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: