Golden Circle, Strokkur Geysir, Snowmobiling on Langjökull Glacier
We woke up to 2 feet of snow! That's a lot of snow. Our car was snowed in. We were snowed in! Iceland is pretty windy so the drifts were high.
I've always wondered how you get snowed in. Now I know. Iceland's doors open out instead of in like our doors in the US. They feel it's safer for people to get out but according to one of our hosts, many residents think it's stupid.
It took Al about 5 minutes to push the snow away from the door so that he could get his foot out and start pushing more snow away with his boot. They don't provide car scrapers with your car rental or shovels either at the cabin. He made a path all the way to and around our car just using his feet.....in 24 inches of snow!
Waiting for the tractor to plow us out.
Back inside......Our cabin is pretty nice but very tiny. Our twin beds just fit in the room with about a 2 foot walkway on one side. It has a small kitchen, living room, and dining area. The shower is super tiny - like a cruise ship shower and no place to put your stuff in the bathroom. Just picture Elf showering at the North Pole. Oh My!
We were scheduled for snowmobiling and ice caving at 9am. Luckily it was delayed until 10:30 so the roads could be plowed. We had a 20 minute drive under normal conditions which wound up being 35 minutes with one lane somewhat plowed. We arrived a little early and waited until 11 for others to show up.
It seems they like to plant tall trees in a row.
No traffic heading to Gullfoss Falls.
Things are looking up - the sun popped out!
We scheduled a snowmobiling and ice cave tour with Arctic Adventures. They operate under several different names which makes it confusing to book and compare reviews. I'll give you my opinion later.
SO much snow!
She says she's not cold but what does her face say????
Some people take Super Jeeps up onto the glaciers. We took a Monster Mercedes.
We're headed to the west central highlands known as Langjökull Glacier, the second largest ice cap in Iceland, after Vatnajökull. Its peak is nearly 5000 feet above sea level and its ice is 580 meters or 1900 feet thick! That is just mind-blowing to think about.
Our vehicle is big and we have about 8 people with us. Lots of window space to see SNOW.
It's supposed to be about an hour drive through the deep snow, over ice, across one lane bridges, even some off-roading. The vehicles have a hose on each tire attached to a compressor to inflate and deflate the tires as needed. It's LOUD in the cab.
HERE WE GO!
There are just a few sets of tracks on the road/path to the base camp where the staff traveled to the site earlier to get everything ready for us.
Once we were past these electric lines, which was only about 10 minutes into the trip, I knew we were out in the middle of nowhere.
We were the lead vehicle and one was following us. Our drivers were funny talking to each other on the radios. The first time we got stuck, we were out of the tracks a few feet and had slid down a slight slope. I was hoping we weren't going to tip over. That could be messy. We were all buckled in and probably would have sat on the edges of our seats if possible.
We heard over the radio 'Ganis, you okay?' in a very Icelandic accent. Our driver's reply 'I don't know' in a not too confident voice. YIKES! He doesn't know. He's our professional, our ticket back to the snowmobiles and back to civilization.
Then I noticed the second driver walking up to have a conversation.
New plan. After some rocking back and forth, our vehicle was free and back in the tracks.
Now Monster Mercedes #2 is stuck. Good thing we didn't have a lot planned for this day. I think the one hour drive just got longer.
Not too long after, we stopped for a brief moment while Ganis found his yellow-tinted sunglasses. We heard over the radio 'Ganis, you okay?' After a dramatic pause, Ganis replied 'I stop for coffee.'
I think that was a much needed chuckle for some.
By now we could sort of see the base camp through our wet and dirty windows. We had a few hundred yards of an uphill climb through deep snow. Our vehicles raced forward then back, then forward again, then back again and again and again. At some points we were so close together, I thought we might bump. Finally we surged ahead, much like Secretariat in the Belmont.
After a very bumpy ride, we finally reached base camp. We only got stuck 5 or 6 times. All things considered - not too bad. The driver was only sweating a little I think. Us too!
They have a few buildings, one for guests where we get fitted with a snowsuit, boots, helmet, gloves...... and another, which is a long tube under the snow where the snowmobiles are stored.
We struggled to get into some of our gear.
Somehow we made it!
We were suited up and ready.
Once we got our instructions and got to our snowmobiles, we learned that we would NOT be visiting the ice cave today. BooHoo. That was the main reason I booked this trip. All the snow that fell overnight, blocked the entrance to the cave and also created a high avalanche warning for the area. DARN!
Ice Caves & Northern Lights......the 2 main reasons to go to Iceland in the winter. Right now, we're 0 for 2.
Snowmobiling started off okay. Right way, my hands were frozen, but as luck would have it, about 10 minutes into the ride, someone fell off and we all had to stop, so I was able to curl my hands up inside my mittens for just a couple of minutes but it was enough to help. My hands warmed up and we were off again.
We don't have many pictures of snowmobiling because we weren't allowed to have our cameras out. Bummer. So many rules! Not that the scenery ever changed. I was always looking at the guy in front of me and an occasional glance to one side or the other. We did see a slight rainbow.
Driving fast was fun, but it was always short lived. Someone up ahead would drive too slow or get off the path or tip over......Remember one of the first video games in the 90s.....Lemmings?
I loved that one and I rarely ever played video games but I really enjoyed playing this one. Al and I used to challenge each other - who could get to the next level first. It was usually him.
That was what this snowmobiling tour felt like. I just followed the Lemming in front of me and he followed the Lemming in front of him, she followed.....well you get the idea. We went straight out, did a big round-about and came straight back. Even the Lemmings had a little excitement every now and then.
We stopped for 5 minutes at the round-about to take pictures then right back into formation again. Many people online wrote that snowmobiling was the greatest thing they did in Iceland. Really?
Looks like a little teenage attitude. jk
On the way back, it was sleeting and our goggles kept freezing. The guides warned us and told us to keep scraping them with our knuckles through our mittens. It was hard to see, scrape, and drive with one hand. After about 10 minutes of this I was ready to be done. Only another 30 minutes to go. UGH!
We finally made it back! For some reason Abby didn't tuck her hair in and this is what happened. I think she said something like 'OH my hair!!!' to the tune of Goldie Hawn in Overboard.
We finally made it back. I was happy to get out of the bulky gear and into the warm building. We had hot chocolate and a cookie and then it was time to load up into the Monster Mercedes again. Even though it was loud (compressor) and bumpy, I managed to take a little nap. I needed it. I always say I can sleep anywhere.
By the time we got back to the Gulfoss Cafe (our meeting point), it was after 3pm. We did a little shopping and had a bowl of soup, lamb and vegetables. It was really good and it should be at $16 a bowl! It did come with a little baguette and a pad of butter, plus a view of snow! Everything we read and heard warned us that the food in Iceland was expensive. That was absolutely TRUE!
It was super cold by now, snowing, sleeting, and extremely windy. I didn't even think about getting the tripod out. I barely took the camera out. It almost felt like a white-out a few times and the walk to Gullfoss Falls was very slippery. Even though these are very touristy places and they expect a lot of visitors, they do not plow the parking lots or shovel the walkways.
Can you see the falls in the distance? No worries. We couldn't either. On a pretty day, this falls looks beautiful....at least in the pictures I've seen.
We walked down to the Gullfoss Falls, also known as the ‘Golden Waterfall’, which isn't tall but pretty long and two-tiered. It drops 105 feet into a narrow canyon of Hvítá River. Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland.
I'm sure it is lovely on a nice summer day, but it was covered in snow and ice. The path was also treacherous. They do not clean, shovel, salt.....any walkways or parking lots for tourist attractions. I guess it's Iceland; you should expect ice and snow. Oh, did I already say that? It helps if you write your blog post all in one sitting rather than spread it over several days.
The people in the foreground kind of show the perspective of how large this falls is. This zoom in shows the volume of water.
The lower falls.
Even as far away as we were, we got plenty of mist. It was too cold to stay for longer than a few mintues, expecially after the cold snowmobiling. Back in the car.
A roadside stream, that looked much prettier in person, and pretty blah in my pictures. I shot it with different settings and filters on my camera, but this quick phone snap looked the best.
After we took a few pictures of the falls, we drove a few minutes to Strokkur Geysir. It's pretty famous here and very predictable. It shoots up about every 6 to 10 minutes - sometimes tall and sometimes not. We saw some tall ones from the distance and from across the street at the gift shop, but once we got there with cameras ready....the bursts were short and quick with no warning that they're coming. At least Old Faithful starts to bubble and churn before he blows.
Oh well, we enjoyed the anticipation and even met some people from Ohio......you guessed it......Dayton! And Richmond, IN too. Four ladies in search of Northern Lights.
Since the geysir wasn't overly exciting, we made our own fun.
Ready Set...Stick the Landing!
There are lots of sheep and horses here. We've seen lots of horses so far and very few sheep. They all look very sad and cold.
Did I say a lot?
I tried to snap a few shots from the car - not always easy, especially when you sit low and have a mirror to deal with.
Now it's time to find our next sleepover.....A place called The Garage, in between the 2 iconic waterfalls, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss on the Ring Road. It got 9.6 and 9.8 on the various sites I checked for reviews so I was excited to see it.
We were hoping to get checked in before dark, but we're lost. The signs don't always match the map. The car GPS only allows us to look up certain places. We usually have no signal.
Now it's sunset. We'll be checking in late.
Just thought this was pretty.
Just a few more snaps to fill the boring drive time.
One final sunset taken with Abby's phone.
The Garage did not disappoint. Our car GPS is terrible, so I called the owner to let her know we would be arriving late (9pm) and to get better directions since it was very dark. Not only did she give me some landmarks to watch for, she offered to come and get us. We didn't need that but she waited for us to check in. Upon arrival, she was so friendly and helpful. She even made Apple Bread for the guests. It was terrific.
This is the community lobby and shared kitchen. This area is very well stocked.
Different view of the lobby area overlooking the parking lot.
Our room was great! Very spacious and everything we could possible need. Very clean and nicely decorated too. I completely understand the 9.6/9.8 rating. They will be getting a 10 from us.
Someone is enjoying the apple bread.
No Northern Lights tonight:( So Sad.
My 5 Star TripAdvisor Review. I also reviewed on Hotels.com
Terrific Stay; Excellent Host; Great Location
We spent 10 nights traveling through Iceland and The Garage was definitely one of our favorite accommodations. Wish we could have stayed longer. We stayed here on our travels east and again a few days later on our way back to the city. Our room (#5) was very clean and huge, including the bathroom, and very quiet. We had a kitchenette and dining area. The beds were comfy. Great location between the 2 famous waterfalls. The host, Anna, was friendly and had a fresh baked treat for us each night. The room was well equipped with everything we needed and the beds were comfy. The lobby and kitchen area were stocked with plenty of games, dishes, food..... We enjoyed playing with Felix, the very friendly pooch. My only negative comment would be about the shower, but as we learned, this is very common in Iceland. The shower is not really its own space in the bathroom. There is no door or curtain so the water gets a lot of the floor wet. We knew that from other reviews but booked anyways and we would definitely stay here again. We arrived after dark but found it easy to find because of their big sign and location directly across from the lake.