THE BEST OF DOHA, QATAR

Doha is considered the pearl of the middle east that set itself on the map after being elected for the 2022 World Cup. Time to find out why it’s good to travel to Doha now, before it’s becoming the next Dubai.

The city of Doha has many amazing sky scrapers, entertainment, shopping, glitch and glamour, yet it still offers an authentic culture and history. We were invited by Qatar Airways to see the best of Doha.

HOW TO GET THERE

Given that Qatar Airways is officially the best airline in the world, I was happy to fly with them for the first time. Luckily, I was upgraded into their QSuite (O Em Gee), which has been voted as the best business class by the Yearly World Airlines Awards, the oscars of aviation. For someone with a fear of flying, this was the most relaxing flight I had ever experienced. A direct flight to Doha takes about 6 hours, so that’s pretty reasonable. Qatar Airways for that matter, is offering Doha as a stopover, which you can add to your booking. As a matter of fact, if you fly with QR, you can get a discount on hotel prices. 4-star hotels are available for as little as 23USD! Nice to know: Qatar Airways offers all passengers 1 hour free wifi!


Business Class Qatar Airways
Enjoying the QSuite

THE STORY ABOUT QATAR & DOHA

First thing to remember is that Qatar is a reasonably small country which makes it fairly easy to travel around if you want to. You can actually drive from North to South Qatar in approximately 3 hours. As you may have heard, Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world due to their gas & oil, but it wasn’t always like this. For centuries, pearl harvesting used to be the main source of income for Qatari people. But due to the great depression and competition, pearls lost their value and the country needed to find other ways to earn a living. The pearl however, remains an important symbol of Qatar until this day.

Baskets at Souq Waqif

Doha on the other hand, is only 40 years old, which explains the modern vibe and ongoing construction. People often compare it to Dubai, but the people who live here, find Doha to be very different. For one, Dubai is all about entertainment, luxury and shopping. While Doha is certainly up there when it comes to luxury hotels, restaurants and bars, but also offers culture, sports and traditions.

GOOD TO KNOW

The best time to visit Doha is from October until the end of April. It must be remembered that the weather is undoubtedly less hot during those months with temperatures between 25 and 35 degrees. While this still seems quite warm, during summer period it can get up to 50ºC! It also has to be considered that Qatar is a muslim country, so dress accordingly. This means long dresses or trousers and try to cover your upper arms. On the contrary, you can wear pretty much whatever you want in most hotels. Alcohol is not served in public spaces, but only inside some restaurants and bars. That being said, I never heard a police siren while I was there, something I haven’t experienced in a city before.

Skyline

WHERE TO STAY

In general, there is enough choice when it comes to accommodation in Doha. For the most part, there are many big hotels, but the city also offers boutique style hotels and homestays. The best place to stay in Doha is in the West Bay area. Here you are near the airport, museums, and Souq Waqif. During my three-day trip I stayed in the following hotels.

  • Mandarin Oriental

    Brand new in Doha so modern and stylish. The rooms are truly exquisite and spacious. The hotel has an outdoor pool, 3 restaurants and a spa. Their latest gastronomic addition is Mosaic, an international kitchen with an Arabic twist. The location of the hotel is recently build, so taxi drivers may not find it that easily. On the positive side, Mandarin Oriental is located at walking distance of Souq Waqif!

Hotel pool

  • Marsa Malaz Kempinski

    In contrast to the Mandarin Oriental, Kempinski is more classical and larger. The entrance is quite impressive and the hotel offers a large pool area and a beach. They have a very cool must visit rooftop bar named Secret Garden and club that is only accessible via the parking lot. Bare in mind that the dresscode is smart/casual and visitors must bring their passports. Ask the reception for all the details.

Hotel bed

Kempinski Hotel Doha

The above mentioned hotels are both amazing but understandably not for every budget, so you are best to compare the best rated hotels online.

WHERE TO EAT

Luckily, Doha offers a wide range of cuisines and flavours. Even vegetarians have plenty of options! Here is a list of some must try restaurants.

  • Al Mourjan Restaurant offers some of the best Lebanese food in Doha. From the outside terrace you have an amazing view. Try the lemon/mint juice, amazing!
  • Nobu Doha is famous for sushi, but the same goes for their good service. The Japanese chefs welcome every new customer with a traditional greeting while working their magic behind the counter. Upstairs you can enjoy a drink at the bar, which overlooks part of Doha’s skyline. Nobu is part of the Four Seasons Hotel, due to open in early 2020.

Mezza in Doha

  • Apparently, Spicemarket is the best rated Asian restaurant in Doha. The restaurant which is located in the W-hotel, takes you on a journey across South East Asia and brings the authentic flavours to the table.
  • If you are a brunch person, go to Arc Brunch Eatery! Apparently they serve a killer coconut latte.
  • As previously mentioned, Mosaic is the newest restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel. They offer a variety of Arabic food with a twist!
  • Spots like Soul Bowl and Evergreen Organics are made for those that crave something healthy and vegan. Plus both locations look cute!

Mosiac

Nice to know: Little did I know, but coffee is a thing in Doha! You’ll find many trendy coffee bars around the city and our favourites café’s are Flat White, Cue Café, Fleurs at Café, 20 Grams Coffee Bar, MIA Café and Tea Garden.

Coffee bar Doha
Cue café, in the Pearl (source)

CULTURE & TRADITIONS

You may not expect it, but Doha is full of culture and traditions. For example, the falcon, Qatars symbol and bird, is still as important as centuries ago. Some falcons even travel first class with their owners! At Souq Waqif you can find a falcon market where the birds are sold and traded. There is even a falcon hospital to keep them in good shape. The traditional Souq itself is also worth a visit. During the evening it gets more crowded but if you come between 7:30 – 12:00, you can take photo’s without hardly any people. They sell everything from handmade baskets, colourful carpets, spices, sweets and tools. The souq is also the best place for traditionally Arabic food, but you can also find Indian, Lebanese and Iranian food here.

Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif during the day

Doha Falcon

Museums

I never expected to find the best museum I have ever visited in Doha, but I did. The National Museum of Qatar is truly impressive. The design – inspired by a desert rose, is incredible. But once inside, NMOQ is curated beautifully. It takes you through the ancient times, including the amazing displays of  different species that live in Qatar. How pearls came and went, war and traditions. Not to mention that kids will love the interactive and playful set ups, while adults enjoy the beautiful indoor architecture and information.

NMOQ in Doha
The stunning National Museum of Qatar

But this is not the only museum Doha has on offer. MIA (Museum of Islamic Art) is also one of the city’s pride and joy. The building portraits a Qatari woman wearing a bourqa. From here you have a stunning view of Doha’s skyline. If you like modern art, check out Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art. With new exhibitions each month, Doha also has many galleries. Find out more here.

MIA Museum in Doha
MIA Museum

THINGS TO DO IN DOHA

Equally important are the activities Doha has on offer. A unique selling point has to be the desert with one of the world’s natural wonders; the inland sea. Next to Namibia, Qatar is the only place on earth where the sea reaches the desert. You can book several tours that will take you dune bashing. If you come in the beginning or end of the month, the sea will reach the sand dunes completely, otherwise the sight of it may be a bit disappointing.

Desert Qatar
Me, in the desert. Photo by Roel van der Krabben

Desert and sea
Camels standing at the inland sea

Visit Banana Island

Besides the thrilling desert of Qatar, you can also spend an afternoon at the luxurious Banana Island Resort. From Doha City you can take a ferry in just 35 minutes that will take you to the man-build island. There are a few restaurants, pools and beach area for visitors to enjoy the day. If you want to stay the night, you need to bring your credit card, because it ain’t cheap! Even so, it’s perfect for honeymooners or to escape the city.

Banana Island entrace
The entrance of Banana Island Resort

Katara Cultural Village

What’s more, a whole village was build to bring different cultures together through art and creativity. There are shops, restaurants, theatre, exhibition area’s and festive events. Doha is full of expats and they love to come here to listen to familiar sounds and meet friends. There is also a stunning mosque which was designed by a woman, which is quite special.

Mosque
The Mosque at Cultural Village

MY VERDICT

Having experienced Doha for a few days, and can say that it’s the perfect city for a stopover before heading home or continuing your trip. With this intention you can truly enjoy the best of Doha. In short, the capital of Qatar can be quite expensive indeed, but if you if you want, you can go all out here and treat yourself to great food, sunshine, glitch and glamour. Hop from hotel bar to beautiful restaurants or experience rich culture the sand dunes and meet some of the nicest people as a bonus, both expats and locals.

And remember that Dubai once started out as Doha. Quietly and full ambition. I think it’s time to visit this relatively unknown destination and enjoy it before it becomes a place where you’ll become just another tourist.

Love,

Elke

 

 

 

 

How to get an upgrade to business class

Yes, it has happened to me The one thing I, as a frequent traveler, always wished for. I got an upgrade to business class. It happened to me on my flights to New York and Doha.

So why was I so lucky? And more importantly, how can YOU narrow down your chances of getting an upgrade yourself! Here are a few tips on how to be upgraded to business class!

1. Be friendly

For the most part, being nice and a friendly smile often pays off. It already starts with the check in. Try to look the staff of the airline and make a connection in order to gain that likable factor. Be friendly and use your charm. If there is anything available in business class, they might give it to you!


Hello, I’m Elke and I’m friendly! 🙂

2. Have something to celebrate

If the plane is half empty and have something to celebrate, use it! Examples: It’s your birthday (you need to prove this, so be careful) You and your partner celebrate 4 years together, you’re going to visit a friend abroad that you have not seen for years, you’re traveling around the world on your own, you’re on your honeymoon … Share your story with the flight attendant. Special moments like these deserve an upgrade, don’t you think?

Anniversary business class upgrade
Anniversary? Tell the flight attendant!

3. Travel alone

They say you create enormous opportunities when you’re traveling alone. The larger the group, the less chance you have. If there is still room available in business class, you can bet on it that they pick someone that’s traveling alone. In addition, the flight attendant often wonders why you are traveling alone. Take your chance and go for it.

travel2

4. Overbooked

Ok, let’s be real. Airlines only give you an upgrade if it’s really necessary. If the economy class is full, they have to transfer people to business class. When this happens, make sure you are first in line. Check tip 1,2,3 and 5.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

5. Frequent Flyer perks

To be fair, this is probably the most important. The more you are connected to the airline, the more they do for you. They obviously want you to book your flight with them and continue to do so. Occasionally they reward you for it. Joining their “frequent flyer program” gives you much more chance to receive a free upgrade. It happened to me with KLM and recently with Qatar Airways.

Be aware, a business class upgrade is never a guarantee, but one day, it WILL HAPPEN to YOU. Just follow the 5 rules and you will see..

Love,

Elke

» Check out the best airlines in the world!
» For more travel tips:

 

The Best in Travel List 2020 by Lonely Planet

Yearly, the Lonely Planet publish their highly anticipated Best In Travel List. Destinations across the globe hope to be included, as it usually results in a gain of tourism.

With so many people traveling nowadays, it’s almost impossible to choose between the many destinations on offer. How do you decide where to go next? The Lonely Planet has just published the Best in Travel List 2020, that may just help you decide on where to travel to this year. 

Top 10 Countries:

  1. Bhutan
  2. England
  3. North Macedonia
  4. Aruba
  5. eSwatini
  6. Costa Rica
  7. Netherlands
  8. Liberia
  9. Morocco
  10. Uruguay

Tulip field Netherlands
The Netherlands made the top 10! Maybe it has to do with our beautiful Tulips?

This Best in Travel List 2020 can take you all over the world

Bhutan is topping the best in travel list this year because they operate on a strict high value, low impact tourism policy. ‘It is already the world’s only carbon-negative country, and the kingdom is set to become the first fully organic nation by 2020, so it’s only going to get more beautiful.’ Says the Lonely Planet. It may come as a surprise, but England got the 2nd position despite the Brexit. Consequently, it has to do with England’s beautiful coastline with more sections opening up to the public. And let’s not forget about the Netherlands, as Dutch citizens we are proud to be included!

Bhutan best in travel 2020

Top 10 Cities:

  1. Salzburg, Austria
  2. Washington DC, USA
  3. Cairo, Egypt
  4. Galway, Ireland
  5. Bonn, Germany
  6. La Paz, Bolivia
  7. Kochi, India
  8. Vancouver, Canada
  9. Dubai
  10. Denver, USA

Plenty of cities to choose from in 2020, but which one is your favourite?

Salzburgerland
Beautiful Salzburg

Best Value Destinations:

  1. East Nusa, Indonesia
  2. Budapest, Hungary
  3. Madhya Pradesh, India
  4. Buffalo NY, USA
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Serbia
  7. Tunisia
  8. Cape Winelands, South Africa
  9. Athens, Greece
  10. Zanzibar, Tanzania

If you’re looking for a first class destination, without the first class ticket price, these 10 destinations are tipped to be the best in value. Even the Cape Winelands in South Africa, that are portrayed as fancy, has more accommodations to suit every budget. We are not talking Asian prices, but the change is there, and that’s a great thing!

Nusa, best in travel

For the whole list check Lonely Planet. So where will you go in 2020?

Love,

Elke

 

 

Travel Tips | How to Find a Job in Australia

Are you planning to work and live in Australia? After you get your 1 year working visa, is it time to find a job that will keep you going.

With the average hostel price at around 30 AUD a night, it won’t take you long to realize Australia is a gorgeous, yet extremely expensive country. Time to find a job! But how do you go about it, and where do you look? In this article on how to find a job in Australia, you will hopefully you get well on your way.

Drop off your CV

The majority of backpackers working in Australia work in hospitality. Restaurants and cafes are almost always looking for new staff, especially right before the start of the busier seasons (spring, summer). The best way to get a job in a nice cozy coffee place or a hip and vibrant restaurant is just by simply walking in and leaving your CV. One day a friend of mine spend a few hours walking in and out of cafes and restaurants in Bondi, and the next day she was invited for two trials. That’s how fast it can go!

Barista
Do you make a killer coffee? Tell them!

  • Tip 1:

Australians LOVE their coffee, so if you’re a barista you’re already one step ahead of the game! Don’t forget to mention this in your CV.

  • Tip 2:

Even if you never worked in hospitality, it is worth giving a try. Another one of my friends had zero hospitality work experience, but he pimped up his CV, bluffed his way through the interview and trial, and got a job at a lovely coffee bar in Sydney the next day. The minimum wage for working in hospitality is around 19 AUD (13 Euro) which makes it one of the least paying jobs. But a few good tips can definitely make up for that!

Finding a job in Australia isn’t hard, it does take some effort

Search on Gumtree

Gumtree is a local ads website where anyone can offer (almost) anything, so it is also the perfect place to find a job. You can either place an ad yourself and let the recruiters find you or you can search the thousands of ads on there. Surf to Gumtree, click on the ‘jobs’ section, select the city or area you’d like to work in, and GO! You can also specify your search by only looking for call centre jobs, or jobs in another specific field. Should you be looking for farm work to obtain a second year working holiday visa in Australia, then Gumtree is also a good place to search. I found my regional work by placing my own ad on Gumtree, and I just completed my 88 days!

How to find a job down under
88 days of farm work – working in the orange fields 

Search for a job on SEEK

SEEK is a professional website where recruiters post their job openings. You can just browse through all the available jobs by category, or you can create your own profile and hope the recruiters will find you (the latter not working as effectively as the first). I found that Seek especially comes in handy when you’re looking for a call centre job, which on average pay about 25 AUD an hour. There’s plenty of these jobs being offered and if you have a little customer service experience (again, bluffing might help) you will very likely be invited for an interview.

working

Good ol’ Facebook

There are plenty of Facebook groups dedicated to offering casual work. For example Brisbane Promo Staff , Melbourne Promo Staff and Sydney Promo Staff. In these groups you’ll find plenty of offers for casual work. In other less work-specific Facebook groups such as Australian Backpackers or (if you’re Dutch) in Dutchies in Australia you’ll also occasionally come across various job offers.

brisbane
How to find a job down under in Brisbane?

Hop around your hostel

You will find that most hostels have a job board and that is the perfect way how to find a job down under. For example, have a look through these or even go to the reception and ask them if they can find you anything. I once did this at a hostel in Sydney, and a few weeks later I got a call from the manager that they were looking for new staff. Score! Finding a job in Australia isn’t hard, but it does take some effort. If you don’t hear anything back after your first few job applications then don’t lose all hope straight away, because it sometimes takes just a little bit of time and patience.

In short, my tips on how to find a job in Australia are; to never give up, keep applying and keep on smiling! GOOD LUCK!

Love,

Evelien

More tips about living in Australia? Check them below!

6 TRAVEL PODCASTS THAT WILL FEED YOUR WANDERLUST

We’re kinda new to podcasts but since we started to listen to them, it has become some what of an addiction. Focusing on travel, we found these amazing travel inspiring podcasts that will make you want to travel more.

This resulted in this list of 8 wonderful podcasts full of travel tips, inspiration and travel stories.

Extra pack of peanuts

If you’re looking for those budget travel tips, you should definitely listen to this podcast. Needless to say, that this is one of the most popular podcast out there when it comes to budget travel with more than 1 million downloads. Listen to it here.

She Explores

The ultimate travel podcast for women who seek adventure! Hosted by Gale Straub, the show will inspired to get out more. It focusses on the great outdoors and features more than 500 women with a bunch of experience.

Traveller Podcast – Flight of Fancy

Listen to Aussie Ben Groundwater who talks about everything from scary travel moments to various travel tips & hacks in 40 minute podcast sessions. Very easy to listen to and it won’t take much of your time. Check it out.

travel podcasts around the world
Listen to podcasts everywhere!

Women Who Travel

Run by the editors of Conde Nast Travel, this podcast once started out with a Facebook group where women across the globe could exchange travel experiences. It became so popular, that they decided to create this hub of travel information. From planning the ultimate roadtrip, why to travel solo, to the best destinations for 2019.

The Journey by KLM

Indeed, the famous Dutch airline has created wonderful award winning podcasts where several travel stories are told, with a link to aviation. You are going to love this if you’re into history, personal stories from pilots and travelers about the trip that changed their lives. www.podcast.klm.com

But Why | A Podcast for Curious Kids

If you travel with kids, you know you need to keep them entertained most of the time during a long flight or bus ride. As a mother I have noticed that the same question always arrises; ‘but why? But how?’ Well, this show is designed for exactly that. All questions imaginably are answered and explained in detail. Suitable for all ages!

children's podcasts

As shown above, there is no need to get bored whilst travelling! Do you have more podcast tips, let us know in the comments!

Love,

Elke

 

How to avoid the crowds at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is undoubtedly Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction. And this is no surprise since the lost city is the biggest religious monument in the world which dates back to the early twelfth century.

These days almost 5 million tourists yearly make their way over to Cambodia to wander around the temples of Angkor Wat themselves, making it a very popular but very busy place to visit. You better think again if you ever dream of having these Asian temples all to yourself, but there are a few tricks to avoid the big crowds and wander around in peace…

1. Watch the sunrise and leave a little early

Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a definite must-do when you’re visiting these temples. Not only is it a truly magical experience when a new day presents itself by rising up against the temples, but it is also a great way to arrive at the temples early. If you want to have a good spot without hundreds of iPad and Selfiestick waving Chinese tourists in front of you, walk right instead of going straight ahead at the famous ‘sunrise temple spot’. You won’t be right in front of the temples, but you will share the view with just a dozen of other tourists. When the sun is up and you captured enough Instagram-worthy shots, head back to your Tuk Tuk driver before everybody else does. Doing this you’ll arrive at the other temples as one of the first, having the temples (almost) all to yourself 🙂

Beat the crowd at Ankor Wat
The most impressive temple of Cambodia, but very busy

2. The further away, the better!

Firstly, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to bring you to the popular temples that are further away first. Many Tuk Tuk’s and tour buses follow a certain route, creating the perfect opportunity for you to do the exact opposite thing 🙂 Also, if you see tons of big tour buses standing outside of a temple, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to take you to another temple which appears to be less crowded first. Clever thinking!

no crowds at ankor-wat

3. Go back at the end of the day

Wandering around the temples of Angkor is extremely beautiful, but also extremely tiring and HOT! If you decided to watch the sunrise you will probably feel very tired around 12pm, making you want to go home and take a nap during the hottest hours of the day. If you buy a one-day-pass this pass is valid for a whole day, so you can come back to the temples in the late afternoon, when most of the crowds already have disappeared. Make sure you don’t go too late as Angkor Wat closes at 6pm.

Ankor Wat Cambodia

I hope the three tips above will help you explore the ancient Ankor Wat in peace and quiet. Enjoy 🙂

Love,

Evelien

Did you know Cambodia is one of the world’s cheapest countries to live in? Check which countries made it to the top 5!

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13 GIFT IDEAS FOR BACKPACKERS

For travellers, it can be pretty difficult to come up with a useful present – it shouldn’t be too heavy and not too large, otherwise it will not be handy to drag along. Therefore, we have selected 13 awesome gift ideas for backpackers!

Water bottle

Even though it doesn’t sound like the most exiting gift idea, every backpacker should hit the road with a good water bottle. It will save you money and it helps definitely helps reducing the plastic footprint for our wonderful planet! Pick one in his/her favourite colour.

Water bottle | Gift ideas for backpackers

Customised Passport holder

Pimp up your passport with a personalized passport holder! It can house credit cards, cash, tickets, and the thing (passport) that actually gets you in and out of the country, all in one spot. Another add-on is the secret wallet which prevents criminals to skim your cards, plus it looks pretty cool.

Gift ideas for backpackers | Wander-Lust

Water bottle holder

This is an upcoming trend in the bohemian fashion sphere. It looks nice and is super handy. You can also make this gift more personal by creating it yourself. On the internet there are numerous water bottle crochet patterns available for free.

Powerbank

A bit more of a casual gift but always handy to have when traveling big distances. Giving extra battery life to your phone could keep you amused during long drives or flights and more importantly it ensures that you’re always able to get in touch with someone when necessary. We own a solar powered Waka Waka charger but there are many more chargers to choose from. 

Powerbank | gift ideas for backpackers

Travel journal

Although we live in a digital age, it is meditative to write down your thoughts while you’re on the road. A little book or journal is perfect for capturing memories. These journals become time capsules of your emotions and experiences you’ve had with people and places.

Travel Cocktail Kit

For the people who value some luxury: this little kit (that fits in every bag) provides you with everything you need to make 2 delicious gin tonics! A perfect treat after a long day of hiking, right? Shake. It.Up.

 

E-Reader

An E-Reader is a real must-have for travel-loving bookworms. It is super light and has often enough storage capacity to stuff an entire bookcase in a bag! The prices can vary from 50 to 300 euros depending on storage and extra features. Then again, a real book never get’s out of style. What’s your favourite travel novel?

E-reader | Gift ideas for backpackers

Travel Guitar

It may sound a bit strange but this is probably the best gift you can get for a traveling musician. A travel guitar is small and can be taken as carry-on luggage. With this gift idea you can gather travelers around the campfire and sing songs all night!

Travel gift idea

The Goodbye box

This complete gift package fits through the letterbox and is packed with funny and handy travel gadgets and goodies. There are also plenty of handy travel gadgets for kids, that are very useful for parents too! 

The ultimate adventure game

This game challenges the traveller to see destinations from a whole other point of view. There are 31 cards inside and they are divided into 5 categories: food, explore, culture, social and memories. Think of assignments such as: “Ask 3 locals about their favourite spots and visit them all”. In addition, the game has 31 bucket list destinations with beautiful pictures who will trigger everyone’s wanderlust.

Jewellery

A small piece of jewellery as a keepsake is always nice to give to someone who is going away for a while. It can be a symbol of protection, comfort and guidance as your loved one embarks on a new journey. Currently, we are in love with the new collection of Mimi Et Toi!

Mimi et toi | Wander-Lust

Hammam towel

Not only is this a super nice towel, it is also lightweight, compact and it dries quickly. Always handy to have for beach days, picnics or to use as a blanket or towel! Check out these useful packing tips if you’re going backpacking around the world!

Hamman towel | gift ideas

Friendship book

While traveling around you often meet many people from all over the world. You can add them on social media, but isn’t it more fun to capture the lovely memories in a little book so you will never forget them?

Love,

Iris

Curious if you are a true backpacker at heart? Click on the photo and find out!

Northern Iceland

Last minute European Destinations for this Summer

Are you still debating about where to go on your summer holiday? We’ve selected 5 European destinations for this summer that we believe will make your decision a little easier! 

Greece

The country that used to be one of the most visited holiday destinations in Europe, but since the economical and refugees crisis, tourists have decided to stay away. A big mistake if you ask us. Luckily, Greece is getting back on its feet and still one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Forget about the usual suspects like Rhodos, Kos and Mykonos and opt for islands like Lefkas, Kefalonia or Folegandros. Do you still need more reasons why it’s on our list? Well, what about the food (wow wow wow), it’s very affordable, you will the bluest sea and the weather is damn good! Not sure which island to choose? Check out our Greece section for all the inside tips! Fly to Greece affordable with TUI for just a few 100 Euro!

Folegandros

Sweden

Do something different this year and book a trip to Sweden! We traveled to Stockholm and Swedish Lapland last summer and we absolutely loved it! Stockholm is situated next to a large river with plenty of things to do and discover. From museums to cool restaurants, bars, vintage and concept stores to boat trips. Did you know Stockholm has a lot of little islands where you can swim and sunbath? Check out our Stockholm and Lapland tips!

Shopping in Stockholm
Summer is great in Sweden!

Switzerland

It’s one of the places in Europe with the cleanest air due to all the nature. When spring arrives, the snow melts and makes way for green hills and a landscape that will take you straight into a Heidi scenery. We explored Switzerland last May and visited Bern, Lucerne and mount Rigi. For more info about this route and what you can see & do, check our Switzerland report.

Switzerland

Portugal

Surprisingly, Portugal landed on the least-visited-destinations-list last year published at the holiday fair. We love the golden beaches and rock formations and the Portuguese cuisine is to die for. Book yourself a stay at an Eco-resort like Into The wild Algarve where we stayed last year and enjoyed yoga, vegan cooking, supping and more. Hire a car and explore the Algarve and all the amazing beaches. Check our Algarve report about this adventurous (plus relaxing) spot.

STICKTOTHEBRAND 198
Golden rocks and beaches in Portugal

Into the Wild Algarve Tent
Eco-Resort Into The Wild Algarve

Malta

Hidden between Italy and Africa, Malta is easily overlooked. A shame, since those pristine beaches, ancient cities, spectacular cliffs, amazing architecture and so much more, is worth every bit of your attention. The Daily Telegraph evens tips it as one of the hottest destinations for this summer. We’ve been there and yes, it’s all true. Read the Guide To Malta from our guest blogger Jill for more info.

Malta

Madeira

We just came back from an amazing trip to Madeira and even though this is not your typical beach holiday, we think it deserves a spot on this list! Firstly, the island is incredibly beautiful and reminds us a little bit of Hawaï and Portugal combined. Besides hiking, you can tour the island with a jeep, watch wild dolphins and whales or swim in one of the many natural pools. Find out more in our Madeira Island Guide.

Madeira Island

Have a great summer y’all!

Love,

Wander-Lust

Why you should Travel Solo at least once

It’s midnight and I’m walking through the rainy streets of Koh San Road, Thailand. I’m surrounded by fried scorpions and Thai neon signs which I can’t read. With a backpack full of courage I try to connect with the already drunken tourists, but unfortunately without any success. It’s my first time out of Europe, the first time backpacking. 

It was the best decision I could have ever made and I’ll give you 5 reasons why I think you should Travel Solo at least once in your lifetime.

I walk alone, but I feel more powerful than ever. A sense of freedom, I can do what I want, whenever I want.

Why you should travel alone

Nobody can discover the world for you

We can get lost in the most beautiful travel documentaries, dream away with breath taking photos and listen with unbelief to the stories of others. But nothing can compare to the experience in real life. If you want to discover the world we live in, go. Cause nobody can discover it for you. Being on your own means you can decide where you want to go, which places inspire you and choose the adventures that most appeal to you. You are in charge of broadening your horizons.

There is nobody here to stop me. It was time to discover the world on my own.

Finding your own rhythm

I’m definitely not a morning person and it has always been a challenge to agree with the overenthusiastic waking-up time of my friends. It’s a great feeling waking up and start doing whatever you want. There is no boss waiting for you at the office or a friend that desperately wants to go to that trendy, hipster breakfast place four blocks away while you’re starving. You have the time and space to create your own rhythm and discover your own needs. This is a valuable lesson to learn, also regarding your daily routines back home.

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You are more in the moment when you travel alone

While traveling, I realised that the differences between all of us are insignificant compared to what connects us.

Experiences will be more intense

The autopilot of the mind will be switched off when you’re confronted with new situations, which results in a higher level of focus. You’ll have to stay alert, take care of yourself and create your own path. Because of this you’ll feel more aware of your surroundings instead of looking at it passively or getting lost in a conversation with your partner. You will experience the world around you instead of only seeing it.

Ásbyrgi North iceland

New perspectives

Not being with friends or a partner means you have to go out of your comfort zone to meet new people or talk to locals. You’ll meet travelers from different cultures, backgrounds, social environments and also different characters. While traveling I realised that the differences between all of us are insignificant compared to what connects us. Traveling alone will teach you to be flexible, open minded and less judgmental.

Trust your intuition

Being on your own in an unknown country will give you a major confidence boost. Not only will your self-esteem grow because it’s really awesome to travel solo, the trust in your own intuition will increase as well. I can be quite the control freak so I tried to avoid making too many plans for my backpacking trip. It made me really nervous in the beginning as I was constantly questioning myself if it would workout.

And to be honest, not everything did work out like it was suppose to. There was one day I didn’t have any money, food or a place to sleep cause my credit card got blocked. But in the end, everything will be fine, one-way or another. There is no need to stress or worry cause if you trust on your intuition it will always work out. Are you worried about traveling alone as a female? Check these 5 safe destinations that are perfect to start from.

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Eva in Chiang May, 2015

So what are you waiting for?

In my opinion, Solo Travel is not just a “cool” thing to do but it also really helps you to extend your boarders and develop yourself. You will gain new insights of the places you’ll go, the people you will meet and the cultures you will learn about. Secondly, it will also deepen the perspective on your own social environment and needs.

Traveling solo is the greatest gift you can give yourself. 

Love,

Eva

 

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