3 Weeks in Iceland - Horses, Glaciers, Hot Springs, Lava, and Rain

PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
edited May 2, 2015 in Journeys
I just got back from a good 3 week trip to Iceland where I got to see the sights, do a little climbing, and spend a lot of time in the hot springs. Here's my trip report!

I was sitting around one day during school and wanted to throw in the towel. I'd had enough and was getting a little crazy. That night I was trying to do some homework and failing miserably. I turned to my girlfriend Shasta and said, "I can't take it, were going to Iceland and then at Christmas, Hawaii." Suddenly homework was easier and I seemed to be able to relax a lot better. I don't know why I said Iceland, I really didn't know anything about the place, but it sure felt nice to have that resting comfortably over my head.

So I did my normal amount of planning, which meant I occasionally looked at pictures of things I'd like to see and really didn't bother reading up on anything about the country. I figured I'd find out what the place was like when I got there.

The flight was direct from Anchorage to Reykjavik, Iceland and somehow I had managed to not sleep at all the night before and that left that specific flight feeling more like someone trying to pour warm molasses over my head as I walked through endless hallways that make up every airport I've ever been in. I was never quite sure if I was awake or asleep, but it didn't matter as I hadn't missed my flight.

Upon landing we promply we cruised around Reykjavik trying to buy some food and other things but for some reason everything was closed. It was early so we waited, and waited. It didn't seem like anyone was going to open, even though it was long past their "We open at ______" time so we headed to a campsite and fell asleep. We would find out the next day that we had arrived on Iceland's Independence Day. No wonder everything was closed!

We finally got around to checking out the sites, which are generally everywhere so we just drove around and stopped at anything that looked neat. They have a lot of geothermal activity.



Continuing our drive we came to the end of Rekyjanes Peninsula.

Which has the oldest lighthouse in Iceland.

This is another coloful lighthouse.



The next day we headed off slightly inland toward Pingvellir

These guys are serious about their rock stackings.

After cruising through Reykjavik at a time when everything happened to actually be open, we found a hot springs book and began our mission to go to all that we could. Our first one was this little guy. The picture made it look like it would fit a few people...we were hoping this was not going to be a common theme.

There are not that many trees in Iceland but they do exist. In fact, heres a little forest!


Heres a big waterfall called Gullfoss. They have a ton of waterfalls and this post will include many of the popular ones. So if you don't like waterfalls you may have to skip a few. Oh, and you're a bit sick, who doesn't like waterfalls?




Near Gullfoss is Geysir, which is the geysir that all others are named after. Pretty cool, although I don't think its gone off for quite a while.

Nearby springs.


Then there was this guy, Stokker, which went off every 5-8 minutes. Pretty cool.


They have some pretty cool camping. This one, spelled incorrectly by me, is Alfaksied.

This area was called Seltun, the water boiled and bubbled at your feet.


Also it rained, continuously. I don't think it had stopped since we landed.


Their lakes had the most amazing blue colors at times. It looked like the one in Butte, Montana. Only, you know, it wouldn't kill you to fall in it.

We managed to find another hot spring that was full of algea and not to hot. Well, we were 0-2 at this point.

Awesome Icelandic art.

We decided that maybe the good hot springs took time to get to and we began the hike three miles to one we had heard was really good. The hike was up over a mountain and along the valley. Iceland constantly reminded me of Hatcher Pass (Alaska), partially because of the rain but also the surrounding area. You could see the hot springs steaming ahead, I wish Hatcher's was like that.


Jump in, the waters warm...

We finally made it up to the spring and with the exception of just a few people, we almost had it to ourselves. There are lots of areas in the river that you can go. The higher up stream you sit, the hotter it is. We spent and hour moving along the river from hot to cold and back again.

Then we saw someone come over the hill. Uh oh a few more people were coming up. Then something weird happened. It was like buffalo stampeding across the land. What was once a night quiet hot spring turned into Disneyland within the span of about 10 minutes.

Time to go!


Continuing the drive I would randomly pull off on a dirt road and find myself crawling up a mountain. The little diesel Polo did an awesome job and we early on named it Red Bandit.

More Waterfalls.


Playing around.


We camped just near the base of this waterfall, it was beautiful and quite unique.


Mystical places.

This is Seljalandsfoss and there are a lot of pictures of it here in a row. It was one of the three things I had in my mind that I wanted to take pictures of in Iceland. Also we managed to hunt down some blue sky!

Our campsite between the two waterfalls.


Rainbows and waterfalls!


Lets get another angle on it...


Went back for some nighttime shooting. Also, I somehow forgot to pack the tripod so all the night shots and long exposures were a bit interesting. This ones taken at after midnight.



We were still on a high from our last hot spring so we decided to try another one that looked pretty neat. It sat in a valley that seemed to explode with waterfalls and green.

It turned out to be amazing and somehow we got it to ourselves for a good 40 minutes.


Awesome formations.

More water.

We stopped at this beach for just a minute and ended up staying over an hour. Also we finally got to climb a little rock!

We brought our climbing gear but didn't end up changing into our shoes here. It was all slab and the minimus shoes did a decent job.

Some really awesome climbing on amazing features.


The gravel base made a decent crashpad too.

Shasta contemplating which way to go.


Most of the rock was pretty solid with some steep hard climbing.

Shasta in the cave

Traversing out.

We went around the corner to an even steeper section that had a really neat roof problem in it. I could only manage about 3 moves in but someone stronger could probably work their way out.

This was the one I worked on for a bit.



Requiring a bit of a swing.

Shasta gave it a try too.

Then we went and climbed something a little easier.

On to more scenery.





Then we headed off to one of the other things I wanted to see when I went to Iceland. Large basalt columns on the ocean.



Which of course we have to climb.



Then it was time to continue on and head toward the glaciers and other waterfalls.


There was lots to see in the highlands but we only had Red Bandit, now if I had been driving one of these babys!

We camped that night somewhere along the way. Thats the end of days 1-5! I am still editing and uploading the photos of the other days and will post them as I get them up!

This photo is for the trip report thumbnail.


  • slpollettslpollett Registered Users Posts: 1,142 Major grins
    edited July 12, 2014
    You have some gorgeous images here. Sounds like a fantastic journey. I especially love your waterfall pictures with the different views. The basalt columns by the ocean look pretty cool also. The thermal elements and hot springs remind me of Yellowstone (which we recently visited). I think those features are so interesting.

    Thanks for sharing and giving us a glimpse of Iceland.

    Sherry P.
  • jthomasjthomas Registered Users Posts: 454 Major grins
    edited July 18, 2014
    Fascinating travelogue with some excellent photographs. Thanks for posting.

    Iceland is on my list, but much of it looks very bleak.
  • YetishotYetishot Registered Users Posts: 37 Big grins
    edited July 19, 2014
    Wow, Iceland looks amazing! Thank you for the pictures and words, very entertaining!clap.gif
  • David_S85David_S85 Administrators Posts: 13,032 moderator
    edited July 19, 2014
    Yowza, what an adventure!
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • Awais YaqubAwais Yaqub Registered Users Posts: 10,572 Major grins
    edited July 19, 2014
    Beautiful set of photos and what a place! nice to see through your camera as always
    Thine is the beauty of light; mine is the song of fire. Thy beauty exalts the heart; my song inspires the soul. Allama Iqbal

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  • dixondukedixonduke Registered Users Posts: 197 Major grins
    edited July 19, 2014
    Amazing work! Thank you for taking me along on your journey. Iceland is definitely being added to my list of places to experience now.
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited July 28, 2014
    Its time to continue the trip report! Thank you everyone for the awesome replies so far!

    We continued our drive to the next destination that was one of the three things I wanted to see. Svartifoss is a waterfall that spills over basalt columns and is unlike any I had seen before.

    This is my favorite shot of the falls.

    This ones a bit overdone but...meh

    Yeah there are a bunch of this waterfall...but it was quite awesome.


    We had rushed to the waterfall and managed to beat the majority of the tour bus folks but they arrived in due time. So we headed our way back toward the glacier. Here is Mt. Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest peak in Iceland. There's lots of these pictures too but its not to often you get a sunny day in Iceland!


    The river pulls life away from the frozen desert to the warmth of the ocean.

    Beautiful scenery

    We passed back by this guy for just another picture...

    And to take a drink.

    An offshoot of the Vatnajökull Glacier. The largest in Europe.



    Another one of the glacier. An awesome and beautiful sight even though there are many more where I live.

    That big mountain again.

    I really loved the interplay of snow, ice, and green that presented itself across the country.





    That's one beautiful scene.

    Also we saw some ptarmigan. More birds just like home!

    As we continued along the Ring Road there were plenty more glaciers to see.

    Thats all I've got for this post at the moment. The next one is also going to be full of glacier shots as well so I hope you guys aren't tired of them!
  • grandmaRgrandmaR Registered Users Posts: 1,919 Major grins
    edited July 29, 2014
    I've always wanted to go to Iceland, but I could never figure out how to get there from here without going to Denmark or someplace first and then flying back. Never occurred to me to go to Alaska first.

    I am curious about who "we" is. There seem to be two people, but if that is all there is, how do you get photos of yourself? (this may be a stupid question that everyone else knows, but I had to ask)

    It never occurred to me that there would be a lot of waterfalls there. I like waterfalls, but somehow I thought all the water would be frozen (except in the hot springs). Loved the climbing pictures - that's as close as I will get to seeing a climb as even when I was younger I was too uncoordinated for anything like that.

    I'm interested in the horses too - I've seen the Icelandic horses in an exhibition and they just FLY.
    “"..an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." G.K. Chesterton”
  • AndyAndy Registered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited July 31, 2014
    GrandmaR you can fly from NY or Boston and plenty of other places in the US, direct to Keflavik which is just 40mins from Reykjavik :) Easy peasy.
  • grandmaRgrandmaR Registered Users Posts: 1,919 Major grins
    edited July 31, 2014
    The problem was that by the time I got to Boston with my travel companion (and this was in 2010) I would have to fly BWI to Dallas to Boston and the flights would have been over $3600. No matter how I figured it, it was cheaper to do BWI to Dallas, and then round trip to SLC and Yellowstone and then another round trip to Honolulu than it was to fly to Iceland.

    When I look now, it seems cheaper, but I can't prove it.
    “"..an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." G.K. Chesterton”
  • dylan87dylan87 Registered Users Posts: 4 Beginner grinner
    edited August 5, 2014
    thank you for uploading the pictures of your trip! love the landscape and your story of the trip sounds very exciting. I am hoping to go to Iceland some day :-)
  • ian408ian408 Administrators Posts: 21,802 moderator
    edited August 7, 2014
    The basalt columns are cool. Love finding similar formations in different places.
    Moderator Journeys/Sports/Big Picture :: Need some help with dgrin?
  • captnemocaptnemo Registered Users Posts: 186 Major grins
    edited September 19, 2014
    Yep the columnar basalt shots are great I especially love the weirdly curved ones by the cave where you're climbing. Of course the waterfalls are nice too. :)
  • lifeinfocuslifeinfocus Registered Users Posts: 1,461 Major grins
    edited September 19, 2014
    "Thanks so much for visual adventure!

    "Lets get another angle on it..." caught my eye the most.

    "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams
  • YMRPhotoYMRPhoto Registered Users Posts: 3 Beginner grinner
    edited October 7, 2014
    The pics are amazing and I am so jealous I can't stand it!bowdown.gif
  • Tom FosterTom Foster Registered Users Posts: 287 Major grins
    edited January 3, 2015
    Nice shots! I saw at one point you'd said Pingvellir which looks funny to me! It's Þingvellir. The symbol at the front is the letter thorn or þorn (Þ/ þ), not a P! :) Better to say Thingvellir! Similarly, I'm sure you probably saw the letter 'eth' at some point (Ð, small ð), not a D but also a slightly different pronunciation of the 'th' sound. Hope that helps!
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited January 6, 2015
    Nice shots! I saw at one point you'd said Pingvellir which looks funny to me! It's Þingvellir. The symbol at the front is the letter thorn or þorn (Þ/ þ), not a P! :) Better to say Thingvellir! Similarly, I'm sure you probably saw the letter 'eth' at some point (Ð, small ð), not a D but also a slightly different pronunciation of the 'th' sound. Hope that helps!

    Thanks! I think that post came near the early point of our trip which happened to be before we learned about it being Thingvillir! We did eventually learn how to pronounce some things and I thought I might almost have eyjafjallajokull down...until I heard it again on a video.

    Thank you everone else for the comments as well!
  • ThelensspotThelensspot Registered Users Posts: 2,041 Major grins
    edited February 14, 2015
    Beautiful juxtaposition shots with green fields and water as well as the shots with green fields and snow. Gorgeous!

    Thanks for sharing. Iceland is on my list.
    "Photography is partly art and partly science. Really good photography adds discipline, sacrifice and a never ending pursuit of photographic excellence"...ziggy53

  • TravelAmyTravelAmy Registered Users Posts: 16 Big grins
    edited March 27, 2015
    Looks like a really fun trip. I'm heading to Iceland this summer and really looking forward to it.. Any places that you just "can't miss". have you ever tried using a gradual neutral density filter for the blog out sky. you can also use a post process tool in Lightroom I have found they really help when the sky is cloudy.
    Amy VK
    Travel Photographer
  • PrezwoodzPrezwoodz Registered Users Posts: 1,147 Major grins
    edited April 19, 2015
    TravelAmy wrote: »
    Looks like a really fun trip. I'm heading to Iceland this summer and really looking forward to it.. Any places that you just "can't miss". have you ever tried using a gradual neutral density filter for the blog out sky. you can also use a post process tool in Lightroom I have found they really help when the sky is cloudy.

    I don't usually carry one with me but I probably should. Theres a lot of tools that would probably make me more of a professional that I get lazy about carrying on extended trips.

    You should definitely get the hot springs book when you get there. You can find it in some of the larger bookstores in Reykjavik. That was the highlight of our trip. Get to some of those hot springs around midnight and you'll find yourself alone in the mountains with nobody else around. Skinny dipping is an art form there.
  • gvfgvf Registered Users Posts: 356 Major grins
    edited May 2, 2015
    ian408 wrote: »
    The basalt columns are cool. Love finding similar formations in different places.

    Think all of them excellent for showing the beautiful oddities of a place unfamiliar to many.

    You captured that and allowed us to be there for a short while!
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