Category Archives: Iceland

Video: Top 5 Unique Tours in Iceland

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We’ve prepared a fun little video for you this week! To see more of these, Like Us on Facebook! We’ll be publishing them every now and then on our Facebook Page. Enjoy!

Planning a Summer or Fall trip to Iceland? It’s important to book hotels and tours early to this wildly popular destination. Give us a call! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Europe, Iceland, Icelandair

The Next Best Destinations for 2017

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Happy New Year, dear Readers! We’ve made past the end of 2016, hopefully with some fun and meaningful travel memories racked up. But what does 2017 have in store for the traveler? Here are our Top Destinations in 2017:

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Cruise ship in Isafjordur, the West Fjords of Iceland

1. Iceland

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Iceland has once again made the list. In the past 10 years, Iceland’s popularity as a travel destination soared to immense heights, capping 1 billion travelers to this dynamic Atlantean rock in the summer of 2016 alone. Most travelers have visited the gorgeous Golden Circle and the Glacier Lagoon, maybe even ridden an Icelandic horse or spied the Northern Lights–but what’s next for Iceland in 2017? Traveling a bit more off-the-beaten path, to Lake Myvatn area, to the West Fjords and the Westman Isles. We’ll have to see what this magical Viking isle has in store for us!

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Lake Bled in Slovenia

2. Slovenia (& the Balkans)

If you haven’t discovered this off-the-beaten-path trek in Europe, what are you waiting for? Slovenia is the oft-cited “playground of Europe,” with a range of activities to attract the thrill-seeker. Spelunking, hang-gliding, jet-skiing are just some of the more popular pursuits. Plus there are few city centers as pristine as Ljubljana’s. A great way to see the Balkan countries is to rent a car and spend a few weeks traveling around war-wounded Sarajevo, culturally bobbing Belgrade, and Croatia’s exquisite Dalmatian coast.

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Białowieża Forest, Poland

3. Australia & New Zealand

Australia & New Zealand have always been a popular destination for families, couples and backpackers alike. Sydney boasted the “best fireworks in the world” at the Opera this New Year’s Eve. Tazmania might just be the next prime hiking destination, with multi-day excursions and luxury ecolodges. And NZ has an array of fun food-themed fetes to enjoy, kicking off with Auckland Seafood Festival in January and then Marlborough Wine & Food Festival come February. Though the Northern Lights have attracted some fair attention these past few years, the Southern Hemisphere has it’s own bragging right: the unparalleled Southern Cross!

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River Boat sailing through Chicago, USA

4. River Cruises in North America

Domestic travel usually has to offer something unique to attract travelers, and we believe river cruises are that unique option. There seems to be no end to high quality river and lake cruises: the Great Lakes, roundtrip Nashville on the Mississippi River, Montreal and the eastern seaboard, and the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Themes range from southern style comfort on the Mississippi to the pioneer history of the Oregon Trail. River cruises are small-scale, comfortable, unhurried cruises in American history that often sail year-round–without the spectacle afforded on ocean cruises. Plus one major advantage over Europe or South America: shorter flights to get there (if any)!

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Lisbon, Portugal

5. Portugal

Warm beach weather, delicious cuisine, and a charming ambiance makes Portugal a global destination. Lisbon has all the Old World beauty of a European small town, and the coastline draws its fair share of beachgoers and world-class surfers. In terms of food and wine, Portugal will certainly peak your interest, and the easygoing temperance of the locals will make you feel at home in no time.

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Oslo, Norway

6. Scandinavia

Though oft-cited as the most expensive destination in Europe, Scandinavia remains one of the best “bang-for-your-buck” destinations in the world. Thanks to recent trends following the Northern Lights and Iceland’s natural attractions, the region is receiving all the attention it deserves. World-class restaurants, leisurely cafes, and interactive museums still place it at the top of the list (and the map!). Not to mention how easy and accessible most travelers find Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Reykjavik–most of the population are friendly, curious, polite and speak English.

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Reindeer in Finland

7. Finland & Estonia

Finland celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia in 2017, and a spirit of unity will be rampant in every town and city. Wander 39 national parks or visit the laid-back seaside capital, view the Northern Lights or take a dip in the local sauna. Helsinki has the familiarity and design-conscious layout of a Scandinavian town, with a cultural flair that’s uniquely Finnish. Estonia is also growing on the tourist horizon–Tallinn as a leading city of technology and entrepreneurship. Its heritage is part Baltic, with smatterings of Soviet Union and Finnish influence. A popular way to visit is via a cruise to the Baltic region–many of our clients have come back from a cruise excursion with tales of Tallinn’s enchanting city center.

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Paris, France

8. France

Throughout the centuries, France has never lost its charms. Even through recent security issues have scared off some travelers, the Loire chateaux, Bordeaux wines and sun-baked sands of the Riviera are still there and thriving. After a shaky 2016, France is bouncing back in a big way, and tourist bookings have increased exponentially for 2017. Tourists seem to have their eyes on provincial towns and the hidden secrets of the countryside. Is this the time to finally check out the Champagne region, or go wine-tasting in the Dordogne Valley?

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1950s/60s Cars in Cuba

9. Cuba

With relaxing entry regulations, Cuba has received quite the attention these past two years. The response from group travelers and cruise ship passengers has been wildly enthusiastic. Over 2 million travelers visited the island in the first half of 2016, compared to just 63,000 in 2010. But that may all change soon–some travel industry experts fear that the Trump administration will restrict travel there in the future. So now might be your only chance in a while to travel to the “Pearl of the Antilles.”

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The Majestic African Elephant

10. Africa Destinations: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.

Africa remains an ever-popular destination, with senior couples and large families booking safari trips in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. These regions are still within reasonable budget to catch a glimpse of wildebeest, lions, antelopes. South Africa is world-famous for their natural diversity and local cuisine, catering to all flavors and styles. Immerse yourself on a game drive in Kruger National Park, or indulge in wine-tasting in Boberg or the Breede River Valley. We’re proud also to include Namibia on our list. As some of our readers know, WIT Owners Christina and John guided a merry band through the red sands of Namibia. The landscape is like no other, with miles upon miles of arid desert, dotted with unique wildlife and local tribes who paint themselves with ochre. We expect to see a rise in interest for Namibia in 2017, and now you can receive firsthand travelers’ experience at our office in Portland.

Do you have a favorite travel memory or photo from 2016? We’d love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!

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Filed under Africa, Baltic, Croatia, Cruises, Cuba, Estonia, Europe, Finland, Iceland, Kenya, Namibia, North America, Norway, Poland, portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, tanzania, USA

Iceland’s Crystal Caves

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The Ice Tunnel at Langajökull

Ice Caves in Iceland are truly a unique experience, as they appear only in winter. The summer heat carves out dramatic holes and caverns in the glacier. By late autumn, they freeze again into caves of dazzling beauty, so resplendent that they’ve been dubbed “crystal caves.” Since ice is an ever-changing element, ice caves often change from year to year, or disappear altogether. Officially, the season runs from November to March. 

Iceland is known for its breathtaking and photogenic crystal caves. Streaks of black silt tattoo the brilliant cerulean blue of the ice. Only a handful of reputable guides will take you on an adventure of ice and glaciers—ask your agent at Willamette Intl Travel who they recommend. Continue reading

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A Day in Elliðaárdalur Park

From the desk of Iceland (soon to be Sweden) correspondent Wailana Kalama: 

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After you’ve been in one place for a while, or you’ve visited one place again and again… you begin to discover all those little nooks and crannies you missed the first time ’round.

For me, Elliðaárdalur was one of those places—a little piece of wildlife in the middle of Reykjavik, Iceland. Virtually unknown to tourists, this peaceful cluster of trees and streams makes a great afternoon getaway from the hubbub of Reykjavik.What better time to visit in the beginning of June, when the glacier waters have melted to reveal beautiful cascades and blooming lupin?

Elliðaárdalur is only 10-15 minutes drive from downtown, or approximately 20 minutes by bus. Pronounced (rather roughly) “et-lee-tha-aur-da-lure,” the name means something like the “Valley of Elliði’s River.”


The park runs from north to south, follows the banks of the Elliðaár river, and culminates into two small but graceful waterfalls at the end. Hikers can hug the waterside or go exploring on the shady forest trails. Walk among birch, fir and pine trees, and keep a lookout for swans, ducks, thrush, and wild berries. You can even take your bike there—just watch out for stones on the path!

I found myself singing “While Strolling through the Park One Day,” although technically it is the merry merry month of June, and not May as the song would like to convince you.

The park is just next to Arbaer Museum (Kistuhylur 4), the open-air folk museum that depicts the traditional Icelandic way of life.

Would you like to know more about the hidden nooks and crannies of Reykjavik? Email info@wittravel.com to plan your one of a kind trip to Iceland today! WIT Blogger Wailana lived in Reykjavik for little over a year and loves to share her tips. 

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A Drive through Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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WIT Iceland Correspondent Wailana embarked on a trip to Snaefellsnes Peninsula (in Iceland) this past weekend. A day trip includes pick up from Reykjavik hotels, and a guided drive through this spectacular national park. Check out her photos and overview from the trip!

Trip Highlights:

  • Snæfellsjökull volcano glacier
  • Gerðuberg basalt columns
  • Bird cliffs at Arnarstapi
  • Kirkjufell church-shaped mountain
  • with Kirkjufellfoss waterfall

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There were about 18 people in our cozy van, we drove from Reykjavik downtown through Hvalfjordur out to Borganes town and Snaefellsnes, the westernmost peninsula in Iceland. We stopped frequently to check out the dramatic landscape of bird cliffs, sloping mountains, black sand beaches and the occasional coffee/bathroom break. We stopped midday for lunch at Grundarfjörður and picturesque views of Kirkjufell. The guide was very friendly and knowledgeable about the history of the region; he even shared some of his family history with us–turns out he can trace his lineage all the way back 1200 years to the west coast of Norway!

Though it was a long day, starting at 8:30AM and ending around 7:30PM, it was definitely worth it! My recommendation: bring a bit of water and your camera.

For more day trips through Iceland and other hot destinations, contact Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. We can connect you with the best guide services to make your trip all the more memorable!

 

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Filed under Day Trips From..., Europe, Iceland, News

The Icelandic Roadtrip Packing List

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One of the best way to see the Icelandic countryside is to hit the road for a few days. Rent a car straight from the airport and embark on a roadtrip! It’s really the only way to see a country that has only 8 people per square mile. Iceland’s Ring Road will take you across through and around snow-capped mountains, bubbling lava pits and misty glacier fingers. But what to take on the journey? Here’s my packing list for an Icelandic roadtrip:

1. Map and GPS navigator. Though you can’t really get lost around Iceland, it sometimes pays to have a map. They are useful if you need to judge the distance until the next town or gas station. Stay on the roads listed on your map–you can incur a hefty fine if you drive off-road. Only attempt a highland road (marked on the map) if you’re driving a 4-wheeler–these roads are notorious for their rugged terrain, and there’s a high chance you may get stuck with a 2-wheeler.

2. Food. Good food can be scarce in Iceland in all except the main towns, so if you want a snack for the road, be sure to pick up a quickie like food bars, dried meat, and chips before you head out. You can also pick these up at any number of gas stations on the road. Dried fish or fruit make great nibbles in the car.

3. Camera, tripod and binoculars. Iceland’s landscape is gorgeous wherever you look–so be sure to have your camera ready. A DSLR is best to catch the subtle, natural sights, such as the Northern Lights (and we’ve just entered the season!). Tripods and binoculars are handy when viewing waterfalls or birds.

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4. Windproof and fleece jackets. Definitely pack your windbreaker–the wind is often fierce in Iceland, especially on the west coast, and rain or snow is not uncommon! Make sure it’s also a jacket that can get dirty–often your adventures will take you horseback riding or spelunking, so be sure you can watch off the grease and the grime.

5. Hiking boots and socks. The only option for the rugged terrain of Iceland. If you do any sort of off-road hiking to Dettifoss or through the multicolored hills of Landmannalaugar, great shoes are a must. The best shoes are those with good support and are also waterproof.

6. Warm clothes. Iceland is cold year-round, and though there are sunny days here and there, the weather is notoriously unpredictable. Pack your warm gear: thermal leggings, cargo pants, sweaters, balaclava, wool cap–layers layers layers! Icelandic wool is a great investment and can be purchased in Reykjavik.

7. Swimsuit and towel. Icelanders are obsessed with swimming! Families gather here to sit in the hot pots and share the latest gossip. Wild hot pots exist all over the country. If you forget to bring your swimsuit, you can rent a spare at the pool’s front desk–but if you’re out on the road, it’s good to have your own handy!

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Diving In Iceland

Welcome to Iceland! Today we’re returning to the land of fire and ice brought to you by our own foreign correspondent in Iceland, Wailana.

Last summer she joined a fantastic group for an unforgettable experience snorkeling between tectonic plates. Established in 1997, Dive.is offers safe, fun snorkel and dive days not far from Reykjavik and also off the coast of Iceland. The most famous trip is through Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir, a crack in the Earth where you can swim between two continental plates.

If you are a PADI-certified diver, you can join fellow divers on a day dive in the fissure. The tour includes two dives, each of about 30-40 minutes, at a depth of 18 meters. Optional add-ons include an afternoon of spelunking or the Golden Circle.

Otherwise, you can sign up for the snorkel tour. Even in summer, the fissure tends to be quite cold, but you’re fitted with high quality equipment and the best dry suit in the business. You can easily let yourself go, floating through the twisting fissure in pristine waters and the vivacious colors of this underwater realm. The fissure widens into a large lagoon area, where sand collects at the bottom. Wailana recommends keeping your hands laying flat on your back, above the water to be warmed by the sun (if there is any!). End your chilly day with a cup of hot chocolate and cookies.

Looking for something a bit more Advanced? In Akureyri, you can sign up for the dive tour in Strytan and its underwater volcanic cones. Swim in 79C water and feed the local wolf fish. In June, divers can even boil Guillemot eggs at 24 meters depth!

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Filed under Europe, Iceland, Travel by Scuba