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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Reykjavik – World’s northernmost capital

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND: My 62nd country to visit – Iceland is a country of the Vikings, where trolls and elves live in the mountains and where Norse Gods like Odin, his powerful sons Thor and Loki were once worshiped. This modern Nordic island, in the North Atlantic Ocean in between Europe and North America has dramatic landscapes and extreme geological contrasts. On one hand, Iceland has some of the largest glaciers in Europe and on the other, it has some of the most active volcanoes in the world. This is a land of “Fire and Ice”. 

Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland

Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe with a population of only 350k and most of them live in the capital, Reykjavik. The country is big on exporting fish. Over 80% of the houses and buildings are heated by geothermal energy. 

Contemporary art by Trjonin Lake in Reykjavik, Iceland

Contemporary art by Trjonin Lake in Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, which means smokey or steamy bay, is the capital and the largest city of Iceland; also a focal point to start your journey in this island. Keflavik International Airport is a little less than an hour drive from the city center of Reykjavik. Flybus is a cheaper way to reach the capital. We took a taxi from the airport and paid about $130 USD one-way for 4 of us. Renting cars or camper vans are very popular here, especially if you are planning to explore the Ring Road. 

Walking around city center in Reykjavik, Iceland

Walking around city center in Reykjavik, Iceland

Few things to keep in mind while traveling to Iceland: currency here is Icelandic kronas or ISK. U.S. citizens don’t need visas for a short stay. Visiting this island nation can get very expensive, a lot more than mainland European countries. Good thing is tipping is not a popular culture here, in restaurants or in excursions. I didn’t see anyone tipping anywhere. For public transportation, Straeto mobile app for public bus is pretty handy where you can pay ahead of time, look at the map, and schedule for each route.

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July to be specific) when we flew to Iceland. My sister flew in from the East Coast. We met and stayed together in Reyjkavik during our whole stay. 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…nothing we couldn’t have handled with just a t-shirt. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like I was. 

The sun used to set around midnight when we were there and it was out before 3am again. It didn’t get completely dark outside even with those couple hours without the sun. To see the complete midnight sun, June is the best time to visit Iceland. It only lasts for 2-3 weeks around that time. Summer is definitely the best time to explore since chances are that all of the sites will be easily accessible. It was a bit cloudy, gloomy, and drizzled a few times those few days. But I can imagine winter in Iceland would be very magical with snow covered mountains and landscapes. 

EATING and SHOPPING: Since Iceland is very expensive when it comes to…well, everything, my sister and I brought package food with us, like pre packaged udon soup from Costco, Ramen/cup noodles, tuna cans, and some snacks. We also made a trip to a 24/7 small grocery on Laugevaur to buy basic things like eggs, bread, oil, mayonnaise, fruits, and etc for breakfast where I paid around $60 for just a handful of few stuff. We still ate out for a few meals and the cost for some of those plates were A LOT. But when you are in Iceland, you have to try their lamb and seafood. There are lots of American chain fast food restaurants also, like Subway, Taco Bell, KFC and etc. Even the 6 inch Subway sandwich we had for one meal, I paid about $12. 

Laugevaur Street is packed with a variety of restaurants. Our first lunch was at Shanghai, a small Chinese on Laugavegur strip. Do stop at Sandholt for coffee and pastries. I loved its contemporary looking interior and lots of desserts options. Another awesome place to dine in Reykjavik is Icelandic Street Food on Laugevaur street…while I wasn’t a big fan of their “Volcanic Soup”…a smokey tomato based soup, the pan-fried cod was perfect. 

For one of the lunches, we came to Messinn’s…few minutes walk from the Trjonin Lake. Saltfish mousse with rye bread for appetizer is something I’ve never tried before and was tasty beyond expectation. For the main course, we all had Icelandic fish. All the dishes came with potatoes and spinach. Lastly for dessert, apple crumbles with ice cream was a yum. Icelandic lamb and seafood were my most favorite items here. I could eat seafood here at every meal if the price wasn’t like $30 per plate. We had lamb only once …it was exceptionally flavorful and perfectly cooked. 

Our lunch at Messinn’s in Reykjavik, Iceland

Our lunch at Messinn’s in Reykjavik, Iceland

For souvenirs, Laugevaur would be a great choice. Icelandic wool products, like socks, hats, gloves are definitely popular souvenirs. We bought a few wool products from the Icelandic brand store, Icewear. These items run very expensive….woolen sweaters can be a couple hundred dollars. Miniature Viking ships, beer-mugs, trolls, and elves are fun items to bring back home. I bought some lava soaps, Icelandic chocolate bars, a photo book of Iceland, and bracelets made from real volcanic stones. 

Trolls of Iceland

Trolls of Iceland

MY HOTEL: We stayed in Sif Apartment, very close to the center of Reykjavik. You will find lots of apartment style hotels in the capital. Sif Apartment is a newly renovated stylish, Scandinavian looking building with new furniture, features, and everything. There was no front desk on site but their great communication and accurate instructions made it very easy for us to check-in and to store our luggage in their facility before our check-in time. The apartment is located only 15 minutes walk from the city center and the big touristic spots, like Sun Voyager or Harpa. Hlemmur, one of the main bus stations in central Rekjavik, was only 2-3 minutes walk away from our hotel. 

Sif Apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland - our hotel

Sif Apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland – our hotel

PLACES I’VE VISITED: We had about a day and a half to really explore the capital. While Reykjavik is very scenic and ready to entertain its guests with different tastes, the most fascinating part of Iceland is outside the capital. There are lots of excursions that you can take from Reykjavik with different options and price ranges. The best and cheapest way to roam around is renting a car with a GPS and go around the Ring Road. Good thing is that most of the sites here don’t have entry fees. 

The actual downtown area is pretty small and the focal point of tourism. Walking around the city center which is characterized by Scandinavian style colorful houses is nice and highly recommended, since most of the attractions are within walking distance. 

Here are all the places we’ve visited in Reykjavik:

  1. LAUGAVEGUR DISTRICT: Laugavegur street is where we headed on our first day. It’s the main shopping street and the primary commercial hub of downtown Reykjavik…also, one of the oldest shopping strips in Iceland. After our lunch at Shanghai Chinese restaurant, we kept walking on Laugavegur. Options for souvenir shops, boutique or designer stores, cafes, and restaurants on Laugavegur are endless.
Laugavegur District in Reykjavik, Iceland

Laugavegur District in Reykjavik, Iceland

2. SUN VOYAGER: From Laugavegur district, it’s about 5 minutes walk to Sun Voyager. It’s a huge steel boat sculpture set on granite by the sea. 

Sun Voyager in Reykjavik, Iceland

Sun Voyager in Reykjavik, Iceland

3. HARPA: You can see the glass made honey-comb concert hall, Harpa, while walking by the water from Sun Voyager. It’s the home of national opera and symphony. The building opened back in 2011. It’s free to go in and look around. They also have few guided tours inside the building. We spend about half an hour walking around and checking out couple stores inside Harpa. 

Harpa in Reykjavik, Iceland

Harpa in Reykjavik, Iceland

4. HALLGRIMSKIRKJA or CHURCH of HALLGRIMUR: After our Golden Circle and Snaefellsness excursions, we spent a full day in Reykjavik downtown again. And this was our first stop. It’s about 10 minutes walk from Laugavegur street. 

Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja is a striking architecture with 73 meter high tower, inspired by Icelandic traditions. But unfortunately, they were preparing for a concert and the church was closed to the public when we were there. The tower was open and visitors can climb it for a fee (although we didn’t do it). This is an iconic landmark of Iceland for its artistic and modern edifice.

5. AUSTURVOLLUR SQUARE/ICELAND PARLIAMENT/THE CATHEDRAL of REYKJAVIK: This is a tiny square in the heart of Reykjavik. Both the parliament and the national cathedral stand by Austorvollur square. 

Austorvollur square and the Icelandic Parliament in Reykjavik, Iceland

Austorvollur square and the Icelandic Parliament in Reykjavik, Iceland

The Icelandic Parliament is a classical 19th century structure built in 1881. Don’t let the size fool you…it is one of the important buildings in Reykjavik. Opposite of the parliament near Austurvollur is the Cathedral of Reykjavik. This is the seat of the Bishop of Iceland. Recent renovation reflect its original 18th century design. 

Cathedral of Reykjavik in Iceland

Cathedral of Reykjavik in Iceland

6. TRJONIN LAKE and TOWN HALL: This is a small but a prominent lake in central Reykjavik with the City Hall on one side. We passed along its shore and spent a few minutes. Few museums are close to this lake. There is also an outdoor restaurant right by it. 

Trjonin Lake and the Town Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland

Trjonin Lake and the Town Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland

 

7. OLD HARBOR and PUFFIN EXPRESS TOUR: This trip was put on our itinerary specifically for my 9-years old daughter. She loves animals and birds…and this was a perfect opportunity to get some real life education. We learned a lot about puffins and their history in Iceland. The short boat ride to the puffin island was enjoyable too. 

Old Harbor in Reykjavik, Iceland

Old Harbor in Reykjavik, Iceland

It was $57 per person for one hour boat ride to a nearby island where puffins live. It departs from the old harbor There are other places in Iceland where you can go puffin watching but this was something closer to Reykjavik that we could do. 

The Old Harbor is a starting point for most (if not all) of the water cruises/excursions to nearby sites. Few restaurants and cafes are here with different tour companies. 

From the Puffin Express Boat in Reykjavik, Iceland

From the Puffin Express Boat in Reykjavik, Iceland

IF I VISIT ICELAND AGAIN: If I come to Iceland again, which I probably will, I would stay in the same Sif Apartment for its location. I would also like to rent a car or a camper van to go around the Ring Road and visit some secret lagoons, beaches, hot springs, small villages, and especially some ice caves. I still regret not buying a woolen sweater or a wintry jacket from Icewear or 66 North. Finally, I wouldn’t miss eating more of their fresh fish. I do want to see the northern lights too, but I’m not sure if I can take the freezing temperature here…let’s see. 

 

A Day with Mozart in Salzburg – Music & Culture

Influential composer of the classical era, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in the city of Salzburg. The city is located in central Austria, close to the German border and, as you might expect it, comes with a lot of things for you to discover, especially in terms of music and culture.

A statue of young Mozart in Mozartplatz, Salzburg, Austria

A statue of young Mozart in Mozartplatz, Salzburg, Austria

That’s why, today, we decided to take Mozart with us and spend a day in Salzburg together. We’ll be at the end of your road, waiting for your transportation from Salzburg airport to get you in the heart of the city.

Fresh in the Morning

Since we are spending the day with Mozart, it’s only natural that we have our breakfast at Café Tomaselli, found on Alter Markt 9. It is believed that Mozart himself spent his mornings in this café and that his favorite drink was almond milk – that sounds like a very healthy choice of beverage for breakfast, right?

After we’re done with our breakfast, we can have a walk in the Old Town of Salzburg, which has seen little changes from the time Mozart used to walk around it. After enough walking, we’ll reach Mozart Square where we can see his statue.

To end our morning, we can go visit the Salzburg Cathedral – it is one of the most significant Baroque building in Salzburg and it is also the place where the baptism of Mozart took place.

Afternoon

If we are in Salzburg, we might as well try some chocolate, right?

You can satisfy your taste buds with a box of Mozartkugeln, literally translated to Mozart Chocolates, which can be found at Konditorei Furst, on the Brodgasse 13 Street.

Of course, you can find this type of chocolate in many other places, but this very place we have mentioned a bit earlier is the one in which the patissier Paul Furst came up with the idea and created this chocolate. The Mozartkugeln is basically made out of a pistachio marzipan center that’s been hand-dipped into dark chocolate nougat.

After eating the finger-licking good chocolate, we can head to Bibliotheca Mozartiana, on the Schwartzstrasse 26 Street, library that contains around 35,000 titles. It is also the most extensive Mozart library in the entire world.

Evening

Since we’re walking with Mozart, it’s only natural that we end our day with a concert or an opera performance.

If you prefer a concert, then head over to the Mozarteum, but if you prefer an opera performance, you can go to the Salzburg Marionette Theater for a piece of a Mozart opera.

After such delight, you can safely go and enjoy your dinner or visit one of the local taverns. Fideler Affe is the place you want to see if you want to taste some beer and enjoy the place’s coziness, while Hotel Sacher can provide you with the dinner that will get you ready for sleep.

So, now you know what you should be doing in Salzburg after your airport transfers company in Salzburg of your choice drops you off to your accommodation – that is if you want to spend your day with Mozart.

9 of the most beautiful towns you need to visit in Ireland

Ireland – one of the leading tourist attractions of the world is beyond beauty. Everything that this country embraces is beautiful and lively. From the countryside to the town-life, everything about Ireland is worth visiting and knowing.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay.com

Because of such abilities, Ireland has easily been able to rule over the hearts of a number of people around the world. From its rich history and culture to the modern lifestyle – the country is a blend of everything. The big city life of the country is worth all the hype, however the small cities and towns of the country have their own charm.

Below listed are the nine most beautiful towns of Ireland:

  1. Manorhamilton, Leitrim:

This is the town which describes the culture and beauty of Ireland at its beautiful best. This Irish town is quaint and is full of everything that the tourists need. There are beautiful little shops, few small pubs as well as a castle. You can spend a couple of days in this sweet town by interacting with the friendly town and exploring the places in and around it.

  1. Roundstone, Galway:

Your tours of Ireland would be incomplete if you don’t visit this beautiful seaside village which is quintessential and calm. This village is located on to the west coast of Galway within the region of Connemara and this town is everything about some of the most pristine locations that you would ever encounter within the country. There are fine bars and restaurants as well.

  1. Clonakilty, Cork:

Another beautiful town in the country of Ireland is Clonakilty which attracts a number of tourists because of its colorful nature and appearance. This town is located down on to the Southern tip of the country and is one of the most popular towns for the tourists. Recently, this town won the Tidy Towns award and a number of other awards which certainly justify the popularity of this town. This town is a must visit.

  1. Skerries, Dublin:

Another beautiful small town which would serve you a fun-filled time is Skerries. This place is the best location if you are wanting to have a day trip after staying the city of Dublin. There are a number of restaurants and bar and you can easily sit down, relax and grab a drink to enjoy the beauty of the place. Visit this place on a sunny day and you will thank us later.

  1. Ardara, Donegal:

Another beautiful town of Ireland which can take you completely by surprise is Ardara. This place describes the rural beauty of Ireland at its very best and hence serves everything that you wouldn’t otherwise find in any city of Ireland. Situated near a Gaeltacht area, your trip to Ireland must include a visit here.

  1. Lismore, Waterford:

This town is more than picturesque and is definitely worth a trip while you are exploring Ireland during your vacation. You can take part and make the most of a number of activities here such as hiking, fishing and exploring the beautiful old castles. There are cozy hotels where you can stay back to enjoy a number of activities taking place around you.

  1. Doolin, Clare:

If you are planning to visit the beautiful Cliffs of Moher during your trip to Ireland, then a visit to Doolin would serve you the best choice to stop by and relax. This town is situated only 15 minutes away from the cliffs and you can surely stop to relax and chill. There is a famous pub here where you can explore the nightlife of Ireland.

  1. Westport, Mayo:

This place serves as a fairly big town when compared to other small towns and villages of Ireland and it happens to be one of the most beautiful towns of the country. This place embraces a beautiful scenic beauty to look after. If you are into hiking or any other adventure sport, you will love this place as it has got a lot to offer. However, this hike is definitely not for the faint hearted.

  1. Kenmare, Kerry:

This place serves you as the perfect base camp if you are wanting to explore the rest of the country. Kenmare is a gorgeous town which is filled with ample of restaurants and bars to help you with all sorts of recreation. If you happen to stay here during snowfall, call yourself lucky as this place gives a stunning view to your eyes. This town has a lot of things for the tourists and you can take part in a number of activities to have a gala time. Don’t forget to visit the beautiful Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm which happens to be 200-years old.

Visit this amazing small towns and villages of Ireland and bump into the additional beauty of this country.

La Paz and Todos Santos, Mexico

La Paz and Todos Santos: It was our first ever girls-only trip and five of us were determined to go somewhere…anywhere to chill, bond, and be wild. Only one condition, it had to be outside USA. To go easy for the first time, we chose Mexico…a place which was closer to our home and within short distance. After lots of going back and forth, we chose Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. After visiting around 60 countries, this was the single most memorable trip that I’ll always cherish.

A small Mexican village - El Triunfo

A small Mexican village – El Triunfo

We planned ahead for the La Paz and Todos Santos trip to get out of the city life of Cabo. If you have an extra day and are looking for an excursion from Cabo San Lucas, this would be a great option. Both of these small towns are rich in history and culture, but my personal favorite was Todos Santos. The distance from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz is about 264 km and took us about 3 hours by car. But don’t fall asleep…most portion of the journey is very scenic and roads/highways are  surrounded by Sierra Mountains that should not be missed.

Reservation for this trip was made before arriving to Cabo thru Easy Cabo Trip. It was $70 per person and paid partial amount from the total to reserve the day. Originally I chatted with Alex from Easy Cabo Trip to book the trip who was extremely helpful with our needs. Our guide/driver, Eric, was someone who I would recommend highly for anyone. He was knowledgeable, friendly, very nice, dedicated, and spoke pretty good English too. We were picked up from our resort sharp at 8am. It was about 10 hours trip from pick up to drop off. And Eric helped us all the way at every step.

Time of Travel: We were in Cabo San Lucas during the 1st week of December 2017. We kept the first couple days and the last day for Cabo itself. In between, on the 3rd day, we decided to go out of the main tourist spots and enjoy the rural parts of the town. Weather in December in Cabo is usually very pleasant. It was somewhere in the 70s and 80s most of the time.

Our Hotel: We stayed in Marina Fiesta Resort and Spa in Cabo San Lucas. Please check out my page on Cabo right side to know more about the resort.

Eating and Shopping: The morning we went to La Paz, Eric, took us to a small breakfast place because we weren’t able to start our morning without some coffee. I had a freshly made delicious beef empanada while others tried burrito and etc. The place had a small shop attached to it where a lady was selling all sorts of dry fruit pastes, spicy candies, and traditional Mexican snacks. I bought a guava paste bar (my kids loved it) and some tamarind hot candies.

Our breakfast place on our way to La Paz, Mexico

Our breakfast place on our way to La Paz, Mexico

Todos Santos is a fun place to do some souvenir hunting. Hotel California can be slightly pricey but it has some nice selections of trinkets and gift items. I bought few keyrings, a rug, and a mug from here. Other stores here sell similar items, sometimes maybe a bit cheaper than Hotel California. But for my rug, I found that Hotel California was cheaper than other stores and they carry some unique items that other stores didn’t have…but don’t forget to bargain.

Souvenirs inside Hotel California in Todos Santos, Mexico

Souvenirs inside Hotel California in Todos Santos, Mexico

Places We’ve Visited: I wish I knew how beautiful Todos Santos is, I would have planned to go there first and spend more time and then go to La Paz after lunch. We barely got a chance to roam around Todos Santos, because it was already dark when we reached there and everything was getting ready to close.

  1. Tropic of Cancer: This is where we first stopped in the morning. It’s a very simple monument in between San Jose del Cabo and La Paz, where the tropic of cancer crosses. Other than the monument itself, there is a small church and some hand-crafts shops are here too. We spent about 15-20 minutes before heading towards our breakfast venue.

    Monument for Tropic of Cancer near Cabo, Mexico

    Monument for Tropic of Cancer near Cabo, Mexico

  2. Gold and Silver Mine: This is an old and unnamed gold and silver mine. It had no sign and was hidden in the middle of a small hill and bushes. A tiny door leads to the mouth of the mine. We didn’t dare to go inside the mine itself.
  3. Iglesia de El Triunfo: Once a mining urban settlement, El Triunfo is a small town where another silver mine, El Triunfo de la Cruz, is located. In fact, it is this silver mine that gave birth to the town El Triunfo. We didn’t go to the mine here, just saw it from a distance from this church. With the Latin cross floor plan of this building with wooden structured roof, Iglesia de El Triunfo dates back to the second half of the 19th The main altar was designed elaborately in neoclassic style.

    Iglesia de El Triunfo in Cabo, Mexico

    Iglesia de El Triunfo in Cabo, Mexico

  4. Playa Ballandra: Playa Ballandra is a calm and sandy beach with a beautiful landscape. We spent about an hour walking along the water and taking pictures. It was not overly crowded but was lively.

    Playa Ballandra in Cabo, Mexico

    Playa Ballandra in Cabo, Mexico

  5. Playa Tecolote: This is where we had our lunch. It’s a small private-like beach, didn’t see anything nearby, except for the restaurant which was almost packed with tourists and locals.

    Playa Tecolote in Cabo, Mexico

    Playa Tecolote in Cabo, Mexico

  6. La Paz Downtown: 30 minutes drive from Playa Tecolote is La Paz Downtown. This is an old Mexican port and still carries that feel and vibe. The corner stone of Cathedral de Nuestra Senora de la Paz was laid in 1861. It has some stained glass windows and a simple alter. We really didn’t do much here other than visiting the cathedral and looking over some local shops. There are few galleries…but everything was closed on Sunday.

    Cathedral of La Paz

    Cathedral of La Paz

  7. Todos Santos: Located in north of Cabo, Todos Santos is one of the small cities of Baja California on the Pacific side. It took about 1 ½ hours from La Paz to Todos Santos and we got here when it was already dark. It would have been ideal if we came to Todos Santos in the morning and stayed until lunch. We could have spent more time and enjoyed the inspirational characteristic of this Mexican town.

Even if you can’t do La Paz, I would highly recommend taking a day trip to Todos Santos…this is almost a must-see when you are visiting Cabo and makes perfect day trip from Cabo. Its tiny community is filled with old colonial style arts and architecture which take you few centuries back. Here are some places we managed to see in Todos Santos.

  1. Mission of Santa Rosa de Todos Santos: This century old monastery is at the heart of this town. The original building goes back to early 18th We could make it to the cathedral right before its closing and there is no charge to visit. It has a simple interior with elegant altar and grand exterior.
  2. Hotel California: The iconic colonial style red building of Todos Santos is the Hotel California. This is located only 2 minutes’ walk from the cathedral. Inside of the hotel is more beautiful than the outside. So make sure to go inside and check out the hotel lobby, bar, café, and shop.
Inside Hotel California in Todos Santos, Mexico

Inside Hotel California in Todos Santos, Mexico

 

 

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