Iceland - 2007

Iceland had been on my todo-list for a long time. As expected, it is a country with unbelievably beautiful (and sometimes weird) scenery that is hard to describe by words. I definetely recommend hiring a car as many of the natural wonders are located in very remote places and public transportation is often sporadic or non-existent. And yes, it is a very expensive place.

Check out the photo gallery.

Places visited:

  1. Reykjavik
  2. Blue Lagoon
  3. Kirkjubaejarklaustur
  4. Skaftafell / Jökulsarlon
  5. Vik / Hella
  6. Golden Triangle
  7. Keflavik

13.07.2007 Helsinki - Reykjavik
In the summertime there are direct Icelandair flights from Helsinki to Iceland so travelling should be convenient. So I start my trip on a cloudy friday afternoon. Interestingly the plane seems to be rented from some American company I've never heard of. Anyway quite a pleasant flight after all. There is about 50km from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik - fortunately there is a bus leaving in 10 minutes.

During the bus journey I get my first impressions of the fascinating scenery. This part of the country is mostly of the moon-like rock territory that somehow reminds me of Lapland in Finland. The cheapest decent guesthouse I could find is located in a suburb some 5 km from the downtown area - luckily there is free pickup from the guesthouse included. As expected the place is a peaceful suburb with no tourists or activities. I'm too tired to go to downtown in the evening so I explore the surroundings for a while. Not much to see so I spend an hour in a nearby geothermal pool that includes an outdoor swimming pool, some hot-water pools and a jacuzzi. After some pleasant baths I'm starting feel sleepy because of the small jet lag so I return to the guesthouse.

14.07.2007 Reykjavik
Sun shining in the morning. Breakfast is included and I enjoy it using the good old "all you can eat" approach. Then it is time to start Reykjavik sightseeing. I try to locate the nearby bus stop but they seem to be located somewhere in a maze of numerous bridges so it is hard to figure out which bus to take and in which direction. So i decide to do some walking. After a kilometer I arrive in the Perlan which is an interesting complex of museums and restaurants built in an old water tower. The museum has displays of old Icelandic sagas with authentic looking wax figures.

I continue walking to the downtown. I visit the bell tower of Hallgrimskirjan church. There is a fine view over the rooftops of Reykjavik - the town is fairly big but there are no tall buildings to be seen. After some additional walking I'm in the middle of the busy downtown area. There is a pleasant small town feeling everywhere - somehow the place reminds me of Mariehamn in Åland, Finland. There are lots of small designer boutiques, bars and art galleries. There is lots of things to be bought but because of the price level I skip shopping. Instead I go to "Volcano Show" that is a combination of documentary film and some stories told by a guy who is addicted to researching the volcanic wonders of Iceland. Rather impressive and worth visiting.

I have some time to visit the national museum before closing time - unfortunately there is nothing especially interesting. I spend some time wandering in the downtown area before catching a bus back to the guesthouse. I buy some food from the local supermarket to be cooked in the guesthouse. Not much activities for the rest of the evening apart from reading a book and watching the sunset...

15.07.2007 Reykjavik - Blue Lagoon - Kirkjubaejarklaustur
Today I'll start my three-day tour by car. A guy from the car rental agency picks me up from the guesthouse - what a pleasant surprise as I was prepared to go back to the airport. The car is a new Volkswagen Polo. My first stop is Blue Lagoon that is an interesting open-air spa built on top of a hot spring. The lagoon should be coloured in azure blue (because of the clay in the bottom) but as it is full of people it is rather grey in colour... Anyway the main activity is to chill out in the pool and enjoy the warm water. There are also saunas, steam rooms and sunbeds available. As the weather is beautiful I easily spend over two hours there. Even the saunas are decent - they are pretty close to Finnish saunas actually!

In early afternoon I continue my journey to the easter parts of the island. I quickly end up driving some dirt roads that are in terrible condition (which is pretty normal by Icelandic standards). The scenery is beautiful and there are numerous places where  you have to stop to shoot some pictures. This is the best part of driving in Iceland - you can just drive to a random location and find so many beautiful spots on the way. The scenery varies from the rocky moon territory to green fields with cattle. There are basically no trees to be seen.

My next destination is the small village of Vik. On my way there I have to stop to admire one of the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever seen. I enjoy some local junk food in the town of Selfoss. When I finally reach Vik it is getting rainy for the first time during my visit. Unfortunately all the hotels and guesthouses in Vik are full so I have to continue to the next village called Kirkjubaejarklaustur. It seems to be the same situation in here as well so the only alternative is camping. I don't have a tent so I try sleeping in my car. It actually works out pretty well as you can lower the seats to a horizontal position and I have small sleeping bag with me!

16.07.2007 Kirkjubaejarklaustur - Skaftafell - Hella
I'm surprised after sleeping fairly well in the car. It is still cloudy and there is some rain in the air. After buying some breakfast from a local market I continue driving east towards the Skaftafell national park that is today's main destination. I somehow miss the main entrance of the park and enp up in a fascinating place called Jökulsarlon. It is basically a lagoon filled with icebergs (that are parts of a melting glacier). The fog and rain make the feeling really eerie - check out the photo gallery for some examples of the beauty of the place.

I finally locate the main entrance of the park. Fortunately the rain has also stopped (at least for a while). I take two short hikes in the park - one to see the glacier and another to a beautiful waterfall. As you might guess the scenery is again awesome and I don't even try to describe it with words. See the photos and make your own judgements.

In late afternoon it is the time to head back to the west. My objective is to find a place to stay overnight somewhere near Selfoss. I almost hit a lamb that decides to cross the road somewhere in the middle of nowhere! After numerous breaks to shoot pictures and a brief visit to check out Vik's basalt colums rising from the sea I end up in the village of Hella. I decide to sleep in a proper bed tonight so do some bargaining in a hotel to get sleeping bag accommodation for ISK 4000. Not cheap but more comfortable than sleeping in the car. As there is nothing to do in Hella I test the local hotdogs and return to the hotel. For some reason it is difficult to get sleep even though the room and bed are OK...

17.07.2007 Hella - Golden Triangle - Keflavik
Today's main destination is the "compulsory" sights in the Golden Circle - the most well-known natural wonders in Iceland. The first of these is Geysir - the famous hot spring that erupts frequently in steam (or used to before it was filled with debris and stopped to function). Fortunately there is a smaller spring that is still working (and lots of steam coming from other sources as well). And countless tourist of course. Impressive but not that impressive.

I continue to Gullfoss that is the biggest waterfall in Iceland (and in Europe as well?). The place is impressive and you can easily spend a long time just by watching the magnificent power of the waterfalls. This place is equally populated but with some climbing you can easily reach less crowded spots with beautiful views.

The final destination in the Golden Triangle is the national park of Pingvellir. There is a busy and narrow dirt road there. The main attractions of the park are the narrow gorges between steep cliffs and the site that hosted Iceland's first parliament. And once again the place is very beautiful. I'm too tired for longer hikes so after some wandering around I decide to return to Reykjavik. I spend some time on the local beach that has warm seawater throughout the whole year as there is water from a geothermal spring going to the sea. The weather is so windy that I don't feel like swimming and suntanning. I continue to the final destination of the day - Keflavik. My intention is to stay overnight there and wake up early to catch the early morning flight tomorrow. The city is basically deserted - just a couple of people to be seen. I celebrate the last night in Iceland by having a proper meal in a local Thai restaurant - ISK 1500 is not that bad. As the nearby hotels seem to be expensive once again I spend the second night in my car at a camping site.

18.07.2007 Keflavik - Helsinki
I wake up as sun is rising (around four in the morning) and it is close to freezing. Somehow I manage still to get about two hours of sleep before it is the time to do the 5-minute drive to the airport. I return the car in one piece and get prepared for the flight back home.

As said quite a few times this was one of the most enjoyable trips when it comes to the beauty of nature. I would like to have stayed longer but it would have cost a fortune. Iceland is a sort of spiritual place and I would like to come back some day for more serious hiking in the remote areas...

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