárlón, Iceland - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Jökulsárlón, Iceland – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Jökulsárlón is a glacial lake near Vatnajökull National Park which is fed by the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.  The lake started to form in the 1940’s as the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier recede.   The lake is growing as the glacier shrinks.  Icebergs of all sizes break off from the glacier and fall into the lake.  The glaciers float around the lake until they make their way into the Atlantic Ocean.  During the winter, the ice is a clear pale blue.  In the summer, it is possible to take a boat tour of the lake. Make sure to watch the water, seals, dolphins, and small whales have been seen in the lake.

12 | Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

By Anita Hendrieka

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The Tongariro Crossing has been called the most beautiful hike in New Zealand and that’s for a good reason.  The landscape is so beautiful and ‘out of this world’ with some parts looking similar to something you would see on Mars!

13 | Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

By Jeremy of Escapist Atlas

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Only a few places can compare to the sheer beauty of the villages that comprise the Cinque Terre. Manarola is a village that looks exactly like it does in the Instagram photos.  I spent hours just gazing out at the buildings, seeming to defy gravity as they dared jut out over the sea beneath. Walking through the vineyards winding up the large hills that surround the towns seems to take you to an alternate reality where you can lose yourself in the beauty of the towns and be swept away by nostalgia for a life you haven’t lived.

14 | Koh Lipe, Thailand

By Hannah Lukaszewicz of Getting Stamped

Koh Lipe, Thailand - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Koh Lipe, Thailand – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

I still remember the first time I laid eyes on Koh Lipe, Thailand. I had taken a ferry from Langkawi, Malaysia to Koh Lipe an island I knew nothing about heck I just heard about it from a poster in Malaysia. A 1.5 ferry ride away was the Thai island of Koh Lipe, I wondered around the white sand beaches until I found a $30 beach villa and woke up to the waves crashing just feet from out porch. I really did have to pinch myself, this was too good to be true. Koh Lipe has some of the prettiest turquoise waters in the world, it’s nicknamed “The Maldives of Thailand.”

15 | Larung Gar, China

By Christian of Unusual Traveler

Larung Gar, China - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Larung Gar, China – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Larung Gar in western China is a strange place and one of a kind. It’s not mentioned in any guidebook but it’s yet one of most amazing and surreal places on Earth. It will take you 3 days of rough traveling to reach the area, with the last 120km taking more than 14hours in a jeep, but it’s worth it. The first glimpse of this Tibetan Buddhist Institute that’s home to no more than 40 000 with take your breath away! It’s a sea of red, not only is every single building red but every single monk is also dressed in red robes.

16 | Bagan, Myanmar

By Ludek Jirous of Coddiwompling

Bagan, Myanmar - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Bagan, Myanmar – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

This ancient city is located in central Myanmar and boasts with over 2200 temples rising from the green plains with hazy mountains towering in the distant background. It is a magical place and it seems like time has stopped here. The horse-carts trot to and fro between the well preserved temples decorated with carvings and Buddha-statues. The spectacle starts with the first sun-beams when hundreds of scattered temples emerge from the dark and dozens of hot air balloons levitate above this spiritual place. The atmosphere gets under your skin and these feelings double when the sun sets and the temples are suffused in an orange flare.

17 | Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

By Lance and Laura of Travel Addicts

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

For us, one of the most surreal destinations on the planet is The Islands of the Galapagos in Ecuador.  Being both geologically unique and geographically remote, these islands have spawned voyages of discovery.  The islands of the Galapagos are so isolated the animals have evolved into whole new species and are some of the most unusual on the planet, something Charles Darwin observed on his voyage.  The Galapagos is so unique and surreal that it was recognized as the very first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

18 | Tulip Fields, Keukenhof, Netherlands

By Criz of Crizzy Kiss

Tulip Fields, Netherlands - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Tulip Fields, Netherlands – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Keukenhof was my dream destination and when I finally got to visit, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Standing in the middle of the tulip fields and millions of other flowers, as far as my eyes can see, was surreal. Although I was already seeing tulips when I got to Norway and other parts of Europe, it still never failed to amaze me. The place is just so magical and fascinating!

19 | Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

By Jon Algie of Jon is Travelling

Torres del Paine National Park in Chile - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Torres del Paine National Park in Chile – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

High winds, rough terrain and lung-busting climbs make the hike to the “towers” of Torres del Paine National Park challenging, but that’s the price you’ll have to pay to see one of the world’s most surreal vistas. Three massive stone towers rise above a milky green lake, surrounded by rocks and a hint of snow — there’s nowhere else like it. Patagonia is home to some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the world and hiking is the best way to see it. It’s not always easy but those views make it all worth it in the end.

20 | Rotorua, New Zealand

By Gia Kristel De Guia of MismatchedPassports

Rotorua, New Zealand - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Rotorua, New Zealand – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Hues of green, orange and yellow – it was like a work of art, a display of bold colors I had never seen upon the ground. Rotorua, New Zealand is one of the world’s most unique landscapes with colorful hot pools and rocks that seem out of this world. Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the geothermal parks in the area has some of the best volcanic formations. Take a deep breath and face the hot steam coming out of the Champagne Pool, the star of the show. The spectacular formation has a rust orange rim with deep green boiling water at the centre. The Devil’s Bath, a pool with bright green shade and the Artist’s Palette, a splatter of mineral laden water are also incredible.

21 | Hakuba, Japan

By Anne of Traveltheglobe4less

Hakuba, Japan - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Hakuba, Japan – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Imagine standing on a plateau covered in snow soaking up the view of vertiginous mountains topped by a deep blue sky, the air so crisp and fresh its intoxicating. Deep breaths chill your throat, but every atom of your body feels alive, as though super-charged with energy. Your eyes cannot take in the magnitude of the endless Alps stretching to the horizon. Don’t be deceived. These are not the Alps of Europe. Oh no! These are the Alps of Japan and damn they are so worth the 24-hour journey to get here by train, plane and automobile. Moments like this almost reduce me to tears, reminding me of how fortunate I am to be able to travel and see marvels such as this. I’m feeling blessed! If only this moment would never end….

22 | Ribbon Falls, Grand Canyon, USA

By Cindy Barks of Near and Farz

It is not exactly easy to get there. In fact, it might be one of the toughest trips you’ll take. But the payoff? Amazing. It is Ribbon Falls, located in the depths of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. To get there, you have to commit to either a day of full-on hiking on the Rim-to-Rim hike (24 miles on the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails), or a mule ride to Phantom Ranch, located along the Colorado River, and then an 11-mile round-trip hike. Either way, it’s almost guaranteed to be a hot and rugged trip. Once you do make it to Ribbon Falls, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to visit. Through a gap in the massive red walls is gushing water, gorgeous water. Green moss clings to the rock, and mist billows all around. Walking under the falls and looking out at one of the wonders of the world is a truly surreal experience!

23 | Pamukkale, Turkey

By Clelia Mattana of Keep Calm and Travel

Pammukale, Turkey - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Pammukale, Turkey – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Pamukkale is a surreal destination by definition. The travertine creating a huge white valley in the middle of nowhere, the bright turquoise color of the warm water in the pools and the surreal silence (this is if you go very early in the morning, which I highly recommend!) make this place one of my favorite destinations where I can really fantasize about an “out of this world” experience.

24 | Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

By Grietje of Travel Gretl

Zaanse Schans, Holland - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Zaanse Schans, Holland – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

While exploring the world, we tend to forget the beautiful things our own countries have to offer! I am a Dutchie from the south, so the famous flower fields and windmills (western Netherlands) were no part of my childhood. But last year, I finally got to see the places so many tourists would describe as ‘typically Dutch’. And to be honest, I was quite amazed! This picture is from the Zaanse Schans. The mills are very well preserved, and seeing them besides the water in all their glory is definitely worth a detour when you’re in the Netherlands.

25 | Bayon Temple, Angkor Cambodia

By Ashley Erickson of The Traveling Gals

Bayon Temple - Siem Reap, Cambodia - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Bayon Temple – Siem Reap, Cambodia – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Bayon Temple in Siem Reap is part of the ancient city of Angkor Thom and close to the famous Angkor Wat. The most remarkable part about this temple is the 216 carvings of the same smiling, serene face. It is almost slightly creepy when walking around to see this face over and over again keeping watch over the Temple. When I was there, it was also very quiet walking around, making it feel even more surreal. The face is believed to be Jayavarman, a former Buddhist King in the 13th century, but no one knows for certain.

26 | Horta, Faial, Azores

By Jessica Johnson of MJ Sailing

Horta, Faial, Azores - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Horta, Faial, Azores – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The Azores are an archipelago of islands 800 miles off the continental coast of Portugal.  Faial, to the west, is referred to as the Blue Island for the number of blue hydrangeas that line everything from windowsills of shops to its green country roads.  It’s largest city, Horta, is a popular harbor for sailors to stop on their way across the Atlantic. With spectacular views of the towering volcano of Pico just across the bay and a tradition of painting your yacht’s emblem on the sea wall, it’s easy to see why so many yachties make a visit here.  Non sea folk also flock here for these same sights as well of tours of Faial to see its caldera (a large volcanic crater) and the Capelinhos. A volcano complex that includes 20 scoria cones and lava fields, as well as a refreshing pool of enclosed Atlantic water to take a dip in after your hike.

27 | The Laki Craters, Iceland

By Christina and Kevin of Wandering Wagars

The Laki Craters, Iceland - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The Laki Craters, Iceland – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The Laki Craters, also known as Crater Row is located deep in the heart of Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland and is the epicenter for Icelands most destructive natural disaster. Fire and lava spewed forth from the earth, tearing the surrounding land like a zipper for 25 kms and covering the country in ash. The nearby mountains offer a spectacular view that helps you bear witness to the scars ripped across the Icelandic countryside. Getting to the Laki craters is an adventure of its own that involves driving through small rivers and through the rough Icelandic interior. The area is filled with spectacular lava tubes and caves to explore as well as incredible opportunities for hiking.

28 | The Church of the Savior, St. Petersberg, Russia

By Marcela Faé of Fotostrasse

The Church of the Savior, St. Petersberg, Russia - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The Church of the Savior, St. Petersberg, Russia – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg is an orthodox church and it was designed in the XVII century style by Alfred Parland with some elements of Classical and Modernist without forgetting the undeniable Barroque touch you can see around it. Inside the church everything is made of mosaics. I, myself, am a strong atheist but I have a crazy fascination with the beauty of every kind of worshiping center. The Russian orthodox churches took the 1st one position on “The most Beautiful Church I’ve Seen Awards

29 | The Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos

By Nikki Godwin of Where is Noodles?

The Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

A beautifully strange and unique place, the park is home to more than 200 religious sculptures, which are peacefully located in a meadow next to the Mekong River. It is the perfect place to while away a few hours, just wandering around viewing some of the bizarre sculptures influenced by a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. There is no explanation of the history of the sculptures and their anonymity kind of added to the surreal atmosphere.

30 | Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, Peyto Lake, Canada

By Gemma of Two Scots Abroad

Peyto Lake, Canada

Peyto Lake, Canada

How do they get those lakes so blue? If you have seen Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, Peyto Lake, etc., in the Canadian Rockies you will know what I am talking out. The color of the water is eye popping, making it one of the most surreal destinations we’ve stumbled across in the past eleven months on the road in North, South, and Central America. I was fully expecting jaggy edged mountains, tall trees, maybe a bear sighting but was not prepared for the beauty of that water. If really want to get close to it, why not try the Polar Bear Swim challenge in Bow Lake?! We did!

31 | Pololu Valley, Big Island, Hawaii, USA

By Alexandra Korey of ArtTrav

Pololu Valley, Big Island, Hawaii, USA - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Pololu Valley, Big Island, Hawaii, USA – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Pololu Valley is where the opening to Jurassic Park II was filmed, and indeed it is surreal. The view from the top is amazing, but it is absolutely worth the steep hike down the trail to the black sand beach, bordered by a thick forest. In the off-season you’re likely to share this place with just a few locals. I honestly think this is the most beautiful place I have ever been in the world.

32 | Kawah ijen, Indonesia

By Nina Ragusa of Where in The World is Nina?

Kawah ijen, Indonesia - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Kawah ijen, Indonesia – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The treacherous hike through a volcanic crater named Kawah Ijen is the epitome of a surreal experience. While here, you’ll encounter dangers like breathing in the sulfuric smoke that billows from the earth, the pitch black conditions and fragile rocks that fall apart under your feet. So why would any visitor put themselves through this? How about the chance to see blue flames flowing out of the ground, incredible views, a sunrise over volcanos, a gorgeous but toxic green acid lake, and phenomenal terrain like you’ve never seen before.

33 | Dyrholaey Coast, Iceland

By Cora of The Path She Took

Dyrholaey coast - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Dyrholaey coast – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The south coast of Iceland was completely surreal. I’m sure it already looks insanely beautiful all year round, but I got there just after one of the biggest snowfall ever, and it had transformed the whole coast into the perfect set for a sci-fi movie. The white waves, the black sand beaches and the sparkling snow, all the colors added up to create something completely unique and, frankly, very surprising. I still remember when I had my first view on the sea. The engine stopped and there was just a big silence in the car. “Wow” could not cover it.

34 | St. Basil’s cathedral, Moscow

Nic and Paul of The Roaming Renegades

St. Basil’s cathedral, Moscow - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

St. Basil’s cathedral, Moscow – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Red Square was just as impressive and imposing as I had always imagined it to be. But as my eyes wandered to its far end I had to pinch myself. There is the glistening autumn sun stood the magnificent St. Basil’s cathedral. The colors just as bright as I had imagined and the onion domes just as wild and surreal. To be standing here almost didn’t feel real, this gingerbread like cathedral looks more like something from a fairy tale than harsh Russia. Venturing inside and the magic continued, we were immediately struck by the detail and intricacy of the murals and frescos that adorned every wall and ceiling of this maze like structure. A truly beautiful and surreal experience!

35 | Yosemite National Park, California, USA

By Carole of Berkley and Beyond

Yosemite National Park, California - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Yosemite National Park, California – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Being a native Californian, I have visited Yosemite National Park countless times.  And every time I visit, I am awed yet again by its spectacular beauty.  It is wondrous at any time of year, but my favorite time is the quieter time of fall.  Perhaps the best way to get a feel for the overall splendor of this park is to take a walk across the valley floor, with the tall granite walls surrounding you, but I also especially enjoy the trail up to the base of Yosemite Falls and the huge boulders found there.

36 | The Maldives

By Lauren of The Traveller’s Guide By #ljojlo

The Maldives - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The Maldives – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The vivid hues of blue, green and turquoise make Maldives mesmerizingly beautiful. Even on a windy day with a chance of rain the colors are oh so incredible. You often find yourself daydreaming not believing it is real or that you are actually fortunate enough to be lapping up the luxury that is the Maldives. The astonishing fact is you need to head under the water for even more beauty. Between the corals, colors, fish and sea turtles this is where the magic happens.

37 | Tellaro, Italy

By Jessica of Travel to be Alive

Tellaro, Italy - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Tellaro, Italy – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

If there’s a surreal – and not crowded! – place in the world, that is “Tellaro”. It is a picturesque village situated on the west coast of Italy, kind of magic, with its typical houses and its sparkling view over the sea. What keeps it so special is that the wave of tourism has not swallowed the town yet and it has preserved its original look. The village is very little and truly romantic at the same time. Walking through the narrow alleys, watching the fishermen in the distance and waiting for the sun to set you’ll be transported back in time. This is Italy as you’ve always imagined it.

38 | Valle de Cocora, Colombia

By Taylor Record of Once We’re Young Travel

Valle de Cocora, Colombia - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Valle de Cocora, Colombia – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Valle de Cocora in Colombia’s coffee region is a place so surreal, that it will make you believe in mermaids, yetis, and the Loch Ness herself. Just outside of Salento, you can experience sky-high wax palms and watch as clouds swallow the surrounding mountains. Embark on a 5 hour trek to experience the wonder of one of the world’s most bizarre landscapes.

39 | Newfoundland, Canada

By Danielle Ditzian of Like Riding a Bicycle

Newfoundland, Canada - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Newfoundland, Canada – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

This photo was taken in the middle of the summer in Newfoundland, Canada – a ridiculously stunning island in Canada with the kindest people you will ever meet! I was hanging out in a tank top and shorts, just checking out the icebergs. How much more surreal can it get? The icebergs float down from Greenland in the spring, and if you’re lucky, you can still catch a glimpse when the warm weather comes around in the summertime. It was hard to believe this was a real thing, and I couldn’t help but stare in awe, wondering how huge that iceberg was below the surface.

40 | Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

By Soumya Nambiar of Travel Books Food, Photo Credit: Nishanth Nottath

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same. But how do you begin to describe its magic to someone who has never left it? How can you explain the fascination of this vast, dusty continent, whose oldest roads are elephant paths? Could it be because Africa is the place of all our beginnings, the cradle of mankind, where our species first stood upright on the savannahs of long ago?

41 | Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India

By Rishabh and Nirali of GypsyCouple

Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Think of untamed mountains, meandering rivers, treeless plains and a monastery in the middle of it. We aren’t talking about the mystical Shangri-La but an equally mystical land called Spiti. The still clear water of Chandratal Lake in Spiti Valley and the reflection on it gave it a feeling of a looking glass to a whole different world and we decided to pitch our tent there.

42| Sapa, Vietnam

By Elena Nemets of Travelability

Sapa, Vietnam - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Sapa, Vietnam – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

If you plan your trip to Vietnam, you should definitely consider spending at least couple of days hiking in the northern part of the country and visiting villages near the town of Sapa. Mountains made by nature and rice terraces cultivated by hard work of local people together make a dramatic scenery (and fifty shades of green!). Sapa itself is worth visiting mainly because of the local market. Here the women from local tribes, wearing colorful traditional costumes which are different for each tribe, sell handmade clothing and handicrafts.

43 | Erg Chebbi, Morocco

By Kylie of Between England and Iowa

Erg Chebbi, Morocco - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Erg Chebbi, Morocco – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The Sahara Desert is a landscape that looks like it should belong on another planet.  No matter what direction you look in, it’s just miles and miles of bright orange sand dunes, there are no roads, paths or human creation (other than the Bedouin tent that’s home for the night), even footprints are erased almost instantly.  It makes you feel so small and peaceful, you can’t help but just sit and stare out at the vastness.  When the sun comes up, shadows are cast across the dunes, the light and dark meeting at the peak in a defined line.  The wind blows rippled patterns on the flatter parts of the dunes, it’s a constantly changing environment.  It’s an amazing place!

44 | Bay of Fethiye, Turkey

By Sophie Nadeau of Solo Sophie

Bay of Fethiye, Turkey - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Bay of Fethiye, Turkey – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

The town of Fethiye is built on the site of ancient Telmessos and is surrounded by rock tombs, cliff cut temple like tombs that rise high above the surrounding sea and villages alike. The bay is surreal: sandy beaches line the mountain studded horizon and in the sea, a bright turquoise, it’s not unusual to see turtles swimming along the surface of the crystal clear water.

45 | Wadi Rum, Jordan

By Aleah of Solitary Wanderer

Wadi Rum, Jorden - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Wadi Rum, Jorden – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Wadi Rum in Jordan is one place that stands out in its magnificance. Its vastness and surreal beauty can definitely make any visitor gawp in awe. I was especially lucky in that I got to witness the sunset there, and the glorious sight of the sun turning the desert as red as the land in Mars rendered me speechless. Witnessing such magnificence of nature is indeed the reason why I travel.

46 | Abu Simbel, Egypt

By Laura Lynch of Savored Journeys

Abu Simbel, Egypt - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Abu Simbel, Egypt – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

One of the most surreal places I’ve ever been is Abu Simbel in the dessert of Egypt. Built as a temple complex by Ramesses II sometime during the 1200s BCE, Sometime after its glory days, it was completely covered in sand and wasn’t rediscovered until 1817. In the 1960s, the building of the Aswan High Dam would have completely submerged the temples and they would have been lost forever if they hadn’t been relocated to a cliff side behind the original site. Abu Simbel is an incredible sight to see. It is one of the most dramatic and stunning temples in the world and we’re lucky many times over that it still exists for us to visit.

47 | Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica

Howard Blount of Backroad Planet

Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Dunn’s River Falls near Ocho Rios, Jamaica, is one of those rare waterfalls that flow directly into the ocean, or in this case the Caribbean Sea. Countless terraced levels and lagoons allow visitors to safely ascend from the beach to the top of the falls. Although I climbed the falls in the company of family and strangers, I found myself immersed in a confluence of sparkling sunlit droplets and multi-level cascades, all wrapped in lush tropical foliage. In one word: Otherworldly!

48 | Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Anna Phipps of Global Gallivanting

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

I’d been traveling around India for over a year and thought I had seen it all… and then I visited the remote, tribal regions in North East India. After a couple of days of a bumpy journey through the mountains we finally made it to Tawang. As I stood amongst the soaring Himalayan mountains, fluttering prayer flags and colorful monasteries watching the people go about their life as if the modern world did not exist it was hard to believe that I was still in India and not in Tibet. It did not surprise me when I learned that this region used to be part of Tibet and today in this unexplored part of India the people are still free to practice their colorful, peaceful and fascinating Tibetan religion and culture. It was like steeping back in time and a surreal, beautiful and serene experience.

49 | Panajachel, Guatemala

By Francesca Collins of Two Backpacks One Adventure

Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Panajachel, Guatemala, located on Lake Atitlán. Panajachel (known as “Pana” among the locals) is perfect for any traveler that craves calm, relaxing, good-for-your-soul vibes. Head out in your kayak for a sunrise tour of the lake and revel in the beauty of the three volcanoes that lie along its border, Volcán Atitlán, Tolimán, & San Pedro. When you aren’t taking in all of Pana’s natural beauty, take a walk around the local markets, get a bite to eat at a lake-side food stall, or grab your yoga mat and take a class at one of the many locations available around town or on the lake. There is no way that you can leave this town feeling anything other than totally at peace with the world and your life.

50 | Hampi, Karnataka, India

By Sonal and Sandro of Drifter Planet

Hampi, Karnataka, India - 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Hampi, Karnataka, India – 50 Surreal Travel Destinations

Situated in lush green part of South of India, Hampi was the ancient capital of Vijayanagara, a.k.a., “A Forgotten Empire” and is famous for its ruins that are a UNESCO world heritage site. However, more than the ruins, it was Hampi’s bizarre landscape that took our breath away. The landscape is made of many miles of boulders heaps that appear to be precariously arranged.

How many of these destinations have you visited already? Have you visited a surreal destination that’s not on this list? Let us know in the comments section.

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50 Surreal Travel Destinations from Around The World

50 Surreal Travel Destinations from Around The World

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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