Category Archives: Iceland

What to do in Iceland and the best places to visit in Iceland.

Lunch in the Greenhouse at Fridheimar Tomato Farm Iceland

We stopped for lunch in the greenhouse at the Fridheimar tomato farm on our Golden Circle tour in Iceland.

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The most popular lunch option at Fridheimar is the tomato soup buffet. I opted for this The home-made bread was really good.

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The other lunch options are pasta and tortilla. My husband had the tortilla and thought that the cheese used was very mild and lacking in flavour.

There was a selection of tomato based drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. We had the non-alcoholic Healthy Mary made with green tomato, lime, honey, ginger and sparkling water.

The  Little Tomato Shop at Fridheimar sells a selection of edible souvenirs.

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Lunch is served at Fridheimar between noon to 4pm all year.

Geysir Iceland

One of the highlights of our Golden Circle Tour in Iceland was Geysir.

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The mixture of sunshine and dark clouds made this steamy geothermal landscape all the more dramatic.

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The gift shop had a good selection of garments and souvenirs, plus free toilet facilities.

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I liked the painting in the restaurant.

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Pingvellir National Park Iceland

Our first stop on the Golden Circle tour in Iceland was the Pingvellir National Park. Pingvellir, translated as Parliament Plains, was the site of the Icelandic legislative assembly between 930 to 1798.

Pingvellir is located 45 km northeast of the capital city of Reykjavík. If you come by car it costs 500ISK (approx £3.60) to park for the day. There’s a charge of 100ISK for the toilets at the Visitor Centre, but entry to the Visitor Centre is free of charge.

We were dropped off at the Visitor Centre and then walked down to be picked up at a parking place at the side of the road.

Close to the Visitor Centre is the Hakid viewpoint.

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As you walk down from the Visitor Centre you can see the Almannayja, the fault line between the European and American tectonic plates.

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You could easily spend all day walking around Pingvellir National Park.

Icelandic Horse World

When were were in Iceland we spent a morning at Icelandic Horse World. It was around a 20 minute drive from the Hotel Ranga at which we were hosted.

I was really looking forward to this, I did some horse riding as a teenager and I’d heard that Icelandic horses are very good natured. As I’m allergic to most animals. I took an antihistamine tablet before leaving the hotel.

Upon arrival we had a wander around the stables to admire the Icelandic horses.

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Then we were taken to choose suitable attire. I was really glad that  Icelandic Horse World provided the gear, as I I thought that we would have to wash all our outer wear which had touched the horses when we returned home to avoid me getting an allergic reaction. We both wore warm all in one padded suits and gloves. It’s mandatory to wear a protective helmet.

I decided that I would need to leave my phone in the locked room at the stables, as I couldn’t risk taking both hands off the reins in order to take photos.

Next, it was through to an indoor riding hall to get some tuition. After seeing my husband (who is much fitter than me) not having the smoothest of mounts, I decided to ask for steps to get up onto the horse.

After a few minutes, we began a horseback trek through the surrounding beautiful countryside, which lasted for around one hour. It was a wonderful experience. My horse was so placid and responsive. I felt quite comfortable back in the saddle, even after a forty year gap.

Prices start at 9500 ISK (approx £68) for a one hour meadow and mountain ride

If you don’t wish to go riding you can book a stable tour. This costs 1500 ISK (approx £11) per adult. Children under 12, accompanied by an adult, are free of charge. The tour lasts around 40 minutes, after which you can stay as long as you like.

Review of Hotel Ranga Iceland

We stayed at the Hotel Ranga, in the south west of Iceland, for two nights on a complimentary basis in late October 2016.

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The transfer from Keflavik Airport took around one hour forty minutes. As our taxi arrived in the hotel car park, just after midnight, many guests were out at the front to see the Northern Lights. Evidently there had been a good show prior to our arrival, which was fading fast by the time we got there.

If you wish, reception will phone you during the night if the Northern Lights appear. So that you can dash out fast. there are padded suits hanging in the lobby that you can grab on the way out.

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There was a tapestry map of Iceland in the lobby.

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I loved the Icelandic scene in the painting in the lounge across from our room.

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We stayed in room 9 which faced north. There was what I assumed to be Icelandic writing above the bed. I liked the fabric used for the curtains and bedspread, but maybe lighter colours would have made the room brighter.

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The bathroom was large, with a jacuzzi bath.

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The king size bed was comfortable. The timber clad room was a very pleasant temperature during the day, but we found the duvets a bit too warm during the night. The WiFi was excellent throughout our stay.

All rooms at the Hotel Ranga have French doors leading to a terrace with a bench.

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I really enjoyed the hot tub. There are three hot tubs on the south side of the hotel facing the River Ranga.

I laughed when I spotted the bar stools.

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I liked the mountain view art in the bar.

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The restaurant had ceiling to wall glass on three sides. The breakfast buffet offered a good selection of cheese, cold meat, fish, fruit, cereal and jams. There was a hot selection including scrambled egg, sausage, bacon and beans. You could make your own waffle; the batter was pre-measured in small jugs.

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After breakfast on the first day, I had a walk down to the river.

Dinner that evening kicked off with a salmon and pea amuse bouche.

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My husband didn’t eat his lightly cured and smoked sea trout starter. For him, the fish still tasted raw. I tried the trout and it was very good.

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As I wanted to try something different, I ordered the smoked puffin starter. It was described as having slightly fishy and gamey flavour. I didn’t detect any fish flavour, it tasted like beef to me.

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My husband enjoyed his Arctic Char (a cold water fish of the salmon family).

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My lamb main course was so good. The lamb was tender and complimented by the pea cream, carrot puree and brown cheese sauce.

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My husband’s cheese board was impressive.

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My carrot dessert consisted of carrot cake, mousse and sorbet with chocolate crumble.

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We hoped that we might see the Northern Lights that evening. As you never know if they’ll appear, we thought that we’d do some star gazing at the observatory in the hotel grounds. We enquired about opening hours at reception, and were told that it opened at 9pm.

Around 9.30pm, we attempted to walk to it. However, the red lights that supposedly demarcated the path to the observatory were so far apart, that I didn’t feel comfortable attempting the walk. My husband walked there alone, but it was locked.

Whilst I appreciate that you don’t want to create light pollution near an observatory, the path needs to be clearer. It might be useful to have a sign in reception informing guests if the observatory is open, as that’s dependent on the sky being clear.

We had lunch at the Hotel Ranga prior to our taxi transfer to the airport. My husband had Artic Char again. I opted for the Baconburger, as I was wanted something to fill me up for the forthcoming journey. It was one of the tastiest burgers which I’ve ever eaten. The beef in the burger was lean. The addition of bacon, fried mushrooms, cheese and bearnaise sauce made the burger too large and heavy for me to safely pick up, I had to use my knife and fork and couldn’t eat it all.

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For dessert, we both had ice cream served with almond crumble and berries.

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In summary, I really enjoyed my stay at the Hotel Ranga in Iceland. I wished that I’d had more time around the hotel in daylight. On the first day, we were out for seven hours on a Golden Circle tour. On the second morning, we went Icelandic horse riding. Our room was comfortable and cosy. It had a kettle, but I wasn’t in the room long enough to use it at all. The food at the Hotel Ranga was superb. The staff were friendly and helpful.

Hotel Ranga offer a three night Stargazing and Northern Lights Package until 31 May 2017 (excluding some dates during the festive season). Prices start at 942 Euro for two guests in a standard room. The price includes breakfast and a three course chef’s choice dinner every day.

 

Iceland: The Perfect Combination of Adventure and Luxury

If there’s a place that you need to cross off your bucket list, it’s Iceland. A beautiful country packed with things to see and do, Iceland really does have something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to go on an adventure holiday, a relaxation holiday or a luxury holiday, Iceland has something to suit your needs. Here are three reasons why you should go to Iceland and reasons why it’s the perfect combination of adventure and luxury.

1) A Place of Other Worldly Beauty

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There’s something special about the beauty of Iceland, and it somehow feels out of this world. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to report that they felt like they were in Narnia during their Icelandic exploits.

Unlike some of the more developed European nations, the majority of Iceland’s beauty is natural. Everywhere you turn, there are numerous mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, lava fields, rainbows and streams.
It’s like being in another world, nut one that’s more beautiful than ours.

2) Geo-Thermal Spas

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All of this natural beauty has a practical use, too. Particularly if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday. The Blue Lagoon, a geo-thermal spa on the Reykjanes Peninsula in south west Iceland is perfect for this.

Set against the stunning backdrop of a jet black lava-scape, the Blue Lagoon allows you to bathe, take in an extensive range of massage treatments and enjoy therapies, all while taking in Iceland’s stunning natural beauty. You can organise tours to the Blue Lagoon with most operators, such as Exodus Travels.

3) Culture and History

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However, as beautiful as Iceland might be, it’s also steeped in history and culture that’s well worth exploring. After all, it has a cultured European feel and a number of fantastic traditions.

From the well storied history of Viking voyages to the interesting nature of the Icelandic literary tradition, there’s lots to see, do, explore and learn. Iceland is packed with museums dedicated to the country’s history and heritage.

From Viking log houses to the National Museum of Iceland and even the Skogar Museum, there really is something that everyone will enjoy – all while you learn about the country’s rich history.

To conclude, if you’re looking for an adventure holiday also steeped in history and luxury then look no further than Iceland. With outstanding natural beauty aplenty and a plethora of things to see and do, you’ll certainly never be bored.

Iceland – A Top Tourist Destination?

I spend more time than I care to admit planning trips that I won’t be taking.  I get wanderlusty, and so I start searching for cheap tickets to places I’d like to visit.  I might not necessarily have the vacation days, but it is still fun to dream.

Iceland has been near the top of my list for quite some time now, but I’ve never made my way over there.  It’s almost as if when I get down to actually planning a trip, it gets forgotten up there in the north.  It might also have something to do with the fact that there are virtually no trees and it is an island.  Kind of disconcerting really, but the stories I’ve heard, the pictures I’ve seen, they all keep my interest.

Picture courtesy of ezioman.  More pictures by ezioman.

But recently, Iceland has been in the news.  Not necessarily for good things.  There was the volcano that shut down Europe and led to more travel chaos than I have ever been privy to.  And then there was the banking crisis.  Iceland was not alone in hurting, but their monumental collapse became international news.

Picture courtesy of neatephotos.  More pictures by neatephotos.

In spite of, or maybe because of, this news, Iceland seems to have shot to the top of several different lists for top travel destinations in 2011.  In my planning of trips I won’t be able to take, I kept stumbling across articles espousing the virtues of Iceland.  The unique landscape, the natural hot springs, even the volcanoes, and of course, the low prices (turns out that banking crisis may have been helpful if you’ve got the money to travel) all add up to a great destination.  Not only that, but several different airlines have begun adding flights to Reykjavík.

I’m always a little skeptical when it comes to top ten lists.  I like to stray from the beaten path every now and again.  But what happens when the path less taken becomes the beaten path?  Regardless of the rankings, Iceland is still on my list.  And I’ll continue to plan trips that I might not take.

So what do you think? Will Iceland be on your travel itinerary this year?

We’ve researched “10 of the Best Hotels in Reykjavik for all Budgets“. You can also find great deals on hotels in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik using the LateRooms search box below.

Ten of the Best Hotels in Reykjavik for All Budgets

Iceland is transforming from something of a mythical “far away” country to a place that many tourists are heading towards – recognising that it’s home to incredible landscapes, waterfalls such as Gullfoss and an interesting culture. The country still has a small population and most of them – around 200,000 people – live in or around the capital city of Reykjavik.

Best hotels in Reykjavik

The bay in Reykjavik

If you’re heading to Reykjavik but are scared of the cost, you might be pleased to see that the prices are relatively reasonable – much better than I’d expected, and I presume due to Iceland’s unfortunate economic troubles. So here is a list of hotels in various price ranges in Reykjavik, with the prices given being the lowest prices available for double rooms on a weekday night in April 2011. All these hotels scored at least 80% on verified guest ratings.

Reykjavik budget hotels

Centerhotel Klopp (80% guest rating, £43) is, as it’s name suggests, in the centre of Reykjavik, just a street back from the main shopping and eating zone (and directly opposite a bar which can be noisy – so just join in!). It isn’t huge with just 46 rooms; some of the rooms have bay and mountain views.

Best hotels in Reykjavik

View from Centerhotel Klopp by iveyrocks

The Fron Hotel Reykjavik (82% guest rating, £47) is even more central, directly on the main shopping street of Reykjavik, and a convenient place to stay if you are planning to take various tours around Iceland as many of the tour companies use the Fron as a pickup point. The onsite restaurant is Mexican (why not?!).

CenterHotel Thingholt (84% guest rating, £62) is a stylish hotel with trendy design and decor, also located centrally in downtown Reykjavik. It’s even got an onsite jazz club.

Reykjavik mid-range hotels

The Hilton Reykjavik Nordica (86% guest rating, £70) is a little way out of the town centre but offers a free shuttle service and is a modern and clean hotel. It’s also a popular choice for business travellers.

The Odinsve Hotel (80% guest rating, £68) is quite small with just 43 rooms and is located close to the theatre,  city hall, the cathedral and opera house. Although like many Reykjavik hotels the rooms are quite small, lots of previous guests have commented on the comfortable beds making up for it.

Best hotels in Reykjavik

City Hall Reyjavik

The Centerhotel Arnarhvoll Hotel Reykjavik (82% guest rating, £65) is a couple of blocks from the main shopping street, includes a restaurant and a sauna and some of the rooms have views over the water.

Reykjavik high-end hotels

The Hotel Bjork (82% guest rating, £95) seems an appropriate choice for me since it shares its name with one of Iceland’s most famous exports, singer Bjork – but as far as I can tell is unrelated! While it is slightly further than some from the centre it is still within walking distance and it’s clean with good facilities and an onsite restaurant.

Best hotels in Reykjavik

Hotel Bjork by DoctorWho

The Hotel Reykjavik Centrum (88% guest rating, £80) is very popular amongst previous guests and has a convenient central location, as the name suggests. It’s clear, offers a reasonable inhouse breakfast and is situated in a relatively quiet spot.

The Hotel Holt (88% guest rating, £120) is at the pricier end of Reykjavik hotels but comes extremely highly rated by many guests. It’s beautifully decorated, has very friendly, attentive staff, and the hotel restaurant serves excellent food. It’s centrally located but in a quiet street.

Last but not least, the Hotel Borg (84% guest ratings, £95) is art deco style and a little different to the standard hotel, and is still centrally located, looking over Reykjavik’s central square.

Best hotels in Reykjavik

Room in Borg Hotel by R. Rasmussen

You can search for the best deals at all hotels in Reykjavik using the HotelsCombined price comparison site which quickly finds the lowest prices from more than 30 travel sites.

 

Looking through windows in Reykjavik, Iceland

Are you making plans for travels in Europe and can’t make up your mind where to go? Why don’t you choose something different this time. Let me suggest one of Europe’s outposts; Iceland and Reykjavik.

If you go to some of the official sites about Iceland you will find all the information you need about where to stay, where to eat, what to see, so instead I’ll take you on a winter walk in this charming, different city of Reykjavik. Let’s call it a window safari.

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland. With fewer than 125.000 people, it is a small city, and it takes only minutes to walk from the city center out to the areas where people live in small, colourful villas. The area around the main church Hallgrimskirkja (The Hallgrim Church) is my favorite area. And to look at the charming, often whimsical way the inhabitants decorate the window, I don’t think I am the only one doing “windows safaris” :-)

It was January when I did my walk, and many of the windows still had lights left over from Christmas, or to enlighten this dark season.

When you have seen enough, or may be rather when you want to see more but need a break, let me recommend Cafe Loki, close to Hallgrimskirkjan. Buy a skyr cake with your coffee and enjoy the view.

Follow this link to find more posts from Reykjavik and Iceland.

Whirlwind Roundtrip of Iceland’s West Fjords

In this guest post, Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir, the editor of IcelandReview.com describes her trip through the West Fjords in Iceland.

“There are a lot of fjords in the West Fjords. So many that driving in and out one fjord after another on bumpy gravel roads, staring right up a rocky mountain slope or down a precipice into the treacherous waters below, while trying to get to a wedding in time, will make your head spin and stomach twirl.

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Dynjandi, West Fjords largest waterfall

Finally, a bridge! Thank God, or rather, the Public Roads Administration… But, no! It hadn’t opened yet! (The bridge over Mjóifjördur opened on August 20, 2009.) And now our kilometer count is all wrong. Oh dear, when does that wedding start again?

Mjóifjördur is one of countless fjords my boyfriend and I encountered on the way to Ísafjördur, the capital of the West Fjords, where we had been invited to a wedding in early July.

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View from Strandir, West Fjords, Iceland

Instead of driving straight there, we decided to take a detour to Strandir on the eastern coast of the peninsula and camp one night “Where The Road Ends” (as one inhabitant, author Hrafn Jökulsson, dubbed the region in his eponymous book).

We were told that the drive from Hólmavík, the largest settlement in Strandir with its 369 inhabitants, to the end of the road would take around two hours… It did not. How fast do the locals drive on these impossible roads?

While low-hanging clouds blocked the full view of the majestic landscape, they also added to the air of mysticism that has always surrounded Strandir. It has an eerie beauty like no other place in Iceland.

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Strandir view, West Fjords, Iceland

Locals are reputed to have resorted to sorcery to survive in this hostile environment and, after having experienced it on my own skin, that didn’t seem entirely unreasonable. In celebration of that reputation, Hólmavík boasts a Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, its exhibitions reaching Bjarnarfjördur, where you can visit the Sorcerer’s Cottage, and Kistan in Trékyllisvík, a cleft where three convicted sorcerers were burned to death in 1654.

In spite of its dark history, Trékyllisvík is a peaceful and green oasis in the desert. It is the largest place of settlement in Árneshreppur in the northern part of Strandir—there are only around 50 inhabitants in the entire municipality.

Other settlements are Djúpavík, which used to be a thriving fishing village but has now been reduced to a ghost town where the only all-year inhabitants are the local hotel owners, and Gjögur, where, surprisingly enough, an airport is located. The road to Árneshreppur is often closed in winter, so inhabitants rely on supplies being flown in.

Taking a breather in Gjögur was a bizarre experience: first an airstrip in the middle of nowhere and then this cluster of houses and not a single person. The Arctic terns seem to have taken over the place, judging by their hostile welcome. Ah, the screams! And then they skydive to peck your head. I thought it best to seek shelter in the car and keep moving.

Nordurfjördur, north of Trékyllisvík, has the region’s grocery store and offers scheduled boat trips to Hornstrandir, the northernmost part of the West Fjords, now only inhabited by wild creatures. Road number 643 continues to Eyri in Ingólfsfjördur, where abandoned fish factories are reminiscent of a once blooming industry.

Jeepers can move on to the next fjord, Ófeigsfjördur, but from there, travelers must rely on their own two feet to reach the desolate Hornstrandir.

If you take a different turn by Nordurfjördur, the road leads you to the most extraordinary outdoor swimming pool at Krossnes. Located on the beach, you can feel your weariness melt away as you listen to the waves crash against the shore and watch the ocean merge with the sky far away on the horizon.

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Krossnes outdoor swimming pool, West Fjords, Iceland

Back to Mjóifjördur. The clock was ticking away and yet we couldn’t move any faster along the gravel road. The weather was clearing with rays of sunlight peering through the gloomy clouds and sunny spells in between showers.

There were rainbows everywhere and lots of greenery compared to Strandir, and it seemed impossible to be in a hurry amidst such beauty. Besides, drivers must be mindful of stubborn sheep on the road and cheerful farm dogs that chase the car.

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Driftwood close to the road, West Fjords, Iceland

Suddenly we spotted a seal lazing on a rock in the middle of the fjord—what an adorable and unexpected sight.

Out of Mjóifjördur and we still had four fjords to go. They all lead out of the larger Ísafjardardjúp, which almost splits the West Fjords peninsula in half.

The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. In sunny and calm weather, the steep mountains are reflected in the fjord’s smooth surface. Bubbling springs fall over cliffs and into the ocean and the islands Aedey and Vigur on Ísafjardardjúp are a delight to the eye. Boat trips to these islands are offered from Ísafjördur.

Hamlets like Súdavík (pop. 181) nestle between the seashore and the steep mountains, their multicolored rooftops gleaming in the sun.

Suddenly we noticed something ripple the ocean’s smooth surface from the car window. A reef? No, that’s not it. Could it be? Indeed, a whale had decided to surface right before our eyes. Amazed, we stared as the massive animal took a dive and then waved goodbye with its gigantic tail. Excited, we waited to watch it resurface—and then all we needed was an eagle and a fox to complete our safari. Unfortunately, we had no time for safaris… we had a wedding to go to!

Finally, we entered Ísafjördur (pop. 2,975). After all these tiny villages along the way, the capital of the West Fjords looked like a big bustling city. We made it just in time.

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Ísafjördur at midnight in July, West Fjords, Iceland

What a day to get married! The sun shone brightly on the happy couple as they said their vows in a flowery garden up in the hills with a view of Ísafjördur and the mountainous backdrop mirrored in the ocean.

On such bright summer days so close to the Arctic Circle night never falls, and so the party continued into the wee hours of the morning, when we finally crawled into our tent.

Note to self: Don’t be in a rush when visiting the West Fjords next time.”