From August 6th through 16th of 2014 we took a self-touring, driving trip around the island country of Iceland. What did we see? As I write these words, I don’t yet know: this post will be a live blog, written via email snippets and forwarded photos, on location, in place, and on the road. Updated frequently? Maybe. And all of it published when we’re back home… but hopefully worth reading none-the-less. With a live blog, who can tell?
02014-Aug-05 – 18:02 – Gate 68 YEG Airport
Now boarding? And I guess that means we’re off. A ten day jaunt through Iceland begins with a six hour overnight flight to Reykjavik KEF. Claire has ants in her pants with excitement and everyone else is about the same but without the ants.
02014-Aug-05 – 18:19 – About to pull away from the gate…
02014-Aug-06 – 13:39 – From Iceland
There is a six hour time difference here, from home, and we’re all feeling it after a long overnight flight. We arrived at the hotel around 830 am local time, so of course or room wasn’t ready. We’ve been wandering around the city trying to kill some time. We had a light breakfast in a little bakery, went to the top of that cathedral, shopped a little, and are now fighting off sleep in a little cafe.
02014-Aug-06 – 16:54 – Reykjavik, Hotel
We finally got into our first hotel room a couple hours ago and everyone has had a bit of rest to try and catch up on what we missed from the jet lag. Claire crossed one of the items off her bucket list already, and located the candy bar she saw on Youtube.
02014-Aug-06 – 20:52 – Back at the Hotel, Reykjavik
We walked for half the length of downtown Reykjavik to find our dinner but it was well worth it. Karin located a little seafood place down near the harbour, and we all stuffed ourselves on delicious battered fresh fish and roasted potatoes, not to mention a sleeve each of local beer. We wandered back slowly along the shore and took a lot of photos, stopping at the Harpa for some looksee and even more photos. But everyone is now tired after a continent-shifting day and considering bed. Party animals we are not.
02014-Aug-07 – 11:16 – Settlement Museum 871+/-2, Reykjavik
Spent a couple hours so far this morning wandering Reykjavik and hitting up the Settlement Museum, an old Viking era structure preserved in the basement of what is now a hotel.
02014-Aug-07 – 14:58 – Reykjavik Harbour
Lunch, the famous Icelandic hot dog.
02014-Aug-07 – 19:26 – Laugardalslaug Bus Stop, Reykjavik
More determined wandering around the city was capped by a fifteen minute layover back at the hotel before making a mad dash for the bus to visit a local swimming pool. The Laugardarau Pool is a little jaunt out of town but is a pretty nice facility. The style is a mix of old and new, the facade and surroundings have an air of Soviet-style functionality, while on the inside modern RFID controls manage your entire experience and fibre optics adorn the inside of the waterside. The one jarring thing was the supervised nude shower and the requirement to be checked for dryness before re-entering the changerooms. But for 600kr (about six bucks) well worth the experience and visit… moreso because our entrance and bus fare was included with our Iceland Welcome Card. Now… to find some supper.
02014-Aug-08 – 12:04 – þingvallur
The long loop has begun. We picked up our rental this morning, a white LandRover, and started driving. A quick stop to pick up a replacement part for my tripod at a local camera shop, a stop at the wool factory,and then onto the golden circle. We’ve arrived for a picnic lunch at the UNESCO World Heritage Site þingvallur (pronounced Thingvallur) which was the original site of Iceland’s thousand year old parliament.
02014-Aug-08 – 15:30 – Guysir
Next stop: check out some geysers. Cold and a little drizzly, but don’t touch the near-boiling water bursting from the mountain!
02014-Aug-08 – 17:55 – Fluðir, Iceland
After the geysers we drove a short distance to a nearby waterfall. The epic view was to be found at the bottom of a short descent into a cliff-faced gorge bisecting the otherwise rolling countyside. There was so much mist that my camera frequently fogged up and the autofocus didn’t knees what to do with itself. But we scampered around the questionably safe viewing area with about a hundred other tourists and enjoyed the half hour in the presence of an amazingly powerful floss force of nature before driving to find our quaint little hotel in the small town of Fluðir.
02014-Aug-08 – 21:12 – Hotel in Fluðir, Iceland
After dinner we sat in the hotel hot tub and chatted with a newlywed American couple who had bravely (stupidly?) traversed the middle of the island. They did not recommend it.
02014-Aug-08 – 21:17 – Hotel in Fluðir, Iceland
Things here are turning out to be relatively expensive. An average meal of a sandwich and a drink can be the equivalent of thirty bucks. I just got a small pop from the hotel bar. Four hundred kroner, or four bucks. A regular cup of coffee ranges from four to six dollars, and we’re talking neither fancy nor large. Just observing, not complaining,but you think twice before you buy anything when you do the math in your head.
02014-Aug-09 – 11:37 – South of Eyjafjallajokull
One more item off my food bucket list: Skyr Icelandic Yogurt, from a gas station in Hvolsvollur.
02014-Aug-09 – 22:31 – Hotel Klauster, Iceland
Another busy day of driving and visiting the sights. I think that is going to be the theme of the upcoming week. In one day out is crazy to consider that we saw (a) a volcanic crater in the middle of basically nowhere with a lake at the bottom (b) a pair of epic epic (no really… epic) waterfalls with both amazing views and lax safety standards (c) a recently erupted volcano under which we ate our picnic lunch (d) a glacier roughly the size of the city I call home (e) the Icelandic equivalent of a Hobbit hole (f) the Atlantic ocean smashing against a couple of amazing beaches, bluffs and black rock coasts and (g) fifty kilometers of the most surreal landscape, an undulating marbled plain of black hardened lava fuzzed green with a variety of moss and lichen. Now we are relaxing in our hotel room after a local lamb dinner, me wearing my new knit wool socks. (I may send some additional pics through in a few minutes..)
02014-Aug-09 – 22:31 – Hotel Klauster, Iceland
02014-Aug-09 – 22:31 – Hotel Klauster, Iceland
02014-Aug-10 – 15:38 – Hali
More driving, but this time it’s been rainy all morning and into the early afternoon. We missed hiking up to yet another (apparently) spectacular waterfall because it was cold and pouring sideways and didn’t think we were properly dressed for a 90 minute uphill hike, but we did visit an amazing canyon and then later a picturesque glacial lagoon where icebergs broke off and floated into the Atlantic. Now, stopped for lunch on the south-eastern seaside and enjoying a local lamb soup.
02014-Aug-10 – 22:07 – Hotel Framtið, South East Iceland
The rain continued spotily as we continued east and then spun north along the coast. We didn’t make any major stops after our quick lunch save for a grocery break in Holf and a few scattered leaps from the car for a convenient photo op. We’ve entered fjord county, and the driving is all coastal but rolling hills zig-zagging in and out of the interior. Our stop for the night is in a very small fishing village called Djupivogur on the tip of a fjord. We checked into the quaint old hotel, ate some seafood, pizza, and seafood pizza, and have settled in for the night. I took a few night shots in the small harbour, but the days are flying by and my energy level is sinking fast… slippery seaside rocks, dark, an expensive camera and a travel-tired mind are not a great combination.
02014-Aug-10 – 22:22 – Hotel Framtið, South East Iceland
As a minor family highlight of the evening, during dinner we ordered a bowl of delicious fresh mussels as an appetizer. I managed to bribe Claire into trying one. Her weakness is apparently new apps for her ipod. She was allowed a new app for each mussel she ate. So, later in the hotel room, she got two new apps.
02014-Aug-11 – 06:58 – Hotel Framtið, South East Iceland
I woke up this morning at about six and went for a three klick run. The receptionist at the desk needed to unlock the front door so that I could leave. I ran southeast towards the coast, encountered a very small airport runway, and wound up trudging through some weird coastal marsh before turning around and running back the same way I came. Windy and about 8 degrees, but the scenery was amazing.
02014-Aug-11 – 10:13 – Some Fjord, Southeast Iceland
We’re driving through –basically– Minecraft: Sheep. Geometric rocks. Grass. Water.
02014-Aug-11 – 13:34 – About half way to our next hotel.
We stopped for lunch in Egilsstadir after a winding mountain drive, under then over, from the coast. There is a long lake here with a sea serpent legend, and we saw a couple (possibly homemade) statues of the same. A short drive down the lake coast for a look at an old abandoned farm, then back on the highway.
02014-Aug-11 – 17:35 – Hotel Laxa, Lake Mitvan
We’ve landed at the next hotel after an interplanetary journey across the surface of the moon and then Mars… or at least what could have easily passed for them. The moonscape was a vast rolling field of rocky grey. Mars appeared as a steaming orange geyser field, reeking to near-intolerable levels of sinus-clearing sulphur gases. Claire was actually in tears. But now, we are at this hotel for two nights so the schedule may slow a bit for a day… may. More photos to follow.
02014-Aug-11 – 17:36 – Hotel Laxa
02014-Aug-11 – 21:53 – Jardböden Natural Baths
The sulfur stink I alluded to in an earlier entry is apparently desirable… or at least that’s what we discovered after spending 7000 kr (about $70) to swim in the same. The setting gets a five stars, ten out of ten, two thumbs up… but bathing in a wafting steamy breeze heavily scented with the gag-inducing odor of a million rotten eggs rolled back the overall score. Jardböden Natural Baths are an outdoor pool and natural volcanic hot spring, and are a major attraction in the local area. Perhaps my nauseated reaction to the smell is hereditary, however, as Claire and I seemed to be the only two in the place bothered by it. Bleeeghghgh!
02014-Aug-12 – 13:53 – Lake Mytvan
Claire, Karin and I just got back from a leisurely one hour horseback safari along Lake Mytvan. There were nine of us on a trail through a volcanic landscape full of steam-blasted hills and fissure-ridden crags swarming full of midge flies.
02014-Aug-12 – 21:30 – Back at Hotel Laxa
Our day was spent in the Lake Mytvan area. After our horse riding adventure –and a quick hike around a fields of lava-shaped stone formations– we hopped into the car and back-tracked east, eating lunch as we drove the forty klicks or so back to Dettifoss, a massive waterfall in the middle of a vast volcanic wasteland. The rolling lava fields suddenly gave way to a landscape of blocky and columnar stone, and what the guidebook told us is the most powerful waterfall on the European continent. It was spectacular, as was the landscape around it, and as usual we were almost equally amazed by the foolhardiness risks taken by tourists around epic-deadly landscapes as we were by the landscape itself. We drove back to the Mytvan area, climbed up a volcanic crater that offered a panoramic view of the local area, and then descended for dinner… in a barn. Our supper was a at local attaction, of sorts. A local dairy has attached a quaint diner to the side of their 20+ cattle barn and you can enjoy farm-fresh food while watching the cows get milked. I had a hamburger. More photos to follow…
02014-Aug-12 – 21:33 – From Nowhere
02014-Aug-13 – 12:31 – Akureyri
We stopped for lunch in the port city of Akureyri, on the north coast. Apparently cruise ships stop here often as my parents were here a couple years ago. Dad and I stopped at a hot dog truck on the main shopping street and ate some awesome dogs with a variety of toppings, but everyone else thought they’d try Icelandic Subway, which so far has been almost the most reasonably priced lunch to date.
02014-Aug-13 – 16:37 – Near Sauðanes Lighthouse
We stopped for a five minute photo break just ten minutes north of Siglufjorður, home of a very cool fishing museum, and snapped a pic of all of us standing at the north-most apex of our travels this trip: 66 degrees 11 minutes north.
02014-Aug-13 – 21:42 – Hofsstaðir Guesthouse
A few more items checked off my Tastes of Iceland tonight, and an hour photographing an amazing sunset out the door of our hotel room… literally… three steps from our room. Tonight’s dinner was at the restaurant of the guesthouse where we are staying in the North of the country, and my lamb dinner had a starter sample plate of smoked lamb and cured puffin. I didn’t quite feel hearty enough to try the horse (though dad did) and having checked two more items off my list, all I’m left with its fermented shark… which seems more rare than many vacation videos would let on.
02014-Aug-14 – 13:51 – Hvammstangi, Northern Iceland
Stopped for a swim and some lunch in the little fishing town of Hvammstangi. The day has been mostly warm, with a few light clouds.
02014-Aug-14 – 17:20 – Bjarnarhofn, Iceland
Despite my earlier skepticism, I checked the last item from my Iceland food bucket list a few minutes ago. We stopped at the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhofn on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We lucked out; typically a tour of the museum seems to involve a small half centimeter cube taste of the more mild fermented shark, but as we were walking up to the museum, the owner had a hunk of the good stuff out and was slicing of finger-sized chunks for some locals… and we got in on the action. Shark, fermented for six months tastes like a mix of ammonia and menthol, a bit like taking a bite of gelled cleaning fluid.
02014-Aug-14 – 22:03 – Hotel Hellnar, Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Tonight we sleep in the shadow of a volcano. Snæfellsnes, made somewhat famous in its referencing in Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth as the entrance to the great fictional hollow core of the world, is raining for us this evening. We are camped in a nice hotel near the coast –in fact I walked down to the craggy beach before dinner– and awaiting our last day of driving before finding our way back to Reykjavik sometime tomorrow. Dinner was tasty, but ran very late, and we’re now settling into bed. Two more nights in Iceland…
02014-Aug-15 – 08:00 – Hellnar
Our last day of travel, and it looks like rain.
02014-Aug-15 – 08:59 – Hellnar
02014-Aug-15 – 21:34 – Reykjavik
Back in Reykjavik, we did some final shopping, went for dinner, and did some more shopping. It was kinda surreal to drive past the exit we’d taken so long, yet so short time ago. It had been about eight days, but there it was, the highway leading east into the adventures awaiting around the island. We marked it as it went zooming by, then went to to mall and bought more candy to bring home.
02014-Aug-15 – 21:40 – Reykjavik
I wanted to squeeze in one more Iceland run before we set off for home. After dinner I opted to jog a four klick out-and-back along the Reykjavik waterfront. I got a few odd looks, I assume it was because I was in shorts and everyone else was bundled up, but the scenery along the ocean –or bay or whatever we’re calling that body of seawater out there– was amazing. Windy, but amazing.
02014-Aug-16 – 08:31 – Bus to the Blue Lagoon
Our last day consists entirely of getting to the airport with a stop over at the Blue Lagoon, the ultimate Iceland tourist trap and (apparently) yet another sulphur smelling swimming pool. My plan is to grab some video in this epic-sized “natural” hot spring with my GoPro… if they let me take it with me swimming, of course.
02014-Aug-16 – 11:45 – The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon was a pleasant surprise. I’ve been dreading it somewhat, suspecting that it would be (a) stinking of sulphur and (b) crazy crowded with tourists… but the smell wasn’t even in the same league as the last baths we visited and we arrived early enough that we were only meeting the crowds as we were leaving. Now… to find a bus to the airport, and home.
02014-Aug-16 – 14:06 – Keflavik Airport
I will give kudos to our mobile carrier while we were here, Siminn. I bought a prepaid SIM card for about $25 and added another $20 on for a 5GB data plan, and other than for a few minutes here and there in the most remote corners of Iceland, we had internet. And yeah, like the ad says, Dad was Facebooking from þingvallur.
02014-Aug-16 – 15:18 – Departure Gate 31
Good bye Iceland.
02014-Aug-16 – 17:01 – Icelandic Air Flight 693