Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Summary of our Iceland Trip

After the red-eye flight, we were able to get into our hotel room at 8am. Thank goodness. The Hotel Skuggi (pron. skooki and means 'shadow' in Icelandic) was very similar to a boutique hotel that we enjoy back home. On the wall was a quote from a book of Icelandic scenery that was in the room for our perusal. Skip and I very much enjoyed having our own respective duvets and made a mental note to adopt this practice back at home.
The bathroom was pristine. The towels hung on a heated drying rack which was very handy when we wanted to dry our swimwear after our visit to the Blue Lagoon the next day.

After the breakfast buffet and a nap, we headed out on foot to explore Reykjavik. Our hotel was one block over from the main, busy street leading to downtown. We were within easy walking distance of the iconic Hallgrímskirkja - the tall, modern, Lutheran church. In front is a monument to Leif Eriksson commemorating his arrival in Iceland in 930AD. 

We were SO glad to have arrived the day before our tour so we could get our bearings, explore Reykjavik on our own The next day, we learned the bus would be picking our group up at 3pm to take us to the Blue Lagoon - the big, outdoor thermal spa. We were there for 2 hours.
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The water is naturally hypersalinated so all one had to do was lift their feet off the bottom and buoyancy would occur. There was a place to get some silica mud to put on our faces. There was also a swim-up bar where one could purchase a beverage for about $12 CDN. As we had been warned, everything in Iceland was really expensive there. Fortunately, most of our meals on the tour and of course the cruise were covered.

The next morning we headed to þingvellir (Thingvellir) the site of the first parliament established in the world in 930AD. The site was chosen for its acoustics and location on the island. Here 36 chieftains represented the new migrants to Iceland. 
These are the remains of the first prime minister's residence.

It is also the rift valley between the tectonic plates  between Europe and North America. 

Fred was really taking in all the historical significance. Here's an aerial photo of the valley between the two continental plates.
Photo from

Then we drove down to Selfoss in the south of the country where we spent the night in yet another luxury hotel. We and the three other busloads plus other guests dined in one big dining room. At the nearby grocery store, I was thrilled to note an entire aisle devoted to yarn. 

Our room also had a view of the nearby waterfall (foss). At the desk, we could sign up to be called if the Northern Lights appeared. Unfortunately it was overcast so we never got a call.

The next day we drove up the centre of Iceland to the north area on the largest desert in Europe and on unpaved road. Oh yeah, and it was pouring rain.

It was desolate, lava-covered countryside with no vegetation other than the odd clump of plants about 2" high.

This really shows the terrain that went on for hours across what is referred to as a 'desert' - in fact, the largest in Europe.

We were a tour group of 4 buses. Here we stopped to stretch our legs and take some photos.
In the distance we could see snowy mountains and volcanoes.
 There was one comfort stop after 2 hours in the middle of nowhere. Then off we headed again. We only met a couple of cars on the road for the entire 4 hours. Evidently people renting cars have to sign something saying they will not go on that road. Finally we arrived in Akureyri (pop. 18000) where we were meeting our ship. As we approached town, we saw our ship coming into port.

Akureyri is a very cute town with a nice shopping area.
The streets in the city centre are one-way and one lane. The rest is for pedestrians.
Icelanders love their fairies and trolls. These had been yarn-bombed and were in front of a lovely store that sold lots of different Icelandic knitted goods.
The modern church was at the top of the hill beside the hotel where we all gathered for dinner.
We spent the night in Akureyri then did some more touring around the area visiting geysers and waterfalls - taking in the beautiful scenery.

After boarding the ship and going through the lifeboat drill, we went out on the deck to see the landscape on the Isafjord.

After dinner, we went into the lounge for the orientation talk about the ship and our port the next day. During the talk, someone yelled 'WHALES' and we all beetled to our cabins to get our coats and go out on the deck. Sure enough, just 100 feet from the ship, humpback whales were diving and spouting.
That night was VERY rough after leaving the fjord and being on the open Greenland Sea. After I got some Gravol (dramamine) into Skip, I couldn't sleep because I was worried about him, he was snoring loudly, and the creaking of the ship was very loud. 

The next morning after docking, the excursion I'd booked was cancelled due to weather so I got to go back to bed while Skip and Alexa (the friend who was on the same tour) booked a bus tour around the area. I felt MUCH better after sleeping most of the morning away. 

That night, we both took Gravol and slept very well even though the seas were very rough again. We were north of the Arctic Circle then headed to the west fjords area through the Denmark Strait (a misnomer as it really is the strait between Iceland and Greenland (300km away). 

WE did a tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, saw more waterfalls, 
and volcanic remnants along the sea,

Some sampled fermented shark (not me) at a quaint place that had an old fishing boat on display, 
a very cute and friendly Icelandic sheep dog,

and had a picnic lunch in a beautiful, spot on the edge of the ocean. 

Back on the ship, we had another rough night for our sail back to Reykjavik. Gravol again was our friend and we both slept like babies. I really like the rocking and rolling of the shop so found that very comforting in our cozy cabin. We disembarked the next morning at 8:30 and had 'til 1 to explore more of Reykjavik before the bus would take us to the airport for our 5pm flight. We walked all over the place and had lunch at the Thai place we had found earlier in the trip. 

Our flight home was uneventful and we got our car at the park and fly, drove towards home, had dinner and got home by 10pm.

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