Estonia: The Country I Don't Want You to Know About

There are some places on this planet, so enchanting, that they are simply too good to share. Recently, I fell so deeply in love with an incredible country, and I don’t want to tell you about it because I don’t want to contribute to someplace authentic turning into another country overrun by an exorbitant number of tourists. Once word gets out about how wonderful it is, I fear of mobs of tourists will come rushing in.

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One of the joys of travel is finding the secret places that the tourists rarely visit and this country still remains unruined by tourists. This country is Estonia, and I doubt you’ve ever thought to visit.

Estonia has a rich history. From the height of the medieval period in Tallinn to the rich history on the island of Kihnu, this country is special. Not quite Scandinavia, and in close proximity to Russia, this Baltic state has a multitude of influences, yet the unique Estonian culture has remained intact.

Stunning Castles

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The Baltic states are filled with stunning castles that look as if they just flew of the pages of a children’s storybook. One such castle is the Kuressaare Castle on the island of Saarema. Just gazing up at the magnificent towers will make you think Rapunzel will be letting down her golden locks at any moment. Every good castle needs and decent moat, and the giant moat surrounding the Kuressaare Castle makes it feel just like the castles of your childhood imagination.

The Perfect Country For A Road Trip

Estonia is the ultimate roadtrip country. With so many incredible islands and towns to visit, although not necessary, having a vehicle will only enhance your Estonian experience. Vehicles are perfect for visiting the bluffs in Muhu and the Jaanihanso Cider Farm.

Adding nearby Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania to your list can create the perfect road trip trifecta.

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Spas & Manors

Whether time is spent participating in the 3 hour spa ritual at the Hedon Spa in Parnu, or getting a homemade scrub at Padaste Manor on the island of Muhu, Estonia is well known for decadent spa treatments. The spa therapist at the spa at Padaste Manor not only creates his own skin-soothing recipes on premises, he literally forages the island of Muhu for the ingredients for the spa treatments. This unique practice ensures that all spa ingredients are local, in-season and of the highest quality no matter what time of year you visit.

Affordability

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When compared to the rest of Europe, Estonia is a bargain destination. Hotels, meals and transportation are all a fraction of the cost you would expect in most European countries. Despite the low costs, there is no sacrifice of quality in Estonia. Even at Noa, the top restaurant in Tallinn, you can easily dine for under $75. Uber rides from Tallinn airport to the old town are only around 5 Euro each way, and luxury car rentals are cheaper than most economy cars in the US.

Spectacular Views

From the medieval cities to the nearby islands, Estonia’s scenery is magical. The islands of Muhu and Saaremaa boast dramatic bluffs. In Muhu you may catch a glimpse of wild horses playing in the water, and Saaremaa yields acres of fluorescent yellow rapeseed flowers blooming for acres.

Even the capital, Tallinn is picturesque. Tallinn delivers architecture and winding cobblestone streets that are straight out of the pages of a Grimm’s Fairytale book.

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Un-ruined by Tourists

The least enjoyable part of traveling is realizing that there are a million other tourists visiting at the same place at the same time. Even Estonia’s busiest city, Tallinn, has been spared from mass tourism, maintaining the authenticity of the area. Traveling during high season without loads of crowds was a refreshing experience, and helped create a feeling of authenticity in the city.

Estonia is magical year-round. With stunning flowers in the summertime and chilling ice-roads to the islands in the wintertime, you are guaranteed to have a spectacular visit...

... just don't tell anyone.

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Video: Exploring Vietnam

Exploring, tasting and zipping around Vietnam, including the MeKong Delta, Cu Chi Tunnels, and the local market on the island of Phu Quoc! Visiting for the ASEAN 50th Anniversary! What types of videos do you want to see more of? 

Subscribe to Trusted Travel Girl's YouTube page!

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Travel Inspiration: The Best Travel and Adventure Quotes to Inspire You

Inspiring travel quotes have been one of the most important tools for me as a traveler. Travel and adventure inspiration are sometimes needed before booking a trip, traveling solo to an unknown destination or braving a big adventure.

I have compiled a list of the best travel quotes and most inspiring adventure quotes to help you through your next big travel adventure.

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If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel — as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them — wherever you go.
— Anthony Bourdain
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I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.
— Mary Anne Radmacher Hershey
Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he had felt most at home.
— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
Once in a while it hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to
— Alan Keightley
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Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.
— Frank Herbert
I wanted adventures. I wanted to go up the Nung river to the heart of darkness in Cambodia. I wanted to ride out into a desert on camelback, sand and dunes in every direction, eat whole roasted lamb with my fingers. I wanted to kick snow off my boots in a Mafiya nightclub in Russia. I wanted to play with automatic weapons in Phnom Penh, recapture the past in a small oyster village in France, step into a seedy neon-lit pulqueria in rural Mexico. I wanted to run roadblocks in the middle of the night, blowing past angry militia with a handful of hurled Marlboro packs, experience fear, excitement, wonder. I wanted kicks – the kind of melodramatic thrills and chills I’d yearned for since childhood, the kind of adventure I’d found as a little boy in the pages of my Tintin comic books.
I wanted to see the world – and I wanted the world to be just like the movies.
— Anthony Bourdain
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You don’t have to be rich to travel well.
— Eugene Fodor
There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.
— Charles Dudley Warner
Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.
— Andrew Zimmern
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Not all those who wander are lost.
— J.R.R. Tolkien
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To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.
— Aldous Huxley
Adventure is worthwhile.
— Aesop
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.
— Saint Augustine
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“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
— Hunter S. Thompson
Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.
— Gustave Flaubert
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
— Neale Donald Walsch
Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.
— Ray Bradbury
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Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
— Ibn Battuta
We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
— Jawaharial Nehru
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A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
— Lao Tzu
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
— Mark Twain
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Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.
— Robert Frost
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
— Oscar Wilde
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I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
— Susan Sontag
The Journey is the reward
— Unknown
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What are your favorite inspirational travel quotes? 

5 Bucket-List Adventures for Adrenaline Junkies

Adrenaline junkies are always looking for their next adventure, and unfortunately finding ways to accelerate your heart rate can lead to redundant activities if you don’t know where to look. It’s time to put away the bungie cord and the parachute, because bungie jumping and sky-diving are so last year. They have already been done by just about everyone, including a 92-year-old former US president.

If you love adventure and a spike in adrenaline, here are 5 better ways to get your next fix.

Flying in a Doors-Off Helicopter

Sit in the “adventure” seat if you are brave enough and you can hang your legs out of a chopper!

Sit in the “adventure” seat if you are brave enough and you can hang your legs out of a chopper!

Flying in a normal helicopter over your favorite city is never going to feel adventerous again, once you try it with no doors! FlyNyon offers the experience of a lifetime as the wind whips through your hair over your favorite city.

They even have something called the “adventure seat”, for the real daredevils. The adventure seat requires riders to unbuckle from the middle seat and sit on the ledge of the chopper with their feet hanging out over the skyline. Talk about a rush!

Flying in an Open Air Trike

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It may take some epic turbulence to get your heart rate up when flying commercial, but flying in an open-air trike will get your adrenaline pumping from the moment the wheels lift of the tarmac.

Take the controls as you fly over some of Southern California’s most iconic sites with Pacific Blue Air. With the wind in your hair, and the sky as the limit, this certainly is like no flight you have ever experienced!

Learning to Race Cars on a Speedway

If racing formula 1 cars around an iconic racetrack isn’t enough to get your blood pumping, try doing it one-handed!

If racing formula 1 cars around an iconic racetrack isn’t enough to get your blood pumping, try doing it one-handed!

Nothing will scare the you-know-what out of you as easily as racing a car over 100mph on the famed Laguna Seca Raceway. Lucas Oil School of Racing has teamed up with Cooper Tires, to make you feel like a badass on the raceway, as well as have a better understanding for how to operate your own vehicle at home. Test different tire brands (I though Cooper tires had the best grip), and gain more confidence to drive faster and better around the track!

After graduating race school, you will have the opportunity to race your fellow classmates on the track. Channel your inner Ricky Bobby as you whip around the racetrack, because if you're not first, you're last.

Zip-Lines and Tree-Tops in Tahoe

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Heavenly Mountain is named for it’s scenic views of Lake Tahoe, but did you know their adrenaline inducing summer adventures keep this mountain open year-round? Epic Discovery at Heavenly is going to guarantee some Epic Adventures.

Climb, repel and zip-line from tree-top to tree-top with zip-line speeds hitting 40mph on the zip-line tours. Blue Streak the largest zip line at Heavenly, will give you panoramic views of the sapphire colored Lake Tahoe, as you zip by at 50mph!

Canyoneering in Zion

If repelling down into the canyon isn’t adventurous enough for you, there are some portions without ropes or harness. Credit: Gary Williams

If repelling down into the canyon isn’t adventurous enough for you, there are some portions without ropes or harness.

Credit: Gary Williams

If repelling down into the canyon isn’t adventurous enough for you, there are some portions without ropes or harness.

Canyoneering through Zion National Park is a great way to get your adrenaline pumping, especially if heights make your heart race! Although you could just relax and enjoy the scenic views the new SpringHill Suites, if you love adventure time is best spent repelling and climbing with SAW Zion.

The most exciting part of this experience is that a portion of it is done with no ropes or harness! Talk about an adrenaline rush!

What are your favorite ways to get an adrenaline rush?

 

READ NEXT: THE SHOCKING DESTINATION THAT'S AN ADVENTURER'S PARADISE

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Photographing Sunrise at Angkor Wat: Is It Worth It?

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One of the ASEAN area's most captivating UNESCO world heritage sites is Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Angkor Wat is not only the gem of Cambodia, but it's also the largest religious monument in the world. One of the most enchanting experiences is waking up early to photograph the sunrise in front of the main temple of Angkor Wat.

Getting up for sunrise at Angkor Wat is a bucket list item for any visitor to Cambodia, but is waking up at 4am worth it? Here's everything you need to know.

The Game Plan

For sunrise at Angkor Wat the gates officially open at 5am, but in my experience, they open just a few minutes earlier. To make it there in time for sunrise, you don't have to be there as the gates open, however, to get a decent spot for photographing you will need to be there 30 minutes before the gates open. This means if your hotel is in town (near the Pub Street area), you will be leaving your hotel around 4am! 

An early wake-up can be taxing on a jet-lagged body, and fighting crowds can make almost any experience less than desirable. But, those Angkor Wat sunrise photos can definitely be worth it, if you do it the right way. 

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Day Before Preparation

Getting a Ticket

First things first, before you can visit sunrise at Angkor Wat, you will need a ticket to enter the Angkor area and Angkor Wat. To save time, get your ticket the day before. I recommend the 3-day ticket because there is so much to see. The process to get a ticket can be time consuming depending on the time of day and the time of year, so be sure to block out enough time to stand in line for a little while.

The ticket office is open 5am-5:30pm, daily. Ticket prices are as follows:

1 Day Pass– $37 USD

3 Day Pass– $62 USD (Must be used within 7 days)

7 Day Pass– $72 USD (Must be used within 1 month)

Organizing & Gear

Photographing sunrise at Angkor Wat is going to take some organizing. Being one of the first to arrive to Angkor Wat is key. Arrange a tuk-tuk the night before with your hotel or a local driver (you can find many tuk-tuks in town, but your hotel may have the best recommendation). Your driver will most likely bring a cooler with cold towels and water, but you will want to be sure this is included because once the sun comes up it will be very hot (over 100 degrees hot)!

For photographing sunrise at Angkor Wat, it's going to be best to bring a tripod. If you have a wide angle lens, you will want to bring that as well. I recommend to set up all of your gear the night before. My Angkor Wat sunrise photography set-up was a Sony A7sii, with a tripod and a 16-35mm lens. 

Once You Arrive

Once you arrive you will have to walk in the dark towards the entrance. Be sure that you have your driver's number or a place to meet him after sunrise. Once it gets busy, he may be hard to find. 

Getting in front of the crowd is key. This is the best spot to set up your tripod. 

Getting in front of the crowd is key. This is the best spot to set up your tripod. 

Where to Stand

Locating the perfect place to stand is crucial for getting the best photos of sunrise at Angkor Wat. Even if you are the first one in the gate you need to hustle, as there will be a group on your heels trying to catch up to take the prime viewing spots. Once you enter Angkor Wat, you will walk down the long bridge. Take a left onto the grass just before the pond. You will want to set up your tripod and claim your spot at the first area you see that has a bare piece of ground. For a perfect photo, head towards the left corner in front of the pond. The key is to find a place that's as forward as possible to prevent other bystanders from moving in front of your camera, while still getting the reflection from the pond in the photo. This is the perfect location for photos of the sunrise at Angkor Wat. 

Pro Tips:

  • It will take a little while after sunrise to see the sun peak above Angkor Wat. Remain patient, it's worth it.
  • There will be plenty of women selling coffee to keep you caffeinated and awake. You don't have to lose your sunrise spot as they will come to you to take your order and gladly deliver it to you. 

Is It Worth It?

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If you can manage getting up early enough to beat the crowd, it's definitely worth the experience. When I was editing one of my sunrise photos of Angkor Wat, someone asked me why I would bother to post something that there are a million photos of online. I normally would agree, because I try to make my photos as unique as possible, but experiencing the sunrise at Angkor Wat is extremely special.

However, there are alternative options for less crowds and more unique angles.

The Alternatives

If you can't deal with crowds, there are a few other sunrise temples

If you can't deal with crowds, there are a few other sunrise temples

Ditching the Crowds

If crowds aren't your thing, I would recommend visiting another temple for sunrise in the Angkor Archaeological Park, such as Phnom Bakheng, or Pre Rup, which also open at 5am. This will also give you a more unique sunrise photo.

The little-known back entrance to Angkor Wat

Getting a Unique Perspective

If you don't want to completely miss out on the token Angkor Wat photo, the other option is to visit the backside of Angkor Wat. Few tourists realize there is a back entrance, which is mainly used by locals. There are a ton of beautiful areas to photograph in the early morning light within the temple.

Since most photographers and travelers visiting Angkor Wat wait by the pond, there won't be too many people around. This is also a great spot for when the sun is going down at the end of the day, creating excellent sunset at Angkor Wat photos.

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Getting up for the good light in the morning is almost always worth it. No matter what temple you decide to visit, I would definitely recommend getting up for at least one sunrise on your visit to Angkor Wat. 

During my most recent trip to Cambodia I was visiting to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the ASEAN alliance. ASEAN consists of 10 separate countries in the South Eastern region of Asia, including both countries I explored, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Each country in the ASEAN region is unique and exciting, and definitely worth a visit! It is quick and easy to travel between all of these unique destinations once you make it to one. Visit this link for a list of festivals going on during the 50th anniversary year in the ASEAN regions.

Check out my adventures from this same trip, where I also visited Vietnam.

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