I said I would do a blog about our trip to Iceland last year and here it is 7 months later and I am finally here. Yes, I am a procrastinator.
Last July (2017) we travelled to Iceland for our summer vacation. What can I say, we loved it! Not our usual summer vacation but I am glad we chose something different.
We left Baltimore on a mid July evening traveling WOW airlines for our first time and I have to say it was much better than the reviews I had read the morning before we left. Honestly, we picked them for the price and a recommendation from a friend so I never read the reviews until my husband expressed concern after he realized that morning they were more of a "no-frills" airline. The planes were clean and new and the staff was friendly and accommodating. We landed in Iceland around 5 am the next morning, picked up our rental car and headed into the city. Unfortunately, in an effort to save some money (also with the idea that our credit card may serve that purpose) we opted out of the insurance on the automobile. Within 5 minutes, a rock was kicked up and hit our windshield and cracked it. Apparently, this is a common occurrence and we were told not to worry about it so we kept the car and finally the crack stopped growing.
We did plan some, but we are not the family that plans every minute - we like to wing it. We knew what we wanted to do and based on our locations and the weather and that is how we managed our days. Our first 3 days were spent in the city of Reykjavik. Very cool city - I don't really know how to describe it but it has a modern, european vibe. The city is growing like crazy - we saw cranes and construction sites everywhere, but it didn't cause any issues except walking in the streets in some areas to avoid the construction.
Our accommodations in the city were quite nice. We are a family of 5 and we found a lovely apt. through airbnb, not too pricey and a decent amount of space with 2 bedrooms and a sleep sofa but only one bathroom - a minor challenge with 3 teenagers. The location was excellent - we walked everywhere and only used the car to get to the sites outside of the city. The first day my daughters and I went on a puffin tour. It was an experience I won't easily forget. We saw many puffins and other birds along with the beautiful coastline from the boat.
cute puffin waving hi
As expected, we were beat from arriving early morning after flying all night and then a puffin tour so we went to bed early. And, sleeping in Iceland is difficult in the summer when you are used to the sun setting and darkness overcoming the night. But that doesn't happen in Iceland in mid July, bring an eye mask.
The next day we walked around the city exploring Reykjavik before our 2-hour time slot at the Blue Lagoon. While walking around we ran into a classmate of my daughter's, it really is a small world. I was in shock about running into someone from our home town for the entire rest of the day. It came time to use our rental car to drive out of the city about 35 minutes to the of the Blue Lagoon.
This was a major highlight! Don't go to Iceland without taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon. It was like another world and incredibly relaxing. These images don't convey the beauty of this place.
While in Reykjavik we found some unique items at the flea markets, ate some good seafood, watched some interesting street performers, learned Icelandic history, saw some cool sites and shopped. Because we had heard the food was expensive, we did eat in a few times which gave us the opportunity to shop at a local grocery store. Definitely a good way to save a little money.
above is The Sun Voyager, a sculpture by the water in Reykjavik
After our time in the city we headed to the Golden Circle. We had 6 days to see everything we could possibly cram in so we chose to stay close to the Golden Circle to make the most of our time there. Again, we booked a wonderful home near to the Golden Circle. It was a dream. I could have stayed there longer. The views were heavenly along with the peace and quiet.
The home's front yard was filled with these sheep that kept us quite amused when we were not driving out to the sites.
On the Golden Circle we hit the most well known spots like Strokkur, Geysir that spouts about every 5-10 minutes,
This is the beginning of the burst of hot water bubbling up from the ground. It starts out as this gorgeous aqua color and shoots up about 15-20 meters up. You can feel the steam and it comes as a brief relief from the chilly, wet summer rains.
In addition to the Geysir, we visited Kerid Crater, where I was worried about me and my children falling over the edge. It ended up being fine despite the lack of barriers.
see below: Those 4 small blips are my family jumping and waving at me as I gingerly made my way around at my own pace. It is pretty large and deep, quite a drop.
WATERFALLS...you can't visit Iceland without stopping at a waterfall. Take your pick, there are so many to chose from and they are each unique and come with an interesting set of facts. The one on the top left is Urriðafoss, a very powerful waterfall. The one next to it is the often photographed, Skógafoss. I took this photograph at midnight while my family was climbing to the top for a good view. It seemed a bit dangerous so I opted to stay below. The one below Skógafoss (to the right) is the famous, Seljalandsfoss. As you can see from the photo, it is a hot tourist attraction. You are able to walk behind the falls on a frighteningly, slippery walk with no guard rails. I was terrified but I managed to make it safely all the way around. Below that is Faxi, not a popular tourist spot but gorgeous. It was raining that day, the same day we visited the largest falls to the left, the most famous of all the falls in Iceland, Gullfoss. It was cold and rainy, make certain to take your rain jackets and layer for warmth.
Another site we visited along the Golden Circle is Þingvellir National Park. I guess everything in Iceland is a must see and this is a site, we couldn't leave off our must see. It is the oldest national park and the only one to hold UNESCO World Heritage site status. It is one of the only places on the planet where you will find the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates exposed.
below is part of the trail at the park
We left for a full day of travel to Vik where you will find Reynisfjara black sand beach with the stacks. That day was very foggy. As we travelled the 2 hours from our home on the Golden Circle we saw a loaded parking lot full of buses and cars. We knew something worthy of stopping must be there so without a plan, we stopped. We were at The abandoned 1973 DC plane on Sólheimasandur.
it is so flat that you can see for miles, literally
Due to our winging it, we neglected to read about the distance of the plane from the parking lot. It was about 2.5 miles to the plane walking on a black rocky path. It took us hours out of our day to see this but it was worth the time. Fortunately with so much daylight, we had the time to spare. After no less than 3 hours at this site, we continued our drive to Vik.
Many of the sites in Iceland seemed like another world and the black sand beach was... I can't even describe it in words because at that point we had a lot of fog that added to the dark mood of the beach. See the images below of my family where I took several at the black sand beach.
Below are some other photographs of interesting things like churches and birds of Iceland, including one of the church in Vik that has been photographed many times. We stopped in the town after the black sand beach because we were starving. I saw the church on the hill and quickly got the shot as my family was starving and wouldn't wait for me - so it goes for a photographer on a family vacation.
Also above is the famous church in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja
below: various birds I found throughout my trip including puffin, redwing, pigeon, arctic tern, oystercatcher
One last thing, make sure you eat at Friðheimar . They serve homemade, tomato everything and the soup is fantastic. Meals are served in the greenhouse.
If you are fortunate enough to visit Iceland, enjoy all is has to offer.