Greetings from Iceland

Islanti - 7.9.2018 23:06

Check out our last, but amazing, video of Iceland: and also a special video: with password 1205.

This barren island between North America and Europe was the last destination of our 3 months honeymoon before returning to Belgium. We didn’t stay there for too long, but enough to be amazed by its beauty! Our flight from New York arrived in Keflavik airport near Reykjavik at 5:55am on Thursday the 23rd of August, and we flew out early in the morning on Sunday the 26th. Icelandair is trying to attract tourists to the country by offering tickets with a maximum one week lay over in Iceland with no extra costs. They are good in marketing this mystical place of the Vikings, which seems to be like a big family with just 350,000 inhabitants. Everybody is someone’s -son or -dottir, instead of carrying family names.

We rented a car from the airport, which I think was essential to explore the island. Our Airbnb was near Hallgrim’s church in the centre of Reykjavik. Like many times before, our flight was over night but just a few hours long, so we didn’t really get much sleep. We just crashed in our room and slept until midday, although we meant to take only a power nap to go and visit some places since we didn’t have much time in Iceland. Well we needed the sleep. So then for the first day we went for a lunch, explored the small city centre of Reykjavik, went up the church tower for views of the city area, and walked around the colorful town. It was a nice partly cloudy day, but the summer day’s temperature wasn’t more than +12 degrees. We drove up to a fishing town called Akranes and visited a lighthouse over there. On the way there we drove through an underwater tunnel, but on the way back we took the longer route along the coast, which was a very beautiful winding road, and there were almost no other cars.

While at the church, we had seen an ad for a haunted walking tour in the town of Reykjavik starting at 8pm. No booking required. So we showed up to what turned out to be a very fun and interesting 2h tour about folklores and explaining the Icelandic culture! The tour was run by a local and we were about 15 people in the group, it was very informal. We got to know the interesting history of Reykjavik and the stories of some of its people, and their spirits.. It’s a mystical culture. We learned about the hidden people, or man-size elves, who live inside big rocks for example. It may be sometimes that a rock will break machinery, injure, or even cause the death of a worker, if the rock is being tried to be removed from the way of construction or farming for instance. In such cases negotiators might be called for help in the hope of them being able to strike a deal with the elves so that for example the rock will be moved to a nice new location, perhaps in town, or something. And indeed, this is what we learned standing by a big rock in the middle of the town. But this is told to be the cause also for roads winding around boulders in Iceland. And who are these hidden people. Well, the story goes, that Adam and Eve were bathing their dirty children in the garden of Eden when God was calling to see the family. Eve hadn’t finished bathing all of them, so she showed only the clean ones to God, while hiding the dirty ones from God. And these people remained hidden and started the generation of the hidden people, who are still present, at least in Iceland. Back in the day, when men would go out fishing for weeks or months and find their wives pregnant when returned, the wives would have sworn to having been faithful, but telling that they had seen a dream where an elf had come in the night and made them pregnant during their sleep. This then had started the race of the people who were half human – half elf.

The tour finished at 10pm and we hadn’t eaten dinner yet! We checked the open restaurants (thanks EU for the cheap mobile data within EU and ETA!) and found one that was open until 10:30pm. We didn’t look further into it but just went in and then we saw the menu. It was a really fancy place, fancier than we would have needed, but we couldn’t really walk away anymore and we didn’t really have anywhere else to go. But it was so worth it, the food was something else than we had had before! My wife took a dish with three different kinds of fish, and I took lamb. Both main ingredients are were common in Iceland, plenty of fish and sheep. We had nice appetizers included as well, and they had a delicious spread for the dark bread. It was butter on butter they told us, almost a foam. And the arctic char on Deb’s plate was incredible. People in Iceland can cook food just by burying it in the ground for some time, and thanks to the geothermal heat the food gets cooked. It might not work everywhere but at some places the heat comes all the way to the surface. However, the fish was not cooked in this fashion. Actually we thought it wasn’t even cooked at all, but it was actually. It had been vacuum packed and then kept in warm water for a long time, which cooked the fish slightly, keeping it unbelievably tender so it just melted on the tongue. The great taste might have also been due to the fact that the fish would have been pretty fresh.

The next day, we are on Friday at this point, was the perfect day. It was our “Iceland in one day” -tour. We left just before 7am and were back at midnight. The weather was looking good again (apparently it can be quite often cloudy and rainy) and we were looking forward to exploring the natural sights of Iceland. The roads were empty as we left Reykjavik in the morning and drove inland towards Thorufoss waterfalls, the first stop on our Golden Circle route. All we could see were vast plains, fields, mountains, and rivers. No trees looks odd.. Next we entered the Thingvellir national park, which is frequently visited by tourists. Fortunately we were early on the move so we could enjoy the place without many others. So what makes this area interesting is that it’s the place to see the joining of the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. There is actually a long crack in the ground between the two plates. It’s a pretty special place and phenomena. If you had the time and money, you could also go snorkeling in the nearby Silfra Lake, where you can snorkel between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. But it was an interesting sight to see and it was worth walking a bit further in the crack to see the beautiful Öxararfoss waterfalls.

Then we drove down to Kerio crater, where you can walk on the rim of the crater and see the turquoise lake at the bottom of the crater. The volcanic soil in this area is red! Around there there are several craters and one could do a longer hike from one crater to another. At this point we started seeing many other tourists. We were getting hungry since we had started so early. I had looked up a place called Fridheimar, which is a geothermally heated greenhouse that grows a lot of tomatoes. They are well known for their tomato soup and bread buffet but it would open only at 12 o’clock. I tried to call them earlier for a booking, but they were already fully booked. We happened to be driving close by at around 11am so I decided to give it a try and they happened to be open already and we were the first ones to be eating there! It was a fascinating place, and such a great business idea to harness the boiling hot ground water to provide the climate for growing vegetables around the year. Tomatoes contain 90% water, and they say the water in Iceland is of very good quality, hence, Icelandic tomatoes are of very good quality! We also had some funky tomato drinks, I had a tomato beer and my wife had a healthy tomato cocktail. But it wasn’t overly tomatoey, they were just a hint of the delicious taste. And the fresh bread the served with the tomato soup was delicious too!

We continued our tour to the nearby Faxi waterfalls. These were already much wider than the previous waterfalls we had seen, but still small in comparison to what we were going to see! Yet much bigger than your general rapids anywhere else.. Next up were the Bruarfoss waterfalls. We found ourselves surrounded by approaching rain, but really wanted to see these waterfalls so decided to give it a go although it was a bit of a walk away. I asked a stranger and I was told they are 30min walk away. We had walked for about 20 minutes and it started raining a bit. I asked the next person coming towards us how far away the falls were and they said still at least 35 minutes.. I was a bit discouraged and said that we should go back to the car before we get soaking wet, it’s not worth it. My wife started walking back to the car but she said I should still go and see the waterfalls by myself. I thought I had to prove myself, so I ran. For 20 minutes straight. And I got soaking wet. And I had to run back again. But it was so worth it! Freezing looking blue water on black lava rocks, that was awesome!

Deb was napping in the car when I finally got back. Fortunately I had expected to get wet on that day so I had a dry change of clothes that I could wear. Not far from where we were was a local ice cream place, Efsti-Dalur. It was a cattle farm where the ice cream shop was built into the barn. Their ice cream was delicious, and you could see the cows it came from!

Next we drove to the town of Geysir. It was here where they founded the name geysir for those erupting hot water fountains, one of them being named Geysir, which started the family of geysirs around the world. That specific one apparently erupts very rarely, but next to it is a geysir called Strokkur, which goes off every 4-8 minutes. A lot of people were gathered around it, and some of them got wet with hot water at times when a bigger splash took place.

Last stop on the “Golden Circle” were the Gulfoss waterfalls, also known as the Golden waterfalls. The name is supposed to come from the colour of the waterfalls during sunset, but it could also be because of the rainbow that can be seen during sunshine as the clouds of mist rise up. These were the most impressive waterfalls by far, just the sheer size of them.

Then started what would normally be day 2, part of our trip, as we extended our Golden Circle back to the coast and all the way to Vik. On that way we stopped at Seljalandfoss, which were my favorite waterfalls because you could walk behind them! We got pretty wet doing that but it was worth it! The sun was already going down when we reached the last waterfalls of the day, Skogafoss. These were the second biggest waterfalls, and also impressive. We climbed all the 400+ steps from the bottom of the waterfall to the top, and the views were great! You could follow the river further upstream as well to see some smaller falls. We didn’t have time or interest anymore at this point for seeing more waterfalls though, so we just wanted to continue our drive to Vik to have dinner there. We still tried to squeeze one more sight before reaching Vik, though. Although that meant we would again be eating after the closing time of many restaurants, and that we would be home after midnight, it was definitely worth it! The detour we wanted to take took us on top of a cliff by the sea. It’s good we had 4×4 car since the road up was quite steep and rocky. From the top of the cliff we could see the Vatnajökull glacier, black sand beaches and Eyjafjallajökull volcano that erupted in 2010. But the reason we drove there was to see the “Arch” on the water. It was a cliff on the sea with a hole through it, so that the cliff looked like an arch. However, the most amazing thing about being up there was to see a colony of Puffin birds! They are absolutely cute with their small wings and big heads. They are a bit like Penguins, but they can fly, just. I think that’s why they were hanging out on a cliff edge, because they could easily take off from there after a bit of free falling. And when they walk, it looks like dancing. Their landing on water, and on ground, is clumsy. And they look like clowns with their colourful pecks. However, they can apparently dive down to 50m depth. And tourists love to buy the soft toys!

So we were done with the sightseeing, and were extremely happy of what he had been able to see. We drove a bit further to Vik, found a restaurant that was still open, although full, but we just ordered pizza to take away and ate in the car on our 2.5h drive back to our Airbnb in Reykjavik.

The next, and the last, day of our trip in Iceland, and of our around the world tour, we just relaxed. We slept long, ate a good lunch (fish of course), and went to the famous Blue Lagoon for the rest of the day. Booking is essential, and the price is high (90USD), but you can stay there as long as you want. The place looks amazing, this milky water surrounded by black lava rocks. It’s naturally hot water, but we did enjoy the sauna as well. We did white masks of silica and enjoyed drinks from the pool bar. The place was sold out, but even though there was still plenty of space and even privacy. A really relaxing experience with a delicious dinner as well.

The next morning we had to wake up early and fly back to Brussels. That was the end of our world tour, what an amazing experience it was!

Here are some fun facts we gathered together about our around-the-world-honeymoon:

  • 95 days
  • No sick days
  • 21 flights
  • No lost luggage
  • 12 countries
  • 4 continents
  • The place where we would like to go again is Hawai’i (explore Kauai and the Big Island)
  • The place where we would have liked to spend more time is Iceland
  • The place where we would like to live in is Canada
  • 10,000+ photos
  • I drove 9 cars and 1 tractor, the favorite one being the Jeep in Maui

Bye bye New York, good morning Reykjavik! Halgimskirka, the landmark of Reykjavik  Reykjavik  Ahoy! Lighthouses at Akranes    An elf-stone moved to the middle of Reykjavik On a haunted tour in Reykjavik  Thorufoss Öxararfoss Kerio crater Cheers with a tomato beer! Buraurafoss The original Geysir Strokkur geysir Cars in Iceland were even bigger than those in Canada, if possible! Gulfoss Gulfoss Seljalandfoss   Skogafoss     Puffin colony The Arch   Vik Icelandic lunch, last lunch of our trip!      Blue Lagoon Playing with the silica masks The sun in Iceland was so strong that we needed to paint ourselves against it. The return of the mummy!