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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Day 8: Snaefellsnes Peninsula "Iceland in Miniature"

If you have been following along on my Iceland Adventures, you know how amazing and diverse the landscape has been thus far.  Day 8 proved to be a perfect way to start wrapping up the trip, seeing some of Iceland's most famous features on one peninsula.  The plan for Day 8 was to drive out and around Iceland's famous Snaefellsnes Peninsula which is known for being "Iceland in Miniature".  If you don't have time to see the whole country, a drive through this peninsula will give you a mini-tour of some of Iceland's most famous geologic structures and landscapes.  It's proximity to Reykjavik (just 1.5 hours north) also makes it an easy way to see a lot of Iceland in a little bit of time.  A famous glacier, charming towns, plenty of opportunities for hiking, beautiful arches, folklore, Iceland's classic basalt features, sunbathing seals, lava fields, famous mountains, flowing waterfalls... it's all here. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Day 7: Glaumbær Turf Houses, Horses, Sjavarborg Restaurant, and Gauksmyri Lodge

Glaumbær Turf Houses
To me, there is something iconically Iceland about a turf house.  Beautiful little buildings with mud walls and roofs hidden in the landscape.  We had seen a few scattered around the country, but hadn't been to a dedicated "turf house site" and we knew such a thing existed.   Glaumbær turf farm was the perfect place to see these structures up close and learn more about Iceland's history and culture. And yes, the sun came out and we soaked up every bit of sunshine and thanked the photo gods for giving us enough light to capture this stunning part of the country.

Glaumbær Turf Houses

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Day 7: Visiting Akureyri - Eat, Drink, Art, Shop

Akureyri (pronounced ah-koo-rare-ee) is fondly known as Iceland's "Capital of the North" and its second city (and second largest urban area with a population of about 18,500).  Akureyri is on one of the longest fjords in the country and is surrounded by mountains reaching 1000-1500 m.  At this point in the trip, we had left Reykjavik 6 days earlier and had spent our time driving through quiet sections of Iceland and sleepy tiny towns.  We were looking forward to seeing Iceland's OTHER city and soaking in some more Icelandic charm.  We didn't really have set plans but knew we wanted to spend a few hours walking around, grab lunch, and stop in a few shops along the way.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Goðafoss waterfall and Dettifoss waterfall - Iceland

GPS: N65° 40' 58.154" W17° 32' 58.487"

Goðafoss waterfall 

After leaving our hotel, we made out first stop of the day right off the ring road to one of Iceland's famous waterfalls, Goðafoss.   This waterfall was very Niagra fallsy for me.  Well, a really muddy dirty Niagara falls atleast. With a height of 12 meters a width of 30 meters, this u shaped waterfall had great views from it's two access points.  We were however, a little bummed to see how BROWN the waterfall was, likely due to the large amounts of rain we had been experiencing that week. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Day 6: Visiting Húsavík, Iceland's Whale Watching Capital

Husavik Whale Tale Statue 
Day 6 was going to need some major replanning.  After a failed trip to Detifoss due to the awful conditions outside (wind, rain, repeat), we decided we were going to need to do something a little different.  Outdoor activities were basically out of the question given the weather and we now had a free afternoon with no plans and just the Ring Road heading west in front of us.  We looked at the map and made a last minute decision to take an unplanned detour off the Ring Road to Húsavík, Iceland's (and often quoted as all of Europe's) whale watching capital. Húsavík is an idyllic colorful little town in Northern Iceland full of good food, history, and some of Iceland's best whale watching.  It is a 45-minute detour off the Ring Road along Road 87 from Myvatn or if you wish to continue farther up the Ring Road and take Road 85 it's about 35-minutes north off the Ring Road.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Day 6: Namafjall Geothermal Field (Hverir) Iceland & Grjótagjá Cave

I am sure you have heard me talk about Iceland as the land of Fire and Ice by now and by this point, we have seen plenty of both.  We are recapping Day 6 and at this point in our trip, we had traversed more than half of the island, and had seen amazing landscapes from beautiful green canyons, black sand beaches, waterfalls, iceberg lagoons, and glaciers, to blue lagoons (mostly in the rain of course).  Today we were adding boiling mudpots from a geothermal field to the list of all these crazy things you can find on one island.  If you recall from previous posts, Day 2 had brought us to Geysers at Haukadalur including one that erupted, right off the golden circle. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Day 6: Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters and Dimmuborgir Lava Field

Day 6 of our 10-day journey around Iceland left us just over that halfway point in our time and Iceland and on the map.  It's that point in the trip where you know your days are numbered on the vacation calendar and soon you will be back on a cramped flight to the states with the dread of unpacked suitcases, dirty laundry, and work emails (so many emails).  With 5 days already under our belt, we had seen so much of beautiful Iceland and every day brought a unique and amazing landscape that this country is known for.  On the morning of Day 6, we left the guesthouse early to make a few quick stops at some attractions in the area before continuing north and west on our journey around the Ring Road.  Our first stop was a quick one, to a site filled with pseudo-craters known as Skútustaðagígar. It was also directly across the street from our guesthouse, Skútustadir Guesthouse, making this an easy way to start the day.  

Walking path to Skútustaðagígar pseudo-crater

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Day 5: Mývatn Nature Baths/Jarðböðin

I bet you know someone who had a layover in Iceland and stopped for a visit to Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon.  You know it.... that famous milky blue hot pool just outside Reykjavik where tourists flock for a hot soak and Instagram worthy photos.  
The Blue Lagoon is after all Iceland's biggest tourist attraction.  

Everything I read about it made me want to stay far far away.  If you know me you know I sort of lose my shit around large crowds of humans.  Insane mobs and high prices lead us to the decision that IF we were going to spend money to soak in a hot pool we would wait until we reached the northern end of the island.  In Myvatn, Jarðböðin (the nature baths) are known as the "Little Blue Lagoon" and here, you can soak in a hot pool with fewer crowds and for a better deal, or so we thought

If you want to know which lagoon to go to, my quick answer is neither.  For me, this was another skippable tourist trap but in case you are interested in Iceland's "Little Blue Lagoon", read on and decide for yourself if it's worth your time and money.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Day 5: A Detour to Iceland's East Fjords - Seyðisfjörður

Map of downtown Seyðisfjörður

Oh Day were not going to let us have any sunshine. 

This was the day of crazy rain that really only let up for brief 10 minutes windows, and an insane mountain pass in above mentioned conditions.  But despite the doom and gloom weather and terrifying drive, the day brought us off the Ring Road on a detour to the amazing little fjord town of Seyðisfjörður.  We spent the afternoon learning all about this little town, walking around and stopping into a quaint coffee shop for an espresso and slice of date pudding. ALWAYS order the date pudding...

Friday, November 10, 2017

Iceberg Ahead: Jökulsárlón, Fjallsárlón, and Diamond Beach

This is one of the posts I have been most excited to share about my trip to Iceland.  Before I left for Iceland, I knew the iceberg lagoon was going to be one of my favorite stops and I was correct.  Icebergs and beautiful diamond-like masses of ice sitting in the quietest lagoon, surrounded by a foggy mist or on a black sandy beach with waves washing in and out.  The ice-blue popping out from this large body of water with seals splashing and birds swimming. 

 The icebergs making their way out of this lagoon, under the bridge, and out to sea or even better, washing up on something called Diamond Beach.  From the crystalline blue to the crystal clear diamond like masses of ice on a bed of black sand, an afternoon at Jökulsárlón, Fjallsárlón and Diamond Beach is a traveler's dream and one of the best stops in Iceland.  Best yet, these spots are all right off the Ring Road and were some of my favorite stops of the entire trip around Iceland.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Guided tour on the Svínafellsjökull glacial tongue in Skaftafell

Guided tour on the Svínafellsjökull glacial tongue 
in Skaftafell nature reserve

Almost everything I read about Iceland said DO THE GLACIER HIKE.  Make the time, cough up some dough, and do it.  And truth be told, I didn't need a ton of convincing to spend some the time out on one of Iceland's famous glaciers.  My only regret?  Not spending more time and money to do a longer tour or an ice climbing adventure out on the ice. 

 Iceland's glaciers and volcanoes and various extremes are the reason that this country is known as the Land of Fire and Ice.   Active volcanoes and moving glaciers surely makes Iceland a unique spot and tops the charts for many bucket lists.  Being able to walk out on this glacier with a tour guide educating the group all about the glacier, formation, and the island in the face of climate change is pretty amazing.   You pull up to the glacier and look up to see this large sheet of "living" ice, crawling down the mountain-side making its way to the water. 

Being out on this marbled looking ice makes you feel like you are on another planet.  Every time I looked out at the wild landscape all I could think was A: this could be another planet and B: This ice looks like a gorgeous sheet of marble. Then you have to stop and think about how awesome it is to be out in Iceland with your crampons and ice axe walking on a glacier. And then you realize that your ice axe is sort of more for show as this is nothing more than a leisurely informative guided stroll, and your expectations of rappelling down glaciers is really on the other tour you didn't want to spend $300 or 4 hours on. 

Glacier in Iceland

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hike to Svartifoss Waterfall Skaftafell - Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

Day Four was a long day.  Like 6 stops/activities in one day plus driving to them all kind of long.  This part of the country just has so much to offer and shows off a vast amount of scenery in such a small area.  We started the day with some quick easy stops,  to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon and Kirkjugólf Basalt Tiles.  The rest of the day was spent on a guided glacier tour of one of Iceland's glaciers and checking out the icebergs in the two lagoons and on Diamond Beach. 

Entrance to Skaftafell National Park

We had a time crunch but wanted to spend some time a) hiking and b) in Skaftafell National Park.  Our main goal in the park was to complete the short hike to the famous Svartifoss waterfall.  This was one of our first actual "hikes" and by some grace of god, the weather held out long enough for us to complete this hike in the sunshine.  It can be pretty tough to set specific days and times to hike with Iceland's ever changing weather so when the sun comes out... you shift around any and all plans you have and go hike.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Day 4: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon and Kirkjugólf Basalt Tiles

Day 4 of Iceland was the day I was most excited about.  We were going to hike on a glacier and see icebergs floating out of a glacial lagoon... how many places in the world can you go do that?  Day 4 we were up early to get to our first planned site before the tour busses.  We left the guesthouse and headed for Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, a name I still have no idea how to pronounce.  After Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, we headed down the road just a few miles to see the Kirkjugolf Basalt Tiles.  Two quick and easy stops to start the day, one worth the stop and one getting a KW skippable tag. 

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

63.771250°N 18.17194°W