Travel - Iceland
My wife and I had a trip to Iceland in the last week of December 2017, as you would guess there was not much daylight at that time of the year in Iceland. Although the total daylight is around 4 hours in late December (sunrise at 11:20am, sunset at 3:30pm), the twilight makes the days look longer!
The sky was clear for most of the days which made the temperature low (between -6deg C to -12deg C). Despite the cold weather and lots of snow in some areas like Thingvellir and Gullfoss, the road condition was pretty good the drive was easy and smooth.
Since we were staying in Reykjavik- the capital - we decided to spend the first 2 days for sightseeing and visited Hallgrimskirkja (the cathedral), Sólfar (the Sun Voyager) , Harpa concert hall and Grótta Island Lighthouse. After couple of days of visiting the city, we hired a car and drove to some places in the countryside.
The Hallgrimskirkja which is located in the city centre is the largest church in Iceland (about 75m height). It includes a tower with a fantastic panoramic view of Reykjavik.
Heading down towards the Northwest from Hallgrimskirkja (in less than 1km) you would reach the Sólfar (the Sun Voyager), described as a dreamboat, an outstanding sculpture next to the Sæbraut road and just off the sea.
At this point, looking towards the north , there is a fascinating view of the sea and the mountains meet and melt into each other.
Less than 1km on the west of the Sun Voyager, Harpa concert Hall has been erected which consists of glass panels of different colours. The construction of the building was started in 2007 but it was halted half-built in 2008 during the Iceland financial crisis. At the end, the government decided to fund the rest of construction cost and the building was completed in May 2011.
Another beautiful place to visit is Reykjavik harbour which is about 5-minute walk from Harpa. You could see many different whale watching and fishing boats and there are several tour companies located at the harbour offering whale watching trips.
Bicycles seem popular in Reykjavik. Some of the streets have specific bicycle lanes. Walking in the city, you would see different interesting bicycle sculptures..
The city itself is colourful. You would notice colours on many walls and streets.
On the 3rd day we hired a car to be able to visit some places in the countryside such as Vik. There are 2 famous waterfalls on the way to Vik which you can't miss! The first one is Seljalandsfoss. The waterfall drops about 60m and is part of the Seljalands River. There is a small cave behind the waterfall which you can walk behind the fall and see the cave (but I guess only during the summer time!).
Our next stop was Skógafoss. This is one of the biggest waterfall in Iceland. It is quite wide (about 15m) and has a drop of about 60m. The waterfall was a location for few films such as Thor: The Dark World and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Our last stop on day 3 was Black Sand Beach or (Reynisfjara). The beach is just breathtaking so no surprise that In 1991, National Geographic voted Reynisfjara as one of the Top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet. The beach is made of black basalt sand and the basalt stacks can be seen in the sea just few meters from the shore.
I was taking some long exposure shots of the surroundings with the camera on the tripod when I decided to take few photos from behind the scenes with my phone. I got distracted for about 4 seconds when a massive wave knocked over the camera and tripod into the sea! There were couple of more waves before I could rescue my camera but it was too late and the camera was dead!
This is the photo from the behind the scene just before the incident!
The next day, I didn't have any professional camera but I managed to take some photos using my phone. We drove to the north of Reykjavik towards Gatkelturr which was near a small village called Arnarstapi. Along the coast there are some unique rock formations. The Gatkelturr itself is a cliff with a circular arch.
On the way, we visited Deildartunguhver which is a geothermal pool with boiling water. The water temperature is 97deg C and is the highest-flow hot spring in Europe. There was a nice building with public outdoor hot tube which looked really tempting.
Traveling with no camera is not something that I would enjoy! so I decided to hire a camera for the rest of our trip. I managed to hire a camera from a shop in Reykjavik called Kukl.
The next day we drove to Thingvellir which was a national park and also a UNESCO world heritage site. The park is part of the Golden Circle route in Iceland and is a site of historical, cultural, and geological significance. This place was the Iceland parliament from 930AD until 1798. It is also notable for its tectonic and volcanic environment. The valley in the park marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates.
The following day we drove towards Geysir and Gullfoss which were part of the Golden Circle route. Strokkur Gaysir is one of the most famous geysirs in Iceland, located in a geothermal area east of Reykjavík. It erupts hot water every 6 to 10 minutes for a height between 15m to 20m.
At the end of the Golden Circle route, you will find the Gullfoss (the Golden Waterfall). I must say that this was one the most beautiful waterfalls that I had seen so far. The water falls about 32m in 2 stages. There is also a story behind this waterfall which is interesting. It is said that in 1907 a foreign investor wanted to buy this waterfall from a local farmer who owned the waterfall at that time and use it to produce electricity. Eventually, the farmer's daughter voided this action. She even threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if the construction would begin!
Finally, one thing that you can't miss when you travel to Iceland is the Icelandic horses! You would see many of them while driving in different areas and they are just beautiful. Although the horses are small like ponies, most registries for the Icelandic refer to them as horses. Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return.
And below are some more eye-catching photos from the countryside.
Photos by Mahan
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