The Beauty of Iceland: A Peek at Someone's Recent Trip
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Iceland's nickname, "Land of Fire and Ice," couldn't be more fitting. It's an island country of extremes, including over 200 glaciers and 30 volcanos, with the last eruption occurring in 2010. There are many reasons people want to visit Iceland.
My clients, Laura and Joe, are part of a small group I work with that has sailed on Viking River Cruises on rivers in Europe. Iceland was one of the first countries to open to Americans without requiring quarantining of travelers who have been vaccinated against Covid-19. It was also a place they've wanted to visit.
In April, Viking Ocean Cruise announced a summer series of Iceland cruises. Twenty-four hours later, Laura and Joe were booked on their first Viking Ocean cruise. I was able to get them booked on one of the last July cabins available. Yes. Iceland really IS that hot of a destination right now. (no pun intended!)
Laura and Joe were my travel agency's first clients to cruise in 16 months. I'm grateful that they've been so willing to share their experiences across three blog posts. The first one was about what it was like to be among the earliest American cruisers as the world opens up. The third post will be about Viking, including comparing Viking Ocean vs Viking River.
There are countless ways to visit Iceland. My agency has people booked in 2021 through 2023. Here are a few of the future ways our clients are planning to explore this arctic island country's highlights and how varied options can be:
· Luxury cruise aboard Viking Sky, which these clients did.
· Luxury yacht cruise complete with its own submarine and helicopter of the Arctic Islands of Svalbard, Greenland, and Iceland aboard Scenic Luxury Cruises' Scenic Eclipse.
· National Geographic land tour with G Adventures to see Iceland and the Northern Lights.
· Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Silhouette sailing to England, Ireland, Iceland, and Scotland
Laura & Joe's "Iceland's Natural Beauty" Cruise Aboard Viking Sky
Their cruise began with an overnight aboard the ship in Reykjavik and ended there. The information from this couple is in blue.
These are the recollections that Laura & Joe shared about the towns and tours:
The Golden Circle Tour in Reykjavik was my favorite tour. Although it was a long day crammed in a bus, it was worth it. The excursion was part history, part culture, and a great deal of the Icelandic countryside, complete with geysers, waterfalls, lava fields, mountains, glaciers, and sulfur springs. Our tour guide was Icelandic with 20 years' experience. Given the uncertainties with travel abroad (i.e., Covid, weather), taking as many 'big' tours as possible early in the trip is recommended.
The next day in Isafjordur, we took the Dynjandi Waterfall tour. The waterfall was spectacular. However, our guide also took us to a small fishing village which was not advertised as part of the tour. The village was Sudureyri and home to about 250 people, 70 of which were children. Additionally, this village is the temporary home to many of the Viking guides in Isafjordur.
Sudureyi was also home of the founder of 66° North, a popular clothing manufacturer in Iceland (think Under Armour), which he originally designed for the village fishermen. This little village is a model of sustainability living in a very environmentally aware country. It was also the site of a tragic event when a rockslide caused a 30-foot tall tsunami to wash ashore and kill 20 townspeople.
Our tour guide was a young woman who was Guatemalan and German. She chose an online learning curriculum to become a guide in Iceland. She tried living through the winter in Iceland, learned to knit (allegedly 15 sweaters that first winter), and now winters instead in Belize.
(Note from Connie: One of the things I love about this couple is that they like to dig in and learn about local culture and history, and to talk to the guides and people to know what their lives are like. They aren't just about pretty sites and museums.)
The next day we were in Akureyri. A beautiful town billed as 'The Iceland Capital of the North' where we went whale-watching. The temperature reached 79 or 80 degrees that day, unheard of for Iceland. We spotted several pods of Pilot whales and a Humpback whale named "Sparky," identifiable by his fluke. I believe this was the third year in a row he has been spotted in the fjord. Sparky also has been spotted and identified in the Caribbean, according to the onboard naturalist Tess Hudson.
Later in the same day, we did another tour of Akureyri which included the Botanical Gardens and Ski Lodge overlooking the town, a favorite winter destination for visiting Japanese tourists.
I could go on and on with the other tours. Seydisfjordur is another small town with coffee shops and artists. It's in the middle of nowhere, except it has a ferry landing that connects it to the Faroe Islands. A recent landslide destroyed 12 homes. Fortunately, most of the occupants were at work and safe.
Next up, we traveled to Djupivogur and went to shore on tenders. It's another example of artistry and sustainable living. We traveled to a waterfall by coach and strolled the town to observe egg-shaped rocks representing all the seabirds in the area and other unique, interesting artwork. More legends of elves, trolls, and aliens were spun by our guide.
Our last port-of-call was to be Heimaey Island the following day. But the weather turned sour as we rounded the Southeast corner of Iceland. The fog was so thick that we could barely see the ship's rail. Captain Markus Jurland attempted two different anchorages and made the decision to head back to Reykjavik. Laura was disappointed as we had made last-minute arrangements to see the Beluga Whale Center and Seabird Sanctuary.
I asked Joe and Laura, "If you had a 'do-over,' what would you do differently?
The big 'do-over' I would consider is an early arrival prior to the sailing date and maybe staying over an extra day or two post-trip. Reykjavik's airport is small, and the majority of passengers arriving that day were sailing with Viking. This was not an issue we encountered with the river cruises. Of course, they were larger cities and airports.
(Note from Connie: Due to the overnight in Reykjavik on the ship, we didn't need to worry about a flight delay causing them to misconnect with the ship. Because of that and the uncertainties caused by Covid with the sailings just starting and the need for testing to come back into the U.S, we didn't discuss hotel stay options pre or post-cruise. Given 20-20 hindsight now, my do-over would be to have talked with Laura and Joe about flying into Iceland before embarkation day even with the ship staying in Reykjavik overnight.)
Lastly, I asked my clients if there was anything either wanted to add "about Viking, Iceland or traveling at this time."
I would do it all again. I had a great time and Iceland is a harsh and beautiful country. Sailing along the coast was entertaining, and never seeing the sun truly set for eight days was a trip.
12 Top Outdoor Activities to Consider When Visiting Iceland
Are you thinking about a trip to Iceland? It's a great destination, particularly for those who like to be outdoors. It fits well with those who are less active all the way to the sportiest among us. Here are 12 outdoor suggestions, whether you are doing Iceland by land or sea:
Blue Lagoon (or other geothermal or hot spring pool) spa day
Ice cave exploring
Northern Lights gazing (September – April, subject to conditions)
Landscapes (waterfalls, black sand beaches, cliffs, glaciers, lagoons, lakes, fjords, icebergs, geysers, basalt pillars, lava fields) viewing and photographing
Hot spring dipping
Enjoy a midnight sunset, three hours of twilight and a 3:00am sunrise
If you are ready to plan your Arctic Circle trip for later this year or into the following two years, let's talk. Send an email and we'll schedule a complimentary consultation so we can discuss it.