We just returned from spending several days in Iceland.
Why Iceland? We had stayed there for a couple of days in Reykjavik on a previous trip and wanted to see more of it. Now we have been there twice and still have not soaked in The Blue Lagoon, so we may go again someday.
We traveled with a company called gjtravel (Gudmundur Jonasson Travel) and were pleased with the experience. It was called the Grand Tour of Iceland and included the Golden Circle, the Ring Road and the West Fjords area. Names were very difficult for us, but I will type them in this summary, just to be accurate. Don’t ask me to pronounce the names.
We went a day early to deal with jet lag and did a few things in Reykjavik prior to the formal tour. We hit some rainy weather and found traveling by taxi was much dryer than walking in the rain without umbrellas. We did the National Museum of Iceland (near the campus of the University of Iceland), the Saga Museum and a new display of life-sized whales that are found in Iceland, including the giant Blue Whale. We wanted Barbara’s sister to experience the world famous hot dog and consuming that in a driving rain was not the best experience of the trip, but we did it anyway. Former President Clinton almost created a national incident when he asked for only two items on his hot dog instead of “the works”. Poor intelligence on the part of his handlers. We didn’t make that mistake. We also visited the concert hall with wonderful architecture. It is called the Harpa.
Every day we saw sheep, which are an important part of the economy: think Icelandic sweaters. We saw many Icelandic horses, even getting to pet one, not to mention cattle and chickens and a few dogs.
Agenda: Day One was getting settled. There is a 45 minute transfer from the Keflavik airport to our Hotel Klettur.
Day Two: We did the Golden Circle tour that includes Gulfoss (with double falls), visited the active geothermal area of Geysir (where Strokkur rises 70 feet every five minutes or so) and finished the day at the ancient Viking Parliament area. Along the way we saw evidence of fault lines. Before we ended the day we passed through a tunnel under a fjord to reach Borgarfjordur.
Day Three: We explored the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and went into a Lava Cave made famous by Jules Verne’s science fiction novel about the journey to the center of the earth which goes about 35 meters underground. We saw lots of lava fields that were formed eons ago. We overnighted in the Grundarfjordur area.
Day Four: My personal highlight occurred at the westernmost point of Iceland. We got there by ferry and ended at the bird cliffs of Latrabjarg. What did we see? Lots of birds, including puffins. They had little fear of humans, so we got lots of close-ups of my favorite bird. The road was rather primitive, but we were blessed with a good driver, so neither of us were anxious.
Day Five: We drove to the waterfall Dynjandi with its seven levels of plunging. And we saw lots of beautiful scenery.
Day Six: We were introduced to a rather authentic replica of the homestead of Erik the Red, the father of Leif-the-Lucky, who was the first European to set foot in North America. I would vote to replace Columbus Day with Eriksen Day. This was the day we were treated to a horse show. We some how ended the day in Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city at about 18,000 people. An extra was a whale watching tour in the bay. We saw humpback whales. Our travel companions from Hawaii didn’t take that tour. Akureyri is a beautiful city. If we ever return to Iceland, I would like to spend more time there. We had to rush dinner, so we ate at Subway.
Day Seven: We saw Godafoss Falls, Lake Myvatn, walk in the lava field of Dimmuborgir, climbed to the rim of the ash crator Hverfjall, saw hot springs and bubbling mud pools of Namaskard and experienced geothermal fields. Our substitute for the Blue Lagoon was a good soak in the Myvatn Nature Baths.
Day Eight: We reached the east side of Iceland and experienced Dettifoss waterfall in the northern part of Vatnajokull National Park. We drove into a remote area and got a view of Herdubreide, referred to as the queen of Icelandic mountains. So many waterfalls! Fortunately, we have pictures to keep them straight in our minds. We drove to Borgarfjordur Eystri. We were introduced to some elf lore, went to a puffin colony, but only saw one puffin. Most had gone to sea for the winter. We stayed at Guesthouse Alfheimar.
Day Nine: We saw a magnificent (large) stone collection. Then we went to the biggest glacier in Europe, but we didn’t see it because of the weather. We spent a short time riding amongst floating glaciers on the glacier lagoon at Jokulsarion. The night was spent near Skaftafell on the southern part of Vatnajokull National Park. We saw glimpses of some wonderful mountains with glaciers peeking through.
Day Ten: We were allowed to walk close to a glacial tongue. Then on to a black lava beach and bird cliffs near the village of Vik. (Footnote: a cave here has become famous because Russell Crowe was filmed in this cave for the movie Noah.) We went to the Eyjafjallajokull information center and learned about recent volcanic eruptions. And then we stopped at the Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls. Walking behind one of the waterfalls was a wet experience, to say the least. Our farewell dinner was in a revolving restaurant known as The Pearl.
We traveled 1,572 miles in the 9 days. That is 2,535 kilometers. Some of the walking activities were too difficult for a couple of our members. After one fall, we were quick to suggest that those individuals not tackle some of our options. If you like dramatic scenery and waterfalls and the creative process, I would recommend the trip. Iceland loves to improve their economy. We had been told we didn’t need any local money. That was true. Our credit card worked everywhere, including the hot dog stand.
On the final day in Reykvajvik, Barbara and I visited The Einar Jonsson Museum (sculpture, paintings and drawings) which we would not have discovered without the help of our guide. And we were lucky to hit a “free day” and qualified to use their restrooms. The Lutheran cathedral does not allow visitors to use their restrooms. We were lucky to be able to listen to a visiting choir practice for their concert in the cathedral.