About Megan McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough runs Bohemian Trails, an online travel magazine focusing on global art, culture and off-the-beaten path destinations. A wanderer by nature with a love of all things fashion, music and street art, Megan encourages readers to ditch their rigid guidebooks and discover a city by purposely getting lost. Her personal travels have taken her through Europe, South America, Mexico and Egypt.
Megan is also a freelance writer and social media specialist based in New York City. She contributes to various online and print publications in the travel and fashion industries and is an international correspondent for both Jetsetter and Northstar Travel Media.
Latest Posts by Megan McDonough
Before visiting for myself and discovering otherwise, I assumed that summer was the best time to experience Croatian culture. Images of larger-than-life yachts and drunk twenty-somethings danced in my head but that was as far as my imagination wandered.
Our trip was specifically tailored toward budget, off-season travel so I was somewhat surprised when some of the regional reps said things like “why are you visiting now?” and “oh, you should come back in summer.” Looking back on it now, it makes total sense. As a local, you want tourists to remember your city in its best light because you are genuinely proud of your hometown. The above photo was taken in Kastav.
Tangent aside, Croatia in October proved to be both budget friendly and cultural. There were rarely any crowds and I was able to actually envision what it must feel like to live in one of these small, charming little towns. Here’s a coastal guide to Croatia based on the specific towns so just be aware that this is only a sampling of what you will find along the Croatian coast.
Opatija: for traditional and modern influences
This stunning coastal town was my first introduction to Croatia beyond Zagreb. I spent two night in Opatija and and I wouldn’t have minded staying longer. Sure, most of the major sights are doable in a few hours but what I appreciated most about this town was the creative mediums for art. For example, in the park just outside of Villa ”Angiolina,” there the wall of the Open Air Theatre is covered in murals depicting some of Opatija’s most famous visitors including Albert Einstein, Robert De Niro and Louis Lumiere. If you’re interested in checking out the local food scene, shop for locally-sourced ingredients at Opatija’s Market Hall or satisfy your sweet tooth with treats from Cafe Wagner and take in the ocean-front view.
Kastav: for medieval buildings and avant-garde art
Mid-way through a guided tour of Kastav, something caught my eye. I had unknowingly stumbled upon Željan Pavić’s humble gallery fascinated by his shadow paintings and use of untraditional materials like leftover scraps of coffee bags. I found it strange that here, in one of Croatia’s most medieval towns, there was a man selling avant-garde art. Besides his obvious talent, I felt Željan’s positive energy and his insistence that we touch his paintings, made his work more tangible. After this, I walked through the old town slipping into museums and other galleries along the way before enjoying lunch in an outdoor garden. Kastav is three miles from Opatija and six from Rijeka but each feels a world apart.
Rijeka: for contrasting architecture and urban fashion
This was the third stop on our coastal tour and I immediately felt a sense of familiarity. I had never been here before but it was the closest thing to a “real” city that I had seen since leaving Zagreb. I soon learned that a lot of architecture students study here because Rijeka is known for showcasing contrasting styles of architecture. The Roman Gate is hard to miss and it’s Rijeka’s oldest architectural monument. City Tower is another must-see building, as it survived the earthquake of 1750. The city has a very downtown feel, with hipsters fashionably dressed in leggings, leather jackets, boots and shielded from the sun with trendy sunglasses. I expected Zagreb to be the main fashion hub but Rijeka takes the crown on this one.
Pag: for cheese and old-world charm
My first few hours in Pag were spent indoors, as there was literally a monsoon outside. Our guide said this was probably the worst storm the city had seen in a decade. However, when the storm finally calmed, I eagerly explored my new surroundings. Pag is a city on the island of the same name and is perhaps best known for the delicious cheese produced here. Like a few of the other towns on this list, Pag is a little tricky to reach unless you drive so just keep that in mind when planning your trip. In the summer this place is buzzing with tourists but on this particular autumn afternoon, there was hardly a person in sight. After walking across the bridge for a view of the docked boats, I spotted these adorable little locals.
Zadar: for innovation and nature
Zadar is a curious city and I mean that in the best possible way. I arrived on a rainy evening and left two days later to sunny skies and a whole lot of creative energy brimming within me. Home to the innovative Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun solar panel light show, Zadar embraces the future of technology without losing any of its historic appeal. I recommend a simple walking tour, which you can easily do yourself because the city is very manageable. Don’t leave without strolling through Gundulićeva and Frankopanska Streets or Flower Market and make sure to watch the famous sunset followed by the Greeting to the Sun.
Split: for history and lifestyle
Next to Zagreb, Split is the second largest city in Croatia and one of the most ancient. Despite a less than impressive tour guide, I managed to see the beauty of Split before I “split” myself (couldn’t resist that pun). There are two main parts of central Split: inside and outside the palace walls. Venturing within the palace takes you back in time to the days when Diocletian, the go-getter who climbed his way up the social ladder from slave to ruler, was Roman Emperor. In 305 AD, he became the only emperor to voluntarily abdicate his role, which was pretty revolutionary at the time. There’s an entrance fee to go into Diocletian Palace but it’s free to walk through the maze of narrow streets lined with shops and restaurants.
What is your favorite coastal destination?
This trip was hosted by the Croatian Tourism Board. All opinions are my own.
My first trip to Tokyo lasted less than 72 hours so I really didn’t have too much time to explore every neighborhood or visit every historical monument. I did, however, spend a few hours at the famous Tsukiji fish market and wow – what an day! We arrived there around 8am, which sounds early but by the market’s standards, we were right on time.
Considered the world’s largest wholesale fish and seafood market, this is a huge tourist destination. It also provides a glimpse into local life here, as many Tokyo residents pick up their food here. The busiest hours are between 5:30-8am, which leaves the rest of the day to explore other neighborhoods in Tokyo. Here are a few tips to make your fish market experience as memorable as mine.
Define your purpose
Fish market vendors sells everything from fresh vegetables to chopsticks so it’s a good idea to have a plan before heading into the madness. Stick to the outer market it you’re mainly looking for fresh produce, food samples or housewares and head inside for fish. If you don’t have a specific reason for being at the market that’s perfectly fine too. Just note that it gets very crowded and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of locals and tourists that keep this place buzzing all day long. The early bird definitely gets the worm, or the fish in this case, so plan your outing for first thing in the morning for the best selection of seafood.
What to Expect
This is a fish market, so naturally, there are lots of fish here and they come in all shapes and sizes. The market is almost always crowded with both shoppers and sellers so keep an eye out so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on traffic. In the inner market, it gets even more crowded because workers are transporting themselves via Turret trucks. They aisles between the rows of vendors is also very tight so expect to get up close and personal with the fish. Even as a seasoned New Yorker, there were moments when I found it difficult to get out of the way.
What to See
There are a few distinct areas of the market and each offers something different. As I mentioned earlier, the outdoor market mainly sells fruit, vegetables and decorative items for the home while the inner market is where the newly caught fish are being sliced and packaged for sale. The third main area is where you can actually eat. There are several small restaurants all stacked next to each other and the lines for these joints is often long. I started in the outside market for about an hour and then ventured into the inner Seafood Wholesale area. I finished my tour by peering into some of the restaurants. If you’re unsure of what to see, stop by the information center for a map.
What Not to Do
There are a rules that you should follow, although I’m not sure how strictly they are enforced. Customers are technically not allowed to enter the Seafood Wholesale (inner market) area until 9am but a few members of our group went there around 8am and they didn’t have any problems. You are also not allowed to touch anything so as tempting as it is, refrain from laying your fingers on anything. This probably goes without saying but I do not recommend wearing anything expensive, as there puddles and dripping water will almost certainly drop on your clothes. This goes without saying but do not enter the off limit areas and leave your pets at home.
Unless your hotel is nearby, the best way to reach the market is via the subway. If traveling from Tokyo Station, take the Marunouchi Subway Line from Tokyo and get off at Ginza. Then transfer to the Hibiya Subway Line unfit you reach Tsukiji Station. You can also reach the market from Shinjuku Station by taking the Oedo Subway Line to Tsukiji Shijo Station. The tuna market is open to the public but only 120 visitors are allowed per day. This takes place daily from 5:25-6:15am. The outer market typically opens as early as 5am and closes around 2pm. Entrance to all parts of the market is free of charge. The market is closed on Sundays on holidays.
What was the coolest market you’ve ever shopped at? Tell me in the comments below!
This trip was hosted by the Tokyo government. All opinions are my own.
I absolutely loved Zadar. I also have a feeling that if I hadn’t done any research before heading to Croatia, I might have skipped this city altogether.
Before visiting the country, there were always two images that came to mind when thinking of Croatia: yachts and beaches. Granted, I’m probably not alone in those perceptions, as Croatia is a huge coastal destination. Yet, as I soon discovered, there is way more to this country than meets the eye. Zadar is home to the inventive Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun.
When I first learned about the Sea Organ, I was thinking of a large organ like the ones I have seen in churches. When I didn’t see anything at all, I assumed there was some musician playing nearby, like the ones you hear at tourist attractions like the Sacré-Cœur in Paris. I was beyond impressed when I finally understood what actually creating those random but harmonious sounds.
The organ is just under the surface of the water and as the waves hits the different chimes, music plays out of the circular holes you see on the large marble steps above. Architect Nikola Bašić is the genius behind this operation and the project became open to the public on April 15, 2005. During the summer months the ocean is much calmer so you can’t always hear the chimes but during our October visit we heard music playing in nearly every part of the city. I’m sure that’s no fun for the residents living close by, but for me this was literally music to my ears.
I won’t be coy here. I ate a lot on my trip to Croatia and some of my favorite dishes were consumed in Zadar. The plate below is fish (cod I believe) wrapped in bacon and it came with a side of fresh vegetables. I also sampled some of the gnocchi and my drink of choice was their local cherry juice.
This may be obvious to many, but I was surprised that a lot of Croatian cuisine is similar to what one finds in Italy. On many of the menus, there were large selections of pizza and pasta and that made me very happy. Of course, as soon as I remembered how geographically close Croatia is to Italy not to mention the fact that Venice once controlled Opatika and Rijeka, it all made sense. I also noticed a few influences from Hungary and Austria but Croatian chefs are masters at putting a unique spin on even the most classic dishes, at least from my experience.
Initially, I planned on doing a street style fashion post from Zagreb but after two days of almost non-stop rain, I didn’t have much material to work with. What I didn’t expect was to spot so many fashionable trendsetters in Zadar but indeed I did. Zadar isn’t a huge city by any means and yet, there were so many different styles represented. From laid-back to classic-chic, every local that I photographed sported a different look, ones I can only guess showcased each of their personalities. Naturally, I found most of these women in the main shopping areas: Gundulićeva and Frankopanska Streets, Flower Market and apparently the L’OCCITANE store.
If I learned one thing about Zadar it’s that it is a city of contrasts. Ancient churches and cobblestone streets contrast the innovation of the Sea Organ and avant-garde fashion. The picture shown below is of St. Mary’s Church, one of Zadar’s most iconic landmarks, located near the Roman Forum and opposite St. Donatus’ Church in the old city. Depending on which way you’re facing the church, to one side you have the ocean with the clever Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun and to the other you have an intricate grid of connecting streets featuring countless stores ranging from designer accessories and handcrafted souvenirs to traditional restaurants and cozy ice-cream shops and cafes.
Speaking of churches, one of the coolest ones we saw was the St. Donatus’ Church I mentioned above. The circular shape of this church instantly makes it different by default. It dates back to the 9th century and in the 15th century its name changed from Church of the Holy Trinity to what it’s called today. Currently the largest example of Pre-romanesque buildings in all of Croatia, the shape is common to the ones you’d see during the Byzantine age in Dalmatia. As historic as this church is and as detailed as the interior carvings, we learned that couples can and often do perform their marriage ceremonies here, thus bridging the gap between old and new.
Zadar is famous for its sunset partly due to Alfred Hitchcock. In 1964 he wrote, “Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, Florida, applauded at every evening.” I’d have to agree with Hitchcock on this one because even though our group didn’t actually make it back to the seafront to watch the sunset, this was our view from about twenty minutes away. I’ve never considered myself picky when it comes to sunrises or sunsets but I have a feeling I will be going forward, thanks to this lovely view. Even though the five of us were all staring into the sky together, I felt a calming loneliness come over me, almost as if I had this moment all to myself.
Greeting to the Sun
Coming full circle, the Sea Organ is located mere steps away from what is known as the “Greeting to the Sun.” This is another icon of Zadar but one only a few years old. Similar to the Sea Organ, Nikola Bašić designed this architectural feat that is 77 feet in diameter and contains three hundred multilayer glass plates within the stone circle. During the day the solar panels absorb energy from the sun and by night, the energy consumed powers both the light display and part of Zadar’s waterfront. The lights change color and positioning so it sort of looks like the colors are performing a dance.
I found the lights to be very bright but apparently the intensity was average. The day we visited Zadar wasn’t terribly sunny and that affected how luminous the lights appear. I honestly can’t imagine this light show being any more thrilling but I guess it is if you come on a really sunny day. If you’re in town, I recommend heading to the port of Zadar to watch the sunset and then, stick around for the amazing light show that ensues.
This trip was hosted by the Croatian Tourism Board. All opinions are my own. Top photo credit: croatia. hr.
I only spent a few days in Zagreb and managed to see an absurd amount of innovative street art before leaving. Our group was a bit unlucky with weather during our time in Zagreb but when the sun did shine, it was simply glorious. On my last night in town and during the last remaining hour of sunlight, I wandered toward the train tracks to spot graffiti.
There is a long public wall along Branimirova Street, which dates back to 1987, where local artists showcase their latest street art masterpiece. To go a bit deeper into its history, the art I saw is actually the result of a competition in six of Croatia’s most respected artists chose 83 pieces to be replicated on the wall. This was the first project that the Street Art Museum (MUU) organized and one of its most successful. The cool thing about MUU is that there is no physical address. All of the “galleries” are located throughout the city much like the one I found.
My only problem with this gallery’s location is that there is a really thin sidewalk so there is not much separating you from the cars whipping by during rush hour. Then again, maybe I could have chosen a better time to visit. It was pretty cool to walk so close to the wall because there is so much detail in some of the work that you probably wouldn’t have noticed from across the street. It was really hard to narrow down my favorites but here are ten that sparked my interest the most.
Flames of Color -The bright pink, yellow and blue colors used in this piece really lifted my mood and I almost forgot that it was still drizzling outside.
The Big 23 – I really liked this one mainly because 23 was a very tough yet rewarding year for me, as I’m sure it is for most 20-somethings.
Young and in Love - This was one of the more simple pieces in some ways but it struck a chord with me. Love is something we all understand.
Channeling Lisa Frank – This is my childhood in one photograph. Seriously though, this reminds me of Lisa Frank and the Skittles commercials.
Flower power – Having just visited Maui a few weeks ago, I felt like I was back on the island doing the hula, or at least my best imitation.
Windows to the Soul – The eyes are one of the most expressive parts of the body yet I wasn’t sure whether the person staring back was happy or sad.
MTV Throwback – Remember when MTV blurred out the “naughty” parts of music videos? This is what immediately came to mind for me.
A Taste of Home – Clearly this is not NYC but it made me laugh because if it was, I wouldn’t be surprised. Weird things happen daily that I’ve simply stopped noticing.
SpongeBob but not – This yellow guy and his friends reminded me of the SpongeBob SquarePants series and I wonder if the artist had this in mind too.
Circles and Triangles – Nothing too crazy going on here but I like the colors and the geometric shapes. I think this would be a cool wall design for an urban apartment.
This trip was hosted by Croatian Tourism Board. All opinions are my own.
This week I’m taking on Melbourne and it was hard to narrow my list to just five but here it goes.
1) Wander down Hosier Lane
A huge reason why Melbourne has intrigued me for years is because of the vibrant street art scene. Living in New York does give me plenty of opportunities to marvel at graffiti but I imagine Hosier Lane to be much more colorful. I’d probably shoot to arrive early in the morning because I’m not a huge fan of crowds. Similar to how I behave in a museum, I appreciate art much more when I’m alone or surrounded by just a few people rather than a large crowd.
2) Explore the city by bike
Melbourne is a big city but I’m finding that I’m enjoying bike tours more and more. I might sign up for an actual tour if I found one that covered street art or underground coffee shops but otherwise I’d just rent one for the day. At Melbourne Bike you can actually buy a helmet from a vending machine for $5. After exploring a few different neighborhoods like Fitzroy and Carlton, I’d also browse through some of the city’s outdoor art galleries and graffiti.
3) Catch a show at The Espy
Having worked in the music industry my first two years out of college, I’m still a sucker for a talented indie band. Part of my job at the record label was updating each band’s website with their concert schedule and The Espy was one of the venues I remember. The Espy actually stands for The Esplanade Hotel and it’s Australia’s premier venue for hearing live music. Big timers like Paul Kelley and Dallas Crane have performed here as well as a slew of other up-and-comers.
4) Sample Organic and Locally-Sourced Food
So I’ve very recently switched to an all-organic diet and while it’s only been three days and counting, I’m already feeling the difference in my energy levels and moods. Of course, this could all be a placebo effect but I’m going to go with the former. Anyway, Melbourne has a thriving culinary scene there are plenty of opportunities to shop for your own food. I’d probably shop at The Queen Victoria Market or just head straight to Dench Bakers or Babka in Fitzroy for artisanal sweets.
5) Hit the Beach
Melbourne seems like it would be the perfect winter escape because the seasons there are completely flipped. I’d love to stroll along St Kilda, a picturesque suburb of Melbourne, and spend the day listening to some live music or bumming about Luna Park. Sunday would be ideal because that’s when the Esplanade Arts and Craft Market takes place. After taking a surfing class in Maui, I’m ready to hit the waves once more in Melbourne.
Photo credit: businesstoday.net. my
Regardless of your adventure level, there are a few destinations that I’d consider camping and Sydney Australia is one of them. Here are 5 places near Sydney where I’d happily pitch a tent.
1) Cockatoo Island
If the sound of this island doesn’t intrigue you, I’m not sure what will. Based on what I’ve heard, it’s quite the romantic getaway and a lot of that has to do with “glamping.”
If you don’t feel like roughing it out in the wild, you can splurge on a glamorous camping experience where everything is laid out for you, literally. Your tent is already pitched and there are real mattresses to sleep on, not to mention towels, lounges for sun tanning and a lantern. Eat breakfast at The Canteen and head to The Island Bar for flavorful cocktails.
This campground is actually located in Brisbane Waters National Park and is surrounded by a beach and a creek, both on opposite sides. Coming from New York, this is already sounding like paradise to my tired ears.
Depending on when you visit you can explore the national park, do a bit of paddling or hit the tennis courts. If you’re craving a bit of entertainment and shopping or you just really need a hot shower and more human interaction, hop on the ferry to Palm Beach and then return back to Patonga for a peaceful sleep.
3) Lane Cove River National Park
It’s no secret that I have a strange obsession for wanting to feel the superhuman feeling of flying. Thus, I’m sort of envious of birds but not too much because they are too beautiful and graceful to dislike. Tangent aside, this park is only about six miles away from Harbour Bridge so it’s not a bad hike at all. Plus, you can play “bird watcher” and spot native species. This is not at the same level as glamping but there are a few major amenities here that I’d appreciate including Wi-Fi, a pool and a kitchen.
Again, it was the name that first intrigued me but this Eden has a lot to offer in terms of sightseeing and culture. It’s located between Aslings Beach and Lake Curalo and there’s a cute little boardwalk to stretch your legs and adjust to your new surroundings. As I’m obsessed with whales, I would visit the Whale Museum and whale watch. Eden is about halfway between Sydney and Melbourne and if you plan on visiting both cities anyway, this is a strategic (not to mention gorgeous) stop along the way.
5) Berowra Creek
This is no ordinary creek. Berowra is best known for its gumtrees including blackout, scribbly, peppermint and blue gums. There is a bike track for exercise and several spots to stop for a picnic. Located north of Hornsby, it takes about 45 minutes to drive from Harbour Bridge to Berowra Creek. Take your time as you follow the trail from the Saltmarsh Boardwalk to the Crosslands Reserve, or vice versa. Breathe in the fresh air, snap photos and enjoy the moment. If I did all five camping spots, this seems like it would be a great grand finale.
Photo by Wilson Afonso/Flickr.
Top photo credit: travelblat .com. (Cockatoo Island)
In many ways I got Maui right. It’s beautiful, the landscape is unreal, the people are happy and the lifestyle is laid-back. But I also got some things wrong!
Culture is Everywhere
Hawaii is part of the U.S although many people think you need a passport to get there. I’ve never made that mistake but I can understand the confusion, as it does feel like you are in a totally different place here. I wasn’t planning to get a Hawaiian language lesson during my surf class nor was I expecting to learn about endangered plant life from helicopter pilot but I did. It’s amazing how well traditions have been passed on from generation to generation and how despite modernity, culture is incorporated into everything. For example, the outrigger canoe, or the wa’a as it’s called locally is a popular water sport rooted in history. This is how Hawaiians used to travel between islands and even from one side of the island to the other.
Shave Ice really is all it’s cracked up to be
On my last day in Maui I nearly panicked when I realized I hadn’t tried shave ice yet. I’ve read about it from countless other writers but hadn’t managed any free time to test out this refreshing snack myself. I envisioned something like the snow cones I used to buy at Little League games. The ice was always so hard and the flavors tasted artificial even to my amateur palate. Thankfully, shave ice is nothing like that. The ice is literally shaved, which is why it has a snow-like texture that absorbs the syrups so you can actually taste the fruity flavorings. It felt refreshing on a hot September day so I can only assume that it’s even more coveted during the summer months. I especially appreciate the hefty portions and the functional serving dish!
Hotels and condominiums feel unique
I’ve stayed at all-inclusive resorts and swanky hotels before (solely when on an assignment) but after awhile they all look and feel the same. When I checked out the websites of the two properties where I’d be staying during my time in Maui, I assumed they would be glamorous but ultimately, just one of many. Both the Kā‘anapali Ali‘i Resort and the Fairmont Kea Lani felt so different not only from each other but from any beach resort I had visited. Both valued culture and community, which was made crystal clear through the services and activities they offer their guests. The Fairmont even has a full-time cultural coach on staff and she was a huge resource for me as I navigated the local culture.
A Luau can teach you about Maui history
When I was asked to attend a Luau (lū’au) I said yes. I assumed it would be a bit touristy but I still wanted to go because it’s one of the activities I always envisioned myself doing whenever I made it to Hawaii. Sure, maybe this was naive on my part but luckily I couldn’t have been more wrong about the show. Yes, there were a lot of tourists, particularly honeymooners, but that doesn’t take away from the performance. I was also a tourist and as a collective audience, we all chose to swap our comfortable beach chairs for a few hours of cultural fun. Through the food, dance and music, we were all able to learn a little bit about the history of our new surroundings. Plus, I picked up a few new dance moves!
Maui cuisine is a true mix of cultures
On a surface level, Maui food might not feel like anything new. Tacos are delicious, as are fresh seafood and meats. Yet, every dish I tried had some story behind it. There are many influences on the island including Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese so naturally, the food will represent a blend of these nationalities. Sugar (kō) was originally brought to Hawaii from Southeast Asia and plays an integral role in local cuisine. The other connection to sugar stems from the plantation days when demand for sugar from Hawaii increased during both the Civil War and Gold Rush. Many restaurants, especially Kō, have created menu items inspired by this period but with a contemporary twist.
This trip was hosted by Maui Visitors & Convention Bureau. All opinions are my own.
Two summers ago I got the chance to spend a few days in Lapland (Finland to be exact). While I’ve never visited Lapland in winter, I can only imagine how beautiful it looks with all the fluffy white snow all over the place. If I were to go back to Lapland in the wintertime, here are some of the adventures I’d explore.
1) Be an Elf at Santa’s Workshop
During my stay in Lapland, I spent two nights at the Santa Claus Holiday Village in Rovaniemi, which of course made the five year old in me giggle with glee. Not only can you stand along the Arctic Circle, but you can tour through Santa’s interactive workshop. This attraction is obviously geared for real kids but I was pretty impressed by the detail that went into the workshop. I was traveling with an international group of bloggers and Santa spoke all of our languages and never broke character. The only downside of visiting in the summer is that there is no real snow to give you that North Pole feeling and staying in a cozy winter cabin with no snow just doesn’t feel quite right.
2) Sleigh Ride through a Snow-Covered Forest
If you thought that my childhood ways ended at Santa Claus, think again. Every winter, whenever it snows and right before the snowplows come to mess it all up, I envision that I’m in Narnia. During trip to Norway, I took a sleigh ride through a forest and it was unreal. I was ready for Mr. Tumnus to hop out of the bushes or for the White Witch to coyly offer us some turkish delight. But fictional books aside, Lapland is absolutely stunning in winter and the quiet stillness around you is very refreshing, especially if you compare it to New York. There are about as many Reindeer in Finland as there are people and this is one of their favorite pastimes.
3) Try to See the Northern Lights
The operative word in this phrase is “try” because after all, seeing the Northern Lights in Finland or anywhere else is not a given. Since this is probably on everyone’s list of things to do while in Lapland, it’s best to not get your hopes up. That way, you’ll be nothing but ecstatic if your luck strikes. February is generally a good month for the Northern Lights and you need clear skies with no clouds for everything to fall into place. Many travelers suggest heading to Inari because it’s in a great position for the aurora borealis. If you don’t get to see the colorful light display, just embrace the surroundings you do have. I’m obsessed with star gazing when I travel because I’m not used to seeing any back home.
4) Marvel at Ice Architecture
I believe it was the blizzard of 1996 that prompted my Dad and I to build an igloo. He was just playing along to keep me amused but I was really hoping that this would be my new hideaway and it was, at least for a few more days. Anyway, Lapland has some really impressive ice architecture on display and it sure trumps my attempt at a mini winter home. The Lainio Snow Village is a great starting point and, as there is a little bit of everything here. In addition to viewing different types of ice art, the village has a bar, restaurant and fancy hotel suites, all constructed in crystalized water. Whether you want to spend a night at the ice hotel or not, it’s something you won’t find many places.
5) Warm up in the Sauna
Just as there are as many reindeer as people, there are as many saunas (if not more) than personal cars in Finland. Another thing to note is that going to the sauna isn’t like going to the spa. This is one of the most popular activities for locals and one that is a very important part of Finnish culture. This is the place to relax with friends and family and it’s more of a way of life to Fins rather than a once in awhile treat. In fact, historically, many women gave birth in the sauna before nurseries came onto the scene. For an all-around Lapland experience, go to Levin Lapinkyla for an all-around but if you’re looking for the ultimate sanctuary, Ylläs’ sauna gondola is sort of considered the most luxurious.
Photo credit: finland.nordicvisitor.com.