Saturday, 18 April 2015

Iceland (Part 3) - Southern Iceland

Northern light encounter #2: Seen from Vansholt Guesthouse
The Northern lights on our 4th night in Iceland was really active, we could see obvious green lights in the sky at 7pm!

This time, the green lights were dancing and it was so strong!

We were actually having our Christmas eve dinner when there's aurora light shows in the sky. We ran in and out, juggling between dinner and admiring the amazing dancing lights. The aurora lasted for around an hour this time. After our dinner, it was gone totally! It was definitely worth running in and out, the aurora was so beautiful, moving above us in the dark skies!

Next, some photos of what we ate for our Christmas eve dinner.

Smoked salmon on perfectly toasted bread and lamb meat
Turkey with potatoes. Can't remember what the red thing, but it goes well with the turkey
Blueberry cheese cake
The host also prepared a souvenir for us. The ashes of Eyjafjallajokull, which erupted in 2010.

Vansholt Guesthouse was 16km from Selfoss. A long 7km side road leads us to Vansholt. It was away from the city lights and a good place for us to enjoy the auroras.

Urriðafoss was located near Vansholt and there's road sign to ask you to turn while driving along Ring Road 1. We drove our small small 2WD to Urriðafoss, while we saw what others drove was this. LOL.

Nonetheless, we still manage to get to there. Urriðafoss was the largest waterfall and it was spectacular. The water was gushing and with the rock formation, it was quite different from the other waterfalls that we have seen.

It was located along Ring Road 1, 70km from Selfoss. No entrance fee required. You can hike up to behind the waterfalls if it's not winter period. When we were there, the stairs were covered with snow, and it was too slippery to do so.

We planned our route to visit Skogarfoss, Dyrholaey and Vik, the black sand beach too. But weather turned bad with a huge snow storm for the rest of the day.

The flying snow flurries stings when they hit on our faces, and we gave up visiting all the landmarks in the South.

Driving becomes dangerous with almost 0 visibility, slippery roads and with the distracting snow hitting on the windscreen - I have to give credit to hubby who drove in such road conditions for more than 150 km.
Although the snow flurries look like beautiful white fireworks when it hits on our windscreen, it was damn dangerous as we couldn't see anything!
After the snow storm, everywhere is white. Even black sand beach became white sand beach.

Because of weather, I missed the black sand beach again! And the places which I planned to explore. ARGHHH!

After the mad day in the snow storm, the silver lining was the thick layer of soft snow that build up, we couldn't help but have fun in the snow!

Okay, end this post with my angel's wing. Next up Iceland Part 4 - Golden Circle

Iceland (Part 2) - Blue Lagoon and Snaefellnes Peninsula, Western Iceland

We rented a 2WD Ford Focus this is our transport for the rest of our journey in Iceland.

Blue Lagoon
This is one of the famous touristy place that one has to step foot on when you are in Iceland. We are not exactly interested in this man made lagoon but since we were already quite near there so might as well.. You know..

Before we enter the ticket office of Blue Lagoon, there is this beautiful walkpath which you can take to enjoy the scenery of blue color lagoon . If you are not interested in swimming in the hot blue pool and just want to enjoy the scenery of blue color lagoon, you can just walk through this footpath and you don't even have to pay a single cent.
Inside the Blue Lagoon was quite misty as the water was hot. 
You may visit the Blue Lagoon website to decide which package you want to take and how to get there.

Western Iceland, Snaefellnes Peninsular
Our next destination was Western Iceland, Snaefellnes Peninsular. I highly recommend the guesthouse we stayed in, Grund i Grundarfirdi. It was 5 minutes drive away from the town, Grundarfjorour. The host was super friendly and nice, they will stock up food in the kitchen so that guests won't go hungry. The guesthouse was clean and cosy. We felt so at home while staying there. The host, Pall even became my husband driving instructor, teaching him how to drive on icy, slippery road. Even after we left the guesthouse, he still called regularly to ask how were we doing in Iceland and whether we saw the northern lights, like a friend, was really happy to know Pall! Highly recommended!

Northern lights encounter #1: seen from our guest house
The next best thing was, we saw the northern lights on our second night stay in Grund i Grundarfirdi! We got back at the guesthouse at around 9pm. Hubby looked up into the sky and saw a weird patch of white cloud looking thing and asked me, "Eh? How come can see white clouds in the night sky one?" I looked up and told hubby to prepare his camera..

We were ecstatic! This was the first time we saw northern lights! It was really beautiful. The northern lights we saw this time was the inactive one. Meaning, it's just a flash across the sky, it's not 'dancing' above us, but we were really super happy and satisfied. After about half an hour, clouds creep in and we are unable to see the northern lights anymore.

Kirkjufell Mountain
Grund i Grundarfirdi was located directly in front of the beautiful Kirkjufell Mountain.

The famous monument of the town was this giant stone statue.

I was so small beside it. Hahaha.
Walking to the cliff side, we saw the Eagle's cliff.

If you have the time to spare and if the road and weather conditions permit, you can actually hike to Anarstapi from Hellnar. The tourist information center is in Hellnar and they can provide you details of the hiking route around the towns in Snaefellnes Peninsular.


Unfortunately, when we were there, the road conditions were bad and we were unable to drive any further. It's a pity that we couldn't go nearer to the Snaefellsjokull National Park.

Other places of interest which we had planned to go but had to cancel due to the bad road conditions were:
- Londrangar, which is 6km from Hellnar. There are 2 massive lava formations here.
- Djupalonssandur and Dritvik, which is 8km from Londrangar. These are the black sand beaches with stunning rock formations.
- And of course, the Snaefellsjokull National Park, where there are many famous sites such as the magnificent Snaefells glacier, Saxholl volcano crater, volcanic lava cave (Vatnshellir).
So many things that we couldn't explore! Next time I must choose another time of the year to come to explore the places I missed out.
So if you plan to go Snaefellsness Peninsular, and the road conditions permit, do include the above into your itinerary!

While driving around Snaefellnes Peninsular, there were many beautiful scenery and rock formations along the road. We couldn't control ourselves and we had to stop in the middle of the road to admire the scenery and take some photos.

The actual scenery is much more beautiful and mesmerizing than the photos. I couldn't describe my feeling when we were driving through the mountains. I so touched and attracted to the surrounding, I dun want to leave.

Okay, I'm ending this post with the amazing 'bright orange' sunset in Iceland! Stay tune for Part 3 - Southern Iceland!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Iceland (Part 1) - Reykjavik and Icelandic food

We took Icelandic Budget Air, Wow Air from London Gatwick. I would say we were generally very pleased with what we got on Wow Air. The cabin crew were friendly, and even though they was a budget airline, they were not fuzzy with check in baggage as long as the size is reasonable and within the weight restrictions, unlike some fuzzy and make-my-life-difficult budget air which is called Easyxxx (what an irony!). We also spot some interesting and funny marketing quotes while on the plane.

We ordered this drink on Wow Air. It's an Icelandic Christmas special drink. It just taste better... Than Coke.. Yumz..

As we were approaching Keflavik Airport in Iceland, this was what we saw.. Nothing but white snowy, icy lands.

Transport from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik
We booked in advance the bus which brought us from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik via the Flybus website. If the hotel/guesthouse you stayed in Reykjavik is in the list of hotels that offer picked up listed in the Flybus website, Flybus will bring you to the doorstep (you have to change into a smaller coach at the Reykjavik BSI Bus Terminal, and the smaller coach will bring you to your hotel/guesthouse). Otherwise, Flybus will drop you at Reykjavik BSI Bus Terminal.

After an hour bus ride, we have reached our guesthouse.

Look at the sky in the background. It's actually only 5pm. LOL.
Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur street.
These are the 2 popular shopping street in downtown Reykjavik, with lots of shops, bars, cafe and restaurants. The Tourist Information Centre is also here, where we bought our Iceland Sim Card. It was useful for the rest of our journey.

A modern architecture church. If you go during the opening hours, there's a lift to bring you to the top and you can have a bird's eye view of the city.

Laekjarbrekka (Bankastraeti 2, 101 Reykjavik)
We was recommended by our friends to visit Laekjarbrekka for Icelandic food.

Ambience was nice and it seems like an Atas restaurant. lol.

Mink Whale Tataki
The texture and taste was like beef, but it has a very strong fishy after taste which I don't like.

Langoustine Soup
The soup itself was super yummy with a very strong and aromatic prawn taste. There's also bits of langoustine meat in the soup.

Grilled Blue Ling
No wonder people say must eat fish when you are in Iceland. All the fish that we had in Iceland tasted so fresh, succulent and tasty. No matter what fish is it, just order, it will never go wrong.

Plokkfiskur (Fish stew served with black bread)
This is the dish which I would like to try but they did not serve it during dinner, they only serve it for lunch. So if you are there during lunch time, try it out!

3 Frakkar (Baldursgata 14, Reykjavik Centre, 101)
Another restaurant recommended by friends to tried out Icelandic food is 3 Frakkar. It was a little bit difficult to find and it was further away from the main shopping street. However, this was a really popular restaurant, it was full when we went there. Hence, we didn't get to try this. So it's either you go really early or make a reservation in advance.

 Bæjarins beztu pylsur hotdog stall
Was told that this was a must try when in Reykjavik, and there's long queues when we were there. But to me, err.. I guess it's because the hotdog was made of lamb and pork and I personally cannot stand the lamb smell so it was not to my liking. The sauce that goes with the hotdog and the bun was really good though.

Icelandic Fish and Chips (Tryggvagata 11, 101 Reykjavik)
This restaurant was located along the waterfront and they serve really good fish and chips, and the price was considered competitive as compared to the other eateries or restaurants in Reykjavik. So for cheap and good fish chips, here is it!

We ordered cod and blue ling each and both were nice! The roasted potatoes were yummy too!
Saegreifinn - finally an eatery that we do not recommend

This eating place was located near the waterfront as well, and I saw people recommending it on Tripadvisor, so we gave it a try.

The place was crowded with tourists when we were there, and we thought, it should be really good.
No, we regret trying it, it was lucky that we already had our fill at Icelandic Fish and Chips and hence we did not order much food here. We just ordered their supposedly famous lobster soup to try, but err.. it's not exactly lobster soup, it's like Singapore Laksa taste but much less spicy, with bits of lobster meat in it. It was served in a small bowl and it's not exactly cheap as well. Go other eateries or restaurants for langoustine and lobster soup, they are better.

Other than the lobster soup, they served kebabs as well and mink whale meat. But err, they dun look appetizing to me too. And did I mention that we waited for more than half an hour for just the bowl of lobster soup?

The kebab and  mink whale meat counter where you take and let the chef to cook. The prices were not cheap. 
Many people told us that we have to try Skyr when we are in Iceland. Okay, so we bought some from super market and tried it. It was a very thick kind of yogurt, probably with some cheese in it? It was too thick for my liking as it has the very milky after taste in my mouth. But it was definitely healthy and can keep you full in the cold cold weather. It's full of protein and it's not too sweet, a healthy product, I would say.

Okie, that's all for my part 1 Iceland trip. I will be going to Blue Lagoon and the West Peninsula next!