A Visual Tour of Iceland’s Westfjords

Is a four day solo road trip through Iceland enough to properly explore the country?

Absolutely not.

Is it, however, enough time to run up into the largely deserted Westernfjords, roam brilliant empty fjords, see puffins, and then hop a ferry down to Snaefellsnes for a taste of more waterfalls, extinct volcanos and gorgeous Icelandic horses?

Absolutely.

I’ll talk a bit in a future post about just how powerful, liberating, and wonderful a solo road trip like this is. But, for now, I want to take you through a visual tour (in color) of my road trip through Iceland’s Westfjords. According to one statistic I read before the trip, fewer than 11% of visitors to Iceland visit the region in the far Northwest and in this instance, that lack of tourism is great news for people eager to explore a vibrant but more natural and less touristic Iceland.

A 7 Day Road Trip Through Rural Scotland – The Final Leg

This is the conclusion to my series documenting my road trip through Scotland’s remote rural areas. Start at the beginning (highlands), jump to part II (Skye), or see Part III (Ullapool to Durness). 

The crisp morning air made it difficult to drag myself out from beneath the mound of heavy down blankets the hostel had opted for in place of heaters. With a groan and a roll I pulled myself upright and then wormed my toes into my boots. It didn’t take long before I started to come back to life as I noticed that beyond the nearby windows, the weather looked pleasant. A revisit to Smoo Cave with its subterranean waterfall chamber had been one of the primary draws which had pulled me towards the northwestern tip of Scotland. With a yawn and a stretch, it was time to hurry down for one of the first cave tours of the day – all in the hope that I would beat out the inevitable flooding that came each afternoon as the Scottish summer rains dumped their load on to the rain-drenched hillsides of the rugged Scottish glens situated a few miles to the south. Inevitably, when the rains found their way to already damp creek beds it would quickly flood them and turn each into small rivers racing gleefully, like highland sprites, towards the coast.

A Cold Beach - Northern Scotland

The evening before had been uncharacteristically dry by the time I reached Smoo with naught but a gentle rain earlier in the afternoon. In the fading light of the late afternoon, I had paused to capture the beautiful colors and otherworldly visage of the waterfall from a wooden platform carefully constructed just inside the chamber long ago carved out by the falls’ hammering fists. Both that evening and the following morning found the falls relaxed, gentle, and calm. Nowhere near the raging torrent I’d encountered some years back during my first visit.  At that time, even to approach the railing left us with water in our eyes and our jackets soaked through.

The Portal to Smoo Cave - Durness, Scotland

To my delight there were only a couple of us waiting to commence the quick tour. With 4 GBP in hand I donned my hardhat and kept myself busy wandering the grand chamber that serves as the mouth to the cave. The chamber, carved by the sea, is a wondrous thing and the type of place that has shaped and inspired the greatest of stories through the millennia. From a dragon’s fossilized maw to a dark and treacherous home to trolls and sea sirens, Smoo Cave could easily serve as inspiration for it all.

Bungee Jumping Victoria Falls – Weekly Travel Photo

Victoria Falls - Zambia

I’m not really a fan of heights. Don’t get me wrong, I love massive mountains, towering skyscrapers, and cliffs that leave you shaking. I just don’t like the fact that you can fall off them. Which probably explains why I’ve never bungee jumped or tried skydiving. I know. I know. Some adventure travel blogger I am, right? Still, I do enjoy watching others plunge to their mostly, probably, likely, completely safe near-deaths. Wingsuit basejumpers? Awesome. Canyon swings? Awesome. Bungee jumping? Pretty darn cool.

In today’s photo I give you the large bridge on the back side of Victoria Falls, shot from the Zambian side. This is the same bridge where a bungee jumper’s bungee snapped last year (oops). If you look closely (you can click the image for a larger version) you’ll spot a successful bungee jumper tantalizing the crocs and dangling a bit above the Zambezi’s raging waters.

Where’s the coolest place you’ve bungee jumped? What’s the wild and craziest thing you’ve done?

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here.

This post was made possible in part due to the support of the folks at Mahlatini Luxury Travel who offer Zambian safaris.

Scotland’s Hermitage Waterfall – Weekly Travel Photo

The Hermitage

Located about 50 miles north of Edinburgh is one of Scotland’s small gems: the Hermitage.   A beautiful site, this small park is a National Trust for Scotland location and rests along the River Braan.  Depending on the time of the year you’ll find large salmon working their way up the river.  You can pause at Ossian’s Hall which overlooks the main falls and enjoy watching the salmon throw themselves at (and eventually up) these decently sized falls.  It’s a beautiful place for a casual walk and has an incredibly rich, lush, green and alive feel to it.  The Hermitage is home to a large selection of beautiful Douglas Fir trees.

The Hermitage is home to two Georgian follies.  Georgian follies are interesting creations that were designed to look old/historic and served very little purpose/were almost purely ornamental.  They’re often deceptively new (only 100-150 years or so) but look much older.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera using a Canon IS 18-135mm lens.

Face in the Falls – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

The Face - Victoria Falls - Zambia

Located in the midst of cascading sheets of water and behind a wall of thundering noise Victoria Falls boasts a variety of beautiful rock formations. A visit to the falls is never quite the same as everything from the water level to the gentle but constant erosion of the stone that supports the falls is ever present and forever shifting.  The falls have a reputation for majesty, for size, and for being truly memorable.  Most rank them as the greatest falls in the world and a natural wonder of the world often just ahead of Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Niagara Falls in the United States.   This reputation is well deserved and while I’m still torn on which is more captivating – Iguazu or Victoria – I know that Victoria ranks as one of the most spectacular natural wonders I’ve ever seen.

As I paused briefly, fighting a rainstorm of mist despite the day’s sunny weather, I noticed a face staring back at me.  A water spirit, one that emerged from the stone’s cliff face casually stared back across the ravine at me.  Can you see it?  Its large moss covered nose, voluptuous lips with gently upturned smile. Its pronounced chin jutting out of the water. The face stood there, brought to life by the water coursing over/past it and gave me pause. This was a special moment in a wondrous place.  A moment and place that the face demanded I take time to properly enjoy and reflect upon.

Victoria Falls is situated on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe and is part of the Zambezi river. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is 355 feet at its highest point (drop).  It is also 5,600 feet wide which is incredible to think about, but even more spectacular to see in person!

Have you been to Victoria Falls?  Were you there in wet season or dry?  What did you think!?

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera using a Canon IS 18-135mm lens.

Perito Moreno Waterfalls – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

Hiking Perito Moreno Glacier - Patagonia, Argentina

I love hiking near water.  I’m not sure if that love stems from early childhood when I was imprinted with wonderful memories while hiking along snow-melt fed streams in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, or results from having spent the majority of my life in the dry, dust-filled deserts of South-Central Arizona.  Regardless, the opportunity to hike next to/through/along/over rivers and waterfalls is always high on my priority list.  Thus, the chance to hike along and then out onto the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina was extremely appealing.  I signed up, geared up, and was off on a full-day hike.  What I didn’t expect, however, was to have the chance to hike along the base of a series of steep cliff faces decorated by rich, blooming vegetation and roaring waterfalls.  After all, when I think of Glaciers I think of snow and ice…not green vegetation and blooming flowers.  In the photo featured in today’s weekly travel photograph the glacier is immediately behind me.  The waterfall pictured flowed down across the path, before cascading over a swath of black rocks and then diving into a channel carved beneath the base of the glacier.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here.