Highlights of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

SNAEFELLSNES PENINSULA: With so much of astonishing and infinite beauty everywhere, this must be Iceland. And Snaefellsnes Peninsula gives you a small taste of almost everything in Iceland. Therefore it’s called “Iceland in miniature”.

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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

The magnificent mountain range that you’ll pass by going towards Snaefellsnes is just an appetizer for this journey. A trip around the peninsula allows its visitors to enjoy dotted coastal lines, snaky rivers, tall falls, mesmerising lava fields covered with moss, silhouetted volcanic craters and hills against the skyline, bird cliffs, picturesque old churches, and staggering mountains…all in one region. The whole bus trip was absolutely stunning with changing scenes and jaw-dropping landscapes. 

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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Natural beauty is the main attraction of this region. And the geology of the Snaefellsnes area is very diverse. Magnificent lava formations are widespread here. The lava fields and the vegetation covering the lava is very sensitive and damage to moss on fields of block lava may take generations to heal. That’s why walking on them is not permissible. Some of the lava fields are from the more than 3 million years old that forms the bottom layer. Resting on them are layers of rocks which were formed beneath glaciers during the Ice Age (less than 3 million years old). And for the top most part of these lava fields is younger than 11,000 years old. 

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This was our second excursion in Iceland, after the Golden Circle, Kerid Volcano, and Blue Lagoon tour. We were picked up from the Tour Bus Stop-12 in Reykjavik by Bustravel Iceland a little after 9am and were dropped off at the same place around 8pm. It was a minivan and our guide/driver was a very knowledgeable, funny, and accommodating gentleman in this trip. We paid $100 per person for this excursion and meals were not included. But the good part is that you don’t need to tip the driver or the guide. 

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Bird cliffs in Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July to be specific) when we flew to Iceland and my sister flew in from the East Coast. We were in Iceland for 5 nights. Although we were prepared for rain and sun with waterproof jackets, hats, rain boots, and hoodies, it barely rained during our stay. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like me. 

EATING and SHOPPING: For lunch, we didn’t really stop at a proper lunch venue. We were taken to a small village and stopped in front of a departmental store selling hot food, like hotdogs and basic things. There was a cart on the opposite side of the street where we got our gyro-like sandwiches. 

PLACES I’VE VISITED: The best way to explore Snaefellsnes Peninsula is to drive around and take your own time to visit all the major sites and other places. But we did it with a tour guide. And following places are the ones we got to visit:

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Staggering beauty of Iceland

  1. SNAEFELLSJOKULL NATIONAL PARK: Located on the tip of the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula in western Iceland, this is one experience no tourists should miss. 
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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Mt. Snaefellsjokull dominates the landscape of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It’s a mystical place where lava fields reach out to the blue sea, craters dot the landscapes, and the cliffs mark the extreme edge of the country. 

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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

2. GEROUBERG: This was our first stop…out in nowhere. This is a site of an interesting rock formation of long and hexagonal shaped stone basalt columns. This is one of those wonders of nature and leaves you in awe when you look at the stone pillars. Nothing much to do here really, we spent about 10 minutes taking pictures and then off to our second spot.

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GEROUBERG Basalt columns in Iceland

3. HELGAFELLSSVEIT FALLS: Probably not as famous as the other falls in this region but Helgafellssveit has definitely a beautiful surroundings of a magnificent river and hillsides. This picturesque and calm place deserves more tourists for its splendid beauty. 

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HELGAFELLSSVEIT FALLS and the surrounding view in Iceland

4. MT. KIRKJUFELL & KIRKJUFELLFOSS: After lunch, we came to this iconic falls of Iceland. On the northern shore of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, Kirkjufellfoss, is the impressive 463 meter high Kirkjufell, or Church Mountain. With its prominence view from different angles, no wonder this dramatic landmark is the most photographed mountain in Iceland. It stands tall over the nearby fishing village Grundarfjörður. 

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Kirkjufellfoss in Iceland

 

The falls, Kirkjufellfoss, is very decoratively situated a short distance from the mountain, Kirkjufell…making it a picture perfect destination for its guests. With the mountain in the backdrop, Kirkjufellfoss is an incredible site to visit and hike. Yes, do hike the ramp beside the falls for the perfect view and a great photo opportunity. This picture alone inspired me to go to Iceland at the very beginning, and I’m sure it’s true for many tourists. 

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Kirkjufellfoss with Kirkjufell mountain in Iceland

5. SAXHOLL: It is a beautifully formed crater that erupted 3-4000 years ago. The crater rises 109 meters above sea level. The remnants of quarrying can be seen on one side of the crater. The summit at the top of the crater gives you a gorgeous view of the surrounding valley and landscape, which can be accessed by hiking up some steps. 

Going up the stairs to Saxholl Crater in Iceland

Going up the stairs to Saxholl Crater in Iceland

6. BLACK LAVA PEARL BEACH: Djúpalónssandur or the Black Lava Pearl Beach is one of the major destinations of Snaefellsnes. It looks like a wonderland right out of any hobbit books.  It’s not just the beach that’s beautiful about this place. The walk to the beach, called The Path of the Bull, was the highlight for me. With interesting rock formation, walking through this path was a thrill. 

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Going towards Black Lava Pearl Beach in Iceland

 

This black beach with small pebbles, stunning black rocks, and cliffs in the distance is a photographer’s or hiker’s or nature-lover’s paradise. Tourists are told to be very careful here with the sneaky waves that can carry people out in the sea. Use caution when chasing the waves here. 

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Black Lava Pearl Beach in Iceland

After the black beach, we stopped by the Snaefellsnes park’s visitor center. It has a small museum and information on the geological history and uniqueness. 

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Black Lava Pearl Beach in Iceland

7. ARNARSTAPI: Our last stop of the day was the jaw-dropping tiny village on the southern side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Arnarstapi. This used to be a busy fishing hub once upon a time, but now a must-see site of Iceland. This is one of the magical places in this region where sea, lava rock formations, mountains, and cliffs meet with a vast natural beauty. And yes, this was one of my most favorite spots to photograph or spend time in Iceland. 

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Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Located at the foot of Mt. Stapafell, Arnarstapi or Stapi is a popular tourist destination and a natural harbor with exquisite beauty. It’s a one hour of easy coastal walk that takes you around to display its crashing waves, lively bird cliffs, lush valleys with a mountain in the background. The seaside and the cliffs have been made a Natural Reserve in 1979. 

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Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Standing by the ocean, enjoy the dramatic views of seagulls’ nestings on the sea cliffs and hear their loud chirping. Look for the Arch Rock and basalt columns too. Overall, exploring this historic yet mesmerizing landscape will surely take everyone’s breath away. 

Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

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3 must-visit driving destinations in Australia

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Photo credits

You can hear all sorts of references about Australia’s undeniable beauty on the internet and top travel magazines. No wonder more than 8.8 million people flew from different parts of the world to this famed holiday destination in 2017.

From Cable beach to Byron Bay, you can expect nothing but clear waters and perfect waves for surfing enthusiasts. Indeed, one of the country’s best attractions is its coastline. What makes it perfect is that you can travel by land to enjoy incredible landscapes and it doesn’t have to be a rugged road trip at all.

You wouldn’t want to miss any of the places you can go to in this amazing country. The best way to do that is with a car hire service.

A drive through Australia

The best way to explore Australia is going for a drive from key cities. From these starting points, you can drive off and explore some of the best places around. To help you get started, here’s a quick guide on the places you can visit during your stay. Pack your bags, prep your car, and let’s go!

From Perth to the Margaret River

If you’re a lover of wine, then a visit to the Margaret River is just right up your alley. There are more than a hundred wineries in this small town, giving you the perfect opportunity for a wine tasting weekend with your buddies. Some of the wineries you should visit along the way include:

  • Brookwood Estate. Established in 1996, visitors are treated to a panoramic vineyard view along with unique single vineyard wines. Brookwood Estate is a family-owned business hailing from the pioneer farmers of the region. Wine tastings are available daily from 11am to 4.30pm.
  • Cullen Wines and Restaurant. Toast to an unforgettable holiday in a panoramic view of Cullen Wines and Restaurant’s historic vineyard. Apart from tasting one of the best wines in the region, you can also eat to your heart’s content in their restaurant.

If you are not into wine tasting, there are many activities you can also try. Spending time with nature is one of them.

  • Fishing and boating. If you want to get away from the noise, then boating and fishing are perfect for you. The Margaret River offers fishing tours that will take you out to catch some fish and crabs. If you’re lucky, you might even end up snagging a West Australian Dhufish! There are also boating tours specifically for sightseeing.
  • Rock climbing, high ropes, and zip lining. Everyone needs a good challenge every now and then. The Margaret River is the perfect destination if you want to try something new and physical. There are high ropes, rock climbing and zip lining adventures waiting for you to try.
  • Mountain biking and road cycling are both popular sports in Australia. If you’re on the fence about steering your bike, then you should know that the Margaret River has a mountain bike trails for you to try.

From: Gold Coast to Byron Bay

Gifted with pristine natural beaches, it’s no wonder that surfing is a favourite sport in Australia. There are over 2.5 million recreational surfers in the country and there is no shortage of waves for each one of them.

One of the famous road trip and surfing destination is Byron Bay. It’s a coastal town located on the far north coast of New South Wales. Apart from the beaches, scuba diving sites and surfing spots, it is also home to the country’s most easterly point and the iconic Cape Byron lighthouse. An unforgettable holiday awaits you and your family in this renowned destination.

  • Watch the sunrise. Start the day right by watching the sunrise from the Byron Bay Lighthouse. Wake up early and follow the trail up to the lighthouse for the best sunrise view from Australia’s most easterly point. Satisfy not just your need for a good snap for the ‘gram but also your need for a quick workout during your holiday.
  • Visit hidden beaches. Byron Bay is a beach town and there’s always a new beach to see every day. After watching the sunrise up at the lighthouse, take the time to visit some of the other lesser known beaches in the area like Wategos Beach and Tallows Beach. There are relatively fewer people in these parts, the perfect place for a romantic picnic by the beach.
  • Catch some waves. Of course, you can’t come to Byron Bay and not surf or learn how to surf. There are plenty of places that cater to beginners, and they’ll make sure you can handle yourself around a surfboard by the time your lessons are up.

From: Melbourne to the Great Ocean Road

Your Australian road trip adventure won’t be complete if you don’t include the Great Ocean Road on your itinerary. Part of what makes it a popular destination is the fact that you can drive along and stop by the many landmarks along the way.

The Great Ocean Road is Australia’s most treasured coastal route and it is also considered the world’s largest war memorial. The soldiers that returned from World War I worked on this route from their return in 1919 to 1932, intending to connect isolated settlements along the coast.

When you drive along this road, you will not only treat yourself to a gorgeous scenery along the way. You can also learn a bit of history with each kilometer traveled as you remember the great men who helped build this road. Some of the places you should stop by are:

  • Bells Beach. A lot like Byron Bay, Bells Beach is a popular surfing destination. Travelers and surfers that are looking to catch the next big wave stop by here to hone their skills in time for the next competition. If you’re planning to stop here, don’t forget to bring your surfboard to test out the waves for yourself.
  • The Otway Vista. What’s a better way to complete your holiday than a nature trip to Australia’s best rainforest scenery? Discover hidden waterfalls, tall trees and ancient plant and lush ferns in the morning and end your day with a camping trip. If you’re up for more adventure, the secluded Cape Otway is also a place you shouldn’t miss.
  • 12 Apostles. Along your drive, you will pass by the famous 12 Apostles. The name suggests otherwise but they’re not people. It’s a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park. It’s one of the must-see destinations and the best way to wrap up your Great Ocean Road trip.

Driving on a road trip is always a great idea to explore Australia. Whatever place you pick, you’ll never regret travelling to each destination by land and enjoy what each has to offer, more than enough to make your holiday an unforgettable one.

Got One Day in Irvine, CA?

My girls and I were in Palm Springs, California for the Thanksgiving weekend. It was a sudden trip and urge to visit California. We were in Palm Springs for 4 nights and 31/2 days. We had a rental car, so planned to drive 2 hours to Irvine to visit some friends and spend some time in Irvine.

Laguna Beach in Irvine, CA

Laguna Beach in Irvine, CA

As far as the landscape and heat, Irvine is very different from Palm Springs. We stayed in Coachella Valley in Palm Springs which is a part of the Sonoran Desert. There aren’t any beaches here, only mountains and oases. Irvine, on the other hand, is more crowded, has lots of beaches to hang out, and milder weather.

 

We spent about 7 or 8 hours in Irvine with my high school friend, her sister, and her husband. Since my friend and her husband are local there, they took us to some not-so-touristy places where we did avoid some crowed and had a very relaxed time.

 

Lunch & Dinner – When you are in California, eating burger at In N Out is a must…or at least for me and my kids. Our lunch was animal style burgers and fries from In N Out. For dinner, my friends took us to California Pizza Kitchen. It’s a local Italian place with really good food. Their flatbread with chicken, shrimp and zucchini pasta, mac ‘n cheese fried balls, and cauliflower crusted pizza (no carb at all) are not only healthy, but also very tasty. Even my girls loved the carb free, cauliflower crust pizza.

 

Crystal Cove State Park: This was our first stop. It’s a small free public beach near Irvine. We took some pictures from the cliff side at first, then walked down to the beach. There were bathrooms and showers for the kids to change and take a shower after the beach time. Opposite of the park, there is a big shopping center with some restaurants and etc.

Crystal Cove State Park in Irvine, CA

Crystal Cove State Park in Irvine, CA

Crescent Bay Park/Laguna Beach: Crescent Bay Park was absolutely a charm. It’s a really small park on the cliff of Laguna Beach. Some really beautiful houses stand in this neighborhood. We spent about 10 minutes in the Crescent Bay Park, took some pictures, then walked 10 minutes down the stairs to go to the Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach itself was a bit crowded. And since we already went in the water in Crystal Cove, we just hung out for only a few minutes and came up to go to the Top of the World before the sunset.

Crescent Bay Park in Irvine, CA

Crescent Bay Park in Irvine, CA

 

Top of the World: This is where the local or tourists come to enjoy beautiful sunset over the city. On one side, you can see the mountains and other the ocean. It does get a bit chilly in the late afternoon. We stayed there until the sun went down and it was a beautiful sunset indeed.

Sunset from Top of the World in Irvine, CA

Sunset from Top of the World in Irvine, CA

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