Iceland

Iceland: Wrap Up

After finally having covered every single aspect of our Iceland trip… We packed a TON into 8 days, I am finally getting around to writing my so-called wrap up where I offer my advice on what we did right and wrong and whatever else I feel will help others in planning a trip to Iceland. You can read a quick summary of our favorites sights and quick thoughts we had when just returning here. These wrap ups are more of a planning tool than what we liked best, but taking a quick look at our summary offers a good overview on our highlights as well as looking back at my pre-trip planning post.

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Icelandic Cuisine

As we travel more and more, one of our biggest things we plan around is food. We love trying the local food and have begun putting in plenty of research ahead of time on restaurants to try and local traditional dishes to seek out. We do enjoy walking around and choosing restaurants at random based on menus and atmosphere, but after having some big misses on our travels,  we now usually have a list of restaurants to look for that have good reviews and then decide when we arrive where we want to eat. We also usually plan one big, nicer dinner (typically the last night of our trip, though not always) at a high rated restaurant that we reserve ahead of time.

Because of this and the fast growing foodie culture, I’m going to do a food wrap up of sorts on places we ate and dishes we tried while on our travels.

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Iceland Day 8: Reykjavik

Our plane home didn’t leave until 5pm so we had a good half day to spend in Reykjavik before we had to leave for the airport. We didn’t really have much on the agenda planned for the day. We basically spent it wandering around and seeing more of the city.

Since we were staying right next to Hallgrimskirkja, we stopped by again in the morning and it was nice seeing the church without the hordes of crowds from the previous evening when we stopped by. The church itself was closed so we didn’t go back inside, but just got to enjoy the architecture of the church in relative peace.

Hallgrimskirkja + Read More

Iceland Day 7: Reykjavik

The drive from Thingvellir to Reykjavik is fairly easy and we arrived at our hotel, Guesthouse Sunna, in under an hour. The hotel is located essentially next to the capitals most famous landmark, Hallgrimskirkja. From our window at the hotel, we could actually see part of the church sticking up from above the trees. While the guesthouse itself was adequate, it was the least friendly reception we had in all of Iceland. I wouldn’t be opposed to staying there again as the location was really top notch and easy to get into the main center of town, but would also look into other places.

After checking in and freshening up after our snorkeling trip, we headed out to visit Hallgrimskirkja for ourselves. The church’s unusual design is said to be inspired by the basalt columns that make up so much of Iceland’s landscape. It was designed by Gudjon Samuelsson and the church was completed in 1986. The tower itself was completed before the interior of the church was finished and stands at a remarkable 74.5 meters tall.

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Iceland Day 7: Snorkeling Silfra

When you think of things to do in Iceland, snorkeling or scuba diving might not be the first thing that pops into your mind. Horseback riding or whale watching? Sure. Glacier Walking, definitely. But snorkeling Silfra (or scuba diving) has became one of the most popular things to do while in Iceland. We snorkeled here as we aren’t scuba divers, but anytime I mention snorkeling, please know that scuba divers would be able to see and experience the same things (and likely more).

Silfra is located in Thingvellir National Park. But what makes it crazy unique is that the Silfra fissure is a fissure between the North American and European continental plates. And Iceland is the only place on earth where you can snorkel or scuba dive between the plates. The other aspect that adds to the appeal of snorkeling Silfra, is the visibility. The visibility can be over 100 meters, which is basically out of this world how clear the water is. The one downside? The water hovers at 2-4 degrees Celsius all year as it comes from the underground Langjokull glacial water filtering up through the lava. All that filtering means it’s some of the cleanest water imaginable. Even if you aren’t up to snorkeling in the cold water, many people will come to the Silfra fissure just to dip their water bottles in.

Entrance to Silfra

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Iceland Day 7: Thingvellir National Park (Golden Circle Part 2)

After visiting two out of the three main Golden Circle sights the previous evening, we saw the third, Thingvellir National Park first thing Saturday morning. Thingvellir National Park is incredibly important in the history of Iceland. It is where the worlds first parliament occurred in 930 AD. The Althing was held in Thingvellir until the late 1700’s. We arrived fairly early in the morning around 8:30am and the park was fairly empty when we arrived. We were one of a only a handful of cars in the parking area, quite different than slightly later in the day when all the day trippers on tour buses arrive from Reykjavik. We were especially excited because for once we during the trip we had sun and bright blue skies!

We first stopped by the waterfall Oxararfoss. It wasn’t the most beautiful waterfall we saw and it was far from the most powerful, but it was still a pretty setting and small waterfall. There is just a short path leading from its own car park to the waterfall itself. Oxararfoss may actually be man made due to water diversion done centuries ago to provide easier access to water for the Althing members.

Thingvellir National Park + Read More

Iceland Day 6: Golden Circle (Part 1)

The Golden Circle route includes Geysir, Gullfoss, and Thingvellir National Park. It is one of the most popular tours to take while staying in Iceland. There are multiple group tours you can sign up for or if you have a car of your own, you can do it yourself. The benefit of doing it yourself (obviously) includes spending as much time as you want at any of the sights as well as the opportunity to visit the sights later or earlier in the day then most visitors arriving at the sights which was our plan and how we arrived at staying in Laugarvatn for the night.

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Iceland Day 6: Southwest Iceland

We started the final portion of our drive along the southern coast of Iceland after finishing up our time at Skogar. The next stop on our road trip was the Eyjafjallajokull Museum. I was particularly interested in this museum about the volcanic eruption in April 2010 that shut down so many flights across Europe and Trans-Atlantic flights between the US and Europe as I was on one of the last flights out of Madrid before the airport was shut down and we ended up on an 11 hour flight instead of an 7-8 hour flight as we had to go way further south into Africa and around to avoid the ash cloud.

The museum is mostly a 20 minute film about how one family dealt with the eruption in Iceland and how they fought to keep their farm. There is also a small gallery area with display boards with information about volcanic eruptions in history and more information about the April 14th eruption. They also have a small gift shop with volcano inspired souvenirs. I found the film interesting, but that the customer service when we were there lacking. We walked in shortly after the film started, so we had to wait until the next showing which was fine, but there were no workers at the cash register to take our money. We could see them in the back room just talking to each other, so we just continued to wander around the gallery space for about 10 minutes. When we went back up to the counter to try again to purchase our tickets for the showing that would be starting soon, a huge tour group walked in and they waited on the group leader first which seemed like mass chaos… long story short, I made it into the movie on time while Brian was still trying to pay for our tickets and he ended up missing the first couple minutes. The film was interesting because most of the news about the eruption centered on the impact felt elsewhere and not actually where the volcano itself erupted.

The ash cloud from the 2010 eruption

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Iceland Day 6: Skogar

After leaving Dyrholaey, we drove west along the Ring Road to the next major town, Skogar. Skogar is a small Icelandic town with a couple not-to-be missed attractions. The first of which we visited was Skogafoss. Skogafoss plunges about 60 meters down a cliff from the Skoga River. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall produces, there is often a rainbow spotted at the base of the falls on sunny days (unfortunately we didn’t get to experience the rainbow). It was one of the most picturesque waterfalls we visited. There is a large parking lot where a lot of people were camped out at where people were getting ready to embark on multiple day treks.

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Iceland Day 6: Dyrholaey

We started the day off in a not very good place. I had gotten the phone call no one wants to get while out of the country. My mom texted me to tell me to call her as soon as possible, assuming it was about one of my grandparents I was prepared for bad news. What I learned wasn’t about my grandparents, but was equally upsetting, one of my close friends and my so-called adopted/third grandmother who had been in perfect health, had fallen into a pond and drowned. I spent the remainder of the night in a fitful sleep and when we set off in the morning after a delicious breakfast (that we couldn’t fully enjoy) at our AirBnb, it was with heavy hearts. The remainder of the day was spent visiting sights that had been near the top of our list of places to see in Iceland, but there was a cloud of gloom lingering over the entire day. We were admittedly distracted most of the day, bypassing some sights as our hearts and minds were somewhere else. I spent a lot of time conversing with my mom about details on what happened and when the funeral and visitation was to occur. In the car, I often stared out the window with tears in my eyes.  As a result, we didn’t keep a very good record of what we spent and how much time we spent at locations so the rest of the trip report will be more sparce in specific details.

It’s not to say, that we didn’t enjoy the remainder of the trip. We did make the most of it and enjoyed everything to the best of our ability, but neither of us were as wowed by sights and activities of the remaining days as we had expected to be, mostly because we were not as engrossed and engaged in the trip as before.

Anyways, we started our sixth day of our road trip in Iceland by visiting Dyrholaey which is located just west of Vik. Dyrholaey is most famously known for its abundance of puffins during the summer months. The peninsula actually is closed during parts of May and June due to puffin nesting season. The view from the lower part of Dyrholaey overlooks Reynisfjara and at least when we were there close to a lot of puffins.

View from Dyrholaey

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