Iceland- The Land of Fire & Ice

It wasn't very intentionally planned to be a day of extremes, but by happy accident we experienced the full spectrum of the famous "land of fire and ice" slogan on our third day of traveling Iceland.

With a sparse mossy green foreground, a glacier, and several waterfalls further on the horizon, the early morning view from our hotel was peaceful and we kept going back to the window as we packed. Since we had arrived early the night before, we had already driven this stretch to Skaftafell once before.

It was fascinating to see the glacier and barren fields in the morning light, and could tell we were getting closer to our first destination, Jokulsarlon when we saw bright icy chunks gathering on the black beaches.

We decided to take the first tour of the day and pulling into the lot with the two company stations, we found there weren't many others around. We leisurely took a few photos by the inlet to the sea and were shortly followed with large tour bus crowds.

At this point, through a terrible comedy of errors, we hit our first real travel moment. You know the kind that induces the level of vacation stress that has you desperately trying-to-hold-it-together-in-front-of-the-other-tourists? Having to sprint across an open field and struggle into a bodysuit while a bus of angry Norwegians looks on (or awkwardly having to apologize for your spouse who looks like a fool for holding up a bus of rightfully judgy Norwegians) will quickly get you there.

Whew, let's just say our glacial lagoon tour had an icy start. Thankfully, the beauty of the boat trip quickly brought us all back together as happy traveling friends.

Everything about the lagoon was breathtaking.

Loud blasts from falling ice echoed off the quiet water as we cruised in and out of icebergs in all shades of stunning turquoise.
We learned that the black marks were dirt and ash layered between years of snow pack.

Many of the bright blue bergs were really just crystal clear, reflecting the color of the water below as they went rolling away out to sea.

Paying for this boat tour is a must! To top off an already amazing experience, we came across a group of playful seals that swam and jumped around our boats as we headed in to shore.

One of our all time favorite travel moments!

We warmed up over lattes shared with a wild bunch of elderly Italian tourists, then hit the road. Our next stop was at a quaint turf church in Hof, one of the remaining few in the country. It was eerie and peaceful.
The afternoon was spent making our way back towards Reykjavik.

Since we were making good time, we took a detour into the village of Hveragerdi. We loved this quiet little berg, but were there for a hike at Reykjadalur. Talk about highs and lows.

The inclines weren't just gradually upward; instead the rocky trail dipped up and down into valleys (hence not easier going on the way back). It was also full of horse poop and swarming sweat flies. We had more than one moment where we thought we might turn back, but instead were drawn on by the tempting hot springs ahead.

Finally, we saw the steam billowing up from the earth and new we had made it.

It's hard to describe how peaceful and soothing the warm waters felt after a chilly hike. Just a note- you have to embrace the European way and get comfy with the open air changing partitions. (There were a few au-natural Icelandic grandmothers who also were soaking in the river). It was easy enough to find your own quiet corner of the pools to rest in though, and not so hard for Americans if you just wear your suit under your hiking clothes on the way (bring a wet bag for the way back).

We hadn't quite dressed for a four mile hike and were worn out as we made it to our car to leave. The peaceful fishing village cabin we chose in Alftanes for the evening's lodging really seemed the perfect restful remedy.

While on the outskirts of town (actually by the Presidential compound), we picked it for that and hoped it would afford good Aurora views. Cleaning up gave us our second wind and we were excited for our dinner reservations in Reykjavik.

Grillmarkadurinn is beautifully designed with moody Scandinavian accents.

The crowd was split between international and local guests, and every plate that went by looked enticing. We sampled the odder meats on the menu, but the fresh langoustine and cod were most memorable.

An evening walk through town, while chilly, was exhilarating. Reykjavik seems quaint and exotic, all at once, and is fantastic to do on foot. It's fun to walk around and wish you lived in one of the beautiful walk-up flats in this uber cool place (okay maybe just from May-September).

Back in our cozy little cottage, we kept our eye on the night sky. A strange green tint rimmed the horizon late in the night, but we didn't ever see the vibrant rippling effect we were looking for. Still, not a bad end to a full day!

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