The City of Reykjavik has issued a ban of bus traffic in the downtown area. There are designated bus stops, all located at the edges of the ban zone. City council estimates that “80% of accommodation within the affected area are within 200 meters from the closest [bus stop]”.
PLEASE NOTE: These bus stops for tour buses are not the same as the bus stops for city buses. The tour bus stops have a blue pillar with pink bus sign at the top and the number and name of the bus stop. The city bus stops have a yellow “S” in a red circle (S as Strætó – city bus). Please do not wait at the city bus stops!
Once you submit/confirm with us a specific bus stop, please meet us exactly at that bus stop and not any other.
Pick up places
If your accommodation is in the restricted area, you can find here your closest designated pickup location.
Please note, different companies may ask you to meet them at a different bus stop, so always check your voucher/communication with the tour operator.
Bus stop 1 – Ráðhúsið – City Hall
Embassy Luxury Apartments
Hotel Reykjavík Centrum
3 Sisters Guesthouse
City Center Hotel
Gallery Central Guesthouse
House Of Spirits
Ocean Comfort Apartments
Reykjavik Downtown Hostel
Castle House Luxury Apartments
Luna Hotel Apartments – Laufásvegi 6
Luna Hotel Apartments – Spítalastígur 1
Bus stop 3 – Lækjargata
Konsulat Hotel Curio
Radisson Blu Hotel 1919
Bus stop 4 – Miðbakki
Bus stop 5 – Harpa
Bus stop 6 – Safnahúsið – The Culture House
Apartment K – Hverfisgata 14
Apartment K – Ingólfsstræti 1a
Apartment K – Skólastræti 1
Apartment K – Þingholtsstræti 2-4
Luna Hotel Apartments – Amtmannsstígur 5
Bus stop 8 – Hallgrímskirkja
Eric The Red Guesthouse
Freyja Guesthouse & Suites
Hotel Leifur Eiríksson
Inga’s New Guest Apartments
Loki 101 Guesthouse
Our House Guesthouse
Bus stop 10 – Hlemmur
100 Iceland Hotel
4th Floor Hotel
Alda Hotel Reykjavik
Apartment K – Laugavegur 74
Apartment K – Laugavegur 85-86
City Comfort Apartments
Reykjavik4you Apartments – Laugavegi 85
Von Guldsmeden hotel
Aurora Apartments, Hverfisgata 78
Guesthouse Reykjavik 101
Reykjavik Hostel Village
Stay Apartments Grettisgata
Bus stop 12 – Höfðatorg (in front of Fosshotel Reykjavík)
Bus stop 13 – Rauðarástígur (in front of Centerhotel Miðgarður)
Bus stop 14 – Skúlagata (corner of Skúlagata / Klapparstígur)
101 Skuggi Guesthouse
41 – A Townhouse Hotel
Apartment K – Bergstaðastræti 3
Apartment K – Bergstaðastræti 12
Apartment K – Hvergisgata 37
Apartment K – Laugavegur 46
Apartment K – Lindargata 60
Canopy Reykjavík | City Centre
Ion City Hotel
Old Charm Reykjavik Apartments
Reykjavik Residence Hotel
Reykjavik Residence Suites
Room With A View
Reykjavik4you Apartments – Bergstaðastræti 12
The Swan House Reykjavik Apartments
Guesthouse Baldursbrá – Laufásvegur 41
Guesthouse Baldursbrá – Tjarnargata 46
Direct pickup (Reykjavík)
22 Hill Hotel – Brautarholt 22-24 Arctic Comfort Hótel – Síðumúli 19
B14 Hostel – Faxafen 11
BB 44 Guesthouse – Nýbýlavegur 16
Bike Cave – Einarsnes 36 Brim Hotel – Skipholt 27 Bus Hostel – Skógarhlíð 10 Cabin Hótel – Borgartún 32 Capital Inn – Suðurhlíð 35d Circle Hostel – Hringbraut 121 City Park Hotel – Ármúli 5 Downtown Reykjavik Apartments – Rauðarárstígur 31 Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel – Brautarholt 10-14 Fosshótel Barón – Barónstígur 2-4 Fosshótel Lind – Rauðarárstígur 18 Fosshótel Rauðará – Rauðarárstígur 37 Galaxy Pod Hostel – Laugavegur 172
Garðs Apótek, Sogavegur 108
Glæsibær bus stop Grand Hótel Reykjavík – Sigtún 38 Grímur Hotel – Efstaland 26 Guesthouse Pávi – Brautarholt 4 Harbor – Miðbakki Harbor – Skarfabakki Harbor – Sundabakki Hilton Reykjavík Nordica – Suðurlandsbraut 2 Hótel Ísland – Ármúli 9 Hótel Lotus – Álftamýri 7 Hótel Örkin – Brautarholt 29 Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina Icelandair Hótel Reykjavík Natura Kerno Apartments – Hringbraut 79 KEX Hostel – Skúlagata 28 Klettur Hótel – Mjölnisholt 12-14
Kringlan shopping mall (Orkan gas station on Miklabraut)
Lækur Hostel – Laugarnesvegur 74a
Mjódd bus station
N1 gas station- Ægisiða 102 Northern Comfort Apartments – Skipholti 15 Norðurey Hotel City Garden – Hrísateigur 14 Oddsson Hotel – Grensásvegur 16a Radisson Blu Hótel Saga REKinn – Skipholt 15 Reykjavik City Hostel – Sundlaugavegur 34
Reykjavik Domestic Airport (Reykjavíkurflugvöllur) – Þorragata 10 Reykjavik Lights Hotel – Suðurlandsbraut 12
Skeljungur gas station – Kleppsvegur 104 Stay Apartments Bolholt – Bolholt 6 Stay Apartments Einholt – Einholt 2
Summerday Guesthouse – Grensásvegur 24
Probably the hardest question to answer, for the simplest reason – Iceland is worth your time all-year round.
As you might have heard it already, no one comes to Iceland only once. Maybe it’s the locals, maybe it’s the culture, but something about Iceland makes people coming back for more. And as every season offers a unique experience and incredible sights specific for a single season, it is hard to find a reason not to come back again.
However, if you are looking into booking your first ever trip to Iceland and want to see as much as you possible cango with March/April, in Iceland known as – spring!
Here are our 7 reasons why:
Winters in Iceland are usually cold, windy and full of snow – truly a winter wonderland.
Spring, on the other hand, is the time when you can feel the nature waking up! The spring flowers are slowly showing themselves, trees are putting on new “leaf-dresses” and the weather is definitely picking up.
Mývatn area in spring by Kate
This is all thanks to the Gulf Stream bringing in the warm winds from the Gulf of Mexico and making Iceland surprisingly warm. However the presence of glaciers, reflecting the sunlight back into the atmosphere, cools down the surrounding land which gives for an unpredictable weather. This is when the Icelandic saying “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes” will come in quite handy.
But this is all a part of the Icelandic charm as you will be able to take photos of snowy mountain tops with the Sun shining over the landscape. You will get to see all of the Icelandic weather, easily.
When the national TV shows loa sighting, it means the spring is upon us and you will soon be able to enjoy the wildlife.
Throughout the year, one can easily spot the most common domesticated animals: sheep, horses and cats.
Icelandic sheep are let go to wander throughout the summer months. This makes for delicious meat and extremely high quality wool that the locals use to make the ever-popular lopapeysa– Icelandic traditional woolen sweater.
Icelandic sheep by Kate
Icelandic horses are world-renowned as well – partially because of their pony-size but mainly because they have 5 gaits. Make sure to try tölt if you decide to take a horse-riding tour during your visit.
Wildlife, though scarce, is incredible as anywhere else. If you like spending your time outdoor, and you are feeling lucky, you might spot an arctic fox – the only land mammal native to Iceland. This might be a good time for you to travel all around our little island, in which case, when you find yourself in the eastern part you might see a reindeer (there are only 3000 of those in the whole country).
If you prefer sea creatures, you can always book a tour and go whale-watching, just in the vicinity of the capital Reykjavik or take your chances and visit some of the popular places to see the seals, like Ytri Tunga in Snæfellsnes.
3.) Long(er) days
Not only is the nature waking up, but in the spring you are blessed with longer daylight allowing you to enjoy it the best way possible. As we go from 4h of daylight in winter to 16h of daylight in spring, it is the most normal you will get when it comes to the “normal day”. This can be important if you have difficulties sleeping/staying awake as both problems are persistent among locals during summer/winter.
Sunrise in Iceland by Kate
4.) First day of summer
The first day of Harpa – seventh month in the old Norse calendar – signifies the beginning of summer. Albeit, that same calendar divided the year in only 2 seasons: dark winter and light summer. For Icelanders, this is a public holiday that people spend enjoying various outdoor activities: mainly heading out for an ice-cream (preferably in summer clothes) or embracing the “grilling weather”.
That’s right – we do love our summers and although the temperatures are far from those typical in the summer, nothing can stop us from celebrating this season. Even the fact it’s still not summer.
5.) “Shoulder season” = cheaper season
Off-season in Iceland basically brings together the best out of both worlds; on one hand the landscape is still covered in snow, ice is nicely fitting all the famous waterfalls, less tourists are blocking your view or filling up your hostel room; on the other hand the temperatures are higher, the days are longer and the weather generally better. But let us elaborate on 2 important things there.
To describe tourism in Iceland as booming might as well be an understatement as the country has been seeing the annual increase in the number of tourists between 15 and 25%. Just last year we have welcomed around 5 times more tourists than there are locals and although Iceland is magical, there are certain struggles in dealing with this rapid growth on which we can’t use our magic wand. The biggest increase is visible in the summer months, as well as around the Christmas holidays.
Longer days also mean more time to spend looking around exploring the country. This time might be the best to do day trips to slightly remote places like Jökullsarlón/Glacier Lagoon. Though the weather might not be permitting to do the most famous Icelandic hikes, Skaftafell National Park offers a couple of short hikes, most popular being the one to the beautiful Svartifoss (“Black Falls”).
Svartifoss Waterfall by Chris Mastnak
On top of that, during spring it’s easier to find accommodation which is, also, significantly cheaper. The same goes for the flight tickets that supposedly drop up to 20%.
Visiting this quite isolated island in the North for some is not enough so they venture further in search for some peace of mind. You should know that around 2/3 of the total population live in Greater Reykjavik Area and if there are not many tourists visiting, the rest of the island is scarcely populated giving you ample space for your personal journey.
Skogafoss – South Shore Adventure by Kate
7.) Why not?
Everyone starts their year by making their New Year’s Resolutions which usually include: more traveling and more exercise. Why not start the new year by a visit to “The Land of Ice and Fire”, where you can find both and much, much more?
From December 23rd Icelanders get into a very festive mood, though Christmas has a very set-in-stone starting time in Iceland:
Yesterday was December 23rd, or “Þorláksmessa”, as we call it. This is the day before Christmas, when you do your last shopping, have a walk downtown and get some hot chocolate or a Christmas beer, and finish decorating your home.
Tomorrow is December 25th; though called Christmas day, it is not the beginning of Christmas. On that day families go to feasts with relatives, some stay in and binge on cakes and cookies and other sweets. For many this is the day to eat the traditional “hangikjöt” – smoked lam; eaten with boiled potatoes and a white sauce made of wheat and milk. But most importantly this is when we have “laufabrauð” – a very thin, deep fried, crunch bread with cumin in it. It’s super simple, but slap some butter on it and it’ll be the best thing you ever had!
In Iceland, Christmas starts at precisely 6 pm, today on December 24th. That day is called “Aðfangadagur”. The name comes from Christianity and is described as “the day of preparation before the Jewish Sabbath or a feast of similar rank”.
Arrival of the last Yule lad – Kertasníkir
On the 24th, some younger ones might wake up extra early, as the excitement is hard to contain! The first thing they do is check their shoes, left on the window sill the night before, as the last of the 13 Santa Clauses, Kertasníkir (“Candle Beggar”) will have left them a gift, rather than stealing their candles. For the rest of the morning they have the welcome distraction of Christmas cartoons on TV.
Almond rice pudding
During the day, families get ready for the evening festivities. Many will spend the day driving the last gifts to their loved ones and going to cemeteries to pay their respects. A tradition that is set in stone for many families is the so called “möndlugrautur” or almond rice pudding. The almond part is possibly a bit misleading, as the big pot of rice pudding will only have one almond. But, whoever gets the almond wins a prize, which is usually sweets, a book, a dvd, a board game or cards. Often people try to make it something that the whole family can enjoy, so it doesn’t always matter much who actually wins the prize.
Traditional family dinner
The scheduled TV programs end in the afternoon and everyone starts getting ready. Steaks are being cooked, kids are being bathed, Christmas presents are put under the tree. The last hour before Christmas might be the longest hour in Iceland, at least for the kids! The food is almost ready, and a traditional Icelandic Christmas dinner table might include rock ptarmigan, back of a lamb or pork loin. For dessert, many have a homemade ice cream or a custard. After dinner, the wait is finally over, and the gifts that have been waiting patiently are opened at last. But before that can all happen, Christmas must officially start.
And so, at 6 pm on December 24th, after a few minutes of church bells ringing on the radio, a woman’s voice comes on and wishes everyone a happy Christmas.
As do we, here at Gateway to Iceland. We wish you all happy holidays and happy New Year. We hope to see you all healthy in 2017!
TRIPOD – no northern lights photo is good unless taken while using a tripod.
REMOTE CONTROL – helps to reduce movement of a camera when triggering the shutter; delayed shutter will do as well if you do not have a remote control.
POCKET FLASHLIGHT or HEADLIGHT – not only can you light up your friends faces on the photos, but it will help you to see on your camera while making the right settings and also to see around yourself and where you are stepping.
WARM CLOTHES – believe it or not, it will make your photos better as you will be more willing to spend your time on making the right settings. See more details below.
BATTERY – make sure your battery is fully charged because long exposures take more energy than usual photos.
Manual settings of SHUTTER, APERTURE, and ISO do your masterpiece!
If you are not sure what we are talking about, study your camera manual prior to the tour, it pays off 🙂
APERTURE: in general, keep it as much open as your lens allows you; in other words, use the lowest “F” number possible – usually 2,5 to 3,5.
ISO: is the sensitivity of the sensor to the light; raise it higher than usual, to about 800 – 1600 depending on the quality of your camera and strength of the northern lights.
SHUTTER speed: it very much depends on the type of your camera/lens and strength of the Northern Lights, but start with 15 sec and play around that number according to the results.
FLASH: do not use the camera flash, unless you really know what you are doing 🙂 If you wish to take a photo of your friends and northern lights in the background, use your pocket flashlight to light up their face and ask your friends to stay very still for the whole time when the shutter is open.
FOCUS: Make sure the camera is focused correctly; focus on some light spot – if you shoot only northern lights without people, focus on some brighter star or the moon; if you take a photo of people, make sure the focus is on their face. Some cameras have difficulties with auto focus at night, then turn it off and focus manually. For a photo of northern lights only, set the focus on almost infinity, but if you have people in the foreground, do not forget to refocus on their face.
Further tips for being warm:)
Get yourself “heating pads” to put into your mittens, they stay warm for about 8 hours; you will love them since they will save you a frozen finger or two. You can purchase them in outdoor stores.
Consider using a double layer of gloves, one pair of thin ones to fit in thicker mittens with the heating pads. This is especially useful when you need to change settings on your camera – which is nearly impossible in fluffy mittens, thus when you take them off, you will still have at least one layer of fitting gloves to prevent you from instant freezing and those will still allow you to use small buttons on your camera correctly.
Having a warm tea in your therm bottle will make you a favorite travel mate 🙂
Well, warm clothing is a prerequisite for having a good time on a Northern Lights tour no matter whether you will be taking photos or not, so forget about jeans or sneakers and dress in warm and windproof clothes!
Ready for Northern Lights tour? Let’s go out and play!
If you’ve always dreamed of seeing the beautiful phenomenon called the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) come visit us in Iceland next winter.
This natural phenomenon is rather unpredictable hence the name: “Hunt for the Northern Lights”. There are a few pointers that we can offer to help you figure out the optimal time for your trip to Iceland or the best nights to go out.
1)What time of the year? The tours are offered from September to beginning of April. It is in theory possible to spot the lights in August and late April too, but the chances are much smaller and during inconvenient times of the night – therefore we do not operate tours in this time. From May to July it is not possible to see the Northern Lights, as nights never get completely dark in summer in Iceland. Now which of September to March are the best months? The answer is not that clear. September is usually not the best choice but October to March do not differ so much – feel free to plan your vacations when it fits you:)
2) The only factor that is absolutely certain is the Lunar cycle. If at all possible choose travel dates that coordinate with New Moon or Quarter Moon since moonlight on non cloudy days tends to wash out weak Aurora displays.
3) Once you arrive to Iceland, keep an eye out for the weather conditions in terms of clear or cloudy skies and ask the locals for advice on reading the weather forecasts. Icelandic weather is known to change rapidly, what you see on the screens the night before or in the morning does not always stay true come night time. Unfortunately weather is not possible to plan, do not waste your time by checking long term weather forecasts.
4) Let us translate the scientific part of it – that is the tricky part. We can tell you what is going on in terms of energy, solar wind and such. We do not operate our Northern Lights Tours unless there is a good possibility of a display.
5) A recommendation – for your benefits… Do dress warmly; bring windproof overcoat, hats, scarfs, mittens and warm shoes. You will enjoy the show much better toasty warm. It can get cold out there at night, it is Iceland after all.
Such a busy week! After going on the Snæfellsnes tour last Sunday (see “Magical Snæfellsnes”), I also went on a tour to Hekla Valley, where we would be exploring the surroundings of a volcano with the same name. This is an active volcano, though its last eruption was in February 2000. In the middle ages, Hekla was more commonly known as “The Gateway to Hell”. Today’s tour is slightly different than the usual Hekla Valley tour because the snow made some roads impassable.
First stop – snowed in caves
It was a small group for today’s tour. I was joined by a family of four, who had also been along on the Snæfellsnes tour on Sunday. Much like on Sunday, we were again guided by Gummi – the owner of the company. The sun shone brightly as we left Reykjavik behind. While Gummi tried his best to answer the group’s questions and told his stories, I enjoyed the surroundings of the city in the sunlight.
We were soon driving through a lava field and Gummi told us about the caves that have been discovered in Iceland’s lava fields. We stopped at one of these caves, the Raufarholshellir, to have a look. Once there, we discovered that the entrance/exit was completely blocked by snow. There were other holes in the ground to the cave, but Gummi said we couldn’t get in there without having to dig ourselves out through the snow. So all we could do was look into the cave from above, which was already quite spectacular in itself.
Calm beaches and strong females
We then continued further towards the south coast, where we made another stop at a beautiful piece of a black sand beach. Usually, the ocean on the south coast is quite rough with dangerous waves able to drag you into the ocean without warning. However, the waves crashed somewhat further away from the shore, where you could just make out a line of rocks, which made the beach rather calm. Though, we could see many traces of how far the waves had gone in the storms that we had had during the weekend, with driftwood going as far as to the main road.
After this lovely visit to the beach, we continued to a small fishing village, called Eyrarbakki. Gummi drove around while telling us interesting stories about many of the buildings we were passing by. Soon after, we were already in Stokkseyri, where we visited the “Puridarbud” – fisherman’s hut – which was built in memory of Thuridur Einarsdottir, a female fishing-boat captain. Unfortunately, the door seemed to be locked so we had to simply at it from the outside, though there was a window through which we could look inside.
Beautiful nature on the way
One very short coffee break later and we continued along the south coast for a while longer, before driving towards the highlands. Along the way, we stopped to admire the sheep, by request from one of the people in the group. We drove for some time while enjoying the landscape and Gummi’s stories.
Shortly after, we came across a lovely Icelandic forest. Now, every forest in Iceland, I had seen so far, was not that impressive in size. But this came quite close to what could be called a decent forest. We took a little walk on the neatly kept path through the forest, and turned around after walking for a little bit, all the while sniffing the wonderful forest air.
After this short walk, we were ready to get back on the bus and continue our way.
The next stop would be the Hjálparfoss waterfall, the name of this waterfall means the “helping falls”. The land here is quite rough for traveling and the Lush Hjálp area seems great for resting and letting the horses graze – the perfect help during travels. While looking at the waterfalls from a distance Gummi tells us that, if you use your imagination, you can see an elephant, a lion and a chipmunk in the rocks right by the waterfall. Sadly, I only managed to find the elephant, no chipmunk or lion to be found.
After this, we visited Stöng – an old Viking farmhouse. Although about the size of a house for a small family, Gummi told us a farmhouse this size was usually the home of 80 persons at a time! We can only imagine how cramped it must have been. While walking around the house, we could perfectly see its building structure, which was interesting to see.
Hekla museum and volcano
Then we drove to the mountain pass. It took us quite some time to drive there, but Gummi kept us entertained all the way. We were getting an increasingly clearer view of Hekla, herself. When we arrived at the Hekla Museum,we were welcomed by shut door. But Gummi made a call and it was opened and running within minutes. The exhibition was very interesting, with a lot of facts and figures put together with videos from the area and of the latest eruptions. The museum was built using lava stone and ash, which makes its exterior quite interesting. Also, from the museum, you have a wonderful view of Hekla, which was not completely covered in clouds by now.
The visit to the Hekla Museum concluded today’s tour. As we were driving back towards the main road, we could just start to make out the Eyjafjallajökull, coming out from underneath the clouds. Gummi stopped to let us get some pictures of this notorious volcano, before continuing our way back to Reykjavik. This was a wonderful tour – the amazing weather, Gummi’s countless stories, and the enjoyable company of today’s group made it unforgettable.
The Northern Lights tour is one of the trickier tours. It revolves around Aurora Borealis, an unpredictable natural phenomenon that paints the sky with green and purple colors. For this tour to be successful you need clear skies and a lot of solar activity, to say the least.
Gateway to Iceland pays close attention to these aspects whenever they have a Northern Lights tour scheduled (NOTE: every day between October and April). If the conditions do not promise Northern Light visibility, the tour is canceled. This means that when the tour does go out, there is an increased chance of seeing the Lights but, still, there is no guarantee. The solar activity is supposed to be highly active this week and when the latest update for the weather forecast predicted clear skies, I decided to join the Northern Lights tour for Monday night.
I had already been on the Northern Lights tour on my very first night in Iceland. However, due to exhaustion from traveling that day, I couldn’t help but sleep through half of it. Because I want to give a completely accurate description of the tours, I decided not to write a blog post about that tour, even though the moments I was awake during it were very enjoyable.
Let’s start the trip!
I would be joining Gummi’s group for tonight, as he picks me up just after 21:30, as the last person in the minibus. While driving away from the light pollution of Reykjavik we paid close attention to the sky and all we could see – were clouds.
The first stop we made was at a side road, where no street lights could be found. Everyone got off the bus and started looking up at the sky – still only clouds. We weren’t there for too long when Gummi started shouting enthusiastically that we should get back on the bus because he had just received a phone call from someone telling him that the skies in the south were completely clear.
While we were driving away Gummi told us what exactly are we looking for – sometimes, when the lights aren’t bright enough, they can look like a thin white cloud, but you can still see its colors when you take a picture of it. Gummi also gave instructions on how to set the settings on our cameras if we wanted to take photos. He also told us that we could always ask him for help. When we reached the point where the skies became clearer, we started scanning the sky for something that might be the famous Northern Lights. Often, Gummi would park the car and just take a picture of what could be the Lights, to see if they were clear on the camera.
First glances of Aurora
After a while, Gummi told us to get out of the bus and pointed towards a very faint white arch. It was very cold outside and when everyone had seen enough we went back on the bus to stay warm. At that point, I started wondering, “What if we don’t see them tonight? What if all we have to settle with is these faint lights?”. While these thoughts crossed my mind, Gummi looked to his side, through the window, and said: “The lights are becoming brighter, they’re illuminating!”. So I opened the car door, assured the others could get off the bus as well and walked to the other side of the coach.
And there it was. A beautiful green arch right above us!
The beautiful green arch
It was a beautiful display already on its own, but then the Lights started to dance! I had heard people saying: ”We saw the lights dancing above us” and always thought it was just an expression. Not anymore as there they were, literally moving through the sky. To top it all off, I managed to take pictures of the spectacle! Alright, I took them with Gummi’s camera, and Gummi had done all the settings, but I pressed the button to take the pictures, and that’s important too!
We had as much time as we wanted to look at the Lights. It wasn’t until I felt like my feet had turned into ice cubes, that the lights faded and I could get myself back on the coach, along with a few others who couldn’t get enough of the Lights. After driving only for a short while, Gummi looked outside again and said: ”They’re back!”. So he parked by the side of the road again, for the last look.
When these lights faded, we headed back to Reykjavik, still scanning the sky constantly to see if we had one more chance to see them. However, our luck had run out. We returned to the city tired, yet completely satisfied, because seeing the Northern Lights is definitely worth losing a bit of sleep over.
We have all heard of the beautiful Northern lights which are often called Aurora borealis, or Aurora australis in the southern hemisphere. We’ve seen them on breathtaking pictures but most of us have no idea what they actually are.
What are the Northern Lights exactly? And why do they only happen in the Northern or Southern hemisphere?
The first important thing to understand is that the Earth has a magnetic field. Specifically in the South and North, which is why a compass will point North. As we know the sun emits certain charged particles, such as electrons, and these are blown towards the earth by solar wind. Once these particles hit the Earth’s magnetic field, they will largely be reflected but some will enter earth’s atmosphere and will follow this magnetic field to their point of origin. This point of origin will either be the northern or southern magnetic pole. The electrons then hit Nitrogen or Oxygen atoms in the atmosphere and transfer their energy to those atoms. When this happens, they excite the electrons in the atoms, which increases their energy. However, this excess energy has to be released somewhere and it does this in the form of light. This can be seen on the image below
Image credit: NASA
From where do they get their distinct colors?
Northern Lights can take the form of many colors such as, purple, red, yellow, pink and green. The reason the colors can vary is because it depends on which altitude the energy is released, and gases vary according to their altitude. For example, the most common color- a sort of yellowish-green is produced by oxygen molecules located about 95km (60 miles) above the earth. The red ones are produced by high-altitude oxygen gases up to 320 km (200 miles) above the earth and when blue or purple aurora’s are formed, they have been produced by Nitrogen particles. A fun fact is that Earth is not the only planet with Northern Lights. Saturn has also recorded Aurora’s and appear as a red color due to Saturn’s atmosphere being made out of Nitrogen and unlike Earth’s aurora’s they will last for several days.
When and where can you see them best?
What researchers have discovered is that the aurora activity is cyclic and peaks roughly every 11 years. The last peak period was in 2013. The best place to see the Northern Lights are in countries in the northern hemisphere and Iceland is a perfect example. They are always present but can only be seen when it is dark outside, which is why the best period to view them is from September – April. Furthermore, due to the light pollution in cities they are more visible outside of the city. Moreover, you are not always able to see the lights even if there are no clouds in the sky. Because of this it is important to assess the conditions every day before trying to view them in the night. We, at Gateway to Iceland, try our best to assess each day for preferrable conditions which is why sometimes Northern Lights tours will have to be cancelled. So please understand that even when all the signs point towards Northern Lights, it is never guaranteed. It is a natural phenomena which can behave very unpredictably, just like the icelandic weather.
Iceland is located on the Mid-Atlantic ridge, this means that Iceland lies on two tectonic plates, namely the Eurasian and the North American plate. This continental drift can be seen in Thingvellir (“þingvellir”) which is part of our Hot Golden Circle tour and can be seen on the image below. These two tectonic plates move apart or against each other and when this happens, earthquakes, as well as reactivation of old volcanoes and creation of new ones, occur. Iceland hosts 130 volcanoes of which 30 are currently active. Since the middle ages, a third of all the lava that has covered the earth’s surface has erupted in Iceland and a volcano will erupt every 5-10 years.
Has Bárðarbunga and Holuhraun become more famous than Eyjafjallajökull?
The most recent eruption was at Holuhraun near the Bardabunga (“Bárðarbunga”) volcano which was erupting from August 2014 until March 2015. Yet the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, was probably the most media covered eruption of all time because it caused a massive disruption in North-European air traffic. Around 20 countries were forced to close their airspace traffic which affected around 10 million travellers. This volcano can be seen on our South Coast and Glacier lagoon tour.
Laki – the catastrophic eruption
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption was not the only time an Icelandic eruption affected Europe. It is even said that an Icelandic eruption around 200 years ago may have triggered the French revolution. The volcano responsible is named Laki and erupted in 1783. A massive amount of outpour in gasses lead to catastrophic consequences. It is estimated that around a quarter of population died as well as 50% of . The gasses emitted from this volcano resulted in a thick haze across Western Europe. Leading to extreme weather conditions, an increase in death rates and an increase in poverty all across Europe. The effects can also be traced to North America and it is said that it even weakened African and Indian monsoon circulations.
Vestmannaeyjar aka The Westman Islands
Although volcanoes can have disastrous consequences there can sometimes be positive ones as well. A volcano created a new island in 1967 named Surtsey, located close to the Westmann Islands, where scientists have been able to observe how life on a new island develops. Surtsey is one of the islands that can be seen in the picture below of the Westmann islands (in the top right corner). When the sky is especially clear, you can see Surtsey from a distance on our South Coast Tour.
Volcanoes have also inspired many literary masterpieces. An example would be Jules Verne’s Journey to the center of the Earth where the protagonist finds the entrance to the center of the earth on Snæfellsjökull. This volcano can be seen on our Snæfellsnes tour.
Last but not least: Hekla
Our Hekla Valley tour focuses especially on volcanic activity in Iceland where we visit the Hekla museum and the volcano Hekla can be seen. It is one of Iceland’s most famous volcanoes and was known in the Middle Ages as the “gateway to hell”. The last time Hekla erupted was in February 2000 – causing little distractions.
Volcanoes have always been an important and prevalent part of Icelandic history and volcanic activity can be traced to the old sagas and literary pieces. Clearly Iceland didn’t get its name the land of fire and ice for nothing.
In recent years, Iceland’s beer has been globally praised and the culture surrounding it has grown immensely. It is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in Iceland, and eight out of ten of the most sold brands are Icelandic. But what makes the Icelandic beer so good?
The secret lies in Iceland’s amazing water quality. However, this beer culture is fairly new because beer was actually illegal from 1915 until 1989. Initially a referendum was held in which all alcoholic beverages were banned but slowly the ban was lifted for wines and spirits yet beer remained illegal until March 1st 1989. March 1st has now become the National Beer Day and is even celebrated every year. Since the legalization many breweries have emerged, the two largest are Vífilfell and Ölgerðinn, making around 93% and around 14 other microbreweries exist, in total they make around 60 different kinds of beers which is an astonishing number for a country with such a small population.
Icelandic Northern Lights and Whale beer
Gateway to Iceland offers a private West Iceland tour which can include a visit to the Steðja microbrewery if desired; this brewery is also producing a beer flavored with a whale which is considered to be one of the most controversial beers. Guests will have a guided tour followed by the opportunity to taste several of their beers.
It has already been a while, but I finally went on another tour over the weekend – Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the home of Snæfellsjökull. This volcano/glacier was made famous by Jules Verne, serving as the entrance to the center of the Earth in his novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.
Finally on our way – reaching Borgarnes
I previously attempted going on this tour, last weekend, however, before the tour could officially start we had to turn back because the weather had changed for the worst. The guide then was Baldur – quite a good guide, telling stories along the way, and combining them with a good sense of humor. Most importantly he was a good driver and he managed to get us back to Reykjavik safely, despite the stormy weather.
Yesterday’s tour was guided by Gummi.
After being picked up last, we left the city and headed north. Today we had a group of sixteen including myself, and everyone on the tour today was exceptionally kind. Gummi was telling his stories even before leaving the city, while the landscape became more and more beautiful.
We first stopped in Borgarnes for a coffee break, after which we went into the small town to see the burial mound of Skalla-Grímur Kveldúlfsson, which can be found in a small park.
After walking around this pleasant little park, we got back on the bus and Gummi took us to a ‘sod house’ which can also be found in this town. Once we arrived here Gummi started telling us about the houses, and why they were built the way they were. He took us all inside and we barely fit there! We got to see how the structure was built as he told us about some of the customs concerning building houses in the Viking era. We walked around for some time, and as soon as everyone had taken enough pictures, we left Borgarnes behind to continue to our next destination.
Unique basalt columns and beaches
The next stop was a wall of basalt columns, where we made a brief stop to take pictures. This enormous natural wall was surrounded by beautiful snow-covered landscapes, so it took some time before we were all back on the bus, with plenty of pictures taken from this site.
We then continued for Breidafjordur (“Breiðafjörður”) beach, which is quite a unique beach for Iceland. This beach happens to be one of the few beaches in Iceland to have white sand instead of black sand. This is due it being a shell beach instead of a lava-stone beach. The beach itself looked like no beach I had ever seen – the sand was not as white as other beaches, but more a darker shade of yellow.
As we walked towards the shoreline, Gummi told us to keep our eyes open, since it would be possible to spot seals on this beach. He was right! As soon as we got closer, we did see two seals relaxing on the rocks in the water. We spent the time taking pictures of the seals, trying our best not to scare them off. Gummi, meanwhile, used his set of binoculars to see if there were any other seals around. As soon as he spotted the others, he passed his binoculars on to us, pointing where to look.
Short stops at the loveliest places
While telling us, even more, stories, and answering all the questions, Gummi drove us to a very beautiful little waterfall. While driving towards it, we were not able to see this waterfall, as you can only see it from other directions. So Gummi stopped to give us the opportunity to take proper pictures. I was soon starting to get quite hungry. When Gummi told us our next stop would be lunch – it sounded like music to my ears. I saw other sharing the same feeling.
Beautiful nature of Snæfellsnes
He took us to a lovely hotel, called Búðir, where we had the choice between a fish course and soup. I chose the fish course, which was quite good! After lunch, I walked around the hotel for a while. The location is really beautiful, looking out over the ocean as well as on the Snæfellsjökull.
Straight out of books!
While driving us into the town Arnarstapi, Gummi told us the story of Bárður Snæfellsás – half man, half troll – who eventually disappeared into the Snæfellsjökull Icecap. Gummi stopped at the base of his statue and e told us we would be going for a hike. We walked for a short while to a viewing point, where we had an amazing view of the extraordinary coastline. Apparently, one can see whales from here, quite often. Sadly no whales were to be seen that day.
Impressive size of Bárður Snæfellsás
We continued our walk along the coastline, to the place where we could see the wonderful rock formation of an arch in the water. Further on, Gummi showed us a hole in the ground, where the water flowed to and led us to the other side of it to see it from a different angle. As we got nearer to the edge on the other side it became clear that we had just walked across another arch, without even noticing.
The hike along this beautiful shoreline ended at an enchanting little harbor, where Gummi picked us up with the bus. When we were back on the bus everyone was thankful for the warmth because it was starting to get quite cold outside. Seeing we were all a bit cold, Gummi decided to take us to a small café in town, which used to be the community center. We drank some chocolate milk, made from real Icelandic chocolate, with homemade whip cream, a real treat to get warm.
Weather cutting our tour short
We then continued for Djupalonssandur (Djúpalónssandur), while Gummi told us about its history as a fishing village. We walked up to the shore to enjoy the view, and Gummi continued his story here. By now the wind was coming up really strong, making it much colder every minute. So after a far too short time making pictures of this wonderful place, we hurried back on the bus.
We were then headed back to Reykjavik, and as soon as we got around the North side of the Peninsula, the weather had gotten much worse. We arrived back in Reykjavik safe and sound a few hours later, being able to look back on a wonderful day filled with magical sceneries.
Tour time again on Saturday – this time I would be going on the Hot Golden Circle tour.
The Golden Circle is the most popular tour in Iceland and every touring company has their own variation of this tour, which features Iceland’s most important tourist attractions. Gateway to Iceland offers this tour in combination with a visit to the Secret Lagoon, a reasonably undiscovered natural hot bath. It looked like it would be great weather for this tour, so I was very excited to go.
The tour guide today was Jakob. The bus was already full when I was picked up and we had a full group today with 19 people joining the tour, which is the maximum capacity for one bus with Gateway to Iceland. They were a lovely group of people; everyone was very kind and they showed they were happy to be on the tour.
While we were driving up to the first stop, at Thingvellir National Park, Jakob started the day off by telling us stories about the landscape we were driving through. As we got closer to Thingvellir, we could see the lake Thingvallavatn coming up ahead of us, and with the sunny weather, this was quite a beautiful sight. Thus Jakob pulled over to give us some time to take pictures. Once we got out of the bus, we noticed that despite the sunny weather it was quite cold outside, so we took our photos and then rushed back on the coach.
After this short stop, we went straight to Thingvellir. Once we got there, Jakob told us to go to the information center first: there he would explain the landscape to us, with the help of a model of the area. He gave a great description of the landscape, its geology, and how it had become the way it is now. After he was done he took us to the lookout next to the information center. It was quite busy here, however, Jakob had soon found a spot where the whole group would still have a great view and everyone would be able to hear him. The view of the ridge between the North American and the Eurasian plate from this point was amazing.
When Jakob was done with his story he asked us if we would like to take a walk through the National Park and, with the gorgeous weather, no-one could say no. He told us which path to take and that he would be waiting at the parking lot at the end of that path. It was wonderful to walk between the ridge, and later on right by the place where the assemblies of the Althing were held, from 930 until 1798. When we met with Jakob at the parking lot he told us more about these assemblies and their importance in Icelandic history.
While driving away, Jakob simply continued his stories, adding more folklore to them. We were on our way to the next stop and Jakob let us decide which it would be. Either we would stop at a restaurant along the way to have lunch or we would go to the Gullfoss waterfall and have lunch at the restaurant there. We chose the latter and continued our way while Jakob filled the whole bus with his stories. While driving along, we came across another beautiful spot to take pictures so Jakob pulled over and let us off the bus again. When we continued, Jakob continued his stories, teaching us even how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull correctly.
When we arrived at the Gullfoss, the waterfall itself could not be seen yet. Jakob advised us to have lunch first, and then climb down the stairs towards the waterfall, where he would pick us up at another parking lot again. So, after lunch, he left to drive the bus to the next meeting point and I climbed down to the impressive view of the immense Gullfoss. What a beautiful sight to behold! When I reached the lowest step and walked towards the edge of the viewing point Jakob walked over to me, and some of the others on the tour, to point out the sign in memory of Sigriður Tómasdóttir, a woman who had saved this waterfall from foreign investors, wanting to use this waterfall for the production of electricity.
After this wonderful view, we continued to the Geysir, or as Jakob called him the godfather of all Geysers, for giving them their names, since the Geysir, was in fact, the earliest geyser known to Europeans. Now Geysir does not erupt regularly anymore, however, the nearby geyser Strokkur still erupts every few minutes, which offers a great sight. When we arrived I first went to take a look at Geysir and it looked quite impressive. After that I joined the people standing around Strokkur, waiting for him to erupt. It was great to see that geyser spout its hot water up in the air and leaving an enormous white cloud with every eruption. So I stayed to watch him erupt three times.
The view of Geysir, while standing right in front of it
I continued the path, leaving Strokkur behind, to walk towards the next meeting point. Along the paths, the geothermal activity below the ground offered a spectacular variety to the landscape at this site.
After leaving Geysir, we would only have one stop left – the Secret Lagoon. However, Jakob provided a pleasant surprise. Just a short while after we had left Geysir, he told us we were going to visit some friends, but that we would need to persuade those friends to come close to us. As he said this he pulled out a big bag of bread and gestured towards a group of Icelandic horses. As soon as they noticed us they came running towards us, allowing us to pet, take pictures and most importantly, to feed them.
After saying goodbye to our new friends, we continued to the Secret Lagoon. As soon as we arrived its name became very clear. There were barely any people there, which provided us with all the space we could want. Throughout the day the temperatures had been quite cold, therefore it was even more satisfying to get in the hot pool, which was around 40° Celsius that day. When we had completely warmed up again, everyone went back inside and, as soon as everyone was ready to go, we left for Reykjavik.
Just a small part of the Secret Lagoon
Having finally done this tour today, I can tell why it is so popular. It combines some of the most beautiful and most historic parts of Iceland with complete relaxation. Jakob was a wonderful guide, it’s clear why he is one of the best guides with the company. All the way, throughout the tour, he was able to keep talking the whole time, and every bit of every story seemed like the most interesting thing I had ever heard.
On Wednesday I finally went on the Glacier Lagoon tour, I had already heard quite some positive things about this tour, which made me really excited to go. Ian would be the driver/guide again for today, so I knew that today’s tour would be fun. After Ian picked me up, at 8 AM, we could immediately leave Reykjavik, because I was the last to be picked up. The group for this tour was again a bit larger, with 18 persons including myself, and they turned out to be enjoyable company.
We had a rather long drive ahead of us since the tour does not offer sightseeing stops until Vik, this is because all the possible stops on the way to Vik are featured in the South Coast Tour (read: Amazed by the South Coast). Though we did stop along the way a few times for coffee breaks, and by the way, Ian was filling the tour bus with stories, the time simply flew by. Ian told stories about the Icelandic culture, and also briefly explained some geological attractions we could see from the coach. Whenever someone asked a question about anything related to the Icelandic culture or the sights we could see along the way, Ian would take his time to answer these questions the best way he could.
When we arrived in Vik we had another coffee break, and we were allowed some time to walk around and see the beach we also visited on the South Coast Tour (read: Amazed by the South Coast). After our stop in Vik, we continued to the first official tour stop, the Fjadrargljufur canyon. At f,irst Ian told us he was not sure if we could get there, because we would need to turn back if the road that led there was too icy. Though to us the road conditions seemed rather bad, it was barely a challenge for Ian. When we arrived at the site Ian told us to walk down to the bridge, and to look to our right side for a view of the canyon. It was a wonderful view, and a great way to start the tour.
After we had spent a small amount of time admiring the canyon, we headed back down the road, to the highway, on our way to our next stop, the Kirkjugólf, or the Church’s floor. Here we could see a natural phenomena of basalt pillars, which were most likely eroded by the sea over time, and now look like a man-made tile (church) floor, to which it owes its name.
From here we left for a small restaurant further along the way, where we were given an hour to eat lunch. After this we continued the journey to the Glacier Lagoon. Again this took quite some time, yet Ian kept us entertained, and the view was becoming more and more stunning as we drove on over the lava fields of the Laki eruption in 1783. About half an hour before arriving at our destination we could already see other Glacier tongues of the Vatnajökull.
Before arriving at the Jðkulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, we needed to cross a bridge over the opening between the Lagoon and the Ocean, and Ian told us that we wouldn’t be able to see the lagoon until we had reached the bridge. Once we started crossing the bridge, we had a stunning view of the Glacier lagoon, and several Icebergs attempting to ‘escape’ towards the ocean, and everyone became anxious to step out of the tour bus, and explore this beautiful site.
We would have half an hour to walk along the shore of the Lagoon, and then Ian would take us to the other side, to the beach where some of the icebergs that had succeeded in escaping to open waters were washed ashore. There was a very sharp Icy wind blowing, and the raindrops felt like ice when I walked by the Lagoon, but the view was so spectacular I hardly noticed how cold it had been until I returned to the coach.
When everyone who wanted to see the beach had returned to the tour bus, Ian drove us across the road, to the shore. Here we were granted a beautiful view of the Icebergs laying on the shore, with the waves crashing into them, as the sun started to come out. i walked back and forth along the shoreline for a while and then I decided to walk to the opening between the lagoon and the Ocean, where I could look just beyond the bridge, and see the sunlight hit the Glacier Tongue, which was only barely visible when we were at the lagoon because of the cloudy weather. It a was beautiful sight, yet very difficult to capture on camera.
After spending another half hour at the beach, Ian drove us back to the lagoon, to pick up the other people, who had stayed there. When everyone was back on board, we drove back towards Reykjavik. In a few minutes after leaving the Glacier Lagoon, one of the other Glacier Tongues could be seen again, while the sunlight hit it this time. Noticing that people had started to photograph this sight, Ian made a turn towards this Glacier Tongue, where we had a view of another stunning Glacier Lagoon, though smaller, and not connected to the Ocean, like the Jökulsárlón.
Then we turned back to the Highway and continued our way back, where we would have one more stop before it would be too dark to see anything. Ian drove us to the church of Hof in Öræfi, where he told us that this was the last turf Church to be built in Iceland.
Leaving this final sight, it was time to return to Reykjavik, where we would arrive just after 10 PM, only stopping to get dinner and some rest stops on the way. Though while driving back, just before it got dark, Ian pointed out one last point of interest, the face of a troll, turned to stone by the sunlight, right in front of us. I truly loved this tour, though it was a long day it was certainly worth it. I cannot wait until I can do this tour again in the summer, when there will be a chance to take a boat ride across the Lagoon as well.
It was time for me to go on yet another tour, this time I would be discovering the Southern Coast of this beautiful country, together with driver/guide and funny guy, Ian. The day before I wasn’t completely sure about going on the tour because the weather wasn’t looking very good. However, when Ian came by at the office, he told me I should go on the tour, because I should experience it in any type of weather, and I am glad I listened to him.
Ian picked me up at my B&B, and from there we did the rest of the pickup. This time the group was quite a bit larger than the last tour I went on, with 13 people, including myself. After a few brief stops in the city, we were off to the South. It took quite a long time to get to the first stop, but Ian kept us entertained along the way. He told us interesting facts about things we sadly could not see for ourselves, due to the fog. Still the way Ian told us it didn’t really matter that we couldn’t see them, it was interesting enough either way.
We reached our first destination while the fog was clearing, the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. The scenery here was absolutely amazing, and even though the sky was cloudy and it had still not stopped drizzling, I did not mind getting out of the bus to discover the sight. At this sight there is actually one large waterfall, and two additional smaller waterfalls, which are equally beautiful to watch.
After walking around here for about 20 minutes, we went on to our next stop, the second waterfall: the Skogafoss. This waterfall was even more amazing than the first, and even though the path towards the waterfall was covered in very slippery ice, it was well worth getting closer. With this waterfall you can simply go as close to it as you dare, and for this I really regretted not wearing a rain coat, because daring to get close is one thing, but I did not intend on getting soaking wet, and then having to spend the rest of the day on the tour bus in damp clothes. So I stayed at a safe and reasonably dry distance.
While walking around a bit more, I saw some stairs leading up to a viewing point above the waterfall. With only a few minutes left before we were supposed to return to the bus, I started climbing the stairs. This proved to be a bit more time consuming than I had anticipated, because the stairs were much steeper and longer than I had thought. when I reached the top, completely out of breath, it turned out to be a wise decision to go up, because the view was stunning. After taking a few pictures, I ran back down as quickly as I could without falling, and made it back to the bus in time, even though Ian told me it would have been no problem if I had taken a bit longer.
The view from the lookout over the waterfall.
While we drove away from the Skogafoss waterfall, Ian gave us a choice, we would either visit all the sight on the tour first, and then have lunch in Vik, after which we would simply drive from Vik straight to Reykjavik, or we would first go to Vik, and have lunch there, after which we would visit the remaining sights on our way back. Since it was already quite late, we chose the latter.
And I was happy we did, because by the time we got there, I was shaking with exertion from climbing those stairs earlier. At the restaurant in Vik we could choose for ourselves what we would order, and I decided to finally try the traditional lamb soup. The soup was quite expensive, at approximately 1,800 ISK, but it tasted good, it was richly filled, the bowl was literally filled to the brim, and we got some bread and butter with it as well. While we were eating Ian explained that with the soup it would be okay to go for seconds, because it is included in the price. However after eating one bowl of the rich soup, I couldn’t eat another bite.
When I had finished eating, there was still some time left, so I decided to take a look outside, at the black beach of Vik, which has a stunning formation of rocks. These rocks, Ian explained, are not really rocks according to Icelandic folklore, but trolls who got caught by the sunlight, while trying to tow in a ship, and they and the ship then turned to stone.
After this one hour break, we continued to our next destination, the Reynisfjara shore. This place is a truly beautiful black sand beach, with some wonderful rock formations on the coast. It was wonderful to walk around here and look at the amazing rocks on one side and the waves on the other side. Ian had warned us before getting off the bus, that we should be careful around the shoreline here, because the waves here are treacherous, and can easily take unsuspecting victims into the ocean. While watching the waves this proved to be true, the waves reached further than one would suspect, and with all the people standing with their backs to the waves to take pictures of the rocks, it’s no wonder accidents happen here. While we walked around the individually, Ian walked up to everyone who was with us on the tour to give them some very interesting information about the rock formation, and how come they were shaped the way they are.
Back on the bus it was time to go to our final stop of the tour, the Sollheimajðkull Glacier. Once we got there we could not see anything yet, and Ian told us to take a path that would lead to a viewing point of the glacier, and that he would meet us there. As soon as we could see the glacier, I could not wait to get nearer, It was absolutely stunning, with pieces of clear blue ice sticking out, combined with gray and black rocks, and still some ash from the Eyjafjallajðkull eruption. while we were taking pictures of this wonderful sight, Ian joined us to give us some more information. He told us that it would seem particularly hard to capture the blue color of the ice in a picture, and it actually was, though I think in the end, I did manage to get it quite right.
Me in front of the glacier!
After this last stop, which in my opinion was the absolute highlight of the tour, it was time to return to Reykjavik. As I said before, I am really glad I took this tour despite the weather, which turned out to be quite alright, it even cleared up a bit after lunch. I had a wonderful time on this tour, thanks to the amazing sights, the wonderful people accompanying me on this tour, and last but not least Ian’s great guiding. I can’t wait to go on the next tour
It was my first day tour with Gateway to Iceland ! Initially I was supposed to be going on a tour to the Snæfellsness national park and its surroundings, but because the snow started melting, and then freezing again, the roads up to Snæfellsness had become too icy. However Gateway to Iceland came up with a great solution, there would still be a tour, only instead of going to Snæfellsness, we would be touring the Reykjanes area, to the south-west of Reykjavik. Still due to the bad weather this tour had to be slightly adjusted, this means that not everything I mention in this blog post is part of the official Reykjanes tour.
The tour was guided by Gummi, who is the president of Gateway to iceland. I was picked up at the B&B where I am staying, BB44, and we started driving to the south. Along on the tour were a friendly couple from Dennmark, and three people from the USA, so a very small group. First we made a small detour to Alftanes, which is where the president of Iceland lives, and Gummi drove us up to the church in front of the president’s residence, where we got out, and got the chance to take some pictures, of the beautiful view we had from there.
After we left here we went on to drive through Hafnarfjordur, this town was named so for its natural fit as a harbor. While Gummi told us stories about this town, its houses, the fishing industry and the hidden peoples (elves). When we got around to the harbor we drove up to the fish market, where we were permitted to take a look inside. After taking a look at the catch of the day, we continued further to the south.
We went to Grindavik, another harbor town however with a far less natural harbor. Gummi told us about this treacherous harbor entry, which in bad weather conditions can lead a ship to get stranded. In this town we stopped for a lunch break at a small restaurant, which offered a buffet at a very small price. Gummi tells us that when he is in the area of the restaurant, he tries to have the lunch break there, because he simply loves the food and the atmosphere.
We drove on into a large lava field along the harbor, where evidence of the many stranded ships could be found. There were signs with newspaper articles about these ships, and there was still an entire ship stranded on this shore, which had been torn in half.
The tour continued along the coast, until we reached a point where we had a beautiful view of the North Atlantic ocean, and the Icelandic coast. There was a very strong wind here, which made it very cold to be outside of the bus, but every moment outside was worth it. You could see gigantic waves crashing into the rocks, and you could climb a small, yet steep, hill along this coast, which offered an even more breathtaking view. When I expressed to Gummi how impressed I was by the size of the waves, he told me these waves were even small compared to the true giants that usually come crashing onto the shore. I made some pictures here, but the wind made it very hard to keep my camera still, which made them a little bit blurry.
From here we continued to the Gunnuhver steaming mud pools, where Gummi told us another Folklore concerning this area. Here we could see the steam rising from the boiling ground, and we could walk through the steam of the mud pools, over an elevated path.
After leaving the Gunnuhver we drove over the mid Atlantic ridge, towards where the North-American plate begins. Here a small bridge was built to symbolize the crossing between the Eurasian plate and the North-American plate, though Gummi told us this is incorrect, since the Eurasian plate and the North-American plate are several miles apart.
Before we would return to Reykjavik, where everyone would be dropped off at their own hotels, we made a stop at the Vikingaheima/Viking world museum in Keflavik. In this museum the viking ship Islendingur (the Icelander) is exhibited, this ship is an exact replica of a real ninth century viking ship, built by using the same materials and methods, that were used then. This ship was also sailed to Greenland, Newfoundland, and even New York, in 2000. This museum had a few interesting artifacts, and many informative signs about the life of the Vikings, the discovery of Greenland and North America, and of the settlement on Iceland.
I had a great time on this tour, it was very informative, and I was just happy to learn a little bit more about this amazing country. Of course there are a lot of things about this tour I could not tell, because Gummi told us so much I would be able to write half a book of it. But if you are ever in Iceland do not hesitate to take this tour!
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