Sunday, May 21, 2017

Iceland in May

I was feeling a lot of feelings and teary in the airport before leaving on this trip. It hasn't been an easy couple of months between family deaths, accidents at work, and a breakup. After asking the internet if anyone was interested in jumping on a trip to Iceland with me, I landed on someone much closer to home. I am endlessly grateful my sister agreed to join me on such short notice for my first couple nights away. My heart was at ease upon the plane landing. I was no world traveler at the start of this adventure, but by the end I can picture trying it again.

Iceland is a relatively easy place to travel. Everyone speaks English, and the locals are so kind and funny, and while not very big - nature has created some phenomenal works of art, it is a photographers dream! I chose to rent a car for this trip to explore lesser known areas in greater detail. With 8 full days, the car ensured lots of adventures! (side note, get the gravel insurance, the roads are often unpaved and the winter really does a number on the "better" roads. Peace of mind is worth it).

Though this trip was only half of the country, there is a lot to see in Iceland without hiring a tour service!

Day 1
A day in Reykjavik

It was a busy day figuring out a different country. I landed at 6:45am and met my sister at our AirBnB in Reykjavik. After a catnap, we walked the streets of the city and putzed around lots of vintage shops. Everything is in walking distance in downtown. We also toured the Nation Museum of Iceland to build up our knowledge of the country (did you know 80% of female Icelanders are of British decent, while men are 60% Nordic? Vikings stole themselves some wives). Scouting the city from Hallgrimskirkja Church was quite the view. After, Yuzu ate fermented shark at Loki Cafe across the street, a must-do on her list. The waitress presented her with a shot of Brennivin to wash it down, and asked if she could watch her eat it. Yuzu was satisfied, but will probably never try the ammonia scented food again. Just like in any city, after dinner is cat-hour, we met some cool urban cats on our walk home.



Day 2
Starting The Golden Circle

After a slow morning in Reykjavik with avocado rye toast and the best coffee I would experience in Iceland at Reykjavik Roasters, we picked up my rental car. Commence the self-guided Golden Circle tour. Stopping by Þingvellir (where the tectonic plate divides North America from Europe), a dairy farm for ice-cream (where I accidentally threw a farm dog's stick on the roof... he probably hates me), we saw Geysir (looking back, this was a big highlight of the trip if you've never seen a geyser before!), and Gullfoss (one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls full of rainbows). There are more sheep, ponies, and horses in Iceland than people. 800,000 sheep to 323,000 humans. We landed in Flúðir for the night.


Þingvellir
Geysir
Gullfoss


Day 3
Sourth Iceland: Turf-houses and The Secret Lagoon

Catching my groove a bit by day three. Starting with turf houses at Keldur (some of the oldest survuving turf-houses in Iceland. Carved beams dating back to the 1600s). Turf house are all over the south. You know what I'm good at in the US? Trespassing and exploring.... we spotted fantastic turf houses on the side of the road, Rutshellir as it turned out, and found a series of huge caves inside (and dead sheep...)! Here's the thing about trespassing in Iceland, it's okay, just close the gate behind you. Okay... rather, the freedom to roam is in effect. Further down the road, we found another damn waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. Many travelers stood from afar snapping photos, few seemed interested in walking up and behind the falls. Yuzu and I jumped at the opportunity with little thought and quickly found it was a soaker (worth it). Lunch in Vik, then some cool beach rocks at Reynisfjara and black sand beaches. Ending the day at The Secret Lagoon, a natural thermal pool created in 1891.

Keldur
Rutshellir
Seljalandsfoss
Reynisfjara
The Secret Lagoon


Day 4
No Rest in Reykjavik

I arrived back in Reykjavik in the morning so Yuzu could head to the airport. I ventured to the furthest west point of the city and took a foggy beach walk near the Grótta lighthouse. My hostile was right downtown on the main drag, but, that was hard on a day my brain wanted to rest. The city was busy! Cafes have charming tables overflowing into the streets, lively with locals and tourists alike. I was so tired from the previous couple of days, so I retreated to my rented car on a quiet street for some rest. This day's main objective was planning my next five days (yes five) that didn't have an literary for yet.



Day 5
North to Hvammstangi

From Reykjavik, I worked my way north passing through coast towns. In Arkanes i found a rusty old boat in a ship yard. Then found a huge all vegetarian buffet in Borgarbyggð. How lucky is that to just stumble upon?! I had been eating a lot of bread, cheese, and yogurt prior to this buffet. Upon arriving in Hvammstangi, I ventured a little further out to the Hvítserkur rock formation in the Vatnsnes Peninsula.

Arkanes
Hvítserkur


Day 6
West Fjords

Oh man, this day was very Icelandic. I ventured as far north as I have ever been in my life! Starting from Hvammstangi, going north to the West Fjords. Stopped in Hólmavík and visited the Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft Museum. They had a replica of pair of pants made from a dead mans legs. Then further north to just past Melgraseyri for epic view points. Nauteyrarlaug is a lesser known hot spring bath. It's waaaaaay out in the middle of no where in the West Fjords - which happened to be on the roads I traveled. It was tepid at best so I did not take a dip in this one. Majestic views, snow, beaming sun. It has been sunny every single day! Despite sunscreen, I certainly have new freckles on my face.



Day 7
Selfoss & Spirit Farm

A light day of driving 3 hours from Hvammstangi to Selfoss. Played on a farm with horses and tiny kittens. A resident at the farm presented me with his favorite Icelandic music including Icelandic reggae, I have never been so confused. Best part of the day was chatting with locals at this community based farm.



Day 8
South Iceland

On my last full day in Iceland I visited the secluded Bruarfoss Waterfall. Fantastically soft blue water, glacier fresh. Then off to a one last hot spring pool recommended by a local at the farm stay, Hrunalaug. This day was windy. Like they closed roads by the water due to treacherous conditions windy! So while the hot spring pools were warm and soothing, changing in and out of your swimsuit inside that lil shack was cold! The wind continued through the evening and I'm so thankful to have lucked out with mostly sunny warm days while in Iceland. Home the next day.

Bruarfoss
Hrunalaug

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