Hiking to El Cor, the heart of the Dolomites


Would you believe me if I told you that I’d found the most spectacular hike in the Dolomites? Listen up. There are so many amazing hikes to do in the Dolomites that it’s challenging to pick just one, but out of my three weeks spent in Italy, there was one place that stole my heart, quite literally.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites is one of the best adventures I’ve been on in Italy.

El Cor (the heart, in Italian) was one of my first introductions to Italian hiking and one that has been forever cemented in my mind. Verdant alpine pastures, perfectly solitude, unbelievable views. And a perfect heart cut out of the rock, a window high in the mountains. Also, it’s a total secret! It’s so secret there isn’t even a trail there!

10 reasons why this unknown corner of the Dolomites is an adventure seeker’s paradise

If you’re going to the Dolomites in summer and looking for a fantastic hike, you’ll no doubt want to put El Cor on the list, but if you do a quick search, you’ll see it’s an elusive track, and it’s hard to get any info about it, let alone in English but have no fear friends! I’m here to help.

Here’s everything you need to know about hiking to El Cor, the literal heart of the Dolomites.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Start:

The start of the El Cor track in a little village called Gares which is just west of Taibon Agordino.

You can reach the car park (Parcheggio Capanna Cima Comelle) in about 30 minutes if leaving from Taibon. There’s a great little cafe there for a quick espresso and a last-minute treat to get you up the mountain.

Time:

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites takes a full day generally. Your time will vary greatly depending on your fitness and how often you stop, but at the very least, you should plan for 6 – 8 hours. This is a long trip and will take the majority of the day. A technical climb that’s unmarked and difficult, using an experienced guide is crucial.

I repeat you need a guide. You need ropes and rock climbing gear. You need experience.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

The route:

Ok full disclosure, this is not the easiest route in Italy.

You won’t find full paths and hoards of crowds or clever via ferratas. The majority of this trip is off route and unmarked meaning that you either need to hire a guide (which is what I did) or be extremely familiar with the area and terrain (which is unlikely if you’re visiting as a traveler).

I got a personalized guide who made sure I was safe and happy the entire time. I used (Giovanni Orlando) as a guide. You can also stop into the Ufficio Turistico di Agordo or the Ufficio Turistico di Alleghe for more information on the route.

This obviously is a summer hike.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

The track to El Cor starts on a generous, but steep, walking path that takes you up quickly for an hour. You’ll reach the end of the track and find a Malga (an Italian farmhouse) where you may or may not see a protective border collie patrolling the scene.

And that’s about as detailed as my description can get, which is why I recommend hiring a guide.

10 ways rifugios in the Dolomites are redefining hut life

From the malga, you’ll go off-trail and down a steep gully. If you’re afraid of rock climbing and heights, this may not be an adventure for you. My guide carefully placed climbing gear on the rocks and roped me up tight to make sure I was safe while navigating my way down the slippery and steep gully.

We then put on over the shoe crampons and made our way carefully across a snowfield.


From there, the route to El Cor was easier but steep and exposed. We zig-zagged up the face of the mountain, which finally plopped us on the ridge, which is where all the magic happened! Finally!

At first, you can’t see the heart of the Dolomites, but you do get a quick view of the surrounding peaks which are pretty damn impressive. Cima Pape, El Mul, and Monte Agner are the three mountains you’ll see towering above the valley below.

A little further on the ridge, you’ll be blessed with your first sighting of the El Cor. While it’s visible, it’s not blatantly obvious so make sure you’ve got your eyes peeled.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

This is a great stop to stop for lunch when hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites.

I’d highly recommend fresh bread rolls and the local deli meat, Speck. Honestly, it’s a simple sandwich but one of the best I’ve ever had on a hike; and when you’re in Italy, nothing tastes terrible.

Take in the view and take all of the photos because once you leave this spot, El Cor will disappear and you won’t see it again.

With a full belly, you’ll be ready to complete the circuit. You’ll walk along the narrow ridge towards Tromba del Miel where the terrain flattens out, and you’ll have more room to move around. You’ll follow the vague cairns down the mountain and loop back up with another generous walking trail. This trail will take you back to the malga, and you’ll return the same way you ascended.

Finish the trip with a well-deserved beer at the cafe and enjoy the warm sun before the afternoon rain!

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

It almost goes without saying (and if you’re on a guided hike, this will be no problem because you’ll likely be roped up to your guide) but please please please do not attempt to hike to El Cor on your own.

It’s incredibly exposed, and a fall here would be fatal.

Additionally, this is a precarious natural formation and exposure to human traffic will undoubtedly degrade the feature quickly, so keep your space and admire it from a distance. Resist all irresponsible urges to get a stupid shot for Instagram! If I see anyone standing in the middle of the heart with their Instagram husband, I’ll lose it.


Things to consider and remember:

It’s common to encounter intense afternoon storms in the Dolomites, so if you’re planning this trip, you’ll want to leave early in the morning to mitigate this.

We left Taibon at 6:45 am and started walking by 7:30. If you begin the trip and begin to feel uncomfortable with the terrain (it’s very steep and exposed!), don’t be afraid to turn around.

It’s so important to listen to your gut!

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

What to bring:

Layers: The mountains in the Dolomites are high. The temperatures at the top can feel very different than the temperatures down in the valley. Be prepared with prolonged pangs, warm insulating mid-layers, and rain protection. It’d also recommend throwing in a hat and gloves, even in summer, just in case.

Water: There is virtually no water on the trail either. Aside from at the Malga (which was being guarded by border collie who did not like intruders, so we stayed clear). You’ll need at least 1L or maybe more if it’s going to be a warm day.

Food: Bring lots of food, including lunch. You’ll need the energy to sustain you for you around 8 hours.

Gear: If you’re going with a guide, they will have all the equipment you need to get to the top safely. This includes ropes, harnesses, crampons, and climbing gear.

Camera: The views from the top will blow your mind, so don’t forget your camera with a spare battery!

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Many thanks to the Heart of the Dolomites for hosting me in Italy – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post Hiking to El Cor, the heart of the Dolomites appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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What no one tells you about adventure travel


Today I found myself filling out a form for a travel conference next year, and before I knew it, I was being asked to tick the inevitable box of the type of travel I prefer. Sigh. Nothing makes me cringe quite like having to put myself into a box.

Alas, Google Docs has no patience for my existential crisis of the morning; so I went with ticking my usual “adventure travel” box. After all, I boldly claimed the title of Young Adventuress a decade ago, with nothing to my name but an absurdly bright Blogspot with too much Comic Sans and a hunger for adventure.

Guys, I was going places!

Born and raised by the likes of Kerouac, Krakauer, and Tolkien, my childhood was shaped by a desire to live out my days traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and truth; this is a theme that I’ve carried with me on my travels over the past decade.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

Myths around adventure travel are rampant these days, but also the profound experience that comes from it isn’t talked about as much as it should be either.

Adventure travel is powerful and transformative, and in today’s day and age that focuses on epic photos with neglected stories behind them, that experience is often left by the wayside. Tell me what it took to get to get to that fantastic spot, how life-changing it was to do that, what you felt in the deepest recesses of your heart at that moment. Now that is what I crave – more authentic storytelling.

Whether it’s getting into nature, challenging yourself physically or mentally, or mixing with people from other cultures, we can’t help but come back a little changed from a travel adventure. 

So here you go – all the mighty and beautiful things that come from challenging experiences and what no one tells you about adventure travel.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

Adventure is good for your health

I’m sure you’ve experienced how adventure travel can make you feel even more alive – well, it turns out that it may also help us live longer.

Activities such as visiting a wilderness area or spending time in a rainforest, or any forest, can boost our immune systems, which can only be a good thing, right? Experts also reckon that active adventures help reduce our stress levels and even help us sleep better. Good news for those of us who struggle with, you know, healthy living. 

Slowly raises hands and looks side to side.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

I can personally attest to the amazing benefits of going on an adventure, especially getting back out into nature. The harder, the better. The more I challenge myself, the higher the personal triumph and feeling of success when you’re done. It’s a fucking amazing feeling.

It’s why I learned to snowboard and why I pop myself on adventures like riding horses across Mongolia, even though I’m not a natural outdoors person. I’m here for all my fellow dorks and book nerds, even you can have an adventure too! We can all be an adventuress!

The euphoria from this kind of travel is extraordinary, and I’m hooked on it.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

It gives you the chance to grow

Research by the Adventure Travel Trade Association has found that our priorities and motivations are changing around the reasons we seek adventure travel.

In the past, adventure travelers were more motivated by risk-taking, but today we tend to look at it more as a chance for personal growth, not to mention the other incredible benefits such as being in a variety of different environments.

I know that’s true for me.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

Adventure travelers learn amazing skills on the road, such as problem-solving, survival skills, adapting to travel in different countries and cultures, and learning other languages. Visiting developing countries can also help us appreciate what we have back home by putting things into rather a harsh perspective. Oh yes, we don’t know how good we’ve got it until we spend time in places without toilets or running water. 

Most of us return from trips a little different to how we started, with a fresh perspective on life and new skills that get transferred into our personal and working lives and give us a sense of accomplishment.

And those people that don’t change? That isn’t shaped by travel experiences? Well, I can’t help you.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

It’s good for the brain

Adventure travel is often very physically active, and it turns out that it has a positive effect on our minds.

If you want to improve your memory, cycling and hiking are the way to go, according to US researchers. They found these kinds of activity help grow the hippocampus (the brain’s center of emotion and memory, which naturally shrinks with age), and this helps ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia.

An active vacation involving new challenges is the most beneficial, helping to build connections between brain cells. I knew getting outdoors and being active can change your life, and hiking in New Zealand has changed my life too!

What no one tells you about adventure travel

Helps you expand time

If you feel like every day is like Groundhog Day and the weeks go by with nothing to punctuate them, an awe-inspiring adventure may be in order. The monotony of routine that has no light at the end of the tunnel was something I have always struggled with. 

Research by Stanford University has found that people who experience awe tend to be more satisfied with life and prefer experiences over physical products. It seems that feeling awe brings us into the present moment, and that makes us feel like we have more time available.

So, having adventures seems to be a way to break up the normal flow and expand our perception of time.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

It allows you to give back

Far from being a selfish pursuit, adventure travel opens up so many opportunities to give back in the countries we visit. 

When you travel with a responsible tour operator, your money will help local economies. Operators who are committed to responsible tourism, such as Intrepid Travel, operate trips to remote and untouched areas and can be a driving force behind conservation efforts (like banning elephant rides), as well as improving education and health for local communities. 

Of course, you can also go independently, but if you do, try and be responsible and ethical about what you’re doing and where your tourism dollars are going by asking questions and doing some research in advance.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

But above all, the one thing that one tells you about adventure travel is how profoundly life-changing it can be. Whether you’re stepping out of your comfort zone in the Himalayas for the first time or just going on a hike by yourself, getting out and challenging yourself can only lead to good things.

Do you crave that euphoria from adventurous experiences too?

What do you think? Are you hooked on adventure travel like me? What’s something no one talks about when it comes to the power of an excellent old fashioned adventure? Share!

What no one tells you about adventure travel

The post What no one tells you about adventure travel appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Hiking to El Cor, the heart of the Dolomites


Would you believe me if I told you that I’d found the most spectacular hike in the Dolomites? Listen up. There are so many amazing hikes to do in the Dolomites that it’s challenging to pick just one, but out of my three weeks spent in Italy, there was one place that stole my heart, quite literally.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites is one of the best adventures I’ve been on in Italy.

El Cor (the heart, in Italian) was one of my first introductions to Italian hiking and one that has been forever cemented in my mind. Verdant alpine pastures, perfectly solitude, unbelievable views. And a perfect heart cut out of the rock, a window high in the mountains. Also, it’s a total secret! It’s so secret there isn’t even a trail there!

10 reasons why this unknown corner of the Dolomites is an adventure seeker’s paradise

If you’re going to the Dolomites in summer and looking for a fantastic hike, you’ll no doubt want to put El Cor on the list, but if you do a quick search, you’ll see it’s an elusive track, and it’s hard to get any info about it, let alone in English but have no fear friends! I’m here to help.

Here’s everything you need to know about hiking to El Cor, the literal heart of the Dolomites.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Start:

The start of the El Cor track in a little village called Gares which is just west of Taibon Agordino.

You can reach the car park (Parcheggio Capanna Cima Comelle) in about 30 minutes if leaving from Taibon. There’s a great little cafe there for a quick espresso and a last-minute treat to get you up the mountain.

Time:

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites takes a full day generally. Your time will vary greatly depending on your fitness and how often you stop, but at the very least, you should plan for 6 – 8 hours. This is a long trip and will take the majority of the day. A technical climb that’s unmarked and difficult, using an experienced guide is crucial.

I repeat you need a guide. You need ropes and rock climbing gear. You need experience.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

The route:

Ok full disclosure, this is not the easiest route in Italy.

You won’t find full paths and hoards of crowds or clever via ferratas. The majority of this trip is off route and unmarked meaning that you either need to hire a guide (which is what I did) or be extremely familiar with the area and terrain (which is unlikely if you’re visiting as a traveler).

I got a personalized guide who made sure I was safe and happy the entire time. I used (Giovanni Orlando) as a guide. You can also stop into the Ufficio Turistico di Agordo or the Ufficio Turistico di Alleghe for more information on the route.

This obviously is a summer hike.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

The track to El Cor starts on a generous, but steep, walking path that takes you up quickly for an hour. You’ll reach the end of the track and find a Malga (an Italian farmhouse) where you may or may not see a protective border collie patrolling the scene.

And that’s about as detailed as my description can get, which is why I recommend hiring a guide.

10 ways rifugios in the Dolomites are redefining hut life

From the malga, you’ll go off-trail and down a steep gully. If you’re afraid of rock climbing and heights, this may not be an adventure for you. My guide carefully placed climbing gear on the rocks and roped me up tight to make sure I was safe while navigating my way down the slippery and steep gully.

We then put on over the shoe crampons and made our way carefully across a snowfield.


From there, the route to El Cor was easier but steep and exposed. We zig-zagged up the face of the mountain, which finally plopped us on the ridge, which is where all the magic happened! Finally!

At first, you can’t see the heart of the Dolomites, but you do get a quick view of the surrounding peaks which are pretty damn impressive. Cima Pape, El Mul, and Monte Agner are the three mountains you’ll see towering above the valley below.

A little further on the ridge, you’ll be blessed with your first sighting of the El Cor. While it’s visible, it’s not blatantly obvious so make sure you’ve got your eyes peeled.

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

This is a great stop to stop for lunch when hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites.

I’d highly recommend fresh bread rolls and the local deli meat, Speck. Honestly, it’s a simple sandwich but one of the best I’ve ever had on a hike; and when you’re in Italy, nothing tastes terrible.

Take in the view and take all of the photos because once you leave this spot, El Cor will disappear and you won’t see it again.

With a full belly, you’ll be ready to complete the circuit. You’ll walk along the narrow ridge towards Tromba del Miel where the terrain flattens out, and you’ll have more room to move around. You’ll follow the vague cairns down the mountain and loop back up with another generous walking trail. This trail will take you back to the malga, and you’ll return the same way you ascended.

Finish the trip with a well-deserved beer at the cafe and enjoy the warm sun before the afternoon rain!

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

It almost goes without saying (and if you’re on a guided hike, this will be no problem because you’ll likely be roped up to your guide) but please please please do not attempt to hike to El Cor on your own.

It’s incredibly exposed, and a fall here would be fatal.

Additionally, this is a precarious natural formation and exposure to human traffic will undoubtedly degrade the feature quickly, so keep your space and admire it from a distance. Resist all irresponsible urges to get a stupid shot for Instagram! If I see anyone standing in the middle of the heart with their Instagram husband, I’ll lose it.


Things to consider and remember:

It’s common to encounter intense afternoon storms in the Dolomites, so if you’re planning this trip, you’ll want to leave early in the morning to mitigate this.

We left Taibon at 6:45 am and started walking by 7:30. If you begin the trip and begin to feel uncomfortable with the terrain (it’s very steep and exposed!), don’t be afraid to turn around.

It’s so important to listen to your gut!

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

What to bring:

Layers: The mountains in the Dolomites are high. The temperatures at the top can feel very different than the temperatures down in the valley. Be prepared with prolonged pangs, warm insulating mid-layers, and rain protection. It’d also recommend throwing in a hat and gloves, even in summer, just in case.

Water: There is virtually no water on the trail either. Aside from at the Malga (which was being guarded by border collie who did not like intruders, so we stayed clear). You’ll need at least 1L or maybe more if it’s going to be a warm day.

Food: Bring lots of food, including lunch. You’ll need the energy to sustain you for you around 8 hours.

Gear: If you’re going with a guide, they will have all the equipment you need to get to the top safely. This includes ropes, harnesses, crampons, and climbing gear.

Camera: The views from the top will blow your mind, so don’t forget your camera with a spare battery!

Hiking to El Cor the heart of the Dolomites

Many thanks to the Heart of the Dolomites for hosting me in Italy – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post Hiking to El Cor, the heart of the Dolomites appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Via ferrata in the Dolomites: where history and adventure collide


I had three main requirements on my most recent trip to Italy and the Heart of the Dolomites:

  1. Eat as much pasta and drink as much wine as possible
  2. Fill every spare moment with adventure
  3. Experience an authentic Italian via ferrata in the Dolomites, the birthplace of via ferratas.

Via ferratas have gained a global reputation for being a fun and accessible activity for thrill-seekers who may not have the equipment and skills necessary for technical climbing but who want to experience hanging hundreds of meters in the air on the side of a cliff.

Via ferrata Dolomites is the best way to get a taste for adventure here.

via ferrata dolomites

If it sounds intimating, you’re not wrong.

While they are safe (especially with a guide!), via ferratas are not for the faint of heart.

Being comfortable with heights and exposure is a must for this adventure. But if you have some coordination and confidence, via ferratas are a great way to experience the mountains; in the heart of the Dolomites in the Agordino in Italy is the perfect place to try them out for the first time.

The perfect adventure tourist activity, if you’re looking for a bit of everything, be sure to check out via ferratas when you’re in the Dolomites.


Full of adventure but steeped in a bloody history

The term via ferrata means “iron way” in Italian, and it refers to a system of bolts, cables, platforms and ladders securely fastened to the mountain; they were built to help people scale sheer cliffs quickly.

Who in the world would come up with such a crazy idea?! I’m surprised it wasn’t a kiwi, to be honest.

Soldiers in the middle of mountain warfare, that’s who.

Via Ferratas were popularized during WWI when soldiers needed to move quickly and quietly through the mountains as they worked to fight to maintain control of the valleys below. As the Austrian-Hungarian Empire tried moving further south into Italy, the Italians worked tirelessly to protect their land and their people.

via ferrata dolomites

Trenches were built, high alpine roads were constructed, ladders were bolted on the side of sheer cliffs.

In Marmolada, the Queen and the tallest mountain of the Dolomites, the Austrian soldiers figured out it would be safer to go down the crevasses of the glacier where they could dig tunnels and effectively create a miniature village below the surface.

Their plan was a huge success, and the Italians didn’t know Ice City existed at all until years after the war had ended.

You know life must have been rough when willingly descending into and living in the crevasses of a glacier is better than being above ground.

via ferrata dolomites

WWI was the worst war for Italy, which had just become a unified nation in 1859.

By the time WWI came, Italy was not entirely an industrialized power and lacked the resources and military for large scale warfare. Worse yet, because the borderlines were still fresh, many Italians and Austrians felt they were fighting their cousins and friends. It was a bloody war that killed over 600,000 Italians and left millions more injured.

Fast forward one hundred years and via ferratas have graduated from impressive military tactics to fun recreational activities found all over the world. I’ve been on via ferratas in the USA and Wanaka, New Zealand but I was excited to experience the real deal in the heart of the Dolomites, where it was born.


Modern-day via ferratas in the Dolomites

My first via ferrata in Italy was Sottotenente Mario Fusetti Sass de Stria in Valparola Pass.

While certainly not the most difficult via ferrata in the area, this one is filled with history. The approach to the start of it takes you on an easy winding path through historical trenches and old structures from WWI. If you look carefully enough, you can even find shrapnel and other ancient artifacts from 100 years ago.

Using via ferratas requires some equipment, such as a harness, helmet and a series of slings and carabiners to make sure that if you take a fall, you won’t go very far. For our group, the guide also used a rope which he attached to us for extra safety.

via ferrata dolomites

We started to climb, moving in unison up the rock face, each meter giving us an even better view of the valley below than the last. During WWI, the only way to control the valleys below was to stake out on the peaks, taking turns bombing the enemies below.

It was so strange to be having fun and feeling a rush of adrenaline in a good way when only 100 years ago, these peaks were the home of horrific atrocities. Via ferrata Dolomites has a history that’s mind-boggling.

The climb itself was relatively easy and straightforward, and despite climbing over 200 meters, we reached the top in about 30 minutes.

The via ferrata is unique because you can complete it in a loop, quickly walking back down to the car park once you’ve topped out. We made the easy decision to take advantage of the pristine weather and continue going up, walking to the top of the peak.

The trail took us to through winding trenches, up ladders and into tight nooks and crannies, making us feel like little kids exploring an ancient fortress. We reached the peak of Sasso di Stria with ease and took a few moments to take in the view, rifugios in the distance.

via ferrata dolomites

During my three weeks in Italy, I had barely just scratched the surface of all the opportunities in the extensive network of available via ferrata Dolomites.

There are dozens of guide books to help you narrow down your choice, and there are climbs for every ability from the absolute beginner to the extreme rock climber. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the via ferratas on your own, you can always hire a guide. Just pop into the information center, and they’ll be able to recommend a local to take you up.

The Italian via ferrata is an absolute must-do for any adventure seekers traveling to the Dolomites. It’s more than an adrenaline rush. It’s a sneak peek into an unpleasant past, where the war was fought against the enemies. Soldiers were battling to stay alive in some of the most inhospitable terrain and conditions on the planet. 

Sure, you can do via ferratas all over the world, but Italy is one of the only places on earth where you can simultaneously get your thrills while moving through a living museum. Trust me; you won’t regret it!

Have you ever done a via ferrata? Is this an adventure you’d try when traveling? Are you interested in visiting the Dolomites too?


Many thanks to the Heart of the Dolomites for hosting me in Italy – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post Via ferrata in the Dolomites: where history and adventure collide appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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What no one tells you about adventure travel


Today I found myself filling out a form for a travel conference next year, and before I knew it, I was being asked to tick the inevitable box of the type of travel I prefer. Sigh. Nothing makes me cringe quite like having to put myself into a box.

Alas, Google Docs has no patience for my existential crisis of the morning; so I went with ticking my usual “adventure travel” box. After all, I boldly claimed the title of Young Adventuress a decade ago, with nothing to my name but an absurdly bright Blogspot with too much Comic Sans and a hunger for adventure.

Guys, I was going places!

Born and raised by the likes of Kerouac, Krakauer, and Tolkien, my childhood was shaped by a desire to live out my days traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and truth; this is a theme that I’ve carried with me on my travels over the past decade.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

Myths around adventure travel are rampant these days, but also the profound experience that comes from it isn’t talked about as much as it should be either.

Adventure travel is powerful and transformative, and in today’s day and age that focuses on epic photos with neglected stories behind them, that experience is often left by the wayside. Tell me what it took to get to get to that fantastic spot, how life-changing it was to do that, what you felt in the deepest recesses of your heart at that moment. Now that is what I crave – more authentic storytelling.

Whether it’s getting into nature, challenging yourself physically or mentally, or mixing with people from other cultures, we can’t help but come back a little changed from a travel adventure. 

So here you go – all the mighty and beautiful things that come from challenging experiences and what no one tells you about adventure travel.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

Adventure is good for your health

I’m sure you’ve experienced how adventure travel can make you feel even more alive – well, it turns out that it may also help us live longer.

Activities such as visiting a wilderness area or spending time in a rainforest, or any forest, can boost our immune systems, which can only be a good thing, right? Experts also reckon that active adventures help reduce our stress levels and even help us sleep better. Good news for those of us who struggle with, you know, healthy living. 

Slowly raises hands and looks side to side.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

I can personally attest to the amazing benefits of going on an adventure, especially getting back out into nature. The harder, the better. The more I challenge myself, the higher the personal triumph and feeling of success when you’re done. It’s a fucking amazing feeling.

It’s why I learned to snowboard and why I pop myself on adventures like riding horses across Mongolia, even though I’m not a natural outdoors person. I’m here for all my fellow dorks and book nerds, even you can have an adventure too! We can all be an adventuress!

The euphoria from this kind of travel is extraordinary, and I’m hooked on it.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

It gives you the chance to grow

Research by the Adventure Travel Trade Association has found that our priorities and motivations are changing around the reasons we seek adventure travel.

In the past, adventure travelers were more motivated by risk-taking, but today we tend to look at it more as a chance for personal growth, not to mention the other incredible benefits such as being in a variety of different environments.

I know that’s true for me.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

Adventure travelers learn amazing skills on the road, such as problem-solving, survival skills, adapting to travel in different countries and cultures, and learning other languages. Visiting developing countries can also help us appreciate what we have back home by putting things into rather a harsh perspective. Oh yes, we don’t know how good we’ve got it until we spend time in places without toilets or running water. 

Most of us return from trips a little different to how we started, with a fresh perspective on life and new skills that get transferred into our personal and working lives and give us a sense of accomplishment.

And those people that don’t change? That isn’t shaped by travel experiences? Well, I can’t help you.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

It’s good for the brain

Adventure travel is often very physically active, and it turns out that it has a positive effect on our minds.

If you want to improve your memory, cycling and hiking are the way to go, according to US researchers. They found these kinds of activity help grow the hippocampus (the brain’s center of emotion and memory, which naturally shrinks with age), and this helps ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia.

An active vacation involving new challenges is the most beneficial, helping to build connections between brain cells. I knew getting outdoors and being active can change your life, and hiking in New Zealand has changed my life too!

What no one tells you about adventure travel

Helps you expand time

If you feel like every day is like Groundhog Day and the weeks go by with nothing to punctuate them, an awe-inspiring adventure may be in order. The monotony of routine that has no light at the end of the tunnel was something I have always struggled with. 

Research by Stanford University has found that people who experience awe tend to be more satisfied with life and prefer experiences over physical products. It seems that feeling awe brings us into the present moment, and that makes us feel like we have more time available.

So, having adventures seems to be a way to break up the normal flow and expand our perception of time.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

It allows you to give back

Far from being a selfish pursuit, adventure travel opens up so many opportunities to give back in the countries we visit. 

When you travel with a responsible tour operator, your money will help local economies. Operators who are committed to responsible tourism, such as Intrepid Travel, operate trips to remote and untouched areas and can be a driving force behind conservation efforts (like banning elephant rides), as well as improving education and health for local communities. 

Of course, you can also go independently, but if you do, try and be responsible and ethical about what you’re doing and where your tourism dollars are going by asking questions and doing some research in advance.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

But above all, the one thing that one tells you about adventure travel is how profoundly life-changing it can be. Whether you’re stepping out of your comfort zone in the Himalayas for the first time or just going on a hike by yourself, getting out and challenging yourself can only lead to good things.

Do you crave that euphoria from adventurous experiences too?

What do you think? Are you hooked on adventure travel like me? What’s something no one talks about when it comes to the power of an excellent old fashioned adventure? Share!

What no one tells you about adventure travel

The post What no one tells you about adventure travel appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Via ferrata in the Dolomites: where history and adventure collide


I had three main requirements on my most recent trip to Italy and the Heart of the Dolomites:

  1. Eat as much pasta and drink as much wine as possible
  2. Fill every spare moment with adventure
  3. Experience an authentic Italian via ferrata in the Dolomites, the birthplace of via ferratas.

Via ferratas have gained a global reputation for being a fun and accessible activity for thrill-seekers who may not have the equipment and skills necessary for technical climbing but who want to experience hanging hundreds of meters in the air on the side of a cliff.

Via ferrata Dolomites is the best way to get a taste for adventure here.

via ferrata dolomites

If it sounds intimating, you’re not wrong.

While they are safe (especially with a guide!), via ferratas are not for the faint of heart.

Being comfortable with heights and exposure is a must for this adventure. But if you have some coordination and confidence, via ferratas are a great way to experience the mountains; in the heart of the Dolomites in the Agordino in Italy is the perfect place to try them out for the first time.

The perfect adventure tourist activity, if you’re looking for a bit of everything, be sure to check out via ferratas when you’re in the Dolomites.


Full of adventure but steeped in a bloody history

The term via ferrata means “iron way” in Italian, and it refers to a system of bolts, cables, platforms and ladders securely fastened to the mountain; they were built to help people scale sheer cliffs quickly.

Who in the world would come up with such a crazy idea?! I’m surprised it wasn’t a kiwi, to be honest.

Soldiers in the middle of mountain warfare, that’s who.

Via Ferratas were popularized during WWI when soldiers needed to move quickly and quietly through the mountains as they worked to fight to maintain control of the valleys below. As the Austrian-Hungarian Empire tried moving further south into Italy, the Italians worked tirelessly to protect their land and their people.

via ferrata dolomites

Trenches were built, high alpine roads were constructed, ladders were bolted on the side of sheer cliffs.

In Marmolada, the Queen and the tallest mountain of the Dolomites, the Austrian soldiers figured out it would be safer to go down the crevasses of the glacier where they could dig tunnels and effectively create a miniature village below the surface.

Their plan was a huge success, and the Italians didn’t know Ice City existed at all until years after the war had ended.

You know life must have been rough when willingly descending into and living in the crevasses of a glacier is better than being above ground.

via ferrata dolomites

WWI was the worst war for Italy, which had just become a unified nation in 1859.

By the time WWI came, Italy was not entirely an industrialized power and lacked the resources and military for large scale warfare. Worse yet, because the borderlines were still fresh, many Italians and Austrians felt they were fighting their cousins and friends. It was a bloody war that killed over 600,000 Italians and left millions more injured.

Fast forward one hundred years and via ferratas have graduated from impressive military tactics to fun recreational activities found all over the world. I’ve been on via ferratas in the USA and Wanaka, New Zealand but I was excited to experience the real deal in the heart of the Dolomites, where it was born.


Modern-day via ferratas in the Dolomites

My first via ferrata in Italy was Sottotenente Mario Fusetti Sass de Stria in Valparola Pass.

While certainly not the most difficult via ferrata in the area, this one is filled with history. The approach to the start of it takes you on an easy winding path through historical trenches and old structures from WWI. If you look carefully enough, you can even find shrapnel and other ancient artifacts from 100 years ago.

Using via ferratas requires some equipment, such as a harness, helmet and a series of slings and carabiners to make sure that if you take a fall, you won’t go very far. For our group, the guide also used a rope which he attached to us for extra safety.

via ferrata dolomites

We started to climb, moving in unison up the rock face, each meter giving us an even better view of the valley below than the last. During WWI, the only way to control the valleys below was to stake out on the peaks, taking turns bombing the enemies below.

It was so strange to be having fun and feeling a rush of adrenaline in a good way when only 100 years ago, these peaks were the home of horrific atrocities. Via ferrata Dolomites has a history that’s mind-boggling.

The climb itself was relatively easy and straightforward, and despite climbing over 200 meters, we reached the top in about 30 minutes.

The via ferrata is unique because you can complete it in a loop, quickly walking back down to the car park once you’ve topped out. We made the easy decision to take advantage of the pristine weather and continue going up, walking to the top of the peak.

The trail took us to through winding trenches, up ladders and into tight nooks and crannies, making us feel like little kids exploring an ancient fortress. We reached the peak of Sasso di Stria with ease and took a few moments to take in the view, rifugios in the distance.

via ferrata dolomites

During my three weeks in Italy, I had barely just scratched the surface of all the opportunities in the extensive network of available via ferrata Dolomites.

There are dozens of guide books to help you narrow down your choice, and there are climbs for every ability from the absolute beginner to the extreme rock climber. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the via ferratas on your own, you can always hire a guide. Just pop into the information center, and they’ll be able to recommend a local to take you up.

The Italian via ferrata is an absolute must-do for any adventure seekers traveling to the Dolomites. It’s more than an adrenaline rush. It’s a sneak peek into an unpleasant past, where the war was fought against the enemies. Soldiers were battling to stay alive in some of the most inhospitable terrain and conditions on the planet. 

Sure, you can do via ferratas all over the world, but Italy is one of the only places on earth where you can simultaneously get your thrills while moving through a living museum. Trust me; you won’t regret it!

Have you ever done a via ferrata? Is this an adventure you’d try when traveling? Are you interested in visiting the Dolomites too?


Many thanks to the Heart of the Dolomites for hosting me in Italy – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post Via ferrata in the Dolomites: where history and adventure collide appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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10 ways rifugios in the Dolomites are redefining hut life


I love you New Zealand, I really do. But the Rifugios in the Dolomites are INSANE.

Your quirky charm, your quiet hills, your plethora of sheep. You are a magical country, but I have a confession to make. I’m having a love affair with the Dolomites. Sorry, I’m not sorry!

When I moved to New Zealand, I proudly stated that it was the most beautiful country on earth. I had never seen mountains so tall and cliffs so steep, and I was convinced it was a place that could never be replaced as #1 in my heart, and that remained true until recently when I visited the Heart of the Dolomites.

10 reasons why this unknown corner of the Dolomites is an adventure seeker’s paradise

rifugios in the dolomites

Now, I’m not saying the Dolomites are my new favorite mountains, but I’m also not *not* saying it, ya know?

High alpine passes you can drive to in a car, cheap, delicious wine, creamy gelato, and vibrant Italian locals have been just a few of my favorite things but the thing that has blown me away the most?

The huts.

Errr, wait. Let me rephrase that. Hut is not really the right word to describe these places. Growing up on New Zealand hut life, this is next level.

rifugios in the dolomites

Italian huts in the Dolomites are called Rifugios here, but a more appropriate word might be Mountain Mansion.

If you are planning on doing some multi-day hikes in the Dolomites, you’re really in for a treat, just you wait. These “huts” are more like hotels, and these rifugios in the Dolomites are like houses.

Here are ten reasons why the Italian rifugios in the Dolomites have forever altered my standards for alpine sleeping.


1. The trails to them are pretty easy

Sure, some paths are more challenging to complete than others, but for the most part, you can expect smooth, well-marked trails free of bush-bashing and off-trail navigation in the heart of the Dolomites around the Agordino.

Depending on which rifugio you choose, the trails will either be jam-packed with like-minded hikers or be mostly empty.

Either way, the trails are generally wide and generous allowing you to spend more time looking up at the beauty before you and less time looking down focusing on your footwork; and forget about using your hands.

rifugios in the dolomites

2. OMG, there are showers!

My version of a hut shower is quickly washing my face in an icy mountain stream, but in Italy, you can minimize your stink by having an actual shower at the rifugio. That’s not something you can find at the backcountry New Zealand huts.

Some rifugios offer cold showers, and while some even provide warm showers (which are an extra charge for very little water, but still!) As we arrived at Rifugio Tissi near Alleghe, we saw dozens of people lined up waiting for their well-deserved hot shower. I stayed true to my dirtbag roots and opted out, but it was nice to know that was an option.

How flash is that? Read more about hiking to Rifugio Tissi here.

rifugios in the dolomites

3. Beer, wine and grappa, all day every day

There’s nothing I crave more than an ice-cold beer waiting for me at the top of the mountain. Is there anything better than after a hot and sweaty hike?

I’ve trained myself to patiently wait until the entire trip is done when I can indulge in a feast and a beverage, but in Italy, you don’t have to wait.

Enjoy a well-deserved tipple while taking in the unparalleled views or have a civilized glass of wine with your dinner. Goodbye sack of goon wine, Italy knows how to do hut wine properly.

Rifugios in the Dolomites have treats on tap.

rifugios in the dolomites

4. Espresso all the time too

Listen, I’ve had some desperate times in the mountains, but I rarely, ever, ever go without some form of coffee in the morning.

I’ve tried it all from coffee in tea bags, instant coffee, Aeropress, filter, cowboy coffee; you name it, I’ve tried it.

There is no coffee I’m too good for when it comes to caffeinating in the mountains.

Do I prefer an espresso drink in the mornings? Sure, but most of the time, that is not my reality. In Italy though, it certainly is. Fancy espresso machines at the top of the mountain so you can be adequately caffeinated. Going back to cowboy coffee is going to be hard.

rifugios in the dolomites

5. You don’t need to bring much with you either

As I was preparing for my first rifugio experience, I called my guide in a panic. What exactly do I need to bring?! I don’t have a sleeping bag or a camp stove or cutlery. I didn’t even have food to bring for a snack!

He told me in the most Italian way ever to chill out. It was all taken care of. All I needed to do was to bring a change of clothes and sleeping sheet (which he loaned me), and the rest would be there.

He was right, of course. The food, the drinks, the bedding. It was all part of the rifugio experience.

Was it strange to not have to haul a 20kg pack up the mountain? Yes. Was it the best thing ever? Also yes.

rifugios in the dolomites

6. Italian three-course meals 

My mountain meals usually consist of freeze-dried meals or a poorly executed concoction of couscous and whatever else I can find in my fridge.

Eating during hiking is simply a necessity for me. I never spend too much time or energy into planning tasty meals.

In Italy, though, you have the best of both worlds. Rifugios offer three-course meals complete with pasta, salad, polenta, dessert, and of course, wine. Going to bed with a stomach full of delicious food was a serious game-changer, especially since I didn’t even need to carry any of it with me.

rifugios in the dolomites

7. And of course, there’s wifi available

Ok, I’ll be honest, one of my favorite parts of going to the mountains is getting away from normal life far from emails and social media and the demands of work. But rifugios in the Dolomites are fancy!

In New Zealand, there’s simply no way to stay connected in the backcountry which is a perk I’ve come to relish in the past few years. Not only is there no wifi, but there is also no power, electricity or phone reception either.

It’s awesome!

rifugios in the dolomites

When we arrived at our first rifugio in the Dolomites, I was shocked to see the wifi name and password hanging on the wall. What the hell?!

But, as much as I love being in the mountains and taking time just to appreciate the view, I can see the perk of having wifi.

Need to let your loved ones know you’re alive and well? Easy. Need a distraction because everyone around you is involved in a heated conversation entirely in Italian, which you do not understand? Hello Instagram. Use the wifi when you need it but don’t forget to put the phone down for a bit and stare at the beauty in front of you too, ok?

rifugios in the dolomites

8. With wifi, there must be electricity

The last time I went to a hut and didn’t take a head torch was never.

It’s never happened. I know that as soon as the sun is gone, I’m going to need a head torch to show me where the bathroom is. But in Italy? No problem.

The rifugios have electricity and keep it accessible until about 10 pm when everyone goes to bed. If you’ve spent all of your phone battery taking photos of the fantastic scenery, you can also recharge but be prepared: finding a free socket is a bit of a mission.

rifugios in the dolomites

9. Flip flops for all

Do you know that feeling of wanting to kick off your shoes as soon as you arrive at your destination? It’s a fantastic feeling, but when I’m hiking to a hut, I usually ignore it.

I’m prepared to keep my shoes on in case I need to go outside to take photos or go to the bathroom. In Italian rifugios, they provide flip flops (which they adorably call “slippers”), so you can kick off your shoes immediately and walk around as needed. Bliss!

So refined!

rifugios in the dolomites

10. Next-level views everywhere

Rifugios in the Dolomites are adorable and amazing and offer all of the amenities you could ask for in a mountain hut. But by far, the thing that makes them stand out is the fact that they are perched in the heart of some of the most stunning mountains on the planet.

Implausibly perched on top of cliffs or tucked away into quiet valleys, it’s hard to imagine the scale of the work that went into building them.

Basking in the glory of the famous Dolomites makes every other problem in your life seem small and insignificant, and for a moment, all that matters is the beauty in front of you. (And the wine waiting for you at the table).

Have you ever seen mountain huts like these? Have you been to a rifugio before in Italy? Spill!

rifugios in the dolomites

Many thanks to the Heart of the Dolomites for hosting me in Italy – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post 10 ways rifugios in the Dolomites are redefining hut life appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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5 myths about traveling to Antarctica


“Is it just like snow and stuff?” Sigh, so many myths about traveling to Antarctica.

Yes, that is a direct quote I heard more than once when I told people that it was my dream to visit Antarctica. The last continent. The Great White South. The land of penguins NOT polar bears.

Nothing can compare to the wild and untamed grandeur that is Antarctica. Here vast white mountains drop down to the sea, icebergs the size of islands slowly drift pass your ship and the wind is so strong it can knock you over.

There’s actually a lot to see in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula — where the majority of tourists go — is a continuation of the Andes Mountains from South America, meaning it’s quite mountainous. Peaks often rise out of the ocean, interspersed by enormous glaciers. It’s one of the most pristine places on Earth, in no small part because it’s mostly untouched by humans.

And yes, you can go on holiday to Antarctica, and yes it’s pretty freaking awesome. And there is more than just snow and stuff. Listen up and let me break down some myths about traveling to Antarctica.

25 photos that will inspire you to visit Antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

Because Antarctica is one of those ultimate adventures, you likely won’t find too many people who have journeyed the very bottom of the world before. Yeah yeah yeah, I can already hear the ones going “well I know so-and-so.” But seriously, most people haven’t been. It’s not Disneyland or Paris. There’s no Tripadvisor here.

It’s never been easier to get the elusive golden ticket down to Antarctica, but that doesn’t mean that myths surrounding this mysterious land aren’t abundant, because they are. And in fact, even down there you’ll hear them repeated a lot. Crack a book, people. Read a blog.

There are no polar bears in Antarctica. Wrong hemisphere. I repeat, there are NO POLAR BEARS IN ANTARCTICA.

So let me take this opportunity to clear up some of the most common misgivings and half-truths I’ve heard and bust some of these myths about traveling to Antarctica. Enjoy!

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

1. It’s too expensive to visit Antarctica

Perhaps one of the biggest myths about going to Antarctica is that it can be mind-blowingly expensive, but there are still ways to make the trip more affordable too.

Alert the press – it’s not as expensive as you think it is. Most trips I’ve seen run for less than $10,000 USD for around two weeks with Intrepid Travel or Peregrine Adventures. And if you’re smart, you can get it a lot cheaper. Whether you’re a penguin fanatic like me, or you want to set eyes on the raw and beautiful landscapes, there’s an Antarctic expedition to suit you.

Yes, that isn’t cheap, I know. But it’s also not unachievable either. And remember that’s all-inclusive – activities, accommodation, food, heaps of adventure. Just not alcohol or any extras.

Because there has been a lot of growth in the tourism industry in Antarctica, prices have come down quite a bit and just with like most travel; there’s quite a bit in between budget and luxury. On my first trip down, I was huddled down in with three other girls in a little bunkbed while a friend who was on another chartered ship had her own suite with a king-size bed and bath! It varies widely.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

If you can be flexible on timing, there are bargains to be had to get a spot on an Antarctica trip, so sign up for emails from a few tour operators and keep an eye out for any specials.

Most trips are released a few years in advance, and often there are sales early. The cheapest tours run for about ten days while longer ones are almost a month-long, like my trip with Intrepid that also included subantarctic islands. If you want my opinion, spend all the money you can on a journey that includes going to South Georgia. 

Your best bet for saving money is to book at least a year in advance, going early or late season. If you have a couple of friends who want to do the trip, a triple-share or quad cabin aboard a research-style vessel can make things a lot cheaper too.

You can also hang around Ushuaia during the summer in Argentina, the port city where most of the Antarctic ships depart from, and often there are deeply discounted last-minute sales to fill the few remaining beds, where you can book in less than a week before for a couple of thousand dollars, even on the priciest trips.

Because it’s so expensive to operate these trips, companies often make sure there are no empty spaces on board.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

2. Antarctica is only for explorers and scientists

Protected by the Antarctic Treaty, since the Cold War Antarctica is preserved as a scientific reserve with freedom of scientific investigation with no military activity permitted on the continent. That’s why most of us only know of Antarctica from the scientific research conducted down there on the various scientific bases.

And it’s true that there are boatloads of scientists and researchers spending extended periods in Antarctica – just under 4,000 in the summer months, dropping to 1200 during the harsh winter months.

But the frozen wonderland and its wildlife is also a huge tourist drawcard, bringing in more than 50,000 visitors each year. But don’t freak out (yet). All reputable operators are members of IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, which was founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic.

This means that tourism is HIGHLY regulated there in order to protect and preserve this magnificent place.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

3. It’s way too cold

Before I went to Antarctica in 2018, I fully expected the cold to be unbearable. Sadly, that’s not true. This is another one of those myths about traveling to Antarctica.

While it’s true Antarctica is the coldest place in the world, with the lowest-ever temperature recorded at -89.4ºC, NASA reports. But the tourism cruising season takes place during the Southern Hemisphere summer, between November and March when the sea ice has melted enough to allow landings and access from ships there.

With long hours of daylight during mid-summer, the temperatures can range between a more bearable -2ºC and 8ºC.

On my first day there I was amazed I didn’t even need a parka. It was sunny and warm hiking around on the snow. I had been way colder in Canada in winter. But of course, Antarctica is home to the wildest weather on earth, and sometimes it was so windy it could blow you over, and it snowed often. It varies!

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

4. It’s dangerous to visit the white continent

Antarctica’s harsh environment certainly makes travel to the area more challenging, so it’s essential to choose an experienced operator who is a member of IAATO, but in terms of danger, the companies are experts and super skilled to make sure nothing terrible happens. 

Crossing the stretch of ocean between Cape Horn and Antarctica, known as the Drake Passage, can be rough, so if you’re prone to seasickness, prepare yourself. There are even some options to fly across the Drake. I would imagine most accidents on the ships happen from people falling over in rough seas. 

Even though you don’t have to be super-fit to go on a guided Antarctic expedition, but it’s essential to have a right level of mobility. This means being able to remain stable on your feet on sometimes slippery decks and gangways, as well as getting in and out of Zodiacs if you’re going ashore.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

You’re required to have a very high level of travel insurance (I recommend SCTI, and it’s what I use) to go to Antarctica because if a severe accident happens, you’re up a shit creek and the whole trip gets canceled as the ship returns to shore. That’s gonna cost a fortune, so your insurance needs to usually have a medical evacuation cover of over $500,000 dollars. There aren’t any hospitals or rescue choppers for you here.

As for the wildlife, the penguins are harmless but make sure you don’t slip in their abundant poo. Orca and leopard seals are top predators (one even killed a scientist once) but because the ships maintain safe distances from the wildlife and is super on guard, I was never worried even when a few rogue seals chased me, though you definitely don’t want to get bitten by a seal, their mouths are full of bacteria.

And while crime is nonexistent, there are some very fascinating stories of people going batshit crazy; like an Argentinian doctor who once burnt his entire science base down as to not have to stay another winter.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

5. You’re mostly on the ship

Because you can only visit Antarctica on boats (for the most part) and you’re required to sleep and stay on the ship, some people think that it’s more like a cruise or that you’re stuck on board the whole time, which isn’t the case at all. There are no hotels or places to stay in Antarctica apart from the few science bases, but tourists aren’t allowed to stay there. A few companies have the option to let you camp for a night on the ice.

Size matters when it comes to choosing an Antarctic trip, as the number of passengers on your ship will determine how often you get on to terra firma. Choose a smaller vessel for the best experience. Bigger ships aren’t allowed to make landings in Antarctica.

No more than 100 passengers should go ashore at one site at the same time. In some places that is even more restricted. With smaller ships (up to 100 passengers), getting on and off the boat and into Zodiacs or on land is quick and efficient, giving you more time to explore.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

Antarctica is a place that can and will change your life. The myths about traveling to Antarctica have got to go!

Wild and remote where the weather is in charge and nature is at its most abundant, Antarctica is an incredible place. It is worth every penny spent on a voyage there. It can have a profound impact on you and inspire.

And remember, Antarctica is so much more than just snow and stuff. And there aren’t any polar bears.

Any myths you’ve heard about Antarctica? Is this the kind of trip you’d splurge on? Spill!

myths about traveling to antarctica

Many thanks to Intrepid Travel for hosting me in Antarctica – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you can expect less from me!

The post 5 myths about traveling to Antarctica appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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10 ways rifugios in the Dolomites are redefining hut life


I love you New Zealand, I really do. But the Rifugios in the Dolomites are INSANE.

Your quirky charm, your quiet hills, your plethora of sheep. You are a magical country, but I have a confession to make. I’m having a love affair with the Dolomites. Sorry, I’m not sorry!

When I moved to New Zealand, I proudly stated that it was the most beautiful country on earth. I had never seen mountains so tall and cliffs so steep, and I was convinced it was a place that could never be replaced as #1 in my heart, and that remained true until recently when I visited the Heart of the Dolomites.

10 reasons why this unknown corner of the Dolomites is an adventure seeker’s paradise

rifugios in the dolomites

Now, I’m not saying the Dolomites are my new favorite mountains, but I’m also not *not* saying it, ya know?

High alpine passes you can drive to in a car, cheap, delicious wine, creamy gelato, and vibrant Italian locals have been just a few of my favorite things but the thing that has blown me away the most?

The huts.

Errr, wait. Let me rephrase that. Hut is not really the right word to describe these places. Growing up on New Zealand hut life, this is next level.

rifugios in the dolomites

Italian huts in the Dolomites are called Rifugios here, but a more appropriate word might be Mountain Mansion.

If you are planning on doing some multi-day hikes in the Dolomites, you’re really in for a treat, just you wait. These “huts” are more like hotels, and these rifugios in the Dolomites are like houses.

Here are ten reasons why the Italian rifugios in the Dolomites have forever altered my standards for alpine sleeping.


1. The trails to them are pretty easy

Sure, some paths are more challenging to complete than others, but for the most part, you can expect smooth, well-marked trails free of bush-bashing and off-trail navigation in the heart of the Dolomites around the Agordino.

Depending on which rifugio you choose, the trails will either be jam-packed with like-minded hikers or be mostly empty.

Either way, the trails are generally wide and generous allowing you to spend more time looking up at the beauty before you and less time looking down focusing on your footwork; and forget about using your hands.

rifugios in the dolomites

2. OMG, there are showers!

My version of a hut shower is quickly washing my face in an icy mountain stream, but in Italy, you can minimize your stink by having an actual shower at the rifugio. That’s not something you can find at the backcountry New Zealand huts.

Some rifugios offer cold showers, and while some even provide warm showers (which are an extra charge for very little water, but still!) As we arrived at Rifugio Tissi near Alleghe, we saw dozens of people lined up waiting for their well-deserved hot shower. I stayed true to my dirtbag roots and opted out, but it was nice to know that was an option.

How flash is that? Read more about hiking to Rifugio Tissi here.

rifugios in the dolomites

3. Beer, wine and grappa, all day every day

There’s nothing I crave more than an ice-cold beer waiting for me at the top of the mountain. Is there anything better than after a hot and sweaty hike?

I’ve trained myself to patiently wait until the entire trip is done when I can indulge in a feast and a beverage, but in Italy, you don’t have to wait.

Enjoy a well-deserved tipple while taking in the unparalleled views or have a civilized glass of wine with your dinner. Goodbye sack of goon wine, Italy knows how to do hut wine properly.

Rifugios in the Dolomites have treats on tap.

rifugios in the dolomites

4. Espresso all the time too

Listen, I’ve had some desperate times in the mountains, but I rarely, ever, ever go without some form of coffee in the morning.

I’ve tried it all from coffee in tea bags, instant coffee, Aeropress, filter, cowboy coffee; you name it, I’ve tried it.

There is no coffee I’m too good for when it comes to caffeinating in the mountains.

Do I prefer an espresso drink in the mornings? Sure, but most of the time, that is not my reality. In Italy though, it certainly is. Fancy espresso machines at the top of the mountain so you can be adequately caffeinated. Going back to cowboy coffee is going to be hard.

rifugios in the dolomites

5. You don’t need to bring much with you either

As I was preparing for my first rifugio experience, I called my guide in a panic. What exactly do I need to bring?! I don’t have a sleeping bag or a camp stove or cutlery. I didn’t even have food to bring for a snack!

He told me in the most Italian way ever to chill out. It was all taken care of. All I needed to do was to bring a change of clothes and sleeping sheet (which he loaned me), and the rest would be there.

He was right, of course. The food, the drinks, the bedding. It was all part of the rifugio experience.

Was it strange to not have to haul a 20kg pack up the mountain? Yes. Was it the best thing ever? Also yes.

rifugios in the dolomites

6. Italian three-course meals 

My mountain meals usually consist of freeze-dried meals or a poorly executed concoction of couscous and whatever else I can find in my fridge.

Eating during hiking is simply a necessity for me. I never spend too much time or energy into planning tasty meals.

In Italy, though, you have the best of both worlds. Rifugios offer three-course meals complete with pasta, salad, polenta, dessert, and of course, wine. Going to bed with a stomach full of delicious food was a serious game-changer, especially since I didn’t even need to carry any of it with me.

rifugios in the dolomites

7. And of course, there’s wifi available

Ok, I’ll be honest, one of my favorite parts of going to the mountains is getting away from normal life far from emails and social media and the demands of work. But rifugios in the Dolomites are fancy!

In New Zealand, there’s simply no way to stay connected in the backcountry which is a perk I’ve come to relish in the past few years. Not only is there no wifi, but there is also no power, electricity or phone reception either.

It’s awesome!

rifugios in the dolomites

When we arrived at our first rifugio in the Dolomites, I was shocked to see the wifi name and password hanging on the wall. What the hell?!

But, as much as I love being in the mountains and taking time just to appreciate the view, I can see the perk of having wifi.

Need to let your loved ones know you’re alive and well? Easy. Need a distraction because everyone around you is involved in a heated conversation entirely in Italian, which you do not understand? Hello Instagram. Use the wifi when you need it but don’t forget to put the phone down for a bit and stare at the beauty in front of you too, ok?

rifugios in the dolomites

8. With wifi, there must be electricity

The last time I went to a hut and didn’t take a head torch was never.

It’s never happened. I know that as soon as the sun is gone, I’m going to need a head torch to show me where the bathroom is. But in Italy? No problem.

The rifugios have electricity and keep it accessible until about 10 pm when everyone goes to bed. If you’ve spent all of your phone battery taking photos of the fantastic scenery, you can also recharge but be prepared: finding a free socket is a bit of a mission.

rifugios in the dolomites

9. Flip flops for all

Do you know that feeling of wanting to kick off your shoes as soon as you arrive at your destination? It’s a fantastic feeling, but when I’m hiking to a hut, I usually ignore it.

I’m prepared to keep my shoes on in case I need to go outside to take photos or go to the bathroom. In Italian rifugios, they provide flip flops (which they adorably call “slippers”), so you can kick off your shoes immediately and walk around as needed. Bliss!

So refined!

rifugios in the dolomites

10. Next-level views everywhere

Rifugios in the Dolomites are adorable and amazing and offer all of the amenities you could ask for in a mountain hut. But by far, the thing that makes them stand out is the fact that they are perched in the heart of some of the most stunning mountains on the planet.

Implausibly perched on top of cliffs or tucked away into quiet valleys, it’s hard to imagine the scale of the work that went into building them.

Basking in the glory of the famous Dolomites makes every other problem in your life seem small and insignificant, and for a moment, all that matters is the beauty in front of you. (And the wine waiting for you at the table).

Have you ever seen mountain huts like these? Have you been to a rifugio before in Italy? Spill!

rifugios in the dolomites

Many thanks to the Heart of the Dolomites for hosting me in Italy – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post 10 ways rifugios in the Dolomites are redefining hut life appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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5 myths about traveling to Antarctica


“Is it just like snow and stuff?” Sigh, so many myths about traveling to Antarctica.

Yes, that is a direct quote I heard more than once when I told people that it was my dream to visit Antarctica. The last continent. The Great White South. The land of penguins NOT polar bears.

Nothing can compare to the wild and untamed grandeur that is Antarctica. Here vast white mountains drop down to the sea, icebergs the size of islands slowly drift pass your ship and the wind is so strong it can knock you over.

There’s actually a lot to see in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula — where the majority of tourists go — is a continuation of the Andes Mountains from South America, meaning it’s quite mountainous. Peaks often rise out of the ocean, interspersed by enormous glaciers. It’s one of the most pristine places on Earth, in no small part because it’s mostly untouched by humans.

And yes, you can go on holiday to Antarctica, and yes it’s pretty freaking awesome. And there is more than just snow and stuff. Listen up and let me break down some myths about traveling to Antarctica.

25 photos that will inspire you to visit Antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

Because Antarctica is one of those ultimate adventures, you likely won’t find too many people who have journeyed the very bottom of the world before. Yeah yeah yeah, I can already hear the ones going “well I know so-and-so.” But seriously, most people haven’t been. It’s not Disneyland or Paris. There’s no Tripadvisor here.

It’s never been easier to get the elusive golden ticket down to Antarctica, but that doesn’t mean that myths surrounding this mysterious land aren’t abundant, because they are. And in fact, even down there you’ll hear them repeated a lot. Crack a book, people. Read a blog.

There are no polar bears in Antarctica. Wrong hemisphere. I repeat, there are NO POLAR BEARS IN ANTARCTICA.

So let me take this opportunity to clear up some of the most common misgivings and half-truths I’ve heard and bust some of these myths about traveling to Antarctica. Enjoy!

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

1. It’s too expensive to visit Antarctica

Perhaps one of the biggest myths about going to Antarctica is that it can be mind-blowingly expensive, but there are still ways to make the trip more affordable too.

Alert the press – it’s not as expensive as you think it is. Most trips I’ve seen run for less than $10,000 USD for around two weeks with Intrepid Travel or Peregrine Adventures. And if you’re smart, you can get it a lot cheaper. Whether you’re a penguin fanatic like me, or you want to set eyes on the raw and beautiful landscapes, there’s an Antarctic expedition to suit you.

Yes, that isn’t cheap, I know. But it’s also not unachievable either. And remember that’s all-inclusive – activities, accommodation, food, heaps of adventure. Just not alcohol or any extras.

Because there has been a lot of growth in the tourism industry in Antarctica, prices have come down quite a bit and just with like most travel; there’s quite a bit in between budget and luxury. On my first trip down, I was huddled down in with three other girls in a little bunkbed while a friend who was on another chartered ship had her own suite with a king-size bed and bath! It varies widely.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

If you can be flexible on timing, there are bargains to be had to get a spot on an Antarctica trip, so sign up for emails from a few tour operators and keep an eye out for any specials.

Most trips are released a few years in advance, and often there are sales early. The cheapest tours run for about ten days while longer ones are almost a month-long, like my trip with Intrepid that also included subantarctic islands. If you want my opinion, spend all the money you can on a journey that includes going to South Georgia. 

Your best bet for saving money is to book at least a year in advance, going early or late season. If you have a couple of friends who want to do the trip, a triple-share or quad cabin aboard a research-style vessel can make things a lot cheaper too.

You can also hang around Ushuaia during the summer in Argentina, the port city where most of the Antarctic ships depart from, and often there are deeply discounted last-minute sales to fill the few remaining beds, where you can book in less than a week before for a couple of thousand dollars, even on the priciest trips.

Because it’s so expensive to operate these trips, companies often make sure there are no empty spaces on board.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

2. Antarctica is only for explorers and scientists

Protected by the Antarctic Treaty, since the Cold War Antarctica is preserved as a scientific reserve with freedom of scientific investigation with no military activity permitted on the continent. That’s why most of us only know of Antarctica from the scientific research conducted down there on the various scientific bases.

And it’s true that there are boatloads of scientists and researchers spending extended periods in Antarctica – just under 4,000 in the summer months, dropping to 1200 during the harsh winter months.

But the frozen wonderland and its wildlife is also a huge tourist drawcard, bringing in more than 50,000 visitors each year. But don’t freak out (yet). All reputable operators are members of IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, which was founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic.

This means that tourism is HIGHLY regulated there in order to protect and preserve this magnificent place.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

3. It’s way too cold

Before I went to Antarctica in 2018, I fully expected the cold to be unbearable. Sadly, that’s not true. This is another one of those myths about traveling to Antarctica.

While it’s true Antarctica is the coldest place in the world, with the lowest-ever temperature recorded at -89.4ºC, NASA reports. But the tourism cruising season takes place during the Southern Hemisphere summer, between November and March when the sea ice has melted enough to allow landings and access from ships there.

With long hours of daylight during mid-summer, the temperatures can range between a more bearable -2ºC and 8ºC.

On my first day there I was amazed I didn’t even need a parka. It was sunny and warm hiking around on the snow. I had been way colder in Canada in winter. But of course, Antarctica is home to the wildest weather on earth, and sometimes it was so windy it could blow you over, and it snowed often. It varies!

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

4. It’s dangerous to visit the white continent

Antarctica’s harsh environment certainly makes travel to the area more challenging, so it’s essential to choose an experienced operator who is a member of IAATO, but in terms of danger, the companies are experts and super skilled to make sure nothing terrible happens. 

Crossing the stretch of ocean between Cape Horn and Antarctica, known as the Drake Passage, can be rough, so if you’re prone to seasickness, prepare yourself. There are even some options to fly across the Drake. I would imagine most accidents on the ships happen from people falling over in rough seas. 

Even though you don’t have to be super-fit to go on a guided Antarctic expedition, but it’s essential to have a right level of mobility. This means being able to remain stable on your feet on sometimes slippery decks and gangways, as well as getting in and out of Zodiacs if you’re going ashore.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

You’re required to have a very high level of travel insurance (I recommend SCTI, and it’s what I use) to go to Antarctica because if a severe accident happens, you’re up a shit creek and the whole trip gets canceled as the ship returns to shore. That’s gonna cost a fortune, so your insurance needs to usually have a medical evacuation cover of over $500,000 dollars. There aren’t any hospitals or rescue choppers for you here.

As for the wildlife, the penguins are harmless but make sure you don’t slip in their abundant poo. Orca and leopard seals are top predators (one even killed a scientist once) but because the ships maintain safe distances from the wildlife and is super on guard, I was never worried even when a few rogue seals chased me, though you definitely don’t want to get bitten by a seal, their mouths are full of bacteria.

And while crime is nonexistent, there are some very fascinating stories of people going batshit crazy; like an Argentinian doctor who once burnt his entire science base down as to not have to stay another winter.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

5. You’re mostly on the ship

Because you can only visit Antarctica on boats (for the most part) and you’re required to sleep and stay on the ship, some people think that it’s more like a cruise or that you’re stuck on board the whole time, which isn’t the case at all. There are no hotels or places to stay in Antarctica apart from the few science bases, but tourists aren’t allowed to stay there. A few companies have the option to let you camp for a night on the ice.

Size matters when it comes to choosing an Antarctic trip, as the number of passengers on your ship will determine how often you get on to terra firma. Choose a smaller vessel for the best experience. Bigger ships aren’t allowed to make landings in Antarctica.

No more than 100 passengers should go ashore at one site at the same time. In some places that is even more restricted. With smaller ships (up to 100 passengers), getting on and off the boat and into Zodiacs or on land is quick and efficient, giving you more time to explore.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

Antarctica is a place that can and will change your life. The myths about traveling to Antarctica have got to go!

Wild and remote where the weather is in charge and nature is at its most abundant, Antarctica is an incredible place. It is worth every penny spent on a voyage there. It can have a profound impact on you and inspire.

And remember, Antarctica is so much more than just snow and stuff. And there aren’t any polar bears.

Any myths you’ve heard about Antarctica? Is this the kind of trip you’d splurge on? Spill!

myths about traveling to antarctica

Many thanks to Intrepid Travel for hosting me in Antarctica – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you can expect less from me!

The post 5 myths about traveling to Antarctica appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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