Iceland : Kingdom in the North

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It was a dream of mine to visit Iceland, lets call it, “Kingdom in the North” or ” The land of fire and ice”.
Plans were made in the past but nothing materialized until this time, when in November’ 2017, I did visit the kingdom in the north.
Not only did I see the magnificent and beautiful Iceland, but I did see my dream, the Northern lights.  

Start -> New Delhi-> Paris ( city of love)-> Iceland ( land of fire and ice) <- Back

In Iceland you find sharp contrasts, a place where you can find fire and ice co-existing together.  Iceland is both, volcanically and geologically active; do recall Eyjafjallajökull ( also called as E15, because of the difficult pronunciation of this word) volcanic eruption in the year 2010 that brought Europe to a standstill. The interior of Iceland is known as Central Highlands, and then we have northern Iceland, western fjords, eastern Iceland and southern Iceland. The geology of Iceland is characterized by sand and lava fields, mountains, glaciers, rivers. Iceland is located just outsides arctic circle at 66 degrees north, yet it is warm when compared to other areas at the same latitudes, and this is because of the Gulf Stream.

Iceland has a population of around 340,000 of which 2/3rd live in the capital area Reykjavik, so it can be clearly deduced that rest of the country is quite sparsely populated. The settlement of Iceland began in the late ninth-century. Viking settlers came and settled in Iceland and sheeps, yes, the population of sheeps in Iceland is more than the human inhabitants. You will find that there are less no of trees/very less trees in Iceland, this is because of the Iceage and the trees that were cut by Vikings for building.

Before we begin here is a heads up

“Iceland is pretty expensive and as I was told by a local, the only thing that is cheap in Iceland is cold water, hot water and electricity”

“Weather is Iceland can change pretty quick, so be prepared”

Plan accordingly, as the end of your trip you don’t wanna say OMG in despair. Although fun has no limits, but you have to keep care of your pockets.

Landing in Iceland

Iceland Air flight from Paris, the plane was painted in the colors of aurora borealis, and also inside the plane, there was a wonderful artificial display of aurora lights up towards the hand luggage storage compartment.

When you land in Iceland, Reykjavik is the stop that almost all plan for before beginning the real Icelandic adventure. Landing in Iceland is an adventure in itself but what comes next is far better.

At Keflavik International Airport

When you land in Iceland, whether you are driving or not, do take a local icelandic sim. These days we all have carrier plans decent enough to make phone calls in case of emergency, so my advise, take a data sim, we have siminn, nova and vodafone. I took a siminn 10 GB data sim. There is a 10-11 store , just before you exit the airport, you can take the sim from there.

How to Travel?

Airport to Reyjavik and Vice Versa

Via Bus from Airport to Reykjavik. There are various options, of drop off; drop off to  hotel or BSI bus terminal or Gray line Bus terminal. You can choose depending upon your accommodation. You take a flybus or an airport express from airport to Reykjavik.  You can opt to pre book or you can also get the ticket at the airport. The ticket counters are located towards the exit from the airport.  You can use the same bus service for return.

Via Rental Car from Airport to Reykjavik. You will find many opinions, whether to take it or not is your personal choice, but whatever, it is be careful with winter driving in Iceland ( November is pretty much winter in Iceland and I was told that the winter this year was the coldest in 20 years). There is a shuttle bus that runs from airport to car rental. carsiceland , bluecarrental to name a few. You normally, pickup the car from the airport and drop the car back at the airport. Take cars with Insurance, Winter Studded tires, you wouldn’t want to give any rental car horror story.

 Iceland by Rental Car

You can plan your trips to various places in Iceland. Be careful while driving there is black-ice, snow, arctic winds and less light that you have to encounter. Further, your plans should be highly flexible, there can be a day where you can’t drive at all and there can be day when you can drive the whole day irrespective of day light.  Iceland is pretty scenic, the roads however in Iceland, although well made are a little elevated than the ground level, so you just can’t stop anywhere you feel like, find a proper play to stop by on side of the road.

Follow road.is, safetravel.is and Vedur.is before making any travel plans and keep on checking the updates as weather in Iceland can change pretty fast.

Iceland by Tours

Almost all the tours to various parts of Iceland start from Reykjavik. Some tour operators you can choose from are  Iceland Horizon, Arctic Adventures, Extreme IcelandGateway to Iceland, Reykjavik Excursions, Grayline. There are many other tour options available, scour through the web to search for more.

Where to Stay & What to Eat?

In Iceland don’t be surprised with accommodations having shared toilet/bathroom, yes this can be a problem when the rooms are full. Iceland is becoming a popular destination, so hopefully, things will change. I used booking.com  for search for my bookings and I got a good few last minute deals.

Its good if you get something where you can cook and you stuff up your supplies from Bonus supermarket ( its pretty cheap), there is also Kronan, 10-11. Else you can eat out but its gonna cost you dearly.

 

Winter
Where to Visit | What to See 

Where to visit, that’s the most tough question to answer when in Iceland.

In the months of May, June, July, August, there is a good amount of light. You can do an entire ring road ( the road covering the entire Iceland). But there is a heavy rush during this period, so you need to pre-plan and pre-book in advance.

Not all places are open in Winters. But, to give you a brief, stay off North, East, West. The road.is website will give you an idea. The weather is pretty fickle in these areas and these areas experience a lot of winter storms.

This here is mostly about the visit undertaken in last of November’2017.
So, this here is a winter itinerary.
Winter, where the effective day light is less, so one has to plan accordingly

To begin with that’s Iceland

Blue Lagoon

Normally, people begin or end their Icelandic adventure with a visit to blue lagoon (pre-book), though a bit expensive but its a place to visit. Blue lagoon is basically a geothermal pool.

The Golden Circle

This basically comprises of three locations, Þingvellir (Thingvellir) national park, gulfoss ( golden waterfall) and the geyser ( natural hot springs).

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That’s Icelandic horses

Everywhere you look, you are gonna find lot of beauty 

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And you just can’t stop capturing the moments

There is so much to see and do in Iceland, and whatever time/duration you may plan for your visit, you will feel it less. You are in trouble if you love photography, you will be confused, where to shoot as its all magic.

Golden Circle is among the most famous destinations in Iceland and it can very well be done in a day from Reykjavik. Keep and eye for the weather and road conditions ( if you are self driving).

Thingvellir National Park, has so much to offer-  You can snorkel between eurasian and american tectonic plates, its a game of thrones shooting location,  a haven for landscape photography, the site of earliest parliament of Iceland. It’s also a UNESCO world heritage site.

IMG_3818Thingvellir National Park

IMG_3829Thingvellir National Park

IMG_3820Snorkelling Point at Thingvellir National park

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There is the Thingvellir Lake, on one side is the eurasian tectonic plate and on the other side is the American tectonic plate and the plates are drifting apart each year

Gulfoss or Golden Waterfall is another site on the Golden Circle. The brilliance and the colors of the water falling down is awesome and things look different when frozen

IMG_3605That’s Gulfoss or Golden Waterfall

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Gulfoss, is also known as Golden Waterfall because at times there is a rainbow formed over this waterfall

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That’s partly frozen.Magnificence of nature

 

Geyser or Geysir, another golden circle stop is a site for natural hot springs. Here the water boils and forms hot springs, which erupts/actuates every 7-10 minutes

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That’s Strokkur. The bigger one known as Geyser has turned silent after a volcanic eruption that took place in IcelandIMG_3891
There are some other hot springs also. Geyser is the biggest but it has turned dormant now

Hveragerdi

Hveragerdi is located around 45 kms east of Reykjavik. This place is also known as geothermal town, here almost every home produces its own geothermal energy. Heveragerdi, is a beautiful place to stay for a day or two and if you are lucky, you can view the brilliant display of northern lights

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That’s when passing through mountain pass of Hveragerdi

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That’s Hveregerdi, when viewed from mountain pass of Hveragerdi.

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That’s a greenhouse at Hveragerdi

IMG_3684That’s inside a supermarket in Hveragerdi. A supermarket on two continental plates.
What you see here is red color lighting in middle, on one side is the eurasian tectonic plate and on the other side is american tectonic plate

Kerid Crater

This is a crater made by an asteroid and its basically a crater lake.

The South Coast

This is something everyone does and is not to be missed. There are many attractions on this route. Travelling along the south coast, its like dream drive and there are so many things to see here

You Pass through Hella, Hvosollur, Seljelandlafoss Waterfall, Skogafoss Waterfall, Soheimjoukull glacier, E15 volcano ( remember the one that created havoc in europe in the year 2010), reynisfjara black beach ( games of thrones shooting location), this whole route is just… well see it

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Well that’s E15( E followed by 15 characters of the word) or Eyjafjallajökull. It’s better you call it E15 , right?

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Hella, Hvosollur are lowlands and after some you just travel parallel to Atlantic coast, it can become a bit windy here

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That’s Skogafoss WaterfallIMG_4118
Vertical Drop of Skogafoss

Moving on towards the Reynisfjara black beach

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Remember something, that’s Reynisdragar

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Now, do you get something

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This one looks familiar.

This is Reynisfjara black beach. It was a game of thrones shooting location. In the series this area featured as eastwatch by the sea. This was a manned castle on the wall and also a port for the night’s watchIMG_4220

It became pretty windy here and pretty windy.
But you see it to believe it
Watch on Youtube Reynisfjara Black Beach ( Opens in New Window)

Moving on from here to Solheimjokull Glacier. You can also take a walk on the Glacier, don’t forget the crampons and other necessities.

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Road to the Solheimjokull Glacier

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That’s Solheimjokull Glacier
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Moving on from here to Seljalandsfoss

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That’s Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

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You can go behind the waterfall but perhaps not in winter. That’s the frozen stairs leading to Seljalandsfoss

 

Jokularson Glacier Lagoon

Had to skip here but it’s worth a visit. If by own car, keep a day or two as extra margin as the weather can change here. There also is a diamond beach here. If by your from Reykjavik, rake a 2 night or 1 night tour to this area, don’t do this in a day, you won’t enjoy, as it will be mostly driving.

Reykjavik City

A beautiful city, I don’t have the words , see it yourself, vibrant culture, vibrant people.

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That’s Reykjavik at 0900 hours in morning. I know that’s pretty dark. It was like this until 0945 and only then we were able to see sun but hey you are in the kingdom in the North

IMG_3745Goodmorning Reykjavik, that’s Lake Tjornin

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That’s Frozen Lake Tjornin

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That’s HARPA. Concert Hall and Conference Center in Reykjavik

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That’s Sun Voyager

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That’s Reykjavik in Morning

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That’s Hallgrímskirkja Church

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With the moon in the background, relaxing…pretty relaxing

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That’s Perlan, you have a 360 deg observation deck here

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View of downtown Reykjavik from Perlan

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At Perlan

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Walking along the Atlantic Shore, with Reykjavik city lights in the background. The temperature was – 5 deg c with a cool breeze, but this walk was worth it.

 

IMG_4459Grotta Island Light House, an excellent place to witness and capture northen lights as its pretty dark here

Northern Lights

This the best part here, the you Northern Lights.
It was for these lights I came here to Iceland and when I saw them, it was a transcendental feeling. During my early three days I was not having any luck but then came Kat & Jeannie and they brought good vibration and luck with them because as they entered…well see it…

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And it got better and better and I understood , why these lights, are called dancing lights

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For more on this wonderful encounter readNorthern Lights” 

 

There are many places I left out, but one day I am gonna return back and do them again. In Iceland, there is no dearth of beauty, you turn around and you will see it, but sometimes beauty doesn’t want to reveal itself and you have to honor that.

I am thankful that my trip ended on a good note and I would like to thank one and all for that, the people of Iceland, their hospitality, the help of the nature enabling me to see the beauty.

 

Some Tips for Iceland

  • Before you plan any itinerary for Iceland, keep buffer days in your hand. Weather in Iceland can change pretty quick and wouldn’t want to get stuck.
  • Wherever you are, be back to Reykjavik or Keflavik a day before your flight out, don’t leave the margin for last day.
  • Keep a track of things on road.is, safetravel.is and Vedur.is . If an advisory is issued, just follow it, a caution is a caution and a no is a no, not possibly or probably.
  • Iceland is costly and only cold water, hot water and electricity is cheap. For your food supplies stuff up from bonus ( cheapest) or kronan or 10-11.
  • For Northern lights, always take margin in your hands. Some days can be good, some can be bad. On a clear day solar activity can be quiet, while on a cloudy day solar activity can be very high, so keep around 6 days, that’s safe.
  • For dressing up in winter, it’s just layers and layers, that’s the only answer and drink warm or hot water, will be helpful for you in cold.
  • Plan your travel well, with a Plan A, Plan B
  • Do take a local Icelandic Sim, prefer a data sim as these days, if you internet you are pretty much good.

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on shadesoflens and commented:

    Iceland : The land of Fire & Ice

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