Today we took the rental car for our last drive in Iceland. We drove out to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa to swim in the warm, mineral rich waters. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 98–102 °F.
And let me tell you, it sure feels good!
The Blue Lagoon pretty much just another overpriced tourist trap and a lot of people will say that you should not waste your time or money with it, but I wouldn’t listen to them. Cynthia and I had a very good time soaking in the lagoon and would not have missed it for the world. It’s a very good way to unwind after our epic journey around Iceland.
After leaving the lagoon we drove out to see Perlan (The Pearl), an interesting building on the outskirts of Reykjavik.
I was glad to see it. There’s a restaurant at the top which is expensive and supposed to be very good, but we decided not to eat there.
After this we headed back to town to return the rental car. We tallied up the mileage and the grand total was just under 2,000 miles driven during our epic journey. Cynthia commented that many of those miles should count double due to the road conditions in some parts of the country. I would have to agree.
It was kind of sad walking away from Thor (Cynthia named the car “Thor”). That car served us well and was our home away from home as we traversed those those winding, up and down and sometimes wretchedly bumpy roads of Iceland.
We’re winding down now. We have one more day in Reykjavik before we fly home. It’s bittersweet. We have had a great time, but we are tired and ready to come home.
It’s also worth noting that Reykjavik is a bit of a disappointment after all that we have seen and done in Iceland. We hope to wring a little more joy out of the trip tomorrow, but it might just be a day of rest and getting our luggage sorted and ready for the flight home.
The Golden Circle
After the somewhat disappointing rain and gloominess of yesterday we were quite happy to see blue skies punctuated with fluffy white clouds. We’ve had more sun than rain on this trip and today was just tipping the weather scales that much more in our favor.
Today we made our way back to Reykjavik as we wind down our Icelandic adventure. On the way we drove what is referred to as the “Golden Circle” to see the sites.
Included on the Golden Circle is Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. I would have shot this from the top of the back, but it was a bit too windy for me. I opted for this lower angle.
From there we made our way to Geysir The Great Geyser to see the original Geyser for which all Geysers are named.
Sadly, Geysir is not very active. However, it’s little brother Strokkur will go off every few minutes.
From there we drive to Gullfoss which is one of the most striking and beautiful waterfalls in all of Iceland. And if the sun is shining you get treated to a rainbow along with the majestic waterfall. Fortunately for us, it was a beautiful sunny day.
After visiting Gullfoss we made our way to Þingvellir National Park. The dramatic Þingvellir landscape was formed as a result of sitting along the border between the North American and European tectonic plates. It’s really something to see.
Þingvellir is where the parliament of Iceland was first founded around the year 930 and where it continued to meet until 1798.
A flag marks the spot where the speaker of parliament stood. The speaker of parliament would stand atop the Logberg, or Law Rock, to read the law to the members of parliament in the valley below. It really is a magical place.
By the time we finished exploring the park it was getting pretty late so we set our GPS for our hotel in Reykjavik. We drove in to town just as the Icelandic gay pride festivities were breaking up. The streets were a bit crowded with rainbow wearing/waiving revellers so it was slow going to get to the hotel.
Now we are checked in and resting up for a day at the Blue Lagoon tomorrow. I think it will be very relaxing and just what we need before we wrap this Iceland trip up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
After visiting the valley we went to see Hjálparfoss, a small, but very nice 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
It was a good thing Cynthia opted out. She would have hated this.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We took every opportunity to stop. Sometimes to meet animals
Sometimes just to take photos of interesting road signs.
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.
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.
These icebergs then make their way out to sea.
Many pieces of the icebergs wash up on the shores of the black sand beach and are ghostly to behold.
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.
Laugar to Egilsstaðir – 181 miles
We drove up tp Húsavík which is a very lovely little town. The harbor, especially.
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.
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.
It was pretty early so there were not many other tourists around. I tried out some long exposures techniques which came out pretty well.
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.
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.
After hiking around we decided to get in the car and make our way to our accommodations outside of Egilsstaðir.
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.
Tomorrow we’re off to the south along the east coast and will end up in Höfn.
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.
We marveled 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.
As we left the area to make our way to the hotel I spotted this off the side of the road.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.