Stock photos of Kirkjufell at sunset with three waterfalls in the foreground had captured my imagination before our Iceland trip. How I wanted to see that scene in person, and even take my own photo on location! But alas, I realized that the sun doesn’t set in summer until close to midnight, and the logistics just would not work.
Would my only photo of Kirkjufell be this one through the bus window?
As our ship left the harbor that evening, I got one more chance to photograph Kirkjufell and the surrounding mountains. Note to Self: while capturing the iconic photo you admire can become a treasure hunt that grows into an obsession, there is much to be said for creating your own unique set of images, rather than duplicating the classic shot. In fact, I will remind myself that creating my own unique images is the best path to take.
After our glacier hike, we stopped at a little restaurant for some lamb soup, and were surprised to discover this beautiful coast line just a short walk from the restaurant.
This Western region of Iceland, just north of Reykjavik is one of my favorite regions in Iceland. When I return to Iceland someday for a few days of exploration by car, I will probably head up this way. In addition to the dormant volcano Snaefellsjokull and its glacier, one can also enjoy these sea cliffs, miles of sheep farms, lava fields and scenic mountains (more photos of the mountains to come).
Our ship was docked in Grundarfjordur, and next we would return to the ship, passing the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell. One of my goals of the Iceland trip was to capture my own photo of Kirkjufell, but the only opportunity I had was through the bus window. That would be one of many reasons to go back someday.
While driving the Ring Road around Iceland is a flexible and economical way to explore Iceland, cruising offers lots of benefits, too. Our seven-day cruise on Windstar, offered only in July, allowed us to wake up in the morning to scenes like this:
and say goodnight to the midnight sun with views like this:
While the ship travels from one port to the next, you don’t have to drive. You can relax and enjoy a good book.
The shore excursions arranged by Windstar offered us plenty of adventures: hiking a glacier (photos coming in future blog), whale watching, bird watching, hiking to a waterfall and sight seeing flights in small planes.
We also made some good friends on this small ship, which accommodates around 210 passengers. It was fun, and we have great memories. Highly recommend for 2018!
It was a day multiple blessings and just one First World Problem. First, here are the blessings:
We were on vacation in Iceland.
The weather was sunny and warm (not typical).
In Akureyri, we were going on a RIB (rubber inflatable boat) to observe whales in the fjord.
Humpback whales feed in the Icelandic fjords in July.
We had an experienced pilot and guide who have identified 150 humpback whales by name and understand a great deal about them.
I kept my Sony a7IIr camera dry, and did not lose my sunglasses as we sped around the fjord.
So, what was the First World Problem? We got so close to Jackson the humpback whale that I couldn’t get the whole whale in my frame! I caught myself exclaiming, “Oh my, we’re too close!” and heard a voice reply, “too close?”
Well, you see, I wasn’t really complaining. I was amazed. Thrilled. Grateful.
My husband was not behind a camera, and just watched the whale, seeing his eye.
I’ve only spent two days in Reykjavik, Iceland in my life, so I’m not ready to write the guide book for Lonely Planet. But so many friends have told me that Iceland is on their bucket list, so I thought there would be some interest in some personal recommendations. I’ll keep this brief: two super hotels, two phenomenal bakeries, and two memorable seafood restaurants.
Our very first stop after driving the 30 miles from Keflavik International Airport to the city was the Braud Bakery. We were hungry right off the bat for breakfast, and I remembered my friend Britt’s words, “best cinnamon rolls I ever tasted.” Well, Britt was not exaggerating. Apparently, the hard working Icelanders practice baking all winter long, as they huddle inside their homes in the 24 hour darkness. And here is your first vocabulary word: Braud means bread. A second and third visit to Braud brought us to the conclusion that cookies and everything else they bake is exceptional as well. (Time to fly home before gaining the Iceland-15!)
Apparently all tennis players love pastry, and Britt (my tennis buddy) also recommended the Sandholt Bakery on the main shopping street Laugavegur. Eggs are healthy, but they cost $40, so let’s be practical and have another pastry and coffee here. (Warning: everything in Iceland — food, drinks, hotel, wool hats, etc. — all cost twice as much as you expect.) By the end of your trip, you’ll be relaxed and saying, “who cares?”
There are many nice looking and convenient hotels in Reykjavik. We favor Hilton hotels, and I can report that both the Hilton Reykjavik on the north perimeter of the city as well as the centrally located “Canopy by Hilton” were terrific. If you don’t have a rental car and plan to walk the city, choose the latter.
When it comes to food, I doubt that you can get a bad meal in Reykjavik. Literally everything we had to eat was fresh and delicious often with interesting preparation. A shopkeeper where we bought a wool sweater recommended these two restaurants. For a casual bistro, try Salka Valka “Fish and More” at 23 Skolavordustigur. (Say that fast three times!) The local dish fish stew is yummy. We spoke with some friendly Norwegians there.
Sjavargrillid “Seafood Grill” is on the same street — Skolavordistigur, which you can easily find on foot in the shopping district. I had the perch, creatively prepared. Service was great, and the place was busy. Make a reservation here: +354 571 1100.
Wherever you go in Reykjavik, whatever you eat, whatever you buy – have a wonderful time!
The story of Heimaey Island in the south of Iceland makes geology class feel like a modern day adventure movie. As our ship sailed toward the narrow opening to its fishing boat harbor, a first look at the land bore witness to the 1973 volcanic eruption that nearly closed the harbor entrance. I’ve never before seen hardened lava looking like wet mud that just dripped and dried quite recently. Later, we learned that men battled the lava flow threatening the harbor with fire hoses in a successful and historically unique effort to cool the lava and shorten the length of its flow, preserving the harbor entrance and the way of life for the fishermen.
The fog that would settle in for the day and cancel our flight-seeing tour was descending on us as well. Nevertheless, this view from our cabin this morning was quite beautiful. As a backup plan, I walked on my own into the village.
The volcano that forced the 2am evacuation of all the island residents in January of 1973 erupted for six months. All residents were safely evacuated to the mainland on fishing boats that happened to be in the harbor due to a recent storm. The people had wait all that time before they could return and find out the status of their homes.
A paragon of resilience, the residents returned to Heimaey to rebuild and resume their quiet, communal lives. I strolled up the street past new homes to see the volcano, and to visit the Museum of Remembrance, where recorded voices of residents describe personal stories of what happened as they realized the volcano was erupting and gathered their families to flee toward the harbor.