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Toronto to Iceland – top 5 places to visit

Visiting Iceland is at the top of my bucket list. The hot springs, volcanoes, and of course, the Northern lights. It’s one of those countries that looks serene and quaint, despite tourism being one of their largest sources of revenue. Airfare costs are usually pretty cheap, as are hotels and tours.

Travellers can either sign up for a guided tour or self-guided tours that include car rental, GPS, and lodgings. Self-guided tours are great because you can also prepare your own personal stops in between the recommended attractions.

Here are the top five things to do while hitting up a self-guided tour of Iceland:

Blue Lagoon: This is a popular destination, which means it may be a bit crowded. Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa with a breathtaking view. Enjoy some time in one of the heated springs or relax under a waterfall. Visitors an also sign up for other spa services like massages, silica mud masks, or saunas. For this attraction, remember to book early. The lines can be a bit lengthy, and if you are able to swing it, choose as many private options as possible.

Horseback riding: Horses roam the hillsides freely, but there are a few that tourists can ride on guided tours of the area. These animals are well kept and not overworked. Guides will follow trails that show off Iceland’s most serene landscapes, including rivers and mountains. This activity only has incredibly reviews from TripAdvisor, with most participants saying the trip was “magical”.

Glaciers and waterfalls: Despite climate change, Iceland still has a number of large glaciers and waterfalls to explore. Glaciers are made when ice and snow accumulate over centuries. They are large, beautiful structures and the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, as the locations are rather remote. Tour groups offer a number of guided hikes and climbs through these glaciers for people of various skill sets.

Explore a volcano: There are a number of volcanoes throughout Iceland, and the country takes advantage of these phenomenons and offers tours of each region. Don’t worry, they are not active. For those who want a bird’s eye view, there are helicopter rides available that fly over a few volcanoes and lava fields. For those who want are more active tour, take a 3k hike through Thrihnukagigur, a volcano located between Reykjavik and the Golden Circle area. The tour will take you through caverns right into the heart of the dormant volcano!

Skaftafell Park: This park is 4800 square kilometres and home to some of the most surreal landscapes in Iceland. Pick one of the many trails and enjoy views of waterfalls, fields, mountains, and glaciers — all within one park. Make sure to check out the Scartifoss (Black fall), a waterfall that flows off black basalt columns. Nature lovers can actually camp overnight within the park!

Have you visited Iceland? What are your suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Emily Ridout

Sometimes an idea just comes to you. In fact, it calls to you — and it can’t go unanswered.

That’s what Emily Ridout said when Women’s Post asked her why she started 889Yoga, a yoga and wellness studio on Yonge Street in Toronto. For her, it was about bringing the practices she learned during her travels to the city she loved.

“Toronto didn’t have that yet. It was missing and we wanted to create that in our own city. A place where people could feel very comfortable to go on this path to healing and returning to who they really are, in a space that was clean, beautiful, and accessible”

889 is a quaint little studio located near Rosedale. The storefront is full of essential oils, juices, journals, candles and teas, in addition to props used for yoga, pilates, and meditation. As you head upstairs to the studio, the smell of white tea is unmistakeable. Class participants are free to enjoy a glass of water or cup of tea before and after their session. The studio itself is bright with lots of windows that allow the sun to shine in. It’s the kind of place that automatically relaxes you and breaks down barriers.

The studio has a very loyal following. As one member said, once you take a class at 889, “you’ll fall in love with it”. Newcomers are welcomed with a smile and instructors are patient with everyone, no matter their skill level. The ultimate goal is for people to feel comfortable and at peace — and in that, 889 is very successful.

“We are a beginner/intermediate studio,” Ridout said. “If you haven’t tried it, it’s very welcoming, kind, forgiving, and that is what we set out for. “

Ridout comes from a family of entrepreneurs, but decided to venture into academics instead. She studied commerce with a minor in French. Eventually, she dropped commerce and focused all her energy on linguistics.

Her first job following her graduate degree was with Butterfield and Robinson, a company that designs and runs tourist expeditions, mainly involving hiking and biking around the world.  Ridout started as a receptionist, eventually applying for a temp job in operations working on trips outside of Europe. Shortly after she became Expeditions Trip Manager, helping plan and coordinate trips, as well as acting as communication liaison with the guides overseas.

Ridout loves to travel herself. She spent a year in Spain learning the language and culture. It was actually in Barcelona where she took her first official yoga class, mostly as a way to make friends and use her beginner Spanish. At the same time, her sister Christine was also introduced to yoga during her travels to California and Los Angeles. They eventually got together and realized a passion had been ignited.

The goal wasn’t just to create a yoga studio, but rather a place of wellness, where Torontonians could experience what the Ridout sisters experienced during their travels. What’s unique about this venture was that neither sister was a trained instructor — just entrepreneurs with a vision.

“We wanted to own a business, run the business, and create a space where people can heal, do yoga and be at peace. Look at themselves from an internal point,” she said. “And we did it! We hired teachers. We hired healing professionals. We had no experience at all. It was just a calling. “

And that was about 10 years ago.  Since then, 889 has grown immensely, while still maintaining its foundation — to inspire happy, healthy, and peaceful lives. Ridout likes to say the studio is a reflection of how both sisters have evolved. They helped create and plan a 200-hour Living Yoga School, a program that transforms yoga lovers into capable instructors. Both sisters have taken this course and are now able to teach yoga as well as meditation classes.

They have also added a storefront that sells environmentally-conscious and Canadian-focused products and are teaching a number of private classes for moms and other women that combine essential oils with meditation and breathing work. Ridout is also designing a digital platform for these programs, especially for working moms with little time to come to the studio.

Her biggest piece of advice to women entrepreneurs is to simplify, and then simplify some more. “Keep the offer as simple and clear as you can. If you think its simple enough, break it down again. It makes it simpler for people to understand and get on board.”

Ridout also wants women to focus on something they are passionate about, something that lights you up when you talk about it. “There is enough room in the world for us all to do what we believe in and do what we love. If someone else is doing it, or doing something similar, there will always be your authentic version of it.”

“If you believe in something, create it and sell it. Don’t get discouraged by people who are already “doing” your idea, or something similar, or by a fear that you’re not good enough.”

Ridout has three children, who she says help keep her present and joyful.  She is currently working through “May Cause Miracles”, a 40-day guide to reflection, change, and happiness by Gabrielle Bernstein, for the second time.

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