through my lens, with love - Iceland, August 2018



Flying over Grindavik from Paris to Keflavik
In Icelandic grinda means frame, kefla means drifting wood, vik means bay
Day1 - Reykjavik

Landing at Keflavik Airport, I took a bus to Reykjavik, dropped my stuff at the Bus Hostel (affordable, well located, fairly clean, nice shared kitchen and sweet staff) and wandered in Reykjavik.
It was already late when I arrived so I had very little time for grocery shopping/dinner and my bus ride was an early one on the next day to go to Skogar.

I mainly travelled with Reykjavik Excursions, I always bought single tickets, it was cheaper than getting a pass and more flexible too so I could switch compagnies whenever.
I used Straeto as often as I could, it takes sometimes a bit longer but it is much cheaper.

Public transport in Iceland map 2018

I hitchhiked a couple of times and I always ended up with the sweetest companions trip.

Crime rate in Iceland is very low and tourism well developed, I never felt so safe as a solo female traveler.

If you go to Reykjavik in June, check out Secret Solstice Festival and if you go in August do not miss Culture night!

French fellow, I'll do a second article about my equipment in French as you can find a lot of documentation in English online but not as much content in French.

Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik

Hallgrimskirkja means the church of Hallgrimur

Dinner with a view, endless sunset on the shore walk looking towards Grundarhverfi, Reykjavik
In Icelandic reyk means smoke

Day2 - South Iceland
From Reykjavik to Skogafoss

When I arrived on Skogar Campsite I put my tent up and went straight on a hike, climbed the stairs along Skogarfoss and followed the river all afternoon... Here is the Skoga river flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.

In Icelandic skoga means forest and foss means waterfall









height: 60 m (200ft) - Skogafoss

The white peak is the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano that last erupted in 2010
from Icelandic to English: eyja/island fjall/moutains jokull/glacier


Skogar campsite is a nice and spartan spot equipped with a grill, you can shower for 5mins for 300kr and you get to sleep at the bottom of this...
Looking for a warm place to hang or to dry? Get coffee or lunch at Fossbud, good food, reasonable prices.
Free and hot swimming pool near by is also the oldest one of the country Seljavallalaug.

Day3 - Woke up early, packed my stuff  and went to Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
If you really want to enjoy the moonscape you have to be there early, it gets crowded later during the day.
It's at least an 8km hike from the parking lot to the plane and back, I went a bit further to check out Solheimafjara.
The light is soft and gold at sunrise and sunset and it's like that for hours, slowly rising, slowly fading...

Myrdalsjokull
In Icelandic myrdals means murder

Solheimafjara
from Icelandic to English: sol/sun heim/home jfara/beach


In Icelandic sandur means sand

Solheimafjara to Reynisfjara
from a black beach to another one

Vertically jointed columnar basalt on Reynisfjara

read more about this geological structure Engl. Fr.



Reynisdrangar on Reynisjvara
from Icelandic to English: drangar/pillar - Reynir is the name of the wealthy Norwegian who first settled in this area

from Vik to Skaftafell, looking at Vatnajökull
In Icelandic vatn means lake and jökull means glacier

Svartifoss in Skaftafell
from Icelandic to English: svart/black skatf/shafts 

height: 20m (65,6ft)

The waterfall is very popular but the best part is definitively the trail around it. First it smells amazing, there is a lot of aromatic bushes and wild flowers along the path, the trail isn't too crowded and the view is stunning. There is a few trails you can do depending on how much time you want to spend in the area from 3,7km to 25km (2 to 15miles). I didn't camp there either, it was far too cold, I wasn't properly equipped for glacier's temperatures.
Here's another view of the Vatnajökull.

kept heading East to Jökulsarlon
from Icelandic to English: sar/river lon/lagoon

Ice chunks fall from the Vatnajökull, the river carry them to the Atlantic Ocean and the tide wash them back on the black beach, also known as Diamond Beach.

Jökulsarlon's bridge over the lagoon

The lagoon is very peaceful, you can climb on the ice chunks on the Diamond Beach and watch at the seals fishing in the lagoon.

Heading back to Vik where the weather was nicer to camp. Here's the sunrise on the next day.
Looking for something warm, affordable and tasty to eat? Try Sudur-Vik
The town is really small, the campsite is well located and the kitchen is fully equipped.

Day4 - From Vik, I headed back West, my plan was to catch a bus to go to the Landmannalaugar.
I spent the end of the day in Hella (pronounced Hekla like the volcano), there is a nice and short walk along the Ytri-Ranga river that will lead you to a beautiful cascade AEgissidufoss. It's stunning at sunset.

ytri means external and ranga means erroneous




In Iceland fences are only to keep sheep and horses, humains are free to wander through the land.
Like an invitation, here's a ladder that will help you go over the fence. There is not much to do there, the campsite is quiet,  kitchen is equipped with electric hot plates and shower is unlimited.

In most of kitchen's campsite/hostels/Airbnb you'll find a box of free goods left by previous travelers, you'll always find salt, often rice and sometimes peanut butter, noodles and if you are lucky fancy treats.

Day5 - The Highlands
From Hella to the Landmannalaugar

Green field of lava covered by moss in front of the volcano Brennisteinsalda (Sulfur Wave)
from Icelandic to English: land/land manna/people laugar/pools  - brenna/burn stein/stone alda/wave - vegur/way

Spoiler alert, the whole trip was amazing but this place is so special, it is by far my favorite part of the trip, I'm planning to  go back and do the popular Laugavegur trek


Landmannalaugar Hiking Map - 2

If you stay there a couple of days make sure to bring enough food supplies with you, otherwise there is buses from various companies that will take up there and back on the same day.

The campsite is beautiful and spartan, there is no kitchen but a tent and it's always crowded and filled with crumbs from all kinds, don't hang in there. Showers are nice and hot, you need a ticket to take one, it's 5mins long and you can let your towel dry in the bathroom during the day.

If you stay there for the day, like all isolated places in Iceland, you need to pay a fee to use the toilets.

You must get coffee or tea at the Mountain Mall (green army buses on camp), they are the kindest and funniest people, they also serve food, beers and sell gas. I like to call them Nicelanders, the buses are heated and clean.

rainbow over the Landmannalaugar campsite from Blahnukur
from Icelandic to English: blah/blue nukur/peak



Graenagil
In Icelandic graen means green and agil means ravine

Vondugil
In Icelandic vondur means evil



The sulfur fumes of Brennisteinsalda

Depending the hour and the weather of the day the mountains change colors, it's beautiful to stare at, it's not moving but always changing.

Frostastadavatn from Blahnakur
from Icelandic to English: frost/frost stad/place

Jökulgilskvisl

Unfortunately the clouds will stop you from seeing the Northern lights but they also will prevent you from getting too cold in the highlands, over the valley it works as lid keeping you "warm" and it makes the landscape and the pictures super moody.


Laugahraun from the top of Sudurnamur
hraun/lava sudur/south 

Looking towards Landmannahellir
hellir/cave

The Frostastadavatn on Ljotipollur trail 






Ljotipollur crater
meaning ugly poodle, which is far from ugly...

After three amazing days in the highland and a midnight bath in the hot spring it was time to take the bus to Myvatn
If you want to avoid bathing in tourist sweat it's better to avoid the hot pot when it's crowded.

Jökulgilskvisl


Day8 - From Landmannalaugar to Myvatn
It's a 10h bus ride through the Sprengisandur following Skjalfandafljot
sprengi/explosion skalfandi/tremor fljot/river

The biggest lake of Iceland Poristvatn (Tristan Lake) in front of the Vatnajokull


Getting through the highland between glaciers, here's Hofsjökull
hofs means temple

Following the Skjalfandafljot leading to Aldeyjarfoss and Godafoss
(waterfall of the Gods - not pictured, it was far too windy and so many tourists)

Aldeyjarfoss is wide and the sounds of the river flowing is powerful, there is a strong echo flying in the wind.  


Like in Reynisfjara and Skaftafell, vertically jointed columnar basalt on Aldeyjarfoss.
Aldey is an Icelandic name.

A bus ride on the Moon

Myvatn
the lake, the ducks and the volcano
my stands for midjan/midge

The campsite is located in Reykjahlid
Myvatn is a nature reserve providing shelter and food for waterbirds (mainly ducks), the circumference of the lake is 38km (23,6miles), the volcano is located at the opposite of the campsite.
The camp is by the lake, it's pretty quiet but you can still hear the cars from the main road, which was really disturbing after several days camping in the silence of the highland. Otherwise the campsite is pretty quiet, fairly cheap, there is specific hours for kitchen use, kitchen is equipped with electric hot plates, full of French people and shower is unlimited.
The view is really nice but I don't know how I ended up with a dozen small and armless spiders in my tent. You guessed it, it wasn't my favorite camping spot.
Thinking to dip into a blue lagoon? Myvatn Nature Baths is basically the twin brother of the one located in the South, it's cheaper and less crowded.

Day9 - North of Iceland

 From Myvatn to Akureyri, the capital of the North of Iceland,
The Akureyrarkirkja is the northern version of Hallgrimskirkja

from Icelandic to English akur/field eyri/sandpit






I spent two days in Akureyri and countless hours at the Botanical Garden.
I love hanging in botanical gardens and this one is one of greatest I've seen, wide collection of flowers, still blooming and the view on Eyjafjördur

In Icelandic fjordur means fjord
It was so nice to get to see the flowers I grew up with drawn in European children's book from the 50' and 60's, all kinds of garden flowers and colored pavots (blue, yellow, white, orange, red) in the botanical garden and in the streets of Akureyri.




Bellis perennis / Daisy/ Pâquerette

Dictamnus

Wild Pansy / Pensée Sauvage



Larkspur/ Dekphinium

Thistle / Chardon

Bellflowers / Campanula

Bellflowers / Campanula

Cabbage




Katholska Kirhjan/Catholic Church 
Akureyri Junior College


I booked an Airbnb in Akureyri
I was starting to get a cold and it was time to do some laundry and let my tent dry after
a heavy rainy night in Myvatn.
It was much colder than expected in Iceland in contrary of anywhere else in Europe.
August in Iceland it's usually between 10°/22°C (50°/71°F), we were at -1°/14°C (30°/57°F)
It was Culture Night when I was there and I had to stay home.
I heard it was a lot of fun so don't miss out if you're in the area!
By the way, did you spot the cat on that picture?



ABOUT THE FOOD

For those wondering I had porridge with nuts and fruits for breakfast, usually a sandwich for lunch (made with rye bread, vegan cheese, dry meat, raw carrots) and if I didn't have noodles for dinner it was then much more fancy: fine pizza, fresh fish, fresh curry, thick soup or what ever my friends were feeding me.

It's not because you are camping in the wild that you have to eat plain food, on that topic Petter Bäcklund is a great source of inspiration.

Iceland doesn't have a good reputation for food but beside being sometimes pricey it's not bad at all. You don't have to lower your standards in order to find something good, just keep an open mind and go for local dishes, if you go to Amsterdam please do the exact opposite, go for Asian food and avoid all "local dishes" at all cost, which reminds me I haven't been in there in a while and I wonder how the food scene has evolved since...

Iceland has excellent bakers and serve delightful cinnamon buns.

In Iceland for breakfast or as a snack everybody eat Skyr. It's a yogurt made with skimmed milk, it's high in proteins, low fat and sugar. Icelanders used to have it as a snack with cream (not milk as Wikipedia says) and sugar. It might sounds fat but it was a snack for people doing heavy work usually outdoors under tough weather conditions.

I never had a bad or even a super pricey meal, I enjoy basic meals as long as it's good quality food and that's probably what makes me picky.

Don't expect to eat bistro burgers, good sushis or great hot dogs for a reasonable price, that's all.

I didn't eat any endangered species so no shark, no whale no puffin.

It's not easy to find good coffee but not impossible, speaking of coffee buddy, Ronan if you are reading this, I'm still waiting for you bread recipe, Irish stew and what ever other recipe you feel like sharing.

Bryggjan
Day11 - From Akureyri to Varmahlid
varma stands for vamur/warm hlid/slope witch is funny because it was the hottest day and the coldest night of my trip

Varmahlid is a small village and the home of Icelandic Horses, it's very peaceful, there is a pine forest and wide never ending fields. I set up my tent at the campsite accros the river.
It's the cheapest camp I've been, shower is unlimited and the kitchen is fully equipped in a heated barn, you get to sleep near a paddock with Icelandic Horses. The barn does smell a bit funky but it's a really good place to camp. It's run by an old and sweet lady, you can set up your tent anywhere on the campsite and go knock at her door to pay for your spot, it's 500kr/person. It's so low key they don't even have a website.
Vidimyrarkirkja built in 1834
the church of Vidimyri/broad moor



I spent the entire day wandering around, walking through the fields and going up and down in the pine forest.

Here's a fern field beneath the pines.


In Iceland horses are like the trees: small
It was really cold that night, the very next day all breeders where moving their horses from the fields back to their farm.
It's funny to watch, like flocks of sheep in the French Alps, flocks of horses move from places using the main road. There is one breeder at the head of the flock and one at the back.
Day12- Golden Circle and South Iceland
Another early bus, from Varmahlid to Hveragerdi

4 power wheels busses are massive and will take you anywhere in the highlands and across rivers... The back trunk is lifted so your camping gears may remain dry. However they'll be covered by all the dust by the end of your trip so put them in a big plastic bag or bring a piece of cloth with you so you can wipe them.

Here we go again though the highlands and between the glaciers Hofsjökull and Langjökull
The hot springs of Hveravellir on Kjölur

lang/long hvera/hotspirngs vellir/fields kjölur/keel

looking towards Hofsjökull




The cabines of Kerlingarfjöll
kerling/troll woman -  fjöll/mountain


Day 13 - Golden Circle
Pingvellir, standing on North American and Eurasian plates
In Icelandic ping (pronounced thing) means assembly

On the shore of Pingvallavatn looking South


lunch break by Laugarvatn

Strokkur geyser in Haukaladur

strokkur means churn

The steam of Strokkur


On the hill of Geyser looking towards Argil
geysir/to gush, sput - argil/whealthier

From Varmahlid to Hveragerdi the bus stopped at Gullfoss but it was pouring rain and so windy I didn't get to enjoy the view so I went back on the next day, rain was alternating with sun the entire day, I saw so many rainbows... You'll get to see a lot of rainbows in Iceland, please don't stop in the middle of the road to take pictures of them... it's silly and dangerous.
In Icelandic gull means gold

Back from Golden Circle, last stop at Kerid, tiny human ants walking on the crater.

kerid/tub


The Varma river flowing through Hveragerdi

Due to harsh weather conditions (strong wind and heavy rain)
I decided to stay a few days in the quiet town of Hveragerdi, South of Iceland.
My cold got worst after a couple of days and I soon
realized the pain I had experience wasn't fatigue but achilles tendinitis, my whole body was
basically yelling "rest." I moved from the campsite to the hostel, both rulled by the same team.

hver/hot spring gerdi/town

The campsite is quiet, there is an outdoor kitchen fully equipped under a porch roof.
The staff is amazing, very sweet and helpful.

Where to drink the best coffee (I'm fully aware it's a gas station but trust me it's the best)
Eat the best cinnamon bun
Stand on both North American and Eurasian plates
Nice trail that will lead you to the hot springs
Eat local or have a fancy coffee (kids friendly)

Bus drivers have the worst, yet the funniest jokes,
you'll get to hear them all over and over again on the road,
this one about the weather is pretty accurate:
"If you don't like the weather in Iceland wait 10mins, it will get worse."

Hot Springs Hostel is a clean, bright and comfy place to stay in Hveragerdi.

I wish I went to Snaefellsjökull where Jules Verne established the entrance of the passage
to the center of Earth and check out the Raudisandur Beach before heading back to Reykjavik.

In Icelandic snae means snow and raudi stands for raudur/red

As I was staying in Hveragerdi I had the chance to hang with friends
I made in the Landmannalaugar.

They run a nice Airbnb near Selfoss called Spirit Farm where they grow organic veggies.

In Icelandic sel means seal
Iceland is a small country but a lot of different locations have the same name, always check the area you are heading to on a map before following your GPS. For instance Porsmork is a very popular name, it means the Valley of Thor.
Day17 - Reykjavik

Back to the Bus Hostel were I dropped my backpack off in the luggage room to wonder freely in the city.

Shopping
Keep warm, stay dry, wear a jumper made by locals with local wool sheep.
Few things about this shop: there are lot of choices of designs, colors and sizes and the clothes are not sorted by gender but by size.

Other places I liked in Reykjavik
Hljomskalagardur (Hljomskali/sound gradur/garden)
Museum of Photography

Best coffee place in town and most hipster coffee in Reykjavik
(they do encourage you to play your favorite record)
kind staff, chill place


Follow the Mermaids to get the best cinnamon bun and
try the fish of the day at Salka Valda
Reykjavik is a colorfull city covered of murals.
Honeycombs of the Opera House Harpa of Reykjavik.

Hallgrimskirkja at golden hour.

Stunning view of Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja's top.
Like the headlights of a car in the night, thanks for following my adventures.
Ending where it all started, Hallgrimskirkja by night, Reykjavik.
Few rules I'm encouraging you to follow:

Always check the weather forecast before leaving and if you plan to go travelling on your own in the middle of nowhere, inform Safetravel of your plans.

Always seek locals's advice for: best coffee, place to eat, cheap gas, bus stop, and whatever comes through your mind. Icelanders are very practical, they won't judge you and will be happy to share their knowledge with you even the bus driver who's having the hardest time speaking English.

Last but not least: be nice to people, keep warm, keep your belly full, enjoy the view and chill out.

Main places I've been at on the map bellow.



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