We came with low expectations, but ended up putting little Liechtenstein on our top 5 list of countries visited.
Liechtenstein is a tiny little country situated in the alps between Switzerland and Austria. It has a reputation of being very boring, extremely expensive and somewhat conservative. Hey, they waited with letting their women vote until 1984!
So we came with low expectations, but we were blown away with how awesome it was. So much that both me and my wife put it on our top 5 list of countries visited.
1. The views
Just as everywhere else in the Alps, there are vast elevation changes on all roads, which means you might get to amazing viewpoints just by driving ahead. Especially on the byways of Liechtenstein, you will experience some amazing ”wow”-moments along the way. And thanks to Liechtenstein not having heavy traffic, stops are possible here and there.
2. The castles
Liechtenstein has some interesting history and probably holds a world record of castles per capita. The most famous is the Vaduz Castle where the prince lives, but the most beautiful is probably Gutenberg. Both are open to the public at certain times, so be sure to check opening times before you go. The history geek will also appreciate a visit to Oberes and Unteres Burg in Schellenberg.
3. The wine
There are vineyards everywhere in Liechtenstein and many people make their own wine. We visited Gutenberg Castle which is situated on a vineyard hill and they had a friendly social event with their own wine at the very time of our visit. We could have had some, but we had to head home and even though the entire country’s police force probably was present at the party, we didn’t want to have problems with the German Polizei on our drive home later that evening. But we nicked some amazing grapes on our way down the hill. Hope that’s ok. (Please don’t prosecute us when we come back).
4. The Hoi
”Hoi” is their own little way of saying hello. And as the entire country consists of only 30 000 inhabitants, I guess everyone knows everyone. Frankly we saw more goats than humans but the people we met were laid back and friendly.
5. The size
Let’s face it. It’s so small that you might miss it if you blink while passing by. Well, almost. It’s only 40 kilometers from tip to toe and some 15 kilometers wide at the most. This makes it a perfect destination for someone who wants to ”see it all” but still fit it in a weekend. Skiing in Malbun, visit the Gutenberg castle in Balzers, seeing Vaduz and taking in the hills in Schellenberg and Mauren can actually be done in a day if you are efficient enough.
On a budget?
Good news. It is possible to visit Liechtenstein on a budget. There are some really affordable hotels or even guesthouse options in neighbouring Austria. And your biggest save will probably be to fill the car up in Austria, no matter where you’re headed next in Europe. We paid no more than 1€ per liter for Austrian diesel, which is around 40% cheaper than back home in Sweden and 30% cheaper than in Liechtenstein.
After visiting Montenegro, I simply can’t understand why people still travel to Croatia!
Montenegro is a very friendly little country down by the Adriatic sea. It is home to perfect beaches with clear turquoise waters, charming medieval villages and impressive fjords. The very tall mountains also offer excellent skiing opportunities if you decide to go in winter. But best of all – the herds of tourists haven’t discovered it yet. We’re glad we have.
The reason we went to Montenegro was originally my fiancées fascination with Game of Thrones and its filming location which is the little medieval town of Dubrovnik, Croatia, just north of the Montenegrin border. We spent 4 days exploring Montenegro, and after having done so, I simply can’t understand why people still travel to Croatia! The beauty is definitely located south of the border.
This is a little Unesco town and I demand you not to miss it. It was our highlight of the trip, simply thanks to the beauty of it. This is your postcard from Montenegro! Please allow plenty of time for a swim in the crystal clear waters – you might see plenty of fish, and take a boat out to the islets of St George and Gospa od Skreplija.
Another Unesco town, and also the most popular tourist destination in the country. Both the harbor and the small alleys of the medieval town are lovely, but our highlight was to climb the fortress of San Giovanni to witness the sunset over Kotor Bay. The fortress is located a little bit over 1,2 kilometers above sea level and the trek is 4,5 kilometers. We took the southern path up and the main path down, which also led to the well-known chapel of St Ivan. Bring water and some hiking shoes, although a Russian lady we met was perfectly fine with high heels.
3. Sveti Stefan
Sveti Stefan is a little island that resembles Dubrovnik. There is a wall around it, and the bridge is still guarded. Nowadays it is mainly because the entire island is a premium luxury resort, so I guess there is an incentive to keep the rif-raf out. But visitors are allowed to enter this historical village with a guide. If you don’t fancy taking the tour, a hotel stay might be something to remember as it is a one-of-a-kind property. Expect to fork up 800 – 4000€ per night, though.
4. Lake Skadar and The European Horseshoe Bend
I bet you’ve seen photos from Horseshoe Bend in Arizona. Good news is a similar phenomenon exists in Montenegro, although less rocky. The road is narrow but very accessible as it is just a short drive from the M2 highway that connects Podgorica with Cetinje and the coastline. This is the exact location.
5. Lovcen National Park
In summertime – a perfect mountainous landscape to hike. In winter – a darling for local off-pist skiers. Nijegos Mausoleum is a tomb located 2 kilometers above sea level, and it is also one of the most impressive peaks in Europe. You can drive up almost all the way, but the last 400 meters of altitude need to be done by foot. And don’t miss hiking Bobotov Kuk. The views of the valley and the fiord compare to both Norway and Switzerland.
Avid skiers should take the opportunity to ski in Kolasin in Northern Montenegro. It compares to many of the alpine resorts in Europe but it is significantly cheaper.
Tivat is a lovely coastal town with beach access and plenty of harbouring opportunities if you arrive in Montenegro by yacht. Porto Montenegro is a luxury marina under construction. Most of it is finished today and some people refer to it as the new Monaco of the Balkans, although I would wait a couple of years before I make that comparison. It is built and owned by the Rotschild family.
Another medieval walled village, but also home for new high-rises. Èze meets Benidorm. While it has its historical charm, it is also the beach town where the most tourists come for the summer holiday and the herds might already be unbearable. Bear in mind though, that it has some really nice properties and you get a lot of bang for your buck in town. We were very satisfied with our stay at the 5-star Hotel Budva which provided excellent room service and had a very spacious rooftop pool. The prices are half of what you would pay in Croatia, and a third of what we’re used to back home. I don’t recommending spending too much time in Budva, but as it is centrally located, it might be a great base.
What to eat
Montenegro offers a wide range of foods, but as it comes to restaurants, we found dining in our hotel to be the best option, as all restaurants allow indoor smoking. We stayed in Hotel Budva – their food and service was great and we had the pleasure of not walking away with lung cancer.
Quality of service
Outstanding. One of the best in Europe.
Montenegro uses the Euro, although they aren’t an official member of the Eurozone. We didn’t need cash on our entire stay there, as they accept all kinds of credit cards. We even paid amounts under 1€ by credit card and we always got a smile and full paperwork in return, with the tax receipt and transaction approval slip stapled together. In this case, Montenegro is Utopia for the accountant-turned-traveller.
Montenegro is home to two international airports – Tivat and Podgorica. You can also fly in to Dubrovnik, but I’d advice you to pay a slightly more expensive airfare to be able to land in Montenegro, as rental cars and border crossing permits are way cheaper if the car is rented with MNE plates.
Rental car. Don’t forget winter tyres (and snow chains for driving up the mountains) if you go in winter. The country is very mountainous which means vast elevation changes. Bring water. Always use headlights, never drive too fast. The traffic police is everywhere! If you don’t have a license, taxis are very cheap.
When to go
We went there in late January, which is a time of year I really recommend for travel to that region if you want to combine a perfect ski trip in the high mountains with a summer holiday down by the beach.
Summer, spring and fall are equally rewarding. The lack of snow in the mountains by then will present a great opportunity for hiking.
Montenegro is just as safe as any other European country, but it never hurts to flash your valuables moderately.
Stepping out of your comfort zone really makes you see the beauty of Norway
I am a guy that usually never sets for less than 4 stars. I like comfortable rooms and I have never slept in a hostel or a camping, but earlier this year I made bold move. I bought a tent! My family didn’t know how to react. Was I joking? Had I gone crazy?
Using allemannsretten – the freedom to roam
Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and this was my way of doing it. Together with the tent, me and my girlfriend would take our own car and go on a 2-week trip around Norway. Every two nights, we slept in Clarion Collection which definitely is our favorite Scandinavian hotel brand, but the nights inbetween, we promised ourselves to put up the tent by the most amazing sights we could find along the way. What could stop us? Nothing. Putting up a tent in Scandinavia is called allemannsretten – every man’s privilege and your constitutional right, as long as you don’t litter or destroy anything that grows. Just keep out of sight for the land owners and respect their privacy. This phenomenal law allowed us to camp by waterfalls, lakes and with 360 degree views.
So what’s the itinerary? 14 days seemed enough for us but for someone who wants to feel like they’re on a holiday as well, I’d suggest at least 20 days. Make sure to pack warm clothing as there might be vast temperature drops. Our best travel accessory was our Sudio Sweden headphones. Sleeping by a waterfall is romantic and amazing, but there will come a time when you want to shut the noise out and listen to something else. Perfect sound quality for hiking and roadtripping.
Driving east to west – Moss to Lysebotn
Starting off in Moss, Norway, a beautiful summer town with a nice climate, we drove west to Stavanger and nearby hiking attractions Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten, the latter which is a rock that is stuck between two other rocks. We spent our first tent night somewhere along the route without any cellphone reception whatsoever. Getting from east to west really reminded us what Norwegian climate is like. While the east side treated us with sunshine and amazing autumn temperatures around 20C, the west only offered 7 C and heavy rain, sometimes mixed with snow. As a result of the never-ending rain-and snowfalls in west Norway for the entire two weeks, we had to abort any attempts of climbing Trolltunga, Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten, but luckily there were plenty of other picturesque sights to conquer. The roads are narrow and definitely a challenge for your patience, but every bit of it is simply gorgeous.
The fjords between Stavanger and Bergen
We loved exploring the cities of Stavanger and Bergen, but stumbled upon true magic in Gudvangen and Flåm. Quiet, mystic and simply gorgeous. Both towns lie by Nærøyfjorden, which is the most narrow fjord in the world. As a result of this, the place is packed with tourists almost any time of year. But as almost everyone comes in with cruise ships, it still gives you a lot of freedom to explore the sights if you go by yourself, not with the tour buses. Don’t miss the views from Aurlandsfjellet and Stalheim Hotell.
Geiranger and Trollstigen
Another impressive sight is Geiranger, where you will experience driving Trollstigen, the troll’s path! The serpentine roads, the waterfalls and the often very moody skies makes this a mystic paradise to explore. Geiranger is also one of the towns that are totally dependent of cruise ship tourists, so make sure to take a camping spot if you see one. The overflow of tourists makes even the every man’s privilege a hustle.
Ålesund – the Venice of the North
Lovers of Art Nouveau will remember Ålesund as the highlight of the trip. They don’t call it the Venice of the North for nothing. Our Clarion Collection hotel offered us a complimentary fishing rod upon check-in, if we would ever crave to catch our own fish for dinner through our window. That’s so Ålesund!
From west to East Atlantic Highway – Trondheim – Oslo
Through the Atlantic Highway, Atlanterhavsveien, we connected to Trondheim. The route is a fascinating drive and a must when in the area. Trondheim, a lovely and colorful town was also our last stop before heading back to Oslo.
The weather was so much more pleasant, with 25 degrees in september! After having spent 2 weeks in rain and an average temperature of 6 degrees, we thought getting a tan would be impossible, but we were so wrong. We enjoyed beach life on Bygdøy and chilled by Aker Brygge.
Even though we prioritized tanning this time, Oslo is a magnificent city with many impressive museums and cultural sights – a perfect way to round up a Norway visit if you fly out of Gardemoen. This time we didn’t have to take a flight. We just hit the evening traffic and were home in Sweden by sunset.
Falling commodity prices and dovish central banks have created the best travel opportunity in many, many years.
Over the last two years, oil prices have fallen 70% and the rest of the commodities are down big time. At the same time, China struggles and central banks all over the world seem to compete with who’s going to lower the interest rates the most, just to dope their own inflation.
But why writing about this on a travel blog?
Because it might be the best travel opportunity for you in many, many years!
As big capital flees from currencies connected to these countries to find safety and yield someplace else (preferably with the US dollar), some countries that were ridiculously expensive have turned amazingly affordable during the last year.
Americans save 51%
Canadians save 26%
Europeans save 33%
With a plunged currency and big cuts on corporate traveling in the oil industry, oil-based Norway just waits for foreigners to fill empty hotel rooms and plane seats. And what’s best – it still is one of the safest, cleanest and most convenient countries in the world.
With amazing outdoors, state-of-the-art skiing, midnight sun and northern lights, Norway is my top pick for this year’s vacationing.
Wintertime, don’t miss the northern lights in Tromsø, maybe the best place to spot the aurora’s on the planet because of how fast the weather changes. A couple of days in the village will guarantee at least a couple of opportunities with clear skies.
Summer or early fall, rent a car and drive to the many cliffs and fiords that you have seen so many pictures of. Trolltunga, Preikestolen and my favorite, Kjeragsbolten. Don’t forget to visit Bergen, which is the architectural heart of Norway. Bring a raincoat.
Oslo is a great weekend destination and a perfect stopover if you fly to Europe or Scandinavia with Norwegian Airlines. Ski on Tryvann and don’t miss Korketrekkeren, the world’s longest toboggan run. Rent a sledge or bring your own. The subway train will take you to the top of the hill. Be careful. I broke my thumb.
2. Vienna, Austria
Americans save 52%
Canadians save 28%
Europeans save 30%
The euro has fallen big time compared to the US dollar after the turbulence with Greece and the action of aggressive stimulations from the European Central Bank. But it has also attracted a big number of foreign travelers to, for instance, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Venice. Hotel prices have actually increased quite a lot, but these cities have also overshadowed other destinations that are equally interesting.
Every dandy should visit Vienna, the capital of classical music and home to the most stunning Art Nouveau architecture. Now down staggering 30% on hotel prices due to heavy oversupply. So take this opportunity to wander around the home town of Mozart for less. Make sure to attend Musikverein, as they play similar repertoire to the New Year’s concert even on other dates. The Spanish Riding school offers a unique experience with beautiful equestrian dressage, and if you’re still not tired of horses after you get out, there are chariots all over the city to take you wherever you please. You will feel like being back in the 19th century!
For non-Mozartophiles, The Golden Quarter offers a lot of nice upscale shopping and Schönbrunn has a great zoo. Arriving in winter? Don’t forget to visit Vienna Ice World, an amazing ice skating course with cool iced paths, alleys and bridges down by the parliament.
3. Stockholm, Sweden
Americans save 33%
Canadians save 8%
Europeans save 15%
Sweden is not a commodity-driven economy. The country is in fact doing really well, but the change of government from liberal to socialist combined with a very low inflation has caused the central bank to impose negative interest rates and sent the Swedish currency to all-time-lows. So take this opportunity to visit the most high-tech and service minded country in the western world.
With Vienna being the capital of classical music, Stockholm is probably its equivalent for Pop! Avid house music fans – make sure not to miss the Summerburst music festival. More traditional pop enthusiasts, may not leave until they have seen the Abba Museum and this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
To maximize your visit in Stockholm, go from late May to early August, stay in the city for a few days and treat yourself with an additional few days in the archipelago, preferably Sandhamn or Möja. Best way to go about it is by yacht, but the public transport is superb. If you’re in town for a quick stopover, just have a nice glimpse of the archipelago in Vaxholm by taking the Vaxholm ferry.
Stockholm offers great waterfront lodging along beautiful Strandvägen in the very center. Go by foot and don’t miss the islands of Skeppsholmen, Djurgården and Gamla Stan with many attractions such as museums, the world-famous Skansen and the small narrow medieval alleys. Public museums in Sweden are free of charge as of 2016, which saves you another big bill for a rainy day.
Americans save 25%
Europeans save 1%
Make sure to pay a visit to oil-driven Canada. The country has got it all and it’s on sale now. For every season! I’m not missing out on the spring in the Oakanagan, the summer in Toronto, the fall in Banff and the winter in Whistler.
Americans save 25%
Canadians overpay 2%
Europeans save 5%
Low oil prices and troubles in China have sent the Aussie dollar way down under from where it used to be. But it’s not much of a difference for Europeans. Canadians, who struggle with a weak currency themselves, would even lose a couple of cents on going there right now. But fortunately not too much.
Australia is a magical place with amazing wildlife, beautiful national parks and perfect beaches. You really should pay a visit down under if you haven’t done it before. Make sure to visit the Whitsunday Islands, but make sure to read my Ultimate guide to the Whitsundays before you go.
Vaud, Switzerland – Everything but a bargain
Everybody overpays by at least 15%.
But not everything is about the money. The little canton of Vaud north of Geneva is a beautiful sweet spot and you will have to pay the premium for time spent there, especially when you own Canadian Dollars and Swedish Crowns like we do. But we have fallen in love with the place and we can’t wait to return.
So if you truly want to go some place, don’t mind the fact that you are a currency loser. Go, be a wise spender and smile. Soon time will change and you will be the winner.