Backpacking in Colombia

Colombia had been on our wishlist for many years. As a wildlife and LatAm lover I planned this 5-week trip carefully to get the most out of it. If you’re into palm tree beaches, snowy Andes peaks, humid rainforest hikes and bright-colored colonial villages, you know where to go! And yes, Colombia is a completely safe country if you’re avoiding some remote regions in the west and south-east. Sheerful locals welcome you to their place with a lot of reggaeton and salsa vibes.

Our top places

  • Bogota: Probably your first stop of the trip. Book a room in La Candeleria for the best city center experience and take your time to get used to the altitude. We enjoyed a bike tour from Bogota Bike Tours that took us around the city with some great stories along the way. You’re likely to visit famous graffiti art, the fruit market, the busy center and a local coffee roaster.
     

  • Cartagena: The heat and humidity will smack you in the face after the chilly Bogota so dress accordingly while strolling through the gorgeous streets of the most colorful colonial town in the country. This is a true touristic hotspot so be aware. Also, go seek the local sloth and family of monkeys at the central park and push your boundaries by eating ‘comida corriente’ lunch at a trashy restaurant. Huge dishes for no money! If you’re spending a few days in Cartagena, make sure to take a dip in the mud volcano El Totumo. Very touristy but hella fun!
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  • Tayrona NP: Sleep at the not-so great city of Santa Marta as the anchor point of your visit to Tayrona. The Dreamer Hostel is quite popular and with good reason. Or book one of the eco hostels near the entrance of Zaino Our tip for a nice hike in Tayrona: Take a minibus to the main entrance Zaino. Another (optional) bus will take you a little bit further in the park. From there it is around 2-3 hours hiking to Cabo San Juan. This place is clearly the headquarters of the park and offers food and lodging with tents and hammocks. The beach at San Juan is beyond your dreams and offers a surrealistic scenery. If you can, spend the night here as many daytrippers will leave around 4PM and the place gets less crowded. We took another route back (via Pueblito) and crossed some mighty boulders in the jungle. Santa Marta is also a fine basis for the adventurous hikers that plan a hike to the marvellous Ciudad Perdida (Lost City Trek).
     

  • Minca: Foggy hills, tucan area and coffee farms. A great place for beautiful day hikes and a dive in a shady waterfall pool. We stayed at the Casa Elemento (legendary for their huge hammocks) but don’t consider this a real recommendation.
     

  • San Andres y Providencia: These Carribean islands near the coast of Nicaragua are honeymoon material. Especially the beautiful tiny island of Providencia has a unique vibe with its pristine and turquoise bays and one single ring road around the central hill. Drink cocktails straight from the coconut at the trashy Roland Roots Bar, discover the amazing reef species at Sonny’s Dive Shop or take a short but rewarding hike to pirate captain Morgan’s Head. (Don’t worry, it’s a rock).
     

  • Medellin: Aaah, the City of the Eternal Spring. Truly, the cosy atmosphere and trendy bars provide the perfect climate to pin Medellin as the coolest big city in Colombia. Take a cable car and enjoy the stunning views of the city before taking a hike in Parque Arvi. Book a day trip to colorful tourist trap village of Guatapé and conquer the 740 steps to the monolith of El Peñol for a jaw-dropping 360° view around the nature park. And ofcourse, don’t forget to check out some Botero-statues. Be careful if you want to take an Escobar-tour, as they offer varying quality or even make up random stories just to amaze you.
     

  • Salento: Although the tiny village is becoming quite popular, it still provides a unique setting among the coffee farms. Spend around 2 nights here to enjoy a day hike in the Valle de Cocora to walk between the world’s mightiest wax palm trees. Vintage Willy Jeeps will take you there from the main square. Most travelers plan this stop after having visited the buzzing Medellin. Take your time to relax and enjoy the welcoming break at a local coffee shop while eating some homemade cake.
     

If you have the time …

The sleeping city of Mompox, The famous Tatacoa Desert near Villavieja, El Cocuy trekking and other high-kicks near San Gil, the unearthly Caño Cristlaes near Sierra de la Macarena and the San Agustin statues if you’re heading to the whity city of Popayan. And the list goes on with Las Lajas Sanctuary near Magui Payan, the underground salt cathedral of Zipaquira and the Amazon jungle tours around Leticia and the Rio Yavari.

Getting around

Colombia is an immense country, but taking the train or bus for some transfers brings a whole new experience to your trip. Dress like winter is coming, because most bus drivers have a strong tendency to put the airco on ‘extreme frost’.

Domestic flights are often offered at low rates, so for the longer distances you might want to take a plane. Get your tickets from Avianca, Wingo, Satena or Viva Colombia. All of them offers frequent and low-cost flights. Check-in beforehand and print out your tickets as they will charge you if you just show up at the check-in desk.

 

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Unique accomodations in Iceland

These are some of the greatest places to stay in Iceland if you’re looking for a magical, romantic or adventurous setting!

1. Barrel huts, Westman Islands

If you’re checking out the Westman Islands, the barrel huts make for an accommodation just as magical as the surrounding nature. The huts have a cute interior and owner Hafdis makes sure that they are cosy and have her own personal touch! Get yourself a good night’s sleep and wake up your body with a short, but invigorating hike up the surrounding mountains. A breathtaking view over the mountains and sea awaits you while puffins flutter all around.

Upon arrival, we received a warm welcome and a fun challenge: Hafdis gave us a cardboard box and explained that the locals like to drive around town to pick up stranded pufflings! These young birds can’t fly themselves to the safety of the open seas and need to be released on the shore. Challenge accepted! We managed to find a lost puffling and threw it out to freedom the next morning!

More info on: http://glampingandcamping.is/

2. Hotel Rangá, Hella

Hotel Ranga in the South of Iceland is more than just a hotel. It is a paradise for luxury lovers, cuisine connoisseurs and wonder wanderers. It seems like Friðrik’s heart and soul is in this amazing hotel with continent themed rooms and suites. Every detail is in place and the amazing staff will make sure you have a hotel experience you’ve never had before.

Get in your robes and slippers and go outside to relax in the hot tubs with a view over the Icelandic plains. No doubt that you should try some Icelandic fish prepared by the talented chefs in the hotel’s restaurant! After that, go outside and gaze at the beautiful northern lights. A night to remember always!

More info on: https://www.hotelranga.is

3. Volcano huts, Þórsmörk

Got your hiking boots on to explore the nature around Þórsmörk? Staying at the Volcano Huts will certainly elevate your experience! From dormitories to private luxury glamping huts, there is something here for every traveler.

Relaxation is possible everywhere in this little paradise surrounded by nature. Go sweating in the sauna barrel or take a bath in the vulcanic spring. Some welcome wellness after a day of hiking! Check out their website for more information on the famous and breathtaking hikes from Skogar (Fimmvörðuháls), Landmannalaugur (Laugavegur) and other shorter hikes.

More info on: https://www.volcanohuts.com

4. Laxárdalur cottages, Húsavík

Can’t get enough of Iceland’s beautiful nature, remoteness and silence? The Laxárdalur cabins are located near the Myvatn area on a sheep farm. Guðrun and her family, who have always lived in the valley, own 300 sheep that can be seen running around in the area. The valley also has a rich folklore culture and tradition, and a river that is full of trout, if you have a special fishing licence. The cabins are beautifully decorated and very comfortable and have a kitchenette.

We visited the farm around the réttir period, when all sheep are collected from the surrounding mountains and valleys. So when we arrived, there were A LOT of sheep and they all seemed very agitated, which was very fun and spectacular to see!

Find the Laxárdalur Cabins on Airbnb and Booking.com

5. Einishús cottages, Husavík

In the beautiful Myvatn lake area, the Einishús cottages from Einir and his wife are a must visit. Designed and built by their son-in-law, these cottages have a very homey feeling with lot of space and openess and are perfect for families. Outside every cottage, there is a hot tub you can fill with fresh vulcanic water that you can enjoy in comfort and privacy. The cottages are located in nature, but are close to the Diamond Ring, a restaurant and a supermarket.

What we enjoyed most was the fully equiped kitchen and the space. Perfect for a cosy night to cook together with family and friends. The hot tub also made sure we felt relaxed and replenished!

More info on: http://www.einishus.com

6. Esjan Buses, Reykjavík

Sleeping in buses under the Esjan mountain close to Reykjavík truly is an unique experience. Don’t let the image of sleeping in a bus scare you though! Linda has managed to transform these city buses into these amazing sleeping units (hard to call it a room of course). These units are beautifully design with lovely details, have a kitchenette, accommodate 4 people each and are little works of art!

This area around the buses is just as beautiful as the buses themselves. This place is also great for checking out the northern lights. We were lucky enough to see the most beautiful spectacle of our entire trip right here!

Find the Esjan buses on Airbnb.

 

© 2017 Corre Photography for Adventures Like You – All rights reserved

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Get your kicks in the land of Fire & Ice

If you think Iceland only offers only attractions like waterfalls, hot tubs, glaciers and volcanic fields, you’re dead wrong. Last summer, we explored this beautiful island and came across some splendid activities. As tourism is rising every year, you’ll find an increased offering each year. These ones below all offer amazing experiences.

RIB Safari on Westman Islands

When you’re in Westman Islands, this activity should be on your list. You’ll stop by major highlights of the coastal region like Elephant Rock, some hidden caves, Keiko’s basin and (maybe) spot some seals, whales and puffins along the way. Puffin presence depends on the season, but if you’re visiting Iceland in September, your chances are the highest they are still on these islands.
The RIB speedboat has 2x 400 horsepower engines and can blast at high speed to provide you with an awesome adrenaline rush. Funny and competent guides accompany you along the trip, together with some groovy beats.

The company offers multiple type of trips, and we went for the ‘one hour small islands trip’, which showed a great deals of highlights. You’ll get a short safety introduction first and receive protective clothing, float suit and life jacket. The trip is perfectly suitable for families with children as well. Booking online is highly convenient (and recommended) and overall service is great. Check their website for FAQs, trip schedules and actual prices.

More info on: http://www.ribsafari.is

Husavik Adventures Whale Spotting

Another great experience in the North is spotting whales. Husavik is like the Whale Capital of Iceland and offers very high spotting chances every day. We joined on an RIB tour with Husavik Adventures and spotted Minke whales, a shy Porpoise and several Humpback whales. Never came as close to these majestic creatures! They swim and dive slowly so you’ll be chilling right next to them on your RIB. Puffins can be spotted in abundance too.

Other types of trips (with bigger boats) are also offered but I’m glad we chose for the RIB.  They get you there faster and closer. A competent guide and eagle-eye captain made sure we didn’t disturb the animals and got great photo opportunities. You get a warm protective suit and life vest but don’t forget your hat and gloves. The ticket office can be hard to find so check their website for detailed directions 🙂 After the trip you can grab a pile of fresher-than-ever-before Fish & Chips from the restaurant next door. Awesome value for money. Must do in Husavik!

Husavik Adventures The Buggy Experience

This company started this summer with offering Buggy Rides in the area as well. If you’re feeling adventurous and you enjoy a bit off karting and quad-driving on gravel roads, you’ll love this activity. Powerful 4×4 Buggy Cars get you to places you’ll never explore by car, away from the beaten tracks. An experienced guide drives in front of you while you grind those slippery roads. Along the way, you can take a break to enjoy the scenery on top of the mountain and switch positions with your co-driver or take some pictures.

You’ll wear a helmet, gloves and a protective suit at all times, while you’re strapped in the buggy and additional safety nets are around you. I never felt unsure about tipping over or losing control over the wheel. Total trip lasts about 2 hours and will get your body thrilled for a few hours after. Check their website for actual prices and time tables.

More info on: https://husavikadventures.is/tours/buggy-experience/

Off-road to Askja crater – Saga Travels

The Myvatn area still has a lot of volcanic activtity and is famous for its unique volcanic formations. You’ll find an authentic answer to the Reykjavik’s (‘tourist trap’) Blue Lagoon near Reykjahlid, colorful mountains surrounding the Lake and ofcourse the most friendly people of Iceland. One of those highlights in the area is the Askja Crater. The downside is that you cannot reach it with your regular 4WD (unless you’re a daredevil and don’t care about exuberant car towing bills). The upside is that Saga Travels offers daily Superjeep tours to this magnificent crater lake and its turquoise little brother.

Our tour guide (Julius) was a funny, passionate and competent true-blood viking. He drove through the lava fields in a good pace and talked about his favorite spots along the way. You’ll see the main location where NASA trained their Apollo Astronauts before the first lunar landing and iconic landmarks such as Herðubreiðalindir Oasis, Drekagil Gully and Holuhraun Lava Fields. These pit stops were a nice change to the tiring and extremely bumpy drive of 3 hours to the crater. Another upside is that this location hosts only few tourists (which is becoming a rare thing in Iceland).

The Askja Crater itself offers a stunning view in an extremely remote location. The two river crossings with regular 4×4 jeeps are tricky so we didn’t take any risk. We came across two jeeps that were stuck in the river. Flooded engines are very costly so you’d better stay safe with a guided tour.

Pack your own lunch, water and plenty of snacks as you don’t really come across anything like a café to restock 🙂

Other activities in Iceland are surely worth mentioning as well. We didn’t had the opportunity to join in on a tour, so I don’t have any details about them.

Northern Lights Tours

Quite popular in the Myvatn-Husavik-Akureyri area. Spotting chances starting from the end of August but peak season around Dec-Jan. Check out Anton’s Geotravel (www.geotravel.is) or Halldor’s Amazing North offerings (www.amazingnorth.is).

Inside the Volcano

Quite pricey but one-of-a-kind experience. Descend with a small elevator into the belly of a volcano. Don’t expect to see any boiling Mordor lava but you’ll surely feel like a real explorer! They operate on a few time slots a day in the season, but it is best to book well in advance! (www.insidethevolcano.com)

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© 2017 Corre Photography for Adventures Like You – All rights reserved

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Moose safari in Sweden

Who doesn’t like moose? The statue of the north. I saw them already in Norway and Sweden on 2 holidays. Why do this tour then? Well, because I love wildlife, I love this creature.

We’ve done this with wild Sweden, one of the biggest wildlife tour organizations in Sweden. I have to say, they are pro. In everything they do, say and know, they can tell you. The guidance is excellent.

It’s a wonderful evening, with interesting information about the moose, a forest walk looking for tracks, a campfire with a local made wrap, local beer, homemade cookie and a safari with a mini-bus, really fantastic! Everything about this tour is eco-minded, I think it is really important these days. Off course, the gasoline is not 😊 At the end of the tour we saw 6 moose and 1 fox. Not bad,.. 🙂

You can drive on your own in the morning or evening hoping to see a moose but if you don’t know how or where you might end up with an empty fuel tank, so book this trip and you are 100% sure you will meet the king of the forest. You have to be in Skinnskatteberg for this tour.

Wild Sweden offers more than just a moose safari, check their site and book! They won’t disappoint.

http://www.wildsweden.com/

 

Bear watching from a hide in Sweden

To be honest, I love bears 🙂

2 years ago, I’ve already stayed in a bear hide in Sweden, that was so cool I wanted to do it over again. This time in another hide, Sweden’s most southern bear hide, just a 2-hour drive from Stockholm.

This time it was different, it was more personal, better service, more explanation about bears,… Meeting point at “Sara’s” house, a famous Swedish photographer. She has a small gallery from some of here photos. First you start with a nice sandwich, some talking about the hide and bears before heading into the woods for the cabin..

I’m going to compare a bit about the previous bear hide. This time it was smaller, with a maximum of 4 people, beds and a toilet are in the cabin.

The cool thing this time was that the bait was under rocks, in trees,… so they have to work for the food, also cool to take a photo from a standing bear.. Much better and cooler. Food for birds and squirrels was spread right before we were locked into the cabin. First time, no birds, so this is cool when you’re waiting for the real deal! 🙂

Around 16u30 we were in the cabin, we saw many birds, but with many I mean MANY! Squirrels playing in the tree, fighting jays, woodpeckers,.. To name a few.

Okay, sun is setting, the birds are moving and tension is rising, time for the bears to come. 1 hour, 2, 3, … Are they still coming? They have to, because at the moment the hide has a 100% success rate…

Is that, noo, yes? I don’t know, I see something, jup, oh yes, it’s a bear. Oh no wait, it’s a bear with a cub, sweet! No wait, you’re kidding right? 2 cubs! My god, this is amazing! 🙂

They ate a bit, went back into the forest and returned 2 more times. This was thrilling, awesome to see my favorite creature in its own habitat. I love this.

Okay, it was very difficult to take a nice photo because it was as good as dark, but there are binoculars you can use and they are good! ISO 12800, but hey, I’ve got proof! 😉

Tired, around midnight we went to bed? Why? At 4u30 we were back on our seat but it was too late.. When Sara came to pick us up she took the movement camera from the tree and saw that there was a big male at 01u00, shit, we’ve missed this guy. But on the other hand, now we have a reason to go back!

Breakfast time at Sara’s house, damn that was good after 1 week of choco pops 🙂 I recommend this to everyone who loves wildlife, nature and an exciting night!

More information here: http://www.wildnordic.se/

Canoe adventure in Sweden with Byns camping

In July, we went on a 4-day canoe trip, something we wanted to do for many years, so finally, this was the time. And it didn’t disappoint us, not at all! I’ve seen and done so many thing around the world, but this was one of the greatest things I’ve done so far. Truly amazing.

We’ve booked our canoe with Byns camping, a small, cozy, clean and calm camping, near a river. It’s located in Ekshärad, Varmland. Approximately between Oslo and Stockholm, so also a perfect stopover. The service is nice and personal, very kind people, a father with his 2 sons.

You can reach this camping on every way you want. We’ landed by airplane on Stockholm and rented a car, because we’ve did a few other things after the trip. Oslo is even closer than Stockholm. By bus or train is possible too.

You can also rent a cabin if you don’t want to camp. There’s a kitchen, washing machine, showers and much more available for all guests.

They sell different canoe trips on different rivers, suitable for small children with parents to people that wants to be into the wild for a few days, off course, that’s the one we chose 🙂 The Svartälven river. What’s so cool about this trip? Well, you can do it in 4 to 7 days, we’ve booked 4. So, you are free to do how long you want. The variety is cool, from wide to small and winding rivers, big and small lakes with islands, swamps,…

You even get a transport wheel because there are a few land transports needed, fun guaranteed! You’ve got big chance of seeing wildlife along the route. We’ve seen few road deer, lots of birds, tracks of beaver,…

You can stop wherever you want to spend the night. There are shelters along the way but probably you won’t be alone there, so we stayed where it was quiet, and with an amazing view. Once we’ve had our private island for 1 night. Every evening a campfire, fresh fish and quietness… Oh I miss this 🙂

You can choose your own endpoint, there are 13 stops where you can be picked up, you just have to let them know 1 day in advance.

You’ll get waterproof backpacks to put all your stuff in (food, camping gear, clothes,…), very useful. All of this makes it so cool and interesting.

Here you can find more information: http://www.bynscamping.eu/

 

They also own a moose farm. You learn a lot about moose, interesting facts you’ll never heard of. They do it on a pleasant way, excellent for children, but to be honest, also for adults 🙂

You can see them from close. You even can feel (their antlers) and feed them. Standing near the king of the forest is a ‘big thing’. This is not a zoo to be clear… It’s a 10-minute drive from the camping. Check it out, the 2-hour tour is worth it.

http://moose-world.com/

How to photograph the Northern Lights?

How? Well, that’s not easy to tell but I’ll try to inform you as easy as possible.

There are different possibilities which depend on which gear you have and what type of conditions you have (snow in front or not).

With a cellphone: Quite impossible, you will get it on photo, but dark and with a lot of noise.

A DSLR camera or full frame: Now we’re talking. Doesn’t matter what type, as long as you have a steady tripod and you can set your shutter time, aperture and ISO it is fine.

I took pictures with a Canon 70D, a camera with a crop sensor and a wide angle lens from Samyang, 10mm f2.8 (so basically it is 16,8mm). If you have a full frame, I would recommend a 14mm lens. You can shoot with f4 but 2.8 is recommended.

Focussing: Set your focus on MF (manual focus) and turn it on infinity (∞-symbol). But this is the tricky part, infinity is not always sharp, you have to turn is slightly to the left or the right (try it during the day while focusing on an object far away and look when you have your focusing ring on the right spot).

Try to shoot in M (manual) and set the f on 2.8 (4 or lower if you don’t reach 2.8) and set the shutter time on 6 seconds with an ISO of +-640. If you have strong lights and a snowy field in front of you, it might be too bright so try a faster shutter speed (f.e. 4s).

If you have a dark field in front of you and a less bright aurora or you shoot only in the sky, your photo might be too dark so you will have to pump up ISO or shutter speed.

Then, it also depends on the speed of the light. If it dances fast, a shutter time of 6 seconds is too fast. So pump up the ISO and try a shutter speed of 2-4 seconds. If the light moves slowly you can even go to 10 seconds and reduce the ISO so you have lesser noise.

If you’re shooting with a full frame, try ISO 2800 or 3200 and a shutter speed of 1,5 or 2 seconds, you won’t get too much noise with this.

So it basically is trial and error. Be sure to set up your gear, because before you know it, it might be there (and gone again)

Three more important hints to avoid unsharpness:

  1. Turn of your vibrate reduction (if it’s on a tripod it doesn’t need to reduce it, it will work on the opposite way, it will reduce something there is not.
  2. Turn of the noise reduction in your camera, it will take too long after every photo to process this and you will lose valuable time.
  3. Use a 2 seconds delay time, also for avoiding unsharpness.

Good luck!

(If you have more questions: feel free to ask!)