Just a short ferry trip from Auckland you will find waiheke island, a paradise on earth and a great escape from the city life. Waiheke island definitely gives you the island vibe, no stress, no need to keep track on time, mostly you just embrace the fact that you on some parts of the island almost have 360 degree ocean views… around 25 percent of the population on the island commute to Auckland every day. There is a lot of artists living on the island and there is a lot of great wine being produced here as well. If you’re just visiting Auckland during your stay in New Zealand, Waiheke is a must visit, not only for the great wine but also for the great atmosphere and the ocean breeze.
One of the vineyards worth a visit is Man O War a short car ride from the ferry, the drive alone makes it worth it as you venture through vineyards, and as a reward you will get to taste some of New Zealand’s classic wines. The winemaking team here is working with the broadest possible palette from which to blend world class wines that are unique expressions of Man O’ War. And don’t forget to order their cheese plate as well, it goes well with the wine tasting.
If you want to get a European touch you will have to visit Casita Miro. It is a perfect place to stop for lunch and get your energy boost from their renowned fine dining and wines. Sit down in their garden under olive trees while you’re sipping on a glass of wine… a day on Waiheke definitely makes you feel replenished.
Just a two hours drive from where we live in Sweden, in an area called The High Coast there is a Lighthouse on an small island, a true gem called Högbonden. It is Sweden’s second highest located lighthouse. We went there for one night to relax, catch the sea breeze and enjoy the spectacular 180 degree view of the ocean. When we arrived on the island we heard that they’ve had some problem with the booking system so we were the only ones staying on the island that night. So basically we had the whole place to ourselves except the sweet couple taking care of the hostel. This place is well worth a stop if you are passing by, there is a small but nice café, a lighthouse museum and even a sauna on the island. You can take a tourist boat from Barsta harbour or, even better get a local fisherman to get you across for half the price, we did. If you just want to spend a day there walking around it is possible to take the boat back later in the afternoon.
A couple of months back we played a special round of UNO with some good friends. To intensify the game we made a deal that the winner of UNO would decide a destination for us all to travel to, and the tickets had to be booked the same night. We were really close to booking ticket to Malawi that night but a strong finish made Iceland the winner. So the same night we booked tickets for a weekend and little did we know it was going to be our best so far.
Iceland is in many ways unique, the emptiness, the silence, the great outdoors. A place filled with magical waterfalls, snowy mountains, steaming hot springs and black sand beaches. To get the most out of our short visit we spent a night in Reykavik, eating amazing food then rented a 4×4 car and set of for adventure.
Our first day we hiked over the mountains and across a thermal spring area to find these amazing natural hot springs. It was probably the most memorable thing of the trip, being submerged in 40°C water in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountain tops. The next day we discovered a crash site of an old american navy airplane. It felt like being on another planet, black sand as long as the eyes could see. We also had time to walk on Iceland’s largest glacier Vatnajökull and go for a morning ride with icelandic horses.
We really think Iceland is the country to not miss in Europe… but please, bring real outdoor clothes and don’t expect to see the sun shine. (According to the locals, we were very lucky with the weather, they told us the weekend before a big sand storm ripped the paint of rental cars).
One evening we went to explore an abandoned hotel located on a hill above town. We climbed to the top of the house and found the place filled with bats. It was really rundown but apart from all the bat shit on the floor we surely got the best view of Utila from up there.
We’ve realized that the small distances here in Central America makes it really easy to travel around. After Cay Caulker in Belize we went to Flores, Guatemala. It is only about a 6 hour bus ride from Belize City. Flores is a small town, on a really small island situated in one of guatemalas many big lakes. Most people come here for Tikal which is about one hour away. When we arrived in Flores the temperature had risen up to +35°c. It was so hot and we just wanted to jump in the lake to cool down, so that we could think clearly again. We managed to find a small really nice hotel with a beautiful terrace and a perfect location just by the lake. After checking in we got some work done on the terrace before joining the locals down at the pier for some sunset swimming.
So besides diving in Caye Caulker, what else is there to do? Well, a part from joining the crowd down at the split for some serious sun bathing, there is one more thing you can do… rent your own golf cart! Yes, that’s true. Their are no cars on the island so the only means for transportation is bike or golf cart, they even run a golf cart taxi service. Together with our NZ friends we set off to explore every part of the island, trying every street or trail we could find. It was cheap, it was lazy and it was fun!