Tag Archives: Humpback Whale

ICELAND-LAND OF FIRE, ICE AND LUPINES. PART 6 WILDLIFE

Iceland is a wonderful country for wildlife spotting. As we saw many species in different location I decided to put them all together in one post.

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

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Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale
Atlantic white sided dolphin
Atlantic white sided dolphins
Atlantic white sided dolphin
Atlantic white sided dolphins
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
A Fulmar
A Fulmar
A Fulmar in flight
A Fulmar in flight
Eider ducks
Eider ducks
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Red Throated Divers
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Red Throated Divers
Reindeer
Reindeer
Reindeer
Reindeer
Red-necked phalarope
Red-necked phalarope
Whimbrel
Whimbrel
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Arctic Turn
Slavonian Grebes
Slavonian Grebes
Noisy Reshank
Noisy Redshank
Wild Icelandic Pony
Wild Icelandic Pony
Meet the locals
Meet the locals

ICELAND-LAND OF FIRE, ICE AND LUPINES. PART 5 REYKJAVIK, THE GOLDEN CIRCLE and a BIRTHDAY

After three days on the south coast of Iceland it was time to move on to Reykjavik, the islands capital city. 120,000 people live here, about 37% of the total population of Iceland. At a  latitude of 64°08′ N, this makes it the world’s northernmost capital city.

Our Route
Our Route

We stayed at Rey Appartments just around the corner from  Laugavegur the main street for shopping, bars and restaurants. Our first job was to find a launderette as our two previous stops did not have any laundry facilities. A short walk brought us to The Laundromat Cafe, a launderette downstairs and a bar/cafe upstairs. A beer whilst your laundry is doing seems very civilised.

Over the next three days we toured the city and had a day out around “The Golden Circle”   a popular  route in South Iceland, covering about 300 km looping from Reykjavík into central Iceland and back. The three primary stops on the route are the national park Þingvellir, the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur, and the waterfall Gullfoss (meaning “golden falls”)

Our first stop was  Þingvellir where the Alþingi (Althing in English), the Icelandic Parliament, was established  in 930, and remained there until 1798. It is the oldest extant parliamentary institution in the world.

Strange cairns on the way to Þingvellir with lake Þingvallavatni behind
Strange cairns on the way to Þingvellir with lake Þingvallavatni behind
The centre of the gathering was the Lögberg, or Law Rock, a rocky outcrop on which the Lawspeaker (lögsögumaður) took his seat as the presiding official of the assembly. The
The centre of the gathering was the Lögberg, or Law Rock, a rocky outcrop on which the Lawspeaker (lögsögumaður) took his seat as the presiding official of the assembly. The “wall” behind the rock s in fact a natural volcanic feature
The view from the Lögberg, or Law Rock
The view from the Lögberg, or Law Rock

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Next stop on the Golden Circle is  Haukadalur where the geyser that all others were named after is located. Unfortunately Geysir has been inactive for quite some time although there are other  geysers in the area. However its pretty tame compared to Yellowstone in the USA.

Geysir...the original geyser
Geysir…the original geyser

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Strokkur is very dependable and erupts every 5 to 10 minutes
Strokkur is very dependable and erupts every 5 to 10 minutes

Next stop the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall, gullfoss means golden waterfall. The water coming down the river Hivita  flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 m and 21 m) into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. This is a very busy tourist destination with a large visitor centre and restaurant. The speciality is lamb soup, more like a stew such as the Welsh dish cawl, with free refills! Insider tip, have lunch before midday otherwise its compete bedlam.

Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Paul & Sian at Gullfoss, getting wet with the spray.
Paul & Sian at Gullfoss, getting wet with the spray.
...and a final view of Gullfoss
…and a final view of Gullfoss

Our next stop was Hveragerði, which somewhat grandly proclaims itself “The hot springs capital of the world”. What they do have is a small geothermic park where you can boil an egg in a stream and a cafe famous for its geothermal ovens.

The geothermal park
The geothermal park
Boil an egg anyone?
Boil an egg anyone?
Geothermal baking...you don't get that on Bake Off!
Geothermal baking…you don’t get that on Bake Off!
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Novel advertisement for a geothermal glass house
The geothermal glass house
The geothermal glass house

And so back to Reykjavik. A couple of days exploring the sites, checking out the craft beer bars, sampling the restaurants and my birthday celebration thrown in for good measure.So what better place to start than church, as we were staying round the corner from Hallgrímskirkja, Iceland’s magnificent modern cathedral. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson’s design of the church was commissioned in 1937. He is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape. It took 38 years to build the church. Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986.

Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja
Inside Hallgrímskirkja
Inside Hallgrímskirkja
Me posing outside Hallgrímskirkja by the statue of the viking explorer, Leif Eriksson
Me posing outside Hallgrímskirkja by the statue of the Viking explorer, Leif Eriksson
View from the top
View from the top of Hallgrímskirkja
Another view from the top of Hallgrímskirkja showing Reykjavik airport. Unfortunately international flight use Keflavik about 40k away
Another view from the top of Hallgrímskirkja showing Reykjavik airport. Unfortunately international flights use Keflavik about 40k away

After a church a wander round the city.

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The unit on the top left was featured in Ainsley Harriott's Street Food were he helped cook their famous Lobster Stew
The unit on the top left was featured in Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food where he helped cook their famous Lobster Soup
Sian ordering the famous Lobster Stew
Sian ordering the famous Lobster Soup
The view inside the lobster shack. The lobster soup was superb.
The view inside the lobster shack. The lobster soup was superb.

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The birthday boy enjoying afternoon tea.
The birthday boy enjoying afternoon tea.
The birthday boy enjoying a pre dinner beer.
The birthday boy enjoying a pre dinner beer at The Micro Bar
The open plan kitchen at Apotek. We had an excellent meal here celebrating my birthday.
The open plan kitchen at Apotek. We had an excellent meal here celebrating my birthday.

For most of the 20th century beer was either banned or limited to 2.25% ABV. Indeed this limit still applies in supermarkets. The restrictions were lifted on March 1st, 1989. The lifting of restrictions on beer is celebrated as Beer Day on March 1st.There are now some fine craft beers and bars in Iceland with Scandinavian and North American influences. Icelandic beer is even available in the UK now with Booths stocking Einstök Beers. My favorites on the holiday were Úlfur India Pale Ale nr. 3 and Gæðingur Pale Ale. We tried three different craft beer bars which are listed as numbers 1,2 and 3 in this site.

The beer selection at Skúli Craft Bar
The beer selection at Skúli Craft Bar
Micro Bar, much better than it looks. My birthday beer above was here
Micro Bar, much better inside than it looks. My birthday beer above was here
The bar at Micro Bar
The bar at Micro Bar
Nice glass and beer
Nice glass and beer
The beer selection at Mikkeller & Friends Reykjavik. Unusually this bar was difficult to find your way in. Still makes a change from not being able to find your way out after a few.
The beer selection at Mikkeller & Friends Reykjavik. Unusually this bar was difficult to find your way in. Still makes a change from not being able to find your way out after a few.
Sounds like a good idea
Sounds like a good idea

You may recall that way back when we were at Húsavík in part two that we went on an unsuccessful whale watching tour. Sian had been dropping not too subtle hints that we could, if there was time and any money left, try again in Reykjavik.

Can we go on a whale watching tour. Can we go on a whale watching tour. Can we go on a whale watching tour.....OK!
Can we go on a whale watching tour. Can we go on a whale watching tour.
Can we go on a whale watching tour…..OK!
Waiting for the off.
Waiting for the off.
Not as cold as Husavik...but still cold
Not as cold as Husavik…but still cold

So where we lucky this time? Well the next and final instalment will be a round up of all the wildlife we saw on the trip so you will have to wait….OK then one quick photo of a humpback whale then.

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As we had to return the hire car at 6.30 am for a seven o’clock check in we decided to stay at a B&B/Hotel near the airport. After checking out from our apartment in Reykjavik, on a rainy morning, we set off to explore the south west of the island.

Cafe at Grindavik
Cafe at Grindavik
Sian buying the excellent meringue cake an Icelandic speciality.
Sian buying the excellent meringue cake an Icelandic speciality.
Grindavik harbour
Grindavik harbour

Between Grindavik and Hafnir is a really interesting demonstration of plate tectonics. A bridge that spans the Eurasian and American plates with the low ground between them caused by the two plates moving apart from each other at about one inch a year.

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To get an idea of scale you can just see someone towards the top of the photo in the gap

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Our final meal on the trip, at a diner in Keflavik was memorable for the biggest portion of fries I have ever seen. We shared one between us but still did not finish it.

Up early the following day for our flights back to Manchester with Easy Jet, and both ways were on time.

There is a final blog post to come with all the wildlife sightings in one place including dolphins, puffins and humpback whales.