Due to poor Colombian Internet, and a laptop that hated the tropics and now won’t type half its keys. Putting this blog together has been an absolute time consuming mission. Disclaimer at the beginning. This is super long and features selfies. But this blog is for us in ten years time when our memory of this trip has faded, we hope to still be able to relive our time in this most wonderful of countries through this blog. So if you get bored, I don’t blame ya! But if you do make it through. Thank you! Hope you enjoy the bits you read and the photos you see!
Words cannot describe Iceland appropriately. Images are about the only thing that we have found that comes close to revealing the awe, majesty and overwhelming-ness of this remote island. We were lucky enough to tick this off our bucket list in September and had one of the most beautiful weeks ever….
This is our map of Iceland. We drove roughly 2,500kms in a week starting from Reykjavik on the south western side in an anti clockwise direction.
We arrived in Iceland just at sunset and once arrived in Reykjavik set out about 10PM in hunt of the mysterious Northern Lights. We got a mere taste but even that was enough to make us stop and go “WOW”
Day 1 and Reykjavik was FREEZING. And so windy! we had been out of the car for about 3 minutes. The Umbrella was no more. FYI I am wearing a t shirt, cardigan, hoodie, pufferjacket and windbreaker. I am still cold!
The Incredible cathedral in Reykjavik (despite destroying my umbrella) was an incredible feat of engineering
Inside of the Cathedral and the wow continued.
Later that day we got to go and experience the Blue Lagoon. Most famous of attractions in Iceland these sulphuric thermal pools allow you to enjoy a glass of Prosecco while soaking in hot water with freezing air temperatures. And yes, it really is BLUE!
Day 2 and we left Reykjavik and started on the long loop around the island. Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss. HUGE and awe inspiring…
Seljalandfoss is the waterfall you can walk behind!!!! And Man was that trippy! But worth it- only problem was the wind was so strong you had to time it so you didn’t get the camera gear saturated!
The weather started to clear as we continued on down the coast and left this lovely hazy colourful look around the land. Just stunning really!
The cold and the rain and the EXCITEMENT OF BEING IN ICEALAND!!!!
Our next stop was a waterfall called Skogafoss. This waterfall had so, much, power! We attempted a jumping photo here and failed miserably. However i loved the fact that we both seem to be under the impression that jumping shot must equal gaping mouth!
If you look closely you can see a seagull flying across the face of the water.
That’s another thing about this country- the emptiness. Hoards of crowds just don’t exist!
Climbing to the top of Skogafoss was a challenge. A steep 440 steps up and back, but this view- so worth it. Literally feels like you are watching water pour into oblivion!
From Skogafoss we continued on down the coast to the first glacier. This incredible ice cap is gradually melting leaving stark contrasts everywhere between ice, water, rocks, grass and volcanic gravel.
We clambered off the path ASAP and got to the lake edge and walked along the
Lake which afforded us these magnificent reflection views with the added bonus of being completely isolated.
In this shot you can see a little remnant of floating ice. Just the idea that we were so easily accessing a glacier was amazing!
At the end of the lake was the glacier itself. This is right on the edge, a mix of ice and the volcanic gravel, in the silence you could hear it creaking and cracking which was a little intimidating. It was only when we got back up to the path we saw a sign “do not leave path! Glacier unstable!” Iceland’s protection against idiots like us….
After an incredible day we arrived at the beach town (more like minute village) of Vik. And lo and behold some absolute nutters were surfing!!!!
Tucked up in our hotel in Vik and set our alarm for 1am in case of NL, even though the forecast was rubbish. We got up at 1 and ummed and ahhed about whether to get out into the freezing night air as we couldn’t see anything. Man are we glad we did!
Shivering and a little bit reluctant we went to the beach and thought we saw a glow over the other side of the village so drove over there, where we started getting excited, we could see that just out of the town the lights were starting to dance.
We drove and spent the next hour and a half in complete and utter awe as the heavens danced and we watched on, appalled that we had almost bunked in favour of sleep!!! This night still stands as the most memorable in both our entire lives. We have never felt so overwhelmed to the point of tears at a natural phenomena as we did that night.
In the morning we set out from Vik, tired but so happy. Getting back to bed at 4am and feeling every part of my body burning as it thawed out under the duvets meant sleep was a while returning.
The ring road around Iceland follows the coast most of the way and these beaches were stunning. This was the morning on Vik’s beach. Much nicer in sunlight I must say.
As we left Vik, we saw this church. Now I am not a fan of this type of edit. But here I think it highlights two key things really well. 1; this church type is EVERYWHERE, in fact for a population of only 330,000 it seems like they have one church per family. They all look like this and they all have iconic red roofs.
Ok another aspect of Iceland is the roads. We loved the way this road gently bends and twists nestled between the green hills. Even when nothing else is going on we would stop to marvel at the loveliness of these roads.
Maybe two hours from Vik (it would have been an hour but we just stop everywhere!) we got to this place. Why is this picture here? As a demonstration of the Icelandic language. So simple, much ease. Not! This and Croatian honestly have been so challenging to even pronounce where we are staying!!!
However, a 45 minute walk/hike with this as a view was not bad. I found it really interesting that types of foliage vary from country to country, some are soft some spiky in an overall way. The flora here is akin to that in NZ, it felt like a winters day hike up Pirongia or something (almost anyway)
At the end of the climb this was our reward. Commonly referred to as the organ pipe waterfall. Svartifoss (great name huh!) is ringed with these organ pipe basalt rock formations and makes for a phenomenal image!
After leaving Vatnajokulspjodgardur national park… Seriously that name. Try say it. I dare you. Actually we could patent a drinking game around Icelandic geography. Maybe that can fund our next trip…. Anyway. We reached the edge of the HUGE icecap; Vatnajokull, this has an area of 8,100km squared (our laptop keypad isn’t working sorry about the little two missing there). By volume, it’s the largest icecap in Europe. WHAAAAT. We stopped many times from many angles to capture this…
After a while we saw a few cars parked at the base of some volcanic gravel dunes so we decided to park too. Scrambled over them and what do you know, floating iceberg lake…. Jaw hit the floor. This shot was just as an iceberg broke in half, the crack, splash and gentle crackles and bubbles as it settles is very surreal.
A panoramic shot of this phenomenal lake. We were so lucky to have such ideal weather, the blue reflected so beautifully. This was again another highlight (I know this week was basically all highlight), but it was so unexpected and therefore all the more incredible.
Super chuffed selfie. Remember, this blog is basically for us in the future. So sorry for the selfies!
We left the lake and headed on another four hours of driving around the South east corner of Iceland and started on the eastern fijords just as it started to get to the golden hour. And so we stopped and stopped and stopped. The water and mountains and light.
The black and white edit of this was a bit of a favourite with us.
And again the green and the rocks.
Another stop in love with the beautiful reflections
At the end of one of the fijords we cut inland across the mountains on state highway 1A. This is state highway 1A…
As light faded we kept going up and up on this gravel road in our non-4wd. We climbed higher and higher above the clouds and then they cleared directly in front of us and we saw the road bathed in this lovely pink light… Magic.
This nights display of the northern lights wasn’t as impressive but still amazing!!! To the eye it was a lot greyer rather than greenish. But your camera picks up way more light!
We made a relatively short trek on Friday only about 4 hours, and on the way we came across a lovely and completely isolated waterfall. This is huge, probably as Hugh as bridal veil falls in the Waikato. And not a soul in sight.
We crested over a hill and the landscape changed drastically. Gone were rolling hills, replaced by vast, empty and seemingly endless plane. It was so vast that this blue haze can actually be seen covering the layers of mountains.
Further on it changes and this ochre colour comes into the foreground. It was a beautiful burnt red colour and contrasted amazingly with the blue skies. Honestly the differences in this country are amazing.
Steam vents on steroids. The smell here, made Rotorua seem like a lavender potpourri bath. This literally had us gagging from the sulphur. And again, Iceland is huge compared to its population, they just don’t have the manpower for safety stuff like we do in NZ. This huge, growing steam vent is OUTSIDE of the thin rope which acts as a barrier to the thermal boiling mud pools. It’s like the unstable glacier all over. The authorities seem to be under the impression that if you’re dumb enough to get yourself hurt its your fault. Fair enough I guess.
Five minutes over a hill from the seriously smelly steam vents and we arrived at Myvatn nature baths. Same deal as blue lagoon. EXCEPT: cheaper, incredible views- the pools go right to the edge of the hill and you stare out over the plane seen in the distance, it is also ridiculously uncrowded. When we were in it there was a total of 8 people (us included) by the time I was dressed and had got the camera from the car it was practically crowded…. Well a few more people anyway. But if you are planning on doing the full loop around Iceland. Don’t waste time and money at blue lagoon. Your experience at Myvatn will be just as epic and cheaper.
Ok Saturday we went whale watching!!!! 😮 – Matt gets chronically sea sick. He started off bravely enough….
But after the 3 hours on board we docked and the poor guy was lying dejectedly on the floor! BUT no vomit!!!!! We both had our puffer jackets plus the rest and then donned these huge sleeping bag-esque waterproof onesies and were only just warm enough!
The whale watching town of Iceland: Husavik. Stunning in its own way.
Whale tail one! Humpback whale
The back of a Miinki whale. It came so close, right between us and the one other boat out! (icelandic is similar accent to Swedish I think, so hearing “ohhh yaaah, thee Minki vhale” was very funny)
Humpback whale tail against the phenomenal backdrop. This bay we are in is on the rim of the arctic circle. So even though it is the end of summer, that snow is not going anywhere.
Safely ashore again we looked out at the growing storm HIGHLY thankful we had booked a morning tour! Despite the brewing storm we decided we would head on a two hour drive for one waterfall….
Dettifoss. Getting there was a mission, especially when the car kept having flashing lights and alarms saying that we had lost pressure in our tyres. When we are on a crazy gravel road on a very open plane with driving wind and horizontal rain, not ideal. But getting there was so worth it.
The valley it runs in is a narrow gorge that is carved out of this dead flat plane.
The most powerful of waterfalls, also where the opening scene from Prometheus is filmed, that crazy otherworldly edge of the world thing. Yep we got that.
However after the stormy afternoon and evening we woke to a stunning dawn and we decided to head out half an hour to Godafoss.
Godafoss literally translates to waterfall of the Gods and it is arguably the most beautiful of all waterfalls in Iceland. Add to that a gorgeous dawn and we were loving it!
A view from the side as one of the branches rushes below us- and again, no safety precautions. If I had a death wish and wanted to jump in and canoe over the edge I could.
We left Husavik behind and drove to the only other “city” in Iceland. Akureyri has a population of 17,000. Cambridge in the Waikato, has 19,000. Just as a comparison. After Reykjavik, this is the next biggest metropolitan area- and it’s about 4-5 hours from Akureyri to Reykjavik with not a lot in between. Except this. An hour plus out of Akureyri and we spot a house in a huge valley…
We parked up and slipped and climbed our way down the steep gravel embankments- the view up the valley as we are approaching the house.
Up close we can see it is completely abandoned. In winter this place would have been come tell cut off.
We went up and peered in and it was eerie. Peeling paint and rotting wood but still evident was that it was a home. Other rooms had radiators, beds with failed mattresses, light bulbs dangling from the roof.
Another window showed closer into the kitchen, an empty tin sitting on the bench. Already feeling isolated in this valley so far from anywhere we couldn’t get over how anyone could choose to live this cut off from society.
The whole time I had no idea why Matt kept laughing, he didn’t tell me I hadn’t quite managed to squish my bun into my hood. It was only on our climb back to the car he took this shot.
Our last day in Iceland we took a 3 1/2 hour detour for one photo. On the way however we passed this. Volcanic rock covered in moss and different colours competing for the same space. Even on a grey dreary day this was beautiful.
The final photo. The detour. Clouds and rain notwithstanding Kirkjufell cannot fail but to impress. It is an iconic mountain that goes up and down so sharply. The little waterfall in front as seen in countless other photos, makes for wonderful composition!
From Kirkjufell we drove the 2 and a bit hours back to the airport, and found for the first time a place we desperately wanted to come back to before we even left.
If you have made it to the end I congratulate you!!!! This was long I know. But these are the memories we never want to forget. If you have looked at all these photos, you will hopefully feel more inclined to visit. And trust us when we say no photo will ever do this land of fire and ice justice. It is one country you have to experience to believe.
Next blog will be shorter I promise!!!