You know you’ve truly fallen in love with a country when you still dream about it almost every single night a week after your trip. I swear, this is weird but when I wake up every morning, my last vivid memory is that of myself at a random place in Iceland looking for a shoot location or just parked by the road side, doodling the afternoon away.
As a kid, I first heard about Iceland from Mighty Ducks 2 back in the ’90’s. *Who else did? Raise your hand!* I didn’t take it seriously until I heard news about the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull back in 2010. *By the way, I promised myself not to leave their country without learning how to pronounce it properly.* Anyway, while everyone was busy tracking the news, I was indulging myself in pictures of Iceland from their Tumblr site.
Since Philippines is also a country that is “geographically gifted with seismic activities”, I truly understood that even if a volcano makes itself known to the world such as the eruption of our very own Mt. Pinatubo in the 90’s, it doesn’t mean that the whole country is covered in lava or something. It just means that a volcano is active and that’s that. Also, in 2013, I stumbled upon an article on Frankie Magazine that just made me want to visit the country more & more.
So, it was our last night in Paris. I was also so overwhelmed by the fact that we were packing clothes for the cold weather and swimwear at the same time! Truly, we were visiting the land of fire and ice! *Happy dance* We were both crazy excited because this has been on our bucket list for the longest time! I mean, sure we had a plethora of choices as to where to go for the Northern Lights but Iceland had so much natural wonders to offer. This was also the #1 country on my wish list while campaigning for the Big Blog Exchange.
So, the first leg of our trip was all about the Blue Lagoon and Glacier walk!
Upon arriving in Iceland, from the Keflavik airport, we were brought by Reykjavík Excursions to the Blue Lagoon. This was definitely a welcome break after 2 weeks of walking almost all day every single day in Europe. 🙂 I know that when you see the words Blue Lagoon, you almost always think: daylight, blue waters and a bit of steam and fog. Then again, it’s just so different and calming at night. The pool is almost infinitely yours while having a skyr smoothie and a frozen mud pack on your palm for your face while the rest of your body is dipped in really really warm water and cold wind is blowing on your face!
Well, if you forgot to bring your swimwear, you can always rent it from the reception. They also have rubber slippers for sale just in case the words “flip flops” and “Iceland” didn’t just seem to go together in your mind. 😉 They have lockers for you to leave your stuff inside. As for your luggage, you can just leave it at the Reykjavík Excursions Flybus. Just like going to a regular pool, before heading to the lagoon, don’t forget to take a shower. Although, I don’t really have to remind you because this is also the entrance. 😉
Skyr is a traditional Icelandic food which is slightly thicker than yoghurt.
I just thought this idea of Reykjavík Excursions was genius. I mean, not a lot of airports in the world have the option of going straight to a spa before going to your hotel. After that, we went to the capital of Iceland, Reyjavik. I’m also so amused that everyone gets dropped of either at their hotel or a minute away from their hostel. How convenient is that?
Left: The Cozy Common Area, Right: That cute seat in our room!
We arrived at the Loft Hostel in Reykjavík that night. Loft Hostel is also one of the member hostels of Hostelling International–the host of the Big Blog Exchange. It was built in 2013 and it has a very young and quirky vibe. I swear, it puts the word “youth” in “youth hostels.” I wish I could claim that it was my design project or something. Haha. It has typography & doodles on the wall, it has weathered wood for its tables. The whole hostel is orange and blue (also apparently the color of our tiny home–which is why I’m probably so biased. Hehehehe). I’d like to think the colors stand for fire & ice. Then again, that’s just me being obsessed with metaphors & meanings. Haha.
To give you an idea, Loft Hostel is located in the heart of Reykjavik. While hostels in general offer shared rooms, private rooms are also available. Gift shops, supermarkets are just a few meters away and we can just walk from here to the Harpa Concert Hall or the Harbor!
A cute typography + doodle greets you at the ground floor. Check-in is at the fourth floor and that’s me between Kristín and Aðalheiður of Hostelling International Iceland. I know, I know, clearly, I need a huge lesson in how-to-wear-a-scarf-properly-101. Hehehe.
The next morning, we met up with Aðalheiður & Kristín Hostelling International for breakfast. We had a few questions about our trip and I practically asked everything that I was so fascinated about from Icelandic surnames (which follows the formula of father’s name + son / dottir for daughter), local food, how to pronounce certain characters and words. I was also happy to share with them our definition of cold and warm. Every time I tell someone that “cold” in Manila is twenty-three degrees Celsius, we always have a good laugh. Apparently, it was ten degrees that day and it was considered “summer” weather while here I was, already wearing three layers of wool, bracing myself for the glacier walk later that day with Icelandic Mountain Guides.
This is where I usually sit after breakfast while doing online errands. I would love to give you a tour of the whole hostel but you’ll have to wait for my future posts for that. 🙂
So, we were picked up from our hostel by Icelandic Mountain Guides. As our guide Siggy shared, he loves living in his country because he’s even if he’s just 10 minutes away from the city, he’s already surrounded by untouched nature. If you have followed us in the past, you know that Ponggo & I are fans of road trips. Then again, how I wish we could just claim that our journeys are just a few minutes or hours away from where we live! We had lunch at a gas station on the way and visited Skógafoss, one the biggest waterfalls in the country.
Then we were off to hike at the Sólheimajökull. If you visit Iceland, you will see a lot of places ending in “jökull”. That’s because it means “glacier” and 11% of the country is covered in glacier! So I’m pretty sure that by now, you’ve figured out by now that Eyjafjallajökull is a volcano covered with an ice cap! Pretty neat, don’t you think? 🙂
That’s Ponggo, the happy camper. Well, we’re not really camping but we were told you can actually camp practically anywhere in Iceland!
We initially hiked on lava fields and before we stepped on the glacier, we were given crampons for our shoes. They’re like teeth (well, more of fangs actually) for our shoes would have enough grip on the ice. Ponggo & I were excited because we both skate but we never really walked on ice.
This is where we tied those crampons around our shoes. Yup, we’re taking it all in! This is it! That’s the glacier in front of us.
How did it feel? Well, you can get a little bit paranoid at first because to start with, you have to stamp your feet especially on the slopes. Also, we were advised by our guide that if anything falls into the crevice, we just had to let it go (let it gooooo) instead of chasing it. Also, you have to trust the crampon. So, here I was with a camera on one hand and an axe in tow telling myself “Trust the crampon, be one with the crampon.”
I swear, Elsa of Frozen couldn’t have just walked up and dance on the mountain just like that. She would have slipped in her heels!
I was wearing a total of 5 layers because I thought it was going to be cold but nope, I was wrong because we were moving all the time and I almost forgot how much I would sweat at the ice skating rink here in the Philippines if I moved all the time. Woops! Too late. Anyway, that explains why Ponggo is found here wearing a t-shirt–although of course that is not advisable. He is a cold-blooded polar bear who has a higher tolerance for such temperatures and he has this weird regular body temperature of 35-36 degrees Celsius.
That’s Ponggo crossing the deep crevice. The task doesn’t look so daunting from here but crevices can go this deep (see photo below)!
I know it looks like snow from afar but it’s just a huge chunk of ice! If you’re wondering what the black is, that’s ash spewed by a volcano nearby. When you’re walking on ice, sometimes, you can even see or hear water running from inside the glacier. It’s a bit surreal. Now you know why they love shooting movies in Iceland. To boot, our guide was part of the team that worked on the set-up of Interstellar. 😉
Since we only get 6 hours of sunlight during this time of the year (but 24 hours during the summer), we went off the glacier at sun down (i.e. 4:30ish pm). We had our head lamps to guide our paths. Ponggo & I always go on a hiking trip once a year. Each time, we think the last one we had is very memorable but this trip with Icelandic Mountain guides is definitely going to be an experience that we will visit and revisit for the rest of our lives!
Did you know that Icelandic Mountain Guides also offers Ice Climbing Tours? I’m not really a fan of arm exercises and push ups but I might just reconsider that the same way that I easily get cold but Ponggo was surprised I was so headstrong about visiting Iceland just because I loved the scenery.
We had a dinner of lamb and vegetable soup and yummy bread. We bonded with the rest of our group who were mostly from the UK. I’m actually so envious that they’re just so near they can go to Iceland anytime they wished! We were talking about how you can go swimming on a crater in Iceland and I also shared how you could do something similar in the Philippines. Then I figured that we also have a lot of waterfalls and volcanoes in our country except that Iceland’s population is something like 330,000 while ours is 90 million. Hahahaha. So, if you’re craving for some peace and quiet and you’d like to be surrounded by nature, you know where to go!
We were scheduled to see the northern lights for the night but the forecast was not so good because of the cloud cover. Then again, these are things that are beyond our control and are under the discretion of the ultimate queen herself, Mother Nature. The last 4 trips before ours, the solar flare was intense & the clouds were clear. Now, we were nagging ourselves for having overstayed in Paris when we could have flown to Iceland earlier. Hahaha. Then again, these are things you can’t predict in advance. You see, when hunting for the Northern lights, a lot of factors need to be considered: solar activity, cloud cover (not just clouds, there are low, mid & high clouds), and wind because this pushes the low clouds away. Northern lights can also be seen during the winter.
After dinner, we went to explore a lava cave. These are formed when lava on top has already cooled while the lava continues to flow inside. Oh, may I also mention that this was the cave which was the setting for the movie Noah? 😀
Anyway, we went back to Reykjavik. We had a good night’s sleep, grateful for all the things we’ve seen and ready for another adventure the next day. 🙂
Where We Stayed:
Reykjavík Loft Hostel
Bankastræti 7, 101 Reykjavik
GPS: 64° 8,827’N, 21° 56,025’W
Tel: (+354) 553 8140
How We Got to the Blue Lagoon:
Website: https://www.re.is/ *I’m so guilty of visiting their website again & again because of all those time-lapse GIF’s*
How We Walked on the Glacier:
Icelandic Mountain Guides
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