Category: mini travel guide

Mini Travel Guide: Canada’s Yukon Territory

This written-by-a-local travel guide to Canada's Yukon territory is full of so many helpful travel tips! Where to go, what to do, which foods to try! Click through for great travel advice >> yesandyes.org

I have such a special place in my heart for off-the-beaten-path, rustic travel destinations. There’s a reason Mongolia is at the top of my must-visit list! So when Janelle offered to write a travel guide to Canada’s Yukon territory I was alllll over it.

If you, too, love wide open spaces, towns with wooden boardwalks and dirt roads, or foraging for berries and mushrooms, you’ll want to book a ticket ASAP.


The Yukon Territory is in the northwest corner of Canada, above British Columbia and beside Alaska. It’s got a stark feral wildness to it, with very few people (35,000) and a lot of land.

My name is Janelle and I grew up in the same home my mother did, on the banks of the Yukon River in downtown Whitehorse, the capital city of the Yukon. I love this summery sun-drenched and wintery cold darkness wildly, and my heart always feels right when I’m surrounded by the landscape of the north, among the resourceful and creative residents.

This written-by-a-local travel guide to Canada's Yukon territory is full of so many helpful travel tips! Where to go, what to do, which foods to try! Click through for great travel advice >> yesandyes.org

Must Do in Yukon

Whitehorse
Whitehorse is my hometown and the capital city of the Yukon. It rests in a river valley on either side of the mighty Yukon River and sprawls upwards and away from that valley into extended country residential suburbs.

The name Whitehorse comes from a description of the rapids running through Miles Canyon, just upriver of Whitehorse, where many foolish goldrushers died as they attempted their desperate journey north to the Klondike.

The whitecaps from the rapids were said to resemble galloping white horses, hence, Whitehorse. However, after the Yukon put in a hydroelectric dam just south of the canyon, the rapids disappeared.

Whitehorse is filled with artistic and cultural productions and communities, as well as a world-class cross-country skiing centre, and a wild community of cyclists that bike all year round.

It’s a wonderful jumping off point for adventures and exploration. People viewing the northern lights (aurora borealis) in the winter and experiencing the unending midnight sun in the summer, as well as trying out dog sledding and other classically northern adventures.

Dawson City
Dawson City is home to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, which caused the Yukon’s population to transform from the 14 First Nations, missionaries and fur traders, to an additional 30,000 fortune hunters from all over the world in less than one year.

When you visit Dawson City you step into a town of 2,000 people that has preserved it’s historical character. Wooden boardwalks, dirt roads and managed to also establish a visual arts school. There’s thriving contemporary arts community with the contrasting values of the Trondek Hwech’in First Nations, gold miners, artists, hippies, transients and starry-eyed southerners determined to live a rustic northern life.

Old Crow
Old Crow is just south of the Arctic Circle on the banks of the Porcupine River. It is a fly-in village of 200 people, mostly from the Vuntut Gwichin First Nations. It’s really far north, above the tree line, and is famous, among other things, for it’s square dances and fiddle music. Vuntut Gwichin means People of the Lakes, and derives from their annual muskrat trapping season.

Keno City
Keno City, named after a popular gambling game, was once a booming frontier mining town, and is now a tiny rustic cluster of buildings. Home to fewer than 20 full-time residents, a mix of artists, miners, old-timers an alpine interpretive centre and mining museum.

This written-by-a-local travel guide to Canada's Yukon territory is full of so many helpful travel tips! Where to go, what to do, which foods to try! Click through for great travel advice >> yesandyes.org

Things To Do In The Yukon

The Yukon is so full of things to do it’s hard to even take it all in. There is something for the sporty, for the adventurer, for the culture vulture, for the artist, and for the hobo.

Festivals
Especially music festivals, are the thing to do in the Yukon. For music, there is the Dawson City Music Festival, Atlin Arts and Music Festival, and the Frostbite Music Festival. For the arts, you can experience the Adaka Cultural FestivalYukon Riverside Arts Festival, the Available Light Film Festival, the Dawson City International Short Film Festival and more.

Activities include wilderness adventures, camping, bike races, softball tournaments and more. The 24 Hours of Light Mountain Bike Festival happens on summer solstice (when it never gets dark, all night long)  and then there is the Yukon Quest, a 1,000 mile long international dog sled race .

Most outrageous of all is the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous and, of course, the truly disgusting visitor rite of passage, the Sour Toe Cocktail. Dawson City’s Diamond Tooth Gerties, Canada’s first casino, where you can watch flashy can-can dancers and lose all of your money in style.

And finally, I recommend going to the Moosehide Gathering, located 3km downriver from Dawson City, it’s a celebration of Trondek Hwechin First Nations culture, a celebration inclusive to all. I was lucky enough to have worked there one summer when I was 16 years old, restoring the spirit house picket fences by painting them, and cutting down trees that were encroaching on the graveyard.

And, if you fall in love with the Yukon (which I predict), go to art school. Dawson City has a fully accredited visual arts college, the smallest most northerly one in all of Canada, in the quirkiest wildest little town of all.

This written-by-a-local travel guide to Canada's Yukon territory is full of so many helpful travel tips! Where to go, what to do, which foods to try! Click through for great travel advice >> yesandyes.org

Must Eat in Yukon

Bannock
Bannock is a classic First Nations fry bread. Deliciously hot, greasy and crispy, you’ll get different versions depending on whose recipe it is, but at it’s simplest, it is just flour, water, baking soda and salt, fried up in a cast iron pan in lard. Easy to cook at home as well as on the land, tasty and filling.

Wild Meat
If you get a chance to eat wild meat, don’t hesitate. Some of the best most organic meat I’ve ever had comes from hunter friends, and favourites are moose, caribou, as well as various kinds of salmon, and, from the nearby ocean, halibut. Smoked salmon in particular is a delicious First Nations specialty, and worth seeking out.

Coffee
Midnight sun coffee roaster in Whitehorse roasts it’s own coffee and serves it up in house. You’ll find yourself tucked into a sweet quirky little café/roastery run by a local family, which is itself tucked into a local cycling shop.

Drinks
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Whitehorse, The Woodcutters Blanket, is a tiny little wood cabin downtown. It is one of the most photographed buildings, due to the life-sized moose on the roof, horns locked in battle. All food and drink treats and beautiful woodwork dreamed up by one of my own brothers.

Restaurants
Tucked away in Dawson City is a fantastic greek restaurant called The Drunken Goat, and a few blocks away is a utopian café called the Alchemy Café. It’s family and traveler friendly, organically healthy, with stellar coffee and a community focus.

Berries and Mushrooms (especially Morels)
One of the biggest cultural pastimes and pleasures of being a northerner is berry-picking and mushroom harvesting. Cranberries are especially popular, and everyone has their own secret picking grounds.

If you’re there in the autumn, make friends with a local and ask if you can help them pick berries. Wild cranberries, blueberries, raspberries and more will ruin your taste for store-bought. If you’re especially lucky, you’ll find a local who also bakes and cans, and you’ll get to taste jams and pies made of your hard efforts.

Then, there are the mushrooms. So many mushrooms. Again, go with someone who knows what is what (not all mushrooms are edible or safe). Morels are shockingly delicious, and hard to find (you have to go where there were fires in previous years). Closer to home, shaggy manes are tasty, but you’ve got to time it so you pick them before they turn to slime! It’s worth the effort.

This written-by-a-local travel guide to Canada's Yukon territory is full of so many helpful travel tips! Where to go, what to do, which foods to try! Click through for great travel advice >> yesandyes.org

Cultural Tips for the Yukon

Everyone speaks English, but, because Canada’s official language is French, and there is a dynamic Francophone population in the North, a surprising number of people also speak French.

Additionally, the Yukon is home to 14 original First Nations groups and almost every community has it’s own cultural and heritage centre, open to the public.

Stick gambling is a traditional First Nations game, and ‘massi cho’ is a commonly used Vuntut Gwichin phrase meaning ‘thank you.’

The Dene Games and Arctic Winter Games (a roving international showcase of northern sport and cultural talent)  showcase First Nations as well as non-First Nations games, but you really want to see the First Nations Games. Watching such intense physical endurance games such as the finger pull, the knuckle hop and more will humble you.

‘Outside’ refers to someone from outside of the Yukon, or for when you are leaving the Territory. ‘Cheechako’ and ‘sourdough’ are terms originating back to the Goldrush, and they signify belonging. If you’re a cheechako, you’re a newcomer who has yet to spend a winter in the north. You become a sourdough when you’ve spent a full four seasons in the Yukon.

This written-by-a-local travel guide to Canada's Yukon territory is full of so many helpful travel tips! Where to go, what to do, which foods to try! Click through for great travel advice >> yesandyes.org

Cheap Travel in the Yukon

If you want to travel on the cheap in the Yukon people still hitchhike! Of course, use caution.  Bulletin boards will be your best friend; you can post travel needs and rideshares and other desires to the traveling community.  Hostels, Couchsurfing, Wwoofing and Helpx websites will also help you find lodging in exchange for labour.

Like most places, Airbnb is cheaper and more authentic than a similar hotel experience. Here’s a riverfront guesthouse for $62 a night and here’s a private room + sauna for $47! If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Janelle! Canadian readers, do you have anything to add?

P.S. Did you know I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to North American travel? And one for budget travel?!

photos by bureau of land management // traveling otter // ro cemm // gary benson // joseph // cc

Mini Travel Guide: Transylvania

Want to travel to Transylvania? Looking for Romanian travel tips about Dracula's stomping grounds? There's tons of great advice in this written-by-a-local Transylvanian travel guide! >> yesandyes.org

Real talk, guys: This Transylvania travel guide got me so excited I added it to my travel itinerary for next Spring. Like, seriously. Portugal + Greece + TRANSYLVANIA!!! Of course, there’s more to this area of Romania than Dracula. Angela is a local and tells us all about renting a room in local homes, hiking through lime stone gorges, and cheese that’s wrapped in polenta with cream on top!

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Mini Travel Guide: Haida Gwaii

This written-by-a-local travel guide for Haida Gwaii is filled with tons of great travel tips: where to eat, the best hikes, the best camping sites and B&Bs. Perfect for people who love off-the-beaten track travel and the Canadian exchange rate! >> yesandyes.org


When Allison emailed me, offering to write a travel guide for Haida Gwaii I was like “[fevered Googling] Yeah! Totally!”

You haven’t heard of Haida Gwaii, either? NBD it’s just the Galapogos of Canada, recently featured on Lonely Planet and National Geographic as one of the top places to travel. And if you live in the states, that American to Canadian exchange rate is currently working in our favor!

Read on for the best places to hike, where you can see whales, and the best restaurants for eating roe on kelp!

 

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Mini Travel Guide: Curaçao

An awesome travel guide to Curaçao written by a local! Where to go, what to do, what to eat, and how to do it cheaply! Click through for her Curaçao tips! >> yesandyes.org

When Rebecca offered to write a travel guide for Curaçao my thoughts were:
“Sure! Uhhhh, where is that again?” and
“Where is the ç on my keyboard?”

Rest assured dear readers that I figured it out and now I’m eyeing this Caribbean island for a winter getaway. One bedroom Airbnbs WITH A POOL start at $66 US! And if you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!

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Mini Travel Guide: Jamaica

Looking for a travel guide to Jamaica? Click through for Jamaican travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, what to eat, and how to travel Jamaica on a budget!

All I know about Jamaica is a) those accents b) jerk chicken. But there’s so much more to these gorgeous islands! Today, local Susaye is telling us about the tiny towns we can’t miss, hidden waterfalls, and why we should pop into a track and field event. Fascinating!


Hi, I am Susaye and I currently reside in Montego Bay, Jamaica. You have probably heard of Jamaica because it is the home of Reggae music (and Bob Marley), Rastafarians (and ganja) and the Sprint Factory (Bolt and Shelly-ann Fraser-Pryce, the world’s fastest man and woman).

All true. But Jamaica is a really small island of about 2.9 million people (split into 14 parishes) with a vibrant culture and very happy people.  You’ll love it.

Looking for a travel guide to Jamaica? Click through for Jamaican travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, what to eat, and how to travel Jamaica on a budget!

Must go in Jamaica

Ocho Rios

Translated as 8 rivers, it’s a tiny town with a special flare. Ocho Rios is where you will find the famous Dunn’s River Falls.

Y0u’ll also find opportunities for swimming with the dolphins, water rafting, bobsledding, and ziplining at Mystic Mountain. The Ocho Rios Craft Market is in the center of town and the Bob Marley museum is really close by (but this is Jamaica, so everything is close by).

Negril

This is my favorite place. Negril has an old island feel with bicycles, motorbikes and a slowness that forces you to relax. A seven-mile stretch of white sand meets you in Negril.

While there are few public beaches, they are readily accessible if you choose to stay at a resort. On Saturday nights you will find live reggae music, street food and a rocking nightlife welcoming you.

In Negril you will find the famous Rick’s Café and if you like to jump from high cliffs (or just watching expert Jamaican cliff-jumpers) this is your spot.  Sunday evening beach parties with local Jamaicans, where the vibe is easy, are also something available to you in Negril.

Portland

Once the primary vacation spot for Hollywood royals, Portland is a hidden jewel of a parish. With jerk festivals and hidden waterfalls, you will find more native accommodations available to you here. If you’re interested in ecotourism, Portland is for you.

must do in Jamaica

Must do in Jamaica

Go to Rebel Salute

Held in St. Ann in early January, this is an “ital” event filled with conscious music. This is a revolutionary event that you will love and come back to year after year. You will find respectful, roots rock reggae, vegetarian food and artisans peddling their art.

Go to a beach/river

Every one recommends going to the beach, but your trip to Jamaica is incomplete without a visit to the beach. To make your visit even better, go to a natural beach/waterfall such as Mayfield Falls.

If you truly want to experience  something off the beaten path, go to a river. Rivers are free opportunities to hang with the locals. Just be aware and go with someone who knows the lay of the land.

Go to Hellshire Beach on a Sunday

If you love good fish, the beach and hanging out, Hellshire beach in Kingston is for you, especially on  a Sunday. You will find live music, excellent and fresh fish and lots of locals peddling anything that you could need.

Go to a sporting event, especially track and field

The camaraderie that you will experience at one of these events will be beyond anything that you could experience. Jamaicans love their sports so any sporting event will be enjoyable but a track and field event is your best view into the unity of the Jamaican people.

See the Luminous Lagoon

If you’re interested in a low-key, romantic evening out, take a trip to the Glistening Waters Restaurant in Falmouth, Trelawny. You have the option of a boat tour where you will witness the glowing dinoflagellates or just enjoy the atmosphere while you enjoy delicious food.

ackee and saltfish

Must eat in Jamaica

Ackee and Saltfish

While this is the national dish and is recommended by everyone, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t recommend this dish. Cooked well, this dish will change your life.

Ackee is a delicate, gentle fruit with a mild flavor and pairing it with salted fish brings out an indescribable flavor that you will love. Ask for fried ripe plantains. You’re welcome.

Jerked Chicken/Pork

Jamaica is known for its jerk and nothing tastes better than a juicy piece of jerk chicken or pork.  Don’t leave Jamaica without it. You can get jerk in a restaurant or jerk center but if you have an opportunity try the Jerk chicken from the local jerk pan (called pan chicken). It is often served with bread but you can have it with festival.

Curry Conch

Cooked down in a coconut curry sauce, conch with a side of fried plantains and rice and peas will be your new craving.

Fish (fried, curried, brown-stewed, stuffed) with a side of bammy (fried cassava) or festival

This is readily available. Fish in any way is delicious and a must have before you leave Jamaica. The fish is generally freshly caught and most times you get to choose which one you eat.

cultural tips Jamaica

Jamaican Cultural Tips

You will be sold to. Be prepared that once you’re walking among the local community, be aware that this is a developing country and most people do not earn a living wage. This means you will encounter beggars (men, women and children). Give what you can and move on.

Because you are a foreigner, the prices you will be quoted are going to be higher than the local prices. If you can find a guide you trust, your guide will be able to negotiate reasonable prices for you.

Jamaicans are a generally jovial and courteous people. Just return the courtesy and you will be fine.

cheap travel Jamaica

Cheap travel tips for Jamaica

Travel from the airport is expensive.  Take it the first time until you establish a relationship with a local taxi driver. Local taxis are always available.

It will be more comfortable to “charter” a private vehicle. While it is more expensive than local taxis, you will experience more convenience and that alone is worth it. These modes of transportation are cheaper than any that will be provided by a resort.

Like most places, Airbnbs will be cheaper and more authentic than a hotel. Here’s a two-bedroom villa in Negril for $75 a night and here’s a studio apartment for $64. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!

For the very brave, local buses are cheap options. Be prepared to be squeezed really tightly and be ready for the speed.

Thanks so much for sharing, Susaye! Do guys have any questions for her? Any of your own tips to share?

P.S. How to document your travels without a scrap book + How to happily travel with a group

photo credits: wikipedia // youtube // ricardo’s photography // evo flash // pablo garcia saldana // cc

Mini Travel Guide: The Galicia Region of Spain

There's more to Spain than Madrid! Get off the beaten path with this travel guide to the Galicia region. Click through for expat insights into where to go, what to do, and how to do it cheaply >> yesandyes.orgWhat’s that you say? There’s more to Spain than Madrid? Like a whole, Catalan-speaking, culturally unique area of the country? Yes! American Expat Trevor Huxham is telling us all about white sand island beaches that are accessible by ferry, almond egg tarts, and the glory of free tapas!

Hi Yes & Yes readers! I’m Trevor; I’m currently in my third year teaching English in Spain, currently based in the country’s green, rainy northwest corner called Galicia.
I grew up in Texas but I’ve called the Galician capital of Santiago de Compostela home for two years now. Although the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route has brought more attention to this “nation within a nation,” most of Galicia remains off the radar for most tourists to Spain, so I’d love to share with y’all some highlights today.

Mini Travel Guide: The Galicia Region of Spain // yesandyes.org

Must Go in Galicia Spain

Santiago de Compostela

Perhaps I’m biased since I live here, but it really is the most beautiful city in the whole region. Bounded by two rivers and dozens of parks, the old town is built almost completely in local granite and welcomes pilgrims hiking on all six routes of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.
The town was founded on the belief that the relics of St. James were discovered here a millennium ago, and Santiago developed around an 800-year-old cathedral that is a gem of both the Romanesque and Baroque styles. Today Santiago is the capital of Galicia and a major university town.

The Villages of the Rías Baixas

The Rías Baixas or “Lower Estuaries” are a series of placid inlets of the Atlantic Ocean on Galicia’s western coast and is where much of the population lives today.
Come in the summer to enjoy the beaches of Cangas, Sanxenxo, or Ribeira, or explore the historic towns of Noia, Padrón, and Combarro at any time of the year. Make sure to order a platter of steamed mussels farmed in the estuaries and a glass of local white Albariño wine.

The Cíes Islands

Floating in the ocean a short distance from the huge port city of Vigo, the Cíes Islands compose a national park of three pristine islands accessible only by ferry in the spring and summer.
The Praia das Rodas was declared the world’s best beach by The Guardian in 2007, but if you grow tired of sunbathing on white sand beaches you can also go hiking in this seagull sanctuary and camp overnight beneath the boughs of tall pine trees.

Lugo

Galicia’s Atlantic coast is wonderful, but the mountainous interior is just as beguiling. Head inland to Lugo, where well-preserved slate walls have circled the city since Roman times—you can even walk along all two kilometers of them for free.

Make sure to visit in June for Lugo’s Arde Lucus Roman reenactment festival, or in October for the Festa de San Froilán, a patron saint festival that is really more about eating boiled octopus!

Mini Travel Guide: The Galicia Region of Spain // yesandyes.org

Must Do in Galicia Spain

Walk the Camino de Santiago

In medieval times, Santiago was Christendom’s third-most important site of pilgrimage after Rome and Jerusalem. Although the route slowed to a trickle in modern times, in the past two decades it’s undergone a rebirth as a cultural itinerary that draws pilgrims from all over Spain, Europe, and the world who hike anywhere from a hundred to a thousand kilometers on foot to Santiago.

Go to a food festival

Galicia has historically been one of the poorest regions in Spain, but its situation improved in the postwar years. To celebrate these times of plenty and to honor the local cuisine, hundreds of villages host annual festivals dedicated to a single dish: cheese in Arzúa, Carnival crepes in Lestedo, seafood in O Grove, and octopus in O Carballiño.
Mini Travel Guide: The Galicia Region of Spain // yesandyes.org

Must Eat in Galicia Spain

Pulpo á feira

“Fair-style octopus” refers to a dish of common octopus caught off the Atlantic shores of Galicia, which is then boiled in a copper pot for up to an hour until nice and tender, then snipped into medallions and garnished with olive oil and pimentón or smoked paprika.
Often served with boiled potatoes, pulpo a la gallega (as it’s called in Spanish) is the most emblematic of Galician food and endless wooden platters of the stuff are served up during any of the region’s countless festivals and fairs.

Empanada

This is my go-to pastry of choice when I go to the bakery on an empty stomach, but it also makes a great first course on a Galician menú del día or fixed-price meal deal.
Between two layers of flaky piecrust hide scrumptious fillings ranging from tuna, sardines, or cod (with or without raisins) to pork loin or cockles. Empanadas are perfect for a snack on the train or for a picnic in the park.

Tarta de Santiago

Nothing too crazy, tarta de Santiago is simply ground almonds, sugar, and eggs baked together and then sprinkled with powdered sugar over a reverse stencil of the Cross of St. James. As with many typical Spanish sweets, the fragrant flavor of the almonds combines nicely with sugar to create a subtle but delightful dessert.
Mini Travel Guide: The Galicia Region of Spain // yesandyes.org

Cultural Tips for Galicia Spain

The Galician language

Everyone in this unique region can speak Castilian Spanish (castellano), the national language of Spain; however, at home, most folks also speak Galician (galego).
A long-lost sister of Portuguese, the Galician language today is spoken and written in almost the same way as Spanish—but don’t go around calling it a “dialect”! The Spanish articles el and la are o and a (e.g., o amigo vs. el amigo) and the letter X, pronounced “SH,” shows up in countless Galician words.

Prepare for the rain

Galicia has a beautiful, green countryside, generates a lot of local produce, and enjoys generally mild temperatures year-round—but all of that comes at a price: frequent rain.

The region is infamous for always being rainy, but apart from a high risk of storm-bearing low-pressure systems in winter, the weather alternates between partly cloudy skies and steady showers most of the year. You may get lucky and have sun for weeks, but pack an umbrella, rain jacket, and rain boots just to be safe.

Mini Travel Guide: The Galicia Region of Spain // yesandyes.org

Cheap travel tips for Galicia Spain

Free tapas

The Spanish custom of getting a small plate of noms with your drink at a café/bar/restaurant dates back centuries, when you would receive a tapa or “lid” of bread, cheese, meat, etc. to place on top of your glass to keep flies away, which also prevented you from imbibing on an empty stomach. Much of the country, Galicia included, still holds to this historic tradition.
No matter what you order—from your basic caña or short draft beer to a Coke—you can expect to get a little something to munch on while you drink your beverage, from marinated olives and Iberian cured ham to an amazing spread of green peas stew, potato omelet, tuna empanada, and a dollop of potato salad.

Buses

While the most populated areas in Galicia are now connected by high-speed rail, you can only get to villages or coastal areas by bus. And besides, the bus is usually more affordable, too! Major bus companies include Alsa, Arriva, Freire, and Monbus.
Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Trevor! I’m sure we have some Spanish or expat readers – what would you add to this list?
photos by nick kenrick // Gorkaazk // Feans // sshreeves // Feans // lars erik skrefsrud // nick kenrick // cc