roadtrip

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 - 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!

California Road Trip III - Yosemite to San Francisco

Hello,

welcome back to the last part of our California road trip. We started almost two weeks ago in Los Angeles, drove along the coast on the famous Highway One all the way up to Nevada, danced in the desert at Burning Man and jumped into the blue waters of Lake Tahoe. Before heading back to San Francisco there was one last stop we were really looking forward to: Yosemite National Park.

 

Driving down from the North we first passed Washoe Lake and Mono Lake shortly after. The land was still very dry and the water was pretty low. We stopped at the lake for a quick lunch-break, but water levels were way to low to swim and we still had a long way ahead of us so we decided to move on.

Our entry point for Yosemite was Tioga Pass in the east of the Valley. It’s California’s highest highway peaking at almost 10.000ft. The road went on for about 30 miles along steep cliffs and cold and black lakes, until we finally reached Tenaya Lake. The sun was already starting to set so we set up camp for the night.

Next morning we got up early to watch the sunrise at Olmsted Point. From Olmsted Point you have a fantastic view over the slightly less frequently seen east side of Half Dome. As the sun slowly started to rise the cold of the night quickly vanished. Since we were so early we pretty much were the only people around, very peaceful start of the day.

Before heading down into Yosemite Valley we took a detour to Smith Peak and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Hetch Hetchy is sometimes referred to as the “Small Yosemite”, however it doesn’t lack any of its beauty. The scale of the dam that divides the valley is quite impressive, surrounded by sharp cliffs and forests.

Even though the nights were pretty cold with temperatures dropping to less than 10°C the days were still very hot. So after the trip to the reservoir we took a break at the creek, went swimming and had some lunch. Most of the surround area of Yosemite was surprisingly empty, for most of the day we didn’t encounter a lot of people.

In the late afternoon we finally arrived at Yosemite Valley. The sight when driving the winding roads down into the valley is quite spectacular. The beauty of the whole place is simply unimaginable. Particularly at sunrise and sunset the entire valley gets covered a very magical warm orange light. The way the light wraps around the cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome is an unbelievable sight unlike any other place I’ve seen.

We wanted to spend sunset at the famous Half Dome View. But after dinner and seeing the sun set behind the mountains we were quite tired so we stayed there for the night. The next morning turned out to be even better, also far less people. We were pretty much the only one around, having our morning coffee overlooking the whole valley.

After pancakes down at the creek we wanted to hike to Vernal Fall in the west of the valley. In our travel guide this was supposed to be one of the easier hikes, however it turned out to be more challenging than expected. The last half mile of the 2.5 miles in total was pretty steep and the ground very slippery. Nevertheless the view was absolutely worth it. Returning to the valley in the late afternoon we went for another swim before driving to Tunnel View, another famous Yosemite viewpoint that can be seen on many postcards.

For our last day we had booked quite a treat for ourself: A flight over Yosemite Valley. We took of in a small Cessna from Mariposa Airport at 7:30am. The light was just perfect, the sun just creeping over the mountain tops of Half Dome and El Capitan and the morning haze gently covering the valley into a blue glow. Only from up there you can get a sense of the true scale of Yosemite, an absolutely incredible and humbling experience. We flew with Airborrn Aviation, which I can highly recommend. Our pilot was super helpful, showed us all the good spots and steered the plane so we could get the best possible angle for the photos. It was also just the three of us in the plane so we had plenty of space. Fantastic experience, highly recommended!

Sadly every great trip has to come to an end eventually. Our journey though California ended quite sunny in San Francisco. After returning our RV we took a cab into the city centre to our hotel. We didn’t have a lot of time to do this great city justice, just about 24 hours. So we quickly rented some e-bikes from Jump and cycled down to docks and the pier. The sun was almost setting and we had to learn the hard way that San Francisco is a lot cooler than the rest of California. Shorts and shirts were definitely far to cold so we decided to call it a day and returned to our hotel.

The next day started typically wet and foggy. We took our chances and headed to Twin Peaks, but the sight was completely zero so went back down, had breakfast and jumped back on the e-bikes. Electric bikes work like a charm on the hilly streets of San Francisco. We had them for about 6 hours and we almost cycled 25 miles all the way and back to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s been an absolutely incredible two weeks, so many experiences far outside of our comfort zones. We’ve met so many incredible welcoming and helpful people, seen so many beautiful places. RV road trips definitely moved up a lot of my bucket list. America is big and there’s lots more to see. We will be back, promise.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post, if you like to read more about our road trip through California check out our trip along the Highway One, Burning Man and Lake Tahoe. You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter for more frequent updates.

See you soon!

California Road Trip I - Highway 1

Hi,

900 miles in 3 days. That was the plan, to go from Los Angeles along the Highway 1, past Sacramento and Reno all the way up north to Burning Man at Black Rock City. As it was our first time steering a RV that was longer and wider than any other vehicle I' had driven before, this was without a doubt quite an endeavour.

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So after after an 11 hour flight and a short night in a hotel near LAX we picked up our camper van which was supposed to be our home for the next two weeks. We quickly realized that a 21 feet vehicle is far from ideal for the streets of LA so we left the city of stars behind us and headed north onto the famous Highway One.

It took a little while to get the hang of this new way of travelling but once you get used to it it’s great fun. Being able to stop almost everywhere and cook, make coffee or sleep is quite amazing.

The Californian coast is incredibly scenic and diverse. The road takes you along waterfalls and white beaches, steep cliffs and bridges, green fields and orange plantations. The warm and dry climate is very comfortable, and once we left the LA traffic behind us the roads became quieter. It’s a very easy going highway, windows down and music on. Sadly the jet-lag was still in full swing, so we both were very pretty relieved after we reached our first campsite after around 200 miles.

The next day started early and grey. It was still dark when we left the campground but the daily target was almost 300 miles so we had to get on the road.

After around 50 miles we reached the Elephant Seal Vista Point. After coffee and breakfast at the beach including some seal watching we continued the Highway 1 towards the Big Sur.

The Big Sur is the the central coastline of California, stretching between San Simeon in the South and Carmel in the North. It is considered one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, and it can be a very touristy area. Luckily outside of public holidays at the end of August we had the road to our-self most of the times.

Along the highway there are plenty of view points. We pretty much drove and stopped whenever we liked, most vista points have free parking and lots of space for RVs.

Just after lunch the sky cleared up and the sun came out. We wanted to stop at Carmel-By-The-Sea for an afternoon break. Carmel is a small village dedicated to arts and crafts, very pretty and quite laid-back. There are plenty of artisan shops and galleries, also there’s beautiful white sand beach.

Just outside of Carmel begins the Point Lobos State Reserve, a small national park along the coast. It costs about 17$ entry per vehicle but definitely worth the visit. As it’s located with a large section of the coast facing west it was the perfect spot for sunset.

So we fired up the stove in the camper and probably had one of the best sunset-dinners at the beach of the whole trip, including breathtaking ocean view.

The next day started warm and sunny. We heavy-heartedly left the ocean road and set course towards land-inwards Sacramento. The landscape quickly changed to a vibrant orange and the curvy highway became much steeper. After around 200 miles we reached Tahoe National Forest and lush grasslands changed to impressive mountain ranges. Some of the passes have an elevation of almost 6000ft, but our RV slowly fought his way up the roads until we eventually reached Crystal Lake.

After a lunch-break and a swim in the lake we continued west along the Eisenhower Highway, past the picturesque Donner Lake and plenty of ski resorts. We hadn’t booked a campsite so we just tried or luck at a campground at the Boca Reservoir. That area had multiple campsites and luckily all of them were pretty much empty. So we picked a nice spot for the night just by the lake.

A lot of the campsites in the National Parks operate on a first come first serve policy. Also most of them are self service, so if you find an empty spot (there’s usually a little sign that tells you if a spot is reserved already) just put the amount for the night in a little safe box at the entrance and put the receipt under the windshield.

Wild bears are still quite common and visit campsites frequently, most of the times attracted by human food. So be advised to never leave open canisters of food as well as any rubbish outside. If you’re in a tent, most campsites have dedicated food storage boxes.

Coming from a big city the night sky was particularly impressive. Far away from any light pollution the sky was filled with millions of starts, even the Milkyway was visible to the naked eye.

The next day should be a big day for us, the reason why we traveled so far in the first place. We would finally make our way to Black Rock City to attend the Burning Man. There was just another 300miles between us and the probably craziest festival in the world. You can read all about it in our blog post What it’s like at Burning Man. Also if you want to see more frequent updates please follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

See you soon!

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. 

Road Trip through the Lake District

Hi everyone,

this Easter we decided to hit the road and head north towards the Lake District, one of the biggest National Parks in the UK. We took the train from London Euston towards Lancaster where we rented a car and continued our journey towards Windermere

 

This time of the year weather is key. On our arrival day we we're quite lucky and did several stops on our way to Windermere, enjoying the springlike sun.

On the second day we weren't quite as lucky. It was mostly grey and pouring rain was splashing agains the windscreen of our car. So we decided to focus our trip on destinations that can mostly be reached with the car. We took the road from Windermere towards Penrith via the Kirkstone Pass. Roads can become surprisingly steep, some passes climb up to 35%, definitely not recommended for bigger vehicles and weak breaks.

The third day started dry and the sky was looking promising so we started towards Ambleside. From there we we took the Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass towards Boot, which is also considered to be one of the most beautiful and stunning routes in the Lakeland.

On the last day we started early for boat tour on the Derwentwater Lake. Boats launch from Keswick every 30 minutes and offers a stunning view over lakes and mountains. A trip around the whole of the lake will take about 1 hour.

Back ashore, we had quite some time left before hour train would depart to London so we decided to take the way back via the valley of Buttermere

Conclusion after 4 days in the Lake District: We will definitely come back in Summer. Enjoy the rest of the photos.