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Iceland and Greenland

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S: Iceland and Greenland

FC: Iceland and Greenland | July 2012

1: Iceland | Reykjavik | Glacier Walk | Godafoss Waterfall | Westman Islands | Hot Springs | Whale Watching | Blue Lagoon | Geysers | Gulfoss Waterfall | Horse Farm | Puffins

2: Iceland

3: Urridafoss | We arrived in Iceland about 6:30AM and started our drive along the south coast to catch our ferry to the Westman Islands. Our first stop was Urridafoss waterfall.

4: Ferry to Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) | We stopped for breakfast (finally!) and continued on to the ferry. A front had come in and it started to rain but luckily the seas weren't rough. After a 90 minute sail, we entered Heimaey Harbor sailing past rugged cliffs covered with nesting birds.

5: Heimaey Harbor

6: Puffin catcher

7: On our way to our hotel we stopped at a fish market where Oddur bought us some dried fish to sample. We chewed and chewed and were finally able to swallow the fish. Not something I'd try again. | Different color fish were painted on all the streets leading to various points of interest. | Oddur Eiriksson, our Trip Leader | Heimaey

8: Stave Church | We walked to this church in the pouring rain. It's a Norse timber building, given as a gift from the Norwegians to commemorate 1000 years of Christianity in Iceland. | Our walk took us over a hill, past these sculptures to the aquarium and then on to the cemetery.

9: Saeheimar Aquarium | The aquarium was small but had some unusual specimens. They even had an immature puffin which we could hold.

10: The cemetery was buried under six feet of ash after the 1973 volcanic eruption. The people spent months cleaning the graves. | Later we had a bus tour of the island. Our driver was a teenager when the volcano erupted; he told us how the town was evacuated with no casualties. He also talked about how he returned to see his family home. The house was practically buried; ash was up to the third floor windows!

11: Our first stop was high on a hill. It was still raining and extremely windy but we were able to get our first real look at puffins. They seemed to be posing for us.

12: The eruption continued for five months, reshaping the island and adding about 15% to its area. Heimaey now has a large protected harbor. We stopped to see some of the houses partially buried by the lava and ash. | This was a water tank that was destroyed by the lava flow. | Volcanic Eruption of 1973

13: We drove to the new crater, Eldfell, to see the cone. If anything, the rain was coming down harder and the wind almost blew us off the side of the volcano.

14: Sagnheimar Folk Museum | The museum had an exhibit about the volcanic eruption with pictures of some of the more than 300 homes that went up in flames. | There was also a nice description of the fishing industry with several boat models. | Colorful rain jackets

15: Storhofdi Lava Walk

16: The sun was shining for our lava hike. We climbed up a 200 foot cliff and saw how the lava came right into the town. There were signs on the lava showing where the streets had been. Most of the lava fields are now covered with grass and flowers. | Lava Walk

17: We continued our walk through a flower field to the Stave Church. We were able to admire it more in the sunlight.

18: Heimaey Harbor

20: Heimaey Island Boat Trip | Early the next morning, we walked to the harbor for our boat ride around the island. The sun was shining but unfortunately we had heavy swells - about 18 to 20 feet. The trip was scary but still enjoyable - saw lots of birds and nice scenery. | Our boat, the Viking

23: As we were returning to the harbor, we entered this cave. It was large enough to completely turn the boat around. The captain shut off the engine and played his saxophone. The music echoed off the walls - it was very moving. | Heimaey Island Boat Trip

24: After a delicious lunch of a ham, prawns, rice and leek crepe, we drove to the airport for our flight to Reykjavik. The 20 minute flight was on a small, 26 passenger prop. We drove to the Hilton, relaxed a bit then walked to the Botanical and Sculpture Gardens. | Reykjavik

25: Botanical Gardens

30: It was a beautiful sunny afternoon for our walk through the gardens. There were lots of different flowers, beautiful reflections and the ducks were quite tame. They came within 3 feet of where I was standing.

31: Sculpture Garden

33: Reykjavik | The following morning we took the bus to downtown Reykjavik for a short walking tour. Another nice sunny day.

34: After our guided tour, we had some free time so we decided to have lunch at this 'world-famous' hot dog stand. More then 30 people were on line but they moved fast since there was only one choice available. The dog was good but not great.

35: Reykjavik Opera House

36: We decided to walk back to the hotel instead of waiting for the bus. Our walk took us through the main shopping area, past some interesting houses and then along the shore line. Nice and sunny but windy.

37: We stopped at this viking ship monument before continuing to the hotel. We had a nice dinner of salad, fish and ice cream. Today was Steve's birthday but Oddur forgot the cake. Eventually Steve got a plain muffin with a candle on it.

39: Barnafoss Waterfall

40: We left at 8:30 for Stykkisholmur. It was raining on and off but the scenery was still awe-inspiring. Our first stop was this beautiful waterfall where we were able to walk to several overlooks. The falls stretch for almost 2000-feet and tumble over a lava cliff. | Lava flow | Barnafoss

41: Deildartunguhver Thermal Area | This thermal area has the highest flow of any hot spring in Europe. It emits nearly 50 gallons of boiling water every second.

42: Reykholt Church

43: Snorri's Bath | The church has been beautifully restored and has been in use since the 11th century. The water for the bath is piped from the hot spring Skrifla. The bath is 12 feet wide and over 25 feet deep. | Oddur

44: Gerouberg Basalt Columns

45: The columns were about 50 feet high and extended as far as you could see. | We continued driving through some beautiful scenery - mountains, lakes, fjords and farm country.

46: We stopped in Borgarnes for a visit to the Settlement Center which tells the story of the Norse settlement of Iceland. | Need tomatoes? Just put your money in the box.

47: Helgafell or Holy Mountain | Legend has it that if you ascend the mountain in silence and without looking back, you can make two wishes at the top and they will come true. | Steve making his wishes

48: Stykkisholmur

49: After a dinner of seafood chowder, lamb and ice cream, we walked into town, toured the harbor and then climbed the hill to the light house. | Stykkisholmur

50: Stykkisholmur Harbor

52: Snaefellsnes Peninsula

53: Snaefellsjokull Glacier

54: Ytri-Tunga Beach

55: Arnarstapi to Hellnar Walk

56: This walk is one of the prettiest in Iceland. The first part of the walk was along the shore - the rock formations were quite unusual and birds were nesting everywhere. We had a nice coastal breeze.

58: Arnarstapi to Hellnar Walk

59: The second part of our walk was through the lava fields. We lost the coastal breeze and it quickly become very hot. We had lunch in Hellnar - seafood chowder and dessert - then climbed the hill for our drive to the shark farm.

60: Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall | We drove through some pretty country on the way to the shark farm.

61: Shark Farm | After learning how shark meat is processed, we had a chance to sample this national delicacy - hakarl - which is served with a harsh potato liquor called Brennivin. The liquor helped to get rid of the shark taste and was the best part of the whole experience! | To prepare shark meat, the shark must first be gutted, washed and then cut into large chunks. These are buried in a large ditch for 6 to 7 weeks. The meat is then hung up in the drying shack for 2 to 4 months before it is safe to eat.

62: Breidarfjordur Bay Cruise | This evening we sailed through this enormous bay to several of the islands to see nesting birds. Lots of gulls, black guillemots and puffins. | Gulls

63: Puffins | Black Guillemots

64: Breidarfjordur Bay Cruise | A highlight of the cruise was our fresh catch of shellfish. Some was just junk but we had a chance to eat fresh scallops. Steve told me they were delicious.

65: Catch of the Day

66: In addition to the fresh shellfish, we had a light buffet of salads, smoked salmon and cheeses.

67: Eiriksstadir Museum | The next morning we drove to this museum which is on the site of the home of Erik the Red. Our guide was in period costume and the only light inside the dwelling was a fire for an authentic feel. | Check out the sprinkler on the roof! | Eric the Red | Viking loom

68: We drove to this horse farm for a delicious buffet lunch of soup and sandwiches. Later, we saw a demonstration of the 5 different gaits of Icelandic horses. Some smooth and others jerky.

69: Gauksmyri Horse Farm | We visited the stables and barnyard and were able to get right up to the horses. They were very friendly and inquisitive.

70: Gauksmyri Horse Farm

72: Akureyri

73: We arrived in Akureyri in the late afternoon and had time to explore before dinner. Nice harbor town, beautiful church and interesting sights. Our hotel was at the top of a steep hill and we worked up quite an appetite climbing back up.

74: Whale Watching | The next day we drove to Husavik, a picturesque fishing village only 40 miles from the Arctic Circle. We set sail on a restored fishing boat for a three hour tour of the harbor. We saw whales of all types. One whale even followed our boat for over 15 minutes. It was very exciting!

76: Husavik Harbor | It was a Saturday and there was a festival going on. Lots of people listening to music, sampling the food, watching the sheep judging and shopping the arts and crafts booths. The yards were decorated with all sorts of things - whales, snowmen, lollipops and scarecrows.

77: After lunch, we visited the Whale Museum which focuses on the 24 species of whales that can be found in Icelandic waters. | Whale Museum | Thorgeir Church | Returning to the hotel, we stopped at this church which was erected to commemorate the adoption of Christianity in Iceland in the year 1000 and to honor Thorgeir, a Viking chieftain. | Oddur

78: Godafoss Waterfall

79: We started our day with a visit to Godafoss, the 'waterfall of the gods'.

80: Namafjall Hverie | Namafjall Hverie is a geothermal area consisting of boiling mud pools, fumaroles and old lava flows.

81: Lake Myvatn | We drove around Lake Myvatn, stopping at several viewpoints. The lake is dotted with small islands and we could see mountains and glaciers in the distance.

82: Dimmuborgir | Icelandic Yule Lads | We drove to Dimmborgir to walk through the black castle lava formations and to see the Icelandic Yule Lads. The lads are thirteen brothers who love to sing, trick people and tell funny stories. Alas, we didn't see the lads but we did enjoy the walk.

83: After our walk we had a nice buffet lunch of soups, breads and cheeses. We could also try some Icelandic delicacies - sheep head jelly, blood pudding, shark, dried fish and liver pudding. Luckily, we were full and had no room left for the delicacies.

84: Skutustadagigar | Pseudo Craters

85: These pseudo craters were formed by steam explosions when lava flowed over wet earth. We walked to several of the craters before heading back to our hotel.

86: Gullfoss Waterfall

87: Gullfoss is a huge waterfall. It features three tiers of rushing water that flow into a hundred-foot deep crevice. It wasn't raining but everyone got soaked from the spray.

88: Geysir Hot Springs | Our next stop was Geysir, to see the geysir from which all others take their name. Geysir erupts every 7 to 10 minutes; first forming a bubble and then erupting with columns of water and steam 75 feet into the air.

90: Thingvellir National Park | This park is the location of a major rift between two tectonic plates. Iceland is growing about one-half inch a year!

91: Skogafoss | Skalholt Church | Kerio Crater | On our ride to the hotel, we stopped at several points of interest. We were told the crater water was ice cold but two people were swimming anyway. The church had a beautiful altar and the waterfall was still impressive despite its small size.

92: Solheimajokull Glacier | Glacier Walk | The next day we drove to this glacier. We walked almost a mile just to get to the base; put on our crampons and got our ice axes. The walk was really fun but wasn't long enough.

93: Ice cave

94: Super Jeep Tour to Dyrholaey | After lunch, we had a 4-wheel drive on the cliffs and black lava beaches. First we drove up a steep hill to the cliffs at Dyrholaey. Lots of people were there admiring the coast line and watching the puffins. The puffins were on a ledge about 10 feet below the top and seemed to be posing for us.

96: From the cliff top we could see the black lava beach, We drove down to the shore on this very steep winding road and then drove right onto the beach.

97: Black Beach and Basalt Columns

98: Seljalandsfoss | This waterfall drops about 200 feet over rocky cliffs. We were able to walk behind the falls on a very wet, slippery, rocky path. As we were leaving we saw a rainbow.

99: After dinner, we walked along the shore of the Olfusa River but the weather had turned chilly and windy so we only were out for a few minutes. | Seljalandsfoss

100: Flower Farm

101: The next day we visited a flower farm where lilies, roses and other flowers are grown using geothermal energy. We then went white water rafting on the Hvita River. The river had Class II and III rapids for an exciting ride. Unfortunately, the tour company didn't take pictures. | Hellisheidi Geothermal Plant | Our last stop of the day was a geothermal power plant. We had a short tour of the plant and saw a film about production.

103: Blue Lagoon | We left early the next morning for the Blue Lagoon arriving before most other people. We relaxed in the warm geothermal seawater, had a white silica mud facial and relaxed under the waterfall. The water contains minerals, silica and algae which are supposed to be good for your skin.

104: Hallgrimskikja Church

105: The church steeple was built to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland. | After our dip in the Blue Lagoon, we drove back to Reykjavik for a visit to this church which can be seen everywhere in the city.

106: National Museum of Iceland

107: The museum tells the story of nearly 1200 years of settlement. | Farewell Dinner

108: Good Food !

109: Greenland | Kulusuk | Angmagssalik | Helicopter Flight | Jeep Tour | Valley of the Flowers | Iceberg Boat Tour | Home Visit | Angmagssalik Museum

110: Kulusuk

111: Kulusuk | Kulusuk Hotel

112: Kulusuk

113: After lunch at the hotel we set out on a walking tour of the town which was about 2 miles away. We saw the cemetery, went up and down hills and walked along the shore. We ended our walk at the church.

114: Kulusuk Church

115: Jeep Tour | We were picked up at the church for our jeep tour of the area. We drove up into the hills stopping at several viewpoints.

116: The fog had rolled in during the night and we could barely see the harbor. Within the hour, the fog had dissipated and we were able to take pictures of the reflections.

118: Flying to Angmagssalik Island

119: The helicopter ride was only 10 minute but was very exciting and the scenery, breathtaking. Lots of ice bergs and small islands in the bay. | The baggage cart. | We're off!!!

120: Tasiilaq

121: Tasiilaq

122: Valley of the Flowers

123: After lunch we drove to the Valley of Flowers for a hike. This luxuriant valley is carpeted with green grass and colored with wildflowers. Unfortunately, it was also swarming with something like gnats but bigger!! Some people had mosquito netting but we had to make do with a scarf. It helped a little but not enough.

125: Valley of the Flowers

126: The next morning the fog was so thick we could barely see the town. It lifted within the hour and we had a beautiful day for our harbor cruise of the ice field.

127: Cruising the Ice Field

128: Cruising the Ice Field

130: The cruise lasted about three hours; we sailed out the harbor and saw many ice bergs - some gigantic and others small. The captain sailed around some of the larger bergs for a closer look. We returned in time for lunch and then took a walking tour of the town.

131: Walking Tour of Tasiilaq

132: Angmagssalik Museum | The museum is the town's first church built in 1908 and stands high above the harbor. It has displays of objects from recent and ancient history

133: Ceremonial Beaded Costumes

134: Angmagssalik Museum

135: Home Visit | Our hostess was an Inuit. She talked about her early life, showed us her bead work and performed a traditional drum dance. Not only the ceremonial costume but also the many wall hangings were very intricate. The drum dance is usually performed by men It involves drumming, singing and dancing and is extremely difficult. Our hostess performed for nearly 15 minutes and was exhausted afterwards. It was an honor to see it.

136: Our last night in Greenland | The next morning we took the boat across the bay to Kulusuk to catch a plane to Reykjavik then another two flights home arriving mid-afternoon of the next day. | We had a wonderful time but as always, we were glad to get back home.

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Carol LaPonte
  • By: Carol L.
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