We've been wanting to camp Otways for ages and due to many weekends of rain there we had to delay and delay our plans. We finally had a non rainy night and knew we had to take the chance. Blanket Bay was our choice for a campground as many of the other ones we had in mind were fully booked. I ended up loving this spot! It was quiet and peaceful even though there were a few others camping nearby. It was the closest we've been able to camp near a beach. We had a lovely grove of trees around the spot, and even had a koala right there too.
This spot had the best sunrise and sunset I've seen here in Australia. We managed to get a few star shots here but not as many due to the moon being so bright and in range the whole night. It did manage to light the beach perfectly for my long exposure though..
I also loved all the shells at this beach, including many many little abalones!
This campsite is an easy drive from Melbourne and makes for a beautiful excuse to see the Great Ocean Road on the way home. I can't wait to camp Otways again!
I had the best time camping at Canunda National Park in South Australia. Friends in Mt. Gambier were the reason for our visit and after the 6 hour drive from Melbourne we did not want to go back after just a few days. We decide to scope out this campsite and spend an extra night in the area. We were not disappointed as we had the whole beach and campsite to ourselves; guess that's one of the perks of camping in the winter! Our friends from South Australia said this was not a popular spot, especially for camping and I really can't see why! It was gorgeous, and vast. We explored as soon as we got there and set up the tent, from mid afternoon onwards. Our campsite at Geltwood Beach was about a 5 min walk to the beach! The beach seemed endless and stretching out in every direction. The sand dunes were my favorite part, walking up all of them to the view of the beach was breath taking. We could hear waves crashing all night which was luxuriously relaxing. Sitting by the fire with soup and tea was just what I needed. There weren't any trees to attach the hammock too but we made do attaching it to a sign and the structure of the campsite bathroom-gotta make it work! The most relaxing feeling was rocking gently in the hammock while stargazing. Despite a few persistent clouds, we still managed to get a few decent long exposure star shots. We got rained on a little in the morning but packed up shortly after it started coming down. I honestly wouldn't mind another 6+ hour drive just to go back to this beautiful secluded paradise!
My favorite part about the Geltwood campsites are how secluded they are. Each is hidden by the beach shrubbery, and feels very private. As we were the only ones at this campsite, we wandered around at each at night trying to find the best place for our star shots. Definitely camp at Canunda if you're driving through SA or just want to camp at a gorgeous beach!
Our first camping trip together(and my first ever in Australia) was to Grampians National Park, just 3 hours outside of Melbourne. We chose a free campsite that we saw online, Plantations Campground, near Halls Gap.
Plantation Campground: This campground was free and one of the major reasons why we decided to go. It is rather large, about 20 spots, and for a Sunday night when we went it was pretty full! We struggled to find a free spot that was to our liking but in the end I'm happy with the one we went for. Set up just in time to see some kangaroos hopping away in the dusk. We posted up by the fire pretty quick once the sun went down. We spent most of the night rotating between sitting by the fire, swinging in the hammock, and taking long exposures of the stars. This was the clearest view of the stars I had ever seen in my life. You truly can see the MIlky Way with the naked eye, and the long exposures we took on the camera truly made it that much more visible. We saw a few shooting stars here, and we set up our tripods in a little clearing right near our tent.
We woke up around sunrise and got a fire going around to cook a last campsite meal. I loved watching the sun light paint the cliffs and mountains a gorgeous red color with their glow. After a quick campfire oatmeal brekkie paired with some green tea, we dismantled our setup and hit the road to catch some views of the Grampians before heading back to Melbourne. The Balconies lookout was our favorite!
I would so go back to this campground, I had an absolute blast. Grampians is so full of beauty and memories for me!
Golden hour proved to be the most flattering time again to take these shots. The warm glow backlit just casts a warm tone over the whole image. I love how the black lace of this top looks as the light shines through. The bell sleeves of this top make me want to dance around a festival, but this park at sunset will have to do! I paired it with black jeans, knee high boots, a double buckle belt, and some jewelry I scored at my favorite market in London. All these items are everyday staples in my wardrobe and this top will surely become a regular.
all other fashion items thrifted by me, top by Tobi
My recent daytrip to Black Spur/Keppel Falls proved to be the perfect backdrop for my latest outfit photos as well as documenting the scenery. Breathaking views during the quick 1km hike to Keppel Falls left me awstruck...
I am a velvet addict, in all forms. Dresses, kimonos, heels, doesn't matter, I love it.This off the shoulder velvet bodysuit by Tobi got me so excited for endless styling possibilities I couldn't resist wearing it right away. I paired it with an all black look and choker. I love the playfulness of the bare shoulders and delicate ruffle. It is very flirty and I'm excited to think of all the ways I can pair this bodysuit in the months to come. I think it'll be a great fall-winter transition item.
Best part is they offer free shipping-no minimums-to all orders in Australia! The struggle is real with international shipping out here and this makes it so much easier.
Blog post of my nature photos and experience at Black Spur coming soon!
Couldn't resist soaking up some golden hour rays at this viewpoint on the way home! My absolute favorite time to shoot-this light is so flattering.
This past week I made my second trip to Grampians National Park(post coming soon!) here in Victoria. It was my first time camping in the park and I had the best time. I thought this would be the perfect place to shoot one of my new favorite dresses from SheInside. This white floral maxi dress makes me feel so elegant and free flowing, I thought it was best to pair with the rugged and vast landscape here at Grampians. I loved how the dress catches in the wind, revealing the side slit! It offers so much movement and it made me feel very graceful.
Most of my poses consist of trying not to let my hat blow away! Don't let the sun fool you, it's definitely winter here in Victoria.
A little intimidating to be so high up, but the view is worth it!
I love bridging seasons, and I wear dresses year round. Styling dresses for all kinds of weather and occasions really makes me happy and I welcome the challenge. I paired this dress with a pair of embellished boots I found at an Op Shop here in Australia, plus my signature circle shades and hat. The dress is the star of the show(well, maybe second to the view of the Grampians!).
Australia's diverse wildlife and nature has inspired me ever since my arrival to Melbourne a few months ago. Last weekend I visited Black Spur and was speechless by all the towering trees and lush ferns that surround the drive to Healesville. Nature truly heals and rejeuvenates my soul so this little getaway was perfect for inspiration and healing. The colors of the foliage and changing seasons inspired my outfit of choice for the day. I LOVE velvet and this skirt from Tobi couldn't have been more perfect for me. I love the slit up the side for a more modern touch on the maxi skirt and the bohemian feel of the print works so well into my personal style. I paired it with an off the shoulder top I bought at a market in Vietnam, and some thrifted gold accent booties. I love this location because to me the trees just scream "Australia" and I love getting the chance to show off the natural beauty of this place to my friends back home and people all over the world!
The soft feel of the velvet and the colors of this skirt just feels so luxurious to me! I feel like I'm stepping back in a time machine to the 70's and living as a free flowing bohemian. That is pretty much my goals! If I had to sum up my personal style in one look this would be it! Girly, bohemian and free spirited.
Wilson's Promontary National Park is probably one of my favorite surrounding Melbourne destinations. At a 3 hour drive out of the city, and with so much to explore, you could easily extend a long daytrip to a overnight camping trip! I plan on returning and doing just that. There's so much to take in but here's the highlights of my day.
Hike to Oberon Summit: This hike is no joke! It is endlessly beautiful, but about an hour up to the summit itself. There are points near the end where the trail is extremely narrow/rocky so it's not for the faint of heart. At the top, covered in sweat you'll be rewarded with crystal clear views of the blue waters and forest below. Not to mention the forestry on the hike up is well worth it too!
Squeaky Beach: Named for it's pristine white sand, so pure, it squeaks when you walk on it. Listen for it, it really does! This was the perfect place to watch the surf, and take some golden hour photos. Australia's beaches are unlike anything else I've ever seen before.
I definitely plan on returning to Wilson's Promontary, as the park itself is huge and I only went to a handful of places inside. There are many trials that lead to hidden or secret beaches(about 10k or so) for the hiking enthusiasts. There is endless beauty in this place and I will definitely be back to capture it!
I went to Egypt in February and I got lots of questions from friends and family about my trip. One of the biggest questions was Why Egypt? Well, why not? I've been fascinated about Egyptian history and myths ever since I was a little kid, and I always knew that I wanted to see the pyramids. I knew it would happen when it was meant to, so when I found a cheap flight, I hopped on the chance. Everyone was scared of me going alone. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive at first but my worries went away once I arrived. I was determined. Egypt may not be for everyone, but if you like an adventurous side of traveling and to see a place rich in history, read on to hear about my experiences and tips!
How To Get A Visa?: I got a visa on arrival at Cairo airport, for 25$ USD. Make sure you have USD for this exact amount. There are a number of booths that will do this at the airport. Takes only a few minutes.
Giza Daytrip: My highlight of the trip was a day trip to the Giza Pyramid complex, as well as Saqqara pyramid complex, and Memphis. To be honest, I would've skipped the Memphis stop as it's really a small outdoor museum, and stayed longer at Giza if I could've! The trip was organized through my hostel which made it so much easier. Basically you have your own private driver for the day, but not a tour guide(I believe you could probably book this at an extra price). There are additional costs for everything. It was about 80$ equivalent to get a camel and tour guide for the Giza Pyramids, I paid more for the longer tour. This also includes entrance to the pyramid complex. My tour guide was FANTASTIC and basically played the role of "instagram boyfriend" for me and took snaps of me on my phone, camera, even took video clips when I asked him. I never felt like I missed out on a photo op, and as we know traveling solo this can be incredibly hard to capture the memories. It was an hour and a half time for the tour, but I honestly could've spent all day there if they let me. The next stop was the Saqqara pyramid complex, there were some tombs here and it was cool to go inside and see the hieroglyphics. This stop did not include a tour guide and I believe I paid about 20-60 Egyptian pounds for entry here, which is maybe a dollar or two. The one thing about this stop and being a blonde haired petite woman(or any woman here) was that I got hassled. A LOT. It's to be expected. I had one guy want to take photos with me multiple times, he asked if I had a husband and how many camels I wanted for him to be my husband. At first I was trying to chuckle it out, but by the end of the day with similar things happening with different men at the different historical sites, I just learned to ignore them or pretend I didn't speak english. It was annoying, it happened often, but I didn't want it to put a damper on my day or my trip. If you ignore them, they'll stop talking to you eventually, or yell after you as you walk away. Let me be clear, there was no threat of physical danger. I never felt like I would be attacked, robbed or mugged. I felt safe, but uncomfortable by the unwanted attention. It's like dealing with a creepy guy at a bar that won't leave you alone. The other thing with this unwanted attention, is that Egypt has a very big "tipping" culture, or baksheesh. Basically if you have a tour guide, or driver you are expected to tip, even a little bit. When one of these guys comes up to you at the sites and wants to show you something, or even to take a picture of you, he wants a tip for it. That's how they work, they're not trying to rob you or run away with your purse, they're trying to get tips out of you and they will keep talking to you until you give them money essentially. I'm usually a very nice patient calm person but I am on a budget and don't have money to give to these random guys(I did tip my driver and tour guide) so as I said before I walked away or pretended I don't speak English. They get the hint and move on to the next people.
Did You Feel Safe?: As I mentioned before I never felt unsafe. No one threatened me in any way. The most I got on the street was lots and lots of stares, although I expected this. It can be a little off putting to be on your own and be the center of attention, but I think the eye contact was more curious than anything malicious. Wondering why a girl would choose to come here on her own or what she was doing perhaps? The only thing would be to be careful of people taking advantage of your foreignness, for example raising prices for things like taxis or in the markets buying souvenirs. This is to be expected as well, this is fairly common in most places, even SE Asia.
Is It Affordable?: Easily the most affordable place I've ever been to. There are flights to other parts of the country for 50-100$. I got a private room in a hostel for about 8$ an night. I took an uber and got stuck in crazy Cairo traffic for about a little more than an hour and it was still only 4$! Read on and you'll see some of the food I tried, where I spent less than 75 cents for a meal!
Was There Enough To Do?: Yes and yes!! I could've done more trips outside Cairo, but I found even Cairo was a bustling city with enough to explore, the old and new parts were so different and so fascinating!
How Do I Dress?: Egypt is a more conservative culture so as long as you aren't wearing short shorts or crop tops, you're fine. It's more about being respectable. As I went in February, I wore pants and jeans most days because it was actually not very hot and a little chilly wind! I think it is the more bearable time of the year to visit as summer gets scorchingly hot.
How Do You Get Around?: In Cairo, I took Uber everywhere! It's cheap, and you don't have to deal with a language barrier in Arabic when telling your driver where to take you, or have to negotiate a price. You can just plug in the address and go!
Thankful to my new Egyptian friend Maram for taking me to the night market. We got there just around midnight and it was still very lively!! It is a hub for late night tea and hookah, as well as a bit of bartering and shopping! I felt very safe when I was with her and we had a lot of fun exploring.
FOOD: Cause food is everything right? Honestly I had no prior knowledge or expectations of Egyptian food, so arriving and finding vegetarian options were part of a few main meal staples here was very comforting! My favorite new dish I tried(more than once!) was koshary(apparently it is the national dish of Egypt) which consists of lentils, rice, pasta, tomato sauce(it's a little vinegar-y and sometimes a touch spicey) and dried onions to top. There are places that exist that ONLY serve koshari, and you just pick, small medium or large portion. Beware the food coma with this one as it is insanely filling but so deliciously tasty!
Another classic food I ate a lot of was falafel in pita, as well as a new one I tried, foul, which is mashed fava beans(reminded me of the taste and texture of mexican refried beans, yum!). I could get one wrap sandwhich of each of these for a total of about 5 egyptian pounds, something like 25-50 cents. That is the cheapest dinner I've ever had. The restaurant, Gad, is all over Cairo, you order from a guy at a small counter then you take your receipt and hand it over to the guys cooking. I never had to wait longer than a minute for this fast food!
Would I Go Back?: Yes! Egypt was the most eye opening place I've ever been. It's crazy, it's chaos, it's cheap, it's exhilarating. If I went back, I'd go to places other than Cairo-Dahab for example and do some diving in the Red Sea! Egypt is insanely affordable, and if you exercise general precautions as you would while traveling, it is safe! Would you go to Egypt?
At just about an hour outside of Melbourne, Hanging Rock just outside Woodend/Mt Macedon makes a perfect stop to get some nature outside the city. Leisurely hiking trails and amazing views can be found if you make your way to the top of Hanging Rock, it's only about 15-20 min to get up to the summit. You can see views from 360 degrees at the top; all the surrounding farmland and forest.
I highly recommend making the scenic country drive out to Hanging Rock! It is an easy hike and well worth it for the unique view of the rock formations. Another Melbourne Day trip off the Australia bucket list!
While the other hemisphere is enjoying a beautiful spring, Melbourne's weather is slowing transitioning to one of my favorite times of year, autumn. The leaves put on a color show, the rain brings a gentle still to the air; and a time to refocus and work on creative projects. The other day I took a fun roadtrip about an hour outside Melbourne to Mount Macedon, to explore the cute town, the mountains, and, another reason I discovered people visit, to view the beautiful autumn foliage.
Although the weather is changing, I still try and dress as much like summer as I can get away with. That's why I love this romper from SheInside. It's a great transition piece, as in this weather I have paired it with tall boots, and a leather jacket in between shots. In the summer and spring it's perfect with a cute pair of sandals and flats. It's just so flattering, as it ties in the back with a bow to really define your waist, and I love the vintage inspired floral print. It's my motto I can never own enough floral pieces.
What inspires you about the changing seasons? I'm so excited to spend autumn with a cup of tea and a cozy blanket and crank out some new blog posts and exciting projects coming soon!
Melbourne's weather touted a 60% chance of rain the day Ollie and I were shooting. If living here for two months has taught me anything, is to never trust the weather because it will be all over the place! We decided to meet a few hours before sunset to try to beat the rain. We ended up at Carlton Gardens and shot and wandered, making the most of the unexpected sunlight. Can't get over the grove of trees, and all those beautiful fall colors. Melbourne is truly putting on a show as I'm watching the seasons change here.
I'm trying to be more sustainable, and budget conscious with my clothing lately so this shoot is styled from all thrifted items, except for my shoes. The denim jacket came from a stall in Camden Market in London, the top from a sweet lady's small store in Thailand, skirt from one of my favorite resale chains in Tokyo(Don Don Down!), and the necklace came from a op shop across from my place here in Richmond, Melbourne. Arriving to Melbourne with one suitcase and styling shoots from that has been a challenge, but one I am up for, as it allows me to bring fashion I've gathered from all over the world together, and also succeeding at being a "bitch on a budget" as I lovingly call it.
Check out Ollie on instagram here.
Phillip Island is a perfect day trip, just about 1 hour and 45 minutes outside Melbourne. You'll cruise through farms and wineries, as well as coastline on your way down there, which also make for fun stops. The island is actually much larger than I anticipated and has plenty of beaches for surfing as well.
First stop was the Penguin Parade at the far end of the island. We didn't know the Penguin Parade was a nighttime activity, so when we arrived at 3pm, they told us it was free to go in and wander around! This beach was beautiful, deserted, and windy! Truly took my breath away. There are many little boxes all over the inland area where the penguins rest during the day(did you know they're nocturnal?). We did manage to see about 3 during our time here but it is not gauranteed. Plenty of wild wallabies though!
Next stop was the Nobbies Center. This was the most beautiful stretch of coastline ever! Reminds me back home of California so much! Again very windy but worth it to walk along and admire the scenery. A few penguins here as well.
We managed to make it to Phillip Island Nature Park 45 minutes before their closing. They have many animals native to Australia all throughout the small park, from emu to wombats, koalas and more. My favorite part was feeding the kangaroos and wallabies. The kangaroos were much more assertive than I thought, they all wanted the food! Watch out for their little claws! Some of them will gently grip your hand while they eat the food out of it, so cute! Saw many adorable babies in their mothers pouches!
All in all a beautiful Aussie day, a lovely excuse to get out of the city and truly see what Victoria has to offer!!
I have been living in Australia for a little over a month now and finally made a trip to Great Ocean Road, something I wanted to do since my last visit to Melbourne. It was truly stunning, worth the wait. I do plan on doing it again, I would love to stay longer and do some camping along the way. Here's some of my favorite spots and highlights:
Bells Beach: The first stop I wanted to see on the way to Great Ocean Road, located just shy of 2 hours outside Melbourne, was the beautiful Bells Beach. This is a popular surf spot, not so much of a chill hangout beach, but could be if you really fancied it. The views are incredible, This place at sunset must be stunning!
Teddy Viewpoint: A must see, the water is beautiful from above, the most unreal teals and turquoises! It is located near Lorne, and near the next stop, waterfalls!
Erskine Falls: I love this spot, its a short hike down some steep stairs to get there, then climbing over the rocks in the riverbed, but the view is totally worth it. Would love to go back after some heavy rainfall and really take it all in!
Twelve Apostles: The most infamous and notable Great Ocean Road destination! Sadly only a fair few of the apostles remain, due to erosion. Also probably the most crowded spot, as many tour companies drop off bus loads of tourists at all times of the day, whereas I hardly saw more than 10 people at any of the other stops. Despite the crowds, this natural beauty is well worth seeing and still a marvel to take in. I would definitely come back.
Loch Ard Gorge: This stop just a few minutes past the Twelve Apostles was one of my favorites, and also the last stop. It's a stunning little bay with clear blue waters and mild waves. Again, lots of people here too but still nonetheless beautiful and worth the stop. Would totally love to swim and picnic here!
After these pictures, I'm sure you can see why I'm in love with Australia!
London, no matter how many cities or countries I go, something always draws me back to London. This city enthralls me and pulls me in deeper; I always find something new and exciting going on, something I didn't quite see or hear about last time. Here's some of my latest discoveries and a recap of what I experienced in my favorite city.
Where to Stay-My home base, Astor Hostels
As always, Astor is the perfect place to make my home base in London. I stayed at their newest location, Hyde Park in the luxurious South Kensington neighborhood. This hostel felt so glamorous, very fitting in this prestigious area. The inside is gorgeous and has a massive kitchen. The Friday night I was there, there was a big indoor karaoke party in the kitchen with guests and staff from all the other hostels coming together! It was such a blast and a great way for other travelers to mix and interact. This hostel is also a short walk to the museums in South Kensington which make it a must to stop at any of those(they're free!). My favorite is the V&A.
The latter part of my stay in London, I stayed at the familiar Astor Museum location(you may recall from my previous London post I stayed with them before). Again, the staff here really make the experience. Every single one of them are like a family and they really go above and beyond to make your stay in London fun and exciting. I did many events with them at the hostel, they always have something going on during the day or night, just check the board near reception and in the kitchen! Everyone is so welcoming and it's been the most social hostel I've been to! Some of my favorite outings were the free comedy night(see below) and the Camden photo walk. Again, I wish I could live here permanently as it is so central to everything in London, including walking distance to Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, and even Camden.
Free Comedy Night
Astor Hostels had an outing Tuesday night to a free improv comedy show at Top Secret Comedy Club. Just a short walk away from the Museum hostel location. I was sold on the words "free" and "improv". It was a great night out and we had a group of 15+ people from the hostel! I have never laughed so hard in my life! The show is an hour and a half to two hours, with a small intermission in the middle. I would highly recommend going!
A friend of mine recommended a new app in London. The app, Drinki, allows you one free cocktail in selected bars, each with their own cocktail pre selected for the app users. You also get one cocktail for every friend you invite to the app! For our night out, we chose a bar close to Astor Museum-Holborn Grind. A espresso bar and cafe by day, and coffee infused cocktail bar by night, this place was intriguing. We sampled the espresso martini and I was amazed by how delicious and effortless it was, even though I'm not much of a coffee drinker. The atmosphere was calm, dim, but sultry, with a neon sign in the back. Perfect for a Monday night aperatif. The app itself is simple to work-make your way to the bar of your choice(there's plenty all over the city), select the bar, select the drink, then it will prompt you to show the bartender the next screen and they will confirm, then, wait for your drink! This is a great way to get out to explore new bars and neighborhoods in London.
Lights of Soho
This gallery in Soho is the sister gallery to Gods Own Junkyard(will have to go next time!) and features a bar/cafe, neon signs, artworks, and overall the perfect place to snap some instagram photos. It's incredibly photogenic and just nearby the oxford circus high street!
Winter Lights Festival at Canary Wharf
This was a temporary exhibit at Canary Wharf in east London, it ran from January 16th to the 27th. I believe this event re-occurs every year. Many artists had created stunning light displays, or LED sculptures and they were all over. Canary Wharf during the day is very much a business center, but at night, with this exhibit, was fun to explore, and almost desolate.
A fun neighborhood to explore during the day, but even better at night. I wish I had more time for bar hopping here but I did enjoy seeing the street artwork and tasting the street food during the day. You will catch me spending more time here on my next trip!
Let's talk street food! Probably my favorite thing about London dining as its so affordable and tasty and endless options. My two places for go to food trucks/stalls are Camden Market(especially Kerb market near the canal) and Shoreditch(Boxpark). I ate most of my meals at these places.
And that wraps up another fabulous week in London. I'll be back, always!
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Iceland is definitely going to be one of the hottest(er...coldest?) destinations of 2017. With WOW Air and IcelandAir offering stopovers and cheap flights, it's hard to resist making a trip out of it. This country has so much to offer, and explore. Here's a bit of what was on my itinerary and what I did in Iceland!
Where I stayed: Hlemmer Square. Cannot recommend this place enough! Really chic and cozy lobby, with a bar and restaurant(although I did not eat there). Some of the nicest and most spacious hostel dorms I ever encountered. Free coffee and water and sometimes snacks in the lobby. The nicest and most accommodating staff. Very central location, on the main street in downtown. Overall, just a big win in my book.
Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavik. My WOW Air flight arrived at Keflavik airport at 4am. The airport was easy to navigate and I made my way to my pre-booked flybus to Reykjavik. That took about 45 minutes. Boarded another shuttle from their bus terminal in town to my hostel. Arrived in my hostel around 6am. Again, major props to Hlemmer Square for letting me check in early, as I passed out on my bunk for an hour 'til I got up to get ready for a tour I had booked.
I had booked this tour through Grayline with the intention to visit the waterfalls which were high on my agenda. The first stop was at Seljalandsfoss, and it was truly spectacular. Next was the black sand beach, Reynisfjara. The waves are VERY strong and VERY big here so I did not go near the water. The rock formations along the cliff are almost otherworldly. We stopped in the town of Vik for lunch and I managed to grab a few photos there. After, was our last stop Skogafoss, the waterfall I was most excited about seeing. By this time, around 4pm, since it is winter, was already starting to get dark, so I don't have many photos of this waterfall. I did go back here on another tour so I was pretty happy about that. The only issue I had with the whole day was the rain(which lasted all day) kept getting water all over my camera lens, but it was worth it to see all these things in one day! We were returned back to Reykjavik around 6:30pm.
This tour, while only 3 hours, packed in a lot of what I wanted to see in Reykjavik city center. I could've done my own walking tour but this was so quick and easy to see what I wanted to see in the perfect amount of time. The guide gave us a lot of history about the city and an insight into Icelandic culture as well. I love the unique style of buildings, the older look along with modern buildings and sculptures. We arrived at Sun Voyager at the perfect sunset time and I was so happy with those pictures! That, and Hallgrimskirka were probably my favorite spots on tour.
This late night tour was really fun! Seeing the northern lights is a bit of a gamble. It depends on a few factors, like weather, cloud cover, visibility, etc. If you book a northern lights tour keep in mind it may be canceled if the weather is poor. We headed out towards þingvellir National Park in hopes of a gap in the clouds that would let us see the aurora. I was able to pick up some of the lights on my camera at this spot but wasn't able to see it with the naked eye. We stopped here at the park also and had hot chocolate and a traditional Icelandic pastry called Kleina, kind of reminded me of a less sweet non-glazed donut. We kept driving and stopping, the guide looking on the weather maps to try and get the best place for us to see it. Towards 1:30 am we had started to drive back towards reykjavik when we saw the lights again, more visible this time. This was the first time I could truly see them with the naked eye and not just picking up the light on my camera. A tripod is essential for this tour if you plan on getting pictures.
I booked this tour through Grayline again because these 2 destinations were a must for me, and I didn't have enough time to do each on their own seperate day. In hindsight, I'm happy with my choice because I felt it was the perfect amount of time to do everything. Departing Reykjavik at 7am, we arrived to the Blue Lagoon right when they opened at 8am. The facilities are very nice and futuristic almost, with a magnetic type bracelet to unlock your lockers. I was a little nervous here because I knew I would want to take pictures but didn't want my electronics to get wet. I felt a lot better knowing you could get in and out of the locker as many times as you wanted. It was so surreal to be there in the pitch black darkness of a winter morning-almost like being on another planet. It started getting lighter around 10:30 am and that's when I was taking all my pictures. I could either get the shuttle at 11am or 1pm back to Reykjavik and I rushed to get the 11am shuttle as I did not want to wait 2 more hours to join the Golden Circle tour. I did have an hour to grab lunch in between. Then for the Golden Circle we stopped first in pingvellir national park. Stunning views, as well as you can walk between the fissures that have ruptured due to the split in the European/American tectonic plates under the earth. Next was Strokkur geysir; I wasn't as interested in this stop, but still nonetheless beautiful. After it was followed by a stop at Gulfoss, another waterfall I badly wanted to see. We managed to get there just before it started getting dark, and there were a couple different viewpoints from which you could watch the massive falls. Our guide was incredibly knowledgable, and I love that all the larger companies have wifi on board!
Glacier Hike and Waterfalls
Okay, hiking Solheimajokull glacier was definitely one of the highlights of my trip(I mean, it's hard to chose when every day is amazing!). I love how Arctic Adventures has small group sizes for this, it was me, our guide, and a couple. We were the first group out on the ice and I just looked around at the vast space and all the snow. Iceland definitely feels so surreal all of the time. We were given a lot of information and instructions on how to use the ice pick(mostly for balance), and how to walk in crampons(metal spikes to attach to your boots). The actual hike was mostly flat, except for some areas where we actually had to walk upwards to enter the glacier. I think some of the highlights were exploring the caves and crevices formed in the glacier. It was a little claustrophobic but so amazing to see the ice so blue and swirled into that formation over time. It truly took my breath away. We were on the ice for an hour and a half/an hour and 45 minutes, and then our tour bus came and picked us back up for some stops on the way back to Reykjavik which means...
We stopped at Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss on the way back. I'm SO glad we did because I got way better pictures at each versus the other day when we stopped there in the rain. They looked completely different covered in snow. At Seljalandsfoss I even hiked around behind the waterfall, which I would have not been able to do on my first tour there due to the rain making it too slippery. It truly was the most stunning to see and to hear the roar of the crashing water. Our guide was very nice and provided crampons again so we wouldn't slip, so necessary!
Overall, Iceland was just a magical experience that is hard to find just the right words to describe it. I made new friends, explored so much nature, took about a million pictures, got lost in the moment, smiled uncontrollably, and was filled with so much joy. I plan on coming back again to this beautiful otherworldly place.
A little rain can't stop me from exploring. Grateful for the abundance of unique beauty here, it's like a feast for your eyes if you're a fellow cactus lover like me! Got to test out my new 50mm 1.8 lens as well and was loving it!
As 2016 came to an end, here are some of my important lessons I learned throughout the year and how I am going to make the most of 2017 with them:
1. Do what you want & Do it for you
It's not necessarily selfish to put yourself first. I definitely learned this year that there's a balance involved with making yourself happy and making others happy. I over exhausted myself multiple times trying to make plans happen to make other people happy but in the end I just was too emotionally and physically spent I wasn't able to be 100% there. If you take care of yourself you will be better equipped to meet other's needs too and be there for them. It's like in the airline safety videos-put on your air mask before helping others!
2. Do something that scares you(as often as you can)
Take risks, put yourself out there. Whether it means traveling alone or taking a new class or meeting new friends, you won't know how it will go until you try! Despite traveling alone this year with social anxiety, I was surprised how "easy" it was to make friends. You simply go up to people, say hi, and talk to them about traveling. Talking to new people still intimidates me but the more I do it, the less it worries me.
3. Don't do so much. Just Be
I am prone to being a workaholic and trying to get as much done as I can. Days planned from start to finish with little or no time for a break. This year I am learning the magic of saying "no" and taking a much needed break when I deserve one.
4. Go somewhere new
Even if it's just a few towns over or a few countries over, get out there and see something you don't see every day. Make memories, new friends, take photos to look back and smile on.
With 2017 a few days in, I'm ready to make this year my best! I'm setting goals that aren't so specific-more like ideas. I don't want to set something too specific only to not see it come to fruition. My goals for 2017 is to keep working with my blog, putting myself out there, traveling as much as possible, make and keep meaningful friendships, and live in the moment.