Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Scenic and Surreal Iceland-I

There are always a million reasons not do something but all that matters is that one reason which makes all the difference 
My trip to Iceland was one a perfect example of this thought

How this trip came to reality was an adventure in itself. My very good friends Amandeep Boparai and Nayan Chaudhary met sometime earlier in the year and decided that we should go on a trip somewhere (somehow we all three end up in the most unexpected of places). Someone suggested Iceland and because of the absurdity of the suggestion we thought we should take this seriously. After some help and consultation from our good friends google and trip advisor we came to know how beautiful is Iceland. 

Then came the question of how to fund this trip. All of us are master students studying in different universities, two of us are in US and another one is in Paris. I borrowed money and booked the cheapest flight tickets(NON-Refundable(very important)) on impulse.

Now there was no going back. Once we booked the tickets we registered for VISA; there are just few consulates in US that give Icelandic Visa and they don’t conduct interviews every day. I had to fly to Houston on my birthday to get my VISA. We had to take various permissions from the college(But I think I have the coolest program director) for VISA. Just getting to Iceland had costed us lot of money.

Our home in Iceland
After working late nights for weeks to plan for the lost classes and trying to be on top of all assignments and submission we finally flew to Iceland. Iceland greeted us with the coldest breeze outside the Keflavík  airport. It was so cold that we had to go inside the airport and get our caps and gloves out. We had already booked a 2015 Land Cruiser (it’s a super car). I recommend if you travelling to Iceland rent from "Reykjavik Rent a car" and don’t forget to take all kinds of insurance since the cars are super expensive (SCWD is a must).

Me and Chaudhary had to pick Bopa from Reykjavík to complete the pack. We planned the itinerary before so that we are not lost but as always is the case we made many impromptu decisions on the way.

Our first stop was Þingvellir National Park (for game of thrones fans it is the place where the Brienne of Tarth defeated the hound ). It's one of the most beautiful places  I have seen with plenty waterfalls, green rocks that are too beautiful to be true

Next we reached Gullfoss (foss means fall in Icelandic)  in the midst of snow and super high speed winds. The hike to  Gullfoss was an adventure in itself. The path was covered in ice and there was a  strong wind blowing. The barricades along the cliff of the waterfall were very frail, there was no traction on the ground because of the ice and it seemed that you could be literally be blown away. The water fall is intimidating, ferocious and awesome at the same time. I would definitely recommend visiting there.

Our first night in Iceland was rough. It was snowing like hell and to make matters interesting the wind was blowing like anything. The wind was so strong that it seemed that snow was falling horizontally on the windscreen. It was something that I had never seen in my life.

It was all white when we woke up

We slept in the car and woke up to see that the town has a mountain on one side and the sea on the other and the other. The whole town of Vik was covered in a white blanket of snow it was one of the most unique views that I had ever seen.

With the snow and the strong wind accompanying us we drove towards Dyrhólaey (one of the many black sand beaches in Iceland) . As we were moving towards the coast it stopped snowing but there was no respite from the wind. we could actually see the landscape turning from white to green in a matter of few meters. The black sand beach is beautiful (all those people who have seen How to train your dragon can relate to it) with rocks and birds flying around, really a sight to watch.

We drove past the snow storm to one of the most beautiful places in Iceland Skógafoss (you might have seen this in the new Shahrukh Khan Movie Dilwale) It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. You can almost always see a rainbow if its sunny and the whole experience is surreal and serene.  Very close to Skógafoss is Seljalandsfoss. The most unique thing about this fall is that  you can go behind this fall (Another scene from Dilwale). 

Truly Mesmerizing Skógafoss

Behind Seljalandsfoss

Plane in the middle of nowhere

The next place that I recommend visiting is the Sólheimasandur plane crash. To reach the site we had to drive off road for couple of km (Some US plane crashed here in the 70's)(again in Dilwale). The most weird thing about the place was that it was snowing and just 300-400 m away there was a farm fence. The left side of the fence was completely white, the right side was completely green. It was one of the spookiest things I have ever seen.

I will continue the rest of our trip in the next blog. For the time being enjoy our drive on the Iceland roads and with Daler Mahendi:

Monday, 16 November 2015

Scenic and Surreal Iceland-II

Continuing from where we left. After covering the south of Iceland we headed towards the east and the north.(Please read the blog before this to appreciate the beauty of south of Iceland)

After it snowed for the first couple of days the third day was clear. We were driving east with sea on our right and a mountain range on our left and suddenly out of nowhere on a right turn we saw this out of the world lagoon called as  Jökulsárlón. The lagoon originates from a melting glacier which "by the way" is right adjacent to the sea.

Unrealistically beautiful
The lagoon itself is nothing short of a paradise in itself. I will highly recommend everyone to take a boat ride in the lagoon, you won’t regret it. There are blue, white ,black (because of the ash from the volcanoes) Icebergs In the clean lagoon water. If you are patient enough you can see seals in the water. If you cross the bridge over the lagoon towards the sea you will see big ice bergs on the black beach. That is one of the weirdest thing I have ever seen(Icebergs on a beach)

Glacier and Sea side by side
The drive through the east is beautiful. Next we took a road through the highlands of the country. The highlands are in themselves a treat to watch but not that easily accessible. It feels like you have climbed a mountain of ice and there is sheet of white everywhere. It actually feels like you driving on top of a wall (the Game of thrones one). 
Let me try to describe the drive: Driving on top of a flat mountain with snow on either side of the roads with a brook running along the road that has small waterfalls that are partially frozen. We were speechless and scared at the same time because if you are stuck there is no saving you. 

The special east
The Highlands

The drive over the wall
After passing through the highlands we headed north. Now just imagine the odds:
Driving in the middle of the night with a clear sky, it had snowed heavily for the past two days to provide a perfect white cover around the black road, it was full moon night . 
It was really cold outside (around -10 C). The moon light was being reflected from the white snow and mountains. To top it all there were hot Geysir on either side that were visible in the moonlight .Driving in the middle of the night at 50km/hr with no headlights(yeah without the headlights).The moonlight after being reflected from the ample of white snow was so bright that everything was visible.I was spellbound and in awe during the whole 50 km drive. It's one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

After that spectacular drive we reached Lake Mývatn and parked our car at the perfect spot to see northern lights. But alas we were unlucky, though we had a clear sky but there was no solar activity that day. We could see the northern lights in the camera, if you set it to a higher exposure. It was less than -15 degree Celsius  outside and we decided to call it a day and slept in our car again.

Natural Jacuzzi in the middle of snow
Next we wanted to go to Dettifoss but the path had so much snow that we had to turn back*, we had been travelling for a couple of days we decided to rest a bit. There are many nature baths in Iceland and they are the best place you can relax in. The water is naturally hot and it is one of the most energizing experiences one can ever have. The hot pools are surrounded by snow . You can stay back as long as you want and if you willing to shed some wallet weight they serve beer and food in the bath.

Goðafoss is right behind us

We continued our journey towards north and stopped at Goðafoss and had the one of the best dinners ever. It was cold like hell and we stopped feeling our hands and ears after we were done cooking, but it was one of the most amazing places to have dinner. We reached Akureyri  which  is one of the biggest towns in north of Iceland and it is one of the most beautiful cities of Iceland.

Next we decided to explore the less popular Westfjords and see Dynjandi. The drive to that Dynjandi was a treat in itself. We saw many frozen lakes on our way to the waterfall and the waterfall in itself was majestic. We covered few other falls on our way back to Reykjavik and completed our amazing trip.

If you love horse riding, adventurous glacier walks and scuba dives then these are some other reason to go to Iceland. We didn't cover the whale watching and many other things that the country has to offer.
I am definitely going back

Overall I can assure you that you won't regret your trip to Iceland and will remember it for the rest of your life. The only downside is that the weather is very unpredictable and the country is slightly more expensive. Try bringing in a camera that shoots good images in night and have a portable camera ready (I-phone and Samsung Galaxy are pretty good).

Just leaving you with some of my favourite pics from the trip and thanks to google for this amazing video(use google photos)

Totally amazing

Water falls in the Westfjords

Grass and Snow capped mountains like no big deal

The Frozen Lake
Misty Mountains

The Icebergs
Water Fall out of nowhere

*Bopa I might write the true story when the time is right