Iceland!

In June 2016, Evan and I were fortunate enough to spend a little over two weeks traveling around Iceland. The trip ended up being better than we had even hoped. That was due entirely to the exquisite beauty that completely encompasses the island. Friends and family ask, why Iceland?  We say, why not Iceland?  It has everything you could possibly want in an adventure: history, beauty, intrigue, animals, good food and gorgeous photo-ops around every bend.

Entrance of the Blue Lagoon

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Soaking it all in…
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The white minerals were smooth and soft against the harsh lava rock.
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Some Hydro-therapy
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The “national flower” of Iceland: the humble dandelion. They were more wild and beautiful here than at home. Go figure.
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The Harpa, a concert hall and conference center in the heart of Reykjavik harbor.
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Inside The Harpa.
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Reykjavik 871 +/-2 The Settlement Exhibition. You can see the bones of a very old horse there under the wall. This excavated longhouse dates back to the first settling of Reykjavik. The bones were meant to protect the inhabitants against evil.

 

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One of our favorite coffee shops in Reykjavik. It more than satisfied this (sort-of) Stumptowner.

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Hallgrímskirkja, the landmark church in Reykjavik. We happened to be visiting when they were tuning the pipe organ. Really lovely.

We were there 2 weeks, drove around the entire island, but started out the trip with 4 days in Reykjavik.  Reflecting on the choice, that was probably a wise idea to start there fresh. The 24- hour sun was an adjustment. Not to mention the late nights that are routine during the season. Locals know how to squeeze every last drop of summer out of the day. We were up until 4 am one evening, and it looked just like 4pm back home.

Thankfully they also have the antidote for those long, long days: The most important stop to make in Reykevjak? The Blue Lagoon.  We flew in at 6am, killed a few hours at the airport and got there close to opening hours (who could really tell though, with 24-hr sun?), but I hear near closing time is also a great time to visit.  Truly, it was a magical, mind blowing experience. It is touristy, but not to be missed.

Two museums we really enjoyed: Reykjavik 871+2: The Settlement Exhibition and The National Museum. The former is built around an actual 10th century Viking Longhouse. It helps decipher Icelandic culture and heritage. Same with the National Museum, relics from when Iceland was settled up to present day.  And if all of that sounds too stuffy, they have a Icelandic Phallological Museum. 283 different “members” including whales (!!!) and some human donors.

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This would be a Blue Whale phallus.

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Another of our favorite coffee shops. The owner (pictured) is from Haiti and sources all of her beans from home. Some good brew.

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Happened across the color run…

20160610_202505Eating out was an adventure! The food was fresh and locally sourced. Skyr is the Icelandic version of Greek yogurt. Thick, creamy and delicious.  For the most part we enjoyed each meal. There was the one restaurant known for its “slow food movement” that took the concept a little too literally. I believe we were there close to 4 hours. *ouch*  And of course, we had to find the best coffee in town, Reykjavik Roasters and Cafe Haiti. It almost felt like we were back in Stumptown.

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With the 24-hours of sunlight, we had to do a “midnight in a cemetery” shot. Didn’t turn out quite as scary as could be elsewhere…
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After seeing Arni Erikur on Jack Maxwell’s “Booze Traveler”, in Iceland no less, Evan connected with Arni on Facebook and made an appt for his day job: master hair dresser. Evan also brought him some of Portland’s finest brews. Seems Arni approved. 😉
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Ingolfstorg in downtown Reykjavík is a massive outdoor screen where everyone gathers to watch a soccer match. It’s especially rowdy when the home team is playing!

Our path around the island was clockwise: Reykjavik —>Stykkisholmur—> Siglufjordur—> Akureyri —>  Husavik—>  Borgarfjordur Eystri —> Faskrudsfjordur—> Vagnsstadir—> Laugarvatn—> Reykjavik.

Next time we’re there?  Spend far more time in West Iceland/ the Westfjords and less in the Southeast /East and Southwest. The mountains, craters and waterfalls in the west were lovely and we didn’t allocate enough time for them!  The South, although beautiful in it’s own way was a little too barren, rainy and sparsely populated… even for Iceland.

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Nikon (767)

Nikon (770)

Stykkisholmur: we stayed at Hotel Egilsen- highly recommend it if you can get a reservation. Small and cozy, but just perfect.  Greta Sig, the owner, was very communicative and super helpful. The Sjavarpakkhusid was a wonderful restaurant right on the harbor overlooking the lighthouse, known for their Blue Shell mussels straight from the local bay.

Stykkisholmur
Stykkisholmur
Cliffs outside of Stykkisholmur
Lobby of Hotel Egilson
Cozy lobby of Hotel Egilsen
Glowing colors, courtesy of mother nature
Glowing colors, courtesy of mother nature
Sjavarpakkhusid: best restaurant in Stykkisholmur!
MUSSELS!
The Blue Mussels!

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always: sheep on the roads
always: sheep on the roads

little fuzzy love

Akureyri is the second largest town in Iceland. It’s nicely positioned with lots to do all around. The Icelandair Hotel Akureyri was a great place to stay. A massive room with a wall of windows.  Near that area is the Myvatn region. The geological beauty is nuts around there! They have their own version of the Blue Lagoon which was less $, but not as lavish. Hverir is overwhelming on the nose but easy on the eyes: sulphur mud pots, golden earth and steam vents. It’s otherworldly.

Mars? Nope, just Hverir.
Mars? Nope, just Hverir.
Boiling mud pots at Hverir
Boiling mud pots at Hverir
Steam vents..
Steam vents…

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Couldn't leave this little gem out
Couldn’t leave this little gem out. If you could only imagine the smell emanating from these things. Unbelievable.
Our hotel in Akureyri had this blanket that I fell in love with. We tracked down the retail store in Reykjavik and I made sure to bring a lovely piece of Iceland home with us.
Our hotel in Akureyri had this blanket that I fell in love with. We tracked down the retail store in Reykjavik and I made sure to bring a lovely piece of Iceland home with us.
The main church in Akureyri
The main church in Akureyri, Akureyrarkirkja. Try saying that 3 times fast.
National Iceland Day! What better way to celebrate than with something so native. (It was pretty darn good)
National Iceland Day! What better way to celebrate than with something so traditional? As someone who normally turns her nose up at a dog, it was pretty darn good!

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The Lupine was EVERYWHERE.
The Lupine was EVERYWHERE.
Overlooking the town of Siglufjörður
Overlooking the town of Siglufjörður
two travelers and their shadows
two travelers and their shadows
more lupine
More lupine
Scenes like this were commonplace. Ridiculous.
Scenes like this were around every corner. Ridiculous.

The waterfall, Godafoss is nearby there as well, acquiring its name from the chieftain who was struggling to decide which religion to accept for his people. He ultimately chose the Christian God and tossed his pagan idols in the falls.

Godafoss!
Godafoss!
Evan: giving me a heart attack, as per usual
Evan: giving me a heart attack, as per usual

It's power is just breathtaking!

The park, Jokulsargljufur is in the same region.  We only had time for a day hike, but there is so much more to see! The waterfalls at the southern end of the park and the horse-shoe shaped  Asbyrgi canyon at the northern end are easily accessible and worth the time. Another massive waterfall, Dettifoss is near a park entrance, but requires some pot-hole driving to get there. Thankfully we made it in and out ok, but we saw some cars with flats out in the middle of nowhere.

Evan, helping the French girls
Evan, helping the French girls.
Dettifoss: Europe's most powerful waterfall
Detifoss: Europe’s most powerful waterfall
Again, Evan. Ahh!
Again, Evan. Ahh!
All that water heading into Vatnajökull National Park
All that water from Detifoss heading into Vatnajökull National Park
color palate: unmatched
color palate: unmatched
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park in the Myvatn Region
Sweet little fuzzy willow
Sweet little wooly willow.
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park
What I call, "fairy moss"
What I call, “fairy moss”
Vatnajökull National Park's Horseshoe Canyon
Vatnajökull National Park’s Horseshoe Canyon

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Husavik is a little town on a major whale watching bay. They see anywhere from nine to 11 species of whales there each summer. We did a high-speed tour and were able to get close to Humpbacks and Minkes. Don’t miss out on the whale museum!  It smells horrific (due to the actual whale bones and bits inside), but you get used to it. And where else can you see an entire Blue Whale skeleton. Amazing.

Husavik Harbor
Husavik Harbor
Humpback Whale!
Humpback Whale fluke
Blue whale skeleton + Evan. Love the perspective!
Blue whale skeleton + Evan. Love the perspective!
A Narwhal skeleton.
A Narwhal skeleton
The ring road
The endless ring road

Seydisfjordur is the place where they filmed the skateboard scene in Walter Mitty. The drive is crazy: up and down mountains on single lane roads (in our 2-cylinder car!) That area is breathtakingly beautiful: ringed by cliffs and waterfalls all the way in.

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A little too steep and curvy to tempt the Walter Mitty dare-devil in me.

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“What are you looking at? Get off my road.”
The Walter Mitty skateboarding scene! The thought of going down
The clouds just nestle down into the crevices of the cliffs.

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In the south, once you leave Hofn, there isn’t much until you get back to the Golden Circle area. Don’t miss Jokulsarlon! Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Batman Begins and James Bond: Die Another Day were all filmed there. The massive (and tiny!) translucent blue ice floes wash up on the black sand beach. It’s pretty cool.

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On their way out to become sea ice...
On their way out to become sea ice…
blues and more blues
blues and more blues
The ash streaks are from eruptions in previous decades
Interestingly enough, the ash streaks are due to volcanic eruptions in previous decades. Like rings on a tree…

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The beach for wayward ice floes.
Put some of that glacier ice in your whiskey, eh?

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Some dear little fuzzies
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Found this on the beach. Some restaurants we had eaten at incorporated this into their dishes! It wasn’t bad: chewy and salty.

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A bright spot on a black beach

In the Golden Circle, you can dive at the Silfra Fissure, the only place in the world where two continental plates can be touched. It was ridiculously cold. We had dry suits on, but it’s frigid, crystal-clear water! The surrounding park was beautiful, unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do it justice.

The Top Gun/Dive Suit look
The aquatic Top Gun look
Meet the two continental plates (hint: SO COLD)
Meet the two continental plates: Eurasian and North American (hint: SO COLD)

One of my favorite parts of Iceland were its animals.  The horses, sheep, puffins, whales, foxes and of course, domestic breeds of dogs and cats. The horses were proud, majestic creatures with better hair highlights than I could hope for. Sheep were everywhere. Most often they would be in the middle of the road right as we came over a hill. Poor little terrified creatures running and bleating as fast as their little fuzzy legs would carry them. Thankfully we never saw roadkill during the entire journey. It’s worth it to mention that for the most part, the sheep have access to the roads. Occasionally you’d see an escapee on the other side of a fence, but the roads are so isolated outside of Reykevjak that I suppose there is no point to fencing everything off.

Some new friends with fabulous hair
Some new friends with fabulous hair

Love them!

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Maybe a real couple?
Maybe a real couple?
Just holding onto lunch for later.
Just holding onto lunch for later
Portrait of a Puffin
Portrait of a Puffin
more sheep!
more sheep!
Well, they do have Reindeer!
Well, they do have Reindeer, but this was unfortunately the only one we ran across.
On a smaller scale...
On a smaller scale…
Oh, hello beautiful
Oh, hello beautiful.
That hair. Sigh.
That hair. Sigh.

All in all, despite the 24-hour sun, astronomical prices for accommodation and the occasional eternal dinner, we had a wonderful adventure. It felt as though we had stepped into a different era where things were simpler, quieter and slower. More pure and beautiful. Unspoiled by the masses. I almost hate to say it since it’s part of what makes up its appeal, but if you can, get to Iceland and see it for yourself!

Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland
Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland
Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull
Ice in Iceland! (corny, I know)
Ice in Iceland! (corny, I know)
Svartifoss, Abitua Falls' bigger cousin
Svartifoss, Abiqua Falls’ bigger cousin
sweet arctic blooms
sweet arctic blooms

The moss fields..
The moss fields..
Another mineral pool...
Another mineral pool…
Columnar basalts
Columnar basalts
Curved columnar basalts
Curved columnar basalts

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lupine, lupine everywhere...
Lupine, lupine everywhere…
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So sad to leave, but we’ll be back!
A glimpse of Greenland on our journey home.
A glimpse of Greenland on our journey home. If you look very closely, there may be a Polar Bear down there.

1 Comment

  1. Love your dialogue with our pics, Babe! Keep up the good work!

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