We left Munich, bound for our last stop on our year-and-a-half adventure living in Europe; the country of Iceland. It was a four-hour flight, so not too bad, and when we arrived, we had planned a car rental (or car hire, as they say in most of the rest of the world, which is kind of strange, but then again, I am hiring the car to do a job, so I guess it works) for our three day stay. We picked up the car, and I saw a lighthouse only ten minutes away from the off-airport rental agency, so we went there first. The Holmsberg Lighthouse is painted bright orange, and stood out in stark contrast to the soft, green grass in front of it, the light blue sky above, and the deep blue ocean behind it.
It was really windy; and it gets so windy, that the car rental agency told us to hold onto our car doors as we opened them, as they do not cover “the door being ripped off by the wind.” So that was odd, but as we explored the island, we realized how true it was. It was also cold here (for us, about 50 degrees Fahrenheit), and our thin jackets and jeans were no match for the whirling wind and ocean breeze, so we took some pictures and walked rather quickly back to the car, on our way to Reykjavík for the night.
We stopped at a grocery store (called Bonus) along the way, as we had been told that Iceland is very expensive. The Duty-Free shop at the airport sells cheaper wine and spirits, as well as chocolate and other duty-free things; so we bought a couple bottles of prosecco to enjoy during our stay. At the grocery store, we bought multi-grain buns along with lunch-meat and cheese, and some fruits and potato chips, and those became our meals for our time in Iceland. It was actually nice having sandwiches again, as American style sandwiches aren’t popular or widely found in Europe.
We reached Reykjavík in the early evening; after eating our sandwich dinner we went to buy stocking caps, because, we didn’t have any winter clothes. Then we went walking along the oceanfront.
On the way back, we took the rainbow road (Jesse at each end of the road, doing jazz-hands for your enjoyment):
Down some of the quaint streets with their colorfully painted houses and roofs,
finding ourselves at the massive, Hallgrimskikja church. Built in 1986, the church tower is 73 meters tall.
There is a statue of Leif Eriksson in front,
The doors on the church are cool as well.
The church was closed by the time we arrived, so we walked a bit more in the area around our hotel before calling it an early night. The next morning we were on our way to south Iceland. As we only had a few days to explore, we decided the southern part of Iceland was the most accessible to us. Our first stop was the largest lake in Iceland, Thingvellir, and the national park of the same name. There is a large parking lot with bathrooms and a lookout point, but the parking was not free, and we avoided paying for parking during our trip, so we stopped and used the restrooms, and went on to Oxararfoss Waterfall. There, parking is free, and we walked between the large basalt rock formations on a nice, laid out path;
Until we reached the waterfall;
There were a good number of people at the waterfall, but not overly crowded, so we were able to sit and enjoy the cool mist coming off the water for a while, before we departed. Oxararfoss is at the north end of the Lake, and we drove south, along the east side.
We were getting hungry for lunch, ready for another round of lunch-meat sandwiches and potato chips, and found a picnic table (as well as a spectacular view of the lake) at the Hrafnagja Observation Deck.
There are many gravel roads to take in Iceland; some lead to waterfalls, others lead to hiking trails, many lead to people’s homes and farms, and we took one of the latter when driving next to the lake. There were a few homes near the lake, but no one was stirring there, so we stopped, got out, and enjoyed the close-up view of the lake all by ourselves. It was wonderful.
Something to note about Iceland is that there are a lot of fellow tourists, driving on the same route (as there are only a few major roads, usually route 1), stopping at the same places. We saw the same people a few times on our journey at different stops, and that will happen, but taking some of those unmarked roads is a great idea if you’re just a wee bit adventurous and have the time, if you’re looking to get away. Our next stop southward was the Kerid Crater, which is a turquoise lake located in a volcanic crater.
There is a nominal fee to walk around the nice gravel paths (which isn’t a parking fee, though I guess it could have been, since there was nowhere else to park…), either high above the lake or down around the lake’s edge. We took the high road, and walked the full circle around; the sun shinning overhead made the color of the lake really pop, as you can see below.
and, taken from the highest point overlooking the Lake:
On we went, to one of the bigger waterfalls, named Seljandsfoss, where one can walk underneath the big waterfall. Again, paid parking, and again, we passed on that; rather driving down the road the opposite way, where there was another, smaller waterfall (named Gljufrabui) and no parking charge.
It isn’t too far a distance to Seljandsfoss, so we went that way, but didn’t have ponchos nor the desire to get wet; preferring to enjoy the walk itself, there and back.
There are even a few smaller waterfalls in between the two, and it’s easy to get a picture with them all.
As we continued to head southeast, we had one more waterfall to see before resting, Skogafoss. Even bigger than Seljandsfoss, there is a hotel and restaurant and campground all on-site. We stopped in the restaurant (for a very expensive beer) before going to see the waterfall.
No parking charge here as we walked past rows of RVs with a handful of tents set up, ready for a night at the waterfall, and we arrived at the base of it.
There is a long staircase walk (200 feet, or 60 meters) to reach the top and see out over the falls.
It was really a steep walk up, but worth it if you have the energy for it. We took our time at the top, enjoying the mist off the waterfall and view of the surrounding countryside.
The final post from our travels in Europe is next!
3 thoughts on “Travels in Europe: Iceland”
It’s beautiful there! Did it get cold in the rest of your travels, or was this the coldest you’d been the whole time? It was so cold when we went to Scotland in March a few years ago.
Funny enough, the coldest place we were was Edinburgh back in April. It was so windy and cold there, so we had a similar experience