6 Iconic Hikes You Should Do Before You Die

I’ve come to realize a long time ago that hiking from a fun and healthy hobby quickly transforms into a lifestyle and once you get into it, there’s no turning back. For many people, hiking seems like too much work, when in reality it helps you understand that our everyday lives seriously need a pause button from time to time and this is one of the best ways to hit it.

Throughout the years, as my passion for hiking and trekking grew, I found myself exploring new exciting trails all over the world and a bucket list started to form. I’ve had the pleasure to witness the wild beauty that numerous hikes around the planet have to offer but somehow, the list of places I want to see only grows. Here are six of the most memorable hikes that every formidable hiker should conquer if they get the chance to do it.

1.     Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

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You’ve seen it everywhere – on posters, movies, and commercials, but still, witnessing the vastness of Grand Canyon isn’t something anyone can describe, you have to live it. Even if you’re quite new in the world of hiking, there are trails in the canyon you can try out without any fear you’ll overestimate yourself – Bright Angel Point Trail that only takes about half an hour is a good example. If you’re in for more of a challenge, then give Widforss Trail a shot and be prepared to be amazed at the variety of scenery you’ll come across. This round trip trail is 10 mi. long and it takes about six hours to explore it fully, but you will definitely have stories to tell after you come back. Don’t forget to bring your camera because one thing’s for certain – Grand Canyon has nothing if not mesmerizing views and you will definitely want to capture that.

2.     Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

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I strongly believe that traveling to Africa is a life-altering experience, not just because the culture and life are so different there, but because the spirit of this continent seeps into your bones. When you become confident enough and decide to get to the highest peak of Africa, know that you will need 7-9 days for the climb, depending on which route you take, as well as your stamina and fitness. While Kilimanjaro is known as a “walk-up mountain”, you still need plenty of time to get used to different climates and ecosystems you’ll go through on your way to Uhuru Peak. You will see everything from rainforests and moorland to cultivated land and snow as you reach the summit. Wild animals, never-ending skies and pilgrimage-like feeling of the hike will stay with you long after you return to civilization.

3.     Mount Fuji, Japan

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Here’s a mountain that has inspired artists from all over the world and today it remains an incredibly famous site only 60 miles from Tokyo. This mountain is made up of three active volcanoes and surrounded by five lakes, and as you approach it, you can’t help but feel the awe. If you’ve got thirst for Japanese culture and hiking, then taking on Fuji is the best “killing two birds with one stone” moment. You can climb this sacred mountain only during July and August every year unless you want to face harsh and unwelcoming weather conditions that can easily threaten your life. Don’t take this hike for granted though, as there are some quite demanding parts, no matter which course you take. Make sure to come prepared, with plenty of hiking food and equipment, though you’ll have plenty of stops along the way, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

4.     Mont Blanc in the Alps, France and Switzerland

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They say that Mont Blanc is one of the deadliest mountains in the world and many wholeheartedly agree with this notion. There’s an unyielding allure to places that are notorious for taking lives and King of the Alps is definitely one of those spots, which is why you need to be very, very prepared before you head out into this adventure. The weather is treacherous even during the hiking season from June to September, and you need to be prepared when it comes to hiking and climbing gear. Your fitness levels and agility will also be tested because the White Mountain with its peak at almost 16,000 feet will challenge you in every way possible, but the hikes that lead you through Italy, France and Switzerland will show you the sights and astonishing beauty that can’t be found anywhere else.

5.     Mount Elbrus, Russia

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The Russian Caucasus Mountains hide the highest peak of Europe in their little-explored areas and if you want to reach it, you have to hike and climb your way through Mount Elbrus first. This inactive volcano has been the dream of many ambitious hikers for decades, though more because of the glory of conquering the tallest mountain of the Old Continent. The hike in itself isn’t very difficult, especially because there’s a cable car system that works very well and will take you to 12,500 feet. From there you can take the Standard Route that is quickest and most secure and will take you to the southern slopes of Elbrus, all the way to the top. If you want to explore Elbrus and give it your best to get to the very top, going anytime from May to September is the wisest decision.

6.     Laugavegur Trail, Iceland

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Iceland has been tucked away on the edge of the world map for a very long time, but more and more tourists discover its unexpected and completely unique beauty all the time. Laugavegur Trail is one of the most popular things to in Iceland, which is why hikers from all over the world come here. This scenic trail has it all, including ice caves, hot springs and a lavish waterfall at the end of your hiking experience as a reward. Very few places on Earth have such astounding variety of landscapes on such a small distance, which is why Laugavegur is so attractive even to non-hikers. You can either camp out or book accommodation, which is quite affordable, but no matter what you decide, while you’re exploring Laugavegur Trail, you will feel like you’re in another world.

There are many other iconic hikes to talk about and only a book would suffice to write about them, but this list is a good start. Depending on your preferences and hiking experience, you can pick and choose where you want to go and make memories. The sky is not the limit, and that is never as clear as the moment you get to a mountain’s peak and reach for the clouds. – Tyler Michaelson

 

Tyler is a man of adventure. Loves spending time outside, and “luring” others to do so as well. Besides that, his main hobbies are writing, working out, photography and movie nights. He is also one of the main contributors to prosurvivalist.com.

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The Best and Worst Foods to Try in Japan

Japanese culture has become a global phenomenon in recent years, with the western world striving to learn more about their cousins in the orient. Part of the impact Japan has had on this corner of the globe has come in the form of the introduction of several new foods. However, not all of them are as mouth-watering as others.

Today we’re going to take a look at some of the best and worst cuisines which have come out of the Asian nation.

Best: Sushi

Kicking things off with a well-known classic, sushi has become one of the most popular dishes the world over – with London alone playing host to literally hundreds of restaurants dedicated to the craft.

I’m sure we don’t need to tell you the dish is usually comprised of raw fish, which has been wrapped up in a bed of cooked rice. It’s often garnished with the likes of cucumber and other vegetables.

Worst: Basashi Ice

Brace yourself for this one – Basashi Ice is quite literally ice cream which has been flavoured to taste like raw horse meat (which is itself oddly considered a delicacy in Japan – named Sashimi).

I don’t know about you, but frozen dead horse certainly isn’t our idea of a delicious post-meal treat. That said, you’re unlikely to ever find such a unique flavour combination anywhere else in the world, so it might be worth a try.

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(Image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/takoyaki_king/)

Best: Soba

Soba is effectively the Japanese answer to China’s Chow Mein – with this offering comprising of long buckwheat noodles which have become a staple of most people’s diets in mountainous regions.

The noodles are often accompanied by Soy sauce and are at times served up in a type of broth – although this version of the cuisine is considered by many to be untraditional and inferior to the original.

Worst: Shirako

It’s fairly commonplace to enjoy the delights of fish roe in a lot of cultures, but the Japanese take that one step further by serving up a meal which quite literally consists of male sperm which is still encased inside its natural membrane.

Yes, you read that correctly. We’re not sure who the bright spark was that came up with the idea for this dish originally, but we’d suggest they seek professional help. Worryingly, it seems to have taken off with the Japanese people, regardless.

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(Image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ayk/)

Best: Okonomiyaki

This delicious delight takes the likes of pork or cabbage and sees them wrapped inside a scrumptious savoury pancake – with Okonomiyaki serving as the ultimate in Japanese comfort food.

Some restaurants have even been known to allow their customers to grill their own pancakes, such is the simplicity of the dish. While it might not be the classiest item on a menu, Okonomiyaki is well worth trying out at some point.

Worst: Gizzard Soup

Finishing off our list is a dish which sees a hotpot made from the intestines and stomach lining of things like cows, goats and sheep. Sounds lovely, right?

The sloppy goo which accompanies the broth isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but it does apparently go down a treat with a bevy of Japanese diners after a hard day’s work.

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(Image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/)

Interested in trying any of these dishes (perhaps even the disgusting ones) for yourself? Why not give one of them a go the next time you’re over there?

How to Enjoy Tokyo Without Going Broke

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It won’t be the bustling metropolitan that will be the first thing that will get to you in Japan, it will be the politeness of it’s people. They take more care of respecting their visitors than any other culture in the world and if for no other reason, you should visit Tokyo to learn a lesson in good manners.

But all that aside, Tokyo is a bustling metropolis center with so many different travel tastes to offer that I could spend months there and never feel like I have exhausted all the secrets of the capital city. From street markets to beautiful gardens breaking up the concrete jungle, it’s a beautiful place to just breath it all in. So take my tips for saving a little here and there that can make a budget trip feel more like a luxury holiday—it’s easy and won’t feel like skimping!  

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1. Choose Your Dates With Care

Like any travel hot spot, the time you decide to take your trip is critical and with Tokyo it’s no different and you can save a bundle if you go in the off-season. I personally prefer to travel when it’s off-season anyway because it means getting to take my time visiting the big things and fewer lines to get into the hot spots.

When it comes to Tokyo, spring means cherry blossoms and makes April and May really busy times to be in the city, as well as the end of summer, and around the holidays for Christmas and New Years, so if you want to make a go of it without the huge prices, go on an unassuming week in October, November, February, or March—it’s the best way to see your money stretch a little further.

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2. Take Public Transport

There’s no denying that taking the subway in Tokyo is an adventure all on its own; with many different lines, crazy rush hours, and more, it’s a no-brainer that you have to have your wits about you as you grab the Ginza line at Omote-sando Station.

But the other no-brainer is that there’s no better, or cheaper, way to get around the city, so grab a map and practice your breathing exercises; it might take a few times to get used to the sardine like conditions if you hit morning traffic from Nakano to Shinjuku or from Kawasaki to Shinagawa.The Pasmo Card is the rechargeable version of the Tokyo Subway ticket system, or you can get passes for specific routes all along the way and it’s much cheaper than taking a taxi anywhere, especially in a city sprawl that means you can’t walk everywhere you need to go.  

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3. Eat, Stay, & Play In A Neighborhood

Tokyo is full of picturesque areas and if you’re going to save a couple of dollars here and there, stay in a place outside of Shinjuku or Harajuku, which will be big cosmopolitan areas that will have the highest prices. My favorite place to stay in is Shibuya and travellers benefit from the great nightlife that surrounds the student and young office worker neighborhood. Its got the “Times Square of Tokyo” location and is close to other big areas so it makes grabbing a train ride to the neighboring district is no big deal.

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I also suggest to look for alternative ways of sleeping: home shares, hostels, Airbnb, and if you’re travelling solo and want a unique take from a local, couchsurfing. Hotels can be expensive in prominent areas, and the share economies in Tokyo are also helpful for getting a bird’s eye look at the local goodies—hosts are always great resources for good finds and it’s good for the finances as well.

Pro-tip: In Tokyo there are really cool, really cheap ways of travelling if you’re trying to cut on spending and they’re called capsule hotels. With just enough space to sleep, and freebies like personal televisions, spots to lock up your stuff, and shared bathroom facilities, it’s for people who like hostels but are light sleepers and prefer to have their own space. But be warned, it’s not for the claustrophobic! Also, if you book using a Japanese site, you’ll get a better price.  

4. Buy A Local SIM Card

My personal money saving tip for most travel destinations is to let go of your cell provider’s international plan and opt for a local SIM card instead. I have an extensive collection with the tiny tech cards from all over the world to prove it, because not only does it save you money in roaming charges, but you also get cheap rates and great bars because you’re tapping into the local providers. What’s better than that?

The first thing I do when I arrive at the airport (or train station, or bus station) is immediately make my way to a cell phone station to purchase the card. Not only will the cards be cheap here and you can get started being connected immediately, you can have the employees help you install. If you grab it at a convenient store and want to do it yourself though, it’s really easy. Just pop open your phone, put in the card, and viola! If you have any trouble getting your phone to start, you might need to unlock it first, but most phones come already unlocked and you can skip this step.  

And the best part is that using a SIM doesn’t interrupt your regular service, so no need for extra hassle or price hikes—it’s a do-it-yourself that will save you and it’s easy.

5. Use Your Credit Cards

While it’s never a bad idea to have a little cash with you wherever you go, I do think it’s a much better system to travel with cards rather than a wad of cash. The charge per transaction from your bank or credit provider is going to be anywhere from 3%-5%, which is going to be a lot cheaper than the price of commission at a exchange center. Not only will exchange places totally rip you off (and doing it at home with your bank requires a lot of planning) but many credit cards offer reward programs for flights, meals, hotels, and more, when you use them abroad so you can get cashback on coupon deals for the next time you travel while you’re abroad.

Also, it’s a great way to keep track of your expenses and doesn’t require that you save all of your receipts. All it takes is one call to your credit card company to make sure they don’t put a hold on your account (I usually authorize a region, just in case I’ll decide on a day trip around) to get started.

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6. Be Judicious With Your Souvenirs

I’m already one to be totally against the bad practices of tourist traps that sell Bangladesh made goods in Paris (like shot glasses and desktop Eiffel Towers), but it will save you a lot of money if you make some smart choices. There are some really great buys, like Kokeshi dolls, that will make you want to throw down the yens.

First, I’m a big fan of Ink Cards and Postagram, two apps that change your photographs into beautiful postcards that can be sent internationally right from your phone, as well as Social Print Studio’s square magnets that make great souvenirs that mean you aren’t carrying around presents in your limited space.

My other souvenir tip is to get small things that represent Japan but won’t be found in the shops—chopsticks, packets of ramen noodles, and stamped subway tickets are great little trinkets that can save big in the long run but also have a personal touch of Tokyo.  

7. Eat Street

Sushi in Tokyo is beyond amazing, and if you’re a lover of the American or European Japanese sushi, let me tell you something: you know nothing. In Japan, there’s no spicy mayo on anything, just fresh fish, sticky rice, and perfect ingredients all around. And that’s why at least one meal you need to make a stop a verified institution for some great Tokyo cuisine. But this is not a wallet-friendly adventure, and the rest of the time, you should definitely save with cheap eats because not only are they good for the budget but they’re delicious as well.

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Supermarkets, street food stands, convenient store, and even ticket machine restaurants can make for a delicious meal that can counteract the fact you dropped a lot of money at dinner Sukiyabashi Jiro because you watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix too many times not to.

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Whether you’re headed for the Harajuku fashion, the Shinjuku vibes or the serene temple gardens, Tokyo is a place that everyone should visit at least once in their lives and with a little smart navigating, it can be a trip that everyone can take as well, no matter the budget. So book your flight and get to packing, Tokyo is calling!

Bon voyage!

This post was written by Claire Lovesti; traveler and chief blogger at www.traveltio.com.

All images via shutterstock