Saturday, May 14, 2016

Inside the icy terrains of Iceland

Since I was a teenager, I have dreamt of catching a glimpse of Northern lights which is why I have been planning and saving for a trip to Iceland. When someone asks me about my favourite destination, pat comes the reply, it is Iceland. I want to visit the place for two reasons, to watch the northern lights and see the midnight sun. Yes, you heard it right, in Iceland the sun stays awake until as late as 11 PM, which is only visible in summers. If you're travelling to the place especially to see the Aurora Borealis or northern lights, then winters are the best time. Most tourists pay a visit from mid-June to September mainly to indulge in outdoor activities like horse riding, snow mobiling etc.


                               
                                                Picture credit: guidedtoiceland.is

The number of daylight hours can have unanticipated emotional and mental effects and this should be taken into consideration before timing the trip. 
The temperature is cool in summer and remarkably mild in winter, all thanks to the Gulf stream and the lowest temperatures in New York is surprisingly lower than that in Reykjavik. The weather is violently volatile and once can sometimes experience four seasons in one day.  
If you're looking to discover the country side and participate in outdoor activities then September is the ideal time to visit. Experienced horse riders can get to see the countryside and participate in the Icelandic farming ritual that will tell you about the lifestyle and culture followed by  dwellers in the tiny hamlets outside the capital city.
If Aurora Borealis is in your list of "To do things" then mid-September to March is best suited for a visit. However one must also brace themselves up for disappointment, because the freaky weather can be a hindrance to the view. If you want to see this electromagnetic phenomenon, make sure that you stay for more than a week in Iceland. You can opt to stay in the city and from there head for a guided tour of Aurora Borealis or the more adventurous option is to stay near the forests in a warmed bubble made of perspex that will provide a scintillating view of the Artic sky.

How to get there?
You need a valid passport and visa applications in India are processed by the Embassy of Denmark. More information can be found on the website of Icelandic Directorate of Immigration
There are no direct flights from India to Iceland. Most flights consist of one to two stops with the most cost efficient tickets taking an extra travel time of seven hours in comparison to the priciest picks. See as to what suits you and you can make an informed choice about what you will go for.  Etihad Airways offers you pocket friendly deals while Lufthansa Airlines will provide comfort and save time.

Money
Krona is Iceland's monetary unit and dollars, euros and pounds can be easily exchanged for Krona. The most practical and reliable way is at the ATMs or currency exchange desk. Avoid exchanging money at hotels since they charge exorbitant transaction fees.
Visa and Mastercard are most widely accepted. Icelanders are in love with plastic money and whip one out for the smallest of transactions. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Five happy facts about Denmark

Danes are the most laid back of Scandinavians and the happiest people in the world. There are quite a few reasons that keeps them hale and hearty throughout the year, although it snows for most days of the year, which maybe a turn-off for many like us. Their high spirits can be attributed to the fact that they are thankful for the simple pleasures of life and have a good social support system. These are five of the many happy facts about the joyous Danes.


1) Danes are very passionate about protecting the environment and keeping their surroundings clean, which is why they love to cycle. This is like killing two birds with one stone. Cycling keeps them fit and at the same time keeps vehicular pollution in check. It's doesn't embarrass the citizens at all and you''ll find most of them cycling their way to work or school. In Copenhagen alone, 50% people commute by bike everyday and there are more bikes than inhabitants in the city. The other side of the story is that public transport is very expensive, and bikes are the cheapest modes of transport.
Perhaps we can take a cue from them and adopt these measures to battle our pollution woes, especially in large cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Denmark plans to become carbon neutral by 2025 and is working towards it.
2)Danes are disciplined people. They believe in following rules, especially traffic rules and make sure that they do not jaywalk even when no cars or bikes are plying on the roads. One of these days as I imagine our beloved Indians crossing heavily congested roads by ignoring traffic signals or safety rules for pedestrians, I think we can look upto them when it comes to pedestrian safety.