Another year, another visit to Iceland. This time for the last week of May and first week of June - a bit later than our previous trips. Once again, a great trip. Once again, Arctic Heli delivered.
One of the things I love about going to Iceland to ski is that so much super-cool non-skiing stuff is so accessible. This time we decided to get to Arctic Heli the long way by driving the Ring Road around Iceland. We gave ourselves a week. It turns out that was long enough to enjoy some pretty cool things. But not quite enough time to do the trip true justice. I view that as an excuse to do it again.
This was the coldest, and seemingly stormiest, May in nearly forty years. This was mentioned everywhere we stopped. We frequently joked to one another that it is called "ice" land. But this year really was colder than the norm. Despite the weather, it was a totally great trip. Iceland just has so much cool stuff to do and see. And there's the skiing...
Because I happen to think that the non-skiing part of the trip is a big complement to the skiing part, I'm including the whole shebang from this year's trip. Which is a whole lotta trip report. If you want to skip the Ring Road stuff and head right for the skiing - click here.
We headed for the town of Vik directly after arriving in Keflavik (the international airport about an hour outside of Reykjavik). It was a big day for waterfalls. There were others, but here are two of the name brand roadside waterfall attractions.
Our next destination was Hofn. The day did not lack for scenery. Here's the black sand beach and sea arch at Dryholaey.
The landscape was just fantastic everywhere.
Jökulsárlón - the glacier lagoon.
Here's a pano from the deck of our room near Hofn - just a short drive past the glacier lagoon. The landscape is huge. If you can make it out, the glacier in the middle is just massive. And it is just a tiny baby tongue of Vatnajökull - the largest glacier in Europe.
The next day, the landscape continued to impress.
The Ring Road along the south side of Iceland.
Should you find yourself in Breiðdalsvík, stop here. We almost passed it by. It is a historic market building that is currently home to a combo grocery store and coffee shop. Like so many places in Iceland, the folks there were super friendly. Order a cup of coffee and a waffle. If, for some reason, they don't offer it, ask for some birch syrup with your waffle. You can thank me later.
Petra's stone collection is definitely worth a stop. Both inside and outside are full of amazing minerals. Most were collected in the immediate area.
The East Fjords are super scenic. We stayed in Fáskrúðsfjörður. It was a french fishing outpost. Street signs are still in both Icelandic and French. Here's the view from near the Fosshotel Eastfjords. It was originally a French hospital facility. Besides being a hotel, it now contains a rather cool historical museum. It deserves its high ratings.
The next day was a fun combo. We started with a hike up to Litlanesfoss (foreground) and Hengifoss (background)
That evening we drove to the town of Borgarfjörður Eystri for...wait for it... puffins! The town has a seriously wonderful puffin watching area with a viewing deck next to the harbor. It is as good as it gets for easy access puffin watching. Unless you've spent hours freezing your ass off on some stormy cliff waiting to see a puffin, you can't fully appreciate just how awesome this setup is. It is donation supported. So be sure to throw a few kronur in the donation jar. The road to Borgarfjörður Eystri is often described by guidebooks in somewhat terrifying terms. If you are used to driving to skis areas and have a decent rental vehicle, it should not present any major challenge.
And...on to the Lake Myvatn area the next day. It is a short hike up the tuff ring volcano Hverfjall. The scale was challenging for photography. Raging wind added to the that challenge. There is a good trail around the rim, but we had a full schedule for the day, so back down we went... The rest of the day was spent sightseeing and birdwatching around the lake. Having two days for this would have been even better.
The guidebooks promise good odds of seeing harlequin ducks at the outflow of the lake to the Laxa river this time of year. Yup. (photo courtesy of cloudpeak).
The next day we headed to Dettifoss and Selfoss. As previously noted, it was a cold stormy spring. The parking lot was mostly underwater and the walking paths were not yet ready for primetime. And it was storming. Well worth it nonetheless.
cloudpeak taking some pics at Dettifoss, claimed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. No alien ships were spotted.
Selfoss was a short snowy walk away (courtesy of cloudpeak).
Two of the roads we'd considered using to go north were still closed (pro tip: be smarter than I was as that day's navigator - check spring road conditions here before driving for an hour or two to discover a road closed sign, and then another...). After detouring several hours from our original route plan (OK, my original route plan), we made it to Asbyrgi. Legend has it that the horseshoe shaped valley was formed by a cataclysmic glacial flood. Scientific evidence, however, indicates it is actually the hoofprint of Sleipnir, Odin's eight legged horse.