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20 Fun Things To Do In Dublin, Ireland (Plus What To Avoid…)
St Patricks Cathedral in Dublin

Best Things To Do in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

The city of Dublin is known for its charming streets, colorful doorways, live music and historic architecture. Here are some of the best things to do in Dublin that you won’t want to miss!

Dublin may be one of Europe’s smaller capital cities, but the city has been known to steal the heart of every visitor, with something for everyone.

I traveled to Dublin with my family during our Irish genealogy trip, tracking down the old home of my Irish grandmother. We had a fantastic time!

By now you’ve probably heard rumors about the Irish weather. It’s true what they say — you really can experience all four seasons in one day.

Because most travelers visiting Ireland spend some time in the capital, I wanted to recommend a few fun things to do in Dublin, whether you’re lucky enough to catch some summer sun — or the heavens open up above you.

Best Things To Do In Dublin

1: Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Founded in 1191, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland, and the National Cathedral. It has been said this is where St. Patrick himself baptized Christian converts over 1500 years ago.

Unusually, St. Patrick’s isn’t the only Cathedral in Dublin. It’s a “two-cathedral” city, sharing the title with Christ Church Cathedral nearby.

Visitors can go inside and enjoy the impressive church interior between 9am and 5pm daily.

The writer Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was once Dean of the cathedral. He’s buried there too. On a sunny day, you’ll find tourists and locals alike enjoying the cathedral grounds soaking up the history.

2: Fish n’ Chips At Leo Burdocks

Things To Do In Dublin: Fish & Chips

Dublin’s Most Famous Fish & Chips

You can’t leave Dublin without trying a traditional Fish n’ Chips! But one place stands out from all the rest. Leo Burdocks Fish n’ Chips is so good in fact that they even have a ‘Wall of Fame’ outside showcasing visits from celebrities and politicians from around the world.

The original Burdocks has been around since 1913. They were serving up piping hot food during both World Wars and the 1916 Rising, when Ireland gained its independence from Britain.

The shop itself can only hold about 3 people, so grab your grub and head down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral nearby. Ask for the ‘crispy bits’ with your chips… you can thank me later!

3: Read At Trinity College Library

Ireland's Oldest University

Trinity College in Dublin

Created in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university, hosting students such as author Bram Stoker, poet Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.

The building has also been home to the ancient Book Of Kells since 1661. The Book of Kells Exhibition in Trinity College is a must-see in Dublin, but where it leads you to is the real treat…

The Old Library houses 200,000 of their oldest books in beautiful oak bookcases, so it is not hard to see why it was used as inspiration for J.K Rowling’s creation of Hogwarts in Harry Potter!

4: Have An Irish Breakfast

Drinking Guinness in Dublin

Drinking Guinness For Breakfast!

They say drinking a pint of Guinness is akin to eating a meal… so why not start your day with a drink? It’s what 100 year old Gladys Fielden has been doing for the past 70 years, and she’s still going strong!

There is an old motto that says “Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper” which basically means you should start your day with a large breakfast. The Irish take this to heart.

A traditional Irish breakfast consists of cooked meat (bacon, sausages and black/white puddings), eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and potato all fried in butter with brown bread.

It was used to prepare you for a full day’s work on the farm on a cold winter morning.

5: Christ Church Cathedral

Cathedral in Dublin

Christ Church Cathedral

As you climb the spiraling staircase of Christ Church Cathedral, take a moment to imagine what life was like back in 1030, when Dublin’s oldest building first opened its doors.

Imagine the historic events this building has witnessed and the ancient artifacts it has collected along the way.

Christ Church is known for its stunning architecture, its 12th century crypt and of course the sound of the bells which have rung out over Dublin’s medieval center for hundreds of years.

Thanks to their guided tours, you can now explore the narrow corridors of the Cathedral and ring the bell for yourself, or see their exhibition of original 16th century costumes.

6: Trace Ancestors At Glasnevin Cemetery

Dublin Things To Do: Glasnevin Cemetery

Hunting Dead Relatives at Glasnevin

Built in 1832, Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery is surrounded by seven watchtowers which were home to armed guards. Ireland’s most famous cemetery was a key target for bodysnatchers!

It was also the final resting place for many historical figures like Michael Colins, a soldier and politician who played a key role in the struggle for Irish independence, Brendan Behan, Irish poet, novelist, and playwright who was imprisoned for IRA activity and Luke Kelly, vocalist in one of Ireland’s greatest bands, The Dubliners.

Nowadays, Glasnevin Cemetery Museum has vowed to tell the stories of over 1.5 million people, the people who helped to shape the Ireland of today. They also have the best tools for your family’s Irish genealogy search.

7: Walk Across Ha’Penny Bridge

Things To Do In Dublin

Dublin’s Ha’Penny Bridge

Every visitor to Dublin should walk across the Ha’Penny bridge at least once. This historic bridge over the River Liffey was built back in 1816, to replace the many ferries that shuttled people back and forth.

It was named for the “half-penny” toll that was required to cross it.

For an even more unique experience, you can kayak under the bridge with City Kayaking. They run tours all year, and if you’re lucky, you might catch one of Dublin’s famous autumn sunsets.

If you’re REALLY lucky, you can be there for the ‘Music Under the Bridge’ tours when they call in some of the best musicians in Dublin to perform under the bridges as people kayak down the River Liffey through the city.

8: Listen To Buskers On Grafton Street

Dublin Things To Do: Street Busking

Singing for Tourists on Grafton

You never know what you are going to find on Grafton Street, but you are guaranteed a great show! From traditional Irish music, to rock and pop, this free entertainment is the perfect soundtrack to your Irish trip.

Make sure to take a snap while you’re there because you could be listening to a future star. Recently, 12 year old Irish busker Allie Sherlock was flown to Hollywood by Ellen DeGeneres and is said to be the next Taylor Swift!

Grafton Street has also been known to bring out the busker in everyone, including people like Bono, Hozier, The Script, Damien Rice and Glen Hansard to name a few.

9: The Howth Cliff Walk

Dublin Things To Do: Howth Cliffs

Howth Cliffs at Dublin Bay

If you’re a nature lover who wants to enjoy a day outside of Dublin city center, the coastal town of Howth should be first on your list.

Here you’ll find some of the best seafood in Dublin, weekend markets for the perfect souvenir and coastal hikes with unimaginable views over the Irish sea.

On a clear day you will get a panorama view of Dublin Bay and Howth Harbor during this 2 hour trail.

The good news is the Howth Cliff walk is suitable for all fitness levels, but keep in mind that it is dangerous to walk in rough weather conditions, so it may be best to stay cozy in one of the many pubs and restaurants nearby.

10: DoDublin Bus Tour

Dublin Things To Do: Bus Tour

Tour Dublin By Bus

With authors and poets such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W.B Yeats and Samuel Beckett, it’s clear to see that Ireland is home to some of the greatest storytellers in the world.

Normally I’m not a fan of bus tours, but the DoDublin Bus guides truly have the ‘gift of the gab’.

They take great pride in presenting the best of Dublin City and throw in plenty of historical and cultural references by famous poets/writers.

Be prepared for the Irish sense of humor though, you can expect a lot of playful sarcasm and plenty of songs from Dublin City – it’s like a history lesson, comedy show and karaoke sing-along mixed into one!

11: See Wild Deer In Phoenix Park

Dublin Things To Do: Phoenix Park

Deer at Phoenix Park in Dublin

Phoenix Park – Europe’s largest walled urban park is a national treasure for the people of Ireland. Opening over 350 years ago, the park spans 7 square kilometers and can be found just a stones throw away from the city center.

Not only is it home to Dublin Zoo, but it is also known for its wild herd of deer, which can be found roaming through the forests (and crossing the road when you least expect it!).

The deer were introduced back in 1662, when the park itself was set up as a royal deer hunting park, but nowadays the 450 member herd are free to run wild.

Phoenix Park is the perfect place for an afternoon picnic, but do keep your eyes peeled, because the deer have been known to join in!

12: Trad Sessions At The Hairy Lemon

Trad Music at the Hairy Lemon

Who Wants to Dance?

Traditional Irish music, or trad, is one reason many people visit Ireland. And The Hairy Lemon Pub is certainly unconventional… you never know what you’ll find in this aptly-named green and yellow 19th century house.

One thing is for sure, The Hairy Lemon does the best Trad Sessions in Dublin! If you have never been to an Irish Trad Session, prepare yourself, it can get pretty wild especially when the Guinness is flowing.

You can grab a seat, but you won’t be sitting for long — Irish dancing on the tables in no time. The Hairy Lemon is also known for their traditional Irish food like Dublin Coddle, Cottage Pie and Irish Stew.

13: Watch A Hurling Match

Dublin Things To Do: Hurling Match

Have You Ever Heard of Hurling?

You may have never heard of Hurling before, but I can guarantee the moment you sit down to watch this ancient Gaelic and Irish sport, you’ll instantly become a fan.

And where better to watch, than in Croke Park (‘Croker’ as the Irish say). Hurling has been played in Ireland for well over 3000 years and is said to be ‘the fastest game on grass’.

It involves a wooden stick called a hurley and a small hard ball called a sliotar, and players must wear helmets at all times – this is high speed, high impact and high adrenaline for everyone watching!

14: Taste Some Irish Whiskey

Dublin Whiskey Distillery

Whiskey Tasting at Teeling Distillery

Guinness isn’t the only alcohol Ireland is famous for. Ireland has been making whiskey for well over two hundred years, so it doesn’t get much richer than this when it comes to taste and history.

The most famous whiskey tour in Dublin is the former Jameson Distillery on Bow Street, but it’s really just a museum now, no longer a working distillery. Instead, I’d recommend stopping by the fully functional Teeling Distillery to see an actual distillery in action.

Prepare yourself for a sensory overload, because after the tour you’re invited to try out their premium whiskey tasting experience, where you will learn the tricks of the trade, how to blend your own whiskey or master the craft of whiskey cocktail making.

15: Visit The Hellfire Club

Dublin Things To Do: Hell Fire Club

The Most Haunted Place in Ireland

With beautiful forest trails and an incredible view over Dublin, the Hellfire Club might seem like a peaceful escape from the city at first, but once you make it to the lodge at the top of the hill you will start to realize that there is much more than meets-the-eye.

If you’re not a fan of ghost stories, you might want to stay away as this infamous location is riddled with supernatural tales that will send shivers up your spine!

At the top of the hill you’ll find the remains of the Irish Hellfire Club, where the members were believed to be Satanists and Devil-worshipers — inviting the Devil to join them for dinner each night.

16: Explore Dublin’s Museums

Dublin Things To Do: Museums

Dublin is Full of Museums

If you have been to the Emerald Isle before, you will probably know that it tends to rain more than 160 days of the year! Thankfully, Dublin has an abundance of museums and galleries for you to stay dry in – they even have a National Leprechaun Museum!

The National Gallery of Ireland is home to some of Europe’s most incredible pieces, with art spanning the 14th to the 20th-century, while the stunning grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art are the perfect location to enjoy contemporary style art.

If it’s history you’re interested in, why not try the National Museum of Ireland or take a peek inside the Little Museum of Dublin which tells the remarkable story of the Irish capital, with over 5,000 artifacts in the collection.

17: Wander Down To Temple Bar

Dublin Things To Do: Temple Bar

Dublin’s Famous Temple Bar Area

The Temple Bar area is a maze of narrow streets full of pubs and live music. Located on the south side of the River Liffey, it’s one of the oldest areas in Dublin and home to some of the most famous bars in Ireland.

It’s a must see if you want to experience Dublin’s nightlife (however these days it’s mostly tourists). But there’s plenty to do in the daytime too.

Medieval architecture, food markets every Saturday afternoon, Europe’s oldest built theatre — it’s no wonder it’s renowned for being the cultural quarter of Dublin. Take a stroll down the cobbled streets and explore its galleries, vintage clothing shops, record stores and more.

18: Picnic At St. Stephen’s Green

Dublin Things To Do: St. Stephen's Green

Relax at St. Stephen’s Green

Saint Stephen’s Green Park is a little piece of paradise in the centre of Dublin and the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. If you’re bringing a picnic to enjoy by the pond, make sure to bring an extra slice of bread for the park residents – the ducks!

Over the past 4 centuries, Stephen’s Green has played a key role in Dublin’s history. When you wander through the peaceful surroundings, it’s hard to imagine that this site was once a battleground during the 1916 rising.

But even in the height of battle, James Kearney, the park grounds keeper convinced both sides to stop fighting for one hour a day… so he could feed the ducks of course!

19: Tour Historic Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Explore Historic Dublin Castle

Built in the early 13th century, Dublin Castle sits on the site of a Viking settlement. Excavations have uncovered parts of a medieval castle with the remains of the Viking’s original defenses.

The stone covered embankment, the medieval curtain wall and the steps that led down to the original moat have all been preserved for you to see on your next visit to this historical masterpiece.

The history of Dublin Castle doesn’t stop there. Before the 1916 rising, it served as headquarters for the British administration in Ireland. In 1922, following Ireland’s independence, Dublin Castle was handed over to the new Irish government, opened up for visitors to experience it themselves.

20: Beef Stew At The Church

Dublin Things To Do: The Church

The Church Restaurant, Dublin

This might just be the best thing you ever eat, especially on a cold winter’s day in Dublin. Chances are you’ll see Guinness Beef Stew on menus across the city, but the best spot to enjoy it is The Church.

Built at the beginning of the 18th century, The Church (which was an actual church) boasts many outstanding features, like an authentic Renatus Harris organ, spectacular stained glass windows, and has hosted some incredible historic events.

Arthur Guinness, founder of The Guinness Brewery (another great stop in Dublin) married here in 1761. Sean O’Casey – Playwright & Author of “The Plough & The Stars” – was baptized here in 1880.

Jonathan Swift – author of “Gulliver’s Travels” and Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral attended services here too.

Molly Malone Statue Dublin

Molly Malone’s Famous Statue…

What NOT To Do In Dublin…

  • Never tell an Irish person that YOU are also Irish. Maybe your great, great, great, grandmother was, but you’re American.
  • Don’t get a selfie with the statue of Molly Malone. This is probably the most touristy thing you can do in Dublin.
  • Stay away from Sheriff Street. Despite the name, it’s one of the most dangerous parts of the city. The rest of Dublin isn’t too bad!
  • Never call an Irishman (or Irish woman) British. In fact, try not to mention the UK at all. The Irish are fiercely independent.
  • Don’t expect to drink all night. Most pubs in Dublin actually close at 11:30pm on weeknights and 1am on weekends.

Transportation In Dublin

Rental Car

RentalCars.com searches all the big car rental companies and finds the best price. This is probably the easiest way to rent a car in Ireland.

Bus

Dublin Bus will take you anywhere in the city as well as beautiful coastal towns and villages on the outskirts of the city. Most bus stops have digital timetables that will tell you exactly when your next bus is due to arrive, but don’t forget that they only accept coins!

Train

The DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) is one of the best options for a day trip outside the city centre. This train ride will bring you on a scenic journey to some of Dublin’s most popular suburban towns, including Malahide, Howth, Blackrock, Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey.

Luas

The Luas (Dublin’s light-rail transit service) is a fast and frequent tram system crossing the city on two lines. Tickets for Luas (the Irish word for ‘speed’) must be purchased at the station vending machines.

Taxi

With several taxi ranks situated throughout the city, you’ll never find it difficult to catch a ride. You can also download the Lynk App or MyTaxi App to call a taxi any time of day. Taxi drivers here are the unofficial tour guides of Dublin, and you’ll often have an entertaining journey.

Dublin Bikes

If you want to explore the city and get some exercise, pick up a 3 day Dublin Bikes card. This allows you to easily take a bike from any stations around the city. The ticket is €5 and gives you unlimited 30 minute bike trips.

Where To Stay In Dublin

Accommodation in Dublin is expensive. There’s just no way around it. Dublin is a small city, so hotels within the center can charge a premium.

Here are some suggestions for good places to stay in Dublin:

BUDGET Dublin Hostel
Abbey Court Hostel
Good breakfast, great location, easy to walk to everything. Clean.

Check prices & availability:
Booking.com / TripAdvisor.com

MID-RANGE Dublin Mid-Range Hotel
Blooms Hotel Dublin
Close to bars, restaurants, and attractions. Good value.

Check prices & availability:
Booking.com / TripAdvisor.com

MID-RANGE Dublin Mid-Range Hotel
Jurys Inn Dublin
Large rooms, comfortable beds, and friendly staff. Great location and breakfast.

Check prices & availability:
Booking.com / TripAdvisor.com

LUXURY Dublin Luxury Hotel
Trinity City Hotel
Super comfortable hotel with cosy courtyard area. Close to all the best attractions.

Check prices & availability:
Booking.com / TripAdvisor.com

COUPON CODE! For a special $30 off your next Booking.com hotel stay over $60, make sure to use my special link.

Dublin Travel Tips & Advice

  • Pick up a Leap Card for 1, 3 or 7 days. The Leap Card is a convenient way to pay for all public transport services in Dublin and fares are up to 31% cheaper than individual tickets!
  • The best time to visit Dublin is during the summer months (May to August), with warmer temperatures and tons of festivals. Another good time is March, when the city prepares for Saint Patrick’s Day.
  • Speaking of festivals, some of the best are Electric Picnic, Oktoberfest, Fringe Festival, and Dublin at Christmas. There’s even a Bram Stoker Festival for you vampire fans!
  • Dublin International Airport is about 6 miles away from the city center. The easiest way to get into the city is by using the airport’s Airlink Bus (also known as Route 747). They depart for the city every 15-20 minutes, and costs €6 one way.
USEFUL TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR DUBLIN Dublin Map – Plan your trip around Dublin with this handy map
Skyscanner.net – My favorite place to book cheap airline flights
RentalCars.com – Great site for comparing rental car company prices
Booking.com – Book affordable accommodation in Dublin
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Dublin
Suggested Reading: 1916: The Irish Rebellion

Pin This!

20 Great Things To Do In Dublin -- tips and ideas for your trip to Ireland! More at ExpertVagabond.com
20 Great Things To Do In Dublin -- tips and ideas for your trip to Ireland! More at ExpertVagabond.com

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Any questions about things to do in Dublin? Do you have other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.


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2018-09-05T13:00:26Z
Liked To Death: Is Instagram & Social Media Ruining Travel?
Instagram and Social Media Travel Impact

Is Social Media Ruining the Travel Experience?

Travel Photography

The massive growth of Instagram, social media, and travel blogs in recent years has had a profound impact on how we travel. Not all of it positive. Has travel changed forever?

As someone who makes a living as a travel blogger and photographer, inspiring others to travel, this topic has been on my mind a lot lately.

Over the last 8 years I’ve witnessed first-hand how travel destinations have become overwhelmed by tourists and Instagram selfie-seekers, many of whom are destroying the places they visit.

In fact, I’m part of the problem. And I don’t know how I feel about that.

As you’ll see below, this is a multi-faceted issue, with many different components involved. Social media isn’t the only culprit.

But how do we fix it? Is it even possible, or are we too late?

Tourists at Tulum in Mexico

Overcrowding at Famous Destinations

Tourism Overkill

Tourism helps drive local economies, and countries spend a great deal of time and money attracting travelers to their destinations for that very reason.

But there can also be too much of a good thing. It’s called “overtourism”, it’s beginning to take a toll on local communities, and even entire countries.

Tourism helped save Iceland after its 2008 financial crisis. But now many residents have had enough. Since 2010, the number of visitors has more than quadrupled — putting a ton of strain on infrastructure and the environment.

Just 800 people visited Norway’s picturesque Trolltunga “Troll’s Tongue” viewpoint in 2010, while 80,000 people made the hike in 2016. This massive surge of tourism (and rescue missions for those unprepared for the 10 hour trek) was fueled in a large part by social media.

Recent protests in Venice and Barcelona showcase what unchecked tourism is doing to these popular European cities. Neighborhoods become too expensive for locals as investors buy up apartments to rent out to tourists.

More People Traveling

Over the past 10 years tourism in general has surged, driven by a rising middle class around the world. This is especially true for emerging economies like China and India.

With more disposable income to spend, millions of new travelers are hitting the road and collecting photos for their Instagram feeds.

Travel has become more affordable and accessible too, with budget airlines like WOW Air and alternative accommodation options like Airbnb.

Studies have shown that Millennials prioritize experiences over possessions, and 72% of millennials say they are planning to travel more, compared with 59% of Gen Xers and 40% of Baby Boomers.

Travel is just hot right now. While the world saw 500 million international travelers in 1995, it has swelled to a massive 1.3 billion tourists in 2017 — and growing even faster.

For those of us who’ve been promoting the benefits of travel, it’s actually working. But there have been consequences…

Many of these new travelers are visiting the same handful of destinations, creating some massive issues with overcrowding. The tourist experience itself is deteriorating due to long lines and a lack of patience.

Social Media and Travel

Social Media Influences People

The Power Of Social Media

If you don’t think social media has the power to influence people, you’ve got some catching up to do. A new report by Fullscreen & Shareablee shows just how powerful it is.

“Almost half (42%) of 18-34 report trying a product recommended by an influencer, and more than one-quarter (26%) say they have actually made a purchase based on a recommendation.”

Another study by the University of Georgia highlights the “bandwagon effect” and the “snob effect” that social media has on travel.

Some people choose their destinations based on what’s currently trending, while others try to be “cool” by picking destinations that aren’t as popular. Either way, social media is influencing their decisions.

I personally found this study interesting, because I try to do a combination of these two things as a strategy for my business. Highlighting a mix of popular and “undiscovered” places. LOL!

The town of Wanaka, New Zealand saw a massive 14% increase in tourism to its region when it focused on inviting social media influencers to visit, far surpassing traditional marketing methods.

Social media is very effective at inspiring people to purchase plane tickets, book hotels, and visit the same locations as the influencers they follow.

The Culture of Selfie Photos

Just Taking a Shark Selfie to Show Off…

Selfish Selfie Culture

When the crusaders reached Jerusalem, they visited the the tomb of Jesus at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and proceeded to carve graffiti into the walls in order to say “I was here.”

Humans have always been a selfish bunch. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the tools we use to feed our narcissism.

In the 12th century, it was a medieval dagger. In the 1980’s, it was polaroid cameras and those agonizing family slideshows full of bad travel snapshots.

Just check out photographer Martin Parr’s 1990’s coffee table book Small World if you need reminding what tourism was like before Facebook.

These days, we’re simply using Instagram, Facebook, and selfie-sticks to more effectively indulge in our narcissism, and to a larger audience.

Look at me! I’m so worldly & cultured, right? Like & comment if you agree!

We have to make our mark somehow, to feed those egotistical tendencies — and carving graffiti with daggers is no longer allowed.

Travel as a Bucket List

Chichen Itza? Check!

A Checklist Mentality

Famous places are famous for a reason. They’re beautiful. Or strange. They have historic or cultural value. You’ll probably want to see them for yourself, and take a photo, just like countless others before you.

This isn’t new to Instagram. As someone who was shooting travel photos before Instagram was a thing, just look at any postcard rack and you’ll see many of the same famous locations on display.

People have been holding up the Leaning Tower Of Pisa for 30+ years.

The only difference is that our travel photos are public now. No longer hidden away in family photo albums.

Instagram has become a publicly accessible bucket-list of places you NEED to visit, fueling a FOMO (fear of missing out) attitude. We’re trying too hard to impress everyone with our list.

Taj Mahal? Chichen Itza? Great Wall Of China?

Been there, done that. Got the t-shirt (and Instagram photo) to prove it.

A post shared by Insta Repeat (@insta_repeat) on


The Algorithm

Instagram’s algorithm pushes certain types of images to the top of your feed because they naturally get the most attention. Epic landscapes. Colorful sunsets. Famous attractions. Bikini bottoms on white sand beaches.

Even if you want to see other kinds of photography, the algorithm makes it difficult, because those images get buried at the bottom of your feed.

While you can certainly ignore the algorithm, and post whatever the hell you want, those photos most likely won’t be seen by your followers.

So people who are trying to “make it big” on Instagram and get the most likes and followers — keep posting the same damn things over and over again, because they work.

It’s a vicious cycle that leads to the repetition of un-inspiring images that you’ve already seen 100 times before.

Photography Statistics

Photography is Booming! (Source: Statista)

Everyone’s A Photographer Now

The hobby of photography has grown exponentially over the past few years with technology like digital cameras, smartphones, and online storage and sharing of images through social media.

This means there are simply far more photos of everything now.

It’s estimated that 1.2 trillion digital photos were taken in 2017.

Photography has become more accessible to more people. Everyone and their grandmother is attempting to jockey into position for a memorable shot with their iPhone or iPad.

Countless professionals, and non-professionals, are sharing free photography how-to YouTube videos online. More of us are getting excited about photography than ever before!

Which is great — as long as we’re following the rules, and not causing a nuisance for others.

Unfortunately with so many new enthusiasts, there’s a lot of ignorance about common photography etiquette too.

For example, walking directly into other people’s shots, or taking too long to capture a photo when there’s a line of others waiting their turn.

Posing with Lava in Hawaii

Not Illegal, But Not The Smartest Thing I’ve Done…

Destructive Human Nature

While the rise of Instagram and social media has certainly contributed to the problems, we can’t discount the powerful effects of human nature, ignorance, and our tendency to trash nice things.

Social media has just amplified these consequences to new levels.

When a small sunflower farm in Canada was overwhelmed with visitors due to Instagram, police were called in to shut down the roads and protect the farm from further destruction.

When two women began arguing over a photo-op at Italy’s most famous fountain, it soon escalated into a violent brawl.

Members of a popular group of YouTube/Instagram stars who were jailed for breaking multiple laws in pursuit of fame tragically died while attempting more stunts.

But this has been happening before Instagram too. For years people have been climbing Mount Everest, risking death for bragging rights, all while destroying the mountain with trash and human waste.

Travel Influencers and Money

Make Money – Make Money, Money

Travel Influencers & Money

The “Rick Steves Effect“. The “Lonely Planet Effect”. Even National Geographic. The ability to make a profit through travel writing and photography has always had both positive and negative outcomes.

Introducing millions of people to a new place and inspiring them to visit can inject a lot of money into a region. It can create new jobs for locals. It can broaden the minds of travelers who make the journey.

But it can also wreak havoc and chaos if the destination isn’t ready for the onslaught of tourism that follows.

The internet broke down barriers to entry into this world, allowing anyone to become a travel photographer, travel writer, or YouTube video host.

It’s how I got started 8 years ago creating this travel blog — chasing a dream, with no professional training.

As the world consumed more news and entertainment online, advertising dollars followed. Myself and many others have been able to make a good living sharing our travel adventures via social media.

Would you believe I’m able to charge up to $4000 for a single Instagram photo? Or $15,000 for a destination marketing campaign? Others with more reach can earn even more…

Suddenly, getting the perfect photo isn’t just a hobby, it’s a job. And more people become fixated on chasing dollar signs than having a real travel experience.

Iceland Plane Crash

Iceland Before the Crowds

Yes, I’m Part Of The Problem

I’m fully aware of the irony of being a tourist myself, complaining about other tourists. And the further irony that I’m making a living doing it in the process.

While helping to promote these destinations to a wide audience as part of my business, they eventually get overwhelmed.

I’m not so egotistical to think that my content alone created these problems, but I certainly share some of the blame.

Example #1

Back in 2014 I traveled to Iceland for the first time, renting a campervan and driving the country’s Ring Road. I wrote an article about my experience, which has been read 750,000 times by other travelers.

One location I mentioned was completely altered after my visit. Due to a surge of disrespectful tourists, the Sólheimasandur airplane trail was closed down to vehicles and the plane itself was wrecked by graffiti.

Example #2

Back in 2013 I visited a special monastery in Thailand where monks would give you a traditional Sak Yant tattoo, etched by hand, in exchange for a $3 donation. Filled with locals, and a few tourists, the experience was very authentic and cool.

However after word got around and the activity became super popular, the site turned into a gimmicky tattoo factory, with regular dudes doing the work (no longer monks), and charging upwards of $120 USD.

So What’s The Solution?

Do travelers with “influence” need to be more careful about what they share online? Or will no location remain pristine and undiscovered for long, regardless of what we do?

Do governments need to do a better job managing their tourists, spending more money on enforcing laws, permit systems, sustainability, and infrastructure — rather than tourism marketing?

Or are we just undergoing an unstoppable change in how the world travels — due to a combination of population growth, a rising worldwide middle class, and our already narcissistic nature combined with social media?

I really don’t know. Maybe there isn’t a solution. But I’m hoping that together we can at least acknowledge that there’s something troubling going on, and maybe try to do our own small part to make a difference.

  • Pick up some trash on your next adventure.
  • Observe posted signs and local customs.
  • Read up on travel photography etiquette.
  • Put down your camera from time to time.
  • Shame & report those who aren’t following rules.
  • Learn more about the people and places you visit.
  • Don’t treat travel as a competition or checklist.
  • Be aware your actions may have negative consequences.

If you agree that something needs to change, please share this article. Awareness and discussion are the first steps!

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Is Instagram & Social Media Ruining Travel? A look at what's causing overcrowding and bad behavior. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Is Instagram & Social Media Ruining Travel? A look at what's causing overcrowding and bad behavior. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE TRAVEL TIPS

Important Travel Safety Advice
How To Save Money For Travel
My Best Travel Tips For Beginners
How To Find The Cheapest Flights

Do you think Instagram & social media is ruining travel? Can you share any additional examples? Drop me a message in the comments below!

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2018-08-20T19:49:56Z
17 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland (Plus Car Rental Tips)
Tips for Driving in Iceland

Things You Should Know About Driving in Iceland

Iceland

Ready for an epic road trip driving in Iceland? Renting a car is the best way to experience this beautiful country. But there are a few things you should know before you start your adventure.

So you’ve embraced your inner Leif Erikson, and you’re finally planning a trip to Iceland! Welcome to the club.

Road tripping around Iceland’s Ring Road, and the Golden Circle, are some of my favorite travel adventures to date (after 8 years and 50+ countries!)

Iceland will always have a special place in my heart.

Renting a car and driving Iceland on your own is the best way to experience this stunning and diverse country, as it truly gives you the freedom to stop at each and every waterfall, volcano, hot-spring, and glacier along the way.

Here are some important tips for driving in Iceland, so you’re ready to hit the road and start exploring the land of fire and ice.

Useful Tips For Driving In Iceland

Iceland Car Rental Advice

Tips for Renting a Car in Iceland

Should You Rent A Car In Iceland?

Hey, if you’re a fan of bus tours, by all means go book one. It’s a wonderful way to see a country if you don’t have a lot of time. No planning, no driving, just sit back and let someone else do all the work.

But if you’re like me, you prefer the adventure and challenge of independent travel. True exploration, with no set schedule or timetable. The freedom to stop anywhere interesting you find along the way.

Maybe you want to capture an epic waterfall sunrise photo at 6am without 100 other tourists around. Maybe you want to drive off the beaten path, excited with anticipation of what you’ll discover around the next bend.

If that’s the kind of traveler you are, then renting a car and self-driving around Iceland is the way to go!

Where To Rent Your Car

Renting a car from Keflavík International Airport is the most obvious choice, however you can also rent them in Reykjavik later if you plan to spend a few days in the city first.

The airport is about 40 minutes away from Reykjavik city.

During my three weeks traveling in Iceland, I rented an SUV for two weeks, and a campervan for one week.

RentalCars.com searches all the big car rental companies and finds the best price. This is probably the easiest way to rent a car or truck in Iceland.

Happy Campers rents fully-equipped campervans with a bed, kitchen, space heater, and everything you’d need for your road trip. It was an awesome way to see the country!

Road Conditions in Iceland

Iceland’s Adventurous Back Roads

Iceland’s Different Road Types

With the variety of landforms and terrain in Iceland, you’ve got to think about the type of trip you want to have.

Do you want to carve your way across the Icelandic highlands like a Nordic explorer? Or do you plan on having a more relaxed and comfortable drive around the island?

This will determine the roads you’ll encounter and the vehicle you’ll need.

Ring Road & Golden Circle (Paved)

You can see some of Iceland’s most popular destinations driving around the Ring Road (Route 1). This mostly paved road runs a giant circle around the outer rim of the island and through many towns, including the capital of Reykjavik.

There are some remote sections with gravel, but a 2-wheel-drive vehicle will still get the job done. Speed limits average 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph) on these roads.

You can choose a 2WD vehicle for the Golden Circle, too. This short route is a great day trip from Reykjavik if you’re short on time (like during a layover).

USEFUL TIP: Planning to drive the ring road? Stop at Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon to see the incredible icebergs!

Adventurous F-Roads (Gravel)

Did you know that 54% of Icelanders believe in elves or the possibility they exist? If you want to search for them, you’ll find them near the F-roads.

These special designated dirt and gravel mountain roads wind through Iceland’s rugged interior highlands. It is strongly advised that people travel in groups of 2 or more cars for safety should a breakdown occur, just like remote jeep trails in the United States.

The rocky, muddy conditions are more treacherous than other gravel roads. You can travel for miles without seeing any other cars.

Iceland’s F-roads require a 4-wheel-drive rental car. They also require your full attention. Some F-Roads can get quite rough, with glacial river crossings.

USEFUL TIP: F-Road doesn’t mean off-road. Driving completely off marked roads in Iceland is illegal and can damage your rental and the environment.

Local Access H-Roads (Gravel)

These are dirt roads that often lead to farms and private homes off the main paved roads in Iceland. They are better maintained than the F-Roads, don’t require a 4X4 in the summer, but aren’t plowed as frequently as paved roads in the winter time.

What Kind of Car to Rent in Iceland

Renting a Campervan in Iceland

What Kind Of Vehicle Do You Need?

If you can’t drive manual stick shifts, double check that you’re actually renting an automatic vehicle, because most rental cars in Iceland are manual.

The type of vehicle you’ll need depends largely on the season, weather conditions, and road type.

Two Wheel Drive

Small 2WD cars are the most affordable, and perfectly suitable for day trips around Reykjavik and the popular paved roads that run around Iceland (like the Golden Circle and Ring Road).

All 2WD rental cars in Iceland are equipped with studded tires during the winter season to help with traction on ice too.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? – Renting a small car in Iceland is going to cost between $40 – $100 USD per day (4200 ISK to 10,600 ISK) depending on the model/season.

Check Prices For 2WD Car Rentals In Iceland

Four Wheel Drive

The affordable 4×4 Suzuki Jimny, or a more expensive Land Rover is perfect for Iceland’s rugged F-Roads. If you plan to explore Iceland’s back roads at any point, you’ll want one of these four-wheel drive bad boys.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? – Renting a 4X4 SUV in Iceland is going to cost between $100 – $250 USD per day (10,600 ISK – 26,500 ISK). A fancy Land Rover or Super Jeep will set you back $400+ per day.

Check Prices For 4X4 Truck Rentals In Iceland

Campervan

Transportation? Check. Accommodation? Check. Home-cooked meals? Fire up the grill, baby! This is the way to attack a serious Icelandic road trip in comfort. Plus, you’ll avoid spending cash on Iceland’s notoriously expensive accommodation and restaurant meals. More money = more fuel = more adventures.

Campervans come in both 2WD and 4WD varieties, which is especially important for driving Iceland in the winter.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? – Renting a campervan in Iceland is going to cost between $140 – $250 USD per day (14,800 ISK to 26,500 ISK) depending on the model/season.

Check Prices For Campervan Rentals In Iceland

Northern Lights in Iceland

Driving Under the Northern Lights

Car Rental Insurance In Iceland

Driving in Iceland can result in some pretty harsh conditions that many people aren’t prepared for — so I always recommend getting the extra car insurance options available to you.

Collision Damage Waiver

Car rental companies typically offer various levels of a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which isn’t exactly insurance. Instead, it means the rental company won’t charge you over a predetermined limit if you drop off the rental car with damage.

But this limit still tends to be upwards of $1750 for the basic CDW, and companies in Iceland are more likely to inspect every inch of your vehicle.

The basic CDW comes free with every rental. With most companies, an additional daily fee (about $10 and up) allows you to upgrade to Super CDW (SCDW), Grand CDW, and even Premium CDW. This lowers the amount you’ll be liable for in the end should damage occur to the vehicle.

These higher-level CDWs usually come with added protection like:

Gravel Protection – Gravel roads abound in Iceland. There’s a risk of other drivers spraying rocks at your vehicle as they drive by, so it makes sense to grab this one for a few extra bucks a day.

Sandstorm & Ash Protection – Yup, you read that correctly! High winds can blast your car with volcanic ash and sand, causing extensive damage to the rental vehicle.

Ice Protection – Ice. Land. It’s in the name! Get this add-on, especially if you’re traveling in the winter. Sliding off icy roads is a common occurrence in Iceland.

River Crossing Insurance – Read the terms carefully. If it only covers water up to half of the wheel-well, you’re not protected for deeper crossings (which you’ll find plenty of on F-roads).

You’ll also want to check if the rental company sets a mileage limit. Always try to get the unlimited milage option!

Beware Sheep on Roads

Dangerous Sheep in Iceland

Watch Out For Animals!

There are 3 types of large animals that may cross your path while driving in Iceland, and crashing into them will definitely ruin your trip.

Iceland has a lot of sheep. In the summer, they’re allowed to roam free through the countryside, often walking across the road.

Beautiful and funny Icelandic horses can sometimes be moved from one pasture to another via roadways too.

If you’re driving in the remote North East of Iceland, you may see some wild reindeer in the winter. Reindeer were brought over from Norway in the 18th century, but were never domesticated.

Remember to slow down and pass any animals near the road very carefully.

Iceland’s Speed Cameras

You won’t see too many police cars on the roads driving around Iceland. However Iceland does enforce its speed limit with camera traps.

These nondescript boxes on the side of the road record your speed and take a photo if you’re driving over the limit, resulting in a steep fine.

The speed limit in Iceland is 90km/h (55mph) on paved roads, 80km/h (50mph) per hour on dirt roads, and 50km/h (30mph) per hour in cities.

Also note that seatbelts are mandatory in Iceland, and just good common sense anyway.

Driving in Bad Weather

Emergency Roadside Weather Shelter

Be Prepared For Extreme Weather

Weather can get severe in Iceland from time to time, especially in the winter. So severe, that 70mph wind gusts have been known to blow open car doors backwards, bending the hinges or ripping them off completely!

To prevent wind damage try to park your car facing the wind, pushing the door closed, not open. Crack your window first, and stick your hand out to test wind strength, then slowly open the door with two hands.

Don’t assume you can handle driving through an Icelandic snow storm just because you grew up in New England, because the weather can be VERY different here.

Weather changes quickly in Iceland, and a sunny morning can easily turn into a snowstorm later that day. Iceland has a fantastic website to check real-time road conditions called Road.is. They even have a handy smartphone app.

Gas Stations & Fuel Advice

Gas stations in Iceland are scarce once you get further away from the cities, but spread out across the island. Be sure to fuel up before setting out, and re-fuel often — try not to let it fall below half a tank.

You’ll find plenty of gas stations on the Ring Road until you reach the more remote Eastern and Northern parts of the country, where they start to thin out. Fill up more frequently out there.

Iceland is a remote island, without a lot of people/cars. At about $2 USD per liter ($7.50 USD per gallon), gas for your road trip is going to be expensive. Diesel isn’t much better right now, so check the prices and plan accordingly.

USEFUL TIP: If you’re up in the highland’s driving Iceland’s F-roads, it’s wise to bring a spare gas can.
Waterfalls in Iceland

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Do You Need GPS?

Many car rental companies in Iceland will try to up-sell you a GPS device for your road trip. However this is not needed if you have international cell service, or pick up a local SIM card at the airport or in Reykjavik before you embark on your journey.

Maybe bring along a dashboard or windshield smartphone holder so you can use the GPS maps hands-free while driving.

Along with Google Maps, I’d also recommend downloading the Gaia GPS Hiking App, which will help you get around Iceland’s backcountry hiking trails, even if you don’t have cell service. Here’s a handy guide for using it.

Don’t Stop In The Middle Of The Road!

Many of Iceland’s roads lack breakdown lanes, or have small ones. However because the scenery in Iceland is so spectacular, tourists are constantly stopping on the edge of the road to take photos.

Don’t do this! It’s not safe, and you might cause an accident.

If you really have to get that amazing photo, keep driving until you find a proper turn-off, park, and walk back to that perfect spot. Even if it takes you an extra 10 minutes.

That photo opportunity can wait a little, it’s simply not worth the danger of stopping in the middle of the road when there’s traffic passing by. Please be respectful of everyone else driving in Iceland.

Road Trip Tips for Iceland

Be Prepared for Extreme Conditions

Pack Proper Gear For Iceland

Even though Iceland is becoming a very popular tourist destination, parts of it are still pretty remote. Between large towns, you could be driving for a while before you’ll find regular civilization.

With this in mind, it’s wise to pack extra food, snacks, and water for your road trip. I’d also make sure you have proper clothing for cold weather and stormy conditions, warm and waterproof layers. Sturdy shoes or hiking boots too.

A first aid kit is always a great idea, here’s the one I travel with on my frequent adventures around the world. You never know when it will come in handy.

Campervan Rules

You Can’t Just Camp Anywhere

Car Camping Restrictions

So, you’ve packed a tent in your car, or you’re driving a camper van. You assume it’s legal to camp anywhere you please on this beautiful island. But should you? Can you legally camp anywhere in Iceland?

According to the Environment Agency of Iceland (EAI):

“Camping with no more than three tents is allowed on uncultivated ground for a single night, unless the landowner has posted a notice to the contrary. However, campers should always use designated campsites where they do exist. Do not camp close to farms without permission. If a group of more than three tents is involved, these campers must seek permission from the landowner before setting up camp outside marked campsite areas.

It is illegal to spent the night in tent trailers, tent campers, caravans, camper van or similar outside organised campsites or urban areas unless the land owner or rightholder has given their permission.”

There are also protected areas in Iceland where you definitely may NOT camp. For a complete list of protected locations and descriptions of when to ask permission, visit the camping rules page.

Please use a designated campsite when it’s available. With more than three tents or driving a campervan, ask permission of the landowner. Avoid protected areas.

If you do choose to camp outside designated areas, please follow the rules above, and leave no trace of your presence behind — so Iceland stays beautiful for locals and future travelers.

Winter Driving Tips in Iceland

Driving Iceland in the Winter

Winter Driving In Iceland

Every year tons of unprepared tourists get stuck or slide off the road due to Iceland’s winter driving conditions. I was hit with 2 snow storms during my 3 week trip during October/November.

Part of the problem is many people don’t have any real winter driving experience, or they over-estimate their abilities.

Getting your rental car stuck in the snow or ice is a very real possibility during winter in Iceland. Do you know how to get yourself out?

  • Clear snow away from your tires, using a shovel or hands and feet.
  • Straighten your tires, rock the vehicle back and forth, shifting from drive to reverse.
  • Create traction under your tires using dirt, sand, branches, granola, floor mats, anything you can find.

Always fill your gas tank when possible, especially in the winter. Getting stuck in a snowstorm and spending the night in your vehicle is a remote possibility. Without gas to keep it running (and warm), things get dangerous quickly.

When driving through heavy snow, try to stay inside the tire tracks. Drive slowly, and carefully move over to the edge when passing oncoming traffic.

Driving in Iceland

Off-Road Driving Tips

F-Road Driving Tips

While driving Iceland’s remote & rugged F-Roads is not technically driving off-road, basically you need to think of them as exactly that.

These roads are extremely basic, and not really maintained. In the United States, they’d be called “jeep trails” or “fire roads”.

So the same kind of safety concerns apply. You are on your own out there. No gas stations, no towns, no tow trucks.

If you get a flat, get stuck in the mud, or your engine breaks down, it could be a while before someone passes by who can help.

  • It’s forbidden to drive Iceland’s F-Roads without a 4X4 vehicle due to the rough conditions.
  • Traveling in pairs with a second vehicle is highly recommended, in case one of you breaks down.
  • F-Roads are only open during the summer months, generally June – September (or first snow). Some don’t open until July.

How To Cross A River

If you’re driving the paved Ring Road or Golden Circle, you’ll have normal bridges (although some are one-lane). However if you’re traveling to Iceland’s interior highlands on the dirt F-Roads, you may encounter a few rivers without any.

Crossing a river in a 4X4 truck requires a bit of planning. If you’ve never done it before, here are some tips.

  • Know where your vehicle’s “water line” is (maximum depth). Going past it may result in damage.
  • Try to cross glacial rivers early in the morning, when the flow is lower. As the day heats up, the river gets more powerful/deeper.
  • Shift your vehicle into 4X4 “low” before you start to cross, not in the middle of the river.
  • Drive slow and steady through the current. Don’t drive too fast or “splash” into the water (it could kill the engine).
  • Drive diagonally downstream, so the current helps push you across.
  • Stick to the marked crossing points, and don’t assume it’s always safe to cross. Try to watch someone else go first.
Iceland Emergency Information

What to Do During an Emergency?

Accident & Breakdown Info

112 is the only emergency number in Iceland. This is what you’d call to report any bad accidents, fire, crime, search & rescue, or natural disasters. 112 can be reached from anywhere in Iceland, from any telephone, by voice or by SMS text message.

Another great resource is the 112 Iceland App, that lets you “check in” before going on a hike or doing anything risky, to help provide location information if something goes wrong later.

If it’s not a life-or-death emergency, like your car breaks down or you get a flat tire, then contact your rental car office for help.

If you break down and you’re not exactly sure where you are, please don’t leave your car. Stay with your vehicle until someone passes by who can help.

Iceland’s F-Roads are patrolled by search & rescue teams who check for stranded drivers on a semi-regular basis.

Have Fun Driving In Iceland!

I hope I didn’t scare you too much about driving in Iceland. It really is worth the extra effort to rent a car and drive yourself!

Regardless of which vehicle or road you choose, one thing’s for sure — renting a car in Iceland gives you the freedom to set your own path and reach stunning locations off-limits to the typical bus tourist.

It also lets you do it at your own pace and in a style that suits you. And besides, how do you expect to hunt for elves or the incredible northern lights from your hotel room in Reykjavik?

Get out there and drive around Iceland in your own rental car! ★

Bonus Video! Driving Tips For Iceland

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!

(Click to watch Dangers On Icelandic Roads? – Driving With Elfis on YouTube) ICELAND TRIP PLANNING INFORMATION Location: Iceland
Car Rental: RentalCars.com or Happy Campers
Cheap Flights: Check out Skyscanner.net
Accommodation: Check out Booking.com
Useful Notes: For road trips around Iceland’s popular Ring Road or Golden Circle, you really don’t need a 4X4 vehicle in the summer. In the winter, if you’re heading to the far North or East of Iceland, it will certainly help during snow-storms.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

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Important tips for driving in Iceland and renting a car. An essential road trip guide! More at ExpertVagabond.com
Important tips for driving in Iceland and renting a car. An essential road trip guide! More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE FROM ICELAND

Driving Iceland’s Golden Circle
How To Photograph The Northern Lights
Iceland’s Best Photography Locations
Road Trip Guide To Iceland’s Ring Road

Are you planning a road trip in Iceland? Any questions about driving or renting a car there? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.


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2018-08-03T14:28:03Z
Mysterious Chefchaouen: The Blue Pearl Of Morocco
Chefchaouen Morocco Guide

Exploring Chefchaouen in Morocco

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Welcome to Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco. It’s famous for all the houses and shops painted different shades of blue. A magical place to get lost in with your camera!

The sun beats down mercilessly, setting every color around me ablaze – and since everything is blue, I feel like I’m walking above the clouds in a mythical sky kingdom.

But this is no myth, it’s Chefchaouen. Located in Northern Morocco, the city’s signature color is a variety of calming shades of blue that lower your blood pressure in seconds.

Known as Morocco’s “blue pearl” or “blue city”, the buildings in Chefchaouen are painted using a talc or chalk-based paint that looks so beguiling.

Exploring a labyrinth of narrow blue alleyways smelling of spice, incense, flowers, and fresh oranges — was one of the highlights of my journey to Morocco. Plus it’s a photographer’s dream!

Here are some tips and suggestions for things to do in Chefchaouen.

Need A Place To Stay In Morocco?
How To Find Cheap Travel Accommodation
Chefchaouen Morocco Travel Guide

Our Journey to Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen Morocco Jewish Population

A Jewish Tradition

Why Is Chefchaouen Blue?

Some will tell you that it’s a symbol of Jewish solidarity. In the 1930s, a sizeable population of Jewish refugees arrived in Chefchaouen, fleeing Nazi persecution and the growing threat of war.

The blue is meant to represent peace, safety and the power of heaven. In this version of the story, blue walls rapidly spread outward from the city’s Jewish quarter, until the entire city was aglow.

Kalam farigh! others would say (that’s Arabic for “nonsense”).

They’ll say the tradition of painting walls blue is Jewish, certainly, but goes back to the time of the city’s founding, in the 15th Century, when it was built around a fortress used to defend inhabitants against Portuguese invaders.

At this time, local Moroccans lived alongside Jews and Moriscos (former Muslims who had converted to Christianity) for a century or more.

Chefchaouen Blue City Viewpoint

View from Spanish Mosque Trail

Chefchaouen Morocco Square

Early Morning Calm

Exploring The Blue City

The narrow streets of Chefchaouen (or Chaouen, as the locals call it) make no attempt to soften the impact of the hillside the city is built on. In some cases, stone steps march straight up the slope, giving your legs a good workout.

But when the streets open into public squares, look above the city, towards the nearby Riff mountains.

The mountains above the city give the appearance of two horns – and it’s believed that this is where the name Chefchaouen comes from (literally meaning “watch the horns” in a local dialect).

But the rest of the time, keep looking around you. This is a jaw-droppingly beautiful city! It transports you into a different world.

Things To Do In Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen Shopping

Go Shopping in the Medina

Wander The Streets

This is why most travelers seek out Chefchaouen, to wander aimlessly through the narrow streets & alleys, painted in an endless array of blue — turquoise, powder blue, celeste, robin’s-egg, indigo, cyan, periwinkle.

Go shopping for colorful blankets or lamps in the souks hidden throughout the medina. Marvel at the variety of beautiful doorways and detailed tile work that decorate each residence.

Sit down at a street cafe, order a steaming glass of mint tea, and watch locals dressed in djellaba robes go about their daily life. Soak it all in — the whole Moroccan experience.

Cats in Morocco

Get Your Kitty Fix in Chefchaouen

Go Cat Spotting

If you’re a cat person like me, you’re going to love Chefchaouen. It’s a cat city for sure — a bit like Istanbul. Locals feed them, however they generally live outside in the street as strays.

You’ll find cats in alleys, cats on the stairs, and cats in the souks. Cats will be roaming through restaurants and on terraces. They’re hiding in trees and bushes, and stretched out on sidewalks.

If you want to get a cat’s attention in Morocco, try hissing. It’s a great way to get them to pose for photos! Meow.

Chefchaouen Morocco Kasbah

Rock The Kasbah

Kasbah Fortress Museum

Make sure to visit the large 15th century Kasbah fortress and dungeon located in Chefchaouen’s main square — Place Outa el Hammam. It’s pretty easy to find this red-walled structure among all the blue buildings.

Built in 1471 by Mulay Ali Ben Mussa Ben Rached, the Kasbah features a beautiful garden and small ethnographic museum. Climb the towers inside for some great views of the city and the Grand Mosque.

The Kasbah was built in the Andalusian-Maghrebian style to defend Chefchaouen from attacks by the Portuguese and Spanish. Entry only costs €1 Euro! It’s totally worth a quick visit.

Chefchaouen the Blue City

Getting Lost in Chefchaouen

Stay In A Riad

“Riad” comes from the Arabic word for “garden”, and it’s referring to the space in the centre of these traditional Moroccan guest-houses, open to the sky, usually with a water fountain.

Most rooms in a riad point inwards towards this space, the symbolic heart of the home – and when you open your door first thing in the morning to find sunlight streaming down into the building.

The distant noises of Morocco will filter down through the hole in the ceiling. You’ll hear movement, the clank of morning tea being prepared, the Arabic call to prayer, and the rhythms of life outside. It’s all extremely relaxing.

Chefchaouen Mountain Town

The Horns Above Chefchaouen

Spanish Mosque Hike

There’s an old Spanish Mosque perched on a hilltop overlooking the blue city, built by the Spanish in the 1920’s. The mile-long hike passes by prickly pear and agave cacti — with wonderful views of Chefchaouen at the top.

Because the mosque is kind of abandoned, non-muslims are allowed to go inside and take a look. Make sure to bring water though, because on a sunny day it gets hot up there.

The trail to the mosque crosses the Ras el’Ma river, where you’ll see local women doing laundry the traditional way in cold mountain water. The hike up takes about 45 minutes one-way.

Chefchaouen Blue Buildings

The City of Blue

Visit A Hammam

With a cleaning ritual that hasn’t changed for centuries, a visit to the hammam will leave you steamed, sweated, pummelled and scrubbed until you feel like every inch of your skin has been upgraded.

The main public hammam is across the square from the main mosque, Jama’a Kabir, and there are different attendance times for men and women.

You will also have to go shopping first for your own plastic sandals, soap, shower scrub and towel. The hammam experience is an integral part of life in Morocco!

Riff Mountains in Chefchaouen

Morocco’s Riff Mountains

Kif Field-Trip

The blue city of Chefchaouen has a long history of hippie-culture and the production of hashish — the most basic and traditional form of marijuana THC concentrate. Morocco is the world’s top supplier.

You might be offered a farm tour, where they drive you outside the city to the marijuana fields and demonstrate how they produce hash from kif, THC crystals extracted from the plant.

Just be wary… it is illegal to produce, trade, and smoke hash in Morocco, even in a place like Chefchaouen. Always remember that if you’re spotted, you could get arrested. Or blackmailed by the police for money.

Chefchaouen Morocco Waterfall

Beautiful Cascades d’Akchour

Cascades d’Akchour Waterfalls

Cascades d’Akchour is a trail that leads to a pair of waterfalls in the Rif Mountains. You’ll need a taxi to get to the trailhead, and sturdy shoes for this 2-3 hour hike.

The trail is full of lush green vegetation, an interesting natural stone bridge called “God’s Bridge”, and a beautiful swimming hole with a waterfall as your reward at the end.

You’ll find makeshift “cafes” along the way, which serve Moroccan food and tea during this long, and somewhat steep hike. It’s nice, but a little touristy.

Food in Chefchaouen Morocco

Vegetable Couscous was Delicious!

Eat Moroccan Food

One of the top reasons anyone should travel to Morocco is the amazing food, and you can find all your favorites in the Blue City. Stuff yourself on kefta (lamb meatballs), tajines (slow cooked stews in clay pots) and mountains of couscous.

Oranges and orange juice is a big deal in Morocco — and super delicious. A freshly squeezed glass will only set you back about 4 Dirhams ($0.40 USD). I couldn’t get enough!

Hot mint tea in Morocco is a sign of hospitality, friendship and tradition. It’s one of the most delicious treats you’ll find in the whole country, with a rich flavor you’ll struggle to find elsewhere.

Chefchaouen Paint

Traditional Pastel Paints

Chefchaouen Morocco Streets

Steep Cobblestone Streets

Getting To Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is built on the edge of the Rif mountain range in the far north – and the only way there is by road, winding up a rocky landscape that’s surprisingly lush and green in the summer.

Rental Car

RentalCars.com searches all the big car rental companies and finds the best price. This is probably the easiest way to rent a car in Morocco.

Driving in Morocco can be a bit crazy sometimes, but it’s a relatively straightforward journey of 115 km (about 2 hours of driving) from Tangier. I recommend using a parking garage, then explore the old-city on foot.

By Bus

The cheapest way to get to Chfchaouen is by bus. There are multiple buses per day from cities like Fez, Tetouan, Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier and Ceuta. The main bus company for tourists is CTM.

From Tangier, visit Gate Routiere (Place Al Jamia Al Arabia) and look for the next bus – there’s usually at least two running per day, with one departing at noon. The fare to Chefchaouen is 45 Dirham ($5 USD).

By Taxi

Morocco is full of unauthorized or semi-legit taxis driven by people who have one aim in life: to get as much money out of tourists as possible.

The standard price of a one-way trip in a private taxi from Tangier to Chefchaouen should be in the range of 300 – 500 Dirhams ($31 – $52 USD).

From Marrakesh

Take the night train from Marrakesh to Tangier, then continue to Chefchaouen by bus or taxi. The train leaves Marrakesh at 9:00 pm and arrives in Tangier at 7:25 am. There are sleeper cabins available.

Ready To Fly To Morocco?
How To Find The Cheapest Flights Online
Chefchaouen Blue Stairway

Even the Stairs are Blue!

Blue Doors in Chefchaouen

Stylish Blue Doors

Where To Stay In Chefchaouen

There are plenty of hotels in Chefchaouen, but you’re missing out if you don’t stay in a traditional Moroccan riad. It’s like a mix between a private townhouse, a hotel, and a European “bed & breakfast”. We stayed at Riad Assilah Chaouen — and loved it.

If you’re wondering where to stay in Chefchaouen, Morocco, here are my recommendations:

BUDGET Chefchaouen Hotel
Hotel Abi Khancha
Great location, but small rooms. Cool rooftop area.

Check Prices / Read Reviews

BUDGET Chefchaouen Hotel
Dar Antonio
Cute hostel, good wifi, and great value in the medina.

Check Prices / Read Reviews

MID-RANGE Chefchaouen Hotel
Riad Assilah Chaouen
Friendly staff and comfortable rooms. Nice common area.

Check Prices / Read Reviews

LUXURY Chefchaouen Hotel
Riad Gharnata
Classic looking Moroccan riad, very romantic place.

Check Prices / Read Reviews

COUPON CODE! For a special $30 off your next Booking.com hotel stay over $60, make sure to use my special link. Chefchaouen Colors

An Explosion of Color

Chefchaouen Travel Tips

  • Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are the best times to visit due to weather, but the crowds are large too. Summer is usually so hot that even the locals don’t stick around.
  • Morocco is a Muslim country — so conservative clothing is recommended. Chefchauoen is a bit more liberal than other cities, but showing too much leg or mid-rift will attract unwanted attention.
  • It can get pretty cold at night in the Riff mountains, so bring something warm like a sweater or light jacket.
  • Haggling over price with local shop owners is expected — always try to negotiate a better deal for souvenirs. Except when buying food, as this is already super cheap and no haggling is necessary.
  • Many people only pop into Chefchauoen for a day trip, however I’d recommend spending at least 2-3 days here. It was one of my favorite stops in Morocco.
  • Many locals in Chefchaouen actually speak Spanish, as opposed to the more common Arabic & French found in the rest of the country.

This is a city designed to stop you in your tracks for all the right reasons. Whatever is going on in your life, especially if you’re feeling weary of travel, Chefchaouen wants you to put your feet up, drink mint tea and take it deliciously easy.

Then, when you’re ready, you can go for a walk within the ancient city walls, and let the medina work its soothing magic upon you. In a country known for being a bit chaotic, the blue city of Chefchaouen is a pleasant oasis. ★

CHEFCHAOUEN TRIP PLANNING Location: Chefchaouen, Morocco
Cheap Flights: Check out Skyscanner.net
Car Rental: Check out RentalCars.com
Accommodation: Check out Booking.com
Useful Notes: I think Chefchaouen was my favorite city in Morocco. It’s much more laid-back than the rest of the country (probably has to do with all the hash). It’s a little out of the way, but SO worth a visit. Especially if you’re into photography.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Morocco
Suggested Reading: In Arabian Nights

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Things to do in Chefchaouen! Morocco's mysterious blue city. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Things to do in Chefchaouen! Morocco's mysterious blue city. More at ExpertVagabond.com

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Any questions about visiting Chefchaouen? Have you heard of this blue city? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.


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2018-07-04T15:36:20Z
Best Lightweight Travel Tripods For Photographers
Travel Tripods for Photography

Best Lightweight Travel Tripods

Photography Tips

Tripods are a fixture of a good travel photographer’s tool kit. These are the best lightweight travel tripods for capturing stunning landscapes around the world.

Working as a professional adventure travel blogger, I rely on a lightweight and sturdy travel tripod to create epic landscape and adventure images from my trips around the world.

Whether it’s hiking in the mountains of Afghanistan, or wandering the streets of Paris. My travel tripod joins me almost everywhere.

I seriously can’t imagine traveling without one!

Today I wanted to share some of the best lightweight travel tripods currently available, and reviews of my favorites (pros, cons) along with the one I pack with me most.

Travel Tripods for Photography

Why Should You Use A Tripod?

Why Are Tripods Important?

Do you really need a tripod? Well, not everyone one does. Tools like sensor based image stabilization and optical lens stabilization make them less mandatory than ever.

But if you want to capture professionally sharp landscapes, stunning sunsets, time-lapse video, flowing waterfalls, low light situations, or star photography during your travel adventures — a good lightweight travel tripod is key.

I also use my tripod for shooting selfies if I’m traveling solo. For video and vlogging too. Because not everyone wants to wake up at 5am during their vacation to help you hold the camera!

If you enjoy creating smooth curtain effects with waterfalls, sunset time-lapse footage, or climbing mountains to shoot the Milky Way, you’ll need a lightweight tripod that can take a beating in the field and keep going.

Astro Photography With Tripods

Tripods Are Great For Star Photography!

Travel Tripod Features

BUILD MATERIALS – Aluminum and carbon fiber are the most common materials for travel tripods. Carbon fiber is stronger, lighter, and resists rust in wet conditions, but it’s more expensive too.

HEIGHT – Not only how high does the tripod extend, but the minimum height as well. Some can get as low as 3” from the ground while others can extend up to six feet high. Smaller tripods weigh less, but they can also limit your framing options.

FOLDING SIZE – How small can your tripod fold up? Will it fit in a backpack? A tripod that folds down small makes it easier to travel with. But small folding tripods often have to sacrifice maximum height and sturdiness.

WEIGHT – If a tripod is too heavy, you won’t want to lug it around all day through a city, or hiking in the backcountry. Lightweight tripods are usually more expensive. The key is to find a balance.

STURDINESS – A sturdy tripod is important when shooting long-exposure images, when any small vibration can blur the photo. You can generally get an idea of a tripod’s sturdiness by looking at its weight capacity.

SECTIONS – The fewer leg sections a tripod has, generally the sturdier it is, and the quicker it will be to set up.

LEG LOCKS – Some photographers prefer twist locks because they’re low-profile. Others prefer lever locks, because you can visually see that they’re secure. Both are quick to use with practice.

Travel Tripods for Hiking

Hiking in Italy with my RRS TCQ-14

Best Budget Travel Tripods (2018)

Sirui T-1205X Tripod – Super Value

Tripod Weight: 1.8 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 22 lbs.
Extended Height: 51.4”
Folded Length: 13.4”
Ballhead: Not Included
Weight With Ballhead: 2.8 lbs.
Price: $230
Sirui T-1205X Travel Tripod

Cheaper/Heavier Aluminum Version: Sirui T2005X TX

The Sirui T-1205X mixes carbon fiber and aluminum to create a lightweight marvel. It’s aluminum components are anodized to increases the corrosion resistance and hardness of the metal.

The center column is reversible to suit your composition needs, plus it comes with a shorter center column for shooting as low as 5.1” from the ground. It’s one of the lowest priced carbon fiber tripods on the market, and insanely lightweight.

PROS
  • Affordable
  • Super lightweight
  • Sturdy
CONS
  • 5 section legs
  • Ball head not included
This is the tripod I owned for many years before upgrading to a more professional model recently. Loved using it for all types of photography situations. Fantastic value, and well-rounded.

Manfrotto Befree – Hiking Friendly

Tripod Weight: 2.4 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 8.8 lbs.
Extended Height: 59.5”
Folded Length: 17”
Ballhead: Included
Price: $269
Manfrotto BeFree Travel Tripod

Cheaper/Heavier Aluminum Version: Befree Aluminum

The Manfrotto Befree is a favorite for many travel photographers. It’s very lightweight, even with the included ball-head. However it’s not the most stable tripod in this group.

Lever leg locks are easy to engage, and the whole system packs down very small. Stable enough for most situations, however it might not be great in strong winds or when placed in a river or the ocean (which I sometimes do).

PROS
  • Very lightweight
  • Extends tall
  • Affordable
CONS
  • Low load capacity
  • No ballast hook
  • Not very sturdy
Low maximum weight capacity makes the Manfrotto better suited to mirrorless camera kits. While it was the least sturdy tripod, it’s also the lightest (with included ball-head). I’m not a big fan of the Manfrotto RC2 style camera plates either.

3 Legged Thing Leo – Sturdy Beast

Tripod Weight: 3.8 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 66 lbs.
Extended Height: 51.5”
Folded Length: 13.75”
Ballhead: Included
Price: $349
3 Legged Thing Leo Travel Tripod

The 3 Legged Thing Leo is an extremely high maximum load capacity tripod, with a 23-degree leg angle. It makes it the sturdy tripod of choice for videographers and other gear-heavy photographers. The legs and center column all come with twist-lock sections for extra security.

For photographers who need stability on the move the center column can also be attached to a single leg to create an instant monopod. It’s not the lightest of the bunch, but it’s rock-solid.

PROS
  • Super stable
  • Monopod feature
  • Ballast hook
CONS
  • Relatively heavy
  • 5-section legs
This is the heaviest combination on the list, however it’s also the most stable. A great option for videographers, or photographers who need a super stable tripod for long-exposure night photography. The monopod feature is slick!

Joby GorillaPod 5K – Vlogging Tool

Tripod Weight: 1.55 lbs.
Build: Stainless steel, aluminum, plastic
Maximum Load: 11 lbs.
Extended Height: 15.2”
Folded Length: NA
Ballhead: Included
Price: $155
Joby GorillaPod Travel Tripod

If portability is your #1 consideration, the Joby GorillaPod is the smallest tripod here. At only 1.55 lbs. with included ball head, it fits into anyone’s photography kit. This model is built for large cameras & large lenses, but there’s a 3K version for smaller mirrorless systems.

Mixed construction materials of the GorillaPod help keep the tripod inexpensive yet sturdy enough for most shooting conditions. It’s a wonderful option if you’re visiting tourist attractions that prohibit the use of full-size tripods.

PROS
  • Flexible gripping legs
  • Very lightweight
  • Affordable
CONS
  • Light load capacity
  • Short maximum height
  • Metal/plastic construction
The gripping legs mean you can set it up almost anywhere for great photography, including attaching it to fences and trees. It’s especially good for taking selfies and vlogging (video blogging).

Best High-End Travel Tripods

RRS TQC-14 – Built To Last

Tripod Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 25 lbs.
Extended Height: 58.5”
Folded Length: 17.7”
Ballhead: Not Included
Weight With Ballhead: 3.3 lbs
Price: $935
RRS TQC 14 Travel Tripod

The Really Right Stuff TQC-14 is my favorite high-end travel tripod. Ratcheting angle stops control the angle of the legs. The legs are extended using twist locks, and designed to secure and undo instantly.

A ballast hook on the center column allows you to add weight in unstable or windy conditions. This actually isn’t the lightest tripod of the group, however I’ve found it’s the easiest to use, and is tall enough (with the quick-column version) that I don’t need to bend over to look through my viewfinder.

The extra height also helps when I’m shooting video of myself, so the camera is at eye-level, rather than below looking up. A much more attractive angle for video.

PROS
  • Carbon Fiber
  • High load capacity
  • Ballast hook
CONS
  • Expensive
  • Ball head not included
While the TFC-14 is the most expensive tripod here, there’s no question you get quality for your money. The design is rock solid, easy to use, and gives a lot of height. Out of all the tripods I’ve used, this is my favorite.

Gitzo Series 0 Traveler – Clever Design

Tripod Weight: 2.8 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 24 lbs.
Extended Height: 52.4”
Folded Length: 14.4”
Ballhead: Included
Price: $860
Gitzo Traveler Tripod

The Gitzo Series 0 Traveler is a rugged carbon fiber tripod weighing in at 2.8 lbs. This tripod also includes a ball head with Swiss Arca-style quick release plate. It uses a reverse folding leg design when stowed to ensure it fits even into overhead flight storage.

The twist-lock design of the legs is quick, smooth, and secure. Gitzo makes a few different versions of the Traveler, for example the Series 1 is much taller and slightly heavier at 3.2 lbs.

PROS
  • Integrated ballhead
  • High load capacity
  • Lightweight
CONS
  • Expensive
The Gitzo Series 0 is also not cheap. However it’s very sturdy and compact thanks to the cleverly designed ball head. Gitzo tripods are the choice of many professionals worldwide.
Travel Tripods for Photography

How To Choose A Tripod For Traveling

Which Tripod Is Best For You?

Each tripod here offers photographers and videographers a unique set of creative features. While I can share my personal favorites based on MY needs, every photographer is different.

If you’re looking for the ultimate lightweight, full-size hiking tripod that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, I’d probably go with the Manfrotto Befree.

If you want the best all-around tripod that’s a combination of lightweight, sturdy, and affordable, I’d pick the Sirui T-1205X.

If you don’t think you’ll need a tripod that often, or do a lot of vlogging, the Joby GorillaPod is your best bet.

If you have money to burn and want nothing but the highest quality gear, both the RSS TQC-14 (often on backorder) or Gitzo Traveler will make you very happy.

Whatever lightweight tripod you decide to use, they will certainly help you improve your travel photography skills in all sorts of different landscape and low-light situations.

Best Travel Tripods Review

Win This Gitzo Traveler Tripod!

Free Travel Tripod Giveaway!

If you don’t have a travel tripod yet, but want one, here’s your chance to win one of the best available for your next travel adventure!

I’m giving one lucky reader their very own Gitzo Series 0 carbon fiber tripod (worth $860 USD).

This high-end carbon fiber travel tripod is easy to pack, lightweight, durable, and will help you take your landscape & adventure photography to the next level.

UPDATE: We Have A Winner!
Dee Hanbury from Turkey has won the free Gitzo Travel Tripod.
Dee Hanbury

Pin This!

Best Lightweight Travel Tripods. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Best Lightweight Travel Tripods. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE TRAVEL TIPS

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Any questions about how to choose a travel tripod? Do you have a favorite? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.


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2018-06-14T23:09:24Z
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