Iceland – The land of Ice and Fire

Iceland – Way back in 2012, I happened to see the pics of this country in a travel forum. Since then, I developed an interest in me to visit this place. Years passed, I seen pics from my friends in Facebook and I kept waiting for my time. Thus, the time came in Sep 2018, I solely conquered Iceland.

I was planning to visit Himalayas in the month of Sep 2018 with my friend and due to my friend’s personal commitments we dropped our plan. I was very much desperate to go somewhere and don’t know where to go. Thus, the idea of traveling to Iceland popped up. 

So, where do I start.? 

Prologue:

Research – My friends Varad and Barkha been once to Iceland and they shared their insights. The itinerary model from Barkha was much useful for applying visa. Barkha, your idea on Food part was much useful. Food being the costly one in Iceland to eat out three times regularly during the travel. Thank you very much. Another thanks for my friend Shrutha, who shared more details on traveling in Paris from airport and place to stay.

I used the following websites to research the places and plan my itinerary.
http://www.iceland.is
https://guidetoiceland.is ( took day tours from them)
http://www.iheartreykjavik.net (this website gives some good insights)
http://www.tripadvisor.com ( I found a traveler who was traveling on the same dates as mine)

Flights & Tickets:

For cheap flights you can do some checks in the below websites. My favourite sites
www.skyscanner.co.in 
www.Kayak.co.in
www.Kiwi.com

For tickets, I used my HDFC Regalia Card points to cut down 30% of flight costs (provided you save your points and have some for redemption :))

Accommodation:

I prefer my accommodation always within budget and comfortable. I use the below three sites to narrow down to the best rate.
www.airbnb.co.in
www.Booking.com
www.Agoda.com

So, I had 10 days in my hand, I split 5 days for Iceland, 2 days for Norway and a day for Paris. Remaining 2 days for on and off.

I booked my flights on September 2nd. Below are the total amount(INR) I spent on booking flights and stay. 

Expenses

This itinerary was the same I shared with the Embassy of Denmark. For Iceland, Denmark Embassy is the one which processes the visa applications.

Itinerary

Below are the list of documents or kind of checklist that are required as part of your visa submission. This was a rough Checklist

Check list

I booked my flights, booked appointment for visa in Chennai VFS and submitted my documents on the 6th of September 2018 and I haven’t got any message or calls from the Embassy.  Later, on the 14th of September I got a Call from Delhi Denmark Embassy and the officer asked me questions which was already answered in the documents I sent to the Embassy, but still one has no option to say no and I answered them politely and I got my passport with Visa stamped for 20 days on the 18th of September.

Things to carry:

  1. A proper jacket
  2. Good shoes ( would recommend quechua or weinbrenner )
  3. Thermal wears and thermal socks
  4. A scarf or two and some gloves
  5. A woolen cap or skull caps to cover your ears
  6. Sunglass
  7. Power banks and camera battery backups
  8. Sunscreen Lotions and chapstick
  9. Ready to cook food packets

Medicine Kit:

  1. paracetamol & Antibiotic tablets
  2. cold and flu tablets
  3. cough syrup
  4. Antiseptic solution
  5. Eye/Ear drops
  6. Loperamide tablets can be useful additions to any travel first aid kit.

I am done with my packing stuff, all I need is to travel and I was really nervous because of the fact that I am traveling ALONE from 13 degrees north to the 66 degrees north basically to the Arctic Circle

September 22nd 2018 – The travel begins

I took the blessings of parents and left to the airport at 1 am and besides so many things to carry, I kept my travel bag very light weighted, see to believe that (14.4 kgs and a backpack with a point and shoot camera )

IMG_5732

I took Etihad Airways from Chennai and the flight was really good with generous leg room and nice place to relax for an Economy class. If you would require a more leg room e.g. For the first seat you can pay $30 to get one. As always, good flight, courteous staff and a great food. May be can improve on the snacks part.

Day 1 – Journey was from Chennai to Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi to Paris and Paris to Iceland. The time I reached Paris it was 3 p.m.

IMG_5738

The above table reminded me of my first international solo trip to USA. I boarded from the charles de gaulle airport to Houston in 2007 and after 11 years I came to this airport.

IMG_5747

IMG_5749

I cleared security and immigration checks in Paris and headed to board my flight to Iceland. An Asian girl working in the airport recognized me to be part of south of India and spoke to me in my language and I mentioned about my trip to Iceland and she said its quite interesting to see people do travel all the way from one part of the continent to the other end.

IMG_5753

It’s very unfortunate, now the WOW airways has terminated their operations to Iceland. They were one of the low cost airways to fly to Iceland.

IMG_5760

(After reading so long, now you have) Reached Iceland around 8.30 p.m in the night. The main airport is #Keflavik and you have to take a FLYBUS to reach Reykjavik. Flybus is nothing but a bus that connects the airport and the town. Was walking in the airport and went to the super market stores to buy some soft drinks and cookies. 

Headed out of the airport and it was wooow, weather was fairly cold and a strong wind was blowing. I covered my hands with gloves and a skull cap and showed the ticket that I booked in advance to the bus driver and boarded into the bus. There, I got some warm air inside the bus. The bus started at 9.15 p.m., it was full moon day and the moon was so closer and big. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a snap. After a hour journey the bus stopped in the BSI (Bus Station in Iceland) 

I came out of the Bus station around 10.30 p.m and crossed the road  to board the bus number 3 or 6 to reach the house I booked through the Airbnb. The Airbnb host lives in Gerdi. I boarded into the Bus number 3 around 10.45 p.m and I shown the address in the paper to the driver, he said go and take a seat.

The bus had a WIFI and for that matter all the buses in Iceland are WIFI enabled which are too good (I didn’t buy any SIM during my 5 days stay in Iceland). I was navigating the map to the destination but I realised I was going the opposite side and I went to spoke the driver and shown the paper, he said oh I am sorry, you should have boarded the bus on the opposite side. Now, cross the road take the bus number 12 and get down after three stops and wait for the bus number 3 or 6 to come. I thanked him and got down from the bus. One good thing was that, the buses are free on saturdays so I didn’t get the ticket which was kind of saving if I had ended up in boarding three buses on the same night.

I crossed the road, the weather was extremely cold and now the time clocked around 11 p.m. No one on the road, I felt like am the lonely man left out there with no directions to head. I looked upon the sky, there I saw the Northern Lights. It was such a pleasant view to see them dancing on the sky. I didn’t click pic because I was thinking I am there for another 4 days and I will definitely have some good ones. 

A bus was coming in the distance and I felt little relief and it was not number 12 and I waited for few more mins , later the bus number 6 came which was going to the place Gerdi, I was supposed to go. Meanwhile, I messaged the host that I am on the way and got down at the bus stop, climbed the stairs and followed the instructions she gave me on the letter which was like walk up the stairs and walk straight towards the road that will be steep and when I walk up, I found 3 roads that are steep and it was night 11.45 and I didn’t had WIFI or a SIM. That point, I realised why it is necessary to have a SIM card. 

Two men were coming down the road and I shown them the address and it was dark in the night and I trusted two strangers, exchanged a communication. They were so kind to google the place I am heading too, the fun part was I am heading to location code 103 and the man said, you came so long. I said, Is it? no way , I am very confident that I am closer. I borrowed the phone and saw he has googled the location code to 130 instead 103. We all had a great laugh and I saw an woman approaching us and thank god, the host herself came all the way to bus stop.

I thanked the two men and I thanked my host so much for making all the way and way back to her house I realised that her house was so closer to the bus stop.  I entered the house, it was 12.00. I felt, man I was travelling more than 24 hours crossing various time zones. I bid good night to the host and unpacked my luggage, took a maggie and prepared my food for the night. The last meal I had was in Paris airport around 4 p.m and I thought I will have a meal in WOW airlines, unfortunately nothing was served. So, I ate and lay down in my white room thinking what a rough day it was!

White room

( I didn’t click one, but the above pic was from the host page)

IMG_5764

I opened my mobile, added Reykjavik location to my weather app and shared with my friend who was part of this journey virtually.

PHOTO-2018-09-23-05-50-03

23rd September 2018

The sun was shinning bright. I stepped out of the house after my breakfast.

I have booked a 3 day tour package called 3 in 1 Bundle Discount Tours | Snaefellsnes, Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon & Jokulsarlon from guidetoiceland.is

PHOTO-2018-09-23-16-27-37

In the morning, I got a clear route what my host was saying over her email when I saw them in person. It happens. Iceland weather are conditioned to change so fast. Someone mentioned that, must bear in mind that Iceland doesn’t have climate, it has all the scale, wind, rain, sun, again rain, wind, sun.

Within few minutes of my walk, I found the sky has become cloudy.

IMG_5772

I started from my Airbnb house to the Hostel B14. It was a 5 min walk. Point to remember is to keep your under warm conditions exposing to the cold conditions will make your phone battery go to zero. I used for Navigation to find my the Hostel B14 and I got my fully charged Iphone switched off.

I went near the Hostel B14 and unable to locate it, because it is strategically located 🙂
Source:  Agoda.com

Gio IS Agoda

I was waiting near the Glo Restaurant (glo.is) for my van to arrive and I had some good waiting time, so popped into the restaurant and had a coffee and the store timings are very punctual that they serve only at 8 a.m.

GLo stores

Fakafen 11 area where you can have some good shopping.

Icewear-Westman-islands visitorguide.is

The mini bus from Bus travel Iceland. The best part of this bus is it has USB charger for each seat, so you can be fully charged..

IMG_5875

Boarded the bus and picked the other travelers on the way and started our journey to the 1st destination Snaefellsnes,

More of pictures  going forward..

IMG_5805

IMG_5822

IMG_5826My 1st Rainbow in IcelandIMG_5841

IMG_5857

IMG_5860

IMG_5866We stopped for a coffee break and now you can see the prices of the foods in Iceland. A Lays Chips pack costs Icelandic Kronos 635.( INR 356)
1 Icelandic Króna equals
0.56 Indian RupeePHOTO-2018-09-23-16-27-44_1

PHOTO-2018-09-23-16-27-45

PHOTO-2018-09-23-16-27-44

After traveling for close to 2 hours we alighted for Lunch. 2nd Rainbow.
IMG_5870
This boat reminds me Game of thrones boats ( I wasn’t aware of #GOT when I went to Iceland)
IMG_5873This is a Fish soup with a Bread costs IKR 1950/- and I would say one of the best soup I ever had in my life.IMG_5880

IMG_5882

IMG_5878The city was so quite and the weather was keep changing.IMG_5895It started raining..IMG_5889

Snaefellsnes. Famous Mountain in Iceland.IMG_5896
The same location from Game of thrones
MDMncEF
This is me..
IMG_5915
As a vehicle passes by
PHOTO-2018-09-23-20-00-19
IMG_5939
 
We stopped for another destination – snaefellsnes national park 
IMG_5956
IMG_5949
 
The lady 75+ years of old with great determination coming from UK made to this small trek path with her trekking sticks.
IMG_5946
IMG_5958
The Black sand sea
IMG_5959
Another Game of thrones locations – East watch by the sea
Black sand beach
 
IMG_5978
Walked over to find some sea seals, unfortunately we couldn’t find one.
 
PHOTO-2018-09-24-11-42-02
PHOTO-2018-09-24-11-42-01 (1)
PHOTO-2018-09-24-11-42-01
 
The day was coming to an end and I was hungry as the fish soup didn’t
satisfy my hunger.
IMG_5997
 
IMG_5998
 
PHOTO-2018-09-24-11-42-00
 
FFAN0272
Headed to another location 
IMG_6009
 
IMG_6017
 
IMG_6047
 
IMG_6046
 
IMG_6050
 
Day 2 – Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
 
The tour actually starts at 7.00 am but I thought it is at 9.00 am and by 7.15 am my host got a call from the tour person asking whereabouts of me and she gave the phone to me and I spoke to them and I said its 9.00 am but they clarified me and asked to take the tour the next day and the one I was supposed to take on Day 3 transferred to Day 4.
 
IMG_6061
Kitchen of the Airbnb host.IMG_6066
 
 
The morning weather was very bad and it was raining, so I went to sleep for sometime and by the I woke it was already 9.30. Went to the kitchen, prepared my morning breakfast and started to go and see the city of Reykjavik. Rainbows everywhere!!IMG_6072
Country president office
IMG_6075
 
IMG_6080
 
Harpa is a state of the art Concert Hall and Conference Center, located by the Reykjavík harbour. The glass facade that gives it its special impression was designed by artist Ólafur Elíasson to evoke the idea of a glacier in the interplay of light
IMG_6081
The weather changed so fast and it was getting cloudier in a while
IMG_6082
 
and it started pouring in a while
IMG_6086
 
IMG_6088
Cafe Loki, one of the oldest and famous restaurant.
 
IMG_6111
 
IMG_6092
 
The Famous church of Iceland. Different Architecture.
 
IMG_6112
 
IMG_6115
view from the top of the church. The Church has lift to go the upstairs and one needs to pay 100 IKR for that.
 
IMG_6100
 
IMG_6101
 
IMG_6108
 
IMG_6106
The next cloud coming to pour some rains
 
IMG_6110
 
IMG_6123A 1974 BMW Mini Cooper on the streets!IMG_6135
 
With the city tour getting over by self , I did a lot of walking and came back to the room to have some sleep and geared up myself for the evening trip of Northern lights tour..
 
To be continued…

 

Muktinath

#Muktinath –  is the popular Vishnu temple located at the first highest altitude in the world is a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists located in Muktinath Valley at an altitude of 3,710 meters at the foot of the Thorong La mountain pass in Mustang, Nepal.

This temple is considered to be 106th among the available 108 Divya Desam (premium temples) considered sacred by the Sri Vaishnava sect.

The Quest for Mukinath started because of my friend Raj, who wanted to go this place as soon as possible meaning in one sense that, when we are in good health and wealth conditions plus the eagerness to see the Lord. He was so keen that we have to make it and I started my search for the same.

How to go to Muktinath Temple – This was my search for last 2 months before I went to Muktinath. This write up is for people who wants to go Muktinath on their own and this is based on my experience.

I am from Chennai and I was doing research all over the net to get some concrete plans to make this trip successful.

My entire search went in a vain and ends up in booking an agent through a known friend of me, later realized we could have done on our own, any way you would require a lead to know things (not always)

This is how it went.  5 days is enough if your trip is only for Muktinath Yatra.

Day 1: Chennai to Delhi and Delhi to Kathmandu (Carry your passport and voter ID , only this two is acceptable as National ID)

Reach Kathmandu – Stayed in a hotel called kathmandu city hotel – charges INR 2000 per person. Hotel is good to stay , with complimentary Bfast.

If you are worried how you will commute from airport to hotel, most of the hotels provide pick up from hotel.

Day 2:

Leave Kathmandu to Pokhara – Stay over night at Pokahara

This, we did by road by taking a Toyota Hiace , you can book the vehicle in the hotel itself or if you walk across the streets you can easily find one. Total Kms 194, time taken 6 plus hours due to bad roads.

IMG_5457

Our crew – Hems, sandy, sugu, raj and Sandy

Continue reading “Muktinath”

Tungnath/Tunganath

Tungnath – I heard this word from my friend Mr. Nagarajan he lives in UK, he travelled to Tungnath in May 2011 and was sharing the pics from his trip and I got inspired to go this place for sure and from June to Oct11, I was planning and keep planning and finally fixed the dates on Oct 23 to Oct 28th.We also planned to cover Dunagiri where the Mahavatar babaji cave is located.

So what is Tungnath and Where it is?
Tungnath is the highest temple in the world for Lord Shiva and is one of the five and the highest Panch Kedar temples located in the mountain range of Tunganath in the Rudraprayag district of Tehri Garhwal, in Uttarakhand, India.its more than 1000 yrs old temple at a altitude of 3600m above sea level.

Legend : Tungnath – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dates of Journey : 23rd October 2011 to 28th October 2011
No of people : 3 ( me, my brother and my friend)
Places covered : Chennai – Delhi – Haridwar – Chopta – Chamoli – Dwarahat – Ranikhet – Ramnagar -Delhi – Chennai
Kms covered by Road – 1238 kms (Delhi to Delhi)

Here we go to Tungnath from Chennai !

October 23rd – Evening flight from Chennai to Delhi. We reached Delhi by night 9.30 and we have arranged all our travel stuff thru an travel agent called Skylark tours. He sent us the Tavera vehicle to the airport and that night we started to haridwar and reached by 3.00 a.m and slept in the room booked for us.

October 24th – We woke up around 6.30 a.m with the music playing on the temples near by and with the birds chirping. Got dressed up and started from Haridwar around 8.30 a.m and finishing our breakfast near Laxman Jhula!

Siva Statue at Haridwar

Taking the blessings of Our Lord Siva and started towards our destination Dugalbitta! The whole day went in traveling. Gods grace the climate was good and there are no land slides as well…we were keep moving!

We alighted at Srinagar for our lunch and I already felt the tiredness of traveling very long in mountain routes and we took some ganga water to give to my friends and family.

At Rudraprayag

We have reached Dugalbitta after some 9 hours of travel and the time we reached the guest house over it was 7.30 and we were freezing besides having winter clothes. We are not used to cold of this type as we are south part of India. Though we been to Amarnath, Kausani , almora earlier , I felt the severeness of cold was very high in Dugalbitta that night! The beds in the room are so cold again and I was wondering how I am going to sleep tonight and was worried that I need to stay one more night tomorrow expecting it will be more worser tomorrow as well. We had our dinner and later understood the power what we had is because of generator and no power in those areas. The generator stopped at night 10 and we were thinking how to start in the morning!

We had the mahavatar babaji photo and we lit a candle and prayed for a while and went to slept.

Babaji Photo that we worshipped
Babaji Photo that we worshipped

25th October, We had tea served at the guest house and as we come out we saw the snow capped mountain, what a happiness !! mind was so relaxing and eyes was feeling so good to see them

Happiness Unlimited
Happiness Unlimited

We started from Dugalbitta to Chopta and on the way we all enjoyed the beauty of nature, so calm and happen to see many tents on the way! I was really wondering how this guys manage to stay whole night in this type of weather condition.

We reached Tungnath!

The Entrance arch to the Tunganath

Here you go! Started our trek with our breakfast near the entrance and few pony walas was asking if we would require ponies to go! we said no and with a thought its only 4 kms trek and how long it would take and we started walking and the steep starts on!

Trek Path leading to the temple

Lovely trek path! I really liked it!

I was thinking the trek path will be like this completely and we can manage easily !

My mind was filled with happiness and was also thinking we can reach the temple soon!

Below are the pics through out the walk, hope you guys like them!

The Trek path, going and keep going on!

Lord Ganesh Temple

Jai Ganesha!

I was exhausted already and feeling very difficult to move on, many people on the way were motivating me! way to go! 20 mins to go, 1 hour to go and one foreigner told me it will take 2 hours from now!

The Lost ME!

I thought should I go back or let my brother and friend to go the temple and I will stay there only and again with self motivating myself and with great determination started the trek!

Cheer Up!

I did cross walking, took glucose, soda water but the energy was going fast! my friend was accompanying me, my bro managed to go fast. After crossing a stretch we saw the temple gopuram and then I comforted myself ok there we are !

This was the difficult treks I had, I realised! Its because of high altitude also, I think so!

The clouds were getting darker! Looks like its gonna rain soon! I was feeling very hungry and praying lord siva to give me power and determination slowly reached the top!

The Great Tunganath temple at 13500 feet above the sea level

Had the darshan of Lord siva! Hopefully he removes the sins of us like he did for pandavas!
Thanking the lord for making to visit his place! A life time achievement for me! We started at 8.30 and reached the base at 3.30, such a long time . One more achievement in life time!

Atlast!