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The 4 Best Reasons to Tour Tibet in Winter

Perched high on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Tibet boasts awe-inspiring Himalayan mountain vistas, mysterious Tibetan Buddhist culture, and captivating local customs. With blinding sunlight and clear, deep blue skies, all visitors need to go through the phase of acclimatization to the high altitude on the plateau as they tour Tibet.

With its incredible alpine scenery and inhospitable natural environment, Tibet has many natural features worth seeing during a Tibet tour. But first, we want to clear up some misconceptions about Tibet travel, particularly about visiting Tibet in the winter.

Insider Tip: Tibet has an average altitude of more than 4000m (13000 feet), and the oxygen content in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is one third less than that of Beijing. Tibet tourism reaches its high season from early April to Oct. From mid-Oct. to early Feb the next year, it’s the off season. During mid-Feb and March, Tibet has a recess and is completely unavailable to visit by international tourists.

Here are the 4 Biggest Misconceptions about touring Tibet in winter:

 1. The winter weather in Tibet is unbearable.

Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest misunderstandings of Tibet. True, the weather on the lofty plateaus does get bitter cold. In reality, the weather is quite temperate from season to season and Tibetan winters are not as cold as one expects.

Take Lhasa (3658m), the capital of Tibet for example, the average annual temperatures are: Spring ( -2℃ to 12℃); Summer (9℃ to 22℃); Autumn (7℃ to 19℃) and Winter (-7℃ to 9℃).  There is not a huge difference between winter and the other three seasons. There is a proverb in some places that one can experience four seasons in just one day. In Tibet, it can be hard to tell the difference of the four seasons in a single year. The unique climate of Tibet is largely due to the ample sunlight and strong solar radiation. As long as there is sunlight, you won’t feel cold at all. Besides, heavy snow normally occurs in mountains areas, while the Lhasa valley is spared most of the time.

Insider Tip: Whenever you come to Tibet you will experience the dramatic temperature change between day and night. Be prepared for the chilly winds on the plateau and use a sunhat, sun glasses, and sun screen to protect you from strong UV light. Don’t forget to drink lots of water as the mountain air is very dry.

2. The Oxygen Content Is Extremely Low in Winter

Many people assume that the heavy snow and lack of vegetation in winter would further intensify the low oxygen content. In fact, according to the statistics from the China meteorological bureau, the oxygen content of Lhasa in summer is around 66% of that of the plain regions, while in winter the figure falls only 3 points to 63%. The subtle difference feels negligible to the body.

All people travelling to Tibet will have some mild altitude sickness symptoms in one way or another. It’s highly advisable to stay in Lhasa for a couple of days for acclimatization purposes.

Insider Tip: After your arrival in Lhasa, never hurry to tour attractions inside Lhasa or other areas. Instead, you’d be better served to have a sleep at your hotel. If you have shortness of breath, try to avoid smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or eating too much food because they will only exacerbate the situation. Also, try not to overexert yourself, otherwise you might suffer acute altitude sickness.

3.  Most of the Attractions Can’t Be Seen in Winter

Another common misnomer about touring Tibet in winter is the belief that many attractions and shops will be closed due to the heavy snow and subsequent fewer numbers of tourists. In fact, the attractions in Lhasa and surrounding areas are readily available for tourists year round (except from mid-Feb to March). The temperature does get cold in mountains areas. However, as long as the road is not completely blocked by a blizzard, all attractions still remain available.

namtso-lake

The frozen Namtso Lake(4718m) will take your breath away instantly, with its surface exquisitely embedded into the lofty Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains. October is also one of the best seasons to visit Mt. Everest (8844.43m) at EBC in Tringri, Tibet.

Instead of closing souvenir shops, most of the businessmen inside Lhasa offer more products that cater to local Tibetans. In winter, Tibetan farmers and nomads have more time to go on a pilgrimage in this holy city. The few tourists and more Tibetan pilgrims allow you to enjoy the most intense religious atmosphere in Lhasa. You can explore more local customs than in high seasons of tourism.

Insider Tip: In addition to being less crowded, it takes less time for you to get your Tibet Permit in winter. You can enjoy more tourism promotion events in Lhasa and Shigatse, and the cost for hotels, transportation, and attraction tickets can also be much cheaper. In addition, the grandest celebration, Losar (Tibetan New Year), is also celebrated in winter. The various performances and distinct local dishes can only be seen and tasted during this particular time.

4.  All You Can See Is the Lifeless Mountain Scenery

Many falsely believe that the scenery in winter of Tibet is little more than monotonous, cragged mountains and valleys. But in fact, even in winter, Tibet is full of surprises. In Nyingchi (3100m), in eastern Tibet, the evergreen pristine forest and enchanting landscape will awe your senses.

Tour Tibet

Due to the influence of the warm air currents in Yarlung Tsangpo River, the typical “Swiss-Alps” scenery in Nyingchi remains unchanged. Why not enjoy the ride either on the tour bus or bicycle along the charming Nyang River, or explore in the renowned Lulang Forest? Nyingchi is the only place with dense forest coverage and lower altitude, so there is no need to worry about altitude sickness there.

Insider Tip: In winter, a large number of migratory birds will fly all the way from other provinces to spend the winter in Tibet. Never miss the rare chance to see a large number of black-necked cranes in the suburbs of Lhasa.

Best Travel Routes for Winter Tibet Tour

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Different regions of Tibet

Lhasa—Gyantse—Shigatse—EBC
Lhasa— Namtso (Nagqu)
Lhasa—Nyingchi

Overall, for international tourists, the excitement of a Tibet tour in winter definitely surpasses all expectations.

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roadtripont2

Toronto To Montreal: JustFly’s Guide To Canada’s Most Popular Road Trip

If you ask anyone to name Canadian cities, you are likely to get two places more often than any other. Toronto, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec, for example, are two world-famous cities for various reasons. With just five hours of country highway lying between these two urban spots, it’s become very popular to make the journey between these two distinctly Canadian cities. While one might think there isn’t much to see in the wilderness between these two spots, there are actually a number of unique stops one can make over the course of this trip. To find out what you could be missing, we asked JustFly, an online travel agency, what exactly you should do between point A and point B.

First Stop: The Big Apple

No, not that Big Apple. Just East of Toronto you come across the small town of Colborne, Ontario. While this tiny town seems like just a small dot on the map, it is also home to The Big Apple pie shop. You can try as hard as you want, but you can’t miss the giant apple on the side of the road.

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Complete with a sign that claims more than 5,000,000 pies sold, this shop has a reputation for having great pies and other neat souvenirs. You can’t miss it, nor should you, and it’s a great first stop if you happened to hit traffic on the way out of the Greater Toronto Area. Don’t take our word for it, though. Check out JustFly’s review for more details.

Second Stop: Sandbanks Provincial Park

You like sand? You like fresh water? What about massive sand bars and dunes while sitting in fresh water? Then Sandbanks Provincial Park is a must-visit. Featuring the world’s largest fresh water sand bar and dune system, Sandbanks is one of the best beaches to sit and just relax. It’s true that its Northern location can make the water a little brisk if you aren’t there during warmer weather, but if you’re lucky enough to catch a day with warm water, there may not be a better beach in all of Canada. Keep in mind that the sand at this park is very active, making it necessary at times to relocate the roads keep them accessible to the public.

Third Stop: Thousand Islands

The name itself can be deceiving, as there are actually 1,864 islands in the region, according to JustFly.  Nevertheless, the Thousand Islands area will certainly provide a relaxing experience. Whether you just want to ride the Thousand Islands Parkway to get a break from the relentless 401 highway, or you are looking for some great sightseeing hikes and boat trips, this region has something for everyone. Nestled between Ontario and Northern New York State, the islands are held to high standards. In fact, a land mass is required to protrude from the water year-round, occupy at least one square foot, and support at least two living trees to be counted as one of the nearly 2,000 islands.

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Likoma Island Sunset

Top Travel Safety Tips

Travel is scary. No matter how experienced the traveler, each new destination is a stretch outside the comfort zone. For some, the fear of the unknown is incapacitating. It’s the reason many people never leave their home town, let alone their countries. For others, though, it is the thrill of conquering these fears alone that entices them to hit the road. There is unparalleled growth beyond the walls of our safe and monotonous existence.

The potential to be in a dangerous situation in a foreign place is probably the scariest thing about traveling. Imagine being somewhere you know next to no one, where you don’t speak the language, and couldn’t get anywhere quickly without taking ten minutes to consult a map. Yikes. I personally don’t believe, however, that this is reason enough to not venture out.

In fact, I would argue that danger lurks in even the safest places, and that instead of laying fault to the locations, we can take it upon ourselves to be prepared for what may come. Last summer, for example, I spent two months traveling through Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Although I had been to Egypt and Morocco before, I had no idea what to expect. The American media perpetuates a misconception that travel in Africa is more dangerous than nearly anywhere else.

For the most part, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Not only did I feel largely welcome wherever I went, I also met a number of female solo travelers who felt the same. In Zambia, I squeezed into packed buses, with my luggage tucked away out of sight, hitchhiked on the back of flatbed trucks and in the personal cars of complete strangers without issue for almost a month.

But this is not to say the entire trip was without incident. Because when I crossed over into Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, I was met with an unfortunate event. After withdrawing cash and heading to the market, I had almost $200 USD pick-pocketed directly from my backpack in the capital Lilongwe. It was a series of simple mistakes that leaves you wanting to blame the state of the world.

I was angry, of course. It forced me briefly to reconsider visiting Lilongwe, or to think that the locals were mean-spirited (also untrue, as Malawi is rightly known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’). But then I realized that the risk of theft is present almost anywhere in the world. I could have been pick-pocketed in San Francisco or Paris and to shame an entire city, country, people or continent for one fateful event is quite simply wrong.

And, truthfully, I was partly to blame as well. I had lessened my guard after becoming more comfortable on the road. I stopped carrying my money belt and wearing clothing with hidden pockets. If instead I had taken a sturdier pack with more zippers, I may still have my $200 USD (probably not, because I like souvenirs). The truth is, though, that in the end it didn’t matter. The experience I got from being in Malawi far outweighed the worth of the money itself.

Cape Maclear Malawi

Cape Maclear Malawi

 

That day I learned an especially valuable lesson: that you should go wherever your heart desires (within reason), but you should also be prepared to take necessary precautions. When it comes to pick-pocketing in particular, there are several travel safety tips for safe-keeping. A money belt is a simple, straightforward way to keep your personal belongings on your person. Another newly developed option is clothing with built-in security. You can get a travel jacket with specifically designed secret pockets to guard your goodies.

Whichever way you choose to go, know that there is a numerated amount of risk that comes with travel anywhere at any given time, but running the risk is always worth the rewards of the experience.

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Clouds hang over Whistler BC

5 Must-Have Travel Items for a Cold Winter Trip

LEANNE MARIE – ON BEHALF OF AWEEKATTHEBEACH.COM

I think we can all agree that often the most difficult part in planning a trip is preparing the items you need to bring. It varies, of course, depending on where you’re going and for how long. The task, for example, becomes especially difficult when you are off to a destination with cold and snowy weather.

Recent weather is bringing plenty of snowfall in California and across many of the Northern and Western states. (Finally some great news for all us winter sports fanatics!) States like Idaho and Colorado, a few of our favorite destinations to visit  if you are brave enough to travel this cold winter season, are perfect for a mid-winter trip. If you haven’t already heard, Keystone Snow Fort and Skating Rink comes with some of the best attractions, like a snow fort complete with mazes and slides. But, even with enough courage, an unprepared traveller will find it difficult to enjoy this kind of trip if they don’t  pack the right items.

Because we want you to enjoy every trip, we’re highlighting what every traveler must have in their luggage.  These are the 5 must-have travel items for a cold winter trip.

1. Layers of clothes

When it comes to your clothes, consider packing in layers rather than in bulk, as heavy sweaters and sweatshirts take up a ton of space in the luggage. This strategy will also give you more clothing options, which is always a plus. Clothes made of wool are especially helpful because it helps to regulate body temperature in any weather. Thin wool shirts will help keep your body cool when the temperature suddenly heats up, unlike a heavy sweater, which will most likely be sitting useless in your bag. You can also choose clothes that come with hoods, so you don’t have to worry about bringing additional hats along.

2. Thermal Socks

Along with your clothes, thermal socks will be highly important in this trip. Commonly, the feet are one part of the body that have the least clothing, but you can keep them more insulated in chilly weather by packing thermal socks with optimal warmth and comfort. A great tip is to pack hiking socks, because they tend to come in thinner styles than regular winter socks, but they’re also made of wool to keep your feet warm. Better yet, they’re designed to dry faster, can be hand-washed, and they still take up less space in your bag.

Winter Travel

3. Gloves

Gone are the days when mittens and wool gloves were the only options to cover your hands, at least for savvy travelers. Today, the best hand covers come in all shapes, designs, and sizes. If you’re on the hunt for something special for a particular trip, look out for gloves that offer any of the following features:

  • Waterproof
  • Breathable
  • Light
  • Quick-drying
  • Good grip
  • Metal fingers for smartphone use

4. Boots

When looking for footwear, opt for the shoes that give you both comfort and warmth in case you will be walking on ice. Boots are easily the best way to meet this requirement when traveling in winter. Apart from providing more warmth, boots are durable, come with good traction and are often waterproof. There are a number of solid, low-frills, attractive winter boots that you can wear right onto the airplane. We’d suggest ones with light lacing and dark colored, so stains will not show easily, but nothing is as heavenly as slipping into a comfortable boot apres-ski.

5. Scarves

To complete your look for the winter, don’t forget to bring a warm scarf on your trip. Consider colorful ones to bring balance to more muted winter wear. It will brighten up your whole ensemble all the while keeping you warm. Scarves aren’t only for the ladies, either. Men can also wear a scarf to look dapper in winter. If you’re still not sold, check out this Life Hack guide with 11 ways to tie a scarf for men.

Winter is as fun a season to travel as any, since there are certain attractions that are only available at this time. But it does usually require more preparation than a destination that only really calls for swimwear. If you have other tips worth sharing for travelers going on an adventure this winter season, leave your ideas in the comment section below.

 

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Mt. Rainier from the Wonderland Trail

5 Essential Backpacking Foods

There’s something really special about going deep into nature. For me, I find that it takes me three days to decompress fully into what nature has to offer. Because of this, I’m a big fan of multi-day treks wherein you can spend days seeing more animals than people. This past summer, Annelise and I embarked on the Wonderland Trail, which traces the 93-mile circumference of spectacular Mt. Rainier in Washington. The eight day trip (although it can take anywhere between seven and 14 and we originally planned for 10) required a heck of a lot of meal planning for all we had to take with us initially and for our cache that we planned to pick up halfway through our journey.

Food Cache for the Wonderland Trail

Food Cache for the Wonderland Trail

In my experience the following are the five most essential backpacking foods for every back-country journey:

Dehydrated meals

After a day of 10+ miles meandering through forest, over creeks and through multiple temperature changes at various elevations, nothing hits the spot quite like a warm meal. And yet nothing sounds worse (to me at least) than cooking. Instead, fill up the Jetboil with the required cups of water, bring it to a boil, pour the water into the bag, let it sit for 8-15 minutes and you’ve got a nourishing meal you may forget is dehydrated. Having tried multiple brands and flavors on trips throughout the years, I, myself, prefer the  Backpacker’s Pantry meals.

RBars

There are an overwhelming number of energy bars out there nowadays and I’ve sampled my fair share over a number of years and countless trails. I can safely say my absolute favorite for long hikes are RBars. In the past I’ve suffered with trying to just get down energy bars to keep me going on the trail. I’ve found them hard to chew, and felt I was eating out of obligation. With the great flavors (peanut butter and jelly!) from RBars, all of which contain seven ingredients or less, I instead found myself looking forward to my mid-morning snack breaks.

RBar plate

Tortillas

Flour tortillas are also a favorite hiking food because they are incredibly versatile. You can spread some almond butter over a tortilla and you’ve got an easy, palatable and sweet snack. Or you can re-hydrate some beans, add a little foiled chicken, throw on some cheese and you’ve got savory trail burritos. Tortillas are a little heavy, but they are worth it for the amount of energy and carbs they contain and how long they last.

Smoked salmon

Smoked salmon is a true treat on the trail. It’s salty and savory, as well as protein-packed with good fats, providing a lot of tasty nutrients where it counts. It can be slightly heavy, so I try to plan the smoked salmon to be the first meal when picking up a food cache. Spread on some crackers or tossed into spaghetti, it’ll prove worth its weight when the time comes. (Pro tip: make sure you seal it well, especially in bear country!)

Hi-Chew

Anyone who, like me, has a hiking partner that can get hangry at any moment knows the importance of having easy candy on hand. Hi-Chews have become my favorite because of their great consistency and the energy they provide quick when someone’s mood, er.. blood sugar, drops suddenly. The sugar provides a quick and easy energy boost to get you up the last leg without the need for a lengthy meal break.

Mt. Rainier from the Wonderland Trail

Mt. Rainier from the Wonderland Trail

Hot Cocoa

Hot Cocoa is something I never drink at home, but, for some reason, hot cocoa absolutely melts in your mouth on the trail as an after dinner treat to warm you up or mixed with your morning instant coffee. If you’re a coffee snob like me, instant can be startlingly unsatisfying, and the cocoa adds a bit of sugar to help soften the blow and get your engine going while you pack camp.

While there are a good number of things we’ve packed not on the list, these five have been a few of our favorites hands-down. Tell us what your must-take items are, because we’re on the hunt for great snacks as often as we are great trails!

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, which contains affiliate links, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

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