Spring was in the
air and the days grew warmer and I was growing restless. The world is such a
large and awesomely phenomenal sphere and there were still many places we hadn't toured, so
I promptly went into planning our next adventure. Discussing
every possible option, we definitely wanted to tour and explore somewhere that
most have never visited. After much debate we concluded that our next tour would
take us to a land we knew little about...Iceland. Just saying the name was
Heading to Iceland
Making the arrangements we boarded a Delta flight in Los Angeles through to New
York and then onto Iceland Air to begin the journey of a lifetime. The flight
was only 5 hours from NY and at 6 AM on May the 17th, 2006, we landed in the
country's international airport, Keflavik. Clearing customs we grabbed our bags
and walked out into some of the coldest, but freshest air we had felt since
touring the Arctic Circle on the Lofoten Islands in Norway in 2003. We had made
arrangements to have a SUV waiting at the airport through
Budget Rental Car and
after signing some papers we were off on what was to be an exciting and
fulfilling tour...a tour we both looked forward to.
The 40 minute drive to the heart of the capital city
Reykjavik was less than scenic and the land was pretty much bare. We passed little in the way of
development and saw only a couple of cars...the air of isolation was
overwhelming. Finally the city gathered around us and we made our way to the
very heart of the old town. By this time it was after 8 in the morning, but
no-one were stirring and not a single coffee shop or cafe was opened...was it a
holiday? The sky was a bright blue and there was a slight, but cool wind as we
strolled up and down the narrow lanes eyeing everything and getting our land
A little after 9 AM we spied some people
walking into a small cafe and joined them in the early morning ritual…a ritual
celebrated around the world...savoring the day's first cup of coffee. Listening
to the people chat we quickly accepted that their words had absolutely no
meaning to us and were unlike any dialect we had ever heard. Their native
Icelandic tongue is as close a form as one can get to the original tongue of the
Vikings, as it has been nearly unmodified in the last millennia unlike its other
Scandinavian counterparts. Their currency is the Krona
and at present is valued at approximately 70 to a US Dollar.
Iceland is a trip of a lifetime and must be experienced at least once and
more if possible. This, the country founded and settled by the likes of Vikings
who seemed addicted to freezing weather and unbelievable hardships, a reflection
of their strength, maybe, but personally, I would have sailed south...brrr.
After much reflection of where we were and what lay ahead, we
drove around and found the city's tourism office. A brief meeting with Dora
Magnusdottir (the director) and gathering some much required info,
brochures and maps we walked next door and checked into the best hotel in the
city center...The Hotel Plaza (Book
This Hotel on Travelers Digest). Our room was quite comfortable and had a
internet connection, a dire necessity in our business. But first things
first...it was time for a nap. Falling into a much needed deep-sleep I didn't
move a muscle from 11 Am until 6 PM. The thick comforter made sure guests stayed
warm and the sleep felt entirely refreshing.
Iceland with only 300,000 people is a sparsely populated island in the North
Atlantic, characterized by its volcanic landscape and ongoing activity. Parts of
the island look like the surface of the moon, with its massive craters and
molten lava flows. In fact the NASA trained the astronauts, John
Glenn and company, for their late 1960’s moon landing, close to Myvatn Lake in
the north. The massive and very rough surface of the lava beds were instrumental
in the designing of the space buggies used on the moon. And to top it all
off…this area is not only home to one Santa Claus, but it's home to 13! As
according to local legend there are 13 different Santas who each visit
Icelandic children for the 13 days prior to Christmas.
Glaciers cover 11.5% of Iceland, and the largest of these is Vatna
in the South East, which is one kilometer thick in places. Elsewhere, you can find geysers, boiling
mud pools and over 800 hot springs, which provide heated water, as well as cheap
and efficient electricity for the island. The extremely hot water also heats the
many natural bathing pools. Iceland is also still volcanically active, with eruptions
as recent as the 1980s.
A lot of Iceland’s beautiful scenery can be explored on
foot, but for the ultimate view take a plane tour of the lakes and mountains. As
that there was still a lot of snow many of the off road trails were close and in
order to visit and film the mighty Dettifoss Waterfall (View Our Photo Page for
Dettifoss Waterfall) we chartered a small
plane from Myflug Air (View Our Photo Page for Myflug Air). The trip and the view were amazing. You can also try
whale watching with North Sailing (View Our Photo Page for North Sailing) from the beautiful northern port town of Husavik. We spent 6
hours in the freezing, but awe inspiring N. Atlantic Sea and got some excellent
photos of several Sperm Whales, a large Humpback and a few smaller, but very
playful, Minki whales. With the gigantic foreboding snow capped mountains and the
wind swept sea as a background...nothing comes close to the extraordinary vision
or the unforgettable experience. In regard to exploring the endless volcanic
terrain the best way is most definitely by 4WD, with a guide, if possible.
Iceland’s weather can fluctuate dramatically during one day, from blistering
sun, to cloud covered skies, to freezing cold. Definitely a fact, as we drove through blowing snow
storms and bright sunny skies all in a matter of hours. In general the
temperatures in summer are warm, reaching highs of the 70's.
The one thing that excited me and kept me a wake most nights was that, from May
till Sept. the sun never sets and it's almost as bright at midnight as it is at
noon. It does take a
while to adjust, but I loved being able to walk around as well as drive through
the countryside late in the
night, and never have to worry about the sun setting. Although nothing good ever
lasts forever, and in the winter here the sun rarely rises very high over the
horizon and the perpetual dark night lasts for
several months. However it is an excellent time to visit if you want to see the
We chose the late spring so as to see the contrasting and quite
odd scenario of deep snow and black volcanic landscape of the country. Every
minute and every day of our three-week extensive tour, covering the entirety of the
country…was spent in total awe. I truly had believed I had seen it all, but no
place compared to this amazing land with it’s most dear and warm people…not to
mention the beauty of it’s women.
After spending a week in
the capital we were off to transverse the east side of the island and work our
way north to eventually circumvent the entire country. We didn't want to miss
a thing! Even after studying the numerous brochures and gazing at countless
photos…we were not prepared at what lay ahead. Our 14 days on the road took us
over 1800 kilometers across vast valleys, along the rim of
breathtaking ocean cliffs, massive ice fields and huge fjords cut from the
retreating glaciers of the last ice age 10,000 years prior.
Iceland's road system is made up mainly of coastal roads, some paved, some
not. The ring-road 1 is the most commonly used highway when traveling the
island, if one could call it a highway. As it breaks into unpaved sections
quite often. However to me this just added to the mystique of it all!
A few very isolated farms
dotted the landscape miles and miles apart and far from even a vague form of
civilization. Personally, I loved it, as I have never been fond of cities, cars
and crowds. Iceland represents the best of nature...wild, beautiful and untamed.
We drove slow, stopping constantly to shoot film and snap hundreds of photos. We
spent nights and days at many different small hotels and guest houses with the
help of Icelandic
Farm Holidays and we made
many life long friends along the way. I could write for days and weeks trying to
describe the raw beauty of this land and the warm friendship extended to us by
everyone we met, but there are not enough words, nor enough time, so hopefully
our many photos will inspire you to visit and spend sometime in this land that
time, but not Mother Nature…forgot.
To boast to your friends that you were north of the Arctic Circle
you have take a boat
tour to Iceland's northernmost destination...Grimsey Island, as it is the only part of
the country crossed by the Arctic Circle. It's where a hundred islanders and
millions of seabirds live in proud defiance of the elements. Grimsey can be seen
on a day trip from Reykjavik and visitors there are presented with a certificate
to prove that they have crossed into the Arctic.
We owe a lot to our new friends, contributing businesses and the Icelandic Dept.
of Tourism for their much appreciated assistance and support of our tour.
Without them our tour would not have been possible, much less successful. Our
thanks go out to Jon with
House, his son, Illugi with
Reykjahlid Excursions, for
patiently putting up us and answering our many questions and for devoting his
time in being our personal guide. I hope he forgives my crude, but quick witted
joke that the favorite drink of Icelandic people should be...Anti-Freeze. Our
thanks go out to Petur Gislason & his most hospitable wife, the owners of a
lovely hotel where we spent 4 days. Hospitality, warm conversation and superb
dining await all that are fortunate to stay at
Hotel Reykjahlid. We give our many
thanks to Myflug Air that flew us over the largest waterfall in
Iceland, Dettifoss Waterfall. Many of the island's warmest and most sincere people are
located in the small, but stunningly scenic town of Reykjahlid on the volcanic shores of Lake
Myvatn in the north of Iceland. Our thanks and gratitude is also given to Asa
Budget Rental Car for supplying our new SUV for the duration of our tour.
And to a very warm and personal man that arranged for some of our stays and for
the unforgettable all-terrain vehicle excursion onto the 8,100 sq kilometer, Vatnajokull glacier lake…Mr. Asmundur Gislason of the
Arnanes Country Hotel
located in the southwestern town of Arnanes. We also thank Erla
Petersen with Icelandic
Farm Holidays for their support and in their provision
of numerous hotel and farm stays throughout the island. And in not forgetting
the people where we spent our last 2 days, Bjon Stefansson at
Guesthouse Kriunes, just outside of Reykjavik. We appreciate your support and your friendship
and in the words of General McArthur…we will return again to your phenomenal
This land offers it all... from welcoming farmstays to charming
hotels, skiing, mountain climbing, snowmobiling, horse riding, whale watching, unbelievable
ice caves, mind boggling glaciers, natural
hot springs, countless geysers, gigantic and magnificent Fjords...excellent
dining, nightlife that never ends and thousands of kilometers of unimaginable
terrain… all that and some of the warmest people to be found anywhere.
If you truly want to share in the Viking Spirit and desire to live life to its
fullest...Visit Iceland...the land you will never forget!
View our many photos of Iceland by clicking on the below
link and be sure to
visit our sponsors that made our tour possible. They are all quality people
offering quality goods & services and receive our highest recommendations.
View Our Photos of Iceland!