48 hours in Zurich
Draped around the shoulders of Lake Zurich and cut through by the Limmat River, Switzerland's largest city is an impressive mix of old and new, of the cultural and the contemporary. Regularly revered as one of the world's most liveable cities, its numerous charms and attractions are easily reachable on foot or via the city's quick and efficient tram network. That you should visit at least once in your life is not in doubt. But with so much to see and do, how you should spend your time is less set in stone. To help you formulate a plan, we suggest 48 hours, broken down as follows. We're basing this itinerary on you staying in the Old Town, blessed as it is with hotels to suit all budgets and within walking distance of the main Zürich Hauptbahnhof rail station and the city's main sights. If money is no issue, head to Widder Hotel or Storchen Zürich. To make your budget go further, try Hotel St. Gotthard. All three are excellent options.
Pack comfortable shoes and prepare to wander the streets, for a stroll through the Old Town is an essential experience for any first-time visitor. You'll crisscross the Limmat River as you pass the city's most historic landmarks, including the medieval Lindenhof Square and the grand churches of St Peter, Fraumünster and Grossmünster. The latter is Zurich's main landmark, its two towers offering elevated views of the city. From there, head back across the river towards Paradeplatz and you'll end up at Confiserie Sprüngli, Zurich's most famous confectioner, where coffee and Luxemburgerli (very moreish macaroons) will keep your energy levels high.
Once replenished, head for one of Zurich's must-see sights, the Kunsthaus museum of modern art, home to one of the most important art collections in Switzerland. A stroll around the Old Masters should walk off the Luxemburgerli and work up an appetite ahead of lunch, which we suggest you take at either Sternen Grill for bratwurst or Raclette Stube for magnificent molten cheese.
Walk off lunch by heading south of the Old Town to Lake Zurich. And while you could keep walking around the Lake, at 90km start to finish you may prefer to hop on one of the many boat cruises setting sail at regular intervals. Short tours take you to Thalwil and Erlenbach (1.5hrs), the longer tour goes to Richterswil (2.5hrs) and the longest to Rapperswil (4hrs). Whichever you take, you're guaranteed to experience the city from a new angle.
Back on solid ground, it's time to eat again. Head to the north-east tip of Lake Zurich and the legendary Kronenhalle, a traditional Swiss kitchen infused with art, history and a guest list that has previously included Coco Chanel, James Joyce and Pablo Picasso, though not all at the same time or table. On the stroll back to your hotel, stop for a nightcap. Cafe Odeon and Aurora are both excellent options on what may become a zig-zagging route home. And if you have the energy to extend your evening, Zurich's main nightlife areas can be found around Niederdorf in the Old Town and further west in Langstrasse.
Don't forget to eat breakfast, for on the morning of day two you will climb a mountain. Uetliberg stands 871 meters above sea level and looks down on the city, Lake Zurich and the Limmat Valley, all the way to the panorama of the Alps.
A train from Zürich Hauptbahnhof train station gets you to the mountain in 20 minutes, where you can hike, bike or simply stroll along the “Planetenweg" (“Path of the Planets"). Two restaurants—Allegra and Gmüetliberg—offer the chance to rest and refuel, while Hotel Uto Kulm allows you to extend your stay overnight.
We suggest you head back down the mountain and arrive back at the Zürich Hauptbahnhof rail station, beside which sits National Museum Zurich, where it's possible to trace the nation's history from its origins to present day. From there, head for the nearby Bahnhofstrasse, one of the world's most exclusive—and expensive—shopping avenues, or to one of the city's many exceptional chocolatiers – the aforementioned Confiserie Sprüngli, Confiserie Teuscher and Max Chocolatier to name just three. Alternatively, head back to the station and to Brasserie Federal, not for its hearty Swiss staples but to sample at least one of its 100-plus Swiss beers.
On your last night in Zurich, head back across the Limmat to Swiss Chuchi, a restaurant famed for its fondue, raclette and rösti—and a place as popular with the locals as with the tourists. It fills fast and you'll likely have to wait for a table, but consider that a guarantee of satisfaction.
From there you're just a short walk from a suitable bar in which to end your stay. The Widder Bar boasts a remarkable 1,000-strong bottle library of spirits, including a number of single malts that will test your bank balance. If the numbers are too high, the cocktails are more affordable and should bring a very happy end to your 48 hours.
If you go
United Airlines flies in and out of Zurich Airport, located just 10km and 15 minutes from the city's main train station. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your winter getaway and share your story with #UnitedJourney.
Flying to London: How my #UnitedJourney took off
My love affair with travel began at age 6 at a time when flying was still considered a luxury. My father, a retired Air Force colonel, was assigned to a military base north of London in 1970 and we had to fly to get there.
That flight was on a Boeing 747. The captain allowed me to come up into the cockpit and encouraged my fascination with flight. That not only turned me into a life-long aviation geek, but it also began my love affair with the 747, the Queen of the Skies.
As a teen in the 1980s, I used to travel from the East Coast home to San Francisco. This was a time before smartphones, iPods and even Sony Walkmans, so I enjoyed listening to United's music channels. On one flight, I found my traveling theme song — "Ramblin' Man," by the Allman Brothers, something I play on every trip I take to this day.
Since then, I've traveled around the world as a military brat and an aviation journalist, getting to see amazing places on five of the seven continents (I'm coming, Antarctica and Australia!). Many of those flights have been on United Airlines or Continental Airlines, going back to the 1970s. I've been a member of MileagePlus since the late 1980s and OnePass since the mid 1990s, and I currently have gold status.
When I got a coveted invitation to fly United's last Boeing 747 on November 7, 2017, I leapt at the chance. The flight was from San Francisco to Honolulu, which was United's first 747 route.
The party, hosted by United CEO Oscar Munoz, started at Gate 86 at San Francisco International Airport. We enjoyed cake, a huge commemorative card and memorabilia from the 1970s. And lucky passengers on the flight -- a fun mix of United's best customers, employees, journalists and aviation geeks -- even dressed up in clothing of the era, including me.
As we boarded the flight, there were goodie bags with commemorative pins. Munoz and the San Francisco ground crew closed the door and we were off, making a deep bank at the Golden Gate Bridge.
No seats were assigned in the 747's hump. Instead, passengers were allowed to go up and socialize, with one even proposing to his girlfriend (she said yes). We played the popular Halfway to Hawaii game, where passengers guessed the geographic halfway point between take-off and landing and three passengers were within 10 seconds of the actual time.
Upon landing, we were greeted by United employees and Hawaii Gov. David Ige, who hung leis around our neck. We watched from the window as employees placed a giant lei made out of 120 pounds of garbage bags around the hump of the 747. The next day, United's last jumbo jet was flown from Honolulu to the aircraft boneyard in Victorville, Calif.
I'm active on social media and enjoy sharing my global travels. One question I always get from my followers is what are some of my favorite trips. My answer is always the same — the next one.
In 2017, I flew more than 100,000 miles, including Singapore, Lisbon, Honolulu, Acapulco, Havana, Seoul, London and Dublin. As wonderful as being in these places was for me, it's more about the journey.
I've slowed my travel this year, but I still expect to travel across the U.S. and at least get to Paris and Amsterdam before the end of the year. And on my bucket list are places where I have friends — Beijing, Auckland, Perth, Jakarta, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid.
And when it's time for leavin',
I hope you'll understand,
That I was born a ramblin' man.
Explore down under: Travel guide to Sydney
Flights to Sydney depart daily from the United hub cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco — and from Houston beginning on January 18, 2018 (subject to government approval). This new route will be the only nonstop service flight from Houston to Sydney offering hundreds of customers the opportunity to more conveniently fly to Australia.
Destination: Sydney, Australia
Australia's largest city is often overlooked as a major destination, perhaps because it's so far from the world's other great metropolises — New York, London, Tokyo. But the city of five million is as cosmopolitan and as packed with appealing places and activities as most of the world's other great cities. It's also the best launching point for explorations of the Sixth Continent.
Bays and beaches
Bays, beaches and the world's largest natural harbor define Sydney. You're never far from a sandy beach, a waterfront path or a pedestrian-friendly bridge, which are all well-used by locals and visitors alike. Bondi Beach is famous for sunbathing, surfing and beach volleyball (contests were held there during the 2000 Summer Olympics). From Sydney Harbour, you can board a jet boat or whale-watching boat, depending on whether you favor high-speed thrills or humpback photo ops (sighting season is April to December). Don't forget that Australia's reversed seasons make January and February the warmest months, although the average daily highs are in the comfortable sixties or seventies year-round.
City center sights
The iconic Sydney Opera House, which hosts tours and a variety of events in addition to opera, is just one of several popular attractions in the heart of walkable central Sydney surrounding the main harbor. You can also climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or Sydney Tower and stroll through the Royal Botanic Garden or Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. You can admire uniquely Australian snakes and reptiles at the Australian Museum, and board a submarine and a replica of the research vessel James Cook sailed around Australia's coast at the National Maritime Museum.
Eat, drink, Sydney
Sydney's location in the South Pacific is a boon for the city's restaurants, where fresh lobster, prawns, salmon and abalone are on many menus. When you're thirsty, you can drink in the subculture of independent coffeehouses and tea houses by day and wine bars well-stocked with bottles filled in nearby Hunter Valley at night. And with nearly a quarter-million Sydney residents born in China and another quarter-million from India or the UK, outstanding Chinese restaurants, Indian restaurants and English pubs are everywhere. There's also a large Italian-born population whose delicious restaurants reside in Little Italy — and an inexpensive Thai restaurant seemingly on every block. There's something for adventurous eaters, too, as many menus feature kangaroo or crocodile.
Gateway to Australia
Sydney International Airport is by far the nation's busiest, the gateway for most travelers who come to witness Australia's wonders. After recovering from their flights and then seeing Sydney, many visitors venture out on the long coastal drives south to Melbourne or north to Brisbane. Each trip takes about 10 hours if you drive straight through from Sydney, but each really deserves several days of exploring. Both drives are lovely, winding past national parks, wineries, Gold Rush villages, surfing towns and countless beaches. If your time is limited, you can instead fly between cities. United partner Air New Zealand connects Sydney with Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as Adelaide, Perth, and Cairns (the town nearest the Great Barrier Reef).
Negotiating Greater Sydney is easiest without a car because the network of light-rail trains, buses and ferries is extensive. Uber is also a good option and much more affordable than taxis. Driving can be a headache in Sydney because it's a big city with big-city traffic and because Americans have to adjust to driving on the left side of the road. Along with the reversed seasons, that's another aspect of a Down Under visit that may seem upside-down. But if you're looking to take it all in, driving up and down the coast is the way to go.
If you go
Flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Sydney depart daily, with the addition of flights from Houston planning to take off in January 2018. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your Australian adventure and share your story with #UnitedJourney.
Buenos Aires in 9 essential experiences
One of Latin America's most vibrant and energetic metropolises, Buenos Aires is also one of the world's greatest tourist cities. Though vast and sprawling on the surface, BA is easily navigated once you know what you want to see and where you can find it. To give you a head start, these nine essential experiences should be on everyone's must-see list.
Of the 48 official barrios–neighborhoods–that make up Buenos Aires, it's inevitable that at some point you'll end up in Palermo. Located in the north of the city and divided into multiple parts, including the trendy Palermo Soho, this is the largest of the barrios and home to many of the city's finest museums, markets, gardens, boutiques, cafés, bars and restaurants. Sadly, you won't be the only tourists who know this. If slightly thinner crowds sound more appealing, head south-west to the cobbled streets and “chorizo" houses of Villa Crespo, or south-east to the colonial charm of San Telmo, BA's oldest barrio.
Tango a milonga
When the sun sets on BA, the city comes alive to a tango soundtrack. Forged through the fusion of European, African and native Argentine influences in the mid-19th century, today tango is a way of life. While high-end shows are awe-inspiring (head to Esquina Carlos Gardel, El Viejo Almacen or Café de los Angelitos), immerse yourself fully by heading to a milonga — a more relaxed social gathering where newcomers are welcome. Work up a sweat at La Viruta, Maldita & Bendita or Tango Cool.
Bow down at La Bombonera
Whether you follow soccer or not, a visit to Boca Juniors' intimate but intense Estadio Alberto J. Armando stadium in the barrio of La Boca is one of BA's most visceral experiences. Better known as La Bombonera–chocolate box–this is considered by many to be the most atmospheric soccer stadium on earth, a squared cauldron that holds 49,000 fervent fans. Any game here is an unmissable experience, but passions reach boiling point when city rivals River Plate arrive to contest the Superclásico (Superderby), Argentina's most important club fixture.
Seek out steak
Argentina's passion for beef is well celebrated. The primitive rustic asado of the gauchos which evolved over time into sophisticated parrillas (steakhouses) serves visitors some of the thickest, juiciest and very finest cuts of beef on the planet. Despite that inevitable evolution, the preparation remains pleasingly simple: beef plus salt, flames and served, perhaps, with a chimichurri sauce. For the best examples, head to La Cabrera, Cabaña las Lilas and Adentro Dinner Club. But to truly eat like the porteños, swap the steak for morcilla (black pudding), chinchulines (intestines), riñon (liver) and molleja (sweetbread). La Brigada is just one of many restaurants giving offal a very good name.
Meet the Mataderos
For reasons unknown, BA is not a great city for street markets. Porteños, it seems, prefer their retail done under solid roofing. However, FeriaSan Pedro Telmo's Sunday market fills every last inch of San Telmo's Plaza Dorrego and is well worth a visit, while the El Galpón farmers market is housed in a bright yellow shack in Chacarita and is worth a leisurely stroll.
For the most authentic experience though, head further out, to Feria de Mataderos on the western edge of the city. Held each Sunday, here you'll find colorful gauchos on horseback and couples in full chacarera (folk dance) attire. For the full cultural fix, grab a glass of red wine and a succulent steak sandwich and watch as the scene plays out around you.
Marvel at South America's modern masters
The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires is better abbreviated to MALBA and lies on Avenue Figueroa Alcorta in Palermo, an unmissable stop on any first-timer's itinerary.
Home to one of the world's most extensive collections of 19th- and 20th-century works, MALBA features the private collection of real estate tycoon Eduardo Costantini, where works by Frida Kahlo, Tarsila do Amaral and Diego Rivera hang beside lesser-known Argentinean modern masters. An excellent café and terrace restaurant give you good reason to extend your visit.
Pay homage to the First Lady
Evidence of María Eva Duarte de Perón–or Evita as she became known to the world over–is spread across the city. Pay homage to Argentina's icon first lady by visiting the pink presidential palace at Casa Rosada, in historic Plaza de Mayo, and stare up at the balcony on which the Peróns addressed their people.
Museo Evita in Palermo tells the story of her life through a vast collection of paintings, posters, outfits and jewellery. While at the remarkable Cementerio de la Recoleta, directions to Evita's final resting place are not needed. In Argentina's most remarkable cemetery, simply wander until you have found the biggest crowd–and you will have arrived at Evita's flower-strewn monument.
Drink until the early hours
In a city that doesn't appear to get much, if any sleep, and the night doesn't begin before 1am, finding a great bar is easy. Where you'll go depends on your taste. Verne Club creates some of the city's most revered cocktails, the ultra-hip Leitmotiv looks down on the city from its rooftop terrace, while drinks at the more casual Café San Bernardo come with a side option of ping pong. Harrison Speakeasy, Frank's and 878 are just three of a growing number of more in-the-know bars, and well worth your time if you can find where they hide. But if wine is your vice, head to Gran Bar Danzon, a Buenos Aires institution where much of a vast and exceptional wine list is available by the glass.
Sate a sweet tooth
If you drank into the early hours, as suggested, you'd do well to recover in a typically BA way: by washing a crispy medialuna (Argentinian croissant) down with a cup of mate (tea, pronounced “mah-tay"). Many establishments do it well, but none has the history of Argentina's oldest café; Café Tortoni, a bohemian institution dating back 160 years.
For a sweeter treat, Argentines swear by dulce de leche—the beloved milky caramel syrup found in pastries, crepes, ice creams and deserts. Harder to miss than to find, taste the torta rogel at upscale bakery café Como en Casa and you'll understand what all the fuss is about.
If you go
United offers service to Buenos Aires from many U.S. cities through its nonstop flights from Newark and Houston.Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your next adventure to Argentina and share your story with #UnitedJourney.
Tale of two cities: Porto & Lisbon
The story of Portugal is a tale of two cities — the bustling capital and the northern jewel. Lisbon and Porto are two of Europe's most historic, romantic and often overlooked destinations. Smaller and more easily explored on foot than many of their European counterparts, both are essential stops on any itinerary. And given they are just a 50-minute flight apart, visiting both in a single vacation is not only possible, but highly recommended. To make the most out of your trip, here are the bare essentials to see and do in both cities.
A city built on seven mighty hills, Lisbon looks down on the River Tagus and combines rambling cobbled streets with ancient ruins and some of Europe's most striking architecture. Add in an ever-growing number of restaurants, cafés and bars, you'll quickly realize that a couple of days in the Portuguese capital won't ever be enough. But here's what we'd suggest.
What to see
Head over to Baixa Pombalina, known simply as Baixa, the city's historic heart, and commercial center. Here, the bustling, pedestrian-friendly streets are home to an endless array of cafés, restaurants, souvenir stores and museums. Notably, in a city of hills, this area is remarkably flat.
While you're in Baixa, seek out Livraria Bertrand, the oldest continuously running bookshop in the world. Baixa is also home to the Elevador de Santa Justa, a wrought-iron elevator lift that has been transporting visitors from Baixa to the Largo do Carmo and the ruins of the Carmo church for more than a century.
A rail vehicle better known as a tram is an integral part of Lisbon life as is the historic yellow Remodelado carrying passengers up and down the city. The most scenic route of all is the E28, crossing the Alfama district and taking in many Lisbon landmarks on its 40-minute route, including Sé Cathedral — the city's oldest church.
The imposing Castelo de São Jorge is perched on the highest hill in Alfama, but worth the effort it takes to reach it. The castle is open to visitors, and its views over the city and the River Tagus will soon be filling your phone. Known as the city's most ancient district, Alfama is also home to many of Lisbon's best souvenir shops and myriad tiny streets lined with bars and restaurants. In the most traditional of them, you'll hear and experience Fado, Portugal's soulful national soundtrack that is known as 'Lisbon's song'.
Next, visit the National Ancient Art Museum, located in Rua das Janelas Verdes. It's hard to know which is more impressive: the vast collection of artworks considered 'national treasures', or the magnificent gardens and restaurant overlooking the River Tagus.
What to eat & drink
Food and drink to suit every taste and budget are easily found in a city filled with cafés, bars and restaurants. One of the best neighborhoods to explore is Barrio Alto, sleepy by day but alive as night falls. However, to sample Lisbon's specialties, head to a pastelerias and order the ubiquitous pastel de nata (custard tart). The Manteigaria Fabrica de Pasteis de Nata in Baixa-Chiado serves one of the very best.
If that somehow doesn't appeal, visit the Padaria Portuguesa chain dotted throughout the city for coffee and the moist coconut-covered Pão de Deus (God's bread). One of Lisbon's most beloved drinks is ginjinha, a sweet cherry liqueur that originated in the city. The Ginjinha Espinheira is one of the city's most historic ginja bars, but by no means the only one.
Portugal's second city is one of Europe's oldest, a hillside agglomeration overlooking the River Douro. Famed for its river and its port wine, the city is a maze of steep and narrow cobbled streets, picture-perfect plazas, grand cathedrals and churches. Smaller and even more manageable than Lisbon, your time here will pass in the blink of an eye. To make the most of your first visit, prioritize the following…
What to see
Porto's most artistic neighborhood is Rua Miguel Bombarda, home to a growing collection of galleries, bookstores, boutiques and cafés. One of the neighborhood's prized gems and most visited bookstores in the world is Livraria Lello which is more like a grand library and was also an influence on J.K. Rowling, who wrote the first few chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone here, at the time when she lived in the city.
Next, make sure to add climbing the 255 steps up Torre de Clérigos (Clérigos Tower) to your to do list – it's one of the city's most important monuments and offers some of the best panoramic views of the city. Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art is also well worth visiting. It's home to around 4,000 works from the late 20th and 21st century, plus it's blessed with one of the city's most serene gardens.
The twin-towered cathedral, Sé do Porto is a Porto landmark, unmissable in every sense. Free to enter, you can pay $3.75 to enter the atmospheric 14th-century cloisters, which is money well spent. Enjoy the tranquil Jardins do Palácio de Cristal for picture-perfect views of Vila Nova de Gaia neighborhood and the Douro River.
From the city center, jump aboard Tram 1 for a rickety ride down to the seafront in Foz do Douro in minutes. From there, take a boat tour on the Douro to see the city from a new angle –the Rabelo flatboats you ride on were once used to transport barrels of Porto wine and are now a symbol of the city.
The multi-level bridge stretches from Porto's Ribeira section across the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia. As confirmed by the ever-present tourist crowds, climbing the bridge to photograph the city is an essential stop. As you're heading across the river, drop in on Caves Ferreira, one of the oldest Port wine cellars in the city. Drink in the history with a glass of the city's signature drink.
What to eat & drink
Porto is a food lover's paradise with everything your taste buds desire. From food stalls to Michelin-starred restaurants, much of it with a strong emphasis on seafood. Avoid the overpriced cafés on the riverbank in Ribeira as far better value lies elsewhere. Local specialties you have to sample include, a multi-layered meat sandwich smothered in cheese and hot tomato sauce (try it at Café Santiago).
You may also want to try the Bolinhos de bacalhau (codfish potato fritters) at Cozinha da Amélia. And to really get to know the local flavors, seek out Tripas a Moda do Porto at Líder. This thick stew of tripe, sausage, white beans and spices is said to symbolize the famed generosity of the city.
Whatever you eat, make sure to wash it down with a glass or two of port wine, for which the city is famous for — Espaço Porto Cruz is just one of many wine cellars well worth the visit.
If you go
United Airlines flies year-round to Lisbon from Newark International Airport and seasonally from Washington Dulles Airport beginning April 2018. We also will begin flying seasonally to Porto beginning May 2018 from Newark. For full details and to book, visit United.com or use the United app. Direct flights between the two cities are available through our Star Alliances partners with flight time approximately 50 minutes.
Share your story with #UnitedJourney.
5 top experiences in Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland may sound like an exotic, faraway destination, but it's actually closer to many U.S. cities than Europe—only a four hour and forty minute flight from Newark International Airport. Seasonal, daily nonstop flights from Newark to Reykjavik begin on May 23.
Step into the pearl
The Perlan (“Pearl" in English) was an instant hit with Reykjavik visitors when it opened in 2017. Poised on a hilltop and capped by a glass dome that lets visitors gaze skyward, its most unique feature is the world's first indoor ice cave, a 100-meter-long manmade tunnel created with 380 tons of snow and ice, which is part of the Glaciers and Ice Cave Exhibition. High above the cave is a fourth-floor viewing deck with a panoramic view of the city and beyond to views of volcanoes, a glacier and the ocean. Opening on May 1 is the Land, Coast, Ocean exhibit—an augmented-reality exposition of an ocean cliff ecosystem—and opening in the fall is a state-of-the-art planetarium.
Admire these attractions
Reykjavik is packed with museums that examine Iceland's stunning landscape and rich history. The Reykjavik Maritime Museum tells the story of the city's maritime past and lets visitors board a retired Coast Guard ship while the Whales of Iceland institute allows tourists to explore what's beneath the water and is the world's largest whale museum, with 23 life-size whale, dolphin and porpoise models. Taking a look back at Iceland's history, the Arbaer Open Air Museum pays tribute to Iceland's agrarian roots in 20 village and farm buildings. The Settlement Exhibition and Saga Museum look back to Iceland's Settlement Age, when Viking explorers began arriving in the ninth century. The National Museum of Iceland takes in the sweep of Iceland's history ever since. And Volcano House looks back furthest of all, to the island's long volcanic history.
Behold the Northern Lights
At a latitude farther north than Oslo, Stockholm and Anchorage, Iceland is one of the world's best places to view the Northern Lights. Aurora Borealis is visible from September to April as long as you move away from the lights of Reykjavik, via rental car or on a Northern Lights tour by bus, minibus, “super-jeep" or boat. If you visit in summer, the nights are too short to see the Lights, but while enjoying the sunshine (21 hours of daylight on June 21) you can still learn about and get a sense of the Northern Lights at Aurora Reykjavik, a multimedia museum in the heart of the city.
Taste the local dishes
Dill, honored with Iceland's first Michelin star in 2017, is among Reykjavik's new wave of restaurants serving New Nordic cuisine—a movement launched in Denmark that focuses on traditional Scandinavian dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The city is also a wonderland for adventurous eaters, with puffin, reindeer, whale and horse served at spots such as Grillmarket and Icelandic Bar. But there are also plenty of restaurants serving less exotic fare, such as salmon, lobster, king prawns and lamb at eateries such as Tapas Barinn and Seafood Grill. Oh, and it's easy to learn more about menu items as most Icelanders speak excellent English.
Wander into the wild
The population density of Iceland is sparser than in any European country, with most residents living in Greater Reykjavik, so there's lots of room to roam. Nature and wildlife tours that venture outside the city—by van, bus and boat—let you watch for wildlife like puffins, reindeer and whales. You'll also see magnificent mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes and other geothermal delights—including the famed Blue Lagoon, where you can soak in mineral waters the same temperature as a hot tub. Alternatively, you can drive the rugged coastline and into the mountains in a rented 4WD vehicle to explore the beautiful landscape.
If you go
United Airlines flies seasonal, daily nonstop flights between Newark and Reykjavik from May 23 to October 3. Use miles to book hotel and car rentals with MileagePlus®. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your Icelandic adventure and share your story with #UnitedJourney.
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The comparisons between New Zealand and California are inescapable. Both are long and narrow with Pacific coastlines that seamlessly combine cliffs and beaches. Both boast some of the world's most spectacular national parks in the mountains and some of the most prized wine regions in the hills and valleys.
Some similarities are flip-flopped, because NZ straddles the 38th parallel south of the equator while California is on the 38th parallel north. That's why New Zealand's North Island shares Southern California's warm, dry climate and the South Island shares Northern California's cooler, wetter climate. That may also be why New Zealand's two largest cities (Auckland and Wellington) are in the sunny north, while California's (L.A. and San Diego) are in the south.
There are differences, too, and they favor New Zealand. Although it's about two-thirds the size of California, NZ is only about one-tenth as crowded (4.5 million compared to 40 million people). And NZ is surrounded on all four sides, not just one, by the Pacific.
But don't take our word for it — visit New Zealand to make your own comparisons and with new nonstop service between Auckland and Chicago, New Zealand is even easier to get to. Starting November 30, Air New Zealand will operate nonstop service between Auckland and Chicago, and vice versa three times weekly on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. And beginning in April 2019, we will extend our service between San Francisco and Auckland to year-round with service three times weekly on the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft between November and March, and on the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft between April and October. Now that you have your travel plans set, read on for what to do while you're there.
From the 1,076-foot-high Sky Tower that dominates the Auckland skyline, you'll behold a city bordered by bays and peppered with parks. Locals take full advantage by sailing in the city's two harbors (Auckland is the “City of Sails") and participating in almost every other type of water and land sport — especially rugby, cricket, golf and tennis, all imports from the British who founded New Zealand.
Auckland's literal high points besides the Sky Tower include Mount Eden, Mount Victoria and One Tree Hill, three of the dozens of small dormant volcanoes with 360-degree views that punctuate the city. Another is Auckland Harbour Bridge across Waitemata Harbour, where you can climb the span or bungee off. Additional Auckland attractions include the Auckland Museum and Auckland Art Gallery; the family-friendly New Zealand Maritime Museum and Sea Life Aquarium; and sprawling Cornwall Park, where cricket enthusiasts share the grass with sheep.
Wellington and Christchurch
These two coastal cities south of Auckland are each about a quarter of the population of Auckland, making them favorites of visitors who prefer compact cities. In the capital city of Wellington, most attractions are along the waterfront promenade, always teeming with walkers and runners, while others are in the steep hills. Be sure to visit the Museum of New Zealand and ride the Wellington Cable Car. Christchurch is still recovering from the big 2011 earthquake, but the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park are still lush and lovely, and Quake City at the Canterbury Museum is both educational and moving as it chronicles the devastation of the quake and the rebuilding efforts.
South Island Mountains
New Zealand may be best known for its mountain hiking, known to the locals as tramping. The highest peaks are in the Southern Alps, topped by 12,218 foot Mount Cook, but surely the most famous hike is the Milford Track — so popular that reservations are required to tackle the 33 mile hut-to-hut walk through glacially carved mountain passes, fjords, majestic waterfalls and rainforests in Fiordland National Park. But you needn't hike at all to appreciate the beauty of New Zealand's mountains. Driving past them or through them, such as the drive to Milford Sound where the Track begins, or to Mount Cook Village, does the trick.
Beaches and volcanoes
Stellar surfing and sunbathing beaches are found throughout the country, even in Auckland, although keep in mind that “beach weather" is more likely on North Island. NZ's Volcanic Zone, however, is concentrated in one North Island region, not far from Auckland. It's there, especially in Tongariro National Park, that you'll discover recently erupted volcanoes, lava flows, steaming geysers and hissing ponds — plus thermal pools, springs and baths in the towns of Rotorua and Taupo. You may recognize some of this region's mountains, where the hiking is nearly as splendid as on the South Island, from scenes in “The Lord of the Rings" movies.
Towns, villages… and sheep
Sheep are everywhere in New Zealand, even in the cities. You can even observe them being herded and sheared at SheepWorld near Auckland, but mostly you'll see them in the countryside while driving between cities and national parks, such as on one of NZ's 10 themed highways. You'll also go past farms, vineyards, mountains, coastline and dense wilderness. But don't drive straight through. Your fondest NZ memories after the trip may be of conversations with locals at a village café over coffee or a country pub over a Double Brown beer.
New Zealand's 14 wine regions blanket the east coast of both islands, but the Marlborough region near Blenheim at the top of South Island has the most wineries, including dozens that offer tastings. This region's Sauvignon Blancs are internationally acclaimed. While you're in the area, you should also stop by the charming town of Nelson and visit Abel Tasman National Park, a marvelous mix of rainforest paths and beaches.
Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with fish — and that's a good thing, because New Zealand fishermen operate in the sixth-largest fishing zone in the world, making seafood a NZ specialty. While myriad fish choices fill menus in coastal restaurants, expect a wide variety of cuisines (often broadly called “Pacific Rim cuisine") in the cities. That's especially true in Auckland, where nearly half of residents are non-natives from China, India, Fiji, Samoa and elsewhere. Wherever you dine, the food was probably grown or raised locally because importing ingredients is expensive — the nearest continent, Australia, is 1,300 miles away.
Besides New Zealand's two main islands, smaller islands off their shores are a treat to visit. The largest (about the size of Maui) is Rakiura/Stewart Island, a one-hour ferry ride from the southern tip of South Island, where a national park occupies 80 percent of the land. NZ's most populous small island (pop. 9,000) is Waiheke, a 45-minute ferry ride from Auckland, which features forest trails, beaches, restaurants and wineries.
Don't forget that the seasons are reversed in New Zealand, so their “summer" starts in December. Plan a trip between November and April to enjoy mild temperatures and to avoid too many rainy days. When you arrive, driving a rental car is the best way to see the country. (You'll soon get used to driving on the left side.) And driving won't be tortuous within the country because there are no “boring" stretches of road — and a scenic, 3 1/2-hour Interislander or Bluebridge car ferry connects Wellington and Picton, letting you travel freely between North and South Islands.
If you go
Service between San Francisco and Auckland operates three times weekly with year-round nonstop service launching in April of 2019. Starting November 30 of this year, Air New Zealand will operate service between Auckland and Chicago, and vice versa three times weekly. Air New Zealand code share service will be offered on around 100 flights across the U.S. for convenient connections to Auckland via Chicago. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your trip.
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On March 8, 2018, we announced a new global relationship with Special Olympics, an organization we've partnered with for many years focusing on supporting the spirit of inclusion with our employees through local communities and through our Charity Miles Program. United's increased sponsorship includes support for major Special Olympics events, including the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago, site of the very first International Special Olympics Summer Games in 1968, and the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
In addition, United will engage with local Programs in our key markets around the world. Special Olympics embodies our shared purpose to connect people and unite the world. With more than 5 million athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers in 172 countries, our employees and customers will join forces with Special Olympics to achieve our shared vision of inclusion. Together, we hope to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.
Our relationship with Special Olympics represents a continued effort to break down barriers and further build on the organization's remarkable legacy by engaging our customers and employees around the world. Working together, we created new training that specifically reflects insights from Special Olympics, including training scenarios with real-life situations that individuals with intellectual disabilities face when traveling. By the end of 2018, more than 60,000 United frontline employees will have participated in the new training modules that reflect Special Olympics insights as United takes steps to deliver a world full of inclusion.
Check back this summer for coverage from Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago and 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
If a United beverage cart could talk, it would tell you how we select the brands we serve in the sky. But since they can't talk, host Phil Torres will have to spill the proverbial beans. Join him as he visits an illy Caffè and the family behind Colby Red wine.
"Many years ago at an air show, I saw a T-shirt that said 'Chicks fly,'" said Orlando-based Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor and Chix Fix team coach Laura Spolar. "And I told my husband, 'Chicks can fly, but chicks can also fix!' A lot of people don't know that women are aircraft mechanics."
Laura didn't know it at the time, but that conversation would serve as the inspiration for the team name of our history-making, all-female team of technicians that competed in the
2018 Aerospace Maintenance Competition (AMC). Of 69 teams at this year's AMC, only three were made up entirely of women, and Chix Fix was the only one representing a commercial airline.
"It's so important for us to show young girls and women that this is a career option for them," said Airframe Overhaul and Repair Managing Director Bonnie Turner, the Chix Fix team captain.
Chix Fix is made up of technicians from five stations. As a group, they only practiced together three times before the competition, but they bonded instantly.
"I feel like I've known these women my whole career," said Denver-based Line Technician Janelle Bendt. "It's been a lot of fun getting to know them and learning from them."
"As a team we just communicate really well; we all respect each other," said San Francisco-based Base Technician Katrina Oyer. "The biggest thing I've taken away from this experience is confidence. Working with these ladies is an eye opener. We really can do anything."
Watch the video above to learn more about Chix Fix and their journey to the AMC.