Iceland Bound: March 2015 (Pre-Departure Part Three)

What to Do, What to Do (Itinerary, continued)

Which begs the question, what to do on our free day in Iceland?

The third week of March, our short stint in Iceland, Bjork gigs in NYC. Jonsi and the rest of Sigur Ros have no tour dates set for 2015…  (reading this, guys? Disappointed fanboy and fangirl here!). Maybe we’ll run into them on Reykjavik’s streets, or in Starbucks (if Iceland had a Starbucks, which it doesn’t)?!?

Still, it’s “The Land of Fire and Ice” we want, and we should get plenty of it on the first three days of our trip (you can check our itinerary on the previous post, if you’re curious), if mostly from a bus window. So it’d be nice to actually get out and do something our last day in-country, especially since all we’ll have to look forward to at the end of our four-day trip is an eleven-hour return flight, Reykjavik to Tokyo via Copenhagen in economy-class seats.

Sea kayaking is one option. We looked into a daytrip on the calm waters — suitable for beginners — of Ísafjörður on the west coast, but that involves yet another flight – too much travel! There might also be a chance of a day trip on the water near Reykjavik, so I haven’t given up hope of dipping a paddle in the Greenland Sea… Inland, there’s glacier hiking to be had, but from what I’ve seen so far summer is the season for that.

Apparently, you can take tours of TV and film locations around the island. The “north-of-the-Wall” scenes from Game of Thrones were shot at northern Iceland’s Lake Myvatn. Likewise, Life of Walter Mitty locations to the west, south, and east of Reykjavik are now on the tourist map.

I dunno… A “super-jeep” off-road tour across the troll and faerie lands? Iceland horse rides? A trip to the Tolkienesque coastline around Vik?

Too much too much for four days! We’re already talking about a second trip…

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Iceland Bound: March 2015 (Pre-Departure Part Two)

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Sigur Ros, Varuo (from Valtari Mystery Film Experiment (This is kinda how I expect Iceland to look in mid-March…)

Get with the Group: Iceland as a Package Tour

This trip to Iceland will be the first time I travel as part of a tour. I gotta say, the idea of travelling in a group doesn’t really appeal to me. Maybe that’s just a knee-jerk reaction, coming out of some pretensions on my part, but I’ve traveled a lot and always independently, and the other travellers I’ve met that way are often interesting people. Since un-interesting people must also travel, I just assume they must be the ones who travel on tours. And cruises. Besides, I’ve found that the few times I have taken a day-long bus tour, that I tend to wander off and do my own thing; I get wrapped up in thoughts or focused on taking pictures of…

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Iceland Bound: March, 2015 (Pre-Departure Part One)

Sigur Ros, Glosoli Official Music Video

Iceland Pre-Departure Part One

Each spring, R. and I take a long weekend trip to some photogenic part of Japan. To hike the ancient cedar rain forests of Yakushima, for example, or tour the rural island/open-concept art gallery of Naoshima Island in the Inland Sea. This year, since our Christmas had a winter theme (a Patagonia Nano Air jacket for me; base layers and an Outdoor Research Primaloft jacket for her), we were leaning towards a weekend in snow country: to the powder-filled river valleys of Niseko, perhaps, or Yuzawa (setting for Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country) or the Japan Alps. After all, parts of Hokkaido and the Sea of Japan side of Honshu are among the snowiest places on earth…

So I was a little surprised when R. told me the other day, at 4am, where she wants to go this March: Iceland.

Iceland! “Land of Fire and Ice,” they call it. A place so beautiful that Gunnarr – one of the heroes of the Icelandic tale Njal’s Saga – faces death rather than leave his homeland. Birthplace of Bjork. And home base to the post-rock band Sigur Ros. WHO. ARE. GODS. Just saying…

Iceland is also a beautiful, if photogenic in an understated way, place. Check out the landscapes by Michael Reichmann, who calls it “a photographer’s paradise.”

In fact, Iceland has been on our short-list of adventures for the past few years – especially since Sigur Ros hasn’t played a gig in Tokyo recently (are you reading this, Jonsi?). And I was planning to surprise R. with a trip next summer when, for my 50th birthday, we would take a five hour, 44 minute flight to Rejkyavik after visiting friends and family in Toronto.

But, R. does her homework, and among other things she told me that March is prime aurora spotting season. And the tour she found is considerably cheaper than others to this most expensive of destinations. Plus, she assured me, despite the name, Iceland is not really that cold in winter (I remember something like this from when I was a kid; the Vikings put the “ice” in Iceland to scare away other settlers; the “green” in Greenland was, I guess, a practical joke.).

Cool. We’re Iceland bound!