Just to the East of mainland Spain, there are four Spanish islands that make up the Balearic Islands. While they are classed as Spain, they are quite diverse and different from the mainland Spain. The islands are Ibiza, Menorca, Mallorca, and Formentera. With great beaches and great weather, it can be hard to know where to visit first. So here is a bit of a breakdown to the Balearic Islands, to help you choose where your next vacation may be.
The island of Ibiza has long been known as a bit of a party town, wih mentions in many pop songs and some world-renowned clubs and DJsperforming there. And while this is true, there is plenty more to the island than just clubbing. The north of the island has a very bohemain character and feel to it, with a very relaxed atmosphere, with many great places to eat and dine. Ibiza Town, the capital, has some unique history to explore, as well as being closer to the clubbing scene.
The largest island of them all, Mallorca has a lot to offer and is a popular spot for families. There are some of the clinches about being a Spanish island, with plenty of high-rise buildings by the beach. However, there is more to the island than that, especially if you go slightly more inland to stay somewhere like Marriott’s Club Son Antem in Llucmajor near Palma. There are some stunning mountains, beautiful coves, and some quaint old towns.
To the east of Mallorca is the smaller island of Menorca. It has a more relaxed feel to it than the previous two islands, and is much less of a party or clubbing destination. There are some adorable little port towns, like Ciutadella, and the port in the capital is actually one of the deepest in the world. There are some modern resorts, as well as plenty of options to stay closer to the sea or rent villas more in-lands.
The island of Formentera is a pretty tiny, and does often get forgotten about when you think about the Balearics. It has some of the best beaches out of the whole lot of them, though, so doesn’t deserve to be overlooked. While there isn’t a lot else to do there, the place has a certain rustic charm that can make it worth the trip. It is quite exclusinve as far as islands go.
The Balearics are easy to access from Spain by boat or flight, but there are many other places like the UK, that offer direct flights to them. Because the islands are smaller, and have to prepare for the tourists, they cna cost a little more than mainland Spain might. However, the islands are pretty small, and you may not even need to hire a car to explore it all. It can be pretty easy to go from each island too, so if you can’t choose which one to go to, then you might not have to.
Lost in Iceland Travelogue – (Part 2): Hvannadalshnukur, Skeioararsandur Bridge Monument and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
We started our Iceland journey by taking a Icelandair flight from Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) to Keflavik International Airport (KEF). Icelandair is one of the direct flights which takes 3 hours 10 minutes to reach our destination. Iceland is 8 hours behind Singapore time. During the flight, we were given a treat of “Northern Lights” display.
The entire flight was dreamy and so surreal.
Inflight entertainment and Icelandic snacks (for kids) are provided.
GETTING TO KNOW ICELAND
During our travel, it becomes an educational trip for us as we get to know more about other countries. We thought it is money well-spent as Big and Small M are able to get first hand experiences and creating our blog becomes a mobile diary for them to remember their growing up years.
- Where is Iceland?
Iceland is a North Atlantic island and the westernmost country in Europe, midway between North America and mainland Europe. It is a country of extreme contrasts and widely known as “The Land of Fire and Ice”. Home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the world’s most active volcanoes, Iceland is also the land of light and darkness. Long summer days with nearly 24-hours of sunshine are offset by short winter days with only few hours of daylight.
2. What is Iceland’s population?
Iceland has a population of slightly more than 300,000 and 2/3 of them stay in its capital city, Reykjavík.
3. What is Iceland’s currency?
The currency used in Iceland is the Icelandic Krone (pronounced “krona”), ISK. We were told by moneychangers back in Singapore that Euro is used in Iceland, only to learn that Iceland has its own currency. Credit cards are widely used in Iceland and you would not need to use cash most of the time. We exchanged the krona at Keflavik International Airport and immediately fell in love with this beautifully designed currency that we were hesitant to use them.
4. Buying Icelandic Prepaid SIM card
You must know how important it is to get updated on the weather and road conditions in Iceland especially during winter. Staying connected is a must in Iceland! We bought Siminn Prepaid SIM card from the convenience store from Keflavik International Airport arrival hall. Remember to bring along your mobile needle (smallest & most useful item) to change the SIM card if you are using iphone. There are 2 types of prepaid SIM card:
Síminn Prepaid Data – Mobile data only, with easy refill on the go. Included is a SIM card and 1 GB at the start.
5. Drinking Icelandic tap water and breathing Icelandic air
Yes, you can drink Icelandic tap water. Not only it’s free of charge, it is one of the purest and most delicious water on earth! Drink as much as you can to detox. Even the pure Icelandic Mountain Air is on sale as souvenirs. We were told by our car rental company that a South Korean couple rented a campervan from them and instead of driving much, they spent most of their time sleeping in Iceland as the air is so pure and therapeutic that they have never experienced that before in their life.
RENTING A CAMPERVAN
Coming to Iceland is all about exploring the country. We rented a campervan and it became our “hotel” accommodation. We drive, cook, eat and sleep in our campervan. Click here to read our previous blog post on renting campervan and 8 tips on road driving in Iceland.
We were fetched at Keflavik International Airport by the car rental company personnel after we arrived. At the warehouse, we spent about 2 hours on car inspection and briefing on how to operate the campervan. We also went through the insurance policy and the dos and don’ts in Iceland before hitting the roads.
OUR ROAD TRIP
The Golden Circle covers more than 300 km and the Ring Road (the main national road) covers over 1,300 km. We were ambitious and planned to visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon within the same night after collecting our campervan. By the time we departed from the warehouse, it was 7pm. Recall that night comes early during winter and sky usually gets dark by 3pm.
The distance to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is about 418km or 5 1/2 hours assuming we drive at a speed of 80km/hr (this is also provided that the weather is fine). To give you an idea of how far it is, just remember the distance from Singapore to KL is about 360km and Perth Airport to Margaret River takes about 280km.
And so we hit the roads. The thing about Iceland is the extreme personality – beautiful landscape but yet unpredictable weather. Those not used to Icelandic conditions might be amazed not only how quickly the weather can change but also how much it can differ from one place to another. The weather can be fine and not a snowflake in sight and yet after an hour drive or two conditions might have changed drastically, with even a snow blizzard and strong wind.
Big and Small M were exhausted by all the flight and car thingy that they were soundly asleep. We were trying to get use to driving manual gear and familiarizing with the campervan. The weather was fine for the first hour. However as we departed from Reykjavík and entered into the rural areas, the weather started to get inclement. We were negotiating the blind curves and out came strong wind gust of up to 30m/s slapping against the sides of our campervan so strongly that the campervan interior lights (which were switched off), started to flicker and turned on by themselves. I was grabbing the steering wheel tightly to prevent the vehicle from veering off the tracks. At times, I could feel the tyres did not seem to have a good grip on the road. The best I could do was to drive in the middle lane whenever the road ahead was clear of other cars.
Oblivious to Big and Small M, it was a pretty scary sight. Campervan has a larger surface area which is able to collect winds like blankets compared to smaller cars and it does not have a low centre of gravity. We were kind of regret getting a campervan and not knowing the dangers it may bring now that it is winter period, not to mention being during the night time. We were praying really hard!
To give you an idea how crazy the winds that we experienced were, this video is a good example. Accidents are real. In May this year, a caravan was blown off the road due to a powerful gust in Iceland.
We managed to cover about 180km (out of 418km) after more than 2 hours. Along the way, we came across this motel and decided to park here and rest for the night in our campervan as we were too exhausted and needed to recover from the ordeal 🙁
The night was really cold due to strong winds. Although there was heater in our campervan, we were curling up like hamsters in midst of coldness. Ensure you have sufficient thick socks and clothings apart from the bed linens provided in the campervan. We slept for about 6 hours and feeling refreshed, continued our journey.
Along our way, we stopped by Skaftárskáli which is a gas station in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur just by the road nr.1. There you can buy most necessites such as gasoline, basic groceries, etc. There is also a Grill-Restaurant selling hot dogs, fish and chips etc.
As the first beam of light appears, we were given a wonderful treat of sighting stunning Icelandic landscapes. It was a far cry from the urban concrete jungle we experienced back in Singapore.
Hvannadalshnukur & Skeiðarársandur Bridge Monument
We were trying to stay on track with our itinerary. However, some attractive spots were too irresistible for us not to stop to take pictures.
We arrived at the foot of Hvannadalshnukur (pronounced KWANNA-dalsh-nyooker) which is the highest peak in Iceland at 2110 meters. It is actually the highest point on a crater rim of the massive volcano, Oræfajökull, located in extreme southeast Iceland only a few kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean.
Beneath it is a little-known monument located in the southeastern part of Iceland, made of the remnants of the Skeiðará Bridge. Once the longest span in Iceland, the Skeiðará Bridge comprised a portion of the Icelandic ring road. The bridge carried drivers across the Skeiðarár Sandur, a wide plain of black volcanic sand marbled with creeks of run-off from the Skeiðarárjökull glacier. All that remains of the original bridge today are two twisted girders by the side of the new road. They form a unique monument to the lovely but powerful beauty of Iceland’s natural landscape.
We could only say the sight was breathtaking. From far, it looks like an ocean with strong currents only to realize they are frozen in all stillness. If you are adventurous enough, you can consider doing mountain trekking up Hvannadalshnukur.
Not forgetting to capture this magnificent moment before moving off.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Icebergs. Beautiful picturesque environment. These spell out what Jökulsárlón-Glacier lagoon is all about. One of Icelands most visited places, Jökulsárlón put up a show with its majestic display of icebergs floating in the waters. It was freezing cold and raining when we arrived.
Jökulsárlón ehf. has been offering boat tours on the lagoon for over 25 years. The boat tours are in operation from April to November (depending on weather) and the café is open all year.
Visitors were pulling out their tripod and snapping pictures away. Ensure your camera is shielded from the rain during the trip by getting a waterproof casing to wrap over.
The pure natural art and spectacular sight made us forget the coldness for that moment.
Despite the rain, we strolled along the beach to explore more of the glaciers.
The icebergs are ice chunks falling off the Breidamerkurjokull Glacier. An interesting fact about Jokulsarlon Lagoon is that it is actually the deepest lake in all of Iceland, and the lowest point in the country.
How can we not fall in love with Jökulsárlón-Glacier lagoon?
We guess traveling 418km is all worth it. We hope to visit this place again.
Iceland has a story to tell. The beauty of Iceland travels far and wide and we knew in our hearts that it is a must to visit this country – someday. Reality cannot compete with imagination. The beautiful landscapes look so stunning in pictures and they were breathtaking during our trip there.
We kick off our Iceland’s travelogue by introducing the best way to travel. That is self driving. The Golden Circle covers more than 300 km and the Ring Road (the main national road) covers over 1,300 km. By self-driving, we get to travel at your own pace and explore Iceland’s majestic nature, with its national parks, beautiful waterfalls, striking glaciers, magnificent volcanoes and geothermal areas.
RENTING A CAMPERVAN
Driving in Iceland is a different ball game. The driver’s seat is on the left-side and driving is on the right lane. That’s 360 degree different from our driving in Singapore. We scouted many car rental companies and finally managed to rent a Fiat Ducato campervan which the best we could find. As it is winter season, renting any bigger vehicle may not be readily available as Iceland’s weather is erratic and unpredictable posing dangers to bigger vehicles.
Hey, back to driving manual gear after a long time.
After arriving at Keflavik Airport, we were picked up by our car rental company personnel and here we are, at the warehouse going through car inspection and briefing before hitting the roads.
One of the best features we love about renting a campervan is the availability of beds to sleep while we are on the go. For this trip to Iceland, we were adventurous and didn’t book any hotel accommodation before arriving at Keflavik Airport. We have many places to cover and having heard many stories of harsh weather conditions and impassable roads, we have no idea where we will be stopping at the end of each day. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to book hotel accommodation and realizing that we may not be able to reach the destination due to unforeseen circumstances. So, we take each step as it goes.
The campervan has sleeping facilities for up to four. It has a kitchen with a stove, sink, small fridge with a freezer and basic utilities including heater. Everything is included in the price, toiletries, kitchen appliances, covers for the bed and propan gas for the stove.
Mum’s little kitchen. We get to cook and eat along our way 🙂
We can also store our luggages at the back of the campervan.
8 TIPS ON DRIVING IN ICELAND
Singaporeans do not need to apply for international driving license to drive in Iceland. Some important tips to know if you decide to self-drive:
- Download 112 Iceland App.
The 112 Iceland app can be used for two things, both for added safety on your Iceland trip.
Red Emergency button – When you activate this red button, your location will be sent by text message to the 112 response center. Remember that even though your phone shows no signal there is a possibility that you can send text message.
Green Check In button – For you to leave your location for Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue if something happens they have more information to worked with. It is able to store your last 5 locations.
2. Apply for Maximum Car Insurance Coverage
Check here for more information on safe travel in Iceland. Better to be safe than sorry. Get the maximum coverage for a peace of mind. The conditions can be dangerous and unpredictable especially during winter. Even the most experienced driver may never know what will happen. We personally experience storms, blizzards, blind hills, blind curves and extremely low road visibility during the night that we need to use high beam for most of the journey. At times, strong winds were slapping the campervan vigorously at both sides that the steering wheel had to be held tightly before the vehicle veered off the tracks.
Accidents are real and can happen anytime. Our campervan almost flipped when the side tyres fell into the slope and couldn’t recover back to the road.
It was raining and we were in the middle of the forest. We thank the Lord for His protection as we met an Icelandic couple who helped us to call the farmers to use a jeep to pull our campervan out of the slope.
3. Credit Card Pin Number is Required
We never know credit card pin number is needed until this trip. The petrol kiosks in Iceland are self-service and you need to key your credit card pin number in order to activate the pump. The cheapest fuel station is Orkan.
4. Speed Limit / Speed Camera
The general speed limit is 50km/hr in urban areas, 80km/hr on gravel roads in rural areas, and 90km/hr on asphalt roads and 70km/hr in tunnels. There are speed cameras located all over the country monitoring the speed.
5. Road Assistance
The Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) uses this website to circulate information about road conditions and the weather. Roads may become impassable the next moment and you may not be able to reach your hotel. No wonder it is more popular to visit Iceland during summer. Check here to get the updated information on road conditions and weather.
6. Local Weather Website
Click here to get updated latest weather forecast. You can plan your itinerary beforehand but always be prepared to change your course during the road trip due to changing weather conditions.
7. Aurora Forecast
Here’s the real deal. Aurora Borealis season in northern polar latitudes (Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Siberia) runs from August to April. Everyone is chasing the aurora and so are we! There is no guarantee of sighting the aurora but you can still refer to the forecast here to increase your chances. The white shaded part indicates the sky clear from clouds, increasing likelihood of aurora sightings. Green shaded part indicates the sky is covered with clouds, so very low chances of catching Ms. Aurora 🙂
8. Cheapest Grocery Stores
WE EAT, COOK & SLEEP OUTDOORS
Hey, we experienced brand new adventures everyday in Iceland! Thousands of miles were covered…
And for first time, we get to sleep outdoors in a campervan. No parking fee is required. We can park anywhere that is safe from other traffic. We rested at petrol station, next to motel, waterfalls, volcano, glaciers and many more.
Some say Iceland is the most beautiful country on earth. What do you think? You should be here too! Stay tune for more blog posts on our Iceland travelogue.
A must-see attraction in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Ben Thanh market is a bustling attraction where tourists could just shop and taste real Vietnamese food. There is a number of vendors displaying eye-catching local handicrafts, apparels, souvenirs, silk fabrics, embroidery and brocade and many more cute gifts that tourists can bring back to friends and family.
Vendors and food stalls in the market food section that offers guests dishes freshly made to the order. Here, one can taste various kinds of local dishes.
The food court is open from dawn and the most vibrant at nightlife. Starting from 7 pm daily, over 170 stalls concentrate along Phan Boi Chau Street and Phan Chu Trinh Street.
Goods for daily use. Looking nice but Ben Thanh market is known for inflating the prices up to two or three times the original value.
Shops selling spices, grocery, cosmetics and colorful candies and great Vietnamese coffee bean/powder.
It is no secret that Ben Thanh Market is possibly the most visited place in Ho Chi Minh City. While it may not be the best location for shopping, every tourist knows their trip to Ho Chi Minh City cannot be completed without a visit to Ben Thanh market to experience Vietnam at its original.
Address: Ben Thanh Market, Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam (Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai Street, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam)