Lofoten Islands

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The Lofoten Islands are located in the north of Norway.  Comprising of five main islands, we started at the southernmost village of Å on Moskenesøya and worked our way to Svolvær on Austvågøya, the largest city and capital of the archipelago. Little fishing villages are scattered along the route; the most photogenic being Reine, Sakrisøy, Hamnøy, Nusfjord and Henningsvær.

We happened to be in Lofoten during the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon when the sun does not set for the entire day.  This only occurs near the Arctic and Antarctic Circles during the summer months. It was surreal to be driving at two in the morning with the sky still lit up. 

 
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A unique Lofoten experience is staying in a rorbu — one of the traditional fishing cabins built half on land and half on water. Our cabin in Reine was #20 (Steinbua) at the Reine Rorbuer. Inside were two bedrooms and a large kitchen area with our own fireplace. 

Food on Lofoten unsurprisingly consists mainly of all things fish: fish soup, stockfish, clipfish, cod, cod tongues, etc. Every winter, they hang the cod on wooden racks to dry. By the time we arrived in mid-June, the fisherman had already begun taking the stockfish down. 

Anita's Sjømat sells great fish sandwiches with salmon and/or shrimp. It is also a road-side general store that stocks a variety of seafood and local food products. In Henningsvær, we had a refined dinner at Fiskekrogen which was a bit of a mix of classic and new Norwegian cuisine. 

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Lisbon

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Everywhere we went, people were telling us how much Lisbon has changed in the last few years. We certainly noticed it from when we were here last five years ago. Trendy shops and restaurants have popped up at a burgeoning rate and dilapidated buildings were being turned into stylish hotels. But there is still plenty of the old and traditional Lisboa left. 

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STAY

In the heart of Alfama, Lisbon's oldest neighbourhood, but hidden at the end of a quiet street is Hotel Memmo Alfama. It is a modern design hotel that somehow blends into its old Portuguese surroundings. The terrace and pool overlooks the rest of the neighbourhood, a maze of orange-tiled houses left from the Moorish occupation. Nearby are two well-known miradouros (viewpoints) that offer another perspective of the city below. 

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Eat

Belcanto
100 Maneiras
Taberna da Rua das Flores
Bairro do Avillez
Pastéis de Belém  / Manteigaria (pastéis de nata)

Shop

A Vida Portuguesa
Luvaria Ulisses
Conserveria de Lisboa
Cutipol

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Santorini

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SEE

Oia is located at the north end of the island and is probably the most picturesque village in Santorini. It is known for its sunset views and famous sites such as the blue-domed churches. The best view of Oia is from the castle ruins. 

Imerovigli is a smaller village that is also known for sunset views. It is located along the caldera near Skaros, a large rock formation that can be seen as far as Fira. There is a trail leading to the top of the rock which passes by the small Agios Georgios church.

Fira is the largest city and capital of Santorini. It is a thirty minute drive from Oia, but we decided on the three hour hike to take in the amazing views on the caldera cliff. 

Pyrgos is located on the highest point of the island. From the hilltop of the castle ruins are panoramic views of Santorini below. It is much quieter than the other villages and you get a sense of what a Greek village was really like years ago. 

EAT

Melitini
Pita Gyros
Sunset Ammoudi Taverna
Melenio
Tasos Taverna
Lotza Café

STAY

Charisma Suites

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Charisma Suites

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We visited Santorini for the first time eight years ago but the experience had not been what we had hoped for. The weather was unusually rainy and we caught a cold. To make matters worse, we could only stay at a cheap hotel at the base of the island when what Santorini is known for are the cave hotels carved into the cliffs. We peered at the beautiful white caves and blue swimming pools and vowed we would return and stay at one of them someday. 

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So this time around, we carefully searched for the perfect stay. There are plenty of hotels to choose from, all unique and all scattered throughout the island. We finally decided on Charisma Suites in the town of Oia and it turned out to be a really good choice. The boutique hotel only has eight rooms so it felt very intimate and quiet. The room we stayed in was extremely spacious and had its own infinity pool.

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Breakfast was served on our terrace at the time of our choosing so we could sit back and enjoy the view of the caldera. At night, we were served champagne and snacks to enjoy the sunset, of which Oia is famous for. Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay and our experience on the Greek island had been redeemed. 

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Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

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The last stop on our trip has likely the most popular and well-known glass igloos in Finland. The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is so large now that they have a West Village and an East Village that are a ten-minute drive from each other. We stayed at the newer West Village in a typical glass igloo. However, they also have log cabins and kelo-igloos; a hybrid of the cabin and glass igloo. There are even real snow igloos in the East Village. 

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The large glass igloos have beds for up to four, a shower and toilet whereas the small ones only have room for two and a toilet. We stayed in #42, a large igloo in the last row with an unobstructed view of the forest.  We were lucky and saw the northern lights both nights that we were at Kakslauttanen. It was nice being able to watch the lights while in bed in our cozy igloo. 

Breakfast is included and you can choose half-board or full-board when making a reservation. Dinner is a set three-course menu and on the nights we were there, dishes included salmon soup, sautéed reindeer, and fried pike perch. 

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There are plenty of activities to choose from and they all take place at the resort. We went on a two-hour husky safari one morning and really enjoyed it. The trails weave through snow-covered trees and you have a real sense of being in the wilderness. Halfway through we stopped at a kota, a traditional Sami teepee, where we had some hot drinks and snacks and warmed up by the fire. We switched being driver and passenger on the sledge and headed back to the husky farm. 

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Not far from the resort is the Kiilopää Fell Centre. You can ski on the surrounding fells or visit the traditional smoke sauna. We chose the later and discovered the Finnish way of alternating between the sauna and a swim in the ice cold waters outside. The extreme temperatures apparently improve circulation and strengthen your immune system. We are not sure if that is what happened but we definitely felt invigorated after taking a quick dip in the freezing river. 

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This is a very large resort and unfortunately you lose the feeling of being in the middle of a very remote destination. However, the location is great and the igloos have a lot of glass for viewing the northern lights. We are glad to have experienced it but if we ever come back we would choose a more intimate to place to stay.

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