The Land of Fire & Ice

Hello friends. It’s been just over a year since we returned to the U.S. from our 6 month around the world trip. We have both settled back into the workplace; Matt is back at Nordstrom spending a year working on the Innovation Team and most recently accepting a role as Finance Manager of Loyalty. Phi is now back in marketing at HomeStreet Bank. But this blog is about traveling, so let’s get to it!

In June, we spent 9 days in Iceland. It had always been on our list of places to visit and with Iceland Air offering up direct flights from Seattle, it made the decision pretty easy.

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Our overall itinerary was a bit ambitious as we planned to drive the entire Ring Road in 9 days. The ring road is a little bit over 800 miles – which isn’t necessarily overwhelming – but it is a push with all of the detours, sites and hiking to be had.  We drove the Ring Road counter clockwise starting in Reykjavik and starting with the south coast.

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Tent Life!

This was an on the go trip, with lots of hiking and most of our nights spent camping.   You don’t go to Iceland for the cuisine or accommodations. We wanted to get in as much hiking and nature as possible.  Our next trip to Hawaii’s Big Island in September will be more relaxing!

With 24 hours of daylight (quite an adjustment) during June in Iceland, it makes enjoying nature and the outdoors pretty easy!

We brought our tent, sleeping bags and eye masks to help with the light.

 

 

Nature/Beauty + Biodiversity

Iceland is such a unique place in that 1 day you can see icebergs, glaciers, geothermal activity, beautiful coastline and lush green hills. It’s an incredible experience driving through Iceland, because you just don’t know what you are going to see around each corner. Some of our favorite spots were:

  • Jokalsurlon: a glacial lagoon that feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. The lagoon is filled with massive, blue and white icebergs. The sounds of the seals that call Jokalsurlon home and the creaking/cracking sounds of iceberg melt fill the air.  We did a lengthy, flat hike along the coast here.
  • Svinafell Glacier: down a really bumpy, rough road directly beside the more popular Skaftafell Glacier is Svinafell. We were blown away at how tall and deep this glacier was, the walls were seemingly 300 feet tall.  Our favorite were the signs warning us “Do Not Swim, you will only survive for a couple of minutes.”

 

  • Waterfalls galore! There were so many waterfalls in Iceland that you became partially numb to them, but that doesn’t take away from their impressiveness.

 

  • Geothermal activity: We explored geothermal activity and hiked along the rim of a volcanic crater.

 

 

  • Coastline/puffin spotting: Iceland has a lot of amazing coastline which are largely black sand beaches. There are lots of puffins in Iceland, but the most common locations take a bit more time to get to. However, we still were able to spot a lone puffin!

 

 

Hiking

Our favorite part of Iceland is the ability to pull up and hike nearly anywhere. Listing out some of our favorite hikes below with some pictures!

  • HJÖRLEIFSHÖFÐI: This was probably our favorite hike of the trip. We had the entire hike to ourselves. The hike was a huge “rock” standing above the black sand beach coastline. Looking the other direction, you can look over snow covered mountains. This hike was filled with lush, green hills and fields of wildflowers.

 

  • Seyðisfjörður: Parts of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty were filmed here. We did an awesome evening hike here looking down over this fjord town. Once again, the hike was filled with flowing water and wildflowers.
  • Siglufjordur: This was our “night” hike of the trip. This was a northern fjord town and we started about 9:00 PM and finished around 11:15. Another hike that looked down over the town. We had the hike more or less to ourselves.

 

  • Sólheimasandur: This was a really touristy 6 mile round trip hike to get to an abandoned plane crash from 1973 (nobody died). It’s a bizarre attraction, but is well worth the trip. It’s fun thinking about how the plane ever ended up here. There is also a spectacular black sand beach just past the plane crash that you is well worth the visit.

 

 

Other highlights:

  • Thermal Pools: Swimming pools are really popular in Iceland, who knew??? We stopped at 2 swimming pools in Iceland. The first was the oldest pool that required a 20 minute hike in and was filled with algae. The 2nd was in Hofsos, a really small town in Northern Iceland. The Hofsos pool is basically brand new and was set on a stunning backdrop.

 

  • Iceland weather: Iceland is incredibly windy, which makes it always feel colder than it really is. Temperatures were consistently in the 40’s and low 50’s, but the wind chill was much lower.  We had good weather for the most part, minus 2 days of lots of rain.  The only challenging night we had required us to pack up our campsite early in the morning because of high winds and strong rain. But honestly, we were pretty fortunate with the weather.
  • Iceland is expensive! It was pretty cheap for us to fly to, but once you’re there gas, food and lodging are all expensive. Camping helped us manage expenses.
  • Food: We roughed it for the most part with lots of peanut butter, fruits and nuts. We treated ourselves to a couple of nice meals and used our airbnbs to cook some delicious pasta dishes.

 

  • Golf: Never expected to play golf in Iceland, but we spent $30 to play on an ocean course. We were the only ones on the course. What an experience!

 

  • World Cup: We were there for Iceland’s first World Cup match vs. Argentina.   The match happened on the day we flew out, so we took the match in from an airport bar. It was great experiencing the 1-1 draw in Iceland. Hard to believe a country with ~350K population can qualify for the World Cup.

 

Final thoughts:

Iceland is in the top 3 most beautiful countries we’ve visited. We are so happy we got to travel to Iceland and experiencing the 24 hours of daylight only added to the experience. If we went back to Iceland, it would be in winter to try and catch the Northern Lights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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