Top Twelve Stockholm

Top Twelve Stockholm

Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, is often overlooked as a “can’t miss” destination, relegated to just one of numerous ports on a Northern European cruise itinerary. But, Stockholm is a city for all seasons and worthy of a longer stay.  Made up of 14 islands and 50 bridges, it’s an eclectic Nordic mix of nature and culture easily explored on foot. To truly experience all this dynamic city has to offer, several days are required. Check out my top twelve moments:

Stockholm City lights

Stocjholm Changing of the GuardCatch the Changing of the Guard: This daily ceremony is held at the Royal Palace, one of the largest in Europe. This 18th century baroque style residence also houses five museums. Visit the Armory with its stately royal costumes, armor, and coronation carriages. Or go below ground to the Museum Tre Kronor housed in the cellars – it tells the story of what it took to defend the castle in ages gone by.

Stockholm ChristmasEmbrace Gamla Stan’s Medieval Glory: Founded in 1251, Gamla Stan is the Old Town and the heart of the city. Its pedestrian-friendly, narrow cobblestone winding streets are lined with historic colorful buildings in shades of crimson and ochre. (Marten Trotzigs street is the most narrow – less than three feet wide!) Browse authentic souvenir shops or enjoy lunch in a cozy local tavern. In summer take a seat in the city’s oldest square, Stortoget, a lively meeting spot. In winter, it transforms into a enchanting storybook setting with festive lights and snow underfoot.

Visit the Vasa: a maritime museum located on the island of Djurgarden. The main feature? The Vasa, an almost fully intact 17th century 64-gun warship. In 1628 on her maiden voyage, the 69-metre ship sank right in the heart of Stockholm harbor. After 333 years on the seabed, the massive warship was salvaged and basically raised from the dead. To keep it from decomposing, it is now contained within a humidity-controlled space.

Turn back time at Skansen: Wander the world’s largest open-air museum and discover Swedish customs, culture and celebrations on the green island of Djurgarden. To preserve the history of Sweden, 150 houses and structures were brought from all over the country and preserved here. Spring and summer brings outdoor concerts and performances; winter brings holiday markets and festive entertainment. There are child friendly activities including a Children’s Zoo and Aquarium.Stockholm, Sweden

Settle into SoFo: The bohemian island/neighborhood of Södermalm is a city within the city. Head to SoFo (South of Folkungagatan) to sample a lovely mix of independent stores, vintage shops, pubs, cafes, and plenty of nightlife.

Must eat Meatballs: Anyone who has shopped at Ikea knows Sweden’s obsession with meatballs. But, you have never tasted the most divine and flavor packed specimens found only in Stockholm. Made from whatever is in season – veal, pork, or wild boar – the side dishes are just as important: pickles and tart lingonberries, the perfect compliment to the rich and creamy brown sauce. Try Pelikan, the Stockholm classic in Sodermalm. Theirs are dense, extra-large, light on ingredients but heavy on flavor. With a side of mashed potatoes, it’s the perfect meal!Stockholm, Sweden

Take the Tunnelbana: The subway is a great way to get around the city and since 1950, artists have turned this underground system into a giant urban art installation. Sculptures, paintings, mosaics, and cave-like features transform transit into an event. Buy a 24-hour or single use ticket valid for 75 minutes. (Note: the Blue Line is the most colorful.)

Walk in the footsteps of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Fans of the psychological crime thriller series written by famed Swede Stieg Larsson, will appreciate a walking tour of Lisbeth Salander’s and Mikael Blomkvist’s many neighborhood haunts.  Watch the films before you go—the Swedish versions are even more moody and noirish than the Hollywood incarnations.

Ride a coaster with a view: Gröna Lund amusement park offers just enough entertainment to keep the younger members of your family engaged.  The thirty rides come with a view of the surrounding harbor and islands. In the summertime, outdoor musical concerts are an added attraction.

Walk in and dance out of the Abba Museum: The music! The clothing! The lyrics! Admit, it, you cannot NOT be hooked by the sound and sight of this famous Swedish Pop band, well deserving of its own, pleasantly interactive exhibition.

Get smart at the Noble Museum: This petite museum celebrates big ideas: winners of the most prestigious prize in the world named for Swedish inventor and engineer, Arthur Noble. Remember, ideas can change the world: “The courage, creativity and persistence of the Nobel Laureates inspires us and gives us hope for the future.”

Stockholm, Sweden

Hot or cold, a Fika fits in any time of year

Finally…take a Fika Break: It’s difficult to translate, but basically it means meeting up for a coffee and a piece of yummy cake or pastry. It’s a Swedish thing, part of everyday life, and everywhere you go you will find cafes with plenty of character, but absolutely no to-go cups. Fika’s function? To take a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life.  We could all use a little more Fika.

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip or dream vacation?
Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all of my latest articles right to your inbox, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

Header photo courtesy of: Ola Ericson/www.stockholmsfoto.se

Best Day Trips from London

Best Day Trips from London

My recent article, London Best Bets, highlighted what to do, see, and eat in this amazing town on the Thames. If you have a few extra days in your itinerary, consider a day trip outside the city. There’s plenty to explore within a few hours radius with transportation by private tour, rail, bus, or group tour:

Bath, England, United Kingdom

The Roman Baths, constructed in 70AD as a grand socializing and bathing complex

Stonehenge & Bath:
Built over 5000 years ago, the story behind this famous Mesolithic-period monument is still up for debate. The unique stone circle is aligned with the movements of the sun and was created by a sophisticated pre-historic people. Leave extra time to visit the newly renovated Visitor Center chock full of archaeological treasures. Afterwards, head to Bath a lovely countryside town well known for its stately 18th-century Georgian architecture (like the sweeping Royal Crescent) and Roman Spa and springs that still flow with natural hot water. Combined, a visit to Stonehenge and Bath will be a full-day excursion.

 

Hampshire:
A county on England’s southern coast, about an hour from London, Hampshire is well known for picturesque villages, manor house hotels, golfing, biking, equestrian, and outdoor sports steeped in history like fly-fishing and clay shooting. It’s your country home away from home. Even if you’re not a “Downton Abbey” fan, Highclere Castle, the massive, real life home of the 8th Earl & Countess of Carnavon is worth a visit. Satisfy your inner “Indian Jones” with a visit to the castle’s lower level – the Egyptian Exhibit displays King Tut’s artifacts discovered 100 years ago by the 5th Earl of Carnavon and archaeologist Howard Carter.

Hampton Court Palace, England

Hampshire’s lovely countryside, tailor made for biking

.

 

Highclere Castle, England

Highclere Castle, the real life Downton Abbey

Hampton Court Palace:
It’s easy to spend hours exploring the rooms of this historic royal Tudor/Baroque palace on the Thames plus the added attraction of 60 acres of formal gardens with lush topiary, privy gardens, and hedge maze. Go in the spring to witness one million flowering bulbs.

Hampton Court Palace, England

Hampton Court Palace’s gorgeous gardens

Stratford-upon-Avon:
This medieval market town in the West Midlands, is most noted as the 16th century birthplace of The Bard, William Shakespeare. Take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare or Swan Theatre; visit Anne Hathaway’s house (his wife, not the American actress); climb to the top of the Theatre Tower; or have a pint in one of the many pubs.

Oxford:
Located northwest of London, this quaint city revolves around the prestigious 12th century university composed of 38 colleges. If the weather is good, take a biking or walking tour. Want to pair your educational excursion with a bit of retail therapy? Check out nearby Bicester Village Outlet Shopping home to 130 fashion and lifestyle boutiques.

Cotswolds:
Not far from Oxford, explore this region of quintessential English villages and lively market towns. It’s brimming with natural beauty any time of year. Rent the Kate Winslet/Jude Law rom-com The Holiday for the best travelogue.  If you are not short on time, visit Blenheim Palace, and get lost in this proverbial country manor home which just happens to be the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The grounds have been featured in numerous Hollywood flicks including Mission Impossible, Spectre, and Harry Potter.

Cambridge:
Located north of London, this college town is home to the legendary university founded in 1209. Take a walking tour and soak up some of that knowledge and be inspired by the many museums, galleries, and majestic college buildings. Science, math, and history buffs know there is no shortage of Hollywood biopics filmed here honoring the lives of famous Cambridge alums: The Theory of Everything (Steven Hawking), The Man who knew Infinity (Srinvasa Ramnujan), and The King’s Speech (King George VI).

Windsor Castle’s Long Walk

Windsor:
One of three official residences of the Queen, it’s the largest inhabited castle in the world. Time your visit to see the changing the guard; view the State Apartments; and gaze at St. George’s Chapel which recently hosted the wedding seen ‘round the world: the marriage of Prince Harry and Princess Meghan Markle.

Warwick Castle:
Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, this Renaissance castle pairs well with a visit to nearby Stratford-upon-Avon.  The castle offers medieval-age appropriate crowd pleasers like jousting tournaments and plenty of child friendly activities including Falconer Displays, Adventure Maze, and the Hall of Armor.

Making of Harry Potter:
No London day trip list is complete without the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, a permanent exhibit which displays an authentic behind the scenes look into all things Harry Potter. The studio tour explores two sound-stages and a back-lot filled with original sets, animatronic creatures and plenty of special effects. Interactive activities will put you into the action, with opportunities to purchase a frothy cup of Butterbeer, of course!Hampton Court Palace, England

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip or dream vacation?
Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

 

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all of my latest articles right to your inbox, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

London Best Bets

London Best Bets

When’s the best time of year to visit London? Anytime! Summer is warm and there are plenty of parks and markets worth exploring. Autumn is mild — as the mercury goes down, the holiday decorations go up. Although Winter has the coolest temps, it’s not uncomfortably cold and the post-holiday weeks are a great time to shop sales. Spring can be a mix of sun and rain, but there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor pursuits to pick from.

My past articles included London’s Top Ten, Twenty-two Top Shops, and 18 Favorite Places to Eat.  After a recent trip with my son, I am inclined to add to my never-ending London to-do list. Planning a trip over the pond? Put a few of these items on your itinerary:

VISIT

Exhibition Road: Home to numerous cultural institutions, this South Kensington “Museum Mile” includes Royal Albert Hall, Natural History Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Our favorite? The Science Museum – on display are 5,000 years of innovation; it’s STEM on steroids!  Check out tech treasures like the Apollo 10 Command Module and the Enigma Machine. Visit the IMAX Theatre, hands-on Wonderlab, and a well-stocked book/gift shop.

Borough Market, London

Seafood abounds at Borough Market

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:  Although a reconstruction of the Elizabethan era theatre, it’s very true to the original. Located Bankside (near the Tate), tours include access to the underground Exhibition Space.  Plan ahead and book tickets for outdoor performances in the Globe and inside the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Borough Market: This 1000-year old food market features endless stalls of fresh produce, fish & seafood, confectionery, cured meats, oils & vinegars, spices & preserves, and a multitude of bars and restaurants. After filling your shopping bag (and your stomach), take a leisurely walk over the London Bridge.

Greenwich:  This borough of London, located on the southside of the Thames, is well known for its maritime history. Visit the Cutty Sark (the restored 10th-century ship), the National Maritime Museum, and the Old Royal Naval College (home to one of the greatest baroque ceilings in Britain). The Royal Observatory overlooks Greenwich Park, and is the site of the famed Prime Meridian Line, which marks Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and divides the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

Greenwich Obervatory

Straddle east and west at the Prime Meridian

The Royal Institution (Ri): Founded in 1799 with the aim of introducing new technologies and connecting people to the world of science, Ri houses the Faraday Museum (in honor of the British scientist and his discoveries in the fields of electromagnetism). This petite, lower level exhibition celebrating the achievements of Ri members (many of them Nobel Prize winners), packs a powerful punch, especially for science lovers like my kids.

Small Car, Big City: If you love classic cars, the iconic ’60’s movie “The Italian Job,” or just want to see the city from a unique perspective, book one of these bespoke Mini Cooper tours. Two-hour to full day themed tours include Hidden Gems, Street Art, Beatles, Harry Potter, or Landmarks of London. Your adorable vehicle (and driver!) will meet you right at your hotel’s doorstep.

Small Car, Big City, London

Zoom around the streets of London in a classic Mini Cooper

SHOP

Twining’s: The oldest tea shop in London, this 300-year old flagship features premium teas from ‘round the world. It’s also one of the city’s narrowest shops – only twelve feet wide! Sample the flavors at the Loose Tea Bar or sign up for a Masterclass. There’s also freshly ground coffee for java addicts.

Maille Boutique, London

Maille Boutique

Maille Boutique London: At the entrance to Piccadilly Arcade, inside this corner store, lies rows and rows of France’s finest condiments. Pick from mustards, vinegars, chutneys, cornichons (those cute, miniature flavor-packed pickles) and more. Did I mention there are free samples?

Sainsbury Supermarket: No matter where we travel, we always wind up in a supermarket. It’s a great place to pick up affordably priced souvenirs and stock up on favorite local delicacies.  The condiment aisle is my favorite of course: we grab bottles of Belazu vinegar (it has a distinct thickness and texture) and delicious mango and plum chutneys and can’t leave without Cadbury Milk Chocolates (they’re sooo much creamier than the U.S. version!)  Just remember, put all liquids in checked luggage, not your carry on!

EAT

Afternoon Tea at the Dorchester: Served in The Promenade, the hotel’s lobby restaurant, this proverbial English tradition is worth the splurge. Sink into plush couches surrounded by gilded marble columns and lush potted plants, and indulge in a delightful meal of tea, champagne, and the savoriest finger sandwiches — smoked salmon, egg, chicken, prawn and cucumber. Next comes warm scones with glistening strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream and finish off with a tiered platter of cakes and tartlets. (And, unlike the Ritz’s Tea, no jackets required.)

Afternoon Tea at the Dorchester

There’s always time for Tea

Momo: Entering this West End restaurant is like stepping into a Moroccan Souk with its lush fabrics and decor. The menu is a North African/Mediterranean mashup: couscous, lamb tagine with pears and plums, and fresh mint tea.

Sakagura: Located in Mayfair, this Japanese Restaurant has an amazing Sake Bar. Try one of their Sake cocktails — my favorite, their Mojito with fresh mint and pomegranate. The restaurant is just steps off Regent Street on pedestrian-friendly Heddon Street, also home to the Ice Bar.

Yautcha: A member of the Hakkasan Restaurant Group, this contemporary dim sum house in Soho features a modern interpretation of a traditional Chinese Tea House with the busy vibe of a Hong Kong eatery. Dishes are designed to share.

Padella: This affordably priced, pocket sized Italian cafe with an even smaller menu has THE best homemade pasta. It’s situated just on the perimeter of Borough Market. Try to get a seat at the bar to see the chefs in action as they whip up your order, pronto! No reservations but arrive before they open to keep the wait at a minimum.

Da Corradi: This long-standing, old-school Italian bistro tucked into Mayfair’s Shephard Market, has generous portions, friendly and efficient service, and cozy seating — it hit the spot, especially on a cool and rainy afternoon.

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip or dream vacation?
Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all of my latest articles right to your inbox, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

Planning Perfect Multi-Generational Trips

Planning Perfect Multi-Generational Trips

A multi-generational trip is an amazing way to create authentic, long lasting memories with your friends and family. But coordinating a multitude of individual needs and desires can overwhelm even the most intrepid traveler. Here are some tips to help make your vacation planning stress-free:

plan ahead:
The larger the group, the farther ahead the planning. Start at least a year in advance to give everyone ample time to arrange for vacation time away from work or school.

choose a leader:
Assign a point person who can represent the group, coordinate its needs and wants, and present vacation options based on an agreed upon set of parameters including price per person and length of trip.

call your travel agent:
Sure, there’s lots of travel advice online, but it’s so easy to experience information overload and wind up down the “internet rabbit hole.”  A travel agent (that’s me!) is a valuable resource and can suggest destinations, negotiate group rates, arrange complimentary amenities or upgrades, and organize your entire itinerary door to door. Need more convincing? Read my recent article “Top Twelve Reasons to use a Travel Agent.”

Grand Cayman

Resorts offer plenty of water-sports and beach activities to keep groups of all sizes happy

narrow the choices:
Discuss the needs of each traveler, including the kids and the teens, who usually have some genuine input and ideas. Do they favor city tours or country pursuits? Are they “Harry Potter” fans or “Beatlemaniacs”? Beach bums or adventure junkies? Foodies or fitness freaks? Remember, their opinions matter.

Maui, Hawaii

Woodcarving in Bali, Indonesia

Hands-on activities like wood-carving in Bali, will keep curious kids engaged

Guided group tours geared towards families (like Tauck’s Bridges Program) are a great option.  Or, consider a cruise or all-inclusive resort. Many offer children complimentary accommodations or at a reduced rate, and both offer plenty of activities that appeal to a wide range of age groups.  Private guided excursions in a van or minibus will bring everyone together and allow you to tailor sightseeing to everyone’s wishes, especially if individuals have physical limitations that need to be accommodated. Look for unique activities that will keep everyone engaged: a cooking class – think, pastries in Paris or pizza in Pisa; a Segway session in Seville; or London MINI-Cooper tour.

include some downtime:
Alone time is important – don’t expect family members to spend every waking moment together. Everyone can use a good afternoon nap no matter his or her age.

purchase trip insurance:
Comprehensive cancellation and medical coverage is crucial in the event of an emergency or unforeseen situation while away or back home, either prior to or during travel.

London, England

Book a MINI Cooper Tour and visit hidden gems of London in these classic cars

keep it fun!
Remember, the goal is being together with friends and family and taking time off from the busy lives we all live to enjoy some real (and electronic-free!) time together. Make it an unforgettable experience, and everyone will sign up for another trip, even before the first one has ended!

For more travel advice, check out my recent article: “Smart Traveler Tips” 

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip or dream vacation?
Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all of my latest articles right to your inbox, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

Packing for a trip to Alaska can be a challenge: its northern reaches and varied geography means traveling through several microclimates. From mild to extreme, the temperatures will fluctuate.  Summer is the best time to visit though, which is why most cruises are scheduled June through September: the odds of spotting wildlife are high, salmon are swimming upstream, hiking trails are free from snow, and the weather is as good at it gets.  For some cruising basics, check out my previous articles: Journey through Alaska’s inside Passage and Fish & Feast in Ketchikan.

Alaska Cruise
Alaskan cruises sail through the inside passage – the coastal route that weaves through the thousands of islands, coves, and bays that dot the Pacific Coast of this northernmost state. Cruises will either travel southbound (Anchorage to Vancouver, Canada) or northbound (Vancouver to Anchorage) or roundtrip from Seattle, Washington (this itinerary may include more days at sea and less ports depending on the length of the trip).
Alaska Cruise. Vancouver
Alaska CruiseMost cruise ship excursions bring you up close to the great outdoors, so you can soak up all that majestic scenery and catch a glimpse of all the wildlife that draws travelers to the 49th state. How you choose to interact with nature is up to you: walking tours; hiking; canoe and kayak trips; helicopter and float plane excursions; fishing or boating are all options. But, don’t be afraid to try something outside your normal comfort zone, since the point of this vacation is to get out there and experience the wide-open spaces.  Check the excursions for details on activity level. Many outfitters provide you with additional garments or waterproof outerwear to protect you from the elements so don’t think you need to buy hardcore adventure gear to enjoy the “high activity level” choices. Dressing properly for excursions is key to comfort: wear layers that can be peeled off as the mercury goes up or added on as temps drop off.
Alaska Cruise
Layers:
Start with a short sleeve shirt or tank top, a long sleeve wicking layer, add a hoodie or fleece (on colder days a padded or PrimaLoft-type vest will come in handy), with a thin waterproof hooded shell on top.Alaska Cruise

Footwear:
Besides standard sneakers, waterproof hiking shoes (with Gortex) will keep the moisture at bay. Hiking boots are not necessary unless you plan on scaling great heights. Skip the UGG’s which will get soggy, or rain boats which don’t offer much support. Throw in a pair of flip flops for the hot tub or spa, and a pair of dressier shoes for the dinners onboard.

Pants:
Jeans, leggings, and comfortable, water wicking hiking pants (Prana is my go-to brand), are all versatile and low maintenance. Pack a pair of shorts — as you travel south to Vancouver, temps will rise, and you just might be able to lounge on the pool deck. Plus, a post- or pre-cruise stay in warmer locales in Seattle (click here to read my destination article) or Vancouver (click here to read my destination article) might include an overnight at a hotel with an outdoor pool.

Accessories:
For cooler days and for afternoons spent up on deck gazing at the glorious glaciers, pack a wool beanie, glove liners, and scarf — it can get windy up there. Light weight wool or breathable wool blend socks will keep feet warm and dry (Smartwool is my favorite).Alaska Cruise

Gear:
If you can, bring a real camera, not just a cell phone – the vistas are just too large! Bring binoculars – they are great for kids who may not be looking through a camera’s zoom lens. Pack a power strip for your cabin to provide extra places to plug in. A back pack or tote is essential for holding layers, water bottle, snacks, cell phone chargers and backup batteries.

Sundry items:
Sunscreen, bug repellant, and motion sickness pills for small craft excursions are all a must. Sunglasses and brimmed hat will be put into use during summertime since Anchorage can have over 19 hours of daylight!

Evening cruise wear:
Smart casual wear is acceptable at night — what you would wear to go out for a nice dinner at home (no ripped jeans or jean shorts). You will not be as dressed up as you are on a Caribbean cruise, and typical lightweight summer garments are not well-suited to this itinerary (think “shoulder season” or “transitional clothing” instead).  Throw in a bathing suit for the hot tub and spa, and some comfy workout clothing or stylish athleisure, which works well on those days at sea. (Athleta has great choices).

For more travel tips, check out my recent articles: A Few of my Favorite Travel Things, Twelve Packing Tips Every Travel Should Know, and Smart Traveler Tips.

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip or dream vacation?

Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all of my latest articles right to your inbox, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

 

Cruise Around Iceland

Cruise Around Iceland

Most Iceland itineraries include a stay in Reykjavik, the capital city.  A series of day trips from this home base will give you a glimpse of this island nation’s extreme natural beauty: glorious geysers, gleaming glaciers, and volcanic springs. But, experiencing all that the “land of fire and ice” has to offer, requires a days-long drive around the extensive outer loop roadway… or a cruise around the island’s perimeter.

My recent articles on Iceland highlighted the Best of Reykjavik, a Day at the Blue Lagoon, and an Excursion around the Golden Circle. After these amazing adventures, we boarded a Windstar Cruise, docked in downtown Reykjavik, and embarked on a week-long circumnavigation.

Our home for the seven days was the Star Legend. Windstar’s small, boutique-style ships take you into off the beaten path ports — a more personalized approach to cruising that larger ships can’t match. The Star Legend, one of the cruise line’s yacht-style ships, carries 212 passengers in 106 suites. This small ship is big on service. The staff is exceptionally welcoming — by the second day they greeted us by name; by the end of the week we knew all of theirs.

The Star Legend has just enough onboard services to keep you busy on those occasional “days at sea” including a small outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, main dining room, library, coffee shop, salon/spa, casino, several bars, specialty restaurant, and a show lounge. The well-stocked watersports platform, a real benefit in warmer climates, unfortunately did not apply to our itinerary.

On board, it was very easy to meet fellow travelers. The Yacht Club, with its cozy chairs and sofas, was a favorite hangout with floor to ceiling windows offering extensive views of our fjord entrances and exits. It was the perfect place to grab freshy baked cookies and cappuccino, dig into a novel, mingle with shipmates, and play games and work on puzzles (yes, the old-fashioned kind that require no smart phones or laptops). The ship has an “open bridge” policy, which my sons took full advantage of, chatting up the captain and chief engineer about navigation tools and cruising speeds.Windstar Cruise, Iceland

While larger ships can make claim to an abundance of onboard activities, dining outlets, and entertainment options, the star attraction of small ship cruising is the ability to access smaller ports and offer unique, small group excursions. And now, a rundown of the ports we visited on our Iceland cruise:

Heimaey Island:
Located about 10 kilometers off the southern coast of the country, it is most famous for the 1973 five-month long volcano eruption that forced its inhabitants to abandon their home and flee to the main land. Afterwards, over 400 homes and buildings had been completely covered by ash and lava. Visit this island to experience this “Pompeii of the North,” which also happens to be the breeding ground of the largest colony of Atlantic Puffins.

Heimaey Island, Iceland

Seydisfjodur:
Seydisfjordur, IcelandOur favorite port was both a fjord and a charming and creative town of just 700 people. For a glance, rent the 2013 movie Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The town is featured in the scene where Ben Stiller takes his long board and skates for miles through picturesque scenery. The photogenic Blue Church, which gets a quick glimpse in the film, and the quirky Technical Museum of East Iceland, are both worth a visit. A half-day hike Chasing Waterfalls was our most memorable excursion of the whole cruise. Climbing the trails that wind their way through the Vestdalur Valley (a protected nature reserve) offered a true feast for the eyes (and the heart). At every turn, at every new height, the spellbinding display of waterfalls, mountains, valleys, and ocean vistas unfolded.

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Chasing waterfalls in Seydisfjordur

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Akureyri:
A small city in northern Iceland, it’s the second largest urban area and a center for the fishing industry. Located in the Earth’s sub polar region, its only 60 kilometers from the Arctic Circle. The most popular excursion, Jewels of the North, includes stops at Godafoss Falls, Lake Myvatn, Dimmuborgir (a dramatic landscape with strange lava formulations and caves that have become the source of Icelandic folktakes), Skutustadir (a crater-pocked landscape formed by boiling lava and gaseous explosions), and Namaskard (an other-worldly geothermal field of mud-pots, steam vents, Sulphur deposits, boiling springs, and fumaroles).

Akureyri, the Capital of the North

Godafoss, Iceland

Godafoss, appropriately translates to “Waterfall of the Gods”

Namaskard, Iceland

Namaskard, a sulfuric “Martian landscape,” is a geothermal wonder

Namaskars, Iceland

 

Namaskars, Iceland

Isafjordur:
Located in the northwest of the country, this “ice fjord,” once known as a trading post for foreign merchants in the 16th century, is now a nature and adventure lovers paradise. Gentle fjord kayaking, hiking, and horseback riding are popular excursions. Equestrian fans will be intrigued by old Icelandic laws: to keep the famous “Icelandic Horses” purely bred to withstand the harsh elements, the country forbids the import of horses, and any horse that leaves Iceland is barred from ever returning.

Iceland

In a kayak, you can see the fjord’s beauty up close

Grundarfjordur:
This fjord, perched on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, in the western portion of the country, is well-known for its dramatic landscapes. Weather permitting, partake in a glacier hike to the top of Snæfellsjökull Glacier, which rises 4800 feet above sea level —  its snow-cap covers a volcano. According to Jules Verne’s novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth, the entrance to the planet’s core lies through a caldera (crater) at the top of this glacier. On our excursion, we donned helmets and flashlights and visited a lava cave deep underground and explored a cavern that had been hidden from the outside world for thousands of years.

Grundarfjordur, Iceland

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip or dream vacation?

Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

 

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all of my latest articles right to your inbox, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

Top Twelve Reasons to use a Travel Agent

Top Twelve Reasons to use a Travel Agent

Travel is an investment of your time, your money, and your dreams.  Don’t leave any of it to chance…

1.  Travel agents are there to help you before, during, and after your journey, and look forward to forging a LIFELONG relationship with you and your family.

2.  Travel agents are travel EXPERTS and are especially qualified in assembling multi-destination and multi-generational travel.

3.  Travel agents provide you with PEACE OF MIND while you are away, especially during times of emergency or unforeseen travel disruptions.

4.  Travel agents have access to EXCLUSIVE BENEFITS like upgrades, VIP status, and special amenities.

5.  Travel agents use the HUMAN TOUCH to design personalized experiences for each unique traveler and create itineraries that match your specific needs.

6.  Travel agents cut through the clutter and misinformation spread on the internet.

7.  Travel agents read, understand, and alert you to the fine print.

8.  Travel agents study hard to become SPECIALISTS and can connect you to local culture and new experiences creating transformative travel.

9.  Travel agents make your dollars travel further.

10.  Travel agents are REAL people who are accessible in real life.

11.  Travel agents are GLOBALLY CONNECTED to people, guides, tours, drivers, hotels, resorts, cruise lines, and airlines around the world.

12.  Tavel agents are passionate travelers first and foremost, and will apply that passion to your TRAVEL DREAMS!

 

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip, dream vacation, or winter escape? Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

 

 

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all of my latest articles right to your inbox, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour