A Travellerspoint blog

Iceland - Day 9


sunny 52 °F

Well now we know why most businesses in Reykjavik are either open really late or are closed on Sundays. The "oonce, oonce, oonce" beats were going well into the early morning hours today. I guess when you oonce until almost 5am, you're not in a hurry to get to the grocery store or the mall. Regardless, this was our last morning in Iceland so we wanted to fit in a few more things before heading to the airport. After a quick hotel breakfast we headed to Reykjavik Roasters. We read about this coffee shop in several travel articles, claiming it to be the best in Iceland. It has won several awards and been recognized throughout Europe. Tim was very pleased with his Kaffi Latte.


After the roasters we headed out to see the lighthouse at the edge of the city. Though access to the lighthouse was closed off due to bird breeding grounds, we explored the beautiful beach area. It was very peaceful and almost felt like we were back in the Icelandic countryside. I can see why many people from the city come out there to walk/bike and get away from the noise. It was also a great place for bird watchers.


We hopped back in the car and decided to take the scenic route towards the airport through Heiðmörk, a conservation park located 30 minutes outside of the city. It was a pretty drive, though most of the landscape was just starting to bloom. I imagine it is much more beautiful during summer months.


The road through the park dropped us off by the town of Hafnarfjörður, which is the third most populated city in the country. Located there is the "famous" Viking Hotel & Restaurant, so we planned to stop there for lunch. Unfortunately the restaurant only opens in the evening. The woman working the front desk recommended a restaurant a block away, so we looked at the interesting viking artwork around the hotel and made our way over to Von Mathús restaurant. They were in the middle of a Sunday brunch buffet, but the selections were more unique and local than what we've experienced so far so figured it would be a fitting last meal in Iceland. Cream of celery soup, fish pie, brazed lamb shank, and so on. Tim really enjoyed the soup even though he's not a fan of celery, and many of the selections were quite tasty. There was also several desserts, one of which tasted like a sweet cream cheese with black sugar rocks.


While in Hafnarfjörður, we made a quick stop at Bonus grocery store to pick up various Icelandic candies to take home. Luckily the store was open by that point and all the ooncers were able to make it into work. The Keflavik airport is located 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik, so we hit the highway as our Icelandic adventure was coming to a close. We've noticed the street lights in Iceland are the opposite of the US. Red....Yellow....Green. I guess the yellow is to warn you the light is about to turn green? At the airport we made a point to stop in the Duty Free store at the airport. Julie had read about a delicious handcrafted Icelandic vodka called Reyka, and Habba had recommended it to us as well, so we wanted to pick up a bottle to take home. We were delighted to see that we were flying home in Icelandair's Hekla Aurora plane, their main plane in the fleet. A perfect end to a perfect trip.


We loved our time in Iceland and look forward to going back to explore the northern part of the country, as well as the Westfjords. Every day was a unique adventure, and would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to visit Iceland not to hesitate. Until our next adventure...

Posted by juliejakicic 06:52 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Iceland - Day 8


overcast 51 °F

Well you asked for it and you got it. Due to popular demand it's time for a TIMMY TAKEOVER - ICELAND EDITION!
It was our last full day in Iceland. We grabbed breakfast in the hotel, then went out to explore. Our hotel is in the perfect location, within a short walk from most of the areas in Reykjavik that we wanted to see. After checking out a few shops (and contemplating a purchase of a Where's Waldo t-shirt) it was time for my appointment.


I love tattoos, and several years ago I decided that every time we visit a new country I am going to get a new one from a local artist there. On this trip I was lucky enough to get an appointment with Habba Nero, an extremely talented handpoke artist who works out of Íslenzka Húðflúrstofan (Icelandic Tattoo Corp). I booked the appointment months in advance, which turned out to be an excellent idea as the shop is closed on weekends. On this particular Saturday, however, Habba and her boyfriend Boff (who also works at the shop and is a handpoke artist) came to the shop for just a few scheduled appointments. This was my first time getting a handpoke tattoo and I was very excited. I wanted to get something to remind me of my time in Iceland and thought about various ideas, but up until yesterday could not settle on anything in particular. After seeing the Minke off the beach in Jökulsárlón, I was leaning toward some sort of whale tattoo. When we were visiting the Whales of Iceland exhibit in Reykjavik, at one point I looked up and saw a Minke whale skeleton hanging above me. The view of the skull/jaw from underneath was beautiful and unique, and I thought it might make an interesting tattoo. Habba agreed and set off to come up with a design.


After helping decide the correct placement of the tattoo on my arm and watching things get started, it was time for Julie to hit the streets. She didn't plan on just sitting in the shop waiting for me for several hours. Instead, she made a stop to the most famous hot dog stand in the country: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsu. These hot dogs are made from pork, beef, and lamb. It comes with ketchup, Icelandic mustard, remoulade, raw onion, and crispy fried onion. Though Julie did not partake in the onions, she said it was delicious. After the hot dog pit stop, Julie went to the local Flea Market which only runs on the weekends. The flea market was filled with various jewelry, sweaters, food, etc. She made a few purchases then decided to stop back to check in on the tattoo progress. The shop was not far from the Sun Voyager statue, so she headed there. The statue, a tribute to viking ships, sits right along the water. From there, she looked in a few more shops nearby and picked up a snack at Reykjavik Chips, which had really tasty garlic dipping sauce.


Handpoke is much less invasive than machine tattooing, so the after-care will be minimal and healing time shortened. After almost 3 hours worth of tattooing, it was time to see the final work. I am extremely pleased with the final product, and am so glad I was able to have Habba complete a piece for me. She and Boff may be stateside in the fall, so I might just need to find them and get some more work done.


After several food-less hours of tattooing, I was getting pretty hungry. So it was my turn at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsu. I opted for everything on it, and I was not disappointed. Super tasty, and would definitely go back for more. We stopped back into the flea market so I could look around, then headed back to our hotel. A nap was definitely in order if we wanted to stay out for our last night in Iceland. One odd observation we've noticed this week is the lack of an older generation. Almost every local we've seen has been young. One reference that came up is in relation to how the country has a "Children of the Corn" feel, especially looking at the young workforce.


Upon a recommendation from Habba, we had dinner at Rossopomodoro. After such a great Italian dinner experience last night, we thought it would be worth trying again tonight. We were not disappointed. Who would have known that the two best Italian restaurants we've ever eaten at would be in Iceland? One thing we've noticed in all restaurants in the country is how no one takes home leftovers. Literally not one doggy bag spotted our entire trip. I guess eating leftovers here is frowned upon?


After dinner we headed to see the Hallgrímskirkja church located nearby. This is one of the most beautiful churches I've every seen. Unfortunately it was closed and we could not go inside. So we walked around and took pictures as the sun was lowering in the sky. Habba recommended we stop at the nearby sculpture garden with works by Einar Jónsson. The work was very impressive, and in some cases disturbing, with several works dating back to the early 1900's.


Next we stopped at Paradís, an ice cream shop nearby. Apparently ice cream is a big deal in Iceland, with most locals eating ice-cream on a daily basis. Even with the dropping temperatures, people can be seen walking around with their ice cream cups and cones. Julie was still full up from dinner, but I had no problem ordering a few scoops of caramel ice-cream in a waffle cone.


With dinner and dessert in the books we decided to settle in at Dillon, a whisky bar on the main street of Laugavegur, not far from our hotel. We found a small table in the back, prefect for people watching. With it being our last night in Iceland we wanted to stay out for a while and enjoy the nightlife. Barring Julie's first drink of a watered down whisky and soda, we had a good time. The bar did not start getting crowded until almost midnight. That's also when the DJ started playing classics like "American Pie" that had the crowd singing along to the lyrics. It was still rather light out when we decided to call it a night at around 1am. Even after 7 days it's still hard to get used to it being light for 24 hours.


Well that brings an end to the TIMMY TAKEOVER - ICELAND EDITION. We fly out late afternoon tomorrow, so maybe a few more sights to be seen before we call it a wrap on our incredible week.

Posted by juliejakicic 02:35 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Iceland - Day 7


overcast 50 °F

So we sort of teased the puffins and have very little to show for it. Oops. But let's start at the beginning. The hotel breakfast was held in the restaurant that is connected to the lobby. There was a nice continental spread in the back room with your typical breakfast foods: cold cuts, fruits, cereal, toast. The week finally caught up with us and we had to nap after breakfast.


Our puffin tour started at 12:30pm which gave us time for lunch at the famous Icelandic Fish & Chips! Except we're idiots and went to the wrong restaurant and didn't realize it until after we ordered. We did have the wherewithal to split an order instead of gorging ourselves and then go on a boat; which meant we could try the actual Icelandic Fish & Chips when we got back. The place we ended up in was Reykjavik Fish Restaurant...and the fish and chips were REALLY good. They served their malt vinegar in a Misto, which I promptly unscrewed and poured into my dish. So. Good.


The puffin islands were really close to the harbor - only a ten minute boat ride. We boarded a boat with about 40 other people but it was maybe only half full so it didn't feel crowded. There was also an inclosed lower level if you didn't want to ride outside. As it turns out, puffins are super small; only 10 inches high. That's a hard bird to capture on a cell phone. To make up for the lack of pictures, here are some puffin facts we learned today: the puffin flaps its wings 400 times per minute and dives up to 196 feet but they can only stay under for one minute. Puffins burrow into the island and lay one egg. The mother and father take turns fishing and bring live fish for the puffling to feed on, rather than regurgitating like most birds. After a while, the mother and father dump a big pile of fish in the front of the burrow and say, "You're 18, you're on your own. See ya." They fly out to sea and spend the rest of their time there until it's time to come back and start all over again. The puffling eats the graduation present and when it gets hungry enough, also flies out to sea (at night, to avoid predators) and stays there for four years before coming back to breed. Even though the pictures aren't great, it was an really neat tour and totally worth the cold and wind on the boat.


When we got back, we were determined to eat at Icelandic Fish & Chips. It gets rave reviews online and most everyone says its the best they've ever had. Turns out we liked the Reykjavik Fish Restaurant better - go figure. The batter at the Reykjavik restaurant seemed more traditional with a little more flavor. The batter at Icelandic was really light.


After second lunch, we headed to the Whales of Iceland museum; the largest whale exhibit in Europe. The museum wasn't very large (I mean, it was large enough to hold full-size replicas of whales), but we still managed to kill an hour and a half. There was an audio tour that we opted out of and instead looked at the life-size recreations and read the signs. What an eye-opening experience. Where do you get the chance to see exactly how big a whale is?! At a couple areas there were interactive stations to learn a little more about the whales and watch some videos. Also playing was a video about tagging humpback whales. Apparently as a zoologist you need to be a crack shot with a gun if you want to get a promotion. The tag must go into the fin of the humpback whale so when they surface the satellite can pick up the signal. Tracking and learning about whale behavior is a very big deal and starting in January of next year, the whole world will be able to see where the whales are traveling. Interesting article if you want to learn more: http://icelandictimes.com/68362/


After the museum we walked back to our hotel a different way to see other parts of town. We saw some of the camper vans in town. I forgot to mention that these things were all over the countryside. They are advertised as a budget way to travel and see Iceland. I'm not sure where you park it at night or how you shower - but they sure are popular.


Everywhere you turn in Reykjavik there is street art of all sizes. Tim has been fascinated with it, and many of the works are quite impressive. On a tip from our friend that we saw here yesterday, we found a small work in a random alley of a residential area. The rumors are that it was done by Banksy, but we couldn't find any definitive info about it so that remains a mystery. So we either saw one of the most valuable works of street art known to man in a random Iceland alley, or there is a really good knockoff artist we can thank for luring curious tourists like us off the beaten path in Reykjavik.


Tonight we had a late dinner at an Italian restaurant called Italia. Um, how is it possible we had the best Italian meal we've ever had....in Iceland?! Us food-scarfing Americans were finished in no time. On our way back to the hotel we stopped by the Chuck Norris bar. Yes, there is a Big Lewboski bar and a Chuck Norris bar in Iceland. I will quote a review I saw online, "It's like drinking in a Chuck Norris meme." It was awesome.


The Pens are playing game 4 tonight so we decided to come back and watch the game on the computer (at 12am our time). More fun stuff on the books for tomorrow. I leave you with this: When Chuck Norris does push ups he doesn't push himself up, he forces the earth down.

Posted by juliejakicic 16:20 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Iceland - Day 6


sunny 47 °F

This morning we woke up and had breakfast, packed up the car and headed to Route 1. We were on a time crunch because we had an appointment outside of Reykjavik, but we really wanted to see Vik's black sand beach. While in Vik we stopped and finally had an Icelandic hot dog - it was delicious. Fun fact, we've yet to see mustard while we've been here. There is plenty of ketchup and some white stuff in a bottle, but after all of the paprika neither of us were brave enough to try the 'white stuff'. After finishing our snack, we made our way to the beach but the wind was blowing so hard and was so cold that we quickly turned around and went back to the car and headed out of town.


A few days ago the drive to Kirkjubæjarklaustur was foggy and rainy which prevented us from seeing the famous Dyrhólaey peninsula. Little did we know, not only were the arches not far from shore, but there was a road that got you really close to them for viewing. We decided the detour was worth it and were disappointed when we couldn't see the arches that well. As we were leaving we saw a few cars driving up a big mountain. Assuming there was a light house on top, we thought why not, and drove up. We were right, there was a lighthouse....and an amazing view of the arches! The wind at the top was so crazy and you had to be really careful near the edge of the cliff. (Now I understand why the rental car guy told us that if the wind blew the car door in the opposite direction of its hinges, the insurance wouldn't cover it) The lighthouse has been working since 1927.


Stopping at Vik and the arches/lighthouse put us a little behind schedule so we couldn't stop at anymore pull-offs (ok, I had to pull off to pet a horse...) You could seriously drive through the south of Iceland, stop at every single point of interest and you would be totally satisfied.


We had really great driving weather and made great time. Our appointment was at the Blue Lagoon and you had to reserve a time in order to get a locker. The lagoon is a geothermal spa that opened in 1992, though the pools formed in 1976 from the wastewater of a geothermal water plant that had just been built there. In addition to the lagoon, there is also an onsite clinic to help with skin issues as the sulfur and silica in the water is supposed to have healing properties.


The lagoon logistics were a little confusing. The directions for the lockers weren't clearly marked and I felt like you had a lot of steps to go through before you could even get to the lagoon: arrive and take off your shoes outside the changing area, leave shoes there, go to changing room (they don't tell you there are multiple rooms - some on the other side of the showers - so everyone is crowded into one), find a locker that is open, figure out how to unlock and lock your locker (if someone is standing in front of the small instruction plaque you're on your own), remove your clothes, place in locker, hope locker is locked, shower with their products, put conditioner in your hair so it doesn't get ruined by the lagoon, dry off, go back to your locker, put on your suit, take your towel and you are ready to enter the lagoon. You were supposed to shower without your suit before you got in the lagoon but most people showered with it on. I didn't use the conditioner because I wasn't going to get my hair wet in the lagoon.


When I finally did make it out to the lagoon, Tim wasn't far behind me as he had to wait to use a shower. It was such a sunny day, we were glad we took our sunglasses. The water is a pretty bluish white and boy is it HOT. I thought my toes were going to burn off because they were so cold before going in, but your body quickly adjusts. There are different levels of entrance tickets you can purchase. We purchased a level that got us a towel, a drink and a mud mask. We had done some research before purchasing and were considering the next level up that also bought you the use of a bathrobe but then read that people take them. I'm glad we skipped that, because someone took our towels which means we had to take someone else's towels, and so on. It's not worth the extra money for a bathrobe to get you from the showers to the lagoon only for someone to take it while you're soaking.


The lagoon itself was amazing. Like I said, it was a bluish color. There weren't a ton of people there so you didn't feel stacked on anyone else and the lagoon was much bigger than we were expecting. Our credit card was attached to our waterproof wristbands. The color of the wristband told the attendants what level we purchased so they knew to ask if we had received our drink. The bar was swim-up, as was the area to get the mud mask. All around the lagoon there were small areas to explore, including a cave with soothing music. Various areas around the lagoon were hotter than the rest. There were also wooden seating areas if you wanted to get out of the heat for a bit. The lagoon varied in depth, from a shallow walk-in area to the center that was about five feet deep (I couldn't stand in it but Tim could). After the pre-lagoon hoopla it was a very relaxing experience. We were able to explore the lagoon, sip our drinks and enjoy a relaxing afternoon after so many days of hiking. We also got some comedic entertainment in the form of tourists apply the mud masks ALL over their bodies - including their hair, as if they were applying soap in the shower. I have to assume there was a language barrier issue - but a quick look around would have also told them that no one else was applying their mud mask in that fashion.


An hour and a half after we entered, we decided to leave. I couldn't take the hot water any longer and anyone that knows me knows I can't sit still for much longer than that. We left the lagoon and headed to our hotel in Reykjavik, which was about 40 minutes away. Our hotel is in downtown Reykjavik which means small, one-way streets and little to no parking. I was very worried about repeating our trip to Dublin, where we drove around for an hour and a half looking for the hotel. This time we found the hotel right away, but it was located on a pedestrian street so we had to find street parking in order to check-in. Luckily we found parking fairly quickly and we were able to get checked in and then park our car in the hidden lot behind the hotel. See ya on Sunday Hyundai Tucson.


We think we may have been upgraded as we don't remember booking such a large room with a kitchenette and eating area. Nice! After unloading our luggage we went next door to the Public House, which is an asian-fusion gastropub. They served beer, wine and tapas. We tried the duck breast, beef slider and butternut squash dumplings. Everything was delicious. When leaving the Public House, we came across a random parade of classic cars going by.


Next we went down a few storefronts to the Lebowski Bar. Yes, there is a bar dedicated to The Big Lebowski. They have various paintings, pictures, and homages to the film. Of course, what Lebowski themed bar wouldn't have White Russians on the menu, and in this case 20 or so varieties of them. We had a few drinks and partook in movie trivia night. Unfortunately we didn't win the grand prize of 10 large beers, but we did get to see a friend who just so happens to be here the same time as us!


After the bar we decided to call it a night after a long day of driving. Time to rest up and get ready for our next excursion. Did somebody say puffins?!

Posted by juliejakicic 18:19 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Iceland - Day 5


semi-overcast 45 °F

I'm not sure how one day can top the next, but it has! Our travels took us east to Jökulsárlón for a glacier lagoon tour. Before hitting the road we had to make our obligatory Red Bull stop at a local store (Tim is SO happy Red Bull is readily available here). While checking out, the cashier starting speaking to Tim in Icelandic. Tim of course did not know how to respond, just slid his card. When the cashier handed Tim the receipt he again spoke Icelandic to which Tim responded "Thank you." The cashier seemed surprised replying, "Oh, yes thank you." I guess his beard has officially reached the nordic look.


The glacier lagoon is at the base of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier right along the beach. We arrived at the lagoon early in the day because the tours were first come first serve. We secured a spot at 1pm, which left us about an hour and a half to walk around and take pictures. The tide was going out at the time and we were able to watch the smaller pieces of ice float out to sea. A ton of Arctic Tern were flying and fishing in the lagoon. They caught herring and took it to shore to eat it while simultaneously fighting off other Tern that wanted the fish.


The tour boats are the amphibian land/sea kind. We loaded up with about a dozen others and put on giant lifejackets. Which by the way, would in no way save anyone if they went overboard because they were so loose fitting. At least we looked super stylish. We drove off the shore and into the lagoon. Before long, we saw a seal!!!! Neither Tim nor I had any idea there were seal in the area; you can't see them from the main viewing area and the tour company did not advertise it. Apparently they are following the herring into the lagoon. A person in a dingy followed our boat and provided the guide with a large piece of ice. If anyone wanted to hold it for at least 3 seconds, they were granted 7 years good luck. The guide also chopped up some of the ice if you wanted to eat it.


While on the tour the guide gave us a few facts about the lagoon. He said in 1934 the entire area was frozen over, but due to global warming the glacier is melting faster which created the lagoon at the base. The glacier is melting/receding 442 feet per year. The lagoon is also the deepest section in all of Iceland at 984 feet! On our way back to shore we saw seal lying on a piece of ice floating in the lagoon. Even though tours run every half hour, the seals did not seem too keen on the boats coming near them and slid off the ice as we floated by on our way to shore.


Being so close to the beach we couldn't resist driving over and walking on the black sand beach. We were excited to find chunks of glacier right on the beach. They float out of the lagoon and the waves push them to shore. The crashing waves slowly break down the ice until they are completely melted. As we were taking pictures of the ice, I glanced up. Oh. My. Gosh. I started screaming, "WHALE! WHALE!" Tim thought I was joking at first but he said he's never seen that kind of joy on my face in all the years we've been together. Yes, there were whale - right off the beach!!! We think they were Minke whales. One breached a couple times and I got a poor photo of it - but proof nonetheless that we saw it. We followed the whale down the beach for a while, keeping an eye on the Tern that also followed it, but all we could see was an occasional fin or water blown from its blow hole. So exhilarating!


We stayed on the beach for a while and took pictures of the ice before heading back. Earlier in the day, during our drive to the lagoon, we made note of several areas we wanted to pull off on our way back. Below are some pictures of an old barn and a beautiful stream flowing through a lava field right at the side of the road.


When we got back to town we headed to Systrakaffi, the same restaurant where we ate the last few nights, because I wanted to try the Arctic Charr. Wow - hands down the best meal I've had since we've been here. Tim had a BBQ burger and he said it was also very good.


I still can't believe we were able to see seal and whales today - an unbelievable day and so far, the highlight of our trip. That wraps up our tour of the southeast. Tomorrow we head back west where we'll be spending the remainder of the trip. Blue Lagoon here we come!

Posted by juliejakicic 14:26 Archived in Iceland Tagged boat ice tour seal whale iceland ducky jökulsarlon glacier_lagoon Comments (0)

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