Hungarian Grand Wine Tour

An exclusive and interactive wine tour in the Hungarian countryside

This tour is not for the faint-hearted for it involves a lot of wine and actions! It is active, culturally engaging, educational and inspires your creativity. You see places you have never seen before. You create things you have never made before. And you taste wines you have never tasted before. And you get to take home some of your memories in a shape of your creation!

Here is a brief itinerary about what you are going to EXPERIENCE:

Day 1 – Visit Etyek wine region and a chocolate factory where you can create your own chocolate bar or a box of chocolates. You will taste some Etyek wines and learn how to make the real Hungarian Goulash. Later on the day you visit the old city of Szekesfehervar, which was the capitol of Hungary in the Middle Ages. You will stay in 4* hotels in Balatonfured. Lunch with cooking class and wine /chocolate tastings are included.

Day 2 – Visit the world famous Herend Porcelain Factory and make your own porcelain rose or elephant. In the afternoon you visit the Somlo wine region of Hungary and indulge in a local wine tasting. You will learn about the sparkling wine making process, while you will stay at the estate overnight. Dinner, wine tasting and entrance fee to the Herend Porcelain are included.

Day 3 – You will take a boat ride in the caves on a lake and you will visit Badacsony wine region. In one of the wineries you will have the opportunity to become a winemaker for a couple of hours and you can create your own white blend! You can visit a Benedictine Abbey overlooking the Lake Balaton and stay overnight in the outskirts of Szekszard. Dinner, boat ride and wine making are included.

Day 4 – You will visit a couple of wineries in the Szekszard and the Villany wine regions. They are all very different in style, but they all have one thing in common: They offer exceptional wines! For dinner you have a ‘degustation’ menu, with local food specialties paired with local wines. Stay overnight in a wine hotel. Dinner and wine tastings are included.

Day 5 – Visit the paprika museum and stock up on some real Hungarian paprika! Before lunch you will watch a horse show with Hungarian ‘cowboys’, take a horse cart ride and have a hearty lunch along with ‘gypsy’ music. Stay overnight in Tokaj region. Lunch and entrance fees are included.

Day 6 – Visit two wineries in Tokaj, which is the home of the world famous sweet wine of Hungary: Tokaji Aszu! You will visit the 250-year old stone dusty cellars, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the afternoon you will visit another winery in Eger wine region, which is located in a stone quarry! Dinner and wine tastings are included. Stay overnight in 4* hotels in Eger.

Day 7 – Visit Holloko, the authentic Hungarian cultural village and engage in all types of activities, including: a folklore dance class, pottery or basket making, cheese making or visiting various museums. You will be dropped off at your hotel in the late afternoon. Entrance fee to 10 programs in the village is included – you can buy more at the premises.

  • Price based on double occupancy and does not include airfare to and from Budapest
  • Price includes hotels and transportation for the 7 days

We’d love to hear your questions, inquiries or interest. Please send an email and we get back to you as soon as possible or alternatively we can be reached on 808.214.8467 or by email.

Organic cheese tour in Wisconsin

Many people simply love cheese. All types of cheese, but one thing is important: Quality! Wisconsin is the land of cheese in the United States, so this is the place that crosses our mind first. The state has over 9.500 dairy farms with over 1,270,000 dairy cows produce 3,167,495,000 lbs. cheese in 2016! That’s a lot of cheese.

 

The Wisconsin Dairy Heritage dates back to the 1830s when farm wives started to make ‘kitchen’ cheese from their cows’ milk. And it is the home for the annual World Championship Cheese Contest where Wisconsin is the leader in the industry.

 

If you care for pesticide and herbicide free food then you should definitely visit the organic farms in Wisconsin. They obviously follow green best practices and feed their cows with non-GMO crops. Then they make the delicious chemical free cheese from their milk, which can be cheddar, monetary jack, muenster, farmers, mozzarella,

 

Cedar Grove – is located in the heart of the cheese making region – makes cheese in a traditional, old-fashion way and they also educate visitors about the art and history of cheese making, and how small production effects the environment and the other businesses around them. They also have windows in their store where you can see how they make the cheese in the factory. They have all kind of cheese including daily specials and specialty cheeses you cannot find anywhere else. They also have a squeaky cheese curd. If not organic, their cheeses are hormone and GMO free.

 

Castle Rock Farms is also proud of their sustainable farming and organic cheese making operations. They believe in respecting the land they use and the quality they create. They offer various sized cheese gift boxes and many types of organic cheeses including blue cheese, cheese curd, cheese spreads and raw cheddar plus ice cream. They have very interesting flavored cheeses: Cajun, Garam Masala, Black Bean Salsa and Lemon-Thyme-Ginger.

 

Otter Creek Organic Farm really does an effort to keep their environment under sustainable operations they even make their own fertilizers. They specialized in seasonal, raw cheddar cheese made from a single farm. Their award winning cheese is the Pesto Cheddar, which is unpasteurized and aged at least six months giving it a rich, full and creamy taste.

 

P.S. – Want to go on a custom designed eco-friendly and sustainable tour anywhere in the world? I’m happy to book your full or partial trip! I’ll be offering you to my favorite hotels or resorts, restaurants, attractions, bars, and natural wonders you won’t find in any guidebook. If you’re interested, subscribe to my newsletter for updates or contact me now.

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Please leave your comments below. Ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!

Local Food Festivals: Nagykörű, the Hungarian Land of Cherries

We all have our favorite food or drinks so whenever there is a festival featuring those items we should be ready to attend. I was looking for some great food events in Hungary when I came across this small cute village representing the real authentic Hungarian culture and an amazing cherry festival – actually four events a year. Apparently Nagykörű is the sweet cherry garden of Hungary.

 

It is located in the Northern Great Plain region of central Hungary by the second most important river, Tisza. It is approximately 2 hours drive from Budapest. The Great Plain has the perfect ‘terroir’ for growing vegetables and fruits, and Nagykörű became famous of its delicious cherries. The village is very colorful especially when the cherry trees blossom. There is a beautiful Baroque church and many old traditional houses, while you can take a walk along the river Tisza. The dam also gives you a pleasant experience of the countryside with its green scenery and wandering Hungarian Grey cattle and Racka sheep. River Tisza allows visitors to engage in some water sport activities such as canoeing, rowing and swimming.

 

The first settlers arrived around 1067, while they had a monastery that was founded by the Johannites or the knights of Malta in the 13th century. It was destroyed when the Turkish attacked Hungary. Their church existed as early as 1330.

Cherry production started in the Middle Ages, while George Petrovay was a landlord, who made cherry trees grow abundantly and created new species. The area now takes up more than 200 hectars.

 

The village’s various terrain, folklore buildings and fairs and food events attract many tourists every year. There is a Folklore museum is a cultural center, which also a landmark and historical place. You can learn old traditional craftmanships there like broom making, wicker basket making, and they have an outdoor old-style oven where they bake their cake, the cirkos cake. Another building belongs to the center offers accommodations for tourists.

 

They have different events all year around and one of them is the Cherry Festival in June, which should be a must-go attraction for those love cherries and eco-tourism. This event you can find many stalls in the market place where they offer home made products to taste or purchase such as cherry goat cheese, cherry syrup, cherry jams, cherry liquors, cherry ice cream, etc. They have folklore music and dancers, traditional rituals and religious activities, concerts, games, outside cooking and learning artisan crafts making.

P.S. – Want to go on a custom designed eco-friendly and sustainable tour anywhere in the world? I’m happy to book your full or partial trip! I’ll be offering you to my favorite hotels or resorts, restaurants, attractions, bars, and natural wonders you won’t find in any guidebook. If you’re interested, subscribe to my newsletter for updates or contact me now.

 

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Please leave your comments below. Ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!

 

Solar Hotel, an eco-friendly budget hotel in the heart of Paris

Sometimes we only need a couple of days to relax or we can only get away from work or family for a very short time. A few days in Paris can be a very rewarding vacation. I had a chance to spend three days there and I know I will definitely be back in the future.

 

Traveling to Europe can be a little expensive on the flight costs, however now there are some low cost long haul airlines available to get to the other side of the ocean. If you do not want to spend a fortune on hotels you can choose budget hotels. Paris can be pricey when it comes to accommodations, therefore I was searching for some less expensive options. I came across a little eco-friendly budget hotel in the heart of Paris in Montparnasse called the Solar Hotel. All I know was that they practice sustainable operations and the price was pretty good. Little I knew that a location of the hotel was actually priceless. They have two buildings and we stayed in the one that is on the Rue Daguerre, a little walking street full of quality high-end food stalls and shops. I was mesmerized by the fish market shop, which has a restaurant next door they use daytime and at night. I had to have a huge fresh seafood dinner there, which was the best seafood I have ever eaten in my life! There are also cheese shops full of thousands of types of cheese, butcher shops with beautiful meat products, foie gras shops, wine shops, boulangeries, etc. They were all boutique shops with exceptional quality of products.

 

Also, the metro station (Denfert-Rochereau) next to the Les Catacombes de Paris was only at the end of the walking street. Paris has a very good transportation system so it is very easy to get to anywhere by metro or train. They have different types of transportation vehicles underground. They have the metro with 14 lines and the RER – which is a train – with 5 lines. Normally you cannot change metro to a RER with a plain ticket, but there are some stations you can. You can either buy one-way ticket or a bunch of 10 tickets from the ticket machine. It costs about 15 EURO. You can use one ticket on multiple metro lines if you don’t go outside of the stations. We could get to the Eiffel Tower in 20 minutes by one metro line.

 

The other easy and practical transportation is Uber since taxis or cabs rip you off. Anything with meter in it will not charge you the correct amount. Not only in Paris but in the whole Europe. I used Uber in Athens, Porto and Paris. Paris and Porto also have Green Uber with the same price as the Uber X but with full electric cars. So, choose wisely as there is no reason not to choose the sustainable option.

 

The hotel’s room was very simple but clean, but that’s what you pay for. They offer free organic breakfasts every morning, which includes fresh breads and croissants with butter, jam, honey, or cereal, yoghurt and tea or coffee. They do the shopping in paper bags and in their own cart. I saw bags full of organic produce. In their garden they have giant water collectors, bicycles to use for guests and they grow their own herbs too.

 

Solar Hotel was definitely the best choice to enjoy a little Paris for our short visit.

 

P.S. – Want to go on a custom designed eco-friendly and sustainable tour anywhere in the world? I’m happy to book your full or partial trip! I’ll be offering you to my favorite hotels or resorts, restaurants, attractions, bars, and natural wonders you won’t find in any guidebook. If you’re interested, subscribe to my newsletter for updates or contact me now.

 

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Please leave your comments below. Ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!

Teaching children while on vacation

We all have different motives when traveling. Some people love doing nothing just laying on the sun and go swimming, some people go far away from the everyday routine to relax, some people actively seeking cultural engagement or looking to learn something and some people actually want to help others and achieve fulfillment through giving back to the community.

 

For those include in the latter there are hotels around the world that reach out to communities and offer guests the chance to involve in helping local people. One of these opportunities is to teach English to local children. This type of vacation is not like the volunteering travel or voluntourism where your main reason to travel is to volunteer and the minimum stay is three months. This travel only includes a few hours charity work in your free time.

 

Grace Bay Club in Turks and Caicos guests can teach math and reading for the local youth. The Grace Bay Resorts Community Foundation entered in a project for charitable and community initiatives to support local schools and encourage youth to be leaders, especially in the tourism sector.

 

Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta in Mexico supports the Delia Moran Vidanta Foundation, which helps children in low-income families in the area to learn English and math and guests can play soccer and baseball with them too.

 

Six Senses Yao Noi in Thailand also offers opportunity to guests to teach basic skills for a few hours in local schools according to their abilities. Not only it is one fo the leading hotel in sustainability due to its natural materials use, energy efficiency, water and waste management, environmental protection and social commitments it has a Nature Trail for guests to experience the mangrove forest.

 

The Cliff Hotel in Negril, Jamaica also support children at the local school and teach them to read and computer skills.

 

So, if you really want to help communities and children you can even if you are on vacation. You will go home not only with great memories but you will actually feel much better. You will know that you did something good for this planet and this will make your trip much more powerful and memorable.

 

P.S. – Want to go on a custom designed eco-friendly and sustainable tour anywhere in the world? I’m happy to book your full or partial trip! I’ll be offering you to my favorite hotels or resorts, restaurants, attractions, bars, and natural wonders you won’t find in any guidebook. If you’re interested, subscribe to my newsletter for updates or contact me now.

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Please leave your comments below. Ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!

Culinary travel with authentic local food

Food and drink became the pulling power of destinations highlighting culinary tours in every corner of the world. It does not mean you travel only to eat but you will still be engaged in different cultures on your journey.

 

Tours can be short or long depending on what you aim to achieve. You might want to just have a little skill to create a new authentic dish of a foreign country or you might want to explore an entire county’s various food options and learn all the regions, and its cultures while also traveling around.

 

Short tours could be local tours in cities to show you the most hidden little gems off the path serving local authentic dishes and secret bars you would never find yourself. These tours take only a couple of hours or max half day.

 

Also, cooking classes belong to the less time-consuming activities as they last about 2-6 hours. Some places you have a choice between standard and exclusive classes so you can let others be on the class with you and your companion or you can own the whole kitchen by yourselves. Anyway, who wouldn’t want to know how to cook a local paella in Barcelona, a real Thai curry made with galangal and coconut milk in Bangkok or make fresh authentic French souffle shopping for ingredients in the Marche Maubert market in the heart of Paris.

 

But do not be panic there are longer classes that takes a full day or days to complete. If you are one of those who already has some cooking skills and want to widen it with some extra experience you can sign up on classes such as the 16 days Italian Adventure Food Tour, the 6 days of Jordan Taste Tour or the 3 days Bite Size Break in Delhi. The Italian Adventure Tour takes you through Italy from Venice to Sorrento where you can taste fresh burrata cheese, the famous Italian pizza and pasta with seafood and fresh, local ingredients. The 6 days Jordan tour offers you an insight into the Bedouin’s cuisine, which has unique cooking and preparation. And if you love spicy, hot food do not miss to go on a food tour in India. You will be surprised how many different curry exist and how many other vegetarian spicy food you can make in India.

 

At the end of your vacation you are not only richer with some new cooking skills, new experience and maybe some new friends but you go home with a bag of memories.

 

P.S. – Want to go on a custom designed eco-friendly and sustainable tour anywhere in the world? I’m happy to book your full or partial trip! I’ll be offering you to my favorite hotels or resorts, restaurants, attractions, bars, and natural wonders you won’t find in any guidebook. If you’re interested, subscribe to my newsletter for updates or contact me now.

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Please leave your comments below. Ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!

Montana, the state of many terrains

Montana was on my bucket list and I got a chance to drive through its various landscapes. While experiencing all the different regions my favorites were the Going-to-the-Sun-Road in the Glacier National Park and the National Bison Range in the Flathead valley in Northwestern Montana. Only if there were not fires everywhere I could have seen more from this beautiful place.

 

I entered to Montana at the North Entrance of the Yellowstone National Park and stayed the night in a little town called Gardiner, while I was driving to unplanned directions too. So once again I entered Montana from Idaho State on the road 287 at the Black Mountain going to Helena. The scenery was very interesting and scary at the same time. Sometimes I was driving only by myself on this road for 20 minutes not even one car passed me from anywhere. I was wondering how someone could manage to get help when the only living beings around were the cows and there was no coverage on the phone. I guess we have to rely on each other heavily when a problem or an accident happens. The only person who can help you in Montana is the only car passes you so human intervention is inevitable. At some point I felt like driving on Mars surrounded by soft, shiny and yellowish grass fields stretching out to the hills afar off with nobody in sight. I could not stop thinking about these cows that were fed on natural dry grass and had an enormous space to wander around. I am pretty sure they taste delicious deriving from the fact that they also look happy. Coming from a large or medium sized city where supermarkets are just around the corner everyday life in Montana would be tricky for me in a sense of food shopping. You have to drive one hour to get to a big city or town to get your weekly supply. I guess they drive there once a week and pile up on certain food items. While approaching Helena I stopped at a tiny little town called Ennis, which has these old-fashioned western style buildings. I love those buildings they remind me of the old western movies.

 

Helena is the capital city of Montana State. It was founded as a gold camp during the Montana gold rush, and was established in 1864. It has a beautiful gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, and the Montana State Capitol with the flower spelling of Montana 2017.

 

My next destination was the Glacier National Park but I had a couple of stops before I got there. While searching for some attractions on my way up north I found a little dinosaur museum in Bynum. The entrance fee to the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center was only $5 so I thought why not to educate myself. It was actually a very interesting place and I read all the remarks on the wall about the prehistoric times. After an hour drive I entered the Blackfoot Nation’s land and also took picture of their stunning sign on the road. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong time to visit Montana as they had many fires throughout the state. The gorgeous Glacier National Park was not visible as much due to the smoke but I still tried my best to have the best shots and videos on the Going-to-the-sun-road.

 

Before I entered into the deep of the mountains I stopped in St Mary, which is a cute little town on the eastern side of the National Park. St Mary Lodge and Resort is a real rustic wooden building with a warm atmosphere. Their dining facility called the Snowgoose Grille, located in the main lobby, offers food items such as Montana buffalo, fresh fish and the obvious huckleberry specialties.

 

Going-to-the-sun-road was absolutely amazing driving around giant mountains with snowy caps, crystal clear rivers on narrow crooked roads. The water of the rivers is so clean that I wanted to drink it. The only observation was that if you drive from east to the west you cannot park on your right side. All the parking spaces are located on the left which means you have to drive across the road and after you finished with your pictures you have to go back to the other side again. The view is spectacular anyway but it is a little bit annoying. I passed Lake McDonald too, while stopped by it to watch its beautiful settings.

 

After finally getting some reception and Wifi in West Glacier I headed towards Bigfork where I chose the restaurant Raven in the Woods Bay to have some Montana bison with huckleberry sauce, while I was relaxing in the sun by the lake. On the way towards Charlo there were many establishments offering everything with huckleberry such as ice creams, sodas, chocolates, gummy bears, shakes, pies, jams, honey, coffee, etc. I tried the huckleberry shake in Huckleberry Land, which was delicious and pretty sweet.

 

My last destination was Charlo and the National Bison Range, however I saw enough bison in the Yellowstone National Park in the previous days. I stayed in the Ninepipe Lodge, an Indian owned and operated accommodation not far from the Bison Refugee. It was clean and had a rustic interior with friendly staff. I left very early in the morning to observe the wildlife that apparently is the most active in the early hours. The park opens at 6.30am so I was there not ling after 7am. I was the only car you could see and the visitor center was not open so I could not pay the entrance fee. It was a long two-hour drive through the park and I saw many animals such as bears, bison, elks, deer, antelope and birds. They were freely wandering and running around the hilly terrains. It was truly an amazing experience.

 

My trip was a nice overview into Montana, which made me to go back again, especially once the fires are cleared off.

 

P.S. – Want to go on a custom designed eco-friendly and sustainable tour anywhere in the world? I’m happy to book your full or partial trip! I’ll be offering you to my favorite hotels or resorts, restaurants, attractions, bars, and natural wonders you won’t find in any guidebook. If you’re interested, subscribe to my newsletter for updates or contact me now.

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Please leave your comments below. Ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!

Yellowstone National Park, the smoking land

If you have never been to the Yellowstone National Park you have to make a pact with yourself. You definitely have to see this beautiful place with many different terrains including high mountains, deep forests, geyserland and canyonland stretching out in three states: Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Thanks to the slow speed limit you can observe them very carefully, while taking amazing pictures from and out of the car. I chose Yellowstone National Park as my vacation destination, which was a good choice and the best $50 I have ever spent in my life. I read that the Yellowstone Supervolcano had had an ongoing earthquake swarms since June and this was the biggest one so far recorded. Apparently, it will not erupt or blow in our lifetime so you don’t need to rush there right now. However, the best time to visit the park is between May and September. I wish I could have travelled around the park in a trailer or RV stopping at many places and spend more time in the wilderness.

 

If you are in Wyoming heading to Yellowstone National Park do not miss out on the Grand Teton National Park either. It will cost you another $30 but it has gorgeous high mountains. If you have time you should definitely visit Jackson Hole, a very cute ski town with western style buildings and arches of antlers. If you are lucky you will be able to see some bison herds and elks while approaching Yellowstone. I stayed at Togwotee Mountain Lodge in Moran in the middle of the Tetons in a wooden room inside the main building. It was very comfortable and cozy room with many amenities including hot tub, dining room and western style saloon. Out of curiosity I bought a jar of Huckleberry syrup with berry bits made with organic cane juice, which was very delicious. It is produced by Larchwood Farms – if anyone interested.

 

After paying the park ranger and entering the park I happily realized that the speed limit is only 45mph. This is a very comfortable speed when you drive by yourself and take pictures – not at the same time, obviously. The weather at the end of August was very beautiful with lots of sun but the temperature was not too high. I actually got into a hailstorm, which lasted about half an hour. So, we had happy plants and I had a clean car. I managed to drive around almost every corner of the middle of Yellowstone. I started northwest at the famous Old Faithful, a cone geyser, which was the first geyser to receive a name. Its name refers to its predictable eruptions, which is between 65-110 minutes depends on the duration of the previous eruption. These days everything has an app so as the geysers. You can either download the Geyser app to check the exact eruption time or you can find the prediction times on the buildings in the area. I was – again – lucky to catch the eruption of this geyser, however I was more interested in my next stop. Grand Prismatic Spring is another geyser area where the beautiful color hot springs are located. (See on image taken by myself) It’s only 12 minutes drive from Old Faithful and has two accesses. I went to the one everybody approached, which took us to the different hot springs including the Excelsior and the Grand Prismatic. We could walk around these amazing phenomena but you were not able to take a picture of the springs from above. However, there were people up on the hill above the springs and I really wanted to get there to take the best shot. I asked around but nobody knew the way to the hill so I thought I would find myself. I drove to the next parking lot up north but before I walked miles around I asked someone there about that hill. Fortunately, I run into an expert who told me that the access to the hill was the parking lot before the main entrance and there was a two miles hike to get there. So, I drove back to the first parking lot and started the hike for the best view. Even the hike was pretty amazing full of small hot springs along the way and the scenery was fascinating. It looked like the surface of the earth was smoking and by walking on this fragile soil I was wondering why it is not opening up under me if there are so many of them. Or how do they know where to build a path for the hikers that will not start to bubble. Anyways, how these hot springs even were shaped – it makes you think of geography and what you learned in the past. Also, what you do not know and forgot.

 

Another incredible phenomenon was the bison migration. They were literally everywhere, moving from one side of the road to the other stopping the traffic while all human was just starring at these gigantic, gentle-looking, slow-motioned animals. I was actually mesmerized by them they were so beautiful. I believe I took about 100 pictures of them and the other days I was still stopping at wherever they were close. I could not get enough of the bisons, that is for sure.

 

My next stop was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, a stunning geologic feature of nature with deep rugged canyons, the Snake River, waterfalls, alpine lakes and steep mountain walls. The view was incredible from both Falls, the Upper and Lower Falls including the Artist Point and the Inspiration Point and you need to prepare to hike about two-three hours to get around the whole place. Trust me it is worth it.

 

My last stop on this day was Mammoth Hot Springs, which is near the North Entrance of the Yellowstone and it is a geothermal limestone terraces and hot springs. It has a steep stair to get to the top but after seeing the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone it did not give me a better view. It was quite interesting and educational to visit though.

 

Overall, it was a truly amazing trip and I will definitely be back to the Yellowstone National Park but next time for a longer period.

P.S. – Want to go on a custom designed eco-friendly and sustainable tour anywhere in the world? I’m happy to book your full or partial trip! I’ll be offering you to my favorite hotels or resorts, restaurants, attractions, bars, and natural wonders you won’t find in any guidebook. If you’re interested, subscribe to my newsletter for updates or contact me now.

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Please leave your comments below. Ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!

Mongolia, the nomadic escape

We all have the moment when we need some privacy, some tranquility away from the busy lifestyle and just go back to simplicity. Mongolia is the perfect destination for this purpose offering some privacy and peace in their gers or yurts in the countryside with traditional nomadic hospitality. They have a very interesting history too, which goes back to the 3rd and 1st century BCE when the Huns lived in Central Asia. The Huns, who later occupied the Transylvanian basin (today Hungary), may have been their ancestors. However, there are lot of controversies around this topic and the origin of Huns. Another important name in their history is Genghis Khan, who established a united Mongolian empire containing of nomadic tribes and ruled much of China, Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East in the 13th century CE. The empire later collapsed and split, while the northern part of Mongolia was conquered by China and later by Bogd Khan. He managed to declare autonomy of the Chinese occupied area, and in 1924 the Mongolian People’s Republic was born.

 

Mongolia, a landlocked country, is nestled between China and Russia surrounded by rugged terrains and has large amount of remote flatland of diverse scenery. It is the home of Gobi Desert, which is located in the southern region of Mongolia and many salt lakes. In prehistoric times Mongolia was actually a sea and the Gobi Desert was covered with seawater. Later, due to the forming of the Himalayan Mountains, this sea dried up while many small lakes left behind. For example, Uuvs Nuur, is saltier than the ocean. The rainwater minerals dissolve in the lake, while the water evaporates leaving the salt behind. Some of the lakes are so salty that physically it cannot dissolve more salt into the water.

 

Their traditional accommodation is the gers or yurts have a unique design and they are ecologically friendly and very practical, not to mention that they are portable. Their structure consists of a wooden frame and felt walls made of sheep’s wool, which attached by horse, yak or camel hair straps. They have various places to get air in and out of the ger, for instance for their stove or to cool down the temperature inside. The Mongolian nomads moved their camp four times a year and it took two hours to set up or take down one. They needed three large animals to carry one big family yurt, while a traditional yurt could accommodate five to fifteen people. Their door was always faced to south so they could absorb the solar heat and light.

 

These eco conscious tents look very simple from outside but once you step in them it is a different world. They are divided into sections: for women and kitchen to the east, for men and their tools to the west and for guests to the north. In the middle you can find the stove with chimney, while they used various symbols and the five elements as decorations and patterns. These days some of the yurts are equipped with luxury items.

 

There are many activities to do in Mongolia such as horseback riding, exploring dinosaur’s bones in the Gobi Desert or playing anklebones or shagai. If you chose to search for the precious dinosaurs’ bones you must know that according to the locals when you find a bone to identify as dinosaur’s you have to lick the bone. If it sticks it is indeed a dinosaur’s one. So, be prepared to use your tongue and taste some real Mongolian dirt and sand. Shagai made of sheep anklebones and it is used as a dice. Each of the four sides represents a different animal: horse, camel, goat or sheep. They also use it for other games with cards, dominoes, chess and khorol including the five elements, Buddhist and zodiac symbols.

 

If you want to see some actions and real Mongolian sports you should go to a naadam, the Mongolian ancient games, which is held every year. It has three components: wrestling, archery and horse racing, and the biggest naadam is the one held in Ulaanbaator in the capital.

 

Also, once in Mongolia don’t forget to indulge in the gastronomy and its joys. Tsuivan is a Mongolian dish made of mutton, onions, potatos, carrots and noodles. You have to like meat when you are in Mongolia since every dish served of mutton, sheep, goat or yak. They also have some rather interesting drinks such as the koumiss or airag, a Mongolian fermented mare’s milk, and a milky tea called suutei tsai. Horhog is a baked dish with sheep meat and vegetables, while Boodog is the Mongolian version of BBQ. It is made by putting hot stone inside the meat, which means they cook it from the inside to the outside of the animal. Don’t be surprised if they give you one of the stones once the meat is done to rub your hands with. You can also find dumplings on the Mongolian menu, Buuz is stuffed with meat and vegetables.

 

My suggestion for accommodation is the Three Camel Lodge, which is part of the Unique Lodges of the World. They follow sustainable practices along with environmental and wildlife conservation programs. They offer the true nomadic lifestyle in their traditional gers combines with the Mongolian culture. It is truly an experience where there are no phones and no Internet.

 

P.S. – Want to go on a custom designed eco-friendly and sustainable tour anywhere in the world? I’m happy to book your full or partial trip! I’ll be offering you to my favorite hotels or resorts, restaurants, attractions, bars, and natural wonders you won’t find in any guidebook. If you’re interested, subscribe to my newsletter for updates or contact me now.

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Please leave your comments below. Ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!

Agritourism, the joy of visiting farms

Do you like wild flower fields or orange tree gardens where you smell the scents and see the bees being busy pollinating plants? Or perhaps you like waking up for a freshly baked organic breakfast made from local ingredients from the farm’s own garden? Then agritourism or agrotourism is for you. What is agritourism? It refers to activities or stay in a private farm like fishing, u-pick, farm stays, farm tours, cooking classes, wine tasting, horseback riding and wildlife study, while any volunteering opportunity falls under rural tourism.

 

There are plenty of farms all over the world and you can find sustainable organic developments and agriculture businesses anywhere. California is the top agricultural producer of the US, therefore it is abundant in local, organic farms. I went on a trip to Ojai Valley with my friends last time and we stumbled upon a little olive oil company hidden from the main road and are off path. We found out that the Ojai Olive Oil Company produces 100% organic olive oil, which are locally grown, hand picked, pressed and bottled at the premises. They bought their press machines from Italy since these cold presses are not sold in the country. They have a wide range of products on offer they make from their olive oils including organic olive oils with infused with various flavors, soaps, lip balms, flavored balsamic vinegars and face creams. Definitely a stop by when you are in Ojai Valley.

 

I also found an agricultural farm stay place while searching for organic farms in the Amalfi Coast area. Le Tore Farm and B&B is located in Massa Lubrense, Campania near to Sorrento and between the Gulf of Naples and the Amalfi Coast at the elevation of 500 meters (0.30 mi). The building is actually a 19th century masseria surrounded with apple orchards, vines, olive and lemon trees, beef heart tomato, eggplants and animals. They offer accommodation with organic breakfast from their garden. They also produce limoncello – the Italian specialty drink –, olive oils and other products. They are truly committed to sustainable agriculture, so they recycle waste, minimize watering, reuse human waste, reduce packaging and they are working on new green solution for electric and thermal energy.

 

P.S. – Want to go on a custom designed eco-friendly and sustainable tour anywhere in the world? I’m happy to book your full or partial trip! I’ll be offering you to my favorite hotels or resorts, restaurants, attractions, bars, and natural wonders you won’t find in any guidebook. If you’re interested, subscribe to my newsletter for updates or contact me now.

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Please leave your comments below. Ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!