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By Charli Moore

For every Whistler Backcomb, Wanaka, and Chamonix there’s a lesser-known, often less developed winter resort overlooked by those who favour après ski over isolated piste.

Ideal for those looking to escape the masses and explore off the beaten path, here’s my guide to some fabulously unfamiliar and under the radar winter resorts.

SAINTE-FOY, FRANCE

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: December to January

Tucked away in the Tarantaise valley, between the full-throttle resorts of Les Arcs, Val d’Isère, La Rosière and Tignes, is sleepy Sainte-Foy. A favourite with ski instructors on their day off, runs wend their way around the entire mountain at which is rather undeveloped compared to most French resorts.

If you’re interested in escaping reality this is the place to come, the après-ski scene is minimal and the slopes are seldom crowded.

Craving a winter escape? Check out these ski holiday ideas for inspiration.

LEVI, FINLAND

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: October untilmid-May

Buried deep in the heart of Finnish Lapland more than 160km north of the Arctic Circle, Levi is Finland’s largest downhill ski resort encompassing 44km of pistes.

From November to April the Northern Lights are regularly seen and the resort is just a 15 minute drive from the charming town of Kittilä where a whole host of winter-wonderland esq activities, including reindeer sleigh rides.

Check out my Finland travel guides below.

FOLGARIA, ITALY

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: January to March

The often-arduous task of getting from airport to ski resort isn’t a consideration in Folgaria. Within two hours of landing into Bergamo (BGY) or 90 minutes if you’re driving over from Verona, you’ll find yourself with over 100km of piste to explore.

Nestled in the Trentino region of northern Italy that has a reputation for being in a snow pocket, it also has impeccable ski history credentials as the first ski lift in Italy was built here in the 1930s.

PORTILLO, CHILE

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: July to mid-September

If fulfilling that dream of skiing in South America is getting harder and harder to shake off consider the spectacular terrain of Chile’s “Field of Dreams”. Portillo is upfront,easy, and cost-effective which is important when you consider the time and cost commitment to get to most southern hemisphere ski areas.

From the Super C to Lake Runs and everything in between there are a plethora of skiing options in and around Ski Portillo’s boundary. Depending on the snowpack and if the lake is frozen, ski touring and backcountry options are virtually endless.

RIKSGRANSEN, SWEDEN

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: Mid-February to May

If you’re still getting used to yourskis and you’re looking for more accessible runs Riksgransen is the idealoption. The slopes here aren’t particularly strenuous, however as with mostnortherly ski resorts the northern lights regularly light up the night’s sky.

There’s also the added allure of summer skiing (June sees light nights and may take to the slopes to ski in shorts) and the novelty of skiing down a piste that starts in Sweden, pops over the border in to Norway, and ends up back in Sweden is another of the long list of attractions that make Riksgransen special.

Check out this guide to the Stockholm Archipelago for more Sweden travel inspiration.

RUSUTU, JAPAN

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: January and February

It’s all about the pursuit of powder in Hokkaido’s Rusutu resort. Here three mountains,  West, East and Isola, receive 12 to 14 metres of snow each season and boast wide, tree-lined courses to suit all levels. Stand out features include immaculately groomed trails, tree lined gullies, and powder bowl access.

Planning a trip to Hokkaido? Check out my Japan travel guides below.

PAMPOROVO, BULGARIA

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: February

A great option for beginners thanks to its gentle slopes, Pamporovo is a purpose-built resort in Bulgaria that makes for an affordable skiing experience. Deals are relatively cheap, the cost of food and drink is low and a six-day ski pass is approximately £87.

CRAIGIEBURN VALLEY, NEW ZEALAND

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: July to September

Not for the faint of heart nor for the skier who dislikes ungroomed terrain, the runs that line the Craigieburn Valley are geared toward confident intermediate and experienced skiers. The basins and faces rated as intermediate would only be easy if the snow conditions were perfect. However, here you’ll have access to advanced free-riding, steep narrow chutes, wide-open powder bowls and uncrowded runs.

A not for profit classic club field the resort is run by dedicated members and so an affordable option for those looking for an epic winter escape.

Read my New Zealand travel guides for inspiration.

TRYSIL, NORWAY

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: December throughuntil March

Snow-sure slopes and ski-in, ski-out hotels define the landscape of Norway’s largest ski resort. A family-friendly option that won’t break the bank the apres-ski offering includes kid’s areas and barbecue huts on the slopes.

Cross-country skiers will also enjoy it here – like most ski resorts in Norway, Trysil has access to some 100km of cross-country ski trails.

ALYESKA, ALASKA

OPTIMUM SKI SEASON: mid-March tomid-April

Around 40 miles from Anchorage in the town of Girdwood the Alaskan winter resort of Alyeska is the gateway to some of the state’s most adventurous ski and snowboard activities. Helicopter and snow-cat accessed skiing and riding, dog sledding, snowmobiling, flight-seeing, ice climbing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing are all on offer here.

Don’t forget that in the heart of winter the region receives just 5.5 hours of daylight so make sure you book toward the later end of the season to maximise time on the slopes.

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Do you have a favourite off-beat winter resort that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and share your insider tips!

This post was originally published on https://wanderlusters.com

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By Charli Moore

Listed as one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks the Whanganui River Journey isn’t a walk at all.

Instead of tramping a well-trodden trail, those who seek to disconnect from the outside world paddle a 157km stretch of water which meanders through some of the most remote parts of New Zealand’s North Island.

‘Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au’ I am the river, the river is me

One of the country’s longest and most scenic waterways, the Whanganui stems from the north-west flank of Mt Tongariro on the island’s volcanic Central Plateau. Flowing gently towards the Tasman Sea, the river is navigable as far north as Tamranui where this unique route begins.

Two days into the recommended itinerary and the river reaches the tiny settlement of Whakahoro. It is here we begin, launching our canoes and easing into a rhythmic paddle as the water carries us slowly towards the coast.

Known to offer the most spectacular views of the entire route, it is this middle section of waterway that leaves me breathless.

I am the river, the river is me.

PADDLING THE WHANGANUI RIVER 

From my perch in the front of the canoe my view is unobstructed.

To my left and right vast sandstone walls loom large, blanketed in vibrant green palms and littered with abstract patterns in the rock forged from millennia of lava flow and layered sediment.

Ahead 90km of water to paddle and three days of adventure to enjoy.

At times the only sound is the gentle trickle of water dripping from elevated paddles and occasionally the low pitched murmur of a waterfall is audible over the apparent silence.

As the sun reaches its peak high above, we stop for lunch. From our makeshift picnic bench of river rock we sit and refuel, watching as a waterfall spills over the cliff on the opposite bank tumbling down to the river below.

Back on the river talk turns to the Whanganui’s rich heritage.

In the late 19th century the river was the lifeblood of the region,

says Grant our guide. 


Known as the Rhine of the Pacific steamboats traversed north and south ferrying much needed supplies to those early communities living along the river’s edge.

Pioneered by merchant Alexander Hatrick these steam powered paddle boats paved the way for tourism on the Whanganui, with some 12000 visitors arriving each year to experience the beauty of the waterway.

CAMPING AT JOHN COULL HUT

We paddle 37km that first day.

Although the greatest distance we would paddle in one stint, we were assisted somewhat by the flow of the Whanganui, its gentle rapids offering assistance when our muscles began to ache.

Late afternoon the river began to slow and so too did our pace. The rippling water that was once carrying us forward was still, mirror-like reflecting the world above.

Pitching our tents on the banked grassland aside the John Coull Hut (a DOC campsite), we dined on a hearty meal served up by our guide and turned in for the night in anticipation of the day ahead.

THE PARALLEL WORLD OF THE MANGAWAIITI

As we set our canoes in the river early the next morning, a kingfishers darts across the water. The river beckons us to join its gentle ebb and flow, and we set off towards the stretch of water known as the Mangawaiiti.

Although flowing gently south-west, the surface of the river appears still. Vertical rock walls plunge towards the river bed, blanketed in a pattern of green moss and an intriguing pattern which appears to have been etched into the rock.

Worn slanted grooves, what appeared to me as an ornate decoration was in fact a functional structure put in place by the ancient Maori tribesmen to whom the river was a means of transport.

To make the process of paddling upstream a little easier, the Maori would dig their wooden paddles into the rock, propelling their craft forwards against the current.

READ MORE OF MY NEW ZEALAND TRAVEL GUIDES

PADDLING THROUGH A PARALLEL WORLD

Our day is spent in flux between two parallel worlds, above us the walls of the river canyon loom large, and mirrored in the still water below they appear to sink towards an endless blue sky.

We’ve had a few for whom this landscape induces vertigo,

says Grant.

His form mirrored in the river as he talks,  I can see how easily the view could play tricks on the mind.

THE BRIDGE TO NOWHERE

On we paddle, towards the Whanganui’s most famous landmark, the abandoned Bridge to Nowhere.

Built in 1935 and now serving as a memorial to the efforts of the men and women who tried to develop the isolated valleys that surround the river, it sits alone amidst a jumble of lush forest.

Leaving our canoes on the Mangapurua Landing beneath the bridge, we scramble up the river bank and along a shaded forest path to the concrete structure.

Constructed of 105 cubic metres of concrete and 15 tonnes of steel, transporting the materials to the building site was a feat of engineering itself let along fabricating the bridge which sits some 40 metres above the water.

THE BRIDGE TO NOWHERE LODGE

Despite the failed efforts to populate the banks of the Whanganui, there are a few sporadic settlements along its shore. Launching our canoes back onto the water, we paddle for a further two hours before reaching the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge.

Set aside the water with unrestricted views of the river, this working farm offers respite to those adventurous enough to explore the Whanganui.

Accessible only by water, the property is blissfully unaware of the outside world, a tiny bubble of paradise removed from the sometimes overwhelming chaos of modern life.

“I have 20 kilometres of the most beautiful road in New Zealand,” owner Joe Adam says, as we gaze out along the river. “It’s the most scenic driveway in the country.”

It is here we spend the night and as the dawn breaks on our third and final day, my body urges me to remain in a cocoon of pillows and duvet.

PADDLING TO PIPIRIKI

For our first few hours on the water the gorge closes in and the river runs narrow and deep. Then the route widens and once again the smooth river rocks are visible beneath the surface.

As the canyon falls away and pastures green appear, a series of rapids are all that lay between us and our route end at the boat ramp in Pipiriki. Splashing through the waves, braced against the thin walls of our canoe, we bounce over the rapids with apparent ease.

One of the first of our fleet of four to tackle this last section of water, we sail straight through, the force of the water spitting us out into the calm embrace of deeper water.

The last canoe through is helmed by John and Phil, and as they enter the rapid it becomes clear that their choice of course has failed them. Skidding sideways into the rapid they begin to take on water, and as if in slow motion their canoe upends itself spilling them and their water tight barrels into the river.

Much splashing and a few choice phrases can be heard as we down paddles to watch, our canoe comes to a halt on the boat ramp as the pair swim to the riverbank. They’d obviously decided to finish this Great Walk on foot.

Want to follow in our footsteps? We joined the team at Canoe Safaris based in Ohakune, and opted for their 3 day guided voyageur excursion.

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✈ ✈ ✈

Have you taken a canoe safari in New Zealand? Share your comments with us below!

This post was originally published on https://wanderlusters.com

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By Charli Moore

It’s been too long since I last touched down in the Land Down Under. However, the memories of my 18-month stay are still fresh in my mind.

The months that I spent traversing the highways and rural roads which connect this sparsely populated island inspired the desire to further explore its great wilderness.

I hope one day I’ll return and spend more time exploring, however in the meantime here’s a snapshot of some the best adventures in Australia.

ABSEIL DOWN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS – NEW SOUTH WALES

Loose yourself in the blue horizon of eucalyptus tress that blanket the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, and prepare yourself for an adventure.

Although there are 140km (87 miles) of hiking trails on which to explore the region’s natural beauty, you can get a high of an adrenaline-nature by abseiling off an alpine overhang. The views are epic.

ROAD TRIP ACROSS AUSTRALIA
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As the sky darkens to a deep indigo and the last rays of the sun slip beyond the horizon, the #Uluru night sky is lit by thousands of stars. The land and its iconic rocks, so dominant during the day, disappear into the dark and the night sky takes centre stage. With low humidity and minimal unnatural light, the Red Centre is easily one of the best places in @Australia to view the stars and planets. Whether you simply take a walk to a viewing platform at Ayers Rock Resort, book into a stargazing session or a dinner in the dunes, the stars make their stunning appearance on schedule nightly 🌟 Cheers for tagging #NTaustralia, @bmillar.au! #SeeAustralia #RedCentreNT #ExploreUluru

A post shared by Northern Territory – Australia (@ausoutbacknt) on Sep 30, 2018 at 3:09am PDT

A bucket list activity for many who visit Australia during their gap year, buying a campervan and taking off on the open road is the dream for most. Yes, you’ll need to do a lot of prep before you can live an instagrammable Aussie #vanlife, but believe me it’s worth it.

There’s nothing quite like camping out underneath the stars in the outback, plus you’ll have the opportunity to get off the well-trodden tourist trail and make unforgettable memories.

If you can’t find a travel buddy or don’t want to shell out to buy a camper consider an Australian group tour to make the most of your time in the country.

READ MORE OF MY AUSTRALIA TRAVEL GUIDES

HIKE THE EPIC ARTHUR RANGE – TASMANIA

Traverse 77km (48 miles), over two weeks and wend your way through Tasmania’s rugged Wilderness World Heritage Area. Defined by jagged quartzite peaks, hanging valleys,and glacier-carved lakes, the undulating terrain and unpredictable weather make the route unsuitable for inexperienced hikers.

If you’re looking for an in-depth guide click here.

SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS ON THE NIGALOO REEF – WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Stretching for 260km along Western Australia’s Coral Coast, the Nigaloo Reef is one of the largest fringing reefs in the world with some corals sitting just 100m from the shore.

Home to over 200 species of hard coral, 50 soft coral, and over 500 species of fish, along with manta rays, turtles, humpback whales, there’s plenty to see yea round.

Visit in May or June and you’ll likely see one of the region’s most notable visitors, the mighty whale shark. The best snorkelling tours depart from Exmouth.

CANOE THROUGH THE TOP END’S WILDERNESS – NORTHERN TERRITORY

The languid tropical waters of the Katherine River offer the opportunity to escape to isolation.

Drift past river banks lined with rocky escarpments and sandy beaches, camp on sandy riverbanks and spend your evenings sleeping under a blanket of stars. Three-day canoe adventures are offered by a number of operators.

SCUBA DIVE ON A REMOTE CORAL SEA ATOLL – QUEENSLAND

If you’re a fan of the underwater world, scuba diving on the Osprey and Shark Reefs which sit some 150km (85 miles) from the shores of Queensland is a must.

With visibility upwards of 40 meters, inconceivably deep ocean drop off’s, coral caves, swim through’s, and bommies the aquatic landscape is like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Read all about my two week stint working as a Divemaster on Mike Ball’s Coral Sea Safari here.

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There are so many adventurous activities on offer in Australia. If you’ve got the time, and you fancy making some memories, a 12 month working holiday Down Under would provide the ideal opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the country’s wealth of epic landscapes. #Justsayin.

Have you spent time Down Under? Share your best adventures in Australia in the comments.

This post was originally published on https://wanderlusters.com

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By Charli Moore

A trip to Europe is one of those things that are on many people’s travel bucket lists. Why wouldn’t it be? The region is seriously diverse and attractive.

From Unesco World Heritage sites to trendy restaurants and contemporary art museums, Europe is packed with culture and history. Each country in Europe has powerful stories, imposing landmarks, and a fascinating heritage.

If traveling to Europe is one of your dreams, there are a few things you need to know about the ETIAS visa waiver for Europe that will be implemented in the year 2021. A

At this moment, citizens of 62 nations can travel to the Schengen Area without applying for a visa at an embassy or consulate. All they need is a valid passport and a return flight.

However, the ETIAS visa waiver will become a travel requirement for travelers from these 62 nations in order to enter any of the Schengen member countries.

EUROPE TRAVEL GUIDES TO INSPIRE YOUR TRIP
WHY WAS THE ETIAS VISA WAVIER FOR EUROPE CREATED?

In recent years, several European countries have been struck by terrorist attacks. The region is also facing an immigration crisis. With this in mind, the European Union drafted several proposals to address the security of its external borders. On November 2016, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker stressed the importance of protecting Europe and its borders.

The ETIAS system will determine a traveler’s eligibility by contrasting their personal details with european and international security databases such as the Europol and Interpol.

This system will be able to identify individuals that might pose a threat to the Schengen Area and its citizens and visitors alike. Europe welcomes thousands of people each day, and at the present time, citizens of 62 countries can enter the region without a visa.

The ETIAS visa waiver is an electronic travel authorization that will be required to enter any of the 26 countries in the Schengen Zone.

HOW TO APPLY FOR THE ETIAS VISA WAVIER PROGRAMME FOR EUROPE

Obtaining the ETIAS visa waiver to travel to Europe, specifically the Schengen Area, will be a fairly simple process. As of 2021, citizens of eligible countries will need to apply online for an ETIAS visa waiver.

To successfully obtain an ETIAS visa waiver to visit a Schengen member country, you will need a valid passport, an email address and a debit or credit card. Your passport will be electronically linked to your ETIAS application. The email address is necessary so that you can receive a notification once your online ETIAS application has been approved. The debit and credit card are required to cover the ETIAS fee.

When completing the online application form you will need to provide personal details such as your full name and date and place of birth. Furthermore, you will need to include your passport information and answer a series of security questions regarding your health and past trips to conflict zones.

The ETIAS application format is similar to the U.S. ESTA or the Canadian eTA. Once you’ve completed the application and paid the respective fee you will be able to submit the application.

The EU assures that most applications will be processed within minutes. If an application raises a red flag, it will be revised manually by a team of expert officials. In the case that an application is rejected, the applicant will have the right to appeal.

If your ETIAS application is approved, your ETIAS visa waiver will be valid for three consecutive years, or until your passport expires. ETIAS will grant its holder stays of up to 90 days in the Schengen Area within a 180-day period.

While the ETIAS visa waiver won’t be available until 2021, make sure you check entry requirements before traveling to European countries outside the Schengen Area. The UK, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania have different entry regulations.

This post was originally published on https://wanderlusters.com

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By Charli Moore

New Zealand is one of the world’s most idyllic locations for avid surfers, keen explorers, and paradise pursuers.

Inspire your adventurous trip to New Zealand with the following information and intriguing facts before you prepare for your trip. Check which documentation you need, whether you need an eTA New Zealand and other important parts of planning your trip to New Zealand.

Flying high over The Divide on route to Queenstown eTA NEW ZEALAND

Travelers may need to prepare for entry to New Zealand by requesting an eTA New Zealand; an electronic visa waver which is expected to be available by the end of this year.

The travel authorization will mean that travelers need not visit embassies or consulates in order to obtain travel documents prior to travel. Not everyone will need to apply for an eTA New Zealand, and those who do may be subject to different requirements and conditions.

NEW ZEALAND TRAVEL GUIDES
ABOUT NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand is home to approximately 4 and a half million people who go by the name Kiwis. New Zealand natives are known as Kiwis due to the prized island kiwi bird which is actually flightless.

The country itself is rather small compared to most, comparing to the size of Japan, and is formed by two main islands; the North Island and the South Island. The sea surrounding these two main islands is sprinkled with hundreds more islands which add to the excitement and exploring desires of many a traveler who sets foot in this country of diverse climates and landscapes.

Interestingly, out of all the tropical wildlife and fascinating sea life, one of New Zealand’s most populous animal is sheep. There are almost 30 million sheep in New Zealand,amounting to approximately 7 sheep per resident!

TRAVEL INFORMATION NEW ZEALAND A peaceful scene on Lake Hawea, South Island, New Zealand

If you’re looking for a safe place to travel or somewhere where you don’t have to constantly worry about being pick pocketed, New Zealand is one of the safest countries to travel on a world scale. The first major nation to allow citizens to vote, regardless of gender, this country is also well-developed and established politically.

The combination of the two languages, English and Māori, add an exotic touch to your vacation, yet keep you calm knowing that you’ll always be understood and able to communicate with the friendly locals.

The currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar. Typically, 1 New Zealand dollar converts to around 0.65-0.70 American dollars or 50p in UK pounds. However, while the economy is slightly higher, you can still travel economically and find good travel deals.

HOW TO SPEND YOUR TIME IN NEW ZEALAND Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, North Island, New Zealand

Discover the Māori culture or seek a more adrenaline-fuelled adventure with hiking. skiing, surfing, and many more energizing activities. Tongariro National Park is a popular travel destination with Lord of the Rings fans taking a particular liking to the inspiring scenery.

You don’t have to worry if you’re not into mountains or adventure sports, spend your vacation on blissful beaching or plan an island hopping route. There really are umpteen ways of spending your time in New Zealand and choosing which things you’d like to do or see.

Active volcanoes, steep ski slopes, and gleaming glacier lakes await you in New Zealand. If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, don’t forget to organize all important documentation such as an eTA New Zealand or travel plans prior to departure!

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This post was originally published on https://wanderlusters.com

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