A rainy arrival, expensive bus tickets and getting a bit lost in the rain was a bit of a gloomy start to Iceland but it quickly turned around as we accepted our rainy fate, ate some pasta in our shared flat and walked into downtown Reykjavik.
Reykjavik has an app called Appy Hour that lets you know where the cheapest bars are at any given time. We weren’t wanting to stay indoors on our first night in Iceland so getting out of the downpour and into a cozy spot with a pint sounded pretty ideal. And when I say downpour, I mean it. Our “waterproof” gear was soaked for a day and our jeans didn’t dry for nearly two and a half. Anyways, we started off at a bar called Dillon (which turned out to be one of our favorites) and were right away greeted by a friendly bartender and an even friendlier patron. With two beers for about 12$ coming our way, our new bar friend told us Skal! and wished us a happy beer day!
A what? As it turns out, March 1st, 2019 was the 30 year anniversary of the end of prohibition in Iceland. We tried out three different bars that were boasting great happy hour prices, ranked our favorite beers and ran through the pouring rain back to our cozy flat.
The next morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise, made a packed lunch for ourselves and walked about 5 minutes to the meet up point for our tour. Today’s tour was the typical “Golden Circle Tour” where we would be seeing the highlights of nature around Reykjavik. At the end of the tour, the group would stop for about two hours in a “Secret Lagoon” for a thermal soak before driving back into Reykjavik for the night.
- Thingvellir National Park
- Gullfoss Waterfall
- Geysir Geothermal Area
- Secret Lagoon
First stop, Thingvellir National Park. Sitting in a rift valley in between the North American and European tectonic plates, this geological phenomenon was the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries. Although you can swim between the plates (it’s on the bucket list now!) we simply walked around the area, passing a beautiful waterfall that used to hold witch trials – drown and you’re human, float and you’re a witch. As the sky continued to clear up even more we hopped back into the bus and to Gullfoss waterfall.
Langjokull glacier water cascades 32 meters down Gullfoss’s two rocky steps before crashing into the canyon below. Our bus stopped here for about 40 minutes but after a 20 minute walk around, Spence and I were so incredibly cold from the wind chill and waterfall mist that we had to surrender and warm up inside.
We were moving a bit faster than expected so our tour guide gave us an extra stop: Laugarvatn. A small village next to a geothermal lake, famous for utilizing the ground heat to bake 24 hour rye bread. We didn’t get to try the bread, but we did feel the mounds that covered the bread containers….they were HOT!
Next stop, Geysir Geothermal Area. With multiple geysirs, plenty of steam and a faint smell of sulphur, we wandered around the geothermal area looking for action. Geysir, the namesake of the geological event, is currently inactive, but when it does erupt it will most likely hsoot up to around 70 meters! For now, only bubbles…Strokkur, Geysir’s little brother, goes off every 5-10 minutes and we were lucky enough to see it a couple of times, once at around 20 meters high and the second time (captured below) at about 40 meters!
There are fumaroles and sulphuric stains creating a plethora of smells and colors…reds, whites, yellows, greens… and paired with the white steam and blue sky, it was a beautiful and colorful picture. A note on the sulphuric smell: water throughout Iceland smells faintly of sulphur, from drinking water to shower water. There’s nothing wrong with the water at all though and by the time I got home when the trip was concluded, I turned the shower on expecting a sulphuric smell. Who would’ve guessed I would miss it?
Secret Lagoon! Finally! It wasn’t that we were exhausted from hiking or walking, but we were pretty chilly to the bone so a couple hours of a hot soak in a natural pool was thrilling. And we were surprised, it wasn’t completely full of tourists – there were a lot of residents there! Plus prices for items weren’t outrageous. It was a great time!
Once we were back in the bus a poll was taken to decide how much in a rush everyone was to get back to Reykjavik. Not a rush? A doughnut stop was then added on. YES. These aren’t doughnuts as we might no them and instead are called ‘Bolla’; a bread sandwich with a layer of a thick custard cream, topped with caramel like this one, nutella or chocolate.
A return to Reykjavik and a pasta dinner to fill us up after a bit of a light lunch with peanut butter and jelly, then some relaxing time and finally an evening walk to try and see some northern lights. And…. they were faint but they were there! A good end to the day and now it was time to rest up before an even earlier next day and more exploration – this time to the South Coast!