The Icelandic Lagoon for Everybody – Jokulsarlon, Iceland

I have been told that Iceland was on track for breaking record this year for tourism. A lot of that was due to the fact that a lot of people have planned trips to Iceland for the last couple of years, and have had to cancel due to Covid. Now that restrictions have eased up, all of those planned trips that never happened are being cashed in, and more people are flocking to Iceland ever than before. With that in mind, there have been a couple of places where I have felt like I could have done with a few less people, but it never felt overwhelming like it has in other places in Europe.

This was until I made it out to Jokulsarlon, a lagoon in the southeast portion of the island that is fed by a connecting glacier. It is a four to five hour drive from Reykavik, and also a central part of the Ring Road. Because of both of these conditions, and the unique nature of the way to experience this lagoon, it is a common destination for anybody that makes it out to Iceland. This is the reason that I felt in the midst of tourist season for the first time since I have been out here.

That is not to say that it is not worth the visit. Here is this really cool geological feature that includes a huge glacier, icebergs, and seals. There is a lot to see out here, and there are many different ways to experience it. You can book a duck boat that will load up a large group of people at the parking lot and then drive them out on to the lagoon. If you are looking for a smaller crowd, and a little more excitement, you can book a Zodiac boat that can get you a little closer to the icebergs and wildlife even though you are still only out on the water for an hour at a time. There are also kayak tours if you wish to add a little bit of a workout to your adventure, and also get away from the crowds a little bit more. There is also a trail that you can hike around the lagoon if you wish to make the experience an independent one.

Basically, there is a way for everybody to enjoy the nature that is out here. Whether you are more adventuresome and want to hike the lagoon or kayak it, or you would rather take a more leisurely way to explore the icebergs by taking a duck or zodiac boat, there is a way for them to get you out there. The bonus for this is that it is accessible to anybody but because of that everybody wants to come down here to check it. Don’t let that deter you though because it is still worth the trip out there, and you will see a lot no matter how you chose to enjoy it.

Kayaking with Icebergs – Ice Guides – Heinabergslon, Iceland

Kayaking is easily my favorite of all water sports. It does take a little technical skill, but it is easy to master, and it works on almost any body of water. I have been out on the Pacific Ocean exploring small islands out outside of Ketchakan, Alaska, the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea leaving the bay of Dubrovnik before it became King’s Landing, and a canal in Tokyo letting the gentle leaves of the cherry blossoms fall on me during the Sakura Festivals. Except for extreme whitewater, I felt I had experienced every way there is to go out on a kayak, but that was until I wound my way up to Iceland, and hooked up with the Ice Guides as they took me out on an isolated lagoon, Heinabergslon, at the base of a calving glacier.

I would like to start by saying that Ice Guides are not aware that I am writing a review on my blog about their services. Rarely do I make that disclaimer, but I enjoyed my time so much with them that I felt that I should not only write about the experience, but also let others know that this small company is worth looking into if you happen to make your way out to the southeast part of Iceland. They have access to this amazing lagoon, and the guides are experienced, knowledgable about not icebergs, but the geology of Iceland, and personable and fun as well. This company is worth connecting up with, and you won’t regret the experience.

It started off with an early morning to make it to our 8:50 time. We had stayed the night before at a campsite only twenty minutes away and we did not bother taking a shower because we knew we were going to get a little bit of a workout. I started to get a little nervous when they had us slip into these elaborate wetsuits. I have never flipped a kayak, and though I knew I would want to stay warm while kayaking next to a glacier, I was not really worried about falling in. Our guide wanted us to be sure that we were still safe anyway, and looking back, I am glad that he did. The wetsuit kept us not only dry, but warm as well.

He also took some time to explain how to paddle on the lagoon. At first, I was insulted by this because how different could it be kayaking in Thailand. As soon as he started to explain himself, I started to see why this quick demonstration was necessary. We would be kayaking through icebergs, and though they look small from above the water, they actually are huge. In this lagoon, they melt from the top which creates these hidden ice shelves right below the water that you can get stuck on, and if you do not know how to navigate yourself off of the ice, you can easily flip your kayak and find yourself in very cold water. Another reason that I was happy that I was wearing that extremely large wetsuit.

After all of this, we set off on our two and a half hour tour of the bay, and it was a great way of getting close to these icebergs. We were able to wind our ways through narrow passageways to find ourselves in this ever changing landscape f unimaginable ice sculptures. The display of colors was maybe my favorite part of the journey. I have always enjoyed the intensity of the deep blue that can only be found from the ice of glaciers, but to get right next to it and marvel at how blue it actually was without having to disturb the landscape with motor or gas just made me feel like the first explorers ever to discover an iceberg and how they must have felt to have seen it.

I did not think that this experience could get any better, but that was until he had us pull up on to an iceberg that they had nicknamed Africa because it was the oldest iceberg in the lagoon. We were given crampons, and then allowed to trek over the iceberg until we reached its peak so we could look over the whole lagoon. Our guide pointed out certain features such as deep holes of ice water, and the formation of ash cones while explaining how the whole lagoon was formed in the first place with a combination of volcanoes and glaciers. It was the perfect time to get away from the kayak for a bit so we could stretch our legs, and the perfect activity to do it with.

It was a great way to spend a morning, and it has easily been my favorite experience in Iceland so far. I highly recommend doing it as well, but keep in mind that due to conditions, which are always unpredictable in Iceland, they may have to cancel a trip at the last moment. But if you find yourself out this way, it will easily be one of the highlights of your trip, and one you won’t want to skip out on.

If you would like to book a tour with Ice Guides please check out their website at: https://www.iceguide.is/

The Waterfall that Everybody Goes to See – Kirkjufellfoss, Iceland

Ever since I started wandering around Iceland, two of my favorite book series have kept popping into my mind. The landscape reminds so much of both of them, and I wonder if it somehow did not play in the inspiration of one of the series. That series would be The Lord of the Rings. There are some paths carved into the hills that remind me of the wastelands that Frodo and Sam would have had to cross before they ran into Gollum. The other series would be The Song of Ice and Fire, but this is because a lot of the scenes beyond the Wall were filmed in this location for the famous television series based on these books called, The Game of Thrones.

This has been a phenomenon lately with tourist locations. Fans of the show will travel to the various locations so they can witness these spots for themselves. The Skellig Islands off the coast of Ireland are popular now because of Star Wars filmed there. People no longer travel to New Zealand for just its beauty, but because they want to follow in the footsteps of the Fellowship. And Iceland has become a destination spot because of Game of Thrones.

One of the biggest stops along the tour is Kirkjufell. It may not look familiar in these pictures to those of you who have watched the show, but imagine it covered in snow, and then think about the background when the crows were wandering beyond the Wall and you will realize that it is there a lot of the time. I think it looks a little like Gandolf’s hat, but despite its connection to either of these fantasy giants, it is an impressive sight.

It is not only this iconic mountain that brings flocks of tourists to this spot, but the ideal place to get a picture of it is next to this impressive waterfall, Kirkjufellfoss. In fact, more people cluster around this spot to get pictures of the gallons of water rushing over the side. I know that there are many waterfalls that I will run into on this trip, but this being the first one that I was able to get close to, I was impressed by his sheer magnitude. It is also one of those things that can dramatically change in a different season.

The way that this country tickles my imagination makes it one of the best exploration vacations I have ever experienced. I can see why people make it out here to try and grab a part of one of their favorite television shows, but I can also see how it could have been the inspiration for some of my favorite stories. The best part of it is that just by being out here, I am getting to create my own stories to tell, and for anybody, that is enough reason to take the trip this far north, no matter the season. There will always be worth something to experience.

A Happy Camper

I wanted to test the love of my marriage, so I decided to travel around Iceland in a small van for two weeks. What could possibly go wrong?

There is a certain sense of Romanticism that is associated with this idea. You will get to share this tiny space with the one that you love. Everything you need is located in some crook or cranny, and the grassy lawn that you park next to will become your living room for the evening. During the day, you will get to travel around this amazing country, looking at the amazing landscape and enjoying the hikes while you never have to worry about where you are going to stay for the night because it is always with you. 

We have both been looking forward to this experience. Our friends have done it in New Zealand, and Australia before, and Iceland is another place that was designed specifically for this kind of trip. They all said that they loved it, and we were sure that we would also enjoy the moments that we would have in the van. There were a couple of things that our friends did not tell us about traveling this way that would have given us a better start to our adventure.

It started at the company that we rented the van from. They were really friendly and gave us a lot of great tips for the trip. They even rented a couple of camping chairs, and a camping tables and some bedding gear to us to make our trip more enjoyable. This stuff went into the back of the van. We were so excited to get started that we threw our belongings in the back and took off down the road. We even stopped at a local grocery store to get food for the next couple of days, and threw that in the back as well. 

We spent our first day driving to our first campsite while stopping at a couple of sights along the way. It wasn’t until we started to settle down for the night that we realized our mistake. The back of the van was a disorganized mess, and we were in the middle of a campsite with a steady drizzle going on. It took us a couple of days to get things organized, so it was no longer driving us crazy. After we got things organized, we were able to start living that Romantic ideal of traveling across a foreign country under our own terms and timeline. 

So that is my advice to you if you are thinking about traveling by camper van across any of these great countries. Before you leave for your adventure, take some time to organize your van. It might take an hour or two, but it will save your sanity. Of course, the van is going to turn into a huge mess as you travel down the road, especially if you are living in it for three weeks, but you can have this moment at the beginning where it feels fresh and new like an adventure should feel like at the start. It will also help you find those little things that you need when you need them because even though it is a small space you are living in, you would be amazed at how fast those little things get lost.

It is a great way to experience a country because it adds a new element to the adventure, and I highly recommend doing it, but take that time and make sure you are doing it right. It is that little thing that will save any relationship out there.

Happy travels, and let me know which camping van companies you think are the best in the countries that you travel in. I will have a review on which one I think is best for Iceland and why at the end of this trip. I will be traveling using two different vans, and I am only in the first one right now.

Iceland’s Traditional Farm Houses

I know that the Vikings were the first people to discover Iceland, and they were the ones to give it its name, but there was another group of people that eventually made their way over to this island. These people had to face harsh conditions to cultivate the land and survive. I never gave much thought to these people and what they did in order to survive, until I visited their traditional farm houses, Glaumbaer.

I got to see them during the summer months when they were free from snow, and really showcased how they were built. Basically they had turf for their roofs that would look like rolling hills if it wasn’t for the fact that on the front of each one of these hills was a wooden facade giving the place the look of a typical Scandinavian house from the 1800s. I thought of it as a strange little addition, but I get why it was added. It probably gave these people a small semblance of home and made it feel more comfortable.

Going inside set me up for another surprise. Basically, all of these small houses were not separate, but were instead part of a big chain of house brought together for one large community. The rooms were designed to keep people warm during the long winters with big pantries, a large kitchen, and rooms in the back with personal bunks where the community could sleep. The big huge roofs would acts as a great insulation against the pounding storms, and the people could get light from the small windows dotted all along the inside each room. There was even a small location where the pastor of the community could prepare for services to help guide these people through the tough times.

This community was a far ways away from any of the larger towns on the island as well. The people that chose to live out here knew that they has to rely on themselves and their own ingenuity to live a comfortable life. They would venture out to the larger towns a couple of times a year to collect the supplies they might need in order to survive the next season. Otherwise, they made do with what they had. They would use everything that they could find to make life comfortable from the bones of whales to vision sleds and plows to the blubber that they could use to make shoes that would keep them warm and dry. Sledgehammers were made out of large stones, and the beds were made out of whatever timber they could find.

The windows were another feature of the place that surprised me. They were tiny, but they let in considerable light. Considering that a good portion of the time they spent here was during the summer when the sun would never set, I could understand why they made the windows so small. It would let in just enough light so they could see by, but not enough so they could also sleep at night. I could also see the function they served during the winter months. They weren’t going to let in any light because there wasn’t any light to enter, and they wanted to keep out the cold, so larger windows would be a problem. It showed me that everything that they did in these farm houses was of a practical nature, and it was for this reason that they were able to live and farm in this far away place up north.

It was a great stop along the Ring Road of Iceland, and it was my first insight into the people who lived here long after the Vikings. Glaumbaer is a must stop for anyone who ventures out this way and it is worth the small entrance fee to get to tour its lands.

The Most Beautiful Sight in the World

Wait!

What?

I know what you are thinking. You read the title of this post and then looked at the accompanying picture. There is no way that a dreary picture of some random street with a near empty parking lot is the most beautiful sight in the world, but you need to put it in perspective.

This was the first sight I was given when I opened my window this morning after catching a few hours of sleep after a night flight, and what I see is not an empty street on a Sunday morning. What I see is the start of an adventure in a far away country.

Let me give you some context.

I spent yesterday in airports and on airplanes as I traveled from Amman, Jordan to Reykjavik, Iceland. It didn’t seem like a long day at the time. The two four-flights broken up with a quick layover in Vienna made it seem barely an inconvenience. But by the time I arrived at the airport on this cold island in the middle of the Atlantic, I could feel a change in climate and attitude. I was whisked away in a van to our hotel for the night, and barely registered what was going on because my mind was still lost in what it thought was 3 o’clock in the morning, the time I was usually in a deep sleep.

So to wake up to this sight this morning after a good night’s sleep had all the potential of what lay in store for me for the next couple of weeks. I know that I could have paid attention to it last night, and it could have had the same effect that it had on me this morning, but there were a lot of factors working against it. First, though I could still make out the terrain at midnight last night because the sun doesn’t really go down at night this far north, it was still dim enough that I could not really make out anything exciting. Also, I had just woken up from a series of ten minute naps as I tried to keep my wits about me as I was being driven to the hotel, so I wasn’t really in the mood to marvel at what lay before me. Last, my brain was in the place where it would usually be deep in R.E.M. sleep and I would be lost in a dream; how was I to know this unusual landscape wasn’t actually a dream in itself.

I needed that good night’s sleep so I could open the window this morning, and witness this picture. My heart beat faster in the excitement that I soon found myself wrapped up. There was an adventure to be had, and these was the starting point of that adventure. How could this not be the most beautiful sight in the world? Of course, there will be more spectacular sights to see along the way, but you never forget the beginning and the potential that it holds. So don’t look at this sight as something to skip over easily, but as the emotion is sparks up in the beholder, and you will find that the simplest of sights can be the most beautiful for you as well.

To those adventures we will all have this summer, and those first sights that bring them to us before we venture out on them. Keep on finding those experiences.

A Summer of Adventure

The two favorite words of teachers and children have been uttered numerous times over the last couple of weeks, Summer Break. It has been a rough couple of years with the ever-changing landscape of school due to the conditions of the world, but we have finally emerged from that to a new world of possibilities. There are still a few lingering effects of the pandemic, such as the need to wear masks on international flights, and the occasional PCR test to make sure that you are not carrying the disease to strange and remote parts of the world. Still, every day, a new restriction is being lifted, and it looks like it will be the perfect opportunity to travel the world again.

I woke up this morning on my second full day of Summer Break knowing that I will spend the majority of it moving from place to place. I will traveling to many different parts of the United States, sometimes for family, sometimes for friends, and sometimes for business. I will also start my adventure with a three week trek across Iceland. It is a promise for something I have not gotten to experience for a long time, and though I am a little nervous about traveling this way again, I am also really excited for the adventure to begin.

I am sure this is the same for many of you out there. If there is one thing that living this pandemic has taught us is that life is meant to be lived, and we should not put off those things that we have always wanted to experience in our lives. These opportunities can easily be taken away from us for financial reasons, war, or in the case of the last few years, a pandemic. Now that things have opened up again, I am going to take advantage of it. I hope you join me during the next couple of months on my journey, or more importantly, I hope that you take advantage of your opportunities yourself to go out and see those things that you have always wanted to see. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross while out there and we can make a part of our story together.

Lost Statue

I would like to pay a little tribute
To a god that I find most important.
Though Apollo may wish I remain mute
The beating of my heart tells me I can’t.

I must mold and shape this slab of marble
‘Til I reveal the beauty of your face
For I find it more than admirable
While I chisel away at this stone base.

For it will reveal your grandeur of form
Of a deity who enjoys the grape,
And within it who created the norm
Whose bright mindset lowered the theater’s drape.

Did your image bring this fate on to us
For it’s in tribute to Dionysus.

Maria’s Place

It must be nice waking up being you
With the joy that you greet each single day.
Your sky must always be a crystal blue,
Another opportunity for play.
To all you meet, there is an infection
That gives them the same happiness to spread.
They will see the morning introduction
Soaking up the cheerfulness that was said.
You are not able to leave your hotel
Because of the arrival of new guests,
But it is not a bed that you will sell,
Rather a relief from life’s harsh duress.
The holiday here was comfortable
Only because you were personable.

Santorini

We are reminded by the white facade
That hangs on the edge of the caldera
Of the nature of the volcano god
Whose might destroyed an earlier era.

But now we climb up to the highest peak
To nestle within our homes among the ash.
The color of our walls remind the meek
That we would lose in any future clash.

World wearied travelers come to our ring
To marvel at the beauty of our town,
But they don’t understand how much we cling
To our modesty that could be blown down.

Our survival lies in tectonic fate,
Hoping the fickle god won’t get irrate.