by sam on 09/4/2016

for this summer’s vacation, I took myself to iceland. I went on the Nat Geo/G Adventures “Explore Iceland” tour of the southern part of the country, with a few extra days in Reykjavik at the beginning. It was a great time, our guide was great (both as a guide and a lot of fun), and my only complaint is that I managed to come home with a cold, but I’m blaming that on the guy next to me on one of my flights who coughed the entire trip and wouldn’t cover his mouth, no matter how many dirty looks I gave him. I’ve managed to whittle down the 1,500 pictures to the 125 or so below (plus one attempt at a stop motion thingamajig). Without further ado…

I flew to Reykjavik on Thursday, landing in the middle of the night, so I really had Friday/Saturday/Sunday to get over my jet lag and explore before meeting up with the tour group on Sunday afternoon/evening. I didn’t really plan this when I planned the overall trip, but Saturday was basically the biggest day of the year in Reykjavik – the Culture Night, a combination of the city marathon, a giant street fair, and massive concert/party all day and night that coincides with the anniversary of the city. it’s like July 4th and New Years’ rolled into one, in the politest city on earth. so that was fun. The entire country of iceland only has a population of 350,000, which I think is smaller than the number of people who ride my subway train in the morning, so the scale of things is just a bit different. This first batch of photos is from my wanderings around Reykjavik for the first couple of days. I did venture into a few museums, but I generally don’t take pictures inside those (and the few I did aren’t particularly…photogenic), so nothing to show for that. Other highlights include a lot of random statues, doors, and a trip to the top of the Reykjavik Cathedral. There’s an elevator.

Sunday night, I met up with the tour group, and we went for a ‘traditional’ icelandic tasting menu. I managed to take pictures of everything except for dessert. As a bonus, one of my tour-mates took a not horrible photo of me, so this is the rare trip where I will actually appear in some of the photos. If anyone is curious, the dessert was icelandic skyr.

The first day of our tour was the “golden circle”, which a lot of folks do as a day trip from Reykjavik – it took us first to a geothermal power plant, where we learned how iceland is 100% powered by the volcanoes that the entire country sits on, then to site of the original icelandic parliament, which is really just a gorgeous lake, and then to the mid-atlantic ridge. Then we went to lunch at a hydroponic tomato farm greenhouse where they serve nothing but tomato-based foods, saw some icelandic horses, then, went to Geysir, which you can probably guess is the site of a lot of geysers, and finally to Gulfoss, the first of about a zillion waterfalls that cover this gorgeous country.

Lest you think the little geyser in the photos above was the only geyser I photographed, I saved the best for last. below is (an attempt at) a compilation of all of the photos I took of the main geyser going off. Note at the very beginning the perfect bubble that forms before the geyser actually explodes. We had to wait for about six explosions before I managed to catch that split-second moment on film.

Day two of the tour (yes, we’re only on day 2) involved traveling to Vik, the southernmost point in iceland, with stops at some major waterfalls and the coastline along the way. This is a stunningly beautiful country, entirely formed by volcanoes. The beaches are black volcanic sand and the waterfalls are runoff from the volcanic glaciers, and there are these crazy basalt pillars rising up from the earth all over the place.

Day three was more (smaller) waterfalls, glacier lagoons, crystal beaches where icebergs wash up on shore, and turf-roofed churches. and sheep. The sheep simply roam the entire country during the warm months and you’ll see them everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

Day four of the trip was hiking on a glacier! unfortunately, while the actual scenery was beautiful, the volcanic-ash covered ice wasn’t particularly photogenic up close. Then we went to yet another waterfall in the afternoon (seriously. There are a lot of waterfalls).

The final day of the tour involved driving back across southern iceland, with a few stops – first to a bridge monument that is the last remnants of a bridge that was wiped out by a volcanic eruption and massive flood in 1996. Then to Fjaorargijufur, a beautiful gorge that is probably *now* most famous for being used in a (ugh) Justin Bieber video. (it’s even prettier when the sun is actually shining – we were avoiding rain all day). Lastly, to a settlement museum where we learned a bit more about the history of iceland and visited a historic village that had been relocated to the museum grounds. And that was it (at least for public consumption – pictures from the bar in Reykjavik later in the evening are under lock and key!)

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