In Iceland – The Land of Fire and Ice


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As I was standing near the exit of Keflavik airport, it looked sunny outside those sliding glass doors. Just 10 feet away from my dream destination, I still couldn’t believe I made it till here. As a moment of celebration, I stepped outside for a smoke and it was bloody cold and windy. I got a small taste of what I can expect for the whole trip.

Meeting Witold and Agata

Our first stay was at Keflavik through couchsurfing. This was also my first experience in couchsurfing. Not a bad experience at all. Finally, Witold and Agata arrived. We decided check out the town. The streets of Keflavik wore a deserted look. Empty streets, big shops that were all closed by 6pm. I started to like what I was seeing.

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Next morning we were all geared to begin our epic journey armed with the printouts from Regina’s travel pages.

The Route

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I will rather let the pictures do the talking. Here are my favourite moments from Iceland –

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All geared up

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The planning

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All set

Food and Liquor

Eating out in restaurants can be quite expensive. But there is a way around. There are couple of low cost supermarkets – Bonus and Kronan. Lots of varieties to choose from breads, fruits, and noodles. Carry a small portable gas stove, which will be very handy. Again drinking in bars is not that cheap here. There are State owned liquor places, mostly besides these supermarket known as Vinbudin. Get your stock from here.

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Day 1 (Snæfellsnes – Arnarstapi – Stykkishólmur)

Arnastapi

Cliff formations by the sea with a breathtaking view. I could just spend hours here doing nothing. You can spot fulmars here laying their nests between the rocks.

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Stykkishólmur

We camped here for the 1st night. Don’t recall the name of the camping site, but it was close to a basketball court. I remember shivering with three layers of clothing while some kids were playing basketball at 11 in the night wearing t-shirts and shorts. They sure knew how to make maximum use of daylight hours. Our first encounter with rain that night. We had a hard time setting up the tents with strong winds blowing. I just closed my eyes and was glad to see myself alive the next morning.

Cost at the camping site – free as nobody was there and it is only open after 1st June.

Day 2 (Stykkishólmur – Hvítserkur – Blönduós)

The sea tour at Stykkishólmur

This is one of the must-do things in Iceland. This 2.5 hour boat trip takes you around the Breiðafjörður islands (Breiðafjörður – broad fjords. Fjords – A long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway and Iceland, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley). Each island has a history which is well described by the guide on the boat. For 2.5 hours, you are surrounded by stunning landscapes, seas shimmering from the clear blue skies above, the beautiful puffins, the noisy Arctic terns and the witty narration of the Captain. At the end there’s a feast of shellfish and some creatures which were still moving and very tasty.

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Vatnsnes Peninsula

On the way to Blonduos, circle around the Vatnsnes peninsula. The amazing rock formation at Hvítserkur cannot be missed. It’s simply stunning. And if you are lucky enough, there might be some seals resting on the shore.

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2nd night halt at Blönduós

Again, I don’t remember the name of this particular camping site. It was a small bar and the owner lived in the basement. The owner was an interesting old man who was kind enough to let us use his kitchen. The camping site was just beside a small lake. The sight was just so beautiful that we didn’t feel like returning to our tents. And how could we – it was midnight and the sun hadn’t set yet!!! The next morning the owner engaged us in an interesting activity. He had this hobby of collecting hand imprints from different countries. Luckily, Poland and India were missing from his collection. First traveler from India…ahh…that was a proud feeling.

Cost – 500 ISK for each tent with shower/kitchen facilities.

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Day 3 (Blönduós – Akuryeri – Myvatn)

Blönduós to Akureyri

The road from Blonduos to Akuryeri is picturesque. Snow on both sides of the empty roads. The scenery was so breathtaking that we had to stop many times for pictures.

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Akureyri Swimming Pool

Since Blue Lagoon was off the list, we had decided to try out lesser known geo-thermal pools. And this one at Akureyri didn’t disappoint at all. After 3 days on the road, this felt amazingly refreshing. I don’t know which was more weird…being the only non-white guy in the pool or seeing everybody naked in the changing/shower room. ‘Different countries…Different cultures’. 🙂

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Witek sharing a light moment

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3rd night camping site in the backdrop of Myvatn.

Day 4 (Myvatn – Dettifoss – Egilsstaðir)

Myvatn

Now this is the jewel of Iceland. One full day here is a must. This is where Iceland shows you why it is called the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’. It is really amazing to see these contrasting elements exist together. Volcanic mountains on one side…snow-capped mountains on the other. Lava fields and frozen lakes. Sulphur fumes coming from the boiling mud pools and just a couple of kilometres away it’s snowing. And all these places are close by.

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Mt. Krafla

My favourite place in Iceland. The parking spot is surrounded by boulders of snow. The ice here has a blue colour to it. As you start ascending a little further, you can see the crater with a frozen lake inside. It felt like the entire landscape was painted in only 2 colours – blue skies, white snow, blue ice, white clouds, blue frozen lake. Truly a magical place.

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Dettifoss Waterfall

Located in the North eastern part of Iceland, this is the Europe’s most powerful waterfall. You can hear the sounds of the waterfall from the parking lot. As you approach the waterfall, you can see a beautiful rainbow if it’s sunny. The ruthless waterfall with a backdrop of the rainbow does create quite a spectacle.

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Night halt at Egilsstaðir

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The night before my birthday. 🙂 It was here we had our first real encounter with a local. We were sitting in the bar and this friendly guy joins us. We start chatting up and in no time we are invited to his place to spend the night. The dream of spending a night in an Icelandic house started to seem real until an argument started between our new friend and the manager of the camping site. The manager was upset about his business being swindled off. But it wasn’t too late when we realized that our friend was actually drunk and now we wern’t sure about his invitation even though he kept insisting us. We decided to stick with the camping site. As others started to leave, it was just me listening to him. After keeping quiet for sometime, I made the mistake of talking by asking about his children. All of a sudden he became grim and tears started to roll down. He couldn’t stop crying about how his son wouldn’t visit him and how lonely he had become. I felt bad as I left him. I celebrated my birthday cutting an extra large pizza with my mind still wandering amid mixed feelings.

Day 5 (Egilsstaðir – Djupivogur)

Djupivogur

This was a complete detour from our itinerary. We met some fishermen on the road who turned out to be Polish. They took us to their place of work and gave us a guided tour of the fishing factory. Then they invited us to stay at their place. Our dream of spending a night in an Icelandic home finally came true. The gracious hosts prepared fish for us and offered their homemade wine. One crazy night. The best things are often those that are not planned.

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Day 6 (Djupivogur – Jökulsárlón – Skaftafell)

Jökulsárlón Glaciers

The most awaited destination on the itinerary. I call this place as the cover photo of Iceland. It was very windy when we reached there. Had a hard time holding the camera still but worth all the trouble. This place is a photographer’s paradise.

Fun fact – Die Another Day and Batman Begins were shot here.

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Day 7 (Skaftafell – Vik – Skógafoss)

Vik

The rainiest part of Iceland. And not surprisingly, it was raining when we reached the Vik beach. And it was here I got my perfect shot of Puffin (the most popular bird in Iceland) after staring at its ass for ten minutes in the rain. The Vik beach is listed as one of the ten most beautiful beaches of world. And it is indeed quite beautiful in it’s own unique way. Vast stretches of black sand/pebbles with hardly any soul around. Your own private beach!!!

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Night halt at Skógafoss

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A business based on Trust. Amazing attitude.

The camping site was equipped with kitchen/shower facilities.

Cost – 1200 ISK

Day 8 (Skógafoss – Gulfoss – Geysir – Thingvellir)

Gullfoss

Another spectacular waterfall. Its part of the Golden circle tour. It’s a tough comparison to make between Gullfoss and Dettifoss. If Dettifoss is the ferocious warrior, then Gullfoss is the gorgeous queen.

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Geysir

This is something unique and I guess can only be seen in Iceland. Hot springs erupting upto heights of 10 – 15 metres makes quite a spectacle. And yes, you have to be patient enough to catch the glimpse of these eruptions.

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Night halt at Thingvellir

Free stay once again for couple of days. The cold had really started to get to me. My lips started to crack and I had this tired feeling quite often. Decided to sleep in the warm laundry room.

Day 9 (Thingvellir)

Beautiful landscapes with lava fields and moss. Lovely place to have those long peaceful walks.

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Day 10, 11, 12 (Reykjavik)

The capital of Iceland. Nice place to settle down after the beautiful journey around the island. Food and liquor can be expensive. As I have mentioned in the Food and Liquor section, get your stock from lowcost supermarkets around the city. But you can still target the happy hours in the bars around the city.
List of happy hours in Reykjavik –

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Flea market

It’s very close to a magnificent piece of structure known as Harpa. Good place to get Icelandic woolen sweaters and also taste the local delicacy, rotten shark. It is open only on weekends.

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Icelandic Phallological museum

You have to definitely see this. It’s hilarious and very creative. Never seen anything like this anywhere. 1000 ISK well spent. 🙂

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Random pics

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A perfect shot by Witek. 🙂

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The Lebowski Bar – Didn’t try it even though it seemed like an interesting place from outside. Not because I belonged to any of the mentioned categories but I was just too tired. 🙂

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Sun Voyager waterfront

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Was so tempted to go inside and ask how to immigrate

It was difficult to bid goodbye to this magical place and all I kept thinking was different ways to immigrate here. Iceland is way more beautiful than these pictures. I hope this place retains it beauty for the years to come and is not ruined by excessive tourism. Iceland makes you feel royal. The empty streets, the deserted look of the airports, the lonely vast beaches – gives you a feeling that you are only person on this planet, which makes you value yourself more. People often ask me how much did the trip cost…and I just feel like saying…14 memorable days of my life.