Wednesday, October 23, 2013

12 More Travel Quotes to Inspire You

Last year I posted an article that featured 50 of my favorite visual travel quotes, mostly taken from Pinterest but a few created by yours truly.  It has proved to be one of my more popular posts - people love to be inspired by wise words about adventure and personal growth!

Over the last year, I have slowly been collecting an assortment of other great travel quotes to add to my repertoire.  Rather than pilfer Pinterest, I have attempted to create my own visuals to go along with these inspiring quotes. (Mine are watermarked with my blog URL so you know which ones I've created.  All visuals created by me were done using my own photography.)  Please enjoy these 12 'new' favorite quotes and feel free to use them at your leisure!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Majestic Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon of Southern Iceland

While researching the beautiful country of Iceland to determine what activities and sights were within driving distance of our planned route along the southern coast of Iceland, and which were affordable or worth the cost, I came across some fantastic photographs on Pinterest of a place called Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. (Please don't ask me how it is pronounced - I truly massacred the Icelandic language when trying to sound out any word I encountered.)  Carved 100 meters deep into volcanic rock, and ranging at least 2 kilometers, this canyon is an impressive sight indeed.  I instantly added it to the itinerary.

hiking in Iceland, things to see in Iceland, natural beauty Iceland
The beautiful Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in southern Iceland.

Then I had to figure out how to find it.  There wasn't much online, so I am now dedicating this post to helping others experience this majestic feat of nature.

Despite my troubles finding information online, visiting Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is very easy.  It is located approximately 2.5 kilometers off the southern Ring Road, just down a slightly bumpy country road, and is free to hike. There is no camping or place to stay directly nearby, but luckily the Canyon is only about 10 minutes away from the village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur (we camped there twice since their campground is very nice).  There are signs advertising the canyon, but they are not large or very obvious.  If you have a GPS system, use it!  Simply take the F206 road to Lakagigar (locals call it the Laki Road), and drive just past the Hunkubakkar guesthouse.  When you get to the canyon, you'll see a sign advertising your arrival, and a bridge that crosses the Fjaora River responsible for the canyon's creation.

hiking in Iceland, things to see in Iceland, natural beauty Iceland
Joey stands atop one of the peaks - just a little nervous!

The canyon is cut from a type of volcanic rock called palagonite.  Its rocky walls tower over the relatively small Fjaora River, and are covered in vibrant green mosses and vegetation.  A hiking trail leads you from the tiny gravel parking lot up the hill, and then along the edge of the canyon.

hiking in Iceland, things to see in Iceland, natural beauty Iceland
A view from Fjaorargljufur Canyon looking down.

The trails are marked, and it is obvious that Iceland is doing its best to preserve the canyon.  Trails that previously cut along the very edges of the canyon have been closed, and newer trails have been created further into the flatter and safer portions of the canyon's boundaries.  When we examined the older trails, we found they cut very deep into the land, and erosion was beginning to cause the older trails to slice the canyon into bits.  I understood why the trails near the edge were closed - with further wear and tear, collapsing canyon walls, extreme damage, and possible fatalities were inevitable.  Even so, it was hard not to venture, every now and then, to the edge of the drop-off for a few amazing photo opportunities.

hiking in Iceland, things to see in Iceland, natural beauty Iceland
Trying to capture how deep the canyon is, and how beautiful!

We could have spent all day hiking in Fjaðrárgljúfur.  There are two possibilities for hiking - along the river's edge at the bottom of the canyon, and along the southern top portion of the canyon.  The northern edge is fenced off - the land within the fenced boundaries was dotted with grazing sheep who hopefully know better than to wander too far to the edge.  My husband and I hiked a bit at the bottom of the canyon, but knew that the better and more scenic views awaited us up top.

hiking in Iceland, things to see in Iceland, natural beauty Iceland
What the Fjaorargljufur Canyon entrance looks like from below.

If you find yourself driving the southern stretch of the Ring Road near Kirkjubaejarklaustur, wiggle some time into your schedule for a hike through Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon.  You won't regret it!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Coastal Town of Vik, Iceland

The Ring Road around Iceland, although shown to be 'skirting' the coast on a map, is in reality quite a distance from the actual coast line.  While driving the southern portion of the Ring Road (Route 1 if you want to be formal) from the capital city of Reykjavik, my husband and I first glimpsed the ocean from the road as we neared the town of Vik.

coastal town of Vik Iceland bird's eye view
The town of Vik, Iceland, shrouded in mist.

Vik is a charming town.  Other than the larger town of Selfoss, located about 45 minutes away from Reykjavik's city limits, there are no other major stops along the southern Ring Road for groceries, hotels, or other amenities until you reach Vik.  After camping in Iceland's unseasonably chilly weather, we were happy to chug into Vik and find ourselves a warm room for the night.  Using our wonderful GPS system, we mapped out the various hotels in town and starting checking them out.  As I have said before, hotels in Iceland are expensive, and Vik is no exception.  After getting quoted over $200 per night at a couple of different inns, we found Hotel Lunda and agreed to stay in their hostel portion for about $110 per night - the cheapest place we could find other than the campground. (It was supposed to pour buckets that evening, so we did not feel like camping again.)

Once settled in our room in the hostel, we decided to explore Vik for the rest of the afternoon.  Joey found a golf course that wrapped around the black sand coastline, and so he opted to golf for the remainder of the afternoon while the weather was still holding.  He golfed 9 holes for about an hour and a half for $40 CDN and had a wonderful time - he would like me to add in this post that he highly recommends it for any avid golfers out there that read my blog.

black sand beach Vik Iceland
Exploring the black sand beaches of Vik, Iceland.

While my hubby golfed, I decided to explore what the town of Vik had to offer.  First, I drove up to the cute church that overlooks both town and ocean from atop a windy bluff.  Known as Flatanger Church (or simply as Vik Kirke) this building is situated perfectly with an amazing vista.  It was closed when I arrived, but I sat happily on its front stoop, munching on a granola bar, and just enjoyed the incredible view of the ocean and the fascinating peaked rocks jutting from the surf.

Flatanger Church Vik Iceland
Flatanger Church in Vik, Iceland.

After staring longingly at the beautiful and mysterious-looking beach, I decided that was my next stop.  Down the hill I puttered, and maneuvered my rental SUV to one of the sandy parking lots that dot the Vik beach.  Made of the same glittering, black lava sand we found at Jokulsarlon, the beach looked strangely desolate and haunting, but at the same time very beautiful.  The looming Reynisdranger rocks - known as the "Sea Stacks" - speckle the horizon, sprouting from the sea like giant trolls.  Indeed, the legend is that three giant trolls found a three-masted ship and decided to haul it to shore, but instead were caught by the rising sun and turned to figures of stone where they stood.

The sea stacks of Vik, Iceland.  Image via

The next day, we back-tracked a little bit down the Ring Road to the Dyrholaey Nature Preserve.  This national treasure is home to many thousands of nesting puffins and other sea birds.  I had never seen a puffin before, so this was a very exciting morning for me.  Pathways line the coastal cliffs, and it is strictly forbidden to walk off the paths as the entire area is a nesting ground for puffins, and has been for years and years.  There is no cost associated with visiting the Dyrholaey Nature Preserve, but visitors are asked to respect the natural area in return for Iceland's generosity.

puffins Dyrholaey Nature Preserve Vik Iceland
Puffins line the cliff at Dyrholaey Nature Preserve near Vik, Iceland.

It was spitting a misty rain during our stay at the Nature Preserve, but we didn't mind.  The rain encouraged the puffins to zip to and fro from their cliffside nests, out to the ocean where they fished for dinner and then returned with their prizes to their homes. Puffins look round and awkward when roosting in the grass, but they fly with a surprising amount of grace.

puffins Dyrholaey Nature Preserve Vik Iceland
Puffins, puffins everywhere!  I loved them - they were so cute!

Besides ogling the cutie-pie puffins, we also had the chance to hike around the rocky outcroppings that separate the nesting areas from the black, pebbled peach.  I had read about the natural formation nicknamed the "Arch of Dyrholaey" that I wanted to find - but then we found two naturally ocean-carved arches, and were unsure which was the true 'Arch of Dyrholaey'.  Later on, back at our hotel, we were able to distinguish between the two.

Arch of Dyrholaey Vik Iceland Nature Preserve
Is this the Arch of Dyrholaey at Vik, Iceland? Nope...
Arch of Dyrholaey Vik Iceland Nature Preserve
The real Arch of Dyrholaey. Photo via because mine is blurry and gloomy from the rain.

The gloomy day and heavy fog made it difficult to take really stunning pictures of the views or truly capture the beauty of the area.  We did our best, though, and enjoyed hiking through along the beach, exploring all the nooks and crannies in the rocks carved out by centuries of waves.  Eventually, the misty rain permeated our clothing and we had to escape to the confines of our warm SUV.

Dyrholaey Nature Preserve rock formation Vik Iceland
More strange rock formations at Dyrholaey Nature Preserve near Vik, Iceland.

map Dyrholaey Nature Preserve Vik Iceland
Driving directions from Vik (A) to Dyrholaey Nature Reserve (B) - thanks to Google Maps!
I really do wish we'd had better weather with which to explore the area of Vik.  There were so many other places that I wanted to explore, but due to the rain and heavy fog, locals advised us to just save our gasoline as we wouldn't be able to really see anything.  Places we missed that were on my list included the beach at Reynisfjall, which features some really stunning basalt rock formations, and the Myrdalsjokull glacier, which features somewhere under its depths the active volcano Katla (set to explode 'any day now' according to scientists - in fact, the townspeople of Vik practice regular volcano-related evacuation drills. A little freaky if you ask me).

basalt rock formation Reynisfjall Vik Iceland
The basalt rocks at Reynisfjall, which I didn't get to see.  Image via

Vik was definitely a lovely stop on our Iceland tour - I wish we'd been able to see more but I'm very happy with what we did manage to take in! What else did I miss in Vik?  If you've been there or know someone who has, let me know what else this enchanting town has to offer in the comments section below! :)