Backroads has long embraced the philosophy that, after a day spent biking or hiking in off-the-beaten-path corners of a new and beautiful region of the world, an outstanding meal is the perfect way to immerse ourselves even further in the local cuisine and culture. For this reason, our guests in Europe and the United States enjoy exquisite meals at over 30 Michelin-starred restaurants, including California's Madrona Manor, Italy's Ristorante Villa Crespi, Spain's Marqués de Riscal and France's Auberge de l'Ill.
Upon setting foot in Scotland you can’t help but feel its storied past around every corner. In a land where each vista has the power to still the heart, the remnants of a forgotten time persist. At any given moment you may discover the crumbling remains of a castle that speaks to the power of those long gone, or the decaying shell of a remote homestead that illustrates the harsh life its previous inhabitants experienced. It’s a land of shifting light across verdant glens and ancient mountains. Geographically as far north as parts of Scandinavia, this windswept and weather-beaten landscape has tested the resiliency of the Scottish people for eons.
Imagine icebergs illuminated by pale sunlight at midnight, the sunrise at 2 a.m. over a thundering waterfall, or a day of hiking that ends with an 11 p.m. soak in a natural hot spring. These things are a reality in Iceland where, for about two months every year, the sun never sets. This is the “midnight sun,” a legendary peculiarity of Iceland’s far north, where the sun might set a little—dipping below the horizon at, say, one in the morning, and rising again at two—but the sky remains light and night never falls.
In a country as magnificent as France, where class and style are as prevalent as the grapes in the endless vineyards, selecting our favorite Backroads hotels is a nearly impossible task. But we’ve done our best! Here are seven exceptional properties visited on Backroads trips in this remarkable country. To stay at any of these incredible accommodations is to immediately recognize that you’ve arrived somewhere truly special. Whether enjoying a Michelin-starred meal, vistas of imposing mountain peaks or the scent of immaculate gardens, each of these hotels promises a complete sensory tableau.
There are days when you might not appreciate your home as much as you once did. Waking up in the same place every day, you become so familiar with the light of the sunrise, the sunset, and what the sky looks like throughout the seasons. You even know for a fact when it will rain, or when birds will start to sing in the springtime. In our busy lives, it can be easy to take these things for granted.
When my kids were small, I poured over Backroads catalogs while they slept. I dreamed of exotic vacations where I’d bike through amazing scenery and eat better food than the boxed macaroni and cheese my children liked. But those were just pleasant daydreams.
What do you know about puffins? They're smaller than penguins, they live in Iceland, and they're cute. Great! Unfortunately, they're also elusive little creatures, with unique and specific migratory patterns and a habit of nesting in remote hundred-meter cliffs. Like the Northern Lights, puffins are unpredictable, but here are a few suggestions of where and when you're more likely to spot them.
Iceland is a land of stunningly diverse scenery, where you can pass from lush glacial meadows into barren volcanic deserts in the blink of an eye, and where cliffs tower hundreds of meters high only a few steps away from the sea. Backroads’ wide variety of trips here matches the diversity of the island’s landscapes. Every itinerary is different, and each offers a unique perspective on the majestic beauty of this lonely volcanic island. Which one is right for you?
Our friends, Mike and Kathi, broached the subject once again. "You guys really should think about coming with us on this Tuscany biking trip." As I lowered my head and peered at them over my sunglasses, I remember musing: "Are you insane?" "We'll think about it," is what came out of my lips.
Iceland is home to the world's oldest parliament, Europe's largest glacier (by volume), Björk and now you for at least 24 hours! Whether you're spending the day in Reykjavík before or after your Backroads Iceland trip, this guide offers an easy plan for a great day in the city, maximizing your time and showcasing all this capital has to offer.