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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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.

Journey to Old and New Singapore

It is easy to agree that Singapore is a developed country with state-of-the-art infrastructure, fast internet and amazing tourist destinations. An aerial tour of the current Lion City will reveal a little heaven on earth especially if you pass by Universal Studios, Marina Bay or Sentosa Island. Many people from different parts of the world have been looking at https://www.singapore-visa.net to know how they will find jobs and business in this city-state. But most people do not know the history behind the country and the journey it has taken. So let us look at the journey from the old Singapore to the new one that is exhibited today.

Ancient Features of Singapore

Evidence of the old Singapore still remains all over. In addition to the numerous historical sites and museums that are available in Singapore, there is still more than any person can enjoy. Here is some of the evidence of the old Singapore.

  •         Sri Mariamman Temple – this temple illustrates the old Singapore where people used to worship a Hindu mother goddess. It still stands strong today despite the many years.
  •         Chijmes – the site dates back many years and has a rich history. People who appreciate excellent food can enjoy it here.
  •         National Gallery Singapore – this gallery has one of the largest art collections in the state. You can appreciate the collection of cave paintings all the way to the modern-day art.

Gaining Independence

The city-state was a British colony. At one time in World War II, the Japanese Empire took over but only for a short time. By 1965, the state gained independence from the British Empire.

By the late 60s, the government was determined to tackle the crisis of unemployment, housing challenges, health concerns and many other issues that were already facing them. One of the strategies laid down by the authorities was to start the modernization program, industrialization and the building of houses for its citizens.

Modern Singapore

Throughout the 20th century, Singapore has seen a significant evolution. This is when most of the amazing architecture, installation of the current infrastructure and technology occurred. Modern Singapore boasts these wonders among many others.

Marina Bay Sands – it is one of the most expensive casinos ever built in the world. Although the three buildings have other businesses like restaurants and shops, the skyscrapers’ exterior is the most amazing feature.

The Helix Bridge – indeed, this a modern architectural wonder that has amazed many people in the world. It connects Marina South with the central area.

Finally, Singapore, in the modern day, is an amazing country. If you research the history of the country in depth, you will also get to appreciate the multicultural influence that it enjoys. Today, Singapore is a cosmopolitan city with a strong economy, excellent business environment and fast internet. The real estate sector has played a significant role in removing the old houses to erect new ones. Most of the land in the city has been developed fully to make it what it is today.

 

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.

6 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Ireland

The Emerald Isle Ireland is an ideal blend of rolling hills, green valleys, medieval castles, and delicious cuisine with its outstanding stew. Cozy Dublin, Cork nightclubs, pubs, Kerry Way, horse riding, outdoor activities and language tours can all be part of your Ireland vacation ideas.

Ireland has been a popular tourist place for years. It is famous for its extended excursions, tasty beer, original nature, and impressive history. As for the beauties of the country, the loneliness of Connemara, wild spaces of County Donegal, cool waters of the Atlantic, and majestic beauty of Glendalough are just a small part of what the country has reserved for its visitors. The fans of the art of all styles and directions will not be disappointed too as Ireland is remarkable for brilliant theatrical performances in Dublin and conceptual rock parties in Limerick.

Ireland is characterized by its fantastic hospitality of local people. They won’t only help a foreign guest but get ensured that he doesn’t experience any difficulties. The secret of the national character is simple – the Irishman is comfortable when everyone around is happy. Before planning a trip, learn several phrases in Irish to show your respect to the country and people.

If you decide to visit this beautiful place of the globe, you have to be familiar with some Ireland travel tips. Here are the most important tips you should know when visiting this great country.

The climate

The climate is temperate oceanic. The western and northwestern coast is washed by the Gulf Stream, so the climate here is warm and humid. In general, the local weather is unpredictable – as the Irish joke “four seasons in 24 hours”. Rains are not strong, but frequent, the downpour can be replaced by the sun several times a day.

The best time to travel to Ireland is in July and August. A visit to Ireland in June or September also has many advantages – the weather is still (or already) quite warm, all the sights are open to visitors, but there are fewer tourists.

Your umbrella and raincoat are an absolute “must have” there at any season of the year.

Banks and exchange offices

The monetary unit of the country is Euro (EUR). Currency can be exchanged in the exchange offices, hotels and travel agencies, but the best rate is traditionally offered in the banks. Banks work on weekdays from 10:00 to 16:00 (on Thursdays – from 10:00 to 17:00). With international credit cards, you can withdraw money at any time of the day. Credit cards and traveler’s checks of the world’s leading payment systems are widely used.

Educational institutions

Young people visit this country to enroll in an English course to enhance foreign language skills and explore its history, culture, and traditions. Many of them decide to enter higher educational institutions after visiting Ireland.

Many universities outstand at international level, and the country is a popular choice for international students. The variety of higher education institutions in combination with gorgeous cities, wonderful countryside and unique culture makes the isle an attractive academic destination. If you’re one of those choosing to get a degree in Ireland, navigate to this assignment writing service to get help with your college application essay and to find out more about Irish universities.

National cuisine and restaurants

The national cuisine of Ireland is quite simple, but it is also unique. Many local cooks are still frying meat according to the traditions of their ancestors: on an open flame using peat instead of firewood. The main ingredients are lamb, pork, potatoes, and cabbage; the method of preparation is long stewing. Spices are practically not used, except for salt and black pepper. Your Ireland travel guide will show you the route to the best restaurants that serve traditional dishes.

Attractions

A lot of stables and equestrian clubs can be considered a kind of sightseeing in the country. In addition to amateur riding, you can enjoy the spectacle of professional horse racing.

You can walk along the famous walking trail Kerry Way in County Kerry, the Iveragh Peninsula. The route begins in Killarney near the national park with beautiful forests, lakes, and waterfalls. Many tourists are attracted by the famous steep cliffs which are almost two hundred meters high on the Atlantic coast of the country, as well as dull but no less impressive hills – the scene of all local legends.

Castles

Ancient castles are preserved in every county, such as Belle Isle, Bunratty, Blarney, King John’s Castle in Limerick, Doe, Cahir, Ashford and dozens of others, no less remarkable. Many of them have been converted into the first-class hotels.

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