Vatican definitely deserves one day on your trip to Rome. I only had a few days to prepare for my trip but just enough to do a bit upfront research and all the reviews on Vatican warned about the massively long lines especially on weekends. […]
Back in school I loved history and felt intrigued by the ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman cultures. As long as I remember, I’ve had visiting Rome in my travel goals and finally it was time to make it happen. Traveling to Rome in the beginning […]
We arrived in Gran Canaria on the day before New Year’s Eve hoping to relax in warm weather and sunshine. We got lucky and it indeed was sunny and warm every day. However, evenings were cool so it’s best to pack along warm clothes if you’re traveling to the Canary Islands in winter.
Top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria (especially if traveling with school-aged kids):
- Walking and running at the magnificent Maspalomas Dunes
- Having fun at the hotel pool
- Renting bicyles
- Renting a car and visiting Puerto Rico
- Day trip to Puerto Mogan
1. Walking and running at the magnificent Maspalomas Dunes
The highlight of the holiday was the morning outings – the sunrise is just amazing! Close to our hotel, there was a dried-up river or canal down to the Maspalomas Dunes and alongside are good walkways for walking, jogging and bicycling. Close to the seaside, there’s a beautiful natural reserve lagoon La Charca with lots of bird life.
2. Having fun at the hotel pool
Honestly, many kids enjoy most having fun at the pool and our hotel Canary Garden Club in Maspalomas had a great pool area with sunbeds to enjoy. There’s also a kiosk offering snacks and lunch. The breakfast buffet was excellent, lots of options including fresh fruit and vegetables. The bungalows are small and simple but fine when you spend most of the time outside anyway. There’s a small playground for kids and the surroundings make it easy for kids to run around without disturbing others. There’s a mini convenience store next to the reception and not far, within around 10 minutes walking distance, was a small mall Faro 2 with a Hyperdino grocery store.
3. Renting bicyles
We rented bicycles which we found to be lots of fun with just 15 euros in total for kid’s and adult’s basic bicycles for 24 hours and helmets were included. We recommend Elemi & Lino’s Bike located in Faro 2 shopping mall – they have a wide range of bicycles and helpful staff.
We had a wonderful day bicycling to the beach, having lunch at our favorite restaurant Café Colon that’s located at the root of the Meloneras lighthouse “Faro”.
4. Renting a car and visiting Puerto Rico
We rented a car for three days at a very reasonable price (around 150 euros) including full insurance cover from Isla Car. It was easy to drive around but finding a parking place close to popular places can be a challenge. We visited Puerto Rico and spent the day at the Angry Birds park. It’s basically a big playground with different activities like trampolines, climbing wall, slides, mini golf, etc. The 8-year-olds loved it and seemed to find more things to do all day. Other interesting attractions for an active day out with kids would have been Aqualand and Palmitos Park, but had to save those for another time.
We spent half a day in Atlantico shopping center that has a big Carrefour store and lots of popular brand stores like Zara, Mango and Desigual. The capital of the island Las Palmas is the number one shopping place but we skipped it this time.
5. Day trip to Puerto Mogan
On the last day with the car we drove up to Puerto Mogan which is a really beautiful small town by the sea. I would have liked to get there early in the morning to make it to the morning yoga on the beach. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible and I couldn’t find any outdoor yoga classes in Maspalomas. Anyway, we had a very nice lunch in a restaurant on the beach boulevard.
Overall, it was a wonderful holiday and Gran Canaria became one of my all-time favorite family travel destinations and there’s still plenty of things to do for our next visit! Traveling with kids isn’t always a breeze but it helps a lot to plan ahead – here’s for example some good tips to consider in preparing for the next journey with the little ones.
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It was Easter holiday when we packed our skiing gear and set off for my daughter’s first skiing holiday. Last year I spent Easter in Finnish Lapland for the first time in my life and it was an amazing experience to be surrounded with snow, yet […]
It was my second time to visit Corralejo, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. The weather was quite windy which seems to be typical, so be sure to bring also warm clothes in addition to sunscreen if traveling there. However, I found the climate to be […]
It was raining in Helsinki after Christmas and I decided to go on a search for winter. I found last minute flight and hotel deals and less than 12 hours later I was on the plane from Helsinki to Kuusamo. Already before noon I was enjoying the perfect winter wonderland experience.
My top 5 tips to experiencing Ruka in 72 hours:
- Easy access
- Plenty of options for accomodation and restaurants
- Lovely cafes – maybe see some reindeer and huskys too!
- Cross-country skiing
- Ice swimming & sauna
1. Easy access
Why I chose Ruka for this mini break? Traveling from Helsinki to Ruka is super easy: the flight from Helsinki to Kuusamo airport takes just over an hour.
The airport bus is conveniently waiting to take you to the Ruka ski resort (10€ fee one way). Ruka village is really small, so everything – restaurants, shops, slopes, skiing tracks – is nicely within walking distance and you can practically ski almost directly from the hotel door.
Ruka is too south to be considered Lapland but you can get pretty much the same experiences there as well. The benefit in the winter time is that there’s a couple of hours daylight whereas in the very north the sun may not appear at all.
2. Plenty of options for accommodation and restaurants
There’s plenty of options for accommodation. If travelling with friends or family I’d recommend a cabin for the flexibility it offers. You can check out possible options for example from Ruka.fi. However, this time I chose to stay in a hotel including breakfast to make my 3 night stay as convenient as possible. I stayed at Rukahovi which has been renovated after my visit. Even at the time of my visit the rooms weren’t too bad (after one freezing night I figured out to turn on the radiator), the room was even equipped with a convenient drying cabinet. The only thing I missed was a kettle and a fridge would have been nice too. The breakfast at the hotel was superb, one of my all time favorites! The hotel restaurant Kaltiokivi was an easy choice after a long and tiring day of skiing but there are a number of options close by too. If you’re into sushi I would recommend Mura Sushi.
3. Cross-country skiing
Ruka is maybe more famous about the down hill skiing but it’s one of the top destinations in Finland for cross country skiing too. The tracks close to the village are maybe not ideal for very beginners (but you can drive or take the SkiBus to the easier tracks a bit further away from the village such as “Vuosselin reitti”), but for a average skier it’s easy to do day trips of at least 20-25 kilometers.
4. Lovely cafes – maybe see some reindeer and huskys too!
There’s some very nice cafes to stop by for refueling breaks. I would warmly recommend Lammintupa café where I had a very tasty salmon soup and some freshly baked bread. Lammintupa also offers husky and reindeer rides so it’s a perfect place to visit even with kids.
After the energy consuming skiing day there’s nothing better than going to sauna and having a nice dinner. The sauna at Rukahovi hotel was quite basic but very easy access. And it was a great way to meet some other talkative and friendly skiers so the big benefit was in getting some valuable tips and recommendations.
5. Ice swimming & sauna
The absolute highlight of my mini break was the sauna and ice swimming at Rukatonttu. It’s a hidden gem and I would never have found it without a local’s recommendation and guidance. It’s just about half kilometer walk from Ruka village – look for the stairway to the ski jumping tower (or you could even ski there directly).
It’s one of the most luxurious ice swimming experiences I’ve had and a real bargain (just 6€ if you bring your own towel). You can even buy refreshments from the reception. The sauna was huge with views to the lake and even though it’s in the use of the hotel guests and public, I had the place all to myself almost the whole time. The interesting thing is that there’s loudspeakers and music even inside the sauna, not very typical Finnish style! Luckily it wasn’t too disturbing.
I recommend to have good swimming shoes as the pathway to the swimming place is icy (and of course remember to take along your swimming suit). Two rounds of dips in the ice cold water was the ultimate relaxing and refreshing experience.
The added bonus: you can stay for dinner in the restaurant upstairs. The only minus is a big TV screen but if you get lucky like I did it is turned off when the live music starts. I recommend to book a table (ask for a window seat) in advance.
In total, I had less than 72 hours in Ruka but I was amazed how much could be experienced in such a short time in this winter wonderland. And it’s just one hour flight to get back to Helsinki. Finland and it’s capital city can be expensive but I recommend to read this post on Helsinki on a budget for brilliant ideas on how to enjoy your visit without breaking the bank!
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