I always considered myself a “do it yourself” tourist. And I have to admit I rarely missed the point. But I also found out that the do-it-yourself formula does not always work perfectly for any kind of matter or assure the best ratio cost/benefits. At times, trusting a professional might bring about some pleasant surprises. Even for demanding and annoying clients like me.
It is a few years now that, at the end of school, me and Mario Alberto, my son, devote a few days to each other during a mother-son vacation. We visited many European capitals together and also travelled with calm throughout our wonderful Italy.
In 2019 we realized a dream that we cultivated for a long period of time: Iceland. In January we started looking for flights and, due to the rather convenient prices, we booked the plane trip. It was a Lufthansa flight from Milan, with a stopover in Frankfurt. We were not aware of it, but we had already made a mistake, because what we did not know is that soon a new direct flight would have been available, with an even cheaper price (any travel agency probably would have known that).
In March we started searching for a hotel in Reykjavík. Our idea was to have a “base” there and then rent a car. If we actually followed this idea, this journey would not have been the most exciting of our life.
Luckily there is the web, which is always attentive to our needs (some people would suggest that “it spies on us”. Yes, it is true… but if you do not want to be spied on avoid using Google for your products research…). By chance, among the various researches and super expensive yet unappealing hotels (because life in Iceland is indeed costly), I ran into EVANEOS. I downloaded an App, very well designed also, I inserted a short description of what I was looking for and in really a small amount of time I was contacted by Francesco “my local agent” in Iceland. Yes, the nice part of EVANEOS is exactly this: who organizes your trip is a person that also speaks perfectly your language, lives in the place where you are headed and thus knows it very well. Not bad if you think about it…
A quick exchange of messages, including the usual ones such as “I would like to spend a reasonable amount of money, eat well, sleep in nice hotels and see wonderful things” and among all: NO GROUP TRIPS. Mario Alberto and I love travelling on our own.
Francesco made our dream come true, in every single aspect. Without him, we would have not managed to see all that we saw on the trip, sleep in magical places or witness breath-taking sceneries. In addition to that, knowing that he was in Iceland, at a few km from us, and that he was following our itinerary and that he could help us in the case of emergencies, was an added value with great meaning.
Our trip, if you feel like reading about it, continues below.
Be aware… you risk falling in love with Iceland and deciding to leave now! With EVANEOS obviously!
ICELAND. First Day
Color and Warmth
Starting from Keflavik, where we landed after a flight of three hours circa from Frankfurt, we then rented the car and were heading towards the Blue Lagoon. We were immediately enchanted by the beauty of nature, with its wonderful colors. Stretches of dark rocks that recall the Death Valley, interrupted by spots of stunning purple flowers on one side and the cobalt blue of the ocean on the other. Little traffic, well-kept streets. Every once in a while, spots of greenery and pines.
The Blue Lagoon is a show for the eyes and a regenerating pause for the body. With an electronic bracelet you can move everywhere, open your locker, drink any type of beverage, directly in the pool, from fresh juices to cocktails and wine. The water temperature is perfect. And outside the water it is not cold.
After a few hours, we headed towards Reykjavík, the capital city with 122 thousand inhabitants. We stopped at the hotel to leave our things and then wondered around the city for a while, between the intense colors and Nordic shapes, up until the tower of the cathedral Hallgrímskirkja. We could not resist the temptation and climbed to the top. Up there the view of the city and the ocean captured us.
Our appetite started awakening, so we went around looking for a nice place where to eat. There is not a lack of possible places for lunch -I want to underline it- but the gluttony, that characterizes us, stops us from entering any place randomly. In the end we opted for www.grillmarkadurinn.is, with the open kitchen and the possibility to choose between meat and fish. Clearly it was a good decision.
We then got out and the peculiarity that surprised us was the strong light still present. It was 9:30 pm but we almost needed sunglasses. A few more steps among the shops (a lot were open) and then tiredness took over us. The light outside was impressing, it felt as if it was the middle of the day. Some darkness peeps out around two in the morning. A photo taken from our room depicting the port… but the colors of the sunset are the maximum level of darkness that the Icelandic nights can provide…
ICELAND. Second day
We left Reykjavík after a quick visit to the Catholic cathedral of Christ the King. Our journey towards the Golden Circle started between uncontaminated green lawns, sometimes colored by the beautiful artic lupins. The first stop was the national park of Pingvellir, place of the first parliament.
There, the lake Thingvallavatn soaks the banks of one of the most remote angles of the world: the Icelandic rift valley, where two earth plates separate from each other from 1 up to 18 mm each year and mark their connection point. The American plate and the Eurasian one are clearly distinguishable and we walked inside the canyon that formed due to this process and that keeps gaining width each year: it is the fault of Almannagjá.
The second stop was the geothermal area of Geysir, one of the most unpredictable natural phenomena that exist! You might have to wait a few minutes or half an hour… it is only nature that decides when to strike your eyes with pure awe. An “awe” that comes out of the land of ice at a temperature of 250 Celsius degrees.
After Geysir, we left to head towards the queen of waterfalls, Gulfoss, with her double jump that falls into the heart of the earth. The enormous quantity of water and the deafening noise completely canceled the sound pollution around us… (mainly due to the clamor of Japanese, German, Finnish etc. etc.). In front of the queen Gulfoss we all became silent… and with the silence around also our mind and heart found peace.
A quick break at Iceland’s most ancient thermal source, the Secret Lagoon, and then on the road again with destination in Kerio, the extinct crater of an ancient volcano. What left us astonished of the journey was the beauty of nature… that changes face and look all at once, kilometer after kilometer. From endless prairies with slow and sinuous rivers to stretches full of artic lupins and thick forests, where the colorful, pointy roof of houses comes out of that green, protective hug. And then boundless, shiny, mesmerizing lakes… and rocks… and moorland… a change of shapes and colors that left us without words and was inviting us to stop and stare this wonder right into the eyes.
A nice walk around the crater and then, with calm, towards Fragrabbeka Guesthouse that welcomed us for the night. And there, as if the marvel of the day were not enough, an unforgettable experience was waiting for us. A night inside a wooden chalet, surrounded entirely by prairies, a river crossing the wilderness, wild horses and in the background the two volcanoes of Iceland, with their snowy tops. There were no words. But there was no need for them. Because the silence and the eyes fill your entire body with emotions.
You will not find it on the internet… This is one of the most wonderful surprises Francesco of EVANOES had for us.
Iceland. Third day
Water and Ice
The night in our small wooden house of the Fragrabbreka Guesthouse (even though there the night does not exist until august) recharged us. Another magic trait of these places were the smells in the air. Where we were, you could smell the mountain, with the mugo pine, the resin, the undergrowth… but within a few kilometers of distance, your lungs receive a wave of the sapid air of the sea or your nostrils are stung by the unmistakable sulphureous effluvia.
We started the day with the waterfalls on the south. The first one is the romantic Seljandsfoss… we walked around it, enjoying it from every angle. It is wonderful… there are no other words for it. Next pause: Skogafoss. This one was not a simple waterfall… it was pure power… apart from the full body shower we received as soon as we got closer, we were mesmerized by the strength of the water that, with the wind on its side… hit us almost to the point of losing balance… the light particles become fog… and at a certain point we could not see anything anymore. We were laughing and laughing…
On the way to Vik, taking a little detour is a must. With our legendary Suzuki Baleno (I had never heard of it before…) we were climbing (with great difficulty) an unpaved, uphill street, which seemed endless. There was a bit of apprehension but what we found up there was worth the struggle… a breathtaking panorama on the ocean and the dark beach of Reynisfjara on it, the imponent rocks that rise from the water, evoking ancestral memories of Viking populations.
We visited the beach of Vik and the black cliffs that stretch from the water like giant fingers. Mario leaves his mark… and builds his “little man of rocks”…
From here, through a scenery more and more desolated, with long stretches of lichens and mosses, we reached by feet the foggy Vatnajökull, the biggest glacier of Europe and the third biggest ice cap of the world. It is freezing… it is foggy… It is drizzling… but we did not care about any of that… because we were having so much fun sharing -on an itinerary of over 300 km- emotions, segrets, dreams and fears. We reached our hotel, a room with a view… on the nothingness… an infinite moorland touched by a dark ocean that invites to jump under the warm duvet. But before that, I allowed myself an excellent Margarita… after all, it was a vacation… Good night Iceland.
Iceland. Fourth day
Wonder and Marvel
We woke up early because one of the most unknown passages was waiting for us, between the wonders of that island: a tour on a zodiac dinghy between the icebergs, up to the feet of the glazier.
We picked the minor lake Fjallsarlon instead of the massive Jokulsarlon to be more safe and that choice turned out to be a winning one. When we arrived, out of the car, we struggled reaching the meeting point. It was cold and the wind was blowing at 72 km/h, or rather 20 m/second. The water was rippling. They got us harnessed like the Michelin man, but these uniforms were warm and protecting. Five minutes by feet and we reached the beach from where we would start. The wind was scary. The zodiac dinghy took off slowly and after only a little while it was taking on water… the fight against the waves was tough… water was hitting us from every angle… but the journey and the fear mattered very little since reaching the basis of the glazier and navigating between the icebergs was an incredible experience. The icebergs were stretching out of the water with a height of up to 20 m… and below the water the height reaches at least 140 m. Strong emotions, impossible to put it into words or descriptions. We got back to the base after almost two hours with great joy both in the eyes and in the heart. A quick change in the car, dry clothes and a nice hot coffee and only then we started feeling again our legs and hands!!! With calm, we got back into our itinerary towards Jokulsaron. Following the advice given by our precious guide Francesco, we stopped in one of the four rest areas before the lake. There was nobody, we walked towards the beach, surrounded by a deafening silence, interrupted only by the noise of the wind. And what our eyes saw was once again priceless. Crystals? Diamonds? Precious laces? The games of ice leave space for fantasy. And again a genuine wonder, that awakens strong emotions and overwhelms you.
Another nice surprise awaits us, on the beach of diamonds. A lot of sea lions approaching us, looking at us, playing and then lying down on the sand.
We went back to the car and moved towards Hella, for a total of almost 400 km since the beginning of the day. We had already seen part of the itinerary to get back. Yet, in front of us, with the aid of the sunlight and a clear sky, a different scenery is revealed, completely different from the one we saw earlier with the clouds and the rain. Endless green prairies, rocky mountains that jump into the ocean, sinuous rivers that run in the valleys. Waterfalls flowing and animals grazing. A few houses here and there.
We also ran through a quite bizarre thing… a grid completely covered by bras and underwear… we thought about it for a while… then the only right thing to do seemed to leave something hanging, a sign of us passing there!!!
We went back to Hella, tired but happy. The day after we left. And that country turned out to be a continuous surprise.