Land Of Ice And Fire With Saga Cruises: Akureyri, Isafjordur And Reykjavik

Day two in Akureyri soon arrived and again, it was cold and wet. I donned my waterproofs and off I went on the ‘Jewels of the North’ excursion. Our first stop was Godafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) and I was speechless. I thought the waterfall I’d seen in Seydisfjordur was impressive but this was something else entirely and you could feel the power of the water pounding in your chest. The crescent of cascading water was named when Thorgeir, law speaker of the Old Icelandic Parliament, threw images of the Norse Gods into the water in 1000 AD to show that Iceland would henceforth follow the Christian religion. We spent a short time at Godafoss before moving on to Lake Myvtan, where we explored some of the ‘pseudo-craters’ at Skutustadir. It was so cold and windy and we really didn’t have enough time to explore the area in depth. What I did see was impressive, but if I return to Akureyri I’ll go back to this site. We took a short lunch stop here before driving to Dimmuborgir.

Dimmuborgir offers stunning scenery and surreal land formations from past volcanic eruptions. It reminded me a lot of the volcanic fields in Lanzarote, it was just much colder! Again, we didn’t see much of the site, but I didn’t leave feeling like I’d missed out, as our guide made sure we got to see the best bits and I guess once you’ve seen one volcanic rock formation, you’ve seen them all. We did see one chunk of lava rock that resembled a troll, that was quite cool and unexpected.

Our final and most impressive stop of the day was the geothermal field at the foot of Namafjall Mountain. Again, this was something new for me, I’d never seen anything like it before and I was fascinated by the landscape. I’d gone from a volcanic lava field to what looked like the desert – all in less than 60 minutes! The steam coming from the water was warm and it briefly took the chill out of the air, but the smell of Sulphur was a little overwhelming. If you’ve never smelt Sulphur before, the only way I can describe it to you is like that of rotten eggs. It’s revolting. There were mud pots, steam vents, boiling springs and fumaroles. It was nothing short of awesome but the clay stuck to the bottom of your shoes like glue. Thankfully, it had dried enough by the time we got back to the ship that I could stamp my feet on the hard ground at the port gate and it would fall off. The coach didn’t fare so well, however.

Our two days in Akureyri had come to an end and as they did, the sun finally made an appearance. Typical. We sailed at around 5 P.M. and made our way towards Isafjordur in the Westfjords of Iceland.

Originally, I was going to venture here under my own steam, but then I decided instead to book the short tour that took in some of the culture in this very small town. It wasn’t the best tour of the cruise, but I did enjoy it and it certainly offered a glimpse into life in the area both past and present. It also provided us with yet another stunning waterfall, this time one we would drink from. The water was so pure and very refreshing. It was nice to admire the waterfall and then taste some of its natural goodness – it beat the fermented shark and Brennivin that were offered as samples during our stop at the local museum. I didn’t try the shark but the Brennivin I did sample and it was truly disgusting. It’s a traditional Iceland drink that is made from fermented potato pulp and flavoured with caraway seeds. I’m glad I can say I tried it, but I’m not in a hurry to ever taste it again. We also stopped at the Osvor Museum, where quaint buildings that were restored in 1988 reflect the life of the fishermen from the early days up until the 20th century. It was very interesting and they certainly had an incredibly hard life. Picture this… their boats were roughly 16 feet long, but they would catch sharks that were over 20 feet long. It must have been terrifying!

We sailed from Isafjordur and set courses for Reykjavik. The highlight of the evening would be the lack of a sunset. I didn’t see it myself, I had a long day ahead of me in Iceland’s capital and I retired to bed early, but one lady that I met onboard said the sun gradually got lower and lower in the sky and just before you would expect it to set, it started to rise again.

I was out of bed, washed and dressed and on my coach by 09:15 A.M., ready to begin a day of exploration in Reykjavik. I’d booked ‘The Golden Circle’ tour here. I had thought about the Blue Lagoon, but scenery took prime position for my first visit. We left the port and made our way to our first stop: Thingvellier National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had a short and easy walk around the park, which was beautiful, and I came across yet another waterfall. The entire area is carpeted with moss and surrounded by mountains, it’s rather picturesque to say the least. We didn’t walk around the entire park, but once back on the coach we did drive through a larger section en-route to our next stop which was Geysir.

Geysir is home to Geysir Strokkur, which spurts water high into the sky every few minutes. It was wonderful to see – it is Mother Nature at her finest. The water is between 80 and 100 Degrees Celsius and I can confirm for you that it is warm because I got absolutely drenched from one spurt, which shot at least 40 feet into the air. I had been lucky previously, but that time it got me. I tried to run, but to no avail. You could tell when it was about to blow, so to speak, because a light blue bubble (almost like a shimmering eye) would suddenly rise to the surface and then the water would erupt into the air. There are smaller pools of water along the path and they too bubble and boil, but not quite like Geysir Strokkur does. I stood admiring this natural phenomenon for quite a while before making my way to the Geysir Hotel where we were stopping for lunch. The service was slow and I wasn’t very tempted by the main course, but the lentil soup was delicious.

We left Geysir behind and made our way to Gullfoss. This magnificent waterfall plunges down a series of cascades before reaching a deep gorge in the Hvita River. It was spectacular! One thing I can say about Iceland is that if you enjoy scenery, then this is the destination for you. Every day I was left in awe at the natural beauty of the country and how hard the Icelandic people work to preserve it and ensure it remains unscathed by the millions of tourists that are flocking to the island each year. Our tour ended with a drive over the moors of Hellisheidi and a stop at the Perlan in the heart of Reykjavik, which offers fabulous views across the city. It was a wonderful way to end what had been a magnificent day in the capital. I had thoroughly enjoyed Reykjavik!

We left Iceland behind and would spend the next two days at sea. Two days of relaxation that I think we were all ready for. Captain Greybeard and his wife had left the ship in Reykjavik, so from this point on, I was experiencing Saga Cruises for the first time as a solo passenger and I was looking forward to seeing how that would turn out. There were 98 passengers onboard that were travelling alone and I had the pleasure of meeting several of them. I even bumped in to a few people that I’d met on previous cruises, which was a nice surprise.

On our second day at sea, we found ourselves in the Outer Hebrides and Captain Burgess kindly went a little off course and gave us some scenic cruising time. It was wonderful. I suppose that’s the beauty of small-ship cruising, you can go off track sometimes and enjoy the scenic aspect of places without setting foot ashore.

I sat in the sun for a while and spent yet another evening in Cooper’s, listening to Perry, before we arrived in Belfast the following morning…

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