Just 10 days earlier I had marveled at the pyramids of Giza, one of those rare sights that live up to their tremendous expectations. The pink city of Petra, immortalized in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, stands to the same test. And our first impression of it, on a dark, starry night and lit up by hundreds of candles, was magical. I definitely recommend planning your trip to make sure that you can enjoy Petra by Night, which runs only certain days. Make sure to get there early (they let people in way before the official 8:30pm start time), and don’t let the high price (17 JD, ~S25), the hordes of tourists, the organizational chaos (if too many people come they just sit them in front of the first row, blocking the view), and the tacky show ruin it for you.
Maybe we should have done a bit of research before deciding to go to Jordan over Christmas. Or at least think about it for a minute, and we would have realized that the desert in the middle of the winter is bitter cold. But maybe it was blissful ignorance, because a couple of days later I’ve pretty much forgotten how cold we were, and we still managed to do everything we intended to 😉
At the end of our 2 week road trip around New Zealand, we spent 3 days in Queenstown. To be honest, it was one of the least impressive parts of the trip, it just couldn’t compete with the natural wonders of Tongariro, Abel Tasman or Mt. Cook. But it was a good point of entry/exit, and there was enough to do to keep us entertained, so sharing our favorites here:
And just like that, after 10 unbelievable days driving across New Zealand, we were entering the final leg of our trip: Queenstown and Milford Sound. For this part, we were going to meet up with an old Spanish friend of mine and her kiwi husband, making it extra special!
Sometimes being stubborn pays off… who am I kidding, it always pays off 😉 We woke up in Wanaka, knowing we only had one day left before we needed to drive to Queenstown to meet up with our friends. We wanted to check out the Mt. Cook National Park and the lakes around Tekapo, but hadn’t planned this part of our route, and didn’t know if we would have time for it.
New Zealand is simply spectacular, even just driving between the top spots you get to see so many breathtaking landscapes. After hiking in Abel Tasman, and sleeping in Nelson one last night, we picked up a rental car and hit the road down the South Island’s west coast for a couple of days. These are the places we stopped at along the way:
We had wrapped up the North Island on a very high note with the Tongariro Crossing, and after a short flight from Wellington to Nelson, were ready to kick off the South Island with another epic hike: the Abel Tasman Coast Track. We had originally planned to do 3 days / 2 nights from Marahau to Totaranui, but the weather forecast for our first day was so terrible, that we shortened it to 2 days / 1 night. We spent the extra day in Nelson, chilling and preparing for the hike, and we were very glad we did so, because: (1) all the hikers we met who had been in the park that day were soaking wet and miserable, and (2) we were able to arrange the perfect logistics.
I’ve hiked in epic places: the Himalayas, the Grand Canyon, Patagonia,… and yet, in my mind, there is no doubt that The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, in New Zealand’s North Island, is the most amazing day hike in the world. The fact that we got to experience it on a perfect sunny day also contributed to making it our favorite experience in this whole trip.
Rotorua might very well be the most visited attraction in New Zealand. And I can see why: there is a lot to do, both in terms of nature and maori culture, and it’s very conveniently developed. But because of that, it’s also lacking the charm of the rest of the country. We got to Rotorua after an enjoyable 2 hour drive from Waitomo Caves, most of it through endless green pastures that, for no good reason, had us screaming “burgers” every time we saw healthy-looking cows.
Picking this epic list back up for 5 more breathtaking views and hikes – check out my top 5 here.
Its incredible what nature can create. More than 2,000 red sandstone arches are said to be found in this park, and although I only saw a couple dozens, these are the other bizarre geological formations make this park a natural wonderland. Two hikes that are absolute must dos: the 3-mile / 2-hour Delicate Arch hike, and the 8-mile / 4-hour Devil’s Garden hike through Landscape Arch to Double-O Arch (including a detour to get behind Partition Arch).
The Windows section was closed for road construction when I visited, but I’ve heard great things about it too. And there are a few other viewpoints that are worth stopping by: Park Avenue, Balance Rock, Fiery Furnace,… We had such a blast hiking Arches with my baby niece 🙂