Every serious traveller has at least once dreamt of the magnificent Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. Rugged mountains plunging into the ocean, grazing sheep on the world’s greenest hills, white-sand beaches like in the Caribbean, picturesque fishing villages, midnight sun: those renown islands are all about that. Located above the Arctic Circle, one may avoid visiting Lofoten Islands because of polar conditions. Forget about that. Because of the Gulf Stream climate there is incredibly mild, with winter temperatures more than 20C degrees warmer than elsewhere on the planet at same latitudes! It’s far from tropical, but in summer even sea temperature is surprisingly warm (prepare for some dips in the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by dramatic landscapes). The only drawback is rain (and a super high cost of living). It does rain a lot, but what you are going to see there will totally make up for it.
Exactly a year ago I had the chance to spend New Year’s Eve in the ultimate place to be on that night: Times Square, NYC.
I chose to buy tickets to Rosie O’Grady’s special party. For 400 US dollars (per person) I got a 3-course dinner, access to a cordoned sidewalk on 7th Avenue with unobstructed views of Times Square just seven blocks away and unlimited drinks for the night. It ain’t cheap, but if you are not ready to wait for hours in the cold (without access to any toilets…) to get a decent view of the countdown, ball drop and fireworks, it really is a strong option to consider! Prepare well in advance, as tickets sell out fast. You need to sign up for their newsletter and act quickly when you get the notification they start selling tickets (a couple of months before New Year’s Eve). Don’t expect any fine dining experience or trendy atmosphere though. The place is vast (3 different floors) and rather convivial than distinguished, with average quality food and drinks. But it gives quite a nice way to spend the special night and it’s mainly about the spot after all. Those few minutes before and after midnight on the sidewalk among the crowd, with a full belly (and most of all without unpleasant queuing) are priceless. You will certainly feel to be in the place to be on New Year’s Eve.
Happy New Year 2017 to everyone!
Exploring great Kruger is an experience you won’t soon forget. Imagine driving at your own pace while seeing monkeys playing in the trees, elephant herds peacefully crossing the road and lazy hippos or crocodiles sun-bathing on the riverbanks… That’s everyday life at Kruger. And what’s best? Besides the entrance fee and gasoline for your car, it’s free!
Let’s face it right away, 2 days to experience both these national parks is short. But if you don’t have more time and still want to see the main highlights, it’s feasible! You just need to be well prepared. This suggested itinerary starts in Gardiner (Montana), close to Yellowstone’s North Entrance. You will go all the way down through both national parks until Jackson (Wyoming) on day 1 and then all the way up back to Gardiner via a different way on day 2 (first night in Gardiner, second night in Jackson and third night in Gardiner). Roads are in good condition and (most of) the main sights are very close to a parking, which make these great national parks easy to visit. All the attractions are clearly marked and the visitor centers provide very good maps of each site. Note that this trip can only be done in summertime, when all the roads are open.
The region called Lapland stretches out across 3 countries (Finland, Sweden and Norway) and is quite different in each of those countries. From rugged mountain landscapes and treeless tundra in its western and northern parts, Lapland becomes hilly and covered by endless taiga towards the south (and suprisingly much colder in winter, as inland is way colder than the efficiently Gulf Stream-heated coastline). It’s one of the very few easily accessible and fairly populated places on Earth above the Arctic Circle (which geographically marks the limit of the globe’s arctic area where the sun doesn’t set and doesn’t rise for at least one day during the year, a phenomenon also known as midnight sun and polar night). The further you go north, the longer these periods last (for example at North Cape, the sun doesn’t set at all from May 13th to July 29th and doesn’t rise at all from November 18th to January 23rd). Lapland also is one of the best places on Earth together with Iceland to chase the amazing northern lights.