Monday, October 11, 2010

Exploring Reykavik - Day 1

This day ended up being one of our longest days in Iceland, we arrived from an overnight flight from Toronto at 6:30am and then set out to explore the city. A tip - don't let people ahead of you when getting to the hotel - we missed getting a room right away by one person so we had to wander the city until noon then go back to take a nap.
Reykjavik is a beautiful city, for Canadians I would compare it to a St.Johns crossed with the European feel of old Montreal.  The architecture is beautiful and the shopping is great, easy to spend hours walking around the down-town core taking it all in. This is one spot where we could have spent another day as we didn't get a chance to see everything we wanted to.

One of the highlights was Hallgrimskirkja - the Lutheran church that was built between 1945 and 1986. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture that I have ever seen and from the top of the steeple you can see the whole city.
We had a great dinner at Sjavarkjallarinn (Seafood Cellar) which is downstairs in the building that houses the main tourist centre in downtown.  The food was good but what had it special was all of the work on the presentation.  Here is a video of the desert we had which was done over dry ice.

We spent the spent the night at CenterHotel Klopp which is very close to the centre of the town (10 min walk) and still in the action.  Rooms are very small (even for Icelandic standards but it was quite and we got a good sleep before we started the journey around the ring road.
The Roaming Gnome outside the CentreHotel Klopp
Here are some additional pictures from the first day touring around the city.
Touring Around Town

One of the favourite names for a shop!

A crystal Baptismal font in Hallgrimskirkja

Inside Hallgrimskirkja

Yes - Whale and Puffin are on the menu...

Statue of Lief Eiriksson at the front of Hallgrimskirkja
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Roaming Gnome's Trip to Iceland

When we were packing for our trip to Iceland The Roaming Gnome couldn't stop talking about how he had never been to Iceland - pretty much a major guilt trip.  He kept reminding us about how he helped us get cheap flights to Iceland on and that he doesn't really take up that much room, so we figured lets take him along for our adventure.

Are we ever glad we did!  Not only did The Roaming Gnome get a chance to visit a bunch of locations in Iceland but it was great fun running around with him and watching everyone reactions, including more than a few times when others joined in on the fun and took a picture.

In the end he wanted to stay and explore Iceland some more so we left him, with a note, in the capable hands of the front desk staff at the Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel with directions to the Sabre Iceland offices at Calidris - we hope he is having a great time although he hasn't written yet!

Checking into the Hotel Centre Klopp on Day 1
All strapped in and ready to start the trip
Taking a break overlooking Eyjafjordur
Hanging out at Godafoss
The Roaming Gnome and I checking out Aldeyjarfoss
The Roaming Gnome didn't seem to mind going for a hike
Just about to jump into the natural hot springs at the Grjotagja fissure
Looking out at the mud pools at Hverir
Warming up near a steam vent
Overlooking Hafragilsfoss after lunch
In the middle of nowhere along the Ring Road
Chatting with a staff member at Petru's Rock Garden
Checking out the start of a glacial lake
In awe at Jokulsarlon
Looking at the bent bridge pieces from the 1996 Glacial flood burst
Placing a stone for luck at Laufskalavarda
Lets us know your favorite picture in the comments below, I hope you had as much fun checking them out as we did taking them!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What We Did - Our Route Around Iceland's Ring Road

We spent allot of time trying to figure our what we wanted to do with our trip to Iceland -  it has so many interesting natural attraction. We don't really work well with schedules so a tour group was out of the question.  We ended up building a 12 day tour around the ring road - Highway 1.  This allowed us to see almost everything we wanted to see except the western fjords (a huge reason to go back another time).  We had long days, taking full advantage of the fact that it never really got dark, we would often still be out hiking at midnight and because of this we were able to take the time to explore off the beaten track.  We'll share the detailed stories and pictures in future posts. Here is the outline of our12 day plan:

Day 1 - Getting to Iceland and touring Reykjavik - We flew direct from Toronto to Keflavik on Icelandic Air, it was a great flight the only issue was that we lost a night, we left Toronto at 9:55pm and arrived in Iceland at 7 in the morning.  Day one ended up being a really long day (it should actually be day one and two as the first night was spend in the air).   We had a great chance to explore the city of Reykjavik and get ready for the trek around the island on the ring road.

Day 2 - Saudarkrokur - About a 3 1/2 hour drive from Reykjavik and we had the chance to explore the northern coast of Iceland, hunting for seals and playing in ancient forts.  We stayed in the town of Saudarkrokur at the Hotel Tindastoll (the oldest inn in Iceland) and watched the sun skim across the horizon from a natural hotpot on the coast.

Glerhallavik Beach
Day 3 - Akureyri - Only a 90 minute drive to the northern capital of Iceland allowed us to explore old churches, take lots of pictures of sheep and drive through an incredible mountain pass.  We stayed at the Hotel Ibudir, in the tourist hub of the city, which allowed us to get some additional shopping in and was the start of Sharleen's knitting project. Have we mentioned that there are many more sheep than people!!

Hraundrangi (the peak in the centre of the picture)
Day 4 - Reykjahlid (Myvatn region) - Another 90 min direct drive to the Myvatn region that we turned into a day trip hunting down off the beaten path waterfalls, playing in the pseudo creator fields and birding in the whaling town of Husavik.  We finally settled into the Myvatn region at the Hotel Reykjahlid.

The Roaming Gnome at Aldeyjarfoss
Day 5 - Myvatn Region - We spent the day climbing old volcanoes, exploring recent lava fields and  doing some hard core birding.  Definitely an out of the world landscape where we could have spend another week and still not fully see everything.

The Church at Dimmuborgir
Day 6 - Seydisfjordar - We started the day viewing three of Icelands big waterfalls, then made the journey through another mountain range.  The drive into Seydisfjordar took us from sea level to the clouds and back down again in about 20 mins - it was by far the scariest drive on a paved road (and yes this means we had a scarier one later in the trip).  We stayed at one of the nicest hotels of our trip here - the Hotel Aldan - and late into the night had our most magical experience when we discover the dwarf-stone.
Sharleen saves the day at Selfoss
Day 7 - Hofn (which was explained to us, by a local, that is it pronounced similar to the sound of a hiccup) - It was a long drive but a beautiful one through the eastern fjords where we visited the most incredible rock collection of a little old lady.
                                    Attack of the Arctic Terns at Skalanes

Day 8 - Hof Farm - We spent the day on a birding expedition out onto the sand flats and started to explore the glacier.  This ended up being a day where we took it easy exhausted from the 18 hours days of the past week.

It was a cold windy day
Day 9 - Exploring the Glacier - Iceland is home to the largest glacier in the world other than in the arctics.  We spend the day exploring its various glacial heels and collecting some glacier ice, from the beach, for our cooler. The highlight of the day was Jokulsarlon - the iceberg lake.
Day 10 - Vik - We rushed off to Vik so we would have a chance to explore the area impacted by the volcano (including an accidental cross over a closed bridge) and seeing some interesting waterfalls.  The day ended in Vik exploring the sea cliffs which include the scariest drive we have ever done thanks to "our guide" the chef at the Hotel Lundi. We seriously thought that this might be the end to our trip!!
A Puffin at Vik
Day 11 - Reykjavik - Our speed tourist day where we tried to check off the top site-seeing spots of icelands with visits to Gullfoss, Geyser and the continental rift at Pingveiller (an awe inspiring highlight).  We finished the night off in Reykjavik at the Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel.
Day 12 - Our flight home - the driect flight back to Toronto wasn't until the evening which allowed us to take the last day to recharge at the Blue Lagoon including an in-water massage.  A perfect way to end the trip.
Someone said this was good for your skin...
Many more stories and pictures to come.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Dream Vacation to Iceland

Sharleen and I just got back from one of our dream vacations - a tour / adventure of the island of Iceland.  It was an incredible 12 days of adventure, stories and discovery.  By far it was the best trip either of us have ever been on, in short Iceland was out of this world incredible - from the landscape to the people we were delighted at every turn.  Almost every day we where left wanting to explore that next stop and could have easily spent a month without discovering everything we wanted.   Iceland was at the top of both of our lists and we have been thinking about taking the time to do this for the last two years and we are glad we did.  The purpose of this blog is to share what we discovered (along with some of the over 5000 pictures) with our friends but to also share some of the 6 months of research (and many of the last min changes) with others that may be planning an Iceland Vacation.  If you have traveled to Iceland and want to share your experiences or have any questions please let us know and we will try and do what we can to help.

At Goðafoss - Falls of the Gods