Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Northern Adventure, Part 4: Iceland

Finally. The last installment.

When I was making these plane reservations months and months ago, I happened to read that Icelandair allows you to extend your stopover in Reykjavik for up to a week without changing the price of your airline ticket. I had always heard that Iceland is just amazing, so I decided to go for it.


And so we pick up the story somewhere over the North Atlantic. I honestly had no idea what to expect in Iceland. I was prepared for any kind of weather. I was prepared for the possibility of having all my worldly possession stolen from me at the hostel I had booked. I was prepared for sunsets at 11:30 pm. I was excited to see volcanoes and glaciers and other cool stuff.

Here are the highlights:

  • Everyone I came in contact with spoke very good English, so the language was not a problem. The street signs, money and other things are in Icelandic, however, so I got to have a little bit of that feeling of being lost in another culture. It's good to feel like a novice sometimes. 
  • Prices are high there, especially for food and lodging. Dinner for 1 at a pub was $40. A burger, fries and tiny soda was about $20. 
  • Reykjavik is a small city made up mostly of houses and small buildings, similar to post offices or suburban office parks. The tallest buildings I saw were about 8 floors tall. There is a charming, colorful style to the city with a Scandinavian flavor.
  • I did not see glaciers or active volcanos. I saw miles and miles of lava fields, but most of them were centuries old. I did see the ocean, complete with black lava sand. I loved, loved, loved my few minutes of beach combing. 
  • There were many interesting and new-to-me birds there. Sweet! I saw many pairs of nesting swans, eider ducks, different kinds of geese than the Canadian Geese that are so common here, and other unknown sea birds. I wish I'd researched the birds before hand. 
  • I did experience the midnight sun. It was darkish for a few hours from 12:30 to 3 am or so. The rest of the time it was light. 
  • I rode an Icelandic horse, which was super fun, even though the day was chilly, with rain and 20-30 mph winds. We saw the sea for a few minutes, then rode up into the lava fields. I really loved interacting with the horses. 
  • I did go to the Blue Lagoon, as ordered. The insistence with which people told me to go there felt almost like peer pressure (haha), so I went on my way to the airport.  It's blue and warm and like a big hot tub, but would have been more fun if I weren't by myself. I was kinda done after about 45 minutes, but since it was so expensive, and my flight wasn't leaving for hours, I stayed longer and floated around, twiddling my thumbs. 
  • The hostel was great. After chatting with my roommates, the idea of sharing a room with absolute strangers was not a problem. Everyone kept pretty much to themselves, but were friendly if I said hello. I had a locker with plenty of room for my most valuable items and left my suitcases under my bed. For the price, I would definitely consider hosteling again in the future. 
  • Seeing a place by bicycle is definitely a favorite for me. I spent one of my days almost entirely on a bike and it was fabulous to move in traffic, be near other people, learn the rules, and get a tiny sense of the culture by pedaling around and seeing neighborhoods at close range. I would definitely like to do more bike-centric travel, either by tour group or independently. 
  • I learned, as much as I love being by myself, in the end, travel is more fun with someone to witness the fun and share the views. It certainly wasn't awful. It was Iceland, for pete's sake, but it was a bit lonely. 
And so on a Thursday morning, I went first to the Blue Lagoon, then continued on to KEF, then flew over the clouds to Dulles. 

It was an amazing trip. I'm so grateful to Erin and crew for hosting me, to Eric for supporting my adventuring habit, and to my Heavenly Father, for the blessing of such an amazing world to explore. 

Here are the pictures.
I love finding my blue dot on the map.
Here I was at about 64 degrees latitude. 

10:45 pm Unstoppable blue skies. Sunset was
at about 11:30 the week I was there. 

The shores of the Olfusa River

Two of the horses in our group. Mine is the ginger on the right.
They are lovely beings. 

I can officially say I got to see the entire island. Ha. This is
a wonderful map in the government building. 

Our intrepid bike tour group. 2 Americans, a Brit and two Danes.
That is something I do love about travel. Seeing how we are all
so much more alike than different. 

Black sand beaches near Reykjavik, with a flock of Eider ducks
riding the current and enchanting me with their unique song. 

After blue skies my first evening, the remainder of my time in
Iceland was all mist, with blues and grays blending into white
and black. 

But, upon looking closely, I found this vibrant rainbow
among the black sand. 

Even the black sand is a rich melange. 

Reykjavik is charming and colorful, with
a variety of old and new architecture. 

Street art was common, with pops of color everywhere. 

The 800 year old lava fields near Reykjavik.

My first view of the Blue Lagoon. It's cleverly carved from the
lava to seem natural, but it's all man-made to contain the
waters pumped up from deep below the earth. 

I steamed in the minerals for about 2 hours. It's not
as hot as a hot tub, so it never became uncomfortable.
There are enough minerals in the water that
I could float along the surface and be very
relaxed.
My last glimpse of Iceland before we flew up
into the cloudcover. 

2 comments:

  1. This looks like a dream - such a different landscape than I'm used to. I totally agree that sharing the wonder of travel with someone is preferable, but it is nice to have pockets of "self" time. Thank you for your beautiful pictures and insights - love you!

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  2. so beautiful!! I think this makes you the 5th person I know to go to Iceland THIS SUMMER--I think it is calling to me!

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Thank you for sharing your insights!