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Iceland - September 2021

Touchdown Iceland!


Just two years after our first time visiting this beautiful country, we find ourselves back for another adventure. In a world healing form COVID-19, Iceland is one of the few countries which has opened its boarders to tourism.


Prior to travel we underwent a PCR COVID-19 test and you will require proof of vaccination.

Once entering Iceland, again you have to show proof of vaccination and negative PCR results at a


Over the past year, Heerali and I became good friends with a west coast travel couple, Ryan and Katy (@smilkos.lens). Our friendship was limited to video chats every few weeks. But we all agreed we wanted to meet in person. It was a bold and risky venture but we decided to book a 10 day trip to Iceland for our first meet-up!


DAY 1:

We wasted no time to start our adventures! Landing in Iceland, we got our bags and our car rental. A few hours later, our friends Ryan and Katy (@smilkos.lens) arrived and we were off to start our unforgettable trip! Our first stop was Fagradalsfjall, a volcano which started erupting after lying dormant for +800 years! Located only 20 miles from the airport, it was the perfect way to re-introduce ourselves to Iceland.

 

GPS to Geldingadalur Volcano Lot A (63.86664636508253, -22.31619780363449)

 

An exhilarating albeit exhausting, in addition to the jet-lag, 6-mile round trip hike to the cauldron view point. From the top you can note gorgeous yet heart-thumping red glow emitting from the volcano. The heat, smoke and smell all adding to the majesty of earth’s greatest forces.

We sat and watched for hours. Although we could have stayed longer, it was time to move on to the next adventure. Next stop, Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We had a 3 and a half hour drive to our AirB&B in a small fishing town called Olafsvik.

After settling in and dinner we called it a night to get ahead of the jet lag and excitement. This was only our first day back in Iceland!

DAY 2:

Alarm clock goes off at 5am and we are off for our first full day in Iceland. Along the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, we had 3 stops planned. First stop. Kirkjufell Mountain.

Unfortunately, the weather was not favorable here so we moved on to our next stop.

Búðakirkja, a beautiful black church perched on the Icelandic cliffsides.

Lastly, the Natural Stone Bridge known as Midgja. Located near the Arnastapi Port. Follow the path, looking for sign pointing to Midgja. This natural arch is not easy to spot as it is “sunken” at ground level.

After a few great photo opportunities, we headed to our next destination. The northern Icelandic town of Akureyri. A 5 hour scenic drive from the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We made plenty of stops along the way.


One of the places we stopped was to see an amazing rock formation at Hvítserkur. To us it resembled a rhino, but local lore states it was a troll that was turned to rock.

Akureyri is a quaint fishing town of north Iceland. Larger than expected, known as the “Capital of North Iceland” and is the 2nd largest city in Iceland.

DAY 3:

We had an early morning start. Plan was to see two waterfalls close to Akureyri, first Godafoss followed by Aldeyjarfoss.


Godafoss, which means “Waterfall of the Gods” is a 30 minute drive out from Akureyri. Easy access from the main road. A large parking lot and a short walk gets you to the viewpoint. Overall, worth a short stop and visit as it is on our way but not recommend to go out of your way to see.

Aldeyjarfoss, on the other hand, absolutely worth the journey! The drive is rough and slow but the journey rewards you with a beautiful basalt waterfall! You will need a capable 4x4. We stayed as long as we could, caught the sunrise and enjoyed the beautiful view.

Absolutely recommend having Aldeyjarfoss on your itinerary if you are visiting northern Iceland and staying in the town of Akureyri. Godafoss is worth seeing and stopping by only because it is on the way to Aldeyjarfoss.


We made our way back to Akureyri to check out of our AirBnB. Grabbed breakfast and coffee at a cozy local cafe. Enjoyed walking the town-square and shops and soon headed out for our next journey. Looking back we wished we stayed in Akureyri for at least 2 days. It is a nice area to explore and we had more time to enjoy it.


Next up, a three and a half hour drive to the one of the most northern points in Iceland. Hraunhafnartangi Lighthouse is northern most lighthouse in Iceland and located 800 meters south of the Arctic Circle!

From there, we visited the town of Raufarhofn, to visit to currently “under construction” Arctic Henge. The Arctic Henge is designed to be a large sundial and steeped in nordic lore and astrology. Currently under construction as of 2021 but once completed, it will capture light and cast shadows into the dial.

We stayed as long as we could but had to move on to our stay in an Eastern Iceland town Egilsstaðir.

DAY 4:

In Egilsstaðir, we stayed at a beautiful black mountain cabin which was perfect for what was in-store for us the nights ahead!


Because we reached so late the night before, we ended up sleeping in to catch up on some much needed rest. After a lazy morning, we ventured out a a cute little town called Seyðisfjörður. Nestled between towering mountains and at the end of a bay. Here, we visited the iconic church with the rainbow road leading up to it.

We spent time exploring the town and head back to Egilsstaðir for dinner. On the way, we stopped by a waterfall right off the side of the road. Known as Gufufoss. Initially we did not expect much from this waterfall but to our suprised, capture some amazing moments here!

After, we made our way into town, had a lovely dinner at a local pizzeria and made our way back to our cabin.


That night we were in for a spectacular visual surprise! From our cabin, we could start to see light hues of green in the night sky, and within the next hour...

DAY 5:

Next morning, we were off to one of the newer sights in Iceland, Stuðlagil Canyon. A tower basalt canyon with a ranging river running through it. GPS coordinates take you to the west side of the canyon where an overlook is built for the tour buses that come by. To get a better view and be able to hike within the canyon, the coordinates below will take you to a east canyon parking lot.

 

GPS to East Canyon Parking Lot (65.175792, -15.269532)

 

From here a 3km hike gets you to the basalt canyon.

After the canyon our plan was to visit Hengifoss, famous for the red striated rocks. Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse. The hike to the fall is 5km round trip. We waited about half an hour but the rain continued to fall. Because we had a long drive to our next hotel, we sadly moved on from this waterfall without visiting it.


Our next visit was in Skaftafell which is five hour drive from Egilsstaðir.

DAY 6:

After so many exciting days, we decided to sleep in and actually have a proper breakfast at the hotel. We stated a late today which unfortunately worked against us this time. We back tracked to a few sites we passed while driving the day before.


First was a two hour drive back towards Höfn to see the Vestrahorn Mountain at Stokksness headlands. By the time we reached, the sun was high into the sky, washing out the dramatic landscape. We captured what we could but overall were not happy with the results. Only a photographer would complain that the sky is too clear and the sun is too bright and its a perfectly sunny day in Iceland!

We also visited to local viking town which is nestled between the reflection pool and the mountain. This viking town was build as a filming set for a movie/tv show but unfortunately never underwent filming due to financial issues.

The Vestrahorn Mountain is a bucket-list shot for me as we missed this view the last time we were in Iceland. Last time the weather took a turn for the worst. Rain showers all day and heavy clouds covered the mountain-scape and the view was unobtainable. We planned to return again the next morning early, to catch the sunrise.


On the way back to our hotel, we also stopped by Breiðamerkursandur commonly known as Dimond Beach. The beach is a glacial outwash plain where icebergs from Jökulsárlón Glacier drift away out to sea or end up washed ashore of the black sand.

We spent about 45-minutes here before some thick clouds rolled in, bring in heavy winds and a drastic drop in temperature. We packed up, headed back to the car and back to our hotel.


Today was honestly a beautiful day but the timing for everything we tried was off. We called it an early night to try again tomorrow.

DAY 7:

Early start, we were out the door at 4am heading back to Stokksness to catch the sunrise at Vestrahorn Mountain. We made it plenty of time to spare to set up and get the shots we wanted. It was much colder this morning but the view was absolutely worth it!

We captured plenty of great shots and left fulfilled this time around! It did start to rain towards the end but we got what we wanted.


From here we had a three and a half hour drive to the next town, Vík (Vík í Mýrdal). On the way we made a few stops to capture a few more sites. We stopped by Dimond Beach again but the time on the Jökulsárlón Lagoon side to watch the Icebergs drift off to sea.

We made many more stop along the way before we got to Vík.

Because we were reaching town early and we could not check into our hotel before 4pm, we had some time to kill we stopped to check out Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. An easy 4x4 drive to the parking lot and a short walk gets you to an overlook down the dynamic canyon walls.

We finally made it into Vík. Checked into our hotel at Vík Apartments where we would stay for two nights. We rested up got an early dinner. We decided to visit one more location before the we called it a night. Luckily this one was in Vík. A 15 minute drive got us to the basalt column, known as Reynisdrangar Cliffs, on the black beaches of Vík.

After all the traveling and excitement for the day, it was time to call it a night because we had a big morning ahead of us!

DAY 8:

Today, we laid eyes on one, if not the most, iconic sites in Iceland. The majestic Skógafoss! An iconic waterfall in the south of Iceland. We left the hotel room at 5am and had a thirty minute drive from downtown Vík. We arrive first thing in the morning and got to enjoy the waterfall all to ourselves!

Although Skógafoss is the primary attraction here, many people miss out on another beautiful waterfall right next to door. Park at Skógar Museum, from here you will see a trail leading out to the fields. You will climb a short ladder over the fence to continue on. It is okay to cross into this private area as long as you respect the land and the animals here.


Follow the trail into the valley and you will have a view of Kvernufoss.

If you continue on the path, you can stand behind the waterfall for a cool perspective down the valley!

On the way back to Vík, we stopped at a coastline lookout point called Dyrhólaey Viewpoint. Here you see the endless coastline with the black sand beach southern Iceland is famous for.

Back at the hotel, we all agreed that a "photographers nap" was just what we needed. We rested midday. Grabbed dinner at a Chinese wok restaurant right across the street and headed out for, yet another hike!

We headed out to the famous Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck on the black sand beaches near Vík.

 

GPS to the parking lot (63.490874, -19.363840)

 

Here, you will find the remnants of a 1973 U.S. Navy Douglas DC-3 plane which crash landed on November 21, 1973. There are many theories as to why the plane crashed, most famous is that the pilot ran out of fuel after entering a bad storm.


There is a shuttle which will take you from the parking lot to the plane hike which runs certain hours of the day. You can check the website www.arcanum.is for more information.


We arrive close to sunset, so we had a 4.3 mile (7 km) round trip hike. The walk seems endless and the parking lot starts to fade in the background. As you continue on you will see a glimmering metal fuselage contrast against the black sands.

Our day was done, we headed back to the hotel for the night. It quickly hit us that tomorrow would be our last full day in Iceland.

DAY 9:

Our last full day in Iceland, after all the excitement and adventure, we deserved an opportunity to relax, recover and reminisce our time in Iceland. We check out of Vik Apartments and made the journey back to Reykjavik. We had come full circle around the entire island of Iceland!


To celebrate such an amazing trip and new friendship with Ryan and Katy (@smilkos.lens), we headed to the brand new Sky Lagoon spa!


As we made our way into town, we made one more stop along the way to see Seljalandsfoss.

Luckily this is right off of Hwy 1. Park at the parking lot and a short walk gets you there.

There are other waterfall in the area to be explored but we had a date that we did not want to miss! We piled up in the care and finished the drive to Sky Lagoon.


We arrived at 10:30am, our appointment was a 11am. We got the first time slot of the day so that we could enjoy the amenities as long as possible. Also, the afternoon/evening hours get very busy.

At Sky Lagoon you will enjoy a massive man-made lagoon filled with geothermal water with an infinity edge looking over the Kàrsnes Harbour.


At sky lagoon, they provide a "7-step ritual" to maximize your relaxation.

  1. Enter the geothermal lagoon.

  2. Submerge into a glacier pool to shock the senses. YES, it is very cold!

  3. Enter a steam sauna for 5-10 minutes to warm the body back up.

  4. A cool mist shower.

  5. Exfoliate your skin the Sky Lagoon's body scrub.

  6. Enter the steam room with the body scrub still applied.

  7. Wash off and re-enter the geothermal lagoon.

Overall the7-step ritual is a nice experience put a bit pricey for the overall experience, especially because you can undergo the "ritual" only once.


We spent the rest of the evening enjoying the lagoon and reminiscing on the good times and memories we made during the trip. It was hard to say goodbye but it was time to leave. We headed to our hostel for the night as our flight was early next morning.

DAY 10:

Bags packed and car loaded we drove to Keflavík Airport. We shared one final meal with Ryan and Katy but with many laughs and memories. One final hug and selfie and we separated ways but leaving Iceland with many new memories and more importantly new lifelong friends!


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