Sunday, March 31, 2013

Iceland 2013: Part 1

*All pictures below include captions. Please note that not all pictures were taken by me. To differentiate between mine and ones taken off of Google, I have concocted a handy dandy system. Captions that are italicized are ones from Google, and captions that are not are mine and mine only. Enjoy!

So, I'm back from Iceland! Wow is all I can say. Seriously, one of the best trips I've ever taken - even though I was there for such a short period of time. The people were all so nice and friendly. There were tons of horses, lot of fish, lot of lamb meat, and A LOT of lava and volcanoes. It was absolutely fantastic and I highly suggest a trip here at least once in your lifetime.

The first day spent in Iceland was very relaxed and thank goodness for that, since we had just gotten off of a five hour flight! We checked into our hotel, the gorgeous Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, and once we got settled down with our stuff, we headed for our complimentary breakfast-upon-arrival at the Vox restaurant.

Our hotel, the Hilton Nordica.

A suite at the Hilton. Loved the minimalistic décor! Plus, the splash of orange gives a nice, cozy feel!

The Vox restaurant at the Hilton!

Once we had finished breakfast, we went down to the famed Laugavegur street. It's a wonderful shopping street and there were so many cute stores and boutiques! I wouldn't have enough time to browse through all of them, which is such a shame.

Eeek, so cute! :)

There were some really nice souvenir shops so I got some stuff for my friends and family. Afterwards, we had pizza at a nice little shop near the beginning of Laugavegur. It was so good! (By the way, that's something Iceland has an abundance of - pizza/Italian restaurants. Also, Thai restaurants.)

For the night, we had booked a Northern Lights tour to go see the Northern Lights, but that got cancelled due to the overcast skies. Even though that sucked, I am so thankful for it because I promise you, as soon as I got into that bed at the hotel, I started snoring like a giant. 

The next day, we had a scheduled tour of a lot of stuff. Seriously, it was such a busy day and it's still amazing to me how we managed to get all THAT done. The tour guides came around to our hotel and collected us, then shoved us into a nice red Land Rover. The first place we drove to was (get ready now, it's a mouthful) Eyafjallajökull. Eyafjallajökull is a volcano under a glacier, which is where most of Iceland's volcanoes are located. Fun fact: Eyafjallajökull was the volcano that erupted in 2010, causing massive ash problems in Iceland and around Europe. We drove onto the glacier in our snazzy Land Rover and boy, was it a bumpy ride! We are extremely fortunate we didn't get stuck in the snow because seriously, there were some Jeeps that went under. 

I don't actually have a picture of a Jeep stuck in snow. Here's a picture of a Jeep. Enjoy.

And then we drove all the way to the top of the glacier and behold! The most wonderfully awkward glacier ever. (Then again, I don't know what the top of a glacier is supposed to look like.)
 The top of the glacier. Seriously, I didn't know there was a thing that stuck up at the top.

After we visited the glacier, we made the very bumpy road back down. It had started pouring no less than five seconds once we reached an actual road so when we stopped at Anna, the country hotel near the glacier, we were all soaking. No matter because Anna had a nice cozy restaurant held INDOORS where we had a nice lunch of two types of soup (tomato and traditional lamb soup) plus some yummy bread with great butter. 

The country hotel, Anna, where we had our yummy lunch.

After taking a short break at Anna, we drove in the rain to the Sólheimajökull where we had a scheduled glacier walk. It's really not as intense as it sounds. You just put on your hiking boots (and water resistant material, in our case) and your crampons (the ice cleats that attach to your boots) and your ice pick. Once you've done all that, then you start up the glacier and the tour guide takes you as far as time will allow. It was extremely fun and something much easier than it sounds. Even if you aren't in great shape (*cough* like me *cough*) you can still enjoy walking up the glacier. It's such a safe environment that you won't even notice how high up you are. And chances are, you'll also forget there's a possibility of falling into the glacier. :)

I know this isn't a great picture, but it was taken from the tour group we had the trip booked with!

It was so amazingly fun, and the lucky thing is that it stopped raining once we got onto the glacier. Thank goodness! Well, what can you say? It's Iceland! (To clear things up, it's a joke that the Icelanders have that if you don't like the current weather, all you need to do is wait five minutes.) The glacier was really big so we didn't get to the top but we did get up quite high. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture to show you guys of my awesome feat. :(

Once we had finished our little hike, we zoomed off to a waterfall, which will remain nameless as we visited like, four waterfalls and I can't remember all their names. 

 Waterfall. Mmmmm.

We walked around this site for a while before we blasted off to the Black Lava Beach, Black Sand Beach which is only a few short minutes from this waterfall. The name says it all: there is indeed black sand at the beach. It's actually ash though that has accumulated over thousands and thousands of years. It was absolutely gorgeous. And don't take beach to mean tons of half naked people, sun bathing. No, it's simply:

1. A shore of sand or pebbles at the edge of the sea.

Well, except it's actually ASH, but close enough. (The definition was taken from the Oxford Paperback Dictionary & Thesaurus: Third Edition.).

I love this. Isn't it absolutely gorgeous?

The contrast between my shoes and the ash. Oh my gosh, I think I've just been blinded.

We stayed for a while, and then drove to another waterfall. (Just you wait, more waterfalls in Part 2.)

Sorry, the picture is a bit crooked. I ain't too good at taking photos.

And then, we went back to our lovely hotel. We had planned to go on the Northern Lights tour that night, but we were all so absolutely exhausted. No worries, we still had two more days left in Iceland! Yay! 

PS. Stay tuned for Part 2!