Crossing the Arctic Circle to Akureyri, Iceland!

The evening we left Bergen, Norway – the ship was rocking and rolling!  The girls felt awful, and Guest Services was handing out Dramamine like it was candy!  The restaurants for dinner were half full at best that night.  Room service was very busy handing out saltine crackers to those who felt ill.  After taking some medicine, the girls fell asleep early that night.

Thankfully, MyMan and I felt just fine!  We tested the limits though because that night, we had a whisky tasting up on the top deck of the ship.  Almost everyone who had signed up showed up.  It was a fun event, and we learned a little regarding how to properly taste a good whiskey and determine what it was made of.

The next day everyone took it easy and recovered.  We just chilled out watching movies and eating popcorn.

The following morning we arrived in Iceland!  To get to Akureyri, Iceland – we had to cross over the Arctic Circle!!  How cool is that?!   The first views we had of land were these…It almost looked like a cloud on the distant horizon until we got closer.  It doesn’t get much darker than this at night in the summer up here.  We weren’t docking in Akureyri until 8:15am, and you can see we were still a couple of hours away.DSC03380

There were cool cloud formations on the left side, and there was a huge cloud of fog sitting on the water that we were about to sail right into.DSC03381DSC03389

Weirdly, the fog sat right above the water.  This was a tiny fishing boat just sitting on the water.DSC03392

You could see the water and the shore, but nothing much above that.DSC03416

We were really excited to visit Iceland!  I really didn’t know too much about it to be honest.  But after being there for 3 days (!) I learned a lot about the country and its citizens.  It really is an awesome country.  The landscape is breathtaking and awe-inspiring, and the people are so nice.

Some interesting facts about Iceland:

  • It’s the most sparsely populated country in Europe, with just over 330,000 total population.
  • There are over 850,000 boats registered to Icelanders (which means there are ~3 boats to every 1 person!)
  • Reykjavik is the capital, and holds 2/3rds of the total population of the country.
  • Akureyri the 2nd most populated city with a total population of ~18,000.
  • 99.9% of Iceland’s population lives on or around the Ring Road that goes around the entire country.  i-JVPxRL6-L
  • No one lives in the interior part of the country.
  • There are approximately 20 active volcanoes, and many more dormant ones.
  • The English word Geyser is derived from the Icelandic word Geysir.
  • With the availability of geothermal power, and using many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity.
  • Iceland has no army, and is considered the most peaceful country in the world, due to its lack of armed forces, low crime rate, and high level of socio-political stability.

For our Iceland ports, I had booked excursions through 3rd party tour companies.  I had researched and heard that you get more for your money with 3rd party tours than you do with Disney excursions.  Plus we could do private tours and tailor make the excursions to what we wanted to see.  We were in this port from 815am – 4:45pm and I wanted to make the most of it!

For Akureyri, I used Star Travel to book our tour.  I booked a Guided 4×4 Jeep tour of Lake Myvatn and Dettifoss water falls.   The highlights of this tour included:
• Goðafoss waterfall (waterfall of the gods)
• Dettifoss waterfall (Europe´s most powerful waterfall)
• Hverarönd in Námaskarð (hot spring area)
• Skútustaðagígar (pseudo craters area)
• Unique lava formations in Dimmuborgir

We got off the ship and found our guide.  There was another family who went on our tour as well – they had a daughter the same age as Littlest.  Once everyone was together, we set off!  DSC03409

One nice thing about our guide – he took us to the furthest place first and then we worked our way back towards the port throughout the day.  This was great because it was the exact opposite from most of the other loaded tour busses, so the crowds weren’t too bad when we stopped at our interest points!

But, we drove for about an hour and half (we stopped about half way for a bathroom break and quick snack) to get to our first stop (Dettifoss waterfall).  I snapped some pictures along the drive, hoping some of them would turn out decently enough to be able to post.  DSC03411

The fog cloud was still hanging around!DSC03412DSC03418DSC03428DSC03430DSC03547DSC03551

This was a lava formation from a volcano that had erupted about 300 years ago.  It destroyed all the homes in the area.DSC03432DSC03434

Only this church was spared from the lava!  It literally goes right up to it and stops!  DSC03435

This is a picture/map of Lake Myvatn.DSC03436

We stopped for a bathroom break and some snacks about half way to our destination.  I took some photos of the lake.  It was so serene and quiet.DSC03437DSC03438

Back on the road again!  This is one of many geothermal power plants that provide the country with electricity.  DSC03441DSC03445

The landscape is just so sparce!!  There are really no trees to speak of in Iceland.  Our guide told us that they think there used to be forests of some sort, but those got cut down to build boats and houses.  They are replanting as much as they can where they can.DSC03448

We finally made it to our first destination – Dettifoss Waterfall!  Nicknamed “The Beast,” this is one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe.DSC03456

To get to it, we had to park, and then hike for about a kilometer or so.  As you can see – nothing but lava rock all around!DSC03459DSC03453DSC03457

This terrain really looks like a brown Mars!!  Such a strange, barren land!DSC03460DSC03468

Another waterfall upstream of the Dettifoss.DSC03474

We finally made it!  It was extremely humbling to stand so close to something to powerful as this waterfall!  It was absolutely mesmerizing to watch.  DSC03477DSC03478DSC03481DSC03488DSC03490IMG_7404

MyMan and Littlest being Daredevils! IMG_7425

It was making the most beautiful double rainbow!   And depending on the wind and how much mist was blowing, the rainbow would climb up the side of the gorge.DSC03483DSC03489

It was time to head to our next destination – Namafjall Hverir.  This is a hot spring area and can smell of sulfur.  I held my breath as much as possible and turned my face into the wind to catch a breath!  DSC03492

It was extremely important to stay on the trails because the water and liquids and steam coming out of the ground were at boiling point.DSC03493DSC03494DSC03495

Hot.  Very very hot!!  With only small ropes keep visitors at bay.DSC03496DSC03507DSC03500DSC03502DSC03503DSC03505

This was pure steam rising up out of the ground.  It was amazing how fast and furious it looked and sounded!  And a change in wind direction could blow it your way in a second!DSC03506

After we had wandered around this hot spring area for a while, we got back in the jeep to continue our tour.  Next stop was Dimmuborgir.

It is believed that about 2300 years ago, lava pooled over a small lake.  As it began to cool, the reservoir was released, leaving only the bizarrely shaped structures that can be seen now.  The only other similar land mass known to exist  is beneath the sea off the coast of Mexico.

It is also thought to be the home of the 13 Santa Clauses of Iceland!DSC03518DSC03519

There are several walking paths through these ancient lava flows.DSC03520DSC03524DSC03525IMG_2903IMG_2908DSC03529DSC03531

Once we had a nice walk and photo op of the Dimmuborgir, it was off to our next adventure at Skutustadagigar on Lake Myvatn.DSC03534

This was a truly unique place!  It’s hard to even see or imagine when  you are walking around.

As per the website I linked to above: This natural phenomena is formed when lava flows over wet ground and pushes the ground down. This causes a lot of steam to be trapped under the weight of the lava which then causes a lot of pressure. When the pressure becomes too much it causes steam explosions and the formation of these beautiful pseudo craters. These pseudo craters are often called rootless craters as they have no end to them as do normal craters.


A little village nearby.DSC03538DSC03539

From up above, it looks like this.  Like a series of meteors have struck the earth.  Picture courtesy of Extreme Icelandairplane_tour29

We had one more destination on our tour of Akureyri before heading back to the ship…Goðafoss waterfall (waterfall of the gods).  It has a nickname of “The Beauty.”DSC03540IMG_2916DSC03541DSC03542DSC03544IMG_2930IMG_2916IMG_7524DSC03546

You will notice some kayakers in that last picture.  When we arrived at the falls, they were above getting ready to go over the water fall!  It was amazing to watch them and their expertise at navigating the water.  They did it twice – the first time going over the left side of the falls, the second time they went over the right side. 

It was time to head back to the ship.  The sites of Akureyri were just amazing, and we only scratch a tiny dent in the surface of what all there is to see!  Iceland is definitely a place we will likely return in the not so distant future to explore some more!




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