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Back from Iceland: Our travel story + 25 useful tips

Back from Iceland for the 3th time,today I’ll suggest 25 useful tips to travel in Iceland, my best places to visit, and where to see the northern lights

After many hours of hard work, finally, the full story of our beautiful icelandic adventure is out along with 25 useful travel tipsreported below throughout the story (there is a note like TIPS x/25 for each one)

Dedicated to my darling Martina…

 

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DISCLAIMER: the present article has been realized in pure amateur form with a mere recreational, personal, non profit intention. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee in any case the absence of errors or the freshness of the informations reported. For this reason he strictly invites any reader to also search for more informations about the same arguments inside other external sources, and to report any eventual mistake to the author through the Contact page on this website. In any case the author will not be responsible for any action committed by anyone following the reading of the informations reported inside this article

JUST BE PATIENT….AS EVERY BOOK, THIS STORY IS LONG TO READ

The story is written in form of a 50 pages travel book novel, so possibly, be patient if you find it to be very long, and enjoy it like you would do with a real book, piece after piece in different days. The story has been originally created in italian by my darling Martina inside her travel diary, and only after translated in english by me. For this reason, me as Moyan Brenn will figure as a second actor in the story

BUT IF YOU CAN’T BE PATIENT, JUST ENJOY THE TIPS AND THE PICTURES!

Of course i’m not expecting everyone to have the time to read our novel entirely. For this reason, just in case one doesn’t have enough time, i still suggest to enjoy at least the 25 tips and the pictures!

Each of the 25 tips is included along the article, starting below here after the paragraph title

THE FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH NORTHERN LIGHTS….ON THE AIRPLANE!?!?!

The day of departing we were waiting for months was finally arrived….

TIPS 1/25: Take a night flight! if lucky, one could spot the aurora borealis from the airplane window like it happened to us!

Northern lights seen from an airplane flight to Reykjavik

Northern lights seen from an airplane flight to Reykjavik

 

I was getting anxious at the airport, trying to understand where to go and how to make the check-in, something that i usually did without problems in the past, but that today was becoming so hard, being so confused and excited to the idea that in a couple of hours we would have flown above the sky of Iceland in the night….guess what……yes…..if lucky, we could have seen the northern lights directly from the sky! While waiting to depart from Rome Fiumicino, we spent the last hours at the airport talking each other and wondering what the journey and our fate would have reserved to us, and the more the time went by, and the more we were getting excited….

After taking off, while still flying over the mediterranean sky, i did a short nap, waiting to reach the sky of north Europe in the hope to spot the aurora from the airplane window…..And after a couple of hours i woke up and found that we were finally approaching Iceland and the sky of north Europe.

I started to look outside, and to cross the fingers in the hope to see something, when suddenly, yes, it happened for real…..I still remember Moyan strongly shaking my arm to recall my attention toward the other side of the airplane, while telling me to look outside…..the aurora was there for real….a long “greenish” trail, calmly dancing in the sky passing above our airplane from one side to the other one….He suddenly took the camera, made a shot and tell….”have a look here”….the image taken showed an intense green aurora, like the pictures seen on the web the days before…..wow…..not even the time to reach Iceland and we already made the first encounter with the goddess of the sky…..mission completed before arriving!

TIPS 2/25: Don’t get confused between the airport of Keflavik and Reykjavik. Although often called Reykjavik by international flight companies, the airport where tourists usually land is just Keflavik! So, pay attention to where to book a rented car!

After this first, unexpected and amazing event, we immediately felt in peace with ourselves and more relaxed….we quickly realized infact that the fear of not seeing the aurora, would have left us in peace for the rest of our days…

Once at the airport of Keflavik in Iceland, we found the department store still open in the middle of the night, and had all the time to buy something to eat, something to drink to make a cheer for this beautiful flight, and even a couple of mobile sim cards to get the internet connection, which in Iceland is outstanding in terms of signal strength. In particular, our first “food encounter” consisted in a pleasant package of Maryland biscuits, accompanied by a typical Skir Icelandic Yogurt, both really delicious and representing a good way to make a “night” breakfast..

TIPS 3/25: buy an Icelandic Simcard at Keflavik airport! it is very useful to have the internet connection all the time for a cheap price!

AN UNFORGETTABLE MORNING BETWEEN GEYSERS AND WATERFALLS

It was around 4 o’clock, when we ate some food, we had a rest, and prepare to go. Rather than reaching a hotel to sleep for few hours, we decided to drive and make some miles toward Gullfoss while passing along some intermediate destinations, just to enjoy the early morning light and the next sunrise.

Well, what a good choice, the sky was perfectly clear, the wind breeze calm and gentle, and the colors in the sky of an intense red, everything accompanied by a unforgettable silence. The road colour was dark and smooth, surrounded by endless landscapes, and by the time the sun just peeked out from the horizon, we didn’t think twice to the idea of stopping to one side of the road to take some shots just at one point where the road was making a very cool “S” shape. Colors in the sky were still burning more and more as the sun was rising, and in front of us at the horizon, a huge calm lake was completing the landscape, by gently reflecting the burning colors in the water. By carefully watching the landscape, we even found that some sheeps were having a rest along the road!

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This experience, although apparently simple, has been one of the strongest of our entire trip….We will never, ever forget the incredible silence and the atmosphere of this sunrise…….

ON THE WAY TO THINGVELLIR, OXARARFOSS AND BRUARFOSS

While the sunrise was finishing to leave space to a more silver morning light, we made our first real stop to Thingvellir, just to have a walk and visit the popular waterfall of Oxararfoss, particular for its “surprise” effect, since it suddenly appears to visitors while walking along the main path, and also for its surrounding stones from the strange and cool cubical shapes.DSC_5664The magic increased even more when the sun rose enough high to enlighten it, by producing a goldent tone. After some nice shots it was time to move toward the waterfall of Bruarfoss, and to drive along new endless sceneries full of icelandic horses, colorful hills, and funny fatty sheeps with such a nice long wool mantle!

We parked our car in a very small area situated inside a residential district, and through the help of Moyan we found the path to this special waterfall which is very well hidden behind a small wood, a little bit difficult to find…Mud was everywhere, and of course i didn’t miss the chance to make a fall on the slippery ground!!…ouch!!!

I must say, afterall, and despite the funny fall, it was really worth to visit this place. We walked along the little wood and reached the main bridge from which it was possible to enjoy the main view of the place to take the usual

bruarfoss iceland waterfall

bruarfoss iceland waterfall

unforgettable shot….The waterfall was characterized by an amazing intense blue color, which faded away into a light grey when the water, after falling down, continued to flow under the bridge, by creating such unique whirlpool effect just behind our foot for which this waterfall is so popular…..breathtaking…..

TIPS 4/25: Bruarfoss is difficult to find. Study the map at home and read some guides, or anyway, once arrived, try to ask to some locals

It was 7 am in the morning, the day began in the best possible manner, and after a great sunrise and 2 great waterfalls, it was now the time to reach Geyser….and while on the way, resisting to the temptation of stopping the jeep mile after mile to take a picture was really hard for how beauty the scenery was, but we didn’t want to get already stressed the first day, and so, we tried to just calm down and enjoy the atmosphere without worrying too much about our cameras.

ON THE WAY TO GEYSER AND GULLFOSS

Once arrived, we quickly realized that since we were 2 hours behind respect to Italy time, the hunger started to knock to our door before we expected….No problem anyway, before proceeding with the visit, we took the chance to eat something in the fast food just in front of the entrance of Geyser park area (to say the truth there were 2 adjanct places to eat, one more expensive and with less choices, and the other one really full of things and cheaper. We opted out for the latter (having the park behind, the one on the left)…..We ate something, we made a pit stop to the toilet, and prepared to see some powerful special effects…..let’s go for it!!

After entering the park and making a short walk, we easily reached Strokkur, the most popular geyser of the area. The path was rich of fumaroles and signs indicating that the water was hot, with temperatures reaching 80-100°C degrees! On the ground the hot water was gently flowing through very small streams surrounding the main hiking path toward Strokkur, and fumaroles were spitting out hot vapour everywhere, while the water was producing a typical “bubble” sound from some ponds around us.

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Once arrived close to Strokkur, we started to wait for the geyser to erupt, and to hear some people whispering and getting excited for what it was almost happening…..We kept ready and carefully waited with our cameras like we were real sniper soldiers! Before exploding, the geyser looked like a big pond of blue jelly liquid, moving, shaking, and boiling all the time. I read somewhere that it was as deep as 200 meters, such a huge column of water!! It also seemed to breath like a real beast with bubbles and deep gurgle sound! Sometimes i felt like the ground was shaking, although it was just my impression due to the sounds and the movement of the geyser, which was clearly preparing itself for the next explosion…..

The big blue bubble of the geyser before the eruption

The big blue bubble of the geyser before the eruption

When the time came, we suddenly saw a big blue bubble growing up, and then, boooom! A huge column of a mix of water and vapour covered the sky above our heads, surrounded by the screams of people in the air amazed by this unique show. It is incredible how much powerful that bubble could be. We really felt like little unarmed ants in comparison…..marvelous and disquieting at the same time….

TIPS 5/25: don’t be worried. The geyser Strokkur erupts every few minutes. Just have enough patience!

Finally the last destination of the day. The huge waterfall of Gullfoss (in Icelandic “golden waterfall”). The shape was like 2 giant steps, and the first impression we had after seeing this place was of great fear….we immediately wondered to fall through the water, and to never come out again anymore, especially after realizing that the path we were following, ended up just in front of it and so very close to the edge. While enjoying the view from this point, a strong column of vapour wrapped us, at the point that we almost needed to wear our raincoat……what an enchanting place…and it was just the beginning….

Strokkur Geyser right after the explosion

Strokkur Geyser right after the explosion

The day began to finish, and in turn we started to feel very tired. Driving for the last hours has been so arduous and endless, and while driving we were glad to spot our guesthouse at the horizon. It was the beautiful farm of the Steinsholt family, composed by Kari, his husband and her 2 kids. We entered into our room, and we had a loooong rest, accompanied by a good headache, and a strong sense of tiredness…We woke up later for dinner, and Kari delighted us with a special meal, composed by a gentle cauliflower creamy soup, a main course of fish with saffron, pineapple and cheese, everything accompanied by some salad and potatoes…..difficult to describe, but trust me, it was delicious…..

We just spent the last moments of the day in talking about this first incredible experience, remembering how beautiful and unexpected it had been despite the weatercast was initially pessimistic….and with a great sense of amazement in our eyes, we finally fell in a deep sleep….

Gullfoss waterfall

Gullfoss waterfall

TIME TO GET DEPRESSED….RAIN ON THE WAY

Yes, we knew it, the rain was on the way to reach and cover the entire territory of Iceland for the next days. We easily realized that we had a big problem, but despite this we didn’t give up. Infact, although the weathercast was so bad, we knew that the weather in Iceland constantly changes, and that even during the worst day of the year, there could be still a chance to get the sun light for a while…

Well, it sounds incredible, but it happened for real, and we made a wonderful trip in the end, as you will find by reading the rest of our story…Infact, although the overall weather has been quite bad all the time, everyday we often got some sun light just enough to nicely visit all the places we wanted! It really looked like a little miracle!! Lesson learned!

TIPS 6/25: never really trust the weathercast in Iceland for more than some hours….just trust your dreams…..weathercast in Iceland constantly changes, and the sun can unexpectedly come out in the more unexpected moment! Due to this, it makes sense to check the weathercast only for the same day or the morning after. Everything beyond this, it’s often simply unreliable!

Moving on with our story, as the second day was beginning, we realized that we were still a little bit tired from yesterday, and that the sky, at least for now,  was clearly too much grey for letting us trying to be positive…The rain was so annoying, and the air filled with small but constant drops of water, continuously falling from the sky without any hope to finish….Due to this, after a nice breakfast, we put our raincoat and went out for a walk, searching for something to do “indoor”, while waiting for the sun to come out again…..while checking out some flyers found in the guesthouse, our attention was caught by a place…..

VISIT TO NJALS SAGA MUSEUM

After a stop to the department store to take something to eat, we opted out for a short but still pleasant visit to a viking museum, called the Njals Saga Center, situated in the small town of Hvollsvollur….

Along the road to reach the museum we found a puffin bird all alone, and so we decided to adopt it and to give it a name…..Puffy, our sweet puffin bird…..yes, it was alone and so sad, and so we though about bringing it at home with us…..Ok, it wasn’t a real one, but just a peluche taken inside the department store, but…. who cares?? we still love it like it was real!! This bird is one of the main attraction of Iceland, and also a symbol of it.

Once arrived, in the car park of the museum we found a strange sword in a stone representing something unknown to us (not the king Arthur for sure), and after entering inside, the owner of the museum welcomed us. What a great guy, with such cool haircut, and a calm and kind english accent. He really seemed to come from another era! I couldn’t resist to make a portrait of him in my diary! (picture below).

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The museum was interesting and entertaining, talking about the Njals Saga, something unknown to us. A long, complex Icelandic story related some historical event of Iceland….i think it’s something like a Lord Of the Ring of Iceland…..the place was full of artifacts, swords, armors, viking statues, and even some cool gadgets and souvenirs to buy….there were even some nice battles sound effects and many posters full of informations about vikings….Then, on the right of the entrance, we found that there was also a great pub available on-demand for private parties, entirely made with wood, and full of bench covered with horse skins! We really enjoyed the visit, and once back to the guesthouse, we spent some time on Google trying to better understand what the Njals Saga was all about, since it looked so fascinating!

After all, although the weather had been bad for the entire time, we still took advantage of this day to have a long rest and to make something alternative, visiting such a cool place! We then concluded the day with a short dinner, during which we had some cheap but still pleasant asian noodles boxes bought at the department store some hours before. They represent one of the cheapest but still useful food of Iceland, easy to find and very inexpensive….just add some hot water, wait 3 minutes, and that’s it! dinner ready!

ICELAND: HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON FOOD!

DAY 3…..TIME FOR A HORSE RIDING AND A WALK ON THE MOON….

After a rich breakfast, we looked outside and found that the sky was quite good again, and for this reason, full of enthusiasm, we quickly went out to take the jeep and drive toward Hveravellir, a place popular for presenting a scenery similar to that of the moon. However, after a couple of miles, we looked each other, and realized that we were just missing the opportunity to make a horse ride with Kari, the owner of the guesthouse and of the beautiful DSC_6016adjacent horse stable. This was surely an activity that required some good sun to be enjoyed, and something that we couldn’t miss! And after thinking twice about it, we ended up in driving back and asking to Kari if it was possible to make a horse ride on the fly to take advantage of the temporary good weather!

TIPS 7/25:horse riding in Iceland is quite a popular and common activity that can be done even by inexperienced people! Don’t be scared of it! Most of our friends did it as well despite it was their first time!

We opted out for a 1 hour trip inside the valley surrounding the Steinsholt guesthouse. What an amazing landscape and experience! We put the horseDSC_6166 helmet on our heads, and got on top of our assigned horse like two real knights! The horse assigned to me was a white,  funny and fatty sweet boy, while the one assigned to my darling Moyan was even better…..yes because it had a secret weapon!….emh….well, basically it suffered from…some “flatulence” problems……eh eh eh…….

 

What a unique experience….driving along the landscapes of Iceland was amazing, but now, riding on top of a horse was even better….Many different shades of green filled the space around us, and looking at them was enchanting. The path was already marked by previous animals passages, and the horses followed it without any problem like they knew where they were going without requiring any special command from us, since we were quite untrained in this sort of activity. At one point, along the way to the middle of the valley, we even had the chance to cross 2 rivers with them, something that has really been the cherry on top…..

DSC_6204After living this great experience, i clearly realized that Iceland was the land of water, even more than ice. Almost all activities had a strict relationship with water, from visiting a waterfall, to crossing a river with a jeep or a horse, to even enjoy the eruption of a geyser…Waterland would have been a good name too for this country!

Back to the guesthouse farm, we left our good horses, we thanked Kari for her support and we got inside the jeep to drive toward Hveravellir…

ON THE WAY TO HVERAVELLIR

A place we will talk about for a long time…..

What a weird and unique trip! Driving for more than a hour over an unpaved off road surrounded by endless dry lava fields! The road was full of bumps, and after a while our back started to be very tired, although at the same time we were amazed by the situation. Furthermore, like it wasn’t enough, the wind was quite strong, making the jeep hard to control…

F-Road to Hveravellir

The landscape of the F-Road to Hveravellir

From the beginning of the muddy road, we were surrounded by naked hills, and the initial green gradually turned into a dark grey shade, by leaving space to an ocean of rocks and stones. It looked like we just landed on the moon….The unique thing that still kept our imagination down to earth was the view of giant glaciers at the horizon and the small presence of some signs of human settlement like those indicating a refuge for hikers. I also still remember such a strange plant with golden flowers growing in this desert of rocks, with its roots nicely scattered on the ground to be steady under the strong blowing of the wind…..How could a plant ever grow in a desert of rock?

Golden flower in the Iceland desert

Golden flower in the Iceland desert

TIPS 8/25: driving off-road in Iceland can be dangerous. The unpaved roads are called F-roads, and are open only during certain periods of the year for 4×4 vehicles. It is possible to check the official road administration office website Vegagerdin to obtain all the necessary informations!

After many different miles, we finally arrived to Hveravellir….here the scenery, turned from surreal to apocalyptic. A long hike path suggested the way through a long and deep veil of vapour, heating the air and spreading all around like a candid blanket….The ground was full of big ponds of boiling water, and small hot streams producing vapours were everywhere, but one thing in particular really caught our attention…a mini volcano emitting a strong blow of vapour along with an impressive sound like that of a jet engine before taking off at the airport. It was tall like a human and called Oskurhòll. We immediately made a video, since it was worth to record its incredible and unique sound!

Overview of the Hveravellir park in Iceland

Overview of the Hveravellir park in Iceland

After this great visit, we realized that it was time to go back since the night was almost coming and we didn’t want to drive back to the guesthouse on that crazy road without the friendly support of the day light. For this reason, we sadly said goodbye to this incredible place and jumped into the jeep to get back “home”, and although the road was the same, we stopped again and again to take some more pictures, as the scenery changed again and again under the effect of the crazy light games of the sky….

TIPS 9/25: Hveravellir includes a hot water pool! don’t forget the bathing suit!

 

Little volcano in Hveravellir

Little volcano in Hveravellir

TIME FOR SOME ETHIOPIAN GOURMET FOOD…..IN ICELAND!?!?!

After coming back and reaching again the “lands of humans”, on the way to the guesthouse we didn’t lose the chance to stop to a strange and unforgettable restaurant…would you ever imagine an ethiopian restaurant in the middle of Iceland? Well….not joking…..It’s called Minilik, it’s managed by a lovely ethiopian lady who lives

Minilik Ethiopian restaurant in Iceland Fludir town

Minilik Ethiopian restaurant in Iceland Fludir town

in the small town of Fludir together with his Icelandic husband. While enjoying this special dinner and having a conversation with her, we found that she came in Iceland a long time ago to work as a “au pair” girl, although after a period of time she ended up in getting married with this Icelandic man and in opening this restaurant with him…

TIPS 10/25: if you want to do something weird and crazy, have a dinner inside the ethiopian restaurant of Minilik, in Fludir town, it is delicious! Tripadvisor rate clearly confirms this!

What a great encounter…the food was delicious and the special thing was to eat with your hands….yes, the ethiopian restaurants are popular for this fact…you have some special bread, thin like a sorviette, and you use a slice of it to pick up some food from your dish and eat it….

Minilik Ethiopian restaurant in Iceland Fludir town

Minilik Ethiopian restaurant in Iceland Fludir town

We had a main course of meat, full of many different spices which created a combination of strong and pleasant flavour. The weird thing has been that once back to the guesthouse we realized that our clothes were completely impregnated of onion and garlic smell! ah ah ah we’ll never forget this! We have been forced to put everything inside the washing machine right immediately! Thanks god there was one in the Steinsholt guesthouse….Anyway, not a big problem, we really enjoyed the experience and it was really worth to spend the dinner time here!

Thanks Minilik!

DAY 4: TIME FOR SOME SERIOUS HIKING…LANDMANNALAUGAR ON THE WAY

After a peaceful and restorative night, we got up again ready for some new adventures. At first, just before the breakfast, we tried to catch the light of the sunrise, but without luck. The sun was a little bit covered by the clouds, and we just enjoyed some sheeps along the road walking very close to our jeep. They looked beautiful and quite different from those of my italian country. No problem anyway, we came back to the guesthouse and spent some time to recharge our energy with a nice breakfast, and after that we jumped again in our jeep ready to reach our next destination, the great national park of Landmannalaugar, also known as Fjallabak…

The trip on the road has been wonderful as always, and the temptation to stop every few minutes to take a picture tormented us all the time. During the first miles in fact, a long, clean and blue lake accompanied us along the way. It was deep blue like the rest of the water of this country. At one point it was so calm and clean that it clearly reflected the shape of the popular Hekla volcano, which was filling the emptiness of the sky on one side of the road with its tall frozen cone, which was covered in turn by a spiral of clouds…

As we drove along the blue lake, after a while, we suddenly noticed the presence of a distant tall waterfall on our left. Its vision immediately recalled to Moyan that just a few miles on the same side, the year before he visited a special  waterfall called Haifoss. After thinking about it a little bit, we ended up in making a deviation on the small road on the left to reach it….

TIPS 11/25:before visiting Landmannalaugar it is important to carefully check the weather condition. Furthermore, since it presents two roads, one from north and one from south, we found that while on the north road there was just one river to cross (also on foot through a little bridge), on the south road there were multiple rivers to cross with the vehicle, and damage caused by water is often not covered by assurances! be careful!

SHORT STOP TO HAIFOSS

The waterfall of Haifoss is situated inside what it looks like some sort of Icelandic Grand Canyon, which left us without words. It was composed by 2 separated waterfalls, along with with some smaller ones all around, generated by some secondary streams. The sky was clear, and since the sun was quite high in the sky,  we even spotted a beautiful rainbow surrounding the waterfalls from half top to the bottom….wow, great!!

View of Haifoss waterfall with rainbow, in Iceland

View of Haifoss waterfall with rainbow, in Iceland

The path to this place was an unpaved F-road similar to that of Hveravellir, although absolutely shorter and easier.  The landscape was empty and endless, but at one point we found a clear evidence of the human presence, a long line of eletric trellises which let us suspecting that the river of Haifoss was used as a source for a hydroelectric powerplant (in fact after few miles on the way to Landmannaluagar we found a powerplant). And although

Together with Haifoss behind

Together with Haifoss behind

not on our initial plans, in the end we have been really lucky to make this short stop to Haifoss before reaching Landmannalaugar, because it really left us with some beautiful memories thanks to the canyon scenery and the colorful rainbow!

Time to jump back into our jeep, and be ready for some more miles of unpaved roads and pains for our backs…here we go!!

The good news was that the sun was still accompanying us in the sky along with a gentle breeze, despite the usual pessimistic weathercast…..as i said infact at the beginning of this story, it looked like someone made a spell to protect us from the bad weather…wherever we went, the sun still followed us despite all….

A DESERT STORM ON THE WAY TO LANDMANNALAUGAR

As we drove toward Landmannalaugar, the scenery began to change by showing a more sandy look like we were in Morocco, and at one point we even started to notice at the horizon a strange sand storm covering the valley in front of us which lead to the entrance of Landmannalaugar. The sand was dancing and twisting around the mountains in form of spirals and whirlpools, and at one point one of them even slammed over our car with great strength! wow, what a scary experience!! We will never forget it!

Desert storm on the way to Landmannalaugar

Desert storm on the way to Landmannalaugar

After passing the storm, like a magic, on one side of the road a crystal blue lake suddenly made its appearance, with its small and pretty islands in the middle of it, and after flanking its eastern edge with our jeep, we suddenly arrived to a river which clearly marked the entrance of the Landmannalaugar car park. To enter inside, every visitor should have demonstrated his courage by crossing the river with its vehicle! Eh eh eh it sounded exciting and although a little bit scary and dangerous, we did it without any special problem. Wow, such an electryfing experience, with the water reaching almost the bottom of the jeep windows…

MY GUIDE: THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING ICELAND

We needed to drive with a slow but constant speed, to permit the creation of a small wave constantly moving away from our vehicle to keep the water far from the engine slot. It’s a useful technique that must be used while crossing rivers to reduce the risk for the water make some serious damage….Anyway, for those afraid of breaking the vehicle, especially because most of the times for rented cars the insurance doesn’t cover the cost for water damage, there was still the possibility to leave the jeep before the river in the secondary car park, and to proceed on foot by using the pedestrian bridge on the right side…

TIPS 12/25:Landmannalaugar like Hveravellir includes a hot water pool! don’t forget the bathing suit!

Fjallabak national park, Landmannalaugar basecamp

Fjallabak national park, Landmannalaugar basecamp

After the river, we finally parked the jeep into the main basecamp of this colorful valley, surrounded by white flowers, vibrant green grass, blue rivers, hot streams, and some of the most colorful mountains out there, which looked like painted by an artist…We reached the visitor center to ask for some info, and studied which hike trails were available and recommended to spend a half day. After checking the map, we opted out for a popular hike path which was around 5 Km long, perfect for our needs, not so short, and not so long…a nice compromise to enjoy the rest of the day before going back to the guesthouse before sunset…

 

Apart from the trail length, the other important factor to consider was the weather condition, and luckily, at the moment the sun was nicely shining in the sky accompanied by the usual gentle breeze, and it remained with us for the rest of the hike, although the weathercast indicated some bad conditions just few miles from this area…Wow….Checking the weater was very important, and even some signs on the wall of the visitor centre clearly advised about how it was risky to venture into the park with bad conditions….

TIME FOR A WALK INSIDE LANDMANNALAUGAR

We started our hike by walking over a short but exciting uphill path, which led us on top of a good high panoramic point. Infact, after arriving on top of it, the wind started to be a little bit stronger and annoying, although we have been immediately rewarded with a great aerial view. As we proceeded with our walk through the middle of the park, the initial valley and the car park from which we came started to appear smaller and smaller, and our jeep by now looked like a distant dot….In front of us some vibrant black mountains were filling the horizon, with some clear rest of melting ice in the middle, and at one point we started to be surrounded by amazing shining and very sharp blue volcanic rocks….

View of the Landmannalaugar basecamp from the hike path

View of the Landmannalaugar basecamp from the hike path

After a first hour and half of walking and shooting, we reached the middle of the hike, through a short downhill path which led us inside the real heart of the valley initially hidden to our view. What a spectacular place…it was a wide meadow full of pink and white flowers, surrounded by colorful mountains….

TIPS 13/25: the hike paths of Landmannalaugar are often marked with wood poles on the ground, especially the easier ones. It is possible to check the official map to understand if the marks are present or not. Furthermore, when hiking in Iceland, it’s good to always bring a raincoat. Weather often suddenly changes, and a raincoat can protect from both rain and wind. The same is true for water and food. Always useful to recover the energy while far from the basecamp.

We spent a couple of minutes here to enjoy the view and to have a rest, we made a some further shots, and then we moved on. Now the path led us outside this area, and after a while we met another amazing place….While walking, we suddenly spotted a strange vapour coming from one side of the mountain in front of us. We initially didn’t recognize what it really was, if just the result of some lower clouds moving uder the effect of the wind, or some fumaroles, but after moving closer, we found a beautiful and colorful volcanic area, full of red and golden shades of colours on the ground, surrounded by a white vapour clearly coming from the bowels of the earth….From here, the view was high and wide, and it allowed us to spot again the basecamp, which now appeared as small as one of our hands

Fumarole area in the middle of Landmannalaugar hike path

Fumarole area in the middle of Landmannalaugar hike path

 

This place represented the middle of the hike, and the funny part was coming just now. To get back we needed to walk over a very narrow path of huge lava rocks, which was clearly marked with some wood signs on the ground, to avoid hikers to get lost…While walking, we suddenly heard the sound of the water, and by giving a look closer over the edge on our right, we found that a great river was flowing down toward the basecamp area, and after some meters, our hike path started to flank it on one edge. From this point, the river accompanied us until the end of the hike….

ICELAND: 12 MISTAKES TO AVOID BEFORE GOING!

It was now time to conclude our walk, and by the time we arrived to the jeep we were really tired but at the same time satisfied for the experience. The landscape changed multiple times, allowing us to take some of our best pictures, and to spend a great day between a colorful and surprising place….And while the sun was setting, we finally drove back to our guesthouse through some beautiful sceneries which forced us to stop some more times to take new shots….

Back from Landmannalaugar

Back from Landmannalaugar

But this great adventure wasn’t enough for today……infact, after a pleasant dinner, we suddenly received the call of our friend who was spending some days in Iceland in a different place, the Thorsmork area, 1 hour far from our Steinsholt guesthouse. Although above our heads the sky was cloudy, he said on the phone that in his area the sky was quite clear and that some minutes before he almost spotted the northern lights…..oopss……i’m afraid we won’t see our bed for a while!

AND NOW A NORTHERN LIGHTS SHOW TO CONCLUDE THE DAY!

We couldn’t believe on what he said, and after hearing this news, we tried to look outside our room window, just to find out that he was right, and that although the sky was covered, some clouds were effectively showing some strange “greenish” look.

TIPS 14/25: before sunset it’s useful to study the Windyty cloud coverage map and to check some webcams, to find a good place to spot the aurora. Check the article below for more informations on this!

MY FULL GUIDE TO SEE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN ICELAND

This was the clue that aurora was out there, and that we only needed to find a piece of clear sky. So, full of excitement, we didn’t think twice, we jumped again in our jeep, and tried to reach our friend with the very last reserve of energy, in the hope to find a piece of starry sky to spot the northern lights….

Great decision! At one point, while driving, we managed to find it, and we immediately saw a strong green light above our heads, clearly inviting us to stop and have a look…..after some seconds, the aurora clearly appeared….the initial halo became more intense, and one of its edges started to move like a crazy snake! It danced just for a very short moment before the clouds covered again the sky, however, this was enough to make us crying for the emotion and excitement. When you see it moving and dancing, you can’t believe on it….

View from our friend's guesthouse inThorsmork area of the northern lights

View from our friend’s guesthouse inThorsmork area of the northern lights

After this short but intense experience, we didn’t lose time, and we proceeded to drive as fast as possible to the guesthouse of our friend, hoping to find again some stars…..we arrived after a hour of driving, and we noticed that it was true…the sky was slightly clean and we could clearly spot some constellations….Well…the rest of the story is easy to guess….we spent the rest of the night trying to spot the aurora from his house, and although it never danced anymore like the first time, we were still able to watch it and take some good shots….

After this tiring aurora hunt, it was really late, and my friend offered us to spend the night on his guesthouse, since there was an empty room to accommodate both of us

DAY 5: TIME TO MOVE SOUTH OF ICELAND

The morning after we got up early and said bye to our friend, since we needed to come back to our guesthouse to have the breakfast, leave the room within 11 o’clock, and prepare the luggages to move on to our next destination, a guesthouse situated in Klaustur, a town 1 hour east from Vik, a place popular for its black sand beach called Reynisfjara.

After preparing, and giving one last greeting to Kari, her horses, and the Steinsholt guesthouse, we drove for some hours, during which the weather has been bad all the time, and wind very strong, at the point that we even spotted a waterfall on top of a cliff that was not falling anymore down, but up toward the sky, pushed by the strength of the wind….it sounds weird but it was happening for real…..

In the afternoon, we reached the visitor center of Klaustur, where we asked for more informations about the area, and while coming back to the jeep, we noticed on the other side of the road a small but still pleasant waterfall surrounded by what we later discovered to be an man made wood….Yes, every single tree manually planted into the ground. The reason was easy to guess. After driving for so long these days, we realized that the landscape of Iceland was really naked and lacking of trees, and probably, due to this, someone has been so wishful to intervene on this problem as much as it could.

After this curious experience, we arrived in our new guesthouse, made the check-in to get the key room, and have a short rest until dinner time. The room was pleasant, with a nice view outside over some tall cliffs. The atmosphere was calm and relaxing, supported by a great silence, only occasionally broken by the lament of a sheep…

We had the dinner inside the restaurant of the guesthouse, which offered us a pleasant and meat based hot soup, perfect for our needs…a cheap, and restorative meal, after which we just claimed again for a nice and comfortable bed.

DAY 6: TIME FOR SOME SPECIAL ENCOUNTERS

The bell of the clock rang very early, and being the sixth day, this wasn’t anything special, since we were by now more than accustomed to the idea of getting up early and go out as soon as possible to enjoy some new adventures. We jumped into the jeep after an abundant breakfast and we drove toward Solheimajokull, a great glacier tongue situated just some miles west of Vik.

While approaching the area, we already started to spot it from the road, and to notice that it was originating from the heart of the glacier ice cap covering the head of the Katla volcano, the Mirdalsjokull glacier.

After turning right into the F-road toward Solheimajokull, we reached the car park situated just half a mile from it, where we left the jeep to proceed on foot. After walking for a while and reaching the area, we found some clear signs suggesting to hikers to stop and not proceeding further, since it could have been really dangerous, because the summer season was melting the remaining ice, by causing some occasional landslides….

TIPS 15/25:from November through the beginning of March many companies offer the chance to join special tours to make a visit to the ice caves of the glacier tongues like Solheimajokull or Skaftafell for example. They are wonderful, check them out! More info in my article below!

ICE CAVES IN ICELAND: MY POCKET GUIDE

We walked over a dark lava terrain composed by the usual black pebbles and rocks, and compared to it, the ice seemed to shine even more, with its different shades of colours, ranging from light blue to white…

It was quite cold although it was just September, and the wind started to be even stronger when we reached the middle of the glacier tongue valley. Due to this, for the entire walk we protected ourselves with a sweater, a nice raincoat, a scarf, and a pair of gloves….quite weird for a summer time!!

ON THE WAY TO SKOGAFOSS AND THE SCARY DC3 AIRPLANE WRECK!

After some nice shots, it was time to come back to our jeep and reach our next destination for lunch, the waterfall of Skogafoss, just in time to spot the rainbow, thanks to the sun that it was at the right altitude in the sky…

Skogafoss waterfall with a rainbow in the morning

Skogafoss waterfall with a rainbow in the morning

From the glacier tongue to the waterfall we did everything in a rush, as soon as we realized that a layer of clouds was almost covering the sun, something that would have caused the rainbow to disappear from the waterfall for the rest of the day…

After arriving, we immediately put our poncho to protect from water, took the camera and ran very fast toward the waterfall….Luckily, just few minutes later, the rainbow made its appearance in front of the

Us in front of Skogafoss

Us in front of Skogafoss

waterfall for some minutes, enough to take some unforgettable shots of this wonderful and majestic waterfall, as giant as a huge wall,

 

before disappearing again for the last time under the effect of the clouds in front of the sun. What a great experience! We were able to come really close to the waterfall, and at one point, keeping the eyes open was almost impossible for how much vapour was covering us thanks to the great power of the water!

TIPS 16/25: Skogafoss should be visited in the morning when the sun is in the perfect position to form a rainbow just in front of the waterfall

After the visit to this amazing place, on the way back to the guesthouse, we now turned right into a desert road, which led us to the black sand beach of the DC 3 airplane wreck, one of the most psychedelic place of Iceland…

DSC_7195The atmosphere was dark and suspicious, a veil of fog was surrounding us, and in the middle of nothing, the crashed DC3 was silently lying on the ground like a dead body. In reality, it didn’t crash, but rather, it made an emergency landing, after which no one came here again to remove it…..well….good choice….this aircraft is such an interesting attraction!

The wind was blowing, and by walking inside the fuselage of the aircraft we could clearly hear its whisper. The floor of the interior was black, entirely covered by the sand, and we could occasionally hear the crackling sound of the destroyed fuselage as we made some steps back and forth. In the background, we could even hear an even more scaring and powerful sound, DSC_7215that of the ocean, half a mile in front of us, with its huge waves crashing on the beach, like it was an advice to stop and not moving closer….

After this last visit, in the late afternoon we finally came back to the guesthouse for a short dinner composed by a couple of hot noodles boxes in the main hall, with the company of an European guy reading an Iceland guide and a couple of Asian women enjoying our same meal…..and while for us it was strange to eat such food, we easily realized that for those ladies, probably, it was something more usual…

 

THE UNFORGETTABLE BAD NIGHT, AND THE BEAUTIFUL SUNRISE OVER THE VIK BEACH!

After finishing, rather than going to bed and conclude the day, we have been so crazy to get back into the jeep and begin a new aurora hunt. We reached again the DC 3 wreck, hoping to see the northern lights from there….we took this decision after studying the weathercast, which reported a chance of some clear sky on the south coast…..

Bad choice….the weathercast failed to provide reliable informations, and due to this, we ended up in spending the entire night inside the jeep right after the DC3 wreck, with the sky covered by the clouds and the wind shaking our jeep all the time, by letting us having a hard time in trying to sleep a little bit….not talking about the cold air inside the jeep which forced us to continuously turn on and off the engine to use the heating system…what a bad unforgettable night…

Remembering the visit to the DC3 Wreck on the beach

And just in case someone is asking why the hell we spent the entire night in this way rather than coming back immediately to the guesthouse after realizing that the sky was cloudy, well, there’s a good explanation. We still hoped to enjoy a good sunrise on the Vik beach of Reynisfjara, since the weathercast appeared to be good at least for the morning after!

TIPS 17/25: the DC3 is an incredible attraction. Anyway, recently some landowners have closed the road to public. Check this out on internet for latest news before going! Link below:

NEWS ABOUT DC3 ROAD CLOSED TO PUBLIC

Well, finally, the sunrise time came, and it was a good one, with the sky beginning to show some shades of sun light colors after a night of clouds and wind. Thanks to this, after waking up, we got a great opportunity to make some good shots to the black sand beach of Vik..

The atmosphere here was beauty, the beach was made by thousands of dark pebbles, and on the eastern edge of the seashore a huge cave dominated the scenery, with its very popular wall of cubical basalt rocks…the sea in turn was clearly angry under the effect of the wind of the previous night, with its impressive tall and powerful waves…

Beach of Reynisfjara near the town of Vik in Iceland

Beach of Reynisfjara near the town of Vik in Iceland

While walking toward the cave, in the middle of the water we could admire three magnificient sea stacks surrounded by the veil of vapour generated by the waves, like they were the three fingers of a giant hand coming out from the abyss of the sea, and on top of our heads, some white seagulls were dancing and filling the air with their call…

We really enjoyed this place, and while driving back to the guesthouse for the breakfast, we spent some minutes in visiting the little waterfall of Klaustur that we found the first day (the one surrounded by the man made wood). Although very small and still unknown for many hikers, it was lovely, and to get on top of it, differently from the rest of Iceland waterfalls which usually present a naked scenery, we walked over a uphill path between the trees. A very uncommon but still romantic experience to do in Iceland.

Iceland, sunrise in Reynisfjara black sand beach of Vik

Iceland, sunrise in Reynisfjara black sand beach of Vik

And finally, back to the guesthouse, we had a little rest and the chance to enjoy the breakfast to recover some energy, after which we decided to wait for lunch time to move on again.

DAY 7: ICEBERGS AND GLACIERS ON THE WAY, JOKULSARLON HERE WE COME!

Well, lunch time arrived, and we woke up again ready for new adventures. Today, it was the time for some glaciers and icebergs!

From Klaustur, we drove eastward for many miles, along the usual ring road, after which we started to spot at the horizon the two popular ice tongues called Skaftafell and Svinafellsjokull. Once there, we decided to visit the latter to begin. We came as close as possible until we reached the car park, and from here, we followed the short path on foot which led us in front of a great panoramic spot to nicely enjoy the view over the lagoon and the icebergs…

View of Svinafellsjokull glacier

View of Svinafellsjokull glacier

Water was calm, with just some ripples moving back and forth under the effect of the gentle breeze. The rocks of the valley surrounding the glacier tongue were black as always. The ice on the ground was an ethereal mix of colors, from blue to black and white, gently reflecting the shades of the landscape…

Svinafellsjokull has become popular among tourists for being the set of some cinema movies, like Batman Begins (the scene of the frozen lake fight), and Interstellar (the scene of the abandoned shuttle with Matt Damon)…well, from now on when we will see again these movies, we will recognize the place!

THE HIDDEN WATERFALLS OF HUNDAFOSS AND SVARTIFOSS….TIME FOR A NEW RAINBOW!

After this first visit, we then proceeded to visit Skaftafell, the most visited one of the two, equipped with a great visitor centre and all the necessary infrastructures to accomodate hikers and tourists. Once arrived in the car park, we entered inside the small restaurant to enjoy a meal, and while eating, from the window next to our table we clearly saw the glacier tongue, being far from the restaurant just some minutes on foot.

View of Svartifoss waterfall with a rainbow in Iceland

View of Svartifoss waterfall with a rainbow in Iceland

However, after realizing that more or less it was quite similar to Svinafellsjokull, we opted out for a different hike toward Svartifoss, a marvelous waterfall situated just on the back of Skaftafell valley, which hike path still began from the restaurant, like the one to Skaftafell itself…After the meal we began our walk toward Svartifoss by following the marked hike path, and after reaching half way, on our left we noticed the presence of a second waterfall, which name appeared to be Hundafoss, based on the sign on the ground. It was surely small, but characterized by a

Hundafoss waterfall along the trek to Svartifoss, in Skaftafell

Hundafoss waterfall along the trek to Svartifoss, in Skaftafell

spectacular view, since we were on top of it, not at the bottom, and by carefully slithering toward the edge, it was possible to have a very close look to the water “jump”. Very scary, as you could clearly see how the water was falling down into the emptiness…

 

TIPS 18/25: Svartifoss should be visited during a late morning with a clear sky, when the sun is high enough to create a rainbow in front of it!

After this short stop we proceeded along the hike path to reach Svartifoss, by walking downhill and then uphill, until we finally found it…Difficult to describe, the wow effect has been high. The waterfall was surrounded by a wall of cubical basalt rocks similar to those of the Reynisjfara beach cave, shining and reflecting the light of the sun. The waterfall was powerful enough to produce some vapour, which in turn, thanks to the presence of the sun light, created a beautiful rainbow, by letting us feeling really lucky….

Svartifoss waterfall inside Skaftafell national park in Iceland

Svartifoss waterfall inside Skaftafell national park in Iceland

One strange detail we noticed was the upside down disposition of the basalt cubical rocks respect to that of the ice cave on the beach of Vik, Reynisfjara. In fact, while on the latter the cubes formed a ladder, here in Svartifoss they looked more like an inverted ladder……wondering why….

 

It was really worth to come here. We came back to the visitor centre for a short break, and after that, since the weather was still very nice, we decided to keep moving and try to reach the Jokulsarlon lagoon, in the hope of catching the light of a beautiful sunset

After some miles, we made a first short stop to Fjallsarlon, which was considered the little sister of Jokulsarlon lagoon. Bad choice….although this place is often recommended as a possible alternative destination, we must say that both the lagoon and the landscape were too much empty and lacking of icebergs. For this reason, we didn’t lose more time than this and we drove toward Jokulsarlon.

ON THE WAY TO JOKULSARLON AND THE ICEBERGS BEACH!

Just before arriving to the car park, we crossed a San Francisco style bridge with our jeep under which it was flowing the short river connecting the lagoon to the ocean..The lagoon in turn, has been a big surprise, since we arrived perfectly in time for the sunset. The icebergs floating inside were full of different colors…some black, some white like they were made of marble, and some other even of an intense light blue…

MY GUIDE TO VISIT JOKULSARLON

Sunset view over Joklulsarlon

Sunset view over Joklulsarlon

The sunset atmosphere was ethereal and supported by a pleasant smooth fog in the air….i was enjoying the panorama on the edge of the lagoon beach, when i suddenly spotted a little black head peeking out from the water…it was a seal! It just looked on the left, then on the right like it was searching for something, and then it disappear again….cool!!

Tips 19/25: If you are lucky, sometimes you can even spot some seals peeking out from the water and swimming between the icebergs!

While the sun was still setting, we decided to walk away from the lagoon for a while to make a visit to Breiðamerkursandur, the diamond beach on the other side of the road, popular for presenting a long line of huge icebergs lying on the beach as they were a herd of whales driven ashore…They usually finish here because they are initially carried into the sea by the river, and then pushed back by the sea waves….

Breiðamerkursandur, the iceberg diamond beach next to Jokulsarlon in Iceland

Breiðamerkursandur, the iceberg diamond beach next to Jokulsarlon in Iceland

The sand was inevitably black, creating the usual great contrast with the icebergs, which were shining more than ever under the effect of the sun setting at the horizon. We enjoyed a nice walk on the seashore, and got some unforgettable shots, and while trying to make some “long exposure” experiments with the reflex camera by playing with the waves splashing on the seashore, Moyan walked too much closer to the sea, and a wave ran over it by filling his boots of water! I must say that he got a very nice shot, but my poor honey didn’t move away in time to escape from the wave!

In the end he was happy, because he managed to get the perfect shot. However, we spent half a hour inside the jeep, trying to dry his boots with the heating system! And regarding me, yes, I also let a very little wave to splash on my boots, but just enough to be able to say, without getting too much wet, “hey, i put my feet into the ocean!”

Breiðamerkursandur, the diamond Iceberg beach near Jokusarlon iceberg lake

Breiðamerkursandur, the diamond Iceberg beach near Jokusarlon iceberg lake

TIPS 20/25: don’t stop in visiting the lagoon itself. On the other side of the road, infact, there’s a beautiful beach full of icebergs!

Back to the lagoon to spend the very last part of the sunset, we gave a look one more time to the landscape, by sitting on top of the hill situated next to the beach on the east side, to get a more aerial view of the area, until the night came, forcing us to leave this beautiful place. And before getting on top of the hill, i even spotted again for one last time a seal peeking out from the surface, this time better than before, because rather than showing itself for just an instant, it seemed to enjoy a bath and make some funny back turns, by allowing me to see its cute and dark body in its entirety…

While walking in the dark along the beach of the lagoon to reach the jeep, I heard some icebergs producing a deep sound while cracking and sinking into the water…..probably, that was their goodbye for us…..

Us enjoying the last minutes of the sunset in front of Jokulsarlon

Us enjoying the last minutes of the sunset in front of Jokulsarlon

And yes, if someone is wondering, we really wanted to stay here for the night to spot the northern lights, but the sky wasn’t that good, and we were also terribly tired.

For this reason, we easily surrender to this idea, and we started to head back to the guesthouse. It was my turn to drive, but after a while, i immediately became tired, and Moyan decided to take over for me and to drive a little bit…..

HOW TO NOT USE A GPS TO COME BACK HOME!!

Once arrived in the gueshouse, i realized that it was terribly late, more than expected, and i initially didn’t understand why. However, after a while Moyan confessed me that he probably made a mistake in setting the GPS. Basically, while i was sleeping in the jeep, before continuing to drive, he decided to have a short rest as well, believing that the road to the guesthouse was still too long and that it would have been too dangerous to drive while being sleepy. Infact, he told me that the GPS was reporting still more than 25 miles to the destination, but for some unknown reasons, this was wrong.

In reality, we were very close to the guesthouse, probably just less than 5 miles, but since the GPS was reporting such long distance, Moyan decided to sleep in the jeep for more than a hour…..ah ah bad choice!! when he woke up and started to drive again, after 10 minutes we arrived immediately!!

Wow, what a crap! we slept in the jeep for almost 2 hours just outside of our guesthouse!!

We have never understood why this happened. Probably, the name of the guesthouse coincided with that of a place a little bit more distant, and so, while setting up the destination on the GPS, probably the name as been interpreted in the wrong manner!

DAY 8: AURORA…WHERE ARE YOU?

A new day arrived, along with a new hope to see the aurora borealis shining in the sky for one last good time.

We had the usual nice breakfast, we got back in the bed for a while, and then we drove toward Vik, since we wanted to visit a couple of waterfalls in that area. Whatever extra thing we would have seen apart from this, it would have been an extra..

After a short stop for a sandwhich inside the fastfood of Klaustur, we drove westwards for many miles on the ring road, along huge and dry lava fields covered by a light green, soft, and velvety moss where we didn’t miss the chance to take some more nice shots…

ICELAND: 10 POPULAR MYTHS DEBUNKED!

After that, on the right we even found a landscape full of strange little rock stacks, very curious to see, and clearly made by men. By walking closer, we found a sign telling the story of this place. Basically, more or less, it was explaining that some times ago, many people laid down on the ground these rock stacks in memory of an old farm that got destroyed by an eruption of the Hekla volcano. Well, we took the sign by the word, and we contributed in putting a rock with our hands on one of those little rock stacks..

The strange volcano eruption memorial along the ring road

The strange volcano eruption memorial along the ring road

TIPS 21/25: Klaustur is a nice place to refill the bag with some food in the south coast. It has a supermarket in the main street inside, and a fuel station with a fastfood on the main roundabout

VISIT TO DYROLHAEY, GLUFRAFOSS AND SELJALANDSFOSS

Once arrived in Vik, we made a short visit again to the black sand beach with the huge basalt cave to enjoy the afternoon light, that now was full of people respect to the previous morning, and after that we proceed toward the promontory of Dyrolhaey,

View from top of Dyrholaey promontory

View from top of Dyrholaey promontory

popular for presenting a great arch of rock in the water, a lighthouse, and a beautiful aerial view of the entire south coast of Iceland, that we enjoyed with a nice sunset light.

 

After this short and pleasant visit, we then continued to drive westward to visit two of the most beautiful waterafalls of Iceland. The first one, smaller, was called Glufrafoss, and it can be considered the little sister of the more popular one known as Seljalandsfoss.

Glufrafoss is special for being situated inside a small canyon. When you first cross the entrance, you really feel like you were in a Tomb raider videogame. The water, after falling down from the top of the canyon, continues to flow outside between your legs, reason

Us on top of Dyrholaey promontory

Us on top of Dyrholaey promontory

why, by entering inside, you are forced to getting wet a little bit, although it’s really worth to visit it!

 

The other one instead, Seljalandsfoss, absolutely more popular and less hidden to the eyes of tourists, is special for presenting a cave just behind it, where people can walk and stay for a while to enjoy the view from the back. We did it at sunset with the water getting orange and shining under the effect of the light.

To get behind, we followed one of the two paths situated on the sides of the waterfall, and although not that hard, it has been really useful to put a raincoat to protect from the vapour, and to be careful while walking, since the ground was very slippery, and sometimes even muddy.

Iceland, Gljufrafoss waterfall seen from the little cave on the right of it

Iceland, Gljufrafoss waterfall seen from the little cave on the right of it

What a great experience. But the day had not finished yet. The sky was nice, and we were still hoping to see the aurora borealis for one last time. For this reason, we prepared for the northern lights hunt, by firstly recover some energy with a short dinner. For this reason, from Seljalandsfoss, we drove again westward to reach the small town of Hvollsvollur for a nice hotdog inside the fastfood of the main fuel station, that really surprised us for being full of bacon inside, something uncommon in our italian country where they usually serve it with just the wurstel and some sauce.

TIPS 22/25: while visiting the popular Seljalandsfoss, don’t forget to walk a little bit further and to visit Glufrafoss, a wonderful waterfall hidden inside a canyon!

Seljalandsfoss waterfall seen from the back

Seljalandsfoss waterfall seen from the back

While terminating the dinner, the sky was quickly getting dark, and for this reason, we began to drive eastward this time, trying to find a nice spot to stay in the dark, far from lights. After a quick check above our heads, we found that the sky was clear, although at the horizon, from east, a quite big wall of clouds was clearly proceeding toward our direction.

A SPECIAL AURORA BOREALIS SHOW……A KP 7 SOLAR STORM…..

At the beginning, we were quite confident that those clouds would have taken a while before arriving, but we were wrong. Damn, in less than a hour, the sky was covered again. We couldn’t believe on it!!

Initially, we almost saw the aurora, but not with such great intensity because when it happened, the very last glare of the sunset was still enlightening the sky. However, as soon as it really became dark, the clouds at this point were completely on top of our heads……damn! we couldn’t stand this anymore! every night it was a fight with these clouds!

Us under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

Us under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

We were almost surrendering to our bad fate, when Moyan started to notice that the clouds were quickly moving westward. For this reason, he though that it could have been a good idea to drive in the opposite direction, which also coincided with the direction we should have driven toward to get back to the guesthouse, eastward! In this way, maybe, we could have been able to surpass this wall of clouds and find a piece of clear sky…….well…..we didn’t have anything to lose, and so we tried to do it without hesitating….

We drove and drove and drove but still no luck. We could clearly see some clouds getting green, meaning that the aurora was hiding behind, but the fate betrayed us just when we really needed its support……

No matter, we continued to drive and to not lose our hopes….We reached Vik and still, no luck, and after that it was time to drive through the very last part of our trip toward Klaustur, our final destination where our guesthouse was situated…

We though, ok, last chance….this is the last piece of road and last chance to see the northern lights…..Let’s go for it!

Well, suddenly, while driving in the dark between Vik and Klaustur, something finally happened. The layer of clouds disappeared and we finally started to see many stars in the sky. The aurora wasn’t visible, but since we saw many clouds getting green some minutes before, we stopped our jeep and tried to wait…..

The aurora, didn’t need more time than this to make its first amazing appearance. At the beginning, it was still static, and it wasn’t dancing as we hoped, but it formed a beautiful, huge and long bow of light, cutting in two pieces the sky above us, from one side of the horizon to the other one.

Us under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

Us under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

TIPS 23/25: although the sky is cloudy in the night, don’t lose hopes…things can suddenly change like it happened to us! just keep an eye on the real time weathercast and of course, on the sky above your head!

We took a beautiful picture of it, and started to be happy again, although the real surprise should have come yet…..Infact, the aurora borealis show was just at the beginning……

Us under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

Us under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

Infact, after making a cheers together to celebrate this moment, we jumped again in the jeep to go to sleep, but after some seconds, from one side of the jeep window, it suddenly appeared again in the sky, but this time in a crazy way….It looked like it got into life, by creating the typical and popular dancing curtain effect that everyone hopes to see…..in less than one minute, the sky was completely filled up with long and crazy emerald trails dancing

everywhere and taking our breath away, green in colors but with even occasional red shades beneath….Under this spectacular vision, Moyan even made a step back for the fear, and although he already

Us under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

Us under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

 

was at its 4th trip to see the northern lights, this was the first time he saw something so powerful…..

NORTHERN LIGHTS: 12 POPULAR MYTHS DEBUNKED!

This is an experience that cannot be easily described, and that will accompany us for the rest of our life……….after getting back to the guesthouse, we finally found what was going on in the sky…..there was a solar storm in progress, something which generated such rare phenomenon, not often visible with such intensity. The KP Index scale, infact, used to evaluate the strength of the sun irradiation which causes the aurora apperance, reached a value of 7 over 10, something unusual, as the value usually ranges between 2 and 4….

Well…..the fate was just playing a joke on us, and only now we were realizing how benevolent it had been with us!

TIPS 24/25: sometimes aurora can be static and some other times it dances. It ‘s not always the same thing. Don’t lose hopes and cross the fingers! At one point, it can suddenly happen!

 

DAY 9: ONE LAST GOODBYE

The day nine, the last one, finally came. We started to be sad, but at the same time really satisfied for what we saw the night before, and in general during our entire trip in Iceland.

And with great strain, we started to prepare our luggages to leave our dear guesthouse, to drive toward our final destination, the capital Reykjavik, for a short romantic visit before the flight to home.

Along the road, we wanted to make a visit to the typical grass roof houses east of Klaustur, but we totally forgot it, and I’m still glad that at least we saw it from the road while driving to Jokulsarlon the day before. I learnt of them by noticing many pictures inside some travel magazines, and due to this, and i was getting curious to make a visit….nevermind……maybe next time…

We drove westward toward Skogafoss, where we decided to stop again for a short lunch and to try again to spot another rainbow, although a quite irritating cloud decide to stop just in front of the sun just in time for our arrival!

No problem anyway, we rather opted-out for a visit inside the great fastfood next to the Skogafoss car park, to try a nice burger sandwhich called “Hekla”, like the volcano situated close to the Steinsholt guesthouse that we saw some days before along the road to Landmannalaugar…..Well i can only say, one of the most delicious burger sandwhich i have ever eaten, served with some spicy fried chips and some salad…McDonald was nothing in comparison…

After this short lunch, we drove to Reykjavik without stopping anymore again to avoid to lose further time, and after some hours we finally arrived and leave the jeep in the car park next to the main cathedral called Hallgrimur. This city was quite pretty, a typical northern architecture full of houses with a colorful and tall roof. We made a first visit to the very popular viking ship monument that i already saw in many pictures on internet while i was at home in Italy. When we arrived, we even took a picture together with our lovely travel-mate Puffy, our puffin peluche bought some days before in a supermarket near Selfoss.

In Reykjavik with our peluche Puffy

In Reykjavik with our peluche Puffy

TIPS 25/25: the bell tower of the Reykjavik cathedral Hallgrimur is open to public! there’s a beautiful aerial view from here!

TIME FOR SOME CITYSCAPE! REYKJAVIK ON THE WAY!

After that we reached the city centre, where I bought the last souvenirs in the main street of Reykjavik, called Laugavegur, like the popular and longest hike path of Landmannalaugar, and after that we visited the main cathedral called Hallgrimur, where our jeep was parked, by firstly getting on top of its bell tower to enjoy a beautiful sunset view of the entire city along with its harbour.

Remembering Reykjavik Hallgrimur cathedral

Remembering Reykjavik Hallgrimur cathedral

From this altitude, the pleasant architectural style was even more evident….a beautiful blanket of colorful and geometric roofs, everyone different, forming an endless rainbow.

Reykjavik Hallgrimur cathedral

Reykjavik Hallgrimur cathedral

The cathedral inside was gothic and quite naked, and not probably that much interesting. However, outside it was fascinating, because it was clearly built to recall the shape of the cubical basalt rocks forming the cave of Reynisjfara beach, and the same ones we also found in Svartifoss.

After this pleasant visit, we took again the jeep, and we reached the north west peninsula of Reykjavik called Seltjarnarnes, where we found a lovely lighthouse lying on a small island called Grotta Island, reachable only by walking along a little tongue of soil during the low tide period.

Regarding this place, after getting back home in Italy the day after, we even found that some days before the italian singer Marco Mengoni shot a piece of his

View from top of the Reykjavik Hallgrimur cathedral

View from top of the Reykjavik Hallgrimur cathedral

music film for his new song “Ti ho voluto bene veramente” in Iceland right here!!  wow, what a coincidence!

Apart from this, here we took some last shots of what it would have been our last sunset in Iceland, smoking a last nostalgic cigarette, and when the night came, we made a short stop at Domino pizza shop to eat an italian pizza with pachino, pesto and mozzarella, and also an hawaian one, with cooked ham and pineapple. Not bad, although not really italian…we perfectly knew it since we often eat pizza in Italy!

This short “italian” stop, has been the right way to recognize that it was time to come back inside our reality…our country….Italy……

TIL THE END….

We finally drove again toward our starting point, the Keflavik airport, and we stayed for a while on a bench inside the main hall to have a short rest before the flight, while thinking again to how incredible and unique this experience had been for us….

ICELAND: 20 REASONS TO LOVE IT OR HATE IT!

Us in Seltjarnarnes with Grotta Island in the background

Us in Seltjarnarnes with Grotta Island in the background

The timetable was now showing our flight and the gate number…..It was time to go…..

Thank you Iceland….thank you for something we will never forget…..thank you for something we will talk about forever…..

Thanks for reading!

Moyan and Martina

Copyright © Moyan Brenn and Earthincolors.com

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Small excerpts or the pictures contained in the article may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Moyan Brenn and Earthincolors.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Discussion

12 thoughts on “Back from Iceland: Our travel story + 25 useful tips

  1. Whow this is nice site ,you have made a good jobb. Best regards Kari

    Posted by Kari | April 8, 2016, 5:42 pm
  2. A wonderful travelogue. Thank you for sharing. We made our first trip to Iceland in February and this makes me want to go back even more!

    Posted by Jean Elliott Brandenburg | April 8, 2016, 11:45 pm
  3. Thanks. Such a great site. My hubby and I are thinking of visiting Iceland in September 2016 either from 14 to 20 September 2016 or 17 to 23 September 2016. May I know is there still chance to sight the Northern light?

    Thanks.

    Winnie

    Posted by Winnie Ong | May 22, 2016, 4:54 pm
  4. Great read and usefull tips for our own itenary. Would you recommend spending more time in Hveravellir (staying overnight?)

    Posted by Thomas | July 17, 2016, 5:24 pm
    • Hi Thomas! i don’t thini it’s strictly necessary…after all is just a half a hour walk over the predefined path of the fumaroles area, and if you wish you can enjoy a hot bath in the base camp….nothing which requires to spend more than one day for my taste….

      Posted by Moyan Brenn | July 19, 2016, 10:25 am
  5. I noticed that you didn’t have any pictures in Iceland during the height of the winter, do you know if it’s normally cloudy during the winter in Iceland? We are trying to decide if we should do The Aurora viewing in Iceland, Finland, or Norway, so if Iceland is too cloudy we will not be going there, any input would be great, thank you.

    Posted by Danielle Bradley | October 26, 2016, 8:51 pm
    • Hi Danielle! it’s quite simple, just go to https://weatherspark.com and compare the various year statistics for your favourite month for the various location in the world and you will find out how much cloudy a place is

      Posted by Moyan Brenn | October 27, 2016, 1:27 pm
    • forgot to say….regarding iceland, the amount of cloudy sky is the same throughout the year, although in winter it’s colder and the wind is a little bit stronger

      Posted by Moyan Brenn | October 27, 2016, 1:27 pm
      • Thank you for getting back to me with the info, everything helps! I used Weatherspark for my trip to Fairbanks, AK, found it to be OK. Your input, along with weatherspark, plus other information I’ve seen has convinced me to book Iceland over the other places for Aurora photographing. Thanks again for the input.

        Posted by Danielle Bradley | October 27, 2016, 6:28 pm

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