Matt Long

Travel blogger, writer & photog specializing in experiential luxury travel. General gadabout but I call DC home. All photos are mine & mostly iPhone
1,156 posts
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@landlopers photo Leaving the northern town of
Leaving the northern town of Akureyri here in Iceland, I battled mountain blizzards to return to the relative calm of beautiful West Iceland. It wasn’t my first time in this part of the country, but it was my first time staying at the country retreat the Hotel Husafell which, as it turns out, is next to one of my favorite waterfalls in the country, Barnafoss. Called the Children’s Falls, according to legend it’s where two local children met an untimely end. While the story is depressing, the falls are undeniably beautiful, along with another set falls located just below, Hraunfosser. Staying here has been the ideal home base for some exciting outdoor adventures, all starting with admiring these mesmerizing waterfalls.
@landlopers photo Using the northern town of
Using the northern town of Akureyri as my home base, I was excited to get out and explore the nearby Lake Mývatn region of Iceland. Joining local tour operator @sagatravel I experienced the best the region has to offer during what must be its most starkly beautiful season, winter. With just a few hours of daylight, we made the most out of the limited time stopping to admire many natural landmarks, including this rift at Grjótagjá. Best known for the caves with thermal pools inside, I was more attracted to the rift itself, especially with the sun drenched mountain in the background. It was a special day and I have many more photos to share from the experience, each natural feature remarkably different from the other and all coming together to make this surely one of Iceland’s most magical regions.
@landlopers photo Well I did it! Finally made
Well I did it! Finally made it to the north tip of Iceland, Akureyri, on what is my 4th trip to the country. This is not a photo of Iceland’s second largest city though, no, instead it’s an example of the stunning landscapes I drove through today. I always knew today was going to be challenging. Overnight flight with little sleep and then a 5-6 hour drive to Akureyri. It wouldn’t have been so bad except for very intense winds that picked up the powdery snow to create mini blizzards. The worst is behind me though and after a good night’s rest I’m excited to explore this remote but beautiful part of the country.
@landlopers photo #TBT Dominican Republic - I
#TBT Dominican Republic - I fly to Iceland this weekend so I wanted to get sandy beaches and palm trees out of my system before leaving. I’m a very active traveler and while I don’t always seek a sunny escape to a near perfect beach like this one in Punta Cana, once in a while the urge hits and all I want in the world is a shady place to relax under the warm sun. Shockingly easy to reach from the DC metro area, I still wonder why it took me so very long for my first visit to this tropical getaway, but I’m so glad I corrected that oversight just a couple of months ago. Enjoying great food, laughs with new friends and plenty of time relaxing, it was just what I needed after a busy year. This is in my rearview mirror though. It’s time to start a new year properly and to hit the road, looking for new experiences and special moments to share. Next stop - Akureyri, Iceland!
@landlopers photo There’s nothing particularly
There’s nothing particularly special about the scene captured here. It’s not a famous street, there’s nothing notable included and yet, for me it sums up what I love about visiting Europe so very much. I took this while on a recent Mediterranean cruise in one of my favorite ports of call, Monaco. There’s a certain cache in visiting the second-smallest and most densely populated sovereign state in the world but, not for the first time, I fell under its spell for very different reasons. While Monte Carlo with its car racing and casino may be more famous, I personally love strolling the narrow streets of Monaco’s old city, perched high on a promontory known simply as The Rock. What amazes me most about the old town is how it has been able to retain the feeling of a medieval village, in spite of the fact Monaco is one of the most densely packed and ritziest places on the planet. The ancient Greeks once called this rocky outcropping home and since then it has passed hands many times, today serving as the location for the Palace and the official residence of the Prince of Monaco. Quiet streets, few cars and small shops complete the illusion of being somewhere removed and quiet and for me, is a much more interesting place to explore than Monte Carlo with its money and glamor. This is the type of place I love to discover when I travel and for me it really IS the reason why I travel in the first place.
@landlopers photo Sometimes we travel to
Sometimes we travel to discover places new and foreign to us, but other times we travel to visit sights so famous and well-known that we feel obliged to witness their splendor in person. Such was the case on my Mediterranean cruise and a second visit to this, the sparkling city of Pisa in Italy. Made oh so very famous for a certain uneven tower, my most recent visit confirmed what I already knew, that yes, this is a stunningly beautiful place, but not just due to the leaning tower itself. The Piazza dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles is so called because the three main buildings have long been considered architectural marvels or miracles. Just think about it for a second, the cathedral, baptistery and tower or campanile were built between the 11th and 14th centuries. That wasn’t a great time to be alive in Western Europe and these gleaming wonders must have seem positively otherworldly. And they still are really. Sure people visit to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and create terrible photos of themselves pretending to hold it up, but I find it hard to believe visitors don’t walk away entranced. From the perfectly manicured lawns to the style and symmetry of the buildings themselves, the eye is constantly attracted to new and wondrous sights. It may be one of the most touristy spots in Europe, but I enjoy visiting, I love standing in front of these world treasures and I love once again being humbled by their legacy throughout the centuries. Setup: iPhone 8 with a SANDMARC wide lens
@landlopers photo Thank you. Thank you all for
Thank you. Thank you all for engaging with me for another year not just here but across the Internet. I came to this strange profession of travel blogger, writer and photographer by accident. While it’s always, and I mean always, been my dream to see the world, it wasn’t until I started my web site that I began in earnest to make that dream a reality. Along the way though I have received much more than nice trips, I have received incredible insights from you all. I’m not like a lot of the newer travel bloggers you see here on Instagram. I believe that storytelling is at the heart of the experience, of transporting people to new places and to virtually experience new sensations. It’s not about me, it’s about the journey. You won’t see me constantly posting half naked pictures of myself here, that’s not what good travel blogs are about. They’re about sharing and education, they’re about inspiration and not jealousy. No, you won’t see endless photos of me in hotel pools and eating breakfast in bed here, but what you will see are photos of our beautiful world and the people who make it so very special. While that means I will never have a million followers here on Instagram, I’m fine with that. At the end of the day I’m very proud of the quality of the content I create here and on my web site and that means much more to me than anything else. So again, thank you all for encouraging me on this journey through life and I’m excited to share another amazing year with you in 2018!
@landlopers photo Although I’m back home now
Although I’m back home now from my annual holiday trip to Europe, I only shared a small fraction of the photos I took so today I want to post another pic from the always lovely city of Nice in France. There is an inherent magic to doorways and passages; I know as a kid I was mesmerized by their power to transport us through books like “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and Phillip Pullman's novels. The truth is though that their magical powers aren’t confined to the pages of a book, they’re everywhere around the world and I certainly felt that magic here in the middle of the city. Nice is an interesting place, it’s large but with a combination of urbanity and a gorgeous shoreline that makes it special, different. Walking along the antique market I could’ve been anywhere, but then I turned and saw this, a magical passage to another world. Just a few meters away was the rocky beach with its spellbinding views of the city and, as it was when I was there, with a radiant orange light that seemed to catch the sky on fire. Palm trees and Christmas carolers coexisted in beachy harmony and, not for the first time, there was nowhere else in the world I wanted to be more than right there at that spot in that moment. Travel is special to me for so many different reasons, but it’s these unexpected moments of pure magic that I think mean the most to me.
@landlopers photo It’s only fitting that the
It’s only fitting that the final stop on the last day of my trek around the Mediterranean this holiday season is here, at the always gorgeous St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. I couldn’t have ordered better weather, although Romans would say it’s been a little too cold for their tastes. But for me it was ideal, beaming as I walked up the long promenade to St. Peter’s itself. I’ve made that walk before, but never at Christmas and never have I seen these festive decorations immediately in front of the Basilica. I visit Europe every December because of scenes like this one; to experience a side to cities and towns absent the rest of the year. It’s like being let into a secret seeing these amazing destinations dressed up for the Christmas season, locals running about to go to parties or pick up last minute presents. It’s an exciting time of year to be here and I couldn’t have hoped for a better last day of my trip than the one I enjoyed here in Rome. To all who celebrate, have a very Merry Christmas!
@landlopers photo Buongiorno from Tuscany! The
Buongiorno from Tuscany! The Viking Star cruised into Italian waters a couple of days ago, and we’ve called the beautiful Tuscany region home since then. One of the great things about returning to a part of Italy I love so much is exploring new places, and today that meant my first visit to Lucca. I’ve been hearing amazing things about this Italian city for years, so when I had the chance to visit I jumped at it. Arriving in the chilly morning, I spent a few hours just wandering around, walking the famous walls, window shopping at the holiday-themed storefronts and of course also climbing to the top of the nearest tower I could find. I always love getting a bird’s eye view of new cities I visit and I was well-rewarded today in Lucca when I climbed the 230 steps of the Guinigi Tower. Originally built in the 1300s, this is one of the last remaining towers within the city walls and has one peculiar feature - a garden on top complete with oak trees. But of course the views stole the show, providing me with a 360 look over the ancient city of Lucca and the gorgeous countryside surrounding it. I was all alone and quickly got lost in my thoughts, reminding me of why I love to travel so very much. For these quiet moments of awe and wonder when I can fall under the spell of an amazing destination. #MyVikingStory
@landlopers photo No, it didn’t suddenly snow
No, it didn’t suddenly snow in Monte Carlo, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a winter wonderland. Docked in Monaco, I left the Viking Star on a daylong excursion that included some time in this, one of the ritziest places on the planet. Welcoming the rich and famous for generations, it’s still a place for society’s elite, but luckily folks like me can still visit and enjoy the experience. There’s a lot to love in Monaco and especially Monte Carlo, but at the heart of the experience is this, the famous casino. The massive 19th century building looks like it should be a museum or grand palace, but since the 1800s this has been at the heart of the Monte Carlo gambling experience. Much to my surprise, the area on top of the hill was decked out for the holidays, with Christmas trees placed next to palms and plenty of fake snow to create a sparkling winter wonderland. It was a little surreal to find the snowy scene, but simply added to the magic of the moment. #MyVikingStory
@landlopers photo “This is not an ice cream,”
“This is not an ice cream,” as a twist on that famous Magritte quote and image. Hello from the always gorgeous French Riviera as I cruise the Mediterranean with Viking cruises. We’ve been in France for a couple of days but today was a special one as I visited one of the truly great cities in this part of the world, Nice. I also decided to have a little fun with a photo prop as you can tell and I’m curious to hear what you think. Personally, I love the twist on those now common ice cream cone shots we see all the time here on Instagram and hopefully it adds a little beauty to your day. Wandering the streets of Nice decked out for the holidays made for a very special day and while there’s certainly no snow down here, I found a city just as festive as any other. I love visiting different parts of Europe around the holidays to see how various regions celebrate and today was a highlight of those Yuletide wanderings. #MyVikingStory
@landlopers photo The great thing about the
The great thing about the Viking Star cruise ship being docked in Barcelona for a couple days was that I could explore places both familiar and new to me, including an excursion up to the famous Abbey of Montserrat. An easy drive out of Barcelona, it was great to be see the scraggly Mediterranean landscapes that lead up to this ancient and important religious site. Most agree that there has been a monastery on this spot high up in the mountains since 888, and ever since that time there have also always been about 80 monks who call this remote hermitage home. Today it’s an easy day trip from Barcelona and offers insight into a different aspect of Catalonian culture and history, away from the Gaudi buildings and tapas restaurants; a destination that is naturally reflective and introspective. Plus, on a clear day the views of the valley below can’t be beat. This was taken on my last day in Barcelona and I can’t wait to visit the next port of call on my cruise in France! #MyVikingStory
@landlopers photo “Originality consists in
“Originality consists in returning to the origin.” - Antoni Gaudi. A quiet genius is how I usually like to refer to Gaudi, and his simple statement couldn’t be more true. His genius is found throughout Barcelona in ways that are anything but simple and at the center of this architectural portfolio is the massive Sagrada Familia. The largest unfinished Roman Catholic Church in the world, even though it was my third time visiting it still leaves me dumbstruck. My awe is due in part because it’s just so unexpected, especially the stone forest of columns inside. With branches reaching up to hold the roof in place, the flowing lines and shapes make the building feel organic and alive. Thanks to an abundance of natural light, standing in the middle of the church is like finding a clearing in a forest, a quiet and serene place ideal for reflection and introspection. It’s a true masterpiece in a city full of architectural marvels.
@landlopers photo No editing needed! Just
No editing needed! Just caught this amazing sunset from the rooftop terrace of the @almanacbarcelona and what a great welcome back to the city! I’m in town to join a Viking cruise tomorrow but decided to come early to enjoy a city I love. Tomorrow I have a full day of sightseeing but first I need to find some jamon and wine.
@landlopers photo This is the last
This is the last tropical/beachy photo you will see from me for a while, so I wanted to make sure it was a good one. Tomorrow I leave for my annual sojourn to Europe to enjoy the holidays Old World style, although this year it’s with a twist. More on that later, today this is one final image from my brief visit to the Dominican Republic, my first time visiting this beautiful Caribbean getaway.  I’m not normally a sit by the pool kind of traveler, but even I couldn’t resist that tranquil setting at the Iberostar Grand Bavaro. Some places just inspire relaxation and, as a very active traveler, it’s something I need once in a while. Bora Bora, the Caribbean and Hawaii have been some of my favorite spots to relax and unwind and I’m always on the lookout for new ones. As I said though, tomorrow I leave home for my last trip of the year and while it’ll be a great trip, it’ll be a very different one from my quick jaunt down to the Caribbean. Where do you like to unwind?
@landlopers photo #TBT - DR - I don’t need a
#TBT - DR - I don’t need a lot to be happy. Sometimes all it takes is one single, solitary tree, especially if it’s a palm. There’s something that always makes me smile when I see a palm tree; I know I’m somewhere warm and happy and that meant I did a lot of smiling on my recent trip to the Dominican Republic. Staying at the luxury Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro, it was also my first time visiting the Dominican Republic and I was excited for some R&R. While I certainly loved all of the amenities on-site, it really was the quiet moments like this one that meant the most to me. Taking off my sandals, I let the warm sand filter through my toes and I stood there, listening to the crash of the waves and trying to record every single detail in my head. I knew then that it was a moment I’d need to recreate again and again, whether during rough times or just to virtually enjoy nicer weather. It was a restorative moment, all brought forth by a simple little tree.
@landlopers photo If you follow my IG Stories,
If you follow my IG Stories, then you know I spent Saturday exploring Philadelphia. Honestly, I’m not sure why I don’t visit more often; it’s an easy 2.5 hour drive from DC and there’s a lot to love about the city. I was there though to continue my ongoing partnership with Context Travel and to hop on one of their many walking tours in the city, this one focused on the Gilded Age and the many Robber Barons who called Philly home. I’m a history geek (well, I’m many kinds of geek) and for whatever reason, this short period of American history from 1870-1900 is one of my favorites. I have no idea why, maybe it’s imagining what life was like for those wealthy elite as they split their time between incredible mansions like the Breakers in Rhode Island or the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. But I’m also impressed by the legacy they left behind, as best seen in the architecture. This is a photo of Philadelphia’s incredible City Hall, still the largest municipal building in the world. If you include the massive statue of William Penn that stands atop the tower, the 548 ft. tall building was the tallest habitable building in the world until 1908 and was the tallest building in Philadelphia until 1986. That’s pretty incredible if you think about it and honestly, it’s equally incredible to admire in person, especially when it’s decorated for the holidays. There’s a lot to love about Philly and I’m so glad that I spent Saturday exploring neighborhoods I hadn’t seen before, learning all about the city’s history through its gorgeous buildings.
@landlopers photo #TBT - It’s simply not
#TBT - It’s simply not possible to capture the size and the essence of what it’s like to visit Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda in a single photo. It’d be like trying to capture the essence of Vatican City in just one snap of the camera. But I can try. Believed to have been built originally more than 2,500 years ago, the Pagoda itself is just part of a larger religious complex on the 114-acre Singuttara Hill in Yangon. It’s also Myanmar’s holiest temple, believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas. At the center though is of course the Pagoda itself, standing more than 360 feet tall and covered with gold plates and encrusted with thousands of diamonds and other precious jewels. Arriving midweek in the morning, I found the complex still packed with people, all there to pray and offer their respect before continuing on with their day. In Myanmar, one’s shoes must be removed before entering temples or other sacred sites, which meant my exploration of this enormous complex was done barefoot, made easier though by the miles of marble flooring covering the entire site. I spent a fair amount of time at the Pagoda, walking the circuit around Shwedagon joined by thousands of worshippers doing the same thing. The morning was about so much more though than just admiring a world wonder in person, it was about getting to know Myanmar a little bit better. The Pagoda represents so many important hallmarks of Myanmar heritage - art, architecture, religion, values and so on. It forms the focus of religious and community activities for a reason, and spending the morning immersing myself in those traditions wasn’t just fun as a tourist, but important for me to do as a traveler.
@landlopers photo I’m an explorer at heart and
I’m an explorer at heart and when I learned that a day trip down to the capital of the Dominican Republic from the Iberostar Grand Bavaro in Punta Cana was possible, I jumped at the opportunity. Santo Domingo is a surprisingly large city, home to around 3 million people and it’s been a quietly important city for centuries. When Spain enjoyed dominion over the New World, Santo Domingo was its capital city; the base from which they took control of a continent. Founded by the brother of Christopher Columbus in 1496, Santo Domingo is home to the first: university, cathedral, monastery and fortress in the New World. It’s been so important for so long that the colonial zone is even a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, forever protecting this special place. A highlight was walking from the Parque Colon where a statue of Christopher Columbus stands down along the Colonial Zone, a pedestrian walkway through the heart of the old town. It was an active afternoon with a mix of locals and tourists all out enjoying the weather. Artists lined the street and hawkers were selling all sorts of delicious snacks. It was a fun way to get to know the city, a place I surely have to visit again and experience even more.
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