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2019-03 Iceland

The main goal of our trip was to view the Northern Lights and maybe see some interesting sights. The reason I chose Iceland is because of all the places where you are almost guaranteed to see the Northern lights, Iceland has the warmest climate and offered the most sights to see during the day. During the summer, Iceland experiences very long days so it is nearly impossible to see the northern lights. But in the winter, Iceland has very long nights and many great possibilities to see the lights.

More photos of this trip are available here.

We travelled into Keflavík International Airport, rented a 4WD SUV and started off. Our first day included driving 4 hours out to Vik to witness Dyrhólaey and see the famous black sand beaches. Both were beautiful and along the way we were treated to waterfalls, beautiful scenery and the crazy Icelandic weather everyone was talking about.

Dyrhólaey is just outside of the town of Vik and to get to the cliffs that overlook the hole, you have to drive up this narrow winding road up the cliff. At first we thought there was one way up and another way down. But as soon as we saw cars coming down our road, we knew it was going to be tight. Going up was a little scarier than coming down as we passed about 4 cars on the way up and had to ride the edge of the cliff to allow cars coming down to pass. The views were worth it though. Seljalandsfoss are waterfalls on private property but the owner has turned it into a public park. He charges a moderate fee for parking which covers upkeep of the parking lot, maintenance of the paths, bridges and steps along the way to the falls and helps run a small gift shop and food station. The falls are magnificent. Pictures do not do it justice, the falls are higher than Niagara and these pictures are in the end of winter when they are at the lower end for flow, in the summer, they are twice as wide and more powerful. You can actually walk up the path and walk behind the falls, but on the day we went the paths were all very wet so we decided not to try. This is a typical 4 wheel drive vehicle in Iceland. We saw vehicles like this pretty often in Iceland although far less often in the city of Reykjavik. Notice the bar going across the hub of the wheels? That bar is part of an air pressure system installed on the truck so the driver can increase or decrease the tire pressure of any or all of the tires depending on road conditions. It is necessary in the back country where roads are not routinely plowed and rarely paved. This was our best attempt at off roading in Iceland. This "road" (shown below with our rental car) is actually listed in Google Maps as a highway. To drive 2 miles took us 25 minutes. We were very cautious at first (I declined the additional coverage at the rental place ), but once we got moving, we got up to almost 45 KPH ! These are the world famous Icelandic horses. Horses were brought over to Iceland from England about 900 years ago. After nearly the entire herd of horses was wiped out due to disease brought over from the mainland, Iceland passed very strict import/ export restrictions on horses. Basically, no horses can be brought onto the island. Any horse that gets exported off of the island can never return. That is why the horses are so short and stocky with really thick manes and fur, they have only bred within themselves and no selective breeding has taken place as has been done in the US and Europe. The Sun Voyager Sculpture is a metal sculpture which sits on Reykjavik Harbor about 2 minutes drive from the opera house. Sculptor is Jón Gunnar Árnason. Sun Voyager is described as an ode to the Sun. It is intended to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom. One other excursion we did was the Game of Thrones tour. This tour brought us to about 5 sites within the Thingvellir National Park including the Dragon Roasting the Sheep scene, the Wildlings attacking the village scene as well as others. The picture was taken within the valley that The Hound and Arya Stark walked through several times. The tour and the Tour Guide Theo were excellent and it was well worth the price. Theo dressed the part and was very knowledgeable about the show and the locations where GOT was recorded in both Iceland and Ireland.