So after taking the summer off from travel, besides a couple business trips to the Ukraine (new country for me) and Germany, we decided to crank it up again. We ended up not going to South America for unrelated reasons to regular travel, but we’ll make it back down there next year. I found some great fares to Iceland for this past weekend, so decided to jump on them since it’s a country we’ve wanted to visit since 2008! We hit the road Thursday, hopped on our IcelandAir flight, and off to Keflavik Airport we went.
Starting the trip at the Blue Lagoon
We land and go grab the rental car, which was the smallest 4×4 I’ve ever seen, and if the wind had been stronger than the 30 MPH winds that we had while there, I think we would’ve been on our side. We held up, and the car was a trooper for the 3 days that we were there. Our first stop was the Blue Lagoon, which is an infamous geothermal pool, which is fed from the runoff of the plant next door. They actually pump fresh water in every 40 hours! This place is nothing short of incredible, and was perfect for a cold (40 degrees) and rainy day! We paid our fees, grabbed our towels, and headed out. WOW IT IS DAMN COLD…until you get in, then it’s perfect! I’m not exactly sure how big it is, but I’m sure it could fit a few thousand people if it was packed. We floated around for a while before grabbing a few drinks, which only seems normal. Hanging outside in 40 degree weather, in a geothermal pool, with silica all over your face, drinking a beer. Yep, seems pretty normal to me.
At Gulfoss….quite a sight in person
They also have a few steam showers, saunas & waterfalls that are pretty soothing. The majority of the people there we noticed were Norwegian, or Americans who were on layovers over to Europe. All in all, it was pretty amazing, and a great kickoff to the trip.
We moved on from there, to only be handed a bill for about a million Icelandic Kroner! Well, not that high exactly, but the conversion rate is about 160/1, so even a €100 bill seems like it’s ridiculous, but whatever. So we hit the road to downtown Reykjavik, and checked into Hotel Reykjavik Centrum. The pad was pretty centrally located, not that the downtown area is that big, but it was nice not to drive to anything. After checking in, got a reco for a restaurant that night, which was a local’s joint, and was exactly what I was expecting. A little whale, steak & sashimi style, and some puffin. Yes, some readers might be against dining like this, but let me tell you, OUTSTANDING! I’ll leave it at that.
Skogafoss…only people there and the sun brought a surprise
Our first full day we wanted to complete the Golden Circle, and it typical fashion, we finished it in about half the time or normal travelers. We drove through Þingvellir National Park, stood in front of Strokkur and Geysir, and heard the thunderous noise while getting soaked at Gulfoss. The landscape of this country is incredible, as are the weather patterns. I wouldn’t say it was the most perfect day weather wise, but I don’t think they really have them in Iceland, so that’s ok. We drove around for a bit as well, and actually stopped to check out Kerið, a volcanic crater. I guess Bjork actually performed on a raft in the middle of this crater at one time, and the fans sat on the hills that surrounded it.
Since we had some daylight left, we headed back to town so we could walk around and get our bearings. We walked up the main drag to see the unique shops and cafes, only to end up at the top, where the infamous Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran Church sits, with a large statue of Leifur Eiríksson in front. Of course we were 5 minutes late to get inside and go to the top for the best view of the city, but we can’t do it all, even if we think we can. Ultimately, we headed back to hotel, had another great dinner, and crashed for the night.
Mýrdalsjökull Glacier…pretty sure we weren’t supposed to be here
Day 3, we wanted to see everything on the southern coast that we could. We saw a couple of waterfalls, Seljandfoss and Skogafoss, as well as driving by the volcano that interrupted travel for a week, Eyjafjallajokull. We drove all the way to a small town called Vik, which I think is the largest town in the southern part of the country. We hung out for a bit to see the view and the cliffs that reminded me of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. On our way back, we decided to go off road a bit, and check out the main glacier in the area, Mýrdalsjökull. Walking up to it really felt like being on the moon….If being on the moon is what I imagine it would be. Afterwards, we headed back to town again, and hit up the restaurant that was supposedly the new trendy spot to hit in the whole country, and it didn’t disappoint. A quick synopsis would be 10 courses, all different Icelandic food, with wasabi somehow incorporated. Yes, fantastic!
The volcano that caused havoc over Europe for 10 days
Iceland will definitely be a country that we’ll revisit and hopefully do the northern part of the country on our return and the more remote areas. It was great to finally get there and see all the sights that we’ve only salivated over for years through pictures. I’m not sure yet where our next destination will be, but 2012 I think will be our busiest year yet, with about 20 countries on the docket, if not more. My goal was to hit 50 countries before we slowed down a bit, and then I put it up at 75, but I really think by the end of 2013, and with our current home in Amsterdam, that we can see half the countries in the world, which right now would take us up towards 100 almost. So quite a bit of work in front of us seeing we aren’t even halfway there, but we’ll do it.