8 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING THE BLUE LAGOON

9th July 2017

 

8 things to know before visiting the blue lagoon

Every country has that one “super duper” tourist attraction that has visitors flocking from all over the globe. In Iceland, Blue Lagoon is without a doubt that attraction and for justifiable reasons. It has a blissful atmosphere that calms and wows you as soon as you step in even with it being massively busy. You feel all your stress escape as you swirl and swim around the open lagoon while pampering and deep cleansing your skin with the silica mask and perhaps sipping on a glass of wine while you relax. There are many reasons why the blue lagoon is a must visit and I have listed below 9(updated) things you should know before visiting the blue lagoon.

                                            Book in Advance

If you have a preferred time and day you want to visit the lagoon, I suggest booking weeks in advance because it sells out fast. The blue lagoon is strict on time. You have to select a time you will arrive and you have an hour within that time period to check-in. You can stay for as long as you wish but you must check-in within the hour selected time or call ahead to make re-arrangement. For example, if you selected to check-in at 7:30 am, you have from 7:30am-8:30 am to check in, there’s no guaranteed entry if you arrive at a later time.

                                           It is not Natural

Yes, this “wonder of the world” is man-made. The land and lava that surrounds the pool are natural, however, the water isn’t. It is a result of “waste water” from the geothermal plant that you will see at different corners of the pool. Don’t let that irk you because it still feels amazing and deep cleanses your skin and the silica mud has been proven to improve the condition of those with psoriasis. You can read more on that here.

                                          It’s close to Keflavik airport

Keflavik airport is about 20 mins drive to Iceland. Therefore, to maximize your time and better plan your trip, you should visit either when you arrive or when you’re departing Iceland. This is a great way to cure a jetlag and/or pamper yourself after all the traveling.

                                          Get ready to strip😜

You’re required to take a shower before getting inside the pool. This is to maintain cleanliness and hygiene which is a good thing. They do provide toiletries in the shower room.

Tip: Bring your own towel, robe, and slippers to save on cost because everything is extra $

                                        Apply Conditioner to your hair

The silica in the water doesn’t mix well with the makeup of human hair and can cause damage and frizzes. Deep condition your hair before and after and apply leave in conditioner (a complimentary one is provided) before getting into the pool. Better yet, put your hair in a ponytail or wear a shower cap.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

put your hair up in a pony and enjoy your spa:)

                                        The clay mask is FREE!

Everything at the blue lagoon cost extra except for the clay mask (well depending on which package you get, the standard package comes only with the white silica mask, and other packages above the standard includes both the silica and the algae) The mask bar a.k.a clay mask heaven (totally made that up😉) you have to swim up to, and someone will assist. You have to first apply the white silica mask and let it sit for about 15 mins or when it dries out, you wash it off in the pool and go back for the green (algae) mask.

Tip: If you bought a standard package, you technically are only allowed the white silica mask, but be nice and ask the lovely lady at the bar for the green algae mask because it is absolutely rejuvenating.

                                        Leave you wallet in your locker

You’re provided with a wristband upon arrival that acts as a charge-band (another made up term). You scan the wristband if you need to purchase something at the restaurant, and bar. The band also serves as your locker key and for exiting the complex. At the end of your visit, the clerk scans your card upon departure and if you have a pending balance, they charge it to a credit card or cash. Your choice!

Tip: Don’t loose it. It’s a whopping $40 if you do. 

                                        Bring a waterproof phone/camera case

Selfies make the world go around, and you sure will want to take a million of it, so protect your equipment and come prepared.

FYI: There are designated staff stamped all day by the pool that takes complimentary pictures and emails it all to you. This is an option if you really don’t trust a $10 waterproof case to protect your $700+ phone/camera. 

                                        The pool isn’t too deep.

If you can’t swim and worried about getting in the pool, don’t, the pool isn’t that deep. For reference, I am 5’7 and the deepest part of the pool was under my chest when standing. If you’re coming with younger children, however, I do recommend bringing a floaty and I think it is provided at the lagoon (please don’t quote me on that, but if it is I am sure there’s a fee)!

Blue Lagoon Iceland

selfies make the world go around📱

I had an amazing time at the blue lagoon and I think it’s hyped up for good reasons. If you have been to the blue lagoon, please comment down below with tips you may have. If you have any questions about visiting Iceland, check out this post, and/or leave a comment and I will be more than happy to answer. I love reading your comments, so keep em coming:)

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10 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR ICELAND VACATION (SUMMER EDITION)

9th July 2017

I just got back from a summer(ish) Iceland vacation, and boy was it one hell of a trip. I spent about 4 days, 3 nights there and although it was a really short trip, I was able to fit in as much as I could in my budget. Since I only had 4ish days, I explored only Reykjavik and the South part of the Country. Prior to my trip, I researched extensively, but even with research, there were a few things I learned getting there that I didn’t already know which is why I gathered these 10 things to know before your Iceland vacation.

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10 THINGS TO DO BEFORE GOING TO ICELAND

  1. It is Cold and Rainy (even in Summer)

    Being in cold climate is something I’m very well accustomed to as someone who lives in the Midwestern part of USA (Minnesota),  although it wasn’t Minnesota winter cold, it was still cold enough for me to wear a winter Jacket, a scarf, mittens, and a hat (full winter gear) for all the 4 days I was there. It also rained for a few hours every day which sucked because I didn’t bring a raincoat, I definitely wasn’t expecting rain in June, therefore, I was stuck in my hostel for those hours.

    Waiting for summer since 1926

    This ad explains it all…

    Tip: Bring a raincoat and a waterproof comfortable shoe

  2. KEF Airport is not in Reykjavik

    This was a duh moment since the airport code is (KEF). Keflavik is a different city and it is a 45mins drive to Reykjavik. If you didn’t rent a car (I highly suggest you do), there are bus companies like flybus and grayline that transport to and from Reykjavik and Keflavik for around $30/each-way

  3. Renting a car is the cheapest way to explore Iceland

    Unlike most European countries, Iceland’s public transportation is very limited and to truly enjoy the flexibility and economize while exploring the country, a rental is required. Make sure to book ahead of time especially if you can only operate an automatic transmission as they seem to be very limited compared to the stick(manual) transmission.

  4. Book Tours and Hotel/Hostel far in advance.

    Another duh moment, but some of us have been guilty of waiting last minute or wait till we get to our destination to make arrangements, at least I have. Iceland is very touristy especially in the “summer” months, tours and hotels sell out fast. You could miss out on a tour or affordable hotel to book from if you wait too long.

  5. 24 hours Daylight (almost)

    You will experience longer daylight hours and almost no “night” during Iceland summer months. You might ask “how do you fall asleep?” Bring an eye mask and close the curtains. Luckily most of the hotels/hostel in Iceland improvise by having solar shield curtains in the room, so it was not a struggle to fall asleep when I wanted to. The only struggle was reminding myself it was late because It sure didn’t seem like it.

    6.

  6. Blue Lagoon isn’t really Blue

    This wasn’t disappointing at all because I had a wonderful experience and totally recommend it and think it’s worth the price.  I just thought I should mention;)

    Click here to read 8 things to know before visiting the blue lagoon

    Iceland vacation Blue lagoon

    Blue Lagoon captured in Natural lighting, unfiltered.

  7. You do not need cash

    There’s no need to head to the ATM when you arrive because credit/debit cards are accepted everywhere around the country. I did not use cash even once during my visit, my cards including my Amex card was accepted in most places I dined and/or made a purchase.

  8. English is widely spoken

    It’s always a good idea to learn the basic phrases of the Country you’re visiting, it shows the locals you care, and they absolutely appreciate the effort. However, if you don’t or can’t seem to learn to pronounce basic Icelandic phrases; it’s okay, you’re not alone and you won’t have any trouble communicating as almost everyone speaks English as a second language.

  9. Bring a waterproof case for your camera and phone

    You probably plan on visiting the blue lagoon and taking amazing photos while in it, bring a waterproof case to protect your equipment. Also, when exploring the ring-road, there are lots of Waterfalls on your way and you will more than likely want to get up close to it and take some fun pictures if your camera/phone isn’t waterproof, I suggest buying one before your trip

  10.  Iceland is expensive! Especially the food!

    Iceland is maybe third on the world’s most expensive countries. This is because most of the ingredients are imported from what I’ve heard. Expect jaw-dropping prices when you dine at a restaurant, go to the grocery stores and bars(if you’re a budget traveler, you could either buy your booze tax-free at the airport or skip it entirely because “ain’t nobody got time for that”).

    Green mountain - iceland vacation

    Nature on steroids

    I hope this helps in your Iceland vacation planning, and I know you will enjoy Iceland because I did:)

    Have you been to Iceland? Comment below on tips you may have or question if you are planning a visit.    

Traveling solo? Here’s a guide to help you plan your solo adventures. 

A Girls Guide to Solo Travel

2nd July 2017

“You’re doing what”?

“Solo traveling”?

“Are you crazy”?

“Girl!! that’s no safe, with all the crazy sh*t going on in the world”

“Do you want to get killed”?

These and much more are reactions and statements I get when I tell people I am a solo traveler.

Skógafoss waterfall in Iceland

You’re reading this either because you love to travel, and/or you want to travel but there’s just no one to go with. Your friends either don’t have the funds, time, or even the passion to explore the world and you’re left contemplating on whether or not to say f**k it and go alone. I started my solo travel adventure for the reasons I mentioned. I had put off trips in the past because I had no one to travel with. The idea of doing it alone was something that took a lot courage but I did it and will continue to because it honestly has become my favorite way of exploring the world. You are in charge of your decisions, you decide or not to do something, change itineraries as you wish and a host of other privileges. Since returning from my six weeks Euro-trip, I have gotten a little less crazy reactions and statements and more people seeking advice, tips and hacks on traveling alone which is why I wrote this post to hopefully encourage you to get up and solo travel:)

                                        How to Solo Travel as a Woman 

  1. START SMALL

    My very first solo travel trip was to Los Angeles in summer of 2015. I remember being super excited and uneasy at the same time. I booked my flight,  accommodation and researched everything I would do while in LA. Small but mighty steps like going out to dinner, the movies, museums etc alone helped me get use to spending time by myself in a place or scene I haven’t before which slowly built up the courage to take the big(ger) step.

  2. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, AND RESEARCH AGAIN

    The saying “knowledge is power” is vital when traveling. Researching a place should be the very first thing you should and must do before booking a plane ticket, it gives you insight on the place, what to expect, places to avoid, cultural differences(this is a huge one), finding hidden gems, staying safe especially as you solo travel, and many more which in return helps ease your fears and those unsettling feelings. In shorts, research is a solo traveler’s best friend.

  3. HOSTEL instead of HOTEL

    Please debunk all the negative myths you have heard about hostels because staying at hostels instead of hotels is great for solo travel. You get to meet other like-minded travelers who are more than likely traveling solo as well. Check out the blog abroad’s post on “hosteling” for some inspirations on why hostels can be awesome.

enjoying a gorgeous day at Malagueta beach in Malaga, Spain

 4.  LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS. ALWAYS. 

Your travel instincts (read: voice) becomes louder and clearer when you solo travel. This voice is your survival instincts, listen to it. Always! If something doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t. If you wouldn’t do it in your home Country, you probably shouldn’t abroad.

5.  SIGN UP FOR STEP (SMART TRAVEL ENROLLMENT PROGRAM)

STEP is a free service for U.S Citizens and Nationals that you can sign up for prior to your trip. This allows the U.S embassy to contact you in the case of an emergency and they will help you make informed decisions. You can sign up here.

6.  KEEP IN TOUCH/EMAIL ITINERARY TO LOVED ONES

To ease the fears of your friends and family back home, you should stay connected to them as much as possible, and let them know of your plans when and if it changes. This is also a great way for you to leave a trail in the case of an emergency, they will know your whereabouts. In addition, email/text your itineraries to your best friend or a close family; this could be emergency contacts of the hostel/hotel you’re staying, the address of where you will be staying, flight itineraries etc. This is also beneficial for you, in case you lose anything, they could always email it back a copy to you.

7.  LEARN SOME TYPE OF SELF-DEFENSE

Look, I’m not trying to scare ya, and you probably won’t need to use your self-defense skill (knock on wood) but I am sure you know crime can happen anywhere to just about anyone, and as a woman especially one solo traveling we are more susceptible to it and knowing one or two-way to save yourself or give yourself more time before help is on its way is a good idea.

Tip 1: if someone is bothering you, and won’t leave you the f**k alone. Scream!!!!

Tip 2: get you a pocket knife or pepper spray but be sure to check the laws on possessing either weapon in the country you are visiting.

8.  MOST IMPORTANTLY, HAVE FUN!!

This is why you decided to travel in the first place right? Or one of the reasons? Let go of the worries, the fear, let loose, eat that extra croissant, stuff yo face with ice cream, do whatever is fun for you, and have a great trip!!

Are you a solo female traveler? Do you have any tips not mentioned that could help new solo travelers? Please comment below;-)

Bonus: Need a suggestion on a solo friendly destination? Check out my 2- weeks itinerary in Spain to help you plan a trip around the country:)

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2 Weeks Spain Itinerary

11th June 2017

 

Spain In 2 weeksI recently spent two wonderful weeks traveling around Spain, and although two weeks is a limited time to explore a Country as big as Spain with each city being uniquely different, I was able to prioritize my itinerary and made the best out of my two weeks.

FIRST STOP: 3 DAYS IN BARCELONA

Park Güell in Barcelona

Park Güell in Barcelona

Barcelona is an ideal first stop when roaming around Spain because, 1) If you’re flying from the US into Spain, Barcelona – El Prat Airport is usually one of the cheapest to fly into, 2) It’s easy to move around the country via bus and train from the city, and 3) There’s so much more to do and you will need all that beginning energy and excitement to explore the city. Here’s 3 days in Barcelona itinerary to help you plan your trip.

SECOND STOP: 3 DAYS GRANADA, ANDALUCIA 

Granada, Spain

Granada, Spain

Let me start by saying, Granada is a must visit/see. The culture, the backdrop of mountain perfect for hikes(and a place to catch the sunrise/set), and of course Alhambra Palace; Spain’s most visited attraction are few reasons to make a stop.  It’s also very easy to reach via bus and train.

Spend the first day self-exploring the Cobblestone city and pre-purchasing your tickets to Alhambra(highly recommend) if you haven’t already.

TIP: wear very comfy shoes. 

On day 2, book a free walking tour here for a quick crash course on the historical buildings in the city and how it came about. Then, head down to the Albaicin – Granada’s old Arabic district to take a break from the sightseeing by checking out the Morrocan restaurants for some delicious tea, kebab, and falafel.

Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain

Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain

Day 3, Alhambra! If you did not already purchase your ticket, and very much interested in visiting this famous attraction, I suggest heading out as early as 5:30 am to camp out (think Black Friday sale in the USA) until the ticket booth opens at 8 am to secure a spot. After the Alhambra, without a doubt, you will be very much exhausted and ready for some food; head over to Calle Elvira – a street located in the heart of the city for some delicious and cheap(read: free) tapas with a purchase of a drink (beer or wine).

THIRD STOP: 3 DAYS IN MALAGA

Sardine Espeto in Malaga

Sardine Espeto in Malaga

Malaga is the capital of Costa del Sol and birthplace to the famous Picasso. It is less than 2-hour drive from Granada and if I also must add, it’s home to the most delicious Espetos (Sardines) I ever had. Day 1 of your trip can be spent exploring some of the Picasso museums, Cathedrals, and delving into Andalusian delicacies like fried espetos, hams, and local olives. On day 2, head off to Marbella (or any city close to Malaga)  for a day trip. Only about an hour from Malaga. Day 3 could be spent laying on the beach (Malagueta beach) relaxing and decompressing all the stress from traveling.

FOURTH(LAST) STOP: 3 DAYS IN MADRID

Madrid, Spain

Madrid, Spain

Day 1: My first day in a new city is usually spent wandering and getting to know my way around. Take a metro to Gran Vïa; Madrid’s busiest street. You will find many international boutiques and stores, pubs, restaurants, bars etc. on this street. Stroll around and enjoy its classic surrounding. You could spend your entire day wandering or visit some museums in Madrid. Most attractions are easily reached from this street because it is located centrally.

Gran Vîa Street in Madrid

Gran Via Street in Madrid

Day 2: Explore Lavapiés. This is the most multi-cultural street in Madrid made up of people of African, Middle-eastern, Asian etc descent and a great location to try cuisines from almost any culture. Then head over to the Royal Palace of Madrid about 20 mins (1.5 km) walk from Lavapiés to tour the building where the Spanish Royals stay when in Madrid. You will also enjoy scenic views of the city. For a more relaxing stroll, Parque de El Retiro is a unique and gorgeous park in Madrid. There’s a pond where you could rent a boat and row away the time.

Day 3: Make your way to Mercado de San Miguel. One of the most beautiful markets in Madrid. Here you can sample various foods from tapas, wine, beer etc. Next to it is Plaza Mayor, and Puerta de Sol; two major touristy spots also worth visiting. 

NOTE: On the 14th day, if you’re flying out from Barcelona, you can either take a train (2h 30m) or fly directly toBCN (1h) on this day.

I hope these helps and inspires you to plan your trip to Spain! Have you been to Spain? What are some helpful tips and must dos not listed above you would like to share? Please let me know down below:)

3 days in Barcelona

4th June 2017

Barcelona! One of Spain’s most iconic, most visited, and second largest city. A great city to experience Catalan culture, stunning architecture, and devour traditional delicacies.  Barcelona is one of those cities with endless “things to do” and will require a lifetime to do it all. As a tourist/traveler, you just might not have a lifetime to spend in one city. With this 3-day itinerary, however, you should be able to experience the best of Barcelona in a few days. Without further ado, pack your bags, grab your passport, and let’s roam Barcelona😉

DAY ONE:  GAUDI’s DAY

TIPBUY YOUR TICKET(S) ONLINE BEFORE YOU GO(WEEKS IN ADVANCE IF POSSIBLE)!!!!(yes I’m screaming lol). There are only a few tickets available for sale at the ticket booth and are sold for a specific time slot. You could end up in extremely long lines waiting to purchase a ticket or worse not able to get in.

Morning: Stroll around Passeig de GráciaKick off your first day by taking a stroll around the beautiful street Passeig de Grácia; home to two of Gaudi’s most popular creations Casa Batlló, and Casa Milå. This street is well-known for its high-end shopping boutiques(“shop till ya drop”), business area, and considered one of Barcelona’s most expensive street. If you love architecture or a huge fan of Gaudi’s creations, you should book a ticket to tour the inside of Casa Batlló (€23.50) and/or Casa Mila (€22).

Early Afternoon: Sagrada Família

If you’re on a budget and can only choose one of Gaudi’s masterpiece to tour, Sagrada Familia should be your pick. The basilica is one of the most celestial buildings I ever graced my eyes on. It’s Barcelona’s most iconic attraction that draws millions of visitor across the globe each year, and for this reason, tickets sell out fast and aren’t cheap (starting price is around €15). Plan on staying for about 1.5 – 2.5 hours exploring.

Mid-Afternoon: Refuel your energyAfter spending half the day exploring and sightseeing, your energy level is bound to be low and yearning for water(I mean beer😋). The good news is, tapas (a variety of small dishes served as a snack with a drink) bars and kitchens are either starting to open or already opened between 1-4pm. Again, if you’re on a budget, tapas are the way to go. Prices typically start at €2-3 but expect to pay as high as €4-6 in more “touristy” areas. My favorite tapas bars are the ones that offer free tapas with a purchase of beer(€2-3) or vino(€3-4).

Late Afternoon: Park Güell 

I cannot recommend visiting Park Güell enough. A famous public park composed of gardens, beautiful architectures and a scenic view of Barcelona city. The park itself is free(score!) during the hours it’s open but to visit the monumental zone(highly recommend) you need to purchase a ticket (€7 online). 

Evening: Watch the Sunset and Night-Life

Watching the sunset is one of my favorite things to do. Aside from the pretty vibrant colors, its pretty damn relaxing to watch. There are a lot of places to experience the sunset in Barcelona. Some of my favorite(free entrance) spots are Bunkers del Carmel, Park Güell, and W Barcelona Hotel  Terrace (Open to the public from 8 pm). You can bring a snack and drink to enjoy whilst watching. After that, go back to your hotel, hostel, Airbnb etc to relax/freshen up for the nightlife experience. If bar/club hopping isn’t your thing, you could go see a flamenco performance or simply call it a night.

DAY TWO: LANDMARK TOURS

TIP: WEAR VERY COMFORTABLE SHOES AND BRING A WATER BOTTLE AND SUNSCREEN.

Morning: Las Ramblas/La Boqueria
Kick off your day by heading down to the city most famous market La Boqueria. Treat yourself to some freshly squeezed juice, smoothie, snack, fish, meat, etc whatever it is you are craving, you will most likely find at the market. Then, head past Placa de Catalunya into the city most famous street Las Ramblas where La Boqueria market is located(it’s really close). Las Ramblas is one of Barcelona’s most visited/touristy spot. Stroll along the street for some sightseeing and get the feel of why it’s so famous.

Afternoon: Lunch/Camp Nou/Gothic Quarter After all that sight-seeing, you’re probably hungry. Food is such a big part of the Catalan culture and if there’s one thing you want to make sure you indulge in, it’s feasting in Barcelona. This can be done on any budget.  Paella(pictured) is a very popular dish in Catalonia and can be found in most restaurants. If rice is not your thing, Catalonia has an array of traditional cuisine that is just(if not more) as mouth-watering.

TIP: If you’re on a budget, dine at less “touristy areas”. You could ask a local for a recommendation and they are always more than happy to suggest a place to dine(for the low-low). 

After lunch, depending on how much more you want to explore and if you’re a Fütbol (Soccer) fan, stop by Camp Nou; the FC Barcelona fütbol team home stadium. Tickets are around €25.

Fun Facts: Camp Nou is the biggest stadium in the whole of Europe.

If you’re not a fütbol fan and up for more sight-seeing, the gothic quarter is an old beautiful town in Barcelona to wander about and probably get lost lol, which can be a good thing because you might just stumble upon some of the hidden gems in this oldest part of the city.

TIP: Bring a map or seek for almighty Google(map) for help!

Evening: Grab Dinner and a Drink (Café maybe!)

I wasn’t a coffee drinker until I arrived in Spain. This is probably because Spain has an outstanding quality coffee that even the least coffee enthusiast will love. Most bars and restaurant serve coffee any time of the day and they come in a variety. Café con leche (coffee with steamed milk) being one of the most popular(also my personal favorite).

DAY THREE: BEACH, CHOCOLATE MUSEUM, AND SOUVENIR SHOPPING

TIP: Bring your swimsuit, towel and do not forget your sunscreen. 

Morning: Beach (Barceloneta)

You want to spend the last day of your trip relaxing. Barceloneta beach is a great spot for that. Bring a drink, some snacks, perhaps a book, and lay up on the beach to soak in all that adventures. You should also check out the surf shop for some water activities.

Afternoon: Museu de la Xocolata

What better way to end your trip than with chocolate? Museu de la Xocolata is a treat (pun intended) and tickets to the museum are as low as €6. You could skip the museum and head straight to the pastry shop and sample as many chocolates as your heart pleases and don’t forget to order a cup of hot chocolate; it is hands-down the richest I’ve had.

Evening: Souvenir Shopping

It’s time to start packing up your suitcase and getting ready for your flight home, before that, you need something that will remind you of your adventurous trip to Barcelona. There are many souvenir stores scattered around the city and many souvenir items you could pick up. Some of my favorite souvenirs are postcards, refrigerator magnets, mugs, and shot glasses.

I hope this itinerary was helpful in planning your trip to Barcelona! Comment down below on some of the things you like to collect during your travels:-)