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.
Yep. Yosemite is that popular for a reason. The trees are quite the redwoods of the PNW, and the Northern California coast, but there are just so. many. huge. trees. They really made us feel like we were hiking back in time into an age of giants or something!
Thanks for the list – I’ve never made it into that English Rose garden in Berlin, though now that I think about it, it seems that the German architects of 100ish years ago were in love with English landscape design – the “English” Garden in Munich is essentially a giant grassland and forest area, with very little “French” style meticulously planned gardens. I think it’s also the biggest urban green space in the western hemisphere too… Gotta love it!
Oh really? That’s interesting. I haven’t been to Munich but it sounds like a great place to visit. I love seeing places that also take inspiration from other countries!
That castle looks absolutely amazing!
Ooooooh I want to explore Yosemite’s forest so bad!
You would LOVE it
Love this post! I always curious about Salvation Mountain ever since I read about it at rookie magazine a few years ago, it looks like a candy floss in the middle of nowhere. I hope I can see it with my own eyes someday.
nerissa | hejnerissa.com
Haha yes it does! I hope you can too
Isn’t Lake Louise just amazing!! I definitely want to return there someday and Lake Garda is high on my wishlist too xx
One of my favourite places in the world! x
These are amazing finds, Eppie. I wanna lie on the beach with those seals right now though!
Thanks Honey! Wouldn’t that be amazing!
Those seals are too cute! Glad you stopped!
It’s the best finding spots like these that completely take you by surprise. I was looking forward to visiting Yosemite when we were in the USA but I didn’t realise how much I would absolutely love it!
It’s so beautiful isn’t it, I never thought it would be as stunning as it was
What a good post idea! With social media, there are so many places that are hardly “hidden gems” but our own perspective is everything! Also, happy to see Budapest on the list 🙂 I live right by that castle and the first time I saw it, I was surprised too! Where did THAT come from?? 😉
That’s so true, everything is on the internet now! Oh wow I’m so jealous! Must be such a wonderful view
Great take on the topic – it took me awhile to think about this month #travellinkup
These all seem like awesome hidden gems! I loved seeing the sequoias in America – I’d love to go to some of your African recommendations!
Aren’t they stunning! Oh yes do, I love Africa
10 amazing places wow! Can you believe I studied abroad in Berlin and never made it to Tiergarten? Shame! lol
Oh no! You’ll just have to go back 😉
They’re quite some places, Eppie! Loved hearing about them. And am particularly intrigued by Slab City!..
Thanks Aaron! Yes its definitely an intriguing place to say the least!
Great tips! The seals sound cool!
What a cool post idea! I’m hoping to go to Zimbabwe this summer (my boyfriend and his family sell African safaris) and “The Big Tree” is high on my must see list. #TravelLinkUp
Oh wow yes definitely go! It’s really worth a drive around all the sights
Eppie you’ve been to some really beautiful places! Loved this post. Your description of sitting by Lake Garda with wine and pizza made me smile because funnily enough that was one of my favourite memories as I did that with my other half in Lake Como.
We stayed on Bellagio and one evening we got a takeaway pizza, grabbed two glasses and the bottle of Cerasuolo di Vittoria that we were meant to take home, and watched the sunset over the lake.
It’s magic, isn’t it!? Wish I could do that now!
Thanks lovely! Oh wow how fun that we both had that experience! The best way to enjoy Lake Garda I say 🙂
Love this post, especially the beautiful natural wonders! I’ve seen a few bloggers visit Lake Louise and now I’m itching to go! Honestly Japan was a place that took my be surprise, there were so many things that people told me / warned me about that I just didn’t see. I’d love to go back and explore the more hidden side of it.
Thanks Angie, I can imagine that there’s something to see around every corner in Japan! A place that needs many trips for sure.