About two days into our trip, The Mr. and I noticed something curious about Reykjavik: there were cats everywhere! I'm not talking mangy feral cats either; these cats looked plump and well groomed, as if they had been fed on a steady diet of salmon skin and skyr. There were cats in every garden, on every stoop and we watched one even use the crosswalk to get across the street (naturally, the cars stopped for him)! It was cat paradise. And any cat paradise is also Kayte paradise.
I googled, "cats of Reykjavik" one night and sure enough, lots of people wonder about the cats. On a recent visit, Haruki Murakami became enthralled with the many felines prowling about. People have even made calendars about the cats. I can't find a great explanation for exaclty why there are so many cats in Iceland: some say it's because dogs were illegal for years, others, that Icelanders prefer a pet that, like themselves, appreciates its independece. Whatever the reason, finding cats on our walks became a daily game!
Hard to say but easy on the eyes, the The Snæfellsnes Penninsula is a little leg that juts out of the southwest coast of Iceland. We drove to the penninsula, again with Reykjavik Excursions, on a very windy Wednesday morning.
It's a long drive but the view from the bus was breathtaking. We got out a few times to admire glacier-capped Snæfellsjökull, a 700 year old volcano made famous in Jules Vern's tale, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Next, we stopped at the beach to look for seals. There was only one and it was so far away I could barely see it with binoculars. Silently, I started to worry: was this day going to be a bust? I should know better!
Once we got to Arnarstrapi, all my worries faded. While I sometimes feared that the wind would sweep me and the Mr. off the cliffs, at least I would go down with some gorgeous views.
After Arnarstrapi, we had lunch in the village of Hellisandur. I don't know what it is about old churches but they captivate me. This one was pretty much perfect against the backdrop of the mountains.
Our last stop was the incredible Djúpalónssandur Beach. The walk down to the shore was rife with giant lava rock formations and hidden pools. I sort of felt like I was on the set of Game of Thrones.
In 1948, an English trawler crashed on Djúpalónssandur Beach. As a memorial to the crew, the Icelandic government simply left the wreckage as is. It's a much more powerful memorial than a statue or a plaque.
The powerful current of the ocean washed the lava rocks at the shore to smooth perfection. The teardrop shaped stones are said to be good luck. I have one in my pocket right now.
While I was jumping around on rocks and exploring, I lost the Mr. briefly. It was so quiet that all I had to do was call his name and , poof, there he was! Clearly, he was having his own Game of Thrones moment.
At 8:30 am, we boarded our Reykjavik Excursions bus and headed out of the city for points our South Shore Adventure trip. The natural sights in Iceland are amazing. Just when you think you're seen the most incredible, most picturesque scene on earth, the bus turns a corner and, oh look, there's a bigger mountain, a more stunning cliff, a cuter gaggle of puffins.
Our first stop was the tiny village of Eyrarbakki, right on the coast. Leave it to Icelanders to make metal siding look quaint. I love the wacky colors people choose to paint their houses too.
From Eyrarbakki,we went to Sólheimajökull Glacier to touch the tongue of the glacier. Walking towards the glacier, it's pretty easy to understand why so many sci fi movies have been filmed in Iceland. It's like walking on another planet. Actually walking on the glacier requires a lot more gear but we touched it at least. It's so cliché really, but looking at the glacier, touching the glacier, you immediately get this sense of the greatness of nature and the enormity of the planet and the smallness of you.
Our next stop was my favorite of the tour: Reynisfjara Beach. The landscape of Iceland is constantly changing, each new step revealing a new layer. Witness our walk towards the beach...
According to folklore, the columns that stand in the sea are petrified trolls who were caught in the rising sun whilst trying to drag their boat onto the water. Folk tale or no, this part of the ocean is not to be trifled with. Rogue waves have swept some unsuspecting tourists away so take care when you walk on the beach. Maybe it's the slight tinge of danger that makes this place even more beautiful and unspoiled?
After the beach, we headed into the tiny village of Skógar to see the Skógar Folk Museum and the Skógafoss waterfall. I loved the tiny little museum, crowded with Icelandic books, decorative arts and fishing ephemera. The photo on the bottom has an interesting story behind it: settlers in Iceland quickly realized that there weren't enough trees to go around to build houses and boats so they often turned to driftwood washed up up on the shore. Families would mark their names or symbols on pieces of wood to "claim" it.
Our last stops were two beautiful waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. You can actually walk behind the waterfall at Seljalandsfoss. The land near the falls was so lush and green, covered in moss, lichens and sedum.
In what I was learning was typical Iceland tourism fashion, Seljalandsfoss was a walk-at-your-own-risk affair. You will get wet but you will love it! There are no railings and the rocks can get very slippery so keep little ones close.
Our jaunts out of the city were with Reykjavik Excursions. We thought they were fantastic tours, very informative and able to pack a lot into a day. If you are going for longer than a week, you could definitely rent a car and amble a bit more but you get a lot of bang for your buck on these tours.