The best home base to explore Northern Montenegro: Hotel SOA

Ever since we visited Croatia we’ve been itching for more Balkan countries. Jaw-dropping national parks, canyons, and lakes were waiting to be checked off our Montenegro list. We were wondering where to stay in Montenegro on our road trip- where to make our home base to explore the northern region of perhaps the most picturesque country we’ve ever been. The answer was simple- Hotel SOA in Zabljak! We’re big fans of boutique hotels and family-run properties for their intimacy, and this one was no exception.

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Read more: 9 Must-Do’s in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Where to stay in Montenegro – Hotel SOA in Zabljak

Location, Space, and Staff

In the heart of Durmitor National Park lies Zabljak, a small town that turns into a ski resort in the winter. Hotel SOA is conveniently situated in the center of Zabljak, only steps away from the famous Black Lake, restaurants, and local markets. It’s minutes to the entrance to Durmitor National Park, 30 minutes away from the Tara Bridge, 1.5hr from the Piva Canyon, and 1.5hr from Biogradska Gora National Park.

Note: If you’re ending (or starting) your Montenegro journey in Kotor like we did, it’s just under 3 hours on a very scenic drive.

The property was originally planned as a family home but the owners turned it into an 18-unit hotel, inviting guests from all over the world to explore their beautiful country. Some are double suites, others are apartments large enough to accommodate groups of up to 5 guests. A contemporary approach is used in the hotel design along with elements of Mount Durmitor’s traditional architecture.

Because it is a small boutique hotel, you’ll come to know everyone who works there. Matija, the owner, works day shifts at the reception and always has a huge smile on his face. We did have an unpleasant encounter with the other front desk staff but that was quickly resolved by Matija. Count on the dining room manager, Novica, to ensure your culinary experience is nothing short of the best. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the family’s big friendly dog!

We were pleased with our clean and spacious Junior Suite, which came with a separate sitting area along with a modern bathroom. If you did a quick search for hotels in Montenegro you’ll find that these traits aren’t easy to come by!

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Amenities, Facilities, and Dining

Guests can enjoy the wellness center (all to themselves!) for up to 1hr every day. The wellness center includes a Turkish bath and sauna, available for private use by reservation.

Tip: Reserve your time slot as soon as you check in! The hotel was so busy that we didn’t get a chance to use the wellness center.

All units have a mini bar, satellite TV, and complimentary WiFi. There’s a restaurant (undoubtedly the best you’ll find in the area) on the first floor, where guests can enjoy meals with a view of the majestic Durmitor massif.

Our favourite part of the stay is the complimentary breakfast buffet! The breakfast spread at Hotel SOA is no joke- its vast selection left us stuffed every morning. All the ingredients are fresh, featuring local dairy products and cured meats.

Tip: Don’t miss the homemade yogurt and pear pie!

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Other tips and info

  • Rates range from 75CAD+ for single rooms, to 140CAD+ for junior suites, to 220CAD+ for luxury apartments.
  • Tap water is safe to drink.
  • Parking is plentiful and free.
  • The hotel restaurant is the only non-smoking restaurant in the area.
  • For more information and current promotions, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Hotel SOA. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own, and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Where to stay in Montenegro 12

 

Viewing London from 800ft above the groundKollecting Koordinates - Best view of London 11

With fewer than 24 hours to spare, we were on the hunt for the best view of London. We saw a few of London’s famous sites from the ground level the last time we were there. This time we kicked it up a notch and saw London from the 72nd floor!

The Best View of London: The View from the Shard

At 800ft above the ground, The Shard is Western Europe’s tallest building. It’s the only place where you’ll be able to enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of London, all at once. These views stretch for a whopping 40 miles! The View from the Shard is London’s twist on ‘Where’s Waldo’, where visitors find and spot London’s most iconic sites including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, London Eye, and Buckingham Palace.

There are two bars, allowing you to enjoy London’s stunning skyline over a drink or two. A glass of Champagne Lanson is included in your entrance fee when you purchase the Champagne Experience. Whether you’re visiting from abroad or a local looking for a fancy night out, there’s no better place to see the best view of London. The Shard even offers a private proposal service!

Our visit to The Shard was graced with clear skies and amazing visibility for great photo ops. It felt like the platform was swaying at times but it was probably my mind playing tricks on me since I’m terrified of heights. Anything for the ‘gram, though, right?

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changing elevators at level 33

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bar on the open-air skydeck

free audio & visual guides available in different languages on level 69

Tips on getting the best view of London

  • Use a polarizing filter to help suppress glare and reflections.
  • Take advantage of the free audio and visual guides; you can find these on the 69th floor.
  • It can get chilly on the open-air sky deck. Layer up if you’re not visiting in the summer time.
  • The ‘Day & Night Experience’ dual entry lets visitors experience London’s skyline both during the day and at night.
  • Book in advance to save money!
  • Don’t miss the washroom on the 68th floor- toilet views don’t get any better than this!

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Other tips and info

  • Tickets are £15.95+ per adult and £9.95+ for children if booked in advance, or £20.95+ per adult and £14.95+ for children if booked on the day
  • The nearest tube station is London Bridge
  • Summer hours of operations are from 10AM – 10PM all week. Winter hours are from 10AM-7PM (Sunday to Wednesday), and 10AM-10PM (Thursday to Saturday).
  • For more information and upcoming special events, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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Disclaimer: AS and I received complimentary media passes for our visit. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own, and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!

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Kollecting Koordinates - Best view of London

20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido in Palawan

Hurricane Hagupit swept across the Philippines days before our flight to El Nido in 2014. We shrugged off the sunk costs and tried our luck again in 2016. When we arrived at Mactan-Cebu Airport to check in for our flight, we were told our flight was canceled. Dammit, what does it freaking take to visit this place?! We eventually made it there the following day and realized it was all worth it! Here are 20 photos to inspire you to visit El Nido in Palawan, Philippines.

READ MORE: 8 Reasons to convince you to visit Cebu in the Philippines

20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Island hopping is a must!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Town proper from the sea

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Marvel at the countless islands and rock formations

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

The ocean has never been so inviting!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Have breakfast with views overlooking the Corong Corong Bay

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Indulge in views like this from the Taraw Peak

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

And this

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Sun tan on this soft white sand beach

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

…as long as you bring sunscreen!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Go island hopping on your own private banca and avoid crowds

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Explore this natural aquarium

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Enjoy sunsets while swinging in a hammock on your balcony

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Dive into crystal clear turquoise waters

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

The snorkeling conditions here are pristine!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Live among trees in a cottage with an infinity pool

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Motorbike to the famous twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

The Twin Beaches of El Nido: Nacpan and Calitang

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Go kayaking in the Big and Small Lagoons

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Get your hair fried and skin burnt…. worth it!

Still not convinced? Check out our Youtube video:

Stay tuned for our guide to visiting El Nido comfortably and efficiently without breaking your bank!

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Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Embracing the Wild Life with 8 things to do on Bowen Island + GIVEAWAY

This post is sponsored by Sakroots to promote the launch of the new Wild Life print by Niki Pilkington.

Call us biased but we’re proud to say we live in the most beautiful province in Canada, where Mother Nature has graced us with the most comfy climate and stunning scenery! This year, we’ve set a goal to embrace the wild life in British Columbia by exploring as many islands as we can. We started with a weekend getaway on a small island just 20 minutes from Vancouver by ferry: Bowen Island.

8 Things to do on Bowen Island

1. Enjoy the scenic ferry ride

Hop on the Queen of Capilano run by BC Ferries! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove. Crossing time is only 20 minutes and passengers don’t need tickets for the return ferry.

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2. Go kayaking

The kayak season runs from April to mid October. You can check out an abundance of wildlife while you paddle from beach to beach. Keep your eyes peeled for orcas, dolphins, seals, and bald eagles. We didn’t get a chance to do this as the sea was too choppy; the conditions were so bad that other ferry routes were canceled! We’ll be back again in the summer to explore the gulf by kayak.

3. Chill out at Snug Cove

Take a stroll along the picturesque marina with buildings from the early 1900’s. Snug Cove was once a summer resort where Vancouverites spent holiday time, and housed the largest dance hall in BC.

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4. Visit Artisan Square

Artisan Square is a quaint cultural hub where you can find a collection of shops, restaurants, and galleries. It’s a 20-minute uphill walk from Snug Cove- or you can catch a 5-minute ride with one of the friendly locals by hitchhiking. Don’t miss organic chocolatey treats at Cocoa West Chocolatier!

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5. Feast your heart out

With a population of just over 3,500, we were surprised to find the wide variety and high quality of dining options on Bowen Island. Sample Spanish tapas over vino at Barcelona, pig out on wood-fired pizzas at Tuscany, or indulge in French bistro fare at Artisan Square (legit French pastries baked onsite!). You can also find hearty pub food or sip on award-winning coffee. Eating clean is easy peasy on Bowen where many bistros use organic and garden-fresh ingredients.

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6. Zip around on a scooter

Scooter season runs from mi-April to mid-October. Weather permitting, this is by far the best way to explore the island!  Bowen Island is so small that it only takes 30 minutes to get from one end of the island to the other. Why not do it in style in a retro Yamaha Vino?

7. Attend a yoga retreat

Practicing in this geodesic dome at Nectar Yoga B&B is one of the best things to do on Bowen Island. Yoga enthusiasts from all over the world travel here to attend events and workshops immersed in nature. Namaste doesn’t get any better than this!

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8. Go hiking

With over 10 walks and hikes to choose from, Bowen Island offers trails for every kind of hiker. Stroll with ease around Killarney Lake or challenge yourself by summiting Mount Gardner, where you will be rewarded with views of Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

SAKROOTS GIVEAWAY – WIN AN ITEM FROM THE NEW WILD LIFE COLLECTION

I’ve partnered up with Sakroots to promote the launch of the ‘Wild Life’ print by illustrator Niki Pilkington. The winner will receive any Wild Life item of their choice.

The contest will go live on my Instagram on Monday, April 17 at 7PM PST. To enter:

  1. Follow @sakroots and @kollectingkoordinates on Instagram
  2. Post a photo showing how you live your wild life
  3. Tag and mention @sakroots and @kollectingkoordinates in your photo
  4. Use the hashtags #SRWildLife #sakroots in the caption

A winner will be selected by Sakroots and announced after 24 hours. This giveaway is open to everyone with a US-mailing address. Terms and conditions can be found here.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Sakroots. Special thanks to BC Ferries for providing us with complimentary fares to Bowen Island.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

Feel, breathe, heal, and release – Nectar Yoga B&B on Bowen Island (GIVEAWAY)Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

AS and I just returned from a weekend of zen on Bowen Island, which is just a short 20-minute ride from Vancouver via BC Ferries. We’ve been wanting to attend a yoga retreat for the longest time but never had the opportunity… until we found Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island, that is!

We love our experience here so much that we want to keep it a secret. But alas, sharing is caring. Keep reading for your chance to win a yoga package giveaway!

Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

“Nature and namaste” is perhaps the best way to describe this place. Tired of the materialistic, corporate life, Andrea and her partner set off on a spiritual adventure around the world. Through their travels they found themselves. They envisioned a new life and turned their dream into reality upon returning home. Thus, Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island was born!

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Oreo showing us how downward dog is properly done

The space, location, and its surroundings

Tucked away in the woods on Bowen Island, Nectar Yoga B&B is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city life. It’s hard to believe this eco-friendly sanctuary is only half an hour away from downtown Vancouver. Easily accessible, yet remote enough to disconnect.

There are three units on this 1.2 acre lot, complete with a Finnish sauna and geodesic yoga dome. The entire space, including the main house, can be rented out for large group retreats. House pups Oreo and Rascal (cuties!) can be seen roaming around when the sun’s out. You might even spot a deer or two!

Guests can explore a beautiful lake, a nature reserve, two parks, and dozens of hiking trails in their down time. To get around on the island, just walk onto the main road and stick your thumb out! Hitchhiking is the norm here.

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inside the beautiful geodesic yoga dome

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Our cottage – The Nectar Loft

The Nectar Loft is the perfect marriage between cabin life and loft living. Using natural wood and aqua tones, the Scandinavian design makes guests feel right at home. The cottage comes with a fully equipped kitchen and small fireplace. Its living room boasts three large windows overlooking the garden, letting in tons of light.

All soaps, shampoo, and cleaning products are locally made and natural, in order to reduce environmental impact. If you don’t feel like going out, the cottage is stocked with books, movies, and board games. At the end of your day, let the comfy queen-sized bed lull you to sleep in the cozy loft.

Food and dining

Homemade breakfast is served daily in our cottage. Using only local and organic ingredients, Andrea ensures her guests are fully charged with yummy vegetarian meals every morning. Vegan options are also available upon request.

You can cook your own meals or dine out for lunch and dinner. Enjoy wood-fired pizzas at Tuscany, French bistro fare at Artisan Eats, or tapas at Barcelona- Bowen Island’s newest addition.

Feel, breathe, heal, and release

Daily yoga and meditation session take place in the geodesic dome. Andrea’s a fantastic instructor; her classes are challenging yet rejuvenating. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say this was the highlight of our stay ! We left feeling recharged, more aware, and inspired.

Andrea does an excellent job in guiding us through each pose and flow, beyond not only the physical aspects but also the spiritual mind. We especially loved the talks post-practice where she delves into yoga and meditation on a deeper level.

For more information on Nectar Yoga B&B, please visit their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and InstagramFollow along for upcoming workshops, events, and retreats!

Giveaway Time! Win a 2-Night Yoga Retreat

I’ve partnered up with Andrea to give one lucky follower (+ guest) a Nectar Yoga B&B weekday retreat! Enter for your chance to win a Yoga Package for 2 guests in the new Garden Suite

How to enter – you can enter as many times as you like!

The 2-night stay is valid from Monday – Thursday between October 15th – November 30th, 2017. Contest closes on April 21st at 9pm PST; the winner will be announced on Sunday, April 23rd. Good luck!


Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island. However, these honest opinions are our own and we would never recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! Special thanks to BC Ferries for providing us with complimentary fares to the island.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Fly away to Neverland! The most whimsical afternoon tea in VancouverKollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

“All you need is faith and trust, and a little bit of pixie dust!”… Except you don’t need pixie dust to find this particular Neverland! Inspired by Parisian salons from the 18th century, Neverland Tea Salon is the brainchild of owners Teri and Renee. Treat yo’self and don’t miss this themed tea house when you’re in Vancouver.

Living up to its name, Neverland is the most whimsical tea house in town. We had high expectations after hearing about our friends’ experiences and surely enough, it didn’t disappoint! Even Peter Pan himself would approve.

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Neverland Tea Salon – high tea in Vancouver

AMBIANCE & SPACE

Much like Sir J. M. Barrie’s Neverland, the decor here is as nonsensical as it gets- in a good way, of course.

There’s something spellbinding about this tea house, from the vintage furniture to the quirky chandeliers, to the teacups hanging from the ceiling. Perhaps the magic is cast by pretty scribbles on the walls; quotes from the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. You’ll notice that no two chairs or teacups are alike. Nothing matches and yet somehow, everything works!

Whether you’re riding solo or with your crew, there are tables for parties of all sizes. I can’t think of a venue more fun in Vancouver to celebrate a special occasion. I wish I had known about Neverland Tea Salon when I had my bridal shower!

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

READ MORE: Where to stay in Vancouver

FOOD – NEVERLAND GRANDE HIGH TEA

We each ordered the Neverland Grande High Tea: 5 savoury and 5 sweet courses. All their delicious finger sandwiches and pastries are made in-house. I gotta say, the quality of afternoon tea at Neverland Tea Salon is definitely one of the best in Vancouver.

The savoury sandwiches are tasty with a novel twist, like the egg salad combo with Thai red curry and mango chutney. AS really enjoyed the truffled croissant-wich; it was flavourful and flaky without being greasy. I loved their scones with house-made strawberry jam… so much so I ate AS’s share too.

There was so much food we had to pack a few pieces to go. Can’t eat too much in one sitting? Try the Demi-Tea option. Vegetarian and gluten-/dairy-free menus are also available if you have dietary restrictions. 

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TEA SELECTION

The Neverland Grande High Tea menu comes with never-ending pots of teas. The teas are bottomless, which means you can try as many as you like from over 60 teas! You can also purchase packs of loose leaf tea to enjoy at home.

We sampled 4 different teas: Almond Joy, Pixie Dust, Peter’s Promise, and our personal favourite- Take Me to Neverland. Each had a distinct flavour without being overwhelming. The teas are steeped at the main counter so let your server know about your preferences in advance.

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Neverland Tea Salon

LOCATION

Situated in Kitsilano, Neverland Tea Salon is easily accessible by public transit (buses 009, 014, B-99). Those with a car can find plenty of metered parking on the streets. If you don’t mind walking a few blocks there’s free parking on West 10th.

Address: 3066 West Broadway, Vancouver

HOURS OF OPERATION

Monday-Friday: 11AM-6PM, Saturday: 9AM-7PM, Sunday: 9AM-6PM

Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you want to be seated in the comfy pink couches! To see their full menus and for more information, visit their official website, Facebook, and Instagram pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Disclaimer: We received complimentary tasting at Neverland Tea Salon. However, these honest opinions are our own and we would never recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

 

The perfect winter getaway at the No.1 ski resort – Whistler

Vancouverites are really lucky. We’re not only spoiled with 3 different local mountains all within a 45-minute drive, but also a world-class ski resort just 2 hours away. Every winter calls for a Whistler getaway to escape the city life, even if it’s just for a short weekend. If you haven’t already been to Whistler, what are you waiting for?!

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

one of the runs at 7th Heaven on Blackcomb Mountain

Know before you go

  • Everything is expensive. Brace your wallet; Whistler is coming.
  • Bring a pair of rainboots. They might not be #ootd-worthy but the joke’s on you when your fancy non-waterproof shoes get drenched by nasty slush.
  • Expect long lines at chairlifts. Lines move fairly quickly but they’re inevitable.

Tip: This is why we prefer riding at Sun Peaks in Kamloops or Big White in Kelowna. I don’t remember ever having to wait more than 5 minutes to get on a lift at Sun Peaks or Big White… but then again Whistler is only a 2hr drive from home versus 5-6hrs on the dreadful Coquihalla Highway.

Photo credit: Becca at @habitat9travels

Getting to Whistler

By car

Driving to Whistler from Vancouver is easy peasy because directions and signs are clearly marked. Strap in for a gorgeous ride along the Sea-to-Sky corridor. Follow signs for the Trans-Canada Highway/BC-1 W/BC-99 N from wherever you are, and continue on BC-99 N until you see the Whistler Village on your right. 

Tip: Winter tires are required by law on the Sea-to-Sky Highway from October 1 to March 31. Make sure your vehicle complies!

By bus/shuttle

Don’t have a car or don’t want to drive? Bus and shuttle services like Pacific Coach and Snow Bus offer transportation from YVR (Vancouver International Airport) and downtown Vancouver to Whistler. Prices range anywhere from $40-70, one way.

Tip: Check Groupon for deals. I’ve seen deals on shuttle passes for around $35, round trip.

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Peak to Peak Gondola – Photo credit: Becca at @habitat9travels

Where to stay on your Whistler getaway

How do you choose which hotel, lodge, or rental property to stay at? It really depends on how many people you’re traveling with. If it’s just you and a significant other, get a hotel or 1-bedroom Airbnb. If you’re traveling with a big group of friends or family, renting a cabin is the way to go. Rates start at $300CAD/night for upscale hotels and there’s always a 2+ night minimum stay required for cabins and Airbnb.

Tip: Always check the map to see if your accommodation is close to a gondola and chairlifts. Most hotels offer complimentary shuttles if they’re not in the village. Ski-in/out choices come with a hefty price-tag but it’s worth the convenience (and view!).

AS and I stayed at the newly renovated Crystal Lodge & Suites last December and it was perfect. Located in the center of the village, we were literally steps away from the Excalibur Gondola (takes you up the Blackcomb Mountain). It was so nice not having to lug our gear for more than a 3-minute walk after a long leg day on the slopes.

Read more: Crystal Lodge & Suites – The Perfect Place to Stay in Whistler

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler

Whistler village stroll

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler

Crystal guest room in Crystal Lodge & Suites

What to eat on your Whistler getaway

Eating in

The biggest advantage of renting a cabin or Airbnb is that it comes with a kitchen. Whistler is expensive, so you end up saving a lot of money by cooking your own meals. There are two grocery stores in the village: Whistler Grocery Store and MarketPlace IGA (larger, slightly cheaper). 

Dining out

No kitchen? Don’t worry! Start your morning with a breakfast of champions at Wild Wood Pacific Bistro. The large portions will keep you fueled throughout the day. For a mid-day snack (or second breakfast!), hop on the Crystal Ridge Express chairlift for some delicious Belgian waffles at the Crystal Hut.

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Peaked Pies serves authentic Australian meat pies- hearty comfort food at a reasonable price. Head to Araxi for their famous oyster happy hour from 3-5pm. And of course, don’t miss the charcuterie board and cheese fondue at Basalt.

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler

yummy charcuterie board at Basalt Wine & Salumeria

Things to do on your Whistler getaway

Ski / snowboard

Duh, if you’re not going to Whistler to ride why are you even going? Jokes. There’s actually a lot more to Whistler than just skiing and snowboarding, but you’re in for a treat if shredding fresh pow is your main goal. Connected by the Peak-to-Peak Gondola, Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are comprised of 200+ marked runs, 8000+ acres of terrain, and 16 alpine bowls.

Tip: 1-Day lift passes are $139CAD but you can save by purchasing at least 3 days in advance. The more days you buy, the more you save. Children (7-12yrs), youths (13-18 yrs), and seniors (65+) also receive discounted rates. Check this page for more information.

Tip: Canadians and residents of Oregon and Washington States are eligible for the EDGE Card, which offers discounts on lift tickets and activities. It also links your credit card, allowing guests to pay easily at shops and restaurants.

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Go tubing at the Coca-Cola Tube Park

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the tube park! When I was younger, Papa Ko would spend the day cruising down the tubing hill while I learned how to snowboard. This fun activity is family-friendly and for people of all ages.

Tip: Rates are $23/hr or $31.50/2hrs for adults, but EDGE Card holders receive 20% off. Find out more about pricing and hours of operation here.

Go snowshoeing

If neither riding nor tubing is for you, slap on some snowshoes and hike through a winter wonderland. Tours start at $49CAD per person; check out the different tour options here.

Treat yo self at Scandinave Spa Whistler

You’re missing out on life if you haven’t tried hydrotherapy! The Scandinave Spa is the cherry on top for your Whistler getaway. Eucalyptus steam rooms, wood burning saunas, Nordic waterfalls, cold baths, and outdoor hot pools in the snow… what more do you need? Relax, rejuvenate, and recharge with the health benefits of hydrotherapy. You can also take your experience to the next level with a massage treatment.

Tip: They open at 10am- get there right when it opens so you’re the first ones to use the pools. It can get pretty busy in the afternoon, especially on weekends.

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Photo credit: Becca at @habitat9travels

Ball out on a helicopter tour

If you have a fat wallet, why not splurge on a heli-ride to make your Whistler getaway extra special? Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the glaciers, snowy valleys, and coastal mountains. You can even add a hike or glacier trek to your package to make it a full-day activity. Prices range from $170-715CAD depending on your tour.

Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

Photo credit: Becca at @habitat9travels

Special thanks to Becca at @habitat9travels for providing some of these amazing photos of Whistler! Follow her on Instagram for more stunning travel photography.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Whistler getaway

The Ultimate Guide to Tikal National Park in GuatemalaKollecting Koordinates - Visiting Tikal

Once a powerful empire with 120,000+ inhabitants at its peak, Tikal remains one of the largest and most iconic Maya ruins in Central America. Whether you’re a history junkie or Star Wars fan (or just an average Jane/Joe), I think it’s safe to say that nobody travels to Guatemala or mainland Belize without visiting Tikal.

Located in the Peten Region of Guatemala, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is very close to Belize. It made sense for Tikal to be our final stop in Guatemala before crossing the border.

Kollecting Koordinates - Visiting Tikal

on top of Temple 4, which is the filming location for Yavin 4 in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope

What to bring when you’re visiting Tikal

  • Water
  • Comfortable closed-toe shoes
  • Flashlight
  • Mosquito repellent with DEET
  • Clothes with breathable fabric
  • Binoculars for wildlife

We visited our local travel clinic to consult a doctor regarding Zika risks and precautions.

Kollecting Koordinates - Visiting Tikal

our 6am Avianca flight from GUA to FRS

Getting here; visiting Tikal from Guatemala City or mainland Belize

From Guatemala City

BY LAND: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hop on a chicken bus (and pray that you’ll arrive in one piece after a rough 15hr+ ride). Otherwise, take the comfortable, air-conditioned buses operated by Linea Dorada. This journey will take you around 10 hours for $30USD+.

Tip: Take the ‘luxury’ overnight bus to save on a night’s accommodation.

BY AIR: We chose to fly instead because of my sciatica. Avianca and TAG offer daily hour-long flights from Guatemala City to Flores ($120USD+, one way). The airport is another hour, by car, to Tikal.

From Belize

BY LAND:  The easiest way is to ask tour operators in San Ignacio if you can catch a ride with their day tour groups to Tikal. We did the reverse; border crossing was easy peasy and the whole trip took 4 hours from our hotel in Tikal to San Ignacio town center. If you’re coming from Belize City, take the local bus to San Ignacio first.

Tip: There are tons of tour operators in San Ignacio and they’ll quote you anywhere from $25-45USD per person, one way. Shop around and haggle. We had a very pleasant experience with Sergio from Explore Inland Tours who bent backwards for us at the very last minute. 

BY AIR: You can fly to Flores from Belize City via Tropic Air ($190USD+, one way). This flight is 45 minutes and again, you’ll have to arrange a ride to Tikal once you land. Ask your guide to include this in your tour.

READ MORE: Eating like a local in Belize – cheap eats and where to find them

Kollecting Koordinates - Visiting Tikal

Where to stay when visiting Tikal

Stay in the Park

To get the most out of your Tikal experience, stay in one of three ‘hotels’ located in the park: Jungle Lodge, Tikal Inn, and Jaguar Inn. Rates start at $40USD for something very basic and $120USD+ for nicer rooms. Chances are, you’ll hear howler monkeys and see coatimundi roaming around. You’ll also be the first ones to enter the park and the last to leave. Little to no crowds is always a bonus!

We stayed in one of the newly renovated rooms at Hotel Jungle Lodge. It was clean and spacious but service was nonexistent and the overpriced food sucked. My fettuccine alfredo was more like a noodle soup and AS’s steak was so rare that we could still smell the hay the cow fed on.

Tip: Food is slightly better at Jaguar Inn.

Electricity is only available from 7-10am and 5-9:30pm, but an emergency generator keeps the ceiling fan running through the night. Even though we were there in the dry season, it was hella humid and the sheets felt damp. Multiply this discomfort by over 9000 if you’re visiting Tikal outside of the December to February period.

Stay in Flores

If you want to save some money (who doesn’t!), there are lots of affordable options in Flores. Shared dorm rooms at hostels start at $10USD (80GTQ) per person and basic private rooms range between $30-70USD. A major setback is the travel time; it takes more than an hour by car to reach Tikal which complicates things if you’re interested in the sunrise tour.

Kollecting Koordinates - Visiting Tikal

Kollecting Koordinates - Visiting Tikal

Visiting Tikal for the sunset vs sunrise

It’s rare to actually witness the sunrise. Because of the high humidity, a thick layer of fog usually covers the forest canopy. That said, the sunrise tour is still magical as you listen to the jungle wake up to the first light of day.

We opted for the sunset tour instead. We entered the park at around 1pm, visited all the temples and complexes, and ended our day at the Grand Plaza with a quiet, beautiful sunset. Dusk rolled in quickly and soon it became pitch black. There couldn’t have been more than 4 others with us at the time. It was a phenomenal experience!

READ MORE: Chasing sunrise at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Kollecting Koordinates - Visiting Tikal

Choosing a tour guide

Because anybody with a highschool diploma can become a National Tour Guide in Guatemala, you’ll find that many tour guides lack proper knowledge and/or are only in it for the money (see below: the ugly side of Tikal).

Two names stood out when we scoured the net for reputable guides: Roxy Ortiz and Marlon Diaz. The former was unresponsive but communication with Marlon was excellent. Having done this for 18 years now, he is very well educated and extremely passionate about Tikal. His English is near perfect and we were able to appreciate not only Tikal, but also Guatemala and Maya history that much more because of his wealth of knowledge.

Marlon’s the real MVP- he’s pretty much a walking encyclopedia. We tip our hats to this dude for recognizing the importance of sustainable tourism and striving for the preservation of these ruins. He’s the owner of EM Guatemala Travel and we highly recommend his service!

The ugly side of Tikal National Park

Bribery and corruption. Some tour guides collude with guards to let big groups into the park without paying the proper amount and taking a cut. Others bribe park rangers to enter restricted areas (i.e. the Great Pyramid).

Ignorance and disrespect. We saw people, tourists and incompetent guides included, feeding animals, climbing restricted areas, and being obnoxiously loud. These actions were even encouraged by so-called ‘licensed guides’!

Please don’t be like these idiots. Respect the ruins as well as the animals that live in the park.

Kollecting Koordinates - Visiting Tikal

brontosaurus or coatimundi?

Kollecting Koordinates - Visiting Tikal

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8 Reasons to convince you to visit Cebu in the PhilippinesKollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Cebu - Sunset

Ahhh, the Philippines… Where the sun’s so hot that it hurts and the water’s so clear it looks like the pool. The first choice that comes to mind when people are picking a destination in the Philippines is usually Boracay or Palawan. While Cebu doesn’t have the white sandy beaches of Boracay nor the limestone cliffs and islands of Palawan, there are still plenty of reasons to visit this amazing island. With so many things to do in Cebu, you’ll never want to leave once you get there.

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Chasing Sunrise at Lake Atitlan in GuatemalaKollecting Koordinates - Indian Nose sunrise hike

The Indian Nose sunrise hike is an absolute must when visiting Lake Atitlan. I hear ya, who the hell wants to wake up at 4am for a leg workout while on vacation?! Trust me, this one’s worth your time. Plus, the hike ain’t even bad!

It’s named ‘Indian Nose’ because it’s shaped like a side profile facing the sky. You can cheat and end your hike at the mouth (like we did), or you can continue for another 10min to go all the way up to the nose. We hired a guide to take us because we weren’t comfortable navigating in the dark alone, especially after hearing stories about armed robberies in the area. This doesn’t mean a guide will protect you from these situations!

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