Celebrate Oktoberfest in Southern California: Big Bear Lake Beckons!

The much-awaited Oktoberfest is now being celebrated across the world (not just in Germany) and there’s only a week left before the festivities come to a close. If you are in California, wondering how to spend the last Oktoberfest weekend, look no further! The gorgeous Big Bear Lake in Southern California has a bunch of surprises lined up for you.

Water-skiing in California's Big Bear Lake (Courtesy: Don Graham)

Water-skiing in California’s Big Bear Lake (Courtesy: Don Graham)

Rustic Stays in a Forest Setting

Surrounded by San Bernadino National Forest, Big Bear Lake is the perfect vacation destination that is open to travellers round the year. This little city is named after the Big Bear Lake, which happens to be the main attraction for lovers of watersports. Its proximity to the San Bernadino Mountains makes the area an ideal location even for those who love to hike. The best way to enjoy a getaway like this is to stay in a log cabin hidden somewhere in the rows of tall pine trees.

Fox n Bear Cottages (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Fox n Bear Cottages (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Alpine Pedal Path: Hiking in Big Bear Lake

If you love to hike as much as I do, you will always be looking for beautiful trails to test your hiking shoes on. Big Bear Lake has a neat little trail that is very easy to follow even for beginners. The Alpine Pedal Path has a nicely paved road that you can even take your bike on. If you are into birding, carry your DSLR along to capture bald eagles, which are commonly sighted here.

Alpine Pedal Path (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Alpine Pedal Path (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Mix Your Vacation With Pleasure

Work and pleasure may not mix together, but vacations and pleasure sure do! 😉 The Oktoberfest days are a nice time to relish the last few days of bright sunshine and get yourself a nice tan in your private pool. Big Bear Cool Cabins has a charming collection of over 350 private homes and cabins, some of which come with swimming pools and hot tubs in your backyard. There’s nothing quite like soaking up some sun as you laze on your pool bed, your favourite drink in hand.

Orsi's Cabin with Hot Tub & Pool (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Orsi’s Cabin with Hot Tub & Pool (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Witness Nature’s Beauty at Boulder Bay

One of the prettiest parks in Big Bear is Boulder Bay. True to its name, this lakeside wonder gives you copious views of white boulders covered with savage coloured moss. Even the outcrops on the rocks look romantic when the winds steer the fog about the blue sheet of the lake. Such scenes make for incredibly romantic pictures.

Boulder Bay (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Boulder Bay (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Cosy Cabins in Cool Climes

As you plan your evenings and gather together with your family and friends for an amazing night of revelry, you must ensure you have a perfect setting to create that merry mood. Take your pick from the homey cabins, wood panelled lodges and lakeside homes offered by Big Bear Cool Cabins for an unforgettable holiday. The properties are fully furnished and come with a fireplace and all the works to keep you warm on winter nights.

The Living Room of one of the Cool Cabin lodges (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

The Living Room of one of the Cool Cabin lodges (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Beautiful Sunsets at Stanfield Marsh

It cannot get any wilder and prettier than this! The Stanfield Marsh Wildlife and Waterfowl Preserve in Big Bear not only invites water birds on its marshy terrain, but also lets you be amazed by stunning sunsets from its boardwalk. The marshland dries up in the summers, and the landscape looks quite different then. I have had a long love affair with bird photography in marshy regions. You just cannot miss this place when the season is right!

Stanfield Marsh Boardwalk (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Stanfield Marsh Boardwalk (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

And When It’s Winter…

When it is cold and snowing, Big Bear’s Snow Summit Ski Resort is where you should be for some ski adventures and scenic gondola rides. You can also indulge in snow sledging, snow-fights ( 😉 ) and other snow sports when the ground is white with thick snow. Don’t forget to book your Big Bear Cool Cabin property for an extended stay this Oktoberfest. They also have pet-friendly houses for your furry friends.

Live in a cosy cottage in the snowy winters (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Live in a cosy cottage in the snowy winters (Courtesy: Big Bear Cool Cabins)

Save More with Big Bear Cool Cabins

Before you go back to chugging your brew, book your Big Bear holiday with Dealspotr’s exclusive discounts on the Oktoberfest Packages at Big Bear Cool Cabins. These include 5-15% discount on lodging, discounted tickets to Oktoberfest, a couple of complimentary 2-hour kayak rental (or you can rent a bike instead) from GetBoards and 10% discount on Scenic Sky Chair or golf. Use my promo code OKTOB1 and don’t forget to add 2 Oktoberfest tickets to the package. There are packages for 1, 2 and 3 nights.

I reminisce about my time in sunny California

I reminisce about my time in sunny California

The next time you are in California, don’t let it just be about the Golden Gate Bridge or the beaches. Go off the beaten track and explore a lake or hike in the woods for a fulfilling experience.

Do you know more places in California that are not tourist magnets?

Got any tips for Big Bear Lake for my readers?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more tips from California and other parts of the United States of America.

Ngong Ping Village – A Quiet Escape From The Bustle Of Hong Kong’s Mainland

The very mention of Hong Kong usually conjures up images of skyscrapers, high-end restaurants and crowded shopping streets. There is, however, another side to this seemingly busy Asian territory. I discovered early this year, on my maiden trip to the Far East, the little-known wonders on the island of Lantau. This is the island on the Pearl River that houses Hong Kong’s bustling international airport. But barely a 20-minute drive away is an idyllic village called “Ngong Ping”.

Why I Chose Ngong Ping Over Disneyland

The giant statue of Buddha is visible from the Ngong Ping marketplace in Hong Kong's Lantau Island

The giant statue of Buddha is visible from the Ngong Ping marketplace in Hong Kong’s Lantau Island

Most first-timers with a Hong Kong visa prefer a trip to the famous Disneyland on the same island of Lantau – incidentally, the largest island of this nation. However, for those of us who prefer quietude over cacophony and natural sights over manmade rides, Ngong Ping Village offers some relief. Quite unlike mainstream Hong Kong, this hamlet, located on an undulating, hilly terrain, is a paradise of sorts – lush green mountain vegetation on all sides, a quaint marketplace lined with dainty shops, and a chilly climate, uncharacteristic of its subtropical position.

A Cablecar To Fly You There

There are several ways to reach Ngong Ping from the airport, but the prettiest way, undoubtedly, is to take the ropeway. You can take a taxi or a bus from the HK arrivals area and get off at the Tung Chung stop. The cable car ride begins from here. It is possible to buy tickets on the spot, but I had prebooked mine on Klook to avoid the queues (which get longer as the day wears on).

The Gondola Ride

I shiver inside my 360-degree crystal cabin gondola en route to Ngong Ping

I shiver inside my 360-degree crystal cabin gondola en route to Ngong Ping

The cable car ride is aptly named “Ngong Ping 360” for the 360-degree views of Hong Kong that it provides. The standard gondolas are glass-walled but have an opaque floor. For a slightly higher fee, you can get yourself a crystal cabin which is transparent on all sides. The premium gondola is worth the extra charge as it lets you view the forestlands, walking trails, treetops and many other gorgeous things without hindrance. The ride takes 30 minutes each way, and offers plenty of time to soak in the picturesque Lantau Peak, aerial views of the South China Sea, the amazing multi-layered road network of Hong Kong and several of its islands, bridges that connect the islands, and ships at the harbour. (If you ever plan to enter this country through another route, take a look at this set of information to help you prepare better.)

The Village Walkway

Starting point of the Ngong Ping Village walkway.

The starting point of the Ngong Ping Village walkway.

This high-tech village has free WiFi and is split into three sections: Village Square, Bodhi Path and Country Market. The village square is essentially the place for eateries. There are teahouses and umpteen restaurants and cafes waiting to serve you exotic teas and cuisines from Hong Kong, China and other international flavours. The Bodhi Path has the information centre and some installations from the Buddhist culture. The final section of the village walkway is the country market which has a string of shops selling a lot of unique cultural things, such as chopsticks, art, silver, gadgets, souvenirs and a lot more. When shopping

Buddhism In Lantau

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Monsoon is an interesting time to be anywhere in Asia. When I was in Hong Kong, I did not realize how erratic the weather could be. It was cold early in the morning, poured steadily when I made my way to the little village of Ngong Ping, and was sunny when I walked into a cafe for lunch. Even though packing for such a climate becomes tricky, its unpredictability only enhances the monsoon experience. Head over to my bio to find the link to my latest travel article on 'Beautiful Monsoon Destinations in Asia' written in collaboration with some of my travel blogging friends from around the globe! 🙂 #oindrilagoesfootloose #oindrilainhongkong #hongkongig #hongkong #hongkonger #monsoondiaries #monsooninhongkong #hkig #hkg #hk #lantaulife #lantauisland #lantau #ngongpingvillage #ngongpingvillage昂坪市集 #ngongping #solotravel #monsooninasia #asiatravel #explorehongkong #discoverhongkong #monsoon #rainyday #traveldeeper #bbctravel #cloudyskies #cloudyday #exploremore #doyoutravel #asianvillage

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Beyond the village walkway is the religious part of this island. After you have crossed the iconic white gate and the sprawling paved route, you will reach the palatial shrine area. This is preceded by a circular stage with flags all around it. To your right will be a stairway (with countless steps) to a giant statue of the Buddha – Tian Tan monument. You can either take on the arduous climb to the statue or stay back and explore the Po Lin Monastery.

Po Lin Monastery

This Buddhist monastery was built in 1906 in traditional Chinese architecture. The courtyard has a huge stand for worship purposes, around which devotees offer their prayers by way of lighting incense sticks. The scent of the incense wafts throughout the courtyard and perhaps inside the main shrine which has three large statues of the Buddha that represent his past, present and future. I am not a religious traveller, so without dwelling too long before the temple, I headed back to the food lane for some lunch.

Eat Like A Hongkonger

My bowl of udon noodles with curd bean sheets, sweetcorn and seaweed goes well with the chrysanthemum tea with wolfberries and honey.

My bowl of udon noodles with curd bean sheets, sweetcorn and seaweed goes well with the chrysanthemum tea with wolfberries and honey.

The average HK local has 5 meals a day, the last one being a sort of midnight snack (wow! 🙂 ) which is consumed hours after dinner and called “siu yeh“. While they have plenty of meats on offer, vegetarians will find sufficient options without having to resort to other cuisines. Dim sums, baos and congees apart, Hong Kong offers interesting soup bowls which are large enough to be the entire meal. Being China’s Special Administrative Region, the place is big on flavoured teas. They even have a tea museum!

Beyond Ngong Ping – Lantau Peak

For those who love to hike, Lantau Peak happens to be the second highest peak in Hong Kong at 934 metres. Also known as Fung Wong Shan, the peak is clearly the tallest on Lantau Island, especially when viewed from the Ngong Ping plateau. The trek begins from the same point as that of the Wisdom Path which passes a tea garden. If you are not up for the entire thing, just do the Ngong Ping Fun Walk and come back.

Nei Lak Shan Country Trail

Lantau Island's Nei Lak Shan country trail looks like an adventurous one.

Lantau Island’s Nei Lak Shan country trail looks like an adventurous one.

If you are of the courageous type, attempt the Lantau Peak hike early at around 4 am. This will give you enough time to reach the peak in time for a glorious sunrise. You can spend the night at the youth hostel along this trail, or just bring your own tent and sleeping bags if you prefer roughing it out. The Nei Lak Shan country trail will give you ample opportunities for bird photography and an insight into subtropical plants.

Useful Information For Hong Kong

Interiors of the Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau

Interiors of the Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau

  • Indians must apply for pre-arrival registration for Hong Kong before the trip. RedCarpet Assist ensures hassle-free visa application.
  • Hong Kong Dollars is the official currency of the country. However, some shops happily accept US dollars if you run out of HKD.
  • Most locals do not speak much English (if at all). So, come prepared to play some long rounds of dumb-charades 😉 (Just kidding! If you’re lucky, some expats or English-speaking students will help you out.)

Which version of Hong Kong do you prefer more – city or village?

Have you heard of any other offbeat places here?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more stories from the Far East and beyond.

Garhwal In Pictures: Memories From A Week In Uttarakhand

It was midsummer when the Uttarakhand Tourism Board invited me to explore the little lake-town of Tehri earlier this year. While the world hyped about the annual Tehri Lake Festival, I was more excited to glimpse a few other gems. I’d previously been to the north Indian state of Uttarakhand on several occasions, but this time, I was determined to see a few new places of Garhwal. Enjoy this photo-story as I show you the Lower Himalayan valleys through my perspective.

Dhanaulti From The Sky

The Lower Himalayan range is distinctly visible from Dhanaulti.

The Lower Himalayan range is distinctly visible from Dhanaulti.

The day that I was to spend relaxing in my hotel (aptly named “Dhanaulti Heights”), I chose instead to go for a hike to the nearby Surkanda Devi temple. I’m not a supporter of idol worship but I fully encourage hiking in the hills for the gorgeous views, if nothing else. Dhanaulti enjoys good weather and it is a delight to breathe in the pure air up here.

Having The Ganges Up-Close In Kaudiyala

The prettiest room I had was in Kaudiyala – a wooden cottage by the bank of the River Ganga. You can see from the video above what the scene from my balcony was. Sunrises here are unmissable, especially because nature wakes you up (think chirping birdies). The Ganges looks incredible from close quarters, so do the Shivalik Hills.

How Kanatal Turns Orange At Sunset

The glorious sunset in Kanatal.

The glorious sunset in Kanatal.

Kanatal was only a short stop for me on my way to another Garhwali destination, but I didn’t know that when I got there early in the eve. Trotting up and down the mountain trail, I thought I would have nothing much to do except talk to the locals. But the sunset proved me wrong by turning the blue sky yellow and beginning to paint this sleepy town as well.

See How The World Becomes Smaller When You Look Up?

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The higher you climb, the smaller everything on earth appears – the houses, the people, the material possessions and the problems. When I feel low, I just take a hike. Do you introspect when you go trekking? I captured this shot on my recent trek in the Garhwali mountains near Dhanaulti, Uttarakhand. #oindrilagoesfootloose #Dhanaulti #trekking #hiking #beautifulhike #girlswhotravel #girlswhotrek #Uttarakhand #incredibleindia #lightroomedits #shotoncanon #canonphotography #canon📷 #canonshot #himalayasarecalling #exploretheunexplored #exploreuttarakhand #Garhwal #garhwalhimalayas #himalayangeographic #lonelyplanetindia #natgeoyourshot #exploremore #doyoutravel #travelawesome #indiaphotosociety #igersuttarakhand #ig_captures #simplyheaven #traveldeeper

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I’ve often realized that being away from humanity has a calming effect on my soul. Perhaps that’s why I’m mostly a solo traveller. Trekking really helps to leave the world behind and let your problems become smaller as you climb up. And believe me, the endorphin rush automatically makes you happy! 😉

Learn What Love Is From The Animal Kingdom

Caught this mommy macaque walking with her baby! <3

Caught this mommy macaque walking with her baby! <3

There is so much one can learn from the birds and animals. Loving, for instance. When I read horrifying stories of parents abandoning their children or women justifying abortion, I am inclined to think humans have forgotten all about love, care and self-sacrifice. So, I look instead at animals for some hope. And they never disappoint. I was able to click this macaque mom-and-daughter duo during my hike to Kunjapuri temple in Adali, near Rishikesh.

Rafting Camps For River-Lovers

Tents and wooden rest houses in Kaudiyala

Tents and wooden rest houses in Kaudiyala

If you are not such a fan of luxury and prefer to rough it out instead, Kaudiyala offers plenty of safari tents. These campsites are usually preferred by rafters who will eventually indulge in some whitewater rafting in the Ganges. Irrespective of where you stay, you still get the same clean air and the background music of hundreds of avifauna and a gurgling river.

Appetizers For Lunch, Anyone?

A stack of bread pakoras waiting to be devoured - at a roadside stall along Garhwal's national highway.

A stack of bread pakoras waiting to be devoured – at a roadside stall along Garhwal’s national highway.

I don’t have too many pictures of Garhwali food as I was too impatient (on most occasions) to take photos before quelling my hunger. I tried a variety of millet breads (both chapatis and parathas) with plenty of potato preparations. I also remember having just snacks for lunch – savoury bread-pakoras, phaan (a wafer-like bar) and kachoris. Uttarakhand also makes some amazing desserts – jhingore-ki-kheer, baal-mithai, and loads of other milk-based sweets.

Berry-Picking In The Hills

The easy path to Surkanda Devi trek (not what I followed though ;-) )

The easy path to Surkanda Devi trek (not what I followed though 😉 )

The Himalayas are a great place to find unique coniferous trees and various shrubs and outcrops. My hikes were more fun as I would stop to look at the leaves, smell the flowers and search for fruits. On one occasion, I had run out of snacks during my walk downhill and had to fill up on a peculiar kind of yellow berries (which I washed with water, of course) in the wild. Back at my hotel, a friend had picked some kafal (little red berries) which she shared with me.

Power-Dressing: The Pahadi Way! 😉

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I can't believe it's already been half a month! I met these beautiful ladies on a work+fun trip to Uttarakhand and was quite taken by their sense of humor. We'd spent most of our days in those hills in hiking gear, so we decided to play dress-up one evening. Any style tips for me? 😉 #oindrilagoesfootloose #girlswhohike #girlswhotrek #girlswhotravel #womenintravel #womeninbusiness #indiantraveller #indianculture #travelmemories #travelstoke #travelstories #Uttarakhand #incredibleindia #traditionalindianwear #indianwomen #indianwear #chamba #Himalayas #igersindia #beautifulwomen #beautifulindia #exploremore #simplyheaven #kurta #indiankurta #ootd #travelstyle #travelfashion #hillstation #indianhillstations

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One of the most memorable evenings I had was in New Tehri, just before we all set out for the lake festival. Our gang of girls had dressed up in traditional kurtas. After days of hanging around in hiking pants, we finally had the chance to wear some makeup and look like conventional ladies. 😀

New Tehri is still miles away from the lake (Tehri Lake)

New Tehri is still miles away from the lake (Tehri Lake)

And just like that, the rollercoaster trip came to an end. I have chosen to conveniently forget the endless, tiring road journeys and the sleepless state of mind I had on most days. I now only remember the beautiful tree-lined hills, the sweet smell of berries and the wry humour of my fellow travellers.

Do you think you’ll ever go to Garhwal?

What are your favourite things to do in the mountains?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more stories from the Himalayas.

Discover Central & Eastern Europe With Travel Tips From Locals + Top Bloggers

Most of you have told me how much you love reading about Europe on my blog. This is the last piece in the series, and this one is especially for my readers on a budget. Today’s list is a handpicked collection of extremely affordable destinations. If you are a solo female traveller on your maiden visit to Central or Eastern Europe, we urge you to look beyond the popular cities of Budapest (read – A Quick Guide To Budapest – The Capital Of Hungary) and Warsaw (read – What Warsaw Whispers – A Photoessay), and give these lesser explored places a chance to mesmerise you:

Česky Krumlov – Czech Republic

Česky Krumlov (Courtesy: Parampara)

Česky Krumlov (Courtesy: Parampara)

Recommendation by Parampara – Awara Diaries

“On the offbeat path as a solo female traveller, Česky Krumlov was one of the best adventures that I’d signed up for. With the aim of exploring Czechia beyond the party scenes of Prague, I took a trip south of the capital to the town of Česky Krumlov. To begin with, the Czech transport system is in great shape and connects the country with much ease. I took a 2 and a half hours’ bus journey to this Czech town.

Česky Krumlov was no less than a wonderland for me. Medieval mythical vibes with castles, towers, rivers, and bridges. Walking around this quaint town was the obvious choice, but unlike other Czech towns, there was life even post sunset. Making new friends at the hostel, walking around the town, looking at the lit castle and most importantly, eating around, trying some of the best ever grilled trout and apple strudel, Česky Krumlov had my heart. And for once, I could believe that I was living a fairytale with a possibility of getting lost in the woods and stumbling upon a dragon or just watching over the town quietly from the top of the tower! Indeed, one of the best and safest destinations for solo travel and making new friends.”

Viscri – Romania

Viscri (Courtesy: Andra Padureanu)

Viscri (Courtesy: Andra Padureanu)

Recommendation by Andra Padureanu – Our World to Wander

“The village of Viscri used to be one of Romania’s hidden gems. But now, thanks to Prince Charles, it has become a popular destination for people who want to taste the rural life in Transylvania. It’s a small and charming village where you can take a glimpse of the traditional way of life. Viscri is also famous for its fortified church which has put it on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

It is a very safe destination for women travellers and highly recommended if you want to try a Romanian homestay. You will stay with a family in one of the small houses, and everybody will want you to taste the numerous delicious dishes of the region. It is a picturesque place where you can lose track of time while wandering through the narrow cobblestoned streets.”

Ljubljana – Slovenia

Ljubljana (Courtesy: Jessica)

Ljubljana (Courtesy: Jessica)

Recommendation by Jessica – Travel Solo Anyway

“Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana is one of my favourite destinations in all of Europe. It’s perfect for solo female travellers because it’s extremely clean and safe, the people are among the friendliest I’ve ever met and English speakers will find it’s incredibly easy to get around using English. I especially adore the café and market culture in Ljubljana. There are so many opportunities to take in the city’s relaxed atmosphere while dining and shopping outdoors.

Many eateries have outdoor and riverside seating, and on certain days of the week, you can also check out flea and farmer’s markets for cool finds and fresh produce. Sweet lovers must also try a piece of the city’s famed Ljubljana cake. The legend goes that a cook delighted the daughter of the Lord of Ljubljana Castle so much with this creation that he was offered her hand in marriage!”

Eger – Hungary

Eger (Courtesy: Sharon Gourlay)

Eger (Courtesy: Sharon Gourlay)

Recommendation by Sharon Gourlay – Simpler & Smarter

“Eger is a city in northern Hungary, just a couple of hours from Budapest. It is the perfect place to visit on your solo adventure if you love wine and baroque architecture. Or if you just love discovering smaller European destinations which aren’t flooded with tourists. Eger is an easy place to visit. All the main attractions are within walking distance and the city centre is pretty and easy to walk around.

There is a hilltop castle with great views, a big basilica and many other attractions. My favourite is the wine cellars in the Valley of Beautiful Women. These cellars are all in a row surrounded by nature with many indoor and outdoor tables. The wine is cheap and good and it’s fun trying out the wines.”

Istria – Croatia

Istrian Pasta (Courtesy: Kaila Yu)

Istrian Pasta (Courtesy: Kaila Yu)

Recommendation by Kaila Yu – NomList

“Istria, Croatia is an ideal destination for solo women travellers. Not only is it so safe that you could walk the streets at any time of the night and feel perfectly comfortable, but it’s also the ultimate foodie locale! If you love olive oil, truffles and wine, you must visit this magical area of Croatia. Many of the dishes of Istria have Mediterranean and Italian influence and the fresh seafood in the region is spectacular.

Istria is considered to be part of Croatia but it actually encompasses Italy and Slovenia too. The peninsula juts out into the Adriatic Sea, so it also has beautiful oceans views. One popular activity in this region is boating and exploring the many small islands in the vicinity. It’s definitely an off the beaten path location that is dreamy and a can’t miss for solo female travellers!”

Chisinau – Moldova

Chisinau (Courtesy: Gabriela Muller)

Chisinau (Courtesy: Gabriela Muller)

Recommendation by Gabriela Muller – Gabriela Here and There

“I recently travelled to Moldova as a solo female traveller and was positively surprised by how nice it was. Moldova is one of the least visited countries in Europe but this little nation has so much to offer from wine tours to beautiful countryside. Most of the travellers will visit Chisinau, the capital city, and it’s a great place to base yourself in Moldova. Chisinau might not have the Eiffel Tower or other famous sights but it’s a charming city with its own little spots. The best way to explore Chisinau is on foot and because of its small size, everything is within a walking distance. I never had any problems with street harassment or catcalling, and always felt very safe walking alone (even at night).”

Skopje – Macedonia

Skopje (Courtesy: Kamila Napora)

Skopje (Courtesy: Kamila Napora)

Recommendation by Kamila Napora – Kami and the Rest of the World

“Skopje is one of the weirdest cities you will ever see. It’s like the Disneyland of the Balkans with quirky, brand new but old-looking architecture all over the centre and the largest old bazaar in the Balkans. It’s also a safe and interesting city to visit for solo female travellers. I’ve been solo to Skopje 5 times by now and never encountered any issues. Local people are super friendly, the food is to die for and everything is really affordable. You should most likely stick to the centre and Debar Maalo areas. Like everywhere else, if you stick to your common sense you will be more than fine. There are many things to do in Skopje that will keep you occupied for at least 2 days. Just visit the city with an open mind and enjoy it!”

Belgrade – Serbia

Belgrade (Courtesy: Karen Turner)

Belgrade (Courtesy: Karen Turner)

Recommendation by Karen Turner – Wanderlustingk

“Belgrade was one of the easiest places that I’ve travelled solo in. People were so incredibly warm that I ended up getting drinks almost every single night with Serbians that I’d meet who would just invite me out with their group of friends. In Belgrade, I also found a female-run hostel with staff that just made my trip magical as they sent me on a food scavenger hunt. The walkable city centre and good public transit with the high level of English made it a breeze to travel in Serbia and I’d recommend it to any woman trying out solo travel!”

Kharkiv – Ukraine

Kharkiv (Courtesy: Megan Starr)

Kharkiv (Courtesy: Megan Starr)

Recommendation by Megan Starr – Megan Starr

“Kharkiv, Ukraine is a destination off the beaten path in Eastern Europe that doesn’t garner the tourism traction that it should. The city, often overshadowed by Kyiv and Lviv, sits in the east of Ukraine but is completely in the safe zone. It is one of the loveliest places I have ever had a chance to visit. Females shouldn’t feel unsafe in Kharkiv, even if travelling alone. There are top notch cafes, restaurants, and some stately architecture from various areas that make this Ukrainian city extremely compelling and a must-visit spot for travellers. Kharkiv has become more connected via daily flights and there is even a fast train connecting it with Kyiv these days.”

Olomouc – Czech Republic

Olomouc (Courtesy: Veronika Primm)

Olomouc (Courtesy: Veronika Primm)

Recommendation by Veronika Primm – Travel Geekery

Olomouc is a hidden gem lying in the east of the Czech Republic, right in the heart of the Moravia region. The city features a beautifully preserved Old Town with Baroque structures such as fountains and churches. You’ll even find an Astronomical Clock on the local Town Hall! Just strolling around feels fulfilling enough. There’s also no shortage of cosy cafés and large parks encircling the city centre.

Students rule Olomouc. If you go out in the evening by yourself, it’s easy to strike a conversation with local students. The town is lively and there’s often a lot going on – from events organized by the local Palacký University to markets/gatherings on the main square (Upper Square).”

Are you a fan of Eastern & Central Europe now? 🙂

Got more suggestions for solo travellers to these parts of Europe?

Let us know through your comments below. 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more travel inspiration from Central & Eastern Europe and beyond.

A New Look At Spain & Greece: Beaches, Forests & Hideouts For Solo Travellers

Southern Europe was one of my first solo travel destinations as an adult, long before I began to blog (read – How I Started a New Life in Catalonia). The region has a bunch of slow-paced countries that make you fall in love with life. The Mediterranean coastline works like a charm on every traveller. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Greece or Portugal or Italy (read – Italy Beyond The Usual) or Spain. If you are craving some sun without running into hordes of tourists, follow this list of recommendations (from experienced travellers) on offbeat locations in Spain and Greece-

Asturias – Spain

Asturias (Courtesy: Campbell & Alya)

Asturias (Courtesy: Campbell & Alya)

Recommendation by Campbell & Alya – Stingy Nomads

“Not many know of an area in Spain with lush green forest, cool temperatures even in the summers and breathtaking mountain scenery. For those who like going off the beaten track, a small region of Asturias in northern Spain is the perfect destination. Asturias is one of the least populated regions of Spain with its main treasure being natural beauty. There are mostly small towns and villages with very friendly and helpful locals here. It’s a real paradise for hikers – there are several short and long distance hiking trails including Camino Primitivo – the first Camino de Santiago walked by the Spanish king, Alfonso II in the 9th century. The famous mountain range – Picos de Europa with some peaks over 2600m is located here.

Both hiking and cycling trails are well marked, safe and easy to follow – definitely the kind of place where a solo female traveller can hike on her own without worrying about safety. The region is great for a beach holiday as well as there are several nice coastal towns like Gijón, Llanes where you can enjoy sandy beaches, clean water and delicious local food. Asturias also has some interesting cities whose foundation dates back to the 8th century. Oviedo – the beautiful capital city founded in 761AD has a charming historical centre with typical narrow cobblestone streets, a gothic cathedral, old houses and street cafes.”

Kalymnos Island – Greece

Kalymnos Island (Courtesy: Maureen)

Kalymnos Island (Courtesy: Maureen)

Recommendation by Maureen – Life On The Mediterranean

“Kalymnos is a small Greek island in the Dodecanese between Kos and Leros, near Turkey. It’s overlooked for other easier-to-reach islands like Rhodes or Kos, and more difficult and more expensive to reach. But once you do, you’ll find an extremely tranquil island whose economy is based on sponge fishing, rock climbing and a bit of tourism.

It’s a great place for solo female travellers as it’s extremely safe and people look out for one another. You’ll be alone, but you won’t. It’s a great place to chill, write, enjoy life on a quaint island, enjoy fresh seafood and get to know the locals if you want. Hotels and food are affordable. It’s a lovely Greek island where time has stood still. You could stay for a month on the weekly budget you need in some other pricier islands. Give it a try.”

Galicia – Spain

Galicia Cathedrals beach at sunrise (Courtesy: Inma Gregorio)

Galicia Cathedrals beach at sunrise (Courtesy: Inma Gregorio)

Recommendation by Inma Gregorio – A World To Travel

“The reasons why I can’t stop recommending Galicia as a friendly destination for visitors – and in this case, for women who travel alone – is as varied as the region. Still, I’ll try to give you some clues, girls: Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, is a semi-unknown region because it does not belong to the busiest tourist circuits, but it is equally beautiful due to the exuberant Galician nature and cities full of history.

The tradition of this land in receiving visitors who travel alone comes from the Middle Ages when the road to Santiago began to be ‘crowded’ by pilgrims who came from nearby and distant lands. That is why the Galician people are accustomed to receiving and treating well whoever comes here. An affordable living, world-acclaimed cuisine, many celebrations all-year round and funny weather, are awaiting you.”

Athens – Greece

Athens (Courtesy: Iulia - Alexandra Falcutescu)

Athens (Courtesy: Iulia – Alexandra Falcutescu)

Recommendation by Iulia – Alexandra Falcutescu – The Traveling Tulip

“While visiting Athens, I have discovered a wonderful blend of culture, history and contemporary air. I was simply enchanted to walk the streets of Athens and having to stop at every step, because there was always something to see, always a street vendor that wanted to show me their merchandise or an ancient building that “demanded” to be admired.

As a woman travelling solo to Athens, I have never felt unsafe. The people are so friendly, especially when they discover that you are a foreigner. They try to do their best to welcome you and make you feel comfortable. As with every other country I visited, I did my best to avoid dangerous situations or locations by staying informed on those prior to the actual visit. If you want to find out more of my time in Athens, check out my post about how to spend a weekend in Athens.”

Cercedilla – Spain

Cercedilla (Courtesy: Jamie Graffman)

Cercedilla (Courtesy: Jamie Graffman)

Recommendation by Jamie Graffman – Crashed Culture

“Cercedilla, Spain is a quaint but beautiful pueblo on the northern outskirts of Madrid, Spain. This town is full of many Spaniards’ former second homes before the country faced economic issues. This recent history makes for an interesting trip because while the area is clean and beautiful, it’s also completely empty and full of opportunities. Cercedilla is a popular stop for hikers and other nature lovers but is also fun just to walk around and see the beautiful buildings.

Cercedilla is a great destination for women travelling solo because it’s so open! For those concerned about strangers they’re likely to meet on the road, this isn’t a concern in such a desolate area. It’s a great place to just walk around and enjoy the scenery, which means travellers need not be concerned about finding things to do.”

Naxos – Greece

Pyrgaki, Naxos (Courtesy: Steph Edwards)

Pyrgaki, Naxos (Courtesy: Steph Edwards)

Recommendation by Steph Edwards – The Mediterranean Traveller

“The whole of Greece is ideal for easy-going solo female travel, but my favourite place is the island of Naxos in the Cyclades. From the moment you set foot there, you instantly feel relaxed. Plus, the people are super friendly. Despite its amazing beaches and fantastic food, Naxos is not overly commercial or busy like some of the more popular islands, and you’re bound to bump into other independent travellers there too (probably congregating in one of the laid-back beach cafes).

You can see the main sites by bus which is great for those who don’t want the expense of hiring a car. But – best of all – you can find cheap rooms a street or two back from the main town beach Agios Georgios, meaning you don’t have to worry about your stuff whilst you’re swimming. No wonder Naxos has devotees who return year after year!”

Do you also love islands and sandy shorelines?

Would you like to recommend some more places?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

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