Brenda, Harvey, Jonna and Alan's trip to Iceland

We had a family vacation to Iceland planned for May in 2020 but the onset of the COVID pandemic forced us to cancel. Neither the, tour company nor the airline would refund our money but both did credit us to the money was available for future use. Even though COVID was still a threat in 2021, there was a window between the 2020 onset and the Delta variant surge where numbers were going down so we all masked up and braved making the trip in July of 2021. As it turned out, Iceland was probably one of the safest places in the world so we had a fantastic three weeks exploring Iceland and were all sad that we had to leave to return to the US which was in the midst of the Delta craziness. While in Iceland we spent a couple of days in the capital of Reykjavik before picking up a rented car arranged by the tour compamy Nordic Visitor. With the car we spent two weeks driving a loop around the entire country staying at hotels pre-arranged by Nordic Visitor. Finally, we stuck around for another couple of days in Reykjavik at the end of our trip before flying back to the US.

Here are some of our favorite photos from the trip (each photo is a thumbnail linked to a higher quality picture.):

1) Reykjavik, Iceland, July 25, 2021 - Our flight arrived in the morning on a typically rainy day in Reykjavik. After getting checked-in at the hotel and doing a short (and soggy) reconnoiter walk to check out the area around the hotel we found a coffee shop where we could have some hot chocolate and make a plan. Brenda and Harvey's enthusiasm for getting rained on was waning so they headed for the warmth of the hotel room. Jonna and Alan decided to join a "free" (always tip!) walking tour with CityWalk. We enjoyed a very informative two hour walk around downtown Reykjavik with a history student from the local university. Enjoyed even more because the rain stopped and the sun tried (briefly) to break through the clouds before the wind kicked up and dropped the temperature a few degrees... all supposedly typical Icelandic weather. We learned about the history of both the country of Iceland and the city of Reykjavik which turned out to be a valuable orientation for the upcoming three weeks. Well worth the money we gave as a tip to the guide and highly recommended for anyone visiting Reykjavik.

2) Reykjavik, Iceland, July 25, 2021 - We arrived in Reykjavik on July 25th which was Alan's birthday so for dinner we had reservations at Old Iceland Restaurant. The rain had returned but the restaurant was only a few blocks aways so we sloshed our way over and found a warm, cozy space with a friendly staff that served exceptional food. How do you say vegetarian in Icelandic? "sveltandi" (which translates as "starving". ) Thankfully, despite the restaurant being named Old Iceland they had a fantastic veggie meal that no self respecting Viking would have ever been seen eating. The mushroom soup was just incredible. A fine way to celebrate a birthday!

3) Reykjavik, Iceland, July 25, 2021 - Being so far north meant the sun set late so it was still light out when we left the restaurant. Thankfully, that sunshine meant we had a nice rainbow to enjoy as we walked back down Laugavegur to the hotel.

4) Reykjavik, Iceland, July 26, 2021 - Our first full day in Iceland was a whirlwind tour of some of the museums in Reykjavik. Our first stop was the excellent National Museum Of Iceland where we could get an overview of the history of the country. Starting with the early vikings arrival in the 9th century, through the rule of first Norway and then Denmark, and finally with the modern history as an independent nation. The exhibits were engaging, and in the case of the viking displays interactive which allowed for Shield Maiden Jonna to try on her fierce pillager persona. Very well done. We continued the dive into history with a visit to the downtown Settlement Exhibition. Which is an archeological dig turned into a museum. It is a quick stop but seeing the actual foundations of an early viking longhouse was very cool.

5) Reykjavik, Iceland, July 26, 2021 - From an exploration of history to a dive into Icelandic culture we next visited the National Gallery Of Iceland, Listasafn Island, one of a dozen art museums in the city, to experience some Icelandic modern art. It was a small space but with some very interesting pieces on display including two large scale video installations, one of which wasi "Of The North" by Steina Vasulka, that had us discussing them for the rest of the afternoon.

6) Reykjavik, Iceland, July 27, 2021 - For our second day in Reykjavik we finally made the walk up the hill to see the Hallgrimskirkja and the Leifur Eiriksson statue. Because the highlight of the church is the observation deck on top, and because it is such a popular tourist stop, we decided to get to the church when it first opened in the morning so we could enjoy a relatively empty (and more COVID safe) observation deck. We were successful and were first in line which means we got to enjoy about 30 minutes inside with only a few other masked visitors while the gift shop processed the long line of people behind us.

7) Reykjavik, Iceland, July 27, 2021 - The church interior is relatively sparse so the highlight is really the panoramic views over the city from the observation deck at the top of the tower. Looking south we could see the ash plume from the Fagradalsfjall volcano on the southern coast. All around were the colorful houses of Reykjavik and on the horizon where the mountains of the interior. Best of all, the rain that greeted us when we arrived was nowhere to be seen so the blue skies made for great views (and warm temperatures!).

8) Reykjavik, Iceland, July 27, 2021 - For the afternoon we split up. Brenda and Jonna took a walking food tour in downtown Reykjavik while Harvey and Alan took a city bus to the southern suburbs to visit a museum. The 3 1/2 hour walking food tour started at the Harpa concert hall and visited a half-dozen restaurants to try local specialities like fish, lamb and the famous lamb hot dog from Reykjavik's busiest hot dog stand. ...and yes, Jonna did try the dreaded fermented shark.

9) Reykjavik, Iceland, July 27, 2021 - Harvey and Alan had high hopes for the Natural History Museum of Kopavogur as we wanted to learn about the unique geology and zoology of Iceland but unfortunately all of the displays were in Icelandic and due to COVID restrictions there weren't any guides for the museum space. We did our best to deduce what was written (and used Google translate to interpret some key terms) but left with more questions than answers.

10) Thingvellir, Iceland, July 28, 2021 - Early the next morning we got picked up by a bus where we were delivered at the rental car center to pick up our brand new 2021 Kia Sorento. The road out of Reykjavik heading east is part of the very popular "Golden Circle" route and the first stop is Þingvellir National Park which has a combination of unique geology and history importance. Geologically, this is where the European and North American tectonic plates are pulling apart which has resulted in a spectacular rift valley. Historically, this valley is where the early viking tribes of Iceland met and created the first general assembly which imposed universal laws for the land. We did a hike along the fault that contains the Öxará river.

11) Friðheimar farms, Iceland, July 28, 2021 - Lunch was a stop at Friðheimar farms where we got to see the massive complex of hydroponic greenhouses with an average yield of one ton of tomatoes and cucumbers per day and enjoyed a tasty tomato themed meal. This was definitely a key stop on the "Golden Circle" tourist circuit as the parking with cars and buses. Worth a visit but definitely not a secret spot.

12) Geysir Center, Haukadalur Valley, Iceland, July 28, 2021 - Our first stop after lunch was at the Geysir Center which is a geothermal area with geysers, hot springs and mud pots. The highlight is the Strokkur geyser which regularly errupts. Nearby is the now dormant Great Geysir from which the term geyser was originally derived. We did the main walking loop through the park and watched Strokkur erupt two different times.

13) Gullfoss, Iceland, July 28, 2021 - The pinnacle sight of the day was the spectacular Gullfoss (or "Golden Waterfall"). This wide canyon on the Hvitá river has stepped layers of hard rock resulting in a stunning waterfall. Additionally, the deep canyon captures the misty from the cascading water which results in rainbows as the sunlight prisms through the misty. Wow! We ended the day with a visit to a local dairy farm for some yummy ice cream and then made a quick stop at the Kerið crater before spending the night at a small guesthouse just outside Laugarás.

14) Lava Centre, Hvolsvöllur, Iceland, July 29, 2021 - Our first stop, on our first full day after leaving the classic "Golden Circle" route, was just outside the small town of Hvolsvöllur where the new Lava Centre museum has been built. Brenda and Jonna decided to get tea instead of diving into the details of Iceland's volcanic underpinings so Harvey and Alan spent an hour watching the introductory film and walking through all the rooms detailing the country's geology and volcanic history. It was exactly the information we'd hoped to find back at the Natural History museum in Reykjavik. We left with a much better understanding of the island.

15) Seljalandsfoss, Iceland, July 29, 2021 - Our next stop was at the stunning Seljalandsfoss and nearby “hidden” waterfall of Gljúfrabúi. Seljalandsfoss's distinctive feature is that it drops off an overhanging cliff so you hike a loop that goes behind the waterfall.

16) Gljúfrabúi, Iceland, July 29, 2021 - Gljúfrabúi, "Dweller in the Gorge", is tucked up inside a very tight canyon so it can't be seen from outside. Inside the canyon it is a giant terrarium with green moss coating the walls and mist swirling around like a full size snow globe. We drove past the massive Skógafoss but just enjoyed the view from the road rather than making a stop. This was only day two and we were already getting the idea that trying to see every waterfall in Iceland was a fool's errand.

17) Dyrhólaey peninsula, Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland, July 29, 2021 - For lunch we drove to the village of Vík for a delicious meal at the Suður-Vík. In the afternoon we backtracked to the Dyrhólaey peninsula to walk on the Reynisfjara black beach, see the Dyrhólaey sea arch, walk into the Hálsanefshellir sea cave and watch the puffins on the Gardar sea cliff. The basalt columns made for some fun photos.

18) Reynisdrangar rock formations, Iceland, July 29, 2021 - We opted not to walk all the way down the beach (basically, back to the town of Vik where we'd had lunch) to see them but we did admire the Reynisdrangar rock formations from Reynisfjara beach. After a short drive we are settled down for the night in Kirkjubæjarklaustur making this our southern-most section of the trip.

19) Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Iceland, July 29, 2021 - Jonna and I went for a walk in the evening and just down the road from our hotel we found a fenced in area with a herd of beautiful Icelandic horses. The grass in this area was growing on a spongey, muddy layer of top soil which was built up over the volcanic lava plain we'd been driving through for the afternoon. These horses were eating well and we spent some time feeding them handfuls of grass we plucked from our side of their fence.

20) Dverghamrar canyon, Iceland, July 30, 2021 - Today’s activities were dominated by the Vatnajökull, a massive glacier in southeastern corner of Iceland. Most of our day was spent with this mammoth crown of ice above our heads. We started with a quick walk through the Dverghamrar (Dwarf Cliffs). We didn’t hear the dwarves singing today so maybe they were asleep in the morning.

21) Svartifoss, Vatnajökull National park, Iceland, July 30, 2021 - Next up was a stop in the Skaftafell entrance to Vatnajökull National Park where we hiked up to the Svartifoss, a waterfall in a bowl canyon made of basalt columns. From the highest point in the hike we could see the massive Vatnajökull glacier, as well as the long glaciated valley winding to the coast in the south.


22) Jökulsárlón, Iceland, July 30, 2021 - After our half day exploring Skaftafell we continued northward to the Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon) where we took a boat ride out among the icebergs coming off the outlet glacier. In addition to the ice we also saw seals and sea birds in the lagoon.

23) Breidamerkursandur, Iceland, July 30, 2021 - At the outlet of the Jökulsárlón lagoon is Breidamerkursandur (Diamond Beach) where waves and wind push chunks of ice up onto the black sand beach. We strolled there to enjoy the beautiful crystalline shapes. We finished the day with a terrific meal in the village of Hofn.

24) Djúpivogur, Iceland, July 31, 2021 - Past the glacier lagoon we left the crowds of tourists behind and ventured up the remote east coast of Iceland. Villages were few and very far between. Even the grazing sheep looked a bit forlorn and lonely! We made two stops in the morning, the first at the carved granite eggs of Merry Bay. This was cute but quick. The eggs are just that - 34 large (3'-ish) chunks of granite that have been carved into the unique shapes of the actual eggs of the native nesting birds in this area. They are arranged along the edge of a small, industrial fishing port in the village of Djúpivogur. Not particularly scenic but interesting and a decent excuse to get out of the car to stretch our legs.

25) Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland, July 31, 2021 - The second stop was at Petra’s Stone Collection. This was surprisingly interesting... thousands of beautiful minerals all on display in a lovely garden. Other than these two tourist attractions we spent the morning in a vast landscape of long fjords, volcanic cliffs and the unending North Atlantic.

26) Seyðisfjörður, Iceland, July 31, 2021 - In the afternoon we turned into the coastal mountains and were back in waterfall country. Literally hundreds of them streaming down lush green mountainsides from ice fields and lakes up above. The highlight was crossing a pass and dropping down into the small village of Seyðisfjörður (now a cruise ship dock but still a tiny fishing village in appearance.) We had an excellent lunch and then walked a loop around the town. Almost idyllic, if it weren’t for the big cruise ship just down the pier.

27) Vök Baths, Iceland, July 31, 2021 - We ended our day in Egilsstaðir were we soaked in the Vök hot baths which float *in* Lake Urriðavatn. Just chillin’ (or should I say hottin’?) with the locals on a holiday weekend Saturday night.

28) Odadahraun Desert, Iceland, August 1, 2021 - We felt very small this day because it was one of grand scale and powerful natural forces. We started the day with a two hour drive across the edge of the Icelandic Highlands - a vast high altitude plain of lava flows. The first part of the drive was lush green and filled with waterfalls but as we gained elevation it turned to a stark moonscape (Close enough that NASA and Hollywood (separately! In case you are a "they faked the moon landing" conspiracy nut!) used this landscape as a lunar landscape. This area is known as the Odadahraun Desert and is stretches for miles.

29) Dettifoss, Iceland, August 1, 2021 - In the middle of this dry volcanic desert is the mighty Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Iceland where the mud and glacial silt filled Jökulsá á Fjöllum river drops nearly 150 feet into a narrow canyon. The ground literally shakes and mist shoots 50 feet over the lip of the canyon. Wow!

30) Stora-Viti Crater, Krafla Volcano, Lake Myvatn, August 1, 2021 - From the power of water to the power of geology we next drove to near the top of the Krafla volcano to see the bright blue Viti crater lake.

31) Krafla Geothermal Power Station, Iceland, August 1, 2021 - On the slopes was the Krafla geothermal power station, the largest power station in Iceland, where the heat of the volcano currently produces 60 MW of electricity per year (of a 500 MW capacity!)

32) Hverir Geothermal Area, Iceland, August 1, 2021 - Below the crater is the Námafjall (mountain) on which is the Hverir geothermal area with bubbling grey mudpots and stinky steaming sulfurous fumaroles. Krafla’s massive underground lava chamber’s influence is found high and low, far and wide.

Go forward to the second '21 Iceland Trip Photo Page.

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Alan Fleming