Iceland - August 17-26, 2021

This trip to Iceland was planned after Iceland opened up their borders to covid-vaccinated travelers without need to quarantine on arrival. It was time to find an interesting place to travel and Iceland has always been on the list. Pictures are from my Panasonic Lumix FZ80, my iPad Pro, and Cathy's iPhone. A few are from an older iPad and some from Silfra are from Clarence the dive guide.

Travel Mapping plot of the roads covered in Iceland on this trip. [Larger: 2106x1472] (Credit: Jawg Maps tiles, Leaflet, Travel Mapping)

Tuesday, August 17, 2021 - Amsterdam, New York, to somewhere over the North Atlantic


The trip began with a mid-morning dog and gerbil dropoff in Clifton Park, then a late morning go/no-go decision based on the current Covid Delta variant situation. We decided on "go", and started for Boston to catch our flight around 2 PM EDT. It was a bit of a cool and wet start, clearing up and warming up as we got further East. We caught the end of a Yankee win over the Red Sox in the first half of a day/night doubleheader on the radio until around Springfield. We made a gas stop and driver swap in Chicopee, at which point we were making good time. Then came an accident near Auburn that had the left 2 lanes of the Mass Pike closed that cost us over a half hour. Things improved from there with only some minor slowdowns in the Boston afternoon rush. We arrived after 6 at the Park/Shuttle/Fly and were quickly shuttled over to Terminal E at Logan. There was a line at check in, maybe 25-30 minutes, then no line to speak of at security. We had enough time to grab a small pizza in the terminal before the flight started boarding. Options in Terminal E were extremely limited, with almost all food closed. The flight was boarded early and we got on our way ahead of schedule. Somewhere along the way we crossed a time zone boundary that made it Wednesday. [4 People Pictures] [2 Pictures]

Wednesday, August 18, 2021 - Somewhere over the North Atlantic to Reykjavík, Iceland

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Daylight entered the windows of Icelandair 530 about 3 hours into the flight, and by the time we arrived at KEF around 5:30 AM GMT, it was getting pretty bright (but socked in with clouds). Everything went smoothly after arrival [Picture], customs, luggage retrieval, covid clearance, and rental car pickup, all done quickly. We first drove our Dacia Duster [Picture] over to Keflavík to pick up a little breakfast and to make a plan for a few things to do before we could head to Reykjavík to check into our first hotel. We walked around the waterfront there a bit [5 Pictures][6 People Pictures]. Then up to check out the Old Garður Lighthouse (and new) where we checked out that lighthouse and walked down by the water at low tide [12 Pictures][3 People Pictures]. Next, a loop toward the south that took us to the Bridge Between the Continents [9 Pictures] and Gunnuhver Hot Spring [16 Pictures, 1 Movie]. We continued around the southwest corner of Iceland then back up toward Reykjavík and first a grocery store, then our hotel, the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavík Natura, which was able to accommodate our request for an early checkin. We got some rest, then later in the afternoon, spent some time checking out more of Reykjavík, starting with Katie's dry suit fitting for the snorkeling later in the trip. We walked around the Old Reykjavík area [Picture] for about an hour, grabbed some food (nachos from Lebowski Bar in Old Reykjavík, and a burger and fries from Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar, also known as Tommi's Burger Joint, in Kópavogur) for back at the room [Picture]. Finally, we took a 2-mile round trip walk from the hotel to check out the nearby Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach, and a nearby walking trail [10 Pictures][1 People Picture]. More than enough for an arrival day after a red eye flight. [7 Roads Pictures]

Thursday, August 19, 2021 - Reykjavík to Vík, Iceland

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We got on our way from the hotel in Reykjavík a little after 9, now somewhat adjusted to the time zone. Our first stop was to pick up some food for breakfast and to have snacks at a nearby Nettó [Picture]. Then we set out on the first step of our Ring Road tour. We pulled over briefly at a scenic overlook coming up on Hveragarði [6 Pictures][3 People Pictures], then made our first real stop there for the Hveragarðurinn Geothermal Park. The hot springs were mostly dry, except a few including one where we cooked our own hard-boiled egg. We also tried the geothermally baked bread, which was very good. [12 Pictures][9 People Pictures, 2 Movies] Soon it was lunch time, and we decided to keep it simple and quick, trying some Icelandic KFC (they seem to be everywhere, along with Subway) in Selfoss [Picture]. The chicken was good, and we knew we wouldn't need to worry about food the rest of the day. We passed through the next several towns without need to stop. Our first major waterfall stop came at Seljalandsfoss. At this one, you can walk up along a trail going behind this tall waterfall and down the other side [25 Pictures][11 People Pictures and 1 Movie]. Next up was another waterfall, Skogafoss. We went toward the base of this one in the riverbed, then took the long staircase to get the view from the brink of the falls. A lot of work, but worth the trouble [20 Pictures][12 People Pictures]. Not much further down the road was the turnoff for our first glacier, Sólheimajökull. From here, it's a half mile walk along a graded trail to a lookout point. The view is great from there. Even better, we continued up the riverbed along the glacial lagoon to get right up to the end of the glacier. Again, well worth the effort. [27 Pictures, 1 Hike Trace][13 People Pictures] From there, we continued along. with just a brief stop to get a closer look at some Icelandic horses [4 Pictures], and checked into our hotel for the night, the Volcano Hotel, west of Vík [3 Pictures]. We brought our things in, then went over to Vík. We ordered takeout from Ströndin Pub [2 Pictures], took a walk down to the black sand beach while it was being prepared [4 Pictures][3 People Pictures, 1 Movie], then brought the excellent dinner back to the hotel [Picture]. We were back in and done by not much after 7, so we had a little time to enjoy the beautiful hotel and view while resting up for the next part of the Ring Road. [26 Pictures from the Roads]

Friday, August 20, 2021 - Vík to Höfn, Iceland

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We started with the nice breakfast at the Volcano Hotel [Picture] (awakened in part by the loud sheep next door). Our first destination was the nearby Reynisfjara black sand beach, the very scenic home to many puffins and other birds. According to the signs, it's also a dangerous beach because of the occurrence of large "sneaker waves", which can wash people off the beach [36 Pictures][12 People Pictures, 2 Movies]. We continued from there back to Vík to mail some post cards, fill up the tank (generally working out to about $6.50-$7.00/gal), check out a couple of shops [Picture], and get some food at a grocery store for today's lunch. This ended our short but enjoyable stay in the Vík area as we headed east on the Ring Road. Brief but interesting stops included a turnout in a large 18th century lava field called Skaftáreldahraun [13 Pictures][4 People Pictures], a "small" waterfall named Foss á Siðu [3 Pictures], and a display about the flooding of 1996 that took out a large bridge [2 People Pictures]. Our first big stop along the way was at Skaftafell, part of Vatnajökull National Park. We checked out the visitors center then did the easy hike to the glacial lagoon at the end of Skaftafellsjökull. [32 Pictures, 1 Hike Trace][17 People Pictures] Continuing east, the Ring Road scenery gets ridiculous, with waterfalls and glaciers everywhere you look off to the north, and the ocean often in view to the south. Then it gets better. We first parked near the west end of the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and walked over the moraine to check out the fantastic scene. Two glaciers in the distance, a large lagoon full of icebergs. We walked down by the water for a bit, then back to the car. We crossed the Ring Road bridge over the outlet and parked for the rest of our visit. Icebergs floating out to sea, birds and seals everywhere. Just a fascinating place. We capped it off by walking to the black sand beach at the outlet where waves are crashing into the icebergs as they make their way out, and many get washed up on the nearby shore. Hence the name Diamond Beach. Like nothing I've seen before. [43 Pictures, 1 Video][10 People Pictures and 2 Videos] We stayed as long as time and our ability to stand out in the breezy, damp, mid 40's weather could last and completed the day's drive to Höfn. We arrived after 8, and checked into the neat Milk Factory Guesthouse. The family room is on two levels, and has plenty of space for us to move around. We were pretty hungry and after many Google searches on the last part of the drive were showing only higher-end restaurants out of both our time and financial budgets, we found the excellent diner-type place called Hafnarbúðin [Picture] and got some really good and reasonably priced food to bring back to the room. [38 Pictures from the Roads]

Saturday, August 21, 2021 - Höfn to Lake Mývatn, Iceland

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After our breakfast and getting ready at the Milk Factory, we drove down into Höfn to check out the town a bit. We drove through the port area, parked briefly to walk right near last night's dinner spot, drove to some great glacier views off to the west, picked up a couple items at the grocery store, topped off the tank, and got some Icelandic cash at an ATM. [17 Pictures] By late morning, we set out along the southeast shore with lots of views of the ocean, fjords, birds, rocky coasts, and more. Stops were at a spot with a huge number of what looked like white geese [9 Pictures] and an overlook at the top of a cliff [2 Pictures]. Just before we completed going around Hamarsfjörður, we made a stop for pictures where there happened to be a small pool [5 Pictures]. In Djúpivogur, we saw the Eggs in Merry Bay artistic installation of egg-shaped monuments along the town's harbor, and got a trampoline break [8 Pictures][3 People Pictures][Bounce Picture]. We continued around a few more fjords, passed through Stöðvarfjörður [7 Pictures], then made a stop to see the Saxa Sea Geysir area (mainly saw lots of good waves crashing on rocks with tide pools) [10 Pictures, 1 Movie][3 People Pictures], and hit our furthest point east on the trip (about 13.7 degrees West longitude). We arrived at the village of Fáskruðsfjörður, where we tried to go to a small restaurant found on Google, but despite what Google said, it was closed. All worked well, though, since we picked a nice place called Café Sumarlína and had a great lunch, probably the best value for the money so far on the trip (pizzas and fries). [17 Pictures] Continuing north after lunch, we went through the Fáskrúðsfjarðargöng tunnel under Kollufell, bypassing another ride around a peninsula. The Ring Road heads inland soon after, going up a valley toward Eglisstaðir. Getting away from the coast also gave us our first really clear skies of the trip too. We got ourselves some ice cream at the Salt Café and Bistro [Picture] and topped off the tank again in Eglisstaðir. There was very little between there and our destination for the night in Reykjahlíð on the shores of Lake Mývatn [Picture]. We checked into the very nice Fosshotel Mývatn and moved into what's going to be the nicest (and most expensive) room of the trip [3 Pictures]. Fancy, but like most of Iceland, no laundry facilities. The front desk suggested we might be able to get it done at a couple of nearby campgrounds. The first was backlogged enough that they wouldn't be able to get to ours until the next evening well after we would leave the area. Fortunately, the next place we tried was able to take our things and said they'd be ready in the morning. So we dropped it off, and went back to the hotel for the night. [48 Pictures from the Roads]

Sunday, August 22, 2021 - Lake Mývatn to Silfrastadhir, Iceland

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We got an earlier start than most of our days, heading out toward Dettifoss a little after 8, on the first truly sunny morning of our trip. The ride involved some backtracking on the road in the night before, since we really didn't have time to see that area properly on the way in. So back out we went. Dettifoss is very different from most of the waterfalls we saw in Iceland. This one is a pretty tall and wide waterfall with a whole lot of volume. Well worth the drive back out and walk to see it. We didn't walk all the way up to nearby Selfoss with our time a little limited, and since we got some views of it from a distance along the trail between the parking lot and Dettifoss. [21 Pictures, 1 Movie][5 People Pictures, 1 Movie] After the waterfall, we picked up our laundry (leaving over $60 for the two loads washed and folded), and some breakfast and snacks at the grocery store, then went back to the Fosshotel Mývatn to put the laundry back in our bags, and rest a little. [6 Pictures] We checked out a little before noon, and backtracked east just a bit one more time to walk the thermal area at Hverir. Lots of mud pots and some hot springs and fumaroles. [18 Pictures, 1 Movie][3 People Pictures, 1 Movie] Back toward Lake Mývatn, we stopped back at grocery store and walked to Stóragjá, a hot spring in a cave-like area. We took the trail and the stairs down, but were not up to rapelling down the rope and chain to get to the hot spring area [3 Pictures]. We continued west from there, first along Lake Mývatn. We made a stop at the very nice Goðafoss, where we saw a couple of kayakers go over the falls (on purpose) [10 Pictures, 1 Movie][3 People Pictures, 1 Movie]. Not much further from there, just after the Vaðlaheiðagöng toll tunnel was Akreyuri. We parked there and found the "Moe's Food" food truck with some great fish and chips and chicken sandwich. We walked around more of the town and checked out a few shops. [6 Pictures][9 People Pictures] Before leaving the city, we topped off the tank. About an hour later, we arrived at the very remote Guesthouse Himnasvalir, across the Héreðsvötn from the Ring Road, and a few kilometers down a gravel path. It doesn't get much more remote. [11 Pictures, 1 Movie] We checked in and relaxed a bit, then got back on the road to check out the inlet of the Arctic Ocean on the Skagafjoörður at the town of Sauðárkrókur. It was the first time seeing and touching any part of the Arctic Ocean for all of us [8 Pictures][1 People Picture, 1 Movie]. After a few minutes there, we got some Icelandic hot dogs at an N1 station (pretty good!). From there it was back to the guesthouse for the night. [37 Pictures from the Roads]

Monday, August 23, 2021 - Silfrastadhir to Reykjavík, Iceland

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We got moving fairly early at the guesthouse, and enjoyed a nice breakfast there. We packed up and said goodbye to our hostess after 9. [20 Pictures][2 People Pictures] Our first stop was in Blönduós. We split up, with one option a ride up the fjord to Skagaströnd, the other a visit to the public pool in Blönduós [4 Pictures][1 People Picture, 1 Movie]. When that was all done, we picked up some things for lunch at the local supermarket, and the Nestí at the N1 gas station. Continuing south, we pulled into the parking lot at the Grábrók Volcano and decided it was too rainy to take the walk up the many steps to be able to look into the crater [3 Pictures]. We filled up in Borgarnes and then a little further south, made a short side trip into Akranes to visit the Guðlaug Baths, which is a hot tub right above the beach [10 Pictures][5 People Pictures]. That was the last stop along the Ring Road. We took the long and deep Hvalfjorður tunnel, completing the Ring Road circuit when we got onto TH 49 to get to our hotel. Same one as last week: the Icelandair Hótel Reykjavík Natura. After moving in, we went in search of dinner. We had a pasta request ongoing for some time and decided the easiest way to make that happen was fast food. So we found a Sbarro in a gas station that was open, but they had only pizza, no pasta or other menu items. Turns out most of the locations close at 6:30 and it was already past that. We ended up going right into Reykjavík and got some pasta down there. Much more trouble than expected for "keeping it simple". From here on, the trip is based out of Reykjavík. [49 Pictures and 1 Movie from the Roads]

Tuesday, August 24, 2021 - Golden Circle, Iceland

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This was the first of our two full days based out of Reykjavík. We got going pretty early, stopped at a Nettó in Reykjavík, then made our way to Þingvellir National Park. Our first stop was at a visitor center at the north end, then we drove down to the Silfra parking and checked out the dive/snorkeling area. Our snorkelers checked in with their group and met Clarence their guide from and started the long process of getting suited up for the snorkel. A little after 12:30, they entered the water, and snorkeled the area between the tectonic plates in the crystal clear water for about a half hour. They had a great time. [13 Pictures][66 People Pictures, 1 Movie] After getting all the gear off and having a little hot chocolate, it was back to the car for a quick stop at the same visitor center. From there it was on to Geysir. The ride up included a short but crazy detour of a national highway onto a narrow mud and gravel road. Our Duster made it with no problems [4 Pictures]. At Geysir, we checked out the shop/cafeteria first but decided not to buy anything. It was crowded and for some reason, much of the building including 1 or 2 restaurants, was closed. We walked across the street to see the geysers and hot springs. It was a nice visit, but a little anticlimactic for Yellowstone veterans. Still worth a visit to one of Iceland's most popular locations. [25 Pictures][2 People Pictures, 2 Movies] We didn't have time to continue on to Gullfoss before turning back. Something for next time. We took a more southern route back, getting an early fast food dinner at Skalli in Selfoss [Picture]. Then it was back, partly through a dense fog, to Reykjavík for our required covid tests to be able to board our flight to the U.S. later in the week. Three negatives. [18 Pictures from the Roads]

Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - Fagradalsfjall Volcano and Reykjavík, Iceland

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Our first goal for the day was to see the Fagradalsfjall volcano, a little south and west of Reykjavík. We arrived at the parking area late morning, greeted with a wind-driven drizzle and fog. Not the conditions we were hoping for. We took the fairly short hike (probably a little over a mile) into the area with a recent lava flow. It was very impressive, and still steaming in many areas, but with the current state of the eruption, there was no moving, red lava accessible to us. Unlucky timing on both the eruption activity and the weather. We were still able to walk around the edges of the recent lava flow quite a bit, resisting the temptation to join others who climbed up and were walking out onto it. We probably also could have gotten some better views up toward the volcano itself but the visibility was very poor. The whole hike took about 2 hours, covering almost 3.7 miles. [42 Pictures, 1 Hike Trace][20 People Pictures, 1 Movie] The ride back toward Reykjavík was mostly in the dense fog, so we couldn't really enjoy what would have probably been a very nice ride up along Kleifarvatn. We grabbed some quick lunch at a Pylsubarinn in Hafnarfjörður, then returned to the hotel to clean up from the hike. Later in the day, we drove to a nearby shopping mall [3 Pictures], got dinner from Dirty Burgers and Ribs, and ice cream from Ísbúð Huppu [4 Pictures][Picture], then were back in for the night. [14 Pictures from the Roads]

Thursday, August 26, 2021 - Reykjavík, Iceland, to Amsterdam, New York

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No rush in the morning on our last day. We had some breakfast items from the grocery store, then took some time to get our things organized for the flight home. After checking out from Icelandair Hotel Reykjavík Natura [3 Pictures] a little after 10 and a scooter ride there [6 People Pictures, 2 Movies], we had a few hours in the area before we needed to get to the airport. Our first stop was back at for some souvenier t-shirts from the Silfra dive. From there, it was a short drive over to the Grótta Island lighthouse at the end of the Seltjarnarnes peninsula. The tide was low, so we had an easy walk across to see the lighthouse and the ocean beyond [14 Pictures][4 People Pictures]. While there, we also checked out the small Kvika footbath hot spring [4 Pictures][7 People Pictures]. Then the Nettó in that area for some more chocolate to bring home. Back in the Duster again to the Hallgrimskirkja cathedral, the iconic building of Reykjavík, and the Leif Erickson statue [6 Pictures][2 People Pictures]. That was it for Reykjavík, as we decided to head to Keflavík to be close to the airport when it came time to go [3 Pictures from the Road]. We decided on a small Thai restaurant's lunch buffet, which was good [Picture]. Two more quick stops: the N1 station to top off the rental car, and the Krambúðin grocery store for a bit more chocolate. Then the short ride to Keflavík airport. We returned the car with 2,478 more kilometers (or about 1,540 miles) on it than when we picked it up. Car return [3 Pictures], checkin (including a bit of a delay to remove batteries from a checked bag that had already gone down the belt), security, and border control took most of the time we had before we needed to get ready to board. The large and mostly full plane was boarding out on the tarmac, so we needed to take buses from the terminal. The whole process was pretty tiring! The flight ended up taking off around 5:30 GMT. The highlight of the flight for me was that the clouds broke just enough over Greenland that I got my first look at a small piece of it [5 Pictures]. We arrived in Boston about on schedule, waited in a lengthy customs line but then quickly got our luggage, our shuttle to the park and fly, and were on our way. First meal back in the US was Chick-fil-A in Framingham. We ended up with a pretty slow ride back on the Mass Pike with multiple large construction zones. We finally arrived back home in Amsterdam around 12:30 AM. - Sat Sep 4 14:30:38 EDT 2021