Author Topic: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!  (Read 21340 times)

Offline Denverite

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #40 on: March 15, 2017, 12:22:16 AM »
Wow, wow! Just saw this TR and these pics and info are awesome...looking forward to the rest! Btw, what were the actual temps while you were there? How cold is it even in August?

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #41 on: March 15, 2017, 12:50:25 AM »
Wow, what a stressful day. Glad you made it to some real sights though.

Some nice shots as well, especially those IMO (although I'll skip the obvious dig, considering my coup on Purim ):






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Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #42 on: March 15, 2017, 12:48:14 PM »
Wow, sounds like a series of unfortunate events no one would want at the start of their vacation. I'm glad you made the best of it and had a good time anyway. Looking forward to the rest.
I think you're partially excused from delaying writing the TR because you lost your phone...loving it so far
Wow, wow! Just saw this TR and these pics and info are awesome...looking forward to the rest! Btw, what were the actual temps while you were there? How cold is it even in August?
Wow, what a stressful day. Glad you made it to some real sights though.

Some nice shots as well, especially those IMO (although I'll skip the obvious dig, considering my coup on Purim ):
Thanks all! It was quite a first day, but life is wonderful in that I only look back with fond memories.
Weather was high 50s/low 60s. Really not bad at all with a fleece and windbreaker. But from my understanding, we got lucky with having very little rain.
Appreciate you liking some of my pics, Fishy. :P Camera discussion coming soon, as you know.

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #43 on: June 15, 2017, 03:39:12 PM »
Monday, 8/22

With our morning glacier hike cancelled and our re-booked ferry not scheduled till 12:30PM, we had the freedom of a slow start to the day. After Shacharis and breakfast, we left the campsite for the 20 minute drive to the Seljavallalaug Hot Pool. Not wanting to spend 50+ EUR per person at the famous Blue Lagoon hot pool, I researched other naturally hot springs/pools throughout the country and found several blogs on the topic including, 10 Iceland Hot Springs that Aren't the Blue Lagoon. Many of these pools are FREE, while others cost less than Blue Lagoon (and some cost more). They are really spread throughout the country, so I picked 2 that were on the way for some of our drives – Seljavallaug and Secret Lagoon, which is on the Golden Circle drive. I found this blog with great instructions for how to find Seljavallaug (free entry) once you turn off the highway (turn off at Raufarfellsvegur/Road 242). To help others on this road, I would say to just ‘keep going’. Each time we thought we were there, there was a little more dirt road we could take. (As the blog warns, don’t get fooled by the first fenced-in pool you pass. We couldn’t believe the actual pool could be so far, so we got out at this pool just to double check it wasn’t the right thing. The locked fence gave it away.) We eventually parked at what we thought was as far as we could go, but after walking for a few minutes we saw cars parked even further down the road. (The big ditch in the road kept us from driving to where these cars were.) Even with where we parked, it was only a 15 minute hike to the pool – and boy was it gorgeous! You walk/hike on mostly flat ground in a valley between mountains with a stream running by you. We were hiking on rocks/boulders until we noticed a dirt path to the left – tip: take the dirt path. :P Some of the sights while hiking:





As we turned the last bend, the pool came into view. (Thankfully, there were only a handful of people there.)


The white building is the too-public-for-my-taste changing room. Note the collection of waterfalls in the background.




The water was warm and not a consistent temperature throughout. The water leaking into the pool by this green moss was actually burning hot.

Relaxing in the warm water nestled among the mountains was really just pure bliss.

As the hour got late, we changed back into dry clothes (among too many others in the changing room), hiked back to the car and headed west back the way we came. It was at this time that I noticed the check engine light was on. Seriously!? We were pressed for time, so I tried calling CampEasy’s mechanic line while we drove the 20 minutes back to the Westman Islands ferry port (put Landeyjahafnarvegur into Google Maps to find it – HAHAHAHA look at that word I just typed!! ) to catch our 12:30PM boat ride. The ferry cost $67 roundtrip for 2 people (1 adult and 1 student ticket) and the car (the smallest size car option – under 5 meters – was fine for our camper) and can be booked here, which also has plenty of other information about visiting the islands. You’ll want to give yourself about 6 hours on the island unless you plan visiting some of the smaller islands and doing the boating activities, in which case I’d assume you’ll want a full day.

We arrived 20 minutes early for checkin, parked the camper in the cargo section of the boat (really cool!) and got onboard. Departure was exactly on time. The boat had several floors including a restaurant. After about 1 minute, I got hit with nausea and was not ready for how the rest of the ride was going to go. We tried walking out onto the deck for fresh air, which helped for a few minutes, then we tried going indoors and lying down among other people whose faces said they were in the same boat as me. ;D My wife was also nauseous, but not nearly as bad as I was. As I clung onto the railing overlooking the water, I felt absolutely sick and just collapsed onto the floor praying for the ride to be over. If I’m making this sound quite dramatic, that’s because I’m relating the story to you as dramatically as I was acting. But honestly, I don’t blame myself. Yuck.

At long last (30 minutes), the Westman Islands came into view as I somehow managed to retain my insides.


Before the nausea got too bad





We departed and drove off the boat just as the camper mechanic called me back. He told me not to worry at all about the light, and he was right – eventually it just turned off. Well then, back to our schedule… less than 5 minutes away, we arrived at our first stop – and the main reason we went to Vestmannaeyjar – the Saeheimar Aquarium where they have puffins!! My wife loves animals, and this was her favorite part of the trip. Watching the puffin is quite fascinating, as I’ve never seen a bird interact with humans and play with toys like this before. We were warned not to hold her as the oils on our hands can hurt her plumage. However, the guide/owner left the group alone after a 10 minute demonstration and eventually some kids whose parents weren’t watching and weren’t around for the original warning picked her up – and even dropped her! The rest of the aquarium takes 5 minutes to walk around and doesn’t have anything of interest – just some fish, starfish, minerals/rocks and (real/fake?) taxidermy. But that didn’t matter – my 30 minutes planned at the aquarium turned into an hour and 10 before we actually left!















While seeing the puffin was the main reason we came to the Westman Islands, SomethingFishy suggested checking out a few other sights while here. Up next, we drove for about 10 minutes up to the top of the south side of the island to search for puffins out in the wild. The road became extremely steep and when we arrived at the parking lot (plug in 63.400753, -20.287034 into Google Maps to find it), we were blown away by the extremely windy conditions. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really any path or guidelines for finding the puffins’ burrows. So in the hopes that he was available, I messaged SomethingFishy, who ended up not only being available on the spot, but provided awesome help in navigating the sketchy looking fence and barn along the cliffs. However, even with his help, we were unable to find any puffins. At times we were frighteningly sliding down the sides of the mountain and decided to just call it quits on our search. Nonetheless, we saw some sheep up here and got some incredible views.














I don’t know either…

On the way back down, we saw a really cool beach/bay. Just another example of the incredible landscape of Iceland.



And then… my wife’s phone buzzed with the most incredible, amazing, exciting email ever.




Wow, I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock and thrilled! What are the odds!? Thank G-d!

We continued down the mountain and pulled over to hang out with our first horses of the trip. (As I mentioned earlier, there are horse pastures all over the place in Iceland.) Seeing we had pulled over, another car pulled over behind us and out came a bunch of Israelis. Classic. :)







Just another 10 minute drive brought us to our last activity on the island – a hike up Eldfell Volcano. The parking lot is simply where the dirt road ends. We got out and started climbing the volcano – there’s not much of a real path, but we saw a few people ahead of us. Climbing up was actually very difficult. The wind was whipping around like crazy and the crimson earth just crumbled and slipped away beneath every step. For every 3 steps we took, we fell 1 back. Thankfully there were parts that had some rope to hold onto. You definitely want sneakers for this hike.

Photo Aug 22, 12 50 29 PM by Yehuda Kaminer, on Flickr
The climb

As we got to the top, I took out my phone to take a picture only to see that it died! Ah! The view overlooking the town and ocean was really beautiful, and I was determined to get a picture. For some reason, if I left the phone off for a few minutes and then turned it back it on, it had enough battery to last about 7 seconds. On my first few tries I wasn’t quick enough, but this kept working and eventually I had just enough time to turn it on, get to the camera app and snap a photo.



We then headed back down (roundtrip hike took about 50 minutes) for the 10 minute drive (notice how everything is very close here, but you still definitely need a car to do this all this) to Herjolfur Port to catch the ferry back. We had some time, so we pulled onto the side of a street, took out the burner and tried to boil water for a late tradition soup lunch. For some reason, the water simply wouldn’t boil, so it was definitely an interesting tradition soup lunch.



That was when we noticed the town reeked of fish. We ate in the camper, then drove to the ferry, boarded and thanked G-d for a non-nauseous trip back! Back on the mainland, we began the 2.5 hour drive to the southeast side of the country (SomethingFishy will point out that where we were going was barely even halfway to the southeast corner). We made a pit stop for Mincha on the side of the road and continued on until just out of nowhere a HUGE waterfall burst into view right off the highway! After a second, I realized we had come across Skogafoss. I forgot about this most-powerful waterfall because the glacier tour we were supposed to take was going to stop by here, and once that tour was cancelled, I forgot to add the falls to our to-do list. We spun around and pulled directly into the parking lot where there were lots of people camping out for the night. You can walk extremely close to the falls, but you get wet even when standing pretty far away. There are steps to climb to the top for another vantage point, but we just snapped a few pictures on ground level, went into the gift shop for some Coke and left.





Knowing that we’d be driving to our farthest activity from Reykjavik and then turning around tomorrow, I planned a few stops to do in both directions. But as it was now after 7PM, we decided to just drive straight and try to cram in as many stops as possible on the way back. We arrived at Skaftafell Campsite well after 10PM to find the office closed and the grounds locked up. However, there were plenty of cars in the parking lot, so we just pulled into a spot and figured we’d deal with paying in the morning. Evenings in the camper were really enjoyable and as I’ve said before, the camper was so much more than a convenient way of travelling – it became a wonderful part of the trip by itself. We prepped the sleeping area, closed the curtains, Davened Maariv and put up a BBQ of hamburgers before calling it on our second amazing day in Iceland.




« Last Edit: March 01, 2019, 09:16:57 AM by jj1000 »

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #44 on: June 15, 2017, 04:24:03 PM »
Nice installment! I'm glad you haven't forgotten about it. Now if only the honeymoon trip will ever get finished.... ;D

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #45 on: June 15, 2017, 05:35:07 PM »
Great segment!

interesting that you got seasick so fast - was the water that choppy? We had pouring rain on the way out but I didn't notice anyone feeling bad. Go figure.

Seeing we had pulled over, another car pulled over behind us and out came a bunch of Israelis. Classic. :)
Don't complain, we had the exact same thing but with an entire busload of them .

(SomethingFishy will point out that where we were going was barely even halfway to the southeast corner)

Where you were going was barely even halfway to the southeast corner.
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Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #46 on: June 16, 2017, 03:55:58 PM »
Nice installment! I'm glad you haven't forgotten about it. Now if only the honeymoon trip will ever get finished.... ;D
Thanks! I'll never hear the end of that, eh? (Except if I finish it. :P)

Great segment!

interesting that you got seasick so fast - was the water that choppy? We had pouring rain on the way out but I didn't notice anyone feeling bad. Go figure.
Don't complain, we had the exact same thing but with an entire busload of them .
Dunno about choppiness but i stood up once we left the dock and saw the room spin and sat back down. Guy near me must have been a local because he laughed.

Where you were going was barely even halfway to the southeast corner.
So predictable.

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #47 on: July 11, 2017, 09:20:03 PM »
Day Three

Sleeping in all the way till 8:30AM, we awoke at Skaftafell Campsite to quite a beautiful view that we hadn’t been able to see at night.



We freshened up at the visitor center, paid $26 for the night, Davened Shacharis and boiled water for oatmeal before following the path in the campground for the hike to Svartifoss. The hike was relatively easy, but the sun was burning down and it was quite an uphill climb. After 35 minutes we arrived at what was in my opinion, the most beautiful waterfall we saw in Iceland.





We spent some time gawking and then headed back down (which only took 25 minutes), taking in the beautiful view.



We left the campsite and drove the 40 minutes through heavy fog and rain to catch our Zodaic Boat Tour on Fjallsarlon Lagoon. Thankfully it stopped raining as we got there. As with other Iceland sights, you know you’ve arrived when you see a bunch of cars parked randomly on a patch of dirt next to a shack. ::) There are 2 glacier lagoons in this area – Fjallsarlon and the more famous, Jokulsarlon. Each is a large lagoon/lake whose iceberg-filled water comes from the melting glacier at one end. Jokulsarlon is much larger and offers amphibian boat tours and zodiac boat tours. From my research, the zodiac rides get a lot closer to the icebergs and the tour at Fjallsarlon is cheaper (and perhaps better per some reviews) than Jokulsarlon, so we opted for this option at ~$50 a person. We had about 45 minutes on the water, and the trip was extremely exciting – getting up close and personal with blue, white and black icebergs, facing the immense glacier itself and even grabbing iceberg chunks out of the water and chewing on the refreshing ice.








Slightly dirty ice


The glacier




As you can see, they give you plenty of layers to bundle up and stay warm and dry

Back on solid ground, we drove for 15 minutes to check out Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This place was packed! We actually had to look for a parking spot, then walked over to the edge of the lagoon to join the crowd snapping pictures. You can tell immediately that this lagoon was far larger than Fjallsarlon, plus you could see it emptying out into the ocean, which meant that the icebergs were moving relatively fast, draining out of the lagoon.







We then drove across the street to where the icebergs were heading downstream to Jokulsarlon Black Sand Beach. While we had been fortunate to see black sand beaches in Hawaii, this one was quite different as many of the icebergs were washed up on shore. Really, really cool.


A plane lifting off a runway?





Well, that was it! We were as far east and as far from Reykjavik as we were going to go on this trip, and after a late tradition soup lunch, we turned around and began the journey back. We were about 45 minutes behind “schedule”, so I knew we would skip some of the stops I had planned, including the first one, Nupsstadur which is an old church and buildings built into the side of a mountain. We passed by Fjallsarlon Lagoon, and shortly thereafter, Skaftafell Campsite, and made our first stop an hour and 15 minutes after we left at Foss a Sidu, which was viewable from the highway and literally in someone’s backyard. We didn’t venture closer on what looked to be a private road / their driveway, but just snapped a picture and continued on.


Sigh, idyllic Iceland

Aside from the several towns we passed shortly after leaving Reykjavik the other day, there really weren’t too many gas stations along the south coast, so I made sure to note when I saw one as we got closer to Skaftafell Campsite. We were just getting back to this point, so we pulled over to fill up. The camper rental came with a discount card for N1 gas stations (appears this is common practice), but nothing was in English, and I couldn’t figure out how to use the machine, so I went inside and found someone in the café to explain how to do it (not convinced I did it right / it even gave me a discount) before clicking “agree” to paying… $88. (Also, make sure you set a pin on your chip-and-pin credit card.)

20 minutes from Foss a Sidu, we pulled off the highway onto roads that could barely be called by that name until we reached Fjadrargljufur Canyon. Despite the bumpy path, this place actually had a recognizable parking lot and restrooms. Just a few steps beyond the lot, we peered over the edge of the cliff and our jaws dropped.



Right at the beginning is a path down into the canyon at the water’s level where you can get another beautiful view.



Walking along the canyon takes about an hour (I believe), but as the day was getting late, we only walked for a bit along the path before turning around to leave.





If I thought the “No elephants” sign from the day before was weird, what we saw on the drive out, took the crown as the weirdest sign I’ve ever seen in my life.



Up next, my itinerary listed Eldhraun Lava Field and Laufskalavarda Lava Ridge, both of which are stretches of land right next to the highway that look like humps of ground covered in moss. I personally didn’t think it was much to see, and the lighting didn’t allow me to get even a half-decent picture, so we just drove past them.

Continuing on for about 50 minutes, we pulled over to the side of the road at the next stop to make some decisions. Remaining on my list were 2 black sand beaches next to each other before making the final drive to Reykjavik Campsite, which is right in town and would be easy for returning the camper in the morning. However, it was already 8:00PM and quite dark out for the country that supposedly never gets dark in the summer, and we were hungry for dinner and still had over 2 hours to go till Reykjavik. My wife wanted to call it quits and head back, I wanted to hit the last few stops and so we compromised. :) We decided to skip Vik Black Sand Beach and only check out Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach (which has more to look at), eat dinner by the beach, then drive back to the first campsite we stayed at, which was only 45 minutes away and wake up early to drive back to Reykjavik. Along the short road to the beach, we passed some cows eating dinner.



When we took out the camper, one of the warnings issued was to park facing the wind, so the doors don’t fly open. We hadn’t experienced any problems until then, so we weren’t ready for what happened when we parked at Reynisfjara. We clicked the handle, and the doors just flew open! As I mentioned in the intro, having insurance from the credit card was going to come in handy. The moment I heard that crack, I knew we’d be paying for damages. :( The wind was absolutely howling, but we weren’t just going to turn back. We ran to the beach and took in the powerful waves crashing into the shore, creating white foam that stood in stark contrast to the black sand.





There were a bunch of photographers trying mightily to hold onto their tripods, and I pictured SomethingFishy and his crew doing the same when they were here. On the left side of the beach we saw the basalt columns, very similar to the ones we saw surrounding Svartifoss, and the basalt sea stacks out in the ocean.







I saw something fly overheard and turned around to look above the columns. After all our searching the other day, here were dozens of puffins! Unfortunately, they were really high up, and this was a moment that I’ll admit I wished I had a better camera to zoom in for a clear picture.



On the right side of the beach is an arch known as Dyrholaey.



We ran back to the car and decided not to even attempt a BBQ in this weather, so 45 minutes later, we pulled into Hamragardar Campsite for our second night there. Because it was late the office was closed, but someone stopped us at the entranceway. I rolled down my window and the man there started talking to us in a brilliant Irish accent. He was quite a schmoozer and was convinced I was Irish myself (I guess the red-tinged beard helped). Suddenly, he froze. Hand resting on my open window, face completely glazed over. My wife and I shot each other a nervous glance. As quickly as he froze, he resumed talking, then paused and asked if he just went blank for a moment. He blamed it on the long days of Icelandic summer saying how it messes with the locals’ brains. At this point, my wife and I were thinking, “Let’s get out of here!” and then he finally burst out laughing at having fooled us. Quite an interesting fellow, to say the least. He took $20 cash USD for the night (cheaper than the official rate. :P), and we found a spot to park for the night. I put up our last BBQ and yet another amazing and exhausting day in Iceland had come to a close.

« Last Edit: March 01, 2019, 09:12:12 AM by jj1000 »

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #48 on: July 11, 2017, 09:32:49 PM »
Day Four

After 3 days of non-stop activities, it was time to finally have a more chilled day. We woke up to find sheep all over the campsite, a burnt hole in the ground where our grill had been the night before (whoops! ) and some more sheep blocking the road out.







An hour and a half later, we re-filled the camper with gas in Reykjavik for another $40 (total spent on gas - $127) and returned the camper to CampEasy. As soon as they checked out the car, they knew the door was broken. (Clearly they have experience with this.) They put a hold on my AA Bronze card for about $2000 and said they would actually charge me once their mechanic fixed the door and had an exact price (which they assured me would be less than $2000). After the trip and all was settled they charged me around $1300, and the CC insurance actually reimbursed me more than that… go figure. They didn’t charge us for the extra can of burner gas they gave us since we didn’t use it, which was surprising since the existing gas can wasn’t full when we began the trip (i.e. you can get a good amount of uses out of the cans). They offer a complimentary ride within the city and drove us the 15 minutes to our hotel, the Radisson Blu Saga.

As I mentioned in the intro, I booked 2 nights at the hotel by getting Club Carlson nights for $100/night. TripAdvisor warned that the non-renovated rooms were shabby, some rooms didn’t have air conditioning and overall the hotel wasn’t in great shape. While it wasn’t a five star resort, I thought the hotel was quite nice. A modern lobby and kind agents greeted us (and informed us that none of the rooms had air conditioning). It could be that after spending 3 nights in a camper, any room would have looked pleasing to the eye, but the room definitely surpassed my expectations based on the TA reviews. We had just a few moments to drop our stuff off and change clothes before having to run downstairs and catch our shuttle shortly after 10AM for the trip to Inside the Volcano! We booked this tour via Arctic Adventures as mentioned in the intro, but because it isn’t operated by Arctic, it wasn’t eligible for the 10% discount, and we paid full price of about $340 a person . While that is crazy expensive and likely not worth it if you’re paying cash, I used A+ miles for it which rationalized it for me.

The Grayline shuttle stopped by a few other hotels and then took us to a central office, where we picked up our tickets. FYI: lots of Grayline shuttles were picking up from the hotels and lots of busses were waiting at the central station to go to different activities. Make sure you double check that you’re getting on the right shuttle and bus. We had a little bit of waiting around time until our bus was ready, and then we were off, passing by the Hilton Nordica (which we had originally considered staying by) and reaching the volcano base a half hour later.



The website warns not to drive on your own because the parking lot is hard to find, but that was a serious joke. I’m not sure how close a GPS would get you, but on an empty stretch of road, it wasn’t hard to notice the 1 building and parking lot… Driving on our own would have saved about an hour, and we would have rented our car a day earlier (we were renting for the next day anyway) had they not discouraged it so blatantly on their site and via email. Oh well. Some people did show up on their own and some even showed up without pre-booking. There is no office here at all, just a building that houses a ski lodge in the winter, so there was no way for these folks to pay and there wasn’t room on the tour anyway. Strange how those people just showed up. Anyway, we then began the 45 minute flat hike across a lava field to get to the actual volcano. Not a bad hike, but a tad boring, hard to converse since they kept everyone in a single-file path, and in the open sun, it was quite hot. We learned that the volcano’s name is Thrihnukagigur. (Three-new-kah-gi-goor kind of became a chant on the walk.)



At the volcano, there’s a little building where you get harnessed up, and they offer Icelandic meat soup and water. When another family turned down the meat soup (and my wife could have sworn their daughter’s lips were moving when she came out of the bathroom ), we looked at each other and instantly played Jewish Geography. (They were from New Rochelle, just 20 minutes from where we live. Crazy small Jewish world.) We climbed the last few steps to the top of the volcano and got lowered down in the lift. The guides were informative and funny, and we had about 30 minutes in the volcano to look around. There isn’t all that much room to explore, but the experience was very cool and the colors on the walls were beautiful.




Final climb to the top













On the hike back, we made a quick stop at one of the lava tubes that runs under the lava field and got to climb down into it.







Back on the bus, we returned to the central station and transferred to a shuttle that brought us back to the Radisson. It was now 4:30PM and for the first time on our trip, we really had nothing planned for the rest of the day. That was quite welcoming. The hotel room had pretty bad wifi, and the spa was under renovation, but we relaxed for a while before going on a walk around the area.







The hotel is in a residential area, and as we passed a school and houses, we wondered what it would be like to live in this awesome country. I mean, we had no clue as to the economic or political situation, but the people were all nice and there were so many beautiful things to do! :) I didn’t have anything specific planned for the walk, but I did have in mind to check out Vesturbaejarlaug, a public geothermal pool within walking distance of the hotel. However it was jam packed when we got there, so we turned around. We found a convenience store right near the hotel that actually had some Kosher snacks – Baby Ruth bars and Popcorners! Back at the hotel, we got some Cokes from the shop ($3 for a tiny bottle, but you take what you can get with Kosher), made our first non-BBQ dinner of deli and avocado wraps and called it an early evening on this much-needed chill day.


Offline Yaalili

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #49 on: July 11, 2017, 09:43:11 PM »
Awesome pictures and write up!

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #50 on: July 11, 2017, 10:01:58 PM »
Day Five

It may have been our last day in Iceland, but we were ready for a jam-packed schedule. At 8:15AM we got picked up (free) from the hotel and taken the short drive to SIXT car rental. With a discount for being SIXT Platinum, we got an automatic Opel Meriva (a little hatchback) for $115, covered by 11K A+ points (including the one-way fee to drop it off at the airport). We opted to pre-pay for gas ~$83 since we expected to use a full tank and were told that the gas station near the airport was always packed. When we passed by the next day, it wasn't, although the price would have been pretty similar that the convenience of not filling up was worth it. We also rented a device to have wifi in the car for $11, which was necessary as my phone didn’t have service (and we only lasted in the camper because of the wifi there).

Ready to go, we headed off for the Golden Circle! After the Blue Lagoon, this is probably the most touristy activity in Iceland, likely because of its close proximity to Reykjavik. However, we were going to add a few stops to the classic Golden Circle trip that the tour busses take. An hour after picking up the car, we made it to Thingvellir National Park (didn’t really notice when the road even entered the park) for our first stop at Into the Blue – Silfra Snorkeling, which is a snorkeling site in the Silfra Fissure, separating the tectonic plates. In English, you can snorkel in the water that separates the American and Eurasian continents! There are several dive companies that run tours here, but again, we booked with Arctic Adventures to get 10% off, which made this activity cost $130 a person, covered with A+.

Because the water comes from a melting glacier, it is extremely cold and extremely clear. There were lots of guides helping everyone get into their gear – first a bear suit, then a wet suit, waterproof mittens, snorkel mask and flippers. Our face under the snorkel was the only part of our body that was somewhat exposed to the temperature of the water. They told us we wouldn’t notice the ice-cold water, and they were right. However, because of the sizing of my wife’s gear, they required her to wear a belt tightened around her neck to ensure water couldn’t get in. It was much too tight and unfortunately, impacted her experience quite negatively. Nonetheless, she still had a great time. It took a while from parking till we actually got in the water (total activity time of 1:45 hours with only about 30 minutes in the water), but finally it was our turn, and the guides basically just dropped us into the water on our stomachs. Instantly, you realized this would not be a swimming experience, but rather a floating one. With so much gear on, that seemed to have inflated upon contact with the water, I could barely move my arms or flippers. But with a slow tide, we all moved along just fine. Looking down below was incredible to say the least. You really could see 100+ feet below. While there are no fish, the green and blue colors of the rocks illuminated by the sunlight were mysterious and awesome. The fissure is quite narrow and every once in a while I peeked my head above water, which reminded me that it really looked like we were just chilling in a small stream, the depths of which completely unknown to someone on land. At the end, the fissure opens up to a large cavern with more room to move around before you climb out back onto land.


Pictures taken on a GoPro with floating handle attachment
















After changing into dry clothes and getting back in the car, we decided to postpone the next two smaller stops and go straight to our scheduled Gulfoss Canyon Rafting on the Hvita River tour and afterwards backtrack to what we skipped. This was booked as well through Arctic Adventures for $100/person, covered with A+. Towards the end of the drive (put Drumboddsstaðir into Google Maps), the nice pavement road gave way to a terribly pot-holed dirt road just as the GPS stopped picking us up. It wasn’t such a big deal, as the road was mostly straight, and we drove slowly so as not to damage the rental car. We arrived about 20 minutes early, so we ate a sandwich lunch and then went inside the small building. They had changing rooms to get into bathing suits and once again into wetsuits (you definitely get wet – don’t wear socks in the boots they provide), grabbed paddles, strapped the GoPro to my helmet (seemed like everyone had one on the tour, although apparently I took the wrong pin with me because it kept slipping down) and packed into… a very old school bus. If the road was bumpy in our little car, you can only imagine what it was like in a school bus. The ride down to the river took about 20 minutes and then we loaded up into 2 rafts. We had an amazing guide and faced a few decent rapids. I was a bit surprised that there weren’t more of them, but the guide really kept things interesting and had us do some cool things in the water that kept the trip exciting throughout.




 


Along the journey, we passed by an interesting formation and the guide asked where else in Iceland you could see basalt columns. Being the Iceland-pro that I was (no big deal), I answered “Svartifoss and Reynisfjara Beach,” impressing the guide. :P However, this formation was different as the columns not only formed vertically, but horizontally as well.



At one point, they had us pull over the boats and everyone climbed out to have a chance to… jump off a cliff! Such is not my kind of thing, but my wife enjoyed the plunge!




The view of what the crazies looked down into

Back on the water, the guide took count of who had jumped in. Only myself and 1 other didn’t. That began a quest for him to find a way to get us wet. I was content sitting in my seat, but he had other plans. He tried flipping the boat several times, but to no avail. Finally, he had us stand up on opposite edges of the raft and lock oars. We each had to lean back over the water, and he said if we do it at the same time/strength, we’ll be able to hold each other up. Well, we did a fantastic job of this I must say, until of course he took his own oar and smacked our paddles making us lose balance. My dear friend fell into the cold river. I, however, anticipating such deceit, was prepared and jump back into the boat just in time. Unfortunately, though, it was time to admit defeat as I saw our 250-pound tour guide dive across the raft hitting me squarely in the chest and knocking us both into the river. My wife will let you know that I was not pleased, to say the least, as I was hoisted back up. Of course, it was all smiles afterwards :) and as it turned out we had reached the end of the 1.5 hour trip.


I guess a GoPro can come in handy for some interesting shots


Our guide

Back on solid ground, the school bus took us the 20 minutes back to base where we dried off, changed and people got ready for the included BBQ dinner. It sounded quite delish, but we got in the car and drove back to the Golden Circle activities we had skipped.

It was now 5PM, and we had several more stops to make. We headed back the way we came until we got to Strokkur Geyser. Across the street is a rest stop, where we first picked up some souvenirs and found (some very overpriced)… Ben & Jerry’s ice cream! Back on the street, you could see steam rising out of the ground by the geyser, but the geyser itself was further off the road. With the ominous sky and exhaustion hitting us, we decided that seeing the blowholes on Kauai and Maui in Hawaii were enough for us, and we just got back in the car and ran off to the next stop.




Another “ah, Iceland” scene

Gulfoss is one of the classic Golden Circle stops, and it’s really so easy to get to. Right off the road is a nice-sized parking lot and you can just walk up and gawk. There didn’t seem like a way to get a great angle/view other than from where a lone photographer was standing, somehow across the gorge. Nonetheless, the power of the falls was remarkable.



Back in the car, we were off to our final stop along our extended Golden Circle trip. Along the way, we passed by yet another horse pasture, and stopped to play.

“Okay everyone, gather around, gather around.”



“It looks like there’s a nice lady coming over who might have food, or at least offer some scratching. Go over slowly and say hi.”



“Oh Buster, if you must scratch your head against the barbed wire, so be it.”



“Here she comes… score!”



“Now nobody do anything stupid to scare her off… OH C’MON RUSSEL!”



A few minutes later, we pulled up to Secret Lagoon, another natural hot pool, amidst a slight mist. Inside, we paid $24/person and were treated to nice facilities – changing rooms, lockers and (public) showers. Outside, the waist-deep pool had about 30-40 people in it, although it was very large, so it was easy to get our own spot. There were noodles to use and parts of the pool were literally scalding hot, so you had to be careful where you went. The temperature – about what a hot tub feels like – was much hotter than the pool we visited earlier on the trip. There was beer and soda available for purchase. If you’re out this way, I recommend stopping by.



Back on the road, our last stop was supposed to be checking out Kerid Crater Lake, but it was already 9PM and this activity was only a “maybe” on my interests list, so we skipped right past it for the 1.5 hour drive back to the hotel. We parked for free in the lot and packed up our stuff before calling it a night.

On Friday morning, we were out of the hotel by 7AM to return the car to SIXT at the airport. We waited a minute for the shuttle before deciding to just walk to the airport ourselves as we could see it nearby. Check-in included some customs questions similar to what you find in Israel, but it went quickly. With not much time till the flight, we ran around looking for the lost and found office. The lady pulled out a box full of cell phones, and there it was.



The ~6 hour 10:30AM Delta flight in coach was comfortable with a surprisingly good Kosher meal from KoshAir (under the OU) of essentially cholent meat and noodles. We got into JFK at 12:30PM with plenty of time before Shabbos. This was our first time using GE and boy did it save us a lot of time at customs. We Ubered with a coupon for $3 to our friend’s house in Queens, where we picked up our car and drove home for Shabbos.

Iceland is so close to home and so incredibly amazing. We both agree that it was our most exciting trip we’ve taken. I hope by now you’ve booked your flights. :)
« Last Edit: March 01, 2019, 09:12:32 AM by jj1000 »

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #51 on: July 11, 2017, 10:30:07 PM »
Wow, sounds like a good time! Nice write up.

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #52 on: July 12, 2017, 12:08:20 AM »
Wow, great write up! I could only dream of pushing out three segments in one day ...

Awesome pics of Svartifoss, so far I'm managed to miss it on both my trips. Next time, I suppose.


From my research, the zodiac rides get a lot closer to the icebergs and the tour at Fjallsarlon is cheaper (and perhaps better per some reviews) than Jokulsarlon

Correct, but I'm afraid that won't last long - they're basically turning Fjallsarlon into Jokulsarlon. When I was there in the winter, Fjallsarlon visitor amenities consisted of nothing but a somewhat bare patch of ground for a parking lot. When I came back last summer, construction was in full swing for a huge paved parking lot, multiple buildings and visitors centers, and who knows what else. It seems the days of Fjallsarlon being a nice little secret is over .


A plane lifting off a runway?

Uh oh, looks like I started a trend of ice-pareidolia .


The camper rental came with a discount card for N1 gas stations (appears this is common practice), but nothing was in English, and I couldn’t figure out how to use the machine, so I went inside and found someone in the café to explain how to do it (not convinced I did it right / it even gave me a discount) before clicking “agree” to paying… $88.

Don't feel bad. The one time I got the discount to work it was - wait for it - 2%. You would've theoretically saved a whooping $1.76.


If I thought the “No elephants” sign from the day before was weird, what we saw on the drive out, took the crown as the weirdest sign I’ve ever seen in my life.

LMAO. I must've missed this one.

Fjadrargljufur is incredible, I'd consider it a must-see in the summer.


When we took out the camper, one of the warnings issued was to park facing the wind, so the doors don’t fly open. We hadn’t experienced any problems until then, so we weren’t ready for what happened when we parked at Reynisfjara. We clicked the handle, and the doors just flew open! As I mentioned in the intro, having insurance from the credit card was going to come in handy. The moment I heard that crack, I knew we’d be paying for damages. :(

Nearly happened to us multiple times. The wind in Iceland is something the likes I haven't experienced anywhere else, simply unbelievable.

Glad it worked out in the end.

Great shots of the basalt columns too.


Suddenly, he froze. Hand resting on my open window, face completely glazed over. My wife and I shot each other a nervous glance. As quickly as he froze, he resumed talking, then paused and asked if he just went blank for a moment. He blamed it on the long days of Icelandic summer saying how it messes with the locals’ brains. At this point, my wife and I were thinking, “Let’s get out of here!” and then he finally burst out laughing at having fooled us. Quite an interesting fellow, to say the least.

ALOL, I like this guy
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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #53 on: July 12, 2017, 12:16:01 AM »
Day Five

Silfra is another bucket list item for me, gotta do that one day. Looks like you had an awesome time.

The rafting sounds really nice too, as does the guide



Epic shot, if I may say so myself.


“Now nobody do anything stupid to scare her off… OH C’MON RUSSEL!”

LOL, love the dialog.


A few minutes later, we pulled up to Secret Lagoon, another natural hot pool, amidst a slight mist. Inside, we paid $24/person and were treated to nice facilities – changing rooms, lockers and (public) showers. Outside, the waist-deep pool had about 30-40 people in it, although it was very large, so it was easy to get our own spot. There were noodles to use and parts of the pool were literally scalding hot, so you had to be careful where you went. The temperature – about what a hot tub feels like – was much hotter than the pool we visited earlier on the trip. There was beer and soda available for purchase. If you’re out this way, I recommend stopping by.

Blasphemy! You should've instead gone to the Blue Lagoon, paid a couple hundred dollars, and been packed in with 500 other people.


Back on the road, our last stop was supposed to be checking out Kerid Crater Lake, but it was already 9PM and this activity was only a “maybe” on my interests list, so we skipped right past it for the 1.5 hour drive back to the hotel.

Good call. I was thoroughly underwhelmed. Nice stop if you're in the area, but totally not worth driving out for.
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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #54 on: July 12, 2017, 01:35:26 AM »
I really enjoyed the TR, incredible pics and engaging writing as usual!
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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #55 on: July 12, 2017, 07:55:44 AM »
Yehuda this was amazing!! You are a natural writer!! Can I ask what total cost was minus the flights and hotels?

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #56 on: July 12, 2017, 09:32:19 AM »
Awesome pictures and write up!
Wow, sounds like a good time! Nice write up.
I really enjoyed the TR, incredible pics and engaging writing as usual!
Yehuda this was amazing!! You are a natural writer!! Can I ask what total cost was minus the flights and hotels?
Thank you all for the kind words! :)
Total cost excluding flights and hotels (but including camper and things I used A+ points for) was $2900. Iceland is not cheap, be financially prepared for that.

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #57 on: July 12, 2017, 09:38:34 AM »
Fishy, fishy, thanks for all the thoughts. My comments in red. Thanks for the photo compliments! ;D
Wow, great write up! I could only dream of pushing out three segments in one day ... I had been writing them for a while, but not posting because I feel that every time I post a segment, I think I deserve a break and then don't work on it for weeks/months. This way, I kept it all backlogged till I finished.

Correct, but I'm afraid that won't last long - they're basically turning Fjallsarlon into Jokulsarlon. When I was there in the winter, Fjallsarlon visitor amenities consisted of nothing but a somewhat bare patch of ground for a parking lot. When I came back last summer, construction was in full swing for a huge paved parking lot, multiple buildings and visitors centers, and who knows what else. It seems the days of Fjallsarlon being a nice little secret is over . Glad to have gotten my chance now then.

Don't feel bad. The one time I got the discount to work it was - wait for it - 2%. You would've theoretically saved a whooping $1.76. Sheesh

ALOL, I like this guy
LOL, love the dialog. Hehe :)

Blasphemy! You should've instead gone to the Blue Lagoon, paid a couple hundred dollars, and been packed in with 500 other people. Whoops! Must have missed it. ::)

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #58 on: July 12, 2017, 10:21:33 AM »
Workflowy. You won't know what you're missing until you try it.

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #59 on: July 12, 2017, 10:24:18 AM »
Wonderful trip report! It makes me want to go back.