Blackett's Ridge Hike, Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona

The Best Hikes in Tucson’s Sabino Canyon

There is no better way to connect with the raw beauty of nature than by doing a good hike. I grew up hiking and for the past twenty years I have enjoyed sharing many hikes with my father, my siblings and my own children wherever we can find a good trail especially when we are visiting my parents in Arizona.  Tucson is a hiker lover’s paradise. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, a desert climate and four different mountain ranges surrounding the city, there are endless opportunities to take a beautiful walk or challenging hike in nature. Whether it be to the Santa Catalina Mountains in the north, the Rincon Mountains in the east, the Santa Rita Mountains in the south or the Tucson Mountains in the west, you will find no shortage of trails to explore.

Fortunately for me, my parents have lived in the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains for over 25 years and their home is only five minutes away from one of the best places to hike in all of Tucson, Sabino Canyon Recreation Area with tons of hikes through both Sabino and Bear Canyon.  Over the decades Sabino Canyon Recreation Area has become my outdoor playground and I try to hike every day when I’m visiting my parents. It is achingly beautiful and perhaps one of the most stunning places in all of southwestern Arizona.

While there are several hikes and walks to choose from, these are my top four recommendations for the best hikes in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. I have put them in order of difficulty which does not necessarily mean distance. All of the hikes are appropriate for children over ten as long as they have a decent level of fitness however I wouldn’t recommend bringing a child under ten years old on any of these unless you are prepared to take a lot of breaks and be mindful of the dangers that exist. Instead, I would stick with walking on the paved path that runs 3.8 miles (7.6 miles roundtrip) through Sabino Canyon or even wandering around some of the shorter nature paths near the entrance of the recreation center. There used to be a guided tram service that brought tourists to both Sabino and Bear Canyon but unfortunately the service has been shut down while the park service rethinks its environmental impact. This has dramatically impacted available hiking options especially for families with young kids or for those who can’t walk as far.

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon is beautiful any time of year.

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Why Ecotourism and Sustainable Travel Must Be the Wave of the Future

As much as I love to travel, there is no doubt I feel concerned about the negative impact that travel can make on a place due to overtourism and additional stress on the environment. As the world economy improves and more people are being lifted out of poverty, tourism is on the upswing as well. World Count estimates that approximately 1 billion people arrive in a new destination each year which translates into a new arrival every 30 seconds somewhere around the globe.

“Should we feel guilty for traveling”?  and “How is tourism the harming the environment and what we can do about it?” are excellent moral questions us as travelers have to often consider when planning a trip, especially to a threatened destination such as The Great Barrier Reef, Iceland, and Machu Picchu to name a few.

In this thought provoking piece, Dafina Zymeri of SUMAS (a Sustainability Business School in Switzerland), shares some areas where travel has negatively impacted the environment and the very culture of a city and how we as travelers can travel more consciously. I have added in my insight where I deemed necessary to expand upon a topic. I am hoping this is the first of many conversations on the importance of sustainable travel for we must protect and think responsibly about our impact as travelers upon the very world in which we desire to see.

It has been estimated that over half of the Great Barrier Reef has died since 2016. What impact does tourism have on this fragile ecosystem and should we go there? Photo credit: Pexels

The Burden of Overtourism

If you search on Google “How tourism is…”, the first suggestion to finish the sentence it will give is “How tourism is killing Barcelona.” Pretty sad, isn’t it? Well, we travelers – or tourists, whatever you call yourself – are destroying the environment of those beautiful countries we’re visiting. Of course, we don’t mean to do so but we are flying, visiting and trampling all over the planet. Our increase in visiting some of these destinations is undeniably having an impact and perhaps not such a positive one.

Let’s take the case of Barcelona. Check out the Guardian’s recent article “How Tourism is Killing Barcelona – A Photo Essay“. We have all seen and experienced beloved destinations like Barcelona that have sadly began to lost their charm and have become overrun with all things tourist. Trinkets, t-shirt shops and crowds and crowds of people is making a once culturally rich city feel more like a Disney-styled theme park. Will Barcelona eventually loose the charm and uniqueness that initially made it so popular with tourists in the first place?

If this isn’t sad enough, the huge increase in popularity of Barcelona is having its own negative impacts on its own people who live there. Barcelona native residents are enraged with the cost of living that they say was inflicted by tourism. Per The Guardian, it used to cost 250€ (or around $280) for a short-term rental permit but now that they are not being issued anymore. Needless to say, the average monthly rent in Barcelona (which is the most expensive in Spain) is around  700€. Residents are seemingly being forced out by high rents in Barcelona neighborhoods with a high presence of Airbnb. Since Airbnb’s intention is “revitalizing neighborhoods”, how is that possible when neighborhoods in their presence are actually losing population to a large degree?

 

Is tourism ruining the charm of such beautiful places as Barcelona?

 

Here’s another example to touch your conscience: The beautiful beach of Maya Bay of Phi Phi Lei Island in Thailand had banned, for a certain time, boats of tourists from landing on the shore. The tourists that want to take the trouble to visit need to do it by foot from the neighboring beach Loh Samah Bay. I was heartbroken when I read what the Chief of Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park said the reason behind the temporary closure was that the marine life and corals need time to recover.  How utterly devastating. The beach we go to see, swim in, and take pictures of to need a break from us!

And what about Machu Picchu, a World Heritage Site? Thousands of tourists are trampling across ancient ruins every day at a level that is truly unsustainable for keeping them around for further generations. Although UNESCO has strongly recommends that they cap the number of visitors to 2,500 per day, 5,000 tourists visit and walk across these threatened ruins daily. Don’t we want to safeguard and protect Machu Picchu for future generations to enjoy?

Isn’t this how Machu Picchu is supposed to look? Untouched?

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First Time Guide to Climbing Kilimanjaro

Have you ever had a dream for so long that it never stopped bugging you until you decided to just do it? For me, it has always been Kilimanjaro. I had wanted to climb this epic mountain ever since my father did it in October 1999. There really had not been any dream or travel goal that I have had for that long.

Like most dreams, there have been many obstacles and road blocks along the way. It wasn’t until a few years ago that my decades long dream became a reality.  I had wanted to make this climb special and have it be somewhat similar to my life-changing trip to Nepal. Serendipitously I was connected with the U.S.-based non-profit Solar Sister, an organization who provides solar electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. For their fifth year anniversary, an international team was planning to climb Kilimanjaro in June of 2015.  Each climber was required to raise $4,000 to support the hiring and training for 8 new solar sister employees in Africa and to celebrate the success of Solar Sisters, we would climb Kilimanjaro together as a multigenerational, international team. It was a perfect opportunity and I seized it. Looking back today, it was even better than I ever dreamed it would be. It was truly epic. Figuring out what on earth to do next after such an incredible climb will be the challenge.

Why go?

Kilimanjaro, the fourth highest peak among the seven summits, soaring at 19,340 feet (5,895 m) and one of the world’s highest freestanding mountains, has long been one of the most popular climbs given its relative ease of climbing (no technical climbing ability is necessary) and beauty.  Located 200 miles (330 km) south of the equator in Northern Tanzania, the snow-capped volcanic dome of Kilimanjaro dominates the skyline like no other mountain on earth.

Kilimanjaro is actually not a single peak but a vast complex of cones and cores spreading over 38 miles (61 km) long by 25 miles (40 km) wide. There are three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim and is the hopeful destination of thousands of climbers every year.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

For me personally, I had grown up hiking, and climbing Kilimanjaro had been a long-term goal of mine after seeing my dad’s photos of his own climb back in 1999. I also desperately wanted to get there soon before the snow that caps the top of this mighty beast and makes it so stunning, is gone forever. Some scientists predict that the glaciers atop Kilimanjaro will be gone as early as 2030. What a tragedy!

What Route to choose?

There are six main climbing routes on Kilimanjaro with the Marangu Route (also known as the “Coca-Cola Route”) being the easiest and most popular. Our group chose the longer, more scenic Machame route that can take anywhere from 6-7 days and is known as one of the most beautiful routes on the mountain, passing through five distinct ecological zones and affording dramatic views every single day of the climb. The Machame Route also has one of the highest success rates for reaching the summit since it allows proper acclimatization before the final summit push.

Total Length of Hike: 62 miles (100 km) up and 24 miles (38 km) down.

Image of Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes (Wikipedia)

Image of Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes (Wikipedia). Our route was the Machame colored in brown.

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Ebensee, Austria

A Hike on the Feuerkogel in Ebensee Austria

Located a short distance off the shores of Lake Traunsee in the lovely Austrian town of Ebensee is the hiking region of the Feuerkogel. Accessed either on foot or via cable car, the Feurerkogel is one of Austria’s sunniest high altitude plateaus with astounding panoramic views of the Salzkammergut lake region and the Austrian Alps. For those hiking enthusiasts, the Feurerkogel has a variety of traditional Austrian lodges where you can grab a delightful bit to eat or spend the night hiking hut to hut along the many high alpine trails. For us, it was yet another fabulous area for us to hike that was not far from our farm stay at the Landgut Wagnerfeld in Altmünster.

We left for Ebensee shortly after breakfast, following Hauptstraße/B145 south for about thirteen kilometers as it swerved around the edge of Lake Traunsee and finally turned inland towards the mountains. We passed through a lovely residential area that was built around the Traun river as we headed towards the cable car station. As I looked around at our surroundings, it was hard to fathom that such a beautiful town was once home to one of the most horrific Nazi concentration camps of all time. Today a memorial is all that remains of the Ebensee Concentration Camp. The barracks and camp were destroyed after the Liberation in 1945.

Ebensee, Austria

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Dachstein Krippenstein, Austria

A Hike On Top of the World on Heilbronner Circular Trail in Dachstein Austria

After days of late June rain, we finally rose to a glorious robin egg blue sky at our farm stay in the lakes district town of Altmünster in Austria. We could not have been more thrilled! Finally the sun had arrived and we could see The Salzkammergut region of Austria in all her glory. The view of Lake Traunsee juxtaposed against the incline of the Austrian Alps was even more spectacular than I had pictured in my dreams.  It was going to be a perfect day for a hike and we knew exactly where we intended to go: Back to The Dachstein Krippenstein in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hallstatt and Daschstein where we would complete the Heilbronner Circular Trail on top of the Alps. We had been to the Dachstein Ice Cave a few days ago in the rain and knew that once the clouds lifted it was going to be a magical place to see.

We left Altmünster around nine o’clock and arrived in Obertraun an hour later to find a full parking lot, a far cry from what we had the rainy day before when we visited the Dachstein Ice Cave. To our dismay, the queue for the cable car was very long, filled with families, hikers and tourists who were waiting just like us to be carried up to the top. Normally I would have been perfectly patient but I had waited so long to see the sun and get out on a hike that I was getting a bit restless. Unfortunately we waited over an hour until it was our turn to continue on up however once we arrived, it was so breathtaking that I soon forgot the long wait to get there.

Austria is a country filled with mountains. Did you know that the Alps take up almost two-thirds of Austria? It is a hiker lover’s dream!

We walked off the platform of the Dachstein Krippenstein Mountain station to the surreal beauty of the Austrian Alps. At roughly 6,886 feet (2100 meters), we felt like we were on top of the world. While the majority of the visitors veered to the right towards the 5fingers viewing platform, we choose to go to the left and take a hike on the Heilbronner Circular Trail, a two-hour roundtrip hike with dazzling, jaw-dropping views of the snow-covered peaks of the Alps, the Hallstätter Glacier, and the lovely town of Hallstatt and the brilliant blue lake Hallstätter See, in the green valley far below. We would head over to 5fingers after our hike.

Dachstein Krippenstein , Austria

Getting off at the mountain station into a breathtaking world.

Dachstein Krippenstein, Austria

Max and Sophia smiled for the camera.

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A Visit to the Technicolor World of the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave

Located high above the deep blue waters of Hallstätter See in the Salzkammergut region of Austria lies the Dachstein Krippenstein, home to amazing hikes, spectacular alpine views and mysterious caves. This stunning area includes the fairytale world of the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave, the Mammut and Koppenbrüller caves, the spellbinding viewing platform at 5fingers and the extraordinary hike to the Heilbronner Cross where you can see panoramic views of the Austrian Alps, the historic town of Hallstatt and the Dachstein Glacier. There is also a nature park for children, a cave museum and many educational exhibits to keep young ones and old alike entertained.

You can spend an entire day or two exploring the Dachstein Krippenstein which is located not far from the charming town of Hallstatt, another must-see destination in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. For those adventure junkies, you could probably spend even more time by taking a whirl at paragliding, rock climbing or doing long distance hiking way up high atop the Alps. Whatever you desire to see or do, you will certainly find it at the Dachstein Krippenstein.

For us, since it was a rainy day and I have never been in an ice cave before, we opted to explore the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave and save the hiking for a nicer day. The only downfall is that we had to pay the rather pricey cable car fees twice since we couldn’t do it all in one day. But it would have been a tragedy to not come back on a nicer day and see the extraordinary views from high above. The benefit of having poor weather is that it kept the crowds away and it also meant beautiful views like this one below along the way to Obertraun.

Steeg, Hallstätter See, Austria

We arrived at the Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car station to find the parking lot empty. The rain had kept people away and we had a relatively short wait to catch the cable car up to the middle station Schönbergalm (section I). There are three different cable stations that bring you up the mountain and for the cave visit, we only visited the first. As we moved up the mountain, we suddenly busted through fog and clouds to reach the first stop at the mountain restaurant where we purchased our tickets for the Ice Cave tour and ate lunch. Unfortunately we didn’t have the incredible, panoramic views that day that really sells this eating venue and our meal was a little disappointing after all of the delightful dishes we have eaten so far on our trip. But on a gorgeous day, I bet it is a fantastic to sit and eat out on the terrace even if the food is not the best.

Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car

Riding up through the clouds on the Dachstein Krippenstein Cable Car

Dachstein Krippenstein

I can only imagine how gorgeous this view of Hallstatt would be on a sunny day!

Dachstein Krippenstein

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Blackett's Ridge Hike, Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona

Best Hikes in Tucson: Blackett’s Ridge Trail

Tucson is a hiker lover’s dream. With plenty of sunshine, a desert climate and four different mountain ranges surrounding the city, there are endless opportunities to take a beautiful walk or challenging hike in nature. Whether it be to the Santa Catalina Mountains in the north, the Rincon Mountains in the east, the Santa Rita Mountains in the south or the Tucson Mountains in the west, you will find no shortage of trails to explore.

Fortunately for me, Tucson is like my second home as my parents have lived in the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains for over 25 years and their home is only five minutes away from one of the best places to hike in all of Tucson, Sabino and Bear Canyon.  Over the decades Sabino Canyon Recreation Area has become my outdoor playground and I try to hike every day when I’m visiting my parents.

One of the best shorter yet difficult hikes in Sabino and Bear Canyon is the hike to Blackett’s Ridge on the Blackett’s Ridge Trail. In less than three hours roundtrip (4.6 miles), you will definitely get your heart pumping and your legs burning in both the rocky ascent and descent. However it will be worth your effort as the panoramic views are perhaps some of the best ones in all of Tucson and you will so spellbound by your surroundings, you will soon forget how tired your legs feel.

During a recent visit to Tucson, my dad and I decided to take a mid-morning hike to Blackett’s Ridge as I realized I hadn’t done this hike in years and had never written about it on my blog. Despite the sore knees and exhaustion once we finally reached the top, I was really glad we did it. I had simply forgotten how incredibly stunning this hike is and why it has now become one of my favorite hikes to do in Tucson. If you have only one hike to do in Tucson and want to go for the most incredible views, then the hike to Blackett’s Ridge is the one to do.

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Hallstatt, Austria

Why Hallstatt is Austria’s Most Postcard Perfect Town

Nestled between the edge of the mystical shores of Hallstätter See and the dramatic Dachstein mountains lies the small village of Hallstatt, a UNESCO World Heritage site and perhaps the most postcard picture perfect village in all of Austria. Hallstatt deserves its place among the covers of travel guides and as one of the most photographed villages in all of Austria. It is one of the most stunning villages I have ever seen.

Located in the district of Gmunden in Austria’s Salzkammergut region, Hallstatt and the rugged Dachstein mountains and caves are a popular destination for tourists and nature lovers alike. You can easily spend a couple of days here exploring the beauty and culture of Hallstatt, hiking high above in the Dachstein mountains and visiting the Dachstein caves.  The only downside is that Hallstatt can be crowded and touristy so you have to plan your timing right. Summer is obviously high season yet sometimes the weather can keep the crowds away.

On our first morning in The Salzkammergut, we rose to yet another unfortunate day of rain. Disappointed that we still had not fully seen our supposedly beautiful surroundings at our farmstay near Lake Traunsee, we decided to make the best of the day and plan something indoors. We had wanted to go hiking but not in the rain as we would not have any views. So instead, we decided to drive to Hallstatt and visit the nearby Dachstein Ice Caves later in the afternoon. What we didn’t realize is the it ended up being a blessing in disguise that it was raining because it kept the tourists away and afforded rather magical views of Hallstatt and Hallstätter See.

We set off after breakfast, heading south on B145 for the hour drive from Altmünster to Hallstatt. Cold rain fell against the windshield and heavy clouds blanketed the sky. We hoped that this would be the last of the rain for a while as we were desperately wanting to get up in the mountains and hike. We didn’t come all the way to Austria to be stuck inside!

As we neared Hallstätter Seewe were spellbound by the extraordinary view of the clouds hovering over the lake. We pulled over in the tiny town of Steeg where I captured my first few shots of the lake and surrounding area. I was in awe of its beauty.

Steeg, Hallstätter See, Austria

Steeg, Hallstätter See, Austria

Steeg, Hallstätter See, Austria

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The scenery was so surreal. I felt like we were in Ireland, not Austria. Without the rainy day which was unusual for early July, the view would have been completely different. I realized how grateful I was for the poor weather as it provided some lovely reflections and mystery in the setting. Obviously if it was rainy every day we were in The Salzkammergut I would have been very disappointed because we never would have seen the snow-capped mountains juxtaposed against the aquamarine lakes and sky.

Steeg, Hallstätter See, Austria

Hallstatt’s history dates back thousands of years to the days of the Early Iron Age civilization and the Celtics from 800-450 BC and derives its prosperity and name (“place of salt”) due to its production and wealth of salt. Settlers to Hallstatt mined salt for centuries, and visitors today can explore some of Hallstatt’s oldest mines such as the Salzwelten located high above Hallstatt on Salzberg (Salt Mountain) and visit a nearby Iron Age burial ground.

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Landgut Wagnerfeld, Lake Traunsee, Austria

A Stay at the Landgut Wagnerfeld Farm in Traunsee, Austria

Months before we began planning our trip to Austria, we were visiting my family in Arizona for Christmas and my dad showed me a beautiful screensaver he found online that featured gorgeous snow-capped mountains surrounded by a cobalt blue high alpine lake. The scenery was so incredibly stunning that together we searched the web to find the location of this epic shot and discovered a new destination we had never heard of before: The Salzkammergut.

The Salzkammergut is one of seven regions in Austria most known for its breathtaking scenery of high alpine lakes (there are 76 lakes in the region), rugged remote wilderness peppered with lovely scenic villages and towns like the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hallstatt and Daschstein. If you are one who loves mountains and lakes, then this is the region for you. Besides its aching beauty and endless opportunities to connect with nature whether it be by hiking, biking, boating, swimming or sailing, The Salzkammergut is also home to the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave featuring magical towers of ice that make you feel like you are in the fantasy world of Narnia.  As soon as I laid eyes on the photos and images from The Salzkammergut, I knew we had to go there. Thankfully, we planned four nights and five full days in the region before heading back to Munich for our flight home. Finding enough time to fit in all we wanted to see and do over the next five days was going to be a challenge yet I could hardly wait to see the Lakes region of Austria.

8 Days in Austria driving route

Google Map of our driving route in Austria. We began our trip in Munich and then headed to first Schwangau in Germany and then Seefeld in Tirol where we spent three days before driving east to The Salzkammergut (Lakes Region) of Austria and then back to Munich for our departure.

Choosing where to stay in The Salzkammergut proved tricky as the postcard picture perfect town of Hallstatt where all the tourists flock to see, is outrageously expensive. The region is fairly spread out with many towns and villages surrounding mountains and lakes, and many long and winding roads to reach them. We chose the popular Lake Traunsee about an hour’s drive north of Hallstatt for our base, and I quite frankly booked our accommodations on Expedia based on size and price. I knew we wanted a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and space for the four of us that was somewhat near one of the lakes. The Landgut Wagnerfeld, a family run property near Lake Traunsee in Altmünster, proved to be the perfect fit for our needs.

We left Seefeld in Tirol in the pouring rain that unfortunately clouded our view of the spectacular scenery. The rain came down like mad and wouldn’t leave us for at least another day. I was really disappointed but of course there is not a thing you can do about the weather. Instead of agonizing over it, I began to plot out our plans for the next few days. About three hours later we arrived at the town of Gmunden at the northern edge of Lake Traunsee. Our accommodations were located in Altmünster, the next town over.

Thankfully we had the address plugged into our car navigational system or else I’m not sure how we would have found it. The Landgut Wagnerfeld is perched high above Lake Traunsee on an immense pasture of farmland. As we pulled up into the estate, I couldn’t believe my foolishness as I had absolutely no idea that we were staying on a farm. Yet I was absolutely thrilled by this unexpected surprise. We had spent two nights at a farm in rural Costa Rica and our farmstay ended up being one of the highlights of our entire trip. It was wonderful.

Landgut Wagnerfeld, Lake Traunsee, Austria

Driving up from Lake Traunsee to the farm

Landgut Wagnerfeld

 Landgut Wagnerfeld

Arriving in the rain at Landgut Wagnerfeld

 Landgut Wagnerfeld

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Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Looking Up at Paris from a Boat Cruise Along the Seine

I will always love Paris and the City of Light (as she is lovingly called) will never cease to amaze and surprise me. What I love the most about Paris is that no matter how many times I visit, I always see something new. I had the luxury of living in Paris years ago in my early twenties as an exchange student at the University of Paris -Sorbonne, and ever since it has been my dream to bring my own daughter Sophia to Paris and show her my most favorite city on earth. Thankfully, I was able to bring her to Paris this past summer on a mother-daughter trip along with my own mother, sister and niece. It was a whirlwind trip exploring London, Lille and Paris all within a little over a week but I accomplished my goal. Sophia fell in love with Paris just like I did the moment I laid eyes on its beauty.

Sophia on top of the Eiffel Tower

Priceless. Sophia on top of the Eiffel Tower daydreaming about Paris below.

We only had three full days in Paris and given the large amount of amazing things to do and see, I had to carefully craft a plan of action of what I felt should be the highlights for Sophia and my niece Hanna. Since all of us grownups have been to Paris many times, we wanted to ensure that the trip was focused exclusively on the girls meaning it was important to not spend too much time walking around museums or at fancy places to eat. I wanted to give the girls an overview of the best of Paris, all that we could squeeze into three very long, full days.

The list was long and I had to cut it down based on how large and how spread out everything is in Paris. I needed to also ensure that we had enough time to get to each destination without killing our legs from all the walking. The metro helped us get around, yet I soon remembered how much walking there is even inside the metro and how many stairs! Our legs ached and throbbed by the end of our three days but we sure gave the girls a taste of Paris, hitting these must-see destinations along the way:

  • The Louvre
  • The Notre Dame Cathedral
  • The Eiffel Tower
  • Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur
  • Champs-Élysées
  • The Arc de Triomphe
  • Jardin du Luxembourg and the Latin Quarter
  • As many outdoor cafes as we could possibly find for a coffee or a glass of wine for the adults and a kiddie cocktail for the girls.

I would have loved to show Sophia where I lived at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris way out in the 14th arrondissement but alas we ran out of time. I also would have loved to go to more museums but even the Louvre didn’t last long with two tween girls. I decided to save the rest for the next time.

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Hiking Hut to Hut in the Gaistal Valley

Nestled within the Mieminger mountains to the south and Wetterstein mountains to the north, lies the stunning, idyllic Gaistal Valley. Stretching west from the tiny hamlet of Klamm in the region of Leutasch, Austria, this achingly beautiful landscape is home to miles of hiking and biking trails, farms, alpine refuges and mountain “huttes” (huts) where you can explore some of the most nostalgic, untouched nature in Austria. It is here we chose for our third and final day of hiking in Seefeld in Tirol, perhaps saving the absolute best for last.

We headed out after breakfast, excited about the day ahead. We had heard about Leutasch from the Seefeld tourist office as it is one of five municipalities in the Olympiaregion Seefeld and is particularly known for its awe-inspiring beauty. You could easily hike for days going hut to hut, dining on delightful regional cuisine and finding refuge in the traditional alpine huts. There are plenty of amazing long-distance hikes (enough to make me drool and want to come back).  For us, we only had the day so we decided to make the best of it.

We left shortly after breakfast, heading north on L14 for roughly 10 kilometers to the small town of Föhrenwald in Leutasch where we somehow got lost. Thankfully there was a hiking store in town that provided us with much needed directions and an excellent map of Leutasch and the Gaistal Valley. Otherwise we for sure would have been driving in circles through all the different tiny Austrian hamlets that make up Leutasch. We took a left on Leutascher Ache following the windy road passing through villages and farms until we reached the start of the parking area a little bit past the village of Klamm. Thanks to our stop at the hiking store, we knew to proceed all the way to the P5/Salzbach, the last of five parking lots, where we would begin our hike. There are 12 huts interspersed along the hiking trails through the Gaistal Valley, and we decided to visit two of them, the Gaistalalm and Tillfussalm.

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Rosshütte, Seefeld, Austria

A Panoramic Alpine Hike: Hiking the High Trail to Seefelder Spitze

I slept like a baby my first night in Seefeld. Perhaps it was the freshness of the Austrian mountain air combined with the blissful feeling of being at peace in the mountains. Or maybe it was the anticipation for the day ahead knowing that I’d finally be in the place I’d been longing to be for so many months: Way up high at the top of the world in the heart of the Austrian Alps.

The kids rose to the smell of scrambled eggs, freshly baked bread and strawberry jam. It was the first time we had a homemade breakfast in two weeks and I was enjoying the normalcy of cooking and having a kitchen again. I stepped out on our apartment’s spacious wood deck, rose my head up to the sky and smiled, letting the morning sun gently warm my face. We were going to have a wonderful day of hiking ahead. I was looking forward to checking out the Rosshütte Ski Area – one of two main Alpine ski resorts in Seefeld- which has a couple of fantastic panoramic hikes at the top of the Alps overlooking the Olympiaregion. After yesterday’s hike along the lower-laying plateau, I desperately craved to get up high knowing very well that the views would be breathtaking. Thanks to the Seefeld Tourist Office, we had a route in mind. It would be my children’s very first high alpine hike and I wanted it to wow them.

After breakfast, we set off on foot, heading to the base of the ski resort located about a 15 minute walk from town. When we arrived at the base of the mountain, we purchased a ticket to ride the funicular up to the Rosshütte mid-station located at 1760 m saving us a long, long hike up. We saw people hiking along the way but in my opinion, I preferred to save my energy (and especially the kids’ energy) for the top where the views would be astounding.

Rosshütte, Seefeld, Austria

Setting off on foot to the Rosshütte ski area (my daughter Sophia, son Max and father).

Rosshütte, Seefeld, Austria

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