Welcoming New Year in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain

Welcoming New Year in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain

We arrived in Gran Canaria on the day before New Year’s Eve hoping to relax in warm weather and sunshine. We got lucky and it indeed was sunny and warm every day. However, evenings were cool so it’s best to pack along warm clothes if you’re traveling to the Canary Islands in winter.

Top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria (especially if traveling with school-aged kids):

  1. Walking and running at the magnificent Maspalomas Dunes
  2. Having fun at the hotel pool
  3. Renting bicyles
  4. Renting a car and visiting Puerto Rico
  5. Day trip to Puerto Mogan

Walking and running at the magnificent Maspalomas Dunes

The highlight of the holiday was the morning outings – the sunrise is just amazing! Close to our hotel, there was a dried-up river or canal down to the Maspalomas Dunes and alongside are good walkways for walking, jogging and bicycling. Close to the seaside, there’s a beautiful natural reserve lagoon La Charca with lots of bird life.

Top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria: Maspalomas Dunes

Top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria: Sunrise at Maspalomas beach

Having fun at the hotel pool

Honestly, many kids enjoy most having fun at the pool and our hotel Canary Garden Club in Maspalomas had a great pool area with sunbeds to enjoy.  There’s also a kiosk offering snacks and lunch. The breakfast buffet was excellent, lots of options including fresh fruit and vegetables. The bungalows are small and simple but fine when you spend most of the time outside anyway. There’s a small playground for kids and the surroundings make it easy for kids to run around without disturbing others. There’s a mini convenience store next to the reception and not far, within around 10 minutes walking distance, was a small mall Faro 2 with a Hyperdino grocery store.

Top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria: fun at the pool

Renting bicyles

We rented bicycles which we found to be lots of fun with just 15 euros in total for kid’s and adult’s basic bicycles for 24 hours and helmets were included. We recommend Elemi & Lino’s Bike located in Faro 2 shopping mall – they have a wide range of bicycles and helpful staff.

Top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria: renting bicycles

We had a wonderful day bicycling to the beach, having lunch at our favorite restaurant Café Colon that’s located at the root of the Meloneras lighthouse “Faro”.

Top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria: Meloneras lighthouse Faro

Renting a car and visiting Puerto Rico

We rented a car for three days at a very reasonable price (around 150 euros) including full insurance cover. It was easy to drive around but finding a parking place close to popular places can be a challenge. We visited Puerto Rico and spent the day at the Angry Birds park. It’s basically a big playground with different activities like trampolines, climbing wall, slides, mini golf, etc. The 8-year-olds loved it and seemed to find more things to do all day. Other interesting attractions for an active day out with kids would have been Aqualand and Palmitos Park, but had to save those for another time.

We spent half a day in Atlantico shopping center that has a big Carrefour store and lots of popular brand stores like Zara, Mango and Desigual. The capital of the island Las Palmas is the number one shopping place but we skipped it this time.

Day trip to Puerto Mogan

On the last day with the car we drove up to Puerto Mogan which is a really beautiful small town by the sea. I would have liked to get there early in the morning to make it to the morning yoga on the beach. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible and I couldn’t find any outdoor yoga classes in Maspalomas. Anyway, we had a very nice lunch in a restaurant on the beach boulevard.

Top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria: Puerto Mogan beach

Overall, it was a wonderful holiday and Gran Canaria became one of my all-time favorite family travel destinations and there’s still plenty of things to do for our next visit!

Top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria: Meloneras beach boulevard

 

Advertisements
Skiing holiday in Lapland “Salla in the middle of nowhere”

Skiing holiday in Lapland “Salla in the middle of nowhere”

This post is long overdue as it was Easter holiday when we packed our skiing gear and set off for my daughter’s first skiing holiday. Last year I spent Easter in Finnish Lapland for the first time in my life and it was an amazing experience to be surrounded with snow, yet enjoy sunshine late till the evening and to top it all off, on our last night I could see the northern lights for the first time in my life! I was convinced that I should be back.

We were a bit worried if we’d find enough snow in Salla as Easter was quite late this year, after mid-April. Already at approaching our destination, our worries were gone: there was lots and lots of snow and more was falling down from the sky.

Salla is a less popular than many other places in Finnish Lapland, maybe because it’s not so easy to access it without a car. The closest airports are Kuusamo and Rovaniemi, from where it’s possible to take a bus. However, it is about 10 kilometers from Sallatunturi village to the nearest grocery store, and there’s only a few restaurants, so it would not be the most convenient solution to travel there without a car.

Salla Top 3

  1. Peacefulness and lots of space
  2. Cross-country skiing in pristine winter wilderness
  3. Downhill skiing slopes close to the cabins

Peacefulness and lots of space

We found the best part about Salla to be its peacefulness. It is about as far from crowds as you can get with still having some services around. Easter is probably the busiest time of the year yet when I went cross-country skiing in around 9am in the mornings I was the first person on the tracks and met only a few persons over a couple of hours.

IMG_2318

The quietness in the wide wilderness is amazing – you really feel close to nature and appreciate the opportunity to exchange a few words with people you do come across. People tend to be very friendly and helpful to share tips.

WP_20170416_007

Cross-country skiing in pristine winter wilderness

Salla has a good range of ski tracks that are well maintained. My favorite was the ~22km track across Ruuhitunturi. The climb is reasonable and at the top there’s a cafe to buy some refreshments and re-gain energy with hand-made fresh donuts.

WP_20170416_005

The way down towards the Reindeerpark (Poropuisto) is really nice. The kids enjoyed the shorter tracks to the Reindeer park and meeting Rudolf and his friends as well as the close encounter with husky dogs. Next time we’ll need to go on a husky or reindeer ride.

WP_20170415_011

Downhill skiing slopes close to the cabins

The downhill skiing slopes were located right next to the Holiday Club cabins where we were staying which was very convenient. On the down side, the lifts are quite basic, mainly anchor lifts and some telescope lifts – no nice gondolas or chair lifts. The front slope is quite steep and the easier blue slopes are at the back on the east and north side, which makes it more challenging for beginners. However, my 7-year-old was skiing for the second time in her life and after practicing for a while in the kids slope we were ready to go to the bigger slopes on the east side.

WP_20170417_015

It was amazing to see the little one’s progress – soon I was barely keeping up with her speed! Just as important as the skiing are the breaks and the log restaurant ‘Keloravintola‘ by the front slopes was a nice cozy place to have lunch and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.

From my previous visit to Salla a couple of years back I still remember the unforgettable winter swimming experience with Sallan Latu arctic swimmers (Jäämeren uimarit). Highly recommend to try it if you’re up for an authentic wood sauna and dip in the icy lake experience with locals.

Active family holiday in Corralejo, Fuerteventura

It was my second time to visit Corralejo, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. The weather was quite windy which seems to be typical, so  be sure to bring also warm clothes in addition to sunscreen if traveling there. However, I found the climate to be ideal for sports: mostly sunny, dry but not too hot due to the refreshing breeze.

WP_20170405_006

I had a bit of mixed feelings about returning there because three years ago the signs of the financial crisis were visible everywhere: half-built abandoned constructions, “For Sale” signs on windows… Although the abandoned construction sites were still there, I was happy to notice that the atmosphere now felt more optimistic.

My Top 3: Corralejo, Fuerteventura

  1. Jogging along the coast and renting bicycles
  2. Watersports – Stand Up Paddling
  3. The beaches: morning yoga and restaurants with a view

We stayed at Ananda Resort Fuerteventura Hotel Mirador de Lobos booked via TUI. The Villa was spacious with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and living room, and a big outdoor area with the pool. Booking in advance, it was possible to get the small pool heated which was definitely worth the investment. On the downside the resort is quite far out, about 3 kilometers from the center and beaches but it is easy to drive if renting a car and taxis don’t cost much. I actually found the slightly remote location to give good motivation for jogging and bicycling! WP_20170404_001The hotel is built around a Par 3 golf course that looks very nice even for non-golfers like us. Upon arrival, we were offered a nice deal on half board for 4 days including breakfast and dinner and decided to take it. The breakfast selection was very good while the dinner varied from a day to another, including three courses and drinks. I would recommend the local fish of the day, served with baked vegetables and canary potatoes.

1. Jogging along the coast and renting bicycles

In Corralejo there are sidewalks on almost every road (some in a bit bumpy condition though) and lots of bicycle paths which makes it very easy to go jogging and bicycling – it’s safe even with kids. We enjoyed especially the most peaceful paths around our hotel and at the harbor. We rented our bicycles from Pierre Shop and were very happy with the superb service.

WP_20170408_001WP_20170407_001

My favorite jogging path was the about 4 kilometer route along the coastline from the harbor up to the Dunes.

WP_20170405_0022. Watersports – Stand Up Paddling

Corralejo offers lots of opportunities for watersports. Surfing and kiteboarding for example are very popular due to the windy coast. I signed up for my first ever Stand Up Paddling practice, a 2-hour private class with Salty Life. I was at first a bit nervous how it would go. Luckily Pierre is a fantastic teacher and I was amazed how quickly I started to feel confident on the board and it exceeded my expectations on how much fun it was!

FB_20170408_23_53_03_Saved_Picture

I would have liked to go kayaking too and Kayak Fuerteventura’s kayak-snorkel excursion to Lobos Island would have sounded perfect. Something for next time!

3. The beaches: restaurants with a view and morning yoga

WP_20170404_007

Fuerteventura is famous for it’s beaches and there’s lots of them. Even if you prefer a more active holiday the restaurants with a view are wonderful places to take a break. Our favorite spot was Waikiki Beach Club Restaurant – it was easy access with a relaxed atmosphere.

Yoga on the beach is a perfect way to start the day. I really enjoyed Ocean Yoga’s gentle flow yoga class. I wish I would have found it earlier than on my last day in Corralejo!

WP_20170405_008

Searching for winter in Ruka

It was raining in Helsinki after Christmas and I decided to go on a search for winter. I found last minute flight and hotel deals and less than 12 hours later I was on the plane from Helsinki to Kuusamo. Already before noon I was enjoying the perfect winter wonderland experience.

wp_20161228_003

My Ruka Top 3:

  1. Easy access and plenty of options
  2. Cross-country skiing
  3. Ice swimming & sauna

1. Easy access and plenty of options

Why I chose Ruka for this mini break? Traveling from Helsinki to Ruka is super easy: the flight from Helsinki to Kuusamo airport takes just over an hour.

wp_20161228_001

The airport bus is conveniently waiting to take you to the Ruka ski resort (10€ fee one way). Ruka village is really small, so everything – restaurants, shops, slopes, skiing tracks – is nicely within walking distance and you can practically ski almost directly from the hotel door.

wp_20161228_002

Ruka is too south to be considered Lapland but you can get pretty much the same experiences there as well. The benefit in the winter time is that there’s a couple of hours daylight whereas in the very north the sun may not appear at all.

wp_20161228_005

There’s plenty of options for accommodation. If travelling with friends or family I’d recommend a cabin for the flexibility it offers. However, this time I chose to stay in a hotel including breakfast to make my 3 night stay as convenient as possible. I stayed at Rantasipi Rukahovi which is far from brand new but the rooms weren’t too bad (after one freezing night I figured out to turn on the radiator), the room was even equipped with a convenient drying cabinet. The only thing I missed was a kettle and a fridge would have been nice too. The breakfast at the hotel was superb, one of my all time favorites!

2. Cross-country skiing

Ruka is maybe more famous about the down hill skiing but it’s one of the top destinations in Finland for cross country skiing too. The tracks close to the village are maybe not ideal for very beginners (but you can drive or take the SkiBus to the easier tracks a bit further away from the village such as “Vuosselin reitti”), but for a average skier it’s easy to do day trips of at least 20-25 kilometers.

wp_20161228_009

There’s some very nice cafes to stop by for refueling breaks. I would warmly recommend Lammintupa café where I had a very tasty salmon soup and some freshly baked bread. Lammintupa also offers husky and reindeer rides so it’s a perfect place to visit even with kids.

WP_20161228_004.jpg

After the energy consuming skiing day there’s nothing better than going to sauna and having a nice dinner. The sauna at Rukahovi hotel was quite basic but very easy access. And it was a great way to meet some other talkative and friendly skiers so the big benefit was in getting some valuable tips and recommendations.

3. Ice swimming & sauna

The absolute highlight of my mini break was the sauna and ice swimming at Rukatonttu. It’s a hidden gem and I would never have found it without a local’s recommendation and guidance.wp_20161230_003

It’s just about half kilometer walk from Ruka village – look for the stairway to the ski jumping tower (or you could even ski there directly).

wp_20161230_007

It’s one of the most luxurious ice swimming experiences I’ve had and a real bargain (just 6€ if you bring your own towel). You can even buy refreshments from the reception. The sauna was huge with views to the lake and even though it’s in the use of the hotel guests and public, I had the place all to myself almost the whole time. The interesting thing is that there’s loudspeakers and music even inside the sauna, not very typical Finnish style! Luckily it wasn’t too disturbing.

wp_20161230_002

I recommend to have good swimming shoes as the pathway to the swimming place is icy (and of course remember to take along your swimming suit). Two rounds of dips in the ice cold water was the ultimate relaxing and refreshing experience.

The added bonus: you can stay for dinner in the restaurant upstairs. The only minus is a big TV screen but if you get lucky like I did it is turned off when the live music starts. I recommend to book a table (ask for a window seat) in advance.

In total, I had less than 72 hours in Ruka but I was amazed how much could be experienced in such a short time in this winter wonderland.

First blog post

First blog post

One of my first memories is that special feeling when the airplane takes off and rises above the clouds. The excitement of new explorations, near and far is the focus in this blog.

The New Year is a perfect time for new beginnings – also when it comes to starting the blog I’ve had in my mind for a long time. I love traveling and exploring new places, food and experiences. Often it would be great to share those explorations with others as well. Sometimes the exploration doesn’t even require flying, it can be much closer or even not related to a physical environment but rather inside oneself.