“Inspired by Iceland” is the perfect tourism slogan for the country with the northern most capital in the world. My recent second trip to Iceland was very different from the first one. I experienced a new form of travel and found out that I am still quite an adrenaline junkie at heart (although I wouldn’t do another bungee jump).
Like the first trip in 2009, I went to the famous Blue Lagoon (and had the best 4 course dinner at the Lava Restaurant) and the Golden Circle. It was great to see Gulfoss in the winter instead of summer.
ATV – Quad biking & the black sand beach
The highlight of the trip had to be the unforgettable ATV – Quad Bike tour we did near the Myrdasjökull Glacier in South Iceland. Leaving the base, we started to drive on the road, alongside the river with the backdrop of green mountains. Crossing the main street into a private land, we drove onwards to the desolate black sand beach in the light rain. We made a stop to check out a whale bone that was washed up ashore and admire the south coast’s harsh raw black lava sand landscape.
The whole experience was just powerful, dramatic and otherworldly with the conflicting landscapes, intense dark black sand, the magnificent breaking waves and strong wind from the ocean. Don’t take my word for it. Go there and find out for yourselves.
We drove on crossing a small river towards the famous aircraft wreck which once belonged to the US Navy. On the 24th of November 1973, the plane ran out of fuel (pilot simply switched over to the wrong fuel tank it was later found) and crashed on the black beach of Solheimasandur. According to the locals, the plane landed and remained in such remarkable condition that a local farmer stole an entire tail section and sold it. It is no surprise that the decaying majesty of the remains on that black sand is now one of Iceland’s most iconic and haunting photography locations.
Next stop was the world famous Reynisfjara black sand beach also known to be Iceland’s most dangerous beach which has claimed many lives. According to our tour guide it was known as the “Chinese takeaway” by the locals as a number of Chinese tourists have been victims recently. The fatal and unpredictable waves were ferocious. It can sweep in out of nowhere with a highly aggressive force, knocking people over and pulling them out to sea where one is helpless in the extreme strong undertow.
The beautiful basalt Halsanefshellier Cave with the hexagonal shaped basalt column cliffs reminded me of the famous Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. In the distant, the Reynisdrangar sea stacks were observable. According to folklore they were once two trolls attempting to drag a ship to land and were turned to stone as daylight broke.
Super Jeep tour into Thorsmörk
The untouched beauty and power of Mother Nature is easily witnessed anywhere in Iceland. Exploring the magical glacier valley of Thorsmörk, named after Thor the Norse God of Thunder in the super jeep was a breathtaking journey of mountains, rivers, glaciers and rainbows. There were times when the drivers would stop to discuss which route they should take to cross the unbridged rivers safely.
This beautiful rugged and uninhabited area is nestled between three glaciers and isolated by glacial rivers making it a paradise for hikers and nature enthusiasts. Our first stop was the Gigjökull outlet glacier which was filled with volcanic material during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in April 2010. After lunch at Volcano Huts, a quick Icelandic game of rope tug and war, we headed off for a hike in the Stakkholtsgja canyon where we were greeted with incredible views.
We visited 4 other waterfalls apart from Gulfoss.
Skogafoss – take a walk up to get another view of the falls
Seljalandsfoss – the one where you can walk behind it
Gljufrabui – you will be soaking wet if you manage to get close to it
Other things we did:
We had lunch at the Fridheimar Farm which is a greenhouse that grows tomatoes all year round where we also saw an Icelandic horse show.
We visited several abandoned fishing villages and a traditional fisherman’s hut.
We did a one hour adrenaline filled buggy tour where we experienced dirt driving thrills climbing hills, through river beds and overcame obstacles in the rugged landscape by the slopes of Esja mountain. Be warned you will get VERY dirty.
The soundtrack of this trip has to be my current favourite song Way Down We Go by Kaleo. Watch here: