TRAVELED WALLS BLOG
Limited Edition Wall Art from Around the World
December 15, 2017
ASIA'S TOP 10 PLACES TO VISIT
Whether you come here as a honeymooner, a champagne-backpacker, or an avid scuba diver, there really is no doubt that you’ll leave with the lasting impression of the blues, greens, and all of those satisfying shades between that iconize The Maldives so vividly. It’s possible to arrive at the airport without a heavy wallet and take the local ferry services around many of the islands for a few dollars, but to experience the crystal –clear water lapping onto clean, powdery white sand you need to charter a boat for the day. Alternatively, you could arrange a live-aboard diving expedition for a week and visit some of the world’s best reefs and set foot on some of those white, powdery beaches that make The Maldives famous. The more extravagant, and better known, way to experience the island nation is to fly in to a 4 or 5-star resort on a private island by seaplane to relax, be pampered, eat fresh seafood, and repeat.
Probably the most famous travel icon in the world, The Taj Mahal needs no elaborate explanation. Completed in 1653, and built from rich, white marble and tearful love, it is the most elaborate tomb in the world. Inside lies Mumtaz Mahal, one of three of Shah Jahan’s wives. It’s safe to assume that the Taj Mahal answers the question of who his favourite was. Arrive early to experience the glistening white complex before the tour groups pour in, then take a seat on the warm tiled grounds and contemplate its beauty while chaos ensues around you.
Indonesia is home to many large, active volcanoes, but none as picturesque as those at Bromo National Park. A tedious ride of constant stops and starts from Surabaya brings you to Cemoro Lawang, where an hour or so long hike up Mount Penanjakan, or a short jeep ride, brings you to one of Asia’s most spectacular sunrise views. A series of volcanoes peak up together, often above a blanket of mist that collects over the ‘Sea of Sand’ that surrounds the cones. Sulphuric fumes rise up into the sky and add to the otherworldly view. It is also possible to visit the rim of Mount Bromo, which provides a totally different perspective of the area.
Perhaps it is cheating a little by including the whole area of Kyoto city, but the region is all too interesting and collectively comely to separate into individual sites. Visiting during cherry blossom season or when the autumn cooling triggers leaves to abandon their chlorophyll, resulting in vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows, will make the strongest impressions, but it is beautiful at any time of the year. Nothing in Kyoto is too fast-paced, or unattractive. Kinkakuji (the Golden Temple), Ginkakuji (the Silver Temple), Fushimi Inari Shrine, Toji, and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest are just some of the many popular sites in Kyoto that make this one of Asia’s best travel destinations.
Not just one large temple, but a complex of thousands, Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s draw-card. Angkor Wat temple itself was built in the 12th century, but many other temples have been added to the area since then. Many people’s favorite is a nearby temple named ‘Bayon’, which has many towers of gigantic human faces; a truly magical sight. The complex contains both Buddhist and earlier Hindu temples, and even when explored for days on end, there are just too many temples to view them all. Most people become ‘templed-out’ within a couple of days, but it’s possible to buy discount passes for a longer duration. The main temples can be easily seen in a single day. Tuk-tuks can be hired cheaply for the day or longer to cart you from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat, and between temples when inside.
Abandoned in 106AD, and only discovered by those in the Western world in 1812, the rock-cut buildings of Petra are found in Jordan. The narrow passageway that leads through the rock-face to Petra’s carved buildings dramatically changes colors throughout the day, also casting eerie shadows as the sun’s position changes. Al Khazneh, better known as ‘The Treasury’ is one of Petra’s better known sites, and features columns and intricate detail chiseled delicately and precisely into the tall rock face. A secret hike leads a lucky few to a viewpoint above for a different perspective. The area also has a number of rock-cut houses and an ampitheater.
Nestled neatly up in India’s far North, Ladakh remains India’s special secret. Summer brings tourists in modest numbers, but the majority of tourists focus on the sites closer to Delhi, such as Agra, Jaipur, and Jodhpur. Arriving in India’s far North is instantly refreshing, though be prepared for its relative lack of oxygen, as the largish settlement of Leh sits at 3524m above sea-level. Before long, you’ll be acclimatized and able to explore some of the many Buddhist monasteries, breathtaking landscape, and share smiles with some of the friendliest people on Earth. Perched on hills, cropping out of large, flat plains, colorful monastery complexes such as Thiksey, are enhanced further by the colossal backdrop of the Himalayan range, and the large shadows often cast by the picturesque, white cumulus clouds overhead. Winter travel is also highly rewarding, when you’ll be able to explore much of the region as one of only a handful of tourists, but during times of the monastery festivals you should expect crowds. These are magical experiences and draw large numbers of visitors every year.
The Great Wall of China
Ask some people about the Great Wall of China and they might tell you they were a little disappointed by it. Ask those same people which section of the once 13,000 mile long structure that they chose to visit and be prepared for the inevitable answer of either Badaling. This section of the Great Wall of China is impressive, but it takes some imagination to find it inspiring, since it is always overcrowded. To truly be blown away here, you would need to arrive very early in the day, or wait until later in the day when the crowds have dispersed. Alternatively, you could arrive at a different part of the wall, far from high tourist numbers, and enjoy some of the best scenery and experiences China has to offer. The recently renovated section from Simatai to Jinshanling ranks among many travelers top experiences, whereas the relatively unknown Jiankou to Mutianyu hike offers steeper gradients, incredible scenery, isolation, and a wilder experience. A host of the best sections are reachable from Beijing within a few hours, making a day or overnight trip easily achievable.
Picture thousands of different-sized pagodas reaching up from fields and behind trees, with mist looming above the early morning ground. The sun rises, casting a golden yellow light over the whole area, silhouetting the conical structures while you perch on one of the larger temple roofs with relatively few others who also won the battle with their alarm clocks. Hot air balloon silhouettes drift into view, and hover peacefully just over the temples and pagodas. This moment is what it’s all about – absolute awe. Sunset offers a different experience, and though the views are also magical, the absence of the morning mist subtracts from the mystery of the area. Myanmar has only recently opened up to tourism on a large scale, so Bagan remains relatively unseen. If you only have a day, then you can still experience its beauty, but multiple days will allow you to explore deeper and experience the magical views on offer from different viewpoints, at different times of the day.
Gokyo Ri and the Himalayas
Without doubt, one of the friendliest and most picturesque countries on the planet is Nepal. Home to rich, green valleys, wild tigers, glacier-fed rivers, ancient pagodas, and of course, the mighty Himalayas. With more hikes available than you could find time to experience in a lifetime, there are some that stand out from the others. The Gokyo-Ri trek is not only the most beautiful hike in the region, but arguably offers the best views in the world. With Mount Everest in full view, and a glacial lake in the valley below, it’s hard to beat the visual-buffet that awaits you on the top of the 5460m tall Gokyo peak. Prayer flags flutter in the wind, releasing prayers, and the air, though depleted of oxygen, feels like it couldn’t be fresher anywhere else. It’s not just about the views form the top though. The journey to reach here is epic. It’s possible to hike to Everest Base Camp and Gorak Shep from Gokyo, over a stunning glacial pass, or to simply enjoy other beautiful lake scenery on day hikes from Gokyo lodge. This region of the Himalayas is heaven on Earth.
November 18, 2017
WE'RE NOW USING STRIPE PAYMENTS
After successfully adopting the secure PayPal system we have decided to change our payment system over to Stripe. The reason for this is simple: the PayPal system has the potential to be a little confusing and involves two unnecessary extra steps in the checkout process. Employing the secure Stripe system, which is used to process billions of dollars worth of transactions annually across the globe, enables our customers to stay on the secure, encrypted Traveled Walls art site to make payments.
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July 1, 2017
BEST PLACES TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights is one of the most amazing acts of nature that you're likely to experience in your lifetime, but where are the best places to see the Northern Lights?
To witness the beauty of swirling greens and pinks caused by the sun's charged particles striking atoms in our planet's atmosphere requires a bit of luck but mostly just a bit of effort. Firstly, the Northern Lights can only be seen in the north (it's in the name) of the earth, and generally the further north you go, the better. Secondly, seeing the Northern Lights is only possible during certain times of the year with the right conditions: just as a flashlight beam is better seen in the dark, so too is the light cast by solar particles colliding with our atmosphere. Light pollution can weaken an Aurora show, as can clouds and pollution. The final important piece of the puzzle is the strength of the solar wind. A simple search on the internet will provide you with the Kp strength (the closer to 9 it gets, the more intense the display above your head) for any given area within the reach of the Northern Lights.
So, with this information to hand let's look at the best places to see the Northern Lights. North! Go north! In North America it's difficult to view the lights from south of Edmonton, Canada (though it has been visible there), but from here up to the North Pole regions yield much better success rates at viewing the spectacle. The same applies in Europe; you should go as far north as possible into Lapland or northern Siberia. The great thing about most northern locations is that populations are low, meaning light pollution is minimal. Summers in the arctic are bright with little to no darkness, so the best time to view the lights is from late August to April. The lights could be dancing in the upper atmosphere in the summer, but you just wouldn't see them. Winters have little to no sunlight, but that doesn't mean you're guaranteed to see the Aurora Borealis. Be prepared to travel to areas where the Kp level is higher and give yourself at least a few days in an area, with a week being optimal. Though you can see the show at any time of darkness, they tend to be most active after 9pm until 2 or 3am. If you don't intend to stay awake and hunt for the lights then you're not giving yourself a fair chance and are probably best just settling for a youtube video of the natural wonder.
You're already in the middle of one of the world's most incredible natural areas, far north in Alaska's wilderness, so why not drive to Denali National Park, take a seat next to your tent or on the balcony of your lodge and keep an eye out for the Northern Lights phenomenon? There's no light pollution in the far out camp sites of Denali National Park, but Alaska can be bitterly cold any time of year so make sure you're prepared. At the end of August you still have the opportunity for good weather and this is when the Aurora becomes visible at night. Anywhere in the north of Alaska makes for great viewing potential, but get out of Anchorage and Fairbanks to escape light pollution.
Lapland: The Best Place to See the Northern Lights?
One of the easiest places to see the lights is northern BC and Yukon, and with the highway stretching all the way up into Alaska this makes for a great road-trip or even bike tour. Winter appears early here so unless you like the cold you should consider traveling here before October. Churchill in Manitoba is another great place to view the Aurora Borealis, especially if you want to see polar bears at the same time.
This volcanic island has some of the planet's best landscapes which also happen to see their fair share of Northern Lights shows. Spend a week here from September to April and with a bit of effort you'd be unlucky not to see the green dance above. Great spots include, Jokulsarlon, Godafoss, and pretty much anywhere on the island when the conditions are right.
Svalbard island can't really be beaten due to its far northerly location, but safely viewing the lights can be problematic unless on tour due to a high polar bear density. Instead, you may wish to focus your attention on the areas surrounding Tromso in Norway's Lapland which also sits within an hour or so from the border with Sweden and Finland. Having a car increases your chances of seeing the Lights, but make sure you check online for the Aurora forecast.
Aurora Borealis in British Colombia, Canada
The micro-climate around Abisko lake creates regular clear patches of sky, so this is a great place to start off your hunt. A cheap flight into Kiruna in winter is ideal as you can then take a rental car from the airport to anywhere in its radius, including Finland and Norway. You'll be treated to snow clinging onto fir trees all around and hopefully a Northern Lights display at night. If you're feeling extravagant then why not book yourself an igloo dome at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort and a husky sled ride?
Officially belonging to Denmark, anywhere on this massive island of ice can yield great viewing. Be warned though, it's expensive and cold in viewing season!
Kilpisjarvi is a great base for hunting for the Lights as you can easily enter Norway and Sweden from here, increasing your range. Finland tends to be cheaper than these other countries and offers the same activities such as husky sledding. Other great areas include Luosto and Lake Inari where you can find great lodges and resorts as well as great scenery.
Murmansk and northern Siberia are not the easiest places to reach or survive in but offer great Northern Lights viewing. If you are lured by the romantic notion of seeing the Aurora in Siberia do yourself a favor and go on a tour - this landscape and climate is harsh.
The Northern Lights over Jokulsarlon Lagoon, Iceland
October 15, 2017
WHERE TO SEE LUPINES IN NEW ZEALAND
Finding lupines in New Zealand doesn't need to be a challenge, it really is all about timing. Though New Zealand's conservation department considers Russell's Lupines to be an invasive species you don't need to concern yourself with this as they aren't poisonous. Instead, they happen to be incredibly efficient at colonizing areas, which isn't so bad for visitors considering they're so colorful and fragrant. Lupines in New Zealand are incredibly abundant, but if you concentrate on the country's North Island then you aren't likely to have any luck spotting them. Lupine spotting in New Zealand should be done in the South Island, but they don't bloom year-round.
If you're lucky enough to be able to visit New Zealand between November and January then you're in for a treat. Lupines bloom from November which also happens to be when warmer weather sweeps into this magical country (this is obviously no coincidence). Despite this being late spring and the start of New Zealand's summer you should have no problem finding accommodation or car hire, at least from November until mid-December. Keep in mind that car rental is usually much cheaper if booked in advance. We recommend Rent-a-Dent but you may be able to find an even cheaper rate through Economy Car Rentals (excess insurance is usually much cheaper when booked separately through a non-car rental insurance company).
Snow-capped mountains all year-round
Though peak lupine bloom varies each year depending on weather it is usually a safe bet to assume it will be some time around late November and early to mid-December. The flowers have spread to many areas on the South Island but are congregated in masses in certain areas more than others. The sheer quantity of lupine patches around Lake Tekapo makes this the number one area for lupine viewing, but this also means that at certain times of the day you may have to share the well-known hot-spots with a couple of tour buses.
From Christchurch to Lake Tekapo is a pleasant but fairly uneventful 2.5 hours of driving. Just before you reach the vibrant, azure-colored lake you will likely spot your first lupines of the day, but these will soon seem very minor not long after you first lay eyes on the impressive lake. On your right hand-side before the turn-off to the Church of the Good Shepherd you should notice what is arguably the largest patch of lupines around the lake-shore. Park your car at the car park on the left and take your time exploring this area - it really is a magical scene with all different kinds of pastel-tinted lupines leading into the vibrant lake backed by snow-capped mountains. This is one of those scenes that only the best of writers can adequately describe; certainly a place where photographers excel.
Colourful and incredibly fragrant
If you really want to enjoy the feeling of being surrounded by lupines without any other people then visit this spot around sunrise or sunset, or simply walk further around the lake towards the town. Lupines occupy most of the shoreline in great numbers but unfortunately they don't bloom forever and their numbers also decrease with each hour via the feet of the very people who come to admire them. Hundreds of them are trampled each day making it essential that you time your visit earlier rather than later in lupine season.
One of the most stunning drives you can experience in this region is from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki, which is even more impressively tinted than Tekapo, though it lacks the sheer number of lupines at its surrounds. If you happen to visit the hot-springs at Tekapo on the way to Pukaki then be sure to wander around the shore there as other bright flowers share the land with the lupines making a stunning foreground scene. This is another hot-spot for newly-weds from many countries to pose for photographs.
To recap, the best time to see lupines in New Zealand is at the end of November or start of December at and near Lake Tekapo on the South Island. Good luck!
Abstract scene at Lake Tekapo
September 15, 2017
AMERICA’S BEST PLACES TO VISIT FOR NATURE
America might not come to mind for everyone searching for the world’s best nature reserves and landscapes, but there’s a reason why most people from the USA don’t have a passport. In this article we reveal USA’s top 10 national parks and nature areas from the perspective of a wildlife and landscape photographer. There’s no coincidence that most of these places are located on the central west from Arizona to Washington. A handy money-saving tip if you plan to visit many USA National Parks in a year: buy the 'America the Beautiful' Pass!
White Sands National Monument
Close to the Mexican border but closer in landscape to another world, White Sands is a top 10 must see place in America. The name doesn’t lie, offering miles of rolling dunes of fine, white silica relatively unvisited due to its location. The views at sunrise and sunset are made even better by the fact that once you’re finished admiring the stunning colors you can walk back to your tent on the dunes. Yes, that’s right, you can camp here for a small fee. Don't forget to peek out of your tent in the middle of the night for the starry light show and hopefully a classic American Milky Way view.
Grand Canyon National Park
277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, Grand Canyon national park is particularly special. Coyotes, elk, and cougars inhabit the area but the main species here is human. It can get pretty crowded, especially at the south rim lookout points, but step down into the canyon and suddenly it’s like being on the moon. Day hikes and multi-day hikes are incredible, but so are the views from up above.
Yellowstone National Park
Geysers, waterfalls, wild landscapes, and an abundance of wildlife make this one of America’s most popular national parks. When you’re in the area, make sure to check out Grand Tetons National Park, especially if the weather is clear. Grand Prismatic Spring and the Old Faithful Geyser are two of the most popular sights in Yellowstone National Park, but there are literally hundreds of places that will leave you awed. Spread over 3 states with over 300 geysers, 40 major waterfalls, and spawning 12 great rivers, Yellowstone National Park really should be on any list of America's Best Nature Parks.
Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park
Though not a US national park, this Navajo-owned area is famous for its narrow and colorful slot canyons. Though most photographers know the area for the light-beams in the Upper Antelope Canyon, most people prefer the more laid-back Lower Antelope Canyon. We don’t recommend the over-priced Upper Canyon because it is such a rushed and frantic experience filled with photographers, tripods, and expectations of that one magical shot of light-beams. Additionally, there is more light in the wider Lower Canyon. Regardless, these canyons are stunning and are right next to Horseshoe Bend, offering another incredible landscape vista. Be sure to book ahead of time if you plan to see the light-beams as they only happen during certain months and hours of the day.
Not a national park but encompassing a number of state parks such as Steptoe Butte and Kamiak Butte, this whole area is a landscape gem. Rolling hills created from glacial pressure are what thousands of tourists flock here to see from May to September when the sunrise and sunset light bounces around creating fascinating contrasts on the landscape. Red farm buildings and old farming machinery add to the timeless feel of this postcard-worthy region. It's close proximity to Palouse Falls and Glacier National Park make this a great place to base yourself, especially in the small city of Spokane.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Another Navajo-owned region on the border of Utah and Arizona, and with other-worldly landscape featured in a number of ‘Wild-West’ movies, and of course Forest Gump, this is a must-see USA park. Hiking, horse-back riding, cycling, and driving are all great ways to enjoy this unique landscape, but make sure you spend a night in the campsite across from ‘The Mittens’, or at least hang around for the sunset! The loop-road drive is a fantastic way to see some of the best scenery, but paying for a guided horseback ride will take you to further-out, restricted regions where not many regular tourists get to see.
Death Valley National Park
Wild, hot, and surprisingly varied, Death Valley National Park is not the kind of place where you want to find yourself lost. Sand dunes and moving boulders aren’t the only interesting sights here, so take a map and do some research to make the most of your time here. On a side note, please take great care here and if you are planning to stray from the main roads, make sure you have a proper map along with GPS (as it has been known to fail), a 4WD vehicle, and plenty of water and gas. This place is no walk in the park, as documented in this article.
Denali National Park
The staff and strict rules here have succeeded in making this one of the safest parks to visit in the country, despite the fact that it’s in Alaska and really in the middle of nowhere. Bear safety is taken very seriously here, which is evident by their lack of fatalities in recent years. No cars are allowed beyond a certain point, meaning that wildlife remains undisturbed, but the park does provide a bus touring service which pretty much guarantees great wildlife sightings. The other draw-card here is of course the tallest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley, but unlike the wildlife, viewing this mighty mountain range depends on the weather.
Arches National Park
Huge arches carved out of the stone by the elements over millions of years never fail to attract tourists, but even in summer you’ll never feel like the place is swarmed, especially if you linger around at sunset or make it up for sunrise. Hiking tracks and paved roads lead you to all of the main arches: prepare to be impressed. Please refrain from carving you name into the rock-surface near or on any arches; you will be fined heavily if caught, but more to the point: why would you?
Glacier National Park
Last but not least, Glacier National Park in Montana never disappoints. Even in the rain or snow with low visibility this park still manages to impress. The (‘Going-to-the-Sun’) mountain road that cuts across the glacier-filled park is both jaw-dropping in beauty and in scariness – not one for the easily distracted driver! Lakes, glaciers, mountains, wildlife, and inconsistent weather are all things you should expect from this brilliant park. There are more hikes than you could complete in a week, so choose wisely! Bring some bear-spray from May to October if hiking.