Must-See Destinations When Visiting Iceland

The Northern Lights

The northern lights are one of the biggest draws to visiting Iceland, however they are also one of the most elusive and unpredictable attractions this country has. Although it would be great to easily pinpoint a how to see them, there are a lot of variables to consider for seeing them: season, weather, length of stay, location and luck. The best season to see the northern lights in Iceland is from September to mid-April.

Watch Geysir Blow

Every few minutes within the Golden Circle you can see the Strokkhur Geysir spout boiling water up in the air.  These powerful earth burps can sometimes shoot as high as 100 ft above the ground.

Take A Tour Of The Crystal Caves

The ice caves inside Iceland’s glaciers, referred to as The Crystal Caves, are a truly remarkable wonder of nature. They are hard to get good pictures of, but your eyes will be able to take in an amazing view.

Visit The Abandoned Plane

On Saturday of Nov 24, 1973 a United States Navy airplane ran out of fuel and was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s beach in the south of Iceland. The crew survived the landing and the airplane’s remains are still at the crash site.

Visit The Black Sand Beach In Vik Iceland

Visiting the black sand beach in Vik is definitely a must. The beach is widely regarded as the most impressive black-sand beach in Iceland. The sand is crushed lava rock formed when it reaches the frigid ocean!

Take A Tour Of Glacier Lagoon

The glaciers in Iceland are UNREAL! Referred to as, Jökulsárlón by locals, literally meaning “glacial river lagoon” is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. It is a natural wonder of Iceland and a must-see when traveling!

Snorkel In The Mid-Atlantic Ridge

At Thingvellir Park you can see the island literally being ripped apart by earth’s crust pulling in opposite directions, exposing the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This rare occurrence obviously causes a number of geographic phenomenon, and excites snorkelers with views to the center of the earth.

Drive Through Thingvellir National Park

In Thingvellir National Park you can see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that splits Iceland further apart each year.  On the drive you can see bubbling hot springs, beautiful lakes, and Iceland’s famous super hairy horses.

Soak In Geothermal Hot Springs

Blue Lagoon is deservedly Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction.  It is basically a football field sized hot tub that is powered by hot water shooting up from the center of the earth.  It is an awesome sight and super relaxing in the cold.  Don’t worry, the hot spring even goes inside so you can get back into the locker room without having to be out in the cold!

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss is Iceland’s most famous waterfall.  The pictures can’t show just how big this waterfall really is. The water is glacier runoff, and ultimately flows into the ocean.

Visit A Volcano

Iceland has about 130 volcanoes on the island.  This is incredible to consider when you realize that Iceland is about the size of Georgia. Fears of a volcano erupting are a real concern there!

For more things to do in Iceland, check out this list!

West Coast Travel: San Francisco Dining

San Francisco is one of the most popular tourist cities in the U.S., and it features an eclectic mix of cuisine from different cultures. You can satisfy whatever your tastebuds are craving there. If you need a few recommendations, below are four restaurants that you should not miss out on:

  • cliff house restaurantCliff House

Literally built into rock, the Cliff House showcases views of the ocean and incomparable sunsets. The Sunday brunch in the Terrace Room is what to go for. Indulge in poached salmon, pasta carbonara, seasonal salads, made-from-scratch pastries, scrambled eggs, their popovers, and endless champagne and coffee. hike around the remains of the Sutro Bath House. Before your brunch, hike around the remains of the Sutro Bath House that burnt down in the late 1800’s. If you would prefer to go for dinner, try for a Friday night when they feature a live jazz band from 7-11p.m.

  • The House

If you can only make it to one of these restaurants, The House would be my pick to dine at. For your entree have the sea bass in the garlic ginger soy sauce. Add the wasabi noodles to the order (they will melt in your mouth). Second choice (though hardly) would be the miso black cod with crab avocado maki.

  • La Taqueria

Located on Mission St. in the Mission District, La Taqueria is small and quaint, but you can tell by the line wrapping around the place (and out the door) that the food is anything but ordinary. You can find tourists from all over the world at this little treat. The tacos have been highly rated multiple times so of course, the recommendation here is tacos. Just be prepared to get messy!

  • greens restaurant, californiaGreens Restaurant

Greens is one of the most popular vegan restaurants in the city, and something not to miss even if you’re not a vegan or vegetarian. Chef Annie Somerville is constantly tailoring the menu and creating unique, seasonal dishes made from the freshest ingredients. There is also Greens-to-Go if you want to pick up something quick while you’re exploring the city.

Info courtesy of the cliff house, the house, and the greens restaurant.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Paris During the Fall

David SchwingerParis, the city of love (and lights), is very much loved as it is one of the most visited cities in the world. But, most people are lured by Paris’ appeal in the spring. And there’s no wonder why – with the tuileries in full bloom and romance in the new spring air along the Seine, Paris in the spring is nothing less than magical (they even wrote a song about it). But, Paris in the fall isn’t so bad either… Here are 5 reasons why you should think about visiting this beautiful city in its “off-season”:

First, because Paris is so popular in the spring, airfare tickets and even high-speed train tickets in Europe heading to Paris are much less expensive. You’ll also find that it will be easier to book a hotel at a more reasonable price – this way you can spend more money on the delicious French cuisine, rather than travel costs.

Second, Paris’ art scene is at its peak in the fall. Paris, known amongst artists as the “city of museums,” holds dozens of new exhibits, theatre productions, and art installations. There is even a International Contemporary Art Fair that takes place as soon as summer melts. Fall is your chance to grab a weekly pass to big museums like the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay, along with smaller ones, like the Musee Rodin.

Next, wine culture is to die for in the fall. And France is known for being home to some of the highest-quality, best-tasting wine in entire world. So get your taste buds ready and take a train ride to Burgundy or the Loire Valley for an afternoon filled with beautiful vineyards and the all the wonders of wine.David Schwinger

Fourth, since there will be significantly less crowds during the fall season in Paris, you will be able to enjoy more freedom viewing some of Paris’ most recognized sites. This may not mean that there will be no line outside of the Notre Dame, but your chances of getting in more quickly to see its vast details and feel its rich history will undoubtedly increase. You can also view other landmarks like Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel Tower (of course), and you may even get a chance to see the Mona Lisa without having to stand twenty feet away.

Last, Paris is different in every season, and there’s an aura of Paris in the fall that cannot be felt in the spring – so why not experience it for yourself? So book your flights and pack your bags because after all is said and done, Paris is always a good idea.

Why Visit Ukraine?

David Schwinger UkraineUkraine is know for it’s natural beauty and lavish history, making it a great country to travel to and explore, especially if you like learning about different cultures. Over 500 cities in Ukraine date back to almost 1,000 years ago and are filled with rich cultural history, along with archaeological sites and breathtaking palaces that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a different world.

If you’re thinking about visiting Ukraine in the year future, you won’t be disappointed. And if Ukraine isn’t on you bucket list of places to see in the next year or so, it should be. There are endless opportunities for you to learn about not only the Ukrainian culture, but about yourself. Here are just some of the many reasons why Ukraine is a great country to visit:

First, there are over 300 museums in the country, which include seven national historical and cultural preserves. These museums hold pieces of Ukraine’s history, with 80% of the monuments belonging to the Kievan Rus era, including the well-known St. Sophia’s Cathedral and the Kievan Cave Monastery – two sites you won’t want to miss (they are even listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites).

The historical city of Kiev is another reason Ukraine should be top on your list of places to visit. Kiev is the oldest city in Russia with the most diverse architecture that ranges from Gothic to Baroque and Renaissance. Kiev is fascinating not only to the eyes, but because of its rich historical and religious background. Lviv and Odessa are two other great cities to visit, one known as the city of Lions, the other as the pearl of the Black Sea.

David Schwinger Ukraine

Speaking of the Black Sea, which is situated between Western Asia and Southeastern Europe, many people who visit Ukraine like to explore its scenic coastline. There are many castles in Ukraine that were built along the Black Sea, including the neo-gothic Swallow’s Nest which is located in Gaspra, a small town between Yalta and Alupka.

Ukraine’s geography contributes immensely to its lure for visitors. With oceans, mountains, and scenic beauty surrounding the entire country, you’ll be able to experience what bliss looks like. If you’re an outdoorsy person, take a hike in the Carpathian Mountains or any one of the country’s 33 national parks and nature reserves, or get your feet wet and go diving in Crimea – there’s no reason to stay inside when Mother Nature’s light shines in the outdoors.

David Schwinger Ukraine

And while you’re exploring Ukraine’s great outdoors, reconnect with your spiritual side and learn about Ukraine’s diverse religions. Predominately Pagan and Christian, you can explore the Lavra Caves in Kiev and the catacombs in Odessa to get a feel for what life was like in prior years.

If you still aren’t convinced that you should travel to Ukraine as soon as you get the opportunity, check out Ukraine.com’s blog post detailing even more reasons you should visit this beautiful country.

Traveling to Israel

Very few destinations can match the rich cultural heritage of Israel. With stunning architecture hundreds of years old, and a vibrant, bustling population, there’s always something to do in this jewel of the mediterranean. However, with so many facets to explore and experience, how can a person be expected to take it all in? Below are few of the must-see spots for you to visit during your next trip to Israel.

David Schwinger Jerusalem-sunset-620x310

Are you interested in exploring some of the oldest architecture Israel has to offer? The City of Jerusalem contains some of the most ancient, and historically significant buildings of the entire country. Visit the Western Wall, commonly referred to as the Wailing Wall, and place a prayer between the cracks of its ancient stone edifice. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dome of The Rock, and the site of The Crucifixion are all major places of gathering for the devout and curious alike. With so much to see and do in this storied city, one could spend days without leaving.

Looking for a spot to relax and float around? Why not take a jaunt to the lowest point on Earth? The Dead Sea, renowned for the supposed healing power of its mineral rich mud, is the vacation destination for many looking to explore Israel’s natural beauty. With waters made buoyant by the level of salt saturation, the Dead Sea is the ideal place to bob along with the waves, and never concern yourself with sinking.

David Schwinger Israel picture 2

For a more modern take on Israel, look no further than Tel Aviv. The Carmel Market, located at the heart of this bustling mini-metropolis, is the perfect place to feel the cultural pulse of Israel. Be sure to bring along your best bartering skills, though. This market is fueled by bargains, and the better your are at haggling, the more mileage you’ll get out of your wallet and experience.

Whether your interests include visiting places of living history, unique and beautiful natural sites, or feeling the beat of a modern and unique culture, Israel has something for you. With a history stretching back for centuries, where will you explore first?

5 Travel Tips From Italians

David Schwinger veniceItaly is one of the most traveled-to destinations in the world, with around 46 million visitors each year from all across the globe. From Rome’s Trevi Fountain to Venice’s Grand Canal, there’s no denying it – Italy is magical.

But one of the most vital elements in travel is interacting with a country’s inhabitants, and who better to do that with than Italians? Italians are friendly, energetic, and know Italian history like the back of their hands. And, according to an article published by the Huffington Post, “There are a few things Italians want Americans to know before you arrive in their country,” (Condie, 11 Travel Tips Italians Want You to Know). Here’s a quick recap on what they said:

First, know that dinner is between 7:30 and 9:00 p.m. Most Americans tend to eat dinner earlier than Europeans, especially if they are jet-lagged. But Italians treat their cuisine and dining experience with high priority – meaning, meals (especially dinner) should not be rushed, but appreciated. So don’t go out to eat before 7:30, because most restaurants won’t open until then anyway, unless you’re in an extremely touristy area.

Next, learn some Italian. This is not to say you need to be fluent, but before you go to a foreign country you should brush up on some common words and phrases in the native language. Italians will appreciate it if you go out of your way to speak their language, rather than assuming everyone speaks English. Plus, Italian is a beautiful, romantic language, it doesn’t hurt to become familiar with it.

David Schwinger map of Italy

Third, afternoon closings. According to the Huffington Post, “Many shops will close down for the afternoon from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m., especially outside the city center. Italians go home to enjoy lunch as a family and relax. Try it, ” (Condie, 11 Travel Tips Italians Want You to Know).

Fourth, many Italians noted that you should know when certain things are appropriate to wear. Fashion is a huge part of Italian culture, and you won’t find any local Italian women wearing daisy dukes and spaghetti straps walking around the streets. At the beach it’s one thing to show some skin, but otherwise covering-up would be a wise decision, or you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

Lastly, leave enough time to wander around the streets alone. Stop rushing, you will not see it all on your first, second, third, and maybe not even twentieth trip to Italy – there’s too much beauty to see and experience. You should leave the crowds and tourist attractions, stop and listen to a local street musician, take in Italy for all of its authenticity and just slow down, there’s so many things that you can discover when you’ve taken a different path.

Once you’ve seen Italy for the first time, it will be a travel destination you’ll go throughout your life, but you should always make a conscious effort to be aware of certain cultural practices each time you’re there. Wherever you travel, being respectful in another country is extremely important. For more travel tips from Italians, check out the Huffington Post’s article here.