Monday, 25 April 2016

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

In order to share my experience of visiting Iceland in winter, I would like to show some pictures and itineraries of two winter trips: one in November on the South coast and the other in March on the North coast.


Trip 1 (November) – South Coast

Day 1 & 2: Blue Lagoon (tip #1: do not leave your towel outside, it will freeze! tip #2: book your ticket in advance) and Golden Circle, the weather is terrible (a lot of wind and rain) but we have beautiful rainbows everywhere.

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Day 3: We see the famous falls Seljalandsfoss and Skogarfoss. The big difference with summer is that we’re the only tourists and there’s no long line to walk behind Seljalandsfoss! (but it’s very slippery).

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

We don’t go to sleep: we cannot detach our eyes from the dancing northern lights, which appear on every side of the sky!

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Day 4: Like in summer, Dyrhólaey is intense and dramatic (but no puffins). We drive to Jökulsárlón which is the furthest point of our trip. The landscape is definitely like nothing we’ve seen before, we feel like we’re on another planet and driving surrounded by glacier tongues and volcanos is a little intimidating…

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Day 5: The good news about winter light is that it’s almost always sunrise or sunset (daylight is between 9am to 5pm). After Jökulsárlón’s beach, we take a guided walk on Vatnajökull glacier, and hike to see Svartifoss.

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Day 6: We drive from Kirkjubæjarklaustur to Selfoss and stop at Vík. Since it’s been snowing during the night, the landscapes look very different!

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland


Day 7: We spend our last day around Reykjavik, Seltún and Hvalfjörður for a last colorful sunset.

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip 2 (March) – North Coast

Day 1: We drive from Reykjavik to Akureyri, stopping at Grábrók and Varmahlíð on the way.

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Day 2: We stay along the fjord next to Akureyri and visit the herring museum in Siglufjörður. The clouds are low but the landscapes are still impressing. 

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

We enjoy the outdoor swimming pool of Akureyri under the snowflakes, and are lucky to see northern lights from 2am to 5am!

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Day 3: We drive to Myvatn, and are surprised not to see any lake… it is completely frozen! We find a wonderfully warm water in Myvatn Nature Baths though (bring a hat and a beer if you want to do as local people do).

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Day 4: We decide to walk to Krafla, the caldera and lava field; however 2 meters of snow cover the paths! I would not recommend this walk in winter because snow can be tender because of the steam of the lava field, creating holes that you can’t foresee. We were also caught in a sudden snow storm and had a hard time walking against the wind and seeing each other.

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Day 5 & 6: We head back to Reykjavik, stopping in Vatnsnes peninsula to see seals. We are lucky because the road conditions get worse around Akureyri and a portion of the road is closed the next day! 

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

To summarize: landscapes

As you have seen, the colors are really different in fall, winter, and summer. I found the three atmospheres quite interesting, here are comparisons:  

Trip Report – Winter Holidays in Iceland

6 days Itinerary Iceland

Other pictures of Iceland in August:

6 days Itinerary Iceland

6 days Itinerary Iceland

6 days Itinerary Iceland

6 days Itinerary Iceland

Driving

Road 1 was a bit tricky around Myvatn in March because everything was white and you had to spot the yellow poles to know where the road was (not easy on the second picture!).

And even if we had a 4wd in March, it didn’t prevent us from ending like this because we couldn’t distinguish the road from the shoulder! 

6 days Itinerary Iceland

6 days Itinerary Iceland

6 days Itinerary Iceland

Clothing

You will never be too warm in Iceland! It was around 0°C (32°F) during the day and -8°C (16°F) during the night, but the wind makes you feel much colder. Prepare to bring ski clothes: tights and waterproof trousers, layers of warm clothes and fleece jacket, water and windproof jacket, scarf, gloves, hat covering ears, waterproof boots… and a swim-suit!

Food

There are not many restaurants and shops outside Reykjavik… but if you plan accordingly you can eat very well in Iceland. Try having food supply in your car to make sandwiches during the day, and ask the B&B or hotel where you’re staying to prepare a hot dinner for you (arctic char, meatballs or lamb are delicious).

6 days Itinerary Iceland

To conclude: beautiful colors and landscapes, nobody around, and a little adventure… Winter made me fall in love with this country! To see other pictures of my travels.

Catherine Kungler Kherian
© 2016 Iceland24

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Krafla Caldera - Planning a Trip in Myvatn and Krafla

Krafla is a volcanic area in the northeast of Iceland, and one of Iceland’s largest lava lover lures. Craters, cones, pools and geothermal heat – Krafla has it all.

Krafla is basically a 10 kilometre wide caldera which contains volcanoes – the latter containing a small azure-coloured geothermal pool and the former containing Iceland’s deepest lake. Both are inland in the Highlands and only accessible in the height of summer.


But the Krafla area starts close to Lake Mývatn and only a few minutes’ drive from Reykjahlíð village. At this convenient nearest point, accessible in any car, you will find the remains of the lengthy mid-80s eruption. This means a large, relatively flat area to explore and the opportunity to get up close and personal to spiky lava, hot pools, bubbling mud, ‘eggy’ sulphur smells and the expansive power station in the area.

The large Krafla geothermal power station takes full advantage of the volcanism in the area and its run-off is used in the lovely Mývatn Nature Baths. The site is also home to the first drill hole of the fascinatingly exciting Iceland Deep Drilling Project.


The project looks to harness the power of “super critical” water in energy generation and this involves drilling down to the lava where large quantities of water can quickly be heated to over 400°C. The project aims to drill around 4 km below the surface – but at Krafla the scientists and engineers hit lava at just 2,500 metres. That’s shallow!

Krafla is a sensitive site and is easily damaged by people walking around and exploring. That is the reason the site is so well marked with footpaths and trails. These, combined with the good car park and bathroom facilities make Krafla a good place to go hiking with children and people with somewhat reduced mobility. The paths may be suitable for wheelchairs in good weather, although they can get soft and muddy in wet conditions.


Krafla is the best place to see first-hand where Iceland comes from. The whole country used to look like this at one point – as in fact did almost every country if you look far enough back into prehistory. It makes a good contrast with places like the Reykjanes peninsula down south, which features the same sort of landscape, except a few thousand years older. The difference is at once both stark and surprisingly little.


One thing is for sure: we all owe our lives to volcanoes and given long enough, Krafla will develop into remarkably fertile soil. But none of us will be alive to see that…

Krafla Geothermal Power Station

Development for harnessing of geothermal steam at Krafla, near Lake Mývatn in north Iceland, began with trial boreholes in 1974. Construction work commenced in the summer of 1975. The powerhouse and other structures were designed for two 30 MW turbines.

The station was initially designed and built for the Icelandic State and was run by the Krafla executive committee and later taken over by the State Electric Power Works. In 1985 Landsvirkjun purchased the Krafla station from the State.


Various initial difficulties were encountered in exploration and drilling for steam, largely due to seismic and volcanic activity which caused corrosive magma vapours to enter the geothermal system, destroying the borehole linings. A series of nine volcanic eruptions began in the vicinity of the station in December, 1975 and lasted intermittently until September 1984. Seismic and volcanic impact on operations at Krafla has been gradually diminished since then.

In 1996, Landsvirkjun decided to complete the install action of the second unit. Drilling for steam began immediately using improved drilling technology which has proved highly successful. Electricity production from the second unit began in November 1997, and since late 1998, the Krafla station has been operated with full capacity of 60 MW, as originally planned.

Get there by bus from Mývatn
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Berglind Rós
Iceland24

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

If you go to the northwest region of Iceland, you will find a peninsula, which resembles a deformed dragon. This is one of the oldest regions of Iceland and the ancient volcanoes created it.

Thanks to the ancient volcanoes, it is a remarkable landscape that towers above the mountains and deep fjords and when you look at it from a map, you will think you are looking at saw teeth. If you want to see, nature at its finest Ísafjörður, Iceland is the place for you to come.

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

Ísafjörður happens to be the largest town found in Westfjords. It is so big it covers almost an entire fjord. On the map, it is the breathtaking mountain landscape. Additionally, since there is a thin band between the shoreline and the outskirts of town, one can easily see just how large it is.

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

This natural region allows you to see that it has history, especially since most of the buildings are made of wood. In fact, Ísafjörður takes pride in having one of the oldest buildings in all of Iceland, which originated back in 1757.

Ísafjörður works hard to insure that they stay full of culture and have many things going on. They have amazing restaurants, a great music scene, and they have a variety of festivals that take place during the year. Some of the more popular events are the Music Festival, during Easter, and the European mud football championships, during August. Ísafjörður is also home of the best bakery in Iceland, which means this is a place that you must visit during your Iceland trip!

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

Many people focus on visiting Reykjavik and Akureyri yet if you do not make a visit to Ísafjörður while in the area you are really missing out.

Ísafjörður is an amazing place for hiking and mountain climbing. During the winter, you can even take advantage of skiing and exploring the natural hot pots. The waterfalls will leave you speechless as well as the bird cliffs.

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

Areas Close to Ísafjörður That Has Amazing Things to Do

Ísafjörður is close to many villages via the tunnel such as Sudureyri, Flateyri and Thingeyri.  The tunnel that connects it to other towns has been around since 1996 and every one hundred meters there is a meeting place.

Sudureyri

Sudureyri is approximately 23 km from Ísafjörður and has the nickname “original fishing village”. You can take a tour here to see fishermen, the fish factory, or act as a fisherman yourself. There are also hiking tours and geothermal outdoor swimming pools to make sure that your stay is satisfying. Go to the Tourist Information Office for additional details.

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

Flateyri

Flateyri is approximately 23 km from Ísafjörður and is home of “The Old Bookstore”, which is a museum that brilliantly displays all of the history of the village.

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

Thingeyri

Thingeyri is approximately 49 km from Ísafjörður, which is where you will find the legendary Icelandic sagas. Additionally, while here you can hike and swim. Many tourists come here for Westfjord’s highest mountain.

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

Hrafnseyri

Hrafnseyri is approximately 66 km from Ísafjörður and is the birthplace of Jon Sigurdsson. There is also a museum dedicated to his memory, which opens during the summer months.

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

Closing Thoughts

If you want to drive to Reykjavik from Ísafjörður, expect to spend approximately six hours traveling, if during the winter longer. However, you could take a domestic flight; they leave twice a day, and the flight only takes forty minutes tops. During the summer time, you can take an intercity coach or one of the Reykjavik busses, which would take you to Hólmavík year round. From Hólmavík you can hike, though it is not advisable.

The winter months make travelling difficult because of the weather conditions but majority of the time some mode of transportation will be available. Locals have also been known to take you to where you need to go when your flight is cancelled as long as you pay for the petrol for their car.

Ísafjörður Guide - Things to do in Ísafjörður

Overall, if you plan to visit Ísafjörður during the winter months it is recommended that you go at the beginning or the middle of your trip. This way you can more flexible if transportation is delayed and you can enjoy all that the town has to offer.

Mike, Iceland24
© 2016 Iceland24