Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Two Weeks in Iceland

This pretty much sums it up.  If you like the nature, you should just go.
Look how at peace Ms Nicole is here at Skogafoss.

Iceland is a raw land that is full of history, bold contrasts and mind blowing supernatural sights.  I recently had the chance to explore Iceland on a two week adventure and we saw a surprising amount of the country in this short time.  This post highlights our itinerary and my favourite images from our trip to the land of the Vikings.

We had a unique experience, completing a 55km ultra marathon as part of our adventure, so we managed to see a region that normally takes 4-5 days to explore in 6-8 hours.  My team of 10 Canadian Ultra Runners trained and rocked the race!  If you are an ultra runner, I highly recommend the Laugavegur Ultra marathon (you can read my race report here)!  Otherwise, be sure to add 4-5 days to this itinerary in place of the race.  We spent the first week between Reykjavik, the Thorsmork Valley and the Laugavegur Trail.  On our second week, we rented VW vans and drove around the entire country in 6 days, completing the Ring Road at a steady pace.  Read on for a summary of our two week Iceland adventure!

*Ready to go to Iceland?  Be sure to read my 'Top Tips for Travelling in Iceland' to get all of my juicy tips before you go;)

Two Weeks in Iceland 

Day 1: 

Arrive Reykjavik- Post flight/jet lag zombie strolling mode will be in full effect, so wander down the main drag (also called Laugavegur), do some people watching at a sidewalk bistro and visit the beautiful Sun Voyager sculpture on the coastal walkway.  Try to stay awake and get on the local time in the land of the mid-night sun.  

Sun Voyager on the Reykjavik sea walk.  Business centre to the right and Mt Esla to the left (where the local trail runners train).

Midnight sun...and midnight rainbows!  This photo was taken at about 11:30pm in the main square downtown Reykjavik. Crazy town!

Day 2: 

Explore more of Reykjavik - Rent a bike (best way to see the town by far!), join the locals for a hot swim at Geothermal beach, climb up to The Pearl observatory and take your pick from Reykjavik's many tasty downtown bistro's. 

Inside Harpa, Reykjaviks modern concert hall.

Grotta Lighthouse, the north western most point on Iceland.  One of the great spots on our bike ride around Reykjavik.
Rding around the Seltjarnarnes Penninsula.  Reykjavik by bike is the best!

Day 3: 

Drive out to the amazing Thorsmork Valley, stop at the stunning Seljalandsfoss falls on the way, then turn inland and head 'off road'Stop in the moonscape along the way to view the massive Eyjafjallajökull glacier (which was blown apart during the 2010 eruption of the volcano laying beneath it), then continue inland, crossing rivers in a monster bus and claim your bunk in the rustic  Basar Huts .  Spend the afternoon hiking stunning Valahnjúkur mountain.  We booked with Arctic Adventures for a 3 day, 2 night guided trip in the Valley- great option if you want to learn about the area and chat with local guides! vision of Iceland...

And, a great place for a free shower. 

Eyjafjallajökull glacier.  Four by four tour buses rock. 

Beginning  to feel smaller and smaller...     

Hiking Valahnjúkur mountain...the best views are earned step by step, breath by breath...

Earned it!  Looking back down the Thorsmork Valley, from where we started our dayhike at the Basar Huts (far left valley)
Hellooooo paradise.  And Nicole.

Cue the Vikings!

Heading back down from the summit...classic glaciar scarified Icelandic land in the distance...

Day 4:  

Thorsmork Valley-Climb a volcano. Go for a 16km hike (or run!) with fantastic and breathtaking views over Eyjafjallajökull Glacier and Volcano, Mýrðalsjökull Glacier.  Break bread with your new trail family in the Basar Huts.

Camp life is good life:) Family style breakfast thanks to our guides from Arctic Adventures.

Mind bending rock formations...I saw an elf in there, I swear.

Oh Iceland...

Coudn't resist the single was begging us to run down from the volcano!
Loved having my inReach device for texting while in Iceland!  No need for a cell plan and you can use it anywhere in the world, off the grid!!

Day 5:  

Hike the magical Strákagil Canyon in Thorsmork then travel back to Reykjavik to prep for the ultra marathon (or just walk down this Valley and stay here for ever).
Can you hear the Vikings coming??  Can you spot the elves and faeries?

Getting lost in the wilds of Thorsmork is my kinda day...

Which way?  No wrong answer!
Team ELM Canada in Iceland!  For realz!

Day 6: 

Reykjavik part 2.  Bistro's, sea walk, flea market (weekends only), shopping.  We were resting and preparing for our big race the next day.  So, we took it easy, did some strolling, ate everything in sight, got our race packages and lounged about our apartment.  
Flea market- fishermans sweaters (itchy but cool). 
Cruisin Reykjavik the day before our Ultra...spring in July!

Day 7:

Laugavegur Trail 55kms (Ultra style!).  Off road bus 4hours to Landmanallauger, run 55kms through out of this world, mind blowing terrain for about 6.5hours...finish in Thorsmork Valley.  Bus back to Reykjavik 4.5hours.  Looooooooong but unforgettable day.  Be sure to read my race report and Team ELM Canada reports for all of the race deets!  Sure, you could hike it too;).  The Laugavegur trail IS one of Icelands most popular multi-day through hikes.  Peeps come from all over the world to take on this amazing trek!  You should too!

Running the Laugavegur Ultra!  Well...ok in this shot...trekking the Laugavegur Ultra!  It was a big hill!
Moonscape for days...

Day 8: 

#vanlife road trip begins!  Drive to Skaftafell National Park.  Along the way visit Skogafoss (learning that all waterfalls end in 'foss').  Stop in Vik to visit the black sand beaches and basalt volcanic rock formations.  Stop in Seljavallalaug to walk into the so called 'off the beaten path' hot pot...or go to the secret heart shaped natural hot pot if you know where to find it...

Seljavallalaug.  Not so secret.  And a little too much green slime for me.  But lot's of selfies and smokers if that is what you're into lol;).

Secret heart shaped hot pots  all to myself.  Much more my speed!
Skokafoss!  Another waterfall and another rainbow!  Eeesh!  Climb the stairs on the right to the top...

The view across to the Valley, from the top of Skokafoss...after climbing many many stairs.
Deep thoughts and a bit of scale with Nic...

Day 9:

Hike to Svartifoss (amazing basalt stone waterfall) and then up up up to mount Kristínartindar for an awesome 17.5 +km dayhike to view Vatnajökull GlacierThen hit the road and follow the coastline up to the famously beautiful Jokulsarlon - Glacier lagoon. Continue northward (mind blown) and cook up a van dinner on the waterfront in Hofn,   then camp in a local campground or find a nice spot on the side of the road (Leave No Trace wilderness camping is permitted in Iceland).

Svartiffoss in Skaftafell National Park.  I am the only person here...well...OK...I am good at hiding the other people.
 Except John, he was in about 300 family photos that day.  Look closely...

Let's go climb a mountain...
Hiking to Kristínartindar in Skaftafell Park.  The hills are alive.....
This hike was one of the highlights of my trip.  Details to come!

Mountain moments in the most colourful landscape I have ever seen...

Climb on.
View from the top!  Face to face with the third largest glacier in Europe- Vatnajökull and that is just the tip of it's toe!
Little people, big glacier.

Just the toe!

Reaching to the used to...
The glacier ends and the glacial lagoon begins...
And now for something totally amazing!  Jokulsarlon Lagoon! 
Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, massive chunks of ice, break off and fall into the lagoon (it's recession is what has created this lake and it is growing), then float out to sea, before washing onto the shore...

Icebergs floating through the lagoon and then out to the sea...

Crystals on a black sand beach...amazing... and a puffin just flew by.  Yup.
Random Iceland beauty...made for endless stops along the ring road.

Let's camp here tonight.  OK, I guess, it's an OK spot.  HA!  Not bad at all!  Was that only one day?

Snail Camp:)  Good night Iceland!

Day 10: 

Drive north and explore the small fishing villages tucked within the fjords and coves of the east.  Travel through dark tunnels - even some single lane tunnels that are 6kms long  and play chicken with the motor homes!  Yikes!  Keep your eyes peeled for reindeer and you might be lucky as we were to spot them near Bulandsindur, Icelands highest mountain.  Take a detour out to the amazing Dettifoss (and get absolutely soaked!) then continue to head west along highway 1 and camp overnight on lake Myvatn at one of the many sites- lovely!  And buggy too lol!
Yup.  That's for realz.  A reindeer eating grass beside the ocean y'all.

Another waterfall & rainbow combo?  Come on!  Detifoss, one of the largest waterfalls in Europe.  Roaring loud. Massive water volume.  Serious spray!

I believe in natural selection...silly rabbit...just cuz there isn't a railing doesn't mean you should go to the edge...

A wee bit wet over here at Detifoss!  Soaker!  Not really a down jacket adventure haha!  Nic's got a sponge on her headin the back lol;)
And the moment you have been waiting for...Icelandic horses!


Midnight light on lake Myvatn! I was up dealing with some flight issues at midnight and caught this amazing 'sunset' that went on for about 3 hours lookin just like this.   Myvatn is the one Icelandic word that I can pronounce btw. 

Day 11: 

Explore the Myvatn lake shore sights (we didn't get to, as we had car trouble that needed looking at in Akureyri) and then head west along Highway 1.  Stop at Godafoss in the morning before the tour buses arrive.   Visit Akureyri, I lovely city, (second largest in Iceland) for a downtown stroll, a view of the harbour from the church, grab a latte and any tourist items you forgot to pick up in Reykjavik lol.  Drive on to Dalvik to visit the 'House of the 3 brothers' and enjoy the best fish soup of your life!  Fresh baked bread, salad, soup and coffee or tea for $20 - that really is a steal in Iceland!  Stop to feed grass to the beautiful free roaming Icelandic horses... Drive onward, gripping the steering wheel through the winding roads of the north fjords.  Continue northwest and pick a campsite somewhere along the way, once you get tired of driving or too thirsty to continue.

Godafoss.  Only 5 people here this early but 300 tourists are likely en route in tour buses. Early bird misses the crowds!

Say cheese wouldya?  Or, at least get a haircut before the next photo shoot, guys. Oh how I love these ones:)
Those eyes...


Day 12:  

Head inland at Reykholt and visit Snorri's house for a history lesson and a drive through the back roads and villages.  Then, back out to the main road and head west to explore the westermost penninsula and Snaefellsjokull national park for some amazing hiking and bird watching.  See if you can find the secret Landbrotalaug hot pots (ok not so secret but still hard to find) for one last dip on the way back to the big city.  Drive under the ocean in a 6km tunnel (Surprise! No one told us about this or the other crazy tunnels on the Ring Road!) to return to Reykjavik area.  Camp overnight at Mosfellsbaer campsite and enjoy a dip in the local rec centre pools (or just a shower!).  Celebrate the last night in Iceland by eating all of the food and drinking all of the drinks that are left in the vans.  

Snorri's pool and get away the Icelandic history:)

The view from a cave...

The cave!  Helloooooo faeries!

Tiny marina in Snaefellsjokull National Park


Did you know that dandilions are treated as a lovely wildflower in Iceland?  Now I have more reason to keep them in my lawn!

Gull nesting - imagine the sound of thousands of birds greeting their new babes!  Wowza.

Sea arch...would you?

Unrelenting beauty...and tour buses...

Basalt flowing into the sea.

Snaefellsjokull National Park.  If you could hear the sound...of thousands of birds raising their babies in these cliffs!  Watch out- they WILL attack you!

No idea.  But it looks cool in black and white;)

Day 13: 

Get up early and climb Mount Esja to sneak in one last adventure.  Hope for sunshine and views of the city!  Clean up, pack up and return the van rental, then head out to the airport for the start of the long journey home.  

Into the Iceland mist... Realizing how lucky we were to have nearly two straight weeks of clear skies on our Iceland adventure.

John and Ashley enjoying the view at the top of Mount Esja.  We think;)

Day 14: 

Gain a bonus day, wake up yesterday at home hahaha!  Spend the next 14 days dreaming about Iceland!

Iceland will be in my heart forever.  #imusthavebeenaviking

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