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. 

 

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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.

THE MOST SHOCKING FACTS ABOUT EVERYDAY INDIA LIFE FOR A TOURIST?

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Have you been curious about seeing this historic nation filled with priceless traditions, lifestyle, spices, and amazing festivals and attractions? Well, why not? One way or the other, you must have seen and heard about this iconic country. Hence, you decided to have a firsthand view of this place, to share their lifestyle and rich heritage. We believe your position is right; this is why this article focuses on bringing to tourists awareness, interesting facts on nations that will help them better adjust, and appreciate the country they wish to explore. Today, we bring to your awareness daily facts that will shock your mind. These are happenings you never knew occurred in India.

FACTS ABOUT INDIA

  1. LEFT HAND IS CONSIDERED UNCLEAN

When you get to India it is important you do know which hand is appropriate to eat with. For those who love to use the left hand when dining, these action is frowned upon. Traditionally, the natives perceive their left hand unclean and never uses it to eat. This action is as a result of their preference in utilizing their left hand to clean up themselves by utilizing the toilet.

  1. KILLING COWS IS A TABOO

During your stay in India, you will find a lot of cows walking freely on the streets. This occurrence is as a result of the high value placed on cows. In India, cows are seen as one of Humans seven mothers. This perception lies in the fact that we thrive on cow’s milk as we survived through our mother’s milk. Hence, cows are not killed, they are rather reverenced and worn the Tilak for good fortune.

  1. SHAMPOOING BEGAN IN INDIA

Yup, the word shampoo was derived from the Sanskrit word Champu; this word means to massage, and before the world developed their shampoo products, India has been making use of their herbs to clean the hair. Hence, one of the things to do when you get to this beautiful land is to try their herbs shampooing. Indian herbal medicine called Ayurveda has been a subject of numerous studies of modern western scientists. If you are willing to research this topic further, you can check custom essay writing Eduzarus to get professional assistance.

  1. THE LARGEST POSTAL NETWORK

India, till date, remains the country with the largest postal network. As a tourist, you will be amazed by the amount of functioning post office settled in the country. Some of these offices float above water, which is one of the beautiful things to see when you get there. These postal offices serve an average of 7175 people each per day.

  1. THE WETTEST PLACE IN THE WORLD

The wettest place in the world is housed in India. When you get to the country, you should check the Mawsynram village on Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. This village is recorded to have the highest rainfall average in the world. If you decide to check out Mawsynram, endeavor to go with your umbrella.

  1. THE LARGEST NUMBER OF VEGETARIANS

Indians have the numbers for the largest population of vegetarians in the world. When you arrive at the country, you will find out that 20-40% of the people resident there are vegetarians. This surprising occurrence does not stray away from religious beliefs and personal choices. Hence, the land remains the most vegetarian-friendly country in existence.

  1. A SPA FOR ELEPHANTS

As a tourist in India, you might be unaware of this unless you are looking. India treasures elephants, if not more than the same way they treasure their cows. Hence, it is not far-fetched to come across an Elephant Spa in the country. One of these Spa establishments is Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard Rejuvenation Centre, located in Kerela. Elephants receive food, bath, and massage in this establishment. You seeing it, will not will not only be a fun thing to experience but one of the things you should do when you get there.

  1. THE LOTUS FLOWER IS SACRED

The lotus flower is a sacred symbol in the Country. When you get there, you will find its design on some Hindu and Buddhist temples. Currently, the Lotus Temple also known as Baha’i, situated in Delhi, is built to look like a lotus flower. The Temple has a 27 mammoth lotus petals structure covered in marbles. It is a fantastic sight to behold.

  1. LOTS OF SPICE

Spice is integrated into everyday India life. Currently, the country produces 70% of the world’s spice consumption, which makes it the highest spice producer and exporter in the world. When you get there, certainly you will see lots of stuff to buy when it comes to spices.

 

 

 

Famous Quotes on Famous European Cities

Well, let’s just say this is more like a research post. I was looking up some cities in Europe and got distracted by what famous people have to say about some of my favorite cities from that continent. And boom, I thought I should put together all these nice quotes with some of my pictures, that maybe somehow represent those sayings. Again, it’s hard to pick and choose most appealing cities of Europe, but here are some of my tops ones:

  1. Prague: “The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plaster-work and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.” ―Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone 
Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

2. London: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. ” – Samuel Johnson

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Millennium Bridge on River Thames in London

3. Venice: “There is still one of which you never speak.’Marco Polo bowed his head.’Venice,’ the Khan said.Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’ And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.” ― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

One of the inner canals of Venice, look at those beautifully decorated windows

One of the inner canals of Venice, look at those beautifully decorated windows

4. Rome: “Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
– Giotto di Bondone, Renaissance painter

Trevi Fountain - The largest and the most spectacular fountain of Rome

Trevi Fountain – The largest and the most spectacular fountain of Rome

5. Paris: “Paris has history, it has art, it has wonderful architecture, it has literature, but much more important than all these, it has freedom! If a city cannot offer freedom to its dwellers, all its other beauties will be meaningless!”  ―  Mehmet Murat Ildan

Moulin Rouge in Paris

Moulin Rouge in Paris

6. Granada: “How lazily the sun goes down in Granada, it hides beneath the water, it conceals in the Alhambra!” – Ernest Hemingway

Alhambra overlooking Granada

Alhambra overlooking Granada

7. Amsterdam: “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” – John Green

Endless canals of Amsterdam in The Netherlands

Endless canals of Amsterdam in The Netherlands

8. Salzburg: “Framed by mountains, crowned by the Hohensalzburg Fortress and divided by the turquoise Salzach River, the Salzburg landscape is pure drama.” – Frommers

Stunning view of Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress

Stunning view of Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress

9. Edinburgh: “Edinburgh suited Ann; she liked the tall, dignified buildings of grey stone, the short days that sank into street-lamped evenings at five o’clock, and the dual personality of the city’s main street, which on one side had glittering shops and on the other the green sweep of Princes Street Gardens.” ― Maggie O’Farrell, After You’d Gone

Walking on Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Walking on Royal Mile in Edinburgh

10. Copenhagen: ” If Copenhagen were a person, that person would be generous, beautiful, elderly, but with a flair. A human being that has certain propensities for quarreling, filled with imagination and with appetite for the new and with respect for the old – somebody who takes good care of things and of people.” – Connie Nielsen

Burst of colors in Nyhavn (New Harbor) of Copenhagen, Denmark

Burst of colors in Nyhavn (New Harbor) of Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Tired of Regular Holidays? Consider a Modern Camping Trip

For a long time, camping has been associated with setting up a tent in the woods, cooking canned food over an open fire and sleeping in bags. However adventurous it might seem, it does come with its fair share of frustrations and annoyances. For instance, there are bugs and animals to avoid or deal with, the food you cook isn’t exactly amazing (it’s just canned!) and you might wake up sore or hurting for a number of different reasons.

However much you love to travel, there’s nothing quite like the peace and tranquillity of a camping trip. Just don’t forget that you live in a world where cars can drive themselves and people fly into space. Using the power of technology, we can upgrade the classic camping experience and bring some creature comforts that set it apart from what we used to do a decade ago. So grab your bag and open up your shopping list, because these are the essential components that you will need to have a modern camping trip.

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Hammocks

Although you should still have a tent, if you really want to experience the sun and have a relaxing position to rest in, then learn more about hammocks and consider getting one to sleep or lounge in at your camping destination. They are inexpensive, they’re easy to set up and they’re much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. Of course, you might need nets to prevent bugs and other creatures from disrupting you while you sleep.

Smart Phones

Mobile internet connections are easy to get nowadays and your camping location might even get a signal. This means you can always access the internet and do things such as watch movies, keep up with social media and stream music live to your phone. Many people say that camping should be a disconnect from real life and that you should never bring too much technology in case it gets overwhelming.

However, technology always has a use in camping and it can even help you get out of bad situations. For instance, if you get lost, you have a GPS on your phone to help lead you to safety. If you’re bitten by something or end up hurting yourself, then you can browse the internet in order to look for remedies or check if it’s something that requires immediate attention. Of course, let’s not forget the ever-useful torch app as well! Just remember to bring a couple of spare batteries or portable battery banks along with your smartphone.

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Portable Grills

If you’re worried about fires spreading or getting out of control when you’re ready to cook or heat up the campsite, then consider investing in a portable grill. Not only do these make cooking food much easier and open you up to more recipes, it’s safer because they can easily be turned off and you won’t risk burning down your campsite because you didn’t watch the fire. They’re easy to lug around, lightweight, and extremely versatile. You also might want to pair it with a portable cooler or freezer device so that you can keep meats and vegetables fresh and cool before you grill them.

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