Thorsmork to Skogar, Iceland

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I know my imagination is limited, but I have no idea how this day could ever be topped. The Thorsmork-to-Skogar hike was the final part of a tough and breathtaking 87km 3-day trek throughout Iceland’s volcanoes Rémi and I undertook.

The first day had got us through the indescribable Landamannalaugar and the single most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The second day had been a long and terribly exhausting walk through black sand deserts with constant rain to end up in a cute camp called Thorsmork.

Thorsmork

In the early morning of the third and final day, my whole body was deeply hurt by the two previous days. My legs were sore, my shoulders were painful, my hips didn’t want to carry weights and you don’t want to see my feet… I was deeply doubting my capacity to finish the trek. Plus, after an hour or so, we lost the track.

But, then began an absolutely incredible hike up the mountains and volcanoes. All of sudden, I got miraculously empowered by the sheer awesomeness of the landscapes.

The Path up to Eyja

Surrounded by steep cliffs, weird plateaus, large valleys, green grass, black lava and blue glaciers, I felt unstoppable! I was transcended!

Hiking up to Eyja

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Around noon was the high point of the day in every possible sense! We walked through the lava flows of the 1-year-old eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull!

The lava was still red and smoking! Unbelievable!

This spectacular scenery was where we decided to have lunch to end a legendary morning!

Eyja Lava Flow

Then came the truly hard part of this hiking day. As we were running out of water and food, the fog took over. In a desert landscape with no visibility and a poorly marked track, all my pains rushed back to my body. At some point, the mere effort of putting one foot ahead of the other was extremely painful! Yet, while I was probably walking around 1km/h, somehow, I seemed to be outpacing Rémi! And this unbearable suffering went on for over three hours…

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Until, suddenly, far in the horizon, out of nowhere, we saw houses in the plain! This was Skogar! We got there! We had made it!

Skogar

Skogar Waterfalls

We took a final break to stare at the dramatic waterfalls the path was ending near to, while savoring the wonderful feeling of the accomplishment of a truly tough but extraordinary trek!

As we were peacefully sitting here, the numerous fellow awesome trekkers we had been hiking with all along were arriving one by one. They all had their fists raised, while I was rocked by the melodious sound of the phrase: What a day! What a day

The Thorsmork to Skogar hike is number 1 in my top 10 touristic visits.

You can see more amazing pictures of this hike in my Science4All article on the geological wonders of Iceland! Also, if you don’t want to hurt your body as much as we did, note that this trek can be done in up to 6 days, as recommended in many guides…

Preah Khan, Angkor, Cambodia

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Sometimes, overwhelmingly gigantic natural environments manage to get me hysterically speechless. In Angkor, a single tree does it.

Angkor is just unique. Its temples are amazingly impressive, both in quantity and quality. From the huge and majestic Angkor Vat, to the cute Banteay Srei, all the way to the temple of the forest Beng Mealea, Angkor is just unique!

And, at first, Preah Khan seemed like just one dramatic temple among the uncountable others.

Preah Khan

Preah Khan, just like the others? This is what I thought until I decided to step away from the main visitor paths. This lonesome adventurous walk led me to explore a mysterious, wilder and more ruined area, where trees were slowly conquering the temple! It was so thrilling!

Adventuring in Preah Khan

My exciting solo quest ended up having me facing the most amazing tree I have ever seen! This monstrous tree was standing like the frightening final boss of a video game, intimidating me by its imposing stature…

Discovering the Greatest Tree ever

This greatest tree ever was literally climbing a wall of the temple to better crash it down with all its weight! Its human-looking shape was perfectly staged to better invade the old temple of Preah Khan! This tree was legendary! And it made me hysterically speechless!

Fighting the Greatest Tree ever

The Greatest Tree ever

After all this excitement, I called up Bertrand, who took all these awesome pictures I am sooo thankful for!

Preah Khan is 2nd in my top 10 touristic visits.

The Rinjani Rim, Indonesia

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What an incredible sensation to wake up, come out of the tent and be faced with a breathtaking sunrising sight on a world-class natural wonder!

Rinjani 1

And if you turn your head, you’ll get to gaze at the Gili islands and Bali’s Gunung Agung…

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The second day of this 3-day trek with Ellie, Céline and Alexandre began wonderfully! After a nice hot tea and breakfast served by our guide, we started the hiking along the rim of the enormous caldera of the Rinjani volcano. All along this hike, my eyes were fixed on the dramatic cute smaller active Barujari volcanic cone, centered-staged in the lake filling the caldera.

Rinjani 1-3

The rim went down for a closer more intimate view on the Barujari volcanic cone, and the beautiful turquoise of its surrounding lake. This is just pure wonder!

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But before having lunch on the shores of the lake, we made a small relaxing detour to hot springs. Now, this was not my first hot springs, so I wasn’t expecting to have my mind blown. But bathing in the hot waters beneath a breathtaking cold waterfall after a day and a half of exhausting walk was just extraordinary! I’m still not sure how I ever managed to leave this unique location…

Rinjani Hot Springs

After lunch though, a demanding hike up took us through the fogs. These were the hard times. But our guide took us through a nice, albeit slightly dangerous, shortcut. And at 3:30 pm, we made it through the fogs to end up with one last great sight, although this time was a view on the other volcanoes of Lombok island, as well as on Pulau Mojo!

Rinjani Team

This viewpoint was where we were about to camp. It was cold and very windy. Faced with this unwelcoming weather, it was such a pleasure to stay in our warm sheltered tents, with the sound of the ghastly wind… This is where we had our guide serving us several hot teas and some delicious dinner! Sooo nice!

This Rinjani rim hike is 3rd in my top 10 touristic visits, and part of my trip in Indonesia.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand

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In 2010, I spent 3 months in the North Island of New Zealand. The best 3 months of my life. This island will forever be my little paradise, lying on the other end of the world. It has everything a trekker can dream of, including one of the world’s greatest one-day hike: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Jean-Baptiste and Matthieu hiking up Tongariro

I did the hike twice. First was with my friends Jean-Baptiste and Matthieu who had flown from Australia. But, unequipped for the ice-covered summits, at mid-hike, we had to turn back.

Tongariro attacked by Manon, Joep and Lê

The second time was the right one. It was towards the end of my stay. Two of the best friends I had made, Manon and Joep, were here to join me in this last-ditch struggle.

For this great occasion, Tongariro had switched to the winter-season fashion style, as snow was covering it entirely! What a dressing this was! Tongariro was absolutely lovely!

Tongariro with amazing clouds above summit

Around mid-hike though, we got into deep fogs. With very poor visibility, it seemed like we wouldn’t be making the most of it.

Joep walking in Tongariro fog

But, as we were hiking up, on a few rare occasions, fogs suddenly vanished and made room for brief seconds of pure wonder! It was unbelievably awesome! Here we were, stunned, impatiently waiting for the next dramatic clear-out! And every time fogs did vanish, we were given another privileged moment of absolute magics. The indescribable magics of the moment!

Moments of magics in Tongariro

These clear-outs were ephemere. So was my stay in New Zealand. This only made them even more precious. And all the more unforgettable…

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is 4th in my top 10 touristic visits.

Halong bay, Vietnam

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Grey Morning on Halong Bay

Early morning, Bertrand and I headed to the world-renowned Halong bay. But we weren’t excited. We were worried. Worried that the heavy rain on Hanoi was expanding to the Halong bay.

At last, rain stopped. But clouds remained, tinting the bay with sad grey colors. At least, the Halong bay was not filled with tourists.

Still, for 100$, we took a boat for the two of us, with 2 guides. The boat took us to a first sugarloaf, with a nice cave lit by colored projectors.

Cave in Halong

When we stepped out of the cave, the magic occurred: All the clouds had vanished away!

The sad grey Halong bay suddenly became an incredibly colorful dramatic landscape! We got back on the boat. We navigated between numerous sugarloafs and royally entered the breathtaking on-water Halong village! What an amazing feeling!

Beautiful Halong Bay

But the best was yet to come.

We got off the boat and kayaked through the bay. In particular, we went through a cave and got into a stupefying seemingly closed lake surrounded by hundreds of meters high cliffs. It was as if we had got out of Earth to enter a new world! We had found the El Dorado! And this El Dorado is stunningly awesome!

The Interior Lake in Halong

Eventually, we got back on the boat to better witness a unique sunset! The unbelievably beautiful image of the reddened Halong bay will forever be carved in our minds…

Sunset on the Halong Bay

The Halong bay is 5th in my top 10 touristic visits.

Cirque du Fer à Cheval, France

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Trips with my family were often at the beach. I’m not much of a beach person. So, in 2012, when we went in the French Alps, it was a bit of a challenge for me to show them how much more awesome mountains are. In particular, I convinced them to visit the Cirque du Fer à Cheval. And I let the landscapes talk for themselves…

My Cousin and My Sister at the Cirque du Fer à Cheval

My family isn’t a family of hikers, but an easy walk in this breathtaking natural wonder took us to the beginning of the U-shaped valley, where we were surrounded by plunging cliffs decorated by beautiful waterfalls. Below are my sister and my cousin, gazing at the absolutely breathtaking landscape.

Cirque du Fer à Cheval, France

Rainbow Waterfall

But the best was yet to come.

On our way out of the valley, I got stunned by one of the most beautiful sight I have ever had the chance to see. The angle of the sunlight seemed to have perfectly synchronized with my position such that I was at the perfect location to witness a magic rainbow-colored waterfall. This unique scarce wonder left my sister and I completely speechless with an unstoppable smile of gratitude for the privilege of living such a rare moment.

I think my family got my point.

The Cirque du Fer à Cheval is in my top 10 touristic visits.

Ko Lipe, Thailand

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Ko Phi Phi is a real natural wonder. Unfortunately though, it has been conquered by tourists and the sounds of nightclubs have made the paradisiac aspect of the island disappear. But this heavenly aspect is still there on Ko Lipe, further south. Now, that’s not what has made my visit there special. What has is my initiation to scuba diving, between the adorable small islands into the magnificent underwater wildlife!

Underwater Lipe

Ko Lipe Beach

After a morning of training and a first spectacular underwater exploration, we had a incredibly relaxing break on the beautiful beach of a desert island. A great place to have a nap, isn’t it? Then, we got once again into the world of Nemo during another even more breathtaking 40 minutes. Among other beautiful fishes, alga and corals, we saw a moray and a lionfish! Absolutely dramatic!

Towards the end came the bouquet final. We found a disgusting exquisite jellyfish! It looked like a huge well-armed spaceships with small fishes on board directing it! I could have spent another 40 minutes just staring at this beautiful weird creature, while choking to death! It was sooo incredible!

Jellyfish

Ko Lipe is in my top 10 touristic visits.