Day 4: Vatnajokull National Park and Glacier Lagoon
We stayed at a hotel at the bast of Skaftafell at Vatnajokull National Park and woke up to gorgeous blue skies. Our first stop of the day was the Svaenafellsjokull Glacier.
We took a walking tour on the glacier and were outfitted with metal crampons for better traction on the ice. (I'm always slipping whenever I try any type of hiking and I finally realized that hiking boots really do make a big difference compared to tennis shoes. I didn't have any falls on this trip and I was much more steady on my feet due to the grippy soles).
Looking back over where we walked. We parked on the dirt area and then twisted and turned up and over parts the glacier to get to this point.
This was the only official tour that we took during our trip and I'm so glad that we were able to fit this in as it was such a great experience!
Our next stop was the glacial lagoon, Jokulsarlon. The crackling sounds of melting ice were so intense. From all the pictures I had seen, I was picturing it to be a quiet and serene place. It was more like listening to Rice Crispies soaking in milk!
We had fun posing throughout the week in our new sweaters in front of Icelandic hot spots. I'll share more pictures in my official post about the sweaters.
Then we walked out to where the lagoon feeds into the ocean and saw the glacier chunks headed out to sea.
I loved checking out all of the pieces of washed up ice along the coast.
The beach was filled with dark, fine lava sand that made ripping sounds as we walked.
Our last, unexpected, stop of the day was this little horse farm along the road. Icelandic horses all rock the super 80's hairdos, complete with natural highlights and frizzy bangs (my hair was starting to look like this, too, after all of the wind we experienced during the week).
Here's a fun piece of trivia for the horse lovers reading (because Jon thinks all girls go through a horse phase): Icelandic horses have a two additional types of gaits that they only they are able to do: the tolt (seen in this youtube video) and the pace (seen in this youtube video).
See more Day 4 pictures on flickr here.
Day 5: Fantastic Fjords and Charming fishing Villages
We stayed at a Danish guest house in Djupivogur, which is located on the peninsula between two fjords. The weather didn't clear up for us by the time we had to leave, so we weren't able to get the full view of the town, but I loved checking out the coastline, nonetheless.
Our first stop of the day was at Petra's Mineral Collection (facebook page link), which is the largest private rock collection in Iceland. Petra is a collector of many things and when people kept asking to check out her rock collection after seeing her home along the road, she started charging admission for people to check out her collections.
There was an older woman in the "gift shop" and I couldn't tell if it was Petra or not and didn't want to ask in case of possibly offending the woman, so I didn't say anything. After looking around online, I see that it was her in the shop. She was selling hand knit doll clothes and now I wish that I had talked with her and bought one of her sweaters.
Her kitchen and bedroom were still in tact, but the rest of her home was filled with these display cases full of rocks.
She had so many collections around her home - matchboxes, pens, handkerchiefs, key chains, dolls, ornaments, spoons, etc. I loved checking out every nook and cranny of the place.
The gardens behind her home were beautiful and the rocks looked so pretty set off by all of the greenery.
She even had her own pair of painted stones in the garden (we saw these everywhere in Iceland).
Lagarfljot - home of the Lagarfljot dragon (similar to the loch ness monster). We thought this stylized dragon road sign was hilarious.
We spent a while checking out the lake and Jon taught me how to successfully skip stones. I got a few of my stones to skip three times in a row, while Jon was showing off with his stones that were skipping 15-20 times along the lake. Unfortunately, all of the hard work I put into spinning the stones correctly resulted in me having a sore right arm for the rest of the trip (man am I lame!)
Random reindeer spotting along the road!
Checking out a closed turf house museum along the road.
We were in the middle of nowhere during some parts of our trip today with just our car, and lots of rocky, treeless terrain. We stopped for gas, tea and pastries in the small "town" next to this church.
Overlooking the town of Myvatn.
our rental car taking a rest after the hill workout from our day's adventures
We felt like we were on another planet walking through Namafjall, a geothermal area filled with boiling mudpools and fumaroles. The sulfur (rotten eggs) smell was overwhelming, to say the least, but the landscape was stunning.
Our most favorite lodging of the visit was our stay at the Vogar Farm. We couldn't find the hotel at first and mistakenly knocked on the front door of a house down a driveway labeled "Vogar" and interrupted a teenage guy eating dinner. Oops! We were nervous that we were going to be staying in someone's house at first, but he laughed and pointed us in the direction of the real farm/hotel and we pulled up to a cow shed - filled with cows. We weren't sure that we were in the right place, but as soon as we walked in the door marked "reception," we knew we were in for a treat.
There's a cafe on one side of the barn and a cow shed adjacent to it. You can actually sit in the restaurant and look through windows to watch the farmers milking cows and look at the cows resting in the barn. We walked through the barn after dinner and got to see the new calves and let some of the dairy cows smell us. Jon and I were totally dying from cute overload!
We had our favorite meal of the trip here, vegetable crepes with a really delicious tossed mediterranean style salad. It was so good that we had the same thing for dinner the next night, too.
See more Day 5 pictures on flickr here.
Day 6: Lunar Landscapes and Lava Formations
We started the day off with trying to find the right road to our first stop. There were two roads marked on the map (one was forbidden and one was suggested with caution), but when we asked the farm receptionist about the road quality, she told us to use a newer, third road instead. She told us that the road was not marked, but it was paved and easily found.
We ended up driving back and forth and back and forth trying to find the new road and, what do you know, there was a highway worker installing the sign for the formerly unmarked new road on our third pass by the road. How ironic!
Our first destination was Dettifoss. It is the largest (by volume) waterfall in Europe and it did not disappoint.
We had to walk a few km through rocky terrain to get to the waterfall and we were covered in dirt by the end of our hike. I was really glad that I wasn't wearing contacts at this point!
To give you some scale, Jon is standing along the edge of the cliff to the left of the photo in the red jacket.
Here he is making his own spoof of the Double Rainbow video.
Selfoss (the waterfall upstream from Dettifoss)
Driving through Asbyrgi Canyon, which was said to have been formed in 3 days because of a catastrophic glacial flood. I had my camera out because sheep were everywhere!
Look at that gorgeous wool just calling out to be made into a sweater!
This picture makes me laugh every time I see it!
These two were content to sit and watch us take their picture. (fun fact: sheep like licking the roads in Iceland because they are so salty.
I was so excited to finally see what Icelandic water looks like when it's sunny outside. The depth and vividness of color is incredible.
We stopped in Husavik for a late lunch and walk around the city. Husavik is known for whale watching, but we missed the last boat of the day and were running out of time, so we spent most of our time walking around the marina.
We caught this hilarious picture of us with a self timer. Icelandic wind is so powerful. The wind makes it feel like riding down the highway with your car windows wide open is just a calm and relaxing ride.
We ran into a dairy cow crossing along our way. The farmer looked at us like we were crazy tourists (not denying that) after he saw Jon and I with our cameras out.
The last stop was at Skutustadir, these crater-like formations in the middle of Lake Myvatn. It was super windy and we were practically falling over trying to stand in one spot, but the water was dark blue and gorgeous!
Here's one of my mittens that I purchased at the Vogar Farm gift store. The triangles are actually two shades of green, which you can't tell from this picture with the sheep. One of the cool things about seeing so many hand knit goods in shops around the country was getting to examine the construction of each item up close. Every gift shop was like visiting a hand knit museum!
We watched the sun set from the comfort of the Myvatn Nature Baths. The water is geothermally heated and it was like swimming in a giant hot tub with a rocky floor. The mineral baths and hot pots (chlorine free hot tubs) were my unexpected favorite part of the trip. So relaxing and so warm!
We hadn't planned on looking for the Northern Lights, but we overheard the receptionist telling another farm guest that the best viewing times were from 2-4am and decided to set our alarm to wake up in the middle of the night. Jon got up at 3am to scope out the skies and then he got me out of bed so that I could see it too. Wow! The giant band went from one corner of the sky to another and was so much more vibrant (and less obstructed by clouds) than in this picture. By the time we got our camera gear in order, it was starting to fade, so this was the best shot that we got. I'm so glad Jon pulled me out of bed to see this!
See more Day 6 pictures on flickr here.