Iceland - loved it

Iceland Travel Blog

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Arrival at Keflavik

** Edit - one of the earliest TB Blogs I ever did, so not the best, all crammed on the one entry. Have been adding a whole series of reviews though, which are half blog/half review to fill in details of the places we went **

Just somewhere I always had a notion to go and see, and I was not disappointed. Took a bit of planning, and we realised it would be impossible to do it all in 10 days. Decided on hiring car and to travel round south to east to north, and to dump the car in Akureyri and to fly back down to  Reykjavik.

Started off badly. Flight out of Glasgow was due to leave at 9-35pm and we were delayed until 4-20am.

Car that was about to get trashed
Tried to grab some sleep but never really managed it, so arrived at Keflavik pretty tired at 6am. Going through baggage reclaim noticed that they have a duty free shop on the way into the country. Good place to stock up on beer and wine and saves you carrying it all on the plane.

Finding our barings at the airport and went outside and the first thing that struck us was the smell of sulphur. Not drastic to the point that you would be gagging, but a definate whiff in the air, though you soon become used to it and don't notice it anymore.

Had originally booked hotel in Keflavik but wasn't worth it so we just went to pick up the car. Got the keys and direction to where it was parked and then when I got to it found they had given us an automatic.

Road in from airport
Not terribly common in UK, and I'd never driven one so went back and got them to change it for a manual gearshift one .

Still early and the road into Reykjavik was pretty quiet. It was a beautiful morning and we were struck at once with the views and managed to pull over and get a few pictures. Missed our route at one of the roundabouts, going off one exit early, but managed to find our way into the centre of Reykjavik and find where we were on the map and work out how to get to the hotel.

Kids had fallen asleep in the back of the car and when we got to the hotel my wife went in and explained we had been delayed and hadn't got any sleep. Hotel were brilliant and said to give them half an hour and they would get our room ready and let us check in. All of us went for a couple of hours kip and then we got up and decided to explore downtown Reykjavik.

Reykjavik
Found it a bit like stepping back in time, quite quaint and rustic for a city. Went to the cathedral, which being Lutheran was pretty basic but went up the tower and got great views across the city and the fjords. Wandered round to the port and then up to the lake in the middle of town(Tjornin).

Relatively realaxing day, after journey, and  headed back to the hotel and then went out for something to eat. Went to a pub that sold food and had 4 pints, 4 cokes, 3 burgers and a kebab and it came to £80. Had been expecting things to be expensive and this was just an indication of what to we would be spending each night. Think it turned out to be the cheapest meal we had.

Got up early next day and had breakfast in the hotel before juming in the car and heading out north of the city to go to the National Park at  Ã�ingvellir where the tectonic plates are moving apart and where the old parliament used to meet .

Reykjavik on way up to cathedral
A sort of gorge where you can see where the two bits would have joined and then there was a plain down in the valley where they held the parliament.

Headed off then to Geysir where the main one Stokkur goes off regularly every 8 minutes. Lots of little pools of bubbling water that you have to put your hand in just to see if it really is that hot. Went to the visitor centre here and then set off again to the waterfall at Gullfoss. Certainly impressive and the noise was immense and the spray came up and soaked you.

Son had wanted to go to the Blue Lagoon the night before, but we thought it to much, but we had taken our swimming gear today and drove to Selfoss to get onto the main road.

Pity about the scaffolding
Looking at the map there was a road that went across country to Grindavik and we decided to try it. When you hire the car they give you a map that has big areas crossed out where you aren't meant to take the car, or if you do then you are responsible for the damage and recovery. This road wasn't on it, but was as bad as any that I would encounter later, as it quickly turned into just loose gravel. Was very barren and almost like a lunar landscape. Kids amused themselves for about 40 minutes playing 'Eye Spy' something beginning with 'R' ,with the anwer obviously ROCK, over and over again :-)

Got to the Blue Lagoon about 7pm and it wasn't very busy. Never having been in anything like this I loved it being out in the open air in a big warm bath. Spent over an hour in it splashing about and the kids loved it.

Lief Erikson
Headed back to Reykjavik and decided to stop off at Hafnarfjordhur for dinner where we had read up about a viking Village and restaurant. Food served in wooden tray sort of thing with indented bowls. Saw the menu and decided I would have to try Minke Whale. I've tried it and it tastes like liver to me, so no rush to try it again. Got back to the hotel about 11pm and had a few beers since I couldn't earlier as I was driving. Still a nice night and daylight still so we sat outside.

Next day it was time to head out into the countryside. Drove along the south road and stopped at Seljalandsfoss, where you can walk round and in behind the waterfall. Had to get some distance in and carried on driving to the museum at Skogar.

Cathedral
The waterfall there Skogafoss was enormous, and walked in as close as i could and you could feel the pressure of it with the lack of air as you got in close. Got well and truely soaked doing it. I was there with jeans,jacket and baseball boots and there was a wee japanese guy doing the same thing in oilskins and waders. Village is made up of traditional buildings that have been moved here to preserve them. There is also a plaque here commemerating the Nuclear Arms Treaty talks between Reagan and Gorbachov that took place on Iceland in the mid 80's.

 Found the bottom of Mýrdalsjökull glacier and went for a walk on a bit of it.Made it to Vik, and onto the black volcanic beach, and where you can see the  Reyninsdrangar (Troll Rocks). Got something to eat before finding the farmstead we had booked into for the night.

Inside Cathedral

Next morning we headed up one of the roads you're not meant to go on, and up to the glacier proper where we were going to go dog sledding. Guy came down to meet us and he was a student from Copenhagen working here for the summer. Given snow suits to put on before being driven further up in a big monster truck. Were given a bit of information about the dogs,Greenland Sled Dogs, then set off onto the glacier. Brilliant fun and when we got to the furthest point stopped for pictures of 'Ice Castle' and to give the dogs a pat. Sat and looked down the glacier and out to see where we could see Much faster sprint heading back as dogs know they will get fed when they get home. Found out that the glacier sits on top of a volcano,Mount Katla and when it erupts the main damage is cause by the melted ice water flooding the plains below called a jokulhlaup.

View from Cathedral tower
Guys reckoned Katla should be due to erupt again by 2010.

On next to Dyrholaey on the coast to see the rock arches and lighthouse. Loads of puffins nesting on the cliffs. Drove on for a bit and came to a field of cairns called Laufskalavartha. Meant to have been where a house was destroyed by volcano and travellers passing leave a stone for luck and you now have a field just off the road with loads of little piles of stones. Scenery continued to be awsome and we stopped on the main road to take pictures.Wife commented on the road that it was like driving along a runway. Dead straight, could see for miles in both directions and hardly any traffic on it, so you could stop stand on the main road ,take all your pictures and get back in the car without anything passing you. Hard to stick to 90kmph speed limit, but every so often you would hit a single track bridge so had to pay attention to the road signs.

Perlan

Backon the road and we headed for Skatafell National Park where we walked up to Svartifoss waterfall,with its strange hexagonal pillars. I managed to clamber over the rocks and get in behind it, but it was a bit tricky and my boy was a bit peeved I wouldn't let him come with me. Time was getting on and we had to make it to Hofn where we were booked into the Youth Hostel for a couple of nights. Drove past Jokulsarlon and got out to see it. We were intending coming back the next day anyway, but still couldn't resist a look.

Laugavegur main street

Youth Hostel was welcoming and a good mix of people. Hofn was more of a village than a town,to me, but walked along the front and found a hotel to have dinner in.

Went back along to Jokulsarlon the next morning and bought tickets for the amphibious truck thing that took you out to the lagoon. The wind had picked up and the weather was taking a turn for the worse, but luckily we managed to get back ashore before it got bad. It's only a very short distance from the lagoon to the sea and we went down to see where the bits of glacier that get out to sea are washed back up on the beach. By the time we had driven across the main road and down to the sea my daughter and I refused point blank to get out of the car as the wind was blowing a gale and the rain was teaming down.

Drove back to Hofn and came up behind 4 motorcyclists who were having real problems keeping their bikes straight and on the road.

Had to be very careful overtaking them as they were getting blown about all over the road. Back in Hofn we went to the Glacier Museum, not impressed at all with it but it was out of the rain, and then went to shops as we had decided to cook a meal for ourselves in the hostel. Not the easiest thing to do with so many people wanting to cook at the same time but we got there in the end. The four motorcyclists from earlier turned out to be staying here as well that night and found out they were from Germany and had visited many parts of Scotland that we knew well. Sat in with a few beers and played cards that night.

It was now time to head up the Eastern Fjords, but unfortunately the weather was still horrendous and the visibility was poor. The road gradually deteriorated and the main road became gravel.

Tjörnin
Stopped off at Djupivogur. Was more interesting to read about that it was to go to. Went to the Langabud, but it turned out to just be a shop and a cafe and had a walk down to the harbbour. Boat trips from here to Papey where there is a puffin colony, but they weren't until later and we had to press on.

Roads were getting worse and for the first time ever driving I had to pay attention to the 'Falling Rocks' road signs as you would drive round and find big boulders in the middle of the road. Road round the fjords went down to rough gravel in bits and had small waterfalls cascading across the road. Decided to make for Seydisfjordur where we were stopping that night. Stopped off at a petrol station come diner for lunch and then got to  Egilsstadir where we cut off up and over the mountain.

Nearly midnight at the hotel
Weather was still really bad and visibility was practically nil. All of a sudden out of the mist and articulated lorry would appear. The boat from Norway must have arrived and all the ferry traffic was heading towards us. As you drive along out in the wilderness you come across orange shelters that are provided by the government, with supplies topped up, for people who get stranded. Only time we saw one getting used was up on this road where a cyclist had decided that it was better to take cover than to carry on in these conditions.  

The mist started to clear as we went down the other side of the mountain and we stopped at Gufufoss for a while. We were booked in to stay in the Youth Hostel here as well, but there are 2 . Went to the main one and checked in but were allocated rooms in the one in town.

On the road out to Þingvellir
  Seydisfjordur was a nice little town at the end of the fjord closed in by the hills all around. Probably the church here is the most photographed part of the town. Found a decent restaurant and here had what was our most expensive meal in Iceland. Local beers are 2.1% but this place had imported Stella and with the price of everything else I thought what the hell despite it being £13 for a pint. Quite a choice on the menu and I ended up going for the horse fillet, which, despite being well short of the usual well done way I like my meat cooked, was still very nice.

Set off early next morning and drove west. The landscapes were dramatic and we stopped a few times to take some pictures. Went off road to go to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

Þingvellir visitor cente
 The road up to it was longer than anticipated and well rough for the wee car we had, but made it fine. The waterfall was really impressive as the water thundered over the fall and the river then went down into  deep gorge it had carved. It was then onto Lake Myvatn, with it's strange cratered landscape where previous erutions of lava have made little hills. We had seen some pretty gross videos of the midge insects that give the lake it's name, but when we were there it was fine with none of them about. 

Headed back to the Myvatn Nature Baths. These were far more natural than the Blue Lagoon and we spent a good bit of time in the water. It's a really brilliant feeling, and despite the water inlets having the warning signs of 100 C water tempersture it was tempting to see how close you could manage to get.

Þingvellir
Back in the car and we backtracked a few Kilometers to go to Hverarond where the boiling mud pits are. There were also vents with gas steaming out of it and the combination of the smell and the noises were something I've never experienced elsewhere.

Time was getting on and we set off for the hotel. We had booked into the EDDA Hotel at Husivik, but in reallity it turned out to be half way between Husivik and Akureyri. By the time we found it the restaurant was closed and we had to make do with whatever snacks we could get from the shop. EDDA hotels are school accomodation that they open up for the summer and it was fairly comfortable. Had an early night as we were going whle watching the next morning.

Tectonic plates split

Drove the road back to Husivik and bought tickets for boat trip. Sailed out into the bay and were soon seeing lots of dolphins, but disappointingly despite sailing for about 3 hours never came across any whales. Husivik advertises itself as the Whale Watching capital of Iceland,but not that day and was damned cold as well stuck out on the boat for that long. Back onshore we visited the Whale Museum which was OK . A lot of stuff to read rather than spectacular exhibits. After lunch in one of the restaurants down by the harbour we went to Godafoss, where we did get pestered by the bugs. Having missed dinner the previous night made sure we were back at the hotel in plenty of time.

Þingvellir path
it had a swimming pool that you could use and being a school it had a gym hall where folk were playing basketball.

We were getting towards the end of our trip and the following day went to Akureyri, Icelands second largets town. wandered about for a while and then drove out to the airport and dumped the car there. we were booked on a flight to Reykjavik at about 4pm, but the check in people asked us if we just wanted to get on the earlier flight, so we did. It was a bit cloudy  but still got some great views flying overland. Arriving back in Reykjavik we got a taxi to a flat that we had rented for the night. Following the disappointment in Husivik, I had seen tours advertised from Reykjavik harbour to go whale watching and we went down to the harbour to check them out to see if we could fit one in for the morning,as our flight home was at 5pm.

Stokkur
Timing worked in well and booked one with Elding that sailed at 9am and lasted 3 hours. Headed into town and ate at a bar/diner called Red Chilli which was very good.

Up sharp in the morning and went down to the boats. It was busy but not overcrowded and had a cafe on board for tea and coffee. Sailed first to island that was full of puffins and then set off to look for whales. Wasn't long before they found a couple of Minke Whale and then even better a Humpback. It was fantastic to see them, if really tricky to try and get a picture of them as there was no telling where it would pop up on the surface. Amazing the excitement generated on board just seeing them.

Back on dry land there was just time to go back to the flat and pick up our bags and head down to the bus station to get to the airport.

Silica pool

As you could guess from the title and the summary I thouroughly enjoyed the whole time I spent in Iceland, and bore people to death about it and feel it is somewhere everybody should go and see. It was just amazing and I will definately go back, albeit maybe later in the year so that i can see the Northern Lights this time, but there was nothing wrong in going at that time of year.

troysgonewalkabout says:
Another nice blog...I'm heading to Iceland this summer and have high hopes - I've not read a bad word about it...well, other than the cost of course :)
Posted on: Feb 15, 2010
dieforu says:
woow great work,thanks!at least i know that i ahve to get with lot cash there,hehe:-D
Posted on: Sep 24, 2009
delsol67 says:
Ok, after reading your blog, I think I have an idea of what I need to search for tours. Thank you!
Posted on: Aug 23, 2009
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Arrival at Keflavik
Arrival at Keflavik
Car that was about to get trashed
Car that was about to get trashed
Road in from airport
Road in from airport
Reykjavik
Reykjavik
Reykjavik on way up to cathedral
Reykjavik on way up to cathedral
Pity about the scaffolding
Pity about the scaffolding
Lief Erikson
Lief Erikson
Cathedral
Cathedral
Inside Cathedral
Inside Cathedral
View from Cathedral tower
View from Cathedral tower
Perlan
Perlan
Laugavegur main street
Laugavegur main street
Tjörnin
Tjörnin
Nearly midnight at the hotel
Nearly midnight at the hotel
On the road out to Þingvellir
On the road out to Þingvellir
Þingvellir visitor cente
Þingvellir visitor cente
Þingvellir
Þingvellir
Tectonic plates split
Tectonic plates split
Þingvellir path
Þingvellir path
Stokkur
Stokkur
Silica pool
Silica pool
boiling pool
boiling pool
Stokkur going off
Stokkur going off
Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Getting soaked from spray
Getting soaked from spray
Gullfoss with the tiny people
Gullfoss with the tiny people
Road to Grindivik
Road to Grindivik
Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon
Very relaxing
Very relaxing
Power Station behind Blue Lagoon
Power Station behind Blue Lagoon
Viking restaurant
Viking restaurant
Wooden things(kids) and some statu…
Wooden things(kids) and some stat…
Mount Hekla
Mount Hekla
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Inside the fall at Seljalandsfoss
Inside the fall at Seljalandsfoss
Skogafoss
Skogafoss
Into the mist
Into the mist
Skogar
Skogar
Skogar house
Skogar house
Vik
Vik
Vik beach
Vik beach
Troll rocks
Troll rocks
Vik church
Vik church
Start of glacier
Start of glacier
It was cold
It was cold
Ice Palace
Ice Palace
Dogs resting
Dogs resting
Sled
Sled
Arch at Dyrholaey
Arch at Dyrholaey
Dyrholaey cliffs
Dyrholaey cliffs
Hole in the cliff
Hole in the cliff
Laufskalavartha
Laufskalavartha
Main road along the south coast
Main road along the south coast
Svartifoss
Svartifoss
Skatafell
Skatafell
Walk back down from Svartifoss
Walk back down from Svartifoss
Jokulsarlon
Jokulsarlon
Jokulsarlon
Jokulsarlon
Where Jokulsarlon flows out to sea
Where Jokulsarlon flows out to sea
Iceberg
Iceberg
Blue Ice
Blue Ice
Out in the water at Jokulsarlon
Out in the water at Jokulsarlon
More Ice
More Ice
End of the glacier where it breaks…
End of the glacier where it break…
Amphibious tour vehicle
Amphibious tour vehicle
Collecting washed up ice on the be…
Collecting washed up ice on the b…
Storm brewing
Storm brewing
Hofn
Hofn
Langabud at Djupivogur
Langabud at Djupivogur
Main road round the Eastern Fjords
Main road round the Eastern Fjords
Gufufoss
Gufufoss
Church at Sey∂isfjör∂ur
Church at Sey∂isfjör∂ur
Sey∂isfjör∂ur
Sey∂isfjör∂ur
Road to Myvatn
Road to Myvatn
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Most powerful falls in europe
Most powerful falls in europe
Me getting a closer look
Me getting a closer look
Gorge at Dettifoss
Gorge at Dettifoss
River through the gorge
River through the gorge
Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn
Myvatn Nature Baths
Myvatn Nature Baths
HOT HOT HOT in Myvatn
HOT HOT HOT in Myvatn
Setting for Myvatn Baths
Setting for Myvatn Baths
Hverarond
Hverarond
Boiling mud pool at Hverarond
Boiling mud pool at Hverarond
Hverarond gas vent
Hverarond gas vent
Husivik Whale Watching
Husivik Whale Watching
Dolphin
Dolphin
Sheltering behind the wheelhouse
Sheltering behind the wheelhouse
Church at Husivik
Church at Husivik
Godafoss
Godafoss
Godafoss
Godafoss
Akureyri
Akureyri
Main Street in Akureyri
Main Street in Akureyri
Akureyri view
Akureyri view
just a nice house
just a nice house
Akureyri Square
Akureyri Square
Cathedral from the air
Cathedral from the air
Perlan from the air
Perlan from the air
Arrival back in Reykjavik
Arrival back in Reykjavik
Reykjavik bar
Reykjavik bar
Whale watching from Reykjavik
Whale watching from Reykjavik
Minke Whale - Success at last
Minke Whale - Success at last
Humpback tail fin (fluke)
Humpback tail fin (fluke)
On board boat
On board boat
Sailing back into Reykjavik
Sailing back into Reykjavik
Sculpture at Keflavik Airport
Sculpture at Keflavik Airport
Dinosaur Egg sculpture at Keflavik…
Dinosaur Egg sculpture at Keflavi…