There are some places on this magical planet that leave your jaw on the ground, whilst you drag it along like an old car dragging a broken bumper. The Maras Salt Ponds, located in the ancient Inca Sacred Valley (we are happy to say), is one of such places.
Over the past two and a half years, we have traveled to 41 countries, and we’ve been fortunate enough to pick up our jaws off the floor, at least a few times. Our trip to Namibia comes to mind, the waterfalls of Iceland had us drooling too, and the Benagil cave in Portugal was beyond anything we could imagine. This time, however, we did not expect to see such a unique landscape appear in front of us, as we drove along the main road from the modern town of Cusco.
Your first impression of the ponds is from a high vantage point, so you get to see the 3000+ ponds in all their glory. We were soon told that each one of these pools is owned by a different family. How they tell each of them apart from the others, well, we can only guess.
As you drive down the valley and get closer, you begin to see the detail of the structures, that are essentially fed by one subterranean stream, which, as you guessed, is very, very salty. The process of creating the salt is really simple of course – the sacred water runs into these pools (which are not deep at all), and then evaporates to leave a thin crust of what has become some of the world’s most desirable salt.
We spent a good few hours navigating our way through the maze of pathways, and it will certainly go down as one of our favorite places to get lost.
Originally, this adventure started out as a bonding experience for little Esme with her mom and dad, a way for them to spend time together in those early months while exposing Esme to the wonders of the world.
Now, little Esme is 2 years old, and the adventure continues! What started out as Karen’s maternity leave has now turned into a lifestyle. Karen– under the name Travel Mad Mom– and Shaun– going by Travel Mad Dad– are still travelling the world with Esme. From Africa to Europe to Asia and more… This little family is covering some major ground, working from the road and sharing their adventures on Instagram. Their photos mostly capture Esme in some seriously gorgeous settings.
When it comes time to plan your next island vacation, take the path less traveled by visiting these underrated destinations that are sure to exceed your expectations. It’s not easy to find seven islands off the beaten path in Southeast Asia, but we searched high and low, near and far, across the land into the stars to find you some of the most amazing, untouched pieces of heaven on earth. We are going to let you in on Southeast Asia’s best kept secrets and give you a sneak peak of places that are hardly talked about. This is your ultimate guide to emerald waters, iridescent sandy beaches and everything beautiful nature has to offer.
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Situated on the Southwest side of Vietnam, lies the spectacular Phu Quoc island. Half the island is covered in lush, thick jungle so it is considered a national park. Arguably home to the country’s best beaches, it is also Vietnam’s largest island measuring in at over 40 kilometers, north to south. When you’re there, be sure to pick up some fish sauce as Phu Quoc is well known for having an endless supply of anchovies that ply the island’s waters, thus producing the best of this deliciously salty condiment. You can also visit black pepper and pearl farms, local night markets and take part in unique squid fishing tours come nightfall.
Nusa Lembogan, Indonesia
This quiet island off Southeast Bali is not only known locally for its stunning beaches, but also for offering you the amazing chance to dive with large (larger than an average human being) Mola-mola fish. Life on the island is extremely tranquil and has strong backpacker vibes. This surfer’s paradise is a slow paced haven of relaxation with a side of beautiful beaches, coastal paths and seaweed farms. Nusa Lembongan’s clear waters encourage snorkeling, scuba diving and freediving where you’ll find amazing creatures like sea turtles, manta rays and oceanic sunfish.
Tioman Island, Malaysia
Tioman Island sits like an emerald gem rising out of clear turquoise waters featuring white sandy beaches and towering coconut trees. Moving from beach to beach over land can be difficult because of Tioman’s rugged roads so it’s advisable to take a four-wheel drive. Like the roads between the main port town of Tekek (which has an airport and several duty free shops) and the local village of Juara, where an amazing turtle conservation center is located- best traversed with a four-wheeler. If you are planning to drive, be sure to arm your vehicle with insurance from one of the best auto insurance companies in Malaysia to take care of your vehicle inconveniences if your car breaks down. (To find out more, see here). Keep an eye out for monitor lizards, black squirrels and many other inhabitants as the island is known for its incredible biodiversity. When you go snorkeling, you may just catch a glimpse of the black tip reef shark and the banded sea snake.
Out of the whooping 7,000 islands in the Philippines, Malapascua is one of the most breathtaking. This tiny, peaceful paradise is the only place in the world where you can dive with the magnificent the thresher sharks everyday. Monad Shoal near Malapascua is a sunken island where the thresher sharks live and hunt. They are not dangerous to humans and will swim over the side of the shoal if startled. It is quite an experience to be able to get close enough to a thresher shark and touch them. You can easily access the island from Cebu, which is connected to various international airports.
Koh Rong, Cambodia
Off the Southern coast of Cambodia, about 25 kilometers from Sihanoukville lies Koh Rong Island. Also within the Koh Rong archipelago is Koh Rong Sanloem where you can go to relax at the crescent shaped Saracen Bay. You will find three kilometers of white sandy beaches and convenient bungalows and hotels. The most amazing sight is the sparkly phosphorescent plankton that illuminates the waters at night. Between the starry sky and the glowing water, it will seem like you are on a different planet. All you have to do is find the darkest side of the beach and go in about a meter deep. Then, “shake” and swirl the waters with your hands and feet and you will see the plankton light up. The longer you swirl the water, the sparklier it gets. Also in Sanloem, there are bio diverse dive sites and trekking/biking trails that uncover attractions like a historic lighthouse and waterfalls.
Koh Kood, Thailand
Koh Kood, also known as Ko Kut has been called Thailand’s best island. It’s crowd-free, tout-free and has no noisy nightlife. It can be tricky to reach independently so get on a tour. Travellers who make the trek will be rewarded with sights of pristine, powdery beaches and verdant jungles. If you want to lounge on the beach or take a nap in a hammock and not much else, Koh Kood is the place for you.
Batu Ferringi, Malaysia
Batu Ferringhi beach on Penang Island is a pure slice of heaven that is perfect for sun seeking beach lovers. It is absolutely magnificent with turquoise waters, sparkling white sandy beaches and calming palm trees that gently sway with the ocean breeze. If you want some excitement instead, rent beach bikes and go for a ride. Other Penang highlights are water activities like as parasailing, jet skiing and banana boating. It’s advisable to stay at a Penang beach resort to make the most out of your stay. One Penang beach resort that has everything you need on a vacation is Holiday Inn Resort Penang. Here, there is wide variety of activities for guests of all ages, as well as special romantic offerings for couples. To find out more, visit http://penang.holidayinnresorts.com/