Flying to Iceland in March, I was expecting cold weather, lots of snow and hoping for some northern lights sightings. Basically, I was looking for the winter that never came to central PA, or much else of the east coast this year. Iceland did not disappoint.
|Our trusty rental car -- with heated seats!|
The plane dropped us off at 6 a.m. As we drove into Reykjavik, the country was waking up. The sun must have been rising, but it was impossible to tell by looking at the sky. Snow was blowing around the car. The closer we got to the city (about a 45 minute drive), the more cars seemed to be joining us.
Once we parked and started exploring, the snow took a break, but the wind kept us company. The clouds let the sun through a couple of moments in Reykjavik that first morning. The wind hung with us the whole trip at one speed or another. The sun only made occasional visits.
|Empty Icelandic roads.|
The island nation is home to just 300, 000 people who share a swath of inhospitable land about the size of Kentucky. It was wonderful to drive for hours and see just a few cars. Logic tells me the lack of people is a result of the season. (Tourists find summer in Iceland lovely, I hear. So much so that all of the rental cars on the island have been booked at once.) But being in an environment where humans are rare is so satisfying to me that I choose to pretend Iceland is always vacant.
|Ate our first meal in Iceland while watching the falls.|
That took us past Vatnajokull National Park, the largest National Park in Europe. The park is basically one huge glacier and is the home of the highest point in Iceland, Hvannadalshnuker. We attempted a climb, but I got spooked by a local school marm. She let us crash in her basement, but told us a chilling bedtime story about two boys who climbed up on the glacier and never came back.
Richard and I made it back, but our poor knowledge of the glacier, and its crevasses, the horrible visibility we had and the violent wind encouraged our turn-around. We'll give it a try again in the right season and with someone who knows the way.
The next stretch of the Ring Road followed the south east coastline up and back along fjords. We stopped in Hofn, "pronounced like an unexpected hiccup" says Lonely Planet, for a meal and to taste the local beer. There's glacier water in it, apparently. The meal was seafood, duh.
|6km tunnel. Richard was like a kid at Christmas.|
|Reindeer enjoying the winter clime. Too windy for my taste.|
|Richard "standing" on the crater lip.|
After glissading down, we treated ourselves with a local treat. Hverabraud is a moist, cake-like rye bread that is slow-baked underground. It was delicious alone or with cheese.
Next we drove to Akureyri, the second-most populated town in Iceland. We visited on a Sunday which means EVERYTHING was closed. Therefore, I was not impressed by the town, although I'm sure it's lovely any other day of the week.
|Does it get any better? There were beer holders built into the rock, so no.|
|Halfway up Trollskagi.|
The next part of the drive, I don't remember too well. I was napping. But Richard steered us toward Snaefellsjokull, the volcano Jules Verne sent his characters into in Journey to the Center of the Earth. The clouds hid the summit and the best road to access the glacier was impassable, so we hung out around the base. It sits right at the west end of a peninsula, so we watched the waves smash against rocks until a hail storm sent us racing back to the car.
|My buddies singing for food.|
That evening we made our way back to Reykjavik. We got a hotel room right in the center of the city on the top floor. After a culinary sampler of traditional Icelandic food, which included putrified shark (gross, by the way), we hit the bookstore and spent the rest of the night packing for the flight home.
On the way to the airport, we stopped at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland's premier hot bath spa. We stayed so long in the creamy, blue pools that we almost missed our flight.
Just two days into the trip, we were discussing the agenda for our return trip. So, Iceland, you'll be seeing more of me.