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No lions, no tigers, no bears, oh my! - Escaping to Iceland


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Hey there everyone! I've been away for the site for a while, I think I have one, maybe two, unfinished TRs floating out there, and I thought I'd share some stories and photos from our trip to Iceland in July to mark my return. Most of the photos will be landscapes, I left long lenses home for this trip. Additionally, I was traveling with a bunch of non-birders, so felt compelled to not stop as often or as long as I'd like. So a few images to whet appetites for later.




Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon





Fjallsjokul glacial lagoon




Skogafoss waterfall





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Oh Iceland, very intersting. Maybe we met on the way somewere on the island or on the Baldur ferry without knowing each other. 

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I am looking forward to this. We went a few years ago and loved it!

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Wow, these are stunning! 

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I am very interested in seeing a reading about your trip.  Iceland is very high on my travel bucket list.  

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Day 1

This past July my wife and I spent 11 days traveling through Iceland with my sister and mother. We rented a car and drove around about half the circumference of the island, heading out to the Westfjords first before doubling back and driving through southern and southeast Iceland. The trip was arranged through Nodric Visitor who were excellent throughout the process. Our original plan was to travel in July of 2020, but the pandemic forced us to push back until July of 2021. Nordic Visitor applied gave us a credit for our deposit, which we then applied to the 2021 trip, as well as a 10% discount for rebooking in 2021. This essentially gave us another day at no extra cost, so what was originally a 10 day trip became 11 days.


Originally, my brother-in-law was supposed to come rather than my mother; however, he has chosen not to get vaccinated and thus, the trip would have required quarantine upon arrival in Iceland and again upon re-entry into the United States. Rather than spend money to sit in hotels, he bowed out and my mother came in his place. This required some altered plans because mom is currently prepping for double knee replacements and couldn’t do much hiking.


My wife and I flew from Charlotte to Chicago to Reykjavik while my sister and mother flew from JFK straight to Reykjavik. Our flights arrived within about 40 minutes of each other around 7AM, so we met past baggage claim and were picked up by a representative from Nordic Visitor. From the airport we went straight to the Blue Lagoon. For those who don’t know, the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal site near Reykjavik that has been turned into a hot spring and spa. It had been recommended to us as a good way to unwind after a long flight, and since we couldn’t check into our hotel until the afternoon anyway, we decided to try it out. A regular admission gives you access to the hot spring, use of a locker and shower, a towel, one drink, and one facial treatment. We spent the better part of the morning relaxing in the warm waters. As someone who doesn’t normally enjoy that sort of thing, I must admit it was a good way to wash away 24 hours of airports and flying. However, I was pretty sleepy at the end. Perhaps too many Icelandic beers while in the spring. A couple of things about the Blue Lagoon for anyone interested. First, it is a man made hot spring, there was no natural spring there. Apparently, the geothermal source was discovered while something else was being built and the heat made it an impractical location for the original plan, so they switched gears and built the spring and spa. Second, it is on the expensive side. If you want to visit hot springs at a lower cost, there are plenty throughout the country.


After getting to the point of pruning, we headed to Reykjavik and checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Fron, a nice little place on Laugavegur St. This street has numerous bars and restaurants and is pedestrian only for a long stretch near the hotel. The hotel is a comfortable walking distance from many things to do. After checking in, my sister and mother decided to take a nap. My wife and I didn’t want to nap for fear that we would have trouble sleeping that night, so we walked to a large park with a pond near the hotel. In the summer a small colony of Arctic Terns nests on a small island in the pond, so I hoped we’d get a chance to see some.





Arctic Terns


Black-headed gull



Greylag geese



Whooper swan



Tufted duck


The walk around the pond was perfect for keeping us awake until dinner and had a pretty diverse popular of water birds, I counted 10 species. After satisfying my bird fix, we headed back to the hotel to pick up my sister and mom for dinner, which was at a nice Danish restaurant, before turning in for the night.

Edited by anthracosaur
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Thanks everyone for the kind words.


@BotswanadreamsIt is possible. We took the ferry from Stykkisholmur on July 5th. When were you there?


@Toxic@Pamshelton3932Iceland is great to visit. So much to see, the landscapes are amazing. I'd really encourage a visit to the Westfjords if you go. Few people visit and it is gorgeous out there.


@TonyQDid you circuit the island or just visit certain areas? If we go back we might do the ring road and spend more time in places we didn't see this time around.


@mtanenbaumThanks! It helps to have stunning scenery.

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@anthracosaurwe went in June 2019. We didn't do a full circuit of the Island. We drove a circuit in the west and north of the island

(1 night Hvammstangi

3 nights Foss Hotel Myvatn (including Husavik Whale watching)

Snæfellsnes Peninsula, staying at Stykkisholmur for 3 nights (including a day trip to Flatey Island on the ferry)

1 night Gulfoss

1 night Keflavik close to the airport)

Our main focus was birds and enjoying the scenery (I didn't do a trip report, but there are some bird photos on My Big Year 2019 https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/19276-tonyqs-big-year-number-4/page/20/#comments   starting with post dated 25th July)


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Sorry for the delay, life has been busy here. Thanks for all the kind words and likes.


After a big continental breakfast at our hotel the next morning we headed to the rental car agency to pick up our vehicle. The wait at the agency was frightfully long, apparently we arrived just after a particularly large group, but soon enough we were on our way to Stykkisholmur on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. On the way to Stykkisholmur and our hotel we had a stop in Olafsvik from which we were scheduled to go whale watching. Since our tour didn't leave till the early afternoon, we drove around the peninsula for some sight-seeing. This area has some of Iceland's most well know landmarks: Kirkjufell, Londrangar, and Budir. As you can see from my photos, the sky was rather overcast for the morning.
















We used Laki Tours for the whale watching. They run tours out of two ports on the Snaefellsness Peninsula. The area contains a variety of whale and dolphin species and during the summer they see humpback, sperm, minke and orca regularly. We were specifically interested in seeing orcas, my mother quite enjoys whale watching and she had never seen an orca. During much of the summer they are spotted about every other day by Laki Tours, so we thought this might be mom's chance. Unfortunately, ocra were not in the cards. The trip was not without its sights though.




Northern Gannet




Rare Icelandic Dogfish


First sighting of the trip was the Northern Gannet above who paralleled the boat for almost ten minutes. He just hung around 20 or so feet away, occasionally switching from one side to the other before flying off. Soon after a small pod of White-Beaked Dolphins cruised alongside the boat for a bit before passing underneath us and heading off. In the distance we saw a few Humpbacks come up for air, nothing too special, but interesting. The excitement of the trip was our last and longest sighting. One of the humpbacks we had been watching in the distance began to jump. It was in the distance, so the captain steered to boat to get closer and over the course of about 30 minutes we gradually got closer as the whale kept jumping. All throughout the ship's guide had been telling us all about how and why humpbacks jump and how often they see the behavior. Suddenly, all of the crew save the captain spill out onto the deck with cameras and long lenses and the guide announces that the whale isn't a humpback, but a minke, and that while jumping is typical for humpbacks, it is rare to see in minkes. The crew spent most of the remainder of the trip on deck trying to get photos. Never got any myself, but there are some on the Laki Tours facebook page for July 4th, 2021. I'd put them in here, but since I don't have permission to use them I thought it would be best to refrain.









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@TonyQLooks like you saw more birds than I did while you were there. I think I managed 32 species The Harlequin duck is a nice catch, I did a little driving around Vatnsfjordur Nature Reserve where they supposedly can be seen, but had no luck.

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@anthracosaur how big was your boot from Laki Tours in Olafsvik? I'm wondering about "all of the crew". Our Whale Watching in Olafsvik was canceled because of havy wind and rain. Later we did a trip with Laki Tours from Hólmavík. We only had the captain and a guide for about 30 people. On this trip we were a bit more than normal because they put two trips tougether and added 90 minutes to the normal time at the same price.   

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