Our Trip to Iceland
I bought a deal from Icelandair for $849.00 plus tax that included airfare to and from Iceland from Boston, four nights in hotels in Reykjavik and Akureyri, flights from Reykjavik to Akureyri and return, breakfast for four days and a Northern Lights tour.
Neither of us had been to Iceland before so it was a new adventure.
Icelandair was kind enough to tell us what to pack so we could deal with weather at 66 degrees north latitude. They told us to bring bathing suits, a towel, and to dress in layers so we could deal with variable temperatures. They also told us to bring winter hiking boots.
The trip was fantastic.
We arrived in Iceland at 6:30 in the morning. It was still dark. We got our bags and had to walk across the parking lot to get the bus to our hotel (not included in the deal – cost $25.00 per person one-way. I didn’t buy a round-trip ticket because I wanted to stop at the Blue Lagoon on the way back to the airport.) We drove for 40 minutes through a landscape that looked like we were on the moon – lava fields.
The bus had a recorded spiel telling us about Iceland’s geologic history – Iceland is relatively new geologically and has been formed by volcanoes. Iceland is at the juncture of two tectonic plates – the North American plate and the Eurasian plate.
When we arrived at the hotel at about 8:00 AM, we were told that we could upgrade our room for $60.00 for that night, which would give us paid Wi-Fi in the hotel and we could get into the room immediately. The upgraded room was about twice the size of the regular room and had a bathtub. We took it.
The hotel had a travel agency in it where you could buy tours. We opted for a city tour that afternoon.
On the tour guide explained that all of Reykjavik is heated by hot water coming from the earth. They pipe the water up to a series of five water towers where it is distributed to each of the buildings in the city. We were taken to the waterfront where they explained that they no longer hunted whales and had whale watches instead. They told us they had a University and an opera house and showed us the city, explaining the geologic nature of Iceland, the fact that the tectonic plates are pulling apart, rather than rubbing as they do in California, thus creating more land – a couple of centimeters on average a year.
Iceland also has glaciers from which they get all of their fresh water. They have very little pollution because they don’t burn fossil fuels for heat. There are only about 350,000 people in all of Iceland so they don’t have too much pollution from cars, either. Besides which gasoline cost about $10.00 a gallon which keeps the amount of driving down.
The next day we went to the local airport which was right next to the hotel where we were staying. Somehow the ride cost 1800 Iceland Krona, which worked out to $15.00 US.
We checked in for our 45 minute flight to Akureyri and boarded our prop plane a few minutes later. There was no security at this airport. The plane had about 40 seats, a stewardess who served tea, coffee and water. I don’t know if there was a restroom on the plane. We flew over more terrain that looked like it was on the moon, except that there were a couple of glaciers in it and touched down in Akureyri on schedule.
We were met at the Akureyri airport by representatives from the tour company that was providing the Northern lights tour. They also sold other tours – one for whale watching and another all day tour (which cost 195,000 Krona per person ($319.00 US) which we bought for the next day. They told us to “wear all your clothes” for the Northern Lights tour – it would be cold and windy and they would pick us up at the hotel at 9:45 that night.
That night it was COLD. I was wearing long underwear and velour pants, a blouse, a sweater with a hood and a wool sweater over that and then my winter down jack with an extra chest layer, along with warm winter boots. My companion wore 3 layers on the bottom, 6 layers on top, a warm hat with ear flaps and we both wore sheepskin gloves. I was warm, he was cold – his neck was exposed a little.
The Northern lights did appear for us, but they were very faded and a disappointment. However, the stars were magnificent. The cold, clear air and the extreme dark make it possible to see the Milky Way, which I had never seen before. It looked like a strip of cream in the sky. There were so very many visible stars that while I could see the Big Dipper, I could not see the Little Dipper, nor could I see constellation Cassiopeia.
The next day our tour picked us up at the hotel at 7:45 am. The small bus needed to be scraped from the frost deposit and it took a long time for it to be warmed up. Our driver took us to Lake Myvatn where there were gorgeous views and to a waterfall that looked like a miniature Niagara Falls. There was ice on the ground and it was pretty slippery, so I didn’t get too close to the falls. Then we went to a restaurant in the country to get coffee. While we were there, the driver/guide encouraged us to take a walk around there area. There was a large flock of sheep there. While we were in the restaurant, the sheep were driven into barns for the winter.
Afterward we went to a series of rock formations caused by a volcano. They looked like people. There is a myth surrounding these formations. It seems that the Trolls (which many Icelanders believe in) were having a party and they were having such a good time that they forgot that it was nearly dawn, and then they were struck by the light of the rising sun and turned to stone. It was a charming place. After that we went to an area where they have active volcanic action and several steam vents near the power plant, which utilizes the steam from the ground to make electricity. The next stop was for lunch which we had in a charming little restaurant with great food called The Cowshed. Then we had the piece de resistance – a stop at a hot springs spa, where we changed into bathing suits, walked outside in the cold and then into the hot springs where we stayed for an hour. It felt wonderful. When we climbed back into the bus for our trip back to the hotel we were all completely relaxed.
The next day we transferred back to Reykjavik and back to the original hotel next to the airport. That afternoon we visited the Saga Museum, one of the six water tanks (empty) which was in the “Pearl” which was the hot water storage unit. It told of the history of Iceland, the coming of Christianity to Iceland and the introduction of democracy through their Parliament which was formed in 930 AD. At the “Pearl”, we met a lovely couple from Denmark and had dinner with them that night at a very good restaurant called “Rub23” to which we were drawn by the delicious smells emanating from the restaurant’s kitchen.
On our last day we bought a tour that would take us to the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. While we enjoyed the Blue Lagoon, the hot springs near Akureyri were better.
Our plane trip home was uneventful and we arrived him very happy campers.