Iceland: Unique, Wild, and Inviting

Gullfoss, Iceland,

The Icelandic Tourist Board has done a remarkable job of promoting Iceland to the world, especially in recent years. Because of their efforts, plus all the wonderful pictures posted on social media, Iceland has become a dream destination for a lot of us.  I for one have put Iceland on my bucket list. So when the chance came up for us to visit Iceland, I grabbed it in a heartbeat.

Travel planning with DMC Iceland

As eager as we were to travel to Iceland, we didn’t feel up to planning our trip on our own.  It was our first time to the country, so we thought it best to leave our travel planning to the experts.  The expert we got in touch with is DMC Iceland.

DMC Iceland – DMC stands for Destination Management Concierge – is a licensed tour operator based in Reykjavik, Iceland.  The company specializes in tailor-made tours created entirely from clients’ requests.  They have a lot of activities to offer.  All you have to do is to pick the ones you want to do while you’re in Iceland.  Then you send in your request, and they’ll take care of the rest.   It’s travel planning made simple.

Day 1 – Arriving at Keflavik International Airport

Keflavik, Iceland
You find great artworks inside Keflavik Airport in Iceland.

We left Oslo Airport Gardermoen on a very early morning flight, so we were at Keflavik International Airport at precisely 9:05 AM.  We flew on Iceland Air’s Saga Class.  

It was one comfy ride.

You’ve got enough room on your seat to stretch your arms and legs if you need to.  The staff provided us with pillows, duvet covers, and hot towels for extra comfort on the flight.  If you want to amuse yourself during the flight, there’s an excellent in-flight entertainment system that you can enjoy with noise cancellation headphones.  Wi-Fi is also available.  Additionally, we were given a choice between two courses for the in-flight meal.

Iceland Air Saga Class
My forever travel buddy and I travelled on Iceland Air’s Saga Class.

Morning pampering at the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa

Our DMC guide met us at the airport and drove us directly to the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa. Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland.  It’s so popular that you’re required to book your appointment before you go there.  The waters of the lagoon, fed by a nearby geothermal plant, are rich in sulfur and silica.  It is said that bathing in the lagoon can soften your skin and even help cure skin diseases like psoriasis.

A visit to the Blue Lagoon is ideal if you’re coming into Iceland on an early-morning flight.  The Blue Lagoon is located in Grindavik, right on the way from Keflavik to Reykjavik.  So you can easily stop and linger for a while.  Besides, a dip in the lagoon will do much to prepare your body for your stay in Iceland. Iceland is literally a cold, cold country.  The warmth of the lagoon’s waters, kept at 37C to 40C, is a welcome treat.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Be sure to book before you go to the Blue Lagoon. It is always full.

We had the standard package at the Blue Lagoon. This package includes the entrance fee to the lagoon, as well as the silica mud mask. You can have as many breaks from the water as you want while you’re inside the facility. You can use these breaks to stay at the steam room or the sauna, bathe under the man-made waterfall, or relax at the lounge. A must-try is their in-water massage. You get to float on the water while the therapist works on your body. The Blue Lagoon also has its own restaurant.

The only downside to the Blue Lagoon is you’re not allowed to take your things inside the lagoon. You’re supposed to leave your belongings at your assigned locker. So while we were able to take pictures outside the lagoon, we didn’t take any inside.

Checking in at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel Reykjavik

After spending four hours at the Blue Lagoon, we headed to the DMC office so our guide could swap the car with a SuperJeep. SuperJeeps are DMC’s special jeeps, modified to suit the rough terrain on the wilder areas of Iceland. It’s built to drive through icy roads, flowing water, and whatever challenging road condition you may meet while navigating wild Iceland.

Superjeep, Iceland
These super jeeps are specially designed and can drive through ice and glacier and the toughest winter conditions.

Then we stopped to check in at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel in Reykjavik. Just like its sister hotels in other locations, Saga Hotel is amazing. It has a convenient location, close to the coastline and a ten-minute walk away from many of the must-see sights in Reykjavik. The rooms we were given had fabulous views of both the coast and the city.

The Saga Hotel’s facilities are also more than adequate. They’ve got free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, and their own hair salon. The hotel also serves a complementary buffet breakfast featuring Northern European, American, and Continental items on the menu. If you want to stay at the hotel for dinner, there’s the Michelin-starred Grillið restaurant. If you feel like a cocktail or a beer, the hotel’s Mimisbar and Lounge is the place to go to.

Touring the glaciers of West Iceland

We only stopped to check in and drop our luggage at Radisson Blu. Shortly after, it’s back in the SuperJeep with our DMC guide for a tour of the glaciers on the western part of Iceland.

If you have time for only one activity in Iceland, then by all means make it a tour of these glaciers. The sights are breathtaking, truly some of the most wondrous of all we’ve seen in Iceland so far.

We started our tour at Hvalfjörður, the “whale fjord” just north of Reykjavik. Hvalfjörður is such a majestic place, with dramatic landscapes and rivers aplenty. The fjord is made up of volcanic mountain formations covered with sparse conifer forests. Hvalfjörður is where you’ll find Glymur Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland.

Glymur Falls, Iceland
There is a viewing point by the parking lot so you do not have to walk to the falls.

From Hvalfjörður, we headed on to Borgarförður. Borgarförður is the name of both the fjord and the surrounding district. Our purpose for going to Borgarförður is to see Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful geothermal spring and the source of the area’s electricity. But there are plenty of other interesting places in Borgarförður. These include the Hvita River, the waterfalls of Hraunfossar, and the lava cave of Surtshellir. If you’re interested in Icelandic literature, you’d love to know that Borgarförður is where the Viking-poet Egill Skallagrimsson, author of Egil’s Saga, lived.

Deildartunguhver, Iceland
Deildartunguhver is Europe’s most powerful geothermal spring.

We went to see the waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafossar. And then we headed on to Húsafell. Húsafell is remarkable for its dense woodlands. Combined with its crystal-clear hot springs, as well as its dramatic lava formations and ravines, the place is spectacular to see. It’s also rich with birdlife.

We left our SuperJeep at Húsafell and went hiking up the highlands. At the highlands, we viewed the Langjökull glacier, Iceland’s second-largest ice field. The views of the blinding white ice is magnificent. But it’s even better if you cross the tunnel underneath the glacier. In those ice tunnels, you’ll find the blueness of the ice underneath the glacier pretty magical.

Iceland
The SuperJeep had no problem driving on rough terrain. We had to walk the rest to get to the “top”.

Our last stop for the day was the þingvellir National Park. To get there, we drove through Kaldidalur, Iceland’s second highest mountain pass. The drive was short and well worth it for the scenery. On the drive, we passed by a volcano and more glacier fields.

Þingvellir National Park is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the whole of Iceland. The park is historically significant. Since its foundation in 930 AD, the Althing, the parliament of Iceland and the oldest parliament in the world, met at the park’s grounds. The park was designated a National Park in 1930 to celebrate the thousand-year anniversary of the Althing. In 2004, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pingviller, Iceland
Wonderful view inside the Pingviller National Park.

Geologically, Þingvellir is interesting because lies in a rift valley created by the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. You’ll be able to see the rifts when you explore the park. Some of these rifts are filled with clear water. The terrain is rough and rugged and utterly breathtaking.

Day 2 – Hunting for hot springs in Hveragerði

We set off for Hveragerði early on the second day of our Iceland holiday. Hveragerði is the hot springs capital of the world. In this town on the southern side of the country, people live with almost literally a hot spring in their backyard. Why does Hveragerði have so many hot springs? It’s because the area is part of Hengill, a volcano that’s active but has not erupted in the last couple of thousand years. The people of Hveragerði are especially proud of their geothermal park. At the park, people spend time soaking their feet in the hot springs and doing flameless cooking using only geothermal heat.

Geyser, Iceland
Lots of Geysers in Iceland. This one was a small one, but still impressive.

We spent the morning soaking in the hot springs and enjoying the fine views of wildflower-covered meadows and forested mountains in Hveragerði. After that, we had lunch at a restaurant near the harbor. The place is nothing fancy. But the food is divine, with all the delicious goodness of a home-cooked meal. Dining there felt like visiting someone at home. I had fish soup, and it’s definitely the best fish soup I’ve ever had.

Hiking to Thorsmork

After that beautiful lunch, it was back inside the SuperJeep and off to see the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss. Seljalandsfoss is one of the best known and most beautiful waterfalls of Iceland. And it’s truly splendid to behold, a cascade of clear water flowing from a river down the side of a cliff. What makes this waterfall even more enchanting is there’s a footpath leading to a cave behind the waterfall. So you can take a hike on this footpath and emerge right under the falls.

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland
Seljalandsfoss can only be admired from a distance in winter because it is slippery.

From Seljalandsfoss, we headed to Thórsmörk. Named after the Norse god of thunder, Thórsmörk is a mountain ridge located between two glacier fields – the Tindfallajökull and the Eyjafjallajökull. What makes Thórsmörk is it’s so green and lush. The mountainside and the valley below are covered with birchwood, ferns, and other shrubs. You’d have to cross a few fast-flowing waters to get to Thórsmörk, but riding a SuperJeep made the crossing easy.

Iceland
Beautiful white landscape.

The tours we did in the morning and afternoon of this second day are typically done one day at a time. But since we were only there for the weekend, we asked DMC to adjust the length of the day trips for us. Thus, we were able to squeeze these two trips in one day.  You would also normally see three waterfalls in one day.  Aside from Seljalandsfoss, you can also see Skogafoss, and even Gullfoss. 

Day 3 – Rounding the Golden Circle geysers

We had to catch an early afternoon flight, so we checked out of Radisson Blu early on the last day of our Iceland holiday. We stashed our luggage at the back of the SuperJeep, and our guide took us to a tour of Iceland’s Golden Circle.

Touring the Golden Circle usually takes a whole day. Around that circle are many of Iceland’s top tourist attractions, including the Þingvellir National Park. But since we’re supposed to leave that afternoon, we had to settle for seeing only a few of the destinations around the circle. It’s a great thing we already saw Þingvellir on our first day.

So, what did we end up seeing at the Golden Circle? We stopped at Gullfoss waterfalls, dubbed the queen of all waterfalls in Iceland. The Gullfoss creates such a dramatic scene, flowing from the glacier-fed Hvitá River and plummeting in two steps down a 70-meter high canyon. A perennial rainbow arches over the waterfall in the daytime. It’s a truly marvelous sight.

Gullfoss, Iceland
Gullfoss is just magnificent.

Another stop we got to see is the Geysir Hot Spring Area. This place is apparently the origin of the word “geyser.” The geysers at the Geysir geothermal field erupt every few minutes, spewing boiling water and steam up to a height of 30 meters. It’s mesmerizing to watch these geysers erupt, but you have to keep your distance because even a drop of boiling water can hurt you.

After seeing what we could of the Golden Circle, our guide drove us to Keflavik International Airport for our flight back to Norway. If we had known better, we would have stayed longer. There are so many sights we haven’t seen on this weekend trip to Iceland. We’ll certainly return to see more.

Until the next tour.

 

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Iceland: Unique, Wild, and Inviting
Article Name
Iceland: Unique, Wild, and Inviting
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This was my weekend in Iceland. Unique, wild and inviting. A destination both in winter and in summer.
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