Winter may not be warm, but it’s still beautiful and pleasant to a certain extent, especially in places such as Switzerland. The postcard perfect country is a great getaway destination, although far away from being cheap, it’s enjoyable on a modest budget too.
Zürich, the largest of the swiss cities, still small on an international scale, with just above 400 thousand inhabitants, is the main hub for visitors and expats. With its international airport located just 10 minutes train ride out of the center, Zürich is a cosmopolitan city that offers everything that any other city may have to offer. From shopping malls to cinemas, local and international couisine, a lake, two rivers, a hill that swiss people like to call mountain and a lot of delicious chocolate and cheese, Zürich has it all.
A dayticket for the local transport costs Chf 8,80 and it’s valid 24 hours. With such a ticket you’re good to go on bus, train, boat and tram, but make sure you limit yourself to the city only, which is zone 110, for further than that you’ll need an additional ticket.
The main train station is walkable distance from most attractions, however the cold winter temperatures will most likely force you into a tram.
Bahnhofstrasse is the central shopping street, where, if you’re on a budget you’ll be only window shopping, because stores like Louis Vuitton and Prada, won’t be inviting.
On the other hand, Zurich is a great spot for outdoors lovers, even in winter, the panoramic viewing points being for free and available for everyone that wishes to have a look at the city from above.
By tram 3 from Central to Römerhof station and from there by the Dolderbahn you’ll reach the gorgeous castle that serves as a posh hotel, called Dolder Grand. The viewing point from next to the hotel is amazing and the surrounding forest is great for strolling around in the snow.
Grossmünster, the church with the two tours, visible from everywhere in the center area, is a great place to go for a view. The ticket costs Chf5 to climb up to the tower, but it definitely does worth it.
You can’t leave Zurich without strolling around the lake, which on a good day, when the sky is blue will be looking amazing, with the mountains in the far backdrop .
Walking around in Zurich is tempting in any weather and the old town is charming and pretty. Lots of boutiques, cafes and sweet local shops, it’s a nice place to visit.
Although the coldness of people and the general rigid and formal atmosphere, Zürich is nice to visit for a few days.
Ubud is the most touristy place in Bali ( of course I skipped the popular beach destinations such as Kuta, Seminyak and Uluwatu ) that I enjoyed and where the crowd was there but didn’t feel disturbing. As the matter of fact Ubud and the surrounding attractions offered me a few of my most memorable Bali trip moments. Ubud itself is small but packed with plenty of restaurants and cafes, however if you are after a different sort of experience head to :
1. Greenkubu Cafe
It’s just a short drive from Ubud and it seems to be still unknown for the tourists or I was just lucky when I went there, but it wasn’t busy at all. It’s perfect for a delicious lunch in a scenic setting, where food comes at reasonable prices and it’s served by friendly waiters, that are generous enough to give you also a passion fruit right from the hanging vines that are all over the venue. It’s easy to spend a few hours here because it’s not only the great food, drinks and desserts that may keep you staying , it’s also the typical Balinese swing that you can hop on for a modest 25K IDR, whereas at other places for the same fun they charge four times more.
2. Tegenungan Waterfall
With so many waterfalls on this island, there’s a few nearby Ubud too and you won’t escape the huge crowds at them. If you’re in the zone it does worth talking a look at Tegenungan, but swimming there is a no,no,no, as the water is dirty and lots of rubbish all over.
3. Tegallalang rice terraces
The magnificent rice terraces for sure offer an outstanding view from any angle you’d look at them. The most popular and visited rice terraces in Bali, usually teeming with tourists, around 4 pm on a weekday I surprisingly bumped into just few people.
4. Mount Batur sunrise trekking
My ultimate best Bali moment and my very first night trekking that rewarded me with a gorgeous sunrise at 1717 m . It’s a must-do if you’re a nature lover with a fairly good fitness level. On the main street in Ubud there are numerous companies selling their tours and the prices start from as low as 280K and can reach double. The driver picked me up at 2 am at my accomodation in Ubud and after picking up a few more people, we were driven to have breakfast – at 2:30 am for God’s sake! – followed by an aprox 1 hour drive to the base of Mount Batur, where we met the local guide that handed us a torch and off we went up the mountain… For like 2 hours. It was steep and not always easy but we made it just in time for the sunrise. At 6 am sharp we all looked in the same direction and were lost for words when the sun popped out from behind Mount Agung and started coloring the sky in a harmonious variation of pink, orange and purple. Even the monkeys started to gather around us for the show, we thought, but in reality they were just after our food.
5. Campuhan Ridge walk
A much easier walk than Mt Batur, which is free and starts right in the center of Ubud, the Campuhan Ridge walk is a great way of escaping for a moment the noise of the village and just enjoying the surrounding nature. It takes aprox half an hour to reach the end of it and the best time is to go early morning or late afternoon because it can get quite hot and there’s no shade at all along the whole walk.
Instead of shade, there is another of my favorite places though:
6. Karsa Spa
Following the Campuhan Ridge walk, almost at the very end of it you’ll spot Karsa Cafe and the spa with the same name. I’ve booked my treatment aprox two weeks in advance because I read it’s a very popular place and gets booked out quickly, so I wanted to make sure I’ll not miss out on my two hours of pampering. The one hour traditional Balinese massage was followed by half an hour scrub and another half an hour flowerbath. My therapist had been a real sweetheart and did her best to make my experience a special one, even hopping up on a chair to take the perfect photo.
7. Kajeng rice field walk
One of the reasons I fancy Ubud is that there’s a few walk routes that you can do in nature. The starting point is in the center of Ubud and the walk takes you through the village of Kajeng, which is authentic and it has a local charm to it. The whole loop takes around one hour.
8. Ubud Market
I’ve spotted a few boutiques where shopping was tempting, however if you’re after the local vibe and you’ve got the bargaining skills, it’s Ubud Market where you should head to. From clothing to handmade purses and perverted bottle openers, everything is available “at a good price” as the vendors say.
Good to know: the first “ good price” they offer is always the highest, in most cases they drop it to less than half when you’re ready to walk away without buying their product.
I’ve never heard of the little village of Munduk before my travel to Bali, but people that have been there described it as peaceful, mountainous and pretty. I thought it does worth a try, so spontaneously hopped on a shuttle bus in Ubud, direction Munduk. The ticket cost me a modest 150K IDR and the journey took three hours. The drive to Munduk is in particular scenic, passing next to rice fields, lake and the mountains. The road is almost the whole way very curvy, I’ve been warned by a fellow traveler that I may get sick, but that didn’t happen, I was just enjoying the panorama.
When the driver suddenly pulled over and claimed we’ve reached central Munduk, I was looking with disbelief though because that didn’t look like a center at all, unless the center consist just of a restaurant on the side of the road. It was just me and another traveler, the rest of the passengers continuing their way further north. We got off and looked around, nodding towards each other that it’s impossible to be right in the center of Munduk and there’s nothing around. Luckily her internet reception was working, cause mine refused loading, this way we figured we’ve got more than 1 km to walk to actually reach the village and our accomodations. With our backpacks on ( cherishing the fact that I travel light ) and a few bad words told, we started rolling ( not literally ) downhill for the next few minutes until eventually reached the actual center of Munduk. According to the locals the shuttle bus normally drops people on the top of the hill, which is still bizarre because it’d really take just some extra minutes drive to the village itself.
However, the mountainous setting is gorgeous and very peaceful, gives you the feeling that you’ve just traveled back in time.
In any direction you look there’s the stunning Mother Nature smiling back at you.
Not only nature is beautiful, the locals are in particular nice people. It was enough to walk once from one end of the village to the other and locals were already calling me by my name, but they have never heard of the existence of my country. Once in Munduk don’t forget to:
Indulge in delicious local food
As small of a village that Munduk is, it still offers numerous restaurants with spectacular views.
Warung Classic has been my absolute favorite for the amazing food and the best spot to watch sunset and Warung Dong Paloh for the super delicious breakfast and the signature Balinese black rice porridge .
Take a dip in the gorgeous waterfalls
I could rave about the great food, but it’s not just food that I’ve been so enthusiastic about, it’s also waterfalls. Yes, the Munduk area is probably the best in Bali when it comes to ticking off the list the most spectacular waterfalls. Walkable distance from the village center, there are three of them: The middle falls, Melanting and Red Coral. Each of them require a visiting fee of 10 -20 K IDR. I made it only to Red Coral waterfall and I was more than delighted with the scene, but I’ll let the picture speak for itself.
A short drive from Munduk, followed by a little steep but enjoyable hike, nestled in the lush forest, it’s the spectacular Banyumala Falls or simply Twin Waterfalls if the Indonesian name sounds too complicated. An absolute must visit, Banyumala is gorgeous and so refreshing. The best time to go is early morning, before the crowds invade it. I got there around 8:30 amand no other soul was there, except my two travel buddies for the day, but one hour later, when we were leaving there were already people coming. The entry fee is 30K IDR and it includes a small bottle of water, which comes handy considering the hike. Regardless, carry plenty of water with you wherever you go, it’s hot and humid at any time of the day and night in Bali.
Visit temples and lakes
Lake Bratan, with its famous Beratan Lake Temple is located near the town of Begudul, less than an hour drive from Munduk. It’s the second largest lake in Bali and rated by Huffington Post as one of the 20 most beautiful lakes in the world. Tourists from all over the world visit this place, the temple being the icon of Indonesia. It’s certainly beautiful, but since it’s so extremely touristy it doesn’t represent anymore such a strong cultural and religious meaning.
If most people visit the popular Beratan Lake Temple, the hidden gems hunters go trekking through the jungle and canoe over the lake to find the less famous version of it.
Lake Tambligan Temple is situated beside Buyan Lake and although you can drive there from one side, it’s way more interesting, challenging and satisfying to sign up for a two hours jungle trekking adventure.
The cost of the trekking with an English speaking local guide is 275K IDR and it does worth every penny. First things first, our guide, Gudi ( I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong spelling ) handed each of us a bamboo trekking stick and we started venturing into the rain forest, following carefully his passionate explanation about the trees that we were seeing.
Along the way, in the middle of the jungle we stopped at a little temple, which he educated us about, mentioning that locals trek there on a daily basis to do the traditional offerings ritual. Quite an effort of them to do that daily?!
Gudi told us also about the previous years floodings and many more interesting information that kept us interested while following the trail. Time passed quickly and we weren’t even tired when we reached the lake and have been invited on the canoe, where we didn’t even have to paddle. Crossing the lake in the canoe has been relaxing and filled with beautiful mountain views. The temple is quite unique and the whole trekking and canoeing experience just adds to it.
Get your photo taken at Handara Bali Gates
Heading to the Begudul area it’s impossible to miss the famous picturesque gates that are all over social media. It’s actually the entry to a golf course and resort and in no time became so popular, that now they even charge 30K IDR for a 10 minutes photo session in front of them and the receipt you get is called Selfie ticket. Hahaha! Been there, done that…
Relax in Bali Botanic Garden
It provides a great escape to enjoy the cool temperatures under a tree and get familiar with the rare tropical plants and wildlife in their natural habitat. Ideal for any age, the gardens offer a vast variety of activities and families, including accomodation or treetop adventure park.
Wake up for the sunrise
Munduk is great not only for sunset, but sunrise is spectacular too. The early hours of the day are being announced by the roosters ( which annoyed me most times ), I didn’t need to set an alarm, but after I dragged myself out of the bed I was in fact grateful to the noisy creatures. Needless to say that the hardworking locals were not even close being as sleepy as I was, it looked like they were going full power already at not even 6 am.
I’m sure there’s much more to do in and around Munduk, but I’m afraid my only three days there allowed me to do just the above mentioned ones. It’s been one of my favorite parts of Bali though, lots of memories made, nice people met and beautiful places visited. Sadly, during the hikes I did around there I’ve seen a lot of trash left behind, which seems to be a general issue in Indonesia. On that note, I’d like to add a reminder: while traveling please, please :
Most people use the little coastal town just as a transit from Bali to the Gili Islands or Lombok, without knowing that Padangbai has more than that to offer.
I spent not just one, but two days there, indulging in finger licking delicious and ridiculously cheap local food and sunbathing on the nicest beach I encountered during my Bali trip.
Everything is within maximum 15 minutes walking distance, but for those that prefer the two wheels, of course renting a scooter is easy to arrange.
Not a fascinating place at first, but when you reach the white sand beach, you surely have a different opinion.
Bias Tugel or White Beach or Secret Beach, as locals like to call it, is easy to reach, although it requires a light hike, hence advisable to wear sneakers. I wasn’t having the best of the time in my flip-flops, but no major difficulties occurred either.
The way is pretty straightforward, the trail is easy to follow, what’s slightly confusing is that the few signs indicating the beach is 300 m away appear all along the way and the number doesn’t change. It’s like you walk and walk but there’s still 300 m to go?! Anyways…
It’s a small, but serene beach, which happened to be quiet and most importantly clean!
Sadly, most of the beaches I’ve seen in Bali were not left without trash, so I was delighted to have found one where the sand is soft, the water blue and clear and no leftover plastic bottles and such. The few little restaurants by the beach offer not only food and drinks, but also beach beds and relaxing music for the perfect ambiance.
Locals proudly let me know that it’s not only Bias Tugel that they’ve got, I should check out also Blue Lagoon. With such an inviting name and after such a positive surprise with the white sand beach, of course my next stop later that day was Blue Lagoon. And there dropped my enthusiasm … Basically the exact opposite of the first one, this beach is dirty and I certainly didn’t feel any desire of even stepping into the water because the plastic bottles were floating even there. It’s meant to be a good snorkeling spot, I can just hope that people will stop leaving their rubbish behind. I literally spent 10 minutes at Blue Lagoon and struggled to avoid the trash while snapping a few shots.
There’s a nice looking restaurant overlooking the water though and the walk from the town to the lagoon is enjoyable, but at this time I’d suggest going there with no high expectations.
Other than that, Padangbai is relaxed and friendly, locals are very eager to invite you to try their food at the warungs. My favorite eating place has been Padangbai Billabong, which is on the way to the lagoon. The food is fresh, well prepared and service is great.
I also noticed that fastboat tickets from Padangbai to the Gilis or Lombok are sold at half price than in Amed, although the distance is longer.
Thumbs down: everything seems to be moving in a slow rhytm in Padangbai, which is not such an issue in general, but nobody seems to be respecting any sort of schedule when it comes to transportation. I’m literally waiting for a shuttle bus for more than an hour and no sign of it as of yet.
I reached Gili Air by fastboat departing from the little coastal town of Amed. The journey took roughly 40 minutes, however the boat leaves following a not well defined schedule, ticket sellers claiming it could be 9:30 am or 10, in many cases ending up 10:30 or even 11 am. The average ticket price for one way is 300K IDR, which includes a complimentary glass of water on board.
My recent Western Australia trip wouldn’t have been complete without visiting the famous Margaret River region.
The small town of Margaret River is aprox 3 hours south from Perth and although I expected a proper river, Margaret is just a regular creek. However, there was no place for disappointment because the town has so much to offer and it’s very welcoming. Cute boutiques, restaurants with personality and great live music all around, Margaret River has been my temporary home for two days and I loved it.
Of course, there’s no person who’d go there and not visit the wineries.
The region is one of Australia’s best wine producer with plenty of small, family owned but also world famous wineries.
I’m not a wine expert whatsoever, but as a regular consumer and on behalf of fellow travelers that joined the same wine tasting tour, I say that the regions best product is certainly the Chardonnay. Delicious taste of wine, but also the food has been remarkable, making the day a succes and the tour full of joy and laughter.
It’s certainly wine lovers paradise here, but if you’ve got sweet tooth you’ll be happy too. The chocolate factory welcomes you with several different types of chocolate and you can taste as many as you like and you are in the right location also for the best nougat I’ve ever eaten.
After so much and wine and sweets, if there’s still space in the stomach, you shouldn’t miss out on the cheese tasting either, you’ll be amazed by the selection on offer.
Our tour ended at the distillery, where we’ve been spoiled with a signature liquor offered by the sarcastic, yet friendly bartender.
Amazing atmosphere at all wineries, very friendly and generous wine makers with interesting stories to share, a wine tasting tour is the ultimate must do.
Although the Margaret River wineries may be the most popular in the area, it does worth checking out more.
Greeted by the colorful double rainbow, I liked this cute town as soon as I got there. The rain stopped soon and I was excited to go on a discovery walk and try to stay away from wine at least for a day. The latter didn’t quite work out because they serve everywhere the tasty Chardonnays that I couldn’t say no to. On the other hand, I was more than pleased with the walk. Discovered a long stretch of walking path right next to the sea and on my way I met a few rabbits hopping around and some smiley locals that walked their dogs. It looked like everybody had a dog there, very dog friendly place.
I didn’t expect to end up staying a few days in Dunsborough, considering it’s small size, but then it felt so good being there that I didn’t bother hitting the road, just until the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse.
From the lighthouse the view is amazing, but I recommend doing a bit of bushwalk to properly explore the Leeuwin – Naturaliste National Park.
The main attractions around are Sugarloaf Rock and Canal Rocks, both impressive and interesting.
A few minutes drive from Dunsborough is another small, but fascinating town, Busselton, home of the famous Busselton Jetty, the longest wooden jetty in the world.
At the end of the nearly 2 km long jetty is one of only 6 in the world underwater observatories. The $34 entry fee that includes the optional train ride to and from the observatory, aprox 30 min tour and another 30 min free time in the observatory, is money well spent. You’ll experience looking at the marine life in their natural habitat without even getting wet.
Before this trip when I heard Margaret River I just thought about wine and that’s it. Little did I know about the natural richness of the area, but now that I’ve got a glimpse of it, I feel that I must return and dig for more.