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Iceland is Green, Greenland is Ice!

In June I did a bucket list trip to Iceland with "H". We flew over Greenland to get there, and ironically, Greenland is mostly ice and Iceland was predominantly green! It's interesting how the names of these two places can create expectations that don't always match the reality of their landscapes. Iceland's relatively green and habitable environment, with its lush landscapes and geothermal features, can indeed be surprising to those who might expect a more ice-dominated scene based solely on the country's name. Meanwhile, Greenland's ice-covered expanses and glaciers are a testament to its vast ice sheet, which has a significant impact on its overall appearance.

Exploring different parts of the world can often challenge our preconceived notions and highlight the rich diversity of landscapes and environments that exist on our planet. My experience serves as a reminder that names can be deceiving and that the reality of a place can be much more nuanced and complex than what its name might imply. Iceland was warm and welcoming, and I'd love to go there again.

Iceland is magical! Words can't capture the breathtaking beauty! Please enjoy my photos, I shot thousands of images and this blog is a mere sample. We experienced jaw-dropping waterfalls, we soaked in geothermal hot springs, and explored black sand beaches that felt like stepping onto another planet.

I can't believe how much we saw and experienced in just 10 days – from glaciers to volcanoes, from quaint villages to vibrant Reykjavik. This journey has ignited a sense of wonder in me and a deep appreciation for the raw, untamed beauty of our planet.

I've dreamt of visiting Iceland for years, intrigued by the blend of ocean and mountains, and it met my every expectation. It was truly an incredible trip! I've actually hesitated to write about my Iceland experience, only because it's such a special place and it's becoming more popular as a place to visit, and I feel odd about promoting it, yet I want people to have the magical experience we had. We loved it so much that we've already talked about planning another trip there to see the parts of the island we missed seeing, the East Fjords, the Northern Highlands and the West Fjords.

The flight on Iceland Air from Boston is 5 hours and direct to Keflavik. We arrived in the evening, rented our car and drove the 45 minutes to Reykjavik where we stayed at the Iceland Parliament Hotel. Funny thing about this hotel, it's located right in downtown and right near the Parliament. We didn't know this in advance, you cannot park at the hotel and need to find parking on your own. You then wheel your luggage back through the streets, between the bar crowds, to a nonchalant entrance, and once inside it's very elegant, contemporary and grand. The room was exceptional, comfortable, spacious and clean, with breakfast included.

Photo: lobby of the Iceland Parliament Hotel.

The next morning we hit the road headed for the Syslo Guesthouse located in Stykkisholmur. Shortly into our drive our adventure began, and the 2.5 hour drive to Stykkisholmur became an all day adventure of exploration, discovery and awe.

Photo: The scale of things. Typical farmhouse, with a red roof and a majestic mountain behind it.

We made an unplanned stop in the village of Akranes, and quickly discovered the magic of Iceland. Akranes is a port town and municipality on the west coast of Iceland, around 50 km north of the capital Reykjavík. The town is peaceful and friendly. It's lighthouse is open to the public and the views of Snaefellsnes are spectacular.

Photo: Icelandic Pony near Akranes

Photo: Mermaid in Akranes overlooking the Atlantic

Photo: Fish mural in Akranes near the lighthouse

Photo: Just an adorable boat donning the Icelandic flag tucked into a cove

From Akranes, we continued on to Stykkisholmur and the Snaefellsnese Penensula through incredible and varied landscapes. We had nearly 20 hours of daylight each day and we took advantage of it, exploring from morning until nearly midnight each day. Our room in the Syslo Guesthouse was charming and comfortable, highly recommend staying here. Very comfortable room, super clean and delicious breakfast!

Photo: Syslo Guesthouse

Photo: Interior of the Syslo Guesthouse.

Stykkisholmur is a quiet seaside town, and became known when Ben Stiller shot scenes from the film "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" there. The brightly colored houses and quaint guesthouses are at the base of a mountain range and on the coast.

When we checked into Syslo we were recommended to have dinner at the local fish restaurant. (in the photo above and below) The restaurant is called Sjavarpakkhusid, the meal was off the charts delicious, super fresh and really tasty. Making a reservation for dinner is necessary as it's popular and one of only two restaurants in the village.

Photo: The BEST dinner restaurant at this fish house. The name is in the small photo below.

Photo below: the view of Stykkisholmur fishing village. Our home for the night.

It's a short hike up to the lighthouse (photo below), and well worth the hike. The view of the village is wonderful and the views in all directions are stunning.

Photo: Helgafell, or "holy mountain" with panoramic views over Breidafjordur bay (below). It is said that those who make this climb without looking back or speaking will be granted three wishes, as long as they tell no one else of their wishes and are facing east when making them!

Photo above: That's me, atop Holy Mountain!

Photo above: "H" next to a giant lock..which is funny because his last name is Lach!

After dinner we decided to take advantage of the continued daylight, and we drove to see more of the local area and sights on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

The photo below is about as dark as it ever got during our Icelandic adventure.

You may recognize the image was a scene in Game of Thrones,, Kirkjufell Mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. In real life, it's breathtaking. We were there at about 10 pm and we had the place to ourselves, magical!

Photo: known as Arrowhead mountain in Game of Thrones.

Photos above and below: Examples of the charming houses. I'm a big fan of the green ones!

Photo above and below: Grundarfjordur, centrally located on the northern coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Spectacular mountains and stunning coastline all in one place.

Photo: Grundarfjordor Beach

Photo: Olafsvik is a charming fishing village on the western end of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Aside from being known as a great place to see whales, it also provides rough dirt road access to a glacier...and despite the rental car warnings, we hit the dirt road towards the glacier. Impassable!!! Nothing is impossible for two Skidmore graduates.

Photo above: Snaefellsjokull National Park, steps up to a volcano crater. Even the hiking steps are well designed and pleasing to the eye. Details seem to matter in Iceland, and I like details!

Photo: The Hellnar cliffs. They are even more spectacular in person. It's hard to capture the immensity of it all.

We found the little cafe feature in the photo above in the most unexpected location, we had no idea it was there and it was a perfect discovery and they served us proper and delicious hot tea.

Photo above: Snaefellsbaer Fjoruhusid Koffihus in Hellnar for more information on this charming place.

Photo above: Strondin vio Stapa og Hellna

Arnarstapi Cliffs

We were stunned to see so many brave people standing on this narrow rock with a large crack in it's center, and then I said, I'll go stand there for a photo.....(see image below).

When I got over there, the crack was much larger than I expected and the rock much narrower, so this is as close as I would get to the center of it.

So many birds living in the cliffs....

The layers of stone (basalt) in the wall fascinated me.

Bardur stone statue

Londrangar Cliffs

Strondin vio Stapa og Hellna

Photo: Snaefellsbaer

Photo: Snaefellsjokull Glacier lies on top of a volcano, and it's in the center of the Snaefellsjokull National Park.

View from the glacier looking out towards the coast.

If you look closely you can see a small camper van on the left lower side of the photo above. That van is the size of a Sprinter van for perspective.

Aside from that one van, we didn't seen any other vehicles or people on this side adventure.

Photo: Icelandic ponies

Photo above: Typical site....waterfall behind a lovely farmhouse, and the house view is facing the coastline.

Photo: Bjarnarfoss

Loving my Icelandic wool green of course! (purchased at a small sheep farm on the side of the road)

Photo: Borgarnes. I shot this while we were driving across the longest bridge on the island, considered one of the country's largest architectural feats.

Photo: Reykjavik - Pingholt

Reykjavik is a vibrant and walkable city. I really enjoyed exploring and wandering the streets. It's so colorful! Reykjavik is the capital and largest city of Iceland and it's known for its stunning natural beauty, unique culture, and vibrant arts scene.

Reykjavik is a fascinating blend of modernity and traditional Icelandic culture.

The streets are adorned with houses painted in bright shades, including various shades of blue, red, green, yellow, and purple.

Photo: The Church of Hallgrimur, a national monument. It's dedicated to the most renowned sacred poet of Iceland, Hallgrimur Petursson. It's the largest church in Iceland, and houses the largest organ in the country. The tower is 73 meters high. I shot this photo and the one below at 11:30 pm!

Stunningly clean streets in Reykjavik. It felt like there was immense pride for their buildings, everything was very clean and orderly, and colorful.

Below is the exterior of the BEST bakery in town, Braud. Worth every calorie!

Metal siding is the norm. Notice the window design. Makes sense in the Icelandic climate.

Photo: This covered seating area is on the side of a street, on it's own. Just a covered place to sit and chat!

This building mural caught my eye.

Photo: Blaskogabyggo

On our 4th day in Iceland we drove the Golden Circle. The photo above is near the beginning of the drive.

Photo: Haukadalur Geothermal Field - Geysir.

Geysir is the country's most famous example of the phenomenon- and it's actually the source of the word "geyser". Geologists theorized that in the 13th century earthquakes stirred the underground working of the natural hot springs here, causing the to gush, releasing pressure, steam and water up to 66 feet into the air.

Photo: Blaskogabyggo

Photo below: Gullfoss

Gullfoss, often referred to as "Golden Falls," is a stunning and iconic waterfall located in the southwestern part of Iceland. Gullfoss is situated on the Hvítá River, which is fed by Iceland's second largest glacier, Langjökull.

The waterfall is renowned for its breathtaking beauty and dramatic setting. It consists of two tiers that drop into a rugged and narrow canyon, creating a series of cascades that plunge into the depths below. The total drop of the waterfall is around 105 feet in two stages, with the upper drop being approximately 36 feet and the lower drop about 69 feet.

One of the most captivating aspects of Gullfoss is its powerful flow of water, especially during the warmer months when glacial meltwater swells the Hvítá River. The volume and force of the water rushing through the canyon creates an awe-inspiring spectacle, with mist and spray often rising high into the air, catching the sunlight and creating beautiful rainbows on sunny days.

Gullfoss is not only a natural wonder, but it also holds cultural significance for Icelanders. It played a role in the preservation of the area's natural beauty, as it was threatened by potential hydroelectric development in the early 20th century. Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of the farmer who owned the land, fiercely fought against the construction and is often credited with helping to save Gullfoss.

Overall, Gullfoss is a natural marvel that showcases the raw beauty and power of Iceland's landscape.

Photo: The river flow below Gullfoss

Photo: Fluoir

Photo below: The tomato restaurant! Fridheimar is home to tomato greenhouses and a restaurant.

This is an ideal place to have lunch. (They are not open for dinner)

Photo: Blaskogabyggo - Reykholt

Tomatoes don't get any fresher in Iceland, and the menu takes advantage of this with items like tomato soup, and tomato ice cream!

They put a basil plant on each table with scissors, so you can cut your own basil for your meal, so delicious! After a satisfying meal, we went to the Secret Lagoon for a warm soak, it was divine. (no photos, sorry)

Photo: Reykjavik - Pingholt

Photo: Reykjavik harbor

Photo above and below: The Opera House

The opera house in Reykjavik is called "Harpa." It is a modern and striking concert hall and conference center located by the Old Harbor in the heart of the city. Harpa is known for its distinctive and intricate glass façade, which reflects light in a captivating manner and has become an iconic symbol of Reykjavik's cultural scene.

A short walk beyond Harpa is this shoreline with thousands of cairns

Photo below: Local pottery

Photo: Olfus.

We toured the Geothermal energy exhibition, highly recommend it. Super interesting and really well done. And they sell this beautiful locally made pottery in their shop.

Enroute to Vik we spotted this grass covered building and stopped. Inside was a wool shop with gorgeous amounts of wool for knitting.

Photo: Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in South Iceland with a 196 ft cascade. You can actually walk behind it! Step behind the curtain of water and marvel at Iceland's South Coast from a completely new perspective. We passed it on our way to catch the ferry to Heimay Island, and we visited it later that night. More photos of it are below.

Photo above: remnants of the volcano that erupted on Heimaey Island.

Photo above: The loneliest house in Iceland. We passed it on our ferry ride.

Entering the port of Heimaey. Heimaey is the only inhabited island in the Westman Islands. We went to Heimaey to see puffins, and they did not disappoint! But they are super challenging to photograph....

Photo above: Heimaey is chock full of rocky ridges.

Upon our return from Heimaey we stopped to experience Seljalandsfoss. (it's in the distance in the photo above, on the right side) It was about 11 pm and the sky was so beautiful.

Photo: Seljalandsfoss

It was amazing to walk behind this waterfall. And we definitely got wet!

Going so late at night was beautiful, and we had it all to ourselves which was incredible.

A short walk from Seljalandsfoss we found a narrow path through two rocks, into a cave and, this waterfall!

Photo: Hvolsvollur

Photo: Skogafoss

Skogafoss is an epic waterfall, it's one of the biggest in Iceland.

Photo: Fagurholsmyri

Photo: Vatnajokull National Park Hofn

We stayed in Vik and then drove to the Ice Lagoon for our Zodiak boat adventure out to the glacier. Worth it!! We saw and heard a lot of ice caving off the glacier. East Iceland, where you find actual ice!

Photo: Glacier Lagoon Jokulsarlon

Looks like they are kissing!

The only seal we saw.

Photo: Vatnajokull Glacier

This glacier covers about 8% of Iceland and is the biggest glacier in Europe. Under the ice cap are still active volcanos.

The Zodiak explorers!

For perspective, the Zodiak boats held 10 people.

Jokulsarlon also know as Diamond Beach!

Chunks of ice are scattered about, walls of ice jut from the sea, and icebergs of various sizes float on the water. Ice washes ashore, and look like giant diamonds against the black sand.

Photo above: Icelandic ponies in Hofn

The lupine was breathtaking. We saw this and pulled off to the side of the road. This wasn't a tourist spot or a marked location, it was just sheer natural beauty and I couldn't resist it. Lupine for miles.

And a little further down the road we noticed this site and had to stop again for photos. Stunning!

Cairns...they are everywhere in Iceland.

Photo: Vik

In the remote seafront village of Vik, the Reyniskirkja Church stands among the desolate and dazzling landscape of Iceland's southern coast. Surrounded by an astonishing environment of cliffs, glaciers, and volcano, the Church is situated on a hill and overlooks the small coastal community.

Just outside of Vik, the views are green, lush and gorgeous in all directions.

Photo: Reynisfjara Beach

Photo: Black Sand Beach

Basalt columns on Reynisfjara Beach.

Photo: Reynisfjara Beach

Photo: Dyrholaey

Dyrholaey is a unique rock formation near Reynisfjara. The rock arch rises from the sea peaking at 394 feet and offers views of the Reynisfjara black sand beach, basalt columns, the ocean, sea birds and puffins.

Photo: Solheimajokull glacier

Sólheimajökull is a glacier in Iceland, located on the southern coast and is part of the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier. It's one of the most accessible glaciers in Iceland. We hiked to it.

Photo: Skogar museum

The Skógar Museum, often referred to as the "Skogar Folk Museum," is a renowned cultural institution located in Skógar, a village in southern Iceland. The museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing Iceland's cultural heritage, with a particular focus on rural life and historical artifacts. I could do an entire blog just on this museum, it's so well done and so interesting. I have hundreds of photos from it, and I just love this old snow cat so for now this is the only photo I'm sharing of the Skogar museum. It's a must visit in my opinion.

Outside of the Skogar museum. Skogar is a tiny village of fewer than 40 people.

Photo: Hvolsvollur stone cave

This is on the side of the road, and worth checking out. I walked all the way inside of it, and it's quite spacious and deep.

Photo: The Blue Lagoon

The warm soak felt great, and although it's a popular spot its worth the stop.

Photo: Grindavik

We stayed in this contemporary and adorable place called Harbour View. Very comfy and worth the stay.

Photo: Sandgeroi lighthouse

On our way from Grindavik back to Reykjavik we drove off the beaten path and found this adorable lighthouse.

From the lighthouse back to the road we passed these stone walls.

Photo: Hvalsnes

We discovered this small stone church completed in 1887 in a scenic field with a serene atmosphere & old graveyard.

Photo: Gardskagaviti

The Garðskagaviti Lighthouse is a located in the Southern Peninsula. The lighthouse was constructed in 1897.

Photo: The Penis Museum

A must visit when in Reykjavik, trust me, you'll be entertained once inside.

Photo: The Church of Hallgrimur

Photo above: The Sun Voyager is a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, located next to the Sæbraut road in Reykjavík, Iceland. Sun Voyager is described as a dreamboat, or an ode to the Sun. The artist intended it to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom.

Photo above: sculpture outside of Perlan in Reykjavik

It's rare to see the sunset in Iceland in June....we had only a few hours of darkness a night.

Photo: Reykjavik Art Museum

The works of Asmundur Sveinsson. He was one of the pioneers of Icelandic sculpture.

Photo below: The BEST bread at Braud in Reykjavik

Street scenes from our last day in Iceland.

Ironically, one of the last photos I took was of this old typewriter..."Woodstock". Also the name of my hometown, Woodstock VT.

This trip will forever hold a special place in my heart. Until next time, Iceland! 🇮🇸❤️