3) Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia: Located in Croatia and a 2.5hr bus ride from Zagreb, Plitvice National Park is a mesmerizing wonderland of crystal clear, terraced lakes that are joined by cascading waterfalls. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a one-off a kind sight of natural beauty. You can wander around wooden boardwalks and admire the turquoise lakes and get immersed in the tranquil atmosphere. If you feel tired and are not in the mood for walking, you can even take the shuttle bus that zooms up to the trails. Do go on the boat ride between lakes to enjoy the panoramic view. Both the shuttle bus and boat rides are included in the entrance ticket. Be sure to check their timings.

Plitvice Lakes

2) Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy: Nestled in the heart of the Italian Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo is a quaint little picturesque mountain town that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, charming architecture, and outdoor activities. It is known as a premier ski destination and attracts visitors from all over the world who come to witness its breathtaking slopes and stunning alpine scenery. We arrived in Cortina in the morning and after unloading our stuff at the hotel and grabbed a pizza slice for lunch and headed to Cinque Torri where we spent time until 6:00pm; later in the evening we hiked to Lago Pianozes (lake pianozes) a tiny lake by which we ate our dinner. Although we only spent 1 day in Cortina it was enough to satisfy our love for nature and adventure. We planned our trip during the first week of April, which is not the peak season as it is the end of the winter season. Because of this we were able to book Hotel Aquila for a cheap price, however, the hiking trails were very dangerous and icy, so we had to take the ski lift up the mountain. We had coffee on the top, played in the snow and soaked up the breathtaking view.

View from Cinque Torri
Coffee on the top Cinque Tori
Alpines surrounding the town of Cortina

3) Kiruna in Sweden: The Chalmers International Reception Committee (CIRC) offers trips organized by the company 90DegreesNorth (not a plug) at a subsidized rate. This trip was probably the most memorable because I got to do things I have never done before such as:

  • ride a snowmobile: Super fun.
  • go on a dog sledge: Super fun.
  • feed the reindeer: Fun but a little scary.
  • try reindeer meat: It was okay. Felt a little guilty when I met the reindeer later though.
  • cross country skiing: Would highly recommend if you want to get a good workout and not glide as much as normal skiing. Also, I don’t know how to ski, and this was my first skiing experience, so I have no clue what I am talking about.
  • do a polar plunge in a frozen lake: The water was very cold. Surprisingly, the sprint in my wet clothes from the sauna to the showers in negative degree Celsius was not as cold as I expected.
  • hike up a tiny hill in freezing cold weather: It was very cold. The tour organizers highly recommended us to hike up this hill because apparently you can see the northern lights very well from this viewpoint. The hike was very cold, my snow boots collected snow as the snow was extremely pillowy soft, it was not fun to hike, and once we made it on top there was no barrier to block the wind, so it felt 10 times colder than it was. In the end we didn’t see the northern lights at the top, but we did see them once we hiked down the hill. Despite the hardship, the experience is now a core memory that I will cherish forever.
  • hunt for the northern lights: If you think the northern lights will look like the images that you see on google, well let me tell you that you are highly mistaken. You don’t see the northern lights, your camera does. What appears a faint whitish glow in the night sky when viewed through your camera lens, appears a vibrant green, pink, and blue color. So, keep your expectations low so that you are not disappointed. Nonetheless it was an amazing experience.
  • ice fishing: We even tried our hand at ice fishing but unfortunately our ice drill was broken, which we only realized after 30 minutes or so of drilling that we were making no progress through the lake’s ice sheet. Good for us, one of the hosts approached us, inspected our drill, and informed us to stop our efforts as the drill was blunt and it would be of no use.
    Posing with a snowmobile
    Cross country skiing
    Feeding the reindeer

    Capturing the Northern Lights
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