Extreme Landscapes and Gorgeous Glaciers (Day 2)

Day 2 of Iceland was to be filled with adventure!  We woke up dark and early…I say dark because it was 7am when we went to get breakfast and it was still pitch black outside.  In Iceland, because of its position on the globe, during the winter the days are very short.  The sun does not get bright until about 10am and goes down around 4:30pm (at least when we were there).  Expect winter days to be short and for the sun to never fully rise.  More details on that in the Ultimate Iceland Travel Guide (coming soon).

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The hotel had a great breakfast spread of cold meats, pancakes, eggs, sausage and pastries.  We had our fill then hit the road.  We had about an hour drive to get to the first stop of the day and with the weather in Iceland being notoriously unpredictable we made sure to give ourselves plenty of cushion time.  We made it to the first waterfall at 8:30am and it was still really dark out.  We took a few pictures at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. but to be honest we weren’t that impressed.  It was one of the recommended places to check out though, so we successfully crossed that one off the list!

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The next waterfall was a 30 minute drive so we set out again.  This time the sun was starting to rise and we were able to see some of the stunning landscape for the first time.  On our way we passed a few horse pastures with cute Icelandic ponies.  I wanted to stop but didn’t on the way to the waterfall, always worried about being on time!  We made it to the waterfall and this one was a little more impressive.  I love the sound of a waterfall, its so relaxing.  This one is called Skogafoss Waterfall and has a walkway so you can go to the top.  Joe and I made the trek up and got our first look in to what Iceland defines as safety rails.  Its a piece of rebar with a small chain.  Not American safe people so be careful up there!  Since it had been raining the path was slippery…again be careful you don’t want to fall into the falls!!

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We took in the scenery and decided to head over to the Sólheimajökull glacier ahead of our tour to see about lunch and to take a general look around.  By this time its about 10:15am and I decided, since we had plenty of time to get to the glacier (it was only a 10 minute drive), that we would head back 5 minutes to see the Icelandic ponies.  You guys…BEST DECISION EVER!!!  I’m used to American horses that are skittish, not super friendly and have short smooth hair.  These ponies in Iceland are the sweetest creatures ever!  At first I had Joe park a little ways away from them because I didn’t want to startle them.  I was taking far away pictures when I noticed a few other people park closer and go right up to the ponies.  Well I’m not one to be left out so I had Joe move the car and I walked closer to the ponies.  The white one CAME RIGHT UP TO ME and I died!  This cutie let me pet him (or her I don’t know) for a little bit, even took a selfie with me, then decided he was hungry for some hay and walked away.

The fur on these guys is SO THICK, its beautiful and soft and perfect for snuggles.  Ok, I didn’t go so far as to snuggle this guy but you can bet your bottom dollar I would have if I could!  Icelandic horses need more fur to keep themselves warm during the winter, but from observing them they also huddle together to share body warmth.  We passed quite a few horse ranches over the next few days and all the ponies did this.  Sometimes you would see one out by themselves but on the whole 3-4 would huddle together to stay warm.  Its fascinating how animals learn to survive.  After I took my fill of photos (and Joe was getting annoyed) we left to get some lunch before our glacier hike.

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Tip of the day- eat where you can because in Iceland you never know when the next food location will be.

At the glacier tour, there was this tiny little cafe serving hot dogs, stew and sandwiches.  Nothing fancy but we didn’t know where else to eat so we ordered.  I had the lamb stew and it was divine.  I am not a big fan of lamb but this was cooked so well I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Joe had a hot dog and I guess it was good, its a hot dog 😛  After lunch we went next door to our tour office Arcanum Glacier tours.  We had booked this well in advance based on a recommendation of a fellow blogger and positive reviews.  This tour did NOT disappoint.  As luck would have it, we were the only ones for this time slot (12:00pm) so we got a “private” tour for the price of a group tour.  SCORE slow season!!!

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Our tour guide was AMAZING!  He was passionate about glaciers, the outdoors, and hiking.  A perfect guide for us.  He was also a former history teacher so he was very knowledgeable about his country and the glaciers.  It was fascinating to learn about the glacier and how it is rapidly shrinking.  We learned that the black within the glacier is actually lava from the volcano it sits on which is why Iceland is called the land of fire and ice!  He was fascinating to listen to, answered all of our questions, took us on a route up the glacier that we wouldn’t be able to go on with a bigger tour and was patient with us when we wanted a second to take in the view or take a few photos.   He even took us inside a mini ice cave that was a really tight squeeze but so cool (and as fate would have it the only one we would see but more on that tomorrow).

While it was raining/sleeting/snowing/hailing during our tour and I ended up soaking wet (always wear waterproof pants people) we had the best time!  We walked around the glacier for about 3 hours and even though I was freezing we had the best time.  I highly recommend this tour because you get a super friendly and knowledgeable guide that will take you on a safe route up the glacier.  Without a guide its highly discouraged for you to go out on the glacier alone as the guides know routes that are safe.  Hidden under the snow could be soft ice patches or crevices that unknowing hikers can fall in to.  Stay safe, use a guide.  While this tour was expensive (as is almost everything in Iceland) I put that money down as money well spent. Here is the link to our specific tour, but they have more than one option.

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After the tour we made our way to Vik to check out the black sand beach.  Unfortunately by the time we got there it was raining and starting to get dark.  We decided instead to head to our hotel which was another hour away.  Once we got to the hotel and checked in, you know the first thing I asked was if the lights would be out tonight.  She said unfortunately not since it was supposed to snow all night 😦  With sad faces we went to dinner at the hotel.  When you travel around Iceland, a lot of your dinners are going to be in your hotel but never fear, all the hotel meals we had were delicious!  Our first real dinner was no exception.  We started with warm brie and honey with rosemary.  The rosemary was a strange choice but was tasty.  I had the salmon 3 ways and Joe had the veal.  Both dishes were amazing but I give the edge to the salmon it tasted so fresh!  I had 1 glass of wine and our bill was over $150!!!  YIKES!!!

Tip of the night – food in Iceland is exponentially more expensive than you expect.  I knew it was going to be pricey but $150 for dinner is crazy.  Prepare your food budget accordingly.

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After dinner we headed to bed for another relatively early morning.  No lights tonight but we had a beautiful hotel room to keep us warm.  Tonight we stayed at the FossHotel Glacier Lagoon.  I picked this hotel based on a few criteria:

  • Proximity to our destination the next day
  • Price
  • Darkness factor to see the northern lights

FossHotel checked all these boxes and had the added bonus of being a newer hotel which means updated rooms and facilities.  I loved this hotel and was sad to check out the next morning.  I don’t know if I would stay here again though as it backs up to a mountain which might make it hard to see the Northern Lights.  Otherwise it was a great hotel in a nice pitch black area and a delicious dinner and breakfast.

Stayed tuned to find out where we went for our day 3 adventures, but here is a sneak peak!

CHIME IN!!!  Have you been on top of a glacier before?  Would you do a tour or prefer to adventure on your own?  Frost of Fire?

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