Friday, September 19, 2014

Iceland - A Photographer's Journey

Iceland's wonder is to hard to capture in a photo, but here are a few tries.

Contributed graciously from Leigha Oaks.

Yours in Exploiting Life!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Top 5 List for Iceland

Our recent trip to Iceland was amazing!

The sites were beautiful, the food was delicious, and our drive around the country was surreal.

Though leaving out many worthwhile activities in Iceland, below is a list of my Top 5 for this trip.

Top Accommodation

A small, wonderfully renovated room in Borgarfjörður. This guesthouse is in an old fish factory, right next to the water and pier.

The Blabjorg Guesthouse has a dozen rooms, with three bathrooms and a kitchen/living room to share. Decorated in Ikea simplicity, you feel like you've stepped into a clean oasis.

Rise and shine. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)

Seemingly on the edge of the world (and it basically is), this quaint little enclave is 70 kilometers off of the Ring Road.  Charm and peace follow you here. With only a handful of buildings, one eatery, one store (which closes early), and lots of trails, it's easy to feel all alone!

The bottom floor of the building is a spa and wellness center, where you can enjoy a traditional barrel steam-room.

If possible, request an ocean view room.  I can't imagine any of the views are bad, but we woke up to the sun rising over the fjord mountains, with sun rays dancing in our room.

Top Edible

Crowded, stuffy, and so much charm - added bonus, delicious food!

Saegreifinn (Sea Baron) is the place for Lobster Soup in Iceland.

A happy belly. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
You will wait in line, you will wait for a seat, but you'll never regret the time as this lobster bisque (with added lobster chunks) slides down your throat.

Found on the pier in Old Town Reykjavik, this unpretentious hole-in-the-wall restaurant will surprise you.  When entering, your nose is instantly trying to figure out where you are - the scents of raw fish, grilled fish, and lobster soup all fight for attention.

The display counter is the menu. Lined with raw fish kabobs, scallop kabobs, and minke whale steaks, you get to see exactly what you'll be eating.  The have-to item is the Lobster Soup.  The large bowl of steaming heaven includes a half a loaf of bread - sliced and ready for mopping up any remnants.

Sitting inside (especially on a drizzling, overcast day) may be difficult, as there is only three long tables to share. Get over your fear of rubbing elbows with strangers and grab one of the converted buoy chairs, as everyone is nice and friendly - hey, you're all there for the delicious food!

Top Must Do

The Ring Road drive is a must and worth every minute of its 1,300 kilometers.

Watch out for sheep! (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
You find yourself cruising through new terrains constantly, seeing countless waterfalls, and witnessing everything from steaming sand to frozen glaciers.  All of the extremes Iceland has to offer from the ease of your vehicle.

We recommend traveling clockwise (reason below), as well as buying your cappuccino and fuel at every stop available (especially if you like to take a lot of side trips off of the Ring Road).

Top Must See

Watching blue icebergs as they make their way from the edges of a glacier to the open sea - wonderland.

Jökulsárlón-Glacier Lagoon was probably the top attraction for us in Iceland.  I honestly felt I was in a dream.

Is this real? (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
Hundreds of white and neon blue chunks of frozen water, captured and melting in a lake cage, until they are small enough to fit down a short stream and under a bridge, ending their journey in the vast ocean. Here they meet their fate, or delay fate if they are lucky enough to be washed up onto the black sand shores, sitting and waiting for a tourist picture or two before following their brethren into the next life.

Seals swimming among the titans of ice, the sight was mesmerizing and delighting.  We went back again the next morning to soak up a little more of our vacation with the behemoths.

I would suggest driving clockwise around the Ring Road (from Reykjavik) just to see the Glacier Lagoon as one of your last Iceland sites.

Top Transportation

Have you ever driven in a Lada Niva?

This Russian built, 4X4 car (?) made our trip epic!

The Lada. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
You feel right out of a backwoods travel movie. Exploring the unknown, able to conquer any obstacle in your path. With only the basic essentials, but able to withstand temperatures of -45*C to +45*C, the Lada Niva is a small beast!

No radio means that you need to keep yourself entertained on the vast stretches of lava rock covered terrain, this is also a great time to practice for "The Voice."

Described on the rental website as The Cheap Jeep and The Russian Hummer, you won't be disappointed! (Unless your looking for a radio, quiet, electronic windows and locks, and a working driver's seat.)

If you stay on the Ring Road you only hit a few patches of gravel track, but if you want to visit more of Iceland (such as Blabjorg Guesthouse above) I would recommend renting a vehicle that can handle some rocks. In addition, there are many roads in Iceland that actually require you to have a 4X4.

So Much More

It was hard to boil down our trip to only the Top 5.

With only seven days in Iceland, our only solid conclusion at the end of the trip was that we needed more time! There was so much more of Iceland to experience.

Good timing. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
The superb fish dishes, the geothermal springs (including the milky white/blue of the Blue Lagoon), the potential to see whales, puffin and reindeer, and the Icelandic wool sweaters.

The 10 year anniversary surprise from my beautiful wife only added to the memories!

Honorable mentions include: Hotel Egilsen, Hotel Budir, REY Apartments, and Blue Lagoon

Even the rubbish bin looked like art. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
Iceland will definitely draw us back again!

Yours in exploiting life!