landscapes

While others might study the beach possibilities, I researched the best hiking adventure in Lanzarote. And by the best, I mean one that includes lava fields and volcanoes without requiring advanced hiking skills, an excellent condition or two cars on two ends of a trail.

I chose Canldera Blanca because it was short, didn’t require alpine boots but still seemed to offer an authentic volcanic experience. And I don’t regret the choice – it was probably the easiest most rewarding hike on the island!

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

The starting point is a car park close to the tiny town of Mancha Blanca. Following the signs, we spent the first 45min or so walking through a lava field. While this part of the trail doesn’t offer any views, it’s still an interesting walk – we inspected the lava stones and glimpsed into the inside of a smaller crater (Montaña Caldereta) on our way.

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Once at the bottom of Caldera Blanca, we faced a gentle diagonal climb and soon reached the top of the crater.

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Caldera Blanca, Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain)

We turned to the left to walk up to the summit, from which point I believe is a descent back to the bottom of the crater and I also spotted some more adventurous hikers walking round the crater in the distance. Unfortunately it became very windy and decided to return via the same route we had come up (safety comes first!).

Practical Information

Route: Caldera Blanca (round trip)
Elevation gain uphill: 300m approx.
Elevation gain downhill: 300m approx.
Length: around 7km
Duration: 3 hrs (including break)
Difficulty: Easy (closed shoes necessary)
Wikiloc: Caldera Blanca – Lanzarote (This one is the trip around the crater).

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.

Shortly after waving goodbye to a colony of Magellanic penguins on Isla Magdalena, we arrived at our last stop: Punta Arenas. From there, a mere 5 and a half hours ride took us into one of the World’s most impressive landscapes: the Torres del Paine National Park.

Torres del Paine National Park is takes it name from three impressive granite towers (torres) that, together with the horns (cuernos), rise more than 3,000 meters above the Patagonian steppe. It’s beauty and uniqueness was officially recognized in 1975, when it was declared World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

What makes this place so special?

The Mountains

Mountains in Torres del Paine, Chile

Those of you who know me, know that I love mountainous landscapes., which is a bit unusual from someone who’s spent her teens in a bikini.

That Torres del Paine National Park is considered a paradise for hikers and climbers and overall mountaineers was no surprise – its many valleys and peaks form a fantastic playground for any adventurer seeking for unspoiled allure!

I took the above picture of one of the Cuernos del Paine while hiking in Valle Francés.

The Lakes

Lake in Torres del Paine, Chile

Although I had spent two years living next to a beautiful lake in Switzerland, I held my breath as I saw the shades of blue of the lakes in the park.

Shouldn’t this color belong in the Caribbean?

I took this picture was taken from Puente Weber, overlooking Rio Paine and the Paine Massif.

The Flora

Flowers in Torres del Paine, Chile

The best months to travel to Torres del Paine is between October and April – not only because of the milder temperatures and longer hours of sunlight, but to appreciate the diverse flora that colors the ground of the park.

I soon learned that looking down can be as rewarding as looking up!

The picture above is of a bed of lupins, one of the iconic wildflowers in the Andean region in Patagonia.

The Waterfalls

Waterfall in Torres del Paine, Chile

The Park has two waterfalls – Salto Grande (pictured above) and Cascada del Rio Paine, which exhibit very different attractions. Salto Grande caught my eye due to the tremendous power used to drain the water from Lake Nordenskjöld to Lake Pehoé. Cascada del Rio Paine, although less powerful, had a perfect setting – in front of the dramatic Torres.

Although one can get closer to Salto Grande by walking down a few steps, I am certain that the best view was from the top of the Mirador, from where I shot this photograph.

The Fauna

Eagle in Torres del Paine, Chile

Torres del Paine is the perfect place for those, like me, enjoy getting closer to the regional wildlife. During my time in the park, I walked with guanacos and ñandús (darwin’s rhea), spotted a family of cute grey foxes, flamingos, condors and this majestic eagle – just to name a few!

I spotted this eagle during our lunch break, close to Lago Azul.

The Glaciers

Glaciers in Torres del Paine, Chile

The region we now know as Patagonia is said to have been once covered under a thick volume of ice. Millions of years have passed and still we find hundreds of (smaller) moving bodies of ice. Glaciar Grey is probably the most famous of the park’s glaciers, attracting a considerable number of tourists each year that want to experience ice trekking or get a closer look to the walls of ice from one of cruises. The large pieces that fall off the glacier slowly drift towards the stone beach, creating what is commonly known as a Cementerio de Tempanos (ice floes cementery).

In the picture: Lake Grey with a big ice floe and in the Grey Glacier in the background.

A View over Wulaia Bay, Chile

Wulaia Bay used to be the region’s largest Yamana aboriginal settlements and is nowadays known for its incredible beauty. As we disembarked and hiked uphill, through a forest of Coihues and Lengas towards the look-out point from which I took the photograph, I realized how much I had been missing this – the peaceful sound of wind brushing the leaves and constant waves playing in the background.

I stood there for some time, in complete silence, sketching this panoramic view over the bay deep into my memory – right before rushing back down to avoid being drenched by the rain.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

The name Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) derives from Ferdinand Magellan, who was the first European to visit the land in 1520. As he approached shore, he was amazed by the size of the fires created by the aborigines to cook and keep warm. I can hardly imagine how anyone could survive to these extreme weather conditions without modern inventions. This shows that the aborigines’ skins, exposed to wind, cold and ice, developed in a completely different way from ours.

As we walked along the shore of Lake Fagnano, admiring the profoundly beautiful and diverse scenery, I couldn’t stop but wonder what else lies behind these high mountains and inside the dark forests. However, from its over 630km2 of land, only a small part of it is open to public.

 

Hiking in Aletsch, Switzerland

The weather forecast promised a sunny weekend with temperatures reaching over 30C and so we decided to escape into the Bernese Alps, in the swiss canton of Valais. Having our doubts about the cooling effect that 1,500 meters difference in altitude could produce, we thought it would be best to reach towards the source of all freshness – a glacier.

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Switzerland has more than 1,800 glaciers, starting at just a few meters up to 23 kms length. The Grosser Aletschgletscher (in english: Great Aletsch Glacier) is the longest glacier in Europe and made it to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2001. It covers more than 120 square kilometers of the Bernese Alps, which is considered to be the largest glaciated area in western Eurasia.

Some people would choose to jump into the lake – we chose to hike around the Great Aletsch Glacier.

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Our hike started at the Belalp Hotel, which is a 20 minute walk from the cable car station and rests right on the edge of the Aleschbord. From there, we hiked down a steep path down to Aletschji. During most of the 2.5 hours down, we had a breathtaking view over the glacier. Frankly, I could get tired of looking at it. At some point, I started to feel anxious, following an internal debate on whether I should or should not keep on taking pictures every 2 minutes and risk missing the last train to return home that day. I couldn’t resist myself, and decided that this risk was worth taking.

We came across some of Valais’ Blackneck goats. Their forequarters are black and their hindquarters white, and have long wavy hair. Aren’t they extremely cute?

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Every time we could, we drank and cooled our skin with glacier water – it taste so pure and refreshing!

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After descending 500 meters, we reached a 124 meters long suspension bridge that runs across a 80 meter deep ravine. Underneath, the Massa river flowed, charged with freezing water coming straight from the glaciers…

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As the title suggests, I’ve divided this post into two parts – one for each side of the Massa River. Please click here to move on to part II

After finishing my one month summer french course in Nice, I went on a road trip through the South of France. This was already 5 years ago. Time flies, and my french isn’t getting any better!

We spent some days along the coast side before breaking into the french countryside. It was going to be my first time in the deep Provence. Fields of lavender and villages made of stones – that’s all I could think of.

Yes, I was uneducated and naïve.

The Gorge du Verdon is known as the Grand Canyon of Europe. It runs for around 25 km, between Castellane and Moustiers-Ste-Marie and goes down to over 700 meters depth. There are plenty of viewpoints along the road but the best views can be found when standing on one edge of the gorge. One of the main ones is Les Balcons de la Mescla, on the southern wall. This natural balcony overlooks the point in which the Verdon and Artuby rivers meet.

I never expected such a landscape in Provence.

When staring down hundreds of meters, I was fascinated by the color of the water carried by the Verdon river. From the top, it shines in an inviting deep turquoise-green!

At the western edge Gorge du Verdon, the river flows into lake of Sainte-Croix. From there, we rented a canoe to paddle into the gorge. Once you get to see the river closer, you’ll realize that the water has a somewhat milky appearance. This immediately made me alert: I couldn’t really see what was swimming next to me!

I sat there, in the canoe with the sun shining in my face, watching other people jump into the water and weighting the pros and cons of taking the risk. After a couple of minutes, I putt aside my fears of being trapped by seaweed or bitten by one of those deep sea creatures (river version), and took a plunge into the milky turquoise river!

The fresh water was perfect to cool down from the hot temperature. And once inside, I completely forgot about deep river creatures and seaweed, and enjoyed the afternoon.

We all have preconceptions about a country (even if we don’t admit to have them). When I accepted the job in Switzerland, I pictured the Alps, fondues, chocolate – and lots of bankers. Sure, Switzerland does have all this – but it has so much more that is less known to the World.

The Lakes

View from Vevey, Switzerland

Switzerland encompasses a huge diversity of landscapes on only little more than 41,200 km2, ranging from 195 m to 4,634m above sea level. No wonder that, besides for having some of the greatest mountain scenery Worldwide it also houses a surprising amount of lakes. There are more than 1,500 lakes spread across the country, although only 16 of them are larger than 10 km2 (being Lac Léman the largest one).

Wherever you are, you will surely not be far from a lake. During summer, Switzerland’s lakes are painted with sailing boats that go out to enjoy the late afternoon and watch the sunset on the quiet water. When I first moved here, I wondered why someone would own a boat in Switzerland when you couldn’t get anywhere with it. The truth is – the point is not to go somewhere, but to enhance the quality of life by allowing beautiful day trips with family and friends.

The Vineyards

Lavaux, Switzerland

Lying in the shadow of its neighbors, France and Italy, swiss wine is almost inexistent outside of the country. Although annual production can reach 150 million bottles, only about 2/100 are exported. Putting this into perspective: with a population of 7 million people, each person would consume 21 bottles of swiss wine per year. This turns Switzerland one of the top wine consuming countries Worldwide!

The country houses around 20,000 winegrowers, many of which have small productions that serve personal use. It’s not rare to meet people who own a little vineyard in the back of their house, specially in Canton Vaud. Switzerland may have several wine growing areas, but my favorite one is Lavaux, which aside from producing high quality white wine offers one of the greatest views over Lac Leman.

The Cheese

Cheese (London Borough Market)

Cheese might be nothing new about Switzerland – But if you google swiss cheese, you will get more than 3 million images, out of which most of them depict the cheese with the holes in it. Yes, that’s a swiss cheese. It’s called Emmentaler. But this is only one of the more than 450 varieties of cheese the country has to offer. Other swiss cheese you may have come across in supermarkets worldwide are Raclette cheese, Gruyère and Appenzeller. Most of the cheese is made out of cow milk, but you can also find it made of goat milk or sheep milk. Every region has its own local cheese. Swiss cheese range all prices imaginable and can be filled or topped with fine herbs, mushroom mousse, pepper, or truffles (among many others). In fact, one of my favorites from the Canton Vaud is Tomme Fleurette, which is made out of raw milk (a real speciality!).

What qualities does your home country have that aren’t well-known?