Best Things to do while visiting Iceland

Hi friends! I’m here to chat about one of the highlight trips I’ve ever had… Iceland! Iceland was on my bucket list for a few years so when James surprised me with a trip for my birthday, I cried tears. Yes. Actual tears. I’m here to finally write about our experience and some of the best things to do in Iceland.

In preparation for Iceland, there are so many online resources available with tips on what to see, where to go, best time of the year, yada yada. I did a ton of research and in short, I found that one of the best times of year to go is in September, when the summer tourism is over and there is still warm enough weather (warm as in 50-60 degree weather ha!). If you’re lucky and have the strength and courage to wake up in the middle of the night, you can also spot the Northern Lights! From weather to scenery to tourism peaks, you get the full show this time of the year.

Iceland Essentials Checklist

  • Pocket Wifi Device: We used this one!
  • Automatic Car (unless you enjoy driving manual) with capability to drive on F Roads. We rented from here! A lot of the roads to get to the pretty views require a car made for the F Roads!
  • Lots of layers for clothing. Bring a beanie or warm hat + mittens if you tend to get cold.
  • A swimsuit for the hot springs!
  • Snacks. We didn’t bring any but wish we did. The food in Iceland is crazy expensive. Some people end up packing a suitcase full of food and paying for the extra suitcase to fly with them (it’s apparently cheaper than buying food there ha!). If you don’t want to bring snacks, be prepared to spend a lot of money. The best example I can give is I spent $15 on a small gas station veggie burger.

How to do Iceland the right way

When I first found out we were visiting Iceland, James mentioned we’d be road tripping around the entire island. I was stoked, as this was something we experienced in New Zealand. I envisioned waking up in a van, getting that POV shot of my socks with amazing scenic views. Turns out that no… We were going to rent a car and sleep in the car. A regular car hahah (see above). It took us one night to find out that this was the biggest mistake ever since temperatures drop exponentially at night. After a night of shivering and 3 hours of sleep, we decided to just spend the $200+ a night on last minute hotels and b&bs. Don’t make our mistake. Just don’t. Either opt for airbnbs along the way or rent an actual van you can sleep in.

Aside from that, here are the places we visited! I hope you enjoy the imagery and if you follow our route, please tag me on insta @danimeep and share your photos!

REYKJAVIK

We arrived in Reykjavik and stayed for one night. We knew we didn’t want to stay too long, as most of the beautiful scenery is outside of the city.

Places to visit here:

  • Mikkeller & Friends: Think hip Euro brewery where you channel your inner Peaky Blinders. Good beer, cool company, graphic design that’ll make you audibly say “aw!!”
  • Vesturbæjarlaug: A local hot spring stop. Very cheap and very local! You’ll bathe with plenty of Icelandic citizens and feel right at home. We chose to forego Blue Lagoon simply because it was very packed and much more expensive.
  • Hlemmur Mathöll: A very cool, chic food hall that has plenty of amazing food options for vegans and carnivores alike! There’s also a wine bar, a coffee shop, a pastry place, and more! Plenty of things to eat and drink here.
  • Þúfa: A perfectly groomed and shaped grassy hill that you can climb and take photos on.

ÞINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK

To start our trip outside of Reykjavik, we began in Þingvellir, which features beautiful rock formations (oh hey Game of Throne fans), waterfalls and beautiful trails. This is a place to learn some of Iceland’s brutal history and is the first of Iceland’s three national parks to be established. It’s also a part of the famous Golden Circle so if you are in Iceland for a quick visit, definitely make a pit stop here.

KERID CRATER

Right after the park, we took a quick drive to this famous crater (also a part of the Golden Circle), full of rich red soil and a deep turquoise blue lake at the bottom. It was raining when we went but so so magical! Pro tip: hike around the entire crater at the top and then use the stairs to descend and get a closer view.

REYKJADALUR HOT SPRING THERMAL RIVER

This was one of my top places I would recommend. You can hike up a mountain for some time, see herds of sheep, walk through thick steam and then arrive at…

…the most beautiful place! An actual river with hot spring water, hot enough for you to take off alllllll your layers and lay in it for hours. We were surrounded by lush green grass and the most deep black soil. It was absolutely stunning and makes any hot spring fan the happiest person ever.

HAIFOSS

The next morning, we visited this beautiful waterfall high up in the mountains. You need a four wheel drive car in order to use the F roads to get to this one. On our way up, we saw lots of sheep and felt like we were driving through the Swiss countryside. It was so green and full of waterfalls once we reached the top.

RANGARþING YTRA REGION

I had found a bunch of photos of the highlands in this area that I really really wanted to see. It takes a full day trip to get out here simply because it’s quite a drive via F roads and high up in the mountains. We saw lots of beautiful views with untouched green mountains, red volcanic dust, and an enormous beautiful lake. Oh… and sheep. Are you getting my drift that there are lots of sheep here?

SELJALANDSFOSS

Seljalandsfoss is a beautiful waterfall right off the main highway. It’s a short flat walk that leads you to a breathtaking area, where you can feel the mist and even walk behind the waterfall! There can be quite a few tourists at this stop since it is so easy to get to so I highly recommend visiting in the early morning if you can. Otherwise, just photoshop people out like I did ha!

SKOGAR MUSEUM

After our trip to the waterfall, we visited the Open Air Museum (at the Skogar Museum) which features 15,000 artifacts and examples of Icelandic heritage architecture. We loved seeing the traditional turf houses, which feature moss on the roofs and look like woodland creatures would live in them.

SELJAVALLALAUG SWIMMING POOL

The Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool was one of my top experiences of my life, that’s how much I loved it. It is also a very requested location on my Instagram. The swimming pool is about a 15-20 minute hike into the mountains. It’s not a difficult hike but it’s also not for the elderly or people who might have trouble walking on loose rocks. The pool was actually built in the 1920s and has a pipe from a nearby hot spring that brings water into the pool. It is not maintained so the bottom of the pool is covered in moss and very slippery. It’s not for everyone but I absolutely loved the experience. It’s secluded in the mountains with distant views of waterfalls allllll over! Plan to bring a change of clothes so you can change in the little deserted structure nearby.

REYNISFJARA BEACH

Reynisfjara Beach is a black sand beach that is incredible to see for sunset. It was overcast for us so the skies were slightly pink. There are amazing caves and basalt formations to visit here too so I highly recommend if you’re looking to see some magical black sand and amazing cliffs.

SKAFTARHREUPPUR

In Skaftárhreppur, there is Fjaðrárgljúfur, which is a scene straight out of Lord of the Rings. You can walk along cliffs overlooking a waterfall, river, and lush moss-covered boulders.

SVARTIFOSS

After Fjaðrárgljúfur, we visited Svartifoss, which is another waterfall with views of dark lava basalt columns. I kept telling James I felt like this is what all Disney writers based the villain lair off of. It looks evil. But cool.

JOKULSARLON + DIAMOND BEACH

Jökulsárlón is incredible to see and one of the more popular tourist spots. Between floating glaciers, seals, and ice, there’s plenty to see and right around the corner is Diamond Beach. Our good friends took a tour around the area via boat and loved it! We ended up just walking along the water and crossing the bridge to see Diamond Beach. Most people end their shorter Iceland trips here and return to Reykjavik. It’s about a 5 hour drive back to the city! We decided to continue on with our trip around the island.

FJARDABBYGGD

We continued up the eastern fjords and visited the sweet orange lighthouses all along Fjarðabyggð’s coast. We really channeled our inner Wes Andersen life and walked through the mist and mossy hills to see these little structures.

DJUPAVOGSKORIN

All throughout the eastern fjords is where we really got to experience the areas with way less tourists. At the time, we were driving through our 1 out of the 2 days it rained and I was itching for another hot spring excursion. I found Djúpavogskörin on Google Maps. It’s right off the highway but anyone can easily miss because it’s covered by a couple hills. It feels very secluded and features a small rectangular tub that hits the spot if you’re feeling cold. We made some friends while we were there, as it’s a pretty intimate place to be.

DETTIFOSS

Norðurþing has a couple of waterfalls including Dettifoss and Selfoss. Dettifoss is supposedly Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It’s huge, beautiful, looks like it’s falling in slow motion. Right up the street, you can walk to Selfoss, which is a little smaller but still absolutely beautiful. Because it was a sunny day, we spotted a beautiful double rainbow at Dettifoss!

NAMASKARDH

While you continue your drive, you can’t miss Namaskardh, which has heaps of steam rising from geysers and underground pits. Warning: It is very stinky. But super cool to visit and a quick pit stop.

MYVATN NATURE BATHS

Mývatn Nature Baths was an amazing Blue Lagoon like experience but much more affordable and much less populated. We really enjoyed taking a dip here and relaxing without our phones.

As we continued our drive in the Northern part of the island, we saw less and less people and more Icelandic ponies!

Of course I had to stop and get all the photos! There were tons of baby horses to see.

SNAEFELLSBAER

Snæfellsbær is a beautiful natural area on the north end of the island with loads to see! We first went to Svödufoss which featured a really nice hike up to a small waterfall. You can walk along a river, find your way across it, and then walk up to the top of the falls. It was a somewhat easy hike but definitely bring water shoes, rain boots, or shoes you don’t mind getting wet if you’re going to cross the river.

Right down the road, you can visit Skarðsvík Beach, which is a beach which lava rock surrounding it. It has a beautiful view of the Arctic Sea and is also very quiet compared to other beaches.

On our way around the peninsula, we hopped off to see Saxhóll Crater, which is a large crater you can climb around via stairs. Once you’re at the top, you can peer into a once active volcano.

Londrangar

We ended our time in the peninsula with a view at Londrangar, another scene straight out a fairy tale. It’s a short walk to the top of the cliffs, where you can view the lighthouse and see the amazing rock formations. Don’t be fooled by our sunny day, it’s quite windy and cold up there so prepare to wear warm clothes for this area.

GEYSIR

Once we headed back to Reykjavik, we decided to stop by Geysir, which is a geothermal area in the Golden Circle with hot springs, boiling pits, and an actual active geyser! So fun! The geyser erupts every 15 minutes or so, so it’s fun to sit on a nearby bench and watch it blast out hot water!

After Geysir, we went back to Reykjavik and spent a day there exploring and eating! I highly recommend sticking to the areas outside of the city simply because there is so much more to see and experience. I hope this guide has been helpful! Enjoy Iceland, friends!

xx Dani

I’m really excited to introduce our new bedroom, featuring ideas on how to style Urban Outfitters Home decor! After we found out the house we lived in was selling, the search for the perfect new place was under way. I like to do LOTS of research and I kiiiind of went into an obsessive frenzy in finding the right place.

In searching, I found the best options on Craigslist, which ultimately led us to finding our 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment. We honestly couldn’t tell what it looked like from the one photo that was posted on Craigslist and when we visited, the entire floor was ripped out and equipment was EVERYWHERE! They were in the middle of replacing the old carpet with new wood floors so things looked very hectic. After some consideration, we saw so much potential with the vaulted exposed ceilings and built in cabinets. We also loved the bright light and the mid century vibe. Thankfully, we gave it a go and partnered with Urban Outfitters Home to create a beautiful, neutral bedroom full of bohemian, feminine vibes!

Take a peek into the inspiration that fed into the design of our sweet space and peep tons of sweet ideas from Urban Outfitters Home.

Bedroom Color Ideas

Urban Outfitters Bedroom Color Inspiration

Bedroom Ideas with warm neutral colors

Interiors Inspired by the Desert

Incorporating Urban Outfitters Home Decor

For the bedroom, I really wanted to incorporate the sweet items I received from Urban Outfitters! It’s really important to me to maintain a neutral toned bedroom, especially since the room gets so much golden light. I also knew I had to purchase a sun catcher! We haven’t ever had a bedroom with this much light. Because of this, I knew I just had to have something that played with the sun! I also found the sweetest shape study print from a local artist, Sueko Sage.

Shop the space!

We’re really excited to continue to decorate the space and make it our own! Our next room design will feature our living room and office, which will hopefully be spruced up with a sweet mid century desk!

Stay tuned! x Dani

  1. Erica said:

    This is stunning. The colors and mid century wood details compliment each other so well! Love it!

    November 5, 2018  5:49 pm
    Reply
    • Dani Toscano said:

      Thank you!! I love mid-century furniture finds. My favorite place to shop: Craigslist!

      November 6, 2018  8:19 pm
      Reply
  2. Natalie said:

    Wow I absolutely love your space! Also really love how you included the color palette and inspo, it made it a really enjoyable read!

    November 5, 2018  11:19 pm
    Reply
    • Dani Toscano said:

      Thanks so much, Natalie! Glad you enjoyed it :-)

      November 6, 2018  8:19 pm
      Reply
  3. mizizzle said:

    Hi! Really nice space! Can you share where you got your round coffee table? Thanks xox

    November 20, 2018  2:35 am
    Reply

We had an amazing time in Thailand last fall and truly found some of the BEST deals. It all kind of started with a conversation like “Hey! It’d be so cool to go to Thailand!” and other friends said “Yep! Lets watch on Hopper” and then I said “What’s Hopper?”

Traveling to Thailand on a budget

Now, if you haven’t heard of Hopper yet, you are in for a real treat (and no this is not sponsored, I really just love the app SO DANG MUCH). You can watch trips for designated times and the app will monitor pricing so that you can get the best deal! After about a month of watching, it alerted our phones one night that it had the best price from San Diego to Bangkok, which was (drumroll please!) only $330 roundtrip. That’s cheaper than a flight to New York, or a flight to the midwest, or a flight to Cancun. Yes, $330 roundtrip. Naturally, we decided to book IMMEDIATELY and convinced a total of 8 friends to go on the trip.

Here’s where we ended up going:

Bangkok

We arrived in Bangkok around midnight on a Friday and immediately went to our hostel that we booked via AirBnb. Hostels in Thailand are actually really nice and we found one that was so beautifully designed, where we were able to rent a private dorm for the 8 of us (with 8 really clean and private bunk beds). There were also 3 sweet kitties there, some even had tiny curly tails which ultimately sparked a 2-week-long conversation about whether or not the cats in Thailand had their tails cut by humans or were just born with them. They were born with them and yes, I was right in the debate, and yes, it’s the cutest thing ever. Cost: $70/night (for private dorm for 8 people) | $9/person

Chiang Mai

The next morning, we took a small plane from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, which was about an hour and twenty minutes! We decided to leave for Chiang Mai immediately because we wanted to catch the famous Lantern Festival in November. It is truly such a magical time in the mountain town and there are tons of activities, music, and life happening all around during that time. Lots of people online say that the Lantern Festival doesn’t exist anymore but trust me it does and trust me you need to go. There are two festivals you can partake in: the $$$ one and the free one. The $$$ one is over $150 from what I remember… We decided on the free one, which was wonderful because you can purchase lanterns for no more than 50 cents, release them over the river running through the city, and watch the town parade.

During our stay, we stayed at Suneta Hostel, which was such a beautiful hostel. You can rent private rooms for a group or book a private room individually! Cost: $108/night (for a few private rooms split between 8 people) | $14/person

First Day in Chiang Mai

For our first day in Chiang Mai (pre-festival), we decided to explore! There is a TON of stuff to see and eat and experience. We visited temples, ate some amazing Pad See Ew street noodles, and sipped on some fresh coconut smoothies. All the food is incredible and incredibly CHEAP. You will end up spending $5-15 on food per day in Thailand. There is also mango sticky rice available at every corner which is one of my absolute FAVORITE treats. In San Diego, you get it for like $5-7 at a restaurant, in Thailand, you get it for 50 cents max.

The Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai

That night, we experienced the Lantern Festival. In every photo I have ever seen pre-Lantern Festival, it looks like a very tranquil serene experience where everyone meditates and then magically floats away into the sky with their lantern. I was expecting something like that, maybe yoga retreat vibes or a place where I truly channeled my inner “Eat Pray Love” epiphany.

No, this did not happen. Maybe it’s because we went to the free version of the festival, maybe not. But it is absolutely CRAZY! Think of a war zone where people use lanterns as their weapons. It was amazing and terrifying and funny and I would definitely recommend seeing how alive the city becomes but definitely definitely take caution in being a part of it. We stood at the bridge overlooking the river and let ours go and we soon saw other people letting them go too early and almost catching us (and nearby trees) on fire. It’s cool though, we’re okay. Cost: Free!

Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

The day after the Lantern Festival, we went to hike into the countryside with ELEPHANTS. Now, we did a ton of research into this because it was very important to our entire group that we support an organization that rehabilitates elephants and does not promote riding them. If you are looking into riding elephants, the majority of them are abused (whipped, traumatized) in order to train them. Please do not support these organizations. Please support organizations that rehabilitate elephants who have come from these situations.

We found a wonderful place called Elephant Nature Park, where you can visit their park or venture into the wild with the elephants. We chose the latter (Elephant Highlands Tour) because we wanted to see them in their most natural habitat. The tour guides picked us up from our hostel and we drove ~2 hours into the mountains. Once we arrived, we cleaned up, got a bag of fruit, and the elephants arrived!

We began our ascent into the country’s lush green hills and hiked with the elephants. It was such a beautiful walk but so so special because we were walking right next to the elephants. No chains, no inhibitors.

They made a buffet-style lunch for us and we then continued our hike. We arrived at a pool where we swam with the elephants and washed them. Afterwards, we made fresh food for them with brown rice and bananas.

Everything about the elephant experience was magical and truly stayed in our hearts as one of our favorite experiences. I highly recommend doing this tour if you are in Chiang Mai. Cost: $176/person.

Hikes in Chiang Mai

The next day, we explored some more temples and hiked to a waterfall. With temples, it’s important to note that you need to cover your shoulders and thighs (especially as a woman). They will not let you in if you are dressed differently, or they will charge you for a sarong or blanket to wrap around yourself. I recommend bringing a sarong or something you can wrap as a skirt or shawl. Cost: $2-5/person (for temples), free for waterfall.

Phuket

The next morning, we flew to Phuket (the more tropical side of Thailand), where we drove south and checked into our apartments. We booked three apartments and had a full pool to ourselves. We decided to take a rest day and just relax. Cost: $118/night (for 3 apartments split between 8 people) | $15/person

The next day, we went on a Sea Tour around Phang Nga Bay. We explored various beaches and islands in a full-day boat and kayak tour. This included seeing the incredible limestone cliffs and ancient caves of Hong Island and Panak Island, swimming around Lawa Island, and visiting the iconic James Bond Island (from that one famous movie). Transportation, a buffet lunch, and equipment was all included. I really recommend doing a full-day tour like this because you get to see a variety of islands and immerse yourself in the tropical turquoise ocean. Watch out for jellyfish though, we had a couple friends get stung! Cost: $80/person.

Koh Lanta

After our Sea Tour, we traveled to Koh Lanta, an island we heard is relaxed and quiet. It was very serene and we ended up staying at a really nice resort where we ate on the beach and swam to our hearts’ content. Cost: $226/night (for 2 private rooms split between 8 people) | $28/person

Railay Beach (in Krabi)

The next day, we took a ferry to Railay Beach, a place that is only accessible by boat in Krabi. Looking back, I have a lot of mixed feelings about Railay Beach. It is absolutely BEAUTIFUL and I would highly recommend, but I did have a problem with the amount of stray cats and kittens there are (who have limited access to the right care). If you are feeling up for a donation, please donate to Lanta Animal Welfare. $5 goes a long way.

Aside from that, the place is incredibly lush and full of monkeys and wildlife. We stayed in bungalows in the jungle, where we had monkeys jumping on our roofs over the next few days and saw lots of reptiles. Cost: $206/night (for 3 rooms split between 8 people) | $26/person

During our time there, we ate food from food boats (which are essentially like food trucks but on boats at the beach), swam in a cove during sunsets, and explored limestone caves around the secluded beach. Railay Beach was beautiful and provided so much more of an intimate experience with the Thai culture than other islands.

Returning home from the islands of Thailand

After Railay Beach, we took a ferry to Krabi, and then a flight from Krabi back to Bangkok. We stayed in the same AirBnb hostel in Bangkok and ended our trip there. We had an amazing time exploring the variety of landscapes, from the mountains in Chiang Mai to the limestone caves in the islands to the huge huge city of Bangkok. What’s wonderful about Thailand is that once you are there, everything is incredibly affordable. Short flights range from $25-35 and can get you to the opposite side of the country in an hour!

Hope this guide helps inspire your trip to Thailand! x Dani

Over the years, I’ve searched for unique portraits I could partake in to either frame for my home or simply experience with a loved one. We’ve found some really amazing opportunities and I’m excited to share four of my favorite portrait experiences that I’ve stumbled across in San Diego (but that are honestly totally attainable in other places).

Aura Photography

This is a really cool kind of photography experience James and I visited when Radiant Human came to San Diego. We honestly had no idea what to expect other than entering her iconic white dome where our portrait was taken. Here, you enter the dome and place your hands onto a sensor. If there are two of you entering, like we did, you simply place one hand on one sensor and the other places their hand on the other sensor. From what we understood, the sensors detect heat and translate it into a color. This “reads” your aura and produces a color which our photographer later interpreted once it was printed. It’s definitely something fun to experience and see come to life. Cost: $35/photo.

Side note: We’ll be featured in Radiant Human’s upcoming book! Take a peek at her instagram to see other images or search “Aura photographers” to find the one nearest you!

tintype

Yes, tintypes are still alive and well, but they’re quite rare and the experience is so SO fun. If you don’t know what a tintype is, let me paint a picture for you: you know those olden day photos that are printed on metal and look super weathered? THAT’s a tintype! Tintypes are captured with old film cameras, where the image is transferred onto a piece of tin, rather than paper. The tin is then developed in a darkroom and instantly transforms into a negative, which is then processed some more into the image. We had ours photographed by Scott Basile Photography, located in San Diego. He photographed ours in his home studio and let us watch the entire process which was amazing to see. Once he was finished, we had to wait a couple days for it to set but then picked it up, where we received 3 hard copy images and 3 scans! Cost: $$.

medium format photography

Medium format photography remains near and dear to my heart because I practice it in my weddings as a fine art film wedding photographer. To give a brief explanation, medium format photography is larger film than the standard 35 mm film that’s typically used in disposable camera. It has such a special high quality and tone to it and really produces some of the most gorgeous skin tones. This image was taken by the couple, Anna and Andrew, who I work with over at Dear Lovers. Honestly, for my wedding one day, I will 100% be using a fine art film photographer, simply because the quality is so dang beautiful. Cost: $$ – $$$.

drone photography

I never really thought of renting a drone until last Christmas, when I asked James to gift me the experience of a drone portrait. I really really wanted to take one out to my favorite place (the dunes) and capture one of us among the beautiful landscape. It’s pretty easy to rent a drone in San Diego and we decided to rent the Mavic Pro! After we experienced this, I ended up purchasing a Mavic Air for our trip to Iceland! It truly brings such a different perspective (obviously) that is super cinematic and great for large prints for your home. Cost: $$.

I hope you get to experience one of these photography experiences! It’s so exciting for me to work with other photographers and see what art they’re practicing. Maybe you can book one of these yourself or perhaps be your own self-portrait photographer with a drone!

x Dani

 

  1. I absolutely loved reading this post. I had no idea these types of photography experiences existed (aside from the drone shot, which I'm obsessed with!!). Definitely love the fine art film photography for weddings, too, that image is stunning. Thank you for sharing these and congrats on being in the Radiant Human book! Xx Jen

    October 12, 2018  4:44 am
    Reply

Since our trip to New Zealand, I’ve received lots of questions about where to go, what to see, and how to go about it all. My first response to everyone is usually something along the lines of jumbled excitement and how I would move there if I could. It’s true. I looked into it for a second before I realized that my cats would have to go through some long-drawn Hawaii-ish quarantine process so that dream lasted for a hot minute. But if the cats weren’t my life… I would. The country is just stunning. There are so many gorgeous landscapes to drive through including the steamy geothermal countryside, the rocky tunnel beaches, the countless sheep farms, and the green green hills.

To give you some back story, James and I decided to road trip through the country while he was studying abroad in the spring of 2016! We planned our trip from mid April to early May and at that time, it was the end of their summer & beginning of fall. If you’re planning a trip and want some visual references, take a peek below or check out the north and south island maps in the sidebar!

north island map

Auckland

We began our trip in Auckland, since James was studying at the university there. We stayed there for a couple nights and explored the city and here’s where we went:

  • Wintergarden Auckland Domain: This is a huge park, with lots of beautiful gardens, green hills, and ponds. We fell in love with the flower-infested interior glasshouse and the fern botanical garden. A beautiful place for a picnic or an easy walk! Cost: Free!

  • Parnell, Auckland: This was a really great neighborhood for exploring. We found some yummy bites at local coffee shops + breakfast places. Our biggest recommendation: the NZ Meat pies! They’re essentially like chicken pot pies, but you can get different things inside them. We enjoyed the minced meat pies from (funny enough) gas stations.

Cathedral Cove

After our time in Auckland, we rented a car and headed to Cathedral Cove, which was a 2.5 hour drive.

We arrived in the afternoon and hiked down to the most gorgeous cove. It’s important to look into the time of sunset when you go, just so you can prepare for the hike down and hike back up. It’s about a 2-3 hour hike (with rest stops of course). We stayed there overnight and “freedom camped” in our car! Freedom camping is very common in New Zealand. This means that you can park your car in designated areas and camp in your car for freeCost: Free!

hot water beach

Hot Water Beach is only half an hour away from Cathedral Cove, so we decided to go there after! Hot Water Beach is so fun because you can rent little shovels and dig until you hit the hot spring of water underneath the sand. We went in the afternoon so it was a little busier. We would recommend going earlier in the day to find a spot first! Cost: Free – $ (depending on if you rent a shovel)!

rotarua

From Hot Water Beach to Rotarua, it’s a 3.5 hour drive. With Rotarua, there is so much beauty. It’s a town unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The town is situated over a geothermal area, so there is steam coming out of everything– the bodies of water, the sewers, the wells, in people’s front yards. The first day, we explored the small town and took long walks around the lake. Cost: Free!

  • Polynesian Spa: This was truly a treat to enjoy. The entire trip, we were car camping and using public showers so it was so so nice to enjoy a spa day at the Polynesian Spa. We were kindly gifted this experience from a family friend and it was so wonderful! There are hot springs that you can swim in that overlook the lake in Rotarua. Cost: $10-244.

  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland: One of the most unforgettable places hands-down. If you need to skip anything, don’t skip this experience. This park was magical and full of steamy colorful geysers and the most gorgeous hike. Cost: $35 (when we went)

three sisters and the elephant rock

From Taupo to Three Sisters, it’s about 3 hours! This beach is a beautiful, dark beach with stunning views of the three rock formations that jut out of the sand. There is also a huge rock shaped like an elephant! Cost: Free!

wellington

It’s about a 4.5 hour drive to Wellington, but it’s a pretty one! We found an Alpaca Farm halfway through our drive and it was so much fun! The sight of alpacas running with their hideous underbites is so so so great. Wellington is a really great city! There are a lot of hip restaurants and shops, think about it like the “SF” of NZ! It’s cool, okay? So cool I didn’t get any photos. Lots of people will stop here and then take a short flight back to Auckland, but we decided to continue to the South Island.

ferry from Wellington (north island) to Picton (south island)

It’s about a 2 hour ferry ride from Wellington to Picton and it’s a really nice ride! You can sit indoors or outdoors and it’s very clean. Admission is available to purchase at the dock. Cost: $35-45

south island map

Greymouth

Once we arrived in Picton, we drove 5.5 hours to Greymouth. This may seem like a lot but the entire time, we were able to pull off in the most beautiful spots! At this time of the year, the South Island showed the fall season much more, with yellow trees and crisp cold weather. We had to double up in our sleeping bags for the night to stay warm! Cost: Free!

Arnold’s Pass + Castle Hill

OOOOkay, Castle Hill is absolutely divine and makes you feel like all of your Game-of-Thrones dreams are coming true. It is INCREDIBLY scenic and such a beautiful (and easy) hike. You can explore the area for 30 minutes OR three hours. From Greymouth, it’s about a two hour drive, where you will drive through “Arnold’s Pass.” Cost: Free!

Dunedin

It’s about a 5 hour drive to Dunedin. IMPORTANT NOTE (that we did not figure out until 2 years later): Dunedin is pronounced “Doo-nee-din” not “Doon-din.” Nonetheless, Dunedin is a cool city. There are some great restaurants around the area, along with a beach closeby where you can spot penguins! We went too late in the day to see them but it is still a really beautiful beach, with turquoise water and white sand.

Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach is unreal and is luckily in Dunedin! We went in the morning when the light was golden and so so beautiful. I recommend going in the morning because after a while, tourists and hikers start to pick up! We had the space to ourselves and it was truly such a perfect place. Cost: Free!

Cathedral Cave

Cathedral Cave has a collection of beach caves that are stunning, dark, and moody. You can visit some shallow ones if you’re afraid of the dark OR you can go pretty deep into some. Cost: Free!

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is about a 5 hour drive from Cathedral Caves and I’m convinced it’s Atlantis. There are endless waterfalls. We drove into the Sound during a rainstorm, which was such a magical experience. There was mist and fog rolling over these sprawling waterfalls and rivers. I highly recommend visiting if you are in the South Island and NOT skipping out on this one. There’s a little visitor center in the Sound where you can sip on a cup of hot chocolate or shop for vintage inspired Milford Sound posters. Cost: Free!

Queenstown

We ended our South Island experience in Queenstown, where we took a return flight to Auckland and then I went HOME! ;( This town is considered a popular ski town but when we went, there wasn’t much snow yet! It’s a great place to stop by for a quick visit but in my opinion, you can definitely skip this if needed.

Hope this guide helps inspire your trip!

x Dani

  1. Elizabeth said:

    I love your photos. Makes me want to go!

    October 11, 2018  10:22 pm
    Reply

We’ve all seen the very loved, very beautiful floral cookies that are taking over Instagram. With art directors throwing them into photo shoots and brides requesting them for weddings, it’s a really exciting and fun way to spruce up some sugar cookies. Here’s a simple way to give your next dinner party a little something special!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Edible flowers. These can be purchased from Speciality Produce in San Diego OR you can search “edible flowers” and find them in your local garden section.

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flower

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 cup butter, softened

Steps

I used a recipe from All Recipes for the sugar cookies and then simply added the extra florals!

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. In a small bowl, mix your flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

  • In a large bowl, mash the butter and sugar until it’s smooth. Beat in your egg and vanilla! Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll your dough into rounded balls and then flatten them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

  • Add your edible flowers however you would like! This is fun because I got an assortment of edible pansies in a variety of colors and had such a great time arranging them based on their colors!

  • Once you’re done arranging them, add a tiny bit of sugar over them in order to seal them into the dough.

  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven or until golden.

Enjoy! x Dani

The Sand Dunes in Southern California is my favorite place in the world. It’s magical, mysterious, silent, roaring. I think some of the best work comes from this place, not because it’s a mirror of some distant overseas Morocco desert, but because it evokes this foreign, alien-like landscape that causes you to question your entire existence and placement in the world. Combine it with some morning sunshine during a west-to-east wind storm and you have this wonderful, insane, bizarre magic. 

The Process

We left San Diego at 5:00am on a Sunday and traveled to the Imperial Sand Dunes, a destination ~two hours away. Typically, Google maps leads you to the front end of the dunes, where bikers and ATV-riders zoom around, but luckily, we were detoured through the back of the dunes where we ended up staying for the entire shoot. The back of the dunes is close to the campground area, which had been deserted during our session, making the endless rolling hills ours for the day (with no bikers in sight). 

The Shoot

It was breath-taking and a bit chilly. On our way out from San Diego, there was a severe rain storm; luckily, we arrived at the dunes and it was sunny (but definitely had a chill crisp to it). The rule of thumb is whenever there is a rain storm in San Diego, there is a wind storm in the sand dunes. We did not know this at the time so we were met with some fast-moving winds that brought sand into every bag, item of clothing, camera equipment, you name it. It was wonderful for photos. The sand crept into every corner and kissed our legs in each shot. The light bounced off the white sand, creating a natural reflector for beautiful skin tones. The quiet slow-moving hills dissolved and were rebuilt in minutes. 

The Brands

I love to work with independent retailers so I was excited to include a few beautiful pieces of clothing from Pyne & Smith Clothiers, Barnaby Jack Vintage, and Ali Golden. Let me introduce you to these wonderful companies. 

Pyne & Smith Clothiers creates gorgeous linen dresses, sustainably made in California. They are airy, light, and definitely make you feel like you need to be laying in a prairie or having a picnic in a bed of flowers. Joanna sent a beautiful indigo striped v-neck maxi dress, which Serina adventured in flawlessly.

Barnaby Jack Vintage is wonderfully curated with vintage goods so everything is one of a kind. All of Sara’s picks are straight out of my desert-themed dreams. From summer cotton dresses to woven bags to vintage western boots, she continually restocks her shop with items of the best quality. 

Ali Golden, a shop based in Oakland, has some of the most beautiful minimal designs I’ve ever seen. They sent me a lovely pinstripe jumpsuit, which was so comfortable and airy. 

Lately, I’ve been so excited to score some vintage finds that have a classic and contemporary feel. While I love Madewell and Anthropologie, I’ve been leaning towards finding second-hand pieces that not only stand the test of time, but have been lived in and have their own sweet stories. I always think about how someone might have fallen in love in their jeans, or maybe traveled to a new country in a cool coat, or maybe discovered something new that changed the course of their life. It’s also wonderful to see contemporary trends inspired by these pieces and support second-hand shops. 

This week, I stopped by my local Amvets and found the sweetest detailed white blouse, a pair of high-waisted vintage lee jeans, and a peach linen overshirt. All for the total of $12! It took some time, but I gathered a bunch of pieces and hung them up next to one another and then decided which ones I just had to have. I used to feel very overwhelmed when I went into thrift stores and would actually dread them… only because you really have to pay attention to every little detail and have the patience to look through racks… but honestly, there’s something that’s really so special about the process too. If you look through 100 pairs of jeans and then come across 1 pair that fits you absolutely perfectly, it’s a dream and pretty much feels hitting the jackpot.

One thing you have to prepare for, in addition to a little extra patience, is looking for your target colors. For me, I went in with the mindset that I was going to find clothes with neutral colors: whites, rust browns, tans, olive greens, and maybe a light pink. I’ve been so inspired by the lady-run shops Barnaby Jack and Boheme Goods, both of which I am constantly stalking for the latest pieces that aren’t immediately sold out! Their eye for color is just spot on! 

If you prefer to online shop or don’t have an awesome local thrift store nearby, here’s a roundup of the latest vintage finds from some really amazing female-owned digital thrift shops! Lots of linens, knits, and vintage denim! Take a peep at my finds, but also be sure to peruse through the rest of their goods!

 

Hope you guys enjoyed this vintage roundup! Feel free to message me on Instagram and let me know what you want to see in the next roundup!

xx Dani