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Skincare & beauty routine! Vancouver Pure Light Laser IPL skin clinic, HigherDose LED mask, ULike Air 3 hair removal.

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I’ve recently been getting kind feedback on the state of my skin (you can see recent photos/videos on this blog, and @LaCarmina Instagram). Quite a few people reached out asking for my skincare routine — specifically, how to achieve an even tone and healthy, hydrated glow. If you’re curious about my skin and anti-aging treatments, then read on… as I reveal all!

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In addition to high-tech treatments like lasers, I drop my day/night beauty routine further down, so keep reading. (Hint: being a sun-avoidant Goth is key.)

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What has made the biggest improvement to my skin health? Undoubtedly IPL, or intense pulsed light therapy! For years, I’ve been going to the lovely Rita Moldovanos at Pure Light Laser Clinic in Vancouver, BC. She has over 20 years of experience as a laser technician, and was recommended to me by both a local dermatologist and plastic surgeon — so I knew she was someone I could trust.

Rita provides a variety of laser treatments for the face and body, using top-of-the-line equipment. Her Pure Light Laser clinic is bright and spotless, and she always welcomes clients with a relaxed, kind presence. And she offers free 45-min initial consultations, which are a great way to get to know her services, space, and approach.

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Rita has a top-of-the-line Cynosure Icon Laser, which can safely deliver higher pulses if they are appropriate for the client. People with Asian skin can react differently to lasers, but because of her decades of expertise, Rita has always known the best IPL settings for me (I’ve never experienced burning, or any negative effects after seeing her).

I go to her approximately once a year for IPL photo-facials to zap brown / sun spots and broken capillaries, and stimulate collagen production. You lie down in the chair with light-blocking goggles, and she zaps problem areas (the pain level is nothing more than a rubber band sting).

Thanks to her treatments, my skin has never been so clear and even — I couldn’t have achieved these results without Pure Light Laser Clinic in Vancouver! (Address: 777 W Broadway #606, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4J7)

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I’m also a big fan of at-home laser hair removal, which works remarkably well for people with light skin tones and dark hair. I’ve been doing DIY laser hair removal for over 10 years now, and the results have been beyond expectations: I simply do touch-ups a few times a year (on the couch, while watching shows).

Home laser hair removal devices have come a long way since they first came onto the market. I was thrilled to upgrade to the current gold standard: Ulike Air 3.

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The sleek ULike Air 3 Sapphire IPL hair removal device is high-powered and safe. The latest incarnation has a handy AutoGlide Mode: you simply slide the head across your skin, and the laser automatically fires. The device also delivers a sapphire ice cooling effect after each zap, making the process painless, and comes with a razor and light-blocking goggles.

The ULike Air 3 has been the most seamless and sophisticated at home laser hair removal I’ve used — people generally experience a 90% reduction in body hair in weeks! (If you have questions about the ULike or any tech item mentioned in this post, leave me a comment.)

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Can you tell that I love scientific skincare treatments? In recent years, more studies have come out showing the effectiveness of red light LED masks. This convinced me to try the HigherDOSE red light face mask — and the Halloween vibes are an added bonus.

As with any skin device, I urge you to research alternatives carefully, and avoid some cheap version or knockoff. For at-home red light therapy to be effective and achieve results close to what you’d get at a clinic, you need a well-designed mask with greater irradiance. As this company’s name suggests, your skin gets a higher dose with this top-end mask.

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HigherDOSE’s red light therapy mask uses LED lights to deliver red (630 nm) and near infrared light (830 nm) to your face. Research shows that this rejuvenates cells, stimulates an anti-inflammatory response, and support collagen production: perfect for combatting red, uneven and blemished skin.

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The flexible, silicone mask charges easily, and attaches to your head with adjustable Velcro straps. HigherDOSE suggests wearing it for 10 or 20 minutes, a few times a week: the wavelengths of light are safe and don’t deliver heat or UV rays. (I like taking this time to zone out with a podcast… and I’m into the spooky vibes!)

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Have you heard of LED / red light skincare masks, or tried any? I’m excited to add HigherDOSE to my skincare repertoire to combat fine lines, boost collagen/elastin, and increase smoothness and glow.

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While lasers do the heavy lifting for me, I also use topical products — the most important being mineral sunscreen and prescription tretinoin. Here’s a run-down of my daily routine:

MORNING: Wash face with cool water, moisturize (see products below), and apply Cosrx advanced snail peptide eye cream. And mineral sunscreen before going out (see SPF details after the next photo).

– I use a variety of moisturizers, depending on the weather and need. I use La Roche-Posay Lipikar lotion (which is heavier/creamier), and The Ordinary NMF Natural Moisturizing Factors (which is lighter). After a bath/shower, I apply La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 hyaluronic serum on wet skin.

NIGHT: Cleanse, moisturize (see moisturizers above), and apply prescription tretinoin (details below).

– I double-cleanse with an oil cleanser (I like Japan’s Kose Softymo Speedy Cleansing Oil) and then a gentle cream cleanser (currently The Saem natural daily avocado cleanser). No need to spend big bucks on cleansers, as long as they don’t contain irritating ingredients.
– I’ve worked my way up from retinol to prescription tretinoin 0.05%, which is the well-researched gold standard for building collagen and reducing wrinkles (you can get it through telehealth and legit online pharmacies, or over the counter in some countries like Mexico and India). Be sure to start slowly at the lowest percentage and work your way up, as retinol / prescribed tret can make you peel and purge.
– About once a week, I gently exfoliate with Biologique Recherche P50 PIGM, a non-abrasive toner that contains niacinamide and lactic/mandelic/salicylic acid.

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And I’m the sunscreen queen… There’s no point to do any of these skincare routines if you aren’t shielding yourself from UVA and UVB! I wear mineral sunscreen year-round, even in cold and gloomy places (as UVA rays still penetrate through clouds). I also wear sunglasses and hats all the time (I might take off the hat for a photo, but put it right back on in sunny weather).

Above is what I wore for a boat day with Granville Island Boat Rentalswatch our reel here to see our speedboat adventure in Vancouver, BC.

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My current sunscreens: Supergoop mineral mattescreen and La Roche-Posay Anthelios mineral tinted SPF, layered for extra protection. I prefer physical UV blockers (zinc and titanium oxide) over chemical sunscreens, which can have hormone disruptors and produce negative environmental effects.

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I also take some supplements that are backed by research to support skin health. I put a scoop of Organika collagen  (flavorless hydrolyzed collagen peptides) in my morning coffee, matcha, or tea. I take hyaluronic acid pills to help the skin retain moisture (an effect proven by studies, particularly in Japan). And in the winter months, I supplement with vitamin D3.

And don’t forget to exercise, eat well (lots of nutritious whole foods, protein, veg, fruits), sleep a lot, and reduce stress as best you can!

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Do you know anyone as committed to skincare as yours truly? The effort truly pays off… If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

Outfit: my Goth Y2K era continues with a handmade crochet bolero / shrug, baggy cargo jeans by Kuwalla Tee, and a linen corset by Windsor Store.

Photos of me by Joey Wong at Henn Na Hotel New York; see more photos from our stay here.

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I buy a lot of my skincare and makeup in Japan, as the products are well-formulated and scientifically sound, yet inexpensive. I tend to go to Don Quijote (the everything-store with many locations), which has shelves of products — bring your passport so that you can take advantage of tax-free shopping.

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Many people in Japan get into skincare from a young age. Sun protection is also emphasized here: it’s not unusual to see people shading themselves with parasols on hot days, which keeps their skin looking young and sun damage free.

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Speaking of ageless witches… I realized that I had still some Japan 2022 photos with Mistress Maya in my blog drafts! We had a magical day at a fierce Buddhist temple and alt-Goth boutique Kikirara Shoten — so I figured it’s better late than never to share the story.

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Mistress Maya took me to Fukagawa Fudoson temple, dedicated to the fierce Shingon Buddhist deity Fudōmyō-ō (who scowls in his determination to protect and liberate all beings from suffering. Also known as Fukagawa Fudou-dō, the complex is located at 1 Chome-17-13 Tomioka, Koto City.

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Also known as Acala, the immovable protector tends to be pictured holding a sword or stomping on evil spirits.

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We watched the Goma purification ritual, a performance that would put a heavy metal band to shame. The monks engaged in powerful taiko drumming and guttural sutra chanting, and burned sticks over huge blasts of fire!

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Outside, these giant straw sandals warn evil deities that the temple is protected by giant guardians (imagine the size of someone who could wear these flip-flops!)

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We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but you must go into the inner gallery to see a giant Buddha statue — as well as scroll paintings depicting the fiery torments of Buddhist Hell. (Remember when I went to the Osaka Senko-ji Hell Temple?)

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Love visiting Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines whenever I’m in Japan. I recommend avoiding the most famous tourist-packed ones, and going to lesser-known but fascinating ones like Tomioka Hachiman Shrine (located right across from Fudomyoo’s temple).

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Of course, the hanging wooden wishing boards (ema) had kawaii drawings and art on them.

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There’s a Yokozuna Rikishi Memorial Monument (dedicated to the highest ranked sumo wrestlers) at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine.

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Thank you to Mistress Maya for always taking me to offbeat, otherworldly spots in Tokyo.

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She also took me to visit Kiki, fashion designer and subculture icon. She’s the creative mind behind Kikirara Shoten, an haute couture artwear label inspired by Goth, carnival, vintage and alternative aesthetics.

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I felt like Alice in Wonderland, as I took the tiny elevator down into her lair filled with treasures.

Kiki is known for her handmade coffin boxes — I had to get a small one, which I use as a jewelry holder!

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Kikirara Shoten boutique is designed to feel like a dark fairytale.

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So many roses, ruffles, corsets, bonnets, tutus, and other decadent fashions — all hand-crafted by Kiki!

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The selection of crosses and candelabras is sure to appeal to any Goth.

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Address: Find Kiki’s boutique at 1 Chome-17-1 Minamirokugo, Ota City, Tokyo

If you aren’t able to make it to Kikirara Shoten in Japan, you can browse her webshop (she ships overseas).

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And don’t forget you can shop my closet on Depop @LaCarmina! I’m letting go of this mermaid holographic rave backpack, and other fun Goth / alt / mermaid fashion. Check out all my listings on Depop @LaCarmina and email me (gothiccarmina at gmail dotcom) if you’d like anything (no need to use the app if you prefer to do a direct sale).

PS: Student Pocket Guide interviewed me about travel and food writing. I spill the tea on my favorite destinations, content creation and social media.

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Coming soon… more of my new NYC offbeat / kawaii art explorations (here’s a throwback from 2017). And I’m now off on a new trip, including to my seventh World Wonder — can’t wait to take you along for the ride! For the latest videos and snaps, add me @LaCarmina Instagram.

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Salty Tours Iceland tour company review! Goth custom guided day trip: Snæfellsnes Peninsula, black church Búðakirkja.

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Hail Iceland! Feels good to be back (in black) in the Land of Fire and Ice.

Photographer Joey Wong and I first visited Iceland in 2015 and took a custom, private day trip out of Reykjavik with Salty Tours. We loved the experience so much that we teamed up with them again — this time, to see Goth locations like this rather heavy metal black church, Búðakirkja!

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Salty Tours is a family-run Icelandic tour guiding company. On our previous trip in 2015, Thor and Anna took us to photogenic folklore spots. This time, Thor’s daughter –Ingunn Thorsteinsdottir — drove and guided us around the lesser-known Snæfellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland. (Check out our cinematic video of the adventure here.)

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Salty Tours focuses on small group trips with personalized service — meaning that you’ll get an expert-guided Icelandic adventure tailored to your travel style and interests. In my case, I was keen to see the Gothic black sand. lava and pebble beaches… Read on to see where Ingunn took us on our unforgettable day trip.

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We flew to Iceland on from London on PLAY Airlines, a new low-cost Icelandic airline operating between North America and Europe. Despite being a no-frills airline, PLAY’s staff was lovely and their cushioned seats were comfortable. We brought along our own snacks and water (since those cost extra), and enjoyed the quick flight to Reykjavik’s Keflavík Airport on this cheerful red-and-white fleet. (If you’re planning an Iceland trip from major cites in the US/Europe, PLAY is the best bang for your buck.)

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We settled at our Reykjavik hotel, and then were ready to explore with Salty Tours. Ingunn picked us up in the morning, and took us to a variety of offbeat spots in Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

At the top of my list: I wanted to see Búðakirkja (Budhir Church), a spooky-looking little black church that dates back to 1848.

Búðakirkja Budhir Church Snæfellsnes peninsula

The church’s pointed spire and demonic silhouette are an epic contrast with the natural surroundings. Although you might think this is a church for the devil (or death metal fans), the black color in fact was originally a tar coating historically used to protect wooden buildings.

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We’ve been shooting lots of reels these days — and I did a happy dance in front of Iceland’s black church! Watch our Gothic travel video here on @LaCarmina IG.

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To add to the Halloween feeling — Budhir Church is next to a graveyard. The tombstones peer out over the sky, mountains, and ocean.

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I had to do the “devil horns” hand sign in front of Búðakirkja. Snaefellsnes Peninsula is about a two hour drive NW from Reykjavik, so we were grateful to Salty Tours for taking us there.

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The Nordic countries (especially Norway) are fond of black metal. This heavy metal genre often has Satanic themes, and emerged in the early 80s with bands like Mayhem. I could see metalheads headbanging in front of Iceland’s black colored church… or lighting it up in flames!

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Photographer Joey Wong love shooting Iceland’s sweeping landscapes and attractions.

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When you book a custom trip with Salty Tours, they’ll take you around in a luxurious car like this black Mercedes, and plan a personalized itinerary with you. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures or a photography tour, these local guides will put together the perfect day trip (or several days journey) using their expert knowledge.

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Ingunn knew we’d love Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, one of the highlights of Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The waterfall has several cascades flowing down the rocks against a picture-perfect icy landscape.

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We even saw rainbows reflecting off the falling water! Watch our Instagram video to see the footage.

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Next to the falls is the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell. Although this translates to Church Mountain, I think it looks more like a witch’s hat! (Bomber jacket Kuwalla Tee)

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Snæfellsnes Peninsula is about a 2 hour drive from Reykjavik, which was a pleasant journey in Salty Tours’ luxe vehicle. Ingunn told us about the history and folklore of the region as we drove past scenic cliffs, glaciers, mountains, and bodies of water.

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What should you pack for a trip to Iceland? It depends on the time of year — we were here in late April, and it wasn’t overly cold. I wore Uniqlo HeatTech leggings and a top, which provide insulation despite the thin material. My Miffy fuzzy pouch is from Japan, and my miniskirt is this BDG Suki moto denim skirt.

I hope this provides you with some Iceland outfit inspiration! I wore slouch socks from Japan with Comme des Garcons x Salomon sneakers, as the terrain requires good walking shoes.

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Another benefit of traveling with Salty Tours — they take you to non-tourist areas, a far more peaceful and bespoke experience than joining a big bus tour to the Golden Circle.

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Kirkjufell mountain rises over the waterfalls… You may recognize this landscape, as it was featured in Game of Thrones!

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Weather can be variable year-round, but we got lucky with blue skies. All photos by Joey Wong.

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Iceland is a photographer’s dream, filled with fascinating natural formations. You can see our previous Iceland 2015 adventures here (we went to Blue Lagoon and more).

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Our photography and content have come a long way since then, thanks to improvements in  camera technology.

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Traveling with our Salty Tours guide Ingunn felt like going on a road trip with friends. She grew up in Iceland and has many years of experience guiding for her family’s company.

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I kept warm with Uniqlo HeatTech (shirt and legging), Maison de Fleur gloves from Japan, and a BDG Suki moto racer denim mini skirt.

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Onward to another Gothic destination — Djúpalónssandur, a black lava and rock beach. The steps can be a little daunting, so take your time with the descent.

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There are several hiking trails around Djúpalónssandur with magestic views (I’m not a hiker, though!)

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My white Comme des Garcons x Salomon platform sneakers contrasted with the pitch-black rocky ground.

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Snæfellsnes Peninsula has it all, including this black lava and sand beach. I was enthralled by the dramatic environment.

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Close up on the black pebbles, known as Djúpalónsperlur (Pearls of Djúpalón) — they’re the rounded remnants of ancient lava flows. You can also find rusty metal remains strewn about, from the 1948 shipwreck of British trawler, Epine GY7.

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You need to be strong and hardcore to survive (especially back in the day) as a fisherman or sailor in Djúpalónssandur

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The wild Atlantic ocean crashes onto the shore, which is marked by striking red-black rock formations created by eroded lava.

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There are tales of Icelandic elves and trolls lurking in these parts.

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The lava cliffs are also a sight to behold. The hexagonal basalt columns are made when the molten rock cools and breaks in this pattern.

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As Cersei says on Game of Thrones: “The North cannot be held… not by an outsider. It’s too big and too wild. And when the winter comes, the Seven Gods together couldn’t save you and your royal army.”

Arnarstapi or Stapi fishing village Snæfellsnes

If you want to get around to the interesting, remote areas of Iceland, you’ll need a car. Since we were in the good hands of Salty Tours, we didn’t have to worry about car rentals, directions, navigation and other logistics — we could simply relax and take in the picturesque landscapes as passengers.

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Ingunn knew we’d love the vibe at Arnarstapi, on the southern coast of Snæfellsnes. How neat is this naturally eroded stone arch, called Gatklettur.

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Giants exist north of the Wall in Game of Thrones… and we found one at Arnarstapi. This is a massive stone statue of Bárður Snæfellsás, a guardian spirit said to be half man and half troll.

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In our video of our Salty Tours day trip, you can see me scooting inside the Troll!

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With uncanny landscapes like this, it’s no wonder that Iceland is a treasure trove of tales about elves, trolls, and other mystical beings.

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We can’t thank Salty Tours enough for this unforgettable tour of Gothic spots in Snæfellsnes Peninsula! Please reach out to them if you’re keen to do a custom, private day trip like ours. Salty Tours does pick ups and drop offs from your hotel in Reykjavik, and puts together the perfect itinerary to fit your interests.

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The certified guides are so friendly and caring — you can see our previous trip with Salty Tours in 2015 with Ingunn’s father, Thor!

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I leave you with some final shots of Iceland’s black metal church — I think the Miffy bag adds to the spookiness! (All images Joey Wong.)

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And please watch the reel of our Iceland adventure with Salty Tours here (@lacarmina Instagram).

Is the Land of Fire and Ice somewhere you’d like to visit? If you’ve already been, what were some of your most memorable moments?

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