Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Iceland pt.3

One can't just get enough of Iceland, right? Right! So, choose the airline of your choice and go! I've flown IcelandAir in my two previous trips but this time I experimented "WOW air", a low-cost airlines with some purple-coloured fleet, haha cool! Let's put some colour in this gray scenery then.
I admit I was apprehensive about the weather. It could be windy as hell but it was just fine. I heard that people don't use umbrellas in Iceland due to its infamous windy weather. For a late-April weekend the weather however was good. It was observed a "peak" temperature of +6C(+42F) with clear sky. If you believe in global warming, go 'all-in' here, because businesses are booming. :)

Hallgrimskirkja

This time I wanted to explore more of the city centre of Reykjavik, because in my previous trips I was just too drunk at all times during my stays in that town that I only have flashes of my city-walking in Laugavegur street which is the nightlife hot spot. I finally visited the Hallgrimskirkja, which is on the highest neighborhood in the centre, with a nice view to the old town if you pay 900 ISK to take the elevator to go the top of the tower. Do expect some queuing. This is a Lutheran church built of solid concrete to endure the winds of the Nordics and hosts one of the biggest pipe organs (music instrument) in Europe. Nearby this church, one can try a traditional Icelandic food at Loki cafe. I recommend the lamb soup.

Harpa

 This impressive event hall is sumptuous and can host different sort of events, event music festivals. From outside some special dynamic lighting effects on its glassy facade resemble the northern lights. Well, it is free to enter there if no event is happening but do try to plan your trip during one of the festivals that take place in here, so you will have the maximum experience. For instance, the SONAR REYKJAVIK event generally takes place in Harpa.

Northern lights

Well, it is not the best photo of the northern lights, I know, but this one was taken by me at least! So, I don't need to still from Google Images. :P
To see the aurora, go on dark month (November - February). The brighter the days are getting the lest intense will be your aurora experience. I have observed massive auroras in Lapland, but this time was my first aurora in Iceland. There is one place which is relatively dark for a capital city where one gets a better view of it without leaving Reykjavik. It is by the

Reynisfjara shores

Also known as 'the black sand beach' - in the touristy English colloquial. I know it is near the village of Vik, which requires few hours driving away from Reykjavik towards the south and east but it is still considered a "Reykjavik attraction" because it is perfectly feasible to visit it and go back to your hotel in Reykjavik in a one-day trip.
I am mentioning it here because it is among the new attraction (new to me) of Iceland which I hadn't visit in my previous two trips. It is a volcanic beach with sneaky waves (people-eating unpredictable waves). Big warning signs tell you to keep always one eye on the waves and never turn your back to the sea because once in a while a nasty wave will come for you. Apart from that, enjoy this awesome scenery and take some amazing photos.

Here are some more photos (click to enlarge):








Sunday, 30 April 2017

Lofoten - A beautiful archipelago in the Norwegian Lapland

Wow, one more breathtaking place in the true north of Europe to chill, hike and take some amazing photos.
As an enthusiast of the north, or better yet, the "true north" (!) meaning that it has to be somewhere inside the arctic circle (> 66°33' N) for it to be cool. For reference, Stockholm is around 59°N and Reykjavik (The northernmost capital of the world) is 64°N.
Being here feels good. Less population density, and a certain sense of freedom. One can hire a wooden cabin in a recreational area and breathe the freshest air one can get in this decaying planet. Air will soon become a important asset just as water is, even though many people don't perceive it.

When reading about the first tourist of Lapland, I discovered the history of Francesco Negri, an Italian Catholic priest who, during 1663-1666, travelled in Scandinavia. In 1670, he published an account of his travels to Lapland entitled Viaggio settentrionale. Back in the days, a journey to these marvelous lands were a real endeavour to accomplish. Our generation should be happy to belong to the age of the fast flying jet planes. Maybe, I can be the first Arctic explorer with a teddy bear! Is there any record about one? ;)

How to get there?

We booked an excursion at Timetravels which provided us a bus departing from Oulu (Finland), but having Luleå (Sweden) as a pick-up/drop-off along the way for those joining from Sweden. Even though I currently live in Sweden, it was easier/faster/cheaper to reach Oulu by plane, then going to the Swedish town of Luleå by any means of transportation. Well, it is not the most comfortable way to go to Lofoten archipelago, it is more like a budget option. If you are travelling with a smaller group and/or as a couple on a romantic getaway, try to fly to Tromsø (Norway) and rent a car to drive to the archipelago, or if you are OK with driving longer, there are much cheaper flights to the town of Trondheim, but then add few more hours of driving.

When to visit?

Even if you like winter and snow, don't be a fool. Winter in Lapland might be as cold as -35C (-31F) and it will be a perpetual darkness. I went in late April/early May and the weather was amazing. Note in this photo I took with the teddy bear: I wear no beanie, no gloves, nor scarf and I am happy! Of course, if you are aiming to see the Northern Lights, you have to go from October to February, but that's another story.

Where to stay?

We stayed at Svolvær, the main island of the archipelago. It is possible to find housing via booking.com even. So, shouldn't be a problem. Just be aware that there is not so much infrastructure and it is an isolated area (away from bigger towns), so get your housing fixed before hand.

What to do?

Hiking. Photographing. Drinking. Sauna. Chilling... hmm.. a Viking museum! Yeah, we found one on the way. Here is the address: http://www.lofotr.no/

Here are some of the climbing paths near Svolvær: http://www.mapmyhike.com/no/svolvaer-nordland/


Not much to describe further. Just enjoy some of my photos below.

Some photos (click to enlarge):

Random landscape on the way

Sense of freedom near the top of hill

This is an average village up north in the Lofoten archipelago

... and that's an average lager there ;)

Not like Copacabana, but they do have beaches...