Travel through Iceland in the 2013

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Travel through Iceland in July of the 2013

@ Photos and travel story sent by Antonio Panadero, you can see much more of him in http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonipanadero/

Tour of Iceland July 2013
Tour of Iceland July 2013

My wife and I left the North Station in Valencia address Barcelona Sants, from there there is a good combination of metro to El Prat airport. We had a placid flight of 04h: 30min with Vueling. The plan was to spend a day in the capital Reykjavik, rent a car and travel the island on our own for two weeks to access and enjoy nature, the main reason to travel through Iceland.

Waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, geysers and fishing villages form the postcard of this destination, which despite not being exactly cheap, which is not (prices are those of northern Europe, Scandinavian countries, etc ...), allows the free and free access to all its magnificent landscapes. Indicated for nature lovers, it is common to come across cyclists on the road with the tent on them, touring the country and sometimes sleeping in the open only with the jacket.

There is a vast majority of nature tourism, outdoor sports activities and caravans that you find in the middle of nowhere. Iceland is a strange country in the eyes of a southern traveler, but absolutely recommended, the physical presence is imposed and produces deep sensations.

On these dates the climate is mild (10º - 12º degrees of average temperature) and you also have many hours of light due to the midnight sun. On the same day, the sun usually alternates with the clouds and almost always the rain. Iceland feels like an absolutely safe country with no hint of crime.

 

 

ARRIVAL at REYKJAVIK.

We arrived at the 01: 30 h to the International Airport of Keflavík, Iceland's largest airport and the main one for international transport. It is located near the city of Keflavík, about 50 kilometers from the capital. Around 02:00 we were in the individual cabin where we slept in a hostel near the airport and almost dawn. Motel Alex  Guesthouse  Adalgata 60, 230 Keflavík. The breakfasts are usually free buffet consisting of coffee and juice, some pastries and a variety of cold meats and fruit. Nothing exceptional but enough to gather strength. // //

REYKJAVIK.

The next day breakfast in the Motel Alex  and bus from the airport to  4th Floor Hotel  Laugavegur 101, 101 Reykjavik (140 euros) from Reyjkavik.

Reykjavik Hallgrimskirkja Church
Reykjavik Hallgrimskirkja Church

The guesthouse service included minivan pick-up and drop-off service to the airport that was barely within 5 minutes. Once we found several bus and taxi companies, the first ones cheaper. We also take the opportunity to change some money, although you can pay everything absolutely with a credit card. In one hour we were at the bus station and from there to the hotel by minivan.

We had booked only one night. The hotel 4th floor It is a modern, central accommodation with free Wi-Fi.

Reykjavik is a small, clean city, with low houses painted in colors with a metal sheet as exterior, cozy, but expensive. The prices are high in general. A beer in a bar from eight euros. There is a variety of pubs and hostels for backpackers with enough atmosphere and good music, the cold and the rain in the street, make it a good option to listen to live music with a few pints, if the pocket resists it.

You can also take advantage of  happy hours that are in the vast majority. They also all have free Wi-Fi. Many pubs have signs on the door announcing the 2x1 or concert schedule. There are also the typical Irish and English pubs of any city.

// //

Most of the people you will find in these places are students, Erasmus, tourists, backpackers, young people in general. Sleeping or buying souvenirs is not cheap either.

The church stands out Hallgrimskirkja, is the tallest building in the whole country, of a striking robustness, from the belfry you have a magnificent panoramic view of Reykjavik and its surroundings if the clouds do not prevent it, a usual thing. In front is the statue of Leif Eriksson, son of the famous Erik the Red. The atmosphere of the city is concentrated in the pedestrian street Laugavegur and its continuation after crossing to the west side of the city.

This area is full of bars, restaurants and shops. Gastronomy is not the strong point, its traditional dishes come from Viking heritage: smoked, dried fish with butter, some cold meat of fermented lamb and shark with a strong smell and taste of ammonia. The rest are dishes that you can find anywhere, pasta, meats, hamburgers, fish, especially salmon.

Large queues form in the street stalls of hot dogs. We ate in the Loki Coffee Lokastigur 28 | 101 Reykjavík. It is located right in front of the church, and you can taste a combined dish of typical Icelandic food next to the second floor window with beautiful views.

Nothing remarkable beyond the satisfaction of having tasted (soup + plate + beer on 25 euros per person)

We spent a rainy day in the city. When we arrived at the hotel at twelve o'clock at night we had to pull the curtains to keep the clarity from entering. It dusk around the 00.30 hy and on the 02.30 h it is already dawning.

REYJAVIK-PINGVELLIR-GULLFOSS-GEYSIR-SELJALANDSFOSS-SKOGAFOSS-VIK. (350 KM APPROX.)

After breakfast at the hotel we rented a car with Hertz  For nine days (800 euros), there is a wide variety of rental cars in the same city, some with more affordable prices, but given the state of some roads we decided on a guarantee company. We also rented a Toyota Yaris, a basic model far removed from what would be an off-road vehicle. The management is carried out from Valencia. With the sun on us for the first time on the trip, we left Reykjavik for Vik (280km). Iceland's road network has only a few km of motorways on the capital's ring road, the rest of the island is surrounded by a main single-lane road called R1 or Ring road.

One of the many geysers around Iceland
One of the many geysers around Iceland

However, driving is easy, mainly due to the low traffic, since the steering wheel is on the same side, thank goodness! Beware of speed limits (90km / h for the entire island as a general rule) and radars, especially in the vicinity of the capital. It's funny but at gas stations you can only pay with a credit card and at the same pump, no one gives you gas or charges you. When you leave the R1 you will find gravel and unpaved roads, a 4 × 4 being advisable although not essential.

We headed first towards the northwest, by an internal road to Thingvellir National Park, World Heritage. This valley is one of the most important historical places in Iceland. Headquarters of the old Viking parliament in the open air and where you can see the rupture between the tectonic plates of the European and North American continents. A beautiful place but not very spectacular, it has more historical than tourist weight. Nearby is the area of Geysir, with the geyser Strokkur located in the valley of Haukadallur. Source of original hot water that gives the name to the challenge of geysers of the world. You have to wait several minutes between jet and jet, reaches a considerable height.

To end the so-called golden circle we headed towards the waterfall Gullfoss (Golden waterfall) located in the Hvítá river canyon and one of the most popular attractions in the country. The waterfall is surprising for the flow of water and the enclave where it is located. You can get close to the edge after a little walk. At this point a fine rain accompanies us to the shores of Vik.

On the way to this city we see the Crater Kerid, the only place we pay in all of Iceland. Further south, near the coast are the beautiful waterfalls of Seljalandfoss  y Skogafoss. The first is located in what were formerly the cliffs and allows to pass through its interior, behind the curtain of water. Skofagoss is a vertical torrent of water, we saw it very fast because of the heavy rain. We were surprised that while we did not get out of the car to look at it, there were quite a few tents installed in the surroundings despite the bad weather and the rain.

We arrived at Vik late in the afternoon, we got the last room in the Puffin Hostel  Víkurbraut, 870 Vík. (Around 100 euros)

Apparently the hotel was full and in the second building there was a room with shared bathroom, but no sheets, just a mattress to put the sack on. After talking to the owner she kindly gave us some sheets. That same night from the hall's computer we booked a trek through the glacier Skaftafell for the next day.

VIK-GLACIAR SKAFTAFELL- LAGUNA GLACIER JOKULSÁRLÓN -HOFN (300 km approx.)

After a good breakfast the first stop was on the fabulous cliffs of Dyrholaey  and its black sand beaches. On these coasts there are cliffs formed by columns of black basalt that surprise for their geometry and originality.

Cliffs of Dyrholaey
Cliffs of Dyrholaey

We have two hours ahead of us by a monotonous and identical landscape dotted with sheep and horses. As we approach the national park of Vatnajökull  we can see from the road itself the immense ice tongues of the glacier. To do the two-hour trek, you only need some mountain boots that give you the place and crampons to walk on the ice that they put you. In a group of ten people we went by van to the glacier with the guide, who among other things tells us that the dirt road we have accessed was made by the producer of Game of Thrones to transport material and actors to the shooting of the year past. Walking the glacier is a great experience noisier than we thought. You must go nailing and stomping with the crampons on the ice.

After returning, we continue our way to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. A lake with access to the sea where there are floating icebergs of ice coming from the glacier.

Hofn is a very small city located in a marine lagoon and gateway to the eastern fjords. We booked room in el  Höfn Inn Guesthouse  Vesturbraut 3, 780 Höfn.

In the harbor there was an open-air concert with the musicians on top of a fishing barge, but the rain made us desist from staying.

HOFN-FIORDOS-HENGIFOSS-EGILSSTADIR (250 KM APROX).

Waterfall of Hengiffos, Iceland
Waterfall of Hengiffos, Iceland

The strong sun again shone in the morning, and that allowed us to enjoy during the journey by road the incredible fjords that reach the sea.

Some fishing village and we leave the main road to visit  Hengiffos, you have to climb a mountain for almost an hour to see this 118m high waterfall and its striking hexagonal basalt columns.

Again begins to pour and we go down to the car to continue to Egilsstadir to see if we find a hotel.

This city has nothing special, we just went to have a delicious salmon dinner.

I do not remember the name of the restaurant, but there is no other and the city has four streets, so it's not hard to find.

We sleep in the Guesthouse Ormurinn  Fagradalsbraut 9, 700 Egilsstadir.

EGILSSTADIR-DETTIFOSS-HUSAVIK

Waterfall of Dettifoss, Iceland
Waterfall of Dettifoss, Iceland

We start the day again with sun, the road runs through an orange and desert landscape culminated by some volcanoes. After leaving the R1, the gravel road begins to get complicated with lots of potholes and stones, and you have to be careful not to run over the sheep that occasionally cross or stand in the middle of the road.

The waterfall Dettifoss  and the canyon that surrounds it are spectacular.

We arrived at noon to the pretty fishing town of Husavik, the terraces overlooking the sea were full of people eating in the sun. Before looking for a hotel, we went to the Restaurante Salka for some delicious prawns, some mussels and some fish, all great.

Right there we made two reservations for whale watching. Husavik is full of companies for boat trips, but this one is new and has more competitive prices. About forty euros per person, three hours. We went to the 20.00 h, the sunset light was spectacular, on the boat there were only six people, we immediately saw blue whales from very close, with the water completely calm and a twilight light the experience was great.

After a snack we went back to the 23.00 to the port.

LAKE MYVATN-GODAFOSS-AKUREYRI (220 KM APPROX.)

Godafoss waterfall, Iceland
Godafoss waterfall, Iceland

This area is famous for the variety of craters and volcanic formations that offer a lunar environment. We visited the area and decided to climb the slope of the incredible crater Hverfjall.

We arrived at the waterfall Godafoss or cascade of the gods, the most spectacular of all in my judgment.

We continue on our way to Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland is quite lively, has a hotel offer and is the starting point for hiring excursion packages in the area.

We sleep in the Akureyri Guesthouse  property of the hotel of the same name where we entered to ask for prices, and that is located in the pedestrian street Hafnarstraeti.

The establishment offers functional rooms (between 80 and 90 euros) with private or shared bathroom for a much lower price than the hotels. Accommodation is definitely quite expensive in Iceland.

AKUREYRI-SAUDARKROKUR-BLONDUOS (180 KM APPROX.)

In the morning and with a horrible time we went to the house of Papa Noel located a short distance from the city, a pity because it was not, but anyway we left the letter in the mailbox.

Glaumbaer farm-museum in Iceland
Glaumbaer farm-museum in Iceland

Already in the direction of Saudarkrokur is the Glaumbaer farm-museum, an old country house with roofs of earth and grass, it seems that they were made in this way for centuries.

Set in the sixteenth century, it reproduces the lifestyle of that time, you access its interior to see all the apartments inside, kitchen, rooms, etc ...

You have to pay entrance to some young people disguised as time. We noticed at the exit and since nobody had told us anything, it is a matter of trust, we invested the money from the entrance to a beer in Saudarkrokur, there was no bad intention. There is also a tea house with very period decoration.

Saudarkrokur is a small fishing village with a quick look. We arrived at Blonduos and took a room in the Kiljan Guesthouse Adalgotu 2, Blonduos.

It is a private house next to the coast whose owner is a nice Polish. We managed to find a place to dine and order a couple of pizzas. Without any special interest we spent the night in Blonduos.

BLONDUOS-STIKKYI- GRUNDARFJÖRDUR (200 KM APPROX.)

Every day the daily chronicles are shorter, the west side of the island offers fewer alternatives, the towns are very small and there are hardly any people on the street, they have dinner early and at nine at night you can only go to your room to read a book. Stikky is a very beautiful fishing town, embarkation point for ferries that go to the western fjords of the country. At this point we have traveled nearly 2.000 km in the car on all kinds of roads, with rain, snow, fog or a combination of any of them. We decided to spend the afternoon quietly at the Grundarfjordur Tourist Center, having a coffee with milk and reading. Then after a short walk through the town to see the volcanic mountain Kirkjufell, we stayed overnight in the village in a guesthouse.

RETURN TO REYKJAVIK

We return to the capital passing through the nearby towns of Akranes and Borgarnes where we stop to eat. We had arrived two days ahead of schedule, it was starting the weekend and it was full of tourists. We approached the Tourist Information Center located on Adalstraeti street to try to reserve a guesthouse. It was difficult, little room and very high prices, in the end we slept two days on a sofa bed in a wonderful house in the center for 70 euros a night after negotiating with the owner. It was the house where his father lived, with three floors, we had a bathroom for ourselves and a shower upstairs. Friendly but discreet we occasionally met part of the family.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Blue Lagoon, Iceland

We take the opportunity to see things pending on the first day such as the Harpa, which is a conference and concert center, modern and transparent due to its glass walls. Admission is free. We also visited Reykjavik Art Museum (12 euros per person) HAFNARHÚS Tryggvagötu 17, 101 Reykjavík. Hafnarhús exhibitions focus on contemporary art.

Taking advantage of the fact that we still had the car the next day we approached the Blue Lagoon, about 50 km from Reykjavik in the direction of the airport. Blue lagoon is an artificial Spa located in a lava field, the waters come from a nearby geothermal plant. It has cascades of hot water, saunas, cafeteria, restaurant and bars in the water itself. Upon entering, they give you a bracelet according to the services you have paid for, a bathrobe, massages, etc… The price is around 40 euros and it enjoys a large number of visitors, many attracted by the medicinal benefits of water. Be careful with long hair, especially in girls, although there are showers for before and after bathing and they dispense hair conditioner, this remains like "a scouring pad" in literal words.

The last day we returned the car and took the bus service to the airport that leaves from the Harpa building and that can be booked at the tourist attention centers or bought at the same time.

The time had come to go home, twelve to fifteen days is enough time, we leave with the feeling of having seen almost everything important on the island, whales, glaciers, waterfalls, perhaps an elf. We wish we could see the Northern Lights, but they occur in winter so we will have to go back one day.
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