Iceland – Land of Fire and Ice – November 2021

Prepping for international travel gets a little more complicated during a pandemic. In addition to the added norm of going overseas, add a swab up the nose (covid test) and a manufactured barcode (registering your arrival). Of course, all worth it when it brings family members overseas for the first time!

Aurora hunting may be the main goal, but this trip was planned meticulously, mastering allotted daylight, only 6 hours each day this time of year! Spending weeks tracking the KP index and CMEs (sun’s activity for northern lights strength), can be quite stressful, especially when you notice the KP index will be high days leading up to departure. And, for an extra kick in the gut, the forecast calls for a higher than average KP index days right after we leave Iceland. Taking off on Wednesday night, we know that our best chance to see the elusive auroras may be on the overnight flight to Reykavik. Well, our predictions came true!

Landing at 6 am, makes for a long first day fighting jetlag, particularly when first light isn’t till
10 am! A strategically planned breakfast at Grai Kotturinn. A historic, quaint breakfast joint
that looks like a cross between an eccentric bookshop and an underground art gallery (with
delicious food).

Stopping would mean crashing, so we keep the morning going with a stroll through Reykjavik!

Waiting for our first adventure of the trip was challenging, it didn’t start till noon… so an
attempt to get some groceries was interrupted with a nap in the Bonus (supermarket) parking lot. Prepping for travel, rushing through the airport, customs, and a 7 hour flight, all paid dividends when we arrived at the Sky Lagoon! We opted for the ‘The Ritual’, a seven step rejuvenating journey, that hit the spot to start our Iceland adventure!

Relaxed, and mentally challenged with the daunting 2.5 hour drive to Vik, a gem of a town on
the southern coast, filled with tomorrow’s trek through waterfalls, hidden lagoons, and black
sand beaches……. well, sleep only lasted an hour, before we spotted a chance to hunt auroras. And, well, it kind of sort of paid off!

Just what was needed, solid sleep and a fresh new day to explore the southern coast of Iceland! First on the agenda, waterfalls, and there are LOTS of them. The picture-perfect island of Iceland doesn’t have an official count for the number of waterfalls, but it is estimated there are about 10,000! One of the many good challenges of exploring Iceland is the ease of getting sidetracked by the natural beauty that surrounds you. That, and the ever-changing weather that gives glimpses of sunlight, making it important to try and capture the picturesque landscape at the perfect time.

Mountaintops, drones, and nonstop waterfalls made the drive to our first foss (Icelandic word for waterfall) take a little longer than planned. But who cares, driving through the land of fire & ice and arriving at Skogafoss is what this adventure is all about!

November in Iceland, where crowds are smaller, and the weather is unpredictable. Wet, cold,
and windy are common themes, and even more apparent when mist is blasting you from majestic waterfalls. Well worth it, when you follow the path, and slip into a canyon, wade through the gorge to find the wet, cold base of Gljufrabui. This hidden cave is the gem of a wall of falls, a few hundred meters trek from the notorious Seljalandfoss waterfall.

Don’t get us wrong, the majestic nature and ability to walk behind the falls of Seljalandfoss
create more wet, cold, and windy cherished memories.

Spontaneously enjoying Iceland poses another unique problem in November, daylight. As we
left Seljalandfoss, we began to realize that the sun was already beginning to fade into the ocean, at 2:30 pm. We hustled our way back toward Vik, passing some treasures we sadly just didn’t have time to explore. Hustling led us to Reynisfjara Beach in Vik, a black sand beach with basalt columns with a dangerous shoreline. Dangerous enough where just one week prior, a woman drowned from a ‘sneaker’ wave that crashed to shore and pulled her under.
Unfortunately, too common of an experience in this beautiful setting.

With just a few minutes of daylight left, we take the icy, somewhat sketchy twilight journey to
Fjadrargljufur Canyon. Icy roads and slippery walkways, suited for more prepared trekkers who clamped crampons to the outside of their hiking boots. We, however, ice skated our way uphill (yup, as hard as it sounds) to a quick view of the marvel this canyon offers. Fjadrargljufur Canyon is about 100 meters deep in places and about 2 kilometers long. In 2019, this littleknown spectacular canyon found fame when Justin Beiber decided to film a music video in this location. So much fame that Iceland closed it off to visitors for a time period out of fear that too many visitors would damage its natural beauty.
A sleepy, dark drive to Jokularlon, and we are ready for ice caving tomorrow! Unless, we are
lucky enough to lose sleep because of the auroras……

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