Iceland 2014 – Part 1

Iceland. It’s not the typical summer vacation destination, but it’s definitely one of the best in my opinion. It’s an expedition to another planet and a massive playground for those who enjoy outdoor activities. When you leave this country to return home, it’s as if you’ve awoken from a dream. Leaving Iceland behind is the hardest part.

ringroad

As always, with a limited amount of time (8 days), I wanted to see and do it all. The best way to explore this country is by driving along the ring road; the main road that circles the entire country. My only complaint is that this ring road eventually brings you back to where you began, which means that the trip is over. Iceland is almost as large as Pennsylvania with around 300,000 inhabitants (Forest Hills, Queens and Flushing, Queens combined already has that many residents). And yes, I managed to squeeze in some workouts and running sessions.

worldicelandmap

Iceland is around 5 hours from New York so there’s no excuse for not stopping by. My wife and I embarked on our 4-year anniversary trip to the land of the midnight sun. Yes, the sun never really sets during the summer. Looking up at the moon and stars in the night sky is something that won’t be happening this week. And forget about the Northern Lights this time. The weather was perfect (for me); 50F-55F during the day. It definitely felt warmer than I expected, people can actually get a sun burn. Although the Icelandic language uses the English alphabet, you soon realize that it’s futile to pronounce anything. Give this a shot: Eyjafjallajokull.

The journey begins in the largest city in Iceland; Reykjavik (Smokey Bay).

 

Day 0: Reykjavik
From our hotel in Reykjavik, we went to the top of Hallgrimskirkja church to get the Googlemaps view of the city. Reminds me of the model town in Mr Rogers’ neighborhood.

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We then explored the city a bit. We checked out some shops, the Sun Voyager, and the Harpa building. Everybody eats ice cream cones like it’s a hot summer day here.

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After a long walk around the Old Harbour, we went on a brief boat tour which sailed to Lundey; a small puffin island. Then we ate some catfish and lamb before heading back to the hotel to sleep off the jet lag.

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Day 1: West Iceland
Before leaving Reykjavik with a group of 20 others and starting the ring road in the clockwise direction, we stopped by the Pearl building. The top floor is a fancy rotating restaurant.

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After driving through valleys and fjords, we stopped by Hraunfossar lava falls and Barnafoss (children falls). Hraunfossar flowed from a volcanic eruption under the Langjokull glacier nearby. By the way, some Icelandic: Foss means waterfall, Jokull means glacier, Nes means peninsula, Hraun means lava, and Fjord means fjord. After sampling a Hraun chocolate bar, I was immediately hooked (jumbo Kit Kat with lava rock chocolate design).

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The next stop was the Deildartunguhver hot springs; the most powerful hot spring in the world. The sulfur smell had me avoiding hard-boiled eggs for days.

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Then we summited Grabrok volcano crater (510 ft) and walked around the rim for some epic views of the mossy lava field landscape.

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Even when you finally arrive at your hotel after a long day, you can’t help but go back outside for a stroll. The Borganes area felt like “the hills are alive, with the sound of music”.

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TO BE CONTINUED…

 

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