Author: BryanSpero

Japan, Travel

Top Experiences at Universal Studios Japan


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Located in Osaka, Kansai region of Japan is the official Universal Studios Japan. This Universal Studios theme park is the first in Asia (second one located in the sunny island of Singapore; Universal Studios Singapore). The other two Universal Studios are located in Orlando and Los Angeles. Due to the huge influx of tourists in to Japan, Universal Studios Japan is naturally one of the top favourites regionally and domestically. We had the chance to visit the awesome and highly-raved about theme park during the Christmas period and it most certainly lived up to its reputation! It was my first time among all the Universal Studios theme park. Read on to find out the top experiences to check out!

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Book Universal Studios Japan ticket with KKday.

Skip the lines and scan your QR code to enter the thrilling world of Universal Studios Japan! Go on an adventure to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or plunge into the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride with your USJ ticket!

By doing so, I get a small commission fee that helps to sustain me longer on the road, to continue creating content for my readers.

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Step into the world of Harry Potter, enjoy a butter beer at one of the cavern stores or try casting a spell with your new wand at the castle doors or house chimneys. This is one of my favourites because I am a huge Harry Potter fan. The light show on (yes on and not at!) Hogwarts Castle was truly enlightening and it really felt like I had stepped right into Hogwarts and the amazing world of Harry Potter. Don’t miss out the 360-degree magical 4D ride to feel like you’re riding on a broomstick just like the main man himself!

If you are only able to spend one day at Universal Studios Japan, I would strongly advise you to get the Universal Express Pass, which helps you to skip queues and it also covers Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™. You won’t regret this decision especially after walking past fellow fans to go right to the front of the queue! Check out the list of express rides here.

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Christmas Party Parade

This is exclusive during the Christmas festive season at Universal Studios Japan. We caught our favourite characters here such as Snoopy and the Minions. Cheers and laughter filled the atmosphere and this is where the magical parade came alive. Minion Mayhem indeed! Be sure to catch both the day and night parade!

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Christmas night parade

The Gift of Angels III

Running into its 10th year, this is also the last year for the beautiful performance titled “The Gift of Angels III”. Nothing beats a fairytale night, you need to be in line for this awesome show. This is an award-winning experience and should not be missed.

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The Gift of Angels

Minions and Fluffy Food Stations

There are plenty of food stations around but nothing beats the cute popcorn store featuring minions on a unicorn @ Pop A Nana cart! You can get popcorn filled inside this adorable souvenir! Don’t forget to munch on a Minion strawberry shortcake and a fluffy hot chocolate drink, which were oh so delicious.

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Try the sweet potato corndog, that’s one of my favourite!

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Fluffy Hot Chocolate

Christmas Village Store

If you simply cannot leave Universal Studios Japan without a souvenir, this is the best place to bring the cute characters you’ve seen around the park back to your homes. During the Christmas season, there are several more options apart from the regular ones.

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Don’t forget to pose with all the characters around the park to keep these unforgettable memories!

Book Universal Studios Japan ticket with KKday.

Skip the lines and scan your QR code to enter the thrilling world of Universal Studios Japan! Go on an adventure to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or plunge into the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride with your USJ ticket!

By doing so, I get a small commission fee that helps to sustain me longer on the road, to continue creating content for my readers.

Europe, Finland, Hotel & Flight Reviews, Travel

The Best Glass Igloos In Finland (Lapland)


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Deep in the Finnish Lapland lie these magical igloos that usually operate for about half a year from September to March. This is also the period when the sky gets darker during the winter months, coinciding with the Aurora Borealis over the skies of the northern hemisphere. These beautiful dancing lights stretch from Nordic countries such as Norway, all the way to the North American region in Alaska and Canada. Travellers from all over the world venture as north as possible in hopes of chancing upon the mystical green skies, which contribute to tourist booms especially during this time of the year.

Nothing really compares to the sight of the Northern Lights from the comfort of a warm glass igloo. I have heard of many travellers who spend up to two weeks in the Artic Circle only to be disappointed due to either cloudy night skies or low aurora index. On the other end of the spectrum, I have heard of people jumping for joy with tears of happiness when their eyes first glimpsed the lights. I caught my first sighting back when I traveled to Iceland in 2016. They were simply magical and kept you wanting to see more of its spectacular nature. Again, I was blessed to have caught the Northern Lights together with the love of my life this time on my honeymoon trip to the Finnish part of Lapland. Read about my Finnish Lapland road trip here.

Northern Lights Village

If you are looking for a wholesome Artic Circle experience in the Finnish Lapland, look nowhere else – Northern Lights Village is the top choice as it specialises in not just accommodation but creating a uniquely customized experience. It is located in Saariselkä, about an hour’s drive away from Ivalo airport. We visited during the autumn months, away from the winter crowd. Northern Lights tours can be booked and professionally organized by the warm and knowledgeable staff who are ready to go the extra mile to make your experience that much more special. There are two main options for the tours –  a viewing by the lake in Inari or at the border town of Nellim. I recommend to stay a minimum of 2-3 nights to give yourself a good chance of spotting the Northern Lights around the area. If you have a car and want to go Northern Lights hunting on your own, check out Kaunispää to get away from the village lights. The gate of Lapland’s gold fields lies at Tankavaara which is easily accessible by car to find out more about the history of gold mining in Finland. Tours to Inari can also be organized or self-driven. My favourite part of the experience was the husky farm visit at Extreme Huskies. We tried husky sledding on wheels since there was note yet any snow fall in September. If you are looking for a Finnish sauna experience, there is a shared sauna on site to enjoy.

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Indulge in the personalized cabins with a simple touch of luxury

 

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We caught the auroras right outside our igloos!

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The in-house restaurant cooks up scrumptious meals for its guests

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You can see how well the huskies are trained for these runs

Santa’s Igloos Artic Circle

This is the igloo experience to go for if you are heading to Rovaniemi – Santa Claus’ hometown. Located right beside the Santa Claus Village, its location is perfect to explore the surroundings by foot. Rovaniemi city centre is just a short distance away, reachable ideally by car or bus services in Santa Claus village. I recommend to book the family igloos which comes with a private sauna attached to the room as you get to experience a true Finnish sauna at your discretion. There are various activities (other than the magical Santa Claus village) in the area such as ice fishing in winter, husky rides and of course, Northern Lights viewing. Beyond Artic is one of best companies around providing photography expeditions, it is run by a bunch of passionate and adventurous photographers. For a great time hanging out with Husky pups, you can’t miss Bearhill Husky, which is a working dog kernel. The owner of the kernel Valentijin, is super passionate about his dogs and visitors get to learn a lot about the life of a husky growing up and being trained throughout the different seasons. There are also opportunities get up close and personal to play with the huskies, which is a huge plus!

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Aurora across the northern skies right outside our igloo at Santa Igloos Artic Circle. Kp index is about 1-2 that night and we had to look north to find it.

 

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Photography tour with Beyond Artic, shot taken by Juho

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The igloo’s reception and dining area

Levin Iglut

Located in the ski town of Levi, Levin Iglut is one of my favourites when it comes to the comfort of the igloo. I recommend to go for the premium ones with unobstructed views of the valley. Each igloo comes equipped with simple cooking facilities if you are looking prepare some simple meals. Your booking includes breakfast at Restaurant Aurora Sky. A half-board dinner is also available during high season. It is a gorgeous place to explore the wilderness of Finnish Lapland, check out the drone footage below.

 

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Gorgeous view of the valley from our premium igloo

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The sky comes alive at night, a clear night with a good KP index will give you good chance of spotting the northern lights.

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Restaurant Aurora Sky – have you thought about having a meal here while watching the sun go down?

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We had the opportunity to find out more about Levin Iglut from Kristiina who started the place about 3 years ago. She plans to keep the number of igloos constant instead of expanding in order to continue providing a personalised touch to each of her guests’ experience.

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

This is probably one of the most famous igloos in Lapland due to heavy media coverage in recent times. Personally, I did not have the chance to stay there (they are not opened during autumn) but I would love to check it out someday! Nevertheless I visited the area from the outside it definitely looked like an awesome choice to experience igloo living.

 

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Due to our limited stay in the Finnish Laplands, this is all the info we have for now. Have you got an awesome igloo to recommend? Drop a comment and we would absolutely love to check it out!

Estonia, Europe, Travel

Estonia – Tallinn Best Places If You Have 24 Hours


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Estonia is one of Lonely Planet’s best value destinations in recent years. The cobbled streets of Old Tallinn brings every traveler back to the medieval times. A mysterious charm surrounds the Old Town and every street you turn into looks somewhat like the previous one. It is a Unesco World Heritage site and has a rich history dating back to the 14th century. Most people choose to take a day trip from Helsinki (by cruise). But personally, I recommend to stay at least a night to experience the medieval town in order to be able to check out the nice spots around Old Town. If you prefer to be in the city, most of the sights are in Old Town Tallinn.

If you are more of a visual person (or just TL;DR), the top spots mentioned are featured in our vlog below. If not, we hope the details are helpful for your next trip to Tallinn!

Toompea Hill

This is one of the top places in Tallinn to see the colourful parliament houses. Every corner you turn into, might just be your next instagram worthy shot! The Russian Orthodox church Alexandra Nevsky Cathedral is also just around the corner.

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Have you ever thought of posing next to these dreamy buildings?

Patkuli Viewing Platform

As you take your walk around Toompea Hill, check out this platform for a gorgeous view of Old Town Tallinn. The alleys were particularly windy when we visited in September due to its location on top of a hill, so don’t forget to bring along a windbreaker or scarf. The Patkuli platform is simply one of the best sunset spots in Tallinn.

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Save the camera honey, enjoy the view. Indeed.

Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform

Located right beside the Patkuli Platform is the famous “The Times We Had” wall. The wall was painted over recently due to the owner’s decision (unfortunately). We were disappointed but still went ahead to check the wall out. Surprisingly, we saw a freshly painted wall but in a different font; most probably back due to popular demand.

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Town Hall of Old Tallinn

This is where the majority of people aim to visit when one comes to Tallinn. You see restaurants, bars with live music and tons of other happenings in the town hall and its surroundings. If you are lucky, you may catch some Estonians dressed in old school medieval costumes!

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Cobbled streets with colourful buildings painting the scene is a sight to behold in the city centre

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Street scene in old town Tallinn

St Olav’s Church

Check out the 12th century church if you are taking a walk around old town. The top of the church gives you a breathtaking view of the town. Be ready to conquer the spiral staircase to witness the views. Entrance fee is EUR 3.

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Tallinn Cuisine – Rae Meierei

You can’t leave Tallinn without trying Estonian cuisine and the best place to get it is at Rae Meierei. We tried their rabbit meat with red wine and it was a good tasting experience. It is located right by the Old Town Hall and pretty easy to get to. There is a bar at the bottom level and the restaurant is on the 2nd floor.

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Check out the unique restaurant setting

 

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Rabbit steak @ Rae Meierei

III Draakon

This pub is located in one of the four corners of the town hall centre. It gives you a feel of traveling back in time or even into one of the Harry Potter pubs. Best of all, food and drinks cost between EUR 1 – 6, half a kg of ox rib can be served at EUR 10. Cheapest wine and beer around the town hall square can be found here!

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Kalamaja

Located just beside the old town, Kalamaja is a popular district with a Bohemian atmosphere and charm. The new cafes popping up in recent times and the distinct colourful houses keep our cameras busy while you walk around this hipster area.

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Seaplane Harbour

The Seaplane Harbour is a maritime museum located at the coastal section of the Kalamaja district. We went there on a wet weather program and this is an excellent option to find out more about the marine history of Tallinn. Entrance fee is EUR 28.

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For Nature Lovers

If you are able to rent a car for a day and wanted to check out the nature around Tallinn, consider doing the following short trip!

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A round trip from Tallinn is about 200km and takes about 3 hours of driving

Jagala Waterfall

Located just 30 minutes away from Tallinn city, you can find the widest natural waterfall in Estonia. Contrary to other famous waterfalls around the world, it is rare to see other tourists here which means that Estonia is definitely still underrated!

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View of Jagala waterfall from the air shot with the DJI Mavic Pro.

Lahemma National Park

This is a must-go national park in Estonia! Day trip from Tallinn is common. There are plenty of hiking trails. Read on for specific places in the national park to go.

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Viru Bog

One of the must-see bogs in Estonia is Viru Bog and it is located within Lahemma National Park. The boardwalk spans 42 kilometres and it is a good hike from the parking area. You are able to witness undisturbed nature and enjoy the beautiful pine forests. The golden hours (dusk and dawn) are perfect for photography lovers because of the soft lighting in the gorgeous landscape.

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Kasmu Fishing Village

Located in Lahemaa National Park is a fishing village that locals use as their summer homes. There is a sea museum to visit if you are interested in finding out about the maritime history of the area. Kasmu Fishing Village is listed as one of the European places that haven’t been discovered by tourists by Business Insider. If you are looking for food, check out O kõrts in Võsu for great western food with superb price to portion ratio.

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Aerial view of Kasmu village

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That’s pretty much all the things and places that I have experienced during my time in Tallinn. Have you got something interesting to share when visiting Estonia? Feel free to do so in the comments below!