Go to Another Vacation
Iceland - July 2012
Reykjavik and Fly Home
Ingolfshofthi Bird Cliff
Hike to Kristinartindar Peak
Hike to Svartifoss
Skógar Turf Houses
Hike towards Fimmvörðuháls
Trail of Hope
We took a day flight from the US, which is not always an option. The convenience is that it would land us at bedtime and we could get sleep and then handle a new day. ON our prior trip, we flew out in the evening and landed at about 6am and had a while day ahead of us. I personally do not enjoy being tired, and this worked out well. Mostly.
When we landed, we had no idea what to do in order to find the shuttle to the bed and breakfast near the hotel. No one seemed to know. It was midnight and people were ready to go home.
We found some people who thought they were waiting for the same shuttle in the back of the airport away from the bus and taxi pickup. We waited for a while and I finally found an employee in an office and asked that she call the B&B. She found out that the last shuttle was at midnight. That was pretty unfortunate for us. I asked her if she could ask them to still come and get us. I had no idea what to do. She got them to agree to come back and we went back to the spot to wait. While waiting, another family showed up looking for the shuttle. So now there were seven of us waiting. When the shuttle arrived, we realized that the rest of the people standing outside were also waiting for this shuttle. It is really good that we asked them to come back!
The B&B was more like what we would call a small hotel. It was very clean and modern and had good beds and a nice modern bathroom. The staff was very nice, and there was a breakfast offered buffet style where you can pick out your meats and cheeses from a platter or fix your own cereal. We set up a time with the front desk for a shuttle back to the airport the next morning to get our rental car from SIXT (I recommend SIXT!). Once again when we boarded the shuttle, there were a few people running for the bus and it circled around to grab a father and son who had their breakfast in their hands. The drivers were all very patient with everyone. It was only a short drive to the airport and the driver dropped us off at the SIXT car rental place which was really nice since it is not part of the interior of the airport.
We started our drive early. We opted to pay extra for the GPS. This was worth it, but we could not figure out how to use it and had to turn back to the airport for help. We never fully mastered it, but the man at SIXT set the bird cliffs as a destination since that was number 1 on my list of things to do, and I had been corresponding with the your guide leading up to the trip. I had to make sure I was there.
It was a four hour drive and we thought we could make it, but it seemed to take us five. Not only were we not the only car on the road, we stopped a few times because things were pretty or we needed to buy a donut and get gas. Important stuff. Since we had time until the second tour, we were able to extend our drive on Route 1 towards the east and see the floating ice. This was number 2 on my list. We stopped at a few places along the way where people were pulled over as that is a hint that something is interesting and that theory has yet to fail us. It was less than an hour from the bird cliffs to the floating ice so we had a short while to enjoy the sights before we headed back to see the birds. Now that we knew where the floating ice was, we could easily come back later (and we did).
Everything about the Ingolfshofthi bird cliff trip was wonderful. I would do this walk again every time. Even without the birds, the walk is really nice. The ride out across black sand on a hay wagon was pretty wild, and then there was a steep climb up the sand which our guide created a stopping point part way up so we could rest and he could tell us neat stuff. Once on top, we could see the ocean on one side and snow capped mountains on the other. I was simply completely happy up there. We saw lots of baby hatchlings up close and saw puffins in the ocean and on the cliffs. The guide had high powered scopes to see different birds that we could all look though. I was thankful that I had a new lens for my camera so I could zoom in and get some great photos.
After the tour, we needed a little extra help from the guide. We did not know how to run the gas pump to put gas in our car and we did not have enough to make it to our hotel. In exchange for a ride home, the guide was so wonderful to help us out with this. We would have had a very unhappy ending to the day if he had not extended help to us.
Checkin to the hotel was easy and we had reserved a glacier view room in the back. I would probably not spend the extra money on the view next time as the bottom portion is the grass burm that the hotel is below. The bathroom was Ok and the beds were fine at best - we had two twin beds which seems to be a running theme on our trips outside of the US.
We had a great supper. The menu was a small selection, but vegetarian was not a problem, and all of the meals being served looked really nice. I opted for a pasta dish with a traditional bleu cheese sauce and it was very good. Expect to pay about $30 and up for dinner per person.
Since the sun seemed to still be up, we drove to Skaftafell National Park to see if we could find out any information about hikes as this was hard to come by in a definitive form on the internet at the time. We were suprised at htis late hour to see the visitors center was actually still open.There were tons of people around and we got in line to talk to the ranger, We were behind a very stinky hiker who could not sit still. I will remember that forever.
The ranger showed us a map and recommended a hike that we could do that evening and then another few options for tomorrow. We wer not completely ready to hike, but we had a camera and a water bottle and some snacks left over from the car trip. We were off to hike to Svartifoss!
Svartifoss means "black waterfall". The basalt behind the falls is black in tone which gives this waterfall the name. We found the hike to the falls to be even more impressive than the falls itself. Waterfalls are not a rarity in Iceland - they are everywhere - but the trails in this park are particularly beautiful, and ther eis the chance to mix siome cultural history into the walk. We visited the turf houses at the park while on this hike which were neat, and we also came upon an old power house at a lower waterfall that you can go into,
One of the best hikes of our short lives so far. We hiked a loop trail with a spur to Kristinartindar Peak. We actually spent the whole day hiking. At the end my feet could not take it anymore. My hiking boots had been rubbimg me wrong on the plane flight to Iceland, so I had to leave those behind and wear my casual sneakers. I figured if I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in my "approach shoes" normally for a short rocky hike to a rock climb, then I could put up with this for one day. I would be on a horse for the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, we left the good camera behind (yes, I was mad), but we had the small camera and all the snacks and water we would need. It was one of the best hikes of our lives.
After another wonderful dinner at the Fosshotel - we would chose to stay there again simply because they fed us so well - we went to the floating ice again. They have these 'duck boats' as Bostonians call them, that drive on land and then bring oyu into the water where you motor around for a bit before returning to land. It is a nice opportunity to get out between the icebergs in the lake and to see them from different angles. Normally at 9 at night the tours are no longer running, but a bus of Russian men had a reservation for one of the boats. One of the folks working for the duck boats asked them if we could join them and they said something that must have been 'yes', because we were handed life preservers and on our way.
The trip was kind of neat and we got some good photos. We probably would not do it a second time, but it was nice to have the opportunity to do this. After the boat returned us to shore, we crossed the road and watched the ice float down the river into the ocean and then wash back up on to the shore. This was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen. The beach is black and the ice is clear or white, and the sun catches the drops of water and produces a rainbow of colors. We spent a lot of time walking around, watching ice hit other ice and break up, watching birds, and realizing there would not be a sunset to watch as it had almost dipped but decided to come back up again, so we headed back to the hotel after a great day.
The goal of this day was to get to Skógar and hike up past the waterfall (Skógafoss). We had visited the Skógar Folk Museum during our last visit and were sad to have to miss out on the hike due to severe wind. This did not prevent us from stopping to read signs, take pictures in blooming lupine fields, watch newborn foals teeter around a paddock, or to show at every wool shop along the way.
We made a quick stop in Hofn to return an unopened map that we purchased heading in the opposite direction on our first day in Iceland. When we realized had cost us $60, we put it in the glove compartment and prayed they would take it as a return. It was such a sinking feeling to realize we had just spent that much, thinking we had spent $6. They were very nice to let us exchange it for gas. Just be warned that road maps cost an enormous amount of money in Iceland. Aside from that, Hofn has a tremendous bird population and marvelous bird cliffs as well as a pretty church and interesting rock formaito0ns in the ocean.
By the time we got to Skógar, it was past lunchtime and I really needed to fuel up as it was a bit chilly. We went into the cafeteria and bought soup for lunch (oh, about $10 or more per bowl) and then headed to the turf houses and the Church at Skógar before heading to the hike. I was not in the mood to be in a hurry. It was vacation!
The trail continues for days to spectacular places, but we decided to hike from the waterfall towards Fimmvörðuháls for an hour or so and then turn around and head back since we had to check in to a hotel in Reykjavík.
We ended back at the Viking Village to spend the night and prepare for the early morning pick up for our horseback riding trip.
The pickup was really early in the morning. The women who checked us in the night before made sandwiches for us and left them hanging in a bag on our doorknob since we would leave before breakfast. It was so sweet and thoughtful! We were the first on the bus and as the driver wove his way thought the capitol, he picked up one more horse person after another. In a few more hours we would be on horseback, and would then continue to ride for another 3 days. The trip was called The Trail of Hope and the path encircled a body of water named Hop. When I say encircled, I mean crosses though it often.
The Interior is like being on the moon. It quickly becomes graded dirt paths though rocky soil for miles and miles. There is the occasional water crossing and then it is back to dark sand and small rocks. The backdrop is a contrast to the dry ground with snow covered mountains.
The drive is very dusty. The bus has no air conditioning unless you count the sunroof that let all the dust in to the extent that we had to cover our mouths and noses and squinted our eyes. As I write this, I now think I know how we ended up with head colds for our last two days in Iceland and I ended up with a sinus infection and my friend on the trip ended up with bronchitis. I guess I would suggest a mask like you use when you are painting or sanding something. I am glad I got to see the scenery, but considering how sick we got, I would probably not try it again.
We had some interesting stops. One was one I asked for. We were driving along the road and I could see a beautiful mountain on the side. It was hard to take a picture though the glass, and the driver said we could stop for a minute to stretch our legs and look around. There was a parking lot at what might have been the highest point of the road. It felt good to get fresh air, and the landscape was beautiful.
We also made a stop at a hotspring where we got the choice of bathing or doing the walk to the cave where an outlaw and his wife hid out. We picked the cave and had a lovely walk though an alpine garden to the cave. the cave was barely a hole in the ground and it had a good amount of room for sleeping, but you had to squat to fit vertically. I might have chose jail over that.
The trip continued on to another waterfall and Geysir which we had visited on our own several years ago. I did a little shopping, but the gift shop at Geysir was no longer as plentiful as it had been in the past. I had hoped to buy a sweater, but they had a very small and limited selection. I regretted not getting the jacket I saw at the waterfall gift shop.
We returned to the city and said goodbye to all our new friends as they were dropped off at their hotels. It was very sad, but I actually stayed in touch with a few people from the trip since our return. We were the last stop and were dropped off at the Viking Village for a hot bowl of lobster stew and a good night's rest.
We both woke up with bad head colds, but we had two more days to fill so we gave it our best. We started the Golden Circle by heading to Thingvellir National Park. We first went to he church that had been closed two years prior, which I was happy for, and then we did a hike in the center of the park that seems to be like all the other ones in this area. It is basically a bunch of spoke trails off of a curved road that all lead to an abandoned farm (only a few rocks left) and then from there you can grab any of the other spokes and continue on, or return on your own spoke. We were sick and did not enjoy the hike, but the center was a very peaceful and pretty place to stop and have a snack.
We left the park and decided to head towards the area where I thought the beginning of a hike was, but we were never actually able to get there and gave up and came back to the hotel, grumpy, sick, and miserable.
We woke up sick again. We just wanted to be home. We went shopping in the city center and visited the Perlan. Nothing really seemed to really please us when we felt this miserable, but we trudged on anyway. We did a final museum stop to see a large ship inside a museum, then it was back to the airport. We decided if we returned that we would do everything before the horse trip and then leave for home right after. It was unfortunate for both of us to be sick, but at least we had a lot of fun times leading up tpo that point.