Getting a taste of Iceland with this 5 days itinerary

 
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I read so much about Iceland and it was exactly as described: beautiful and shocking landscapes. We chose to travel during the month of May which is shoulder season. It is a great month to visit, just before the tourist season begins. Prices were correct and the long day length was also very enjoyable. You might pick this month for spring wildflowers and first-rate birdwatching. We took some pleasure in identifying all the birds that crossed our path with the help of this webpage.

Day 1: Blue lagoon and Reykjavik.

For our first day, we rented a car directly at the airport, we went with Sadcars. Then we drove to the Blue Lagoon, about 20 minutes away. Book in advance and plan for 2 hours inside at least. Bring a water resistant case for your phone so you can take some great pictures inside. We enjoyed the large geothermal waters and got our silica mask inside the lagoon. The water’s milky blue shade is due to its high silica content. After exploring the entire lagoon, we drove to Reykjavik and explored the city with a stop at the Sun voyager statue and Hallgrímskirkja church. We stayed at the KEX Hostel.

Day 2: The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is the classic route that most people do. It began with Thingvellir. When Viking settlers arrived in the 10th century it was the site they chose as the meeting place of Althingi, the world’s oldest parliament. Second stop was the Strokkur geyser. It is one of Iceland’s most famous geysers, erupting once or twice every 10 minutes. Its usual height is 15 to 20 metres, although it can sometimes erupt up to 40 metres high. Gullfoss Waterfall came next and we were very impressed with this massive waterfall with wide curved three-step “staircase” and a very large crevice. Lunch was particularly excellent in the Fridheiman Farm, a tomato farm using the natural hot water. After that, we went to the Kerid Crater and passed Flúðir but decided that we had spent enough time in the geothermal waters. We stayed at the Héradsskólinn Guesthouse.

Day 3 – The South Coast

There are a few words to remember for the Icelandic explorer: jökull for glacier, foss for waterfall, gljúfur for canyon, fjara for beach/coast. We started the day with my favorite waterfall Seljalandsfoss. It is very easy to access and you can walk behind the waterfall. A second waterfall inside a small cave is also available a few meters right after. Skogafoss is the second must see waterfall, larger and very impressive. Ideal spot to use your wide angle lens. We stopped randomly for a fish and chips at “Nailed it” just after and it was just perfect. If you want to relax a bit more Seljavallalaug Zwembad pool is also a great thing to do on your way to Vik.

If you have time continue to the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. We choose to continue with Reynisfjara beach, the world-famous black-sand beach. Be careful over there with the deadly waves while you admire the enormous basalt stacks and turn your back on the ocean. We picked the Vik Farmhouse Lodge as our base camp for the 2 nights as it was ideally located for all the things we wanted to explore. We would recommend only two things in Vik for the evening: a restaurant Sudur Vik and a bar with a great selection of beers Smiðjan Brugghús.

Day 4 – Glaciers and Hiking

One thing about Iceland is that even if you have a perfect itinerary you will be tempted to stop in front of all the beautiful landscapes along the way. Glaciers, mountains, waterfalls are everywhere and they are just incredible. Our day consisted of Jokulsarlon and Vatnajokull National Park. You can find some of the trails here. Svartifoss was beautiful inside the park, its basalt columns have provided inspiration for Icelandic architects, most visibly in the Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík. Don’t forget to check all the trails available near Skaftafell and Svínafellsjökull. We spent quite some time at Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon looking at the procession of luminous blue icebergs. As everything is melting and moving to the ocean, the panorama is always unique. It is the deepest lake of Iceland with its 248m.

Day 5 – On the road again

Our return flight was in the morning so it was already time to drive back to Reykjavik from Vik and drop off the rental car at the airport. Surely we will come back!

Solo-hiking Tour du Mont Blanc

 
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Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc was a great adventure! Not only for the beautiful alpine views but for the great people I met along the way. With a total of 170 km and about 10 kilometres of ascent/descent, it is better to be correctly prepared and equipped. This tour is usually done in 8 to 12 days between June and September.

Preparation & equipment

  • Buy a guide book with the minimum info to understand the tour and its signage. Most people on the tour had this one for French speakers: TopoGuides – Tour du Mont Blanc – FFRandonnée and this one for English speakers Tour of mont Blanc – Kev Reynolds
  • Buy a map, IGN maps are not needed if you have a guide book and a GPS you can trust in term of accuracy and battery in the mountains
  • Make a list of the required gear and pack your bag with the minimum. Remember that you will have water and food in addition. This list was the best I found.
  • Prepare and decide your route in advance, make sure you have the alternative routes available if you decide to take any variant from the official TMB trail or if the weather doesn’t allow you to take the variant for example.
  • I traced my route on View Ranger using the web version, exported it in gpx file and imported it into Gaia GPS which has one of the clearest design on mobile and was very easy to follow in the fog! All my gpx files are available here: [Download GPX TMB routes]
  • Forget about weather apps on your phone, only this website is used by locals and proved to have accurate weather reports: http://chamonix-meteo.com/

Planning

  • Planning should be done carefully based on the physical challenge you want to experience:
    • Less than 10 days will be a though challenge, but you can take the bus or use chair lifts to shorten the trek, it can be a good option if you are limited on time
    • 10 days should be good and let time for variants as I did
    • More than 10 days will be comfortable and let time to do extra trails
DayItineraryNight/RefugeRoute
DepartureHome ➤ Les HouchesChalet Les Méandres (ex Tupilak) 
Day 1Les Houches ➤ Les Contamines (Variant Tricot)Gîte le Pontet VR
Day 2Les Contamines ➤ Refuge Croix du BonhommeRefuge de la Croix du Bonhomme VR
Day 3Refuge Croix du Bonhomme ➤ Rifugio Elisabetta (Variant Col des Fours)Rifugio Elisabetta VR
Day 4Rifugio Elisabetta ➤ Rifugio BertoneRifugio Bertone VR
Day 5Rifugio Bertone ➤ Rifugio Elena (Variant Bernada)Rifugio Elena VR
Day 6Rifugio Elena ➤ La FoulyMaya Joie VR
Day 7La Fouly ➤ ChampexAuberge Gîte Bon Abri  VR
Day 8Champex ➤ Trient (Variant Arpette)Auberge Mont blanc VR
Day 9Trient ➤ Tre le ChampGite le moulin VR
Day 10Tre le Champ ➤ Chamonix (Variant Lac Blanc)Hotel VR
Return Chamonix ➤ Les Houches  ➤ Home All GPX files

Booking if sleeping in refuges

Booking can be easy if you go through an agency, many people get the best rooms in refuges by using an agency. It is also possible online thought http://www.montourdumontblanc.com/. And finally it can be done by phone but make sure you confirm a second time the reservation a week before with the refuge.

Hiking the canyons in Arizona and Utah!

 
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The US national parks have many canyons that offer spectacular views and amazing hikes. They offer a wide range of ways to experience them. During 4-5 days we decided to explore some of the most famous canyons: The Grand Canyon (Arizona), Angels landing (Zion, Utah), Narrows (Zion, Utah) and Bryce Canyon (Utah). Below is the itinerary we followed from San Francisco.

Angels Landing, Zion, Utah

Day 1

  • 6 am: SFO-LAS, pick up the rental car
  • 8:30 am: Drive to Zion for about 3 hours
  • Pick up Narrows Permit from the Visitor Center
  • Begin your Day hike, more details on this page: Angel’s Landing
  • 4:30-7:30am: Pick up the rental gear after the hike at Zion Adventure Co (36 Lion Blvd, Springdale UT)

Recommended gear list for the Narrows:

  • Zion Park Newspaper
  • Zion Narrows Map
  • Dry pants packages reserved from Zion Adventure Co:
    • Neoprene Socks
    • Water boots/shoes
    • Walking stick
    • Dry pants
  • Headlamp / Flashlight
  • Clothing for for 0-5c weather (hat, gloves, etc)
  • Clothing for 10-15c weather (not cotton)
  • Swim suit
  • Food: trail mix, water bottle, bars, etc

Day 2

  • Drive to Zion Adventure Co by 6:20 am
  • 6:30 am: Shuttle departure
  • Get ready to get wet and hike the Narrows for several hours!
Narrows, Zion, Utah

Day 3

  • Check Sunrise time at Zion
  • Drive to Bryce Canyon (1.5 hours)
  • Begin your day hike and check the sunset time at Bryce, select one of the two options Peekaboo or Fairyland loop
  • Overnight at Bryce

Day 4

  • Check Sunrise time in Bryce Canyon
  • 11 am drive towards North Rim for about 3 hours
  • Check Sunset time at Cape Royal
  • 6 pm: Drive back
  • 11:30pm: Once you are back at LAS, return your car
  • Overnight at LAS

Day 5

  • Return to SFO!
Bryce Canyon, Utah

It was among the best hiking experience I had in the US and I would recommend this to any outdoor enthusiast.

Day hike Half Dome, Yosemite

 
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Half Dome from Glacier Point
Half Dome from Glacier Point

Half Dome is a granite dome at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California. It is a well-known rock formation in the park, named for its distinct shape. One side is a sheer face while the other three sides are smooth and round, making it appear like a dome cut in half. The granite crest rises more than 4,737 ft (1,444 m) above the valley floor.

Permit

My friend Milton and I, decided to hike to the top and come back down in one day. It is pretty easy to plan your hiking trip, except that you will need a permit to access the final section of cables that leads to the top.

Approximately 50 permits are available each day by lottery during the hiking season. The daily lotteries have an application period two days prior to the hiking date with a notification late that night. So, to hike on Saturday, you would apply on Thursday and receive in theory an email notification of results late on Thursday night, but it was actually on Friday for us.

Lodging and when to begin

Many lodging options are available to spend the night before the long day hike (10 to 12 hours). You might want to start hiking early, so prefer a place inside the park or outside close to the park. Make sure you have the permit before booking anything! We crossed paths with many people who started hiking early in the night to enjoy the sunrise and avoid noonday heat and traffic at the cables (often crowded in the summer). Check the weather forecast before your hike up Half Dome: if there is any predicted chance of rain or thunderstorms, or if storm clouds are observed in the vicinity of Half Dome or the nearby peaks of the Sierra Crest, the safest course of action is to not proceed past the permit checkpoint, at the base of Sub Dome.

Wear the proper ankle high boots, have fun, be safe, and carry plenty of water!