Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Journey to the Land of Foss

Back in September I took a trip with my good friend from school, Kerry, to Iceland.  We had a wonderful time there, and since it was so lovely I wanted to share a bit of it here with you.

View of the first farm we stayed at
on the West Coast of Iceland.
Our timing was quite serendipitous, both in the planned length of the trip and the time of year we chose.  First, a week is the perfect length of time to travel in Iceland; since the country is so small you can see all the major spots in that time without too much rush.  Second, we hit the transition from the 'high season' to the 'low season'.  This meant there were far fewer tourists and far more choices when it came to lodgings (we chose to do 'farm stays', which is when local farms open guest rooms so you can get a glimpse of working farm-life while travelling.  Basically the farm is like a B&B, but providing a little more unique experience).  Third, mid- to late September is when the annual sheep and horse roundups happen, and around the country communities get together to sort out the sheep herded in from the countryside.  We were lucky to be able to see a bit of this in Faxi:
Sorting sheep by their ear tags.
Once the correct family is ascertained, the sheep is unceremoniously
thrown into the appropriate pen.
Sheep round-up.
There was also a giant waterfall nearby which is quite impressive:

A 3 photo panorama I took of Faxi Foss in Southwest Iceland.
Iceland is actually famous for its waterfalls, called 'foss' in Icelandic (we were only able to pick up a few words of this difficult-to-read language, including 'foss' and 'tak', which means thank you).  Here are a few more:

Gulfoss, also in Southwest Iceland (the Golden Triangle).
Detifoss, said to be the most impressive in all of Europe.
Goðafoss, located in the Mývatn district of North-Central Iceland.
Another beautiful area of Iceland is includes Lake Mývatn and its surrounds.  The lake is a huge bird sanctuary, there are sulfur fields, hot springs, and otherwise beautiful scenery:

Lake Mývatn with cylon raider (ok, maybe it's just a bird).
Sulfur vents near Lake Myvatn.
A fun thing to do in Iceland is go horseback riding, which is how I got some great shots of the lake I wouldn't otherwise have been able to.  The Icelandic Horse is very sturdy and surefooted and can easily traverse the rugged terrain (especially around the lake, which is mostly surrounded by lava fields).  It also has a special gait called the tölt which makes travelling very fast and smooth.

Kerry and our guide ahead on Icelandic Horses.
We had two beautiful rides in Iceland, and I highly recommend doing at least as many if you are planning a trip for next summer/fall.  Icelandic horses are also very friendly and (at least the ones we encountered) had very lovely dispositions, so even if you are not an experienced rider you will have a great time!

We met a herd on the road while out walking, and they came over to say hello.  Lots of pats and nuzzles all around. :-)
It wouldn't be a trip to Iceland without a visit to the Blue Lagoon.  On our first day in Iceland, we went right from the plane to the spa, which is a wonderful way to start your trip!  We spent five hours soaking and relaxing in the hot water, cold air, and bright sunshine:

The Blue Lagoon, before it opened that morning.
And, we enjoyed it so much that we decided to have a second visit on our last day in Iceland, before boarding the plane.  Sadly, there was a storm that day and the atmosphere wasn't quite as serene.  However, at least one trip to the Blue Lagoon is highly recommended for anyone traveling to Iceland.


gordon young said...

Hi Kathleen, My wife (Icelandic heritage) and I also went to Iceland this summer and could not agree more with your comments and beautiful photography. We found a cheap flight from Seattle ($ 660) return but you had to stay for 3 weeks. So for what we saved in airfare we spent on hotels. We went on a week trek on horseback from South to North between the glaciers and had a fantastic time for 250k or so and just a few saddle sores.

Kate said...

Thanks for the comment Gordon! Glad you enjoyed Iceland as much as we did! :-)