Iceland: August 2017

12:14 p.m. on October 13, 2017 (EDT)
Alicia MacLeay @Alicia
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Waterfalls, mountains, rocks, birds, volcanoes, lava fields, geothermal action, glaciers, icebergs...Iceland packs a lot of natural beauty into a small country. 

In August of 2017, Dave and I were among its many visitors.

Here are some pictures from our hikes and walks.




Arnarstapi-Hellnar Trail (Arnarstapi, Snæfellsnes peninsula)

This is a beautiful cliff walk of a few miles from Arnarstapi to Hellnar and back. The biggest challenge was to keep moving and refrain from stopping to take pictures.






Saxholl Crater (Snæfellsnes peninsula)

Short walk up to the top of a crater 





Berserkjgata (Snæfellsnes penisula)

Followed the short 1-kilometer path named for a pair of 10th century Berserkers who cleared the path through the Berserkjahraun lava field for a farmer. After a job well done, they were murdered and buried in the lava field by said farmer, according to the Eyrbyggia Saga. This is pretty typical Saga behavior, from all the examples I read.




Dynjandi (Westfjords)

Stopped and walked up to the impressive Dynjandi waterfalls, and then cooked dinner at the base picnic area.



Engidalur Valley (Ísafjörður, Westfjords)

We had a great 9-mile circular hike all by ourselves, except for some sheep, through Engidalur Valley up near Ísafjörður.






Hverfjall/Hverfell volcano crater (Mývatn)

Hiked about 3 miles up and around this tephra cone volcano. This is a very interesting geothermal area. Mývatn, the name of the nearby lake, means midge, which kept us moving along in certain spots.







Skálafellsjökull glacier (Hornafjordur)

Hiked 6.5 miles up to Skálafellsjökull glacier and back. The trail by the glacier used to run alongside it, but it's receded so much in recent years we had to walk a bit to get to it. It's hard to tell, but most of this hike was in the rain. 










Jökulsárlón (glacier lagoon and beach)

Not much of a walk, as it's right along the Ring Road, but it's worth sharing some pictures of Jökulsárlón, which is famous for its icebergs.



Landmannalaugar, Fjallabak Nature Reserve

We hiked more than 11 miles in a loop, starting at Landmannalaugar. It is an amazing geologic and geothermally active area, and pictures do not do justice to its array of colors and terrain. Thanks to Trailspace member Vladimir, who urged me to make the time (and numerous stream crossings) just to get to the start.










2:25 p.m. on October 13, 2017 (EDT)
Vladimir Gorbunov
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Thank you for this report! I hope we'll be able to make our fourth Iceland trip in 2018. This time - to the North-East of the country.

2:45 p.m. on October 13, 2017 (EDT)
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What a great trip! Thanks.

4:49 p.m. on October 13, 2017 (EDT)
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Nice! Iceland has been hovering near the top of my to-do list for years, but we keep getting distracted by other possibilities. Maybe in 2019...

5:25 p.m. on October 13, 2017 (EDT)
Jake W
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This is like a timeline of Trailspace apparel over the years! Your only missing the original tan/black hat and the new down beanie!

8:10 p.m. on October 15, 2017 (EDT)
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Great trip and two really made the most of your time without the youngsters.

8:51 p.m. on October 15, 2017 (EDT)
John Starnes
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Pretty darn spectacular! Good to see that you two are able to get out yourselves Thanks for all you do and wishing you both many more.

7:22 a.m. on October 16, 2017 (EDT)
Alicia MacLeay @Alicia
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Thanks, all! It is a beautiful country with a lot to see. I can easily list another handful of trips I'd love to do there, including a winter one with aurora borealis and skiing.

Our kids were disappointed they didn't get to go, but we told them we wouldn't have been able to afford to feed them there anyway, since it's so expensive.

Vladimir, I hope you get to return for another trip next year. Everyone else, we mentioned Vladimir's bike-packing trips in his Reviewer of the Month Q&A and I thought of him every time I saw a cyclist battling wind, mud, streams, narrow roads with traffic, and so on.

BigRed, when you're in Norway (a spot on my bucket list) I hope that Iceland is relatively easy to get to for you.

Jake, at least one of us seemed to represent Trailspace at any time, though we managed to avoid matching like twins.

9:38 a.m. on October 17, 2017 (EDT)
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Wow these are some amazing photos! Thanks for sharing this Alicia, fantastic!

6:34 a.m. on October 18, 2017 (EDT)
denis daly
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Wow thats awesome the pictures were breath taking. Thank you

11:36 a.m. on October 18, 2017 (EDT)
Alicia MacLeay @Alicia
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Thanks, Patman and Denis! It is a beautiful place.

12:12 p.m. on October 18, 2017 (EDT)
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Awesome pics! You are the second couple I know who have visited Iceland. Very tempting to go.

1:26 p.m. on October 18, 2017 (EDT)
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I've heard that food was very expensive there; true?

11:48 p.m. on October 18, 2017 (EDT)
DonP @DonP 2
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Great pics! I was there in '86 and it's a beautiful place.

8:15 a.m. on October 19, 2017 (EDT)
Alicia MacLeay @Alicia
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Thanks, Don! It would be interesting to know how much it's changed in the past three decades. Since tourism has grown so much in the past years I kept wondering how different the place will be 5 or 10 years from now.

Patman, yes, it is expensive. Our kids didn't come with us, and we joked that we wouldn't have been able to feed them anyway. Food and lodging are expensive, but, costs drop considerably if you stay in campgrounds and buy food from grocery stores versus restaurants. That said, I had some excellent meals in a few (non-fancy) restaurants, but you'd want to budget for those.

We stayed in campgrounds half the time and guesthouses the other half. We threw the trip together in the few weeks before, knowing it was the high season, so booked a few key rooms in fear we'd have nowhere to stay in those areas. We also wanted to avoid a few huge campgrounds. If we could have afforded it, we'd have rented a camper van for the whole time and stayed in campgrounds only with that and our tent. A 4WD camper van was way too expensive though, so we opted for a 4WD car rental that was allowed to travel on the F (highland/mountain) roads, which was more important to us to get wherever we wanted to go. Most regular rental vehicles are not allowed on F roads, it's important to know.

Goose, based on how many people tell me they've gone or are going, I'm surprised I didn't run into anyone I knew!

11:01 a.m. on October 25, 2017 (EDT)
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Thanks for sharing all your pics!. So much fun!

7:54 a.m. on October 26, 2017 (EDT)
Alicia MacLeay @Alicia
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Lah said:

Thanks for sharing all your pics!. So much fun!

 Thanks, Lah!

10:02 a.m. on October 26, 2017 (EDT)
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With (fairly) inexpensive flights from the eastern US, Iceland is getting a lot of travel press these days. It's great to get a report from a trusted source and not a travel magazine. Thanks, Alicia!

My wife and I have been kicking around the idea for a year or so now, but the high cost once you're there is definitely a turn-off. A friend went last year and said she almost went broke because of it.

Alicia, thanks for sharing some of the creative ways that you and Dave found to keep the travel costs reasonable. 

If you got a do-over, would you and Dave change anything about the trip?

12:32 p.m. on October 26, 2017 (EDT)
Phil Smith
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I think I need to add Iceland to my list of places to hike LOL. It looks like even the rain couldn’t dampen the excitement!

8:43 a.m. on October 27, 2017 (EDT)
Alicia MacLeay @Alicia
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Phil Smith said:

I think I need to add Iceland to my list of places to hike LOL. It looks like even the rain couldn’t dampen the excitement!

Add it!

Rain and a little bit of walking also keep the crowds down! I actually like hiking and running in the rain, assuming it's not a dangerous freezing temperature and it's not raining in winter, which is just wrong.

KiwiKlimber said:

If you got a do-over, would you and Dave change anything about the trip?

For our first trip, I'd keep it mostly the same. I think we hit it pretty well for a trip planned just a few weeks out. We got a good idea of the country by driving the full circle, but also managed to not simply drive around the Ring Road to major towns, and instead went straight off to Snæfellsnes peninsula and then up to the Westfjords. We had a general plan, but were also flexible about stopping to see stuff on the way and getting out to hike or walk to something or take pictures.

We could have driven less and spent more time in a few places hiking and exploring, but I think I'd have been disappointed to not see the different regions and get a feeling for how it comes together.

I highly recommend paying for a 4WD vehicle, as we did, assuming the F Roads aren't closed. I also highly recommend bringing a lot of layers and good rain gear, as we did. I ended up using all of the warmer stuff. Using the long daylight to drive farther and get to spots when they were quieter was nice too. 

We could have camped most of the time instead of just half and saved a bunch on lodging, but we weren't sure about individual campgrounds and knew it was the busiest time of year. The campgrounds we did use were all good smaller ones. If money was no object, I'd do it again in a 4WD camper van and a tent...but that combo isn't necessarily going to save you money.

One thing I should have done was had a small birding and rock/geology guidebook or pamphlet to refer to. I read and learned as we went, but wished I'd spent some time learning more birds.

Ultimately, I would have liked more time. I'd like to go back and spend more time in the Westfjords and also in interior Iceland. If I had extra time I'd spend some on the north coastline and also do some exploring (kayak tours etc) on the western or northern coast. And if I had even more extra time and money, I'd fly over to Greenland (I did see it from the airplane, and it was impressively large and ice- and snow-covered). I'd also like to go back in winter.

But all of those aren't dings against this trip. I'm glad I saw the range of terrain by driving all the way around the country, and I think we hit a lot of highlights pretty well, without it feeling too crazy or busy.

And as much as I love my kids and many times wished they could see the places we went, I'm glad we went as a couple. Not only was it less expensive, but it was nice to do the trip on our own flexible timeline and not care about how long we spent in the car or how far we were going to hike or walk, and if we were there yet...

May 29, 2020
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