What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah

“Wow, it’s hot”, I said the split second we exited Dubai International Airport. Despite the increasingly warm and humid summer we were having back home in New York, I wasn’t prepared for 103 degrees (F.) after roughly 13 hours on an air-conditioned flight.

Dubai had been one of those cities I had always anticipated visiting and here I was on a trip I hadn’t even expected to be on. Unfortunately, my visit to Dubai was shortlived (until a day trip later in the week) and we eagerly hopped into a car that would take us to Ras Al Khaimah, approximately 45-70 minutes from Dubai International Airport depending on your specific destination.

It was only two months prior to this trip that I had even heard of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates of the UAE that is often overshadowed by widely popular emirates like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Now home to several hotels (three Hilton), Ras Al Khaimah is beginning to become a stand-out UAE destination, thriving especially in the area of adventure sports tourism.

Thanks to an innovation challenge sponsored by George Washington University and the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, a partner from my graduate program and I not only landed the opportunity to visit this thriving emirate – but had done significant research on the area prior to our trip. And yet, it wasn’t until we had spent a few days experiencing all that Ras Al Khaimah has to offer that we fully began to appreciate the authentic attributes that separate it from other emirates.

Spend a Day in the Arabian Desert

Pictures are great – but until you visit in person you’ll never comprehend just how visually stunning (and a bit paralyzing) it is to stand amongst bright, rolling sand dunes that seem to stretch on for miles. But this scene is worth more than a photo op, and there are a variety of immersive experiences to really make the most of your time in the desert.

What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Al Wadi | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

  • Dune Bashing

Not for the faint of heart, dune bashing takes you on a rocky ride over the dunes. For those traveling solo or with a new group of friends, nothing brings people together more than dramatically slamming around a van with semi-deflated wheels as you take in the views. Despite the slow speed, dune bashing can be slightly nausea-inducing especially for those with weak stomachs or those who regularly experience car sickness, so visitors should limit their liquid intake beforehand.

 

 

 

 

  • The Falcon Show at The Ritz-Carlton, Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi

Falconry is actually a valued sport and custom within the United Arab Emirates, and it isn’t rare to come across a local who owns one of the country’s national birds. This show, which takes place daily at the luxurious Ritz Carlton Al Wadi provides spectators with the chances to learn about this naturalized bird as well as the Desert Eagle Owl and Barn Owl; but also provides visitors the opportunity to hold and take a close-up look at these gorgeous animals. But be prepared as these birds are a bit heavier than they appear.

What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert, Falcon Show | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

  • Sandboarding

Unfortunately, we were unable to fit sandboarding in our schedule; but this popular activity is perfect for those seeking an action-packed adrenaline rush during their visit to the desert which, due to the area’s climate, can be enjoyed year round.

What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Al Wadi | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

  • Feasting in the Desert

Included with many desert adventure packages is a BBQ dinner or an authentic buffet at Bedouin Oasis Camp. Unfortunately, we were limited on time and didn’t get to take part in this experience, where guests can often also enjoy belly dancing, musicians, and receive henna tattoos; but we did get to stroll the property which is stunning in its own right.

What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Bedouin Oasis Camp | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

  • Camel Views

A friend of mine mentioned during our trip that when you travel you realize “how much is the same but different.” As we drove past sand dunes adorned with camels, I couldn’t help but be reminded of driving past the green countryside in other counties, adorned with cows. Camel rides are also common when visiting the desert, but be sure to watch out for the tell-tale signs of a camel in distress or inadequate facilities.

What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Desert & Camel Views | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

Explore the Heritage Sites

  • Dhayah Fort

The area surrounding Dhayah Fort dates has apparently been settled since the third millennium BC, and now provides a mild hike, scenic views, and a piece of history. Throughout the years, Dhayah Fort has been used as both a settlement and a defense post – and is now one of the most popular historic sites in RAK.

What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Dhayah Fort | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

  • Al Jazirat Al Hamra: The Ghost Town

For history lovers, Al Jazirat Al Hamra provides an eerie forgotten piece of history. What once was a bustling community founded by a handful of tribes, eventually becoming home to 2,000 people, before finally eventually abandoned due to tribal conflict and frequent sandstorms. The ruins and remains of the town’s buildings are a photographer’s dream and a great way to get a feel of the past.

Head Into the Mountains

While many visitors head to Jebel Jais to take part in adventure sports, the area is also a prime location for photographers or travelers seeking out-of-this-world views. Viewing Deck Part, which is compromised of seven viewing decks provides views not only of the mountain range but also of the Arabian Gulf and the Al Hajar Mountain valleys. And if you’re able to catch the sunset, I highly recommend it.

What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Jebel Jais | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

I promise that zip lining 1.7 miles on your stomach like Superman is nowhere near as scary as it sounds – but definitely adrenaline-inducing and mind-blowing. What starts off as a millisecond of fear quickly turns to amazement as you take in the view of Jebel Jais. Once you land at the base, you’ll be re-hooked to a second, standard sit-position zip line that will take you down to the landing base. Be sure to book this activity in advanced as it does book out and is not one to be missed.

 

 

 

 

The Jebel Jais Via Ferrata combines hiking, climbing, and three zip lines with the spectacular view of Ras al Khaimah’s stunning mountain range. The Via Ferrata tour is approximately four hours long and ideal for thrillseekers.

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How do I travel around Ras al Khaimah?

While there is limited bus service to a couple of locations to and from the vicinity of Ras al Khaimah (as seen here), the primary form of transportation around RAK will be by taxi or rental car. Unfortunately, this region does not yet have the infrastructure for a full-fledged public transportation system. Thankfully, many tours from Ras al Khaimah include public transportation and will pick you up directly from your resort.

What should I wear while visiting Ras al Khaimah?

Technically, there are laws regarding dress though many aren’t strictly enforced. That being said, I believe that when traveling it is best to respect the culture of which you are immersing yourself in. You may also find yourself stopped in certain public locations, such as shopping malls, if what you are wearing is too revealing. During my trip, I primarily wore short sleeve t-shirts and loose-fitting, lightweight pants. However, while at the resort, guests did wear bikini bathing suits to the pool, and shorts around the hotel. In general, both men and women should try to keep their shoulders and knees covered when out and about. Religious sites, such as mosques, may require a women’s hair to be covered and even more modest attire. In general, when choosing what to wear, ask yourself two questions:

  1.  Am I comfortable? Remember that when visiting during the warmer months, that loose-fitting clothing will not only be more appropriate but a lot more comfortable. Try to wear fabrics that breathe and will not cause you to overheat.
  2. Will the locals be comfortable? You are in no way expected to dress in full abaya or anything, but there are ways to be comfortable yourself while also showing respect to the local customs.

When is the best time to visit?

Coming from New York, I was not used to the heat of Ras al Khaimah (around 103 degrees Fahrenheit in late September). December-March is probably the most comfortable months to visit in terms of temperature, if you’ve not spent much time in this part of the world.

What is the cuisine in Ras al Khaimah?

The cuisine of Ras al Khaimah is incredibly diverse – restaurants range from Arabian to Syrian to Chinese to Indian. Similar to Dubai, RAK is pretty westernized, so places like Popeyes, McDonald’s, PF Changs, etc. are incredibly commonplace – but for the best and most authentic experience, I recommend just strolling and stopping at one of the many mom-and-pop style restaurants. We did and had some exceptional meals that were often large enough to bring back to the hotel for later.

 

 

Get Your Guide: Ras Al Khaimah: Afternoon Desert Safari and BBQ Dinner | www.agreatbighunkofworld.comGet Your Guide: Jebel Jais Mountain Picnic from Ras Al Khaimah | www.agreatbighunkofworld.comGet Your Guide: Ras Al Khaimah 5-Hour City Tour | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

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Dole Whip Alternatives At Walt Disney World

Part of what makes a Dole Whip so enticing is its combination of creamy simplicity and pop of pineapple flavor. This cool and airy treat is ideal for the mid-day Florida heat and has inadvertently become a staple of the Disney resorts.

If you’re like me, you’ve yet to take a Disney trip without stopping by Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom. But now and then it’s fun to try an old favorite in a more sophisticated form.

1. The Pineapple Whip Swirl Cupcake

Pineapple Whip Swirl Cupcake | Disney World Dole Whip Alternatives | Disney Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

The Pineapple Whip Swirl Cupcake is located only at the Disney’s All-Star Music Resort food court, which is also home to several other fun cupcakes and mini cakes like the Disney Unicorn Cupcake. This cupcake starts with a vanilla cake and is topped with mild pineapple buttercream and vanilla sprinkles. The frosting is not too sweet, which is something I always look for, and the cake was incredibly moist; but the what brings this cupcake to another level is the pipette of pineapple gel which you can either inject into the cupcake or squeeze over top.

The gel is really what makes this cupcake even comparable to the Dole Whip as the pineapple frosting itself isn’t as poignant as I would’ve liked it to be. That being said, I was oddly surprised by the array of offerings at the Intermission Cafe food court and didn’t even mind having to take a bus ride over from the park just to try this.

2. The Peter Pan Float

Peter Pan Float | Disney World Dole Whip Alternatives | Disney Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

The Peter Pan Float can be found at Storybook Treats in the Magic Kingdom and has quickly become a favorite of the entire family. Unlike the Dole Whip, the base of this snack is a lime-flavored whip dropped into a cup of Sprite. Oddly enough this combination is quite light and refreshing, and was the perfect beverage to sip on in the 95-degree heat. Even the white chocolate Peter Pan feather atop the drink was delicious, and this comes from someone who is usually a strong opponent to white chocolate.

3. The Whipped Pineapple Eclair

Whipped Pineapple Eclair at Amotette's | Disney World Dole Whip Alternatives | Disney Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Amorette’s is one of the newer shops that has popped up in Disney Springs, and as the name suggests, gives off an air of walking into a bakery in the middle of Paris. I’ve eaten very few eclairs in my life so I can’t do much in terms of comparison, but I can say that this dessert was pretty tasty for what it was.

The pastry portion almost tasted like a toasted baguette rather than a donut like I had expected. The pineapple cream that tops the pastry is the same cream that fills the eclair, which is the only downside in my opinion. While the cream is delicious and light, it packs a hard punch of pineapple flavor – so I’m not sure a double dose of it was needed. The design atop is made of white chocolate, and not much to write home about but the mini macaron (aka. the mini pineapple design) was adorable and a nice addition.

4. Dole Whip Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Dole Whip Pineapple Upside Down Cake | Disney World Dole Whip Alternatives | Disney Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Of all Dole Whip forms, this may be my absolute favorite. Unlike the pineapple eclair from Amorette’s, the double dose of pineapple flavor in this case contrast enough that they pair well without being overbearing. The cake itself was on the warmer side but not hot, which was probably for the best considering how warm it was outside already. The Dole Whip Pineapple Upside Down Cake can be found at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom along with the original Dole Whip. While it may be a hard decision between the two, I highly recommend trying this snack at least once.

5. Dole Whip with Rum

Dole Whip with Rum | Disney World Dole Whip Alternatives | Disney Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

In the words of Captain Jack Sparrow, “Why is the rum gone?” Well, probably because it’s being used to elevate the traditional Dole Whip to the next level. This adult-delight can be found at Animal Kingdom’s Tamu Tamu Refreshments at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as well as Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian Resort. The dark rum pairs perfectly with the pineapple soft serve and is an excellent treat for parents after waiting in lines for hours on end, or even for parents who’ve just lounged by the pool.

Dole Whips have solidified their place as a Disney snack front-runner. But these snacks have definitely proven that regardless of the shape, size, and customization, you can’t go wrong with a Dole Whip.

 

Disney World Dole Whip Alternatives | Disney Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

A Review of Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites Hotel

Generally speaking, I try to avoid airport hotels. When possible, I’d always prefer to stay within the city center and avoid any additional transportation fees. Being further from the city or town center, I also feel that you often miss out on that immersive experience that stems from “living” in the area that you are visiting.

In an odd turn of events, procrastinating on booking a hotel for our most recent long-weekend in Chicago meant that we were very limited on hotels within our budget. And so we ended up booking two nights at the Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites Hotel.

Renaissance Chicago O'Hare Suites Hotel | Hotel Review | Chicago Hotels | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

From beginning to end our stay exceeded expectations. I’d assume it’s not always easy to throw on a cheery face and greet each guest with enthusiasm when it gets to be midnight and check-ins have slowed, but that was exactly what we experienced upon arrival at the Renaissance Chicago. We were offered brochures, guides to local attractions, and a map of the train system, which not only eased our stress after three flight delays, but also showcased the hotel’s hospitality and their employees willingness to ensure we had a excellent trip.

Our interactions with the other teammates at Renaissance Chicago O’Hare followed a similar suit.

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While we didn’t fully take in the lavish minimalism of the lobby at first, seeing as were were both ready to knock out, we were able to take it in the following morning on our way out for the day. Complete with wood finishes, a modern fireplace, and a few overhead twinkle lights, this hotel manages to feel modern and warm simultaneously.

Renaissance Chicago O'Hare Suites Hotel | Hotel Review | Chicago Hotels | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Upon entry to our room, we were amazed by the size; pictures did not do these guest rooms justice. We loved how the main section of the room was divided into two segments, one for the beds, and another designed as a sitting area. The television, which sits on an island between the two sections, also spins making it viewable regardless of where you’re relaxing.

The room is pretty simple in terms of design, but the photograph behind the beds which is meant to portray a window overlooking the Chicago skyline added a little something extra.

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Having a Starbucks in the hotel lobby, especially one that opens at 5:30AM on weekdays — perfect for those with early flights out – was great, but on our second morning we decided to try out breakfast in the hotel dining room. Guests have the option of either a continental breakfast, a buffet breakfast, or specific entree off of the hotel’s breakfast menu. My boyfriend had sprung for the buffet breakfast, while I went with the crunchy french toast, which is a delicious french toast coated in frosted flakes and topped with bananas and strawberries.

Renaissance Chicago O'Hare Suites Hotel | Hotel Review | Chicago Hotels | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

While we both left satisfied, my only caveat is with the value. The continental breakfast runs about $10 per person, while the buffet breakfast runs about $21 a person. While that price isn’t excessive for most buffets, it does seem a bit high for a hotel buffet breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast. The food itself was tasty and cooked well, but the price may be a bit steep for larger families and is similar to what may pay per person at a restaurant within the city.

Renaissance Chicago O'Hare Suites Hotel | Hotel Review | Chicago Hotels | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Finally, while the hotel stands on the outskirts of Chicago, it is only a two minute walk from a train station where you can catch the Blue Line directly to the city center  and couple of blocks from Millennium Park. According to Apple Maps, the train ride from our hotel to the city should’ve taken approximately 45 minutes. However, we rode the train to-and-from the city two days in a row and the ride never exceeded 25 minutes. So in terms of transportation, being so close to a train station makes travel affordable and convenient.

And let’s not forget that being near the airport can often be an advantage in itself. The Renaissance Chicago O’Hare is one of several hotels that offers complimentary 24-hour shuttle service to-and-from the O’Hare airport, so you won’t have to worry about additional Uber fees.

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites Hotel. The hospitality, design, and close proximity to public transportation made it a winner for us – and we’d highly recommend it for those who either prefer to be further from the action, or who may be seeking an alternative to city center accommodations.

Renaissance Chicago O'Hare Suites Hotel | Hotel Review | Chicago Hotels | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days

When it comes to U.S. cities, I’m always going to be a bit bias to my hometown, New York. Between the constant movement, the air of ambition, and the best bagels and pizza you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating after a long night out, it’s hard not to be. C’mon, Frank Sinatra even got famous for singing all about it.

But Sinatra also had another song called “Chicago”, a city he regularly discussed his love for. And considering how difficult it is to go a day in Chicago without hearing him blaring over the radio, I think it’s safe to say Chicago loved him back. And just like his song “Chicago”, which was simple and catchy, this city will have you relishing in it’s urban simplicity and humming along as you stroll down State Street. I’ve been to a few cities, but Chicago is one I could see myself going back to again and again – hopefully for longer than a weekend next time.

But luckily, due to the compact size and design, you can still experience a whole lot of Chicago in just a couple of days

DAY 1:

Pre-Breakfast at Goddess & the Baker

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Goddess and the Baker

Goddess & the Baker had been recommended to us by quite a few people, and while the breakfast menu didn’t call out to me, their baked goods definitely did. Of their most popular offerings, one is their rainbow cake, which you may have scrolled passed on your Instagram feed one or two times. Since we had a half hour to kill before our breakfast spot of choice opened up, we decided “why not” and decided to get a slice of that tempting rainbow cake at 9 am.

Let me start off by saying that other than Dominican cake (#DominicanPride), I’m not really a cake person. But this cake was like no other I have ever tried. I’m not sure how they were able to make this as moist as they did or what flavorings (but I’m thinking extra vanilla) they added into their mix, but we wanted to savor every single bite of it. The cake is also topped with almost whipped-cream style frosting that wasn’t overbearingly sweet like many others.

I literally did a Google search to see if it was possible to have one of their cakes delivered to New York, if you need it’s perfection put into context.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Goddess and the Baker

 

Grab Brunch at the Gage

Any restaurant with an Irish breakfast and corned beef hash on the menu is a place I’d like to be. In case you’re wondering, I went with the latter. The Gage is an American restaurant with slight Irish undertones and sits right across the street from Millennium Park, providing a tourist’s perfect view if you choose to eat outside.

We did and ended up regretting it once the heat spiked but despite being slightly uncomfortable, my boyfriend said he’d dream about his side of Gage potatoes and I’d rank my corned beef hash in the top three I’ve ever had.

Pro Tip: Winters in Chicago may be notoriously cold, but their summer heat can be unbearable. We went over Memorial Day weekend and were hit with 92 degree weather both days, so make sure to check the forecast beforehand and be aware that Chicago’s temperatures tend to be a bit extreme.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | The Gage

Take a  Walk Through Millennium Park

They say you can’t leave Millennium Park without taking a mirror picture in Cloud Gate, also known as the Bean – but I found the Bean to be way less worth dodging a crowd for than waiting ten minutes to watch random faces “spit” water at Crowne Fountain.

I know schedules can be tight, and you may have an urge to take that prized photo of “the bean” and run, but there are so many hidden gems of Millennial Park. During our stroll we ended up coming across several small gardens we had no idea were there.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Crowne Fountain in Millennium Park

Spend a Few Hours at the Field Museum

We had a tough time choosing between the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, but considering that this museum is much closer proximity to where we were spending out day, and online reviews seemed to lean towards the Field Museum, it didn’t take us long to make a decision.

Admission ranges from $24-$38 depending on the ticket you choose, though the middle option, which includes General Admission and admission to one 3D movie seemed perfect for us. But honestly, the museum is so expansive, you’d probably have a great experience with General Admission alone.

You’re greeted at the Field Museum by Sue, a 67-million year old T-rex. From there you can visit an ecolodge to an Egyptian pyramid.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | The Field Museum

Grab a Classic Chicago Style Hot Dog

We spent many a Google search trying to find out where to get the best hot dog in Chicago – in the end, just like in New York, the best hot dogs can usually be found at a random hot dog stand. Lucky for us, we spotted a hot dog stand right outside of the Field Museum almost as if it were waiting for us. This stand not only offered classic hot dogs, but vegetarian and turkey options as well, which is great for people who enjoy that but I already knew I was getting a classic with all the Chicago goodness (a.k.a pickle spear, relish, onions, and mustard).

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Chicago Style Hot Dog | Chicago Eats

Let Out Your Inner Athlete at the Chicago Sports Museum

The Chicago Sports Museum is located inside the Water Tower Place mall along the Magnificent Mile with a price of admission of only $10! On top of that, it’s one of the smaller, lesser known museums so we almost had the entire place to ourselves. The concept is pretty similar to that of the NFL Experience in Times Square, combining nostalgic sports adverts and equipment with interactive experiences. Guests can compete as a goalie with Blackhawks, jump on the court with Bulls, or stay behind the scenes desk recreated to look like that of the late Harry Caray’s – an American sports broadcaster.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Chicago Sports Museum

Have an Authentic Italian Meal at Rosebud on Rush

Let me start off by saying that Rosebud on Rush was a long-time favorite of stars like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, and Robert Redford, so if you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of legends, add this spot to your list. Second, the atmosphere makes you feel as if you’ve been transported back to Chicago in the 1940’s. Finally, there food was so good that I literally texted all of my closest friends back home in New York, just to tell them that I finally found a city to compete. My pappardelle was the perfect texture and was cooked to perfection (and in-house that very day). Should I go back to Chicago, this place will always be in the itinerary. And to think, we only ate here because the line at Giordano’s was around the block; so thankful for that!

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Rosebud on Rush | Chicago Eats

Wrap Up Your Day with the Navy Pier Fireworks

I’m a Disney World fanatic, meaning most firework shows do not reach my standards and the Navy Pier Fireworks are no exception. However, as a relaxing way to wrap up a jam-packed day with Lake Michigan as the backdrop in one direction and the Centennial Wheel as the backdrop in another, it’s a fun add-on. Unfortunately we didn’t have time this day to actually enjoy the Navy Pier, but we were glad to not have missed visiting entirely.

Pro Tip: Should you decide to end your night at the Navy Pier, analyze your transportation options fully before going. By the end of the firework display, the amount of people leaving was so many that we, and many others, experienced almost 45 minute “searching for a driver” Uber and Lyft waits. Chicago has a decent subway system, but most stops actually leave you a few blocks (or quite a distance) from the main attractions, including the Navy Pier, so public transportation wasn’t an option. Regular cabs were even up-charging up to $40 for a not-worth-40-bucks ride to the train station. Eventually, we decided to walk a few blocks and came across the most awesome cab driver who charged us just $10 to get to the station, and from there it was just a 25 minute ride to our hotel on the blue line.


DAY 2:

Spend a Morning at the Adler Planetarium

There are three admission options for the Adler Planetarium: General Admission, which gives you access to the museum only; the Basic Pass, which gives you access to the museum and one sky show; and the Anytime All Access Pass, which gives you access to the museum on any date of your choosing, one sky show, and access to the Historic Atwood Sphere Experience – but most of the salespeople will tell you that the Basic Pass provides enough for one day.

With this pass we were able to spend a couple of hours scoping out each unique exhibit, ranging from topics like Astronomy in Culture and A Walk Through Space and Time, as well as one interactive star show in the dome-shaped planetarium.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Adler Planetarium

Take in the View of Lake Michigan

A few feet from the Adler Planetarium you’ll find you a short stairway leading your directly towards Lake Michigan, which provides a relaxing and scenic view after a few hours roaming the museum. On a beautiful day like ours, it almost felt as if we were relaxing along the coast in California, with the blue water and Chicago skyline in the background. If you remember your bathing suit, you can even hop in for a quick dip along this “tar beach”.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Lake Michigan

Grab a Churro at La Bodega

If you’re thinking that this spot sounds like a hipster bodega, you are absolutely correct; but I’m in no position to judge a shop that focuses solely on coffee, hot sauce, tacos, and various flavored churros. Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds, plus there’s an assortment of piñatas hanging from the ceiling.

We ended up getting a couple of coffees, as well as a Red Velvet churro and a Fruity Pebbles churro. While the Red Velvet option was good, Fruity Pebbles was the real winner due to the creamy filling. We didn’t grab any tacos on this round, but we did get to enjoy the delicious aroma of some being cooked in the back, and it was almost enough to make us consider a pre-lunch lunch.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | La Bodega | Chicago Eats

Stroll Along Riverwalk

While Memorial Day weekend meant the river was packed with private yachts (apparently everyone in Chicago owns one?) and tour cruises, we couldn’t leave without checking out one of Chicago’s staple locations. We actually stood along the river, sipping what remained of our coffees for a good half hour just taking in the scene – and also questioning how such an urban city managed to keep their waterways looking so clean.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Chicago Riverwalk

Get a Cliché Snap of the Chicago Theater

The Chicago Theater is not only one of the most legendary venues in the city, but it’s also a widely popular landmark. The theater was one of the most visited movie theaters from 1925-1940 and post-restoration, now serves as a venue for concerts and tours.

How to Experience Chicago in Two Days | Weekend Trips | US Travel | Chicago, Illinois | AGBHOW | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Chicago Theater

Grab a Quick and Delicious Lunch from Nando’s

If you’re from Chicago, Washington D.C., or parts of Maryland, you may have always known about the culinary magic that is Nando’s. If you’re not, you may have had your first experience with the not-so-fast fast food spot abroad in the U.K. We had Nando’s for the first time in Ireland where we willingly ate it, and I kid you not, three times in seven days. Nando’s centers around chicken and Mozambican-Portuguese flavors, but unlike other “fast-food” chicken spots, this chicken is grilled fresh on a grill right in front of you after it’s dipped in one of their several tasty marinades. In fact, a majority of their sides are even completely healthy. Okay, maybe not the garlic bread but it’s made on Portuguese bread, so I’d suggest saying “to heck with it” and ordering it anyway.

 

Catch a Cubs Game at Wrigley Field

Whether you’re a die-hard baseball fan or someone who just enjoys cracker jacks and the roar of the crowd, you can’t miss out on the opportunity to catch a Cubs game if you’re in Chicago during the season. We were able to get two 400-level seats (a.k.a, the best seats anyway) for about $32 each on Stubhub, but they weren’t going for much more on the official Wrigley site.

The appeal of Wrigley is it’s old-school design, which provides an entirely different feel than fields like Yankee Stadium. While the tech leaves something to be desired (we couldn’t hear a thing broadcasted over the speakers), it’s worth visiting for the nostalgia value alone.

Pro Tip: Don’t splurge on overpriced Cubs swag at Wrigley Field. There’s a sports store right across the street that had a bargain bin of $10 Cubs t-shirts that served us just as well.

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10 Must-Pack Items for a Winter Trip to Iceland

Visiting Iceland in the winter provides some of the most beautiful scenery and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. That being said, winter in Iceland can also be notoriously unpredictable and weather can change quicker than you can say, “wow, I should’ve brought that face mask.” During my recent trip to Iceland, I can honestly say that for the most part, I was prepared. But there were definitely a couple of items I wish I had thought about purchasing, that would’ve saved me from some missteps along the way.

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10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

1. A Portable Charger

  • I’m personally super biased towards the EVOTech Labs 3-Port Charger. Not only does this charger hold 3-5 charges depending on the type of phone or device that you have, but since I was traveling with a group of six, being able to charge three phones at once was a huge time saver. I’d charge our EVOTech each night and by the next morning we were good to go on charge for most of our day. And since cold weather is the kryptonite of iPhones, this was one of the best items we purchased for our trip.

10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

2. A Wireless Travel Router

  • A Wireless Travel Router is a definite must-have – whether you’re a die-hard Instagrammer trying to not to use up a week’s worth of data in an hour, or you’re lost and in need of some Google maps. We had actually purchased a portable hotspot with our car rental, but ended up carrying the little pod in one of our pocket’s everywhere where we went, giving us access to wi-fi for the entirety of our trip.
  • 10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

3. A Balaclava

  • During high winds in Iceland, which you’ll most definitely experience especially if you head up north in the winter time, you’ll have to deal with what feels like a slap in the face from the wind if you don’t make an effort to keep it covered. On our day exploring most of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, my Self Pro Balaclava saved me from crazy wind burn and helped me power through the harsh weather. Since I frequently try to persuade those around me to visit cooler regions, I’m definitely going to put this to good use.

10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

4. Crampons

  • Let me start off by saying that I chose not to purchase crampons or shoe chains before my winter trip to Iceland. Let me follow up by saying that I was about a foot from falling off of the Londrangar cliffs after slipping on black ice that I was unable to see. We laughed it off later, but it was actually a scary experience knowing that I could’ve ended up in the rough, freezing oceans below. For something so cheap and so potentially useful – be sure to purchase these before you go. Check out these OuterStar Traction Grips, at recommendation from the friend who stopped me from falling over the side of a cliff.

10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

5. Under Layer Clothing

  • I did a decent size shopping at Uniqlo and Under Armour prior to our trip, and I’d definitely recommend these two brands for under-clothing when visiting any highly cold region. Uniqlo has some awesome thin but warm leggings for both men and women, that can fit under your pants without discomfort. I also grabbed some long sleeve shirts from both spots that were thin enough to go under all the sweaters I had packed without causing overheating. Since my go-to outwear in cold weather are my North Face Fleece and Spyder Jacket, I wanted something warm, but that was thin enough to put over my shirts – but would also fit comfortably under both jackets. I ended up coming across spotting the Under Armour Women’s Tech 1/2 Zip and ordered it in Carbon Heather. Pro Tip: Packing for Iceland is all about the layers.

10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

6. Tech Gloves

  • Aside from your face and ears, exposing your fingers for even a few seconds can be unnecessarily painful. A couple of my friends experienced agony every time they took off their gloves to take photos on their phone. To avoid this, tech gloves are a great purchase. They allow you to use any touch screen as they’re designed with touch pads on the tip of each finger. Having had less-than-expected experiences with tech gloves in the past, I was a bit wary when ordering a new pair, but the OZERO Touchscreen Gloves worked like a charm. They’re listed as for men, but gloves are gloves and these had better reviews than some of the unisex pairs I had seen. Though, a guy friend of mine who purchased the same gloves suggests men order a size up.

10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

7. Hot Hands

  • When you forget your gloves or when you need something warm to stick in your pockets, HotHands are the perfect little sack of warmth. Growing up in New York, it wasn’t uncommon for our parents to purchase value packs of HotHands for us to carry on cold winter mornings, and naturally I had to bring some with me. Plus, I was able to be the hero for any of my friends who forgot their tech gloves.

10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

8. Winter Boots

  • Please do not try to manage the winter snow of Iceland in a pair of Nike sneakers or leather boots that are made for appearance rather than practicality. If you only wear one pair of shoes your entire trip, and I actually did, you’ll want a pair of winter boots that are warm and that keep your feet dry. While the streets of Reykjavik weren’t much of a problem when we visited in February, we battled some semi-deep snow when hiking through Thingvellir National Park. My boots of choice were SOREL Women’s Winter Carnival Snow Boots, which managed to water out even when I was walking through slush puddles.

10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

9. Hand Lotion

In general, I cannot stand when my hands are too dry, and this only worsens in winter time. Combine that with the cold, dry air of Iceland and I’d have been complaining non-stop if it weren’t for J.R. Watkins Hand Cream. For starters, ingredients include cocoa butters, aloe, and green tea which from experience, are some of the best ingredients when it comes to natural beauty products. But unlike many other hand creams, this one also doesn’t leave that semi-greasy residue that can be more irritating than dry hands.

10 Must-Pack Items For a Winter Trip to Iceland | Iceland Packing List | Iceland Travel | #AGHBHOW | ww.agreatbighunkofworld.com

10. Protein Bars

  • You’ll find that when traveling Iceland, more commonly when you leave Reykjavik and the surrounding area, that many restaurants are closed for the winter. While we were able to find a couple of spots that kept their doors open, having a box of protein bars in my bag was a huge savior especially during those long stretches of road. At one point, when we had to pull over due to a sudden close-to-zero-visibility snowstorm for a couple of hours, everyone was glad I had some Special K Meal bars to go around. Plus, if we’re being honest, food in Iceland isn’t cheap. Some protein bars and a pack of Skyr can you a decent amount on breakfasts.

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Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards

Let me start off by saying that I have drank boxed wine with the same satisfaction and enthusiasm as a $60 bottle, so to say that I am a wine connoisseur would be a ridiculous overstatement.

That being said, I do know things: what I like and pleasant experiences.

What stemmed from a brainstorming session between a friend and I when trying to decide where to spend a short weekend resulted in in, “why don’t we go drink wine in the Hamptons?” Southampton, specifically.

Southampton is primarily known for two things: It’s close proximity to several North Fork wineries and The Big Duck.

“What is the big duck?!”, you may have just exclaimed. Well, it’s literally a giant duck made of concrete. Built in 1913, the Big Duck was a shop that sold both ducks and duck eggs (not-so-ironically), but now stands as Southampton’s cutest souvenir shop and information center.

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Anyway, back to wine – Being that this was such a short trip, and we had essentially planned for just one full-day of winery hopping, we spent some time looking up various Long Island wineries and narrowed our choices down to two. Well, actually we narrowed it down to four but let’s just say, some of the wine was too good for just a sample.

While we knew right away which of the two wineries was the clear winner, we could definitely break down our reasoning it into four categories: atmosphere, hospitality, wine, and munchies.

Atmosphere

When you first pull up into the Paumanok Vineyards parking lot, you’re face-to-face with the vineyard from which they yield the grapes for their wine. As we were visiting in April, the actual vineyard was pretty bare, but it still provided a beautiful and relaxing view that got us excited for the remainder of the weekend.

Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards | The Hamptons | Wine Travel | AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World

The interior of Paumanok Winery gives off a very minimal, New England feel, boasting a blue and white color scheme along with wood finishes. But it’s the view from the outside deck that really makes Paumonok a complete experience.

With only two other small parties, we were able to have a seat anywhere we preferred and enjoy the beautiful weather while not having to scream over the loud chatter of others.

Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards | The Hamptons | Wine Travel | AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World

Alternatively, Jamesport Vineyards provides a more rustic, barn house atmosphere, which I adored. There is definitely more of a laid-back vibe when compared to Paumonak, and we noticed that the main crowd was a tad bit younger and close to our age. One thing that bothered me a bit was that despite the many windows, the interior could’ve used some artificial light. Sitting in the dark wasn’t too appealing.

Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards vs. Jamesport Vineyards | The Hamptons | Wine Travel | AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World

Jamesport Vineyards seems like the type of place that may be a lot more vibrant and well-managed later in the season, but our experience at their outdoor seating area involved, an empty bar, unleveled seats, a door that kept locking everyone outside, and one too many loud parties (though that is not at fault of the winery). While we could’ve spent hours lounging at Paumonak, Jamesport just didn’t give us that warm feeling.

Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards | The Hamptons | Wine Travel | AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World

Atmosphere Score:

Paumonak: 5/5

Jamesport: 2.5/5

Hospitality

When we first entered Paumonak Winery, we were quickly greeted and passed a menu, which described the wines currently offered in tasting, glass, and bottle options as well as some choices of light fare. Our bartender was hospitable, and worked quickly getting us some tasting samples to share almost as soon as we had ordered.

Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards | The Hamptons | Wine Travel | AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World

The bartender at Jamesport was just as friendly and efficient despite dealing with a sizably larger crowd than that at Paumonak. We did have to shoulder our way passed a handful of groups once we were ready to go, but we were still able to make our purchases and close out our tab in under two minutes. Having worked in retail, I always appreciate those who are easily able to manage multiple parties without diminishing their efficiency.

Hospitality Score:

Paumonak: 5/5

Jamesport: 5/5

Wine

Not being huge fan of dry wines, we decided to sample Paumonak’s Vin Rose and Semi Dry Riesling. Both were delicious, not too acidic but full of vibrant flavor. In terms of wine quality, you could definitely taste how much time and effort went into making each one. Deciding that the Riesling was the winner of the two we sampled, we almost opted for two glasses before realizing that for almost the same price, we could get a whole bottle. And, honestly, that just seemed like the only option.

At Jamesport Vineyard, we decided to jump the gun and order a glass each of the East End Rose, which ” evokes flavors of peach, strawberry, honeysuckle and fresh flowers” and the Estate Demi-Sec Riesling 2013 with “aromas of orange blossom honey, elder, and cider” based on their amazing sounding descriptions alone. While the descriptions, at least for the latter, noted the acidity, these were both a bit too acidic for me. I could definitely pick up some of the flavor notes but due to the harsh aftertaste, we almost found ourselves having to force ourselves to finish each glass.

Wine Score:

Paumonak: 4.5/5

Jamesport: 3/5

Munchies

Since nothing pairs better with wine than cheese, we decided on Paumonak’s Cabot Cheddar for our small plate. We weren’t expecting anything mind-blowing, but for only twelve dollars we received some of the most perfectly-sliced, high quality cheddar I have ever tasted. It was rich, solid but creamy and when eaten with the crisp baguette was a perfect combination for our Riesling. Our cheddar was served on a wooden cutting board and was perfect for lovers of culinary presentation and of those who love a good food shot.

Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards | The Hamptons | Wine Travel | AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World

Already having had our fill of cheese, my friend suggested we order some prosciutto with our wine at Jamesport Vineyards. Let me start off by saying that while our prosciutto was smoky and delicious, and we definitely brought the remaining back with us to eat later in the night, the presentation was seriously lacking. As mentioned above, I’m a sucker for presentation, but we could’ve easily picked up a packet of Italian meats at a local grocery store on our own. A little effort or plating could have made this so much more than what it was.

Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards | The Hamptons | Wine Travel | AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World

Munchies Score:

Paumonak: 5/5

Jamesport: 3/5

Both wineries had little special touches not found at the other. Jamesport provided a small section of items to purchase, and we did end up grabbing some jarred garlic pickles. Paumonak on the other hand provided more than just wine, but an entire experience. We also felt that the value was more than worth it. A bottle of wine, a small cheese plate, and two samples only ran us about $40.

If the opportunity arose to just do just one, I would highly recommend Paumonak as your vineyard of choice. Despite the wine not being some of my personal favorite, and once again I would consider myself far from a wino, I do think Jamesport has the opportunity to at least be a more vibrant place to visit when the weather is on the warmer end. But based on our most recent experience, you can definitely find more worthwhile vineyards in the area.

But regardless of where you choose to spend your time and drink your wine, you’ll definitely want to stop by Main Road Biscuit Co. to cure your potential wine hangover the next day. In my experience any cafe with the word “biscuit” in it, usually knows what they’re doing. Upon entering the cafe, you’re greeted by a display case of various cakes, scones, and biscuits – but save the extra purchases until after breakfast.

Wining in Southampton: Paumanok Vineyards & Jamesport Vineyards | The Hamptons | Wine Travel | AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World

My friend ended up ordering the Main Road Biscuit Breakfast, which comes with two eggs any style, a buttermilk biscuit, your choice of grits, hash browns, or local mixed greens, and your choice of bacon, sausage, or avocado. I ended up going with the Buttermilk Oat Pancakes with maple butter and topped with blueberry compote. Simple, classic, but so flavorful and perfectly cooked. Of course before we left, we were caught scanning the bakery display and asked if we’d like to add anything to our bill as if that were even a question. FYI, I had never had bread pudding in muffin form prior to this visit, but I’d like to eat it once a day.

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David Bowie Is…at the Brooklyn Museum

Upon entering the David Bowie Is exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, one of the first plaques reads, “David Bowie showed us we could be who we wanted to be.” During his lifetime, David Bowie played an array of characters, held several alter-egos, and redefined self-invention – a theme that is strewn throughout the exhibit.

 

David Bowie Is .. at the Brooklyn Museum | Things to Do in New York City | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

The traveling exhibit, which premiered at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013 has made it’s final stop at the final home of David Bowie, and will be opened to visitors until July 15th, 2018.

 

Admission to David Bowie Is is $25 on weekends, $20 on weekdays, and does allow you to roam other areas of the museum upon completion of viewing the exhibit. The Brooklyn Museum often falls into the shadows of the large museums of Manhattan, but is outstanding and worth a full visit.

 

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Visitors are equipped with headsets and audio devices that automatically tune to the correct podcast depending on the visitors current location within the exhibit. While visitors can expect some of Bowie’s greatest hits, rare interview and audio clips make up a large part of the audio tour.

 

The intimate clips combined with some of Bowie’s personal sketches and notes, including costume designs and set lists, leave you feeling as if you’re receiving a personal tour from Bowie himself.

 

David Bowie Is .. at the Brooklyn Museum | Things to Do in New York City | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

Visitors will also get to see several of Bowie’s most popular stage costumes, each eccentric and unique to the phase of life or music he was currently in. But the exhibit also outlines some of Bowie’s darker times, such as his struggles with addiction and fame, portrayed through one of his personas the “Thin White Duke.”

 

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David Bowie once said, “I don’t see any boundaries between any of the art forms. I think they all inter-relate completely.” While many may enter this exhibit with the hopes of learning the inspiration behind Bowie, the musician, most will leave knowing a bit more of the creativity and influence behind David – the musician, painter, mime, and philosopher.

David Bowie Is .. at the Brooklyn Museum | Things to Do in New York City | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

David Bowie was and is many things, but I believe many would agree that he was extraordinary figure who could not be labeled. In essence, David Bowie is and always was, just David Bowie.

David Bowie Is .. at the Brooklyn Museum | Things to Do in New York City | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

David Bowie Is .. at the Brooklyn Museum | Things to Do in New York City | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

An Open Letter to Us All on Earth Day

Over the last few years, we’ve heard of several grim discoveries due to climate change, like the ice of Greenland and Antarctica melting significantly faster than predicted; or the prediction that more than 90% of earth’s once vibrant coral reefs will be dead by the year 2050.

An Open Letter to Us All on Earth Day | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | sustainable travel

We’ve witnessed things that will go down in history for the most dreadful reasons, like the death of Sudan, the last male White Northern Rhino who survived 45-years after being captured and placed in captivity, before finally being brought to a wildlife conservatory in Kenya. Similarly we’ve seen species that once ran rampant decline in numbers until they were barely in existence.

And unfortunately, we’ve also seen policies implemented and reversed, that threaten the futures of several species – and that reduce their existence to nothing more than a challenge to win, or a trophy to be hung on a wall or to hang from someone’s wrist.

An Open Letter to Us All on Earth Day | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | sustainable travel

We’ve experienced and watched the virtually endless succession of natural disasters all across the world that have affected entire cities, entire regions, and entire families. We’ve witnessed the challenges that these communities face when trying to rebuild.

And unfortunately, we’ve also had the displeasure of listening to skeptics who refuse to acknowledge the negative actions that have played a role in these catastrophes.

An Open Letter to Us All on Earth Day | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | sustainable travel

We’ve heard horror stories, such as that of a sperm whale washing up on the shores of Spain with a stomach filled with 64 pounds of plastic, and of towns plagued by toxic drinking water, where many are facing crippling health affects due to consumption.

At times it’s hard not to cradle your head in your hands and think, “Look what we’re doing. Look what we’ve done.”

An Open Letter to Us All on Earth Day | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | sustainable travel

And yet, just when we feel we’ve gone too far and that all the damage caused is irreversible, we bare witness to how much of a difference a small group of people can make. And we see how strong mother earth is despite all of the strikes against her.

Though we’ve seen many species fall to the demise of extinction, there have also been discoveries of over six dozen new species of plants and animals in the past year.

An Open Letter to Us All on Earth Day | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | sustainable travel

We’ve seen the Chesapeake Bay, at one point one of the most polluted estuaries in the United States, regrow a substantial amount of seagrass due to new farming and sewage methods, and the actions of volunteers.

We’ve seen children with vision clearer than those triple their age take action to better our planet, such as sisters Melati and Isabel Wisjen who’ve set a goal to make their home island of Bali plastic-free.

An Open Letter to Us All on Earth Day | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | sustainable travel

And when we see how much has been done and how much can be done, we can say much more enthusiastically, “Look at what we’re doing! Look at what we’ve done.”

And so what it comes down to is which side you’d like to have the largest hand in; whether you’d like to be the hand that drops the bottle or the one that picks up the shovel and helps. Whether you’d like to be the one who takes a stand and takes a conscious look at your actions, or the one who turns a blind eye.

And so my challenge to everyone this Earth Day (or a few day’s late) is to take a step back and ask yourself, “What have I been doing?”

And then do better.

An Open Letter to Us All on Earth Day | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | sustainable travel

 

An Open Letter to Us All on Earth Day | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | sustainable travel

How to Spend St.Paddy’s Day Weekend in Boston, Massachusetts

Let’s be honest, if there is any place I’d most want to spend St. Patrick’s Day, it would be in Boston.

Okay, maybe Ireland would be my first choice, but Boston is definitely a close second despite my aversion to overpacked bars and unnecessary chaos. In fact, compared to some of the St. Paddy’s day celebrations I have witnessed in my own state, the one’s in Boston are relatively calm. Boston is a fun weekend getaway for those in the Northeast in general, but come St. Patrick’s Day weekend, there are even more experiences to be hard.

  1. See the Dropkick Murphy’s live from Boston’s House of Blues.

Attending a Dropkick Murphy’s concert during St. Patrick’s Day weekend has become a staple event when visiting Boston for the holiday. The Dropkick Murphy’s are one of those bands that are absolutely fantastic live regardless of where and when you see them; but even the upper-mezzanine seats at Boston’s House of Blues give you access to a great view and two bars with drink prices that won’t break the bank. The band even brings out a bagpipe player for tracks like “The Spicy McHaggis Jig” and Irish step dancers for their most popular song, “Shipping Off to Boston”, making this a pinnacle of Irish festivities in Boston.

How to Spend St.Paddy's Day Weekend in Boston, MA | Northeast, United States Travel | St. Patrick's Day | AGBHOW | agreatbighunkofworld.com

2. Grab a post-concert sweet Italian sausage outside of the House of Blues.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably end up grabbing a pre-concert sausage to inhale while waiting on line to enter the venue as well. During concerts and ballgames at Fenway park, you’ll find these sausage stands up, running, and waiting to serve street delicacies like hot dogs, sausages, and beef tips.

In more recent years, some street vendors have noted a slight decrease in visitors as many choose to stop by chain restaurants like Wahlburgers before local events. PSA: If you have yet to ever try Wahlburgers, do not spend your money at Wahlburgers. But if you have the opportunity to grab a $9, almost footlong loaded Italian sausage, spend your money.

How to Spend St.Paddy's Day Weekend in Boston, MA | Northeast, United States Travel | St. Patrick's Day | AGBHOW | agreatbighunkofworld.com

3. Skip the hotspots when bar hopping. 

If waits in potentially freezing weather, cover charges, and standing chest-to-chest with sweaty strangers who pre-gamed way too hard seems like your cup of tea Guinness, then by all means head on over to the West End. But if you prefer a good-sized crowd that still allows room to breathe, good energy, a shot at grabbing a table, and four dollar beers, then the Fenway area might be for you. While these areas aren’t necessarily known for their strips of bars, you’ll a handful that’ll offer you a great time. And isn’t quality over quantity better anyway? We could’ve spent hours at spots like Puddingstone Tavern where the drinks are cheap, the crowd is chill, and you’ll find every board game to drunkingly challenge your friends to.

We too are guilty of wanting to follow the crowd, however. After a couple of hours of playing Phase 10, we actually headed over to the West End. I can say with no exaggeration, that we lasted approximately a half hour before heading back to our new favorite bar. Up the block from Puddingstone, you’ll find Flann O’Brien’s, which on St. Paddy’s day even hosts a $15, all-you-can eat corned beef and cabbage buffet.

How to Spend St.Paddy's Day Weekend in Boston, MA | Northeast, United States Travel | St. Patrick's Day | AGBHOW | agreatbighunkofworld.com

4. Have a bite at America’s oldest restaurant.

During your St. Paddy’s day weekend getaway, there are really only two reasons to visit the West End – the Freedom Trail and Union Oyster House, which is apparently American’s oldest restaurant. The building itself dates back to the post-revolutionary war era and is an official historic landmark, thus the building and booths themselves are quite snug. As a restaurant, this spot has been serving food since 1826 and is most known for their oysters, if that wasn’t obvious. While I wouldn’t say this place offered the best food I’ve ever had, my opinion may be a bit skewed since I’m highly allergic to oysters and therefore had to pass on what was apparently some amazing clam chowder. But the atmosphere of dining in a place of history is worth a visit. Plus, the complimentary cornbread is probably some of the best I’ve ever tasted. And if you have some time post-meal and are interested in some Boston sightseeing, this restaurant sits right in the center of the Boston Freedom Trail.

How to Spend St.Paddy's Day Weekend in Boston, MA | Northeast, United States Travel | St. Patrick's Day | AGBHOW | agreatbighunkofworld.com

5. Make sure you have a breakfast spot picked out to ease your St.Paddy’s Day hangover.

Nothing cures a hangover better than a good breakfast platter, which is why many breakfast spots will be packed out. Luckily, we stumbled upon Milkweed pretty early and were only given a 30 minute wait, which not only allowed us time to grab a quick drink at the bar across the street, but also proved to be more than worth the time.

The platter below included eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, home fries, and the most amazing french toast! PSA: For an extra $2, you can trade in your simple-yet-delicious french toast for one of Milkweed’s signature options, such as Nutella french toast or Lucky Charms french toast. With a coffee, I think I paid roughly $12, making this a bargain and a win in my book.

How to Spend St.Paddy's Day Weekend in Boston, MA | Northeast, United States Travel | St. Patrick's Day | AGBHOW | agreatbighunkofworld.com

Whether you come to celebrate St. Patrick, to cheer on the Celtics, or for absolutely no specific reason at all there are so many things to do in Boston.

Already planning your next St. Paddy’s Day getaway? Pin this for later!

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6 Days in Iceland: A Self-Drive Itinerary

When it comes to planning a trip to Iceland, especially during the winter months, it’s best to accept prior to your trip that every day may not go exactly as planned. While going through security before our flight home, we heard numerous groups discussing their own trips to Iceland, complaining that all of their tours had been cancelled or that they hadn’t been able to experience every single thing they thought they would.

So before we continue, take a deep breath, and accept that your plans may perhaps fall through. Winter weather in Iceland is wildly unpredictable, but at the same time, winter there is so visually stunning. I would’ve been fine if we did nothing but drive around “oohing” and “ah-ing” at volcanic ranges. Secondly, if you or another person in your party has experience with harsh winter driving, rent a car. I’m not saying that it is necessarily a smart idea to drive into a blizzard despite all tours being cancelled, I’m just saying that on certain days we drove into a blizzard despite all tours being cancelled.

All joking aside, renting a car gives you a lot more flexibility when it comes to your schedule. Whereas booking a tour could result in a wasted day, driving gave us the option to change our plans at last minute notice if roads were closed or there was inclement weather in certain areas. We definitely left Iceland having missed out on a couple things we had originally wanted to see, but to be honest, we experienced so much that those things were barely a thought. Plus, that just means we have to go back.
Day 1: Reykjavik
Day 2: The Golden Circle
Day 3: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 4: The Langjökull Glacier
Day 5: The South Coast
Day 6: The Blue Lagoon

Day 1: Reykjavik

Coming from New York meant that a majority of flights we could’ve booked would get us to Reykjavik at approximately 4:30am-6:30am the following day. Personally, I always prefer earlier arrival flights because I’m able to run on adrenaline for almost twelve hours after landing; but also because it can often mean a whole extra added day to your trip.

First things first: get your rental car. When you exit the “arrivals” area of Keflavik, you’ll find various car rental depots for popular car rental companies, such as Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, etc. However, if you’re like us and booked your car through a company exclusive to Iceland, you’ll have to hop on a shuttle to the actual rental car office. This shuttle is a bright yellow bus that you can catch at the designated bus stop about a minute walk from Keflavik. I’d assume if it were summer and you had minimal luggage that you might be able to walk to the rental office, because Blue Car Rental was the second stop and we were there in what felt like three minutes.

    • While I highly recommend Blue Car, please be smarter than we were. Just because a car says “7-seater” does not mean it’s the type of 7-seater you may be used to. In fact, once we stored our luggage, it only really fit five of the six of us. Sitting awkwardly atop two of my friends while my head was bent in an a 90 degree angle, definitely did not make for the most comfortable 45 minute ride to Reykjavik. To make matters worse, even after we unpacked our luggage, we consistently rotated since the back two seats were suitable for people 4″11 and under. Long story short, if you’re more than five, get a second car.
    • We opted to have Wi-fi included with our car rental and it was the greatest choice we made. Your wi-fi comes in the form of a portable little egg shape device that one us kept in our pocket even when we left the car. Because what’s better than being able to Snapchat data-free virtually everywhere you go?
    • Purchase all the car insurance. It’s better to pay upfront than have to worry about a potential large payment later.

Next stop: Breakfast.

It had been a goal of mine to have breakfast at the Laundromat Cafe, and luckily that’s exactly where we ended up at 8:00am on our first morning in Iceland. The Dirty Breakfast which consists of eggs, bacon, potatoes, tomato, sausage, and yogurt is just as heavenly as it sound, and the ambiance is a liberals paradise.

 

 

Unfortunately, I found out a few days ago that the Laundromat Cafe shut its doors just a week after we left. But never fear! The owner insists they are currently seeking another Reykjavik venue to re-open. Until then there are a boatload of other great spots for breakfast in Reykjavik like Bergsson Mathús, Cafe Bablu, and C is for Cookie.

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After breakfast, head to the Saga Museum; but don’t forget to stop along the way and appreciate the beauty of Mount Esja, which isn’t actually a mountain at all, but an entire volcanic range. We spent a good fifteen minutes just gawking at its beauty – this was before we realized that the entire country is one giant scenic view.

The Saga Museum uses life-like figures to depict different moments in Iceland’s history, and is a great way to learn a bit more about the country you’re visiting before diving right in.

The Saga Museum is open daily, from 10:00am-6:00pm and entrance is 2100kr ($20).

 

 

The next two stops are quintessentially Reykjavik. First, stop by the Sun Voyager statue for a quick photo opportunity. Jón Gunnar Árnason, the sculpture of the statue has said its design was meant to convey, “the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress, and freedom.” In a way, it reminds me of the meaning behind the Statue of Liberty back home.

When visiting you’ll also have an excellent view of both Thufa, an outdoor art piece by Ólöf Nordal; and Harpa, the majestic concert hall of Reykjavik.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

From here, head over to Hallgrimskirkja. This structure which took 41 years to build is not only the largest church in Iceland, but is also among one of the largest structures of Iceland in general. I guess that’s why most visitors can’t leave Iceland without heading to the top to take in the view of Iceland’s largest city. And once you’ve descended, don’t forget to check out the statue of Norse explorer, Lief Erikson who greets visitors as they enter.

Hallsgrimskirkja is open from 9:00am-5:00pm during the winter months, and 9:00am-9:00pm during the summer. Note that on Sundays, the tower is closed from 10:30am-12:15 due to mass. Admission to the tower is 1000 ISK.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

 

If you’re a history buff, your next stop should be the not-to-be-missed National Museum of Iceland, which is home to over 2,000 artifacts.

The National Museum of Iceland is open daily from 10:00am-5:00pm, though it is currently closed on Mondays. Admission is 2000 ISK, and free for anyone under 18.

At this point you may be getting smacked by hunger pangs and sleep deprivation. So run over to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur and order one (or two) with everything, and take a relaxing walk around pond Tjornin. Then when you’re done, do a quick grocery run at the closest Bonus, stock up Skyr, and head to your accommodations for a much deserved nap.

 

 

NOW WAKE UP, because you have to spend a night experiencing Reykjavik nightlife at least once. Literally, maybe just once, because the booze prices in this country are astronomical.

The first bar we stopped at was the Lebowski Bar, where we ordered White Russians all around. If you don’t get the reference, add watching the Big Lebowski to your list of post-Iceland activities. The Lebwoski Bar has a list of about a dozen different White Russians, though I prefer a classic.

If you’re feeling lucky, for 2500 ISK you can have the bartender spin a wheel which might leave you with 10 “free” beers. Our first friend to spin actually hit the jackpot and won 10 (really 8 if you subtract payment) free beers to start the night. But don’t get too cocky; the next two to spin both hit “gutterballs” and walked away 2500 ISK poorer.

Hopefully you didn’t spend all your money spinning the prize wheel, because Lebowski’s bar food is surprisingly delicious. After all, nothing goes down better with a White Russian than mozzarella sticks and a Honey Boo burger.

Side note – our bartender was beyond awesome! By the end of the night we felt like she was part of the gang.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

American Bar was next, which also had a spin-to-win wheel, but thankfully we had learned our lesson by then. One of the best parts of Reykjavik is that a majority of the bars are all in a five block range, so walking between them is super easy. Others worth checking out: The English Pub and The Dubliner.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com


Day 2: The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is one of the most popular sightseeing routes in Iceland and offers an array of different stops along the way. The weather was a bit back-and-forth on this day and due to the minimal light hours during the winter, we had to cut out some of our hidden gems off the itinerary. That being said, it’s definitely possible to hit more stops than we did depending on the weather and time of year, so definitely pick out your favorite gems to add to your own itinerary.

Stop one: Thingvellir National Park

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

How much you enjoy your time at this park is going to be based on how adventurous you are willing to be. At first glance, the park seems pretty barren, though even barren is stunning with the sun shining through. The deeper into Thingvellir you go, the more there is to see – from towering lava rock to a small church with adjacent buildings, which was apparently the site of Iceland’s first parliament in 960 AD.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Many of the paths had been snowed over but we, along with a few other visitors, trekked through the slush to experience as much as we could.

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    • If you’re traveling in winter, make sure you have a pair of waterproof winter boots. There is nothing fun about attempting to make your way in sopping wet sneakers, or injuring yourself by slipping on an icy patch.

 

At one point on our adventure, we accidentally stumbled upon Öxarárfoss, a small waterfall that remains semi-frozen during the winter months. This ended up being one of those accidents we questioned not originally having on our itinerary; though it may be much smaller than some of the more popular Iceland falls, it’s slight seclusion and simplicity make it that much more beautiful.

 

 

After your excursion through Iceland’s only UNESCO Heritage Site, head over to Strokkur, Iceland’s most famous geysir that erupts every 6-10 minutes. Though on our trip it seemed a bit more frequent. Not every eruption is as dramatic, so it may be worth sticking around for a two or three.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

After freezing your fingers off trying to capture an image of Strokkur blowing its top, head over to Fridheimar for a late lunch/early dinner. I highly recommend making a reservation to be on the safe side, though we had made the latest reservation available and were dining with only four other groups.

Fridheimar is located inside one of Iceland’s geothermal tomato greenhouses, and hence every menu from the entrees to the desserts are tomato-based. This restaurant is more of an experience than a meal, and is worth every penny.

Fridheimar is open daily from 12:00pm-4:00pm.

 

 

Finally, it’s time to visit the majestic and popular, Gullfoss. Gullfoss is one of those natural wonders that leave you wondering why so many places to choose to pave over beauty for skyscrapers. Be sure to do some walking among the open space surrounding Gullfoss as you’ll be able to get a few differently angled views of the falls.

This is one of those rare occasions where I’ll suggest stopping at the visitor center gift shop before departing. Were some of the items overpriced? Of course, it’s Iceland. But I was able to grab some stunning post cards and prints that actually didn’t break the bank.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Other stops you may want to make during your Golden Circle self-drive tour:

Faxi Waterfall (64.2254° N, 20.3372° W)

Porufoss (64.260707, -21.369836)

Kerid Crater (64.0413° N, 20.8851° W)

Solheimar Eco-Village (64.0656° N, 20.6419° W)

Gamla Laugin Geothermal Pool (64.1377° N, 20.3097° W)


Day 3: The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Often called “Little Iceland” due to the varying landscapes that exist in one location, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula had been calling out to me from the initiation of our trip planning.

If you’re driving from Reykjavik, which is about 2.5 hours, this definitely requires an early start if you’re attempting to see much of the peninsula in the same day. So quickly down some of that Skyr you purchased at your local Bonus supermarket and hit the road.

 

  • Reminder: Though not quite as north as the Westfjords, in winter this area was approximately 8-10 degrees colder than Reykjavik. We also experienced some intense winds that at times were almost painful if your face wasn’t covered, so I’d recommend bringing along some extra layers and a ski-mask.

Stop 1: Búðir

You’ve probably seen snapshots of the Búðir or “the little black church” without even realizing, as it’s become a common stop for photographers visiting the peninsula. To many, this may seem an odd spot for church – secluded from much else. But this little hamlet provides an erie but stunning break from the snowy surroundings.

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Stop 2: Bárður Snæfellsás

Legend has it that Bárður Snæfellsás, half troll and half man, was the settler of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. In 1972, co-founder of the Icelandic Sculptors Society, Ragnar Kjartansson built a stone figure of Bárður, which now stands tall in the fishing-village of Arnarstapi watching over his land.

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If traveling in winter, don’t be surprised that Arnarstapi is almost completely deserted. It seems that this town is mostly utilized during the summer season, which makes sense considering how dramatic winters in the area can be.

Stop 3: Hellnar

Hellnar is an ancient fishing village one stop over from Arnarstapi, and is a great place to stop for the perfect view of Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000 year old glacier.

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Stop 4: The Londrangar Basalt Cliffs

  • Warning – If you think the rest of the peninsula is windy, just wait until you stroll along the Londrangar Cliffs. In the wintertime, there are also some difficult-to-see ice patches, and one almost sent me flying off of a ledge. So walk slowly, take your time, and pay attention to your surroundings.

The view, however, is completely worth it.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 5: Vatnshellir Cave

Vatnshellir is the cave that apparently inspired Jule’s Verne’s, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and with Summit Adventure Guides you can journey down into the 8,000 year old lava tube. We had a great tour guide who went by “Gummy” during our 45 minute tour, and his knowledge, jokes, and Marvel references really added to the experience.

At one point, once you’re two stairwells, a bridge, and a walk deep into the tube, everyone is asked to turn of their lights, leaving you absolute darkness. This is the level of darkness that your eyes will never be able to adjust to. Despite this proclamation, we all still attempted to stare at our own hand, thinking at some point we’d make out an outline. But nothing.

Summit Adventure Guides provides several tours including the Vatnshellir Cave Tour, which runs all year. Tours should be booked in advance and run 3750 ISK, roughly $37.

 

 

Stop 6: Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík

While Djúpalónssandur is known for being the “black-lava pearl beach”, Dritvík is known for something a bit more somber. In 1948, an English trawler ship slammed into the beach, killing 14 of the 19 crewman. The few iron remains of the ship remain in the same location out of respect and memory of those who passed.

Despite the snow covering much of both areas, these destinations are not to be missed.

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Stop 7: Feast in Ólafsvík

We had asked our Vatnshellir tour guide for some restaurant recommendations, considering a majority of businesses in West Iceland were closed for the winter. He eagerly suggested two spots over in his hometown of Ólafsvík, one he described as “a black house with a green roof”. This restaurant ended up being “Hraun”, which was not only run by some of the most accommodating staff, but also is home to some of the best tasting burgers you will ever eat.

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Stop 8: Hunt the Northern Lights

We had booked an Airbnb for one night alongside Kirkjufell to experience the countryside and hopefully catch a glimpse of the northern lights. We had accepted the day prior that we probably were going to leave Iceland without having seen them; after all, we had daily snow, almost complete cloudy skies, and on that night the aurora forecast was extremely low. But hey, at least the views from the cabin were stunning.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

While we hung inside, I made a point of running outside every twenty minutes or so to see if we could at least get a view of a dark starry night sky. But due to the weather, all I kept seeing was solid darkness. But luck was on our side. On my fourth time out, there finally seemed to be a gap in the cloud cover, and I was greeted by a strip of stars like I had rarely seen. If this was all we got, I’d have been happy. However, after calling my friends out, one pointed out what appeared to be a mild bright, white light from behind Kirkjufell.

Slowly these light patches lightened and began to spread out and few snaps of my camera proved we were finally getting a glimpse – a few green stripes were in fact streaking the sky. During the peak, there were even what appeared to be some vertical moving lines. But just as quick as they appeared, the cloud cover regained its position over West Iceland.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

 

We might not have experienced the most intense aurora borealis, but the experience was still memorable – and waiting it out was half of the fun.


Day 4: The Langjokull Glacier

We had originally planned to wake up early and drive the almost three hours to the Husafell Base Camp, where we would begin out Snowmobile Into the Glacier tour with Mountaineers of Iceland.

This tour would’ve taken us snowmobiling on the second largest glacier in Iceland, followed by a cave tour. However, there are only so many experiences that can be saved by self-driving in Iceland. And it is extremely dangerous and never okay to enter an ice cave or take part in activities like glacier hiking without certified professionals.

But if the weather wasn’t a deterrent, this would’ve been a great chance to take part in some action-packed activity on your way down from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

On the flip side, Mountaineers was great to work with and processed our refund in a timely manner with no issues. Be sure to check out their official site for other awesome Iceland tours.

The Snowmobile Into the Glacier Tour with Mountaineers of Iceland must be booked in advanced, and runs 29.900 ISK for two guests on one snowmobile. All drivers must have a valid driver’s license. 


Day 5: The South Coast

Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is the first of the two main waterfalls you will hit on your South Coast drive. Though it appears smaller in comparison to Skogafoss, it actually drops about 197 feet. During the summer months or when icy paths are no issue, guests can walk a path behind the falls for a unique view.

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Stop 2: Skógafoss

Skógafoss is one of the biggest and most accessible waterfalls in Iceland, making it a popular stop all year round. Pictures really don’t do this waterfall justice, as you really don’t understand its power or size until you’re there in person, walking right up to it.

  • If you’re traveling in winter and want to get up close and personal, make sure to bring a waterproof jacket or poncho. You do end up walking right into a thick wall of mist, and wet clothing isn’t a great combination with potentially strong winds.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 3: Sólheimasandur Plane Wreckage

On November 24, 1973, a US Navy plane ran out of fuel and crash landed on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach. Later on it would be found that the pilot actually just switched to the wrong fuel tank. Fortunately, all onboard survived but the wreckage still remains on the beach as a popular tourist attraction.

Though driving to the wreckage used to be allowed, in order to preserve the beach it has since been prohibited. In order to reach the wreckage, you now have to walk approximately 45 minutes there and 45 minutes back. This walk, I’m sure, can be relaxing in the appropriate weather. We chose to do walk in an almost zero-visibility blizzard – and let’s just say, I would not ever recommend it. But in general, I do recommend taking the walk to the site. It’s really something.

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Stop 4: Reynisfjara Beach

Despite Iceland being home to primarily black sand beaches, Reynisfjara has always been the iconic black sand beach to visit. This is due in part to it’s unique features, like Hálsanefshellir Cave, basalt columns, and stunningly tall rock formations.

  • When exploring the beach, be sure to avoid walking to close to the shoreline. Reyinsfjara is home to sneaker waves, which can appear suddenly and are strong enough to pull you out to sea. Putting yourself in dangerous situations is not worth the photo op.

If you feel you didn’t take in enough of the sites on your drive, never fear, because you just might get a glance when you turn around to drive all the way back to Reykjavik!


Day 6: The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is the perfect last stop before your flight home, due in part to it being not too far from Keflavik Airport.

  • Be sure to look up sunrise time for the day you’re planning to visit when booking your tickets. Watching the sun come up behind the bridge of the lagoon was the highlight of our time there.

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Tickets for the Blue Lagoon run from 6990 ISK – 53000 ISK depending on your package. We went with the cheapest package, which ended up costing about $80 for our time slot, and have no regrets. Just a heads up: bring a towel, as the cheapest option does not include one.

While the Blue Lagoon can seem a bit pricy, the entire experience seemed worth the price of admission. The staff, premises, shower/changing rooms (which are even equipped with blowdryers) are clean, spacious, and top of the line. If you’re envisioning a giant swimming pool, yes, $80 is a bit steep. But if you appreciate the Blue Lagoon for the spa experience that it truly is, then it’s a steal.

Plus, when it begins to hit you that your spectacular Iceland trip that you spent months planning is finally coming to an end – you can drink your sadness in beer and Skyr smoothies at the pool bars.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

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