If you are traveling to Iceland, you are more than likely planning a trip along the Ring Road – a road that circles the island country. Even if you aren’t traveling the entire Ring Road, you can experience several of Iceland’s scenic views by just driving the Southern portion from Reykjavik to Vik.
On this journey, you will see multiple cascading waterfalls, a hidden waterfall,
mountains, basalt columns and a black sand beach.
Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi
Less than 2 hours from Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik, you can find not one but two beautiful waterfalls – each with it’s own unique feature. Seljalandsfoss is a massive waterfall that you can actually walk behind. This is the perfect time to wear your waterproof gear. There’s a great photo opportunity (and chance to be sprayed by the water) in front of the falls. It is truly a glory to behold.
My advice is to slow down here and really take a chance to soak in the beauty of Seljalandsfoss. But before you leave, be sure to walk up the path nearby for your opportunity to find Gljúfrabúi, a hidden waterfall.
A short distance up a creek and into a cavern, you can find Gljúfrabúi, a hidden waterfall. If you are stopping at Seljalandsfoss, make the most of your visit and find Gljúfrabúi as well.
Approximately half an hour from Seljalandsfoss is Skógafoss. Skógafoss was my favorite place to visit during our Iceland vacation. The waterfall’s spray created a full rainbow (we literally saw one or multiple rainbows almost every day) when we visited – which is actually very common. It is one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls, towering 200 ft.
For you Game of Thrones fans, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow fly here on her dragons and kiss in front of this waterfall in the final season.
While eating at the restaurant nearby Skógafoss, I had the perfect view panning left to right in front of me – a mountain, the roaring falls, a rainbow and a farmer and his dog herding sheep. It was a place where I could easily feel present in the moment.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Another half hour up the road, you will be at Reynisfjara black sand beach near Vik. This was my second favorite spot in Iceland.
Basalt columns line the beach as enormous waves crash onto the shore. This is definitely a place you need to respect nature and admire the waves from a distance. Sneaker waves travel across the Atlantic Ocean for hundreds of miles without any land to break them up and they come rolling far inshore. Still, if you can respect the power of Mother Nature here, it is an absolutely beautiful landscape to witness.
The Ring Road is full of amazing sites and hidden gems. If you want to see some of the Ring Road but still stay close to Reykjavik, make sure you check out these spots.
Have you ever been to Iceland? If so, what was your favorite place to visit?
Our short stay in Zurich in 2017 was comprised of good eats, several walks (particularly to the grocery store to get some AC) and people watching. This bustling city was different from our stay in the quaint Lucerne, but it had a youthful vibe, which made me reminisce of college years spent getting late night snacks and chit-chatting with friends not so long ago.
If you saw my Instagram feed before our Swiss trip, it would make you salivate. I followed both the Taste of Zurich and Zurich Food Guide in preparation for our trip (Instagram is my local food guide) and I would scroll through posts of hearty sandwiches, scoops of colorful gelato melting in waffle cones, and bowls filled with a rainbow of veggies and noodles. It was AWESOME. While we only visited one spot of the many well-reviewed restaurants, it was one you don’t want to miss.
Kafi Dihei was less than a mile from our AirBnB, so we decided to make the stroll. Ivy streamed down the front of the cafe and we were excited to see the neighbor cat, Sira, chatting up nearby birds. When we sat down, Sira instantly came to greet us and tell us what was best on the menu. As the waitress joked, “If it tells you it hasn’t eaten in a week, it’s lying.” Sira recommended the pork schnitzel, so I got the dang pork schnitzel. It was the right choice. Seth got the open-face ham and cheese sandwich with the soup of the day. We devoured our food, leaving nary a crumb, as we listened to some college students studying French and kept Sira purring. I have a feeling if we were locals, this would be a go-to spot.
There were several sites to see in Zurich, but we were pretty worn out! We wanted to save our strength for our journey to Liechtenstein – the sixth smallest country in the world!
This day-trip from Zurich is well worth it! It is just an hour train ride to Sargans, Switzerland, and a 10-30 minute ride (depending on which line you take) on one of Liechtenstein’s lime green buses. The best part – it’s all free with the Swiss Travel Pass! As you ride the bus, you don’t even know when you’ve gone from one country and entered the next.
Liechtenstein’s population is nearly 38,000 (about the size of Tupelo, Mississippi) and it’s capital, Vaduz, has about 5,500 folks (that’s about 1,500 less than the small town where I grew up).
Prince Hans-Adam II is the country’s leader, and you can actually walk to his castle! We were dripping with sweat as we made the walk up the steep, cobblestone path and then trekked through the wooded trail, but we were smiling at the top! You get to learn about the history of the country every few steps. Moments like these are worth the climb.
We ate at Brasserie Burg (delicious) and I had my first ever gelato at Dolce Vita! Dark chocolate gelato with golden flakes. Since Liechtenstein gets a lot of visitors from both Switzerland and Austria (the countries bordering it), lots of stores accept both Swiss francs and Euros. Dolce Vita was about the only spot that didn’t accept credit cards, which we found out AFTER the guy behind the counter scooped our gelato into cups. So, Seth had to go find a bank and get some Swiss francs while I waited, trying not to look awk.
We spent a lot of our time checking out the local art in the city streets, meandering through a museum (also free with the Swiss Travel Pass) and being in awe of the staggering mountains.
The city of Lucerne takes you back in time with remnants of centuries past lurking around every corner. But before we dive into the city’s history, I want to tell you about one of my favorite experiences – a day trip to Mt. Pilatus.
In medieval times, tales of scaled and winged beasts spread through the cantons on which Mt. Pilatus is centered. Legend has it, the dragons who took refuge in the great mountain massif’s caves possessed mystical healing powers. Should you happen to be about when one soars by, count yourself lucky if you find yourself feeling healed.
Taking a trip to the summit of Mt. Pilatus is well worth the experience! It was one of my favorite days of the trip. You can either take the full tour (free with your Swiss Rail Pass) by taking a boat ride across the sparkling blue-green waters of Lake Lucerene, creeping to the summit on the world’s steepest cogwheel train and then going down the mountain on aerial cable car and a gondola OR you can take the whole trip the other way around. A local gave us the tip of taking the route less traveled – a trip up the gondolas and cable car first. After seeing the line of people waiting to go up the cogwheel train, we knew we made the right choice.
On our trip on the gondola, Seth and I were amazed at the views of Mt. Rigi and the towns linked to Lake Lucerne. We went through a few stops up the mountain and thought we were almost to the top. Then, our faces widened in surprise when we realized we still had a loooonnnggg way to go. The trip to the tip-top is accomplished by an aerial cable car, where you are sardined for a short ride. Take a chance and look down! It’s shocking to see how far you’ve come!
We walked a couple of the trails around the summit, spotting paragliders in the skies and taking in the jaw-dropping views of the Swiss Alps laid out on the horizon.
I then had the bright idea to hike to some rocks I spotted in a valley. Yes, in blue jeans and a cute shirt, with my purse and phone in hand and barely a grip on the soles of my shoes, I hiked down that trail at a snail’s pace, watching as folks going up took their strides in hiking boots and with hiking sticks steadying their climb. It might have been one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done – hiking down Mt. Pilatus alone – but I would do it again for the chance to spot blooming wildflowers, make friends with cows meandering the mountainside, take in views from the valley and earn the bragging rights to say I hiked in the Alps.
Going back up the trail was a feat as the thin air got to my lungs and my breaths just didn’t feel quite satisfying. Needless to say, I stopped several times along the path but eventually made it back to the top. Where I’m from, it’s really flat, y’all.
Lucerne’s Old Town
Exploring Lucerne’s Old Town only takes a few hours and is easily accomplished with a handy “Official City Guide” book. I assume you can pick these up at the train station. Luckily, our AirBnB hosts already had one available.
The Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and spans the Reusse River. While walking along it, follow the stories painted on the bridge’s interior. These paintings date back to the 17th century, though many of them were destroyed in a fire in 1993. The bridge is lined with flower boxes, which were full of summer blooms when we visited.
The Jesuit Church sits along the Reuss River in Lucerne’s Old Town. It’s picturesque on the outside and the inside (be sure to look up!). It was founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1534.
The “Dying Lion of Lucerne” is a reverent spot where you might want to sit and stay a while. It represents the 300 Swiss soldiers who died while attempting to protect the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the French Revolution, hence the fleur-de-lis and the Swiss cross shields by the lion’s side.
The Musegg Wall stands as part of the rampart walls built in the 1300s. Four of the nine towers that dot the wall are open to the public. The Zyt Tower (pictured above) houses the city’s oldest clock. The clock is carried by two giants and chimes on the hour one minute before any other in Lucerne.
The Spreuer Bridge is the oldest timber bridge in Switzerland. As you walk along it, the paintings overhead depict a Dance Macabre.
We strolled the streets of Interlaken (locked between the blue-green waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz) in search of the Funky Chocolate Club, which had enticed my eye through several Instagram posts. The mountain views in Interlaken were outstanding, but the bustling city center made us glad we chose Lucerne for the majority of our stay in Switzerland. Though if you are looking for outdoor adventure, Interlaken is the place you want to be. On our hunt for Swiss chocolate, we walked by a park where several paragliders were landing after a trip in the skies.
The Funky Chocolate Club, I feel like, is a must! I got their cold chocolate drink and picked up a half dozen variety of chocolates (golden champagne chocolate, mocha, nutty nipple, salted peanut butter, lemon and caramel) to eat on the train ride home.
Have you ever wanted to live in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elven realm in The Lord of the Rings? Visit Lauterbrunnen and you’ve found Rivendell. It’s said that Tolkien drew his inspiration for Rivendell while hiking through the Lauterbrunnen Valley back in the early 1900s.
Honestly, step away from the train station in Lauterbrunnen and you are stunned by the mountains towering above you (which have even bigger, snow-capped mountains looming behind them) and waterfalls cascading close-by quaint cottages.
We ate lunch at Hotel Oberland in Lauterbrunnen as we tried to find a place to cool off from the summer sun. You won’t find AC in many European spots, and it was just as hot walking the streets as it was sitting indoors. While the prices were steep at this restaurant (as they are in most of Switzerland), the Swiss fondue was good! This picture was taken right before a bee rolled all up in Seth’s spaghetti. We felt defeated trying to get away from the heat and couldn’t help but laugh as Seth tried to free the bee from the spaghetti monster entree.
We were hooked by Lauterbrunnen’s charm and spent a couple of hours exploring this beautiful town, trying to keep the memory of it forever in our minds.