“Why Iceland?” Sep 2014 trip

WHY ICELAND?

Earlier this year when my Mum announced she would be getting married in England in the summertime, we immediately started looking for flights to take our young little family over there. The cheapest rates we could find were with Icelandair– and when we discovered we could have a “free” stop over in Iceland for up to a week, we started looking into all the fun things we could do and see there, combined into our trip to see the family. Until this point, we hadn’t really considered Iceland as one of our top travel destinations– besides the lure to see the northern lights, which is on our “bucket list,” But after seeing SO many beautiful photos, and learning so much about the country, we became pretty excited and determined to go!

Sadly, our families travel plans for England this summer fell through– but Dean and I decided to just go to Iceland anyway! We hadn’t picked a vacation destination abroad for ourselves in almost ten years, since our honeymoon, and we were able to score some pretty inexpensive off season flights for September! We wanted to take our sweet little kiddos with us, but realized Iceland was going to be an adventurous, outdoorsy, cold place that they probably wouldn’t appreciate all that much! So we left them in the best hands at home with Grandma and Grandpa to be spoiled! So that is our way-too-long explanation of “WHY ICELAND?” That we have been asked by everyone time and time again… and now I will let the photos do the rest of the explaining! ;-)

DAY 1 — THE BLUE LAGOON

We arrived at Keflavik Airport at 6:30 in the morning– which for some weird reason, kind of reminded me of Ikea! People were sitting around drinking coffee and “people watching.” I had heard this was a favorite pastime of Icelanders, and I definitely felt a few eyes on us, as we wandered around arrivals looking tired and lost and a little confused! We couldn’t check into our hotel room until 4pm, and the busses didn’t start running until 10 or so, so we weren’t exactly sure what we should do until then!

We discussed a few options over a breakfast of Skyr– “an Icelandic cultured dairy product that that has been part of Icelander’s cuisine for over 1000 years,” that I didn’t really care for! We decided to catch the first bus out to the Blue Lagoon– Not only would it feel heavenly to relax in the geothermal waters of one of the world’s most famous spa’s after our long flight, but it was also conveniently located right on our way to Reykjavik!

The airport doors opened, and I RAN to the bus through one of the worst storms I have ever experienced. I mean, I didn’t choose Iceland for the “sun, sea and sand,” but I didn’t expect gail force winds and rain that would make me want to hide in my hotel room for the week. The question “WHY ICELAND?” That so many people had asked me, now resonated in my mind, as I asked it to myself! I had a bad cold, that I suspected might be bronchitis! (And “aint nobody got time for dat!”) And I was tired and now very cold!

We pulled up to the Blue Lagoon, and I was stunned at the completely surreal, almost other-wordly views out of the bus window, as milky blue waters filled in black lava fields that were covered with spongy green moss, and bouts of steam coming up out of nowhere. There were already quite a few busses loaded with tourists in the parking lot, even though the blue lagoon hadn’t even opened yet! I was feeling slightly apprehensive about the changing room horror stories I’d heard–where everyone is naked and you have zero privacy, and the attendees inspect you to make sure you shower properly and don’t have any skin ailments. I quickly learned that only one of those rumors were true. There are naked people everywhere! But thankfully there was ONE modest cubicle, and I think I was the only prude in the entire place to actually use it.

The steamy, milky blue water felt pretty heavenly, but outside the gail force winds and heavy rain persisted, making me feel freezing cold and anxious about getting sicker than I already was! Even though I kept telling myself: “you’re at the blue lagoon! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!” I secretly, and very guiltily couldn’t wait to get the heck outta there, as the wind blew up semi violent waves of silica that kept slapping me in the face and filling my mouth with water that was somehow saltier than salt itself! Dean and I managed to find a “hot spot” and we clung to it for dear life until it was time for us to check into our hotel.

Here are a couple of photos… I wasn’t brave enough to get out of the water long enough to take any more than this:
P.S. See how busy it is?! Why is everyone at the blue lagoon during a storm?

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You know those beautiful, calm serene images of romantic couples relaxing at the blue lagoon? Well we got pictures of being slapped in the face by angry waves of salty silica.
bl01 copyI’m kind of sad to say how happy we were to leave the blue lagoon that day! But being cold and tired and sick, we wanted to check into our hotel at our first opportunity. We hopped back on the bus that dropped us off right in front of our hotel: The Reykjavik Residence Suites. It was beautiful, comfortable, spacious and pristine, and was right in the heart of the city. We couldn’t have chosen a better place to stay!

6073920_40_z_MG_3969ipadThe hotel had lots of interesting history behind it– it was built to be a home for a famous Prime Minister in the early 1900′s, and has had several famous guests stay there since– including the King and Queen of Denmark!

We tried to NOT pass out right away, as we didn’t want to spend our week completely jet-lagged, so we went down the road to check out Reykjavik’s largest, most popular flea market, that is open at the harbor on the weekends. They sell everything there from popular and traditional Icelandic food: horse meat, fermented shark, dried fish and cookies, to woolen mittens, Icelandic Knitted Sweaters, known as lopapeysas and a lot of second hand goods.

market8 copymarket7 copy marketcollage1 copyFor dinner we grabbed a couple of hot dogs from a traditional super-hyped-up Icelandic hot dog stand: Baejarins Beztu Pylsur– that a few famous people like Bill Clinton, Anthony Bordain and Charlie Sheen have eaten at. If you ask for “eina með öllu” or “The works” they will cover your hot dog in ketchup, sweet mustard, dried onions, and remoulade. I am not much of a hot dog fan, but I actually really liked these! Not as much as Dean though, who would have eaten them three meals a day everyday if he could. 

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We managed to stay awake until about 4pm– by which time, we had been awake for over 24 hours, and crashed pretty hard!

DAY 2 – REYKJAVIK

The next day we woke up at 8 a.m feeling great! The storm had subsided, and I had finally shaken my two-week-long HORRIBLE cold! I was excited to spend the whole day sight-seeing Reykjavik– when we got a knock at the door from the cleaner. I asked her: “what time is it?” And she replied: “It’s 1pm mam!” Holy crap! I had read on my computer screen that it was 8am, but with my iPhone dead, and not a clock in sight, I had NO idea that it was THAT LATE, and that we had just slept for 21 HOURS!! I was mad at myself because we now only had four hours of daylight left to see everything in Reykjavik we wanted to see– but at least it made for a funny memory– and something like this could never happen to us at home with our two sweet little ones running around at 6a.m every morning!

So we set out to see Reykjavik at 1p.m! First we walked along the harbor and saw the famous Solfar “Sun Voyager”– a massive steel sculpture which was made to resemble a Nordic Viking ship, but is in fact a dream boat and “ode to the sun.” From the sculpture you can see the beautiful Mt. Esja and Atlantic Ocean in the background.
solfar02We continued walking along the harbor until we reached the Harpa Concert Hall– which is a beautiful must-see landmark in Reykjavik. It has a steel framework clad with multicolored panels of glass, which are fun to look through from the interior of the building. The London Symphony Orchestra were playing while we were there (which we should have made time to see!) But instead we got to listen to some rehearsals, which added to the peaceful, beautiful ambience of the place. On our way out it was pouring with rain, so we made a bee-line for our hotel room to change into more waterproof clothing, but as we glanced back, a full-arched beautiful rainbow appeared over the Harpa, lighting it up with all its many colors.
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After changing into waterproof coats with hoods, {and learning to keep them on for the remainder of the week!} We walked along two of the most beautiful, famous shopping streets in downtown Reykjavik: Skólavörðustígur and Laugavegur street, browsing quaint little tourist shops selling stuffed puffins, Icelandic chocolate, keychains, magnets and Icelandic wool. At the end of Skólavörðustígur street was the impressive Hallgrimskirkja Church, which is probably the most beautiful, renowned building in the whole of Iceland. 

Architect Guðjón Samúelsson designed the Lutheran Church to resemble the basalt lava flows in Iceland’s landscape. It was completed in 1986, and was then fitted with a large pipe organ and an observation tower. We got to take an elevator ride to the top, to overlook the stunning panorama of the world’s most northern capital city– and all the brightly colored roof tops that makes it so unique.

hallgrims3 copyhallgrimshallgrims2Above is a statue of an explorer named Leif Eriksson–It was a gift from America to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s parliament at Þingvellir!  Panoramic-view-of-Reykjavik copyFrom Hallgrimskirkja we walked over to the Perlan — another beautiful observatory and landmark of Reykjavik that is a must see. The Perlan was created from revived hot water storage tanks, that had been sitting high up on the Öskjuhlíð hill for decades. A dome was placed on top, with a panoramic viewing deck that contained telescopes in all six corners of it. It was fun to see the Perlan from Hallgrimskirkja, and the Hallgrimskirkja from the Perlan! 

Here is a photo of Dean, getting drenched on our walk to the Perlan.

perlan2 copyperlan10 copyperlan009 copy perlan008 copyhallgrims04 copyhallgrims06 copyWe also got to visit the Kringlan Shopping Mall close by– mainly to find a sim card so we could keep in touch easier with our little cuties back home, and use google rather than paper maps to navigate the city! Within the mall we found a cute little supermarket, and quickly discovered how much Icelander’s love their dried fish and black licorice! But also… because England is the closest import country, they had a LOT of English goodies too! Hooray!!

We caught a bus back to the city center, and found a place for dinner called cafe Loki which overlooked the beautiful Hallgrimskirkja church as the sun set over it. My husband just liked the name of it, we didn’t even look at a menu before we were already seated, and as we read the items on it: “fermented shark, sheeps head jelly, and horse” I quickly whispered to my husband: “it’s not too late for us to leave!” But he already knew what he wanted to order– one of Iceland’s most traditional delicacies, that they believe has healing powers for your body– fermented shark meat. He was teasing that he would be disappointed with me if I didn’t try it, and because a part of me just wants to be as adventurous and as daring as him, I decided to do it– even though it smelled and looked HORRIBLE. I can honestly say that this was one of the worst ideas I have ever had. I put the shark meat into my mouth, and instantly spit it out in front of everyone like a naughty four year old child! It was HANDS DOWN the WORST thing I have ever eaten, EVER. {and I have eaten some bad things around the world}. He didn’t mind it too much. It made me question him and his poor deformed taste buds, but I still love him anyway.
icelandicfood copyWe walked past the famous Tjornin pond on our way back to the hotel, which has been named “the biggest bread soup in the world.” I have no idea what this actually means! But it was pretty, lined with some gorgeous scandinavian style buildings and churches. We got a good night’s rest knowing we had a crazy day planned ahead of us– and felt happy knowing we had seen everything, and much more, we wanted to in Reykjavik, in just the few hours of sunlight that we had! tjarnin copy

DAY 3 – THE GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR

We booked a tour with dive.is about a week before we came to Iceland– just because things were filling up fast, and we wanted to make sure we got to snorkel the silfra while we were there. Dean and I aren’t really the kind of tourists that go for guided tours, but you are not allowed to snorkel the silfra without one as it’s a protected UNESCO world heritage site.

Our tour guide Louis picked us up from our hotel at 8a.m. We were the only ones to opt for the “golden circle tour” which included Gulfoss and Geysir along with the silfra, so it was just the three of us for most of the day. He was the same age as Dean and I, and also had a daughter who was the same age as ours– so it was really easy to connect with him. I had SO many cultural, social, geographical, historical and generally just random questions about Iceland that I wanted to know, and he was so kind to humor me, and teach me so much about this amazing country! I can’t remember everything he told us, but something I will never forget, is that Icelanders have an APP on their phone to check how closely someone is related to them, in case they want to hook up! With a population of 320,000 people in the ENTIRE country (about the size of tricities here in Washington), everyone knows each other, or at least of each other, so they’re always on their best behavior– which may account for why Iceland is one of the safest places in the world to live, and travel.

We also found out that the majority of Icelander’s believe in Elves. True story! These Elves have magical powers and live in rocky areas — and roads are built AROUND Elf mounds, because it is bad luck, and I think against the law, to bulldoze them down! While Icelander’s have some strange beliefs, they are also very progressive in other areas– being some of the first to ban online pornography and strip clubs from their country, and guaranteeing EVERYONE who lives there a job. They are some of the nicest, most relaxed people you will ever meet– and nothing is ever faux pas to talk about. Our tour guide was so open, and gave us so much good advice; he told us not to eat whale while we were here, because the industry is driven by tourism, and they are becoming endangered, and also not to eat puffin– because they mate for life, and it’s sad to eat someone’s mate! :-( Haha. I could write a whole blog post on all the things I learned from this awesome guy, but long story short– we were VERY glad we booked our first ever tour through dive.is. It was an awesome learning experience for us, and LOT of fun!

THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
Louis dropped us off at Thingvellir National park– the site of a rift valley that marks the crest of the mid-atlantic ridge, and the place where the world’s first ever Parliament was established. We arrived before all other tourists, first thing in the morning when the beautiful glow of the angel light and early morning mists made for some AMAZING views and pictures! It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my entire life.
pingvelir copyparliament2 copyDean and I got to take a little hike through the park, to meet the other snorkelers at silfra on the other side. The pole marks where the world’s first ever parliament was established by the vikings in the 900′s. 
deano copyHere I am standing in between two continents!
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thing1 copythingv1 copyThe mayor’s summer home is in Thingvellir National Park:
thingv6 copything5 copyTHE SILFRA — TOUCHING TWO CONTINENTS IN TWO DEGREE WATER!

We met up with the other snorkelers, and got into our snorkeling gear– we were told to wear thermals and thick socks, and they provided us with a black zip up snow suit, dry suit, neoprene hood and gloves which combined took us about half an hour to get into! They put a TIGHT band around my neck to make sure absolutely no water could seep through the hood, and I couldn’t breathe– I thought for sure it was going to do permanent damage to my jugular before I passed out, but apparently, that’s how it’s supposed to feel! We waddled in our suits and flippers to the steps of the Silfra fissure, where the instructor gave us a quick “de-briefing,” in the rain. They taught us a little more about the silfra, meaning “silver lake.” It is one of the most renowned, popular dive destinations in the entire world due to its un-matched visibility of over 100 feet, with recordings up to 300 feet! The water comes from the Langjokull glacier in the highlands, and is naturally filtered for centuries through porous lava rock– making it some of the purest, cleanest water in the world. The silfra is also extremely unique because you can touch two of the biggest continental plates on the planet at the same time– in 2 degC. water! O.K. It all sounded pretty perfect until the last part!

I got a little apprehensive as we were thoroughly and overly debriefed! But all the gear made me feel super warm and comfortable as I entered the water, and even the tight bands didn’t feel so tight anymore–the only problem was my face that instantly started to burn like a son of a. and the arctic water entering my gloves making me lose all sensation of my hands and fingers, which I wasn’t entirely sure were a part of me anymore, at least made me wish they weren’t. The INCREDIBLE views below me soon made me forget all of that though! And even though I had never experienced such coldness before in my life, I would do it all over again in a heart beat! In fact, next time I am going back to dive it!! We already had our dive certifications, but I think it would be wise to get some experience in dry suit diving beforehand. 


silfra01 copydive1I got an underwater case for my iPhone to take some amazing pictures, but due to my painfully numb hands, I could barely hold on to it, let alone press any buttons! So I got these pics from our dive.us tour. They look incredible, but no pictures can do it justice– everyone needs to dive/snorkel the silfra at least once in their lifetime! 
silfra2 copysilfra1 copyimg_8624002-3silfra3 copyAfter snorkeling we got to drink some of the purest, cleanest water in the world straight from the silfra, and it tasted amazing! Then the group got to warm up with some hot cocoa and cookies. 

Gulfoss 
Louis Dean and I travelled from Thingvellir to a beautiful waterfall called Gulfoss, meaning “Golden Falls.” I am so glad we had him as our tour guide, not only because he was fun, but because I wouldn’t have learned half of the interesting things I did without him! Gulfoss is named “Golden Falls” because the mists of the waterfall look golden in the evening angel light. Icelander’s also believe that a rich, greedy, old man threw all of his gold down the waterfall, so no one would ever be as wealthy as him– and that it is still there today! Gulfoss reminded me of Niagara falls, it was very big and impressive and just gorgeous! 
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GEYSIR

From Gulfoss we headed on to Geysir. The geeky Geography major in me likes that fact that I have seen the original Geyser– that all other geysers in the world are named after. It isn’t active anymore, but in the same geothermal area, there is a geyser called Strokkur that erupts every 4-8 minutes, and reaches heights of up to 40 meters, which is comparable to old faithful at yellowstone.

Me next to Geysir. 
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geysir1 copygeysir copyOn the drive back to Reykjavik I saw so many beautiful things along the way that I wanted to take pictures of, but I didn’t want to bug our nice tour guide (more than I already had), so I didn’t ask. But then he read my mind: “would you like to stop and take pictures of the ponies?” “YES!” The Icelandic ponies are everywhere in Iceland, and the Icelander’s are very proud of them… we were told: “they like to be called strong Icelandic steed!” They are so pure bred that if one leaves the country for a show, it is never again allowed to return! They are very friendly, I got to feed some.
icelandicsteed copystrongicelandicsteed copyWe were making really good time, so Louis asked us if we would like to stop and take a look around a volcano! I can’t remember the name of it, but it reminded me of crater lake in Oregon that we had just visited weeks before. Except, it was a LOT colder and more colorful there. 
deanovolcano2 copycrater copyvo1 copyDAY 4- REYKJAVIK & THE BLUE LAGOON TAKE TWO!

Before we left for Iceland, I had things planned out pretty well, and knew most of the things I wanted to do and see– but this day was for Dean, to do whatever he wanted! Even if that was nothing, I was prepared to be a good girl about it. In the morning we explored some more of  Reykjavik. We went to a few museums– the National Museum of Iceland and the Settlement Museum, to learn more about the history and culture of Iceland, which was fascinating. We then grabbed a hot chocolate, and watched the rain fall and people hurry past. We watched new tourists arrive– and knew that’s how lost we looked just a few days ago, and now we were getting a pretty good feel for the city, although no matter how hard we tried, we still couldn’t pronounce a single Icelandic word right! We were both feeling really sore after our golden circle and snorkeling tour, and traveling in general (we’re getting old!) So we came up with the genius plan to go and get a couples massage! We called around every spa in the city, but they were all fully booked, and the only place with any availability was the blue lagoon!

Since it was so expensive, and we had already been, and it wasn’t the most pleasurable experience, I was a little reluctant to go back, but they were kind to give us a discount, and the whether was a LOT better, so we decided to give it another go. This was one of the BEST decisions we could have made! We arrived at around 4pm when most of the tourists had already left, the whether was beautiful, (meaning it was only raining a little bit!) And the massage was PURE heaven! The best massage of my life. The blue lagoon was so  peaceful and romantic and relaxing… just as I imagined it to be, and we loved every minute of it. After the massage, and getting a silica facial– we felt absolutely AMAZING! I want to go back. P.S. I wasn’t afraid to take a lot more pictures this time! ;-) bluelago2 copybluelagoon1 copy

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DAY 5– JOKULSARLON & THE SOUTHERN SHORES SELF DRIVE TOUR

This was my absolute favorite day of the entire trip! I might even go so far as to say, one of my favorite days EVER! We rented a car early, and headed along the southern coast of Iceland. Our first stop from Reykjavik was Selfoss. We were looking for the waterfall but soon realized {thanks to the use of google on our phone, or we might still have been looking for it} that the Selfoss waterfall wasn’t in the town of Selfoss, but was actually somewhere up in the north of Iceland! Ha! Maybe we needed Louis back! We grabbed a quick breakfast at the gas station there, and continued on until we reached our next destination, Seljalandsfoss. Now this waterfall was easy to find! We could see it from the road, and it was HUGE, and so beautiful! 

I used my new tripod for the first time ever to take these shots! P.S. I have never seen so many avid photographers in my life as I had seen this week. Every couple had a professional looking camera around their neck, and a tripod under their arm! It was awesome to see i’m not the only one.waterfall2 copy waterfall3 copywaterfall8 copyOne of the reasons why I LOVED this day SO much, was because it was full of a lot of “firsts” for me. This was the first time I have ever walked behind a waterfall, and it was pure awesomeness.
waterfall22 copy waterfall23 copywaterfall14 copyThis might just be one of my new favorite photos of all time: Dean standing behind the waterfall waterfall11 copywaterfall17 copyFrom Seljalandsfoss we were continuing along the ring road towards another waterfall–skogafoss, when we stumbled upon Eyjafjallajökull! In 2010 we were visiting England, and were just about to leave on the morning that this volcano erupted. We got to spend a few extra days with my family. It was sweet! {Although I feel sorry for the thousands of other tourists who were stranded in airports all across Europe!} Inside this visitors center you can see a video of the people who lived under the volcano when it erupted, and how it affected their, and the whole countries lives. I took this picture of Dean by the word: Eyjafjallajökull, because it’s a running joke in Iceland that no one can pronounce it, but by the end of the week, Dean could, perfectly! eyja1 copyThis is the site of Eyjafjallajökull and the farm under which the volcano erupted. eyja2 copyAs we drove on, I wanted to take pictures of everything– there was just SO much beauty at every turn, but the one picture I did get was of this little Icelandic Turf house– a cute little sheep with horns (which are SO prevalent in Iceland, I swear they outnumber the people 4:1) was walking out of it. 
tufthouse1 copyWe arrived at Skogafoss, and again, it wasn’t hard at all to find– this was the view from the road. Dean and I walked up that little pathway to the top of the waterfall, in which we saw…. more waterfalls! I could never have imaged a place with SO many waterfalls. It really is unreal. wf009 copy wf021 copywf023 copy
wf08 copywf09 copyAt the top of Skogafoss
step1 copywf005 copyThose little dots of white are birds, to give this waterfall some perspective of its magnitude!
wf4 copyThe waterfall at the top of Skogafoss 
wf18 copy wf13 copywf15 copyJapanese tourists started stacking stones in Iceland for good luck along their journey, and now every tourist will add a stone to the pile for good luck– and they are about as common as sheep and waterfalls! 
piles copy landscape1 copy wf06 copyAs we walked the pathway down, a beautiful rainbow appeared. We asked someone to take a photo for us– and they went above and beyond to get such an amazing shot for us! This place is full of awesome photographers! I wish my lens hadn’t been so dirty with waterfall spray, but I still love this picture a lot!
wf2 copyFrom Skogafoss we continued on the ring road until we reached the cute little coastal town of VIK that had black sand beaches!! I have always wanted to see a black sand beach, and it was even more beautiful than I imagined! Another “first” for me on this crazy journey of extremely diversified dramatic landscapes! 
church1 copyblackbeachcollage3 copyblackbeach04 copyblackbeach07 copy blackbeach09 copy blackbeach06 copy blackbeachcollage1 copyblackbeach002 copyblackbeach006 copy beach08 copybeach04 copy beach1 copy beach2 copyblackbeachcollage05 copyAt Vik we found this little dive behind a gas station for lunch which sold the BEST stew I think I had ever eaten in my life, and definitely the best thing I had eaten so far in Iceland– although the fermented shark was a close second! (NOT!) I have already recreated the recipe and will post it later! ;-)

From VIK we continued on the ring road towards the famous Jokulsarlon glacier lake– when we stumbled upon this! The land of Japanese rock stacks! This is so disturbing I hesitated writing about it: but tourists like to go to the bathroom here. Behind the stacks of rock you will find stacks of something that look like rocks, along with toilet paper. SO be careful, or just keep on driving and don’t stop here!!!
japanese1 copyrockstack1 copyBut DO stop here! Along the way are miles and miles of lava fields covered with a bright green, almost-other-worldy spongy moss that has beautiful little yellow flowers portruding from of it.
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It was SO much fun to bounce around on it! It was also so soft, I would totally have slept on it!
jump1 copygreenmoss copyEven though this moss is pretty awesome, it can get pretty old! I think we saw it for an hour straight until we reached Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. When I told my husband that morning that I wanted to drive for four hours to see Jokulsarlon, he thought I was insane! But I told him it was about the journey, and all the things we could see along the way! We were both in awe at the diversity of views we passed during that time: from massive waterfalls and volcanoes, to black sand beaches and black lava fields covered in bright green moss and yellow flowers, sheep and ponies and tuft houses, coastal towns and fishing villages, and now glaciers and glacier lakes! This was the most fantastic road trip of our lives! 

contrast1 copyWe started passing some pretty bad a. looking glaciers with ice formations that spiked upwards to the sky. I wanted to stop and take photos (of course) but we were pushing it to reach the glacial lagoon before dark.
glacier copyWe arrived at the glacial lagoon about 30 minutes before the sun went down, which made for pretty perfect lighting for photos! On top of that, a couple of cute little black seals were swimming around the ice burgs. This was definitely a major highlight of the trip, and one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!
gllag007 copyI loved seeing so many professional photographers around! gllag3 copygllag02 copyMe holding an iceburg! I have never been to a colder place than this before… but it made me want to brave returning to Iceland in the wintertime! And to see the beautiful crystal clear ice-caves of skaftafell that were inaccessible to us this time of year! :-( glacierlagoon1 copyglacierlag2 copyburg2 copyjokulsarlon3 copyjokulsarlon2 copygalcierlake1 copyThe wind was blowing SO strong that it actually knocked down my tripod, so I had one of the photographers take a picture for us, and he gave us one of my favorite pictures of all time! <3 jokarlsarlon copy

We drove home for four hours in the dark and POURING rain, trying to spot some northern lights… but no luck, and trying to find a radio station that worked! Also, no luck! The trip was long and pretty intense, but SO amazing and SO worth it! <3 

LAST DAY– SNAEFELSNESS

We rented the car for two days, so we thought we’d take a shorter, easier route the next day, and drive the Snaefelsness peninsula that everyone had been raving about! They call Snaefelsness a “miniature iceland” consisting of all its dramatic landscapes in one small region — from fjords, mountains, volcanoes, waterfalls, to black and golden sand beaches, glaciers and scenic fishing villages and coastal towns. We got kind of a late start, and on top of that, decided to take the long route around the Fjord, rather than cut through the tunnel to Borganes. The fjord, and views along the way were beautiful, but after SO much driving the day before, I think Dean and I should have taken any short cut we could find!

fjord copyroad1 copyIn September everyone in the entire country– including all the tourists, participate in a rounding up of the sheep festival, but somehow in Snaefelsness, they were still free to roam around on the road. sheep1 copydeano2 copy snaefelsness copy 3We stopped at Borganes for lunch– the biggest city in the west of iceland, then made our way to some beautiful basalt columns close by. We had to drive up a pretty primitive road to get to them– but we’re country folk, so we’re used to that! We climbed to the top and all of a sudden I lost my footing and fell down the rocks and hurt myself. Luckily Dean grabbed me by my coat, so I just scraped up my hand, it could have been a little worse. We have basalt columns like these right up the road here in Mattawa!

basalt1 copydeano1 copy columns2 copyThe next stop was a natural little mineral spring that someone had told us about online. It was pretty hard to find, but when we pulled up, it was under a big sign telling us about all the amazing health benefits of drinking this naturally fizzy water straight from the ground. Dean filled up a bottle and began drinking it, then past it to me, and it tasted like PURE RUST! I don’t care what they say– that stuff cannot be good for you! 
watercollage copyyuk1 copyYUK! The next stop was a rocky coastline called Arnarstapi. We saw this awesome troll made out of all the rocks from the beach troll1 copyDean tried to climb down to a cove with a private little black sand beach and sea cave– but for some reason, I was tripping and bring really accident prone that day with my awkward Uggs, and didn’t dare after already falling down some rocks once today! rocks2 copycave1 copybeach08 copy wf008 copy
You can walk along the coast until you reach Helnar, but we were short on time so we just drove it. At Helnar there are some beautiful black sea arches covered in a bright moss green. seacave copyseacave05 copy seacavedean1 copyseavcave3 copyFrom Arnatapi we found a gorgeous golden sand beach and bay on the foot of Snæfellsjökull glacier, in Djupilonssandur. Apparently there were four lifting stones on the beach that are used by fishermen to test their strength– but we missed that!~ It was so cold that we hurried back in the car ASAP.

beach32 copybeach1 copy 3 beach1 copy 2From there, we passed a beautiful little traditional fishing Village in Olafsvik, with lots of brightly colored buildings. 
boat&waterfall copy porttown1 copyA highlight of the Snaelfesness Peninsula was Mt. Kirkjufell (Church Mountain) and the waterfall Kirkufellsfoss in the town of Grundarfjordur, which the movie Journey to the Center of the Earth was filmed at. 

waterfall7 copywaterfall4 copywaterfall1 copykirkufell2 copykirkufell copy We ended our journey at a beautiful port town on the northeast of the Snaefelsness peninsula named Stkkisholmur. It was FREEZING cold up there, so we didn’t walk around that much, but we found this cute, romantic little restaurant for dinner that served a seafood bisque with local seafood that was to die for, and the best lamb we had ever eaten in our lives! It was a great way to end our amazing tour of the Snaefelsness Peninsula. Then we cut through the short cut 5KM tunnel on our way back to Reykjavik. 

sail1 copyharbor copyanchor copyWe were back in Reykjavik around 10pm, and decided to go to the Grotta Lighthouse to steak out some northern lights. People had been spotting them recently from there, and we were so excited to end our AMAZING trip on a high of seeing the northern lights– which was the #1 reason we chose to come to Iceland in the first place! Sadly, it was so rainy and overcast, that we didn’t have any luck, but it only gives us the perfect excuse to return to Iceland again in the future! I hope this post inspires all of you to want to go too! 

<3 Sarah xo