I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Video: Puffins, Black Sand Beaches, and a Windy Bluff in Iceland

Our new Iceland guidebook lists the four best day trips from Reykjavík: the Golden Circle, the Blue Lagoon, the Westman Islands…and the road trip that I’m on right now, a long day of sightseeing on the South Coast.

My friend and local guide, Stefan Valsson of Reykjavík Bike Tours, brought me here today. I just love the luxury of traveling with a local guide. With a local guide, you’ll know where the most dramatic bluffs are and what you’re seeing from them — and you’ll have all your puffin questions answered. In this clip from the top of the windy Dyrhólaey promontory, Stefan gives a good defense of why it’s OK to eat the cute local puffins.

Of course, it’s expensive to hire your own private guide. My work: to take these tours privately, learn what I can, and then distill all the insights and tips I’ve gathered into a guidebook so my readers can enjoy — secondhand but much, much more affordably — the brilliance of a guide like Stefan.

rick steves and tourists holding rick steves iceland guidebook

A particularly gratifying reward for me is meeting so many happy travelers on this route who have the first edition of Rick Steves Iceland. It’s only been out a few months, and already it’s the dominant guidebook here. I’m hugely thankful for the brilliant work of my co-author Ian Watson and contributing author Cameron Hewitt.

Vík: Iceland’s Southernmost Village

Hello from Iceland! I’ll be posting from here for the next couple of weeks as I explore and take notes for the second edition of our new guidebook, Rick Steves Iceland. There’s a lot to discover on this little island, and I look forward to packing you along. (Do you have traveling friends who are also dreaming of Iceland? Be sure to invite them to join us here or on Facebook.)

We begin in the tiny town of Vík, Iceland’s southernmost village. While most travelers’ Icelandic memories are a charm bracelet of jaw-droppingly beautiful natural sights, I enjoy visiting the workaday towns along the way — and showing them to travelers. These towns aren’t pretty, as it’s rare to find buildings here from before WWII. Most Icelandic homes are built more to resist the weather than to delight the eye. Still, on this ice-covered rock between Norway and Greenland (just a bit bigger than Maine, with 340,000 people), towns like Vík are real — and good travel is real, too. Join me on a quick tour of Vík with Stefan Valsson of Reykjavík Bike Tours.

By the way, guides like Stefan are easy to book anywhere in the world via Tours By Locals. I’ve used them in both hemispheres to book guides when I don’t have a particular person already in mind.

Video: Alone with the Old Man of Hoy on the Orkney Ferry

We just finished our Scotland shoot — three great new episodes are in the can. And that wraps up our entire Season 10 of Rick Steves’ Europe. A dozen new shows are coming your way starting this October. I am so excited to finally be able to share the fruits of this two-year-long project.

Saying goodbye to my crew, I enjoyed the relief of no more show production responsibilities. Heading south from Orkney, I hopped the ferry and pondered diving gannets, the Old Man of Hoy, and favorite ferry rides. What are some of your favorite ferry-ride experiences in Europe?

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Video: Orkney’s Prehistoric Wonders

Crouching down to squeeze through the passage of the most amazing prehistoric chambered tomb north of the Alps, I kept thinking, “For 5,000 years people have lowered their heads to enter this sacred space.” As our Rick Steves’ Europe crew was hard at work, I took a moment to grab this clip to share Orkney’s Maeshowe burial mound with you. Watch your head!

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