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.

A year in Mexico City!

 
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After one year in Mexico City, I decided it was time to write about my experience and maybe give some advice about the best things you can do downtown and outside the city. Mexicans are welcoming, helpful and will even treat you like family if you behave yourself. If you have a decent Spanish you might even get their great sense of humour. Mexico has many things to offer across its 31 states, and each state is totally different. Mexico is a country rich in history, tradition and culture. Its bright colours, delicious food and natural beauty will take your breath away.

Best things you can do in the city

  • Palacio de Bellas Artes, if available I recommend the “Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández”
  • Walk along the Avenida 5 de Mayo to get to the Zócalo, the main square from central Mexico City
  • Visit the Museo del Templo Mayor,  it was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City
  • Check out the National Museum of Anthropology
  • Visit the Chapultepec Castle and relax in the surrounding Chapultepec Park
  • Buy some great art, souvenirs and handcrafts at the Ciudadela Market
  • Go on top of the Torre Latinoamericana and admire the 360° view over the center of Mexico
  • Visit the house-museum of Frida Kahlo, dedicated to the life and work of this Mexican artist and her husband Diego Rivera

And outside the city

  • Teotihuacan pyramids, ancient Mesoamerican city with the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon and the Avenue of the Dead!
  • Go on a hike on Iztaccihuatl to admire the view on Popocatépetl active volcano, located in the state of Puebla
  • Plan a trip to Tamasopo, with Xilitla (Edward James garden), Puente de dios, Tamasopo cascades, Micos Waterfall, Media Luna Lake and the Rio Verde
  • A weekend trip to Guadalajara is something easy to plan from the city, very charming city considered the home of the mariachi music!
  • If you have even more time take a flight to Cancun and visit everything around: Chichen Itza, Playa del Carmen, Tulum (playa el Paraiso is wonderful), spend a day at Xcaret. For the more adventurous you can drive up to Merida in Yucatan.
  • Bernal, Queretaro de Arteaga
  • Grutas de Cacahuamilpa
  • Xochicalco, Morelos
  • Los Atlantes de Tula, Hidalgo
  • Taxco, Guerrero, the city is known for its silver, both with the mining of it and the crafting of it into jewelry
  • Tepoztlán, Morelos and Tepozteco Pyramid nearby
  • Tequesquitengo, Morelos
  • Tepotzotlán, Mexico

Of course you can’t go to Mexico without trying some of the best Mexican food!

  • Chiles en nogada, most patriotic dishes with the three colours of the Mexican flag
  • Enchiladas, rojas gratinadas, my favorite!
  • Tacos al pastor, Pozole, Chilaquiles, Tostadas, Elote, Tamales, Mole, Guacamole, etc
  • And a few places where you can eat downtown: Cafe Tacuba, El Cardenal, Azul Histórico, Zocalo Central Hotel
  • For the amateur of even more fancy restaurants, Pujol is one of the best to put on top of your list

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.