Roaming Iceland – September 2016

If you have been reading endlessroaming.com you are aware that I have been blogging about Most of what I knew of Iceland was watching TV shows like Vikings or Game of Thrones. Their appearance in Euro Football, music (Bjork anyone) and of course documentaries showing how amazing the country is. I was Roaming the Globe in 2016 and in Northern England; I wanted to travel somewhere different and as Iceland is easily accessible; I planned a cunning five-day adventure across the country. Being an experienced solo traveler, I figured it best to do on my own rather than with an organised tour. This proved to be a brilliant experience, I found out there is primarily one road or the Ring Road that goes around the country so difficult to get lost. There was not much traffic and was a wonderful way to drive listening to Iceland music on the radio. Icelandic band Sigur Ross Icelandic was on the radio, perfect car driving music.

As I was landing at a reasonable time early so rather than visit Reykjavik I thought I would venture out further towards the town of Vik 225km away. I started the car, put on Monsters of Men (Icelandic band and perfect car driving music) and headed out. The landscape was a lot of green hills and no trees, and after a few hours later I reached my first stop, the amazing Seljalandsfoss falls. After parking the car, I followed a small pathway heading towards the 65-metre waterfall, the most famous in Iceland. I followed the pathway behind the waterfall and had the rather spectacular sight of flowing water viewing the barren Iceland landscape in the distance. I was wearing a leather jacket so was kinda prepared to get saturated and being bald meant no concerns about my hair. Instead of shaving one’s head and wearing an inappropriate leather jacket, one could invest in a raincoat. As daylight was running out, I jumped back into the car and continued my drive to Vik.

Vik is small, there are a few restaurants, houses and hotels with a church overlooking the town. I headed to a restaurant, had myself a meal. I spoke with a few American tourists who were all “Like Wow” and then went back to the hostel I’d booked for the evening. Unfortunately, because of cloud cover, I did not get to see the Northern Lights. I later learned it’s difficult to plan a trip to see the Northern Lights because the clouds are unpredictable you can’t expect it. The longer you spend in Iceland, however more likely you will see them, my five days were not enough.

As the sun goes down for only 3 hours in September, Id gone to bed early and was awake at the crack of dawn which I think was around 4am. I drove down to Reynisfjara beach to watch the sun come up; it was bloody cold. I then cranked the tunes listening to Kaleo ((Icelandic band and perfect car driving music) and continued my drive west. The landscape was changing from green grass to rocks and more mountains and driving near the coastline. It was early in the morning, there was little traffic and I was zoning out…. AND THEN SOMETHING SPECTACULAR, Id arrived at Glacier Lagoon. I knew that I would see this, but reading about it had not prepared me for seeing this amazing sight and words can’t do it justice. The weather was heating into a nice sunny day and there I was on a crystal blue lake staring at glaciers floating on the water. It was like watching huge sky-blue ice cubes floating on a sky-blue lake. I walked the left-hand side of the lake and then down to the beach, the sand jet black and rocky with large ice blocks spread across the coastline. I found it very surreal, the first time Id been to the beach with ice cubes.

I continued my drive to the fishing village of Hofn, which was 270km distance from Vik and had some lunch. The drive itself was spectacular, endless mountains, waterfalls and greenery, abandoned buildings and churches scattered about. I snapped a few photos and then turned back. Unfortunately, 5 days in Iceland would not be near enough to do the entire island. The driving distance is 1300km, so I turned around and headed back to Reynisfjara beach. On the way I stopped past Skaftafell Glacier, but as I had no time I only looked from a distance. It was typically spectacular, a huge volcano with a river of snow running towards where I was standing. Shortly after I arrived at the beach, I looked at jet black sand and stared at the free standing sea stacks just off the beachhead. I then explored the massive arched cave, which was great for making spectacular photo opportunities of the coastline. The beach was a location for scenes from Game of Thrones, Star Trek and Star Wars, and being Icelandic is spectacular.

I finished up and then headed to my next destination, the town of Selfoss for two nights, and on the way was another waterfall, Skogafoss. The walk to the fall from the car park is a kilometre, and the waterfall is 60 metre in height. As you approach it, water spray starts to envelope you from a distance and you can get drenched when up close (shave your head). I climbed to the top of the fall, there is a pathway to the right, it took some effort however it was worth it for the view of the landscape. Another waterfall completed I headed to my hostel. Selfoss is a town of 7500 people or so its claim to fame being the home of American chess champion Bobby Fischer where his grave is. While I have a passing interest in chess, I was more interested in the great outdoors. I headed straight to the local pub for a few beers but like Vik the town was quiet so back to the hostel for another early night.

I finished up and then headed to my next destination, the town of Selfoss  for two nights, and on the way was another waterfall, Skogafoss. The walk to the fall from the car park is a kilometre, and the waterfall is 60 metre in height. As you approach it, water spray starts to envelope you from a distance and you can get drenched when up close. I climbed to the top of the fall, there is a pathway to the right, it took some effort however it was worth it for the view of the landscape. Another waterfall completed I headed to my hostel. Selfoss is a town of 7500 people or so its claim to fame being the home of American chess champion Bobby Fischer where his grave is. While I have a passing interest in chess, I was more interested in the great outdoors. I headed straight to the local pub for a few beers but like Vik the town was quiet so back to the hostel for another early night.

My next destination for the day was driving around the Golden Circle, a looped road inland that covers around 300km in distance. I drove to Þingvellir national park, Sykur pumping through the radio (Icelandic band performing landscape music ). The park includes mountains, rivers, lakes, volcanic fissures and small towns. After exploring the park, I headed to the Geyser Hot Springs, the area roughly 3km square with a series of geysers shooting water up into the air. The most spectacular being Strokkur spring which sprays water up to 30 metres and is boiling hot, so best not to stand to close. Nearby is Gulfoss falls and stands at 32 metres in height. The water pours into a crevasse and the river flows with so much power that it’s like standing in the rain even though you can only look from above it. The waterfall is in two stages and forms a natural triangle, best explained in the photo attached.

The following day was driving around the Golden Circle, a looped road inland that covers around 300km in distance. I drove to Þingvellir national park, Sykur pumping through the radio ((Icelandic band and perfect car driving music ). The park includes mountains, rivers, lakes, volcanic fissures and small towns. After exploring the park, I headed to the Geyser Hot Springs, the area roughly 3km square with a series of geysers shooting water up into the air. The most spectacular being Strokkur spring which sprays water up to 30 metres and is boiling hot, so best not to stand to close. Nearby is Gulfoss falls and stands at 32 metres in height. The water pours into a crevasse and the river flows with so much power that it’s like standing in the rain even though you can only look from above it. The waterfall is in two stages and forms a natural triangle, best explained in the photo attached.

After my second night in Selfoss and it was then onto Reykjavik for a few nights. Id only heard good things about Icelandic hospitality so was looking forward to a few nights out after my previous early nights. There was however there one more road trip before checking into the hostel. I jumped back into the car and headed north to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula (Icelandic Band FM Belfast pumping through the radio….. you know the rest). The west is very different to the south coast and not as many tourists. The highlight was the coastline with a lot of strange and creepy looking rock formations and abandoned buildings which made for almost creepy experience; it was dark, windy and beautiful to explore. Located there is Kirkjufell mountain, an old volcano standing isolated which can be climbed and stands tall looking over the coastline, springs, creeks and waterfalls below. Essentially everywhere you looked was a postcard moment. The trip north took about 2 hours there and 2 hours back. I stopped past a few small towns, all including churches, and then headed past Kirkjufell mountain with and the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, yet more spectacular scenery.

Reykjavik nightlife I could tell was full of potential, however I had the unfortunate experience of being in the city whilst Justin Bieber was on tour. The population of Iceland is approximately 340,000 and 20% of the people were at the stadium both nights watching Bieber whilst I stayed there. Iceland has so many quality bands (which Ive listed), so I found it quite frustrating that the city was quieter than usual. Not that I didn’t have two good nights out, I did. The town centre has a vibrant and bright bar scene, plenty of beer, good food, great live music and no Bieber, fortunately. One thing that I found hilarious was Icelandic locals have an Incest Dating App. As the population is low, two-thirds of people live in Reykjavik. They developed the app to ensure if you meet someone you like you can verify if they too closely related (like a cousin). You connect the phones together (like the phones are kissing), whether or the potential couple agrees is up to them. I guess Tinder doesn’t cut it in Iceland.

The city itself has many attractions, probably the most famous is Hallgrimskirkja Church, ther are many attractions, the most famous is Hallgrimskirkja Church. There are 350 Lutheran Churches in Iceland, plenty of opportunity to accidentally marry your cousin if you don’t take precautions with the app. This church being the largest and overlooks the city, made of basalt rock and is open to the public. The city has various outdoor parks, buildings and has more of a village feel then a bustling city.

Reykjavik didn’t take me long to explore so one more drive I headed out of town for half an hour to the most famous attraction in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a spa, it’s not a natural park, built in 1976, though the thermal water comes from the springs below it. You need to purchase tickets days if not weeks in advance and if you don’t, you won’t get entry to the spring. I didn’t book this in advance so instead explored around the spring, which is still a worthwhile doing. The reason the water is blue is the geothermal plant that is next door providing the compounds that turn the water to the bright blue colour. It’s all healthy and is reputed to have great healing properties.

So that was my trip to Iceland, a country full of volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs, icebergs, mountain ranges, beaches, music and that dam bloody Bieber. It’s an outdoor adventurers dream, however, if like me you more inclined to drive than hike it’s a comfortable place to travel. In saying that some photos I’d taken took a little effort, so I wasn’t sitting on my butt all the time. There were a few things I wish Id done differently like more time to explore the north of the island. I wish to see the Northern Lights, go to the Ice Cave, see a Puffin bird up close, not be in Reykjavik during a “You know who” concert, hopefully next time. There isn’t many people about once out of Reykjavik so you can also get a true sense of isolation, the occasional conversation with a local or tourist. However, the Icelandic people I met were friendly, hospitable, passionate about their country and also have a quirky sense of humour. I very much enjoyed my time there an hope you enjoyed the read.

20 thoughts on “Roaming Iceland – September 2016

    1. Excellent and thanks for the feedback, if driving about make sure you put on some “Monsters of Men”, nothing like some Icelandic music for a road trip around the island
      Happy travels

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Iceland being my first stop, in an intended 9-12 months in Europe, two years hence, this post is yet another fine intro. Like you, I’d steer clear of a Justin Bieber concert. though his music has evolved a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback, the camera nor words really do the place justice, I appreciate your comment, still trying to get a better handle on the writing. Its a fantastic place and hope to get back there one day
      Happy travels

      Like

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