Category Archives: Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland JUN 9, 2023

Our second port was in southwestern Iceland near Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The area where the ship docked was industrial and not at all attractive.

This Side Of Ship Was Scenic

The city of Reykjavik was about two miles from the port. Usually visiting a capital city is high on our list, but today we booked an excursion into the countryside to explore why Iceland is called “the Land of Fire and Ice”.

The popular eight hour “Golden Circle” excursion began with cold, windy weather and pouring rain. At times I wondered how the bus driver could see between the fog and driving rain. We really couldn’t see much of anything out the bus windows, but our guide entertained us with facts and stories about her home country of Iceland.

When the Mountains Were pushed up under a Glacier They had Flat Tops

By the time we arrived at our first destination, the Haukadalur Geothermal Valley (Geysir, the Icelandic spelling of geyser) Hot Spring Area, the rain had let up enough that we could get off the bus without getting drenched. Geologists estimate this geothermal field has a surface area of about 1.1 square miles. The area became active more than a thousand years ago and consists of boiling mud pots and more than a dozen hot water blow holes, with the oldest dating back to 1294.

Earthquakes in southern Iceland have caused changes in the geothermal area, creating new hot springs. The most famous and active geyser is Strokkur which spouts water 100 feet into the air every few minutes.

We walked around the area and waited for the geyser to spout. It felt very similar to what we saw at Yellowstone National Park and the geothermal areas in New Zealand. It was so cold and windy!! But since the rain had let up, we had hope for better weather the rest of the day. 

Next up we traveled to Gullfoss Falls for lunch. We were at 66 degrees north of the equator.

A Popular Clothing Line is 66 North

The closest we had been to the Arctic Circle was at our last port of Isafjordur. When we found the geocaches there, that was the furthest north we had ever found a geocache. For lunch, the hot tomato soup was most welcome followed by fresh salmon on a bed of rice and vegetables. Since I don’t eat seafood, lunch was not the greatest for me. After lunch we were supposed to walk down to the waterfall. By now the rain was coming down in sheets blowing sideways in the wind. Even with rain gear there was no way to walk there and not get drenched. Our pants below the knees were wet just walking from the bus into the restaurant. We watched people coming back completely drenched and freezing from the cold wind and rain.  Our guide said she would walk down to the waterfall with anyone who wanted to go. Some brave souls, or crazy people depending on how you look at it, wanted to go. Bill and I decided we had seen a lot of waterfalls over the years and this one was just not worth it. We knew there was no way to keep from getting soaking wet and we would then have to sit the rest of the day with cold, wet clothes. I was proud of us for making a wise decision. Sure didn’t want another bout of bronchitis. 

Those who walked to the waterfall came back to the bus with wet coats, umbrellas, hats etc and no place to hang them to dry. I noticed our guide sat on a plastic bag because her pants were so wet. 

After that ordeal we had one more stop which turned out to be the most enjoyable of the day. The skies began to clear and the sun actually made an appearance. This stop was at Pingvollum National Park.

The region is part of the Atlantic ridge that runs through Iceland.

You can see the consequences of the sliding of the earth’s crust in the cracks and fissures of the area. We walked along a path where we could see the huge walls where the earth had cracked. The sun was out but it was deceiving. With the strong wind, it was really cold.

Our guide did a great job keeping us motivated and happy regardless of the weather. When we were walking along the path where the earth had cracked, she said she could remember walking on that same path with her father and how happy her father was because Iceland had just achieved its independence in 1944.

I would guess her age at somewhere in her 80’s. She certainly was energetic and spry in all that rainy, cold weather. I guess doing all those tours and getting so much exercise keeps her young. The Icelandic people must be a hearty people to deal with all that cold weather!

We found a waterfall crossing under the path.

As for us, we’ll take Florida! 

Some Iceland facts courtesy of our guide :

  • Reykjavik, Iceland is the northernmost capital in the world
  • Iceland is one of the youngest countries on the earth, if not the youngest, because it was formed from relatively recent earthquake activity
  • Where we were riding on the bus was the ocean floor 10,000 years ago
  • 5.8% of Iceland is uninhabitable 
  • At the turn of the century, 90% people farmed and fished. Today 7%. Tourism has overtaken the fishing industry
  • Icelanders are Scandinavian and Irish. Their language is from Nordic and Celtic origin
  • Women are 65% Celtic bloodline and 35% Scandinavian, Men are 65% Scandinavian and 35% Celtic
  • Most houses are heated with geothermal water
  • In 2008 all the banks went bankrupt
  • In 1989 it became legal to drink alcoholic beer 
  • There is a waiting list to get into prison because they have small prisons 
  • Crime rate is increasing due to more gangs but it is still a relatively safe country 
  • 87% of their energy is renewable 
  • Most of the oil is used for fishing boats
  • There are lots of greenhouses and Iceland has the biggest banana plantation in Europe
  • Because of earthquakes there are strict building codes
  • In towns with geothermal activity, there are no basements and cemeteries because of what is hot underground. People are buried in nearby towns. 
  • Iceland was ruled by Denmark for a long time. In 1918 they became sovereign and in 1944 became a republic. 
  • In 1986 they elected their first woman president
  • The national parliament of Iceland is the oldest legislature in the world that has been abolished and subsequently re-established. founded in 930.

Next up:  Alesund, Norway


Isafjordur, Iceland JUN 8, 2023

Leaving Scotland, we had two sea days before reaching Isafjordur, Iceland. After cruising all night and most of the day in the North Atlantic Ocean, we were making good time to Iceland. Each day at noon the Captain comes on the loudspeaker to update us on our location, sea conditions, weather forecasts, etc. It is a routine daily update everyone expects. We also know from past cruise experiences, if the captain comes on the loudspeaker at any other time, it is never good news. Sure enough, at 4:00 in the afternoon, the captain made an unexpected announcement. A passenger on the ship was very ill and needed immediate medical treatment. Since we were in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean and out of range of a rescue helicopter, the captain had no choice but to turn around and head back towards Scotland. When he got within range, a helicopter would fly out and pick up the critically ill passenger. 

Four hours later we spotted a helicopter in the distance headed for the ship. It was a British Coast Guard long range military rescue helicopter. It hovered over the ship and had to abort the first rescue attempt and make another circle around the ship. There is no place large enough on the ship for a helicopter that size to land. They had to lower a cradle basket down for the patient to be placed in and then raised into the helicopter. A dangerous and tricky operation. The winds were light and the sea was relatively calm, which helped reduce the risk of failure.

On the second try the mission was successfully completed and the helicopter flew off towards Scotland. Our ship’s captain slowly turned the ship around and we were headed once again towards Iceland.

The next day we were invited to a Captain’s Cocktail Party. The captain and many officers were there. The captain said the passenger had made it safely to Scotland and was recovering nicely. He received applause and cheers from the passengers for successfully getting the patient treatment. He said he was putting the pedal to the metal so to speak and we should still arrive in Iceland at the scheduled time. I will say that of all our cruises, this is the youngest ship’s captain we have ever had.

We could definitely feel a change in temperature around the ship, especially when walking outside. Temperatures outside were now in the upper 40’s to lower 50’s as we steamed in the North Atlantic towards Iceland. 

We are now very close to the Arctic Circle so sunset is 53 minutes after midnight and sunrise is 2:09 A.M.! A little more than an hour of darkness each day. 

Our first port in Iceland was Isafjordur, located just below the Arctic Circle. Isafjordur, meaning “ice fjord” in the Icelandic language, is a tiny town in northwest Iceland, population 2,600.  It is characterized by dramatic fjords, rugged cliffs and remote valleys.

This area was first settled in the ninth century by mainly Norsemen. Around the 16th century the town grew rapidly as it became a merchant trading post and in the 18th century a flourishing fishing village. Isafjordur and all the tiny neighboring towns share the same history; they were founded on and grew up around fishing, whether you processed fish on land or fished at sea. Isolation has forced the inhabitants to be culturally self-sufficient. The town became a municipality in 1786.  Some of the oldest houses in Iceland are located here. The majority of the population here is of Icelandic descent. There are few immigrants from other countries. Today, tourism is the fastest growing industry in this part of Iceland and therefore English is now widely spoken

True to the Captain’s word, we arrived in Isafjordur right on schedule. The harbor here was too shallow to accommodate a large cruise ship, therefore this was a tender port, meaning we would have to board small lifeboats to go into port from the ship. It is one of our least favorite things to do. Fortunately we were given priority boarding passes for the tender boat, meaning we could go over anytime we wanted. We didn’t have to get up early and get in line for tender tickets.

We did not have an excursion booked for this port, and knowing it was a very small town, we took our time at breakfast, figuring all the people with excursions would be taking the early tender boats. When we went down at 9:15 we were quite surprised to see a long line. It was about a 30 minute wait before we were on the next tender boat. They sure pile people in there tight. Fortunately the water was smooth as glass and it was only a ten minute ride to shore.

We walked through Old Town, with wooden houses built in the late 19th century, which is considered very old in Iceland. For the most part the houses are very well cared for and made for quite a picturesque setting against the fjord and harbor.

Bill found two geocaches, one of which was located in the town’s one and only roundabout.

It was cold, windy and occasionally spitting rain. We walked back to the tender boat and were very glad they took us quickly back to the ship. We were afraid we would have to wait until the boat was full. It was nice on the ride back not to be packed in like sardines. 

Some hot tea and lunch sure tasted good. 

We chuckled at this teenager’s jacket at lunch. Kids!!

As the ship pulled away later in the afternoon, the fog was moving in creating an eerie look.

Next up: A very cold, rainy, windy day exploring Iceland