Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Iceland’

Our second day in Iceland started off with our attempt to go to Bonus and get provisions…but somehow they are only open at 11 am most days, and on weekends they open at noon.

What I kind of convenience store isn’t so convenient? Luckily, the good thing about a Bonus is that it’s everywhere as far as “everywhere” can be in Iceland. This post is an exultation to Bonus — check it out.

We figured we’d run into one along the way, and we didn’t want to waste precious daylight, so off we went on our own Golden Circle tour.

Driving around Iceland is very easy and straightforward. The rules of the road are generally the same, except that you cannot make a right turn at a red light.

We opted to do the Golden Circle Tour on our own because we really hate being rushed. We both like to meander and discover on or own time and pace.¬† (We are not, however, above trailing behind a tour guide to listen in on little anecdotes and such ūü§∑ūüŹĽ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ)

STOP 1: Random spot off of¬†√ĺingvallavegur (Hwy 36):

IMG_4169.JPG

IMG_8065.JPG

To be fair, we had no idea where we stopped. We saw a few cars pulled over, a picnic table and bench, and a cordoned off area that acted as a lookout point. So, naturally, like the tourists that we were, we also pulled over.

I. have. never. been. so. cold.

It was so incredibly windy. Like nearly-pick-my-whole-body-off-the-ground windy. And that wind was bone chilling cold. We (over)heard from one of the tour guides that Iceland was the 3rd windiest place on the planet. And that #s 1 and 2 were uninhabited. I was shivering from head to toe in Iceland, and I wondered if #s 1 and 2 were colder.

Luckily, the rest of the trip wasn’t half as chilly!

But that view though. It’s that first, “wow, this is amazing” feeling and it really gets you pumped for what’s next.

And boy, was there a lot of “Wow!” coming up!

STOP 2:¬†√ĺingvellir National Park

IMG_4173.JPG

IMG_4177.JPG

Tectonic Plates

IMG_4179.JPG

√ĺingvellir Church

IMG_8081.JPG

√ĺingvellir is a special place in Icelandic history. The¬†Al√ĺing (Icelandic Parliament — considered the oldest Parliament in the world) used to convene here from 930 to 1798.¬† The little church is also symbolic of the change from paganism to Christianity.

It is also a place where you can see the shifts in the tectonic plates evidence of the shifting of the earth’s crust. If I was smarter in geology, I’d explain it better. But why don’t you check it out for yourself?

STOP 3: Laugarvatn

We continued on the Golden Circle Route after a couple of hours at √ĺingvellir, afraid that the looming clouds threatened rain (anyone blogging about Iceland can tell you just how quickly the weather can change).

IMG_4181.JPG

Weather rolling into¬†√ĺingvellir.

We were also still on a look out for a Bonus, or any place we could grab lunch really, but as you will see, driving through Iceland can make you realize how remote some of the towns really are.

We ended up in¬†Laugarvatn, where we bought some bread, cheeses and cured meats for lunch (and the rest of the day). No, it wasn’t a Bonus store.¬† We also discovered Laugarvatn lake.¬† It is a shallow lake midway between √ěingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir. Under its floor there are hot springs heating the lake so it is warm and suitable for bathing all year round.

IMG_8094.JPG

IMG_8097.JPG

The bank of the lake was steaming (and also smelled sulfuric). The water was indeed warm, and in fact, at the far bank of the lake, there was a public bath with locals and other tourists enjoying the hot waters.

Had we more time, I would have wanted to try the hot baths. But off we went towards the rest of our day’s adventure!

STOP 4: Bruarfoss

This was probably one of our favorite stops along the way, and it’s not one of the more well-known ones. In fact, it was a little bit difficult to find.

Capture.PNG

Not Exactly X Marks the Spot.

We sort of just ended up pulling over at whatever dirt road off of Highway 37 that came as close to the red dot as possible.

We ended up parking in what we hoped was¬†not private property, but it might have been. It was basically just between two bushes on the side of the dirt road that led up to someone’s very nice house.

Then we hiked in the general direction of the red dot.

Pretty soon, the sounds of water rewarded us. But only after we crawled under some barb wire. Yeahhhhh, we were probably somewhere we shouldn’t have been. *hangs head*

IMG_8106.JPG

Yep, Bruarfoss is totally worth the detour.

IMG_8108.JPG

IMG_8118.JPG

After about a half mile’s hike, you are greeted by this incredible sight.

The glacial river Br√ļar√°¬†falls 2-3 meters, ending in a U-turn at the base of the waterfall, where the river is concentrated into a deep crevice that runs through the center of dark volcanic rock formations.¬†This creates sky-blue rapids that almost defy the imagination.

We could have stared at that waterfall all day.¬† I mean, the photos above have not been altered in any way. The falls really are that blue. Plus, it’s so remote and hard to find, there were no more than five other people there with us, and at some point, only the two of us were there for about a good 15 minutes before another small group of lost tourists stumbled into the area.

But, we still had a few more stops on our list, so off we went!

STOP 5: Geysir

The geyser for which all geysers are named after can technically be found at our Stop Number 5: Geysir.

However, we learned that it does not actually go off — not unless there was a high magnitude earthquake right before. So instead, at this stop, it was all about that sulfur smell and fields of smoking crevices, bubbling waters, boiling mud pits, and signs¬†not to touch the boiling hot waters.

IMG_8119.JPG

It felt like the Land Before Time

There was, however, one geyser that erupted every fifteen minutes or so. It’s called Strokkur, and we saw it erupt three times while we were in the area. It’s quite a sight because it happens with little to no warning, and suddenly, a huge gush of water spurts out 100 feet up in the air.

IMG_8255.JPG

And like most of the common stops on the Golden Circle, this stop was littered with tourists.

There’s also a brand new visitor center across the street, but we didn’t stop inside because it was packed with people. We hopped into our rented SUV and went off to our next stop.

STOP 6: Gullfoss

Considered one of Iceland’s most popular attractions, Gullfoss is an iconic waterfall. It’s also one of the landmarks that sort of sparked environmentalism in the hearts of Icelandic folks.¬† Read up on¬†Sigri√įur T√≥masd√≥ttir.

The waterfall itself is majestic and powerful. You will get soaked when you get close. It’s also kind of unique because it’s a staircase waterfall, and also kind of makes a 90 degree turn.

It’s a whole other kind of wow factor. I mean, really, Iceland. How many times does a girl have to say wow in one day? [Suddenly WOW Airlines’ name makes sense…]

IMG_8125.JPG

IMG_8130.JPG

STOP 7: ICELANDIC HORSES!!!

They’re so fluffy, I could dieeeeeeeeeeeeee!¬†I mean, they might as well be unicorns, they’re so cute! There are Icelandic horses and sheep all over the countryside, but sometimes, if you’re lucky, you see ones that are near enough the fence to be petted…and even better when the farm itself invites you to pet their cute horses.

IMG_4184.JPG

We pulled off the side of into a driveway and lo and behold! The sign basically says “Feed Cute Horses”

IMG_4185.JPG

So, of course I did.

IMG_4199.JPG

Can you fit in my luggage?

Can I has one, please?

STOP 8: FAXIFOSS

One of the mind boggling and wonderful things about Iceland is the fact that normal, regular people can have¬†waterfalls in their own backyard. In fact, Gullfoss used to be privately owned up until around 1940ish and didn’t become a national preserve til 1979.

Meanwhile, smaller, less-oh-whoa waterfalls, like Faxifoss…are still in someone’s backyard. Basically, some Icelanders have just become very tolerant of random people driving up their driveway snapping some photos and leaving.

IMG_8150.JPG

Just off to the right of this photo, is someone’s house.

Faxifoss is a mini-waterfall that still manages to be, ugh…so pretty. And to imagine that someone gets to wake up everyday to this view. Again,¬†ugh, I’m officially jealous.

STOP 9: Keri√į

Finally, as the sun started setting, we made it to the last little pin on our google map.¬† Keri√į is a volcanic crater lake with this unreal aquamarine blue waters (due to the minerals in the soil). It’s a cool little hike around the rim, then down towards the water.

IMG_4229.JPG

Tiny Chris at the top left corner of the photo!

IMG_4215.JPG

The photos don’t really do justice about how big the crater is, but it’s huge and super cool.

This attraction charges about $4 because…again, it’s owned by some private landowners.

By the time we got done walking around and exploring around the crater, the sun was setting and it was time to wrap up our Golden Circle Tour.

It was a long, beautiful, soul-restoring, awe-inspiring day. Thanks, Iceland. Let’s do it again.

Read Full Post »

My husband and I randomly decided to go to Iceland because the fares were very cheap. A few of our friends had posted photos and it looked like one of the places where you probably wouldn’t go once you had a family, or got too old and arthritic (cold, y’know?).

So, when he caught a fare for $110 one way on WOW Airlines, we jumped on it. We also added a Stockholm leg to the trip (another post), and caught a fare of about $240 coming back home on Norwegian Airlines. Overall, with the flight between Iceland and Stockholm, and all the fees , including the additional luggage and train/bus fares, it came out to be about $750 per person round trip.

Before we jump in: I thought this trip was already going to be a disaster because I had such a crap start to everything.

First — work. Emergency popped up and I barely managed to drag my butt to SFO with 45 minutes to spare on an International flight. Right? Good thing I had no checked baggage. But I was already starting my vacation apoplectic.

Second, my shoe broke. Literally the entire bottom of my left boot came unglued. I was¬†aghast. It was not a cheap boot and I had only worn it a couple of times before. I spent what little time I had at the AMEX Centurion Lounge trying to Gorilla Glue my shoe back together. I should have been stuffing my face with free food and drinks because…WOW Airlines.

Third. Yep, WOW Airlines. Let me just say: the seats¬†are tiny. They recline by about a nano-millimeter. They’re not comfy, period. And there’s no food, no drinks (water in a glass maybe), no blanket, no nothing unless you pay an exorbitant amount. Before booking their relatively cheap fares, I encourage you to go on their website and read their rules and FAQ’s. You pay for everything including a hand-carry. (personal items are free.) I am She-Who-Can-Sleep-No-Matter-What-When-Or-Where…and I had a hard time sleeping (and the flight was at night).

Fourth, Chris fainted a dead faint on the flight. Like I literally saw him get up, walk, and face plant to the gasps of the rest of the passengers. You don’t know panic till you see something happen on a plane and the passengers all gasp simultaneously and people jump out of their seats dramatically…I mean, I, myself, have never bolted out of my plane seat so fast, no shoes, dropping my phone and all. Luckily, as much as I am ragging on WOW’s bare necessities policies, their flight attendants were on top of it, and Chris was back on his feet in….oh, ten minutes or so. They even dragged a poor doctor from her seat to see to him. (Don’t worry folks, it wasn’t anything serious, just a bad mix of drinks, getting overheated, not eating…etc…) They checked on him throughout the rest of the flight and got us free sodas and snacks. *wink. File under how to get free snacks on plane.

When we got to Reykjavik, we missed the bus that would take us to the rental car center. So we stood in the cold for about 10-15 minutes. When the bus came, it promptly dropped us off across the parking lot. We. Could. Have. Walked. There. *facepalm

Then, when we got our rental car from SIXT, I was told that it was going to be $2,000.00 as a deposit if I didn’t want to pay the exorbitant insurance fees. Apparently literal rocks can fly at you while driving in Iceland and destroy a car, I dunno. I even clarified, like,¬†haha, you mean, $2,000 Icelandic Krona, right?¬†(which conversion-wise, would have been a solid $20). Stone-faced and humorless, the answer was, “No, $2,000.00 U.S. American dollars”¬† — like by adding both U.S. and American together, I couldn’t mistake his meaning.

Fuming, we began our trip…

DAY 1 of misAdventure: Which really was a half-day after landing, gathering our luggage, going to the rental-car place and arguing with the clerk at the rental car place…*shrug

  • We drove to Reykjavik from the Keflavik International Airport. I personally underestimated how long this would take. I mean, YES, I read all the other blogs and info guides that say it’s an hour away. But I also read it was about 47 km, which is roughly 30 miles, which in the San Francisco Bay Area is about a 30-40 minute drive, less without traffic.¬†BUT there is one main highway, and the speed limit is slow in Iceland, so there’s that. And the GPS we rented had some sort of speed radar that yelled at us every time we drove over the speed limit. I should have believed all the other travel bloggers…so for anyone reading this…believe me, it is about an hour away.
  • Reykjavik is an atypical urban city that suddenly turns into a quaint fishing town. One minute, you’re driving past nondescript buildings like you were in San Jose, California, and the next thing you know you see cute little cobblestone streets and colorful buildings.
  • Our hotel, Room with a View, was really quite nice. It’s an Apartment-Hotel, so came with a little kitchenette and fridge which came in handy later. It’s also located quite nicely along Laugevagur, in the heart of some shopping and restaurants.
  • Walking around Reykjavik can be a little confusing because some of the streets sound alike, and isn’t something you can just easily memorize. It’s more of a, “Our hotel is on the street that starts with the letter L that sounds kind of like that whiskey, and at the corner of that other street that sounds like xx. Oh, and it’s next to the Chuck Norris Grill. In short, use GPS.
  • We had a late lunch/snack at Loki Cafe, known for very Icelandic dishes. Think pickled herring, fermented shark, and the like. I really enjoyed my meal (seen below).
IMG_4161

Loki Cafe: Icelandic Plate III: 2 slices of Icelandic Rye Bread – one with mashed fish, one with egg and herring, as well as a scoop of Loki’s unique Rye Bread Ice Cream

  • We got lost in Reykjavik and could barely find our way back to our hotel somewhere on the street that sounds like Lagavulin scotch (okay, it was Laugevagur).
  • Then we went to The Blue Lagoon. Yes, in retrospect we should have started with the Blue Lagoon given that it’s right by the airport…but I dunno. There I go again miscalculating how long 30 miles was really going to take.
  • Doing the Blue Lagoon at night does deprive you of the “blue” part of the Blue Lagoon. It is basically a giant hot tub you share with strangers. Until you get wrinkly. Cuz you paid money to be there. And it’s really f’ckn cold everywhere else but in it. Also, it is only recommended if you’re staying nearby. We were so tired and relaxed, it was hard to make the drive back to Reykjavik. Well, not for me. I napped in the car, while my strapping handsome husband drove. We may or may not have seen our first Northern Lights on this drive back. If we weren’t on a misadventure, I’d say we would do the Blue Lagoon in the daytime.
  • Finally, back in Reykjavik, I had the most infuriating meal ever. It was the meal that was a portent of all our other meals in Iceland: it was ridiculously expensive.
  • See all those yummy looking appetizers above? + 2 beers = $88.00 Yes, that one¬†tiny ass slider, was $18.00.¬† And it said “to share” on the menu! We were still hungry after this meal, but unwilling to spend any more money on food. ON PRINCIPLE. So we went to bed hungry, with a plan to hit up a grocery store before going off on our Golden Circle Adventure!

Up Next, our GOLDEN CIRCLE jaunt.

I hope you enjoyed our day of misadventure in Iceland!

Read Full Post »