Copenhagen

by Colleen Morrow in


So technically, we didn't go to Iceland. Technically, we went for a weekend to Copenhagen and had a 7-day layover in Iceland. We chose Copenhagen cause there was a really good seat sale and we got the tickets for next to nothing.

And I'm so glad we did.  It was a great couple of days in a beautiful city.

We arrived very early on Friday morning and after dropping bags off at our hotel, we found a coffee shop for some breakfast (and I may have had a little snooze) before heading up to Copenhagen's Torvehallerne market for our food tour. The tour was great - we stopped in a number of places, trying cheeses and juices and wines and beers and sandwiches and hot dogs and chocolates and candies and caramels. Our guide was a Montreal native but has been in Copenhagen since the late 80's and was full of really interesting stories about the city. It was a great way to tour around the city, we've become big fans of the food tour and this one didn't disappoint.

From there, we went to Rosenborg, one of the many castles in the city and the home of the crown jewels. The castle was modest compared to some we've seen so it didn't take long to tour through it. The throne room was beautiful. Hilariously, the king's throne is made of narwal tusks but he told everyone that it was made from unicorn horns. And they didn't have Google back then so they just took his word for it. There are also these three amazing silver lions that are in front of the thrones to guard the monarchs. Also hilariously, 12 were ordered but they were so expensive, they could only get three. Both of these hilarious stories were told to us by the security person in the room, who was so delightful to talk to. Then it was down to see the crown jewels. The crowns of the King and Queen were impressive but the Queen's jewels were really, really impressive. Only the Queen is allowed to wear them and she can only wear them in Denmark so they don't get out much. 

After that, we went back to Torvehallerne and picked up some crackers and cheese and meat and wine and dessert for a little smorgasbord dinner of our own creation, which was delicious.

Our Saturday was jam-packed. We were going to take in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale house until we realized it was a Ripley's museum with a light show, not a preservation of a home he lived in. So we walked down one of the pedestrian streets over to Nyhavn, where the most famous views of Copenhagen are and caught a canal tour instead. The canal tour was a great way to see a lot of the city in a short amount of time, seeing the old stock exchange, parliament, the opera house, and the Little Mermaid's back side, among other things. Once back on land, we walked down to see the Little Mermaid's front side, which was one of the things I was most excited for. 

Then, it was on to Paper Island, an old paper warehouse that has been converted into a street food market. Think food trucks but inside and a bunch of them. It was crazy busy and nearly impossible to find anywhere to sit down once you had something to eat. We ended up stuffing ourselves with duck-fat fries, falafel, carbonara, fresh juice, creme brûlée donuts (they brûléed the donuts!) and a traditional apple cake. SO DELICIOUS. Good thing the next thing on our list was a walk through Christiania, the anarchist community of Copenhagen. They've proclaimed themselves as autonomous from the city and the EU. It's a very popular tourist destination now, though they frown on photographs, probably because they are pretty open about cannabis in the neighbourhood.

Then, it was back to the hotel before one last dinner (delicious! Seriously, the food in Copenhagen is amazing) and a short sleep before a very early flight back to Toronto. It was just long enough in Copenhagen to whet my Scandinavian appetite and now I'm really eager to go back to Denmark for a longer visit :)

 


Southeast and Southwest Iceland

by Colleen Morrow in


Yeah, that was a long day in the car.  Even though we were on the ring road, parts of it were still gravel and there were some pretty steep climbs and descents through a couple of mountains.  But we got to see some incredible sights so I think the driving was worth it. 

After somewhere around 4 hours in the car, we reached Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon, which was amazing.  It's this huge lake, somewhere around 25 square kilometres where chunks break off of Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull (Iceland's largest glacier and the largest ice cap not on one of the poles.) They move through through the lagoon down to the ocean.  Sadly, the lagoon is growing rather rapidly as the glacier recedes at a rate of nearly 500m per year. But it is really beautiful with all the icebergs floating around in this lake and hanging out. It can take them up to 5 years to make their way from the glacier to the ocean so there's not a whole lot of action going on.  But we did get to see one break up and shift around before the pieces settled again, though, one drifted out to the ocean. We also took some time to wander on the beach, where icebergs are hanging out on the shore, walking amongst them. It is one of the most unique things I've ever seen. Also, it turns out that at least part of Die Another Day takes places there so now I'm interested in seeing my first Bond movie.  

From there, it was over to Skaftafell for a bit of a hike. The day was starting to wind down and the weather wasn't looking awesome so we opted for a 3.7km walk to Skaftafellsjökull, another part of Vatnajökull. This part of the glacier is really dirty from volcanic ash and it just felt so desolate. We also got caught in a downpour in which there was either really painful rain or hail hitting us. It was a good thing it was our last stop for the day because we were so soaked, we couldn't have the heat on in the car because the water just accumulated on the windows and we couldn't see where we were going. Luckily, we found our hotel and got into some warm, dry clothes and then had a glass of wine to make sure everything was okay. 

The next morning, it was off for more beaches and waterfalls. Which makes it sound like a beautiful day but it was really cold and windy. We started at Reynisfjara, which is one of the top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world. The waves were massive, crashing onto the black pebble beach and it felt so gloomy and moody with the dark sky and all the wind. I can't decide if I would rather have seen it on a calm, sunny day because it really was spectacular as we saw it.

From there, we headed on to Skógafoss, a rather high waterfall, whose spray stopped us from getting too close to the foot of the falls, though some brave souls went very close.  There was also a set of stairs that you could climb up to the top of the falls so we took all 450-ish steps to the top and wandered along the river for a short distance until we came to another smaller set of falls that I thought were more beautiful but were definitely smaller.  Then it was off to Seljalandsfoss, another falls that had a path that went in behind it.  Again, the wind was in full force so the spray was going everywhere. But the view from behind the falls was beautiful. We also took the time to wander over to Gljúfrabúi, which is this little waterfall that tumbles into a hidden canyon that you can make your way into. And OMG, it was amazing. This may have actually been my favourite few moments of the trip, which is too bad because with all the spray, it was impossible to get a photo that does it justice. 

From there, we made our way to our last stop for the day, Raufarhólshellir. It's a lava tube that's about 1.3km long. I don't know how far we made it it - we had to turn back because it was getting too steep for me to climb. But what we did see was really cool. The entry is fairly big with a lot of light and it's fairly easy to navigate. There's a "skylight" not too far in, letting lots of light in. And then you start going deeper in and it gets dark very quick. It was really rocky, which wasn't what I expected. I was surprised at how varied the rocks were in colour and how different the walls of the tube could be from one spot to the next. We had headlamps, which was good because I don't know how you'd hold a flashlight and clamour over some of the rocks. 

From there, it was on to our last hotel of the night to get a good night's sleep before heading out to the Golden Circle on our last day in Iceland. The Golden Circle is what most people do if they only do a two or three days in the country. It consists of Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir.

We started at Gullfoss, which is a double cascade and Iceland's most famous waterfall. It was quite sunny when we arrived, which made it a rather warm walk down to the falls and back. It wasn't sunny enough for rainbows to appear but it was still very impressive. Then it was on to Geysir. Or, more specifically Strokkur. Geysir doesn't erupt much anymore - I overhead a guide tell a group that it's only erupted once this year. But Strokkur is very active. It goes every 10 minutes or so. We didn't have to wait long to see it. Interestingly, you can see the steam coming up from the geyser and you can see which way the steam is blowing. And you can see how wet the ground is on one side of the geyser. Yet people still seemed surprised when they got drenched during an eruption. We stood far away from that particular spot and enjoyed two eruptions before wandering on to take a look at Geysir before driving off.

Þingvellir was our last stop for the day. It's the site of the world's first democratic parliament, and it's also on a tectonic plate boundary, so it was a double-whammy of cool stuff. They have a  good guess at the exact spot where the parliament was, which isn't far from a pool they used to drown women found guilty of adultery or infanticide. Our guidebook didn't tell us where they used to drown men guilty of the same crimes and I didn't get a chance to google it before we went so that pool will remain a mystery to me. 

From there, we headed back to the airport for our weekend in Copenhagen. Sadly, the cloudy weather made it impossible to see the Northern Lights again after our night in Mývatn. But we did get to see them once plus Iceland was absolutely beautiful so I think the trip was a success. It was a really wonderful week and I highly recommend it to anyone but strongly encourage you to pack a hat and a good windbreaker. 

Glacier lagoon.  Awesome!

Glacier lagoon.  Awesome!

One of the top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world.  GORGEOUS.

One of the top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world.  GORGEOUS.

It was so windy, the wind literally blew this little waterfall away. 

It was so windy, the wind literally blew this little waterfall away. 

Gljúfrabúi, possibly my favourite thing of the week

Gljúfrabúi, possibly my favourite thing of the week

Gullfoss is so pretty.

Gullfoss is so pretty.


North and East Iceland

by Colleen Morrow in


We packed up and left Stykkishólmur very early to get a jump on our long day of driving. After getting back to the ring road, we spent several hours in the car heading to Goðafoss, a stunning waterfall. We could see the spray from the waterfall from quite a distance and were able to get very close to the falls for a very good look at them. Despite it being rather dull for most of the drive, once we got to Goðafoss, the sun peaked out through the clouds and we seemed to leave the rain behind us. 

After Goðafoss, headed to Mývatn. As we got closer to the lake - and closer to the volcano - the landscape changed to crazy lava formations, which were really something to see. After checking in to our remote hotel (so remote, they don't need to put a password on their wifi) we wandered around some psuedocraters, which were created when lava flowed into the lake and set off a series of gas explosions, leading to the water under the surface boiled and popped. They were very interesting but the fun part for me was that sheep were sharingo the area and we got to get very close to a few. From there, we went to the Mývatn Nature Baths where we relaxed in the hot water, excellent after a long day of driving.  Then, after some dinner, we hunkered down at our remote hotel to see if the Northern Lights would show themselves.

And they did.

They weren't very bright but it was cool to see them get stronger and then fade, moving across the sky. We went back out for a second look but they seemed weaker so I headed back in for some sleep. But EDP stayed out quite a while and said they got quite strong for a while and he managed to get some red in his photos, whereas before, we were just getting green. 

Today was a bit less driving but we stopped at Dettifoss and Selfoss. Dettifoss is the waterfall with the most volume in Europe and given how much that water thundered over the falls, I don't doubt it. Because it was a sunny but very windy day, we saw several rainbows over the base of the falls as the spray came up the canyon. We then made our way to Selfoss, which we both thought was much better than Dettifoss. Yes, it wasn't as big but it was almost v-shaped so the water tumbled over the edge and into itself. Plus, we could get incredibly close, which was awesome. 

Then, it was on to Seyðisfjörður, driving through mountains to get here. Seyðisfjörður is right at the base of one of the fjords and is a darling little town. Our guesthouse is beautiful with a great view of the bay. Sadly, the wind has kept us off the balcony but we have nice big windows to enjoy the view from. The drive down into the town had amazing views and little waterfalls all over the place. The town has pretty much closed up for winter, though, so there's not much happening but it's been nice to have a little break and just wander and relax. It's off to dinner soon before heading off for a really full day tomorrow - with a hike, checking out a glacier lagoon and nearly 7 hours of driving. Yikes. 

Goðafoss. Not half bad, eh?

Goðafoss. Not half bad, eh?

Selfoss.  Even better, right? 

Selfoss.  Even better, right? 

And this one was just on the side of the road! 

And this one was just on the side of the road! 

And this one was on our way to our final destination for the day

And this one was on our way to our final destination for the day


Reykjavik and West Iceland

by Colleen Morrow in


Iceland is gorgeous.  

After a mostly uneventful flight to Reykjavik (I was just filling out forms for a lost bag when EDP found our second bag on the wrong baggage carousel) we arrived at our hotel very, very late into the night and settled down to sleep right away.

In the morning, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast (I assume the pineapple and cantaloupe were local?) and then headed off to explore the city. We wandered for a while, enjoying the ducks and swans in the Tjörnin before heading up to Hallgrímskirkja, with its gorgeous organ. From there, we headed to the National Gallery before it was time for hot chocolate and a cookie (sandwich, if you're EDP) and a stroll up the main shopping street in Reykjavik. 

After dinner, we tried to catch the Northern Lights.  They had been so active the day of our arrival, they shut the lights off in the city so people could see them better. Sadly for us, we arrived well after that and on our hunting expedition, despite being active, the cloud cover and light pollution in the city made them impossible to find.  

This morning, we headed out for the first day of our ring road trip. We started in West Iceland, stopping only a few times for photos, though the scenery is positively breathtaking at times. The lava fields are incredible and the mountains are beautiful. Our first stop was at Lóndrangar in Snæefellsjökull National Park. There are two enormous rock pillars that are what's left from an enormous crater made out of basalt. Locals say elves use the lava formations as a church. We didn't see any elves but the pillars were stunning. 

From there, we continued driving to Kirkjufell, a mountain that is one of the most photographed spots in Iceland. We followed some sheep on the way there for a bit before they veered off the road for a snack, we thought maybe they were on vacation and heading there, too, but alas, we must have departed before they arrived. The mountain is very different than what you'd expect.  It's a light brown colour and very steep with many small cliff faces as you ascend. The waterfalls by the mountain were also very beautiful, falling over rocks onto black sand. 

From there, we headed into Stykkishólmur, a charming fishing village. We wandered up to Súgandisy, a basalt island with dramatic views of Breiðafjörður, the bay. It's amazing how the quickly the landscape changes, we could see lots of islands and fjords and they all seemed to be different. 

Tomorrow, we head towards Mývatn. It's a long driving day so we'll be at it early. Sadly, the cloud cover tonight is worse than last night so there's pretty much no chance of seeing the Northern Lights tonight. Cross your fingers for us that tomorrow is better! 

Sólvar sculpture, along the waterfront in Reykjavik

Sólvar sculpture, along the waterfront in Reykjavik

Somewhere along our drive today. I think maybe just outside of Borgarnes? 

Somewhere along our drive today. I think maybe just outside of Borgarnes? 

The pillars at Lóndrangar  

The pillars at Lóndrangar  

The waterfall at Kirkjufell

The waterfall at Kirkjufell