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> Europa > Islanda (IS)

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ICELAND: JEWELS THROUGH THE RING ROAD

The My Travel
LINGUE DISPONIBILI

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DESCRIZIONE:

24th June / 3rd July 2010.

My icelandic dream has finally come true! 10 days to see all the main attractions going by bus along the main road in Iceland: the highway n°1.
Unforgettable adventure!!!

June 24th: I started my trip from Italy taking an Easyjet flight in early morning from Malpensa airport in Milan. I arrived on time in London Gatwick, but I had to wait 5 hours to take the other flight, Icelandic Express (the icelandic low cost company), to Reykjavik. It took off 2hrs late.
After 2hrs of quiet flight, we lived an experience like the moon-landing: coming to Keflavik airport, from the plain we could see a very unusual landscape: like a deserts of rocks, no trees or anything else green, but only craters and a huge volcanic area!
Arrived in the airport, I withdrew some icelandic krona from the cash machine, got some useful free map and information from the tourist office and so I went to take the bus to Reykjavik. I chose the Netbus, because it was cheaper than that of Reykjavik Excursions if you bought a return ticket including the entrance to the Blue Lagoon (7.500 ISK).
I arrived in the afternoon at the Reykjavik Backpackers Hostel where I slept well in a dorm of 4 people (7.980 ISK for two nights). Nice hostel, very king guys at the reception, in the main street with shops and nightclubs, but there was no elevator and it was a bit noisy during the night because of a nightclub just outside the hostel, but with ear plugs and a mask for the midnight sun I have slept well everywhere :)
I went to buy something at the cheapest icelandic supermarket, very close to the hostel: the Bonus! Prices in Iceland are still expensive, so one way to save a lot of money is to cook something at the hostel, without going out to eat all the evenings. Every hostel I have stayed in there were the fridge, the electrical stove and the microwave.
I spent my first evening walking through the city to see the main attractions, until midnight and a half: there was always light, so no problem for taking pictures ;-)

The day after was the one of the Golden Circle, organized by Iceland Excursions (55 EUR): it was the best organized excursion of the three I have done. It is the basic trip for travelers who stay in Iceland few days because you can taste some of the best-known historical sites and natural phenomena in Iceland.
We have visited Nesjavellir and inside its geothermal power station, then the Ţingvellir National Park and its tectonic plate boundaries, the Icelandic parliament Alpingi, the wonderful waterfall Gullfoss, the geothermal area around Geysir and the only active geyser Strokkur that spouts a very high column of water every 7/8 minutes!
Then we went to the Skálholt Church, the ancient seat of the icelandic bishop, and we finished our trip through the horticultural village Hveragerđi. I strongly suggest this tour, the tourist guide has given us so many interesting information, he has never been boring.
In Reykjavik I had dinner in a strange restaurant suggested by my Lonely Planet guide to eat fish: Saegreiffin. Every dish was very fresh and tasty, especially the lobster soup! I spent that night at the nightclub Bakkus, where I had a lot of fun knowing a lot of people, dancing and drinking very cheap beer!! I didn’t like so much typical icelandic beers: Viking, Polar and Gull. But I go mad for belgian and irish beers... for me they are the best ones ;-)

The day after I took the bus to go to Akureyri (10.400 ISK), the main northern city and the second one of the whole Iceland: less than 18.000 inhabitants! I arrived there at midday, so going to the Akureyri Hostel at the north of the town I saw a very curious thing: a red heart instead of the classic red light in the traffic light!!! The same in every traffic light of the main street... then I saw there where red hearts everywhere: in shops, offices etc...
The Akureyri Hostel has been the most modern and clean hostel I have stayed in Iceland. I slept in a dorm of 6 travelers (6.800 ISK for two nights), always using my sleeping bag (and my inflatable pillow) on the mattress to save money not renting bed linen. Here I have known my favourite travel buddies: 2 canadian girls, a canadian guy and a romanian girl. I have spent with them a lot of unforgettable moments, and not only in Akureyri! In this city I walked through the town, to see the church, some interesting gardens, the city center where there were very few people (very strange being saturday...), then along the harbour at the main northern fjord.

The following morning my canadian friends and me had a breakfast at a typical icelandic bakery before going to the “Jewels of the north” excursion, organized by SBA-NORĐURLEIĐ (10.350 ISK). We really visited “jewels”, but the tour was not very well organized: we have changed 5 buses, very few explanations by different tourist guides and we have missed some interesting attractions! But I suggest anyway this bus tour, the only cheap way to say a lot of wonderful spots in one day.
From Akureyri, going towards the Lake Mývatn we had a stop at the wonderful Gođafoss waterfall. In the south of Lake Mývatn, we stopped at Skútustađir, to see some interesting pseudo-craters. Some other stop along the lake and we went to the top of the Krafla volcano, but without stopping at the crater Viti and the interesting geothermal area Hverir. Going by bus through a lunar-like landscape, we arrived at Dettifoss, the Europe's most powerful waterfall! Here there is an amazing landscape, because the water falls into a long river between a very long canyon! We have also seen many rainbows close to the waterfall! Then we visited Hljóđaklettar (Echocliffs) and its basaltic columns, Ásbyrgi (Fortress of the Gods) and its green lake and at the end, going back towards Akureyri, we had a short stop at Húsavík, a nice fishing village.
We spent last night in Akureyri having dinner at an icelandic restaurant eating the typical icelandic lamb!

The day after I went again to the Lake Mývatn: there was still so much to see, and I needed to take my time: so the best choice was to rent a bike and stay one night at the lake! It was a great choice: it was sunny all the day, I was very close to the lake and I spent one of the best days in Iceland, completely free!!! So I took the bus from Akureyri to Reykjahlíđ village and I arrived at the Elda guesthouse: great accommodation, it has been the most expensive (11.800 ISK for one night!) of my trip, but it was a single room and including a fantastic breakfast! I went to the camping at the lake to rent a mountain bike (2.200 ISK for one day), then on the road as far as Krafla volcano to see the interesting spots we missed the day before! It was tiring because it was about 12km far from the lake, up to the hills and with polar and strong wind in front of me! But with great satisfaction in less than 2hrs I arrived up to the crater Viti!!! A wonderful lake on the crater, with some fumaroles, mud pots and other small lakes close to the crater. Then going down I went to a very exciting place: Leirhnjůkur, with a lot of fumaroles, mud pots and mainly an enormous lava field. From the top of the hill you can see only black lava on the valley, I can not explain the beauty! After taking some pictures of curious icelandic birds, I went down the hill with my bike going back to the lake, and I had a stop at Hverir geothermal area: here there are a great concentration of mud pots, hot springs and sulphur sources. Back to the lake I took some picture of the birds and of the wonderful landscape of the evening with the sunset.

June 29th: Road to the south! Bus from Reykjahlíđ, through Egilsstađir (where I changed the bus) towards Höfn (6.900 ISK from Egilsstađir to Höfn). We stopped in some very small villages, nothing really interesting. Höfn is a small town and the most important one in the south east, you must stop here for at least one night if you are moving by bus. I stayed one night at Youth Hostel Nyibaer, single room, quite cheap (5900 ISK). Nothing really interesting to see, I had just a walk along the harbour and the town.

The day after road to Skaftafell park, through Jökulsárlón lake: a wonderful lake with icebergs that fall down from the huge Vatnajökull glacier. The bus stopped here just for the time to have a tour by an amphibious vehicle that took us through the icebergs on the lake, with the tourist guide who explained us the history and let us taste pieces of ice 1000 years old!
We arrived about midday at Skaftafell park, the greatest national park in Europe! I had my accommodation up to the hill, in the farmhouse Bölti. 7000 ISK for two nights in a dorm of 7 travelers, wonderful landscape from outside on the sandur, a glacial outwash plain formed of sediments deposited by meltwater at the terminus of the Vatnajökull glacier. In this park you can buy something to eat only at the small restaurant in the visitor center, quite expensive. I prefered to buy something from a supermarket in Hofn the day before. After leaving my luggages at the farmouse, I went for a trekking along the “Skaftafellsheidi loop”, a 6 hours long walk in which you can see unforgettable landscapes from the park: canyons, mountains, glacier tongues of the Vatnajökull ending on small icebergs lakes and many other wonderful spots. The loop starts from one of the most spectacular waterfalls in iceland: Svartifoss, a waterfall among a lot of basaltic columns.
At the end of this amazing trekking, I visited “Sel”, a nice traditional icelandic farmhouse.

Next day my last organized excursion: Laki volcano. Its eruptions in 1783 are considered one of the worst natural disasters in history, it is interesting to see the 25-kilometer long volcanic fissure with some 100 crater cones. The excursion is organized by Reykjavik Excursions, only from the 1st July, it costs 12.000 ISK. It is expensive but I think it is due to the very bad road to reach the volcano area: it is only accessible by 4x4 vehicles and it is a very long trip. Fortunately we also had stop to Fagrifoss (translated “beautiful waterfall”) and the rugged and impressive gorge Fjađrárgljúfur. After a long trip on the bus we arrived at the site of the volcano Laki: we went up to the top, but I found the worst weather of the whole icelandic trip! Rain and wind very strong, quite impossible to take pictures! But fortunately I achieved in taking someone of the volcanic fissure and the craters! We finished our trip with a walk through the lava fields below the volcano.

The day after I said goodbye to Skaftafell park and I took the bus to go back to Reykjavik. I met a nice travel buddy from Seul and we spent together the journey by bus. We have done some very interesting stops: at Vik, with its beach of black sand, the waterfall Skogafoss very close to the Eyjafjallajökull volcano (famous for its ash that blocked flights in the whole Europe some months ago!) and in which there were still a lot of ash in the road and in the air due to the wind, the waterfall Seljalandfoss of which you can have a 360 degrees view.
I spent my last night in Reykjavik staying again at Reykjavik Backpackers hostel and meeting again my canadian travel buddies known in Akureyri: after dinner we went to The Dubliner irish pub and at the end at the Olstofa pub.

July 3rd: my last day in Iceland! Going to the airport with the Netbus, we stopped at the Blue Lagoon for about 1 hour and a half: what a wonderful place! The water was very hot (about 38 degrees), applying silica mud and having some massages by the small waterfall I left that place very revitalized!
Then to the airport, waiting for the direct flight to Milan with Icelandic Express, some hours late as the flight from London.

Final remarks and suggestions
I am really satisfied about this trip. Iceland is like a paradise in earth, rich of contrasts of ice and fire, the triumph of the nature.
There are a lot of things to do and to see, everyone can find his paradise!
I have been lucky because I have found 8 sunny days, just 2 cloudy and rainy, and not all the day. The north is generally drier and more sunny than the south. I have found temperatures between 6 and 20 degrees.
Some suggestion to save money: limit dinners/lunches at restaurants and drinking alcoholics, if you go at hostels do not rent bed linen and use a sleeping bag, do not rent a car if you have to go to some place you can reach by bus, or if you have to rent it prefer agencies that have cars with many kilometers because are cheaper (but if they break down they will become expensive problems :-)). Also moving by bus is expensive, it is better to choose accommodations in towns from which you can reach many interesting places not too far. There are some bus passes for the ring (the highway 1), but mind the restrictions.
For the summer, if you can, book accommodations months in advance, because in some places the few accommodations available are quickly booked by organized tours.
That’s all!!! I hope you can enjoy Iceland as soon as possible!
 
 

 
 
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