“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain

Tag: travelblog

3 Years in Paradise – Bali

3 Years in Paradise – Bali

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.” ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

***Note: this post contains links to outside sources.*** 

This post was originally started in 2016, it was intended to showcase the island of Bali and the many aspects I found quite beautiful during my 3 months on the island to attend two yoga retreats, one in Canggu and the other in the mountains above Ubud. Since 2016 I have visited Bali 8 times with an average stay of at least 30 days per visit. Over the last three years, I have found that I have favorite places and not so favorite places. There are locations on the island that are still remote and you can find them with a little searching, I won’t put them in this article as I feel that these places should remain remote and free. The more “tourists” that visit these locations, the more chance that they will become spoiled by tourism and trashed by those who do not respect the environment. 

I hope that this article portrays a small portion of the love that I have for this region, the people, and the abundant wildlife I have found here that keeps bringing me back to the island year after year. 

In addition to the main island, I have visited the Gili island of Gili Air in Lombok on my last trip here for another week-long Yoga Retreat at Flowers and Fire Yoga. Gili Air is a step back in time, there are horse-drawn carriages along with bicycles for transportation (there are a few scooters, but they are not used often, mostly by locals), this is because Gili Air is very small and can be walked around in less than an hour. The travel mode to get to the island is by Fast Boat. You can book this through Flowers and Fire, or you can book your trip to the island from any tourist location on the main island of Bali. 

Be aware of rough seas during your transit on the fast boat, I don’t get seasick and it still made me sick. Ginger and Peppermint are your best friend when traveling on the island, smog, traffic, rough seas, etc will all impact your health if you aren’t careful and take the necessary precautions. Activated Charcoal is a wonder for “Bali Belly” as it absorbs all toxins in your system.

There is also Nusa Penida which is an island located to the south of the main island of Bali. Although I have yet to travel to the island, the photos from friends who have visited are truly amazing and even more remote than most of the places I have seen in Bali. Just recently I have also discovered the island of Sumba from a very special friend. When I looked at the islands IG feed, I was astonished that a place so wild exists so close to a major tourist destination. And although the costs of going to Sumba are very cheap, some of the hotels there are extremely expensive as they are rated #1 worldwide. Plan accordingly. However, from everything I have seen and read of the location, it is well worth the cost and time to go enjoy an island that still celebrates a tribal government. Plus, you would be helping bring money to the residents of the island who are in serious need of health care, clean water sources, and income.

As always, please be mindful of every action, word, and deed that you do when you travel. You represent your country, yourself, your family and the human race and how you treat those you meet ultimately reflects how the locals treat tourists. 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain

Now, on to the island and what I have found fascinating about the culture, island, and people of Bali.

The Island –

Bali is a truly stunning jewel in the largest island chain in the world, Indonesia. Nestled in between Java and Lombok, the island is very popular with tourists from all walks of life. With ticket prices to the island usually extremely cheap from anywhere within Southeast Asia and most West Coast US locations, a trip to Bali can be both affordable and enjoyable. 

Bali is a major tourist destination for a large number of countries in the region. The United States, Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, and Japan all make up the tourist trade that allows Bali to grow as a tourist destination. Bali is extremely popular for surfing, Yoga (and Yoga retreats!), Food (Ranging from full-on meat-eaters to health-conscious Vegans), Rock Climbing, Parasailing, Scuba diving, Freediving, White water rafting, volcano hikes, waterfalls and so much more!

Bali has both a rainy season and a dry season. Which one you come during depends upon what you wish to see and accomplish. The rainy season has everything from light rain to torrential monsoons; however, it also has the benefit of some pretty peaceful surf spots along the beaches. The dry season can be quite warm and humid, still with potential for some serious rain during the afternoon, you are on a tropical island after all. The dry season also has a side effect, some intense swells due to offshore winds. This causes surfing spots to be dangerous as well as causing snorkeling and scuba to be non-existent in some parts of the island. Whatever you want to come for, hiking, waterfalls, surf, etc. plan your time according to the weather, as you will find you will have more time to enjoy it. Be aware as well that if you come during October, you will experience some of the most intense solar days as the sun is approaching the equinox above the equator. This means that more sunscreen and less time in the sun are highly advised. 

I planned my trip to Bali almost a year in advance and decided to come to the island as the rainy season was ending and the dry season was beginning. This decision offered me the best mix of rain, sun, waves, and mountain hikes. I arrived on the island in April and planned to leave by the end of June. I planned the trip to coincide with my very first Yoga retreats. Coming to the island that first time allowed me to learn a few lessons on travel, visas, money, cost of living, locations to stay, etc. Over the next few years, I have learned a great deal in regards to the economy, culture, beliefs, and way of life here on the island. 

There is no way that I can convey everything in this post, and although I have a second post for the island on Family tourism, I cannot conceivably answer all questions in two blog posts. Please, as always, feel free to follow my journey on Facebook and Instagram and feel free to email me any questions regarding travel, Yoga, Nutrition, Vegan lifestyle, how I travel, etc. I would love to take those questions and put them into future posts for others to read. You never know, there may be a question that I answer for you that someone else was wondering about! 

Food –

The more populated tourist areas are a haven for Vegan restaurants along with many unique Vegetarian restaurants that have Vegan options. You should still look at the menu very carefully and determine if they truly serve Vegan/Vegetarian or if it is some other version of the same, although most of the time the menus denote exactly what is in the food.  The free version of Happy Cow can find almost every restaurant near you and give you up to date information on location, prices, and menu items, most of the time. As Happy Cow is dependent on data provided by Google, there are times when the restaurant’s information is outdated or incomplete. Be sure to check it before you go. 

You will find more locations where there is a higher rate of tourism, i.e. Ubud (Oo-bood), Uluwatu (Oo-loo-wat-too), Denpasar (Den-pass-ar), Canggu (Chan-Goo) and it’s beaches, and Semyniak (Sim-min-yak). Canggu, in particular, has a very high rate of both kinds of restaurants.  Do be careful where you eat though as some Warungs and food stalls still do not practice healthy preparation and safe food handling and you will get some form of “Bali belly”, which can lead to days of upset stomach, etc and there are still some restaurants I refuse to eat at because of their food preparation and staff. 

Do not drink the tap water, which also means do not rinse your toothbrush in the sink or rinse your mouth in the shower. And although most sites will tell you whether they utilize filtered water, there is still a chance of contamination. During my time on the island, there was an app released called Refill Bali. It is a local initiative to provide fresh drinking water so that tourists can refill a water bottle instead of purchasing disposable water bottles, which are the main source of the trash around the island along with plastic bags and straws. You can find the app here for Google Play and here for iPhone. Please bring your own water bottle and utilize these services. It is cheaper than purchasing a water bottle in any store. 

Please don’t use the single-use bottled waters on the islands. Since 2018 the restaurants and business of the island have begun a strong initiative to stop single-use plastics, plastic straws, plastic containers, etc. There are a plethora of locations that offer tourists free water refills for anyone carrying their own water containers.

Bali’s Pledge to end single-use plastics

The growing season for most of the island’s fruits and products occurs year-round, so you are always able to find fresh fruits and vegetables. Stay away from the produce in the grocery stores and try to get at least 2 miles outside of town to buy produce from the locals. They have figured out that the tourists will pay a higher rate for the produce and they up their prices in the town markets. Your other option is to take a local with you and have them purchase your fruits and vegetables for you while you are not around. This will also ensure you obtain a reasonable price. 

In addition to the local markets, Ubud and Canggu (near Echo Beach at Samadi) host organic markets at least once a week. These markets feature locally grown, usually organic, produce and artisan products such as cheeses, bread, jams, etc. I have a post on my Facebook Travel Page featuring a few of these local artists at Samadi. While you are there, would you mind liking and sharing the page? I would truly appreciate it! 

Below is a list of just some of my absolute favorite restaurants and locations to purchase foods based on price/food quality/location. Please know that this list is not all-inclusive, it is just a variety of some of my absolute favorite spots located around the island.

Name Location Quality Cost
The Shady Shack Canggu High $$
Bali Buda Various (Canggu, Ubud, Semnyiak) High $$
Nalu Bowls Various (Canggu, Semnyiak) High $
IamVeganBabe Canggu High $$
Vida Canggu High $$
Plant Cartel Canggu Mid to High $
Othree Beach Bar Echo Beach Mid to High $
La Baracca Canggu High $$
Gaya Gelato Various (Canggu, Ubud, Semnyiak) High $
Muzz Kitchen Organic Uluwatu High $$
Alchemy Ubud Mid to High $$
Seniman Coffee Studio Ubud High $$
Paradiso Ubud Mid to High $$
Café du Monyet Ubud High $$
Pachamama Organic Gili Air High $-$$

Lodging –

During my time on the island, I stayed everywhere from $1.50 US a night Hostels to $35 and up villas and suites. Some of these were quite beautiful and well worth the money spent. Others, well, you get what you pay for. Below is my list of the best places to stay ranked by price/staff/location; I hope it helps you in finding lodgings. I recommend booking through Agoda for Hostels and booking.com for hotels/homestays as they will often have the best pricing available and you will receive discounts for lodging through them each time you use them. You can also use Hostelworld, however, they often take a deposit that is not returned if you don’t complete your stay at the location. I had one hostel that was so awful, I had to leave halfway through the week and I didn’t receive a refund from Hostelworld, so just be careful and do your research on the location, their deposit, and cancellation policies and definitely read the reviews! 

Name Location Quality Price
Ecosfera Hotel Echo Beach Mid to High $$$
Repag Wayan Hostel Echo Beach Mid $-$$
Kecik Inn Echo Beach Mid to High $$
Bima Sitka Hostel Echo Beach Mid $
Abalihouse Outside Canggu High $$
Bali Bule Homestay Uluwatu High $$
Flowers and Fire Yoga Gili Air High $-$$
Bali Backpackers Inn and Hostel Ubud Mid $
Ubud Garden Villa Ubud Mid to High $$

Transportation –

Do not utilize the taxis at the airport, the guys that constantly look at you and say Taxi! They have a habit of overcharging you. You will be bombarded with people wanting to drive you once you step through the exit doors and these are just the companies that have permission to be in the airport. Recently the airport has pushed all drivers out of the main lobby of the airport to allow for a more welcoming experience to tourists. It is best to do some research about the place you intend to stay in. Bali has a driver organization that has set rates to travel to and from certain locations. It should cost no more than $250k IDR (Indonesian Rupiah), approximately $18 USD for a transfer from the airport to Canggu. There is no Uber on the island. Taksi (the local Taxi service) operates within the villages. Most Hotels, Inns, and Homestays have their own driver they prefer to use and it is a good idea to utilize them for transfers. There is a shuttle that goes from the airport to Ubud 2-3 times a day for only 60,000 IDR per person in a shuttle van.  A little research will help you with this.

Scooters –

Learn to ride one before you go to Bali, please! I cannot stress this enough, learn to ride a scooter, in traffic, around others, before you come to the island! I have seen numerous tourists hurt from non-familiarity with riding a scooter. And it is completely different in Bali. The traffic is horrendous in a lot of areas and a scooter is the only fast way to get around. Over 80% of the population drives a scooter and you will see everything from 10-year-olds to family of 6 riding on one scooter. Safety is paramount. You must have an International Drivers Permit in order to ride one and you MUST wear a helmet in the bigger cities and high tourist areas. Places like Uluwatu and Echo Beach, and Balian Beach you can get away without one. Some spots in Ubud you can as well, but the central area of Ubud around the Palace has a police stand set up and they will stop you and fine on the spot, most of the time. Sometimes they are polite and tell you to just put it on. But they will also ask for your permit and you will be fined if you do not have one. For Americans, you can purchase an International Drivers Permit (same day service) via your local AAA office. The fee is $20 US. For international drivers, you would go through your local equivalent of AAA to purchase yours. 

The same goes for driving a vehicle, carry your permit, home driver’s license, and passport on you at all times. And DON’T hit a local! You are responsible for all of their medical bills if you do!

With all of that said, a scooter is the cheapest, fastest, most fun way to get around Bali. I drove from Ubud to Balian Beach, Ubud to Denpasar, Ubud to Uluwatu, Ubud to Canggu, Canggu to Uluwatu, etc. and every time I was able to beat traffic and have an amazing drive. If you are sensitive to smoke and smog, they sell n95 masks in most stores that you can wear to filter out the pollution. A simple bandana or handkerchief will work as well, although I like my lungs and a bandanna will not filter out all of the garbage spewed into the atmosphere by the non-regulated vehicles on the island.

The Sites –

There are a number of beautiful places to visit that are free, or almost free, that provide you with a great deal of peace and relaxation. From waterfalls to palaces, temples to surfing, mountain climbing to scuba diving, Bali has it all. And you can do the majority of it from a centralized location or you can move to each location and spend a few days exploring. 

Surfing –

Ah, the allure of the board, the water, the sun, and the waves! Be careful if you are new to this sport, the waters around Bali are quite dangerous in some locations with strong rivers that run parallel to the shore and extremely strong riptides and currents, especially near estuaries where rivers dump into the ocean. In addition, be aware that Bali is a volcanic island with many offshore rocky areas near the beach as well as coral reefs on the Northside of the island and around the Gili Islands. 

With that said, there are a great many locations to not only surf but learn to surf from locals who will take you to the safest spots for learning this amazing and beautiful sport! For anyone that has never tried it, I highly recommend at least attempting to surf, once you do, you will never be the same. 

Some of the best spots for surfing are along the beaches near Canggu. These spots are known by both locals and returning surfers for beautiful breaks, clean surf conditions, and during certain parts of the day, breaks that last all day long. 

There are also amazing surf breaks on the southwest side of the island at Uluwatu. I sat there for hours one-afternoon watching swell after swell come in and break on the shoreline. The beaches here can be a little hard to access due to the rocky conditions and cliffs, and the ocean can be very powerful along the shore due to the currents that run around the Southern side of the island, so either utilizes a local guide or have the experience necessary to ride in these spots. 

Hiking –

All of the tourist guide spots in Bali offer hiking in their itineraries. Mount Batur Sunrise hikes, Mount Agung hikes, Waterfall tours, rice field tours, etc. In Ubud and the surrounding area, there are at least 6 different locations for hiking ranging from 10-minute hikes to over an hour. If you would like to know of a few of these locations, don’t hesitate to write to me. 

Yoga – 

Bali is a haven for Yoga! From new students coming to just practice at the studios to retreats all the way up to 300-hour, YTT courses offered year-round. Bali has multiple, beautiful spaces for practicing Yogi and Yogini (Man or Woman). I have included a small list of my absolute favorite spaces below along with their locations and websites.

Space Website Location Cost
The Practice www.thepracticebali.com Canggu $$
Flowers and Fire Yoga www.flowersandfire.yoga Gili Air $$
Radiantly Alive Yoga www.radiantlyalive.com Ubud $$

Scuba and Free Diving –

The Northside of Bali along the coast offers multiple locations for those interested in scuba, snorkeling, and Free Diving sports. In addition, there are multiple, world-class, schools that teach both Scuba and Snorkeling sports to tourists for extremely reasonable costs. One that I wish I had a chance to go through when I was in Gili is Freedive Flow. You can find out more about this school on their website, http://www.freediveflow.com. For anyone wanting to undertake either the free dive or scuba sports, I highly recommend you get a check out from a qualified doctor to ensure you do not have any inner ear problems or lung issues prior to booking these courses. 

Conclusion –

I try my best to make it to the island at least once a year. The atmosphere, the beaches, the ocean, the food, the people, the Yoga, it all draws me back year after year. And the local government is doing better at regulating traffic, tourism, waste disposal, water quality, food quality, etc. In addition, they are dedicating resources to prevent tourists from being taken advantage of monetarily. Building new and improved roads and infrastructures as well as bringing outside investors to build world-class hotels and restaurants. All of this is making an impact on the quality of life for the locals, but it is also making an impact on the environment of Bali. Being Mindful of every action that you take, picking up trash on the beaches, putting your own trash in the proper bins (they are marked for organic, recycle and burnable trash!) along with being mindful of your eating habits will greatly impact and help the environment and extremely delicate ecosystem that is the beautiful island of Bali. 

If you are ever on the island and wish to have some company to explore, and I am here, feel free to contact me! Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook or email can all be found on the home page, or simply utilize the contact form to send me an email. I promise I do respond to each one! 

For now, Safe Travels! 

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ~ Anais Nin

The Upcoming Journey

The Upcoming Journey

Workaway, Volunteering, and Photography ~

Onawalkabout, aka John Stebbins Photography, has quite a few destinations coming in the next few months. I invite you to follow along. I am accepting donations for an upcoming trip to Nepal beginning in September. Details found below.

Plans for John Stebbins Photography over the next few months:

Bali Blog Coming Soon ~

Current location – Bali, Indonesia Departing July 4th (short 3 day trip to Singapore June 1st) I am currently doing a workaway on the Southeast side of the island. If any one has ANY requests for photos they wish to buy from my time here, please let me know and I will get those specific ones processed and made available on my website for sale. You can purchase direct from me via Paypal and email transfer of digital prints. If you wish a larger print, I will post them in my store.

Malaysia, Thailand by train, and Laos ~

July 4th Departing Bali for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Train trip from KL to Laos over the next 6 to 10 days. I have been invited to work in Vang Vieng, Laos from July 10th through the end of August. The work will be Social media, photography, and videography work for a local eco-hotel. There will be a full post on both the journey from Malaysia by train as well as my stay at the hostel and one for the surrounding region. Which from what I have seen thus far is stunning.

Nepal ~

I have been invited to hike both Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base camp in October and November. I will be making photos available from there immediately after my trip.

This trip to Nepal is one of a lifetime. The Universe has placed this in my path and I am answering the call to go. I am currently looking at flights into the region along with the possibility of workaway’s there for the month of September.

There are still multiple schools and homes that need help rebuilding and I want to take the month prior to hiking to document the need of the region and lend a hand with the skills that I have in construction and medical care to those families and communities still suffering. If you wish to make a donation for me to apply to helping these communities I will make sure they get to where they are desperately still needed, please specify what the donation is for in a message when sent. You can click the PayPal button on the homepage to donate to any trip, charity, or to purchase any of the photography on my website: Webstore

I have had no opportunities to return to the United States to work presented to me at this point. I would love to return to see my family and my friends, but the cost of leaving the region and returning by October 2nd is not something I am capable of doing at this time. I am processing photos every moment that I can and I am making new content available. My photos are from a variety of locations in multiple countries and I invite you to take a look and purchase the ones you love. I still have a sale ongoing for Metallic prints in my store.

I AM accepting any and all donations for this upcoming trip to Nepal. If any of you are willing and able to donate to this trip, it will go to my expenses in the region. I have the gear I need. I am getting my cold weather gear shipped from Japan.

As for anyone that wishes to donate, please email me at johnstebbinsphotography@gmail.com and I will be happy to discuss ways that I can send you something back in return for the gift. you may also click the Paypal button on this sites home page.

As always, John Stebbins Photography’s chief goal is to inspire you, my followers and readers to go out into this world and find your path. To give to the communities and people around you that are in need. To find your peace in your life through travel.

My books are still in an ongoing process and I am still planning (read hoping) to release “Charlotte’s Adventures in Willow Grove” by the end of this year.

Once I leave Nepal I will be traveling to Japan from the middle of December until the middle of March of 2018 for work. This time I hope to have more free time to visit the backcountry of the Japanese Alps for both photography and videography of the region.

If you can assist my friends, that would be amazing. If you are unable to, I only ask that you share my message. I love you all and I will keep going and inspiring, every day I still have breath in my body.

 

Thinking of Brazil? Try Minas Gerais!

Thinking of Brazil? Try Minas Gerais!

Minas Gerais –

Nestled just west of the coast and the popular destinations of Sao Paulo and Rio de Jeniero you can find the beautiful, National Park filled, state of Minas Gerais. A short flight from Sao Paulo to the capital, Belo Horizonte, puts you near some of the most beautiful National Parks in the state. I recently wrote an article for Travelicious entitled Hiking Ibitipoca National Park: Brazil. Take a look for information on one of the most beautiful parks I have been to in quite some time.

 

[contentcards url=”http://travelicious.world/hiking-ibitipoca-national-park-brazil/” target=”_blank”]

Barbecena –

The mid-sized town of Barbecena has some beautiful churches, markets, train stations, and surrounding hillsides for photographers and travelers alike. While there I chose to use one of the local hotels as a base in order to keep my gear safe while taking day trips. If you have an International Drivers License, you can get one from any AAA office worldwide, you can rent a car and drive from there to any destination. There are two types of permits, one for South America and one for Europe/Asia. They are a must if you are driving in another country. If you are in an accident or caught driving without one you will be severely fined and or deported from the country. Day trips from Barbecena can include waterfalls, plantations, horseback riding, climbing, etc. There are two places I highly recommend, Ibitipoca listed above and Tiredentes.

Tiredentes –

Tiredentes is about 3 hours from Barbecena tucked into the mountains and is a jewel of Baroque architecture with multiple churches and hiking destinations. There are a great many shops, local artisans, villas, restaurants, and coffee shops within the town. Food and provisions are inexpensive and the local shopping has some beautiful merchandise made by the local artisans.

For the best cup of Chocolate coffee you have ever had I recommend stopping in to the quaint little cafe Cafeteria Oura Negro, tell them John and Ale send their love!

One of the most amazing things you can do in Tiredentes, among many that is, is ride the steam locomotive still in operation that transports multiple times a day to the neighboring city of São João Del Rei. The locomotive was a site to behold when I first arrived. It was the first time I had ever seen a Steam Locomotive up close.

For a gorgeous villa, try the Pousadium. Extremely comfortable rooms with breakfast in the morning of fruit and cakes. The Pousadium is well in the heart of Tiredentes near the center square and one of the churches yet it is very quiet and quite peaceful. They even have cloth hammocks on the front porch for you to use that are extremely comfortable! See Video below:

Conclusion –

You cannot go wrong hiking through the State of Minas Gerais in Brazil. There is so much beauty to be found there that you could live there for months and still not see it all. If your holiday is in Sao Paulo or Rio I highly recommend buying a cheap flight from either Avianca or Azul to Belo Horizonte and rent a car and just go! If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them! Stay tuned for my next Brazil post on Florianopolis!

​Southern Iceland in 4 days

​Southern Iceland in 4 days

The Country –

For my very first International trip I chose Iceland. A land I had dreamt of visiting for many years. Iceland is one of the very few countries I would consider moving to permenantly. The people are beautiful and the country itself, is beyond gorgeous. Truly a land of fire and ice with a raw, powerful energy. The countryside is dotted with geothermal vents and hot spring pools as well as warm water rivers that you can swim in during the winter. Mountain ranges inundated with some,of the largest Glaciers in Europe are scattered across the island as well. In addition, the North American and Eurasion fault line runs through the Island and you can swim above it some of the most crystal clear water in the world at Silfra in Icelands only National Park, Thingvellir. Portions of the Icelandic coastline have some of the most beautiful left and right hand surf spots, in the world. Hiking, waterfalls, art, history, beautiful parks, culture, and food; this country has everything, you could want and a whole lot more.

The island is dotted with green countryside and misty mountains due to the abundance of geothermal energy. Nikon D90.

Arriving –

Flying to Iceland can be very cheap and there are two airlines that offer discounted prices capable of making your stay in Iceland as inexpensive as possible. You can fly out of New York or Boston easily on both Wow Air and IcelandAir. Be sure to weigh your luggage prior to heading to the airport as you are only allowed a specific amount on the flight for both carry on and checked baggage. The carry on weight is a maximum of 11kg for Wow Air. I had to reconfigure my bags twice to avoid additional fees because the first checked bag and carry on are free.

There are no prior Visas or e-visas required as you will receive a tourist stamp  upon arrival at Keflavik. Most of the flights arrive on the island very early in the morning and you need to stay in the airport until around 7 am before you can book a shuttle into Reykjavik. There is Wi-Fi in the airport and on most of the major shuttles. As there is absolutely no sleeping allowed in the airport, be sure to catch some sleep on the flight.

Transport –

The shuttle takes approximately an hour to reach the main bus terminal in Reykjavik where you can then transfer to a bus line headed down the Southern coast. The shuttle will also drop you directly at your hotel if you have one in Reykjavik. From there you could rent a car or hire a driver to tour the Southern coast or you could book a tour group that will take you to different  sites along the Southern portion of the Golden Circle. 

The buses in Iceland are not cheap and you do have multiple options for travel while you are on the island. Do not rent a car at the airport, they are very expensive and absolutely require a prior reservation. As stated, you could hire a car from your hotel, utilize the extremely efficient but expensive bus system, hitchhike (Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world to hitchhike and you will not be waiting long for a ride!), rent a motorcycle, or hire a personal guide with a 4×4 vehicle. Driving in Iceland requires you to have an International Drivers Permit which you can obtain before leaving the States from any AAA office for only $25. Also, be absolutely sure that you learn the road signs, know how to read the speed signs in kilometers and which side of the road to drive on. There are multiple apps available to help you discover all of these things. 

The Southern Coast –

Stretching from Reykjavik along the Southern section of the island and making a complete circuit is the Golden Circle. The entire route can be completed in 4 days but you will miss a great deal of beautiful sites. In, order to maximize your time I would recommend traveling from Reykjavik around to either Vik or just north of there and spend some time hiking the many trails along the route.  Along the route are multiple  small towns, each with activities to do and sights to see. I recommend planning ahead of time what you would like to see and experience so that you can avoid back tracking. Some of the highlights from my trip where Selfoss, and Vestmanyjer island but you can easily make it all the way to Vik and see the Jökulsárlón icefields near Vatnajökull National Park.

Remains of an offshore volcano as seen from the ferry crossing from Landeyjahöfn to Vestmannaeyjar Island. Nikon D90.

The travel time between Selfoss and Vik is approximately an hour and half with your own vehicle and you can easily see both in a day. The coastline near Selfoss extending up to Vik has some of the most beautiful black sand beaches and basalt rock formations. In addition there are multiple waterfalls, nature preserves, rivers (the Olfus in Selfoss is very beautiful but extremely powerful as it is fed by glacier runoff), and historic buildings to experience. One of the highlights of my trip was a ferry ride from the mainland out to Vestmannaeyjar island which is a town rebuilt inside the remnants of a dormant volcano. The coastline and islands coming into the island are stunning and there are multiple hikes on the island.

View of Selfoss Iceland at night with a full moon. Long exposure with Nikon D90 as seen from Ingólfsfjall Mountain.

Accommodations-

There are multiple options for accommodations on the island ranging from 5 star hotels to camping. Each town has a range of hostels to choose from and you can find them through apps such as Hostelworld and Agoda. Iceland is one of the best countries in thw world to camp in as over 90% of the country allows free camping. The only places you are not allowed to pitch for free are inside city limits, on privately owned land, and in the National Parks. Any where else you can stop for the night and camp. Just know the rules of open fires and do not litter. Leave the Earth as pristine as you found it and pack out everything.

My suggestion; map out some of the waterfalls and hot springs and spend a night relaxing at one of them along your route. You will not be disappointed. If you choose to stay in any of the hostels, join the International Hostel Association as you will receive a discount on your stay for being a member. You can purchase the membership at any hostel in Iceland or online prior to going.

Cost –

Iceland has an amazing exchange rate for currency but they make up for that rate by charging more for everything you buy. The main currency is the Icelandic Kron and the current conversion rate according to Xe is $1 USD for $110 Krona (check this in Xe) cost is comparable to Hawai’i and traveling through Japan for food. Even the camping spots are slightly expensive. So if you are on a tight or limited budget, your options are packing your own food like I did in your checked baggage for the 4 days or purchasing food on arrival at one of the smaller towns or in Reykjavik. If you choose to eat out you will take a large hit on your budget as the restaurants are quite expensive, even more so if you decide to drink.

Conclusion –

Iceland is the trip of a lifetime and although you can see a small portion of it in 4 days like I did, you will want to visit again, and again, in order to experience everything the Island has to offer. There is so much history and nature here you could easily spend 2 months exploring and not see everything. I travelled during late September at the end of the tourist season. This option provides you with cheaper rates and more choices. And, the Northern Lights are quite active at that time of year with few road closures due to snow in the later months. Enjoy your trip and if you want to go and have any questions I would be happy to answer them. Just find me on Facebook. Enjoy your Journey!

Black sand beaches near Landeyjahöfn ferry landing looking out on Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland.