Saturday, 11 May 2013

A MAGICAL PARADISE CALLED ICELAND




Iceland - Jokulsarlon Introduction

I don't even remember why I wanted to go to Iceland in the first place (I wanted to go even before I picked up photography). To be honest, I think this destination popped in my head simply because I wanted to go somewhere where few people have been, and I wanted to be different. Fast forward 10 years, I finally went ahead and googled this random rock in the middle of the Atlantic. For the longest time the only thing I've heard about Iceland was that it was expensive (and indeed it was), but once I saw pictures of this place I knew I was going to go there for sure.

I had intended to visit Iceland on my own since my wife wasn't all that interested (plus she couldn't take time off from work). Being in my mid-twenties I didn't need anyone to go anywhere with me, I don't know how but I ended up treating my mom to this trip (in a way to thank her, and something different for her as well)... I am glad I did.

Like any amateur photographer/poor traveler with plenty of time on their hands, I spent tons of time doing 3 things: 1) I went on Flickr to see if there are any cool ideas, 2) Tripadvisor to ask for advice regarding my trip plans, and 3) try to save some money with car rental/accommodations.


Itinerary:

DAY 1: Vancouver -> Seattle -> Reykjavik
DAY 2: Reykjavik -> "Golden Circle" -> Hella
DAY 3: Hella -> Vik
DAY 4: Vik -> Jokulsarlon
DAY 5: Jokulsarlon -> Egilsstadir
DAY 6: Egilstadir -> Myvatn
DAY 7: Myvatn -> Snaefellsness Peninsula
DAY 8: Snaefellsness Peninsula -> Reykjavik -> Vik
DAY 9: Vik -> Landmannalaugar -> Reykjavik
DAY 10: Reykjavik -> London




DAY 1: Vancouver -> Seattle -> Reykjavik
September 11, 2012 (Sunny)

SeaTac - Destination Awaits Harpa Conference Center Reykjavik
The trip from Seattle to Reykjavik itself was about 10 hours(?). Flying with IcelandAir was a pleasant experience (on par with other discount airlines such as WestJet). Per Tripadvisor's advice I brought with me my unlocked IPhone and got a Siminn's prepaid phone card (i think $20) and I strongly encourage everyone to do so. If there is ONE thing that is reasonably priced in Iceland it is its telecommunication. For such a remote country I had 3G connection literally in the middle of nowhere... Google Maps saved my ass more than once.

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland When the plane was approaching Keflavik Airport I looked out the window, and I began doubting myself because the scenery was so barren!!!! (for MILES!). Icelanders are extremely chill and informal - as I went through customs, the border agent was wearing pajama bottoms and a border agent top LOL. The airport itself is tiny/homey but functional, and before leaving customs I bought the maximum amount of alcohol allowed ([Tip #1] I think I bought a case of beer and a bottle of wine.. I also Whatsapp-ed my mom who was transferring from London at the time to do the same - another tip courtesy of tripadvisor). Alcohol is probably more valuable than gold in Iceland haha. The car rental people were waiting for me at the airport with a brand new Toyota Landcruiser: a luxurious behemoth compared to the 20 year old Honda Civic that I am used to driving. It was awesome because Iceland is the perfect place to overcome my fear of driving huge vehicles - Great roads with very little traffic. Anyways I digress... I decided to pick up groceries/supplies for the next ten days at the supermarket close to Keflavik because I planned to sleep in the Landcruiser for a couple of nights (it was called Bonus Supermarket - Giant pink pig as its mascot... you can't miss it). Since I had to wait for my mom to arrive, I spent 6 hours around the airport... BOOOO

Reykjavik was a beautiful and quaint city (very walkable in September). We went to a few "touristy spots" such as the conference center and the harbor. The most impressive building in town must be the church (Hallgrímskirkja) that resembles a rocket (or the basalt columns at Svartifoss). We turned in early to combat the jetlag that night. (Aside: the B&B that we stayed at only accepted paypal which I don't have, I only booked for one night but I told the owner that I will come back at the end of the trip... you know what she said? "Don't worry about paying now you can pay for the two nights when you come back, what's your name again?" This lady was so trusting even to a random stranger.. she only had my name! - I stayed at "The Blue House B&B" and it was a wonderful experience)


DAY 2: Reykjavik -> "Golden Circle" -> Hella
September 12, 2012 (Sunny... in the beginning)

Oxarafoss Thingvellir Geysir Park @ Golden Circle Gullfoss
To be honest I only booked accommodation for the first few days of our journey. I have been checking road conditions and weather forecasts in almost an hourly interval since I have 3G access everywhere I go... I heard that the interior highlands were covered in 6 meters of snow overnight (unexpected storm) so my initial plans to travel to the interior highlands (Askja) was in serious jeopardy (good thing I didn't book anything because weather can be so wild! [Tip #2 - only during shoulder season, if you go during the summer season you WILL need to reserve everything, months in advance]).

Today is the first "real" day of sightseeing and it is arguably the most touristy portion of our 10 day itinerary. By "touristy" I mean we might run into 50-100 other tourists during the entire day! (I was able to find a few lesser known, but just as beautiful spots in the "Golden Circle" drive... From Flickr of course). Once outside Reykjavik I realized why I wanted to visit this country. Tranquility filled the air and Iceland's natural beauty overwhelmed my senses, which is an incredible praise coming from a Canadian who is familiar with clean air and beautiful landscapes.

Thingvellir (The world's first Parliament and a UNESCO heritage site) was quite unremarkable since it was only 4 white shacks; However, the scenery was breathtaking on the way to Thingvellir National Park. It is also significant geographically because Thingvellir is situated at the continental divide between the Eurasia and the North American tectonic plate.

Geysir About a 45-minute drive from Thingvellir was Geysir. You can literally smell this place before seeing it. The place smelled like hardboiled eggs on steroids (a smell which I got used to during my trip). This place housed a Geyser called Geysir... which is where the name Geyser came about. I could spot the dark rain clouds in the distance. By the time we got back to our car the rain was coming down. I had found an interesting waterfall on Flickr named "Bruarfoss" and I had its GPS coordinates, but after an hour of searching I had to give up.

Another 30 minute drive was Gullfoss. By this time the rain was pouring down heavily (so heavy that most tourists were evacuating the area). This waterfall was the biggest waterfall I have ever seen and its roar was so majestic I stayed for 10 minutes just listening to the nature speak. (9 of those minutes were spent waterproofing my camera haha). I had the Kerid Crater on the itinerary as well but after being drenched all we wanted to do was to dry up. Off to our B&B at Hella!



DAY 3: Hella -> Vik
September 13, 2012 (Rainy... then everything)

Seljalandsfoss Skogafoss Vik Beach at dusk Vik Iceland
I woke up to rain and more rain this morning. After having breakfast (probably one of the best during the trip) we set off to Seljalandfoss (I was super excited about this waterfall because I had done so much research on it). Before continuing with the trip I have to say that Icelandic breakfast is full of weird, instead of eggs and sausage they serve processed deli meat and yogurt (maybe because they are cheaper?). Back to the trip... When we got to Seljalandfoss the rain did not seize, in fact I swear it was worst! I was fairly disappointed since so much planning went into this particular shot but I refused to go without trying. I climbed up the SLIPPERY slope and quickly snapped a couple of pictures (it was getting dangerous). We retreated to the car for our next destination: Skogafoss.

I had intended to hike up Skogafoss (my research said 8km hike one way with many smaller waterfalls along the way), but unfortunately it was still raining when we got there. So again we stayed around the main area. It was so windy the rain was coming in from the side (literally). The windshield was barely wet but I couldn't see through the passenger windows at all. Since by that time we missed 2 famous landmarks already I prayed to buddha and all higher beings for the rain to go away.

Checking the weather forecast on my phone, the entire southern Iceland is covered with rain for the next couple of days... except Vik (a 1.5 hr drive east), which is our next destination! Is this a sign that my trip will not be ruined by rain? or is it just a mean tease from the weather god? Between Skogafoss and Vik we saw 1353463246 sheeps but we did not come across another car.

Vik water streaks B&W Vik and its surrounding beaches were ranked as the #2 beach in the world by National Geographic. When we got there the rain eased a bit but the waves were hitting the shores pretty hard so we decided to stay on the hills above. If I wasn't traveling with my mom I would've gone down there because it didn't look THAT bad. But since I have to answer to my dad if anything were to happen to my mom I decided to play it safe. These beaches were nothing that I've ever seen: the sand was so charcoal black it was like ash... actually it was ash lol.

In the span of 15 minutes the rain clouds literally lifted and the sun peaked through casting a beautiful golden hue to the scene. I spent a good 30 minutes soaking in the view and put my camera/tripod to work. Once we got into the town of Vik we settled in our hotel, grabbed a delicious meal for $120, then headed out to our last destination for the day: the Reynisdranger rock formation... By the way Icelandic people have a way of naming stuff that is literally impossible for a foreigner to pronounce... I stopped trying and I just pointed to the word on my iphone. The locals tried to teach me how to pronounce the word, but the sound does not match the word AT ALL.

That night in the hotel I saw numerous photographers (I think that hotel was the only affordable accommodation in the area). One German photographer was kind enough to show me some of his pictures - He saw the northern lights! (one of the reason why I came to Iceland. It is funny because it is not like I can't see it in Canada). I also saw a pack of ~20 motorcyclists arriving in complete misery from the weather.



DAY 4: Vik -> Jokulsarlon
September 14, 2012 (Misty)

Iceland side of road Fjadrargljufur, Iceland Iceland random waterfall Lómagnúpur, Iceland Svartifoss Iceland Jokulsarlon Northern Lights
Waking up today to blue skies! Unfortunately after having the mystery fish spread for breakfast my stomach was also singing blues :( No need to fret about accommodations tonight since we are already traveling in it. That's right! We are going to be sleeping in the back of the Landcrusier tonight (why pay for a B&B when I am going to be out trying to catch the aurora borealis anyways?). We headed east towards Jokulsarlon and we made stops at Fjadragljufur, Lomagnupur, and Svartifoss along the way.

The first stop was the Fjadragljufur Canyon (63.771345,-18.171785 on the GPS). The sun was shining and the surroundings were unreal. The 10 minute hike from the car park to the edge of the canyon was quite scenic (like the default Windows XP background scenic). We were going to hike further into the canyon but my stomach was feeling so sick that we had to go back to the SUV in search of a bathroom (and to re-fuel). We stopped at the closest gas station where we fueled up for the first time, and it was possibly the most costly gas stop I've ever made ($170!).

Between Fjadragljufur and Lomagnupur the weather turned misty once again. For the past 4 days we made numerous stops along the highway because the view was just so spectacular, and the fact that we could pull over on the side of the ring road to soak in the view at will (the main highway circumventing the island) was incredible. We spotted a random mini-waterfall on the side of the road within a sheep farm. It looked pretty so we hopped the low barbed wire fence (which mangled my jeans because I was being careless) for a chance to see this waterfall up close. Soon after we arrived at Lomagnupur, which was literally a giant hill and nothing more (but still majestic like everything else in Iceland).

The next destination was called Svartifoss, from my research it is a 40 minute hike up-hill. I had prepared for this waterfall well (this is my first photography oriented trip). The gum-boots and the tripod alone took up more than half of my suitcase which was beyond ridiculous. The hike itself was uneventful; but with a giant tripod, water boots, and a backpack full of camera gear, the hike was less than desirable. More than half way up the hill we spotted a tour bus ascending up the hill across the valley... Then we noticed... we wasted 30 minutes hiking when we could've used that bus path! A sweaty China-man carrying gumboots up the mountain must've been a hilarious sight for those Japanese elders because they literally pointed and laughed in my face. Once we reached Svartifoss I jumped into my gumboots and jumped into the middle of the "river" for some photos from a different perspective. [Tip #3 - Do not buy a new camera for a photography trip without giving it a test run first... most of the images were unusable because apparently my camera was snapping photos at ISO 3200!!!]

A short drive from Svartifoss lied one of the highlights of the trip: Jokulsarlon. The weather started to clear up again around the time we arrived... and the truth be told I felt Iceland's magic the moment I stepped out of the SUV. We went into the little giftshop for some waffles/soup as our supper for that night, and asked for directions to the closest campsite (which turned out to be 10 km away). [Tip #4 - Even though there are no chance in hell anyone could pronounce anything in Icelandic, like other Scandinavians most Icelanders could speak PERFECT English]. We were advised to simply park around Jokulsarlon and enjoy the free night (there are no laws forbidding it), and we ended up spending the next 30 minutes scouting for a suitable location to spend the night away from the wind. There are many unpaved roads around Iceland that can only be accessed by a decent SUV (like the Landcruiser). [Tip #5 - Try not to cheap out on your ride in Iceland, since you most likely already spent major $$$ to come to this isolated lava field... the only way to get the most out of it is to spend a little bit more and hire a real SUV. Do not hire a Suzuki Jimny]. We scouted out many miles around Jokulsarlon including the adjacent Fjallsarlon which is more isolated but just as beautiful.

We opened up our first bottle of red wine that night and we ended up getting smashed for a good portion of the night. The temperature was bearable (+3 degrees Celcius is nothing major for real Canucks' like myself), I am sure that bottle of red wine helped a bit as well. We were also aided by modern technologies (an iPad for my mom and an iPhone for myself with full 3G internet access) to help the night pass. We probably fell asleep around 11PM, and the next thing I remember was my alarm going off at around 1:30AM. (as per various photography blogs the best time to catch aurora borealis is between 12-3 AM). As I erased the condensation from the passenger windows I saw absolutely nothing but stars (a great sight in my opinion but it's not northern light). I climbed onto the roof of the SUV anyways and took a few long-exposure photos... guess what I captured??? A faint green glow around the clouds!!!!! Even though it was invisible to the human eyes my camera proved that there were some aurora activities!





Jokulsarlon Iceland sunset


DAY 5: Jokulsarlon -> Egilsstadir
September 15, 2012 (Sunny, then misty, then snowed, then poured)

Jokulsarlon Iceland side of road snow Icelandic Horse
This was what I woke up to! The rain clouds disappeared and we were welcomed by rainbows! We spent our morning photographing Jokulsarlon and had a hot breakfast at the exact gift shop where we had dinner the night before (so we could freshen up at the bathroom as well). Jokulsarlon is basically a lake where glacial break-offs are trapped due to a narrow opening to the ocean. We headed towards the ocean where giant chucks of ice were in the process of migrating to the Atlantic. Once we hit the beach (pure black sand like Vik) we saw these ice boulders being washed back up onto the shore. I would recommend all visitors to Jokulsarlon to make this side trip (it is only 5 minutes away) especially if you are into photography (of course being a photo noob I wasn't able to capture its magnificence).

Per my itinerary today we were supposed to head to the interior highlands via F910-F88 to Askja. Since the highlands were still buried under 6 meters of snow we had to alter our trip. We were lucky that we kept our trip open and decided to play everything by ear. We ended up booking accommodation 2-3 hours in advance from this day forward because we realized that we were entering an extremely unstable weather pattern with snow, sun, and rain all forecasted in today's journey.

Icelandic Horse We drove for most of the today as we basically went from Southeast to Northeast Iceland. We did stop by Hofn for its famous lobster soup (thank you once again Tripadvisor!), and we also took a "shortcut" to test out the abilities of the Landcrusier (the best vehicle I have driven to date) through mountain passes. [another aside.. I have heard many things about Iceland and its less-than-desirable cuisine was often discussed. Having traveled to Iceland I will have to say that these claims are complete bogus... the people who complained were most likely people who did not want to spend $$$ on food and did not even try Iceland's local cuisine. In fact I think I had some of the best foods in Iceland: We often ate granola bars for breakfast/lunch but we always treated ourselves to a proper warm dinner at a restaurant (when there was one, just hit up Tripadvisor)... Dinner at a restaurant can easily cost upwards of $45-80 per person but they were of fine-foods quality. Food choices were either cheap gas station fish-n-chips (also yummy!), or fine-quality cuisine with little choices in between.]

As we settled into our B&B I had a long conversation with the owner (a local Icelandic who happened to have spent 17 years in Canada). He described the horrors of the recent blizzard and the fact that the Icelandic emergency crews had been working non-stop to rescue SHEEPS that were trapped beneath the snow!



DAY 6: Egilstadir -> Myvatn
September 16, 2012 (Snow)

Dettifoss Iceland Hverir Iceland Grjótagjá cave, Iceland
Today's weather forecast = snow, rain, and brief periods of blue skies. Why am I even looking at the weather forecast anymore? We experienced every type of weather possible daily anyways. But a couple of things were certain: 1) Waterfalls gods despised us because the weather was always at its worst when we were at waterfalls... 2) Toyota Landcrusier is by far the best vehicle for Iceland (slippery dirt roads, ice, snow, etc).

First destination: Dettifoss - the most powerful waterfall in Europe in terms of water displacement. Of course the road to Dettifoss was closed!!! [Tip #6 - When it is snowing it is extremely handy to check the Icelandic Roads Administration website, even though the website looked like it was built by a dyslexic 10 year old it was actually quite informative]. On the way back we saw two travelers driving a Toyota Yaris towards our direction (yes a freakin Yaris in deepish snow); of course being a good samaritan I flagged them down and told them to turn around as the road ahead was closed. Karma quickly struck as they informed me that there is a new road that remained open a few kilometers down the ring road! It turned out that we were probably one of the first tourists to visit Dettifoss that day because I had to trail blaze for the smaller cars, including a Suzuki Jimmy, in order to reach the car park. Another 20 minutes to hike through thigh-high snow we reached Dettifoss (and yes the snow was insane at that time).

Hverir We headed west for some time and finally entered the Myvatn Lake area. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful areas in the country, but with a thick blanket of snow many of the sights were simply not visible (literally I couldn't see that far ahead because of the snow). We visited Hvenir and the Viti Crater along the way to Myvatn (my mom was on the phone with my dad 6000 km away in Asia at the top of a snow-capped crater... as if we were in the middle of a Starbucks haha). From Flickr I found a hidden gem called "Grjotagja" and it was actually quite hard to find especially when everything was white. Grjotagja is series of underground-ish hot springs (quite dark when I finally visited it in person, but the pictures turned out marvelously!) We settled into yet another B&B that night, but only after a relaxing visit to a fantastic place called Myvatn Natural Bath (like Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik but much less commercial and way more tranquil). I will never forget the experience of a warm hot spring with snow gently drifting across my face. I would love to take my wife to this magical corner of Iceland...


DAY 7: Myvatn -> Snaefellsness Peninsula
September 17, 2012 (Snow, then rain, then sun)

Godafoss Iceland Snæfellsness Pennisula, Iceland Northern Lights Iceland Northern Lights Iceland
Today's itinerary will be epic in terms of the numbers of stops and the distance we will need to travel. Basically I had planned to drive from northern Iceland all the way to the west (A good 7-9 hours drive according to Google Maps, parts of which in terrible icy conditions). The reason why I decided to drive to the Snaefellsness Peninsula was because of favorable weather forecasts + decent aurora activity predicted = Another chance to see northern lights! By having a comfortable 4x4 allowed us the flexibility to make last minute travel decisions because we weren't reliant on hotels. Sights along the way included Godafoss and Hvitserkur.

The day started snowing and I was worried about the road conditions even with the trusty Landcrusier. As we approach Godafoss snow slowly became rain (who would've thought we could see rain again at waterfalls?). This waterfall was by far the most photogenic for me since I poured many many hours researching and envisioning how I would capture its beauty. The waterfall itself is no where near as grand when compared to Dettifoss or Gullfoss in terms of scale, but I found this waterfall by far the most intimate. Specifically, I could actually go up close to the waterfall without fearing for my life.

We proceeded eastward passing through the largest town in the north called Akureyri. We only stopped at the gas station for some Skyr due to the long drive ahead. We then took a 45 min (one way) detour from the main highway to see Hvitserkur. The road to Hvitserkur (if you could call it a road, more like a dirt/rock trail) was by far one of the roughest we have driven in Iceland (even worst than the F-road to Landmannalauger). This detour could easily take ~2 hours one way if you are only equipped with a low-clearance vehicle. I saw a couple travelers attempting to inch their way to the viewpoint with a Honda Civic equivalent, and I also saw a few cars turned back half way through because of the rough terrain. When we reached the viewpoint it was anti-climatic because we could barely make out the shape of the rock and the weather did not permit us to hike down to the beach. [Tip #7 - Since the ring road is the main road where most tourists will travel on, signs to various tourist attractions are abundant (they are denoted by an icon before the name). However since most names are 135483 characters long and it means nothing but a long strings of letters to most people, do some research before hand].

As we descend from the higher elevations of the north the snow yielded to beautiful lush greeneries. We took numerous photos along the way (by this time we stopped pulling over to the side of the highway because we could see miles ahead and often all we saw were sheeps... no cars). We still had no idea where to stay for the night when we reached the peninsula. It was near dinner time so we decided to stop at the gas station for some fish-n-chips (delicious!) and to ask if there were any B&Bs/hotels in the area. The only hotel in town was booked up and I was sick of driving, so we decided to call our SUV our hotel for another night at the closest campsite. We consumed our second bottle of wine that night and fell asleep with drunken laughter.

"Everybody loves kung-fu fighting, those kicks were fast as lighting..." I had intended to wake up around midnight to see if I am lucky enough to see the light show of the north. My heart sank a little when I realized that it was already 3AM (luckily I had set 3 different alarms in case I snooze my way out of the first alarm). When I got outside streaks of green lights were dancing above me. The light show extraordinaire was even more stunning than I had expected, and after an hour of photos the light show finally subsided and we returned to our dreams. I still wonder to this date what happens if I actually woke up at midnight as planned... would it be even more spectacular?


DAY 8: Snaefellsness Peninsula -> Reykjavik -> Vik
September 18, 2012 (Sunny)

Snæfellsness Pennisula, Iceland
We had driven many many kilometers in our journey to go around the island and we were heading back to where our journey started more than a week ago: the Capital City of Reykjavik. We arrived a day before we originally had intended because of the closure of the interior highlands. We were faced with a dilemma: What should we do with this extra day? We had two options: 1) Stay in Reykjavik and explore the city, or 2) go to Landmannalaugar (the Painted Mountains: fantastic reviews by photographers and travelers alike) in the southern highlands... Yes, this meant we will have to retrace our drive all the way to Vik (similar to day 2-3 of our trip).

Aside from a couple side-trips we really hadn't done anything that required such a powerful SUV. I had originally rented this behemoth because I wanted to travel to the interior highlands (Askja) and I would've had to ford rivers along the way. In order to fulfill my desire to drive across rivers/streams we decided that we would stop by Reykjavik for dinner, then spend the night at Vik in preparation for Landmannalaugar the next day = another long haul in the driver seat.

P.S. On the drive from the peninsula to Reykjavik we had to go through a tunnel which cost 1000 kronas (~$10 CAD at the time). I thought to myself this tunnel better be the best tunnel in the world for the price that I paid, and it took almost 10 minutes to complete the drive... well worth it haha! We also had the best fish course I've ever tasted in Reykjavik that night (it was only $90... chump change haha)


DAY 9: Vik -> Landmannalaugar -> Reykjavik
September 19, 2012 (Sunny)


This trip to Landmannalaugar was another highlight of the trip and I am glad we decided to make the trek out there. It was indeed a very long day-trip as we spent 13 hours driving and hiking through the mountains. On the way there we forded countless streams/rivers with our SUV which was an exciting experience on its own. (I had never operated any vehicles larger than my petite Honda Civic in my life before this trip, now I can drive U-Haul trucks with ease hehe).

There are actually nothing I can put into words about Landmannalaugar (easily a highlight of the trip). I will let the pictures do the talking.
Landmannalaugar, Iceland Landmannalaugar, Iceland Landmannalaugar, Iceland Landmannalaugar, Iceland Landmannalaugar, Iceland Landmannalaugar, Iceland Landmannalaugar, Iceland Landmannalaugar, Iceland Landmannalaugar, Iceland


DAY 10: Reykjavik -> London
September 20, 2012 (Cloudy)

Reykjavik Northern Lights
As if Iceland were thank-ing us for visiting, last night we were greeted with another spectacular display of aurora borealis. We were able to see the light show clearly even with Reykjavik's light pollution! And on top of the light pollution the sun hadn't even fully set! We spent the evening soaking in the northern lights but we had to turn in early because we were exhausted from the massive amount of traveling from the past 3 days. We were flying into London for 3 nights where I could make sure my mom catches her flight back to Asia safely from Heathrow. (I will make a separate entry about London). I then flew back to Reykjavik and spent a night at Keflavik airport (worst seats ever), visited the Blue Lagoon the next morning via shuttle bus, and then home-bound later that evening.



Conclusion

As I write this trip report almost 1 year after visiting Iceland, fond memories flood into my mind even though we were faced with some truly awful weather. However, I believe that because of those rough weather conditions I was able to actually relate to Icelanders and understand why they are the way they are. I learned to appreciate not only the beauty of nature, but also the intensity with which it can present. On the flight to Iceland, I learned that half of the country still believed in elves and trolls (ridiculous right?). After my trip, I've concluded that Icelanders might not be wrong after all...Iceland is indeed a magical place.

UPDATE (Jun 5,13): Additional pictures for your viewing pleasure!
UPDATE (Jun 12,13): Brennivín: Iceland's National Liquor

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