I took my drone to Iceland with us. I knew that there were lots of places where I could fly the drone and it seemed like the ideal opportunity to take advantage of the drone to get shots we couldn’t otherwise get. Here’s my Iceland drone compilation:
We saved some of the most visited sites for our last day in Iceland. Lots of buses take tourists to visit three sights in a single day: Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir National Park. This is often referred to as The Golden Circle as you can include Seljalandfoss and actually make it into a circle. Since we had already visited Seljalandfoss, we headed straight to Gullfoss.
Gullfoss is a very powerful waterfall with two levels.
To get a good view of how tall the lower falls are, you need to hike up a bit so you can see down into the trench it has carved.
Just down the road from Gulfoss are two geysers, Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir was the first geyser to be documented by modern Europeans and is the source of the English word “geyser.” Geysir no longer regularly erupts, but Strokkur does every few minutes.
We walked around the geysers for a bit and watched several eruptions, then jumped back in the car and headed to our final destination for the day, Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir is cool for a lot of reasons. First, it was the original seat of Iceland’s Parliament and an important meeting place for the various tribes of Iceland for a long time. Second, it is the location where two continental plates are separating by about 2 centimeters per year, and you can literally see the result as the area is being pulled apart. There is a large canyon you can walk down that is the result of tectonic plates moving. You can see the canyon in this photosphere:
Here’s another photosphere from the Parliament rock, where the laws used to be read:
We spent a couple of hours here walking around the lake, streams, the church, and the canyon.
Here’s a short clip of a waterfall that drops right into the canyon:
And a photo of us in front of the waterfall:
We actually had big plans for this evening – it was time to try Icelandic cuisine. We made a reservation for a nice restaurant in Reykjavik, Þrír frakkar, where they serve traditional Icelandic fare. We ordered three appetizers and two entrees to split between the four of us. First up, fermented shark:
Everyone but Debi was able to get their piece of frozen, fermented shark down. Debi gagged on hers. Imagine the most fishy tasting fish you’ve ever had, then leave it to spoil for, let’s say, a week. Then freeze it. That’s what fermented shark tastes like. Not a winner.
Next up was, sadly, puffin breast:
We asked on our whale and puffin viewing trip if puffins were endangered and they said no, so I didn’t feel bad ordering this. It’s basically thin strips of puffin breast, perhaps lightly cooked, served with a mustard sauce. It tasted kind of like chicken, but more oily and stringy. Everyone tried it, but I ended up eating most of it.
We also ordered fish stew as an appetizer, which wasn’t particularly exotic, and most everyone liked it. For the entrees, it was a lamb steak (split between Debi and Rosemary) and a horse steak (split between Toren and me). The steaks were all good; horse tastes a lot like cow.
Dinner was crazy-expensive, but we got to sample the local cuisine.
After dinner, we headed back to our B&B to pack up and get ready for our early flight the next day. We did stop briefly at the park near our B&B to let Toren run around a bit, but otherwise that pretty much wraps up our trip to Iceland. Though, see my next post where I highlight one other thing we did while we were there…
Our goal on day 6 was to make it from Akureyri back to Reykjavik, while doing a little sightseeing along the way. I found three things that looked cool in Western Iceland (that we could do on the way), but we only managed to visit two of them. One location I wanted to visit, Grábrók, we couldn’t find. Google maps sent us off on a really sketchy, dirt road that we should never have taken. It was a single lane road with big pot holes, cliff edges, rocks, and all the fun stuff that would be great in a large SUV, but not so much in a small, close to the road, wagon.
With that side adventure out of the way, our first stop was Deildartunguhver, which is another spot with volcanic activity. This location was pretty cool as it had lots of boiling water and sulphur vents, but was also a location where the country had tapped into the geothermal energy and was using it to heat water.
After Deildartunguhver, we headed to Hraunfossar and Barnafossar, which is another set of two waterfalls. The first set of waterfalls, Hraunfossar, kind of drizzle out of the side of a cliff, which you can see in the background of this photo.
The second set of waterfalls, Barnafossar, which are about 100 meters up the river, have carved through rock and formed an arch, as seen in this video:
Both were quite beautiful.
From Hraunfossar and Barnafossar, we opted to take the new Hvalfjörður Tunnel, which drops under a channel by going under the seabed (541 feet below sea level). This cuts about 45 minutes off the time to get to Reykjavik and costs about $10.00. It’s deep enough that your ears pop as you drive underneath the sea. Pretty cool to say we have now driven under the ocean!
We had two nights scheduled in a bed and breakfast in Seltjarnarnes, which is the tail end of the peninsula where Reykjavik lies. That wrapped up day 6.
While we spent the night in Akureyri, on day 5 in Iceland we wanted to go whale watching and Rosemary really wanted to see puffins. So, we booked a trip on a boat out of Húsavík, which is about an hour and 15 minutes away from Akureyri, called: Whales, Puffins, and Sails.
We had nice weather the day we went to Húsavík. Húsavík is a very cute town on the north coast with a very clear emphasis on shipping, fishing, and whale watching. I could definitely envision renting a house here for a couple of weeks to enjoy small town life in Iceland.
Before boarding the boat, the company we booked with had us all put on full body jumpsuits that doubled as both insulation and a flotation device. Given the cold wind on the boat, this added layer of protection was quite welcome.
We then boarded our re-purposed fishing boat that was also a sailboat, Haukur, and headed toward Puffin Island. Puffin Island is a small island off the coast that is filled with puffins and other seabirds. There are literally thousands of puffins living on the island, which meant when our boat sailed by, we saw hundreds of them floating on the water, diving, and flying. Despite seeing so many, they are quite small and even with my telephoto lens on my camera, I didn’t manage to get all that many great photos:
Even so, we saw hundreds of puffins, which fulfilled a life-long dream of Rosemary’s. (In all honesty, Debi and I didn’t even know what a puffin was before we booked the boat ride. Happy to learn something new!)
We spent a good 30 minutes or so navigating around Puffin Island then sailed (really, motored, we only sailed for about 5 minutes of the 3-hour tour) across the bay to look for whales. And whales we did find – perhaps as many as 10. We observed probably 50 different instances of whales surfacing for air, with the whales exhaling, swimming on the surface for a minute or two to take a few deep breaths, then diving back down to feed. Some of the whales came up kind of far from our boat, but others were so close that they genuinely scared everyone on the boat when they let out their breath of air. One came up about 10 feet from the boat. We spent at least an hour just floating around while half a dozen whales surfaced all around us. I did manage to get a lot of great photos of the whales, but I’m not going to post the hundreds of photos I took. This one should illustrate how amazing the experience was:
After watching the whales, we put all the sails up and sailed for a few minutes. The crew also had hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls for everyone.
We then slowly motored our way back into port.
After we returned to Husavik, we walked around for a bit, enjoying the very, very small town, and even checked out souvenirs (something we never buy, but Rosemary wanted a puffin souvenir).
We then drove back to Akureyri and walked around Akureyri for a bit. It’s a much larger town, but the downtown area isn’t all that large and it’s quite pretty and interesting. Akureyri is another place I could see myself getting a two-week rental and just enjoying small town life.
Our goal for day 4 of our Iceland trip was to make it from the east coast of Iceland to Akuyreri, the largest city in the north of the country, which is quite a drive. However, along the way, we also wanted to stop and see lots of cool stuff. We had to cut down the stuff we wanted to see to a reasonable number but still managed to fit in a fair amount this day.
The drive out of Djúpivogur, while on unpaved, gravel roads, was still very scenic. I should have stopped at least once to get some photos, but was so focused on driving that I didn’t. Our first real stop of the day was at Dettifoss, a very powerful waterfall in Northern Iceland.
There is a bit of a walk from where you park to the overlook of Dettifoss – perhaps 1 kilometer or so. The terrain is a bit rugged but largely flat. Toren loved the hike, but it was a bit more challenging for Rosemary. Regardless, the hike is worth the view:
Here’s a shot of us there:
There’s another, smaller waterfall just up the river from Dettifoss called Selfoss.
Toren and I ran up to that waterfall while Debi and Rosemary made their way back to the car:
After Dettifoss, we headed to a spot with volcanic activity called Namajfell Hverir. There are steam vents and hot pots. The sulfur smell is a bit overwhelming, as this photo indicates:
I shot a few videos here to illustrate the activity:
I also put together a photosphere:
We didn’t spend very long here but did walk around a bit. We still had two more stops this day. The next was to some nature baths. The Blue Lagoon, near Reykjavik, is a pretty typical visit for many people visiting Iceland. To avoid the long lines, we opted, instead, to visit the Myvatn Nature Baths in Northern Iceland, which are right next to Namajfell Hverir. There was some trepidation in our group about the baths as you’re required to shower before entering the baths. At some nature baths, you have to shower in open showers, but here they do have some showers with curtains for privacy. The curtains won over the skeptics and we enjoyed a very nice, warm bath for about an hour and a half.
It is very much a mineral bath. The water is so filled with minerals that you can’t see the bottom of the bath and it feels a little like there is a residue left on you after you get in. Even so, the temperature is wonderful. It was like swimming in a giant hot tub.
From the Myvatn Nature Baths, we had two more stops for the day. First was a cave that has scalding hot water in the bottom, Grjotagja cave. This cave has become particularly famous as it was the setting for a famous love scene in Game of Thrones. The cave isn’t huge, but it’s pretty cool and the water inside really is too hot to swim in, so the scene from the show wasn’t actually shot in here, but it was fun to visit:
Our last stop was another waterfall – Godafoss. This is one of those waterfalls that happens to be right next to the ring road and is visible from quite a distance. We stopped for a quick visit:
Godafoss isn’t the biggest waterfall, but it’s very scenic, as it is split into a few falls by rocks.
We made it to our apartment earlier than we planned, which was good as it took a little bit to get inside (this was more like an AirBnB place than a hotel). It turned out to be a nice apartment with plenty of room, a kitchen, and a washer and dryer, which allowed us to do some laundry before settling in for the night.