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Madeira - Wandering above the clouds

Hello,

welcome back to another travel blog. We just came back from an amazing trip to the Portuguese island Madeira, and long story short, we absolutely loved it. For everyone living in Europe it’s the ideal summer fix all year round. The flight from London took about 4 hours and takes you to directly to Funchal, the biggest city on the island. From there we rented a car to freely roam the island at our own pace.

Madeira is located just off the African coast, a little higher up north than the Spanish Canary Islands. Nevertheless the weather is generally very pleasant the whole year. We came here in May which was absolutely lovely as the whole island was literally in full bloom.

 

After landing and picking up the rental car we headed into Funchal to check out the farmers market for some lunch and coffee. The old-town is quite lovely and picturesque and well worth a visit. There are plenty of shops and cafes, so we strolled the streets for a little while and bought some food and supplies before moving on.

After leaving Funchal we headed west along the coast. It’s a beautiful drive along the coastline, and we stopped quite often to take pictures. Definitely stop at the Piscinas Naturais just outside of Funchal. The natural pools are really pretty and also quite safe to swim in. There’s a small admission fee but it’s totally worth it.

The first day was coming to an end quickly so we decided to watch the sunset from the hotel pool. We stayed at the Savoy Saccharum Hotel on the west side of Madeira. The infinity pool on the roof is a really nice gimmick, but also the bar on the top floor is great for food and watching the sunset.

The next day we continued the route around the island. Definitely worth a stop are the Piscinas Naturais do Porto Moniz in the North of Madeira. They’re free to visit and definitely quite picturesque. There are also a few cafes nearby so it’s a good place to sit, relax and watch the ocean.

Not much further away are the Piscina natural do Seixal, which is a natural pool as well but also safe to swim. It’s quite fun to swim around the natural stone arch and watch the waves from the sea swash over the edge of the pool.

Back in the car hunger started to kick in. Luckily there the was a cafe nearby called São Cristóvão Café, also in the North. And while sitting on the terrace of the cafe we spotted a little path on the opposite site of the valley, as well as a small car park. A quick look on the map revealed that there was in fact a road going down to that path (just off the ER101). The short hike from the car down to the sea was just so pretty, we were constantly surrounded by fields of flowers.

For the next day the plan was to catch the sunset on top of Pico do Arieiro, one of the highest mountains on Madeira just over 1800m above sea level. So we got up at around 5am to drive all the way almost to the top. The summit is very easy to access, there’s a spacious car park and paths are very well signed.

From the car park it’s a 20min walk to the first lookout point. And all I can say it that it’s absolutely worth getting up that early.

After we watched the sunrise we continued the path to Pico Ruivo, which is slightly higher at about 1880m. The distance for one way is about 4.5km but you’ll need to overcome about 850m elevation, it took us about 5 hours there and back. Also temperatures in the morning can be as low as 5°C and go up to about 20°C during the day, so be prepared. Once you’re at Pico Ruivo there’s a small cafe and fresh water fountains just a few meters from the summit.

It’s an incredibly beautiful hike but also quite tiring and exhausting, particularly the way back. So definitely bring enough water and supplies, and as you’re walking at high altitude don’t forget suncream.

Thankfully there is a restaurant at the carpark that sells coffee, cool drinks and snacks. After a little break and resting our feet we definitely had enough of walking, coincidentally there was a cable car not to far away. For a small admission (5£pp) it takes you all the way down to the ocean and back up.

Back at the car it was already quite late in the afternoon and we were still quite tired from the hike in the morning. So we went to our hotel for the night, Quinta Do Lorde in the far east of the island. Turned out the hotel had a really beautiful seawater pool, so we went for a quick swim and photoshoot.

Right next to the hotel is Prainha Beach. If you follow the path down from the street and keep right instead of left you will find a beautiful stone arch. All the natural pools are quite rough and and there’s definitely quite a few sea urchins around so this spot is only accessible on calm and quiet days. I’d also recommend some sort of water shoes as these will make walking on the slippery rocks a lot safer. But swimming through the stone arch was an absolutely amazing experience.

The next morning started early again at around 6am. The goal was sunrise at Ponta de São Lourenço, the most eastern point of Madeira. The hike from the carpark is about 4km to the sunrise point. Thankfully we brought flashlights as the path was still in complete darkness when we arrived. It’s a really beautiful hike, particularly in the morning, well worth getting up early. Also later in the day this route gets pretty busy as it’s quite a popular hike. When we were there at sunrise we were pretty much all alone.

The whole hike took about 4 hours, so we just made it back in time to the hotel to get breakfast. After about 4 coffees and an unreasonable amount of waffles we packed our bags and headed to the last hotel, Galo Do Mar not to far from Funchal Airport. For the last hike of the day we wanted to do the quite famous Levada Walk, a path that follows the ancient water channels along the very steep cliffs and sometimes even vertical rock faces. The hike has a reputation for being Madeira’s most picturesque hikes and I can confirm it is quite spectacular. It’s important to mention that there are a few tunnels that are not illuminated so torches or headlights are essential. Also on a warm day there are a few ponds where you can go for a refreshing swim.

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That pretty much sums up our trip to Madeira. All in all we really loved it, there are tons more hikes to do and things to discover, so we really want to come back some day. Also going off season turned out to be a really affordable trip, the quality of our accommodations was constantly really fabulous.

If you have any questions please send me a message or get in touch in Instagram or Twitter.

See you soon!

Iceland Road Trip II - Vatnajökull and the Golden Circle

Hello,

welcome back to Part II of our road trip around Iceland. In the last blog posted we travelled from Keflavík all the way to the East Fjords. After 4 days in the northern parts of the country we were looking forward to seeing some of Iceland’s greener areas.

 

Day 5

After a good night’s sleep we packed the car and headed south. The roads very still very icy and slippery, but after a few hours of driving and a quick break at the Vattarnes cliffs we arrived at Hvalnes Beach. Seeing the white waves crashing onto the black beach is quite breathtaking. There’s a small carpark near the lighthouse from where you can walk down to the beach.

Just a few miles further south is the Stokksnes Peninsula located in the southeast of Iceland. The area, also known as Vestrahorn, is one of Iceland’s most photogenic places. There’s a small admission fee (~8£, cards accepted) which is totally worth it. Stunning mountains on the horizon, an azure ocean, black dunes topped with green grass, the colours are simply unbelievable. The water is generally very shallow which gives the impression your walking on the sea. Come here in the late afternoon for Golden Hour and you will get plenty of amazing pictures, the opportunities are sheer endless. A wide-angle lens and water-proof boots will be the icing on the cake.

Day 6

The next day started again very early at around 6am. The plan was to catch sunrise at Diamond Beach and then go explore Vatnajökul Glacier. We arrived at the beach just when the sun started to peak over the horizon, making all the ice that has been washed ashore from the glacier glow like diamonds. Definitely worth getting up early.

After breakfast in the car it was time for the hike on the Vatnajökul Glacier. You can’t and probably shouldn’t just walk on the glacier all by yourself as it’s quite dangerous. Our tour-guide was from a company called Local Guide of Vatnajökul which was absolutely amazing, I would highly recommend them. The groups are quite small, ours had 6 other people and the whole hike takes about 6-7 hours, so definitely pack some lunch.

The guide took us in their giant 4x4 offroader to the foot of the glacier, where we got crampons and climbing harnesses for safety. From there we hiked for about 1.5 hours until we reached the first ice cave. Walking through the caves was an unbelievable experience, the whole scene felt completely surreal.

After the cave we went down to where the glacier meets the ocean. It’s absolutely beautiful and humbling, also quiet relaxing sight. And in some ways quite sad as the guide mentioned that the ice is becoming less and less each year. It’s a true wonder of nature and pretty sad so see them melt away, maybe forever.

On our way back we stopped in one of the biggest and most famous caves. It was already late afternoon and the sun was quite low, complementing the blue ice with some golden sparkles. Again big thanks to Stephanie from LocalGuide for a fantastic day out the the icy wild of Iceland’s Glacier.

Quite tired and exhausted we left Vatnajökull National Park and drove towards Vík for some food and sleep. We were just about to call it a day when we drove past Reynisfjara Beach, which just looked to good to miss.

Day 7

When we got up in the morning the weather was changing for the worse. Hurricane like winds with gusts well above 60mph and heavy snowfall made getting around a lot harder. Without a 4x4 getting around would have been completely impossible.

The first stop of the day was the iconic Skógafoss waterfall. The advantage of the bad weather was that almost no one else was around, which is actually quite rare since it’s a very popular sight.

Later that day the snowfall was getting heavier and driving became more and more difficult. Not to far from our accommodation was a waterfall called Urriðafoss so we headed there for a lunch break and some quick pictures. The weather and light really wasn’t great, so we quickly moved on.

One destination that had been on our list list since the beginning of the trip were the Hruni Hot Springs. These springs are still a bit of a secret and not too many people find them. It’s located literally in the middle nowhere and a 4x4 is mandatory during winter.

Once you get there the water is surprisingly hot, just need to bring a towel. There’s even a little hut to get changed. This was really a fun and relaxing experience, I would absolutely recommend those one over the very busy Blue Lagoon.

Day 8

When we got up around 6am the next morning the weather had finally cleared up. But with all the snowfall from the previous day and night the roads we’re still completely snowed in. Driving to the last waterfall on out list, Gullfoss, was honestly quite a nerve wrecking experience. I expected us to get stuck in the snow every second. Thankfully the 4x4 plowed through the snow like a hot knife through butter and we arrived at the destination just when the sun came over the horizon. And turned out that not many others felt as adventurous as we this morning so we were rewarded with another solo waterfall sunrise experience.

Sadly the blue skies didn’t last very long and a few hours later it was grey and foggy again. We did one last hike to a small waterfall and some rapids called Bruarfoss. The water is considered one of the bluest in Iceland. The hike is quite easy and there are many signs but the deep snow made it quite difficult to walk in some places. Nevertheless the colours of the water quite impressive and definitely worth a visit.

This wraps up our road trip around the Ring Road of Iceland. If you have any question about our trip please get in touch here. Also swing by our Instagram and Twitter for more frequent updates and stories.

See you soon!

Iceland Road Trip - From Snæfellsjökull to the East Fjords

Hello,

welcome back to another road trip. After spending the majority of last year’s trips in southern countries we decided that it was time to spend some time closer to the Arctic Circle: Iceland. Strictly speaking Iceland just barely scrapes the Arctic, but the landscape in nonetheless stunning.

We started our trip from Keflavík in the west of the island. After picking up our rental car we headed to the nearest supermarket to stock up on food and drinks. We wanted to spend the time mostly self-catered and some parts of the island can be quite remote. Regarding the car we went for a 4x4 and in hindsight this was definitely the right decision.

 

We wanted to circle Iceland on the so called Ring Road, in clockwise direction. The whole route was about 1400km with 8 overnight stops. The roads are generally in good condition, but the Icelandic weather is notoriously unpredictable and can change within minutes.

Day 1

So after sorting out supplies we headed straight up north along the coast towards the Snæfellsnes peninsula, a 700,000-year-old glacier-capped stratovolcano in western Iceland. The remains of the volcano are still very prominent in the landscape.

After about 2 hours of driving we arrived at the Búðakirkja church, also famously known as Black Church. We continued until we reached Arnarstapi, a small fishing village in the west of the peninsula. There are some very scenic walks along the steep cliffs. Around sunset this spot looks particularly beautiful.

From Arnarstapi it’s only a few miles to the iconic Lóndrangar cliffs, a basalt rock formation that almost looks like the ruins of an abandoned caste from afar.

Just after sunset we arrived at Djúpalónssandur Beach. The beach is mostly black sand and pebbles. We stopped here for a quick break before heading to our first accommodation.

Our AirBnb for the night was right next to Kirkjufell, one of the signature mountains of Snæfellsnes National Park. Luckily there was just enough daylight left to we quickly grabbed camera and tripod and managed to get one last shot of the day.

Day 2 and 3

The second day started early since we had quite a long trip ahead of ourself. As we left the Snæfellsnes peninsula and drove further north toward the West Fjords the landscape became much more arctic, and concrete roads soon became dirt roads.

Driving along the coast with the fjords and glaciers in the background looks incredibly beautiful. It truly feels like your entering arctic zones. Due to the Iceland’s northern latitude the light and the colours of the land are incredibly pastel, almost like a painting.

After a few hours of driving we arrived at Hvitserkur, another beach made out of black sand with a unique stone arch that somewhat looks like a dragon. When the tide is low you can climb down the cliffs and walk through the rock formation.

Day 4

The fourth day started very early at around 6am. The goal was to be at the famous Goðafoss Waterfall at sunrise. Fortunately we arrived just before sunrise and as it turned out the light is much nicer just before the sun peaks over the horizon.

In that area if Iceland it really payed off to have your own supplies. We had coffee and breakfast in the car, there really weren’t many shops nearby. The landscape became more and more deserted and the roads got very icy. In that part of the country a solid 4x4 vehicle definitely was worth it.

We arrived at our accommodation in the late afternoon and we were both quite tired from the early start and the long drive, so we decided to call it a day and just jump in the hot jacuzzi.

This sums up Part 1 of our road trip around Iceland. If you liked this post please check out our Instagram and Twitter or send us a message if you have any questions or just want to get in touch.

See you soon for Part II!

10 Reasons to visit La Palma

Hi all,

Happy New Year and welcome back to the Travel Blog. This is going to be the first post this year, but it’s actually recapping a trip we did at the end of last year. The decision to visit La Palma was based on out previous trips to Lanzarote and La Graciosa in 2017. Canaries are a great winter break destination, there are very affordable flights, cheap accommodations and amazing landscapes. The canaries have gotten quite a reputation for being a mass tourist destination primarily for the elderly generation. So hopefully the next 10 paragraphs will convince you that La Palma is quite the opposite than an overcrowded old people holiday resort.

 

1. Roque de los Muchachos

Probably one of the most popular spots on the islands for sunset hunters and astro photographers. The streets climb from sea level to almost 2500m and the view is absolutely stunning. The road goes all the way to the top, so no need for extended hiking. It’s a fantastic location for sunrise, sunset and night sky photography. Just bear in mind that in order to reduce light pollution in the area the road that leads to the top closes at around 8pm (there are a lot of observatories).

2. Charco Azul

One of the most picturesque natural pools on the island. Charco Azul has a variety of natural ponds and pools that can be entered very safely. There’s also walls to protect swimmers from the ocean swell. Come here in the early morning and you’ll have the whole site for yourself.

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3. Puerto de Santo Domingo

Great place for a picnic and to watch the sunset. There’s a short climb down to the beach, however when we went there the ocean waves were far to big and scary for swimming. The view along the coast is pretty spectacular though.

4. Playa La Vetta

Charming little fishing village right at the waterfront. There are steps and a rough path for about 2 miles that will take you down the cliffs. Very few tourists know about this place and even less people can be bothered to hike all the way down. So chances are quite high you’ll get another private sunset. Careful if it’s getting dark on the way up, there are some steeper passages as well as an unlit tunnel, if you’re planning on staying late consider bringing some flashlights.

5. Prois de Candelaria

Romantic little fishing village carved into the cliffs, feels very much like a secret pirate shelter. Most of the houses were empty and there were almost no people there. Very cool afternoon hike (~1.5miles one way), there are also some natural pools to go for a swim.

6. Playa de Nogales

One of the famous black sand beaches. It’s about 1 mile down from the car park. Great for sunrise and early mornings. Not busy at all.

7. Playa Echentive

Playa Echentive is a reminder of La Palma’s volcanic past. The beach is only a few decades old and a reminiscence of a volcanic eruption in 1971. It’s entirely covered in black sand and surrounded by fields of sharply hardened lava. Great spot for swimming and sunsets.

8. Mirador de Los Brechitos & Cascada de Los Colores

There are many ways to see the Mirador de Los Brechitos and the Cascada de Los Colores, but here’s how we did it:

We arrived at the parking at the bottom of Mirador de Los Brechitos at about 11am. From there taxis will drive you to the top of the mountain, which is also the starting point for the hike. Taxis charge around 50€ for 4 people and the drive takes about 20min. (No need to book, there are usually a few taxis waiting)

From the top of Mirador de Los Brechitos it’s around 9miles back down to the car park, including the detour to the Cascada de Los Colores. The path is very well signed but goes through quite steep terrain so you should definitely bring good hiking shoes. There’s a campground at the halfway point with some facilities and a little shop. Including a few brakes the whole hike took us about 4hrs, so remember to bring enough water and food.

9. Ruta de los Volcanes 

Ruta de los Volcanes is a network of paths and treks in the Cumbre Vieja National Park in the south of the island. Some of the routes have a rise of more than 1000m, with the summit at an impressive altitude of almost 2000m above sea level. It’s a slightly more difficult hike through natural terrain but the view from the crater is definitely worth the effort.

10. Cascada de Los Tilos

The gorge through the Cascada de Los Tilos exhibits a completely different side of La Palma. Lush green rain forest hanging from steep cliffs, refreshing waterfalls and shallow rivers are very different to what you would generally expect from the Canaries. You can hike through the canyon and its riverbed for around 1.5 miles, depending on the rainfall and weather conditions the water levels might vary. Great fun an very picturesque.

A few general tips for La Palma:

  • A car really helps, you’re going to be much more flexible. Particularly the beaches are very difficult to access and the roads quite steep, so a car will make your life a lot easier. There are buses but these mostly connect the more touristy spots.

  • Also some of the mountains are quite high in altitude and nights up there can get pretty chilly, so make sure to bring some warm jackets.

  • Paths are usually quite safe and well signed, but can get quite steep sometimes. So I would recommend to always bring appropriate shoes. And don’t forget enough water.

  • We went to La Palma in November, which is absolute off season. Therefore most spots and sites are quite empty, also you will get very good deals for flights and accommodations.

Hope you found these tips and suggestions helpful. If you have any questions please get in touch. If you want to find out more about our previous trips to the Canaries check out my posts about Lanzarote and La Graciosa.

For more frequent updates please follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

See you soon!

The Canaries Diary Part I: Lanzarote

Hi all,

if you do an online search for the most popular and "hip" travel destinations of 2017 Lanzarote most likely wouldn't be on top of the results. And honestly I was in the same mindset. The only people I know who have been to the Canaries are my grandparents few years back. The reason we went there was mostly the lack of time and options, also the flights from London are a bargain in November. 

Today I've been back for about 3 weeks and I'm glad I went on this trip and overcame my prejudices.  Lanzarote has so many amazing and seemingly untouched gems waiting to be discovered, far away from mainstream tourism and tour busses. So don't get fooled by online reviews, Lanzarote is a unique and exiting place, only a few hours away from London.

The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago just off the northern coast of Africa. The most popular ones are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and finally Lanzarote, the most eastern island of the Canaries. According to Wikipedia they are among the outermost regions of the EU. And indeed this becomes very apparent once you start leaving the main cities: All Islands are the reminisces of a volcanic eruption hundreds of years ago. The landscape literally turns into fields of hardened lava. 

 

Walking on lava

Lanzarote's violent past becomes already quite visible when you approach the island's airport. From the air you can clearly see craters and broken up slopes, relicts of massive eruptions in the past. The landscapes are vast and deserted, only under closer inspections revealing signs of nature slowly fighting its way back up through the solidified fields of lava. 

The black beaches

One of the most beautiful phenomena happened when over decades the solid lava got washed into the ocean and formed beaches with black sand. The blue ocean, the breaking waves and the black sand create some stunning colours.

Climb the cliffs

It's hard to miss the cliffs overlooking Famara Beach at the most norther end of Lanzarote. Roads are steep and mostly gravel at the ends, but the view is way worth it. Park your car at the Park El Bosquecillo and search for Cueva de Las Cabras, you won't be dissapointed!

Go Surfing

One of the best ways to experience the waves of the Atlantic Ocean it to go surfing. The most popular spot is Famara Beach in the north of Lanzarote. The beach is very safe with moderate waves, lifeguards and surf schools. We rented boards and wetsuits at lanzarotekite just a few hundred meters from the shore, prices are really cheap and staff friendly.

Take a bath

The natural pools are probably one of Lanzarote's best kept secrets, and it took us quite a while to find them. Located at the south of the islands, follow a pretty bumpy dirt road until you see an abandoned building. This used to be a hotel back in the 60s and 70s, there are very few sources on what this place actually is. Today it largely seems like a place for homeless and graffiti artists. We parked our car just outside the building.

We walked through a few holes in the fences and ignored the "Do not enter" warning signs. There's an undeniably weird vibe in the air, and the structure definitely didn't feel safe. So we left on the rear side of the hotel through what used to be courtyard, climbed through another fence and went towards the cliffs.        

The pools on the other side are just gorgeous. Carefully climb down the cliffs and make sure the tide is pretty low. Unfortunately when we arrived the tide was already rising again and big waves started to roll over the pools. So we only took a quick bath and snapped a few pictures before climbing back up. The currents are incredibly powerful, so please be careful and always have someone watching the incoming waves. 

 
 

This concludes Part I of our trip to the Canaries, hope you enjoyed the pictures. If you want to get a sneak peak of what's coming next, check out my Instagram and Twitter for daily updates and travel pictures. Click here to jump straight to Part II: La Graciosa.

Tobi

A day trip to Sintra

Hi all,

when we were staying in Lisbon a few weeks ago we decided to go to Sintra for a day. It's not to far, we took an Uber and it took about 45min. On weekends definitely start your day early to avoid the crowds. Our first destination was the National Place of Pena which is situated on top a little hill in a national park. It's a beautiful and colourful building with a stunning view over the surrounding forest. And if you're early you can have it pretty much all by yourself.

Also definitely explore the surrounding gardens. There are some hidden viewpoints that have a stellar view over the national park. 

From the exit of the palace it's just a short walk to the remains of an old castle. (You can get combi-tickets for both palace and castle) It's generally pretty steep to make sure you bring good shoes. Once you leave the castle just follow the path down the hill where you'll arrive in the old town of Sintra, just in time for lunch.

After a rejuvenating lunch at one of the local bakeries, we took another Uber to Azenhas do Mar, a sleepy little seaside town right at the ocean. Because of the strong waves and currents there is a seawater pool carved into the cliff walls so can safely go for a swim. A walk along the cliffs is a must, the scenery is absolutely stunning. 

Azenhas do Mar is probably one of the greatest places in Portugal to watch the sunset. It's facing almost exactly west, therefore the sun dips the ocean just in front of the beach. There are deckchairs and cocktail bars just at the seafront, making it the perfect end to a perfect day out.

I hope you enjoyed this post about our trip to Sintra. Also check out what we did in Lisbon and why you should go there too!

If you're curious and want more regular updates follow me on Twitter and Instagram

See you soon,

Tobi

Road trip through Snowdonia

Hi everyone,

Easter time means road trip time. This year our destination was the Snowdonia National Park in north Wales. We started our trip from London Euston where we took the train to Liverpool from where we continued our journey via car. (We rented a car from Europcar right next to the station which was pretty straight forward, would definitely recommend)

We left Liverpool heading north towards Llandudno where we had our first Airbnb for the night. We deliberately picked smaller and more scenic roads alongside the coast. This will usually be a little slower but there are plenty of great photo opportunities.

 

Unfortunately on the next day the weather forecast didn't look too promising. Nevertheless we left Llandudno heading west towards Isle of Anglesey. Our goal for the day was the lighthouse on Holy Island. It's an incredible panorama from the cliffs overlooking the the little island and definitely worth the trip. Sadly the rain caught up on us and we decided to call it a day and drive back to our accommodation. 

Waking up the next morning we were greeted with blue skies and sunshine peeking through our window. Our Airbnb had an unbeatable view overlooking Conwy Bay, and our host Anne made a fantastic breakfast. Great way to start a day!

As the weather was looking really promising we quickly packed our bags, our next B'n'b was on the southern side of Snowdonia National Park. To get there we had to cross the Welsh Highlands including the famous Mount Snowdon.

After passing the mountains the sun welcomed us on the other side. Our goal for the day was to circle the Lleyh Peninsula

After a day with plenty of sunshine it was time to get to our b'n'b for the night. Set in the small village of Dolgellau it was one of the most unique and quirkiest places we've ever stayed in. All rooms we're uniquely inspired by classic novels, Alice in Wonderland was the theme that stood out the most in my opinion. And on top of that our hosts Jayne & Mark were incredible friendly and welcoming. If you're ever in the south of Wales this is a great place to stay!

For our last day we had planned to explore the area around Dolgellau. The weather unfortunately wasn't as nice as the day before to we had to incorporate quite a few coffee breaks on the way to escape the rain.