Archive | June 2014

Iceland Day 2: South Shore Tour – Reynisfjara Basalt Columns, Solheimajökull Glacier, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls

This is a continuation of the Iceland trip report, you can read more here:
Center Hotel Plaza Review
Iceland Day 1: 871 Settlement Exhibition and Northern Lights Tour

After a short night sleep following our Northern Lights failed tour the night before, we were picked up early at our hotel for our South Coast tour by mini bus by island guide tours. This tour was not included in our package trip, but I had read about Iceland’s South Shore and was dying to go. My friend wasn’t as excited about going to a black sand beach in January in Iceland as I was – but went with me because she’s a good friend. Luckily it was a right decision, and the tour was amazing.

We started out with a long drive watching the sunrise.

Sunrise as we left Reykjavik

Sunrise as we left Reykjavik

Towards the beginning of the tour we dropped off a couple people who were going on the glacier walking tour. When we stopped, I got out of the bus for a minute to take pictures. The wind was so incredibly strong I almost fell over. But the scenery in Iceland is incredible.

Scenery where the wind almost knocked me over!

Scenery where the wind almost knocked me over!

Our first tour stop was the Reynisfjara black sand beach, with amazing basalt columns. Part of the reason I was interested in Iceland in the first place was due to the amazing geographical features. It did not disappoint.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Basalt Columns

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Basalt Columns

The beach was incredible. And I’ve always wanted to see a black sand beach. It was cold, windy and sprinkling but we toughed it out for some pictures.

Me on the Basalt Columns for Scale

Me on the Basalt Columns for Scale

When we got back on the bus my friend said she initally didn’t understand why I wanted to go to a beach in cold weather – but that she was really glad we did. Our next stop was the town of Vik for lunch in a small cafe, the Strondin Bistro. Lunch was fine, but nothing to write home about. Unlike our next stop – the Solheimajökull glacier!

Town of Vik - lunch stop

Town of Vik – lunch stop

It was breathtaking. And freezing.

Glacier

Solheimajökull Glacier

We were all shivering and soaked from rain, but it was totally worth it.

Solheimajökull Glacier

Solheimajökull Glacier

It was also somewhat amusing in that we watched a guy fall in up to his thighs. He was fine, just cold. Apparently his daughter had requested he bring back ice from Iceland. So he was trying to fill a water bottle with water.

Solheimajökull Glacier

Solheimajökull Glacier

After the glacier, we headed to Skogafoss waterfall. It was impressive, but a fairly quick stop.

Skogafoss Waterfall

Skogafoss Waterfall

The final stop of the day was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Also neat, and we made it there right as the sun began to set.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

We then headed back on a fairly lengthy bus ride to Reykjavik. We had originally planned to go on a repeat Northern Lights tour that night, but it was cancelled due to the rain. I was disappointed, but cold enough from our day outside I was okay with not spending hours out in the snow again! We would try again the next day.

Our guide’s name was Sola, and she was incredibly knowledgeable about Iceland and was a great tour guide. I highly recommend this tour if you get the chance! Also, if you go make sure you have good shoes – there was a lot of ice to maneuver around!

 

 

 

First Day in Reykjavik, 871 Settlement Exhibition and Northern Lights Tour

This is a continuation of the Iceland trip report, you can read more below:
Center Hotel Plaza Review

After breakfast in the hotel, we decided to walk around Reykjavik for a bit. A few doors down from the hotel, we found The Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik 871. If I recall correctly, admission was about $12.

Reykjavik 871

Reykjavik 871

The exhibit contains excavated ruins from a hall with a wall dated before 871 AD. The exhibit also has displays attempting to demonstrate what life was like for the first settlers of Reykjavik.

Reykjavik 871 Remains

Reykjavik 871 Remains

We spent about an hour walking around and examining everything on display. It was interesting. They had neat displays such as how to write your name in runes.

Reykjavik 871 - Runes Writing

Reykjavik 871 – Write Your Name in Runes

Shortly after emerging from the exhibition, it began snowing. Probably seems somewhat insignificant for Iceland, but for my friend from Florida who was traveling with me – it was the first time she had ever seen snow!

A snowy Rekyjavik

Snow in Rekyjavik

After wandering around for a bit we decided to grab lunch. We found a fish and chips place and went in. The food was great! However, it was also expensive. We learned very quickly that it wasn’t just the Icelandic Fish and Chips prices – food in Iceland is expensive most places!

At this point jet lag kicked in and since we had a Northern Lights tour starting at 10pm, we decided to give in and take a nap. We woke up just in time to wander down to the harbor to meet up with our tour. Our package trip included a Northern Lights by boat tour. Unfortunately, the seas were too rough to go by boat – so we went by bus.  The bus drove for a good 40 minutes into what seemed like the middle of nowhere. We got out and waited outside looking for any sign of the Northern Lights. I got a good chance to play with my camera and figure out how I might try to capture images if we did see them!

Northern Lights Tour Location

Northern Lights Tour Location

The tour operator provided jumpsuits for anyone who wanted. My friend and I grabbed them but didn’t wind up putting them on.

The Tour Provided Jumpsuits

The Tour Provided Jumpsuits

We waited in the snow for a long time trying to see any glimpse of the Northern Lights. We did not succeed. Luckily, the tour came with a guarantee. If you paid for the boat tour and didn’t go by boat, you could try again the next night. If you paid for the bus tour and didn’t see anything, you could also try again. So we decided we would try again the following night and hope for better luck. We returned to the hotel exhausted, but had to get up early for our South Shore tour the next day.

The Iceland Report Begins! Center Hotel Plaza Review

Last October I saw someone tweet about a great deal on a package trip to Iceland. I found a friend crazy enough to go with me and booked it! It was an incredibly reasonable trip including airfare, hotel, breakfast and tours. My friend and I wanted to attempt to see the Northern Lights, so we decided to go at the end of January/early February. Crazy? Maybe.  But wait to make your decision after you read the trip report.

We arrived in Iceland very early in the morning local time. We were somewhat exhausted from our overnight flight with minimal sleep, but had to get to the hotel. Keflavik Airport was a nice first impression of Iceland. Clean with lots of shops and restaurants. We stopped quickly to withdraw cash. I used the airport ATM and pulled out a little from my Bluebird account for a $2 fee. Not bad! We found out almost everywhere we went accepted credit cards, so the cash wasn’t really necessary. But better safe than sorry.

We added on transportation from Keflavik into Reykjavik  using the fly bus when we booked our trip. It took about 45 minutes. I was excited to find the bus had wifi, it made the trip go very quickly even though it was too dark to see anything outside the windows. We arrived into downtown Reykjavik around 7am. Our hotel, the Center Hotel Plaza, very understandably did not have a room ready yet. They gave us the option to check in early for 40 euro. Since it included the chance to grab breakfast that morning and relax in the hotel for a bit we went for it!

The room was basic but perfect for our trip. We had two twin beds.

Center Plaza Hotel Room

Center Plaza Hotel Room

The rest of the room contained a desk, chair and tv.

Center Plaza Hotel Room

Center Plaza Hotel Room

Our only complaint was that it had the style of shower where it seems entirely impossible to shower without getting water everywhere in the bathroom. Maybe Americans are just messy shower takers? I don’t get it.

Center Plaza Hotel Bathroom

Center Plaza Hotel Bathroom

The hotel’s location was great. Right near the harbor for our Northern Lights tour, but also right near many restaurants and stores for easy access – which is important when it is snowing and you’re from Florida!

Breakfast in the hotel was also great and included breads, fruits, eggs, sausage and some amazing cookies occasionally. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take any pictures, as the breakfast area was often crowded. The other hotel guests seemed to come from all over, a high majority being European. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the hotel. The location was nice, the staff was friendly and helpful and many of our tours picked us up right at our hotel.