Dream day in Iceland

Although Iceland isn’t a huge place it is big enough and has enough to do that I always warn people about trying to do too much in one trip or cover the whole country. However, if time, distance, and transport were no object, this is what I’d do on my dream day in Iceland:

I’d magically teleport myself to just outside the tunnel leading into my favourite town of  Ísafjörður. Just because I rarely get to go through tunnels I find them fun! P1010792

From there I would go into town, wander around the streets and watch a plane attempt a landing at the airport, hopefully with several go-rounds. I’d eat at the pizza place, I can’t remember exactly what I had there but it was good. Yep, I realise this is not the stuff most  people’s dreams are made of. Just humour me.

P1020029From there I’d snap my fingers and have the fun of the drive down the stunning Selárdalur road to the Samúel Jónsson site. I don’t know why I find this place so appealing, it is partly the scenery along the road and the general isolation.

P1010663 P1010670

Then I’d magic myself to the sulphurous wasteland of Hverarönd,  and remind myself what a trip to Mars or a post-apocalyptic world could be like.

From there I’d go Jökulsárlón, but not to the lagoon itself but to the iceberg littered beach across the road.

4cFinally, there would be a change of season and I’d go and visit any of the waterfalls in their frozen state.P1000328I can think of a few other good combos – maybe they partly seem interesting because they could never really happen! So that’s my dream day in Iceland – what’s yours? 

 

Iceland 2013 awards

Every year around this time the Queen publishes her New Years Honours list. Not one to be outdone, I thought I’d put together my own list of awards for Iceland. As most of our “big trip” this year was around the Westfjords, you’ll see it’s a little Westfjords-heavy. Don’t worry, I still love the rest of Iceland just as much.

Now, on to the awards:

What you don’t know can’t hurt you award: I’m glad we went to the Sea Monster Museum AFTER visiting the beach down the road  – it means I didn’t know I was leisurely lingering around a beach which is apparently riddled with sea monsters including the ones that can come up on land. Anyhow, this sign should have been a giveaway:

Iceland-invader award: The Google Streetview car! I knew it was in Iceland but it was still pretty weird to see it in real life. And although I love being able to see Iceland on Streetview now, it does take some of the mystery away of imagining what a place is like before you get there.

Déjà vu award: the town square, Ísafjörður. It was very weird to see in real life the place that I always looked at on the Ísafjörður webcam – the central town square. It’s amazing how familiar somewhere can become even on a webcam.

Best Icelandic concert award: Believe it or not, it’s not Ásgeir Trausti or Of Monsters and Men. We were lucky enough to see Lára Rúnars, Hafdís Huld, Ragga Gröndal and Védís Hervör, playing for an audience of about 20 people as part of their tour of the Westfjords. It was a very stripped back show with all four playing and contributing to each other’s songs. It was the kind of show that’s hard to imagine happening somewhere else – no egos and they couldn’t have made much money out of it – just four very talented people playing together for the fun of it.

Employee of the year/mistaken identity award: Very often in the Icelandic countryside there is one of those black and white helpful working dogs at your accommodation or where you are visiting. I particularly noticed one of these dogs at the Deildartunguhver hot springs as there didn’t seem to be anyone official working there. The dog had acted so important and proud of itself that I took its picture. Then it turned out it was just some other tourist’s pet. Oops.

Surprisingly good museum award: Natural History Museum, Bolungarvík. I wrote a post about this place, which despite being in the middle of nowhere and in a building that is uninspiring from the outside is very well done. I had low expectations and it surpassed them by a mile. (that was meant to sound more like a compliment than it does)

Not quite what I expected award: There will be a lot who disagree with me on this one as these are two of the Westfjords main attractions. However, both Rauðisandur and Látrabjarg did not live up to my expectations. I’m not sure, but timing may have played a part in both cases. Rauðisandur is a famous red beach and despite following a trail to it, you couldn’t actually get on the beach as there was always water between you and the beach. So maybe the tide was in, although I’ve never seen anyone mention that you need to go at a certain time of day.

Látrabjarg has spectacular cliffs that go on for miles. I realised we were too late by a few days to see puffins but I was still expecting a spectacle of thousands of other birds around the cliffs. Again, maybe the timing was wrong and most of the birds disappear in mid-August. I think both places also felt disappointing as they had involved several hours of driving down bad roads and I enjoyed some of the other things we saw along the way more.

Hidden gem award: I’ve always known there is a lot more to do on the Reykjanes peninsula than I and most travellers do as we rush through it to and from the airport. We spent more time here and I now feel there’s even more to do than I’d thought. There’s lots of good walking which seems to more clearly marked than in other parts of Iceland. I’d also really like to take the time to climb Keilir one day.

Thanks to all of you for reading and supporting the blog this year! I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year.

Westfjords!

For my next trip to Iceland, we will be driving around the Westfjords. This is a part of Iceland that most people skip out due to lack of time, or maybe because it doesn’t have any of the “big name” attractions found in other parts of Iceland. For whatever reason it remains even more unspoilt than the rest of Iceland. Although there are a few months to go yet before my visit it’s never too early to start making a Westfjords bucket list! Aside from the amazing fjord scenery, rough roads and hardly any people, here are the things I’m most looking forward to seeing:

Ísafjörður– I love the setting of this place including its scary airport. It will really feel like civilisation after a few days in the car too.

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia

Arctic Fox Center – the closest thing to a zoo here! A great place to see these animals which have such a hard life.

From melrakki.is

From melrakki.is

The Sorcery Museum – who doesn’t love an eccentric museum? Small but full of everything Icelandic-witchcraft related! I must read Last Rituals by Yrsa S (which references this museum often) again before going.
Bird cliffs of Látrabjarg – just hope it’s not windy! OK, it’s always windy.

from westfjords.is

from westfjords.is

Rauðasandur, or “red sands” – you’ll never guess why! This looks more like the desert to me than Iceland!

from westfjords.is

from westfjords.is

The weird world of Samuel Jonsson. This is the kind of “artwork” that freaks me out really but I like the thought of this being in the middle of nowhere.

from islandsbloggen.com

from islandsbloggen.com

General abandonment – old ships, old factories, as life has moved on there are some fascinating relics left in this area.

from iceland.nordicvisitor.com

from iceland.nordicvisitor.com

OK, I meant to only have 5 things but I got carried away…

Any recommendations of other things to do (or avoid!) in this region are welcome as always as I know many of you have been.

My Icelandic music video of 2011 – Reykjavík – Hellbound Heart

I normally wouldn’t get that excited about a music video, but I did about this one!

Reykjavík! – Hellbound Heart

This is a song I’ve heard for a while but didn’t like that much (in fact, I thought it sounded like Neil Diamond) until I saw the video. Now I love it!

Why do I like this video so much? I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I’m a geek about airplanes and everything about them. I love watching them take off and land (don’t tell anyone!).

I haven’t gone on an internal flight in Iceland yet, but the domestic airport is in the heart of the city of Reykjavík and you can’t help but see it from lots of different angles, especially if you have to go to the BSI bus terminal. You can also see planes coming in from quite low around the Tjörnin area. It’s a surprisingly busy airport but the only traffic is small and propeller airplanes. There is a hotel actually at the airport but I wouldn’t recommend staying in this area as it is a little bit too far away from anything interesting aside from the plane spotting!

Anyway, this video  features a pilots eye view in a small plane taking off from this domestic airport. I have wondered how the view below would look from a plane using this airport so found this really cool. Then they arrive  into an even smaller airport which is at Ísafjörður. I think I can safely say my heart couldn’t take flying in or out of this place surrounded by high hills and water and my view that Icelandic pilots are the bravest in the world is confirmed.

This is a plane ride that I’m unlikely to take for real (especially from the cockpit!) and  I also enjoyed checking out the real-life scary plane landings and take-offs at Ísafjörður on YouTube. I know, I’m a NERD.

YIKES!

LOOK OUT!

Strangely, the band Reykjavík!, musician Mugison and Iceland’s president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson are all originally from Ísafjörður, which has a population of only around 2,600.

I’ll go and calm down now. : ) I might have to add this flight to my bucket list.

If any of you have done this flight, get in touch!