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With temperate rainforests, snowcapped mountains, and driftwood-strewn beaches, the Olympic National Park is the stuff that dreams are made of. Those famous PNW clouds hang low, giving the whole area an ethereal quality. And yes, waterfalls really are everywhere on the Olympic Peninsula.

There are tons of fun things to do in Olympic National Park! If you’re looking for an adventurous road trip, the OP is one of the very best places to visit in Washington State.

From the Insta-famous beaches to seldom-visited backcountry trails, visiting the Olympic Peninsula makes an epic road trip no matter what type of adventure you’re looking for!

What you’ll find in this Olympic National Park Guide…

We’re going to answer all your questions and even provide you with a map of top attractions in Olympic National Park.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • Top sights and things to do in Olympic National Park

  • Best route for visiting the Olympic Peninsula

  • Camping in Olympic National Park and other lodging options.

  • What to pack for visiting Olympic National Park.

We’re going over the highlights and sights that you should be sure to check out on your first trip to the Olympic Peninsula.

Best time of year to visit Olympic National Park

Being that the Olympic Peninsula is, well, surrounded by the ocean on most sides, the weather here tends to be milder than further inland. For the best chance of sunny, dry and warm weather, July and August are a good bet. This is also the most popular time to visit, so popular attractions will be at their most busy.

We visited the Olympic Peninsula at the end of May, and we had a mix of sunny day and fog, and we say lots of snow still sticking to the ground!

If your travel dates don’t fall during the summer months, don’t worry! Some of the beauty of this region is the moody, foggy weather you’ll find in the spring, autumn and even winter months. While you can’t be upset about a sunny day, we actually think the mist that’s common on the OP gives it a beautiful and mysterious aura.

Good to know: From October through May, you can expect some roads, campgrounds and visitors centers to be closed or have shorter hours. Be sure to check before your trip.

Olympic National Park Attractions Map

The Olympic Peninsula is one of the best places to take a road trip in the US, and we are excited to help you plan the journey of a lifetime!

We've put all of the stops onto a map so you can visually see where we're talking about. We've laid them out in an order we would suggest, but you could visit them in any order you'd like.

How many days should you plan for this route? 

We’d recommend 2 - 4 days for this route.

If you planning on making quick stops at each of these areas, you could probably see everything in two days. It would be really rushed and lots of time spent driving. You could also stretch this out to a week, taking more time to linger in each place and add in a few more stops.

We spent 4 days on the Olympic Peninsula, and thought it was a good amount of time, especially of you plan on camping at any of the beaches. 

How to get to the Olympic Peninsula

You’ll likely be starting and ending this journey in Seattle.

Before leaving the city, be sure to grab some strong coffee for the road. You’re gonna need it!

Insider tip: And if you’re from out of town, be sure to read up on all the fun things to do in Seattle—it’s a really great city to explore, and you should definitely allocate a few days to seeing all the sights (and drinking all the craft beer!).

There are essentially 3 ways to get to the OP from Seattle:

  • Take the ferry to Bainbridge Island: This is a shortcut and will save you a bit of time. You will miss some stops on this route if you come via the ferry, so skip straight to #3 on this list if you go for this option. If you plan to take the ferry back to Seattle, you can do these stops at the end of your road trip. Alternatively, you can do this route in reverse (counter-clockwise) order.

  • Drive through Olympia: This drive will avoid the ferries and adds 180 miles and 3.5 hours onto your trip. It also gives you the opportunity to see a bit more. And that’s the fun of a road trip right?!

    • This is the option we chose for our road trip.

  • Drive through Tacoma and head north to Bremerton: If you don’t care about seeing stops #1 and #2 on this route, you could instead drive through the small towns of Bremerton and Port Townsend. The routes will converge in Sequim (#3 on this list).

Olympic National Park Road Trip Route

Alright, now comes the fun part! Let’s go over the route, stop by stop.

The first two stops come just as you enter the peninsula via Olympia. Skip to #3 on the list if you are taking the ferry or choosing to drive through Bremerton.

1. High Steel Bridge

For a vertigo-inducing view, a pit stop at High Steel Bridge is an interesting detour on your way into the Olympic Peninsula.

This bridge is accessible by car and stands 427 feet over the South Fork Skokomish River. From above, you can look down on the stunning blue water in the gorge below, and you'll even see a waterfall. Don’t forget your camera and your common sense. Please be very cautious when taking pictures on this bridge, as the barrier (especially on the west side, is very short).

A note on this picture: Although it may look quite scary in the picture, I was actually sitting quite far from the edge, and had a barrier in front of me. Do not attempt to climb over barriers to get photos.

This bridge is more easily accessible than Vance Creek, so it can be busier. Though when we stopped here around dusk, the lighting was great and we didn’t have any company other than a group of teenagers who were throwing fireworks into the canyon to make a huge boom. (A bit frightening when you’re standing at the edge of a bridge!)

How to get there: Traveling north on Hwy 101, turn left on West Skokomish Valley Road. After about 7.5 miles, turn right on NF-2340 to this bridge, and the last portion of the road is gravel (not too bad, though). Drive across the bridge and park at the turnout point. You can walk back over the bridge, but be cautious – on one side, the barrier is pretty short and you could easily fall if you’re not careful.

2. Vance Creek Viaduct

This old railroad tracks because an Insta-famous PNW landmark in the last few years. If you Google it, you can see images of people walking across this rustic wooden bridge, though when we visited (May 2017), we found a very different view.

The entrance to the bridge has been torn away and there is no way to get on top. I’m assuming that people wandering out on this bridge without any barriers led to some dangerous situations and the owners of the land decided to make it impassible.

You can still walk a little ways and get a nice view from the side, but don’t make a special trip here if you are expecting to walk across, because you'll be disappointed.

How to get there: Take the same West Skohomish Valley Road as in the High Steel Bridge. Instead of turning right, continue on NF-23 (still a gravel road) until it become payment again in about 300 yards. Park your car and you will see a gate that blocks cars from accessing the road on the right (the second orange gate).

It is private property, but there is a sign that says you are free to walk to the viewpoint. After about 100 meters, you will come to a Y in the path. To the right is the actual bridge (but again, you can no longer access the bridge), and to the left is a 0.6 mile walk on a wooded path that will lead you to the viewpoint.

Note on both bridges: There’s not much else to explore in the vicinity, so if you’re really pressed for time you could skip these bridges.

Where to camp near High Steel Bridge: Brown Creek Campground is not far from the bridges and is a very nice place to set up camp down by the river. Sites cost $14 and there is a pit toilet.

3. Sequim

This small town is best known for lavender fields and sunshine—sounds lovely, doesn’t it?!

If you’re traveling in the Olympic Peninsula during the summer months, be sure to check out the lavender, and you might just get lucky and hit their festival celebrating this pretty flower which falls in mid-July.

Foodie Tip: If you’re looking for a special meal, Nourish is an organic farm-to-table restaurant that sources ingredients from the onsite gardens. They have gluten free, dairy-free and vegan options, and inventive menu items.

4. Port Angeles

With a population of 20,000 people, this is by no beans a big city, but it’s the largest you’ll find on the OP.

We wouldn’t necessarily recommend spending much time here. You don’t come to the Olympic Peninsula for the towns, after all. That said, it’s a good point to stretch your legs after some driving, pick up any groceries you need, and fill up the gas tank.

And the main reason to stop here is to stop at the Port Angeles Wilderness Information Center to pick up any necessary permits you’ll be needing. For instance, this is where we stopped to get our permit to camp on Shi Shi Beach and pick up a bear canister. The visitors center is where you can also check trail conditions, weather, and chat with rangers about any questions you might have.

There are also a handful of good restaurants and breweries on Port Angeles if you’re looking for a bite.

5. Hurricane Ridge
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By Guest Author: Kristin Hanes

Yosemite National Park, with its tumbling, frothy waterfalls, soaring granite rock formations and shimmering meadows, is one of the most stunning places in the United States. I’ve been to Yosemite dozens of times, and it never ceases to take my breath away. 

While you can take in Yosemite sights while walking, driving or riding a bike, I think lacing up your hiking boots is the best way to see this iconic national park. Within the park’s 1,200 square miles, there are dozens of Yosemite hikes leading to spectacular vistas and hidden mountain lakes.

The best time to hike in Yosemite is between May and October. Often, in the off-season, trails are closed to hazards like falling rocks or ice. Plus, the best higher elevation Yosemite trails will be covered with snow. That might work for an experienced mountain climber with crampons and snow shoes, but not for the average hiker.

Keep in mind that many of the best hikes in Yosemite listed here are in higher elevations, above 8,000 feet. High elevation hiking can cause altitude sickness with symptoms like light-headedness, shortness of breath and headache.

Know your own limitations and make sure to bring plenty of water on any Yosemite hike. I personally have issues with altitude so I bring Advil anytime I hike Yosemite, or I get a prescription for Diamox for longer High Sierra backpacking trips.

Parking can be a challenge in Yosemite during summer months, so I’d encourage you to check out the Yosemite Valley Shuttle System. You can also take a shuttle from the Valley up to Tuolumne Meadows.  

With four million people visiting Yosemite National Park every year, many of the best hikes in Yosemite are packed with people. That’s why in this guide, we’ll cover Yosemite’s most iconic hikes as well as some hikes that are off-the-beaten path.

I’ve found one of the best ways to get away from people in Yosemite is to go on a backpacking trip. Most of Yosemite’s visitors will stay close to the valley floor, so once you start climbing in elevation, you’ll lose most of the tourists.

Without further ado, here are the best hikes in Yosemite you should try this summer...

The best iconic hikes in Yosemite National ParkHalf Dome via The Mist Trail

This difficult hike begins at the valley floor and climbs 4,800 feet to the top of Half Dome, offering stunning Yosemite views. A permit is required. 

  • Distance: 14-16 miles 

  • Elevation Gain: 4,800 feet

  • Difficulty: Difficult

  • Type of Hike: Out-and-Back Day Hike

Be prepared to wake up early to tackle this monster of a hike from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome, which soars 8,000 feet above sea level. This hike begins with a grueling climb up flights of slippery stairs on the Mist trail, which passes gorgeous waterfalls such as Vernal and Nevada falls. 

The most famous part of the Half Dome trail is a series of cables that allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment. It’s not advised to hike this trail if you have vertigo or a fear of heights. Nor should you start using the cables if you see storm clouds, or if it starts raining. The granite can become very slippery when wet, and the last thing you want to worry about it plummeting to your death while using the cables.

You should be in good shape to take on this trail. It takes most hikers between 10 and 12 hours to complete. Even though this is one of Yosemite’s most difficult hikes, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views from the top.

Taft Point

This easy and short hike from the Glacier Point area leads to magnificent views of Yosemite Valley and El Capitan.

  • Distance: 2.2 miles

  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Type of Hike: Out-and-Back Hike

Taft Point is an easy out-and-back hike popular amongst photographers and hikers. If you’re able, try starting this hike an hour before sunset so you arrive at your destination just in time to see streaks of orange and pink fill the sky.

The views from Taft Point are some of the most amazing in Yosemite, and you’ll actually be looking down on the granite face of El Capitan.

Be careful out at Taft Point, though. There isn’t much fence to prevent you from toppling thousands of feet. Keep your distance from any edges. 

Four Mile Hike

This difficult hike starts in Yosemite Valley and switchbacks up steep granite walls to end at Glacier Point, offering stunning views.

  • Distance: 9.6 miles, or 4.8 one way to Glacier Point

  • Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet

  • Difficulty: Difficult

  • Type of Hike: Out-and-Back Hike or Car Shuttle

This strenuous hike begins at the base of Sentinel Rock and maintains a continuous steep climb all the way up to Glacier Point. Not for the faint of heart, the trail follows an old toll road built in the late 1800s and takes most hikers 6 to 8 hours roundtrip.

Make sure to stop two-thirds of the way up to enjoy the view of Yosemite Valley from Union Point, also a nice spot to take a break during the heat of the day.

The Four Mile Trail ends at Glacier Point, where you’ll find restrooms, water and a snack bar. You can either turn around and start descending back to Yosemite Valley at this point, or arrange for a friend or family member to pick you up and drive you back to the valley floor.

Bridalveil Fall Trail

Walk on an easy paved trail to the base of Bridalveil falls, one of the first waterfalls you’ll see upon entering Yosemite. 

  • Distance: 1.2 miles

  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Type of Hike: Out-and-Back Hike 

This easy and crowded hike provides incredible views of Yosemite’s Bridalveil Falls, which dumps water for 620 feet. This waterfall flows year round but is especially stunning in spring, when snowmelt increases the fall’s volume. 

If you stand close enough to the base of Bridalveil Falls, be prepared for a good soaking from the waterfall’s mist.

This short hike is for the entire family or hikers of varying levels to enjoy.

Cloud’s Rest

This high elevation hike winds through dense forest and past meadows fit for Bambi before arriving at a rocky point with views of Yosemite Valley.

  • Distance: 14.5 miles

  • Elevation Gain: 1,775 feet

  • Difficulty: Difficult

  • Type of Hike: Out-and-Back Hike 

You’ll access the Cloud’s Rest hike from Tioga Road, which is typically closed until mid-summer due to snow. The hike begins with a gentle climb through High Sierra forests, where you’ll enjoy crystal-clear streams, large granite boulders and bright green meadows.

If you’re afraid of heights, be extra careful at the end of Cloud’s Rest. The top is a narrow ridge with a sheer drop-off. But if you do manage to make it to the very end, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome in the distance.

Wapama Falls

A moderate hike in the less-crowded Hetch Hetchy part of Yosemite with views of Wapama Falls, which may leave you with a good soaking.

  • Distance: 5.5 miles

  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Type of Hike: Out-and-Back Hike 

The Hetch Hetchy Valley was one of John Muir’s favorite spots before it was dammed and flooded to provide drinking water for San Francisco. This area of the park is still one of the least visited, but doesn’t lack in natural beauty.

The hike to Wapama Falls hugs the reservoir and has footbridges at the base of the falls. If you venture out on the footbridge, you’re likely to get a good soaking. The water is heaviest in the spring as snow melts from the peaks, which can create slippery and dangerous conditions.

You’ll also see the granite monolith Kolana Rock on this hike, a dome-shaped formation over 2,000 feet tall.

Upper Yosemite Falls

This strenuous hike switchbacks up from the valley floor to the top of Yosemite Falls, featuring spectacular views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome.

  • Distance: 7.2 miles

  • Elevation Gain: 2,700 feet

  • Difficulty: Difficult

  • Type of Hike: Out-and-Back Hike 

Bring plenty of water for this arduous climb to the top of Yosemite Falls, where you’ll follow steep switchbacks to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall at 2,425 feet. The trail begins in the shade of oak trees, then climbs to exposed plateaus which offer glimpses of the view to come.

The upper part of the Upper Yosemite Falls trail is steep and rocky, but you’ll be rewarded by incredible views at the top. You’ll also get to see the crystal-clear Yosemite Creek, which feeds this dramatic waterfall. 

Take a lunch and sit on large rocks that overlook the valley before starting your descent. If you’re up for even more hiking, you can add another 1.6 miles by visiting Yosemite Point and North Dome.

Cathedral Lakes

Hike past pristine alpine lakes on this trek off Tioga Road, where you’ll be rewarded with views of Cathedral Peak, Echo and Tressider Peaks. 

  • Distance: 7 miles

  • Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Type of Hike: Out-and-Back Hike 

The popular Cathedral Lakes hike is part of the iconic John Muir Trail, a 220-mile thru-hike that ends at the Mount Whitney Portal. This hike starts at 8,500 feet with a steep climb, where you’ll see just how well you handle high elevation. 

After three miles of hiking, you’ll have to choose whether you want to hike to lower Cathedral Lake or stay on the John Muir Trail to Upper Cathedral Lake. If you’re doing a thru-hike, you can backpack all the way to Yosemite Valley and take a shuttle back up to your car.

Either Cathedral Lake is a wonderful place to relax with lunch and enjoy the alpine views.

Lyell Canyon via The John Muir Trail

This flat and easy hike along the bottom of Lyell Canyon features beautiful canyon walls and crystal clear streams.

  • Distance: 8 miles

  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Type of Hike: Out-and-Back Hike 

The only tough thing about this beautiful hike is the starting elevation of 8,800 feet. Luckily, the entire hike is flat, and meanders alongside the crystal clear Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Around the 8-mile mark, look for spectacular Kuna Creek, which cascades down the side of the east canyon. 

This hike along the John Muir Trail goes through woods and meadows, and you can go as far as you want. If you’re feeling extra energetic, climb up the switchbacks to Donahue Pass, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the canyon. 

Kristin Hanes is a lover of the great outdoors who lives on a sailboat and in a van in the San Francisco Bay area. Her website, The Wayward Home, is a resource for people who want to live in campervans, RVs, sailboats and tiny homes.

Are you planning a trip to Yosemite National Park sometime soon? Save this article on Pinterest for later!
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Updated: July 14th, 2019

If you are active on Instagram and Pinterest, or even if you've just watched the Disney's Tangled, you've likely seen pictures of Chiang Mai's famous Festival of Lights, Yi Peng.

Or colloquially known as "that festival where they, like, send lanterns into the sky." Know what we're talking about now?

But hold up! There are a lot of things you need to know before planning your trip to Yi Peng.

We are going to share with you everything you need to know about planning your trip to Yi Peng and how you can partake in this amazing festival for FREE! (That’s right — there’s absolutely no need to pay hundreds of dollars for a “ticket” to this event! Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.)

Sky lantern release in Disney's Tangled

Whether you're traveling to Chiang Mai this year to partake in the festivities or you're just now hearing about it and adding it to your travel bucket list, this article will walk you through everything you need to know about Loy Krathong* and Yi Peng.

Wait... why are there two festival names? Don't worry, we'll get to that in just a minute!

We were in Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong and Yi Peng in 2015 and 2017, and we had a fantastic time both years.

That said, there was a lot we wish we would have known ahead of time. We're here to help you feel more prepared for these festivals than we did!

*Note: This festival name has a few different spellings: Loy Krathong, Loi Krathong and Loi Kratong are all correct.

Thailand Lantern Festival Contents

Traveling to Thailand? Read these tips before planning your trip!

What are the dates of Loy Krathong and Yi Peng?

Historically these two festivals were set during different times of the year, but today they are typically celebrated at the same time. It is near the end of rainy season (usually late October - late November).

2019 Dates: Loy Krathong and Yi Peng

The dates of these Buddhist festivals change each year, as they follow the traditional lunar calendar. More specifically, they take place on the evening of the full moon during the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar.

Loy Krathong will fall on or around November 11th*, 2019, the night of the full moon. There are several events throughout the entire week leading up to the full moon. Here is a tentative program of events that has been released.

*We have also seen websites indicating celebrations will take place on November 13th, 2019, however, this is not correct as far as we know. We will try to keep this page updated as we learn more.

For 2020, the dates will differ, but will be around the full moon on November 1st, 2020. Future dates for Loy Krathong as follows (but subject to change):

  • 2021: November 19th

  • 2022: November 8th

  • 2023: November 27th

What is the difference between Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festival?

Here's the short version:

  • Loy Krathong is a celebration of thanks to the gods for the rain and the rice harvest, as well as a chance to repent for the pollution we've created in our environment.

  • Yi Peng is known for the releasing of wish lanterns into the sky. 

Here's the longer version:

Loy Krathong

The historical origins of Loy Krathong are not entirely clear, but this is one of the most important holidays in Thailand. Loy Krathong is the opportunity to atone for one's sins during the previous year and make a wish for success in the year to come. People will symbolically place a floating krathong* onto the river as they repent and make a wish. If the krathong stays lit until they can no longer see the floating vessel, their wish will come true. 

*A krathong is a decorative floating vessel made of plants and flowers with candles lit on top.

Yi Peng

Yi Peng is the festival of lanterns you are most likely familiar with. In preparation for this festival, people create lanterns and hang them outside of their homes and donate them to temples, which represents resisting the darkness and welcoming a brighter future. 

On the night of the Yi Peng festival, people make a wish and release their own lanterns, khom loy, into the sky. It is said if your lantern stays lit until you can no longer see it, your wish will come true.

Where are Loy Krathong and Yi Peng celebrated?

Now that you’ve been convinced that Loy Krathong and Yi Peng are one of the festivals around the world worth traveling to, let’s delve into how you can plan a trip to see this magnificent event take place.

Loy Krathong is a festival that is celebrated in many parts of Southeast Asia.

Yi Peng, however, is a Lanna (Northern Thailand) tradition. In the last few years, some touristy places in the Thai islands have started releasing lanterns to draw more visitors, but the real celebration is in the north of Thailand, specifically in Chiang Mai.

It's safe to say that the best city to celebrate both Yi Peng and Loy Krathong is Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Mae Jo Buddhist Monks and the Mass Sky Lantern Release

Many people dream of traveling to Thailand and witnessing the simultaneous release of hundreds of flaming wish lanterns into the sky. Like all those pictures on Pinterest, amiright?!

The videos and photos many people associate with this festival are from the Lanna Dhutanka temple near the Mae Jo University, which is about 15 km north of Chiang Mai. This Buddhist sect holds an event every year.

This lantern releasing event in the past used to be free, but ever since 2015, you must purchase a ticket which costs between $100-300 USD per person.

As you can imagine, this event -- the Mae Jo Sky Lantern Release – is now directed at tourists who want to get that iconic photograph for Instagram instead of locals actually partaking in this cultural festival.

With this event's popularity, there are other paid events popping up elsewhere around the city (another one is at the Cowboy Army Riding Club), and some tour agencies will make it sound like this is the only way to partake in the festival.

This is false.

You can absolutely partake in Yi Peng and Loy Krathong without paying any money to a tour agency.

Unless you are a professional photographer who wants to capture the iconic shot, our recommendation is to skip this overpriced tourist event.

You will have plenty to do during these festivals and you will even have a chance to get your sky lantern photo amongst locals who are doing the same thing without shelling out hundreds of dollars.

You don't have to arrange anything in advance. You just need to know where to go. That's what we're here for!

Overview of Loy Krathong & Yi Peng Events in Chiang Mai

The week leading up to Loy Krathong is full of fun and colorful activities throughout the entire city of Chiang Mai.

The week of Loy Krathong

As you walk through the city, you’ll see lanterns of all shades hung from stores and house and even trees. In the moat around the Old City, large inflatable floats are erected for a competition later in the week. There are traditional dances in the evenings near the Old City gates at the moat.

This is an example of some of the events that have taken place in years past, and a good idea of what to expect:

Day Before the Full Moon, (Nov 11, 2019)
  • Mister and Miss Yi Peng contest

  • Handmade krathong contest, which are floated down the Ping River

  • Ceremony of young monks releasing lanterns at Wat Phan Tao

  • This is also the day locals and travelers release sky lanterns

  • Locals release krathongs (floating boats) into the river

Day of the the Full Moon, (Nov 12, 2019)
  • Second and last evening to release sky lanterns

  • Final processional through the city. (One of the best spots for viewing this parade-like event is near the East Gate (Pha Thae Gate) where the entire procession will pass right by you. Don’t feel like you have to stay and watch the whole thing, because it can go on for hours!)

Check in on this website for updates to this year’s schedule.

Young Monk Ceremony at Wat Phan Tao

One fantastic experience (and a great photo op!) is at Wat Phan Tao, a beautiful 14th century teak Buddhist temple located in Old City. On the night of the full moon, the garden outside the temple decorated with hundreds of colorful lanterns and is illuminated with thousands of candles. It is a sight to behold.

Young monks come out out of the temple and release wish lanterns... well, sorta. They let the lanterns float, but suddenly they stop in midair. No, the monks don't have super powers. Bummer, I know. They actually suspend the lanterns for the ceremony (and of course the photo opportunity).

This event is undoubtedly beautiful. But if you do decide to attend, be sure to get there early. It gets PACKED. The year we went, I believe the ceremony was supposed to start at 7 p.m. We got there at 5:45 and it was already filling up fast. Of course in Thai style, the event didn’t start until 8 p.m., but we were happy to be near the front.

What to expect: It is a really neat experience, but not without its discomforts and annoyances. You will be crammed into a small space because of the hordes of people watching. Also, expect tons of photographers with tripods and cameras. 

Our advice: Stick it out until the monks light all the candles, meditate and "release" the sky lanterns. But once you get a few shots, get out of the sweaty hot mess of a crowd and head to Nawarat Bridge to release your own lantern. More on that below.

How to release a Sky Lantern in Chiang Mai

One of the best parts of the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festivals is the releasing of a khom loy, or sky lanterns, within the city. There are specific dates and times to send your lantern of fire into the sky.

In 2019, the sky lantern releases are acceptable only on the nights of Nov 11 and Nov 12, 2019 from 7 pm to 1 am*. (City officials are still awaiting confirmation of exact times, so stay tuned.)

The best spot to release a sky lantern in Chiang Mai is near the Nawarat Bridge that spans the Ping River. As you get close, you will see vendors selling folded sky lanterns for about 30 baht (roughly $1 USD).

Once you’re in a good spot to release, open the lantern fully and hold it at the top and bottom. Have someone else light the circular, doughnut-looking disc soaked in kerosene (you’ll need a lighter for this, which you can purchase from any convenience store).

You have about a minute or two for the heat to fill the lantern before it will start to float away.

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New Zealand is a country we have been itching to visit for years. I mean, it’s hard to find many other countries in the world where you have so much beauty and adventure packed into one compact space.

We spent 1 month traveling the country by campervan, and had the time of our lives. We hiked mountains, bathed in hot springs, drank wine (lots of it!), slept in mountain huts, and relaxed on the beach.

However, I will say there were a lot of things that surprised us about New Zealand. Some things were good surprises, like golden kiwis (yum!). But other surprises were not so delicious…

For example, we had no clue just how awful the Internet in New Zealand would be. And we weren’t quite prepared for all the Kiwi slang… What are they even saying?!

We had a fantastic time traveling in New Zealand, and our trip would have been even better if we had known a few things in advance. We want to make sure you are totally prepared and know what to expect. We’re also going to share some fun facts about New Zealand that will make your travels even more special.

We’ve broken this article into two sections:

  1. Helpful things to know before traveling to New Zealand: This is the practical advice that will make your trip more enjoyable.

  2. Fun Facts about New Zealand: Knowing more about NZ is sure to help you get more out of your travels and develop a better understanding of the country.

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   Helpful things to know before traveling to New Zealand

We’re sharing some super practical things that we wish we would’ve known before our trip to New Zealand!

1. Learn to speak the language

In New Zealand the most commonly spoken language is English… Kiwi English, that is.

For the most part you’ll have no problem understanding locals. But every once in a while, you’ll come across a word or phrase that leaves you scratching your head.

Good to know: Though English is the most widely spoken, there are 3 official languages in New Zealand: English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

Here are some common “Kiwi words” or phrases you may encounter on your travels:

  • Kia Ora= Māori word for “welcome”

  • Togs= swim suit

  • Chilly Bin= cooler

  • Sweet as= “that’s cool”

  • Dairy= local convenience store

  • Tramping= long-distance hiking; usually when you spend the night at mountain huts

  • Jandals= flip flop sandals (the name comes from combining Japanese + sandals)

  • Wop-wops= in the middle of nowhere (aka “We’re driving through the wop-wops now!”). Can also be shortened to just “wops”.

  • Fizzy drink= soda

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, the names for fruits and vegetables may be different from what you’re used to.

Before you head to the supermarket, here are some names to know:

  • Capsicum = bell pepper

  • Aubergine = eggplant

  • Courgette = zucchini

  • Coriander = cilantro

  • Kumara = sweet potato

  • Rocket = arugula

2. Internet in New Zealand sucks!

Pro Tip: If you want to watch any videos, be sure to download them to your laptop (or external hard drive) BEFORE your trip! It’s nearly impossible to stream videos in most places (especially in the South Island).

Okay, let me rephrase that… No, it actually does suck, so I’m sticking by it.

You might find cafes, hotels and campgrounds with “free Internet”, but they will likely give you a code that is good for 250 megabytes of data. For all you non-techie folks, that is NOTHING!

We also had a hot spot device and a local SIM card. But even when we did get connected, the speeds were nothing to brag about. Truthfully, we’ve found better service and speeds in several developing countries, so we were pretty surprised by New Zealand’s (lack of) Internet.

I will mention that New Zealand’s North Island has significantly better Internet than in in the South (especially in major cities like Wellington and Auckland).

If you’re prepared for limited Internet in New Zealand, you won’t have too much of an issue. You’ll likely be able to do Google searches, get directions on Google Maps and post on social media. But we had difficulty uploading attachments to emails or loading files. We fell behind on some important deadlines because we simply weren’t prepared.

And when it comes to streaming videos… fogetaboutit! If you want to watch any Netflix before bed, be sure to download those before your trip!

3. Be prepared to go “off the grid”

On a similar note, there are many areas where you will not get cell service (especially in the South Island).

I’m pretty sure there was an entire day on the South Island’s West Coast where we had no cell service at all!

Pro Tip: Be sure to download the Google Map of New Zealand on your phone as you’re planning your road trip so you have it even when you’re without cell signal.

4. Put on SPF

Check out that BURN! Learn from me, and be sure to reapply that SPF often!

There is a hole in the ozone layer above New Zealand (and Australia), so the sun will burn you more quickly than you may be used to.

Even if it’s not sunny or hot outside, still put on a layer of SPF to protect your skin. After hearing one too many Kiwis telling us about their infamous “5-minute sunburns”, we made it a routine to slather up.

5. Customs are strict

Like really, really strict.

One of the first things you’ll see when you get off your plane is signs everywhere warning that you’ll be fined if you bring any food into the country.

Basically, you can’t bring food into New Zealand.

So here’s the thing… We had packed some food that we thought would be good for camping meals: oatmeal, quinoa, cinnamon, curry packs, sea salt...

But when I saw a picture of an apple accompanied by the words “$400 fine”, I turned myself into the customs officer, worried I might be handcuffed for such a rebellious act. Only kidding… or am I?

She looked at me asked a few general questions in a monotone voice. “You’re fine. Keep walking,” was her response.

You are also not supposed to bring “dirty” shoes and camping gear into the country.

There are even signs posted informing you that dirty shoes are not allowed in the country. (We didn’t see anyone reprimanded for this, though they did ask us if we had “previously worn our shoes”.) And at some trailheads, there are cleaning stations for hikers to clean their shoes before entering.

Why all the strict rules?

It might seem a bit over the top, but New Zealand is an island nation with a fragile environment. There are many endemic plants that can be easily harmed when non-native species are introduced.

You’ve been warned. And now that you know the reason behind it all, please respect the rules.

6. Weather in New Zealand is crazy

It changes often, and one town to the next can be totally different.

In just one day, we experienced snow, rain and sunshine. Be prepared by packing lots of layers and a rain jacket.

And be sure to add some “flex days” into your itinerary because a surprise rainstorm might mess up your plans. We speak from experience.

7. Travel by campervan

The secret is out: Traveling by campervan is unarguably the best way to explore New Zealand. There’s just so much more you can see when your home is on wheels.

Plus, if you’re on a budget, you will have the opportunity to save money by cooking your own meals and freedom camping.

Insider Tip: If you’re looking for campervans in New Zealand, check out this article where we compare the best companies in the country to help you find the best vehicle for your budget and needs.

8. You can camp for free!

If you’re traveling New Zealand in a campervan, you can camp for free in many places throughout the country. Freedom Camping is a great way to get off the beaten path and also save money!

There are free campgrounds and also regions where you can simply find a place to park and set up camp.

Note: You need to have a self-contained vehicle. Read up on the rules on Freedom Camping.

9. Add time to what Google Maps tells you

Here’s photo proof of just how windy the roads in New Zealand can be. Take it slow!

Seriously, do it. Google knows nothing (when it comes to NZ roads)!

Roads tend to be quite narrow and in many places in the South Island, there is only one lane in each direction.

Take into account the hairpin turns, one-lane bridges, gravel stretches and steep mountain passes, and you’ll understand why it takes longer than you’d expect to drive just about anywhere.

And that doesn’t even set aside time for all the gorgeous viewpoints where you’ll want to stop. They are everywhere, I tell ya!

10. Let people pass you

When you’re driving in New Zealand, it’s a law to pull over (when safe) if there are more than 4 people backed up behind you.

Locals can (understandably) get a bit put off when they are stuck behind large campervans, and you might get some tailgaters.

Don’t let it get to you – just pull over at the nearest safe spot and allow those behind you to pass.

11. Beware of one-lane bridges

Hopefully you’re already aware that in New Zealand people drive on the left-hand side of the road. We were prepared for this, but what we weren’t aware of are the one-lane bridges.

Most bridges you’ll find around the country are only big enough to let one vehicle cross in either direction.

When you approach a bridge, make sure to slow down and read the signs — typically it indicates which side gets the right of way. But it’s always a good idea to be prepared to yield in case the other driver isn’t being cautious.

12. Gas is expensive!

New Zealand is known to be notoriously expensive. But honestly, there are many things that surprised us. Groceries, for instance, were quite similar (if not a bit cheaper) to what you’d find in the United States. Definitely not as bad as we were expecting.

But gas is another story. It’s hella expensive. (Did I just say hella?)

The gas station signs are a bit deceiving…

Here’s what happened to us (fellow Americans will understand!): Our first day, we saw a reasonable price (NZ$2.25) advertised on a gas station sign and we were like, “heck yes!” and we swerved to pull over to fill ‘er up…

But here’s the thing: That price is for one LITER. That’s 1/4 of a gallon, folks. That means each gallon of gas at that station cost us NZ$9 (or $6USD).

Let’s just say that filling up the tank on our campervan made my eyes water.

And that was just an average station. In more remote parts of the country, like the South Island’s West Coast, prices were quite a bit higher.

Now ya know. Budget accordingly.

Related Reading: Are you traveling to NZ on a tight budget? Don’t worry, we’ve put together our top money-saving tips for New Zealand.

13. When you need something, go to The Warehouse

This “big box store” is essentially New Zealand’s version of Target or Walmart.

You’ll find The Warehouse in just about every decently-sized town, and they carry everything from clothing to toiletries to snacks and camping gear.

Now, it’s not the highest quality stuff you’ll find — I mean, I compared it to Walmart! But if you’ve forgotten to pack something, you’ll likely find it here, and it won’t spoil your budget.

Also, fun fact: K-Marts are bankrupt in the US, but they are BUILDING them in New Zealand. Who wudda thunk!?

14. Sandflies are bad..
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The numbers are in. Well, they’ve been in for a couple weeks, but we’re finally getting a chance after a busy couple of weeks to put it all out in writing.

In the month of May, we earned $18,065.

Don’t worry, we’re going to delve in deeper and explain how we earned this money, but first, let’s explain why we’re sharing our income in the first place.

Why do we share income reports?

  1. To show that yes, it really is possible to earn a living as a travel blogger (something we get asked about ALL.THE.TIME.)

  2. To be transparent and serve as a resource for other bloggers.

  3. For ourselves: to help track, stay accountable, and keep ourselves motivated.

It still feels uncomfortable, but the response from our last 2 income reports has been so positive that we are trying to ignore the awkwardness of talking about such a personal subject.

Before we get to the numbers, we want to share what the month of May looked like for us, both on a personal level as well as what work we did.

What May looked like for us

The month of May was very busy and brought a mixture of emotions.

Month in a Glance:

  • We said goodbye to Chiang Mai

  • We started on a press trip to Nepal

  • We did a website redesign 

  • We did a site audit

Saying Goodbye to Chiang Mai

After living in Chiang Mai for 6 months in 2018, and 5 months in 2019, May was our last month in this city that has in many ways become like a second home for us.

I’m sure we’ll be back at some point, but probably not in the near future... so we kind of started freaking out. It’s easy to forget to explore the place you call home. It’s funny how that happens, right?

There were still so many things we still wanted to do and see, so we literally just too a whole week to explore. We went hiking at Doi Inthanon National Park, bamboo rafting, and visited an elephant sanctuary. We visited our favorite restaurants for the “last time” and spent quality time hanging out with friends.

Press Trip to Nepal

Oh, and early on in May, we found out we were invited on a 12-day press trip to Nepal for trekking and a travel conference. It was pretty last-minute, and we had to rush around in Chiang Mai’s sweltering heat to find some warmer clothes for the trip. But it ended up being an amazing experience, and we met a lot of new blogging friends IRL – something that we’ve been seriously neglecting.

Work we did in May

We had a HUGE to list of things we wanted to accomplish work-wise. And if I’m honest, it was probably – okay, definitely – unrealistic.

But work went to the back burner while we gave ourselves permission to enjoy our last week in Chiang Mai. And I’m so happy we did.

The beauty of this job is being able to shift around our schedule when we feel it’s necessary. Though we try not to take advantage of this too often!

Even though we didn’t check all the boxes on our to do list (I don’t know if this ever really happens for us!), we did get some big things done...

Website Redesign

We’ve been meaning to freshen up our website for a while, and finally, FINALLY pulled the trigger and hired a designer.

It was a long process because a) our website is HUGE and a beast to tackle, and b) May was very busy, and we had lots of things pop up (like a press trip!) in the middle of the design, which made it take longer than we expected.

And we are forever grateful to our wonderful designer, Linsey, who put up with us! (On that note, if you ever need a kickass Squarespace designer, shoot us a message and we can connect you!)

Site Audit

We get asked this all the time:

What work do you actually do? Like, don’t you just write a blog post and you’re done?!

Oh honey, I wish it were that simple!

via GIPHY

There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes of your favorite websites, and I don’t want to bore you with the details here.

But one thing that we try to do a couple times a year is to perform a site audit. This basically tells us what issues our website has – what pages are slow, where there are broken links, tags that are incorrect, etc.

We found more things wrong on our website than we’re proud to admit, but the silver lining is that it gives us a lot of room for improvement. Onward and upward, right?

Now we just need to find the time to start tackling the list of fixes!

If you are one of those people who is interested in the nitty gritty of blogging, sign up for our Free 7-Day Blogging Bootcamp. We’ve put so much work into this course to make it the best free course out there.

It seems like the month of May only made our to-do list grow. Going on a press trip meant we had to create more content. And doing a site audit opened our eyes to lots more things we need to fix on our website.

It seems like blogging is a never-ending to-do list. But that’s part of the fun, right?! There is always something to, and new ways to challenge ourselves.

Although we fell short in many ways this month, May was our highest-earning month yet. *Excuse me while I pat myself on the back!*

Let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we? 

May 2019 Two Wandering Soles Earnings:$18,065

Important Note: As we explained in our first income report, it has taken us a long time to get to this point. And our goal in sharing this number is not to boast, but to share how we make money in hopes of helping others on this journey (or to answer the question we are constantly getting asked: “So, like, how do bloggers even earn money anyway?!”)

Reading other bloggers’ income reports have helped us a great deal as we have grown our website, and we hope to give back and be a resource for others.

May 2019 Website Statistics

As bloggers, our income is directly related to how many people are visiting our website. So before we talk money, let’s go over our traffic for the month. We’re also sharing how much we grew compared to the last month.

  • Pageviews: 304,495 (growth of 5.0%)

  • Unique Visitors: 193,340 (growth of 10.5%)

  • Sessions: 236,708 (growth of 10.1%)

  • Social Media Followers: 29,328 (growth of 2.6%)

  • Email Subscribers: 10,401 (growth of 10.4%)

Here’s a few snapshots of our May 2019 Google Analytics. Click on any image to view them in a larger size:

TRAFFIC NUMBERS TOP TEN TRAFFIC SOURCES MOBILE VS. DESKTOP VS. TABLET  TOP TRAFFIC CHANNELS  Let’s Break It Down!

Now that you know a little bit about why we’re sharing our income and how many people are visiting our site, let’s get to the good stuff and show you where that money came from…

Disclosure: Throughout the rest of this page there are affiliate links, and we may receive compensation if you click on a link at no cost to you, so click away as your heart desires. You can read our full advertising disclosure and privacy policy here.

Affiliates: $12,332

Have you heard of Affiliate Marketing? It can be a complicated thing to master, but at its core, Affiliate Marketing is simply recommending a product or service to others, and being compensated in return.

For instance, you get $50 for every friend who joins your gym! (Maybe you’re doing affiliate marketing without even thinking about it…)

WHO ARE OUR AFFILIATES?

We have over 30 affiliate programs we work with (just added a few new ones this month!). They range from large companies like Amazon to independent tour companies we have gone through and just LOVE to promote because we had a great experience.

We work with a lot of affiliate programs, but some that did well for us in the month of May were:

LOOKING FORWARD

As we get further into summertime, travelers will start taking their vacations around the world, which means the bookings they made back in January are coming to fruition. It’s great for them because they get to travel and it’s great for us because we finally get paid.

The average traveler plans out their trips about 3-6 months ahead of time. However, there is a large amount of travelers that still book last minute tours, hotels, and transportation, and those affiliates tend to do well during the summertime. Since we had a $1,600 increase in affiliates this month, we expect affiliates for next month to stay around the same as May.

Advertising: $5,733

Advertising continues to be a major source of income for us. We work with Mediavine, a 3rd-party provider who basically does all the work for us.

LOOKING FORWARD

We lowered the frequency of ads on our website in the month of May, and we plan to continue decreasing slowly until we get to a balance that we’re really happy with.

We don’t love when advertising is distracting on websites, but it is an important piece of our income. So we’re still working to find a good balance between revenue and user experience.

Sponsored Posts / Brand Partnerships: $0

During the month of May we did zero brand partnerships, and we are okay with that.

LOOKING FORWARD

We actually have a handful of collaborations and partnerships that are in the works right now for June. And while they can be fun, they also tend to be some of the more time-intensive work we do.

Unlike affiliate and advertising income — which are passive once you get them in place — partnerships often require a lot of work.

We always want partnerships to come from a place of authenticity and we are guilty of spending too much time making sure the content we create is exceptional.

Looking forward, we are going to increase the rates we charge and limit partnerships to only those that we’re super excited about.

BONUS: Free Stuff: $5,181 value

We NEVER include free travel or products in our income because even though it’s a nice bonus, it doesn’t pay the bills, honey.

FREE* TRAVEL: $5,181 for two people

Our Nepal press trip could technically be considered free travel, so we’re including the estimated value in this section.

We were flown to an from Nepal, had an amazing time on the Mohare Danda trek, and had a lovely hotel stay in Kathmandu. However, what many people don’t realize is that press trips are also lots of work.

Think of it like this: A marketing executive might travel to Miami for a conference and meetings with clients. They might have nice meals and stay at a nice hotel and have an overall good time, but it’s still a work trip.

Now, I think travel blogging press trips are probably way more fun than the work trip I just described, but it. is. still. WORK.

Our trip to Nepal meant that we had to take days away from other work. We had to attend 3 days of conferences. And most notably, we had to create content on Nepal in exchange for this trip — content that took us an entire week to produce (though, we went way above what they were asking).

On some press trips, travel bloggers are paid to compensate for their time. This press trip did not.

After all is said and done, the press trip to Nepal was worth all the work and we are very happy we went. But we’re also very happy all our deliverables are done!

FREE PRODUCTS: $0 VALUE

We did not accept any free gear or products during the month of May.

Our Blogging Expenses: $1,281.45 

Running an established website can be expensive. Some of these costs happen on a monthly basis, while others are one-time expenses.

MONTHLY COSTS:

New Monthly Cost: This month, we joined Impact Travel Alliance, a media network for conscious travel bloggers. They were the organization who helped connect us with the press trip in Nepal, and we’re excited to *officially* be part of this network of passionate travel professionals. The membership is $10 a month for each of us ($20 total) but the first 3 months are free!

  • MailerLite: $50 – This is the service we use to send emails to our subscribers. (Made it to the next payment tier, yay!)

  • Gmail Suite: $12 – We pay for our own branded email addresses

  • Notion: $4* – Software to organize projects and tasks

  • Virtual Assistant (VA): $237 – We have a lovely assistant who helps us with tasks like managing Pinterest, working with guest authors, and optimizing our site.

  • Tailwind: $10* – Software for scheduling pins on..

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Road trips are our very favorite way to travel. No only do you have the ultimate freedom of being able to come and go as you please, but you can get off the beaten path and take detours that you never would be able to on public transportation.

Our preferred mode of transportation is in a campervan, as this means we don’t have to worry about booking hotels, and we can wake up in some pretty epic locations. We have spent several months on the road, making us expert road trip planners; and we’re here to help you plan the journey of your dreams!

We’re going to go over how to plan a perfect road trip route, what road trip mistakes to avoid, what to pack for your road trip and tips for visiting National Parks.

Regardless of whether you choose to travel in a campervan or a car, this guide is packed full of resources to help you plan an epic road trip you’ll be talking about for years to come!

Note: This article has some tips specific to the United States, but most of this article will apply no matter where in the world you are planning a road trip.

Affiliates: Also, there are some affiliate links in this article, which means when you click we get a small percentage of the purchase at no extra cost to you. This allows us to keep sharing great travel tips with you, so feel free to click away!

Article ContentsCampervan vs. Car

After trying out the whole #vanlife thing, there’s no going back for us! We think a campervan is literally the best way to travel. But we know it’s not for everyone.

We built our own campervan a few years ago and had the best summer of our lives. However, if you’re not in the market to buy or build a campervan, that’s totally okay. You can always rent one to try it out and see if #vanlife is for you!

For a budget-friendly option that is equipped with everything you need, we recommend Escape Campervans.

BONUS: We’ve partnered with Escape to give you a 10% off discount when you use the code WANDERING10.

But not everyone is into campervan life, and that’s fine! Having an actual mattress to sleep on and a roof over your head (not a car roof) are some of the nice things about staying in a hotel.

If you’re flying into an new city and want to hit the road right away, we recommend booking a car on RentalCars.com. We’ve used them before on our travels and have found some great rentals. For example, we rented a small SUV for a road trip in Washington state and paid less than $30 per day.

Prices vary depending on your location, number of days, season and type of car. Try searching your starting destination and see the deals you can find.

Road Trip Planning: Step-by-Step

So you have big road trip dreams, but how do you even begin to plan?! Don’t worry, we’re here to help you lay it all out on the map in 4 simple steps.

1. Make a list of all the places you want to go.

If you have an area in mind, but you just don’t know what there is to see along the way, start searching for some inspiration.

Get inspiration from:

  • Travel blogs

  • Instagram

  • Pinterest

  • Guidebooks

  • Friends and Family

  • This list of the best road trips in the US. We wrote about our very favorite road trips, and asked other bloggers to share theirs!

Travel Hack: Make it a habit to keep track of places you want to go. I keep a note of cool places people tell me about in my phone. Maybe you write them down in a notebook. Just keep them somewhere, so when it comes time to plan your next trip, you already have a list!

2. Start plotting pins on Google Maps

Now that you have places in mind, it’s time to put them on a map!

There are a ton of apps and website out there that claim to help you plan your route. We’ve tried a few of them, but you know what? We end up forgetting our passwords, or we find a different app we like better, or suddenly the app is no longer available, and all of our hard work is gone. Lost forever.

We like sticking to tried and true Google Maps. We know it’ll be around forever, because, well, Google runs the world. And I like having all my routes and starred places together in one spot. Thank you, Google.

From the list you made in step 1, search each location in Google Maps, then you’ll see a little icon that says “save”. You can even create a new list specifically for this road trip!

Repeat this process until you have all the hot spots you want to hit marked on your Google Maps.

3. Perfect the route

Now it’s time to Prune and Primp!

Prune: First, take a look at all those pins scattered throughout the map. Are there any that are obvious outliers? If so, figure out how long off course it will take to get to that point, and ask yourself if it’s worth it.

Sometimes it is: Perhaps that pin is the whole reason for your road trip, and you absolutely want to go. But on the other hand, maybe it’s just a rock formation that would be cool to see if you’re in the area, but it’s not worth the 2-hour drive.

Start eliminating any pins on your map that don’t make sense with your time frame.

Primp: Now, you should have pinned locations for all the attractions you’d like to see along the way. This is a great basic “framework” for your road trip. But if you want to take it a step further, you can use the search bar in Google Maps to add more.

Search for things you enjoy on road trips, like “brewery” or “coffee” or “hot spring”. You’ll see a button at the top that says “search this area”, so it will display all the breweries along your road trip route.

From here, use the “top rated” filter to show only the highly-rated ones. You can even look through recent reviews and photos to see if it’s what you’re looking for.

We use this little hack to find restaurants along our road trips that we probably never would find otherwise.

Helpful Hint: One thing to keep in mind is you shouldn’t think of these pins as written in stone. Instead, they should just serve as a suggestion. So if you’re on the road and you’re getting hangry (been there!), you can look at the pins on your map to easily see good eating options. And you’ll know that 1 mile past this McDonalds, is a cafe that’s a local hotspot!

4. Download Google’s Offline Maps

Alright, now you have a map of all the spot you wanna see, but imagine this: You climb over a mountain pass and lose cell service. Now you can’t see any of those pins and you miss the secret hot spring you’ve been itching to see. Bummer!

But there is a way to prevent this.

Google Maps is also pretty amazing because you can download sections of the map so that you have access to it even when you don’t have cell service. If you don’t already do this, it’s gong to be life-changing!

How do you Download Google Maps Offline?

It’s super simple, just follow these steps:

  1. Sign into Google Maps (it’s connected with your Gmail account).

  2. Search for a destination in the search bar. (Example: “San Fransisco” or “Idaho”)

  3. You’ll see a white bar that pops up at the bottom of the screen. You may need to swipe right to find the “download” icon.

  4. Make sure you’re in Wifi, and click the “download” icon.

The map data from this region will now be on your phone, and can be accessed even when you have no cell signal! You’ll even be able to see your current GPS location as long as you have it authorized. (Settings > Google Maps > Location > select “Always”)

Now that you have a road trip route, let’s go over some common mistakes so you know how to avoid them…

Biggest Road Trip Mistakes

We’ve made a ton of mistakes over the years. We’ve learned our lessons and we want to pass on our tips to you.

Take our advice it’ll help you avoid the same road trip mistakes we’ve made over the years.

1. Not giving yourself enough time

It can be tempting to pack as much as possible with your given time frame, but we’d strongly encourage you to build your road trip with a bit of “buffer time”.

It’s easy to plot pins on a map of all the things you want to see, but it’s just as important to take into account the driving time needed to get there.

When you’re planning your route from behind your computer screen, 10 hours of driving might not sound that bad. But when you’re on the road, even a few hours can get old. And when you have long driving day planned after long driving day, it gets exhausting. You might even be too tired to really enjoy the actual sightseeing.

As you’re planning, take into account that things might go wrong. Bad traffic or a flat tire night delay you. Or maybe the weather turns dangerous when you have an epic through hike planned, and you want to stay an extra day.

Have added days in your road trip plan so you can be flexible. We like at least 1-2 “flex days” on our itinerary that have no plans. This will also allow you to stay longer in places you really love instead of having to rush through.

2. Sticking to your route EXACTLY

After planning a road trip route, you might feel the need to follow it exactly. But we’d advise otherwise… Use it as a guideline, but stay flexible.

The best kind of road trips are those that are planned enough so you don’t miss the epic sights along the way, but with enough “wiggle room” to give you the opportunity to get lost and explore some hidden gems along the way.

Often times our favorite memories are the cute towns we stumble upon, or the hikes suggested to us by a local we meet along the way. Be sure to have some time for following the sign that says “Best Clam Chowder: Turn Right” or “Berry Patch: 2 miles”. We’ve followed those signs and are so glad we did.

I mean, check out that photo above and tell me you don’t want to follow a few random signs on your road trip — that’s exactly how we ended up in a lavender field with views of Mount Hood!

3. Going during the wrong season

A lot of times we think of summer as the perfect season for planning road trips. And it can be great, but it can also be the hottest and most crowded time of year.

On the opposite hand, planning a road trip through the mountains during spring or fall can sometimes mean you’ll encounter road closures and will need to make a detour. This can be a huge bummer when the mountain road was the thing you really wanted to see.

Think about where it is..

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Imagine this: The windows are down and the wind blows through your hair as your favorite playlist blasts through your car’s speakers. You sing along and soak up the feeling of freedom that only comes with driving on the open road.

The United States is one of the best countries in the world for road tripping. And we’re not just saying that… With mountains, deserts, beaches, forests and lakes, you can’t argue the natural beauty and diversity the U.S. has to offer.

On top of the sheer amount of places to see around the country, the US is overall very well-suited for road trips. With clean drinking water accessible in most parts of the country, roadside rest stops (ahem, public toilets!), well-maintained roads, relatively affordable gas prices, and lots of camping options, it’s hard to find any other country that comes close to the ease and accessibility that the USA offers when it comes to road tripping.

Start Planning Your Perfect Road Trip

Make your way along famous highways, like Route 66 through the heartlands of the country, or California’s iconic Highway 1. Venture on lesser-known backroads and escape the crowds and get lost along the way. Drive through charming small towns and big, lively cities. Explore National Parks or get off the beaten path in State Forests and protected lands.

There are literally endless road trip routes you could take, and choosing the best one for you depends on what exactly you’re looking for.

  • Do you want to explore any National Parks on your trip?

  • Do you want to see iconic sites or get off the beaten path?

  • Do you plan to camp or stay in hotels?

  • Are you more into nature or cities? (Or maybe you want a combination of both!)

  • How long do you have? Maybe you have the entire summer to do as you wish and you’re planning an epic 3-month road trip. Or maybe you just have a few days to spare between work weeks.

Whatever type of getaway you’re craving, there is a perfect road trip out there waiting for you.

We’ve called on some travel bloggers to share their top American Road Trips. We’re even adding a few of our favorite road trips in there!

Campervan vs. Car

After trying out the whole #vanlife thing, there’s no going back for us! We think a campervan is literally the best way to travel. But we know it’s not for everyone.

We built our own campervan a few years ago and had the best summer of our lives. However, if you’re not in the market to buy or build a campervan, that’s totally okay. You can always rent one to try it out and see if #vanlife is for you!

For a budget-friendly option that is equipped with everything you need, we recommend Escape Campervans.

BONUS: We’ve partnered with Escape to give you a 10% off discount when you use the code WANDERING10.

But not everyone is into campervan life, and that’s fine! Having an actual mattress to sleep on and a roof over your head (not a car roof) are some of the nice things about staying in a hotel.

If you’re flying into an new city and want to hit the road right away, we recommend booking a car on RentalCars.com. We’ve used them before on our travels and have found some great rentals. For example, we rented a small SUV for a road trip in Washington state and paid less than $30 per day.

Prices vary depending on your location, number of days, season and type of car. Try searching your starting destination and see the deals you can find.

Best American Road Trips

All the road trips below are broken down by region in the United States, and each route includes how many days you should plan to be on the road, best time of year to travel, and the top things to do along the way.

If you know which region you’re interested in, click on the link below to jump straight to that section. Otherwise, keep scrolling down for ALL the inspiration you can handle!

West Coast USA Road Trips

With the Pacific Ocean to the west and mountains and deserts to the east, this part of the country is one of the best places to take a road trip. You’ll be able to explore some of the most exciting cities in the United States, like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle. Plus, the West Coast boasts some of the best sunsets in the nation.

Pacific Coast Highway

This gorgeous road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway will lead you across one of the most beautiful regions in the U.S. With mesmerizing beaches, ample palm trees, and perfect weather, the journey is an ideal two-week getaway.

  • ROUTE NAME: Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

  • ROUTE AT A GLANCE: San Francisco - Yosemite National Park - Santa Barbara - LA - San Diego.

  • MILES: 731 miles

  • HOW MANY DAYS: 12 days

  • BEST TIME OF YEAR: June-August; summer is the perfect time for this road trip since the water will be warm enough for a quick dip along the way!

THE ROUTE: Begin your trip in San Francisco. Catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge before all the tourists then head to Fisherman’s Wharf. Grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants and visit a few historical ships along the way. Rent a bike and spend some time touring the streets, including one of the oldest Chinatowns in the country and Union Square, a modern plaza.

Spend the next day exploring Google Campus in Mountain View before jumping back into your car towards Yosemite National Park, where you can spend a day or two hiking amongst hills and valleys.

Next, head south towards Santa Barbara, where you can enjoy some delicious seafood and a more laid-back vibe. There are many things to do in Santa Barbara, including visits to its diverse wineries, a walk along its shoreline, and a short hike at Lizard’s Mouth, which is a beautiful viewpoint that overlooks the entire city. Spend two days relaxing along the coast before making your way down to Los Angeles.

Located two hours away from Santa Barbara, LA can keep you busy for days. A walk along Hollywood Blvd will prepare you for the glam and glitz of the city. Check out the Hollywood Sign and catch a movie at the TCL Chinese Theatre before grabbing some dinner at the Hollywood and Highland Center. Spend the next day at Universal Studio Hollywood, before heading down to Orange County.

Orange County has a few beautiful beaches, including Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach. A day can be spent beach-hopping before heading to Disneyland the next day.

Spend the last two days in San Diego visiting the Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. Hike and Scuba dive at La Jolla Cove and end your Pacific Highway road trip with one last dip in the ocean!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ride in a trolley in San Francisco

  • Hike Yosemite and catch a sunrise!

  • Grab a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Spencer Viewpoint

  • Go winery hopping in Santa Barbara

  • Have some fresh oysters right by the Santa Barbara Harbour

  • Hike to the Hollywood sign in LA

CONTRIBUTOR: Daisy Li from Beyond My Border

Yosemite to Sequoia National Park

One of the most picturesque drives through some of the most famous National Parks in the United States.

  • ROUTE NAME: Yosemite to Sequoia National Park

  • ROUTE AT A GLANCE: Yosemite - Sequoia

  • MILES: 138 miles

  • HOW MANY DAYS: 4-7 days 

  • BEST TIME OF YEAR: April- October; Spring and Fall are the best time of year to travel to the National Parks, since the weather will not be too hot or too cold, and the crowds should be less than in the Summer.

THE ROUTE: Yosemite is one of the busiest national parks in the country. You might want to book your spot in advance, if you plan to hike the famous Half Dome. Or enjoy the hikes around like Vernal Falls or Taft Point and view Half Dome from a distance. Be sure to be on the lookout for bears and other wildlife hanging around as well. For a nice easy stroll, take the trail down to Mirror Lake for a one-of-a-kind view.

Continue your trip south down to Sequoia National Park, where you’ll be able to be among some of the largest redwood trees. General Sherman stands in the park, as the largest tree by volume in the world. And don’t forget to drive through the downed Redwood, as it’s one of the last drive thru trees around.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

  • Enjoy all the waterfalls you find along the route. 

  • Hike Half Dome, or many of the other hikes around Yosemite

  • Drive through the large Redwoods.

  • Take a picture in front of the largest tree in the world.

CONTRIBUTOR: Sara from Our Kind of Crazy

Lake Tahoe to Eastern Sierra

This beautiful road trip is short distance-wise, but so crammed with epic scenery and things to do that seven days will seem too short! The road travels along the stunning Eastern Sierra, and side trips include the scenic Tioga Pass Road and other short roads leading to points of interest along the route.

  • ROUTE NAME: California State Route 395 from South Lake Tahoe to Bishop

  • ROUTE AT A GLANCE: South Lake Tahoe - Bridgeport - Lee Vining - Mammoth Lakes - Bishop

  • MILES: 175 miles

  • HOW MANY DAYS: 7 days

  • BEST TIME OF YEAR: Hands down, fall is the best time of year to do this spectacular road trip through the Eastern Sierra. The next best is late spring, when wildflowers are in bloom. In late spring, summer, and fall, you can enjoy hiking trails all along the route! 

THE ROUTE: Start your road trip in scenic South Lake Tahoe, where you can spend a couple of days enjoying the beauty of the large alpine lake, and doing the short drive to Hope Valley and the nearby mountain passes to see leaf colors in the fall.

Next, take California SR395 South to the Bridgeport area, where you can do the short detour to see the ghost town of Brodie (it's now a state park). Further south, you can make a stop at Conway Summit, the highest point along the route, and Mono Lake, a large saltwater lake famous for its tufa towers and thousands of birds. Arrive at Mammoth Lakes, which will be your base for the next three days.

Spend the next three days exploring the areas north and south of the resort town of Mammoth Lakes. From lakes to waterfalls and mountains to creeks, you will find lots to see here. The town of Mammoth Lakes is a well-known winter sports resort, and offers lots of accommodation and dining options.

Spend the last two days of your trip in Bishop, where again you can explore side roads to scenic lakes and an abundance of color in the fall.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

  • Enjoy a cruise on the crystal clear waters of beautiful Lake Tahoe 

  • See the homes and structures at the ghost town of Brodie, left exactly as the occupants left them when they fled!

  • Visit the Devil's Postpile National Monument in Mammoth Lakes to see the sculptures wrought by the hand of Nature

  • Marvel at the tufa towers at Mono Lake: an excellent sunset photography spot!

  • Enjoy the stunning beauty of the lakes of the Eastern Sierra all along the route

CONTRIBUTOR: Dhara from It's Not About the Miles

San Francisco to Seattle: Coastal Drive

This San Francisco to Seattle drive is a scenic route that includes the dramatic California and Oregon coastlines and stops at a few national and state parks. Since most of this road trip follows the Pacific Coast Highway, the views from the drive alone will be stunning.

  • ROUTE NAME: San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA (coastal drive)

  • ROUTE AT A GLANCE: San Francisco - Mendocino - Florence - Redwood National Park - Cannon Beach - Olympic National Forest - Seattle

  • MILES: 920 miles

  • HOW MANY DAYS: 2 weeks 

  • BEST TIME OF YEAR: June - October. Summer months bring pleasant temperatures and mostly sunny skies. Visiting in the early Fall is great because there are fewer tourists and the weather is still mild.

THE ROUTE: The drive begins in San Francisco. Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, riding the trolley, and hopping over to Sausalito, there is plenty to do and eat in a couple of days.

The drive starts north headed to Mendocino. This charming coastal northern California town has scenic kayaking and biking opportunities, as well as hiking trails nearby. 

The last stop in northern California is to explore the majestic redwoods. In addition to Redwood National Park, there are many state parks that have redwood forests. 

The route continues mostly along the coast until the next stop in Florence, Oregon. Florence is where you can hop on an ATV and explore the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. 

Then, the drive continues along the Pacific Coast Highway where stops along Oregon's gorgeous coastline will leave you speechless. Cannon Beach is one of those towns, where the famed Haystack Rock is just a few feet offshore. 

The final leg of the journey is towards Seattle, with a stop at Olympic National Park. After admiring the beauty of the Pacific Northwest coastline, this park showcases even more untouched nature. 

Seattle is the last stop on the road trip. Visiting the classic attractions such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market are must do items. 

HIGHLIGHTS: 

  • Walk along the Golden Gate Bridge, stroll Fisherman's Wharf, take a ferry to Alcatraz Island and take a ride on a trolley in San Francisco

  • Kayak sea caves and go biking along the Big River in Mendocino, California

  • Hike along trails in Redwood National Park

  • Ride an ATV on the Oregon Sand Dunes

  • Take a walk on the beach during low tide to Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach and have some coffee at the Sleepy Monk

  • Hike some scenic trails in..

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Nepal is known as one of the top hiking destinations in the world, and its popularity amongst nature-lovers means that some trails are quite crowded.

A few years ago, we did the trek to Everest Base Camp. And we had an absolutely fantastic time. But we did need to share the trail with many others.

If you like hiking but hate crowds, we have a suggestion for you: The Mohare Danda Trek.

Located in Nepal’s Annapurna region, is so new it’s not even on Google Maps (yet!). And when we did this hike in May 2019, we didn’t come across a single other trekking group during our 5-day adventure.

Do we have your attention now?

Good, because we think the Mohare Danda trek is perfect for anyone looking to get off the beaten path and hike through picturesque villages in Nepal’s countryside.

Also, being that this is only a 5-day hike, it is possible to fit this trek into your Nepal trip even if you are limited on time.

Where is the Mohare Danda Trek?

The Mohare Danda trek is located just southwest of the Annapurna Conservation Area starting from the town of Galeshwor on the Kali Gandaki River. In order to get to the trailhead, it takes about 4-5 hours by van from Pokhara.

What you’ll see on Mohare Danda Trek…

The trail will bring you through remote villages filled with orange trees, bamboo, and rice terraces. You’ll pass by yak herders, baby goats, and hopefully our friendly trail dog, Sete.

You’ll journey through rhododendron forests and open alpine prairies. And each day, you’ll be spoiled with views of some of the tallest peaks in the world, like Dhaulagiri, the Annapurnas, and the sacred Fishtail Mountain.

Article Contents

This article breaks down everything you need to know about the Mohare Danda trek, including detailed trail descriptions, a packing list, and what to expect when it comes to accommodation along the trail.

Mohare Danda Trekking Itinerary

Before committing to a long hike, we like having an idea of what to expect: Like how many hours will we be trekking, how high will we climb, and what will the toilet situation be like?

We’re describing each day of the Mohare Danda Trek so you know what you’re getting into.

Here are the days at a glance:

  • Day 1: Drive from Pokhara to the starting point of the trail, and hike uphill (lots of stairs!) for 3 hours before reaching your first teahouse.

  • Day 2: 3 hours of uphill trekking until lunchtime. After a scenic meal, the trail flattens out a bit as you walk through small villages.

  • Day 3: You’ll gain 1,000 meters, but the trail is a mix of uphill and flat sections until you reach the Mohare Danda viewpoint. At 3,300 meters, it is the highest point of the trek.

  • Day 4: Trek through a beautiful rhododendron forest to the stunning mountain village of Tikot, where you spend the night in a homestay.

  • Day 5: A challenging 3 hours of downhill until you reach a road where you’ll be picked up and returned to Pokhara.

And below the descriptions, you’ll find a ton of practical info, like what to pack, what food you’ll eat along the way (the most important section!), how much money it costs, and how to book your very own trek.

Day 1: Pokhara - Galeshwor (Trailhead) - Banskharka



  • Description: Climb up 3 hours almost only on stairs. You’ll make your way past a couple small villages until you reach Baskharka Community Lodge.

  • Difficulty Level: Hard

  • Hours Hiked: 3 hours (after a 5-hour drive from Pokhara)

  • Elevation Gain: 350 meters

We started our day early from Pokhara in the morning because we knew we had a long 5-hour drive ahead of us to the trailhead. What we didn’t know was how bumpy the road would be for those 5 hours! Just try to think of it as a Nepalese massage.

We stopped in the small town of Nayapul for our first serving of dal bhat, but quickly got back on the road passing through corn fields and hydro-electric dams until the village of Galeshwor. We geared up at the Hotel Riverside and started the trek.

And then came the stairs. We walked through little farming communities who were growing oranges, lemons, corn, and plums. We stopped to catch our breathe many times during the nearly all vertical climb, and one time we looked up and the clouds parted enough for us to see Dhaulagiri, the 7th highest peak in the world.

After three hours of sweat and wobbly legs, we made it to Banskharka Community dining hall, where we would have dinner that night. We were lucky to watch the sunset over the vast valley below the dining hall. If you bought a SIM card in Pokhara, you can even get 3G data from this village.

We had dinner with our group (dal bhat and chow mein) as our guide told us more info about the local Nepalese people and what the plan was for tomorrow.

Accommodation: Banskharka Teahouse

Simple but nice private rooms, located a 5-minute uphill walk from the dining area. Bathroom is a rustic squat toilet, and they were in the middle of installing showers while we were there.

Day 2: Banskharka - Nangi Community Lodge

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Nepal boasts some of the best trekking in world, drawing avid hikers and adrenaline addicts from all corders of the globe. But there is more to this small, landlocked country than trekking in the mountains.

Actually, there is kind of an overwhelming amount of things to do in Nepal… To the point where you can get totally overwhelmed while planning your trip.

You’ll discover a beautiful culture, heart-thumping adventures, and wildlife encounters. You’ll see there is an interesting cuisine to taste, truly kind people who welcome you in, and a deep spiritual side of the country to explore.

There are lists out there of 100+ places to visit in Nepal, but we here to help distill down what to do according to you and your interests.

We’re going through the top things to do in Nepal that you should consider as you start planning. You might not have the time (or interest) for all of them. But you’ll at least be able to pick out what suits your travel style, your budget, and your time frame.





More Nepal Info: If you haven’t already, check out our complete Nepal Travel Guide that goes over literally everything you need to know about traveling to this incredible country.

Things to Do in Nepal Contents:
  1. Go Trekking

  2. Take a Cooking Class

  3. Get Spiritual

  4. Spend the night at a Homestay

  5. Get an Adrenaline Rush

  6. Go Back in time in Kathmandu

  7. See Wildlife

  8. Go Shopping for Souvenirs

  9. Take a scenic flight over the Himalayas

  10. Volunteer in Nepal

Disclaimer: Just so we’re on the same page… Our first visit to Nepal in 2016 was an independent trip. Our second visit (in May/June 2019) was hosted by the Nepal Tourism Board in conjunction with the 2019 Himalayan Travel Mart. Although we were hosted on this trip, all views and opinions of Nepal in this article are our own.

Affiliates: Also, there are some affiliate links in this guide, which means when you click we get a small percentage of the purchase at no extra cost to you. This allows us to keep sharing great Nepal travel tips with you, so feel free to click away!

1. Go Trekking

Let’s start with the obvious: Trekking!

If you like hiking and you’re traveling to Nepal, you’ll definitely want to squeeze in a trek, or even plan your whole trip around one.

From the iconic peaks of the Himalayas more tame trails at lower elevations, there are hikes of all lengths and levels of difficulty to choose from.

We’re even sharing some treks that are still pretty undiscovered by tourists, so you can avoid the crowds that come with the more popular trails.

Long & Challenging Treks in Nepal

Want a big-bad, once-in-a-lifetime, this-is-what-dreams-are-made-of type trek?

Short & Easy Treks in Nepal

Are you looking for a somewhat easy hike that you can fit in during a shorter trip to Nepal?

  • The Poon Hill Trek is quite accessible and is popular with hikers of all ages and varying levels of fitness. And you can complete the trek in just 5 days, making it a good option if you’re in a time crunch.

  • Balthali Village Trek is located in the Kathmandu Valley and takes just 3 days. The trails are rated as “easy”, so this could be an especially good option if you are limited on time and are concerned about your fitness level.

  • The Changunarayan Trek to Nagarkot takes just 2 days, and the highlight is reaching the hill station of Nagarkot where sunrise is said to be fantastic.

I’m going to pop in and say that “easy” is a subjective word, and it can mean different things to different people. Even “easy treks” in Nepal standards can still be difficult. But choosing ones with lower elevation will help ensure it is not too difficult.

Off the Beaten Path Treks in Nepal

What about a trek off the beaten path trek where you won’t run into other hikers along the way?

  • We didn’t run into a single other hiker during our 5-day trek on the Mohare Danda Route.

  • Langtang Valley is another lesser-visited route that is typically done in 7 - 8 days.

And this isn’t even scratching the surface of all the other treks Nepal has to offer. With a little research, you’ll likely become overwhelmed by all the trekking options in this part of the world!

2. Take a Cooking Class and/or Food Tour

I’m going to come right out and say it: Nepalese food isn’t my favorite cuisine. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it — there are some delicious dishes that I love (in moderation). But the cuisine in general is a little too carb-heavy to be one that I call a favorite.

But even so, taking a cooking class or food tour is one of the best ways to learn about a country’s culture and get a glimpse into local life that you wouldn’t otherwise see.

While we were in Kathmandu, we did both a cooking class AND a food tour.

Both were amazing recommendations from our friend Jean, of Traveling Honeybird, and they were highlights of our time in Kathmandu.

Nepalese Cooking Class

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that your favorite Nepalese dish is going to be momos. It is for most travelers!

These tasty dumplings are stuffed full of veggies and/or chicken, and steamed until they are piping hot. Served alongside a delicious dipping sauce, it’s hard not to love momos. Plus, they are naturally vegan (as long as you don’t order the meat variety).

Learn how to make them in a cooking class! Social Tours, which is run out of the HUB in the center of Thamel, offers a cooking class that is “pay what you wish” (aka pay how much you think it’s worth).

Note: If I was wrong with my assumption and you don’t like momos (shocking!), you can ask to make dal bhat instead!

The class takes between 2 - 3 hours and is run by local women, who start by bringing you to the market to pick up ingredients.

When you return to the kitchen, you’ll be given tasks, like chopping veggies or kneading the dough that you’ll make from scratch. The instructor shows you 2 different momo-rolling techniques: crescent and round. And lemme tell ya, it is harder than it looks! Making momos yourself will give you a deep appreciation any time you order them off the menu.

After the momos are ready and the sauce has been made, you’ll have time to relax as they steam. And be sure you work up an appetite, because these babies are the most delicious momos you’ll have during your time in Nepal. Maybe partially because you put in the sweat-equity!

Alternative: Backstreet Academy also offers a Momo Cooking Class with a home chef.

Kathmandu Food Tour

We also went on a Breakfast Food Tour with Backstreet Academy, which was a highlight of our time in Nepal’s capital city.

Our guides, Frankie and Kanti, led us through passageways where we had to duck our heads (I nailed my forehead once and learned my lesson). We took small alleyways that opened up to courtyards. And everyone in our group agreed that this is one food tour you most definitely could not do on your own.

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Nepal may be a small country, but there is no shortage of things to do and reasons to fall in love. What this nation lacks in size, it makes up for in adventure, culture, beauty, and warmth.

We’re certain that with a bit of planning and preparation, you will fall head over hiking boots for Nepal, just like we did. That’s why we’ve put together this (MAMMOTH) Nepal travel guide packed with everything you need to know to plan the perfect trip to the Himalayas.

We’re equipping you with both practical tips — like how much money to budget, what to pack, and what foods to try — as well as some interesting information about the country’s diverse culture and history. We’re also sprinkling in our own stories, tips, and favorite things in this super useful travel guide, so you’re totally prepared for your own epic trip to Nepal.

Our experience traveling in Nepal… 

Nepal is a country that has held a spot on our Dream Travel list for many years.

Over drinks at a family wedding, Ben’s well-traveled uncle, Ronnie, told us Nepal was his favorite country he’d ever visited. And he had traveled to many, many countries.

That accolade paired with photos of colorful prayer flags set against snowcapped peaks were enough to convince us to spend a whole month in this South Asian country.

During our trip to Nepal, we explored major cities, like Kathmandu and Pokhara; and we visited small, remote villages. We drank beers in Thamel (aka Kathmandu’s “backpacker central”!) and spotted wild rhinos in Chitwan National Park — a childhood dream of mine come true! We ate all the momos that could fit in our stomachs and we worked them off by hiking to to Everest Base Camp and the Gokyo Lakes on an epic 17-day trek.

Somehow Nepal lived up to everything we had imagined (we had high expectations!) and even more.

As soon as we left Nepal, we knew we’d be back someday.

And return, we did! We visited Nepal for the second time in May 2019, this time for a travel conference and a bit of trekking (of course!). And we can say once more, this will not be our last trip! There is just something about Nepal that speaks to us. It is a country that we have fallen for for in many ways: We fell for the landscapes, the trekking, the culture, the people.

In total, we’ve spent more than 45 days visiting Nepal. And while that’s not all that much time in the scheme of things, we have learned a lot from our two visits.

There is a lot we wished we would have know before traveling to Nepal, and so many beautiful things we learned about this country that we want to share with you.

In addition to our own advice and tips, we’ve called upon friends who have lived in Nepal to share their insight. We also asked an annoying amount of questions to our local guides, all so we can help prepare you with everything you need to know as you start to plan your travels to Nepal!

Article Contents

We’re going to go over how much money to budget for your trip to Nepal, what types of clothes to pack, and how to get around the country. We’re sharing the best Nepalese food to try, and how you can contribute (in a positive way) to local communities during your trip. We’re even going over the bathroom situation, sparing no details… And we’ll share some photos of yaks. Because they’re cool.

Alright, if you can handle some awkward puns and little bit of toilet talk, let’s get goin’ so you can start planning the trip of a lifetime!

What you’ll find in this article:

Disclaimer: Just so we’re on the same page… Our first visit to Nepal in 2016 was an independent trip. Our second visit (in May/June 2019) was hosted by the Nepal Tourism Board in conjunction with the 2019 Himalayan Travel Mart. Although we were hosted on this trip, all views and opinions of Nepal in this article are our own.

Affiliates: Also, there are some affiliate links in this guide, which means when you click we get a small percentage of the purchase at no extra cost to you. This allows us to keep sharing great Nepal travel tips with you, so feel free to click away!

Top Places to Visit in Nepal

Nepal is a small country.

How small, exactly? Well, if you were to lay it over a map of the United States, it would be utterly dwarfed, as the US is 67 times larger. Texas alone, is 5 times bigger than Nepal.

But don’t let its size (or lack thereof) fool you. This country is absolutely packed with beauty and adventure.

Here are some of the most popular places to add to your Nepal Itinerary:

Kathmandu

Nepal’s capital city and main hubs for all adventures. Polluted and congested with traffic? Yep, it sure it! But this chaotic city is still worth a few days of exploring during your trip to Nepal

Top things to do in Kathmandu:

  • Learn how to make momos with Social Tours.

  • Walk (clockwise) around Boudha Stupa, and when you need a break, enjoy a lassi from one of the rooftop cafes.

  • Take a Breakfast Food Tour with Backstreet Academy, and see all sorts of hidden gems that you’d never discover on your own.

  • Explore the ancient cities of Patan and Bhaktapur. (While in Bhaktapur, be sure to try their famous curd, called juju dhau. It’s super tasty!)

    • Note, these are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites and they cost a fee to enter.

  • Drink coffee at cute and sustainably-run shops like Kar.ma Coffee at The Hub.

  • Visit the Asan Market early in the morning to see local vendors selling their colorful goods in this lively street bazaar!

  • Enjoy a cocktail with a view! We loved the rooftop at our hotel, Traditional Comfort, but there are others throughout the city as well. Plan your drinks to align with sunset for the best view!

Pokhara

Even though Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal, it is known for its laid back vibe with which many travelers fall in love. The city is situated on the shore of Phewa Lake, and is surrounded by mountains, making it both charming and beautiful.

Top things to do in Pokhara:

  • Go paragliding with views of the Himalayas. Pokhara is often referred to as one of the best places in the world to try this adventure sport!

  • Chill out with a smoothie at Jiva Cafe in a shaded garden.

  • Hike to the Peace Pagoda on a clear day for views over the city and lake.

  • Sick of carbs? Enjoy a healthy meal at OR2K, an Israeli-fusion restaurant that serves up tasty salads and healthy international fare. AM/PM is another spot for a healthy meal.

  • Rent a boat and paddle to the island you can see from shore to visit the 2-story pagoda, Tal Barahi Temple.

  • Watch a film under the stars at the open-air theater called Movie Garden. Showings start at 7pm each evening, and they play a variety of new and old movies. Check out their Facebook page to see the up-to-date schedule.

    • Good to know: Half the seats are covered, so it’s a good way to spend the night even if it’s raining.

  • Go up to Sarangkot for sunrise (on a clear day).

  • Wanna get your party on? Pokhara has a thriving nightlife scene if that’s your thing!

  • Go souvenir shopping! Pokhara is a more laid back place to shop than in Kathmandu, and it’s the best place to buy cashmere!

Chitwan National Park

Known for rare animals, like one-horned rhinos, wild elephants, Bengal tigers, as well as a variety of bird species, Chitwan National Park is a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in wildlife and conservation. Situated in the Terai Lowlands of of south-central Nepal, this is a popular spot for travelers to take wildlife viewing safaris and experience a region that is vastly different than the mountainous parts of Nepal.

Lumbini

The birthplace of Buddha, this is a popular pilgrimage spot for Buddhists and those interested in spiritual destinations. You’ll find a complex of stupas, temples, and monasteries to explore, as well as the sacred Bodhi Tree that is a symbol of where Buddha attained enlightenment.

Everest Region (Khumbu Region)

The Himalayas are arguably Nepal’s most famous landmark, so it’s natural that many travelers want to get up close and personal during their time in Nepal.

Unless you want a multi-week hike, the fastest way to enter this region (known as Sagarmatha National Park) is by a short, but notoriously turbulent flight to the small town of Lukla, which sits at 2,860 meters (8,383 feet). Be sure to look out the window during the flight (if your stomach can handle it) because you’ll be met with epic views of the Himalayas.

If you plan to hike to Everest Base Camp, you’ll be rewarded with picturesque views, quaint villages, mountain monasteries, and lovely people. But be prepared for crowds, as this is a popular trekking route.

Our advice: If you have the time (and energy!), add a few days and cross Cho La Pass to the Gokyo Lakes. This lesser-trekked area will surely be a highlight of your time in this region.

Want to trek to EBC? If trekking to Everest Base Camp is a dream of yours, we have you covered with all you need to know about planning your bucket list journey: from what to pack, to the best itinerary, and even how much it costs, we have it all! We even filmed some (hilarious!) video diaries from the trek. Check out our EBC trekking guide for more info!

Annapurna Region

The second most famous region for trekking in Nepal is the Annapurna Region. There are a variety of treks in varying levels of difficulty. From the short and accessible Poon Hill Trek, to the more challenging Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek, there is a little something for every type of hiker in this region of Nepal.

Wanna get off the beaten path in Nepal?

If you want to add a couple lesser-known places to your Nepal itinerary, here are some ideas to get you started. Just know that some of them can be a bit difficult (or time consuming) to get to. There are plenty more towns and regions of Nepal to explore, but this should at least give you a start.

  • Nagarkot: this hill station is just 32 kilometers from Kathmandu, yet..

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