Iceland is fashionable. To be honest, until recently I did not have the remotest idea of what this country could offer us. When the possibility of traveling to Iceland last winter came up, I loved the idea. During the preparation of the trip, I was already thinking that I was going to a place that I am not used to. My parents kept telling me to be careful with the snow, the ice, the road, and the glaciers.
My idea was to drive around the country. Since I only had a week, I decided to trust a travel agency to advise and book the accommodations that best suited our itinerary and budget (which was rather scarce). I had to travel via London. In addition, the travel agency already warns us that it is a quite expensive country and that in one day we can have the 4 seasons from spring to winter. So when I was recommended to rent a 4×4 I did not think twice and I did so.
Checking the time that I was going to do, in the suitcases I put thermal clothing, the ski jacket (just in case), blizzard glasses, hiking boots, and many warm sweaters (in addition to chorizo, sausage, ham, and cheese).
DAY 1, SOUTHWEST AND REYKJAVIK
Upon landing in Keflavik, the city where the airport is located, we find a sunny country, with little snow and very friendly people. In the rental car office, in addition to the GPS, they offer us a device that gives us Internet during the entire trip with 4G speed.
Once on the road, on the way to Reykjavik, which is where we spent the first night, what catches our attention is the few cars that are moving. In addition, the maximum speed is 90 Km/h, and they check with radars all over the road.
We left for the southwest coast until we reached our first point, the bridge that they say, separates America from Europe. Although it is not a wonder, it is good to see how the crack that begins in the interior of Iceland, goes to the sea and continues in the depths of the ocean.
We continue along the road and it's impressive lava landscape until we reach an area little frequented by tourists called Gunnuhver. Here there are many fumaroles releasing steam and gas. It is undoubtedly a very active area worth seeing. We continue driving along the coast passing Grindavík until we get a little further inland and next to the beautiful lake Kleifarvatn to Krýsuvik and the geothermal area of Seltún. The place reminded me a lot of several of the Yellowstone areas in the United States. Here we see the muddy bubbling water and everything that is on the slope of this mountain.
After eating the food that we brought on the way since there is no place to eat in this area, we continue the trip on little-frequented roads until we come across a very wide road. It was a muddy road. After all, it took to the of Iceland's most popular ski station of Bláfjallaskáli. From there we embarked on a fantastic journey that took us flying to the Thrihnukagigur volcano.
Here we not only lived one of the most amazing experiences in Iceland and possibly the world, but we had the wonderful opportunity to get into the bowels of Mother Earth. We saw the heart of Iceland through the mouth of a volcano. It was a unique experience since it is the only place in the world where it can be done. Thanks to a small mystery of nature that extracted lava by caves in a violent eruption more than 4,000 years ago. Here, by the way, we ate the best lamb soup in Iceland. It was delicious!
After this wonderful experience, we traveled to Reykjavik where we took a nice walk. Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a city with half the population of the country. It has a couple of very nice main streets with low houses. There are quite a few restaurants and everyone says that the food is rich and fresh. We, after several walks up and down the street, ask at the information point.
After seeing menus, we ended up eating in a Turkish restaurant that had salmon as fish of the day and the truth is that it was delicious. Yes, we pay about € 20 for the dish and do not think that the portions are huge. As I was quite hungry I had to ask for a sandwich to fill the stomach.
One of the objectives of our trip was to see the magical northern lights. For this, the sky has to be clear and we have to be in an area of low light pollution. There is a website that tells us the probabilities of seeing auroras. It predicts according to the area where we are and the day of the week according to the time that we are going to do and a host of other parameters.
The first night, we were somewhat tired from the trip. But taking advantage of the clear sky, we decided to put on our thermal clothes and go to a place where they told us that the auroras could be seen. If you go to Iceland in winter, you should take advantage of the clear nights to go looking for auroras. Because if you leave it for a day later, I assure you that the sky will be covered and you will lose your opportunity.
At night, all the cats are brown, and all the snowy roads are the same. So we decided to follow the typical van that takes tourists to see auroras, and we stopped where they did it! Looking at the sky, there are times when we see strange lights and reflections without actually being there. There were moments that were more tenuous and moments that were more intense. There they were! They were the famous northern lights. We did see the light on the horizon and I have to say that it was a magical moment.
The sky was flooding with a green color that illuminated everything. There was Aurora Borealis everywhere, no matter where I looked. The curves they formed and their movement hypnotized me. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps again. Again the nervousness mixed with a silly smile that no one could remove from his face. I do not know if someone shed a tear but I was. It seemed that I was on another planet
The night was magical, I went from one place to other capturing moments on my camera. The cold was noticeable, but we were still taking pictures.
After that experience, I cannot help recommending to everyone that it should be obligatory to see an Aurora Borealis sometime in life. My words are just words, and I do not think that saying something like that can convince anyone. That's why I put some photographs so you can see what I saw, and even then I will not be able to convey what I felt. The photos lack movement, grandiosity and the feeling of being an ant in the face of such a phenomenon. And yes, they looked like this at first glance.
We ended up sleeping in one of the best hotels in the city. It was well located and I have to say we had the best lunch in Iceland. Our traditional buffet breakfast was spectacular.
DAY 2, REYKJAVIK AND GOLD CIRCLE
To give you an idea of the trip ahead, we plan the famous Golden Circle of Iceland where are some of the natural wonders of the country. In the morning we left to visit the most emblematic places of Reykjavik. These were Hallgrimskirkja, which is its famous cathedral that looks like a space rocket. Although in fact, it is an inspiration of the black waterfall of Svartifoss and its basaltic clothes. After the short visit (there is not much to see inside either), we went to the seafront to see the famous sculpture of Sólfar and wander around the area a bit.
We left Reykjavik inland with the first stop in Thingvellir. Here there are fantastic views. We walked through the interior of Almannagjá, an impressive crack that divides the tectonic plates of America and Europe, and whose exit to the sea we visited the first day. Through this immense crack, we walked to our first big waterfall in Iceland, the Öxarárfoss waterfall. Upon arrival, we realized that we could have saved the 2 kilometers of the road since there was a parking lot there, and we could have driven.
The next thing we visited was the Snaefells Peninsula, in the west of the country. The Snaefells Peninsula is an area in the west of the country surrounded by volcanoes and beautiful landscapes. It has a couple of towns that live on fishing and a couple of hotels that are meant for tourists. In fact, many of the little hotels in the country are farms that have rooms to host tourists.
During this second day of travel, it was my first contact with the snow driving. It is true that all cars are equipped with wheels that carry some brads that are special for snow and ice. Even so, every morning I got on the special website to see the state of the roads, to see if there was any cut or in bad conditions.
The worst thing is not driving on snow, as the car brakes only with the wheels and does not skid or do strange things, if you do not make sudden changes to the car. When we are driving through a mini mountain pass, suddenly between fog we almost do not see the road. It is true that these Icelanders have everything in mind, and the roads are wide and have a stick as a beacon that serves as a guide to see more or less where you should go. But it is striking that the beacons are as tall as my knee but well, we were lucky and we arrived at our next destination.
Here the landscape had already changed a bit and it looked snowier! In addition, as it is a country that has so much water, on the sides of the road there are large pools that freeze and have a beautiful sky blue color.
Iceland is a country made up of many volcanoes and is known for its large springs of hot water that comes out of the earth. In fact, it is with that water, which comes out boiling, with which the houses of the whole country heat up. We must also say that because of the sulfur in the water, on more than one occasion we have to open the window of the car because the country smells like a pedestal.
Leaving behind Snaefells and its volcanoes, we continue to one of the places I liked most of the trip, the Gullfoss waterfall. By the way, you will see that I have not re-told anything about the auroras. It is because we have been covered for two days with the sky covered and unfortunately it continues throughout the trip.
Geysir is one of the best-known areas of Iceland because it has a Geiser from where a good jet of water comes out. It is quite spectacular being one of the highest in the world. The truth is that seeing it is not bad, but neither is the environment very surprising. Unfortunately, today it remains asleep or inactive. They say because of the stones and objects that for years tourists have thrown inside. For this reason, the nearby Strokkur geyser has become the main attraction of this geothermal area. It erupts every 10 minutes approximately and releases the water up to 20 meters high.
What did surprise us is the Gullfoss waterfall. I had seen summer photos and the truth is that it was very beautiful, but I have to say that when it is snowy, it is simply awesome! I think it has stolen my precious Victoria Falls. I have no words to describe the greatness of the area. I can only add, that I consider it a place to see and visit at least once in life, and in winter because it is its highlight.
Returning through Geysir and going down to the south, we stopped to eat in one of the many picnic areas that by the way are filled with people who stop to eat. After lunch, we stopped to visit the crater of Kerid. It is more than 50 meters deep and full of water, something that makes it very picturesque. I must admit that although it was a normal price, I found it odd to have to pay since it is not normal in Iceland to see its natural heritage.
We continue south until we reach Selfoss, the Smile Town of Iceland. Here the traffic lights and signals have curious smiles. We continue along the main road to the east, crossing rivers through the curious and dangerous one-lane bridges until we reach the famous and beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall. It is famous for having an inland cave that allows us to take a tour from behind and photograph it from inside.
It is a waterfall that also if there are no clouds draws a beautiful inner rainbow. Right next door, where you can either walk or drive, is the waterfall of Gljúfrafoss. It is not as impressive but it is different since we have to enter through a small gorge.
We continue the journey east until we reach the huge waterfall of Skógafoss. Here we stayed in a hotel overlooking the waterfall and from where we could hear the roar of the waterfall. As our idea was to visit the waterfall the next day without so many people, we took the car and advanced a point on the map, going to the famous DC-3 plane belonging to the US Navy that crashed near the beach in 1973 and that remains here.
It is a symbol of the golden age of aviation. Although it is easy to locate by the entrance from the road, reaching it is crazy. It seems that we would never arrive and there are times when the horizon merges with the earth. It is madness until suddenly and down a mound, the plane appears.
DAY 3, TROLLS AND ICE
We woke up under the impressive waterfall of Skógafoss, without people, without tourists, and with a huge rainbow. It is a wonder to visit it like that, far from a large number of visitors who waited for it all day. We leave to the east, in search of ice and the famous Trolls that inhabit these lands. First, we went to the beach of Kirkjufjara. Here there are stunning views of the black sand beach, the sea and the gigantic rock formations known as Trolls. From here we also see the huge natural arches of Dyrhólaey.
We continue to the beach of black sand and cliffs of Vík. During the trip, there was not so much wind but enough. When we visited the beach of Vik, famous for rocks that have elongated, we could not get down the car because we only saw sand fly. Here we can find the famous, impressive and iconic basaltic hexagons of the beach of Reynisfjara, where the legend that the Trolls of Iceland tell us.
Also, we were left hungry because this town only had one supermarket, and that had run out of bread! If you are going to travel around the country, do not believe that there are supermarkets in all the villages, much less that they will have bread all day.
The landscape between green mountains was impressive. Here it was passionate to see how tall the Icelandic sheep and goats are. They were without a doubt, true climbers. I wonder what the pastor will do to group them all although it seems that they live in freedom.
After crossing the city of Vík, we continue on a road surrounded by lava. We see impressive waterfalls like those of Foss a Sidu until we reach the hotel, which, although is in the middle of nowhere, surprised us very much. On this road, we left aside a point that we had in mind, the canyon of Fjaðrárgljúfur since we did not find it. But, we left it for the return.
As it was early and although we had planned to visit the black waterfall of Svartifoss, we changed the reservation that we had the next day for today. So we took the car and started driving to the glacier lagoon Fjallsárlón. Here we find a wonderful landscape full of ice. From here we continue to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Lake Jokulsarlon is well known for being an iceberg lake that goes "to die" to the sea. It is an incredible and beautiful area that has no comparison. Of course, this has been another of my favorite places in the country.
From here we made the excursion to an ice cave. We went to the glacier itself, among ice, icebergs and a lot of seals that live there. It without a doubt was an experience without equal. The truth is that it is impressive to enter these types of caves. But when we see that droplets of water fall from the walls and everything narrows, we start to tremble that at least made us enjoy the cave only in the main part. We were not able to enter the narrowest part as it was almost dusk and there was not much light.
After finishing our trip through the glacier lagoon we spent some time enjoying the sundown in front of huge icebergs and a large number of seals that played there in the ice. From where we went to the beach, where all the ice pieces of the glacier come out. A beach full of rubble gives us an impressive image. It was a beach full of blocks of ice!
From here we returned to the hotel, where, one more night and unfortunately we did not see aurora borealis.
DAY 4, FUSION OF ICE AND FIRE
We woke up the day with a flock of sheep and reindeer right at the door of the room. Good morning Iceland! After breakfast, we went straight to the black waterfall of Svartifoss. Here, after a long walk and a couple of previous waterfalls we got to one of the most fascinating places of Iceland. It is the black waterfall on the basaltic rock.
We realize that we are in a country where nature is very wild. When we drive along the only main road that runs along Iceland, suddenly we find two glacier tongues along the way. One of the advantages of going in winter is that the ice of the glacier acquires a beautiful bright blue that makes the area even more magical and beautiful. If the glacier had been in South Africa they would have charged us for going to see it. But in Iceland, if you want you can pay a small fee but if you do not want, then no. They have it ready so we can get close to where the glacier starts and even touch the ice.
There is always some crazy tourist who climbs the cracks of the glacier with some mini crampons sold in the gift shops. But we were prudent and we prefer to take pictures from the safest areas.
Despite having saved many kilometers having visited yesterday the glacier lagoon of Jökulsárlón, we had a long trip back. We move many hours and many kilometers to one of the places you should not miss in Iceland, the blue lagoon. But before, we stopped at the canyon of Fjaðrárgljúfur. It was a place that seems to be taken out of a movie with spectacular scenery. It was unique, picturesque and hallucinatory.
We have a long journey of hours through villages, lava, waterfalls, undoing part of what we had traveled these days, on the southern road. We finally arrived at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, a place where the heat of the earth has been used to heat the thermal waters emanating from the earth. It is a place that of course, you should not miss. There are several price packages, depending on what you want. We enjoyed drinks and wine at the bar, drinks that we enjoyed in the warm water. It is a contrast of cold and heat that summarizes what Iceland is. It is the land of ice and fire.
From here after the relaxation and dinner in the town of Keflavik, we left the car at the airport. We went to sleep at the hotel located in the airport itself, which is an advantage for our flight early morning to London. There was a high Aurora Borealis prediction that night. We spent the whole night with our eyes open looking through the windows, but, there was no luck.
DAY 5, RETURN
After breakfast, we took the flight to London. Anyway, I think I could describe Iceland as an island of beastly beauty. If I have money, I would visit both in summer and winter because I think it offers two totally different trips.
In total, we traveled about 1,200 km in 8 days, but it is worth the trip through the landscapes and the wild and wild nature of this part of the world. Going back nobody should die without seeing a Northern Lights because simply, there is nothing more beautiful in this world. The desire to return and relive these moments are enormous.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
AUTHOR Kalyan Panja