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Adventure Travel

Travel Adventure of the Year – The Ultimate Train Challenge 2013

Want to join the greatest Travel Adventure of the Year? Over 15,000 miles from Europe to Asia! Then sign up for The Ultimate Train Challenge 2013.

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If you are looking for the ultimate adventure for 2013 then we think that we might just have the challenge for you. It’s called The Ultimate Train Challenge 2013 (UTC 2013).

The concept was thought up in late 2011 when three travel bloggers completed an epic train journey from Lisbon to Saigon in just 31 days. And we are super excited to tell you that they have developed it so that now anyone can do it this year.

The Ultimate Train Challenge 2013

Ultimate Train Challenge 2013

YOU make your own schedule. YOU choose your own route. YOU decide how far you are going to push yourself. YOU decide where, when and how many places you are going to visit.

All within 31 days of crazy overland travel by train only.

Although it is about 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) to navigate, you will still have enough time to stop and explore outside of the train carriages. Your options are endless. Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Prague, Venice, Moscow, Beijing, Hanoi. Just some of the great cities to hit up along the way.

What do you get for your entry fee?

Apart from endless memories, experiences and one heck of a travel adventure, you get a crazy amount of extra goodies!

In short, you can blog your trip on the UTC 2013 website to keep your family and friends up to date with your journey. Including a live-mapping feature on the site, so you can everyone can keep up with you in real time. But that is the boring part…

There are lots of prizes and sponsors onboard (pun intended) who want to reward you for taking part.

Intrepid Travel is offering two fabulous 15-day tours to the first ones to cross the finish line in each direction. Intrepid Travel are also throwing a fun pre-launch party from both starting points. Eurail is offering up at least four of their Global Passes that they will be raffling off and giving away as prizes. And HostelWorld is offering two free nights’ stay in each city beforehand.

And that is just the starting point. You can check out all the goodies here.

But wait, that’s not all. In order to keep up with the latest developments on new sponsors, prizes and other news, you can sign up for their free newsletter via this link also. As an extra bonus, they will be giving away a new Samsung Galaxy SIII to one lucky subscriber from all the newsletter subscribers in February.

  • If you register by February 15th, the entry fee is $295 US (approx. £183 / €223).
  • If you register from February 16th to April 30th, the entry fee is $395 US (approx. £245 / €298).
  • And because you are entering from this post, you will get $30 off your entry fee. All you need to do is enter the code “FJ13UTC ” on the “Referral” line on the entry page to get the $30 discount.

enter UTC12

Ultimately this trip is not about the prizes or pre-event party being thrown in both cities for everyone.

It is about having a travel adventure you are going to talk about for years. It is about challenging your limits and doing something that very few other people have done.

From one corner of Europe to the far flung corner of Asia…. all by the best mode of transportation you can use to experience the vastness and wonder of the planet we live on. TRAIN.

And it’s all about Charity

The UTC 2013 team has also partnered up with Blue Dragon’s Children Foundation in Vietnam to raise some needed funds to help out their cause. We are asking each participant to raise $500, and Intrepid Travel has been generous enough to agree to match each donation dollar for dollar, up to a $10,000 total.

So not only are you doing this whole adventure to challenge yourself, the entire group is going to do a small part to make the world a better place.

Your World. No Rules. Logo

 

How to take part

On the Your World, No Rules website, they explain everything you need to know about this event. They have also put together some travel resource pages for you to help decide on your route and work through your visas.

What are you waiting for? Grab some friends or just do it on your own. Live your life with no regrets.

This will be the adventure that will change your life. And don’t forget… on that sign up page please input FJ13UTC in the “Referral” box to get $30 off your entry fee and tell them that you found the Ultimate Train Challenge 2013 from Four Jandals!

enter UTC12

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Nico

    January 16, 2013 at 7:36 AM

    Sounds like a really great experience, but I’m not sure if my boss will give me a month off work

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      It is a lot of time to take off but with the right amount of planning then I am sure you can manage Nico 😉

  2. The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)

    January 16, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Sounds like a great trip. I always prefer to travel overland (not just because I hate to fly) but because you see so much of the countryside that way. Have fun!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      Just got back from going on the Eurostar from the French Alps and it was brilliant! In between doing work and watching movies I got to just gaze out the window. Much better than being squeezed into a plane 🙂

  3. Michael Hodson

    January 16, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Cole, many thanks for the support. If any of your readers have any questions about the UTC, they can feel free to email me. Would love to get some of them out on the rails for massive fun (and some great prizes up for grabs).

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      Hopefully we get a few signing up soon Michael!

  4. Peter Lee

    January 17, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    Wow, this journey seems awesome. This train covers ultimate cities like Berlin, Paris, Prague, Venice etc. The Ultimate Train Challenge is good but I think time duration is too long for this. Glad to read about charity through this long trip and you offer good advise. One should try this challenge if he has time. This adventure is not only to challenge to oneself but also for charity.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 17, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      Agree with you Peter. It is a really tough call to make because while the train journey is really long, you will end up on the other side of the world! Perfect if you want to head in either direction though 🙂

  5. Curious Nomad

    January 21, 2013 at 10:51 PM

    This looks like an epic adventure if you love trains! I saw @hobonora’s YouTube video and it inspired me to add it to my bucket list. If I can get time off work and the entire budget for the trip is reasonable, I’d be in. What do you think the estimate budget for the entire journey flying from the U.S. would be?

    • Cole Burmester

      January 22, 2013 at 9:12 AM

      Hmmm tough call with the extra flight thrown in. We have estimated that it would be about $2000 – $2,500 with no sponsorship for the journey itself. But with the sponsors on board there is a high chance you could get discounted, or free, accommodation and train travel.

      • Curious Nomad

        January 25, 2013 at 7:53 AM

        Thank you! I’m going to do the research and prep just in case my life plans change.

        • Cole Burmester

          January 25, 2013 at 8:28 AM

          Good luck with it! Lots of extra info on the Ultimate Train Challenge website too regarding costs, visas, etc

  6. laura

    February 12, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    A train adventure sounds fun i would do it for sure

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Adventure Travel

Tips for Planning Your Uluru Tour

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Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the magnificent sandstone of Ayers Rock or Uluru stands tall at 1,142 feet above ground. The natural formation is widely known for being one of the most sacred places to the indigineous peoples in Australia. At the same time, it is also popular for attracting tourists from all over the world to the land down under.

If you want to visit Uluru in order to pay tribute to this wonder of nature, then doing so through the right tour is in your best interest. It’s not only because Uluru is located at least a few hours from civilization, but it also because such a tour allows you to enjoy the picturesque sights that come along the way within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

So what sights are there to see along the way and what other general tours suggestions you should keep in mind while visiting Uluru? To help you answer these and some other important questions, here are 5 top tips to keep in mind while visiting Uluru.

Don’t Climb the Monolith

First things first, while it is legal to climb atop Uluru, it is recommended that you do not attempt such an action in order to show your respect to the indigenous peoples.

It is a pretty easy rule to follow when you pay attention to the emotions of the indigenous tribes who have recommended time and again for people to not climb Uluru.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the natural beauty that Uluru has to offer. In fact, you are encouraged to visit the sandstone and take in its natural glory by standing right beside the formation. That’s why 4WD tour is highly recommended. The tour guides would be able to tell you what you can and can not do.

Visit During Sunset

Ask anyone who has visited Uluru about the best time to see the formation, and you will instantly get the answer as “sunset.”

It’s because Uluru is not an ordinary monolith, but one that is formed through arkosic sandstone. This allows the rock to actually change its color according to the position of the sun. As a result, you can expect the formation to sport a different color depending upon what time of day you reach it.

At sunset, Uluru projects an amber glow that is surreal to take in, especially when you are seeing the formation in person for the very first time. That’s why, it is recommended that you time your trip in a way that allows you to experience this magnificent sight.

3. Take Your Time to Plan the Trip

Perhaps the best way to visit Uluru is through the nearby town of Alice Springs, which has various amenities and accommodation options for tourists who are making their way to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The drive from Alice Springs to Uluru can take around 5 hours, which is why it is recommended that you arrive at least a day before you are planning to tour Uluru.

This way, you can reach the national park while feeling fresh and rested. This also gives you time to plan longer trips to the park in order to enjoy all that it has to offer.

4. Take in the Sight of the Rock Art

Uluru is not just a wonder to look at by itself, but it also holds several little pieces of wonderful art within it.

The caves at the bottom of the formation hold several pieces of rock art that can only be found at Uluru. If you love learning about other cultures through their art, then this will be a must visit.

Just make sure that you take the time to learn about this art through a local tour guide or via the information provided within these exhibits. This ensures that you have an immersive and informative experience which you can remember for a long time.

5. Don’t Forget the Natural Attractions Around the Rock

Enjoying the breathtaking sight of Uluru sounds rewarding enough for a trip to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. But it’s not all that you can do during a tour of Uluru.

From seeing the red kangaroos and other marsupials to spending some time with the camels, and from seeing the one of a kind formations of Kata Tjuta to taking a walk by the Valley of the Winds, there’s so much to see and do around Uluru.

That is why, it is recommended that you take your time at the park and put aside at least two days to enjoy all of the unique activities that the area has to offer. It would give you a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of daily life while also allowing you to make the most out of your long journey to the sandstone.

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Adventure Travel

Best Time to Visit Panama and Costa Rica

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The fact that Costa Rica and Panama are close makes both countries perfect for visiting. During your holiday there, it’s easy to travel back and forth between the two countries and enjoy all the wonders they have to offer. Keep in mind that the timing of your holiday will influence what sorts of sites you can visit and what activities you can make part of your plans. By understanding a little about what to expect, it’s easy to determine the best time of year to visit both countries, based on what you would like to do.

Learning More About the Dry and Rainy Seasons

If you’re the type who prefers the hustle and bustle that comes with holidays during the tourist season, plan on being in Costa Rica and Panama during what’s known as the dry season. Expect plenty of sunshine and warm weather during this part of the year. Many of your activities will be outdoors, although you will find a number of indoor sites that you will want to include in your plans.

The dry seasons in both countries overlap. The dry weather for both typically arrives during the first to the middle part of December. In Costa Rica, the dry season usually lingers until sometime in April. Panama enjoys a slightly shorter dry season, with it usually ending sometime in March.

Keep in mind that since this dry period is the height of the tourist season, the cost of visiting from December to April will be higher than at other times of the year. Even so, if your plans include spending a lot of time exploring the rain forests or soaking in the rays on one or more of the beautiful beaches, the dry season is the only time to consider.

Making the Most of the Dry Seasons

During the dry season in both nations, do expect the weather to be more humid and the day temperatures to be a little higher. There is some variance depending on which regions you plan on visiting. As a general rule, locations nearer the coast will include warmer weather and higher levels of humidity. By contrast, the more mountainous areas will offer slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels.

During this time, do plan on enjoying the lush greenery found in the rain forests. During much of the dry season, the abundance of rain from what’s known as the rainy or green season ensures that the forests are at their best. Consider adding some variety to your holiday by spending time at the beach, soaking in the nightlife along the coast, and doing some shopping at many of the open air districts. This is also the perfect timing to enjoy some of the local cuisine while dining outside.

There are special events to celebrate during the dry season. President’s Day in Costa Rica occurs during this period. Along with locals, you can enjoy a number of celebrations, open-air festivals, and just about any type of entertainment that one can imagine.

Since the dry season does attract more tourists, it pays to book your lodgings in advance. Along with President’s Day, there’s also spring break and the Easter Season to consider. While you could look at different hotels and other properties near beaches, there are also hostels that make perfect places to sleep. After all, how much time do you plan on spending indoors when there’s so much to do?

Things to Do During the Rainy Seasons

In spite of the name, it isn’t always raining during the rainy or green season. Most days, there will be brief periods of sunshine that do allow you to spend some time at the beach and other outdoor venues. Do expect the evenings to be cooler. At times, the temperature may make wearing long sleeves or possibly a sweater a good idea.

Even if you’re out and about while it’s raining, there are plenty of things to see. Towns and cities in both nations offer indoor concerts, a number of restaurants catering to all sorts of tastes, and clubs and other settings for entertainment. You will find museums that will tell you more about the history of indigenous peoples and the complexity of their cultures.

What are some of the activities you can enjoy during this time of year? Both Costa Rica and Panama offer options to go horseback riding. Generally, this will happen during the morning when the sun is most likely to be out. Walking tours are also a great way to learn more about the culture and possibly find some interesting places that you will want to return to a little later. Don’t overlook the opportunity to get in some fishing when there’s a sunny morning coming your way. There are changes to engage in freshwater fishing as well as charter boats that will take you to some of the better places to enjoy salt-water fishing.

Coffee and rum tours are also something to consider during the rainy season. These tours allow you the opportunity to see different facilities and how they produce their products. As a bonus, you get to enjoy some taste-testing at many of the places that you visit along the tour. Some of the sites will also have bistros or restaurants included, allowing you to enjoy a nice meal or snack with your coffee or rum.

In terms of museums to visit, San Jose offers some of the most interesting museums in Costa Rica. Many of them are located in or adjacent to what’s known as the Central Market. It’s a great way to enjoy time indoors during the rainy afternoons and early evenings.

In Panama, check out the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Viejo. You can make use of headphones that offer the guided tour in multiple languages. If you happen to be proficient in Spanish, feel free to check out each exhibit on your own. You can also check out the Biodiversity Museum, which features exhibits on the over 1,000 species of animals and plants that are found in the country. Make the most of the discounts offered on Sundays. Retirees also get to enjoy discounts when visiting these museums.

Which season is the best time to visit Costa Rica and Panama? It’s really up to you. For those who prefer a slower pace and don’t mind rain during the afternoons and evenings, the raining season is ideal. Those who thrive on activity, sunshine, and plenty of tourist activities will enjoy going during the dry season. Whatever your choice, plan on coming back a second time. It’s rare for anyone to see everything they want to see during a single holiday.

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Adventure Travel

Most Underrated Travel Destinations

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Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities. 

A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing. 

But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting. 

Here are a few of them:

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare. 

Telč, Czechia

Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country. 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.

Lagos, Nigeria

If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.

Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau. 

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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