Iceland – Day 13

Today we did not drive ourselves. We toured the Landmannalaugar area of the interior of Iceland using a service. When researching this part of the trip it came to my attention that it would be necessary to ford some rivers to visit the sites. We have a 4X4 and it could take us, but Cynthia was not convinced so we opted to hire a super jeep tour company called Amazing Tours to take us out for 10 hours. Fine by me, we’ll get to see some cool stuff and I don’t have to drive.

Little Help

We met up with our guide at a service station near our hotel. We boarded the giant, modified Ford truck and proceeded into the interior.

Mountains

The weather still wasn’t great, so the photography suffered. But the landscape was incredible.

We came to a pretty deep river crossing. It was easy to see we probably would not have made it in the rental. I had the driver drop me off and recross the river so I could photograph it.

River Crossing

River Crossing

At another river crossing we came across a car that had not made it through the river crossing and was being assisted by mountain rescue.

breakdown

Our driver told us the car was probably ruined by the water and that this kind of damage was not covered by the rental agreement. I suspect we witnessed the demise of a perfectly good Icelandic holiday.

Our first stop was the Ljótipollur Crater. Ljótipollur translates to ugly puddle. I experimented with some panoramic photography to try and get a photo of the entire crater.

Ljo?tipollur Crater

Our next stop was the hot springs. A geothermally heated little river that is a popular place to bath/swim. The location is also a popular campsite for hikers. When we arrived it looked a bit like a refugee camp due to the rain and the wet and bedraggled campers. We did see our first Icelandic food truck here. More of a general store in a bus. Actually, two buses

Mountain Mall

Coffee, food, mittens, lip balm…all kinds of things one might need when preparing to hike for day or weeks in the Icelandic wilderness.

We decided not to go swimming and moved on.

As we were driving to the next location we encountered a large group of horses being driven to some unknown location. Several dozen horses, all moving up the side of the mountain.

horsejam

Two horse jams in two days.

Next we visited an area overlooking the hydroelectric dams in the area. It was interesting to see. The area is so desolate.

Cynthia In The Interior

Desolation

As we drove off the driver told us he was going to take us to a place he knew about that wasn’t on the itinerary. He told us this was not a well known place and it was one of his favorite places in all of Iceland.

When we drove up, we didn’t see anything all that interesting. But when we got out of the truck and climbed a hill we looked down on the most amazing valley I have ever seen.

Gjain Valley

It’s called the Gjain Valley and it looks like a tended garden. We walked down the side of the hill and just explored the place for about an hour. There were only a handful of other tourists about. This place is a hidden gem in Iceland, that’s for sure.

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

After visiting the valley we went to see Hjálparfoss, a small, but very nice waterfall.

Hja?lparfoss Waterfall

That was our last stop and we made our way back to civilization.

The whole tour lasted about 8 hours. We had a great time and when we finished we were dropped off at our car and we drove back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we’re headed back to Reykjavik via the Golden Circle where we will see Geysir and a few other Icelandic attractions.

Iceland – Day 12

drivingday11

The Scenic South Shore

Hunkubakkar to Hróarslækur – 128 miles

It was bound to happen. Our weather luck ran out. Rain, rain and more rain. Our first scheduled stop was Reynishverfi. An area on the beach with cliffs full of nesting birds. When we got there, there was a howling wind that that was doing its level best to knock us down. We made our way to the beach and the wind was blowing so hard that the rain was stinging my face.

Reynishverfi

Even with the foul weather, it was an interesting place. And there were thousands of birds, including puffins. Sadly, the rain was so bad we could not easily take photos.

We moved on to Dyrhólaey, a few miles on down the road and things started to clear a bit and we saw a rainbow over a church.

Random Rainbow

We thought that might be a good sign. But when we got to Dyrhólaey it was raining again and the wind was still blowing hard. We spotted some puffins that were pretty close to the car park, but the wind nearly blew the camera out of my hands. I managed to get a few photos before calling it quits.

Puffins @ Dyrhólaey

Puffins @ Dyrhólaey

We moved on to see the Skógafoss waterfall. The rain quit for awhile and we had the opportunity to take some photos before having some lunch. I should point out that even though the rain stopped, the spray from this waterfall kept us and our cameras quite wet.

Skógafoss Waterfall

Skogafoss

From Skógafoss we moved on to see the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This one has the added coolness of being able to walk behind the falls for a view from the other side. The rain was falling intermittently, but again…this waterfall was spraying mist everywhere so we were still getting quite wet.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

After taking our photos we pressed on. The weather remained iffy and we contemplated our options. As we were trying to decide what to do we found ourselves caught up in a most unusual traffic jam.

htj2

htj3

About three dozen horses being herded down Highway 1, Iceland’s main road! Of course we needed photos so when we could get ahead of the horses we pulled over and took some.

htj1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

At this point it was getting late so we made our way to the hotel and checked in. Tonight we rest in anticipation of tomorrow’s tour of Landmannalaugar.

Iceland – Day 11 – Part 2

Glacier On Mountain

It was like night and day. One minute we’re under gloomy skies and rain, the next minute we’re under blue skies and blazing sun. The Icelanders will tell you “that’s Iceland!” with a big smile.

It was amazing to see the glacier topped mountains sparkling in the sun.

Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park

As we drove along we noticed a small village called Hof. We decided to explore and we were sure glad we did! We found this cute little church there

Church at Hof

Icelandic Church Interior

The next major stop we were looking to make was the Svartifoss (Black Fall) at the Vatnajökull National Park in Skaftafell.

We found the park and got out of the car and ditched our winter coats as it had gotten quite warm.

The sign at the visitor center said the hiking trail to the waterfall was just over a mile long and went about 500 feet up the side of the mountain. We were optimistic and eager for the challenge!

Cynthia and Me hiking up to Svartifoss Waterfall

It was a rather strenuous hike. We had to take lots of breaks, but we eventually made it. And I would say it was worth it.

Svartifoss (Black Fall) - Skaftafell - Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland

After we climbed back down the mountain I was about as sore and as tired as I have been in a long while. We found our way to the hotel, check in and had dinner. Lucky for me there was no Internet so rather than process images and update this blog I got to collapse in a heap on the oh so comfortable bed and sleep and sleep.

The journey continues tomorrow.

The Road Goes On And On

Iceland – Day 11 – Part 1

drivingday10

The Glacier Lagoon & Skaftafell National Park

Hofn to Hunkubakkar – Drive 125 miles

As I suspected, the morning proved to be quite gloomy and overcast. Our decision to visit the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon the previous evening proved to be a prudent one. It was raining and foggy when we left our hotel and proceeded west. As we came down the mountain the fog began to clear and by the time we reached Jökulsárlón again it was still a bit rainy and very overcast.

We decided to pull in and have a look anyway. It was still cool to look at. We went inside the gift shop and got a coffee. As we waited the rain stopped and I decided I was going to take the zodiac tour on the lagoon that I had booked before we left. Cynthia decided to stay in the car and read a book.

When you go out on the zodiac they provide you with a thermal suit and a life jacket.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

They can fit 10 tourists on a boat and they run two boats at a time. The gathered us up and put us in a bus and drove us to where we would board our boats.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

It was a good thing Cynthia opted out. She would have hated this.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

The boat takes you right up to the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier which is where all the icebergs that fill the lagoon come from.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

We stayed out on the lagoon for about an hour and it was really something to see. The tour guide/boat driver was friendly and knowledgable about the site and seemed to enjoy telling us all about the lagoon.

Since the sky was overcast there was much more blue coloring to the ice than there would have been if the sun was out. Still, I can only imagine what this place might look like in the bright light of day.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

When I got back to shore I found Cynthia and we moved on. There was on place I wanted to check out as I had heard about it from researching this trip. The Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon which was a few miles west of Jökulsárlón. I had read that if Jökulsárlón was too crowded or the boats fully booked you could get a tour on Fjallsárlón pretty easily. When we found it, there was hardly anyone there and sure enough, if we had wanted to go on another zodiac tour we probably could have without much of a wait.

It’s not quite as pretty as Jökulsárlón, but it’s still amazing.

Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon

We took some photos and then moved on. As we drove west the sun began to come out. Things we looking up for the second half of our journey. I will write about that in the next post.

Iceland – Day 10

drivingday9

Egilsstaðir to a guest house a few miles north of Hofn – 166 miles

Today we would be driving through the scenic East Fjords of Iceland.

The Road

This morning it looked like our weather luck might have run out. It rained all last night and was raining when we hit the road. Once we made our way a little to the east things started clearing up and we were left with dramatic skies full of interesting clouds.

Moody

We took every opportunity to stop. Sometimes to meet animals

Cynthia Makes A Friend

Sometimes just to take photos of interesting road signs.

Reindeer Crossing

I had thought we were done with tunnels in Iceland, but it turns out we had two more in store for us. The first was Fáskrúðsfjarðargöng which was 3 1/2 miles long and the second was Almannaskarðsgöng which is a little less than a mile long.

Cynthia has gotten pretty used to them by now. She still hates them, but she keeps her good humor.

We made good time toward our final destination and stopped in Djúpivogur for some lunch before driving the final hour to our hotel.

Tomorrow we’re scheduled to drive on to the west along the south coast, a route that will take us past the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón. Since the weather was so good today and it wasn’t all that far to get to Jökulsárlón I decided to go out there this evening. Just in case the weather tomorrow isn’t so good. I would hate to miss it.

Jökulsárlón

The place is fantastic. The glacier has partially melted and retreated and this has created a glacial lagoon. When ice from the glacier breaks off it forms icebergs in the lagoon.

Jökulsárlón

These icebergs then make their way out to sea.

Jökulsárlón

Many pieces of the icebergs wash up on the shores of the black sand beach and are ghostly to behold.

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

We hung out for a few hours taking photos and then made our way back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we push further west and suspect we’ll drop in on the glacier lagoon for another visit.

Iceland – Day 9

drivingday8

Laugar to Egilsstaðir – 181 miles

We drove up tp Húsavík which is a very lovely little town. The harbor, especially.

Husavik

Husavik

We decided not to take a whale watching tour. While it would be cool to see some whales, it’s never a guarantee and it is an investment of time and money. Plus, Cynthia has had her share of boats and I need to keep her in good shape leading up to a possible boat ride in the glacier lagoon later in the trip.

We drove around the peninsula and made our way to the Dettifoss waterfall. This is where things got interesting. We took 862 to the south, down the west side of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river.

F Road

They say the road is passable for normal vehicles from Ásbyrgi to Dettifoss. However, up until 2011 this road was categorised as a mountain road (F-road). I have not been on many of the Icelandic roads, but I would not have done this one in anything less than a 4 wheel drive vehicle like the one we are driving.

We made our way very slowly, avoiding as many potholes and the larger rocks as we could. But eventually we came to the paved portion of the road and sped our way to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe.

We parked the car and saddled up our gear for the 15-20 minute hike to the edge of the waterfall. It did not disappoint.

Dettifoss

It was pretty early so there were not many other tourists around. I tried out some long exposures techniques which came out pretty well.

Dettifoss

Dettifoss

There was a lot of mist and spray which covered my camera and made shooting a bit of a challenge. Still, I am happy with the results.

Field OF Rocks

After spending some time at Dettifoss we hiked over to Selfoss which was upstream a little ways. Sadly, this was when I noticed my camera battery was dying and I had not spare with me. It was in the car all the way back up in the car park. Fortunately Cynthia’s battery was still going so she got the shot.

cynsettifoss

After hiking around we decided to get in the car and make our way to our accommodations outside of Egilsstaðir.

Lagarfljót Worm

Did you know that Egilsstaðir has a sea monster? Apparently they do. The Lagarfljót Worm. If we see anything we will try to post blurry photos or grainy video.

When we arrived at the guesthouse we had booked for the evening they informed us that they had overbooked and had to send us to other accommodations which were pretty close and ended up being just fine.

Tonight we went to Café Nielsen for dinner. It was fantastic and I had reindeer as my main course.

reindeer

Tomorrow we’re off to the south along the east coast and will end up in Höfn.

Iceland – Day 8 – Part 2

We wrapped up this day’s activities by driving on to Krafla to see the power station and see the Viti crater. Viti is Icelandic for Hell. The crater is pretty awesome and filled with water which is turquoise in color.

Viti (Hell) Crater in Krafla

We marvelled at the power station and noticed that some of the pipes used to transport the steam intersected with the road. Rather than have the pipes go under the road, they went up and over.

Geothermal Pipes Go Over The Road

As we left the area to make our way to the hotel I spotted this off the side of the road.

Road Shower

It seemed whimsical to me, but I am sure it has a purpose…just not one known to me.

Today has been a good day. Tomorrow we head for the east side of Iceland.

Iceland – Day 8 – Part 1

DrivingDay7

Lake Mývatn´s Amazing Landscape

Today we left Akureyri to go see the Goðafoss Waterfall and then make our way to the Lake Mývatn area.

Goðafoss is not the largest or most powerful waterfall in Iceland, but it is impressive. I took the time to setup my filters to allow me to take longer exposures and blur the water for a more appealing effect.

Goðafoss

Goðafoss

Goðafoss

We got there early and beat most of the tourists, but they arrived in bulk pretty quickly and soon the whole area was overrun. We got out of there and continued on to the Lake Mývatn.

Lake Mývatn literally translates to Midge Lake and let me tell you, there are a LOT of midges. Fortunately we brought insect repellant.

Lake Mývatn is gorgeous. We drove all the way around it before making our way to the Námaskarð geothermal area. This area is volcanic and features some of the most alien landscapes we have encountered during our trip to Iceland so far. Steam is just venting to the sky everywhere you look.

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

When we drove up Cynthia and I simply ooh’d and ahhh’d at the fantastic site. When we got out of the car the oohs and ahhs quickly turned to “oh my god, the smell!” – There’s a lot of sulfur in these geothermal areas and it stinks to high heaven. Cynthia says it’s the smell of troll farts.

Along with the the steam vents are the very creepy mud pots. The mud of a mudpot takes the form of a viscous, often bubbling, slurry. And it it burbles and pops like a living thing.

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

This place is truly alien. It has been said before and I have to agree that sometimes being in Iceland is like being on another planet.

Iceland – Day 7 – Part 2

We’re in Akureyri during Verslunnarmannahelgi. That means the town is very busy with visiting Icelanders enjoying time travelling around their country to do some camping and enjoy some festivities. As it turns out, the Ein með Öllu festival takes place in Akureyri during this time so there’s a bit of a festival atmosphere with carnival rides, food booths and live music.

Church in Akureyri

We are not much on festivals so we spend the afternoon exploring in Akureyri and paying a visit to the botanical gardens.

Flower Macro Icelandic @ Akureyri Botanical Gardens

Cynthia spotted a bee in back Sauðárkrókur and the idea of Icelandic bees has really captured her imagination. We saw many bees in the gardens and this gave me an opportunity to use my macro lens.

Icelandic Bee @ Akureyri Botanical Gardens

Icelandic Bee @ Akureyri Botanical Gardens

We enjoyed our afternoon in the sunshine and flowers and then made our way back to the hotel room to freshen up and have some dinner. After dinner we were feeling pretty beat so we’re calling it an early evening and getting some rest before heading off to the Lake Mývatn area tomorrow. Hopefully the good weather will hold as this looks to be a very spectacular leg our our journey.

Iceland – Day 7 – Part 1

day7

Sauðárkrókur to Akureyri

Gotel Tinsdastoll

We left our comfortable accommodations at Hotel Tinsdastoll in Sauðárkrókur to make our way to the capital of the North, Akureyri. Total driving distance 110 miles. This would be a relatively easy driving day.

Mountain Pass

We drove up and around the Tröllaskagi peninsula which translates to the Troll Peninsula. This took us within spitting distance of the edge of the Arctic Circle when we were at the most northern point. Curvy mountain passes all the way. Mostly paved, but not always.

Mountain Pass

Road To The Beach

Snow capped mountains loomed overhead, adding to the stark beauty of the landscape

< River

Sheep Crossing

It’s not just the sheep you have to watch out for in Iceland. We’ve seen a lot of signs warning of birds and it’s a valid warning. The birds in Iceland come out of nowhere and can be quite large and can scare the crap out of you. They also tend to run across the street and can easily startle you and cause you to swerve suddenly.

Bird Crossing

This part of the journey took us through two tunnels in succession. Héðinsfjarðargöng I and Héðinsfjarðargöng II. First through Héðinsfjarðargöng II which connects Siglufjörður to Héðinsfjörður and is 2.2 miles in length. We come to a brief opening and then enter Héðinsfjarðargöng I which connects Héðinfjörður to Ólafsfjörður for 4.2 miles. Total distance underground, just under 6 and 1/2 miles.

tunneliceland

I tried to prep Cynthia for the tunnels as she is rather claustrophobic. But what I didn’t know is that there was a tunnel before you even got to Siglufjörður. The Strákagöng which was built in 1967 and is the second oldest tunnel in Iceland and runs for about 1/2 a mile.

Tunnel Entrance

This was a bit of a surprise to both of us. Also surprising was the fact that this was a one lane passing tunnel. Oncoming traffic had little pullovers where they had to wait while we passed. Nerveracking to say the least.

We cleared the tunnel and made our way to Siglufjörður to get some petrol, road snacks and find some lunch.

Dry Dock

Since it is Verslunnarmannahelgi, the Icelandic Labor Day holiday weekend, there seems to be a bit more hustle and bustle than you might expect. We see campers and tents all over the place and Icelanders enjoying the sun.

We get our gas and snacks and pull into a place called the Harbour House Café to grab some lunch. While we are there we struck up a conversation with the owner, a man named Valgeir Tomas Sigurdsson. He asks where we are from and we tell him we are from Texas. His eyes light up and he proceeds to tell us the tragic tale of a doomed love affair he had with a woman from Conroe.

As the afternoon winds on, word of the visiting Texans spreads and we meet many members of Valgeir’s family who are all in town for a family reunion. Some of them are living in Florida and visiting Iceland for the reunion and seem to be very happy to to talk to some Americans from Texas.

Had we not pressed to get moving I suspect we could have spent the entire day in Siglufjörður just chatting away about this, that and the other thing.

We bid our farewells and proceeded to the next tunnel, Héðinsfjarðargöng II.

Tunnel Entrance

This tunnel leads to an abandoned fjord which is quite beautiful.

Tunnel Exit

In this fjord you can see the exit of one tunnel and the entrance to the next tunnel.

Héðinsfjarðargöng I and Héðinsfjarðargöng II

We took a short break and proceeded to drive into Héðinsfjarðargöng I to get to Ólafsfjörður. This was the longer of the two main tunnels. Suffice to say we’re happy to reach the end.

Tunnel Exit

We make our way through Ólafsfjörður only to be greeted by another surprise. One more tunnel. The Ólafsfjarðargöng Tunnel, also known as the Múlagöng. This one runs for a little over 2 miles. And it’s another one lane passing tunnel.

Tunnel Exit

When we clear the tunnel Cynthia says to me “If we have to drive through one more tunnel, I’m going to throw up in the car.” I tell her I am pretty sure that’s the last of them. We will discover later that this is not the last of the tunnels we will be passing through on this journey.

We make it to Akureyri around 2:30 and find our hotel and check in.