North Iceland | Off the beaten track

Iceland has become one of the most popular adventure destinations over the last couple of years. The Southern part however, has been getting the most attention. As a result, the infamous Blue Lagoon has become crowded and large tour busses are driving around the golden circle like there is no tomorrow. Dutch tour operator Voigt Travel thought it was time to shed some light on the often forgotten Northern part of Iceland and now offers direct flights to Akureyri with Transavia. Wander-Lust was invited to travel around North Iceland for 6 days and we’re here to tell you why this part shouldn’t be overlooked.

Good to know

  • During spring/summer, it won’t get dark. Even though the most hotels offer good curtains, we advise you to bring an sleeping mask
  • The weather can change drastically. Therefore, pack your sweater, raincoat, sunscreen and bikini (for the natural pools).
  • The people of Iceland still believe in the existence of the Huldufolk translated to, hidden people. Apparently these are like elves and wander around the island. Don’t underestimate their believe, you may find yourself in a heated discussion if you tell them otherwise.
  • Respect the vulnerable moss! Although Iceland is rocky and full of lava remains, moss grows on the rocks and takes decades to grow. Be careful when walking around, because you can easily damage it.
  • The tap water in Iceland is one of the best and widely available. Bring a flask or bottle so you avoid using plastic.

Northern Iceland
Always bring your raincoat (raincoat by Rain Couture)


The Route

Because of the new flight to Akureyri, you can start your trip from there and move around the Northern part, but we did it a little different. Starting in Reykjavik, we drove past the West coast up to North Iceland. This way, you can really see the landscape changing. Check the highlights on the map below.

North Iceland mapSource: Visit North Iceland

Tip: Drive over the Artic Coast Way, which officially opened on the 8th of June 2019 and has been voted in in the top 3 “Best in Europe” by the Lonely Planet. It highlights a less traveled route in Iceland and runs 900km long. In this guide we will show you the route we took plus we will highlight the extra options available in the area.

Artic Coast way
The Artic Coast Way

Day 1 | Drive up North:

From Reykavik drive for about 2 hours to get to North East Iceland where we started our adventure. Stop over at Gauksmýri and meet the animal that you will see loads of, Icelandic Horses. Family owned horse farm Gauksmýri lodge offers traditional horse shows and a nice lunch or dinner. If you are not into horses you can drive to Hvammstangi where you can visit the oldest wool factory in Iceland where you can also buy hats, gloves, scarfs and warm jumpers.

Icelandic Horses North Iceland

Where to stay?
We advise you to take it easy on the first day because you may need to get used to the fact that it won’t turn dark during spring/summer. We stayed in Hotel Laugarbakki, basic but fine, especially because it’s a great starting point for the next day.


Day 2 |Hvammstangi:

If you like to you can go seal watching today. Gear up warmly because it can get cold on the boat. We saw many seals playing in the water or chilling on shore. The Seal Watching Company provides you with binoculars and hot chocolate on board. We enjoyed a nutritious lunch right next door at Sjavarborg Restaurant, with a sea view. They offer burgers, vegan curry and daily fish specials.

Seal Watching North Iceland
Seals used to be hunted in Iceland, but now people let them be and enjoy them differently.

Along the way you are going to see various types of landscapes. The Fjörds, rocky mountains and fields of grass with Icelandic sheep jumping around. Tip: stop at Ánastaðastapi, a rock formation less known, but just as impressive as the infamous Hvitserkur. Legend says, that Hvitserkur is in fact a troll that was turned into stone by the sunlight. Whatever the truth is, take a close look when it’s low-tide so you can walk on the black volcanic beach.

Ánastaðastapi North Iceland

Ánastaðastapi

Hvitserkur North Iceland
Troll or rock? Hvitserkur, North Iceland

Soon enough you’ll find yourself in Sauðárkrókur, which was once the battleground for vikings. The area has many historical sites, museums and exhibits. Tip: In town you should have dinner at KK Restaurant. Lobster pizza is one of their specialities! Be aware though, they also serve Greenland shark and foal meat (yes, this is a baby horse). If you are vegetarian, just mention it and you will be taken care of.

Dinner at KK restaurant
Dinner at KK Restaurant

Where to stay?
You have several options, but we stayed at www.siglohotel.is. This hotel is really amazing but not the most affordable! Big plus; they have great curtains that make your room really dark, so no eye mask is needed!


Day 3 | Húsavík:

You are now driving into the territory famous for Whale Watching, Húsavík! Book your tour in advance, especially during the high season and bring your camera! We booked our Whale watching tour with Whale Watching in Hauganes. Nice to know:  This company is carbon neutral and compensates their CO2 emissions by planting trees. Tip: Take a lunch break at the traditional Icelandic Baccalá Bar where you can eat the catch of the day!

Whale Watching North Iceland
We saw a Humpback Whale but even Blue Whales have been spotted here!

There are quite a few spa’s in Iceland but the one you must try is this rather unusual one: The Beer Spa – The first Beer Bath in the Nordics, linked to the first microbrewery in Iceland. The bath water contains 10 litres beer, hob and herbs. You will be surprised how extremely soft your skin and hair will feel afterwards! The best thing? You can tap your own beer while relaxing in the bath! 

Beer Spa Northern Iceland
Beer anyone?

If you are more into a natural bath, check out Geo Sea, a relatively new natural pool with a stunning view over the Fjörd of Húsavík. Thanks to the underground heat, the seawater in the baths is warm and comfortable and the mineral-rich water will caress your skin. 

Geo Sea Baths
Relaxing at the Geo Sea Baths

Not far from Goðafoss (20 min drive) you’ll find the cutest Icelandic turf houses, Grenjaðarstaður. It used to be home to several families since the 1800’s. Since 1958 they were made into a museum, so people can take a look inside and keep the traditional Icelandic housing alive.

Icelandic Turf Houses Northern Iceland
Traditional Icelandic Turf Houses

Other highlights in/near Húsavík:

  • When you continue your way, there is an option to stop over at the Kolugljúfur Waterfall, the first one we saw along this trip. (many will follow!)
  • Goðafoss waterfall is a stunning waterfall that turns into river Skjálfandafljót. It is 30 meters wide and falls 12 meters down.
  • If you like museums you have plenty of choice; the Whale Museum, the Exploration Museum, and the Culture House are all located in Húsavík.

Goðafoss waterfall North Iceland
Goðafoss waterfall

If you have time to drive up to Raufarhöfn, one of the most remote and northernmost villages in Iceland, you will find Heimskautsgerðið (The Arctic-Henge). Similar to ancient wonder Stonehenge, the Arctic Henge is like a huge sundial. For instance, the structure seems to play with shadow and light which gives it a stunning appearance. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it because of lack in time, but if you extent your visit to 7 days you should be able to make it.

Arctic Henge, North Iceland
Arctic Henge, located in one of the most the remote areas of North Iceland. Source: Visit North Iceland


Day 4 |Vatnajökull National Park:

Drive from Húsavík towards the green valley and canyon region. On your way you can stop over at Skúlagarður for lunch with a breathtaking view. Mind you, the place is pretty basic, but if the weather is nice, you must enjoy the outside seating area with a piece of pie.

After a while you will arrive at the foot of Ásbyrgi, a natural wonder and part of the Vatnajökull National Park. The park reaches from highway 85, by Asbyrgi south to Dettifoss, covering an area of 120 km2. However, a little warning for drone fanatics; keep your drone packed because you are not allowed to fly here (they are very strict on this!). There are many beautiful  hiking trails available and you can get all the information at the information kiosk where you can also park the car. We decided to walk on top of the Canyon so we had a nice view looking down. This took us about 1,5 hours.

Ásbyrgi North iceland

Ásbyrgi, North Iceland
Ásbyrgi Canyon

Other highlights near Ásbyrgi:

  • Visit Dettifoss – the most powerful waterfall in Europe and This results in a natural shower if you stand close enough! The sun was shining at the time of our visit, which created a beautiful rainbow. Tip: Make sure you wear your raincoat if you walk down to see it!
  • Hljóðaklettar rock formations  a cluster of columnar rock formations standing at the entrance to Vesturdalur, down by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River. The columns lie at all angles, and it could be an entertaining exercise for one’s imagination, to interpret their patterns in as many different ways as possible.
  • Dimmuborgir rock formations – also named Dark Fortress has several hiking trails. After a volcanic eruption, this area became as it now stands, lava that has turned to stone and many deep cracks into the ground.

Detifoss waterfall
The most powerful waterfall in Europe; Detifoss

Hljóðaklettar, North Iceland
The landscape in North Iceland keeps you guessing 

Hljóðaklettar
Dimmuborgir. Photo by Henk Boltof.

After a full day of hiking, it’s time to make your way up to Myvatn, a volcanic area with craters, boiling mud holes and natural pools. From Ásbyrgi, it will take you about 1,5 hours to drive there. Myvatn, famous for its large lake and volcanic activity, actually translates to Mosquito lake and is one of the few places where mosquito’s live in Iceland.

End the evening at the Mývatn Nature Baths. These natural water pools are like the Blue Lagoon, but like most of North Iceland, less crowded and it has a better view. There is a steam room and you can order beers while relaxing in the warm water which can rise up to 41°C. Visit their website for more info on pricing and opening times.

Myvatn Nature Baths, North Iceland

Where to stay?
If you can afford it, stay at the stunning and relatively new Foss hotel. It was build from wood features low-environmental impact materials. And boy, the view is priceless as you can see the craters from the dining room! We also enjoyed dinner at the Foss Hotel as there are not many restaurants around.

Foss Hotel Myvatn
Foss Hotel, Myvatn


Day 5 | Mývatn:

Use this day to explore Lake Mývatn and the surroundings. Everything is close by in North Iceland so you can pick and choose.

  • Namaskard Geothermal Area You probably haven’t seen a landscape like this one before. It feels like you have anded on Mars. Prepare for the smell of sulphur which you can compare to rotten eggs.
  • Hverfell Crater Mountain although we didn’t get a chance to see it up close, its said to be well worth going up here for a full circle hike.
  • Skutustadagigar Pseudocraters cool places attract tourists, and this is exactly what you will see here. Nevertheless, if you drive past, get out and try to take a picture of the row of bizarre and beautiful pseudo craters.
  • Grjotagja Hot Spring Cave  this hidden natural cave pool has become somewhat famous after a love scene in Game of Thrones. I was used as a natural pool by locals up until an earthquake made the water too hot and dangerous. Entering the cave is at your own risk.
  • Enjoy a healthy and organic lunch at the Cowshed Restaurant – which is set next to the stables of the cows. They produce their own milk, cheese and meat, and they serve an amazing vegetarian plate too!

Námaskarð Pass, North iceland
Namaskard Geothermal Area

And last but not least, take a little detour and go visit Aldeyjarfoss. This stunning waterfall is not easy to get to because you need to drive over dusty and unpaved roads. However, this is why touring busses and many other tourists skip this sight. We were there all by ourselves and it was truly amazing.

Aldeyjarfoss North Iceland
Off the beaten track: Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall


Day 6 |Akureyri:

After Reykjavik, Akureyri is the largest city of Iceland. If you decide to start your trip here and you can make a circle through North Iceland and fly back to the Netherlands. Here you will find coffee bars, lunchrooms and even sushi restaurants. A nice details; the traffic lights contain heart shaped lights, spreading love throughout the city. The airport is only 5 to 10 minutes away from the city centre which makes it easy to get in and out of town compared to other cities in Europe. For more info about Akureyri, check www.visitakureyri.is

Akureyri North Iceland
Akureyri street art

In short, if you are ready to go off the beaten track and see a different Iceland, visit the North. You won’t be disappointed. 

Voigt Travel offers flights, excursions and routes in 8 different countries and has recently included Iceland in their portfolio. Like us, they believe that every trip should be a new experience, enriching your life. Therefore, they try avoid the usual touristic routes and focus on those hidden gems in the world. 

Happy Travels,

Elke

Norway just opened up the largest underwater restaurant, Under.

The restaurant located at the southern cape of Norway, is submerged halfway into the water, looking like it has tipped over. It will have seats for 100 guests, making Under the largest underwater restaurant to date.

The structure
Under is set 5.50 meter below sea level and designed by Snøhetta, a renowned Norwegian architectural & design firm.“The harsh, rough conditions in Lindesnes, have made it necessary to pay additional attention to the structure itself and the materials used when building it. The structure must be able to withstand enormous natural forces from the sea, changing weather, and powerful winds”,explains Arne Marthinsen.

Under Norway
Source: Under

The Menu
Being located in the North Atlantic in Lindesnes, the restaurant offers locally fresh fish that highlights the wonders of the sea. besides fish and fresh seaweed, they will prepare and serve wild sheep and fresh ingredients that they will get from local farmers. Head chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard says; “My team and I work in close co-operation with local farmers, fishermen, hunters and harvesters to provide the freshest ingredients. In this way, we create flavourful, innovative dishes that reflect our landscape.”

Under menu
Sneak peak of the menu at Under

The drinks menu is also an experience. UNDER’s Sommelier has created a pairing menu to complete the cuisine of chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard. There is a non-alcoholic pairing menu available.

Marine Biology
At Under, there is more than just the dining experience. You get the chance to learn about marine life to complete your experience.

Water view restaurant Under

How to get there
Under is situated between the two cities Kristiansand and Stavanger. Both cities have airports with national and international flights. From there you can travel by car or train, but there are also boat charters available.

Book your table via this link!

Under
Båly, Lindesnes Norway

Website / Instagram

Happy underwater dining,

Wander-Lust

*All photo’s are courtesy of Under

 

 

Why you should visit the Åsnen National Park in Sweden

Last spring I was so lucky to enjoy the first KLM flight to Växjo, Sweden. One of the highlights that I visited, was the new national park of the Småland region, called Åsnen National Park. 

Sweden now has 30 official National Parks and Åsnen National Park is the newest kid on the block. When I had the change to visit the park back in May, I was thrilled to be able to see the finishing touches before it officially openend on the 25th of May. It was opened during a special inauguration that included an orchestra, performances, exhibitions and tours. 

The Park
What makes Åsnen National Park unique and why should YOU go there? Let me explain.. The park is surrounded by water (Lake Åsnen), many small islands, and it’s home to some of Sweden’s most incredible birds. It’s perfect for nature lovers that want to relax and enjoy the sounds of the forest. There are a few entrances, with Sunnabron as the main one, which is located along Sirkön, Åsnen’s largest island. Here you will find many birds, stunning views over the water and rare insects. The Westside of the park entrance is called Trollberget, offers a forest filled with pine trees and walking area’s by the lake. 

Asnen Lake
Relaxing at Lake Åsnen

Nature lovers are going to love this park

What to Do & Where to Stay
Families, young or old, can enjoy this National Park, because besides relaxing, you can also join many activities in and around Åsnen. 

Sleeping
I was invited by Ingrid from the Getnö Lake Åsnen Resort to enjoy a boatride over the lake. Stop along some of the many islands and enjoy a picknick or if you are visiting the area with your kids, you can book Viking adventures and games (only during high season). Other activities include fishing, canoe safari’s and angling. At Getnö Lake Asnen Resort, they have different cottages available but you can also camp. Each plot has its own campfire/barbecue area. There is a farm shop, country café, pub and a summer bistro. Tip: You can also order fresh baked bread for breakfast.

Asnen
Relaxing at the Getnö Lake Åsnen Resort

Activities
As soon as you arrive at the Åsnen National Park, you have different walking routes to choose from. I walked through the pretty forest for about one hour. TIP: Bring some mosquito repellent! From horse riding, boatrides, walking or cycling, there are many options. I rented my bicycle at Åshults Handelsbod, a café owned by a Dutch lady named Quinta. From there you have several cycling routes with plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the view. 

Växjö

Fika in Sweden
Enjoy a Fika, which is a coffee break, that goes hand in hand with a tasty (and sweet) pastry.

Some islands are home to lodges that you can rent, others are private or not allowed to enter. Make sure you are well prepared when you decide to camp on one of the islands, because not all islands have facilities and the wilderness can be quite adventurous. For all accommodations around Åsnen National Park check www.visitasnen.se/en/accomodation.

Āsnen Sweden
Bird Spotting in Åsnen

Do you want to experience Åsnen National Park for yourself? Flights to Växjo are now available with KLM!

Love,

Elke

More Scandinavia? Check all the articles here:




Skiing in Kvitfjell, Norway

Skiing in Kvitfjell, Norway

I have been on the slopes since I was nine years old, and I’ve seen many snowy mountains in Austria, Switzerland, the French Alpes, Germany and even inItaly. But I had never been skiing in Norway before. Why not I wondered. Norway is only a short flight from Amsterdam and has many ski and snowboard options. I flew to Kvitfjell to find out.

The Olympic Town
Kvitfjell was build for the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994. After that, an investor bought the place and he made sure it continued it’s main purpose as a ski resort. But Kvitfjell is not just famous for the winter Olympics, the town is turned upside down for the World Cup ski competition. Every year people from all over the world come to Kvitfjell at the beginning of March, to watch the brave athletes ski down the famous black piste at 130 km per hour. It’s broadcasted around the world. 


Winter Wonderland

I was about to experience the actual black piste with a crazy steep decline of 64% at some parts. But first it was time to explore the rest of the ski area. Kvitfjell decided to expand last year so I was exited to see the newly opened westside of the mountain. With 1039 meter above sea level, you will reach the highest part of the mountain. In total there are 34km of ski slopes that vary from easy to advanced. It’s a great ski area for families with children from three years old as there are many nice green and blue slopes to learn the basics. I must warn you though, what they call blue at Kvitfjell, kinda means red in other countries!


A traditional Norwegian farm in the middle of the piste

The hotel
It’s a small town so there are only 2 hotels. The biggest and best hotel is Gudbrandsgaard Hotel. Prices starting from NOK 1190 up to to NOK 2190 per double room per night/2 persons, and includes a buffet breakfast. The hotel holds up to 79 guests and has a spa that includes a large swimming pool and a gym. After an intensive day of skiing, your body can use a warm jacuzzi, let me tell you! The hotel has a charming and traditional Norwegian interior and four floors. The rooms are quite spacious and look out on the piste or forest. It had snowed so much when I arrived, that the snow fell into the room as I opened my window!

There are several food options in the hotel. There is an exclusive wine cellar where you will find some exclusive wines plus you can book the place for a special dinner. The hotel’s main restaurant is called Prepperiet and includes a cozy fireplace. The food, again, was amazing. Best pumpkin soon and ravioli I’ve ever had. And trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of soups in my life. The breakfast and lunch buffet area is located on the first floor and is simple, yet inviting. The breakfast is for champions and the veggies during lunchtime are crispy. Happy Elke. 

I can honestly say, it’s the best food i’ve had around a skiresort!

Gastronomy
One thing I MUST mention is the food in Kvitvjell. If you’ve been skiing before, you know that lunch on the slopes is usually greasy and fat. Fries, pasta, cakes and sausages are some of the dishes you will find at most ski resorts. In Kvitfjell it’s different. ients and I can honestly say, it’s the best food i’ve had around a skiresort! You have a few options; 

  • Fôr
    This restaurant is just 200 meters from the hotel and serves modern style Norwegian food. It’s run by a few cool dudes (if I may call them that, because they looked like die hard snowboarders). I was lucky to enjoy a five course dinner and although ordered vegetarian food, I didn’t end up with a simple pasta on my plate. From soup to the mushroom risotto, it was all beautifully set up and sooo tasty.

Dinner at Fôr, Kvitfjell
Dinner at Fôr

  • Tyrihanstunet
    This charming and traditional Norwegian place, is right on the piste and a great stopover to have a nutritious lunch. I ate the shrimp sandwich and it was huge! If you are a coffee addict, this is also the place because they serve the best coffee on the piste. 
  • Plaza Café
    Situated next to the skishop is the Plaza Café. Come here for quality burgers, spaghetti, salads and drinks. 
  • Koia
    For gluhwein, gourmet sausages and beer you come to this 300 (!) year old loghouse. 

Lunch at Kvitfjell
Lunch at Tyrihanstunet

Old log house in Kvitfjell
The 300 year old Koia house is perfect for a après ski

Ski Conditions (and my experience on the World Cup slope!)
Because of the heavy snow throughout the night, fresh powder was everywhere and made the ski conditions top notch! It was like sliding through soft clouds and even though the sun didn’t shine, it was such a great run to experience. There are a few options to go off piste but I recommend these to the more advanced skiërs. I had to try the infamous world cup piste of course, and although I was a little nervous, I managed to get down without falling. What a confident boost! The World Cup piste is 3,5 km in length, black and very popular with the skiers that I’d like to call; speedy conzales.

Stunning paths in Kvitfjell
Go a little off piste and find stunning paths like these!

Verdict:
I loved it! But skiing in Norway is a little different from what you might be used to in Austria for example. Après Ski is something they’ve definitely heard of, but it’s not the main objective here. People really come to Kvitfjell to enjoy the scenery, have a lovely family break or come over to improve their skills. People from Denmark, Sweden and Norway are amongst the biggest group of tourist that visit Kvitfjell but people from The Netherlands and Germany are also showing interest. In my opinion it’s the ideal place for families and couples because it’s perfect to combine with a weekend in Oslo, as it’s only a 3 hour train ride from the capital!

So if you’re looking for something a little different from what you are used to, enjoy a relaxed atmosfeer and great gastronomy, Kvitfjell is your town!

Love,

Elke

For more info about Kvitfjell and it’s surroundings, visit their website.

KLM first flight to Växjö » The greenest city of Europe!

Last week KLM flew it’s first ever flight to Växjö, Sweden. I was one of the lucky media reporters who flew with them to explore Växjö, and the region of Småland.

Växjö is one of the greenest cities in Europe. I’m talking about sustainability here. They’ve cut down CO2 emissions big time since 1993 and are an example for other cities in the world. And if you know me, you also know I’m a girl who loves anything green, so I was exited to experience this for myself. Växjö is surrounded by lakes and beautiful forests, and the perfect destination for a digital detox. (but i didn’t have one, cause I needed to take photo’s, bummer. ;-))

Växjö, Sweden

How To Get There
Until last week, it wasn’t possible to fly directly from Amsterdam, so with Växjö added to their destination list, it’s now easily done in just 1,5 hours. From the small airport, you can drive pretty much anywhere. Get yourself a rental car, unless you know someone in the region. This way you can do anything you want. Try to enjoy the scenery, because as soon as you leave the airport, you are surrounded by trees and flowers, plus you might spot a Swedish Moose!

Where to Stay
There are several hotels, bed & breakfast and lodges in the area, but there are two accommodations that I would like to highlight. First up is the PM & Vänner Hotel. This modern and stylish hotel, used to be a national bank. The rooms are spacious and bright. Making use of the building, the hotel turned the bank safe into an incredible wine celar, that has even won them some prestigious prizes. When it’s nice weather, you should walk up to the rooftop, where there is a long stretched swimming pool and jacuzzi. Deck chairs are waiting for you to rest your head, and obviously the wine list is excellent. Try the PM & Vänner Bröd & Sovel bakery that is located next to the hotel, it’s a-ma-zing! The restaurant is not bad either.. it’s so good in fact, that they’ve earned a Michelin Star! And boy oh boy was it good. From locally produced nettle soup, to seasonal veggies, accompanied by the best wines. There are 22 rooms in this boutique hotel, but they are anything but standard. The bathrooms are large and all rooms give you access to free wifi, a Nespresso machine, safe ad mini bar.

PM & Vänner Hotel Växjö
My spacious bedroom at PM & Vänner

Carl von Linneus, the Swedish scientist that has named all plants and flowers in the world and is a living legend in the area.

The next sleepover I enjoyed at Växjö was at Möckelsnäs Herrgård, a massive landhouse, situated by the Möckel lake. It was build in the 1300’s and owned by several interesting people. The current owners are Dutch and have renovated the place back in 2012. The classical style remains, but the bathrooms have been modernised, which gives every room a lot of space. It’s the perfect place for couples, but there are also separate family houses build on the property. In total, the landhouse has 48 rooms. Marina, the owner, showed me around the beautiful garden area, where they grow  the vegetables and herbs. Even the flowers are eatable! She tells me the story of Carl von Linneus, the Swedish scientist that has named all plants and flowers in the world and is a living legend from the area. You can find several statues that represents Mr. Linneus, and one of them is located in the garden of Möckelsnäs Herrgård. 


Dinner at Möckelsnäs Herrgård

Oh, and the food here is exquisite! I enjoyed a dinner with fresh pea soup, and a seafood broth accompanied by their homemade bread. To top it off, I tasted the rather unusual basil ice-cream, which was super nice and refreshing! I slept as a baby, and woke up with a stunning view over the lake, so yes, you could say this place is a winner.


Ice cream baby!

Explore
People that visit the Småland region, come here for the nature. Because of the lakes, it’s the perfect spot for camping out with friends and family, take boat rides, or cycle one of the many routes. There is even something for the thrill seekers. Here are my favourite activities in and around Växjö:

  • Ziplining. It’s the first thing I did, when I arrived at Växjö. About 40 minutes drive from the airport, you will find the longest zipline in Northern Europe. It has 14 stations, all thrilling and exiting. Some are fast, others go though the forest, and have magnificent views. The highest station is 52 meters, so don’t look down! It’s the perfect thing to do with a group of friends, and there are also opportunities to camp or sleep in a special dorm hut. For more info visit www.swedenzipline.com

Zipline in Vaxjo
Getting ready to zip

  • Cycling. If you have the time, I always recommend you to hire a bicycle. It’s one of the best ways to explore, especially when you are surrounded by nature.
  • Visit Åsnen National Park & Lake Åsnen. The park will officially open on the 25th of May. Åsnen National Park brings the list to 30 national parks in total. Right located in the heart of Växjö, it’s great for hiking. The lake is huge and roughly 150 km² in size, perfect for hiring a boat with a few friends. You can also opt for a canoe and drift in between the many small islands. For more info visit. www.nationalparkasnen.se

Växjö
Cycling around the lake

Āsnen Sweden
Bird spotting at Åsnen Lake

Asnen Lake

  • Swedish Glass Museum. It may sounds a bit dull to you, but glass is HOT in Växjö. They even call Småland The Kingdom of Crystal. Needless to say that most restaurants and bars get their glass locally. Very sustainable, yet again. All sorts and sizes, to drink from or just to look at. 40.000 pieces are on display at the museum and you also get a chance to see the craftsmen at work. More info here.
  • IKEA Museum. Did the word Smäland sounded familiar to you? Yes, IKEA started right here. The first store opened in Smäland back in 1958. Mr. Ingvar Kamprad, who sadly passed away earlier this year, made sure he left his legacy. The store turned into a museum, where you can learn about the birth of the IKEA empire and get the chance to get involved. There are a few exhibitions running, some permanent, others temporary. If you dreamed of being on the cover of a magazine, now is your chance! www.ikeamuseum.com

IKEA Museum Sweden

In Sweden they enjoy a Fika, which is a coffee break, that goes hand in hand with a tasty (and sweet) pastry.

  • Eat & typical regional foods. Always try the food of the place you’re at, is my motto. Lucky for me, a typical Swedish delight is a cinnamon roll! In Sweden they enjoy a Fika, which is a coffee break, that goes hand in hand with a tasty (and sweet) pastry.

Swedish Kanelbullar
A Swedish Kanelbullar

Växjö has proved to me that it’s indeed green, full of nature, has lovely people and it has a great gastronomy. I could enjoy a few Fika’s here in my lifetime. Flights are now available with KLM from around €99,-.

Love,

Elke

Iceland » An Unforgettable Trip Everyone Should Take

I traveled a lot, but didn’t know the best was yet to come. I love nature, I love adventure and Iceland will give you more of that than you would ever wish for. Sun, snow, rain, hail…all at once. The weather in Iceland creates stunning views. The Icelanders call it the land of the trolls and elves, a country full of magic. This country has definitely a magic touch: amazing landscapes, black beaches, waterfalls, glaciers and so much more.

The Route
Let’s start at the beginning. The golden circle is a route close to Reykjavik with three highlights: Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir. National park Þingvelli is a fascinating place. A park with historical and geological significance, situated in a rift valley formed between two tectonic plates. This landscape marks the boundary between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plate. Wow! Read more about this natural phenomenon on Wikiipeda.

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National park Þingvelli

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Geiser Iceland
An impressive geiser

Glacier Hiking
The next day a dream came true: a glacier hike. Because of the snow storm that night the glacier was more beautiful than ever. The sun shined over the snow, creating a white sparkling glow. That was not all, a bigger gift was yet to come: the northern lights. My camera couldn’t catch this moment, but it will be in my memory forever. Who says magic doesn’t exist?! Book a tour though this website.

Gletsjer hiking in Iceland
Hiking the Glacier

Hiking in Iceland

Ice Caves
After a few days and a beautiful but cold morning at Jökulsárlón, a large glacial lake, we went up to an ice cave. The cave was closed for weeks because of the warm winter. The ice was melting. But due to the past cold stormy days, the cave was open again. The tour guide brought us with a monster truck to the cave. Suddenly he said: we are just riding on ice. What a great and unique feeling. An ice cave is created, when a water stream makes a little hole in a glacier. Nature works in a beautiful way. I just loved this area with so much ice. An unique place in the world, and a tribute to this country’s name. More about this Ice Cave tour here.

Transport Iceland
My transport

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One of the stunning Ice Caves

The Blue Lagoon
I ended my trip with a visit to the Blue Lagoon. You’ve probably seen some pictures of this as it’s the number 1 attraction in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal natural spa. The water is filled with minerals, and really good for your body. Bathing in the middle of nature: a perfect way to end this magical trip.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Don’t miss out, visit this beautiful country!

Love,

Jolien

*Jolien is one of our guest bloggers living in the Netherlands. She has traveled all over the world and seen countries like India, China, Sri Lanka, Australië and Colombia. You can read about her adventures and tips every month!

Relaxing activities in Kukkolaforsen, Swedish Lapland

Elke and I were visiting Stockholm for a travel conference called TBEX back in June. After a few informative days it was time for me to say goodbye to Elke to experience nature’s best, the Swedish Lapland. Known for it’s light, rivers, dog sledding, sauna and fishing. In the winter you have the chance to see the breathtaking Northern Lights and during our visit in the summertime it’s non-stop daylight.

I was invited for a journalist trip by Visit Sweden to make a road trip through the Swedish Lapland together with 3 other writers. We took the night train from Stockholm and arrived in Luleå around 12pm. We picked up our car close tot the trainstation and drove around 144km to Kukkola. The ride was amazing! Along the way you will see various animals like wild boars and moose.


On our way to kukkolaforsen
On the road
White dear on our way to Kukkolaforsen

Kukkolaforsen, Kukkola
After this awesome drive we arrived at Kukkolaforsen, a guesthouse, restaurant and conference center in Kukkola where we were invited by Kukkolaforsen Turist & Konferens. The place is run by the Spolander family located on the beautiful river of Thorne and right next to Kukkola border of Finland with a stunning river view. You can easily sit here for hours to enjoy the sounds of the river with hopefully a rainbow above it with beautiful birds flying around and whitefish jumping above the water.

Rainbow in Kukkolaforsen

Traditions
We started the day with some whitefish fishing. The local fishermen use a method involving a long net handle. We got the possibility to try it ourselves. Unfortunately we didn’t have any luck but we got to taste their famous whitefish anyway. They grill the fresh caught whitefish in a very unique way. The fish is first put on a skewer and then grilled over an open fire in the Timber Smoke Hut, one of the oldest buildings in the Kukkola cultural village. The manager and part of the family Martin showed us how to grill it. They serve your fish with ‘tunnbröd’ (Swedish hard bread) and ‘sima’ (sweet sparkling brew spiced with lemon and brown sugar).

Grilled fish
Grilled fish

In the Torne Valley the sauna culture has a long history. They offer an amazing sauna experience. It was a great way to get to know the rest of the writers a lot better (lol). They gave us our own cabin where you will find various sauna’s inside and outside. I tried the different sauna’s, swam in the cold river, did some resting while enjoying their local food which they serve within the cabin and topped of in the hot tub. (Goals!)
I really enjoyed to take the time to relax and make my mind off from all the things at home. If that is what you need, you are at the right place!

Hut Tub in Kukkolaforsen

Kukkolaforsen Turist och Konferens
Kukkolaforsen 184
953 91 Haparanda, Sweden
Website

Love,

Sarah

*Up next! My visit to the Guesthouse Kangos in Kangosfors where I had a crazy off-road experience in a Land Rover!

My amazing trip through North West Norway

This year has been great for crossing off my bucketlist destinations. First I finally visited the Philippines back in December and now I received a call from Visit Norway for a once in a lifetime trip to North West Norway. I was going to see the famous Fjords and amazing nature I had been waiting a long time to see. Norway is a country filled with mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords that have their villages and cities hidden in between. If you’ve never been to Norway I can imagine that it can be quite difficult to decide where you want to go. In this blogpost I will take you to the North Western part of Norway and let me tell you, it’s stunning!

Route through North West NorwayOur Route through North West Norway

Ålesund
When you fly into Ålesund you will see the dark Atlantic Ocean and the impressive mountains as you land. The airport is situated right on the edge of the island and in 1,5 hours you can drive down to the fjords. Ålesund is a beautiful fishers town that was totally destroyed back in 1904 because of a fire. After that they rebuild it, using architecture that would set every house apart from each other. It’s often referred to as a town from a fairy tale and you will really see this when you are on top of Mount Aksla (you walk up 418 steps) where you have a wonderful view over Ålesund and it’s harbour. Have a coffee or tea in the restaurant on top of the hill and enjoy the view!

Alesund Norway
418 steps up and you will be rewarded with this stunning view!

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The view from the bus..

Stranda
We continued our way towards a second town named Stranda. This place is well known by Norwegians but it’s yet to be discovered by many tourist. Which means it’s great for skiing and hiking without a large crowd. From here you can ski down or go for a hike during summer. More and more travelers are finding out about this place since Pipa Middleton (Kate’s hot sister) had her ski vacation around here but if you go soon you will find that you will enjoy most of the slopes empty enough to go crazy. During the winter and summer months you can go up with the gondel to the panoramic restaurant Strandafjellet where you have an amazing view over the Fjord if the clouds are not there. Unfortunately clouds won that day and I wasn’t treated to that amazing view but this is how it normally looks:

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Source: www.tripadvisor.com

Where to stay/What to do

I stayed in the Stranda Hotel which may look a bit like a concrete building from the outside but is cozy on the inside. The hotel manager has been working here for over 15 years and is a really down to earth and charming lady who has a great sense of humor. Norwegians kind of remind me of the Dutch. They are open minded people and are not afraid to speak their mind. Very Dutch indeed and I like it! If you’re there, be sure to visit the activity center to rent kayaks, ski’s, mountain bikes and book outdoor tours. The office is not always open because of guided tours but you can always call them for reservations. Once a year they host a mountain race called the Stranda Fjord Race. The race attracts people from all over the world but only few manage to finish it. It’s one of the hardest running races ever because it’s very steep and runs over the mountain. (This one is for the tough cookies) It takes around 6 hours to finish but the fastest man this year did it in just 4 hours! 

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The view I had was eh..a bit different! 

Valldal
From Stranda on to the next! The tour bus took us to Valldal, a small town in between a valley where they harvest strawberries, raspberries, plums and other fruits. It’s their main source of income as it stays warm between the mountains, making it the perfect climate to grow these kinds of fruit. I tasted some and let me tell you, it’s a lot better than you will ever find in your local supermarket! Yummie.

Where to stay/What to do
I stayed in a newly opened hotel focused on health tourism called the Fjordhotel. They have comfortable rooms with stunning views over the Fjord and mountains. Dinner and breakfast are great and healthy. From here you can book several outdoor activities and one of the most fun things to do is kayaking. Mind you, this is different from a canoe and takes a bit more balance. You can book a guided kayak tour with Valldal Naturopplevingar. They will take you across to a fjord called Tafjord which is on the Unesco world heritage list but hardly anybody knows about it. Meaning, you might have the whole fjord to yourself! Talking about a true hidden gem.

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Kayaking in between the Fjords

North West Norway

Other fun things to do is to spend a day in the Activity Park just 15 minutes away. Here you can climb and enjoy thrilling zip-lines across trees and a rivers. If you’re more the relaxing type you can stop at Meretes Garden where you can follow a yoga or mindfulness lesson. I had a look and although it rained, I managed to shoot a picture of her Japanese inspired garden and tipi tents where you can stay for around 40 euro’s per person.

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The beautiful Japanese Garden at Meretes Garden

Trollstigen Road
Now it was time to head down to North West Norway’s most famous road, the Trollstigen Road. To get there you must head east along the Fjords. If you take this route, you will come across the most amazing viewpoints that are worth stopping for. Waterfalls, rivers, green hills and mountain tunnels are all part of this region. If you want to see the view over the Trollstigen Road, you should definitely stop at the Trollstigen Cafe which is a modern building run by a man named Edmond and owns a large part of the land here. It was so rainy on the day I was there that I only managed to take a few pictures when the fog disappeared for a few seconds. Mind you, I was still so impressed by the view over bridge which is build right over the road and waterfalls. After a tasty lunch we made our way down over the zigzag road which takes some good driving skills. You will make Mr. Edmond very happy if you stop by his large giftshop which you can recognize by the large Troll standing in front of it.

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The famous Trollstigen road

After driving over the famous Trollstigen road, We briefly stopped at the Phillipshaugen Lodge, run by a young couple. The sun finally showed her face that day so if was the perfect timing for cake, coffee and a few photo’s. To book your stay, check here.

North Western Norway
You can sleep here and their best season is in winter for the famous ski tours through the mountains.

Innerdalen
After a lot of traveling, I was going to stay in Innerdalen for 2 nights which I was looking forward to. My group and I were going to stay in the Innerdalen Turisthytte. A typical Norwegian lodge run by family business that has been in operation since 1889. The area is extremely popular with hikers who come here to climb the Innerdalstârnet mountain. The mountain is 1472  meters high and can be difficult to climb. We only managed to climb up half way because the stones were too slippery because of the rain that day. The lodge is only open from June until November and has around 27 beds. All rooms have bunk-beds so sharing is caring!Next door you will find a lodge named Renndolsetra. You can also sleep here or pop in for dinner. They have 25 beds available and are looking to extend the dinning area. I had one of my weirdest but traditional Norwegian dishes here; Rømmegrøt. It’s a mixture of flour, milk and sour cream which they heat before serving. It kind of reminded me of bechamel sauce before you put in into a lasagna but I believe you should always try the local dish to a new destination.

Dinner in Norway
A traditional Norwegian dinner table at Renndolsetra


Like a fairytale

Kristiansund
Our last stop in North West Norway was at a place called Kristiansund where we had lunch at fish restaurant Smia. The restaurant used to be a metal smith back in 1787. They kept the old historic features and added a touch of modern interior, making this place a popular place to eat next to the harbour. Everything is homemade and local. One of their specialties is klipfish which is a traditional Norwegian salty fish dish. With the delicious Norwegian flavors still in my mouth, it was time to head back to the airport and wave goodbye to this stunning country.

Flying home from North West Norway

Yes, Norway really deserved that spot on my bucketlist and I firmly believe you should add it too.

Love,

Elke

*For more info and tours check www.visitnorway.nl

Discover Stockholm When It’s Summer

After months of preparation, it was finally time to pack our bags and head over to Stockholm! Sarah and I were going to visit the largest travel bloggers conference in the world, TBEX. Every year it’s held in a different location and this year Sweden’s capital was hosting the event. Our mission was to network, learn, get inspired and discover Sweden!

Sodermalm Stockholm

We arrived late at night but getting to the city center is really easy. Even at 12am we could get on board the flygbussarna bus which cost 99Krone if you book it online or 120 krone if you buy it at the ticketmachines. (They only take credit card btw) The bus trip takes 45 minutes and drops you at Stockholms Central Station. The good thing is that they offer free wifi so those 45 minutes are passing by faster then you can imagine!

Accommodation
If we stay in a place for more than 4 days, we always try to enjoy different kind of accommodation. This way we can tip you about different option and we like a change of scenery now and then. We decided to start our Swedish adventure with a bit of luxury and opted for the Sheraton which was only a 8 minute walk from the station and conference center. This hotel is large and has pretty much always enough beds if you’re having a hard time finding a place to stay. We enjoyed a room with a view over the water with 2 separate large beds. Breakfast is included and we needed to be at the TBEX conference at 9am every day so it was the perfect start. (Plus they have delicious pancakes!) On our last couple of nights we decided to pay a visit to the newly opened Generator Hostel. We’ve stayed in these before and we are a big fan! Also centrally located, this “poshtel” offers double rooms plus dorms up to 6 people. Downstairs is a really cool space to work, order food and on Friday & Saturday there is a DJ spinnin’ records. Rooms go from 27 euro’s per person.
www.sheratonstockholm.com
www.generatorhostels.com

What to do, What to see (according to us)
Stockholm is really diverse. You can enjoy hipster area’s, old town, history, art and parks. Södermalm is the most vibrant area for young professionals and a nice area to visit if you only have a couple of days. Funny enough, it used to be the poorest area in Stockholm. Now everybody wants to live there and we’re not surprised!  Södermalm is full of cool restaurants, bars, vintage and concept stores. You can easily take a bus from the city center which will cost you about 4 euro’s per ride. It’s worth buying a weekend or Stockholm Pass and use the public transport. With a Stockholm Pass, you can also use the Hop On Hop Off busses, boats, visit museums and fun park Gröna Lund. For more info about the cost and how to get it, check here.

Sodermalm Stockholm
Södermalm

Old Town Stockholm
Old town. Great for some quick pictures but very focused on tourists.

FOOD
» Urban bistro / restaurant and healthy food store. There are several locations. I visited the one in Södermalm and one located in the city where they have a large rooftop where you have a magnificent view over the city
» Nytorget 6 / nice bar and good food located in Södermalm
» Strömterrassen situated above the Opera House across old town.
» Hermans / Vegetarian & Vegan restaurant with a great view over the river.
» Colette / I would call it the Cafe George of Stockholm. The rich kids of Stockholm come here for wine and beers or food.
» Snickarbacken / lunch, acai bowls, amazing coffee and rainbow pad Thai! A true hidden gem!
» Gossip / Indian street food but very hip. Also in Södermalm

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Lunch at the Strömterrassen with a view over the palace

Food in Stockholm
We stopped at Snickarbacken for a couple of treats

Stockholm Urban Bistro rooftop
Taken from the Urban Bistro rooftop in the city center

SHOPS
» Grandpa / concept store
» Wild & Arrow / handmade jewelry store which we loved! Situated on Skånegatan 78 in Södermalm
» Tambur design store (see photo)
» Acne Archives / Samples and previous collections from Acne Studio’s. Score your discounted Acne piece here! On Torsgatan 53
» Pop Stockholm / Best shop for vintage shopping

Shopping in Stockholm
Shopping!

Grandpa Stockholm
Concept Store Grandpa

THINGS TO DO
» Have a look inside the Metro stations of the city. It is covered in art. Check out stations Kungsträdgården, T-centralen, Hötorget and Tekniska Högskolan in particular. 150 artist showcase their work across the ceilings and walls. Pretty amazing.
» Visit the Fotografiska museum. Beautiful exhibitions by world-class photographers and artists like Annie Leibovitz and Bryan Adams. You get in for free with the Stockholm Pass.
» One thing you must do in summer is to visit Club Trädgarden. This is an outdoor club build under the freeway and is only open during the summer months. You pay 85 krone to get in but you won’t regret it. After 2 hours, we discovered 3 more dance floors! One of the best features has to be the table tennis they play there. More than 15 people join in the fun “round the table” which we use to play in school. There are swings, colorful toilets and free tap water!
» Visit some of the small islands like Fjäderhomarda which is only half hour away by ferry. During summer, youngsters bring food, drinks and stay there until the sun goes down. Don’t be surprised if you see some naked people swimming around, that really normal in Sweden! To pick your favorite island check this website.

Tradgarden Stockholm
Right underneath the freeway, Trädgarden

Pro’s of Stockholm:
» Free tapwater. Supposedly, it’s the cleanest tapwater in the world and they are proud of it that you can get it everywhere.
» No busy traffic. There are a lot less cars around than you might see in cities like Amsterdam or Berlin.
» Everybody speaks English, at least the young generation. Learn a few words though: Tack is thank you, hello is Hey. Soo easy!

Con’s of Stockholm
» It’s a bit expensive. Yes that’s a bummer but if you keep your alcohol intake low and you don’t eat out everyday, you can get by. Try a picknick in the park for example!
» There are too many good shops and this doesn’t help you saving your money!

Check our video here! (and don’t forget to subscribe if you want more!)

Love,

Elke

Top 5 » Countries to live in (if you ever think about moving)

If you’re planning to leave your hometown and find your luck somewhere else then you should check this list.
What countries are best to live in if you want to live abroad? 

1. Australia
This country has it all. Beaches, Rain forest, Cities and even a Desert. Besides that, the temperature is always good and the Aussi life is easy to adapt to. 4 out of 5 expats say that it’s easy to become acquaint to the Aussi life. No health issues, good food (a lot of choice!) and a buzzing nightlife is what makes this country so popular to live in. Besides that, Australia is one of the safest countries to live in because of their water tight immigration rules. 
The only downside is, that it’s very difficult to get a permanent visa. In order to get one, you need a company by your side, an Australian husband or next of kin family. But who are we to stop you? You can always visit Australia on a working holiday visa or as a student. Check here for more tips and stories about Australia.
www.australia.gov.au

Australia is one of the best countries

2. Ecuador
This country has been on top of the list for the last 2 years (according to Forbes) and we understand why.
Low cost of living combined with strong real estate values, makes this place very attractive to live. Ecuador has lovely scenery, secluded beaches and lovely temperatures. The food is amazing and even at a high class restaurant you won’t pay more than 50 euro’s for 2 people. (drinks included!)
www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/ecuador

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“More people living in other countries than ever, says UN study”

3. Denmark
Crazy but it has zero crime rates, murder, no corruption, and stability in economic growth, quality life, etc. All these things made it as one of the best, happiest and safest countries to live in the world. Nearly 18 weeks of paid leave is given to mothers and 79 percent of women are working which is comparatively higher than other countries. People in this country are more concerned about their environment and they follow excellent health care system. Let’s move to Denmark!
www.denmark.dk

Volunteer Work in Denmark
Source: www.oneworld365.org

4. Sweden
Another Scandinavian country. This time it’s Sweden.  They just introduced a 6 hour working day so if that doesn’t already makes a person happy, you should read on. They give you 16 months of to spent that time with your newborn baby, so it is the best place for women where they get safety and they can see their child grown up. Besides this, you can breath fresh air and visit amazing beautiful places.
www.sweden.se

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5. The Netherlands
Now, I know what you’re thinking but no, we didn’t just add our homeland onto this list for no reason. Our education and healthcare is top notch and the Dutch enjoy the ultimate freedom of speech. You can bring your lovely dog pretty much everywhere and everybody speaks English. If you ever decide to move over to The Netherlands, drop us a line for some inside tips! 🙂
www.government.nl

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Love,

Elke

 For more Top 5 treasures check: