Travel year 2011: My top 10 destinations

St. Moritz - skiing in the Swiss Alps

Happy New Year 2012!! For me the year 2011 was a great year of travel. I visited over 20 different destinations, discovered new places and returned to many of my favourite ones. This post is a collection of my top 10 travel destinations in 2011.

1. Travelling around Yunnan province and Tibetan plateau in China
Ringha, China

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2. First time in Hong Kong
Hong Kong by night
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3. A day trip to Macau
Macau

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4. My friends’ wedding in Athens, and first time in Acropolis
Acropolis, Athens

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5. Discovering the Austrian Alps in Lech and St. Anton
Austrian Alps St. Anton, Austria

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6. Wellness holiday in Kamalaya, Koh Samui (despite of eight rainy days)
Kamalay resort, Koh Samui, Thailand

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7. Culinary trip to Paris
L'Ami Louis, Paris

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8. Mini holiday in Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca - Weekend destination

9. Hiking in the Swiss Alps in autumn: Murgtal
Murgsee - walks in Switzerland

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10. Mysterious Grand Hotel Orologio and why it was closed?
Grand hotel Orologio, Abano Terme, Italy

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Where to travel in 2012?
I also started collecting some travel ideas for 2012. There are so many interesting places I would like to visit, but I think these are quite on the top of my list:

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Autumn hiking in Niederurnen

Hikes in Switzerland - Niederurner Tali

The best mountain view over Walensee

Little Gondola on to the bergstationNiederurnen, Switzerland: Today was a beautiful Sunday, sun was shining from the blue sky and the weather was perfect for hiking; not too warm and not too cold. We decided to explore the Walensee area a bit more and climbed up from 980m to Hirzli berg which is 1’640m above sea level. The climbing was maybe a bit exhausting and took some good 1,5 hours, but the view from the top was worth it. This is probably the best view over the Walensee you could imagine – and you don’t really have to share this experience with many other tourists.

Autumn colours in the Swiss Alps

The view from the top is amazing – you can see the autumn colours around Walensee. And as you can see, we climbed to reach the snow…

The best hiking view over Walensee

Swiss alps in autumn costume

Swiss hiking in Niederurnen in autumn

The autumn colours were at their bests under the alpine sun.

Swiss walks - discovering Niederurnen

After about three hours hiking, we were finally back to the valley. There was a bit of snow on the shadow side of the mountains, and it looked very pretty.

The best of Swiss Alps – Hiking in Sattel

Hiking in Sattel, Switzerland

Crossing the Europe’s longest suspension bridge

Switzerland offers a countless number of trekking routes across the country, and I try to explore something new every year. Few weeks ago I was hiking in Sattel, which is located in Kanton Schwyz about 30 minutes drive from Zurich.

Hiking view from 1'600m in Sattel

I am always amazed by the beauty of Switzerland. Wherever I go, the landscape is always stunning – and Sattel was no exception. With great choice of well-marked walks through unspoiled nature, Sattel-Hochstuckli region is a destination for the whole family.

Skywalk in Sattel - the longest suspension bridge in Europe

The revolving Gondola “Stuckli Rondo” takes you up to the hill, where you can start your day by discovering 374 meters of “skywalk”, the longest foot suspension bridge in Europe hanging at a height of 58 meters above the valley below. The view is stunning already from the bridge, and climbing up the hills will reward you with plenty of breathtaking panorama spots to take your best hiking photos.

Hiking Swiss Alps - Sattel

Sattel hike in Switzerland

 

Swiss cows in the Alps

The hills are also a home to cute Swiss cows, which, I am sure, are the most happiest in the world. They look like they have no stress at all…

Sattel Toboggan run - Swiss walking holidays

 600 meters long toboggan run is a great way to finish your day!

Discovering the Swiss Alps: Murgsee

Murgsee hiking travel 

An alpine hike with stunning lake views and waterfalls

Murgsee round trip: I think I found today one of the most beautiful day hike destinations you can discover while exploring the Swiss Alps. Murgrsee round tour takes you through the protected Swiss pine forest reserve to the three Murg lakes located in a quiet mountain valley, and then further along a stunning mountain path back to the starting point.

The round route is about 14km and it takes about 4-5 hours. During the first three hours you need to climb up from 1’100m to 1’985m, but the rest of the route is relatively easy. It is a good hiking challenge with beautiful nature and plenty of waterfalls…

Here are my best hiking photos:


The first waterfall

Murgsee walk in Switzerland
Alpine hiking with the best views

Murgrese - trekking the Alps
Me trying to climb up the hill

Murgsee walk - alpine lake
Small alpine lake on our way back

Murgsee hike - waterfalls hiking
One more waterfall next to the hiking route

Murgsee - walks in Switzerland
Swiss Alps in autumn costume

Murgsee waterfall
One more waterfall…

How to get to there?
Drive the motorway Zurich-Chur and take the Murg exit in Walensee. Then follow the signs to Murgtal. It is a very tiny road, so don’t get confused. You can leave your car to a small parking space in Merlen, where the round walk starts. Remember to take a parking ticket in the gate entrance – the parking is CHF 10,- for one day.

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See also my other favourie hikes in Switzerland

Where to go in October?

Autumn Colours in the Swiss Alps in October

Swiss Alps, Konstanz and Bahrain…

Where to travel in October? Autumn is arriving in Europe and the nature is shining in the most beautiful autumn colours, so this is definitively a good time to explore mountain resorts in the Swiss Alps. It is also a good time to visit Middle East, while the weather is getting cooler…

Experience the autumn colours: hiking in the Swiss Alps
October is the best time of the year to experience the autumn colours in the Swiss Alps. Yellow, Orange, Gold, Green and in all shades – the most beautiful palette the nature can offer…

Kalusenpass - Hiking in Autumn in Switzerland
Klausenpass in autumn costume

Flumserberg Lake Seealpen - Hiking in Switzerland
Flumserberg – Hiking around Lake Seealpen

Hoch-Ybrig autumn hiking in Switzerland
Hoch-Ybrig with autumn colours

Hoch Ybrig - hiking in autumn
View from the top in Hoch Ybrig – so beautiful!

Hoch Ybrig signs
Where to walk?

Autumn Colours in Hoch Ybrig
I love these colours…

This is the list of my favourite hikes in the Switzerland.

Shopping in Konstanz by Lake Constance
The small idyllic town of Konstanz, just next to the Swiss border is a great place to make a day visit from Zurich and benefit some great shopping. You can also visit some of the idyllic little cafes having a break with most delicious cakes, bakeries and homemade ice creams.

A day trip from Zuricj to Konstanz

Sunshine in Bahrain
And if the autumn is getting too cold in Europe, Middle East offers enjoyable warm weather. Discover the exotic Bahrain in the style of 1001 nights… We stayed in the beautiful Banyan Tree Al Areen resort in Bahrain.

Bahrain sky line
This is Bahrain… The first view from the plane.

In villa Pool Banyan Tree Al Areen
Banyan Tree Al Areen

Restaurant Saffron Banyan Tree Al Areen
Restaurant Saffron in Banyan Tree Bahrain

Saffron Banyan Tree Al Areen
Banyan Tree Al Areen

Exploring China – Part 5: On the Tibetan Plateau

Ringha, China

We drove from Lijiang to Shangri La (Zhongdian) through the countryside with stunning sceneries. On our way, we stopped for few hours by the Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s deepest river canyons where the Yangtze River passes through the gorge with cliffs almost 4’000 meters either side. According to a legend the place was named after a tiger, which escaped from a hunter to save its life by jumping across the river at the narrowest point. This point is about 25 meters wide, but it was covered by flooding water while we were there.

Tiger Leaping Gorge, China

Tiger Leaping Gorge, China

One morning we visited the magnificent Sumtsenling Monastery in Shangri La, which is the largest Tibetan tantric monastery in Yunnan Province and home to 700 monks. The oldest part of the temples date back to the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama while the newest parts are still being built. The temple area is really beautiful with all the colours and flags, and inside the temples you can discover the amazing stories painted on the walls.

Sumtsenling Monastery

Sumtsenling Monastery

monastery flags

The stunning Pu Dacuo National Park, which is located on 3’500 meters above the sea level about an hour drive from Shangri La, was one of our day trip destinations. The park is only accessible by park busses, which will take you to the first hiking trail, which takes about 45 minutes and passes the colourful lake area. This view reminded me a bit of Finnish Lapland with blue water and old pine trees surrounded by hanging lichen. The second lake is much bigger and you can make a good 2-3 hours walk around it. It is amazing you can find this kind of place in China with such a high altitude!

Pu Dacuo National Park

Pu Dacuo National Park

wild horses in the national park, China

wild horses in Pu Dacuo National Park

Pu Dacuo National Park

Pu Dacuo National Park

While on the Tibetan Plateau, we stayed in a village of Ringha a short drive from Shangri La centre. The village itself is very picturesque with Tibetan style houses surrounded by the spectacular natural setting. Every morning yaks were walking through the village, and even our hotel area, to the mountains to spend their day there and then returning back in the evenings. I also spotted some cute black pigs eating the grass just outside our hotel door. At 3,200 meters above the sea level where the air is a bit thin was easy to relax and just enjoy the beauty around you…

Banyantree Ringha

Tibetan people

Ringha village

Yaks in the Ringha village

Pigs in the Ringha village

Exploring China – Part 3: The Stone Forest

Stone Forest Kunming

The Stone Forest is located in Shilin Yi Autonomous County in Yunnan Province about 120 kilometres from the provincial capital Kunming. The Stone Forest is a real natural wonder and covers an area of 400 square kilometres. The Stone forest region was a vast expanse of sea some 270 million years ago. Over the time the movements of the water caused erosion and the area developed the current shape of Stone Forest. The tall rocks seem to look like old grey trees creating an illusion of a forest made of stone, where the name comes from. Since 2007 the Stone Forest has been UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The area is very popular among the tourists, so the forest gate may get busy. I would recommend wearing good shoes and walking a bit further where it is quieter and you can experience this natural wonder on its best.

Stone Forest

Stone Forest

Butterflies in China

Butterflies in Stone Forest

Butterflies in Stone Forest

Butterflies in Stone Forest

Butterfly in Stone Forest

Stone Forest China

Stone Forest China