9 Things to Do in Grand Teton in Winter (+ Tips for Visiting!)

For those enchanted by the pristine beauty of snow-clad peaks, Grand Teton National Park in winter is nothing short of a daydream come to life.

As frequent snowfall sculpts and changes the mountain’s craggy surfaces and hiking trails get a snowy blanket tucking them in, Grand Teton’s winter panoramas are even more serene.

⌛ Planning your Grand Teton trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Grand Teton Tours & Experiences
1. Grand Teton Winter Wildlife Safari
2. Dog Sledding Tour with Hot Cocoa 
3. Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride in Elk Refuge

🛏️ Best Grand Teton Area Hotels
1. Wyoming Inn (lovely boutique hotel with rustic feel)
2. Elk Country Inn (best budget option in the area)
3. Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa (best luxury ski resort)

Want to rent a car Grand Teton and Jackson? 
→ Find the best prices for a rental car here
Snake river overlook in Grand Teton National Park with the landscape of the Teton range behind, with a winding river in the front

With winter setting in, Jackson Hole‘s ski scene comes to life for the season, and even in winter, Grand Teton National Park become a hub of activity, bustling with visitors keen to explore one of the United State’s most beautiful national parks on a day off from skiing.

For those who find beauty in the chilly, icy landscapes of mountain ranges in winter, the beauty of Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park beckon.

Drawn by the world-class skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, adventurous backcountry skiing in the Teton Range, snowshoeing expeditions, cross-country trails, and those mesmerizing mountain vistas, it’s hard to resist the beauty of Grand Teton in winter, so long as you dress for it!

9 Best Things to Do in Grand Teton in Winter!

Pay a visit to the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.

Wood, stone, and glass building with snow piled high and on roof with the words "Visitor Center" and one person entering the building

Before embarking on an adventure into any national park, it’s always wise to kick off your journey at a visitor center — and Grand Teton is no exception, especially in the winter.

These centers provide the latest updates on road conditions, and you’ll have the opportunity to engage with experts who have deep knowledge of the park.

Situated in Jackson, WY, just a stone’s throw away from the national park and adjacent to the National Elk Refuge, you’ll find the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.

Beyond giving you the most current road status and insights on winter safety, this center boasts spectacular views, educational exhibits, a bookstore, and even ticket counters for sleigh rides!

During the winter season in Grand Teton National Park, the Visitor Center hours for the Jackson Hole Visitor Center are between 9 AM and 5 PM seven days a week, except for holidays.

Go winter wildlife spotting.

Moose with antlers in the fields of Grand Teton munching on grass in the snow

Get out of the chilly winter air and warm up on a scenic drive to seek out some area wildlife.

Grand Teton National Park is home to bison, deer, elk, coyote, bear, and even wolves!

Although bear settle in for hibernation in the wintertime, many of the park’s other wildlife remains active.

Hit the road for a drive along John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway (HWY 191) from Jackson, WY.

A good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope will be extra helpful for locating wildlife in the distance.

The Willow Flats Overlook is well-known as one of the best places to scout for wolves in Grand Teton National Park.

Grab a parking spot and set up shop for a little while. Be patient in your search, and remember to have fun!

An elk with giant horns in focus with mouth open and a blurry background with one other elk behind.

Also, elk can often be seen just outside of the park in the winter at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole.

The refuge also is a popular place to spot other types of mammals and migratory birds.

Want to see the best winter wildlife in Grand Teton National Park? A guided tour is the answer!

That means an early wake-up call to spot some of the most beautiful animals in the park on a morning wildlife safari.

This small-group tour includes pre-dawn transit, snacks and water, and several hours of wildlife spotting with an expert guide before returning to your hotel for the afternoon.

Check availability here!

Take a sleigh ride through the Elk Refuge.

Two brown horses in profile wearing bridal, reins, and other horse gear in order to bring travelers on a sleigh ride.

Wintertime visitors can get a close-up view of the massive elk herd that inhabits the refuge by booking a horse-drawn sleigh ride!

Prepare for a magical journey through the snow aboard a horse-led sleigh! Ensure you’re warmly dressed for this unforgettable sleigh ride experience.

Embark on a full-day excursion that whisks you away on a sleigh through the National Elk Refuge, located just on the fringes of Grand Teton National Park.

With the insights of a seasoned guide and a knowledgeable naturalist, you’ll traverse the refuge, getting an up-close-and-personal view of the elk here in winter.

The Jackson Hole elk refuge with the elks and the teton range in the background

This remarkable sanctuary houses North America’s most extensive migratory elk herd, and it’s not unusual to spot other wildlife species as well.

As the horses lead you across this snowy expanse, the majestic Tetons offer a stunning backdrop to all the wildlife oyu see.

Sleigh rides are available from mid-December to early April, so long as there’s enough snow for the sleighs to run.

Given the popularity, especially around the festive season, booking in advance is strongly recommended!

Book your National Elk Refuge sleigh tour here!

Go dog sledding the Grand Teton surroundings.

Dog sledding in the snowy countryside with one dog looking back at the camera and smiling

I’ve experienced the thrill of dog-sledding in both Norway and Sweden, but Wyoming is still on my bucket list — I hope to experience it soon!

There’s an undeniable joy in dog sledding that is shared both the human mushers and the spirited huskies that lead the way!

These dogs, raised for this very purpose, exhibit an infectious zeal that you can’t help but absorb.

With this particular dog-sledding tour, you have a choice: either let a seasoned musher navigate while you sit back and soak in the surroundings or opt for the more hands-on experience of self-driving – which I personally prefer!

Self-driving involves working in tandem with your canine team to steer the sled, manage the brakes, and even give them a hand (well, foot!) on uphill stretches, ensuring it’s not just the dogs breaking a sweat.

Trust me, it’s not just an adventure; it’s an exhilarating cardio workout with the best view you can imagine.

Book your dog-sledding tour today!

Go snowmobile in the Grand Teton backcountry.

A person on a snowmobile going through the backcountry of Grand Teton

The beautiful Heart Six Ranch offers full-day snowmobiling tours of their part of Grand Teton.

This tour includes transport from Jackson, a tasty lunch at a beautiful mountain lodge, and gear rental (bring your own warm base layers).

This is a full-day tour from 8 AM to 4 PM or later, so it’s great for whiling away a day in the backcountry of Grand Teton in winter!

Check availability here!

Admire the beauty of Mormon Row in winter.

A view of the famous "Grand Teton Cabin", a wooden structure shaped almost like a sombrero hat, with a sunrise light glow on the tips of the mountain range behind.

One of the most iconic views of Grand Teton National Park isn’t actually in the park at all, but right on its outskirts: those famous barn houses of Mormon Row.

Constructed in the early 20th century by Mormon settlers, these historic homesteads and iconic barns are a relic from when this part of the Jackson Hole Valley was turned into an agricultural center.

Obviously, its agricultural uses have long since turned over to tourism, leaving these historic barns behind, but they have become one of the most photographed sites in Grand Teton National Park.

In winter, the snow-covered landscape provides a serene backdrop to the rustic structures, casting them in a tranquil beauty that stands against the rugged Teton peaks, a striking contrast between the historic with the timeless.

Show up early, around sunrise, so you can admire the beautiful alpenglow that the passing morning light casts on the peaks, setting them alight like a candle.

Go cross-country skiing through the park’s maintained trails.

A father and son enjoying cross-country skiing on a winter day in Grand Teton National Park with blue skies and snow.

Skiing into Grand Teton National Park is an experience unlike any other!

The area’s powdery snow is perfect for cross-country ski touring, and the views are unbeatable.

There are many professional outfitters located in Jackson that can equip you with everything you need to get out and glide through Grand Teton National Park.

If you are visiting during the holidays or for spring break, you may want to reserve your rental gear in advance to secure availability!

For those interested in cross country skiing in Grand Teton, the Teton Park Road is a great place to start.

The Teton Park Road is groomed from the Taggert Lake Trailhead, where you will likely park your vehicle, all the way to Signal Mountain Lodge.

That’s nearly 15 miles of beautifully groomed trail to explore beginning in mid-December, depending on conditions.

two men cross country skiing in grand teton national park in the winter

The trail passes popular attractions like Jenny Lake and the southern end of Jackson Lake.

Whether you decide to ski only a few miles or the whole stretch of the road, on a bluebird day you’re guaranteed epic views of the Cathedral Group.

Another great option for some in-park cross country skiing is the Moose-Wilson Road.

To ski along the groomed trail on this scenic road, park at the Granite Canyon Trailhead. The road is groomed for about 3 miles, where it ends at another trailhead.

Round trip, the trail offers 6 miles of the wonderful forested scenery. During the winter, skiers often use this road to access Phelps Lake.

Go snowshoeing on the trails of Grand Teton.

A family embarking together on a snowshoeing adventure in Grand Teton National Park away from camera towards the mountains.

Snowshoeing in Grand Teton is a great way to stay active in the winter and explore the park’s beauty easily.

There’s an easier learning curve with snowshoeing compared to cross-country skiing, so it’s an easy new skill you can pick up without needing a big learning curve.

Both the Teton Park Road and Moose-Wilson Road mentioned above in are mixed-use trails, meaning they are open for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

One caveat: do not snowshoe in the cross-country ski tracks!

The cross-country skiers use this to return to the trailhead more easily. It’s poor trail etiquette to snowshoe over their tracks.

A snow-covered landscape at Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park in Winter.

If you’re interested in a self-guided snowshoe excursion, there are a few other areas to consider.

A popular spot for winter hiking and snowshoeing is Colter Bay.

The Colter Bay trails are adjacent to Jackson Lake and offer picturesque views of the Teton Range on clear days!

To access the Colter Bay parking area, visitors should use John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway/ HWY 191; it’s a 1-hour scenic drive from the town of Jackson.

Go backcountry skiing in the Tetons.

A man skiing doing a large jump in the backcountry landscape of the Grand Tetons with a powder trail behind him.

Grand Teton National Park requires all snow-season backcountry users to carry the appropriate safety equipment and have expert knowledge of avalanche safety.

There is still a way to explore the winter backcountry for intermediate skiers, however.

For those eager to get deeper into the Teton’s remote terrain, a guided backcountry ski trip might be in order.

There are many professional outfitters that are licensed to offer guided backcountry ski trips into Grand Teton National Park!

Teton Backcountry Guides is one such company, and the one I’d trust with my safety in the backcountry.

Going with a professional guide is a great way to learn about winter safety and ensure that the mountain routes you run are thoroughly assessed for avalanche danger.

Grand Teton Winter Weather

A classic view of Grand Teton National Park in winter: peaks covered in snow with blue skies

In a word? Cold!

In fact, the coldest temperature Wyoming ever experienced was measured in Moran, just adjacent to Grand Teton National Park.

And that was a bone-chilling 63 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit), recorded back in 1933!

Of course, that’s a big of an anomaly — it’s not exactly the average temperatures in Grand Teton in winter.

Here are the breakdowns for winter temperatures and weather conditions in Grand Teton National Park from November through March.

November: Average high of 35° F and an average low of 14° F, with 11 days of rain/snow

December: Average high of 25° F and an average low of 3° F, with 12 days of rain/snow.

January: Average high of 25° F and an average low of 0° F, with 12 days of snow/rain.

February: Average high of 30° F and an average low of 2° F, with 10 days of snow/rain.

March: Average high of 39° F and an average low of 11° F, with 10 days of snow/rain.

Where to Stay in Grand Teton in Winter

An aerial photo taken with a drone of Jackson Hole town with a river winding through it and mountains on the edge of town

There is nowhere to stay in Grand Teton National Park itself in the winter, as all the in-park lodging ends mid-October.

Therefore, you’ll want to stay in nearby Jackson Hole or Teton Village.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of incredible accommodations there! Here are our top picks for where to stay near Grand Teton.

Top Choice: Wyoming Inn at Jackson Hole

This cozy inn features Western-style decor complete with a roaring fireplace, warm woodsy colors, rustic design touches, and large, modern rooms.

Added luxury amenities include a fitness center with Peloton equipment, a large hot tub, complimentary tea, hot chocolate, and cookies by the fireplace, and a delicious on-site restaurant.

Check photos, reviews, and availability here

Budget Choice: The Elk Country Inn

This highly rated and affordable for cost-conscious travelers is just a few blocks from the central Town Square in Jackson Hole.

The ambiance is a bit generic hotel, as opposed to more hip or luxurious options, but it’s warm and comforting nonetheless.

It still has nice amenities, though, like an indoor swimming pool and fireplace: a score for a budget-conscious place.

Check photos, reviews, and availability here

A view of a plowed road leading through a pine forest with a clear view of the Grand Teton winter range ahead

Luxury Choice: Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa

This mountain resort is as luxurious as it gets in the Grand Teton area.

There are a variety of room types, all with a gorgeous fireplace and cooking area, so you can find everything from queen studios to bi-level two-bedroom suites.

It’s located in Teton Village, just over a mile from Grand Teton National Park and close to several ski runs in case you’re traveling with skiers.

There is a phenomenal on-site restaurant, a lively bar area for apres-ski drinks, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, an indoor heated pool, a massage and spa center, and a gorgeous outdoor heated pool.

Check photos, reviews, and availability here

Grand Teton in Winter FAQs

A moose walking through the snow with snow-covered Grand Teton range behind him in winter
  • Is Grand Teton open in winter?

Indeed, Grand Teton National Park welcomes visitors every day of the year, winter included!

But note, with substantial snowfall, some roads and sections of Grand Teton NP may become inaccessible at certain parts of the year.

  • Can you drive through Grand Teton in winter?

Absolutely. The two primary arteries cutting through Grand Teton, Highway 89/191 and Highway 26/287, remain open during winter.

They may temporarily close during poor weather conditions, but generally, they are kept open.

Beginning on November 1st, the Teton Park Road is closed to private vehicle traffic from the Taggert Lake Trailhead to Signal Mountain Lodge. The road remains closed throughout winter until April 1st.

This is so they can become groomed trails for winter sports like cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing.

  • Is winter a good time to visit Grand Teton?

Well, if hiking amid snow isn’t your thing, then a winter visit to Grand Teton certainly won’t do much for you.

But if you’re intrigued by winter activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and wintry wildlife excursions, then the park during winter might just be a dream come true!

The 5 Best Hungary Wine Tours from Budapest

plate of different wine samples and tapas like cheese grapes and olives while on a wine tour from budapest

Hungary might not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking of wine, but it truly offers some exceptional wines…

… and that’s high praise coming from me, a certified wine geek who grew up an hour away from Napa and Sonoma.

If you have enough time in Budapest, dedicate at least a half wine to doing a wine tour from Budapest, to get out of the city, into the countryside, and exploring Hungarian wines and the vineyards that produce them!

hungary wine cellar with ivy on it and trees around it

These wine tours not only introduce you to fantastic Hungarian wines but also offers a glimpse of the picturesque countryside, a stark contrast to modern, edgy Budapest.

Whether you opt for the nearby wineries in Páty village or venture to the Eger region, renowned for its Bull’s Blood red wine, these wine tasting day trips from Budapest will surely delight you!

5 Best Hungary Wine Tours from Budapest

Etyek Wine Tour from Budapest with Lunch or Dinner Book Here

person drinking a glass of rose wine while on a wine tour from budapest in etyek region

For a tour of some wineries outside Budapest, this Etyek wine tour from Budapest is a good option, with two options available: a two-winery lunch tour and a three-winery dinner tour.

Both are good half-day experiences, allowing you to either have a full morning or a full evening after the wine tour to enjoy the best of Budapest.

Since Etyek is only a one-hour drive from Budapest, it’s an easy and enjoyable day out.

  • Lunch OptionBook Here
    • Departure: The journey begins at 10 AM.
    • Wineries: During this option, participants will visit 2 family-owned wineries in the region.
    • Tastings: At each winery, four different artisan Hungarian wines are offered for tasting, making it a total of 8 tastings.
    • Food: Snacks and finger foods are provided during the wine tasting sessions. Additionally, a 3-course home-cooked meal is served for lunch.
    • Duration: 4 hours
A cellar of winery in the etyek region of hungary known for its wines
  • Dinner OptionBook Here
    • Departure: This option starts later in the day, with a departure time of 3 PM.
    • Wineries: The dinner tour adds on an extra winery, so it includes visits to three local family-owned wineries.
    • Tastings: A more expansive tasting session, participants will sample 12 different Hungarian wines in total, four from each winery.
    • Food: Similar to the lunch tour, snacks and finger foods accompany the wine tastings. And of course, there’s the 3-course dinner served towards the end!
    • Duration: 5 hours, given the additional winery visit.

Whether you choose a lunch tour or a dinner tour, each of these wine tours from Budapest offer a deep dive into the wine culture of the Etyek region.

Plus, both incorporate the chance to enjoy some Hungarian hospitality and getting to try some home-cooked food you might not find on traditional menus in the city.

The main difference is if you want to sample wines from two wineries or three, or whether it’s more important for you to have a morning free vs. an evening free on your Budapest itinerary.

Páty Wine Village Tour from Budapest with Tastings – Book Here

cellar near budapest with barrels of hungarian wine aging

If you’re looking for a unique cultural experience that’s also an easy outing from Budapest that won’t take too much time out of your day, this is the perfect wine tour from Budapest!

Given that Páty is just a 20-minute drive from Budapest, you can easily return to the city after just a 3-hour outing, in order to truly make the most of your visit.

The town of Páty is adorable, with stone houses and traditional style, so it gives you a sense of what Hungarian village life is like without requiring you to stray far from the city and spend a lot of time in transit.

You’ll get to try at least four different kinds of wine and different tapas on this Hungarian wine tour.

Wine tasting with cheese, bread and oil while enjoying wines in Hungary

With its limited group size of 10 participants, this Budapest wine tour ensures a personalized experience while exploring the wine offerings of Páty, in close proximity to Budapest!

  • Departure: The tour begins at 12:30 PM from Budapest.
  • Wineries: Depending on the itinerary, you’ll visit one or two wineries in Páty region.
  • Tastings: At the selected wineries, you can taste a minimum of 4 different wines, exploring distinct flavors and profiles characteristic of the Páty wine region.
  • Food: In addition to the wine, you can try a tapas plate. Everything is sourced directly from local farms, including olives, ham, artisan sausage, and local cheeses.
  • Duration: 3 hours

Neszmély Wine Tour from Budapest + Danube Bend and Slovakia Visit Book Here

Aerial view of the Cathedral of Our Lady and Saint Adalbert in Esztergom,  with a view of the bend in the danube river, slovakia in the distance.

This unique wine tour from Budapest focuses on both wine and sightseeing, giving you the chance to get out and see the Hungarian countryside and its beautiful nature as well as some of its cultural sights.

You’ll explore the Neszmély wine region, which is less than an hour away from Budapest, making it an easy day out.

The big draw of the tour is the chance to see the Danube Bend, one of the most spectacular parts of this famous river.

It’s especially beautiful when seen from the top of the Basilica of Esztergom, Hungary’s largest basilica, which you’ll also get to visit on this tour.

In addition to tasting up to six wines (and three types of palinka — a traditional Hungarian fruit brandy), you’ll also get to visit another country!

Wine tasting in Hungary with six glasses of white and rose wines and a cheese plate with grapes and olives

You’ll be briefing crossing the Danube to admire the sight of the Basilica from the Slovakian side of the border.

With a group size limited to just 8 people, this wine tour guarantees an intimate and immersive experience, combining the best of Hungarian wines, culinary delights (did I mention lunch in a 300-year-old restaurant?), and scenic beauty, all on a 6-hour day tour from Budapest.

  • Departure: The journey begins at 9:30 AM from Budapest.
  • Wineries: One vineyard located in Kesztölc, including a cellar visit and tasting.
  • Tastings: You can sample 6 different wines, some of which are organic and some of which are traditional, plus 3 palinkas
  • Food: As part of the tour, participants are treated to a meal at the Csülök Csárda, a restaurant with an impressive 300-year history.
  • Duration: 6 hours

Eger Countryside, Culture, and Wine Private Tour

Vineyards on a hill in the Eger regiono of Hungary on a cloudy day

Another wine tour from Budapest that combines sightseeing and wine tasting, this tour of Eger and a local winery is a fantastic option.

Note that it’s a private tour, so it’s perfect for those who want 1:1 attention and the opportunity to curate their tour a little bit to their preferences.

In Eger, you can visit the town’s famous castle as well its cathedral and a gorgeous library.

One of the coolest things in Eger is the Turkish minaret, the furthest north minaret, representing the farthest point that the Ottoman Empire was able to extend into.

a winery visit to the the old wine cellars in Eger Szépasszonyvölgy Hungary

After enjoying a winery tour and tasting in the famed Szépasszonyvölgy region, known for its Bull’s Blood red wine blends, you can also unwind in the thermal baths outside of Eger, in Egerszalók.

Not a bad way to cap off your wine tour from Budapest before heading back into the city!

  • Departure: The tour starts at 9 AM from Budapest.
  • Wineries: One winery visit, located in the famed Szépasszony-völgy Valley.
  • Tastings: 5-6 tastings of wine. A notable mention is the Bull’s Blood wine, locally known as Egri Bikavér, one of the region’s signature red blends important to Hungarian wine culture.
  • Food: Lunch is not included, but you’ll have a chance to enjoy lunch at a restaurant in Eger.
  • Duration: 8 hours

27 Epic Things to Do in Taveuni Island, Fiji

Nestled deep in the heart of the South Pacific, forming a triangle with Fiji’s two larger islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, Taveuni stuns and begs you to stay even longer than you anticipated.

Taveuni is the third-largest island in the Fijian archipelago and is often referred to as the ‘Garden Island’.

And with good reason — Taveuni is a lush, green paradise complete with cascading spectacular waterfalls and scenic hikes that beckon adventurers and tranquility seekers alike.

Allison Green in front of the lower bouma falls which have a large single cascade drop into a turquoise pool

But for many people, the real draw to Taveuni is what lies beneath the surface.

Plunge into the mesmerizing Rainbow Reef found along the Somosomo Strait, and you’ll be experiencing one of the world’s best dive destinations.

Dive sites like the the Great White Wall and Purple Wall are not just poetic names but promises: an explosion of colors and marine life that will leave you spellbound and overwhelmed in the best possible way.

Getting to Taveuni

A small fiji link airplane with just a few seats on it which is what you take to taveuni. people walking out on the runway on a sunny day in fiji on a small plane

Getting to Taveuni by plane is certainly the easiest way to get here, though it’s not the cheapest.

Domestic flights leave several times a day from both Nadi and Suva, and cost around $300-400 USD roundtrip.

If you’re coming from the island of Vanua Levu, you can also take a ferry and bus combination.

The Taveuni Princess passenger ferry fits 50 people and runs the Somosomo Strait, including a bus service to and from Savusavu on Vanua Levu.

It takes about one hour to travel from Savusavu to Buca Bay, and then the ferry crossing to Taveuni takes about 2 hours.

If you’re in Savusavu, you can buy tickets in the bus terminal for about $25 FJD per person (about $11 USD).

If you’re not in Savusavu, you’d have to get there first from Viti Levu, which is possible via several different ferry ports.

27 Best Things to Do in Taveuni for All Kinds of Travelers

Scuba dive the epic Rainbow Reef!

view of the underwater world in taveuni with beautiful colors of coral

The island of Taveuni is home to one of the healthiest and most stunning reefs in Fiji — and indeed, probably the world!

There’s a reason Jacques Cousteau dubbed Fiji as as the soft coral capital of the world — and in particular, Taveuni’s Somosomo Strait is where you’ll see some of the best soft coral.

Soft coral is dependent on currents to bring the corals nutrients, so they’ll only unfurl and show their true beauty when there’s current.

As a result, diving in Taveuni is an interesting mix of push-and-pull drift driving, slower lulls between coral heads, and occasionally pausing against the current to truly take in the beauty.

Nicknamed the Rainbow Reef for its canvas of vivid hues, there are some 20+ dive sites that each offer something incredible — and I got to experience 9 of them (since we doubled up and did the Great White Wall twice!).

I’ll dedicate a whole section to the Great White Wall next, but there are a few other sites I want to shout out.

One is the beautiful Annie’s Bommie, which is Aussie slang for outcrop of coral reef.

This spiraling coral pinnacle is like a tornado of fish life with fusiliers and purple and orange anthias constantly dancing around it.

As you navigate in slow spirals around this beautiful pinnacle, getting shallower as the dive progresses, keep an eye out for the delicate macro life that often goes unnoticed!

a gold and yellow ribbon eel in taveuni

Another great dive site is Enchanted Forest, which doesn’t disappoint its poetic name.

With its lush soft corals, tall sea whips, and forest-green tree-shaped branching corals, it truly feels like an underwater forest.

Another favorite of mine is the Purple Wall. True to its name, it is adorned with rich purple soft corals cascading down a steep wall.

But it also has so much incredible small life, like decorator crabs, black mantis shrimps, and all sorts of nudibranchs!

Time your trip to dive the Great White Wall, one of the world’s best dive sites.

the great white wall dive site in fiji with coral growing like snow off the side of the sea wall

The Great White Wall in Fiji is often hailed as one of the world’s premier dive sites, and having dove it twice, I can attest there’s no other dive site quite like it.

Nestled in the depths of the Somosomo Strait, this incredible wall dive is named not for sharks (luckily!) but for its breathtaking soft corals in otherworldly shades of white and soft, pale lavender.

You’ll go through a swim-through to exit the cave and see a sight in all its splendor – a sheer drop of a coral wall, completely blanketed in luminescent white soft corals, making it seem as if you’re floating alongside a snowy mountainside underwater!

Unfortunately, though, the Great White Wall can only be visited a few times each month, and here’s why: it’s all about the tide.

a vertical view of the great white wall as seen in taveuni when the tide is in the right bloom stage

The full bloom of its namesake white soft corals are highly sensitive to water conditions, only blooming to its full potential a few times a month.

Luckily, the dive shops can predict this and plan accordingly, so you can arrange your Taveuni trip to coincide with the wall’s peak bloom.

These specific tidal conditions play a crucial role in nourishing the soft corals, ensuring they flourish and maintain their radiant white hue and their ethereal beauty.

The stark-white and semi-fluorescent hue of the corals, contrasted against the deep blue abyss, creates a surreal experience that you’ll remember for life.

And once the Great White Wall portion of the dive is up — and it goes fast, since you dive at 90-100 feet, so you need to keep an eye on your dive computer to not exceed your NDL — it somehow still feels like it just keeps getting better.

The second portion of the dive features beautiful bommies in every shade of purple and lavender imaginable, rife with fish life and macro critters. I even was lucky enough to spot the magnificent peacock nudibranch here!

In addition to the beautiful soft corals, I also got to see a giant moray eel, an octopus (twice, on two different dives!), and so many incredible fish.

Snorkel along Taveuni’s shallower reefs.

a view of the taveuni coral reefs

If you’re not scuba certified, don’t worry — the Rainbow Reef is not off-limits to you!

We met a couple at one of the BBQ dinners we attended who don’t know how to dive.

Sure enough, a day or two later we saw them on board our boat, coming out with us to some dive sites where there are shallower areas for snorkeling.

You will want to take a day trip to snorkel in Taveuni, because the Rainbow Reef is a distance away by boat, around 20-30 minutes away. You definitely can’t just get there from shore and see the best of it!

moorish idol and clownfish together in fiji

You can arrange a snorkeling trip with Taveuni Ocean Sports and they’ll give you a guide to bring you to the best snorkel spots on the Rainbow Reef.

Some dive sites are situated where there are shallow patches where you can see as much life from the surface as possible.

Expect to see every color of fish and coral possible, and even possibly whitetip reef sharks or turtles!

Typically, the dive sites where they’ll also bring snorkelers are Nuku Reef, Fish Factory, and Cabbage Patch, since these three sites have excellent shallower portions.

Traverse the Lavena Coastal Walk.

the lavena coastal walk trail around sunset with cloudy pastel sky and palm trees and waves

But diving isn’t the only thing Taveuni has to offer, though it may be what the island is most famous for.

No, this beautiful island is also a hikers dream, too!

The Lavena Coastal Walk is one of the best walks in Taveuni, located at the far eastern edge of Taveuni island — quite literally at the end of the road!

This relatively easily 3-mile walk used to be famous for its beautiful suspension bridge, though unfortunately that bridge is no longer after a cyclone came through and wiped it away.

the end of the hike of lavena coastal walk, the wainibau falls

It’s still quite a lovely hike through the coastal forest, though now the suspension bridge has been replaced with a river crossing.

It takes about 3 hours to hike to Wainibau Falls, the waterfall at the end of the Lavena Coastal Walk, a double-whammy of a waterfall with several natural swimming pools you can also take a dip in.

I have a full guide to doing the Lavena Coastal Walk if you want to read that before your trip!

Visit the Lavena Coast by boat to see the coastal waterfalls.

the lavena visitor center with blue building

Another way you can visit the waterfalls is by taking one of the boat tours that depart from the visitor center in Lavena.

The basic boat tour to the first waterfall is priced at 165 FJD ($73 USD).

This essentially means you’ll bypass most of the trek to Wainibau Falls that you would do if you took the Lavena Coastal Walk, focusing on the core section that can only be covered on foot.

signs showing the different waterfalls and prices for the waterfall boat trips

For groups of 4 or more, the rate for this primary boat excursion is 45 FJD ($20 USD) per individual.

Other available options include a tour to the second waterfall, which boasts a trio of cascading falls.

For parties of 3 or fewer, the boat fee is 200 FJD ($88 USD). However, for groups of 4 or more, the cost is reduced to 50 FJD ($22 USD) per person.

The ultimate boat tour option takes you to the most remote waterfalls. For this experience, parties of 3 or fewer pay 300 FJD ($132 USD total), while groups of 4 or more pay 80 FJD ($35 USD) each.

Slide down the Waitavala Waterslides.

Allison going down the Waitavala waterslides in Taveuni Fiji in a red bathing suit

One of the most fun things to do in Taveuni is join the locals at the Waitavala Waterslides, located just outside the main town of Somosomo.

These natural waterslides are precisely what they sound like—slick, smooth rock surfaces where streams have carved a path, allowing visitors to slide down amidst a scenic backdrop of Taveuni’s jungly interior.

What’s particularly fascinating about the Waitavala Waterslides is the fun local experience it can be, especially on weekends.

If you want a genuine Fijian experience, visit on a Saturday or Sunday!

This is when local families gather, and joyful shrieks and excited yells echo through the air, as folks of all ages take their turn to glide down the water-eroded slides.

Accessing the waterslides is relatively straightforward. From the main road, there’s a marked trail that leads you directly to this natural wonder, about a 10-minute hike until you reach the waterslides area.

From there, you’ll cross the small river at the place where it’s calm — there’s a handrail that helps you cross. You’ll need to walk about 10 minutes more to reach the start of the slides.

As of my last visit, there wasn’t an official entrance fee to access the waterslides, but we did pay about $70 FJD (~$30 USD) to have a driver bring us there and wait for us for an hour or so while we enjoyed the slides.

A few safety tips: this is a natural waterslide so there are inherently some risks! Keep your head protected so you don’t bang it on any rocks (don’t lean your head back, but stay sitting upright).

Likewise, keep your arms to yourself, crossed across your chest, so you don’t harm your hands or fingers. Also, wear pants so that you don’t get beat up and bruised by the slides!

Hike to the Tavoro Waterfalls in Bouma National Heritage Park.

The view of the lower falls of Tavoro Waterfalls at the beginning of the hike

One of the best hikes in Taveuni is the hike to the Tavoro Falls (also known as the Bouma Falls) in the national park.

Consisting of three separate waterfalls, this is an epic and customizable hike.

You can choose between a short hike to a tall, single-drop waterfall into a beautiful crystal-clear blue swimming pool… or a longer hike to two more waterfalls, including optional river crossings!

Hiking to the first waterfall is rather easy, via a 10-minute walk from the Visitor Center on a paved path.

The next waterfall is definitely harder, requiring another 40 minutes of walk and including an optional river crossing (or you can take a path that doesn’t require one).

The result is an epic, more secluded roaring waterfall that you can swim in or just admire the ferocious spray!

There’s also a third and final waterfall, with the largest natural swimming pool.

This is technically the smallest waterfall, but it cascades across a wide rock, making it rather impressive.

The third waterfall is also about 40 minutes from the prior one, so all in all, expect to walk 90 minutes from the visitor center to the highest one, and then be sure to allocate time to swim in some (or all!) of the pools.

I have a full guide to visiting the Tavoro Waterfalls here.

Watch the sunset from Tramonto in Matei.

Sunset view from the restaurant of Tromonto in Matei in Taveuni

Of course, with all that diving and hiking, you’re bound to get tired and just want to relax with an epic sunset view from time to time, no?

Many of the accommodations in Taveuni are in the town of Matei — and even if you’re not staying there, it’s worth visiting this part of the island if you want a break from your resort’s food.

Tramonto is a beautiful beachfront restaurant that has some of the best sunsets on the island.

They offer a rotating menu every night of delicious local Fijian cuisine — I enjoyed a curry lolo octopus one night that was unreal!

Try Fijian kava with locals.

Group sitting around with a Fiji local drinking kava at a ceremony

Kava is an essential part of understanding the Fiji islands’ culture and history.

Once reserved only for war chiefs, now kava has been democratized to be an everyday custom, but one that still has roots in its tradition.

Typically, one person will be in charge of leading the kava ceremony. They are in charge of preparing the kava and serving it to people (and determining the order of serving).

Before you drink, say “bula” — a term of greeting that also works like ‘cheers’ in this context.

People will clap (typically 3 times) as you drink and finish your kava and return the coconut cup to the leader.

Between rounds of kava, typically the leader of the ceremony will also sing songs or let people talk and chat amongst themselves.

But wait, what is kava?

Kava is a relaxing depressant that gives a calm, tingly, relaxed feel due to its kavalactones.

It’s not intoxicating in the sense that alcohol is, but it can give you a slightly euphoric sensation.

Drinking too much super-strong kava can definitely make you weak in the knees, but generally, it’s a rather gentle drink that is fun to enjoy with a group while in Taveuni.

Your hotel will likely offer you the opportunity to try kava, and many ‘lovo nights’ will also have kava served.

Attend a lovo night to try traditional Fijian food.

Fijian woman serving different Fiji dishes at a buffet

While Taveuni has many strengths, being a gastronomic powerhouse is not one of them.

I love Fijian food, but the options on Taveuni end up being somewhat few and far between, and you’ll likely tap out all the main restaurants within a few days.

This is where the lovo nights come in to save the day! ‘Lovo’ refers to the traditional Fijian way of cooking in the earth.

Fijian locals sitting in front of the restaurant while in orange shirts about to perform a dance

Many lovo nights also consist of a cultural component, such as a kava ceremony or a dance performance from local villagers.

For around $40 to $55 FJD ($18-24 USD) per person, you can enjoy a buffet of Fijian cuisine, including earth-cooked BBQ dishes like a whole wahoo fish!

You’ll also try other favorites of Fijian food, like kokoda (a ceviche-like raw fish dish served with coconut milk and citrus) and the pumpkin-cooked stews.

They also serve unique Fijian sides and veggies like steamed cassava leaves, lovo-baked breadfruit, and ota, a young fern.

This is a great way to try a bunch of different Fijian dishes that are often hard to order at restaurants, which tend to offer a more Western selection of food.

Typically, the Dive Café hosts a lovo night on Wednesdays and the The Drift hosts a dinner on Fridays or Saturdays.

Enjoy the best breakfast on the island at The Dive Café.

Coffee, pancakes, sunhat, at a breakfast in Fiji

Like I said, there aren’t too many choices when it comes to food on Taveuni…

… but when it comes to where to get a delicious breakfast, the obvious answer is the Dive Café in Matei.

They have delicious coffees — the best coffee I had in my entire two weeks in Fiji!

Sign on a surfboard that reads I love you so matcha on a beachfront restaurant

They also have options like chai lattes and matcha lattes for those of us who want a little caffeine but don’t love coffee.

Their breakfasts are fantastic, including veggie omelettes and delicious pancakes.

They also have a ton of different smoothie options if you want something a little healthier!

Plus, its beachside setting is adorable!

Eat delicious organic ice cream from a stall.

Three scoops of ice cream from a road side stall including chocolate and fruit sorbet flavors

Located not far from the Matei airport in front of the Coconut Grove Beachfront Cottages, you’ll find the best ice cream — all organic! — on Taveuni.

With a rotating cast of unique flavors, the ice cream only costs $2 FJD per scoop (less than $1 USD), making it nearly impossible to leave without trying at least three flavors.

I tried their chocolate and coconut, as well as a lemongrass flavor, and a soursop flavor — all of them were stunning!

Sample local organic chocolates.

different flavors of chocolate bars made from local ingredients at a taveuni street stall

Also at this stall, you can pick up some locally-made organic chocolates which also make perfect souvenirs from Fiji.

There are samples you can try — once you try it, it’s hard not to leave without a few bars!

Stay in a lovely bure in Matei.

interior of a bure bungalow at a hotel in matei

There are a handful of great resorts in Taveuni, but you can also just enjoy a more casual stay in one of the bures (bungalows) on the island.

With high, vaulted ceilings with thatched roofs and an ingenious design that maximizes cross-breezes, these bures are a wonderful way to get a sense of Fijian design.

These bungalows utilize the environment to its advantage, blending architectural elements to make an eco-friendly accommodation choice.

In fact, they’re so well-designed we never once had to turn on the air conditioning during our entire week in Taveuni!

We stayed at Maravu Lodge in Matei and loved their bures, and the prices are really affordable.

Rent a kayak or SUP and explore the calm coast of Matei.

two stand up paddle boards available for rent

The waters off the town of Matei are really calm and peaceful, making it perfect for exploring by kayak or paddleboard!

You can rent one from a variety of dive shop storefronts along the main road for an affordable hourly or daily price.

Tip: Reserve one for around 5 PM to 6 PM to see the sunset from the water!

Visit the Vuna Blowholes.

One of lesser-known but equally interesting things to do in Taveuni is explore the spectacle that is the Vuna Blowholes.

Located on the southern coast of Taveuni near the village of Vuna, quite literally at the end of the road on the western side, these blowholes are a breathtaking display of nature’s power and beauty.

The Vuna Blowholes are a series of natural openings in the volcanic rock where the force of the ocean waves, combined with the underground pressure, causes water to shoot up dramatically into the air.

On days when the sea is particularly active, these jets of water can reach impressive heights, which is accompanied by the thunderous sound of the waves crashing against the rocks and the hiss of the water spraying into the air as it escapes the tightness of the lava tube.

But the setting of the Vuna Blowholes is perhaps the best part, with its rugged coastline with its sharp cliffs and vast blue ocean behind it.

Visiting the blowholes is relatively easy, with a marked path leading from the nearby village, and there is no entry free. That said, if locals help you along the way, it’s common to to offer a small donation or ‘sevusevu’ to the local village.

This gesture not only supports the community and respects their cultural customs, but also promotes sustainable tourism and shares the wealth of tourism with the locals, not just foreigners who own large resorts.

Explore Des Voeux Peak for birdlife and bird watching.

Another hike you may want to do in Taveuni is up Des Voeux Peak, the second-highest peak on Taveuni at nearly 1,200 meters (3,930 feet).

Due to its height and its difficulty (especially if there’s been rainfall) this is a hike you should only do with a guide.

Also note that because of its height, you should not do this hike on the same day that you are doing diving — which is why we weren’t able to do this when we visited.

You can either take a hike the full 6 kilometers up and down (which takes about 3-4 hours up and 2-3 hours back) — it’s steep and difficult, without a lot of cover in some spots, so be sure to bring a lot of water if you choose this option.

If you do the hike, you can also hire a guide in the local village — I highly recommend this for your own safety!

An easier option is to book a 4WD with a guide. They will bring you a good portion fo the way up the mountain via about a 40-minute drive, and then you only have to hike an additional 30 minutes or so to reach the top of the peak.

This area is one of the most remote, secluded parts of Taveuni so it’s perfect for admiring the island’s endemic birdlife, like the orange fruit dove and the colorful Fiji parrotfinch.

Allow three to four hours to walk the 6 kilometers up, and at least two to return. It is a steep, arduous climb in the heat so it is best to start early.

It is possible to drive (4WD) with a guide part of the way up. It is also possible to pick up a guide from the local village to go with you and this is well worth it for the local knowledge.

Hike in search of the rarest flower in the world.

Did you know Taveuni is the only place in the world where the beloved, rare Tagimoucia flower grows — which also just so happens to be the national flower of Fiji?

You can find it in the volcanic crater of Lake Tagimoucia, but only during certain parts of the year. When I went in July, it was not the season for it.

I was advised that you can find the flower blooming around October through January, peaking in November and December.

You’ll definitely want to hire a guide if you’re hiking to Lake Tagimoucia, since it’s a pretty intense hike, where fog can often obscure paths.

The flower is also smaller and harder to find than you might imagine, so it helps to have an expert with you!

They can also tell you the local Fijian legends about this flower, which supposedly emerged from the tears of a young girl who was crying over a love that was breaking her heart.

Cross the International Dateline… as many times as you want!

Crossing the international date line once is for chumps. Did you know that on Taveuni, you can cross it as many times as you want?

Yes, the international date line runs straight through this island, and you can find the sign for it behind the fire station and rugby field between the towns of Wairiki and Tavuki (near the Waitavala Slides).

While Taveuni may be known for its reefs and waterfalls, one of the quirkiest things to do in Taveuni is cross a simple line drawn on the earth: the International Date Line.

This simple line, passing through the 180° meridian where the East meets the West, lets you play time traveler, playfully juggling ‘yesterday’ and ‘today’ within a matter of seconds.

The fun in visiting the International Date Line is the playful photos and videos you can take, hopping from one side to the other, you can boast that you’ve stepped into tomorrow and then hopped back to today!

It’s also an amusing way to realize the arbitrary nature of time demarcations — because what do you mean that you can be in two days at once if you straddle the line?

That said, although this line theoretically bisects Taveuni, it’s not really the case that half the island is in today and half is in tomorrow — the date line has been adjusted so that it circumvents the entire Fiji archipelago.

It’s more of a fun quirk than an actual date line, but it’s a fun thing to do in Taveuni nonetheless!

Attend a Sunday church service at the Wairiki Catholic Mission.

catholic church in taveuni from the side view on a sunny day on the island

This Catholic church in Taveuni is a great place to get introduced to Fijian religious customs — it’s a raucous, fun time with lots of singing, a great place to spend a Sunday with locals who sing beautiful hymns a capella.

This Catholic Church is also an interesting place as it stands in tribute to a French missionary who helped Taveuni in a battle against the Tongans, who were trying to invade the island.

It incorporates Roman design, including stained glass windows and stonework, while also having traditional Fijian elements like floor mats instead of pews.

It really shws the hybridization of culture that is emblematic of modern-day Fiji.

The church is also quite close to the International Date Line, so you can easily combine these two things.

Visit the Civa Pearl Farm.

Taveuni is home to a pearl farm where you can learn how they farm pearls from oysters and make beautiful jewelry out of it!

Similar to Tahitian pearls, Fijian pearls are often lustrously black or other beautiful deep colors like green or purple, as opposed to the white pearls you’ll find in other parts of the world.

The owner of the pearl farm, Claude, will bring you out to the pearl farm by boat and explain exactly how they farm pearls here.

The pearl farm tour takes place at 2 PM on Mondays through Thursdays.

And of course, you can buy some beautiful pearls as a souvenir afterwards if you want.

Oh, and you can even snorkel on the reef here if you want!

Get a Fijian massage.

massage table in a room with an ocean view in taveuni

Between all the incredible diving and hiking that Taveuni has to offer, it’s easy to wear yourself down a bit and feel some aching muscles.

Many resorts and hotels will offer in-room massages, but the best deal on the island (and an incredible massage) can be found at the storefront of Taveuni Ocean Sports in Matei.

There, you can get an incredible hourlong massage to the sound of the ocean behind you for just $60 FJD ($26 USD) per hour!

Enjoy the snorkeling and sand beaches of Waitabu Marine Park.

Waitabu Marine Park is a dedicated protected marine reserve where fishing has been prohibited in order to preserve the local ecosystem.

There are two ways you can visit the marine park — there is a Cultural Experience tour that costs $100 FJD ($44 USD).

That includes refreshments, entertainment, and the chance to experience a traditional bilibili ride on a Fijian wooden raft.

Another option is just a snorkeling tour, which costs $70 FJD or $30 USD, where you can explore some of the best reef near the island of Taveuni (not far out like the Rainbow Reef is).

It’s also close to Tavoro Waterfalls so it makes a good addition to a day out at Bouma National Heritage Park.

Stay at one of the epic island resorts.

There are several incredible resorts on Taveuni and its nearby islands, including Qamea Resort and Spa on the island of Qamea and Taveuni Palms Resort on the main island near the airport.

This is a great way to relax and unwind and enjoy some 5-star luxury on the laidback island of Taveuni.

There are also dive resorts like Taveuni Dive Resort in case you want your stay to be more focused on the underwater world than the surface!

Tavoro Waterfalls: How to Hike the 3 Bouma Falls in Taveuni

Allison Green in front of the waterfalls of Tavoro Falls

One of the most stunning hikes in Fiji is a relatively easy, extremely rewarding hike through the jungle to see three epic waterfalls on Taveuni, Fiji’s third largest island.

On the rugged eastern side of Taveuni Island, you’ll have to get here with one of the rugged taxis that can handle the unpaved roads.

It’s a long, bumpy, dusty road — but it’s worth it to see some of the most stunning waterfalls in Fiji, and certainly the most stunning waterfalls on Taveuni.

The view of the lower falls of Tavoro Waterfalls at the beginning of the hike

Located in Bouma Heritage National Park, these waterfalls have many names.

Bouma Waterfalls, Tavoro Waterfalls, Tavoro Falls, etc. — it all refers to the same beautiful hike!

How to Get to Tavoro Waterfalls & Bouma National Heritage Park

sign at the bouma national heritage park that tells you about the waterfalls

The easiest way to get to Tavoro Waterfalls is by taking a taxi, who will then wait at the visitor center for you to finish your hike.

Typically, you’ll work out a roundtrip price with your accommodation that incorporates the taxi wait time in the cost.

We found this the easiest way to get around and did this when visiting Waitavala, Lavena, etc.

From Matei, we paid $100 FJD ($44 USD) for a half-day trip, leaving Matei around 9 AM and coming back around 1 PM. 

It takes about one hour to get from Matei to the visitors center, where you’ll start the hike. 

The hike itself takes another 2.5-3 hours, then you’ll need an hour to get back to the Matei area as well, if that’s where you are staying.

How Much Does the Bouma Waterfalls Trail Cost?

the tavoro waterfalls upper fall at the end of the hike

In Fiji, many of the hikes, including the Lavena Coastal Walk and the hike to Savulelele Waterfall on the main island of Viti Levu, have a fee associated with them.

This fee supports the locals of Bouma village and ensures they benefit from tourism, and the villagers also help to care for the upkeep of the trail.

The fee is $36 FJD per adult or $10 FJD per kid (that’s around $16 USD and $4 USD, respectively) to access the Tavoro Falls trail.

What is the Tavoro Waterfalls Hike Like?

sketch of the tavoro waterfalls hand drawn to show you the different options

The best thing about the Tavoro Waterfall Hike is that it’s really customizable — pick between one, two, or all three waterfalls, or a hike with or without water crossings! 

Depending on your level of fitness and how much time you want to dedicate to hiking, you can walk to just the first waterfall or you can hike all three waterfalls.

The first waterfall is extremely easy to get to, and it’s great for multigenerational families or those with some mobility limitations.

While it’s not necessarily wheelchair-accessible, it is a very easy walk to the first waterfall, so it should be fine for most people with mobility or health issues.

The second and third waterfalls require more time and stamina, especially since you have to hike up and then down at the end!

Hike to Waterfall #1

Allison Green in front of the lower bouma falls which have a large single cascade drop into a turquoise pool

The first part of the hike to the lower falls is extremely easy. 

There’s even a paved path that leads you directly to the first fall, which also happens to have the largest drop (78 feet or 24 meters) — and the nicest natural pool to swim in!

Personally, I think it’s the prettiest of the three waterfalls, so even if you are limited on time or energy, I think it’s still worth paying the entrance fee just to see this hike.

This part of the hike is very easy! It’s about a 10-minute walk, maybe a 15-minute walk if you are on the slow side, from the visitor center to reach Lower Bouma Falls.

pink hibiscus flower that you can see along the beginning part of the tavoro waterfall trail, the part that is paved

Along the way, you’ll see some beautiful scenery, like tropical flowers and bird life, including the endemic orange doves you’ll find on Taveuni.

The Lower Tavoro Waterfall is a single-drop waterfall that cascades thunderously into a gorgeous turquoise-blue pool with crystal clear water that looks straight out of a dream.

You can swim in the water just by wading in, though mind the slippery rocks as you enter the water!

Hike to Waterfall #2

the hike up the many stairs that bring you to the second waterfall in bouma falls on taveuni, with mossy trees and stairs and railing on the trail path to the waterfall

The second fall takes a good deal more effort, so be prepared! Have plenty of water and sun protection for this part of the hike.

In my opinion, this is the hardest part of the hike, at least on a cardio level. Get ready for lots of stairs!

Luckily, there’s a dedicated rest point about halfway along the way, with a shaded platform area with some picnic tables, where you can enjoy panoramic views over the ocean and Qamea Island.

Allison looking over the edge of the railing to admire the views of the coastline and qamea island in the distance while hiking to tavoro falls in taveuni

And despite being a somewhat difficult stretch of hike, it’s a really well maintained trail, so the difficulty is really just about the incline.

As you hike to waterfall #2, you can choose between two paths — the left way will bring you there via a small river crossing, the right way will bring you there without a river crossing.

We had done a river crossing during the Lavena Coastal Walk and didn’t want to do it again, so we opted to avoid the river crossing and go via the right path.

Eventually, you’ll see a small fork in the path that leads you to either the third waterfall or the second waterfall (continuing to the left side vs. taking a right) — follow the blue sign, pictured below.

blue sign that says second waterfall leading to the left side of the trail

To get to the middle Bouma Falls, it takes about 40 more minutes from the first waterfall… mostly because of the stairs.

The second waterfall is the most rugged and least inviting to swim in, with quickly-churning waters, a large amount of spray creating lots of slick rocks, and a very small pool area.

It’s the second-tallest, at 15 meters or 49 feet, and it’s super strong!

You can definitely swim here, though personally, I think the third and first waterfall have much nicer natural pools to swim in.

​Personally, we skipped swimming in this pool just for the sake of time, since it wasn’t particularly welcoming!

Allison Green in the middle waterfall of Tavoro Waterfalls, resting her arm on a rock, with the waterfall cascading towering above her, surrounded by moss covered rocks

That said, it’s still a really beautiful waterfall and only a short 5-minute detour rather than continuing straight on to the third and final waterfall, so you should definitely see it.

It’s up to you and how much time you have to see if you also want to swim!

By the way, if you took the river crossing way, you’ll also need to cross the water here (essentially a second river crossing) in order to continue onto the trail to the final waterfall.

If you took the non-river-crossing way, you’ll need to backtrack back to the fork where you saw the “2nd waterfall” sign.

Hike to Waterfall #3

sign that reads track to third waterfall in taveuni on the path to the bouma falls

The third waterfall doesn’t take quite as much physical effort as the hike up to the second waterfall, which has more elevation gain and is more exposed to the sun.

To get to the next waterfall, you’ll have to double-back a bit from the second waterfall until you reach the fork in the path that clearly shows you where to continue on in order to reach the third falls.

The hike to the upper falls isn’t too intense and it’s more shaded, as you go through dense tropical rainforest to reach the last part of the hike.

Allison Green swimming in the big natural pool at the Upper Bouma Falls with gorgeous small cascade

​After about 40 minutes from the middle waterfall, you’ll reach the Upper Bouma Falls, where you can reward yourself for all the sweat with a dip in the big pool. It’s so pleasantly cool!

We were the only ones at the big pool and it was such a nice reward to enjoy a break from the tropical heat at the end of the hike.

Of course, watch out for slippery surfaces when entering the pool — the rocks are quite mossy.

This waterfall has the shortest drop of the three (33 feet or 10 meters), but it’s still one of the nicest falls, since it’s a wide waterfall that cascades over the top of the mountain. 

Do You Need a Guide for the Tavoro Waterfalls in Bouma National Park?

the middle waterfall of the 3 falls you can find in bouma national heritage park

​In my opinion, definitely not! The trail is really well-marked and obvious, so it’s quite hard to get off the path.

If you’re staying in a resort, like Taveuni Palms Resort, Garden Island Resort, etc. they’ll typically offer a guided tour, perfect if you don’t want to do the hike all by yourself.

While the hike itself is easy, the nice part about going with knowledgeable local guides is that they’ll let you know more about the varieties of island plants and explain more about the island’s lush rainforest vegetation.

Can You Visit Lavena Coastal Walk & Bouma Falls in One Day?

Allison hiking in tavoro waterfalls area wearing linen pants, open shirt, and shoes

If you look at the map, you’ll see that the Lavena Coastal Walk is also located within the Bouma National Heritage Park, just like Tavoro Waterfalls.

In essence, if you’re up for an early start and don’t mind committing to roughly 3 hours of hiking in Lavena and another 3-4 in Bouma, then the answer is yes!

However, to tackle this, it’s essential to fuel up with a substantial breakfast beforehand and also bring along a packed lunch. You’ll also want to hire a taxi for the full-day for an easy round trip commute.

This is definitely a taxing ask for non-experienced hikers, but it should be relatively easy to more experienced hikers. 

It’s a good way to economize on taxi expenses or squeeze multiple activities into a tight itinerary, if you only have a few days on Taveuni or if your days are taken up with other activities like scuba diving the Rainbow Reef.

The drive time between the starting points of the Lavena Coastal Walk and the entrance trail to Bouma Falls is minimal, especially when compared to the time it takes to reach the secluded eastern side of the island from Matei. 

So, if you don’t mind having an intensive hiking day, combining these two can be a great — but tiring! — day out in Taveuni.

17 Best Northern Lights Hotels in Iceland to See the Aurora

View from a window of an aurora camp in Tromso

Iceland in winter is a stunning land of icy waterfalls, glacier lagoons, ice caves, and colorful auroras dancing overhead.

One of the more popular ways to see the Northern lights while in Iceland is to take a Northern lights tour.

But personally, I’m of the opinion that staying in a Northern lights hotel in Iceland is an even more unique and comfortable way to experience the beauty of the aurora borealis!

the northern lights in iceland with bands of bright neon green light over a frozen snowy landscape

Luckily, there are many places to stay in Iceland for the Northern lights!

Just about anywhere outside of Reykjavik in Iceland will have good views of the aurora with the right combination of conditions — you just have to be far enough away from any city light pollution.

If seeing the Northern lights in Iceland is on your bucket list, keep reading for the best Northern lights hotels in Iceland.

This post contains all sorts of accommodation options ranging from luxury hotels to boutique hotels to log cabins to glass igloos (though you’ll find more options for those in Finland and to a lesser extend, Norway).

Let’s go!

My Top 3 Northern Lights Hotels in Iceland

I’ll go into 17 different choices for these Northern lights hotels all over Iceland — but I know that can be a little too much choice for some!

I’ve narrowed it down to my top 3 and kept it in the general outer Reykjavik and Southern Iceland circuit that is most popular amongst travelers.

#1 TOP PICK

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Hotel Rangá
✔️ Aurora spotters work overnight, giving wake-up calls & turning off lights for better views
✔️ Observatory on-site with two high-caliber telescopes

↳ Book it

#2 PICK

ION Adventure Hotel
✔️ Unique architecture with modern look and floor-to-ceiling windows
✔️ ear-round pool heated to 104F to watch the aurora from

↳ Book it

#3 PICK

Northern Light Inn
✔️ Low-light pollution area with free shuttle to Blue Lagoon
✔️ Aurora alerts on request & large windows everywhere

↳ Book it

Best Northern Lights Hotels in Western Iceland

Hotel Húsafell – Book Here

The charming Hotel Húsafell is one of the best hotels for seeing the Northern lights in Iceland.

This luxury hotel features outdoor hot tubs and its very own golf course in the unique landscape of Húsafell!

Best of all, it’s close to geothermal pools (especially the epic Húsafell Canyon Baths, a unique semi-private geothermal hot spring experience) and hiking trails.

But the main draw for Hotel Húsafell for hopeful aurora-spotters is both the frequency of its aurora sightings (about three times weekly during the aurora season).

It also has the unique offering of being the very first Icelandic hotel to provide automated wake-up calls when the Northern lights appear!

Plus, Húsafell and the Borgarnes region in general is one of the best places to see the Northern lights in Iceland.

The northern lights in iceland making a spiral up to the sky in bright green and pale blue colors against a midnight-black sky with some stars

It’s located close to the glacier Langjökull, which means that the area experiences more cloudless skies and high winds, two things that dramatically increase aurora visability.

At Hotel Húsafell, all rooms are spacious and comfortable, not over-the-top but complete with all you’d need for a pleasant stay.

Bathrooms are modern and luxurious, with either a bathtub or shower depending on the room.

There’s a 24-hour front desk to answer any questions and provide assistance, as well as an on-site restaurant with Nordic-inspired dishes as well as international cuisine.

The restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows so if the lights appear while you’re dining, you can see them!

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon – Book Here

The stunning luxury hotel The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon offers 62 luxury suites right on the Blue Lagoon, the most famous hot spring in Iceland.

Where else can you relax in geothermal waters while seeing the Northern lights dancing overhead?

You have access to both the general Blue Lagoon as well as the private Retreat Lagoon where you can be in a more private setting.

This epic Iceland hotel features a subterranean spa — yes, you read that right! — offering spa treatments utilizing the unique mineral-rich waters and volcanic mud of the region, as well as a sauna room.

bridge over the blue lagoon at sunrise or sunset with a few people in the waters in the winter with beautiful sky and snow on the ground

There is also a fantastic restaurant on-site, which is one of the most admired restaurants in the region when it comes to new Nordic cuisine, plated beautifully using stunning ingredients.

Rooms are spacious and luxurious, with a muted gray and brown color palette so you can appreciate the lagoon views and moss-covered lava fields right outside your floor-to-ceiling windows.

Plus, you can enjoy amenities like a nightly turndown service and 24/7 room service.

This is a great place to see the Northern lights since you can enjoy the view either from your room with its large windows or from the warm lagoon.

Spending a night or two at the Retreat at the Blue Lagoon is a fantastic way to end an Iceland trip!

It’s conveniently located just a 20-minute drive from Keflavik Airport, where nearly all flights into Iceland arrive.

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Northern Light Inn – Book Here

The lovely Northern Light Inn in Grindavík near the Blue Lagoon is another popular (and more affordable) option for a Northern lights hotel near Reykjavik.

It even comes complete with aurora wake-up calls upon request!

This Iceland Northern lights hotel is more understated than the fancy Retreat at the Blue Lagoon, but with similar convenience of location and ease of seeing the lights.

Plus, they run a free shuttle bus to the Blue Lagoon, which is awfully convenient — especially since it’s far cheaper than the hotel there!

Northern lights over the blue lagoon with beautiful green lights undulating in the sky

This guesthouse is small and family-owned but it has some amenities such as a spa, a small fitness center, and a lounge with a fireplace.

This is where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding moss-covered lava field for which the Reykjanes peninsula is so well-known — and the lights dancing overhead, if you’re lucky!

The rooms are modest but well-appointed with what you’d need, such as down comforters, a smart TV, an electric kettle, a small seating area, and an en-suite bathroom.

The on-site restaurant, Max’s Restaurant, is well-loved for its Icelandic cuisine with a focus on fresh local seafood, lamb, and other local specialties.

This restaurant also has floor-to-ceiling windows so you can keep an eye out for the Northern lights while you dine!

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Hotel Budir – Book Here

The well-loved Hotel Budir near the famous black church of Iceland is another one of the more popular Northern lights hotels in Iceland.

It’s close to several important sightseeing locations, such as Snæfellsjökull Volcano and Arnarstapi, and you can do a lot of fun activities here ranging from glacier hiking to whale watching!

Plus, the black church makes a great photo spot when the Northern lights appear!

the black church of budir with red and purple and green northern lights visible above

At Hotel Budir, the rooms are more cozy than modern, but the overall feel is a really charming guesthouse with comfortable shared areas.

Rooms enjoy either mountain views, ocean views, or lava field views!

There’s an on-site restaurant serving Icelandic food including seafood and lamb dishes.

Everything pairs beautifully with wines picked by the in-house sommelier, with views of the Budir estuary — and hopefully some Northern lights.

Budir is in a great location with little light pollution making it a great option for Northern lights viewing.

And yes, they also offer aurora wake-up calls so you’ll never miss the show!

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Best Northern Lights Hotels in Southern Iceland

Hotel Rangá – Book Here

Located in the charming town of Hella (a name which warms my Northern Californian heart), Hotel Rangá is widely considered to be one of the top Northern lights hotels in Iceland.

For one, its remote location near the Rangá River provides epically dark skies free of light pollution, perfect for observing the aurora borealis.

Hotel Rangá has aurora spotters working through the night and they offer you wake-up calls for when the Northern lights begin dancing overhead.

They’ll turn off all the lights in the hotel then to maximize the viewing experience!

And what better way to enjoy the Northern lights than by sitting in an outdoor hot tub and watching them dance above you?

view of the northern lights in the sky with lots of stars and a snowybackdrop at a northern lights hotel in iceland

There’s nothing quite like enjoying the contrast of cold air on your face and hot water bubbling on your body.

Besides its aurora watching potential, Hotel Rangá also has its very own stargazing observatory — literally!

Hotel Rangá’s observatory features a retractible roof with two high-caliber telescopes for watching the night sky.

Even if the aurora doesn’t do its thing, as long as you have clear skies, you’ll be amazed by the beautiful stars you can see from this remote observatory.

Lastly, Hotel Rangá is just an all-around solid luxury hotel.

Rooms feature amenities such as spa baths, balconies with views of nearby Mount Hekla or the Rangá River, or the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

There’s also an on-site restaurant that serves stunning gourmet Nordic food, inspired by local ingredients but given a modern update, with an all-organic menu.

Check rates, availability, reviews, and photos here!

ION Adventure Hotel – Book Here

This hotel is one of the most well-known Northern lights hotels in Iceland due to its beautiful architecture!

The stunning ION Adventure Hotel is located atop a mountain, Mount Hengill, with views of Lake Thingvallavatn below.

The hotel has a very unique modern design that emerges from the natural landscape in a beautiful way, and the rooms enjoy a similar modern design.

a green spiral of the northern lights in the winter scenery of iceland

The most unique perk of the hotel is the stunning outdoor plunge pool which is kept at 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) year-round.

Yes, you can watch the aurora borealis from the geothermal pool!

The shared lounge also features floor-to-ceiling windows all around with a completely unobstructed view from the mountain top.

This way, you can enjoy epic aurora views from the lounge even if you don’t want to be outside.

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Frost and Fire Hotel – Book Here

Another great Northern lights hotel in Iceland is Frost and Fire Hotel, located in Hveragerði and its beautiful geothermal springs.

It’s just a 30-minute drive from Reykjavik yet it feels a world away, with its peaceful riverside location.

This hotel has an outdoor pool, two different hot tubs, and a sauna for guests to enjoy in the stunning natural scenery.

person wearing a hat and jacket and putting their arms up in the sky as the aurora dances overhead

The rooms are bright and airy, utilizing modern décor elements and artwork from local Icelandic artists.

Many rooms have large windows facing the river which offers the potential for some great Northern lights views.

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon – Book Here

The stunning Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is a great choice when you’re visiting South Iceland and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon area. It’s a can’t-miss along the typical Ring Road route.

Fosshotel is an Icelandic chain of hotels of excellent quality (I’ve stayed in two!), but the Glacier Lagoon location may be one of the best.

Not only is it close to the stunning glacier lagoon where icebergs float in pretty turquoise waters, but the hotel itself offers a deluxe Northern lights watching experience.

northern lights in red and green colors flashing over the glacier lagoon in iceland

The rooms feature large and well-placed windows, so you can watch the Northern lights dance from bed or even the bathtub!

Amenities include 24/7 reception, a Northern lights wake-up call upon request, hot tubs, sauna, and a delicious on-site restaurant.

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

360 Hotel and Thermal Baths – Book Here

Located in Selfoss, 360 Hotel and Thermal Baths is a sustainable property in a fantastic location close to many of Southern Iceland’s best attractions.

The hotel features its own private spa area with a pool heated by geothermal springs, as well as a sauna area and relaxation lounge with a roaring fire.

It’s a great place to warm up in between aurora spotting attempts!

view of the streaky green northern lights over the mountains and landscape

The bedrooms feature large windows that face the bed, so you can sometimes see the Northern lights right from your hotel room!

Guests raved about the kind staff, delicious food, and adorable dogs who live on the site.

So if you, like me, are the kind of person who book a hotel purely based on the pets who ‘help’ run the show… this is a must-stay when you visit Iceland.

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Hotel Kría – Book Here

One of the best Northern lights hotels in Vik, a popular base for South Iceland and Ring Road road trips, Hotel Kría offers stunning views great for when the Northern lights make their appearance.

Located a mere 5-minute walk away from Vik’s famous black sand beach, Hotel Kría is a wonderful modern hotel with all the amenities you’d want for a comfortable stay.

It even has a game room with ping pong and darts and an on-site bar!

northern lights as seen from vik's famous black sand beach with its rock formations

Rooms feature a modern design and come equipped with WiFi, LCD TVs with satellite cable, electric kettles, desk areas, and en-suite bathrooms.

The rooms also have large windows that go from the floor to the ceiling so you can enjoy the views of the mountains nearby as well as the aurora if it makes an appearance during your stay!

The dining area also includes extremely high ceilings and large windows, so it’s also a good place to watch the lights from indoors!

There’s a daily breakfast buffet that is included in your stay, with local products featured and vegetarian options available.

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Magma Hotel – Book Here

The small but luxurious Magma Hotel is located in the middle of a beautiful lava field.

This stunning hotel has but 25 rooms, allowing for a personalized experience.

The rooms utilize Nordic design elements and all have their own private patio, where you can admire the lake and the lava field.

Both of these landscapes make an excellent backdrop if the Northern lights make their appearance!

brilliantly colorful landscape with northern lights in bright colors over a mountain

The rooms are also unique in that each room is its own little turf roof cottage.

In a sense, it’s like the hotel blends seamlessly into the natural landscape if you are looking from afar.

Because Magma Hotel is so far from light pollution, if there is solar activity and the Northern lights make an appearance, you will get a great view!

There’s also a delicious on-site restaurant, Bistro 1783, which serves breakfast and dinner daily.

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Best Northern Lights Hotels in Eastern Iceland

Aurora Cabins – Book Here

Located close to Höfn near to the Eastfjords region, Aurora Cabins are a great place to see the Northern lights in the East Iceland area.

This property has four private wooden cabins that have been recently renovated so that they are very cozy.

Still, they are still removed enough away from Höfn and the main roads so that you won’t experience any light pollution while you’re here.

bright aurora in green and purple-red colors over the stokknes land formation in iceland

The cabins have amenities like a kitchen as well as an outdoor grill, comfortable beds, seating areas, and well-equipped modern bathrooms.

You’ll love the view of the mountains and glaciers behind you.

They make an especially stunning photo backdrop if the aurora appears during your stay at this Northern lights hotel in Iceland’s eastern region!

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Fosshotel Eastfjords – Book Here

Many travelers in Iceland don’t go further east than Vik, which is a real shame because the Eastfjords region is so beautiful!

However, hotels do get fewer and further between in this region, and they tend to be a little more spartan and not as focused on interesting luxury amenities or boutique offerings.

That said, Fosshotel Eastfjords stands out as one of the better options for hotels in Eastern Iceland.

aurora over a peaceful water in a fjord in iceland

Located on the Fáskrúðs fjord, this can be a stunning backdrop for the aurora if it graces the sky during your stay.

There is an on-site restaurant located on a floating pier with a great view of the harbor and the fjord, which is an especially scenic setting in the winter!

Check rates, availability, photos, and reviews here!

Best Glass Hotels, Arctic Domes & Unique Northern Lights Hotels in Iceland

Panorama Glass Lodge – Book Here

While there are several ‘glass hotel’-style Northern lights hotels in Norway and Finland, these types of hotels are still few and far between in Iceland… though there are a few!

One such hotel is the stunning Panorama Glass Lodge, which has individual cabins that are half wooden (for the bathroom and kitchen area) with the bedroom area having 270-degree glass ceiling windows.

This way, you can enjoy the Northern Lights for the most stunning panoramic views you can enjoy without ever needing to leave your toasty bed!

The interior of these cabins are delightfully modern, with Nordic design influences throughout. The bathrooms are especially modern and stylish, with a rain shower, heated towel rack, heated floors, and beautiful modern chandelier lighting to create a cozy ambiance.

Best of all? Each little cabin has its own hot tub attached to the deck of the cabin, so you can enjoy the Northern lights from your own personal hot tub. There are also private saunas available for use!

One thing to note, though — you must have a 4×4 in order to access the Panorama Glass Lodge, as it is rather remote and deep in the Icelandic countryside.

Currently, they only have one location, near Hella, but another glass lodge is being constructed in Akranes, between Reykjavik and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

Check rates, availability, reviews, and photos here!

Bubble Hotel – Book Here

The only true Iceland igloo hotel, the Bubble Hotel (which also calls itself the “5 Million Star Hotel”) offers a unique opportunity to sleep under the stars — or aurora, if you’re lucky! — with a 360-degree panoramic view of the forest and night sky above you.

These glass igloos are quite minimalistic — we’re talking a bed, heating, and that’s about it — but there are amenities on-site to make up for it.

There is a service house for all guests to use, with a kitchen, two toilets, and two showers.

If visiting in the summer, you can book accommodation only, but if you book it in winter, the hotel is only available via a guided tour.

There are two tour options: either the Golden Circle (Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gulfoss, and the Secret Lagoon) or the South Coast (Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach).

There are two different Bubble Hotels: the Golden Circle location has nine bubbles whereas the South Coast one has just six.

Either way, it’s very private and a very unique experience, though because you have to book it as a tour it can be rather expensive!

Check rates, availability, reviews, and photos here!

Sky Sightseeing Iglúhús – Book Here

This unique igloo house is located 20 miles from Akureyri in Northern Iceland, making it a great option to be close to one of the larger Icelandic cities but also far enough away that you won’t experience light pollution from the city.

Sky Sightseeing Iglúhús is special in that it is a wooden igloo with glass panel skylights (10 in hotel) that allow you to see the Northern lights dancing above you!

It’s not a full-on glass igloo like the two options above or like what you’ve seen in Norway or Finland, but it does have a bit of the igloo experience and is also just a unique, cozy property.

If you’re worried about comfort — don’t! Everyone raved about how warm the wooden igloo was and also about the delicious hot breakfast that the host delivered to them the next morning!

Check rates, availability, reviews, and photos here!

Reykjavik Domes – Book Here

If you want to stay near Reykjavik but have a bit of the glamping experience, Reykjavik Domes is a fantastic choice.

These glamping tents are perfect for seeing the Northern lights because despite their proximity to Reykjavik, they are far enough out in the countryside to still have enough darkness to see the aurora properly.

No hotel in the city center can really grant you that, unless it’s an extremely strong aurora.

The Reykjavik Domes have a shared kitchen and WiFi, so you’re not totally on your own like you would be if you were camping!

In the winter, the glamping tents can be heated by a wood-fired stove, and some domes even have a private bathroom complete with their very own hot tub — the perfect place to watch the lights dance in the cool winter air!

Check rates, availability, reviews, and photos here!

15 Things to Know Before Booking an ATM Cave Tour

Deep in a cave in Belize’s interior jungle is a sacred Mayan burial site, where the remains of 14 human sacrifices have been found.

To get there, you’ll have to swim through bracingly cold waters, wedge yourself between glimmering stalactites dripping down from the ceiling, and navigate using only a headlamp to see your way through the pitch-black cave.

Sound crazy? It just may be, but doing the ATM Cave tour was easily the most unique and interesting thing I did in my 10 days in Belize.

The ATM Cave is short for the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, and it’s one of the coolest things to do in Belize!

I mean, where else can you spelunk through a water-filled cave in order to find the sparkling, crystallized remains of several Mayan-age human sacrifices?

Entrance to a cave system in san ignacio belize, starting the ATM Cave tour

After a bumpy one hour drive from San Ignacio, we arrived at the parking lot for the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve in the Cayo District, where the ATM cave is located.

We walked half an hour to reach the cave entrance — including several river crossings along the way.

Once at the cave’s entrance, we swam through crystal blue waters teeming with tiny tropical fish!

Though the deep water here was cold, we warmed up quickly under the exertion of swimming wearing our clothes, socks, and sneakers — and the excitement of the experience we were about to have!

The ATM cave holds the unique distinction of being the most sacred cave in the world by National Geographic.

While my Actun Tunichil Muknal tour was one of the highlights of my trip to Belize, I still was surprised by a few things that I wish I had known in advance of my trip.

My Top 3 Picks for ATM Cave Tours

In this post I’ll go into a full guide for what to expect on your ATM Cave tour, including what to (and what not to) bring, what the experience is like, and my tips for making it an enjoyable trip.

That said, if you’re in a hurry, here are my 3 quick picks for the best ATM cave tours out there — with the tour I personally did right at the top.

#1 TOP PICK

people walking in knee-deep turquoise water through a cave system

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
ATM Cave Tour and Picnic Lunch
✔️ The exact tour that I did when in Belize — incredible guides!
✔️ Lunch & rum punch included after the tour

↳ Book it

#2 PICK

interior of the atm cave with stalactites and other marvelous features

ATM Cave Full Day Tour
✔️ 8 hour tour with local guide, equipment rental, & transport
✔️ Lunch & rum punch included

↳ Book it

#3 PICK

people swimming in the cave in the atm cave tour

ATM Cave Tour with Local Lunch
✔️Free pick-up in San Ignacio (small surcharge for hotels outside city)
✔️ Riverside lunch and water bottle included (alcohol extra)

↳ Book it

Where & When To Book Your ATM Cave Tour

view of stalagmites and stalactites inside the atm cave

Access to the ATM Cave is strictly limited based on a permitting system.

Each tour guide can only take so many tourists with them to keep groups small and manageable.

The guides also go through extensive training to be up-to-date on all safety protocols as well as the history and geology of the cave.

This is also done so that the tour guides can ensure that the artifacts in the cave are being protected after some damages were caused by a few careless tourists.

You should book your ATM Cave tour immediately upon knowing that you want to do it, so that you don’t lose the chance to do one of the best things in San Ignacio on a day trip!

Since it’s 2023 and travel plans need to be extra flexible, I suggest booking with a company that offers lenient cancellation policies.

The exact tour that I did is available on Viator with a 24-hour free cancellation policy!

This price is the same online on Viator as it is on their website, but their cancellation policy is a lot stricter (e.g., you must cancel within 30 days to get a “full refund” but even that is minus a 30% cancelation fee!)

Because of that, I highly recommend booking through a third party to take advantage of a better cancellation policy in case your plans change.

Book your ATM Cave Tour with Viator for full cancellation protection!

What to Know Before Doing an ATM Cave Tour

You’ll have to wear clothing as well as your bathing suit

The ATM Cave was considered a sacred site by the Mayans, who often used caves for their religious rituals.

This is why it’s also given the name Cave of the Stone Sepulchre, since it houses several human remains.

That same deference is still given today, so you will be required to wear clothing over your bathing suit out of respect, and to go bare foot when traversing the fragile burial sites.

Cameras are strictly not permitted inside the cave

interior of the cave system in belize on an atm cave tour

Similarly, you are no longer allowed to bring cameras…. after a tourist dropped his camera on one of the skulls, putting a large hole in it.

Because of this bone-headed (pardon the pun) move, cameras are now banned from all Actun Tunichil Muknal cave tours.

While there was an initial first thought that I was bummed I wouldn’t be able to photograph it for myself, I have to say, I’m happy for the camera ban.

Not having a camera forced me to live in the moment rather than trying to capture the magic of Actun Tunichil Muknal for the blog.

Luckily Maya Walk provided me with photos to use for this post (note: all photo credit belongs to them)

An ATM Cave tour is way more intense than it sounds

The ATM Cave was extremely narrow at some points!

Sometimes, you’d have to angle your head just so to make sure you could squeeze through a crack in the cave’s walls, dipping nearly up to your shoulders in cold cave water.

While I found it to add to the excitement, it’s definitely not an adventure for the severely claustrophobic.

There were times when you had to angle your body and head just right to get through a small break between the rocks.

At one point I even slid, waterslide-style, down a small stream to get into a wider pool.

But it’s not too claustrophobic the entire time

People walking inside the main atrium with huge crystals in the ATM cave in belize

While there were times in the tour that felt quite intense, narrow and dark and cramped, the majority of the time you’ll have plenty of space to walk through.

It’s usually just one cramped bottleneck that you have to get through and then you’ll be in a larger, open area.

At other times in the tour, the cave was so wide you almost felt as if you were walking into completely nature-made atrium, with crystalline stalactites dripping like icicles from the ceiling!

Still, it’s not a walk in the park

Prepare for a 45-minute hike through the jungle (wearing no bug spray / insect repellent or sunscreen, as both can damage the fragile cave ecosystem).

You’ll also have to swim/wade across three big yet calm rivers in between.

The first crossing comes about 5 minutes into the walk, so that basically your entire hike is in soaked shoes (which is fine if you have water shoes, but I did the hike in my sneakers!) and wet clothes.

Then there’s two more river crossings… and that’s just to reach the entrance of the cave!

Once we arrived at the cave system, we swam, walked, and squeezed our way through nearly 1 kilometer into the center of Actun Tunichil Muknal.

There, we had to climb up few big rocks to get to a series of large “rooms” in the cave.

Our guide was helpful, pointing out where we should place our hands and feet and provided a safety guide.

You’ll see much more than just skeletons on the ATM cave tour

The broken remains of pottery left behind by the Mayan civilization while exploring in ATM cave Belize

While there’s a lot of hype about the human sacrifices you’ll find in the cave, the other ancient artifacts and the stories behind them are equally interesting.

In my opinion, the artifacts and the actual physical geography of the cave itself are some of the best parts!

One of the coolest things about this tour was seeing the archaeological site in the cathedral-like main hall or atrium of the cave, which helped us learn about the burial rituals of the ancient Mayan people.

In the large ‘room’ of the cave, our guide pointed out shards of pottery from as far back as 700 CE scattering all over the cave and up its walls, some high up on ledges to protect them from the flow of water.

It turns out the pottery was broken on purpose, rather than by fragility or aging.

The Maya people believed that they needed to break the pottery in order to release the spirit of the person and allow their soul to rest in the afterlife.

Still, the human remains are pretty freaking incredible

Remains of a human skeleton in the ATM cave at the end of the tour, with crystallized formations

That said, much of the intrigue of the ATM Cave tour comes from seeing the skeletal remains of the sacrifices in person.

The first human remain you’ll encounter is the skull of a young nobleman. Mayan nobles practiced body modification, particularly head shaping.

They placed boards on the foreheads of newborns of high stature to shape their foreheads. One single filed tooth remains on this skull with the misshapen forehead, further evidence of his nobility.

Though we may gasp at this now, consider the fact that women today inject themselves with botulism and stuff silicone in their bodies in pursuit of beauty, and you’ll realize we aren’t so far off from the Mayans.

Seeing the skull of a sacrificed child nearby, however, is a little harder to chalk up to moral relativism.

The final room in the cave complex is where you’ll see the ATM Cave’s most famous resident

Here, you’ll find the intact skeleton of a young boy completely covered in travertine deposits.

Eerily, they sparkle and shimmer like diamonds in the light of your headlamp.

The cave’s geology is nothing to ignore, either

Even if it weren’t for the rich mythological and archaelogical importance of the cave, the ATM Cave would be worth visiting for its geological beauty alone.

Walking through the caves, I wouldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the cave’s stalagmites and stalactites, coming together at times to form columns over the course of centuries.

No wonder the Mayans felt something when they were in this place: it’s a Mayan underworld of sorts, disconnected from both heaven and earth.

An ATM Cave tour is a spiritual experience

Close up of the skull which was damaged by a tourist in the ATM cave system

Seeing the light of day again after traversing our way back through the cave, I felt something inside me change.

I’ve never been a particularly spiritual person, but I felt deeply moved by seeing the way people from long ago lived, believed, and ultimately died.

Although human sacrifice is understandably seen as barbaric today, the Mayans who worshiped in the ATM ceremonial caves were responding to fears and mythology in a way that made sense for their time.

Anthropologists and archaeologists now have evidence to suggest that the Mayan civilization ended because of a prolonged drought.

The ATM Cave provides some proof of that. Geologists are able to see periods of drought quite literally crystallized into Actun Tunichil Muknal itself.

Perhaps the Mayans, fearing for their culture’s future, sacrificed these nobles and children in a failed attempt to save their civilization itself from the ravages of drought.

In the face of our current and coming climate change, this hits a particularly resonant note.

It also resonates because the ATM Cave, too, is at great risk. While the Mayan civilization likely ended due to drought, Actun Tunichil Muknal and the Mayan ruins within it could likely meet the inverse fate.

Flash flooding caused by more frequent and powerful hurricanes could destroy what remains of ATM Cave.

Hurricane Earl, which slammed Belize in 2016, luckily did not cause any lasting damage to the cave, but who knows what the future of stronger storms could bring?

There are strict limits on tourism — for good reason.

While tourists offer promise to the preservation of ATM Cave, they also threaten its future. The governing body which protects the cave has put up precautionary protocols. 

They limit the visitors to 125 per day, in groups of 8. All guides are required to be licensed and entering without a guide is strictly prohibited. 

After a tourist damaged one of the skulls, cameras were banned, to mitigate the risk of further damage to cave system.

It is important to tour ATM Cave with licensed and ethical tour guides, who do not risk damaging ATM Cave to amuse their clients, like allowing cameras or other prohibited items or activities. 

Basically, choose a well-respected tour and follow their rules.

As a result of the limited number of places available for the ATM cave tour, prices don’t fluctuate much — demand is always higher than supply.

During peak season, you will want to reserve in advance to ensure you have a spot, as once those 125 spots are booked, the tour is full for the day everywhere legitimate.

You can book your tour in advance here with the company I went with and recommend!

It’s best to bring the right clothes from home

People walking in the water while doing an ATM cave tour of Belize in the jungle of Cayo district

While you can buy certain things you need on the ground in Belize, you’ll find them overpriced compared to home.

At the least, you’ll want a pair of water-resistant shoes (here’s a pair I recommend for women, and one I recommend for men).

I did it in my sneakers and was miserable for it – but I also didn’t know I wanted to do the ATM cave tour until I was halfway into my 4-month Central America backpacking trip, so I couldn’t pack appropriately.

A few other things you’ll need: a pair of quick-drying socks, a bathing suit, and a change of clothes for afterwards.

Your guide should have a dry bag for anything like cameras and phones in case you want to take photos during the 45-minute hike to and from the mouth of the cave, but don’t count on it.

You won’t need sunscreen or bug spray since you’re not allowed to wear either in the cave to protect the fragile ecosystems and geology.

Just wear clothing that covers your body such as a loose, lightweight linen shirt like this one (women’s / men’s) as that will offer your skin protection without harming the environment.

Eat a big breakfast beforehand

You don’t eat lunch until after you finish the tour.

Definitely make sure you eat a hearty meal beforehand, as the Belize cave tour is about 3-4 hours of physical activity which can range anywhere from easy at times to physically quite strenuous.

It may be a good idea to bring some nuts or energy bars (I like these ones for travel!) with you.

That way, you can snack before your hike into the jungle to keep your energy levels up, if you’re like me and are prone to blood sugar crashes.

It’s a full-day tour, lasting about 8-9 hours, so you’ll need the energy.

Don’t count it out if you’re not a strong swimmer

Swim in the ATM cave in Belize

There’s actually very little swimming involved on an ATM Cave tour and all of the swimming sections have a rope for you to hang onto.

Many tour companies will also provide life jackets for you to feel more comfortable as well.

If you’re tall, you may even be able to stand nearly the whole time. If you don’t know how to swim, but also don’t panic when you’re in water, you should be totally fine on a Belize cave tour.

However, it’s not for people who are afraid of the dark or claustrophobic!

While the swimming is minimal and you don’t need an insanely high level of fitness to do it, what you do need is to feel comfortable during the tour.

I have general anxiety in general, with a very slight amount of claustrophobia and a small fear of the dark.

I was fine on this tour, personally, though I had a few nervous moments.

However, if I had more severe claustrophobia, I definitely could not have completed this tour. It’s a bit more of a psychological journey rather than physical, and it’s not easy.

You will be given a helmet with a headlamp on it, so you really won’t be in pitch blackness, but still – it won’t be bright, either, obviously!

There is a point as well where your guide will ask you to turn off all headlamps, which was a little spooky for me, but I was able to handle it.

Use discretion when deciding if it’s right for kids

I’ve been asked by many people if this Belize cave tour is appropriate for young children, and to that my only answer is “whose kids?”

Your kids need to be able to A) not be afraid of the dark B) swim or hold a rope comfortably enough and C) be able to walk and swim and be physically active for about 4 hours consecutively.

I’d say at a bare minimum your kid needs to be 8+ and an easygoing traveler who is used to going on short hikes and swims. Any younger than that and I think your kid would struggle.

Be aware that trips are dependent on weather!

This famous cave’s safety is entirely dependent on water levels and therefore the weather.

The cave system is susceptible to flooding in extreme conditions (like hurricanes and tropical storms), but still, if there is any hint of bad weather, your ATM cave tour will be canceled for everyone’s safety.

And after the Thai cave rescue has been seared into everyone’s minds, that’s something we’re probably all grateful for — their abundance of caution!

As a result I recommend booking it for earlier on in your trip so that you can reschedule if necessary!

Click here to book your tour in advance

Finally, tours run every day of the year and are run by the same tour guides every day, as very few people own these licenses.

As a result, most guides work 7 days a week basically all year long!

Thank them for their hard work by tipping. I recommend at least $10 USD / 20 Belizean dollars per person, but $20 USD is better if you can spare it.

Note: Thank you to Maya Walk for permitting me to use these photos in this post after doing my tour with them! 

The 4 Best Tromso Whale Watching Tours, Ranked (& Key Things to Know!)

tale of a whale diving in norway

In Tromso, you’ll see the flashing aurora in brilliant hues of lime and fuchsia swirling overhead at night.

By day, you can visit glistening blue ice hotels by day, dog sled through frozen landscapes with fjords in the background, or meet Sami reindeer herders.

I’m ready to re-book another ticket to Tromsø just writing that.

Put simply, Tromsø in winter is one of the most magical destinations I can think of.

winter landscape of the city of tromso as seen at night when the lights in the city start to twinkle on and change the city into its night scene

One of the main people flock to Tromsø in winter is to have a chance to go whale watching in one of the best destinations in the world to see two of the most magical whales in their natural habitats: orcas and humpback whales.

However, there are a lot of things that people don’t know about whale watching in Tromsø, and this post is dedicated to demystifying that, so you know exactly what to expect on your Tromsø whale watching tour.

I’ve gone whale watching in nearly a dozen countries around the world, but whale watching in Tromsø is quite different, so even if you’ve gone whale watching before, you’ll want to read this post!

The Best Whale Watching Tours in Tromsø

TOP RECOMMENDATION: Whale Watching From Skjervoy in a RIB Boat

orcas in low light in skjervoy with rib boats in background

Why is this my top recommendation? It’s perfect for people prone to seasickness, because you skip the 3-hour each-way boat ride on the rough open seas.

Instead, this Skjervoy RIB boat tour includes a 3.5-hour bus transfer from Tromso to Skjervoy, so you spend less time on the choppy ocean. Much more comfortable than a 3-hour rough boat ride!

Once you arrive in the Kvaenangen Fjord feeding grounds near Skjervoy, the waters are significantly less choppy, though you’ll probably still want to take some Dramamine so you can focus on the wonderful whale watching!

It also gives you more time out with the whales: about 2.5 hours of whale watching as opposed to 1-1.5 hours that most other tours allow.

Best of all, you get to travel in a RIB boat (rigid inflatable boat) that can carry no more than twelve people. This makes it one of the most ethical tour options.

This is the least intrusive way to see whales in their natural habitat, and you’ll also enjoy the fact that the small boat means that you’ll get better views of the whales without having to fight or jostle for a better view the way you might on a big boat.

Admittedly, this is a more expensive tour due to the bus transfer and the very small boat size, but I think it’s well-worth it (especially if you are prone to seasickness like I am).

Another benefit of this tour that I think offsets the cost is that you get to enjoy a 2.5-hour whale watching excursion once you arrive at Skjervoy.

Normally, the other cruises say they’re 7 hours, but that really only allows for one hour of actual whale watching once you arrive at the Skjervoy area.

This small group tour actually allows for several hours of whale watching, giving you optimal conditions to get the perfect view or the perfect photo!

The tour also includes lunch of sandwiches and hot drinks after the whale-watching cruise, before you return to Tromso.

Book your RIB boat excursion to Skjervoy here!

BEST-RATED BUDGET CHOICE: All-Inclusive Whale Watching & Birding Cruise

This all-inclusive 8-hour whale safari tour is my top budget-friendly recommendation from Tromso.

You’ll make your way to Skjervoy in a comfortable boat, led by an expert guide who can identify sea life as you make the long trek to Skjervoy — about 3 hours out on the open sea.

On the way through the Tromso fjord, you’ll have the chance to see sea eagles, guillimots, harbor porpoises, eider ducks, cormorants, and of course — once you get out to Skjervoy, humpback whales and killer whales!

You’ll also learn about why this part of Northern Norway is a particular haven for these whale species, who thrive on the herring and plankton-rich waters.

There’s a comfortable indoor area with heat, as well as an outdoor deck where you can seat while you search for whales and other Arctic wildlife.

You’ll be treated to snacks, hot beverages like tea or coffee, and you’ll have access to a thermal suit so you can whale watch comfortably, no matter what the weather!

Check availability and book your all-inclusive whale safari tour here!

ECO BUDGET CHOICE: Whale Watching Tour by Hybrid Electric Catamaran

orca in pale light with birds around

This budget-friendly whale watching trip option uses a hybrid electric engine in order to be more eco-friendly when approaching the whales.

The silent hybrid engine means that this Tromso whale watching tour will allow you to get up close and personal to these wild animals in a way that does not disturb them while you’re sightseeing.

As a bonus, the quietness of the engine makes these marine mammals more likely to come up closer to the boat so you can see them easier!

There are indoor lounges with hot beverages you can enjoy while you take the 3 hour boat trip out to Skjervoy.

Book your electric catamaran whale watching excursion with Brim Explorer here!

ANOTHER BUDGET CHOICE: Fjord Cruise & Whale Safari

orca in the water near tromso fjord in skjervoy

There’s no denying that Tromso is a pricy place to visit, and if you’re on a budget, you’ll probably want to cut expenses, so if you still really want to do a whale watching tour, this is the lowest-priced option.

It isn’t, however, my favorite, and I’ll explain why.

This catamaran cruise brings you from Tromsø city center through the fjord, passing by beautiful Arctic landscapes along the way.

Your guides will show you other fjord wildlife — you may get to see harbor porpoises or perhaps even the elusive and gorgeous sea eagle!

There are indoor and outdoor viewing decks, so if you get cold, you can stay inside and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. There is also a kiosk on the boat where you can grab something to eat if you’re hungry.

You’ll also be given a thermal suit to wear on the boat so don’t worry about getting too cold — you’ll be kept nice and toasty!

The boat ride to Skjervoy takes about 2.5-3 hours each way. Once you arrive at Skjervoy, you’ll have about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on weather conditions, to watch the whales feed and interact in the wild.

However, this cruise can sometimes be done on a boat that can fit 144 passengers which is why I don’t really recommend it.

Sometimes they’ll go on smaller boats, but there’s a statistically pretty high chance you’ll end up on a huge boat, and that’s usually not that fun.

Another gripe some past guests had is that they only really had about 15-30 minutes of whale watching once they arrived in Skjervoy after such a long journey, so it felt like a bit of a let down when it came to the whale watching experience side of things.

Book your whale watching catamaran cruise here!

13 Things to Know Before Whale Watching in Tromsø

There is a very limited window for whale watching.

A whale tail going underwater with the background being snow fjord landscape

Whale watching season in Tromso only runs from November through January.

Come any earlier than November and the tours likely won’t start yet — come any later than January and the whales will have likely left.

The period from mid-November to mid-January is the most certain for whale watching sightings, but you will also be dealing with the least amount of light at this time.

You will have limited light hours for whale watching.

Pastel lighting in Tromso with two orcas coming for air above the water

Unfortunately, November to January is also the period with the shortest hours of true daylight in Northern Norway, including a long stretch of “polar night” where the sun does not rise above the horizon in the Arctic Circle.

Technically, polar night lasts between November 27 and January 15, but because of the mountains surrounding Tromso you usually won’t see the sun rise between November 21 to January 21 — two whole months without a proper sunrise!

However, while you won’t experience a true sunrise or sunset, you will get more of the “twilight hours” that offer beautiful pastel light. (You can check the actual sunrise/sunset and twilight hours time here)

Expect about 5-6 hours of ‘civil twilight’ (between roughly 9 AM and 3 PM) where you can see fairly easily, but there is no sun in the sky: think of the light quality just before sunrise or just after sunset, and that’s what you’ll see.

So don’t expect pitch blackness — you will absolutely be able to experience whale sightings without any artificial light like lanterns or headlamps!

Think pretty pinkish-purple pastel skies with whales feeding in the distance — pretty magical, right?

Research and prepare your camera for low-light photography.

Allison's hand in a puffy jacket, while holding onto a camera that is very covered in ice crystals
The cold can wear out your camera batteries when in the Arctic, so bring extra!

You will want to get comfortable with whatever camera you are using before you leave for Tromso, especially photographing in low light settings.

Photographing wildlife can be hard in lower-light settings because you need a fast shutter speed to capture their movement. I suggest a minimum shutter speed of 1/500, but 1/1000 is even better if possible.

From there, you’ll need to balance aperture and ISO. I recommend having the highest aperture possible on your camera (the lowest f number), and then picking the lowest possible ISO that will also allow you still have enough light to capture the whales.

If you don’t want to fiddle too much with manual settings, you can set your camera on shutter priority mode (usually designated with an S on your camera) and that will adjust the settings once you set the shutter speed.

I also suggest setting up autofocus, using a fast memory card, and enabling a ‘burst’ mode for snapping photos.

Finally, be sure to shoot in RAW because you’ll be able to pull out more detail in post-processing, even if your photos look a little dark initially.

You’ll also want to bring extra camera batteries because cold weather will definitely zap your batteries faster than expected!

The boat ride is really long.

A fishing boat surrounded by whales in Tromso area, Norway

The whales no longer feed in the waters directly near Tromso. Instead, they feed near the island of Skjervoy further out in the Atlantic.

This means that a whale watching tour from Tromso will actually need to go all the way out to Skjervoy, which takes 3 hours, before even beginning to have a hope of whale watching!

You may, of course, get to see other wildlife along the way, but it is a long boat ride. Bring some entertainment to keep you busy!

I suggest audiobooks or podcasts, or a deck of cards to play with a companion.

Once you arrive at the feeding area, you’ll usually have 1-1.5 hours of actual whale watching before making the return 3 hour voyage. That means spending 7-8 hours out at sea!

There are options where you can take a bus to Skjervoy and then take a RIB boat to get up close and personal with the whales. This is more expensive, but may be a better option if you are worried about seasickness from too much boat time.

The waters can be rough!

A whale going under the water surface in the waters outside of Tromso, Norway, while on a Tromso whale watching tour

Remember — you’ll be on the open ocean as you make your way towards Skjervoy!

The water in the fjord of Tromso is pretty calm, but once you leave the fjord, it can get really rough.

Many people report feeling seasick during their Tromso whale watching tour, so know that that’s a strong possibility.

I recommend taking the strongest Dramamine you can handle while still staying awake (although you can definitely take a nap while you are out on your way to Skjervoy).

There are also natural remedies like ginger chews and seasickness bands, if your seasickness is on the milder end.

And again, a combination boat and bus tour may be more appropriate if you are very prone to seasickness.

Wear warm clothes for your tour!

Allison Green smiling in a selfie on a wildlife cruise of Tromso

While most of the tours will provide you a thermal suit that will keep you nice and toasty warm on your tour, I also suggest dressing appropriately in warm base layers.

I suggest merino wool base layers since they are breathable yet heat-retaining as well as odor-resistant… meaning you can wear the same base layers multiple times on your trip. This streamlines both what you need to pack and buy, as well as what you need to wash!

You’ll also want wool socks and water-resistant snow boots, mittens (they are warmer than gloves!), a tight-fitting hat that warms your ears, and a scarf to keep your neck warm.

Over all that, I suggest a pair of waterproof pants since the sea spray may be quite strong if there are any stormy weather or large waves, and you will be uncomfortable if you get wet!

Finally, top it all off with a water-resistant hooded parka like this one, which I loved for my trip to Norway.

The whales can be unpredictable.

A whale tail going down below the water's surface with an orange-y dawn sky.

Even if you are traveling in peak whale season, remember that whales are wild creatures and are not there for your entertainment.

You are lucky to get to see them, and it is not a guarantee, like everything in nature!

There is a small chance that you might not get to see whales on your whale watching safari.

You might want to ask your whale watching tour company if they offer free rebooking if you don’t get to see whales on your outing — some companies do offer this.

Opt for a smaller boat where possible.

A small inflatable RIB boat with the Skjervoy landscape all around

The smaller the boat tour, the more enjoyable your tour will be. RIB boat excursions are the best because these tours are limited to twelve people, and everyone will be guaranteed a great view.

There are some tours, such as the final one on my list (which I don’t really recommend unless it’s the only available option), that fit nearly 150 people on their boats.

These tours can be stressful because people will all be trying to get the best view — imagine 150 people all wanting to be on the same side of one boat trying to get photos… not fun.

The smaller your boat tour, the easier it will be for you to see whales and get the photos you want to make memories of a lifetime!

Some boat tours are more ethical than others.

A few orcas seen surfacing above the water with dark light of early morning

On a similar token to above, these smaller boat tours are also more ethical.

Plus, loud engines (and loud crowds!) can spook the whales.

RIB boats use very quiet engines and there are also tours that use silent hybrid engines to minimize the disturbance of whales while they are feeding.

There are regulations about whale watching in Tromsø.

Landscape of the Northern Norway sea side with a small boat out on the water

Visit Tromso has created its own whale watching guidelines for tour operators to follow, taking advice from AECO and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

These guidelines were approved by external bodies, such as OceanCare, the Tethys Research Institute, and WDC – Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

First, a boat should approach slowly as soon as the boat operator is within 300 meters of whales.

Once you are 100 meters away, the boat should go at a minimal speed, and then idle completely when 50 meters away.

Boats should also move parallel to the whales, as opposed to behind, where whales may feel chased.

Boats should also avoid approaching from the front, since whales may feel intercepted and have to change direction or interrupt their natural feeding patterns.

Book your tours early!

sunrise in the harbor in tromso of lots of small sailboats

The smaller-group boat tours tend to book up pretty early since the capacity is limited and Tromso is such a popular winter destination.

Book early — if you book with a company like Get Your Guide (who I used to book all my Tromso activities), you can have free cancelation up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.

That way, you are not risking any lost money by booking ahead of time, even if your travel plans aren’t fully finalized yet.

Booking directly with companies will often get you a less flexible cancelation policy where you may only receive a credit or voucher instead of a full refund, so I use third-party agents for extra cancelation protection.

Don’t get your hopes up about seeing breeching whales.

Whale tail going down into the waters while on a Tromso whale watching tour in the waters around the Skjervoy island.

Every post uses the same stock photos of whales for a reason… because a lot of whale watching is frankly, slightly disappointing in terms of seeing the full size of the whale!

I’ve gone whale watching more times than I can actually count and I’ve never yet seen a whale breech.

It’s really not as common as the photos make it seem!

You may get to see whales jumping a bit to feed, which would be amazing to see as well!

But again, you may just get to see their tails, spouts, and backs. And that is amazing too!

Your whale watching Tromso tour may get canceled due to bad weather.

Red polar museum building with snow falling in front of it

Remember, this is the Arctic Circle — weather is unpredictable and winter storms can blow in and be rather severe!

If it is too dangerous to go out, your tour will be canceled and you will be refunded or offered a rebooking.

You may want to book your whale watching near the start of your trip so that you can rebook if necessary if it gets canceled due to weather.

There are other alternatives if the whales leave early or if your tour is canceled.

View from the dog sled over the beautiful landscapes of norway in winter

The whales may leave earlier than anticipated, but don’t worry — there are lots of other wonderful things to do in Tromso if the whales leave early!

The most similar experience is this popular fjord wildlife cruise, which takes 5 hours to explore the waters around the Tromso fjord and look for sea life. I did this tour and I loved it!

We got to see harbor porpoises, a sea eagle, and all sorts of amazing Arctic sea bird life I’ve never seen anywhere else.

You can also go dog sledding or reindeer sledding, or do other adventure activities like snowshoeing, snowmobiling, etc., or Northern lights tours!

FAQ about Whale Watching in Tromsø

Are there whales in Tromsø?

whale tale in tromso area

There used to be whales feeding in the Tromsø fjord throughout the winter — but this is no longer the case.

However, due to either overfishing, climate change, or a combination of the two, that has changed. Herring are the main food source of the whales in Norway, and now these schools of herrings are located much further out, around Skjervøy.

Skjervøy is an island located 150 kilometers from Tromsø (93 miles). So what does this mean for you as a traveler? Well, unfortunately, that means far longer boat rides just to be able to see the whales.

Most whale watching tours I’ve done, such as a humpback whale watching tour in Oahu, I was able to see the whales just a short distance from the departure point, and the whale watching tour lasted about 2 hours.

However, in Tromsø, whale watching tours take about a minimum of 7-8 hours. Most of this time is just getting out to Skjervøy.

Is Tromsø good for whale watching?

Despite the whales being quite far from Tromsø itself, that doesn’t mean you should cross Tromsø off your list!

If you want to see orcas (aka killer whales) in their natural habitat, this is the best place to do so! There are very few places that you can see orcas in the wild so reliably, so don’t miss the opportunity.

What are the most common whales in Tromsø?

The two most common whales you’ll see on a whale safari in Tromsø are humpback whales and orca whales (killer whales).

These two species really gravitate to the waters around Skjervøy to fill up on herring before they make their migration south to warmer waters.

You may also get to see harbor porpoises or fin whales!

What time of year can you see whales in Norway?

view from the top of tromso's cable car

The whale watching season in Norway is rather short: from November to January. By the first week of February, the whale watching season is usually over, and boat tours will cease operating.

That said — this can fluctuate depending on other factors, such as the presence of the herring in the waters and the temperature of the water, so these are guidelines as opposed to hard-and-fast rules.

Whale Watching in Tromso in November

The whales tend to arrive in the fjords outside of Skjervoy around the end of October, so November is typically a safe month for whale watching. The seas may also be a little less rough at this time.

However, if whale watching is very important to you, you may want to come a little later in the month of November to make sure you don’t arrive earlier than the whales!

Whale Watching in Tromso in December

The whales are well settled in by December, and December is one of the best times to see orcas and humpback whales near Tromso.

You are almost guaranteed a whale sighting if you whale watch in December!

Whale Watching in Tromso in January

January is typically a pretty safe month for whale watching as well, although by the end of the month, the whale numbers may start to dwindle and you may not have as much luck.

For the best luck seeing whales in January in Tromso, I would aim more towards the beginning or middle of the month.

Whale Watching in Tromso in February

While technically whale watching season goes into the first week of February, it is ending earlier and earlier each year.

I would not recommend banking on seeing whales in Tromso in February, even in the first week.

What is the best month to visit Tromso?

Allison Green sitting in bed at a ice hotel
Sitting on one of the beds at the Tromso Ice Domes, a great Northern lights spotting destination!

Polar night (when the sun does not rise above the horizon) overlaps with most of whale watching season.

If you want a chance to see the sun and also whales, I would suggest the period around the first two weeks of November.

However, you run the risk of there not being a lot of snow accumulation by this point, and so other activities such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, etc. may not be possible, and the Tromso Ice Dome won’t be ready yet.

Typically, dog sledding season is November through April, but I’ve seen from friends who live in Tromso that some years, there has not been significant snow fall until December… meaning that snow-reliant activities have had to be canceled.

Similarly, the Tromso Ice Domes aren’t constructed until around December 10 each year.

For the best chance of being able to do as many winter activities as possible, mid-January is the best time of year to visit.

How close can you get to whales in Tromsø?

whales in tromso

Boats are not supposed to get any closer than 50 meters (about 160 feet) to the whales… but the whales may have other ideas!

Whales may approach boats since they are curious creatures, but boats should absolutely not try to get closer to the whales.

How long do whale watching boat tours take in Tromsø?

Allison in a thermal suit in a catamaran in the dark

Allocate a baseline of 7-8 hours for any proper whale watching tour. Anything shorter than that will not get you out to Skjervoy where you need to be to see humpback whales and orcas.

That means it’ll likely be dark on the way there and back, but you’ll have some light hours in between!

The trip to Skjervoy takes about 2.5 hours each way, leaving you about 1 to 1.5 hours to watch the whales before returning back to Tromso.

If you take a bus tour combined with a RIB boat tour (what I recommend), that is actually more like a 12-hour day because the bus ride to Skjervoy is about 3.5 hours each way.

There’s also an overnight option to do a bus tour to Skjervoy, RIB boat tour, and then spend the night in a crystal lavvo under the aurora sky!

What are the best whale watching tours in Tromsø?

Basically, the smaller the boat, the better it is both for your own enjoyment of the experience and for minimal disruption on the feeding behaviors of the whales.

Additionally, you’ll want to decide if you want to take a bus to Skjervoy and then a RIB boat, or if you want to take a boat cruise the entire way.

There are benefits and drawbacks. For the former, it’s a lot less prone to seasickness and you’ll get to enjoy whale watching far more up-close and personal. However, it’s more expensive because it’s a smaller group.

For the latter, a boat cruise can be really rough on sensitive stomachs and many people experience seasickness out on on the open seas towards the island of Skjervoy.

However, you will also get the chance to see the Tromso fjord from the water and also get to enjoy some birding and sightseeing.

Where to Stay in Tromso

Colorful houses in Tromso Norway with snow all over the place

Accommodation will be one of the pricier parts of your trip to Tromso, so be sure to budget accordingly.

Expect to spend, even on the budget end of things, approximately $150 USD per night at a minimum, and around $300 per night for upper-tier accommodations.

Budget

Hands down, the best budget option in Tromso is Smarthotel Tromso.

It’s central and has 24 hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, some food available in the lobby.

 Check availability and prices here

Mid-Range

If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice.

Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in, and the location couldn’t be better.

 Check availability and prices here

Luxury

One of the nicest hotels in Tromso is the Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora for its harborfront location and its incredible rooftop jacuzzi.

Rooms are luxurious and modern with updated bathrooms, and the facilities include a gym, free afternoon coffee with waffles, and a light evening meal as part of your stay.

Check rates and reviews here

DON’T FORGET ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE!

When planning any trip, especially a winter trip, be sure not to forget about travel insurance!

I use SafetyWing and its Nomad Insurance to insure all of my trips for its affordable rates and comprehensive coverage for all my travel needs.

For a trip as expensive as traveling to Norway, and as unpredictable as traveling to the Arctic, it’s especially important to me that I have coverage!

SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance provides both travel insurance (coverage for trip delays, cancellations, interruptions — the likelihood of which increases in winter) and travel medical insurance (coverage for things like accidents, illnesses including Covid, etc. — also more likely in winter!).

Coverage is really affordable — for me, it costs roughly $11 USD for a week of coverage outside of the U.S., with a policy max of $250,000 after a deductible of $250. Not bad!

Check SafetyWing for a quote here!

Lavena Coastal Walk: How to Hike to Wainibau Falls in Taveuni [2023]

allison in front of the waterfall at the end of the lavena coastal walk, called wainabau falls, wearing a yellow romper and white shirt and shoes.

Amongst its impressive collection of hikes, the Lavena Coastal Walk stands up to the test as one of the best hikes in Taveuni to explore the island’s lush, jungly side and truly understand why it’s nicknamed “The Garden Island” of Fiji.

With its rich volcanic soil, the island of Taveuni is home to lush rainforests and dense Jurassic Park-looking foliage, and its humid, tropical weather means cascading waterfalls are able to be visited year-round.

For all its lushness, the Lavena Coastal Walk is the perfect summary of what Taveuni island has to offer hikers. 

Beginning at the quaint village of Lavena, this trail leads you on a winding path along the coast, before sending you up some grueling steps up a hill and into the heart of the jungle.

view around sunset from along the lavena coastal trail looking at the stunning scenery

There, you’ll find one of the island’s most spectacular waterfalls, where ultra-cold fresh water constantly churns, yet rocks also dam in the water to form small, calm bathing pools before you reach the waterfall. 

Along the way, you’ll see pristine beaches, small dwellings on the outskirts of the Lavena village (which is one of the most remote villages in Taveuni), and unique flowers and plants best explained by hiring a local guide at the visitor center. 

But of course, this hike is most famous for the waterfall that serves as its endpoint before turning out and back, the gorgeous Wainibau Falls.

the wainabau falls with   its giant waterfall cascade at the end of the swimming pools

It’s framed by rocks that make it look like just one waterfall from afar — but when you swim in its super-cold pools, you’ll see the walls actually hide a second, bonus waterfall! 

Hiking here is one of the best things to do in Taveuni, but I didn’t know much about it before I did this hike — let’s just say it’s not on AllTrails!

I’ll explain how you do the Lavena Coastal Walk in Fiji, including up-to-date information from my August 2023 trip, as well as pricing, difficulty, and other practical information.

How to Get to Lavena for the Coastal Walk

sign that reads the lavena lodge and visitor center

The village of Lavena is located on the east coast of Taveuni, at the very end of a dusty road best navigated by a 4×4 or truck.

The island has two types of taxis: typical sedan-style taxis and rugged Mitsubishi trucks. 

Your hotel will call one of the more rugged taxis for you if you ask them to call you a taxi for the Lavena Coastal Walk (or anything on the Eastern side of the island, which is unpaved road).

From Matei, we were able to organize a taxi to and from Lavena, including wait time, for 140 FJD (that’s $62 USD at the time of writing).

Split between two people, it wasn’t a bad price for $31 USD per person for an hour plus ride each time, plus about four hours of wait time for the driver.

the bumpy unpaved road to lavena coastal path and the waterfall at the end of  it, with palm trees and rearview mirror

There is a bus to Lavena, but I didn’t do it this way as 1) I prefer to use taxis while traveling to save time and support the local economy and 2) I was diving each day I was in Taveuni and my time was limited each afternoon.

If you want to find out more about the bus, it’s best to ask a local or ask at your accommodations, but tourists before have taken the local bus to Lavena.

The island really only has one road around it, so it’s not a matter so much of where but when the bus will stop.

Taking the bus will certainly be cheaper but it will not be convenient!

How Much Does the Lavena Coastal Walk Cost?

Allison Green standing in a yellow jumpsuit at the end of the Lavena Coastal Walk, where you can see Wainabau falls and two different natural pools

Like most hikes in Fiji, there is a fee for doing the Lavena Coastal Walk which is used to support cnd subsidize the village that cares for the land around it.

​Some people may balk at there being a fee, but I think it’s a great way to ensure Fiji’s residents benefit from tourism in their villages.

Also,, keep in mind that this is part of a national park! The majority of the Lavena Coastal Walk (in particular, its waterfall) is part of Bouma National Heritage Park.

As of 2023, the fee for doing the Lavena Coastal Walk was 30 FJD per person for access to the trail, or 10 FJD per person if you just wanted to access the beach (no trail).

plant life and scenery on the lavena coastal trail with guide and fellow hiker on the trail

That’s $13 USD per person for the trail or $4 USD for just the beach access.

You can also hire one of the local guides, who will tell you more about the village, point out local plants that are important in Fijian culture and cooking, and generally just show you the path. 

​It’s only 20 FJD to hire a guide, or $9 USD, so I think it’s really a good idea to hire a villager as your guide, to further support the locals of Taveuni.

What is the Lavena Coastal Hike Like?

Allison Green, author of the article, standing in front of a stream crossing in Lavena Coastal Walk

The Lavena Coastal Walk is an easy to moderate 10 km walk through mostly flat terrain, though it also includes a stream crossing (aided by a rope) and some hilly terrain with lots of steps at the end of the hike.

There used to be a famous suspension bridge instead of the creek crossing, but the suspension bridge was washed away by a cyclone in 2016 and has not yet been rebuilt.

At low tide, it’s easy to cross the Wainambau Creek that flows out to the sea, but closer to high tide it may be more difficult, with nearly waist-deep water possible during the rainy season.

This is why I’d hire a guide, as they’ll be able to show you the safe way to cross. You might want to bring water shoes for this portion of the hike. 

woman in a blue shirt and rolled up pants crossing the stream with her hand on a rope for balance with the ocean behind her

My girlfriend wore Chaco hiking sandals and got some pretty gnarly blisters on the hike.

I wore Allbirds (not necessarily hiking shoes) and was okay, and just dealt with wet shoes during the hike.

We arrived at Lavena around 3 PM to start the hike and we got back around 6 PM, taking about 3 hours to complete the hike including our stop at the waterfalls for about 20 minutes — not much time, but sufficient for us to enjoy a little swim.

Finishing just after sunset (which happens on the other side of the island) meant we had some pretty spectacular colors on the walk back!

sunset colors in the sky with rugged landscape of taveuni coastline in lavena coastal walk

This was definitely a bit more rushed than I would have preferred, but since we were diving in Taveuni every day, it was the only way we could squeeze it into our schedule!

The Lavena Coastal Walk mostly winds along, well, the coast at the start of the walk. Eventually, you get more into the hilly area, with some mild uphill and downhill and eventually a river crossing.

​Not too long after the river crossing, you’ll hang a right as the trail leads you to the waterfalls.

You’ll hike along a beautiful, narrow gorge brimming with foliage, ferns, vines, and clusters of palm trees, all along a stream that leads you to the ultimate goal of the hike.

view of the stream that the waterfall creates after falling from the side of a cliff with palms and other tropical foliage

You’ll go up a somewhat grueling series of steps before descending again, reaching the natural swimming pool formed by rocks begins, with a view of Wainibau Falls at the end.

But like I said before, this is only a preview: there’s a second surprise waterfall tucked a little further in, which you can only see by taking a cold — I mean refreshing swim to the interior pools. 

​Once you reach the inner grotto area where the two waterfalls are thundering, it’s a marvelous, transcendent experience: a perfect reward at the end of the trail.

Our guide even climbed to the top of the waterfall (the smaller one) and used it  as a waterslide! 

Having done the (much smaller) Waitavala Water Slides a previous day on the trip and felt the fury of much smaller waterfalls… I passed on this!

Do You Need to Hire a Guide for the Lavena Coastal Walk?

view along the way to the lavena coastal walk with tree fluttering in the wind

The Lavena Coastal Walk is well-marked and well-maintained thanks to its entry fee and the villagers who take care to maintain the trail’s beauty and safety.

You could easily navigate it without a guide… but I’d argue that you really shouldn’t.

For one, a guide will show you what’s safe (or relatively safe, I suppose) in the waterfall area, such as where to climb, jump, slide, etc. on the falls.

This is their playground — they know it best!

​Our guide also pointed out local plants — kava, taro, cassava, and other plants essential to the Fiji culture and cuisine — and told us cool stories about some of the islands’ plant life.

More on that below!

What Plants Will You See on the Lavena Coastal Walk?

The white 'hairy blossom' style flower of the putu tree in Taveuni Fiji on the Lavena Coastal Walk

From our guide on the Lavena Coastal Walk, we learned about this beautiful pink flower we had seen on the ground several times.

It comes from the fish poison tree, or putu in Fijian language (officially called the Barringtonia asiatica by botanists). 

Its name in English stems from how its seeds contain toxic saponins, which can be ground into a powder and used to stun and stupefy fish, so that they float to the surface of the water for easy catching.

While it may seem a bit strange, this method of fishing has been used by Indigenous peoples from various cultures around the continents for centuries.

This tree is very interesting for multiple reasons — obviously, its toxic aspects are very interesting, but there’s also way more to it than just this!

The flower of this tree also only blooms after sunset and falls to the ground as soon as the sun rises the next day, living a short but beautiful life.

pink and white fluffy putu flower that serves as a seed/fruit of the plant on the ground

This short life is by design, though: the flower of putu tree is more akin to a coconut than any flower you can imagine, as it has evolved to be dispersed by sea rather than by animal pollinators.

Able to survive more than a decade in the ocean, this plant has managed to spread from Oceania to tropical parts of Asia, as far away as Bangladesh.

Once it finally makes its journey across an ocean and washes ashore, when it is finally soaked in fresh rainwater, the seed inside the flower germinates, and a full tree can grow wherever it landed.

Pretty cool, right? I never would have known all this without the help of a guide, and would have thought of it as a mere pretty flower like no other!

You’ll also see the kava plant (whose roots are matured for 3-5 years before being dug up, dried, and ground into powder for consumption) — a major part of social ritual and community in Fiji.

the kava plant in fiji, whose roots make a slightly intoxicating beverage which is a popular drink amongst fijians and a key part of the culture

Our guide also showed us other important Fijian crops, like taro (the root of the alocasia, now a popular houseplant in many parts of the world.

We also saw what a mature cassava plant looks like. Cassava is a staple food in Fiji, which when raw, contains cyanide, but is perfectly safe once soaked and cooked.

As someone who watched a little too much Naked and Afraid during the pandemic lockdowns… this almost equalled my enjoyment of the waterfalls at the end of the hike!

Other Ways to Experience Lavena

flyers in the visitor center at lavena coastal walk
These flyers show the different options available for boat tours and waterfall hikes in Lavena!

While the Lavena Coastal Walk is the most popular option for tourists visiting Lavena, there are definitely other ways to experience the charm of this part of Taveuni.

The next-most popular way is exploring the waterfalls by boat, or one-half by foot and the other half by boat.

We didn’t choose this option (we had been on a boat all day, and we wanted to hike!)… and it ended up being good, because the water was actually really choppy as we noticed on our hike, and my stomach contents would have been in the sea in mere minutes.

On a more tranquil day, though, I imagine this would be a great choice to do — though it is a little pricy, admittedly.

walk along the beach portion of the lavena coastal hike

A boat tour costs 165 FJD ($73 USD) for the most basic tour to only the first waterfalls. I believe this is equivalent to skipping most of the hike to Wainibau Falls and just doing the interior portion that must be done on foot.

If your party is 4 or more, then it costs 45 FJD ($20 USD) per person for this first boat tour option.

There are more options, such as the tour that brings you also to the second waterfall, a cascade of three falls. For 3 or less, it costs $200 FJD for the boat. If your party is 4 or more, then it costs 50 FJD ($22 USD) per person.

The last boat tour option includes the furthest-away waterfalls for 300 FJD ($132 USD) for parties of 3 or less, or 80 FJD ($35 USD) per person for parties of 4 or more.

One final way you can experience Lavena is by choosing to stay the night! I didn’t even realize this was an option, but I noticed in the visitor center that they offer accommodations for 30 FJD ($13 USD) per person per night.

I’m not sure what you’d do for food, but I imagine this is a homestay-style situation where you can also add on a meal with a local family.

Can You Visit Lavena Coastal Walk and Tavoro Waterfall in One Day?

allison  green at tavoro waterfalls after going for a swim in the pools

One thing I noticed about Lavena when looking at the map is that it’s in Bouma National Heritage Park, same as the Tavoro Waterfall (also known as Bouma Waterfalls).

The short answer is yes — you can, if you get an early start and don’t mind totaling up about 3 hours hiking in Lavena and another 3 hours hiking in Bouma, sure. 

You’d need to prepare for this though, by eating a hearty breakfast before you leave, hiring a taxi for the full-day to make round-trip smoother, and packing your own lunch, since there isn’t anywhere to buy lunch between Lavena and Bouma.

​I’ll be writing about the Tavoro Waterfall hike next, so keep an eye out!

This would be a grueling day unless you’re a highly experienced hiker who doesn’t mind hiking from dawn ’til dusk, but it’s definitely doable if you’re trying to save money on taxi costs or fit multiple things into a packed schedule.

The travel time between the trailheads for the Lavena Coastal Walk and Bouma Falls is quite short, vs. the travel time to reach Bouma National Heritage Falls from Matei (at least an hour), so it may be sensible to combine them if you like to do a lot of hiking!

5 Best Lanzarote Wine Tours & Wine Tasting Experiences for 2023

A scorching hot, volcanic landscape in the middle of the ocean doesn’t seem like the most hospital landscape for winemaking — and it’s not — yet somehow, Lanzarote winemaking perseveres and endures.

The fury of past volcanic eruptions have cooled, creating a unique mineral-rich volcanic landscape that gives all its wines a unique terroir, distinct and complex.

It’s true that the island’s volcanic soil and ash have imparted something ethereal to the wines, shaping their character and flavor in a unique way that combines the fruity and floral of the grapes with the sharp minerality of the soil.

It’s one thing to try to explain it, but it’s another to taste it.

sunset in the canary islands while a person holds a glass of white wine looking out onto the unique grape fields  with a white building in the distance

Taking a Lanzarote wine tour will not only explain it but have you experience it, where you can see just how unique this island’s wines are.

The tradition of winemaking on Lanzarote is centuries-old, and it stands as a testament to the skill and creativity of the winemakers.

These creative farmers have turned the island’s geological adversities (volcanic soil, strong winds, high heat) into an advantage with some unique methods.

But what exactly are those? Let’s get into it below!

Why Is Lanzarote Wine So Special?

lanzarote wine landscape with beautiful shapes and geometry

Wine geeks will have a blast exploring the volcanic history of Lanzarote’s wine region and how that’s impacted its winemaking traditions.

Due to the harsh conditions on the island, Lanzarote’s winemaking stands out as one of the most unique vinicultural practices in the world.

Nestled in the Canary Islands (known for its harsh trade winds), this volcanic terrain is the birthplace of a viticulture that showcases human ingenuity in making the most of the island’s remarkable but challenging geological characteristics.

Of course, Lanzarote wines are special for its volcanic soil, which is mostly a mixture of ash, lava, and pulverized rock that resulted after some devastating eruptions in the 18th century drastically changed the island’s landscape.

Landscape of vineyards cultivated on volcanic soils, La Geria wine region in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain

Yet that was also for the better in the long term, as the resulting volcanic soil proved surprisingly rather fertile for grape growing, with its minerals enriching the soil and imparting distinctive flavors to the grapes.

However, Lanzarote is hardly the only volcanic wine region — think of Mt. Etna and Santorini, for example, who other excellent winemaking regions that also have volcanic origins.

Where Lanzarote is unique is in its specific agricultural techniques that were developed in response to the harsh conditions, namely strong Atlantic winds and scarce rainfall.

Farmers, as always, were ingenius here: planting vines in funnel-shaped holes called gerias, with small semi-circular walls built around them to help collect the limited dew and moisture in the air and let it go to the vine’s roots.

up close detail of a geria where wine grows in a small hollow with a stone wall to protect it

The shape also protects the vines from the wind, and in general, while the practices developed independently of one another, the principle is similar to the Santorini style of grape-growing, the kouloura.

Another unique aspect of Lanzarote winemaking is that the wine producers use a form of dry farming called “enarenado”, since there’s not really any natural access to water.

But volcanic ash is very porous, retaining moisture and gradually releasing it, so somehow, despite the limited water conditions, winemaking in Lanzarote was able to drive.

Lanzarote has a handful of indigenous varietals that have adapted to the island’s harsh climate, including malvasia volcanica, a subtype of the popular malvasia grape.

From this, Lanzarote can produce all types of wine, from dry white wine to rich red wines to lusciously-sweet dessert wines.

The 5 Best Lanzarote Wine Tours and Wine Tastings

La Geria Vineyards Hiking Tour

woman walking through the volcanic landscape of lanzarote and its grape growing fields

  • 5 out of 5 stars, 70+ reviews

With a perfect rating from all who have taken the tour, it’s hard to think of a better way to try wine tasting in Lanzarote than to combine it with some light hiking around the area.

This 4-hour Lanzarote wine and hiking tour combines epic views, history, and delicious wines all in one go, bringing you to the heart of Lanzarote’s celebrated La Geria wine region.

This unique small group Lanzarote wine tour combines a guided hike through the island’s stunning volcanic scenery with a delicious exploration of flavors.

Plus, it’s tailored to be an intimate experience for a small group of just 8 participants maximum — which is great, as the hiking portion of the tour can be well-paced to suit the group’s speed.

Your journey begins with the convenience of hotel pickup and drop-off, which is great as you don’t have to consider having a designated driver — it’s all sorted for you (great if you’ve rented a car in Lanzarote).

As you hike, you’ll learn about La Geria’s vineyards, where the so-called “miracle of Lanzarote” is unveiled to you: a unique agricultural technique, born from the ashes of 18th-century eruptions that ravaged the island. 

Local farmers developed a method to cultivate vines in the volcanic soil, overcoming the challenges of scarce water resources.

The 9-kilometer guided hike through the area is nothing short of spectacular!

view from the top of the hike with landscape of lanzarote wine region all below you

Walking through the unusual vineyards, you’ll see the unique crescent-shaped stone walls that harbor the precious vines from both sun and wind.

Seeing this, you’ll begin to understand how challenging winemaking in Lanzarote is — and how spectacular it is that it exists at all. 

Climbing to the 3rd-highest peak of Lanzarote, your efforts are rewarded with panoramic views that stretch across the region.

Better yet, you can tuck into a little snack of fresh fruit and cookies, to help you re-energize for the hike back down.

But the tour’s real peak (heh!) arrives when you descend from the heights and the wine tasting begins. 

Cheers with red and white wine shining glasses in middle of volcanic vineyards in La Geria during beautiful day on spanish island Lanzarote

The dry Malvasia, a floral varietal that plays nicely with the harshness of this volcanic terrain, is the perfect way to reward yourself for a hike well down, the effort only making the wine’s crisp notes even more delightful. 

Paired with local cheese, you’ll be able to distinguish the unique tasting notes of the wines as your guide tells you more about the distinct characteristics you’ll find in a Lanzarote wine tasting.

And luckily, you can snooze off a bit on your drive back to your hotel, since the wheel is out of your hands!

2-Hour Sommelier-Led Wine Tour and Museum Visit

landscape of lanzarote wine making region with a view of a large hill in the volcanic landscape
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars, 15+ reviews

For a unique wine tasting in Lanzarote experience, indulge in a guided tour of the El Grifo Bodega led by their head sommelier!

Located close to Arrecife and the airport, this historic winery in San Bartolomé is a wonderful place to tour because it’s not only a winery but also a museum.

History is important here, after all, as it’s the oldest winery in the Canary Islands (and the fifth-oldest in all of Spain!)

This 2-hour tour is the perfect way to experience the best of Lanzarote’s wines, led by someone who lives and breathes wine — and of course, knows the local wine better than anyone else.

With nearly 250 years of winemaking history under their belts, El Grifo is one of the longest continuously-running wineries in all of Spain, with no interruptions in that entire time period.

While now a much larger operation, you can see the old winery that dates back to 1775 at the Wine Museum, giving you a true sense of how much winemaking in Lanzarote has evolved over the years. 

a view of the gerias of the landscape and a barrel and vines growing in unique formations

You’ll learn about the origins of this bodega, back when camels were the main method of transporting and harvesting grapes — nature’s tractor, I suppose!

Winemaking traditions changed drastically in the 1990s as technology became more advanced.

You’ll learn about how the winery stepped forward in some ways, while keeping its foot in past tradition for the methods that have always worked, such as its unique grape-growing techniques.

This blend of historic and modern brought Lanzarote’s wines to a new level (and made them far more accessible to the rest of the world).

After learning about the history of the winery, you’ll be led through five of the most prized wines in El Grifo’s wine catalogue, including volcanic malvasia and the unique listán negro, a Syrah grown in volcanic soil. 

Of course, what’s wine without some cheese pairing — local, from other island producers, of course!

And if you want to bring anything back with you, a discount is provided for those who take the tour (or a similar tour listed below) — and shipping is available.

1-Hour Wine Tasting and Museum Experience

volcanic landscape of lanzarote with specific style of grape growing
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars, 30+ reviews

For a budget-friendly Lanzarote wine experience, skip the full-on guided tour detailed above and take this 1-hour tour and tasting that is also hosted at Bodegas El Grifo.

You’ll learn about how winemaking has changed on Lanzarote through a tour here, and learn how traditions that were carefully nurtured over centuries saw a remarkable transformation in the 1990s. 

A visit to the El Grifo Wine Museum is a highlight of this tour. Exhibits and artifacts tell the story of how the island’s unique volcanic landscape shaped a unique winemaking landscape, growing grapes that are unlike others. 

But of course, what’s talk without something to back it up? The proof is in the tasting!

Glass bottles with white volcanic wine - malvasia, standing on vintage wooden barrels against the backdrop of the winery, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain

You’ll see just how the impact of volcanic soil and ash have impacted the grapes here as you you savor three of Lanzarote’s finest wines (whereas the premium tour above lets you taste five). 

This winery is known for its malvasia and muscatel varieties, two delicate and floral varietals that flourish in the island’s volcanic soil, balance beautiful flowery aromas against a metallic minerality.

You can also try the sparkling wine unique to Lanzarote, prized for its effervescence and complexity.

And since you’ll likely want to bring some bottles home with you, luckily for you, taking this tour gives you a unique discount (and shipping is also available!) 

1.5 Hour Lanzarote Wine Tasting with Chocolate Pairing

vineyard in lanzarote with beautiful landscape around it and volcanic soil
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars, 25+ reviews

What’s better than wine? Well, wine and chocolate, of course!

This Lanzarote wine tour brings you to the vineyards of one of Lanzarote’s best wine producers, Bodegas Vega de Yuco.

You’ll take a tour of the grounds of Finca Testeina (the farm that produces the grapes), which sits right at the foot of the Testeina Volcano.

On this 1.5-hour tour, you’ll learn all about the history of Lanzarote winemaking, including the how the eruptions of Timanfaya impacted winemaking by comparing the methods before and after the eruptions.

You’ll get to stroll through the vineyards to see the peculiar but effective techniques that go into making wine in Lanzarote — the method behind the madness!

tasting of lanzarote wine with a mountain view

And of course, a Lanzarote wine tour wouldn’t be complete without a tasting, and you’ll get to try two  unique wines that are produced here, like malvasía volcánica and listán negro. 

(Note that this is less than some other tours, which include up to 5 tastings, so if variety is important to you, this may not be the best Lanzarote wine tour!)

However, on the plus side, these wines are being paired with delicious artisanal chocolates, and all the wines you’ll taste are organic!

You’ll also learn the history of the manor house on the site, which dates back to the 16th century and is an important part of Lanzarote history.

All this with epic volcano views — it’s hard to beat!

Note that this tour does not include transportation, so you’ll have to have a designated driver or limit your drinking. However, with only two tastings, it’s easy to hold back and not overindulge.

Timanfaya National Park & La Geria Tour

the landscape of timanfaya with volcanic soil and colors
  • 4.2 stars out of 5, 70+ reviews

This 5.5-hour tour is a great way to combine the chance of seeing all the sceneries of Timanfaya National Park with some wine tasting in Lanzarote, all on one tour!

You’ll learn about the geothermal activity that still defines this park while your guide shows you Hilario’s Plateau. 

Then, you’ll take a bus tour, the famous “Volcanoes Route”, accompanied by a guide who can tell you all about how the different volcanic eruptions of Timanfaya and other of Lanzarote’s volcanoes have impacted the geology and agriculture of the island. 

You’ll visit several gorgeous parts of the park, so this is a great tour for those who want to take landscape photos as well as have a wine tasting experience.

white building stark against a black volcanic landscape in an exercise in contrast

After exploring the park, you’ll visit the wine region of Lanzarote, La Geria, where you can visit a winery typical of the region to taste its delicious wines, and learn the unique agricultural history of the region as you taste.

Note that the tour includes all transportation (great as there’s no need to worry about having a designated driver!).

However, it does not include lunch, so plan to bring something along or have money set aside to grab lunch along the way.