How to Spend a Weekend in Alaska – the Kenai Peninsula

The Kenai Peninsula is a great place to spend a (long) weekend in Alaska. It is perfect for getting a taste of wild Alaska in a quick trip, as it is relatively close to Anchorage. Prepare to see majestic mountains, beautiful glaciers, historic towns, and a chance at wildlife during your trip to the Kenai Peninsula and make sure you have your camera charged and ready at all times! Unlike Bettina, wildlife doesn't pose and wait for you to be ready. 🙂

 

A weekend in Alaska and Kenai Peninsula - The Next Trip

 

We worked with Pursuit Collection to be able to share the full Alaska wildlife experience with you! As always, all our opinions and photos are our own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support us. 

As you may know, it is our goal to visit all 50 U.S. States and Alaska has been a state neither of us had been to yet! You can check out the progress of our states visits on the U.S. States map, and read about our previous adventures offroading in Colorado, our cultural immersion in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and our weekend in San Antonio, Texas.

 

Laying in the grass in Kenai Peninsula Alaska - The Next Trip

 

We spent the July 4th weekend in Alaska and used the holiday to make it a 4-day trip without missing too much at work. Despite it being the height of summer, temperatures in Anchorage are usually around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).

Our trip on the fourth of July weekend was unique in that a number of record high temperatures were recorded in Alaska that week, making for a much warmer trip than we expected! For us, summer is definitely the best time to visit Alaska.

To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to spend a weekend in Alaska and Kenai Peninsula.

 

Welcome to Alaska's Kenai Peninsula - The Next Trip

 

What is the Kenai Peninsula?

 

The Kenai Peninsula extends approximately 150 miles (240km) southwest from Anchorage and includes mountain ranges with glaciers, many lakes and rivers, historic towns, and the famous sounds and fjords of the Gulf of Alaska. The Kenai Peninsula doesn’t include all of the popular sights of Alaska, but it is a great starting off point for your first trip to The Last Frontier.

 

River in the Summer at Kenai Peninsula - The Next Trip

 

 

How to Get To The Kenai Peninsula

 

You will almost certainly be flying into Anchorage, which is the largest city in Alaska, and also has the largest airport.  All major US carriers fly here multiple times per day throughout the Summer, though the flight frequencies drop off significantly once the weather gets cold.

 

Plane Landing at Anchorage Airport Alaska - The Next Trip

 

You can also fly seasonally from Canada, Germany, Russia, and Iceland! Due to the distance from Alaska to the lower 48 states, there are a lot of flights that arrive and depart late in the evening (for example we arrived at 1am and then flew a red-eye back to Chicago leaving at 8pm and arriving at 4am!).

 

Once in Anchorage, we highly recommend you rent a car to explore the peninsula as it makes getting around much easier and you can make the most out of your weekend in Alaska. You don’t need to rent an SUV or truck to get around, as a car will easily reach all of the main sights.

 

Where to Stay in the Kenai Peninsula

 

If you are planning to see all of the Kenai Peninsula in a weekend or extended weekend, having a base somewhere near the middle of the peninsula is a great way to go out exploring each day without having to pack up and stay somewhere new each time.  As we arrived so late the first night we spent the night in a hotel near the airport.  For our next night we used Airbnb to rent a cute cabin in the woods! Our cabin was near the small town of Soldotna.

 

AirBnB Cabin in Kenai Peninsula Alaska - The Next Trip

 

There were so many other options available all over the Kenai Peninsula on Airbnb though, whether you wanted a single room, small cabin, or massive house all to yourself, you can pick your favorite. If you haven’t used Airbnb before you can signup using this link to get a $40 discount on your first booking.

 

Our cabin was brand new and had a small kitchen with outdoor barbecue, bathroom with shower, and a loft for sleeping which was super fun!

 

Living Room AirBnB in Kenai Peninsula - The Next Trip         Loft at AirBnB in Kenai Peninsula - The Next Trip

 

Seward, Alaska as the Perfect Base for Your Weekend in Alaska Exploration

 

The city of Seward was founded in 1903 and is located at the southern terminus of the Alaska Railroad.  That means you can get to Seward by car, train, boat, or by air! Seward is an easy drive 2.5 hours south of Anchorage and so we drove there on our first day.  We were more than excited because it was the base for our Kenai Fjords tour! Seward’s harbor and location makes it one of the best bases to explore the Kenai Fjords National Park.

 

Bettina at Aialik Glacier Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

The city of Seward has a number of restaurants and other places to stock up on groceries or supplies for your visit. One of the major attractions of the Kenai Fjords National Park is just a few minutes outside of Seward and is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska, the Exit Glacier.  Unfortunately for us, the heavy forest fires in the area resulted in lots of smoke in the air, so we weren’t able to catch the best view. Also be aware of the mosquitoes here, the hike is not long, but the bugs are all over, be prepared!

 

Exit Glacier in Wildfire Fog Kenai Peninsula Alaska - The Next Trip

 
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Kenai Fjords National Park

 

Kenai Fjords National Park Sign Alaska - The Next Trip

 

We partnered with Pursuit Collection to do their Kenai Fjords National Park Tour which was 6 hours out on the open water with the potential to spot whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, and puffins! Their tours are a great addition to any Alaska getaways.

 

Sea Lions on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

The friendly staff at Kenai Fjords Tours checked us in and as we were a bit early, they were actually able to get us out on an earlier boat. We started off in the thick sea fog surrounding Seward and were wondering if we would see anything at all on this trip!

 

Foggy Harbor at Seaward, Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Lifting Fog at Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

No sooner than five minutes in though we came across a small group of sea otters.  The otters were just bobbing in the water relaxing, without a care in the world!

 

Floating Otter on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Our tour continued onwards to a few small islands where a large number of birds were nesting, including puffins! Right next to them was a group of Steller sea lions sunbathing on the rocks.

 

Puffins on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Sea Lions and Otter on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Sea Lions on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

It was a bit of a longer boat ride, allowing us to dig in to the provided lunch, before we reached the piece de resistance of this tour, the Aialik Glacier.

 

Lunch on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

As we began approaching the Aialik Glacier you could feel a great silence come over the boat and stillness in the air. The size of the glacier is unlike anything we had seen before, and has to truly be seen in person to be fully appreciated.

 

Aialik Glacier on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Bettina and Kyle at Aialik Glacier on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

The captain turned off the boat motors and we sat in the bay listening to the cracking of the glacier with the odd bit of ice falling into the water. We were able to witness some fairly significant calving while we were watching.

 

Aialik Glacier on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Aialik Glacier on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Calving is when a glacier suddenly releases a mass of ice. The deep and loud booms of the ice cracking echoed across the bay, followed by the silent mid-air fall of the ice, and the final plunge into the ocean.  The resulting waves rippled across the bay and were clearly noticed by our boat, almost a half mile away.

 

Bettina at Aialik Glacier on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Kyle at Aialik Glacier on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

We captured the calving on video for you to get a better impression of how majestic it is. Click to the right to see the video below.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BzmDASpgB1r/

 

Bettina even managed to snag a picture with some glacier ice!

 

Bettina holding Ice from Aialik Glacier on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

On the boat ride back to Seward we came across a few separate pods of whales, however none of them decided that they wanted to do a full Free Willy jump out of the water, so we were left trying to snap a few tail photos off in the distance. You might be more lucky though as these are some of the best places to spot whales!

 

Whale Hump on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Whale Tail on Pursuit Collection Cruise Kenai Fjord Alaska - The Next Trip

 

We returned back to Seward and were very impressed by how much we were able to see during the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour.

 

Exploring Homer Spit, Alaska

 

To be honest we didn’t expect much of Homer, it seemed to be just the end of the road, or the end of the Sterling Highway, on the edge of Kachemak Bay.  Given that we only had an extended weekend in Alaska, we spent all of our time here at the Homer Spit instead, which is one of the main highlights of Homer, and is a gravel bar that sticks out 4.5 miles (7.2km) into the bay.

 

Harbor at Homer Spit Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Once you make it to Homer Spit, you can walk around the harbor, stroll along the colorful houses on the promenade, and most importantly, get a healthy dose of Alaskan fish and chips!

 

Bettina in Harbor at Homer Spit Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Boardwark at Homer Spit Alaska - The Next Trip

 

The sea fog was still thick, well into the afternoon, and provided for a magical atmosphere on the beach!

 

Fog at the Beach at Homer Spit Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Once the sun pokes through, you should be able to see the surrounding mountains which are worth a trip themselves. Bettina, on the other hand, was most excited when we found a swing underneath the boardwalk.

 

The Swing Location Homer Spit Alaska - The Next Trip

 

This may look like the perfect shot; however it was the result of hundreds of ill-timed attempts on the swing! If you would like to get the perfect Instagram shot, make sure to check out the swing. It's located at 4350 Homer Spit Rd, underneath the promenade. It's best to access the swing from the beach.

 

Explore the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

 

With your rental car you can explore a large portion of the Kenai Peninsula, with additional side trips to Whittier, Chugach State Park, or wherever your heart desires.

 

Kenai Peninsula Alaska - The Next Trip

 

When we were there, there were a number of forest fires burning in the middle of the Kenai Peninsula, with smoke all the way to Anchorage, which meant that you couldn’t see the beautiful mountains all around, and sometimes hardly the car in front of you.  Because of that we decided to spend more time on the western edge of the Kenai Peninsula where the sun was shining and the air was much clearer.

 

Laying in grass in Kenai Peninsula Alaska - The Next Trip

 

On our drives we pulled off onto a few side roads and even spotted a few elk out for lunch. Remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints!

 

Wild Elk in Kenai Peninsula Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Wild Elk in Kenai Peninsula Alaska - The Next Trip

 

Wild Elks in Kenai Peninsula Alaska - The Next Trip

 

If you have time, you can also venture to Captain Cook State Park to take in the late afternoon sun and go for a walk along the beach.

 

View in Kenai Peninsula Alaska - The Next Trip

 

While we knew that the sun would be up early and set late in July in Alaska, we weren’t quite prepared for how much sun there was. The sun rose around 4:45am and set around 11:30pm, but it was never truly ‘dark.’ The benefit of this is that we could easily be out sightseeing and driving to 9pm, and we didn’t have to rush anywhere to see something before the sun set, as there were so many sunny hours in the day! However, falling asleep was somewhat difficult given that it was still broad daylight at 10pm. If you plan your trip to Alaska, make sure to read our 5 top tips below!

 

We loved our weekend in Alaska, exploring the Kenai Peninsula and would absolutely recommend as it is a great beginner’s “taste of Alaska” to start your adventures in the state.

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a Weekend in Alaska - the Kenai Peninsula

 

1) Rent a car.  There is no better way to see the Kenai Peninsula than by driving the open roads. This gives you the flexibility to stay where you like, and stop at any of the viewpoints along the way, including when you see wildlife! Some tour buses will stop when wildlife are near the road, but you don’t want to be on the one that drives right by!

 

2) Prepare for the sun. While it may not get as hot as the lower 48 states, Alaska can still have long days of sun during the summer months.  Don’t take this to mean that the sun is less intense, it is just as intense in Alaska as it is in other places, and sometimes more so depending on elevation. In addition, as the days are longer you will have more exposure to the sun each day, so be prepared with sunglasses and sunscreen during the day, and don’t forget a good sleeping mask in order to sleep properly when it is still light outside!

 

3) Prepare for the unknown.  Despite the Kenai Peninsula being relatively populated compared to the rest of Alaska, this is still “wild Alaska” and you should always know where you are and where you are going, without relying on having any cell service.  You should also always make sure to have enough gas in the car and water and snacks, in case you end up stranded somewhere.  Even if you don’t end up stranded, it can be a long drive to the next town if you get hungry or thirsty. Furthermore the temperatures can drop drastically. So make sure you pack right for the perfect weekend in Alaska.

 

4) Bring your best camera and a zoom lens. Moose, deer, and bears don’t generally walk up to your car so they can be nicely framed in your phone’s camera.  The animals are generally a bit further away, and if they are close you should probably back away, so be prepared by bringing your best camera with an excellent zoom lens.

 

5) Book a tour. We are staunch believers in doing your own thing when traveling, but sometimes it is not always reasonably possible, and a tour is the best way to go.  For Alaska, you are likely here to see nature and wildlife, and the best way to do that can be to go with someone who knows the area best.  We would highly recommend setting aside time for a whale watching, glacier, or other tour that intrigues you the most.  We toured with Pursuit Collection and the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour which we can highly recommend.

 

Pin this blog post to your U.S. and Alaska destinations boards to save all your ideas about the Kenai Peninsula and a weekend in Alaska!

 

 

A Weekend in Alaska and Kenai Peninsula - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, and how to maximize your short weekend getaway
A Weekend in Alaska and Kenai Peninsula - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, and how to maximize your short weekend getaway
A Weekend in Alaska and Kenai Peninsula - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, and how to maximize your short weekend getaway
A Weekend in Alaska and Kenai Peninsula - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, and how to maximize your short weekend getaway

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Fun Things To Do In Albuquerque In A Weekend

For the last four years that we have lived in the United States, we have made it our mission to visit all 50 states (check out which States are outstanding here). One by one, we have slowly been crossing them off our list and New Mexico is the third to last state for us to visit! There is some debate about what constitutes having "been" to a state, but we believe that to truly say that you have been to a state and experienced it, you should spend a decent amount of time there. At the very least have one meal there, and preferably enjoy exploring it for a weekend. Neither of us had been to New Mexico before, and having heard so much about the incredible scenery and Native American culture, we couldn't wait to experience it ourselves.

 

Red Dress outfit at Fly Away Project in Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, so it was an obvious choice to get the first taste of New Mexico. The city is most famous for its Balloon Fiesta which occurs each October, but there are so many fun things to do in Albuquerque year-round. Since Albuquerque has on average 310 sunny days a year - there is really no bad time to visit! If you're in a hurry, skip to our 5 Top Travel Tips for Albuquerque here or keep reading for the full experience.

 

Bettina at Greetings from Burque Mural in Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

We have worked with Visit Albuquerque to be able to share our weekend getaway with you and were hosted by Hotel Chaco and Nativo Lodge. Our meals and excursions were compensated as part of our Albuquerque experience. We are excited to share our trip with you and all opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support us!

 

Where to Stay in Albuquerque

 

Hotel Chaco

 

We spent our first night in Albuquerque at Hotel Chaco, a brand new luxury hotel, inspired by Chaco Canyon. Located less than a block from the Albuquerque museum and within walking distance of Old Town, it is a great place to stay to explore the city.

 

Hotel Chaco Street View - The Next Trip

 

Hotel Chaco Garden - The Next Trip

 

After a busy day exploring, you can cool down at the pool area and ring in the evening with an in-house wine tasting, or dinner and a drink on the rooftop, which offers expansive views of Albuquerque.

 

Hotel Chaco Rooftop - The Next Trip

 

Rooftop Restaurant and Bar at Hotel Chaco - The Next Trip

 

View of Albuquerque from Hotel Chaco Rooftop - The Next Trip

 

The rooms are very spacious and thoughtfully designed - perfect for a great night's sleep before taking on the next day.

 

Hotelroom at Hotel Chaco - The Next Trip

 

Bathroom at Hotel Chaco - The Next Trip

 

 

Nativo Lodge

 

For our second night, we got to experience true New Mexican Native American artwork at Nativo Lodge. Their uniquely decorated artist rooms feature art work by contemporary Native American artists, and no two artist rooms are the same. We stayed in the Essence of Life room which was created by Garrett Etsitty and featured two gorgeous wall paintings of a humming bird.

 

Essence of Life Room at Nativo Lodge - The Next Trip

 

Half way between Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains, Nativo Lodge is a great pet friendly hotel in Albuquerque for those who want to explore the areas around Albuquerque and enjoy local art work.

 

Driveway Native American Art Work at Nativo Lodge - The Next Trip

 

 

Where to Eat in Albuquerque

 

Largest Restaurant in New Mexico - El Pinto

 

Being in Albuquerque, I really wanted to try some New Mexican-inspired cuisine. Saturday evening, Kyle and I went for a romantic dinner at El Pinto - a Mexican restaurant outside the city with beautiful patios surrounded by lush gardens and a very Instagrammable entrance walkway.

 

Walkway to El Pinto Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

El Pinto is the largest restaurant in New Mexico and I was completely overwhelmed by the never ending dining tables and patios! Each of their five patios has a slightly different vibe to them, depending on the atmosphere you are looking for.

 

Margarita at El Pinto - The Next Trip

 

We toasted to our weekend in New Mexico and enjoyed what felt like three baskets of tortilla chips with delicious house-made salsa. As mains, we tried the stuffed sopapillas - a traditional dish in Spanish heritage regions, and the New Mexican Red Chile Ribs. I couldn't decide whether I wanted my sopapillas with their home-made green or red chile. Thei waitress suggested I try both which is what the New Mexicans call "Christmas style."

 

Sopapillas with Christmas Style Chile and Red Chile Ribs at El Pinto Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Red Chile Ribs at El Pinto Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Both were delicious and we were way too full from the tortilla chips to finish it all.

 

Fine Dining in Albuquerque at Ten 3

 

If you're looking for the perfect place to have dinner with an incredible view - Ten 3 is your spot! They opened their doors for the first time on August 17th and we were super excited to be dining with them on their opening weekend! Ten 3 is located at an altitude of 10,300 feet, at the top of Sandia Peak, which provides for the most amazing dining views. To reach the restaurant you need to take the Sandia Peak Tramway, which you can read more about below.

 

View at Ten 3 on Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

We started our dining experience with delicious cocktails, a bread basket full of home-made creations, and a goat cheese flan. Fun fact: because there is less oxygen in the air at higher altitudes, it is said that you feel the effects of alcohol quicker. Ten 3 takes this into consideration and serves their drinks with slightly less alcohol content than you might typically find.

 

Goat Cheese Flan at Ten 3 on Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

Red Chile Buffalo Short Rib at Ten 3 on Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

Kyle and I tried the crispy skin chicken and the red chile buffalo short rib which were both outstanding! If you have never tried buffalo I can highly recommend trying the Ten 3 variation which was so delicious that I was about to steal Kyle's plate!

 

Red Chile Buffalo Short Rib at Ten 3 on Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

While you're at Sandia Peak - make sure you walk around the top and enjoy the views outside the restaurant as well!

 

What To Do in Albuquerque

 

Albuquerque has so much to offer, it would be a shame not to explore the city for at least a weekend. Here are our top things to do in Albuquerque that you can’t miss out on.

 

Church Street Cafe in Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

 

ABQ Trolley Tour

 

There is really no better way to see the city and all its sights than from the comfort of a trolley with the ABQ Trolley Tour. The Best of Albuquerque tour is a narrated 1 hour and 45 minutes tour that takes you to Old Town Plaza, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, along Route 66, down Nob Hill, and more! It is an incredibly informative tour and you will get an appreciation of the many different neighborhoods in Albuquerque.

This was a great activity for us to complete at the beginning of our visit as the tour highlighted the many neighborhoods and sights all around activity so that we could properly plan the rest of our weekend.

 

 

ABQ Trolley Tour The Best of Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

The highlight of the tour by far was exploring the street where Breaking Bad was filmed and admiring all the filming locations. There is something about seeing famous TV locations in real life that fascinates me - especially if they are from Breaking Bad!

 

Chris' House Breaking Bad in Albuquerque ABQ Trolley Tour - The Next Trip

 

Explore Old Town

 

After you get a feeling of the city with the ABQ Trolley Tour, you get dropped off at Hotel Albuquerque which is only a few steps away from Old Town. Walking through the streets of Old Town felt somewhat surreal as the pueblo style houses are something you don't get to see every day.

 

San Felipe de Neri Church Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Hacienda Del Rio Indian Gift Shop Old Town Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Old Town Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

 

The unique architecture together with the colorful decorations and the blue doors gave me the feeling of being in a totally different country. This is the place to shop the various artisan shops filled with jewelry, rugs, pottery, and other souvenirs.

 

Old Town Emporium Gift Shop Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

 

Admire Local Street Art

 

Albuquerque has a rich art scene and the city actively promotes murals and street art.  This became very evident as we completed our trolley tour, but also as we walked around the street of Albuquerque as you could find colorful murals at almost every corner. What is unique about these murals compared to other cities is that many of them represent some portion of Albuquerque's rich history.

 

Street Art Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Street Art Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Street Art Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

Some of my favorite murals were obviously the one’s full of turquoise!

 

Visit the Turquoise Museum

 

One of the best-kept secrets of Albuquerque is the fact that they have their very own Turquoise Museum - all owned and operated by the Zachary family. Now, if you follow us on Instagram, you will quickly understand how spending time at the Turquoise Museum is an absolute must for me. In addition to my love for everything and all things turquoise - seeing turquoise jewelry on display around the Albuquerque Old Town shops peaked my interest in the gem stone even more.

 

Turquoise Museum at Turquoise Castle - The Next Trip

 

If you're not familiar with the gem stone turquoise, you will have to believe me when I say that it comes in many more shapes and forms than you could imagine. The museum presents the Zachary family's own collection which includes everything from the raw stones, furniture, weapons, lighters, chandeliers, and all kinds of jewelry.

 

Turquoise Chandelier at Turquoise Museum - The Next Trip

 

Turquoise Nuggets at Turquoise Museum - The Next Trip

 

Turquoise Jewelry at Turquoise Museum - The Next Trip

 

They also have several interactive stations which teach how to differentiate the different grades, cuts and polishes of turquoise as well as how to tell the difference between real and fake turquoise!

 

Turquoise Stones at Turquoise Museum - The Next Trip

 

I learned so much at this museum, that turquoise is part of so many cultures around the world, but is one of the lesser known gem stones. Needless to say that I would have liked to spend all day at the museum - gazing at the beautiful pieces - and splurging on something for myself.

 

Turquoise Exhibit at Turquoise Museum Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

 

Sandia Peak Tramway

 

You will get the best view of New Mexico from the top of Sandia Peak, which is 10,678 feet high and overlooks 10% of the state (which is twice the size of Connecticut!). Getting up there is super easy with the longest aerial tramway in the United States, the Sandia Peak Tramway. It's a short 15 minute ride and the views get better by the minute.

 

View of Sandia Peak Tramway - The Next Trip

 

Sandia Peak Tramway Albuquerque - The Next Trip

 

View from Sandia Peak - The Next Trip

 

On the way up, our guide told us all about the Sandia Mountains, the steepest drops, the best rock walls to climb for anyone who dares, and about the diverse wildlife. He also highly recommended we watch the sunset from the peak, which did not disappoint.

 

View from Sandia Mountains - The Next Trip

 

As everyone is trying to catch the last rays of the day at the peak, the trams after sunset have the tendency to be very full. As such, we decided to take an earlier ride back and enjoyed stunning views on our way downhill.

 

Sunset from Sandia Peak Tramway - The Next Trip

 

If you end up exploring Sandia Peak, you can buy your tickets at Sandia Peak Tramway online in order to skip the line when you're at the base station. Don't forget to bring an extra layer of clothing, as the peak is easily a few degrees cooler than the city.

 

If you're planning a weekend getaway in Albuquerque, make sure you read our 5 top travel tips below and let us know how you liked the city!

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a Weekend in Albuquerque

 

1) Water and sunscreen. As Albuquerque gets 310 days of sun a year and is located in the desert, their days can get very hot. Make sure you always carry enough water and sunscreen with you. We know this may seem a bit boring, and there are signs saying so everywhere, but we really mean it! It reached 100F (38C) while we were there!

2) Try the local chiles - yes both red and green! The New Mexico chile, or Hatch chile, is a big deal in New Mexico. You won’t be able to go anywhere in New Mexico without finding something on the menu with either red or green chile in it. If you can’t decide your favorite, you can always combine them in the same dish which is called "Christmas style."

 

Drying Chiles in Albuquerque Old Town - The Next Trip

 

3) Start your days early.  As we mentioned above, it can get really hot in Albuquerque. To avoid the heat and still get the most out of the city you should start your day with the sun! The heat of the afternoon really takes a lot out of you and is not as pleasant to explore the city, if you can bear the heat at all.  Explore in the morning, refresh yourself indoors in the afternoon, and get back out there in the evening for some amazing New Mexico sunsets.

4) Sunsets. Speaking of sunsets, visit Sandia Peak 1-2 hours before sunset so that you will get to wander around the peak in full daylight and also get to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the desert before heading back down. The sunset from Sandia Peak was incredible and evolved through many different colors and shades as the sun continued to set over the desert horizon.

5) You’ll need a car. While Albuquerque does have public transportation, if you plan to explore all the neighborhoods, it makes the most sense to get a rental car. It will make it so much easier to get around the city to the various neighborhoods and up to Sandia Peak. Plus, you will have your own personal sanctuary of air conditioning wherever you go!

 

Pin this blog post to your U.S. city destinations boards to save all your ideas about Albuquerque!

 

Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!

 

Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!
Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!
Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!
Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!
Fun Things To Do in Albuquerque in a Weekend - Your Guide for where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and what Christmas Style Chile is!

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San Antonio for the Weekend

Did you know that San Antonio is the seventh most populous city in the United States? We had no idea before we visited, and also had no idea how much you can do in San Antonio for the weekend. The city is a fantastic size for a weekend getaway, and invites you with warm weather, delicious food, and their beautiful river walk.

 

San Antonio in a Weekend - River Walk

 

To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to make the best of San Antonio for the weekend, click here.

 

How to Get There

 

San Antonio is easily accessible by plane with all major US airlines flying there; for us it was less than 3 hours on a direct flight on Friday evening from Chicago.  A huge bonus is that the airport is close to the city, so in less than 20 minutes you should be at your hotel and ready to get your weekend started.

 

Where to Stay

 

We spent our weekend at Stay Alfred San Antonio. If you haven’t heard of Stay Alfred before, they offer travel apartments in almost all major US cities and allow you to have “your own place” but with the amenities and consistent experience of staying at a hotel.

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

As our flight was arriving quite late into San Antonio on Friday night, we utilized Stay Alfred’s grocery shopping service and pre-ordered some breakfast items prior to our arrival.  When we arrived the fridge was already stocked with our order!

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio Breakfast - The Next Trip

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

Our apartment was just the right amount of space for us to relax in for our weekend in San Antonio, and included free pool views.

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - Pool - The Next Trip

 

With water this inviting we had to take advantage, and spent our Sunday morning suntanning and swimming in the pool.

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio - Pool - The Next Trip

 

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio is located just off of the San Antonio River, between the downtown core and The Pearl. We rented bicycles for our stay, and were a short bike ride along the beautiful River Walk into downtown or an even shorter bike ride up to the Pearl. It was a great base for our weekend adventures.

Check out Stay Alfred for your next getaway and get 10% off any stay using our code YOURPLACE.

Stay Alfred provided us with a free hotel stay for our weekend getaway to San Antonio, however, all opinions and content are our own. 

 

What to Eat

 

San Antonio is basically the birthplace of Tex-Mex cuisine, so you will definitely be eating as much chili con carne, nachos, tacos, and fajitas you can find. There is absolutely no shortage of places to eat at, spread all across the city.

 

Pete's Tako House San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

We had a delicious meal at Pete’s Tako House complete with more chips and salsa than we could eat, fresh fajitas, and savoury enchiladas, all washed down by a margarita or two.

 

Pete's Tako House San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

Pete's Tako House San Antonio - The Next Trip

 

Other great options are La Fonda on Main (slightly more upscale, for Tex-Mex) and Rosario’s.

 

What To See in San Antonio in a Weekend

 

San Antonio in a weekend does not seem to be long enough to explore the entire city but we compiled a list of our favorite places so that you can get a good feeling of the city in 48 short hours.

 

The River Walk

 

The San Antonio River Walk is specially designed network of pedestrian pathways and bridges surrounding the San Antonio River, running throughout the downtown area. The main area in the downtown core is full of restaurants and bars and is definitely the place to be in San Antonio.  You won’t be mistaking yourself thinking you are in Venice, but the River Walk is very impressive and you can easily spend a half day walking the pathways and stopping at a restaurant or two.

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

We were surprised by how clean and well maintained everything was, it was refreshing coming from Chicago, where most of the city is quite literally crumbling! Extending North and South of the main area, the River Walk pathways total 15 miles of continuous trails to explore. Once outside of the main tourist area, the riverwalk widens and is safe and great for bikes.

 

San Antonio River Walk - The Next Trip

 

 
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The Alamo

 

The Alamo Mission is located just a few blocks away from the River Walk and is easily accessible. It sits on a historic location where in 1836 Texans fought for their independence from Mexico and is probably what San Antonio is most famous for.

 

San Antonio The Alamo - The Next Trip

 

Conveniently, the Alamo Mission is free to enter, with the only cost of admission for us being a 5 minute wait and the requirement to have our picture taken prior to entry, should we feel the need to purchase an overpriced souvenir at the end.

 

San Antonio The Alamo - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio The Alamo - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Purse by Nikki Williams / Top by Chicwish / Skirt by Chicwish

 

The interior is quite sparse, but has a lot of information on this historic site. The best views of the Alamo are without a doubt, facing the front of it’s famous façade.  While the Alamo may be the most famous, there are a number of other beautiful old historic Spanish missions around San Antonio to see if you have time.

 

The Pearl

 

We had briefly read about The Pearl prior to arriving in San Antonio, and knew that it was something that we wanted to check out, but we had no idea how cool it would be!

 

San Antonio The Pearl - The Next Trip

 

The Pearl is centered around the site of a former brewery that operated here for over 100 years, but has since been converted into a (what I can only assume to be) a wildly successfully culinary and cultural hot spot.  Basically, The Pearl has a large assortment of dining and shopping all centered around the fascinating old brewery location, with a culinary school, apartments, a hotel, and some office space sprinkled in for good measure.

 

San Antonio The Pearl - The Next Trip

 

We first went to The Pearl on Saturday night to indulge in some Lick ice cream and devoured our delicious ice cream; Bettina was particularly impressed by the variety of vegan and non-dairy options, of which she sampled almost all of them!

 

San Antonio The Pearl - The Next Trip

 

We returned back to The Pearl on Sunday and spend part of the day wandering through the Farmer’s Market, going for brunch at The Granary, and hanging out at Sternewirth in the Hotel Emma lobby, for a drink.

 

San Antonio The Granary - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio The Granary - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio The Granary - The Next Trip

 

If you haven’t had beef brisket eggs benedict before, you might just be missing out!

 

Explore

 

If you are willing to venture all around the city neighborhoods, you will be rewarded with great sites! The King William District is just south of downtown and has a huge collection of majestic 19th century mansions. This area is full of quiet residential streets that are nice to bike through.

On the West side of the San Antonio River, the Historic Market Square is the largest Mexican market in the United States.

 

San Antonio Historical Market Square - The Next Trip

 

San Antonio Historical Market Square - The Next Trip

 

On your way there, don’t forget to stop and check out the San Fernando Cathedral.

 

San Antonio Historical Market Square - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Bodysuit by Shein (get 15% off with thenexttrip315) / Skirt by Chicwish / Shoes by Mi.iM / Earrings by H&M

 

Still not sure whether you could conquer San Antonio in a weekend? Check our top tips below to help plan your visit.

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a Weekend in San Antonio

 

1) Stay somewhere with a pool. We visited San Antonio in early June and it was already over 100F (38C).  That means it is likely going to be hot when you visit San Antonio, and there is no better way to cool down than with a dip in a pool. The Stay Alfred pool was our respite from the heat. (Use the code YOURPLACE to get 10% off any Stay Alfred stay!)

 

Stay Alfred San Antonio Pool View - The Next Trip

 

2) Rent a bike. The main tourist sites of San Antonio are located quite close together and can be easily reached mostly by foot, but if you want to explore the full River Walk, the King William District, or up to The Pearl we highly recommend renting a bike. We used SWell Cycle, but there were multiple companies available, as well as scooters.

 

San Antonio SWell Cylce Bike Share - The Next Trip

 

3) Spend a half day at The Pearl. It may be slightly commercialized and a “tourist trap” in some minds, but there is a lot to like about The Pearl. The architecture of the converted brewery is amazing, and the food options are all top notch. A must visit!

4) Skip the rental car. Not only should you rent a bike to see the sites (see tip #2) but you really don’t need a car at all. The airport is close to downtown and there is just really no need. Save yourself the money for more Tex-Mex!

5) Eat as much as you can. The great thing about Tex-Mex food in San Antonio is that it is plentiful, very affordable, and located all over the city. And if you are looking for some variety, there’s also no shortage of Texas Barbecue and other restaurants to keep you happy during your visit.

 

Pin this blog post to your U.S. city destinations boards to save all your ideas about San Antonio!

San Antonio for the Weekend - Your guide for what to see, where to stay, what to eat, and The Next Trip's Top 5 Tips

 

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Top 7 Things To Do In Madeira

For those that don’t know, Madeira is a Portugeuse island 520km (320 miles) off the coast of Morocco, and about a 1.5 hour flight from Lisbon.  It's an incredibly beautiful island and is most well known for being the home of Cristiano Ronaldo. It is also great to pair with a visit to other great Portuguese cities. Don't miss out on our Porto and Coimbra adventures or skip to The Next Trip 5 Travel Tips for Madeira here.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint são lourenço

 

 

How to Get to Madeira

 

Being an island, you will obviously be arriving by plane (unless you are brave enough to take a boat!), however flights are somewhat limited to just a few airlines, primarily TAP Air Portugal and all of your favorite European low cost carriers. If you are arriving late in the evening like we did, there are some great hotels close to the airport (and the beach!) such as the Santa Cruz Boutique Hotel.  There is no better way to start your island adventure on Madeira than with breakfast with a view like this.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-Santa Cruz breakfast

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-Santa Cruz Boutique Hotel Breakfast

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira

 

You may be able to drive all around in Madeira in one day, but the island is packed full of beauty and activities so we highly recommend spending more time on the island to explore as much as possible! Read on for our top 7 things to do in Madeira. We had fairly high expectations for our trip to Madeira, and it easily met and exceeded them!

 

Hike to Ponta de São Lourenço

 

This was one of our favourite spots on Madeira and well worth taking a half day or more to complete. It's a 2-hour hike one way with incredible scenery.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint são lourenço hike

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint são lourenço hike

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint são lourenço hike

 

We stopped along the way multiple times to snap a picture or two. Also, learn from our mistake and bring your bathing suit and a towel on your hike. There are a few great places to take a refreshing dip in the ocean along the way. Another plus is that there is a small café at the end if you’re a bit thirsty or hungry after your hike out!

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint são lourenço hike

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint são lourenço hike

 

Swim in the Atlantic Ocean

 

So if you didn’t take our advice above and swim in the ocean on your hike to Ponta de São Lourenço, there is an easier and more convenient place for a swim on the complete opposite side of the island. Porto Moniz is a city at the north-western most corner of Madeira and has a huge swimming pool full of fresh seawater. How fresh you may ask?

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-Porto Moniz Swimming Pool

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-Porto Moniz Swimming Pool

 

Well while we were there, the waves were even coming up over the rocks and pathway into the “pool.” You do have to pay a few dollars to enter, but it was well worth it for a nice relaxing swim and a shower to rinse off afterwards. They have restrooms, showers, and lockers there. Make sure you bring your own towels though.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-Porto Moniz Swimming Pool

 

While in the area, be sure to check out the islets of Ribeira da Janela rising from the ocean. We were mesmerized watching the waves here.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-Porto Moniz Sea Rocks

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-Porto Moniz Sea Rocks

 

Check out the Levadas

 

Levadas are strewn across the country side of Madeira and were originally created to move water around the island as the west and northwest of the island receives heavy rainfall, but the southeast region is much drier. With more time (and better weather) we would have loved to hike some of these levadas, which can be  tens of kilometers long, run along cliffs, and even through tunnels!

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-Lavada

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-Lavada

 

Don’t Miss the Viewpoints of Funchal

 

Being an island with steep cliffs and mountains, there is never a shortage of views, equally when looking out over the main city. Funchal is the sixth largest city in Portugal, and has been the capital of Madeira for over 500 years. Cabo Girão is a spectacular sea cliff with the highest cliff skywalk in Europe – if you can stomach the walk out over the glass, it is well worth the views!

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint funchal

 

A bit closer to Funchal, Miradouro Pico dos Barcelos doesn’t disappoint and also provides a beautiful panoramic view over Funchal.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint funchal

 
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Watch the Sunrise

 

This is the one activity we truly missed out on while on Madeira. The sunrises from a number of the islands peaks are legendary, and in particular we were hoping to catch the sunrise from the top of Pico do Areeiro. Unfortunately for us, there were heavy thunderstorms the morning we were there and given our tight itinerary, we had no room in our travel plans to stay a day longer and hope for better weather.

Stop by Lighthouses for More Amazing Views

 

One of Bettina's favourite things to see in Madeira was the Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse. Situated high up on a cliff, it provides with more spectacular views of the ocean.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint ponta do pargo lighthouse

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint ponta do pargo lighthouse

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint ponta do pargo lighthouse

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint ponta do pargo lighthouse

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-flowers butterfly

 

It is easily accessible by car and the viewpoint is only a short walk from the parking lot. The lighthouse itself is as picturesque as they come and also houses an exhibit.

 

Watch your Plane Arrive at the Funchal Airport Observation Deck

 

Even for non-avgeeks, planes are fascinating to watch.  Once you’ve gone through security at Funchal Airport, be sure to wait for your flight on the outside observation deck which has great views of the runway.  Funchal airport is unique in that it has a particularly steep approach and the runway even extends out over the ocean on a platform. As a result, it is a great place for some casual plane spotting!

 

We put together a list of 5 top tips for your visit to Madeira to make sure you can make most out of this trip and be prepared.

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a Visit to Madeira

 

1. Spend at least one night in Funchal, the surprisingly bustling capital city of the island. While this city is not going to be a party hot spot, it is a great size to explore in a day or two on foot and has a great atmosphere. Be sure to wander the streets to find the perfect restaurant for dinner and take in the island vibes.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-streets of funchal

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-funchal harbor

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-streets of funchal

 

2. Rent a car. While Madeira isn’t that large, and does have public transportation around the island, the freedom of having your own car is highly worth the cost so that you can visit what you like at your own pace.  The roads can be narrow, twisty, and steep, but for us that just adds to the adventure!

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-driving in madeira

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-driving in madeira

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint

 

3. Be prepared for all types of weather.  We experienced torrential downpours, followed by clear blue skies, and fairly frequent wind while on Madeira – such is the case for an island in the Atlantic! Expect to have rain and wind, but don’t let that dampen the mood as the weather is constantly changing and the sun will likely shine again the same day.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-mountains view

 

4. Seafood and Wine.  Need we say more? Madeira is well known for it’s local Madeiran wine as well as great seafood. Be sure to sample what you can! We can highly recommend the Filete de Espada (Scabbard Filet), traditionally prepared with a banana and passion fruit sauce.

5. Bring your hiking shoes. Madeira is far from flat, and whether you are hiking to the top of Pico do Areeiro, walking to the end of Ponta de São Lourenço, or walking through the streets of Funchal, there will be hills and cobblestones. Bringing a pair of comfortable flats will make your travels easier. Bettina managed fine in some ballet flats but we did get very interesting stares on our hikes.

 

Top 7 Things to do in Madeira-viewpoint hiking

 

Is Madeira on your bucket travel list? Tell us about the places you want to travel to in the comments below!

 

Pin this blog post to your Portugal and Madeira Pinterest boards to save all your ideas and don't miss out when you're there!

 

Top 7 Things To Do in Madeira

 

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A Sintra Day Trip – Why You Have to Go

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a prince or princess living in a palace, then a Sintra day trip from Lisbon is a must!  Our day spent here brought all of Bettina’s princess dreams true. To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to prepare for a daytrip to Sintra, click here.

 

What is Sintra and Pena Palace

 

Sintra is a small city on the outskirts of Lisbon, only 30km (19 miles) away, and is surrounded by natural parks and the Sintra Mountains. There is a lot of history in this area of Portugal as Sintra was a playground for royalty, the rich, and the famous throughout much of history. This means that there is not only the Pena National Palace, which we visited, but also the National Palace of Sintra, the Castle of the Moors, and many others all located in and around Sintra. We drove through Sintra, stopping for a quick coffee, but decided to focus our time on Pena Palace.

 

A Sintra Day Trip View of Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip View of Castle of Moors

 

How to Get to Sintra

 

We already had a rental car as we were completing a short road trip through Portugal from Porto (you can read about our time in Porto here and Coimbra here). Our drive from Cascais to Sintra was about 20 minutes, and it is only 10 minutes more from Lisbon.  We appreciated having a car to get up through the hills to Pena Palace.  The road was steep and narrow, but there was lots of parking when we arrived.

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

Alternatively you can easily reach Sintra by train from Lisbon.  There are numerous bus and tuk tuk options to take you up the hill to Pena Palace, or you can hike! Of course plan a lot of extra time if you plan to hike through the hills.

 

Pena Palace

 

The main attraction! Pena Palace is perched at the top of a hill, and is considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal. This is a Romanticist castle, and we couldn’t agree more. It is one of the most romantic castles we've visited so far. Pena Palace has a number of different sections and design elements, reflecting the tastes of its prior owners through the ages.

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Top from Chicwish / Skirt from Chicwish / Shoes from Mi.iM (Use beingbettina20 to get a 20% discount)

 


 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace
A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

Explore Pena Palace

 

One of the great things about Pena Palace is that you are allowed to climb up a number of the bastions, parapet walls, and ramparts. As a result, this makes for great pictures! You will have to be patient and wait your turn in line though. Unfortunately not all tourists we encountered were so considerate!

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Definitely make sure to explore all around Pena Palace so that you get views of this truly impressive building from all angles.

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Inside Pena Palace

 

To truly live out your prince/princess dreams, be sure to take the time to walk through the interior of Pena Palace.  The inside of the palace is set up to serve as the summer residence of the royal family, and is full of period appropriate furniture, paintings, and other artwork.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Usually when exploring European palaces you only get to see the fancy sitting rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms of the royal elite. However Pena Palace also allows you to see the working kitchen of the palace, which is a unique perspective and makes you appreciate our modern appliances.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Best Views of Pena Palace

 

Once you’ve completed your tour of Pena Palace, take the time for the 20 minute walk through the peaceful surrounding gardens and forest up to the Cruz Alta monument.  With a little bit of flexibility you can climb up to the monument and will be rewarded with impressive views of Pena Palace from afar.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - View of Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - View of Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - View of Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

This view was worth the walk! In addition, this monument had very few tourists, compared to Pena Palace, which was bursting with selfie-stick wielding crowds in the early afternoon.

 

How Long Does it Take for a Sintra Day Trip?

 

We spent a full afternoon exploring the Pena Palace as well as walking some of the pathways in the surrounding park. Arriving just before lunch, we had about a 5 minute wait to purchase tickets and enter the palace grounds, but otherwise could access everything within and around the palace as we liked.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

You could easily spend a week exploring the hills around Sintra and the many palaces as there are walking trails all throughout the region allowing you to explore as much or as little as you would like, however it also works perfectly as a day trip.

Check our top tips below to help plan your Pena Palace and Sintra Day Trip!

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Sintra Day Trip Tips

 

  1. Get there early! Like as soon as they open or even earlier. As the day goes on there will be more and more tour buses full of tourists arriving, so get arrive at the palace as early as you can to have the palace to yourself (more or less).
  2. Take some creative photos. Pena Palace is breathtaking from almost any angle, and with almost all of the walkways and areas of the palace open, you are free to get creative and take more than your standard tourist photos. This is your chance to make your princess fantasies come true!
  3. Bring your best walking shoes. Pena Palace is located at the top of the hill and requires at least a 10 minute walk up the steep cobblestone paths. Further, the surrounding park grounds are full of pathways to explore.
  4. Pack some water.  While there is a cafe in the palace, you’re going to want to pack some water if you are exploring on a hot day as there are no other stores near the palace.
  5. Go for a hike. Take the extra time to walk to the Cruz Alta monument to get the perfect photos of Pena Palace from a distance – no drone required! In addition, if you have the time as part of your Sintra day trip, you can also walk and hike all over the Sintra Mountains for other unique views of Pena Palace and the beautiful Portugal Riviera.

 

Have you been to Pena Palace? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

 

Pin this blog post to your Portugal and Sintra Pinterest boards to save all your ideas and don't miss out when you're there!

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Why You Have to Go - The Next Trip

 

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How to Spend A Day in Coimbra, Portugal

To be honest, we hadn’t even heard of Coimbra prior to researching destinations for our Portuguese road trip, which is probably why it was the most surprising destination of our trip.  We had no expectations and absolutely loved the 24 hours we spent here and can’t recommend it enough! To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to spend a day in Coimbra, click here.

 

A Day in Coimbra: Getting There and Around

 

We arrived in Coimbra after a weekend in Porto (read about it here) during rush hour, and since we didn’t know much about the city, we were just following the directions of our GPS to get to the hotel. However, the closer we got, the steeper and narrower the streets became.

 

Narrow Streets in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Tight narrow roads do not phase us after all of our European road trips, but these were some of the tightest and steepest we had ever driven on within a city. Even though our rental car was relatively small, we ended up taking a different route to our hotel as we were not confident that we could make a turn without scratching the car.

 

A Day in Coimbra: Where to Stay

 

We spent our one night in Coimbra at the Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra which has very luxuriously designed hotel rooms.

 

Hotel Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

Hotel Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

Our room was on the first floor but because the hotel is on a hill, we had an amazing view of the city. The room was small but very unique and they even included free of charge champagne and cake in the evenings as well as breakfast in bed in the mornings.

 

Hotel Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

We didn’t spend much time in the hotel though as we hit the streets as fast as we could due to the rapidly setting sun.

 

How to Spend A Day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

A Day in Coimbra: What to See

 

Coimbra is a very old city, dating back to the Roman era and is anchored by the University of Coimbra, established in 1290, and perched on top of the hill. The university buildings include the jaw-dropping Pátio das Escolas. This historic square alone is worth the visit to Coimbra as there just isn’t a bad angle to take a picture.

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 


 

 

It was particularly beautiful at dusk and includes a view of the surrounding valley.

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

The next morning we headed back to the University of Coimbra area to see the Biblioteca Joanina, a famous historic library.  The next visiting time was in one hour, so we spent the time taking more pictures in Pátio das Escolas square and checking out the nearby chapel and palace.

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

My dress is sadly already sold out but I linked some of my favorite turquoise and teal dresses below.


 

 

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

The palace tour had an outdoor terrace, which provided great views over the city.

View from the Palace, University Square, Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

View from the Palace, University Square, Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

We eventually made it into the library, the Biblioteca Joanina, and it was definitely worth the wait! This is one of the most impressive libraries that we have ever been to, and a definite must-see if you are in Coimbra. You’re not allowed to take photos inside, so check out their website to get an idea of what it looks like inside here.

 

Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Heading back down the hill, we explored the streets of the old town more and fell even further for this quaint city.

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Because we only had one day in Coimbra, we did not have enough time to see the aqueduct, botanical gardens, and waterfront. From the quick views we saw from afar, they definitely are worth a visit as well!

 

A Day in Coimbra: Where to Eat

 

While in Portugal, we were on a mission to try natas in each city. Pastel de nata’s are custard filled tarts, and worth eating at any time of day.  A few locals recommended we stop by this café for a coffee and some natas. The natas were some of the best we had tried with incredibly flaky pastry and were only surpassed by the slightly more lemony natas we had at the Largo da Portagem square.

We both truly believe that calories don’t count when you are traveling!

What to eat in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

For dinner, we can highly recommend Zé Manel dos Ossos. This restaurant was recommended to us by some locals we had met the day before, and they advised arriving half an hour before the restaurant even opened at 7:30pm! We arrived on time, and were second in line, with a few other groups arriving only a few minutes later. This restaurant is considered one of the best in Coimbra for traditional Portuguese food. As there are only seven tables inside you’ve got to be early, or prepared to wait.

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

The time went by quickly, and soon enough we were inside the eclectically designed restaurant.  The owner is super friendly and since we didn’t know what to order (nor could we read the menu) he chose for us. We ended up sharing a starter of mushrooms and pork, which had such a rich flavour and were absolutely delicious.

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Next up was the main course, seared pork with rice and beans.

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Portuguese food is hearty and filling, and this was the best we had on our trip to Portugal. The pitcher of wine helped wash it all down. And there is nothing like a digestive evening stroll around the city after a heavy meal.

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Can't get enough of Portugal either? Check out our blog post on Porto here or get planning your own trip with our free top 10 tips on how to save money on traveling!

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips on How to Spend a Day in Coimbra

 

  1. Pick a hotel in the historic old town. There are numerous small hotels in the historic old town that are reasonably priced. The location will allow you to easily reach all sights by foot, and will be close enough to rest your feet in the middle of the day if you need it. We stayed at the Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra and can highly recommend it!
  2. The first stop when you arrive should be to get tickets to see the Joanina Library. They only allow 60 people at a time into the library, and so times are reserved. Get your tickets early so that you don’t miss out! There are so many beautiful photo opportunities all around the University of Coimbra and the square, that even if you have to wait a bit, it is no problem.
  3. Bring your best walking shoes, i.e. comfortable and preferably closed flats. While flip flops might be comfortable, they will hurt your feet after walking up and down these steep cobble stone streets for hours. Walking is absolutely the best/only way to explore Coimbra. This seems to be a common tip in Portugal!
  4. Try the natas – all of them!  We indulged in natas almost every day of our trip in Portugal.  The best ones that we had on our whole trip were in Coimbra. We can highly recommend these two cafes, here and here. We also had The World Needs Nata recommended to us, but it was closed when we were visiting.
  5. Eat at Zé Manel dos Ossos. This is not your typical restaurant and already seems to be gaining a lot of popularity through word of mouth only. Be prepared for a hearty meal of traditional Portuguese food and entertainment written all over the walls. If you decide to stop by, make sure you get there a 10-15 minutes before they open for dinner. The place has only a few tables and often lines up out the door.

 

Have you been to Portugal? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

 

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How to Spend A Weekend in Porto

Porto may be the second largest city in Portugal, but it is easily accessible and perfectly set as a great weekend destination.  Bettina and I can’t believe that we haven’t made it to Portugal until now, and fell for Porto as soon as we had our first taste of the Portuguese life. If you enjoy cobblestone streets, great food, great wine, and great weather, then Porto is for you! Keep reading for how to spend a weekend in Porto!

Click here if you want to skip to our 5 Top Porto Travel Tips. If you'd like to watch our Porto experience on video, check out Bettina's Instagram stories here.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

With the city being very walkable, a central hotel location is great so you can drop back in at any time of the day if needed. We arrived on a Friday and stayed at the Porto Royal Bridges Hotel. The location was perfect for our stay, as was the fantastic breakfast and friendly staff!

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Bettina ambitiously decided we should wake up early to catch some of Porto’s famous blue-tiled buildings before the crowds set in. We started at Capela das Almas de Santa Catarina, which didn’t disappoint.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

The azulejo tiles are striking and found on buildings throughout Porto, certainly adding to the charm of the city.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

The historic center has a number of iconic buildings, including the Porto Town Hall and Porto Sao Bento train station.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

From the train station head downhill, exploring the many side streets along the way.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Eventually, you will be greeted with a fantastic view of the Douro River and surrounding city!  The North side of the river contains many of the famous colourful houses in Porto as well as a lot of the best restaurants in the city.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

{Bettina:} My shoes were gifted to me by Mi.iM and they quickly became my favorite travel sandals. I was wearing them all day, every day, walking through the streets of Porto and was comfortable and fashionable all the time.

 

 

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

This was our favourite part of the city. While it is a bit touristy, it has a great vibe, and in March wasn’t overly crowded, but buzzing with the right amount of energy.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

A weekend in Porto would not be complete without a glass, or two, of some fine port wine, which the city gave its name to. Your best bet is to cross over the Douro River to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, the riverfront stretch on the south side of the river with breathtaking views of the historical center as well as some of the best port wine cellars in the city.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Porto Cruz came recommended to us and didn’t disappoint. We were able to snag a seat on the rooftop to rest our weary feet and relax with a glass of port wine and some tapas. Other port wine cellars which were recommended to us but we didn’t try were Ferreira and Graham’s. If you haven’t tried it before, port wine is produced exclusively in the Douro Valley of Portugal, and is typically a sweet red, often served with dessert.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Did we mention the stunning views of the old town from the Porto Cruz rooftop? This is a great place to spend an afternoon tasting wine in the sun.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Before you cross the river again, make sure you stop by Jardim do Morro for the most incredible sunset views. Depending on the number of glasses of port wine you’ve had, you can either walk or take the cable car to the top of the hill at Jardim do Morro.  We opted to walk and zigzagged our way up the narrow streets to the top.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

The views of the city are breathtaking!

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Walking across the bridge back to the historical center leaves you with just as many beautiful impressions of the city. Watch out for the trams along the bridge as you will need to share the space! If you didn’t enjoy dinner at one of the port wine cellars, head back to the historical center to find your new favourite dinner spot.

 

 

 
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Early Sunday morning head to Livraria Lello, one of the world’s best bookstores to beat the crowds just before opening. This bookstore has impressive architecture, but is probably most known for being an inspiration for Flourish and Blotts of Harry Potter fame, when JK Rowling lived in Porto and began developing ideas for the Harry Potter series.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

You can also see into the bookstore from the outside, which may be enough for some. We opted not to wait in the 50+ deep line and pay the 5 EUR per person entry fee, and instead settled on gelato next door!

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Just a bit further up the street is a beautiful square with Porto’s famous twin churches. Igreja dos Carmelitas and Igreja do Carmo are famous for having the narrowest building in the city between them and having a beautiful outside wall with azulejo tile.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

The buildings can easily be mistaken as one church, but each has a very unique history, along with the narrow building in between, which was created to ensure no contact between the nuns and monks at any time.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Continue the neighbourhood tour of Porto with a requisite tourist photo at the ‘PORTO’ sign nearby and while we’re into cheesy tourist opportunities, why not get a sardine can with your birth year printed on it? Or try the local cod cakes which are hand-made cakes shaped like a potato, filled with cheese and fried.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

While you’re in the neighborhood, snap a picture of the iconic Tram 28 which winds its way through the steep and narrow cobblestone streets.

 

How to Spend A Weekend in Porto - The Next Trip

 

Because no weekend in Porto would be complete without shopping, make sure you head to Porto’s Rua de Santa Catarina which is the main shopping street. Bettina definitely spent some time here and contemplated the limits of her hand luggage and how many clothes she could buy and still fit in.


This is how we spent our weekend in Porto and we loved it so much, we can't wait to go back. Check our top tips below to help plan your weekend and sign up for our 10 money-saving travel tips to save on your next weekend getaway!

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Weekend in Porto Tips

 

1) Uber from the airport to the city center.

We used Uber to and from the airport as well as a few times within Porto and every time the car was there within 2 minutes, was clean, and had a good driver. As a bonus, it is cheaper than a cab, our rides to and from the airport were just under 15 EUR each way. There is a bus and metro option, which can definitely save you money, but for our location it was also over an hour vs. 20 minutes in an Uber.

 

2) Drink the wine!

As this is what they are (rightly) famous for. Without a doubt, sampling the many kinds of port wine the city has to offer, is a great way to spend your afternoon. If port wine is not your thing, no worries, vineries offer all kinds of other regional wines as well. Our favourite wineries, or those recommended to us by locals are Porto Cruz, Ferreira and Graham’s.

 

3) Eat the seafood.

Portuguese food is typically quite hearty, and we found it heavier and greasier than we expected, however the exception is seafood and Porto has that in abundance.  There are so many great places to try, just get out there and start eating and remember that fresh sardines in Portugal are far better here than that old can in the cupboard of your grandmother’s house.

 

4) Bring your best walking shoes.

The city is small enough that you can easily see all of the major sites by foot in a weekend.  There is no need to use the metro, buses, or trams, unless your hotel is slightly off the beaten path. That being said, the streets are cobblestone and there are a lot of hills! Bettina wore her Mi.iM shoes and this was probably one of the first trips she didn't have sore feet or blisters.

 

5) Do search out your favourite azulejo tile.

The blue tiles are on all sorts of beautiful and very average buildings, but taking pictures of the tiles you come across and searching for the one that speaks to you is a fun challenge we enjoyed while walking the streets.

 

Pin this blog post to your Pinterest board to save all your ideas about Porto!

 

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A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

It's a well-kept secret that there is a rivalry between Bern (the capital of Switzerland) and Zurich (the largest city in Switzerland). Growing up in the outskirts of Bern, I was always biased towards the city named after bears and never spent much time exploring Zurich. After having spent a day exploring the city with family though, I might have to give it more credit. But first things first...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Being right on the Limmat and Lake Zurich, the city is surrounded by water and offers beautiful views.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

We spent our day in Zurich wandering through the old town, admiring old fountains,...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Shop My Look

 


 

 

... explaining old buildings to my niece (she may more likely have been fascinated by the birds) ...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

... walked past one of the oldest hotels in Switzerland, Hotel Storchen (established in 1357), which has its own ferry terminal ...

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Storchen

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

... and found ourselves in front of the Oro De Cacao store.  We couldn't resist the idea of some hot chocolate and had to check it out.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Oro De Cacao is a brand new Swiss chocolate producer - and it's so much more than that. I am a firm believer that Swiss chocolate is the best chocolate in the world (I'm also slightly biased, being Swiss and all). However, this store takes the chocolate experience to an entirely new level.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Dieter Meier revolutionized the chocolate production process by using cold extractions to break cocoa beans into cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and the parts that give chocolate its bitter taste. In the end, you're left with a very intense and flavourful piece of chocolate which is not bitter at all and is also not overly sweet.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Completely in awe with this new technology, I had to get a sample of every variation they offered!

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

And of course, we couldn't leave without trying their home-made hot chocolate which was beautifully rich. I also took some chocolate bars home and love to treat myself after a long day at work. Given the intensity of the chocolate flavor, you only really need a small piece to satisfy your cravings.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland - Oro De Cacao

 

Thank you Oro De Cacao for having us and providing us with a wonderful chocolate experience!

 

We spent the rest of our day in Zurich raving about the chocolate we just tried, and enjoying the beautiful Christmas decorations everywhere.

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

A Day in Zurich, Switzerland

 

Although we were only there for a day, Zurich impressed me with its old-town flair and international spirit. Have you been to Zurich? What did you like best about the city? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go

A few months ago we stumbled across an article from late 2017, saying how the Northern Lights were going to be decreasing for almost the next decade! While we did catch a brief glimpse in Lapland (northern Finland) when we first met almost nine years ago, we didn’t get to see the full sky filled with a beautiful display of aurora. This would be our last chance, so to speak, to try to catch the Northern Lights for the next few years.

Click here if you want to skip to our 5 Top Iceland  Travel Tips. If you'd like to watch our Iceland experience on video, check out Bettina's Instagram stories here.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

How We Got To Iceland

 

Soon after we read that article, WOW Air came out with a great fare sale from Chicago to Iceland, which allowed us to pick up round trip tickets for the two of us for only $220 each. You can’t beat this kind of price for a direct flight to Iceland! We left Chicago late on a cold Friday in January and flew overnight. The beauty of over-night flying is that you don't need to get a hotel and you have the entire arrival day to explore. Check out this blog post for tips on how to get over jet lag.

 

Weekend In Iceland Itinerary and Story

We left Chicago on a cold Friday in January and were actually heading to warmer temperatures up in Iceland, the land of ice and fire! Arriving around 5:30am, our first stop was Joe and the Juice, a great coffee shop in the airport, and then to Avis to pick up our rental car.  We then had a 3 hour drive in front of us, to our destination: Vík.

We passed by top sights such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss but unfortunately, at this time in the day, it was still pitch dark and we couldn’t see them. It wasn’t until we closed in on Vík closer to 10:00am that the sky started to brighten. We were lucky to have done a complete Iceland road trip back in 2015 and have seen most of the main sights already. We were thus able to focus on one of our favourite areas of Iceland: the South-East coast.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

When we were in Vík in 2015, it was late August and lush, green, and almost warm. Things were slightly different today, with temperatures hovering around 0C (32F) combined with wind and snow. That did not stop us from getting out and capturing some amazing photos at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

Chicwish gifted Bettina this gorgeous dress. It also comes in black and white. It's the perfect dress for a wedding guest!


 

The combination of wind and snow meant we ran back to the car quickly to warm up. The clouds had also moved in, and it began to rain, putting a bit of a damper on our moods. However, one thing to know about Iceland is that the weather changes quickly, is unpredictable, so you just have to expect the unexpected!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We began our drive back towards our hotel in the direction of Reykjavík and did take the time to stop at the Dyrhólaey lighthouse and both Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss for more pictures despite the continuing rain.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

The sheer power of the waterfalls is absolutely amazing every time you see it.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

During the winter months, Iceland does not get a lot of daylight. With 5 hours of daylight, the sun was already setting as we were heading towards our hotel.

 

 
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Since we really only had one night in Iceland, this was now our chance to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the aurora forecast was not great. It was also a cloudy night, so our chances were slim at best. It was however supposed to be clear skies in the early morning, so we decided to get up at 6:00am and see what we could see. We drove a few minutes out of town to get away from the surrounding lights and stared out at the pitch black sky.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After fiddling with the camera a bit in the bitter cold, we were able to capture some reflections of the Northern Lights off in the distance. Not quite the epic full sky pictures you see in the travel brochures, but we were happy to have seen something – our trip had not been in vain!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After heading back to the hotel to freshen up and have breakfast we were off again, but this time under blue skies and shining sun, exceptionally rare for this time of year, made all the better by the light dusting of snow from the night before.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We drove south towards the ocean and stopped for pictures at Strandakirkja. The views here were absolutely incredible and made us so thankful for our decision to actually do this weekend trip.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Continuing through the Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Preserve, we came across even more awe-inspiring views.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We were a bit pressed for time at this point to head back to the airport and catch our flight. After a brief stop at the local Costco for a cheap snack and fuel – off we went back to the airport!

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 


Despite having only about 30 hours on the ground in Iceland, we had experienced so much in such a short amount of time that it felt like we had been gone for days. If you have the chance to spend a weekend or longer in Iceland, we highly recommend – it is one of our favourite places!

 

 

Top 5 Iceland Travel Tips

 

1) Expect the unexpected when it comes to weather.

You could easily experience weather from all four seasons, so be prepared and take it in stride! Make sure you bring warm and water-proof clothing. We wore Sorel boots and Fjallraven jackets to keep us warm.

2) Find meals at the local Bónus or Krónan grocery store.

Eating out is really expensive. We’re talking $20 to $25 for a basic entrée excluding drinks, starters, or dessert. However, you can find a good selection of food for somewhat reasonable prices at the grocery store. If you can, bring some snacks with you. Trail mix and protein bars travel really well.

3) Rent a car no matter how long your trip.

Iceland is all about getting out and seeing nature, and there’s no better freedom than having your own car to explore. We rented a car with Avis and everything went smoothly.

4) Bring your Costco card!

The store is relatively new in Iceland and you will save big time on fuel, groceries, and snacks from their restaurant! We got gas at Costco right before returning our rental car, and even snuck in the Icelandic version of the famous Costco hot dog.

5) You don’t actually need cash.

As long as you have a chip and pin credit card, you won’t need to exchange for any Icelandic Krona. We used our cards everywhere without problem and saved the time and hassle of exchanging currency.