A few weeks ago I opened an email revealing the topic of this month’s travel link up. ‘Hidden Gems’ it said. The secrets and surprises the world has to offer.
Immediately I got thinking. What have I discovered on my travels that I didn’t pick out of a guide book? Quite honestly, not much. As someone who researches her next adventure to the utmost detail, I rarely just ‘come across’ many places.
As I rattled my brain thinking ‘shit… there must be something!’ I could only come up with an embarrassingly short list. A family run restaurant in Venice that I didn’t have the name for, a cute café in Berlin that served up delicious Earl Grey scones and a quiet bay in Lindos where we spent hours snorkelling finding fishies. But I’ve already written about them, because as the topic suggested, they put my blogger voice in full narrating notion.
So what else? Well for me the gems of my travels have been the places that despite being known about or already captured by tourists, somehow took me by surprise. So they might not be exaaaaacctly ‘hidden’ per se but I definitely didn't plan for them.
Zimbabwe’s Big Tree
The Big Tree, as it’s so originally called, is one of the world’s largest baobab trees at 24 metres tall and 22.4 metres wide. Like any fabulous character, the tree’s age is only estimated but is thought to be between 1-2000 years old. There’s now a fence around the trunk to protect it from graffiti inscribers, but we were with locals… so it was only right to be rebellious.
The V&A Waterfront Food Market
Everyone knows the food in Cape Town is delicious but the V&A Waterfront Food Market was so good that I ended up going back again and again. Authentic Indian curries, boxes of hand rolled sushi, unique flavoured samosas and fresh hangover-cure juices… it’s got it all. You can find out the rest of my favourite parts of Cape Town here.
Canadian Countryside in Lake Louise
Staying at the HI-Lake Louise Alpine Centre, I was surrounded by incredible landscapes and fresh Rocky Mountain air. Taking walks around the area was like exploring a fairy tale land with high alpine trees shading a spot for yoga by a stream as the sun set behind the clouds. Every corner looked out across running waters with the peaks of snowy mountains framing every view. Read more about Lake Louise here.
The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
Driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, we passed a long strip of coastline dotted with fat flabby objects rolling in the sand.
As we got closer we saw that they were in fact hundreds of elephant seals getting a tan, having a sand fight and chilling out in the sun… all they needed was a Pina Colada. If you find yourself driving through the San Luis Obispo county beaches one day then I highly recommend a visit!
Water edge dining in Lake Garda
Staying in Peschiara, I enjoyed a slow-paced Italian break by the waters of Lake Garda. Here we spent more than one evening with a takeaway pizza and bottle of cheap red watching the sunset. To this day this is still one of my favourite travel memories and most definitely a gem of a way to get a taste of Italy.
Strange sights at Salvation Mountain
If you’ve read last week’s post about this strange landmark in the middle of the deserted Slab City, you’ll know why I think it deserves a list in my top unexpected places! Salvation Mountain is about as random as it gets when it comes to hidden gems and whether you love it or hate it, it’s definitely something to see.
The Vajdahunyad Castle
Ok this is the third time I’ve mentioned this castle on my blog this year. BUT IT’S SO DAMN PRETTY. In the middle of Varosliget City Park, this building gave me all the Disney castle feels. You can read about my other favourite buildings in Budapest here.
Yosemite’s Sequoia Trees
After hiking the Yosemite Mist Trail to the Vernal and Nevada Falls, we drove by the famous sequoia trees. These gigantic beings peak at 200 feet making the tourists below feel exceptionally tiny! Living up to 3000 years old, they are extremely protected and a beloved part of Yosemite’s National Park.
The head of Victoria Falls
Most people go to a waterfall to see the gushing water smashing into the rocks and rivers below. Naturally I did this too; overwhelmed by the beauty of Victoria Falls that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. Yet the hidden gem of this natural wonder is a short distance from the tourist entrance. Guided by locals we’d met earlier, they took us to the top of the falls, where the calm waters quietly began their journey into the fast paced thunderous roar of their descent. It was such a secretive, hidden spot that we felt really honoured to have been shown.
And then just as we went to leave, we spotted an African elephant across the river… insert fuzzy picture here.
Tiergarten’s English Rose Garden
If you’ve read my post ‘Berlin; The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’, you’ll know this European capital wasn’t my favourite place I’ve been to. But that said, I loved the many green spaces that broke up the populated urban city. Tiergarten, Berliner’s own Hyde Park, is a beautiful escape from the traffic with a hidden English Rose Garden inside. I couldn’t tell you how to find it… simply take a walk and enter a private looking gate should you find it.