Southeast Exploring

April 10th, 2017

We started our drive to the southeast side of Iceland today. Fjord/Mark took us to Reynisfjara, the Black Sand Beach, first. Reynisfjara is really cool. There are columnar basalt rock formations in the cliffs surrounding the beach, which are caused by the cooling of magma. Basically, they look like giant steps to heaven.

Mark was able to scurry up easily, and I went super high as well, as you can tell from my photo.

There are a few caves on the beach as well, which have the most stunning "ceilings". The formations within the caves look more sharp and dangerous than those on the sides of the cliffs, like they might fall and impale you at any minute. Probably not going to happen. The real danger lies in the water at the Black Sand Beach. "Sneaker Waves" have been known to pull people out to sea, so there are many warning signs. 

We continued our drive to the southeast and got to see both the coast and the mountains of the area. The mountains here have a smoother top, looking less "rocky" than our Western Canada landscape. We also drove through the Hringvegur area, which has long expanses of flat black "beach" (created by volcanic rock/ash). A particularly interestin stop was at the base of the Svínafellsjökull glacier where a flash flood had knocked out an entire areas of the steel bridge that used to be there. The twisted remains of the washed out portion now sit among the black rock of the land.

Fjord, Mark & I continued along the edge of the glacier, eventually coming to Jökulsárlón. You may have seen Jökulsárlón in a James Bond or Laura Croft film. It's a gorgeous glacial lagoon, filled with floating iceburgs from the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier.

As the glacier melts (sadly now at a much faster rate with global warming), chunks break off and float into the lagoon, and sometimes into the Atlantic Ocean through a small waterway. We were stunned again by how blue the water was, and the size of the icebergs.

Our guesthouse for the next two nights was just outside of Höfn, and our favourite so far. Modern & updated, it had a view of the coast from one side, and the mountains from the other. 

Dinner was at "Humarhöfnin" where we gorged on more Langoustine. Man, was it good! Höfn is a beautiful little fishing town, and we spent a bit of time wandering the area by the harbour before heading back to our guesthouse for the night.

April 11th, 2017

April 11th, our lovely relaxing day. We slept in a bit, and eventually wandered back into Höfn. The visitor centre in the town had an exhibit on that went through the history of Höfn, and gave information on surrounding landmarks, flora, & fauna. We also went to the harbour to see a docked fishing boat and some sculptures that depicted the length of our solar system.

After lunch, we drove out to the Hoffel Hot Pools. Five (seemingly random) tubs sit at the base of the mountains with a tiny shack to change in nearby. There is also a black tube with a hand-written sign requesting 500 krona per person to use the tubs (honour system!). The 4 of the 5 tubs were full, and the temperature ranged from hot-hot-hot to bathtub-mild. We settled into the mild tub and enjoyed the beautiful views around us.

We had the most delicious pizza for dinner from Ishusid Pizzeria back in Höfn. They had only been open since 5 pm that day, so we were super impressed! The clouds had dissipated throughout the day, and after dinner we walked along the water to take in the sunset. The water was lit up and the mountains looked like a picture. A very beautiful end to a nice, chill day.

Oh and almost forgot! We got our souvenirs. Mark bought a sweater, and I got socks & wool to make socks. We are exciting people.

- Amy & Mark

A Ford Named Fjord

April 8th, 2017

We got our car rental on April 8th, and it's a cute little Ford Explorer, whom we've decided to call Fjord. We were excited to get going on the road!

Fjord, looking sleek in the sunset.

Fjord, looking sleek in the sunset.

Our first stop of the day was at Öxarárfoss. Foss apparently means waterfall, so all the locations we visit that end in "foss" are waterfalls, FYI. Mark thinks that this is a way more efficient way of saying "waterfall".

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Öxarárfoss is located in Þingvellir National Park, which is also home to Iceland's oldest parliament, dating back to the 10th century. We enjoyed to beautiful views and the crashing sound of the water before packing back into Fjord to head to our next destination. 

Kerið Crater came next, a volcanic crater lake that is about 180 feet deep. The wind around the crater was super strong, which you can see in the movement of the water inside. We were struck again by how blue the water was (Icelandic water is not like Canadian water!).

A short drive down the road from the crater was Geysir, which is quite obviously a Geyser! The eggy smell of sulphur was strong around the site, and we passed a few hot pools as we walked the short trail to Geysir. These pools are waaaay too warm for people to go in, but still look beautiful. As we approached the geyser, it suddenly "went off". We were unprepared for the 5 - 10 second burst of water and steam, so we settled down on a bench to wait for the next eruption. About 10 minutes later, enough pressure had built to cause another eruption (and Mark thankfully had his camera ready!). It's pretty cool to see the hot water jet about 30 feet into the air, and then watch the warm cloud of steam float slowly away.

Our dinner was at a lovely family-operated restaurant called "Mika". They get most of their ingredients from local greenhouses and farms, and even make their own chocolates on site (yes, we tried some, they rocked). We also tried Langoustine for the first time, which is like a little mini lobster. Langoustine is a very "Iceland-y" food, along with lamb/mutton & shark (sad face). According to Valdi, shark tastes like "they have left it in a hole for two days and twenty men have come to piss on it". Sounds appetizing!  

On our drive to our guesthouse, we kept seeing little painted wooden houses and doors leaned up against the rocks on the hillside. When we looked it up, we discovered that these are called "Elf Houses", built and placed by Icelanders to help the Elves rest during winter. After discovering this, we mused that it is easy to see why the Folklore has survived in Iceland. The hulking mountains look like they are hiding secrets...Sarah Brightman's "Figlio Perduto" suddenly seems even creepier...

April 9th, 2017

The sun was shining into our quaint guesthouse room and we were eager to get on the road again. Gullfoss was first on our itinerary, and it sounded amazing. When we arrived to the site, we were speechless. 

Gullfoss made Öxarárfoss look like Splash Mountain. The thundering of the falls was SO LOUD, and even though we were pretty far away and high up, the mist was still soaking us. The safety ropes had a thick layer of ice on them, and signs depicted tales of lovers separated by the impossible rushing water. It was amazing, definitely a highlight for both Mark & I. 

For lunch, we headed to Friðheimar Farm. Friðheimar is a local greenhouse that grows a few different types of produce, but primarily specializes in tomatoes! We (stupidly) didn't make a reservation, but were greeted warmly and told to grab a drink from the bar, wander the greenhouse, and get some tomato soup & homemade bread to go on the way out. We happily obliged. 

Happiest Camper Award goes to Mark, drinking "the best Bloody Mary EVER"

Happiest Camper Award goes to Mark, drinking "the best Bloody Mary EVER"

Mark ordered a Bloody Mary from the bar, made from the tomatoes grown at Friðheimar and their locally made Vodka. He said it was amazing! 

The greenhouse smelled so fresh and delicious inside. We read about how local greenhouses have gained popularity in Iceland since 2010, which has helped to bring the cost of produce down by 31 - 52%. We also learned that the bees in Friðheimar are imported from Finland! Fancy Finnish Bees. We got our cups of steaming hot tomato soup and two hunks of homemade bread, as well as a container of ripe, red cherry tomatoes. Everything tasted delicious and so fresh!

Seljalandsfoss was our second waterfall of the day. It's very tall but a lot skinnier than the other falls we've seen. Tourist are able to walk up beside the rocks and go behind the fall (we didn't go behind---too slippery for me!), and there are trails for hiking.

After Seljalandsfoss, we went to one last fall, Skógafoss. Skógafoss is nestled in the mountains along the coast, and runs into the Skóga River. We were lucky & got to see a rainbow while we were there!

After our day of chasing waterfalls (TLC reference, not sorry), we started to head to our next guesthouse in which was about 30 minutes outside of Vik. On the way, we stopped to take in a beautiful mountain view. We didn't realize what we were looking at was Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted back in 2010! It lovely, and the valley below was green & lush! Not covered in ash or anything, which surprised me.

We also passed by a turf home that was built into the side of a massive boulder, so Mark pulled over. I'm so happy he did, because an inconspicuous sign to the left of the dirt road we pulled onto invited us to walk over to the house for a closer look. We did, and it was so neat. The front of the home had a few steps down into the "main" area, and by ducking under a low beam, we could go inside. The ceilings were extremely low and moss had taken over inside, but the chill from the wind was immediately gone. It was probably very cozy back when it was habitable!

Our guesthouse was cute and clean, and probably had the tiniest room I've ever slept in. Also, instead of a double bed or two singles pushed together as is typical for Europe, we had a bunk bed! Not sure why they felt that was necessary (I mean, I'm already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?).


Thanks for reading!

- Amy & Mark

Reykjavik Adventures

Hello everyone!

Mark & I have been enjoying our first few days in Iceland. We're currently hanging out in our guesthouse about 30 minutes outside of Vik after a long day of zipping around South-West Iceland. Here's what we've been up to!

APRIL 6th, 2017

We arrived in Reykjavik around 7:00 am after a pleasant flight from Edmonton. The weather was about 8ºC with misty rain. We took a (alarmingly expensive) cab ride into town with our friends Kevin & Kelsey & dropped our bags in their hotel room (thanks guys!) then headed to Sandholt Bakery for breakfast.

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We had a tasty breakfast there; Mark had a sandwich with pickled apple & chicken, while I opted for waffles with house-made jam & fresh cream. 

After breakfast we headed to Blue Lagoon. As we drove through the rocky countryside to get there, I could see steam rising up from the earth. The closer we got, the more steam we could see. Blue Lagoon is much larger than I thought! When we turned down the road leading to the entrance we caught our first glimpse of the famous icy-blue water.

Inside the lagoon, we received towels, robes, flip flops, and wrist bands (to claim our mud masks & drinks). We got changed and showered off, then eagerly dashed from the cold air into the warm pool. The water feels like a warm bath rather than a hot tub, and the silica gave it a milky consistency. As you walk/swim through the lagoon you enter warmer & colder areas, thanks to the natural geothermal heating (yeah, science!). We slathered our faces in silica mud masks and waded around the pool until our fingers turned prune-y.

After checking into our Air BnB (and taking a quick power nap) we decided to walk to Álftanes Kaffi, a small cafe & pizzeria close by. It was cozy and quaint. We were greeted warmly, and ordered two pizzas to share. The people working there (not sure if they were the owners or not) were so kind. The chef came out from the kitchen to see how we enjoyed our meal, and gave us some background on the area. He pointed out a large home with a red roof, visible from the window. Unbeknownst to us, it was the home of Iceland's President, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson! The chef continued to tell us that President Jóhannesson often comes by for pizza with his family, but never pizza with pineapple. He hates pineapple so much that he suggested Iceland ban it as a topping entirely. Big political issues here.

After our dinner, we went back to our Air BnB and our host, Valdi, encouraged us to tell him about our other planned stops. He gave us a bunch of pointers, and told us some more about Iceland's history. Valdi has a large collection of books on Icelandic Folklore, depicting stories of elves, fairies, and women who appear out of rocks. He told Mark & I that these stories survived throughout the years because of Iceland's long winters. "When it gets dark, we tell the stories," he explained. 

We were grateful for his input and help, and said "Tak Fyrir" before retiring for the night.

April 7th, 2017

Day 2 in Iceland started off with penises. Yes. Penises. 

We decided it would be a great idea to check out The Phallological Museum of Iceland. There were samples of many different wieners, 'decorative' phallus-inspired items, and even casts of the entire Iceland Soccer Team's, er, dinks. The most horrifying part was probably the Homo Sapiens sample member. Overall, a weird, sort of funny, mostly gross experience.

Mark is feeling inadequate next to this whale peen.

Mark is feeling inadequate next to this whale peen.

When we had seen enough, we cleansed our souls with a visit to Hallgrímskirkja church. An expressionist-style structure, Hallgrímskirkja stands 73 m above Reykjavik. It is stunning. From the outside the church looks like a heavy, hulking giant. The crescendo of pillars reaching up towards the sky are beautifully intimidating. 

Once you step inside the church, the atmosphere changes. Tall windows allow light to pour into the nave, and the off-white walls & ceiling are more peaceful. We all sat down in the pews to rest our feet & enjoyed the ambiance. My favourite part of the church was the giant organ that sits above the entrance. I wanted to call up my sister to come play The Phantom of the Opera!

Our afternoon in Reykjavik was spent wandering throughout the downtown core, eating & stopping into to random pubs that looked cute. We also walked down to the waterfront to try to see the mountains, but unfortunately the visibility was poor.

The wind really does wonders for my hair.

The wind really does wonders for my hair.

This was a pretty badass light fixture at Public House

This was a pretty badass light fixture at Public House

We checked into our next Air Bnb (home of Joy, my new best friend Icelandic Sheepdog) and had a little rest before dinner. Dinner was at Meze, which Kelsey had looked up & found great reviews on, and it was delicious. Mark had lamb kebabs & I had vegetarian Moussaka. 

After dinner we headed to Public House to enjoy some drinks (Mark, Kevin & Kelsey) and dessert (preggo me). Public House has a fantastic mural of a tattoo'd pig in their dining room, and the general atmosphere is cool. A mix of Lou Reed, Marvin Gaye, The Clash, and other greats played through the speakers, and a red door mounted directly to the wall had a blazing neon sign reading Free Peep Show. We loved it, and we got to experience feeling our baby kick for the first time after I consumed my triple chocolate cake!

Our stay in Reykjavik was wonderful. It was an interesting city with lots of quirky things to see. We're excited to experience the rest of Iceland!

- Amy