When it comes to Newfoundland, everyone asks, "Why?" or "Where?" but when I'm asked about Ireland, it's usually, "When is the best time to go?"
Ireland is among the top destinations on travel bucket lists, thanks to its breathtaking scenery, magnificent castles, rich history and charming people. Making the decision to go isn't difficult, but knowing WHEN to go can be.
While I talk about that aspect in my book, Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, I don't mind sharing a bit of that here as well. Helping people plan their own trips to Ireland is one of my favorite things to do, which is why I encourage anyone who wants to go to contact me for advice.
Really, anytime is a good time to go to Ireland, but I do have my own preferences, having visited in every season of the year. If you're looking for the best odds for great weather, unfortunately, that's just something you can't count on. You might think it would be summer, but I've personally experienced more rain in the summer than any other time of the year - that season also brings the biggest crowds, highest airfares and greater difficulty in finding accommodation.
There are no guarantees when it comes to the weather, so your best bet is to bring clothes that can be layered, along with appropriate rain gear, and be prepared to take things as they come. Often times the rain isn't so brutal that it prevents you from going on a hike or other outdoor activities, and when it is, just pop into one of the many cozy pubs, enjoy the warmth of a fire and conversation with the locals.
If you have your heart set on a dolphin watching excursion or a fishing trip, early May through late September may be your only option. If you can, plan to go closer to the outer ends of that period for the best experience. In fact, I find May and mid- to late-September to be the ideal times of the year to visit Ireland. This is when you’ll often get the best of both worlds with decent weather, a more relaxed atmosphere and many popular attractions will still be open.
But don't rule out winter. Ireland tends to have fairly mild weather, similar to the Seattle area, so you're unlikely to have to deal with snow. Traveling between mid-January and late February will typically earn you the best deals on airfare, the cheapest rates on accommodations, and you’ll have few crowds to contend with. This is also an ideal time to get to know the locals with your B&B host usually not as rushed.
In my next post, I'll reveal my favorite Ireland destinations, places you might want to consider for your own itinerary.
Have any questions about Ireland or other destinations you'd like to see answered here? Comment below, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Surprisingly, one of the questions I'm asked most often in regard to Newfoundland is "Why?" followed by, "Where is it anyway?"
First off, Newfoundland is Canada's easternmost province in the Atlantic region. If you could see far enough, standing on its east coast, you'd be looking directly at Ireland. Of course, it's over 2,000 miles away, so unless you're superhuman, that's not going to happen. Many Newfoundlanders are of Irish descent, and if you speak with a Newfoundlander, particularly in and around the area called the Irish Loop, you might swear that you are talking to someone who just arrived from the Emerald Isle, only to have them tell you their ancestors arrived 400 years ago.
Now that you know where it is, here's why you should go.
If you go during the summer months, you'll have the chance to see up to 22 species of whales, including the world's largest population of humpbacks. In St. Anthony on the Great Northern Peninsula, it's common to go on a whale watching trip and have the boat literally surrounded by the creatures.
Following a route known as "Iceberg Alley," a multitude of sparkling white and blue icebergs float from the glaciers of Greenland to the waters off Newfoundland's east and northern coasts. They typically arrive in May and stick around through mid-July, but can sometimes be seen as late as August or early September.
You don't have to travel all the way to Norway to see a breathtaking fjord, because Gros Morne National Park on the west coast, has some of its own. The park is renowned for its gorgeous freshwater fjords, striking cliffs and magnificent shorelines. Take the Western Brook Pond tour to see a landlocked fjord, as well as cascading waterfalls, wildlife and more.
If you like puffins, you'll be in heaven here, especially in Elliston, the best spot for close encounters with these adorable birds close up. In fact, it offers one of the closest land views of puffins on the entire continent. Between May and September, the colorful auks occupy a section of land at the end of a rocky outcrop. Take the less than five-minute walk down a narrow, well-worn path that will bring you to what is known to locals as the “Puffin Site.” In 1987, a census estimated there were 2500 pairs of puffins here, but in recent years the number has increased dramatically.
One of the most common sayings in Newfoundland is "Mind the moose." And that's because they're everywhere. Pay close attention to roadsides when you're driving and you're likely to spot more than a few.
While St. John's is arguably the oldest city in North America, existing on maps as early as 1519, Newfoundland's history goes back much farther than that. Follow the Viking Trail to L’Anse Aux Meadows, and you can see the archaeological remains of a Norse encampment that dates back over 1,000 years - it's the only authenticated Viking site on the continent. Costumed interpreters are at the site in recreated dwellings to provide a fascinating glimpse of the Vikings time in the province.
Whether it’s at an ad-hoc kitchen party, a festival or a pub, music is the heartbeat of Newfoundland. In the capital city of St. John's, you can enjoy famously outstanding local live music along George Street, which boasts the most bars and pubs per square foot of any street in North America. O'Reilly's is a fantastic place to go with live Irish music every night of the week. At some places, you might even have the opportunity to grab an ugly stick and join in the fun.
If you're up on the Great Northern Peninsula around St. Anthony or L'anse aux Meadows, don't miss Skippers Hot Lounge, they do a really fun Screech-In if you want to become an official Newfoundlander too.
The Food and Drink
I've had some many exceptional meals here, including lobster, mussels, halibut and more. If you're a seafood lover you'll especially enjoy the cuisine, but if you aren't, don't worry, there's plenty of your favorites to be found here too. If you're a fan of Guinness, while it's readily available throughout the province, be sure to try the St. John's stout, made by Yellow Belly Brewery. Don't tell my Irish friends, but it's actually slightly better. Something I never thought I'd ever say.
While the scenery, wildlife, music, food and history are out of this world, what makes it truly one of the best places on Earth, is the people. Newfoundlanders are some of the kindest, most welcoming people I've ever met.
If you're ready to go, check out these great places to stay in my recent article on Trips To Discover: 7 Best Places to Stay in Newfoundland.
I've been so busy with writing work, and traveling, that I've neglected this blog. In the past, I've used it as more of a spot to display some of the work I've done, but from this point on, that all changes. While I work on many different projects, including articles focused on alternative health, website copy and so on, first and foremost, I am a travel writer.
And, what kind of travel writer am I without a blog these days?
That's why I've decided it is well past time to change that. I have so much to talk about! In the last year alone, I have traveled to Newfoundland, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Ireland (again) and in September I'll be in Greece for nearly 2 weeks followed by a trip in November to the Ecuadorian Amazon.
I hope my new, revived blog, will actually inspire some of you to get out there and travel more - it's amazing how visiting a place outside of your own country can give you an entirely new perspective, especially when you take the time to meet the locals and enjoy more authentic experiences, rather than sitting on a bus filled with other tourists. Of course, there is occasionally a time and a place for that too, I've learned, and have met some amazing people I wouldn't have otherwise from giving it a chance.
While many people think it's impossible to travel without being wealthy, it's just not true. These days there are practically endless ways to make it happen, if you really want it too.
I plan to write more posts about how YOU can do just that, as well as focus on the incredible destinations I've been privileged to visit, like Newfoundland, which I've absolutely fallen in love with for so many, many reasons. Of course, I will never forgot my first love, Ireland, and continue to visit as often as I can. as well as helping others plan their adventures in the Emerald Isle. I may even offer personal guided tours there in the near future. Anyone want to come along?
Stay tuned - next up: Why you really need to visit Newfoundland!
One little hint, even the icebergs have a sense of humor!
If you plan to visit Ireland, you should definitely spend at least a little time on one of its amazing islands.
My favorite, pictured above, is Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland in County Galway.
It has the feel of a remote, isolated fishing village, and the locals speak the Irish Gaelic language among themselves, though they do speak English to visitors. When you step off the ferry and onto the pier, you’ll be greeted with an idyllic white sandy beach that faces crystal clear turquoise waters, frequently dotted with fishing boats. The main village can be found adjacent to the beach, enclosed by a small hill with O’Brien’s castle and a fort at the top. The two-square-mile island is easily covered on foot, though there are bicycle rentals and a number of pony and cart drivers willing to show you around.
Stick around a while and you'll get a sense of the strong local community that still adheres to the traditional Irish way of life. You’ll find a number of things to keep you busy, including walks to the lighthouse or the shipwreck of the Plassy, traditional music pubs and even an art center.
Other islands well-worth a visit include:
Will be flying "home" once again, back to the Emerald Isle, in another 9 days! I'll be hanging out in Dublin the first few days and making some day trips to Wicklow and Kilkenny before going back to Belfast and the Giant's Causeway area in Northern Ireland, Clifden, Inisheer Island, Dingle and Portmagee - if there is anything you'd like to know that I haven't covered before, please let me know!
Traveling offers a wide range of benefits, but as we’re all creatures of habit, a change of routine usually means that squeezing a workout in goes to the wayside. Going on vacation shouldn’t mean that all activity stops and that you can consume everything in sight. If you let your good habits go, by the time you return home you’ll most likely feel worse off than you did before you left.
Commit to exercising: no excuses
Pencil in physical activity into your itinerary; ideally 60 minutes each day, but remember that it can be broken up into 10 or 15 minute periods at a time if necessary. Bring everything you need to work out, including your favorite exercise clothes.
Fit in physical activity wherever and whenever you can
There is really no excuse not to get at least some exercise on vacation. Go for a hike, swim in a hotel pool or take advantage of the steep staircases you’ll find in just about every city around the world. If you have a smartphone, download workout apps that can be performed in your hotel room. Doing push-ups, squats, lunges and planks require no equipment at all.
You can also make exercise part of the fun by joining a kayak tour or another type of excursion that will get you moving - often without even thinking about it!
Work out early and plan ahead
Wake up an hour earlier than you normally would so you don’t have to worry about missing out on fun activities during the day. If you’re a runner or a walker, plan your route ahead of time and you might be able to see the city or the countryside at its best while you get your exercise in at the same time. MapMyRun.com is a great site that can help you plan the best routes while on your trip.
Plan something that will motivate you to want to get out and move!
Before I go anywhere, I do a little research online to find out the best running routes in a city, and where the good hikes are in more rural areas. One of my favorite recent treks was a short but very steep hike at Fishing Point in St. Anthony, Newfoundland - 476 steps to the top and definitely worth the climb.
I just ran across this article I wrote a while back, and it reminded me of how many people I've heard that say they don't have the time or money to travel. While sometimes that is the case, most of the time, when there is a will there is a way (and these days there are so many options for traveling on the cheap!)- and, you shouldn't feel guilty about it, because travel is good for you! It might even help you live longer.
Why Travel May be the Best Prescription for Health
When most people think about travel, they don’t think of it as something that’s necessarily a healthy thing to do, but the truth is, it may be the best prescription for better health. In fact, according to the Global Coalition on Aging, travel can even help people to live longer.
The Global Commission on Aging, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, and the U.S. Travel Association conducted a poll that revealed travel, especially for retirees, can help prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It also showed that women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk for developing a heart attack as compared with women who went on vacation at least twice a year. Men who didn’t take a vacation at least once a year were found to have a 20 percent higher risk of an earlier death and approximately a 30 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease.
The benefits of travel are practically immediate, with nine out of ten respondents experiencing a significant reduction in stress levels within just a day or two of being on vacation. Nearly 90 percent of those who travel are also said to generally have a more positive outlook on life.
Numerous surveys have found that workers who take time off to travel are more productive, tend to have higher morale and are much less likely to suffer from burnout. Couples who travel together say they have more sex while on vacation, and sex is known to be a great stress reducer with a number of health benefits.
Chronic stress is hard on your health. Too much can lead to all sorts of illness and disease with its negative impact on your immune system. It’s hard to be stressed while having fun on vacation, whether you’re snorkeling through crystal clear warm waters or taking in a Broadway show.
Most people get more exercise on vacation too. Even if the trip isn’t based around heart-pumping activities like skiing, hiking or surfing, you’ll probably walk more while exploring sights. You’re also more likely to be outside, whether walking between destinations, enjoying a beautiful beach, mountain scenery or even visiting a zoo. Being outdoors, breathing fresh air and soaking up the sun offers much-needed vitamin D, too.
Traveling can even help create healthier relationships. It can bring a couple together by building lifelong memories – surveys have found nearly three-quarters of adults credit travel for helping to improve their interpersonal relationships.
By experiencing different cultures, foods, and even adventures, travel also offers countless opportunities to experience and learn something new. Trying local foods may even provide different nutrients than we’re used to which adds yet another aspect of health to traveling. Any new experience is said to increase happiness levels, and when traveling, most encounters are new. You don’t have to look for ways to reinvent your day and break away from the mundane, it naturally happens.
If you haven't traveled in a while - this gives you just another excuse to start planning and get packing!
It may be a cliche, but the older you get, the faster the years fly by, and this one is already moving like lightning! It's hard to believe I started this blog nearly five years ago - and so much has changed since.
Now focusing mainly on travel and alternative health, I find myself so busy with client work, traveling, etc., that there is little time left to keep this site updated. I realized this afternoon, that I've had so much that I could be sharing so I'm going to give this a much better effort.
The first step is a change in domain name to TravelinKaren. Yes, my first name is actually Karen, K.C. are my initials as well as a nickname, so I answer to both.
In the last six months, I've been to both Iceland and to Newfoundland, two of my favorite new destinations. Although I haven't written about them here, I have a number of articles that might be of interest if you've been thinking about traveling to either place - and I highly recommend you do!
16 Outdoor Things Things to Do in Iceland
15 Reasons You Should Visit Iceland in the Winter
19 Must Experience Sights and Attractions in Newfoundland
And, if you're going anywhere that requires traveling through more than a few time zones, this might help you a bit too:
How to Get Rid of Jet Lag and Enjoy Your Trip
I'll be heading out on my annual trip to Ireland in just a couple of weeks, followed by a short stint in Italy.
Afterward, I'll be updating my Ireland guide book, Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, accordingly, though I don't except as many changes as the latest edition which can be found here.
In the meantime, here are some pictures from my Newfoundland and Iceland trips to enjoy!
Available now in both print and Kindle versions - check it out on Amazon!
New Expanded 2016 Edition of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland is Now Available on Kindle
I'm really excited about my new 2016 edition of the Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland!
It's available for Kindle on Amazon now:
And, it will be available in print by Friday, January 22.
The expanded 2016 edition is three times as long as the original and includes an additional itinerary, information on public transportation, maps, and lots of other helpful new information I've gathered in my recent travels to Ireland as well as details based on feedback from readers and new travelers to the Emerald Isle.
If you currently have the older version for Kindle, you can email Amazon for a free update!
Looking forward to hearing your feedback as always.
After spending much of her life in a cubicle, at 40-something K.C. decided to finally LIVE. Today, she is always on some sort of adventure, or writing about it.
She hopes her journey will inspire you to do the same.