We arrived into Reykjavik mid afternoon, and after lightning quick service from WOW airlines with the luggage, we took ages to get to the hire cars. But once done we headed off in convoy for our accommodation at The Alda hotel in the middle of the action in Reykjavik. Getting a small vehicle for each couple had worked out way more economical than other options, and gave us flexibility. Heather and I ended up with a very sporty Citroen to zip around Iceland in..
Sadly with Tom & Jenny’s late withdrawal there were only 6 1/2 of us in the tour party including little Minnie
Alda hotel was superbly located and a nice modern hotel, and after checking in we all had time to explore the town
The morning was dedicated to further exploring Reykjavik, and we started with Hallgrimskirkja- an iconic church towering over the city.
We ventured to the top of the tower where we got panoramic views of Reykjavik.
Next stop was the Harpa concert hall with it’s hexagon shaped silver blocks that magically played with the light…
And of course the shopping here was of some interest as well…
In the afternoon we headed to Keilir GC just 20 minutes down the road. Keilir GC is rated by many as the best course in Iceland, and is quite unique in that the course consists of 2 very different nines. The front nine was very much a links course set in low lying lava formations- a lava links, if you will. From each hole you could see flags and golfers moving around amongst the low lying lava, but rarely could you see greens or fairways- other than the hole you were playing…
Iceland has apparently had a rotten summer, but we were blessed with good weather at least for today. The sun was out, the temperatures was 12 but seemed warmer, and it was a good day for golf
The course won everyone over- I loved it, and Louie got to record a few holes along the way
The back nine was higher ground with ocean clifftop holes. 14, 15, & 16 were routed across and along the clifftops and were particularly strong & dramatic holes
We did find out one interesting fact about playing on ‘the lava links’- we asked the locals what the rules were when you hit into the lava- and they produced a ‘lava club’- a crusty old iron with scratches and dents…
Yes, you play the ball AS IT LIES ON THE LAVA!
After dinner in town we met with Iceland’s own golf architect Edwin Roald to learn a little more about golf in Iceland
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula
After a leisurely start to the day we started the drive to the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Our game of golf in the morning had been cancelled- the club rang us and told us the 60 km per hour plus winds would make the golf untenable so we postponed it until Wednesday.
Our road to the peninsula included a 6km tunnel under the sea to the peninsula.
We stopped for lunch at Borgarnes and enjoyed a 1 hour show on the sagas & legends of Iceland and the Vikings.
We checked into our hotel (Hotel Budir) in its spectacular location right on the ocean with views to die for…. of the Icelandic coast, mountains and waterfalls…
After a quick break the next stop was the pony rides. Asha, Heather and Graham signed up for a ride on the Icelandic ponies which took them to the coast, across a wide river and then along the beach to the sea.
They loved it, and to top it off Asha’s horse was one of the clever little ponies with a gait more like a steam train with left and right legs synchronised!
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Today was set aside to explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but the weather was a little ordinary- oh so cold, with a biting wind, and rain. Fortunately we all dressed to suit with thermals, puffy jackets, and waterproofs.
First stop of the day was the Lava Caves at Vatnshellir where we descended down circular stairs into 3 remarkable lava caves where the temperature was a chilly 2 degrees!
We then stopped at Helnar for a quick cafe lunch and clifftop walk for 2.5 km.
Then we drove to the tip of the peninsula to theKirkjufellsefoss waterfall where we managed to take lots of pics with the waterfall and the Kirkjufell mountain backdrop.
On the way back we stopped to see another waterfall, the old fishing museum at Hellissandur, a lovely picturesque church, the isolated lighthouse and peninsula at Ondverdarnes, and climbed the old volcano at Saxholl.
Finally back at our hotel we checked the lovely local church where an Aussie girl had got married that day!
Today we said goodbye to Hotel Budir- a lovely hotel in a remarkable setting. We headed for our next amazing hotel, but along the way arranged to play golf at Brautarholt GC, a new and dramatic 12 hole golf course located right on the coast.
Cape Wickham comes to mind as the best comparison course.
Right from the start the course turns to the ocean with the short par 5 first hole boasting a green high on a clifftop ledge…
The drama continued along the cliffs with wonderful ocean vistas at holes 2, 3 & 4 and then a long par 3 over an inlet at 5.
This is high octane golf!
Hole 6 turned inland, and while it was a nice hole, tension levels fell a tad.
The nine finished with 3 darn good holes through the heaving terrain.
Brautarholt now has 3 more holes (holes 10-12)- all pretty decent inland holes.
And apparently the club is hoping to add 6 more clifftop holes at some stage soon.
Louie had some problems in the wind but worked hard and got some great footage
After golf we drove to the Ion hotel- a very modern hotel- which will be our base as we explore ‘the golden circle’
The Golden Circle
With the weather again very ordinary- oh so cold and wet- we were all layered right up for the days activities
First stop for the day was the Pingvellir National Park- a site of historic and geographical interest. It is where Iceland’s first parliament sat, and is also where the earth’s tectonic plates are moving apart- creating a fissure through the volcanic rock.
Next stop was a dairy farm famous for it’s icecreams- and of course we had to sample the product.
Then we headed to the GeysirGeothermal Area and saw Stokkur letting off steam every few minutes. Next was Gullfoss Waterfall- which was very impressive, I must say
Along the way we checked out the Geysir Golf Course which was originally on our itinerary but is now closed- some say permanently
Changing weather patterns have caused the ice in winter to strangle the greens completely, and it is said this will go on for 20 or more years…
Our last stop on the Golden Circle was Kerid- a volcanic crater with water in the middle and which has hosted floating music concerts…
It was worth the visit.
On the way back to the Ion Adventure Hotel we stopped in to check outKidjaberg Golf Club, and were very impressed!
Kidjaberg GC, Solheimajokull Glacier & Vik GC
Overnight we were given permission to again visit Kidjaberg GC, so we all got cracking early, and were out on the course at sparrows checking it all out and waiting for the rain to abate.
The forecast had suggested that the rain might stop for a few hours from about 10 am, but we had to be on the road again by 10.30...
Fortunately right on cue the clouds lifted and Louie got busy capturing images and video of the outstanding holes.
Then we took off for the Solheimajokull Glacier where 5 of us donned Klampons and traversed the icefor 2 1/2 hours while one of us enjoyed the company of their granddaughter for that period
We then drove into Vik and checked into the Icelandair Vik Hotel.
After a quick change we played the lovely local 9 hole course- Vik GC. It was particularly scenic, and H bomb was in impressive form
Then a quick trip to the Black Sand Beach completed the day
Sightseeing around Vik
Our intended destination today was the Westerman Islands via ferry for some golf and exploration…
But sadly we woke to the news that our ferry had been re routed making the journey impractical for us.
So we changed plans and explored the Vik area a little more.
First up was the clifftop wonders at Dyrholaey where the power of the waves on the rocks was awesome to see, and periodically white surf flew high in the air.
It was here that we spotted the puffins busily flying to their nests in the cliffs and then off to sea again.
Further on we visited Skogafoss Waterfall- one of the better falls we had encountered- and off course we had to view it from the base of the falls as well as the top.
And then it hailed- and when you are really quite cold hail can hurt!
After soup for lunch in Vik we had another look at Vik Golf Course and put Louie to work again on hole 4
Our last day in Iceland!
We departed Vic for the longish, but leisurely drive to the famous Blue Lagoon where he had booked premium packages with drinks and a couple of different face masks to make us all beautiful….
It was certainly an experience none of us will forget. We had expected it to be very crowded but it was actually not a problem.
The whole experience is very systemised and when you check in you are given a plastic wrist watch which serves as your entry to a locker, credit facility for drinks and eats etc. Because the lagoon is full of Silica they recommend everybody put conditioner in their hair before entering the lagoon, and everyone has to shower before and after their dip.
It was a bit weird being so warm in the water when it is pretty cold out, but we all enjoyed it.
Then we were off to the airport for the flight to Oslo and the last leg of our journey.
Goodbye Iceland- hello Norway!
Oslo- Leknes- Lofoten
Travelling day- we departed Oslo airport and flew north to Leknes where we hired cars and drove almost an hour to Lofoten Links.
Despite now being high in the arctic circle the weather was much milder than Iceland.
We had arranged accommodation in the Lofoten Links Lodges and they were lovely.
But after settling in we ventured out to explore the links…
Lofoten Links is something very special in the world of golf.
The location is stunning, with so many holes routed along the rocky beach and over the ocean. The mountain and sea backdrops were stunning, and the light was soft and warm…it promises to be a very exciting next few days
Henningsvaer & Lofoten Links
We woke to clear skies and sun, so Louie and I set out early and got some nice footage of the 17th hole before the sky clouded over.
After breakfast we took a small road trip to a local village named Henningsvaer- a charming fishing port with lots of appeal. They have an amazing soccer ground on a rocky peninsula surrounded by fish drying racks- it has to be seen to be believed…
After a lovely cafe lunch there we shimmied on back to Lofoten Links to play 18 holes. The weather was perfect- light winds and overcast, so we had a great day on an outstanding links course
As we finished up the clouds broke up and the soft warm sunlight flooded the course, so Louie and I were again set to work- this time taking footage of holes 1, 2 & 3- surely one of the most exciting opening stretches in all of golf
Dinner at the local restaurant was perfect and with clear skies we settled in for another glimpse of the northern lights
We had heard again today that this area is one of the absolute best opportunities to view the northern lights being in the Arctic circle, protected by large mountains and with pollution free air…
After all the excitement overnight with the Northern Lights folks were a little slow getting moving this morning
But with clear sunny skies, we had gorgeous light conditions, so H & P took to the course with Louie the fly
We got some really nice footage of the ocean holes we had not already done- holes 12, 13, 14, 16 & 18
By mid morning we had returned, had breakfast and caught up with emails, and with idyllic conditions felt compelled to play those same seaside holes again for the joy of playing rather than gathering any footage- Louie was not invited!
I definitely have a new favourite course, and on days like this I cannot think of a nicer place to be- let alone play golf here!
Today we packed and drove to Svolvaer airport- a delightful drive through the amazing Norse terrain- along the coast, through the mountains and valleys and connecting tunnels and bridges
We flew back to Oslo airport where we said goodbye to Graham & Donna who were soon on their way to Moscow for their next adventure.
The remaining 4 1/2 members of the Wood family caught the train to central Oslo where we did a little exploring, shopping and had dinner
Norway in a Nutshell
Then there were two!
Rory, Asha & Minnie headed off to Germany to check out the Equestrian event destination at Aachen.
Heather and I rose early as we were booked to do ’Norway in a Nutshell’- a clever combination of train, bus and ferry trips which offer glimpses of the spectacular Norwegian countryside.
Heather had arranged our luggage to be portered to Bergen, and pick up was 5.20am so we were up at 10 to 5 ready to go.
The first train out of Oslo station had a 6.25am departure, but due to technical difficulties with the train did not leave until 8.30am…
Then we had a series of unfortunate events- a truck collided with a railway bridge and the train had to stop until the bridge has been given a structural OK. Then a series of stops occurred when we had to wait for trains coming the other way- because we were so late to schedule the schedule went out the window…
We swapped trains at Myrdal station and the next stage though the tunnels, past waterfalls and down steep inclines was the highlight.
We stopped at one waterfall and a lady singer dressed in a long red dress appeared from the mountain to sing!
Late afternoon we arrived at Flam (pronounced Flom) which is a very small village at the top of a fjord. We had time to explore and experienced some of the local walks
Norway in a Nutshell 2
We left Flam by ferry and enjoyed a lovely 2 hours admiring the fjord system. These fjords are world heritage sites and dramatic terrain.
The cameras were busy!
We left the ferry at Gundvagen. The next stage of the nutshell was a bus trip through the mountains to Voss. There was some pretty country to see- mountains, valleys, lakes, and some impressive tunnels.
But the highlight was when the coach drove down the ‘old road’ for a few kms- before the tunnels the only way to get through the mountains was a perilous steep winding road over and down into the valley.
As part of our itinerary we drove a short stretch of the old road down- with over 18% grade, a narrow road, and switchbacks one after the other- it was a bit like a ride at Disneyland. We got front seats in the bus and got some great footage!
In Voss we stopped for lunch and then connected to the last stage of the nutshell tour- another train ride to Bergen
Sunday & Monday
Bergen originated in 1070 and was formally the capital of Norway. It is a bustling port town with a history…
After a slow start to the day we explored the city spending time at the Kobe museum, shopping, checking out the historic district of Bryggen where our hotel was located, andcatching thefamous funicular up the mountain where we undertook a vigorous walk with views of the city & port below.
It was just what the doctor ordered!
On Monday our main activity was a tour to the home and museum of Edvard Grieg, the composer.
I had always been a fan of Peer Gynt and other Grieg works so enjoyed the tour.
The highlight was a concert performance by an up and coming classical pianist who played 8 Grieg works beautifully
With the rain during down it was time to go.
We said goodbye to Bergen and flew to Oslo connecting to Helsinki, Singapore & home to Melbourne
It was a trip to remember!
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