About Megan McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough is writer, blogger and social media specialist based in New York City. She also runs Bohemian Trails, a lifestyle blog designed for the savvy and stylish traveler. Bohemian Trails aims to feature must-see places around the world, covering everything from revamped neighborhoods and vibrant street art to innovative tech hubs and everything in between. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Megan is also a freelance writer and social media specialist based in New York City. She contributes to various online and print publications in the travel and fashion industries and is an international correspondent for both Jetsetter and Northstar Travel Media.
Latest Posts by Megan McDonough
India strikes the right chord as a tourist destination, especially given the fact that it’s the 7th largest country in the world. Home to the Indus valley Civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empire, its tourism depicts ancient, medieval and early modern times. With monuments, sculptures, forts, valleys and beaches gifting you a perfect holiday time. Here’s a sneak peak at the places in India everyone should visit.
Embrace the destinations that will turn your moments into memories!
With ice capped mountains and valleys, Kashmir is truly a “Heaven on Earth”, this city is the quintessential tiara that crowns India. Located in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, this place is known for its serene atmosphere. Delicacies at Kashmir will retreat your taste buds and eventually your love for the state. Several dishes are served on the tradtional Wazwan feast that includes meat and vegetables. To reclaim the sanctity of the culture, alcohol is banned in a few places. House boating at Dal Lake is a major attraction of Kashmir.
Love has always been synonymous to Taj Mahal, from the day Mughal Emperor symbolized his affection towards his wife Mumtaj. This white mausoleum located at the southern bank of river Yamuna is a combination of Mughal and Iranian architecture and dates back to 1632.
Popularly known as the “Pink City”, Jaipur is a favorite tourist destination with forts and monuments like The City Palace, Hawa Mahal, Amber fort, Jaigarh Fort and Jantar Mantar to name a few. The city is not only famous for the splendid beauty it nurtures, but also for its art, music and food. It is also known as the land of performing arts, the colorful outfits and unique jewellery. The cuisine in Jaipur ranges from dishes like Dal bati churma, Missi roti and sweets like Ghevar, Feeni, Gajak and Moong Thal etc.
Goa’s pristine beaches revealing its laidback lifestyle has been successful in attracting millions of tourist every year. Goa is known for its uber-cool coastal areas and sandy arenas, which will capture the essence of a vacation. This relatively small state is situated on the western coast of India, between the borders of Maharashtra and Karnataka. It is influenced by over 450 years of Portuguese rule and Latin culture. The beachline at Goa is spread about 125 kms with Palolem being the most visited beach.
National Geographic traveler magazine nominated Kerala as being one of the “10 paradises of the World” and “50 places of a lifetime”. Also, the therapeutic massages and spa that the destination offers led the city to Ayurvedic tourism. It is also the “land of spices” and is known for the authentic flavour each of them add in different forms of food. The tropical climate set in Kerala is relieved when you visit places like Allepy, Munnar, Ashtmudi, Iduki, Kovalam, Varkala, Fort Kochi and many more.
Contributed by Rohit Agarwal, a travel-enthusiast and a writer.
Traveling with your bestie is bound to be epic no matter where you go, but a road trip ups the ante. One of the misconceptions is that road trips require a lot of time and thus, many travelers put it on the back-burner. If you can’t dedicate a month or two for a cross-country road trip, consider touring a state instead. Don’t have a car? No worries! You can always rent one or bum off your friend’s ride. Whether getting your”Kicks on Route 66″ or chasing waterfalls in Hana, these 5 road tips won’t disappoint.
1) Route 66
Let’s start with the most epic road trip of them all! Route 66 runs between Chicago and Los Angeles, totaling more than two thousand miles. The old road is legendary and for good reason. From neon signs to random truck stops in the middle of nowhere, this is anything but your average road trip. There are lots of strange yet oddly fascinating attractions along the way like the Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo, Texas. Here you’ll see 10 classic Cadillacs covered in graffiti and nose-deep in the dirt. There’s also a motel with wigwam shaped rooms, the famous Twin Arrows Gas Station and Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch to keep you entertained, albeit a little confused!
2) The Pacific Coast Highway
While I’ve visited other Cali cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, I haven’t done the epic drive yet, so that’s definitely on my bucketlist this year. If starting from SF, make a stop at Muir Woods and marvel at the 500-plus year old redwood trees that tower above. Then, make your way to the somewhat hidden Stinson Beach and take in the panoramic view from the historic lighthouse. Cultural buffs will love Hearst Castle that overlooks San Simeon and houses artwork, colorful gardens and decadent pools (Neptune and Roman).
3) Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina
As an East Coaster who was born in D.C. and raised in Northern Virginia, so I had to add this adventure to my list. In total, the drive is 469 miles and while you and your bestie will have a blast, consider bringing your special someone. It’s a rather romantic route! At Milepost 334, you’ve reached Little Switzerland, a small village with restaurants and shops. A few miles down the road is Crabtree Falls & Meadows. It’s home to a 70-foot waterfall and a perfect spot for a picnic at the campground. If traveling during the hot summer, cool off at Skinny Dip Falls, a popular watering hole. Personally, though, I’d recommend making the trip in the fall. There are so many beautiful leaves!
4) The Florida Keys
Craving some fun in the sun with your bestie? Then, the Florida Keys are calling your names! Most people start the journey in Miami, so if you’re from out of state, search for flights into MIA. Driving from Miami to the Keys is a straight shot on Route 1, making this a good option for first time road trippers. Start your Florida vacation off with a slice of homemade Key Lime pie at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Adventure-wise, many scuba divers rave about John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where there are 250+ spices of tropical fish not to mention dozens of types of coral. Unless you’re severely allergic to cats like me, you might enjoy a trip to the Hemingway Home.
5) Road to Hana, Hawaii
I didn’t get to drive the Road to Hana when I was in Maui but I wish I did! Technically, the drive takes about three hours but most travelers spend much longer on the road, as there are so many scenic stopping points. Winding 50 miles past waterfall pools, vibrant gardens, lush rain forests and seascapes, you’re likely to feel like you’ve entered an enchanted forest. While driving to and from Hana in a day is possible, it’s much better to allocate more time. If you’re an experienced windsurfer, make a stop at Hookipa Beach Park. Otherwise, sit back and take in the view. There are lots of scenic stops but Keanae Lookout is arguably the most impressive.
Have you been on an epic road trip? Tell me in the comments below!
Before arriving to British Columbia, I must admit that I knew very little about Tofino and now I can’t get it out of my head. From the lush landscape and seemingly never-ending shorelines to a culinary scene rooted in organic fare, Tofino is kind of the definition of wellness. Whether you’re searching for a serene environment to channel your creative side or eager to learn a new craft, here are 5 therapeutic ways to tour Tofino.
Yoga and Meditation
One thing that surprised me about Long Beach Lodge Resort is how close it is to the waterfront. I’ve stayed at oceanfront resorts before but I’ve never been so close that I could hear the waves crashing when the sliding door to my balcony was slightly ajar. It created such serene environment that I slipped right into our wellness retreat. Michele Shorter of The Shorter Approach led our group through guided yoga/Pilates classes, meditations and even an outdoor bootcamp on the beach. She’ll likely be running more of these programs in the future but regardless of whether you sign up or not, you can practice as many poses on the beach as you please.
Tofino is considered the best place to surf in cold water in North America and that’s a pretty big deal. In fact, Tofino is considered Canada’s surf capital. Because the water temperature is cold year-round, surfing has become a regular pastime. That said, it’s essential that you wear a wetsuit and some booties to stay warm. I’d say there’s a fair mix of locals and students in the waters. Since it’s off-season for the resort, the water wasn’t very crowded and only a few surfers took the plunge. Even though I didn’t take a class myself, the lodge does offer lessons for beginners and intermediate levels as well as rental gear for more experienced surfers.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I think that chocolate has some serious healing qualities, don’t you? At least, that’s definitely true at Chocolate Tofino. This local joint makes chocolate and gelato daily and there must be magic in their recipes because people (myself included) keep coming back for more. Considering how popular they are with locals, I decided to swing by their shop in person. I sampled a few flavors of gelato (salted caramel was my favorite!) and a fair share of bite-sized chocolates. Some of their flavor combinations are quite interesting, like their Wildflower Honey Ganache and their Organic Lavender Truffle.
Normally I wouldn’t include retail therapy in a wellness guide but for Tofino, it’s a must. There are two main shopping hubs: one along Pacific Rim Highway and those slightly further away in downtown Tofino. One of my favorite little shops downtown was Caravan Beach Shop. They sell an array of vintage items and unique souvenirs that would make great gifts for friends back home. If you’re on the hunt for a good book, head into Mermaid Tales Bookshop for inspiration. Surfing is a major part of the local culture here — from chocolate bars in the shape of surfboards to boutiques adorned with vibrant blue paint, the ocean is the heartbeat.
Sun and Storms
Tofino is the only destination that I know of that attracts people hoping to watch a winter storm. I always thought visits were planned around good weather but Tofino has become famous for its lively storms. Unfortunately…or maybe fortunately, we didn’t watch any storms. Personally, I enjoyed the sunshine and kept my fingers crossed that it stayed that way. My guess is that it’s beautiful here rain or shine because just look at that sunset. So many colors! If you do visit Long Beach, you’ll notice that rooms are equipped for any and all weather conditions. There’s a cozy fireplace inside the room and in the closet are rain jackets, rain boots and umbrellas.
Where do you go to relax and rejuvenate? Tell me in the comments below!
This post is in collaboration with Tartan and Destination BC. Long Beach Lodge Resort hosted me during my stay. All opinions are my own.
People go to Victoria for different reasons and I went for wellness. Over the past year I’ve started carving out more “me” time, whether that meant going on a walk along or taking a half-hour to meditate. Believe me, it’s not easy, as I’m sure all of you know but I really do believe that finding a semblance of balance is key to a happy and healthy life. Hence, my trip to Oak Bay Beach Hotel. My time here was brief but I made the most of it and I really do feel better as a result. Based on my experience, here’s my tips for creating your own wellness trip in Victoria.
While I could have easily spent my entire 48 hours at Oak Bay, this was my first time in Victoria and I wanted to see as much as my quick trip allowed. Mark of Hike Victoria met me inside the hotel for an afternoon excursion in the great outdoors. The first thing that struct me about Mark is his enthusiasm for Victoria’s natural surroundings. I hadn’t even seen anything yet but I was already excited. Hike Victoria caters to small groups, which I personally think is the best type of tour.
Since I was on a bit of a time crunch and we were chasing the sunset, we started our adventure at Salmon Run. I remember learning all about the salmon lifecycle in school but to see it up close was surprisingly thrilling. As a refresher, salmon run is when salmon migrate from the ocean to the stream in which they were born. There, they spawn in the shallow water and eventually…die. Yes, it was a bit dire to see (and smell) so many carcases but it’s still such an incredible moment to see.
After spotting a few Bald Eagles in the distance (a first for me and I totally fangirled), we stopped briefly at a waterfall teeming with lush vegetation. Next on the itinerary was a steep but quick hike to the Koksilah River Trestle. When you reach the top, you’re standing on a wooden railway and the view is amazing. Mark and I rushed up the hill to be there for the sunset and it was worth all my huffing and puffing. I really pushed my limits that day and it felt good. Sure, I was tired but I had a seaweed bath waiting for me in my room, which leads me to my next point.
photo credit: Mark of Hike Victoria
Therapeutic Spa Treatments
A wellness retreat is not complete without a little self-indulgence and Oak Bay definitely got that memo. There are several items on the menu, three of which are their specialty treatments. I opted for the “By The Sea” Massage – A nourishing and detoxifying treatment combining rich seaweed concentrates with relaxing Swedish massage. The other two are the Organic Rebalancing Facial and the Organic Re-hydrating Gel Wrap. All three peaked my interest but I couldn’t resist a good old massage with a twist.
Another great thing about Oak Bay Beach Hotel is that they’ll actually draw you a bath if you request it in advance. Clearly hooked on the amazing health benefits of seaweed, I chose their “Pacific Seaweed” recipe. The ingredients help reduce stress and eliminate environmental pollutants among other benefits. As I soon learned, raw seaweed has more than 70 micronutrients like iodine that reduce toxins in the body, relieve joint pain and improve skin conditions. After this trip, I’m pretty much obsessed with seaweed.
Natural Mineral Pools
By far the biggest allure of Oak Bay are the steaming hot mineral pools that overlook the bay. Victoria in early November is pretty chilly so I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of getting into a swim suit and going into a pool. Within 30 minutes of checking into the hotel, I draped a thick bathrobe over my body and headed straight there. There are three pools and each has a slightly different temperature, with the largest pool being the coolest (it’s still warm, though). The other two are smaller in size and higher in temperature.
One of the perks of traveling off-season is getting views like these all to myself. I’m sure if I visited Oak Bay during the busy summer months there would be no chance of me getting one of these natural pools to myself but in November, it wasn’t an issue. The pools are located right by the spa entrance so it’s really easy to go from one to the other. Speaking of the spa, there’s a steam room inside as well as a relaxation room with light refreshments and hot herbal tea.
Yoga & Meditation
I’m certainly no Yogi but I’m a huge proponent of breathing techniques and stretching. Our Yoga instructor, on the other hand, put us all to shame with her mad skills. We opted to have our class outside on the garden patio and I’m so glad we did. I forgot how quickly your body warms up during Yoga. I started with a hat, socks and a thick sweater and by the end of class, I was barefoot and hat-less. For someone who doesn’t practice mindfulness as much as I should, I really got a lot out of this class. Nothing was too hard but I still felt challenged not only physically but spiritually.
Tea and Treats
In between spas, mineral pools and hikes, a girl is bound to work up an appetite, right? I had my fill of amazing food in Victoria and almost every dish was either organic and/or gluten-free. Coming from San Francisco, this shouldn’t have been such a shocker but I was really impressed by how creative the chefs here are. In particular, Be Love in downtown Victoria serves vegan and vegetarian fare that is entirely wheat, gluten, dairy, mean and processed sugar-free. And…it tastes amazing. Their famous “Love Bowl” item on the menu is “pay what you wish” because they believe everyone should have access to healthy good. Agreed!
As an extra bonus, our group got to visit a tea farm en route to Tofino. I’ve been to a few farms in my day but never a tea farm so I was super excited about our little pit stop. Run by a husband and wife team, they grow a variety of plants and flowers. Many teas are selected from tea estates from around the world and they hand-craft their original recipes as well. Plants and flowers are blended with organic green, black, white, red colony and pu-erh teas. Plus, they have Mate! As if that wasn’t enough, they whipped out an assortment of decadent deserts to pair with our tea selections.
What’s your favorite way to relax? Tell me in the comments below!
This post is in collaboration with Tartan and Destination BC. Oak Bay Beach Hotel hosted me during my stay. All opinions are my own.
I fell in love with Hong Kong like so many others: quick and effortless. It’s funny how a few months in a city can completely change your perceptions. For whatever reason, Hong Kong was never a city I “needed” to see. Sure, it intrigued me but it wasn’t a place I yearned to explore. Yet, as fate would have it, I’d spend part of 2015 in the heart of Hong Kong Island and loving every minute of it. Every time I think about the life I started to form there, I smile because I know that even though I may never live in Hong Kong again, it will always be a place I call home.
OK, my sappy reminiscence is over! Now, onto the fun stuff. I’ve put together a short guide to exploring Hong Kong in style. Oddly enough, there are many ways to tour this great city and few of them involve a huge bank account. I’m a writer after all and I managed to make it work. Here’s how to make the most of your Hong Kong style adventure.
As one of the world’s biggest international hubs and a top destination for airlines, you’ll have your pick of flights to Hong Kong. That said, I recommend booking with Cathay for a few reasons. Firstly, their staff is friendly and helpful, which goes a long way on a long flight. Speaking of long-haul flights, their seats (even in economy) are as good as coach seats get. This summer when I went home for an emergency, my husband used his miles to upgrade me to business class and let’s just say, I was completely spoiled. If you are flying business, congrats! If not, don’t stress because you’ll still have a pleasant experience. Plus, the food is pretty tasty.
Where to Stay
Even though Hong Kong is a highly populated city, there are plenty of housing options for various budgets. Since we were staying semi long-term, we opted to rent an apartment because that made the most sense. There are also home rentals, luxury hotels and smaller boutique properties as well. If you’re on a tight budget, consider staying somewhere on the Peninsula (like Tsim Sha Tsui or Mongkok) rather than Hong Kong island. There’s still plenty of touristic attractions in these areas and it’s very easy to commute to the island. To be in the center of the action in Hong Kong Island, aim for Central and/or around Sheung Wan.
What to Do
Where do I even begin! There are a ton of amazing aspects of Hong Kong but for the purpose of this post, let’s stick to the most stylish. IMO, the city is most beautiful at night so plan to take full advantage of those gorgeous views. Hike up to the Peak around sunset and celebrate your ascent to the top with a glass of Champagne at one of the many bars and restaurants in the shopping mall, many of which offer spectacular views. Alternatively, splurge on a cocktail at a rooftop bar like Sevva or Wooloomooloo (both are personal favorites of mine). By day, indulge at High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel or tour the city by boat. Art connaisseurs should definitely swing by PMQ to check out wares from local designers.
Getting around Hong Kong is all part of the adventure and you’ll soon learn to love public transportation. In fact, Hong Kong puts most other cities to shame. From the super modern and efficient MTR (their metro system) to double-decker busses that are actually comfortable, you’ll always feel the slightest bit posh when you’re getting around. While Hong Kong is an expensive city in terms of housing, food and entertainment, this rule does not apply to public transit. The MTR, busses, boats and even taxis are dirt cheap compared to most cities in the US and around Europe. If you’ve got the time, take a scenic ride on the tram. The views are unbeatable.
The best way to learn about insider scoop is to befriend locals or, at least, do as the locals do. A good starting point is to learn the local tech lingo. Seamless won’t work here but Foodpanda does; Yelp won’t have a slew of reviews but OpenRice will. Downloading these free apps will help unlock the best restaurants in the city and perhaps a few deals, too. I also became a fan of newish app, Sugar, that helps you unlock hidden gems of Hong Kong. I also found lots of free and fabulous events simply by browsing through Meetup. Mobile apps aside, another way to kick-off the night in style is by taking advantage of one of Hong Kong’s many happy hour deals.
What is the most stylish city you’ve visited? Tell me in the comments below!
This trip is in collaboration with Cathay. I’ve personally flown their airline before (on my own dime) and my positive experience is reflected in this post. All opinions are my own.
Like many travelers, Angkor Wat has been on my travel bucket list for years and yet, I never expected to visit so soon. But of course life sometimes throws curve balls at you and after spending some time in Hong Kong, my husband surprised me with a weekend getaway to Siem Reap. While I took hundreds of photos during our short but sweet 48 hours away, I decided to only feature my Instagram shots for this post because they really reflect how I felt in the moment and boy, did I feel! Here are just 5 of the things that ran through my head (and heart).
1) I felt small but not insignificant
I think it’s easy to feel small when surrounded by nature, especially a big ocean or in this case, a mammoth temple of ruins. Usually, these feelings remind me that I’m powerless in the grand scheme of things and sometimes that leads me to believe that I can’t make a significant difference in the world. Yet, here I was, surrounded by ancient temples alters, squares and sculptures, and I felt like I mattered. More than that, I felt alive. Truly alive. It was as if no amount of air would satisfy my lungs.
2) I felt alone in the best of ways
If you’ve ever visited a castle or a historic monument, you might know what I’m talking about. I’ve always had a big imagination and that imagination really ran wild in Angkor Wat. Even though we were hardly the only tourists temple hopping that weekend, I barely noticed. In the case of Angkor Wat, the entire city is comprised of temples of every size and shape and although many of these sites have seen better days, it was easy to imagine that I lived during this period…at least, it gave me a little insight.
3) I felt wonder
I’d imagine it’s hard to visit Angkor Wat and not feel wonderstruck. My husband’s expressions often mimicked my own. We stood, frozen in place, staring up and all around with out mouths open. As a travel writer and blogger, sometimes I find myself going through the motions even though I’m ashamed to admit it. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with capturing a moment on film rather than enjoying it in that very moment. For whatever reason, I had no trouble disconnecting from technology here. It felt natural. It felt sane.
4) I felt lost and at the same time, I felt found
There were lots of things running through my head before, during and after our Cambodia getaway. Despite my best efforts, I’ve always been a worrier. Usually, these feelings overwhelm me to the point where I can’t think about anything else. As I wandered from temple to temple, I allowed my thoughts to flow freely and for the first time in a long time, they didn’t frighten me. I felt the emotional clarity I so craved. Surrounded by beautiful ruins, hands intertwined, I had everything I could possibly need.
5) I felt Bliss
On a slightly less sappy note, I couldn’t have asked for a better hotel experience than the one we had at the Sarai Resort & Spa. Drinks by the pool, coupled with a free 30-minute foot massage (complimentary for all guests BTW) and refreshing poolside lounge chairs were unexpected surprises. Even though we didn’t see every temple in Angkor Wat, I can’t express how much I needed “down time.” It was so rewarding to come back to the hotel after a jam-packed day and sip a cocktail. We all deserve a little pampering once in a while.
I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about Chiang Mai, yet, it always seemed so far away and out of reach. Fast forward to this summer when my husband and I spent some time in Hong Kong. One of the biggest perks about living in Hong Kong is that you can fly pretty much anywhere on the continent and beyond. Some tips!
Get an Early Start
This might be fairly obvious advice but I’m including it anyway. I landed in Chiang Mai Friday evening and decided to head to bed a few hours later. The next morning I booked a last-minute tour to the famous Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and nearby village. While it was fairly cloudy in the morning and thus not ideal for taking photographs, the skies cleared around 11am, which is around the time we reached the temple. That said, if you want pictures of you and only you, I’d wake up a lot earlier and get there before the crowds. On day two of my whirlwind adventure, I toured the main temples within the Walled City. It’s impossible to visit them all in a day but you’ll be able to see the most famous temples and shrines in a few hours without feeling rushed.
Choose your Temples Wisely
This leads me to my next point. Pick and choose your temples wisely because there are 300 of them and only 24 hours in a day. In the north-east corner of the walled city is Wat Chiang Man, a temple that dates back to 1296. Within the complex are two unique Buddha statues: the Cystal Buddha and the Marble Buddha. Another must-see temple is Wat Chedi Luang, which was built around 1400 and once stood 90 meters tall. My personal favorite is the Wat Chiang Man. Besides being the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, I just felt a very peaceful energy as I strolled around the complex. Although these temples are the three “big” ones to see, you’ll pass several others on the way that are equally charming. Plus, with no other tourists around, you feel like you’ve uncovered a secret.
Market shop by Night
Chiang Mai markets really set the bar high. Within 48 hours on the ground, I walked through the city’s three biggest markets: Saturday Walking Street (Wua Lai Road), Sunday Walking Street (Rachadamnoen Road) and the 7-day a week Night Bazaar. I enjoyed Sunday’s market the best probably because it was the most lively and it’s set up along the busiest street. In fact, since many temples are located along Rachadamnoen Road, this is a way to tour the temples by night and do some shopping. In terms of what to buy, it all depends on what you’re in the mood for that day. Street vendors are set up the street and serve up some pretty flavorful cuisine. There are also many handmade scarves and other artisan crafts along with some leather items and hand-painted art.
Book a Mini Trip
Since I was on a time crunch, I considered hiring a taxi to take me to and from temples on the outskirts of town. Once I realized that a round-trip taxi ride would cost more than a half-day guided tour, my decision was made. I ultimately opted for a morning tour to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the Hmong Hill Tribe Village. Built in 1383, the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is home of the replica of the famous Emerald Buddha.
Schedule Alone Time
With so much running around, it’s no wonder I caved and booked a Thai massage at my hotel. One thing I’ve learned, especially for quick trips, is that you need to find some sort of balance. For me, that meant waking up early and having a mid-afternoon lunch break by the pool. When you’ve come from such a long way (and even if you haven’t) it’s easy to feel a little FOMA. It’s also easy to feel invincible, as I’ve learned first hand the past two months. Just because I travel for a living doesn’t make me immune to getting sick on airplanes or feeling plain tired from all the early morning work emails. We all deserve a little break every once in awhile and Chiang Mai is the perfect place to do it.
My flights were comped by Flight Centre Hong Kong. I was a guest at the Rachamankha during my stay. All opinions are my own.
Let’s face it, Switzerland is fabulous. After a few fun days in Bern, it was time to stretch my legs and venture beyond city limits. Luckily, Switzerland is so well connected and Bern so central, that I had many options. Ultimately, though, my growling stomach made the decision for me and before it was lunch time, I was in the heart of the Emmental cheese route feasting on local delicacies.
Basically in Bern’s backyard, Emmental has four show dairies from four different eras, all of which are within walking distance of each other. For example, the Küherstock cheese dairy dates back to 1741 when cheese was produced over an open fire (this still happens). Then there’s the Feuerwagen cheese dairy from 1900, the village cheese dairy from 1954 and the modern Show Dairy with new production facilities and an on-site restaurant. Here are a few tips to make the most of your culinary trip.
Get an Early Start
From Bern, take the 12-minute train to Burgdorf. From there, it’s a short drive (or longer walk) to the show dairies. If you’re planning to tackle the cheese route in a day like our group did, I highly suggest getting an early start. There are many points of interest along the route and this way, you can set a leisurely pace without feeling rushed. Speaking of getting around, e-bikes are the way to go. The terrain has hilly sections and having a little extra push (literally) really helps. Even if traveling during off-season, it’s best to pre-arrange your e-bike rentals in advance.
Take in the View
Even on a cloudy day, Emmental is effortlessly picturesque. The landscape is hilly, hence another reason why electric bikes are ideal for this terrain. Then there are the lush meadows, quiet forests and bird’s eye views of both the Bernese Alps and the Jura mountains. With such peaceful surroundings, it was easy to disconnect from the outside world and simply appreciate the present moment. I was surprised by how naturally I fell into a slower rhythm. If you’re traveling with your camera gear, ask for a bike basket. That way, you can stop and snap whenever you please.
There is no shortage of cheese stops along the route but don’t skimp on your fruits and veggies, either. Since there is so much farmland in Emmental, this won’t be difficult. Our group opted for a home cooked meal at a local farm that doubles as a bed & breakfast property (you can actually sleep in the barn on stacks of hay). There, we stocked up on fresh salad, homemade apple cider and of course, cheese! For a more traditional dining setting, try eating at the show dairy’s restaurant. The kitchen whips up regional and seasonal dishes and refreshing drinks. Snag a seat outside in the garden.
Download the App
As old-fashioned as a cheese route may sound, this particular excursion is surprisingly innovative. The Emmental cheese route is an app-based theme path informing about the centuries old tradition of cheese production. In my opinion, the best thing about the entire app is that you don’t need a Wi-Fi connection for it to work. Rather, it runs on GPS so it’s nearly impossible to get lost. Think of thee app as an in-the-know and on-the-go travel buddy. A couple highlights along the route include a visit to the Show Cheese Dairy in Affoltern, the Jeremias Gotthelf museum in Lützelflüh and the castle of Burgdorf.
Enjoy the Moment
Even though Emmental is very doable as a day trip, consider making it a weekend getaway, instead. For example, there are many interactive activities like cheese-making classes that simply require more time. I suggest that you define your interests before diving into trip planning mode. For me, I was most interested in the biking aspect of the cheese route so I only made a few stops throughout the day. For others, it might be one of Emmental’s other attractions—whimsical castles, wooden bridges and Alpine horn makers’ workshops to name a few. Like any destination, the adventure is what you make of it, so make every moment count!
This trip was hosted by Switzerland Tourism. All opinions are my own.