sunrise

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!

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!

Exploring the North of Bali

Welcome back,

Hello again from Bali and welcome back to part 3 of our Indonesia itinerary. In case you haven't seen our previous trips to Singapore and Uluwatu in the south of Bali, we're currently in Ubud. We arrived here yesterday very late after an adventure packed day, it was dark already so we went straight to bed. The next morning we were woken by an absolutely spectacular sunset: 

 

Day 4

We stayed in an Airbnb called Sunrise Villa. That place definitely earned it's name, build into the east-facing slope right into the jungle, sunrises were breathtaking. There was a spacious balcony and a pool, both overlooking the jungle. 

 

After a refreshing swim in the pool and a breakfast served to the balcony we continued our tour with Jefta. Our first stop were the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. The rice field comprise about 5x5km, there are a few well singed hikes through the field. We went for the shortest option which is about 3km and takes about an hour. Even though it's one of Bali's most popular sights it was suprisingly quiet and peaceful, for most of the walk it was just us and the rice fields.    

Next stop was Sekumpul Waterfall. This was definitely one of the most amazing experiences of our trip so far. It's not a single waterfall but a set of 3 streams emerging out of the jungle and dropping at least 40m down into a little lake at the bottom of the valley. The climb down took about half an hour and is quite steep in parts. You have to get a local guide to bring you safely down to the waterfall.

Jefta also knew another more hidden waterfall that was a little smaller but the water was also a lot calmer which allowed us to go for a swim. Swimming under a waterfall in the middle of the jungle was an absolutely stunning experience.  

The last stop of the day was at the Ulun Danu Bratan Temple. Very quiet and peaceful experience and a great end to a perfect day.

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A great place for dinner in Ubud is The Elephant. Great vegetarian menu and very affordable prices. Five stars from us!

Day 5

Another location that was on my Bali bucket list for quite some time was the famous Ubud Ridge Walk. Best time for this is usually sunrise, so the next day we got up quite early to make our way to the entrance of the valley. The Ridge Walk starts down at a small river and quickly rises above the jungle. The way the sun was slowly climbing above the trees and the light shining through the morning mist and foliage of the jungle was a spectacular sight, absolutely worth getting up early!

We arrived back at the AirBnb with just enough time for a relaxed breakfast on the balcony before Jefta picked us up to take us to the harbor to Nusa Penida. Just want to use this opportunity to thank Jefta for an absolutely amazing tour. If your coming to Bali, you won't be disappointed. You can contact him via his website www.baliblesttours.com.

Hope you liked the pictures and found this post useful, please find me on Instagram or Twitter if you want to get in touch.