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From the Ocean to the Highlands – The Hekla Valley tour

From the Ocean to the Highlands – The Hekla Valley tour

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.

Hekla Valley

Hekla Valley

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Icelandic sheep

Icelandic sheep

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

View on Hekla volcano

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.

You would have to look closely, but if you do you can make out a white shadow behind the mountain you see here, this shadow is Eyjafjallajökull.

You would have to look closely, but if you do you can make out a white shadow behind the mountain you see here, this shadow is Eyjafjallajökull.

On our tour: Enchanting Northern Lights

On our tour: Enchanting Northern Lights

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!

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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!

The sky did not stay completely clear, yet we could still see these amazing lights despite the clouds.

Surprise comeback

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.

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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.

 

On our tour: Magical Snaefellsnes

On our tour: Magical Snaefellsnes

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”.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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

Impressive size of Bárður Snæfellsás

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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.

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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.

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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.

On our tour: Relaxation with the Hot Golden Circle

On our tour: Relaxation with the Hot Golden Circle

Relaxation with the Hot Golden Circle

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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

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 our tour: The spectacular Glacier Lagoon

 

 

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

A piece of the Church's floor.
A piece of the Church’s floor.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

One of the Glacier Tongues, which could be seen on the way to the Glacier Lagoon.
One of the Glacier Tongues, which could be seen on the way to the Glacier Lagoon.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

The tiny turf Church, built in 1883
The tiny turf Church, built in 1883

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The troll's face can be seen on the edge of the rocks here.
The troll’s face can be seen on the edge of the rocks here.

On our tour: Amazed by the South Coast

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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This is the closest I dared to go, without getting wet.

This is the closest I dared to go, without getting wet.

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.

The view from the lookout over the waterfall.

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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.

 

The three rocks sticking out of the water here, are the trolls and the ship, which turned to stone in the sunlight.

The three rocks sticking out of the water here, are the trolls and the ship, which turned to stone in the sunlight.

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.

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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.

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Ian told us that the glacier is retreating, he said that when he first visited Iceland approximately 15 years ago, the glacier came up to the ridge between the mountains, which is visible in this picture.

 

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me, in front of the glacier!

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

On our tour: Beautiful Reykjanes

On our tour: Beautiful Reykjanes

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 Reykjanes peninsula

The Reykjanes peninsula.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The church in front of the president's house.

The church in front of the president’s residence.
The president's house

The president’s residence.
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The view.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

one half of the stranded ship, approximately 200 meters from the other half.

One half of the stranded ship, approximately 200 meters from the other 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.

 

 

 

Beautiful view from the south coast of the Reykjanes peninsula

Beautiful view from the south coast of the Reykjanes peninsula
Beautiful view from the top of the hill.

Beautiful view from the top of the hill.

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

The wall you see here, is the North American plate, sticking out over the mid Atlantic ridge

The wall you see here, is the North American plate, sticking out over the mid Atlantic ridge.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Icelander.

The Icelander.
The Icelander from below.

The Icelander from below.

 

 

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!