A trip to Iceland, june 2007

People I spoke to either declared to having been there and to have had a great time, or it was a place they definitely wanted to go to... some day. The first group was a minority, not many people place Iceland on their shortlist of places they want to visit.
But people who went there all returned with very positive stories, nobody returned disappointed.
OUR ROUTE
I heard the weather was awful and it was expensive. The week we went there the weather wasn't too bad, we actually had some sunny days and indeed accommodation is expensive, but many other items had the same price to them as at home.
In return one get to meet the Icelandic people, very friendly and helpful, and the landscape is something you will never forget.
We went there for a week, here are some photos and impressions.

Shopping street and restaurantsWhen we arrived, it rained. We collected our rental car at Keflavik Int'l Airport and drove to town. During the summer it is not advisable to arrive here without hotelreservations, but early June it isn't too bad. We found acommodation in the Domus Guesthouse. We were shocked by the prices; a doubleroom for over 100 euros and for the shower and bathroom you had to go out on the hallway! Not even breakfast was included, too early in the season.
But we were near the down centre, near the Laugavegur.
Saturdaynight... Laugavegur is one of the oldest shopping streets of central Reykjavík. The name means Pool Road, as it used to lead to the hot springs in Laugardalur where in olden times the women of Reykjavík took their laundry.

It was Saturdaynight and people were out, having fun.

Crater of a volcano The next day we had an early start, as we had a full day planned ahead of us.
Keriđ is a volcanic crater lake located in south central Iceland, on the popular tourist route known as the Golden Circle. It is one of several crater lakes in the area, created as the land moved over a localized hotspot, but it is the one that has the most visually recognizable caldera still intact.
The caldera, like the other volcanic rock in the area, is composed of a red (rather than black) volcanic rock. The caldera itself is approximately 55 meters deep, 170 meters wide, and 270 meters across. Keriđ’s caldera is the most recognizable because at approximately 3,000 years old, it is only half the age of most of the surrounding volcanic features.
Source: Wikipedia

Geysir Main item on today's menu was The Great Geysir, only a few hours drive from Reykjavik.
Geysir, in the Haukadalur valley, is the oldest known geyser and one of the world's most impressive examples of the phenomenon. The English word geyser to describe a spouting hot spring derives from Geysir (which itself is derived from the Icelandic verb gjósa meaning to erupt).
Source: Wikipedia
Geysir
Like a spa...
Wow !
The Great Geysir
Sequence of events
View counter-clockwise
This is truly an amazing showpiece of Mother Nature. Little did we know there was so much more to come !

Gullfoss is a waterfall located in the canyon of the White River (Hvítá) in south central Iceland, its name means the Golden Falls.
It is not far from the Geysir. Pity the weather brought more rain than sunshine as the sun can make marvelous rainbows in the water of the waterfall, hence the name, the Golden Falls.
The Gullfoss is often described as one of the most spectacular sights or natural wonders of the world.
About a kilometer above the falls it turns sharply to the left and flows down into a wide curved three step "staircase" and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 m and 21 m) into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. The crevice, about 20 m (60 ft) wide, and 2.5 km in length, is at right angles to the flow of the river.
More on Wikipedia.
No tree in sight
Huge!
Gullfoss

Clouds loom in the distance Rain was never far away that day; it either seemed to be raining or going to rain... But we enjoyed the countryside nevertheless. The green seems too green to be part of a farm, more like a golfcourse, or is that all that rain for you?

Primitive roads Our rental car was a Toyota Yaris, not exactly a fourwheeldrive kind of car. So we were a bit alarmed when, without any indication on the map, the road took a distinctly unpaved character. At first we thought we had missed a turn, but we were allright.
That is city people for you.
We soon found out that even the main highway on Iceland is partly unpaved.

Besides sheep you also see lots of horses and horsefarms here.
The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse that has lived in Iceland since the mid-800s, having been brought to the island by Viking settlers. The Icelandic horse is a man-made breed as it is a mixture of breeds and cross-breeds which were taken from Scandinavian and European countries to Iceland during the original and subsequent settlements. Because they are by-and-large pony-sized, they are commonly called "Icelandic ponies" in some countries. This name is normally considered derogatory and inappropriate within Iceland.
Source: Wikipedia
Special breed of horses
Breeding farm for horses

Skalholt The churches all seemed new, but at least they seem to escape grafitti (you see that a lot here).

The village Skálholt consists only of a relatively big church and a few houses. Nevertheless, it has been of great importance for the history of the country.
Since the Middle Ages and until 1785, it was along with Hólar, one of Iceland's two episcopal sees, making it a cultural and political center as well.
In the year 1550 the last catholic bishop, Jón Arason of Hólar, was executed there along with his two sons...

Skalholt

The size of the church seems exceptional by Icelandic standards. In fact, the length of the church constructed from 1956 to 1963 is 30 m. But some of its predecessors were even longer (up to 50 m). Some other Scandinavian countries contributed to the present interior of the church.
Source: Wikipedia

Waterfalls... you see them every time you turn a corner!
Plenty of water here, I can attest to that. The fun part of this waterfall is you could walk around (behind) it.
The Icelandic names for waterfall end on -foss. That is easy, but the Icelandic language is not easy, I can assure you! Sometimes I forgot a word during the seconds between reading a name on a signpost and looking at the map...

Even those dark clouds cannot spoil this country , they only add to it (says I, sitting in a car..)
This is not Greenland!

Finally, off the road There was this bit of off-the-road adventure...
My interest in vintage aeroplanes made me look for a wreckage here on the beach, somewhere near Skogar. In the end I found someone who was willing to be chartered for driving me down there. I say "down', because normally Benedict, our driver and guide, goes up on the nearby glacier.
Benedict's website is www.snow.is
The places I take my wife to!
Here you can read about the aircraft I saw on this trip.
DC-3 near Skogar
Like a desert
4x4 required here
He is happy!

Camping in this weather..
Skogafoss
Skogar has a small deluxe hotel with a fine restaurant and there is this hostel, which also offers the possibility to pitch a tent.
You may guess what we opted for!
The large waterfall here is named Skógafoss, it is situated in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline!
After the coastline had receded into the sea (it is now at a distance of about 5 km from Skógar), the cliffs stayed behind parallel to the coast over hundreds of kilometers, creating together with some mountains a clear border between the Lowlands and the Highlands of Iceland.
The Skógafoss is one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls of the country with a width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters.
Source: Wikipedia

The beach near Vik
Not good for swimming
We continued along Route 1, often hugging the coastline and sometimes turning more inland, crossing a mountain pass. We arrived at Vik, slightly bigger hamlet than most. We went to the pitchblack beach, which is obviously not suited for swimming. We also bought some nice souvenirs here.
When we continued, we soon came within sight of the Vatnajokull.
Vatnajökull (meaning: Lake glacier) is the largest glacier in Iceland. It covers more than 8% of the country!
With a size of 8,100 km˛, it is the largest glacier in Europe in volume and the second largest (after Austfonna on Nordaustlandet, Svalbard) in area.

Source: Wikipedia
Glaciers of Vatnajokull

The average thickness of the ice is 400 m, with a maximum thickness of 1,000 m. Under the glacier, as under many of the glaciers of Iceland, there are several volcanoes….

Jokusarlon
Glacier Lake
And there is more…
Jökulsárlón is the best known of glacial lakes in Iceland. It is situated at the south end of the glacier Vatnajökull between Skaftafell National Park and Höfn.
Appearing first only in 1934-1935, the lake grew from 7.9 km˛ in 1975 to at least 18 km˛ today because of heavy melting of the Icelandic glaciers. Approaching a depth of 200 m, Jökulsárlón is now probably the second deepest lake in Iceland.
It is on the Icelandic Ring Road, one cannot miss it. The icebergs are calving off the Breiđamerkurjökull glacier.
Mind, in the summertime, one has to watch out for the big seagulls which have their nests on the ground around the lake and which can occasionally become aggressive.
Source: Wikipedia
Some blue sky!
Glacier Lake
Plenty of ice

Coastal road
Great variety of scenery
Like I said, Route 1 (or Highway 1) has several stretches which are unpaved.
Route 1 or the Ring Road (Icelandic: Ţjóđvegur 1 or Hringvegur) is a main road in Iceland that runs around the island. The total length of the road is 1339 km (840 miles).
For almost all its length, the road is two lanes wide with one lane in each direction. Most smaller bridges are single lane and made of wood and/or steel.
Although paved, some portions of the road are still the original 1940s country roads, and contain extreme hazards, such as blind bends and blind hills
Source: Wikipedia
I did notice an almost complete lack of heavy transport on these roads.

Two-lane road, unpaved
Two-lane road and both lanes very small…
Shelter for the storm
Emergency shelter

Hotel in Egisstadir The first house in Egilsstadir was built in 1944. today it is a thriving centre with an economy based on providing services for east Iceland and travellers. Egilsstadir was the site of an ancient assembly, and also a site where criminals were eventually executed.

The first full day had brought us to Skogar, and the second to Egilsstadir. We found accommodation in the Icelandair hotel, which was good by most accounts, though all showers smell of sulphur and this hotel was no exception.
The remarkable thing was that a leak in the city’s watersystem left Egilsstadir the following morning without any water. I found out after the toilet failed to flush and we made haste checking out...

On the road again!
On the road again,
slightly exceeding the 90 km/hr speedlimit
Countryside
Countryside, Icelandic style; not a tree in sight
Fabulous wrecks
I love these carwrecks
Love these wrecks!
Note the sodhouse (earthshelter) in the background

A few more photos whilst en route.
plenty of waterfalls
Amazing view
The view keeps changing
not a tree or bird in sight

Lunar landscape And again a landscape that inspires awe! It is how I would imagine the moon to be like.
I think this area is called Mývatnsöraefi but I am not sure.
Astronauts, involved in the apollo project, trained in Iceland; I can imagine they did that here.
Not a soul in sight
Makes one feel small

Hverir Quite unexpected we came to these fumeroles and boiling clay pots, at Hverir, in the Mývatn region.
It was yet again a showpiece of Mother Nature’s versatility in this country.
Fumaroles
Out of this world
Boiling clay
Do not touch!
Mind your step
Boiling clay at Hverir
Quite a vast area
Time to go...

A bit further down the road...
The Gođafoss (Icelandic: waterfall of the gods) is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. It is located in the Mývatn district of North-Central Iceland at the beginning of the Sprengisandur highland road.
The water of the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters.
Godafoss
Godafoss

Húsavík is a small town in the north of Iceland and was our most northerly stay during this trip. Vik means something like bay and Husa equals house, if I understood things properly.
Húsavík has become a center of whale watching in the north, because whales of different species are often entering the bay. That was also the reason of our visit.
Husavik harbor
Weather-beaten ship
Our ship, the Faldur
The competitor
A whale sighted!
Hide and seek
Blue Whale explained
In spite of the mere 3 hours the whalewatching boattrip was planned for, we did see a whale. It was identified as a Blue Whale, quite rare here and the largest animal alive on this planet!
All sorts of whales


Our guide was quite enthusiastic and explained the animal in detail.
a last dive, but no tail
Heading for home
Beautiful coastline
Actually, you see very little of the big fish. First there is the taletelling spout, than the fin and the arching back, and sometimes the tail, which also signifies a dive to deeper waters so the whale will be gone for 10 – 15 mins. It is the chase that is exciting: where is it and after the dive, where will it surface again...
During the boattrip there was more to enjoy, such as a variety of birds (over land, birds seem rare, I did not see any small rodents either so that may explain the lack of land-based birds) and a beautiful coastline.

Beauty surrounds you in Iceland On the water it had been quite cold and we warmed ourselves with coffee and cake out on the terrace on the waterfront. That is Iceland too!

I had seen so many beautiful sights, that I could not put down my camera when I saw this beautiful young women, underwriting the beauty of Icelandic women!

Next was Akureyri, a town located in the northern part of Iceland; it is the second largest urban area after Reykjavík. As of the 2007 census, the town had a total population of 16,887 and is also nicknamed the Capital of the North.
(More: Wikipedia)
Akureyri

We checked into the Hotel Harpa, which I had found on the internet with a 2-star rating. However, when we checked in it offered 4-star prices! We decided to take it nevertheless, only to find out upon checkout the following day that it had a separate floor for budget accommodation... if only we had asked for it…
This hotel was the only place we stayed in the shower did not smell of sulphur. It also allowed me to hook up my laptop to the internet, on my room (against additional fee).
Modest shopping area
Just another ship

back on the road again
I don't get tired of this andscape
And it is back on the road again; we drove this week 2.000 kms.

Small church
Small church in a small village where we had a small lunch.

Don't remember where this was
Sod houses, or earth shelters
Sod houses I think they are called
More on Wikipedia

Motel Venus We had intended to remain another night in the north, as the weather forecast had rain for the Reykjavik area. But we found we had rain at Blönduós too, so we drove another 2 hours and stopped in Borgarnes (about an hour out of Reykjavík).
Motel Venus proved to be a budget accommodation, largely run by 3 enthusiastic youngsters. Except for the B&B in Húsavik it was our cheapest night accommodation and it even offered a full service bathroom inside the room!
The following morning, our last full day In Iceland, the sun came out in full force.

One more boattrip We decided to use this last day for another whalewatching boattrip from Reykjavik.
And it proved to be a good one: we saw the funny Puffins (Fratercula arctica, see Wikipedia), Dolphins started fooling around, darting quicksilver-like around the boat and indeed, we spotted a Humpback Whale! The whale waved a friendly goodbye, closing the book on a successful first visit to this fascinating country.
Takk!
The Puffins, amazing birds
Getting closer...
Cute bird
Tricky to photograph
Humpback whale
Bye bye Iceland...

I would suggest to try and pick up the free "Around Iceland"-booklet, it is a comprehensive and concise visitor's guide to Iceland, with a wealth of information.

Some helpful links:
General information about Iceland
www.snow.is
www.icelandtotal.com/home/hotels
www.icehotels.is
Edda Hotels
www.south.is
inspirational photography by Olgeir Andresson on Photo.net