Iceland Trip - Matt
We took a vacation to Iceland over April 26 to May 6th. The idea to take the trip was motivated by a desire to experience something fresh with friends and to explore a new area for the first time. This would be the first real vacation I had gone on through our own planning and idea. I decided to begin research as I was made aware of the cheap flights to Scandinavia through WOW Airlines by a friend. I decided the only way to make the trip actually happen was to buy tickets!
The trip began on a Friday afternoon after work. I worked an early morning shift and left around noon to take the two-train trip to the Baltimore airport. I got to the Airport with time to spare and we boarded the flight that evening. The flight was chasing daylight the entire time. It was a strange feeling to watch the sun set but never actually get dark and then to watch it rise from the same perspective! I was also able to see the aurora borealis, which was a white glimmer, I later come to find they are actually seen that way by the naked eye. My flight got into Keflavik at 5AM local time. I departed from the plane and was immediately greeted by a winter as we walked out of the plane onto the tarmac to board a shuttle to the terminal. It had recently snowed the previous day, leaving a snowy slushy mix over Iceland. I made it to the airport and truly felt I had entered a foreign country. By the signs, the scandinavian architecture, and the people, It felt great to be somewhere new.
The day began with a trip to Blue Car to pick up the rental car. We had originally asked for a KIA Soul, and I was designated to pick it up, since my flight was much earlier than Andrew and Jesse’s. I was given a VW Golf due to rental changes, and I got in and got used to driving in the country. Immediately, I was greeted by simple driving conditions, and strange and unusual vehicles such as the Dacia Duster. I made my way over to the town of Keflavik to explore a bit. I drove to the main street area and parked. I found a 24-hour store called 10-11, for some food. I went in and explored the icelandic groceries. It is fascinating. I talked to the guy from the counter. He was from the middle-east and he recommended a pastry called a snúð úr, basically a giant cinnamon roll with caramel. I got a skyr yoghurt also and went to the car to eat. I then drove to the docks for pics, and the town a bit. Next, I went backto the airport to pick up Jesse and Andrew. Their flight got in around 9AM. I drove in and out of the airport parking for a bit since the free parking was only 15 minutes. When they arrived, we went back to the rental car shop to add their driver licences to the rental car, and we were off to Blue Lagoon.
We checked into Blue Lagoon and began with a shower. After a thorough scrubbing of the undercarriage in the showers, we took the plunge into the springs. The walk from the bath to the spring was pretty chilling, and we headed straight to the geothermal hot spring. We hung around there for a couple hours and sploosh. We got out and then clothed and headed to Grindavik for some food. We got to see the icelandic landscape for the first time and it was amazing. We found a local grocery store and I stocked up on snacks and drinks and food. We ate our meal outside on a bench, inconspicuously. Following, we headed over to Reykjavik to check into the first place,
Bruno’s Best location - Cozy apartment-new*. We checked in and relaxed for a bit. We then headed for a walk to Reykjavik to explore a bit. We saw the Church, and walked into shops until we got to the coastal performance hall and explored that a bit. We were tired and hungry by then so we went back to Bruno’s go find food. We intended to go to a place called Vitabar, but after a few blocks of tracing steps, over and over, we could not find it. Nevertheless, we made it to a great place called Roadhouse, serving american style food. Icelandic folks sure love American food! Afterward we retired for the evening.
I got up early this day to go for a run along the Reykjavik coast. It was great!
We began this day by heading to the car for our drive to Glimmer Waterfall. This was our first adventure and we needed to get out of the city. We stopped for petrol and I grabbed some yoghurt for the ride. We drove through some pretty coastal mountains near a bay of water until we got to the entrance of the waterfall. We got out of the car and began the hike to the waterfall. This hike was quite extensive and we decided to go the entire distance to the top of the falls! The regular hike was closed because the log you have to shimmy across was rolled out. The alternative path was more rugged, through some dirty muddy rivers, and thickets along the cliff side. We made it up some rocky cliffs and made it to the top. We could see the waterfall but it was difficult to see since it was so high up! We made it to the top and rested. We ate energy bars, and headed down. The hike took around 5 hours there and back and it was spectacular.
Returning to the road, we started driving toward Þingvellir national park. We took the first gravel road because it was a shortcut to Þingvellir. This was one of the places I was interested in seeing and certainly glad we did. We drove to the parking area and walked around some pretty interesting geological features. We finished the walk and headed to Þingvellir waterfalls, and the church building and Þing building. We got great shots here and it started misty raining while we were there. We finished the day by driving back to Reykjavik and stopped by a Hagkup store. It’s kind of like Walmart, and I got fish to cook. It is called reyktur fisk or like a smoked salmon. I cooked it anyway since I didn’t know and we had fish, Rugbrød, fries for dinner that night at Bruno’s. We finished the night with some card games of Hearts.
We woke to a rainy day and had breakfast and headed to the car for a drive over to Glimmer Waterfall and Geyser. We took the same road up part of the way and started over the Glimmer first. We saw some stables and farms along the way and decided to stop for a bit to check out some icelandic horses. We got a couple shots up close and personal with the horses. Luckily for us, the weather is unpredictable in Iceland, and we reached an area clear of rain at the waterfall. We got to the parking lot of Glimmer, and were not prepared for the winds. They nearly blew the doors of the VW broken. Now I understand why there is a disclaimer for wind damages in the rental guide. Winds were up to 60Km/H at the waterfall and definitely felt it. It was incredibly difficult to walk, and the waterfall drops hitting us at such high speeds felt like little pellets. The waterfall was beautiful, and we took refuge in the gift shop. I will mention that the toilets there and everywhere I have seen were incredibly pristine. Probably since most of them charge fees to use.
We finished up at the waterfall and headed back to stop at Geyser. It was still kind of windy, but it subsided as we got to watch the smaller geyser erupt 3 times. We certainly could smell the sulfur. We headed into the geyser cafeteria for lunch. Andrew got a burger, and Jesse and I got a vegetable soup. It was good. We headed for the car and drove back to Reykjavik. We stopped by a crater to hike around for a bit. Rain and wind had picked up and all I can remember is being pelted by rain as we walked the brim of the crater. It was still an amazing sight, and we went down the steps to the base of it. By the time we finished, I we were all soaking wet from the rain. We headed back to the car and drove to Bruno’s for our last night there. We decided to go all out and pay the money to experience a true icelandic fish buffet. It cost 5.500 ISK, around $56 but it was well worth the experience. It was at Reykjavik restaurant. We arrived in the evening and were the only ones in the restaurant! After a bit, the crowd picked up. I tried so much types of fish, including cured whale, licorice herring, and fish casseroles. We were filled up and walked around reykjavik afterwards for a bit. We headed back to Bruno’s for our last night at his place.
We slept in that day and packed our things to depart Bruno’s, however I got up early for another seaside morning run in Reykjavik. We started out for our drive out to Vik. We took route 1 through Selfoss and stopped at a Bonus for the first time. This is a discount grocery, and got some more snacks and things there, including caviar in a toothpaste tube. Jesse got his giant cinnamon roll at a coffee shop here too. Interestingly, this grocery store plaza was built on-top of a earthquake site, and featured quite an extensive earthquake museum inside of the shopping plaza! Interesting! We got some beer here at the Vinbudin too.
We continued the drive from Selfoss, through continuing rain, toward the south shore of Iceland. The landscape was very interesting at this point as we entered the plains and saw some really large mountains. We stopped at a couple of waterfalls that were close to each other. We reached another clearing in the rain at this point too, and it became sunny for a while! We climbed behind the first giant waterfall along a path and it was amazing. The second waterfall was along the pathway, and the third and final one had a treacherous rock scramble to the top viewing area. It was a good climb and Jesse and I ended up really high up! We carefully climbed back down and walked back to a shack by thelot that sold food.
Andrew got a sandwich here, and we continued on. I ate caviar on biscuits and snacked on that as we continued the drive toward the town of Vic. By this time, rain was pouring pretty steadily, and we took shelter in a local information center, and restaurant. There was interesting history about the wildlife of Iceland, along with historic seismic instruments of the area. At the restaurant, I got tea, while Jesse and Andrew got fish to eat. We then left the restaurant and braved it to the black sand beach on the Vic side of the mountain. It was still raining so we did not stay for long, but we got some pictures and souvenir rocks from the beach.
We stopped at the Vic grocery store, which was overrun with a bus of tourists, and we got snacks there while waiting for a while. We then drove to Hostel Skogar to check in. The hostel was pretty nice, and the 3 of us got a 3-person dorm room. I was up on top, and andrew and jesse below. We rested for a bit at the hostel, and decided to check out the waterfall that was directly behind the hostel. We ate snacks and a meal at the Hostel restaurant afterward and decided to go back up the waterfall since the rain had stopped. We brought some beer and went all the way up to the top to enjoy our drinks. It stayed dark pretty late, and we even began a little hike at the top of the plateau at around 09:30 pm! It was so fantastic to be up there with nobody and nothing to worry about and just worship God’s creation. This was truly a peaking memorable experience in the trip!
I woke up early this day to go for a run. I remember seeing a marked pathway to nothingness on the way to Vik and there were people walking into the fog. Intrigued, I decided to make it my running path for the morning since it lead to the sea. I began my run, and it took about 25 min to reach the destination. Before I knew what was in front of me, the metal carcass of an airplane appeared in the distance. Truly an eerie feeling since I was the only one there. As I got closer to the wreckage, I met an Indonesian family who happened to be taking early morning photos of the airplane, and they took my picture with an instamatic camera. They were friendly. I explored, went to the beach, and then headed back. I arrived at the room and we all got ready to head out to Vik to check out the black sand beach minus the rain this time. Afterward we hit the road towards the furthest point of the trip, the glacial lagoon. The drive was about 2 hours each way and we were able to stop by some interesting sights along the way. First we got to see the mossy desolation. The fog added to the feeling of being in a void. The moss grew in clumps and you could easily pick it up off of the soil. We passed further onto the lava fields, and this was one of my favorite areas of the trip. Vast expanses of clumpy rock covered with mushy moss created a scene right out of Lord of the Rings. The fog only added to the feel of desolation. We walked and climbed this area for a bit and then headed onto the glacier. We hit an area of clear weather once we got close to the mountains. This seems to be the case getting close to mountains. We reached the first glacier and walked into an interesting scandinavian cafe for snacks, right near the glacier. We hiked to the glacier lagoon saw the glacier and its icebergs. The water was pretty cold too. Afterward, we headed to the big glacier lagoon. We parked on the other side of the single-lane bridge and walked up to the lagoon for some shots. We skipped stones, saw interesting people with selfie sticks, and took our own photos of the glacier. There were some huge icebergs. The beach was all stone, so we started tossing some in. We even got a picture holding pieces of ice from the glacier. Following, we started for our trip back to Skogar. We hit an area near the end of the trip that features a whole city of stone towers. These are called cairns, and this monument was to commemorate the marker for a farm that was destroyed by lava long ago. Since then, folks have built these little towers all over the place and it looks like a city.
We made it back to the town of Vik and went to the second black sand beach, on the other side of the mountain. This beach is the famous one with all the stone pillars. We saw a few wedding photos being shot, so it goes to show how glamorous this place really is. We stayed for a bit and admired the strange rock formations while enjoying the setting sun. As time was getting late, and food shops close early in iceland, we had to hurry back to grab dinner. Dinner was in Skogar, and I was driving. I reached top speeds of 180Km/H that night to get there on time. We enjoyed a dinner of locally raised beef hamburgers at the Hotel Skogar restaurant. We finished it down with some Gull beer.
This day began with an early rise. I got up early and hiked to the top of the waterfall behind the hostel to watch the sunrise. It was fantastic. I returned to the room and we all got up at 6AM to hike back to the plane wreck as a group. It was peaceful like before, and we were the first ones to the crash site. It took an hour hike both ways and it was a great time. The hike is unlike anything I have hiked before since it was desolate wasteland. We made it back to the car, and headed towards Vik. This was our last day near the town of Vik, so we headed one more time into town. We hit the Vik beach one last time to get a couple more photos, saw the church in Vik, and also went back to the black sand beach with the rock formations. We explored and got lunch at a restaurant near the beach. We all got soup, Turnip soup, and lamb soup. It was great. After lunch we headed back to Reykjavik for our last stop.
Along the way back, we saw a Bonus in Selfoss and got some snacks and things. There was a Hagkup attached and I saw some interesting icelandic movies on the shelf. Next, we stopped in a town near Selfoss to check out some geothermic hot springs. We drove through town, behind to a mountainous area and parked. We relieved ourselves in a wooded area near the car and hiked over to a bubbling hot spring. It was cordoned off, but there was an area that was open and you could walk right up to it. It was very intriguing being that close but also dangerous, since the water was boiling hot. The sulfur steaming from the various openings in the ground coated me in odor, but also warmed. I walked around and saw various bubbling hot springs, and we went back and walked around town to see some more hot spring areas, however, they were all closed off. We headed back to the car and drove to our final lodging, the Baldursbra Guesthouse Laufasvegur. We made it to Reykjavik kind of during rush hour and we checked into the guesthouse. The caretaker family was from France, and they were very friendly. The lady checked us into the room and we headed up and made ourself at home. We then hiked into Reykjavik during sunlight, and got dinner at a hotdog stand near the skate park. We watch some sanctioned skateboarding for a bit. We walked around for a bit, and then got some dessert at a crepe shop. Jesse got ice cream, and I got a crepe. It was delicious. We then walked through some shops for a bit and headed back the guesthouse for bed.
This day, I got an early start and went for a run. I ran from the guesthouse with the intent of going all the way to Reykjavik point. It was beautiful to see the city along the coast early morning with sunlight. I almost made it to the point, but got a little tired and time was running out so I spotted a phallic drinking fountain, and headed back. I got back to the guesthouse and we had traditional breakfast prepared by the caretakers. They had everything from Mjolk, Skyr, muesli, cottage cheese with leek for yoghurt. For meats there were lunch meats, sweet pickled herring out of a jar, brie cheeses, and some olives. There were also flatbreads, Icelandic Dark Rye Bread (Dökkt Rúgbrauð). Quite a spread.
Following the breakfast we decided to begin our drive out to the Selfoss peninsula. We planned to go up there since a trip all the way out to the Westfjords seemed a bit too ambitions. We took Highway 1 to the toll tunnel and continued driving to the peninsula. We came over to a clearing in the weather for a bit and we stopped in a wide open area near a smaller volcano. We found a picnic table area around there and we took some photos of the valley. The weather was very nice and took off jackets. Following, we got in the car and headed out towards the peninsula. As we reached the north coast, the temperature dropped significantly and weather became foggy. We stopped in small fishing village called grundarfjordur. It was a very small village, and we walked the streets for a bit and visited the outside of a church. We walked into a very interesting cafe/bookstore/museum. There was an entire fishing exhibit and we got coffee and ate canned kippers. There were even guitars to play inside of the cafe. We hit to the road again and stopped by a pretty waterfall. As we headed back, we decided not to go all the way to Grundorfijordur Park since we probably wouldn’t see everything because of the weather. We took a shortcut back through the mountain on a gravel road and were instantly back into sunny weather again! We stopped at a nice valley, and Jesse and I decided to randomly climb a mountain off the side of the road. It was a pretty gravelly climb up, and we eventually made it to a magnificent ridge with full perspective of the valley below on one side, and sea coast on the other side. We made our way back down and drove the rest of the way to another waterfall, called Bjnarfoss. We climbed the pathway up to it and Andrew went a bit further to get some photos. The waterfall was spectacular. We made our way back to the car, and drove back.
We stopped in the town of borgarbyggð to grab some provisions at Bonus, including some Hackarl, putrefied shark. We grabbed some more pictures and headed back to Reykjavik. As we returned to the city, we walked around for a bit and got hotdogs a second time at the more famous hotdog stand across town. They were just as delicious as the hotdogs we got the previous day. Following the dinner, we walked for a bit and they got some soup afterwards at a tavern. We headed back to the guesthouse and tried the putrefied shark and chased it down with Brennevin.
This was our last day in Iceland. We slept in and began packing up our things. We had breakfast prepared by the caretakers again, and then loaded everything up. We bid farewell, and drove over to the point, however it was foggy and you could not see a whole lot. We also drove through the fish area of Reykjavik before heading back to Keflavik for the flights. We spent the early afternoon walking through the fishing village of Keflavik and we enjoyed some alcoholic beverages in public on a picnic table. It was our last adventure before heading to the airport. We spent some time by the pier cleaning out the rental car too, because we were not sure how clean it had to be. Luckily for us, when we went to Blue Car to drop off the car, it was an easy process and we were back at the airport to get on our flights. Mine left before Andrew and Jesse.