Category: Europe

Mountain Biking Trail No.4 ‘Um den Homberg’, Baselland, Switzerland

Mountain Biking Trail No.4 ‘Um den Homberg’
Starting point: Grellingen Railway Station
Distance: 22.70 km
Elevation gain: 497 m
Highest point: 759 m
Time required: ca. 3h
End point: Grellingen Railway Station

Map of trail No.4 ‘Um den Homberg’ (Hallwag Mountain Bike Map)

This circular tour starts and ends at the Grellingen train station and leads first along the Birs to Chessiloch, a historical site from the 1st World War – now a popular picnic area (Feuerstelle). During the first World War troops were stationed at Chessiloch. Since the Jura railway line was one of the important connections to the border troops, this railway line, as well as the Chessiloch bridge, was strictly guarded. Members of the various units have left coats of arms and symbolic figures on the rock walls.
The ascent through the Chaltbrunnen valley is not very steep an follows a designated hiking trail so (mind the walkers and hikers at this part of the trail!). After Chessiloch the trail turns left into beautiful Chaltbrunnen Valley (Chaltbrunnental) with towns Meltigen, Zullwil, Nunningen, Bretzwil and Seewen. Here the trail enters so-called ‘Schwarzbubenland’. After rounding the Homberg, the trail returns to the starting point Grellingen, crossing the main road Seewen – Grellingen and continuing downhill on the flank of the Eichenberg. READ MORE !!!

Hiking in the Graian Alps, Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, Aosta, Italy

Gran Paradiso National Park (Italian: Parco nazionale del Gran Paradiso) is located in northern Italy, between Aosta Valley and Piedmont region, at the border with France. It was the first national park established in Italy. A land of beautiful mountains, endless woodlands and rich wildlife. It is named after Gran Paradiso mountain (4061m) located in the middle of the park.
This destination was always on my bucket list but I didn’t know that the mountain range where the park is located is called Graian Alps. Even Mount Blanc belongs to this mountain range… A significant gap in my knowledge about the Alps.

As a base we have chosen La Maison du Guide located in a small village Rhemes-Saint-Georges. It is more like a Bed & Breakfast with several apartments to rent. Beautiful place. Really worth visiting. Located only 10 km from Thumel parking lot where the Thumel-Benevolo trail starts. The city of Aosta is only 25 km drive from Rhemes-Saint-Georges.

La Maison du Guide




Booking.com


Our plan was to hike the Thumel-Benevolo trail up to the Rifugio Benevolo (2287 m) and then see if we can reach one of the lakes located higher in the mountains: Lago di Goletta, Lago Granta Parei or Lago di Tsanteleina. It was the end of May with lots of snow still covering the peaks and we knew that we may not get there.
We started our hike at Thumel parking lot (4km after Bruil village) where we followed trail no.13 to Rifugio Benevolo. It takes normally about 1h30min to get to Benevolo. We hikes with kids and the trail was covered/blocked my snow in some places so it took us little bit longer.
What makes this trail special is no only the beautiful surrounding but also the wildlife around you. And in particular the undisputed rulers of this trail: Marmot (Marmota). They are everywhere ! Some of them are very shy and would hide just after you spot them and some would just sit near their holes/pits and pose for pictures. I have never seen so many of them before in one place. They really make this trail enjoyable, specially for the kids. There also lots other animals such as Steinbock (Ibex) or Chamois (AlpenGämse).




Marmot (Marmota) – large squirrels living in Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso


On this photo I caught 2 couples of different species in 1 shot. Front left is a couple of marmots and 2 Steinbocks further up.



Last section of the trail to Rifugio Benevolo was fully covered by snow

After a short break at Rifugio Benevolo (it was still closed and the summer season has not yet begun) we split into 2 groups from which one went back to the parking lot and the other continued the hike. After Benevolo trails was fully covered with snow and it was difficult to follow the proper path. We were fighting our way through the snow, trying various paths leading up. At the end we didn’t reach any of the lakes but hiked up to the foot of Roc du Fond and had lots of fun in the snow :). Have to come back here in the summer and do a multiple hike like I did in Lepontine Alps.


Rifugio Benevolo in the background



Stinbock (Ibex) at slopes of Rhêmes Valley




GRAIAN ALPS – PHOTO GALLERY

LINKS
www.pngp.it – Gran Paradiso National Park official website
www.pngp.it – Hiking Trail Thumel – Benevolo
www.parks.it – Gran Paradiso National Park
www.cai.it – Club Alpino Italiano
www.summitpost.org – Truc Saint Hélène and Tsantèleina Lake

ACCOMODATION
www.rifugiobenevolo.com – Refuge Benevolo
www.caipiemonte.it – Mountain huts in Valle d’Aosta
www.booking.com – Hotel La Maison du Guide

The 15 Best Snorkeling Destinations in Europe

best snorkeling 002

There are amazing snorkeling places around the globe. I am aware of this. I have seen lots of them on TV. But not everyone can afford a trip to Belize, Maldives, Palau, Virgin Islands and the like. The old continent offers also great snorkeling places where the natural beauty, marine life and crystal clear water is comparable to world’s top snorkeling destinations.
Here is a guide for travelers to the best places for snorkeling in Europe. I am a snorkeling freak and have explored myself the majority of snorkeling spots included in this list. Feel free to comment on this post and include your own suggestions.

Medes Islands, Costa Brava, Spain

Medes Islands
Description: Small group of seven islets in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea located just 1 km from L’Estartit (spain). The Medes Islands archipelago is part of the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Nature Park. It is one of the most important marine flora and fauna reserves in the western Mediterranean.
Nearest airport: Girona (GRO) or Barcelona (BCN)
Access: By boat from L’Estartit
Website: Medes Islands


Area Marina Protetta Capo Carbonara, Sardegna, Italy

Capo Carbonara
Description: The protected Marine Area of Capo Carbonara together with two islands of Cavoli and Serpentara form a natural park in the south-east Sardinia near Villasimius (Italy).
Nearest airport: Cagliari (CAG)
Access: Direct access from shore excluding islands which can be reached by boat
Website: Area Marina Protetta Capo Carbonara


Lobos, Canary Islands, Spain

Lobos
Description: Lobos Island (Isla de Lobos) is a small island of the Canary Islands (Spain) located just 2 kilometres north of the island of Fuerteventura. It is now a protected area: Parque Natural del Islote de Lobos
Nearest airport: Fuerteventura (FUE) or Lanzarote (ACE)
Access: By boat from Corralejo (Fuerteventura) or from Lanzarote
Website: Lobos, Canary Islands


Elafonisi beach, Crete, Greece

Elafonissi snorkeling
Description: Elafonisi is an island located close to the southwestern corner of the Mediterranean island of Crete (Greece). The island is a protected nature reserve.
Nearest airport: Chania (CHQ)
Access: Directly from the shore. It is possible to walk to the island through the shallow water.
Website: Elafonisi beach


Ustica, Sicily, Italy

Ustica
Description: Ustica is a small island, about 9 kilometres across, situated about 50 km north of Riserva Naturale Orientata Di Capo Gallo, Sicily (Italy) in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Nearest airport: Palermo (PMO)
Access: By boat from Palermo
Website: Ustica, Sicily


Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro, Sicily, Italy

Zingaro snorkeling
Description: Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro (Zingaro Nature Reserve) is a natural reserve stretching along the unspoilt coastline of the Gulf of Castellammare, north-west Sicily (Italy).
Nearest airport: Palermo (PMO)
Access: Directly from the shore. Walk through the nature reserve and explore all hidden bays.
Website: Zingaro Nature Reserve


Pantelleria, Sicily, Italy

Pantelleria
Description: Pantelleria it is the largest volcanic satellite island of Sicily (Italy) in the Mediterranean Sea located 100 km from the Sicily mainland and ca. 40 km from Tunisian coast.
Nearest airport: Pantelleria Airport (PNL) or Palermo (PMO)
Access: Directly from the shore
Website: Pantelleria, Sicily


Mar Menuda, Costa Brava, Spain

Mar Menuda
Description: The Platja de la Mar Menuda or Playa de Mar Menuda (in Castilian) is a beach in Tossa de Mar, Catalunya (Spain). It is a point of departure for divers and diving schools in Tossa de Mar. The marine life starts immediately off the shore here.
Nearest airport: Girona (GRO) or Barcelona (BCN)
Access: Directly from the shore
Website: The Platja de la Mar Menuda


Maddalena Archipelago National Park, Sardegna, Italy

Maddalena Archipelago 001
Description: Parco Nazionale dell’Arcipelago di La Maddalena (Arcipelago di La Maddalena National Park) is a geomarine national park at the north-east coast of Sardinia. It includes region all islands and islets within the territory of the Municipality of La Maddalena, Italy.
Nearest airport: Olbia (OLB)
Access: Directly from the shore (if staying at Isola Maddalena) or by boat from Sardegna mainland
Website: Maddalena Archipelago National Park


Asinara National Park, Sardegna, Italy

Asinara 001
Description: Parco Nazionale dell’Asinara (Asinara National Park) is the second largest island of Sardegna (Italy), located about 40 km north from Alghero.
Nearest airport: Alghero (AHO)
Access: By boat from Sardegna mainland
Website: Asinara National Park


Spiaggia di Tuerredda, Sardegna, Italy

Tuerredda
Description: Tuerredda beach (Spiaggia di Tuerredda) is located on the south coast of Sardegna (Italy) between Capo Malfatano and Perda Longa, about 60 km drive from Cagliari.
Nearest airport: Cagliari (CAG)
Access: Directly from the shore
Website: Spiaggia di Tuerredda


Cephalonia, Ionian Islands, Greece

cephalonia 001
Description: Cephalonia (Kefalonia) is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece. The island has a rich biodiversity, with a substantial number of endemic and rare species.
Nearest airport: Kefalonia (EFL)
Access: Directly from the shore
Website: Cephalonia


Reserva Natural das Berlengas, Portugal

Berlengas
Description: Reserva Natural das Berlengas is formed by Berlengas archipelago which is a a group of small islands west off the Portuguese coast, about 10 km by boat from Peniche town.
Nearest airport: Lisbon (LIS)
Access: By boat from Peniche or Lisbon
Website: Reserva Natural das Berlengas


Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, Andalucia, Spain

Cabo de Gata-Nijar
Description: Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park (Parque natural del Cabo de Gata-Níjar) is located in the southeastern corner of Spain about 45 km drive from Almeria (Spain). It is the largest coastal protected area in Andalucia.
Nearest airport: Almería (LEI)
Access: Directly from the shore
Website: Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park


Makarska Riviera, Croatia

Makarska
Description: The Makarska Riviera is a region on the west Croatian coast of the Adriatic Sea, about 60 kilometers long and only several kilometers wide, at the foot of the Biokovo Mountain.
Nearest airport: Split (SPU)
Access: Directly from the shore
Website: Makarska, Croatia


SNORKELING LINKS
wikipedia.org – Protected Marine areas in Italy
www.sardegnamareprotetto.it – Protected areas in Sardegna
www.mpatlas.org – Map of Marine Protected Area by Marine Conservation Institute
snorkelstore.net – Best snorkeling spots in the world
www.snorkelingdives.com – Database of snorkeling destinations
blog.edreams.com – World’s best places to snorkel
www.islands.com – World’s best islands to snorkel
edition.cnn.com – World’s best places to snorkel
www.minube.net – Best snorkeling destinations in Europe
www.parks.it – Maddalena Archipelago National Park, Sardegna, Italy
www.parks.it – Asinara National Park, Sardegna, Italy
www.frankaboutcroatia.com – Snorkeling in Croatia
www.ustica-diving.it – Ustica Diving
www.lamaddalenapark.it – Maddalena Archipelago National Park, Sardegna, Italy
www.parcoasinara.org – Asinara National Park, Sardegna, Italy
traveltamed.com – Snorkeling beaches in Europe

Discovering Sicily. From Catania to Palermo.

Etna

Sicily (Italian: Sicilia) is the largest and the most attractive island in the Mediterranean Sea. This beautiful island is a mixture of natural beauty, history, amazing islands, top beaches, lovely towns, tradition and delicious gastronomy.
If you are looking for a place for an active honeymoon then Sicily should be your choice and if you want to do it with style just look for villa rentals in Sicily and let the time pass very slow… READ MORE !!!

Ski Holiday Hasliberg, Reka Holiday Village, Switzerland

Ski Resort Meiringen-Hasliberg is one of the best and most family friendly ski resorts in the Bernese Oberland. It is located 50km from Luzern and 80km from the capital Bern. With 60km ski slopes, 13 lifts, 2 toboggan runs, 15km classic cross-country ski-runs, 25km winter hiking trails and several child lift it is a great winter destination for everyone. Detailed info about the Meiringen-Hasliberg ski resort can be found HERE

hasliberg

WHERE WE STAYED ?
We stayed 7 days at Hasliberg Reka Holiday Village (Reka-Feriendorf Hasliberg). It is situated at about 1100m in Wasserwendi – one of the 4 villages of the Hasliberg municipality on a south-west facing terrace above the valley of the river Aare. Hasliberg can be reached by car or PostBus from Brünig pass or by train from Brünig-Hasliberg station.
Hasliberg Reka Holiday Village is a great destination for families with small kids. Rooms are spacious and equipped with things like additional table for kids, cot (toddler bed), set of board games, books etc. There was also fully equipped kitchen which can significantly reduce the overall travel expenses. The Grocery store (Dorfladen Wasserwendi) with many delicious local products is located only 200m from holiday houses. One thing you have to try are local yogurt and ice creams !

hasliberg

hasliberg

There was heavy snowfall during the second night and we woke up in Winter-Wonderland. Everything was covered with the white powder and the views from our terrace were spectacular. It continued to snow during the day and by the time we came back from skiing there was enough material to build an igloo. We used a plastic shopping basket for that purpose which we found in our room. It is a perfect tool for producing snow blocks which we than placed in a circular rings creating walls of the igloo. The next day our igloo became a highlight and a small tourist attraction. People were taking photos, kids were having lots of fun, even the management of the Hasliberg Village were impressed and placed some photos on their Facebook Page.

hasliberg

hasliberg

There were several activities/events organized by Reka Holiday Village. These were mainly for kids but for adults as well. One not to be missed was the Apéro followed by the Thai Evening. First delicious mulled wine (Glühwein) was served outside at the fireplace and then we took part in the Thai Evening where the guest could choose from variety of Thai dishes prepared on the spot by a Thai cook. Separate kids menus were also available since not all kids would enjoy the spicy Thai kitchen… There was an extra charge for the Thai Evening but it was really worth taking part in this event.

hasliberg

hasliberg

WHICH SKI RESORT ?
The nearest ski resort is the Ski Resort Meiringen-Hasliberg. During the winter season there are small buses/vans called Häsli-Taxi which stops directly in front of Reka Holiday Village and go to Bidmi. Our car stayed the whole week in the underground car park. We just put our skiing shoes on , took our gear and drove with Häsli-Taxi to Bidmi where we had our “base camp”. Bidmi is the place where all skiing courses start and all the main facilities are located. Another option to get to the slopes would be to walk/drive down to Twing and get the cable car to Käserstatt.
There are about 60km slopes within this ski resort. The highest points are Glogghüs 2433m and Alpen Tower 2250m. When I visited Alpentower/Planplatten in 2016 there was an unforgettable sea of clouds around the Panorama Restaurant Alpen Tower.

hasliberg

hasliberg

ANY WINTER HIKING TRAILS ?
There are 25km winter hiking trails within this ski resort. They are marked with pink signposts and post along the route. One of the trails starts in Hasliberg Wasserwendi just beside the Holiday Village. Our preferred trail is the circular trail starting and ending at Bidmi.

Following marked winter hiking trails are available:

Circular Trail: Bidmi-Mägisalp-Käserstatt-Balisalp-Bidmi Duration: ca.5h Starting point: Bidmi
Panorama Hiking Trail: Brünig-Hohfluh-Wasserwendi-Reuti Duration: ca.3h Starting point: Brünig
Käserstatt-Mägisalp (Murmeliweg) Duration: ca.1h Starting point: top station of Twing – Käserstatt lift
Käserstatt-Balisalp-Lischen Duration: ca.1h Starting point: Käserstatt mountain restaurant
Lischen-Wasserwendi Duration: ca.45min Starting point: Lischen mid-station
Lischen-Bidmi Duration: ca.45min Starting point: Lischen mid-station
Bidmi-Mägisalp Duration: ca.1h 20min Starting point: Bidmi
Bidmi-Reuti Duration: ca.1h 40min Starting point: Bidmi
Bidmi-Twing Duration: ca.45min Starting point: Bidmi

All trail can be done the other way around or combined but the duration should be adjusted accordingly.
Interactive map: Interactive Map Hasliberg-Meiringen
More information: Winter Hiking Hasliberg

hasliberg

hasliberg

hasliberg

LINKS
www.reka.ch – Hasliberg Reka Holiday Village
www.myswitzerland.com – Hasliberg Reka Holiday Village
www.meiringen-hasliberg.ch – Ski Resort official website
www.bergfex.com – Ski Information Meiringen – Hasliberg
www.snow-online.com – Ski Information Meiringen – Hasliberg
www.meiringen-hasliberg.ch – Brochure Winter Hiking Hasliberg
www.haslital.ch – Information about the Haslital region
www.haesli-taxi.ch – Transport from Hasliberg to Bidmi
www.myswitzerland.com – Information about Alpen Tower Planplatten

Santa and Reindeer on holidays, France

Calonge 001
Where does Santa Claus and his reindeer spend holiday after the busy Christmas time before hitting the road again? Some would say in his residence (Santa Claus Village) at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland, some would say at the North Pole… It may be true of course but we found Santa Claus in France. READ MORE !

Saint Petersburg, Russia

saintpetersburg-001
Why visit Saint Petersburg (Leningrad) ?
First of all: it is in Russia which already makes the trip interesting. The city gained also some interesting Nicknames such as “The City on 101 Islands”,“The Northern Capital of Russia”, “The Venice of the North” or “The Palmyra of the North”.
It is the most Northern city in the world with a population over 1 million. It has one of the biggest museums in the world: The Hermitage Museum. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg is the second biggest UNSECO World Heritage Site (after Venice). With it’s amazing churches and cathedrals, museums, parks, imperial buildings, historical sights, houndreds of canals, vicinity of Lake Ladoga and Finland it is certainly one of the most interesting city to visit in Europe. READ MORE !

Solo hike in the Lepontine Alps, Ticino/Piedmont, Switzerland/Italy

Calonge 001

Late autumn is the perfect time for hikers who wants to get some “Into the Wild” feeling. The snow has already covered the higher parts of Alps, most of the mountain huts are closed, days are short and temperatures during the night are around zero or less. Only very little hikers decide to go into the higher parts of the Alps which makes it almost a wilderness area. The landscape during the spring is fairy-tale-like and colours almost unreal. With a great weather forecast for the next few days, it was a perfect time for a nature-lover adventure. I packed my backpack with everything I need for 4 days and went to swiss canton of Ticino in the Lepontine Alps region. READ MORE !

Calonge, Costa Brava, Spain

Calonge 001

Once you have a family tent in the basement, there is nothing stopping you from opening the car’s trunk, throw inside everything what is needed for 1 week camping, fill up the tank with gasoline and hit the road. It doesn’t take much time if you have done this many times before and you know exactly what you need. No need to make any bookings, not many people decide to go camping in October. The only which is needed is a couple of addresses of campsites which are open at this time of the year. So we hit the road and arrived at Camping Internacional de Calonge in Calonge, Costa Brava. READ MORE !

Canoe Trip Kolovesi-Joutenvesi-Linnansaari (64km), Finland

Kolovesi 001The Finnish Lakeland (Finnish: Järvi-Suomi) is the largest lake district in Europe. Nature-made labyrinth of 168’000 crystal-clear lakes and countless number of islands covered by unspoiled forest.
The fabulous landscapes of National Parks Linnansaari, Kolovesi and Nature Reserve Joutenvesi offer a paradise for paddlers. There is only one way to explore this area the right way – by kayak or canoe. Finnish Lakeland is also a home to the endangered freshwater Saimaa ringed seal. It is the only place in the world where they live. READ MORE !

50km family hike in the Northern Vosges Regional Nature Park, France

Northern Vosges 001Grande Traversée des Vosges(Vosges Grand Trail) is a 17 days hike through the Northern Vosges Regional Nature Park and Ballons des Vosges Nature Park. The 298km long trail follows the long distance footpaths (Grande Randonnées) GR 53-5, GR 531 and GR 532. Having 4 days free we decided to hike from Wissembourg to Obersteinbach, which is stage 2,3,4 of the Vosges Grand Trail. READ MORE !

Ski Holiday Meiringen-Hasliberg, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

Meiringen-Hasliberg 001
This winter we have visited the Meiringen-Haslital ski resort again and booked accommodation in Brienz as last year. On the first day we took the cable car from Mägisalp to Alpentower where we could observe the uncommon phenomena called “sea of clouds” formed by the uniform layer of clouds below. It is often compared to an open sea with the mountain peaks rising above the clouds looking like small island on the horizon. Standing there, looking at the clouds below and the surrounding mountains, it was really hard to believe that it is only about 2245m above the sea level and there are mountains on our planet which are almost 4 times higher than this one… READ MORE !

Giverola, Costa Brava, Spain

Giverola 001

It was the autumn holiday again and this time we decided to fly to Girona and spend a week at the coast of Costa Brava. Girona airport is located only about 30km from the coastal line and the nearest cities such as Lloret de Mar or Tossa de Mar can be reached by a shuttle bus in 30 minutes.
We wanted to stay away from cities like Lloret de Mar and spend our free time closer to the nature. One of our choices was Camping Cala Llevadó but at the end we decided to book an apartment at Giverola Resort. READ MORE !

Kayaking on the Ruda River, Poland

Ruda River 001

Poland is one of the best kayaking destinations in Europe. There is Mazury (Masurian Lake District) in the north, also known as The Land of a Thousand Lakes, with endless kayaking routes where you can paddle for days or even weeks and also many, many great rivers for paddling.
Some of the river kayaking routes in Poland are considered as the most beautiful in Europe. The most popular routes are: Krutynia River, Biebrza River, Czarna Hańcza River and the Augustow Canal.
I was not aware that the Ruda River, which is located about 25km from my hometown, is one of the most interesting kayaking rivers in the south of Poland… READ MORE !

Climbing Barrhorn (3610m) in 1 day, Switzerland

Barrhorn 001Highest Mountain Hike in Europe or Highest “snow-free” Mountain in Europe.
This is how the Barrhorn summit is often described. What does it really mean ?
Barrhorn summit claims to be the highest mountain in Europe which is “snow-free” during summer and can be ascended via the normal route by an experienced hiker without any climbing gear. I have came across this mountain while searching the web for a summit over 3000 which can be ascended in 1 day without previous mountaineering experience and without crossing any ice/glacier. READ MORE !

Lago Ritom, Ticino, Switzerland

MTB Lago Ritom 001The natural lake Lago Ritom, located in Piora valley, Ticino, Switzerland is used as a reservoir to generate hydro-electric power for the Gotthard line. Our plan was to cycle up to Lago Ritom and cycle some of the trails around the lake. Unfortunately all trails were covered by snow and we only got to the lake after breaking through some small snowdrifts and a road blocked by an avalanche… There was no chance to get further.
I am posting some pictured from our short ride. I am hoping to come back to this place in Summer and explore the area on a bike … READ MORE