Trekking The Arctic Circle Trail In Greenland

Arctic Circle Trail

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Standing alone on Greenland’s barren ice cap in complete silence, you’re hit with the reality of how remote this place is. Smiling, I hike West as snow begins to fall.

Before visiting Greenland to hike the Arctic Circle Trail, I mistakenly assumed the country was a huge mass of snow & ice. However that’s not entirely true…

While 85% of Greenland is covered in ice, there’s a narrow strip along the coastline that’s actually green! And red. And purple. And yellow. In fact I would soon learn that Greenland can be pretty colorful.

It’s also the most sparsely populated country on the planet.

To give you an idea of just how sparse, Greenland has more landmass than Mexico, yet has a population of only 50,000 compared to Mexico’s 122 million. There’s a lot of untouched wilderness to explore here.

The small town of Kangerlussuaq (population 500) is home to Greenland’s largest international airport. I began my adventure here after a 4 hour flight from Copenhagen, Denmark.

Greenland Trek

Trekking in Greenland

The Arctic Circle Trail

Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail is often listed as one of the best long-distance hikes in the world. The trail stretches up to 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the edge of the ice cap to the fishing town of Sisimiut on the West coast.

Depending on fitness levels and the specific route chosen, it can take anywhere between 7-12 days to complete. Spread along the trail are a couple of basic wooden huts for bad weather, but packing a tent is recommended.

Only 300 people hike the trail every year, so while you may run into other hikers, it’s possible to go days without seeing a fellow human. The normal hiking season is from June to August. I was hiking mid August to avoid swarms of mosquitos that plague the area earlier in the summer.

Arctic Circle Trail hikers must be totally self sufficient too.

The only towns are located at the beginning and end of the trail, meaning you must pack all your own food & survival gear for the duration of the hike. Outside the towns there’s no cell phone reception either.

I was looking forward to this journey for many reasons — testing my survival skills alone in the middle of an arctic wilderness, and enjoying a much needed break from a world of hyper-connectivity.

Ice Cap Greenland

Greenland’s Massive Ice Cap

Point 660 Greenland

Leaving Point 660

DAY 1: Exploring The Ice Cap

Hiking Distance 12 km (7.5 miles) | 5 hours

I arrived in Greenland at night after our plane was delayed in Copenhagen. But it was still light out. Kangerlussuaq is located North of the Arctic Circle, and the August sun sets around 11pm.

Most hikers start the Arctic Circle Trail directly from Kangerlussuaq, hiring a taxi to the trailhead and walking West towards the coast. However I wanted to begin my hike 40 kilometers East on the edge of the ice cap.

So the next day I booked an afternoon tour with World Of Greenland, requesting they leave me at the ice cap and I’d walk back to town on my own.

A 4×4 bus drove us along a rough dirt road to “Point 660”, where we spent about an hour walking on the ice. There was no need for crampons or safety ropes here, as the nearby glaciers relieve the pressure that normally causes crevasses. The ice was grippy too, like a layer of crusty snow.

Glaciers are rivers of unstable ice that flow down from an ice cap. The ice cap itself doesn’t really move — it’s actually very solid and can be miles deep.

Mushrooms in Greenland

Tasty Wild Mushrooms!

Arctic Hare Greenland

Arctic Hare

First Signs Of Wildlife

The tour group eventually left me on my own. I decided to explore Greenland’s ice cap for another few hours. It was spectacular. Rivers of blue meltwater snaked down a landscape of ice that stretched out towards the horizon for as far as your eye could see.

While many people visit glaciers around the world, the opportunity to actually stand on an ice cap is pretty unique. There are very few places where it’s so easily accessible without the use of a helicopter.

Dark clouds suddenly rolled in, forcing me to leave the ice and begin hiking down the dirt road back towards Kangerlussuaq. Pretty soon it was snowing! Only 30 minutes earlier the sky was blue… this would be a reoccurring theme in Greenland. The weather changes fast.

I saw my first animal dart away into the rocks. It was an arctic hare, his bright white fur standing out in contrast to the greenish-yellow landscape. Further on, a reindeer bounded across the road.

This was the beginning of many wildlife sightings on the hike.

The next 5 hours were spent walking on the dirt road, built by Volkswagen many years ago to test their new cars in harsh winter driving conditions.

I finally reached Russell Glacier around 11pm and set up camp.

Camping in Greenland

Camping Next to Russell Glacier

Glacier in Greenland

The Wall of Ice

DAY 2: Road To Kangerlussuaq

Hiking Distance 25 km (15.5 miles) | 6 hours

CRACK! BOOM! SPLASH! This was the sound of ice breaking away from the 60 meter (180 foot) glacier beside me. The earth trembled as the ice slowly advanced.

Russell Glacier is a towering wall of white, blue, and black frozen water covered in jagged cracks. It moves about 25 meters every year, with sunlight and warm summer temperatures helping the ice “calve” into a glacial river.

Mountains of moraine flank the glacier’s sides, loose gravel that’s been bulldozed into huge piles over thousands of years by millions of tons of moving ice.

You feel very small standing next to it all.

The glacier is impressive, and I hung around for hours watching the spectacle of falling ice. Some chunks were as large as a school bus!

It’s important to keep your distance from the face of a glacier. Falling ice can easily crush you, pieces can be ejected out over the river, or large waves from the splash could knock you off your feet into the freezing water.

Desert in Greenland

Desert Landscape in Greenland

Arctic Fox in Greenland

Blue Arctic Fox

Arctic Deserts & Arctic Foxes

Reluctantly leaving the beautiful glacier I continued following the river. The landscape turned to sand, complete with wind-swept dunes along the banks. It’s an arctic desert called Sandflugtdalen.

In the distance, 3 shapes lumbered up the basin towards some mountains. These were musk ox, large buffalo-looking animals native to Greenland. They’re hunted for their tasty meat and warm fur by the local Inuit.

Too far away for a photo, but I’d get another chance.

Kangerlussuaq used to be an American air base before it was Greenland’s international airport. Next to the road you can find the remains of a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star that crashed along with 2 others during a blizzard in 1968. Apparently all pilots ejected safely.

I spied something black moving in the scrub brush ahead. Not sure what it could be, I pulled out my telephoto lens to get a closer look…

An arctic fox! What a nice surprise!

Arctic foxes can be super shy. They’re also pretty small — about the size of a large house cat. There are two varieties, white or “blue” like this one. I crept up as slowly and quietly as I could, but he saw me coming.

Like a flash, the fox darted out down the road. Somehow I managed to fire off a few shots with my camera as he passed.

Sugarloaf Arctic Circle Trail

View from Sugarloaf Mountain

Kangerlussuaq Airport

The Town of Kangerlussuaq

Spending The Night In Town

A few miles away from Kangerlussuaq there’s a prominent mountain near the road called Sugarloaf. Climbing it rewards you with incredible 360 degree views of the area — Greenland’s ice cap to the East, Kangerlussuaq to the West, and the glacial river called Akuliarusiarsuup Kuua below.

At the summit I found a cabin with a few wooden radio towers, part of the old US air base. The hike up looks easy, but it’s actually pretty steep.

Just past the mountain are signs warning you not to venture off the road due to possible unexploded ordinance. It seems when the Americans left, they blew up what was left of their ammunition here.

However years later some local school kids found a grenade.

While a ring of white posts marks the danger zone, the road itself is safe.

Arriving back into town after a long day, I decided to pay for a room at the Polar Lodge rather than camp out. I needed to recharge all my camera batteries and iPhone (for GPS), as well as repack.

I’d rented a locker at the airport to store most of my food during this first section of the hike. No reason to walk an extra 20 miles with it!

I also purchased some dried fish and peanut M&Ms at the local supermarket to supplement what I’d brought with me. In total, I’d have 9 days worth of food packed for the remainder of my Arctic Circle Trail hike.

Kellyville Greenland

Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility

Hundesø Greenland

Hundesø Hunting Camp

DAY 3: Road To Kellyville/Hundesø

Hiking Distance 20 km (12.5 miles) | 5 hours

When I first arrived in Kangerlussuaq I mistakenly purchased the wrong gas canister to fuel my backpacking stove. Now I was trying to track down a replacement with no success. The entire town was out.

A local guy offered to rent me his stove, which used a different type of gas. But I later learned it couldn’t be refilled at the airport until the “big” 747 airplane left. After wasting hours waiting for it to leave, I finally gave up.

So much for hot food & coffee! I’ll hike without a stove.

From Kangerlussuaq most hikers choose to hire a $50 taxi to the official trailhead 10 miles away. I stubbornly decided to walk the road, starting late in the afternoon.

There’s not much along this road. A tiny local shipping port, some huge diesel storage tanks, and a scientific research station called Kellyville (population 7). They study the Earth’s atmosphere & Northern Lights.

Past Kellyville, a rock cairn painted with a red semi-circle marks the official start of the Arctic Circle Trail. The end of civilization.

Greenland’s rugged wilderness stretched out before me. ★

Watch Video: Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail

(Click to watch Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail – Greenland on YouTube)

READ NEXT: My Favorite Camera For Travel Photos

Have you ever thought about traveling to Greenland?

15 Common Travel Scams (And How To Avoid Them)

Common Travel Scams

Common Travel Scams You Can Avoid

Travel Tips

Shady people love to take advantage of tourists, and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to become a victim. Here are some of the most common travel scams around the world.

As travelers, it is easy to think that we are smart enough to avoid getting ripped off. But, the truth is, it happens to the best of us. Including me!

From getting ridiculously overcharged on cab rides to unknowingly revealing credit card information, travel scams exist the world over.

While it is nearly impossible to know when you will be scammed, it is important to know what kind of scams exist, and what to do should the situation arise.

Most Common Travel Scams (2017)

It sucks to get scammed by a stranger when you’re traveling on vacation. Even after 6 years of continuous travel, I still get caught off guard from time to time.

Here are some of the most common scams you’re likely to encounter, along with personal stories from my own experiences. Knowledge is power! The more people that know about these scams, the less likely you’ll fall for them.

Broken Taxi Meter

Cab drivers near airports or train stations are known to pull this scam, but it can happen anywhere. When you get into a taxi and start to drive, the driver will inform you that the meter is broken and charge you a ridiculous price (to the tune of 100s of dollars if you’re not careful).

My Experience:

This is a very common one in Central America, especially Costa Rica. I’ve probably had 10 different taxi drivers try to pull this scam on me around the world. I fell for it once, during my first year traveling.

How To Avoid It:

Negotiate rates ahead of time, or ensure the meter is in fact working before you get in the car. If the taxi driver refuses to turn on the meter, or tells you it’s cheaper without the meter, get out and opt for another driver. Not all cab drivers are scammers.

Overbooked Or Closed Hotel

Again, this common travel scam happens largely with cab drivers. While en route to your hotel, the driver will tell you your hotel is either closed or overbooked and then take you to a more expensive hotel where the driver receives a nice fat commission.

My Experience:

Luckily I’ve never fallen for this one, however I’ve had 3 or 4 drivers try to scam me this way. Usually by saying the hotel is a bad one, or that it’s closed.

How To Avoid It:

Call your hotel in advance and make sure they’re open. Ask if they offer shuttle service and then schedule a pickup. If your taxi driver still tells you the hotel is not available, insist that he take you there anyway. Tell him you already have a reservation (even if you don’t).

Free Bracelets Or Rosemary

This scam tends to prey on female travelers. A friendly man or woman will approach to chat, then place a “free” friendship bracelet on your wrist. Or hand you a sprig of Rosemary for good luck. Once you have it, they will demand money. When you refuse, they will begin to cause a scene.

My Experience:

I’ve had gypsy women in Madrid try to give me Rosemary.

How To Avoid It:

Don’t allow anyone to put anything on your body, and be extremely wary of accepting anything for free unless there is a good reason for it. Especially in very touristy areas. Ignore them and keep walking.

Spills On Your Clothing

Common in Europe, a traveler will be walking down the street and feel something plop on their shoulder — often times bird poop or a fast-food condiment. Then, a friendly stranger approaches and begins to wipe off the offending mess while plucking your wallet from your pocket or purse.

My Experience:

This has never happened to me.

How To Avoid It:

The best thing to do in situations like this is to not allow someone to help you. Instead, go to a restroom and clean the mess off yourself.

Police Officer Travel Scam

These Guys Look Totally Legit

Fake Police Officers

The fake police officer scam is a popular one in many large cities. Most often, a person will approach a tourist and offer illicit items, like drugs. While conversing one or two other people will approach, appearing to be police officers and flashing “badges.” They will then insist the unknowing traveler hand over their passport and wallet. However, they are not police officers.

My Experience:

This has never happened to me.

How To Avoid It:

Never hand over your wallet or passport. Request they show you their identification and then inform them you will call the police to confirm they are who they say they are. Or tell them your passport is locked up in the hotel safe, and they’ll need to accompany you to your hotel. If they don’t allow this, simply walk away.

Attraction Is Closed

A common travel scam in major tourist areas, some friendly local (who just happens to speak excellent English) will approach and inform you that the attraction you want to visit is closed for any number of reasons (religious ceremony, holiday, etc.). Then they’ll guide you to a different attraction or shop where you’re pressured to purchase something or pay a lot for entry.

My Experience:

At a busy public square in Mexico, a local man began asking about my travels in perfect English. He then proceeded to tell me the town’s famous hammock shop was closed, but he knew of another nearby. I thanked him but ignored the advice and found the original shop open.

How To Avoid It:

Instead of taking the local’s word, head to the ticket counter or shop and see for yourself. Or ask someone else nearby for confirmation.

Friendly ATM Helper

Someone approaches at an ATM cash machine to help you avoid local bank fees. What they really want to do is scan your ATM card with the card skimmer in their pocket and watch you enter your pin number so they can drain your account later.

My Experience:

I’m embarrassed to say I almost fell for this scam in South Africa. One man was the helpful local, the second pretended to be a fellow customer waiting in line who agreed with what the first was saying. When the first guy canceled my transaction and told me to try it again, I realized what was happening, grabbed my card and walked away.

How To Avoid It:

Never let anyone near you while you’re making an ATM transaction, and ALWAYS cover the number pad with your other hand while entering your pin code. If someone approaches, take your card and find another ATM.

Injured Or Child Beggars

Usually deaf, blind, or pregnant, sometimes accompanied by a “helper”, beggars will ask you for money. Women with babies are common (they might not even be theirs). Children are also frequently used by begging gangs to collect money. Why? Because it’s difficult for most people to say no to the old, injured, or young. Sometimes an accomplice nearby is just watching to see where you keep your wallet so they can pickpocket you later.

My Experience:

You’ll see this stuff almost everywhere.

How To Avoid It:

It’s practically impossible to distinguish who is legit and who is not, so my policy is to never give cash to street beggars. However I do buy food or giveaway old clothes to them. Then your money isn’t going to a gang.

Group Photo Offer

While hanging out in a busy tourist location or landmark, a local offers to take a group photo of you and your friends. As you’re getting ready to pose for your awesome new Facebook jumping shot, you look up and realize your new friend has completely disappeared. With your expensive camera.

My Experience:

I’ve never fallen for this scam, but I’ve had a few people try. In fact one guy tried last week in the middle of Dublin. He was pretty shady (and possibly high), so I told him thanks but I’m good.

How To Avoid It:

This one is tough, you really need to read the situation. I’ve happily handed my $3000 camera over to other people for a group photo. But it’s almost always me asking them for the favor, not them offering out of the blue. Busy city attractions are the most risky places for this. If you have to, ask fellow tourists instead and return the favor for them.

Fake WiFi Hubs

While you can find WiFi almost anywhere these days, some of those free unlocked connections might be dangerous. Hackers will set up tempting unsecured wifi hotspots in public locations that unsuspecting victims eagerly connect to — giving the thief access to your computer, passwords, online accounts, and more.

My Experience:

I’ve never fallen for this scam, as far as I know.

How To Avoid It:

Always ask the hotel/coffee shop/airport staff which wifi connection is the official one. Especially when you see a tempting unlocked connection. To encrypt all your online activity, use a VPN, or virtual private network. I use one called ZenMate.

Bike Rental Travel Scam

Be Careful Renting Motorbikes

Motorbike Rental Damage

After you rent a moped or scooter, it gets damaged (or even stolen) overnight. The owner will demand additional payment or expensive repairs as compensation. What you don’t know is that it was the owner or his friends who caused the damage or stole the bike from you.

My Experience:

This happened to me in the Philippines. My motorbike seat cushion was slashed with a knife for no apparent reason, and the rental guy insisted I buy a new seat cover. I’m still not sure if it was a scam or if it was random, as the repair was pretty cheap.

How To Avoid It:

Take photos of the bike first to document previous damage. Use your own lock, not one provided by the rental guy (who may have a 2nd set of keys). Don’t tell the company where you’re really staying, and make sure there’s a safe place to leave the bike overnight. If damage does occur, take it to a repair shop recommended by someone other than the bike’s owner.

Fake Bus/Train/Plane Tickets

Someone offers to sell you train tickets at a discount, or avoid the line and pay a slightly higher price. Maybe a taxi driver offers to bring you to his friend who’s a local travel agent. However the tickets they are selling aren’t real, and by the time you figure it out, the scammers are gone with your money.

My Experience:

I’ve had a cab driver offer to take me to his travel agent friend. I told him I already had tickets.

How To Avoid It:

Always buy transportation tickets from the official ticket office or website.

Gemstone Or Carpet Deals

A local man casually brings up his lucrative side business of buying jewelry, gemstones, watches or carpets then selling them back in the United States (or some other country) for a fat profit. He offers to share how he does it, and shows you where to find the best deal. The only problem is that these products are fake.

My Experience:

This has never happened to me.

How To Avoid It:

Don’t buy expensive luxury items overseas while on vacation, no matter how good the deal is. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a travel scam.

Fake Hotel Wakeup Call

While staying at a hotel, you get a call from the front desk in the middle of the night to confirm your credit card details. Only it isn’t the front desk calling, it’s a scammer who will drain your accounts when he makes a copy of your card using the details you give him over the phone.

My Experience:

This has never happened to me.

How To Avoid It:

Never give out credit card details over the phone. Go down to the front desk in person the next morning if there is a problem.

Flirtatious Local Women

You arrive to a new country only to discover that beautiful local women seem to pay much more attention to you than back home. One of them invites you out to a nightclub or bar. However after a wild night, the woman disappears and you’re forced to pay an overpriced bill. Or worse, drugged and robbed.

My Experience:

I’ve had a version of this happen to me. Only it was hookers in Panama who attempted to get my attention. When I ignored them, they managed to steal the laptop from my backpack when I wasn’t looking.

How To Avoid It:

Be wary of attractive women who are unusually forward or hitting on you aggressively. I know it is every man’s dream to be propositioned by beautiful women, but if it’s not a normal occurrence for you, then it’s probably a scam.

Travel Scammers Suck!

The truth is that no matter how prepared you think you are, you’ll eventually fall for some sort of travel scam. But don’t let this deter you from traveling the world. Think of it as a rite of passage.

Sure, it’s embarrassing to be tricked out of your money, but there are always worse things that could happen. It’s just a learning experience. At least that’s how I look at it! ★

Traveling Somewhere Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

READ NEXT: How To Find Cheap Flights

Have any questions about travel scams? Have you ever been a victim? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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Shady people love to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists. It's easy to become a victim. These are the most common travel scams around the world.

Fishing Villages & Sea Kayaking Around The Bohuslän Archipelago

Bohuslän Sweden

Fishing Village of Smögen

Bohuslän, Sweden

Made up of 8,000 islands, the rugged Bohuslän Archipelago is regarded as one of the world’s great wilderness areas. If you enjoy fresh seafood or sea kayaking, it’s paradise.

As part of my West Sweden road trip with Volvo to promote their cool Overseas Delivery Program (free trip to Sweden anyone?), Katie and I spent a few days exploring these beautiful islands & their quaint fishing villages.

Katie is the reader who won my West Sweden trip giveaway this past Spring. We started our adventures in the city of Gothenburg, and then began making our way North.

Stopping in the picture-postcard fishing village of Smögen first, we wandered around colorful little houses perched on pink granite boulders beside the sea.

Sweden Road Trip

Road Trip!

Bohuslän Islands Sweden

Bohuslän Archipelago in a Volvo

West Sweden Road Trip

Hiking trails cover the entire area, and after a giant fresh shrimp sandwich for lunch at Hållö Bar we explored the rugged landscape on foot.

This village is a big tourist attraction in the summer when the weather is good. We spent the night at a beautiful old historic hotel called Smögens Havsbad.

Smögen’s pier is lined with quirky little shops and seafood restaurants. Families just pull their sailboats up and pay a fee to spend the night. Sailing is a popular pastime in Sweden. It seems everyone has a boat of some kind.

Bohuslän Islands Sweden

Rugged Pink Granite Landscape

Bohuslän Islands Sweden

Freshest Oysters You Can Eat

Sea Kayaking The Coast

Next we moved on to the Swedish town of Lysekil in the morning, meeting up with Torbjörn & Cathrine from Nautopp Seakayaking. They geared us up with high-performance sea kayaks for a day of touring the dramatic coastline.

Sea kayaks are long and skinny, designed for paddling through rough ocean chop for long distances. Much different than the short whitewater kayaks I’m used to. However the waters around Lysekil are well sheltered by a network of islands, making the sea relatively calm.

The morning was filled with paddling past pink granite islands, stopping on one for a tasty lunch of oily mackerel and dark coffee. Swedish style. For dessert? Fresh oysters!

A local oyster farmer invited us over to watch him dive and harvest his catch, giving us samples of his prized product. Let me tell you, raw oysters can’t get any fresher than that unless you eat them underwater. Yum.

Kayaking Islands Sweden

Sea Kayaking in Sweden

Bohuslän Islands Sweden

Exploring the Islands

More Fishing Villages

Once our kayaking adventure was over, we hopped back into our Volvo V40 and drove South to Fiskebäckskil, another former fishing community turned tourist attraction. The drive included a scenic ferry ride from one island to another.

Checking into The Gullmarsstrand right next to the water, we were too tired from kayaking to do much other than stuff our faces with more fish at their restaurant. That was followed by sitting on the docks to watch a colorful sunset.

With a full-time population of only 400 residents, Fiskebäckskil gives you a glimpse of what rural fishing life on these islands must have been like many years ago.

Fiskebäckskil Sweden

Fishing Town of Fiskebäckskil

Sweden Sunset

Look at that Sunset!!

Bohuslän Archipelago

The small islands and villages that make up the Bohuslän Archipelago are relaxing, but can be adventurous if you want them to be. It was a nice change of pace from the previous few days in the “big” city of Gothenburg.

Island hopping around to check out the laid-back lifestyle, local fishing culture, and watersports of the Bohuslän area was a very good idea. It was easily the most scenic leg of our West Sweden road trip too.

More Information

Location: Smögen, Sweden
Accommodation: Smögens Havsbad & The Gullmarsstrand
Activities: Nautopp Seakayaking
Useful Notes: Nautopp offers guided day or overnight sea kayaking trips, but if you’re more experienced, just rent boats and a map from them to head out exploring on your own.

Suggested Reading: Lonely Planet Guide to Sweden

READ NEXT: Fun Things To Do In Gothenburg

Have you eaten raw oysters? What about kayaking?

Do you eat raw oysters? Ever been sea kayaking before?

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Made up of 8,000 islands, the rugged Bohuslän Archipelago is regarded as one of the world's great wilderness areas. Join us for a little tour.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Tipi Camping In The Forests Of Dalsland

Dalsland Camping

Tipi Camping in Sweden

Steneby Prästgård, Sweden

Thor happily munches away as I stroke his large velvety antlers. I’ve always wanted to pet a moose. Sweden has over 300,000 of them living in the wild.

Thor is no longer a wild moose though. He’s one of seven now living at Dalslands Aktiviteter outdoor park in West Sweden.

Pontus, the owner, adopted Thor 10 years ago after his mother was killed. These days the moose park has grown, allowing visitors to learn more about these big goofy animals up close.

I was driving through the Dalsland wilderness with Katie (the reader who won my blog contest) as part of our West Sweden road trip with Volvo.

We’d stopped for a fun day of outdoor adventures, Swedish style.

Dalsland Moose Park

Meet Thor the Moose

Dalsland Zipline

Katie Rocking the Zipline

Zipline Adventure

Dalsland is known for its dense old-growth forests and countless crystal clear lakes. The area is an outdoor lover’s paradise — a perfect landscape for enjoying activities like hiking, fishing, camping, mountain biking, canoeing, and more.

After hanging out with Thor and his moose friends, we strapped on harnesses and went for a short hike into the woods. Our destination? A 600 meter long zipline over the trees.

I’ve experience many ziplines during my travels. They are becoming a popular tourist attraction all over the world. Yet because Katie had never tried one, I was more excited to watch her give it a go!

Zipline’s are pretty scary the first time. Placing your trust in equipment is sometimes easier said than done. Flying through the air hundreds of feet from the ground will make anyone nervous.

But once you take that leap, the adrenaline rush kicks in, and you’re hooked.

Dalsland Camping Food

Dinner is Served!

Camping In Sweden

We drove down the road to a lake where we’d be spending the night camping. But it wasn’t your typical camping experience… we’d be sleeping in a tipi tent!

Why a tipi? Well the Native Americans weren’t the only people to use them. An indigenous group in Scandinavia called the Sámi have their own version called a Lavvu.

Our tipi camping adventure was part rustic, part luxurious.

The beds were made of pine branches covered with soft reindeer hides, and to keep bugs away we lit a fire inside the tent. Smoke billows up through a hole in the top.

A wood-fired hot tub on the edge of the water was perfect for unwinding at the end of the day. For dinner, grilled pork with potatoes & salad.

Dalsland Camping

Tipi Camping in Sweden

Crafted By The Journey

To me, travel is more about the journey than the destination. It’s the little unexpected moments that happen along the way that make a trip particularly special. For example, a scenic road trip with a new friend.

Or attempting to sleep outside in a land with 20 hours of daylight. Jumping into cold lake water followed by a scalding hot tub. Petting a giant moose. Hanging a hammock under the trees and napping to the sound of birds singing.

These are the things I’ll remember most about Sweden with a smile. ★

More Information

Location: Steneby Prästgård, Sweden [Map]
Company: Dalslands Aktiviteter
Useful Notes: They offer all sorts of different outdoor activities as well as tipi camping. Others include horseback riding, a ropes course, archery, and riflery. There’s even a restaurant that serves, you guessed it, moose burgers! Don’t worry, meat doesn’t come from the moose park.

READ NEXT: River Surfing In Montreal

What About You?
Do you like to go camping? Ever been in a tipi before? I would LOVE to hear…

Disclaimer: #WestSweden #InAVolvo is made possible in partnership with Volvo and the West Sweden Tourist Board. However all content & opinions are entirely my own.

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Thor happily munches away as I stroke his large velvety antlers. I've always wanted to pet a moose. Sweden has over 300,000 of them living in the wild. Click through to read more about Tipi camping in the forest of Dalsland, Sweden.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Fun Things To Do In The Swedish City of Gothenburg

Gothenburg, Sweden

Welcome to Gothenburg!

Gothenburg, Sweden

The city of Gothenburg (Göteborg) is my kind of place. Urban creativity and convenience with nature nearby. Here are some fun things to do in Sweden’s 2nd biggest city.

Before I traveled to Sweden, I’d never even heard of Gothenburg. However after spending a few days exploring this important port city I can see why it’s growing in popularity.

Neoclassical architecture makes it pretty. Efficient public transportation makes it easy to get around. Surrounded by islands and forests, nature is only minutes away. The culture here breeds tasty food, cool art, excellent design, and — attractive people. Yeah I said it. Swedes are easy on the eyes!

I was visiting Gothenburg with Katie, an Expert Vagabond reader (and fellow blogger) who won my travel giveaway last spring. Volvo lent us a new car from their factory in Gothenburg for a road trip up the coast of West Sweden.

Here are some cool things to do if you ever find yourself in Gothenburg

Fortress Gothenburg

Skansen Kronan Fortress

Gothenburg

Views Over Gothenburg

Skansen Kronan Lookout

This ancient 17th century stone fortress sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. It has one of the best views of Gothenburg. Located near the trendy Haga neighborhood, the steep staircase will give you a bit of exercise. Looking over the colorful homes & old buildings from above is worth it though.

When you’re done, head back down to one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and grab a fika, or Swedish coffee break. You’ve earned it!

Gothenburg Fish Market

Feskekôrka Fish Market

Gothenburg Fresh Fish

Fresh Fish Everywhere

The Fish Church

The Feskekôrka (Fish Church) is a large indoor fish market in the heart of the city. The market is housed in what looks like an old gothic church. Swedes are known for their amazingly fresh seafood, and all the best stuff is on display here. Salmon. Brill. Cod. Lobsters. Crayfish. Squid. Caviar. Crabs.

We ordered a few tubs of fresh fish salad and sat outside for lunch, enjoying the summer sunshine. There’s also a restaurant and cafe inside.

Gothenburg submarine

Inside the Nordkaparen Submarine

Gothenburg Maritime Museum

Main Deck of the Destroyer Småland

Martiman Museum

Gothenburg has an awesome City Card for tourists that gives you free entrance for all kinds of activities, like the floating Martiman Museum. This maritime museum has an impressive fleet of 13 different types of ships you can explore. My favorites were the submarine and the destroyer.

Crawling down a dark ladder into the submarine and playing with all the controls made me feel like a little kid. I wanted to re-enact The Hunt For Red October. The destroyer was cool too though, the largest warship in Scandinavia. It once supported a crew of 272 sailors.

Gothenburg Islands

Gothenburg Archipelago

Gothenburg Vrango

Vrångö Island

Island Hopping

Next to the city is an archipelago of 20 islands that are very easy to visit for a day trip or overnight. The ferry system is fast & comfortable. We visited 2 of the islands, Vrångö and Styrsö Skäret. Neither of these islands allow cars. The only way to get around is to walk, travel by bicycle, or jump on a flakmopeder (a moped with flatbed in front).

Vrångö has some cool nature trails and a cafe. We spent the night on Styrsö Skäret at Pensionat Styrsö, a beautiful island guesthouse that provides you with bikes. They cooked some tasty plates of crayfish too, and crayfish are MUCH bigger over here.

Volvo Gothenburg

Visiting the Volvo Factory

Volvo V40

Our Sweet Volvo V40

Volvo Factory Tour

I know what you’re thinking. Because I was thinking it too. How could an automobile factory be any fun? Well, it turns out watching a futuristic army of robots assemble a car from scratch is fascinating. Robots were even driving themselves around the factory, some stopping to let us pass!

I for one welcome our new robot overlords…

Volvo has this awesome program when you order a new car from them, they’ll fly you out to Sweden for a few days to take delivery in person and drive it around before shipping it to your home. How cool is that?

Gothenburg Bike Trails

Mountain Biking in Gothenburg

Gothenburg Mountain Biking

Leo from Hillside Cycling

Mountain Bike Adventure

Gothenburg is unique in that it’s surrounded by large forests and lakes only minutes away from the city center. In a place where the population hovers around half a million, it’s very easy to get outside and enjoy nature. It’s a mountain biking playground.

Hidden in the trees is a vast network of trails covering over 250 miles, everything from easy dirt roads to technical slickrock and root-gnarled singletrack. Leo & Natasja of Hillside Cycling took me out exploring this maze. They rent high-end bikes and lead trips through the forests.

Liseberg Gothenburg

Wooden Roller Coaster at Liseberg

Liseberg Amusement Park

I can’t remember the last time I visited an amusement park. After spending the afternoon at Liseberg, I realize it’s been way too long! Attracting over 3 million visitors a year, the park is huge with tons of rides. We rode rollercoasters, free-fall towers, and a log flume in the rain.

The most famous ride at Liseberg is called Balder, a giant wooden rollercoaster with the honor of Best Wooden Tracked Roller Coaster in the world. I wasn’t expecting much from a wooden rollercoaster, but I was pleasantly surprised, as you can see in the photo above.

Meatballs in Sweden

Swedish Meatballs!

Gothenburg Beer

Swedish Beer with Swedish Friends

Swedish Food & Beer

You can’t leave Sweden without trying their famous Swedish Meatballs. For something a bit more fancy, Barabicu Grill served delicious fish. In the past food trucks were banned in the city, but that’s changed and they’re becoming quite popular.

Hamburgers are a big deal in Gothenburg. So is mayonnaise — I think everything is made with mayonnaise in Sweden. One night local travel blogger Evelina brought us to a good place for burgers called The Barn. The city also has a vibrant craft beer industry. I sampled a lot of beer, but my favorite was a double IPA from Beerbliotek.

West Sweden Road Trip!

Katie and I spent 8 days road tripping around Western Sweden — Gothenburg was just the start. I’ll be sharing more posts from our Swedish adventures in a Volvo over the next few weeks. Hiking pink granite islands, kayaking the coastline, tipi tent camping, hanging out with a moose and more.

More Information

Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Accommodation: Hotel Riverton & Radisson Blu
Useful Notes: Make sure you buy a City Card. It gives you free access to all kinds of attractions, free bus & tram rides (island ferries too), free public bike rentals, and free parking! Such a good deal.

Suggested Reading: Lonely Planet Guide to Sweden

READ NEXT: Whitewater Kayaking In New England

Do you prefer visiting small towns or big cities? Have you been to Gothenburg?

Volvo

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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The city of Gothenburg (Göteborg) is my kind of place. Urban creativity with nature nearby. Here are some fun things to do in Sweden's 2nd biggest city.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Whitewater Kayaking Down The Pemi River

Whitewater Kayaking the Pemi

Whitewater Kayaking the Pemi

New Hampshire, United States

Charging forward through a wall of spray, I make a quick S-turn ducking my head away from a boulder as the drop approaches. Powerful whitewater churns 10 feet below.

Just seconds from powering through my very first Class 5 whitewater rapid, and I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous. It’s a steep waterfall chute known to local kayakers as Thank You Ma’am.

The rapids are part of the upper Pemigewasset River in New Hampshire.

“You’re kayaking down THAT?!”

A 10 year old boy stares at me, eyes wide, as I peel off a popular hiking trail lugging my boat down into the forest. He’s not the only one watching. A small crowd has gathered along the covered wood footbridge above the falls.

They weren’t planning on witnessing some nutjob go over it in a kayak.

Kayaking the Pemi

The Pemigewasset River

Cayman Jack

Cayman Jack Margaritas

Whitewater Kayaking

Paddling through swift-moving whitewater in a little kayak is one of my favorite adventure sports. Rafting is fun too, but with whitewater kayaking, you’re calling all the shots yourself. It’s you against the turbulent water.

Running rivers in a kayak is like riding a wild rollercoaster.

You get tossed side-to-side by waves and pushed around by strong currents, all while attempting to maneuver past boulders and avoiding dangerous river obstacles like sieves and strainers.

Testing your skills & endurance against the awesome power of nature.

Kayaking Rivers in New Hampshire

Over the Falls!

Kayaking Rivers in New Hampshire

Liquid Rollercoaster

The Pemigewasset River

Located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Native American named Pemigewasset River runs 70 miles south from Franconia Notch where it meets up with another river, the Winnipesaukee.

It’s long been a favorite area for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. While a majority of the rapids are rated Class II, there are a few decent Class III, IV, and even V sections.

I actually grew up nearby in the Campton/Plymouth area, and worked a summer job that included dropping off and picking up kayakers along The Pemi (the river’s nickname).

Anytime I’m back in the area visiting family, I’ll check water levels on American Whitewater, looking forward to rain like a skier prays for snow.

Kayaking in New Hampshire

Whitewater Kayaking the Pemi

Kayaking New Hampshire

Cheers To Adventure!

Crafted By The Journey

I was in New Hampshire for my sister’s wedding (congratulations Lindsay!) and decided to run the river a few times. Mostly on my own, as friends & family have normal jobs that don’t allow them to go kayaking during the middle of the week!

However I did drag my sister along on the weekend to kayak a new section of the Pemi I hadn’t explored before, and we packed a few Cayman Jack Margaritas for the trip.

It rained a couple days earlier, so the river was flowing strong at over 700 CFS (cubic feet per second).

We had a wonderful day playing in the fast water under blue skies.

To celebrate our successful river run, we finished the afternoon with a few cans of that refreshing Cayman Jack margarita made with organic limes and proposed a toast… cheers to adventure! ★

Watch Video: Whitewater Kayaking New Hampshire

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!

(Click to watch Whitewater Kayaking – New Hampshire on YouTube)

READ NEXT: River Surfing In Montreal

Have you ever been whitewater kayaking or rafting before?


Cayman Jack

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Charging forward through a wall of spray, I make a quick S-turn ducking away from a boulder as the drop approaches. Powerful whitewater churns 10 feet below. Click through to read more...

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Scuba Diving With Sharks (No Cage!) In South Africa

Protea Banks South Africa

Shark Diving in South Africa

Margate, South Africa

The ocean around me is filled with hungry sharks. In just a few minutes, the sea has become thick with them, approaching from all directions. My heart races.

I was under 30 feet of water, without a cage, off the coast of South Africa. It was impossible to keep track of all the sharks around me. I counted at least 9 in my immediate vicinity, with more dark shapes lurking in the murky depths below.

A nightmare scenario for those who are afraid of the ocean.

When most people think of sharks, they instinctively remember the horror movie Jaws. Razor sharp teeth. Beady black eyes. The ocean’s deadliest predator lurking beneath the waves, ready to strike without warning.

Protea Banks Boat Ride

Motoring Out to the Dive Site

Embracing Your Fears

You’d think that hanging out underwater in shark territory would be the most dangerous place to be in the ocean. However our fears are not always rational — more often they’re primal. Based on emotion rather than facts.

For most people, fear is something they avoid at all costs. For others, it’s what drives them. I consider myself the latter. It’s a personality trait known as sensation seeking — someone who thrives on adventure, risks, and sensory overload.

While swimming with sharks is not as dangerous as it seems, that doesn’t mean it won’t give you a good jolt of adrenaline anyway.

Strapping on the Dive Gear

Strapping on the Dive Gear

South Africa Shark Dive

This is actually not my first time scuba diving with sharks. I’d met them up close and personal once before in Fiji, also without a cage.

Sharks are beautiful, powerful, agile creatures. Capable of both extreme violence and incredible elegance. Attacks on humans are exceedingly rare, despite all the negative media attention they receive.

Don’t believe me? Talk with anyone who spends significant amounts of time with them. Like marine biologists or scuba dive masters. Sharks deserve respect, not irrational fear.

Yes, some species attack humans from time to time.

It happens when they mistake us for animals they normally eat, like seals. But deep underwater, in their world, these intelligent animals are smart enough to know we aren’t on the menu.

Protea Banks Sharks

Shark Selfie!

Diving Protea Banks

In fact, sharks are often more frightened of us. As our group of divers first descended under the waves at Protea Banks, we actually scared off a large tiger shark. Tiger sharks are responsible for the 2nd highest number of attacks on humans. Yet this one wanted nothing to do with us.

Too bad, as this is the type I was most looking forward to meeting!

Protea Banks is home to all kinds of different species of shark like Black Tips, Bull Sharks, Tigers, Great Whites, Ragged Tooth, Hammerheads, and many more. They come to feed on large schools of tuna that thrive here.

It’s one of the few places in the world you can dive with 12 foot Tigers.

On this dive we encountered mostly Black Tip sharks, 4 to 5 feet long. A school of them circled the bait ball, a plastic device filled with fish heads that sharks can’t actually eat. After initially keeping their distance, they relaxed and had no problem swimming up to say hi.

The bull sharks were more skittish. I could see a few down below. Bull sharks are responsible for the 3rd highest number of attacks on humans. I found it kind of funny that one of the most dangerous species of sharks was also the most scared of us.

Sharks are Incredible Animals

Sharks are Incredible Animals

Diving with Sharks at Protea Banks

Diving with Sharks at Protea Banks

Shark Conservation

We spent an hour diving with the sharks at Protea Banks before surfacing to return to the boat. I’ll never get sick of these experiences. Visiting the underwater world is about as foreign as it gets, aside from outer-space.

The more time you spend in the company of sharks, the more your fear of them is transformed into respect and admiration. Sharks are beautiful, marvelous creatures.

Unfortunately they are getting killed off at an alarming rate.

Millions of sharks are fished out of our oceans annually. No wonder they’re afraid of us!

So when you hear about “attacks” like the recent one at a Jeffreys Bay surf competition, understand that we are the ones attacking their territory. We don’t own these oceans, yet we seem to love killing everything in them.

Sharks don’t even like humans — occasionally they just mistake us for something else. Maybe we deserve it. ★

Watch Video: Protea Banks Shark Dive


Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!

(Click to watch Protea Banks Shark Dive – South Africa on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Margate, South Africa
Accommodation: Beachcomber Bay Hotel
Company: African Dive Adventures
Cost: R1450 ($116 USD)
Useful Notes: The best time to see tiger sharks at Protea Banks is between March & June. You need to have a history of at least 25 logged scuba dives for this adventure.

READ NEXT: Cage Diving With Great White Sharks

Would you ever try swimming with sharks? Are you a scuba diver? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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The ocean around me is filled with sharks. Now they're approaching me from all directions. I was under 30 feet of water without a cage in South Africa.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

River Surfing In Montreal: Not Your Typical Surf Trip

Montreal Surfing

Surfing in Montreal

Montreal, Canada

When you think of Canada, does surfing come to mind? In the city of Montreal it’s possible to surf perpetual waves on the mighty Saint Lawrence River.

Known for its strong currents and whitewater rapids, Montreal’s Saint Lawrence River is a favorite spot for kayaking and rafting trips. But local surfers also take advantage of the unique conditions here.

Every day you’ll find a handful of surfers riding river waves.

Wanting to try it for myself, I filled a cooler with refreshing Cayman Jack Margaritas and drove up to Montreal for a few days of river surfing on the outskirts of the city.

I knew that after spending a few days in the sun, cooling off with the taste of Cayman Jack – blue agave nectar, organic limes and real cane sugar – would be exactly what I’d need.

Montreal Surfing

Not Your Typical Surf Spot

Cayman Jack

Stocked with Refreshments

River Surfing

Only a handful of rivers around the world boast standing waves large enough to ride using a surfboard. River waves are created by high volumes of water flowing over rocks, producing a large wave in the process.

Surfers are able to float into this wave and ride the water flow for as long as they want without actually moving anywhere — unlike with ocean waves.

Even experienced ocean surfers have trouble adapting to river waves.

Instead of a nice gradual slope, a river wave resembles more of a half-pipe shape. This unfortunately makes it easier to catch your surfboard nose in the water — resulting in a wipeout.

Montreal Surfing

Surfing a River!

Montreal Surfing

Hiking to the Lineup

Habitat 67 Surf Spot

There are a few different waves you can surf on the Saint Lawrence River. The one most people learn on is called “Bunny Wave” near the Lachine Rapids area. Once you master that, you can move up to Habitat 67.

Habitat 67 is a much larger & faster wave located behind a famous building with the same name. Surfers park by the tennis courts and walk down a dirt path in back.

Everyone was polite (it’s Canada!) and rode the wave for only a few minutes before waving the next person over. While waiting for my turn, I passed the time sharing surf stories and tasty Cayman Jack Margaritas with others in the lineup.

They appreciated a refreshing margarita before tackling another wave. Inspired by my partnership with Cayman Jack, I thought about how important it is to craft your own journey when you travel.

This means embracing everything that comes along with a new adventure. The planning, the anticipation, the challenges, the people you meet — the little pieces that produce a complete journey.

Montreal Surfing

Crafted by the Journey

Montreal Surfing

The Wave that Never Ends

How To Surf A River

River surfing can be challenging. The general process is to start upriver, paddle out, and carefully maneuver into position before turning backwards at the last second letting the current drag you into the sweet spot with the most whitewater.

Once you drop into this liquid half-pipe, paddle hard as you get sucked backwards. If you don’t put in enough effort, the river’s powerful surge will drag you over the top and down through the rapids.

Ride the surfboard on your stomach for a while first to get a feel for the wave.

Once you’re comfortable, pop up and maintain your balance. Because it’s a perpetual wave, you can theoretically ride it for as long as you want!

Montreal Surfing

Habitat 67 Building

Montreal Surfing

Making New Friends

More Difficult Than It Looks

Once you get pulled over the wave into the rapids (and you will), it’s important to keep ahold of your board and relax. Attempting to paddle against the current is a losing battle that will just make you exhausted.

As the rapids dissipate you swim over to the shore, hiking back to the starting point to try it all over again.

It took me at least 6 attempts to get the hang of it, and I have some surfing experience. Learning to surf a river isn’t easy — be patient!

Now you’d think that Montreal river water would be ice cold — but it actually wasn’t that bad. The water temperature can vary between the 60’s and 70’s (fahrenheit). A wetsuit is recommended if you’ll be there for a while.

Next time you’re in Montreal, rent a board or take a lesson and check it out! River surfing is a pretty unique adventure. ★

Watch Video: River Surfing Montreal


Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!

(Click to watch River Surfing – Montreal, Canada on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Montreal, Canada
Company: KSF Surfing
Total Cost: $20 USD (3 hour rental)
Useful Notes: If you want to learn how to surf a river wave, KSF offers classes. It’s not the same as ocean surfing. If you already know how to surf, you can also rent a board from them and try on your own.

READ NEXT: How To Find Cheap Flights

Have you ever heard of river surfing before? Would you try it?


Cayman Jack

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When you think of Canada, does surfing come to mind? In the city of Montreal it's possible to surf perpetual waves on the mighty Saint Lawrence River.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

How To See (And Photograph) Northern Lights In Iceland

Northern Lights in Iceland

How To See The Northern Lights in Iceland

Photography Tips

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see colorful lights dancing in the night sky. Learn how to find & photograph the amazing Northern Lights in Iceland.

Northern Lights In Iceland

Before I visited Iceland, I’d only witnessed the northern lights one other time back in college. The northern lights transfixed me for hours, watching this mysterious green glow of the magical aurora borealis dance over a high mountain range in Montana.

So trying to locate and take amazing photos of the northern lights in Iceland was a top priority for me — as it often is for many visitors to the country.

However many people don’t realize that this incredible phenomenon is elusive and unpredictable. Yes, even in a famous northern lights country like Iceland.

So to help you improve your chances for finding the northern lights, I wanted to share a few tips and photography techniques from my recent adventure in Iceland — and show you how I managed to get some great photos of this incredible natural phenomenon.

The Aurora Borealis

Northern Lights Iceland

Light Trails – 13 Seconds, f/4.0, ISO2000

How To Find The Northern Lights In Iceland

So why are the northern lights so difficult to see, even in Iceland? Well, it’s because there are many different factors involved.

For a perfect northern lights experience, you need a combination of dark skies, clear weather, and strong aurora activity. Ensuring that all these requirements come together takes some planning.

Find Some Dark Skies

For the same reason star-gazing is better when it’s dark out, viewing the northern lights is best in the dark too. Light pollution from cities & towns hinders the experience. Yes, you can sometimes see the lights from Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik. However you’ll have more luck in the countryside away from man-made light sources.

Wait For Clear Weather

If the weather is overly cloudy, you won’t be able to find the northern lights. So pay attention to the weather forecast, especially cloud cover (infrared satellite maps help a lot). While you might still see some aurora lights if it’s only partly cloudy, you’ll have the best chance when there are no clouds at all.

Check out cloud cover conditions around the world on MeteoStar.

Aurora Forecast

Because aurora activity comes down from the sun in space, scientists are able to predict how strong it will be by looking at our sun’s solar wind, and the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. The KP-Index ranges from 0-9 with ratings of 5 or greater considered solar storms. There are a few websites that specifically track it.

Iceland has a great site that predicts both cloud cover & aurora activity.

For worldwide aurora predictions, check out Space Weather Ovation.

Self-Drive vs. Group Tour

You should be able to go hunting for the northern lights on your own by renting a car in Iceland. Another option is renting a camper van, which allows you to camp out away from towns with light pollution.

Experience driving in snow is helpful if you’re visiting Iceland in the winter, as conditions can sometimes be very harsh. Big snowstorms are common.

I prefer exploring on my own, as it gives me the freedom to stay out all night or move locations on a whim.

However if you don’t feel comfortable driving in Iceland at night, there are plenty of organized northern lights tours available too.

Northern Lights Over Iceland

Iceland Plane Crash – 15 Seconds, f/4.0, ISO2500

Best Time To See Northern Lights

The best season to see the northern lights in Iceland is the fall/winter months from September to April. The absolute darkest months in Iceland are between November & February, but these months can also have the worst weather.

Remember that you need a combination of darkness away from towns, clear skies, and strong aurora activity to see the northern lights.

Witnessing Iceland’s northern lights during summer months is pretty rare, due to almost 20 hours of sunlight per day near the arctic circle.

The more time you spend in Iceland, the better your chances are of spotting the lights. If you’re only visiting on a 2 day stopover, you’ll need a LOT of luck to see them. I recommend spending at least 7 days in Iceland if you want to find the northern lights.

Even then it can be difficult. As an example, my photographer friend Ken Kaminesky has visited Iceland 5 times now and has still never seen them!

You also won’t see the northern lights if you’re bar hopping in Reykjavik. A primary reason why I was able to capture such great photos of the aurora borealis is because I stayed outside all night, for multiple nights, driving around searching for them. It takes some dedication.

What To Look For

Ok, a few more tips for finding the northern lights. While it may seem obvious, remember to look North! The lights dance along the magnetic bands of the arctic circle, so you need to keep your eyes North to see them.

Often the lights start off weak at first, slowly increasing in intensity. Weak aurora activity will look grey to the naked eye. Much like wispy clouds or fog moving in the wind. They can be easy to miss.

Aim your camera at the grey stuff and shoot a long-exposure photo (20 seconds or so). If those “clouds” come out green in your image, they aren’t clouds! You’re witnessing a weaker version of the northern lights.

The stronger the aurora activity, the brighter the colors will be.

The most common northern lights color you’ll see is green. However if you’re lucky, they can also be blue, red, and orange depending on which atmospheric gasses happen to be prevalent.

Northern Lights Iceland

Driving the Ring Road – 13 Seconds, f/4.0, ISO2000

Northern Lights Photography

Once you find the aurora, capturing decent images of it is a whole new challenge. Here are some tips to help you photograph the northern lights in Iceland.

Photography Gear

In most photography situations, the quality of your gear doesn’t matter too much. However for northern lights & star photography it does. Here’s a list of recommended gear you’ll want to produce some great low-light shots.

  • Full Frame DSLR with Manual Mode & High ISO capability
  • Wide Angle Lens (24mm or wider) with Fast Aperture (2.8 – 4.0 minimum)
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • 2-3 Extra Batteries

Check Out My Travel Photography Gear Here »

You’ll want a quality camera (brand doesn’t matter) with a large sensor for minimal noise at high ISO settings. A wide angle lens aids in photographing large landscapes with the night sky. A fast aperture allows the maximum amount of ambient light to enter your lens.

A sturdy tripod lets you shoot long exposures without producing camera shake. Extra batteries give you flexibility to stay out all night waiting for peak activity — plus cold weather drains them faster.

Focusing Your Camera At Night

Even with the best camera gear and knowledge of the optimal settings, without proper focus, your northern lights photos won’t come out crisp/clear.

There are a few different methods to for focusing your camera at night, but my favorite is to focus on a distant landmark (like mountains) on the horizon.

This is easier to do around sunset or blue hour with some daylight left in the sky.

Most cameras have an infinity focus setting (∞), but it’s not always accurate. Zoom in as much as possible and adjust the focus manually. Once you have it locked in, remember to keep “auto focus” off and don’t touch the focus ring.

Northern Lights Camera Settings

I’ve included my northern lights camera settings under each photo in this post to give you some examples. But generally, because the intensity of the light and amount of movement is constantly changing, you’ll have to experiment with settings throughout the night.

Your camera should be set in Manual Mode, giving you the power to change each particular setting on it’s own.

IMAGE FORMAT
Most professional photographers shoot in RAW format rather than JPG, as it provides the maximum amount of information allowing for greater flexibility with post processing later.

APERTURE (F-STOP)
You want to capture as much light as possible, so use the widest (fastest) aperture your lens has. I used F4.0 in these photos, but F2.8 is even better if you have it. To learn more about aperture, click here.

SHUTTER SPEED
Depending on how fast the lights are moving, or how bright they are, you’ll want to adjust your shutter speed (exposure) accordingly. Anything from 10 seconds to 25 seconds is a good guess. The faster the lights are moving, the shorter the shutter speed should be.

ISO
The last setting you should adjust for northern lights photos is ISO. Increasing ISO allows your sensor to capture more light. The downside is that the higher your ISO is, the more sensor noise you’ll get, resulting in a grainy image. Settings around 2000 – 4000 should work best.

Northern Lights

Before Processing

Northern Lights

After Processing

Post Processing

Once you have a decent image, you can enhance your Iceland northern lights photos with post processing software. I personally use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, but there are others.

They all basically do the same things. How much processing you do is a matter of preference. Remember, art is subjective! You and I may not like the same things.

Post processing is a huge topic though, so I’ll just give you a super quick overview of what I did to enhance my northern lights images to really make them pop.

  • Adjust White Balance
  • Increase Exposure
  • Brighten Shadows
  • Brighten Whites
  • Darken Highlights
  • Increase Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation
  • Adjust Curves
  • Noise Reduction
  • Sharpening

Happy Aurora Hunting!

My Iceland northern lights photography in this post was captured during late November over a 3 day window of clear skies and strong aurora activity as I drove around Iceland’s famous Ring Road.

The lights would usually start off weak, increasing in intensity over the course of a few hours.

The best shots were captured at peak aurora activity, which usually only lasted for about 10-15 minutes. Patience & dedication is soooo important for northern lights photography… you need to stick around long enough for the good stuff to present itself.

With a little planning, a lot of waiting, and a dash of luck, you too can witness this amazing natural phenomenon in Iceland called the northern lights.

Seeing them in person is a magical experience — there’s nothing like it! ★

Traveling To Iceland Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

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Northern Lights in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Northern Lights in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE FROM ICELAND

Driving Iceland’s Ring Road
How To Find Iceland’s Famous Plane Crash
Epic Iceland Photography Locations

Have any questions about the northern lights in Iceland? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

How To Find The Cheapest Flights For Traveling

Book Cheap Flights ></p>
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Travel Tips

Travel doesn’t have to be expensive, but airline tickets often are. Here are my favorite tricks for how to find cheap flights and get the best airline deals on your next vacation.

Flying can be expensive if you don’t know how to book cheap flights. The price of airline tickets is actually increasing as companies merge and fuel costs rise.

The flight is often the most expensive part of your trip…

How do we reduce that cost and find the cheapest tickets available?

After 7 years of constant travel, I’ve learned a few tricks that will help you save money on your next flight so you can arrive at your destination for a reasonable price. So pack your bags and let’s go!

Cheap Flight Search Engines

Searching For Amazing Flight Deals

1: Best Airfare Search Engines

Using an airfare meta search engine is quick & easy, and it can help you find the cheapest flights. These sites search for tickets across many different airlines, and offer helpful tools like price prediction, price maps based on destinations, fare alerts by email, and more.

It’s a good idea to check multiple flight search engines before you book a ticket. You never know which site may show you the best price and cheapest flights.

My Favorite Flight Search Sites:

  • Skyscanner
  • Momondo
  • Google Flights
  • Kayak

Generally, my first stop is Skyscanner when searching for cheap flights. When I find a good deal, before I book it, I’ll also double check Momondo, Google Flights, Kayak, and finally the airline’s official website.

You’ll never know if another site may have something cheaper available unless you check!

2: Sign Up For Cheap Fare Alerts

In addition to searching on multiple flight search engines, I also recommend you set up fare alerts for each one. Punch in the details about your intended destination, a range of dates, and let the website alert you via email when prices drop.

There are also a few dedicated airfare websites you should definitely check on a regular basis, or sign up for. These sites scour the internet for the best deals possible, doing all the work so you don’t have to.

  • HolidayPirates.com
  • TheFlightDeal.com
  • SecretFlying.com
  • AirfareWatchdog.com

Another good one, which is a paid subscription service, is Scott’s Cheap Flights. He has a whole team of people scouring the internet for deals, which they send to you via email.

3: Join Big Airline Newsletters

The best airfare deals are often available on the airlines’ own web sites, and many come in the form of promo codes and special offers.

Signing up to the airline’s newsletter gives you access to these deals, sometimes as big as 50% off the published fares.

Here’s a handy list of US based airline newsletters to sign up for.

I simply use Gmail’s email filters to automatically move these newsletters into a specific folder so my inbox isn’t overrun, checking it weekly for deals.

Flexible Dates

Flexible Travel Dates

4: Be Flexible With Dates/Times

The best time to book a flight has been found to be 4-10 weeks in advance of your trip. The best days to depart seem to be Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday because they’re off-peak with less passengers and lower fares.

Early morning flights or red-eyes (overnight) will usually be cheaper too.

Flights with long layovers are less expensive. Another way to save money on tickets is by flying during the off-season, or shoulder seasons, when there will be less demand.

For example? Iceland in the Fall/Winter, or Mexico in the Summer.

5: Book Tickets In January!

Some of the best flight deals I’ve ever seen are always available during the month of January & February. Round trip flights from the United States to Europe or Africa for under $500!?

You don’t need to travel during those months, it just means you should book your tickets then.

Airlines seem to love offering cheap flights in January. Probably because people are out of money after the holidays and they’re trying to boost demand. Keep this in mind when planning your travels next year, and set aside some cash to book your summer vacation flights in January.

6: Check Alternative Airports

If you happen to live near a few airports, remember to check the fares for each of them, as well as alternative airports or large hubs near your intended destination.

Sometimes traveling by bus to or from a different airport can save you a lot of money on flights.

In the past I’ve saved a few hundred dollars choosing a $10 bus ride to New York rather than flying directly out of Boston. It takes longer, so you’ll have to weigh the opportunity cost.

Budget Airlines

Use Budget Airlines

7: Try Flying Budget Airlines

In addition to searching the major airline booking sites, do research about which specific budget carriers fly to your intended travel destination. You may be surprised at just how cheap these flights can actually be…

Los Angeles to Thailand for only $307 on China Southern Airlines

Washington DC to Copenhagen for only $193 on WOW Airlines

Florida to Colombia for only $67 on Spirit Airlines

Pretty good, right?

Some budget airlines don’t allow big meta flight search engines to include their fares in search results, requiring you to visit the airline’s website.

Wikipedia has an excellent list of budget airlines around the world.

Many budget airlines charge extra for services that are normally free on larger airlines. Checked bags, snacks, drinks, legroom, credit card payment, printing a boarding pass, and anything else they can possibly think of. You can find this information on their website.

Cheap tickets on budget airlines are often non-refundable and can’t be changed — plus they may fly to smaller airports outside the main city, requiring additional travel time on the ground.

All these factors need to be weighed before you book a ticket.

8: Pick Destination Based On Price

The more flexible you are, the better your chances for finding cheap flights. So try flying to where the deals are!

Some websites make this easy like Google Explore & Skyscanner Inspire Map.

You are presented with a price map for different destinations based on your departure airport.

Being flexible allows you to plan where to go based on how cheap the tickets are. Flying to a random location can be a lot of fun, and you may end up discovering an area of the world you hadn’t planned on visiting.

Flexibility and spontaneity can save you money.

9: Use A Good VPN Service

One sneaky way airlines attempt to make the most profit is by charging different fares for people in different countries.

For example, booking domestic flights from outside the country will often be more expensive than booking inside the country.

Prices may change based on where the transaction is completed, or the “point-of-sale”. However you can beat them at their game using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to hide your location or pretend to be somewhere else.

I use Private Internet Access VPN because it’s so easy, affordable, has a smartphone app, and doesn’t slow down my connection.

Small Plane

Hitchhiking on Airplanes is Free!

10: Hitchhiking On Airplanes?

Did I ever tell you about the time I hitchhiked on an airplane? I know, I know — this isn’t practical for most people.

However it IS possible to hitchhike on small private planes from municipal airports. You need a lot of patience, some flexibility, and a little luck to find a pilot willing to take you.

I only mention this to show you that just because you think something is difficult or impossible, doesn’t mean that’s the case.

There’s even a website dedicated to flight-sharing if you pitch in for gas!

11: Book Flight Legs Separately

For long-distance flights, it can pay to book different legs separately rather than all at once. I discovered it was about $200 cheaper for me to fly from Boston to Copenhagen, followed by Copenhagen to Dublin on a budget airline, rather than book a multi-leg trip from Boston to Dublin all at once.

You may even save money on the same exact itinerary, just booking each section independently. Or by booking two one way tickets instead of one round trip. Spend 30 minutes experimenting and see what you come up with.

Remember though, it’s important to keep an eye on arrival & departure times for these flights to give yourself enough time to transfer.

Cheap Flight Tips & Tricks

So, there you have it. These are the tactics & resources I personally use to find cheap flights around the world. In fact I recently scored round-trip tickets from Boston to Dublin for only $614 using these techniques.

Like travel in general, flying doesn’t have to be expensive if you know how to find the best deals and are willing to actually put in the effort. Flexibility combined with spending an extra 30 minutes searching can save you hundreds of dollars. ★

Traveling Somewhere Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

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How To Find Cheap Flights. More at ExpertVagabond.com

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Have any questions about finding cheap flights? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.