Summer has packed up and left according to the calendar. They say happy people don’t count time, so don’t give in to melancholy and take another chance on summer at a wonderful destination. Thudding waterfalls just outside Reykjavik, the aura of history in Athens, or a pint of beer in Dublin – all of it is just a flight away!
In Iceland, nature is at its wildest. One of the most exciting dates with nature begins at the city port – hop on a ferry and go whale-watching. It’s the season when these majestic animals flock to the bay of Reykjavik, and if you’re lucky, you might spot seals and porpoises among them. Just 30 kilometres away Thrihnukagigur volcano has lain dormant for 4000 years, and its splendour is hidden within it. A six-minute elevator ride, and you get to take a peek into its very heart – the magma chamber. On your way to the centre of the earth, remember that this is the only volcano in the world that tourists get to see so close up.
This trip can turn into a gastronomic adventure, as the lamb that’s baked to perfection will melt in your mouth. Braver souls can try hákarl – fermented shark that’s been cured for at least four months. Pinch your nose, close your eyes and put it in your mouth! Those who appreciate the classics can pop by the famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hotdog place; Bill Clinton himself has crowned their hotdogs the best in the world. Don’t be taken aback by the huge queue – the hotdog is worth the wait.
Make one night in Reykjavik your music night – Bjork is from Iceland after all, and you might see some soon-to-be-famous musician’s show. End your trip in the geothermal pool, enjoying the force of the hot springs under the blanket of stars. Laugardalslaug is the most popular one, and it’s equipped with waterslides.
As soon as you’re off the plane, head to marvel at the mightiness of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s the largest church in the whole Ireland, and Jonathan Swift’s, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, resting place. Even if school reading lists still make your skin crawl, the library of the Trinity College is a must. The most famous room spanning the length of 65 metres holds 200 thousand books, and will make you stare in awe. Doesn’t it remind you of the Jedi Archives from Star Wars?
Discuss your first impressions of Dublin by a pint at an Irish pub. Avoid the crowded Temple Bar and choose Grogans Pub instead – sink into the chair and lose yourself in the velvety taste of Guinness. You won’t hear any music of TV chatter – real conversation serves as the background here.
Walking enthusiasts can tie their shoelaces and trot along the 4 km long pier to the bright red Poolbeg lighthouse to get a completely different view of the city. It’s a great place to watch ships passing by. The real spirit of Dublin is the strongest in flea markets that pop up on many streets during weekends, but on the last Sunday of every month The Dublin Flea Market holds the door wide open, and it’s a treat for pearl hunters.
When you’ve had enough of the city, spend a day at the Wicklow Mountains National Park which was the backdrop for the romantic film P.S. I Love You. Pack some sandwiches and enjoy the beauty of nature; you’ll be walking along miles of heather. Just be aware that the road gets muddy after heavy rain. You’ll find the heart-shaped Lough Ouler Lake here as well, ready for an Instagram photo shoot.
You haven’t seen Athens if you haven’t seen the Acropolis. The Parthenon, the temple devoted to the goddess Athena, is the largest Doric temple in all of Greece. The best time to visit the complex and feel its might is early morning or late night, when heat has relented a bit, and most tourists are resting somewhere else. The Parthenon has served as a Catholic church and as a mosque throughout its lifetime. It’s been pilfered, burned, bombed, but still stands proud.
Take a walk through the oldest districts Plaka and Monastiraki, and explore the narrow stairwells and winding streets. It’s the place to get great souvenirs and enjoy the sunset and refreshments in a rooftop bar. Speaking about food, start your day with a cup of strong Greek coffee and koulouri – a type of pretzel rolled in sesame seeds. Have a go at loukoumades – oil-fried dessert drizzled with honey, which used to be served to the winners of the ancient Olympic Games. Souvlaki is a pita filled with meat, veggies and fresh tzatziki dip. Kostas is one of the best diners in Athens; it has been serving customers for more than 65 years. Right now, the owner of the place is Kostas’ grandson, and he’s inherited his grandfather’s secrets – just have a souvlaki, and you’ll see. Mind you, by 3 o’clock the shop might be closed because everything’s sold out.
Before returning home, reminisce about your fantastic holiday in Athens in the National Garden, while kids look at ducks and turtles in the pond. Athens is a place worth returning to.