As I was getting ready to start my travels overseas, I chanced upon an invitation in a blogger group in Facebook. There were so many bloggers who expressed their interest to the event so I was thinking, there’s no way I can make it to the cut. You know what they say, there’s no harm in trying. So I commented my blog and email, and continued binge watching my favourite TV serieson Netflix.
Days passed and I had completely forgotten that invite until I stumbled upon some guy’s message on my blog saying contact me on my email. So I did and he replied, contact me on my Facebook account. Boy, he’s demanding, eh? Little did I know, this some guy aka Sir Mike would open doors for me in the blogging scene. True enough, I was one of the chosen few to be part of Katooga Ph’s media influencers in promoting Camarines Norte’s tourism. I didn’t know how the hell that happened. You know what they say, if you never try, you’ll never know. But I did try and I still didn’t know how I got in. Haha anyway, you get the point. Keep trying, you guys.
Most of my travels were personal, so all expenses were funded by guess who, me. You can imagine my grin when I learned that I get to come to Camarines Norte through the efforts of the Provincial Government and Katooga Ph. In short, an all-expense paid travel.
Fast forward to our meet up going to CamNorte, I didn’t mind being a solo traveler here since most of the bloggers knew each other. I’ve been joining tours from DIY TP so this was not new to me. The only difference was that these guys really know their stuff, talking about blogger events, SEO, DA, PA ranking which all sounded foreign to me at the time. I let them do the talking while I mentally jot down notes.
On the eve of tropical storm Jolina’s landfall, we braved the road to the south. Jolina was expected to sweep through northern Luzon but being the mamshie that she was, we felt her wrath during our 4 day stay here in Bicol. We were initially divided into 2 groups to cover more CamNorte grounds but the heavy downpour made us merged the two itineraries and embarked as one. I got to know everyone in the group, jokes thrown everywhere despite the gloomy weather, with Shake and Rattle and Roll trivia on the side c/o the ever witty, alta blogger himself, Allan. A blessing in disguise indeed.
Due to the merge, we had a jam-packed itinerary experiencing the 6 out of the 12 municipalities.
Before we get to what CamNorte has to offer, I would like to thank these awesome people who made my trip to this south gem hassle free, worry free and expense free!
From Mercedes Tourism office: Sir Nico Montemayor and Ms. Mary Antonette Ibasco, who didn’t give up on us when the weather was bad, and still pushed through with island hopping to Siete Pecados. And to Ms. Haruko, a JICA volunteer, who happily answered all our questions as to why she chose CamNorte.
From Provincial Tourism Division: Mommy Myrna Napili, our super maasikaso mommy guide and certified chismosa & Ms. Sarah Vecino – our millennial TV Series junkie guide ensuring everything in our itinerary is ticked. Of course, Sir Darius Mirasol for making our land travels comfortable.
Madam Ruth Forteza
Mayor Dong Padilla
Sir Darius Mirasol
Sir Mike Zuniga, this will not be possible, if not for this guy behind Katooga Ph. And these awesome bloggers, who really made this trip one for the books.
I was definitely in for a ride. I got to meet people who were pioneers in the blogging, got introduced to the prominent people heavily involved in the boosting of the region’s tourism. Hashtag #ComeToCamNorte.
I am one lucky guy who was able to live and study in Iceland from May to October 2015. My classmates and I went to several excursions throughout the course. On weekdays, we studied hard, researched, and did our paper works. On weekends, we traveled harder, explored, and did our IG works. LOL!
We saw several waterfalls, bathed in a lot of hot springs, hiked a number of mountains, drank a gazillion glasses of beers (whoops), and ate a million Icelandic hotdogs. It was an unforgettable experience and it was the best part of my life.
It was so freakin’ cool that I even went back to celebrate the New Year ’s Eve that same year. I booked the most expensive ticket I’ve ever paid for and it was worth it. Iceland became my favorite country. And I’d be more than happy to share this blog post to my friend, Dean, creator of The Quick Escape. (ed – next time share an Iceland ticket, bes Jason hahaha)
Check out the list below for 7 awesome things to do in this wonderful, wonderful country:
GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR
The most common and popular tour in Iceland is the Golden Circle tour. You can book a tour or rent a car to explore this route. It’s common because it’s the most reachable tour from Reykjavik, the capital city. You can visit up to four tourist hot spots this way.
I did this thrice by doing a field trip with classmates, renting a car, and booking a tour. For flexibility and to have control of your own time, of course, renting a car would be the most obvious choice. But if you want to relax, just sit on the bus, get off to see the guided attractions with limited time, then go ahead, and book a tour. This depends on your travel style.
The first stop would be Thingvellir, followed by the Geyser, the Gulfoss, and then Kerid. This is the usual sequence when taking a tour.
Thingvellir is a historic site and a national park. It’s known for its rocky cliffs and fissures. Take a look around and absorb the greenish, mountainous scenery. A scene from the TV series Games of Thrones was even taken here.
The Geyser is a hot spring that erupts every now and then. Wait for a few minutes and watch as it shoots up water and steam. It’s fascinating just to watch this natural phenomenon.
The Gulfoss is a big-ass waterfall. It’s not as big as the Niagara Falls in Canada but it’s still an amazing site to see, especially if there’s a rainbow above the waterfall.
Kerid is one of the prettiest volcanic craters I ever saw. It’s like Christmas sparkled on nature – a mix of green grass and red ash rocks.
After the Golden Circle Tour, the South Iceland Tour is the next big thing you ought to do. I did this twice, both by road tripping with a friend’s car and a rented one. You can either start very early in the morning to finish it in one whole day or spend a night somewhere for a two-day trip.
OPTION A: DAY TOUR – Start very early around 2 to 3 AM and drive from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon. It is a 5 to 6 hour drive. From Jokulsarlon, head back to the city while stopping for the hot spots.
OPTION B: OVERNIGHT TOUR – Start at 8 AM and stop at the selected attractions. Spend the night at Hofn by booking a hotel or Jokulsarlon by camping. We opted to park at Jokulsarlon and sleep inside our car. We were like the guardians of the glaciers – an extremely cold act I would not advise you to do the same!
ATTRACTIONS ALONG SOUTH ICELAND:
Seljalandsfoss is one of my favorite waterfalls because you can go behind the falls to experience its misty vibe.
Seljavallalaug is Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. Drink beers while you bathe against nature’s backdrop. Skinny dipping, perhaps?
Skogafoss is a waterfall where you can climb up for that spectacular panoramic view.
Vik is unique because of its black beach. (ed – I think this was where Daenery’s set foot in the season premiere of GOT Season 7? One thing’s for sure, Gendry was spotted here!)
Fjadrargljufur is a magical hiking trail featured on Justin Bieber’s “I’ll show you.” Yes, I’ll show you the right angle in taking that perfect shot.
Svartifoss is another awesome waterfall known for its columnar structure.
Fjallsarlon is an odd place like Mars with ice and brownish landscape.
Jokulsarlon is a glacial lagoon filled with bluish ice bergs.
If you have one week in Iceland, consider going to the North to do the Diamond Circle Tour. You need to have at least three whole days to do this.
DAY 1: Drive from Reyjavik to Akureyri
DAY 2: Diamond Circle Tour
DAY 3: Drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik
ATTRACTIONS ALONG NORTH ICELAND:
Akureyri is a laid-back town up north known as the capital of North Iceland. Sounds like my kind of town to just chill, literally.
Godafoss is an elegant yet dramatic waterfall, which was used as a film location for the movie “Prometheus.” Jon Snow, where you at? (dunno your name in the film ha)
Lake Myvatn is the quieter version of the Blue Lagoon. Do some rock balancing while you’re at it.
Hverir by Mt. Namafjall is a land of geothermal hot springs and mud pools.
Viti is a crater near Krafla Volacano. Safest spot to take a groupfie! #NoPun
Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. #Power
Asbrygi is a gigantic horseshoe-shaped canyon.
We covered the Northern and Southern parts of Iceland. Now, I’ll take you to the West. This can be accomplished on a weekend or a 2-day trip. Drive from Reykjavik to the West and sleep at Flateyri. In my opinion, it’s best to go here during the winter season. Just be mindful that you may need a 4by4 vehicle to get pass through the thick layers of snow.
HIKE MT. ESJA
To get the best panoramic view of the city, trek atop Mt Esja. I hiked this beauty three times – the first one with Filipino friends, the second with classmates, and the third one for a concert. A concert was held on top of a mountain?! You bet!!!
DIVE SILFRA FISSURE
This is my best dive to date. This dive site is located within the Thingvellir national park. It’s open all-year round. Get a chance to dive or snorkel between the Eurasian and North American plates which drift apart for about 2 cm per year. The water is crystal clear and refreshing; you can actually take a sip. Take note that temperature does go down to 1°C.
It’s definitely a unique and rewarding experience. Get ready to experience the best brain breeze of your life! (ed – I wouldn’t mind getting brain freeze if I can be at two continents at once!!!)
The most relaxing thing to do in a cold country like Iceland is to bath in its geothermal waters. And the most popular geothermal spa in this country is the Blue Lagoon, which was formed by accident. The water is blue because it contains Silica, which is a by-product of the nearby geothermal power plant.
I recommend you try this right after arriving at the airport. It will calm your nerves and your body. It’s soothing. Drink a beer while dipping your body in this geothermal wonder.
In sum, these are just 7 out of the tons of awesome activities you can do in Iceland. These are just the ones that pop up first in my head. Don’t think for a second I forgot about Aurora Borealis. Here you go folks – a bonus attraction that everyone has to see or at least if the skies allow you to – The Northern Lights! Those dazzling lights will definitely blow your mind.
Jason Gotuato is the guy behind www.wheresjason.com. He writes technical reports during the day and travel stories at night – an engineer by profession and a traveler by heart. He has done a lot of crazy stuff from diving between the North American and Eurasian plates, to jumping out of a plane. Hats off to you bro!!!
His quest is to conquer this world and bring out the adventurer in all of us. Take a peek into his adventures @wheresjasong on Facebook and @wheresjason_ig on Instagram. Follow him as he lives his life, one adrenaline rush at a time.