Church of the Dead aka Chiesa dei Morti in Urbania, Italy

The Church of the Dead, or Chiesa dei Morti as it’s called in Italian is a small church in central Italian town of Urbania. This medieval town may not have that much to offer as far as the attractions are involved, but 18 well preserved mummies who stand guard behind the altar of Chiesa dei Morti make up for it with style.

Preserved Mummy of the Church of the Dead aka Chiesa dei Morti in Urbania, Italy, Photo: sterte, Flickr
Preserved Mummy of the Church of the Dead aka Chiesa dei Morti in Urbania, Italy, Photo: sterte, Flickr

Chiesa dei Morti is a tiny church with a baroque doorway that leads straight into the chapel suitably named “the Mummy Cemetery” (Cimitero delle Mummie). There, behind the altar of the Church of the Dead, 18 glass cases stand erect, each bearing a well preserved mummy that’s been there on display since 1833. The mummies of the Church of the Dead have been naturally mummified with a special mould that sucked the moisture right out of them leaving them in a remarkably good condition.

The mummification and display of the Chiesa dei Morti mummies was the work of The Brotherhood of Good Death. The group, which was founded back in 1567 in Italy took upon itself the task of burying deceased bodies even if there was no one to pay for the burial and kept records of the deaths.

Human Skulls Decorating the Interior of the Church of the Dead in Italy, Photo: Hari Seldon, Flickr
Human Skulls Decorating the Interior of the Church of the Dead in Italy, Photo: Hari Seldon, Flickr

There is a story behind each of the mummies that Urbania locals guard but are more than happy to share with the visitors. One of the mummies was a female who died giving birth to a child. Another one was a murder victim while yet another one died of a heart failure following long struggle with Down’s syndrome.

People’s fascination with death and all things from beyond is undeniable. The Death Tourism is an ever growing travel niche and while the mummies of The Church of the Dead, aka Chiesa dei Morti do not exist because of any grieving circumstance that lead to mass termination of life, they are an interesting attraction for tourists of all ages and interests.

Mummies on a Display in a Glass Casket in Chiesa dei Morti, Urbania, Italy, Photo: Hari Seldon, Flickr
Mummies on a Display in a Glass Casket in Chiesa dei Morti, Urbania, Italy, Photo: Hari Seldon, Flickr

Top Tourist Attractions in Italy

With so much to see and do, deciding what the Top Tourist Attractions in Italy are can be pretty difficult. Italy’s history spans thousands of years, and all of that history is marked by fun things to do and see. Separating the “must sees” from the “should sees” is a pretty difficult task, but here are some ideas.

Top Tourist Attraction in Italy #1: Grand Canal in Venice

Grand Canal in Venice - The Top Tourist Attraction in Italy, Photo: minky_pinky100 (Away), Flickr
Grand Canal in Venice - The Top Tourist Attraction in Italy, Photo: minky_pinky100 (Away), Flickr

Of course one of the top tourist attractions in Italy is the Grand Canal in Venice. The thought of Venice – the watery gem of Italy – conjures romantic images of gondola rides, the seductive mystery of the elaborate masks of Carnevale, the fairy-tale opulence of world-famous glass, and the intricate beauty of Renaissance architecture. And when you’re finished sightseeing, you can relax on the amazing beaches of the Lido di Venezia. Regardless of what lures you, Venice won’t disappoint.

Top Tourist Attraction in Italy #2: Rome

Colosseum in Rome - The Top Tourist Attraction in Italy, Photo: Stuck in Customs, Flickr
Colosseum in Rome - The Top Tourist Attraction in Italy, Photo: Stuck in Customs, Flickr

Rome is another of the top tourist attractions in Italy. It boasts such famous sights as the Colosseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, Galleria Borghese, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon – none of which should be missed. Because it’s been a major hub of world events for centuries, Rome has been nicknamed “Caput Mundi,” or “the capital of the world.” As one of the world’s most beautiful ancient cities, Rome is a place not to be missed.

Top Tourist Attraction in Italy #3: Vatican City

Vatican City - The Top Tourist Attraction in Italy, Photo: Juan Rubiano, Flickr
Vatican City - The Top Tourist Attraction in Italy, Photo: Juan Rubiano, Flickr

Nestled in the city of Rome lies one of the world’s smallest countries, and the head of the Catholic Church – Vatican City. The city is home to several famous pieces of artwork, most notably Michelangelo’s painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The various collections that can be found in the Vatican Museums and the Vatican library are of unrivaled importance – historically, culturally, and scientifically. Just remember that of the top tourist attractions in Italy, this one is an entire country that requires reverence when visiting.

Top Tourist Attraction in Italy #4: Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa - The Top Attraction in Italy, Photo: neilalderney123, Flickr
Leaning Tower of Pisa - The Top Attraction in Italy, Photo: neilalderney123, Flickr

One of the most iconic of the top tourist attractions in Italy is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Built as the bell tower for Pisa’s cathedral, and originally intended to be perfectly vertical, design flaws and a poor foundation caused the tower to tilt, and thus it became the unforgettable monument it is today. Set in the heart of Tuscany, the Leaning Tower is not only a unique sight, but it’s set in one of the most famous food and wine areas of the country. So you can enjoy the sights, smells, and tastes while you’re there.

Top Tourist Attraction in Italy #5: Florence

Florence - The Top Attraction in Italy, Photo: jonrawlinson, Flickr
Florence - The Top Attraction in Italy, Photo: jonrawlinson, Flickr

Also in Tuscany is another of the top tourist attractions in Italy: Florence. Considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence was home to many notable historical figures – Dante, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Galileo, Botticelli, Donatello, Brunelleschi, and the Medici family, among others. But the spectacular displays of culture, art, and history don’t end with the Renaissance. Florence is still an amazing font of creativity and innovation.

Top Tourist Attraction in Italy #6: Pompeii

Vesuvius Volcano with Pompeii Ruins - The Top Attraction in Italy, Photo: rogilde, Flickr
Vesuvius Volcano with Pompeii Ruins - The Top Attraction in Italy, Photo: rogilde, Flickr

A list of the top tourist attractions in Italy would be severely lacking if it didn’t include Pompeii, that historicaly lavish city that was perfectly preserved by the ash of Mount Vesuvius when it erupted in 79 AD. Walking around Pompeii is like walking back through time – you see glimpses of what everyday life was like in the early Roman Empire everywhere you look.

There is so much to do in Italy that it’s impossible to fit it all into one trip. But these are the top tourist attractions in Italy that you must see.

Kjeragbolten, Norway

Kjeragbolten is the name of a massive bounder that’s wedged and completely stuck between the walls of two steep cliffs in Kjerag Mountains, Norway. Despite its spectacularly crazy visual appeal, Kjeragbolten is surprisingly easy to walk onto and pose for a photo. No special rock climbing skills are required, you don’t even need any special equipment. Just need a pair of fit legs to get you up on top of Kjerag Mountains and you’re set for a photo opportunity that will leave your relatives and friends in awe.

Fearless Sheep on Top of Kjeragbolten in Norway, Photo: 7ty9, Flickr
Fearless Sheep on Top of Kjeragbolten in Norway, Photo: 7ty9, Flickr

Kjeragbolten Location on a Map

Kjerag Mountain range stretches along Lysefjorden, in Forsand municipality of Rogaland, Norway. Lysefjorden is the same Norwegian fjord that’s overlooked by magnificent Preikestolen Pulpit Rock. Only Kjeragbolten is on the opposite end of Lysefjorden from Preikestolen. The highest point of Kjerag Mountains reaches up to 1100 meters above sea level and given that you can see the sea from most parts of Kjerag, that’s quite a drop down. The drop by Kjeragbolten is 982 meters long and is the most popular and most visited site of Kjerag Mountains. This is mostly due to dazzling visual appeal of the Kjeragbolten rock and as you look at the pictures, it is hard to disagree. You can see exact location of Kjeragbolten on an interactive and navigable map below:

How to Get to Kjeragbolten

Stavanger should be your starting point as it’s the closest bigger town to Lysefjorden. You can rent a car which will give you immense freedom and control over your time, but car rentals in Norway are not particularly cheap and parking is definitely not either. You can expect to pay 80 Norwegian Krone for parking at the foot of Kjerag Mountains, which is enough to pay for a boat ride from Stavenger across Lysefjorden and for the bus ride from the docks to the parking lot. However if you do decide to drive in a rented car, you will be rewarded with views of the scenery that you wouldn’t get a chance to see from a boat.

The road from Stavanger around the mountains to Kjeragbolten is about 130 km long so count with about 1.5 – 2 hours of driving. Start by taking route E39 out of Stavanger and head for Ålgård. After passing Ålgård turn left to Sirdalen via Oltedal, Dirdal and Byrkjedal (route 43). The toll station at Øvstabø will likely let you go if you are a tourist (Norway is very tourist friendly country). Follow by turning left for Sinnes, pass Fidjeland and turn left again for Lysebotn. Enjoy the scenic ride which will take you through the Kjerag Mountains that reaches 932 meters elevation at one point. Even if it’s summer down at the Lysefjord, you are likely to find snow lining up the road at this elevation. Keep in mind that due to undrivable conditions, this road is closed for the winter (from October to May).

If you’re not going by rental car, you can jump on a ferry leaving Stavanger for Lysebotn. Bus service and taxi are synchronized with ferry schedules and will take you to Øygardsstøl. You can recharge your fluid at a food shop there, but you had best packed up extra water to drink before hand as it gets more expensive the further up the mountain you get.

View of Lysefjord from the Perspective of a Person Standing on Top of Kjeragbolten, Photo: Kjwathne, Wikipedia
View of Lysefjord from the Perspective of a Person Standing on Top of Kjeragbolten, Photo: Kjwathne, Wikipedia

Hiking Trail to Kjeragbolten

Hiking trail leading to Kjeragbolten is longer than the one leading to Preikestolen, however despite higher physical demands, many tourists opt for trip to Kjeragbolten instead of Preikestolen which is rather overcrowded these days. Unlike hiking trail to Preikestolen which goes straight up, the trail up to Kjeragbolten alternates. You go up for a while, then down, then up again and down again before final climb up. Kjeragbolten is at 500 meters elevation difference from the Øygardsstøl parking lot and the trail length is 6 kilometres. It will take you 2 hours to get there if you are in good physical shape. Take more hours into account if you need to take more frequent breaks or set slower pace, especially up steep hills.

Steep Drop Goes Down 1000 Meters from the Edge of Kjerag, Photo: Adam Blicharski, Flickr
Steep Drop Goes Down 1000 Meters from the Edge of Kjerag, Photo: Adam Blicharski, Flickr

You will need proper trekking shoes and bring an extra jacket. It may feel warm down in Stavanger, but once you get thousand meters higher, the difference in temperature is noticeable. You could feel cold even during summer months. And keep yourself hydrated. Drinking lots of water is absolutely essential on challenging hikes like the one to Kjeragbolten.

The trail is really steep at one point and requires climbing. Chains are provided to help you hoist yourself up, but be aware that some physical fitness and strength is required.

Standing on Top of Kjeragbolten, Photo: epicxero, Flickr
Standing on Top of Kjeragbolten, Photo: epicxero, Flickr

Kjeragbolten Fall

The boulder of Kjeragbolten is not above the fjord and while climbing on it is not all that difficult, the fall from it would hurt. The drop off overlooking Lysefjorden is just next to it. That’s where you will get to see the crevasse that’s 982 meters above the ocean below. The feeling of standing so far above the surface is impossible to describe ad must be experienced. The views are beyond spectacular and again – resemble those of being on top of the world. If you happen to fall from there, you’d be falling to certain death. Be extremely careful as you’re approaching the edge.

Kjerag Base Jumping

Thanks to its steep vertical hills, the Kjerag Mountain range is very popular with BASE jumpers. Those are the guys who have the balls of steel and are not afraid to jump off the cliff. To take the fall is the purpose in case of BASE jumpers. If you visit Kjeragbolten in main tourist season, you will likely see BASE jumpers at Kjeragbolten. Such encounter will give you the opportunity to film a video such as the one below. Even watching someone jump off a cliff 1 kilometres above the sea below is gut wrenching. The BASE jumping enthusiasts enjoy it immensely. Even though there have been some accidents, including deaths involved with BASE jumpers, it is still legal to sky dive off of Kjerag Mountain cliffs according to the laws of Norway.

Standing Atop of Kjeragbolten for Pictures

Remember how I mentioned above that it is easy to walk up on Kjeragbolten and pose for envy inducing pictures? Well, while it is true, keep in mind that you will still have the view of Lysefjord in your peripheral vision, with surface of the water 1000 meters below your feet. No matter how well balanced you are, you will find your feet going weak as you attempt to step on the boulder that somehow got itself jammed between the walls of the crack. Keep your balance and take it slow. And don’t worry if you start acting like frightened chicken. Even the biggest jocks go weak as they put their foot on Kjeragbolten. The feeling of having been there once you get off is one you will never forget. The adrenaline rush is beyond words. This type of experience is one of those that money can’t buy.

Would You Dare? It Is a 982 meters Long Free Fall If You Tumbled, Photo: norwegian wood, Flickr
Would You Dare? It Is a 982 meters Long Free Fall If You Tumbled, Photo: norwegian wood, Flickr

Kjeragbolten Video

The video below demonstrated spectacular views offered to those who dare to climb up to Kjeragbolten. Video is available in HD quality.

Kjeragbolten is 5 square meters wide on top offering enough space for a visitor to comfortable get on and off of it. The name of Kjeragbolten loosely translates in Kjerag Boulder or Kjerag Bolt. Thanks to the fact that a longer and more difficult hike is required to reach Kjeragbolten, the place is not as overrun with tourists as nearby Preikestolen, which is on the opposite side of Lysefjord. The adrenaline rush and spectacular views offered to those who took a challenge and climbed up on top of Kjeragbolten will stay with them a lifetime. The picture opportunities are unrivalled. There will hardly be any other place in the world you could visit from where a picture of you would be envied by your peers as much as the one from Kjeragbolten. Just sensational.

Preikestolen Norway Pulpit Rock

Preikestolen is a massive cliff in Norway that towers 604 meters (1982 feet) in near vertical drop over the ocean. When famous French writer Victor Hugo visited the fjords, he referred to them as “the most terrifying of the ocean reefs.” Preikestolen is a natural rock formation that was carved by melting glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. The 25 square meters plateau on top of Preikestolen Pulpit Rock offers breathtaking views of the fjord and creates terrific photo opportunities. You have quite likely seen pictures of people standing on top of Preikestolen Pulpit Rock before and found them suspensfully bewildering. You probably didn’t have them associate with the name of the place, but now you know. The most spine-tingling cliff overlooking the magnificent ocean fjord is called Preikestolen and you can find it in Norway. Thanks to its near straight vertical properties, Preikestolen is popular with BASE jumpers. BASE jumping is legal in Lysefjorden area but as it goes with extreme sports, some BASE jumpers jumped to their deaths here.

Side View Photo of Preikestolen Pulpit Rock in Norway, Photo: Aconcagua, Wikipedia
Side View Photo of Preikestolen Pulpit Rock in Norway, Photo: Aconcagua, Wikipedia

Preikestolen Location

Preikestolen Pulpit Rock is located in south-western Norway, in Forsand municipality of Rogaland county, on the edge of 42 km long ocean fjord called Lysefjorden. Kjerag Mountain, which are a home to another famous natural attraction in Norway – Kjeragbolten, a boulder wedged between two vertical cliffs is located at the end of Lysefjord, opposite of Preikestolen.

You can see the location of Preikestolen Pulpit Rock on a navigable, interactive map below:

How to Get to Preikestolen

Most travellers who visit Preikestolen start their tour in Stavanger – closest major town to Preikestolen in south-west Norway. Ferries leave Stavanger three times a day and will deliver you to small town called Tau in about 40 minutes. The cost for a boat ride is 50 Norwegian Krone. Bus service and taxis are synchronized with the ferries and will take you to the parking lot where trekking route leading up to Preikestolen begins for 65 Norwegian Krone. From there you are on your own.

View of Preikestolen Cliff from Lysefjorden, Photo: Clemensfranz, Wikipedia
View of Preikestolen Cliff from Lysefjorden, Photo: Clemensfranz, Wikipedia

The hike up the hill will take between 1 hour to 3 hours, depending on your fitness level. The total length of the trail from the parking lot below up on top of Preikestolen is 3.8 km (2.4 miles) which is not that long – on flat terrain, an average trekker could cover such distance in less than an hour. The elevation difference between the parking lot and Preikestolen is only 334 metres (1096 feet). This should not cause any issues to most hikers, however do keep in mind that vertical sickness can affect anyone, especially those who come from coastal areas or spent a long time close to the sea. Have enough water on you to avoid dehydration and pack in something to eat as well. Most of all, make sure you’re wearing proper trekking shoes with hard soles as terrain is rather uneven and you will often walk on rocks with sharp edges.

The entire hike is very scenic so you will be getting rewards for your uphill walk with each step. It gets especially magnificent as you start approaching the top and the first glimpses of Lysefjord from high elevation come to sight. Once you have reached the top of Preikestolen, make sure you carefully approach the edge of the plateau and lay down on it so you can look straight down into the abyss below. more than 600 meters long drop will take your breath away and an adrenaline rush will evoke feelings you won’t easily forget.

People Gathered on Flat Platform of Preikestolen, Photo: Geir Akselsen, Flickr
People Gathered on Flat Platform of Preikestolen, Photo: Geir Akselsen, Flickr

Preikestolen Accommodation Options

You have several accommodation options if you wish to stay close to Preikestolen. Pulpit Rock Lodge is located on Rv 13, the main road that goes through the area. Recently rebuilt youth hostel Preikestolen Fjellstue is located in the Ryfylke hills, close to Refsvatn Lake. Aside from stunning scenery and proximity to Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen Fjellstue also offers great fishing opportunities and has several associated camping grounds for backpackers with tents.

Other Names of Preikestolen

The name Preikestolen is sometimes misspelled as Prekestolen. Translated from Norwegian to English, Preikestolen means Pulpit Rock but is sometimes referred to as Preacher’s Pulpit. Before it was named Preikestolen, the Pulpit Rock was known by its original name Hyvlatonnå, which means “the tooth of a woodplane”.

Preikestolen on a Sunny Day in Summer, Photo: Ritchyblack, Wikipedia
Preikestolen on a Sunny Day in Summer, Photo: Ritchyblack, Wikipedia

Preikestolen BASE Jumping

If climbing Pulpit Rock and looking over its edge is not enough of a challenge for you and you’d like to engage in something that pumps more adrenaline through your veins, then you may want to consider Preikestolen BASE Jumping. However given that BASE jumping is one of the riskiest adrenaline sports in existence, make sure you have sufficient experience and understand potential risks. For a feel of what Preikestolen BASE Jumping would look like, check out the video below:

Preikestolen Deaths and Accidents

In past 15 years, there have been more than 30,000 BASE jumps performed in Preikestolen and Kjerag Mountain area. Out of 30,000, only 9 people found their death on the steep cliffs around Lysefjord. While one death or accident is too many, the statistics clearly suggest that BASE jumping enthusiasts know what they are doing and are able to enjoy the rush safely. 9 deaths in 30,000 BASE jumps – you find more deaths in other popular tourist activities than here.

Lysefjord Cruise Seen in the Fjord from Atop of Preikestolen, Photo: claudio moderini, Flickr
Lysefjord Cruise Seen in the Fjord from Atop of Preikestolen, Photo: claudio moderini, Flickr

Lysefjord Cruise

If climbing up the hike to Preikestolen is not an option for you, due to health concerns, you may opt for Lysefjord Cruise. It’s a completely different adventure with different experience. The ship will take you for a cruise up and down the Lysefjord offering the view of Preikestolen from different perspective. Seeing this majestic vertical cliff from the ocean below is as breath taking as seeing the fjord from up there. Lysefjord Cruises are offered by Rodne Fjord Cruise company and cost 350 Norwegian Krone.

Preikestolen Pulpit Rock Video

The video below takes you for a hike up the cliff all the way on top of Norway’s Preikestolen Pulpit Rock and offers a glimpse of magnificent views available to those who visit this majestic place:

Preikestolen Pulpit Rock in Norway is without doubt one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Climbing up on the plateau with views of magnificent Lysefjord below is nothing short of standing on top of the world. Give yourself the pleasure of this experience and pay Norway a visit. Preikestolen is wild and beautiful year round.

Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Ice Hotel is every bit exactly what it sounds like – it’s a hotel made entirely of Ice. There are several Ice Hotels around the world, notably a popular one in Quebec, Canada, a few in Norway and Finland, and also one in Bulgaria which is not a typical “winter cold” country but their Ice Hotel is high in the mountains where it does get cold. All of these Ice Hotels are nice, but they are naught more than copycats and stay deep in the shadow of the one in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. The Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi was established back in 1990’s making it the first Ice Hotel in the world. Granted, even though Ice Hotels are almost always located way up in northern hemisphere where winters are long and cold, their availability is only limited to winter months so you won’t find any of them between May and November. To also answer the question that got in your mind right away – yes, an Ice Hotel needs to be rebuilt from scratch each year out of snow and blocks of ice.

Cozy Church in Jukkasjarvi Ice Hotel, Photo: bjaglin, Flickr
Cozy Church in Jukkasjarvi Ice Hotel, Photo: bjaglin, Flickr

Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi Location

Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi where the Ice Hotel is built every winter is a small, lakeside settlement located in northern Sweden, in Kiruna Municipality of Norrbotten County. Its location is about 145 km north of the Arctic Circle. Kiruna is the nearest bigger town to Jukkasjärvi. You can see the location of Jukkasjärvi on a navigable, interactive map below:


View Larger Map

History of Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

What eventually turned out to be an Ice Hotel was not originally intended as one. Due to its location beyond the Arctic Circle, Jukkasjärvi has been attracting ice carving artists for years. Then one day in 1990, when French artist Jannot Derid was holding an exhibition of his ice carvings in an improvised igloo, the turnout was larger than anticipated and lack of available rooms forced some of the visitors to make arrangements to stay the night in that improvised igloo. Locals covered blocks of ice inside the igloo with reindeer skin and let visitors sleep on top, inside their sleeping bags.

When the morning came, the visitors who were believed to have been unlucky to have to sleep in the igloo were actually raving about what an amazing experience it was and how privileged they felt for having had the opportunity to sleep inside the ice shed. Not only did they find the reindeer skin covered ice beds comfortable, they all agreed that in spite of potentially negative anticipations, it was not cold inside the igloo at all. And thus the idea for an Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi was born.

The Chandelier in this Ice Hall is Also Made of Ice, Photo: Tom Corser, Wikipedia
The Chandelier in this Ice Hall is Also Made of Ice, Photo: Tom Corser, Wikipedia

How Is the Ice Hotel Built?

As winter in Northern Sweden draws to a close in March, locals from Jukkasjärvi scrape tons of ice blocks and snow from nearby Torne River. This frozen mass is then stored in large production hall. This “freeze house” is used in Summer months as an exhibition hall.

The bulding of Ice Hotel starts roughly in mid November when the temperatures drop. Main bearing columns have steel rods inside to prevent the unlikely collapse. These are created by spraying snow on the steel construction and allowing it to freeze into rock solid columns. Walls of ice are built around these bearing columns and large blocks of ice are placed inside the rooms for the artists to carve statues and decoration out of it. When one section of the Ice Hotel is finished, it is opened for first guests (usually in early December). The works on construction continue for at least another month with each new finished section opening at a later stage. Entire hotel is usually finished in early January.

Completed hotel has lodging capacity for about 100 people and contains various facilities, such as a church, an Absolute Ice Bar, a reception hall, etc. As the hotel is rebuilt from scratch each year, it always looks different and always offers different facilities and different decoration. There are never two suits that look the same. Artists who participate in creation of Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi are chosen by a jury based on skills and originality of each artist. A total of about 50 artists participate in creation of the Ice Hotel each year, making each of its 80 rooms hand crafted and individually designed.

Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel, aside from being world’s first, is also world’s largest. Its facilities are open between mid-December and mid-April. As the temperature starts to rise in Spring, the operation of the Ice hotel for the year is closed and the ice is allowed to melt back into the Torne River.

Ice Hotel Art Suite Individually Hand Crafted Into Dragon Den, Photo: Valli Schafer & Barra Cassidy, Wikipedia
Ice Hotel Art Suite Individually Hand Crafted Into Dragon Den, Photo: Valli Schafer & Barra Cassidy, Wikipedia

How Much Does Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi Cost

With only a few months to appreciate the ingenuity of the Ice Hotel, and given that it takes 50 skilled artists a month of work in freezing weather to build the Ice Hotel, the per night prices are not particularly cheap. Plus take into account that Jukkasjärvi is in Sweden and Sweden is one of world’s most expensive countries. Be prepared to spend upwards of €300 per night of stay in world’s original and largest Ice Hotel.

Things to Do in Jukkasjärvi

To make your stay at the Ice Hotel more exciting, you can join one or more of countless activities available to the Jukkasjärvi visitors. Snow mobiles are available for rent to go exploring vast planes of Arctic Sweden, or if you are more adventurous you can do the same with a husky sledge. To keep your spirits up you can go cross country skiing, or join reindeer and moose safaris. And since you are staying at a beautifully carved Ice Hotel, you could also try your luck at ice sculpting. There is never a lack of activities in Jukkasjärvi. You are more likely to run out of time before you get a chance to take part in each of the fun and exciting adventures available.

A Shot from an Ice Glass at Absolute Ice Bar, Photo: findfado, Flickr
A Shot from an Ice Glass at Absolute Ice Bar, Photo: findfado, Flickr

Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi Video

This video is a nice document about what the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi has to offer. Keep in mind that facilities and service change year after year. Also keep in mind that the interest in Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel has been growing exponentially so the hotel grows along with demand. Since this video is a few years old, many things may be entirely different – especially when it comes to size of Ice Hotel and facilities. By now the hotel is surely bigger and has more of it available. Watch the video below as it offers a spectacular view into one of Sweden’s seven wonders:

Everything in Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel is made of ice. All furniture, including chairs you would be sitting on and bed you would be sleeping on are made of ice. Chandeliers hanging off ice ceilings are made of ice, glasses from which you will be drinking are made of ice. It’s plain and simple an ice kingdom that makes for an unforgettable adventure. Standard snow rooms are the cheapest, ice rooms are more expensive or if your wallet is fat enough, you may wish to upgrade to an art suite each of which is individually themed with nicely illuminated sculptures and reliefs on the walls. Bed itself is a work of art. Welcome to the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.

Navagio Beach aka Shipwreck Cove on Zakynthos Island, Greece

Navagio Beach is one of the trademark beaches in Greece. It gets frequently featured on postcards and various promotional materials for its breath-taking visual appeal and thrilling isolation. Navagio Beach is often referred to as the Shipwreck Beach or just simply “The Shipwreck” because it’s home to a wrecked ship called Panagiotis, which is believed to have been a smugglers ship. The presence of alleged smugglers ship gave Navagio Beach yet another nick name – Zakynthos Smugglers Cove. Not only is Navagio Beach considered to be the best beach on the Zakynthos Island and one of finest beaches in Greece, it’s also regarded by many as one the best beaches, or THE best beach in the world.

Aerial Photo of Navagio Beach aka Shipwreck Beach on Zakynthos Island, Greece, Photo: dkilim (barrage), Flickr
Aerial Photo of Navagio Beach aka Shipwreck Beach on Zakynthos Island, Greece, Photo: dkilim (barrage), Flickr

Navagio Beach Location

Navagio Beach is located on Zakynthos Island in Greece. Zakynthos is the third largest island of the Ionian Islands – islands located in Ionian Sea, off the west coast of Greece. Zante is another name for Zakynthos, mostly used by English or Italian speakers, but this name is slowly being given up in favor of native Zakynthos (which frankly has a nicer ring to it).

This small and isolated, yet strikingly beautiful sandy cove we know as The Shipwreck Cove is located on the north-west shore of Zakynthos Island, near the Anafotiria village, quite opposite of island’s capital Zakynthos. You can see and navigate through the location of Navagio Beach on an interactive map below:

History of Shipwreck Cove

Navagio Beach was originally known as Agios Georgios. Then sometime in 1981, Greek Navy ships were tipped that a freighliner in the waters around Zakynthos Island is smuggling contraband which included cigarettes, wine and white meat (women) and pursuit was initiated. Stormy weather made for difficult navigation and bad visibility, resulting in alleged smugglers running aground right on Navagio Beach. The ship was abandoned and still rests buried in white sandy dunes of the beach that now bears the Shipwreck nickname. Navagio means Shipwreck in Greek.

Rusty Body of Wrecked Ship on Navagio Beach in Greece, Photo: Adestro
Rusty Body of Wrecked Ship on Navagio Beach in Greece, Photo: Adestro

How to Get to Navagio Beach

As you can see from pictures, Navagio Beach is enclosed within unpenetrably steep cliffs which give it this remote, inaccessible feel. Because of that, it is impossible to walk to the beach, instead one needs to take the boat. Frequent boat service to Navagio Beach is provided from nearby Porto Vromi located to the south, or from the Harbor of Saint Nikolas in Volimes, located to the north of Navagio Beach. You can also take a boat from island’s capital city of Zakinthos. Boats from Porto Vromi to this paradise beach leave about once every hour and take approximately 30 minutes.

To get spectacular photos of Navagio Beach from above, you can drive up on top of the cliff where new viewpoint offers amazing photo opportunities. Most postcard photos are taken from there. To get to the viewpoint, just follow the road signs which read “Navagio”.

View of Shipwreck Cove from Top of the Cliff on Zakynthos Island, Photo: Hehec, Wikipedia
View of Shipwreck Cove from Top of the Cliff on Zakynthos Island, Photo: Hehec, Wikipedia

What to Take on Navagio Beach

Because of tricky access to Navagio Beach, it is advisable that you stock up before going there. Most of all, make sure you have enough water for whole day is availability at this remote location may be limited. Sunscreen is expectedly essential but keep in mind that water around Shipwreck Cove is often cooler than in other areas of Greece.

For your own safety, do not enter the shipwreck as its rusty metal construction contains dangerously sharp edges or sticking out nails at times. As it is an older ship (built in Scottish shipyards in 1937), the engine chamber has been allegedly isolated with asbestos which as we know, is a potentially poisonous and carcinogenic substance.

Navagio Beach aka Shipwreck Cove - The Most Photographed Place, Photo by Paolo Rosa, Flickr
Navagio Beach aka Shipwreck Cove - The Most Photographed Place, Photo by Paolo Rosa, Flickr

Best Time to Visit Navagio Beach

Navagio Beach is one of the most popular sights in Greece. Many travel guides agree that Navagio is the most photographed place in Greece, getting even more attention than the Acropolis of Athens or the Parthenon. Because of that, if you choose the peak of the day during high season, chances are good you will have to share this rather cozy cove with thousands of other visitors. In order to avoid overcrowding, go to Navagio Beach either early in the morning or put off your visit until later in the afternoon (at around 3pm).

As you can see form the satellite image on the navigable map above, there were four larger ships docked at the Navagio Beach at the time of this picture. Because of growing popularity, tourists boats run to Navagio Beach often and even boats that head to other location usually make a brief stop at Navagio Beach so the place is truly busy between 10 am and 2pm.

Navagio Beach Video

This video was filmed from the platform on the cliff, overloooking the Shipwreck Cove. It was filmed when there were no people on the beach and includes close ups of the shipwreck. Nice video, gives great perspective of how beautiful Navagio Beach is:

Shipwreck Bay is a spectacular sight which must be seen to believe. There is a reason why Navagio Beach is one of the most photographed places in the world. Crystal clear water surrounding the bay changes colors with each ray of sun light so the photographs you take will never look the same as everyone else’s. Navagio Beach is a place to behold and a must visit for all avid travellers and photographers.

Null Stern Hotel – A Zero Star Hotel in Sevelen, Switzerland

I’m sure many travellers have or will have a hotel experience that will seem as though they stayed in a zero star hotel. I know I had such, yet many of those hotels boost four stars ratings. But let’s not talk about negative lodging experiences, let’s talk about the first hotel in the world that comes at you straight saying that it’s a Zero Star Hotel. Named to reflect its rating in language native to its homeland, Null Stern Hotel in Sevelen, Switzerland is the first official, and the only zero star hotel in the world. Obviously, since Null Stern Hotel has a zero star hotel rating, it offers no amenities one is used to getting from hotels – for example you would get no central heating or daylight, however as a guest you would be provided with hot water bottles to keep you warm during colder days. A pair of earplugs to help blot out the ventilation system noise will also be complimentary. Naturally, Null Stern Hotel is also priced at the level that reflects its ratings – it costs an equivalent of $9 to stay there a night. It’s a bed and no breakfast in its most utter form.

Null Stern Hotel - A Zero Star Hotel in Sevelen, Switzerland
Null Stern Hotel - A Zero Star Hotel in Sevelen, Switzerland

How Was Null Stern Hotel Started?

In a town of Sevelen that located the Swiss canton of St. Gallen, twin brothers Frank and Patrik Riklin took an unused cold war nuclear bunker and turned it into a Zero Star Hotel. The only view of the outside world it would offer would be from the monitors in the lobby and only lucky few would get to shower in warm water. With such amenities in place – needless to say – the worldwide buzz around the Null Stern Hotel is massive.

Frank and Patrik Riklin who own Atelier für Sonderaufgaben (studio for special works) in St. Gallen were initially looking for a place to lodge guest musicians who were invited to perform at a local venue. Since there was no room in Sevelen for a new hotel, someone suggested taking a look at an underground nuclear bunker. After initial inspection to Sevelen officials, the Riklin brothers were told that there is no way anyone would want to stay in that hole. One thing lead to another, Frank and Patrik Riklin felt challenged, so they went and got paperwork ready and started thinking of the ways to make use of that chunk of concrete block. There was only one requirement that Swiss army imposed upon new owners of the bunker – none of the walls can be removed and bunker must be ready to revert to its original purpose within 24 hours should there an attack on Switzerland.

Facing the biggest creative challenge of their lives, Frank and Patrik Riklin were not deterred and an idea of a zero star hotel was born. They gave it zero star rating so as not to limit themselves on what the place is offering. The idea became an instant hit on the internet and as the buzz continued to grow, the Riklins were offered partnership in a project by Minds in Motion, SA – a hospitality company with international reach. Daniel Charbonnier and Samira Singhvi – founders of Minds in Motion, SA are looking to expand on the idea and create a chain of zero star hotels that would be available worldwide, not just in Sevelen, Switzerland.

Null Stern Hotel in Sevelen Offers Budget Accommodation
Null Stern Hotel in Sevelen Offers Budget Accommodation

In these difficult economic times, the opening of a zero star hotel could not have been timed better. Perhaps the Null Stern Hotel project will begin a whole new era of hotel accommodation that will reflect on people’s inability to afford extremely expensive accommodation offered by “regular” hotels. It will be interesting to see how this idea takes off once it’s fully available. It was not so long ago when world’s first 7 star hotel (Burj Al Arab in Dubai, United Arab Emirates) opened for public and now we’re seeing the opposite end of it with Null Stern Hotel.

Comfort at the Null Stern Hotel

Null Stern Hotel will come with the finest in customer lodging:

  • military-style bunks in place of beds
  • hot water bottles to make up for no central heating
  • earplugs in case you can’t sleep because of the noise from the fans
  • complimentary slippers if floors are icy
  • no windows, just four white walls everywhere you look
  • hot water to shower in is limited, hence wheel of fortune will determine who will have to shower in cold water

…but hey – that’s all part of the adventure. That’s the beauty of Null Stern Hotel. That’s the rush and magic of staying at a hotel that has no stars. But most of all – it’s cheap!

Surely, if you have extra £11 you could go to an actual hotel. Albeit seedy, but still a hotel with a view, a bed and a shower. However even though it’s only £11 extra we’re talking about, it almost tripples the cost of the stay at a Null Stern Hotel.

Hot Water Bottles Replace Central Heating in a Zero Star Hotel
Hot Water Bottles Replace Central Heating in a Zero Star Hotel

Null Stern Hotel Luxury Bookings

Aside from really cheap “standard layout” accommodation, Null Stern Hotel will also offer “luxury bookings”. If you opt for luxury, the cost will be in the neighborhood of £11 a night and you will get to sleep on a plush, antique Biedermeier bed instead of a military bunk-bed. Complimentary morning coffee and an afternoon cookie are also included in the price of a luxury booking.

Null Stern Hotel Official Opening Date

According to the press release from April 20, 2009, Null Stern Hotel will officially open on June 5th, 2009. The opening ceremony will be held in Teufen, Canton Appenzell Outer Rhodes, Switzerland, instead of originally intended Commune of Sevelen. At the time of press release, still unopened Null Stern Hotel has already had 1000 reservations made.

Check out video with CNN Business Traveller feature on the Null Stern Hotel below:

All photos of Null Stern Hotel were provided by Mind in Motion and are used with permission on Vacation Ideas [dot] me.

For more information or to make a reservation check out the Null Stern Hotel Official Website.

El Caminito del Rey – The Most Dangerous Walkway in the World

Are you an adventurer who likes to push their own limits to the extreme? If so, have I got something for you? What would you say to walking the walkway that’s only 1 meter (3 feet) wide, has no railings and is pinned on the mountain wall that’s 700 meters (2300 feet) above the river deep within the treacherous Gaitanes Gorge of El Chorro, Spain? Not crazy enough, then imagine that the pathway was built in 1905 and by now it’s fallen apart to a point that there’s often nothing but metal bearing rods left. This deadly trail is known as the most dangerous walkway in the world. This is El Caminito del Rey or The King’s Little Pathway.

El Caminito del Rey – The Most Dangerous Walkway in the World
El Caminito del Rey – The Most Dangerous Walkway in the World, Photo by Gabirulo, Flickr

El Caminito del Rey Location

El Caminito del Rey (sometimes referred to as Camino del Rey which removes diminutive from it) is located within the Gorge of Gaitanes in Andalucia – the southernmost province of Spain. Being the part of the Subbetica moutain range, the Gorge of Gaitanes (Desfiladero de los Gaitanes in native Spanish) is a beauty spot by itself. The River Guadalhorce carved its way through enormous mass of limestone leaving vertical stone walls reaching as high as 700 meters.

Malaga is the closest city to El Caminito del Rey, with Alora being the closest medium size town. The closest settlement would be the village of Bermejo which is located only about 2.5 kilometers from El Chorro.

Magnificent Scenery of El Chorro with Gaitanes Gorge and Camino del Rey Bridge in the Background, Photo by goesberlin, Flickr
Magnificent Scenery of El Chorro with Gaitanes Gorge and Camino del Rey Bridge in the Background, Photo by goesberlin, Flickr

You can get to El Caminito del Rey via Guadalhorce reservois which are located to the north of Gaitanes Gorge, or via El Chorro, which is at the dam to the south of Gaitanes Gorge. El Chorro is known as the best rock-climbing area in Europe, however the majestic beauty of the location and extreme adrenaline rush offered by El Caminito del Rey are what attracts most tourists to the area.

Check out the location of El Caminito del Rey on the interactive map below (provided by Google Maps):

History of El Caminito del Rey

The works on what was soon to become the most dangerous walkway in the world started in 1901 when the Gaitanejo Falls and Chorro Falls hydroelectric power plants got to a need of a walkway that would bridge both plants and would allow for transportation of material. It took four years (1905) for the construction workers, who are believed to have been of Asian descent, rather than Spanish, to finalize the walkway.

The inauguration of the walkway did not take place until 1921 when Spanish King Alfonso XIII crossed it and the walkway’s been called The King’s Pathway (or El Caminito del Rey in Spanish) since.

By the beginning of 21st century, El Caminito del Rey has deteriorated to a point that it was highly dangerous to walk on it. Many parts of the walkway had collapsed leaving open holes on an already narrow passage without railings. This has however turned El Caminito del Rey into an extreme vacations attraction and crossing the whole of it was like an adrenaline sport for tourists looking to face danger.

Some Areas of Caminito del Rey Walkway are Very Dangerous, Photo: Gabirulo, Flickr
Some Areas of Caminito del Rey Walkway are Very Dangerous, Photo: Gabirulo, Flickr

El Caminito del Rey Death Toll

There is a wire pinned into the wall that follows most of the walkway and can be used by people to latch onto as safety precaution, but it was not designated to carry much weight. The walkway was closed off in 2000 after 4 people died on it within a span of two years. Many travellers however find the way to get on El Caminito del Rey and get themselves the rush of walking on the most dangerous pathway in the world.

Check out the video below to see how some adventurers have nerves of steel and walk up and down El Caminito del Rey like there is no abyss below them at all. The person who filmed this video also had one of his hands bound as it was holding the camera, so he only had one hand to use to balance himself off. He also didn’t stop at collapsed areas and just walked across the metal beams like it was a sidewalk on the street. True nerves of steel and an amazing sense of balance. The video gives great perception of how insanely dangerous El Caminito del Rey is:

The total length of El Caminito del Rey is 3 kilometers. He wouldn’t be able to pass the whole 3 kilometers of really damaged pathway in just over 6 minutes, but he definitely did the craziest part of it.

When El Caminito del Rey was built, several additional bridges were built and tunnels carved into the stone of Desfiladero de los Gaitanes which were used to build the railway that connected Malaga and Sevilla/Cordoba. The railway tunnels are off limits to visitors, but it is still possible to get there.

The Future of El Caminito del Rey

Even though access to the most dangerous walkway in the world has been officially removed in 2000, plans are to restore El Caminito del Rey, make it safe so as to avoid fatalities and make it once again available to tourists as one of the main attraction in the area. It is possible that the walkway will be privatized in order to speed up the repair works, however that would result in the attraction being paid for in order to access. We’ll see what future holds for El Caminito del Rey. At present time there are signs warning and deterring from access, but it is still possible to get on it and walk it. You are doing it at your own risk and with full knowledge that you’re breaking the bylaw. However it is unlikely we will see the most dangerous walkway in the world officially reopened to public any sooner than perhaps in 2012.

Hunedoara Castle in Romania

Hunedoara Castle is one of the most spectacular castles in the world. It is located in the town of Hunedoara in Romania however up until 1918 it was under the jurisdiction of oppressive Hungary that occupied most of central and eastern Europe for thousand years. Austro-Hungarian Empire reached its end in 1918 and Hunedoara Castle became part of country it truly belongs to – Romania.

14th century gothic Hunedoara Castle is known internationally as either Hunyadi Castle or Corvin Castle, based on its former inhabitants – John Hunyadi and Matei Corvin. Even local Romanians call the castle by either Castelul Huniazilor (Hunedoara Castle) or Castelul Corvineştilor (Corvin Castle). Hungarian name of the castle is Vajdahunyad Vára, in German it is Hunniadstadt, Eisenmarkt.

Hunedoara Castle - Main Entrance, Photo: Craig Heimburger, Travelvice via Wikipedia
Hunedoara Castle - Main Entrance, Photo: Craig Heimburger, Travelvice via Wikipedia

Hunedoara Castle Location

Hunedoara Castle is located by the river Zlasti in the western part of central Romania, about 300 km (185 miles) northwest of Bucharest. Enclosed within the Cerna Valley (Black Valley) on the east of Poiana Ruscă Mountains, Hunedoara Castle is part of world famous Transilvania – home of Count Dracula within the Carpathian Mountain range. Read on to learn about Hunedoara Castle’s has direct connection to Vlad Tepes, the impaler whose atrocities inspired famous novel by Bram Stoker – Dracula.

Interior Courtyard of Hunedoara Castle, Romania, Photo: more stupid than the others, Flickr
Interior Courtyard of Hunedoara Castle, Romania, Photo: more stupid than the others, Flickr

Hunedoara Castle History

The history of Hunedoara Castle begins somewhere in the 12th century. At the time the castle was just a small citadel. Sigismund, the King of Luxemburg gave it to Romanian noble man Vojk Hunyad for his service. When Vojk died, his son Ioannus Corvinus, also known as János Huniady (or John Hunyadi) inherited the citadel and expended on it, turning it into a magnificent, gothic stronghold.

John Huniady was a famous warlord, a great war strategist nick named “the white knight” for his unsurpassed victories against attacking Ottoman Turks. John Huniady became The Prince of Transylvania (Voevode Transylvanie) and the governor of Hungary. Elisabeth of Szilagy really loved the Hunedoara Castle and spent most of her life living there.

Matthias Corvinus (Matei Corvin), the son of John Huniady and the king of Hungary further expanded on the castle, adding the touch of renaissance. It was during his rule when Vlad Dracul – famous impaler later knows as count Dracula was imprisoned in Hunedoara Castle for his cruelty.

Transylvanian prince Gabriel Bethlen who owned Hunedoara Castle in the 17th century enlarged the castle even further, adding Bethlen wing – renaissance and baroque influenced part to it. Gabriel Bethlen also built the gate tower, white tower and moved the entrance to its current location.

Vlad Tepes aka Dracula was in Prison in Hunedoara Castle
Vlad Tepes aka Dracula was in Prison in Hunedoara Castle

Hunedoara Castle and Count Dracula

During reign of John Huniady Vlad Tepes, aka Count Dracula was a valued friend and an ally of Hunedoara Castle. John Huniady gave Vlad Dracula the rule over Wallachia and along with his army, he fought invading Turks from the Ottoman Empire.

The matters took sudden turn for Vlad Dracula when in 1458 when Matthias Corvin became the king of Hungary, inheriting Hunedoara Castle after his father. At that time the Turks already controlled the Constantinopole, which was the Christian gate to Europe. Vlad Dracula fought Ottoman Turks off and the area along Danube river that was under his control was some of the most successful in fighting the invaders. Turks however responded with deployment of massive army to the Wallachia province and the rest of Romania, forcing Vlad Dracula to flee to the Transylvanian Alps mountains.

When Vlad Dracula recuperated, he went to Hunedoara Castle with intentions to get help from the king so he can fight Turks back. Instead offering help, King Matthias Corvin imprisoned Vlad Dracula. He was held prisoner in one of Hunedoara Castle’s cells for 7 years.

After 7 years in jail, Vlad Tepes was recognized by the court as a devoted ally and released from prison. Matthias Corvin gave him the army he originally asked for and Wallachia province was once again regained and fell under Vlad’s control. Vlad Tepes was again on good terms with the king and ended up marrying Matthias Corvin’s cousin.

Dragon Gargoyles Decoration on Hunedoara Castle. Photo: rasears, Flickr
Dragon Gargoyles Decoration on Hunedoara Castle. Photo: rasears, Flickr

Hunedoara Castle As Vacation Idea

Tourism in Romania is on a rise. Despite weak economy, hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world are attracted to the Transylvanian mountains because of their connection to vampires and the most famous of them all – Dracula. Hunedoara Castle is only one of the Romanian castles with direct connection to Dracula. Bran Castle is often mistakenly refered to as the Dracula Castle, even though it isn’t. However Bran Castle is where Bram Stoker based his book “Dracula” at. Actual Dracula castle – the residence of Vlad Tepes is in ruin as it was destroyed.

Hunedoara Castle has a perfect direct connection to Count Dracula as Vlad Tepes spent several years in confinement there. That’s more than Bran Castle, where Vlad dined. Aside from its connection to Dracula, Hunedoara Castle is an architectonical germ. The spirit of dark ages can be felt throughout and it’s guaranteed to deliver ultimate rush to all who seek more from their vacation than just a relaxing stay at the beach.

Hunedoara Castle, Image by Alex Bikfalvi, Flickr
Hunedoara Castle, Image by Alex Bikfalvi, Flickr

Hunedoara Castle – What to See?

Since John Huniady turned the property into a magnificent fortress, Hunedoara Castle has been recognized as the most beautiful castle in Transylvania. Today the castle houses the spectacular museum and a gallery. Maces Tower, the Council Hall, the Knights Hall, Chapel, and 100 ft courtyard are available to the visitors and they are all spectacular.

Madeira Island – The Complete Guide

When Christopher Columbus went to describe Madeira Island to Queen Isabella of Spain, he said it looked like scrunched piece of paper. This description is rather accurate. With its sharp edged ridges and volcanic hills, most of Madeira’s mainland looks harsh and rigid. Along the coastline, however, the island overgrows with lush vegetation and rich gardens.

Madeira Island Beaches, Photo: Madeira, Flickr
Madeira Island Beaches, Photo: Madeira, Flickr

Madeira Location

Madeira is an archipelago in tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean 310 miles from the coast of Africa (it’s further north, closer to Europe than Lanzarotte of The Canary Islands). Madeira is the main and largest island of the four-island Madeira archipelago. Porto Santo is the second populated island. Desertas and Selvagens Islands are unpopulated. Madeira Islands are the autonomous region under jurisdiction of Portugal and fall within the European Union ultraperifric area.

Madeira – The Island of Eternal Spring

Owing to its rich vegetation and year round mild climate, Madeira is known as the island of eternal spring. If you like plants, flowers, trees and other things that grow from the Earth, you will love Madeira Island.

Rich Vegetation Near Ribeira Funda, Madeira, Photo: fxp, Flickr
Rich Vegetation Near Ribeira Funda, Madeira, Photo: fxp, Flickr

Madeira Attractions

Unlike most tropical islands, Madeira hasn’t become a tourist attraction until late 1800s. Portugal government has invested more money into it as the popularity grew with creation of united Europe. Visitors can now enjoy world class spas, stay in poshy hotels, and have a meal in classy restaurants. If you’re an adventurous tourist, you can enjoy wide selection of activities that pump adrenaline and bring unexplored rush to the body.

Still, thanks to its unbeatable uniqueness, Madeira is likely to impress those looking for something different. However, even if you’re looking for more traditional approach seeking attractions widely available at most mainstream resorts, you are likely to find them on this island too. Let’s look at some most popular Madeira attractions:

Funchal – The Capital of Madeira

City of Funchal got its name from the word funcho (fennel) which is abundant throughout Madeira Islands. The downtown area of Funchal is contained and can be easily explored on foot. It’s full of cute shops and as whole of Madeira – abundant in tropical gardens.

Make sure you visit The Worker’s Market (Mercado dos Lavradores) as it bears a true spirit of the island and offers some extraordinary articles for sale.

Sé Cathedral is a center point of Funchal and is worth paying a visit to. It was built in 15th century.

City of Funchal Decorated for Christmas. Cathedral Tower is in the Background. Photo: Paul Stephenson, Flickr
City of Funchal Decorated for Christmas. Cathedral Tower is in the Background. Photo: Paul Stephenson, Flickr

While you’re still in Funchal, take a ride in a cable car from Zona Velha in Funchal to Monte. The cable car will take you above the old town, throughout the city overlooking the traffic below and roofs of old houses until you reach the valley aligned with gardens. The return ticket costs €13.

The Old Blandy Wine Lodge

Located in an old monastery, The Old Blandy Wine Lodge offers aged wine that date back decades. The barrels are not stored in cool cellars, but rather in warm attics, giving their wine that recognizable sweetness. Take a tour throughout the lodge and when you’re done, take a seat in the Vintage Room to enjoy a glass of their finest.

Barrels of Wine at The Old Blandy Wine Lodge in Funchal, Madeira. Photo: Paul Mannix, Flickr
Barrels of Wine at The Old Blandy Wine Lodge in Funchal, Madeira. Photo: Paul Mannix, Flickr

Madeira Gardens

The colors and scents of lush gardens will accompany you at most places of Madeira. Mild climate with high humidity creates conditions in which the plants strive. There is a plethora of gardens that you can visit and if you’re a fan of exotic plants, you will be in seventh heaven. Whether it comes to camellias, rhododendrons or just really weird looking, futuristic trees, the gardens of Madeira will surely leave you in awe.

Toboggan Ride in Monte

If you dare, take a toboggan ride in Carreiro do Monte. It’s a fun adrenaline rush. Two people can be seated in a toboggan that’s steered by two experienced locals so you get safely to the suburb of Livramento sliding down cobblestone streets. The cost per ride is €23. Your steering couple will expect a tip, though.

Monte Toboggan Ride in Madeira. Photo: Paul Mannix, Flickr
Monte Toboggan Ride in Madeira. Photo: Paul Mannix, Flickr

Levadas of Madeira

Levadas are a vast system of man made water channels that deliver rainforest water to all parts of the island, even the most inaccessible ones. Levadas are narrow paths that you can walk along. They vary in difficulty – some are easy to trail, some are more challenging, some require walking knee deep in water.

Levadas Make You Respect The Nature. Photo: goforchris, Flickr
Levadas Make You Respect The Nature. Photo: goforchris, Flickr

Cabo Girão

Cabo Girão is the second highest ocean cliff in Europe. It’s located 50 kms south of Madeira’s capital city Funchal. Cabo Girão looms to enviable 590m (1,935 ft.) above sea level.

Cabo Girao in Madeira - One of World's Highest Sea Cliffs. Photo: jafsegal, Flickr
Cabo Girao in Madeira - One of World's Highest Sea Cliffs. Photo: jafsegal, Flickr

São Vicente Caves

Set of extra ordinary volcanic caves near town of São Vicente offer different experience for those who seek more from their visit (I really like visiting caves). You can walk lava tubes in São Vicente Caves.

Curral das Freiras

Curral das Freiras means “Nuns Valley”. It’s a small village engulfed by mountains in the heart of Madeira. The village was established in 1566 when a nun of the capital Funchal’s Santa Clara convent fled there from a pirate attack. Curral das Freiras is very remote and local mostly live from what they grow themselves. Local chestnuts are delicious and the village is a host to annual Chestnut Festival.

Curral Das Freiras is as Remote and Inaccessible as it Seems. Photo: John Burke, Flickr
Curral Das Freiras is as Remote and Inaccessible as it Seems. Photo: John Burke, Flickr

Porto Santo

Island of Porto Santo is separate from the Madeira Island, but is part of Madeira archipelago and is under administration of Autonomous Region of Madeira. Porto Santo is the second populated and the northern and eastern most island of the Madeira archipelago. Fairy to Porto Santo departs from Funchal once every day except from Tuesdays and takes two hours (return ticket costs €47).

Porto Santo is home to the famous 9 km beach with sand that is said to have healing properties. Burying yourself in Porto Santo sands could help with skin disorders, rheumatism and varicose veins.

Porto Santo with its famous 9 km beach. Photo: Ordep, Wikipedia
Porto Santo with its famous 9 km beach. Photo: Ordep, Wikipedia

Canyoning in Madeira

Canyoning is one of the latest thrill adventures offered in Madeira. For those seeking adrenaline filled activities, Madeira offers several dozen routes with vertical cliffs and waterfalls for abseiling (descending using ropes and safety harness). Walking on gorges, swimming in natural pools, and jumping waterfalls of various difficulty levels into the pond below is guaranteed to deliver the rush you desire.

Hikers should not miss the levada trail between Pico Areeiro and Pico Ruivo – two highest peaks on Madeira Island. When you get high up on top of the hill, it looks as if you walked on the clouds.

Golfing in Madeira

Santo da Serra Golf Course – located in Via Rápida, just minutes from the airport, Santo da Serra Golf Course is overlooking the ocean and is surrounded by one of Madeira’s most beautiful natural areas.

Palheiro Golf Course – located on a hill above Funchal, Palheiro Golf Course is in close proximity to Estalagem Casa Velha do Palheiro, Relais & Chateaux hotel and the world famous Palheiro Gardens.

Ilha da Madeira - Hilly Coastline of the Island, Photo: Muchaxo, Flickr
Ilha da Madeira - Hilly Coastline of the Island, Photo: Muchaxo, Flickr

Madeira Hotels

Reid’s Palace Hotel – it’s a five star hotel in Funchal where Winston Churchill stayed when he visited Madeira. Priced appropriately to its category (from €280), hence only advisable if you can afford luxury.

Choupana Hills Resort – considered the finest hotel in Madeira, located just outside of Fruchal. Locally known as Travessa do Largo da Choupana. Prices start at €360

Quinta da Quebrada – located on Madeira’s north coast in Arco de São Jorge, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Doubles rooms are from €195

Estalagem do Mar – on the north coast, just outside of São Vicente. Inexpensive accommodation starting at €50 in low season.

Madeira Restaurants

Doca do Cavacas – reasonably priced fish restaurant at Estrada Monumental, Ponta de Cruz, Funchal, Madeira

Golden Gate Café – established international restaurant on the corner of the world, Avenida Arriaga, Funchal

Xôpana Restaurant – high class restaurant with stunning view of Funchal serving world class food and wine. Located within Choupana Hills Resort and Spa, Funchal, Madeira

Les Faunes – world class French quisine restaurant located in Reid’s Palace Hotel, Estrada Monumental 139, Funchal, Madeira

Cliffs Along Madeira Coastline, Pic: Kat..., Flickr
Cliffs Along Madeira Coastline, Pic: Kat..., Flickr

Madeira is a safe vacation destination with picture perfect scenery. It’s growing in popularity, especially among adventure travellers and elderly Brits who can get to the island on a four hour flight. Madeira is enchanting all year round. The summers are warm and winters are mild. It’s a great place to relax and restore the balance of body and mind. The people of Madeira are friendly and welcoming. I’m sure you’ll love Madeira if you choose it for your next vacation.

Santa Maria - Replica of Columbus' Ship Sailing Around Madeira. Photo: Madeira, Flickr
Santa Maria - Replica of Columbus' Ship Sailing Around Madeira. Photo: Madeira, Flickr