Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Iceland

Went to Iceland for a long weekend and had a great time.  Adi remembered me talking about wanting to see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) and asked if I was interested in booking up a weekend trip to see them.  It ended up with four of us heading to Reykjavik, Adi, Graham, Norman and me to hunt the aurora borealis!

Me with compass, hunting the lights!
Friday
Included in the booking was a trip to see the Northern Lights on the Saturday night.  I'd been checking weather reports for the weekend and suggested that Friday night looked better so we booked with a second tour company (GTI - Gateway To Iceland) as their tours are smaller.  So pleased we did!  

Bob our tour guide was fantastic and told us as we got onboard that it looked like it was going to be one of the best nights of the year for the NL.  We drove to a spot where the clouds had cleared and waited.  We ended up with a great display that lasted a couple of hours.  Once he was sure we'd seen the best Bob headed us back into town after 12.  Have to say though that it was freeeeeezing!  -11C + wind chill made it feel about -20C!.  There was a lot of hopping on and off the bus!

I didn't have a tripod hence the squiggly moon.

Saturday was our Golden Circle tour, again with GTI. We woke up to bright blue skies and blazing sunshine.  The wind had dropped so it was bearable outside.  We visited Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss (Golden Falls) and Haukadalur where the geysers were. On the way back, although we were running late Bob still managed to add in a couple of further stops at Kerið and a second waterfall (can't remember the name).


 

Saturday night we had our pre-booked tour with Reykjavik Excursions. It was a bigger coach so it didn't have the same 'personal' atmosphere the previous tours had but it was still good. They took us back out to Þingvellir National Park. The sky was far clearer and as we got off the bus the Northern Lights put on quite a show. As we'd been there earlier that day the four of us knew to head up to the viewing deck that looked out over the valley and gave distant views to the mountains. As it was a little bit away from the carpark we ended up with the area mostly to ourselves. As I hadn't brought a tripod (you need long exposure times to take photos of the lights) I made good use of the railing around the viewing deck. Thankfully Adi had his tripod all weekend and has some stunning shots. My best are here. 

Same shot as the day time one above.


Sunday was the Blue Lagoon. I'd joked that it would be fun to swim while it was snowing and guess what? It snowed! Again we booked with GTI. The driver gave us 4 hours at the lagoon and we surprised ourselves by spending 3 hours of that time in the lagoon. It snowed, it hailed and the sun came out (briefly). It was great fun!




Hallgrimskirkja on the Saturday morning.
Monday was the day we flew back and that's when the weather turned really bad. Horizontal rain, strong winds etc. Me managed across the road to the Hallgrimskirkja, right opposite the hotel. We had to run diagonally in order to go in a straight line! We even ventured up the spire where we were buffeted left right and centre!

video

We realised while there just how lucky we'd been with the sequence of events. A great Friday night and tour. Wonderful weather on the Saturday and clear night on the Saturday night. Also a bonus knowing about the viewing deck! The poor weather on Sunday made the Blue Lagoon more fun and the bad weather on Monday had melted some of the snow so we could see the colour of the lava fields on the way back to the airport.

Great time spent with great friends!

Foot Note: Adi pointed out I'd forgotten to add how great the restaurants were.  Here's a list.

Friday night: Caruso
Saturday night: Vegamont
Sunday night: Domo

The local beer.

My salmon
Adi's small sushi plate!
Skyr Cake