Jon and I spent the first ten days of September on an epic road trip around Iceland with our friends, Harriet and Steve. To say that it was an amazing trip would be an understatement! I have never seen so many varied types of gorgeous scenery in such close proximity. Visiting Iceland is like visiting all of the national parks in the USA at once. We saw glaciers, volcanoes, lagoons, canyons, fjords, mountains, craters, waterfalls, and so many other intense geological formations. We're already talking about returning to do more camping, hiking and exploring.
The first thing that most people asked us after we told them that we were going to Iceland was, "Why Iceland?" We first learned about the gorgeous scenery in Iceland from the music videos of Sigur Ros, one of our favorite bands, who hail from Iceland (along with Bjork). Here's a video with a good example of the scenery. We were influenced by Helen's gorgeous photos and Tania's amazing trip reports.
Earlier this year, I stumbled across a self-drive tour company and asked my friend, Harriet, if she'd be interested in coming along with us. She agreed, and then we held off for a few months before finally committing to the trip.
Once we booked the trip, I started frantically knitting our authentic lopi souvenir sweaters. Now you know the reason for me torturing myself by knitting bulky wool sweaters all summer long...
So here is our trip in a (not so small) nutshell...The tour company we used set us up with a rental car, booked all of our hotels for the stay, gave us a cell phone to use for emergencies and outlined a suggested itinerary for sightseeing. From what I read online, going with a self drive tour company is a bit more expensive than booking everything yourself, but the extra hassle is definitely worth the surcharge. Other than a few museums being closed for the winter and not noted in our itinerary, the tour was perfect for us.
Day 1: Welcome to Reykjavik
We met up with Harriet and Steve in Boston's Logan Airport after a harried hour when we thought they weren't going to make the flight on time. But, the crisis was averted and their tickets were changed from standby (because they were late to arrive from CA) and they were able to join us on the flight over.
We got to our hotel around 7:00am, ate breakfast and took a brief power nap before setting off to walk around the city.
Our first stop was at Hallgrimskirkja, the "new" Lutheran church in Reykjavik. It's one of the simplest cathedrals I've ever seen - very stark and modern!
We walked up to the Perlan, a giant observatory/museum/restaurant where we had 360 degree views of the city from the viewing deck and got to see our first geyser. We were so excited to see the geyser go off and spent a ton of time taking pictures of it. Only after we went inside to check out the building did we realize that it's just a sample geyser that's set up to demonstrate how a real geyser works (oops!)
On our way back to our hotel, we ran into our first of many sitings of wild Icelandic animals.
Here's the picture Jon shot from the above angle. It just goes to show that changing angles in photography really makes a big difference!
We spent the rest of the evening trying to stay awake and trying to decipher all of the really long Icelandic street names on the map.
See more pictures from day 1 on flickr here.
Day 2: The Golden Circle
We got our rental car early in the morning and after a brief Icelandic driving/road sign lesson, we were off to our first stop, Pingvellir, the beloved national park of Iceland.
Just as we were driving into the park, we had our first sheep siting! Harriet and I, as knitters, spent most of our trip on the lookout for sheep and they definitely did not disappoint!
The valley in the park was beautiful!
We walked through these rock walls to get down to the base of the park...
...to get closer to this group of sheep.
Moss and lichens covered so many surfaces everywhere.
Our next stop was Kerid volcanic crater.
Then we were off to Geysir, the place where the term geyser originated. The geyser above is actually a secondary geyser close to Geysir that is still active and regular.
It took a lot of standing around with camera at the ready by me and everyone else watching up to get these shots.
Our last big stop of the day was at Gullfoss. It was absolutely stunning in person! I think I could sit and listen to running water all day long.
The picture above is at the end of the waterfall and we walked along the left side all the way up to the top to get a better view. If you look at the little red speck above on the ledge in the top corner of the photo, that's about where we were standing to get these next pictures.
This is looking back from where we walked along the side.
This is me with my feet steps away from falling into the waterfall (guardrails are just so American!).
And this is Harriet posing at the top of the waterfall.
I spotted these in the waterfall gift shop. I want to copy this color pattern for a quilt or sweater.
We ended the day with a delicious dinner at our hotel. We were a bit worried when the server said "yes, we can find you something vegetarian to eat." Fortunately, the meal turned out to be a super delicious homemade veggie burger that is one of the best I've ever had.
More pictures of Day 2 on flickr here.
Day 3: The South Coast
Today was filled with tons and tons and tons of waterfalls. Our view for most of the day looked like this along the road. We were joking that you can't really play the alphabet game on road trips in Iceland because there aren't many road signs or cars. Instead, you can play "spot the waterfall." We drove by so many houses with waterfalls coming down the cliff in the backyard during our trip. I wouldn't mind that view at all.
Our first official waterfall of the day was Seljalandsfoss. I've wanted to see this waterfall and hike behind it since I first started obsessing about Iceland years ago (I think this was on the Amazing Race, too). It was such a treat to be able to see it in person and get so close to it! Seriously, the trip could have ended here and I would have been happy (well, as long as we got to go to the Lopi yarn outlet store, too).
That's Harriet and Steve up there on the left looking at the waterfall.
That would be happy me up there in front of the waterfall. :)
A short drive down the road brought us to the next waterfall of the day, Skogafoss.
We climbed up this never-ending staircase along the side of the mountain to see the top of the waterfall and the countryside from above.
Then, because Iceland is so incredibly diverse (I still can't wrap my head around it), a short and rocky drive down the road brought us to Solheimajokull Glacier.
(The glacier looks so dirty because of the lava rock piles that are under the ice)
In our new, matching Turn a Square hats made for the trip. (on Ravelry: Jon's, Rebekah's).
We ended the day with a bang at this gorgeous canyon, Fjadrararglufur. (Cue Lord of the Rings soundtrack!). We had the place to ourselves (and the sheep) and were all just amazed by the beauty.
I tried to overcome my fear of heights by going out on one of the ledges, but this is as far as I got before wimping out (again, no guardrails in Iceland).
Harriet got out a bit farther than I did. Although you can't tell from this shot, she is hanging over the water on one of the ledges here.
If I could bring one place back with me as a souvenir, this canyon would be it! The cliffs, the greenery, the mist. I loved it!
(having fun with a self timer and animated gifs)
The rest of our pictures from Day 3 are on flickr here.
PS. I love that just as I was sitting down to collect flickr photos for this post, this was my greeting. Quite appropriate!