I was glad we had come back a little early from our first day tour so I could be up at what would be dawn at home (5:30 am) to see old town Akureyri and I got lucky and had a great walk. I didn’t get rained on but the by the time I got back it had really started coming down. I will leave it at that and you can see what I saw in my photos. Later on, some of the group went into town but Kathleen was wiped out so we stayed on board and the whole gang was back for a late lunch at The Porch (a Reflection alternative seafood restaurant) and it was wonderful. A great lunch. Some super fresh seafood and some of the best sangria I have ever had. Drank way too much of it. We sailed out late in the day and it was a beautiful sail out up the fjord. This was followed by two sea days before we would dock in Cobh, Ireland. More about that coming on Sunday.
But it has cool doors
Reflection in Akureyri
Straight on at Reflection
A very cool sculpture that would have looked better in sunshine
Found this great statue in old town Akureyri
The harbor in Akureyri
Another boat on the shore in old town Akureyri
Old town Akureyri at 5:30 am
This is the oldest house in Akureyri. It dates to the late 1700s
We couldn’t believe these people were going whale watching like this. It was freezing!
Akureyri has a big church as well but not as big as Reykjavik
And this one
And a red and white boat
Here’s the 10:45 from Reykjavik
Our crazy gang having lunch at The Porch
And this family of swans
I got off the ship to mail some postcards and found these trolls
This ship is a Ponant Cruise ship. They are a French cruise line that sails small (100-200 people) cruise ships.
The Akureyri Airport was right off our verandah
When I prepare, I am not messing around. I find the right places, the right people, and the right environment. Iceland is one of those places. —Conor McGregor
After what seemed like a very short night we sailed down an incredible fjord into Akureyri, Iceland’s most important northern city. It’s small town (a population of only around 27,000) but it is the gateway to some pretty amazing natural wonders. The day started with beautiful weather and the sail-in made for some great photos.
I almost forgot to mention that before we got to Akureyri the captain of Reflection decided to make us all what my friend Bob (a long-time Navy guy) calls “Bluenose Sailors” which I am sure means we have been inside the Arctic Circle. He sailed the entire ship north of where he needed to so we could say we had been inside the Arctic Circle. What a guy! We even got a certificate. Kind of the like the one we got when we crossed the Equator many years ago on our SouthEast Asia cruise.
Sailing into Akureyri takes you up a long fjord that has amazing views
Then we saw whales
And more whales
You know how I love pilot boats
Along Eyjafjörður fjord
Goodbye pilot boat
Our first glimpse of Akureyri
A beautiful waterfall
We were met by our guide Auðun of No.17 Tours. He had been recommended by the god of shore excursions, my buddy Mike Preisman. Mike had used the services of Auðun a few years ago on their Icelandic cruise and had spoken highly of him. He was right. I should point out that Auðun told us his company used to be Taxi 17 because when it wasn’t touring season, he would drive a taxi but now the government says he is too old to do that. He can drive a bus, a truck and a tour van but at 76 he can’t drive a taxi. Who would have thought. He is an amazing guy who really knew the area he was showing us. Plus he had some great stories from his 27 years as the skipper of a fishing trawler.
We set out a little earlier in Akureyri as the ship was docked and let us off by 10:30. Auðun was ready for us and we were off to see the northern waterfalls, stand with both my feet in different continents and see some other amazing geological wonders as well as two versions of the Blue Lagoon. And we finally got to see puffins. We had missed them before on previous trips to places where they live but this time we got to see a bunch. Check out the photos for all the sights we saw.
Even though we had gone out earlier than we had in Reykjavik, the weather had turned both cold and gray and by the time we had seen the puffins and the waterfalls, we were wiped out so we asked Auðun to just head us home and we were off to the ship were we pretty much caught a late dinner and collapsed. But we did have a super day and the Icelandic landscape is even more amazing up north.
The brand new 9K tunnel that saved us more than 20 minutes more than the tours used to take.
Sorry, I just couldn’t stop taking pics of Godafoss
On the way to the Lake Myvatn area
These two mountains stand next to each other, one peaked and one with a flat top
Couldn’t resist this shot
Dimmuborgir an area of lava
Dimmuborgir an area of lava
The right side of this photo is in North America, the left in Europe. I stood with my foot on each one.
A smaller and cleaner northern version of the Blue Lagoon
Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe
The other end of Dettifoss
A very cool horseshoe falls
Puffins on the northern coast
And more puffins
Northern Coast house
One more Blue Lagoon wanna be, the best yet!
I still don’t know why, exactly, but I do think people can have a spiritual connection to landscape, and I certainly did in Iceland. —Hannah Kent
Most everyone else in our party slept in a little bit after getting back at almost midnight from our Golden Circle tour with Birkir. I on the other hand, love it when a ship overnights in a port so that I can get up early the next day and walk through the city. (One of my best photo walks ever was in Québec last October when we overnighted on Summit). More and more cruise lines are doing this (overnighting in cities) and you can get off and on whenever you want all night long. This was a good day to do that but I really missed that early morning golden light I had when we were in Edinburgh and Dublin.
I got up at 5:00 am and headed out to walk the seaside walkway into downtown Reykjavik but the light outside was already like 10:30 in the morning as you can see from my pics. I got some decent stuff and then headed back to the ship to shower and meet Kathleen and others in our group to take a taxi back into downtown to see some more of the city. My pics and their captions will pretty much tell the tale on that. Don’t forget to click on the first one and view them as a slide show. And if you want to see more, check them out on Flickr by clicking here.
We were back on the ship by 2:00 pm and Reflection set sail for Akureyri at 3:00. It was a pretty great day considering how little sleep was involved. Thursday, I will post all about our travels in Akureyri, in the north. And we cross the Arctic Circle!
Hallgrímskirkja—this church dominates the Reykjavik skyline
Sun Voyager—Huge 1990 stainless-steel sculpture of a boat by Jón Gunnar Árnason, set on granite beside the sea.
Reykjavik’s version of the bridge in Paris
The green lock kind of drew my lens like a magnet
Harpa Concert Hall
Noticed this ship coming in. Not sure what it was.
Turned out to be a small cruise ship. We met some people who were onboard later at coffee.
Sun Voyager from a different angle
A sculpture along the walkway. Looked different on every side
See what I mean?
Viking Sky coming into the harbor. This is the ship that had the engine failiure earlier this year.
The Hofdi House built in 1909, the home of Icelandic poet Einar Benediktsson also hosted an iconic political summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbatsjov
The lupine was everywhere and in full bloom
The end of my walk. Almost back to the ship.
Out later with Kathleen saw this photo shoot in front of Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja up close
Inside Hallgrímskirkja we found a small chamber orchestra rehearsing
Inside Hallgrímskirkja Cassie and Jamie look at the ceiling of this magnificent church
Above the altar in Hallgrímskirkja
I love taking photos of artists as work.
Such great expressions
See what I mean
Outside of Hallgrímskirkja is this incredible statue of Leif Erickson
Kathleen found a friend. Hey, I have to take these tourist photos once in a while.
Great street decoration
This is a real place. Seriously.
I never did find out who these statues represent.
A closeup of Harpa Concert Hall to end our stay. We went inside but the photos didn’t come out as well as I would have liked.
After our Titanic foray into Belfast, we spent the next day and a little more at sea heading to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. After a cool sail in (see the photos—we passed a huge iceberg), we arrived around 1:00 pm and after a quick lunch we set off on an 8 hour tour with our guide from Tours by Locals, Birkir. Now normally we would never start an 8-10 hour tour at 1:30 pm because within few hours all we would be able to see is darkness. But this was Iceland and we were within 2 weeks of the longest day of the year so we could tour until midnight and it would never be totally dark. That meant we could see what the tour books refer to as the southern Iceland Golden Circle.
This was kind of disconcerting after visiting the Titanic Experience
This dormant volcano is covered with a glacier
We passed by downtown
And were passed by an NCL ship on its way out.
It included the edge of continents, incredible waterfalls, exploding geysers, volcanic craters, Icelandic horses and some of the most amazing natural beauty we have seen. Our first stop was the ÞingvellirIcelandicNational Park which has significance for two reasons. It is a historical site where the Icelandic parliament first met in 930 AD. And it is the intersection of two continents. Seriously. The plates that form the North American continent end in Iceland and run directly into the plates that form the European continent. In a way we were walking between North America and Europe the entire time we were in Iceland. In fact, two days later just outside Akureyri in the north, I was able to stand with my right foot in North America and my left foot in Europe. Pretty cool.
On the way to Þingvellir we passed these wild Icelandic horses
On the right, North America. On the left, Europe.
The park was well taken care of with great walkways
People were in the park taking their wedding pics
Bob is always way ahead of us
A “natural” rock formation?
I love the Icelandic flag. This is at the exact spot of their first parliament meeting in 960 AD.
The top of a beautiful waterfall in Þingvellir
After our visit to this beautiful (in its own way) national park, we drove onward to ice cream. Yes, ice cream. It seems that there is a world-famous dairy and ice cream factory in almost the middle of nowhere. We had some amazing ice cream and even got to meet the cows that had done the original work on it. It was a fun and delicious experience.
Our stop at the dairy farm and ice cream shop included a look at the basic cream makers. I loved their look.
I love the coloring of this cow.
These guys were wandering around the grounds
And there was an old tractor I could do a still-life landscape on.
Next up was Kathleen’s favorite part of the tour, a visit to feed some very cool Icelandic horses. As you drive through the wilds of Iceland, you see thousands of these Icelandic horses (never call them ponies). They are everywhere. Of course they are owned by someone but you do see some wild ones as well. Birkir knew of a place where a farmer allowed his horses to be petted and fed (he even provided “horse candy” you could buy) and so we stopped and everyone who wanted to got to feed the horses while the rest of us took photos. See mine to see how incredibly beautiful these animals are. That said, it is sad to say that Icelanders eat horse on a regular basis. It is a staple of their diet. Birkir offered to find us a restaurant that served horse but we said we were content to pet and feed them.
Our closeup with the Icelandic Horses
Kathleen gets to meet an Icelandic horse
And feed another
Cassie and Jamie do the same
So does Analee
Everyone wants a pic of the Icelandic horse
It’s like Icelandic horse paparazzi
What a cutie!
After that it was on to the absolute, drop-dead highlight of the day—the Gullfosswaterfall. We have been to Niagara Falls but I have to tell you, this was so much better. In my opinion the reason for that was that these falls are still in a very natural setting and incredibly cool. Also, the water is totally unpolluted and blue. When you see the photos, just realize that I didn’t do anything to those pics at all—the water really is that blue. Seriously. The pictures tell the story.
Coming up to Gullfoss
Gullfoss. One of the most incredible waterfalls in the world
Steve, Jamie and Cassie in front of Gullfoss
Rainbow over Gullfoss
Love the trench here
A panorama of the top of Gullfoss
We thought we had seen it all but now it was on to geysers. Compared to Old Faithful that goes off once an hour, Iceland’s southern geysers go off every five minutes or so. They smell of sulfur but they also are very cool. Check out the photos below.
On the way to the Geysir area
We arrived at the Geysir just as this one went off.
The terrain around the Geysir was almost moon-like
The hot sulfur pools at Geysir
The hills were covered with lupine
A close up of the lupine that we were lucky enough to find in bloom.
Here goes the Geysir
After our geyser experience and a brief stop at a volcanic crater (sorry, this one didn’t come close to Crater Lake and just not impressive enough for pics), we made a brief stop for dinner (by this time it was around 8:30 but outside it looked like the middle of the day) and then it was on to our last stop of the day, The Blue Lagoon.
If you have ever been to Iceland you have heard of the Blue Lagoon. It is so popular that people flying from the US to Europe will do a five hour stopover just to hit the Blue Lagoon (which is located between Reykjavik and the airport). If you have never heard of it or seen photos, just imagine a giant, blue hot tub with hundreds of people (maybe more) swimming around, drinking and rubbing mud on their faces. And the strangest thing was that we arrived at the lagoon just before it closes at 10:55 or so. But you would never know it. The sun was up and there were (see the pics) hundreds of people still in the lagoon. Birkir told us they stop letting people in at 11:00 pm in the summer but they don’t start kicking people out until midnight.
The walkway into the Blue Lagoon. It is about 11:20 pm and VERY light out. Sun was still up.
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon
I should add that sunset that day was at 11:58 and sunrise the next morning was at 2:15 am. It never really got dark and when we finally got back to the ship at almost midnight, we were very thankful for the blackout curtains in our staterooms.
Our first day in Iceland was INCREDIBLE! Birkir was an amazing guide and got us everywhere in a fun and beauty filled day. It was just outstanding.
I want to apologize to everyone who is anxiously awaiting my Icelandic posts but the WiFi onboard is horrid! I can barely upload a single photo let alone the more than 200 I took that I love. I should add that this slow WiFi is probably not the ship or cruise lines fault but rather the fact that everything must go through satellites and we are so far north that the connection is faulty.
So please bear with me and know that I have been writing and will post all of the rest Saturday, Sunday and Monday from our great internet connection at home.