The Land of Fire and Ice

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October 13th 2013
Published: October 13th 2013
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Don't mess with Iceland, as the locals are wont to say with a wry smile. We may not have cash, but we've got ash! And ash and more ash when it comes down to it. In fact the land of fire and ice has around 130 volcanic mountains, so it's perfectly understandable if the locals are prone to getting a little hot under the collar. But actually this isn't the case, and the welcome I've received from the Icelandic people has been wonderful. The term going off has more than one meaning, so leaving aside the extremely volatile volcanoes it proves to be an apt description of the nightlife in gorgeous Reykjavik. This city of 120,000 people has a legendary reputation as a party town on the weekends, and to be part of the Arctic after dark experience is something to live on in the memory of travellers.

So here we are again, the lovely reader, sharing the privilege of another get together, as I commence a five week odyssey in the Arctic. The flight from Sydney had a European stopover in Amsterdam, as incredibly there are no direct flights from Sydney to Iceland! With six hours to spare before my connecting flight with Icelandair, I was happy to spend a 24 hour layover in gorgeous Amsterdam to enjoy all the city has to offer again. Amsterdam is one of the great cities of Europe, and I'm delighted to be here again recharging the batteries, and getting out and about in the most famous city in the Netherlands. However I was galvanised with a sense of excitement having the opportunity to explore the exotic Arctic, and it was a great feeling to board the plane for the three hour flight to Reykjavik. The airport at Keflavik organises a Scandinavian style super efficient service from the airport 50 kilometres to the city, and then onwards in minibuses to the door of your chosen hotel. I was booked at the famous Kex hostel, and in reality it's almost a misnomer using the term hostel when describing the best booking options around the world. The hostels tend to be so good nowadays they draw locals to the bars like magnets, and the legendary Kex hostel is no exception.

Having settled into the hostel, I had the chance to meet my friendly roomies, and then got out and about to explore the capital of Iceland. The hostel is only two blocks from the main strip, and Reykjavik is one of those capital cities just big enough to have a buzz, but not so big as to make the travel experience overwhelming or unmanageable. It's just right as the saying goes! Iceland is another country built on the tradition of the Vikings; the extraordinarily brave seafaring warriors who sailed out in to the great unknown of the North Atlantic ocean over a thousand years ago. Eventually they did strike landfall and ultimately settled in this unimaginably wild, volatile, and beautiful country. And what a country it is they had the privilege of discovering, completely wild and untamed, a country that will never succumb to the petty whims of mankind. This country will always have only one boss, and mother nature makes an emphatic statement when she deigns to unleash her might and power on the island. Reykjavik is a beautiful little city, and settling in for several days exploring town has been just the ticket to kick off this European adventure. However, when you come to Iceland it's mandatory to get amongst it.

Jung from Extreme Iceland tours picked me up at 9:00am for the two day glacier tour, and I greeted my fellow travellers as I boarded the minibus. We stopped off at the office to ensure everyone was sorted for hiking boots, and then headed south. The first two stops were at lovely waterfalls, where we strolled around, took photos, and were able to walk under the waterfall at Skogenfoss. Then we powered on through an extraordinary 50 kilometre lava field. The jagged black rocks returned to earth after an eruption from many kilometres in the sky, and the field stretches on endlessly. Nature is gradually reclaiming the terrain as bright green moss takes over the field, giving a colour to the jagged terrain I've never experienced. Once you start travelling through Iceland, however, once in a lifetime scenery becomes a regular occurrence. I'm be no means claiming to be blase about the island, it's simply a certainty visitors will see extraordinary and unique scenery. Iceland is a one of a kind travel destination and gobsmackingly beautiful!

We headed on to Dirholaey, where our tour team witnessed a first sighting of the black sand beach. The cause of this phenomena is volcanic ash, the Icelanders sure do have ash! It's truly remarkable looking at a beach with jet black sand, I've never seen anything like it in a lifetime of travel. Stunning rock formations jut out from the coast, the hills and mountains are jagged, largely treeless, and beautiful beyond words. Super cool Icelandic horses are everywhere, as are the unique Icelandic sheep who seem to think they are mountain goats. You can gaze up on any steep hill and see these woolly critters grazing in the most precarious places close to the summit. There must be some good grass up there, and Jung told us the farmers rouse them down on horseback for shearing. Our first day concluded at dusk with glorious views of Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. What a stunning place, I absolutely loved it. There are icebergs everywhere in the lagoon, and the tongue of the glacier as a backdrop is as good as it gets. We were clouded over for the tour, so didn't have the chance to see the breathtaking Northern Lights reflected on the lagoon. If you get a chance, check out the photos on the Extreme Iceland website, they are absolutely phenomenal. Anyways, we checked in to high quality accommodation, and the group was buzzing with exhilaration after a wonderful day.

Next morning after brekkie we headed back to a different part of Jokulsarlon, and headed out on an amphibious boat ride for an hour on the glacier lagoon. The guide was great, very knowledgeable and friendly, and the scenery simply off the charts. Then we stopped off at another black sand beach, with blocks of ice dotting the shore line. Words can't describe how surreal this looks, so I won't even try except to say it was many shades of awesome! Just when we thought the tour couldn't get any better we stopped off at the tongue of Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe, to walk on the glacier after fitting crampons. Jung told us he once went across the entire glacier, it took our hero twelve days! I have not walked on a glacier since Franz Josef more than ten years ago, and had forgotten what an exhilarating and stunning experience it is. We followed our guide in single file through some precarious areas, and he even gave us the chance to try ice climbing. Everyone loved our time on the glacier, and we were in great spirits for the three hour drive back to Reykjavik at the conclusion of an unforgettable tour, one of the best ever!

I met up to party with some of the team well after midnight, as I was running late because of a woman in my bed. Normally that would be good news, but on this occasion it was due to a mix up. I'd been down in the bar after checking in, and went back to get some stuff prior to heading out to find this unusual discovery. I headed back downstairs to check with the staff and they upgraded me, but it did entail a change of room in the dark after midnight. It's pretty stressful packing all your stuff so late with everyone in bed and the lights out, and I already had a couple of beers under my belt. But I don't think I lost anything so it's all good! Anyways, we had to get a taste of the legendary Reykjavik nightlife on a saturday night partying on down till late. We crawled through a few pubs, and chatted in an animated fashion. I was the last of our group to leave at closing time, as usual, eventually crawling into an empty bed sometime after five in the morning. I confirm those Icelandic ragers really do know how to party, basically all of you should be here now!

"A woman at 20 is like ice, at 30 she is warm and at 40 she is hot." Gina Lollibrigida

As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now


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14th October 2013

Many shades of awesome, indeed!
Great blog and that first photo is a stunner! Excellent video too, and the music--Write It Down is inspirational for us Travelbloggers. Curious how dark it was, and it\'s only October. What must December look like?
14th October 2013

One of our favorite places
A 5 week Odyssey in the arctic. We are so jealous but thankful you are sharing. Love the block of ice photo. Be safe & have fun.
15th October 2013
Iceberg reflections

Enjoy the cool vistas...and the cool music in Iceland. Hope you have a ball.
15th October 2013

It's lovely to read how you describe Iceland!
Hi Tom :) We at Extreme Iceland are very glad that to hear that you enjoyed our 2 day tour to the South Coast and Jokulsarlon so much, and Iceland in general :) And I must say, I really love your writing style! Best regards, Perla.
16th October 2013

sounds like you definitely had a great time! the photos are lovely. enjoy the rest of the trip. x

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