Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

Category: Leisure Travel (Page 1 of 4)

Steaming geysers at Iceland's Geysir area

Iceland’s Golden Circle in Winter

The Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s top tourist attractions. Easily accessible as a day trip from Reykjavik, it offers a taste of some of the truly incredible natural wonders the country has to offer. Encompassing three separate attractions, Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss, this well-trafficked area combines spectacular scenery, Icelandic history, and a chance to see geothermal action up close. Visiting the Golden Circle in winter not only helps avoid the crowds, but the snow-cover also lends an additional layer of beauty to already gorgeous landscapes.

Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park in Iceland

When heading northeast from Reykjavik, Þingvellir National Park is the first place you’ll pass on your Golden Circle route. Steeped in both human and geologic history, this was my favorite stop. The broad rift valley central to the park is the result of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates separating. Ever so slowly, the two continental plates are pulling apart, widening this rift. Adventurous visitors can even scuba dive in the rift, though I didn’t get to try that on my visit.

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Stained glass in Sainte Chappelle

Sainte Chappelle: Paris’ Hidden Gem

Everyone knows about Paris’ greatest hits: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe. But when planning my first ever visit, I came across one site that I’d never heard of: Sainte Chappelle. This hidden gem should be on any Paris Itinerary. Though it’s certainly less well-known than nearby Notre Dame, the inside of Sainte Chappelle is even more beautiful. Famous for its incredible stained glass, visitors are left in awe of this incredible royal chapel dating back to the 1200s.

The chapel, originally founded by Saint Louis (not the city) to house a collection of Catholic relics has survived a lot in its history. It was vandalized during the French Revolution, used for storage, and oiled up to protect it from WWII bombing. After lots of renovations, it’s now open to the public and should not be missed on your visit to Paris.

Sainte Chappelle’s lower level

Lower chapel in Sainte Chappelle

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Hiking the Dream Lake Trail

The Dream Lake trail was my absolute favorite hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. It branches off from the Bear Lake area and takes you up to a series three more alpine lakes: Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake. We stopped at Dream Lake thanks to non-ideal hiking conditions, but online photos make me think it’s the prettiest of the three anyway.

Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Bear Lake Trail

The trail to Dream Lake leaves from the Bear Lake area. We spent some time wandering around this much easier trail before beginning our hike. In mid-May, there was still plenty of snow and ice on the lake and the trail, but it was passable and there were lots of hikers and families with kids out exploring. This is one of the easier trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, and its proximity to a large parking area makes it perfect for non-experienced hikers.

We only had to wait for a couple of minutes to get a parking spot in the Bear Lake lot, but I’m told that during the busy season you have to show up really early or take the park shuttle if you plan to park there.

The hike to Nymph Lake

Once we had our fill of Bear Lake, we started up the trail to see the smaller lakes at higher elevations. There was a lot of snow that slowed us down – it was starting to melt and very slushy and slippery – and we considered turning back a couple of times, but we kept going.

Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Keep hiking. It gets prettier!

To be honest, Nymph Lake was a bit underwhelming. I wouldn’t make the hike just to see it. Dream Lake isn’t too much further, and it’s worth the extra distance to see a prettier lake. Plus, my boyfriend stepped onto thin ice and got his hiking boots wet. He was a trooper though and wrung his socks out and we kept going further up the mountain.

Snow along the Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

This is why ski lifts are a thing.

The Dream Lake Trail

Viewpoint along the Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

The trail from Nymph Lake to Dream Lake gets steeper, but offers some spectacular views. We stopped on this large bare boulder to take a break and enjoy the splendor of the mountain scenery (and attempt to dry my boyfriend’s socks a bit more). Standing up there, I felt like John Muir or something.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I wore a Red Wings shirt because the first time I visited this park was in 2002 right after they’d beaten Colorado’s team in the playoffs en route to a championship. They were better back then.

When we finally reached Dream Lake, I was blown away. Even partially covered in ice, it was spectacular. It’s cliché, but the water really was like glass, reflecting the peaks behind it.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

People were lounging all around the shore, on rocks and fallen trees, and anything that wasn’t buried in snow. A couple nearby had packed a picnic lunch and were enjoying it nearby. Talk about a meal with a view.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

As much as we didn’t want to leave, we eventually turned around and made our way back, pausing several times to enjoy views that we had missed on the way up. Working our way back down to Bear Lake was a bit harder as we were now sliding downhill. At one point the snow/slush was so slippery that I just crouched down, sitting back on my heels and scooted myself down with my hands. My boyfriend was amused and I thought it was lots of fun.

View from the Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

The details

The Dream Lake Trail is located on the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park, just northwest of Denver, Colorado. All Trails has it listed as 2.1 miles long, with a 498 foot gain in elevation. Park admission is required, and charged per vehicle at the entrances. I’d recommend staying in Estes Park when exploring this area. Park at or take a shuttle to the Bear Lake trailhead to pick up the trail – you’ll begin by following the signs to Nymph Lake. All Trails always has good information about trails, and is a great resource for planning hikes.

Twisted tree near Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I loved this twisted tree we spotted along the way. Living things fight so hard to survive.

You’ll want to wear good hiking shoes, and consider bringing snowshoes during the winter and spring. Visit during the summer for optimal (but most crowded) hiking conditions. Wear layers too – the weather in the mountains is unpredictable. We were hiking on several feet of snow pack, yet my boyfriend was wearing shorts.

Check out these posts for other Rocky Mountain National Park hikes:

Don’t forget to save it on Pinterest for later!

The Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is an easily accessible trail that offers spectacular views of mountain lakes. Colorado | Rocky Mountain National Park | Bear Lake | Nymph Lake | #Colorado | #RMNP | #RockyMountainNationalPark | #ColoradoHikes | #EstesPark

The Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is an easily accessible trail that offers spectacular views of mountain lakes. Colorado | Rocky Mountain National Park | Bear Lake | Nymph Lake | #Colorado | #RMNP | #RockyMountainNationalPark | #ColoradoHikes | #EstesPark The Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is an easily accessible trail that offers spectacular views of mountain lakes. Colorado | Rocky Mountain National Park | Bear Lake | Nymph Lake | #Colorado | #RMNP | #RockyMountainNationalPark | #ColoradoHikes | #EstesPark
Planes at LaGuardia airport - the future of travel

What Does the Future of Travel Look Like?

With cities pushing back against mass tourism, technology reshaping our world, airlines finding new ways to squeeze money out of fees, and social media influencers making destinations trendy with just a few Instagram pictures, there’s no doubt that the future of travel looks very different than its current state. I asked a group of travel bloggers to predict what the future of travel will look like over the next couple of decades.

Changes in communication will shape the future of travel

I think the biggest aspect that is going to change within travel is how we communicate. For decades, the way we’ve communicated with people has either been in English, or their own language. Who here is guilty of that being the former? I always try and learn at least a few words at a minimum (hello, goodbye, thank you and usually cheers!) in the native language but how will this change in the next few years? With technology expansion soaring into the space age – there are already tools on the market that will dramatically change travel, and communication in travel forever.

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Notre Dame by the River Seine in Paris, France

Notre Dame: Birds, Gargoyles, and an Incredible View

Everyone knows about the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. It may well be the most famous church in the world, and it is a must-see on most Paris itineraries. It’s every bit as hauntingly beautiful inside as you would expect. Here’s what you need to know for visiting Notre Dame.

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France

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Tips for and photos of driving Pikes Peak

Driving to the Top of Pikes Peak

Driving Pikes Peak is one of those classic American experiences that everyone should try at least once. My dad went as a kid, and it’s always been on my list of things to do. I finally got a chance to make the drive this year and it was amazing!

Pikes Peak (known as a fourteener because it tops 14,000 feet high) is located in Colorado Springs and the peak can be accessed by driving, taking a cog railway ride, or hiking. We chose to drive the 19-mile road to the top. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

The drive up Pikes Peak

Switchbacks on the drive to the top of Pikes Peak

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Salt sculptures in the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland

Exploring the Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located just outside of one of my favorite cities in the world – Krakow, Poland. It was a working salt mine for over 700 years, and now is one of the top tourist attractions in the area. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site if you’re into that kind of thing. I loved the tour because over the years, miners carved incredible statues out of the rock salt, and other artists have contributed works as well. The tour is much more than just walking through old mine shafts, and I highly recommend visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine when in Krakow.

Touring the Wieliczka Salt Mine

The regular tours at Wieliczka last a couple of hours and involve a lot of walking and some stairs (though it’s possible to book accessible tours in advance). You only visit a fraction of the chambers in the mine – it would take days to explore the whole thing – but it includes the history of the work that was done there as well as info about the tools and machinery used. Foreign language tours are available, and it’s recommended to book them in advance on their website. With the current exchange rate, they cost about $25.

Carvings in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

Our tour started off with a long climb down a series of stairs (at least we weren’t going up!) to enter the first part of the mine. We learned the legend about how the mine came to be there, and about the different methods that were used there.

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Viewing the Northern Lights in Iceland

Top Tips for Viewing the Northern Lights

Viewing the Northern Lights (or Southern!) is high on many bucket lists. One of my main goals on my recent trip to Iceland was to see them for the first time, and we had phenomenal luck, spotting them four out of our six nights there. There’s no sure-fire way to guarantee that you’ll see an aurora, but here are my top tips for spotting the Northern Lights.

Visit somewhere that experiences the Northern Lights regularly

Viewing the northern lights

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Diamond Beach in Iceland

15 Pictures to Put Diamond Beach on Your Iceland Bucket List

The Ring Road around Iceland’s perimeter is jam packed with stunning scenery. One of my most memorable stops was Diamond Beach, a spectacular black sand beach where icebergs from the famous Jökulsárlón lagoon wash up. As the ice chunks head out to sea, some of them are pushed back ashore by wind and waves, creating a landscape of ice boulders that is a virtual playground for photographers. It’s beautiful, and a must-see stop on your Ring Road trip. Keep reading for my fifteen favorite pictures that will inspire you to visit Diamond Beach in Iceland.

Ice boulders on Diamond Beach in Iceland

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Litli Geysir Hotel

The Geysir area is one of the most iconic stops on Iceland’s Golden Circle route. Imagine spending the night in a room where you can see its most active geyser, Strokkur, erupting right from your window. That’s exactly what we experienced at the Litli Geysir Hotel in Haukadalur. The hotel doesn’t look like much when you approach, but the interior is beautiful and the service was top-notch. It’s a fantastic choice when you’re looking for affordable hotels near Geysir.

View of geysers from the Litli Geysir Hotel in Iceland

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