Travel Articles

Hiking Dragash, Kosovo: Brod to the old Macedonian Smuggling Pass

Winter is approaching but there are still a few weeks left of crisp clear hiking air awaiting you in the mountains of Dragash. Located in the southern end of Kosovo, Dragash is an oasis of untouched natural beauty and traditional villages sandwiched between the borders of Macedonia and Albania. Ignored by the Yugoslav government, the area never received development money for tourism despite its wealth of flora, fauna and cultural traditions. Luckily, this also spared the region the communist era concrete hotels and restaurants that mar similar regions in Kosovo. To help spur sustainable eco-tourism to the region and highlight an untouched wonder in the Balkans I’m helping to write a hiking guide to the Dragash Region implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Finland government. What better way to experience this traditional area than by hiking to the old pass to Tetovo, Macedonia. Not Read full article…

Amazing Waterfalls of Krka National Park, Croatia

Rivers and waterfalls are not the first images to come to mind when Croatia is discussed. Most people dream of exploring the ancient Venetian cities, dramatic islands and Roman ruins of the Dalmatian Coast. But located just a few hours drive from Split, near the amazing but underrated old city of Sibenikk, is a true natural wonder, Krka National Park. Take a break from century old monuments to explore the thousand year old monuments of nature. The Kraka river flows through a limestone gorge and at points spreads throughout an expansive forest. The area is made up of karst environments, which form when carbon dioxide dissolves with water on carbonate rock (limestone). Over a period of thousands of years this ongoing process has created unique geomorphological features on the surface of the rocks through which the Krka river flows. What? Basically, its a biochemical process that is constantly evolving and Read full article…

Iwayaji Temple Japan- My Favorite Place in the World

I’m not the type of person to have favorites. Whether they are movies, places, people, authors or anything else. My tastes and my boredom levels change too quickly to push any one place above another. But when I was asked by the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Carnival to write about my favorite place in the world, I knew immediately where it was, the back side of Iwayaji Temple on Shikoku Japan. A Little Background Iwayaji Temple is the 45th temple on the Pilgrimage to the 88 Buddhist Temples of Shikoku, located in Ehime Prefecture. The pilgrimage, covering 1,200-1,400 kilometers depending on who you believe, is Japan’s most famous and visited pilgrimage. Still going strong after more than 1,000 years, legend attributes the pilgrimage to the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi who was born and gained enlightenment on the Island of Shikoku. Not satisfied with just enlightenment, he also created the Read full article…

Balkan Highlights: road trip from Kosovo to Croatia and back

I love a good road trip. There is nothing quite as satisfying as cruising through a country’s winding back roads to really get to know the local landscape, people and discover spots that you would have missed arriving by air. Of course if you have even more time then riding a bike or walking can be even better ways to become intimate with your destinations. But a car provides a level of freedom and flexibility (motorbikes as well!) that allows you to explore extensively but also smell the air and fresh bread baking in the morning. When we set off on our 9 day Western Balkan road trip we didn’t know what to expect. All we had was a map, a tent, a rough idea of where to go and few hotel bookings that kept us grounded but not constrained.  This was by choice as getting lost and having adventures Read full article…

Hiking Dragash, Kosovo: Restelica to Brod

Mountain shepherds, enormous Sharr Dogs, free roaming horses, pristine babbling streams and dramatic mountains are just a small taste of what awaits you in Dragash. Located in the southern end of Kosovo, Dragash is an oasis of untouched natural beauty and traditional villages sandwiched between the borders of Macedonia and Albania. Ignored by the Yugoslav government, the area never received development money for tourism despite its wealth of flora, fauna and cultural traditions. Luckily, this also spared the region the communist era concrete hotels and restaurants that mar similar regions in Kosovo. To help spur sustainable eco-tourism to the region and highlight an untouched wonder in the Balkans I’m helping to write a hiking guide to the Dragash Region funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The last hike was a steep climb from Brod to Mt. Cule. Easy Hike from Restelica to Brod (or the other way around) Read full article…

Experiencing Sri Lanka’s Providence- Part 4: Colombo's Eccentric Gangaramaya and Peaceful Seema Malaka Buddhist Temples

Called Serendib by Arab traders  (the origin of the word “serendipity”), Sri Lanka has an amazing diversity for a small island and offers the possibility of experiencing vastly different climates, history, and cultures during a short vacation. In this Four Part Series I will share a glimpse of four different areas of Sri Lanka that can, and should, be a part of any itinerary to the island of providence. Part 1 explores the East Coast city of Trincomalee and the Hindu  Koneswaram Temple and Part 2 brought us to the Ancient Buddha Rock Statues of Polonnaruwa. Part 3 visited the Hill Country and Hikes Through the Tea Trials. In this final article we stay closer to home, the city of Colombo. Sri Lanka’s largest city, and the starting point for travelers flying into this South Asian island nation, Colombo is often bypassed completely in favor of the southern beaches, majestic hill Read full article…

Thunder and lightening…no problem. No path, whatever. Once you see how beautiful Dragash, Kosovo is nothing will keep you away from the dramatic mountains and the fresh air. Here is a short introduction to the Dragash Hiking Guide, a project I’m working on to be the first to map out hiking routes in this remote area of southern Kosovo. Not a bad way to spend the weekend! More detailed Dragash, Kosovo Hikes will be up soon. As will the magic letters What do you think? Would you visit Dragash, Kosovo? Share

Hiking Dragash, Kosovo: Brod to Mount Cule

Mountain shepherds, enormous Sharri Dogs, free roaming horses, pristine babbling streams and dramatic mountains are just a small taste of what awaits you in Dragash.  “I’ve lived in Kosovo for 9 months and I had no idea there was anything this beautiful,” said a friend as we stood in the middle of a wind swept mountain pass barely an hours walk from the road.  Unfortunately, comments like this are all too common. This one was made by a woman who lived just a 30 minutes drive from where I led a small group on a hike through the sharp green Sharri Mountains in Dragash Municipality. Located in the southern end of Kosovo, Dragash is an oasis of untouched natural beauty and traditional villages sandwiched between the borders of Macedonia and Albania. Ignored by the Yugoslav government, the area never received development money for tourism despite its wealth of flora, fauna Read full article…

Visual Guide to Istanbul’s Must See Sites

  Ancient mosques, underground churches, bustling markets, crowded modern shopping streets, vibrant spices, KEBAB (yum!), and the boundary between Europe and Asia. Istanbul has it all and so much more. It is impossible to fully describe the vibe of this culturally wealthy city. As you wonder the streets centuries pass in a matter of steps, wheeling sea birds break up a skyline of minarets as the devout are called to prayer, a vast modern public transportation system shuttles shoppers, tourists and workers to the city’s amazingly distinct areas. Hawkers yell in the streets competing for attention and Turkish Lira. Rarely do I fall instantly in love with a place but Istanbul proved the exception. The sites, sounds, smells, people and culture touched something deep inside my chaotic nature. Rather than ruin the magic of the city with my words, I present a photo and video journey through the streets and Read full article…

Experiencing Sri Lanka’s Providence- Part 3: Hiking the Tea Trails

Called Serendib by Arab traders  (the origin of the word “serendipity”), Sri Lanka has an amazing diversity for a small island and offers the possibility of experiencing vastly different climates, history, and cultures during a short vacation. In this Four Part Series I will share a glimpse of four different areas of Sri Lanka that can, and should, be a part of any itinerary to the island of providence. Part 1 explores the East Coast city of Trincomalee and the Hindu  Koneswaram Temple and Part 2 brought us to the Ancient Buddha Rock Statues of Polonnaruwa. Sri Lanka’s hill country is a world unto itself. Dramatic mountains are smoothed out by waves of evenly spaced tea bushes that calm the senses and clear the mind. Amongst the tea plantations, like no where else in Sri Lanka, you can feel the blend of civilizations between England’s colonial past, the Tamil Hindu community Read full article…

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