Welcome to Taiwan! In this 24 hour layover trip, we scope out the top most instagramable places to photograph. We cover the northern coast, then head into the mountainside to Jiufen where we try street food, and finally Pingxi to make the magical sky lanterns. We booked our tour with MyTaiwanTours which took us to all these amazing sights.
Behind the Scenes Video:
We travel from Taipei to visit the northern coast at Jinguashi. We visit the Yin-Yang Sea and a copper and gold mine dating back to the era of Japanese rule over the island. The ocean even turned a copper color from the mine. We also visit the Gold Waterfall which is right next to the copper mine.
We travel a few miles north into the mountains to visit Jiufen, the town that inspired the classic anime movie "Spirited Away" by Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's equivalent to Walt Disney in film making. Jiufen is a lively and quaint area that includes tea houses decorated with lanterns and winding allies filled with street food. It can get quite crowded here during the weekends, so try visiting during the weekdays if you can!
3. Night Markets / Street Food
Taiwan is a foody nation. Some call it the country that never stops eating. There are numerous night markets in the city selling everything from sweet, savory, and exotic snacks. We wander the cobblestone streets and alleyways filled with food vendors and try the bubble tea and Taiwan's traditional dish - stinky tofu.
4. Pingxi / Sky Lantern
Pingxi is a unique area where you can make sky lanterns and release them in Shifen Old Street to send the wishes to the heavens. Our lantern's wish was "Peace Love and Taiwan!". Even if you don't make a sky lantern, they are fun to watch as the sky is filled with glowing lanterns which look like mini hot air balloons. The tradition combines culture and art and draws tourists from all over the world. There is also the famous Sky Lantern Festival in February.
5. Elephant Mountain
Many people go to Taipei 101 observatory for the skyline view, but the only problem is that Taipei 101 will not be in the photo! The best way to get the iconic Taiwan cityscape photo is from Elephant Mountain which is a relatively short and steep hike. We didn't quite have time to do this hike during our layover, but the Elephant Mountain hike offers one of the best (and free!) views of the city.
What are your favorite places to photograph in Taiwan? Comment below!
During my trip to Israel, I had a 5 hour layover at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul and did not want to miss seeing this amazing city. I applied for my Turkey e-visa ahead of time so I could make a mad dash to the city after landing. With a long list of spectacular sights, it was challenging to figure out what to see in a limited time. I felt like I was in the show The Amazing Race. Here's what I was able to see in the city on a time crunch.
Istanbul In Hours Layover Tour Video:
There were many different options to get to Istanbul quickly from the Airport.
1. Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque)
We drove along the Bosporus ocean front and about a half hour later, we reached the Blue Mosque. This is one of the architectural crown jewels of Istanbul. It was built in 1616 by Sultan Ahmet when he was only 19 years old. It was built in Islamic late classical Ottoman style with 6 minarets, as opposed to the usual two to four for mosques. The interior consists of 260 windows and 20,000 blue tiles, hence the name.
Before going inside, visitors must remove their shoes (they provide plastic bags for them) and also adhere to the dress code (there are scarves to rent). Basically, shoulders, knees, collarbones, and hair (for women) must be covered. There is no entry fee as this is a practicing mosque to this day.
2. Hagia Sophia
Adjacent to the Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the architectural wonders of the world. The enormous domed building and towering minarets can be seen from afar. It was originally built as an Eastern Orthodox church in 537 AD, then converted to a mosque in 1453 adding Islamic disks and minarets, and has now been secularized into a museum starting in 1935. Many symbols from the original church were covered and not removed during the conversion.
There is an entry fee and optional tours (they take credit cards). Seeing this building in person is truly magical. The massive dome is the epitome of Byzantine architecture at 180 feet high. This church has been standing for over 1400 years.
3. Basilica Cistern
Last but not least, we walked across the street to the Basilica Cistern. Unfortunately, the Cistern only takes Turkish Lira for the entrance (no credit cards), so I wasn't able to get inside. Instead, we visited the bazaar and got some street food.
Istanbul is one of the most unique cities in the world. Demographically, it is one of the largest cities at roughly 15 million people and has a 99% Muslim population, although it maintains neutrality between church and state. It was ancient Byzantium and straddles two continents - Europe and Asia. It used to be known as Constantinople thanks to Roman Emperor Constantine. However, it is not the capital of Turkey (that is Ankara). It is also one of the most photogenic cities with colorful markets everywhere.
- Outside the Blue Mosque- Beware of aggressive shopkeepers at this mosque who will offer to be a tour guide for exchange for a visit to their shop. The Blue Mosque website warns about this.
- Outside the Hagia Sophia - People will offer you different tours with the promise of allowing you to skip the line. If you want a tour of the Hagia Sophia, make sure to go with a reputable guide.
- Wear appropriate clothing - This means cover up and wear a headscarf in mosques for women. Also, wear shoes that are easy to take off for the mosques.
- Ataturk Airport Turkish Airlines Lounge -Allow for extra time to get to the airport. And if you have extra time, don't miss the Turkish Airlines business class lounge. It is one of the most architecturally beautiful lounges where you can get a taste of the Turkish cuisine.
What are your must see places to see in Istanbul?
While in Iceland, I made sure to dedicate a full day to see the capital ofReykjavik. It is the northernmost capital city, easy to get around, clean, and quaint with stylish boutiques and cosmopolitan museums. The city features colorful buildings, a unique electronica music scene, and a historic Viking heritage. It has a small-town feel despite being a capital city, with not many tall skyscrapers.
âDuring winter, the weather dipped to 20 degrees F, but it did not stop life in this city. The roads are immediately plowed and people continue their day, even bike riding in the snow. The city experienced an economic downturn in 2008, however is it making a comeback with lots of development and new architecture projects. As a photographer, I loved seeing all the colorful funky buildings and discovered many surprises in the city like the ones below. Download our travel guide to explore Reykjavik.
Behind the scenes city tour of Reykjavik:
Music Credit: Gus Gus "Over" | All videos shot with iPhone 6 | Editing: iMovie
Here are the top spots to photograph in Reykjavik:
Hallgrimskirkja - This church and centerpiece of the city done in art deco and brutalist styles with columns that resemble the basalt columns found in the natural landscape in Iceland. There is a deck on the 8th floor where you can pay a few dollars to see a 360 degree panorama of the city.
Northern Lights/ Whale Watching boat tour - These boats leave from the old harbor. During the day, there are whale watching tours, and at night during winter there are northern lights tours. This region has one of the greatest chances of seeing the aurora borealis and whales!
Street Art - Reykjavik has a large amount of murals, including ones from famous street artists like D*face.
Check out this map of the wall murals:
Harpa - Located in the center of the city near the waterfront is this contemporary architectural gem. It is a concert hall with honeycomb shaped glass panels that light up at night. Makes for a great photo shoot location.
Perlan - This building means "the Pearl" and has a glass domed rooftop and viewing deck. The building offers incredible 360 degree views of the city and a revolving restaurant.
Icelandic Horse Ranches - The Icelandic horses are not to be missed. They are unique to the island and feature long hair and a shorter stature, like a pony. Venture just a tad outside the city and you are bound to cross paths with a horse ranch. There are also horseback riding tours and performances.
Puffin Island - Located a half-mile off the coast of Reykjavik is Akurey Island, where the puffins nest. The island is accessible via a short boat ride.
Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach - Reykjavik has lots of recreational areas and geothermal baths. But none are as unique as swimming in the Northern Atlantic Ocean! No need for a bodysuit though, this Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach is heated thanks to the volcanic heat. It is popular with the locals to soak up the hot water and enjoy the natural scenery. Pro tip is to go later in the day as the water tends to be warmer.
TjÃ¶rnin - A beautiful lake, or "pond", in the center of the city with swans and birds.
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.