Category Archives: Travel

Best Scanery When You Decide to Visit in Iceland

Iceland is famous for majestic glaciers and snow-covered houses, for the Northern Lights and blue-lit ice caves. But visit in summer and it can feel like a totally different country.

While there are still plenty of icy natural wonders, you can also party with the locals at summer festivals, hike across flower-strewn moorland or soak in hot springs under the midnight sun. Here’s our pick of the best places to go in Iceland this summer:

To get off the tourist trail: the West Fjords

Summer is the perfect time to hike through the stunning Icelandic scenery, and if you can camp, so much the better (and cheaper). Dynjandi is a particularly good spot to pitch up – the waterfall may not be as famous as Gullfoss, but it still attracts plenty of visitors. Stay the night and you may well get the thunderous falls, glittering in the early-morning sun, all to yourself.

For a more remote West Fjords experience, head to Hornstrandir, right on the edge of the Arctic Circle and barely accessible out of summer. This peninsula in Iceland’s far northwest is entirely wild, its inhospitable but beautiful terrain preserved as a nature reserve.

It’s the perfect place to escape the crowds of the southern coast – though even in the middle of summer the weather is unpredictable, so hikers should take precautions to stay safe.

Croatia Island Guide

With its mountainous coastal backdrop, scattering of tawny islands and giddyingly translucent waters, the Croatian Adriatic offers one of the most compelling seascapes in Europe.

Indeed it’s something of an island-hopper’s paradise, with a veritable shoal of ferries providing the opportunity to stride up the gangplank, sprawl on the sun deck and soak up the maritime scenery.

Considering a trip? Here’s what you need to know:

 

Where should I start?

Where you start largely depends on which airport you fly into. The mid-Dalmatian city of Split receives the largest number of incoming flights and is also the Adriatic Sea’s largest ferry port, serving the ever-popular islands of Šolta, Hvar, Brač, Korčula and Vis.

Dubrovnik is also a useful gateway thanks to its catamaran services to Mljet, Lastovo, Korčula and Hvar.

The two other entry points are the northern city of Rijeka, providing access to a varied group of islands in the Kvarner Gulf; and the north Dalmatian port of Zadar, with its own group of laid-back island getaways.

 

What’s the best way to get around?

Car ferries run by state company Jadrolinija serve the main islands, providing public transport for the locals as well as sustaining island tourism.

Faster and slightly more expensive than the ferries, passenger-only catamarans run by both Jadrolinija and Krilo Jet whizz across the water to a selection of destinations.

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes

Whether it’s your first trip abroad or you travel several times a year, we all make mistakes that can cause headaches or possibly even ruin your trip. The good news is that with a little planning, it’s easy enough to avoid some of the most common travel mistakes so you can spend your time enjoying your vacation.

1. Overpacking

It’s tempting to bring outfits for every possible occasion, but it makes it difficult to haul your luggage around, and you may get stuck with high baggage fees for accidentally exceeding the weight limit. Instead, pack your bag as usual, then take out half the clothes you originally planned. You won’t wear all of them, you don’t have to sacrifice style, and you can always do some laundry on the road.

2. Not Checking Your Cell Phone Plan

It’s important to know what your plan covers to avoid data roaming fees. Not covered? Turn off your data before you get on the plane and leave your phone in airplane mode (you’ll still be able to connect to wi-fi). If data is important to you, look into buying an international plan or buying a local SIM card once you arrive.

Alternatively, for Americans, consider T-Mobile as your carrier. We now get free data in 200 countries and it has literally changed the way we travel. (Note: We have no affiliation with T-Mobile and we pay for our own monthly plans.)

3. Not Booking Enough Time in Between Flights

Flight conditions can be unpredictable. If one gets delayed, you might be forced to rush through an unfamiliar airport to make your connecting flight, and you might not make it in time. It’s best to book them with a safe buffer in between. If you are traveling through Heathrow in London, plan for at least a two-hour layover here since you have to go through security just to get from one flight to another.

4. Not Grabbing Some Local Currency at the Airport

As soon as you leave the airport, you’ll need local currency to take public transportation or cab rides in many countries. Taking out money from the airport’s ATMs gives you better exchange rates, so get what you need there, and maybe a little extra for emergencies.

We use our credit card whenever possible, but we always keep cash on hand. Visiting local markets is a must when we travel — and many of these places don’t accept credit cards.

Visit Lithuania this summer

Stuck for summer holiday inspiration? Lithuania has loads to offer, from wild, dune-backed eraches to even wilder festivals. And, with the country gearing up to celebrate 100 years since the restoration of the state (in 2018), there’s never been a better time to visit.

The Centenary Song Festival (in the capital Vilnius, June 2018), an extravaganza of folk music, dance, art and costume, will form a major part of the commemorations – but there’s plenty more to keep you entertained this summer.

From café culture in Vilnius to street art in Kaunas, and from peace and quiet on the coast to adventures deep in the forest, here are seven reasons why Lithuania should be your next trip.

 

1. For midsummer madness

Lithuania kicks off festival season with nationwide celebrations for St John’s Day (June 24), also known as Day of Dew, which has been celebrated on midsummer’s eve for centuries.

Locals stay up until dawn, taking over town and village squares, or heading to the countryside where bonfires are lit, herbs gathered and dew collected – magical powers can be harnessed, it is believed. Of course, all this is experienced against a backdrop of feasting, drinking, music and barefoot dancing.

 

2. For a glimpse of history

Kernavė, 40km northwest of capital Vilnius, is a quiet spot for most of the year. But this rich archaeological site comes to life when thousands descend for the summer solstice.

The area includes hill forts and burial grounds and has UNESCO World Heritage status. Finds dating back to Paleolithic times were first uncovered in the seventies and are strikingly well preserved thanks to the layers of silt that submerged them when the River Neris flooded. Many are on show at the site museum, from padlocks and arrowheads to fine jewellery and what look like extremely well-worn shoes.

At its peak in the thirteenth century, Kernavė was considered the country’s capital and the crafts that helped earn it that status are celebrated in the popular Kernavė Festival of Experimental Archeology. Held every July, the festival sees lively demonstrations of traditional skills (from mead production to yarn dyeing) and contemporary local arts and crafts to browse alongside.

Whats The Great Staying in a Japanese

It’s a cliché to say that Japan is a land of contrasts – but, in terms of accommodation, it really is. There are some weird and many wonderful places to stay, from personal capsules and love hotels to lodgings in five-star luxury.

But there’s one type of accommodation that has preserved its tradition for centuries: the ryokan. Staying at one of these Japanese-style guesthouses is the ultimate Japanese experience. But there are a few things you should know before you go – here’s our guide for the first-time visitor.

 

So, what exactly is a ryokan?

Even if you’ve never heard of a ryokan, they might look familiar. Think traditional Japan: low, wooden buildings with translucent paper screens, sliding doors, straw tatami mats, bamboo, geisha serving tea and immaculately designed gardens – perhaps with a small pond stocked with carp and a wooden bridge.

When you walk inside, you step back a few centuries and everything slows down. It’s a moment of respite from the hectic world outside.

Many ryokan are located next to hot springs that occur naturally close to Japan’s many volcanoes. For this reason, a communal bath in the hot springs (onsen) has become a traditional activity at a ryokan.

 

What’s the history?

Ryokans were established as coaching inns back in the Edo period (1603–1868), when feudal lords from all provinces in Japan were obliged to travel to Edo (Tokyo) every other year to visit the shogun. These were places that the lords and their samurai warriors could rest after a long day on the road.

The guests of honour would spend their evenings bathing, enjoying a tea ceremony and an elaborate meal that lasted all evening, with many rounds of sake. The ryokan was a place of sanctuary, where the warriors could feel safe from attack by enemies. They were often built with simple defences, such as steep, narrow stairs and low doorways and ceilings that made swinging a sword difficult.

 

And what’s the ryokan experience like now?

Today, this accommodation comes in many forms, from historic and luxury styles, to family-run minshuku and more modern hotels with ryokan features.

Everything revolves around making the guest feel comfortable, from the choice of artworks on the wall to the absence of clutter. Don’t plan an evening out – you’ll want to enjoy the ryokan experience to the full.

On arrival, wait to be invited in. You must remove your shoes and put on a pair of slippers before stepping inside. Leave your shoes in the genkan (foyer).

Iceland Road Trip Itinerary

Most people want to drive the entire Ring Road during a trip to Iceland, but what are your options if you only have 5-6 days on the island? While you could technically drive the Ring Road in 6 days, you’d be spending most of your time behind the wheel instead of exploring the outdoors!

We spent a lot of time hiking and taking photos, so we spread this itinerary out over 6 full days. If you’re short on time, it can easily be done in 5 days. I would, however, recommend giving yourself at least 6 days if you are visiting Iceland during the winter because the days are shorter and road conditions can be unpredictable.

I cannot stress this enough. Check the weather report once you arrive in Iceland to determine which direction to head first! If there’s a particular spot you absolutely want to see, plan your route based on the weather.

The roads were closed in the south of the island during a large portion of our trip and we were forced to cut that part of our itinerary short in order to avoid getting stuck driving all the way around the island with very limited time. You either have to wait out the storm (in our case it was 3 days) or you have to drive all the way around the island to get back to Reykjavík.

The road in the south of Iceland — from about Selfoss to Jökulsárlón — has very little protection from the elements, so a windstorm can wreak havoc on this area. They do close this road in extremely high winds for the safety of drivers.

The day we arrived, we picked up our Happy Campers campervan and spent the night in an AirBnb in Reykjavík to shower and get a full night’s rest. This isn’t completely necessary if you already have a campervan, but it’s well worth your sanity before you embark on your road trip.

A slightly cheaper option would be to stay at a campground in Reykjavík that has showers available. We found an AirBnb for about $100 USD so we felt our comfort was worth a little extra money.

Besides showering and getting some sleep, you’ll want to grab some groceries for the week. Reykjavík has the largest selection of grocery stores in Iceland. You’ll have more food options and the ability to get a few things cheaper than if you were to pick up items at gas stations or restaurants along the way.

If you book with Happy Campers, they have an awesome “Free Zone” where other travelers have left the food items they didn’t use. We picked up some items here before heading to the store!

THE ANCIENT PROFESSIONS OF OLD DELHI

Modernity is seeping into Old Delhi, a walled district that has long harboured the Indian capital’s traditional ways of life. But what does this mean for long-standing Delhi-wallahs and their archaic practices? Jack Palfrey reports on a city in flux.

The traffic splutters and snarls but remains stationary. The once resplendent Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi’s famed Moonlight Bazaar, is clogged like one of its litter-filled drains.

I’m sitting in a bicycle rickshaw; a fan seller tugs at my arm (“very much hot today sir”), while a sadhu (holy man), in the distinctive sunset-saffron robe, stretches a hopeful hand towards me. My driver, oblivious, rambles about his cousin, who spent a year studying somewhere in England and disapproved of the bland British cuisine.

This is the Old Delhi of today. The former opulent walled capital of the grand Mughal Empire that has deteriorated into a snubbed suburb of British-built New Delhi.

Hectic and humbling, it’s a microcosm of forgotten India; a rambunctious refuge safeguarding the capital city’s oldest, and most fascinating, ways of life.

Now, after centuries of neglect, change is stirring in the Old Delhi neighbourhood.

A million-dollar project to increase accessibility to the area via three new metro stations – slated for completion in June 2017 – is raising the district’s profile, leading to growing investment in infrastructure and new business ventures.

But what does modernisation mean for long-standing Delhi-wallahs and their alluring ancient traditions? Here, three men plying some of the city’s oldest trades share their stories.

Get off the tourist trail in Morocco

Marrakesh? Check. The souks of Fez? Been there, bought that. Jebel Toubkal? Climbed it, twice. So what else does Morocco have in store once you’ve ticked off its most popular sights? Plenty, according to Keith Drew, who selects seven places that are far from the madding crowds.

 

1. Uncover the Roman ruins of Lixus

Think of Roman sites in Morocco and you’ll probably picture the mosaic-floored houses of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Volubilis. Everybody does. Which is why you should head to the ruins at Lixus, 5km up the coast from Larache, instead.

This is one of the oldest inhabited sites in Morocco, at one time also occupied by the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians – and, as legend would have it, Hercules, who is said to have stolen the Golden Apples for his last-but-one labour here.

The site is not as visitor-friendly as Volubilis – there’s no signage, for example – but that’s half the attraction. With no modern-day markings marring the landscape and barely any other people around, it’s much easier to picture Lixus’ Roman inhabitants packing salt at its crumbling factories, worshipping in its deserted temple sanctuaries, or baying for blood at the Upper Town’s amphitheatre.

 

2. Trek across the Jebel Saghro

The majority of organised trekking in Morocco is concentrated on the Toubkal Massif, a hiking honeypot in the High Atlas mountains south of Marrakesh. So if you want to (literally) get off the beaten track, you’ll need to venture east instead, to the Jebel Saghro.

This is very different terrain – think dry river valleys and stark volcanic spires rather than snow-capped peaks – and a very different set-up. While guides can be hired in several of the trailhead towns, the Saghro region is much less geared up for tourism.

The recommended three-day traverse will have you hiking past weirdly eroded rock formations and across a barren landscape dotted with the black nets of local nomad tribes.

A neighbourhood guide

Until recently, running a club in Japan was a risky business. The fueihō laws, created in 1948, put restrictions on any small venue where patrons had to “actively seek out pleasure” – including dancing. Though usually these laws weren’t enforced, any club or bar owners caught by police letting their patrons bust a move could face jail time.

But in 2016 the laws were finally amended – not entirely rescinded, and not helping everyone, but marking a cultural shift in how Japan views its own nightlife. Here’s our guide to some of the best places to enjoy a totally legal drink, dance or robot show in Tokyo.

 

Best for perfect cocktails and secret bars: Roppongi

It’s impossible to talk about Tokyo nightlife without mentioning Roppongi; though it’s reinvented itself as an artistic hub, in most people’s minds it’s still all hostess bars, aggressive touts and overpriced drinks. Stick to the main drag and that’s what you’ll get, but you’ll find some unexpectedly chic and clever spots in the side streets, especially towards Nishi-Azabu.

One which you’ll have to try harder than usual to find is Roku-Nana, a small “secret bar” in a nondescript residential building. You can either relax in the warm, low-lit bar or head up to the roof terrace for a gorgeous view of Roppongi Hills. We’d give you directions, but we promised not to tell…

There’s a similarly exclusive feel at Gen Yamamoto, though at least the address is made public there. The eponymous owner creates a daily-changing tasting menu of four or six cocktails, adjusting it to match customer preferences, the time, the weather, or just his own intuition. It’s an opportunity to see a master at work – and as there are only eight seats and no background music, you’ll be fully focused on watching him create these works of art.

Festivals for escapism

Festivals are a different beast in 2017. They used to be associated with drinking warm cider while watching crusty bands in your naffest clothes; now the best events are kaleidoscopic extravaganzas designed to tease out the hidden, spectacular you that doesn’t get aired in the office.

From Morocco to Norway, we pick 10 summer festivals that’ll give you true escapism from the “real world”, whether it’s through remote locations, fantastic production or a hedonistic outlook that’ll mean you won’t remember where home is anyway.

 

1. Trænafestivalen, Norway

Trænafestivalen is the grandaa of remote festivals, taking place on a tiny island 65km off Norway’s coast. It’s only accessible by motorboat and, as well as gigs overlooking the ocean and hot saunas, it has the kind of vast, horizon-filling sunsets that’ll get you reflecting about how we’re all “just tiny flecks of sand”.

 

2. Pete The Monkey, France

Pete The Monkey started life as a small party to raise funds for a monkey sanctuary in Bolivia. It’s grown, but not by much. Now 2000 people descend onto a beach in Normandyfor a weekend of music, art, love and escapism sur-la-mer. This year’s theme is ‘the Amazonian playground’ so expect plenty of colourful outfits and Brazil football kits from the lazy lads.

 

3. Oasis, Morocco

Is it a festival? Is it a spa? Oasis twins the hottest names in house and techno with a location in a super luxury resort called The Source. Taking place in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains, its clued-up clientele spend the days doing yoga or hanging out by the pool, and the evenings having a twanging rave until sunrise.

 

4. Secret Garden Party, England

No day at Secret Garden Party is like another, and that’s down to the scale of its often mind-bending production. Its reputation as a playground for the ra youth of the Home Counties is only half-deserved and this year, with a ‘Sweet Dreams’ anti-celebrity theme, is the last so expect emotions amongst the madness.  Tip: don’t skimp on the fancy dress. You’ll stick out.