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Europe Trip 2018 Part 3: FI to Iceland + Domestic Iceland on NY/FNA

Wed Mar 18, 2020 7:33 am

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to Part 3 of my Europe trip report. This part covers the Icelandic section of a Europe trip I did back in November/December 2018. It kicks off in Paris covers the flight to Reykjavik, a few domestic flights within Iceland including on an old Twin Otter! And my time in Iceland.

I do apologise for the delay for the rest of the trip report I posted the first two parts over 12 months ago. The remaining three parts will be released over the next couple of weeks.

Previous parts can be found here

Part 1: QF BNE-LHR & Brooklands Museum - viewtopic.php?t=1415173
Part 2: AF/KL Mission A318 + Amsterdam and Paris - viewtopic.php?t=1416355

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PARIS – REYKJAVIK

After three short days, it was time to say Au revoir to Paris. I was very excited as Iceland was a country I had wanted to visit for many years and today was the day it was going to happen. I took the RER to Charles De Gaulle. Part of the reason for sequencing Iceland after Paris was I have always been intrigued with the design of Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle. Flying Icelandair out of Paris guaranteed a visit to Terminal 1 and more importantly a trip on a Boeing 757, or so I thought. I arrived at Terminal 1 just after 1100. At this time the terminal was reasonably quiet within 5 minutes of stepping off the CDGval I was checked in and heading towards the satellite. It was quite nice being so compact, but I can imagine it would be a nightmare during peak periods. As I arrived I saw the competition a WOW A330-300 taxiing off for its flight to Keflavik. There was also a Norwegian 737-800 pushing back for its flight to Oslo, but the highlight was the Mahan Air A340-600 departing to Tehran from the neighbouring satellite. Our flight was slightly late arriving from Keflavik.

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Paris Metro

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Terminal 1 Central area

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Norwegian to Oslo

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Mahan to Tehran

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My flight. Icelandair to Keflavik

Icelandair FI543
Paris Charles De Gaulle, FR (CDG) – Keflavik, IS (KEF)
Depart 1300 Arrive 1535
Boeing 767-319ER TF-ISW “Gullborg” (MSN 28745/LN 677) First flight October 1997
Economy
Flight time 2 Hours 37 Minutes




About six months out the scheduled 757-200 was up gauged to a 767-300ER. I was quite disappointed as the 757 was on my list as an older type, which I wanted to log while I still had the opportunity. On the flip side while I had logged several 767s previously it was nice to fly on another one after Qantas, and more recently Air New Zealand had retired the type from passenger service in Australia/New Zealand. This particular aircraft was, in fact, a former Air New Zealand frame which was registered ZK-NCL during its tenure with the airline. For this flight, there were two separate boarding gates used, one dedicated for passengers connecting to US destinations, and another for those ending their trip in Keflavik or connecting to Canada. Despite the announcements and clear signage, there seemed to be plenty of confusion which passenger lining up at the incorrect gate. Once onboard I took my window seat. I did notice the cabin was quite warm but thankfully not long after it cooled down to a more reasonable temperature. We ended up pushing back 40 minutes late.
Once airborne we took a turn to the northwest towards England. They had quite a good selection of Icelandic music which was more than enough to keep me occupied for the flight. A word of warning though if you forget to bring your headphones Icelandair charges a steep 8 EUR (It might have been less when I flew, I recall it being about 6 EUR Luckily, I had a pair for the flight. For lunch, I bought a pair of mini lamb hamburgers, not exactly cheap at 1500 ISK / 11 EUR but then again Iceland isn’t exactly known for being a cheap travel destination. However, they were quite tasty. My spending spree continued when the duty free cart came out. I purchased a 1:200 model of an Icelandair 757-200 which now proudly sits in my room. As we approached Iceland there was quite a lot of cloud cover. I would have had a great view of Reykjavik had it been clearer. We broke through the clouds as we turned onto the left base leg for Runway 19. As we crossed the coastline the terrain had a very unique look, unlike anywhere else on earth I’ve ever seen. We touched down about 15 minutes early making up the delay out of Paris. As it was in the middle of Icelandair and WOW’s afternoon bank it was very busy with several aircraft already at remote stands, although we had an aerobridge. After waiting about half an hour for my baggage I took the coach to my accommodation in Reykjavik.

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Seatback IFE

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French Airforce A310

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Lunch

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Only appropriate to listen to Björk on my way to Iceland

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Flightmap

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Approach into Keflavik

YOUTUBE - Landing in Keflavik (Video)

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WOW… I’m in Iceland! Sadly no longer with us

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Two special livery Icelandair 757s next to each other

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Very busy

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Disembarking the 767

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Leaving Keflavik airport

REYKJAVIK

It’s no secret that Iceland is a relatively expensive destination, I mitigated this by staying in dorm accommodation at the coach terminal about a twenty minute walk from the city centre. It was quite affordable at 2500 ISK (18EUR) per night, it turned out to be quite a pleasant place to stay. There was a communal kitchen which was kept clean. In my experience of communal kitchens in backpacker type accommodation, I have seen my share of shockers. With a clean kitchen so I was able to buy food from the supermarket and prepare my own food (another way to make your krónur go further in Iceland). I spent quite some time walking around Reykjavik and there were a lot of interesting things to see around town. On the last day, I found a museum called Tales from Iceland, which had an interesting concept. There were about 20-25 different monitors around the museum each synchronised playing a short film of identical length on a loop. After the conclusion of a short film, there was 10-15 second intermission giving you time to move onto the next monitor. Just about every aspect of Iceland was covered including Fishing, Stories from locals and migrants, Björk, Iceland’s sporting achievements, Exceptionally strong men and women, Aurora Borealis and of course the infamous Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 which bought aviation to a standstill in Europe. I also visited the Blue Lagoon, I nearly missed out as it books out very quickly. I managed to get an evening time slot on my very last night in Iceland.

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Hallgrímskirkja

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View from Hallgrímskirkja

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Leif Erikson

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Sólfar / Sun Voyager

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Harpa Concert Hall

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Blue Lagoon


QUEST FOR THE NORTHERN LIGHTS


One of the main things I wanted to do on this trip was to see the Northern lights. I decided to take a cruise one evening, unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and we didn’t see any activity that night but it wasn’t a complete loss the guide was quite entertaining and told many stories. We were offered to come back again another night to try again without any additional charge. But as the forecast didn’t look that great for the rest of my stay. I would continue my quest for the Northern Lights in Northern Norway. Did I succeed? Well you’ll have to wait for part 5 for that…

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On the boat

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AKUREYRI AND GRIMSEY

First off before I continue any further I have to give credit to fellow A.net users Contact Air and SRQKEF whose previous trip reports to Grimsey gave me the idea to go myself. They can be read here viewtopic.php?t=969599 and here viewtopic.php?t=976325
The day started very early despite my accommodation being situated very close to the downtown airport it was on the opposite side to the passenger terminal, which meant I had to walk around the perimeter taking about twenty five minutes. The terminal was quite compact. The main entrance leads to the check in area. To the right was the main seating area, the baggage claim, and a small cafeteria. To the left of check in was the departure/arrival gate with a closed off room for International flights to Greenland, although at the time I visited all Greenland flights had temporarily been moved to Keflavik and Reykjavik was purely domestic. The layout reminded me of a small Australian regional airport.

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The small terminal

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DC-3 in the Check in hall

Air Iceland Connect NY112
Reykjavik, IS (RKV) – Akureyri, IS (AEY)
Depart 0710 Arrive 0755
Bombardier Dash 8-Q402 TF-FXI “Þórunn Hyrna” (MSN 4033) First flight January 2001
Economy
Flight time 33 Minutes




I was greeted at the door by a flight attendant in a very stylish black retro looking uniform. For an early build ex SAS, ex Flybe Q400 the cabin was in very good condition with grey seats. There was supposed to be a journal in the seat pocket. The idea being for tourists to write stories about their visit to Iceland and leave for other tourists on later flights to read and add their own stories. I thought it was a nice touch, but unfortunately, my seat pocket was missing its journal. The flight was just over half full. We took off from Runway 01 to the north. As it was dark and most of the flight was above cloud cover there wasn’t much to see. Tea and Coffee were served shortly after takeoff. I spent most of the short flight dozing off. Before long we were descending below the cloud base flying down the valley for our approach to Runway 01.

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AKUREYRI

As it was still dark and I didn’t know exactly how far it was into town I took a taxi in and found a nice café which served a hot breakfast. Afterwards, I braved the -6°C temperature, quite cold considering I live in the tropics and would be rare to get a night under 10° and walked up the hill to the Akureyri cathedral to take in the view. Afterwards, I visited the botanical gardens although everything was frozen at this time of year. At the gardens, I made the discovery that although I had packed my power bank I left the cable back at my hostel in Reykjavik. With my phone already down to 30% battery, I risked not being able to take photos of the Grimsey journey. On the taxi ride in I noticed there was a service station on the way so I walked back along the main road towards the airport. Luckily the service station had the cable I needed. I also took the opportunity to buy a beanie and a pair of gloves more suitable for Icelandic winters than the pair I brought with me from Australia. I arrived back at the airport with about 90 mins to spare before the next flight to Akureyri. I got something small to eat and spent the rest of the time charging my phone with my newly acquired cable.

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A lot cooler than I’m used to!

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Breakfast

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Akureyrarkirkja

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Akureyri

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Frozen waves

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Walking to the airport

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Must be getting close now
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Finally there

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Terminal building

Norlandair FNA536
Akureyri, IS (AEY) – Grimsey, IS (GRY)
Depart 1300 Arrive 1330
De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter TF-NLD (MSN 475) First flight February 1976
Economy
Estimated flight time 20 Minutes





There were just three other passengers on today’s flight. At 1300 sharp we were called to board the little red twin otter. This particular aircraft was built in 1976 and spent its first twelve years in Canada before being flying for various Icelandic operators. Norlandair's reservations are handled by Air Iceland Connect, as a result, it was possible to reserve a seat on booking complete with a seat map. However, on the actual flight it was basically free seating. I sat in 1B which was just behind the cockpit. The Garmin GPS serving as the moving map for the short flight. Moments later the pair of PT6A engines sprung to life and we took off tracking north up Eyjafjörður, with snow capped mountains on either side of the aircraft I couldn’t help but notice how similar the landscape reminded me of the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island. After about twenty minutes in the air, our destination appeared as a small island in the Greenland sea.

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Boarding pass issued on Air Iceland Connect stock.

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GRIMSEY

Grimsey is a small Island 5.3 km² in area 40 km north of the main island of Iceland. It is also the part of Iceland which has the Arctic circle crossing through it. Once we landed It became apparent that one of the passengers was not just an ordinary passenger but the local woman that manages the airport and looks after just about every aspect of the Akureyri-Grimsey Airlink as well as several jobs on the island. She was incredibly friendly and upon hearing I wished to visit the Arctic circle marker on the far end of the island she offered me a lift halfway across the island.

On Grimsey, there are two Arctic circle monuments, one just outside the aircraft terminal which is just for symbolical purposes, and a giant concrete ball “Orbis et Globus” which marks the actual Arctic Circle and is rolled a few metres further north each year to take the movement of the Arctic Circle into account. As of now the Arctic Circle is on the northernmost tip of the Island and will leave the island around the year 2047.
The island is quite hilly, with dramatic steep cliffs dropping into the sea, covered by short dry grass like vegetation, which oddly reminded me of the meme where Donald Trump’s wigs were being grown. During the summer the island is called home by many Puffin colonies.
After reaching the monument on the other side of the island crossing just one person in my path I took a few minutes to take in the scenery and enjoy the peaceful silence when I heard the faint but unmistakable sound of a jet engine. I looked up to see an aircraft cruising over me on its transatlantic journey. I later discovered it was KLM A330-300 PH-AKF en route from Amsterdam to Calgary at FL340.

After making it halfway back to the airport I was met by the airport manager on the flight and was given a lift back to the airport. In the small terminal, there was a Dutch tourist who had taken the ferry across that morning and spent the day on the island. The tourist wanted to visit the town so the lady lent him her van, and said that we had to go together, and we had to be quick. Returning back to the airfield I received a certificate saying I crossed the Arctic Circle, which I thought was a nice touch.

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Arctic Circle monument

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Long way from home

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Orbis et Globus - The actual Arctic Circle

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PH-AKF Amsterdam to Calgary overhead at FL340

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Village

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Lighthouse

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Airport building

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Arctic Circle cerificate

Norlandair FNA537
Grimsey, IS (AEY) – Akureyri, IS (GRY)
Depart 1500 Arrive 1530
De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter (MSN 475) First flight February 1976
Economy
Estimated flight time 20 Minutes




The flight back was fairly uneventful; the airport manager offered to take my picture in front of the Twin Otter before we boarded. The passenger load on the way back was just me, the Dutch tourist and the manager. After 20 mins we touched back down in Akureyri.

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YOUTUBE - Taking off Grimsey (Video)

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YOUTUBE - Landing Akureyri (Video

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Air Iceland Connect NY147
Akureyri, IS (AEY) – Reykjavik, IS (RKV)
Depart 1615 Arrive 1700
Bombardier Dash 8-Q402 TF-FXI “Þórunn Hyrna” (MSN 4033) First flight January 2001
Economy
Flight time 33 Minutes





After a half hour wait, it was time to fly back to Reykjavik. The Q400 arrived from Reykjavik on time and it turned out it was the same aircraft that took me from Reykjavik to Akureyri in the morning. It was a completely full flight.
The flight on the way back was quite uncomfortable as I was seated next to what I can only describe as an Icelandic giant, while definitely not overweight let alone obese he struggled to fit in his seat taking up some of my space leaving me pressed up against the sidewall. Luckily it wasn’t a long flight and it was probably even more uncomfortable for him.

After a 30 minute flight, we were approaching Reykjavik RWY 13 over the harbour and city onto a wet runway.

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Approach over Reykjavik Harbour

YOUTUBE - Landing Reykjavik - Apologies for the portrait shot video, unavoidable due to window angle.

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Touchdown.

GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR

During my stay in Iceland, I took a bus tour to visit the most popular attractions in Iceland, the Golden Circle tour, which consists of Þingvellir National Park, the Haukadalur geysers and Gullfoss waterfall. It was a full day tour, the first stop was Þingvellir National Park, situated in a rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic parts are drifting apart. It’s also notable for being the site of Iceland’s first parliament in 930 CE. After Þingvellir we visited the geysers, The main geyser called “Geysir” of which the English word comes from is the largest geyser in the world (barring a Geyser in New Zealand, which hasn’t erupted for 120 years. Geysir only erupts very infrequently, usually tied to seismic activity, but when it does it has been recorded erupting as high as 170 metres (430 feet). Strokkur geyser is a smaller geyser located close to Geysir. It usually erupts up to 20 metres (66 feet) but reliably erupts every 6-10 minutes. After the geysers, the final stop was Gullfoss waterfall, before heading back to Reykjavík.

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Þingvellir National Park

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Þingvellir National Park

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Þingvellir National Park

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Cute shirt I bought for my nephew.

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Geysers

YOUTUBE - Strokkur geyser

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Gullfoss

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Gullfoss

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Heading back to Reykjavík

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Passing through Selfoss

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This is the end of part 3. Part 4 takes us across the Norwegian sea to Oslo and Bergen.
"There you go ladies and gentleman we're through Mach 1 the speed of sound no bumps no bangs... CONCORDE"

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