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Iceland Travel 2019 (1) - Overview

Changde Wu    2019-07-21

Iceland is a place that I had been curious about for sometime. My family finally visited this island in the early summer of 2019. During this 16 and half day trip, we circled the island counterclockwise, spending many days far off the main circle road, i.e. Route 1. We hiked in Landmannalaugar as well as Thorsmork valley and surprisingly, we arrived in Laki. We also stepped into the nothernmost part of the main island, a few kilometers from the Arctic circle. This chapter of the Iceland travel journal is an overview of the trip, focused on the journey across the island and our overall impressions. The photos document the places we have stayed at during the night, which cannot be easily categorized into other topics.

Part One: Itinerary and Photos around the lodges

Date and Weather Itinerary Place of Stay
Mostly Cloudy
Icelandair 632 arrived ar Reykjavik airport at 8:55, then pick rental car, shopping
Thingvellir National Park: Silfra Fissure, Öxarárfoss
The Secret Lagoon
Mostly Cloudy
Geysir, Bruarfoss, Gullfoss, Háifoss Highland Center
Mostly Sunny
Enter Landmannalaugar from Rt. F26, leave by Route F225
Sigoldufoss, Mt. Brennisteinsalda (sulphur wave)
Mostly Cloudy
Thórsmörk Area: Fimmvörðuháls trail southern section
Walk along the river valley towards galcier
Volcano Huts
Light rain
Thórsmörk Area:Trail west of Langidlur , partial of Tindfjöll Circle
Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui
Cloudy Windy
Vik:Dyrhólaey ("door-hole"), Reynisfjall mountain, Reynisfjara Beach, Reynisdrangar
Hjörleifshöfði Cave
Cloudy day time
raining evening
Fjaðrárgljúfur valley
Lakagígar (Laki)
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Mostly Cloudy
Djúpivogur -‘Eggin i Gledivik’
Hafrahvammagljúfur canyon
Borgarfjörður Eystri
Mostly Cloudy
Puffin watching
Stuðlagil canyon
Hot spring bath
Freezing Raining
Nothernmost Iceland by Rt.862 -> 85 -> 870; back to Mývatn by Rt.85 -> 862
Dettifoss, Ásbyrgi canyon
The Arctic Henge (at Raufarhöfn), Raudanes Point
Mostly Sunny
Husavik whale watching
Back to Mývatn:Hverir, Krafla crater, Grjótagjá Cave, Hverfjall/Hverfell
Mostly Cloudy
Hvítserkur Cliff
Cloudy with light rain
Mostly Sunny
Dynjandi Waterfalls
Rauðasandur Beach
Latrabjarg Birds Cliff
Mostly Sunny
Ferry to Stykkishólmur
Berserkjahraun Lava
Snaefellsjoekull National Park Quick Tour
Mostly Sunny
Snæfellsnes peninsula: Snæfellsjökull, Djúpalónssandur, Londrangar, Hellnar, Armarstapi
Gerðuberg Cliffs, Hraunfossar Waterfalls
Mostly Sunny
Reykjavík: >Hallgrímskirkja, The Sun Voyager
Krysuvik Thermal, Bridge America-Europe

Although most of the places we lodged at are not renown for their scenery, they were beautiful nonetheless. The following photos are from the guesthouses or cottages in the order of which we visited them.

P1 Sunset scene from the guest house, Flúðir
P2 Mountains and lakes near the Highland Center Hrauneyjar
P3 Lupine flowers just outside the Guest House, viewing Seljalandsfoss from inside the room, Hvolsvöllur
P4 Thorsmork Volcano Huts is in this river valley
P5 Back to the same Guest House from Thorsmork, Hvolsvöllur
P6 The farm houses and the snow covered mountains in distance, viewing from Cottages around the Junction of Rt. 1 and 208, Kirkjubæjarklaustur
P7 The cottages we stayed at the previous night, Djupivogur
P8 The mountains and a waterfalls behind the Guest House, Djupivogur
P9 The dusk at Borgarfjörður Eystri
P10 Borgarfjörður Eystri, my favorite place among the places we stayed at
P11 The Lake Mývatn, Vogar, Mývatn
P12 Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland, suddenly appear before us as we passed a long tunnel
P13 Akureyri Conference center, seated in harbor, its outside is made from basalt columns
P14 Holmavik, a needed stop-over on the long way to Isafjörður. The fjords on the way to Isafjörður are not as impressive.
P15 Ísafjörður, the capital of West Fjords
P16 Outside the Latrabjarg hotels, several unhappy cows in the midnight
P17 Grundarfjördur, a place like a postcard of Iceland
P18 Hat-like mound surounded by sea water in three sides
P19 The Sun Voyager is a land mark of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland

Part Two: Overall Impression

Iceland, an island whose area is smaller than the state of New York, with a total population close to 360,000, is no doubt a beautiful place for sight-seeing. During our visit, we were greeted each day by the lands full of Lupine flowers. We were amazed by numerous great waterfalls, fascinated by snows peaks and volcanic formations, and of course, mesmerized by the majestic puffin.

P20 In early summer, Lupine flowers are flourishing everywhere. This photo was captured in the Northernmost region.
P21 There are so many waterfalls in Iceland that only famous ones garner attention. This is one of the many waterfalls people even don't bother visit under the Dynjandi waterfalls

Here are the places we are most satisfied with for this travel:

Here are the two most diappointing things for this trip:

Part Three: The Unpleasant Last day

The last day at the airport cast away all my good feelings about Iceland. The first incident was the unreasonably high rental repair bill by the Enterprise Rent-A-Car. We reserved the car Expedia and also purchased collision insurance from Expedia. The car incurred a very slight scratch and dent(see the mark in the photo below) near the end of the trip. This small damage is not easily observable, especially when the car is dusty. Neverthless, we washed the car before return and told the clerk about the damage at the time we returned car. To my surprise, the young lady handling the return said they don't work with my insurance company, would charge me first then let me reimburse my payment from my insurance provider. The amount she wanted to charge me for the repair is ISK 1,000,000, which converted to US dollar is 8,000. I was shocked by this number and wondered whether this car rental company is doing business or robbery, or if the lady is simply insane. Since our family needed to catch the flight back to Boston, we had no time to dispute the amount they requested and handed them the credit card for the charge. Although the insurance will pay back me the full amount in the end, I can hardly accept this kind of racketeering. When I came back, I claimed the damage to my issurance provider. which is AIG. In this respect, Expedia still earn its commision by selling me the collision policy. Several days later, I received an email message from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car saying that the repair cost will be 180,770 ISK ($1,446) after inspection, and they will refund the extra amount they charged me. I believe that this might be a result of the involvement of the insurance company.

P22 The damage (inside the orange circle), and the price tag of 1,000,000 ISK for repairing.

The next unpleasant thing occurred at the Keflavík International Airport. We did not anticipate such a chaotic and tedious procedure to board a plane, and we almost missed our flight. The lobby on the first floor of the airport was so chaotic that we could not found the airline's check-in counter. There were no people from the airport to provide help. We were forced to heck-in at a self-service kiosk. Though the boarding passes got printed, printing the baggage check-in slip failed repeatedly. We eventually found the check-in counter of Icelandair and got the baggage checked in. The procedure for security check was long, and had multiple stages. Questions were asked in multiple places, and boarding passes were scanned in many places as well. My son's boarding pass was rejected by card-reader at every step. After passing the security check, we thought we were finally relieved and ready to board. However, this turned out to be wrong. After we ate some food in the food court, on the way to our boarding area, we faced another time consuming process, the boarder control. After the boarder control, boarding passes are scanned again. My son's boarding pass was denied once-again, and he was taken to a separate room for further interview. When he came out, the flight had already started boarding. The border control for out-going passenges was totally unexpected. If this must be performed, it should be immediately after the securty check, not after people spent time in the food court, then on the way to the boarding area. By the way, the situation my son encountered might not be really boarding pass issue, as we saw this happened to nearly every family in the airport, and heard the same story from the friends. We saw many faces with helpless expressions and angry yelling when we were in airport.

Driving in Iceland is tricky for international travelers. The Iceland government charges a toll for passing the tunnel on Rt. 1 near Akureyri. When I drove to Akureyri from Mývatn direction, I saw a posted sign for the tunnel toll, but never saw any person or device for collecting the fee in the entrance or exit, and was wondering how the toll being collected. Two days later, I received an email message from the car rental company said they charged me ISK 1,500 for tunnel fee, ISK 3,000 for the fine administration fee. This is definitely annoying, and I believe that it well is the delibrate trap of the government, another type of robbery. By the way, one thing most people feel bad about the Iceland is that they charge fees for using toilet in popular tourist sites. The way they did is paying first before entering. It maybe a good idea for them to use the same way they handle the tolls for tunnel to collect more money from the unaware tourists.

Iceland Travel 2019 (2) - Golden Circle