Where does one start in trying to write a description of a stunning Icelandic adventure! Here goes!
Day 1 - Arrived at Keflavik airport mid morning to find a smattering of snow on the ground. We picked up the hire car and off towards Reykjavik to find our hotel. Just as we were leaving the airport, we saw a hitchhiker on the side of the road with his thumb out, we stopped and offered him a lift. He was a young Frenchman just arrived from a few months travelling in Norway and he only needed to reach Keflavik town a few miles away. We set off, made the main road okay and then turned off to the town on the wrong side of the road! Our French traveller soon piped up and said that we can drop him anywhere, we barely travelled a 1000m! Perhaps he was not keen on my driving style!
No further issues with which side of the to drive on and we safely reached Reykjavik and our Hotel. The landscape was like nothing we had encountered before, sea to our left and an 800 year old lava field to our right with mountains in the background.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the town and acquainting ourselves with the well known tourists sights such as the sun voyager and the cathedral.
Day 2 - Woke to horizontal snow and extremely high winds (force 8). Due to to the weather conditions, we decided to visit the tourist office for some advice. We were informed that a tour of the Reykjanes peninsula be a good bet. The peninsular is to the west of the town following the coast and then over the mountains back to town to complete the circle. (http://www.visiticeland.com/DiscoverIceland/regions/reykjanes/)
We had an incredible day, our journey started retracing our steps to the airport and beyond to the lighthouse at the end of the peninsular, then southbound on Highway 44 to visit the site where the north American and European tectonic plates are being torn apart. We vacated the car and walked over the symbolic bridge between the two continent and our faces were blasted with sand whipped up in the high winds!
On we travelled to the southern side of the peninsular, the wind still raging and heavy snow storms coming and going. We turn off the circular route and headed up Highway 42 through the mountains and back to town. On route, we find what appeared to be an old crater filled with blue water, ice and surrounded in snow! A little further up the road we stopped off at Seltun, an active geothermal area with water bubbling through the rocks and steam rising.
A little further and higher up the road we find lake Kiefarvatn nestled beneath the slopes of the snow covered mountains all around. A beautiful sight with ice still covering a good percentage of the what I assume is the shallow end! Prior to descending Highway 42, one has to pass over the top, the tarmac road turned in to a gravel road and as we neared the top the snow on the road was getting thicker and at the summit, half of the road was blocked by a snow drift. No chance of turning back, on we pushed down the other side on headed for Reykjavik. If you visit Iceland, you must tour this peninsular!
Day 3 - Woke up to a good covering of snow but no wind. So off we set for the well known and well used Golden Circle tour. Our route was planned, Pingvellir National Park first, Gullfoss and finally the geysers of Haukadur. As we left town in our little trusty little hire car, the snow was gently falling on Highway 1. We turned off the main road and headed for Pingvellir, as we gained altitude more snow appeared to be covering the road and the sun broke through to reveal a stunning sky! The views of the snow covered fields leading to the mountains was stunning and as the sun got stronger the snow started to vanish from the road revealing a black path through the white.
We arrived at Pingvellir National Park, parked in the snow covered car park and followed the path to explore. Pingvellir is beautiful, as you pass through the passageway formed from the separating rocks and climb to the summit, one is greeted with stunning views over the lake and to the mountains beyond. Nestled at the head of the lake is a church with a graveyard, we started our descent down to the church to follow a circular route via a waterfall and back to the car.
Next stop, the incredible falls of Gullfoss. The Hvita river cascades down the falls in two dramatic stages, from certain angles, it appears that the river just disappears in to the ground! A must see for any visitor to Iceland.
Our journey continued to the geysers. Again we were not disappointed, as we walked from the car to the geysers, steam was pouring from the rocks and streams all around. As we walked, we were greeted by the sight of Strokkur erupting about 35m into the air, incredible! We spent some time here memorised by watching the action of Strokkur erupting every 5 or so minutes! A dome of blue water forms as Strokkur burst into life and water then rushes back down the vent to refill when Strokkur is spent!
No time to loose, we head for Reykjavik on what we thought was the last leg. As we drove through the snow covered landscape, we stumbled upon Kerid. Kerid is a collapsed magma chamber with a pool of ice covered water at its base. As a volcano erupted many years ago, it would of drained the nearby magma chambers and as a result craters were formed. I walked the perimeter of the crater and then down to the ice covered lake imagining what this landscape must have looked like as it was it formed.
We head back to Highway 1, Iceland's ring road. We join the highway and head west to Reykjavik climbing steeply to the summit of the mountain pass. As we climb, the snow starts to encroach onto the inside lanes of the highway and sculptures of crash damaged cars stand over the pass, a reminder of how easy the unwary traveller may get caught out by the conditions!
Safely back to Reykjavik, supper time and head out in search of the northern lights, but no joy! Maybe another time!
Day 4 - Time to leave Iceland with a touch of sadness and the realisation that 4 days was not sufficient!
We head to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa for R&R prior to boarding our flight. We purchased tickets in advanced and were in the spas milky blue waters shortly after 10. What a treat to be submerged in the hot waters. As we bathed the weather closed in and it started to snow, a surreal moment when all around snow is falling, but yet, one is so very warm with shoulders dipped beneath the surface!
Iceland is a stunning place to visit, people were friendly and very helpful, flights were good value for money as was the hotel and meals out. I strongly recommend a visit to those who may stumble across this blog!
I have an interest in photography and am attempting to train my eye and improve my technique!