Category Archives: Iceland

Iceland Day 10 – 05/25/2023

Iceland Day 10 05/25/2023 Photo Album

Our last day in Iceland was Thursday, May 25, 2023. Our Icelandic Airlines direct flight to Denver did not leave until 5:30PM, so the three of us decided to make the forty-five minute one way drive to Reykjavik. Amy researched the source of some chocolate bars that she purchased at a shop along the way, and that became our number one target. We found the small shop in the Old Harbor, which was the very first locale that we visited upon our arrival. Our arrival preceded the store opening, so we completed a short hike along the seawall, while we waited for the doors to open. We were not disappointed, as the store displayed an abundant quantity of chocolate bars in many exotic flavors. I inherited a licorice chocolate flavor that did not go over well with the ladies.

Arctic Char Skillet

Upon our departure we punched the name of a visitor center in downtown Reykjavik into our maps application, and eventually we found the sought after location. Parking was at a premium, and we circled the city, until we eventually landed in the same lot that held our rental car on our arrival morning. Amy consulted with the guidebook and identified two lunch restaurants within steps of each other along a main boulevard, and we hiked for .5 mile to our chosen destination. The Messinn beat out the Icelandic Street Food, and we enjoyed a simple but delicious lunch. Two pan seared skillets arrived at our table, with one containing Arctic char, potatoes and vegetables; and the other featured Atlantic salmon, potatoes and similar although different vegetables. We all agreed that it was perhaps our best meal of the entire trip.

Salmon Skillet

After lunch we ambled back to the parking lot, and then Amy navigated the endless string of traffic circles, before we returned the car to the rental agency and found our gate. What a trip it was! The greatest impression of Iceland was, unfortunately, the strong winds, but I suppose that is to be expected on an island near the Arctic circle. The stark beauty of the austere landscape remains a major imprint on my memory banks. Basalt rocks, snow-capped ridges, glaciers, and waterfalls are everywhere. Very little green was present, and I would be curious to visit again during the summer months. The weather in May was comparable to March in Denver, and the landscape was brown and gray as can be expected for early spring. The impact of volcanoes and geothermal activity is another prominent feature of Iceland.

Viking Beer for Lunch

What words of advice do I have? Be prepared for wind. Never pass up a WC and take along your own decongestant in case of a cold. Iceland does not sell decongestants, and I developed a cold over the last few days. Fortunately I packed enough pills from the U.S. to carry me through the latter phase of the trip. In many ways the fly fishing was like the island. The wind and cold made it challenging, but the effort was well worth it for the robust and wild brown trout that visited the guides net. The memories will be lasting.

Iceland Day 9 – 05/24/2023

Iceland Day 9 05/24/2023 Photo Album

Scenic View on the Peninsula

On Wednesday we explored the Snaefellsnes Peninsula before returning to our hotel at the airport. We stopped to view three waterfalls; Selvallafoss, Kickjufells Foss, and Svoonfoss. Based on the Lonely Planet book, we detoured off the main route to the extreme northeast point of the peninsula called Ondverdarnes. Here we were in awe of the wind and consequent waves, as they crashed relentlessly against huge black basalt rocks. An additional drive on a twisting gravel road placed us at a short orange lighthouse, and we hiked a brief distance to an underground well. At this point in our travels we were at the eastern most point on the peninsula.

Kirkjafells Foss

Birds on the Beach

Next our survey of the area included the Saxholl Crater. We accepted the challenge and ascended the steep steps to the rim, and the wind blasted us constantly from the side. My body was actually pushed sideways several times. We all agreed that the view of the ancient rocky crater was not worth the effort.

Windblown

Next we stopped in the small town of Arnarstopi, where we consumed lunch at the Stoppin. That was pretty much the last stop before we completed another three hour drive to Keflavik.

Iceland Day 8 – 05/23/2023

Iceland Day 8 05/23/2023 Photo Album

We said our goodbyes at Myrarkvisl Lodge and began our journey across northeastern Iceland at 12:30 on Tuesday afternoon. The theme for Tuesday was the nasty drive. In order to get to our hotel in Stykkisholmur, we were required to travel on a gravel road for approximately forty kilometers. The road itself was decent for gravel, but the weather conditions created a challenge for our driver, Jane. There was snow, freezing rain, and sleet; and all forms of precipitation were swept sideways by gale force winds. The wind on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula made the air movement at Myrarkvisl seem like a light breeze.

Cruise Ship in the Harbor at Akureyri

We stopped for dinner in Stykksholmur at the Skipper Cafe, where we all devoured penne pasta. When we reached the Fosshotel in Stykksholmur, Jane was practically blown off the parking lot by the extraordinary wind and horizontal rain.

Iceland Day 4 – 05/17/2023

Iceland Day 4 05/17/2023 Photo Album

Rainbow Road

After spending the night in Egilstaor; Amy, Jane and I drove to Seyoisfjordur. We crested a ridge and rounded a curve, and the small town spread out before us with an out of place cruise ship/ferry anchored in the small harbor. Apparently the small artsy town on the northest coast is the end point for European travelers crossing the North Atlantic. We strolled about the small village, and this included viewing the rainbow path, the small blue church and hiking to a narrow waterfalls. Across from the falls was a small circular dock area with a number of picturesque fishing trawlers.

Looking Well Maintained

From Seyoisfjordur we reversed direction back to Egilstaor and then continued to the basalt canyon named Stuolagil, but Apple maps led us to a two-rut lane that was barely more than a cow path. After .5 mile we decided this drive was not feasible, so we turned around and discovered road signs to Stuolagil. The sign offered an option that involved a 10K hike into the canyon, but time did not allow this choice, so we drove to Gund with an amazing metal staircase that led to an overlook platform. Amy and Jane counted steps in excess of two hundred.

Loved These Curled Versions

Krafla Geothermal Area

The next couple of hours took us to a stop call Krafla in the Lake Myvatn area, where we completed a brief stroll among fumaroles, mud pots, and hot water pools. It was Yellowstonesque with the eerie steaming landscape. From Krafla we headed to our final destination at Myrarkvisl Lodge. Google maps took us within one mile, but we missed the turnoff, and I called Matti, who walked us through directions to the lodge between broken signals and wind noise.

On Friday night we shared the lodge with Pamela and Brian, and the guides joined us along with Chef Gunsi for a superb pork chop dinner with sweet potatoes, sweet corn and aioli salad over bread. Dessert was a superb vanilla flavored skyr with cinnamon biscuit topping.

Iceland Day 3 – 05/18/2023

Iceland Day 3 05/18/2023 Photo Album

Thursday began with another incredible continental breakfast deluxe. Skyr, pastries, and an assortment of fresh fruit were favorites on my plate. Once again we filled up with fuel and snacks, and we were off to the Hoffellsjokul Glacier. Our itinerary mentioned that the road from the highway to the glacier was a bit rough, and this prompted us to rent a 4X4 (Mitsubishi Outlander). While cautiously traveling the secondary road that led to the rough two-track, Jane spotted an arctic fox 75 yards away. It paused to look at us, and I snapped a pair of photos using my maximum telephoto (which is not that great). before it pranced off. The arctic fox is clearly identifiable in the photo, although rather small. Later, at the fishing lodge, the locals told us that we were lucky, as Arctic fox sightings are rare.

A Rare Arctic Fox Spotted

Huddled

Amy was in the driver’s seat, and the gravel road was indeed a bit rough, but we have driven worse in Colorado. The worst part was a small stream crossing at the outset, but Amy literally rocked it. The short hike over a steep hill revealed a panoramic view of a huge glacier lagoon littered with massive ice blocks. The initial view was another wow moment of our trip. We actually encountered another couple, as we returned on the trail. Near the start of the return drive, we temporarily veered off the main road, but a deep gully prevented us from straying too far, and we managed to correct and rejoined the main two-track. When we reached the stream crossing, a reindeer was staring at us from the opposite bank. I jumped out of the car to make a video of the creek crossing, and the reindeer ambled away unconcerned. Amy selected a different line on this crossing and once again mastered it.

Boneyard

From Hoffellsjokull we reversed direction and passed through Hofn and continued a short distance to Vestrahorn. Amy and Jane enjoyed Viking waffles at the lodge, and I downed a ham panini. Afterward we paid our 3000 IKR and drove the short road to a parking lot and completed a one mile round trip hike to the Viking village and farm. The site was pretty lame except for some thatched roof buildings and a Viking ship replica.

Churning Surf

Our next stop was a second parking lot near the shoreline. We were seeking a black beach with grassy tussocks, but instead we got drenched in a soaking rain before reaching a lighthouse and decommissioned NATO radar station. The wind was blowing the rain sideways, and the severe test of my old tan Columbia raincoat taught me that it was not a viable outer layer for fishing.

A Falls on the Way to Egilstaoir

The next segment of our drive was a two hour journey along the fjord country of eastern Iceland. Route 1 hugged the shoreline and provided classic views of the Icelandic coast. When we reached the western edge of the deepest fjord, we veered on to a gravel road that climbed in a steep ascent through dense fog. This bit of dicey driving was unexpected, but as usual Amy mastered it. From the high point on the pass we descended along a high gradient stream and eventually arrived in Egilstaoir and found our hotel, Lake Hotel Egilsstaoir. We debated going to the Vok floating baths, but decided to forego this option for dinner at the Salt Bistro followed by wine in the lobby of the hotel. Dinner consisted of two vegan pizzas and a maugherita pizza, and we created a large quantity of leftovers.

Iceland Day 2 – 05/17/2023

Iceland Day 2 05/17/2023 Photo Album

A night with one hour of sleep caught up with us, and we slept twelve hours in our comfortable room at the Kria Inn. Jane woke up Amy and I at 8:00AM, as she thought the Kria Inn breakfast ended at 9:00AM, but we made it with plenty of time to spare. The breakfast buffet was amazing with Icelandic bread, smooth yogurt, and delicious pastries.

Rocks and Surf

Black Pebbles on the Beach

After breakfast we crossed the street to the discount store, where we bought an assortment of snacks. I actually found pretzel sticks to feed my addiction, but they were called Saltletts. We also purchased a second electrical adaptor and gasoline and then headed east a short distance to Reynisfjarabeach. From there we could also see the famous rock formation, Dyrholaey. The beach was black sand and shiny black pebbles, and the rock fa├žade consisted of vertical and diagonal basalt rock sections separated by cracks and fissures. After a short out and back hike along the beach, we returned to the rental car, but that was not before once again running into the trio of men who sat behind us on the plane.

We Hiked to the Bridge

We jumped back on the coastal highway and drove for two hours to the Svartifoss Falls. Here we hiked for thirty minutes to the base of the falls, before we turned around and ambled back to the car. The hike was relatively short but steep, and the falls were nice but not as impressive as Seljalandfoss.

Tons of Ice

I Was Enthralled with This Iceberg

Once again we hit the road and reached Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in plenty of time to meet our scheduled boat trip. What a place! Huge icebergs cluttered the outlet from the glacier, as the lagoon eddied in a big circle. The amphibious craft took us into the more open water behind the iceberg bottleneck. While we waited for our time to board, we spotted three seals (or were they sea lions?) frolicking in the icy lagoon (Brrr!). After the boat ride we checked out Diamond Beach, but it was devoid of the anticipated ice crystals.

Suited Up for the Glacier Game

After Diamond Beach we pressed on to the coastal town of Hofn (pronounced Hop), and along the way we spotted nine grazing reindeer. When we entered the small town, we headed directly to the Kaffi Hornid, but while waiting in line to be seated, a man appeared to announce that the restaurant was having technical difficulties, and we could return later. Our stomachs grumbled, so we found our second choice, Z Bistro, where we enjoyed fish and chips and a lobster sandwich. While in the parking lot at Kaffi Hornid, Amy was accosted by an extremely furry cat, and she was naturally compelled to pet it. We agreed that the heavy coat was appropriate for the weather of Iceland.

Iceland Day 1 – 05/16/2023

Iceland Day 1 05/16/2023 Photo Albums

As an avid fly fisherman for the last forty years, I devoured a lot of literature about destinations, and Iceland has always been an intriguing place for me. Fast forward to the Fly Fishing Show in Denver in early February, and I attended a presentation by Matti of Iceland Fishing Guides. Matti’s talk excited me tremendously, and I decided at that moment that I wanted to visit Iceland in 2023. When I returned home, I announced my decision to Jane, and she expressed an interest in accompanying me, although she does not fly fish. I sent a text message to Matti, and Jane and I met him for coffee at the Gaylord Resort on Saturday to ask additional questions about activities for Jane for the four days that I planned to fly fish. Ultimately Jane and I decided to invite our daughter, Amy, to join us; and Amy readily agreed. This provided Jane with a compatible traveling companion for the entire trip, but most importantly for the four days that I was committed to fish with Iceland Fishing Guides.

Once we settled on the three person traveling party, Matti’s team put together an itinerary, and after a few tweaks, the trip plan was finalized. We were scheduled to fly to Reykjavik, rent a car and drive the southern and eastern ring, while sightseeing along the way, before arrival at the Myrarkvisl lodge for fly fishing.

On Monday, May 15, 2023 the plan became a reality; as Jane, Amy and I arrived at Denver International Airport. We hopped on our Jet Blue flight in Denver and landed at Logan International Airport in Boston on time and without a hitch. We endured a four hour layover in Boston before boarding the Icelandic Air flight at 6:30PM for Reykjavik. Dinner consisted of Asian fast food in the international terminal. Amy, Jane and I occupied the three middle seats on our transatlantic four hour flight. I attempted to sleep in an awkward upright position and possibly logged an hour of rest.

Upon our arrival at Keflavik Airport, we passed through customs without a glitch. My decision to rely on Iceland Fishing Guide equipment and flies helped expedite the customs process. There was a problem with the baggage carousel, so we waited an inordinate amount of time in our grumpy, hungry state.

Waiting for Breakfast Upon Arrival

Finally the bags arrived, and we proceeded to the Europcar counter, where we obtained our Mitsubishi Outlander (Mitsy) for our time in Iceland. I took my phone off airport mode and absorbed the $10 daily pass charge for international usage, so we could navigate from the airport to downtown Reykjavik. Using the Lonely Planet guidebook we selected the Kaffivagnimm Restaurant in the Old Harbor area for our breakfast destination, and Amy completed the 45 minute drive.

A Euro summit was in progress in the downtown area, but the restaurant was outside the security zone, so we had no trouble finding a parking space. The restaurant did not open for food until 8AM, but we entered and found a table and sipped coffees and tea for twenty minutes. The counter man took our orders of breakfast plates, and shortly after eight o’clock our meals arrived. The other patrons of the “oldest restaurant in Reykjavik” were crusty, old retired men (like me). Also, ironically while we ate our breakfasts, the three gentlemen who were seated behind us on the flight from Boston, arrived. What were the chances?

Downtown Reykjavik

After breakfast we returned to the Outlander and drove to a parking lot near the center of the city. Our parking was constrained somewhat by the barricaded streets caused by the summit conference. The signs in the parking lot were in Icelandic, so we also had reservations about the meaning, but Amy and Jane worked out payments, and we were never ticketed. We spent the next hour strolling the quaint streets of Reykjavik. The capital has a very small town feel with very neat and brightly colored buildings and a very Scandinavian look.

Seljalandfoss 2

The Iceland Wellers

After roaming the downtown area, we returned to the car and drove to Seljalandfoss waterfalls. This trip took us along the southern coast littered with small farms, sheep, and Icelandic horses. The waterfalls was amazing, and there were a series of smaller falls farther north on the trail. Jane, Amy and I hiked behind the falls, and in the process absorbed a bit of water, but the dampness was justified by the unique experience. Once again we encountered the three seat mates from our flight, as they were likewise visiting the waterfalls.

Spring Flowers in the Creek Below the Falls

Our next and final stop on Tuesday was the Hotel Kria. We checked in early and took two hour naps, before heading to The Soup Company in Vik for a splendid meal of homemade bread, Icelandic lamb soup, and topped off with a shared slice of caramel apple pie.