A long overdue Iceland trip
Many years ago, my father and I first talked about visiting Iceland. We never did and he sadly died ten years ago. The yearn to visit this mystical Northern island never did though and this year I decided to stop prevaricating and make the visit I’d dreamed about for so long.
And so, on August 10th, I touched down, with my brother, at Keflavik airport. I had finally done it; I was here.
The intention, planned to a certain degree, was to drive round the island stopping where fancy took us and sleeping, for the most part, in a hired camper van. I had arranged a couple of specific outings at specific locations that would keep us moving on our journey but leave us sufficient time to have a relaxing trip (we hoped)
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On landing, the weather was not ideal. It was, shall we say, inclement; but hey, we are from Scotland; we are used to that. It would not spoil a thing for us and as we headed in towards Reykjavik, the skies started to clear any way. Iceland was smiling on us.
First night would be in a guest house and the van, from rent.is, would be delivered the next morning for us to start our expedition. It has to be said, that we did not see a whole lot of Reykjavik that first night but we liked what we did see.
Next day, our guest house host informed us that our van had arrived and the representative took us through everything we should know about the Renault Kangoo mini-camper. Then we set off to visit the sights round the Golden Circle.
Visiting Þingvellir we were immediately overawed by the sheer size of the rift that makes up the most significant aspect of the area and could well imagine the gatherings in ancient times. Onwards though to Geysir and Gullfoss to be, once more, impressed by the variation in landscape in such close proximity. The hot flowing water at Geysir (and the smell!) to the sheer majesty of Gullfoss. It was a breath taking day and, in spite of the weather (still drizzly), will live with us for a very long time to come.
Our next fully committed day would not be until Saturday when I had booked us an outing, hiking on a glacier. We had, therefore, a full day to meander down through the South West corner of Iceland so long as we were in Skaftafell by Friday night.
In Selfoss, we stumbled, unexpectedly upon the grave of chess Grand Master, Bobbie Fischer and paid our respects before heading along the coast to Seljalandsfoss where we encamped for the evening, hoping for some early morning sunshine and blue skies to allow for some sparkling photography of this impressive waterfall. Alas, the weather was still not prepared to be our friend and, while the rain stayed away, the skies were overcast and grey. Still. Great waterfall, Iceland.
Now on to something completely different and the crash site at Sólheimasandur. It has to be said, that this is a considerable distance from the parking places at the side of the road and those parents we saw, having to carry young children as they made their way TO the site, had an unenviable task in the return journey. But, bit was it worth it and continuing on down to the seashore, gave us our first real experience of the black beaches of Iceland. Quite magnificent.
Camping in Vík
And so, on to Vik and its wonderful little church. Here’s the thing; the small churches dotted around Iceland are many and varied and would, in my opinion, make a fantastic subject for a three month visit, producing a coffee table book of photographs and some short prose to match.
We had originally planned on overnighting in Vik, but decided that an 8:30 am start for our glacier hike probably didn’t sit well with a near two hour drive to reach Skaftafell, and so we pressed on to Skaftafell on the Friday night, ready for our glorious ascent the next day.
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And boy! Did Iceland deliver for us? Yes she did. We woke to a glorious blue sky ready for the hike and what a day it was going to be. It was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most memorable and rewarding days of my life. The exhilaration of clambering up the ice, even at my age will probably never be matched; at least by anything I can think of right now. It was fantastic and not nearly as difficult as I feared it might be. I would highly recommend this to anyone thinking of a visit to this area. When you are done with the glacier, get yourself along to Jökulsárlón and the glacier lagoon. Wow! Amazing. Nature in the raw.
Our next, and final, ‘planned’ day, would be the following Wednesday when we would go whale watching out of Akureyri. In the meantime, we could wander down into the South East corner and up the East coast, taking in whatever sights took our fancy while making sure we made a stop at Mývatn. Puffin watching at Borgarfjörður Eystri would be on the agenda, (if the puffins hadn’t left for Scotland a week earlier !!) which would involve a trip down a grit road, described as ‘treacherous’ in our guidebook. It wasn’t too bad. We survived. Puffins would have made the side-trip more special but another lovely church and a turf house made it special anyway. Well worth the visit.
A night in Egilsstaðir, where we were treated fantastically by the campsite staff; so friendly; so Iceland.
On then to the North West and a night at Reykjahlíð on the shores of Mývatn, though not before a stop at the wonderful geothermal area of Námafjall with its bubbling mud pools and fumaroles. What an utterly fantastic place and again with the sulfurous smell. That evening we also made an attempt to find a fossil -covered beach up towards the North coast (fruitless effort, due to poor directions).
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The next morning, Tuesday the weather finally broke and the sun burst through allowing us to visit Krafla and Dettifoss. Dettifoss is a waterfall paired with another, Selfoss; together a truly wonderful sight but Krafla is something unique. A volcanic crater, it is at once, stunning, awe-inspiring and utterly mystical. Five stars from me and from my brother.
A trip down and around Mývatn itself and on up to Akureyri, where we would spend two nights. In a break from the camper van, we had decided that the night after our whale watching trip, we would have a night in a guest house; by way of recharging batteries, both mentally and actually!
We both fell in love with Akureyri. There was a feel about the place that had been hitherto unrivalled and after two nights, we decided that we should drive round the coast all the way to Reykjavik and give us some decent time to enjoy the capital. And so, the North West, while not completely ignored was visited ‘in passing’ with only a few stops to take in the magnificent scenery.
Reykjavik put on a party for us. They called it a culture day, but we know that it was done specially for us. It was Inspiring, Charismatic, Exhilarating, Lovely, Awesome, Never to be forgotten, Delightful. It was Iceland.
The daily blog, kept at the time, of which this is a summary, can be found at www.outstrolling.com
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