Iceland, 2013

(January 22 to January 28)

We took this trip to Iceland for a couple of reasons. First, because it was Kristine's birthday and second because we wanted to see the Aurora Borealis. When I was a small child, I had a book called "Bill Frog to the Rescue" and one of the illustrations was of the Aurora Borealis. I still have the book and I STILL want to see the Aurora Borealis.


(Jan 23 & 24)

We flew from Sanford Airport directly to Iceland on Icelandair. On of the reasons we went to Iceland was because it had direct flights. Our second choice - Alaska - would have required two flights and a journey of almost 24 hours. We arrived early - very early - in the morning. So early we had a wait for a while for the car rental office to open, but we soon had our car and drove into Reykjavik to our hotel which is located in the old town.

The Reykjavik Residence Apartments

After a few hours to rest, we walked into the center of the town. There is an interesting mixture of old quaint buildings, newer grander buildings and the newest and biggest  - HARPA - the Performing Arts Center.

Older,  more traditional buildings in Reykjavik. The Fish Market Restaurant is on the right.

A typical street in the old town

HARPA, the Performing Arts Center

In the distance, we could see snow covered mountains

That evening , we dined at the The Fishmarkadurinn (The Fish Market) which is the rather elegant beige colored building shown above.  To read my review of the restaurant click on Pauls' Review

Next day, we started with a bus tour of the city. What we didn't realize is that doesn't start to get light (at least in January) until 10:00 am and it isn't really "light" until about 10:30 so with the tour starting at 9:00 am the first hour or so of "sightseeing" was in the dark.

Taken just as it started to get light - about 10:30 am.

The Ultra Modern " Hallgrimskirkja"  or Halgrim's Church which opened in 1986

The Presidents House at the rear  with a church in front of it. You can walk up and look in the windows, although it's not encouraged.

That evening, we went back to HARPA for dinner followed by a classical concert performed by the Reykjavik Symphony of music by Mahler and Bernstein. Superb !


(Jan 25 & 26)

Next day, we left Reykjavik and took a drive around the part of the ring road which goes all the way around Iceland. Our first stop was the Pingvellir National Park which straddles the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. After consulting with the Visitors Center, we followed the hiking trail through some very pretty scenery.

Then we drove to our hotel for the night, The Hotel Grimsborgir, which took a bit of finding as it was not in Selfoss as we had expected.  We were upgraded from the two- bed apartment we had booked to a house with four bedrooms although only one bathroom. It also had a thermally heated hot tub outside.

The lounge

TV room


And hot tub (Kris had been in the tub earlier but all photographs were forbidden)

The next day, we had to clear the snow off the car before we could even go for breakfast.

We had thought about taking a ride on a dog sled so we went to the farm where the dogs were kept. Unfortunately, there wasn't  much snow on the ground, so they were using a device with wheels rather than a proper sled, so we decided not to bother. The dogs were nice, though.

We also stopped to photograph some Icelandic Horses. They looked a lot like Shetland Ponies to us but they call them "horses"anyway.

Hotel Ranga

(Jan 27)

Before heading to the Hotel Ranga, we drove to "the charming village of Vik". On the way, we stopped at a couple of waterfalls.

Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls of  Iceland

This waterfall of the river Seljalandsá drops 200 ft over the cliffs of the former coastline. It is possible to go behind the waterfall. 

But it started raining while we were there, so we didn't take the loop walk which goes behind the waterfall. Perhaps in the summer !

The Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country with a width of 82 feet and a drop of 200 ft.

We made it to Vik, but it was pouring with rain and everything seemed to be closed (it WAS Sunday) so we basically turned round and headed for the hotel.

The Hotel Ranga was billed as a "luxury" resort and had rave reviews on TripAdvisor. It was very pleasant, but we didn't see what all the fuss was about. The rooms at the back of the hotel had a view of the mountains, but our room had a very different view. On a nice night (especially one with the Aurora Borealis on display) it would be nice to sit in a hot tub and watch the sky, but the one night we were there, it was overcast.

As you can see, our room was very "ordinary" and had a very dull view of the parking lot.

OK, there was a stuffed polar bear in the lobby:

And a rather neat antler horn chandelier over the pool table

But the corridors to the rooms were a tiny bit creepy

The best part was a pretty sunset.

So the hotel, although perfectly adequate, was nothing special and was VERY expensive and we never did get to see the Aurora Borealis.

After checking out, our last stop on the way to the airport was the most popular attraction in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon.

On the way our route took us through the mountains, which could be pretty, but also dramatic at the same time.

We also encountered rather unpleasant high winds which blew snow across the road, making driving rather unpleasant.

However, we arrived safely and uneventfully at the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a man-made lake which contains water from the outflow from a nearby Geo-Thermal plant. The water contains minerals which are supposed to be good for the skin.  The view as you approach is actually quite dramatic - VERY volcanic !

For what amounts to a glorified swimming pool, it  is expensive. $50.00 each gets you in and provides you with a towel. For an experience that lasts an hour or two at most, it's a lot of money. Still, it's a "must see" so we had to go and we did have time to kill before our flight.

The Blue Lagoon itself is huge.  You can see from the picture below, just behind the steaming vent (where the hot water comes in ) the back wall of the actual lagoon. You can also see from the way the steam is being blown sideways how windy it was that day.

The Blue Lagoon also has a Spa and Restaurant, as well as the obvious necessities, like changing rooms and so on.

This is what you do in the Blue Lagoon. Stand around in the warm water in your bathing suit. If you are the lifeguard, you dress warmly to keep warm and (I assume) hope no one needs rescuing so you don't have to take off your nice warm clothes. 

So we spent about an hour in the Lagoon and some more time in the Steam Room, which was actually quite nice as we cooked ourselves in the steam and then went back into the warm water of the Lagoon to cool down.  Click on The Blue Lagoon LIVE to see a live web-cam.

And after that, we headed to the airport for our return flight. We never did see the Aurora Borealis, except in photographs and pictures which were EVERYWHERE.

Oh well, maybe next time: