In Iceland: The Golden Circle in Summer

While in Reykjavik I decided I want to go on the Golden Circle tour again. I already went on this tour in January but I didn’t want to go to the church or the geothermal plant. I found that the last two were just unnecessary. I went into the Grey Line sales offices located at Hafnarstræti and asked if there were any tours that just offer the main attractions of the Golden Circle. This tour only goes to the main three locations and lasts about 5 and a half hours. First stop…

Þingvellir National Park

PhoebeGill150814218I once again feel like I didn’t spend enough time here. We only got half an hour and it’s just not enough time! It’s not all doom and gloom though. I loved seeing Þingvellir in colour. Seeing a vast open landscape covered in snow is beautiful but there was no definition in the vista making it hard to really get a sense of it.  PhoebeGill150814261I loved seeing the definition in the rocks and the fissures. I will one day walk through and find that waterfall that I keep seeing images of but for now I am happy I got to see this amazing National Park in all it’s green glory. PhoebeGill150814574

Strokkur

PhoebeGill150818001I could stand at this location for days. I find this natural wonder fantastic. I don’t think it matters if this location is covered in snow or none at all, it is just amazing. What I did find is that you could get more definition in your photographs because the background isn’t blending with the sky. Regardless of season it is a wonderful location! PhoebeGill150814675

Gullfoss

PhoebeGill150814162Last time I was at Gullfoss was just incredible I didn’t really think it could get any better but oh wait it’s Iceland, it can always get better! The water in January was colder and frozen. The only way I can describe how I saw it in January was that it was elegant and composed because of this. This time it was roaring.PhoebeGill150814378In January the walk down to the look out was closed so I was very very happy to go down and look down the crevice. Since the water was in full force, the spray coming off the waterfall was just epic. It is such a beautiful area and is amazing in any weather but seeing it’s power up close is just incredible!
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The Drive

PhoebeGill150814529Driving this in January it was amazing but very difficult to see any definition in the landscape. The sky and the earth blended together but it was still beautiful. I didn’t even think that the surrounding area when I chose to do this tour again but it is just amazing! These mountains are so so beautiful! There is gorgeous scenery along this entire drive. PhoebeGill150814615It costs €57 and because it was a late afternoon tour we were on a small bus and we had the whole back row to ourselves. We also got brought to our apartment when the tour was over.  This tour doesn’t feel like five hours long because there is so much to see and your tour guide is talking the entire time. We got to spend 30 minutes in Þingvellir, 30 minutes at Strokkur and an hour at Gullfoss. Not a lot of time but I definitely think it is worth it. It’s really informative and such an amazing route. I am so happy that I got to do the Golden Circle again.

Happy Travels!

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In Reykjavik: Puffin Watching with Special Tours

Before I left for Iceland I wanted to do a tour of some kind that wasn’t too long but also was a great experience. Now I have written before how I love boats! So I instantly wanted to see what kind of boat tours I could do. There are loads of tour companies that offer similar tours and experiences so it can be tough to choose just one. I decided to go Puffin Watching with Special Tours.  PhoebeGill150814225I have wanted to see puffins for years and years! They are such lovely birds. The boat docks at Reykjavik Old Harbour which is where you will find the Special Tours booth where you check in. The tour takes about an hour and costs 5700kr (€48). Take Note: This tour runs from the 1st of May to the 20th of August.PhoebeGill150814116The species that are on the island are Atlantic Puffin. Puffins come to land for the breeding season. During the summer months Iceland has around 60% of the population of puffins on it’s coasts.  PhoebeGill150814424Puffins are very fast, they beat their wings up to 400 times a minute. Capturing these speedy birds is quite a challenge. Along with the waves getting pictures of these birds is pretty hard to do.   PhoebeGill150814462These waters can get a little choppy so definitely take a look at the weather and the sea the day of your tour. Our trip was really good on the way out but it started to rain and because we were going against the current the waves crash over the boat so you will get soaked.

Tips: 

  1. Bring waterproof clothing. It can get very wet, I wore jeans and they were drenched.
  2. Don’t eat right before you go. It can get choppy, although the boat ride isn’t long its never nice to feel sick on a boat. Also look at the horizon if you are feeling sick.
  3. Bring a long lens. I used an 80-400 mm lens and I feel like I was still too far away. Puffins fly away from the boat very quickly so it can be tricky with a standard lens.

I definitely recommend this tour. It’s amazing watching these birds, learning about their behaviour and habits. So if you have a spare hour and €34 euro I definitely suggest you go puffin watching!

Happy Travels!

In Sydney: Taronga Zoo

It was Christmas day 2008 and we woke up in a hotel room and it felt really damn weird. The sun had finally decided to show up and was scorching. My family were wondering what we would do on Christmas day away from home so I chimed in, I wanted to go to Taronga Zoo. I like zoos, I know the stuff people have against them and I understand but I still love learning about animals.
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The ferry trip over was fun, when we docked we could see the sky safari. I love cable cars, any opportunity to go on one I will take it! The ride is included in the ticket price.PhoebeGill081224125-2

Inside the entrance are the Koalas. They sleep a lot. There are opportunities to hold them for a small fee. I do hear they smell though. PhoebeGill081225310-3

There are lots of creatures in the park, when you are on the walkways don’t forget to look over the fence because thats where I saw this beautiful crane! PhoebeGill081225319-4

It’s is an amazing zoo for interactions. There are 5 animals you can visit and experience, each for an extra fee. There is a really cool (free) Kangaroo and Wallaby walk through where you are just wandering with these adorable (yet terrifying) marsupials. Wallabies were just there at my feet, I wanted to pet them but I didn’t, which I regret. PhoebeGill081225349-5

There are some amazing birds around the zoo. Definitely keep your eyes peeled, I spotted this amazing Purple Crowned Pigeon.  PhoebeGill081225372-6 More free things in the zoo are the zoo talks and demonstrations. I went to the bird show, the arena area looks over to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, really really nice. There were birds of pray and other exotic birds. The show is only 15 minutes long but it was really engaging and interesting.
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Although the zoo is quite expensive, it’s about €20 for an adult but there is loads to see and experience. I would definitely go back because there is so much more to see! Have you been to Taronga? Let me know your experience!

Happy Travels!

In Wicklow: My Happy Place

cover imageI don’t know what it is but when I am out driving, to clear my head, to get away from everything, I end up here. Possibly because of it’s beauty, maybe the breeze from the valley blows away the cobwebs or maybe because I have really happy memories attached to this place. Whatever it is it is a definite must see if you are travelling around Wicklow. cold

If you are travelling in Winter it will be very cold, do you see my face? I thought my fingers were going to fall off. Bring all of your layers! You will need them. Something I really recommend if you are freezing is to go for a walk, the Ballinastoe walk right by Lough Tay is the perfect walk to do if you need to get the feeling back in your body. PhoebeGill150227073

This walk is great for a tourist because of the boardwalk, if you are afraid of getting lost, don’t worry the path will guide you. It protects the landscape because it is such a travelled route. Bring some ankle support because the boards can get uneven in places and you don’t want to twist your ankle.

PhoebeGill150227043 The boardwalk goes all the way up to the base of the mountain, and because there has been so many visitors they have carved out the path in the mountain so it is very easy to follow. Untitled-1The main attraction is Lough Tay, this beautiful lake can be seen all along the road so there are many places to view it. Stopping off at any of them will give you the most amazing pictures! This area is amazing at all times of the year so whenever you are visiting you are sure to experience the best of the area.
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I love this area, it’s not far from South Dublin at all, it’s really accessible, lots of space to park your car and a great place to explore and get some great images! Have you been to this area? 

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: Self Driving in January

Let me preface this post by saying, I have never been in a Nordic/Scandinavian country during winter and I don’t have much experience with snow at all really.

Now I thought driving in Iceland would be a lot different to how it was. This first picture is what I thought the One road would be like, wet but clear roads but oh how I was wrong! I went on the 1 road and the 49 and the 36 roads. If you are not used to driving in snow, please be careful. You concentration levels go up and journeys take longer so factor that into your plans.

PhoebeGill150112068 The three days I was there, the weather was changeable and had strong winds. The roads for the first two days were like this photos below. All the roads where snowy and icy, all rental cars have studded winter tires which help dramatically.

I also went on a Grey Line tour, the busses are great on the snow and ice and it can take a lot of pressure and stress off your trip. A lot of people opt for Super Jeep tours (they look like a lot of fun) or bus tours. I think my Grey Line Golden Circle tour was around €65 per person. It was a full day from 10:30am – 7pm

PhoebeGill150111086 Tips for Self Driving:

  1. Weather changes very quickly. Pull over if you are nervous (In a safe place) and wait for it to pass.
  2. Go slow, Icelandic people can drive fast but you don’t have to, go slow, they will over take you.
  3. Watch the roundabouts, you can drift very easily.
  4. Remember, a journey that takes 2 hours might take you 4 or 5. It takes two and a half hours from Reykjavik to Vik but it took us over 5 hours, with breaks and the crazy weather changes and the fact you have to concentrate more.
  5. If you are driving around the country I recommend you have enough petrol, stop off and fill up the tank even if you don’t think you’ll need it. Just in case.
  6. If there are high winds, loose snow can cause really bad visibility, keep calm and find the yellow post at the side of the road. It is usually because you are in between a mountain, it will pass.

Some websites I recommend:

  1. How to drive in Iceland
  2. Road conditions for the whole of Iceland
  3. Safe Travel Iceland 
  4. 112 Iceland App

PhoebeGill150111590This photo above is what happens when loose snow is pushed by the wind. It is terrifying in the dark! Generally if you want to travel great distances you go first thing in the morning when its dark, make smart choices, you can always turn back.

Driving in Iceland was an experience! It is scary and difficult but it is kind of fun and you do get used to it. Just remember, never go into dangerous situations, keep calm and drive carefully.

Happy (Safe) Travels!
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In Iceland: Horses

There are Icelandic horses all over the Golden Circle and on the drive to Vík so there will always be a chance for you to stop and say hello.  I find these creatures fascinating. Firstly their purpose is tourism and meat. I think they have a few agricultural roles but that is not their main purpose. The breed is highly controlled, you can buy an Icelandic horse but once it has been outside of Iceland it can never return in fear of disease.  PhoebeGill150111587Icelandic horses are tough animals because they stay outdoors all the time. They huddle together and stand with their backs against the wind and snow to keep warm. Even though the horses are standing all day everyday in the harshest of weather but are still the most friendly creatures. If you stand at the fence for even the shortest amount of time they will come over to you and enjoy the attention. I could have stood there all day. PhoebeGill150111602

These animals are so soft and have such a wonderful temperament. I can’t wait to have more interactions with them in the future. The breed is quite interesting because they are the only horse to have all 5 gaits. Now I don’t horse ride but that sounds like an impressive quality to have. PhoebeGill150109054
One thing I really want to do is a tour on one of these wonderful creatures. Now when I went in January it was a snow storm risk so that may not be enjoyable and in Summer Iceland is plagued by midges so spring or autumn are times where I would consider going.

I have fallen in love with these animals, just a little.

Happy Travels!
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