• Norway

    Road trip to Lofoten – Solo traveler’s experiences and tips

    I have had this trip in my mind since last summer and now after obsessively checking the weather forecast and having my mom’s car to use, I decided this is my moment. I started my drive from Rovaniemi, Finland, knowing it will be a long 11h drive to reach my turning point in Lofoten Islands. I crossed the border to Sweden in Pello and drove across the Swedish Lapland making only one stop at picture beautiful Abisko. I already added the place to my bucket list, I really want to go back and do some hiking there. I crossed the border to Norway, and decided to stay the night in Narvik as it was getting late and I started feeling exhausted. Next morning, I continued driving towards Lofoten setting my destination to Festvågtind, the first hike I wanted to do. The landscape started changing and soon I had endless number of incredible mountains and fjords in front of my eyes. Instantly I fell in love with Lofoten.

    Fjord near Unstad, Lofoten

    When I planned the trip, I had in mind to stay on the road for a week if the weather stays good, and also visit Senja and Tromsø before driving back to Finland through Kilpisjärvi. However, after arriving to Lofoten I already knew I was going to stay there as long as possible deciding to visit Senja and Tromsø to another time.

    When visit Lofoten

    I visited Lofoten at the beginning of August and I was incredibly lucky when it comes to the weather: it was sunny or only partly cloudy every day! Nice +17ºC during the daytime and around +12ºC at night. When hiking you could easily manage with short sleeves but after stopping for a moment, I instantly had to put my jacket on. In general, the best time to visit Lofoten is from June to August. You can enjoy the midnight sun and go hiking during the night-time if you feel like it, or still in August you can go hiking quite late in the evening and still make it back to your tent before the sunset.

    Sunset at Ramberg Beach, Lofoten

    What to pack

    If you plan to go hiking number one thing is good shoes. Waterproof over-the-ankle boots with a lot of grip are definitely the type of shoes you should have with you. Also, water- and windproof outdoor jacket and pants are a must, because the weather in Lofoten can be unpredictable. Beanie and gloves are very recommended and a scarf to cover your neck. Remember to pack enough warm clothes especially if you are sleeping in a tent, layers are your friends. Norway is an expensive country, so I wanted to save some money and bought most of my food from Finland. Don’t forget the cleaning wipes, that was my shower during the days I wasn’t staying in camping. Power bank is a lifesaver when there is no electricity available.

    Money

    The currency in Norway is Norwegian Krone (NOK) and 1€ is around 10 NOK. I could pay everything with my card, so it is not necessary to have cash. If you want to get some, just withdraw a small amount as most probably you are not going to need it.

    Driving in Lofoten

    Important thing to keep in mind is that the roads are narrow and winding, going up and down with many bridges and tunnels, so don’t (actually you even can’t) drive too fast. In many points only one car fits to drive the road at a time so it means a lot of waiting. You mainly see Caravans on the road, which adds its own fun to your driving. They drive even slower than you do, and they are bigger than normal cars, which means it’s almost impossible to get past them in Lofoten roads. There are a lot of places where you can park your car along the road to have a break and admire the view. I decided not to do it as I figured I would never make it where I was heading. There are a good number of gas stations until the very end of Lofoten, so you won’t have to worry much where to fill up the tank. I had to pay in total around 180€ for the gas for the whole trip Rovaniemi – Å i Lofoten – Rovaniemi.

    Lofoten, Norway

    Where to stay in Lofoten

    Camping is for sure the most popular way of accommodating in Lofoten, and there are camping sites everywhere. I slept in a tent and most of the nights I stayed in camping areas to have things like shower and kitchen to use. All the campings I stayed in ended up being quite full at the end of the day so better to arrive earlier than later. The tents are set up right next to each other and you can easily be disturbed by your fellow campers snoring almost next to your ear. Another tricky thing was if you wake up in the middle of the night to go to pee, as all the strings from the tents form a huge minefield to get through without stumbling over someone’s tent. While driving I also saw a lot of signs of B&B places and if you are looking for a traditional experience you should stay over in “Rorbuer” which are red fishermen cabins built one end on land and other on poles in the water.

    Camping at Uttakleiv Beach, Lofoten

    Camping sites I stayed in and prices for a tent and one person:

    • Øyjord Camping (Narvik): 150 NOK (=15€) / night
    • Uttakleiv Beach: 200 NOK (=20€) / night, no shower or kitchen available. By the beach and direct hiking trail to Veggen. You’ll be literally camping with sheep.
    • Ramberg Gjestegård: 220 NOK (=22€) / night. Shower not included. You’ll have to pay 10 NOK (=1€) for little more than 2 minutes of water in the shower. Check beforehand you have enough 10 NOK coins!! I had only one (I thought I had more) and the water stopped running while I had my conditioner on my hair, and I was covered with soap from neck to toes. My only choice was to cover myself with a towel and go asking from people if anyone had change, so embarrassing! The location is beautiful by the beach and you can go hiking directly to Nubben or drive few minutes and go hiking to Volandstind.
    • Moskenes Camping: 210 NOK (=21€) / night. Next to the ferry terminal. Easy to visit Å and many hiking possibilities.

    One night I stayed at Kvalvika Beach and one night near Unstad Beach without any amenities but obviously with a beautiful view and for free. In total I spent around 78€ on accommodation for one week.

    What to see

    Haukland Beach, Lofoten

    Did you know beaches in Lofoten are one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen! White sand, crystal clear turquoise water with rough mountains in the background. WOW. Check out Haukland Beach, Uttakleiv Beach, Ramberg Beach or Kvalvika Beach to mention a few. Maybe you even dare to go for a swim. Don’t miss picturesque fishing villages Hamnøy, Reine and Å. Drive until the very end of road E10 and go for a walk to see where Lofoten ends.

    Hiking in Lofoten

    Why I wanted to visit Lofoten was the beautiful landscapes and hiking possibilities. I ended up doing 8 hikes in 6 days and my body was craving for rest after. But all the hikes I did were AMAZING. It doesn’t matter which mountain you climb you’ll always get incredible view on top, always! Now important: Lofoten has its own standards for hikes. Before the trip I prepared a list of possible hikes I would like to do and already excluded all the hikes that said “difficult” or “steep”, so all of them were supposed to be easy or moderate level. After doing my first hike which was “moderate” I really understood that moderate for me or any other non-Norwegian person would mean difficult, and easy for me means moderate and if you want an easy hike just don’t leave the beach. For a person who grew up in a country that doesn’t have mountains a 2-hour hike uphill that mostly goes you using all your four limbs to keep going IS NOT EASY OR EVEN MODERATE in any way. Most of the hiking trails in Lofoten are not marked. You just see the path where many people have walked before, and you follow it. Some hikes in Lofoten are very popular and get crowded but there are also mountains where you might encounter only few other people on your way, and you’ll get the whole view for yourself when you reach the summit.

    Offersøykammen, Lofoten

    Hikes in Lofoten tend to be short day hikes, just going up a mountain and then getting back down but still it’s a good challenge for the body. I really like going up and pushing myself a little bit more every time but still I always hike at my own pace, stopping to catch my breath whenever I need it or take a sip of water. Then I continue along the trail like a train, keeping my eyes carefully on the ground not even noticing if the trail splits. So many times I had to turn back because I missed the intersection or took a wrong trail. Or somehow made it on top and then found the right trail I was supposed to go when getting back down. If the slope got a bit steeper a thought often crossed my mind, oh gosh how am I going to descend this part later, but after all I didn’t face any problems. Reaching the summit is the best feeling ever. Seeing the 360º view for the first time, feeling the adrenaline and just breathing, I really cherish those moments. On the top I always chose a quiet spot with a stunning view and drank a cup of tea and ate something, sometimes a sandwich, sometimes a cinnamon bun. I usually stay there at least for an hour just breathing, enjoying the view and obviously taking some photos (which really is a minor part).

    Like in Finland, everyone in Norway too enjoys a concept called everyman’s right or right to roam (allemannsretten), which gives you the right to access and passage through uncultivated land in the countryside for recreation (eg. camp overnight) and exercise. It’s based on respect towards landowners and if you are unsure what you can or cannot do, better to check it beforehand.

    Reinebringen, Lofoten

    Lofoten is a picture-perfect place (100% grammable) and one of the most beautiful destinations I’ve ever visited. It should be on everyone’s bucket list yes or yes! Have you ever visited Lofoten? If you have any tips to share leave a comment 🙂

    With love Sanna

  • Florida

    MIAMI – Where’s the party at?

    “I’m going to relax, enjoy the long beaches, sun and warm weather. I’ll book my hostel from Miami Beach so I can go for an early morning run every day at the sandy beach, have a breakfast and chill at the pool before tanning at the beach or getting to know other neighbourhoods. One day I wanna do a road trip to Key West.”

    Miami Beach, Florida

    Yeah no, not even close. First of all, if you are going to Miami at the end of June when it’s hurricane season, don’t expect the weather to be great because it’s not. There were many rainy days which kind of ruined my plans once and for all.

    So, my trip to Miami ended up being quite different than I expected but still it was a good one. I met really nice people, I went clubbing, I went more clubbing (because at the end it didn’t matter if you sleep the next day as it was gonna rain anyways) and finally I did the road trip to Key West!

    Miami Beach, Florida

    I stayed at Generator Hostel in Miami Beach for five nights and I can warmly recommend this hostel. It was clean, nice interior design, quiet dorms, it has its own restaurant and at the patio the pool and the bar invite people to get social with each other. 8-bed female dorm cost around 20 USD/night, no breakfast included. Otherwise Miami is pretty expensive city. Like in LA the public transportation basically doesn’t exist so easiest way to get around is by Über or Lyft (remember to download both applications to your phone before your trip). I bought a prepaid SIM card with 10 GB of internet and it cost me 40 USD which I considered really expensive. Then again it is just so much easier to have the internet than be dependent on where you can find a WiFi to get your Uber. Eating out is also quite costly and going out, well let’s just say this is when your dollars start to fly.

    Hostel Generator, Miami

    Miami never sleeps. It’s a city of endless parties 24/7. You’ll run out of money before you even notice as all the entries and drinks are expensive. Obviously, it is better to be female and get invited to parties for free.

    I cannot believe I’m really writing this but here are my recommendations where to party in Miami:

    Club Space is the most famous of all, entries there cost around 100 USD and besides that the tickets end up being sold out. I got to know a girl from my hostel who has the ability to talk her way in any place and situation, so she managed to talk us in during a sold-out night and even wanted to invite me paying my 100 bucks entry. (Love you Karolina!) The party continues until 11 am and I’m telling you, you’re going to keep on partying under the sunrise so don’t forget to bring your sunglasses! I managed to last until 8.30 am.

    Story is kind of a typical night club. During the night I was there the DJ was Don Diablo and the next night French Montana was performing. It has a big dancefloor and reserved tables levelling up to give you a perfect view of the club. Great party.

    Liv is a nightclub inside of a fancy hotel in Miami Beach and it’s in 2 levels. From the upper floor you’ll get the view to the dancefloor. The music was quite typical commercial one.

    E11even is a club I didn’t actually go to but many people told me this is one of the big ones and the party goes on 24 hours every day of the week. Whoa.

    Bodega is a hip hop club and offers different kind of vibes than the previous ones. Is not as fancy or big but I ended up going there twice.

    Miami is a very spread out city so there are many places recommended to visit during your stay.

    South Beach is living up to its fame. This part of Miami is very touristic as it is full of beach resorts like the entire Miami Beach. It is the heart of the nightlife and parties and full of people showing off while tanning at the beach or going out. Also recognized because of its Art Deco District.

    Wynwood is an artsy neighbourhood full of colourful street art and enormous murals at the Wynwood Walls. Also filled with contemporary art galleries and many bars (more affordable ones) and restaurants. Definitely worth to visit as it is something totally different from Miami Beach.

    Brickell is the fancy financial district in Miami. You can find newly built skyscrapers, city’s best rooftops and cocktails from this area. Also home to a luxury mall called Brickell City Centre.

    Brickell, financial district in Miami, Florida

    Fort Lauderdale is actually another city located 45 km to the north from Miami. It is known for its beaches, art and events. I would have liked to visit but unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time. I was also told that if you want to do some surfing this is the place to do it.

    Road trip to Key West was the only thing I really really wanted to do when in Miami. I gathered a group of people from my hostel, we rented a car for one day and headed to Key West early in the morning. Almost 4-hour ride through the scenic Florida Keys was a nice experience and Key West at the end of all was the cherry on top of the cake. Sadly, there was awfully a lot of seaweed at the beaches in Key West but we managed to find a clean one at Fort Zachary. I loved the idyllic colourful houses and the laidback small town summer vibes. I would recommend staying there over night as one day road trip is after all only few hours spent at the island. We headed back to Miami around 6 pm to return the car.

    Key West, Florida

    My conclusion is that Miami was a great experience but I think for me seeing it once is enough.

    Fort Zachary, Key West, Florida

    With love, Sanna

  • Lanzarote

    10+5 tips what to see and do in Lanzarote

    1. Timanfaya National Park
    The area of Timanfaya was created almost 300 years ago in volcanic eruptions and it’s the most breath-taking place in Lanzarote. The landscape differs completely from everything I’ve ever seen and to be honest at some moments I had no clue in which planet I was. I could imagine that similar landscapes might exist in Mars: rough, dry, rocky, all the shades of red, brown, black and grey. You have to pay 10€ for the entry and you cannot wonder around the park by yourself but take a bus ride and admire the landscape through the window.
    2. Cueva de los Verdes (“Green Cave”)
    Cueva de los Verdes was born after the eruption of Corona volcano when the lava was flowing through the “lava tube” over six kilometres to the ocean. This lava tube is one of the longest existing ones in the world. The cave was named after the family “Los Verdes” (“The Greens”) who owned the land where the cave is located and has nothing to do with the green colour. There are tickets sold only for guided tours for 9,50€. On the tour you walk 1 kilometre inside the cave while you will be explained how it was born and its history. Because of the great acoustics there are some concerts organized.
    3. Jameos del Agua
    Jameos del Agua belong to the same cave network than Cueva de los Verdes and it’s located only a short walk a way near the beach. Inside the cave there is an amazing restaurant where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or even make a reservation for the dinner (open for dinner only Saturdays and Tuesdays). At the end of the restaurant you can see where the lava tunnel continues its way towards the ocean. The cave is amazing with the pool of water where the rare, blind and tiny white grabs live. The place is also culture and art centre and the entry costs 9,50€.
    4. Cactus Garden
    Lanzarote is famous for its cactuses and the cactus garden is a really nice place to visit. You can find over 450 different species of cactus from five different continents. Entry fee 5,80€.
    5. El Golfo – Charco de los Clicos (“Green Lagoon”)
    The Green Lagoon is formed in the crater of an old volcano right next to a small fisherman village called El Golfo. The green colour comes from a type of algae that grows in the water. Contrast between the green water, black soil and blue ocean is quite unique and worth of seeing. Free entry.
    6. Los Hervideros (“Boiling Pots”)
    The caves known as Los Hervideros are constituted of two caverns separated by a natural pillar, shaped by lava and the ocean. The name translates to Boiling Pots coming from the moment when the waves hit the rocks with such power that the ocean seems like it’s boiling. The recommended time to visit is during the high tide or full moon. Free entry.
    7. Surfing
    Lanzarote is called the Hawaii of Europe because of the amazing surfing possibilities it offers all around the year. There are many windy beaches with daily red flag which means swimming is prohibited. If you are a beginner or even a bit more experienced, we recommend booking a surf lesson or course that many surf schools in the area offer. We booked a 1-day surf course from Calima Surf School at Famara beach. 2 surf lessons, wet suit, board and lunch were included in the price, which was 55€/person. The waves and currents were strong, lessons were great, and the wet suit kept the cold away. Every surf school has their own area at the beach were to arrange their lessons and at some point, it felt like there were too many people in the water at the same time, so you should be careful not to knock anyone with your board or to get hit by others. Couple of times we managed to stand up on the board and surf towards the shore!
    8. Papagayo beaches
    All beaches of Punta de Papagayo are in the south tip of the island in protected coast so here you can get away from the hustle and bustle of hotels, restaurants and masses of tourists. To reach Papagayo beaches you must ride a very bumpy and narrow road for some kilometres with a speed of 20-30km/h but when you get there the view is definitely worth it. The beaches are in their natural state with soft golden white sand and crystal clear emerald green water, surrounded by rocks. Personally, I love these kinds of beaches and that’s why we went there twice during our holiday. This is a perfect place to snorkel and the sunset is breath-taking!
    9. Sunday Market in Teguise
    The beautiful small town of Teguise located in the middle of Lanzarote comes to life every Sunday from 9:00 to 14:00 when the streets are filled with market stalls. From Teguise Sunday market you can find everything you can imagine from fashion and jewellery to souvenirs and food.
    10. Mirador del Río
    This view point is located at the north of the island more than 400 metres of altitude. It offers a view over El Río, the narrow stretch of the sea separating Lanzarote from La Graciosa, and you can see islands of La Graciosa, Alegranza and Montaña Blanca. The entrance is 4,75€ but if you want to save some money you can enjoy the same view just next to the Mirador del Río for free (like we did).
    +Gran Karting
    Many may not know that the biggest Go Karting race track in the Europe is in Lanzarote. On our last day we decided to give it a try from my mom´s suggestion. We drove around six laps, obviously my father and boyfriend bypassing me in the first curve, but my mother came to realize after first lap that karting wasn’t her type of sports and drove directly to the pit stop. Price 18€/person/8min.

    +La Graciosa
    The island of La Graciosa is located in the north really close to Lanzarote. La Graciosa has been maintained the best in its natural state comparing to other islands. You can take a ferry to from Órzola which goes every half an hour. Return journey costs around 20€. We were also tempted of the golden sandy beaches La Graciosa but we didn’t have enough time to visit there.

    +Day trip to Fuerteventura
    From Playa Blanca in the southern part of Lanzarote you can catch a ferry to Corralejo, Fuerteventura if you get bored staying only in Lanzarote. The island seems completely different from Lanzarote with its long sandy beaches one after another.

    +Visit wine yard
    The volcanic rich soil of Lanzarote is a good base for the grapes, but the strong winds keep the circumstances hard. That’s why they have developed a special way of growing the grapes in Lanzarote: Grape-growers dig holes and build stone walls to protect their grapes. Specially in the area of La Geria there are many wine yards/wineries to visit.

    +Arrecife
    The “capital” of Lanzarote is often ignored by tourists. If you want have better shopping possibilities head to Arrecife. Have a walk by the beach, admire the view and stop for a lunch.

    With love, Sanna

  • Lanzarote

    Lanzarote: Why visit a tourist trap?

    Why Lanzarote? I had never been there before and to be honest I hadn’t even been interested of going there as Canary Islands are known to be a “tourist trap” (seeing image in my mind of masses of retired Scandinavians red as tomatoes, socks in their sandals, equipped by ridiculous hats and fanny packs) until my boyfriend started talking to me about how I would absolutely love it and he made me do some research. Around the same time, it came up that my mom wanted to celebrate her 50th birthday somewhere near the beach and so we started to plan this trip. First, we were thinking to go Andalusia but at the end of October you never now how the weather would be so after all we ended up searching flights to Canary Islands. We booked the return flights from Madrid to Lanzarote last May with around 120€/person (for me, my parents and my boyfriend). It was my mother’s responsibility to look for accommodation and she booked very spacious apartment with terrace for us from Puerto del Carmen. My parents arrived at Madrid from Lapland couple days before our trip and this was actually my dad`s first time traveling to the south.

    Lanzarote is the most eastern island of Canary Islands and fourth in size. Around 140 000 people live there. Temperature is above +20ºC all around the year and during the nights temperature drops only few degrees. It rarely rains there but of course the day after our arrival it was raining the whole day so much that the water even started entering into our apartment. Couple of days it was also super windy which seems to be typical in Lanzarote. Canary Islands get most of their income from tourism so in that sense it’s true that it’s a tourist trap. Also, Puerto del Carmen is a very touristic zone full of hotels and apartments, but it also means there are a lot of restaurants, cafes, little shops and supermarkets in walking distance like Eurospar, Hiperdino and Lidl.

    When we arrived at Lanzarote, we rented a car (a Seat Leon big enough for max 5 people with a decent sized trunk for the luggage) from the airport which I had booked the day before. Renting a car is a very good choice for people who don’t only want to be chilling on the nearest beach but actively explore the island. I chose to get the car from CiCar (Canary Island Car) which is a local car rental firm and had the best offer: car rent 6 days + 2 hours, all-inclusive insurance, insurance for the driver, unlimited kilometres and additional driver. Also, for families the offer included safety seats for the kids and all for 117€. During the six days we almost used all the gasoline (the tank was full when we got the car) so filling the tank cost 45€ extra and the total cost of the car was 162€. Driving around in a new place for almost a week didn’t leave me much time to enjoy the views but for sure helped to gain some driving experience. It takes only one hour to travel through the whole island from north to south.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of masses of tourists and I tend to avoid organized tours but if you want to enter to some of the Lanzarote’s most famous attractions you just have to tolerate it. You should be prepared to pay around 10€/visit but in the ticket sales points there are some package offers that may benefit you. If you want to visit many places, I really recommend doing some planning in which part of the island are they located and visit the places near each other on the same day. Check also the post 10+5 tips to Lanzaote . Lanzarote is part of Spain, so locals speak Spanish but also very good English. Currency is obviously euro and prices are normal or even some situations lower like gasoline.

    The nature and landscape seem really dry and tough so there are not many products cultivated in Lanzarote. Typical local products are jewellery made from lava stones, products made from cactus and aloe vera, wine, small platanos (Canarian bananas) and Papas Arrugadas con mojo (“wrinkled potatoes” =boiled potatoes eaten with different spicy sauces). We tasted some cactus marmalade which was nice and cactus liquor which tasted a bit like cranberry.

    Lanzarote is full of different kind of beaches but because of the weather conditions we didn’t visit that many. There are long sandy beaches mainly located in the most famous tourist areas, there are big and small rocky beaches, natural pools, black beaches, super windy beaches for surf and basically everything between. You can also do almost all kinds of water activities you can imagine: surf, dive, snorkel, rent a boat, drive a water jet ski, go dolphin or whale safari, wind surf etc. You shouldn’t expect a “warm bath” in the waves of Atlantic Ocean but at the end the water wasn’t as cold as than I expected and we went to swim on the warmest day.

    Lanzarote surprised me positively with its extraordinary landscape and possibilities to do and experience many different things. You could spend there easily two weeks and the six days we were there passed by way too fast.

    With love, Sanna