Jdomb's Travels http://jdombstravels.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Mon, 29 Sep 2014 07:28:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Best Adventures on Australia’s East Coast http://jdombstravels.com/best-adventures-australias-east-coast/ http://jdombstravels.com/best-adventures-australias-east-coast/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 07:28:06 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=60337 Jdomb's Travels

Without a doubt, one of the most popular backpacker routes in the world is along the east coast of Australia, between Sydney and Cairns, and with good reason. In addition to the pristine beaches, stunning sunsets and wildlife parks with all our favorite native animals, this trip is an adventure addict’s dream. In June this …

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Jdomb's Travels

Without a doubt, one of the most popular backpacker routes in the world is along the east coast of Australia, between Sydney and Cairns, and with good reason. In addition to the pristine beaches, stunning sunsets and wildlife parks with all our favorite native animals, this trip is an adventure addict’s dream.

In June this year, Arianwen Morris, who blogs at Beyond Blighty, traveled from Sydney to Cairns with Contiki Holidays. In this article, she highlights some of the most exciting activities on offer in the area.

Surf lessons in AustraliaSurf Lessons

Visit any Australian beach on this stretch of coastline and you’re almost guaranteed to see some surfers. Aussies are crazy for the sport and most tourist beaches have outfitters offering lessons. Close to Coffs Harbour is a place called Spot X where you can stay at surf camp for as many days as you need. The instructors are very helpful and it’s a really sociable setting.

Sea kayaking in AustraliaSea Kayaking

Further north in Byron Bay, you can go dolphin spotting in a kayak. While this might sound relaxing, the waves get pretty big, making for some interesting entrances and exits from and to the beach. Even further out to sea, the swells can be huge and not many people avoid capsizing at least once.

JetpackingJetpacking

A relatively new sport, jetpacking allows you to fly through the water and even a few metres into the air. Jetpack Adventures in Surfer’s Paradise also provide the chance to try flyboarding. Ten minutes with each is enough to get a feel for it and to start looking like a pro.

Scuba diving in AustraliaScuba Diving

Australia’s east coast has a number of fantastic dive sites. Other than the obvious – the Great Barrier Reef – you can swim through a cave of nurse sharks at South West Rocks, drift alongside manta rays, turtles, leopard sharks and wobbegongs at Julian Rocks, or check out the famous Yongala ship wreck close to Townsville. Consider a liveaboard if you want to access the best dive spots on the reef and stay away from the crowds.

Fraser IslandFraser Island

Bombing along a deserted beach in a 4WD watching the occasional whale breach on the horizon is a great experience. Combine that with a dip in the clear and spa-like waters of Lake Mckenzie, followed by dolphin watching during the most impressive sunset you’ll ever see and you will no doubt include Fraser Island among the most beautiful places you’ve ever visited.

Sailing in AustraliaSailing

The Whitsunday Islands are situated on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. This makes them a fantastic spot for sailing and snorkelling trips. Most will take you out for a couple of nights where you sleep on the boat and visit the white sands of Whitehaven Beach. When the wind picks up, the boat tips to an impossible angle, and the adrenaline kicks in. Hook your legs over the top side of the boat and hold onto the railing for an exhilarating ride, but don’t forget to race over to the opposite deck when the boat changes direction.

Bungy jumping in AustraliaBungy Jumping

Cairns is the best-known location for bungy jumping in Australia and the AJ Hackett team have gone to town making sure that even the most experienced bungy jumper won’t get bored. There’s a jump menu with styles requiring varying levels of skill and bravery. You can get into a fancy dress outfit or even cycle off the roof of the bungy tower. The Minjin Swing right beside it is a less intense option, but if you’re really not in the mood, you can sit on the viewing platform with a beer and watch everyone else’s torment.

Uncle Brian's TourUncle Brian’s Tour

While not strictly an adventure tour, Uncle Brian’s day trip to the waterfalls and forests of the Atherton Tablelands is one of the best on offer anywhere in the world. From start to finish, it’s a mad assortment of interactive entertainment, and they haven’t missed a trick. As well as taking on natural rock slides and flicking your hair at the waterfall where the Herbal Essences advert was filmed, you’ll enjoy games and karaoke on the bus, and much, much more.

Of course, your options don’t stop there. If you’re a fan of heights, why not check out the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb or the SkyPoint climb at Surfer’s Paradise. Surfer’s is also a popular spot for skydiving. The Tully river, south of Cairns is one of the best white water rafting rivers in Australia, and up in Cape Tribulation you can horseback ride and zipline through the jungle.

With a fantastic climate, friendly people, gorgeous scenery and so much fun to be had, a journey up the east coast of Australia is pretty much guaranteed to be memorable for all the right reasons.

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The Non-Gamblers Guide to Las Vegas http://jdombstravels.com/non-gamblers-guide-to-las-vegas/ http://jdombstravels.com/non-gamblers-guide-to-las-vegas/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 08:26:50 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=57302 Jdomb's Travels

Vegas is synonymous with blackjack, scantily clad women, and nights out clubbing that evoke the phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” A go-to destination for the girlfriend getaway and the ultimate bachelor party, it’s easy to forget (or not even discover) that there’s more to Sin City than gaming tables, drinking, and neon. …

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Vegas is synonymous with blackjack, scantily clad women, and nights out clubbing that evoke the phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” A go-to destination for the girlfriend getaway and the ultimate bachelor party, it’s easy to forget (or not even discover) that there’s more to Sin City than gaming tables, drinking, and neon. We’ve put together this non-gamblers guide to Las Vegas with some of our favorite things to on and off The Strip:

Sky Combat AceExperienceFly an open cockpit bi-plane over Hoover Dam

If you think a spin of the roulette wheel is a thrill, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Just wait until you pilot either an open cockpit bi-plane and do barrel rolls and loops over Hoover Dam. You may not forget losing than $100 you placed on black anytime soon, but you’ll definitely remember your flight with Sky Combat Ace. And let’s face it, it’s a way better story to tell to all your friends back home. Not everything that happens in Vegas has to stay in Vegas.

Sky Combat Ace
The Waco Hoover Dam Tour is $499 per person with aerobatics. The Top Gun Experience is $599 per person. Video and photos are available for purchase from your experience. Complimentary transportation from/to your hotel is available.
Dig This Las VegasExperienceOperate an excavator

Do you remember when you used to play with toy bulldozers and excavators in your sandbox as a kid? Well, a company in Las Vegas has embraced the saying that Vegas is just a huge sandbox for adults and let’s you (so long as you’re not inebriated) get behind the controls of real life bulldozers and excavators. I chose the excavator hoping I might get famous for digging up Jimmy Hoffa. No such luck with finding the famous missing mobster, but I did school the guys in a game of excavator basketball.

Dig This
The Big Dig lets you choose the bulldozer or the excavator for your 90 minute session. You’ll learn how to operate the controls, drive it, dig trenches, move tires, and play some basketball. It’s $249 per person.
Downtown Las Vegas Art DistrictExperienceCheck out the Downtown art scene

As a Las Vegas resident in the early 2000s, I would have told you to avoid Downtown Las Vegas like the plague. The only reason you had to go down there was if you were getting a marriage license from the courthouse. But like much of Las Vegas, Downtown has re-invented itself and is now a cool mix of eclectic one-of-a-kind stores, galleries, bars, and restaurants.

First Friday art festivals now draw some 20,000 people every month. But even if you aren’t in Vegas on the first Friday of the month, you can still head downtown to check out the art scene. It’s officially called 18b, which referred to the original 18 blocks that made up the arts district. It’s now expanded far beyond those 18 blocks.

Slotzilla Zipline Las VegasExperienceZipline over Freemont Street

The art scene is cool and hip, but while you’re downtown you can be a little daring too. Head over to Freemont Street Experience to check out some of Las Vegas’ classic hotels still brandishing their neon signs, watch the light show, and soar over all the pedestrians below from 77 feet high on Freemont Street’s zipline. Just look for the 12-story tall slot machine, called SlotZilla, where you can get harnessed up for your 850 feet long zipline. And be sure to smile, because photographers are snapping away for your keepsake photo (and some less daring tourists below are probably snapping your photo too).

SlotZilla
SlotZilla is open 12pm – 12am Sunday through Thursday and 12pm – 2am Friday and Saturday. It is $20 per person and photos are extra. Flyers are given a bag to place belongings like handbags in and attach to your harness.
Jersey Boys Paris Las Vegas

Photo courtesy of Jersey Boys

ExperienceSee a Broadway hit

Las Vegas theater used to mean risqué productions that might even make the Moulin Rouge crowd blush. But these days Las Vegas theater is taken seriously and you can find top-shelf musicals off and on The Strip. The Smith Center for Performing Arts is located Downtown and hosts an impressive Broadway line-up each season.

Though, you don’t have to head Downtown; Paris Las Vegas packs musical lovers in each night for their showing of Jersey Boys. Telling the rags to riches story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the music will have your toes tapping and wanting to sing along to songs like Sherry and Big Girls Don’t Cry.

Jersey Boys
Jersey Boys curtain time is at 7pm Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday; 6:30pm and 9:30pm Tuesdays; and 5pm and 8:15pm Saturdays. There are no performances on Mondays. Tickets start from $53.
Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas The Rattler

Photo courtesy of Wet’n’Wild

ExperienceGet Wet’n’Wild

Las Vegas’ many pools are a whole scene, but if you’re up for good ‘ol fashioned fun in the sun head to Wet’n’Wild. Once located right on The Strip, the water park closed back in 2004 and re-opened in Spring Valley in 2013 with bigger and better slides.

Thrill seekers will want to try out the Tornado, a funnel slide that catapults you through a 45-foot wide funnel. Though my favorite slide was the Rattler, the first of its kind in North America. It sends multi-person tubes down over 360 feet through twists and turns and some “midnight” enclosed tunnels before launching you and your friends out into the splash pool.

You can still get a tan lazing on tubes as you float along the Lazy River or ride the waves in the 400,000 gallon wave pool. There’s plenty of shaded areas to escape the sun and Wet’n’Wild even provides free sunscreen at stations around the park.

Wet'n'Wild
Wet’n’Wild is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is $39.99 per adult, $29.99 per person under 42″ tall, and free for children under 2. There is also a twilight admission after 4pm. Parking, locker rental, and cabana rental are additional.
Hoover Dam

ExperienceTake the dam tour

Named after Herbert Hoover, the US’ 31st president, Hoover Dam is said to be an engineering marvel. It supplies water to Nevada, California, and Arizona and is visited by more than a million visitors each year. Even Clark Griswold took the Dam Tour in Vegas Vacation and though the jokes are just as bad and cheesy as in the movie, it’s fascinating to see the inner workings of the dam 530 deep in Black Canyon.

The tour starts with a short film in the visitor center before an elevator whisks you deep into the canyon. Once below, the guided tour takes you to a viewing platform where you can observe one of the four huge pipes that transports 90,000 gallons of water every second from Lake Mead to the generators. You’ll also get to check out the generators and some views tourists that only traipse over the top of Hoover Dam ever see.

The Dam Tour
The Dam Tour runs every 30 minutes starting at 9:30am with the last tour of the day starting at 3:30pm. Only 20 people are allowed per tour and it is on a first come, first serve basis. Admission is $30 per person and children under 8 are not permitted. There is also not access for wheelchairs or crutches and the tour requires over 1 mile of walking.
Las Vegas Sunset

Las Vegas Sunset from Frenchman Mountain

ExperienceHike at sunset

Want a Vegas view that few get to see?  Go for a hike up Frenchman mountain for the sunset. Frenchman mountain is also referred to locally as Sunrise mountain in Northeast Las Vegas, although Sunrise mountain is actually the shorter adjacent mountain. The hike starts just right off of Lake Mead Blvd 8.5 miles east of I-15. From the parking area you will see a gravel road heading up the mountain. It will climb steeply for 1600′ to the summit, but you also lose 300′ in between the saddle and peak so just over the 1.5 miles to the summit you gain almost 2000′ which makes it a heck of a workout. My advice is to bring a headlamp and stay for the sunset from the peak. Watching Las Vegas transform and turn on the lights at night is a sight to see. Be careful on the way down as it is quite steep, but still just a gravel road. While parking is fairily safe at the trailhead be sure not to leave any valuables in site in your car.

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Secret Iceland South Coast Attractions You Shouldn’t Miss http://jdombstravels.com/iceland-south-coast-attractions/ http://jdombstravels.com/iceland-south-coast-attractions/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:51:13 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=60212 Jdomb's Travels

Many of Iceland’s most visited attractions lie on what is known as the Golden Circle and on the South Coast. Any number or tour companies take tourists by the busload out to attractions like the popular Seljalandsfoss that you can walk behind, the mysterious Skógafoss said to be hiding a treasure chest of gold, and …

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Jdomb's Travels

Many of Iceland’s most visited attractions lie on what is known as the Golden Circle and on the South Coast. Any number or tour companies take tourists by the busload out to attractions like the popular Seljalandsfoss that you can walk behind, the mysterious Skógafoss said to be hiding a treasure chest of gold, and Jökulsárlón where you can get up-close with icebergs. But bus tours miss the best parts – the secret Iceland South Coast attractions – like that waterfall tucked just behind a canyon or that swimming pool where only the locals go.

Renting a car is more than just freedom; it’s like going on an expedition of discovery. Heard about that hike with amazing views at breakfast? A rental let’s you hop in the car and go. Want to see where this road leads to? You can. And until the bus tours start stopping at these secret Iceland South Coast attractions, a rental is your only chance to discover them.

Gljúfrabúi WaterfallGljúfrabúi Waterfall

Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is easily the secret Iceland South Coast attraction most likely to be missed. That’s because only a couple hundred meters away its more popular neighbor, Seljalandsfoss, is tumbling over the cliff and alluring visitors to go behind it. But follow the path a short ten minute walk behind the campsite just down the road, and you’ll find this beauty hidden in the Trollagil (Troll Gorge) Canyon.

Gljúfrabúi WaterfallGljúfrabúi makes you work to get to it by climbing up the steep, and often muddy, cliff face. But the short hike, which involves pulling yourself up the most dangerous parts with chains anchored into the rocks, is worth it for an up-close look at the waterfall.

It’s less voluminous than its more popular neighbor Seljalandsfoss and is spring fed. From the road, only the very top is visible because of a boulder that blocks it. The boulder, named Franskanef, is said to be the residence of hidden people (or elves).

Turnoff Road 1 for Seljalandsfoss. Either walk from Seljalandsfoss or drive past the parking lot for Seljalandsfoss and continue down the road to the camp ground about 1 kilometer away.

KeldurKeldur Turf House, The Oldest House in Iceland

Keldur is said to be the oldest surviving turf house in Iceland as it was mentioned in the Sagas in the Middle Ages. Though improvements have been made as it was lived in up until 1946, when the house was then given to the National Museum of Iceland. The family still owns and operates the farm that the turf houses are on, but each summer visitors can take a look at what life was like in these houses.

According to the Saga Njálusaga, Ingjaldur Höskuldsson lived here from 974 and in the 12th – 13th centuries, the powerful Oddi clan took up residence, and their chieftain, Jón Loftsson, lived at Keldur until the end of his life. Skúli Guðmundsson was the last resident, who lived in the house from 1862 – 1946. Skúli’s grandson and his wife now live on the farm and proudly show me around, kindly opening for a special visit.

KeldurThe house is just one of a group of buildings. There is also a storehouse, a smithy, a millhouse, a cattle shed, a stable, a sheep corral, and an escape tunnel. We have a look around the house and though many items have been removed to be on display in the National Museum, there are still pots and pans in the kitchen, beds, a crib, and some of the other furniture in the house. It’s much larger than it would appear from outside and quite interesting. Definitely worth a visit.

Keldur is open June 15 – August 15. Turn on Road 264 from Road 1; the turnoff is almost directly across the road from Hotel Ranga.

SeljavallalaugSeljavallalaug

Nestled in a narrow valley beneath Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that famously shut down air traffic for 10 days in 2010, Seljavallalaug is Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. Now abandoned, it was built in 1923 and was considered an engineering marvel at its time. Its designers were clever and utilized the natural rock of the mountain as one of the four walls of the pool and the geothermal water from the area trickles down the rock and right in to the pool, keeping it a warm 38°C.

Seljavallalaug fell into disuse when a swimming pool was built 2 kilometers closer to the small community in 1990. Volunteers generously keep it clean and it is perfectly suitable for swimming. There are even the changing rooms still standing from when the pool was thriving, though don’t expect much from them.

Seljavallalaug

Are you sure there’s a swimming pool back here?

The pool is no roadside attraction. A small gravel road takes you several kilometers into the back of a valley and you’ll pass another abandoned swimming pool on the drive. Don’t let that swimming pool fool you! Drive until the road ends and this is where you’ll begin a 20-minute hike to the pool. You have to cross a river several times and if it feels like you can’t possibly be going the right way, just trust that you are. The pool is tucked into a hidden corner of the valley and you won’t see it until you are about 50 meters away.

To find Seljavallalaug, turn on Road 242 (marked Raufarfell) from Road 1 just past the small Þorvaldseyri exhibition.

US Navy plane crash IcelandThe Abandoned DC3 Plane Crash

On November 24, 1973 a US Navy DC3 crash landed on the black sand beach Sólheimasandur on the South Coast of Iceland when the plane ran out of fuel…or so the pilot though. Everyone survived the crash and it turned out that the pilot simply needed to flip a switch to the other fuel tank. For whatever reason, the plane was abandoned – left to forever rot on the black sand dunes.

The Navy officers must have thought they landed on the moon on that November day. The black sand dunes are surreal and the landscape is completely desolate. It’s no wonder this site is a favorite of photographers and many filmmakers and advertisers have shot here.

If you have a 4×4, you can actually drive right out to the plane crash. Note that you are just driving on black sand and that there is not a “road”, so just try to drive straight out toward the ocean. It’s about 4 kilometers from the turn off and because the crash is below a sand dune, it suddenly appears like a mirage when you are about 100 meters away.

If you don’t have a 4×4, you can hike from Road 1 and it should take around an hour each way. Again, just try to walk straight out toward the ocean. Keep in mind that no matter whether hiking or driving, the winds are often much stronger at the shore and the area is prone to sand storms, so just use caution when visiting the plane crash site.

To find the plane crash, look for a small gravel parking area and opening in the fence about 2 kilometers from the Sólheimajökull turnoff (Road 221). If you pass the turnoff for Mýrdalsjökull (Road 222), you’ve gone too far. The plane crash is on the beach side (on the right if headed in the direction from Reykjavik to Vik) and you cannot see the crash from the road. The GPS coordinates are N 63 27.572, W 019 21.969

Disclosure: Our trip to Iceland was sponsored in part by Go Iceland, who provided us with a 4×4 Dacia Duster in order to bring you this story. All opinions about places visited are entirely our own.

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Exploring the Glaciers and Icebergs of Kulusuk http://jdombstravels.com/kulusuk-icebergs-and-glaciers-tour/ http://jdombstravels.com/kulusuk-icebergs-and-glaciers-tour/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 20:02:13 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=59909 Jdomb's Travels

As our flight took off from the small airport, I took my last look at the colorful houses dwarfed by the towering icebergs floating in the Arctic Ocean. Unspoiled by time. I jotted those three words down as there is no better way to describe the tiny settlement of Kulusuk, the gateway to East Greenland. …

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Jdomb's Travels

Kulusuk Airport, East GreenlandAs our flight took off from the small airport, I took my last look at the colorful houses dwarfed by the towering icebergs floating in the Arctic Ocean. Unspoiled by time. I jotted those three words down as there is no better way to describe the tiny settlement of Kulusuk, the gateway to East Greenland.

Kulusuk was permanently settled in 1909, little more than 100 years ago. We walked along the gravel road from the airport toward the village about three kilometers away, as that is the only way to get there. The one or two cars belong to the lone hotel. As we walked, our guide told us about life in the tiny settlement of barely 300 residents. Here fishing and hunting are the way of life, supplemented by the bit of tourism the airport brings to the settlement.

Hotel Kulusuk, East GreenlandThe hotel has two luxuries: running water and flushing toilets. Most families living in Kulusuk draw their water from the centrally located lake of potable water all year round. The shipment of gas had just been delivered and was likely the last before the harsh winter sets in. The families will come to get their gas for heating and cooking from the tank, purchasing it by the liter.

The cemetery in KulusukA sea of white crosses and plastic flowers dot the cemetery on the jagged coastline. Keeping with Inuit tradition, the crosses lack any names; the names are passed on in death to live on to the next generation.

Kulusuk, East GreenlandAs we carry on, we start to notice dead seals bobbing at the shore. The Inuit people live mostly off the land and this includes eating seals, which is considered the most important meat in their diet. The water is cold enough to preserve the seals until they are ready to be eaten and this method allows some of the proteins to ferment into carbohydrates. And no part will go unused: the skins are used for clothing, some seal meat is used for dog food, the fat can be rendered into an oil used for heat, and the bones can be made into tools.

Dogs in Kulusuk, East GreenlandThe dogs are a companion in survival, so it’s no surprise that we would encounter some in the settlement. The adult dogs are napping and chained to their houses or the rocks; the puppies are in napping in a box but as soon as they hear us, they’re climbing over one another and vying for our attention. We give them belly rubs before moving on.

Kulusuk, East GreenlandThe settlement has one grocery store and we stop there for a look around and to pick up some snacks for lunch. Now the little market is stocked up, but as the winter wears on the supplies on the shelves will dwindle while the residents of Kulusuk wait for the sea ice to break up enough so that ships can bring fresh supplies again.

Fisherman boat near Apusiaajik GlacierNow that we’ve walked the village, we board a small boat to get an up close look at the glittering icebergs that almost always dot the Angmassalik Fjord. They calve off the Apusiaajik Glacier and float through the fjord before drifting out to the sea. As we weave amongst the massive floating ice sculptures, I remind myself that what we see is actually only about 10% of the iceberg that is visible above the water.

Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland“That one looks like a Viking ship,” I point out to Tim. Each is unique and form different shapes as they go through phases of melting and freezing. This is also why parts of icebergs, or sometimes entire icebergs, are blue. One in particularly has a striking blue section of ice and if it weren’t for the wind stinging our cheeks, this wouldn’t feel real.

On a fishing boat near Kulusuk, East GreenlandAs the boat bounces over the water back toward shore, we gaze out over the fjord with chunks of old glacier floating beneath jagged saw-toothed mountains. Life might be harsh here, but with such unspoiled beauty surrounding them, we can see why the Inuit have made this place home.

Our day tour to Kulusuk was an excellent introduction to East Greenland, but at the same time it was like an amuse-bouche that left us wanting more. You can bet we’ll be back someday.

Know Before You Go

  • The Kulusuk Icebergs and Glaciers Day Tour operates from June 15 – the first week of September daily except on Sundays.
  • The tour includes round trip flights Reykjavik – Kulusuk – Reykjavik, airport taxes, guided tour, and boat excursion. The tour is 115,930 ISK (about $967 US) per person.
  • Wear good walking shoes or hiking boots. There is about 6 kilometers of walking required for this tour.

Disclosure: Our Kulusuk Day Tour was provided by Air Iceland in cooperation with Nordic Visitor in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.

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Kayaking in Iceland’s Westfjords http://jdombstravels.com/kayaking-in-iceland-westfjords/ http://jdombstravels.com/kayaking-in-iceland-westfjords/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:46:26 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=58835 Jdomb's Travels

Remote. Unspoiled. Breathtaking. With words like that used to describe Iceland’s north-west corner, known as the Iceland Westfjords, how could we not spend time in this true Icelandic wilderness? The Westfjords are teeming with wildlife – seabirds, seals, whales, and other marine mammals. There couldn’t be a better way to get up close to the …

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Jdomb's Travels

Remote. Unspoiled. Breathtaking. With words like that used to describe Iceland’s north-west corner, known as the Iceland Westfjords, how could we not spend time in this true Icelandic wilderness? The Westfjords are teeming with wildlife – seabirds, seals, whales, and other marine mammals. There couldn’t be a better way to get up close to the wildlife than to do some paddling.

Seals in Iceland Westfjords

How many seals do you count?

Locals always know the best spots and the team at the family run Borea Adventures were happy to share a few of Iceland’s best kept secrets with us as we tried out a new kayaking day tour they’ll be adding to their offerings for the upcoming season. Borea Adventures is located in the heart of Ísafjörður and we met our guide, Örvar, there. We’d be driving out to Hestfjörður, the narrow steep-walled fjords known as the Horse Fjord. It’s one of the best places in Iceland where you’re almost guaranteed to see seals.


As we launched our kayaks out in to the water, the seals all took a dive. Curious critters that they are, at least 20 heads would pop up craning for a better look at us. The seals were just as interested in us as we were in them and as we paddled out, they’d pop up right next to us to see what we were up to.

The seals continued to pop-up and dive around us as we paddled out toward Vigur Island. The water was nearly like glass, making it easy to spot them. We kept our eyes peeled for any whale spouts or fins. Though we never did spot any whales, like the humpbacks that like to come in to the fjord, some harbour porpoise did give us a show. They are the smallest marine mammal and look a bit like dolphins.

Kayaking to Vigur IslandVigur Island is a small island in the Westfjords known as the “Spear Island” because of its shape. Once upon a time, four families lived and farmed there. Now just one farmer remains. He is the fourth generation to inherit and live on Vigur Island and once we paddled  ashore, we could immediately see why he enjoys living there so much. The 360-degree views are simply spectacular!

All that paddling makes even the heartiest explorer famished. Örvar’s family also runs a small cafe and his brother had packed each of us a lunch bag. Everything is homemade and is both organic and local. The cafe bakes the bread for the sandwiches and the tomatoes and cheese come from a farmer in town. We also enjoyed fresh baked muffins and granola bars. Seriously the best granola bars we’ve ever had! His mother keeps the recipe a secret, even from Örvar. He joked with us that to work in the cafe you must sign a non-disclosure agreement before you get to help make the granola bars.

Eider ducks on Vigur Island

Eider ducks hanging out on shore

Fueled up on a healthy and delicious lunch, we set out to explore Vigur Island. In July and August all sorts of sea birds, like puffin, come to the island to nest and raise their young. We’d missed them leaving by only about two weeks, but the Eider ducks call the island home year round. The farmer makes a nice nesting area for them and slowly “steals” their feathers all summer long. He produces the expensive and luxe Eiderdown from the feathers collected in the small factory on the island. But not to worry, he replaces what he steals with hay and the Eider ducks are perfectly happy. Bring your credit card and you can go home with a very nice Eiderdown quilt, though it might cost you more than your flight to Iceland.

Iceland's only windmill

Iceland’s only windmill

Vigur Island is also home to Iceland’s only windmill. It was built in 1840 and used to grind grains. It was really ingenious when it was built – the whole thing turns so that it could always catch the wind no matter which direction it was blowing. It’s no longer used, but it is quite picturesque.

You can even mail a postcard with a special stamp made only for Vigur Island from the tiny Post Office. It’s the smallest Post Office in Europe.

Vigur IslandThe island is home to around 30 sheep, though the main livelihood is the production of the Eiderdown. Stroll around the “highlands” of the island and you’ll run into the sheep munching away on the grass. You can also walk down to the beach and have a look at the “face” rocks. Icelanders believe in trolls and elves and Örvar points out that this rock looks like a head with a big nose sticking out, eyes, and like the troll even has hair.

The walk around the island is perfect to stretch your legs before hopping back in to the kayak to paddle back across to the fjord.

Know Before You Go

  • The Vigur Island and Seals kayak tour is available from May – September. Inquire with Borea Adventures and check out their other tours from kayaking to skiing.
  • Paddling to Vigur Island is 10km (6.2 miles) round trip.
  • Wear warm water repellant clothing and socks. A dry suit and life jacket are provided to go over your clothing.

Disclosure: Our Vigur Island kayak tour was hosted by Borea Adventures in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.

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Beach Bummin’ at The Shores Resort & Spa http://jdombstravels.com/the-shores-resort-and-spa/ http://jdombstravels.com/the-shores-resort-and-spa/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:43:42 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=57700 Jdomb's Travels

I was happy to end an extremely busy 4-city trip through the US at Daytona’s The Shores Resort & Spa. And aside from literally getting my heart – and the NASCAR I was driving – racing at the Daytona International Speedway, I was more than happy to do nothing more than plant my bum on …

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I was happy to end an extremely busy 4-city trip through the US at Daytona’s The Shores Resort & Spa. And aside from literally getting my heart – and the NASCAR I was driving – racing at the Daytona International Speedway, I was more than happy to do nothing more than plant my bum on the beach and relax. *Gasp* I even put away the camera and mostly put down my phone to just enjoy lounging on the beach.

Just 3 miles from the beach shops and historic district, The Shores Resort & Spa sits on a beautiful (and quiet) strand of the barrier island. The boutique beachfront luxury hotel offers a menu of luxe amenities from an un-crowded beach to four-poster feather beds you’ll hardly want to pull yourself out of.

S'mores at The Shores Resort & Spa

Guests get a s’more making kit with all the essentials for making the ooey-gooey treats

As I checked in, the friendly staff handed over my S’mores kit and I knew I was going to love this hotel. Every night from sunset on, you can toast up marshmallows in The Shores’ fire pits to enjoy beachfront S’mores. My kind of place!

The Shores Resort & Spa

Photo courtesy of The Shores Resort & Spa

The rooms are spacious and decorated in a beachy chic theme, though the four-poster feather bed is the pièce de résistance. The bathroom is on the small side, but a separate vanity area outside the bathroom makes up for the lack of space.

The white sand beach, outdoor swimming pools, jacuzzi, tiki bar, and spa beckon you to actually leave the otherwise cozy room and experience the rest of what the resort has to offer. Can’t choose between beach and pool? Private access to the beach for resort guests makes it easy to alternate between the oasis of the resort’s sun deck and the gorgeous beach. There were chair and umbrellas rentals on the beach or just put your towel down in the sand.

Azure restaurant at The Shores Resort & SpaAfter working up an appetite swimming around in the couldn’t-be-a-more-perfect-temperature Atlantic Ocean, the on-site restaurant Azure’s menu tempted me with plenty of fish and seafood. Since I couldn’t choose just one dish for lunch and since I was indulging, I had the coconut mussels and a fried oyster po’boy. You can dine outside on the elevated terrace or indoors in the elegant restaurant. But who would want to be indoors when the weather was so gorgeous?

S'mores at The Shores Resort & Spa

Photo courtesy of The Shores Resort & Spa

As sun sets, which unfortunately is behind you as the beach faces east, the lovely blue of dusk sets in and the fire pits are lit. Grab an Adirondack and have your S’more kit ready. It’s the perfect way to end a day of relaxation in Daytona!

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Outdoor Adventures in Sweden’s Dalsland http://jdombstravels.com/dalsland-sweden/ http://jdombstravels.com/dalsland-sweden/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:02:25 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=57632 Jdomb's Travels

The deep forests and shimmering lakes of Dalsland, Sweden are an outdoor enthusiasts’ dream. The serene environment where moose roam, beaver build their dams, and salmon swim in winding streams is where explorers indulge in an array of activities. Covered in more lakes than any other Swedish province, the labyrinth of interconnected lakes are perfect …

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The deep forests and shimmering lakes of Dalsland, Sweden are an outdoor enthusiasts’ dream. The serene environment where moose roam, beaver build their dams, and salmon swim in winding streams is where explorers indulge in an array of activities. Covered in more lakes than any other Swedish province, the labyrinth of interconnected lakes are perfect for wild swimming, fishing, canoeing, and lakeside camping – just to name a few of the activities nature lovers can do in this idyllic setting.  Take a look at some of our favorite adventures from Dalsland:

Railbiking in Dalsland, SwedenRailbiking on the Dal–Västra Värmlands Järnväg

Railbiking sounded intriguing from the moment we heard about it, so we just had to give it a try (even in the rain). It is actually one of the most unique things to do and way to explore Dalsland. The Dal–Västra Värmlands Järnväg, or The Beautiful Vyernas Railway as it translates in English, is justly named so.

Adventures can travel on the old inspection trolleys converted to “railbikes” with a bike saddle on the now unused Dal–Västra Värmlands Järnväg for 52 kilometers between Bengtsfors and Årjäng. You can even load up your trolley and pedal along the old railway for a multi-day adventure, stopping to camp along the way.

If you’re not up for pedaling the full length, not to worry. You can rent the railbikes for anywhere from 1 hour to several days. You can start from either direction and pedal as far as you like. Just turn your trolley around and head back to where you came from when you’re done.

We had the railroad to ourselves the day we went railbiking. It had been raining continuously all morning and even the Swedes who are used to being outdoors in all types of weather looked at us like we were crazy when we wanted to railbike in the rain. Railbikes can come off the railroad track if you get too much speed and a wet railroad just increases those chances. There is also a crossing where there is regularly residential traffic not far from the station in Bengtsfors and the attendant told us this is where accidents happen when they do happen.

Railbiking is safe so long as you are aware that the trolley can come off the track and that you need to slow down in time to stop at the crossing. Once we got going, we laughed the whole time. Living up to its name, The Beautiful Vyernas Railway, there are plenty of picturesque spots to stop for photos. Just remember to always remove your railbike from the railroad tracks so you’re not in the way for others on the railroad.

Railbike rental is 435kr (about $62 USD) for a 1 day rental. 

Mountain biking in Dalsland, SwedenMountain Biking

If railbiking sounds a bit too crazy or just plain odd, there are plenty of trails inching along the lakes, through the forests, and across the plains which are perfect for mountain biking. You can pick up a map of the various cycling routes through Dalsland at any of the tourist offices or you can make your own route.

Veer off of gravel roads for exhilarating forest paths the edge along the lake before zigging back into the trees. You might even encounter some of Dalsland’s wildlife like moose or beavers. The gravel roads connect villages, farms, museums, cafes, art studios, and shops. There’s never a fear of getting lost for visitors unfamiliar with the area, even on unknown roads, as you can rent a GPS from companies like Silverlake Camp, where we also rented mountain bikes.

It was raining steadily when we set out from Silverlake Camp, so we stuck to the lakeside path and biked to the dam hoping to see some beaver. We didn’t have luck spotting beaver, but there were beautiful views around every bend – even in the rain.

Mountain bike rental with helmet from Silverlake Camp is 200kr (about $30 USD) per day.

Canoeing in Dalsland, SwedenCanoeing Dalsland’s Lakes

Dalsland has a unique lake system of over 1000 lakes, many of which are linked together by the Dalsland canal. The clear water and clean air beckon adventures to explore the island dotted lakes by canoe.

Though we are no strangers to kayaking, we’d actually never been in a canoe together. With a waterproof map and some snacks, we set out from our campsite. We paddled until our arms ached and then pulled our canoe ashore at a sandy beach down the lake for a rest.

We tried to explore one teeny tiny island situated in the middle of the lake, but it was like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds when a nest of seagulls started dive bombing threateningly. We quickly paddled away. We paddled around other islands and along rocky cliffs rising from the sea.

Dalsland Aktiviteter

Meet Thor, the bull moose at Dalsland Aktiviteter

Feeding Moose at the Moosepark

More than 500,000 moose roam Sweden’s forests, though even driving some of the forest roads at a turtle’s crawl we still didn’t spot any wild moose. We did, however, have the chance to get up close with several moose at Dalsland’s Aktiviteter Center.

As we followed Pontus, owner of Dalsland Aktiviteter to the protected moose area, the moose came right away knowing they were in for a treat. Pontus lovingly patted the moose and they gave him a nudge back. The large bull moose (the term for a male moose) named Thor had been found as just a baby after his mother died and grew up on the 14 hectares of land at Dalsland Aktiviteter. He’d clearly come to love Pontus. Another moose was currently pregnant and Pontus explained she was missing because she was off somewhere getting ready to birth her calf.

We learned about how the bull moose loose their antlers each fall and grow a new set every spring. Only the males grow antlers and these are for impressing cows (female moose) and showing their dominance in the pack.

Pontus knows so much about moose because he grew up with them, hunting moose from a young age with his father. He still hunts moose during the season, which helps to keep Sweden’s population under control. Though he doesn’t just hunt for fun; the meat is used and the cafe at Dalsland Aktiviteter specializes in a moose burger.

We couldn’t pass up on trying the moose burgers and they were delicious. Moose meat is full of protein and is much healthier than beef. It’s a perfect meal for fueling up before canoeing around Dalsland’s lakes.

Camping at Dalsland AktiviteterCamping Lakeside

Canoeing and feeding moose aren’t the only activities offered at Dalsland Aktiviteter; you can do everything from ziplining on Sweden’s longest zipline to camping in teepees at several campsites. Camping in the teepees was actually my favorite thing we did on our In A Volvo adventure.

There are some conveniences that border on glamping, like having shower facilities at the reception center, jacuzzi, sauna and an excellent dinner. Though it was nearly a Survivor situation when we had to chop our own wood for the fire and get it lit. Tim, who I’m not sure has actually ever chopped wooded before, did nick himself with the axe.

Camping at Dalsland Aktiviteter

Chopping wood for s’mores and dinner

But it was nothing that a s’more couldn’t fix. We’d found marshmallows and chocolate at a grocery store in town and substituted gingersnaps for graham crackers. Tim chopped enough wood to get the fire going and I kept his energy up for more chopping by supplying a constant stream of toasted marshmallow and melted chocolate sandwiched between gingersnaps. I dubbed our creation the “Swedish s’more” and it was actually pretty delicious.

Pontus had delivered us a cooler with all the fixings for dinner: seasoned steaks to grill up, potatoes, salad, bread and dessert. We had cold beers, sodas, and a pot to make coffee or tea. It was perfectly for enjoying a leisurely dinner under the midnight sun.

The teepees are basic, but comfortable. You put down pine branches and reindeer furs, then put your sleeping bag on top. Even in Sweden’s cool early summer, we were plenty warm all night. And luckily for me, Tim got up and got the fire going before coaxing me out of my sleeping bag for breakfast.

Camping at Dalsland Aktiviteter with dinner and activities ranges from 990kr to 1890 kr ($150 – $275 USD) per family depending on the activities selected. 

Related: Campfire S’more Recipes

Lancashire ruins in Dalsland, SwedenExploring the Ruins of Bäckefors

The old iron factory and village is now mostly in ruins, but it is the best preserved memories of the 19th century iron industry in Dalsland. Here you can see the ruins of the Lancashire smiths from England and a small museum explains more about the iron factory. Most of the smithys lie in stone ruins, but The Brewery remains in excellent condition and is painted the Swedish red so commonly seen throughout the country.

Baldersnas Estate Dalsland, SwedenRomancing at Baldersnäs Estate

Biking, canoeing, and camping might not be the most romantic of activities, but after all that outdoorsy togetherness head to the Baldersnäs Estate. It’s a turn of the century Swedish mansion romantically set on the sparkling shores of Lake Laxsjön. You can stay either in the main house or in two new hotel wings on the tree-lined avenue leading down toward the lake.

The estate’s English Park was Sweden’s largest in its heyday and though not all of it exists anymore, it’s still a lovely place to stroll amongst the fragrant blooms and exotic species of trees. Or talk a walk hand-in-hand along the lake, gazing out at the man-made islands.

Baldersnäs also has a spa where you can relax in the saunas and ease any aches from the plethora of outdoor activities and camping.

Baldersnas Estate Dalsland, Sweden

Strolling around the Baldersnas Estate

The restaurant prides itself of serving organic produce from the estate, locally sourced fish and game meats, and fruits and berries from the forest. The menu changes daily and is based upon what is in season and freshly available. We enjoyed wine pairings and a 5-course gourmet meal including lake salmon, mushrooms from the forest, and deer filet. Weather permitting you can dine outside on the terrace or in the charming dining room.

Double rooms in the Baldersnäs main house are 1390kr ($200 USD) per night and include breakfast. Double rooms in the annex are 795kr ($115 USD) per night and include breakfast. 

Disclosure: Our trip was provided by Visit Sweden and Volvo as part of the #WestSweden and #inaVolvo campaign. As always, all opinions about the experiences, restaurants, and accommodations are entirely our own.

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La Partita a Scacchi: Marostica’s Human Chess Game http://jdombstravels.com/la-partita-a-scacchi-human-chess-game/ http://jdombstravels.com/la-partita-a-scacchi-human-chess-game/#comments Sat, 23 Aug 2014 13:01:00 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/la-partita-a-scacchi-human-chess-game/ Jdomb's Travels

The hilltop town of Marostica in the Veneto Plains is famous for two things: its special heart shaped variety of cherries that is the only Italian variety of cherry to earn P.G.I (protected geographic indication) and the Marostica Human Chess Game played on the inlaid marble chess board dominating the square. Related: Hiking to Marostica’s …

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Marostica

The hilltop town of Marostica in the Veneto Plains is famous for two things: its special heart shaped variety of cherries that is the only Italian variety of cherry to earn P.G.I (protected geographic indication) and the Marostica Human Chess Game played on the inlaid marble chess board dominating the square.

Related: Hiking to Marostica’s Hilltop Castle

It was 1454 in the small town of Marostica, which then still belonged to the Venetian Republic. Two noble knights, Rinaldo D’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara, challenged each other to a duel to win the hand of the beautiful Lionora. Taddeo Parisio, father of Lionora and Lord of the Marostica castle did not want to make an enemy of either suitor or loose them in a duel, so he forbade them to duel in under the Cangrande della Scala’s Edict. He instead declared that the two rivals would play a chess game: the winner would wed Lionora and the loser would join the Lord’s family as the husband of Lionora’s younger sister Oldrada. The Lord also decided the challenge should be honored by an performance of armed men, fool-soldiers and knights, with fireworks and dances and music.

It may no longer be the 1400’s, but the competitors are still dueling it out in a battle of their wits on Marostica’s giant marble chessboard. Every even numbered year in September revelers from all around Italy come to Marostica to cheer on either the black or the white knight as each knight calls out their move and the costumed players move according to the instructions of each knight.

Marostica's Human Chess Game

The game begins with archers shooting flaming arrows to illuminate the board in a burst of flames

Marostica Human Chess Game

The dueling knights call out commands to the players in the Venetian dialect

The re-enactment of the Marostica Human Chess Game involves over 550 characters and last around two hours. Once the sun sets, the event begins with archers high on the towers of the Lower Castle shooting flaming arrows to the outskirts of the chess board. In a burst of flames, the chess board comes to life. The orders are still given to the characters and cast today in the “Serenissima Republic of Venezia” dialect.

Marostica Human Chess Game

The game ends in celebration and fireworks

To complicate things further, Lady Lionora was secretly in love with one of the two knights. She secretly informed the population that if the winner were her beloved, the Lower Castle would be illuminated by white light so that all the town’s people could share in their joy. Just as Lionora was united with her true love when he won both the Marostica Human Chess Game and her heart, the game ends in a celebration of music, dance, and fireworks. The lower castle, just as you would expect all good fairy tales to end, blazes a white so bright that in that moment, it can no doubt be seen all the way from the sea.

Know Before You Go

  • The Marostica Human Chess Game takes places in 2014 on Friday, September 12 and Saturday, September 13 at 9pm and Sunday, September 14 at 5pm and 9pm. Tickets can be purchased in advance online.
  • The nearest train station to Marostica is in Bassano del Grappa and then buses connect the two towns. Or it can be reached by car from the A4 highway from Venice or Milan.

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Hiking the Belluno Dolomites http://jdombstravels.com/hiking-belluno/ http://jdombstravels.com/hiking-belluno/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:50:50 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=57389 Jdomb's Travels

The Parco Nazionale delle Dolomiti Bellunesi (The National Park of the Belluno Dolomites) has numerous hiking trails crisscrossing the two 2000 meter high mountains that rise up between Belluno and Feltre. Hiking Belluno offers nature lovers beautiful panoramas, particularly on the stretch of the Dolomites Alta Via 13 marked as trail 13 between Rifguio La …

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The Parco Nazionale delle Dolomiti Bellunesi (The National Park of the Belluno Dolomites) has numerous hiking trails crisscrossing the two 2000 meter high mountains that rise up between Belluno and Feltre. Hiking Belluno offers nature lovers beautiful panoramas, particularly on the stretch of the Dolomites Alta Via 13 marked as trail 13 between Rifguio La Casera and Rifugio Col Visentin, the highest point in this stretch of the mountains.

View over Lake Santa CroceThe trail is great for hikers of any level. It starts as a rocky semi-paved forest road from the parking lot of the Rifugio La Casera at 1400 meters on Alpe del Nevegal. The trail has an immediate 8% gradient, but within minutes we were rewarded with beautiful views of the turquoise and emerald waters of Lake Santa Croce.

The well marked trail quickly makes its way through the forest and continues up a grassy ridge with views of the lake, the Piave River, and the Alps to the right. To the left, the houses of Belluno dot the valley and the Dolomiti Bellunesi rising up behind. There are plenty of grassy plains spotted with colorful mountain wildflowers perfect for a picnic and we saw plenty of families doing just that.

Rifugio Bristot

Rifugio Bristot

If you don’t want to pack a lunch up, you could easily hike up to Rifugio Bristot. It was opened in 1950 and got its name from Lieutenant Angelo degli Alpini Bristot. The rifugio serves pasta and local dishes and the picnic tables outside have a stellar view over Valbelluna, the Cadore and some of the most beautiful peaks of the Dolomites. Since the rifugio is served by the ski lifts, it is open and accessible all year round.

Hiking BellunoWe continued on the trail toward Rifugio Visentin 100 meters higher at 1765 meters. There are two ways up: you can take a dirt forest service road or you can hike the mostly grassy ridge up. We took the ridge, which though steeper is a more direct route and much easier under the feet than a rocky road. We were again afforded beautiful views, even with hiking through some of the clouds that were beginning to roll in.

Hiking BellunoIf hiking this trail in August, you might even want to bring a container. The trail is covered with ground blueberry bushes and we were more than happy to join in with hikers collecting up blueberries. We didn’t have a container since we weren’t expecting this wonderful treat, but we picked handful and ate them right then and there. My hands are still stained purple, but those were some delicious blueberries!

The trail descends down off the ridge and meets up with the forest road. You again have a choice of climbing the rest of the way to Rifugio Visentin on the road or on a steep climb up a rocky hill. Tim never wants to take the easy way and I dragged myself up what I swear was the full 100 meters of elevation gain in just 50 meters of trail. But with the rifugio in sight and the promise of a hot meal and wine, I never hiked so quickly.

Rifugio Visentin

Rifugio Visentin

 

Rifugio Visentin

Tagliatelle with mushrooms and mountain herbs and apple strudel

Refugio Vistentin is at 1765 meters and is positioned at the end of the Dolomites Alta Via 1, a long distance hike through the mountains for 90 some miles that Tim did last summer, and as part of the Alta Via 3. It’s also part of the famous Munich to Venice long distance hike and memorabilia decorate the walls. The rifugio is at the highest point in this stretch of the mountains, hence the radio and cellular towers that also top the hill. But pay no matter to the towers because the panoramas are breathtaking. You can see all the way to the sea, the Venice lagoon, and the Dolomites on a clear day from up top. The rifugio is only open May through September and is known for its simple dishes like homemade pasta noodles with fresh mushrooms and mountains herbs. You can also sleep here on request in one of the two dorms (they have 12 beds each with two bathrooms).

Hiking BellunoWe did take the forest service road back down, which creates a loop back to Rifugio Bristot. Even on the road, the views are stunning. The hike from Rifugio La Casera to Rifugio Visentin round trip is 7 miles with 350 meters elevation gain and is suitable for all levels of hikers.

Know Before You Go

  • The trail head at Rifugio La Casera can be reached from Belluno by car or by bus.

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Win 2 Tickets to Colombia from LAN Airlines http://jdombstravels.com/win-2-tickets-colombia-lan-airlines/ http://jdombstravels.com/win-2-tickets-colombia-lan-airlines/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 21:28:26 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=57276 Jdomb's Travels

We used to visit the Caribbean every year before we moved to Europe. It’s been five years since our last visit and we’re itching to get back to that side of the world. Cartagena, Colombia’s cool Caribbean sea breezes, fancy fusion restaurants, and South American charm sound like a perfect getaway to us. So, when …

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Jdomb's Travels

We used to visit the Caribbean every year before we moved to Europe. It’s been five years since our last visit and we’re itching to get back to that side of the world. Cartagena, Colombia’s cool Caribbean sea breezes, fancy fusion restaurants, and South American charm sound like a perfect getaway to us.

So, when LAN Airlines reached out to us about their “Countdown to South America” giveaway with 2 tickets to Cartagena, Colombia and 3 nights accommodations in the seaside city, we knew we had to share it with you.

LAN AirlinesHow To Enter

We sadly won’t be jetting off to Colombia anytime soon, but you could be on your way! It’s really easy to enter and just takes two minutes of your time. Head over to Countdown to Cartagena and enter your name, email address, zip code, and departure city. You do need to agree to the terms and conditions, plus agree to receive communications from the airline. Answer a few quick questions about South America and your entry just might be the winner.

Not to worry though, you can always unsubscribe from the communications. But as we recommend in our Essential Guide to Europe’s Budget Airlines, you find out about the best deals (really, steals) in airline newsletters. So getting those in your inbox isn’t such a bad thing.

BONUS ENTRY: You can also share with your friends on Facebook or retweet that you’ve entered the competition for an extra entry with a click of a button.

And you didn’t hear it from me, but when you enter you also get a 15% discount off any LAN Airlines flight to anywhere where they fly in Colombia. So if you’re planning on making like the birds and heading south for the winter, an entry will save you some cash on your flights.

What You Win

You not only get two round trip tickets with LAN Airlines, but you’ll also be staying at the luxe Casa San Agustin right inside Cartagena’s city walls for 4 days/3 nights with breakfast included. It was recently restored and voted as one of the top hotels in Colombia and by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the best new hotels in the world. With just 24 guest rooms and 6 suites and the Caribbean nearby, this hotel sounds romantic and right up our alley.

The Countdown to Cartagena Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 p.m. (EST) on September 4, 2014, and is only open to U.S. Residents.

Cartagena, ColombiaWhat are you waiting for? Hop to it and enter to win this fabulous getaway with the Countdown to Cartagena sweepstakes!

Disclosure: We were compensated to share this competition from LAN Airlines with you; however, it is a destination we ourselves would like to visit and feel the competition is worth sharing. Good luck!

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