Hello & Happy Monday once again! Although the title says pretty much everything, I am super happy that my mom will take over the travel section of the blog! In Uni my mom studied travel and she has been working in the industry ever since (not to mention that she is super passionate about it and she travels way more than I do!) Down below you can read the wonderful article she wrote about Iceland, as she recently came back from this amazing frozen world. I am very proud of my mom and I cannot wait to read all of her beautiful articles!
A magic fairyland
During the winter holidays, I decided I wanted something special for my annual spring trip. After several hours spent researching, my husband and I decided to go to Iceland, as it seemed something special to explore and discover. As I was reading about it, I started to be more and more fascinated by its beauty and I could hardly wait to get to that dreamy realm. I was eager to see if everything was as beautiful as it was in the photographs.
With my hand on my heart, I can say that those pictures cannot even represent 1% of the beauty discovered live; it was like the most beautiful dream, away from reality, which we wish could last forever. Having 7 nights of accommodation at our disposal, we spent 3 nights at Hotel Hafnarfjall near Borgarnes and 4 nights at Hotel Klettur in Reykjavik.
We chose to have breakfast included because I love having a peaceful and consistent breakfast (to fill us up for most of the day). Also, I like to make the most of my time and to visit as many locations as possible during the day, without having to think about where to eat. In order to be able to visit as much as possible, we decided to rent a car from the airport. Our mistake was that we did not book in advance and by the time we arrived at the airport everything was already reserved. We had to go to 7 different rental companies before finding an available car.
Also, the best months to visit Iceland are September, October, March and April in order to be able to see the Northen Lights (Aurora Borealis). In order to see the Northen Lights, you also need to download one of the forecasting apps on your mobile phone (I used Aurora Forecast) and to be in an area without light pollution (this is the reason why we didn't stay in the Borgarnes city). During these months the temperatures are not very low, between 0-3°C, but the wind is very strong (you need windproof clothes). Another good time for exploring Iceland is during the summer when you can experience the White Nights, and on the 21st of June, at the Summer Solstice, you have the opportunity to experience daylight for 24 hours. During the summer months, the temperature is about 20°C.
Throughout our stay, we understood why Iceland is called the land of Ice and Fire, this name coming from the constant variation of the temperature (the sky is clear one minute, in the next it starts raining, after another minute it’s extremely windy, then it could begin to snow, and after two minutes the sun comes out again). There are also many thermal springs, with 100-120°C water gushing out of the frozen volcanic rock, as well as majestic, long-lasting glaciers in the centre of the island, the active volcanoes.
Now I’ll go down memory lane and share with you everything we explored during the eight days spent on this dreamy realm:
1. The First Day
On the first day, after renting the car, we left the Keflavik Airport and headed down to Hotel Hafnarfjall near Borgarnes, 112 km. On the way, we encountered an impressive landscape, with the road being bordered by mountains on one side and water on the other side. We crossed the bay of Hvalfjordur, the bay where the two tectonic plates intertwine: the one of Europe and the one of North America. The crossing of this bay is done via an 18 km long tunnel underneath the water, so we stopped beforehand in order to take the first pictures. After about 3 hours we arrived at the hotel.
After we arrived we decided to go out for dinner. We had a delicious pizza made in a wood-fired oven, at the La Colina pizzeria in Borgarnes. Then, we headed back to the hotel, had a hot chocolate and enjoyed the Icelandic dusk while we kept an eye on the forecast app that notified us that Aurora Borealis began to form. Around 10 PM, we stepped outside in the heavy winds and we gazed at the deep green hues of Aurora! We were really lucky.
2. The Second Day
After breakfast, we went to visit the Snaefellsnes National Park. We crossed the fjord on a bridge, passing the Borgarfjordur Bay, having an impressive landscape surrounding us. The first stop was at the Ytri-Tunga, where we could admire the seals in their natural element. On the way there, we also enjoyed the company of the Icelandic horses, very gentle and eager to receive some love (everywhere in Iceland you find farms that rent horses for short hikes), while the scenery continued to impress us at every step.
We continued our journey to the magmatic rock beach of Djupalonssandur, admiring the powerful waterfalls and the Breidavik bay with its seagull colony.
The next stop was scheduled at the lighthouse in the port of Stykkisholmur, and on our way, we stopped to admire the colourful houses of Olafsvik. There are cruises from Olafsvik for whale watching, but we didn’t book in advance and everything was already sold out. After a few pictures at the lighthouse in Stykkisholmur, we headed to the restaurant in the harbour for dinner. We had a delicious fish burger made with catfish, it was the best burger ever! Then, we crossed the mountains on our way back to the hotel. Outside it was a blizzard, but the road was still excellent. Once back inside, we ended the day with a warm cup of tea.
3. The Third Day
We planned to visit the Geitlanssjokul glacier, where you can explore the inside of the glacier. We equipped ourselves with water and tea for the road and off we went. If on the first day we encountered a varied landscape, today we were guided by mountains on both sides of the road with volcanic rocks paving the way.
The first stop was the spectacular Hraunfossar waterfall, which springs right from the volcanic rock. Since the weather varies a lot, besides the incredible blue of the waterfall, we also had the chance to admire a complete rainbow, with its rich colours perfectly distinguishable.
We continued our journey to Husafell, eager to explore the glacier. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the destination we were told that the visit to the glacier costs 195 euro/person (which we found expensive) and the waiting time for departure was about 2 hours. We decided to go back to Borgarnes and find other landscapes that would warm our eyes and souls.
We found Krauma, a very chic SPA centre, where the cost of the entry was around 25 euro/person. They had a wet geothermal sauna, 3 geothermal pools, and a very cosy lounge with a fireplace where you could relax, gazing at the frozen landscape of Iceland. Outside there were strong winds, over 80 km/h, but inside it was warm and cosy.
4. The Fourth Day
After the hotel checkout, we went to Gerduberg (at the entrance of Snaefellsnes National Park) to admire the basalt columns. Happy that it didn’t rain, we enjoyed our time here admiring the imposing columns and the wonderful scenery. After taking a few pictures we headed to Reykjavik where we had reserved accommodation for the next 4 nights.
Arrived in the Nordic European Capital, Reykjavik, we took a walk along the waterfront, enjoying the view of the gorgeous Nordic houses, the Harpa Concert Hall, the Hallgrimskirkja, alongside exploring the beautiful streets and souvenir shops.
5. The Fifth Day
We went to the Reykjaness Geopark, and on the way we encountered a landscape made up of volcanic lava, feeling as if we were not on Terra anymore, surrounded by blasted lava boulders. Impressive.
Later, we visited the Reykanesviti Lighthouse, the first lighthouse in Iceland. At the edge of the island, we encountered waves breaking over it's tall, steep shores that we could not photograph because of the extremely powerful wind. It was a unique experience and the first time when, although I wanted to go forward, this was not possible because the wind stopped me (over 100 km /h).
6. The Sixth Day
Early the next morning we went to the Thinglevir National Park to admire the Stokkur Ghetto that erupts every 7 minutes and the water jet is gushed at a height of 30 meters. Next to this was another geyser, the Great Geysir geyser, that gushes water to a height of 70 meters, but its last eruption was in 2012.
After admiring several eruptions of the Stokkur geyser, we got into the car and headed off to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, the Gullfoss Waterfall. Again we encountered crystalline water of incredible blue turquoise.
We head back to the Grindasvik geothermal area to relax at the Blue Lagoon. For access to the lagoon, reservations must be made in advance, as we only found places during the evening (from 18:00), although the opening hours are 09:00 - 21:00. The entrance to the Blue Lagoon is 95 euro/person, and the ticket price includes towels, a face mask and a drink from the bar. Besides the lagoon, 3 wet saunas are also available. In Iceland, we’ve only encountered wet saunas, as they are very popular here.
7. The Seventh Day
Again in the car :). Happy to visit more waterfalls we head to the Skaftafell National Park, to admire the superb Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.
With the burble of the waterfall and the image of gorgeous forming rainbows still in our minds, but wet as if we just stepped out of a shower, we headed to the volcanic beach of Reynisfjara. On this beach, we hoped to be able to admire the Puffin birds, as this beach is called paradise of Puffin birds. Unfortunately, we didn’t read carefully, Puffin birds are in Iceland only during the summer, from June to September. The sadness passed quickly because we encountered more black sand, basalt columns, waves crashing into the shore with unimaginable power. We spent almost an hour admiring the strong waves, no longer feeling the cold or the wind.
On this beach, the waves are very dangerous because, out of the blue, waves can reach up to 7 meters and many people have been taken by the wave from this beach. There are safety signs that must be respected, being there only for the protection of tourists. Otherwise, Icelanders have a saying, "You have to go with nature, feel it deep down, feel it part of you."
8. The Eighth Day
We dedicated this day to walking on the streets of Reykjavik. We found this address at www.freewalkingtour.is, where a volunteer shares with you a little history of Reykjavik and Iceland, and shows you the main attractions of this superb city.
From this guide we learned that Iceland does not have an army, there is no danger of a terrorist attack, the policemen don’t wear weapons, they know exactly the number of homeless people (there were 8 in March) and many other interesting things. At the end of the tour, you can pay the guide as much as you consider to be fit.
In Reykjavik we enjoyed the most famous hot dog, with some special sauces, the recipe being created by the founder of this business. From this place famous people enjoyed a hot dog, such as Bill Clinton and Kim Kardashian. It's not a fancy place, it's a small stall in a square, and if you’ll visit, make sure to ask for a 'hot dog with everything’. It will include the 3 delicious sauces plus caramelized onion (the best I’ve ever eaten!)
9. The Ninth Day
We are leaving this wonderful country with a heavy heart, excited to come back one day and to explore both the North and West of the island, as they remained unexplored areas for us, but also to experience the magnificent white nights.
By Monica Gherzan