I had no idea what to expect from Iceland. And packing for Iceland in July was extremely difficult in the heat of the Milan summer.
|the Gullfoss waterfall|
Despite my best effort, I clearly made three packing fails for this trip. So, to prevent my fellow travelers from making the same mistakes as I did, here are my recommendations.
1. Always pack rain/wind pants. The forecast while I was in Iceland did call for some rain, but I figured that after several years of traveling in Europe in every weather condition that I would be fine in my regular travel clothes. Problem is, the rain in Iceland always seems to blow towards you no matter which way you're going and after two days of being soggy, I almost broke down and bought some very expensive all weather gear.
|You may note that Elizabeth was far better prepared for the weather than I was.|
2. Bring binoculars. It is likely that some of what you really want to see is small and the landscape of Iceland is huge. So, make it easier on your eyes and bring a pair of binoculars to try and help you catch some of the smaller details of this very green country.
|Puffins? Where? I know I saw them flying away, but unfortunately |
I do not own the proper lens for catching these native birds on camera.
3. Hiking boots would actually be useful. Walking around Reykjavik it seemed that nearly everyone was in a hiking boot of some sort. Even in the city. I feared that this may not bode well for my days of wandering about the Icelandic countryside in my Chucks. Elizabeth and I didn't venture out on any serious hiking trails, but the pathways are rocky, wet and uneven enough to warrant smart footwear for even the most amateur of hikers.
|I climbed up and behind this waterfall.|
Unlike the US, which would have guard rails and rule and restrictions.
Here...just do what you want...hope ya don't fall!
Even with my packing miscues I was able to enjoy my week in Iceland. We saw beautiful mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and geysers. Elizabeth and I rented a small car and took off to explore some of the scenery southwest Iceland had to offer.
Here's a map of most of the places we stayed and stopped.
First we headed to the Gulfoss and Geysir, to see the geysers and waterfalls. We stayed in a guesthouse nearby with a naturally heated pool and hot tub, run by an Icelandic man and his family. The showers at this place are outdoors because the water in the house heats to 97 degrees Celsius (that's Celsius people!!). There's a note on the bathroom sink that reminds you to not use the hot water without the cold!
|One of the hot springs in Geysir...it is naturally that color.|
The geysers in the area are pretty spectacular and this area is where the name "geyser" comes from. But it was raining while we were there and we weren't able to spend the amount of time checking things out as we would have liked.
|The weather was so poor while we were here I hardly took any pictures!|
|Thingvellir National Park|
|Can you see how clear and blue this water is?|
We had a really nice dinner nearby as well. A local farm has converted part of their barn into a charming restaurant, where you can dine while watching their cattle below. No irony in eating your steak and having the cows hanging out just below.
|Steak, beer and cows. A good ending to the day.|
After our night in that area, we headed to a guesthouse about a half an hour west of Vik. Again, more waterfalls were on the agenda. Sadly, it was still raining and I was getting soggier by the minute, so we had to limit our time outside of the car exploring.
|Just along the roadside...|
|The mountains are so huge here that everything appears to be in miniature.|
|Reynisdrangar and one of the many black sand beaches|
The following day we took a long drive down to Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. This is a MUST do on your trip to Iceland. I've never seen anything like it before. A lake has formed as the glacier started moving and melting. Huge chunks of ice are floating around; as they melt, they move towards the ocean. Many have become stranded on the beach on the opposite side of the road. This was my favorite stop on our trip and I am so glad that we spent the time driving all the way out to this stop.
|Huge chunks of ice!|
|Elizabeth captured this great shot!|
Some video from the area:
We headed back towards Reykjavik the following day, making a detour towards the Blue Lagoon along the way. While this is totally touristy and a bit pricey, you have to go, don't you? The milky, turquoise blue waters are naturally heated and it was a cool experience.
|Just outside the entrance to the Blue Lagoon|
Back in Reykjavik there's not a ton of stuff to do, at least in my opinion. But, if you like to shop, then you're set. There's plenty of cute, modern, and edgy shops full of clothes, jewelry and housewares. There's also quite a few restaurants with this same vibe and flair. I wish I had more time to explore more of the cuisine in the city.
|Cheapest meal in Iceland...the hot dog!|
I had mine with everything. (fried and raw onions, remoulade, mayo and ketchup)
When President Clinton visited previously, he munched on a dog from the same street side stand.
|In the summer, several Reykjavik streets become pedestrian only.|
|Hallgrimskirkja- Iceland's largest church|
|I'm pretty enthusiastic about this Icelandic beer.|
|We tried the whale watching thing while in Reykjavik.|
Unfortunately, I'd guess that only about 20% of the people on the boat saw any whales.
I was not part of the lucky percentage. : (
|Leaving Iceland at 1 AM. Pretty light out for that time of night!|
All of my pictures from Iceland can be found here.
My TripAdvisor reviews are here.
Guesthouse in Reykjavik.